Monday, August 31, 2020

Lessons from Job: Facing Unexpected Storms

In facing unexpected storms, Mildred Witte Struven shared this wonderful insight, “A clay pot sitting in the sun will always be a clay pot. It has to go through the white heat of the furnace to become porcelain” (Bits and Pieces, September 19, 1991, p.6.).

If you haven’t read about the story of Job, it provides an excellent overview of the battle we face when facing unexpected storms. The setting of the book of Job began with God and Satan having a conversation.

To begin with, God boasted about Job’s faith (Job 1:8-12) and shared His pleasure over his faith:

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” (1:1, 4-5,8). However, Satan disagreed and looked at Job’s faith with contempt: “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land” (1:9-10). Then Satan proposed a plan in proving Job’s faith as fake: “But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” (1:11). Instead of defending Job, God agreed to Satan’s proposal: “The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord” (1:12).

What did Satan unleash against Job? Satan targeted and decimated his properties and possessions:
 13One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, 14a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, 15and the Sabeans attacked and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”16While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The fire of God fell from the heavens and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”17While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

In an instant, Job’s first three storms made him poor in an instant from being the richest man in his time” (Job 1:3). The worst of it all came when a tornado hit where Job’s children gathered and killed on one swoop:

18While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, “Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, 19when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”IN an instant, Job lost his ten children.” (Job 1:2)

In their next encounter, God filled with pleasure at Job’s integrity, proved Satan wrong about Job:
Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.” (2:3).

Satan disagreed and blurted out another accusation “Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life.” (2:4). Then he proposed the action of turning Job against God: But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.” (2:5a). God agreed to the proposal with a specific restriction: The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life” (2:5b). Armed with another opportunity, Satan immediately, “…afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes” (2:6-8). In this unexpected storm, Job’s next storm was a physical attack of painful sores all over his body” (Job 1:2). Losing children, Job’s wife snapped and with anger confronted Job: His wife said to him,Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?In all this, Job did not sin in what he said” (2:9-10).

Job’s next storm was losing moral and spiritual support from his wife” (Job 1:2). Yet in all of these things, Job stood on his faith and integrity. Somebody said, “In adversity we usually want God to do a removing job when He wants to do an improving job. To realize the worth of the anchor, we need to feel the storm.

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What are the lessons we can learn from Job’s journey in facing unexpected storms? Primarily, we need our faith in God as reliable as it can be through the storms of life. Oswald Chambers reminds us, “Faith for my deliverance is not faith in God. Faith means, whether I am visibly delivered or not, I will stick to my belief that God is love. There are some things only learned in a fiery furnace.”

Next, let the integrity of our faith in God’s ways and means becomes resilient as the storm intensifies. J.C. Ferdinand shared an interesting illustration relevant to this situation: A bell buoy rings only during storms. The beating of the waves and wind bring out the music that is within it, so too do trials reveal what is inside a person.

Finally, let our commitment to maintaining God’s honour becomes resolute in the midst of the storm. How do we accomplish all of these things? Overcoming is not our goal when facing unexpected storms. It is showcasing our faith in a God who promised His provision, protection and power.  Here’s something I found in seeing God at work and how we must respond in the middle of unexpected storms:

God has not promised skies always blue,
Flower-strewn pathways all our life through;
God has not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.
But God has promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labor, light for the way;
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing sympathy, undying love. ~Source Unknown.

Let’s talk again!

Friday, July 31, 2020

Rhythms and Routines of Christian Life

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No copyright infringement intended

 

I found this article of Dr. Danielle Forshee[1] describing the “Psychological Benefits of Routines” as an affirmation of its value from a medical perspective.  


·      Routine in adults is very similar to routine in children. It is crucial to set routines to enable yourself to get better at the things you do.

·      Routine helps us cope with change, it helps to create healthy habits, and more importantly, it helps to reduce stress levels.

·      Routine helps alleviate stress. Creating routines will allow you to set times for specific tasks, and allow you to set times for fun, or things that you enjoy or make you happy. 

 

Alannah Francis[2] added:

 

Routine is essential if we're to develop a strong and substantial faith and relationship with Christ. When we think about how we're defined by what we do every day in so many other areas of our lives, it makes sense that this carries over into our spiritual life.

 

From a biblical perspective, “How did God provide the means to keep our rhythms and routines working flawlessly each day?” Looking back at Genesis (1:14, NLT), God provided, “the seasons, days, and years.” With this in mind, God marked the rhythm and routine between day and night with the 24-hour cycle on a weekly basis before Adam was created. Ever since that day, everything operated this way. God, in his Omniscience, thought about the pattern for us to live by on a weekly basis as far as daily rhythm and routine is concerned

 

Another significant provision is the Sabbath Day or the 7th Day. This is the day where God rested and declared it a holy day:

 

So the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them was completed. 2On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. 3And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation (Genesis 2”1-3, NLT)

 

Moses, in giving the law, reiterated the Sabbath day principle:  

 

“Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9You have six days each week for your ordinary work, 10but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the LORD your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. 11For in six days the LORD made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy. Exodus 20:8-11, NKJ)

 

What does the Sabbath law mean for us today? Simply put, the Sabbath Day is God’s reset button as part of the rhythm and routines He set up for us to follow. Following the Sabbath Day is not being dogmatic or even about rule-keeping. It’s more than these two things, as many subscribed to. If it’s only these, then we’ve missed the whole point of God altogether. I believe it to be a very simple system intended for our benefit personally and spiritually, from God’s standpoint. God gave us rhythms and routines to follow but also a day of rest from it as a reset. Here are some valuable perspectives on this matter:

 

·      God knew the rhythm of life needs a reset button. In providing one day where we rest, God declared the 7th day as a day of worship, reflection and reset.

·      Observing the Sabbath Day removes our attention to ourselves after six days and instead focused on God, our Creator, who gave us everything for one day. 

·      Having one day reserved as a day of worship impacts our children and their future. What we sow is what we reap.

 

How did the early church follow God’s prescription on a daily basis? Michaelle Justice shared this wonderful insight:

 

In the early church, how they acted in their daily lives and interactions with others defined their Christian life. The ministry of daily life is about living in the Word, walking the path with Jesus whether we’re behind a desk, or pushing our grocery cart down the frozen food aisle. It can be how we act, without words, how we treat others – even those we might only meet in passing as we go through our daily routines. 

 

That’s why, Steve May shared, “The Christian life isn’t about flashes of occasional spiritual brilliance. It’s about day-to-day consistency.” God is concerned with our personal and spiritual health, thus, the provision of a reset for us is given. Try it and you’ll never be the same.

 

Let’s talk again!

Monday, June 29, 2020

Loving our Neighbor and our Enemies

I found this wonderful post, “Ten Commandments of Human Relations” as a way to begin our conversation for our information and guidance:

  1. Speak to people. There is nothing as nice as a cheerful word of greeting. Smile at people. It takes seventy-two muscles to frown, only fourteen to smile.
  2. Call people by name. Music to anyone's ears is the sound of his/her own name.
  3. Be friendly and helpful.
  4. Be cordial. Speak and act as if everything you do is genuinely a pleasure, and if it isn't, learn to make it so.
  5. Be genuinely interested in people. You can like almost everybody if you try.
  6. Be generous with praise, cautious with criticism.
  7. Be considerate with the feelings of others. There are usually three sides to a controversy: yours, the other fellow's, and the right one.
  8. Be alert to serve. What counts most in life is what we do for others.
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  10. Add to this a good sense of humour, a big dose of patience, and a dash of humility, and you will be rewarded manifold through life. Adapted from the Bible Tract Bulletin.

Jesus stated a very clear commandment in Mark 12:31 about loving others, specifically for those we consider as neighbours: “The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (NIV). And if you want to understand who our neighbour is, read the Parable of the Samaritan where Jesus provided a picture of the most unlikely person to assist a person in need during that time. After reading it, I hope and pray it would change the way you approach this matter. 

Jesus stated an unequivocal truth for our modern-day understanding about fulfilling God’s Law daily, i.e., “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Somebody said a wonderful summary of what’s expected of us:

The reality is that I can only ever love and accept others to the degree that I have learned to love and accept myself. What so many of us need from God and loving friends is help to love and accept ourselves in the same way that God loves and accepts us -- totally and unconditionally.

We need to remember that before God asked us to love our neighbour and others, He manifested His love to us through the death of Jesus Christ. While we were considered an enemy of God, He loved us despite our sinfulness. Because of this simple reason, it’s our turn to employ the same mindset of loving others and our neighbours. 

How do we begin? Let’s start in becoming mindful of others above our own interests: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). In dealing with those we consider as our enemies: If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you” (Proverbs 25:21-22). Why? Jesus provided something for us to consider: 

For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” (Matthew 5:46-47)

Simply means, loving others we like is easier, but it takes a toll on us when our enemies are concerned. In this way, applying Jesus’ words becomes a reality and its application makes or breaks us as believers of Jesus. The only thing holding us back in loving anyone, especially our enemies, is pride, plain and simple. To bring us out of pride, remember how Jesus, at the cross of Calvary, prayed for His enemies and forgave them as well. And no matter what we think or say about it, it’s a choice we must make daily. 

Holly Mthethwa[1] provided some practical ways to love our neighbour as yourself. 

  1. I will love my neighbours, whoever they are, by truly seeing them. I will look past the obvious, the outer shell, and I will look into their eyes, their hearts, and their circumstances. 
  2. I’ll ask for forgiveness for the strongholds within my own heart that keep me from sympathizing with or loving another. If I need to ask for forgiveness from my neighbour, I’ll humble myself and apologize. 
  3. I’ll love my neighbours by praying for them—even if it’s through gritted teeth at first. I will pray for my neighbours, especially the ones I least want to pray for.
  4. I will walk alongside my neighbours. I will rejoice when they rejoice and mourn when they mourn. I’ll bear the burden of the pain and anguish, because I know that Christ is the ultimate burden-bearer, and I’ll shout for joy in tandem with their cries of thanksgiving and praise.
  5. I’ll allow my neighbours to challenge my heart without taking offense or becoming bitter. I’ll accept constructive criticism as the pathway that draws me closer to Christ. 

In the end, we’ll face God and He’ll be asking us how we did in this area. What would you answer then?

Let’s talk again!


  [1] http://www.crosswalk.com/faith/spiritual-life/7-ways-to-love-your-neighbor-as-yourself.html

Friday, June 19, 2020

Just thinking out loud...

We are indeed living in the end times. As Christian believers living in his world, how are we to act and react to the various opposing sides vying for our attention? First, what does the Scriptures say about this: "You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. 2For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. THEY WILL CONSIDER NOTHING SACRED. 3They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good." 2 Timothy 3:1-3, NLT.
Should we take sides in what's happening? Should we adopt the current ideology permeating the landscape of the nations? As a matter of Scriptural fact, we ARE called to become salt and light of the world, therefore, the banner we carry at all times in the Name of Christ. However unpopular it might be, this is our identity. We hate injustice and all sorts of wickedness as people of God, yet Jesus told us about this. The only remedy is God's offer of salvation to everyone.
The Great Commission encapsulates the whole message of God's Kingdom. Many would not hear our message because it is unpopular and doesn't go well with the current trend. As always, God's message is always irrelevant to them and rejected. Is "loving your enemies" irrelevant? To a world filled with hate and anger, it is because loving your enemy is not the answer but destruction of the enemy. This is where we need to make a stand as far as identifying with any movement. Can we reflect Christ's message while carrying another banner with a different message? We need God's wisdom and only prayer counters any attacks of the enemy (John 10:10).
What am I saying? If you are burdened with what's happening, read about it and be informed. Then do what's appropriate as a Christian believer and pray for God's wisdom in all your actions and reactions. If you choose not to be involved, don't just watch but pray for God's intervention.
Until next time!