Friday, May 25, 2012

Reputable Fame

LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD. (Habakkuk 3:2a NIV)

Reputation Precedes
When someone says our reputation precedes us, we know that person has heard about us and what we have done or achieved prior to meeting us. In a sense, it means we have earned ourselves a certain amount of fame—good or bad. If we are known for being charitable, we are doing fine, unless all our works are done in pretense, just for hype. If we, on the other hand, have a reputation for doing the exact opposite of what is right, then we are in a sad state, more often than not acquainted with dishonor. Beyond these two opposites is a third outcome of fame which is seemingly undesirable, yet absolutely necessary. This is the earned reputation for doing the right thing and suffering for doing it.

The apostle Paul said, “I have ... been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked … I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked” (2 Corinthians 11:23-28 NIV).

Paul did the right thing and suffered much for the gospel of Christ. His reputation preceded him—both good and bad—and his imprisonment encouraged many to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly (Acts 9:13-14, 20-21, 26-27; Philippians 1:14). The controversy concerning his total change after his conversion made news, and for that he had many opportunities to share his testimony (Acts 22:2-16; 26:12-18). God did extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them (Acts 19:11-12). Famed for contributing a large part of the writings in the New Testament, Paul was reputed for having led many to the Lord.

What about us? Who do people and the crowd say we are? Are we reputed for doing the right or wrong things? Are our good works publicity stunts to gain popularity and praise from men or are we genuinely interested in helping the needy? Are our actions and testimony bringing glory to or defaming the name of the Lord? Is fame and face more important to us than obeying God? Where do we stand if we know we are to suffer disrepute or be disadvantaged doing what is right?

Let us choose to bring glory to God in every of our actions rather than to ourselves, and let the fame of our God be exceedingly great (Colossians 3:17). If we are famous or desire fame, let us not boast of ourselves but of God (Jeremiah 9:23-24; 2 Corinthians 10:13). Like Habakkuk the prophet, let us say of the LORD, we have heard of Your fame; we stand in awe of Your deeds, O LORD (Habakkuk 3:2a).

Dear Lord, forgive us for the times we place our reputation above all else, just for the sake of face or popularity votes. Help us Lord not to be too proud of ourselves or do things purely for the reason of hype. Set right our hearts O Lord to genuinely desire to help others and to be charitable for the right reasons; not for fame or for the praise of men. Grant us a spirit of humility Lord that we may not envy or be upset even if we do not become famous, reputed, or receive the recognition we deserve for the good we have done. You alone deserve all glory and fame O God, and we stand in awe of Your deeds.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Life’s Weariness

"For I satisfy the weary ones and refresh everyone who languishes." (Jeremiah 31:25 NAS)

Isaiah 40:31
According to the World Health Organization (W.H.O.), suicide is one of the three leading causes of death among those aged 15 to 44 years in some countries, and the second leading cause of death in the 10 to 24 years age group. Every year, almost one million people die from suicide. Every 40 seconds, a person commits suicide somewhere in the world, and every 3 seconds a person attempts to die. Each suicide has a serious impact on at least six other people, and the psychological, social and financial impact of suicide on the family and community is immeasurable.

Socio-demographics indicate more males commit suicide than females, but more females attempt suicide. Of those who commit suicide, the majority have experienced a number of stressful life events, such as interpersonal problems, rejection, loss, work and financial problems, or changes in society.

"Very often when people say 'I am tired of life' or 'There is no point in living,' they are brushed off, or are given examples of other persons who have been in worse difficulties,” said the W.H.O. “Neither of these responses helps the suicidal person.”

The W.H.O. advised that the first step to help someone with suicidal tendency is to find a suitable place where a quiet conversation can be held in reasonable privacy. The second is to allocate the necessary time to listen attentively and calmly to understand the person's feelings. The aim of this is to bridge the gap created by mistrust, despair, and loss of hope to give the person the hope that things can change for the better.

Hope is what gives us strength when we are weary, and God is willing and able to increase our power when we lack might (Isaiah 40:29). This hope we have in God is the anchor of our soul which is sure and steadfast, the one that brings us within the veil into the presence of our God (Hebrews 6:19). Without this hope, we have no vision, and without vision, we become unrestrained and perish (Proverbs 29:18). Yet if we wait for the LORD, we will gain new strength and mount up with wings like eagles, run and not get tired, walk and not become weary (Isaiah 40:31).

Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Are we weary and tired of life or the challenges we face every day? If we are, let us come to the Lord and He will give us rest. Rather than become weary in doing good, let us push ahead even if our life’s journey is wearisome, for in due time we will reap bountiful joy if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9). Remember, God is the One who satisfies the weary; He is the One who refreshes the weak and feeble (Jeremiah 31:25).

Do we know of anyone who is going through stressful times? Are we conscious of the people around us who are facing interpersonal problems, rejection, loss, financial difficulties or changes in society that are affecting them negatively? If we know of such people, let us not ignore them or be insensitive to them. Instead, let us give them hope by sharing with them Christ Jesus our Lord who is able to grant them strength and refreshment in weariness, salvation and joy forevermore.

Dear Lord, forgive us for sometimes yielding to feelings of hopelessness in our weariness facing the seemingly endless challenges in our lives. Grant us the strength Lord to withstand, and remind us constantly to turn to You to get refreshed, especially in times of agony and distress. Keep us focus on You Lord in moving forward to what lies ahead, that we may not lose heart or grow weary in doing good. Help us bridge the gap with those who are weary Lord, that we may be the ones to bring them the joy and hope of Your salvation.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Storing Up Riches

And He told them a parable, saying, "The land of a rich man was very productive. (Luke 12:16 NAS)

Storing Treasures
In his article 'Three Ways to Become Rich — One-Way to Live the Good Life' at Forbes.com, Panos Mourdoukoutas mentioned three approaches to getting rich which are revealed in Forbes World’s Billionaires’ list.

The first is the Company-builder way. This is seen in how Carlos Slim Helu amassed his wealth by setting up large-well managed corporations in heavy industry, mining and retailing. Mr. Slim holds the title of world’s richest man for the third consecutive year on Forbes’ list. According to Biography.com, he became a billionaire after the economic crash of 1982 when he purchased investments at low prices which later turned extremely valuable.

The second is the Business-builder way. This is exemplified by how Microsoft founder Bill Gates made his fortune in helping engineers and marketers become entrepreneurs, who in turn helped other engineers and marketers become their own entrepreneurs. Mr. Gates holds second place on Forbes’ list.

The third is the Financier way. This can be seen in how Berkshire Hathaway’s Chairman Warren Buffett accumulated his fortune through buying up shares of well-managed corporations and entrepreneurial ventures. Mr. Buffett holds third place on Forbes’ list.

In concluding his article, Mourdoukoutas wrote that irrespective of which path one follows to riches, history has shown that staying rich is often more difficult than getting there, and being rich does not warrant a good life. According to another article at Forbes.com, although Mr. Slim retains the title as world's richest man, his fortune estimated recently is down by $5 billion as compared to a year before. The primary reason for this is the lower share price of his America Movil stock, which accounts for more than half his net worth. The company moreover has been ordered by Mexican regulators to cut charges it levies on mobile phone competitors in exchange for dropping a record fine of $1 billion in April 2011 for monopolistic practices after a year-long appeal and dispute.

Like Mr. Slim and the others who top Forbes’ list as the richest, our Lord Jesus Christ also mentioned in a parable about a rich man whose land was very productive. This rich man reasoned to himself what he should do, since there was no place to store his crops. Eventually, he decided on tearing down his barns to build larger ones, and there store all his grain and goods (Luke 12:16-20).

“Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry,” said the rich man to himself. But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your soul is required of you.” Who will now own what the rich man had prepared? For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul (Matthew 16:26; Mark 8:35-36)?

Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven … for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).

Let us therefore be content with what we have, for many who want to become rich have fallen into temptation and a snare, and many foolish and harmful desires have plunge men into ruin and destruction (1 Timothy 6:8-9). Some have become unfruitful, choked by the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things (Mark 4:19). Since we know no amount of riches can warrant a good life, why then should we seek to become rich or desire the trophies wealth offers?

If therefore we are rich in this present world, let us not to be conceited or fix our hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Do good and be rich in good works, always ready to share, that we may store up for ourselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future to take hold of that which is truly life (1 Timothy 6:17-19).

Dear Lord, forgive us for sometimes putting our trust in the riches of this world. Help us Lord not desire or seek to become rich, but be content with what we already have. In our riches Lord, grant us a heart to help those in need of care, instead of storing up to accumulate more. All that we have O Lord belongs to You and comes from You. In You Lord we put our trust, for You are our provider and the sustainer of our soul.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Looking Back vs Moving Forward

But his wife, from behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. (Genesis 19:26 NAS)

Don't Look BackIn the book, Who Moved My Cheese? by Dr. Spencer Johnson,  a fable was told of how four characters—two mice and two miniature humans—react to the discovery of stolen cheese.  The humans became angry and rant at the unfairness of the situation, but eventually went home hungry. The mice on the other hand accepted the fact, and moved on to search for new cheese. The underlying principles to learn from this story are acceptance and adaptability when dealing with changes in work and life. In a sense, it is about not looking back to what was already lost, and to move forward to what lies ahead.

Like the fable by Dr. Johnson, the Bible also recorded for us an event in the Old Testament that teaches about not looking back. When Sodom and Gomorrah were about to be destroyed, the angels told Lot to take his wife and two daughters, and leave Sodom so they may not be swept away in the punishment of the cities. When Lot hesitated, the angels seized his hand and the hand of his wife and of his two daughters, and brought them outside the city. One of the two angels then said, “Escape for your life! Do not look behind you, and do not stay anywhere in the valley” (Genesis 19:15-17).

When Lot finally reached Zoar, the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire out of heaven, and overthrew the cities. Lot's wife, however, from behind Lot, looked back and became a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:23-26).

Many of us know the reason behind Lot's wife becoming a pillar of salt. Just as Lot hesitated when told to leave the city, his wife was also reluctant to leave, having lived a life of luxury in Sodom for a long time with all her possessions left behind. Her heart was of regret and longing, unwilling to part with her earthly gains, wishing to stay behind to keep what she once had. Lot, unlike his wife, although hesitant, accepted his lost and obeyed the LORD’s command to look ahead.

Are we like Lot's wife at times? Do we hold to the past with yearning as if all hope is lost for the future? Can we put our trust in God completely on what lies in the days and years to come?

The Bible said in reference to our former manner of life, we should lay aside the old self which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit (Ephesians 4:22). Since therefore we have laid aside the old self with its evil practices, we ought to put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created us (Colossians 3:9-10).

No doubt, not all things that lie behind us are evil practices, lusts, deceit or unchristian like. Nonetheless, our past should not burden, afflict, plague, distress, bother or hinder us from moving forward. The past should be lessons learned and not something that holds us back. Unless we are willing to let go of our past painful experiences, misgivings and wrongdoings, our lives can take a toll and destroy what lies ahead.

Jesus said, "No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62). Forgetting what lies behind, therefore, let us reach forward to what lies ahead and press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14). Let us put our complete trust in God, for He knows the plan He has for us; plans for welfare and not for calamity to give us a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).

Dear Lord thank You for helping us not look back to our past in sadness, pain or regret. Teach us Lord to accept the things we cannot change, and to move on to do that which You have made Your plans for us. Guide us Lord in the days and years ahead as we face new challenges and cope with changes in life and work. Strengthen and renew us Lord as we put aside our old ways, along with our past misgivings and wrongdoings, that we may not unwittingly destroy our future. In You O Lord we put our complete trust, for You alone know what lies ahead.

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