Friday, May 30, 2014

Letting Go of Grief

The king covered his face and cried out with a loud voice, “O my son Absalom, O Absalom, my son, my son!” (2 Samuel 19:4 NAS)

Letting Go of Grief
She covered her face with her hands and cried, “Oh God, why must this happen? We just got back together and now he is gone!”

That was a scene from a script written for a drama television series. Not all of us might have experienced what it means to be grief-stricken to the point of having to do a facepalm, but surely many of us know what it feels like to grieve.

When Absalom died, his father King David covered his face and cried out, “O my son Absalom, O Absalom, my son, my son!” Joab, the commander of David’s army, heard about the king’s weeping and mourning, and he went to see the king. Joab reproved the king for loving those who hate him and hating those who love him. For Absalom was far from being a model son and he had tried to kill his father, yet David loved him and grieved for him. By so doing, the victory that day was turned into mourning because the troops heard it said the king was grieved for his son. Joab told David that if he would not arise and speak kindly to those who delivered up the men who lifted their hands against the king, not a man will pass the night with him (2 Samuel 19:1-7).

Sometimes, weeping, mourning, and crying aloud are unavoidable, especially when we are grieving. Yet, amid it all, we need to think about those who love us and mourn with us, for they are concerned about our wellbeing too, and our grief might extend their pain. Loving those who hate us is absolutely nothing wrong, for our Lord has taught us to love our enemies and pray for them who curse, mistreat, hate or persecute us (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:27-28). Beyond that, however, we should care for the living and for those who love and care for us.

Are we grieving excessively to the point of affecting the emotions of other people? Are we covering our face in our sorrow and turning away those who care for us? Do we love those who hate us while they are still living? Do we love those who love and care for us?

Grieving is understandable when we lost someone we loved. We need to after that rise from our sadness and do whatever is necessary to put to a close our sorrow and the sad chapter in our lives. Rather than dwell in sadness, continue to live our lives for Christ and walk faithful in God. If grief persists for an extended period of time, seek help and continue to pray. Wait in silence for God, forget what lies behind and reach forward to what lies ahead (Psalm 62:1; Philippians 3:13-14).

Dear Lord, help us not dwell in our sorrow and despair for too long but to quickly arise and look beyond to bless others and those who love and care for us. Comfort us in our grief and renew our minds to love those who hate us and pray for them who persecute us. Do not allow our grief affect the emotions of other people, but bless them for their love and care as we lay to rest the sad chapters in our lives and reach forward to what awaits.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Falsely Accused

Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, so that they might put Him to death. (Matthew 26:59 NAS)

Falsely Accused
Caitlin had always been happy at school with many friends. But when she was 9, Jenna, a classmate who was jealous of Caitlin's popularity, began waging a campaign to turn Caitlin's friends against her. Jenna took a girl’s purse and claimed Caitlin had stolen it. She falsely confided to another that Caitlin had been talking behind her back. Jenna convinced Caitlin's friends that Caitlin was a ‘loser’ because she was neither slim nor fashion-conscious. Consequently, they stopped inviting Caitlin to sleepovers. 

The story of Caitlin was told by Elizabeth Hartley-Brewer in her article ‘Surviving the Rumor Mill’ at Scholastic.com. Hartley said it is important not to underestimate the havoc reported rumors or gossip could wreak, especially those in their tween years—however unlikely, untrue or trivial they may seem. Fortunately for Caitlin, she was able to make new and more reliable friends.

“Tweens are trying to make their mark, and there is often a constant undercurrent of competition as they attempt to be top dog,” Hartley wrote. “It's no secret that children can be mean, especially those whose own painful experiences make them more inclined to strike out at others.”

The statement made by Hartley, in actuality, applies to people of all ages. During times of uncertainty, the gossip mill turns faster than ever in environments beyond the schools and campuses to workplaces, businesses and even within the church, often contributing to lower productivity and affecting relationships. 

When Jesus was seized and led to the high priest where the scribes and the elders were gathered, the whole Council kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus so they could put Him to death. Even though many false witnesses came forward, they did not find any. Finally, two men came forward and said, “This man stated, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to rebuild it in three days.’ ” The high priest then said to Jesus, “Do You not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?” But Jesus kept silent (Matthew 26:57-64).

Keeping silent is a good way to respond when we are not ready or unable to defend ourselves. The word of God promises whatever is hidden will be revealed, so we need not fret but to take it in stride (Matthew 10:26; Mark 4:22; Luke 8:17; 12:2). Like Caitlin, we can make new and more reliable friends. 

Are we falsely accused by others for something we did not do or are we among those who talk behind people’s back and spread rumors or gossips about others? Do we make attempts when falsely accused to find out why our accuser is doing it? Could our accuser’s past or painful experiences be an opening for us to understand and help? Are we the accused or the accuser?

Talking behind people’s back so as to position ourselves above others or to hide our own misgivings is wrong. Spreading rumors and premeditating steps to mislead others are the ways of the devil, and we have been warned that by this the children of God and the children of the devil are differentiated. Anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God and the one who practices sin is of the devil. Instead of going about revealing secrets or slandering others, therefore, let us stay clear from gossip and those who talk too much (1 John 3:8-10; Proverbs 20:19; Leviticus 19:16).

Dear Lord, forgive us for sometimes badmouthing the people we know or our competitors. Help us tame our tongue that we might not accuse others falsely but speak well of them in truth. Keep us calm when we are falsely accused so we might not fret but take in stride to put our complete trust in You. We know nothing concealed or untrue will not be revealed or hidden that will not be made known. So guide us when we face such situations to know when to remain silent and when to reach out. Keep us safe and grant us strength that in Your name we will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.  

Friday, May 16, 2014

Flawed Decisions

Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has taken away your sin; you shall not die. (2 Samuel 12:13 NAS)

Flawed Decisions
When J├╝rgen Schrempp, CEO of Daimler-Benz, led the merger of Chrysler and Daimler against internal opposition, he did not know nine years later, his decision would force Daimler to virtually give Chrysler away in a private equity deal. Steve Russell, chief executive of Boots drugstore chain, launched a healthcare strategy to differentiate the stores from competitors, but it turned out to offer little profit potential and contributed to Russell’s early departure from the top job. These executives were highly qualified for their jobs, yet they made decisions that soon seemed clearly wrong, according to a Harvard Business Review article by Andrew Campbell, Jo Whitehead, and Sydney Finkelsteinan at HBR.org.

“From our analysis of these cases, we concluded that flawed decisions start with errors of judgment made by influential individuals,” the article continued. “Hence we needed to understand how these errors of judgment occur.”

“We depend primarily on two hardwired processes for decision making. Our brains assess what’s going on using pattern recognition, and we react to that information—or ignore it—because of emotional tags that are stored in our memories. Both of these processes are normally reliable … But in certain circumstances, both can let us down.”

Flawed decisions made from poor judgment can lead to chaos or the rippling effect of blunders, which often carry serious consequences. When King David made the decision to covet Bathsheba and she conceived, he attempted to cover up his sin by bringing her husband, Uriah, back from the battlefield in the hope he would lie with his wife. When that failed, David had Uriah put to death by instruction to Joab to place Uriah in the frontline of the fiercest battle and withdraw from him so he might be struck down and die. The consequences David bore for his flawed decisions were the death of his son and the sword never departing from his house (2 Samuel 11:2-27; 12:10-18).

Making right decisions is never easy, but sometimes we can observe some telltale signs of potential problematic consequences with the help of pattern recognition. Depending on how we react to the information we have at hand or ignore it because of emotional tags, we would eventually have to make our own decisions. Nevertheless, no single decision made is foolproof or guarantees success, except when made according to the word of God.

In the case of Daimler-Benz, Schrempp chose to go ahead with his decision despite internal opposition. Russell, in the case of Boots, made his decision without sufficient knowledge of the market. King David, in his moment of weakness, made the decision to covet even though he knew it was wrong, and as a result displeased the LORD (2 Samuel 11:27; 12:9, 14).

Are we making decisions without considering the views of others? Have we studied enough to understand the needs of the market and the people around us to make informed decisions? Are we guilty of involving other people in our plot to cover up our flawed decisions? Do we know the word of God well enough to make the right decisions? Are we knowingly or subconsciously making wrong decisions because of emotional attachment?

Whether we have made the right or wrong decisions, we need to learn from our past and get on ahead. If we have sinned, let us like King David confess our sins to God, repent, and receive God’s forgiveness. Seek the will of God and ask the Holy Spirit to guide us when making decisions. Take the feedback and views of others into consideration. Do a thorough research before assessing what’s going on, and make informed decisions without emotional entanglements.   

Dear Lord, help us make the right decisions. Forgive us for the wrong decisions we made at times. Guide us by Your Holy Spirit to know how to assess every situation, so we might not in our moments of weakness choose the wrong path or make a flawed decision because of emotional tags or attachment. Your will is what we seek to fulfill in every decision we make, for our desire and joy is to glorify Your holy name.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Disconnect to Connect

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2 NAS)

Disconnect to Connect
“Social media is great ... but there are times when social media can get in the way of the real world,” said the voiceover narrator. “That's why we develop the social media guard. It takes the social out of the media and puts it back into your life.” 

A cone collar similar to Elizabethan collar or E-collar was next shown onscreen. With the guard worn around the necks, men and women were prevented from reading or viewing their electronic devices. Compelled to redirect their attention to the people around them, they made eye contact.

That was a video created by Coca-Cola for humor. In a sense, a cone collar guard might be a good way to help solve the problem of social media addiction and get people back to social interaction in the real world. However, for practical reasons, we wouldn’t wear such a guard just to disconnect to connect, unplug, and detox to avoid addiction or obsession. What we need is a solution that helps us break free from our dependency and regain control.

Too often, we have been guilty of spending too much time staying digitally connected, listening, reading, viewing, writing or updating  our various social network accounts. We woo people to like, follow, and join our social media pages, blogs and sites, and to add us as friends. We post videos, pictures and text to attract attention and to draw the crowd.

Spending time online is nothing wrong, but spending too much of our time online is. If we are neglecting or missing out the more important things in life because of time spent online, we need help. Whether we are using a computer, laptop, tablet, smartphone or another device to connect to the Internet, we need to stamp down addiction or obsession. A good practice and alternative solution to the collar guard is to regularly take time off to eschew digital activity and use that time for more meaningful social interaction with our loved ones, friends and others.

Are we finding ourselves hooked for extended hours online? Are we oblivious to our surroundings at times when connected to the digital world? Do we feel restless without our smartphone or digital device in hand? If our answer to these questions is affirmative, it means it is time for us to go on a digital detox.

The Bible warns us not to be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds, so we might prove what the will of God is, that which is good, acceptable, and perfect (Romans 12:2). We may say we have the right to do anything, but we need to know not all things are beneficial (1 Corinthians 10:23). Rather than give in to the desires of the eyes or of the flesh or to boastful pride of life, let us  submit ourselves to God, resist the devil and he will flee from us (1 John 2:16; James 4:7).

Dear Lord, forgive us for sometimes succumbing to the allures of this world in our desire to be known or to feel wanted. Help us make time to go on a detox regularly, so we might learn restrain and not become hooked, addicted or obsessed. We know by our own will and effort, we cannot overcome our boastful pride or the desires of the eyes or flesh, so we submit ourselves to You. Grant us Your strength that we might be overcomers and not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds that we might prove Your will is good, acceptable and perfect.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Wi-Fi Trivial

Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, (Philippians 2:14-15 NAS)

Wi-Fi Trivial
My wife and I visited the Holy Land in December 2013. Among the first things we observed about the people in the group we were traveling with was whenever we arrived at the hotel, a number of them would immediately ask about the availability of Wi-Fi. Depending on the revelation, we would hear sighs of relief or disappointment. Thankfully, most of the hotels we stayed in had Wi-Fi. During the few days of snow storm, many of us depended on the Wi-Fi to help us pass the time. Not all the hotels we stayed in, however, had Wi-Fi in the rooms. When that happened, we would hear grumblings and on occasions observe some expressions of unhappiness. On a day when the Wi-Fi signal was weak, we would also hear conversations about the problem during dinnertime.

In an affluent society, we sometimes tend to take for granted what we have and complain about things that are trivial. We are unhappy when our laptop or computer hangs on us. We are unhappy when Wi-Fi is not available at a time we need it. We are unhappy when something we wish to purchase is sold out or taken off the shelf. We are unhappy to have to wait in line or for the traffic signal to turn green. We are unhappy our goals are taking longer to achieve than we expect. We are unhappy with many things and with people who keep us in check.

Some time ago, a charitable organization, Water is Life, featured in an ad campaign, Haitian children and adults reading the ‘complaints’ of first world problems.

“I hate it when my house is so big, I need two wireless routers,” said a man standing in front of a dilapidated house.

“I hate when I tell them no pickles, and they still give me pickles,” said a boy standing among pigs and chickens.

Nearing the end of the one-minute video entitled ‘First World Problems Anthem,’ a message in text was displayed: #FirstWorldProblems Are Not Problems.

Are we among those who grumble and complain about trivial problems, such as the inconveniences in life? Do we ever give some thought to the needs of the people around us or to those in the third world? Are we thankful and grateful for the things we have which God has given us?

The Bible urges us to give thanks in everything and in all circumstances be thankful to show gratitude (1 Thessalonians 5:18; Hebrews 12:28). It also exhorts us to do all things without grumbling or arguing, so that we may prove ourselves blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. Like the stars in the sky, we will then shine among them as we hold fast to the word of life and on the day of Christ have reason to rejoice because our toil is not in vain (Philippians 2:14-16).

Thank You, dear Lord, for meeting our many needs. Forgive us, Lord, for sometimes taking for granted what You have given us and for grumbling over trivial matters. Open our eyes, Lord, to see beyond our problems, the problems of others too and examine ourselves to know if we have been reasonable. Move our hearts, Lord, to love and care for those in need and to cheerfully give. Place within us, hearts that are willing to do all things without grumbling, complaining, disputing or arguing, Lord, so that we might be found blameless and innocent, above reproach in this crooked and perverse generation. Shine through us, Lord, that the world might see Your light and salvation as we hold fast to Your word of life and look forward to the day of Your return.


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