From a Distant Country


Joshua 9:6

In hindsight it seems Joshua was foolish in agreeing to the deception. However, how many times have we ourselves fallen for the deception of the “distant country”.

 It is too far to affect me, my family, or my Church. I will not be impacted by it, not by a long shot, we reason. It will never become a habit, it is just a one night fling, and the list of reasoning go on. And very soon we realize, and often too late that we have played with fire in our bosom and are badly burnt (Prov 6:27).
Sin is never too far, it is true for us, just as it was true for Cain (Gen 4:7).
Lot in Genesis 19:20, tells the angels to allow him to go to Zoar because it is a ‘little one’, meaning a small thing. A little sin, too small to give it any significance; and just like a little leaven, you can be sure just as God Word says it will, it will fill our entire being. It will consume our whole self– just like a wildfire caused by a carelessly tossed light, is raging and too large to be easily stopped.
We have treated sin and our propensity to sin as being ‘far and distant’ and ‘a small thing’ – small enough to be forgiven and forgotten in and of itself.
Don’t be fooled by the display sin puts on.

It’s Your Turn


I heard this great story about a guy, let’s call him Matt, who qualified to be on the school football team. Matt was ecstatic –it was a valuable passport to fame, scholarship and girls. The practice days were simply exhilarating for this young teen. The swagger, the cool look of his uniform was intended to attract attention. Matt relished in the Oohh’s and Aahh’s as he walked down the hallway. It was great to be on the team.

Sure enough, the game day arrived. It was time to put into practice all that the team had learned against the strongest opponents in their league. As Matt sat on the bench waiting his turn, he saw his teammates getting battered and bruised. Their once sparkling white uniform was all muddied and dirty, not to mention the smell of sweat that lingered even after they walked past.

The young teen was not so sure of himself anymore. Matt wasn’t keen on getting hurt, getting his uniform dirty or smelling like the Friday evening garbage can. He contemplated running away or slipping quietly out so that no one would notice that he was missing. He prayed like never before; he prayed that his name would not be called. He had revelled in all the glory he had received previously, but now he doubted whether it was even worth it.

That’s when Matt felt the tap on his shoulder. It was the coach. It was his turn next. He was being herded to the slaughterhouse; the time had come. Matt could either get up and be the man he always projected he was, or chicken out, feigning sickness.

Matt chose the latter. The coach didn’t argue, and the next person was sent in.

In spite of all the abuse their bodies suffered that day, their team won. It was a great day for the school and an even greater day for the team.

Congratulations were being given out freely. It was funny that the crowd didn’t seem to mind the dirty uniforms or their ‘stinking’ presence. They were being carried on shoulders, hugged and kissed. They received all the adulation on that day.

In all this, one thing stood out. One look at Matt’s clean uniform and the crowd could tell he had not played. He was a bench warmer. And so, though he was the cleanest and probably the most charming, he was not included in the celebration.

The one thing that Matt would have loved to receive was denied him because he had not played.

It is unfortunate that for many of us this might just ring true at the final count.

We all wish to hear the words from the Lord, “Well done good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in little things…”.

However, the adulation of that Audience of One may be missing because we did not ‘play’.

All that you learned and all the practice you have had will not amount to anything, unless you get down to play the game.

Come on then, get off the bleachers. Join in the play.

“Harvest is plenty, Laborers are few”

In the beginning God…


Gen 1:1 .A New Year’s Message.

It’s a new year and for those who are cynical about making resolutions here are some easy-to-keep resolutions for 2013.

  1. In the year 2013, I will gain some weight.
  2. Starting today, I decide not to exercise.
  3. I am committing to cook less and eat out more
  4. I resolve to break at least one traffic law before the year is up.
  5. I have finally decided to go on a diet… a chocolate-only diet.

Another year has come to an end.

It is a scary thought, because for some of us, we have seen the end of many such years.

So why should this year be different?

Romans 13:11. This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for

our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.

 Ephesians 5:16. making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

“Days are evil” …things are not getting better.

The good old days, really are the good ol’ days, unfortunately. I don’t intent to be a doomsday Prophet, however, I wish to remind that now is not the time to sit back and act like everything will work out.

Psalmist tells us to number our days so that we will develop a heart of wisdom.

In redeeming the time, in making the most of every opportunity that creates an eternal difference, we develop a heart of wisdom.

If we have needed anything last year, it certainly was a ‘heart of wisdom’. Wisdom to discern our politics, culture, society and more importantly the depravity of our self.

Imagine with me…

Imagine you had this ‘baking inspiration’.

You’ve got your pots and pans, your baking kit, and all of the necessary ingredients.

You did this on January 1, 2012, for that’s when started your baking.

And today, the last day of the year you are checking to see how it turned out.

There is one of two things that are possible.

First, all that you probably see is a mess. You realize that the year turned out just like the cake.

A hope that didn’t rise to its expectation, just like the cake.

You would have preferred the year to be a little sweeter, just like the cake.

It could be that the cake turned out to be dry, just like the comments you have had to endure during the year.

It may also be that the cake’s consistency was a little crumbly and falling apart, just like the year you’ve just had.

You truly wish your inspiration had turned out to be the best “red velvet cupcake” ever (my favourite and I assume yours too).

Alternatively, it may have been all that you planned for and better.

However, you got so greedy that you just ate it all by yourself. You consumed both the cake and the year all by yourself. And you are feeling pretty stuffed like after a post-turkey dinner?

It is true of such dinners that the stuffing trades places pre and post dinner – from turkey to yours truly.

What does the Bible say about inspirational baking that is selfishly motivated?

Eccle 12:1. Don’t let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator. Honor him in your youth

before you grow old and say, “Life is not pleasant anymore.”

 

Even those of us who assume we are not youth anymore, we will always be younger today than tomorrow.

There seems to be more to baking than inspiration, and more to life than selfish living.

It turns out that neither of the two outcomes fit the mould for living.

We know we want to do better next year. There is a discontentment with the ways things have gone and hopefully it is a divinely inspired discontentment?

Discontentment not because of a lack of personal benefit but for the things of God left undone.

How can I make 2013 any different?

In times like these it may be good to go back to the first verse in the Bible.

Genesis 1:1. “In the beginning God…”

This is real good personal mission statement.

And I am deciding to make this verse my resolution for the year… “In the beginning God…”

Simply put, in all that I begin, behave or belong I want God to be preeminent.

I want to resolve that God would be the beginning of all that I would do in 2013.

I want that in all my, assumptions, attitudes, actions and ambitions I will begin with God.

“In the beginning God…” reminds me that God will be first in all that I do this year.

And if this resonates with you, I suggest you must make it your resolution too.

 What about the ‘Red Velvet Cupcake’ that didn’t turn out well?

It is the beginning of the New Year, and so you are allowed a new beginning.

Therefore, here are three quick steps to start all over again.

1. Let’s clean our vessels.

Clean up your pots and pans before you start again.

2 Tim 2:21. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, [and] prepared unto every good work.

Get right with God. Clean up your act.

Use water to clean. Use the Word of God.

 Ephesians 5:26.Washed by the cleansing of God’s word.

We also know that it is only through God’s grace we can be clean. We can’t be clean of ourselves.

Ephesians 2:8. God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.

 

2. Check the recipe book

Step two is to check the recipe book.

Inspirations are good, but playing around with life based on presumptions and assumptions can be dangerous.

We have a HEPA (Highly Evolved Presumption and Assumption) filter that distorts all that we do on our own strength.

Life must follow the principles for it to turn out well. And for that we need the recipe book for life — the Bible.

Joshua 1:8. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

3. Follow the recipe

The third most important step is, “follow the recipe”.

It is one thing to own the recipe book and even to read it, but another that we follow it.

This year we need to move from intent to implement. Not merely good intentions of what we wish to do with life this year, but get down to implementing them by following the recipe.

Ps 19:11. By them (the Word of God) is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

 Conclusion

If you want 2013 to be different you must stop following your own recipe for sure disaster but turn to the Master for His recipe.

You can trust the One who turned water into vintage wine, and served the disciples breakfast by the sea.

You can be sure if God is preeminent in your life – if you truly practice “In the beginning God…”  in your life that the ‘red velvet cupcake’ or whatever it is that you have entrusted to Him will turn out well.

So remember for 2013 let it be “In the beginning God…”.

Start with God in everything. His glory, His Honor, and His Pre-eminence and you will find that 2013 will be a different menu altogether.

Let Go, and Let God


Not sure if this is an universal phenomena, but children seem to grow up faster than their parents are willing to let go?

Well I have been struggling with this very dilemma, as my son prepares to leave for University.

Ready or not? Here they go.

So what is the issue?

There is this constant battle between parental stewardship that doesn’t want to let go, and adult responsibility that begs for rational release. I think the issue lies in over-thinking and under-trusting. More about that later.

However, these are times when parents look back to what they would have done differently. In my mind, the only two reason why we as parents may not have regrets, are either because we have not learned from past mistakes, or that we have been too arrogant to admit them. If  “to err is human” then the cape of the super parents must be used to cover the face as remorse.

I don’t intend this to be a downhill, slap on the wrist article. I want to applaud parenting by contrasting the dark regrets against the brilliance of the joy and thrill of raising a child. Much like a diamond trader who places the gem against the dark black velvet to capture the nuance. The point though is that a mere human factor in the parenting mix is destined for disaster. It is like a single ingredient recipe. It doesn’t amount to much.

Are they ready?

Parents often worry that their children are yet ill-equipped to face the world.

My parents in their seventies still think so; and while I have given them enough fodder to foster that opinion the mute point is that we must accept.

Accept that they are an independent life, apart from us. That ‘my’ son is a complete human; a man, just like me. Nothing less, and hopefully more.

Accept that we are neither omniscient, nor omnipresent. We do not have all the answers, and can never be at all the places they will be.

Accept some lessons are learned by living, not telling. That they must reinvent the wheel according to their template.

Accept that we could never be perfect parents even with repeated chances.

We reined,trained, and hopefully ingrained, and neither our guilt nor their supposed inexperience must now prevent them.

Are we ready?

The question really is directed at us.

Consider how even from that first day when we brought them home from the hospital, we have only reared them trusting the good Lord for guidance and wisdom.

All of us will acknowledge freely that we are not self-made perfect parents and that it was the grace of God that allowed us to move past colicky nights, broken wrists, school reports, and nightmare-comes-true alarms.

We trusted each day for wisdom and strength. We prayed for character and personality.

Now it is time to test our faith and realize that the wings that were spun with tears and toil will hold as they begin to soar.

 

Let go, and Let God

It is time to let go.

It is time to know that the same God who led us through parenting will lead them through life.

Learn to let go and see them glide on the strength of answered prayers.

When we do, we will realize it was never us that ultimately held the reins, but God.

He is the one who brought them till here, and He is the one who will guide them till home.

I must remind myself of this truth everyday.

A for Adornment


Parental instructions as adornment is probably taking things a little too far by any standards!

Imagine having a note around your neck from your mom reminding you to eat your vegetables at school. Graceful? NEVER. So how does Solomon, the wisest man ever, presume to advise on instructions being a graceful chain around the neck?

Now we can’t deny that an aptly worn chain adds grace. Just the visual – a pearl necklace at an evening out, will have many drooling. Probably therein lies the secret — ‘Aptness’ in wearing the graceful chain of “Instructions”.

So how do we understand all this?

I want to capture three aspects of  what we will call “Attitude Adjustments”. When I use the term Parental Instruction, please understand that it could refer to someone significant in your life. Someone who is investing into your life sacrificially.

1. Affection & Assurance:


Just as pearls around a neck screams of someone’s affection (I am making a presumption that pearls are always gifted); Parental instructions are a sign of affection. We read in the Bible:
Hebrews 12:6. “…For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes those he accepts as his children.”
Again in another passage, we are reminded that discipline is painful for the moment, but will yield the fruit of righteousness.
Hebrews 12:11. “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it”.
Godly instructions are intended as minor corrections that prevent a major catastrophe.
So when you receive instructions, look behind the fabric and see it woven with affection. Be assured that these godly instructors are with you during your formative journey.
2. Agreement & Appreciation
This is where the rubber meets the road. It is one thing to realize that the basis of instructions is affection, but totally different when accepting it as good and important. There is a effort of learning in appreciating this influence.
Appreciation and agreement moves you to another realm– from mere acquiescence to acceptance. From a reactive mode to a proactive mindset.
I want to suggest that this is where the switch is located. The switch between being dragged to change, and walking in agreement.
However, agreement is not blind acceptance, but a conscious decision that you are willing to accept help. Agreement can be humbling to both the hormones and the testosterone.
Agreement is not emotional slavery to ‘control’; but an acknowledgement that these are voices of warning from those who have gone ahead. Listening, agreeing and appreciating godly instructions can prevent you from reinventing the wheel the painful way.
3. Agenda & Alertness
Wonder if you ever had the experience of wearing a gold chain and finding yourself in the wrong side of town; or even on the other side of midnight. Every sound is heightened, and every move cautious as you walk through that supposedly lonely street.
Life is much the same. Instructions keeps you alert and on the look out for danger. You see ‘prevention’ in a different light. You prefer avoidance than having to risk experimenting with danger.
So why wear the Chain of Instruction?
It is not the lucky amulet that protects you from danger, but strategies you can use when in danger.
These ornaments of grace is a gentle reminder that we are on an agenda.
We are work in progress. The chain, therefore, is a gift from our parents, our grandparents, pleading us to think about them, and the God they serve, in times of crises. It offers time tested solutions. It is the mother’s recipe for danger (or from danger, however, you may use them; and the portion size is customized to you).
Godly instructions are part of life’s manual. Just like the flat packaging from Ikea that doesn’t make sense without the instructions sheet, godly instructions prod us to do the right things. Doing right, even at the wrong time or wrong place that we often find ourselves in. Godly instructions holds the key at the end of the chain that opens doors in sticky situations.
I hope you are convinced? In fact there is more to this graceful Chain of Instruction, but more about it later.