Friday, February 27, 2015

Getting Spiritually Fit

Spiritually Fit
The fitness principle in exercise it that you have to put your body through a bit of discomfort, to work it hard, and then after you have recovered, your fitness level is higher than before. The discomfort you placed upon your body during exercise has made it grow. This is the only way it works. Sitting around in comfort will never get you fit.

This physical principle also works in the spiritual realm too as God uses it to help us grow spiritually as well.

God places, or allows discomfort/suffering upon us because He knows that through this, we will grow.

We will never grow spiritually if all we do is live in comfort all the time. It is during testing times that we have to depend on God. This strengthens our faith, allows us to trust Him more, helping us to grow.

In fact James 1:2-5 (NIV) says: 

'Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything'.

James is not saying the trials themselves are a joy, but to consider them a joy because of the spiritual benefits. To persevere means to be firm and strong in faith. This is what God wants us to be like.

Paul says in Romans 5:3-4 (NIV):

'Rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope'.

Suffering is not easy! We are to rejoice in suffering and hardship, because we know that this is ultimately for our own good. We know it is not meaningless. 

Paul says to rejoice in them, not in spite of them, as part of God's purpose is to produce character in us.

Let us begin to re-shape our thinking about suffering. To know that a little discomfort is for our own good. God turns these difficult times upside down, turning a negative into a positive - so that it will bring Him glory; shape us and mold us so that we may become more like Him. Phil Russ

Father, we thank You that no matter what difficulties we face, we are never alone as You are always in the middle of them; that suffering is never meaningless as You use these times to build us up and strengthen us; to give us character and hope. Amen.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Give Me Your Heart, Lord

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3 NLT)

Give Me Your Heart, Lord
Do you ever feel unloving? Like everything starts to annoy you and you find yourself not even trying to be kind to others? Your younger sibling or your child asks you a question (or maybe a zillion questions in a row) that you really just don’t feel like answering, so you snap at them? Or everything in you wants to ignore a certain person because they seem like a pest and you don’t want them “wasting your time” with their incessant chatter about virtually nothing?

I’m ashamed to say that I sometimes don’t love the way that I should. 

A few days ago, I felt myself slumped into one of my gloomy moods that usually results from not studying the Word as much as I should. Even one day without intimate prayer and Bible study with my Lord leaves me powerless to act as He desires me to act. My human nature is so terribly unkind, uncaring, and unspeakably selfish.

So there I sat on my bed, Bible open to 1 Peter where I had currently been reading through. But I couldn’t get into it right then. My brain wouldn’t allow me to concentrate on everything I was reading so I decided to skip over to I Corinthians chapter 13, which is always a great reminder of what love is and how to practice it. And I knew that my heart needed a good dose of teaching on love.

But ya know what one of the great things about the Bible is? The entire book is all about love. The whole plot, the whole point is God’s unending love for mankind since the beginning of creation. And that day, although I never made it to Corinthians, God had a few things to show me about His favorite subject.

In my page flipping back from 1 Peter to 1 Corinthians, I found myself hooked in to Ephesians chapter four. Something about the chapter heading must have caught my eye and I began reading. I marveled at how closely it paralleled where I had been reading in 1 Peter 3:8-12.

Both speak of humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance, peace, unity, and love. Both refer to these qualities as the “calling” of believers. Ephesians says that these are the manner “worthy of our calling” in which we are to walk. I Peter says that we are to bless others in order to inherit a blessing for which reason we are called. 

We are called to these things.

It’s no secret that God has called us to love, to show kindness and gentleness, and to genuinely care for others. But how often do we overlook the absence of these qualities in our lives? How often do we allow any fruit of the Spirit in our lives to whither, turning us into rotten individuals?

If we are walking daily with the Lord, it shouldn’t happen at all, at least not to the extent that I described in the beginning of this article. But the problem is, we sometimes forget that we do not have the capacity to exhibit these characteristics. On our own, we don’t know how to love … we don’t know how to look at any random person and see them through the eyes of Christ. 

As I was considering this, the words to Brandon Heath’s song “Give Me Your Eyes” flooded my mind with all new meaning. And with head bowed on folded hands I made the chorus to that song my prayer:

“Give me Your eyes for just one second, give me Your eyes so I can see, everything that I keep missing. Give me Your love for humanity. Give me Your arms for the brokenhearted, the ones that are far beyond my reach. Give me Your heart for the ones forgotten. Give me Your eyes so I can see.”

In order to care when I only feel like worrying about myself, I must see others through Jesus’ eyes. He doesn’t see anyone as a nuisance or a pest … He sees them as His beloved children. When you look at others through a Heavenly pair of eyes, even people who are unlovable or people who annoy you will be seen through the light of God’s love.

I discovered first hand what happens when you plead for God to fill your heart with His love. Suddenly you have a compassion that wasn’t there before. The next time you encounter a situation that would have annoyed you, instead of getting upset you see the people involved in a different way. You care about their feelings. You desire to help them, to teach them, and to love them with a Godly love. 

I’ve prayed this prayer before, and I’m certain that I’ll pray it many times in the future when I find my heart in a place where it shouldn’t be. And the next time you don’t think you have what it takes to love, just remember what God’s Word calls you to.

And through His miraculous power, God will give you His eyes to see people anew and His heart to love them like you couldn’t before. Amanda Brogan

“To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.” —1 Peter 3:8-9 (NAS)

Friday, February 13, 2015

Inaction

The desire of the sluggard puts him to death, For his hands refuse to work; (Proverbs 21:25 NAS)

Inaction
Amid discussing the options how to react to crises or situations, we may have been advised that inaction is the best course of action. The risk of such inaction, unfortunately, often bears consequences of potentially greater dangers because of its unpredictability. Consider the consequences of doing nothing about the climate change, health care, fiscal cliff or crises in the regions, just to name a few.

Inaction or being lazy at times is not something many of us would ever admit preferring, because for most of us, we are more often too busy to even find time to rest. Perhaps, some of us may feel unrest or even guilty having a well-deserved rest. To such people, there is only a fine line between rest and sloth. Rest is essential and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Amid our busyness, we must make time to get sufficient rest. 

In contrast, unwillingness to put much effort in whatever we are doing is pure laziness. Staying idle, doing little, or disliking work, yet expecting a return for our ‘effort’ is like a sluggard who does not plow and expects a harvest, but found nothing (Proverbs 20:4).

The Bible warns us that he who is slack in his work is brother to him who destroys. The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the soul of the diligent is made fat. The way of the lazy is as a hedge of thorns, but the path of the upright is a highway. Laziness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle man will suffer hunger. The desire of the sluggard puts him to death, for his hands refuse to work. Through sloth the roof sinks in, and through indolence the house leaks (Proverbs 13:4; 15:19; 18:9; 19:15; 21:25; Ecclesiastes 10:18).

Not doing what we should be doing is as much the same as indolence, laziness and sloth. If anyone is unwilling to work, let him also not eat. But for the working man, his sleep is pleasant whether he eats little or much. When he lies down, he will not be afraid, but his sleep will be sweet (2 Thessalonians 3:10; Ecclesiastes 5:12; Proverbs 3:24).

Are we staying away from what we know we must do? Is our inaction hurting others? Are we slacking in our work?

In whatever we do, let us do our work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, for it is our Lord Christ whom we serve (Colossians 3:23-24).

Dear Lord, grant us rest amid unrest to keep focused on You. Help us not stay away from doing what is right or what we ought to do. Whenever we are half-hearted doing what we are doing, remind us that it is You whom we serve. Renew in us a heart and spirit that is diligent and not lazy or insolent but is upright that when we lie down, we might not be afraid, but our sleep will be pleasant and sweet.  

Friday, February 6, 2015

Storing Up Treasures

The greedy stir up conflict, but those who trust in the LORD will prosper. (Proverbs 28:25 NIV)

Storing Up Treasures
“We are in a time where CEOs over the years have given themselves raises to the point where they are making billions of dollars a year for being the head of a company, while their employees are just barely making ends meet,” wrote Matthew Gates at the website currently run by him, ConfessionsOfTheProfessions.com. “We are in a time where it is okay for the government to help out greedy banks, but the banks help no one in return. … where interest rates and the cost of education are extremely expensive and profitable, yet not everyone can afford it, or spends almost a decade paying it back.”

“Anyone and everyone can begin to become less greedy, become more charitable, and help each other, not for the purpose of self-gain, but for the purpose of realizing that we are all connected as souls living inside of human bodies,” Gates continued. “If we wait for the people we elect to do anything, we will never progress forward. We must do it ourselves and only then, once we realize we have that power, we will advance beyond our imaginations.”

In a sense, there is much truth in what Gates talked about. Greed knows no bound, but if those who have plenty are willing to become more charitable, the society would probably be better off at succeeding its goals.

The Bible warns us of the greedy who exploits people with false words, whose judgment from long ago has been determined. The righteous will receive deliverance, but the treacherous will be caught by their greed. Those who are greedy will bring ruin to their households, but those who hate bribes will live. Greed stirs up conflict, but those who trust in the LORD will prosper (2 Peter 2:3; Proverbs 11:6; 15:27; 28:25).

Are we feeling a strong desire within us to want to have lots of money and possessions to keep for ourselves? Does our heart contain any insatiable greed for riches to want to hoard wealth?

Jesus shared in a parable of a certain rich man whose land yielded an abundant harvest. This man thought to himself, “What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.” Then he said, “This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God (Luke 12:16-21 NIV).

What good, therefore, will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for his soul? Rather than store up for ourselves treasures on earth, let us store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal (Matthew 16:26; 6:19-20).

Forgive us, dear Lord, for the times when in our weakness we give in to our carnal selves to covet worldly gains and possessions. Grant us in our plenty to desire to help those in need and not to hoard our wealth. Help us take earthly wealth lightly and with love give generously to aid the poor. Do not let greed overtake us, but put in our hearts contentment and the desire to bless others with what You have given us. All good things come from You, and we are grateful to You for prospering us in all we do. 

Friday, January 30, 2015

Conditioning Our Appetite

whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. (Philippians 3:19 NAS)

Conditioning Our Appetite
“I am 47 years old and have struggled with overeating and obesity since puberty,” Rena Barker wrote, sharing her testimony at SettingCaptivesFree.com. “I can remember gorging until I hurt and crying out to God to help me as I unwrapped my next candy bar. Several years ago, He did convict me that my overeating was sin but that knowledge really only compounded my rebellion and closet eating. The more I ate and gave into my flesh, the less I wanted to pray or fellowship with other Christians or read my Bible.”

Thankfully for Rena, God led her to an online Christian weight loss program that helped her kick start living a healthier lifestyle.

“There are many ways people may let their appetites get out of control,” wrote the author of an article at BiblicalCounselingInsights.com. “People have a type of hunger, real or perceived, and then try to feed it in a way that is inappropriate. Maybe they are greedy for sensation. Or maybe they have an emotional hurt and are trying to mask it with a high or the yumminess of a dessert or a ‘fun fix.’ Either way, they need to understand their real problem and address it in a healthy way. Overindulgence will only make matters worse.”

In a sense, gluttony is not just about overeating or about how we eat. It is also about overindulgence—the pursuit of something we desire so much that we give it far greater importance than everything else. Of those who relentlessly pursue after earthly gains, the Bible says of them that their god is their appetite, whose glory is in their shame. Their minds think only about this life here on earth. But we are not those who are yet unsaved, for our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:19-20).

Why should we, therefore, spend money on what cannot nourish us or labor for what does not satisfy? Shouldn’t we listen to God and eat what is good, and delight in the abundance He has blessed us with? If we have been given great wealth and honor, and everything we could ever want, but lack health because of overeating or overindulgence, how would it benefit us? Do we not know that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and we are not our own? For we have been bought with a price, so honor God in our body (Isaiah 55:2; Ecclesiastes 6:2; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Are we struggling from the bondage of bad eating habits? If like Rena, we need help to get started on the road to freedom from obesity or gluttony, the first step we need to take is to come to God and acknowledge our condition and addiction. Seek help from Christian care and counseling therapists who understand addiction or begin by taking up a course like The Lord’s Table by SettingCaptivesFree.com. Follow the cue given in the Bible that when given a box of candy, do not gulp it all down; eating too much chocolate will make ourselves sick (Proverbs 25:16 MSG).

Dear Lord, forgive us for the times we choose to follow our own pursuits in seeking to feed our own appetites instead of doing Your will. See us through and set us free from our addiction as we take the steps to walk closer with You and distance ourselves from obsession, obesity, and overindulgence. Create in us a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within us.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Lustful Nature

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. (Colossians 3:5 NIV)

Lustful Nature
“I was brought up in a wonderful Christian home … and nurtured in the faith by an excellent Bible-believing church,” wrote the author of an article at SafeFamilies.org. “I came to know and love Jesus in a very authentic relationship in early childhood.”

“I didn’t struggle with most of the temptations urban teenagers encounter: drugs, alcohol, cheating at school, fighting, stealing,” he continued. “But in college, that changed. I was living with non-Christian roommates and in an environment where pornography was pervasive, I found myself drawn to it, at first when no one was looking so as not to ruin my witness. By senior year, I gave up pretending and convinced myself that looking at porn was not sinful.”

“I got married two years after I graduated. … I was sure that marriage would solve this problem (by now, it was a full-fledged addiction). It didn’t. … It made things worse. Things deteriorated over the years. As technology changed and my resistance diminished, I found that behaviors I’d previously deemed unthinkable became normalized.”

Like the writer of the article who shared about his struggles with lust at SafeFamilies.org, Katy also shared about similar challenges in her life.   

“I grew up in a Christian home where my folks knew of the Lord and tried with what they had to incorporate faith into my life,” wrote Katy in her testimony at SettingCaptivesFree.com. “I, however, didn't grow up knowing the Lord myself and in junior high questioned if He was really there.”

“From the age of 13, I was exposed to pornography and the misuse of sex,” Katy continued. “I walked out the life of pleasing my flesh and using my body to manipulate men. It wasn't until 6 years into my marriage that God was able to really get ahold of my heart and He caused me to fall in love with Him.” 

The Bible had forewarned us that those who choose to live their lives according to the deeds of the flesh to practice sexual immorality, impurity, or lustful pleasures will not inherit the kingdom of God. As followers of Christ Jesus, therefore, we ought to live our lives by the Spirit and walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:19, 21, 24-25).

Thankfully for Katy and the writer of the article at SafeFamilies.org, both of them love the Lord deeply to find help, and their lives are now back to a closer walk with God.  Although they did not realize at first how deeply embedded their addiction was to their soul, they have since by the grace of God been involved in a journey of recovery, transformation, and restoration.

Are we struggling and attempting to overcome our lustful nature by ourselves or are we trying to hide our lustful acts from our loved ones and the people around us? Are we finding ourselves failing to do the good we want to do, and instead doing the very evil we hate?

If we are, we need help, if we hope to be set free from pornography, sexual immorality, habitual sin or the like. Begin by pouring our heart out to the Lord and telling Him our desire and love to want to change. Share and confess the matter with our spouse and those whom we can trust. Seek help from our pastor in charge, Christian care and counseling by therapists who understand addiction, or begin by taking up a course that helps overcome habitual sin, such as The Way of Purity course by SettingCaptivesFree.com. Put to death our earthly nature and inclination to sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, for such is idolatry (Colossians 3:5).

Dear Lord, You know our struggles and You know by our own strength we are unable to overcome our lustful nature. Help us as we seek help in our road toward recovery, transformation, and restoration. Grant us the support from our loved ones, church family, and others. By Your Holy Spirit, open our eyes to the roots of our lust and teach us what real love is. Extend Your grace to us, for we know Your hand is not shortened that we cannot be saved, neither is Your ear heavy that our prayers are not heard. For great is Your love toward us and You have delivered us from the depths and the realm of the dead.

Friday, January 16, 2015

God Will Make a Way

God Will Make a Way
Perhaps it was a miracle. The cupboards were empty and dinnertime was nearing. Mom and dad spoke, perhaps encouraging each other, ‘God will provide.’ I know they were thinking of us children, and still yet they did not waiver from the fact they knew God always took care of us.

The doorbell rang and we all ran to see who had come to visit. There stood our neighbor, smiling as always, “Johnnie I don’t know what I was thinking, but when I laid out chicken for dinner I laid out too much. Will you guys come eat with us?”

Of course this was God’s provision, and I can recall that dinner as if I were sitting at the table at this moment! God provided for my family.

Through the years I’ve thought about this experience and believe it was a lesson in, not only provision, but God will use whoever is available and willing. You see our neighbor was not a Christian. She didn’t belong to our church, and didn’t believe things the way my parents did, although she loved God, she just went about it differently! 

There were many others in the Christian world and in our circle that could have helped, but it was this lady who heard the call and responded! Many would shun her because she didn’t fit into the copasetic religious ideas, yet God used her!

If you study the book of Ezra you will read where the people decided to rebuild the temple and run into a few problems. The people of the land were not happy about the construction and made every attempt to hinder the work.

Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building, And hired counselors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia. And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, wrote they unto him an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem. (Ezra 4:4-6 KJV)

The last hope was King Darius! They decided to involve the King and surely he would put a stop to the construction, but this backfired! After researching he concluded that the temple should be built:

Moreover I make a decree what ye shall do to the elders of these Jews for the building of this house of God: that of the king's goods, even of the tribute beyond the river, forthwith expenses be given unto these men, that they be not hindered. (Ezra 6:8 KJV)

Not only was the temple to be rebuilt but also it was to be financed by the king and no one was to stop the construction!
You see, the enemy attempted to come in and destroy God’s plan! He wanted the King to stop the procedure, but it didn’t work! God used the wealth of the wicked to accomplish his goal!

On that day when my family was hungry, God used a lady that was not a professing Christian to answer the call.

I believe God has people in the ‘Christian’ realm that He longs to use, but they do not have ears to hear, nevertheless, God will accomplish His will in your life! If He has called you He will provide! He may have to use the unsuspected! He may have to use the one outside of the proverbial box, but God will accomplish His will in Your life!

It is us who put the constraints on God! We are the ones who concoct ideas as to how something will come together, but it is God who will perform! Don’t be surprised as to where your help comes from! Don’t let the fact that the unsaved may be the conduit to getting the job done!

God will accomplish His purpose in your life! Jounda LaMance

God of wonders, how You never cease to amaze us with Your wondrous works! Lord, help us to be usable! Help us to hear the call and be obedient to Your voice! Lord, we don’t want to be a hindrance to Your work!! We seek direction from You and understand that everything we have been blessed with comes directly from You, and You alone! In Your Mighty Name, AMEN!

Friday, January 9, 2015

God's Will Never Fails

The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. (Psalm 138:8a ESV)

God's Will Never Fails
Being a single person with health problems and a busy work schedule, sometimes I am forced to put aside tasks I feel I really need to get done, and that makes me feel like such a failure. For instance, I don’t always get my laundry done, clean my house as often as I’d like, or do my dishes every day.

I have learned, though, that not everything is “eternally relevant” and that as long as I am where God wants me and I am doing the assignments God gives me, then I am not a failure (even if I haven’t dusted my furniture for a while). I do believe that I should take care of my things because God has given them to me. But, God also knows my heart and my crazy schedule and He isn’t holding that against me.

Recently my pastor said this: “When we try to do things in our own strength, we will fail. When we let God work through us to accomplish something, we will never fail, even if the world says so … for we have done what God has asked.”

God doesn’t grade us by the same criteria that man does. According to man, I’d be considered lazy and slothful. On the other side, God knows that I’d like nothing better than to be able to do all of the things on my list … but I know if I look to God for guidance, He will give me the wisdom to shorten my to-do list and prioritize the things listed.

What I need to focus on, is showing God’s love to those around meif I do that, everything else on my “list” falls into their correct placement and I will learn to manage my time and resources in a Biblical way. When I look to God for strength to do something He has asked me to do, God is given all the glory (because I know I could not have done it on my own).

Jesus said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9a ESV) Bridget Gazlay

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Only New Year's Resolutions That Work

New Year's Resolutions That Work
With the dawning of each New Year, many of us set aside resolutions, with the goal of improving ourselves and our relationships. Studies have shown that the most common New Year’s Resolutions have to do with weight loss, financial goals, job security, strengthening relationships, even spiritual disciplines. We are good for few days, even weeks, only to be disappointed with ourselves and fail with our own good intentions before the end of January.

From personal experience, many times I failed with my weight loss goal, until I finally gave up trying and started trusting. I give God the glory for I know it’s His grace and my obedience to His will that helped me lose those unwanted pounds that saved my life. As I keep on trusting and obeying, He will continue working in every aspect of my life. My main goal this year and years to come is to know Jesus Christ more and more each day and strengthen my relationship with Him so that His name will be glorified in whatever I do.

I believe that the only resolutions we need that will work can be found in none other than the Holy Book. As we obey, there will come times when we have lapses of memory, but nonetheless, as we surrender to the Power much greater than ourselves, we will succeed.

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do and your plans will succeed.” Proverbs 16:3

“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this.” Psalm 37:5

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

“Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous fall.” Psalm 55:22

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33

As we sail into the ocean of uncertainties this year, as we face the storms of life, as we smile at our own little triumphs, as we seek new adventures and try to find meaning into our own existence, my prayer is that we will never forget the very Hands that created us, molded us, and the very Hands who can take us to the place where we choose to belong.

A blessed New Year to all! To God be the glory forever and ever, Amen! Gloria Tiquia

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Blessed New Year 2015


Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; 
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NAS) ~


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