Friday, July 27, 2012

Men in the Kitchen

When Jacob had cooked stew, Esau came in from the field and he was famished; and Esau said to Jacob, "Please let me have a swallow of that red stuff there, for I am famished." Therefore his name was called Edom. (Genesis 25:29-30 NAS)

Men in Kitchen
“Before I became a food writer for The New York Times, the kitchen was where I found confidence—and took care of my family,” wrote Mark Bittman in an excerpt published at Salon.com on how cooking gave him purpose. “Parenthood and the necessities of daily life taught me, as they have billions of others, to cook. And while I was learning to cook, I learned to work.”

“I was self-taught (that is, book-learned) in cooking—as I was in many other things—but I picked it up pretty quickly once I began; it isn’t, after all, very difficult,” Bittman continued. “I lived in an apartment with a kitchen my sophomore year. My roommate worked weekends as a short-order cook. We took the rack out of the oven, put it over the range, and invented gas grilling. This nearly destroyed the stove, of course, but it was a rental and we were spoiled, inconsiderate eighteen-year-olds.”


“It took a few more years until I realized that there was something about cooking that appealed to me,” Bittman wrote. “I didn’t know what it was then, but I do know now: along with child rearing, it gave me a sense of competence that I’d never had before. I had been a terrible student, and in fact I didn’t appear to be good at much of anything. I had been a cab driver, a trucker, an electrician’s gofer, a substitute teacher, and a traveling salesman. I was now married, with a newborn child. My lifelong sense that I would ‘become’ a writer wasn’t working out. So I became a cook.”

Like Bittman who discovered his purpose in cooking, the Bible mentioned a man who must have been quite good at what he was doing in the kitchen to have his brother willingly give up his birthright for a meal (Genesis 25:29-34). Now, who was to blame for Esau’s loss of birthright—the cook or the consumer? Esau was known to be an immoral and godless person who sold his own birthright for a single meal (Hebrews 12:16). For him, filling his stomach and satisfying his appetite were all there were to it, but for his brother Jacob, it was the first step to fulfilling the will of God (Genesis 25:23).

Just as Bittman and Jacob knew their purpose in the kitchen, we ought also to know our purpose in the will of the Lord. Upon discovering our talent—the gift God has given us—we should therefore work towards fulfilling our destiny according to His master plan for our lives. Instead of rebelling against God’s will and aimlessly pursue after earthly goals that do not last, we should allow the will of God to appeal to us, even if we are unsure or unclear at this time. Rather than do so many things or be someone we are not, let us seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all that we need will be added to us (Matthew 6:32-33).

Dear Lord, thank You for giving us talents that appeal and give meaning to our lives. We know Lord our talents are gifts from You, and we want to use these gifts for the glory of Your name. Help us Lord to discover in Your timing the purpose You have destined for us that we may not aimlessly pursue after things that do not last. In your will O Lord we will walk according to Your master plan for our lives. We will seek first Your kingdom and Your righteousness, because You Lord know our needs and will add to us all these things that are necessary to us.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Picnic for a Cause

Ordering the people to sit down on the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fish, … and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds, (Matthew 14:19 NAS)

Feeding the 5000
Picnicking is one of the fun things many of us like to do as a family. According to Picnic-Basket.com, the perfect picnic is the result of careful planning to ensure everything is as much under control as possible. Four key areas to look at in making sure a picnic is as stress-free as it can be are people, location, food and equipment.

‘People’ refers to who are the people going on the picnic, the age groups, the number of people going, and who to be responsible for transportation. Knowing and identifying all these will help provide ideas of the kind of place and activities needed.

‘Location’ refers to picking a suitable place for the picnic, such as one near a play park if there are children or not too far from the car park if the ones going are elderly or mobility challenged.

‘Food’ refers to planning the right menu for the picnic. Is there anyone in the picnic party who has food allergies? Are there tables at the proposed picnic venue or will all of them be sitting on the ground to eat? If there are tables, catering can be more adventurous. If the intention is to eat with a blanket on the ground, then finger food will make the picnic more relaxed.

‘Equipment’ refers to taking enough flatware and silverware for each member going on the picnic, plus a couple of extra settings just in case. A large garbage bag for collecting all the scraps and empty packaging is important so that we can leave our picnic area the way we found it—or better.

Much unlike the way we plan for a picnic, in the days when our Lord was still here on earth, His teachings and preaching brought with Him multitudes of people following. The picnic they had together was in a desolate place and few have enough food for themselves. When Jesus told His disciples to give the crowd something to eat, they said to Him they have with them only five loaves and two fish. Ordering the people to sit down on the grass, with no blanket to lay or picnic tables to sit, Jesus took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food. After breaking the loaves, He gave them to the disciples to feed the crowd, and they all ate and were satisfied (Matthew 14:13-21).

What a contrast between the times of Jesus and the picnics we have today! While we diligently make plans for a gathering, whether it is for a picnic or a gospel event, we often do them without much thought of expecting the unexpected. Are we too careful with our plans that sometimes we forget what is more important—the reason for the get together? Do we in such gatherings find ways to express love for one another and share in common our love for Jesus, or are we too busy like Martha in preparing the essentials but not the most important (Luke 10:40-42)?

Let us keep a check on ourselves the purpose of our gatherings and picnicking to do what is most important—the building of relationship with God and man. If we are picnicking with the helpless, we do fine in providing them food, not only for their physical well-being, but also the spiritual. Jesus said, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work” (John 4:34). What about us? Is our food to do the will of God?

Dear Lord, thank You for setting an example for us to understand the purpose of our get together. We know Lord that while we enjoy picnicking, we need also to know the purpose behind such gatherings. Help us Lord to always show love one to another in bringing Your love to the world and be ready to expect the unexpected. Lead us Lord in coming up with new ways to reach out to those in need, that even through picnicking or other gatherings, in the sharing of food, we may touch and heal some souls. We love You Lord, and we want to share Your love with others too, for our food is to do Your will.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Finishing Well

Seven Crucial Characteristics for Finishing Well
by Ken Boa

We sing the song, "I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back," but why is it that so many people do? There seems to be an epidemic of Christians who begin well but finish poorly. Let me share seven crucial characteristics that will help you to finish well.

    1. Intimacy with Christ
    Our highest calling is to grow in our knowledge of Christ and to make Him known to others. Does our desire to know Christ exceed all other aspirations? If not, whatever is taking His place in the center of our affections must yield to Him if we are to know the joy of bearing spiritual fruit. A key secret of those who finish well is to focus more on loving Jesus than on avoiding sin. The more we love Jesus, the more we will learn to put our confidence in Him alone.

    2. Fidelity with Spiritual Discipline
    Spiritual disciplines such as prayer, fellowship, study, worship, and submission are not ends in themselves, but means to the end of intimacy with Christ and spiritual formation. When left to itself, however, any one of these disciplines tends to decline and decay. An infusion of directed intentionality and effort is necessary to sustain order and growth and to bring repeated times of personal renewal.

    3. A Biblical Perspective on the Circumstances of Life
    Part of the purpose of our suffering and trials is to drive us to dependence on God alone. God responds by revealing more of Himself to us. This knowledge increases our faith and our capacity to trust His character and His promises through the times we do not understand His purposes and His ways. When we view our circumstances in light of God's character instead of God's character in light of our circumstances, we come to see that God is never indifferent to us, and that He uses suffering for our good so we will be more fully united to Christ.

    4. A Teachable, Responsive, Humble and Obedient Spirit
    Those who finish well maintain an ongoing learning posture through the seasons of their lives. Humility and responsive obedience are the keys to maintaining a teachable spirit. Humility is the disposition in which we displace self through the enthronement of Christ in our lives and realize that all of life is about trust in God. Obedience is the application of biblical faith in that which is not seen, and that which is not yet. As we mature in Christ, we learn to trust God's character and promises in spite of ambiguity or trials.

    5. A Clear Sense of Personal Calling and Purpose
    God has called each of us to a purposeful journey sustained by faithfulness and growing hope. This calling or vocation transcends our occupations and endures beyond the end of our careers. As we seek the Lord's guidance in developing a personal vision and clarity of mission, we move beyond the level of tasks and accomplishments to the level of the purpose for which we were created.

    6. Healthy Relationships with Resourceful People
    Relationships such as spiritual mentoring, servant leadership, and personal and group accountability are valuable resources that encourage, equip, and exhort. People who finish well do not do so without the caring support of other growing members of the body of Christ. These relationships help us to increase in intimacy with Christ, maintain the needed disciplines, clarify our long-term perspective, sustain a teachable attitude, and develop our purpose and calling.

    7. Ongoing Ministry Investment in the Lives of Others
    Spirit-filled living requires us to discover and develop the spiritual gifts we have received and exercise them through the Spirit's power for the edification of others. Believers who finish well are marked by ongoing outreach and sacrificial ministry for the good of other people. Those who squander the resources, gifts, experiences, and hard-learned insights God has given them by no longer investing them in the lives of others soon wither and withdraw.
What does it take to finish well? How can we run in such a way that we can say with Paul, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:7; Acts 20:24; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27)? Taking to heart the above seven characteristics will help you finish well day by day, as you "run with endurance the race that is set before [you]" (Hebrews 12:1).  

Source: The Navigators

Friday, July 6, 2012

A Year of Adventure: Testimony by Hiram Claudio

This adventure began on September 8, 2010.

Pastor Hiram Claudio
Truthfully, I didn’t see it coming. I got to work the usual time. My boss called me into his office around ten. Within minutes I was told, it was my last day. I’d been there almost seven years and really thought I’d be there many more. But it was over. Different emotions ran through me. I was angry and scared. Bottom line, I was out of work.

Since I worked in New York City, I thought I’d find something fairly quickly. But I wasn’t alone and it was hard finding anything. I felt the pressure of the deep sense of commitment to provide for my family. Yet, I always knew that any provision my family enjoyed came directly from the hand of the Lord. And that was still true.

Well, time passed and … nothing. As the holidays approached, anxiety grew. My severance package only paid me through the end of October. But we had each other and a loving Christian community to walk with us. Still, the weight was significant and growing daily.
I prayed, “Lord, please help me find something. I’ll do whatever I have to in order to provide for my family.” Turns out … that claim was tested.

Just before Christmas, I was contacted about a position that my skills fit well. It was out of state yet they were willing to conduct the entire interview process over the phone. I really didn’t think the opportunity was real. Yet, I spoke with this company three times and … got the job!

It meant living apart from my family. But, my wife and I agreed there was no sense in moving our whole life there until we were sure it would be long term. So, in January of 2011, I packed my car and traveled one thousand miles to … Oshkosh, Wisconsin. I arrived on January 16th.

It was COLD! During the first month, the overnight lows were around -15F. But the job was good and I found a small church that embraced me. However, with all the blessings, it became clear that, although the company offered a permanent position, living in Wisconsin was not for us.

So I prayed again, “Lord, I again really need to find me something.” You’d thought by now I would’ve learned to be more specific. Well, the Lord answered and in late June, I drove fourteen hundred miles from Oshkosh, Wisconsin to … San Antonio, Texas. I arrived on July 1st.

It was HOT! I experienced average daily temperatures of around 105F. I began another new job, another one bedroom apartment, and was now even further away from my family then before. Yet, as was true in Wisconsin, I was never alone. I often grew tired of the situation, but found a strength that was anchored to His loving presence.

THIS time I prayed VERY specifically, “Lord, I need a job, back in New York, close enough so I can be with my family.” The Lord answered with a job on Long Island that was closer to my home than the original one I’d lost. So, on September 29th, I packed up my car again to travel nineteen hundred miles back to New York.

It was a long drive but I was excited. I was heading home. But an hour outside of San Antonio, near Austin, I got a phone from my step-mother in Puerto Rico. She told me my father had just passed away. My heart fell. I didn’t know what to feel. I’d just spoken with him a week prior. Now, he was gone and I wouldn’t even be able to attend his funeral.

The long drive suddenly became longer. Now, I wasn’t just tired. I was weary. Yet, I can testify that it in those moments of solitude, I found solace. I knew I wasn’t alone. Truth is … life presents challenges for us all. Yet, through each turn in the road, we are promised a traveling Companion who is loving and faithful.

During these nine months away, and through life in general, I’ve gained insight as it pertains to being weary. Difficult times alone don’t create weariness, but rather a lack of awareness during them that does. When we lose our sense of His presence, we can easily cave under life’s weight. Did I get angry? Sure. But I didn’t lose hope. That’s what God did for me. And that’s His promise for you too! Hiram Claudio

NOTE: Hiram Claudio is an IT professional who also serves as a Christian minister and Bible teacher.

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