Friday, December 28, 2012

You Have It Within You | Encouragement

Encouragement
Who doesn’t enjoy receiving an unexpected word of encouragement, a pat on the back, or a reassuring hug? I certainly appreciate times I have received such. Even more thankful for them when I found myself watered my the praise and encouragement of others during intense seasons of drought or doubt in my life.

David in 1 Samuel 30:1-8 found himself in need of encouragement. Yet it was not to be found around him. After traveling for three days, he and his men returned home to find their homes demolished and their families kidnapped. Seeing the devastation, they all grieved but his men grief quickly became anger toward David so much so that they desired to stone him.  Now that seems pretty bad—certainly nothing uplifting about his current situation. In the midst of loss of home and family, he now was facing abandonment from men, who were suppose to be on his side.

David was greatly distressed, for the  men spoke of stoning him because the souls of them all were bitterly grieved, each man for his sons and daughters. But David encouraged and strengthened himself in the Lord his God. 1 Sam 30:6 (AMP)

Being distressed in such a situation is understandable but that last portion of the verse seems almost out-of-place when you first read it.

His situation was bad but …

He had experienced great loss but …

His soldiers now wanted to kill him but …

But he accessed something beyond his environment and beyond the people who accompanied him. David didn’t rely on the externals of life to be his source of encouragement. While most of us may never experience a loss to the extent of David, we have all found ourselves in situations that looked bleak. And we may have encounter voices of negativity rather than support from those closest in our circle. Even still we don’t have to allow ourselves to confined to distress, disappointment, or discouragement. The externals of our lives aren’t always rosy but internally we can find strength and encouragement in God just as David did. Wanda Ward

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Blessed Christmas 2012

Merry Christmas

Blessed Christmas

for today in the city of David there has been born
for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
(Luke 2:11 NAS)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Gaming

So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. (Romans 14:19 NAS)

Gaming
Living in the city has its ups and downs. While some of us find it convenient to travel by way of the subway train, there are times in the day we need to practice tolerance while onboard, especially during the rush hours. One of the ways to do this is to keep oneself preoccupied, such as to play a game on the smartphone or computer tablet. No doubt, not all of us are into electronic games, but sometimes such a practice can help keep one sane and less incline to pick up unnecessary tension that comes with the squeeze.

Like some of the people traveling onboard public transport, I too at times keep myself occupied on the smartphone texting messages or playing games. This practice of defocusing myself from the surroundings while onboard the subway train has helped me many a time to keep my cool and my blood pressure down. Nevertheless, I try not to become oblivious to my surroundings or be insensitive to the people around me. As a practice, I strive to live by the principle of Philippians 2:3-4 to do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard also the interests of others.

As much as playing an electronic game can help reduce tension, it can also destroy a person who keeps at it to the point of senseless living and insensitivity to others. Violence and crime resulting from ardent devotion to video gaming have been reported in the news and we know what worrying effects some games can do. As followers of Christ, therefore, we ought to always keep a watch of our loved ones, our attitudes and minds when it comes to playing online, video or digital games. Always be conscious not to indulge, become addicted, or be oblivious to our surroundings.

Having been called to freedom, therefore, we should not let our freedom turn into an opportunity for the flesh, for although everything is permissible, not everything is beneficial (Galatians 5:13; 1 Corinthians 10:23). We should instead pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another (Romans 14:19). 

Dear Lord, thank You for keeping us calm even amid tense situations. We know Lord that while tools such as online and digital games can be helpful, they can also be harmful if we are not careful. Help us therefore Lord to know how we should keep the balance between enjoying a game and at the same time not fall into excessive indulgence or insensitivity to others. Protect our loved ones and our minds Lord that we may not come to a point of putting something more important than You. Wherever You place us O Lord, grant us Your peace at all times.

Friday, December 14, 2012

First Steps

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25 NIV)

First Steps
When I received Jesus as my Lord and Savior some thirty over years ago during an evangelistic meeting, I was given a small booklet by a counselor on the first steps for new Christians. In the booklet, I got to understand the basics of how to stay assured of my salvation, grow in the knowledge of Christ Jesus by studying the Bible, and to pray.

Years later, God granted me the opportunity to serve as a counselor for several large scale gospel events, including those organized for speakers like evangelists Billy Graham, Luis Palau, and Reinhard Bonnke. During these events, the people in the crowd receiving the Lord were one by one directed to a counselor for briefing after prayer. My task as a counselor was then to go through with the new believer the steps to peace with God using a booklet that explained God’s plan, man’s problem, God’s remedy and man’s response.  After that, it was all administrative stuff for follow up arrangements.

When the new believers were eventually assigned to the various participating churches, my role continued in following up to guide them in the first steps as new Christians. This systematic approach to follow up new believers before they join a Bible study or cell group had helped kept many in the faith.

The task of guiding new believers on the right steps to take to grow in Christ is critical, especially for those who were previously from another faith. As Christians, we have been called to make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey everything our Lord has commanded us (Matthew 28:19-20). To this we have been called, since Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example to follow in His steps (1 Peter 2:21). If we therefore live by the Spirit, we should also keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25). And if anyone should fall or be caught in a sin, we who are spiritual ought to restore that person gently, keeping watch at the same time that we ourselves are not tempted (Galatians 6:1).

Dear Lord, help us not neglect the following up of new believers in the faith. Teach us to be sensitive toward them Lord that we may not be too quick to point a finger at them when they falter or fall into sin. Place within us a gentle spirit Lord that we may correct, restore and nurture those who are weak, and help them grow strong in You. We thank You Lord for readily suffering on our behalf to die on the cross to redeem us. Henceforth Lord, we purpose to walk in Your ways and keep in step with Your Holy Spirit.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Desert Bloom

The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. (Isaiah 35:1-2a NIV)

Blooming Crocuses
Crocuses are among the first plants to burst into bloom even while snow is still on the ground. According to an article at GardenersNet.com, these hardy flowers begin to grow with a warm spell in late winter or early spring, and blossom into bright colors of impressive beauty within a few days of growth.

One of the good things about crocuses is they are easy to care. Even if snow falls again before they bloom or during bloom, the crocuses remain unharmed and come back year after year to brighten up the winter gardens with colors in large display. Bumblebees and butterflies hungry after hibernation love to feed on the nectar from the crocuses. Yet despite such beauty and value, crocuses disappear soon after flowering and do not leave behind any ugly aftermath of dying foliage. This is according to Nigel Colborn in his article on the magical powers of crocuses at DailyMail.co.uk.

The crocus is described in the Bible as a plant that bursts into bloom and brings much rejoicing to a deserted land. The parched land exemplifies the ‘dried up’ lives we live in during the times we run away from God or are not walking in Him (Isaiah 35:1-2). Yet even then, God promises us if we are to turn from our wayward ways and return to Him, He will restore us. Our lives will be like water gushing forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. The burning sand will become a pool and the thirsty ground bubbling springs. Gladness and joy will overtake us and sorrow and sighing will flee away (Isaiah 35:6-7, 10).

Are we down and out feeling all dried up in our spiritual lives? If we are, let us come back to God that He may refresh us and quench our thirst. Like the crocuses that bloom to brighten up the gardens and feed the bumblebees and butterflies, let us also ‘bloom’ to reveal to the world the beauty and glory of our God in and through our lives. No matter how long or short our lives may be on earth, let us not leave behind anything with regret or sadness, but let us be found faithful to the end in showing faith in the way we live.

Dear Lord, thank You for not turning away from us even when we run away from You. Restore our souls O Lord and quench our thirst in our times of spiritual dryness as we return to You that we may with gladness and joy show to the world Your great mercy and love. Take our lives and make them wholly Yours Lord, for we desire to do Your will and live in You all the days of our lives through eternity—life forevermore.

Friday, November 30, 2012

A Pause in Time

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven— (Ecclesiastes 3:1 NAS)

Pause
I am always not getting enough time to do the things I am supposed to do for the house. Having to work five days a week as an employee, I am almost always exhausted by the end of the day coming home. Saturday mornings are taken up by the need to run errands or follow up at the clinics, leaving the afternoons for visitations, household repairs and maintenance, or the updating and housekeeping of my blogs and websites. Sunday mornings are spent in church and the afternoons writing devotions for a writing challenge and a Christian blog.

Many of us, like me, are probably finding it hard to have sufficient time to do the needful as well as the necessary. Once in a while when something out of the usual demands our time away from our routines, we may think of it as disrupting our schedules for a good reason or for no good reason. At the end of the day, we may feel distressed or unhappy, having to rush to catch up with what we should have been doing. Perhaps it is someone in need that we have to give our time and go the extra mile to help or a friend who is trying to catch up with us. Are we always too busy to have the time to spare?

Some years ago in a seminar I attended, a video was shown with a voice over that said, "Time waits for no man, but man waits all the time. People were told to wait another six months for a solution ... The wait is over, the time is now ..." Obviously, what was being said in the video was targeted at getting the audience to make a purchase. Yet, there is some truth in the statement about timing.

Jesus said, “Do you not say, 'There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest '? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest” (John 4:35). We know the length of our lives is determined by God and the number of months we live have been decreed, set with a limit no one can exceed (Job 14:5). It is clear there is an appointed time for everything and every event under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Yet we must be wise to know the appropriate time to do what we are supposed to do and the time to do what is most important.

When we encounter disruptions in our routines, be aware that such interruptions may mean we should pause for the moment to deal with more important things. Never think of interruptions as spoiling our plans or upsetting our schedules. Remember, time well spent with the Lord and with the people God placed around us—including the time given to help a friend or a stranger—is worth its weight in gold (Matthew 25:34-36).

Dear Lord, teach us to number our days that we may present to You a heart of wisdom. Grant us Lord to know how to differentiate the things we are supposed to do from the things that have to be done. Help us not turn away people who need our help or want to catch up with in our busyness. Slow us down whenever necessary Lord that we may pause to listen to the voice of Your Holy Spirit, and do what is right, according to Your will.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Sensible Tolerance

When a stubborn fool is irritated, he shows it immediately, but a sensible person hides the insult. (Proverbs 12:16 GWT)

Irritated
I work for a startup in a very small office, and it is important that I get along with my co-workers. Occasional conflicts however are inevitable, especially when it comes to the sharing of limited resources and managing personal differences like our working styles, behaviors, preferences, and sometimes even restroom practices.

Once in a while, tolerance is much desired despite feeling irritated, in particular, when faced with a colleague who persistently does things in the exact opposite of how I would have preferred. Maybe it is because of age barrier or maybe it is the fact we do not think the same. No doubt, the co-worker is younger and less experience than me, yet perhaps it is time I learn to adapt to new ways of doing things since everything else in the world is changing all the time.

So what should we do when we encounter a co-worker who we simply cannot get along?

"First look at yourself, then look at others," said Andy Selig, ScD, a management and organizational psychologist in the article ‘Work it Out: Getting Along with Co-Workers’ by Sonya Collins at WebMD.com. "We can't usually change other people, but we can change ourselves."

Selig said while a co-worker's behavior may feel like a personal affront we did nothing to deserve, he or she may feel affronted too. We should therefore first examine ourselves, are we moving too fast? If we are, Selig’s advice is we should not be too quick to hit the ground running, especially if we are new in a job. We should instead come in slow to ease the tension rather than start parenting right away as we need to earn the trust of those we work with in order for them to value what we have to say.

If conflict resolution demands that we talk to someone higher or with the co-worker whom we are facing problems with, the advice in the article by Collins is to first count to ten and not react to the co-worker’s most recent offense. Instead of confronting the co-worker asking “Why are you shooting down all my ideas?” consider saying “I think I may have gotten off on the wrong foot. Is there anything I can be doing differently?” Always keep conversations and attitudes professional, not personal.

Like the advice given in the article at WebMD, the Bible also teaches that we should not be like a stubborn fool to react insensibly when irritated (Proverbs 12:16). We should instead have self-control to persevere in the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus (Romans 15:5; 2 Peter 1:16). If we need to deal with a difficult co-worker or someone who is misguided, ignorant, or seemingly dislikes us, do so gently since we ourselves and the antagonist are also beset with weaknesses (Hebrews 5:2).

Always look within ourselves first to find out whether we have been difficult, rather than be too quick to point a finger in accusing others. Even if we are not in the wrong, we must be sensitive not to take offense or break the relationship when correcting the other. As believers in the Lord, let us demonstrate God’s love one to another, for by this all men will know we are Christ’s disciples (John 13:35). 

Dear Lord, forgive us for sometimes taking offense instead of keeping our cool when irritated. Help us Lord not be like stubborn fools to insensibly react to people who irritate or insult us or be too quick to accuse them. Change our attitudes O Lord if there be anything in us that turns people away from You. Guide our ways Lord that we may do all things sensibly according Your will.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving 2012


Wishing You a Blessed and Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving
Happy Thanksgiving

Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him,
bless His name. For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting
And His faithfulness to all generations.

~ Psalm 100:4-5 (NAS) ~

Friday, November 16, 2012

Nothing to Wear

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. (Matthew 25:35-36 NAS)

Nothing to Wear
In the hope of getting people to stop being apathetic towards poverty, a non-profit organization serving in Haiti, Leve Project, introduced a fundraising challenge in January 2011 called ‘Nothing to Wear’ (NTW). The idea of the challenge was to let people get a small taste of what they would have been indifferent to due to a lack of identifying with that something, for example, poverty.

Participants were given to wear a small NTW t-shirt as if they had nothing else to wear for a max of 30 days while raising funds to help fight poverty. The aim was not merely about understanding poverty, but also to see how God values the poor and learn to love what He loves. Instead of having people being told they are supposed to care for those in need, remember widows and orphans, give money away, pray for hurting people and serve ‘the least of these,’ participants get to experience it.

The message Leve Project hoped to convey of the challenge was clear, as spelled out in the script of the NTW introductory video.

“We have a lot of stuff. More than we need ... We SAVE, stash away, Upgrade. We like to have choices And we always ... want ... MORE! But while we have more than enough, others have less than they need.”

“Participants commit to wear the same shirt as if we had nothing else to wear while raising funds to help Haitian families in poverty. The more donations we receive, the longer we'll wear the shirt.”

“Why? Because it's easy to be indifferent to something we can't identify with. Like poverty. We cannot stay indifferent. We cannot continue living without taking an active stand to fight for justice for the poor.”

“And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God’ —Micah 6:8.”

Are we caring too much about what clothes we should wear, perhaps for an upcoming occasion or even our daily attire? If we have plenty or more than enough, and have choices we can pick from or consider, should we not also remember those who have less than they need and without a choice? As followers of the Lord, let us not become indifferent to identify with others, especially those in need.

For when the Son of Man shall come in glory as King, He shall say to those who have done well, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” But for those who have not done rightly, He shall say “whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me” and they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life (Matthew 25:40, 45-46).

Dear Lord, we are forever grateful to You for You have always cared for our needs. Help us Lord not to become complacent with what we have to desire for more. Guard our hearts O Lord that we may not become indifferent to those who are in need, especially those who have less than they need. Grant us Lord when we have more than enough to generously give. We love You Lord and we give ourselves completely to You.

Nothing to Wear
by Leve Project

Friday, November 9, 2012

Lasting Impressions

And He said to them, "Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while." (Mark 6:31a NAS)

Pilanesburg National Park
When my wife and I visited Pilanesberg National Park, North West Province of southern Africa in 1999, we were amazed by what we saw of this 55,000 hectare game and wildlife reserve. Although we did not get to see all of the Big Five—the lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino and elephant—at the park, what made a lasting impression in my mind was its landscape. I saw from a distance in the cool early morning a spectacle of astounding beauty of valleys and mountains that seemingly span beyond the horizon into the infinity of God’s unparalleled creation. Such was the deep impression I have of the park, besides its awe-inspiring sense of adventure being up close with the animals of the wild and beautiful sunset.

Not all of us are likely to get to visit a park that gives us lasting impressions. We need not however travel far to be able to appreciate the beauty of God’s creation. As a writer, I used to take time over the weekends to go to a nearby park for nature walks to think and get inspiration from God. Early mornings are always the best times to seek solitude within nature as I calm my inner spirit to heighten my senses in listening, smelling, touching, feeling, and seeing.

Are we weary and burdened by the things and activities going on around us? If we are, perhaps a visit to a park or garden nearby can work wonders for us in refreshing our focus. Jesus said, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while" (Mark 6:31). Our Lord is inviting us to go to Him so He can give us rest (Matthew 11:28). If we are ever in doubt of God’s goodness, then let us call to remembrance the things that give us lasting impressions that we may never forget all His benefits and bless Him (Philippians 4:8; Psalm 103:2).

Dear Lord, thank You for the amazing beauty of Your creation. You O Lord have lifted up our spirits and heighten our senses to love You more and more each day. Wonderful are Your works O God that make lasting impressions on our hearts and minds, and we cannot help but to stand in awe of You. We praise You Lord because we have been fearfully and wonderfully made, and our souls find rest in You.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Measuring Up

saying, "Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done." (Luke 22:42 NAS)


Measuring Cup
When it comes to recipes, a cup is often used as an instrument of measure. One cup is equivalent to 16 tablespoons or 240 milliters in the United States, 12 if using Australian tablespoons, 200 milliters if using a Japanese cup. A quarter, a third of, or half a cup are ways we sometimes use to specify how full or little an ingredient is needed for a dish.

When it comes to perspectives in life or how we view things, however, a cup is a measure of our responses to positive or negative thinking. Half a cup full or empty is how we perceive the challenge moving forward to run the race or give up (1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 2 Timothy 4:7-8).

Just hours before He was crucified on the cross, our Lord at the Garden of Gethsemane prayed, "Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done" (Luke 22:42). The cup Jesus was referring to was not just His death on the cross but also the agony and sufferings He had to go through for our sake.

As a man of sorrows acquainted with grief, Jesus was despised and forsaken of men, and like one from whom men hide their faces, crushed for our iniquities, chastened for our well-being, scourged for our healing (Isaiah 53:3-5).

As the Son of God, however, He had a choice not to take up the cup and die for us. Yet He chose to go through the pain to do the will of His Father out of His love for us. Jesus knew beforehand what was in the cup, yet He did not give up but went on to run the race and fulfill God’s purpose.

What about us? How do we measure up and perceive the cup? Is it half empty of blessings filled full with sufferings that we are thinking of or feel like giving up? May it never be our choice to give up the faith because of a hard life or tough times! For if we do, we will lose everything, just as we would have lost our salvation if Christ our Lord had given up on us and walked away from the cup of sufferings.

Let us be wise and choose life in Christ, for He came that we may have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10). If we should desire to give up, then let us give up holding on too tightly to our own life. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever gives up his life for Christ’s sake will find it (Matthew 16:25).

Dear Lord, help us not give up our faith too easily just because of a hard life or difficult times, but to hold fast and run the race till the very end. Do not allow us to become rooted in the entanglements of this world O Lord that we may not hang on too tightly to our own way of life. Renew in us our first love for You Lord that we may willingly give up our all for Your sake, just as You have given up Your all for our sake. We are forever grateful to You Lord for not giving up on us, but willingly take up the cup of sufferings and die on the cross to save us. Take us Lord as we are and correct us as You will, for we belong to You.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Counting our Blessings

The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD. (Job 1:21b NAS)

Count Your Blessings
I remember a time when I was without a job for five years, yet throughout that period of struggles and waiting, God never for once failed to sufficiently provide for me and my household. Whenever our finances reached near rock bottom, a freelance assignment or something else would come by to tie us through for that period.

When the time of waiting was over, God granted me six happy years of meaningful work in a job I like as a technical and corporate writer. Sadly, however, the job was taken away from me during a corporate restructuring last year and I was back in the mode of waiting and praying. Thankfully, God granted me another job after several months in a whole new role treading on unfamiliar grounds, though writing is still part of it. I cannot be sure whether this job is to tie me through on short term or intended for long term as it is in a small startup without any guarantee of success, but I trust in God.

During trying times such as mine, we often find it difficult to feel blessed. Yet when we reflect, we know without a doubt how blessed we have been even amid struggles. Blessedness is never about how we feel, but about the assurance of our complete trust in God—the confidence we have knowing that God is in control.

When Job of the Old Testament was told of the disasters that happened one after another—including the death of his sons and daughters—he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.” Through it all, Job did not sin nor blame God (Job 1:21-22).

What about us? Are we spending too much time complaining about the difficult times we are going through or are we counting our blessings? Are we blessing God for the many times He has taken care of us or questioning Him for events in our lives which seemingly were not to our favor or to our understanding? Are we thankful that God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8)?

What a blessed people we are to be counted worthy to receive God’s salvation! Let us therefore sing as Mary had sung:

“My soul exalts the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. For the Mighty One has done great things for me; And holy is His name.” (Luke 1:46-49 NAS).

Like Job and Mary, let us bless the name of our Lord, for we are truly blessed.

Dear Lord, thank You for counting us worthy to receive Your salvation. We are so blessed O Lord because You have been mindful of us in good and bad times, and especially when in need. Help us Lord to be grateful to You forever, regardless of circumstances. We know Lord You are in control of all things and in You we put our complete trust and confidence.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Mistaken

Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; (1 Corinthians 15:33-34a NIV)

Moisturizer & Toothpaste
I saw a photograph posted by a friend at Facebook recently that tickled me. In the picture were two container tubes of similar shape and size placed next to each other, one of moisturizer and the other toothpaste. In the post, my friend wrote “It's probably a good idea to make sure I'm wearing my glasses when brushing my teeth, huh?”

What came to mind immediately was of my friend struggling in the early morning without her glasses on trying to differentiate the toothpaste from the moisturizer. That thought was such a laugh!

Mistaking a thing for something else or a person for someone else is not uncommon. What's important is that we correct the mistake and set things right whenever possible upon discovering it, or in the case of a mistaken identity to apologize. If we choose to ignore, cover up or condone a mistake and continue to go in the path that is incorrect, then we need to come back to our senses and stop persisting in doing wrong (1 Corinthians 15:33-34).

Balaam is an example of one who persists to do wrong despite knowing what should not be done. God had forewarned Balaam not to put a curse on the children of Israel, yet he invited the Moabite officials to spend the night so he can find out what else the LORD would say to him (Numbers 22:12, 19). When Balaam saddled his donkey and went with the Moabite officials, God was very angry and sent an angel to oppose him. What turned out next was a conversation with a talking donkey, yet Balaam chose to go his own way and assisted the Moabites in causing the children of Israel to sin. For that error in judgment, Balaam was remembered for life—not as a funny or an unwise man—but as one gone astray for his love of unrighteous gains and a warning to others (2 Peter 2:15; Jude 1:11; Revelation 2:14).

Are we at times like Balaam, easily swayed to go the wrong path or direction because of the promises of bountiful rewards? Are we making erroneous decisions because of a lack of knowledge of God’s word and His will? Are we influencing or influenced by the company of people we mix around with?

Be not deceived, the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9). If we choose to follow their ways and continue in sin after we have received the knowledge of the truth, we should also expect the fearful judgment and raging fire that will consume the enemies of God (Hebrews 10:26-27).

Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of our God: sternness to those who fall, but kindness to those who continue in His kindness. If we do not persist in unbelief, our God is able to graft us in again (Romans 11:22-23). Whatever hinders us, therefore, let us throw it away alongside the sin that so easily entangles. Pursue with perseverance the race that is marked out for us and fix our eyes on Jesus who is the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Dear Lord, help us to always fix our eyes on You that we may not go astray in continuing with our mistakes. Correct and discipline us Lord when we go the wrong path that we may continue to walk in Your kindness.  When making decisions between right and wrong or between two that is neither right nor wrong Lord, lead us in Your perfect will. Guide us by Your Holy Spirit to come back to our senses when misled, deceived or mistaken. Remove from us Lord whatever hinders us from having a closer relationship with You. You O Lord are the author and perfecter of our faith, and in You alone we put our complete trust.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Delay Doesn't Always Mean Denial

Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days. (John 11:6 NIV)

Delay is not Denial
I don't know about you, but I like immediate answers. I like to have things on my time-table. I guess a good way to describe myself and most of humanity is that "I want what I want, when I want it!" Of course, we all have to grow up and out of this toddler-like mindset, but every once and a while it surfaces.

Most likely, when the messenger went back to Mary and Martha with the message that "this sickness will not end in death", Lazarus was already dead. Therefore this message had to have been hard for them to understand and could have possibly even caused them to doubt who they believed Jesus was. Most likely, they would have believed that Jesus and therefore, God had denied their request to save their brother's life. However, they were wrong.

A lesson that God has taught me in the last week is that delay doesn't always mean denial. Sometimes we have to wait for God, but we can rest assured that God hears us and always has our best in mind. But, even more than our best, He has His Glory in mind. Everything He does is for His Glory. He allowed Lazarus to die so that He could raise him from the dead and bring glory to God. Sometimes He allows us to wait because there are eternal things at stake that will ultimately bring Him glory.

When the nurse was looking at the tests results of my son Caleb and would not tell me what they were because the doctor had not seen them, I obviously thought the results were bad. I waited for his phone call all day and at 6 pm the nurse called to tell me the results were normal. The first thing out of my mouth was "Praise the Lord!" I spent the entire day praying and relying on God. If I had found the results out earlier, I might not have spent the day with Him. He is teaching me daily that He is my refuge no matter what happens.

Next time you are waiting on God, number one, please know you are not alone. And number two, know that just because He doesn't respond on your time table does not mean He is denying your request. Continue to seek Him, His will, and ultimately His glory. Elaine R. Price

Friday, October 5, 2012

Playing with the Pastry

Jesus gave them this answer: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. (John 5:19 NIV)

Playing with Pastry
There is a very cute advertisement on TV. I think it’s a Sainsbury’s ad. It features a father and son making a pie. It begins with each of them sprinkling the table with flour. Everything the father does from rolling out the pastry to tapping fingers on the counter, the son copies. The father places the rolled out pastry on top of the pie and carefully cuts away the excess, and the son completes the pie by adding the trimmings on top. The pie looks delicious as it comes out of the oven.

I don’t remember ever being in the kitchen and being given a bit of pastry to roll out while mum made the real thing, but that doesn’t mean to say it didn’t happen. When I think of learning how to cook I think of Domestic Science in school. Watching a demonstration and then doing it myself rarely led to any kind of success—except for bread. It is the one thing I ever made that turned out better than the teacher’s.

I suppose that I like the advert because it is a father and a son rather than a mother and daughter. It is all too safe to present the predictable images to sell products.

The son does what he sees the father doing. In the advert the father and son work together to make the pie. In the Kingdom the Father and the Son work together, with the Holy Spirit, to make something better than a pie!

Every member of God’s family is encouraged to join in—to work with the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit to build the kingdom.

… the work of my hands, for the display of my splendor. (Isaiah 60:21 NIV)

The title of the chapter is ‘The Glory of Zion.’ How much of the work is the ‘work of My [God’s] hands’? How much of it is my work and not really God’s work through me? In the advert, the pie was really the father’s work—not much was the son’s. Did the father secretly scrape off the trimmings the son had put there, because the pastry, after the son had played for it a while, was just a little bit too grimy?

When I think of myself as a work of God’s hands—fearfully and wonderfully made—I begin to wonder sometimes if I haven’t really messed up Gods’ work, “myself”, with the grimy trimmings that I try to add. I begin to wonder whether God is able to really display His splendor through my life.

I don’t think the boy’s pastry trimmings were grimy because he had watched what his father was doing and copied him. He knew that he wasn’t just playing with pastry but making a pie. He watched his father’s every move—not just what the hands were doing, but the expression on his father’s face—the encouragement and approval. The father so desired for the son to succeed.

I will not spoil what God is doing in my life if, working with Him, I watch my Father’s every move, if I seek by faith to see the expression on His face and I am convinced He wants me to succeed.
I need to stop playing with the pastry. Melanie Kerr

Friday, September 28, 2012

Learning to Lean: Living by Faith

The Lord is my Strength and my [impenetrable] Shield; my heart trusts in, relies on, and confidently leans on Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song will I praise Him. (Psalm 28:7 AMP)

Leaning on God
Faith. Jesus spoke a great deal about it. He commended people who had it, and reproached those who didn’t. Faith, the Bible tells, is the requirement to be saved. But more than that, it must infuse our daily lives, for the just shall live by faith (Romans 1:17).

How does living by faith look? I like the word picture created by the Amplified Bible in Psalm 28, which likens faith to leaning yourself on God: “The Lord is my Strength and my impenetrable Shield; my heart trusts in, relies on and confidently leans on Him, and I am helped” (Psalm 28:7).

Am I doing this? It’s hard to tell in my comfortable life, where all my needs are supplied. Even in areas where I struggle, I probably still lean on my own resources before I lean on God. If I am honest, I would have to say that my faith is lacking.

But here is where one of my favorite Bible verses gives me hope. It might just be the most honest thing anybody ever said to Jesus. Let’s take a peek into the scene:

It’s hopeless. I don’t know why I even bothered to come looking for this Rabbi everyone is talking about. Deep in my heart I knew another person saying another prayer would be useless. Hasn’t every rabbi from here to Jerusalem tried to do that already? Hasn’t every physician who has ever seen my son declared him a hopeless case? But fool that I am, I came, and here we are right at the centre of the growing crowd as this man’s disciples shout for the demon to leave Reuben alone, and the teachers of the law rebuke them for it. Reuben is convulsing on the ground, and all I want to do is grab him and take him away from all these gaping stares. Freak-show over, people! Leave us alone!

Suddenly the crowd’s attention seems to shift. I hear the whisper pulsating through the throng—Jesus—and look up to see the Rabbi approaching. The crowd grows quiet and I hear his soft voice ask: “What’s all the arguing about?”

As his disciples point to us, he gazes intently at Reuben and—for an instant—I sense a fearsome power in that glance. My son is suddenly thrust to the ground by a new convulsion, more violent than any I have ever seen. But strangely the Rabbi hardly gives him another glance; instead he turns to me and asks me about my son.

So I tell him about all the years of torment as the dark presence stole away my son’s words and mind, and now seems to be demanding his very life. And given that I’ve come all this way, I decide I might as well ask for his help too, although even I can hear my plea carries little conviction: “Please help us, Rabbi. Do something if you can.”

“What do you mean ‘if I can’? He looks at me sharply. “Anything is possible if a person believes.”

“I do believe, Rabbi!” What would be more truthful is to say that I’ve never wanted to believe more, so I add:  “Help me not to doubt.”

He nods and a slight smile forms on his lips. Then he speaks to the dark spirit, not with the screams and shouts I am so used to. No, he just speaks. But the words are full of such authority that a wave of cold ripples through my body. Reuben convulses one last time as a high, angry scream escapes from his lips. Then he falls back to the ground, unmoving. A murmur ripples through the crowd and I hear the voices whisper: ‘He is dead.’ But I know it’s not true, even before the Rabbi lifts Reuben, and my son looks at me with eyes that are clear and joyful and full of innocent life again. In that moment I know that this man is more than a Rabbi. The One who touched both Reuben’s spirit and my own unbelief, can only be God Himself.

“I do believe. Help me not to doubt.” I know this whole story is remarkable, reflecting all of Jesus’ deity and power. Yet my favorite part is that one line: help me not to doubt. It shows me that as long as I am honest with God and bring him all my limitations—in my faith, in my love, in my witness, in every part of my life—He can do something about it.

Andrew Murray wrote: “Few have understood what a perfect Savior Jesus is, and how He will each day do for the sinner just as much as He did the first day he came to Him.”

Oh, how wonderful those words sound to someone who has glimpsed a little of their own faithless heart! Joan Campbell

(The account of Jesus healing the demon-possessed boy is found in Mark 9)


This article has been written as a narrative to help readers better comprehend the context of the events through imagery, which content is not entirely derived from the Scriptures or recorded history.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Memories of a BBQ Cookout

not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:25 NAS)

Barbeque Cookout
“It’s summer and we are in our backyard, and everyone in the world it seems is there,” wrote Dylan Rousan sharing a nostalgic memory of a cookout at RandyQ.Addr.com. “The women are at tables laughing and preparing food and there are kids playing everywhere.”

“Soon after ... I moved to Arizona ... I think I hold on to that memory because it was the last really happy time I had there before my life changed so much” Dylan wrote. “But to this day I associate a good time and family being together with BBQ. If I'm somewhere and I catch a whiff of que in the air it always takes me back, if only for a second, to that summer day in Missouri.”

A barbeque cookout get-together offers lots of fun. I remember when I had it years ago with my friends, it brought our relationship closer. Too often we neglect spending quality time together with our loved ones and friends because we have been too busy working, caring for ourselves and for our family, or even serving in the ministry. Are we missing out on what is more important?

The Bible says not to forsake our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but to encourage one another, and all the more as we see the day drawing near. The purpose for such meeting together is clear—to stimulate one another to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Although these Bible verses are frequently used to refer to the need for fellow believers to regularly meet in church, in effect they are also applicable to any other type of get-together. Do we know that participating in activities such as a cookout can yield much good as well? We get to encourage one another, build relationships with loved ones, friends, and those who are yet unsaved, create opportunities to share the gospel, and still find rest from the routines of our stressful life.


So when we are invited for a cookout the next time, let us try not to turn down the invitation, for unless we turn up we can never know what joyful memories it will bring to us in the days ahead. Who knows, we may win or lead some souls to the Lord. If we are the ones inviting people to a cookout, always remember not to keep ourselves too busy doing all the necessary and neglect what is more important—to share and listen (Luke 10:41-42).

Thank You dear Lord for granting us the many opportunities to spend meaningful time with our loved ones, friends and those who have yet to know You. We know Lord that through such meeting together, You have given us rest amid building closer relationships with one another, to love, share, and encourage. Help us Lord not to turn down or refrain from such gatherings because of busyness doing all the necessary and neglect the crucial—the salvation of those yet unsaved and the strengthening of fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Refill us Lord with joy and happiness that we may not, because of life changes, fail to find rest from our stressful lives, but hold fast in confidence the confession of our hope in You.

Friday, September 14, 2012

To Eat or Not Eat Junk Food

And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him. (Luke 15:16 NAS)

Junk Food
Whether it is for better or for worse (mostly worse), junk food is now available all over the world, wrote Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, in an article about junk food facts at WebMD.com. It is found everywhere—in grocery and convenience stores, fast-food restaurants, on television—usually looking very appealing.

What is considered as junk food, however, may differ with different people, depending on who we ask. In an article at Dietitian.com, junk food is regarded as foods that are high in salt, sugar, fat or calories and low nutrient content. Such foods include salted snack, candy, gum, most sweet desserts, fried fast food and carbonated beverages.

The problem with junk food is it is low in satiation value—people do not tend to feel as full when they eat it—which can lead to overeating. Another problem is junk food tends to replace other more nutritious foods, according to Magee.

In a news story at CBSNews.com, it is reported that nearly one-third of U.S. children aged 4 to 19 eat fast food every day, which is estimated to pack on about six extra pounds per child per year. The findings suggest that fast-food consumption has increased fivefold among children since 1970. Fortunately, there are signs policy-makers are taking action to protect children from the fast-food trend. These include efforts to limit soft drink and snack food sales in schools, and the curbing of food advertising aimed at children.

All of us know that junk food is not good for our health, and in the parable of our Lord, the prodigal son knew that as well. After he had spent everything, the prodigal son got himself hired and was sent into the fields to feed swine. He would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods the swine were eating, but no one was giving anything to him. When he finally came to his senses, the prodigal son decided he would go back to his father to become one of the hired men, for he said to himself, “How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger!” (Luke 15:14-19).

Like the prodigal son who came to his senses and the policy-makers who are taking action to reduce the fast-food trend among children, are we also making efforts and taking measures to cut down on our unhealthy living? Remember, eating junk food is harmful for our physical bodies, and so it is with our souls if we choose to indulge in ways contrary to the teachings of God’s word. Squandering our wealth, for example, while we know of people around us who are in need is not right and can build up hardened hearts in bringing harm to ourselves.

Just as we can choose to reject junk food to keep ourselves healthy, similarly, we can also choose to reject whatever brings harm to our spiritual health.  Whether it be indulgences or things that make us feel gratified or keep us occupied, if any of these leads us away from spending more time with God, then let us be prepared to dump it to gain Christ (Philippians 3:8). Never ever let the enticements of this world cloud our minds for such tend to replace our first love for Christ. Put our trust in the Lord completely and always acknowledge Him in all we do, and He will make our paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Dear Lord thank You for showing us what we should free ourselves from and what we should keep and hold on.  Help us be sensitive Lord in knowing what is harmful for us that we may with one heart and mind willingly let it go to gain You. In our efforts and measures to cut down on unhealthy living Lord, grant us the strength to remain steadfast in overcoming our weaknesses, especially in the things we indulge in or feel reluctant to let go. We put our complete trust in You O Lord, for You will make our paths straight.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Sweet as Honey

My son, eat honey, for it is good, Yes, the honey from the comb is sweet to your taste; Know that wisdom is thus for your soul; If you find it, then there will be a future, And your hope will not be cut off. (Proverbs 24:13-14 NAS)

Honey
Honey is known to provide many benefits. Besides being a natural sweetener, it is said to offer antiseptic, antioxidant and cleansing properties for our body and health, according to an article at Benefits-of-Honey.com. For thousands of years, its healing attributes have been used to cure ailments and diseases as well as correct health disorders. Honey is nature’s energy booster, a natural source of carbohydrates which provide strength and energy to our bodies. It is known for instantly boosting performance, endurance, and reducing muscle fatigue. Unlike refined sugar, it keeps the body’s sugar levels somewhat constant because the fructose in honey is absorbed at a slower rate to give sustained energy.

Some possible effective healing properties of honey mentioned in an article at WebMD.com on Find a Vitamin and Supplement include promoting the healing of cough, wound healing and burns. Taking a small amount of honey at bedtime helps reduce the number of coughing spells, especially in children age 2 and older. Several clinical trials and case reports indicate the use of honey or honey-soaked dressings for certain types of wounds, abrasions, burns, cuts, among others.

Honey, however, is not for everybody. Even though it is natural, for dieters or people with diabetes, honey is no better than ordinary white or brown sugar. This is according to dietitian Toby Smithson, RD, CDE, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and founder of the web site, Diabetes Everyday, cited in an article ‘Medicinal Uses of Honey’ by Julie Edgar at WebMD.com.

Like honey that is sweet to the taste, the Bible describes the words of God as sweeter than honey to our mouths (Psalm 119:103). It is like wisdom which is good for the soul; if we find it, then there will be a future for us, and our hope will not be cut off (Proverbs 24:13-14). Just as honey yields many benefits, so it is with God’s word and wisdom. By studying the word of God, we gain wisdom, and in so doing, we receive strength and spiritual health. Like nature’s energy booster, we who hope in the LORD will gain new strength, mounting up with wings like eagles, run and not get tired, walk and not become weary (Isaiah 40:31).

Not all of us who have tasted the kindness of the Lord however will grow in respect to salvation, if we fail to put aside malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander (1 Peter 2:1-3). Just as honey is harmful to dieters or people with diabetes, so food gained by fraud although may taste sweet, the end is a mouth full of gravel (Proverbs 20:17). Stolen water may taste sweet and food eaten in secret pleasant, but little do we know we are dining alongside the dead, those who are destined for the depths of hell (Proverbs 9:17-18).

Let us therefore diligently in all wisdom study the word of God that we may regain our spiritual health and experience the sweet taste of God’s lovingkindness. Put away dishonest gains which although may taste sweet for a moment, but its end shall be like the venom of cobras within our stomachs (Job 20:12-14). Even though we may not be an overseer or a leader in the faith, as followers of Christ, we are all entrusted with God’s work, and should therefore remain blameless and not pursue after sordid gain (Titus 1:7). Take control of our future now and forsake our sinful nature that our hope in Christ may not be cut off (Proverbs 24:14)!

Dear Lord, thank You for granting us wisdom through the study of Your word. Your word O God is sweet to our taste, sweeter than honey to our mouths! Guide us therefore Lord in Your word by Your Spirit that we may not waver nor seek dishonest gain, but diligently pursue wisdom and put aside all malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander. Grant healing from all our health disorders Lord, both physically and spiritually, that we may with renewed strength run and not get tired, walk and not become weary.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Lessons from the Grocery

You shall buy food from them with money so that you may eat, and you shall also purchase water from them with money so that you may drink. For the LORD your God has blessed you in all that you have done; (Deuteronomy 2:6-7a NAS)

At the Grocery
“Working at grocery stores is a great way for young adults and adults to form relationships, improve resumes and work experience,” said Tom Harrington, a 22-year-old college student, in his article at Voices.Yahoo.com. “When I turned eighteen years old, I applied for a position at a nearby grocery store. The grocery store had all the major departments—grocery, bakery, deli, frozen, dairy—and was conveniently located on one of the major highways in Massachusetts.”

“When I began working at the grocery store, I was first trained, being required to complete a computer program on general grocery store knowledge,” said Harrington. “Overall, I was satisfied with the grocery store.”

In less than two years after he resigned from the grocery store to dedicate his time and energy to studying for school, Harrington was back working in another grocery store. The new grocery store was extremely supportive of his working abilities and promoted him within four months from being a cashier to a customer service clerk.

“As anyone knows, listing ‘grocery store – customer service clerk’ looks great on any resume and I was gracious and thankful for being promoted,” said Harrington. “The best advantage of working at a grocery store is that I am constantly aware of all the sales and promotions.”

Like Harrington who used to serve customers at the grocery stores, back in the days of Moses, the sons of Esau living in Seir were also serving their customers. The children of Israel wandering in the wilderness were commanded by the LORD to buy food and water from them. They were to pay to the sons of Esau money for their purchases because the LORD has blessed them in all they have done. Throughout the forty years of wanderings, the LORD has been with them, and they have not lacked a thing (Deuteronomy 2:4-7).

Today, Harrington finally found what he likes to do best—writing for Yahoo! associated content and sports. It took him several years working at the grocery stores before he discovered his niche, yet during the time of his ‘wanderings’ he did not neglect to do his best.

What about us? Are we doing our very best amid our wanderings even before discovering the eventual direction of the Lord for us? Are we forming relationships with the people around us, including the ones we serve, so as to win some souls for the Lord? Are we aware that our experiences in life, the journeys we have taken and are taking, help build us up in character to add to our resume something of far greater value than our self-worth (Matthew 6:19-20)? When called to serve the Lord, are we always looking out for the best deals and advantages we can get before committing to the work?

Do we not know that our God is not unjust as to forget our work and the love we have shown toward His name (Hebrews 6:10a)? God is not blind that He cannot see; He knows what is done in secret and will reward us accordingly (Matthew 6:18). We ought therefore to be diligent to present ourselves approved to God as workmen who do not need to be ashamed, having been trained to accurately handle the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). Whether we are serving as a staff at the grocery store, a minister reaching out to the world, or a worker of whatever we are doing, let us do our very best, as for the Lord rather than for men. Remember, it is the Lord Christ whom we serve and from Him we will receive the reward of the inheritance (Colossians 3:23-24).

Dear Lord, thank You for always looking after us and caring for our needs that we have not lacked anything. We are forever grateful and thankful to You Lord because in our wanderings we can completely put our trust in You. Help us Lord not become slack in what we do, but to do all things heartily knowing that it is You whom we serve. You O God are not unjust as to forget our work and the love we have shown toward Your name, for You see what we do in secret and reward us accordingly.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Banquet Fit for a King

I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet. (Luke 14:24 NIV)

Banquet
I read in an article recently of a place in South Korea where diners can immerse themselves to a great banquet. Every day 17 cooks prepare around 70 dishes from the royal menu, and diners get to taste and experience the dinner fit for a king.

The expression ‘a dinner fit for a king’ in South Korea has a codified meaning passed down orally for generations. According to Sonny Antunes who wrote the article ‘A Royal Banquet in South Korea’ at FineDiningLovers.com, it refers to a dinner that follows specific rules of etiquette. Such grand dining which was once limited only to members of the royal family and their guests is now available to anyone who lives in or visits Seoul.

Unlike the royal banquet of South Korea which today can be experienced by all, Jesus shared in a parable about a banquet that not everyone invited will get to taste or experience. A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to call the invited guests to come, but all of them began to make excuses. Then the master told his servant to go out into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame (Luke 14:16-24).

All of us know that when we are invited to a wedding banquet, it is a basic courtesy for us to respond early, especially if we are unable to turn up. RSVP or ‘r├ępondez s'il vous plait’ in French means ‘please reply’ in colloquial English, which is an etiquette we should all respond to as invited guests. Even if the invitation does not state the need to RSVP, it is still polite to do so, but not in the case when the invitation is from God to receive His salvation!

As followers of Christ, we are called to represent God in inviting the yet unsaved to return to Him, but not everyone who are invited will get to taste of His salvation. RSVP in such a case is a danger, for no one knows when death comes knocking on the door (Luke 12:20). Our task therefore is to bring whoever would receive Him and His salvation, not just the ones whom we think are ready or are good enough. Sinners or saints, everyone on earth needs the salvation of the Lord.

Are we doing our part in inviting the unbelievers to the Lord? Are we helping our loved ones and the people around us to taste and see the goodness of our God? Blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him and who will get to partake at the feast in the kingdom of God. For the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast for His peoples—a banquet of fine dining—and all who believe in Him will dine with Him at the wedding supper of the Lamb (Psalm 34:8; Isaiah 25:6; Luke 14:15; Revelation 19:9).

Dear Lord, thank You for receiving us, not just as guests, but as partakers at Your table. We know Lord that not all who are invited will get to experience Your salvation. Help us therefore Lord not to easily give up sharing the gospel to the unsaved or be deterred by their excuses, for such is a decision between life and death. Do not permit us to limit our scope in selecting the people to be saved Lord, but lead us by Your Spirit as to what we shall say in accordance to Your word and guidance.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Dieting for God's Purpose

"Please test us for ten days on a diet of vegetables and water," Daniel said. (Daniel 1:12 NLT)

Dieting
According to an article at HealthyForms.com, one of the most important things we can do to help our overall health is to maintain a healthy diet. Eating a wide variety of foods is one of the best ways to help our bodies get the nutrition we need each day. A healthy diet should emphasize plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Foods that are high in saturated fats, trans fat, cholesterol, salt and added sugars should be avoided.

Dieting offers many benefits and ensures good health if done properly and for a good reason. A healthy diet helps prevent buildup in our arteries and blood vessels, and reduce our risk of acquiring health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and stroke.

"I think I was at a spot where I was mentally prepared and wanting to do stuff," said Dawn who lost 35 pounds over a year on a healthy-weight program, sharing her dieting experience at WebMD.com. "I've been on the American Heart Association Diet. I've been on the diabetic diet. I've been on South Beach. I've had success in the past. But I needed something that was going to work and stay with me."

Over the years, Dawn followed many different weight-loss plans. Each plan worked for a while, but eventually she would go back to her old eating habits and her weight would go back up. She says that with dieting "There is a mindset that this is a diet. And when I get to my goal weight, then I don't have to do the diet anymore." So when her employer decided to offer a yearlong healthy-weight program that focused on making lasting changes, Dawn was eager to try it.

Among the first things Dawn learned from the program was setting realistic goals that she could turn into long-term habits. She identified small changes she could make, such as eating an apple instead of a doughnut for a morning snack. Then she would try that strategy for a week and if it was something easy to do, she would add it to her list of healthy eating habits. If it didn't work well for her, she would try another type of healthy eating change the next week.

Back in the days when the young men of Judah’s royal family and other noble families were brought to Babylon as captives, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon assigned them a daily ration of food and wine from his own kitchens. But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given by the king, so he asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat the unacceptable foods (Daniel 1:1, 5, 8).

“Please test us for ten days on a diet of vegetables and water,” Daniel said. “At the end of the ten days, see how we look compared to the other young men who are eating the king’s food. Then make your decision in light of what you see” (Daniel 1:12-13).

Daniel went on a diet for a good reason. He did it out of obedience to the law of God so as not to defile himself eating the food considered unclean. What about us? If we are dieting, is it for a good reason that we are doing it? Is it to keep ourselves healthy or is it to look good? If we are dieting for the wrong reasons or because we are in a state of emotional turmoil or stressed in life, dieting can lead to eating disorders.

While food is made for the stomach and the stomach for food, we ought to know that our bodies are made for the Lord—the temple of the Holy Spirit. What we eat and drink or do to our bodies should therefore be determined by the purpose because we do not belong to ourselves but to God, and the Lord cares about our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:13, 19-20).

Dear Lord, forgive us for sometimes neglecting to care for our own health. We know Lord our bodies is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and for this reason we ought not to defile our bodies. Help us Lord to be careful with our diet that we may stay healthy to do Your work. Keep us strong Lord that whether in sickness or in health, we will do whatever is necessary to present our very best to You.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Savory Taste

How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth! (Psalm 119:103 NAS)

Umami Map
Some of us probably already know that besides the four basic tastes of sweet, sour, bitter and salty, is a fifth—umami. Umami is the Japanese word for delicious flavor, considered by some as the strong savory taste associated with meats and other rich or high-protein foods.

Among the many foods said to provide the umami taste are duck and other poultry, aged beef, venison, eggs, aged cheese, fish and shellfish, tomatoes, mushrooms, asparagus and walnuts. Ingredients that can be used to add the umami taste to dishes include dried seaweed, freshly grated parmesan cheese, mushrooms such as dried shiitake, sundried tomatoes and tomato paste.

Not all foods that provide the umami taste however are healthy, but what makes umami so special to the health-conscious cooks is its ability to enhance flavors. Since there is no need to use much of such ingredients to get the taste, it can be used to boost flavor while reducing fat and salt in recipes. This is according to Jennifer Nelson, M.S., R.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D. who wrote ‘When you crave a savory taste, you want umami’ at the Nutrition-wise blog of MayoClinic.com.

Like umami which adds savory to the taste in enhancing flavors, if we set aside time each day to savor the sweetness of God’s word, we will also get to taste the goodness of our Lord. The psalmist said, “O taste and see that the LORD is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” (Psalm 34:8). “How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103).

Have we been missing out in savoring the word of God? If we have, we are missing out a lot more than we think. For the word of God is alive and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, joints and marrow, able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). It is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Are we equipped for God’s work?

Some of us may think there is no need for us to be equipped for God’s work so long as we are serving Him in Christian ministries. Others may feel that because we are neither teachers nor ministers, there is no need to be equipped. None of these thoughts or feelings however is correct because if we do not equip ourselves with the word of God, how shall we be able to defend ourselves against the enemies?

Jesus, when He was tempted by the devil, used the Scripture to defend Himself (Matthew 4:7, 10). What about us? Do we know enough of God’s word to defend ourselves? For unlike the many different foods and ingredients that can provide the umami taste, there is only one way to understand God’s precepts for us to savor the taste that is sweeter than honey—the word of God. If we therefore hope to get a boost in our spiritual lives while reducing our mistakes and wrongdoings, then we must not neglect to study the word of God so as to live a Spirit-filled life in Christ.

Thank You dear Lord for giving us Your word. Your word O Lord is our delight for it is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. Guide us Lord by Your word in all we do that we may taste of Your goodness and be blessed. Renew in us Lord the desire to learn from Your word daily that we may be adequate and equipped for every good work.

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