Thursday, 29 December 2011

What Defines You?

They say that “reading maketh a man” well, that is true, for whether you are man or a woman, reading will increase your knowledge base. Reading helps you to gain more insights on various topics and even gives you a better grasp of concepts that others might not even have a clue about. Also, as you read, you will come across new words and you may have to use a dictionary to search for their definitions. This is why those who want to learn new words should read with a dictionary close at hand. Can you imagine if you learnt a new word every day, beginning on the first day of January? At the end of the year you would have added three hundred and sixty-five words to your vocabulary! That would be impressive, don’t you agree? I invite you to take up the challenge.

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What defines you? [image from]

Don’t be afraid of challenges. Life is punctuated by them and the quicker you learn to overcome them, the stronger you will become. On Sunday, November 13, 2011, the Gleaner carried a story outlining the fact that the Prime Minister’s wife was ready to attempt an ambitious challenge- the launch of a project to help street boys. As I read about the project, and comments she made in several interviews, something struck me. During her interview she was asked about her preferred type of clothing and in responding the Prime Minister’s wife posited that her clothes did not define her. Perhaps her comment stood out in my mind because moments before I was reading another online article about a project in the United States of America. In this overseas project, celebrities were invited into schools to read  to young children. This created a furor in one state because a particular school invited a movie star who had previously done some questionable work posing for a popular magazine. Trust me on this; the poses were not the kinds that your grandmother would be proud of.  When the celebrity was interviewed about her take on the issue, she said that she was now making normal movies and the photos or poses did not define her. After reading these two articles back to back, I laughed out loud at the coincidence. However, for the rest of the day I started thinking seriously about what really defined people. What defined me, I thought?

Let me ask you the question, what defines you? Is it your financial status that defines who you are? Is it your high grade point average or is it your intellectual abilities and material gains?  I would hope that your response is none of the above. Although my question to you might be rhetorical; you must be clear of your purpose and meaning in life. You must be clear on what you stand for - or in other words - what defines you.       
While your ‘definition’ is your prerogative, here are some points to consider as you mull over the question.   
  • You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).
  • You were bought with a price, (1 Corinthians 6:20).  
  • You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation (1 Peter 2:9).
  • You are a peculiar people unto me above all people (Exodus 19:5).
  • You are the apple of mine eyes says the Lord (Zachariah 2:5).
  • You were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).
Let me close by reminding you that what defines you should not be what defines the common man, for you are not common; you are a special. Whatever defines you should please your Heavenly Father. He should be proud of your actions and thoughts, and should be delighted with all that you do.   

Jacqueline Champier
Instructor, Department of Behavioural Sciences

Sunday, 25 December 2011

‘Tis the Season for Strengthening Relationships

In this celebratory season many persons are highly motivated to turn to God in prayer and praise. These individuals desire a closer relationship with their maker. Indeed, during this season places of worship are often packed to capacity. That is a good thing! We affirm all persons who make an effort to close the gap they sense between themselves and their heavenly father. However, we would like to add that it is an ideal season to strengthen other relationships. In bolstering the bond in all relationships three adhesives are critical: time, talk, and trust. 

A relationship grows much like any other item in nature; it requires time to grow and develop. Therefore in nurturing a relationship with God time needs to be spent with Him. This time should be time set aside deliberately and intentionally each day that is dedicated to worshiping Him. The individual makes that decision as to how much time and at what points in the day these times are set aside. These times are separate and distinct from those other moments that arise because of felt needs or circumstances that cause the individual to turn to God. During these times that are set aside, a variety of relationship enhancing behaviours may be employed, some of these are prayer, praise in word or song, meditation, study of the Scriptures, fasting, testimony, and witnessing. Hence, time with God is meaningfully spent in coming to worship Him and in coming to a better understanding of Him. It is time in which this understanding is shared with others and He is glorified. The time spent is rich with emotions, thoughts and actions, and the individual moves on to other activities empowered by the experiences with God. Sometimes the periods are short; sometimes they are lengthy because while quality is vital in terms of the wholeness of the experiences, quantity of time spent with God in some instances is critical. 
While time is vital in building a relationship with God, it is also important for building the relationship with family members and friends. During these weeks of celebration we often have added opportunities for spending time with our family members. Several days away from work and school are available. Some of this time ought to be set aside just for nurturing family relationships, spouses who dedicate several periods for being together to go on walks, to sit at sunset or sunrise by the beach, to climb the Blue Mountain Peak, to snorkel in our Caribbean waters, to discover one of our tropical trails, to visit one of our botanical gardens and sit amidst an array of flora on a lush green grass bring healing strengthening of the relational bond. Certainly there are hundreds of other activities that may be pursued to make time spent together well spent. The same may be said of friendships, for it is in this season that friends visit, that friends hold social events, however humble or grand, these convivial moments should strengthen the tie that binds. Some persons play dominoes, others scrabble, uno or simply have a chat among the variety of meaningful interest, what is of greatest importance is not what we do but why we do it. We do these things to build the friendship. Too often we lose sight of that imperative. Therefore, the true test of whether the time was well spent is not about who won the game but how much stronger are the bonds of friendship and this principle underlines all or human relationships. 
Time is the stage upon which action takes place and the most important action in relationships that takes place on that stage is communication. This is what was referred to as talk, but clearly communication is more than just talk for it involves both verbal and non-verbal exchanges between the communicators. In the sharing of our thoughts and feelings with others they have an opportunity to know what we think and how we feel; similarly we get to know what they think and how they feel, but beyond that both parties often gain greater insight into their own thoughts and feelings while expressing them. So that communication is not just about giving and receiving it’s also about self-discovery. For these reasons, and several others, communication is key to building relationships. Some of our holiday communication therefore will centre on spirited religious topics, salient social concerns, hearty health and wellness wishes, fascinating financial projects, puzzling political problems about which we need to pray, satisfying intimate interludes, among others. For these and other reasons we must find time to talk. 
If time is the stage and talk is the action upon it then trust is the foundation upon which both are built. A verse of Scripture implores us to “trust in the lord with all our hearts and lean not to our own understanding”. Trust is a vital element in the warp and woof of the fabric of relationships. It is necessary in our relationship with God, our family, and our friends. Trust is always risk-taking. The stronger the relationship, that is the closer we are to the other person, the greater the proportion of trust we are willing to extend. That is why if trust is to grow we must spend more time and talk in nurturing our interpersonal relationships. Trust is an expression of confidence, reliance, and certainty based on past experiences; that is why, it grows over time. It also grows out of the kept commitments in relationships. This season, we have good reason to build trust in our often neglected relationships. 
“Life”, says the song writer, “is moving faster than it ever has before; what tomorrow brings us isn’t certain anymore”. Therefore, while it is true that we want great relationships they are often compromised as they are caught in the hustle and bustle of our turbulent days and they suffer, parents neglect children and feel guilty, but somehow they find consolation in observing that they are trapped by economic realities and social factors. Spouses drive-off in opposite directions early in the day and meet each other after sunset drained by the daily deluge. Nonetheless, by grace we are strengthened to press on. This season is a season in which we may repair the breach and keep the promises we made to ourselves and others by setting aside time for God, our family and friends during which we enter meaningful experiences that cause us to communicate at a deeper level so that trust may be more firmly entrenched in our hearts. This is the season to strengthen relationships.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

What if your spouse is not your type?

HAVE you ever noticed that when it comes to mate selection, most persons have their preferred types? If you didn't notice, look back at the persons who you have dated or those who you have admired over the years and see if they have similar characteristics. If they do, I would not be surprised.
If you are still not convinced, take your male friends, for instance. You will notice that while some of them admire only curvaceous black women, there are those who would die for the thin browning. A male friend once told me that if a woman doesn't weigh over 200 pounds he is not interested. Yet I have other friends who only go for the pencil-thin, high maintenance Barbie doll types.
I have always encouraged people though, that when choosing their mates, they should select persons from their preferred groups, because to do otherwise could spell trouble. Although love goes deeper than skin, if you overlook your preference, for whatever reason, and choose a type that doesn't suit your fantasy, sooner or later you will find that you are miserable, since your spouse is not your type.
The type issue does not only affect men, it affects women also. There are so many women whose husbands have turned into couch potatoes, yet these men refuse to get rid of their paunches, although they know that they would not stand a chance if their mates had met them that way. I guess men get away with this because some women are not so fussy about the physical. And since women are naturally caring, they will still love and respect their mates regardless of the change in type. Where I see a bigger problem though, is when this happens the other way around. For example, when the man marries a thinner version of you but after a few years he is forced to live with your fluffier version, which is just not his type. This can pose a challenge.
It matters not if the change is caused by baby fat, slower metabolism, ageing or ill-health, the realty is still the same: you are no longer his type. If, for instance, you are no longer his type just because you have gained some pounds in the wrong places, you can do one of two things: either you turn a blind eye and tell him to accept you for who you are and live with the consequences, or you can shed a few pounds.
Remember that it is not only the weight issue that will cause a change in type; it can be a change in your demeanour, spirituality, interests, or just your overall world views. Whatever it is, communicate with each other about the change and make adjustments where necessary. Remember also that this type thing is not a simple matter, for some people it is a very serious thing.
Jacqueline Champier is a counselling psychologist from Mandeville, and a lecturer in the College of Humanities, Behavioural & Social Sciences, Northern Caribbean University

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Thinking Outside the Box

So often we hear people talking of ‘thinking outside the box’ for it is a fairly popular saying. Believe it or not, people thinking outside the box are not popular at all. We talk so much about some things, but that is all we do, just talk. Look at exercising for instance, so many people talk about the benefits of exercise, yet the only thing being exercised are their lips. Their talk is without action. 
To think outside the box is to think widely, it involves thinking of the impossible, or the almost impossible. To think outside the box means that you think of things that others may not necessarily be thinking about; like thinking of creative ways to do things. In a nutshell, you can say that thinking outside of the box is to think big. I believe that university students and graduates should not only think about having a degree in hand so as to apply for a job. University students should start thinking of creative jobs for themselves and for others. Just last week I was watching a documentary on a science fiction station when some young people actually made faces at the idea of watching a documentary. Documentaries might not be much fun but they are actually educational and inspirational. I watched in awe as a new type of car was being introduced. The car did not need to have a human driver around the steering wheel. You got that right! You would just sit in the car and be chauffeured to your destination, just like that. Using computers to commute - that my friends is thinking outside the box.
Whether this invention takes off or not, whether it becomes popular all over the world or not, is really not what I am interested in. What arrested my attention is the fact that a new day has dawned. People are thinking big. If you are really serious about making a valuable contribution to society, you’ve got to believe in your abilities and more so, you’ve got to believe in the God who created you. 
  • When Thomas Edison invented the light-bulb in 1879 he was thinking outside the box.
  • When Alexander Bell invented the telephone in 1875 he was thinking outside the box.
  • When Samuel Morse’s demo of the electric telegraph popularized the machine, in 1838;  he was thinking outside the box.
  • Today, one can truly say when Glen Mills took on Usain Bolt and trained him to outrun others, Mills was thinking outside the box.
On a note of counsel, let me admonish you, as we approach the close of a new year - if you have not already done so, I implore you to put on your thinking cap and start thinking. Think about something worthwhile. You may help to heal the world or make a big difference in your community if you take the time to think outside the box.

Contributed by
 Mrs. Jacqueline Champier
Instructor , Department of Behavioral Sciences 
Northern Caribbean University

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

What to do if hubby walks out on you?

Jacqueline Champier

I have heard of cases where women didn't even have the slightest inclination that their hubbies were planning to surprise them, until the day they came face to face with an empty apartment. Yes, it happens.
A woman might be in a rocky or even not so rocky relationship for years and may also have children, but because she knows that ups and downs are normal in a relationship, she might not have thought that the man she sleeps beside each night would have left her                                      without warning.

For the man in your life to surprise you by packing up and leaving is just not an easy pill to swallow. When this happens, the woman could easily become traumatised and may need to seek professional help. Sometimes the source of a woman's pain is not only that she has been dissed, but the low down way in which the dissing occurred.
Well, in every emergency a woman has to do what she has to do, so if he walks, immediately she will have to start thinking of her next move. If the relationship can be saved, good for her, but until then she must always remember that life goes on and her life should not come to a standstill because her man has upped and left her abruptly. Regardless of the situation, the road ahead might not be easy, but like Yolanda Adams sings, This too shall pass, and the earlier she embraces this concept, the better it should be for her.
So should your hubby decide that he is going to walk out on you, don't panic, here are a few suggestions that could be of help to you.
1. Accept your situation. The longer you remain in denial is the longer it is going to take for you to put your plans in place. You are human and it is normal to go into denial, but that should only be for a period of time. It should not last for the remaining portion of your life. Like I mentioned above, you may not be able to accept your situation all by yourself, therefore, seek the best help available to you, since the first step in getting over what happened lies with you accepting your situation.
2. Get moral support. Sometimes women hide the fact that things are not going right at home or at least nowhere close to how it should be going. It is not advisable to keep everything to yourself, especially if you are hurting or dying inside. While you have to be discreet and you have to keep your family affairs close to your heart, you are going to need people around you to support you. Whether you are single or not, you are going to need to have some people in your corner. You do not always have to give the details but the people in your corner can strengthen you and encourage you when things are not going right.
Here is an activity for you to do. Use a piece of paper to write down the names of your friends with whom you talk each day, each week, each month, each year. If you cannot think of persons to fill these categories it means that you need to broaden your network. People need people, you cannot make it alone. The more confidential persons you have in your corner the better off you will be.
Even if you are a very secretive person, if your hubby walks out on you, your secret will be out and you may be alone and lonely. It is during these unfortunate moments that you are going to need people to lean on. Sometimes it is these same people who will prevent you from reaching your breaking point.
3. Talk with a trained counsellor: Hubbies have been walking out on wives for centuries, so you would not be the first person to experience this situation. If it happens, do know that you will be doing yourself justice by finding and sharing with a trusted friend or a trained counsellor who can help you. When you talk with persons who are interested in your well-being, you will gain new insight and new world views which will help you to pave the way forward.
4. Cry if you must. Take the advice that Dr Grace Kelly gives in her book and cry if you must. Where there is a loss there is grief, and where there is grief there is pain, so if you must cry to relive yourself of pain, then it is okay to do so.
5. Continue to live. The worst thing that can happen to you is if you stop living because of your loss. Take some time off if you must and mourn your loss but after this is done, dress up and go out if that makes you happy. Continue to do the things that you find enjoyable and the things that cause your spirit to soar. Life is short, so as much as it lies within you, live your life to the fullest and enjoy every moment of it.
6. Redefine your goals. After you have got over the rough spots and have accepted your reality, you will need to redefine your goals. You have got to know where you go from here. During this period you must play your cards right for you do not want to make bad choices, so think twice before making any rash decisions.
7. Keep an open mind. You should never, ever say never, or that all men are alike; this is not true. You may want to keep an open mind and trust in the Divine.

Jacqueline Champier is a counselling psychologist from Mandeville, and a lecturer in the College of Humanities, Behavioural & Social Sciences, Northern Caribbean University

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Sabbath and Redemption/Deliverance

And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the Sabbath day.  Deut. 5:15

While the Sabbath’s original purpose was to commemorate and celebrate the creative work of God, which would take place before the entrance of sin, it had the versatility to still be applicable to the post sin era.  It not only continued to celebrate God’s creative work, but it would also come to serve as a way of celebrating God’s work of redeeming mankind from the slavery of sin and death.
Discussions on deliverance or redemption usually take place in the context of contending with issues of being in bondage, or of finding oneself trapped in a situation that has terrible implications for ones future wellbeing.  To be in bondage is to be bound to a situation over which you have no control.  You may wish to get out, but you cannot, because you are held captive by a power superior to yourself.  To be delivered from that situation requires the intervention of a power source superior to yourself and to the power of your captor as well.  Then to be redeemed, while related to deliverance in some ways, gives more detail about the relationship of the deliverer and the redeemed.  Redemption suggests prior ownership of the redeemed by the redeemer, who now reclaims the one who has been captured, having wandered away from the boundaries of the owner’s protection, and is held captive by a source that is more powerful and that is unwilling to release the captive.
The experience of the Israelite nation becoming slaves in Egypt served as an opportune object lesson to illustrate the kind of deliverance that God seeks to grant each of us who live under the tyranny of sin.  For as through the instrumentality of Moses He delivered Israel from Egypt, so through Jesus Christ the possibility for the entire world to be liberated from sin was achieved.
In Deuteronomy 5:15 deliverance from Egypt was given as the reason for observing the Sabbath.  Did that in any way negate the celebration of creation as the original reason for Sabbath observance?  Not at all.  Although we are only but the offspring of God’s original creation of the human species, this is reason enough to submit to the sovereignty of God.  Granted, creation could never be as personal to us as it was for Adam and Eve who came from the very hand of God.  Adam, we’re told even helped in the naming of the animals, which was how he realized his lack without a companion.  Things could have hardly gotten any more personal than that, if indeed it could.  To have been delivered from the Egyptian bondage, or to be delivered from sin, however, gets as personal for us as would the creation experience be for Adam and Eve.  The point not to be missed in both instances however is that in both cases the basis on which God asserts His sovereignty is adequately validated: (1) you are a product of my creation; (2) I redeemed or delivered you.  In Psalm 100: 3 we are challenged to know that the LORD is God, it is He that made us, and not we ourselves, and as such we are HIS people and the sheep of his pasture.  Therefore come into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise.   Why?  Because He is our Creator.  The Apostle Paul says that we are bought with a price; and therefore we should glorify God in our bodies and our spirit, which are GOD’s. 1 Cor. 6:20.  And he further says that as such we should not be servants of men (1 Cor. 7:23), implying that our allegiance should instead be toward God our Redeemer.
As our Creator God is our life giver.  But then sin came, and with it death.  Psalm 51: 5 tells us that we were born in sin.  In other words we were born to die, for the reward of sin is death.  The coming of Christ as our substitute who died our death has delivered us from the death sentence of sin. This is not a mere deliverance from death it is a deliverance from the works of sin.  Rom. 6:6 says, “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.”  In fact in verse 14 we are assured that sin will not have dominion over us.  Praise God for His Grace through which our redemption is assured.
As we accept the invitation of God to walk out of the Egypt of our sinful bondages, we gain that very personal reason to acknowledge the right of the One who is the source of our deliverance to require our worship, in the way He requires it.  So Deuteronomy 5:15 resonates personally with us when it is read in the context of our deliverance from sin.
As we seek to obey God’s command care should be taken that we do not get into a mechanical mode of making the Sabbath a part of our worship experience.  Because much like creation preceded the call to observe the Sabbath in celebration of that experience, so is deliverance a prerequisite to answering the call to worship.  True Sabbath observance as a commemoration of God’s delivering us can only take place when we have been delivered.  Anything short of such an encounter with God would make us vain law keepers (legalists) who are trying to work their way to the Kingdom.   Salvation comes only by faith in Jesus, and not by works of the law.  So there is no salvation that will come from keeping the Sabbath.  Rather we keep the Sabbath because Salvation has come; because we have been redeemed by the precious blood of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; delivered from bondage of sin; exonerated from the death sentence into which we were born.
All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.  We all need a savior.  The Good News is that there is a Saviour!  He has in the flesh achieved the righteousness of the law, which righteousness He wishes to share with all of us.  As we come to Him He imputes His righteousness to us and declares us righteous; He justifies us.  Then He imparts His righteousness to us and makes us righteous; He sanctifies us.  When God is satisfied that sufficient has been done to redeem mankind then the declaration will be made by Jesus: “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.  And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” Rev. 22: 11, 12.  At the glorious second return of Jesus Christ the redeemed ones will all be given new bodies – the corruption will gain incorruption and the mortal shall put on immortality.  Jesus will glorify us. 2 Tim. 2: 10.
How should our worship of God be characterized by the fact that we have been delivered? An instructive observation occurs when we look at how persons who have been delivered from certain negative situations have responded.  Again we look at our object lesson – the deliverance of Israel from Egypt.  In Exodus 15: 1-19 we see Moses’ song that exalts God for the marvelous things He has accomplished for his people.  A true worship of God involves giving testimonies of God’s His divine intervention into our lives and experiences; He is always exalted.  We then see in verse 20 how Miriam chimes in with her timbrel, while drawing a following of women with her, who themselves had their timbrels too, and they danced and sang unto the Lord.  The worship of God is to always be a joyful experience as we celebrate the triumph that God has afforded us over our challenges.
Then there was the crippled man at the gate called Beautiful, whom Peter and John healed in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.  The scripture says that following his healing; his deliverance from the restrictive bondage of paralysis that held him from his birth, he entered with them into the temple, leaping and jumping and praising God.  To experience God’s deliverance is to be propelled into spontaneous praise and worship.  This is how Sabbath should be observed.
As was the case before the fall that Sabbath was instituted to celebrate God’s creative work, so after the restoration, according to Isaiah 66: 23 the Sabbath will be continue to be a part of our worship experience, “And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD.”  This will be the experience of the redeemed.  Considering all of this, wouldn’t it be fitting that as we enter into a saving relationship with Christ that we celebrate this redemption by obeying His call for Sabbath observance?

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

A Case for Judas: Oh to be Like Him

A very popular notion that has always been expressed regarding how the Bible should be read and followed relates to that aspect of Judas’ story where it says that he “went out and hanged himself,” (Matt. 27: 5), and then what if the next thing that you read is “look unto me and do likewise,” (Judges 7: 17).  Judas is mainly known for how his life ended, and not for how he conducted his life up to the point of his death.  Was he all wrong? Should he be avoided like leprosy, or the plague?  Is there anything that we could benefit from by studying the life of Judas – that is apart from learning what not to do?

Before we look at Judas Iscariot we need to note the radical nature of Jesus’ method of teaching lessons as recorded in Luke 16.  This was a story of a certain steward accused of being wasteful of his master’s goods.  When the steward was summoned to give account of his stewardship, and being threatened that he would no longer be retained as a steward, this steward did something that was strangely commended by Jesus:  he called in all the debtors and gave each one a special concession, hoping to secure favour with these persons once he comes upon hard times after he would be fired.  Jesus did not focus on the ethics of whether the steward ought to have behaved in this manner.    Neither did he focus on the possibility that these persons could take the deal but forfeit when it comes around to returning the favour to this unfaithful steward.  What Jesus rather locked in on was the sheer wisdom of the steward exhibited in seeking to secure his future, for somehow He is aware that it is within this arena that He will most likely engage an individual.  In seeking to secure ones future one usually: 

  •    Does a reality check of where one is in life and must gain a sense of the trajectory that one’s life is likely to take given the current situation.
  •        Determines whether or not one is headed in the direction one desires to travel. 
  •       Develops an agreement/relationship with those who can assist one in securing the desired future. 
  •      Decides on an appropriate course of action that will derive the desired outcomes.
It is doubtless that Judas had exhibited these very traits and would have intrigued Jesus with the prospect of reaching him with the plan of salvation.  Alas however Judas seemed locked in on a predetermined outcome and was not up for a discussion on the matter.  But much like the ten virgins had many things in common at the beginning of that story; Judas likely had no outrageously different earthly ambitions than had the other disciples who often contended with each other about who’d be greatest in the kingdom they thought Christ had come to establish.  The difference with Judas though was that he exhibited a much keener focus on his target and was always alert to the presence of an opportunity waiting to be exploited.  The Apostle Paul was a man similarly characterized with the acumen of singleness of purpose: “For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” 1 Corinthians 2:2.

When Judas would have discovered Jesus, He would have been the hottest new “fad,” who attracted quite a following from all levels of the society.  And if ever an opportunity was present in a situation this would be that situation.  He probably was not certain at first how exactly he could exploit this situation, but he determined to monitor the operations of Christ and when the opportunity presented itself he would make his move.  Obviously, Judas was not interested in Jesus per se, he only saw Him as a way out of his current jam.  Invariably however the power of Christ’s influence could not be entirely nullified from impacting Judas.  Judas didn’t accept Jesus, but he understood a lot about Him, and though he probably would have denied that fact he had been changed, even as he locked the deal with the enemies of Christ, Christ had awakened his moral cognizance.  And so whereas he would have calculated that the Jewish leaders had no power to capture Christ against His will, the long awaited opportunity had come, for Judas convinced them that he could arrange for the seizing of Jesus… for a price of course.  But when he saw that Christ was indeed captured, and that He faced unavoidable death at the hands of the heartless Romans and at the behest and conniving of the ruthless Jewish leaders, Judas was overcome by guilt, for he had “betrayed the innocent blood.”  Matt. 27:4.  Here the story for Judas ends with him hanging himself; choosing the path of eternal separation from God, even as Christ was dying for him, and herein lays his fundamental flaw.

Judas’ fundamental flaw is: not that he had ambition and a sense of direction that he wanted his life to take; not that he sought for and exploited an opportunity that resided in Christ; not that he formed alliances.  Judas’ fundamental flaw was that he missed the true value that Christ afforded him.  He had consistently resisted every appeal to the conscience that Christ had wrought with His winsome ways.  And so unlike Peter, who not only desired earthly greatness like everyone else, but allowed Jesus into his heart; allowing himself to be pulled in by the cords of love, when he denied Christ knew that there was still forgiveness and acceptance with Him.  Chances are Judas never took the time to discover that about Jesus.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Judas actually liked Jesus; respected Him even.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he really didn’t intend for Jesus to be hurt in anyway, he probably only wanted to “teach” these detractors of the Saviour of all mankind a lesson… at a premium cost of course.  He would have likely calculated that Jesus would save Himself, and he (Judas) would be thirty pieces of silver the richer.  There would be nothing that these devious leaders could do – he had kept his end of the bargain and had taken them to Jesus – a deal’s a deal.  For what Judas had set out to accomplish, it seemed a foolproof plan.  And…it was: He did his self-assessment and understood where he was with respect to where he wanted to be;  he determined that he needed to align himself to achieve his goal; he developed  the relationships appropriate to what he determined he needed to accomplish; he decided on a specific course of action to get him his desired outcome.  That these actions were wrongly motivated and misapplied in no way minimizes the value of carrying out the actions.  And so of a truth Judas’ life does have many positive lessons that, correctly applied, would enrich the observer’s life and accomplishments.  After all his story is a part of the featured stories of the Holy Writings.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

I'm Actually a Seven day Adventist

No, I didn’t make a mistake with the caption, albeit such a common assault among persons in some cultures who are not so adept with the language – often leaving off the “th” from many words.  Where this occurs the word THREE is often rendered TREE; BIRTHDAY is often rendered BIRT-DAY; SMOOTH becomes SMOOD, and so on.  It is often within this vein of lingual misappropriations that the name Seventh-day Adventist becomes seven-day Adventist.   But what an accidental truism!

Yes, I am a Seventh-day Adventist.  But a literal and uninformed interpretation of this name may give the impression that my belief in the second coming of Jesus is mysteriously activated every seventh day.  Let’s face it; the meaning of our name really isn’t self-evident, as is the case with many prophecies in scripture – but no sooner than it is explained and you quickly get it.  But to say that I am a seven-day Adventist makes a very strong and decisive point without much explanation needed.  Mind you, if we were to go with this contraption we would lose a very vital element currently present in our name – The Sabbath.  So this is not an attempt to have a name change, but to simply make some lemonade of a lemon – the mispronunciation of our name, Seventh-day Adventists.

Seventh-day Adventists all around the world have often been accused of being one-day Christians – an accusation that many of us are too often guilty of.  It is therefore important that we understand that the Sabbath is a seven days of the week commandment.

The first evidence of that is the creation week.  The creation of the Sabbath occurred in relation to God’s creative activities in the previous six days.  The Sabbath was an important climaxing, resting and celebration of what was accomplished in the preceding six days.

In Exodus 20: 8-11 all seven days of the week are included in in the Sabbath Commandment, “six days shalt thou labour.”  To fail to work is to fail to meet the ideal condition under which the Sabbath may be truly celebrated.  The work done in the week is wide a varied and requires multitasking.

Unless one is in full-time voluntary ministry there is a main activity, in terms of time, that one engages in to be able to afford the means of survival (food, shelter, clothes, etc.).  But in the process of engaging in that primary activity, there are a number of other activities that are to be taking place.  From the perspective of the Christian life these are activities that pertain to matters of spiritual nourishment, growth, and development.  They also have to do with the accomplishment of the Gospel commission.  In context of the Sabbath it has to do with experiencing the blessing, the sanctifying, the redemption, and in a special way the re-creation from God.  The progress made in these areas characterizes the quality of the worship experience of the Sabbath.  It is as if on Sabbath all of these experiences come full circle, and no sooner than the Sabbath ends the cycle starts again.  Hence for the true Sabbath observer it is an inescapable a way of life, every day of one’s life.

So yes I am a Seventh-day Adventist, but I am also a seven-day Adventist.

Reliving the Encounter with the Devil

In the beginning God created the human species, and everything was very good.  They had an excellent relationship.  God would come down in the cool of the day and would commune with mankind.  Then enters the serpent on the scene, possessed no doubt by the devil. 
“So God says you shouldn’t eat of the tree in the middle of the garden, huh?”
“Yes, that’s what He said.”
“Well,” said the serpent, quite possibly between the bites of the fruit forbidden to humans, “it’s actually very good for food.  And more than that, if you eat it, it’ll make you wise like…like God Himself.  How do you think that I, a serpent could be talking to you this way?  It really works, try it.”
“I’m scared; God said it’ll kill me if I ate it.”
“Do you see me keeling over?  Trust me, nothing will happen to you.  God…well He kinda likes to be God, you know, all wise and all powerful.  And you see He knows that no sooner than you eat this fruit, that’s it; you’re like Him, and you won’t have to depend on Him like you do now.  Don’t you wanna be like God?”
“Are you sure?”
“Trust me,” said the serpent with a diabolical look of faked earnestness and hurt at not being trusted.
At first there was nothing, except the succulent delight of eating the forbidden fruit.  It was no better in quality than any of the other fruits in the Garden of Eden – everything was very good – but it sure tasted that way.  Just something about indulging in the forbidden.
“Eve!” What have you done?
“No, no, no, it’s okay.  Do you notice anything different about me?”
“Well, that’s it.  Nothing.  Nothing has happened to me, and God said we would die.  And what’s more, it is ‘Sooo Gooood.  Try it.”
“I don’t know about this.”
“Adam, this is Eve your wife, the love of your life, trust me, nothing will happen to you.  Just try it.”  With the change already taking place in her, Eve’s facial expression showed that her ego was beginning to be bruised by Adam’s hesitance to accede to her wish – already demonstrating the first lesson from the Devil.
“I really don’t think we should be doing this.”  And so against his better judgment Adam ate the fruit to appease his wife, who for the first time since their union had started to show signs of being hurt.  He was surprised, scared, and concerned about this strange exhibition from Eve, not realizing the fact that sin had entered her.
While that exchange took place the serpent was looking on as though he were a proud father of a daughter who had done well.  But no sooner than Adam had eaten the fruit, the uncomfortable expression on his face was quickly reset to match the dark evil that possessed his heart.  And with an abandon that seemed certain that its victory was secured; the human species had proven his claims against God to be true, he started to laugh.  It was a deadly, diabolical, and devilish laugh.  The serpent seemed no longer aware of the presence of the humans.  Their usefulness to his evil conspiracy had expired.  At least so he thought, or at least hoped.
Turning to be commended by her suitor, whom she heard laughing – thinking this was a victory moment for all present, Eve was shocked by the expression the serpent now wore.  And instantly it clicked, she had been duped.  And as with every post sin episode everything started to become clear.  They both noticed for the first time that they were actually naked.  They also now began to feel guilt.  And whereas they would eagerly anticipate the visit of their Heavenly Father, now they dreaded His appearing.  They hurriedly sowed fig leaves to cover themselves.  It was a vain attempt to cover their guilt really.
So God came, as he normally did, but the couple now ran away to escape His presence.  God spoke to them and made for them proper clothing of animal’s skin.  The first animal had died, shadowing the eventual death of Jesus Christ, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the earth (Rev. 14: 8), whom God promised would come to earth to redeem the human species.  He spoke to the serpent as well.  He cursed it and gave it a promise that its head would be crushed by Jesus Christ. Gen. 3:15.  
The promise of God came not in response to mankind’s demonstrated faithfulness, but in response to its failure.  Salvation is an initiative of God, not humans; God acts humans react.
How often have you reenacted the horror of Eden in your own experience?  Do you sometimes feel like there’s no hope for you?  Know this, God loves us anyway, and His only desire is to save you.  Jesus while on earth said, “I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”  Matt. 9:13.  He came to Adam and Eve, He’s here for you right now.

Ambition at Any Cost?

The Organization
Scenario 1
Scene 1                 Out of office meeting
Character 1:        “I heard of the decision that was made regarding a certain position that I’ve been thinking of for a while now.”
Character 2:        Really?
Character 1:        Are you sure about the choice you guys have made?
Character 2:        Well, he seems to have the right temperament for the job.  He’s a nice guy.
Character 1:        But will he take anything new to the table?  I mean, he’s been in that department for a while now, albeit not at the head, but have you felt his presence?  There are few things I’d change about that department as it is.  Sure, he’s a nice guy, but does he have the strength to push through the necessary changes desired?  I know that he doesn’t have the administrative exposure that I have, and I’m not so sure that he will be able to bring about the desired change.
Character 2:        Hmm, the board has already decided on a course, but you never know what can happen.  Let’s see.
Scene 2                 Out of office run-in
Character 1:        Hey, how are you doing?
Character 3:        Hey, I’m fine.  You?
Character 1:        Doing great.  Say, how long have you been in your department?
Character 3:        A few years now.  Why?
Character 1:        No, I was just wondering if you are comfortable in that department.  You do seem a bit overwhelmed, and I do notice a few things that are kind of slipping out of your control.
Character 3:        Yeah, like what?
Character 1:        It’s quite a bit actually, and I wouldn’t really have the time. It would be easier for me to just do the job. But a few of us were talking though and we think that you would probably do better somewhere else.  Certain roles are better left for certain people.  You know what I mean?
Character 3:        Yeah, I do.  Anyway, have a good day.
Scene 3:                Chairman’s office
Character 4:        The board met and decided to ask you to take over operations in your department.  Are you up for the job?
Character 3:        Funny that you should say that, because I was thinking that maybe I really ought to be heading out instead of heading up.  I’ll be straight with you, I have no doubt that I can do the job, but I have little taste for the sort of political wrangling that would obtain once I assume this position.  Money and position cannot buy peace of mind.  I don’t think I’ll accept.
Character 4:        I do understand where you are coming from, but why don’t you sleep on it and give me your final answer in the morning.
Character 3:        I don’t think I’ll have a change of heart, but sure, I’ll sleep on it.
Scene 4:                Chairman’s office the next morning
Character 3:        I discussed it with my family, we prayed about it and the decision remains – I appreciate the offer, but I will not accept.  I’m sure you’ll find someone else who is willing.
Character 4:        You know, for the very reason that you will not accept is why I think you are the perfect person for the job, but do what your heart tells you to do.
Scene 5:                In the boardroom
Character 4:        Character 3 has declined so the floor is now open for nominations.
Character2:         Mr. Chairman I beg to nominate Character 1.  It is his area of expertise, he has the requisite administrative experience, and I do believe he has the mettle to bring about the needed reform.  I don’t know why we never thought of him before.
Character 4:        All in favour of Character 1… it is carried.

How far will you go to get your heart’s desire?  How far have you gone to get where you are today?  And mind you there are so many other self-compromising ways to get where you want to go.  Is it worth it…at any cost?

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Where Do I Put My Money so it's Safe?

About Investment

This question has become increasingly difficult to answer, because when you thought it was only a matter of finding someone you can trust to make your money safe, think again.  It is about how and where you invest your money.
How to Invest
It’s seems to make life a whole lot easier to work with an investment broker.  But wait, it’s your money, you need to become more involved.  You may still work with a broker whose connections and knowledge of what is going on in the market could be very useful for you.  You however should follow the leads your broker gives you and:
  • Do your own due diligence to verify the “opportunities” that exist – DON’T BE HASTY.
  • If it seems too good to be true – IT IS.
  • Learn to do what the broker does and – INVEST FOR YOURSELF. 
  • Know the difference between investing and speculating; between researching decisions and doing guess work – ALWAYS INVEST. 
  • Also, if you don’t quite understand what is happening, don’t take someone’s word for it – DO NOT INVEST.

Where to Invest

We’ve established that it is important to know the organization you are going to invest in.  But existing organizations are not the only outlets for investment.  You may also establish your own business, in which case you will need to know the industry.  Knowledge of the industry is also critical in investing in existing businesses as well.  The challenge with investing in businesses that you do not own is a reduced ability to affect outcomes.  Operating your own business affords you greater autonomy and increases your ability to influence outcomes.  But with all your best efforts life is an inescapable risk.  The good news though is that risk levels can be lowered.  Here are some tips of where to invest:

  • Invest where you can exert most influence. 
  • Invest where there are tangible assets, this usually means that manufacturing is more than likely taking place, which is critical to growing an economy.  But more critically from a safety of your investment point of view, tangible assets can be sold to recover investment funds.  Additionally, you are better able to recognize when something is going wrong.
  • When the assets are mostly intangible you want to make sure that your influence level is really high.  Influence is also necessary when the tangible asset base is heavy, but not as critical as in the other case.
  • Target procuring assets that tend to appreciate (real estate, gold, etc.).
  •  Stay away from money changing hands corporations – this is playing Russian roulette with your hard earned funds.
  • Invest in yourself. Equip yourself with skills that can be employed for your financial gain.
  • Consistently return a faithful tithe and give a liberal offering each time.  The blessings will follow, and you will enjoy maximum security (financial and otherwise). Mal. 3: 10-12; Matt 6:19, 20.
Remember, investing is a long term undertaking, be prepared to wait.  If it is happening too quickly, then you need to be scared, especially when the evidence is as it appears on paper.  The Bible warns against lending your money and charging usury (interest) on it.  Deuteronomy 23:19.  Modest interests on funds are a balancing out of inflation.  When interest rates are way high however, then an imbalance is occurring.  God’s blessings are very likely not on it.  Don’t be greedy.  Stay away.  A word to the wise….