Tuesday, March 15, 2011

God Shapes Our Memories: Physical Reminders (Part 2)

God commanded Joshua to tell the officers of each tribe, 12 of them to take one stone each from the bedrock of Jordan to take with them. In verse 5-7  it says: 

“Go over before the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites,  to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’  tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”

The stones are for them to NOT forget God’s faithfulness. More than that, it is also for the UNBORN generations to also KNOW of such faithfulness.

Stones. Memorials. People build mausoleums. Just look at the Taj Majal…one of the greatest wonders of this world. A memorial of love.

We keep memorials, medals, ribbons I for one, kept the newspaper page on which a special friend’s name was published. I keep journals that bear the inscription of God’s faithfulness in my life. Today, I spent time with my Aunt and she showed me a page from her journal that she wrote when she first met her husband. They will be celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary by the end of the month. My father has been keeping our hospital bracelet when we were born. Memorials tell stories.

God was telling the Israelites to make physical reminders.

In acts2: 42 , the first Christians also took hold of a memorial, the reminder that Jesus had left for us: the breaking of the bread. 

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.  All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

That is why we approach the table with reverence because it is a MEMORIAL of Jesus’ work on the cross.

Reading this verse affirmed to me the importance of going to church. Of course, I can worship God wherever I am. But here, the early believers had to come together to ‘remind’ themselves of Jesus. They chose to ‘break bread’ together in fellowship because that breaking of bread reminds them of Jesus and what He did on the cross. That was the worship service they had back then.

So today, let us not neglect coming to church. No, not just on Lord’s Supper Sunday. Coming together as a body of Christ  is an act that serves as memorial stone, the reminder that Jesus left us, to remind us that HE DIED FOR OUR SINS.

Jesus wanted us to keep physical reminders.

Paul wrote in Acts 17:24 
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.  And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.  From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.  God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’

God chose our color, our race, our sexuality, where were going to live, which family to be born in that He is so imbedded in our DNA. The inscription of God is carved in our DNA.

Books are now written on the intricate and complex study of this DNA that is in each of us. Maggie Scarf, a psychologist who wrote a book called Lies, Secrets and Betrayals, explores the idea that our body has a unique memory storage system than stores up memories of may it be joy, fear or secrets.

Ravi thinks its makes sense because how then do you explain that when you're afraid (take for example..of a dog) one side of your brain reacts and the emotions are too strong and then the other side of the brain looses its blood that you cannot have speech.. how then does that single emotional incident get imbedded in you that the next time you see a dog, you react the same way? It is stored in your DNA.

It also makes sense to me now, when, you have certain preferences, they will say: "Oh, you're really like your mom". And even children who are separated from parents since birth find out after finding each other that there are so many similarities in their preferences. Memories and preferences are are imbedded in the DNA.

If this DNA is what is passed on by parents to children…does it make sense then why the BIBLE calls us sinners though sin only started with one man?

The structure of our DNA itself calls for a need to be BORN AGAIN.

God, in his infinite wisdom has imbedded in us a physical reminder of who He is, what He has done for us and what we need to do with it.

Here are some of the few things that remind me of God's faithfulness in my life:

My youngest sister painted this when she was 9. This is supposed to be a portrait of us.

This was my school ID when was in 5th grade. 

My sister, Jem, made this card for me when she was 10, i guess.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

God Shapes Our Memories (Part 1)

Memories are part of God’s Divine plan. Do you believe that? And if memories are part of God’s plan…then to REMEMBER is not an option, it is a must.

You may disagree and say that some memories are better forgotten because they are too painful for us to remember. I will ask you this: If God had not included in the BIBLE the most painful act that had happened in History.. that of His own, blameless son dying on the cross for ours sins, then the BIBLE becomes just another ordinary book, and what would happen to us, ordinary people?

Yes, sometimes we choose to forget…but sometimes, we also JUST forget.

I know you experienced doing something and while you’re at it you remembered you need to get something from your room. So you went back to get that something… then, while you’re there, you completely forget what it was that you were going to get. So what do you do? You try to pace back and forth trying to remember what that thing was.

Yes, we can blame old age for memory loss but.. more often than not, it is our lack of discipline to remember things that make us forget. Watch this narration of Joshua 4.

In the story, God was building Israel’s memory. The crossing of the Jordan was the LANDMARK MEMORY of the Israelites' crossing from one leadership to another; from wilderness to the promised land. And God… wanted them to NOT FORGET IT.

And how did God make sure they don’t forget it?

1. God established and preserved leaders

In Joshua 1, God just commanded Joshua to lead the Israelites after Moses had died. Not only that but God made a clear command in verse 8:

“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

God’s instructions were clear: I am putting you on post so  stick to the book. God was brewing victories for ISRAEL but the key player here was Joshua. His obedience to the Law greatly affected the memories that God had in store for the whole nation.

In our history as a Filipino people, we see how tour nation is shaped by the kind of leader we had. We’ve seen good leaders and the worst of their kind too. In school, we are told to NOT FORGET the more than 300 years of oppression by the Spaniards. 

In January our BLESS kids had a fieldtrip. We brought them to the city park, and we had our picture taken in front of Jose Rizal’s statue where he was portrayed as being held by a woman, whom we all refer to as Inang Bayan. It was hard to explain to the kids why a man who appears to be lame and dying is actually one of the most important men of our country. And he became so because HE STOOD UP among the crowd and  lead us out of oppression. And you know what, he was one who understood and acknowledge the power and the Supreme authority of God.

In a letter he wrote to Pastells while exiled in Dapitan, he wrote: We are entirely in accord in admitting the existence of God. How can I doubt his when I am convinced of mine… the God that I foreknow is far more grand, far more good: What books can better reveal to us the goodness of God, his love, his providence, his eternity, his glory, his wisdom? 'The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handiwork'."

So today, we sing our own national anthem, we fly our own flag, we call Philippines our own country, we do not fear for our children’s future knowing that freedom is theirs to pursue their dreams in this land we now claim our own…and it all started with a man who submitted himself under the glory of God.

God has assigned authority over us. Our government officials are our authorities. Our bosses are our authorities. Our parents are our authorities. Our pastors are our authorities. Remember, God shapes our memories through them. It is then our responsibility to always, always, raise them up in our prayers to the Lord.

*Reflections on Ravi Zacharias' sermon "God and Remembrance"