Dec 30, 2009

December 2009

December months have always proven to be a disconcerting season. Year on year, December repeatedly causes me to be sullen. It is not quite a joy; to see a year coming to a close. Closure is never easy. A survey of 2009 reveals only that small sprinkling of high points. It is sad, to have a year, marked more by gulleys and trenches rather than by peaks, and ones not quite soaring, to add.

The year is faster closing. The season forces a recount of how I have spent the year. The reality is that 2009 will soon be gone, and that nothing I can ever do will bring it around again. A truthful review always tinges me with regret. The opportunities lost and squandered. The gifted days, so casually wasted. There is no replay. The moments are either captured, or lost. The only surety now, that holds my focus, is that I would be called to account for them all, on Judgment Day. Then again, I know full well, in our youthfulness, we temper our shortcomings with promises to look into the “should haves” and “ought to’s” in the future. So we would watch the sun set on 2009. We await the first sunrise of 2010. Somewhere in between, perhaps, we would compose ourselves and make our resolutions. Our speckled regrets though sincere and real, are temporal. A tear or two may help soothe the conscience, but true sorrow is hard to find. Come year-end 2010, will I find myself in the same quandary? Such vessels of clay, we are. Still, the LORD would choose us, as His own.

For the 300 plus days gifted, we could reminisce the good times we have had; the parties, the holidays, the birthdays and the weddings. We have grown older by a year, accumulated providentially more knowledge, gained some experience and perchance wisdom. We celebrated our blessings. On the flip, we remember and mourn the loss of friends and loved ones. We would miss their voice, their presence, their touch, their very being. We yearned to party in the company of our bosom-friends. We wish that the times and distances that separate us would simply shrink or disappear. All in all, our mutual ardency is commendable. In all our gaiety, one could ponder; of our highs in 2009, how many were centered on the LORD? Does our dedication to friend and family overwhelm or pale in comparison with our accord for the Friend, our Lord. The writing on the plaque is more likely to be the truism; He was the silent Listener, the unseen and overlooked Guest, and a wall-flowered Visitor. Our garish inconsistency, of purportedly wanting to spend an eternity with Him, but not quite, as evidenced in the days of 2009 does not smite us as appalling or leave us privately aghast. In our busyness and the prime of our youth, who will fault a forgetfulness of the LORD? If not for His faithfulness, His love. And His grace that causes Him to endure our despise of Him. How true it is; that the LORD has never dealt with us, according to the measure of our sin.

One would also ill imagine that our daily walk with the Master in 2009, would not have had a more profound and significant influence over our lives. It is impossible; that the power of the Holy Counselor is inadequate to effect sanctification in those who closely listen to His Word. This begs several questions. Professions have a knack for coming around to haunt and heckle us, always. I guess, for me, they are most persistent in the months of December. It is comforting then to remember, and rest in the provision of our Lord’s righteousness; a thing we do not cleave to closely.


Would it not be good then, to close 2009, together, in repentance, but with much thanksgiving and praise, for the One who could, and would, love us still?

Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them; (Ecc 12:1)



God bless.



/ckh

Dec 16, 2009

Giving

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. (Luk 2:10-11)

Christmas is around the corner. Throughout the Christian world, stores are lit and most are busy shopping for the season. Christmas is the time for giving. And little children wait with eager anticipation for their Christmas presents. Centuries ago, the angels gave us ‘the good tidings of great joy’. They “brought us” the good tidings; ‘unto you’ is born this day. “For God so loved”, He gave.

Giving has from time immemorial been the outward expression of love. It is not in the nature of the beast to give. Even as animals would feed their young, they are merely responding to a wired need to preserve their offspring and genetic signature. Observe how lions will dispose of all earlier cubs sired by the vanquished. To be enabled to love is a God-given gift. God is love. Humans are able to love because we have been “made in His image”.

Scripture prescribes that “it is more blessed to give than to receive”. It goes without saying, that one is first truly blessed, before, one has the capacity to give; one cannot give what he has not first received. The bible commands giving in many forms. Giving is not limited to the material. We have been severally gifted, in order that the Church may be edified and made complete. Again we have been first gifted from above, that we may in turn give to the community of believers.

The LORD is good. The year of 2009 is fast approaching its end. The LORD has faithfully provided all our needs; beginning with the very basics. Distracted by our plenty, we bear less cognizant of His more significant gifts of grace, mercy and peace. Once again the tidings of “peace on earth, goodwill to man” rings in the halls and across the globe. Again, we remember, the giving and birthing of the Son. What gift have we prepared in response? Love is most clearly demonstrated, by giving. What gift have we contemplated for the Father? for the Son? And for the Holy Counselor?

Thou shalt keep the feast of unleavened bread: (thou shalt eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded thee, in the time appointed of the month Abib; for in it thou camest out from Egypt: and none shall appear before me empty:) (Exo 23:15)

Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the LORD empty: Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD thy God which he hath given thee. (Deu 16:16-17)

These texts evoke an ancient requirement from days past that we may wish to re-examine. Again, would it not be wise, not to limit this “empty-handedness” to material items only? There is that reverberation reminding us, of justice and mercy even.

A blessed Christmas to all.

God bless.




/ckh

Dec 9, 2009

David

David, the son of Jesse, was an enigma. A survey through his life would present many inexplicables. He was reputedly a ruddy lad; handsome with beautiful eyes. Yet his father had ‘forgotten’ about this son when asked to present all his sons before the prophet Samuel. He was assigned the duty of watching over the flocks whilst his elders attended to more urgent matters; was he a lesser? A tiresome youngster, a pesky nuisance, his brothers had rebuked him for leaving the flocks in search of excitement. Still this less than bashful lad would challenge the mighty Goliath whilst the whole army of Israel wilted in a miasma of fear. Unfettered zeal? Youthful naivety? Optimistic derring-do? But this kid, who claimed that he had killed a lion and a bear, was now ready to take on Goliath for insulting the Name of the LORD. He donned no armor, was armed with a slingshot and a few pebbles.

With the house of Saul, he showed much regard. There is more about Jonathan than about his own siblings. His own cousins had larger roles in his army and life. David would not retaliate against Saul though presented with several opportunities to do so. Saul, his father-in-law, who hunted him like an animal, forcing him to hide and run in hills and caves. A demented king plagued by bouts of attacks, would launch spears at the one who could play his lyre to calm the spirits that so haunted him. A young man of valor, a man of war, handsome and prudent in speech, a man of music! And the LORD was with him.

He spent his time as a wandering warlord but did not abuse the local people. He slaughtered all his enemies. He allianced the Philistines, and would have been in the invading army had not the Philistine princes distrusted him. He could have by force, exacted tribute but chose instead to make requests for consideration from the likes of Nabal. When offended in front of his army, he was quick to convene a response force, but stopped short when placated by Nabal’s wife, Abigail. This same lady was widowed and was subsequently proposed to, by David.

Inaugurated King of Israel, he commanded the nation, and could require harems of fair maidens from throughout the empire, yet he had to have his comrade, Uriah’s wife. He commanded her presence and profaned the house of Uriah. A scheme was conceived to entice and deceive his loyalist to return to his house to conjugate his already pregnant wife. It was executed without success. This escalated to a plot to have Uriah betrayed and killed in battle, an opportunity capitalized by his cousin Joab to rid himself of several others; quite a few of David’s own strong men. David was hamstrung, but showed no regret or remorse on the murder of those who were his able and faithful lieutenants nor was there any evidence of anger or accounting for Joab. David summarily thought that he had put matters right; by marrying the woman!

He would willingly suffer the bilious attack by Shimei, when he had to flee his own Absalom. He imbibed the full measure of his son’s rebellion. He thought that it was the LORD who commanded Shimei’s vitriol insolence. His own fate would not have been in dispute had Absalom been successful. Words were not enough for Shimei as he continued to follow, cursing and throwing stones at David and his fleeing army. On his return, he would so mourn the death of his treasonous son till his generals doubted his sanity. In the general amnesty, he decided under oath, in the Name of the LORD, to assure Shimei of his life and released him. Yet on his death-bed, he commanded Solomon not to allow Shimei any consideration when the next opportunity to dispatch him appeared! It was also at his death-bed that he commanded retribution for Joab; for all his earlier conspiracies, but could it also be, for Joab’s slaughter of Absalom?

Yet this was the same man, the great psalmist who penned so many of the psalms in praise of the LORD. This was the same man who was described as a man after God’s heart, a man who would do much in preparation for the Temple, a man who would not have his Lord confined in a tent whilst he lived in a house, a man who would dance and sing before the LORD till his wife could stand him no longer! This same man wrote;

One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple. (Psa 27:4)


His testimony was of his single desire, his one pursuit in life; to dwell in the house of the LORD with the view of beholding His beauty, and to strenuously search and enquire into His word. Quite a confession; the distilled essence of nights of contemplation in the fields and in distress whilst on the run? Did David live and end well? Towards the end, he could not even keep himself warm. His sons were running wild; Absalom usurped the throne and made a public display of violating his concubine wives. Adonijah conspired with Joab and Abiathar for the throne. He had lost control though a king. There is a marked paucity of psalms from this era.

If I would seriously examine the life of David, as a man after God’s heart, I will have no restraint in attesting him a misnomer. Many of his knowing actions would not pass the test of a decent man, much less a godly man. David is no hero of mine. He proved himself to be severely wanting. His life story however, would be a glorious testament of a fallen sinner, saved, only by grace. A testament, all of us share.

And David the king came and sat before the LORD, and said, Who am I, O LORD God, and what is mine house, that thou hast brought me hitherto? And yet this was a small thing in thine eyes, O God; for thou hast also spoken of thy servant's house for a great while to come, and hast regarded me according to the estate of a man of high degree, O LORD God. What can David speak more to thee for the honor of thy servant? for thou knowest thy servant. O LORD, for thy servant's sake, and according to thine own heart, hast thou done all this greatness, in making known all these great things. O LORD, there is none like thee, neither is there any God beside thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears. (1Ch 17:16-20)


God bless.



/ckh

Nov 25, 2009

Response to 2012 prophecies - by Hugh Ross

Multiple sources, both books and web sites, have stirred people’s fear that the world (or life as we know it) will end on December 21, 2012. This date is cited as the end of the Mayan calendar and is said to align with a number of potential causes, such as the solar maximum, Venus’s transit of the Sun, Planet X’s approach, and a possible asteroid or comet impact. (See http://www.raidersnewsnetwork.com and http://www.2012warning.com/planet-X.htm, for example.)

The Mayan “end” date is also said to align with Incan and Egyptian calendars, as well as with the prophecies of Nostradamus, Edgar Cayce, and I Ching.

Perhaps few people realize that doomsayers for over a hundred years have been alleging that the Mayan, Incan, and Egyptian calendars predict a specific, imminent date for the end of the world. In my lifetime, over half dozen such dates have come and gone without incident. A closer look explains why: these calendars and prophecies are so esoteric, so vague, that one can pull almost any doomsday date from them.

Sooner or later, however, the wolf will be at the door. Major natural disasters have occurred in the past, and they are bound to happen in the future. World Wars have occurred in the past, and with weapons of mass destruction in the hands of tyrants and terrorists, Armageddon is hardly in doubt. So if doomsayers keep on predicting dates for the world’s end, they will be right eventually.

From an astronomical perspective, however, no one should be particularly concerned about December 21, 2012. Venetian gravity is much too weak to significantly impact Earth’s stability during a transit event. One such transit occurred in 2004 without any measureable effect on Earth. (It should also be noted that the date for the next transit is June 5-6, not December 21.)

In 1983 two astronomers encountered an infrared source they were unable to identify, initially. Some reporters speculated that the unidentified source might be a tenth planet (at the time Pluto was still considered a planet). A frightening rumor developed that Planet X had traveled from 50 billion miles away to less than 7 billion miles away in less than two decades. However, thanks to extensive research on the Kuiper Belt* during the 1990s and early 2000s, astronomers have determined with considerable confidence that Planet X does not exist.

While it’s true that the Sun will be at sunspot and flaring maximum in 2012, such a solar event occurs every eleven years. The worst case scenario for a solar maximum is that a few giant solar flares could temporarily disrupt satellite and radio communications. Some GPS satellites could possibly be knocked out, but certainly life on Earth would not be threatened. So far, sunspot monitoring indicates that the 2012 solar maximum will likely be moderate to minimal.

As for the coming Armageddon, a consistent (and literal) biblical interpretation embraced by some (though not all) Christians indicates that certain events must occur first. A sampling of such events includes these:
• a dictator takes control of a confederation that includes all the world’s nations1
• the nation of Israel agrees to disarm, 2
• all adherents of Judaism reside in Israel, 3
• Israel achieves economic prosperity, 4
• Israel gains some degree of political control over the lands known in the ancient world as Edom, Moab, and Ammon, 5 and
• the “Great Commission” reaches completion, as Christ’s followers raise up disciples in every ethnicity, kith, or people group throughout the world. 6

Whatever a person believes about “end times,” we all would do well to heed the words of Jesus: “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”7

In other words, energy focused in “divining” the date of the world’s end is wasted energy. God calls each person to live each day fully engaged in fulfilling His stated purposes for humanity so that whenever He comes for us, individually or collectively, we’ll hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”8

* The Kuiper Belt is a huge cloud of asteroids and comets that lies beyond the orbit of Neptune. Since 1985 more than a thousand Kuiper Belt objects have been discovered. Though a few rival Pluto in size, none are larger than the Moon. Accurate measures of the orbits of Neptune and the larger Kuiper Belt objects definitively rule out the possible existence of a planet the size of Mars or larger within the vicinity of the solar system.


1 Daniel 7:7-8, 23-25; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12.

2 Ezekiel 38:3-11.

3 Ezekiel 34:6-16, 36:8-12, 24, 37:20-21, 38:8, 39:25-28.

4 Ezekiel 36:8-12, 33-36, 38:12-13.

5 Isaiah 11:14; Ezekiel 38:3-8, Daniel 11:36-45; Amos 9:11-12; Obadiah 19-21; Zephaniah 2:8-11; Zechariah 10:10.

6 Matthew 28:8-20.

7 Matthew 24:42-44.

8 Matthew 25:21 and 23.

--
posted by greg.

Followers

Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men. And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him. And when he had gone a little further thence, he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the ship mending their nets. And straightway he called them: and they left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants, and went after him. (Mar 1:16-20)

And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the receipt of custom, and said unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed him. (Mar 2:14)

We have read often, the calling of Peter and Andrew, James and John of Zebedee, and Levi of Alphaeus; it does not always strike us that their calling is remarkable; that the Master would simply call them, and that they in turn would respond immediately. Peter and Andrew were casting their nets, James and John, mending their nets, and Levi sitting at his tax collector’s desk. The first would leave their trade, the second their father and the third his lucrative position with the State. They left all immediately and followed Him. Their decision to immediately follow is not quite the representative of a mature, logical, well-deliberated response by any stretch of the imagination. It is a wonder, to imagine what had caused each to leave all to heed the Master’s call.

When we survey the gospels, there are many who followed Him. There were those who would miraculously feed, others who would seek healing of sundry ailments. Some would follow for the sake of debate, discourse and the opportunity to prove the Master; a close association and to await the providential window when one is able to valiantly dispute or rebuke the latest Guru in town does alleviate one’s status as a knowledgeable teacher and marks one out as the able defender of the faith, does it not? The Jews were always keen on signs and wonders and to be on-hand and be an eye-witness participant in the crowds was indeed no small honor. Imagine the tales one can spell and spin for generations! Thousands laid down palm leaves and sang praises and hosannas at His entrance into Jerusalem in the tradition of kings. Just days later, they would prefer Him crucified on a Roman cross. Earlier, many had stopped and turned from following Him, when His requirements seemed offensive; the requirement of having to leave all, take up a cross, partake of His Body and following Him.

There were also a few who would want to follow, but was refused and discouraged. He did say that His yoke is easy and that there is rest for the weary and heavy-laden, but there is no denying the existence of a yoke. Yokes are associated more with slaves and beasts of burden than a free man. He also said that foxes have holes and birds have their nest, but the Son of Man has no-where to lay His head ; how does one who is weary and needing rest do without a place to lay one’s head? One is always struck by the irony in the Lord’s words and deeds.

We are all familiar with the call to follow Him. But what exactly does it mean to us individually? We follow, but as identified with which in the crowd? Those wanting to be fed with blessing and more blessing? Those wanting healing? Those possessed of knowledge and doctrine? Those seeking signs and wonders? Those willing to follow the Messiah King, but not up the Calvary road ? Whatever the determination, I would venture to suggest that the crunch will come down to this; are we following Him still? It is not always, that we would follow Him closely. Many a time we would follow but from afar. Regrettably some would suffer distraction and wander off, get lost or break their legs falling into a ditch or suffer the ravages of wild beasts. Rendered incapable and broken these are resigned to await rescue. Thankfully it is not about our faithfulness in following. There is room for everyone still. His sheep hears His voice and follow Him; else the Shepherd will come to look for His own.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. (Psa 23:3-4)


God bless.



/ckh

Nov 18, 2009

Friend

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. (Joh 15:13-14)


It was many years ago when I had both a friend, and a mentor. He taught me many things and was in many ways more of an influence than many of my so-called friends of today. He was a Hindu gentleman, holding high office in the Government of that day. An avid adherent of protocol, children around him were required to stand and address all the elderly as ‘Sir’ or “M’am”. Well-versed and practiced on both sides of the law and in the realm of political intrigue, I observed that in the discharge of his shadowy clandestine responsibilities, his works was characterized by practical amoral expediency. As my friend, there was never a harsh word or a raised voice. There was no need to hide and when threatened from without, he would always be there. It was safe, having him as my friend. I miss him, even till today.

One day, we seriously discussed the subject of friendship. I was in knots over what or who I deemed to be my friend. He impressed upon me; that if I was to have a certain number, of friends who would be true, exceeding the number of my fingers on one hand, then I would be a most blessed person. He ventured that a true friend, would stand by me, in any circumstance or state, who would continue being my friend irregardless of whether I am legally or morally right and especially when wrong, one who would be willingly to welcome and embrace me into his house and family whatever besides. Truly, I was hard-pressed to find even one that I could confidently ascribe as such. I have had fair-weather friends by the busload. In adverse times and circumstances, how quickly they would evaporate, and that itself is, in many instances, a blessing. Even the Psalms lament, of those who would eat together, only to stay and wait, mock and celebrate one’s downfall! If on the morrow we were to suffer from a diminished capacity; physical, financial, moral, or legal, where will our friends be found? The routine, tiresome reality of being a burden abrasively erodes all the romanticism of loyalty and faithfulness. For the few remaining, it would be tempting fate to expect them to stand by me, particularly if I would have deteriorated to become some despicable vermin of society. To be still welcomed into their houses and family? Wishful dreaming? Friends? Numbering more than the number of fingers on one hand? Pigs fly! At that point in history, beside him, I could not find or count another! Would even my own flesh and blood, qualify? Would I myself qualify?

But there is one, who is even more than my good friend had described. There is One, who laid aside His High Office, and humbled Himself to be a man. Someone who would stand by any other, in spite of any circumstance, station, or status, a friend, of sinners of whatever ilk. Someone not only prepared to, but who willingly laid down His own life, to accept on His own body, the judgment for all sin. Someone who died, so that we might live. Someone who not only died but defeated death by resurrection, to empower all to follow in His footsteps. Someone who could and would share the pain of human frailty, and continue to intercede and mediate on sinners’ behalf; the Man Christ Jesus.

Many of us know Him as our Friend. So often we confess, to wanting to become more and more like Him; to bear His image more and more. Are our friendships anything like His? We truly have a higher calling, even higher than that wished for by my long departed mentor.

Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.
Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. These things I command you, that ye love one another. (Joh 15:15-17)

It is no small task being a friend. Friendship as exemplified by our Lord is a tough act to follow without His grace. Even more forbidding is His commandment, to love one another. May we receive His grace and mercy, to be conformed more and more, according to His Image and bearing His Name.

God bless.




/ckh

Nov 11, 2009

Thy Kingdom come

Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: (Isa 29:13)

We live in the 21st century, in a very specific slot, in the history of time. We inadvertently forget that as time moves, vocabulary morphs. With these changes, our understanding, acceptance and reckoning of terminology also shift and deviate. Take the word ‘honor’ as an example; do we share a common platform through the ages?

In today’s arena, there are constitutional monarchies, syndic republicans and atheistic anarchists, with most somewhere in the slurp. We subscribe to democratic, socialistic and communistic entities. In the more remote and presumed less advanced communities, there is still widespread acceptance of tribal and feudal systems. Hence the idea or interpretation of headship is perceived in different shades, by people, contrasted by separate origins, cultures or disciplines. Civilization has largely migrated from the medieval system, having systematically rescinded and removed the titular accords and privilege of chieftains, lords, Sultans, Kings and Emperors, Shahs and Tsars. In an earlier time, it would be wise to quickly prostrate oneself in the presence of the sovereign, less one should suffer loss by decapitation. We would consider this same, humiliating, obscene and legally preposterous in the republics of today.

In the light of our current world-view, one wonders over our profession of Jesus Christ; as Lord of Lords and King of Kings. Is it not probable that we be variant, one from the other, and also with the standard? By oral confession and testimony, we accord Him the title, but does He reign? And if so, how? He may be Lord of the realm, but not necessarily of my house; and if He should intrude, He may still, not own my heart. Does He preside over us, as with our constitutional monarchs, sovereign only in ceremony but overruled and constrained by parliamentary constitution? Individual perspective, priority, and devotion would by default make rendition and practice, most subjective.

My limited understanding testifies of a King, who out of love, and in obedience to His Father, humbled Himself to be a man; whose most glorious act of His earthly life was possibly to be condemned to die a heinous death , to redeem for Himself, the creator of the universe , a people of His own. This King, resurrected from the dead and installed on the highest throne, is to rule over all. Yet, He intercedes and walks beside us in love, having given us new life and begins His work, first with our hearts. In daily life, He blesses us, by His grace, to serve Him, His purposes and His will, for the benefit of all of mankind. He purposefully provides a body, His Church, to enable a community for common worship, support and edification. Is our understanding of Kingship correct? Maybe not, but we are graced to learn and know Him better with each passing moment. It would be fallacious to examine Him against any mortal standard, for He is not like any earthly king. Despite having redeemed us, with His own blood, He still does not lord Himself over us by edict. His Kingdom is premised on His own love, grace, mercy, kinship and faithfulness. Do we understand His kingship? Not really, not on this side of heaven.

In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. (Isa 6:1-3)


God bless.


/ckh

Nov 4, 2009

Righteousness

Righteousness: Morally upright; without guilt or sin in full accord with virtue or morality. Morally justifiable

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; (Rom 3:23)

If we would accept the above definition of righteousness, we would be in full agreement and have no debate with Paul. But we are not all so malleable. There are not so few who would insist that they are not ‘sinners’. There are many more who reckon, that if and when they do err, there is always the avenue of an apology and that reparation would restore and make things ‘right’. Sincerity will always be a mitigating advantage but can it nullify the breach? The truth, that a thing once broken cannot be unbroken. We deceive ourselves by glossing over. More innocuous is the fact that the guilty have already lost the standing capacity to declare themselves innocent! It is commonplace for man to have elastic judgment, especially where self-preservation is imagined. Still, many would make themselves the final arbiter of right and wrong, choosing to ignore the Judge of His world. A man declaring himself ‘righteous’, struggles either in his understanding or the standard; by allowing himself that right, he promotes himself the higher arbiter. A proper estimate, of who we are, would cause us to be more wary of self-righteousness.

But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. (Isa 64:6)

I will declare thy righteousness, and thy works; for they shall not profit thee. (Isa 57:12)

His judgments are clear: that our deeds are lacking in merit and at best ‘filthy rags’. However noble or sacrificial our deeds, it would not be difficult to accept that they can be tainted with self-interest, man’s praise, innocent errors and myriad pollutions.

It was rather sad that the man who attended the wedding feast in his own garments was evicted. It would be unfair, if not foolish, to imagine that the man was not, in his own eyes, properly attired. He was clearly quite confident of himself until he met his Host. It is inconceivable that he was dressed in rags on that occasion; he would have known better. Wherein lay his misjudgment?

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. (Mat 5:6)

Yet Scripture does not nullify the need to be righteous. The Lord Himself taught that we should hunger and thirst after righteousness. Is this by default therefore a lost cause, if our every effort is at best filthy rags? In our enthuse, can it be a blessed thing when we are straddled to generate more rubbish!

In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The LORD our righteousness. (Jer 33:16)

I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; (Isa 42:6)

Outside of grace, without faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ, there is no righteousness. He has purchased and made available to us His righteousness. In Him, in His Name, everything we do is ‘perfected’ to the glory of our Father. Our access and standing is premised on, and provided for, by His imputed righteousness. Without Him, we are not righteous, never have been, or ever will be. It was John the Baptist who declared ‘Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world’

And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: (Php 3:9)

Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. (1Pe 2:24)


Do we truly know Him?

God bless.



/ckh

Oct 28, 2009

Compassion

But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. (Mat 9:36)


And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick. (Mat 14:14)


Then Jesus called his disciples unto him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way. (Mat 15:32)



So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him. (Mat 20:34)


And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean. (Mar 1:41)



And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. (Luk 7:13)





Compassion: A deep awareness and the feeling of the suffering or distress of another, coupled with a pity often including the desire to alleviate it.


The Lord Jesus Christ was a man of compassion when He walked the shores of Galilee. He still is, as He walks amongst His Church. I have not been able to fully understand or sense this trait of His. It is like grasping the air. We know, that having been birthed in His new image, given new hearts of flesh in place of our stony hearts, we really ought to have at least an inkling of His pulse beat and His passions. After all, do we not belong to His House, and do we not have the same Father; like father like son? Like our First Brother?


With the multitudes, three things moved Him and recorded in this order; their wanderings about without a shepherd, their need for healing, and strangely their need for basic food! In the first, I would wonder, since I can not exactly ‘feel’ the compassion for the people’s distress; was it their wandering or was it that there was no shepherd? Or was it both? Why does my heart not twitch like Him to know this distress in its magnitude? In the second, we know of those who live with dire need of healing, both physical and spiritual. My heart can sense their pain but I am unable to alleviate in any ‘real’ terms. We may offer prayer and supplication, and continue to struggle with the adequacy of our faith. The last premise of food is startling, given the apostles’ responses to the Lord when He made known His compassion. They complained, argued and disputed with the Lord Himself. They were probably tired and their own hunger pangs could well have shrouded their priorities. The issues of availability, costs, and the sheer number of mouths to feed merely made their representations more reasonable in their own eyes. They submitted that there was little that they could do! Even they, who lived and walked with the Master and had left all to follow Him, could not understand or share His deep compassion.


With the individuals, there are again three scenarios. They included the blind given sight, the leper being healed and cleansed, and the widow given back her dead son. There is a resonance in the first two, but the third is again off the main. The Lord was moved, so much by the woman’s loss and grief, that He would summon Himself to bring her son back, even from the dead. Oh how we lag in the throbbings and workings of His heart; that we can comprehend and emulate the empathy He possessed for the masses and the downcast, that He would condescend Himself, even as the Son of God, to be so agonized and resolved to apply and immerse Himself in other’s plight, to do something about it.


He has set us an example; how to live, how to walk, and how to love. He has taught us the meaning of submitting to His Father’s will.


Lord, that You will strengthen our minds, and then our hearts, to keep in step with You and faithfully bear Your Name. Teach us Your meaning of compassion.


God bless.



/ckh

Oct 20, 2009

Mercy

Mercy: The compassionate treatment, especially of those under one's power; clemency premised on a disposition to be kind and forgiving. Something for which to be thankful; the alleviation of distress by the provision of relief.


“I remember that early morning; the crowd was gathering, well before, to hear the great Teacher teach in the temple. He taught as no one had, with a power and authority that few could dismiss. So they all came, with anticipation to listen to this man, teach the Law of Moses. Not long after there was a commotion pouring a crowd into the courtyard. There in the midst of the temple, they cast down a woman caught in the very act of adultery. The Pharisees and Scribes challenged the Master for His disposal, questioning if the mandated penalty of death by stoning be warranted. It did seem strange somewhat that they were making such enquiry; was one greater than Moses or the Law, present? Were they not guilty of sponsoring one greater than the LORD? And if the woman had in fact been caught in the very act, why was her lover not summarily presented as well? Did not the Law curse, often on penalty of death, any who would not obey its dictates? The temple hushed.

The Teacher did not immediately answer, but they pressed Him urgently, as if they were more intent on entrapping a stoning for a different person for different reason. The Teacher stooped, and started writing on the sands. It was too far to see what he was about. They railed, and then He said “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." The tension in the air was palpable. They had come, and with vigor picked up stones, ready to dispatch, I am not sure who, that morning.

The woman lay on the ground; a pitiable rag-doll. With scattered hair, trembling with eyes in trepidation, she watched the crowd looking for who or what, I know not. Who was this woman? Was she a victim of circumstance? Of convenience? Was she indulgent, promiscuous, weak, passionate or deceived by sacrifice and love even? She was accused of adultery, not harlotry. It was out of love that she did what she did; only love for whom or what, I could not decipher. She lay there, despised, discarded, deserted, denigrated, desecrated, disillusioned, disappointed, denied, despondent, destitute, dehumanized and deceived. Could she have imagined her indignity, and slander, when she would be pelted till dead, for this, in recompense and exchange for her body and soul?

The silence was then punctuated by thuds; of stones dropping from the hands of men and women as they departed one by one. The Teacher continued His writing without comment till they had all gone. When there no-one left, the woman got up and stood before the Teacher. "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" He asked. She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more."

I guess I learnt the meaning of mercy that morning. Clemency from compassion for one cast down by so many and perhaps, even by the thing, called love.

I learnt, mercy for me, the other day. The setting was not quite so reverent. They had finally succeeded in casting Him out of the city, and strung Him on a cross. He received no mercy, not from men, not even from God. But as I looked into His eyes, I thought I heard Him say “ I hang condemned on this tree because only I can, for thee”.

And when He died,
A hardened centurion would confess,
As others round him, beat their breasts;
“Truly this Man was the Son of God”,
But still not enough, to be his Lord.
Still, He hung and died on that accursed tree,
Because only he could, bear away my sin, not me.
And though I will not walk away,
And in weakness I will always stray,
Still I am persuaded;
Before the day I came to be,
There was already,
Rest and mercy provided me. ”

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved-- (Eph 2:4-5)


God bless.

Oct 12, 2009

Good

And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. (Mar 10:17-18)


What do people mean when they describe another as “good”? A good person is; a decent person? a moral person? an ethical person? a truthful person? a reliable person? A just person? a compassionate person? the listing can go on. But that ‘good’ person may not be good to me! I may not be the subject or recipient of his goodness. As ‘good’ as he may be, he may not wish to extend his goodness to me for whatever reason. He simply does not have to.

What more if I was covertly his enemy, how about, if I worked against all his designs and thumbed my nose at him. What if I hold myself, free of any of his precepts or even refuse subscription to his idea of ‘goodness’. And if I would ridicule and mock his naivety if not stupidity and regard him to be a fool. What if I walked on my ‘one-way street’; goodness for me? yes. Good to any and every? No way. And what if we asserted that it is our right and our entitlement to received only uninterrupted blessings just so that we can go on our own ways! Anyone seen "Thank-you" notes by the ways?

Yet we go to bed every night, not knowing if we would wake up from our sleep. Whilst we are asleep, the entire universe is held together by His word. All our bodily functions continue uninterrupted, maintained and sustained at His goodness. All creation subsists, at His goodness.

The sun rises and the rains fall. The grass grows and animals feed. The air is renewed; new life is spawned every second. The planets spin and have been spinning for millenniums? but hold their place in the heavens. All creation waits at His hand. He does not favor only the pious or the moral or the deserving. There is no partiality in Him. Whoever we consider, the good, the bad, the ugly, and the damned, all receive from His hands, every moment of their days, in this life, His goodness from moment to moment.

It would be timely for us to spend some thought reflecting on the goodness of the LORD. Perhaps we may be blessed with a more succinct appreciation of what it properly means to be good. Maybe we would then understand why the Lord said, that there is none good but God alone. Perhaps then, we will rethink to describe ourselves as being ‘good’.

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8)


May His goodness draw, our hearts closer to Him ,who gave His life, to show us His love, while we were still sinners. No one is good except God alone.

God bless.



/ckh

Oct 6, 2009

Flashcard

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, (Heb 9:27)


There is a subject of truth that we like to avoid. It is uncomfortable and disconcerting. To some, it is politically incorrect , if not downright offensive. The painful fact remains; that all mankind, imagined ‘saved’ or otherwise, will still be subject to judgment. We may escape damnation by His mercy, but we will still be called, to give account for the lives, the every days we have been blessed with.

It would be wise to reflect frequently on this, from the days of our youth, to avoid the day when we would regret, with advancing years and receding hairlines, the days left to remedy a lamentable, blotched and mottled service record before the Son, who we would meet the next time as Judge of His Kingdom. This Judge is not biased, and can not be bribed in any fashion. To think that we could submit or contort our reports, to Him who redeemed us, to be our Lord, by His own blood, for the works He had ordained us to do? Perhaps we are all due for healthy dose of Peter’s experience, when he looked into His Master’s eyes after his vocal betrayal. It is doubtful that we are all keen and ready to meet our Maker.

It is convenient to regard our salvation as an ‘open and shut’ matter. Many procure it as an insurance policy, safeguarding a passport and passage to heaven; the only premium being playing church every now and then. It is a tedious task to mark out who is ‘saved’. Jesus Christ died to save the whole world; is the whole world saved? The LORD is merciful and kind, not wishing that any should perish; do none perish? Confess Him Lord with your mouth and call on His Name, and one will be saved; ‘Not everyone who calls me Lord, Lord will enter the Kingdom of heaven.’ There is no dispute to the existence of tares and goats in the midst of His church. There is no dispute to the wide and narrow ways. There will be many who will claim on that day ‘Lord, did we not’. There will be many who have gotten lost, stayed lost and never wished to return; shipwrecked, turned and stopped from following the Lord. There will be heap loads of regret, weeping and gnashing of teeth.

We have been redeemed for good works. Faith without works is dead. To follow Him is evidenced by daily keeping in step with Him, hearing where His voice leads and continue following. Prepared to meet the Lord requires on-going preparation and readiness. Preparation postponed is still a state of unpreparedness. In His service means exactly that; not an on-off convenient compliment given with sporadic reluctance. Taking up one’s cross is a life-long commitment; it is foolish not to count the cost, even more foolish, should we decide to lay it down some place further down the road.

Hell is a sure place. It’s descript should propel our sense of self-preservation to seek escape. The fear of pain and suffering is an innate God-given survival instinct, even when we have not yet learnt to love Him. It is not conceivable that a man would simply resign himself to contemplate an eternity of pain and suffering, but many do bury their heads in the sand on this tumultuous issue. We must make our salvation sure, worked out in fear and trembling.

It is already fearsome to stand before our Maker, worse still unprepared. Except for the merciful relief of sins confessed, repented, restitution made where possible, sin forgiven, and covered by His blood and far removed to the deepest, we will know the true meaning and full extent of nakedness before the LORD, in the assembly, in the congregation and before the whole world..Some would welcome the bearing of stripes over the baring of unmitigated truth. All creation shall know of our triviality or travesty of sin in word, action, thought, heart, soul, mind and strength. We have not yet even delved on our faithfulness to Him ,whom we call Lord. We really do not mean what we say, often. We run the gauntlet bearing known baggage of sin, careless to the fact that we make ourselves, the subject of His divine justice, either now or in the hereafter, and seemingly unafraid of losing His graces. We do not keep good account of the gifts and the life that He has given us. It is easy to misappropriate or misuse them at times. We forget that our lives and the gifts were given for the edification and building of His Church. The blessing of oneself is praiseworthy but ancillary.

May we be careful about our salvation and with our lives. May we not fall into the hands of a fearsome God, a consuming fire; except that the consumption is for an eternity. May we be mindful that there is really no place to hide, except under His shadow.May we never be the recipients of these words forewarned by Judge to come;

But he will say, 'I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!'(Luk 13:27)



"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. (Mat 25:41)


God bless.





/ckh

Sep 28, 2009

Gifts

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'(Mar 12:30)


The earth is full of the goodness of the LORD. We are blessed with abundance and receive His uninterrupted daily mercies. All that we have, all that we are, all that we will ever be; what is there, that we have, presently or in the morrow, that was not first given or ordained for us; starting with our very next breath!

Granted the given, we should not find the above commandment difficult to reciprocate. On the contrary, it would be indeed arduous to dispute or ignore His goodness and His goodwill. Yet being on this side of heaven, we are prone to grapple the gifts, more than we would regard the Giver. We will continue to struggle and wrestle with the commandment.

There are many good and right gifts. Some, would go on to so engross our attention, till our vision gets blurred, our hearts dulled, our souls submerged, and our strength sapped. We become so steamed and, like little children, are carried away in the torrent. Truthfully, we all have our pet indiscretions. The reality of ‘enjoying’ them, purportedly minor, cannot be dismissed. Not infrequently, we would ‘do’ these things because it suits us; it is not always that we have struggled hard, slipped and failed. It is more convenient, if not pleasurable, to yield and succumb. We pay a high price for our indulgences. We are deceived and separated from the One who laid down His life to redeem us. Whatever joy, happiness, fulfillment or success derived, cannot profit us in this brevity; what more, if we would know, that it offends Him.

We would confess that it is sin that separates us from Him. We know how irreconcilable sin is to His character. We weekly remember the price, He had to pay, to heal us of sin. But still, and in our weakness, we practice idolatry and hurt Him. Of themselves, many of the idols, may be very good and very right, but idolatry is sin. The best of good things are not necessarily unselfish. The best of gifts can be distorted. We are often blinded to the fact that they are, in finality, only gifts. They were never meant to be the ends. How oft we forget, the purpose for these gifting.

Consider, the ambitions we dedicate ourselves to, being mindful of those things that will have to be left behind; ‘naked I entered this world, naked I will depart’. It would be ironic, if not sad, to learn, that as astute as we would imagine ourselves to be, we have embraced folly with colossal loss. Contemporary thought exhorts, and advertises, the virtues of self-fulfillment, self-actualization, of ‘me-first’; Nike’s clarion to ‘Go for it’ sounds innocuously encouraging and is representative. With retrospect deliberation, we will surmise that these pursuits are truly incompatible with ‘denying oneself, taking up one’s cross, and following Him’? Cherishing the world detracts us from the glory of His Kingdom. To say that we would love the LORD and continue in sin is an impossible position to negotiate.

Love is said to be a choice, we were called to make.

"Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." (Jos 24:14-15)

May we keep our eyes on Him, who loved us, and gave Himself for us. May we be faithful in keeping His command; to love Him with all our hearts, and with all our souls, and with all our strength, and with all our minds. And our neighbor, as ourselves. Amen.

God bless.




/ckh

Sep 21, 2009

Stones

That the LORD is good, patient and long-suffering is a matter we are well apprised, but scant to vocalize. He provides for the whole earth, man, beasts and all living creatures, all their sustenance. He gives them, their very next breath. He maintains and holds together the entire universe in precise obedience to all His will. He watches over every entity, large and small. Nothing is too miniscule and no-one is insignificant. For all His care and undivided attention, without rest, without breech or break, does anyone care to say “Thank You”? It would be well to remember that He is the Creator, having full and final prerogative over His own handiwork; why should He persevere in supporting and caring for unthankful creatures? Perhaps it is only the human race that is careless in this regard. Scripture does describe, that all creation including the mountains, trees, animals, sun, moon and stars all bow in homage to the Creator LORD. The Lord Himself said that the stones will cry out even!

We, who profess to be His children, His redeemed people, His royal priesthood, should be the first in line, to offer Him praise and thanksgiving. He has made us, saved us, and continues to shower His grace and mercies, new every morning upon us. He watches our going out and our coming in. He holds us in the palm of His hands, under the shadow of His wings, keeping us from falling and will never allow us to be tempted beyond that which we are able. Nothing and no-one, except possibly ourselves, can separate us or steal us away. He intercedes for us, has His Holy Spirit dwell within us. He forgives us. Angels are commissioned to look after our well-being.

For all these, and much more, would not our hearts be stirred to render Him His due? He has replaced our hearts of stone and written His law upon the tablets of our hearts’ flesh. There were three major Feasts in the Old Testament that mandated the attendance of every male in the nation of Israel; for these feasts, there was a rather obscured ruling. One could ponder the parallels and impetus for this rule.

"Three times a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God at the place that he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Booths. They shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed. (Deu 16:16)


It cannot be that we are always silently pensive in our corporate worship of the LORD. There is no barrier nor should there exist, the hurdle of age, in the acknowledgement, offering of thanksgiving and of worship of the LORD. We shall all practice, participate and be tutored by His Spirit in this, our priestly duty. The psalmist contended for more days by submitting that his human lips would no longer render praise, if he be consigned for the grave. It is good, if not better, that we begin our worship, from the days of our youth.

May we, be mindful, to prepare ourselves; our hearts, our hands and our lips, to offer to the LORD, the sacrifice of our praise and thanksgiving for all His goodness that He has so graciously showered upon us, and continues to do so.

God bless.




/ckh

Sep 17, 2009

Brothers

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, ….." (Gen 1:26)

Man has always struggled with man. We are fully aware that we do differentiate, at every turn and on every human characteristic; color, gender, age, height, weight, society, status, class, clan, culture, country, intelligence, literacy, knowledge, wealth, possessions, tastes, interests, sports, etc. So mired is the human race, that it takes much for man to set aside his positive, and negative prejudices. On this slippery slope, our sincere efforts to differentiate have often veered out of bounds. Meritocracy is still discrimination, only presented in a more sanitized form. It is easy to forget that scripture has always prescribed special preference for the weak; the lame, the blind, the widows and orphans, the prisoners,the sojourners, especially when our choices are tainted by self-interest or plain fallen depravity. Old Testament principles like the year of Jubilee are not understood or often expounded in our materialistic age. The Micah mandate is scarcely remembered. The world professes that that every man is born equal, having the right to be an individual, yet castigates those who are born or dare to be too different. In the furore over meritocracy, we despise the scriptural beacon of faithfulness. Is it ever possible for humankind to be in absolute unison? Since the Rebellion, we have moved away from the true brotherhood of man; Cain started the ball by slaughtering Abel over, of all things, the issue of a perceived lack of regard for his gifts by the Almighty. Was it pride or insolence, that so clouded Cain till he, as mere man, would not allow for the sovereign prerogative of the LORD; the option of favoring one gift over another? Esau would continue to hate his twin, Jacob, though it was his father’s blessing that so grated him. Brother will chase brother; but not always in love. It is no simple task, to see that ‘other’ as my brother or a person made in His image. To accept and to love him as scripture prescribes is a stretch.

Our beloved country, Malaysia, is undergoing turmoil. There is much that strain relations between us. Beneath the veneer, many issues seethe. There are a recurrent few, on both sides of the divide, who make statements or exhibit demeanors with a blatant disregard for civility. They continue to push the envelope in word and action. Racism, bigotry and brinksmanship rear its ugly face, making salient and obnoxious, their indiscretions. Left unbridled, we find ourselves awashed in spin, spit and spew, and with the approaching possibility of blood. We, who are enmeshed or ensnared between them, are presented with difficult choices and positions, which we would be compelled to take, when push gets to shove. Champions have arisen to carry and acrimoniously raise the baton. At the other extreme, under the guise of magnanimity, tolerance, or long-suffering, many are hypocritically or cowardly silent. We attract the guilt of either commission, or omission. Complicity by default, would make for a sorry excuse.

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing well. (Jas 2:8)


With our current backdrop, the injunction as set forth in the ‘royal law’ is stupendously onerous. How can we love, our neighbor, as ourselves, when we are not able to recognize and accept him as one, made in the image of the LORD, and who is, at the most fundamental, my brother really.

Consider further the exhortation to ‘love your enemies’? We cannot give, what we do not have.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. (Joh 13:34)

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (Joh 15:5)

May the LORD remind us, that we are all His creatures, made in His image and valuable to Him. He can enable us to love our neighbors as our brothers; by His love, by His strength, and by His grace. All glory, praise, honor, and dominion, belongs to the LORD.

God bless.



/ckh

Sep 7, 2009

Fireproof

Fireproof was a movie was played in church last Sunday. It remains to be one of the most inspiring movies I’ve ever seen. Despite being a low-budget film, it reveals almost nothing unprofessional and managed to gross millions of dollars in the United States alone. Fireproof is one of the most highest-grossing independent films so far. Equipped with a passionate pastor-director, Alex Kendrick from Sherwood Baptist Church and a famous Hollywood actor, Kirk Thomas Cameron, this movie soars high above the ground.

The cast and crew of the film were all volunteers and this was really unexpectedly surprising. They are not paid a single cent at all. Impressive.

The wife, Catherine, portrayed by Erin Bethea was rather “fake” at first in the beginning of the movie. The acting between her and the receptionist clearly indicated how inexperienced and amateurish the actors were. But as the story unfolds, Bethea settles down more comfortably and her character naturally becomes more believable.

The story (as you know) is about a chief fireman, Capt. Caleb Holt who lives by the motto: Never leave your partner, especially in a fire. At work, he lives by this motto; but at home, it’s a completely different story. Both husband and wife were at fault. His wife, Catherine Holt nags him and drives him to the edge, complaining about every single thing he hasn’t done and claims he doesn’t appreciate her. While he neglects his wife and her sick mother (who is in need of a few medical equipments that cost a bomb).

The movie is infused with a couple of hilarious scenes that left me laughing uncontrollably. Caleb’s fellow firemen (who are people with no acting experience) have such great chemistry. The way they tease and trick each other was undeniably funny. Then there’s Caleb whacking the rubbish bin and computer with a baseball bat.

As the war rages on, he couldn't take anymore of her painfully annoying nagging and finally shouts at his wife. Catherine subsequently files for a divorce. He was initially fine with it as he wanted “peace”. Until his father challenged him to a “dare”. He was given a book called “The Love Dare” and was to follow its instructions one at a time for 40 days.

It was unbearably tough at first when he pours coffee for her, buys her flowers etc when she rejects him constantly. Despite the excruciatingly painful rejection, he continues in hopes to salvage the marriage. So you see, as a fireman, he saves lives and puts out fires, but when his marriage is in pieces, will he watch it burn to the ground?

By the help of his father, he turned to Christ, and found the true meaning of love. According to his father, “you can’t give someone something you don’t have.” Because love comes from Christ alone. He gave up his addictions to pornography (which explains why he whacked his computer) and became more committed, caring and considerate even though Catherine tries her best to ignore him.

This movie is especially suitable for married couples. My dad was (surprisingly) tearing, so were all the aunties at the back. You could hear them sniffing and sobbing when Caleb knelt to the ground and begged for his wife’s forgiveness. Most of us cried, including me, because the way he delivered those lines was so heart-wrenching.

When his skeptical wife sent him the divorce papers, he wept. But he never stopped, even after finding out that his wife had an “almost-affair” with a colleague called Gavin. This time, he truly loved his wife. She finally came to her senses when she realized it was Caleb who paid US$24,000 for her mother’s medical equipments and not that pathetic, wife-stealing Gavin.

Of course, the story had a happy ending with the happy couple re-marrying to reaffirm their marriage in Christ.

This movie not only manages to spread the gospel effectively, but also reminds married couples that marriage is a commitment for life. Through trials and tribulations, they must stick together at all costs. Learning more about each other, and mostly, learning to forgive.

Juicy bits: Kirk Cameron (Caleb Holt) is a renowned Hollywood actor. Starring in advertisements and sitcoms like Growing Pains as a kid, and then becoming a heartthrob who appeared in countless teen magazines like 16 and Teen Beat, the 39-year-old actor (a former atheist) is the most passionate Christian I’ve ever seen. He rejects roles which require him to utter disrespectful remarks, and states that he will only kiss his (real) wife alone. In an interview with Today, he says: "I have a commitment not to kiss any other women."

In the ending where Caleb kisses Catherine, the directors had to work around his “demands” by dressing up his wife, Chelsea Noble (who acted with him in many shows. They currently have 6 kids, 4 of which are adopted) as Catherine and then film them kissing in the shadows.

He later explained by saying: “The reason this movie was important to me personally is because I love my wife dearly,” he said. “We’ve been married for 17 years … and we have six children. So marriage is a very special and sacred thing to us. In a day and age where marriage is falling apart, we want to make movies and projects that really uphold and have a high view of that which is beautiful and wonderful in our culture.”

Many people scorn his beliefs and decisions, some even laughing at him, calling him a crazy “nutbag”. Yet, he continues to stand firm in his path and influences so many people. May God bless him for being such a brave, committed and faithful husband, man and servant of the Lord.


The writer wants to punch Catherine in the face. Because even after Caleb took the time to cook and make a candle-lit dinner, and yet she could say, “I don’t love you.” That was definitely a stab in the heart for Caleb.


-- Jeana Joy Tan

Significance II

In an earlier post, I had commented that it was ironic, if not deceitful, for man to exposit the glories of yesteryear from amongst the remnant, skeletal ruins. The Senior Citizens were on an excursion last Saturday. On the itinerary was a tour of the Palace of the Golden Horses. Although barely ten minutes from my home, it had never occurred to me to visit this monumental building. My friends had stayed in that hotel and I had only chauffeured them to and from the building without any further consideration. The tour was, in a sense, overdue.

The hotel was true to her name in that it is palatial. At the entrance, there stood this horses-drawn chariot that was more Roman than Malaysian. The outer design reminded of a Middle-Eastern culture whilst on the insides, were high roofs and canopies, reminiscent of French bourgeois. The marble floors were of assorted hue and color. The porch had black marble ingrained with streaks of red and gold, whilst the inner foyers of a rich beige. Some steps were of a pleasant pink. The tiles were a feast, if one was so inclined. Aligned along the foyers were huge vases; we parodied in jest that they were either vats for the rich olive oils or funeral urns to hide skeletons. There was a huge array of rich wood in carvings, furniture and balusters that adorned the corridors; a complete bumpkin with carvings, I am totally unsure of their origins. Coherent with her name, there were plenty of horses; of different cultures, countries and material. The statues and especially the statuettes were immaculate. The disappointment lay in the front-glass door which looked so miserly in contrast, an unattended aircon-duct that stained the ceiling because it was not properly maintained, and the fading roof-tiles that reflected the ravage of Malaysian weather.

It was certainly quite a place to be, a testament to the achievement of a man. It seemed strange that such monumental finesse was dedicated to a hotel, a much bigger inn of sorts, catering to visitors all and sundry for a pittance if compared to the cost of design, building, materials and on-going maintenance. It is conceivable that a man would be quite engrossed with this achievement, as visitors marvel and attest to its grandeur. Even more replete would be the tour guides rippling the pond of adulation by their declarations that the hotel was specifically inspired by, built, and dedicated to a former premier of the nation.

Taking a seat and contemplating the achievement of man, we remain thankful that the Almighty has indeed given to man, the ability and the materials with which he could today complete this feat. It is undeniable that even the wisdom of Solomon could not spin a vestment worthy to compete with the lilies. The beauty of the Palace lay much in the raw materials and artistry of little known craftsmen.

For "the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof." (1Co 10:26)


Yet scripture foretells that the entire creation will grow old and will one day be destroyed.

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. (2Pe 3:10)

Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath; for the heavens vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and they who dwell in it will die in like manner; but my salvation will be forever, and my righteousness will never be dismayed. (Isa 51:6)

The earth and our lives were given to us to fully benefit and enjoy the goodness of the LORD. Like little children we are ever so often enthralled with the gifts and trinkets, that we forget completely the Giver. The apostle Paul had this exhortation;

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. (Col 3:2)

The apostle Peter ratcheted it a notch;

Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, (2Pe 3:11)

If we would therefore venture to build, and live significant lives; only what is done for Christ will last.

God bless.



/ckh

Aug 31, 2009

Significance

Yesterday, Uncle Yu Chai tabled the motion that we should focus our lives, not on survival or even success alone, but on significance. Significant as defined in the dictionary is ‘having or expressing meaning or import in sufficient quantity’. A life of significance would be therefore one that had meaning, and was important; at least enough to have made a difference or mattered.

We have been given perhaps three score and ten years; some more, others less. The psalmist describes humanity as desert grass and dew; temporal, whimsical, there for a moment and gone before the next. How does one attain significance, when confined such?

King Solomon could be ascribed to be reputedly, the wisest man who ever lived. One would at least concede that in his era, he entertained no competitor. He engrossed himself in the pursuit of the arts and sciences; he was the designer, architect and engineer, an agriculturist cum horticulturist, a skilled farmer of crop and beasts , a man of peace, politics and war. He immersed himself in the study of man, of the mind, of pleasure, of food, flesh and wine. His monumental achievements and wisdom were investigated by near and far. He was resolved and abstained from nothing, in his quest for meaning, for significance. It does strike one as strange on re-examination, that he did not study or dedicate much time and effort in getting to know his LORD. Why did he not shift his focus from the things of this world?

As at today, nothing much has survived, of Solomon’s grandeur. It is ironic, if not deceitful, for man to exposit the glories of yesteryear from amongst the remnant, skeletal ruins. If one as astute as Solomon could not succeed, are we destined or consigned for failure? The Lord Jesus Christ provides the cue in the book of Matthew;

And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'(Mat 25:40)

And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward." (Mat 10:42)

The assurance and promise of the Lord Himself is that ; for anything done for Him or for the least of His brothers, even if it was just a cup of water, it would matter even till eternity.

Significance? Only what is done for Him will matter and last. May our years be marked by acts of dedication to our Lord , His people and for those He came to save.

God bless.



/ckh

Aug 24, 2009

Sharings

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! (Psa 34:8)

Man has been created with an innate need for community. He was never designed to function completely as a solitary individual. Quite remarkably, it is also inbuilt in him the need to share!

We will observe as common incident, the propensity of sharing the latest and current bests ,concerning all manner of subjects; from the latest toys, the best places and foods to eat, the movies and songs to hear, the places to see and visit, and just about everything else under the sun. This sharing is usually most selective, when we will reserve the best for those we deem closest to us.

It does seem a contradiction therefore, that we do not exhibit the same enthusiasm when it comes to our personal enriched experiences with the LORD or with His gospel. Our “silence” in worship and thanksgiving is irreconcilable. Our inertia in heartily telling of the good news invites investigation. In the course of our daily lives, we are guilty of relegating and according Him only brief moments, when we inadvertently remember that He was always there. It is certainly good when our talk matches our walk. We confess that we know Him and His daily blessings, that He is good and faithful, that we hear His voice and follow Him. We call Him LORD.

May our lives and our voices be saturated with praise, thanksgiving and the blessing of sharing the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

God bless.



/ckh

Aug 17, 2009

Keepers

Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?" He said, "I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?" (Gen 4:9)

Cain was found out; he was obliged to fumble for an impossible answer on enquiry by the LORD as to the whereabouts of Abel. He had the unenviable, inescapable position of having slaughtered his brother by his own hand; not quite the usual position we would associate ourselves being entangled with.

There is another brother in the New Testament that we are well familiar with; the brother of the prodigal son. This elder son was by his father’s side, working his fields, and having lived well off the goodness and wealth of his father. His prodigal brother had left, with his fair share of his father’s estate, then squandered his father’s provisions on loose living.

Did the elder son know his father’s heart? Could he sense his father’s loss? Was he totally unaware that the father was always waiting for his brother’s return? It does seem strange that this brother, who was so confident of his own good standing, did not know or care for his father’s heart. Did the question of ‘being my brother’s keeper’ never present itself? And we could wonder why the father did not seem to have posed the question directly to him.

We have many brothers and sisters in Christ; many of whom are not to be found around today. Quite a number have been known to have wandered off and not just lost their way. Perhaps they may have fallen into a ditch, from which they are unable to extricate themselves,a broken leg, ravaged by beasts. Perchance, they have been entangled themselves in some thorny bush, having been enticed to chase some attractive distraction. Some have even departed directly because of matters to which we had contributed. Would we need to be “found out” like Cain, and will we persist in being the elder son, staying comfortably in the Father’s house, not willing to go and search for our lost siblings. Could we profess innocence before the Judge of all mankind? Do we maintain, that we truly care, to know our Father’s heart.

The Lord Jesus Christ gave an explicit view; one that would make the claim for ignorance or deniability, an act of futility. He questioned:

"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? (Luk 15:4)

His last qualification makes the task that much more formidable. However, the blessing lies in the promise; that it is He, who will find His sheep, and bring them home upon His shoulders. We would be merely going along together with Him, whom we call Lord. How could our earnest wane, especially for those who we once acknowledged as siblings in Christ? The apostle John ratchets up by calling it a lie; to say that we love God, when we cannot love a brother, even if he would be the most prodigal brother!

We are taught and do profess that Christ lives, in us and through us; how oft we sing of such. But still we would lack vision, when it comes to the immensity and magnitude of heaven’s joy at the return of a repentant . We are His vessels and certainly part of His Body, yet we seem inert and reluctant to move on His behalf. The Marines have an admirable ethos of ‘leaving no man behind’. Let us pray the LORD that we would have a truer appreciation of import and that in His Army, compelled by His love, it is a truism that no one's left behind.

And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.' Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. (Luk 15:5-7)

God bless.




/ckh

Aug 10, 2009

Praying Children

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. (1Jn 3:1)

Is it in our nature to pray? The Lord Jesus Christ, being the Son of God dedicated time towards prayer. In the early hours, despite having worked through the night, when rest would have been the obvious option, He was resolute with His need for prayer and seeking the Father. Yet we, vessels of clay and dust seem impervious to our need for prayer. It does look dubious, if we do not, as children, recognize this incongruence.

A casual observation will tell on our comfit with prayer; if we have to struggle when asked to pray, when our prayers ramble like a runaway train, when our expressions are repetitious stereo-typed clich├ęs, or the mere passing mention of subjects or names. Our prayers will however take on more, only when the Father is seen to be the Arbitrator of last resort. How characteristic, are our dialogs with our Father? Whilst it is true that infants can not immediately have conversations, still, any infant who does not develop speech after years, would be a subject of grave concern. Even babies have been observed to vocalize in their early attempts to communicate. A desire to communicate is innate in every babe. Personal, private prayer is simplistically our own conversations with the Father and as with the personal, form and shape need not be rigid.

To lead in priestly prayer requires schooling and tutelage. The function as "priests" has shown decline over the years. But, it is not that we lack the resources; perhaps we should revisit the prayer books of the past, to consider their liturgy and their content to make comparison and study. Prayer books were written for a time when literacy was not as widespread, but clearly the prayer writers of old had a more succinct appreciation of their duty. The erosion in focus, texts, content, and heart is most apparent when we compare their prayers thoughts and response. Another testament of our ineptitude can be found when we compare contemporary Christian songs with the hymnals of old. We simply do not attend to such matters today, as tediously and meticulously as the saints of old.

Would it then be timely and urgently proper, that we echo the request of the disciple?

Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, (Luk 11:1)

God bless.




/ckh

Aug 3, 2009

Making Time

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2Co 5:17)

The English language does stress us somewhat. It is the lingua franca of the world though it lays no claim to having the widest vocabulary. Despite the great use of this medium, one is seldom confident that the grasp of the language is adequate in our churches today. In the use of English, prepositions and nitty stuff like commas, semi-colons and full-stops play a defining role in the mandate and texture of any communication. It is of paramount importance for one to pay attention to the juxtaposition of these ‘characters’. In the practice of legal work, there is much ado with regard to these. Rules and findings are fought over and dictated by these seemingly inconspicuous entries.

Considering 2 Co 5:17; take the word ‘therefore’ followed by the ‘comma’ and then the ‘if’, what is the Apostle Paul attempting to define or mandate? Do his prepositions denote a cyclical requirement attesting to a truth that if or therefore, one be in Christ? He further locked in tandem the ‘is’ and ‘in’; does this fusing confirm as an affirmative, the validating proof, of a presently and active relating, with the Lord? Why must the descriptor ‘passed’ be augmented by ‘away’; was the melding designed to convey more depth by implication in its direction?

The word ‘behold’ is not commonly used today; how would we attempt to translate and decipher accurately what Paul meant? Do we loosely interpret ‘behold’ as ‘look’ or may it suggest, especially with the commas, a grand entrancing, as with a great expectation ? And what about the ‘has come’? Would it not be significantly different, if it was scripted as "is coming" or "will be coming"?

Reading scripture does demand extended time and care. Whilst we would shun the reduction of textual study into a rigid or whimsical exercise, we cannot dismiss the need and importance of rightly dividing the truths. It is essential that we have an appreciation of the discipline of searching, and meditating on the word through the course of the day. The propensity to quickly finish our ‘quiet-times’, if indeed we do have them, is self-realizing. We deprive ourselves, when we hurry through lightly, given our time-schedules. The advice to have these times in the early part of the day is invaluable, considering that we be already drained, dull and tired at the end of the day. The practice of seeking the LORD is reflective of our priority in our daily living and our profession of faith. More suspect would be, the source of our strength and sufficiency, should we neglect having to seek the Father, firstly and foremost. The injunction to seek Him, with all our hearts, is particular. A lack in the plain reading of the holy writ alludes to an even greater scarcity in devotionals. Let us not be careless with a patient Heavenly Father who has given for us, nothing less than His Son. He, most indisputably, is due and is worthy, of much more.

Cause me to hear thy loving-kindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee. (Psa 143:8)

God bless.



/ckh

Jul 27, 2009

Tipping the Cart

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2Co 5:17)


The above text has recently been a challenge, a continual affront to my profession of faith in Jesus Christ. Many of us profess to be in Christ, and if this be true, then we are all new creations; to say that the old has passed and that the new has come seems superfluous. We can readily attest to a change, a leaning towards the better good. We can heartily testify that the old has passed and that the new has come.

In our present day to day living, we meet all sorts of people, in sundry circumstance. We socialize with people who are clearly different from ourselves. Quite a few can and will drive us up the wall. What becomes a very prickly issue at these interactions is my reactions ; a driver overtakes from the left, an arrogant wannabe turk hijacks a parking lot I had been waiting some, a snoot in front of my vehicle, busy on the hand phone when I am already running behind, a bangla teller who is busy talking to his friend and not attending to the task before him, some lady who cannot or will not restrain her hyperactive and clearly vocal child, people who have no sense of timeliness, loud people, to name a few. Our fathers have taught us that the best way to read a person’s character is when the person is either gambling or intoxicated. Christians would scarce be seen doing either but two plausible alternatives present themselves; driving a vehicle and sports.

The test really arrives when we get tipped. It is then that I am queried on my claimed position in Christ. So often when angered, I would revert to and react with my old ways. The propensity to get really mad and then retaliate, albeit with the proper camouflage of making a justifiable stand and championing for what is right. Making my stand rises so quickly as the option. It is not infrequently that I would wonder; if I am really a new creation, or quite possibly a whitewashed sepulcher. Tip the cart and see, if it truly bruised skin, or just veneer. Have the cart overturned, then reassert that the old has passed away and behold, the new has come? What happens when we really are hurt? What restrains us from lashing out, especially when we can! And wait the chorus of voices who are ever ready to chastise one for being so ‘unchristian’ if we ever do . A catch-22? Not if we are truly new creations.

A truth that Paul shared, as chief of sinners, provides the compulsion for forgiveness. The Lord reminded a pharisee that she, who was forgiven much, also loved much.

Perhaps the test lies with our perception of our guiltiness.

He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. (Psa 103:10)

Sinners saved by grace, the LORD has not dealt with us according to our sins. May we learn , and be constrained, to deal with others as we would have the LORD deal with us.

God bless.





/ckh

Jul 20, 2009

Our hope

From time immemorial, the hope of every generation has always been in the youth of that age. No right-thinking society would ever ignore the duty and importance of investing in their youth. Every parent desires that their children develop surely and soundly for their time.

Youthfulness is characterized by exuberance; it is a time of blossoming. Sometimes it is apt to strain in flamboyant spunk, with words and deed punctuated with brashness, innocence, gullibility and derring-do. Youths are known to demonstrate their individuality in seemingly rebellious, even zealous attacks on established norms and limits. Unbridled creativity and questioning often pushes the envelope, the then establishment against or off the wall to inject their “new” signatures designating their times. Our youth should with temerity, validate and claim as their own, and for themselves, the truths we share.

Our hope is in our children; the well-being of tomorrow’s church rests with the youth of today. We will pass the baton and it will be up to the youth of today to then care and attend to body of the church. We need our children to be appreciative of examination and testing. There is no room for novices.

King David in his youth was known to be of ruddy complexion. His brothers complained of a cheeky inquisitiveness. Elihu, a young man rebuked Job and his friends that ‘Great men are not always wise and that aged men not always understanding judgment”.

Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. (1Ti 4:12)


Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2Ti 2:15)


The apostle Paul advised Timothy to ‘let no man despise your youth’. It seemed to me that the elder Paul would provide in his second letter the necessary dove-tail to ‘study to show thyself approved’. From a historical perspective, we often forget that Paul’s instruction to ‘study’ then was actually quite an onerous assignment. We overlook the reality that for Timothy, the written texts and the scriptures were not complete and/or readily available.

In our time, a well-watered young tree, planted by a river, though not in the season for fruit, will show luxuriant foliage. A silent, demure, submissive demeanor does not necessarily forebode well-being; it could well camouflage a careless disinterest whilst flowing with the stream.

After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. (Luk 2:46)

The Lord Jesus Himself, at twelve years of age, was found, sitting amidst the teachers, hearing and asking questions, in the temple. We solicit becoming more and more like Him; perhaps this would be a good place to start. King Solomon’s advice would also be timely.

Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them; (Ecc 12:1)


God bless.



/ckh