"Go on up to a high mountain, O Zion..." - Isa 40:9 ESV.

Not all of us have climbed a mountain. I am blessed to be living on the foot of the Sierra Madre Mountain Range and nearby are several hikers' mountains, not so high but good enough to give a wide view of the valley below and the surrounding areas. Mountains are good at providing such wide panoramas of sites unavailable to those who would never risk climbing.

I remember my first climb of Mount Pamitinan, a 426 meters above sea level summit which took about two hours of hiking from the foot to the top at moderate speed. Being an inexperienced climber, it was one of the best experiences I had about mountains. The view on the summit was worth the effort. Of course I have been on an airplane many times in the past looking down at mountains, fields and valleys below but it's different when you have your foot on the ground but you know you are above everything else around. It's quite exhilarating. 

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"But he said, 'Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!'" - Luk 11:28 ESV

I think some definition is called for in order to make a distinction between relation and connection. Relation refers to an association between two persons due to biology as in blood relatives. For lack of a better word, I use "connection" to refer to an association or understanding between two persons who believe in the same things and agree to pursue the same ends. The question at hand now is, which of the two persons is esteemed better? Is it the one who is a relative or is it the one who is connected? Let's explore this by way of the bible today.

Relatives usually get preferential treatment, barring any bad blood between two related persons. As they say, "Blood is thicker than water." The principle being that family is family and therefore a relative should benefit first from whatever a person plans to do for others. But we are surprised at Jesus when His own earthly family is invoked perhaps to get His attention or to gain His favor. In Mark 3:31-35 it says, "his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him". When told about them, Jesus simply replied, "Who are my mother and my brothers?...For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother." Clearly for our Lord, relation isn't as weighty as connection.

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"Ephraim mixes himself with the peoples; Ephraim is a cake not turned" - Hos 7:8 ESV.

There is an intriguing statement by Jesus in Revelation 3:16 when He chided the church of Laodicea: "I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth" (Rev 3:15-16 ESV).

When I look at this statement, I can't help but compare the quandary that a lukewarm church creates to a refreshing or satisfying drink. Ask an average person what he prefers to drink and he would choose either a hot or a cold drink but not a lukewarm one. In fact the only conceivable instance where someone may choose a lukewarm drink is if that person is sick and drinking hot or cold would wosen his condition. Otherwise, a lukewarm drink doesn't satisfy.

In today's passage, God also rebukes the tribe of Ephraim for having mixed themselves up with other people around them. It has always been the desire of the Lord for Israel to be a unique people but their uniqueness is lost because of intermarriage, alliances and such with other races. They have acquired also the idols of the pagans with whom they associate and they might as well be as pagan as their neighbors. Describing them as such, God had to liken them to a "cake unturned" - burnt on the one side and raw on the other. Such is the state of man who doesn't know who he is. A man who tries to be like everyone and end up being no one. Just like Laodicea - neither hot nor cold.

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"It is he who shall build the temple of the LORD and shall bear royal honor, and shall sit and rule on his throne" - Zec 6:13 ESV.

Long before we are old enough to go to school, we already begin our life preparation through observation and imitation of the life of adults around us. The problem with this setup is that we tend to copy not just the right habits but also the wrong ones. Those of us who happen to be born in a family with parents who are fastidious in their example of right behavior, then we are blessed to learn from the best. We all could only wish for such parents. We know we could have been raised better if we have. We know we could be more than what we are now had we been given the chance to have someone to copy with the assurance that what we copy will serve us well in life.

Regardless of age, there is still an ongoing need for us to learn wisdom from someone regarding our career, our family, our health, etc. We could use a professor for our knowledge building. We could use a relationship mentor for our  human interactions. We could benefit much from a financial advisor for retirement arrangement. And we need a spiritual advisor to prepare for eternity. For the rest, we can rely on some men. For that last one, we can only rely on Jesus.

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"You are the most handsome of the sons of men; grace is poured upon your lips; therefore God has blessed you forever" - Psa 45:2 ESV.

Do you wish you were beautiful? How beautiful is that image in your mind? Is it the beauty of some celebrity you admire so much or is it a kind of beauty that you yourself envision and like no other?

Perhaps you've heard stories of royalty or some special person described like there is no other in the world like them in beauty. For instance, those who are familiar with the Greek mythology know all about Helen of Troy. As described by Homer in his epic poem Iliad, Helen was so beautiful that so many men wanted her to be his wife. But she was given to marriage to Menelaus, the king of Sparta. However, the prince of Troy named Paris somehow either seduced or was able to win the heart of Helen on a visit and she eloped with him. This sparked a war between Troy and Sparta and when Menelaus embarked on a journey across the sea to regain his wife that's how Helen came to be described as the woman whose "face launched a thousand ships". 

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"For behold, I will command, and shake the house of Israel among all the nations as one shakes with a sieve, but no pebble shall fall to the earth" - Amo 9:9 ESV.

These days it's normal to talk about the natural disasters that seem to affect the whole world. Of course many of the talks have commercial interests behind them, As such fake news by use of fake data goes rampant to sow fear so that governments are forced to create public policies that will serve those commercial interests. Remember the global warming myth? Now it's called climate change because it's not exclusively warming that's happening or perhaps not even warming at all.

Here in our country, our so-called experts and authorities keep on harping about "the big one", referring to an earthquake that may strike at any time with an intensity of 8 or above and will destroy 70 per cent or so of our cities. Immediately, this prediction becomes the reason for many people's fears and also the content of many prayer lists of believers. Every little tremor becomes a dreadful experience for some, thinking that it may already be the one. 

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