Friday, March 25, 2011

Eternal Flame

He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11 NAS)

Eternal FlameFollowing the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy in 1963, an eternal flame was built at the request of the then First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy for her husband’s grave in Arlington National Cemetery at Washington, D.C. Inspired by the Flame of Remembrance that burns at the Grave of the Unknown Soldier in Paris, this eternal flame was the first time a known individual was given such an honor. Since then, eternal flames have been designated around the world to honor the loss of people of great significance in addition to major tragic and momentous events.

The idea of an eternal flame has been a long-held tradition in many cultures and religions. In Jewish tradition, the practice of keeping a flame burning began when Moses oversaw the construction of the original menorah, a seven branched candelabra, for the tabernacle (Exodus 25:31-40). According to information from, the descendants of Aaron or the kohanim lit the menorah in the sanctuary of the Temple every evening and cleaned it out every morning, replacing the wicks and putting fresh olive oil into the cups. The menorah is said to symbolize the nation of Israel as “a light to the nations” (Isaiah 42:6 NAS). The light, being an illumining source, signifies a mission to reach the world without using force but by setting our lives as examples, not by might nor by power, but by the Spirit of God (Zechariah 4:6, 1-5). In synagogues today, the menorah is represented by a sanctuary lamp called ner tamid, which translated means everlasting light or eternal flame.

Unlike the eternal flame that signifies our mission as lights of the world (Matthew 5:14-16), the Bible mentioned another eternal flame which brings forth death. Jesus said, "If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire” (Matthew 18:8 NAS). This is the eternal fire of hell where the flame cannot be quenched (Mark 9:47-48). All who are not of the Lord at the hour of judgment will have to face this everlasting flame and be tormented with fire and brimstone, where the smoke of the torment will go up forever and ever (Matthew 13:41-42; Revelation 14:7, 9-11).

For thus our God the exalted One Who lives forever had said, "I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite” (Isaiah 57:15 NAS). “Even from eternity I am He, and there is none who can deliver out of My hand; I act and who can reverse it?” (Isaiah 43:13 NAS). But to those of us who fear Him and keep His covenant, and remember His precepts to do them, the lovingkindness of our LORD is from everlasting to everlasting (Psalm 103:17-18).

In placing eternal flames to honor the glorious dead, the word of God rightly described what is said of man about eternity being set in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). We know eternity awaits us upon our death on earth or when Christ returns. We tend to forget, however, where our friends and our loved ones will go to in eternity if they do not receive Christ as their Lord and Savior. While we think about our eternity, let us not forget the eternity of others as well. Let us as lights of the world reveal Christ in our lives and do our part to bring a change in the destiny and eternity of the yet unsaved.

Help us dear Lord to set by example to the world what it means to have You in our lives. Shine through us that as lights of the world we may reveal more of You each day. Remind us constantly that without You, many are dying in their sins and facing eternal death, fire and torment. Holy Spirit, lead and guide us in bringing salvation and the gift of eternal life to the unsaved. Eternal God and Father, we come to You with contrite hearts, lowly in spirit to seek Your revival for our land.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Living by the Minute

You have decided the length of our lives. You know how many months we will live, and we are not given a minute longer. (Job 14:5 NLT)

Living by the MinuteStaying connected and contactable at all times is not something impossible these days with communication tools such as cellular phones, wireless devices and other gadgets. In fact, to some of us, being reachable anytime anywhere may be an expected norm, and to be without our tools of communication just for a few minutes may leave us feeling disengaged, lost or disconcerted.

Many of us, like me, may live our lives as if we are working or on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, contactable round the clock to the minute. The fast pace we live in often keeps us rushing all the time—from morning to evening, day after day. We rush to get our breakfast done or skip our breakfast to get on with the day. We rush to get to work or school, and we rush to complete our assigned tasks to meet the deadlines. By the end of the day, we are frequently left exhausted, stressed and worn out, yet for some of us, we continue to do things hurriedly even at home, and sometimes even work through the night. Such a lifestyle of minute to minute rush bears consequences and depletes health, even with the young and energetic.

The author of Ecclesiastes said, “Young people, it's wonderful to be young! Enjoy every minute of it. Do everything you want to do; take it all in. But remember that you must give an account to God for everything you do” (Ecclesiastes 11:9 NLT).

Young or old is of course not the focus here. It is remembering we have to give account to God for everything we do that we ought to pay attention to. We may not be enjoying every minute of our lives and may even be living hectic lives just to achieve important goals. Nevertheless, we must know that our lives are not our own but have been bought at a price (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Our lives and lifestyle should therefore glorify God and not be lived in a way that is detrimental to our health. Sadly, however, few people realize the consequence that comes with not keeping account of our lives to God in the things we do until it is too late.

Our Lord Jesus Christ makes it very clear that He had come that we may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10). Should we therefore not live our lives fruitfully to the fullest for the purpose of God that we may be blessed abundantly? Should we not keep account how we live our lives, since the length of our days on earth has been predetermined and we cannot in anyway extend it even a minute longer (Job 14:5)?

Living our lives by the minute is nothing wrong, so long as we make every minute counts. The minutes we spend with God studying His word and conversing with Him are time well spent. The minutes we express our love to our family, relatives, friends and reach out to meet the needs of the poor are also fruitful and good. Spending a few minutes to take a break, relax and rest from time to time is important too if we hope to live our lives to the fullest, according to the abundant life our Lord has intended for us.

Let us therefore regularly and purposefully make time to take some minutes off to free ourselves from the distraction of this world—the mobile phone, wireless devices, radio, TV, gadgets and the likes—and quiet ourselves before God. Let us constantly get connected with God to converse with Him and remain on call anytime anywhere for His purpose.

Help us dear Lord to take time to pause from our constant rush in our daily lives to spend meaningful minutes amid the fast pace to quiet ourselves before You. Lead us and keep us in Your will Lord through every minute of our lives, that we may not become caught up into living a lifestyle that is unfruitful or that ruins our health. Remind us to always keep account of what we are doing that we may live our lives abundantly according to Your purpose.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Spending Time

"Everything is permissible"—but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"—but not everything is constructive. (1 Corinthians 10:23 NIV)

FarmVilleMany of us who are active participants of online social networking would probably be familiar with the game by Zynga, FarmVille. FarmVille is a farming game that allows its players to manage a virtual farm by plowing, planting, growing and harvesting. The primary way for a player to earn farm coins is to harvest crops. The player does this by paying coins for plowing a unit of land, planting crops on it, and eventually harvesting the crops after a certain amount of time has elapsed. If the player forgets to harvest the crops when ready, the crops wither and become useless after some time. How long it takes for the crops to mature and yield money after harvest depends on the crops planted and the market price at the time of harvest. All these activities performed by the player span through a period of time ranging from hours to days, and although it can be really fun, it is also very time-consuming. Unless the player has all the time in the world, this game can keep a person very busy and may even lead to the neglect of other more important things in life.

Playing online games is perfectly fine and can at times help us take our minds away from the stress of life to provide us the necessary leisure we need. It can also help us relax and rest, depending on the games we play. Excessive indulgence in gaming—or anything else—to the point of neglecting the more important things, however, can put us at risk of getting too caught up or drowned in our own virtual world. It is better for us to spend a day quietly with God or studying the word of God than to spend many days on less important things (Psalm 84:10).

The Bible states very clearly that while everything is permissible, not everything is beneficial or constructive (1 Corinthians 10:23). Everything, in this case, means the things that are not stated in the Bible as wrong or against our Spirit-filled conscience. The author of Ecclesiastes conveys the message of what it means by "a time for everything" very well when he said, “I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 10-11a NIV).

Since the beginning of time, God has known, planned and led His created people in a direction to draw them back to Himself. Never for once did He give up on us or deem it too time-consuming to wait for us to return to Him. Our God is not willing that we should die in our sins before His good news reach the ends of the earth (Matthew 24:14; Mark 13:10). He will never desert us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Even before the foundation of the world, He has already chosen us to be holy and blameless before Him, and predestined us for adoption as His children through Jesus Christ our Lord (Ephesians 1:4-5).

Let us therefore learn from God never to think it is too time-consuming to reach others for Christ, nor waste our time on the not so important things. Like the game, FarmVille, where crops wither and become useless after a time has elapsed, the people who are yet unsaved in our world can also ‘wither’ and die if we neglect to spend time to plow, plant, grow and harvest souls. If we hope to yield something that is of worth in the kingdom of God, we must play our part in spending our time wisely for the right and more important things.

Remind us dear Lord that while everything may be permissible, certain things may not be beneficial. Help us to be wise Lord to know what we should spend more time in and what we should not. Thank You Father for adopting us as Your children and for never considering it too time-consuming to lead us back to You. Stir our hearts Lord that we may not stop reaching those who are yet unsaved, lest because of us they wither and die without receiving You as Lord and Savior of their lives.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Centuries of Persecution

and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. (Matthew 16:18b NAS)

PersecutionIt began many centuries ago when a crowd gathered together on Pentecost that the first Christian church came into existence (Acts 2). Many agree that this gathering recorded in the Book of Acts is the first literal church mentioned in the New Testament (Acts 2:1, 42-47). The word 'church' however was first mentioned by Jesus in the Gospel, where He said upon this rock He will build His church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it (Matthew 16:18). In classical Greek, the word 'ekklesia' was used in place of the English translated word 'church’ which means a gathering, a congregation or a group of people assembled together for a particular cause or purpose.

When asked the question as to which book in the Bible mentions the first church, a forum participant at replied, "I would say off the top of my head, ACTS. Let’s say it up front ... the main purpose of the Bible is to show how God worked over the centuries through the Old Testament era and into the New Testament age to bring the church into existence." In a sense, this statement by the forum participant summarizes the centuries that had taken place through the years of the Old and New Testament. The story of Jesus and His church however did not end at the closure of the New Testament. It continued from the first century to today, and will continue into the future, as long as we are still in the Church Age before the return of Christ.

It was in the first century when persecution broke out under the reign of Claudius Caesar (AD 41 to 54) that Stephen was stoned to death (Acts 6:8-9). After Nero took over the reign as Emperor from AD 54 to 68 (Acts 25:11-12; 26:32; Philippians 4:22), a greater persecution continued. The apostle Peter was crucified upside down on a cross around AD 64 and the apostle Paul was executed around AD 68. For centuries after that, many more Christians suffered martyrdom under the rule of various Roman emperors. Today, many Christians in different parts of the world are still facing persecutions, especially in places where the gospel of Christ is prohibited.

On March 3, 2011, The New York Times reported the only Christian cabinet minister in the Pakistan government was shot dead for campaigning to reform the blasphemy law that mandates the death penalty for insulting a particular religion1. On February 8, 2011, Christian Today reported three churches at Temanggung, Central Java in Indonesia, were attacked by a mob of extremists after a court judge sentenced a Christian man to five years in prison for blaspheming against another religion2. On February 4, 2011, Christian Today reported the death of two Christians from separate prisons in Eritrea, northeast of Africa, after being refused medical treatment amid a renewed crackdown by the authorities against unregistered churches3. More than 100 evangelical believers were detained following the new wave of raids which started on New Year's Eve. One of the two martyrs was a 27-year-old woman who was arrested after being caught reading a Bible in her bedroom.

All through the centuries—since the birth of the first church—numerous believers have suffered and endured persecutions. Even in countries where different faiths are tolerated and religious freedom are encouraged or enforced by law, restrictions are often still imposed on what can and cannot be said or done. Failing to abide by the rules of speech and certain actions can lead to imprisonment or even death. Of these who have suffered persecutions and endured to the end, the Bible says they will be saved and blessed (Matthew 10:22; 24:13; James 5:11).

Let us who have freedom therefore not take for granted what we have lightly. Instead, let us remember those who are being mistreated and identify with them as if we ourselves are suffering (Hebrews 13:3). Let us pray earnestly for the Lord to protect those who are being persecuted and keep them standing firm, knowing that their toil is not futile (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Dear Lord, our hearts hurt to know some of our fellow brothers and sisters are suffering much for Your name’s sake. We pray O God that You will overflow them with Your love, comfort and strengthen them by Your Holy Spirit, that they may stay steadfast and immovable amid persecutions. For the rest of us who are free from persecutions, Lord, we earnestly pray for those who are suffering. Grant them Your perfect peace and protect them as they endure tribulation with the assurance that nothing they do for You is ever in vain.

1 Perlez, Jane, "Extremists are Suspected in Killing of Pakistani Minister" in The New York Times. Published March 2, 2011.
2 Rachel Ford, "Churches burned over Indonesia's blasphemy case" in Christian Today. Published February 8, 2011.
3 ASSIST News Service, "Two die in prison and over 100 detained in church raids in Eritrea" in Christian Today. Published February 4, 2011.