Monday, November 24, 2014

Futility of Challenging God: Pharaoh of Egypt

Somebody said, “Pride is the only disease that makes everyone sick, but the one who has it.” This can be attributed solely to the Pharaoh of Egypt when he challenged God and his messenger Moses. The book of Exodus stated this fact: “But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth” (9:16). Whether we like it or not, one way or another, God has the final say to everyone that challenges His reality and power.

Let’s look closely at the characteristics of Pharaoh to understand how the scenario played out. First, he was full of contempt and even though this was initially directed toward God, it led him to act contemptuously toward all others. He was completely inflexible and refused to follow God’s directions. He understood what was being requested, but he refused and his words present a determined resolution to follow Self rather than God. Then, he was controlled by anger. Pharaoh’s rage was sinful and he viciously attacked and caused as much suffering as possible. His anger so controlled him that it was impossible for him to comprehend any danger. Finally, he was also motivated by self-interest. Pharaoh listened to Moses and Aaron, and what did he hear – a challenge to his monarchy! He did not hear a word about God and all his thoughts were consumed with self-interest!

The Scriptures confirmed Pharaoh’s attitude: “You sent signs and wonders against Pharaoh, against all his officials and all the people of his land, for you knew how arrogantly the Egyptians treated them. You made a name for yourself, which remains to this day” (Nehemiah 9:10).  Thus, Pharaoh, in his encounter with God, was made to realize that there is only one God and Lord, and after all is said and done, Pharaoh acknowledged it (Ex 9:27; 10:16). To this end the issue was clearly drawn. Pharaoh challenged the right of God to command him (Ex 5:2), and God required him, then to "stand" to the trial until the evidence could be fully present, in accordance with the fundamental principle that he who makes a charge is bound to stand to it until either he acknowledges submission or affords opportunity for full presentation of evidence. So we see God made Pharaoh to "stand or stay alive" (Ex 9:16) and to experience first-hand the reality of God through direct judgment and plagues that destroyed Egypt and his rule.

Allow me to provide some important lessons for us to learn today from the life of Pharaoh: (a) Like Pharaoh, everyone has a choice to make about submitting to God’s authority. God will honor those that honor Him, but will despise those that assert themselves over Him. James reminded us the right kind of attitude to adopt, i.e., “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (4:10); (b) Like Pharaoh, attitudes against God will face divine justice that will affect many lives in the process and suffer great consequences. The apostle Paul when writing to the church in Rome reminded, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them” (Romans 1:18-19); (c) Like Pharaoh, pride led to great suffering and utter humiliation for oneself and those around you. The book of Proverbs showed the pitfall of pride: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (16:18).

After all is said and done, “In the eyes of God, only fools believe there is no God” (Psalms 14:1) and to challenge God of what He can do is indeed ridiculous, for at the end, they will be humbled and judged as mere man by a Sovereign God. What Pharaoh did then was not an isolated event, but unfortunately, many people without any thought of consequences are repeating it even today. And sadly, lessons are being learned the hard way. But I believe that God will never give up on us and will always confront us with many warnings to avoid the worst result.  Remember, when we go down on our knees and recognize who God is, He will lift us up. And that’s a guarantee!

Let’s talk again!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Learning from Your Hurts: The Story of Leah

The story of Leah, Jacob’s first wife, was a thought-provoking subject in order to uncover the best approach to deal and overcome hurts and pains brought about by personal and external factors (Genesis 29:16-30). Here are three things that I found interesting and helpful on how people typically deal with hurts and discouragements in their lives:

a)    They deny to the bones – “That didn’t hurt me. I’m not mad.”
b)   They will delay until the right moment of retaliation – “I’ll deal with that later. I don’t get mad I get even.”
c)    They will try to minimize the emotions and restrained their emotions to the maximum possibility in keeping it – “It’s no big deal. It didn’t hurt so bad.”

William Ward wrote in Today in the Word (April, 1989, p. 18) about discouragement and defined it this way: Discouragement is dissatisfaction with the past, distaste for the present, and distrust of the future. It is ingratitude for the blessings of yesterday, indifference to the opportunities of today, and insecurity regarding strength for tomorrow. It is unawareness of the presence of beauty, unconcern for the needs of our fellowman, and unbelief in the promises of old. It is impatience with time, immaturity of thought, and impoliteness to God.

How about you folks? What’s your typical style of dealing with hurts and discouragements that come in your life? In looking at Leah’s story, we can glean pivotal life lessons from how she handled every hurt and discouragement in her life. To begin with, Leah wasn’t much to look at and by observing closely the biblical account of her life; she looked differently from her beautiful sister Rachel and was fully aware of it. Next, she was always in second place, inferior and not shown much affection, even though she was first born. And to make matters worse, she got married through deceit and not loved by Jacob at all, having been forced to become her husband due to family customs. However, Leah rose above this personal dilemma, maybe through self-talk or by just knowing she was loved by her God. In addition, the most important event that happened to Leah that no one can ever be taken away from her is the fact that from her offspring—Judah (Genesis 49:10), came the Ancient of Days – Jesus Christ. Wow! Imagine that out of the unloved, the second rate and the ugly came the Savior of the world!

So what can we learn from Leah’s experiences in today’s world? Here are some tips: (a) genuine encouragement must be obtained from God because when you learn from your hurts, others will be encouraged; (b) rising up to the next level of perspective must occur because when you learn from your hurts, you will go to another level; (c) faith level will increase when God is involved because when you learn from your hurts, your faith will increase; (d) others will be influenced by your testimony because when you learn from your hurts, your testimony will become alive. G.K. Chesterton provided clarity in this matter:  “Hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all. As long as matters are really hopeful, hope is mere flattery or platitude; it is only when everything is hopeless that hope begins to be a strength.”

What's the bottom line here? There is absolutely no way to avoid getting hurt or discouraged. They will come, but the issue is to respond appropriately. In this matter, we can choose to internalize the hurts and become resentful or we can choose to strike back and worsen the situation. But the best resolution is always to forgive! Ultimately, the choice is ours to make. Let’s imitate Leah when she yielded everything to God and in doing so, she was never the same again. And in all of the things that she went through, they were exactly what made Leah to be an excellent example to be emulated by God’s people today. Most importantly, God’s hand and favor believed upon her and that’s all that I mattered to her at the time when she confirmed it many times.

After everything is said and done, it is noteworthy to consider that God responded to people in need and He will always provide the timely help and strength to endure all challenges at hand. And here’s something to think about as we tread along our journey in life: When you have nothing left but God, then you become aware that God is enough. ~Maude Royden.

Let's talk again soon!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Clay in the Potter’s Hand

The story is told of a couple who went to England to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary and shopped at a beautiful antique store. They both liked antiques and pottery,and especially tea-cups,and so spotting an exceptional cup, they asked "May we see that? We've never seen a cup quite so beautiful." As the lady handed it to them, suddenly the tea-cup spoke... "You don't understand." It said, "I have not always been a tea-cup. There was a time when I was just a lump of red clay. My master took me and rolled me pounded and patted me over and over and I yelled out, Don't do that. I don't like it! "Let me alone," but he only smiled, and gently said; "Not yet!!" "Then, WHAM! I was placed on a spinning wheel and suddenly I was spun around and around and around. "Stop it! I'm getting so dizzy! I'm going to be sick!" I screamed. But the master only nodded and said, quietly; 'Not yet.' He spun me and poked and prodded and bent me out of shape to suit himself and then...he put me in the oven. I never felt such heat. I yelled and knocked and pounded at the door. "Help! Get me out of here!" 'Not yet.'

When I thought I couldn't bear it another minute, the door opened. He carefully took me out and put me on the shelf, and I began to cool. Oh, that felt so good! "Ah, this is much better," I thought. But, after I cooled he picked me up and he brushed and painted me all over. The fumes were horrible.. "Oh, please, Stop it! Stop it!" I cried. He only shook his head and said. "Not yet..." Then suddenly he put me back into the oven. Only it was not like the first time. This time it was twice as hot and I just knew I would suffocate. I begged... I pleaded... I screamed...I cried... I was convinced I would never make it. I was ready to give up and just then the door opened and he took me out and again placed me on the shelf, where I cooled and waited and waited, wondering "What's he going to do to me next?" An hour later he handed me a mirror and said "Look at yourself." And I did... I said, "That's not me, that couldn't be me. It's beautiful. I'm beautiful!" -Source Unknown.

The prophet Isaiah wrote this: “But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” (Isaiah 64:8). What is the clear message of this depiction? The potter gives his full attention working closely with a feeble, unpleasant, muddled lump of clay. The potter is firmly focused with an expectation to alter that piece of soiled clay into a piece of art – a masterpiece. Thus when we allow God in our lives, we become a beautiful masterpiece in His hands. It begins first with our identity: “Who are we in God’s sight?” “…we are the clay…” (Psalms 138:8). Then, the next question to answer is this: “Who God must be in our lives?“ He is “…our potter…” (Psalms 119:73). When these two realities are fully embedded in us and after yielding our identity to God’s identity, we become “…the work of His hand” (Psalms 100:3).

What biblical principles can we learn from this depiction? (a) Aspire to become God’s best by becoming willing clay in God’s hand in order to reveal His purpose in our lives and for others we come in contact with (Ephesians 2:10); (b) Recognize God’s capability that God is the Potter in our life and He must always have the final say-so (Isaiah 45:9); (c) Treasure every touch of God that occurs in our lives in ALL circumstances and that the interaction between God as the Potter and us as the clay creates a dynamic and partnership for His work in our lives for His glory alone (Isaiah 43:10).

What’s the bottom-line? Never throw your life away over a flaw, a mistake, or a sin. Never allow yourself to be broken and remain that way. God can reshape you, heal you and put you back together again.

It is not you who shape God; it is God that shapes you.
If then you are the work of God, await the hand of the Artist who does all things in due season.

Offer the Potter your heart, soft and tractable, and keep the form in which 
the Artist has fashioned you. 

Let your clay be moist, lest you grow hard and lose 
the imprint of the Potter’s
fingers. - Written by Irenaues from the 2nd Century, “From God’s Hands”

Let’s talk again!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sexual Purity in a Corrupt World

The Scriptures provides this very important reminder for all people: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Thus, with regards to sexual purity, it is not a choice but a decision to reflect the character of Jesus in a sexually charged world.

Listed below are some facts for reflections based on the apostle Paul’s admonitions (1 Corinthians 10:13):
FACT 1: We will always face temptations, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.” 
FACT 2: God is in control of every situation, “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability...”
FACT 3: There is always an escape from it so don’t worry but overcome it, “…but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it…”

According to 1 John 2:15-17, there are three main sources of depravity in our world today: “For all that is in the world--the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions--is not from the Father but is from the world.” These three things were evident at the Garden of Eden: “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate” (Genesis 3:6). They were evident at the temptation of Jesus: “And the tempter came and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread. "But he answered, "It is written, "'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, "'He will command his angels concerning you,' and "'On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'" Jesus said to him, "Again it is written, 'You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'" Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me" (Matthew 4:3-9).

In this age of so-called “sexual freedom,” how can one who fully adheres to Biblical values and strongly stand against its onslaught? There are important Biblical principles to stand on: (a) Exercise Self-Control: For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5); (b) Intentionally Flee from Obvious Sources of Temptations: Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body (1 Corinthians 6:18); (c) Honor One’s Marriage: Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous (Hebrews 13:4); (d) Get Married and Remain Married: But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband (1 Corinthians 7:2); (e) Take Every Thought Captive: For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3-5); and most importantly, (f) Always Put On Jesus: But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires (Romans 13:14).

Finally, here’s something to think about from an unknown source: “We cannot choose the surroundings and environment of our work. We cannot even choose the home into which we have been born. If there are those who feel that the Christian life is one of great difficulty for them, but that if only they had a different environment and atmosphere they could be better Christians, let them remember that there were saints in Caesar's household, and saints at Satan's seat in ancient Pergamos.”

Let’s talk again!