Celebrating death

I am not sure as to the fascination about celebrating death on Halloween (the last day of October) and as I pondered on this topic, I was reminded of Psalm 116:15 which in a sense states that God celebrates death. God celebrates death, but not the death of any and every one, but only those of his saints.

Psalm 116:15 states, that the “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” What does this mean? To be a saint, one must be sanctified, and that means that they must have believed in Jesus; that he is the Son of God so that his righteousness is imputed on them. And all those who believe in Jesus, though they die, they shall live, eternally (John 11:25; John 3:16). In other words, saints don’t die. They merely sleep only to awake when the LORD returns (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Neither the first nor the second death has any power over those who have believed in Jesus and so when these saints physically die (first death), God celebrates their absence from the body which is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8), and that is precious in His sight.

Points to ponder:
If you were to die today, would it be precious in the sight of the LORD? In other words, are you sanctified as a saint, i.e., have you believed in Jesus? If not, I plead with you, tarry no further. Acknowledge the need for a Savior who can save you not just from the first death (physical) but also from the second (spiritual; eternal separation from God). Believe in Jesus Christ that he is the Son of God who paid the wages of our sin (which is death) by his death, and rose again from the dead, conquering sin and death, once and for all for all. Confess that you need him and ask him to be your Lord and master. Today is your day of Salvation, delay no further.

Psalm 116:15 (KJV)
15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (KJV)
13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

2 Corinthians 5:8 (KJV)
8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.

Rest and Test

Jesus went to the wilderness to REST in God, before His ministry (Matthew 4:1).
The devil went to the wilderness to TEST the Lord, before Jesus’ ministry (Matthew 4:1).

Points to ponder:
When we are to begin the ministry, or are in the ministry that God has given unto each one of us, do we take the time to first REST in God? Often we hurry and plan for God himself, not allowing his purposes according to his time to be fulfilled in our lives.
Secondly, when we go to rest in the Lord, we must be aware and beware, always watching and praying, so that we do not fall into temptation, for the devil is like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour and those who are resting in the Lord are particularly his targets to test (Mark 14:38; 1 Peter 5:8).

Matthew 4:1 (KJV)
1 Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.

1 Peter 5:8 (KJV)
8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:

Mark 13:38 (KJV)
Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.

Are you an astronomer or an astronaut Christian?

On our drive back from Dallas to Austin, our cherished five year old son, Reuben asked my beloved wife Sangeetha and me, a question. He wanted to know if he could jump and reach the Sun that was setting beyond the horizon. This led to a discussion of how no man can reach the Sun, although man kind has reached the moon. We explained to Reuben, that those who go to outer space (like to the moon) are astronauts, while those who stay on earth and observe outer space are astronomers. It reminded me of the movie, Jurassic Park III, in which, Dr. Grant (played by Sam Neill) explains to Erik (played by Trevor Morgan), that there are only two kinds of boys, those who want to be astronomers and those who want to be astronauts. The astronomer (or the paleontologist) gets to study these amazing things from a place of complete safety, but never get to go into space.

As astronomer is a spectator, while an astronaut is a partaker. In our Christian walk as well, we can function as an astronomer or as an astronaut. Many of us (including myself), many a times, merely function as a spectator, observing the wondrous and amazing things, ordained by God, from a place of complete safety, without getting involved in the Kingdom business of snatching souls from the doorposts of hell. We function as astronomer Christians, pleased to hear of God words, instead of functioning as astronaut Christians, doing God’s work. The Bible is very clear on the need to be a doer; to be a partaker in God’s mission of reconciling man to God and restoring man back into a relationship with God. To be merely a hearer (spectator) and not a doer, is in essence, the worst kind of deception; a deception where one deceive themselves (James 1:22).

Points to ponder:
We need to be doers of God’s work, and not mere hearers of God’s words.
We need to be partakers, and not mere spectators.
We need to be astronaut Christians not mere astronomer Christians.
Are you an astronomer or an astronaut Christian?

James 1:22 (KJV)
22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

When Jesus Comes

Recently, when Sangeetha and I ask our five year old beloved son, Reuben to do something, like clean his game room, or wear his shoes, he would dilly dally for a while, before getting to the task given and when we ask him to hurry up, he would raise his hand in a gesture telling us, that he is going to do what has been asked of him, but for now, leave me alone. The last couple of times, I would ask him, “When are you going to do it?”, “When Jesus comes?” to which he would always burst out laughing.

Once during this conversation, it dawned on me that there was a fallacy in my assumption and my question which implied that Jesus would come again sometime in the future, hopefully by which time, Reuben would have completed his chore, was indeed not necessarily accurate. I corrected myself and used that opportunity to tell Reuben, that actually, none of us know “when” Jesus will come back. It could be in the future or it could be this very instant. What is really important is that, when Jesus comes, how will he find us? Will we be ready filled with the Holy Spirit of God or would the oil in have run out?

Jesus said, “Of the day and that hour of Jesus’ return, no man knows, nor do the angels in heaven, neither does Jesus himself as the Son of God, but only God the Father knows of this. So we must take heed, watch and pray, for we do not know when the time is.” (Mark 13:32-33). This day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night (1 Thessalonians 5:2).

Points to ponder:
Are you/I going to be ready, taking heed, watching and praying, for we do not know When Jesus Comes?

Mark 13:32-33 (KJV)
But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.
33 Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.

1 Thessalonians 5:2 (KJV)
2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.

The Crux of Jabez’s prayer

One of the books that became an international bestseller, topping the New York Times best seller list in 2001, selling over nine million copies, is “The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking through to the Blessed Life” by author Bruce Wilkinson. The book is based on the Scripture text recorded in 1 Chronicles 4:10. The words of Jabez’s prayer is “Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me!” And God granted him that which he requested.

Most Christians are not unfamiliar with this prayer, and many use this as a model to pray for the PROVISIONS of God (blessings and enlarging of one’s territory) or for God’s PROTECTION (keep me from evil that it may cause me harm). But as I pondered over the crux of this prayer, I believe by divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God, I realized that the crux of this prayer is centrally positioned in the prayer itself. The crux is not about the provisions or the protection of God, but it is about the PRESENCE of God (Oh that the hand of God might BE WITH ME). The provisions and protection of God are byproducts of God’s presence. For example, when a parent is with a child, not only does the parent PROVIDE for the child, but also PROTECTS the child from any and all harm to the child. As long as the parent is with the child (PRESENT with the child), the child has nothing to worry about. In the same manner, Jabez prayed for God’s presence and received in full measure, not only God’s presence, but God’s provisions and protection as well.

Points to ponder:
When was the last time, you/I prayed, just for God to be with us; for his hand to be with us?
Next time we pray, instead of focusing on asking God for his provisions (blessings) and his protection, let us ask for God’s PRESENCE to be with us, since the rest will follow.  |
My prayer today, for today and the coming days, is “Oh Lord God, I pray that thine hand be with me!

1 Chronicles 4:10 (KJV)
10 And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested.

Lesser known characters :: Zadok

Beethoven once said, “I would bare my head and kneel at his grave.” recounting the greatness of George Frideric Handel (1685-1759), who needs no introduction to the music lover. A composer during the Baroque period, he was known for his masterpiece rendition of the Messiah “Hallelujah” chorus. In addition to the Messiah, another composition of his that gained popularity is “Zadok the Priest”. The lyrics of this rendition tell the story of king Solomon’s coronation. But who is this Zadok the Priest?

Zadok, the high priest was a descendant of Phineas, the son of Eleazar, who was the son of Aaron. So from a Levitical lineage, he was qualified to be a priest that would serve the Lord, but it was not his lineage that makes Zadok standout. He served alongside Abiathar, another high priest during the reign of David. When Absalom, the son of David, rebelled against his father and king David, Zadok remained faithful by David’s side and followed David’s request to stay with the ark of the Lord, in Jerusalem, and later we see that he was asked by David to accompany Nathan the prophet and Benaiah the protector (soldier) to crown Solomon as king, after David. Once Solomon, builds the temple in Jerusalem, Zadok becomes the inaugural priest to serve in the first Temple. Prophet Ezekiel, in fact, refers to those who remained faithful to the Lord, not succumbing to the pagan worship during his days, as the sons of Zadok, who would have the privilege of serving God in the New Jerusalem, where the Lord and the Lamb (Jesus Christ) himself would be the temple (Ezekiel 44:14-16; Revelation 21:22).

What can we learn from Zadok?
Zadok does not go down in history, just as the first high priest to serve in the temple of the Lord built in Jerusalem, by Solomon, but because of his faithful service to God in keeping charge of the ark of the Lord and his sanctuary, when the people of Israel went astray, he is remembered as the father of those who remain faithful and who will be given the privilege to serve God in the New Jerusalem, whose builder will be God himself, one far greater than Solomon. Like Zadok, we must remain faithful in serving God and those whom God has appointed over us, so that we may be known by God, not just for our current service but also for our service in the future, when we see Christ face to face.

Ezekiel 44:14-16 (KJV)
But I will make them keepers of the charge of the house, for all the service thereof, and for all that shall be done therein.
15 But the priests the Levites, the sons of Zadok, that kept the charge of my sanctuary when the children of Israel went astray from me, they shall come near to me to minister unto me, and they shall stand before me to offer unto me the fat and the blood, saith the Lord GOD:
16 They shall enter into my sanctuary, and they shall come near to my table, to minister unto me, and they shall keep my charge.

Revelation 21:22 (KJV)
22 And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.

Lesser known characters :: Vashti

Even though the main characters in the book of Esther, are Hadassah (also known as Esther) and Mordecai, a lesser known character named Vashti plays a very significant and vital role. Vashti is the queen of king Ahasuerus who reigned from India to Ethiopia over 127 provinces. King Ahasuerus, threw a party (feast) for the nobles and princes of his provinces and the powers of Persia and Media, that lasted for 180 days during which time he showed off his glorious kingdom and the splendor of his majesty to the officials. At the end of 180 days, he threw another party for all the people in the palace, both great and small, which lasted for another seven days during which time, he ordered his stewards to serve wine in glasses of gold to all men without any restriction, as much as they desired. On the seventh day, when the king was intoxicated (merry with wine), he still felt like he wanted to show off more than what he had already, and orders to have his queen Vashti, be brought before him and the drunk men in his palace and be displayed, for she was very fair (beautiful). Vashti refuses the order of the king and is exiled from the king’s presence as a result of her refusal. Vashti refusal leads to the king searching for her replacement and this is how Esther is divinely presented to the king and becomes his queen.

What can we learn from Vashti?
The one thing that makes Vashti find a place in history and in a sense makes her immortal is that she said “No” where it mattered and refused a powerful king, not giving into his sinful desires. She was not only beautiful (fair to look at) on the outside, but she had far greater inner beauty (character) and respect for herself. The Bible says that beauty without discretion is akin to a jewel in a pig’s snout (Proverbs 11:22) and Vashti refused to be known as such. Despite the fact that her refusal could dispel her from the king’s court, divorce her from her husband or even bring her death for disobeying the kings commandment, Vashti chose honor over life. Though she was stripped of her royalty, Vashti goes down in history as a woman who said ‘No’, defying a powerful king, and will forever be remembered as one arrayed in purple.

Like Vashti, we must be willing to say ‘No’ when it comes to matters that will bring dishonor to God, even if it comes at the cost of being exiled from the luxuries and pleasures of this world. Can we be like Vashti?

Esther 1: 1-22 (KJV)
1 Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus, (this is Ahasuerus which reigned, from India even unto Ethiopia, over an hundred and seven and twenty provinces:)
2 That in those days, when the king Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which was in Shushan the palace,
3 In the third year of his reign, he made a feast unto all his princes and his servants; the power of Persia and Media, the nobles and princes of the provinces, being before him:
4 When he shewed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the honour of his excellent majesty many days, even an hundred and fourscore days.
5 And when these days were expired, the king made a feast unto all the people that were present in Shushan the palace, both unto great and small, seven days, in the court of the garden of the king’s palace;
6 Where were white, green, and blue, hangings, fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings and pillars of marble: the beds were of gold and silver, upon a pavement of red, and blue, and white, and black, marble.
7 And they gave them drink in vessels of gold, (the vessels being diverse one from another,) and royal wine in abundance, according to the state of the king.
8 And the drinking was according to the law; none did compel: for so the king had appointed to all the officers of his house, that they should do according to every man’s pleasure.
9 Also Vashti the queen made a feast for the women in the royal house which belonged to king Ahasuerus.
10 On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, and Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, the seven chamberlains that served in the presence of Ahasuerus the king,
11 To bring Vashti the queen before the king with the crown royal, to shew the people and the princes her beauty: for she was fair to look on.
12 But the queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s commandment by his chamberlains: therefore was the king very wroth, and his anger burned in him.
13 Then the king said to the wise men, which knew the times, (for so was the king’s manner toward all that knew law and judgment:
14 And the next unto him was Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven princes of Persia and Media, which saw the king’s face, and which sat the first in the kingdom;)
15 What shall we do unto the queen Vashti according to law, because she hath not performed the commandment of the king Ahasuerus by the chamberlains?
16 And Memucan answered before the king and the princes, Vashti the queen hath not done wrong to the king only, but also to all the princes, and to all the people that are in all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus.
17 For this deed of the queen shall come abroad unto all women, so that they shall despise their husbands in their eyes, when it shall be reported, The king Ahasuerus commanded Vashti the queen to be brought in before him, but she came not.
18 Likewise shall the ladies of Persia and Media say this day unto all the king’s princes, which have heard of the deed of the queen. Thus shall there arise too much contempt and wrath.
19 If it please the king, let there go a royal commandment from him, and let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes, that it be not altered, That Vashti come no more before king Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal estate unto another that is better than she.
20 And when the king’s decree which he shall make shall be published throughout all his empire, (for it is great,) all the wives shall give to their husbands honour, both to great and small.
21 And the saying pleased the king and the princes; and the king did according to the word of Memucan:
22 For he sent letters into all the king’s provinces, into every province according to the writing thereof, and to every people after their language, that every man should bear rule in his own house, and that it should be published according to the language of every people.