Friday, March 30, 2012

Worthy Achievements

Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God. (2 Chronicles 14:2 NIV)

AchievementsWith the passing of Apple’s co-founder Steve Jobs in October 2011, the world is said to have lost one of the greatest and most well-known innovators and visionaries. Jobs is best remembered for changing the modern culture with the iPod, iPhone, and iPad. His achievements are reckoned by many as legendary because his creations changed the way people live and stay connected.

According to, during his keynote address at Macworld 2007, Jobs announced the launched of three things—“A widescreen iPod with touch controls, a revolutionary mobile phone, and a breakthrough Internet communications device.” All these three things are of course found in one—the iPhone. Since then, Apple's phone has been hailed by many as the coolest device that completely changed the expectations of how a smartphone should look, feel, and behave.

Like the achievements of Jobs, the Bible also mentioned the achievements of one who had done great things in times past. Asa, king of Judah, was reckoned by God as having done what was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God. He removed the foreign altars and the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles during his reign. He also commanded Judah to seek the LORD, the God of their fathers, and to obey God's laws and commands (2 Chronicles 14:2-4). All these things that Asa did, along with other events during his reign, his achievements and the cities he built, are recorded in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah (1 Kings 15:23).

Steve Jobs and King Asa are both remembered for doing the right things. Jobs’ achievements are recognized by the world, while King Asa’s achievements are recognized by both the world and God. What about our achievements? Are we achieving what we hope to be remembered for as doing something of worth? Are the things we are accomplishing today intended for achieving great things to receive the praise of men or even to gain favor from God?

Working hard and smart to achieve targeted goals is nothing wrong. However, our God does not need us to be like Steve Jobs or King Asa to receive His approval. He does not require us to prove our worth or accomplish great things to please Him, for we are justified freely by God’s grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24). We ought not therefore to pressure ourselves unnecessarily, for the yoke of our Lord is light and not burdensome (Matthew 11:29-30). Just as Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God (2 Chronicles 14:2), let us likewise simply do what is good and right.

Rather than regard our earthly achievements as worthy of praise, therefore, let us consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing our Lord. What is more, our achievements are nothing in comparison to the gain we receive in Christ, having no righteousness of our own but the righteousness from God through faith in Him (Philippians 3:8-9). If we therefore have anything to boast, let our boasts be in the Lord, for it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends (2 Corinthians 10:17-18).

Dear Lord, thank You for accepting us just as we are, and not according to our achievements. You O God do not need us to prove our worth or accomplish great things before granting us Your approval, and we are grateful for that. Help us Lord to simply do what is good and right in Your eyes, rather than attempt to earn Your favor, for all our earthly achievements are nothing compared to the surpassing worth of knowing You. Set our hearts right O Lord that we may not seek praise from men, but do all things for the glory of Your name.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Price for Every Decision

But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; (Philippians 1:23 NAS)

PredicamentResigning from a job is a difficult decision to make, yet at times it is necessary in order to keep our health and our loved ones from worrying. On the one hand, such a decision can help free us from our distress, but on the other, it can increase our worries because we would need to find alternative income in the meantime to keep ourselves and our dependents alive.

Not too long ago, I was placed in a situation where I had to weigh the pros and cons to make a decision. After having been laid off from a job several months back, I was recently hired by another corporation which I had hoped to work for a long time, but sadly that was not to be the case. This new job left me with little time for myself and my family, and the need to spend more hours traveling to and from work than before greatly disrupted the routines of others at home. Without a choice, therefore, I am back to looking out for a new opening amid struggles managing the finances.

Many of us have had the experience of being caught between a rock and a hard place. During such times of dilemma, whatever the decision we make is likely not going to be the ideal we hope to see, and our choice may affect others as well.

The apostle Paul, like us, was caught in a similar predicament. He said, “I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake” (Philippians 1:23-24). Of course, it was not as if Paul had a right to decide to live on or to depart, except maybe he was able to hasten his appearance before Caesar for execution. Yet, it was clear he knew the consequence of the decision.

Jesus our Lord was also faced with a similar situation just hours before He died on the cross. While at the Garden of Gethsemane, He asked of God, "Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done" (Luke 22:42). As the Son of God, Jesus had the choice not to go through the agony and suffering to die for us. Yet our Lord chose to go through the pain to do the will of His Father out of His love for us.

Like Paul and Jesus, we ought also to weigh our cost when making decisions, especially during times when we are hard-pressed from two or more directions. Regardless the course we choose to take, remember, our choice bears consequences and will affect others, just as Christ’s choice brought about life to many or death to all if He had chosen otherwise.

Let us therefore thank God for His mercy and choice, for without Christ’s death on the cross, we would have forever been lost. Let us not make selfish decisions, for such can disrupt the lives of our loved ones and others. Yes, it is difficult to make choices when caught between a rock and a hard place, and yes, God has granted us the freedom of choice. Nevertheless, we should be wise to make the right choices, and like our Lord, choose to make decisions according to the will of God.

Dear Lord, thank You for choosing to save us despite the pain and suffering You have to go through. We are forever grateful to You, and we desire to be like You in making decisions according to the will of God. Regardless the decision we make O Lord, help us go through the situations that are less than ideal without grumble or complain, and remember those whose lives are affected because of us, to love and cherish them. Direct us in our decision-making Lord, that we may not unwisely cause more hurt to self and others, but to weigh the cost and consequence for the sake of our loved ones and the people around us.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Encourage the Discouraged

But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:13 NAS)

EncouragementI have written devotionals for several years, and I sometimes wonder whether the effort I put in is benefiting anyone or if anyone is reading them at all. Although I can see the number of people who have subscribed to my blog, I seldom receive any comment, so once in a while I feel discouraged. No doubt, my Christian blog is not among the well-known or popular, and it would be unfair for me to expect people to read my writings when there are so many better Christian blogs and sites out there. Yet, whenever I receive a comment on my blog, I would be encouraged once again.

Discouragement can come in many different ways. We may be discouraged because we have been looking for a job, but found none suitable, or we may have submitted a manuscript for publishing, but it was rejected. Whatever is the cause of our discouragement, it is understandable to feel disheartened if we have put our heart and soul to do our very best, and our effort is not appreciated or falls through.

The Bible teaches us we should encourage and build up one another day after day, so that none of us will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (1 Thessalonians 5:11; Hebrews 3:13). Whenever we serve the Lord, it is not unusual for the devil and his league to attempt to discourage us in whatever way they can. We may be praying for something or for someone, or making great effort to bring a loved one to the Lord, and yet nothing seems to change after many years. In such a circumstance, we may like King David ask God, "How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart all the day?" (Psalm 13:1-2). Yet, at the end of it all, David said, "But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because He has dealt bountifully with me" (Psalm 13:5-6).

King David received encouragement from God because he trusted in God’s lovingkindness. He rejoiced and sang to the LORD because he remembered God had always been good to him. Can we like David do the same? Undoubtedly, all of us deserve a pat on the back once in a while, but have we ever given thought to being that someone who encourages the discouraged? Are we able to give praise or a positive comment from our heart to them, at least for the effort they put in?

Even if we are all alone without anyone to encourage us for our service in the Lord, there is no need for us to be disheartened. Our God is not unjust to forget our work and the love we have shown toward His name (Hebrews 6:10). Whether we are ministering to the saints or the sinners, God sees our hearts and will reward us according to our deeds (Jeremiah 17:10).

Give thanks and praise the Lord, therefore, and do not be discouraged even if our effort does not seem to bear fruit. Unless we sow, we cannot reap, and harvest takes time. We need to continue to do what we know is right and according to the will of God. Never ever be discouraged to the point of turning back to our old ways, just because we sometimes fail to achieve our intended goals. Even if we have made a mistake, God can turn our mistake around to serve His purpose. He is able to make all things work together for good to those who love Him, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

Dear Lord, thank You for always looking after us. We know we make mistakes at times, yet You have make all things right, according to Your purpose. You O Lord have dealt bountifully with us, and we will not be discouraged. Help us Lord be the one to encourage others, constantly looking out for those who needs encouraging. Do not allow us to be discouraged to the point of falling back to our old ways Lord, but remind us always of Your lovingkindness to put our complete trust in You.

Related Articles:
  • Bible Verses for Encouragement
  • How to Handle Disappointment
  • Friday, March 9, 2012

    Job Satisfaction and Teamwork

    Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat, to drink and enjoy oneself in all one's labor in which he toils under the sun during the few years of his life which God has given him; for this is his reward. (Ecclesiastes 5:18 NAS)

    Job SatisfactionOne of the most well-known theories on motivation relating to productivity in the work environment is the ‘Hawthorne Studies’ by Harvard Business School professor Elton Mayo, founder of the human relations movement. In these studies, Mayo, together with two of his researchers, conducted a series of experiments over several years (from 1927 to 1932), and found that employees’ work performance is dependent on both social relations and job scope.

    Mayo began his experiments by first examining the physical and environmental influences of the workplace, such as lightings, illumination, and humidity, before looking into other aspects, such as duration of breaks, group pressure, working hours, and leadership. Results were measured by counting the number of finished relays each worker dropped down a chute, and throughout the experiments, a supervisor was assigned to observe and discuss with the workers on changes required.

    During the five years of study and research, different variables were introduced from time to time, and Mayo measured how these changes impacted the group's and individuals' productivity. His conclusion was work satisfaction and teamwork contributes a high cohesion in producing positive results when workers and supervisors develop a sense of participation working together.

    Many centuries before the ‘Hawthorne Studies’ observations made by Elton Mayo, the author of the Book of Ecclesiastes wrote about the importance of job satisfaction and team spirit. He said he had observed what is good and fitting—to eat, drink and enjoy oneself in one's labor which he toils—for this is his reward (Ecclesiastes 5:18). He also said, “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor” (Ecclesiastes 4:9).

    Perhaps, to some of us, the thought of eating, drinking, and enjoying the fruit of our labor seem unfitting and wrong. Yet the Bible makes it very clear that to acquire wisdom is to love oneself or one’s own soul (Proverbs 19:8), and we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, in which self-love is assumed and implicit (Matthew 22:39). Deriving satisfaction out of work is therefore not wrong, and as workers, we deserve our wages and reward (1 Timothy 5:18; Ecclesiastes 5:18).

    Nevertheless, job satisfaction must never be procured solely for our own personal interests at the expense of others (Philippians 2:3-4). We should instead work as a team to achieve the common goal, just as the body of Christ is one with many members, and all the members function together as one body (Romans 12:4-5; 1 Corinthians 12:12).

    If we are supervisors, managers or employers, therefore, let us not coerce those who work for us or under us, for the Bible says, "You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing" (1 Timothy 5:18). Instead, we should give attention to our subordinates to listen to their feedback and develop a favorable environment for cooperation and participation working together. If necessary, experiment to find out what are the best ways to help them derive job satisfaction, yet without compromising corporate objectives, that in so doing, both the corporation and the workers may yield better returns.

    Thank You dear Lord for rewarding us with guilt-free satisfaction derived from the fruit of our labor. Forgive us Lord for the times we fail to consider the interests of others. Help us to be good team players Lord, always looking out for ways to improve cooperation and participation working together. Direct us and move our hearts Lord that we may not at any time coerce to motivate, but show care and encouragement to guide one another towards achieving the common goal.

    Friday, March 2, 2012

    Appointed for Wrath

    For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:9 NIV)

    Corporate SlaveryWhen I received the letter of appointment to a position in a corporation recently, I was overjoyed and ready to start a whole new chapter in my life. Things did not go in the way as I have hoped however as my reporting manager was expecting me to run before I could walk, and choking me with solid food before I could get use to soft food.

    On day one when I arrived for work, I was immediately led to a meeting room for briefing by the human resource and IT department on corporate policies and security. In the afternoon, I was debriefed by my reporting manager what was expected of me, before I was granted a little time to set up my work tools—laptop, network connection, and user accounts to different systems.

    On day two, my entire morning was taken up by the reporting manager to explain the scope of work, the immensity of what I should expect upcoming, and the need for me to catch up to speed soonest possible.

    “And by the way,” said the manager at the end of her session with me. “I am conducting a training this evening for the advanced users, and I want you to come along.”

    “Okay,” I answered reluctantly, for in my thoughts I was wondering how I would be able to cope with advanced learning before I was given the chance to start learning the basics.

    The human resource had promised me earlier that the first five days at work would be a breeze, as my priority would be to focus on learning the basics first. Unfortunately that was not the case, and amid the attempt to familiarize myself with the bare elementary concepts through self-taught eLearning in the afternoon, the training in the evening left me with more questions than answers.

    Like me, some of us are probably familiar with the demands in the corporate world. It is not unusual for an employee to be expected to perform immediately upon acceptance of appointment. Such an expectation, thankfully, is not the same in the spiritual realm. The Bible puts it clearly that God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ who died for us so we may live together with Him (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10).

    Unlike our earthly bosses, our God understands that growth and progress take time. As a father is to his son, our heavenly Father does not exasperate us, but nurtures us in training and instruction (Ephesians 6:4). If we are new or young in the faith, we need not fear or worry about falling. Like newborn babies, we ought instead to crave for pure spiritual milk so we may grow up in our salvation (1 Peter 2:2).

    God knows what is good for us and will not give us solid food when we are not ready (1 Corinthians 3:2). We must, however, eventually grow up in spiritual maturity, just as a baby grows up to consume solid food. Sadly, however, some of us by this time ought to be teachers, but we fail to rise up to the appointment (Hebrews 5:12-13).

    Rather than remain in infancy to constantly need the elementary truths of God’s word, therefore, let us pave our ways to grow and progress steadily, for anyone who lives on milk is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. Whether we are new by appointment, say to a ministry, or new in the faith, let us familiarize the basics quickly, yet without rush, that we may not need to start over. Grow up and begin taking solid food so we can distinguish the good from evil through the constant study and use of God’s word (Hebrews 5:14; 6:1).

    Dear Lord, help us live above worldly expectations to regain our grounds in handling things according to our ability. Teach and instruct us as we look deep into Your word that we may gradually grow out of immaturity, and be trained to distinguish good from evil. Lay us on a firm foundation Lord, so we may not again and again fall prey to our sinful nature, but rise up to the appointment when the time arrives for us to lead.