Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Witness to People

“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me.  When I say to the wicked, ‘You wicked person, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade them from their ways, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood.  But if you do warn the wicked person to turn from their ways and they do not do so, they will die for their sin, though you yourself will be saved.”
–Ezek 33:7-9

When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table.  A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at that Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume.  As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears.  Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
–Lk 7:36-38

A signatory to the United States declaration of Independence, Arthur Middleton (1742–1787) wrote, “The priest is Christ’s slave, and Christ himself took the form of a slave and became obedient to death.  So the priest is serving human needs lives a Godward life, possessed by God and witnessing that only when lives are utterly possessed by God do they find their true freedom.”  So let us sing about Christ’s word, for his commandments are righteous (Ps 119:172).  Monica Johnson (b. 1946) assured us: “We live unto Him, so committing our service to the Lord is the first and foremost priority of our lives.  We can start with our reasonable services: prayer, studying, fasting, tithing, fellowshipping, and witnessing.”

The Greatest Gift

Ben Okri (b. 1959), a Nigerian poet and novelist said, “One of the greatest gifts my father give me – unintentionally – was witnessing the courage with which he bore adversity.”  This gift can take many forms.  Jesus who felt a love for a rich ruler told him one thing he lacked.  He must go and sell his possessions, give them to the poor, and he would have treasure in heaven.  Then, come and follow him (Mk 10:21).

Athol Fugard (b. 1932), a South African playwright and novelist expressed his belief in witnessing, when he stated, “The act of witnessing is important to me; somebody’s got to tell the truth, you know what I mean?”  The truth isn’t always easy to accept.  In the case of the rich ruler, he left Jesus feeling sad, because he had many possessions he didn’t want to part with.

The Technological Age


Gone are the years when there wasn’t technology in societies.  Howard Schultz (b. 1953), a businessman explained, “We are witnessing a seismic change in consumer behavior.  That change is being brought about by technology and the access people have to information.”  It isn’t only access to information, but the interactive nature of technological devices is of concern.  Everyone has the potential to witness on social media.  This gift brings with it a special responsibility for our brothers and sisters in our communities.   

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Our Inner Fire

Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts.  Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.  The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.  It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
–Jas 3:5-6

Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar.  With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
–Isa 6:6-7

A Hong Kong and American actor Bruce Lee (1940–1973) wrote, “Love is like a friendship caught on fire.  In the beginning a flame, very pretty, often hot and fierce, but still only light and flickering.  As love grows older, our hearts mature and our love becomes as coals, deep burning and unquenchable.”  Who among us live with this consuming fire?  Who can live with this continual burning? (Isa 33:14).  Such a gift is from God.

Albert Schweitzer (1875–1965), a French-German theologian remarked, “In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out.  It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being.  We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”  These won’t be like worthless people who dig up evil with words that scorch the ground (Prov 16:27).  They are unlike the light of the wicked that goes out (Job 18:5), instead, their flames give light.

A Brilliant Flame

How should men and women live?  Boris Yeltsin (1931–2007), president of the Russian Federation, said, “A man must live like a great brilliant flame and burn as brightly as he can.  In the ends he burns out.  But this is far better than a mean little flame.”  While Nikola Tesla (1856–1943), a Serbian-American inventor amplified Yeltsin’s view further when he stated: “The spread of civilization may be likened to a fire; first, a feeble spark, then a mighty blaze, ever increasing in speed and power.”

Undoubtedly, a simple spark can have far-reaching effects.  Johan Lehrer (b. 1981), an author captured this phenomenon: “Creativity is a spark.  It can be excruciating when we’re rubbing two rocks together and getting nothing.  And it can be intensely satisfying when the flame catches and a new idea sweeps around the world.”

Success in Life

The Lord assures us that when we pass through waters, he’ll be with us.  Rivers won’t overflow. When we walk through fire, we won’t be scorched, nor, the flames burn us (Isa 43:2).  That’s how we’ll be successful in life.  Walter Peter (1839–1894), an English essayist showed us: “To burn always with this hard, gem-like flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life.”  And, Bernard Williams (1929–2003), an English philosopher recognized: “Talent is a flame.  Genius is a fire.”        

  

Friday, January 12, 2018

Believing

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
–1 Pet 1:8-9

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.  As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”
–Rom 10:9-11

An English writer and philosopher Gilbert K. Chesterton (1874–1936) wrote, “To love means loving the unlovable.  To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable.  Faith means believing the unbelievable.  Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.”  That’s why we labor and strive, for we have to put hope in the living God, who’s our savior, especially those that believe (1 Tim 4:10).  But how can we describe the challenges of our lives?  Maya Angelou (1928–2014), poet and civil rights activist said, “My life has been long, and believing that life loves the liver of it, I have dared to try many things, sometimes trembling, but daring still.”

False Idea

A philosopher and self-help author Wayne Dyer (1940–2015) remarked, “The ego is only an illusion, but a very influential one.  Letting the ego-illusion become your identity can prevent you from knowing your true self.  Ego, the false idea of believing that you are what you have or what you do, is a backwards way of assessing and living life.”  But Marina Abramovic (b. 1946), Yugoslavia-born performance artist was rather blunt about the ego: “Your ego can become an obstacle to your work.  If you start believing in your greatness, it is the death of your creativity.”

Keep On Believing

Angelina Maccarone (b. 1965), a German film director advised, “Just keep om going and keep believing in your own original vision, no matter what odds you have to overcome.  And especially don’t be stopped by your own fears.”  Her comments were echoed by Joel Osteen (b. 1963), pastor and televangelist who stated, “Why don’t you start believing that no matter what you have or haven’t done, that your best days are still out in front of you.”


The king of pop Elvis Presley (1935–1977), singer-songwriter agreed with Maccarone and Osteen when he talked about his dreams: “When I was a boy, I always saw myself as a hero in comic books and in movies.  I grew up believing this dream.”  Just look at the icon Presley became. And Isaiah 40:31 states, “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”   

Friday, January 5, 2018

Joy of Faith

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
–Jas 1:2-3

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
–1 Pet 1:8-9

A Dutch Catholic priest Henri Nouwen (1932–1996) wrote, “Each day holds a surprise.  But only if we expect it can we see, hear, or feel it when it comes to us.  Let’s not be afraid to receive each day’s surprise, whether it comes to us as sorrow or as joy.  It will open a new place in our hearts, a place where we can welcome new friends and celebrate more fully our shared humanity.”  May God of hope fill us with joy and peace.  We ought to trust him, so that we may overflow with the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom 15:13).

But such blessings may come through friends.  Charles R. Swindoll (b. 1934), an evangelical Christin pastor said, “I cannot imagine where I would be today were it not for that handful of friends who have given me a heart full of joy.  Let’s face it, friends make life a lot more fun.”

Our True Family

When we think about heaven we delight in knowing there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over the ninety-nine righteous persons who have no need to repent (Lk 15:7).  This is our promise with eternal life.  Richard Bach (b. 1936), an author explained, “The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life.”  Bach saw all people as God’s family.

What does this means regarding the environment in which we live?  Sharon Draper (b. 1948), a children’s writer and educator was certain:  “Perfect happiness is a beautiful sunset, the giggle of a grandchild, the first snowfall.  It’s the little things that make happy moments, not the grand events.”  It takes faith to truly appreciate nature.

Choose Life


The Psalmist says that anger lasts only a moment, but favor a lifetime.  He sees weeping staying only a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning (Ps 30:5).  Kevyn Aucoin (b. 1962), a make-up artist and photographer explained his choices:  “Today I choose life.  Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain … To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices – today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it.”  Much of Aucoin’s beliefs may be likened to acceptance of the best that Albert Einstein (1879–1955), a German-born physicist noted: “Joy in looking and comprehending is nature’s most beautiful gift.”