Friday, June 24, 2011

Tantrums and Complacency

All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. (2 Corinthians 4:15 NIV)

Grocery ShoppingI was looking up the Web for a humorous anecdote about shopping several days ago, and came upon an interesting story posted at several sites.

A man was observing a woman in the grocery store with a three year old girl in her basket. As they passed the cookie section, the little girl asked for cookies, but her mother told her, "No." The little girl immediately began to whine and fuss, and the mother quietly said, "Now Monica, we just have half of the aisles left to go through—don’t be upset. It won't be long now."

Soon, they came to the candy aisle and the little girl began to shout for candy. When told she couldn't have any, she began to cry. The mother said, "There, there, Monica, don't cry—only two more aisles to go and then we'll be checking out."

When they got to the checkout stand, the little girl immediately began to clamor for gum and burst into a terrible tantrum upon discovering there'd be no gum purchased. The mother said serenely, "Monica, we'll be through this checkout stand in five minutes and then you can go home and have a nice nap."

The man followed them out to the parking lot and stopped the woman to compliment her. "I couldn't help noticing how patient you were with little Monica," he began.

The mother replied, "I'm Monica—my little girl's name is Tammy."

As funny as the anecdote may sound, there are much truths represented in the story that share a similar parallel to our relationship with God. Like Tammy, we may sometimes ask of God for things that are not necessarily beneficial or useful to us, and like Monica, God may reply with the answer, “No” (2 Corinthians 12:8-9). That’s because God knows what is best for us (Jeremiah 29:11), even if it means to go through certain trials to become the person He wants us to be (2 Corinthians 4:8-9, 15; James 1:12; 1 Peter 5:10). We may make plans in our hearts as to what we want or where we shall go, but it is the LORD who leads us and establishes our steps (Proverbs 16:9).

Unlike Monica, however, God does not have to remind Himself to be patient with us. Our Lord is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness (Psalm 86:15). He is not slow in keeping His promise and is patient with us (2 Peter 3:9). For great is His love toward us, and His faithfulness endures forever (Psalm 117:2). Just as our heavenly Father cares for the birds of the air, much more He values us and cares for us (Matthew 6:26). Why should we then worry or cry out loud like Tammy to whine and fuss over what we shall eat, drink, or wear (Matthew 6:31)? Do we not know that in good times or bad times, all that happened in our lives are for our benefit, so that grace may abound and more people may have cause for thanksgiving (2 Corinthians 4:15)?

Let us therefore not blow our top, complain or feel unhappy when things do not go our way. Instead, let us check out and test our hearts to see if we are aligned to the will of God (Lamentations 3:40). If the checkout indicates we have stepped out of line, let us be quick to get back in line and return to the Lord. If we have been wayward or complacent, let us seek God for forgiveness, that we may live in safety and be at ease, without fear of any harm (Proverbs 1:32-33; 1 John 1:9).

Forgive us dear Lord for sometimes losing our temper or feeling unhappy when things are not going the way we want. We know Lord our requests can sometimes be unreasonable or unaligned to Your will, which is why at times we receive a “No” from You. Help us therefore Lord to recognize and accept the times we are to go through certain trials, that we may not be complacent but be willing to do Your will. Only You O Lord know what is best for us. Thank You, Lord, for establishing our steps and planning all things for our benefit. We praise You Lord and glorify Your name.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Forecast

The LORD will guard your going out and your coming in From this time forth and forever. (Psalm 121:8 NAS)

Economic OutlookRecent news of a weak economic outlook in the United States has dampened the hope of a much awaited recovery. On June 3, 2011, The New York Times reported that after several months of strong job growth, hiring has slowed sharply in May, suggesting the economy may be running out of steam once again. Over the past few months, economists have been predicting the recovery was speeding up, and that a sharper bounce-back was imminent, only to be disappointed again and again by continued ‘headwinds’ stalling progress. The latest ‘headwinds’ include high gas prices, economic disruptions from Japan’s earthquake and tsunami, and instability in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, unemployment rate has edged up to 9.1 percent from 9.0 in April. This is despite 54,000 nonfarm payroll jobs have been added in May, after the increase of about 220,000 jobs in each of the three previous months, according to the Labor Department. The gain however was only about a third of what economists have been forecasting.

In a separate news story on May 18, 2011, The New York Times reported that evidences are now emerging to show the damage wrought by the sour economy is more widespread than expected. Even for college graduates, the outlook is rather bleak. An analysis by the Labor Department found the number of college graduates aged 25 to 34 employed in food service, restaurants and bars had risen 17 percent in 2009 from 2008. Similar or bigger employment increases are also evident at gas stations and fuel dealers, food and alcohol stores, and taxi and limousine services. This analysis indicates not only the waste of a college degree, but also the displacement of less-educated workers who would normally take these jobs.

As we continue to read, hear and watch the news of what’s to come with forecasts of more gloom than a brighter future, how should we respond as believers in Christ? Do we feel discouraged or disconcerted as if a dark cloud is hanging over our heads or do we have complete calm in our hearts knowing that God is in control? In the face of a bleak economic future, do we despair or hold fast our confidence in the Lord (Hebrews 3:6)?

Let us choose to respond positively, and like the psalmist who wrote Psalm 121 lift our eyes to the mountains, knowing that our help comes from the LORD who made the heavens and earth (v.1-2). Our God will not allow our feet to slip and He will not slumber nor sleep (v.3-4). The LORD is our keeper (v.5), we will not be smitten by day or by night regardless our situation (v.6). The LORD will protect us and keep our souls (v.7). He will guard our going out and our coming in forever (v.8). Our God knows the plans He has for us, plans for our welfare and not for calamity, to give us a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11). So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:34).

If therefore we are in need, let us ask of God and seek Him, for to everyone who asks shall receive, and to the one who seeks will find (Psalm 34:4; Matthew 7:7-8). Our God is not a man that He should lie, nor a son of man that He should repent. Has He said and will He not do it? Has He spoken and will He not make it good (Numbers 23:19)? Our Lord GOD has sustained us since our birth (Psalm 71:5-6), so why should we despair or be disturbed within us? Hope in Him, for He is our help and our God (Psalm 42:5, 11). The LORD is our shepherd; we shall not be in want (Psalm 23:1). Let us trust in the LORD with all our hearts rather than lean on our own understanding. In all our ways acknowledge Him, and He will make our paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Our sovereign Lord who made the heavens and the earth, by Your great power and outstretched arm we know nothing is too difficult for You. Though men may forecast a future of gloom, nothing they say can come true unless You permit so. Even if we are to walk through many trials, we need not fear nor worry because You are with us, Your rod and Your staff comfort and guide us. Help us therefore Lord to rise above the dark clouds and never doubt Your plans for us, of welfare and not calamity, to give us a future and a hope. You O Lord are God and in You we can trust completely.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Betrayal

Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew; and he ate and drank, and rose and went on his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright. (Genesis 25:34 NAS)

Peace ChildIn the book Peace Child by Canadian Christian missionary Don Richardson, the author shared about his experience working among the Sawi tribal people of New Guinea. The Sawi for centuries have lived as cannibal-headhunters warring against each other’s villages and living by the ideal of what is called tuwi asonai man, which translated means to fatten with friendship for unexpected slaughter. In this practice, warriors persuade a man to become their friend with the intention of killing and eating him later. The more complicated the plan, the more honorable the warrior becomes among his own village. Revenge and murders followed in succession between the victims’ villages, which then become an endless cycle of violence.

After Richardson learned the language of the Sawi, he began sharing with them the story of Jesus. The Sawi however were not interested in the gospel, but brightened up when Richardson related the account of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus in which they acclaimed Judas as a super-Sawi and hero of the story. Feeling he had failed in his mission and blaming himself as the cause of more conflicts and Sawi killings because of his presence, Richardson decided to leave. Not wanting to lose their source of modern medicine and steel axes, the warriors then told Richardson they would make peace.

The one and only guarantee that all Sawi will honor in bringing about peace is an exchange of infants between villages. This practice is called tarop tim, which translated means peace child. As long as the peace child lives, peace is guaranteed. While any other murder is regarded as honorable to the Sawi, killing a peace child is considered a despicable act. That was the key Richardson was waiting for as he presented Jesus as God's Peace Child who never dies and therefore guarantees everlasting peace. Many of the Sawi were transformed by the message and soon churches sprang up in every village.

Like the way the Sawi were ready to sellout themselves to a life of revenge and violence, and their ‘friends’ for the slaughter, the Bible also mentioned a person who was willing to sellout his spiritual inheritance for a meal. Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for bread and lentil stew (Genesis 25:29-34). His lack of discretion and regard for his spiritual inheritance were equated as immoral and godless, for when he desired to inherit the blessing later, he was rejected because he found no place for repentance (Hebrews 12:16-17). Likewise for Judas Iscariot who betrayed the Lord for thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 26:14-15). It would have been better for him if he had not been born (Matthew 26:24).

Are we like the Sawi, Judas or Esau, ready to betray or sellout someone or give up our birthright as children of God just to achieve our personal goals? Do we, like the Sawi or even Judas, build up relationships to gain advantage through the one we know or betray a ‘friend’ for monetary or other gains? If we befriend a person who is rich, powerful or popular just to have unfair advantage or opportunity in getting what we want, then we are not much different from the Sawi or Judas. If we are willing to give up our faith just to save ourselves from trouble, persecution or the likes, then we are not worthy to be our Lord’s disciples (Matthew 16:24-25; Luke 14:27). Woe to us if we betray or sellout anyone or our faith, for as soon as we deal treacherously, others will deal treacherously with us too (Isaiah 33:1), like the endless cycle of revenge in the Sawi culture.

Let us therefore never ever deal treacherously or take advantage of the people around us, or befriend someone out of ulterior motives. Let us instead lead them to the One true Peace Child who never dies and guarantees everlasting peace.

Dear Lord, forgive us for sometimes making friends or building relationships out of ulterior motives. Help us Lord never to deal treacherously or sellout our faith for personal gains or just to avoid trouble, persecution or inconvenience. Keep us mindful Lord of the consequences we have to bear should we in our carelessness fail to value our spiritual inheritance. Thank You Lord for being the ultimate Peace Child who guarantees everlasting peace with God to all who believe in You.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Outlandish Claims

"For you are bringing some strange things to our ears; so we want to know what these things mean." (Acts 17:20 NAS)

Judgment DayRecently I read an article posted by various people on Facebook about what would happen to the pets of owners who were poised to be raptured or caught up to be with Jesus on May 21, 2011. This was the date touted by California evangelical broadcaster Harold Camping, head of Family Radio network, as the day of Rapture—the end of the world. Comments received for the post at Facebook were not at all pleasant, with many ridiculing the absurdity of such prediction and the Christian faith.

The article which was penned by dog news examiner Penny Eims for Examiner.com mentioned that many evangelical Christians believe they would be swept up in the "Rapture ... leaving Earth and all of its problems far behind” on that day. Eims wrote “if you are among the last group of people [who believe Rapture is only for people and not pets], have no fear—there is a man … who has a safety net in place for the pets that have been left behind. From his website, Eternal Earthbound Pets, is the following promotion, ‘You've committed your life to Jesus. You know you're saved. But when the Rapture comes what's to become of your loving pets that are left behind? Eternal Earth-Bound Pets takes that burden off your mind.’ The group promises to have pet-loving atheists on hand to care for the pets that are left behind when their owners are raptured.”

As far-fetched and laughable as the article by Eims may sound, it is sad to know how much damage such predictions by professed Christians can harm the spread of the gospel. Imagine the proposition of having atheists to help take care of pets for the raptured, and we will understand how Christianity is represented to the world. Pastor Glenn Lee Hill, retired pastor from Rocky Mount, N.C., speaking about Camping’s prediction, told The Christian Post (ChristianPost.com) that false prophecy is harmful and saddening for the Christian body “because when it fails, all of us who believe in Jesus will become fodder for the comics, the late-night talk show hosts, and others who are always looking for a new excuse to mock our faith. Christianity, the name of Jesus, and all of us who love Him will bear the embarrassment of this false prophecy.”

Unlike the unfounded predictions made by false prophets, our Lord Jesus who so often has been ridiculed by unbelievers to have made outlandish claims, always back up His claims with proof. While many religious leaders make claims to be able to show their followers how to find the truth, Jesus said of Himself, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6 NAS). Jesus followed up His claim by dying on the cross and rising from the dead. This is proof enough that He is the Son of the living God.

As followers of the Lord, let us not make false claims, for such will not only create damage, but also hinder the spread of the gospel. We ought not to take the name of the LORD our God in vain, for the LORD will not leave unpunished anyone who misuses His name (Exodus 20:7). False prophets and false teachers will always be among us to secretly introduce destructive heresies, and exploit us with stories they have made up to put the way of truth into disrepute (2 Peter 2:1-3). We should therefore be wise and not be misled by unfounded predictions or help proclaim such heresies, for the day of the Lord will come like a thief (2 Peter 3:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:2). We should with one heart, boldly, clarify the strange things people are hearing, that they may know the truth (Acts 17:20).

Forgive us dear Lord for sometimes getting carried away by false prophesies, and for making claims not based on Bible truth. Help us to discern Lord what is false and what is true, that we may not mislead others or put the truth into disrepute. Preserve O God those who are yet unsaved that they may not be influenced by false teachings to no longer desire You, the one and only way to the Father. Lead us Lord as we defend Your word in setting right what has been wrongly proclaimed.

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