Friday, December 27, 2013

Online Stewardship

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29 NAS)

Online Stewardship
Christmas is a time for family warmth and home coming, but for some people, it is the season of much stress with traveling, spending, preparing, among other things. Thankfully, these days, keeping in touch is no longer limited to a telephone call or occasional meeting up. We can stay connected with our loved ones and friends through channels such as the social media or online video calling. We can also communicate, share text, photos, videos, music and other media files with just about everybody around the world using mobile phones, digital tablets, or computers.

Nevertheless, when we share about our private lives to the public, we need always to be careful because such sharing can affect others and how they think of us. Our bosses, colleagues, relatives, and friends, for example, might see us as weak or ill-mannered reading some of our status update on social networks. Leaks through words of mouth by people sharing what they read from our social media postings and blogs can also spread and cause damage to relationships.

When I first started a blog, it was not something I wanted to do, but because I was assigned as a journalist by my editor to write an article on blogging and to interview people to find out their thoughts on the subject. A number of people I interviewed gave their reason for blogging as wanting to make friends who share similar interests, while some said they blog to de-stress or fight for a cause.

“Of course, we run the risk of facing ridicule and criticism from people posting their comments,” said an ardent blogger. “But we can deal with it.”

Like many bloggers, I frequently offload my burdens writing about the things that happened in my life. Many people came to know me and my innermost thoughts reading my blog. Today, my life is an open book, found within the pages of my devotional writings. Blogging is my way of serving God and His people, a medium of choice to reach out to the masses in the world. With my Christian blog linked to various social network communities, every blog entry I post gets to reach out to the masses and the targeted people for the Lord.

Of course, once in a while, I would receive some argumentative or negative comments at my blog or social network pages. But by the grace of God through the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the wisdom of our Lord, those were dealt with without quarrel or hurtful feelings.

What about the rest of us? How do we participate online? Do we turn the social media into avenues by which we serve God, His people, and the people who are yet unsaved? Or do we put to shame the Lord’s name by the things we write on our blogs and social networks’ status?

As we prepare ourselves for the coming year, let us remember not to let negative words proceed from us (Ephesians 4:29, 31), for such can hurt others and expose us to ridicule. Remember, we are to give account every careless word we use (Matthew 12:36). Whether we are conversing, sharing videos, images, music or other types of media files, let us share only whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, or praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8).

Dear Lord, forgive us for too often sharing to the world things that do not edify or minister. Help us not let our bitterness, wrath, anger, thoughtless words, and private lives hurt or mislead others. Remind us constantly Lord to share words of encouragement and things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable or praiseworthy. As we prepare ourselves for the coming year Lord, protect us from the vices that constantly attempt to lure us away from You or into unnecessary commitment. Do not allow us to fall prey to the evil one Lord but guide us by Your Spirit to wisely use online tools such as blogs and the social media carefully for the extension of Your kingdom.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Blessed Christmas 2013

Wishing All of You
a
Blessed & Merry Christmas!

Blessed Christmas 2013

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 20, 2013

Christmas: The Day Hope was Born into the World

Christmas: The Day Hope was Born into the World
For many people, Christmas means a lot of things. For some, it means lots of shopping, traveling, and scrambling all over town to get those special gifts for special people. For others, it may mean getting together with family that they are unable to see throughout the year. These are great things. There is nothing wrong with wanting to get special people gifts. It is greatly important as well to spend time with family. However, Christmas marks a day much more important than gifts or family. It celebrates the day that God sent Hope back into the world.

Picture this. From the time the prophet Malachi, which is the last recorded Old Testament book, to the time of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) there was 400 years of silence. God’s chose Israel as His chosen people. Starting with Abraham, God promised a linage that would never perish and would bless all people. Abraham descendants were enslaved by Egypt for over 400 years, when God sent a leader, Moses, to bring them out of Egypt. After leaving the bondage of Egypt, Israel remained faithful to God for a time. Unfortunately, the longer Israel lived around the pagan nations, the more they grew into to practices of those nations. They eventually started worshipping and serving dead idols rather than the one, true living God. God began sending prophets to various parts of Israel. Those prophets began speaking the words of God and pleading for people to turn back to the Lord. Eventually Israel, was broke into two nations (Israel and Judah). Israel was wiped out by the Assyrians and Judah was taken into captivity by Babylon for 70 years. The prophets began giving snapshots of a Messiah that was to come and lead God’s people and save them. After the people of Judah were liberated from Babylon, the people turned back to God. But their worship to God became nothing more than dead religion. So with the last of the prophets, Malachi, God did not speak to Israel for almost 400 years.

The people of Israel, however, still held on to the hope of the coming Messiah. Although the Pharisees of that time taught hypocrisy, there were still those in Israel who were looking forward to the coming Messiah. Then one day, prophecy started being fulfilled. The forerunner of Messiah spoken about in Isaiah, “A voice is calling, ‘Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40:3). John the Baptist was born. Not too much later, Jesus, conceived by the Holy Spirit, was born in Bethlehem by the virgin Mary, in a manger because there was no place in the town inn. This fulfilled the Scripture that said, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Hope came back into the world when Jesus was born. Jesus came and ministered to all of Israel, died on the cross for our sins, and rose again three days later from the grave, overcoming death. He not only paid the ransom for Israel, but opened up the door of salvation to all who believe in His name an turn from their sin. He now seated at the right hand of God and He will return for His Church.

Jesus came in the most humble of ways. He came as a baby. He didn’t come in with an army. He didn’t come in as a conquering king. He came as a baby, in human form, to relate to us and give us hope that once seemed lost. So this Christmas season, really reflect on the fact that Jesus chose to step out of divinity, and live as a human only to be hung on a cross for the sin of the world. I encourage you to read the Birth of Christ in the book of Matthew and Luke. When you are unwrapping your gifts, spending time with family, and eating hearty meals, remember Jesus this year. Jesus is the reason for the season. Truly. Joey Coons


Friday, December 13, 2013

Christmas Ornament

What?!? Twenty-five dollars? For an ORNAMENT?

Christmas Ornament
I have to admit it—I have a weakness for Christmas tree decorations, but I drew the line when I saw this ornament in the department store the other day. It was the most original one I had ever seen—glass in the shape of a teardrop with etched gold curling in a spiral pattern all the way around the edge—the perfect balance of tastefulness and originality. It would be placed front and centre on my tree, and those noticing it would comment on its beauty.

The price tag was nowhere to be found, though, so I waited in line three people back in order to get the price from the cashier. Imagine my surprise when I got to her and she said, "This is our original brand. It's a bargain at $25.00."

No way, I ranted inside my brain. I was so disgusted with the price that I didn't even offer to put it back. Instead I said, "Thanks anyway," and stalked out in a huff, leaving it on the counter. At least my bitter thoughts did not roll of my tongue!

Hours later, with the whole scene still mulling through my head, the Lord brought a convicting thought to my spirit.

That first Christmas was celebrated so differently than we celebrate it now. There was nothing ornamental about it, other than THE Ornament, which was Jesus Himself. He was not wrapped up in bows, but in a simple cloth. The scene was not lit up with blinking, chasing lights, but illuminated by the stars alone. There was no finely decorated fir tree with pine-scented potpourri filling the room; instead, the air was filled with the odors of animals and hay.

Yet even without such sparkling accessories, that first Christmas was the most beautiful and glowing Christmas of all time. The presence of Jesus is what made it so magnificent.

The Holy Spirit also showed me that this doesn't just apply at Christmas, but to every other month of the year as well. We decorate ourselves in so many ways, don't we? Not just in our outward appearance, but also in our hearts and minds. We do so with such things as jewelry, fashionable clothes, a fake sense of humor, flattery and pride. 

This is the opposite of the example Jesus set for us when He was on the earth. He was humble and genuine in every way, pointing to God and His Word every time He spoke. My heart's desire is to do the same.

2 Corinthians 3:18 (NLT)
"So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord-who is the Spirit-makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image."

No frills about it: Jesus is the grandest Ornament of them all. His beauty will shine through us as we ask Him to redirect our attempts to decorate our lives with anything other than Himself. Let's wrap ourselves in His glorious image today! LauraLee Shaw

Friday, December 6, 2013

Beware of Scammers

Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. (Matthew 7:15 NAS)

Beware of Scammers
When a job seeker responded to an online ad for a customer service job opening, he thought it would be one of a hundred small acts he did that might get him back to work. With most of his e-mail messages to prospective employers going unanswered, he was relieved when a company replied with a work-from-home job.

To help him get started with his home office, the company sent him money orders so he could purchase via money wire the requisite laptop and other equipment from several different people. The job seeker deposited nine United States Postal Service money orders into his bank account and wired a total of nearly $8,000 to the various vendors. Neither the laptop nor anything else however was received, and the money orders turned out to be already cashed or counterfeit. This scam was reported in The New York Times by Riva Richmond on August 5, 2009. Scams such as this are still prevalent today.

“Looking back at the whole thing I was very, very naïve, but I needed a job so bad,” said the victim of the scam. “I’m behind in everything. I’m behind in my rent. I’m behind in all the bills I’m responsible for. It has wiped me out financially.”

Many people have fallen prey to scammers and criminals out of desperation seeking for jobs or ways to even the odds amid financial setback. The fraud-fueled bank crisis which precipitated the recession that lingers till this day, for example, is a case of what could happen if we unwittingly fall victim to moneymaking schemers who might have set sophisticated traps to draw us in.

Suggestions given in The New York Times article on protecting ourselves from common frauds include being skeptical, doing our homework and research, limiting our personal information online, and going low tech via local want ads, agencies or personal networks.

Like the need to protect ourselves against scammers and criminals, Jesus warned us to beware of the false prophets who come to us in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. We will know them by their fruits, for a good tree cannot produce bad fruit nor can a bad tree produce good fruit (Matthew 7:15-16, 18). Any prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in the name of the Lord, and the thing does not come about or come true, is a false prophet. Such a one, we need not be afraid (Deuteronomy 18:20-22).

For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. Many will in Christ’s name say “I am He” and mislead many (Matthew 24:5, 11, 24). Such will on the day of the Lord say, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” Then our Lord will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matthew 7:22-23).

Are we at risk of falling into a trap in our desperate need for a job to make ends meet or to tide over a financial setback? If we are, let us not in our haste fall prey to scammers or criminals but do our homework well in researching and knowing all parties involved. Are we hearing strange teachings or predictions from people who claim to be of God? Beware of false prophets and teachers whose aim is to mislead many, even the elect. Rather than fall victim to con artists, let us like sheep in the midst of wolves, be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16).

Help us dear Lord to be shrewd in recognizing frauds, scams, false prophecies and teachings. Do not let us fall prey to the schemers or deceivers O Lord. Tide us over our times of desperation Lord that we might not foolishly get ourselves into greater trouble or crisis. If we have fallen prey Lord, show us the way out of the situation. In You Lord we put our complete trust for You alone are our sufficiency.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Truth without Doubts

Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” (Matthew 11:2-3 NAS)

Truth without Doubts
“The boss wants this piece of work done by today,” said my supervisor ten minutes before the end of the work day.

So I worked late, sometimes passed 9 p.m. Once in a while, I was tempted to check with the boss whether it was really his instruction that the job had to be done within the day, but I did not do so because it seemed petty and inappropriate.

We have all encountered situations where we hoped we could hear straight from the horse’s mouth the truth about something or someone. John the Baptist, while he was imprisoned, heard about the works of Christ and sent word by his disciples to ask Jesus whether He was the Expected One (Matthew 11:2-3).

Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me” (Matthew 11:4-6 NAS).

Are we at times in doubt about someone or something, perhaps an instruction, a relayed message, an explanation or a situation? If we are, then we should go back to the source to find out the truth. Are we hearing teachings by people who claimed to be of God that sounded strange? Examine and understand God’s word to know the truth and let the truth set us free (John 8:32; Acts 17:11-12). Are we unclear about God’s will concerning a particular matter? Ask God and seek His guidance, and He will answer us and direct our paths (Matthew 7:7; Proverbs 3:6).

Rather than guess or imagine about the truth, we should seek to know the truth that we might not stumble or be in doubt. Investigate discreetly, if necessary, especially when it involves the integrity of a person, so as not to take offense. Do not be judgmental but be forgiving, for what business is it of ours to judge those outside the faith since God Himself judges them (Luke 6:37; 1 Corinthians 5:12-13). Even if the person is in the faith, we have no excuse, for in judging another we condemn ourselves if we practice the same things and will be judged with the measure we use (Romans 2:1, 3; Matthew 7:1-2; Luke 6:37).

Forgive us dear Lord for sometimes lacking the courage to find out the truth about things. We know Lord that in our doubts we have stumbled many times because we guess and imagine the truth rather than seek out to know and understand the actual message communicated. Grant us O Lord a heart that is forgiving and not judgmental, regardless the findings from our investigations. Help us understand Your precepts as we examine Your word that we might not be swayed or deceived by false teachings. Guide us by Your word and Holy Spirit Lord that in Your will we will walk the path of understanding and righteousness.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Blessed Thanksgiving 2013


Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good;
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.

~ Psalm 106:1 (NAS) ~

Friday, November 22, 2013

Living Public Lives

So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. (Matthew 6:2 NAS)

Living Public Lives
Paparazzi seem to be the name of the game with the famous even though they have come under constant fire for invasion of privacy. In an article by Orthry Torres at Voices.Yahoo.com some years ago, the author questioned the reason for the inordinate attention and negative talk about those who make celebrities famous by the publicity they gave them. Should not celebrities expect being famous is accepting both their personal and professional lives will be watched and criticized from the media? If celebrities feel the paparazzi make them feel as if they are being stalked, is it fair to say they only mind being stalked when they have a book, movie, or album they need help in promoting?

Getting the publicity one desires and losing one’s privacy are two sides of the same coin when it comes to celebrity living. On the one hand it is a way of getting famous, on the other it may be deemed as invading private lives.

In the Gospel, Jesus warned about the practice of righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise we have no reward with our Father who is in heaven. When giving to the poor, therefore, we should not sound a trumpet as the hypocrites do, so as to be honored by men, for such have their reward in full. We should instead give in secret that our Father who sees what is done in secret will reward us (Matthew 6:1-4).

Jesus during His ministry on earth was famed for His teachings and the miracles He performed. Yet He took time to be alone to pray and get away from the crowd to fellowship with His twelve disciples. Frequently, however, when He withdrew to a secluded place the crowd would track Him down. Jesus did not turn them away or see them as invading his private life but felt compassion for them and healed their sick (Matthew 14:13-14). Although He received inordinate attention wherever He went, Jesus did not feel annoyed that He was stalked. Even when Jesus saw the crowd that came to watch the spectacle—His humiliation on the Cross—before He breathed His last, He did not resent them. Instead, He prayed for them saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34, 48).

Such was the contrast between the two, one of staged publicity and the other of genuine love and care for the public.

Today, many of us in a sense are celebrities online. Whether it is peer pressure or the need to stay in touch, we join social networks and leave behind trails of digital footprints of what we do and where we visit on the Internet. Our movements are tracked down by our followers and we are ‘stalked’ by different kinds of people. If we leave trails because we desire attention or to be followed, we might just get our reward or lose our credibility in full, depending on how well we handle our online activities and behavior. If we do not do well, our sin will find us out (Numbers 32:23). If we blabber or share about the things we do in our private lives on the social networks, we should not expect to live our lives with absolute privacy.

Are we feeling we are under the scrutiny of the public eye? Are we making ourselves famous for the wrong reasons or are we doing it out of concern for others? Not all things in life can be done in secret, so we need not hide what must be done even in public. Our intent is what is important—are we doing it to show off or to care?

Dear Lord, forgive us for sometimes blowing our own trumpet to gain popularity or publicity. We know Lord such activities do not deserve Your reward and can bring to ourselves unnecessary troubles. We pray Lord that You will watch over us that we may not fall into the trap of losing our private lives to public scrutiny. Mold us Lord to become more and more like You that in compassion and love we will reach out to the crowd to meet their needs. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Significant Change

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (2 Corinthians 5:17 NAS)

Significant Change
"If Nicky could change, pigs might fly!"

Such a comment would not have been too far-fetched for the people who knew Nicky Cruz before he received Jesus as his Lord and Savior. 

As one of 18 children born to witchcraft-practicing parents from Puerto Rico, Nicky from a very young age had suffered severe physical and mental abuse at their hands. By the age of three and a half, his heart had turned to stone. When he was 15, his father sent him to visit an older brother in New York. Nicky did not stay with his brother for long but chose to make it on his own. By age 16, Nicky became a member of a notorious Brooklyn street gang known as the Mau Maus. Within six months he became their president and ruled the streets as warlord of one of the gangs most dreaded by rivals and police. Lost in the cycle of drugs, alcohol, and brutal violence, Nicky's life took a tragic turn for the worse after a friend and fellow gang member was stabbed and beaten to death.

No authority figure was able to reach Nicky until he met a skinny street-preacher named David Wilkerson. David showed him something he never knew before—relentless love. Nicky beat him up, spat on him, and threatened his life, yet David did not give up but continued to show the love of God which grew stronger than any adversary Nicky had ever encountered. By and by, the thick walls of Nicky's heart melted and he received Jesus as his Savior after hearing a gospel message presented by David.

The story of The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson with John and Elizabeth Sherrill tells of how Nicky Cruz surrendered his life to God and exchanged his weapons for a Bible. Today, Nicky is a Christian evangelist who for the past 50 years has been traveling around the world reaching tens of millions of people with his testimony. He continues to minister in inner cities, prisons, and stadiums personally speaking to hundreds of thousands annually.

Before the apostle Paul came to know the Lord, he was in hearty agreement to put to death the followers of Jesus (Acts 8:1). When he came to Jerusalem for the first time after his conversion, he tried to associate with the disciples but they were afraid of him and did not believe he was a changed person. Barnabas had to take hold of Paul and present him to the apostles describing to them how Paul had seen the Lord on the road at Damascus and spoken out boldly in Jesus' name (Acts 9:26-27). Paul had since testified about his changed life and encounter with Jesus on many occasions (Acts 22:6-16; 26:12-18). He also shared about how he persecuted those who believed in Jesus before his conversion (Acts 22:4-5).

Paul wrote in the epistles what it means to be a new creature and to have our old selves crucified with Jesus so we might no longer be slaves to sin but lived anew (Romans 6:6; 2 Corinthians 5:17). His testimony and stories about his missionary journeys and imprisonment till this day continue to reach out to many and touch lives.

Like Wilkerson, Cruz, and Paul are we sharing our testimonies to bring others to Jesus? Perhaps we might think our testimonies are insignificant, especially in comparison with those of well-known evangelists. No matter how humble our testimonies might seem, the truth is God can use our stories to touch some hearts and win some souls (Mark 5:19-20; 2 Timothy 1:8; 1 Peter 3:15-16).

Dear Lord, thank You for loving us with Your relentless love even while we were yet sinners. We know Lord nothing of our past or anyone can separate us from Your love. Help us put off our old selves Lord to live anew in You and not be ashamed to share our testimonies regardless how insignificant they might seem. Use the stories of our lives Lord to touch some hearts and bring some souls to Your kingdom.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Embarrassing Situations

But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And the man was speechless. (Matthew 22:11-12 NAS)

Fish Out of Water
I was at a subway station one day when someone waved at me from a distance. I responded by waving back. As she came nearer toward my direction and walked past me to the person behind, I felt totally embarrassed—like a fish out of water.

Embarrassing and awkward situations are not uncommon to many of us. Some have tried to get out of such situations gracefully but few have been successful in doing so. Suggestions from an article at WikiHow.com on how to deal with embarrassing situations include getting away from the place of incident, cutting short our jumbled speeches or conversations, or simply laughing along with those who tease us.

Jesus in the parable of the marriage feast mentioned a man who, like us, was caught in an embarrassing situation. When questioned by the king as to how he was able to come to the banquet without wedding clothes, the man was speechless. The king then said to his servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’ (Matthew 22:11-14).

Embarrassing situations are not always easy to get out from gracefully or easily remedied by getting away from the place, remaining silent or speechless, or laughing along. A negligence of attention to details, for example, as to what we should wear for an occasion can lead to getting ourselves thrown out. In the case of the parable, the wedding clothes refer to the garment of salvation which is given only to those who believe in Jesus. If we hope to partake in the marriage supper of the Lamb, we need first to be clothed with the robe of Christ’s righteousness or face being thrown out into outer darkness (Isaiah 61:10; Revelation 19:7-8). 

Are we facing awkward and embarrassing situations because of our own negligence in finding out the prerequisites? Are we paying attention to details what is needed to prepare ourselves for an event or special occasion? Are we studying God’s word diligently to understand His precepts so as not to suffer embarrassment or worse when the day comes for us to give an account?

Prevention is always better than cure, and to know and pay attention to the prerequisites can help us avoid unnecessary embarrassment. If our work is burned up because we failed to build on the right foundation, we will suffer loss; but we will be saved, yet so as through fire (1 Corinthians 3:12-15). 

Dear Lord, forgive us for sometimes rushing into things before reading the instructions or finding out the prerequisites. We know Lord much of the consequences and embarrassments we bear are the result of our own negligence. Lead and guide us Lord as we prepare ourselves in the days ahead and for the marriage supper of the Lamb. Help us build on the right foundation in all the things we do that we might not suffer loss under test. We thank You Lord for the garment of salvation that You have given us who believe in You, and for the privilege to be clothed in Your righteousness.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Imperfect Perception

The LORD is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. He will not always strive with us, Nor will He keep His anger forever. (Psalm 103:8-9 NAS)

Imperfect Perception
As a loan settlement officer in a financial institution when I was a young adult my stern demeanor often had my colleagues mistaken me as a no-nonsense guy, so few dared to crack a joke in my presence. A temporary staff teenage girl however sensed I was not really as stern as I looked, so she ventured to chat with me on matters outside of work during break times. Before long we became friends and helped each other at work. Beyond work, we also shared about our experiences and the things we learned in our personal lives.

Jesus during His earthly ministry was mistaken by the Jewish leaders as defiant toward the Law and the Prophets. The truth however was far from what they perceived about Him for Jesus came to fulfill and not to abolish the Law or the Prophets (Matthew 5:17). He was hated by the Pharisees and the scribes because Jesus openly spoke of them as blind guides who had shut the gates of heaven so neither they nor the people could enter (Matthew 23:13). In actuality, however, although Jesus sounded harsh when He pronounced the woes of the Pharisees and the scribes (Matthew 23:23-31), He did not mean all of them were hypocrites.

Nicodemus, a Pharisee, sought the truth and Jesus directed him in the way of salvation (John 3:1-21). Joseph of Arimathea who was a member of the Council believed in the Lord and took on the responsibility of burying Jesus' body (Mark 15:43; Luke 23:50; John 19:38). Clearly, a relationship must had had developed between Jesus and them.

Sometimes when we read from the Bible about God’s punishment exacted on His people when they disobey, we may think of the Father as a fearsome God who would not leave the guilty unpunished even through generations (Exodus 34:7; Job 21:19; Lamentations 5:7). At times, we may even think of Him as a jealous and avenging God who takes vengeance on His adversaries and reserves His wrath for His enemies (Nahum 1:2). Once in a while, when crises come our way, we may think of them as punishment from God, especially when we are living a sinful lifestyle. How we perceive God however might be far from the truth or one-sided for while God is a just God, He is also a compassionate, gracious and forgiving God (Psalm 103:8-10; Joel 2:13). 

Jesus said to His disciples, “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). By this, Jesus is saying that to those who know Him and have come to be His friends, He openly shares to them about His experiences, the things above and the things on earth, as well as the things He hears from His Father.

Are we quick to assume things about people without first verifying the truth? Do we sometimes mentally label people to think of them positively or negatively without knowing them personally? Are we suspicious about the people around us most of the time or easily deceived to think otherwise?

Like the colleagues of mine and the Jewish leaders, we might sometimes be mistaken to think of people wrongly or be too swift to label them under a type of personality. At times, we might even be overly suspicious or easily deceived. As believers in the Lord, let us be shrewd and not be too quick to jump to conclusion. Instead, let us know each one personally to understand one another better, for if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us (1 John 4:12).

Dear Lord, forgive us for the times we think of You as an unforgiving God who would exact punishment on us for the wrongs we have done even after we have confessed our sin and returned to You. Help us not jump to conclusion too quickly Lord or label the people around us to think of them negatively or positively without verifying the truth. Abide in us Lord and let Your love be perfected in us. Thank You Lord for being our Friend and for being compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Halloween Scare

Halloween Scare
The party was about to begin, and the scariest of all the Halloween decorated houses appeared to be the one with a lifelike zombie crawling out from the ground with arms stretched out, ready to grab any passerby. The zombie, dressed in military uniform with a skull for his face, seemed like one that came out from the movie, World War Z. Among the many other houses in the area, there were also those decorated with pumpkin faces and heads, screaming ghost masks, cheese cloth ghosts, and cobwebs sprayed on gates.

I sometimes wonder how many of us really know the origin of Halloween, and whether we should be involved in such a celebration. Here's taking a look at an extract from the article 'Should Christians Celebrate Halloween?' by Elliott Watson at CBN.com.
The origins of Halloween are Celtic in tradition and have to do with observing the end of summer sacrifices to gods in Druidic tradition. In what is now Britain and France, it was the beginning of the Celtic year, and they believed Samhain, the lord of death, sent evil spirits abroad to attack humans, who could escape only by assuming disguises and looking like evil spirits themselves. The waning of the sun and the approach of dark winter made the evil spirits rejoice and play nasty tricks. Believe it or not, most of our Halloween practices can be traced back to these old pagan rites and superstitions.
But what about today? Perhaps we can still learn from history. In the fourth century, Christians attempted to co-opt the holiday by celebrating the lives of faithful Christian saints the day before Halloween. This was a conscious attempt to provide an alternative and re-focus the day away from ghouls, goblins, ghosts, witches and other “haunted” experiences. Since that time many Christians have decided to allow their children to dress in more “innocent” costumes of pumpkins, princesses, Superman or as a cowboy. Part of this is due to the simple reality that in today’s Western culture it is nearly impossible to “avoid” Halloween.
As Christians you and I are placed in this world to be a light in a world of darkness. There is no lasting benefit to ignore a holiday that exists around us, but it also does harm to celebrate Halloween as it has originated and grown over the centuries.
My suggestion? Christians should be teaching their children (age appropriately) that:
  • there is a spiritual world filled with goodness from God and evil from Satan (Ephesians 2:1-10);
  • life with Christ has power over darkness (I John 4:4); and
  • those who celebrate Halloween either are unaware of its roots, or are intentionally promoting a world where evil is lauded and viewed as an ultimate power.

To counter the evil influence of Halloween, we need to join together and celebrate the reality of the heroic efforts of Christian saints over the evil in their day. Many leaders in the past—and present—have fulfilled the mandate of destroying the works of the devil through their sacrificial commitment to Christ and His Kingdom.
Too, rather than “hide” in the face of evil, we should unabashedly and boldly create an alternative that is positive and uplifting; that celebrates good over evil and the triumph of God over Satan. We need to provide an environment that also makes room for heaps of fun while using the day as a “teachable moment” to celebrate God’s protection, provision and purpose for our lives.

Halloween came from the word Hallowe'en which is a contraction of "All Hallows' Eve" or the day before All Saints Day. All Saints Day is the day dedicated to the remembrance of the saints (hallows) and martyrs of the faith. So what is our family doing this Halloween?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Curiosity

I said to myself, "Come now, I will test you with pleasure. So enjoy yourself." And behold, it too was futility. (Ecclesiastes 2:1 NAS)

Curiosity
When I was a young Christian in my teens, I set upon myself an unusual quest to know, understand, and discover what it was like to face the problems other people were facing. I wanted to experience what they were experiencing so as to be in a position to help them spiritually. While the idea sounded noble, I made the mistake of placing myself at risk of testing God’s patience. I mingled with people who led a life of wanton pleasure for a little while to experience the ‘thrills’ of this world, only to realize the emptiness within me and the futility of such pursuit.

The author of the Book of Ecclesiastes described his discovery of living a life of pleasure that it was vanity and striving after wind (Ecclesiastes 2:1, 10-11). James in his epistle warned us of the danger of worldly pursuit living luxuriously on the earth and leading a life of wanton pleasure. He cautioned that such a lifestyle is equivalent to fattening our own hearts for the day of slaughter (James 5:5).

No doubt, curiosity is not something we can avoid, and to want to find out more about something is nothing wrong. When the apostle Paul spoke to the people of Athens about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject” (Acts 17:32). It was curiosity that led to the opportunity for Paul to share the gospel. Yet we must be cautious not to be nosy or inquisitive in wanting to know or try out things, otherwise we might get our fingers burned.

Are we curious to find or try out things? If we are, let us do so with caution. Not all mysteries in life are likely to be understandable while we are still here on earth. For who can discover the depths of God and the limits of the Almighty? Such mysteries are high as the heavens and deeper than the depths below (Job 11:7-8). To the world and to those who are perishing, the word of the cross is foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18). This then is how we ought to regard ourselves—as servants of Christ entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed through the understanding of His word and the gospel  (1 Corinthians 4:1). 

As stewards of God’s mysteries, are we revealing Christ in us to the world? Are our actions and behavior creating curiosity among the unsaved to want to know more about our faith?

Guide us dear Lord as we seek to know more of You and Your mysteries. Keep our paths straight Lord that we may not get sidetracked to become nosy or inquisitive. Mold us to become more and more like You Lord that others who see us may desire to know You and the message of the cross.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Black Sheep for the Faith

For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. (1 Peter 2:20 NAS)

Black Sheep for the Faith
I was deemed by my parents as the black sheep of the family when I turned from idolatry to the Christian faith years ago as a teenager. To them, I was like one who had broken a trust, a lost soul who had deviated from following the family’s faith—Taoism. Initially, my parents tried to bring me back to their fold by punishing me through starvation and locking me up at times, but before long they gave up on me after I repeatedly refused to participate in their religious practices.

Like the difficult situations that befell me after I received Jesus as my Lord and Savior, the disciples in the first century faced even greater persecution when they turned from Judaism to believe in Jesus as the Messiah. Christianity was born during that time and many died for the faith, martyred for confessing Christ. To the religious practitioners of those days—the Pharisees, the Sadducees, among others—the Christians or the followers of Christ were renegades, the black sheep of the family. Persecution ensued and many believers were stoned to death or died by the sword, on the cross, or burned at the stake for refusing to deny the faith.

As Christians, we may sometimes face difficult situations or certain disadvantages. At work, for example, we may be given a miss to a promotion because we refuse to tell a lie or be segregated from a circle of colleagues or associates for being honest. Perhaps we are facing difficult situations because of our belief or because of following Christian principles. Are we crestfallen because our friends, colleagues or associates think of us as a black sheep or because our livelihood is being threatened as a consequence of choosing to do the right thing or tell the truth? 

If we are feeling distraught because of persecution or because of the difficult situations we face for doing the right thing, we ought not to. For we have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example to follow in His steps. If for the sake of conscience toward God we bear up under sorrows when suffering unjustly, it is commendable. If we do what is right and suffer for it and endure it patiently, this finds favor with God (1 Peter 2:19-21). It is better, if God should will it so, that we suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong (1 Peter 3:17). Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial, for once having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him (James 1:12).

Dear Lord, though the world may despise us because of our faith, we will not deny You because You are our rock and our salvation, our fortress in whom we will never be shaken. You O Lord have called us for Your purpose and if You should will it so, we are willing to go through trials or be disadvantaged to do what is right to honor You. Bless us Lord as we persevere under difficult situations and trials. Help us not be crestfallen or distraught Lord even if our friends, colleagues, associates or other people stay away from us or disallow us into their circle because of our faith. Grant us Your favor Lord in all we do that we will stand strong and stay unshaken.

Friday, October 11, 2013

What are you doing for Him?

What are you doing for Him?
Has anyone ever done something for you that you have remembered it your entire life?

Recently my Mom told me she had added a new friend to her Facebook list, Rodney, a guy she’d known since elementary school. He emailed her and told her he remembered her and their time in school together. He also shared a memory he had of her. He said in an email (which he gave me permission to use), “I remember I had a Birthday party when I was in the 2nd or 3rd grade. I remember inviting the entire class, but only you and Clenard from school came. I was so devastated. That I cried like a baby. It was my first birthday party as a kid. I remember you gave me a book of life savers candies. That is a very special memory that I will never forget. Thanks!!!!”

I remember when I was growing up my Mom told me about Rodney. Whenever we looked at pictures she would point him out and tell me about going to his birthday party. She remembered that she was the only white person there and she didn’t know why others from her class hadn’t come. She remembered Rodney’s mother walking to the car and hugging her mother, thanking her for letting Mom come to the party. It was something from her childhood that stuck out in her mind, but she never knew that it had been a special memory in Rodney’s mind as well.

As I think of this story and my Mom finding out years later that Rodney remembers her coming to his birthday party, I’m reminded that each day we never know the lives we are touching. Something we do may help someone else, and they will remember it for the rest of their life.

In Matthew 25:34-40 we read:

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 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.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

What you do or say may feel insignificant in your mind at the time. Maybe it’s just something you do naturally. Maybe you think no one notices what you do. It doesn’t matter who it’s for … whether a classmate, your sister, the homeless man at the corner, the cashier at the grocery store, your co-worker, the president of your company … Jesus is watching and is pleased when we give to others and show His love. We’re really doing it for Him. Bethany P.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Each Day’s Requirements

David left Asaph and his associates before the ark of the covenant of the LORD to minister there regularly, according to each day’s requirements. (1 Chronicles 16:37 NIV)

Each Day's Requirements
Asaph and his co-workers ministered and worked in the temple each day. The tasks they performed varied day to day, depending on what was needed. I’ve been thinking about what it means to minister to others. Too often I look back on my day and realize I’ve ignored the Holy Spirit’s urging and a chance to serve someone else.

God doesn’t expect some spectacular, glorious deed performed on a stage or in the limelight. Some of the best ministering I’ve received involved listening, hugging, an encouraging note or email, or a helping hand. Ministering like Asaph means looking for occasions throughout the day to comfort a child, help a co-worker or call a friend. I love that Asaph and his helpers watched for what the day would bring. They didn’t set such a rigid schedule that they ignored opportunity, instead they watched for the chance to minister. This week let’s minister according to the day’s requirements. Penny Mcginnis

Friday, September 27, 2013

Tangible Proofs

But He knows the way I take; When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold. (Job 23:10 NAS)

Tangible Proofs
The jittery feeling moments before an exam is always disconcerting. I remember many things would run through my mind that would leave me in self-doubt pondering whether I had done enough to pass the test when I was an undergraduate. 

Not all of us are likely to enjoy taking an exam, yet without it we seldom can prove we have learned the lessons taught to us. When an employer or a hirer wishes to engage a person for a job or task, the first things he or she looks for are usually tangible proofs of achievement such as our accolades, career portfolio or educational transcripts.

Like me and everyone else who had sat for an exam, Abraham was probably also feeling unease when put to the test while sojourning in Egypt and Gerar to say Sarah, his wife, was his sister (Genesis 12:10-20; 20:1-14).  Abraham did not do well for the two tests, yet God did not turn away from him but showed him mercy. Years later, when he was again tested, Abraham did well in willingly offering up his only son Isaac and to trust God completely (Genesis 22:1-19; Hebrews 11:17-19). For his faith, it was accorded to Abraham as righteousness and he was called the friend of God (James 2:23).

Are we facing a difficult situation or going through a trial or test right now? Are we feeling jittery or unease because we are unsure whether we have enough faith to make it through to tomorrow or the days ahead? Perhaps we do not have the accolades, portfolio or transcripts to prove our accomplishments or perhaps we have failed badly in our tests. Are we in doubt of ourselves and our abilities? Are we in doubt of God’s care for us?

If we are walking with God, we need not doubt. Just as God did not abandon Abraham in his failures, He will not abandon us if we walk in Him. He knows the way we take and when He has tried us, we shall come forth as gold (Job 23:10). For though gold is refined by fire, it is the proof of our faith that is more precious, that we might result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed (1 Peter 1:7).

Let us therefore test ourselves to see that we are in the faith and recognize that Jesus Christ is in us—unless indeed we fail the test (2 Corinthians 13:5). Though we may suffer grief and trials for a little time, we need not be afraid (1 Peter 1:6; Exodus 20:20). For blessed are we who persevere under trial because having stood the test we will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him (James 1:12).

Dear Lord, forgive us for sometimes falling into self-doubt. We know Lord there is no need for us to doubt because You will not abandon us even when we fail badly in our tests. Help us Lord to hold fast to our faith, especially in our moments of weakness and during times of our testing and trials. Refine us as You will O Lord that we might reveal more of You and come forth as gold in praise, glory and honor to Your name.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Diamond Cuts

Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before obscure men. (Proverbs 22:29 NAS)

Diamond Cuts
Before mathematical diamond cutting was formulated by Belgian craftsman Marcel Tolkowsky in 1919, chisels, mallets and other diamonds were used by craftsmen to painstakingly cut diamonds by hand, according to an article by Kaye Wagner at eHow.com. Few craftsmen were skilled enough to create jewelry-grade diamonds in those days because of the difficult process and the lack of skilled workers. Arguably, the diamond's cut is its most important characteristic. A diamond that is cut well is better at reflecting light than one that is cut less skillfully. Specialty cuts have more facets than regular cuts and create more sparkles of light.

The Bible tells us that a man skilled in his work stands before kings rather than obscure men (Proverbs 22:29). In today’s context, this is akin to the preference of a skilled worker over the unskilled. A person who is an expert in a particular field of work or study is usually valued more by the hirer or is respected by people.

Like the expert craftsmen and skilled workers, the Bible exhorts us to be diligent to present ourselves approved to God as workmen who do not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). In order for us to become experts in handling the word of truth, however, we need first to study God’s word in depth and be trained.

Too often many of us have allowed our sins rather than God’s word to be inscribed with an iron chisel, engraved with a diamond point on our stony hearts and altars of our own desires (Jeremiah 17:1). Although by this time we ought to be teachers, we have need again for someone to teach us the elementary principles of God’s word, and have come to need milk instead of solid food. Everyone who lives on milk is an infant and is not accustomed to the word of righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice has senses trained to discern good and evil (Hebrews 5:12-14).

Are we unskilled in the word of truth? Are we neglecting the studying of God’s word? If we are, we need to grow up to become experts. Like newborn babies longing for pure spiritual milk to grow in respect to salvation, let us crave to have God’s word inscribed and stored in our hearts that we might not sin against God (1 Peter 2:2-3; Psalm 119:11).

Just as specialty cuts in diamonds through more facets create more sparkles of light, let God’s word sharpen us in and through all aspects of our lives to brightly shine. Equip and root ourselves in God’s word so as to better reflect Christ our Lord—the hope of glory and light of the world (John 8:12; Colossians 1:27).

Dear Lord, thank You for Your written word that equips us for every good work. Inscribe on our hearts Your precious word Lord that we might grow to have our senses trained to discern good and evil rather than remain in need of elementary principles. Sharpen our lives through Your word Lord to better reflect You in us, for we desire to shine brightly to reveal Your light and glory to this darkened world.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Asking for More

The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. (Psalm 23:1 NIV)

Asking for More
"Stop asking for more and be thankful for what you already have!"

That's what I always tell myself, even when in desperate need with mouths to feed. I have through the many ups and downs in my career life learned what it is to be content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, living in plenty or in want (Philippians 4:12). Through the years, God has been good and faithful to me and my household, and I simply cannot ask for more. Yes, many a time I have hoped to have something extra to share with my loved ones and not leave them wanting. Without a choice, however, there would always be days, months, and sometimes years, we have to tighten our belts and live humbly.

The Bible tells us that God will meet all our needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). He is able to bless us abundantly in all things at all times, that having all our needs met, we will abound in every good work (2 Corinthians 9:8). Nevertheless, God’s word also exhorts us to consider it all joy when we face various trials, knowing that the testing of our faith produces perseverance that we may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4).

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

As Christians, are we allowed to ask God for more than what we are receiving now? When is asking for something extra acceptable and when is it not?

If we are walking in obedience to all that God has commanded us and honoring Him with whatever He has blessed us with, we can rest assured He is more than willing to prosper us (Deuteronomy 5:33; Proverbs 3:9-10, 11:24-25). This is the confidence we have in approaching God, that if our hearts do not condemn us and we are asking according to His will, He hears us and will give us anything we ask (1 John 3:21-22, 5:14-15). For the LORD is our shepherd, we will not lack anything (Psalm 23:1). Ask and we will receive, seek and we will find, knock and the door will be opened to us (Matthew 7:7-8; Luke 11:9-10). If we believe we have receive whatever we ask for in prayer, it will be ours (Mark 11:24).

Are we lacking anything? Ask and we will receive, that our joy may be complete (John 16:24). Are we seeking to make ends meet in keeping our loved ones and ourselves alive? If we are, we need not worry, for the door will soon be opened to us if we pray believing we have received.

Asking for more when we are lacking is perfectly sensible and fine. However, if we have more than enough and desire extra to feed our own pleasures, we will not receive what we ask for because we ask with wrong motives (James 4:3). If our motive is right and according to the will of God, whether we are rich or poor, God will give us more than sufficient to meet our needs. If our motive is wrong, even what we possess now may be taken away (Matthew 25:29; Mark 4:25; Luke 19:26). Learn to ask for more only when we are lacking or in need to help the deprived.

Dear Lord, thank You for giving us all that we have. Help us Lord when we are lacking to know how to live humbly and be content, and when we have plenty to give generously to meet the needs of the needy. Open the door we seek to open Lord that we may receive Your bountiful blessings that complete our joy. Grant us the extra we need Lord to fulfill Your will, and guide our hearts to know what condemns us in seeking our own pleasures. You O Lord are our shepherd, we lack nothing. In You Lord we are assured of the plans You have for us, to prosper us and to give us a hope and a future.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Truth Hurts

But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the LORD, and be sure your sin will find you out. (Numbers 32:23 NAS)

Truth Hurts
A relative of mine in her 70s was diagnosed with liver cancer not too long ago. Out of love and concern, her children decided not to let her know about her condition so that she may live happily for the rest of her remaining years, months, or days.

We may sometimes hide certain information from people we know so as protect them or to minimize their hurt. Such avoidance or pretense, although well-intended, may lead to self-detriment in more ways than we can possibly imagine. Concealing the truth, withholding or hiding something because of shame, can affect our behavior and especially our conversations. More than likely, a day will come when the truth will be revealed, and if we have anything to hide, it shall be exposed.

The Bible makes it very clear that nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light (Mark 4:22; Luke 8:17). All things become visible when exposed by the light, and everything that becomes visible is light (Ephesians 5:13). Malice may be concealed by deception, but wickedness will be exposed, for everyone who does evil hates the Light and does not come to the Light for fear his or her deeds will be exposed (Proverbs 26:26; John 3:20).

Whether we choose to hide or reveal the truth is up to us to decide. If letting a person know the truth hurts more than help, then we should confer with God to know what is best for us to do. Whatever the decision, however, we need to be aware the revelation is merely delayed and will come to light sooner or later.

If our decision to hide is because of shame or something we have done wrong, let us come before God and confess our sin. Do not participate in unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead expose them (Ephesians 5:11). If we will not do so, be sure our sin will find us out (Numbers 32:23).

Dear Lord, forgive us for sometimes hiding the truth from the people we know. You O God are all knowing, and You see through our hearts and know our thoughts. We know Lord that nothing is hidden that will not be exposed sooner or later and regardless good intention or out of shame our hearts are laid bare before You. Correct us when we do wrong Lord and guide us in our making the decision to delay or reveal what needs to be made known. Comfort those who are hurting, Lord. Help them face tomorrow and the days to come in Your strength.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Over Breathing

Take a deep breath, God; calm down—don’t be so hasty with your punishing rod. (Psalm 38:1 MSG)

Over Breathing
“Take a deep breath and calm down.”

Such an advice is not unfamiliar to many of us. We know deep breathing is one of the best ways to calm down, especially when we are feeling stressed. Few of us, however, pay attention to the fact that it is only when we breathe out that our tension is released, not when we breathed in. Holding our breath tenses us up and makes us feel breathless. 

People with panic disorder frequently experience shortness of breath or the feeling of not having enough air in their lungs, according to an article at PanicDisorder.About.com. Since all of us need to breathe to sustain life, such symptoms quickly bring about a sense of panic and fear. When we experience anxiety or panic, our breathing becomes quick, short and shallow, usually not because of a lack of oxygen, but because of over breathing or hyperventilation.

A quick relief to hyperventilation is to breathe into a paper bag, as advised in an article at Medical-Dictionary.TheFreeDictionary.com. Hyperventilation reduces the level of carbon dioxide (CO2) in our blood. By rebreathing the CO2 that was exhaled and trapped in the paper bag, the amount of CO2 in the bloodstream can be normalized.

Like the way exhaling helps provide relief from tension, the Bible mentioned a number of ways we can find relief from unwanted stress. When King David was on the edge of losing it, he cried out to God and confessed his sin (Psalm 38:3-4, 17-18). He called upon God not to dump him or stand him up, but to calm down and not be so hasty with the punishing rod (Psalm 38:21, 1). David poured out all his sorrows to God and did not hide anything from God (Psalm 38:8-9).

Are we losing our breath and panicking because of anxiety or stress? Are we exhaling and breathing too quickly, exerting and spending too much of our energy on things that are unfruitful or exhausting? If we are, then we need to let go what is holding our breath so that we may find relief from our tension. Just as the paper bag helps regulate hyperventilation, let God’s word regulate our lives that we may no longer smug in our sin. Confess to God all our wrongdoings and cry out to God just as David did. Seek forgiveness in sorrow, repent, and hide nothing from God.

If we are feeling all dried up, hopeless, with nothing left to look forward to, God is saying to us to follow Him, and He will save us from our sinful backsliding and will cleanse us. He will breathe His life into us and make a covenant of peace with us that will hold everything together for eternity (Ezekiel 37:11, 14, 23-24, 26).

Dear Lord, thank You for granting us relief in our times of stress and anxiety. You O God know our hearts, and all the things we have done and intend to do. Our souls are opened up before You and we hide nothing from You. We confess our failings Lord and repent of all our sins. Forgive us Lord and save us from our sinful backsliding. Cleanse us and breathe Your life into us that we may be restored in Your covenant of peace all the days of our lives to eternity.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Out of the Usual

So he humbled you by making you hungry and then feeding you with unfamiliar manna. He did this to teach you that humankind cannot live by bread alone, but also by everything that comes from the LORD's mouth. (Deuteronomy 8:3 NET)

Out of the Usual
One of the most intriguing foods I have ever eaten while abroad was fried baby scorpions in China. Although I was not particularly interested in trying out unfamiliar or exotic foods because of a weak stomach, I ventured into taking up the challenge when I was served the much acclaimed delicacy. The fried scorpions turned out to be quite tasty—something special.

Like the many exotic foods we might have tasted while traveling abroad, there was a time when the children of Israel also had the opportunity to try out an unfamiliar food that was out of the usual—manna (Exodus 16:15, 31). God fed the children of Israel with bread from heaven so as to teach them that man does not live by bread alone but by everything that comes from the mouth of God (Deuteronomy 8:3).

When the tempter said to Jesus to command the stones to become bread so as to prove He was the Son of God, Jesus said, “It is written, ‘Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4). Jesus told His disciples that His food is to do the will of the One who sent Him and to complete His work (John 4:34).

This was why Jesus taught that we should not work for food that spoils, but for the food that endures to eternal life—the food which only He can give to us (John 6:27). The children of Israel ate the bread from heaven, but God the Father has given us the Bread of Life who came down from heaven that whoever comes to Him will never be hungry again (John 6:31-33, 35).

Are we hungry and needing food? Are we worried about our lives or the lives of our loved ones as to what we shall eat or drink, or about what we shall wear? Perhaps we are cash-strapped, facing financial crisis at this time or are not having enough to feed ourselves or our family. The Bible says, above all, pursue God’s kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to us. Instead of worrying about tomorrow, therefore, let tomorrow worry about itself; for today has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:25, 33-34).

Life in the real world is not just about food and clothing or going exotic places and eating exotic foods. It is about putting our complete trust in God and staying true to fulfill His will above all else. Just as God provided manna for the children of Israel in their need and the Bread of Life to us so that we have eternal life, rest assured He will also provide for our daily needs (2 Corinthians 9:8; Philippians 4:19).

Dear Lord, we know Your grace is sufficient for us. Even when we have reached the end of the rope, we can and will put our complete trust in You. You O God are a compassionate God who cares for us more than we can ever understand. You will never leave us or forsake us but will bless us abundantly so that we have enough of everything in every way at all times overflowing in every good work. Thank You God for giving us the Bread of Life in whom we receive eternal life. Help us not worry about tomorrow but to stay assured You will provide for our daily needs as we seek first to do Your will.

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