Excuses, excuses…

We women like to haggle or bargain. Biblical characters of the OT also bargained with God. Abraham tried to save his nephew Lot asking God how many righteous persons in the city of Sodom and Gomorrah should there be before He would be willing to spare these cities. Jacob wrestled with the angel of the Lord to ask for blessings. Today, I reviewed Moses’ bargain with God. He tried to argue himself out of the assignment God gave him.

Assignment: To lead the Israelites out of slavery from Egypt

Bargain: Moses asked many questions and gave God reasons why he was not fit for the job or why he might not succeed in his assignment. God gave him assurances and responses to each of his excuses.

Q1: Who am I? e.g. I’m nobody.

A1: “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”

Q2: “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

A2: “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”

“Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’

“This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.

God even told Moses exactly what to say, what to do, how the people will respond (both the Israelites and Pharaoh), what He will do, how He will make this mission successful.

Q3: “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?”

A3: miracle of the staff turning to snake, miracle of Moses’ becoming leprous and clean again, miracle of turning water from the Nile River into blood.

God was really patient with Moses. He answered each of Moses questions and the last one He gave 3 proofs in assurance instead of 1.

Q1: Who am i?

Q2: Who are you?

Q3: What if they do not believe me or listen to me?

Q4: Sorry Lord,  I’m not eloquent – slow in speech and tongue. not lawyer material to win an argument. hmmmm.. after so many questions he gave God…it’s back to Who am I? What can I do? I am not qualified!

A4: “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” (God replied Moses with Who He is… He is the Creator of man – his mouth, ears, tongue, eyes.

One last bargain… “Lord, please send someone else.”

14 Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses and he said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and he will be glad to see you. 15 You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do. 16 He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him. 17 But take this staff in your hand so you can perform the signs with it.”

Amazing, isn’t it? When God calls, He persists. He enables. He assures. He is patient with our excuses. He will not let us get away with excuses.

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Reflections:

1) How often do i bargain with God about what i was given to do?

2) What excuses do I have? Not qualified? (issues of self-identity) Not from God (issues of God’s identity) Obstacles/Objections from the people (issues of people’s responses)

When God calls, He equips. God does not call the equipped. He equips the called.  God gives assurance through his Word. God enables through his people. He sends us people to help us accomplish his purpose.

God keeps His promises. His Word always comes true. His purpose will never be thwarted. He will bring everything to pass.

Bottomline: It’s not about me – it’s about Him!

More excuses?! I rest my case. So be it, God.

“God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.”― James Hudson Taylor

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To forgive and forget… mission impossible?

Forgive and forget?

Which is more difficult to forgive or to forget? How about doing something good for the one who offended you even when you really do not feel like forgiving? Which comes first forgiveness or act of kindness? Or is it about forgetting? I forget, then I forgive then I show kindness? Simple… or is it?

In the Bible, Joseph exemplified how it is to forgive and not forget.  Joseph forgave his brothers for selling him into slavery, even though he suffered greatly in exile far away from family. (Genesis 45)

Genesis 50

15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong which we did to him!”

After their father, Jacob died, the brothers were worried that Joseph would take revenge and harm them. Implication: the extent of guilt these brothers had for what they did to Joseph – they could not get over it even almost 4 decades after their act of betrayal. They sold Joseph into slavery when he was 17 years old. Joseph became powerful at 30. The famine in the land started 7 years after Pharaoh promoted Joseph to a position of power. The family of Joseph moved to Egypt in the 2nd year of the famine when it was severe in the land. Jacob, (Joseph was probably 39.) Joseph’s father lived 17 years more after he moved to Egypt. From the time Joseph was sold into slavery until his father died was probably a span of 40 years.  Joseph forgave his brothers and provided for them all through the time since they moved to Egypt.  Yet when their father died, the brothers worried that Joseph would take revenge on them.

16 So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father charged before he died, saying, 17 ‘Thus you shall say to Joseph, “Please forgive, I beg you, the transgression of your brothers and their sin, for they did you wrong.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.”

Hiding behind their father… these brothers thought that Joseph forgave them on account of their father – because Joseph didn’t want to cause his father any more grief. The brothers could not believe Joseph’s forgiveness – they thought Joseph would surely avenge the sufferings they caused him. But how did Joseph respond?

17b And Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 Then his brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” 19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. 21 So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

Joseph’s responses:

He cried. He seemed to be constantly crying every time he’s confronted with his brothers’ fear of his possible retaliation. v. 17b

He comforted them. v. 21 How? Do not be afraid… don’t worry, I will not harm you. I will even provide for you and even for your children and grandchildren.

He was really kind – in word and in deed. It is really a level up in the lesson on forgiveness – not passive but active forgiveness.

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Bottom line: How did he do that? How could he be so kind to the people who caused him so much suffering and pain?

Again the Godly perspectives…

Am I in God’s place? v. 19 Joseph knew his place. He is not God. It is not up to him to punish the wrong.

As for you, you meant evil against me, BUT GOD meant it for good… v. 20

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Joseph looked backward then forward. He acknowledged that his brothers meant to harm him because of envy. Yet he saw how God worked to bring salvation for his family – how God helped him in the journey to save many lives during the famine.

To forgive and not forget but to show kindness even… this is the ultimate Godly perspective. Mission possible? Yes, and only through the lens of Godly perspective.

Am I in God’s place? God meant it for good.  So each time when I find it hard to forgive, let me ponder: Am I in God’s place? Do I take revenge to avenge the grievances done to me? What good can I draw from the not so good situation? God meant it for good – for me to learn something in the experience. Let me forgive and not forget.

 

Love and Respect: Key ingredients in marriage

Many years ago, hubby and I went on motorbike ride in the woods.. somewhere in the west coast of U.S. It was our first and last time. I remember we went with his friend who was our tour guide on that trip. I knew hubby had never been on a bike before. The trail in the woods was rough and uneven. I confess that I wanted to ride with his friend instead. But no, I was stuck with him. Seriously, I rode with him because I know as a wife, I have to.. through thick and thin, even when we might fall. I have to trust him to manage so we both stay on the bike. Yes, we did. Even though we stalled and there was a short stop, we didn’t fall off the bike or land on our butt.

My point is as a wife, I need to follow my husband’s lead. Even though many times, I do not agree with him, God is teaching me lessons of love and respect, submission and humility. Through 30 years of this marital journey, we are learning how to love and respect each other.

Oftentimes, pride is my downfall. If only, I shut up or bite my tongue. If I did not indulge in the momentary pleasure of giving him a piece of my mind. He used to say that I provoked him. But why was he so easily provoked? I learned that nothing upset him more than questioning his authority. And so God is teaching me until today, what it means to submit. Submission is not subversion nor is it about suppression. It is not enslaving myself to oppressive authority. Submission is giving deference to his authority as head of the family. He is the leader in our home. He needs me to give him respect. When I do not agree with him, I need to tame my tongue and learn the art of respectful conversation. It is not easy. I often failed. In the heat of the argument, the tone and the words came out unpleasant and often resulted in cold war… and only after the battle of who’s got the last say! It might be him but with me boiling/steaming angry inside.

And so I am still a work-in-progress. God gives me opportunities to practice. Practice makes perfect. By the transformative power of the Holy Spirit, children of God are called to sanctification – a process of being more and more like Jesus. It does not end until our last breath on earth. It is not a smooth road of pure success and no struggle. It is not by might nor by power, but only by My Spirit, says the Lord.

And so dear fellow travellers on this similar journey, let us draw encouragement to obey God in making our marriage a God-honoring offering:
Husbands, love your wife. Wives, respect your husband.

Holy, Holy, Holy

Why be holy? Who cares? Holy is such a perfect word. No one is perfect.

Why be holy? ‘You shall be holy, For I the LORD your God am holy.’ Lev. 19:2 Be holy because the LORD our God is holy. God cares.

In Leviticus 19, 11 times it is mentioned: “I am the LORD your God.” or “your God. I am the LORD.” vv.2,3,4,10,12,14,25,31,32,34,36

5 times “I am the LORD.” vv.15,18,28,30,37

Easy English Bible Dictionary definitions:

LORD ~ a special name for God that his people use. He will do what he has promised them. That is what this name means.

LORD ~ a special name for God that his people use. It is the covenant name of God. In Hebrew it is Yahweh or Jehovah .

LORD ~ the special name that God gave for himself to the Jews in the Old Testament. Do not confuse it with ‘Lord’. Lord can be a word for any person that we obey.

All the laws in the OT are about living according to the 2 great commandments of relationships: Love God and love neighbor.

We are to love the Lord our God because He created us to have a relationship with us. He is the covenantal God – the God who initiates to enter into a binding agreement with his people.

From Theopedia.com

Classically, covenants are between nations or other powerful groups (for example, 1 Samuel 11:1; Joshua 9:6,15). At the international level they usually involve an alliance between two unequal parties – the stronger one pledging protection and help to the weaker in return for some form of vassal status (as in vassal treaties).

This is similar to the biblical picture of God’s relationship with his people, except that the inequality between the parties (Creator and creatures) is absolute. It is always made clear that the initiative is God’s – that He makes covenants with his people and not vice versa. God initiates, confirms and even fulfills (ultimately in Christ, both sides of) the covenant.

1) How to love God: Keep the Lord’s Sabbath v.3; do not turn to idols v.4; not misuse the name of the Lord v.12; do not turn to spiritists/mediums v.31. We show our love through obedience to His command. What is His command? To love Him. It’s like chicken and egg, doesn’t it? Love to obey, obey to love. v.37

2) How to love neighbor:

1) show reverence for our parents v. 3

2) help the needy and the stranger v.9-10;

3) do not steal, cheat or lie to one another. v.11

4) do not oppress or rob those who depend on you for a living. v.13 do not withhold their wages.

5) do not oppress or take advantage of the handicapped – the deaf or the blind or the marginalized or powerless people. v.14

6) be fair and just – do not look down on the poor and give special treatment to the great. v.15

7) do not slander (falsely accuse or defame or say untrue things of them) v.16

8) do not kill v.16

9) not to hate. We may reprove (tell him/her of her wrong) but we shall not sin – do something wrong to him/her. v. 17 which brings us to the next verse

10) not to revenge or bear any grudge (to forgive) v.18

11) to respect and honor the elderly v.32

12) to help the stranger or alien (rationale: the Israelites were also aliens in Egypt.) they were to treat others because they knew how it was to be alien.

Bottom line: God is holy. I must be holy. He is just. I must be just. He loves me. I ought to love my neighbor. Yes, it is not an easy – to be holy. But my God is the LORD – the God of covenant – who enters into an agreement with me – to live in a relationship with my neighbors and me. He keeps His promises. He will help me do my part.

Leviticus 19

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 2 “Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy. 3 Every one of you shall reverence his mother and his father, and you shall keep My Sabbaths; I am the Lord your God. 4 Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves molten gods; I am the Lord your God.

9 ‘Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the Lord your God.

11 ‘You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another. 12 You shall not swear falsely by My name, so as to profane the name of your God; I am the Lord.

13 ‘You shall not oppress your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of a hired man are not to remain with you all night until morning. 14 You shall not curse a deaf man, nor place a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall revere your God; I am the Lord.

15 ‘You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly. 16 You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor; I am the Lord.

17 ‘You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.

32 ‘You shall rise up before the gray headed and honor the aged, and you shall revere your God; I am the Lord.

33 ‘When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. 34 The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.

35 ‘You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measurement of weight, or capacity. 36 You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin; I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from the land of Egypt. 37 You shall thus observe all My statutes and all My ordinances and do them; I am the Lord.’”

The Story of the 3 Little Pigs

Matthew 7:24-27 reminds me of a children’s story – the story of the 3 little pigs.

There were 3 little pigs who each built their house with some materials. The first little pig built his house out of straw because it was the easiest thing to do.
The second little pig built his house out of sticks. This was a little bit stronger than a straw house. The third little pig built his house out of bricks.

One night the big bad wolf, who dearly loved to eat fat little piggies, came along and saw the first little pig in his house of straw. He said “Let me in, Let me in, little pig or I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house in!”
“Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin”, said the little pig.
But of course the wolf did blow the house in and ate the first little pig.
And we all know this happened to the 2nd pig as well who built his house with sticks and the only one who survived was the 3rd pig who built his house with bricks.

Moral of the story: Reading the Bible and not doing what it says is like the 1st and the 2nd pig, building houses with flimsy materials; like building on sand; on uselessly weak foundation. When trials, challenges and difficulties come, those who read without practicing will fall like houses tossed from strong rains and storm. Let us be wise builders who practice what the word of God tells us to do. When the storm come, we will then stand firm.

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

God’s Word is not the miracle cure that we take to solve our problem when crisis strike. We need to read the Bible as our daily vitamin, to fortify our health and help us be strong when sickness strikes. Aside from just reading, we need daily practice to get it into our system. His Word should permeate each moment of our daily lives for it to be effective. When troubles come, when the storms and challenges of life come knocking, God’s Word becomes our shelter in the storm. His promises help us stand firm and not be swayed by the huge waves and strong winds. It is like standing on foundation of bricks – a foundation that is not easily blown as those of straws and sticks.

Which kind of little pig are you, my friend? Are you building on sand or on the rock?  Read God’s Word and discover what a sure foundation it is for living!

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To worry or not to worry…

Have you experienced tossing and turning in bed unable to sleep? Why so? Are you worried about something? Is life too hard for you? I also had sleepless nights because I was anxious and afraid. I know what it’s like to toss and turn because I worry. It was horrible – to feel my whole body charged with electric current from sleepless nights. I was on the verge of breakdown. Through the years, I learned and am still learning Jesus’ antidote to worry.

I will name this list: Questions to ask when you are worried and answers to seek to stop worrying…

Matthew 6
25 “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

(For this reason… what reason? Refer to the passage before this. In vv. 19-24, Jesus talked about wealth and money matters.
1) Earthly wealth is temporal – houses rot, cars break down, money can be stolen. v. 19
2) Value the things that are eternal – treasures in heaven last. They cannot be stolen, and destroyed. Love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness.. Kind words, good deeds, obeying God’s command to love Him and love our neighbours.. These are priceless with no expiration date. v. 20
3) Where our treasure is, there our heart is also: we pursue what our heart considered as valuable. Where is your heart? What is your treasure? v.21
4) Light and darkness: We see clearly in the light. Do our eyes see the light? Or are we in darkness? v.22-23
5) God or money: which one for you? Choose one only… it cannot be both because if I love money, God becomes second.
So for ‘all of the above’ reason, we should not worry about life: eating and drinking. All these entail money, right? If we worry about these, we are basically worrying about money matters.

Q1: IS NOT LIFE MORE THAN food and the body more than clothing?
To ponder: What is life about? Why am I who I am, where I am? What for?

26 Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?
Q2: ARE YOU NOT WORTH MUCH MORE? than what? the birds of the air.. they do not work for their food. How do they live? Our heavenly Father gives them food.
To ponder: What is your worth? Where do you find your worth? In financial security? In social affirmation? In personal achievement?

27 And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?
Q3: CAN WORRY SOLVE THE PROBLEM?
To ponder: If I worry, does it make time jump over the stuff I fret about? Does it make it go slower to the day I dread for it? Or will worry make it go faster or quicker – make the journey to recovery shorter?

28 And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! 31 Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’
Q4: Why am I worried?
To ponder: When I worry, am I helping God along? Or do I think I can do better – than how He can provide? Solomon was very rich yet the lilies of the field are clothed more gloriously than he was.
Again, how do I compare myself with the grass of the field in God’s eyes? When I worry, is it because I do not trust God to provide for me?

32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
Implication: When I worry, I am eagerly seeking the things that Gentiles (those who do not know God) seek. What are these things? Eating, drinking, clothing… again money matters, right?

33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you
The antidote to worry is to seek God – put Him first – go after the things that matter to Him – His kingdom and His righteousness. How? Find out when you read the Bible – all that He wants for His children are found in His word.

And the promise is that ‘all these things’ – all the things that you worry about needlessly, these will be ‘added’ (implication: added means it’s on top of God’s kingdom and His righteousness.. more than earthly treasures, seek the heavenly treasures.)

Finally, I want to share my favourite verse, my antidote to finding the desires of my heart:
Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)

When I seek after God, when I like what God likes, surely, He will grant me my desires, will He not?! So why should I worry?

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When the bad and the sad linger…

I have learned and am still learning that God allows many challenges to go on in my life until I learn my lessons from them. One example is my dh (domestic helper) issue. For more than half of my life, the ‘tiny’ (not so tiny at times) thorn in my side is anxiety about maids. Not that I no longer have dh concerns but I no longer fret as much. I learned through the years that God wants me to depend on him. God let me witnessed how he provided just in time (many times) when I let go and let God. I also learned patience – in forgiveness for their wrongs and in persistence to teach them right.

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Another reason for enduring and persevering in trials and difficulties is so I can be a credible witness and companion to the people going through similar circumstances. I testify to how God embraced me when I was going through cancer treatment. Friends with the big ‘C’ know I speak from my own experiences. I can empathize with people going through depression. I share my weaknesses with those who are going through midlife crisis. I know how it was to experience ‘the dark night of the soul.’

Ultimately, one truth I hang on to when the road is long and the way is dark, God will see me through. He is behind me, beside me, over me and in front of me leading me to the light.05d2c8cdb39ba3607276b88cf94c2d7e--godly-quotes-bible-quotes

Are you tired and weary going through difficult times? Hang on and hold tight. Hold on with faith, walk on in hope and hang on to the love of God which is beyond what we can imagine.