Monday, May 29, 2017

Silence at the Right Time

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Somebody said, “It is a great art in the Christian life to learn to be silent. Under oppositions, rebukes, injuries, still be silent. It is better to say nothing, even if the occasion should seem to justify a degree of anger.” How does one keep silent when everything around is out of control especially when we say we are followers of Jesus? The apostle James emphasized, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless” (James 1:26 ESV). Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers explained, “The first mark of true religion is gentleness of tongue, just as the contrary, blasphemy, is the most damning fault of all.” Also, it highlights what Jesus reminds us of the words we speak affects our eternal future, “By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned” (Matthew 12:37, KJV).

How great is our little tongue? Interestingly, Dale A. Robbins explained, “It has been said that the “tongue” is one of the most exercised muscles of our body. It has been estimated that in a typical week, the average person will speak enough words to fill a 500-page book!” This is the reason why we should remember that one of the wisdom’s best qualities is the ability to hold the tongue. The simple fact is this: God gave us two ears and one mouth signifying which aspect of attitude one must apply in every conversation. Let’s keep in mind how God intended for which part needs more time and utilized during any discussions we engage in at the moment.

Personally, I had my share of irresponsible words causing greater problems, coming from allowing my emotional trigger of pride ahead of my logical thinking. In the end, I became embarrassed by my actions and apologized for what I did. Unfortunately, unkind words came out and cannot take back. And it caused the intended (not accidental) damage of belittling other’s opinion and negating their situation without any consideration for the long-term value of the relationship. Yes, I won the argument but lost a relationship, and my action resulted in bringing more negativity on both sides.

On the other hand, when is speaking out becomes appropriate? It becomes correct when there's an opportunity for explaining oneself and clarifying one’s stand. Also, it becomes suitable when done for the sake of agreement and maintaining relationship. Now, how does one respond when pride rears its ugly head and asserts itself being right and condemned you as wrong? This scenario allows an opportunity of choosing silence after everything is said and done in the right way. Moreover, silence acts as our ally in the situation without aggravating the situation any further.

Remember, it is no longer about asserting our right and insisting our defense but instead allowing God’s intervention of our cause. Consequently, there are three truths in every conflict: our side of the truth, their side of the truth and God’s truth. No matter what we do, only God brings out the truth in the end. Just continually trust Him for He knows what to do.

Applying silence needs constant practice. First, it begins with guarding our mouth against speaking careless words. Somebody said, “We have an epidemic of people sharing their opinions without regard to whether or not they have anything meaningful to say. Next, let’s hold back our tongue from sweet talk and insincere flattery. Here’s something to consider in this matter:

The next time you receive a letter that carries the word "Sincerely" above the signature of the writer, pause a moment and think of the origin of that word. It was first used as "sincerely," meaning "without wax," by ancient sculptors to mark a flawless piece of work. Wax was then commonly employed to conceal defects, to patch a chipped nose, a poorly shaped finger, etc. Sincerely is too honest a word to be used loosely, but it is a good word when consciously employed. ~ Source Unknown

Finally, safeguard our heart from any “root of bitterness.” Alfred Auston, Slips of Speech, Funk and Wagnalls Company commented,

When you speak, speak clearly and naturally. Say what you mean and mean what you say; be brief and sensible. Words should drop from the lips as beautiful coins newly issued from the mint, deeply and accurately impressed, perfectly finished, neatly struck by the proper organs, distinct, sharp, in due succession and of due weight.

At the end of the day, we make the choices affecting any situation towards success or failure. If at all possible, preserve the relationship even if you disagree with one another and if keeping the relationship is not feasible, settle everything amicably and separate ways as brethren in Christ.

Let’s talk again!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

When Facing Unexpected Storms

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Mildred Witte Struven wrote, “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). Job’s life is a quintessential example of the worst kind of storm anyone faces in his or her lifetime. Job’s faithfulness pleased God and bragged about it during a meeting with Satan. It seems odd for such a conversation, but it happened. Satan challenged Job’s faithfulness as a result of a quid pro quo arrangement with God. Everything on the table except death. God’s confidence in Job became the lightning rod for Satan’s accusation. Then the battle of faith begins with storms of huge proportion right after another.

Job’s first three storms came on everything he owned and made him miserable in an instant. In just one day, from being the richest man in his time, he became the poorest (Job 1:3). Job’s next storm came on his children and lost his ten children through a freak storm killing them all in one swoop (Job 1:2). Job’s next storm was a physical attack, and painful sores appeared all over his body (Job 1:2). Job’s next storm was losing moral and spiritual support from his wife (Job 1:2). In all of these things, Job stood on his faith and integrity. Somebody said it appropriately; “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.” Robert Schmidgall described,
“The Scriptures often exhort us to be filled with various godly virtues--which means what? How do we know if we are "full of goodness" (Rom. 15:14), for example? Think a moment about a water-saturated sponge. If we push down with our finger even slightly, water runs out onto the table. We immediately know what fills the interior pockets of the sponge. The same is true of ourselves. We can tell what fills us on the inside by what comes out under pressure.

In this scenario faced with such tremendous pressure, let’s ensure these attitudes are present in helping us sustain our faith when storms of life occur:

1.      Let our faith in God become reliable through the storms of life because “he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23). Oswald Chambers wrote, “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.”
2.      Let the integrity of our faith in God’s ways and means become resilient as the storm intensifies because “Whoever walks in integrity will be delivered” (Proverbs 28:18a). J. C. Ferdinand Pittman shared this beautiful illustration, “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.
3.      Let our commitment to maintaining God’s honor become resolute in the midst of the storm because “The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer” (Proverbs 15:28a). Carl Lundquist shared, “Henry Wingblade used to say that Christian personality is hidden deep inside us. No one knows what's inside--unless the waiter is bumped and he trips! Just so, people don't know what's inside us until we've been bumped. But if Christ is living inside, what spills out is the fruit of the Spirit.”

In the end, Job remained faithful in his conviction, although there were times it seemed he wavered, but only for a short period being typical of anyone when facing the same storms. Job’s story remained an essential backdrop in remembering what we face daily and look back at this story with full knowledge that God is always in control no matter what.

Here’s something for us to reflect and experience a new sense of hope in God’s promises:

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!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

When God Allowed Suffering

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Someone asked C.S. Lewis, "Why do the righteous suffer?" "Why not?" he replied. "They're the only ones who can take it." Suffering, when understood from what God wanted to do, prepares us to see greater things ahead, as our experiences usher us to recognize more impressive things towards the unseen. Bible characters provide key insights as to how God uses suffering for our good. Let’s look at a few of them:

1.      With Job, God allowed suffering to prove a point that Job’s faith was not superficial.
2.      With Joseph, God allowed suffering to complete his journey to fulfill the dream he received as Psalms 105: 18-19 stated, “His feet were hurt with fetters; his neck was put in a collar of iron; until what he had said came to pass, the word of the LORD tested him.”
3.      With David, God allowed suffering in the hands of King Saul to prepare him to become the greatest king of Israel: 1 Samuel 24
4.      With Paul, God allowed suffering to keep him grounded in humility, and as a result, Paul understood God’s purpose and rejoiced in suffering if it meant God’s presence in His life.

Beth Landers shared an excellent illustration of the role and impact of suffering in one’s life:

A man found a cocoon of the emperor moth and took it home to watch it emerge. One day a small opening appeared, and for several hours the moth struggled but couldn't seem to force its body past a certain point. Deciding something was wrong, the man took scissors and snipped the remaining bit of cocoon. The moth emerged easily, its body large and swollen, the wings small and shriveled. He expected that in a few hours the wings would spread out in their natural beauty, but they did not. Instead of developing into a creature free to fly, the moth spent its life dragging around a swollen body and shriveled wings. The constricting cocoon and the struggle necessary to pass through the tiny opening are God's way of forcing fluid from the body into the wings. The "merciful" snip was, in reality, cruel. Sometimes the struggle is exactly what we need.”

There are times that we forget that sufferings are God’s way of communicating His desired situation for us. The Russian novelist Fedor Dostoevski (1821-1881) once said, "There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings." Keep in mind that our sufferings can either be obstacles or opportunities and the only difference is how we view them. Furthermore, our experiences can either act as stumbling blocks or stepping-stones along the way. The difference is how we apply them at any given time. It does not depend on the circumstances we are in but how we react to them that matters the most. It is not what happens to us that we must be concerned with, but what we do with what happens that matters the most in life (W.F. Doverspike).  How do we respond the right way, then? By allowing our sufferings the opportunity to increase our faith level, greater things are waiting for us ahead.

What can I say about suffering? Personally, I can attest that the sufferings I’ve confronted in my life molded me to where I am now. Looking back, no matter how painful the effects of suffering, my faith in God grew stronger and larger. Although there were times that I was tempted to give up but remembering God’s promises I received since I became a Christian believer came through for me every time. Here’s one that we can all stand on when suffering comes our way:

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

So the next time, you are experiencing the worst kind of suffering, remember what Jesus said, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Let’s talk again!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Maintaining Love in Marriage

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Michael Ventura provided an excellent description of what marriage is all about,  “Marriage is a
journey toward an unknown destination -- the discovery that people must share not only what they don't know about each other, but what they don't know about themselves.” In reading the Scriptures, here’s the relational equation that occurs between married couples: “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them” (Colossians 3:18-19).

How does this work? Following the biblical basis of this equation, here’s the breakdown:

·      Specific role of the wife: “…submit to your husbands…”
·      Submission is all about respect not dominance: Ephesians 5:33b “…let the wife see that she respects her husband.”
·      Extent of a wife’s submission: “…as is fitting in the Lord.”
·      Specific role of the husband: “…love your wives and do not be harsh with them.”
·      Measurement of a husband’s love: Ephesians 5:33a “However, let each one of you love his wife as himself…”

How does love comes into the marriage relationship? First, love must be cultivated during marriage relationship between a husband and the wife and the cultivating part was assigned to the husband as Ecclesiastes 9:9 states, Enjoy life with the wife whom you love. ” Afterward, love must become the bond that holds the marriage vows between a husband and the wife until death. Death becomes the separating tool that dissolves the vow but until then, “put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:14). Finally, love must produce the legacy of the husband and the wife for the next generation to follow and imitate.

The love between a husband and a wife becomes an illustration of how Christ loves His church:

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church (Ephesians 5:25-33).

When this portrait of Christ’s love becomes the anchor of every marriage relationship, no matter what challenges come, it will stand strong. Thus, the key to a successful bond of love in marriage life is no other that the Lord Jesus Christ. It takes three to make a marriage long lasting and complete. Two people cannot do it but two people fully submitted to the Lord Jesus goes a long way “until death do you part.” Chuck Swindoll in his book, “The Grace Awakening” shared five major needs of women IN marriage: (1) affection; (2) conversation; (3) honesty and openness; (4) financial support, and; (5) family commitment. On the other hand, he also shared the five major needs of men IN marriage: (1) sexual fulfillment; (2) recreational companionship; (3) an attractive spouse; (4) domestic support; and (5) admiration.

If an unmarried couple is reading this article, let me share two important things to consider about love in marriage. First. love begins at courtship between a single man and a single woman as Proverbs 18:22 states,  He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.” Next, love is manifested at the wedding day between a man and a woman as Genesis 2:24 states, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”  Before I end, listed below are three ingredients to a happy marriage:

1.     The presence of the Lord Jesus Christ at the wedding: Hebrews 13:4 “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.”
2.     The presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in the home: Psalms 127:1 “A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon. Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.”
3.     The presence of the Lord Jesus Christ all along life's journey: Psalms 23:4 “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Therefore, if you currently married, let love anchored in Jesus hold your marriage together and if you are getting married, get ready to preserve love at all cost.

Let’s talk again!