Trained by Affliction

Job 2:3

New International Version (NIV)

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.

For Meditation

Satan is fuming. He has dealt Job four heavy blows in rapid succession, but the old saint is standing tall in his faith. Satan returns to God in the company of the angels another time, and God asks him:

“Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” (Job. 2:3).

Doesn’t God know that Satan has set his eyes on Job for a long time because of his unyielding faith and commitment?  Isn’t He aware that after Job’s resilience in the face of those cruel and painful loses, Satan is red-eyed and fuming? If God knows Satan is gunning for Job, why repeat the question that initiated Job’s tragedy in the first place?

The point is, God has not finished with Job yet. There is too much in him that God wants to expose and deal with. But more importantly, there is His glory to be revealed to Job in a way that would transform his life forever. For that reason, God must send Job through a final round of brutal assault by Satan (4-7). The good news is that Job will survive. God knows his heart and has released enough grace to bear him up (1 Cor. 10:13). He has set limits on Satan’s authority against His children; and that’s our comfort.

Your trial may not be as devastating as Job’s. Nonetheless, it may be painful enough to question God’s motive. Take heart, my friend. Receive comfort from Job’s example (2 Cor. 3-7). Your attackers can do their worst, but God has raised a standard against them (Isaiah 59:19). He has set limits to the enemy’s power against you (Job 2:6). God has opened part of His hedge around you for your perfection through suffering, and for His glory. You’ll praise Him, as Job did, when it’s over, and your life and strength have been renewed like the eagle’s (Isaiah 40:31).
So strive to know God intimately, and have the right mentality about His dealings with His children in this training arena called the world. It will make it easier for you to face every situation that comes your way in Christ. Amen.

Shalom

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The Beauty of a Forgiving Heart

Genesis 45:15

New International Version (NIV)

And he kissed all his brothers and wept over them. Afterward his brothers talked with him.

Meditation

I can see him clearly now, because I have come to understand the power of forgiveness.

The men who subjected him to the worst humiliation and cruelty stood before him. Joseph had the power and authority to retaliate in any way he fancied, but he didn’t. Rather, he embraced and kissed his brothers (Gen. 45:15). Tears of vindication and remorse flowed between them. Joseph knew what God had done through their wickedness to him, so his heart and mind stayed on Him instead of the brothers. “It was not you who sent me here, but God” (8).

That’s the beauty of a forgiving heart. Maintaining a God-focused posture in every situation allows us to pity and forgive our worst adversaries. It frees us to see how God can use unpleasant circumstances for our favor and vindicate us in the eyes of offenders (Rm. 8:28). Our heart is liberated to forgive and embrace the offender.

It is a portrait of Christ and us at the foot of the cross – the aroma of mercy and grace in forgiveness and our salvation.

  1. So, who has offended you?
  2. How painful has the experience been?
  3. Can you open your heart to Christ, and hear His cry of mercy from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk. 23:34)?
  4. Can you visualize the moment He embraced you at the foot of the cross where your sins were forgiven?
  5. Do you remember the relief and joy that filled your heart when grace lifted you from the dominion of darkness into His kingdom of light (Col. 1:13)?

I pray that in the same spirit, you can give the same gift to the one you have vowed never to forgive, and exhibit the love of God through Christ Jesus to them.

So: May you experience the healing power of forgiveness in your own life and its beauty in the face of the forgiven.

Let the celebration begin (Lk. 15:24).

Shalom

Calling Eternal-minded Believers

Genesis 25:34

New King James Version (NKJV)

And Jacob gave Esau bread and stew of lentils; then he ate and drank, arose, and went his way. Thus, Esau despised his birthright.

For Meditation

Richard Quest has an interesting commercial that spotlights the value of pennies. A woman drops a penny while rummaging through her handbag. Richard picks it up and attempts to give it back to her.

“Oh, it’s just a penny,” she says.

“Just a penny?”  Richard looks at her and smiles.  Throwing the penny into a bank vault, he makes his point: “It’s not how much you have, but what you do with what you have.”

Now, that sounds like the story of Esau with his brother Jacob to me. Esau trifled with his birthright as the firstborn of Isaac and exchanged it for bread and stew to satisfy a momentary craving (Gen. 25:30-31). What is more shocking to me is Esau’s nonchalant attitude after the meal.

“He ate and drank, and then got up and left.” (v.34 NIV).

Just like that! Without a thought for the future blessings his birthright offered, Esau walked away. The Hebrews writer characterizes him as godless (Heb. 12:16). Without faith, he lost the blessing of the birthright, which he later “sought with tears, but he could not change what he had done” (17).

Christians offend God when they act like Esau about spiritual things. In Revelation 3:15-16, Jesus describes the spiritual condition of the church of Laodicea as “Neither cold nor hot.” Because of their lukewarm condition, the Lord said he was about to spit them out of His mouth. They claimed they were rich, while they were “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (17). That’s the situation of the church today.

I am not talking about a lack of effort here. The church is not deficient in strategic plans and excellently executed programs. It’s not short of well-meaning members working in the ministry; even though it could use more volunteers. The church is not lacking in numbers and physical resources to show for its work. It has stadium-size temples and high-tech gadgets and presentations to amaze anyone. No! The church has all these and much more.

The problem of the church is that it has become too careless where it matters most – eternal things (Col. 3:1-3). It has become complacent and careless about spiritual matters. There is a lack of spiritual fortitude, which defines Christian character (Rom. 5:3-4).

Character reveals the core nature of the believer and sets them apart or distinguishes them from the world. Christian character is forged on the crucible of faith, and only spiritual fortitude – strength, courage, resilience – can produce it.

This message is not a critique of the church. It is a call to serious duty in our faith. It calls the believer to seriously consider the treasure they have in Christ Jesus. As God is fearfully jealous for the children of His kingdom and absolutely protects them, so should the children be jealous for Christ.

  1. So, how serious are you about your faith?
  2. What is your attitude towards eternal things?
  3. Are you living for the here and now, while Christ has prepared the best treasure for you in heaven?
  4. Do you bargain your spiritual blessings in Christ for the temporary pleasures of this world?
  5. Have you allowed survival and external appearances to overshadow righteousness and integrity in your life?

I pray you can exercise self-control and self-denial when the flesh calls for satisfaction, and the world flashes its glitter in your face.

May you stand and not fall when tempted; but may you cherish what you have in Christ and jealously protect it.

Shalom

Expensive Bargain

Genesis 25:30

New International Version (NIV)

“Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?”

For meditation

Sometimes we make decisions that nag us for a lifetime. The question of what may have happened had the decision been different often becomes our constant judge. I remember an experience in New York City. Laid off from my job about a month before our second daughter was born, I picked a temporary job from the students’ notice board at Pace University where I was studying for my MBA. The interview with the marketing company on Madison Avenue went well, and I was asked to start the following Monday. When I returned home, my former job had called me back to work that very night. The decision was between the promise for a good career in the future and the bellhop position at the hotel I worked for that offered better for my needs at the time. I have always looked back with regret and wondered what my life would have been had I decided for Madison Avenue. I am sure Esau can identify with me on this one.

His was the birthright of his father – the covenants and promises of God to Abraham, Isaac, and his father, Jacob. The nation of Israel, the kingship, prophetic lineage, and the ancestry of Jesus Christ were his for the taking. However, he bargained them all away for a fleshly craving – a morsel of bread (Gen. 25:29-34).

“Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I am famished!”

 “First sell me your birthright.”

“Look I am about to die … What good is the birthright to me?”

“Swear to me first.”

With that expensive bargain, Esau lost the opportunity of eternity, which his tears at his father’s bedside couldn’t recover from Isaac (38). That infamous day established a dangerous rivalry between the two brothers and their ancestors throughout the Old Testament. The Hebrews writer calls Esau sexually immoral and godless (Heb. 12:16).

Today, many believers are trading their precious inheritance in Christ for the conveniences of life and momentary fleshly desires. The unfortunate thing is the unseen linkage between those bargains and the days the enemy comes for his share of the deal. If only we could remember! Maybe they will properly inform our future decisions – if we have conscience. But that’s why the examples of the failures of men like Abraham, Lot, Esau, Judah, and David are recorded “as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come” (1 Cor. 10:11). We don’t have to make the same mistakes they made before we learn.

  1. So, what is your pressing need today?
  2. What are the options opened to you?
  3. What yardstick are you applying to your decision process?
  4. Have you carefully considered its future ramifications on you, your family, nation, and the world?
  5. Do you have eternity in mind?

I pray your decision will be right and you will spare yourself the nagging questions for the rest of your life.

May the Lord help you!

Shalom

 

Two Angels, One Lesson.

 Hebrews 13:2

New International Version (NIV)

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.

For Meditation

I arrived one day early. The students’ Hall that would house us at Moody Bible College for the Pastors conference would not open till the next day. I checked two nearby hotels for the night, but, the affordable one was full. Caught in a limbo and aimlessly walking around, I spotted a McDonald’s restaurant a little distance away. My stomach churned in agreement to my thoughts, so I walked over and sat over a Big Mac sandwich reading, “The Roots of Righteousness” by A. W. Tozer.

A street guy entered shortly after and sat close by me. He is not the type you would comfortably welcome at your dinner table, but he calmly sat and stared at me. A security officer asked him to leave after a short time. The poor man pleaded for some time, I guess, to warm up. May in windy Chicago is not particularly easy on anyone in the streets, so the officer understood. But I didn’t understand.

The man needed food, and I was capable. The thought flashed through my mind, but I quickly buried it. Yet, I was reading, “The Roots of Righteousness.” Who was I kidding?

The stranger’s time ran out, and the officer asked him to leave. I could sense his pain and reluctance to leave. The urge to buy him some food surged back in me, but I froze. I sat there motionless as the poor man picked himself up and walked towards the exit. He stopped at the door, as if to give himself the last opportunity for my offer; but I just looked on. He wiped his nose, straightened his jacket, and walked into the cold. I visually followed him till he got lost in the late afternoon crowd. A heavy load of guilt came upon me. I couldn’t believe I acted that callously. “Should I go after him?”

The irony of the situation is that I was equally “homeless” at the time, needing a place to stay. After hiding under the guise of having lunch for six hours and feeling warm, I stepped out through the same door the man had exited through, and into the same fate.

I dragged my carryon bag towards the affordable hotel for a last check on availability, but somehow, I drifted to the campus of Moody again. This time, I got access to the front desk of the Hall. As the kind gentleman at the desk frantically checked for a hotel for me, a student who felt my need offered to accommodate me for the night. What a relief!

The next morning, we sat at table in the cafeteria on campus and chattered over breakfast. The young man had summer classes, so we prayed together, and I thankfully bid him goodbye.

In one day, I had met two angels – a hungry homeless man who yearned for a hot meal from me, and a young student who readily extended hospitality to me. They were both obscured to me then, but now I am reminded of the two experiences. I was given the opportunity to show kindness to the first angel, but I failed woefully. Right after that, God sent another angel to teach me how to be kind to a stranger in need. Two angels, one message:

“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it” (Hebrews. 13:2).

Shalom

 

Muffle It!

Proverbs 29:20

New International Version (NIV)

Do you see someone who speaks in haste?
There is more hope for a fool than for them.

For meditation

He should have kept quiet, and rather pondered over what the Lord said. But he ran his mouth.

“Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison or to death” (Lk. 22:33).

What the Lord told Peter was true and full of grace.

 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail” (31-32).

Peter needed that; for a day was coming when he would deny his master in a painful way. It would be his weakest moment, and grace was the only blessing that would sustain him. Listen to the tone of the Master’s voice: “Simon, Simon.” How affectionate! But, impetuous Peter was true to his nature and responded hastily. Paradoxically, Peter was denying Jesus even then. For, to refute Jesus’ word is to deny Him. Unfortunately, we do so many times, especially, when pressed to the corner and we struggle to look good.

Ever gracious and compassionate, Jesus said:

“I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me” (34).

Why would anybody contrast God? How could anyone deny the prediction of Jesus who is the Truth and All-knowing? Peter could do that with everybody else, but the One he had earlier confessed as, “The Messiah, Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16), and seen His glory on the Mt. of Transfiguration (17:2)?

The fact is, we don’t get it completely concerning Jesus until we come to the empty tomb. His words may hit us with the freshness and power of God, and we may marvel at them. We may experience His miracles, healing, and deliverance daily. But, until we come to grips with the reality of His resurrection as a daily experience in our lives, we cannot live in the new life He gives, with renewed minds. We will deny Him when it counts most.

We look so pathetic when we adorn our self-justification garbs. Unfortunately, our hasty responses reveal our folly in places where we often live to regret them. Peter regretted this day, when he denied Jesus three times at His trial before the High Priest (22:60-62). However, things changed for him when the full glory of the Lord was revealed in His resurrection, and the Holy Spirit baptized him at Pentecost.

So, for we who have embraced the historical fact of His resurrection, and have the Spirit of Truth indwelling us, we cannot be hasty in our listening and studying of His word. Otherwise, our responses in life will also be hasty and wrong.

Proverbs 29:20 says:

“Do you see someone who speaks in haste?
There is more hope for a fool than for them” (Prov. 29:20).

So, muffle it! Take the counsel of James 1:19 and bring along self-control, which the Holy Spirit freely gives when you yield to Him. It will conceal your folly.

Shalom

A Sobering Thought

2 Corinthians 4:7

New International Version (NIV) 

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

For meditation

  1. As a child of God, do you know that the only time you can have the right perspective of yourself is to behold yourself in the mirror of His word? Where else can God’s “light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4: 6)?
  2. Do you remember Isaiah’s perspective of himself when he saw the glory of God?  “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty (Is. 6:5).” Isn’t that humbling?
  3. How, then, could anyone see themselves in any other way, if the word of God becomes their standard for living? But, how many seriously engage the word with a mindset of self-examination?
  4. Do you see why many Christians have a distorted view of themselves, and have become puffed up, especially when they move in the grace gifts? Why the self-deception?
  5. Isn’t it profitable and edifying, therefore, to “rather think of [oneself] with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of [us] (Rm. 12:3)? Will that not be a better way to walk with the Lord this year?

I pray you will always remind yourself that you’re a mere jar of clay containing God’s precious gift of life in Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 4:7).

May you, therefore, remember that any ability you have for ministry and service is from God – given through the Holy Spirit – and not from you; and may this sobering thought humble you before the Holy One, who has endowed you with this treasure beyond human imagination, to edify and empower you for His glory.

Shalom