Friday, September 27, 2013

Tangible Proofs

But He knows the way I take; When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold. (Job 23:10 NAS)

Tangible Proofs
The jittery feeling moments before an exam is always disconcerting. I remember many things would run through my mind that would leave me in self-doubt pondering whether I had done enough to pass the test when I was an undergraduate. 

Not all of us are likely to enjoy taking an exam, yet without it we seldom can prove we have learned the lessons taught to us. When an employer or a hirer wishes to engage a person for a job or task, the first things he or she looks for are usually tangible proofs of achievement such as our accolades, career portfolio or educational transcripts.

Like me and everyone else who had sat for an exam, Abraham was probably also feeling unease when put to the test while sojourning in Egypt and Gerar to say Sarah, his wife, was his sister (Genesis 12:10-20; 20:1-14).  Abraham did not do well for the two tests, yet God did not turn away from him but showed him mercy. Years later, when he was again tested, Abraham did well in willingly offering up his only son Isaac and to trust God completely (Genesis 22:1-19; Hebrews 11:17-19). For his faith, it was accorded to Abraham as righteousness and he was called the friend of God (James 2:23).

Are we facing a difficult situation or going through a trial or test right now? Are we feeling jittery or unease because we are unsure whether we have enough faith to make it through to tomorrow or the days ahead? Perhaps we do not have the accolades, portfolio or transcripts to prove our accomplishments or perhaps we have failed badly in our tests. Are we in doubt of ourselves and our abilities? Are we in doubt of God’s care for us?

If we are walking with God, we need not doubt. Just as God did not abandon Abraham in his failures, He will not abandon us if we walk in Him. He knows the way we take and when He has tried us, we shall come forth as gold (Job 23:10). For though gold is refined by fire, it is the proof of our faith that is more precious, that we might result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed (1 Peter 1:7).

Let us therefore test ourselves to see that we are in the faith and recognize that Jesus Christ is in us—unless indeed we fail the test (2 Corinthians 13:5). Though we may suffer grief and trials for a little time, we need not be afraid (1 Peter 1:6; Exodus 20:20). For blessed are we who persevere under trial because having stood the test we will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him (James 1:12).

Dear Lord, forgive us for sometimes falling into self-doubt. We know Lord there is no need for us to doubt because You will not abandon us even when we fail badly in our tests. Help us Lord to hold fast to our faith, especially in our moments of weakness and during times of our testing and trials. Refine us as You will O Lord that we might reveal more of You and come forth as gold in praise, glory and honor to Your name.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Diamond Cuts

Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before obscure men. (Proverbs 22:29 NAS)

Diamond Cuts
Before mathematical diamond cutting was formulated by Belgian craftsman Marcel Tolkowsky in 1919, chisels, mallets and other diamonds were used by craftsmen to painstakingly cut diamonds by hand, according to an article by Kaye Wagner at Few craftsmen were skilled enough to create jewelry-grade diamonds in those days because of the difficult process and the lack of skilled workers. Arguably, the diamond's cut is its most important characteristic. A diamond that is cut well is better at reflecting light than one that is cut less skillfully. Specialty cuts have more facets than regular cuts and create more sparkles of light.

The Bible tells us that a man skilled in his work stands before kings rather than obscure men (Proverbs 22:29). In today’s context, this is akin to the preference of a skilled worker over the unskilled. A person who is an expert in a particular field of work or study is usually valued more by the hirer or is respected by people.

Like the expert craftsmen and skilled workers, the Bible exhorts us to be diligent to present ourselves approved to God as workmen who do not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). In order for us to become experts in handling the word of truth, however, we need first to study God’s word in depth and be trained.

Too often many of us have allowed our sins rather than God’s word to be inscribed with an iron chisel, engraved with a diamond point on our stony hearts and altars of our own desires (Jeremiah 17:1). Although by this time we ought to be teachers, we have need again for someone to teach us the elementary principles of God’s word, and have come to need milk instead of solid food. Everyone who lives on milk is an infant and is not accustomed to the word of righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice has senses trained to discern good and evil (Hebrews 5:12-14).

Are we unskilled in the word of truth? Are we neglecting the studying of God’s word? If we are, we need to grow up to become experts. Like newborn babies longing for pure spiritual milk to grow in respect to salvation, let us crave to have God’s word inscribed and stored in our hearts that we might not sin against God (1 Peter 2:2-3; Psalm 119:11).

Just as specialty cuts in diamonds through more facets create more sparkles of light, let God’s word sharpen us in and through all aspects of our lives to brightly shine. Equip and root ourselves in God’s word so as to better reflect Christ our Lord—the hope of glory and light of the world (John 8:12; Colossians 1:27).

Dear Lord, thank You for Your written word that equips us for every good work. Inscribe on our hearts Your precious word Lord that we might grow to have our senses trained to discern good and evil rather than remain in need of elementary principles. Sharpen our lives through Your word Lord to better reflect You in us, for we desire to shine brightly to reveal Your light and glory to this darkened world.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Asking for More

The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. (Psalm 23:1 NIV)

Asking for More
"Stop asking for more and be thankful for what you already have!"

That's what I always tell myself, even when in desperate need with mouths to feed. I have through the many ups and downs in my career life learned what it is to be content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, living in plenty or in want (Philippians 4:12). Through the years, God has been good and faithful to me and my household, and I simply cannot ask for more. Yes, many a time I have hoped to have something extra to share with my loved ones and not leave them wanting. Without a choice, however, there would always be days, months, and sometimes years, we have to tighten our belts and live humbly.

The Bible tells us that God will meet all our needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). He is able to bless us abundantly in all things at all times, that having all our needs met, we will abound in every good work (2 Corinthians 9:8). Nevertheless, God’s word also exhorts us to consider it all joy when we face various trials, knowing that the testing of our faith produces perseverance that we may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4).

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

As Christians, are we allowed to ask God for more than what we are receiving now? When is asking for something extra acceptable and when is it not?

If we are walking in obedience to all that God has commanded us and honoring Him with whatever He has blessed us with, we can rest assured He is more than willing to prosper us (Deuteronomy 5:33; Proverbs 3:9-10, 11:24-25). This is the confidence we have in approaching God, that if our hearts do not condemn us and we are asking according to His will, He hears us and will give us anything we ask (1 John 3:21-22, 5:14-15). For the LORD is our shepherd, we will not lack anything (Psalm 23:1). Ask and we will receive, seek and we will find, knock and the door will be opened to us (Matthew 7:7-8; Luke 11:9-10). If we believe we have receive whatever we ask for in prayer, it will be ours (Mark 11:24).

Are we lacking anything? Ask and we will receive, that our joy may be complete (John 16:24). Are we seeking to make ends meet in keeping our loved ones and ourselves alive? If we are, we need not worry, for the door will soon be opened to us if we pray believing we have received.

Asking for more when we are lacking is perfectly sensible and fine. However, if we have more than enough and desire extra to feed our own pleasures, we will not receive what we ask for because we ask with wrong motives (James 4:3). If our motive is right and according to the will of God, whether we are rich or poor, God will give us more than sufficient to meet our needs. If our motive is wrong, even what we possess now may be taken away (Matthew 25:29; Mark 4:25; Luke 19:26). Learn to ask for more only when we are lacking or in need to help the deprived.

Dear Lord, thank You for giving us all that we have. Help us Lord when we are lacking to know how to live humbly and be content, and when we have plenty to give generously to meet the needs of the needy. Open the door we seek to open Lord that we may receive Your bountiful blessings that complete our joy. Grant us the extra we need Lord to fulfill Your will, and guide our hearts to know what condemns us in seeking our own pleasures. You O Lord are our shepherd, we lack nothing. In You Lord we are assured of the plans You have for us, to prosper us and to give us a hope and a future.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Truth Hurts

But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the LORD, and be sure your sin will find you out. (Numbers 32:23 NAS)

Truth Hurts
A relative of mine in her 70s was diagnosed with liver cancer not too long ago. Out of love and concern, her children decided not to let her know about her condition so that she may live happily for the rest of her remaining years, months, or days.

We may sometimes hide certain information from people we know so as protect them or to minimize their hurt. Such avoidance or pretense, although well-intended, may lead to self-detriment in more ways than we can possibly imagine. Concealing the truth, withholding or hiding something because of shame, can affect our behavior and especially our conversations. More than likely, a day will come when the truth will be revealed, and if we have anything to hide, it shall be exposed.

The Bible makes it very clear that nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light (Mark 4:22; Luke 8:17). All things become visible when exposed by the light, and everything that becomes visible is light (Ephesians 5:13). Malice may be concealed by deception, but wickedness will be exposed, for everyone who does evil hates the Light and does not come to the Light for fear his or her deeds will be exposed (Proverbs 26:26; John 3:20).

Whether we choose to hide or reveal the truth is up to us to decide. If letting a person know the truth hurts more than help, then we should confer with God to know what is best for us to do. Whatever the decision, however, we need to be aware the revelation is merely delayed and will come to light sooner or later.

If our decision to hide is because of shame or something we have done wrong, let us come before God and confess our sin. Do not participate in unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead expose them (Ephesians 5:11). If we will not do so, be sure our sin will find us out (Numbers 32:23).

Dear Lord, forgive us for sometimes hiding the truth from the people we know. You O God are all knowing, and You see through our hearts and know our thoughts. We know Lord that nothing is hidden that will not be exposed sooner or later and regardless good intention or out of shame our hearts are laid bare before You. Correct us when we do wrong Lord and guide us in our making the decision to delay or reveal what needs to be made known. Comfort those who are hurting, Lord. Help them face tomorrow and the days to come in Your strength.