Friday, January 28, 2011

Seasonal Tilt

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. (Hebrews 5:12 NAS)

Seasonal TiltThe four seasons are often thought of by many as distinct phases in a year. Spring is a time for new life or rebirth, summer for warmth and growth, fall for harvest and gathering, and winter for sleep, rest and death. According to an article at IndepthInfo.com, the variance in temperature and climate on the earth during the different seasons is largely because of the tilt of the earth. As the earth circles the sun, the axis tilts more toward or away from the sun. This tilt consistently points in the same direction regardless where the earth is positioned in the orbit and determines the warming and cooling in a seasonal cycle.

Like the seasons in a year which spring forth from new life to growth, harvest, and then decay, the seasons of human life also spring forth different experiences, strengths and weaknesses during the different stages of our lives. Challenges of different sorts are faced during the different stages, and we learn to handle them differently as we grow in maturity. This is normal because while we were children, we behave, speak, think and reason like children, but when we become adults, we do away with childish things (1 Corinthians 13:11).

Unlike the seasons which run a new cycle after each year, however, the seasons of human life—including our lives—follow through linear progression from childhood to eventual death without any cycle. The Bible states very clearly it is appointed for men to die once, and after this comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27).

Knowing this, therefore, we should not let ourselves become too accustomed receiving milk or elementary principles, for anyone who lives on milk is not acquainted with the teaching of righteousness (Hebrews 5:13). We should instead seek to progress and grow in spiritual maturity to consume solid food, which is for the mature who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil (Hebrews 5:13-14).

If we have known the Lord for many years, then by this time we ought to be teachers or capable of nurturing others. If we are unable to do so, it is likely we have not been putting enough effort to the study of God’s word. If we today are still making decisions that follow our old ways before we know the Lord, then we are like children who are unacquainted with the teachings of righteousness and in need of basic truths (Hebrews 5:12). If we think it is understandable or try to justify ourselves that we are doing so because we can only see God’s plan vaguely at this time, we have forgotten we are not without guidance. The word of God is enough at this present time for us to know the path, and some day face to face with our Lord, we shall know fully, just as we are fully known by Him (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Let us therefore, while waiting for our Lord’s return, not be like children or infants. Instead, let us be like the tilt of the earth to always point in the same direction regardless of our circumstances in our pursuit to study God’s word. Let us determine in our hearts to know more of Christ our Lord and grow in spiritual maturity. Just as the earth circles around the sun, let us also surround everything we do according to God’s word and will. Through all circumstances—warm or cold—let us not hibernate or stay in infancy, but grow and progress in faith to achieve God’s goal for our lives.

Dear Lord, forgive us for sometimes behaving like children, always expecting to be fed rather than to grow up to feed others. Lay the seed and grow in us Lord the knowledge of Your word that as we grow in years, we may also grow in spiritual maturity. Put in our hearts the determination to want to know You more through the in-depth studying of Your word. Remind us Lord to seek Your will every time we want to make our own decisions without the knowledge of Your word. Help us Lord to always point in the same direction towards fulfilling Your will in all we do, and in all circumstances acknowledge You.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Eclipse

The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands (Psalm 19:1 NAS)

Lunar EclipseOn December 20, 2010, The New York Times published a story about the lunar eclipse of the moon that was to take place the following day. According to the news story, the earth will prevent the sun’s rays from reaching the moon over the course of about 72 minutes. Such a lunar eclipse will not happen again until 2094. For the first time in 372 years, the lunar eclipse coincides with the winter solstice, the time at which the sun is at its southernmost point in the sky. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) not wanting to let such a spectacle escape its gaze has set up several ways for sky watchers to view pictures and watch live video feed from a camera mounted at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

A lunar eclipse can only occur when the sun, earth and moon are aligned exactly or at close proximity with earth in the middle. This is why it is always a full moon the night of a lunar eclipse. The length and the type of an eclipse depend on the moon's location, relative to its orbital nodes. A lunar eclipse normally lasts for more than an hour and may stretch on to several hours, whereas a total solar eclipse lasts only a few minutes at any given place. Unlike a solar eclipse which can only be viewed from a relatively small area of the world, a lunar eclipse can be viewed from anywhere on earth, so long as it is night. The lunar eclipse of December 21, 2010 was visible in its entirety in North and South America, Iceland, Ireland, Britain and northern Scandinavia.

Knowing how an eclipse occurs when the sun, earth and moon align according to the designed order of the One who is in control should amaze us. The psalmist says, "When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him?” (Psalm 8:3-4 NAS). The heavens tell of the glory of God, and the skies declare His handiwork (Psalm 19:1). Our God is able to make the sun go down at noon and the earth dark in broad daylight (Amos 8:9). He is the One who made the moon for the seasons, and the sun knows the place of its setting (Psalm 104:19). The sun will not smite us by day, nor the moon by night, for the LORD will protect us from all evil and will keep our souls (Psalm 121:6-7). He is our keeper, our shade at our right hand (Psalm 121:5).

Let us therefore worship God and be awed by His creation and majesty, for the LORD has declared the heaven is His throne and the earth is His footstool, and by His hand all these things were made (Isaiah 66:1-2). Should we therefore not bow before Him and sing His praise in reverence and worship? Should we not, like NASA, find ways to ensure a spectacle such as God’s magnificent creation does not escape its gaze by helping the world see and experience live the goodness of God?

Rather than be like the sun, earth and moon which come together in alignment only once in a blue moon, let us as fellow believers in the Lord meet regularly to examine and align our understanding of God’s word (Hebrews 10:25; Acts 17:11). When sharing the gospel, let us be like the lunar eclipse to take time to reach people from anywhere on earth, instead of like the solar eclipse which quickly go away once a small area is covered. Just as the lunar eclipse is visible in its entirety where there is night, let us reveal the entirety of Christ to the world, where in the darkness is the Light that shines (John 1:5).

Dear Lord, in the immensity of the universe and Your creation, we cannot help but to praise and worship You. Shine therefore through us Lord that Your light may be revealed to the world. Put in our hearts the desire to meet with fellow believers regularly to examine and align our understanding of Your word. Help us Lord when sharing the gospel, not to rush but to spend time to reach the unsaved for You.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Hurting Others Unknowingly

Now if a person sins and does any of the things which the LORD has commanded not to be done, though he was unaware, still he is guilty and shall bear his punishment. (Leviticus 5:17 NAS)

Ignorance is No Excuse!In an article posted at ExperienceProject.com, a woman shared about how she and her friend were fined $200 for breaking the law without knowing it. The woman was at a national park and picked up an unusually large pine cone. Her friend took a picture of it, thinking it would be funny. On turning the corner, however, they saw a big sign that prohibited picking up pine cones and were fined.

Many of us have encountered similar experiences of doing something wrong without being aware of it. We may not have broken the law unknowingly, but we may sometimes hurt someone unwittingly by what we say or do or by what we fail to say or do.

Some years ago when my dad passed away without receiving the Lord despite many attempts to speak to him about Christ, I was deeply hurt and in great sorrow. A Christian sister speaking on behalf of the church tried to console me and said, “Who knows? Maybe your dad received the Lord at the last minute, since you have spoken to him about Christ many times.” Such words although may sound sensible, hurt me badly because I knew better, and cannot help but blame myself for not putting enough effort. Like the three friends who hurt Job more than sympathize with and comfort Job (Job 2:11; 22-31), the church sister helped little but hurt me more. I can try to justify myself and blame the failure as due to language barrier, being unable to preach the full gospel message in the only native dialect my dad could understand. The fact however remains—I failed.

Just as saying or doing the wrong thing can hurt others, not saying or doing the right thing can hurt others too. If we ignore or fail to respond to our loved ones when they interact with us or respond nonchalantly without giving full attentiveness to what they are saying, we hurt them. We may sometimes have good reasons for not being very responsive or attentive, such as when we are busy or in the midst of something or when our minds are actively working on jolting down ideas on paper. During such times, we may fail to show care or say a word of encouragement when our loved ones interrupt us, and we may unconsciously put aside what they say to continue with what we are doing. Such momentary slips of attention can lead to colossal repercussion.

Being inattentive or unaware, doing or saying something wrong or not doing or saying what is right, does not give us the right to excuse ourselves as blameless. We may justify ourselves to say it is human to err, but ignorance is unacceptable under any judicial law. ‘Ignorance of the law does not excuse’ or ‘ignorance of the law excuses no one’ is a legal principle holding that a person who is unaware of a law may not escape liability for violating that law merely because he or she was unaware of its content.

In describing the priesthood of our Lord and the tabernacle, the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews mentioned the offering for sins of the people committed in ignorance (Hebrews 9:7). The Books of the Law—the Pentateuch—also mentioned that “if a person sins and does any of the things which the LORD has commanded not to be done, though he was unaware, still he is guilty and shall bear his punishment” (Leviticus 5:17 NAS). This may sound a little harsh and we say we are under grace, but as believers, this is a principle we should abide by and put in practice. Why should others suffer because of our words, action or lack of action? We ought not to put others through unnecessary pain because of our insensitivity and ignorance.

Let us therefore not excuse ourselves for hurting others because of ignorance. Like the woman and her friend who paid the fine despite being unaware of the law, let us find ways to make restitution for causing hurt to others (Luke 19:8-9). We should also come before God to ask for forgiveness and request His mercy, especially for those whom we have hurt and are no longer able to make restitution (Numbers 5:7-8).

Dear Lord, forgive us for the many times we unknowingly hurt others by our speech, action or inaction. Help us not to excuse ourselves from the sins and hurts we committed out of ignorance, Lord, but to find ways to make restitution for the wrong we did to others. For the ones we can no longer contact or are unaware we have hurt them, Lord, in Your mercy and grace, comfort them and heal them of their pain. Renew and sanctify us Lord that we may be more attentive to Your Holy Spirit from now on to be sensitive in whatever we say and do, and do the things we should do to provide care and encouragement.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Amid the Noise

And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. (1 Kings 19:12 KJV)

NoiseAs a writer, I used to take time over the weekends to go away from the city for long nature walks to think and get inspiration from God. Early mornings are always the best times to seek solitude within nature as I calm my inner spirit to heighten my senses in listening, smelling, touching, feeling, and seeing. It is within nature that I rekindle my inner love for writing, the longing inside me that is ever growing in desire to pen down my thoughts to share to the world the greatness of our God and Creator.

Peace and quiet however is hard to come by these days, especially for those of us living in the city. Disturbances and disruptions are a norm in our daily lives. Whether we are at the gardens or parks, the beaches, at work or at other places, noise is always prevalent. We seldom can hear fully what is spoken to us amid surrounding noise.

In communication studies, barriers in communication are referred to as noise. The goal of all communication is to understand the message conveyed. Whatever disrupts the communication process is therefore regarded as noise. Noise is anything that interferes with the understanding of a communication, and it can come from external or internal. If we are conversing with someone while another person near us is talking out loud, the noise disturbance is external. If someone is speaking to us while our minds are miles away, the noise is internal.

Besides external and internal noise, there is a third noise known as semantic noise. Semantic noise is the use of signifiers or references made by the sender which cannot be understood by the receiver. If we tell a non-believer he must be born again to be saved, for example, he is unable to understand what we mean by ‘born again’ until we explain what it is clearly. Such a noise is semantic.

Like the barriers in communication, the Bible also tells of a time when Elijah the prophet was influenced by surrounding noise. While fleeing from Jezebel, Elijah was directed by the LORD to go up to the mountain to stand before Him as He was about to pass by (1 Kings 19:11). A strong wind came by, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind, an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake, a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. All these are just noise. Finally, the LORD spoke to Elijah in a still small voice, and Elijah heard it (1 Kings 19:11-13).

Days or hours before Elijah was able to hear the still small voice, he was not at all calm to hear God on three counts. First, he was praying that he might die (1 Kings 19:4), obviously under the influence of internal noise and lacking inner peace. Second, he was unable to find God within nature because of external noise from the wind, earthquake and fire. Third, he failed to observe how God has been taking care of him or understand God’s message beyond the semantic noise and signifiers that showed so clearly God’s presence with him (1 Kings 19:5-8).

Are we like Elijah surrounded by too much noise that we fail to recognize the presence of God? Are we calm at heart or are we easily influenced by noise? If we are constantly surrounded by disturbances or noise nearly every moment of our lives, it is important that we find peace and quiet amid all the noise. Without a heart of solitude and a calm spirit, we seldom can hear God.

Let us therefore take time to quiet ourselves before the Lord, whether at home in a quiet corner or at a place with scheduled time for no interruption or away from the crowd to a place of solitude. Let us listen carefully to the still small voice and the prompting of the Holy Spirit that we may be refreshed and renewed with heighten sensitivity to the leading of our Lord. Let us rekindle our first love for Jesus.

Calm our spirit Lord that we may enter into Your presence with longing desire in our hearts. Rekindle in us Lord our first love for You that we may once again hear You even amid all the noises of this earth. Refresh and renew us Lord so we may heighten our sensitivity to Your leading that we may also be sensitive to others when leading them to You. Thank You, dear Lord, for caring for us always. We love You and worship You with all our hearts.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Blessed New Year 2011

Wishing You a Blessed and ...

Have a Blessed New Year

The LORD bless you, and keep you;
The LORD make His face shine on you,
And be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance on you,
And give you peace.

(Numbers 6:24-26 NAS)

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