Jade – Sculpted and Sanctified

During our visit to China, on November 10th, 2011, we were fortunate to stop by a Jade Factory, and were amazed by the sculptures and jewelery that were made from Jade. These items were in various shapes ranging from animal forms, vegetables (cabbages mainly), household items and jewelery. They were also of various colors and not just the usual light green, but ranged from different shades of green to white, purple and even black. When going through the tour, behind a glass wall, we observed a man, working on a piece of Jade.  He was shaping that piece into a sculpture. When I pondered about this experience, at a later time, it brought to mind a couple of significant facts from the  Bible.

First, each sculpture had to be made. From the formless structure to the ornate masterpiece, each one had to be carefully and meticulously planned and sculpted. It did not just appear out of thin air with a big bang and somehow found its place in the factory. There was intelligent design behind each item because there was an intelligent creator behind each item. In like manner, each one of us are fearfully and wonderful sculpted by God’s own hands (Psalm 139:14) and even before we were formed in our mother’s womb, God knew us (Jeremiah 1:5) and made us in his very image (Genesis 1:27). He created us. The Intelligent Designer of our being is Jesus Christ, for by him and for him, all things were created (Colossians 1:16).

Second, not all the items in the factory were openly accessible to the public. Some were displayed within glass shelves, kind of set apart. These items were deemed pristine and had a higher price tag. In like manner, we must be set apart by not conforming to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewal of our minds (Romans 12:2). In other words, we must be sanctified (set apart) by and for Jesus Christ. The important thing is that God’s hands have sculpted us to conform to God’s patterns (Romans 12:2), and that we are sanctified (set apart) by the blood of God’s Only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

Points to ponder:
You and I are God’s masterpiece creation, fashioned according to God’s own design, each to a purpose that He has for us. He has sculpted us; now will you let him sanctify you (if you have not already let Him to)?

Psalm 139:13-18 (KJV)
13 For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.
15 My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
16 Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.
17 How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!
18 If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.

2 Timothy 2:19-21 (KJV)
19 Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.
20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour.
21 If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.

The Ancient Cypress Woods – Alive or ‘Alive and Dead’

When visiting the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, on November 7, 2011, one of the most idyllic moments of our visit, was  the stroll that we, as a family took, through The Ancient Cypress Woods. Calm, peaceful, and serene, are only few of the words that could describe this experience. As we walked through these woods, we came across a path that was lined on both sides with trees. My beloved wife, Sangeetha, quickly observed and pointed out, that on one side  of the path were evergreen trees (that were lush and alive) while the other side of the path were deciduous trees (that were pale, looking dead, but were alive).

Of course that evergreen trees were more appealing to the eye as God’s creation, and expressed the glory of the Creator more than the deciduous ones. This brought to my mind, a few verses. The evergreen trees sparked in my mind the verse that our five year old son, Reuben often quotes before going to sleep, from Psalm 1 in the Bible. Blessed is the man that is godly for he can be likened to the evergreen trees. In other words, the one who is rooted in Jesus Christ is like a tree that is planted by rivers of water, that yields its fruit in season, and whatever he (she) does prospers (Psalm 1:3). But what if the situations of our life makes us sometimes feel like, we cannot see any rivers/streams of water, but only a desert. This is where I was reminded, to be strong and not fear, and trust in the invisible hand of God that makes waters break forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert (Isaiah 35:6). The deciduous trees brought to my mind the counsel that is given to the Church of Sardis, wherein God says, I know that you have a name that thou livest (are alive), and art dead (Revelation 3:1). Note God does not say, you think you are alive, BUT you are dead, He admonishes by saying, you think you are alive, AND you are dead. This is a dead AND alive state, like a deciduous tree that sheds its leaves to go into dormancy, becoming fruitless, though it is alive, it is dead.

Points to ponder:
I found myself wondering as to what kind of tree, I am.
What kind of tree are you? Alive, or ‘Alive and Dead’? Think about it!

Psalm 1: 1-6 (KJV)
1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
4 The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.
5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
6 For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

Isaiah 35:4-6 (KJV)
4 Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.
5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.
6 Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.

Revelation 3:1 (KJV)
1 And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.

Forbidden City – Now Open

Situated in the heart of Beijing is the Forbidden City (Gu Gong in Chinese). It was the imperial palace for twenty-four emperors during the Ming and Qing dynasties that ruled China. Those who entered the imperial palace without permission of the emperor was punishable by death and hence the name ‘Forbidden City’. A visit to the Forbidden City leaves you undoubtedly tired, but at the same time awestruck for its expanse (over 170 acres) and architectural details. On November 7th, 2011, as a family, we were blessed to visit the Forbidden City, for what was once forbidden is no longer forbidden, as long as you have in your possession, the ticket that you purchase at the entrance to this attraction.

As I pondered about our experience, I realized that there is another Forbidden City, whose builder is not man but God (Hebrews 11:10; Revelation 21). It is forbidden to all who live according to the flesh and not according to the Spirit (Galatians 5:19-21). But in order to live according to the Spirit, one my first believe and have in them the Holy Spirit who is granted to seal all who believe in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:13). In other words, they must possess in them Jesus Christ, The Ticket. When man first sinned against God in the garden of Eden, access to having communion with God was forbidden, which is symbolized by the angels, and a flaming sword, that God placed, to prevent anyone from accessing the tree of life in the garden . But when Jesus paid the price (ticket price) for all of mankind with his very life, the veil that separated the Holy of Holies was ripped from top to bottom (Matthew 27:50-53), opening  access to God, which was previously forbidden (Hebrews 10:19-20). The Heavenly City is no longer forbidden to those who do the commandments of God (i.e., not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit), who have right to the tree of life, because they have believed in Jesus Christ. (Revelation 22:14).

Points to ponder:
Should you be standing now at the entrance to the city of Heaven, would you be allowed to enter in or would you be forbidden? Of all the questions that need to be answered, this one must not go unheeded and unanswered. The answer lies in, whether you have believed in Jesus Christ. If you have, the city of Heaven will welcome you. If not, the consequences of entering in, would mean judgment and certain fatality (second death). Think about it and believe, if you have not already done so, before it is too late and the city of Heaven remains forbidden to you.

Galatians 5:16-21 (KJV)
16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.
18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.
19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

Ephesians 1:13 (KJV)
13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,

Matthew 27:50-53 (KJV)
50 Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.
51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;
52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,
53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.

Hebrews 10:19-20 (KJV)
19 Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,
20 By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;

Revelation 22:14 (KJV)
14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.

The Great Wall – Lessons for Life

When visiting China with my family, it was a blessing and pleasure to be able to walk on the Great Wall of China on November 10, 2011. As one of the Seven Wonders of the medieval world, the Great Wall is not only magnificent in its splendor, but also meandering in its structure, stretching a little over 5500 miles, rightfully earning it the “longest man-made structure on earth” title. However, unbeknownst to many, the Great Wall is not a single long wall, but it is actually made up of many disconnected walls, built by various dynasties, as fortifications against invading armies. But because of its discontinuity, the Mongol invaders led by the one known as the Universal Ruler, Genghis Khan had no problem going around the wall and they subsequently conquered most of northern China until they were overthrown by the Ming dynasty.

As Reuben, our beloved five year old son, trekked the Great Wall from one watchtower to the next (approximately 2 kms) while my wife, Sangeetha waited on top of the starting tower in Badaling, I was amazed  by this feat of human engineering, but even more awestruck by the God who created and fashioned man, with the intellect to be capable of such superstructure achievements. Halfway through the walk, I tired and asked Reuben, if we should go back, to which he responded, that we must continue on our goal to reach the next tower. Reuben did not want to give up and his mission was to complete the course that we set out to. At one part of our journey, the slope was quite steep and as Reuben, inched his way down, holding on to the railing on the side, I could hear him say, “I am not afraid, God is with me, my dada is with me, I am not afraid.” I walked in front of him, backwards, down that slope, just to be sure that if he fell, I was going to be there to catch him. We eventually reached the next tower after about 45 minutes of walking up and down the stairs and slopes of the Great Wall and on our way back, I could see that Reuben was famished and fatigued. So I lifted him on my shoulders and walked until he regained some strength and then he would offer to walk, when he felt that I was tiring. My son, truly warmed my heart and this was indeed the highlight of my trip, to share nearly an hour and a half with my son, walking alongside and with him, through the trials and tests that the Great Wall could bring us. When we reached the tower from where we started, Reuben was rejoined with his loving mother and me with my beloved wife and all the tiredness and fatigue, seemed as just a vapor.

As I pondered of this spectacular and sensational experience, I began to wonder of its application to life and a few thoughts raised through my mind. First, just as the Great Wall separated China from invading kings, ‘sin’ is the great wall that separates us from the One True King of kings, Jesus Christ (Isaiah 59:2), but thanks be to God, that there is nothing, absolutely nothing, past or present (No Great Wall), that can separate us from the Love of God, that is in Christ Jesus, (Romans 8:35,38-39) because Jesus brought down this wall of sin and reconciled us to God, by his death in our stead (Romans 5:10) and his resurrection to reign. Second, the Great Wall is not impenetrable unlike the Only one who is impenetrable, who is God, our Creator, our fortress (in other words – THE Great Wall) around us (Psalm 18:2).  Third, my son taught me that we must be like one on a mission, running the race of life for God with an aim to complete it, fighting to win and not as one beating the air (1 Corinthians 9:24,26). Fourth, when we go through the steep slopes, including the valley of the shadow of death, we need not be afraid, for God is with us (Psalm 23:4). He goes in front of us, with his eyes on us, so that he can catch us, if we slip. My son with his words of overcoming fear was teaching me to “Trust in God” irrespective of how steep the slopes of life seem. Fifth, when we tire with our efforts, and are famished and fatigued, God happily puts on us his shoulders and carries us through the thick and thin of all that comes our way, as does a Good Shepherd, his sheep (Luke 15:4-6). Finally, when our journey on earth is done, our reunion with our loved ones who have gone ahead of us, and with The One who first loved us (Jesus Christ) would make the journey of life seem as if it was but a vapor (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

P.S: Click on the pictures to see a larger version. The first picture is a picture of the family at the starting tower. The second picture is the picture of Reuben walking down a slope in the Great Wall. The third picture is a picture of the section of the wall that Reuben and I trekked (from Watchtower 1 to Watchtower 2). This picture was taken from Watchtower 2.

Isaiah 59:2 (KJV)
2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.

Romans 8:35, 38-39 (KJV)
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 5:10 (KJV)
10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

Psalm 18:2 (KJV)
2 The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.

1 Corinthians 9:24, 26 (KJV)
24 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.

26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:

Psalm 23:4 (KJV)
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Luke 15:4-6 (KJV)
4 What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
5 And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
6 And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.

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.