Friday, November 29, 2013

Truth without Doubts

Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” (Matthew 11:2-3 NAS)

Truth without Doubts
“The boss wants this piece of work done by today,” said my supervisor ten minutes before the end of the work day.

So I worked late, sometimes passed 9 p.m. Once in a while, I was tempted to check with the boss whether it was really his instruction that the job had to be done within the day, but I did not do so because it seemed petty and inappropriate.

We have all encountered situations where we hoped we could hear straight from the horse’s mouth the truth about something or someone. John the Baptist, while he was imprisoned, heard about the works of Christ and sent word by his disciples to ask Jesus whether He was the Expected One (Matthew 11:2-3).

Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me” (Matthew 11:4-6 NAS).

Are we at times in doubt about someone or something, perhaps an instruction, a relayed message, an explanation or a situation? If we are, then we should go back to the source to find out the truth. Are we hearing teachings by people who claimed to be of God that sounded strange? Examine and understand God’s word to know the truth and let the truth set us free (John 8:32; Acts 17:11-12). Are we unclear about God’s will concerning a particular matter? Ask God and seek His guidance, and He will answer us and direct our paths (Matthew 7:7; Proverbs 3:6).

Rather than guess or imagine about the truth, we should seek to know the truth that we might not stumble or be in doubt. Investigate discreetly, if necessary, especially when it involves the integrity of a person, so as not to take offense. Do not be judgmental but be forgiving, for what business is it of ours to judge those outside the faith since God Himself judges them (Luke 6:37; 1 Corinthians 5:12-13). Even if the person is in the faith, we have no excuse, for in judging another we condemn ourselves if we practice the same things and will be judged with the measure we use (Romans 2:1, 3; Matthew 7:1-2; Luke 6:37).

Forgive us dear Lord for sometimes lacking the courage to find out the truth about things. We know Lord that in our doubts we have stumbled many times because we guess and imagine the truth rather than seek out to know and understand the actual message communicated. Grant us O Lord a heart that is forgiving and not judgmental, regardless the findings from our investigations. Help us understand Your precepts as we examine Your word that we might not be swayed or deceived by false teachings. Guide us by Your word and Holy Spirit Lord that in Your will we will walk the path of understanding and righteousness.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Blessed Thanksgiving 2013


Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good;
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.

~ Psalm 106:1 (NAS) ~

Friday, November 22, 2013

Living Public Lives

So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. (Matthew 6:2 NAS)

Living Public Lives
Paparazzi seem to be the name of the game with the famous even though they have come under constant fire for invasion of privacy. In an article by Orthry Torres at Voices.Yahoo.com some years ago, the author questioned the reason for the inordinate attention and negative talk about those who make celebrities famous by the publicity they gave them. Should not celebrities expect being famous is accepting both their personal and professional lives will be watched and criticized from the media? If celebrities feel the paparazzi make them feel as if they are being stalked, is it fair to say they only mind being stalked when they have a book, movie, or album they need help in promoting?

Getting the publicity one desires and losing one’s privacy are two sides of the same coin when it comes to celebrity living. On the one hand it is a way of getting famous, on the other it may be deemed as invading private lives.

In the Gospel, Jesus warned about the practice of righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise we have no reward with our Father who is in heaven. When giving to the poor, therefore, we should not sound a trumpet as the hypocrites do, so as to be honored by men, for such have their reward in full. We should instead give in secret that our Father who sees what is done in secret will reward us (Matthew 6:1-4).

Jesus during His ministry on earth was famed for His teachings and the miracles He performed. Yet He took time to be alone to pray and get away from the crowd to fellowship with His twelve disciples. Frequently, however, when He withdrew to a secluded place the crowd would track Him down. Jesus did not turn them away or see them as invading his private life but felt compassion for them and healed their sick (Matthew 14:13-14). Although He received inordinate attention wherever He went, Jesus did not feel annoyed that He was stalked. Even when Jesus saw the crowd that came to watch the spectacle—His humiliation on the Cross—before He breathed His last, He did not resent them. Instead, He prayed for them saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34, 48).

Such was the contrast between the two, one of staged publicity and the other of genuine love and care for the public.

Today, many of us in a sense are celebrities online. Whether it is peer pressure or the need to stay in touch, we join social networks and leave behind trails of digital footprints of what we do and where we visit on the Internet. Our movements are tracked down by our followers and we are ‘stalked’ by different kinds of people. If we leave trails because we desire attention or to be followed, we might just get our reward or lose our credibility in full, depending on how well we handle our online activities and behavior. If we do not do well, our sin will find us out (Numbers 32:23). If we blabber or share about the things we do in our private lives on the social networks, we should not expect to live our lives with absolute privacy.

Are we feeling we are under the scrutiny of the public eye? Are we making ourselves famous for the wrong reasons or are we doing it out of concern for others? Not all things in life can be done in secret, so we need not hide what must be done even in public. Our intent is what is important—are we doing it to show off or to care?

Dear Lord, forgive us for sometimes blowing our own trumpet to gain popularity or publicity. We know Lord such activities do not deserve Your reward and can bring to ourselves unnecessary troubles. We pray Lord that You will watch over us that we may not fall into the trap of losing our private lives to public scrutiny. Mold us Lord to become more and more like You that in compassion and love we will reach out to the crowd to meet their needs. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Significant Change

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (2 Corinthians 5:17 NAS)

Significant Change
"If Nicky could change, pigs might fly!"

Such a comment would not have been too far-fetched for the people who knew Nicky Cruz before he received Jesus as his Lord and Savior. 

As one of 18 children born to witchcraft-practicing parents from Puerto Rico, Nicky from a very young age had suffered severe physical and mental abuse at their hands. By the age of three and a half, his heart had turned to stone. When he was 15, his father sent him to visit an older brother in New York. Nicky did not stay with his brother for long but chose to make it on his own. By age 16, Nicky became a member of a notorious Brooklyn street gang known as the Mau Maus. Within six months he became their president and ruled the streets as warlord of one of the gangs most dreaded by rivals and police. Lost in the cycle of drugs, alcohol, and brutal violence, Nicky's life took a tragic turn for the worse after a friend and fellow gang member was stabbed and beaten to death.

No authority figure was able to reach Nicky until he met a skinny street-preacher named David Wilkerson. David showed him something he never knew before—relentless love. Nicky beat him up, spat on him, and threatened his life, yet David did not give up but continued to show the love of God which grew stronger than any adversary Nicky had ever encountered. By and by, the thick walls of Nicky's heart melted and he received Jesus as his Savior after hearing a gospel message presented by David.

The story of The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson with John and Elizabeth Sherrill tells of how Nicky Cruz surrendered his life to God and exchanged his weapons for a Bible. Today, Nicky is a Christian evangelist who for the past 50 years has been traveling around the world reaching tens of millions of people with his testimony. He continues to minister in inner cities, prisons, and stadiums personally speaking to hundreds of thousands annually.

Before the apostle Paul came to know the Lord, he was in hearty agreement to put to death the followers of Jesus (Acts 8:1). When he came to Jerusalem for the first time after his conversion, he tried to associate with the disciples but they were afraid of him and did not believe he was a changed person. Barnabas had to take hold of Paul and present him to the apostles describing to them how Paul had seen the Lord on the road at Damascus and spoken out boldly in Jesus' name (Acts 9:26-27). Paul had since testified about his changed life and encounter with Jesus on many occasions (Acts 22:6-16; 26:12-18). He also shared about how he persecuted those who believed in Jesus before his conversion (Acts 22:4-5).

Paul wrote in the epistles what it means to be a new creature and to have our old selves crucified with Jesus so we might no longer be slaves to sin but lived anew (Romans 6:6; 2 Corinthians 5:17). His testimony and stories about his missionary journeys and imprisonment till this day continue to reach out to many and touch lives.

Like Wilkerson, Cruz, and Paul are we sharing our testimonies to bring others to Jesus? Perhaps we might think our testimonies are insignificant, especially in comparison with those of well-known evangelists. No matter how humble our testimonies might seem, the truth is God can use our stories to touch some hearts and win some souls (Mark 5:19-20; 2 Timothy 1:8; 1 Peter 3:15-16).

Dear Lord, thank You for loving us with Your relentless love even while we were yet sinners. We know Lord nothing of our past or anyone can separate us from Your love. Help us put off our old selves Lord to live anew in You and not be ashamed to share our testimonies regardless how insignificant they might seem. Use the stories of our lives Lord to touch some hearts and bring some souls to Your kingdom.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Embarrassing Situations

But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And the man was speechless. (Matthew 22:11-12 NAS)

Fish Out of Water
I was at a subway station one day when someone waved at me from a distance. I responded by waving back. As she came nearer toward my direction and walked past me to the person behind, I felt totally embarrassed—like a fish out of water.

Embarrassing and awkward situations are not uncommon to many of us. Some have tried to get out of such situations gracefully but few have been successful in doing so. Suggestions from an article at WikiHow.com on how to deal with embarrassing situations include getting away from the place of incident, cutting short our jumbled speeches or conversations, or simply laughing along with those who tease us.

Jesus in the parable of the marriage feast mentioned a man who, like us, was caught in an embarrassing situation. When questioned by the king as to how he was able to come to the banquet without wedding clothes, the man was speechless. The king then said to his servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’ (Matthew 22:11-14).

Embarrassing situations are not always easy to get out from gracefully or easily remedied by getting away from the place, remaining silent or speechless, or laughing along. A negligence of attention to details, for example, as to what we should wear for an occasion can lead to getting ourselves thrown out. In the case of the parable, the wedding clothes refer to the garment of salvation which is given only to those who believe in Jesus. If we hope to partake in the marriage supper of the Lamb, we need first to be clothed with the robe of Christ’s righteousness or face being thrown out into outer darkness (Isaiah 61:10; Revelation 19:7-8). 

Are we facing awkward and embarrassing situations because of our own negligence in finding out the prerequisites? Are we paying attention to details what is needed to prepare ourselves for an event or special occasion? Are we studying God’s word diligently to understand His precepts so as not to suffer embarrassment or worse when the day comes for us to give an account?

Prevention is always better than cure, and to know and pay attention to the prerequisites can help us avoid unnecessary embarrassment. If our work is burned up because we failed to build on the right foundation, we will suffer loss; but we will be saved, yet so as through fire (1 Corinthians 3:12-15). 

Dear Lord, forgive us for sometimes rushing into things before reading the instructions or finding out the prerequisites. We know Lord much of the consequences and embarrassments we bear are the result of our own negligence. Lead and guide us Lord as we prepare ourselves in the days ahead and for the marriage supper of the Lamb. Help us build on the right foundation in all the things we do that we might not suffer loss under test. We thank You Lord for the garment of salvation that You have given us who believe in You, and for the privilege to be clothed in Your righteousness.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Imperfect Perception

The LORD is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. He will not always strive with us, Nor will He keep His anger forever. (Psalm 103:8-9 NAS)

Imperfect Perception
As a loan settlement officer in a financial institution when I was a young adult my stern demeanor often had my colleagues mistaken me as a no-nonsense guy, so few dared to crack a joke in my presence. A temporary staff teenage girl however sensed I was not really as stern as I looked, so she ventured to chat with me on matters outside of work during break times. Before long we became friends and helped each other at work. Beyond work, we also shared about our experiences and the things we learned in our personal lives.

Jesus during His earthly ministry was mistaken by the Jewish leaders as defiant toward the Law and the Prophets. The truth however was far from what they perceived about Him for Jesus came to fulfill and not to abolish the Law or the Prophets (Matthew 5:17). He was hated by the Pharisees and the scribes because Jesus openly spoke of them as blind guides who had shut the gates of heaven so neither they nor the people could enter (Matthew 23:13). In actuality, however, although Jesus sounded harsh when He pronounced the woes of the Pharisees and the scribes (Matthew 23:23-31), He did not mean all of them were hypocrites.

Nicodemus, a Pharisee, sought the truth and Jesus directed him in the way of salvation (John 3:1-21). Joseph of Arimathea who was a member of the Council believed in the Lord and took on the responsibility of burying Jesus' body (Mark 15:43; Luke 23:50; John 19:38). Clearly, a relationship must had had developed between Jesus and them.

Sometimes when we read from the Bible about God’s punishment exacted on His people when they disobey, we may think of the Father as a fearsome God who would not leave the guilty unpunished even through generations (Exodus 34:7; Job 21:19; Lamentations 5:7). At times, we may even think of Him as a jealous and avenging God who takes vengeance on His adversaries and reserves His wrath for His enemies (Nahum 1:2). Once in a while, when crises come our way, we may think of them as punishment from God, especially when we are living a sinful lifestyle. How we perceive God however might be far from the truth or one-sided for while God is a just God, He is also a compassionate, gracious and forgiving God (Psalm 103:8-10; Joel 2:13). 

Jesus said to His disciples, “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). By this, Jesus is saying that to those who know Him and have come to be His friends, He openly shares to them about His experiences, the things above and the things on earth, as well as the things He hears from His Father.

Are we quick to assume things about people without first verifying the truth? Do we sometimes mentally label people to think of them positively or negatively without knowing them personally? Are we suspicious about the people around us most of the time or easily deceived to think otherwise?

Like the colleagues of mine and the Jewish leaders, we might sometimes be mistaken to think of people wrongly or be too swift to label them under a type of personality. At times, we might even be overly suspicious or easily deceived. As believers in the Lord, let us be shrewd and not be too quick to jump to conclusion. Instead, let us know each one personally to understand one another better, for if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us (1 John 4:12).

Dear Lord, forgive us for the times we think of You as an unforgiving God who would exact punishment on us for the wrongs we have done even after we have confessed our sin and returned to You. Help us not jump to conclusion too quickly Lord or label the people around us to think of them negatively or positively without verifying the truth. Abide in us Lord and let Your love be perfected in us. Thank You Lord for being our Friend and for being compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.

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