Tag Archive | Life

A SAFE FEELING IN THE FATHER’S LOVE (guest post)

Today, the awareness of believers to be active in ministry is growing up.  In fact, some positions in ministry become something that is desired and proud of.  Whether we realize it or not, all activities in serving God has taken up a lot of time and energy, and is sometimes seen as more important than God himself.  As a result, many servants of God actually lose something more important and valuable. . . something from which the ministry comes out, that is a personal relationship with the God being served!

How important and valuable something is to us is reflected in how we treat it.

The Lord Jesus illustrated this through three parables in Luke chapter 15.  Jesus gave a parable about sheep, drachma and sons, which was important and valuable in the lives of the Jews at that time.  The number of sheep has indicates the amount of wealth and social rank, the drachma is the wage for one day, and the son is the successor to the descendants who continue the family inheritance.  When these things are gone, the owner will try to find it with all his efforts and will rejoice when he finds it back.

In the parable of the son in Luke 15: 11-32, the Lord Jesus tells the story of the father with his two sons, the younger and the older.  The younger asked for his inheritance, sold it all, then left and squandered his money to waste.  When he fell into poverty and hunger, he remembered his father and decided to go home.  His father, who had been waiting for him, immediately received him back and restored his position unconditionally, even holding a party to celebrate him.  The older was angry because he felt he had spent years to serve his father, work hard and tried to obey every command of his father, but was not heeded.  While his younger brother who acted poorly was welcomed in a special way.

Looking at verses 1 and 2, there are two groups of listeners in this parable.  The first group are tax collectors and sinners who usually come to hear Jesus’ teachings.  The second group are the Pharisees and the scribes.  The Younger is a depiction of tax collectors and sinners, while the older is a description of the scribes and Pharisees, those who feel they have done many things for God, feel they have done the right thing.

These two groups have in common, that is, they are not related to the father.  Naturally, if the younger loses relations with his father.  But what about the older?  How can a person who always stays in his father’s house, obeys orders and works hard in his father’s years, lose intimacy with his father?  It was seen from his reaction when he saw what his father had done to welcome his brother’s return.

“The older brother became ANGRY and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him.  But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders.  Yet you never gave me even A YOUNG GOAT so I could celebrate with my friends.  But when THIS SON OF YOURS who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill THE FATTENED CALF for him!’  (Luke 15: 28-30 NIV)

His first reaction was ANGRY.  He didn’t rejoice together with his father, even calling the younger as ‘THIS SON OF YOURS’, not ‘my brother’.  And, pay attention to the comparison of the words he uses, namely ‘THE FATTENED CALF’, which the father slaughtered for his younger brother, compared to ‘A YOUNG GOAT’ which according to him has never been given by his father to him, even though he has worked hard.  Implied envy and disappointment in his sentences.

Today, the older are people who know many of God’s words, are strict with various religious rules, and may be someone who is active in the ministry in the church, but unconsciously they have lost their personal relationship with the Father.  When we are easily triggered by anger, easily disappointed with God, disappointed with friends in the ministry, jealous of the blessings received by others, begin to measure what the Father should be given by what we have done in ministries, and lose love for others… maybe without us knowing we have lost our personal relationship with Heavenly Father.  Maybe we are the older who lost in the Father’s house.  Now is the time to return the position of our hearts to their proper place, which is in the presence of the Heavenly Father.

A ministry should come from the relationship between the child and Heavenly Father and be filled with the love of Christ.

A service that isn’t sourced from a relationship with Heavenly Father will only be an activity and busyness that will increasingly dry our spirituality.  When this happens, we will begin to calculate our efforts in God’s field and become disappointed when God doesn’t give us what we want.

THE PERFECT LOVE

Back to the parable of the prodigal son.  Does the Father love the younger more than the older, so the Father has a party to celebrate the return of the younger?  Or does the Father love the older because he is an obedient son who serves faithfully in the Father’s field?  The answer to both questions is NO.  The Father’s love is perfect love, not because of what we do or what we don’t, but because He loves us, as we are, even when we are sinners, so that He is willing to give His most precious possession, His Only Son, Jesus Christ.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5: 8 NIV) 

“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8: 32 NIV)

We are people who are loved by the Father.  Have “a safe feeling” in the Father’s love.  We must not think that we must “do this and not do that” so that we are more loved by the Father or that the Father will grant our prayers.  Instead, we should not assume that if our prayers are answered, it is because we have served, fasted, did good, and so on.  If the Father blesses or if our prayers are answered, it is because the Father loves us.  And… If the Father doesn’t fulfill our prayers, it’s also because the Father loves us.

Look at the younger.  When the younger back home, the father immediately restores his rights and status as sons and heirs, without the younger having to prove to the father by his actions in advance that he has repented.  There is no guarantee that he will no longer do shameful things to his father.  That is the love of the Father, that is the perfect love, the unconditional love.

A REFLECTION OF LIFE

The younger and the older are both losing relations and intimacy with the Father.  The younger who is a depiction of sinners who have not been saved, or it can also be people who have received salvation but choose to leave God for the sake of the world.  The older who is a depiction of God’s children who actively works in God’s fields and knows many of God’s words, but loses fellowship with the Father and does not know the character of the Father.  What does it mean all the toil in ministry when losing intimacy with the Heavenly Father!

Enthusiastic and active in the ministry is good, but it is really a shame if the busyness in serving God’s work makes us not have enough time to build a personal relationship with God.  We must view building a relationship with Heavenly Father as far more valuable than serving His work, because ministry should come out of intimacy with the Father and come from the love of the Father.

The Father has shown us how valuable and serious the restoration of relationship between Himself and humans is, so that the Father is willing to give Jesus to atone for sins, so that human can fellowship with Him.  Let us respond to the seriousness of the Father with the same attitude of heart, which is to place a personal relationship with Him above all else.  Let’s look at the relationship with the Heavenly Father as something valuable, something that we look forward to, we look for, we maintain, and become our joy.

When we are confronted with all kinds of problems and conditions in this world, let us always remember the high price paid by the Father to restore His relationship with us.  When we want to make a decision in life, let the main factor in our consideration be whether that decision will result in the deterioration of our personal relationship with our Father.  Let’s be Christians and servants of Christ who have a deep personal relationship with the Heavenly Father, know Him, and always feel ‘safe’ in the Father’s love that has been proven in the work of Christ, so that by His grace and by His strength, we can say:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

(Roma 8: 35, 38-39)

 

AMEN

 

By: Sella Irene – Beautiful Words

Photo Credit: Google Images ( unsplash.com ) edited with pixlr apps

 

BEAR FRUIT FOR CHRIST (guest post)

A few months ago I wrote about the Tamarind tree in front of my house that the leaves and fruit can be used as a spice for traditional dishes and drinks (click here).  The tree is large and very tall, far beyond the roof of our house.  In the rainy season the leaves always grow vigorously and in summer the ripe fruit will fall to the ground.  It’s really fun to pick it up.  I feel like a happy farmer who harvests his work, whereas in fact I have never done anything for the growth of the tree.  In fact, the tree grows by itself.  For dozens, maybe even decades, the tree grew without anyone watering or weeding the surrounding soil.  During that time the tree continued to live and bear fruit.  However, this year something is different.

As in previous years, I was waiting for the ripe tamarind to fall on the ground.  How happy I am, when the wind blows hard and hit the branches of the tree and then heard the distinctive sound of ripe tamarind fruit falling on the ground.  However, immediately my excitement turned to be disappointed because the fruit that looks good on the outside is actually rotten inside.  Why?  What’s wrong?  I looked at the tamarind tree.  The trunk is large and tall, looks tough and strong.  Dense fruit hanging from its branches.  The tree looks healthy and there is no problem, but why is the fruit not as good as the tree’s appearance?  There must be something inside of the tree that isn’t working as it should, because fruit is the result of internal processes.

The condition of the tamarind fruit shows that not always something looks good from the outside, as well as the quality inside.  Likewise with fruit in human life.  People can arrange their outward appearance to create the impression they want, for example to be seen as generous, loving, kind and pious.  But sooner or later, the quality of “the fruit of the person’s life” will show his true spiritual condition.  Regarding this, the Lord Jesus taught through a parable about the tree and fruit.

No GOOD tree bears bad FRUIT, nor does a bad tree bear GOOD FRUIT.  Each tree is recognized by its own fruit.  People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers.  A GOOD MAN brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart.  For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.  (Luke 6: 43-45 NIV)

What is a GOOD tree and GOOD fruit? What is the meaning of FRUIT in human life?  And what kind of people are categorized as A GOOD MAN who brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart?

FRUIT

The fruit comes from the word “karpos” which figuratively means: Everything done in true partnership with Christ, that is a believer lives in union with Christ, like a branch abides in the vine in order to bear fruit.  Christ lives in us and we live in Him so that His life flows through our lives and we produce eternal fruit.  So, the fruit in the life of a believer isn’t all achievements or successes in the world, but what is come out from intimacy with Christ, namely the character of Christ, which continues to be shaped and tested through various life processes.

GOOD

In this passage the word “GOOD” comes from words that contain the meaning: Inspire or motivate others, as an outward sign of the inward good, a noble attitude and honorable character.  In Greek there are several words to describe “good”.  The word “good” in this verse is the higher word, namely “kalon“, which broadly contains the notion of physical or moral beauty that arises as a result of an appropriate response to a process.

The word “good” used for fruit is the same as the word “good” used for trees.  So, tree and fruit should have the same quality.  Not “good” that is just make up but sourced from within.  Its outside appearance reflects the beauty inside.  No manipulation, no acting, no cheating, no fake.  A quality that naturally arises from within, not artificial.

A GOOD FRUIT is not AN EFFORT but A RESULT

Return to the tamarind tree, its disappointing fruit indicates that there is a process inside the tree that isn’t working as it should.  Maybe bad weather is the main cause.  Maybe it’s also because parts in the roots or trunks of the tree don’t function optimally so it can’t distribute nutrients properly.  Whatever it is, once again, fruit is the result of internal processes and the quality of the fruit shows the quality of the tree.  Therefore the most important thing is to ensure the conditions inside, then good fruit will be produced.

REMAIN IN CHRIST

Fruit always impressive because that’s what people see.  But don’t focus on the fruit.  Focus on our spiritual growth.  The key is to build an ongoing relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, like branches that must remain in the vine.

Remain in me, as I also remain in you.  No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. (John 15: 4 NIV)

Let’s start with a step: Pray and read God’s words every day.  Then do God’s word in every day of our lives in all conditions.  That’s what it means to remain in Christ.  The life of Christ flows in and through us so that what comes out of us comes from Christ.  Only by remain in Christ, we will bear the fruit of life that pleases God.  Only by remain in Christ, we will become A GOOD PEOPLE who brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart: those whose hearts have been touched and changed by Christ, believers whose lives are empowered by Christ through faith.

Remain in Christ will make our characters, paradigms, values, habits, even our dreams and goals, increasingly transformed into Christ and become like Christ.  That’s the fruit of life with eternal value.  Then. . . if one day we achieve certain achievements, success in career, become rich, or become famous, we will know that all of it is a gift and trust from God.  All of achievements will not backfire for us because our hearts have been changed by God.  And, even if God allows all of that to be lost from us, our faith and hope will not be lost because we have put our faith and hope in the right place, which is Christ.  Our faith and hope in Christ will carry us through day after day in joy and sorrow, in good or bad situations, until we meet face to face with the Lord Jesus Christ, the Vine where we remain throughout our lives. Amen.

 

By: Sella Irene – Beautiful Words

Photo Credit: Google Images ( pxhere.com ) edited with pixlr apps

Meaningful Life Under the Heavens (part 2) : WAITING FOR GOD CALLING (guest post)

In recent times, God has led me and my husband in experience and ministries related to life and death.  Among the many things that happened, there were two moments that really touched our hearts.

First Moment

That afternoon we went to the hospital to pray for a grandmother.  She is more than 90 years old.  Her extremely thin body lay weak with her eyes closed. The doctor can’t do much to help her.  Not only because the disease is very malignant and hasn’t been cured medically resolved, but also because her old body is unable to receive proper therapy and treatment for the disease.  After praying for her, we sang a simple song that talked about the love of Jesus. We sing softly over and over again. We believe that even though her eyes are closed, even if in a coma, her inner man can certainly hear our voices even though her physical body seems to not respond.  After a while, we saw tears flowing from the corner of her eye.  Her eyes still remained closed and between conscious and not, but the flowing tears showed that her heart responded.  We continued to sing and sing, until then the grandmother began to open her eyes and sing.  At first her voice was soft and sometimes the pronunciation wasn’t clear, but while we continued to sing the simple song over and over again, the longer her voice was louder. We knew, at that time God was working touching her heart and giving new strength.  Then we prayed once more, leading her to not be afraid and doubtful of surrendering to Jesus, guiding her to make a confession that Jesus is Lord and Savior.  After being prayed for, she could sleep well and no longer be delirious about frightening things that were invisible as she had always seen the previous nights.  We believe that God gave her peace that transcends all understanding, beyond fear about everything she would leave behind or she would face in life after death.  The peace from God is a guarantee and an inward witness that she is safe in the Father’s hands.  A few days later we heard the news that the grandmother had calmly returned to the Father’s house.  Indeed, whatever we have been achieved in this life, ultimately the most important thing is the certainty of salvation in eternal life.

Second Moment

Near midnight a few days ago, we were shocked by the news.  One friend who has served with us for almost 30 years has suddenly been called home by God.  He was still around 55 years old.  He was sitting and chatting with his family when suddenly he bowed and left forever.  Many people could hardly believe because only two or three days earlier he had served with us at a big event.  Our hearts were moved, as if God were waiting for him to finish his task until the event was finished and then called him home.  What a sweet impression.

But … reality isn’t always like that right?  In fact, there are people even God’s servants who are called home by God when they are actively working on God’s vision and mission.  In the view of humans as if their task isn’t finished, but we are uncertain.  God has His own judgment and that is perfect. Whatever it is, death is always unpredictable, incomprehensible.  The measure isn’t t age, health, ministry, not even a person’s good or evil. What, why and how, only God knows.

ACCOMPLISHING TASKS

Indeed, each of us is waiting for the time to be called by God.  Ecclesiastes 3: 1-2 clearly says that there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die (Meaningful Life under the Heavens – click here).  Every one of us has a period we don’t know when it will end. Each of us has a deadline that we don’t know when.  God can call us anytime, anywhere, in any way.  Now … as people waiting to be called by God, there are important questions that each of us must reflect on and answer it.

Are we ready whenever our lifespan runs out?  Are we sure of our eternal destination in life after death? Have we received eternal salvation from God?  Have we been living our lives according to God’s will?  How much time do we use to do God’s work, and how much time do we waste in vain?  What should we do while we wait for God to call us??  The preacher advises us:

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10 NIV)

The word “to do” comes from the Hebrew word “asah” which means accomplish that is “to finish something successfully or to achieve something”.  So, God asks us not only to do it but to accomplish it and to achieve what is supposed to be achieved.

The word “your might” comes from the Hebrew word “koach” which means “ability” which is “the mental or physical power or skill needed to do something”.  So, the word “your might” here is not doing on our own and carelessly, but works with the physical, mental, and certain skills needed to accomplish the task.

We weren’t created by accident.  Conscious or not, we are created with a purpose.  In our hands is being entrusted with a special mission, a life that doesn’t follow where the flow brings, but is in a plan to do God’s work for His Kingdom.  Therefore don’t ignore things that seem to come to our lives naturally or even coincidentally, that is, all the forms that the preacher calls as working, planning, knowledge and wisdom.  Whatever forms these things have in our lives, our task is to accomplish it.  For this reason, God has provided the equipment we need, namely mental, physical, and skill.  But mental readiness, physical strength, and skill aren’t things that fall from the sky.  God gave it for free, yes that’s true because God is the source, but we also have to study, train, and develop it.  This isn’t for the sake of our careers will increase so that our future will be better or that we be rewarded as smart people who are multi-talented, but to achieve and accomplish what is God’s purpose in our lives.

This life is a sure wait for God’s call to eternity.  We must be ready whenever the time comes.  Let us not be complacent with all the hustle and bustle of our busy life, but focus on what is God’s will in our lives.  As long as we continue to be faithful and diligent in doing everything that God allows in our lives by using every power provided by God, our lives aren’t in vain.  We will have a meaningful life.  At least we have tried earnestly to do God’s will.  Most importantly, make sure that we have believe in Jesus as our only Lord and Savior.  Make sure that we always make God as our Shepherd.  Only He is the Helper, Guardian, Leader and Guide who can guarantee us to arrive at the house of the eternal Father and stay with the Father forever.

“The Lord is my Shepherd [to feed, to guide and to shield me],  I shall not want. . . . Surely goodness and mercy and unfailing love shall follow me all the days of my life, And I shall dwell forever [throughout all my days] in the house and in the presence of the Lord.” (Psalm 23 AMP)

 

By: Sella Irene – Beautiful Words

Photo Credit: Google Images ( pixabay.com ) edited with pixlr apps

MEANINGFUL LIFE UNDER THE HEAVENS (guest post)

Centuries ago, a wise teacher conveyed his reflection on the meaning of life.  In his writings classified as wisdom literature, the Teacher said, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die…” (Ecclesiastes 3: 1-2 NIV)  Yes, the time for birth is the beginning of a human being under the sky. But this isn’t an endless journey.  There is a time limit that no one can reject, namely the time to die.  Among these two phases, humans live a life full of color and dynamics.  Humans work, study, have fun, work, enjoy happiness, partying, prosperity, success, but in it there is also pain, loneliness, pain, poverty, destruction, and experiencing injustice.  All can come at any time, to anyone, whether they deserve it or not.  About all of that, the Teacher who was rich, powerful, and had the potential and opportunity to enjoy everything available in the world, gave his skeptical views: “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher.  “Utterly meaningless!  Everything is meaningless.” (Ecclesiastes 1: 2 NIV)  Then, about the various things that humans do throughout their lives under heavens, the Teacher concluded pessimistically that all these things are “chasing after the wind.”  What does that mean?

 

HEBEL, HEBEL, HEBEL

Hebel, a Hebrew word which in some copies translates as vanity, meaningless, futility, is a word that is repeated 37-38 times in Ecclesiastes.  Hebel, a word that means “through the breath, a breeze, a smoke, water vapor” is a very appropriate word to describe how short human life is.  Whether living for 30, 50, 60, 70, 90, or 100 years, all is like a single breath compared to limitless time, namely eternity, where every human being will go.

Hebel is the same word that is also used in Psalm 39: 4-6.  “Lord, make me to know my end, And what is the measure of my days, That I may know how frail I am.  Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, And my age is as nothing before You; Certainly every man at his best state is but vapor.  Selah.  Surely every man walks about like a shadow; Surely they [b]busy themselves in vain; He heaps up riches,  And does not know who will gather them.” (NKJV)

As with the Teacher, the Psalmist also viewed human life as “hebel”.  Very short, as a flash of shadow passed.  Contemplate … how briefly it can be finally be truly in vain if man only seeks satisfaction and the meaning of his life from what is transitory and temporary!  Then, what is the benefit of grandeur and pride under heaven, if in the end all things that are painstakingly pursued and maintained must be abandoned, and not contribute anything to eternity.  Up to this point, it is perfectly appropriate for the Teacher to describe it as vanity and chasing after the wind.  Then, how should humans go through life so that they aren’t trapped in a vortex of futility and a chasing after the wind?

 

CHRIST BE THE CENTER OF LIFE

The teacher doesn’t mean to say that human life is meaningless and useless, but that is what will happen if humans live their lives in their own way and do good things according to their own thoughts, without really seeking God.  Therefore, let’s return to the Teacher’s statement about the time for humans under heaven: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die.”  This statement shows that God has full power and sovereignty over everything, including determining the time of birth and death of everyone, without humans being able to choose for themselves.  However, between birth and death there is a period of time in which humans live their lives and in this life humans are given free will to determine their own choices, including those relating to relationships with God.

Praise God the Father, if at one moment we have made the decision to receive salvation in Jesus Christ.  It is grace that has transformed our status into a child of God and made a significant difference to our entire life.  When we accept Jesus Christ, at that time there is also a displacement of purpose in eternity, namely from death to life, from curse to blessing, from vanity to the divine vocation.  Faith in Christ is a step that immediately puts us on the path of grace which provides unlimited power and opens opportunities for us to do noble things that are eternal, according to God’s time and determination.

The power has been given by God, His help is available, but how the outcome depends on how we live our lives, whether we really make Christ the center of our lives or not.  Making Christ the center of our lives means making Christ the only foundation, source, goal and motivation, which controls all our thoughts, actions and attitudes in all aspects of life.  The sincerity of making Christ the center of our lives will be reflected in every choice of our response to everything that God has permitted to happen throughout our lives.  Whether we obey the desires of the flesh or the will of the Holy Spirit, obey our feelings or obey to do the word of God, continue to believe or be disappointed with God, and remain faithful to the end or leave God.  In the end, the choice for choice will determine the life we ​​live in, in vain or produce fruit for the Kingdom of Heaven.  Later, we must give accountability before God.

 

ENJOY LIFE IN THE FEAR OF GOD

” Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.  For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12: 13-14 NIV)

Actually, this whole life journey is a preparation for an inevitable responsibility, which must be faced by each person, personally.  Later, there is no reason and defense for every sin and mistake, because God has given us a lifetime opportunity to repent, be changed and shaped by God.  Therefore we must truly live right before God, because all of our responses to God when we are still alive today greatly determine how and where we will be in eternity.  God has bestowed salvation, given the Holy Spirit as Helper and Comforter, and has given the word that becomes the guide and contains the promises we need.  We just have to always live in fear of God.  Not fear of His judgment, but fear of God because we love and respect God.  So, we will be able to see and respond to this life properly so that we can receive and enjoy what God has provided in our lives with satisfaction and gratitude.  Thus, our focus isn’t on the pleasures of this world, but on God who gives everything.  As the Teacher’s advice: “This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. 19 Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. 20 They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.” (Ecclesiastes 5: 18-19 NIV) 

Life isn’t easy, maybe we have done wrong and failed many times, but as long as we wholeheartedly want to surrender ourselves to God, then God will help us rise again and again.  His love always forgives and His power certainly strengthens and enables us to live according to His purpose and plan, so that our lives and labors aren’t in vain.  Then later … when we stand face to face with God to account for our every act, we will look at the face of Jesus Christ without feeling accused, but with relief and gratitude because God has made our lives meaningful.  Amen.

 

By: Sella Irene – Beautiful Words

Photo Credit: Google Images ( pixabay.com ) edited with pixlr apps

FOLLOW THE GUIDANCE (guest post)

In the middle of February, my husband and I ministered to a city that’s quite far from our city. We drove on the highway along 780 km, across three provinces and around 20 big and small cities. It was really fun. Then on Sunday afternoon we traveled home after two days of service. The highway was wide and quiet, the sun was bright, so perfect. But we cannot continue to enjoy that comfort. Half the trip had passed when we saw a thick lump of black cloud covering the sky in front of us. The color of the black clouds with the golden glow of dusk showed contrasting scene. Beautiful but also frightening! Moments after I captured it with a cellular camera, apparently our car began to enter the area under the black cloud. The rain immediately flushed and the longer the more heavy accompanied by strong winds. The heavy rain, the strong winds, and the darkness of the night, made our visibility very limited. A comfortable journey turned to full of suspense.

The lighting on the highway that we passed is only at the interchange, namely in the area before and after the gate of highway. Along the rest of the road there are only traffic signs and small plates at a certain distance that function as reflectors. The yellow reflector on the guardrail separates our lane from the opposite direction, and the red reflector on the guardrail on the edge of the highway. For hours traveling in the dark night accompanied by the roar of the rain and strong winds we only relied on traffic signs and luminescence from the reflectors that reflected the lights of our cars. And even then only a few meters, limited to the distance of the lights of our car. Those points of light were the guide for us, whether the road we are going through will turn left, right, straight, down, or uphill. Meanwhile, our windshield wipers were competing with the rain that forms a kind of water curtain covered the windshield, making the view more blurred. Many times we have to lean forward so we can see the signs and the road more clearly. We must pay attention to and ensure that we follow each sign directions correctly because a little mistake make us misdirected.

OBEDIENCE THAT BRINGS TO THE AIM

For me, the situation we experienced at that time described a phase in the journey of life. There are times when everything goes very pleasant, comfortable, safe, easy, and smooth. There is also a time when problems come, like clouds cover the sun and change the light to dark. That is the dynamics of life that can be experienced by anyone, whether in extreme forms or only wavelet.

The characters in the Bible also experience times when they have to walk in dark valleys. Moses, a Hebrew who was educated and lived in the palace of Pharaoh, had experienced the phase of becoming a fugitive and had to live in the house of a priest in the land of Midian for fear of being killed by Pharaoh (Ex 2: 11-22). Joseph, a favorite son who was given a tunic of many colors by his father, also experienced several times the ups and downs of the dynamics of life. Starting from being dumped to a well and sold to Egypt, then got a position as a trustee of Potiphar, but then being imprisoned for being slandered (Gen. 37: 12-36; Gen. 39). David, a worshiper of the Lord, experienced the extreme dynamics of life from a sheep shepherd who was suddenly anointed to become king, then became the person trusted by King Saul. But then the situation changes. David became Saul’s main enemy until he had lived on the run for several years (1 Samuel 16-30). Then when he became king as God promised, there was a treason led by his own son until he had to flee from his palace (2 Sam 15-17). Those are three of the many stories of the characters in the Bible. Their experiences differ from one another but there is one common thread, namely obedience. They were people who remain obedient to follow the guidance of God even though they are under pressure. They didn’t deviate from the provisions of God, didn’t compromise with sin, and remain faithful to do what is right in the midst of their plight. In the end, it obedience brought them into fulfillment of God’s plan and made them reach the finish line brilliantly.

God has a special plan for each of us and He has provided everything needed so that we can work on His call, but it can only be realized if we obey Him.

Obeying God’s guidance in the midst of dark times has its own difficulties. Like walking in the rain on a dark night, heavy pressure can make us unable to see everything clearly because we panic, worry, fear, stress, depression. Our feelings become uneasy so it is difficult to pray. The desire to get out of trouble quickly makes us impatient waiting for God’s help. These various psychological conditions can make our spiritual eyes unable to see clearly and our spiritual ears become insensitive. We can be tempted to take shortcuts and seek help in our own way. When we finally choose to follow our own will, we will be misguided, because what we think is good is not necessarily good and what we think is right is not necessarily true.

“There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12 NIV)

Solving problems in our own way at first often seems successful but we don’t know what will happen at the end of the road. Obeying God’s guidance is the only way if we don’t want to get lost and regret later on. Knowing God’s guidance isn’t complicated. God has provided complete guidance for us, namely the Bible. The Bible is the written word of God. Following God’s guidance means doing what is written in the Bible.

 “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws.” (Psalm 119:105-106 NIV)

“Your statutes are wonderful; therefore I obey them. The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.” (Psalm 119:129-130 NIV)

The Word of God is like a traffic sign that shows direction and is like a light that illuminates our path. If our lives are on a dark road, just do what the Bible says even though it’s not directly related to the problem we are facing. Obedience to God’s word will make us smarter, wiser, and more understanding, even beyond knowledgeable and experienced people.

“Your commands are always with me and make me wiser than my enemies. I have more insight than all my teachers,  for I meditate on your statutes. I have more understanding than the elders,  for I obey your precepts.” (Psalm 119:98-100 NIV)

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:16-17 NIV)

We really don’t know the whole of our journey. Be obedient, because every obedience to the word of God will take us step by step to the way out of our struggle. The wisdom and understanding that comes from God through His word will enable us to view problems with the right perceptions so that we can make the right decisions. Moreover, every obedience to the word of God will change us day by day to become more and more like Christ.

BELIEVE IN GOD

We cannot totally obey Him if we don’t believe in Him.

Moses, Joseph, and David were people who obeyed God’s guidance because they were believe in God. Moses could have kept hiding and refused to be sent by God to meet Pharaoh, but Moses chose to obey. Moses obediently worked on God’s call to lead millions of Israelites across the desert with the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. When the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire stop, he stops. Where the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire move, there he follows. Joseph could have complied with the wishes of Potiphar’s wife, but he chose to run away from her because he knew that it is sin. Joseph also had the opportunity to take revenge on his brothers who had made him suffer, but instead he gave them a place to live and fulfill their needs because he knew that God had a special plan for his life in Egypt. David had more than one chance to kill Saul, but David did not want to do it. Actually, if he killed Saul, he would easily occupy the position of king, but he chose patiently to wait for God’s time.

Moses, Joseph, David, and the people used by God in the Bible are people who fully believe in God. They don’t put their secure feelings into the situation. They don’t entrust their future to experiences, skills, connections, position and wealth. They don’t make decisions based on their own passions and considerations, but they follow God’s guidance even though sometimes for a moment it seems that their obedience doesn’t make things better. They still believe in God and rely on God in all circumstances, good or bad.

Dear brothers and sisters, if we are in a bad situation, remember what David did when he was greatly distressed in Ziklag: “David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the Lord his God.” (1 Sam 30:6 NIV). Let’s strengthen our trust in God. Not with our own strength but with the help of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will enable us to faithfully step in to follow God’s guidance. Not only until we get a way out of our problems, but until the end of our lives. Amen.

 

By: Sella Irene – Beautiful Words

Photo Credit: Google Images (edited with pixlr apps)

BECOME A NEW CREATION (guest post)

Can an Ethiopian change his skin or a leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil. (Jeremiah 13:23 NIV)

The physical characteristics of living things in a species are inherited traits inherited from genetic factors. We can’t change it like if we take off our clothes and then replace them with other different clothes. God used this analogy when rebuking the people of Judah. In the eyes of God, like a leopard can’t change its spots, so the people of Judah who are accustomed to doing evil can’t do good. This very strong rebuke was delivered through the prophet Jeremiah in the years before Judah fell to the king of Babylon who later took them into exile for 70 years.

During the time of Jeremiah, sin was rooted in the daily lives of the people of Judah. They lived in sin and carried out various forms of idol worship, even killing their children in sacrificial rituals to the gods. When King Josiah called for national repentance in Judah, they did return sacrifices to the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but they didn’t completely abandon their sins. Sin has colored the entire area of life and controlled their hearts, so God said:  “The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron; with a point of diamond it is engraved on the tablet of their heart, and on the horns of their altars…” (Jeremiah 17:1-2 ESV).

Sin has been carved so deeply in the hearts of God’s chosen people. Such a condition of the heart will not be formed only because it is a sinful thing, but it is the result of a process that continues to be repeated. Jeremiah 13:23 clearly says that they are accustomed to doing evil. The word “accustomed to” in Hebrew, the original language of the Old Testament, also means “taught, learned, discipled”. The word comes from words that mean “to learn, to teach, exercise in, be trained”. Even in some variants of the Bible, that word is translated as “diligently, expert, skilful, teachers”. Seeing the original meaning, the phrase “accustomed to doing evil” means they are not only occasional or sometimes fall into sin, but there is a continuous repetition that may be intentional, which to a certain extent makes them expert, skilful, and trained in sin or that evil deed.

The same thing can happen to us. When we fall into sin, then “the alarm” of the Holy Spirit will be heard loudly in our conscience, making us aware of mistakes, asking for forgiveness, and arising from our sins. When we repeat the same sin again and again and again, then slowly but surely we will begin to ignore God’s rebuke, then our consciences begin to be torpid and insensitive.

The more we repeat the same sin, we will become more proficient in committing that sin, which will surely lead us to other sins! This is the same as we train and discipline ourselves to sin until it becomes a habit and our whole life is controlled by it. To some extent we may not feel the sinful act as something wrong because we have experienced moral degradation and a very severe spiritual deterioration!

REPENTANCE

There is no way out of sin other than repentance. That was what Jeremiah called upon many times to the people of Judah. Unfortunately they didn’t respond as they should until finally God’s punishment struck them. If at present some of us are still bound by sin, I pray that the Holy Spirit will realize that we need repentance. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:” (John 16:8 ESV).

Like how sin begins to take root in our hearts that is because we train ourselves to doing evil, then we also have to do the opposite in the same way if we really want to repent. We must train ourselves to do the truth by disciplining ourselves constantly to live in obedience to God. This must continue to be done because as long as we are still breathing, in us there will always be an attraction between the desires of the flesh and the desire of the Spirit.

As believers who are still proceeding to be like Christ, we can still fall into sin if we don’t take care of our hearts. But there is a fundamental difference with our previous condition, that we are no longer a servant of sin but we have the power to win over sin because the Holy Spirit dwells in us.

STAY IN THE TRUE SPIRITUAL COMMUNITY

Training and discipline to live obediently to the word of God requires perseverance and fortitude because we live in a world where some of the values are contrary to the Bible. Every time we are faced with reality, hear various news, and interact with people of different characters. Directly or not, it can influence or even shape us. In our topic this time, the tribe of Judah is a clear example of how environment and association have transformed them into sinners and idolaters. Long before Joshua had warned them about it: “But if you turn away and ally yourselves with the survivors of these nations that remain among you and if you intermarry with them and associate with them, then you may be sure that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations before you. Instead, they will become snares and traps for you, whips on your backs and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land, which the Lord your God has given you.” (Joshua 23:12-13 NIV).

We must not isolate ourselves from the world because we are sent to be salt and light in the midst of this world. What we have to do is be wise in choosing relationships and communities, because: Evil companionships (communion, associations) corrupt {and} deprave good manners {and} morals {and} character.” (1 Corinthians 15:33 AMP)  How the influence of an association is very serious for our lives. Therefore we must pray a lot, read and do the word of God, and live in the true spiritual community. Thus we can grow spiritually so that we are not easily swayed by world values, and have brothers and sisters who rebuke if we start to deviate and strengthen if we start to weaken.

KNOW CHRIST PERSONALLY

Repentance is the right first step. A true association will prevent us from bad influences. But, one of the most important things that become our strength is to experience and know Christ personally.

The tribe of Judah in Jeremiah’s day didn’t lack “information” of God. They heard the story of how the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob freed their ancestors from slavery in Egypt, kept them in the wilderness, and led their ancestors into the Land of Canaan. They heard the story of various miraculous deeds done by God. But unfortunately all of that is just “a story about God” that they heard from generation to generation, but they themselves didn’t experience it. They didn’t know God personally because they have never met God personally. As a result they become easily misled and turn away from God.

We can hear many sermons and hear various testimonies from people who experience God’s help. We can read many books about Christianity or even read the Bible. But without experiencing and knowing God personally, all that will only be information for our brain, like we hear stories, read news, or watch movies. Every Christian must meet the Lord Jesus personally and continue to learn to know Him. The more we know Him, the easier it is to trust Him and obey Him without being suspicious. Every step of obedience will take us one step closer to becoming more and more like Him.

CHANGED TO BE A NEW CREATION

Originating from the same seed of life, a caterpillar that for some people looks disgusting can transform into a beautiful butterfly that flies elegantly. The colors of butterflies are not costumes and their graceful wings are not accessories, but a permanent change that can only be realized through a process of change from within.

Now, if the same question is presented to us: “Can we do good if we have previously used to do evil?” YES, WE CAN !!! In what way? By becoming a new creation in Christ: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV)

No matter how dark our past is, no matter how deep we fall into sin, God must forgive and restore us if we want to come to Him. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 NIV) and Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)

The important thing after we are forgiven is not to commit sin again. We must intentionally place ourselves in a spiritual community (church) that can encourage our spiritual growth so that we are stronger in facing challenges and still standing firm even though we have to go against the flow!

Repentance is not just a moment of confession, but requires our commitment to continue to live in that conversion.

Repentance is not a make-up to correct deficiencies or accessories to beautify the appearance, nor is the disguise mask so that we are not recognized.

Repentance is a complete change from within that encourages us to behave contrary to before.

If then our old environment does not recognize us anymore because we are no longer the same person, it is not because we turn into someone else’s person but because we are restored by God to be our supposed selves, that is, humans who are created like and similar to Himself and to do His works.

By: Sella Irene – Beautiful Words

Photo Credit: Google Images ( https://www.pixelstalk.net/blue-butterfly-wallpaper )

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A SPECIAL GIFT (guest post)

 

Two months ago my husband had a birthday. From some of the gifts he received, there was one gift that didn’t look as beautiful as it usually packs a gift. There were several lines of creases on the wrapping paper. It seems that the person who gave the gift had to uncover the crease of paper several times before finally succeeding in wrapping the gift. But all our impressions about the gift changed after we opened it. Not because the gift contained expensive item that was deliberately camouflaged with makeshift packaging as some people do to make a surprise. Not also because the gift contained the items we needed. The gift is “only” five small sachets of chocolate powder commonly used for instant drinks. On the sachet there was a pink paper that is usually used by children to make crafts, with congratulatory sentences and simple prayers in the typical handwriting of children. It was a gift from our niece, Joceline, who was only five years old. Instantly our hearts became warm.

Her mother told me how Joceline really loved all forms of chocolate. Usually she often whines with a sad and miserable face if her chocolate has to be given to someone else. But at the time she was very excited about wrapping her chocolate and writing a card to give to my husband. We still remember how Joceline gave her gift with a smile on her lips and sparkling eyes. Although the nominal value of chocolate powder is much lower than other gifts, but now we have more than enough reason to place the gift in a special position in our hearts.

What about us and the Father in Heaven? Have we offered the best of ourselves to the Father and pleased Him? Have we offered this whole life as a special gift to Him?

LOVE AND FAITH

In Mark 12:41-44 and Luke 21:1-4 it is written the story of a poor widow who put two copper mites into the temple treasury. This passage literally tells about giving offerings in the temple, but I believe that we must have the quality of giving as the poor widow did, in every aspect of our lives. For truly everything we do in this life must be our offering and worship to God.

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:41-44 NIV)

Jesus didn’t just sit and see, but He view attentively how people put money into the temple treasury. The Lord Jesus observed and perceived each of them. His eyes penetrates to the bottom of the heart. More than just knowing the nominal value of the money, He knows every way of their lives and motivation. Among the many people who made offerings, He praised a poor widow who gave her two copper mites, the smallest and least valuable coin among the coins circulating in Judea at that time.

What was the distinguishes the poor widow’s offering from others? Were the coincidences that made offerings at that time were all rich people and this woman was the only poor person? Were there no other poor widows who also made offerings at that time? We don’t know for sure because the Bible doesn’t tell details about it. But surely this is NOT ABOUT THE AMOUNT OF MONEY and also NOT ABOUT RICH OR POOR. This is about HEART ATTITUDE AND LIFE BEHIND AN OFFERING.

Jesus’ words in verse 44 are the key: “They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” ” At that time two copper mites was equal to the cost of food for one person per day. Not fancy food, of course. We must remember that she was a poor widow. The two copper mites certainly means a lot to her. It money was all she had to live on, but she gave all to God. That’s what makes her offering worth much higher than the others. In this poor widow’s offering there was a SACRIFICE based on FAITH. He will not give all her living if she didn’t has faith that God must preserve and will never leave her. In other words, letting go of all her living is the same as entrusting her life into God’s hands. That is the BEST part she can give to God.

Now let’s look at this in a broader context. Indeed, we will never be able to “give” to God because everything comes from Him:

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; (Psalm 24:1 NIV)

For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. 8If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. (Romans 14:7-8 NIV)

If the whole universe including ourselves belongs to God, then what can we give to Him? Nothing at all! So, when we “give” offerings to God we are actually “offering back” what is truly His mine. This is not just money, but our entire life! Whatever we do in this life must be an offering that pleases God, but everything must be done in faith in Christ.

Faith is the assurance of our hope for God’s promise. Faith makes us willing to sacrifice because we believe that what we do in God will not be in vain. We sacrifice our pleasure in sin and fleshly desires in order to obey God’s word. Faith affirms us to be faithful until the end because we believe that there is a reward that awaits us in Heaven. And only faith makes us fully able to entrust our whole lives in His hands as long as we walk in the world. Faith must be the basis of all our actions, because without faith everything we offer is like ordinary activity without eternal value. And above all, LOVE must be our driving force and main motivation because without love all our sacrifices are nothing and useless.

…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. (1 Corinthians 13:2b-3 NIV)

SINCERE

In previous events, Jesus criticized the scribes and Pharisees (Mt 23:1-36; Mr 12: 38-40; Luke 11:37-54; Luke 20:45-47). These Pharisees and Scribes were people who were very respected and influential at that time. Their words were like the law that the Jews must obey. Jesus called them hypocrites, who knew and taught the truth but they didn’t do it. They look godly and holy on the outside, but they full of trash and decay inside. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” (Matthew 23:27-28 NIV).  Everything they do is done for people to see…” (Matthew 23:5a NIV). It seems that at that time there was a special pride if it was seen as a pious and devout person, so there was a tendency to do everything in order to be seen by others. In the midst of such a spiritual atmosphere, sincerity is something rare.

Return to the poor widow with her two copper mites. What can be proud of with two copper mites compared to the offerings of rich people who must be jingling loudly when put in the offering treasury. The jingling might invite admiration and respect from the people who saw it. This was in contrast to the poor widow’s offering. There was no pride gained by this widow in the human eye even though she gave all her income. I believe that she only gave sincerely to her Lord without seeking human praise, because it was impossible for Jesus to appreciate this woman’s offering if she did it with the wrong heart.

God sees the heart more than performance. Incorrect motivation makes everything we do become wrong. Doing good but not sincere is the same as deceiving ourselves, others, and God. Sincerity means what we do and say are the same as what is in the heart. More than that, we are like the Pharisees and hypocritical scribes. If we long for our lives to be offerings that are pleasing to the Father, then all our deeds must be truly sincere and not just look beautiful on the packaging.

Everything we do in sincerity and sacrifice to give the best that is moved only by love and based on faith in Christ will be an offering that pleases God.

A HEART THAT IS BANDED TO GOD

In fact, none of our offerings can amaze and fascinate God because wealth, talents, and creativity that we offer are come from Him. No matter how good we sing, it will not be as beautiful as the singing of angels in Heaven. As great as our ministry or work that we do, there will always be weaknesses. What distinguishes one person’s offering from others is that HEART is involved because there are no things we do without involving the heart, whether our hearts are right or wrong! In the heart there is a motivation for each of our actions, which in turn will DETERMINE THE QUALITY of our offerings.

The gift from Joceline is worthless compared to other gifts we received. But because of the attitude of her heart – love, sincerity, sacrifice and willingness to provide what she herself likes, also joyful when she was giving up her gift – making her simple gift becomes a special gift. How about our hearts??

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21 NIV)

HOW FAR or TO WHOM we believe, love, sacrifice and give, it’s all DEPEND ON WHAT OR WHO IS the treasure to us. If God becomes our most valuable treasure, our hearts will be banded to Him. If our heart truly banded to God, we will definitely make Him the center and our main reason for living this life. The poor widow has offered her two copper mites to God. Now, let us rededicate our “two copper mites” – that is our whole lives – as a special gift for Father with love, faith and sincerity. I believe the Holy Spirit is with us. His strength and power will help us not only to choose what is right, but also to do it with the right heart and in a way that pleases God. Amen.

 

By: Sella Irene – Beautiful Words

Photo by: Sella Irene