Friday, March 28, 2014

Empty Handed

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (Mark 11:24 NIV)

Empty Handed
Have you ever watched a child getting candy from a candy jar? I love when they reach in and grab a handful, only to discover that their hand is now too big to get out of the jar. They pull and pull, shake and shimmy, but the hand is stuck. Finally, they realize they have to let go of the candy. Defeated, they watch the candy drop and take out their hand.

I think this is the perfect analogy for prayer. You see, we often bring our struggles to God. We kneel at his feet. We tell him we are ready to do better. We wait for our answer. After a little while, we decide that we should do something about this problem and begin to work on it. We get a little frustrated that God didn't help us through this—again.

But here's what really happened. We went to God, reached into the candy jar and tried to grab the answer to our prayer. We pulled and shimmied. We shook and danced. We tried to get our hands out. But we never let go of our troubles. We knelt at his feet, but never surrendered our problems. We tried to grab an answer with a fistful of problems.

Instead, we need to come to God, lay our problems at his feet and with empty hands, reach out to him. Only then can we grab on as he pulls us from the depths and makes it better. Only then can our hands be filled with blessings. Amanda Lynch

Heavenly Father, You are loving and good. You have assured us that when we pray, you will answer. Help us to surrender our troubles to you so that we can grab onto you. Hold us in your arms. Bring us the peace and confidence that comes from knowing you are there and you care. Amen.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Silence at the Deep End

And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He did not answer (Matthew 27:12 NAS)

Silence at the Deep End
“Get this done by today,” said the boss.

“I'm afraid this is not quite possible,” said the staff. “I have too many other tasks I need to complete today.” 

Such a response from a staff is seldom received positively by the boss. In a corporate environment, it is not uncommon to see bosses going off the deep end when their staff refuses to do something asked of them. How we respond to our bosses, supervisors, or employer in such situations could mean keeping or losing our job.

As believers in Christ, how should we respond when we are reprimanded, put down, or accused of insubordination or something else? Should we remain silent even when we are not in the wrong? 

We might have heard the saying, “Win an argument and lose a friend.” In Christian context, this might cost much more. In our eagerness to win an argument, our unchristianly manners might ‘kill some souls’ in turning away those around us from believing in Christ observing our 'unbecoming' behavior and response.

Jesus, when He was accused, remained silent (Matthew 27:12-14). Depending on our situation, sometimes silence might be a good way of responding. No doubt, we might get angry out of holy indignation, such as when Jesus drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple (Matthew 21:12-13). Yet we must not sin or let the sun go down on our anger (Ephesians 4:26).

Rather than let our anger burn or get ourselves into heated argument, let us learn to put away all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, malice and the like, so as not to grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 40:30-32). Whether our bosses or supervisors are good and gentle or unreasonable, let us respond with respect. For this finds favor if for the sake of conscience toward God, we bear up under sorrows when suffering unjustly (1 Peter 2:18-19).

So when we get thrown in at the deep end or face a situation we find too difficult to explain ourselves out the next time around, take heart and do not despair. Remember Jesus our Lord, while He was accused, He did not answer. Therefore, do not be afraid, for while men’s hatred and malice may be concealed by deception, their wickedness and wrongdoings will be exposed in public, and whoever plans evil will fall into it (Proverbs 26:26-27). For nothing concealed will not be revealed, or hidden will not be known (Matthew 10:26; Mark 4:22; Luke 8:17). 

Vindicate us, dear Lord, and plead our case against our accusers and tormentors! In Your righteousness, do not let them gloat over us. Rescue us, Lord, from those who are deceitful, wicked and hotheaded. Help us keep our cool, Lord, that we might not respond in kind to blow our top and shame Your name, or behave unruly or unchristianly, even when maligned or suffering unjustly. Grant us wisdom, Lord, to know when to remain silent and when to speak. Tame our temper and calm our spirit, O God, so we might respond with respect even to those who are unreasonable. Unhide and reveal all malice and deception, Lord, and let the truth prevail.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Camel Bones and the Bible

Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. (2 Peter 3:3 NLT)

Camel Bones and the Bible
The findings of two archaeologists at Tel Aviv University (TAU) made headlines when their research called into question the Bible’s version of ancient history.

According to the study conducted by Dr. Erez Ben-Yosef and Dr. Lidar Sapir-Hen, domesticated camel did not appear in the Eastern Mediterranean region until around the tenth century BC. If this is true, it means biblical records referencing the animal in the times of Abraham and Jacob are inaccurate.

"There are too many camels in the Bible, out of time and out of place” wrote John Noble Wilford in The New York Times on February 10, 2014. “These anachronisms are telling evidence that the Bible was written or edited long after the events it narrates and is not always reliable as verifiable history.”

In an interview with Christianity Today, Titus Kennedy, an adjunct professor at Biola University, said he noticed archaeologists who work in Israel and Jordan seem to date camel domestication later than those who work in Egypt and Mesopotamia.

“[Israel] doesn't have much writing from before the Iron Age, 1000 BC,” he said. “So there aren't as many sources to look at. Whereas in Egypt, you have writing all the way back to 3000 BC and in Mesopotamia the same thing.”

Based on Egyptian and Mesopotamian accounts, Kennedy believes domestication probably occurred as early as the third millennium BC. He also believes the TAU researchers not only ignored evidence from outside Israel, they also assumed too much about their own research.

“All they really tell us is that at that particular place where they were working they found some camel bones that they interpreted as in a domesticated context between the ninth and 11th centuries BC,” said Kennedy. “It doesn't tell us that camels couldn't have been used in other nearby areas earlier than that.”

Dr. K Martin Heide, an expert on Semitic languages and cultures based at Philipps University in Marburg, Germany, expressed his view about the findings in his article for Tyndale House, cited by Christian Today.

“The Genesis narrator does not claim that the camel was in wide use in the second millennium BC,” wrote Dr. Heide.

“To the contrary, while Abraham and Jacob had camels (probably Bactrian, or double-humped, camels that were available in Mesopotamia), Isaac, who stayed in Canaan most of his time, seems to have used no camels. In addition, the final retreat of Jacob with his family to Egypt was all done on donkeys.”

“Neither do we have to assume that they or the few people who may have used camels at that time buried their camels or deposited their bones at some special place for them to be found in our times.”

“Only later, in the first millennium BC, when camels came to be exploited in the well-organized infrastructure of an established kingdom, can we expect to find archaeological footprints of their use.”

Dr. Heide cautioned that archaeological evidence only paints part of the picture and that future excavations may shed new light on aspects of history.

“Absence of evidence is not evidence of [the camel's] absence in Israel in the second millennium [BC].”

The Bible forewarns that in the last days there would be scoffers who would mock the truth, whose purpose in life is to satisfy their own desires. They would not listen to sound and wholesome teaching, but would look for teachers who tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3; 2 Peter 3:3; Jude 1:18).

When we hear of wars and rumors of wars, famines and earthquakes, scoffers who mock the truth and follow their own desires, do not be afraid or be in doubt, but be aware the Kingdom of God is near (Matthew 24:6-8, 33-35; Mark 13:29-31; Luke 21:31-33). For people are like grass and all their glory like the flowers in the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever (1 Peter 1:24-25).

Dear Lord, forgive us for sometimes doubting the Bible is inspired by You. Your word, O God, is the lamp to guide our feet and the light for our path. Thank You, Lord, for forewarning us about the things that must take place before Your return, that while we wait we might not be swayed by unsound or unwholesome teachings but be found faithful in You to the end.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Shortchanged

For I was envious of the arrogant As I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no pains in their death, And their body is fat. They are not in trouble as other men, Nor are they plagued like mankind. (Psalm 73:3-5 NAS)

Shortchanged
“We’d have done a better job if we were sent for the training, but as always when it comes to opportunities from the boss, we get the short end of the stick.”

That was how I felt when I was working in a corporation as a support engineer some years ago. While everyone in the team had to support customers, only two members were given the opportunity to be trained abroad. Yet when they returned, much of the support job was still assigned to those who were untrained, and there was no sharing of information of what was learned from the training.

Many of us have experienced being shortchanged of something we feel we deserved. We think of ourselves as unfairly treated and at times envy those who do better than we do. We discover that being a Christian is not as smooth sailing as we hope our lives to be, and at times we might even get put down or be given a miss because of our faith or belief.

We might envy the arrogant because of their prosperity and because they seemingly suffered no pain in their death. They do not get into trouble like we do nor are plagued with the problems we face almost daily. We might even think we have kept our hearts pure in vain (Psalm 73:3-5, 13-14).

The Bible exhorts us not to envy such people—the sinners, the wicked, the evildoers and wrongdoers—or desire to be with them (Psalm 37:1; Proverbs 23:17; 24:1, 19). Are we envious because our hirer or boss is generous to some but not to all? As followers of the Lord, we should not be envious but should accept what is due to us. After all, is it not lawful for a hirer or boss to do what he or she wish with his or her own (Matthew 20:14-16)?

In all circumstances and in everything, therefore, give thanks for this is God's will for us in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:18). 

Dear Lord, forgive us for sometimes complaining and gossiping about our dissatisfactions. Help us be grateful for what we have, Lord, and not feel unhappy that someone else is doing better or getting more than our rewards. Place in our hearts the joy of Your salvation, Lord, that when unfairly treated because of our faith and belief in You, we might rejoice and accept what is due to us. See us through in our daily encounters with problems and troubles, Lord, and keep our hearts pure all the days of our lives.

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