Friday, December 30, 2011

Dangers of Online Socializing

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: (Ephesians 4:29, 31 KJV)

Social MediaKeeping in touch with friends, colleagues, and people we know used to be about making phone calls or meeting up once in a while. These days, however, staying connected often relates to the social media—how we live the digital lifestyle of technological convenience through using applications on the Internet. We need only to press or touch a few keys on our mobile phones, tablets or computers, and we can communicate, share text, photos, videos, music and other media files to anyone in the world.

According to TheSocialMediaGuide.com, one of the many definitions of social media is "any media form that displays itself to an open public and encourages interaction between the host and all observers." This definition sums up two key aspects of the social media. The first is the use of any type of media form for sharing over the Internet, and the other is interaction. Social media, therefore, involves the sharing of media files, and participating in activities on the Internet through blogging, commenting, social networking, instant messaging, and the likes.

The ability to socialize and interact with people online through the social media is reckoned by many as one of the greatest breakthrough since the introduction of computers and information technology. Despite the many advantages of social media, however, there are drawbacks which few people realize. These drawbacks include the monitoring and tracking of our behavior patterns through what we post, share online, and the sites we visit to allow related advertisements to lure us into other commitments and sites.

Besides unsolicited ads, another drawback of the social media is the danger of sharing too much about our private lives to the public. Online sharing can affect others or how others view us. Our bosses, colleagues, relatives, and friends, for example, may think of us as weak or ill-mannered reading some of our status update on social networks. Sometimes, leaks through words of mouth can also spread and cause damage to relationships because of people sharing what they read from our social media postings.

The Bible warns us not to let corrupt communication proceeds out of our mouths, but to let what is good and edifying minister grace to the hearers. We are to put away bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking, along with all malice (Ephesians 4:29, 31).

This warning and instruction from the word of God, although refers primarily to the use of speech, is also applicable to how we should communicate on the Internet. We should not let negative words proceed from us, for such words can hurt others and expose us to ridicule. Remember, we are to give account every careless word we use on the day of judgment (Matthew 12:36).

If, therefore, we have a message of encouragement for the people, we should share this instead (Acts 13:15). Whether we are using videos, images, music or other types of media files, let us always share only whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, or praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8).


Dear Lord, forgive us for too often sharing to the world things that do not edify or minister. Help us not let our bitterness, wrath, anger, thoughtless words, and private lives hurt or mislead others. Remind us constantly Lord to share words of encouragement and things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable or praiseworthy. Protect us from the vices that constantly attempt to lure us away from You or into unnecessary commitment. Do not allow us to fall prey to the evil one O Lord, but guide us by Your Spirit to use tools like the social media carefully and wisely for the extension of Your kingdom.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

MERRY CHRISTMAS!
Merry Christmas
LET US CELEBRATE
THE BIRTH OF CHRIST!


"BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD
AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY
SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,"
which translated means,
"GOD WITH US."
~ Matthew 1:23 (NAS) ~

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Life Decision: Testimony of Joyce Schneider

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

Joyce SchneiderI experienced an abortion in 1985. At that time, I was unmarried, alone and ashamed to tell my family. I was involved with sex, drugs and alcohol, and ended up pregnant and confused.

I had been brought up in the church, but I did not have a personal relationship with Jesus. As a result, I rebelled early in life and went off on my own path, which took me down many rocky roads.

After my abortion, I spent the next 17 years of my life filled with guilt and shame, hating myself for what I had done.

My abortion affected all aspects of my life, including my relationships with others and my own self-image.

In September of 2000, I gave my life to Jesus, and asked for forgiveness for having that abortion. And although I knew that God had forgiven me, I could not forgive myself.

I lived in a world of constant suffering, denying myself the pleasures of enjoying the family that God had given to me.

In July of 2002, I was finally able to accept God's amazing grace, mercy and forgiveness, and let go of the guilt and shame of my past.

The freedom the Lord gave to me that day set me free!

The burden of that terrible sin was gone. In its place, was the desire to share my story with others, with the hope that I might encourage someone to reconsider this life changing decision and the consequences it would have on their tomorrows, as well as the encouragement that there is hope and healing through the love of Jesus for our past mistakes.

God has taken the pain of my past and turned it around for His purpose and in the process, my life has become full!

And He is ready, willing and waiting to do the same for you!

Take that step of faith ... you deserve to live the life God planned for you!

It's all because of Jesus. Joyce Schneider

Friday, December 16, 2011

Internet Piracy

You shall not steal. (Exodus 20:15 NAS)

Cloud ComputingUsing applications on the Internet is probably not something new to most of us. We frequently access, download, store, and share files over the Internet via computers, mobile phones, tablets, and other devices. All these are possible because of personal cloud computing.

Personal cloud refers to the adoption of Internet computing for personal use. In computer network diagrams, the Internet is symbolized by a cloud, hence the term ‘cloud computing.’ Cloud computing relates to the applications and files we access and operate over the Internet. These applications and files are usually stored at a remote location, accessible on the fly through mobile, hand-held, or other computing devices. The remote location may be our home, a data center, free space on the Web, or anywhere else connected to a storage device, such as a computer, server, or network attached storage, with network access to the Internet. We can upload and download data, music, videos, and other media files to and from this remote location, as well as share them with friends, family and colleagues anywhere, anytime.

Today, with cloud-enabled devices like iPhone®, iPad®, Android®, and other smart phones, sharing and accessing files stored in remote places is easy and convenient. Such convenience, however, can give rise to a certain danger. We tend to share files with others without much thought, even those we are unsure if they belong to the public domain, or are copyrighted.

According to an article 'Piracy: Legal vs. Illegal Downloading' by the Federal Trade Commission at KnowWhereTheyGo.org, "downloading copyrighted material without expressed permission, (that is, without paying for the works), is illegal." However, “downloading music and movies from the Internet, under certain circumstances, is legal.”

Too often we have taken for granted and assumed all things on the Web are free. We frequently download ‘free’ things from the Internet, and distribute them to others via file sharing and e-mailing. Such an act is not much different from theft, if the materials we send are copyrighted. Storing and sharing things that are not ours is stealing, and can affect the livelihood of the rightful owners.

Unlike the dangers involving the upload and download of materials over the Internet, there is something of spiritual equivalence we can safely do that is quite the opposite. We can pray to God, and be assured our prayers rise up before Him (Revelation 8:4). That’s an ‘upload’ we can count on God to hear! We can receive God’s overflowing blessings poured down on us that will keep us having all sufficiency in everything, if we willingly give to God’s work (Malachi 3:10; 2 Corinthians 9:7-8). That’s a ‘download’ full of blessings!

So, what should we do? We should not steal (Exodus 20:15). This means we should always ensure our uploading and downloading over the Internet or the cloud is legal. Never take for granted to think everything available on the Internet is free, or share materials we are unsure of their intellectual property rights. Give willingly to God’s work; bring our prayers to God; and expect a down pouring of God’s blessings from the clouds of heaven.

Receive our prayers O God as we bring them to You, and pour down Your blessings on us as we willingly give to Your work. Forgive us Lord for sometimes taking for granted to assume everything is proper and good without verifying and paying for what is due. Grant us wisdom Lord to know how to differentiate between free sharing and stealing, that we may not unwittingly commit a wrong and deprive others of their livelihood.

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Tangled Web

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; (2 Peter 2:4 ESV)

Tangled WebToday, a good friend and a sister in Christ grasped my hand in one of hers, and my pastor's hand in the other, and as we formed a circle she prayed for our church and our staff. She might not have known, but God surely did, how apropos was one line that crossed her lips, and how much of a blessing it was to me.

Last night as I stood on my deck, I contemplated a spider web seemingly sleeping in his web. The light from the den shone bright on the intricate weaving strung between the window and an outside wall, and I studied the webbing paying little attention to the spider perched in its corner. That is until a flying insect dive bombed straight at the web just centimeters from the waiting spider.

The beast sprung into action. It was upon its prey in a fraction of an instant. I watched, amazed, as the spider played that insect like an instrument; tiny legs moving to its internal rhythm as the insect was held captive, motionless, and bound tightly in silk. The spider moved away for a moment, then dashed back to reinforce the insect's wrappings. Satisfied that the prey had been subdued, he moved away and again was still.


As my sister prayed today that Christ would snare satan in His web and bind him like a spider does his prey, the image of my spider came rushing back. I have seen the results of a spider's dominance before, the mummified cocoons of its prey, but have never seen the dispatching of its victim in action. I know that I was shown this working of nature for this very time and this very purpose.

Now I have a glorious picture of Jesus, my Savior and my Lord, ruling over satan, binding him as effortlessly as that spider was master over the bug. Catrina Bradley

Friday, December 2, 2011

Filtering Spam

Then he said, "Oh may the Lord not be angry, and I shall speak only this once; suppose ten are found there?" And He said, "I will not destroy it on account of the ten." (Genesis 18:32 NAS)

Stop Spam!Removing spam e-mails consume much of my time—a chore I dislike to do. Despite having an anti-spam filtering application installed, I still receive about one to two hundred spam e-mails every day. The filtering application can be trained to recognize various types of e-mails to move to a quarantine or junk folder, but the routine of doing that eventually overtook me, and I have given up trying. Receiving junk e-mails has now become part and parcel of life. These days, I would just take a quick glance into my e-mail Inbox, check for senders who are unfamiliar or subjects that do not interest me, and then multiple select them for trashing.

"Over the years, I’ve discovered many [anti-spam] methods that worked for a while, but never permanently," said Farhad Manjoo who wrote the article 'An Empty In-Box, or With Just a Few E-Mail Messages?' in The New York Times. "For a while, I set up elaborate filters meant to automatically categorize every incoming message according to who sent it ... But eventually every finely honed trick to tame my mail would collapse, and I’d backslide into a messy, undisciplined in-box."

After much experimentation with various experts' tips, Manjoo wrote that she has finally found several basic rules that can help reduce e-mail anxiety—the feeling of guilt for being late in responding to e-mail messages. The rules include turning off all auto-notifications that alert us to incoming mail, setting aside an hour or two to respond only to important messages, and moving all the rest to a separate folder.

Like me and Manjoo, many of us are not unfamiliar with spam e-mails. Time and again, we see them increasing because senders of such e-mails are constantly finding ways to outsmart e-mail recipients from filtering spam. We do whatever we can to eliminate them, but we may sometime reach a point we give up trying, pay little attention to them, or simply discard them. Ignoring things that bother us, such as spam e-mails, unfortunately does not help us solve the problem.

Suppose we have a ten dollar bill in a heap of counterfeits. Would we willingly let the bill be thrown away just because it is among counterfeits? Not unless we are unaware or have too much to spare! Similarly, the Bible mentioned a time before Sodom and Gomorrah was destroyed, that Abraham asked God, "Will You indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?" God’s answer was clear. He would spare and not destroy even on account of ten righteous (Genesis 18:23, 31-32). What do we think, if a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying (Matthew 18:12)?

Whether it is a ten dollar bill among counterfeits, or ten righteous people among the wicked, we should never 'trash' them or ignore them because of the overwhelming fakes or evil around. Just as we continue to read our e-mails amid the spam, we should also continue to focus our attention on saving the lost, even if only one of them has gone astray. Instead of being overwhelmed by too many things vying for our attention or feeling guilty for not responding fast enough, let us purposefully set aside time to attend to the more important and most needful first. As for the rest of the things that keep us from our main focus, let us move them to the attention of another for follow-up, prayer and intercession, or to our To Do list for later attention.


Dear Lord, forgive us for sometimes neglecting to pay attention to the needs of others at the right time. Help us set our priorities right Lord, that we will purposefully set aside time to minister and bless others, as well as snatch the yet unsaved from the wicked. Do not allow us to be overwhelmed by the things happening around us, so we may not backslide into undisciplined focus. Tame us as You will O God, that we may not collapse or fall, but stand firm and immovable in the faith all the days of our lives.

Friday, November 25, 2011

God's Rest

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. (Revelation 21:4 KJV)

God's RestAre we ever weary of working hard, of disappointments, of struggling from day to day? If so, we need rest.

We look to SELF—we can't find it there. We look to FAMILY AND FRIENDS—they're in need of rest too. We look to the WORLD—they offer a temporary fix.

TRUE REST is found in GOD ALONE. Apart from Him, the soul is like the troubled sea driven to and fro.

Do we know that rest is important? Even the Lord God Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth, set the example for us and rested from His works (Genesis 2:2-3).

If only we would set aside the day that God commanded us to rest physically, how our weary souls would be refreshed and renewed.

God did not promise a life without problems, but He did promise to give us rest through them.

And He said, "My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest." (Exodus 33:14).


  • Rest from burdens (Matthew 11:28)
  • Rest from fears (Matthew 10:31)
  • Rest from worry (Matthew 6:31-32)
  • Rest from enemies (Luke 10:19)
  • Rest from sickness (Matthew 8:17)
  • Rest from trouble (Psalm 46:1)
  • Rest from heartache (John 14:27)
  • Eternal rest (Revelation 21:4)

Believers, the promises of rest are ours. Do not think, because difficulties are before us, that the promises will fail. God is faithful to every promise. Let us, therefore, rely on His Word, submit to His will, trust in His perfect work and find rest for our weary souls in Him. Patricia Bankhead

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgving!
Happy Thanksgiving!
give thanks in all circumstances; for this
is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
~ 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV) ~

Friday, November 18, 2011

Blogging for God

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:19-20 NAS)

BloggingWhen I first started a blog, it was not because I wanted to, but because I was assigned by my editor to write an article on blogging for an education magazine. Blogging was relatively new then—at least for the adults—and I was to interview several people to find out their thoughts on blogging.

Many of those I interviewed agreed that writing and publishing web pages had never been so easy before blogging took center stage. The task of web authoring which was previously only for the tech-savvy, today is no longer difficult even for a beginner.

"Just knowing the basics of using a mouse to navigate on a web page is all that is needed to use blogs," said a high school teacher. "The rest is a matter of trying things out."

A number of people gave their reason for blogging as wanting to make friends who share similar interests, while some said they blog to de-stress or fight for a cause.

"I blog because people can get to know me," said one. "I have met so many new people through blogging—nice people who have no ill intentions, do not pressure me into meeting them or go out with them. [They] … read my stuff and e-mail me words of encouragement, share with me their personal experiences, and offer me friendship with no strings attached."

Almost all who were interviewed agreed that as a medium, blogging is convenient and efficient in recording thoughts and feelings; a way to express one's joy and peace, share problems and issues, and participate in intellectual exchange.

"[Blogging] helps a lot if I feel burdened by something and need to offload it," said the high school teacher. "I find I work more efficiently after I’ve set myself back in focus and be on task."

What about negative aspects of blogging?

"Of course, we run the risk of facing ridicule and criticism from people posting their comments," said an ardent blogger. "But we can deal with it."

I agree with the interviewees. Like the high school teacher, I frequently offload my burdens writing on my blog. Many people get to know me and my innermost thoughts because I blog. My life is an open book, found within the pages of my devotional writings. Blogging is my way of serving God and His people, a medium of choice to reach out to the masses in the world. I am a missionary at heart without the travel. With my Christian blog linked to the social media communities like Facebook, Twitter, and other sites, every blog entry I post gets to reach out to the masses and the targeted people for the Lord.

Of course, once in a while, I would receive some argumentative or negative comments at my blog. But by the grace of God through the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the wisdom of our Lord, those were dealt with without quarrel or hurtful feelings.

What about the rest of us? What do we do with our blogs? Do we turn them into avenues by which we serve God, His people, and the people who are yet unsaved? The Great Commission calls for us to make disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:19-20). What better way for us to reach the masses than by blogging and sharing our thoughts, testimonies, devotionals, and other Christian writings, to make disciples and win souls into the Kingdom of God?

Join therefore with others in following my example and be imitators of me. Observe the things you have learned, received, and heard from me or seen in me, and in those who serve the Lord. Practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you (1 Corinthians 4:16; Philippians 3:17; 4:9).

Thank You, dear Lord, for giving us blogs to share our thoughts, testimonies, devotionals, and other Christian writings, to win souls for the Kingdom and make disciples of all the nations. Grant us wisdom Lord to know how to fully utilize online tools, such as blogs, to offload our burdens, and let people know us in ways that draw them to You.

Friday, November 11, 2011

God-incidences: The Lord is My Shepherd

Computer MouseToday was not a good day.

Have you ever tried to control a computer without a mouse? Not easy.

I took yet another deep breath, looked at the clock, and then out the window to see if the IT guy was here yet. After seeing an empty driveway, my eyes blurred into the blinds. My inner voice breathed, "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want."

Mmmm, yes, a comforting thought indeed. I had no idea why that verse came unbidden so strong and so loud in my thoughts, but my frenzied mind was able to connect it to my situation.

I had been thinking all day about last night's message: what we need before we can rebuild. One was to understand that God engineers our circumstances.

The Holy Spirit doesn't need my help to fix anything. My best move is to step back, be silent and listen, and absorb. Pastor C. spent a good bit of time emphasizing the "be silent and listen" part.

I've been a secretary since the days of DOS when a mouse was just an idea in some young geek's imagination, so I'm able to do most everything without one, and can work much faster without having to stop my fingers and move my hand from the keyboard. (I call myself the Keyboard Queen.) Still, I could NOT figure out how to get inside a Publisher text box.

Ok, so God engineered this circumstance. I had depleted my knowledge and ability bank, I had called for help; I had done all I could do. (God doesn't want us to be sluggards; He wants us to use the gifts and talents He gave us.) Now I need to get out of His way and let the circumstance unfold.

When I stepped back, and listened, I was able to recall the many things I could finish that didn't involved that particular task. The IT Guy showed up exactly when he was scheduled to, he found out what was wrong and fixed it. The phones were amazingly quiet the remaining 40 minutes, and I was able to complete most of my work.

This evening, after a long, much needed quiet time with God, I checked my email. My mini-devotion verse was this:

"The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want." —Psalm 23:1 (NIV)

The prayer contains the following petition:

"Please help me hear your voice above the confusing distractions around me."

Coincidence?

Godincidence. Catrina Bradley

Friday, November 4, 2011

Keywords for Life

You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 23:13 NAS)

Searching KeywordsWhen we search for information on the Web, all we need to do is to enter the keywords in the search box of the search engine, and click the ‘Search’ button. That is simple enough, and if we have chosen the right keywords for the search, a list of related links would appear. If we have not chosen the right keywords, however, we would be returned with irrelevant or unrelated information.

Many business owners know the importance of keywords, how they can help search engines find their websites. This is why businesses, especially those relying on their websites to generate leads, are willing to spend time and resources on search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is a technique that uses keywords research to find the words people use when searching for information on the Web, in order to make one’s own website rank high on search engines. Such a research can be time consuming, but if done correctly, it can bring in the desired traffic and customers to the site by simply adding the targeted keywords in the web pages.

Like keywords researching, many people today seek and search hard to find things to fulfill their lives and satisfy their souls. Sadly, however, many of them search for the wrong things and go to the wrong places to find what they think can appease their inner cravings and desires. Some search for ways to get themselves rich by gaining material things. Others seek for fulfillment in pleasure through eating, drinking, making merry (Ecclesiastes 8:15; Luke 12:19-20), and engaging in online activities that claim to offer self gratification.

All these pursuits are vanity and striving after wind (Ecclesiastes 1:14), for what good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world but forfeits his soul (Matthew 16:26)? All the things in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life, are not from the Father, but from the world (1 John 2:16). Should we then waste our time storing up for ourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal (Matthew 6:19)?

Let us learn a few things from the way we use the search engine. We know we need to enter the right keywords to find what we want. Similarly, in searching for fulfillment and satisfaction, we need to enter through the right gate to find the road that leads to life (Matthew 7:13). If we receive irrelevant or unrelated information because we fail to enter the right keywords, we should also expect to receive bombardment in our lives that can lead to destruction if we do not enter the right way. Small and narrow is the way that leads to life, and only a few find it (Matthew 7:14).

Like the SEO which seeks out the keywords people use to lead them to find the related links, God has also taken the lead in choosing us to follow Him (John 12:32; 15:16; Ephesians 1:4). All we need to do, therefore, is to seek Him—not other things—and we will find Him, when we search for Him with all our hearts (Jeremiah 23:13). Instead of letting our flesh set its desires against the Spirit, let us not do the things we please, for the flesh and the Spirit are in opposition to one another Galatians 5:16).

Forgive us dear Lord for sometimes seeking that which are not from the Father—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life. We know in our hearts Lord that there is no fulfillment or satisfaction we can derive from earth. Only in You, O God, can we truly live meaningful lives and be satisfied. Draw us to You Lord, and lead us when we are searching for the right direction. Keep us focus on You so we may not fall prey to the temptations of this world. Renew and guide us, Holy Spirit, so that we will not carry out the desires of our flesh, but enter through the right gate and walk on the road that leads to life.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Finding Beauty

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. (John 1:1-2 NIV)

Kids and ParentingPoetry. The prologue of John (John 1:1-18) is pure and lovely poetry. It's one place I like to go when I need a dose of beauty. In a world of pop-culture, I need those doses regularly.

Over the summer, my twenty-year-old daughter, Maddie, lamented all the pop-culture I was responsible for making her miss during her childhood. "Mom," she said, "when people my age talk about 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' or 'Strawberry Shortcake,' I'm lost." This made me laugh. "What was so bad about Strawberry Shortcake?" she wanted to know. It's not the first time I've heard that question.

"What's so bad about (fill in the blank)?"

My children have asked me that question and I have asked myself that question hundreds of times over the years. I've asked it about all sorts of books, movies, and activities. It seems to me, we only have so much free time—time set up for no purpose other than enjoyment and we can choose things that are "not bad," or we can choose things of value.

Early in parenting, I wanted to give my off-spring only value. So while other children were reading books about a babysitting club, mine were reading the Wind in the Willows and Misty of Chincoteague.

As the years continued, I softened my stance somewhat, so by the time my son was old enough, he saw all the Star Wars movies (I only liked the original three). Maddie, of course, laments this, too—“how Spencer had it better.” I try not to laugh.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible was written by Paul in an intimate portion of his letter to the Philippians as he sought to instruct them on how to live:

… whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8 NIV)

I'm not immune to pop-culture and I admit to watching things that are "not bad" and sometimes, even things I know veer straight into "bad." These things don't edify me in any way; in fact, if I'm not careful, they'll erode my convictions. But sometimes I watch them. That's when I need a dose of pure or lovely or admirable. That's when my husband and I trek to some beautiful part of God's world, or I listen to Pachelbel's Canon, or I read the poetry of the Book of John.

The other day, Maddie called to say she was tired of seeing little girls who dressed too old for their age. She said, "When I have children, I'm picking pleasing-to-the-eye-age-appropriate clothes." I was glad we were on the phone and she couldn't see me smiling.

You know, maybe I'll surprise her the next time she comes home. I'll put together a Strawberry Shortcake Fest complete with videos, shortcake, and balloons. Time spent with her laughing—that's a place where I find beauty.

Epilogue: Last Sunday afternoon Maddie and I held our Strawberry Shortcake Fest. The cake tasted good; she appreciated the card and balloons. We didn't make it five minutes into the video, though, before she cried, "Turn it off! I can't take it. It's soooo mind-numbing!"

My work here is done.
Lisa Mikitarian, Dec 2008

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Note to LW Followers

Dear Friends and Readers of the Living Water blog ...

Living WaterThank you for your faithful following and ongoing encouragement.

As Living Water continues to look into ways to bless and minister to each of you, starting tomorrow, it will from time to time host devotionals and testimonies written by guest writers as well. Living Water believes this will benefit more people, with fresh insights and a more balanced mix of serious and lighthearted devotionals.

If you have devotionals* or testimonies you wish to share at Living Water, please feel free to send them to: editor@livingwater.

Warmest Regards
Living Water

* Devotional submissions should preferably be written from the first person as a community, that is, using 'we' 'our' and 'us' unless when sharing an anecdote or testimony within the story. Citation from the Bible in part or full should specify the translation version in abbreviated format, for example, (John 3:16 NAS). All submissions are subject to consideration and review.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Managing Our Emotions

Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. (Isaiah 53:4 NAS)

Emotional RollercoasterStrong feelings can bring much joy as well as sorrow, and we know we need to manage our emotions well in order not to crumble under excessive grief. In a sermon I heard some time ago on ‘Emotions: Out of Control—No More,’ Dr Larry Hutton of the Larry Hutton Ministries shared some thoughts on how we can gain control of our lives and not live in emotional rollercoaster.

The first thing we need to know to begin ridding ourselves of the emotional baggage we carry is we do not need to let our emotions control us. Anger, grief, sorrow, worry, causes of distress, depressive feelings—all these Christ has bore and carried on our behalf (Isaiah 53:4-5).

Our Lord has given us His peace (John 14:27), the peace which surpasses all comprehension that guards our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7). We can have complete peace because joy and peace is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), and the Spirit is in us. The fruit of the Spirit is non-seasonal and available at all times.

But how can we be bold, courageous, and at peace in the face of trials? We can because in the world we have tribulation, but Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33). There is no need for us to yield to fear or the distress of this world, for they are powerless on us. When negative feelings come our way—real or perceived—we need not allow them to overtake us because they are powerless.

We can live in peace all the time because Jesus has bore our sins (1 Peter 2:24), and has carried upon Himself our cares and emotions (1 Peter 5:6-7). Our Lord has left us with His peace which He has freely given to us, not as the world gives, that our hearts might not be troubled nor fearful (John 14:27). No one can steal or rob the peace the Lord has given to us.

Let us therefore humble ourselves and cast our cares on the Lord (1 Peter 5:6-7), for there is no need for us to hang on to our cares. Instead, we should take heed not to be weighted down with dissipation and the worries of life, lest our negative emotions and feelings remain with us and ensnare us (Luke 21:34). The cares of this world can choke us even if we were once fruitful if we yield to our emotions (Mark 4:15-19). Satan is always stirring up our emotions to create cares in our lives, and he is the source of our stirred negative emotions. Remember, our Lord has defeated the devil and rendered him powerless.

Thank You, dear Lord, for bearing our sins, cares, and emotions. Help us not continue to carry our emotional baggage Lord, but cast them all on You. Comfort us, Holy Spirit, in our distress that we may not yield to negative emotions or depressive feelings. Grant us Your peace that surpasses all comprehension, and guard our hearts and minds. Keep us calm and in control of our emotions. We bless Your glorious name Lord, for in You we need not fear or be distressed, because You have overcome the world.

Friday, October 14, 2011

How to Handle Trials

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. (James 1:2-3 NAS)

Trials Never LastThe past half year has been tough for me with many changes happening in my workplace which have caused undue stress and doubts in my own values. Going through tough times is never easy, yet the Bible exhorts us to consider it all joy when we encounter them (James 1:2). How should we as a people of God handle difficult times and endure them? Not too long ago, I heard a sermon by a pastor who suggested five things we can do when we are facing trials.

First, do not dwell in self-pity. Instead, always look ahead, knowing that trials produce endurance, and endurance leads to perfection and completeness (James 1:2-4). Unless we go through trials, we seldom know how much we need Jesus, until Jesus is all we have. Our focus should therefore be on what’s to come, and not on the difficulties we are going through now.

Second, ask God for wisdom (James 1:5-8). God pays attention to us all the time, for we are His sole preoccupation. When we come to God and ask of Him, we must not doubt, and we must be willing to work alongside with God. Are we prepared to work with God to be rid of things the Lord expects us to put away? Unless we are single-minded in our pursuit, we cannot receive anything from the Lord or live our lives meaningfully.

Third, do not glory in or rely on our own wealth (James 1:9-11). Money does not provide all the answers, and we need to be humble to come to God. Being wealthy is nothing wrong, for Abraham was also rich. However, wealth has a tendency to make us compare, and in comparing we find troubles for ourselves. Never look to our wealth for an absolute solution.

Fourth, look toward the future (James 1:12). Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial, because having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life. Keep on looking ahead, and endure in perseverance.

Fifth, have a proper orientation concerning temptation (James 1:13-16). God does not tempt. Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire. If there is anything that needs to be dealt with, it is most likely something to do with our inward unholy desires. Temptation is not uncommon during trials or testings. Deal with our sin and get back on track with God. When in trial, trust God absolutely.

God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in trouble. We need not fear or worry even if the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea (Psalm 46:1-3), for the LORD of hosts is with us; He is our stronghold (Psalm 46:7). In the world we have tribulation, but take courage, our Lord has overcome the world (John 16:33). God knows the trials we are going through, and when He has tried us, we shall come forth as gold (Job 23:10).

Dear Lord, we know there is no perfect formula to handle trials and temptations while we are here on earth. Help us therefore Lord not be tied down by our own inward unholy desires, but to overcome temptations—especially in time of trials—that we may not fall prey to the devil. Grant us wisdom and complete faith to trust You unreservedly, Lord. Remove self-pity from us, and redirect us to focus on You and Your promises. Strengthen us that we may endure to the end in single-minded pursuit to fulfill Your will, that through the trials we shall come forth as gold.

Friday, October 7, 2011

More Valuable than Gold

The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. (Psalm 19:7-8 NAS)

More Valuable than GoldIn an article 'Weighing the Value in Gold' published at Forbes.com on September 16, 2011, Joe Zidle of Merrill Lynch wrote that investors who viewed gold as a 'safe haven' had pushed its prices to record highs this summer. A sharp pick-up in volatility, however, has stoked concerns that the precious metal is now about to lose its luster. According to a forecast in a story published at Profitimes.com some months ago, the price of gold could climb to a record US$1,600 an ounce within the year if investment demand remains strong amid sovereign debt fears.

Over the last few months, the value of gold has rocketed sky high with extraordinary growth in prices. Where the market could lead to and how to think about gold as part of an investor's portfolio are a great concern to many people, but sadly, nothing is certain, for all these are highly speculative, involving risk taking.

Unlike the fluctuating prices and value of gold, the value of the word of God is priceless. In a sermon I heard recently on ‘What is More Desirable than Gold?', the speaker mentioned seven characters in the Bible who valued God’s word more precious than gold.

King David accorded God’s word as reviving his soul (Psalm 19:7-8), providing protection from error and sin (Psalm 119:11), and as a lamp and light that guide his path (Psalm 119:105).

The prophet Jeremiah viewed God’s word as powerful, like a hammer which shatters a rock (Jeremiah 23:29). A hammer can tear down as well as build, and is suitable for refuting falsehood and proving the truth.

The apostle Paul regarded God’s word as profitable for teaching, reproving, correcting, and training in righteousness, to equip oneself for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). As the sword of the Spirit, God’s word can hurt us through rebuke and correction to give us life (Ephesians 6:17).

The author of the epistle to the Hebrews referred to God’s word as a double-edged sword that is so sharp, it can judge between thought and attitude (Hebrews 4:12).

The author of the epistle of James considered God’s word as able to save our souls, and remove our guilt and filthiness (James 1:21).

The apostle Peter likened God’s word as the pure milk for newborn babies, suitable for nurturing spiritual growth (1 Peter 2:2).

Jesus looked upon God’s word as food for sustenance. In His hunger, Jesus was tempted by the devil to turn the stones into bread, but He rebuked the devil and quoted from the Scriptures stating that man shall not live on bread alone (Matthew 4:4; Deuteronomy 8:3).

God’s word is the primary means by which God communicates to us. Knowing the word of God opens the door for us to know Him and appreciate why it is more desirable than gold. The word of God is priceless and invaluably precious because it can change our lives. We should therefore invest our time to study God’s word, for its value knows no bounds.

Dear Lord, open our eyes that we may behold wonderful things from Your word. Your word O Lord is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. Guide us therefore by Your word to wisely know when to use it for teaching, reproving, correcting, training, and defending against the enemy. Remind us Lord not to invest too much time on things that are uncertain and speculative, but to spend time studying Your precious word. Nurture us Lord by Your word to be ready at all times for every good work. Revive our souls, protect us from sin and error, and keep us from harboring falsehood, thoughts or attitudes which are wrong Lord, that we may not be judged, but be free from guilt and filthiness.

Friday, September 30, 2011

A Mutual Friend

Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:15b NIV)

A Mutual FriendWhile attending a wedding banquet, Peter saw seated at another table a colleague of his from a different division, so he walked over to greet him.

"Hi, John, what brings you here?" asked Peter as he gave his colleague a pat on the back.

"Oh hi, Peter, I'm surprise to see you here,” John responded, turning his head toward Peter. “Are you a friend of the bride or the bridegroom?"

"I'm a close friend of the bridegroom. What about you?"

"I'm a close friend of the bridegroom too! That makes two of us his close friends, yet we are not aware of that until now."

"Well, if Emanuel is a close friend of yours, that makes you my friend too," said Peter, not because he wanted to sound cordial, but because he knew the type of friends Emanuel would consider close to him. "Let's do lunch together sometime?"

Some of us probably have encountered a similar scenario described in the story. I personally have experienced such a situation, and I know how relationships can be drawn closer together because of a mutual friend.

As Christians, we know we have a mutual friend who draws us close together. This friend is Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior (John 15:15b). Jesus said, "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32). We know this is true, because our hearts are closely kindred within us as brothers and sisters in Christ. Regardless where we are in the world, visiting a church or having fellowship with Christians while abroad, we know we are at home among friends, even if we are with people we do not know.

Having friends is a blessing, and all the more so with Christ as our mutual friend. Our Lord unites us together as a family of believers. Whether we know each other personally or online through social media or other Christian communities, we can all come together with one mind and spirit in the Lord. This is possible only because our Lord has brought complete and perfect unity to the world through His love (John 17:22-23; Colossians 3:14), and we have all been baptized by one Spirit into one body in this bond of love (1 Corinthians 12:13).

With Jesus as our mutual friend, when we are gathered together in His name, we know the type of friends we are with because we know who our Lord considers close to Him. Jesus says, “If you love me, keep my commands” (John 14:15), and “whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me” (John 14:21). If we consider ourselves a close friend of Jesus, then we should love Him and do as He commands. By this everyone will know we are His disciples, if we love one another (John 13:35).

As siblings of one body, and with Christ as our mutual friend, we ought to encourage one another and build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11). We need not struggle or fight our spiritual battles alone, because in Christ we are one family. Rather than be anxious for anything, therefore, let us in every situation bring our requests to God in prayer (Philippians 4:6). For where two or three are gathered together in Jesus' name, He is there in our midst (Matthew 18:20).

Jesus is our mutual friend, the one who willingly died on our behalf (1 John 2:2-6). Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). All our sins and grief Jesus had bored in His body on the cross, that we might die to sins and live for righteousness (Isaiah 53:4; Matthew 8:17; 1 Peter 2:24). With humility toward one another, therefore, let us humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand that He may lift us up in due time (1 Peter 5:5-6).

Dear Lord, thank You for being our mutual friend, and for bringing all of us who believe in You close together. We know Lord we are not alone in our struggles because You have given us spiritual siblings to build each other up. Lord, we are forever grateful to You for bearing our sins and grief, and for laying down Your life for us. We praise and worship You Lord because You alone are worthy to receive all glory, honor and power forever and ever. Amen.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Obeying Authorities

Bold and arrogant, they are not afraid to heap abuse on celestial beings; yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not heap abuse on such beings when bringing judgment on them from the Lord. (2 Peter 2:10b-11 NIV)

ObedienceWhile I was still in high school, I did something that upset my parents so greatly, they had me starved, disciplined, and locked up on occasions. I received Jesus as my Lord and Savior, an act my parents deemed as rebellion and a violation of trust. Throughout the genealogy of my family, every member has been a follower of a hybrid Buddhism and Taoism religion. What I did was in my parents’ eyes unforgivable, and for many years since, I was persecuted.

Initially, my parents tried to bring me back to their fold by punishing me. Eventually, however, they gave me up as lost after I repeatedly refused to participate in their religious practices, which included ancestral worship and bowing down to idols. I became then to my parents as one who has gone astray and not known my own roots, and to the people of the community a renegade and an outcast.

Many a time, following Jesus requires us to do things most people would not do. We know the Bible says children are to obey their parents (Ephesians 6:1; Colossians 3:20). Likewise, we are to obey authorities because there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God (Romans 13:1). Yet, when the apostles were given strict orders not to continue to teach in the name of our Lord, Peter answered and said, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:27-29). This is what makes the difference between blind obedience and obedience to God.

In following Christ, it is good to know where we stand in our obedience to God. Are we ready to count everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing our Lord, for whose sake willingly suffer the loss of all things to gain Christ (Philippians 3:8)? Will we stand to defend for what is right even if we know we may be disadvantaged or persecuted as a result (Psalm 82:3; Isaiah 11:4)? Do we side and follow the crowd or speak the truth to bring about justice when asked to testify (Exodus 23:2)?

The ‘wise’ of this world will deem us as fools for choosing to obey God despite knowing the consequences we may put ourselves into, just as my parents deemed me a fool to follow Christ. Yet, it is for this reason God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise (1 Corinthians 1:27). The word of the cross to those who are perishing may be foolishness, but to us, we know it is the power of God for salvation (1 Corinthians 1:18).

Nevertheless, we should not confront or seek to go against the authority that is set over us, for it is commanded in the word of God that we should obey (Romans 13:1-4). Unless, therefore, we are commanded to do what is wrong or against the will of God, we should take heed to do what is right. For even angels, although stronger and more powerful, do not heap abuse on celestial beings or angelic majesties in the presence of the Lord (2 Peter 2:10-11). If therefore Michael the archangel did not argue or pronounce against the devil a railing judgment when disputing over the body of Moses, who are we to revile the things which we do not understand (Jude 9-10)?

If we should feel obeying God is a sacrifice, then let us set our hearts right, for to obey is better than sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22). Our God does not need us to sacrifice our will to obey Him, nor does He desire our blind obedience. Let us willingly offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, which is our true and proper worship (Romans 12:1).

Forgive us Lord for our occasional lapses in standing up for what is right, and for following the crowd at times even though we know they may be wrong. Help us not be defiant towards authorities set over us Lord, but to be willing to submit to them unless when against Your command or will. Grant us boldness Lord, not of arrogance but of strength, to obey and do Your will in counting everything a loss to gain You.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Art of Persuasion

Some were being persuaded by the things spoken, but others would not believe. (Acts 28:24 NAS)

PersuasionMany of us know the influence of the media, how it can persuade us to purchase a product of a particular brand or a service from a particular provider. Frequently, what comes to mind when we need to purchase something is not an idea of our own, and we sometimes wish we have this same ability to influence others. In an article ‘The Art of Persuasion’ at ArticleSphere.com, author Priya Florence Shah shares seven tips on how we can successfully persuade anyone.

Supposing the person we wish to persuade is Ivan, tip one on persuasion is to enter his world by putting ourselves in his shoes to understand his environment and needs from his point of view.

Tip two is to mirror Ivan’s body language to make him feel at ease and comfortable to connect and share openly with us.

Tip three is to be cheerful and nice, ready to brighten up Ivan’s day with sincere compliments, even of small things, which can go a long way breaking the ice and setting relationship to a good start.

Tip four is to be sincere and trustworthy, always being there for Ivan to lend a hand when he needs help or when he needs someone to talk or look up to.

Tip five is for us to provide compelling evidences to explain to Ivan our ideas and suggestions with undeniable proof from testimonials by users about the circumstance before use and the results after.

Tip six is to show what’s in it for him, the benefits and advantages.

Tip seven is to genuinely care for Ivan by focusing on his interests, desires, needs, and expectations so as to satisfy his craving for attention, and thereby establishing mutual trust and respect.

Much like the seven tips of persuasion for closing a sale or obtaining a service sign up, we can also employ similar techniques to bring people into the kingdom of God, especially those who do not even know us. The first thing we need to do is to put ourselves in their shoes to understand them and their situations. In so doing, they will feel at ease and comfortable with us, and be more receptive to the message we wish to share with them. By staying cheerful and genuinely interested in them without preconceived prejudices, ulterior motives or the feeling of just doing the job, we can through our sincerity break the ice and establish closer relationships with them.

When we willingly give our hands to meet the needs of the people we wish to reach, and be there for them whenever they need us, even just to talk, they will increasingly trust us more wholeheartedly. Once we have earned their trust, delivering the message of the gospel will be much easier. By bringing to them compelling evidences of what Christ has done for the world and in our lives, we can share with them the good news and our testimonies of changed lives. We can also share what’s in it for them when they receive Jesus as Lord and Savior—salvation and eternal life (John 1:12-13; 3:16), peace with God (Romans 5:1), and a personal relationship with Him (John 15:15-16; James 4:8a).

All these, however, have to be done with genuine love and compassion so as to satisfy the hunger in their souls, that with the same mind toward one another, mutual trust and respect can be established (Romans 12:16). Whether they are persuaded by the message we have shared thereafter is not our concern (Acts 28:24), for neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who causes the growth (1 Corinthians 3:6-7).

Notwithstanding the benefits of persuasion in sharing Christ to the world, we must be careful never to be persuaded or fall under the influence of false teachings or deceitful words from soothsayers (Matthew 7:15; 24:4, 11; Acts 20:30; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15; Psalm 35:20). Let us not be like Balaam, the son of Beor, who was easily swayed by persuasion because of his love for unrighteous wages (2 Peter 2:15, Jude 1:11). Instead, let us be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that our toil is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Forgive us dear Lord for sometimes falling under the influence of persuasive words. We know Lord that persuasion can be good and bad, depending on how it is used. Help us therefore to wisely persuade the yet unsaved to bring them to You, yet not be swayed by soothsayers or false teachers. Keep us steadfast and immovable Lord, and guide us by Your Spirit to know what to say and do when building rapport with pre-believers.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Perfect and Holy Living

Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48 NAS)

Matthew 5:48My parents set high hopes on me even while I was still a little boy. Their wish was for me to someday become a learned and well accomplished man people look up to. Sadly though, I failed to live up to their great expectations, for I was merely an average student throughout elementary to high school.

Like me, some of us may be struggling to live up to the expectations of others, or even our own. We may feel disappointed, disgruntled or downcast when we fall short of or fail to meet expectations. As Christians, we may also at times struggle with certain expectations from the Bible, like counting all things loss for the sake of knowing Christ (Philippians 3:8), and living perfect and holy lives (Matthew 5:48; 1 Peter 1:16).

I know of some people who hesitate to receive Jesus as Lord because they are afraid they may not live up to the holy lives expected of Christians. This frame of thought is perhaps derived from the misconception that Christians conduct themselves in the best of behaviors to live perfect and holy lives by their own effort.

It is true that because God is perfect and holy, we ought also to be perfect and holy (Matthew 5:48; 1 Peter 1:16). But the Bible also says there is none righteous, not even one (Romans 3:10), so how is it possible we are expected to live perfect and holy lives?

The answer is in the finished work of Christ (1 John 2:2). Our Lord’s death on the cross has become for us our righteousness, holiness, and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30). By His death and resurrection, Jesus has achieved for us what we can never achieve by our own effort. For it is by grace we have been saved through faith, not of ourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of our own works or effort, that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Are we weak in living out Christ in our lives or hesitating to receive the Lord because we fear we are unable to live up to expectations? If we are, there is no need to, for the Lord is our helper; we need not be afraid (Hebrews 13:6). He will never desert us, nor will He ever forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Even if we have to suffer persecution or walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we need not fear. The Lord is with us, His rod and His staff is a guide and comfort to us (Psalm 23:4). Why should we be weak or give up our salvation because of fear?

Let us therefore not be reluctant to take on the challenge to live holy lives, for the yoke from Christ is easy and the burden is light (Matthew 11:30). Our Lord is gentle and humble in heart; He will give us rest for our souls (Matthew 11:29). Even though we may not be perfect in keeping every instruction from the Bible, we need not be ashamed, for it is for this purpose we labor, striving according to the power which is mightily working within us (Colossians 1:29).

The word of the cross may to those who are perishing be foolishness, but to us who are being saved, we know it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18). Rather than dwell in weakness or be a bystander, therefore, let us enter into the house of our God, for a day in His courts is better than a thousand outside (Psalm 84:10).

Dear Lord, strengthen us that we may in You live our lives holy and perfect, reflecting Your power working mightily within us, rather than displaying good behavior by our own effort or through pretense. Help us not be afraid to step out to honor Your holy name in everything we do Lord even if it means to be persecuted or disadvantaged as a result. Guide us Lord where we fail or fall short that we may strive towards perfection for the right cause and reasons.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Exemplary Behavior

in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us. (Titus 2:7-8 NAS)

It was running late, and Tricia was feeling a little stressed. While on a busy boulevard, she tailgated a car, apparently driven by a very cautious man. When the light suddenly turned yellow, the man stopped at the crosswalk, even though he could have beaten the red light by accelerating through the intersection.

Tricia immediately hit the roof and the horn, screaming in frustration on missing her chance to get through the intersection. While she was still in mid-rant, a serious looking police officer tapped on her window and ordered her to exit her car with her hands up. The officer then took her to the police station where Tricia was searched, fingerprinted, photographed, and placed in a cell.

After a couple of hours, a policeman approached the cell and opened the door. Tricia was escorted back to the booking desk where the arresting officer was waiting with her personal effects.

“I'm very sorry for this mistake,” said the arresting officer. “You see, I pulled up behind your car while you were blowing your horn, flipping the guy off in front of you, and cussing a blue streak at him. I noticed the 'Choose Life' license plate holder of your vehicle, the 'What Would Jesus Do' and the 'Follow Me to Sunday School' bumper stickers, and the chrome plated Christian fish emblem on the trunk. Naturally, I assumed you had stolen the car.”

That was a fictional story adapted from the article ‘Mistaken Identity’ written by Henry W Farkas for NetFunny.com. Although intended for humor reading, the story illustrates true to life what can happen when we do not handle our behavior, stress or temper properly. Momentary lapse of composure during situations such as this can have adverse repercussion, especially if someone who is about to receive the Lord sees our not so nice behavior.

Like Tricia in the story, do we sometimes flare up when things are not going smoothly or according to the way we want it? Does our behavior reflect our faith in Christ even when feeling stressed? Are we exemplary of what it means by bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit in patience, kindness, goodness and self-control, or are we a stumbling block to others (Galatians 5:22-23; 1 Corinthians 8:9)? Is our lack of knowledge of the Scriptures or the power of God the reason we are doing the wrong things or in error at times (Matthew 22:29; Mark 12:24)?

If our answers are uncertain or indicating a weakness in living out Christ in our lives, then we should be careful how we exercise our freedom, that we may not become stumbling blocks to the weak (1 Corinthians 8:9). We should determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in another person's way (Romans 14:13). Since we belong to Christ Jesus, and our flesh with its passions have been crucified, we should live and walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:24-25). Above all, we should in all things show ourselves to be examples of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech, and beyond reproach, having nothing bad others can say about us (Titus 2:7-8).

Let us who are weary or weak therefore come to God, and He will grant us strength, power, love, and self-discipline (Isaiah 40:29; 2 Timothy 1:7). Wait upon the LORD and He will renew us, that we may soar on wings like eagles, run and not get tired, walk and not become weary (Isaiah 40:31).


Dear Lord, forgive us for the times we fail to respond correctly when under stress, and for causing others to doubt the faith because of our not so nice behavior. Guide us therefore Lord by Your Spirit that we may be careful how we exercise our freedom. Help us not lay any obstacle or stumbling block in the way of another person, especially the ones who have yet to believe in You or have just received You. Remind us Lord to always consider what You would have done in a situation we may be facing now, that we may wisely choose the right path and glorify Your name.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Managing Stress

casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7 NAS)

Stop StressStress often prevents us from relaxing, and many of us know what it is like to be distressed. Causes of stress can come in many forms—pressure at work, finances or other personal problems. Not all stress is bad, however. Stress is good when it pushes us on to reach intended goals. Whether we crumble or excel under stress depends very much on how we handle and perceive the things we face. If we do all things to our very best as for the Lord and the people we care (Colossians 3:23-24), or for the interest of others (Philippians 2:3-4), we do well and should not feel stressed.

Proverbs 16:26 (NAS) states, "a worker's appetite works for him, for his hunger urges him on." This in essence means hunger can help provide the necessary stress and motivation for people to work hard, although earthly desires can also do the same. Stress in itself is not evil. What we deem as stress, however, may not be a stress to another. Similarly, what helps us to de-stress may not help another.

Some months ago, I heard a sermon preached on the topic 'Managing the Stress of Life.' The speaker mentioned that stress can be driven by fear or material wants, and there is no need for us to be judgmental as to who or what is causing our stress. How we respond is what really matters because distress or eustress is subjective. While distress is the negative effects of stress, eustress is a stress that is healthy, and gives one the feeling of fulfillment or other positive feelings.

The top five distresses in life, according to the speaker, are death of spouse, divorce, relationship separation, jail term, and death of a loved one. Some suggestions on how to manage stress include:

Avoid stress inducers. Learn to stop saying "yes," and start saying "no." If we cannot meet the deadline for a task requested, just say "no" or negotiate for a later date. Control the environment and do not spend too much time on the things that stress us. Rushing, for example, is stressful, so control and manage the time we have and try to eradicate rush altogether. Avoid things or people that upset us (Proverbs 13:20), and walk only with the wise, not with the fools, for bad company corrupts and can cause undue stress (Proverbs 13:20; 1 Corinthians 15:33).

Adapt to the stress. Our mental frame of minds should be opened to changes and adjust to expectations. Stressing ourselves and others does not help, and although expecting high standards is good, perfection is seldom possible so long we are here on earth. Do not be an absolute perfectionist without giving room for unexpected or occasional mistakes. Some of us may feel life is a battle, but even so we need to learn to defocus on the negative and change our perspective to see things differently and positively.

Accept the things we cannot change. Come to terms with whatever is changing or happening or have happened. Be still and acknowledge God is supreme and sovereign (Psalm 46:10; Jeremiah 29:11).

Add joy and laughter to life. A cheerful heart makes good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones (Proverbs 17:22). Do things that give us joy, and we will be able to manage our stress better.

Adopt a healthy lifestyle. Give ourselves a break regularly and eat healthily. We need to rest and stay healthy if we are to present our bodies as living and holy sacrifices acceptable to God (Romans 12:1).

Assess ourselves and the situation honestly. Sometimes it is our own fault or mistake. Take responsibility, confess and get help to address the problem (John 1:9), and then move on.

Apply God's word. Lay our foundation on the rock (Matthew 7:25; Luke 6:48), and meditate on God's word (Joshua 1:8). Commit all situations to the Lord (Philippians 4:6). Stop worrying (Matthew 6:27). Cast all our cares and problems on God (1 Peter 5:7). Rely on God's strength and fear not (Psalm 27:1). Have a peaceful and good sleep (Psalm 4:8).

Anticipate the future. For most assuredly there is a future, and our hope will not be cut off or be in vain (Proverbs 23:18).

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Dear Lord, You know how frequently we are stressed over so many things. Calm us therefore Lord and grant us Your peace amid the distress we face. Help us not to be overcome by the stress of this world, but grant us the strength to prevail. Teach us to say "no" when no is needed, rather than always take what is given without thought. We know Lord all things are in Your control and within Your plans for us, therefore, we need not be afraid or feel distress, but with cheerful hearts do all things as for You rather than for men.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Earnestly Seeking

O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water. (Psalm 63:1b NAS)

Earnestly SeekingIt was two years ago that the neighboring city near where Laura lives started a tradition of setting off fireworks to kick off the Christmas season. By the time she realized what the noise was, it was too late. Laura's pet dog Suzy, a border collie mix, was nowhere to be found, frightened by the sounds of fireworks.

Alone with her nearly one-year-old daughter, Laura drove around in the darkness through the neighboring streets calling out Suzy's name out the window. It was very cold, and Laura knew she could not keep her daughter out all night. Feeling her stomach in a knot as she reached home, Laura tried to settle down so her daughter could get some sleep. Just before laying her daughter down in bed, the phone rang.


"Hello, do you own a dog named Suzy?" the voice at the other end asked.

As it turned out, Suzy had run about one and a half mile east through woods, neighbors’ yards, and even across a fairly busy roadway and intersection. The man who found her said he had let his dog out to go to the bathroom and when he let him back inside, Suzy had followed. Laura guessed the cold night may have helped in the quick recovery of Suzy. The man had found Suzy's ID tag around the dog's neck and called Laura immediately.

That was the story shared by pet owner Laura Best with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)
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Many of us know what the feeling is like to lose something and find it back later. What a joy we receive when something we have been earnestly searching is found! This sentiment is illustrated very clearly in Luke 15 through the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son (Luke 15:3-20), exemplifying what it means to earnestly seek the lost.

About 850 years before our Lord shared to the world through parables, God through the prophet Jeremiah also shared to the exiles in the Babylonian captivity about what it means to be in earnest.

‘Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.’ (Jeremiah 29:12-14 NAS).

Our Lord will be found by us when we earnestly seek Him with all our hearts. This is God’s promise to us. If we have strayed or are feeling far away from the Lord, or have lost something we desperately need, Jesus is able and willing to restore to us what we have lost (Matthew 7:7; Luke 11:9). If we seek Him earnestly with our souls thirsting, and our flesh yearning for Him, He will quench our thirst and satisfy our souls (Psalm 63:1b, 5). For our Lord’s lovingkindness is better than life, and He will uphold us with His right hand when we cling to Him (Psalm 63:3, 8).

Let us therefore come to God with faith, believing that He is the rewarder of those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). Seek the LORD while He may be found, and call upon Him while He is near. Return to the LORD, and He will have compassion on us, and will abundantly forgive us (Isaiah 55:6-7). Like water that quenches thirst, our yearnings shall be filled when we earnestly seek the LORD our God (Psalm 63:1, 5). Like the lost that was found, great will be the rejoicing in heaven when the strayed is restored (Luke 15:7).

Forgive us Lord for the times we stray, and when we feel You are far away. Return to us the joy of salvation Lord, and restore us to a close relationship with You again as we earnestly seek You. Quench our thirst O God and uphold us with Your right hand, for Your lovingkindness is better than life.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Only One Thing is Necessary

The Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha! You worry and fuss about a lot of things. But there's only one thing you need. Mary has chosen what is better, and it is not to be taken away from her." (Luke 10:41-42 ISV)

Too Many ActivitiesAccording to an article 'Death by Church Activities' published on June 27, 2011 at ShareFaithBlog.com, program-heavy churches look pretty awesome to many people because they are big, bustling, active, and energetic. There are events for almost every single demographic in the church with plenty of activities for everyone. Members give their time, effort, talent, and money to maintain the programs. By and by, however, instead of thinking of church as a body of believers, people tend to think of programs, services, activities and the like, which eventually can lead to major spiritual decline.

Many Christians today spend a great deal of time keeping activities going instead of meeting the needs of people around them. Consequently, these people become disillusioned because their needs are not being met behind all the activities. Even if we feel we have done a great job serving the Lord, we need to regularly check ourselves to be sure we are not too busy spending time doing things till we forget Who we serve. Suppose our Lord visits us today, can we be sure we recognize Him or will we fail to receive Him (John 1:10-11)?

Busying ourselves in worthwhile Christian activities and causes is perfectly fine. However, if we become too distracted with all the preparations like Martha when the Lord visited her or too bothered by the many things and activities that need to be done, then all our efforts would be in vain. Martha, in her busyness, asked the Lord why He does not care that her sister has left her to do all the work by herself. Jesus in reply said, "Martha, Martha! You worry and fuss about a lot of things. But there's only one thing you need. Mary has chosen what is better, and it is not to be taken away from her" (Luke 10:40-42 ISV).

That one thing Martha needs is what we need as well, especially if we, like her, are too busy serving till we forget the purpose and the One we serve—Jesus Christ. Like Martha, we need to stop spending too much time busying ourselves, and like Mary, we should choose to spend time with the Lord to build a closer relationship with Him. Unless we spend time with the Lord to learn from His word and talk to Him regularly, we can gradually lose our focus in our busyness serving Him and His people. We can also become spiritually dry if we fail to recharge and renew our minds (Romans 12:2).

Let us therefore while serving the Lord, consciously be aware Who we serve and for what purpose. Rather than keep ourselves too busy in activities or programs, let us remember always to do all things for the Lord, to build up, train, grow, solve problems, and meet the needs of the people. Without much ado about nothing or fussing over trivial things, let us do the needful and fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfector of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).

Dear Lord, help us to stay focus on You in all we do that we may amid the many activities, and in our busyness, not neglect to spend meaningful time with You. Keep our focus fixed on You Lord and draw us close to You that we may build up, train, grow, and meet the needs of others in leading them to a closer relationship with You. Thank You for renewing our minds and strengthening us Lord as we serve You willingly and joyfully without fuss or much ado.


Friday, August 5, 2011

Crime and Punishment

Then He will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Matthew 25:45-46 NAS)

Crime and Punishment“On one count of theft, the Court imposes upon you a fine of one thousand dollars,” said the district court judge.

“But Dad,” said the defendant, a teenager. “You’ve always forgiven me when I did wrong; why are you punishing me now?”

“Son, you have broken the law, and the law requires that you pay for the wrong you did, regardless who you are or who you are related to.”

The enactment of the courtroom proceeding was a scene from a slide show presentation on the big screen of a church gospel event some years ago. Voiceovers by different people representing the different characters in the story were used, and I was the one providing the voiceover for the district court judge. The defendant teenage boy was the main character of the story.

As the story progressed, a message began to unfold of One who paid with His life for our sins—the just for the unjust—once for all and for all eternity (1 Peter 3:18). This message still stands today. Regardless who we are or who we are related to, rich or poor, ruler or commoner, the fact remains that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The price we have to pay for our sins is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:23). If we confess with our mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead, we will be saved (Romans 10:9). For with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth confesses, resulting in salvation (Romans 10:10). Whoever believes in the Lord, the Scripture says, will not be disappointed (Romans 10:11). For our Lord Jesus Christ Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world (1 John 2:2).

As Christians, we know the message of the gospel very well, and we know the price our Lord paid to save us all. Our Lord was pierced through for our transgressions, and crushed for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:5). Will we then be the ones to deprive the unsaved from coming to the Lord? We know it is appointed for men to die once, and after this comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27). Can we with sanctified eyes see how the end will be for someone we know to come before the judgment throne and be sentenced to eternal death?

The Lord had said that when the Son of Man comes in His glory and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them from one another as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats (Matthew 25:31-33). In that day, the unsaved, even those who may have heard of Christ or attended church, will come before the Lord and say, “We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.” Then our Lord will say to them, “I tell you, I do not know where you are from; depart from me, all you evildoers” (Luke 13:26-27).

For to the extent we do not do what is right to one of the least of these, we fail also to do it for our Lord, and the consequence for them who are yet unsaved is eternal punishment (Matthew 25:45-46). Let us therefore not hesitate or neglect to do our part to bring the unsaved to the Lord.

Direct us in Your paths O Lord and make us know Your ways, that we may not stand ashamed before You for failing to do what is right. Lead us in Your truth and teach us Lord, for You are the God of our salvation. Help us not cast a blind eye on the yet unsaved, but steer our hearts and move within us that we may cry out to You for the salvation of these who are lost. Open our eyes dear Lord that we may see with sanctified eyes the consequence the lost will face if we do not reach them for You.

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