Friday, October 31, 2014

Attitudes

The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. (Revelation 12:9 NIV)

Attitudes
Eustace was no ordinary boy. He was odious—a pain in the neck to the people around him. He liked bossing and bullying, and although he was a puny little person who could not have stood up even to a girl of his age in a fight, he knew of many ways to give people a hard time.

While accompanying his cousins on a sea trip, Eustace slipped away on his own when the ship docked at an island. After strolling inland for some time, he stumbled upon a dragon’s lair and coveted its treasures. Sliding a large bracelet over his arm, Eustace soon fell asleep. When he awoke the next morning, he realized he had turned into a dragon.

The story of the adventures of Eustace Clarence Scrubb was written by C. S. Lewis in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Eustace’s transformation was the result of his own condition on the inside. Like Eustace, the Bible also spoke of another, who because of his own prideful and wicked heart, fell from God’s grace. 

Lucifer was created perfect and beautiful—a guardian cherub—blameless until wickedness was found in him. His heart was proud because of his beauty and his wisdom corrupted because of his splendor. In his heart, he said, “I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly ... I will make myself like the Most High.” So God drove him out in disgrace—the great dragon and ancient serpent who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth along with his angels and cast down to the realm of the dead to the depths of the pit (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12-18; Revelation 12:9).

Even today, Lucifer, the devil, or Satan, is still actively spending much of his time accusing the followers of Jesus. Nevertheless, we need not fear him because the Lord is our defense; He has paid the price for our sins and has replaced our dirty clothes with fine garments. Greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world. We are from God and have overcome the enemy and his agents. Nothing will harm us because our names have been written in heaven (Job 1:6; 2:1; Zechariah 3:1-4; Psalm 118:14; 1 John 4:4; Luke 10:17-20).

Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” (Luke 10:18-19).

Are we sometimes, like Eustace, bossing around, bullying, and causing pain to others? Are we afraid of the accuser because of the wrongs we have done? Do we at times harbor wrong attitudes within us? Have we ever prayed or wished for harm to come upon someone who wronged us? Are we desiring or laying up treasures that do not belong to us?

As followers of the Lord, let us have this attitude in us, that if in anything we have a different attitude, God will reveal to us. Nevertheless, we should keep on living by the same standard to which we have attained, and be watchful not to have Dirty Rotten Attitudes Going On Now (DRAGON) or any time later. Do not become proud as to think we have achieved much on our own without God, for every blessing we have today is by the grace of God. All our righteous acts are like filthy rags, and it is by grace we have been saved, not by our works (Philippians 3:15-16; Isaiah 64:6; Ephesians 2:8-9).

Dear Lord, forgive us for the wrong attitudes we harbor at times. You know our weaknesses and You know when we stand accused, helpless on our own. Yet You have clothed us with fine garments and replaced our dirty clothes by paying with Your blood the price for our sins. Thank You for being our defender and for granting us authority to overcome all the power of the enemy that nothing will harm us. Set our hearts in tune with what is right that we may lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven and not store up treasures on earth.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Joy Amid Troubles

A joyful heart is good medicine, But a broken spirit dries up the bones. (Proverbs 17:22 NAS)

Joy Amid Troubles
I must admit I am not exactly the kind of guy who laughs at a joke or see things with a sense of humor. But when I received an email with an article titled ‘Psalm 23 for the Information Age’ by an unknown author, I could not help but chuckle at what was written.

    The Lord is my programmer, I shall not crash.
    He installed His software on the hard disk of my heart.
    All of His commands are user friendly.
    His directory guides me to the right choices for His name's sake.

    Even though I scroll through the problems of life,
    I will fear no bugs, For He is my backup.
    His password protects me.
    He prepares a menu before me in the presence of my enemies.
    His help is only a keystroke away.

    Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life
    And my file will be merged with His and saved forever.

    Amen.

This ‘psalm’ is of course NOT an attempt to modify God's word! It is simply a hypothetical funny presentation from a creative mind. In a sense, there are some lessons we can learn from this adapted version of the psalm.

Our Lord is the ‘programmer’ who knows the plans He has for us to prosper us and not to harm us, to give us hope and a future. His word is stored in our hearts, and His yoke is easy. His Spirit guides us to make the right choices (Jeremiah 29:11; Psalm 119:11; Matthew 11:30; John 16:13).

Even if we are going through tough times or walking through the darkest valley, we need not fear because God is always behind and before us; His angels protect and guard us. He provides for us even amid trying times in the presence of our foes. God is always near to help us (Psalm 139:5; Exodus 14:19; Psalm 23:4; Psalm 91:5-16; Psalm 145:18).

Surely, God's goodness and love will follow us all the days of our lives as we abide in the Lord and He in us, for in Him we are saved forever (Psalm 23:6; John 15:4, 7; 1 John 5:11-12).

Dear Lord, grant us a joyful heart even amid troubled times and desperate need. Help us who are struggling remain thankful and grateful to You, and to continue to trust in You. Refresh our spirit with a joy overwhelming regardless the circumstances we are in. Guide us by Your Spirit and Your word to make right choices. Protect and guard us from our foes. Let Your goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our lives as we continue to abide in You and Your word, just as You abide in us.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Growing in Obedience

If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him. (John 12:26 NAS)

Growing in Obedience
I served as a librarian when I was in high school. At that time, much of the library's administration and cataloging depended on the typewriter, so I was sent to the YMCA to acquire typewriting skills. While at the YMCA, I read in a brochure about a free Christian correspondence course, so I enrolled and got to know about Christianity. Before long, faith found its way into my heart.

One day, while at the public library near my school, a student from another school approached me and invited me to attend a church-organized student meeting near the library’s vicinity. My first visit was to an evangelistic meeting, and having learned much about Jesus through several Christian correspondence courses, I was ready and received Jesus as my Lord immediately. 

Among the first lessons I learned as a new Christian was ‘to obey is better than sacrifice.’ At the age of 15, I was in a dilemma to obey God or man concerning water baptism. I knew if I decide to obey God and be baptized, I would have to disobey my parents who are ardent followers of Taoism. If I have asked for permission, my parents would have objected, and if they had known the date of the baptism, they would have locked me up and barred me from ever getting involved with Christianity again. I was after all still a minor under their governance, too young legally to make my own decision.

Troubled over the matter, I sought help from my pastor who counseled me and advised me “to obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Samuel 15:22). What he meant was if obedience to God is such a difficult decision for me to make, then I should not go ahead with water baptism until I am ready to willingly give myself to God. I chose then to skip my first opportunity of water baptism.

Over the next few months, my heart was troubled because of my disobedience to God. I was yearning to serve God in the student ministry, but without obedience in water baptism, it was impossible for me to serve Him wholeheartedly. It then became clear to me that although salvation is received the moment I invite Jesus into my heart, water baptism is a necessary step to declare my faith in Him. Getting baptized is the outward expression of my obedience; a witness to myself and to the public.

So when the next baptism came, I chose to disobey my parents and went ahead with water baptism in obedience to my heavenly Father. My life took a turn after that when I told my parents what I had done. Throughout the genealogy of my family, every member has remained a follower of Taoism, and what I did was deemed by my parents as unforgivable, an act of rebellion, and a violation of trust. For many years since, I was persecuted. 

Initially, my parents tried to bring me back to their fold by punishing me. I was starved, disciplined, and locked up on occasions, but eventually they gave me up as lost after I repeatedly refused to participate in their religious practices, which included ancestral worship and bowing down to idols. I became to my parents as one who had gone astray and not known my own roots, and to the people of the community a renegade and an outcast. 

Obeying God is not always easy. Whether we are a youth or an adult, there is often a price to pay when we choose to obey God. Yet, we must not to be disheartened, but ought instead to count all things loss for the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord. Honor God and God will give us honor (Philippians 3:8; 1 Samuel 2:30; John 12:26).

Dear Lord, thank You for granting us Your salvation the moment we receive You as our Lord and Savior. Help us not be ashamed to declare to the world our faith in You, and to obey You in all areas of our lives because of our love for You. Grant us the courage to choose the narrow way that leads to life even when persecutions prelude our obedience. You are the way, the truth, and the life, and in You alone we have eternal life.

Friday, October 10, 2014

God Holds All the Pieces

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9 KJV)

God Holds All the Pieces
I love jigsaw puzzles! It’s so much fun to open a new puzzle and run my fingers through the box, making sure all the pieces are separated. Then I spread them out on the table and start sorting them by color, design and texture until I have a multitude of piles. Of course, I start by finding the edge pieces and making the frame. That’s the easy part! Then patiently, carefully, gradually the scene unfolds as one by one each piece goes into place.

One time our family did a very large puzzle that took days to piece together. With great excitement we slipped the last few pieces in place, only to discover that the very last piece was missing! We looked high and low but it just wasn’t anywhere to be found. I kept hoping one of the children was playing a trick on us and was hiding the missing piece in his hand. But no, the piece was simply gone, leaving us with an incomplete picture on the table. I was frustrated and frazzled!

Much of life is like a puzzle. It’s easy to focus only on bits and pieces and fail to look toward the end result. Or when things don’t seem to come together and the gaps in the picture produce confusion, life may seem hopeless or out of control. Gradually depression and anxiety creep in and steal away the joy and peace of the present, and the hope for the future.

But God is in control. He’s the One holding all of the pieces, and at just the right time, He can and will put them in place to make a beautiful picture out of even the most difficult and trying situation. His thoughts are not our thoughts. His ways are not our ways. His plan and purpose are much higher than anything you and I can comprehend. We can rest assured that one day He will slip that last piece into place and the picture of life will be complete. With God, there are no missing pieces. What comfort to know that He holds all the pieces in His sovereign hands. Not one of them is lost or misplaced. Ann Shorb

Friday, October 3, 2014

God Does Not Make Mistakes

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him not anything was made that was made. (John 1:1-3 ESV) 
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. (2 Corinthians 2:14 ESV) 

God Does Not Make Mistakes
At four and a half years of age, our daughter Stephanie was a free, unrestrained spirit. She appeared so minute, as she examined the over-rip clouds in the sky. She often shared the heavens with me in similes, metaphors, and exclamations:

“Mommy! The sky is moving!”

“See the clouds swimming in the sky!”

“Mommy! Who painted the sky?”

“Does God have a great big paintbrush, Mommy?”

“Mommy, God’s moon is walking with me!”

“God’s stars are winking at me!”

“I’m glad God shares beautiful things with us, aren’t you, Mommy?!”

Now, years later, the news media bombards us with hurricanes, torrential rains, floods, tornadoes, and earthquakes destroying homes and lands. It flashes the moral decay of men and women who, politically religiously, lead our nation. It fills the airways with the assassinations of world leaders, the threat of nuclear war, and world oblivion. It brings into our homes crime, violence, gangs, and the illegal use of drugs. It speaks to us of the hungry, the diseased, the dying—of shattered homes and broken lives; and it fills our minds with thoughts of bankruptcies, poor economy, and deep recession.

When I can see no reason in it all, I return to the Windowsill of Heaven where I am reminded of the unquestioned trust of a little child in “heavenly things,” and I find God there—still just as real, still just as near as He was in those shared moments with Stephanie.

I focus my eyes on Him, “who made heaven and earth and everything therein.” I kneel and pray, “Lord, when I cannot see the purpose, when I can’t answer the “whys,” keep me walking by faith. Continue to remind me that You still are in charge and that You do no make mistakes.”

As I rise to face the world again, His moon “walks with me,” and His stars “wink at me” - and the child in me knows that there will come a day when we shall have the answers—a day when we shall see God and know Him!

Am I focused on God who is in charge of all things and who never makes mistakes? Laura Anne Harrison

Thank You, Lord, for “being there” in every thing, in every time . . . and for always being in charge.

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