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.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Potluck for the Homeless

And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. (Acts 2:44 NLT)

Guests at potluck dinners usually feel very blessed when they open a pot of food because cooks tend to serve their best. This is according to Becky Wright who wrote the article ‘Story Potluck Entertains with Mouthwatering Tales’ at Go.Standard.Net. Wright mentioned in her article that guests at the Story Potluck are twice as blessed because they get to taste a variety of foods and hear stories related to the recipes. The Story Potluck is a fundraiser for The Road Home, a Salt Lake City agency that helps the homeless.

"I really think the project is such a great idea because food and stories go hand in hand,” said Wright. “It's the way we pass on our traditions, and for all of our favorite recipes there are memories and stories to go along with them. The fact that it all goes to such a good cause is really another draw."

Each recipe submitted to the fund raiser is accompanied by the story of how the dish came to be special to the person submitting it. The top recipes, along with their stories, are published in a printed cookbook as well as an e-book. The book’s debut is a community meal to benefit one of Utah’s homeless services providers. Winning entrants are invited to attend the annually held event to prepare their recipe and then perform the accompanying story in the after-dinner program.

Back in the days of the New Testament, something similar to potluck was also practiced by the believers of Christ. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord's Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity. All the believers shared everything they had and were united in heart and mind, and all of them felt what they owned was not their own (Acts 2:44-46; 4:32).

Like the charity event organized by the Story Potluck and the sharing of meals by the believers of old, do we also share generously to help the needy? Some of us, no doubt, may be struggling to make ends meet, let alone consider giving to the poor. Yet, do we have in our hearts the willingness to give of ourselves to help those who have greater needs than our own? We know the story of the poor widow who gave out of her poverty the two very small copper coins (Mark 12:42-44; Luke 21:2-4). Do we care enough to give a hand to help someone get back on his or her feet?

As believers in the Lord, we should not value the things of this world as something to hold to or keep. Instead, each of us should decide in our heart how much to give, not reluctantly or in response to pressure, for God loves a cheerful giver. He will generously provide all our needs that we will always have enough and plenty left over to share with others (2 Corinthians 9:7-8).

Dear Lord, thank You for always blessing us and meeting our needs. We know Lord that all good things come from You and of Your own do we share them with those in need. Help us therefore Lord to give willingly to the homeless and the poor, and to those who need help more than us even amid our own struggles. We claim upon Your promise O Lord that in giving cheerfully, we will always be blessed with everything we need. Whether in the sharing of food with others or in the raising of funds to help the poor Lord, teach us to do our very best with one mind and heart in performing the accompanying part.

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