Friday, February 24, 2012

Praise - Take 1 Jericho

I’ve been bombarded by lots of sermons about praise and worship the past few weeks. Figured God wanted to tell me something. So, I will be taking this opportunity to collect Bible stories where praise was a big factor. Disclaimer: I am not a Bible scholar nor did I attend a Bible college. The views here are just my opinion and belief. Enjoy.

In the olden days, the Israelites crossed the River Jordan and needed to conquer Jericho. Prior to crossing, Joshua sent two spies to spy out Jericho. God protected the spies on their journey and provided an ally in Rahab the prostitute. In return, she and all who were hers would be spared from death. Joshua was given specific instructions to carry out against Jericho. For the first six days, they were to march around the city once. They were to march around it seven times on the seventh day. The armed guard led the way followed by the seven priests blowing their seven trumpets. The ark of the Lord’s covenant was next followed by the rear guard. On the seventh day during the seventh time around the city while the priests sound a long blast, everyone shouted. The wall collapsed. 
     For reference, see Joshua 2:01-6:27.

If your walls can talk, what would they say? Would they share how disappointed you’ve become? Would they describe your shattered heart or dreams? Would they detail how many times your heart was broken to pieces? Would they numerate your fears and idiosyncrasies? Would they recount your tears? Would they count your moans? Would your laughter, singing, and dancing outnumber your sad times? If your walls can talk, what would they say?

Had enough tears? The fact is everyone has disappointments, heart breaks, fears, tears, and mourning. It is very easy to feel depressed all of the time. Just look around you. There is hopelessness, illnesses, injustice, and deaths everywhere. It does not get any better looking in the mirror. So what is the solution? Change the focus. A photographer has the option of focusing in or out of subjects in the same photograph. We are to fix our eyes on Jesus. We are to focus on Jesus. Praise God. Praise Jesus Christ. Shout to Him praises. A favorite praise Psalm is 145. It is very powerful when read out loud. When praises ascend, then walls collapse. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Melodious Harmony

At the last place worked, I would get up super early in the morning to go to work. This served several purposes. I would avoid traffic going to and from work. I would have at least one hour alone to work before anyone else showed up. It was also an extension of my alone time with my Savior. First thing I did was to turn on the cell phone music. It was usually very boisterous. Sometimes, I would sing along. It always managed to enliven me. It opened my appetite to work. You see, some accounting functions were plain tedious. They were never hard, just boring. Music made it tolerable to do these functions without pulling out one’s hair. With music as my partner, I was always able to accomplish much in little time. When others would start coming in to work and want to socialize for a bit, I did not panic as some of the work was already done. I would rather be sleep deprived than feel unproductive during the work day. 

Music was a big part of my life growing up. I remember my maternal grandmother listening to music and singing along. Sometimes she would sing acapella. My mother inherited this trait and passed it along to her offspring. As a child, I liked music. I liked singing. I had no idea that music served any purpose. I was doing it out of imitation of loved ones. Sometimes I wonder if we know why we do most things. 

Years later, I discovered that music and songs served multi purposes. They can be stimulants. They can be relaxants. I am sure everyone knows at least one purpose music serves. Do you listen to music while exercising / working out? Taking a walk? Gardening? Music can be enlightening and enables expansion of self. Of course, this depends on the lyrics of the songs. If the lyrics speak curses, then death is the expected outcome. If the lyrics speak blessing, life is the outcome. As with our spoken words, the sung words are equally powerful. 

In Psalm 150, the author encourages singing with differing kinds of instruments. Here is the NIV translation:
“Praise the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord.”
So God created music? Whether directly or indirectly? Can we say that God likes to sing as well? Check out what the prophet Zephaniah said in chapter 3 verse 17; here God is speaking to Zion, his people: “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”

Friday, February 10, 2012

About this blog and author

Dear Beloved Reader,

Thank you for visiting this blog. My name is Susan. I have been a banker and an accountant. I do not consider success as such unless it is in God’s will. My life has been a series of patterns or cycles, if you will. These were professional, personal, and social patterns. Each had a facet of success and a facet of failure at the same time. Each taught very distinct and important lessons. There were happy times and there were sad times. But in each of these, I do not consider me being in God’s will. I hope you do not misunderstand. Not everything in God’s will be joyous and successful at all times. Jesus Christ was in God’s will when he was crucified. We all have to depend wholeheartedly on God and give Him the praise no matter what happens. So I am adopting the line from the movie, Facing the Giants, “I will praise Him when I win and I will praise Him when I lose.” The purpose of this blog is Jesus Christ glorified.

Why Faith, Hope, and Love? It is taken from I Corinthians 13:13, “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” These are the core of our relationship with Jesus Christ. We need faith to believe God exists and that Jesus was crucified so we wouldn’t have to die. He rose again so He may give us life. Without faith, it is impossible to please God; Hebrews 11:6. Hope is in Jesus Christ alone. He is the way, truth, and life; John 14:6. He is the high priest forever in the order of Melchizedek; Hebrews 6:20. And God is love. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life; John 3:16.  Paul the apostle summarized faith, hope, and love beautifully in I Thessalonians 1:3: "We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ."

Dear Beloved Reader, relax and enjoy this ride. God bless you. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Oh Mercy

There are times in one’s life when certain events do not make sense. Our actions can be questionable especially to those around us. Beth had one of those events when someone backed into the passenger side of her two door car. How did it happen, you ask? She was driving through a fast food restaurant’s parking lot. Without looking in his rear-view mirror or behind him, a man backs into her car. It was a split second realization. She tried to speed up to avoid the impact. Beth tried to honk. Well, he stopped after hitting her car. Both of them got out of their cars to assess the damages. His car did not have a scratch, of course. Beth’s? Her car had a very noticeable wound. When the man saw her car’s damage, he panicked and tried to blame her for driving too fast.  He would not be accountable for his actions. He appeared to be a gangster with the getup, hair cut, tattoos, and facial expressions. His passenger was a pregnant woman. Both were very young. Beth confirmed that her passenger door was operable. She told him, “Do not worry about it,” while extending her hand for a handshake. She shook his hand, got into her car, and drove off. The expression on his face was priceless. In fact, everyone who hears of the story usually wore a priceless facial expression. Her family members never understood and made fun at her expense. One day at her brother’s family get together, his in laws asked Beth why she did this. She recounted, “While looking at the man who caused my car’s damage and noticing he was frightened, all I can hear is ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’1 I tried to ignore this still voice. It said again, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ The still small voice prompted me to shake his hand and leave. And I did.” Let’s just say they all wore priceless facial expressions and no one dared to tease Beth about this particular event again.

Has anyone ever done that to you? Show you undeserved mercy? Someone has for me. His name is Jesus Christ. He died so I wouldn’t have to. He rose to give me life. All He asks is that I maintain a relationship with Him. It is a relationship of faith, hope, and love. Once He is the VIP or Very Important Person in my life, then I can learn to love myself as He loves me. The next step is to love others as I love myself. It is great to consistently attend church, serve others, read the Bible, pray, and all that good stuff. But if the motivation is not love, I am only being a stumbling block to those around me. Which route would you choose?

Foot note:
1)       “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” is found in the Bible in Hosea 6:6; Matthew 9:13; Matthew 12:7; and explained beautifully in Mark 12:33. Sacrifice is the law and mercy is shown by grace through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Romans 13:10 states: Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Wish

 Oh, I wish I was a bird
   as a bird can be;
singing, chirping in the tree;
   flying and being free.
And if it was time for me to die,
   then I will die as am I.
From dust I came and to dust I return,
   but freer than ever foregone.
I love you as a bird and praise God for you.
   Because you, as a human, are special to me.
My singing and chirping in the tree
   are a praise to God for His wonderful seed.
 Don’t ever forget, friend, that God loves you.
  And if you do, just look at me.
   God takes good care of me;
     even though I am the most
      fragile of His creativity!

To Gossip or Not to Gossip --That is the Question.

      Once upon a time, a teenage girl named Beth lost her best friend to death. She mourned for a while, but it was hard to get over it. As a means of coping, she started talking and making fun of other people in the neighborhood or at church behind their backs. 
     She would mock the way people dressed or talked. She would notice who fell asleep at church and made sure she shared that with her family. As long as people were doing anything different from what she was doing, she made fun. She, by example, had other family members participate.  She did not realize what she was doing. 
     When she tried talking with her father, he would not look at her. At one time he needed help, she offered it. But he would not accept her assistance. Her behavior displeased her father tremendously. He was very upset with her. He still provided for her. He still loved her. After all, she was his daughter. He knew she was ignorant, unknowing the consequences of her actions. He took up the task of teaching her. At first she did not understand. He was patient. He kept teaching and opening her eyes to see beyond what she knew. She finally understood. 
     Then she pleaded with tears in her eyes, “Daddy, please forgive me.”  She repented of gossiping and tearing people apart. Because of his love, her father was faithful; accepted her apology and forgave her. He then restored the relationship between them. 

As moderator, I’d like to interview both Beth and her father to see how this experience can help others.

Moderator: Beth, how did you feel when you were making fun of other people before you repented?

Beth: I did not think I was doing anything wrong. I thought I was having fun and bonding with family.  It was all a joke to me. It made me feel better about myself especially after I lost my best friend.

Moderator: Did you learn something about yourself in the process?

Beth: I thought I was better than everyone else. I thought I was perfect. But in actuality, I was covering up my own insecurities and flaws because I did not want others to see my fears and pain.

Moderator: How did you feel when you lost your good standing with your father?

Beth: The Author of my life turned His face away from me. What a dark, sad time that was. I do not want to repeat it!

Moderator: Can you share what else you learned and the consequences?

Beth: There are spiritual ramifications of gossip and mocking others. Conceit is the first thing that takes place. Pride goes before the fall. One thing father taught me was that the father of pride is the evil one. If I do what he does, I become more like him. When I chose the evil one, I turned my back on my father. My father did not like to share me with the evil one. I had to make a choice and commit to it. The consequence was that other people gossiped about me and made fun of me behind my back. Once I repented, the vicious cycle stopped. My father was just.

Moderator: Obviously, you are not a teenager anymore. Why share this experience now?

Beth: I see it everywhere. I see gossip at school, at work, even at church. It is very rampant. I can understand places like the workplace and school, but church? Society deems it ‘politics’ at work. It saddens my heart as I am sure it saddens the father’s heart. He says that his children perish for lack of knowledge. I would not wish for any of my siblings to perish before their time.

Moderator: What would you advise people to do when tempted to gossip or to listen to gossip?

Beth: Point the finger at oneself first. Usually, this stops me from gossiping because I am still prone to it. When I test myself, I do it in light of the Bible. This way I won’t be too harsh or too lenient. I will be able to judge myself objectively. If this does not work, I would try to refocus on other things or thoughts. One of the things I can focus on in the other person is his or her positive features instead of his or her flaws. Walking away is the best solution when someone else begins to gossip. Confronting the other person may work depending upon how diplomacy is used. It takes wisdom.

Moderator: Thank you, Beth. Now I’d like to ask you as the father to share something with us.

Father: I love all of my children. I made each of them unique in their looks, feelings, and experiences. No two are alike. They may have similarities, but they also have differences. 
The similarities were created to help them relate to each other. The differences were created so they would complement each other. I want them to know that they are not alone. They have a bigger family than they are aware of. Whatever they experience, they will find that someone else has the same experience and can support them. I provide. I provide whatever they need. But they must ask me. Not because I do not know. I know what they need. I just want them to be aware of what they need. I do not favor certain children over others. 
     If you ask, I will answer. Sometimes the answer may take a long time because of many factors. I give the best and this best needs to be prepared. If you want to know me more and come closer to me, I will make myself known to you. That is my heart’s desire. You, my children, are my heart. A relationship with you is far more important than anything else. 
     I wish to love you more than you can think or imagine. I wish to make your cup overflow with love. Once this relationship is established, then you can love your siblings. You will not have room to gossip nor make fun of others. Because you would have seen yourself in a true light and know that I accept you the way you are. Thus, you would be able to accept yourself the way you are and accept others as they are. This acceptance will give you room to become a better you. This attitude is contagious. It will be felt by your siblings and will encourage them to become better, too. Thank you, moderator, for the chance to share this experience.

Moderator: Thank you, Father, for revealing your heart.

As we approach the end of this segment, I’d like to add some thoughts. We have heard from Beth and her father. They bring a strong case against gossip and mocking others behind their back. Do you gossip? Do you like to gossip? Are you aware you are gossiping? If not, perhaps it is time to ask the Father to reveal if there is any wrongdoing in us. The choice is yours. You can follow the Loving Father or the evil one. He, who has ears, let him hear.