Two Gardens

July 31, 2015 § Leave a comment

Not only am I super behind on the Sabbath School lessons (I’m just finishing last quarterly’s), but I haven’t posted on this blog in a long while. There are a few reasons for this, one is because I’ve been doing so many things and have been busy (which is probably the lamest excuse of all time since I had time to go on Pinterest all day among other things) and the other is, probably most importantly, I’ve had a bit of a dip in my spiritual life, mainly not studying the Bible or focusing my energy during my devotions. It’s also been tough to put my full trust in Him, tougher than it’s been in the past to be honest.

My last post was in October of last year, and since then, I’ve finished my Junior fall semester, studied abroad in Spain, traveled quite a bit around Europe, and started an internship in Texas. I’ve been moving around a lot, most often by myself. Studying abroad was the first time I’d ever been away from my parents for a long period of time with no way to immediately go back home. I was away from my family, friends, and spiritual community (not necessarily mutually exclusive) in a country where I was speaking a second language and largely by myself. I remember thinking before leaving that going somewhere where there aren’t any distractions and where I’m forced to be introspective would be good for both my spiritual and mental growth. I could have a lot of time to spend time with God and essentially get to know Him better than I did before.

Unfortunately, I was distracted. I had thoughts that I wanted to study more and post, but I only half-finished them. I was also rather lonely. Of course I made friends, in fact my host family and roommate knew about my “church crew” and how I would eat lunch with them every Sabbath or travel with them on random weekends. And don’t get me wrong, they were wonderful, but I still felt spiritually malnourished. During the week since I largely only went on campus for class and then came back home to read, eat, or blog. Loneliness dominated a lot of my time abroad, and I drew back from others, myself, and God. I felt farther and farther away from Him and I didn’t know how to get back.

Even now, I’m still not sure. Thankfully here in Texas, He lead me to an awesome young adult group that meets each week for prayer and generally lifts each other up spiritually. It was honestly a breath of fresh air after essentially walking on my spiritual journey alone and with very little support in Spain. And I’m praying I can keep dedicating each day to learning a little more about Him and taking out things that distract me from that spiritual growth.

But on to the study that I wanted to write about. This was from last lesson from the last quarterly during the week of June 20-27. The whole quarter focused on the book of Luke as well as drawing some clarifications from other Gospels and Christian writers. I actually really enjoyed that quarter, the author asked questions that gave me pause where the reasonings weren’t exactly obvious.

So, two gardens. Both are important in our history; where the inhabitants of the first failed, the occupant of the second triumphed. One witnessed the birth of sin in our world, and the other witnessed the beginnings of the victory over sin. Both occupants were presented the choice to go against God’s will. In the case of Adam and Eve, they were tempted to become like God, to uplift themselves, and they selfishly tried to do so. They were blinded by pride and saw that “the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise”; first Eve was deceived, and then Adam, who was also blinded by his selfish desires (Genesis 3:6). They disobeyed God and sinned, and as we know both from Genesis 2:16-17 and Romans 6:23, sin’s result is death. When Eve ate the fruit, it was Adam’s duty to sacrifice himself for the life of his wife. Instead, he joined her in disobeying God’s word and ate the fruit as well. They both deviated from God’s will and doubted His word and as a result, were separated from Him completely.

Fast forward to the second garden, the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus is praying right before His betrayer comes. He knows that what’s coming next is going to be the most difficult ordeal of His life; hours of suffering, mocking, and even further, separation from the Father that He’s walked with His entire life. So He uses these last few moments to connect with His Father, and ask if there is another way to save the human race. With the next few hours on His mind, He seeks the comfort of His friends, but even they have abandoned Him for sleep. So He goes through His agony alone, continuing to connect with and plead with His Father. In the end, He says, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done”; He submits to God’s will, and goes forward with the plan of salvation (Luke 22:42).

There was one main thing I got from this. We need to stay connected to God to resist temptation. And not just in the moment of temptation or trial, but well before. Christ spent those 30+ years before the Garden of Gethsemane communing with God and submitting to His will. It’s not like He lived a life of indifference or rebellion before flipping a switch when it mattered most and then suddenly started paying attention to God’s will. I’m sure if Adam and Eve left that tree completely, remembered God’s words, and didn’t even entertain the serpent, they would have resisted temptation, and who knows where our world would be now. That constant connection is crucial for maintaining and improving our relationship with God, even when we’re alone, away from family, friends, and spiritual community. If we feel spiritually dead at some point in our lives, we should of course look at our current circumstances, but don’t forget what came right before, because that most likely has a greater bearing on where we are spiritually. So as Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you“. These little things combined with regular study and regular time with God can keep us connected with Him in those little moments, and those little moments can prepare us for those bigger, tougher moments when we most need it.

I’ll end with one of my favorite hymns, In the Garden. It’s very much a song that’s a prayer and a hope. It’s one that regularly gives me comfort, knowing that I can spend time with God and that He wants to spend time with me.

I come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses,
And the voice I hear, falling on my ear,
The Son of God discloses.
And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own,
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

He speaks, and the sound of His voice,
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me,
Within my heart is ringing.
And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own,
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

I’d stay in the garden with Him,
Tho’ the night around me be falling,
But He bids me go, thro’ the voice of woe,
His voice to me is calling.
And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own,
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

(Apologies for the super long post. I just needed to get this off my chest, and I wasn’t going to be able to go to sleep without finishing and posting this first.)

Being Like Christ

October 23, 2014 § Leave a comment

Abigail is one of my favorite female Bible characters. She has a wonderful character, is kind, is gracious, and is the complete opposite of her foolish husband. We see her godly nature in her brief record in 1 Samuel 25:2-42.

The story unfolds as follows: David has come to Nabal’s house on a feast day, and because of the kindness his servants bestowed on Nabal’s servants (as well as, I assume, because of a culture of hospitality), David expects to dine with Nabal on this feast day. According to verse 2, Nabal is “was very rich. He had three thousand sheep and a thousand goats.” (I Samuel 25:2 NKJV). He certainly had enough food to feed his household and David’s entourage. Yet, he is described as “harsh and evil in his doings” and even his name means fool (I Samuel 25:3 NKJV). Therefore, he answers David’s kind request with a harsh answer; “Then Nabal answered David’s servants, and said,

“Who is David, and who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants nowadays who break away each one from his master. Shall I then take my bread and my water and my meat that I have killed for my shearers, and give it to men when I do not know where they are from?” (I Samuel 25:10, 11 NKJV).

His selfishness almost brings about his ruin and his death, for David became so angry that he rallied his men to get ready for war against Nabal.

Thankfully, the story does not end with massive amounts of bloodshed. A young servant, perhaps knowing of Abigail’s godly character, tells her of David’s intentions due to Nabal’s foolishness. He defends David’s request because David’s servants had shown kindness to him and his fellow servants; he says,

“Look, David sent messengers from the wilderness to greet our master; and he reviled them. But the men were very good to us, and we were not hurt, nor did we miss anything as long as we accompanied them, when we were in the fields. They were a wall to us both by night and day, all the time we were with them keeping the sheep. Now therefore, know and consider what you will do, for harm is determined against our master and against all his household. For he is such a scoundrel that one cannot speak to him.” (I Samuel 25:14-17 NKJV).

Abigail, in her wisdom and kindness, hastily set up a feast as a peace offering to David and rode to where he was. And she arrived right on time, for David had said that because Nabal repaid him evil for good, he would not leave one man alive in the household. But here comes Abigail who, once she sees the king, falls prostrate before him and asks him for his pardon.

Now, she does something interesting in asking for David’s forgiveness; she asks him to place her husband’s iniquity on herself. She knows that Nabal is his namesake, a fool, and she wishes that she had met David first. I wanted to focus on this first part of her address to David because it reminds me so much of the plan of salvation. Are we humans not fools? Full of sin? Often repaying evil for good? Just as Nabal thinks that he can slight David although he has provided protection to his house, we think that we can slight God and ignore the blessings that He has given us. In our sin, we deserve to die. Note that God is not looking to punish us for our sins, but He is a God of justice. According to Romans 6:23, the result of sin is death. But the verse doesn’t end there; it continues to say that “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Jesus says to God, “Let their iniquities fall on Me. I’ll die the death that they should that may live eternally with you.” It is through Jesus that we can have eternal life. Abigail took on this role of intercessor and gave Nabal the opportunity to humble himself and live. David accepted her request for pardon and rescinded his previous statement on killing all the males in Nabal’s house.

With this good news, Abigail went back home tell Nabal of how David decided to spare his life. What does she find? Nabal feasting like a king and drinking to excess. Because of his drunkenness, Abigail didn’t tell him the news until the next morning. When she told him, “his heart died within him, and he became like a stone. Then it happened, after about ten days, that the LORD struck Nabal, and he died.” (‭I Samuel‬ ‭25‬:‭37-38‬ NKJV). Nabal was feasting perhaps because he thought he was safe from David’s wrath. It was only when Abigail told him how close he and every male in his house was to death, his pride took a fall and his heart failed him. The consequences of his previous actions had caught up to him, and because of his foolishness, he died within ten days.

Abigail embodies the character of Christ in how she humbles herself before David and intercedes for her husband. Nabal elevated himself to his ruin while Abigail humbled herself to her exaltation (she later became David’s wife). Didn’t Christ humble Himself as well when He died for our sins? He thought nothing of Himself while on the cross, but He only thought of saving us.

Lastly I’d like to leave you with this quote from Daughters of God by Ellen White:

“In the character of Abigail, the wife of Nabal, we have an illustration of womanhood after the order of Christ, while her husband illustrates what a man may become who yields himself to the control of Satan.”

When we have a character like Christ’s, God will lift us up. And I pray that we can all live a Christ-like life.

The Spiritual Journey of Mary Magdalene

June 5, 2014 § Leave a comment

Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” (Matthew 26:13 NKJV)
Mary Magdalene is an interesting character. In every gospel, she is mentioned by name in some way, shape, or form relating to Christ. Her spiritual journey is chronicled in the Gospels, from when she is caught in sin to when she receives redemption. Her journey is one that is shared by many, whether exactly or generally, and through her journey, we see the steps of our own spiritual journey.

The verse quoted above is from Jesus speaking while at Simon’s, who was a Pharisee, house. Mary had just anointed Jesus’s feet; many were in dissension with her act, but Jesus, seeing her love and worship defends her. But this is not where we first see Mary. We first see her being dragged against her will to Jesus, for she had been caught in the act of adultery and the Pharisees wanted to know what Christ would do with her. They said, “’Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?’ This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him.” (John 8:4-6 NKJV). The Pharisees had no love for Mary. They didn’t want to see her redeemed and quitting her life of sin. They only sought to condemn her in order to magnify themselves and attempt to accuse Jesus. The trick was this: if Christ said to stone her, they would have questioned reputation of being forgiving and loving. Had he told them to spare her, they would have accused Him of going against Moses’s law and that would be punishable. But Christ did something remarkable; “But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear. So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” (John 8:6, 7 NKJV). Although the Bible is silent on what Christ was writing, tradition says that Christ was writing the sins of the Pharisees in the dirt. In this encounter Christ exercised mercy to one who should have been stoned, and He exposed the hypocrisy and self-righteousness of the Pharisees.

Mary is introduced to Jesus and her first experience with Him is mercy. Isn’t that usually how we first meet Him right before we accept Him? Think for a second on how you first realized just who Jesus is and what He did for you. That moment could have been during a Bible study or when someone gave you a tract. And it need not be a first time introduction. For example. I’ve been Seventh-day Adventist for nearly all my life, and I feel like I didn’t realize who Christ is until I came to college. Regardless of how we meet Him, we see how sinful our lives are in comparison with His righteousness. But in spite of our sins, He shows us mercy, and our awe of him begins to grow.

Of course, Mary did not become perfect in that initial meeting of Christ. She still had her faults. In Matthew 26 and Luke 7, we see the accounts of the anointing at Bethany. Mary desired to worship and show her love to the One who had forgiven her of her sins, therefore, she bought the most expensive fragrant oil she could buy to anoint Jesus with. After anointing Him by pouring the oil on His head, she bowed at His feet and was so overcome with emotion that she wept. With her tears she wet His feet, and with her hair she dried them. This was Mary’s act of worship, her manifestation of her love for Christ. Yet those around her smirked and scolded her for buying such a costly item when she could have given the money to the poor. But Jesus saw her love and said, “Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me.” (Matthew 26:10 KJV). Again, when everyone around Mary was condemning her, she found love and mercy in Jesus. He extended forgiveness to her and she went on her away with strength and reassurance.

Notice that this is the second time that Jesus forgives Mary of her sins. In the next chapter, Luke 8, the Bible says, “And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils.” (Luke 8:2 KJV). To give further explanation on the importance of this fact, turn to Matthew 12; “When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.” (Matthew 12:43-45 KJV). Mary fell back into sin multiple times, some times may have been worse than others. But she came back to Christ each time and He healed and forgave her. Such an action is a lesson for us; the best thing for us to do when we are ensnared by sin is run towards Jesus, not to run from Him. She and other women continued to minister to Him (Luke 8:1-2), and whenever He visited Bethany, Mary made sure to sit at His feet, regardless of her sister Martha’s scoldings (Luke 10:38-42). In this stage, Mary is growing her relationship with Christ. She is in His presence as much as she can be, she listens to Him, and drinks His every word; she has found “that good part, which will not be taken away from her”. When we run towards Jesus and experience His love for us, we desire to be with Him more and more. We want to keep listening to Him even though others mock us. We long for the Sabbath hours to be a little bit longer so we can bask in His presence. Such is our growth in Christ when we keeping running to Him, seeking forgiveness and love.

The last time we see Mary Magdalene is at Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. In every single Gospel, there is some mention of Mary, whether specifically or generally, at the scene of the crucifixion; the scriptures are Matt. 27:55-56, Mark 15:40-41, Luke 23:49, and John 19:25. She was with Christ from the time she met Him until He rose from the dead. In fact, in her sadness at His death, she was the first one at the tomb on Sunday morning. After resting on the Sabbath the day before, she hurried to His tomb to perform the last burial preparations. But, of course, the stone was rolled away, the tomb was empty, and Christ revealed Himself to Mary. Thinking that someone had stolen His body, she was distressed and mistook the resurrected Jesus for a gardener. But not until He had said her name did Mary recognize who it was, for who else had could say her name with such love and compassion? Jesus first revealed Himself to a once broken woman who was still getting to know Him. Not to His disciples or to the religious leaders or the Roman guards. But to one whom society deemed unworthy to touch Him, to one who truly worshipped Him with mockers all around her. Seeing Christ’s love for her is beautiful, and to know that He loves us the same way is more beautiful still. This may be the last time we see Mary, but it is by no means the end of her spiritual journey. She is human, and I’m sure she continued to fall and continued to run towards Christ for all her life. But that’s what a spiritual journey is, it’s one that never ends. We constantly learn more about Christ and keep getting ever closer to Him. And when Christ comes again to take us to our heavenly home, we will have eternity to continue our never-ending journeys and to get know God. Personally, I can’t wait to continue getting to know Him face-to-face.

 

Diligence

February 9, 2014 § Leave a comment

As a college student, sometimes I struggle with time management, and I know many of my peers do as well. Being diligent is not something achieved overnight neither is it something easy to achieve. When you’re taking six classes, being a leader for two groups, wanting a social life and good grades and enough sleep, it can be difficult to use your time wisely. I thank God that He gave me the strength to be diligent last year and continues to do so this year, but there are times when I fail. I’m human. I procrastinate, I waste time, I do things I probably shouldn’t be doing in the time allotted to me.

To further encourage myself and others to be diligent, I looked to the Bible. Now, I would be fully justified in spouting off tons of things that you should do to manage your time wisely from downloading Wunderlist (which is a great app, I recommend it), to keeping a calendar, to not over-booking yourself. And these things are definitely useful to know. But really trying to understand and apply a Biblical foundation to diligence would make being diligent all the better.

I thought two Bible characters in particular would help illustrate this concept of diligence well: Joseph and Daniel. This study will be from Genesis 39:1-6, 20-23 and Daniel 1:8-21. Their stories are very similar. Just for a bit of context, Joseph has just been sold by his brothers into slavery because of their jealousy. He has been sold into Potiphar’s house. In Daniel’s case, Jerusalem has been besieged by King Nebuchadnezzar, and he has taken the noble young men into his court to be educated in the ways of the Babylonians. Both were taken into captivity, and both exercised diligence in their respective situations.

There are four points I want to make. They are four similarities between the two stories and they can be applied to our lives, whether we are students or professionals or just people who want to manage our time wisely.

1. Make the decision and start (early)

Daniel 1:8 – But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. (Daniel 1:8 KJV)

Not much will get done until you consciously and seriously make the decision to make the most of your time honor God through it. Of course we don’t want to make the effort to do certain things because we want to take it easy. But choosing not to procrastinate or delay in what you need to do is the first step to managing your time wisely. And with God we can actually go about being diligent. Although we only get an explicit verse from Daniel, we can assume that Joseph also made an early decision. Both were taken into captivity into a nation that didn’t serve God. And the journey was long, perfect for thought. Both had every right to choose early on to assimilate to the customs of the country they were going to or to be bitter towards their captors or be mediocre in what they gave them. But they purposed in their heart to follow God and live their lives for His glory.

In terms if how to apply this to us students and young adults, start early on your assignments. Don’t just say that you will, but actually do it. Words without actions don’t mean anything. Starting your tasks is the first step to finishing it (obviously), and starting it soon will give you the momentum to keep working. For example, essays are the hardest thing for me to start. The hardest part is writing the introduction, the first paragraph. But even if you start with a thesis or the topic sentences or an outline, you’ll get the momentum to keep going.

2. Make the most of your time (do your best)

And the Lord was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand. And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand. And it came to pass from the time that he had made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the Lord was upon all that he had in the house, and in the field. And he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand; and he knew not ought he had, save the bread which he did eat. And Joseph was a goodly person, and well favored. (Genesis 39:2-6 KJV)

Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs. And the prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which are of your sort? then shall ye make me endanger my head to the king. Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink. Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king’s meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants. So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days. (Daniel 1:9-14 KJV)

Both Joseph and Daniel were in unfavorable situations, and it would have been understandable if they had complained or done a mediocre job. But they did neither. Despite the fact that they were in captivity, they made sure to do their very best and to keep God’s commandments. And of course, this was possible by allowing God to work through them. In each case, God worked with them, and their masters saw God working in them. Joseph was the best servant in the house of Potiphar because of his diligence in all that he did. He didn’t do a half job, but he did all he could to be in the favor of his master. Daniel and his friends could have gone against what they were taught at home as children. They could have succumbed to the luxuries and temptations offered to them in Babylon. But they made the most of their time by following God’s commandments throughout their captivity. It was hard, especially when those around them were not following God’s commandments. But they did their best during their respective situations.

For us, we naturally don’t like to work or put in a ton of effort. In fact, we’re sometimes willing to do more work to not put in as much effort (this sounds like it doesn’t make sense but it’s true). But using the time allocated for work by actually working is beneficial. You will give your best and no less than that. When you procrastinate or waste time, the quality of the work suffers. Not studying or working today might mean a mediocre performance or bad grade (not to mention high stress) for tomorrow. And that’s why I put start early as the first point. When you start early, you’ll have more time to do your best. You’ll have two weeks to finish that essay instead of two days, or fewer. You’ll be able to get feedback on your project or essay well before it’s due, and it will come out much better than if you had done it on your own.

3. There is a reward for diligence

And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand. And it came to pass from the time that he had made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the Lord was upon all that he had in the house, and in the field. And he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand; and he knew not ought he had, save the bread which he did eat. And Joseph was a goodly person, and well favoured. (Genesis 39:4-6 KJV).

But the Lord was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it. The keeper of the prison looked not to any thing that was under his hand; because the Lord was with him, and that which he did, the Lord made it to prosper. (Genesis 39:21-23 KJV)

As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. Now at the end of the days that the king had said he should bring them in, then the prince of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king. And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king enquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm. (Daniel 1:17-20 KJV)

In Joseph’s and Daniel’s case, they became high ranking officials and great in knowledge, stature, and wisdom. They had great influence, and because of their influence, they were later great assets in future events; namely, they were integral to the seven year famine and to the interpretation of dreams and other things. And these rewards have their place of course. But perhaps even more importantly, they were witnesses for God. Both Potiphar and the prison warden saw how God was working in Joseph. The bible is silent on God’s influence on their lives, but the fact still remains that God was brought into their lives through Joseph. The same is true for Daniel and his friends. They showed who God was to their captors, and their witness led to Nebuchadnezzar’s eventual conversion.

When we are diligent with our work, our reward may not be as dramatic as becoming the head of something. It may be something as simple as a good grade or a word of praise from your supervisor or pride in your work. But regardless, something rewarding will come from being diligent. And when others see how well we manage our time, that’s an opportunity to let them know how God is working with you to be diligent and to manage your time wisely. Just as in Joseph’s and in Daniel’s case, our lives will be effective witnesses for God.

4. Keep God at the center

And the Lord was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand. And it came to pass from the time that he had made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the Lord was upon all that he had in the house, and in the field. (Genesis 39:2, 3, 5 KJV)

Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs. (Daniel 1:9 KJV)

But the Lord was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison. The keeper of the prison looked not to any thing that was under his hand; because the Lord was with him, and that which he did, the Lord made it to prosper. (Genesis 39:21, 23 KJV).

Remember that everything you do should be done for God’s glory and should be according to His will. And it is only with Him that we can be good stewards of our time. God was kept at the center of Joseph’s and Daniel’s lives. Each time, we read that God was with them and lead them to their prosperity. And notice that in their time of prosperity, Joseph and Daniel gave glory to God, not to themselves. They credited God with interpreting the dreams and with their success. When tempted to sin, they asked their tempter, “how can I sin against God?”

On our own, we don’t have the strength to be diligent. Naturally, we don’t want to work, we naturally want to do things that are pleasing to us. And work isn’t pleasing. Only by keeping God at the center can we succeed in anything and be diligent in anything. And of course, we should remember that it is God who gives us everything we need to succeed. So once we see our success in diligence, we should give the glory to God for his strength that he gives us.

Lastly, I wanted to look at our Supreme Example, Christ. He is also diligent, and during His ministry, he used his time wisely. He embodies all four points.

1. Make the decision and start (early)

And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed. (Mark 1:35 KJV)

Christ started the day off early, and He started it speaking with God first and foremost.

2. Make the most of your time (do your best)

And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business? (Luke 2:46-49 KJV)

Christ had about 3 years for His ministry and he wasted no time in ministering. Even as a child He was preparing Himself for God’s work

3. There is a reward for diligence

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. (John 14:1-3 KJV)

And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. (Revelation 21:3, 4 KJV)

Christ’s sacrifice and diligence in doing God’s will results in Him spending eternity with His children. Sin won’t separate us from God because of Christ’s sacrifice.

4. Keep God at the center

Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. (Luke 22:42 KJV)

Throughout Christ’s ministry, we see how He put God’s work first, how He put His Father’s will before his own.

To conclude, we have examples of diligence in the Bible, and we can take those principles and apply them to our lives. My prayer is that as you seek to be diligent in all that you do, you also glorify God and keep Him at the center.

Psalm 61

January 23, 2014 § Leave a comment

“Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings. For you, God, have heard my vows; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name. Increase the days of the king’s life, his years for many generations. May he be enthroned in God’s presence forever; appoint your love and faithfulness to protect him. Then I will ever sing in praise of your name and fulfill my vows day after day.” (Psalm 61:1-8 NIV)

I read this psalm when I was feeling my lowest. It had been a difficult week full of obligations, responsibilities, homework, and constant interaction. My introverted, exhausted self just couldn’t handle it any more. I holed myself up in my room on that Friday night (I had decided not to go to vespers) and cried. I cried at my exhaustion, my constant running around, my need for relaxation. But the Sabbath was approaching and I couldn’t just not read God’s Word because I was feeling down. In fact, I knew having my own personal Bible study would take me out of that slump.

So I Googled “bible studies for depression” (don’t worry, I’m not depressed; I just knew that that search would give me comforting passages) and found Psalm 61. I recognized and could directly relate to the first verse. It was my plea to God as I was in my room.

I read the Psalm 61 a few times and took down observations, interpreted them, and applied the interpretations to my present situation. From the chapter, I received three main points:

1. When we are distressed, the best thing for us to do is to go to God. Only He can truly help us, only He can give us the strength we need to get through a tough time, and only He will never fail us. He can lead us to himself, a higher, stronger Rock, Jesus. But because He is not tangible, we forget that here is there to help us. We forget that it is He who first loved us and who has our best interests in mind. Of course, we have friends and family who care and who are more than willing to help. And they can indeed be sent from God to help us, so there’s no reason to disregard their care or love. But only God can work with our distress and give us the hope that we need, whether it is directly or indirectly from him.

2. We mustn’t forget about God’s goodness in our times of distress. When we are in tough times, we may be tempted to doubt God’s strength and goodness, maybe even curse God because of the hard times we’re going through. But even in those difficult times, praise should come out of our mouths. Remember Job? God saw his faithfulness and allowed Satan to test Job. All these calamities befell on Job and yet he still praised God. So remember to praise him for his goodness and his protection in the past and for his coming blessings, even when you’re in the midst of your hardest times.

3. Long to be in God’s presence. We should of course hope to be with Him eternally and live our lives preparing for that. But long to be with him right now. For he is all around us right now. He longs to dwell with us, we need only let him in. He longs to shelter us in His wings, we need only allow Him to. Sometimes, just knowing God is near and that He cares can be the most comforting thing in the world. But sometimes, for me definitely, I don’t feel Him near me. I know He’s there, I remember that He said that He will always be near, but because I don’t feel or see something tangible, I get discouraged and I feel lonely. It’s in those times that I cry out to God and ask Him to hear my prayer because my heart is growing faint. And then God gives me peace and comfort, and I praise Him for that peace. And now each time I feel discouraged, I know God can hear me, and I don’t hesitate to call out to Him because I know He will answer. But probably the best way to not have those discouraging times at all is to rely on God always and to put Him first in everything.

As I was reading this Psalm, I was especially reminded of the illustration of the footsteps in the sand. It’s a well-known story in Christian circles. In a dream, a man sees footprints in the sand as he sees scenes from his life. He notices that during the good times in his life, he sees two pairs of feet walking in the sand, but during the trying times of life, he only sees one pair. In disbelief, the man asks Jesus, “Why is it that during the hardest times in my life, You left me alone?” And Jesus replies, “My child, I didn’t leave you during your hardest times. For it is in those times that I carried you.” And remembering the Jesus carries us during this difficult times, knowing that God is there for us throughout our trials is so encouraging, especially for me.

With the Psalm and the reminders it gave, I hope and pray that those depressing moments become fewer and further between.

What is Love?

December 27, 2013 § 1 Comment

1 Corinthians 13

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

(1 Corinthians 13:1-13 NIV)

What is love? It’s an age-old question with a usually elaborate answer. In fact, there are many definitions for love. I just looked up the definition on dictionary.com and found about 28 entries on the definition of love. Love is an abstract concept, like trying to describe the taste of water. People say that even if you can’t describe it, you’ll know it when you feel it. It can be instantaneous, like the love a mother feels for her newborn child, or it can take years to form, like that between lovers or close friends. But what is love?

But here’s another definition that’s seldom thought about about when people think of love (it was actually the eighth entry on dictionary.com); “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:7, 8 NIV). I’ll repeat, God is love. He doesn’t just give love or show love or embody love. He is love. His very character is love. Everything He does is out of love.

Now, understanding that love is of God, let’s return to how we as humans should experience love. 1 Corinthians 13, aka the “love chapter”, is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. Recently, I’ve asked myself about love. For those that I say I love, whether out loud or in my head, do I really love them? Or is it just a nominal love? How do I know when I love someone romantically vs. platonically? Is there a change somewhere? Can someone tell that I’m “in love” before I even know? With all of these questions in tow, I was led to read 1 Corinthians 13, multiple times.

Paul starts out the love chapter by outlining the necessity of love. He described all these magnificent and heroic actions: giving all his possessions to the poor, having the gift of prophecy, suffering for His beliefs, even having enough faith to move mountains. But all of those things are meaningless without love. He would be useless noise, he would gain nothing, he would be nothing, if he does those things without love. And of course, it’s the same with us.

He then goes on to describe what love is. He doesn’t give one definition, but several definitions or characteristics of love. And it’s this part that helps to know if you truly love someone. Are you patient and kind to them? When it comes to that person, are you selfish or selfless? Do you easily anger when they do wrong, or hold grudges against them? Are your feelings fleeting or do they last in the midst if trouble? These questions can apply to romantic or platonic or familial love. In answering them, I saw my imperfect definition of love; I mostly thought of it just as a feeling, a feeling that comes during certain times. A feeling that’s only noticeable in certain, mostly favorable, circumstances. 

But it’s not just a feeling. It’s an action. It’s a mindset. 

It’s not just a funny feeling or butterflies in your stomach or a tolerance for someone’s presence or occasional gifts. It’s being patient, kind, selfless, forgiving, trusting, honoring, persevering, and protecting. That’s love. And because God is love, He displays all of these characteristics to His creation. He also calls us to love as He does (see 1 John 4:7-8). 

The third part in this passage is a bit confusing, at least to me. I remember that I would keep reading this passage to make sense of it. Paul seems to talk about something else besides love. But love is still in the background. Paul writes, “But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” He is saying that many things will pass away or will cease, but love won’t. What we do here on Earth we do in part, or without seeing the whole picture. We may not know how our actions influence others. We might not know just how much a small act if kindness affected someone until the “completeness comes”. As children, we demand attention and love. We are selfish in our actions and we want to be gratified now. But as we grow older, Paul encourages that we act as men and women who love selflessly and put selfish, childish ways behind us.

Paul ends the love chapter in a remarkable way, in my opinion. There are many virtues in this world, and Paul chooses to focus on three, faith, hope, and love. These three virtues are essential to the Christian life; you need faith in God, hope in His promises, and love for Him and for those around you. But love is the greatest. For it is with love that we have faith in God, that we trust in Him. And when we trust Him and know that He loves us unconditionally, we can hope for and claim His promises. Love is most important thing to have, and it leads to everything else.

So about those questions that I asked myself about love. An incomplete answer to them would be to analyze my intentions and motives for my actions and make sure they are selfless. A better answer would be to look at how God loves us and emulate that love, the agape love. And I have to admit, having shown agape love to people is quite wonderful.

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