Friday, September 24, 2010

Know by Fruit

So then, you will know them by their fruits. (Matthew 7:20 NAS)

Know by FruitAccording to experts in the field of body language reading, relying on words or verbal communication alone is not good enough to understand the feelings or thoughts of the one we know. What people say is often very different from what they think or feel. It is easy to say something untrue, insincere, unconsciously or nonchalantly.

Body language experts however believe with the right knowledge, we can uncover what our friends, co-workers, spouse, customers or anyone else may be hiding from us. According to them, the most effective way in uncovering hidden desires, thoughts or emotions is to observe, read and interpret body language correctly.

Much like the study of body language, the Bible also teaches of a way by which we can uncover the feelings and thoughts of others—their intents—by observing their fruits (Matthew 7:15-16; 1 Timothy 5:24-25). Just as good trees bear good fruits, so shall the good intents of the pure in heart show forth from their inner person the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Matthew 7:17-20; Galatians 5:22-23).

In contrast, just as bad trees bear bad fruits, so shall the ill intents of the impure in heart show forth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness and slander (Matthew 15:19). Such will be the evil deeds of the evildoers be revealed (1 Samuel 24:13), for nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light (Mark 4:22; Luke 8:17).

Let us therefore be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves while in the midst of wolves (Matthew 10:16). Let us beware of people who come in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves (Matthew 7:15). With watchful eyes, let us observe and understand what’s going on around us and not be deceived by the ones who have come with ill intent to destroy the harmony we have as believers in the Lord.

Thank You, dear Lord, for showing us the way by which we can identify people by their fruits to know their intent. Help us Lord to always be sensitive to Your guidance in keeping watchful eyes on all ill intents aimed at deceiving or destroying, to be observant in uncovering the evil plots and deeds of evildoers. Guard our hearts Lord that we may with purity of hearts reveal the fruit of the Spirit in us of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Open our eyes Lord that we may not gauge people merely from the external but be shrewd in seeing beyond to understand the inner person. Grant, O Lord, that whatever is hidden which deserves praise be praise given, and whatever is of ill intent be eradicated.

Friday, September 17, 2010

How Others Think

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. (Philippians 4:8 NAS)

“We need not think too much about what others think of us because they seldom do.”

How Do Others Think of Me?That is a statement written by a friend of mine in her instant messenger’s status. In a sense, there is much truth about people seldom thinking about us when they are too busy with their own cares or pursuits in life. However, it is not necessary entirely true that we should not bother about what others think of us, otherwise we may run the risk of being misunderstood. There are of course also exceptions—people who genuinely care and think of us constantly.

Being concerned about what others think of us is nothing wrong, but being overly concerned is. Dressing up to look good so as not to give others an opportunity to think of us negatively or unfavorably is reasonable. How others think of us however largely depends on how we think of ourselves and them.

We may be able to camouflage ourselves with pretense to put on a false front before men, but it is ultimately our inner being that reveals our true selves. If we think too highly of ourselves and look at others around us as beneath our status, no amount of pretense will help us gain good impression or change how others think of us. Like one who spins promises he or she cannot keep, so shall the truth be revealed eventually (Matthew 7:18; Luke 6:43). Our behavior and the way we act on things will reveal our hearts and attitudes to disclose our true state of minds to the world (Luke 8:17; 12:2).

Let us therefore not pretend or think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think, but think with sound judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has given us (Romans 12:3). After all, so long as we are still on earth, none of us has obtained perfection (Philippians 3:12), so we ought not to think of ourselves as better than others or that others are inferior to us. Instead, let us fix our eyes on Jesus and press on so that we may lay hold of Christ our Lord, the perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 3:12).

If we are to compare or boast, then let us boast of what pertains to our weakness, yet not beyond proper limits, but within the area of influence God assigned to us (2 Corinthians 11:30; 10:13). Rather than doing or thinking from selfishness or empty conceit, let us with humility of mind regard one another as more important than ourselves, looking out not only for our own interests, but also the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4). Therefore, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let us dwell on these things (Philippians 4:8).

Thank You, dear Lord, for being our Friend—One who never doubts us and who always understands, genuinely caring and constantly thinking of us. Help us Lord not to be overly concerned about what others think of us, but instead regard the interests of others as more important than our own. Remind us constantly Lord to dwell our minds on what is honorable, right, pure, lovely, and of good repute. You alone, O God, is worthy of all praise.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Feelings of Despair

Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God. (Psalm 43:5 NAS)

FeelingsHow we feel is never a good measure of what is true or a fact. This is because reality may be far different. Too often our feelings are clouded by the circumstances we are in that we become too easily influenced by our moods rather than rational thinking.

If we feel deeply grieved because someone we loved has left us, it does not necessary mean that someone does not reciprocate our love. If we feel alone, it does not mean no one cares. Feelings are often misleading, and if we fall too deep into it, we can end up in despondency. We may even become depressed to the point of devastation if we let our feelings rule our lives.

Let us for a moment think about how our Lord must have felt when Peter—whom He loved—denied Him three times. Surely, Jesus must have felt something within Him. What about Peter? How do we think Peter have felt when Jesus looked at him after his denial? Peter was grieved, and he went out and wept bitterly (Luke 22:56-62).

Like Peter, we may grieve and weep bitterly because of our sins and be unable to forgive ourselves, much less expect God to forgive us. We may feel God is far away or He does not care, but the truth is God is always near and He cares for us more than we can imagine. Just as Peter was restored by confessing Christ (John 21:15-17), we can also be restored by confessing our sins and returning to the Lord (1 John 1:9). Instead of dwelling too deep in despair or devastation, therefore, let us not give up our all because of the ensuing feeling of guilt or regret. Instead, let us again praise God and hope in Him, for He is our help (Psalm 43:5). If we are truly repentant, we are definitely not beyond hope to receive God’s salvation and forgiveness. There is therefore no need for us to despair or be disturbed within our soul, for in Christ we have been cleansed by His blood which was shed on the cross for us (1 Peter 1:18-19).

Rather than dwell in despair, let us forget what lies behind and reach forward to what lies ahead (Philippians 3:13). Even though there will still be days we need to go through sorrow and agony, and times when we feel down and out, we need not despair. The Lord is our confidence; He will keep us firm and not let us fall (Proverbs 3:26), for as believers we are partakers of Christ if we hold fast our assurance until the end (Hebrews 3:14).

Just as King David knew when he should grieve and when he should stop grieving over his child’s impending and eventual death (2 Samuel 12:16-23), let us also know when to stop letting our emotions and feelings overwhelm us. Let us not allow our emotions and feelings run wild, otherwise it may overtake us and lead us to despair. We may be hurting within our hearts, but we ought not to dwell too deep in sorrow, because excessive grieving is not good and can lead us to devastation. Let us therefore not be deceived by the devil into believing the solution is to give up all, because reality is far different from how we feel. We need not succumb to devastation or feelings of negativity, for in Christ we have been set free, and in Him we have victory (1 Corinthians 15:57; 1 John 5:4).

Dear Lord, forgive us for the many times we feel You have neglected us or are far away. Help us Lord not to let our feelings rule over our rational thinking to believe what is untrue or be overwhelmed to the point of devastation. Lead us Lord to hold fast with confidence our assurance in knowing that You will keep us firm and not let us fall. Thank You Lord that although we may grieve at times, we need not despair, because we are partakers in You.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Breath of Life

Then He said to me, "Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they come to life."'" (Ezekiel 37:9 NAS)

Russia on FireThe RT television network reported on August 3, 2010 that intense temperatures and the worst dry spell for generations continue to pound parts of Russia, with at least forty lives already claimed by wildfires. Hundreds were injured. Seven of the hardest-hit regions were in a state of emergency and one of them was the greater Moscow area.

“There is no air to breathe in Moscow,” said Andrey Pozhalov, a Moscow resident who spoke to BBC News about living in the smog. “There is a smell of burning everywhere. Most offices switch off air-conditioning systems to prevent smoke flowing into the building, but the temperature immediately goes up. The only way to survive is to wear a gauze bandage, but it doesn't help when you are in the street because it dries out in a few minutes. Apart from coming to work, I try to stay indoors as much as possible. I have stopped going out jogging in the morning because it is just impossible.”

We know what it means to be out of breath when we over exercise or when air pollution becomes so bad we can hardly breathe. As one suffering from hypoxia, I understand this very well. Hypoxia is the condition in which the body as a whole or in part is deprived of adequate oxygen supply, often resulting in breathlessness. This is why I always avoid places that have low air flow. Avoidance however may not be possible all the time, especially when onboard the airplane. In such situations, all I can do is simply stay calm to be at peace and find rest as I go through it.

Much like the wildfires in many parts of Russia, the Bible also reported of a time when Lot, the nephew of Abram, had to flee from Sodom to catch his breath because of brimstone and fire falling out of heaven (Genesis 19:14-25). In the same way, just as Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, so the day of the Lord will be when the Son of Man is revealed (Luke 17:28-30). There will be no way for the yet unsaved to prevent the rising temperature of the eternal fire from hell or avoid the smog of death (Revelation 19:20; 20:10; 21:8), for only in Christ can they survive (Romans 8:1).

In that day, it will not help even if the unsaved have done many good deeds in their lives, because salvation can only be received by grace through Christ and not by works (Romans 5:1-2; Galatians 2:16). Apart from receiving Jesus as Lord and Savior, there is no other way to salvation (John 14:6). Even if they have lived holy and decent lives, and have stopped doing whatever is wrong or sinful, it is still impossible for them to receive eternal life without Christ in their hearts and Jesus as Lord of their lives (Matthew 19:16-24). As believers therefore, we should not neglect to preach Christ and bring as many as possible to our Lord.

Just as we know what it means to be lifeless without Christ as Lord of our lives, let us also not fall into the condition of ‘hypoxia’ to be found lacking in spirit the breath of life (Ezekiel 37:1-4). Instead, let us be empowered and filled with the Holy Spirit (Ezekiel 37:5-14; John 20:22). Let us take clear steps to avoid situations that can stifle our spiritual lives. If avoidance is not possible, then let us stay calm to be at peace before the Lord and find rest in Him as we go through every situation in His strength.

Thank You, dear Lord, for always being present with us wherever we are, and especially at the time of our need. Though we may at times be caught in the smog of spiritual lifelessness, O God, we know You will never let us be without help. Lead us therefore dear Lord and do not allow us to fall into situations that stifle our spiritual lives and become breathless. Instead, renew us by Your Holy Spirit, Lord. Grant us the ability to stand strong and stay clear from the heat of temptation that we may with Your peace find rest in You to go through every difficult situation.