Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Let Nothing Distract Your Attention from Christ this Year

In 1495, Duke Ludovico of Milan asked the Florentine artist Leonardo da Vinci to portray the dramatic scene of Jesus’ last supper with His disciples as they gathered in the upper room before His crucifixion. The scene was to be painted on a large wall of the dining hall at Santa Maria delle Crazie monastery in Milan. Da Vinci, then 43 years old and already famous as a painter, sculptor and architect, agreed to take on the assignment.

Working slowly and with great care for detail, he spent 3 years completing the painting. The disciples were grouped in threes, two groups on either side of the figure of Christ, who sat at the center of the table (refer picture above). His arms stretched before Him. In His right hand He held a wine cup, painted with marvelous realism. At last the painting was ready, and da Vinci called in a friend to see it.

Give me your honest opinion,” da Vinci said.
It’s wonderful,” the friend told him. “That cup is so real I cannot keep my eyes off it.

Da Vinci immediately took a brush and drew it across the sparkling cup. “If it affects you that way it must not remain,” he exclaimed. “Nothing shall distract attention from the figure of Christ.”

This year – New Year 2014 – never let anything distract your attention from Christ. Not the desire for wealth or money. Not for prestige or for your name’s glory. Not for the sake of ‘love’ or in the name of unity and compromise. If anything distract your faith, devotion and attention from Christ, take a brush and paint “the cup” away. We must keep “our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2) and our “thoughts are fixed on [Him]” (Isaiah 26:3).  Happy New Year ‘Word Speaks Today’ readers! God bless you all.
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Monday, December 30, 2013

Another Year is Dawning

You crown the year with your goodness” (Psalms 65:1)

It was said that a hymnist Frances Ridley Havergal took New Year’s Day very seriously, always using it as a time for reflection and often composing a poem to send to friends expressing her feelings about the new day and year. The one she wrote in 1874 has become immortal. She was 36 at the time, and she dashed off this poem and had it printed on a specially designed greeting card to be sent to friends. The card was captioned: “A Happy New Year! Ever such may it be!” You even can see the card at most of the Christian bookstores, MPH or Popular bookstores. The inside said:

Another year is dawning: Dear Father, let it be,
In working or in waiting, another year with Thee;
Another year of progress, another year of praise,
Another year of proving Thy presence all the days.

Another year of mercies, of faithfulness and grace,
Another year of gladness in the shining of Thy face;
Another year of leaning upon Thy loving breast,
Another year of trusting, of quiet, happy rest.

Another year of service, of witness for Thy love;
Another year of training for holier work above.
Another year of dawning: Dear Father, let it be,
On earth or else in heaven, another year for Thee.

Dear Lord, this coming 2014, “You crown the year with your goodness” Amen. THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.
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Recipe for a Happy New Year 2014

I will:

Like Enoch – walk in daily fellowship with my heavenly Father.
Like Abraham – trust implicitly in my God.
Like Job – be patient under all circumstances.
Like Joseph – turn my back on all seductive advances.
Like Moses – choose to suffer rather than enjoy the pleasures of sin.
Like Caleb and Joshua – refuse to be discouraged because of numbers.
Like Gideon – advance, even though my friends are few.
Like David – lift up my eyes to the hills from which comes my help.
Like Jehoshaphat – prepare my heart to seek the Lord.
Like Daniel – commune with God at all times and in all places.
Like Andrew – strive to lead others to Christ.
Like Stephen – manifest a forgiving spirit toward all who seek my hurt.
Like Paul – forget those things that are behind and press forward.

Like Jesus – in all my life.

Help me Lord, I pray. Amen.
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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

History behind "The Twelve Days of Christmas" Hymn

Many historians believe the well-known children song, The Twelve Days of Christmas, is actually a Christian hymn in disguise. During the reign of England’s Queen Elizabeth I, a staunch Protestant, English Catholics were oppressed and persecuted (during Protestant-Catholic religious war). Priests met secretly with small groups of Catholics, risking their lives to conduct worship and observe mass.

Under such circumstances, it was difficult to train or catechize Catholic children. But an unknown, clever priest found a unique way to teaching the Gospel to children, using the theme of the twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany, when the Wise Men, according to tradition, arrived with their gifts for the Christchild.

The priest hid biblical truth in the symbols he used in his carol, beginning with the words: “On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me…” The “True Love” referred to God the Father, and the “Me” represents the Christian who receives the gift. The “Partridge in the Pear Tree” is Jesus Christ. Why a partridge? Mother partridges are known for feigning injury to decoy predators from their babies. The children were thereby taught about Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf.

The two turtle doves represented the Old and New Testaments. The three French hens symbolized faith, hope, and love – the three great virtues we should display as we come to know Christ as Lord and read the Old and New Testaments. The other symbols*:

·        Four calling birds – the four Gospels
·        Five golden rings – the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch
·        Six geese a laying – the six days of creation
·        Seven swans a-swimming – the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit
·        Eight maids a-milking – the eight Beatitudes of Matthew 5
·        Nine ladies dancing – nine choirs of angels
·        Ten lords a-leaping – the Ten Commandments
·        Eleven pipers piping – the eleven faithful apostles
·        Twelve drummers drumming – the twelve articles of the Apostles’ Creed

So, next time if you listen to or sing ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’, remember that it was composed to teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to its listeners. Sing, people sing, with your voice and heart, words and meanings – sing Christmas songs!
Robert J. Morgan, Preacher’s Sourcebook of Creative Sermon Illustrations (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007), p.112
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Sunday, December 22, 2013

C.S. Lewis on Marriage and Love (Good for Singles too)

[In marriage], Therefore a man shall leave his father
and his mother and hold fast to his wife,
and they shall become one flesh.”
(Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5; Ephesians 5:31, ESV)

Although C.S. Lewis wasn’t married at the time he wrote Mere Christianity (I recommend this book greatly!), he described marital oneness and love with amazing insight:

“The Christian idea of marriage is based on Christ’s words that a man and wife are to be regarded as single organism – for that is what the words ‘one flesh’ would be in modern English. And the Christians believe that when He said this He was not expressing a sentiment but stating a fact – just as one says that a lock and its key are one mechanism, or that a violin and a bow are one musical instrument. The inventor of the human machine was telling us that its two halves, the male and the female, were made to be combined together in pairs, not simply on the sexual level, but totally combined…

What we call ‘being in love’ is a glorious state, and, in several ways, good for us… It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling. Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all. Knowledge can last; principle can last; habits can last, but feelings come and go. And in fact, whatever people say, the state called ‘being in love’ usually does not last. If the old fairly-tale ending ‘They lived happily ever after’ is take to mean ‘They felt for the next fifty years exactly as they felt the day before they were married,’ then it says what probably never was nor ever could be true, and would be highly undesirable if it were.

Who could bear to live in that excitement for even five years? What would become of your work, your appetite, your sleep, your friendships? But, of course, ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense – love as distinct from ‘being in love’ is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit, reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both parties ask, and receive, from God.

They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other, as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be ‘in love’ with someone else. ‘Being in love’ fist moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.”
(Quote from C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1958). Page 81, 84-85).

What an insight!
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Friday, December 20, 2013

It's Okay to Sing Off-Key this Christmas Eve

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!” (Psalms 95:1,esv)

In her book In My Father’s House, Corrie Ten Boom used to tell a story about an old monk who sang a Christmas song every Christmas Eve for his brothers in the monastery, and for visitors who would come from the village for the special services. His voice was a very ugly, but he loved the Lord and sang from his heart. One year the director of the cloister said,
I’m sorry, Brother Don, we will not need you this Christmas. We have a new monk who has a beautiful voice.

The man did sing beautifully, and everyone was happy. But that night an angel came to the superior and said, “Why didn’t you have a Christmas Eve song?”
The superior was very surprised. “We had a beautiful song,” he replied. “Didn’t you hear it?
The angel shook his head sadly. “It may have been inspiring to you, but we didn’t hear in heaven.”

You see,” Corrie would say, “the old monk with the raspy voice had a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus, but the young monk was singing for his own benefit, not for the Lord.”

This Christmas sing with joy unto the Lord,
Sing with our heart and not just our voice,
Oh come; let us sing to the Lord,
To the rock of our salvation – let us make a joyful noise!
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Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Reading Diet

Major John Skidmore, one of Oswald Chamber’s closest friends, came to see Chambers, complaining of being drained. Oswald asked what he had been reading, to which Skidmore said, “Only the Bible and books directly associated with it.” “That’s the trouble,” said Oswald. “You have allowed part of your brain to stagnate for want of use.

Reaching a nearby pen and paper, Oswald began listing more than fifty books dealing with philosophy, psychology, theology, and every phase of current life. “When people refer to a man as ‘a man of one book’, meaning the Bible, he is generally found to be a man of multitudinous books, which simply isolates the one Book to its proper grandeur,” said Oswald. “The man who reads only the Bible does not, as a rule, know it or human life.

Oswald Chambers love for books came in part from his sitting at the feet of the Scottish preacher Alexander Whyte, who taught a series of classes that Oswald attended as a young man. Many times, Oswald saw Whyte hold up a battered old book, telling the students, “Sell your beds and buy it.”

Afterward, Oswald never went anywhere without a book. Once, while travelling, he wrote to his sister Florence saying:
My box has at last arrived. My books! I cannot tell you what they mean to me – silent, wealthy, loyal lovers. To look at them, to handle them, and to re-read them! I do thank God for my books with every fiber of my being. Why, I could have almost cried to excess of joy when I got hold of them again. I see them all just at my elbow now – Plato, Wordsworth, Myers, Bradley, Halyburton, St. Augustine, Browning, Tennyson, Amiel, etc. I know them. I wish you could see how they look at me, a quiet, calm look of certain acquaintance*.”

To me, we as Christians – the Bible – is our one and only chief Book that we all need to read, to study daily and to meditate day-by-day. But this doesn’t mean that it is the only book that we need to read. Broaden your mind, enlarge your visions and uplift your spirit by reading other books (too). If I want to get inspirations in my Christian life I read biographies like those of William Carrey, John Calvin, C.S. Lewis, Hudson Taylor, A.W. Tozer, Charles H. Spurgeon, Watchman Nee, etc. If I want to learn about theology I turn to John Piper, John McArthur, J.I. Packer, David Pawson, John Stott, etc. For missions I seek Oswald J. Smith, K.P. Yohannan, J. Oswald Sanders, etc.  If I want to be motivated and learn leadership I read Anthony Robbins, John Maxwell, Zig Ziglar, etc. For personal development I read Tony Buzan and Edward de Bono. Psychology… philosophy… I could go on… you get my point, right?

Ruth Bell Graham said, “Read, read, read! Use the Bible as home base,
but vary your diet. I usually have several books going at once,
tucked around here and there for easy access.” Read my friends!
*David McCasland, Oswald Chambers: Abandoned to God (Oswald Chambers Publications Association, Ltd., 1993), 156-157, 108-109.
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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

5 Characteristics of Creative People

Do you see a man skilled [and creative] in his work?
He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men
(Proverbs 22:29, bracket mine)

Studies of creative achievers have identified a number of characteristics they share*. The following characteristics are among the most prominent.

Creative People are Dynamic
Creative people do not allow their minds to become passive, accepting, unquestioning. They keep their curiosity burning, or at least to rekindle it. One aspect of this intellectual dynamism is playfulness. Albert Einstein saw such playfulness as “the essential feature in productive thought”.

Creative People are Daring
For creative people, thinking is an adventure. They are less inclined to accept prevailing views, less narrow in their perspectives, and less likely to conform to the thinking of those around them. They are bold in their conceptions, wiling to entertain unpopular ideas and seemingly unlikely possibilities. Daring makes them less susceptible to face-saving than others.

Creative People are Resourceful
Vincent Ryan Ruggiero writes: “Resourcefulness is the ability to act effectively and to conceptualize the approach that solves the problem – even when the problem stymies others and the resources at hand are meager.” This ability is not measured by IQ tests, yet it is one of the most important aspects of practical intelligence.

Creative People are Hardworking
“All problems,” states William Gordon, “present themselves to the mind as threats of failure.” Creative people are those who are unwilling to be intimidated by the prospect of failure, and who are determined to succeed no matter what effort is required. They are willing to make the necessary commitment. Thomas Edison said, “Genius is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration.” And George Bernard explained, “When I was a young man I observed that nine out of tem things I did were failures. I didn’t want to be a failure, so I did ten times more work.”

Creative People are Independent
Creative people are less incline to people’s acceptance and support. Instead of looking to others for approval of their ideas, they look within themselves. They are less afraid of rejection. For this reason, they too are less afraid of appearing eccentric or odd, are more self-confident, and are freer to speak and act independently. 

Be Creative because God is Creative
*Summary from Vincent Ryan Ruggiero, The Art of Thinking: A Guide to Critical and Creative Thought (Pearson Educatiom, Inc, 2007), Pg. 90-91.

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Lord over Fashion Show

I'm not sure what group is this...

Do not be conformed to this world,
but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,
that by testing you may discern what is the will of God,
what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2)

The world uses dress and fashion to project its spirit and morals, its ethics and values (or lack of them). Our way of dressing tells us something of our control or influence by this world. Winkie Pratney observed, “As time draws to a close, dress will become more and more perverted. We must stand as Christians and dress in a way that will speak, as loudly as our words, what is clean and valuable and real.” Every day, the way you dress will say something to the world about Jesus and you.

Now, you never have to dress to impress. God has already set you apart as different from the people around you. Look at yourself! Your fingerprints are different. Your voiceprints and brainwave channel (I watched Discovery Channel) are different from anyone else’s in the world. Even the hair on your head is not quite the same as that of your twin.

No Christian has to put on “special clothes” to feel like a special person. You know you are already. You can afford to dress in a way that is clean and comfortable, without having to follow the ways of the world around you, whether is it the K-Pop culture or the subculture in rejection of it. Remember: What you look like will tell the world something about God. Make it count. Learn to dress in a way that honors Christ.

I have 3 simple basic suggestions on dressing: 1) Be clean. Clothes can be old, second-hand, cheap, or very ordinary but they should never stay dirty. Keep them washed as neat and clean as your life-style allows; 2) Be simple. Avoid complex trimmings, complicated styles. Let your dress preach the kind of Gospel Jesus said was so simple a child could understand it; and 3) Be sensible. Don’t follow the latest fad just because it is ‘in’ the moment. Fashion-slavery is a sign of a people-pleasing, worldly heart.

In your dressing be clean, simple and sensible.
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Monday, December 16, 2013

The Marks of a Leader

George Verwer makes these penetrating remarks on being a true leader for Jesus:

“The Lord Jesus said, ‘Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men’ (Matthew 4:19). This is but one of the many places where He exhorted His disciples to follow Him. He would say the same to us, His twentieth (now 21st) century disciples. The burning desire for each of us should be to follow Him. We would not follow men or men’s ideas, but Christ and His ideas. We need men of God who have been ‘chosen of God’ to take on definite responsibilities of leadership in both practical and spiritual realms. Only time will tell whether the young fellows and girls carrying responsibilities of leadership have what is necessary to see victories day after day in this type of work. And the question that will make the difference is whether or not they are followers of Jesus.

Some individuals might feel they should be carrying some position of leadership. To such individuals, I would say, ‘Then learn to follow; learn to take orders from someone else; learn to bury your own plans and ideas, allowing someone else to make decisions which you will wholeheartedly carry out, and soon you will find yourself being asked to make decisions. There is no room for the person who has all the answers. We must take the position of learners for a disciple is a learner. A disciple is always willing to be taught. He is always willing to listen to another’s point of view and to esteem it better than his own. He does not covet a position of leadership, but only desires to be a disciple of Jesus. You must not expect that you will always agree with your leader, or see in him perfection; for remember, he is as you are, just a follower of Jesus.’”

Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men’
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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Cabaran untuk Misi: Pergilah! Ini ialah Tanggungjawab Kamu secara Peribadi

Pergilah ke seluruh dunia dan khabarkanlah Berita Baik daripada Allah
kepada seluruh umat manusia” (Markus 16:15, BM)

Kita hanya boleh menerima penyelamatan melalui kasih kurnia TUHAN dengan iman kita kepada Yesus Kristus sahaja – bukan melalui pekerjaan manusia. Namun begitu, ini tidak bermaksud selepas kita mendapat keselamatan kita bebas untuk melakukan apa saja. Kita sekarang mempunyai tanggungjawab dan kewajipan untuk memberitakan Berita Baik tentang Yesus Kristus kepada orang lain. Ini ialah bukti atau buah Roh bahawa kita benar-benar telah mengenal TUHAN dan bersyukur atas kasih kurnia-Nya.

Walaupun TUHAN berfirman kepada Yehezkiel tentang tanggungjawab dia sebagai nabi kepada umat Israel, khususnya, TUHAN juga seakan-akan berbicara tentang tanggungjawab kita kepada setiap individu yang belum mengenal-Nya:
Jika Aku memberitahukan bahawa seorang yang jahat akan mati, tetapi engkau tidak menyampaikan amaran-Ku kepadanya agar mengubah kelakukan supaya dia selamat, maka dia akan mati sebagai seorang berdosa, dan Aku menganggap engkau bertanggungjawab terhadap kematiannya. Tetapi jika engkau menyampaikan amaran itu kepada seorang yang jahat namun dia tetap berbuat jahat, maka dia akan mati sebagai seorang yang berdosa, tetapi engkau akan selamat.” (Yehezkiel 3:18-19, BM).

Bagaimana dengan kesalahan kita jika kita tidak memberi amaran kepada pemandu lori apabila kita tahu bahawa ada gaung di hujung jalan; atau apabila kita gagal memberi amaran kepada seorang buta yang sedang berjalan menuju ke longkang yang dalam; atau melihat seorang kanak-kanak lemas tetapi tidak cuba untuk menyelamatkannya; atau kita tidak memberitahu kepada jiran bahawa rumah mereka sedang terbakar? Bukankah semua ini suatu kesalahan?

Dari segi moral dan gerak hati manusia, kita tahu bahawa kita bertanggungjawab untuk memberitakan semua amaran di atas kepada mereka yang bakal menjadi mangsa. Tanggungjawab kita sebagai anak-anak TUHAN secara individu adalah lebih lagi. Kita bukan sahaja mempunyai gerak hati dan moral, malah Roh Kudus sekarang ada bersama kita. Kita bertanggungjawab untuk menyampaikan amaran TUHAN kepada setiap orang bahawa hanya Tuhan Yesus sahaja yang boleh menyelamatkan seluruh umat manusia daripada dosa dan api neraka selama-lamanya. Hanya Tuhan Yesus sahajajalan untuk mengenal Allah dan untuk mendapat hidup. Tiada seorang pun dapat datang kepada Bapa kecuali melalui [Yesus]” (Yohanes 14:6). Ini ialah sukacita dan tanggungjawab kita secara individu kepada seluruh umat manusia.

Sekarang kita tahu bahawa secara individu – antara kita dengan TUHAN – kita bertanggungjawab untuk memberitakan Berita Baik tentang Yesus Kristus. Walaupun (jika) ahli keluarga, ibubapa, anak-anak, pasangan, saudara saudari seiman atau gereja kamu tidak mahu atau suam-suam kuku untuk melakukannya – kamu perlu. Kerana kasih kamu kepada TUHAN dan kerinduan kamu kepada orang lain, kamu harus terus taat kepada perintah-Nya.

Korbankanlah masa kamu untuk berdoa dan mengambil tahu tentang kaum, bangsa atau negara yang belum mengenal TUHAN. Luangkan masa untuk pergi melihat orang disekeliling kamu dan mengambil peluang yang ada untuk memberitakan Berita Baik. Lebih baik lagi, pergilah melakukan pelayanan misi melalui gereja kamu atau menyertai organisasi misi dan penginjilan Kristian untuk jangka masa yang singkat atau lama. Nescaya mata kamu akan terbuka untuk melihat betapa terdesaknya keperluan rohani manusia untuk menerima Yesus Kristus sebagai Tuhan dan Juruselamat mereka.

Akhir sekali, gunakanlah wang duniawi kamu untuk Kerajaan Allah yang kekal. Hati dan perhatian kita akan tertumpu kepada di mana kita meletakkan “harta” kita. Jika “harta” kita tertumpu kepada pakaian, makanan, minuman dan untuk kepentingan diri sendiri, maka di situ jugalah hati dan perhatian kita. Yesus berfirman: “Jangan kumpulkan harta di dunia... Kumpulkanlah harta di syurga... Lakukan hal itu, kerana perhatian kamu sentiasa tertumpu kepada hartamu!” (Matius 6:19-21).

Ingat: Kamu ada tanggungjawab secara peribadi untuk
[meng]khabarkanlah Berita Baik daripada Allah
kepada seluruh umat manusia”.
Oleh itu, “pergilah!”
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