May 2012

Lately I heard a sharing from a friend that I got me most shocked , he claimed that a person that sins much is a animal and can be considered to be devil. His comments naturally caught my attention.

Before i start my sharing, I understand that to sin is equivalent to falling short of the requirements of God. I feel personally that in my life on earth, I often fall short of the God’s requirement for me. 

God has already revealed his standard of righteousness by given Moses his Law

“Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin” Paul – (Rom 3:20) 

and because of that Isaiah once said

“But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.” – Isaiah (Is 64:6)

It is precisely because of our weakness thats why now Jesus had to die for our sins, and open to us a way for us to obtain mercy from God

That is why Paul continues in Romans

“ for all have sinned and fall short 
   of the glory of God, 
   being justified freely by His grace 
   through the redemption that is in
   Christ Jesus, 
   whom God set forth as a propitiation 
   by His blood, through faith, to
   demonstrate His righteousness, 
   because in His forbearance God had 
   passed over the sins that were
   previously committed, 
  to demonstrate at the present time
   His righteousness, that He might be
   just and the justifier of the one who
   has faith in Jesus.” – Paul (Rom 3:23-26)

Therefore, to whoever that has a broken and contrite heart to repent, the blood of Jesus continues to wash away our sins and justify us before God. This is a grace that Jesus has given to everyone who believes in him.

We try our best to keep Gods law, but if we were to sin in our moment of weakness, we are free to go to God to obtain mercy.  Just like what the Author of Hebrews says

“For we do not have a High Priest who 
  cannot sympathize with our weaknesses,
  but was in all points tempted as we are,
  yet without sin. 
  Let us therefore come boldly to the throne 
  of grace, that we may obtain mercy and
  find grace to help in time of need.” Author of Hebrews (Heb 4:15-16) 

If my friends comments about sinners being animals is true, I just want to say that  indeed Christ had died for animals like me. I would choose to remain to be an animal to receive the grace of God.

But Before i pen off, I just want to write two more verses as caution who thinks that because of the grace of God is freely given, that means we can be free to sin anytime.

“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” – Paul (Rom 6:1-4)  

“For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries” – Author of Hebrews (Heb 10:26-26)

PS: In case if you are all wondering what’s my view of the notion “ People who commits a lot of sin, must be an animal and a devil” My answer is.. IF IT IS TRUE, WE ARE ALL ANIMALS BUT WE ARE DEFINATELY NOT A DEVIL.

Finally I would like to dedicate the song “The animal song” to my friend who made that proclamation, it was a song that accompany me through countless programming assignments when i am in school. 

Title: The Animal Song
Artist : Savage Garden

When superstars and cannonballs are running through your head
the television freak show cops and robbers everywhere
Subway makes me nervous, people pushing me too far
I’ve got to break away
So take my hand now

Cause I want to live like animals
Careless and free like animals
I want to live
I want to run through the jungle
the wind in my hair and the sand at my feet

I’ve been having difficulties keeping to myself
Feelings and emotions better left up on the shelf
Animals and children tell the truth, they never lie
Which one is more human
There’s a thought, now you decide

Compassion in the jungle
Compassion in your hands
Would you like to make a run for it
Would you like to take my hand

(Repeat Chorus)

Sometimes this life can get you down
It’s so confusing
There’s so many rules to follow
And I feel it
‘Cause I just run away in my mind

When Superstars and cannonballs are running through your head
Television freak show cops and robbers everywhere
Animals and children tell the truth, they never lie
Which one is more human
There’s a thought, now you decide

Compassion in the jungle
Compassion in your hands
Would you like to make a run for it
Would you like to take my hand

(Repeat Chorus)

Cause I want to live like animals
Careless and free like animals
I want to live
I want to run through the jungle
With the wind in my hair!

Just one hour back, a friend of mine witnessed the most imposing act of love which is done in a way that many will call it an act of tyranny. But i guess the main problem is not in the act itself, but the way it was presented from the pulpit.

In fact, the elder James once said this

“For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.” – Elder James (Jas 3:2)

In fact, in the same book, Elder James exhort the Christians
So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath;” –Elder James  (Jas 1:19)

In fact, Elder James compared the tongue to many interesting things that are small but have great effect, they are written in Jas 3:3-8. He compares them to the following

1. A bit that controls the direction of the horse
2. A rudder that controls the direction of the ship
3. A small fire that can set a great forest on fire 
4. An unruly evil, full of deadly poison

Everyone, especially church leaders, ought to be careful of what is spoken, for if the tongue is misused, one could quickly turn from a channel of blessings to the harbinger of woe and a weapon for the devil to bring harm to the flock of God. 

As I was thinking about this,  a few bible verses and bible stories was brought to my mind, and I would like to share them with you.  In all those stories, we can see how the mouth could have great effect.

The story of Gideon And The Men Of Ephraim  

“ A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold
   In settings of silver.
   Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold
   Is a wise rebuker to an obedient ear.” – Solomon (Prov 25:11-12)

In Judges 6-8 records the story of the Midianites oppressing Israel. Then God choose Gideon to raise an army and fight against the oppressors. Before the battle started, Gideon gathered troops from the tribes of Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali.  (Jud 6:25) around 32 000 fighting men were gathered

But God only choose 300 out of 32000 fighting men to go with Gideon to battle, so that Israel cannot claimed that the victory is theirs (Jud 7:2)

Finally with a army of 300 men, God routed the armies of the Midianites. While the enemies fled, the tribes of Naphtali, Asher and Manasseh gave chased (Jud 7:23) thats when he sent messengers to the tribes of Ephraim to join in (Jud 24-25)

In fact the tribe of Ephraim did the best, they captured the 2 princes from Midian, but yet at Jud 8:1-3, they reprimanded Gideon for excluding them from the battle. If Gideon were to give in the wrath at that time, perhaps the tribes of Israel would have broken up into civil war.

Yet Gideon gave a very good reply,

“What have I done now in comparison with you?
   Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better
   than the vintage of Abiezer?
God has delivered into your hands the princes of
   Midian, Oreb and Zeeb. And what was I able to do 
   in comparison with you?” – Gideon (Jud 8:2-3)

Of course, Gideon can choose to continue defending himself and argue with the elder of Ephraim, but yet the words that he fitly chosen to speak allowed him to do more.

Jud 8:10-12 tells us that Gideon managed to continue to pursue the fleeing Midianites until he captured the two kings of the Midianites,  Zebah and Zalmunna.

The Story Of David, Nabal And Abigail

“ A soft answer turns away wrath,
   But a harsh word stirs up anger.
   The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly,
   But the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness.” – Solomon (Prov 15:1-2)

1 Sam 25 records the story of David, Nabal and Abigail

Nabal was a rich man, he had 3000 sheep, 1000 goats. He was a descendent of Caleb, when David was fleeing from King Saul, his men dwell along side Nabal’s servant , in fact according to the testimony of the servants, David’s men protected the herdsmen of Nabal (1 Sam 25:14-16)

So David asked Nabal to provide something for his men to have a feast. Unfortunately, Nabal spoke harshly to them

He 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?” – Nabal (1 Sam 25:10-11)

In fact, Nabal is more than capable to provide for David and his men, he could have done it out of compassion, moreover, his servant could testify the deeds of the warriors of David but yet he choose not to show compassion, instead he went one step beyond and ridiculed David, calling him a breakaway servant

When David heard these words, he was furious, the nice and friendly David was overtaken by his anger, and turn into a bloodthirsty and vengeful men. So he girded his sword and took 400 men with him, leaving 200 to defend his supplies (1 Sam 25:12-13)

This time, the servants of Nabal came to Abigail , the wife of Nabal, and hearing it, she quickly prepared food for David and his men (1 Sam 25:18-19) and sent her servants ahead to meet David . (1 Sam 25:18-19)

So when she met David, she gave a long defence for Nabal her husband (1 Sam 23:24-31) as it is long here are her main points

1. Do not regard Nabal as his name indicates that he is a fool (1 Sam 23:25)
2. It is her fault because she did not see the men from David (1 Sam 23:25)
3. God is trying to stop David from avenging himself (1 Sam 23:26)
4. Please forgive her and accept the gifts she had prepared (1 Sam 23:28)
5. Allow God to judge Nabal, according to what he had done (1 Sam 23:30)
5. David is the king of Israel, and he must not shed blood without clause (1 Sam 23:31)

Her beautiful words calmed down David, which averted the unnecessary bloodshed between David and the house of Nabal

Her words really came true as in the end it was God who judged Nabal and killed him, after the incident Abigail told Nabal what happened, and Nabal heart died within him, and he suffered for another 10 days before he died (1 Sam 23:36-38)

This story is a perfect example of the proverb by Solomon

Abigail’s soft answer turns away David Wraths while the harsh words of Nabal stirs out again. Indeed Abigail’s words is full of wisdom and she is well aware of the fact that God has chosen David king, while from the mouth of Nabal foolishness is seen.

What Should We Be Talking About?

“ A wholesome tongue is a tree of life,
   But perverseness in it breaks the spirit.” – Solomon (Prov 15:4)

From the words of Solomon we can see that the tongues can do wonders, it can bring life to people as well as to break the spirit. So as conclusion, I would like to take from the new testament the thoughts of Jesus and the words of the apostles regarding speech. I feel that they are self explanatory. So here goes

“For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” – Jesus (Lk 6:43-45)

But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” – Jesus (Matt 12:36)

“Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” – Paul (Eph 4:29)

“Therefore they stayed there a long time, speaking boldly in the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.” –Luke (Acts 14:3)

Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” – Paul (Col 4:6)

The Conclusion Of The Matter

Finally, I wanted conclude the discussion with the words of Solomon as a conclusion

“ In the multitude of words sin is not lacking,
   But he who restrains his lips is wise.
    The tongue of the righteous is choice silver;
   The heart of the wicked is worth little.
    The lips of the righteous feed many,
   But fools die for lack of wisdom.” – Solomon (Prov 10:19-21)

May God help all of us in our quest to bridle our tongue.

As a recap, the capture of the Ark is broken up from 1 Sam 4-7.

1 Sam 4: 1-11- : The war between Israel and Philistines, the Ark of God was captured
1 Sam 4:12-22 : The Death of Eli and the Birth of Ichabod
1 Sam 5: The Ark of God in Ashod , Gath, Ekron, Plagues and Death followed
1 Sam 6:1-19 : The Ark Of God return to Beth Shemesh, Israelites struck dead
1 Sam 6:20 – 1 sam 7:1 : The Ark in Kirjath Jearim (20 Years)
1 Sam 7:2-17 : Samuel judges, Israel repented, war against Philistines won

The last part of 1 Sam 6:20-1 Sam 7:1 tells us that Ark was left in a town known as Kirjath Jearim. The story ended when Samuel begin judging Israel, and revival of the faith of Israel.

Facts : Kirjath Jearim Is A Gibeonite Town

In The Book Of Joshua, there was a tribe known as Gibeonites, who used deception to conclude a treaty of the Israelites. These Gibeonites became wood cutters and servants to the Israelites, and Kirjath Jearim is one of their town (Jos 9:17-18)

In fact the Ark stopped by there for 20 years (1 Sam 7:2)

The Israelites felt that they cannot stand before God, so they decided to send it away from them and to the land of the Gibeon.

Facts : People Dying Because Of the Ark

In the Old Testament, there are 2 records of deaths related to Ark Of The Covenant.

1. The Ark killed 50070 People In Beth Shemesh  (1 Sam 6:1-19) 
           a. As The Result, the Ark was left in Kirjath Jearim (Gibeonite Town) for 20 years
2. The Ark killed Uzzah  the servant of David (2 Sam 6) 
           a. This time it was left in the house of Obed Edom (a Gittite )

Interestingly, whenever there are deaths in Israel with regards to the Ark, the ark was left in the hands of the non Israelites, and ironically there is no death in the house of the gentiles.

Facts : The High Culture Of The Philistines and Its Effect On Israelites

In Part 2, we have shared that the Israelites at that time were face with a superior culture of the Philistines. The Philistines were more advance than Israel in every way, they have achieved Iron Age, and they are a agriculture nation while quite a number of Israelites are still shepherds.

The Philistines worship Baal and Asheroth and they believe that when this 2 gods copulate, then there will be fertility in the land and crops can grow well.

Hence the Israelites tend to look upwards to the more affluent and advance world of the Philistines. As The Philistines trust that their gods were the ones behind this affluence and prosperity

The Israelites often find themselves worship God and at the same time being drawn to that culture. Hence they do not follow God whole heartedly.

Yet when they are oppressed by the culture that they look up to, and then they hope that Yahweh their God will protect them from the Philistines. Hence you often find worship for Baal and Ashtoreth along side with worship of God

Lesson : The Real Reason Why God Is Not With Israel

Actually, the real reason why God delivered Israel  into the hands of the Philistines, is because of the unfaithfulness of Israel. Prophet Samuel prayed for the Israelites and exhorts them saying

“If you return to the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths from among you, and prepare your hearts for the Lord, and serve Him only; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.” –Samuel (1 Sam 7:3)

The Israelites were worshiping both the gods of the Philistines as well as Yahweh, hence God was displease with their unfaithfulness.

It is only when the Ark of God was sent to Kirjath Jearim for 20 years that is when Israel started their lament and repent before God.

This is when Samuel offered up a burnt offering to God and God forgave them.

Lesson : The Battle Of Mizpah

When the Philistines heard that Israel is gathered at Mizpah, they amassed an army to war against them in Mizpah. The people of Israel were afraid, so they asked Samuel to continue praying for them

While Samuel was doing the burnt offering, the Philistines Army grew closer to Israel, but that is also the time when the grace of God is shown. The Lord thundered and the enemy was in disarray, and they were finally defeated.

This marks the period of peace in Israel once again, and the work of the last judge Samuel started.

Lesson : Seeing The Will Of God In Suffering

Indeed, the event from 1 Sam 4 are sad in the history of Israel, they were defeated in battle and had the ark of the covenant captured. But yet, if we were to look at the stories in details, we can see the beautiful will of God behind the misfortune. And God was using the sad events to bring Israel close r to him.

As a recap this is what we have learnt so far. The capture of the ark of God is indeed a sad event, but God made use of the event for good.

1. It taught the Israelites to place their faith in God and not the Ark
2. It taught the Philistines that the God of Israel is indeed God
3. It taught the Levites to reconsider their faith
4. It brought revival to the faith of the Israelites.

No body likes to suffer, but sometimes we have to admit that certain suffering is necessary so that we will be better. This is why we are willing to undergo operations and take bitter medicines. For we know that only by going through the suffering, we could be well once again.,

Similarly God do made use of unhappy events and sad events to chastise us and to bring us back to him. It is also a sign that God loves us As a conclusion let us read this proverb

 My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,
    Nor detest His correction;
     For whom the Lord loves He corrects,
    Just as a father the son in whom he delights.”  Prov 3:11-12

It is I have been writing entries on the 3rd of May since 2010. But this year was one where i was thinking hard what to write. I have started this practice since i left home to stay in a foreign land.

During this year, God had been very kind to give me breaks from the larger troubles in life, but as usual, it is the small but consistent hits that takes a toil of faith. They are not major problems, but rather numerous inconveniences that can amount to a mountain when place together.

This is one time I pray that God will lead me in the coming years, and to guide me in the way to go to the future. But in overall I thank God for watching over me the entire year.

I have been thinking of the hymns that I w is written by ould like to share, and this time, the lyrics of the hymn “Day By Day” seems to reflect my feelings the most.

I found a Hymnopedia entry of the hymn here

Apparently, this is a Scandinavian hymn was written by Caroline Sandel Berg,or Lina Sandell. She was a pastor daughter. When she was 26, she travelled with his father to Gothenburg, that was when a wave swept on board of the ship, and her father was swept overboard, and died.

So Caroline, with a broken heart, penned down this hymn. She wrote other hymns and she was known as the “Fanny Crosby Of Sweden” 

I must admit, that Gods trials to me is not even half of what Caroline faced, but the hymn reflected her trust in God so well.

Title : Day By Day
Lyrics : Carolina Sandell Berg
Composer : Oscar Ahnfelt

Day by day and with each passing moment,
Strength I find to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,
I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.
He whose heart is kind beyond all measure
Gives unto each day what He deems best
Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.

Ev’ry day the Lord Himself is near me
With a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares He fain would bear, and cheer me,
He whose name is Counselor and Pow’r.
The protection of His child and treasure
Is a charge that on Himself He laid;
"As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,"
This the pledge to me He made.

Help me then in eve’ry tribulation
So to trust Thy promises, O Lord,
That I lose not faith’s sweet consolation
Offered me within Thy holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
E’er to take, as from a father’s hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,
Till I reach the promised land.