Right in the Eye Part 6: Yielding Control to God

There’s a certain kind of independence and flexibility we all intrinsically yearn for, and that is being able to do what we want, when we want, and where we want it. It sounds like rampant irresponsibility, and in some ways it is, but many people justify it with the old belief that it’s alright as long as no one gets hurt. While some may find that to be adequate reasoning, it’s not one that is universally accepted; many would believe that Christians are bound by rules such as these, but in truth we are allowed these freedoms, but only to a certain extent.

 

Churches – whether it’s a modern Christian church in Dubai or wherever else – definitely do not promote the idea of stifling free will; instead they even propagate these freedoms, but only if they’re not abused. As with everything – it must be in moderation.

 

This simple rule of “regulated” freedom was broken by the Israelites – for a time, they would sin and sin again and would do anything the wanted, only to end up having to face the consequences of their actions and repent at the last minute, thus left with no choice but to ask for another chance from God. According to Judges 21:25:

 

In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.”

God, in all his love for man, forgave when they asked. He continued to work as he did in spite of Israel abandoning Him; little did they know that in the midst of all their chaos, God was preparing for Christmas.

 

He used two unlikely people: one – a woman angry and bitter against God, and the other – a man who held his beliefs despite Israel’s abandonment of God.

 

Ruth’s Tale

The story of Ruth is one that is integral to Christmas, as it played a large role in setting it up.

 

Ruth 1:1-2 begins:

In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. The man’s name was Elimelek, his wife’s name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there.”

Naomi went on to marry her two sons to Moabite women but were left with naught but her daughters-in-law when both her sons died. From this event she brewed resentment towards God, believing that if there were a God he had forsaken her; she believed that if there were a God he did not know her name.

 

Heartbroken, she opted to return to Bethlehem, however, Ruth returned with her. Despite all the drawbacks of being a foreign woman in a foreign land, her loyalty to Naomi remained strong. In the passage Ruth 1:16-17, Ruth reaffirms this, saying:

 

But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.

So with Ruth, Naomi returned to Bethlehem, right when it was the barley harvesting season. During the time, it was good practice to allow widows and servants to pick up after any farms’ initial harvest so they may use the excess barley for themselves. Ruth partook in this practice and captured the attention of Boaz – a farm owner. He knew of her; rumors and stories of Ruth’s loyalty to Naomi had spread among the townsfolk. This impressed him, thus in Ruth 2:11-12 he says to her:

 

Boaz replied, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.

Boaz protected her, urging his servants to leave her alone as she gleaned the barley field.

 

From that event time goes on, but eventually, Naomi – who was getting older – and Ruth discuss the latter’s need to be married. As she was a foreign woman with almost nothing to her name, she was left no choice but to find for herself a kinsman-redeemer. Ruth went to Boaz, who himself attempted to get them another guardian-redeemer. However, he was unsuccessful as according to Ruth 4:5-6:

 

Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the land from Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the dead man’s widow, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property.” At this, the guardian-redeemer said, “Then I cannot redeem it because I might endanger my own estate. You redeem it yourself. I cannot do it.”

In the end, Boaz married Ruth, and they had a son named Obed. Naomi lived long enough to see this, and as she held the baby in her hands, she realizes that in spite of everything that had transpired, God had been faithful to her after all, and that God had redeemed her and her family.

Obed then has his own son, Jesse, who is the father of David, the second king of Israel. Much later on Nathan the prophet appears to David on behalf of God, and in 2 Samuel 7:16 states:

Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.

David’s bloodline went on as foretold, and about 25 begats later, according to Matthew 1:15-16:

Elihud the father of Eleazar,

Eleazar the father of Matthan,

Matthan the father of Jacob,

and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.”

Our Lord and savor Jesus Christ was born on Christmas day.

 

All throughout the rest of his life he came to be known as the son of God, but also as the son of David. He was a king, as he so bravely proclaimed as he stood in front of Pontius Pilate, the governor of Judea (who was appointed by Tiberius of Rome). John 18:36 says:

 

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

What can we learn from this?

Ruth’s tale was an important one, as aforementioned, because she played a huge role in setting up the birth of Christ.

Also, Jesus Christ coming into our world had a profound impact on mankind, as evidenced by how his tales withstood the test of time. Pontius Pilate was a powerful man, sure, but in the end he ended up as nothing more than a footnote in the story of King Jesus who used his power to give it to those who had none.

And you know what? He still does it until today.

How, then, can we take part in the story of Jesus Christ centuries after it had transpired?

While many may not realize this, Jesus is always there for us. He is always close by, ready for the time you’ll allow him to enter your life. He is the king that gives all of us an opportunity to be better than what we are now; He is the one who can lead us into righteousness – as long as we allow him to. (Like any good king, of course, he will not force himself unto you.)

As the Christmas season rolls in and we are once again reminded of the importance and wonder that was the birth of Jesus Christ, do something new – instead of simply doing what you want, when you want, and where you want and centering everything on yourself, try letting Jesus in – you will learn to live right no longer from the outside in, but from the inside out. In addition, you will learn to live with your hands and your heart wide open, as long as you’re able to yield control to Him.

Winter in the Desert: Christmas in Dubai

Contrary to popular belief, people in the Middle East also celebrate Christmas, especially in Dubai. This is because this beautiful and economically powerful city in the Middle Desert is full of professionals who came from different parts of the globe, and they have brought their Christmas traditions with them. This phenomenon has caused a melding of the different holiday customs and practices, making Dubai’s Christmas experience unique.

The malls, the hotels, and most importantly, the modern Christian churches in Dubai all exude the season’s warmth, and it does so in ways that are completely different from the rest of the world.

Dubai Winter Festival

First and foremost would be UAE’s most famous event during the Yuletide season – the Dubai Winter Festival. Already in its fourth year, this is the go-to event if you want to celebrate with thousands of fellow holiday lovers like you, anything and everything there is about Christmas. So if you and your family want to meet Santa Claus in the flesh, experience ice skating, engage in snowball fights, marvel at the giant Christmas tree display, and watch Peter Pan’s Christmas adventure, the Dubai Winter Festival would be perfect for you.

Christmas Markets

Whether you like it or not, and whatever your moral standpoint you have towards it, it’s undeniable that shopping will always be a part of Christmas. And in Dubai, there are so many Christmas markets for people who want and need to buy stuff for the holiday celebrations. There’s the Atlantis Festive Village and ARTE at Time Square Centre. Meanwhile, for those who would love to have fresh and organic produce on the Christmas table, there is the Ripe Festive Market at Festive Zabeel Park and Ripe Food & Craft Market and Al Barsha Pond Park.

Christmas Brunches And Trees

A lot of people who celebrate the holidays have dinner on Christmas Eve. In Dubai, however, Christmas brunches are the in thing.  And while you can have the Christmas brunch in your own home, you can choose to have it in many of Dubai’s fine dining restaurants.

Another staple to the Christmas tradition would have to be the Christmas trees.  And in Dubai, there are a lot of places where you can buy different kinds of Christmas trees, whether you go for natural or synthetic.

The C Word

As what has been evident in previous paragraphs, Christmas, unlike in other Middle East countries, is something that is not only openly mentioned, but also openly celebrated. In fact, there are many Christmas customs and practices that many of the people who live in the city, especially the expatriates, practice.

This holiday celebration, however, is a very secular one, as any religious aspect of the holiday cannot be put on display in any public establishment. This is because even though there is no prohibition on the practice of religion, there is still that lingering cautiousness of the people to not offend anyone of a different religion.

Nevertheless, the important thing is that despite the lack of displays of Christmas cheer that are rooted on the Christian faith and the overabundance of secular holiday traditions, there is that sense of harmony and cheer within Dubai, most especially within the expatriate community.

Each country celebrates Christmas differently, and Dubai is no exception. The way it is being observed in such a diverse city is secular due to necessity, but that shouldn’t mean it can’t and shouldn’t mean anything deeper than just shopping and mealtimes – the fact that the people of Dubai can live together in peace all year round is proof of that.

Right in the Eye: A Strong Man’s Weakness

What do you do when your body tells you to do something your heart tells you is wrong? Which one do you follow? Let’s be honest – for a lot of us, when the two are locked in a struggle, it’s the body that wins. That, however, shouldn’t be the case, as decisions in life that involve this conundrum will either make or break you.

Even pastors from a non-denominational church in Dubai understand that it’s never an easy battle, but it has to be won. After all, sex is one of the greatest things that affects our lives.

It’s Just That

But it’s just sex, right? One hour, one night, one weekend – how could it have that much of an impact in your life? You may not know or understand how, but choosing wrongly can cost us our rightful destiny as great men and women. A good example of this would be Samson.

Besides Being The Strongest

Samson is a popular character from the Bible. In fact, his story is one of the most favorite, recognizable, and popular story there is. But most of the people who are familiar with his tale only know that he is an unbelievably strong man who defended the Israelites against the Philistines until he was betrayed by Delilah and died along with his enemies; only a few remember the details of his birth and how his amazing strength came to be.

Samson was a son to Manoah, a man from the tribe of his wife. And just like many important figures in biblical history, he was born to a couple who find it hard to bear a child. Thankfully, Manoah’s wife was visited by an angel of God, telling them that they will have a son who is destined to deliver the Israelites from the Philistines. Manoah’s wife, however, had to take a Nazirite vow – this meant abstaining from alcoholic beverages, cutting one’s hair, and the refusal to touch anything dead. She abided by it, thus Samson was born.

As he grew up, Samson fought against the Philistines, and has prevailed over them time and again because of his immense strength which came from the Nazarite vow he had to take as long as he live. But even the strongest man is still a man, and the greatest weakness of man is a woman.

Enchanted and Enfeebled

Before Delilah, Samson’s ultimate downfall, he already had a liking for Philistine women. At that time, the Israelites were forbidden to marry anyone who is not of their tribe, as it would “dilute” the worship of God with that of false idols. Samson did not adhere to this, so in went Delilah. He loved her, but he did not know that she was sent by the Philistines to lure Samson and bring him to them.

We all know how the story goes – she succeeded, and it’s all because Samson, Israel’s strongest man, a devout follower of God who abided by the Nazarite vow until his hair was cut by Delilah, chose the wrong love, the wrong woman. He didn’t guard his heart and his body, so he met his doom. Though he was restored by God, as he was able to destroy the temple he was being sacrificed in and took with him thousands of Philistines, he could’ve lived longer and done greater things if he did what was right.

Samson’s life and feats were nothing short of astounding, so much so that people who know him want to be like him. But nobody wants to end up like him, betrayed and shamed. Therefore, let us learn from his example and be wise when choosing between what our body and our heart is telling.

Right In The Eye: A Copycat “Good Life”

Human beings learn by mimicking other people’s behavior. There is, however, a downside to it – sometimes we copy exactly the way other people live. Then again, why not? After all, it worked for them, so it would turn out the same for you, wouldn’t it?

Unfortunately and fortunately, that isn’t the case. And sometimes, it takes a Christian church in Dubai for you to know that.

Same Old Envy

In fact, this problem goes way back to the Bible times, in the Old Testament. There was a time in Israel’s history when they didn’t have a king, but they had God to watch over them and the Judges to make sure that the Israelites followed the law. The people, however, thought that it was a flawed form of government simply because none of the neighboring countries that they wanted to emulate. So instead of what God had ordained things to be, they wanted a king as well. And aside from having a mortal ruler rather than a heavenly one, they also wanted to do the same things the nearby empires did – follow the same norms, practice the same rites, and worship the same idols. So they did.

This, however, did not turn out as well as they thought it would. Because if we look back to the story of Israel you will see that after worshipping the same bloodthirsty false gods and goddesses of the Canaanites, they were captured by the very people they imitated.

Not As Good As You Think

So, how does this relate to us? That is because sometimes, at many points in our lives, we too become just like the Israelites, who are always looking at others, always trying to imitate the very path others are taking. This is because there are a lot of times when we think that the people around us lead a life that is much better than ours. And because of this mindset, the first thing we think of doing is by imitating what they are doing. After all, if it worked for them, then it must work for you, right? Well, most of the time, no. In fact, it is a lot less likely to work for you, for it is their life and not yours; the things and actions that lead them to their success and happiness may not lead to your own.

Besides, more often than not, the good lives we think other people are experiencing are usually not as good as they actually are. This is because we are only seeing the good things and are completely oblivious of the bad. After all, it’s impossible to have a life that only has highs and no lows. And since we don’t know the downsides to their lives, we get blindsided when we copy theirs.

God has designed a life specially for us, one that He promised to lead to everything that is good for us. And we cannot experience such a life if all we do is follow others.

Are you Where You Want to Be in Life?

Life is an exciting and colorful journey. It comes with one problem though: it doesn’t come with a guide, a compass, or a map. That means you’re going to have to figure out how to get from where you are to where you want to be all by yourself. Of course, you have your loved ones, and you can ask an evangelical church in Dubai or anywhere near you for help, but the most they can give you is advice; the rest is still up to you.

And since there is no way for you to tell how to get to where you wish to be in, there’s a chance that you are already there; you just don’t know it yet. So, how do you know if you’re already in the spot you’ve always desired to stand on, the place you know you’re destined to be in? Maybe taking these things into perspective will help.

Are You Happy?

This doesn’t just mean being in a good mood most of the time; this means being in a constant state of joy and contentment because you know that being somewhere else wouldn’t give you the same feeling. After all, you can be living a life that is considered by society as successful, but if you find no satisfaction and pride in it, then you’re definitely not theree yet.

Is It Difficult?

The places where we want to be in take a lot of effort and sacrifices to reach.

But why does the path have to be paved with thorns? That’s because it’s a test. How much do you want to get there? The answer to that question is how willing and able you are to overcome every hardship that is standing in your way.

Imagine Being Somewhere Else…

A lot of people have a lot of wishes and what ifs. These aren’t just the usual playful thoughts and hypothetical questions they ask themselves from time to time; these are their unfulfilled desires, and one of those things would be the point in their lives that they are in.

Now, have you ever thought and felt the same way? If so, then maybe the life you are living isn’t the life you have envisioned for yourself. And if that’s the case, then don’t worry; it’s never too late to turn things around.

Within Yourself and God

No matter how much you tell yourself that everything’s alright and you’re where you think you want to be even though you’re not, then maybe it’s time to listen to yourself. What is it that you believe is your purpose in life? Search within your soul. And if you can’t seem to find your center, pray to God. He is always looking out for you, and Hhe is more than willing to bring you to where you want to be, to where you’re meant to be.

Some people look for their purpose their whole life and never find it. You can’t blame them; after all, it’s never easy to do so. Difficult, however, doesn’t mean impossible. And surely enough, you’ll find it.

What You Got? How To Be Content

It’s never easy to be content, especially if you see that others have more things or have better lives than you. And if you have the means to be just like  those who you envy, then it becomes harder. This is human nature; even if you frequently attend a non-denominational church in Dubai or anywhere else in the world, this will always remain a struggle.

That, however, doesn’t mean it’s impossible. After all, one of the most important concepts of Christianity is overcoming the self, and the self is not one to be easily satisfied. And with that, here are a few steps to help you fight this difficult battle within.

See What’s Important

Before you go off and try to get the same thing you saw from the people around you or an advertisement, try to take a step back first and ask yourself if you really need it or if it will greatly improve your way of life. If it would, then you should go get it. But if it really won’t affect how you live, then it would be best to re-examine your motives why you want to get whatever it is you want to have.

This, of course, is not limited to material possessions. It can also be about career, power, and influence. Ask yourself: in order for me to be happy, do I really need to get so high up in that career ladder? Do I really have to be able to exert pressure on other people? Do I really need to have connections? Only you have the answer to those questions.

The Grass Isn’t Always Greener

It’s natural for us to compare ourselves with other people, especially if we see that they seem to be enjoying life. This becomes even truer whenever we don’t seem to be doing okay ourselves. What we fail to remember, however, is that they are human just like us. They have their own problems, and only they and those around them know how difficult those problems are. After all, people usually tend to keep their struggles private.

Live One Day at a Time

Perhaps you’re not really envious of other people, but instead you’re looking forward to the future a little bit too much, to a time when you think you already have everything you want – or think you want, at least – only to end up realizing that they should’ve learned how to be content in whichever phase of life they are already in.

A lot of people, when they were kids, wanted to grow up so they can have their freedom, only to find out that fending for yourself is much harder than being a kid. They started school eager to graduate so they can already get a job, until they arrive at the world of work and realize that it’s a much harder part of life.

There’s nothing wrong with anticipating what lies ahead. But don’t be too excited with what lies in store for you that you zoom past the present and fail to appreciate it, because you can never go back.

You won’t always have what you want in life. That’s okay though, because the key to being content isn’t getting what you want, but wanting what you got. And to be contented means to be happy.