Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Lesson Behind the Potatoes

There's this one important lesson that I must learn. I've been trying to grasp and absorb it for a great number of weeks (or even months), but it has not fully sunk in yet in a way that all my living cells would automatically follow the course of this lesson with no hesitation and regrets.

The first time I encountered this lesson was about five years ago when I first came to know Christ and received the faith. I was reading the New Testament at that time, and I learned about people following Christ and getting persecuted along the way. Alongside my personal Bible study, I was reading this book titled "Jesus Freaks" which included short stories of real people who were tortured, raped, burnt, excommunicated and even murdered for the faith in a God unknown to the society. During the time I was engrossed with the book until probably a year after, I was really on fire for the Lord. I even told God, "Lord, use me in whatever way and place me wherever you like." I was in college then.

Three years after college, now more practical and realistic, less naive and idealistic, the prayer had become a mere breath lost in the whirlwind of the "real-world". People, books and seminars taught me to set my goals (i.e. to be a brand manager by the age of 27, to earn $ xxx at the end of year 20xx) and do whatever it takes, whether it be technically crafted strategies or creative manipulation, to achieve them. Little did I know that this lifestyle was making me a disciple of this world ~ a capitalist, materialistic world.

What I'm learning at the moment is the meaning of becoming a disciple of Christ. I got to read a short e-book recently titled "The Radical Question." And the author was asking one basic question, "What is Jesus worth to you?" The author began with a brief observation of a church in Asia and his own church back in USA. On his trip to Asia, he was able to meet with other Christians in underground churches. He found out that some locals have to walk miles away from home discreetly to a small and dim house just to worship the Lord. They stray away from whistleblowers to minimize the risk of imprisonment, torture and murder (risking their own lives and their families). It is indeed difficult to exercise their faith there such that a member of the group shared his concern, "I need to know how to lead my church to follow Christ even when it costs them everything." Then they prayed about it, murmuring on their knees with their heads bowed low. They were filled with praise and pleading. After an hour, the room grew silent and they stood up one by one, then the author saw that the ground was left with of puddle of tears.

After three weeks, David Platt went back to his homeland, where there were no dimly lit rooms but an auditorium with a theatre style lighting. The people didn't travel by foot, they were transported via millions of dollars worth of vehicles. There was no weeping before God, rather people calmly sat on plush chairs in beautiful buildings. Instead of a simple, costly, humble, authentic, passionate, risky pursuit of Christ, they prioritized clean, elaborate, entertaining, slick, innovative church programs and performances that catered to their personal tastes.

Are we to follow/ work for / share about / worship God...
(put an imaginary tick if it applies to you)

___ Only when it's Pastor A speaking
___ Only when the church emphasizes it
___ Only when I like the program
___ Only when I'm with my crush
___ Only if I have a comfortable ride
___ Only if I have nothing to lose

It's ironic how Jesus discouraged some people to become his disciples when in the modern society, we invite people to join our fellowships or discipleship groups persistently and patiently.

There were three instances when Jesus discouraged eager and willing people to become His disciples (recorded in Luke 9). The first one was not ready for an uncomfortable, unknown life. Jesus was saying foxes have holes to live but if you follow Me, I can't assure a comfortable place for you because I myself have no place to go. The second had to bury his father first, and Jesus said "Let the dead bury their own dead!" If we prioritize our family over God, then we may not pass as his disciples either. The third was willing but he wanted to say his good-byes first, then Jesus compared him to a man holding a plowshare and looking back. Following Jesus means complete and undivided attention.

Being a disciple of Jesus entails a sacrificial life, most often than not an uncomfortable one that would bring you to your knees. It is through our weakness that God's strength is revealed. Remember that. As Paul said, all the more he delights in his weakness for God's strength is made perfect in weakness.

In the movie Faith like Potatoes, when Angus Buchan planted the potatoes at the season of the worst drought in history with all of his bank account at risk, I realized two things. One is unlike Buchan, we are more business minded. We count the costs, the risks, we even make a T account of pros and cons. He on the other hand, had a faith like a child. He knew His Father was more powerful than the drought because his Father is the creator of heaven and earth. We also need to have that faith, naive in the eyes of others, but a faith warrior in the eyes of God.

Second, we need to align our vision to God and dream bigger dreams. Angus was a white farmer in Africa, who only hung-out with the minority, and when God moved him to organize a prayer meeting to cover the drought, massacres and tribal wars, at the biggest national stadium, guess what happened? God filled the whole place with different tribes and tongues.

Let's not be contented with what is certain and comfortable, where achievement is limited to the human potential. Rather, let's pray for a greater vision even if the journey may be uncertain and uncomfortable, because the success of our new life depends on God's infinite potential.

You know what happened to the potatoes? Though not a single raindrop touched the dry and thirsty land in Zulu, Africa, when the harvest time came, Angus and the whole community had just witnessed a humongous surprise. The potatoes underneath the bed of "dust" were the biggest in Angus' farming history.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

If God Had Texted the Ten Commandments..

Someone spotted this witty and modern creation in the Reader's Digest website. Here in text shorthand are the 10 commandments that may appear on modern Moses' cellphone.


1. "You shall have no other gods before me." (Exodus 20:3)

"No one before me. Seriously."

2. "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them." (20:4,5)

"Don't worship pictures or idols."

3. "You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name." (Exodus 20:7)

"No oh my God's."

4. "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates." (Exodus 20: 8-10)

"No work on weekends. (Saturday for now, Sunday later)" I'm confused with the latter phrase. :P

5. "Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you." (Exodus 20:12)

Hmm..I don't have any idea what POS means. Is it like shorthand spelling of "pause"? I think the second line says "Mom and Dad are cool."

6. "You shall not murder." (Exodus 20:13)

"Don't kill people."

7. "You shall not commit adultery." (Exodus 20:14)

"... only with my mate." Try typing this smiley on your Yahoo Messenger. It's very interesting. :)

8. "You shall not steal." (Exodus 20:15)

"Don't steal."

9. "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor." (Exodus 20:16)

"Don't lie regarding your boyfriend." Maybe this includes lying about your age and weight also. :P

10. "You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor." (Exodus 10:17)

"Don't ogle (look with desire) your boyfriend's mate. or ox. or donkey. Mind your own business." Someone just told me MYOB is "Mind Your Own Business." I think I'm getting old.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Remember the story in the Bible where God told moses to "send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the people of Israel" (Numbers 13:2). These 12 spies were dispatched in 1443 BC. After forty days these spies returned and reported what they had seen to Moses and the whole congregation. They said "We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fuit." However, there's a big HOWEVER here "The people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there."

The people were discouraged. But this Caleb guy quieted the people in verse 30 and suggested eagerly to go up at once and occupy it, for they are well able to overcome it. The spies continued with their report saying "we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers and so we seemed to them."

Below are photoshopped images that may be a good semblance of the Anakim.

I guess the Bible isn't exaggerating when it says Israelites were mere grasshoppers compared to the giant Anak's size. It's highly possible, many things have happened and evolved from the last 3,000 years.

The Israelites "raised a loud cry" (Numbers 14:1) and grumbled against Moses and Aaron saying "We should have died in Egypt! Or in the wilderness! Why is God bringing us into this land to fall by the sword?" (vv 2, 3). These people who complained were 20+ y.o. men that were part of the army. Because of their unbelief (after all the signs and plagues God shown in Egypt), God did not permit them to enter the promised land anymore. So they got what they wished for, to die in the wilderness. But then they changed their minds and rebelled once again saying "Okay! We'll go and fight them!" Well God wasn't with them anymore, so they lost.

The remaining Israelites were smaller in size which made it more difficult and quite impossible to drive out the giants. I guess God was at work again to prove His power. He has been using the faithful weak who holds onto nothing but Him to conquer giants. The greater the discrepancy between the weak and the giant, the greater view of His glory is revealed. That's God's amazing math! :)

Monday, June 21, 2010

What can make you happy?

I found an answer to this question in a classic song. According to the composer, to be happy or to be blessed is this..

Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.
~ Psalm 32:1,2

The composer had much to say in this area because he earned it through experience. For instance, this king committed adultery. He had all the power over his country, such that when he was enticed by a beautiful woman taking a shower in the neighborhood, he ordered for her to be brought to his palace. Then, he slept with her and accidentally made her pregnant.

To cover his transgression, he asked Uriah, the husband of this lady to go home and rest on his bed. But this noble folk didn't, since it would be unfair to the rest of the troop who were sacrificing in battle.

What King David did to settle the dilemma was to "set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, that he may be struck down, and die." And when he died, Bathsheba, his beautiful wife was widowed and became David's new wife.

King David was one of God's favored men. And as a mere mortal he sinned like all of us and worse, he covered up his shame with more sins. Although life moved on without his countrymen knowing what really went through, life didn't get any better for him.

To continue the song..

When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.
~ Psalm 32:3,4

Our deceitful ways may cover us for a while, but as we continue to deal with sin our own way, our being worsens. When sin creeps through the veins of our being, our sight of God blurs, our perspectives become crooked and soon we might just live a dead life. Usually, God allows us to struggle until our 'strength was sapped' in order for us to give up this faulty covering and go back to God. It was good that King David decided to repent and stop his cover-up when the prophet Nathan rebuked him.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD" — and you forgave the guilt of my sin ~ Psalm 32:5

When we cover our sins, we cover them literally. We hide our mistakes underneath this thick covering of our skin so we can save ourselves from humiliation and possibly delay the consequences. I believe in this covering process, we are unrest and are always on our toes. There is really no peace, only guilt. However once we "confess our transgressions to the Lord.." we let go of the cover. God then becomes our covering, through the blood of Jesus Christ, he takes away the blame, condemnation and eternal damnation meant for us.

Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found; surely when the mighty waters rise, they will not reach him.You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. ~ Psalm 32:6,7

As God's children, we'd still undergo some disciplining of course, and we won't be free from the consequences. One of King David's son died because of his transgression, another son rebelled against him, his daughter was raped by one of his other sons and this rapist was killed by another son. I know right?! Long winding sinful cycle.

Due to our sinful nature, we are predisposed to find happiness in the most stupid and wrong things in life. That's why we need His counsel and guidance. Fortunately, He said,

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. ~ Psalm 32:8

But wait, there's more! His unfailing love is given to those whose faith is in Him! (NOTE: He did not say the man who does not sin, but rather the man who trusts in him)

Many are the woes of the wicked, but the LORD's unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him. ~ Psalm 32:9

So now,

Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart! ~ Psalm 32:10

I guess the author's right, there's great joy in being FREEEEE from sin. So, if you're not yet free from this crazy cycle of sin, today is the day to let go of the covering. This is the day that the Lord has made! :)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

What's the Worst Thing in Life?

What's the worst thing in the world that can probably ever happen to you? Hmm... excluding the possibilities of dying for extraordinary reasons like jumping off a 20-floor building or a billboard pole, or being intimately related to someone who did such, or maybe a parent losing a child. Personally, I think one of the most painful things is to be blamed for something you didn't do and to deal with terrible punishments not meant for you.

Just recently, I got to experience this "thing". No matter how much I tried to prove myself not guilty, I was still seen as wrong. My esteem plummeted to ground zero and I felt like the worst person on earth. This feeling is very different from when we face the painful consequences we know we deserve.

Here are some realizations:

1. Jesus Christ himself was blamed for blasphemy (when he was telling nothing but the truth) and because of this he was made fun of, spitted on, insulted and crucified. My own experience was already painful. But knowing that his was way worse, I'm speechless.

I got to fully appreciate the meaning of 1 Peter 4:13 on that very day. “But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” It's indeed a comfort to know that we are not alone on this journey. As we choose to follow Christ by faith we " do not conform to the pattern of this world" anymore. And I believe there are other participants also of this race. Racing through life the noncomformist way entails suffering and this is a norm for Christians. To suffer as a Christian is a call to rejoice as a disciple of Christ, and such joy is the prelude to the joy that is to come at the return of Christ.

2. There is really a serious spiritual warfare going on. This incident happened a day right after the sharing I had with my small group. When Lilias Trotter became a missionary in Algeria, Africa, she observed that for every spiritual breakthrough, there is an spiritual attack. A predominant example was that new believers were being influenced negatively by locals as their foods and drinks were sometimes being induced with drugs.

3. God allows these experiences to happen so that we can continue to develop and mature. ".. We know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." (Romans 5:3-5)

From the human perspective, we really can't see any good in being imprisoned or thrown away for something we're unjustly blamed for. But look at what happened to Joseph (son of Jacob), he was sold as a slave, blamed for raping the wife of one of Pharaoh's officials and then imprisoned. It's amazing how God led Joseph's life, from being a prisoner, he was set as the right hand man of Pharaoh. No step in between. Imagine that?! He didn't have any actual work experience in government or any political expertise to back him up, all he had was God.

I think God could have chosen to let Joseph free two years earlier from prison, but I guess one reason why He had him stay was to produce in him a growing perseverance, character and hope.

How did Joseph see his adversaries? Let me quote him, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." (Gen. 50:20)

4. I felt like a mess when that "thing" happened. But I'm glad that when we are (AND we believe that we are) in Jesus' care, we end up victorious. By God's grace, we will be able to testify to both believers and nonbelievers as we turn a mess into His message. The worst thing is not the end to life, for God's will is good, pleasing and per.. wait for it, wait for it, perfect.

Let's press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus!

Happy Father's Day to our Father and King! :)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Modern Day Tidbits

The recent launch of IPAD is another marvel in the 21st century. The whole computer has been minimized to a rectangular glass board thinner than a 100-sheet notebook. Information around the world can be saved, copied and sent just by one single fingertip. Everything is becoming faster, smaller and more convenient. And this particular advantage of the 21st century can be the very same enemy that we would battle in the years ahead.

According to research, IQ of people now are reportedly higher than the IQ of people ages ago. This is what we call the Flynn effect. Probably because things are becoming more complex to study and understand. I know of a three year old who can manipulate a computer and play games, and also a woman in her 40's who still cannot operate a mouse. Journals in all industries are also updated quarterly, if not monthly, to show the new discoveries and the recent trends. I, on the other hand, think that what my friend said is true. People now are more inclined to have psychological disorders, particularly Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder or ADHD. Due to the invention of TV, children have significantly less attention span. Now that there are computers, laptops, notebooks, it's probably worse.

I remember my piano teacher telling me before while I was playing a piece from Bach's first book, "You know how Bach became such an exceptional pianist? It was because they had nothing else to do back then but to play piano or walk in parks. They had no TV, all the more computers." He was probably telling me to devote more time to practice to become as good as Bach. But what came to mind was man, that must be one boring life! Only now did I realize how free they were from noise and distraction.

Comparing the Baby Boomers (1950's - 60's), time of my parents to ours which is the Gen Xers (1970's -80's), the BBs are usually the laidback type of people that really uphold loyalty, they are the ones who are in your company for a great number of 10 to 20 or more years. People nowadays tend to change jobs in months! Rarely will you meet a Gen Xer who has stayed in a company for at least 5 years. Maybe this is because of our lower attention span or the several choices we now have with career posts. Who would have thought that a brand manager or a marketing intelligence officer would be some saught after career positions decades ago?

Choices, choices, choices. You know the Ford automobile right? Do you know that in its early days they only had one black car mass-produced? Now, they have small cars, trucks, SUVs and hybrids, available in mustard yellow, sunny yellow, yellow orange and plenty others. Because of this, advertisments of new product lines come left and right. Thus, products now have shorter life span. And it makes it a lot riskier to put up a new business now, since there are a lot of competitors with great economies of scale.

Because there are many options, there are many niches. The market is also very much fragmented. One example would be the intruiging third sex. Before the only gays that come to mind would be the closet queens, and the only lesbians - the butch ladies. Now they come in all shapes and sizes and clothes! There are those Calvin-Klein model look-alike gays swooned over by girls, the transvestites who have changed their biological gender (credits to modern technology) and the ever popular drag queens. To complicate things further, there are gays who are lesbians and there are the androgynous individuals who could be mistaken for a male or female. Choices, choices, choices.

Another thing brought about by the modern technology is the demoralizing values of the media. Several songs and movies catering to young adults today contain sexual innuendos and these are implicitly shaping their thought process and lifestyle (i.e. Sex and the City, This Love - Maroon 5, Banana - I forgot by who).

According to a friend of my classmate who's a teacher, there was this "soiree" where fifteen to sixteen year old teens from exclusive schools met to get to know each other and party. I don't know who organized the event, but there was a 20-minute lights-out segment. Myesteriously, 20 used condoms sprang up when the lights were back. In my time, kids couldn't even hold hands, now this?!

The modern day technologies have as much potentials as they have pitfalls. Spreading encouraging and kind thoughts are made just as easy and convenient as emailing the most recent sex scandal. I hope that we can be faithful stewards of these inventions. We are the "managers" of the technologies we have at home. Use it for the good or not, it's our choice, our children might just reap what we sow.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Putting God in a Box

I have a strange feeling that my Father is taking me to a new adventure. Revelations and realizations over the long weekend left a pang in my heart, a painful urge to give up something important in exchange for the unknown. I'm not excited. At all.

This reminds me of Abram's story. Out of nowhere, God called a guy from Ur of Chaldeans to leave his country, his kindred and his father's household. Imagine being away from the comfort of a house and a family. God said He would make him a "great nation," his name a "great name" and he would become a "blessing". If we were in his shoes, we'd probably refute God saying, "Uhh... Sure, but wait! Isn't my wife old and barren already? And I too am of age, it might be best to just settle here and die. So umm.. is it really possible Lord?"

Without a word, Abram obeyed. He was 75 years old then. In the eyes of man, this may already be counted as righteousness, but not so with God yet. It was not until two decades later, when he was called righteous. After 20 years, Sarai, Abram's wife was still barren. Then God said "Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them. So shall your offspring be" (Gen. 15:5). Abram believed the LORD, and He credited it to him as righteousness.

His name was changed from Abram w/c means exalted father, to father of many a.k.a. Abraham.

Faith is more than believing that God exists. Faith entails us to believe in God with all our heart, mind and soul. Faith is trusting in God and believing in the Bible that He has written (from creation to revelation). Faith is believing that Jesus has come to die in place of sinners, and knowing that we can can do nothing apart from God.

Faith in God also entails you to lose your life to find it. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it (Matthew 10:39). I felt the intensity of this verse just recently. Many times we would seek God's will and all that, we would give Him choices, "Lord, should I enter company A or company B?" or sometimes no choice at all, "Lord, can you pretty please give me a marketing job at this company. It has always been my dream to work there. You know that Lord right?" not knowing that we are already putting Him in a box. We are limiting His works to conform to our liking.

At the time we were born, our lives have been planned out already, so usually our prayers would depend on the stage of life we stand at the moment. Our parents enroll us to school (we pray for good grades, safety and all that), then we apply for a job in a top company (we pray that we get in and promoted), and then we have a family (we pray that God will send us our 'God's Best') and then we watch our children grow, we retire then we die. It's basically that. Is this faith?

Faith is the other way around. Instead of telling God what to do, we follow God with all our hearts. This statement sounds very sinful. But I tell you, it can be very painful. There was a lady named Lilias Trotter who lived in the 19th century. She was a lover of the arts. She was really good that her maestro told her she really had a future in the world of arts, her paintings could become timeless and priceless. But then God called her to become a missionary. She then had to choose one pursuit: arts or God?

She chose to follow God. It must have been painful for her to leave the world of arts. And I guess this is one great example of literally losing one's life for Jesus' sake.

A key to understanding what it means to follow God is in Romans 12:2. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Not being conformed to this world may bring about rejection and ridicule. (I don't know what's worse, losing one's life or this.) To be transformed by the renewing of your mind is letting God change us continually to become more like Christ, to think like Christ, to love like Christ, to be like Christ. Then, we will be able to have life, one that lives the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Imagine, we are being given not only a good will, but one that is acceptable or pleasing to God and PERFECT. This beats the painful start!

Lilias Trotter who was frail in health followed God to Algeria, Africa. She was able to plant seeds in soil that was thirsting for the gospel despite the burning heat, scorpions and all the deadly diseases in the community. When the people were ready to hear, God put her there and He made her life rich and long. Through her, lives were brought to Christ.

With regards to her love for the arts, God didn't take it away from her. God actually blessed her all the more. She was able to print at least 27 books, parables and gospel tracks with her paintings and artworks in them. Wonderful, huh? :)

Both Abraham and Lilias left something very valuable to them, a comfort zone and a passion, for a God who could not be seen. This God fulfilled His magnificent purposes through them as they took step after step of faith. After reading their stories, I am reminded that God, who is not bounded in a box, can do immeasurably more than what we ask or imagine that is at work within us.

Have faith in our Father, princes and princesses!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Last Song Syndrome: A Curse or a Blessing?

I remember a time when I was still in gradeschool, there was this song titled "Zombie" by the Cranberries that was so popular and it transcended all ages. It was such a hit, that one time while I was walking in a mall, I caught myself singing "Zombie.. Zombie.. Zombie..E..E.." silently, and a few feet away from me, a man, probably in his mid-twenties was also singing the same thing in the exact same measure. What's odd was that, the song wasn't even being played in the mall. Both of us were victims of what you call the LSS or the Last Song Syndrome. This is a syndrome or state of mind wherein your subconscious repeats the last song you heard, all throughout the day. This is particularly irritating when the song happens to be the most pathetic, crappy song ever.

Recently, I discovered a good use for LSS. This seemingly human deficiency can be a blessing after all. My bestfriend gave me a CD Album -"In a Little While" by Hwee- produced by her church in Singapore. I listened to it for a number of times and, lo and behold, I got hit! What's wonderful is that the songs are a LOT more meaningful than the Zombie song.

The first two songs are among my favorites. The Romans 8 Song was written during the early days of Hwee's journey in Christ. It shows that no matter what draws us away from God, be it trouble or hardship, persecution or fame, nakedness, mortality, danger or sword, or the humdrum of life, God still loves us. It's chorus is almost the exact verbatim of Romans 8:38-39: For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The second song, I'd Rather Love, was written out of frustration at not being able to love the way God commanded. The whole song (except for the bridge and the last chorus) is like singing 1 Corinthians 13:1-8 in a catchy soft pop melody. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

The bridge notes the greatest example of love being shown on earth "when You sent Your Son to the cross to die for our sins. And day by day I pray that I will be more and more like Jesus.." The songs ends with a prayer, a wonderful reminder that it is God alone who can make us love the way He does "so help me show a love so patient, a love so kind, a love that does not envy.."

On the days I listen to these songs, I get hit by LSS each and every time. And LSS is really a blessing indeed. Maybe that was why Psalms and Songs of Songs were created. They basically help us memorize God's Word easily (and usually effortlessly) .

Last Song Syndrome (with the right songs of course), helps us meditate automatically throughout the day. Meditation is like chewing God's word, eating it and swallowing it, after some time you may draw it out from the food bank in your body (cows have food reserves that prepare them for the whole day's work) and eat it again.

I remember on one particular day, when I lacked sleep and my mood was terrible, God made it possible (through LSS) for my mind to keep on playing "love is patient, love is kind.." (not because I felt like singing the song). It reminded me the truths about love.. to be patient and kind.. when my emotions failed to do so.

The next time you get hit by LSS, make sure that it's a song worth singing and a message worth keeping.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Timeless Reminder: in Moments of Waiting

My reading for today took me back to a time in history when a multitude of people was walking on dry and thirsty land taking with them all their belongings including clothes, tents, cattle and sheep. During this time, Moses, a leader whom God had chosen, shared a very important and timeless reminder just when they were about to enter the promised land a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills (Deut. 8:8,9).

Moses told them..

1. God led You to the Promised Land

"Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these 40 years.."

On their way to the land filled with milk and honey, there was NO food. No retail stores, no farmlands, nowhere to get their food. Water was also scarce, and most of the time, nowhere in sight. You'd probably be wondering how they got to their destination after 40 years and still alive.

Well, in all 16,400 days, some crazy unimaginable things happened. These cannot be in any way replicated by the most advanced technology ever discovered on earth. Food rained down from heaven. Water came from hard rock. All these miracles were made possible by God Himself.

When they were hungry, God gave them food; when thirsty, God gave water. They always had enough clothes and sandals to protect their feet. "Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you. " (8:4)

Thus, it was by God's grace that they were led through the dry and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. (8:15)

2. To Humble You

".. to humble you.."

You may say to yourself, "My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me." But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth.. (8:17-18) In the whole 40 years, while there were no opportunities for them to create livelihood, they learned to depend on God for every necessity.

It's also a timely reminder for many of us who are working or studying or engaged in business. Our ability to produce wealth comes from him. Our skills in marketing, I.T., communication, entrepreneurship, teaching, arts, music have all been given to us by God (whether or not we acknowledge it). And all the opportunities that have opened and are about to open are known and planned (or agreed upon - since Satan can also plan) by Him.

Sometimes the waiting periods, those long and dragging stressful moments push us to the depths of despair. Many of us would feel worthless, maybe because we feel we are not capable of doing something worthwhile, or maybe because others have been moving forward while we're still stuck in this dry desert land. It's okay. We need these humbling moments because we really are worthless, worth less than worms even. Apart from Christ, we are nothing.

3. To Refine You

"... to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands.."

This line doesn't mean that God did not know what was in the hearts of the Israelites. That would make Him less than omniscient. This means that waiting time is a period of refining, where God lets people wander until their hearts are ready to obey him.

Based on experience, the more I follow my own liking, the more I get frustrated. There more I lift up aspects of my life to God (for Him to lead, and I to obey), the more circumstances and elements fit perfectly and the more joyful I become.

4. To Teach You His Word is Life

"... to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord."

Real life derives from God, and not from bread or works of man. The Israelites had to learn this during the whole 40 years of waiting. Like them, we need to realize that God's Word is more precious than gold (which is the most sacred element on earth) and sweeter than honeycomb (the sweetest thing we can ever taste). It is more desirable than our highest goals.

I know of a man who graduated with honors, got a high paying job in a multinational company in the States, lived a luxurious life, dined in a thousand dollar meals and traveled first class several times a year. He's also a believer in Christ. He seemed to have everything, huh? But he felt miserable. He was not able to find the joyful and contented life he longed for, even with all the comforts this world had to offer. He then went up to a mountain on one of his trips and stayed there for a while to have silence and solitude. He asked God, "Lord, I have everything already in this world. But why am I not happy? What do You want me to do? I won't go down until You tell me." He followed God's calling that very same day. He quit work and became a pastor.

A joyful and peaceful and loving life indeed comes only from Him.

5. To Focus on God

"Observe the commands of the Lord your God, walking in His ways and revering Him."

A word of warning from God through Moses "If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. 20 Like the nations the LORD destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the LORD your God." (Deut. 8: 19-20)

Once we've gotten or achieved whatever we hoped and prayed for, we enjoy it. Nothing wrong with that, but many times we forget that God was the One who led us through it all. The path of forgetfulness leads not only to pride and but also to idolatry. When we focus on our goals, our earnings, our work, our power, we forget God, who is supposedly our main focus.

May this timeless reminder encourage you as you endure the painful moments of waiting. There might still be lessons to learn and character to refine. Just hang-on and look up. In His time, He'll lead you to your promised land.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Aling Nene's Legacy vs. Your Legacy

My professor shared in class a few days ago that having a business is the way to go. Unlike being employed where your work stops at age 65, having a business allows you to leave a legacy. She used Aling Nene's Eatery as an example. Aling Nene's Eatery is a well-known cafeteria that has made its name in nearby schools. This small eatery is flocked by students and faculty members daily. It has become part of their schedule or daily routine. If asked who created it, they could answer you with certainty that it was Aling Nene. My professor then concluded, even with humble means, this lady named Aling Nene was able to make a name and provide a secured future for the next generation.

I think this story was meant to inspire us, budding entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, it wasn't able to inspire me that much. It somehow brought to mind misaligned priorities and temporal mindsets. (Please read on with an open mind and if you wish to clarify, feel free to do so.)

Misaligned Priorities~ I know of so many businessmen (many times including myself) who are caught up in the whirlwind of the business life. Instead of providing the much needed affection and proper teachings, their packed schedule only allows only one type of support - financial support. Aling Nene's Eatery for example would most likely entail her to work early in the morning until late in the evening. Knowing that most SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) require hands-on management of owners. How then can she mold her children? Lead them to Christ? Teach them what's right? Be part of their lives?

~ It is not common for businessmen to just slow down (unless business is hit by recession). Many times they think of expanding, growing and making more money. "Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income" (Ecc 8:10). Making (more) money is usually a hidden and primary purpose that is overshadowed by the marketed company mission/vision.

Money, as you know, in itself is not bad. It makes the transactions in the world orderly (it's a lot easier than barter trading!) And yet God knows the power of money. As little as a quarter of a bond paper, this can entice sinners and excite souls. He knows that it can take His place in the hearts of mankind. "No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money" (Luke 16:13).

I'm not saying that it's time to drop your biz and go home.  Each of us may have different callings in life, yet all of us have the same purpose of glorifying God.  Some of us may glorify God the most through business.  Business can become a means to glorify our ultimate boss which is God Himself, bring others to praise Him and enjoy Him forever.

Temporal Mindsets

Mindset 1: Having our own business is the highest achievement in the world.

Fact: Wealth hoarded cannot be consumed once we enter the grave. From Ecclesiastes, you'd read that work that is done under the sun is like chasing after the wind, for we must leave the things that we toiled for to the ones who come after us (whether they'll be wise men or fools). We must leave all our hard-earned business to someone who has not worked for it.

Another Fact: "Seeing His face" from Psalm 17: 15 is a very very valuable goal. To see God's face is to see and know him personally, deeply and without the clouds of mystery. To see God's face would satisfy any needs or wants with abundant joy, peace, love, and hope.

Mindset 2: We are our own bosses. We can plan and make a business anytime we want to.

Fact: Only the Lord's will will prevail. I don't want to sound like a recorder here, but He is still the ultimate boss. "Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." (James 4:13-15).

Mindset 3: Business is the best legacy.

Fact: It can only be a MEANS to a great legacy. God places us in various mission fields. Some can be missionaries in Africa, teachers in a local highschool or businessmen in the CBD area. All of us have equal chances of making a great legacy.

The Greatest Legacy

Don't get me wrong, having a business can indeed be a very practical, useful, & helpful legacy.  Many businesses provide solutions to social, environmental problems.  They are the fruit of man accomplishing God's call of managing the earth.

However, this type of legacy is but temporary.  It pales in comparison to a legacy that can make an impact for eternity.  Our 80 years on earth is but a dot to the gazillion of years in eternity.  So, what legacy would you like to leave? :)