Friday 11 May 2018

Some thoughts on #hobbylobbychallenge

I’ve been quite tickled by the creativity of many of the Hobby Lobby challengers, especially those who also post photos of what they really look like behind-the-scenes. The transformation from their real-life settings to the magazine-cover-worthresults can be pretty amazing! If you haven't seen any of them yet, just search #hobbylobbychallenge and have a look for yourself. 

You will see that while the final shot gives the impression that they are in the middle of a flower garden or something, in actual fact, they are in the middle of a shop aisle surrounded by a plethora of artificial decor plantsshelves, plant pots and other accessories, and signs and labels indicating prices and special dealsVery often, they would also have taken some of the stalks of flowers or leaves on sale and rearranged them, and ended up with bits and bobs strewn across the floor. So the whole scene is of a real big mess! However, these Hobby Lobby challengers start off with a vision of the final shot they want to achieve and keep their focus only on that, so they are not bothered by the mess around them 

Where there is no vision, the people perish. Proverbs 29:18a 

In our own lives, for most things that we embark on, we also need to start off with a vision, preferably a God-given one. For students, it might be an ambition of what they would become at the end of their studies. For parents, it could be a picture of how their family would be a blessing to those around. And in the workplace, it might be a vision of how a project would help to improve people’s lives. When we are guided by a clear vision, it not only directs the steps we should take to reach it, it also helps us to keep going even when things seem to go awry and circumstances look a bit messy. 

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 

Not only are the Hobby Lobby challengers situated in the midst of a mess, they also have to get into some very awkward and uncomfortable positions, frequently in extremely cramped spaces, in order to get just the right frame, angle and lighting for their shots. They even have to stay in those poses for a long time while their photographer friend attempts multiple shots at a gazillion different angles. I imagine most of them also had to get up really early or stay up late in order to get to the Hobby Lobby stores when there are hardly any shoppers around. Yet they are willing to endure all kinds of hardship for the sake of realising their vision of that perfect shot. In the same way, we should keep our eyes fixed on our Godly vision in whatever we are striving for, then no amount of trials and suffering would deter us from reaching for it.  

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1b-2 

Some of these Hobby Lobby Challengers also describe in their Instagram and Facebook posts how they were told off, threatened and even driven out of the stores by the store managers. Nevertheless, they don't give up and keep up their attempts in different branches and at different timings of the day, all for the sake of getting THE shot! In our quest to fulfill our vision, we may also face opposition, rejection and humiliation. Again, let's not allow detractors to derail us from our course. 

Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. Mark 13:13 

Finally, if you haven't noticed by now, every Hobby Lobby Challenger needs to have at least one friend to help take the photographs. Some of them even have additional companions who help to conceptualise and arrange the flora for the shots. So before we start on our journey towards our envisioned goal, get someone else on board so we can encourage and spur each other on along the way.  

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:12 

In summary, have a vision, ignore the mess, endure hardship, ditch the naysayers and grab a friend. That is the recipe not just for a successful Hobby Lobby challenge but for almost anything we do in life too! 

Now, how about Singapore-style #hobbylobbychallenge right outside one of our friendly neighbourhood supermarkets? 😉 
 

Tuesday 1 May 2018

Earmarked



Slaughter it, take some of its blood and put it on the lobes of the right ears of Aaron and his sons, on the thumbs of their right hands, and on the big toes of their right feet. Then splash blood against the sides of the altar.
Exodus 29:20

This was part of the consecration ceremony for Aaron and his sons, as priests set apart to serve God in the tabernacle. The marking of the right ear lobes reminds me of this other passage:

But if the servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’ then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.
Exodus 21:5-6

In both instances, we see that they were willing to serve their masters (God, in Aaron’s case, and the human master in the slave’s case) and the earmarking was a sign of who they belonged to. Also, it was a lifelong commitment. In addition, the earmark was clearly visible for everyone to see.

In the same way, when we are willing to give our lives to God, we are earmarked and set apart for life, regardless of our age and station in life. Our words and actions are to make Christ constantly visible to the world, wherever He places us and not only when we are serving in church or on the mission field. As for prodigals who stray away, like the lost sheep (in Matthew 18:12-14 and Luke 15:3-7), God will not lose sight of His mark on them and will pursue them all their lives until they return to the fold.


Incidentally, sheep are also earmarked as a sign of ownership. Like sheep, we are set apart for our Shepherd’s Purpose, consecrated like Aaron to fulfil His destiny for us. Perhaps God chose the ear to be marked as a reminder of the need for us to pay heed to the Master's instructions and to respond, "Not my will but Yours be done." We are also under His Protection, and He will watch over us and keep us from harm, from the lion and the bear (1 Samuel 17:34-35), and from the thief who comes to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). Even when death and destruction strike, we will be Preserved forever and enjoy eternal life with Him. And with The Lord as our Shepherd, we shall lack nothing (Psalm 23:1) for His Provision for us is always sufficient and timely.

That’s why we can say most confidently:

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
Psalm 91:1-2