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.

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