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.

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