God is good.

Thanking God for the Weekend

God is good.

It was a really rough week.

I got sick and struggled in my preparations for a major portfolio presentation because of it. I had to handle a difficult client, battled with doubt and anger. Reached the end of my patience. Dealt with late and missed deadlines….

All I can say is that I’m glad I survived. As I look into my study journal I notice that when I need God the most he speaks to me the loudest. When my strength is insufficient he helps me to overcome and go beyond my own expectations. There was pain this week, but through it all He was there.

God is good indeed. Wishing you a happy weekend spent with Him 🙂

Perfection - the ultimate example is God - The example our Lord gives us is not that of a good man, or even a good Christian, but of God himself. “Be ye therefore perfect”…

Perfect

“…love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt 5:44-48 NIV)

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Samson

Until the Next Turn

This is my life, for now.

Round and round I go, treading the worn prison floor in the stifling heat and in my own incessant darkness. No use trying to break the bonds that now hold me—I know because I tried. The fetters that in the old life I would have easily gotten rid of are now impossible to break. And even if I could—where would I go? How would I make my way out of this prison, guarded and blinded as I am?

No. Better now to continue going round and round and grind at the mill. I can still hear, and I hear there is something in the air, some great event, and I am involved in their schemes. So for now, I will wait.

I will wait for the next turn of life. It will come quickly and unexpectedly, just as it came when I was undefeated and caught up in the bliss and the fever of love (or so I thought, dolt that I was)—just as my strength, my eyes, and my dignity were taken from me in a quick turn, so will this come to an end.

It’s not a blind hope. I believe it because I know one defeat does not mean the end. I believe it because in the depths of my despair, in the abject humiliation and the shame of my situation, I remembered the God of my parents—the God I serve. I remembered how he will use even a broken instrument for his purpose the way one could use an old donkey jaw to strike down a thousand men, and he’s not through with me. So I wait for him.

Hark! I hear someone coming. They’re coming for me.

* * *

The crowds roar when I appear in front of them. There must be thousands here at the temple of Dagon, and they’ve all come because of me. To complete their victory and my own degradation they have me entertain them. No need to do much—they are content to see me naked, shackled, filthy, blinded, and helpless without a guiding hand.

At last I rest between the pillars which support the building. The cacophony of their shouts and calls, their jeers, the dozens of trumpets, flutes, drums and cymbals, the sound of all the madness and debauchery, and the stamping of dancing feet make the ground shake under my bare feet.

My turn is coming.

So while they jeer, curse, shout, and taunt me, I pray one last time to the God who watches over me.

O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once….

It should have been different, it should not have ended this way. I had been set apart since birth, a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. I should have had a long life and many children. If only… if only… and yet I am not allowed to fall into despair. My prayer is heard, my strength is returned to me. My turn has come at last—my last chance for redemption.

So let me fulfill my destiny—even if it means that I will perish with the foe. Let me die with these thousands, and accomplish more through death than I ever did while living.

If My People

When we finally went in to church, I took my usual seat in the back, and Zuri went on and took her seat at one of the front pews. A person sitting some eight pews in front of me turned and looked back. It was Tony. He looked strange—was he growing a beard? He looked much older. He smiled through the gloom of the church, and motioned me to join him there.

I waved back and smiled. And while a great part of me wanted to desperately cast away the melancholia induced by solemn talk I’d had in the car with Zuri, I shook my head and stayed where I was.

Zuri had told me to ask God what my purpose in life was.

But how to ask?

And how to know what his will was?

First of all, how could I dare? How could I draw to the altar and bend my knees in prayer, and ask God to guide me with the full knowledge that just today I’d hidden a stash of benzos I’d bought with money I’d stolen from Mara?

I contemplated my life, such as it was. It was distasteful. There was nothing to be proud of. Not even my GPA. The past I hated, and the future I dreaded.

The worship leaders got up on stage and began singing their simple songs.

I’d always listened, with detachment born out of scorn for the simple music. But for the first time I saw and heard it for the heartfelt music that it really was.

I closed my eyes, and bowed my head, hearing intently every single word of the song the others were singing. I’d heard this song before… or, rather, the words of the song. It was from the Bible… we’d read it in the study group—How did it go?

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

I shivered, and hugged myself.

Not again…I thought, believing I’d feel sick as I had the last time I’d prayed with Tony. But it was different. Something like hope replaced the inner desolate void that had existed before when just the thought of prayer alone had made me feel nauseous and sick with grief. And instead of feeling cold I began to feel almost warm.

I don’t know how it happened, but I dropped to my knees. Hot tears streamed down my face, and I began sobbing. Softly at first, and then I had much ado to hold myself together and not draw attention. But it was ineffective. Dimly I felt someone come to my side. Zuri was rocking me in her arms. Soothing me, and praying for me.

Oh, God.

I’ve tried so many times . . . you know I have.

But I can’t draw close to you because I’m a thief, a liar, a drug addict, I question my sexual orientation, I drink, and I watch porn in my computer.

I’m really sick.

Detestable.

A monster.

A blemish in creation, and nothing short of death can put an end to the mess that I am. I wanna die and be lost in oblivion. And yet, I’m begging you. Don’t turn me away. Please don’t give up on me just yet. You listened once to me—twice, with the Terry thing—Can you do it again? Please?

If I’m going to die, then I don’t want to be afraid. I don’t want to be afraid of you, or of life, or of death. I want to make things right, and be right with you. So please save me . . .

Help me . . .

 

Part 18 of If You Only Knew

The Sabbath

The Seventh Day as the Sabbath – Discussion Notes

Garden Grove SDA – Young Adult Sabbath School
28 Fundamental Beliefs – #20: The Seventh-Day as the Sabbath
May 10, 2014
Duration ~ 50min

Icebreaker Question

Please state your name and share with us your go-to trick for staying energized/staying awake.

Preamble:

Few of us are aware that at the moment America is suffering from a public health epidemic that is becoming frightfully common in our society. The lack of rest.

Take sleep, for example.

Q1 How many of you get in daily 7-8 hours? 5-6 hours? 4 or less hours?

Adults are recommended 7-8 hours daily. According to data from the National Health Interview Survey, a third of adults sleep less than 6 hours of sleep per day. Furthermore, the average American sleeps time of 6 ½ hours is a 25% drop since the early 20th century. How dismal….

But what about vacations?

Q2 How many of you get paid vacations?

You are a fortunate lot… 23% of American workers get no paid vacation time and no paid holidays.

But it’s not just about the lack of benefits; it’s about actually making use of those vacation privileges, too! Of those Americans who had vacation benefits in the year 2011, 57% of them had not made full use of their vacation days by the end of the year.

We are starved for rest as never before. To make up for it, we rev up on Red Bull, Starbucks, sodas—you name it. Our society is craving the physical and mental health benefits of a day of rest.

So before we begin talking about rest, and the provision God made for our hectic lives, let’s have a word of prayer.

Prayer

Introduction – The statement from the 28 fundamental Beliefs

The Sabbath is God’s gift to us, a time for rest and restoration of our connection to God and others. It reminds us of God’s creation and Jesus’ grace.

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Gift of Prophecy – Sabbath School Discussion

Garden Grove SDA – Young Adult Sabbath School
28 Fundamental Beliefs – #18 The Gift of Prophecy
April 12, 2014
Duration ~ 50min (Adaptable to 40 min.)

Icebreakers

Please state your name and answer the following question.

Q1:      If you had access to a time-traveling Delorean for just ONE round trip, would you travel to the future or to the past—and where?

            FYI most people will want to go to the past—surprising, isn’t it?

It is within our human nature to want to know what is going to happen to us and to our world. That is why the FB we will be discussing today is really important for us. Fundamental Belief #18 deals with the Gift of Prophecy and its role in our lives, especially as we approach the end times.

Prayer

Intro – Definition of Prophecy

Q2:      What is prophecy? / How would you define “Prophecy”? / What is another word or synonym that could be used instead of “Prophecy”?

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For That ONE Person

If you could sacrifice yourself, give every drop of your life’s blood, and every ounce of your flesh in the fire for the sake of saving all your family–would you?

How about for that one member of your family who is rebellious, who has decided to cut all ties with mum and dad, who curses at you when you approach them, and just wants to be on their own doing their own thing–even if it means that they are rushing headlong to an early and violent death? Would you?

If your answer is yes, then you are a better person than most. There’s a bunch of people out there who claim they would, but if I (and you) think about that person who I’m still struggling to forgive because of all the hurt they have caused back in my childhood– sometimes the answer is an uncertain “yes” at best.

The universal family includes all of us here on earth, the angelic beings in heaven, and the other beings we don’t really know about from other worlds God has created. Of the untold billions of members in that family, our little world is but a mere speck. A black speck. A smudge in the perfection of God’s kingdom.

Jesus could have been asked the same question by wonder-filled cherubim who couldn’t understand his choice.

“Are you willing to die for that black speck? By the people who run away from you when you approach them, and who will curse you, torture you, tear you apart, and nail you on a cross? Will you continue to love them knowing they might not love you back?”

We know the answer.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16, NKJV)

By his life and His death, Christ has achieved even more than recovery from the ruin wrought through sin. It was Satan’s purpose to bring about an eternal separation between God and man; but in Christ we become more closely united to God than if we had never fallen….Through the eternal ages He is linked with us….By love’s self-sacrifice, the inhabitants of earth and heaven are bound to their Creator in bonds of indissoluble union….The earth itself, the very field that Satan claims as his, is to be not only ransomed but exalted. Our little world, under the curse of sin the one dark blot in His glorious creation, will be honored above all other worlds in the universe of God. Here, when he shall make all things new, the tabernacle of God shall be with men, “and he will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God.” – E. G. White, Desire of Ages “God With Us”

If we are Christians, we follow and do and say what Christ would do and say too.

Would I be willing to seek others? Willing to sacrifice the comfortable habits of my life for the sake of ONE person who needs to be reached?

Or has the miracle of self-sacrificing love not become a reality in my life?

On the Couch

Monday and Wednesday evenings found me in Zuri’s car on my way to her church for Small Groups and Prayer Warriors.

The Small Groups meeting was held in the church’s Community Services Center. The first day I ever went I was welcomed and was promptly given a Bible. I was invited to take a seat.

I did so in style, plopping into an old dusty-looking loveseat of a vile pink color. For good measure I put my feet up to keep people from sitting next to me. They tried to strike up conversation, but as I was not encouraging it, they gave up.

Ha, ha.

When the study began, I was invited to sit in the circle of plastic chairs with them. I refused as civilly as I could. Zuri did not glare at me as Mara would have done. She placidly took her seat.

I did what was agreed: I sat, I listened. Zuri led the testimonies and prayer time. I didn’t kneel. I was angry at God, and told him so in my prayer—if it could be called a prayer.

A man with a balding head led the Bible study and discussion.

Yeah, Yeah. John 3:16. Everyone knows about that…

After the Bible study there were refreshments. Everyone seemed to brighten up. I saw coffee, and pastries and sandwiches and soup and fruit. I was not taken in, however. I remained where I was and watched everyone chat and stuff their faces. I hated them.

God.

Church people.

I knew what they could do. I was not taken in by their nice appearance.

8:30 came at last, time for me to go back home. I didn’t immediately spot Zuri, until I saw her praying with two other people in a quiet corner of the room. Suddenly I was incredibly exasperated. I had liked Zuri quite well before she found out my secret. Of all my mom’s friends she was the only one who was not toxic. She was kind, and she knew how to treat everything naturally from migraines to menstrual cramps. Every Christmas she gave each of us a small gift. She had taught me how to pay the piano years ago, and though I had stopped playing, I still enjoyed falling asleep to her Bach many a rainy afternoons.

Now I hated her with an intensity that was almost scary in my emotion-parched life. But what could I do? I’d approached God with a business proposition—what I got in the end was outright blackmail.

And I was trapped.

 

part 7 of If You Only Knew

Everything and Nothing

The grief and longing of the human soul for things lost are made almost tangible by the poetic words. In the story, when the lovers reunite once more, the young maid cries,

So many times have I waked when the stars were sinking, to long for thee, beloved. It is cruel, at such a time, to be alone in love. . .

They marry in haste that same afternoon. She—the love of his life, now a beggar, a faded beauty. And she is dying. He—a counselor to the Sultan and exceedingly rich.

The judge officiating the wedding asks for the terms of the marriage. What can she bring to her husband as dowry?

“Property?” Omar smiled. “Hair dark as the storm wind, a waist slender as a young cypress, and a heart that knoweth naught but love. She needs no more. Make haste!”

The judge tells the scribe to writes down “Nothing of tangible value”

“And Now, what property doth your Excellency bestow upon her?”

“Everything—all that I have.”

“Will your Excellency please consider that we must place reasonable terms on record? ‘Everything’ will not stand before the law. We must have itemization…and their approximate value—”

“Write ‘Everything of tangible value,’” Omar instructed the scribe . . .

Later, before showering his bride with gifts of silk, jewels, gold, damask, and pearls Omar whispered to her “O my bride, never wilt thou know other arms than mine.”

* * *

I like stories. Don’t you?

Here’s another one.

Once upon a time, there came a Prince sent from Heaven. He was humble in garb, but was still the Son of God, and he captivated the world. He brought joy, healing, and good news for everyone. After all, he came to earth to be with the fallen race, a people who were poor, and dying…

To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified. (Isaiah 61:3)

In short, he gave them Everything, when they could give him Nothing in return.

This, my modern friends, was rash indeed. The exchange of the dowry was customary in the Eastern culture. A marriage contract had to be made official with the exchange of monetary gifts. It was as important as what we would consider an exchange of vows.

Yet time and time again in the Bible, it is God who makes the initiative to seek you out, and take you as you are as his Bride. Because the one thing you can give him–that which is “nothing of tangible value” to others–means everything to him.

So will you give him your heart?

– – –

[1] Lamb, Harold Omar Khayyam (New York: Bantam, 1956) p.94

 

Blue

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (John 14:15)

Blue.

Such a pretty color. Psychologically it transmits peace, tranquility, and brings calm. It has a Biblical meaning too. It is said that it is the color of God’s throne is blue:

Above the dome over [the winged creatures’s] heads was something that looked like a throne made of sapphire. On the throne was a figure that looked like a human (Ezekiel 1:26 GW)

The color blue was used extensively in the tabernacle. When God was giving directions to Moses on how to make it, he went into great detail on the colors it should have: blue, purple, and scarlet. The three colors were always mentioned in that order: blue first, then the color of royalty (purple), and then the color of power and wealth (crimson). God instructed the Israelites to incorporate the color in their clothing, on the edge of their robes for a singular reason:

The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the people of Israel, and tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a cord of blue on the tassel of each corner. And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the Lord, to do them, not to follow after your own heart…so you shall be holy to your God” (Numbers 15:37-40)

Blue, then, is representative of the word of God. Wearing it meant that you faithfully obeyed his commandments. That is why, the priest’s clothing included an ephod, embroidered in blue, purple, and scarlet, and over it went a robe from a single piece of blue woven cloth. (Ex. 39:27). The entire priestly garment with its beautiful colors (of which blue was always predominant) was an insigne to what the golden badge on his forehead plainly stated HOLINESS TO THE LORD.

* * *

The book of Revelation has many startling images, all rife with symbolism. Here is a particular one of interest:

One of the seven angels who held the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of that notorious prostitute who sits on raging waters. The kings of the earth had sex with her, and those living on earth became drunk on the wine of her sexual sins.” Then the angel carried me by his power into the wilderness. I saw a woman sitting on a bright red beast covered with insulting names. It had seven heads and ten horns. The woman wore purple clothes, bright red clothes, gold jewelry, gems, and pearls. In her hand she was holding a gold cup filled with detestable and evil things from her sexual sins. A name was written on her forehead. The name was Mystery: Babylon the Great, the Mother of Prostitutes and Detestable Things of the Earth. I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of God’s holy people and of those who testify about Jesus. I was very surprised when I saw her. (Rev 17: 1-6)

The woman sitting on the beast represents a false church. She is even wearing the colors that were found in the tabernacle of God–even mentioned in the same order–except for one: Blue. She has the trappings of the church’s authority and prestige, but she is a church that is neither holy nor godly, or even obedient to all of God’s commandments. A vast contrast to the humble beginnings of the true church!

* * *

Symbolically speaking, God’s children, and his church, should keep in mind that we are to be clad  in blue–the color of holiness and obedience to the Lord. Before you get caught up in the piety, the sacrifices for God, and the motions of being a devout Christian, you need to first get caught up in his word. After all, obedience is what he requires from you.

Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. (1 Samuel 15:22)

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (John 14:15)