Sunday, August 4, 2013, 11:40 PM
When you think about the Bible, romance is probably the last thing that comes to mind. But the Bible has something for everyone--even diehard romantics.
Take the story of Hannah for instance. Her husband, Elkanah, the father of Samuel, is by far the most romantic character in the Bible.
Here's the story.
Hannah desperately wants to have a child with her husband. After all, a little child that embodies attributes of both the father and mother is the strongest declaration that "the two of us are one".
I can understand Hannah's desperation. Back in the day, women who could not conceive were ostracized by society. They would be treated badly, even by their own family.
But our man Elkanah was of a different breed. When he saw how upset Hannah was, he took her in his arms, held her tear-stained face in his hands, looked deep into her eyes, wiped her tears away, kissed her on the cheeks and whispered, "Why so sad, pretty face? Don't I mean more to you than ten sons?"
Okay, he did not exactly say that. But he said something exactly like that. (Look up 1 Samuel 1 for exact details.) In any case, in my opinion, that's like the most romantic line in the Bible.
Unlike the men of his time, Elkanah does not blame Hannah for not bearing children for him. Instead, he comforts her saying, "Don't fret about it, sweetheart. Don't worry about what the world says. We've got each other. And that's all we need."
This guy is a man after my own heart. He loves his wife and treats her the way all women ought to be treated - with love and respect.
I think God likes that in a man too. God does not expect a man to understand his wife; He only expects him to love, respect and care for her…just like Jesus cares for all of us.
And therefore when God finally blesses Hannah, He is in essence blessing Elkanah too. Guess how many kids they have? Not one, not two, not three, not four...they have six.
I can almost envision Hannah surrounded by her little tots, beaming from ear to ear....with Elkanah right there with his arms around her. So realistically romantic.
Friday, July 5, 2013, 6:04 PM
Nothing is impossible for God. He can make a blind man see, a dumb man speak, and lame man walk… He can make a poor man rich just as easily as He can make a fearful man brave.
That’s what he did for Gideon.
The interesting thing though is how God goes about accomplishing these seemingly impossible things. His ways are definitely not conventional. Like for instance, when Jesus wanted to cure a blind man, He spat on the ground, made mud and applied it on his eyes. Usually, when you want to help open someone’s eyes, you don’t put stuff in there that could make it worse, right? But God’s ways are much higher and better than our ways. He does things beyond human comprehension. And, most importantly, they work out just fine.
Anyways, coming to the story of Gideon.
Now, Gideon lived at a time when Israel was being oppressed by the neighboring Midianites and Amalekites. The Israelites lived in fear of these nations. Gideon, too, was afraid. The first time he is mentioned in the Bible, he is said to be “threshing some wheat in a winepress, so that the Midianites would not see him.”
I want to you pause here and comprehend Gideon’s level of fear. He is not yet the brave man God wants him to be. He is not yet the mighty warrior the Israelites need. He is threshing wheat in a vineyard because he is afraid. And yet, that’s not what God chooses to see. God wants Gideon to be courageous and so He addresses him as though he is already very brave. The Book of Judges says: “The Lord’s angel appeared to him there and said, “The Lord is with you, brave and mighty man!” (Judges 6:12)
Now, here’s the thing: whenever God wants to create something, He speaks it into life. When God wanted light, He said “Let there be light” and light appeared. God can make you whatever He wants you to be. All He has to do is say the word.
Anyways, coming back to our story.
God then told Gideon to tear down his father’s altar to Baal, cut down the symbol of the goddess Asherah beside it, and build a well-constructed altar to the Lord. So Gideon took ten of his servants and did what the Lord had told him. He was too afraid of his family and the people in town to do it by day, so he did it at night. (Judges 6:27)
We see time and again that Gideon is not really brave. And yet God chose him. That’s what God does. Whenever God wants to do something great, He chooses total misfits. Jacob was a cheater; Peter had a temper; David had an affair; Noah got drunk; Jonah ran from God; Paul was a murderer; Miriam was a gossiper; Martha was a worrier; Thomas was a doubter; Sara was impatient; Elijah was moody; Moses stuttered; Zaccheus was short; Abraham was old, and Lazarus — well, he was just dead.
The “brave and mighty” Gideon was actually an insecure coward.
Anyways, after dilly-dallying for a while and asking God for signs and symbols, Gideon is finally convinced that God is indeed with him. He sends out messengers to gather together men from different tribes for battle against the Midianite army, which comprises more than 100,000 men. About 32,000 Israelites enroll. God sends 31,700 (or 99%) of them back.
When God decides to defeat a nation, He does not need human help to do it. He just needs someone to stake victory on His behalf. In this case, just 300 men are more than enough.
But God knew that Gideon was an insecure man. So, that night God instructed Gideon to approach the Midianite camp. Gideon overheard a Midianite man tell a friend of a dream in which God had given the Midianites over to Gideon.
Finally empowered, Gideon and the three hundred marched on the enemy camp. When they reached there, they routed the entire enemy camp by simply standing in their place, blowing their trumpets and shouting ‘For the Lord and for Gideon!’.
When the three hundred trumpets sounded, God caused the men throughout the enemy camp to turn on each other with their swords. And thus the entire army was defeated.
Remember, when God is leading you, success is guaranteed — 100%. God will do everything. Your part is to simply show up — that’s your 1%.
History records Gideon as one of Israel’s judges. David, the shepherd boy, is known today as one of Israel’s greatest kings. Moses is considered one of the greatest prophets. These were ordinary people just like you and me. But when God touched them, they did extraordinary things. And what God did for these people back then, He can do for you today. Remember, God does not call the qualified; He qualifies the called. Are you prepared to answer His call?
All you have to do is say “Yes, God. Let it be done unto me according to Your will.” Amen!
Wednesday, May 29, 2013, 11:04 PM
When I was younger, I used to think of God as this stuck-up person in the sky who wanted me to live my life on his terms. I took credit for all the good in my life and blamed God for all the bad. Frankly, I hated God.
I see things diffrently now.
God is too big to be obsessing about every little thing we do. But that does not mean He does not care about what's going on in our lives. He loves us and He does care. That's why He gave us the Commandments.
Now get this: God does not benefit from our righteousness. The good we do benefits us alone. As demanding as they may seem, God did not introduce the Commandments to keep us under subjection. He introduced them to keep us safe...from ourselves.
The reason God says do not commit adultery is because adultery, like murder, is an act of violence against another human being...and also our own selves. God knows that kind of thing can literally tear families apart, ruin lives and break people. A single act can ruin so many lives, including your own. That's why God advises against it.
For more or less the same reasons, He also warns against stealing, lying, coveting... All of these things are demeaning. And God does not want that. If anything, He wants us to live respectful, HAPPY lives.
Yes, God wants you to be Happy.
All we need to do is keep ourselves from sin. Everything else is permissible. Everything else is a choice--and it is yours to make. In fact, God welcomes it. He wants us to live life on our terms (not His) and have a good time. The only thing God is concerned about is that we should not hurt ourselves (or others) by sinning.
Want to buy a house? Well, if you need to, you should.
Want to get married? Okay, whatever makes you happy...so long as you are not marrying someone else's spouse--that's off limits.
Want to wear yellow and green and eat fish today? Well, it is not a sin...so go right ahead.
Anyways, I think you get the point.
Anything you want to do, you can do. Any decision you want to make is yours to make. Remember though that decisions are tied to consequences. So make wise decisions. If you are happy, God is happy for you. As long as you are not sinning against yourself, or someone else, you are free to live life to the fullest...on your terms.
So, go ahead. Enjoy life! Do good. Rejoice and be happy. God is with you.
Tuesday, May 7, 2013, 11:05 AM
We are accountable for our words and deeds. We know that. In fact, that is precisely why the Bible advises us to be prudent, guard our hearts and minds, and avoid sin at all cost.
But what about the sins we commit when we are sleeping? I am talking about the things we wouldn't dare do when we are wide awake, but see ourselves doing (and dare I say enjoying) in our dreams. Are we accountable for those too?
The people in church were talking about that recently. And some of them were obviously very worried about it. One woman, however, had a different take. She said (and I quote): “We certainly have enough waking sins to confess; I don't think God will hold us responsible for the ones we commit when we are asleep!”
She then confessed, in good humor, that she actually enjoyed those sins as sort of "free passes."
The people laughed and moved on. But I couldn't stop thinking about what she had said.
So, well, here’s my take.
God surely won’t hold us responsible for the sins we commit when we are asleep...but that does not mean they are entirely without consequences.
Let me put this as simply as I can.
Satan knows all our weaknesses and tries to use them against us. He wants us to fall. But God is watching out for us, and wants us to be better prepared. So, He allows certain dreams to show us exactly where we stand. Ever heard the axiom: "Whatever you can dream, you can do."?
If, in your dreams, you see yourself doing something you should not, you should get down on your knees and pray for the grace and strength to resist.... because temptation is on its way and you have been warned already.
Watch and Pray.
Tuesday, April 9, 2013, 7:20 AM
The Bible is an amazing book. It’s got something for everyone. And it’s quite riveting too. Deception, murder, envy, lust, seduction, war – the Bible covers every theme you would find a modern day thriller.
But the overriding premise is Love.
Yes, I know, some parts of the Old Testament are hard to digest. It’s hard to comprehend how God, the very personification of love, the One who sacrificed His own Son for us, could order Israelites to annihilate the Canaanites, women and children included.
The Canaanites had lived in their land for centuries before Joshua and his people came to claim it for themselves. While some in Canaan fought against God’s people and were destroyed as a result (cf. the battle of Ai, 8:14ff), others did not attempt armed aggression against Israel. The people of Jericho, for instance, retreated inside their city walls and mounted no attack against the Jews. Nonetheless, following divine orders, the Israeli soldiers “destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys” (6:21).
Why this cruel, unfair, warlike attitude?
To understand this more clearly, we must look at things from God’s perspective.
Consider this hypothesis:
It is the early Sixties. Scientists have discovered a new species of monkey in the African lowlands. This species is extremely rare, with just about 200 individuals. People across the globe think they should be protected. There is just one catch. Although these monkeys pose no direct threat to man, they are known to carry a virus strain that WILL eventually jump species and cause what we know today as HIV/AIDS. Just so you know, as of today, HIV/AIDS has claimed 30 million lives. Now, think again. If it were up to you, what would you do? Would you cull the species right away? Or would you risk it and allow the virus to jump species and become a global killer?
Thousands of years ago, God found Himself in a similar predicament. He loved His people too much and did not want them to be infected with the sinfulness of other tribes. The inhabitants of Canaan were neither ignorant nor innocent victims. If anything, the Canaanite culture was a very wicked one! These people did horrific things and their religious observances involved both lewd sexual acts and child sacrifice. The infamous cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were both Canaanite cities. Though probably the worst of the bunch, their culture was very indicative of the land of Canaan in the Old Testament. In short, the Canaanites were infected. In wiping the Canaanites from the land, the Israelites would exterminate their wicked culture. So, God gave the order to have them culled.
Unfortunately, the Israelites did not obey God completely. They slaughtered most Canaanite tribes, but let a handful remain. Eventually, these people were absorbed into the fold and what God had tried so hard to prevent happened. Soon, the Israelites started engaging in all sorts of dubious activity. And some of these things go on to this day.
To sum up, during the Old Testament period, God called a physical nation unto Himself. He instructed them to take their promised land. He drove out the inhabitants and ordered for their culture to be razed. This physical nation had physical battles and possessed a physical land.
Today, God’s Kingdom is spiritual. It is “in the world, but not of the world.” Our battles are not physical, but spiritual. Christ Jesus has ultimately defeated our enemies (sin, sickness and death) and declared victory! Rather than warring against nations, we fight against fleshly lusts which war against the soul, and seek to live a life acceptable to Him.
God does everything for our good. He was willing to sacrifice a few to save many. When that failed, He sacrificed His own Son on the cross. Now, it’s up to us. When we accept Jesus, and acknowledge that He died for our sins, something happens… something that is both tangible and ethereal. The change begins somewhere deep within and ultimately gushes forth like a fountain, renewing mind, body and spirit. It changes people for good, causing the living “dead” to really come alive again.
Was it fair that Israel destroyed the residents of Canaan? If God were fair, none of us could see His perfect heaven. We are all spiritual Canaanites, saved from eternal wrath only by the love of our Creator. Think back to your last sin and admit that it warrants the judgment and condemnation of a holy God. Then, thank God that He is not fair.
Monday, March 18, 2013, 5:07 AM
So, what cause would you be willing to let your child die for?
Many take pride in a loved one who dies fighting for the country. Yes, that is a huge sacrifice. But I am not talking about the kind of sacrifice where your grownup kid joins the army, is sent to war with the hope that he’ll return soon, but does not. I am talking about the kind where you have to send your kid to war with the understanding that he’s never coming back. Like a suicide mission. Except the decision is not up to your child — it’s up to you.
What cause would be worth that kind of sacrifice?
Turn around one time and look at your kid or loved one before you answer this. No need to hurry. Take your time.
There’s one more catch though. What if I told you the enemies are savages. A bullet to the head won’t do it. They’ll beat the living daylights out of your kid before they let him die. They’ll skin him alive. Torture him. Pull every bone of his body out of socket. It’s going to be gruesome.
What cause would be worth having your child go through that?
Come on now. You can decide. It’s your call after all.
What if your kid calls you from the warzone the night before his unit is about to be ambushed. He says, “Dad, they are closing in. I can turn back now while there is still time. But you asked me to be here and I won’t retreat until you say so. Please Dad. I want to come back. Just say the word. We can worry about this later. They are gonna kill me, Dad. And I want to live. I want to come home. Please let me come back...”
What would you say in response?
If it was me I’d tell my child to get the heck out of there and keep running till he got home.
But I am asking you now. What would you do?
While you are thinking about that I want to tell you about a remarkable dad who took a similar call from his son. The amazing thing is this dad did not back down. Neither did the son. When the enemy was within sight, his buddies retreated and ran for their life.
But this kid did not.
He stood there… alone…because his father told him to.
And he went down.
You’ve probably heard of him. His name is Jesus.
PS: I didn't tell you the cause he died for. It was you. Funny thing is all these years later both Father and Son still think it was totally worth it. And they would do it again if they needed to. As far as they are concerned, you are absolutely precious, someone to be held close and loved unconditionally. Yes! God still believes you are worth dying for.
Tuesday, March 5, 2013, 5:17 AM
My son was riding his bicycle the other day and was about the run into a parked car. I jumped in just in time, grabbed the handle and turned the bike around. No one commended me for my quick reflexes. No one even noticed. Frankly, I did not think much of it either.
And the other day, when the bakery ran out of hard bread, I drove 10 extra miles early in the morning just so that I could get it for my mother-in-law. She likes hard bread. But no one said, “Thank you.”
And this other time I was having a really long and hard day at work. And yet instead of driving straight home I went shopping to pick something my wife requested. I was really tired. But I got what she needed. No one said, “Gee! You’re so good.”
These are just some of the run-of-the-mill things I do every day. No one knows about it. It’s not recorded anywhere…except maybe in heaven.
And then there are these few instances when I mess things up. And, boy, do they get noticed.
Like that one time when I was trying to get my son dressed and his thumb got caught in the sleeve. It took my wife months to forgive me and let it go.
Truth is I am madly in love with my wife. And I love my kids like crazy. Sometimes, when my son goes to his grandparents’ house for a day, I am literally holding the tears back. I miss him so much.
But I am NOT the perfect dad.
I really want to be one, but I am not. I mess things up. I lose my cool. I yell. Sometimes I have to run away to be by myself, to collect my thoughts, to catch my breath…and pray. And it is only when I sit before the Throne of Grace, that I find the strength to rise and start over again.
The devil is happy when we give up and give in. That's why he constantly floods the mind with negative, defeatist thoughts. He wants us to be defined by our failures.
But that’s not the message of the Gospel.
The Bible says: The LORD upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down. (Psalm 145:14) In fact, if we follow the ways of God but fail in some part of our life, God assures us that he will be there to assist us back on our feet. If the LORD delights in a man's way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand. (Psalm 37:23-24)
So, when we fail, the best thing to do is just pick ourselves up and start all over again. We must let go of past mistakes and think about how we can do better in the future.
To concentrate always on problems and to always think about the possibility of failure is self-destructive. The victory Jesus gained over sin would never have been gained if he had thought only of the struggle and the possibility of failure. Jesus set his mind firmly on the future and what would be achieved, and this helped him to overcome failure.
And even Jesus and his disciples were not always successful in getting people to follow him as they traveled across the countryside. There was one particular time as they headed towards the next village where he sent out his disciples two by two and he said:
“If any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.” (Mark 6:11)
Jesus seems to be saying, "Don’t be sidetracked by your detractors, your failures. Don’t allow defeat to stop you. Don’t let failure be the final word."
And that’s why you should never give up on yourself (or anybody else). Whatever your failure, believe that God is still at work, moving you out of the hardship to a new place. All you need to do is pray to Him and ask for help.
Monday, November 26, 2012, 8:43 AM
I came across an article in the New York Times today. The author wondered about all the instances of terrible injustice in the world and why a perfectly powerful and perfectly good God is not doing something about it.
Truth be told, I used to wonder about the same thing in the not-so-distant past. And I concluded that the reason why God's not showing up is because he does not exist.
This kind of reasoning is simple and the conclusion is easy to arrive at because it appeals to our inherent human nature. We prefer to do as we please, but when we start facing the consequences of our actions, we subconsciously start looking for someone to blame. And when our search brings us to the mirror, we quickly turn around and try to find a suitable scapegoat. Ultimately, we blame God. It’s human nature to take credit for all the good and blame God for all the bad.
Scripture says: “The highest heavens belong to the LORD, but the earth he has given to mankind.” (Psalms 115:16). So, if God were really uptight, he could simply write us off saying “If you break it, it’s yours to fix.”
Fortunately, God is very open to the idea of helping us. The problem is not many of us are asking Him to. And the reason we are not is because deep down we know we may not like his solutions. We cannot be selective about when we want God to act and when we want him to back off. As it is, we don't like His way…so we’re on the highway. Alone. And just so you know, God does mess with freewill.
Sunday, September 16, 2012, 1:49 PM
Life is a book—every day is a new page; every month, a new chapter; and every year, a new series. And while each day can teach us something new about ourselves and the world around us, it is also quite possible to stumble through an entire chapter and get nothing out of it. Life’s like that. We waltz in and out of situations and sometimes emerge scratching our heads and thinking, “I wonder what really happened back there?”
Wisdom cannot be swallowed whole. And if you try to stuff it down people’s throats, they are likely to vomit it all out and leave with a bad taste. So, this book of quotes attempts to break down life’s lessons into simpler, smaller, easier-to-chew morsels. That way, you can relish the essence of life one bite at a time.
Friday, September 14, 2012, 5:21 AM
What we say says a lot about us. And our words determine our destiny. Therefore, we must choose our words carefully, especially when answering questions pertaining to faith. This is important because regardless of who is asking the question, God is listening to your answer. And if God is pleased with your answer, blessings follow.
Take the case of the Syro-Phoenician woman, for instance.
The woman’s daughter had an evil spirit. When she heard Jesus was in the vicinity, she ran to him, fell at his feet and begged him to force the demon out of her daughter. Jesus told the woman, "It is not right to take the children's bread and give it to the dogs. First let the children eat all they want."
But she answered, "Yes, Lord, but even the dogs under the table can eat the children's crumbs."
Jesus was impressed and said, "Because of your answer, you may go. The demon has left your daughter."
The woman goes home and finds her daughter lying in bed—the demon is out. (Look up Mark 7:24-30 for details.)
This woman was at the end of her rope. She had tried everything. So, when she heard Jesus was in town, she knew she had nothing to lose. And yet, the outcome she desired was ultimately tied to her own answer. And she answered well.
Let’s take another example.
A Roman captain’s servant is on his deathbed. Not wanting to lose him, the captain sends Jesus a request asking him to come and heal his servant. When Jesus is still quite far from the house, the captain sent friends to tell him, “Master, you don’t have to go to all this trouble. I’m not that good a person, you know. I’d be embarrassed for you to come to my house, even embarrassed to come to you in person. Just give the order and my servant will get well.”
Taken aback, Jesus addresses the accompanying crowd: “I’ve yet to come across this kind of simple trust anywhere in Israel.”
When the messengers get back home, the servant is up and well.
Now, we know that God is not a respecter of men. He plays no favorites! He is not easily impressed. And yet Jesus is impressed by this man—not because of who he is, but what he says.
Yes! It is true. All men are not equal. Many are called, but only a few are chosen. Only few standout… because they are willing to push the envelope and go farther than the others. They express faith. They stay focused. They speak wisely. They find favor with God.
And one day of favor is worth a lifetime of labor.