Friday, December 31, 2010



Misinterpreted MessageSome months ago I was communicating over the phone with an administrative staff of a publisher to request help to correct a typo error made by them in one of my written articles hosted at their web site. The staff explained to me that the person handling the web site is a volunteer, so it may take some time before the error gets corrected. Understanding that, I waited, but after several weeks without any change at the site, I decided to send a follow-up e-mail. The intent was to first apologize for the inconvenience I was causing them, and then provide a step-by-step guide to help the staff easily change the typo error with the web administrator access rights she already has. The e-mail reply from the staff however turned out to be a little hostile, telling me to be patient and to understand the need for time. Obviously, the staff has misunderstood my intent and thought I was chasing her for faster support.

Many of us have experienced being misunderstood. The Bible records many instances when Jesus was misunderstood. Some of these instances include the forgiving of sins (Mark 2:5-7), the dining with tax collectors and sinners (Mark 2:13-17), the healing on Sabbath (Mark 3:4-5), the conversation with a Samaritan woman (John 4:7-9), the destroying and rebuilding of the temple in three days (John 2:19-21), and the fulfilling of the Law rather than abolishing it (Matthew 5:17).

What is the main reason for such misunderstandings? In the case of Jesus, it was because the hearts of His people have become dull. They have ears but they scarcely hear, and have closed their eyes for fear of seeing what they do not want to see or hearing what they do not want to hear (Matthew 13:15). Jesus therefore spoke to them in parables, and to those whose hearts stood steadfast with Him, they were blessed (Matthew 13:16-18).

What about us? Is the reason others are not understanding us because of their lack of sensitivity to what we are saying? Is it because they are reading between lines that they misinterpret our intent? Is it us who have misinterpreted their message or misunderstood how they think of us?

Over sensitivity and reading too deeply between the lines can give rise to misunderstandings and communication breakdowns. If we choose to hear only what we want to hear or tend to misinterpret the implied meanings or intents of other people, we need to re-examine ourselves to see if we are overly or unduly sensitive. Remember, regardless the mode we use to communicate with other people, communication can only be fruitful if the message is interpreted correctly by the receiver.

Let us be like Christ therefore when we communicate with others about Him. If their hearts have become too dull to receive direct preaching or the gospel, let us share with them 'parables' or examples derived from our life stories or anecdotes. When communicating with them, let us always be careful to clarify and verify anything that is unclear that we may not misunderstand or jump into conclusion. If there be anything that interferes with our understanding of a communication, such as presumption, assumption, prejudice, internal or external interruptions or anything else, let us take steps to eliminate them so the message may not be misconstrued or misinterpreted.

Dear Lord, help us to be attentive when communicating with other people that we may not at anytime misinterpret the meaning of the message. Lay hold of our hearts Lord that we may not be over sensitive or read into messages between the lines too deeply what are not really there or implied. Open our eyes and ears Lord that we may see clearly and hear properly the actual message along with its correct intended meaning so we may not jump into conclusion or misconstrue the truth. Forgive us Lord for misunderstanding You and others at times. Give us understanding Lord that our hearts may return to You and be healed.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God, Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.
(Isaiah 9:6 NIV)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Guide to Right Direction

Very well then, with foreign lips and strange tongues God will speak to this people, (Isaiah 28:11 NIV)

Foreign LanguageWhen my wife and I visited Japan some years ago, we decided to travel around by public transport. Looking through the route signs at the subway station for direction to get to our planned destinations, we discovered none of the signs was written in English. Without a choice, therefore, we approached the station staff to ask for help instead. Conversing with the station staff however was just as difficult because they do not speak or understand the English language. After much struggle speaking to several people, my wife and I finally have a vague idea on the connecting lines we were to take in order to get to where we wanted to go.

Like the barriers we face when communicating in foreign language, the Bible in Isaiah 28 also tells of an occasion when God had to use foreign lips and strange tongues to speak to His people (v11). This was because when God spoke to them to guide them to the resting place and the place of repose, they would not listen (v12). God therefore had no choice but to use a ‘foreign language’ or a different approach to direct them by giving specific instructions. So the word of the LORD to them was, “Do this, do that, a rule for this, a rule for that,” that they may fall backward, be injured, snared and captured (v13).

Such are the ways our Lord can direct us to the right path through difficulties and failures we face in life. For whom the Lord loves, He disciplines, so as to lead us to the way we should go (Hebrews 12:5-7). Falling backward and getting injured help us learn to better understand God’s direction for our lives. If, however, we choose to harbor bitterness and become scoffers instead of learn from our failures (v14), we will not stand (v18), for we would have made a lie our refuge and entered into a covenant with death (v15). Taking refuge living out a lie or living lives with hardened hearts is making falsehood our hiding place (v15). When an overwhelming scourge—such as the problems we face in life—sweeps by, we will be beaten down, and as often as it comes, it will carry us away and sweep us through (v17-19).

Let us therefore not harden our hearts when we face difficulties in life or be conceited like the ones who hoped to build the Tower of Babel to reach the heavens that God had to confuse their language (Genesis 11:4-7). We should instead be thankful the word of God has today been translated in many languages. No longer do we need to face language barriers or struggle to understand vaguely God’s direction for us while traveling this life on earth. The Bible is God’s guidebook for us—a lamp to our feet and a light for our path (Psalm 119:105). Should we therefore not desire God’s guidance from His word and abide by His teachings to live our lives to the fullest for His purpose?

Our God is not One who expects us to follow rules blindly, otherwise He would not have given us the freedom of choice. He is a God who desires to guide us and satisfy our needs, and He will not let us be swept away under the overwhelming scourge of a sun-scorched land. He will strengthen us like a well-watered garden which spring waters never fail (Isaiah 58:11). Let us therefore not neglect to seek God’s guidance at all times and study to learn from God’s word the direction we should take in all we do or plan to do.

Thank You dear Lord for giving us the Bible as a guidebook for living our lives on earth. Forgive us Lord for the times we choose not to follow Your guidance and go our own way, that You have no choice but to discipline us in order to lead us to the right path. We know Lord that many of our difficulties in life are but ways by which You direct us to do what is right. Help us therefore Lord not to harden our hearts to take failures too bitterly, but understand that whom You love, You discipline. Keep us strong Lord and strengthen us that we may not be easily beaten down or carried away whenever a problem comes along.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Warning Signs

But take heed; behold, I have told you everything in advance. (Mark 13:23 NAS)

Tower of Terror @ Disney WorldThe sign states ‘WARNING! Tower of Terror is a free-fall type attraction with sudden high-speed ascents and drops through darkness,’ but I did not heed the advice and went ahead with the ride. The consequence was a once in a lifetime experience—a scare of my life—even though to some people it may be fun. That was years ago when I visited the theme park at Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando, Florida.

The Tower of Terror is an attraction at the theme park, a thrill ride featuring a visit to a 199 feet tall fictional Hollywood Tower Hotel adapted from the television series ‘The Twilight Zone.’ Upon entering the elevator and going up to the 13th story, a free-fall drop sequence takes place in the dark—with all the guests in it! This drop sequence has changed over the years from one to two drops to a pre-programmed multiple drop sequence, and today randomized drops.

Like the many pre-ride warning signs around the theme parks, the Bible also provides many warning signs of what is to come before our Lord returns. Nation will rise against nation, kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes (Matthew 24:7). Signs will occur in the sun, moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations and perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves (Luke 21:25). In the last days, difficult times will come, for people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure, rather than lovers of God (2 Timothy 3:1-4). False christs and false prophets will arise and will show signs and wonders in order to lead us astray (Mark 13:22).

All these are warning signs, and God has told us everything ahead of time that we may be prepared and on our guard (Mark 13:23). We ought therefore to warn others what is to come that they may not have to face the consequence and experience the eternal scare of their lives—death without Christ. For unlike the drop sequence of the Tower of Terror ride, the drop into the bottomless pit or abyss is eternal, and all who are lost without Christ will perish and suffer the agonizing death in hell forever (Revelation 9:1-2; 20:12-15).

The Bible states very clearly that the end will come when our Lord hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after those who belong to Christ at His coming are raised (1 Corinthians 15:23-24). We should therefore take heed not to ignore the warning signs, for the gospel must first be preached to all the nations before the end will come (Matthew 24:14; Mark 13:10). As children of God, therefore, let us proclaim Christ and unravel the mystery of God’s salvation to the yet unsaved, admonish and teach those who have been saved, that we may present everyone complete in Christ (Colossians 1:26-28).

Thank You dear Lord for letting us know in advance the things that will take place before Your return, so we can be on our guard. We know Lord that difficult times are coming, with wars and famines, earthquakes and tsunamis, people who are self-centered, materialistic and without self-control. Help us Lord to take heed these warning signs, to recognize and understand the need to quicken our efforts in bringing more people into Your kingdom. Guide us Lord as we unravel the mystery of Your salvation to warn the unsaved, admonish and teach the saved, so as to present everyone complete in You.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Non-Verbal Cues Reveal

And He stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, "I am willing; be cleansed." And immediately the leprosy left him. (Luke 5:13 NAS)

Jesus and the LeperIt is no secret that people can detect our attitudes and level of interest on a subject by observing the way we carry ourselves before them. Our smiles and gestures, for example, can show our enthusiasm, while our facial and body expression can show our lack of interest.

Non-verbal communication such as body language can reveal how we think about something or feel towards someone, and sometimes even disclose what is in our hearts. This is why some people are interested in the study of body language—because it helps identify the truth from a lie. We may be able to plan the words we want to say, but we rarely can plan when we blink, smile or use other gestures during conversations. Unlike verbal communication, non-verbal communication is usually done unconsciously.

According to, up to 93 percent of communication is non-verbal, and that includes tone of voice, eye movement, posture, hand gestures, facial expressions and more. Staring or gazing at others can create pressure and tension, while maintaining eye contact can reveal whether a person is trustworthy, sincere or caring. Shifty eyes and too much blinking can suggest deception, while people whose eye movements are relaxed and comfortable, yet attentive to the other are regarded as sincere and honest. Vocal cues like tones of voice, volume, emotion, pace and the likes reveal attitudes. Bodily cues, such as hand-to-face gestures or shrugs, are strong markers of possible deception. Hand gestures or signals can communicate without the use of speech. Touch can indicate friendship or aggression, while movement toward or away from someone can convey dominance, assertion or avoidance.

The Gospels mentioned on many occasions how the Lord showed compassion and willingness to heal the sick (Matthew 20:34; Mark 6:34; 8:2). When a leper saw Jesus and fell on his face to implore Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean," Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed” (Luke 5:12-13).

This incident reveals something about body language. Although it is not explicitly stated in the Bible any eye contact between Jesus and the leper, it is clear that Jesus must have shown compassion because He willingly stretched out His hand and touched him. The touch of Jesus is of friendship, not dominance, assertion or avoidance. Our Lord’s non-verbal cues—the tone of His voice, the volume, emotion and pace—must have revealed love and compassion and put the leper at ease, without pressure or tension. Similarly, when the leper saw Jesus and fell on his face to implore the Lord, his posture, eye contact, vocal and bodily cues, gesture and facial expression must have revealed his heart.

When we come before the Lord, do we come to Him with a broken and contrite heart or do we carry untruth and insincerity in our hearts (Psalm 34:18; 51:17)? God does not need to see our body language to know our hearts (Psalm 44:21; Jeremiah 17:10), but are we, like Jesus, filled with compassion for others? Are we willing to stretch out our hands to touch those who are in need? Are we showing nonchalance toward people around us?

In whatever we do, therefore, let us do it with sincerity of heart, knowing that from the Lord we will receive our reward (Colossians 3:23-24). Let us not do anything from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than ourselves; not merely looking out for our own interests, but also for the interest of others (Philippians 2:3-4). Unless we do all things from a sincere heart, our body language can give us away and disclose to the world how much we really care.

Dear Lord, forgive us for sometimes doing things without sincerity of heart. We know Lord our hearts can never be hidden from You, and even if we attempt to hide our feelings from others, our body language can reveal much to dishonor Your name. Help us dear Lord to always stay truthful and sincere at heart when doing the things we do, especially while caring for others. Mold us Lord to be more like You that we may with a heart of compassion reach out to others without giving them tension or pressure.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Caring by Phone

But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; (James 1:19b NAS)

On the Telephone"Technical support, how can I help you?"

"Well, I have a problem using your software," said Mr. Brown in a not so friendly tone. "Every time I access one of my application databases, it would just crash on me."

"Can you tell me what you saw on the screen when that happened? Was there any error message?"

"I don't know!" Mr. Brown exclaimed, sounding angrier than before. "Do you expect me to write down the message with the error codes? I can't even capture the screen because it had already crashed!"

That was the kind of telephone conversations I get frequently while I was still working as a helpdesk technical support staff for a software corporation some years ago. Helpdesk support was not something fun, and I was often stressed. In fact, for a period of time I was near suffering from telephonophobia—the fear of telephones or reluctance to make or take phone calls.

In my case, it was not so serious to the point of failing to respond appropriately in a telephone conversation, but every time when the phone rang, I would get a chill down my spine. Inside of me was an immediate sense of withdrawal, seeking desperately to avoid receiving another telephone call. Sadly, however, that was part and parcel of my job. In effect, it was not actually the job that bothered me. It was the people I spoke to that caused such distress—people who simply refuse to make any effort to understand how things work and prefer to speak harshly. These days, I only make and receive phone calls when necessary, maybe because I am more comfortable texting than speaking on the phone or maybe it is just my tendency as a writer.

As a tool for communication, the telephone is undoubtedly very useful. How we use such a tool, however, is what really matter. In a helpdesk environment, a telephone answering service can be used to delay customers from getting to a ‘real’ person until he or she has selected multiple number options from the keypad. Such an approach although is effective in filtering who can get support, it can also frustrate the customer because of the time wasted on waiting and the possibility of a dropped line or redirection to a recording. At times, we may also receive calls that we feel is a waste of time, such as telesales and telemarketing calls.

As servants of the Lord, therefore, let us not spend too much time on unfruitful telephone conversations. Instead, let us use this tool for the Lord. Whenever needed, let us not hesitate to pick up the phone to make a call to care for another or take a call to talk to the person who is in need. We can pray and minister to the person over the phone and speak words of care and encouragement or provide spiritual counsel. When on the telephone, let us be good listeners to hear the needs of others and ponder carefully how we should speak to console, give advice or address the need of the other (James 1:19). Rather than be like the customer who is too quick to anger, let us hear carefully what is spoken and clarify if necessary, lest we drift away from our intended purpose and cause a souring of relationship instead.

Just as we make calls to speak to our loved ones when they are away or if they are staying afar, let us do the same for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who need encouragement. Let us not neglect to take time to call our friends to catch up and show our care that they may through us desire to draw closer to the Lord and know more of Him.

Dear Lord, thank You for the telephone that enables us to verbally speak and express ourselves to another, even far remote. Help us Lord not to hesitate to use such a tool when the time calls for us to make or take a call in caring and ministering to another. Enable us Lord to be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger. Remind us always Lord, not to waste too much time on unfruitful conversations or drift away from our intended purpose to risk causing the souring of relationships due to careless or thoughtless speech.