Were We in Bethlehem Then

As the holidays come upon us and Christmas carols fill the air, we begin to realize how blessed we are that God gave His only Son so we can have the gift of eternal life. But as we get reminded of this greatest story ever told, we lament at how crudely the King of Glory was received when He came to be born in a world of His own creation.

Come to think of it if we were there at that time and place, would we have acted differently? Could we have been among the residents of the city who were too busy they had no room in their hearts for Him or would we be among the shepherds who rejoiced with the angels that celebrated and joyfully sang at His birth?

A poem written by Mary Flynn poses this rhetorical question.

Jesus, When You Were Born

Jesus, when You were born
In Bethlehem long ago,
Did You mind being out in a stable
When there was o place else to go?

And Jesus when You were born,
Son of God, in a stable You lay,
And the people didn’t know who You were,
Didn’t come to You and pray.

But I wonder if I had been there,
In Bethlehem looking at You,
Would I have known in my heart who You were,
Or would I have shut my door too?

So, now Jesus I will promise,
Because I know what to do,
I know that You are the Son of God,
And I will open my heart up to You.

Rightfully so, the really important question now is whether we recognize Him today and whether we know Him to be the Savior and King of our lives. If we do, Christmas would be a wonderful time and Jesus’ mission from heaven to earth would not have been in vain.

When Life Breaks Down

One day a man broke his model Ford car on the side of the road. Now this man knew a lot about cars so he tried fixing it.

He tried different ways and each time he went back to crank the engine, it wouldn’t start at all. He was a little stubborn so rather than call for help, he continued working alone.

He tried everything and still, nothing…the car won’t start.

A few minutes later, another car pulled up beside him. Out stepped an old man who stood and watched him awhile.

The old man looked at him and said: “Son, do you see this part? Just twist this one and you’re good to go.”

The man whispered in his mind: “There’s no way this old guy could know more about this car than me.”

Anyway, he gate it a try. He adjusted the part, got in the car and sure enough…the engine cranked back to life.

He was surprised and asked the old man: “How did you know what to do?”

Then the old man smiled and said: “My name is Henry Ford. I’m the one who invented your car. And I know everything about it.”

When your life breaks down, don’t ever think that you know how to fix everything…that you don’t need any help. Always remember, only God knows how to fix our lives because we are His creation and He loves us so much.

Even when life seems to have lost its meaning and we are facing a blank wall or think we have reached the end of our road. He invites us to just come to Him. He says: “Come unto Me all ye who labor and are heavey laden and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me for I am meek and lowly in heart and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” Matthew 11:28-30.

Why the Nine did not Return

While Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem from Galilee, ten lepers came to Him begging for mercy. The Scripture says that He had compassion on them and told them to go show themselves to the priest. Taking Jesus at His word, they went and on their way, they got healed. Their horrible condition left them and whatever ravages the terrible disease had on their bodies were gone.

One of the ten came back praising God and thanking Jesus for His healing. Jesus was glad someone came to give thanks. But at the same time, He was sad that only one of them returned to say ‘Thank you’. His eyes were peering in the distance asking, “Were there not ten who were healed? But where are the nine?” (Luke 17:11-19).

Someone wondered why the nine did not return to give thanks for their healing. And the following reasons are suggested:

  1. One waited to see if the cure was real.
  2. One waited to see if it would last.
  3. One said he would see Jesus later.
  4. One decided that he had never had leprosy.
  5. One said he would have gotten well anyway.
  6. One gave glory to the priests
  7. One said, “O, well, Jesus didn’t really do anything.”
  8. One said, “Any rabbi could have done it.”
  9. One said, “I was already much improved.”

The above possible reasons why the nine lepers who were healed didn’t return to give thanks describe the attitude of the naturally ungrateful human heart. It shows how we are when we are unappreciative of what God has done for us and unthankful for the countless blessings we receive from His beneficent hand. We are proud, self-sufficient, indifferent, apathetic, arrogant and downright ungrateful.

God does not need our gratitude to fell good or happy. But just the same He is grieved when we are ungrateful and fail to acknowledge His blessings. He looks for us whenever we neglect to give Him our thanks.

Do we keep Him waiting to receive the thanks and gratitude that He deserves?

The Master’s Touch

Too often, we give up on someone and in exasperation say, “He is a hopeless case. He is messed up and there’s no way he can turn around. Nothing can be done to make him change for the better.”

But we underestimate the power of God. The apostle Paul says: “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes; to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Romans 1:16.

When we think we have done everything we can to help someone turn around and make something out of his life and still see no positive results, we should not give up. It is at this point that we need to let go and let Go. And we will find that with God, there is nothing impossible. Truly, with Him, the difficult is easy, and the impossible? …just needs a little more time.

The following material states this point beautifully. No matter how messed up and dysfunctional our lives may b, if we give it up to Him, He will touch us and with the skill of Master’s hands, He will help us produce a melody that will sweeten and brighten the world we live in.

THE TOUCH

It was battered and scarred, and the auctioneer thought it scarcely worth his while to waste much time on the old violin. But he held it up with a smile:

“What am I biddin’ good folks,” He cried. “Who’ll start the biddin’ for me? A dollar;” then, “two! Only two ? Two dollars, and who’ll make it three ? Three dollars once, three dollars twice; going for three — ” But no.

From the room, far back, a gray-haired man came forward and picked up the bow. Then, wiping the dust from the old violin, and tightening the loose strings, he played a melody pure and sweet as a caroling angel’s wings.

There’s many a man with life out of tune, who’s battered and scarred, and is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd, much like the old violin. A mess of potage, a glass of wine, a game, and he travels on. He is going once, and going twice, he’s going and almost gone. But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd never can quite understand the worth of a soul, and the change that’s wrought by the touch of the Master’s Hand.

May we all with gracious understanding and patience wait on those God is touching with the skill of Hi hands knowing that we too in a certain degree are undergoing a similar process of restorative work. And better still, may we be instruments in His hands to help shape and mold others for His glory.

Aftermath of Trump’s Victory at the Polls

Americans went to the polls on Tuesday, November 8 2016 thinking that at day’s end they would be listening to an acceptance speech from the first woman ever to be elected president in United States history. But imagine their shock when they awoke Wednesday morning and watched unbelieving newscasters announce that Donald Trump had scored an unbelievable and stunning upset of Hillary Clinton for the presidency of the United States.

Hillary Clinton could have screamed “Rigged!” which Trump said he would do if he lost. The survey polls gave her as much as 2-digit leads over her rival in the weeks prior to election. Many odds were stacked up against Mr. Trump. Clinton’s campaign persisted in declaring that Trump was unfit and not qualified for the highest office of the land. Trump himself bungled things up and almost offended every group and segment of the constituency every time he opened his mouth during the campaign. But incredibly, he still won. And as several of his naysayers were threatening to do if he won the elections, they might as well start packing up and move to Canada or to some other planet in the universe.

Disaffection for Clinton and her performance or lack of it while in office may have been greater than people’s disdain over Trump’s flawed character. But the results of the election may also be a reflection of the panic that people had as they see the direction this country is going and want to change course. The horizon may look so bleak Americans in desperation want to try someone from outside the political arena to lead them to where America could be great again as Trump promised time and time again during his rallies.

Even as the president-elect is meeting with President Obama at the White House in order to map out a smooth transition of power, students and young people across the land are marching out on the streets protesting the election of Mr. Trump and refusing to acknowledge him as their president. In Los Angeles, they burned effigies of him and vandalized police cars.

We don’t know how a Trump presidency will affect day to day life in the United States or the role the US will play in world politics. We can only pray that God gives him wisdom to lead the country and the free world and that under his leadership, the church will be able to finish its task so that when his world as we know it comes to an end, Christ will come and usher in an everlasting kingdom of joy, peace and prosperity that has long eluded us under the rule of men.

A Tragedy or a Blessing

Years ago in Scotland, the Clark family had a dream. Clark and his wife worked and saved, making plans for themselves and their nine children to travel to the United States. It had taken years, but they had finally saved enough money and had gotten passports and reservations for the whole family on a new liner to the United States.

The entire family was filled with anticipation and excitement about their new life. However, seven days before their scheduled departure, the youngest son was bitten by a dog. The doctor sewed up the boy but hung a yellow sheet on the Clarks’ front door. Because of the possibility of rabies, they were being quarantined for fourteen days.

The family’s dreams were dashed. They would not be able to make the trip to America as they had planned. The father filled with anger and disappointment, stomped to the dock to watch the ship leave – without the Clark family. The father wept and cursed both his son and God for their misfortune.

Five days later, the tragic news spread throughout Scotland – the mighty Titanic had sunk. The “unsinkable” ship had sunk, taking hundreds of lives with it. The Clark family was to have been on that ship, but because the son had been bitten by a dog, they were left behind in Scotland.

When Mr. Clark heard the news, he hugged his son and thanked him for saving the family. He thanked God for saving their lives and turning what he had felt was a tragedy into a blessing.

At times, we lament our misfortune when things happen or don’t happen according to our plans and desires. But we need to remember that life is in constant motion and we must hold off giving our verdict until the real life drama has fully unfolded. For all we know, the bitter experiences in life are God’s way of preserving us and getting us ready for something more glorious than what we have ever imagined. We see them as tragedies but God intends them to be blessings for us. The Scriptures say “We know that all things work together for good to them who love God…for them who are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

The Mountain Man

For years, he was called a madman for toiling away on the rocks. But Dashrath Manjhi was not crazy. His quest to break a path through a small mountain to benefit the entire village is now legendary because he carved an entire road with hand tools, working for 22 years.

Manjhi started off his extraordinary task in 1960, after his wife was injured while trekking up the side of one of the rocky footpaths. To get to the nearest hospital, he had to travel around the mountains, some 70 kilometers. She died as they were not able to reach the doctors on time to save her.

Dashrath Manjhi wanted his people to have easier access to doctors, schools, and opportunity. Armed with only a sledge hammer, chisel, and crowbar, he single-handedly began carving a road through the 300-foot mountain that isolated his village from the nearest town.

He sold the family’s three goats to buy the hammer and chisels and worked every day on the project to make it successful. After plowing fields for others in the morning, he would work on his road all evening and throughout the night.

After 22 years, Dashrath Das Manjhi had broken the mountain; he had carved out a road 360 feet long, 30 feet wide. Wazirganj, with its doctors, jobs, and school was no 5 kilometers away. People from 60 villages in Atri could use his road.

The health of his village is owned to the man that carved through a mountain, Dashrath Manjhi.

This is a story of a man who did something so that the tragedy that he experienced in his life would not be felt by any other man. He didn’t have heavy duty machines to do the herculean task but he found a way to do it by using crude and simple tools, with his blood, seat and tears and by earning his way during the day and toiling on it in the night.

He was mocked and ridiculed as a mad man, but his vision, his determinations and grit, his commitment to this goal and his love for people who wouldn’t care, earned him the success that he coveted. In the end, he was recognized for his achievement and hundreds of people from his village and the outlying areas became eternally grateful to him for their easy access to education, health care and the very preservation of their lives.

Manjhi reminds us of Jesus. He was rich and yet He became poor so that through his poverty we may be made rich. And He endured everything, even death on the cross for people who didn’t care. “He came unto His own and His own received Him not.” (John 1:11) But He endured it all because of the joy that was set before Him, the joy of seeing people eternal saved in the kingdom because of His sacrifice. (Hebrews 12:2)

Focusing on the Task at Hand

The time was the 19th of May, 1780. The place was Hartford Connecticut. The day has gone down in New England history as a terriblr foretaste of Judgement Day. For at noon the skies turned from blue to gray and by mid-afternoon had blackened over so densely that, in that religious age, men fell on their knees and begged a final blessing before the end came.

The Connecticut House of Representatives was in session. And as some men fell down and others clamored for an immediate adjournment, the Speaker of the House, Colonel Davenport, came to his feet. He silenced them and said these words: “The Day of Judgment is either approaching or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause for adjournment. If it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish, therefore, that candles may be brought.”

This was the Great Dark Day in Adventist eschatology when the sun was darkened and the moon became as blood, a fulfilment of Bible prophecy and a sign of the coming of the last days. Equally important to this historic event is the part of the story which says that the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the State of Connecticut, when others were calling for adjournment so they ciuld be with their families and loved ones, proposed instead to light up candles and go about their official business, arguing that if indeed the end of the world has come, he wanted to be found doing hus duty.

Hundreds of years later, we find ourselves much, much closer to the end of this earth’s history. Prophecies are fulfilling right before our very eyes. Fish kill, animal herds suddenly dying in many places in the world, flocks of birds falling dead from the sky and other mysterious phenomenon in the world of nature, terrorism and troubles in politics and society, and events in the religious realm are screaming out the fact that the end is near. Even events transpiring within the church prove that history is about to come to a close. And I think this is the devil’s strategy to bring division and conflict in the church of God so that these distractions would cause his people to neglect their God-given task.

But should we get distracted? Should we panic? Should we be frightened and escape to the hills? Let “candles be brought: and let us focus on the task at hand. If indeed the end of the world is about to come upon us, let it find us doing our duty and performing the task the Lord has given us to do. He said, “Go therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father, the son and the holy ghost.” (Matthew 28:19)

Kill the Church or Care for It

Most if not all of us are members of the church. And as members, we are either a support or a burden, an asset or a liability to the church’s onward progress. Whether we are aware of them or not, our actions either propel it forward or drag it back.

The following poem written by an anonymous author lists down the things members do which ruin and ultimately destroy and damage the church.

If You Want to Kill the Church

Never go to your church or meetings held there,
If you do go, be late, it’s no one’s affair.
If the weather is bad, either too hot or snowing,
Just stay home and rest, for there’ll be others going.

But should you attend, be sure and remember
To find fault with the work, each official and member.
Be sure to hold back on your offerings and tithes,
The bills will be paid by the rest of the guys.

And never take office if offered the post,
But eagerly criticize work of the host.
If not on a committee you’re placed, be sore!
If you find that you are, don’t attend any more.

When asked your opinion on this thing or that,
Have nothing to say, just turn ’em down flat.
Then after the meeting, shine out like the sun
By telling the folks how it should have been done.

Don’t do any more than you possibly can,
Leave the work for some other woman or man.
And when you see faithful ones work themselves sick,
Then stand up and holler, “It’s run by a clique!”

The church is Christ’s body and is also the Savior of it (Ephesians 5:23). He loves His body and we need to love it too as we ourselves are part of it (I Corinthians 12:27). May we all show our love by caring and supporting it so “that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27).

Power in the Word of God

Many years ago in a Moscow theater, matinee idol Alexander Rostovzev was converted while playing the role of Jesus in a sacrilegious play entitled Christ in a Tuxedo. He was supposed to read two verses from the Sermon on the Mount, remove his gown, and cry out, “Give me my tuxedo and top hat!”

But as he read the words, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted,” he began to tremble. Instead of following the script, he kept reading from Matthew 5, ignoring the coughs, calls, and foot-stamping of his fellow actors.

Finally, recalling a verse he had learned in his childhood in a Russian Orthodox church, he cried, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom!” (Luke 23:42) Before the curtain could be lowered, Rostovzev had trusted and accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Savior.

Rostovzev’s experience shared in the above story proclaims what countless other people have already found out after getting exposed to the written Word of God. And when men and women read or listen to it and don’t close their minds but open their hearts to the convicting and converting power of the Holy Spirit, they will be changed. They will experience a regeneration or a rebirth as was spoken of by Jesus in that interview at night with Nicodemus.

So let us expose ourselves to the living Word of God and let us be open to the work of the Holy Spirit. He will change our hearts and we will become willing and joyful followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.