Saturday, January 21, 2017

Using God's Name in Vain

The Scream by Edvard Munch

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/living/religion/article127687134.html#storylink=c






As Christians, we should be careful that we do not take God's name in vain.  Like many, I hate it when the name of Jesus is used as an expletive.  But we are also to be careful that we do not use God's name to propagate our own agendas.

In the inauguration yesteday, God's name and biblical quotes were used frequently.  The president, who once claimed that nobody reads the Bible more than he, paraphrased a psalm about unity in his speech.  And then there was prosperity gospel evangelist Paula White asking God to reveal to the president the ability to know his will and the compassion "to yield to our better angels."  Not sure what all that means! And how about Franklin Graham referencing the timeliness of rain as a sign of God's blessing on the president.  Another head scratcher for me.

Just because God's name and biblical texts are used does not make one or one's country more godly.  Also, let us be reminded that biblical Israel is not the United States of America.

So, for those of us who bristle at  the name of Jesus being used as a profanity, I hope we equally bristle at the misapplication of God's name and Word for one's own glory and agenda.


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Put Not Your Trust in Princes



The Wave by Katsushika Hokusai

Recent political events could overwhelm me and make me cynical, or they could propel me to look beyond my disappointment and anger over the human princes that are put in place to the God of the universe who keeps faith forever.  It is He whose authority I am to respect and obey above all and whose heart I am to emulate of executing justice for the oppressed, of providing food to the hungry, of lifting up those who are bowed down, of loving uprightness, of watching over refugees, of sustaining the powerless.  Government administrations, religious entities come and go, but the God of Jacob reigns forever!  Blessed are we whose help and hope are in Him.

PSALM 146

1 Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
2 I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

3 Put not your trust in princes,
in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
4 When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
on that very day his plans perish.

5 Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD his God,
6 who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
7 who executes justice for the oppressed,
who gives food to the hungry.

The LORD sets the prisoners free;
8 the LORD opens the eyes of the blind.
The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;
the LORD loves the righteous.

9 The LORD watches over the sojourners;
he upholds the widow and the fatherless,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

10 The Lord will reign forever,
your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the Lord!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Consider What You Sow

Figures in a Dutch Street by Willem Koekkoek, 

Sow a thought, and you reap an act;
Sow an act, and you reap a habit;
Sow a habit, and you reap a character;
Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.

Samuel Smiles (1812-1904)


Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 
Galatians 6:7





Friday, June 10, 2016

God Moves in a Mysterious Way

Van Gogh, Almond Blossom

  1. I was reminded of William Cowper's (1731-1800) beautiful hymn this morning and thought I'd share it with you.  Cowper suffered from deep depression for most of his life; his heartfelt hymns and poems reflect a heart that held on to God's mercies, oftentimes in the midst of despair.  His works bring solace as they help lift my eyes above my circumstances to rest on a gracious God and trust in his loving, wonderful mysterious way.

  2. God moves in a mysterious way
    His wonders to perform;
    He plants His footsteps in the sea
    And rides upon the storm.
  3. Deep in unfathomable mines
    Of never failing skill
    He treasures up His bright designs
    And works His sov’reign will.
  4. Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
    The clouds ye so much dread
    Are big with mercy and shall break
    In blessings on your head.
  5. Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
    But trust Him for His grace;
    Behind a frowning providence
    He hides a smiling face.
  6. His purposes will ripen fast,
    Unfolding every hour;
    The bud may have a bitter taste,
    But sweet will be the flow’r.
  7. Blind unbelief is sure to err
    And scan His work in vain;
    God is His own interpreter,
    And He will make it plain.


Lamentations 3:19-26
Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind,and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning;great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,“therefore I will hope in him.” The LORD is good to those who wait for him,to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietlyfor the salvation of the LORD.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

What does the LORD require of you?



'Josephine and Mercie' by Edmund Charles Tarbell
Micah 6:8  
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?  
  This is one of my favorite Scripture verses.  I even painted the verse on chairs at my home.  As I reflected on it the past few days, it crossed my mind that this relatively short verse could sum up how I should seek to live each day.

There are three basic things listed, easy for my mind to grab hold of as I go about my day-
1. To do justice/justly
2. To love mercy/kindness
3. To walk humbly with my God

As I go about the day doing my work - interacting with people in person, over the phone, online; and even thinking to myself...I  can easily remind myself of these three requirements which to me consist of, at the very least, doing all things with integrity, standing up against injustice; showing kindness and mercy, with patience and gentleness; and knowing my status before my God (not some impersonal God out there but my God, the God who is personal, who created and redeemed me, who knows and loves me, and who is with me wherever I go).

It has helped me to have these three requirements in my head throughout the day.  My naturally impatient, self-centered self with a tendency towards rudeness would now pause and think if I am showing kindness in how I speak to the person across from me or on the phone (I'm especially guilty of rudeness here), or if I am true to my word, or if I am being cowardly and selfish by not doing my part in securing hope for the oppressed (not necessarily always on a grand scale but equally crucial in everyday encounters like speaking up for the widow who is being bullied).

But more importantly, the verse reminds me to start each day cognizant of my status before my God, humbly obeying Him in everything and every way as His Spirit leads, not for fear of punishment by some distant oppressive God, but out of love of a personal God who loves me first and is ever present with me.  To me, it is like a child holding on tightly to her father with adoration and respect as he leads her with loving authority and impeccable wisdom.

I have failed and will continue to fail as I go about my day, stumbling as I act out in anger or without integrity, or  when I treat God and man with contempt, seeking to do things my way.  But my God's love is steadfast, He does not give up easily and is gracious to let me see my erring ways,then pulls me back up and set me once again on the journey with Him for another mile, for another day.

Before I end this post, I would like to point out that other than the use of the personal possessive pronoun "your" before "God," the name of God used in this verse "YHWH," translated "I AM WHO I AM" or "I AM" ("the LORD" in English Bibles) was first revealed to the Israelites during the Exodus.  God told Moses to tell the people before they set out that it's "I AM" who had  sent him to lead them out of Egypt (Exodus 3:14).  Up to this point, God's chosen people, including the Patriarchs, knew God only by titles.  YHWH is the first personal proper name that God revealed of Himself. It is this YHWH, this personal God who redeemed His people from the bondage of the Egyptians and who was with them every step of the way to the promised land.  It is YHWH (the LORD) who saved His people and overthrew all who opposed Him.

It is the same God, revealed now in the fullness of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit that is leading me to live my days to do justice, to love mercy and to live humbly before my God.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Death Be Not Proud

Painting by Kenneth Rowntree


My mom died this day four years ago.  I miss her with all my heart.  Absent from me, but joyfully present with her God!

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.
John Donne

1 Corinthians 15:25-26
For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 



Friday, March 11, 2016

The Inheritance of Loss



Illustration by Lauren Monaco


This way of leaving your family for work had condemned them over several generations to have their hearts always in other places, their minds thinking about people elsewhere; they could never be in a single existence at one time. How wonderful it was going to be to have things otherwise. 
Kiran Desai, The Inheritance of Loss

Kiran Desai describes movingly the dilemma of those of us who have traveled far from home for education or employment, leaving behind our loved ones and the way of life, forging a new life but always missing the old.

I am more fortunate than Desai's characters who went far from their hometowns in India to England and the US but found it hard to assimulate into their new societies and sadly also did not succeed in bettering themselves or their circumstances.  Jemubhai (the Judge) became a warped, harsh man as a result of his years at Cambridge; Biju slaved in greasy and often sleazy kitchens in New York, to have his savings and belongings down to to his pants robbed on his return to Kalimpong to be reunited with his father.  In contrast, right from the get-go, I was fortunate to adjust seemingly seamlessly to American society.  As a university student, I adapted well and was included and embraced by my fellow American college mates.  Upon graduation, I proceeded to live the "American Dream."  But through it all, until the deaths of my parents, my heart and mind were always here and also there. I would constantly be thinking about my grandparents, my parents -- missing them, worrying about them.  Despite the distance that separated us, I managed to be embroiled in their lives, tackling happy circumstances and complications from afar, and always feeling inadequate and torn.

And in spite of how well I have adjusted to American life, there is always a yearning for things from "home" and of the way of life there (many aspects are far from ideal and from which I would not want to be subjected again).  And even though my closest ties are now severed by death, a part of me will always be tied to the land of my birth -- to its culture, to its landscape, and to its people.  Living the American life in the present yet subjugated to the memory of the people and the life back home.

In a sense, everyone feels the same way when she leaves family and hometown to study or work in another city, even in her home country with all its familiarity.  The dilemma is probably more painful and the parting more poignant when we have to cross oceans and cultures.

Sometimes the ache for loved ones and "home" is so acute that you wonder if it's worth the costs. But that is the way of life for many of us living in the present and those in generations past and in generations to come.  How wonderful indeed it would be "to have things otherwise" -- to finally be home and ever be with the ones you love and never ever having to say goodbye again.


But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. 
2 Peter 13-14