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 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 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.

Friday, August 16, 2013

No Expiry

Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. (Matthew 24:35 NAS)

No Expiry
“Is there an expiry date tagged to the story?” I ask myself whenever I write a devotional.

This is because I usually begin the devotional with an anecdote, event or an experiential life story of someone or mine. In my thoughts is the constant question, “Will this devotional still be applicable years down the road?”

As a devotional writer, I hope to carry through in my writings not only a message that touches hearts and glorifies God’s name but also is current, practical, and preferably timeless—always applicable and never outdated. Many a time, however, such a goal is not achievable because nothing on this earth lasts forever—not our wealth, treasures, circumstances, ideas or our writings (Matthew 6:18-20; James 5:2-3).

Every one of us goes through different chapters in our lives. As each tenure ends and another begins, we need always to be ready to let go what was lost or had expired and move on rather than hang on to what is no longer ours. Our jobs, our loved ones, and the many things we once treasured may have passed on, yet there is no need for us to resign ourselves without hope. Even if we may begin to wear out physically, we need not lose heart, because inwardly we are being renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16).

Just as in order to travel abroad we need our passports to be renewed regularly, so it is upon the expiry of each stage of our lives that we ought also to renew and regain new strength from God. For those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength and mount up with wings like eagles, and will not get tired or become weary (Isaiah 40:31). Our God will lead us in our days ahead, even to our old age (Isaiah 46:4).

Like grass and flower, our possessions and writings may wither and fade, but the word of our God stands forever (Isaiah 40:8). Even after heaven and earth have passed away, the words of our Lord will not pass away (Matthew 24:35). God is eternal and His word endures forever (Psalm 119:89; 1 Peter 1:25). Everything God does remains forever and will not expire (Ecclesiastes 3:14). His love is everlasting; His kingdom and throne remain forever (Jeremiah 33:11; Lamentations 5:19).

Are we pursuing things that expire after some time or accumulating things that do not last? Have we lost someone or something that we become pessimistic in our outlook? Are we diligently studying and learning from the one source that lasts forever—the word of God, to know the One who is ready to lead us all the days of our lives?

If we are willing to let go our unhappy past and move on to gain new strength from God, He who is eternal, together with His word which endures forever, will guide us for the rest of our days on earth.

Lead us dear Lord all the days of our lives. See us through good times and bad times. Do not let us for any reason give up hope or see the future with despair, gloom, or pessimism. Help us not hold on to things that are already lost or have expired or hang on to sad memories of the past. Renew our minds and strength Lord that we may look forward to the days ahead as we continue to walk in You. We love You Lord and exalt Your name for Your love is everlasting and Your kingdom and throne endures forever.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Living by Example

Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48 NAS)
Living by Example
"Look at how the guy conducts himself. This surely is not an example of his faith as a Christian, is it?”

Some of us may have heard such a remark being said about us or someone else. Whether we like it or not, as Christians we are constantly under the scrutiny of the people around us. We may readily admit we are just human, imperfect in our ways. Yet Jesus said, "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48).

As a fallen people saved by grace, how are we to conduct ourselves and live up to such a tall calling? The answer is in the next verse. Jesus said, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 6:1). Although the focus of this verse is about not displaying acts of righteousness to show off to men, it is implied that perfection is not something we can achieve by our own effort or through practice. For by grace we have been saved through faith; and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

To be perfect is therefore about the onward goal to walk in the empowerment of the Holy Spirit in bearing His fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Acts 1:8; Galatians 5:22-23). All these traits are not likely to come upon us the moment we receive Jesus. As we allow the Holy Spirit to work in us to become more Christ-like, such will gradually and naturally grow in us. 

Living by example to reveal Christ to the world through our lives is not about pretense but about faith in God. Like Jesus, we may be misunderstood at times when we are seen in the company of people who are considered not morally acceptable in conduct (Matthew 9:10-13). Or perhaps, we may be doing something wrong or behaving in a way that does not correspond to our faith as a Christian. Whether we are doing right or wrong, we need to always remember we are followers of Christ and should not become stumbling blocks to others or to the weak (1 Corinthians 8:9).

Let us in all things show ourselves as examples of good deeds with purity in doctrine, dignity, soundness of speech that is beyond reproach so our opponents having nothing bad to say about us may be put to shame (Titus 2:7-8). Since we belong to Christ Jesus and have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires, let us who live by the Spirit also walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:24-25). For we have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example to follow in His steps (1 Peter 2:21).

Forgive us dear Lord for the many times our conduct have misconstrued Your ways and love for Your people. Empower us Lord by Your Spirit to bear good fruit that Your name may be glorified. Help us be good examples that we may reveal You to the world through our daily lives without pretense or causing others to stumble. Thank You Lord for leaving us an example to follow in Your steps.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Expanding our Riches

Then he said, 'This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. (Luke 12:18 NAS)

Expanding our Riches
When a Canadian business decided it was time to expand to the United States, it thought it was the right way to move forward. According to an article of February 24, 2013 at, Harry Rosen Inc., a Canadian chain of men’s high-end fashion stores, thought it had to grow to become a larger market player. So during the late 1980s or early 1990s, it made the decision to expand abroad. Shortly after it opened a store in Buffalo, New York, it discovered the retail scene in the United States was very different.

One of the biggest challenges Harry Rosen encountered was the need to constantly change who ran the store at Buffalo. The store was a very small part of the business, yet in order to get it to become successful, much attention was needed. In the late 1990s, the store was converted into a boutique as part of a business venture with Hugo Boss to open a number of stores in the United States. Business in Canada was thriving but operations in the United States were absorbing many of its key people and their attention despite losing money.

Eventually, in 2001, the decision was made for the business to exit the United States to refocus on its Canadian operations. Within two to three years, Harry Rosen recouped its losses and performed much better for its Canadian operations.

Like the story of Harry Rosen’s venture into expanding markets, Jesus told a parable of a rich man who contemplated to expand his barns to store more grain and goods (Luke 12:16-20). With the expansion, the rich man was hoping to lay up plenty of crops for many years and take life easy; eat, drink and be merry. But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your soul is required of you.” So who would own what the rich man had prepared?

Expanding our business or financial standing is perfectly fine so long as we know the risks and are not storing up treasures for ourselves. Nevertheless, it is better for us to be rich toward God than toward worldly gains (Luke 12:21; Matthew 6:19-20). If we discover we are losing ourselves in this world or becoming too absorbed accumulating earthly riches, then we need to take steps to recoup by refocusing on God.

Let us never ever give up our love for the Lord (Revelation 2:4-5). Always remember the devotion of our youth, how we loved and followed Him (Jeremiah 2:2). Direct our focus on God that we may in all areas of our lives perform better (Hebrews 12:2-3; Isaiah 40:31). Fix our eyes directly ahead and our gaze straight. Give careful thought to the paths we take and stay steadfast in all our ways. Do not turn to the right or left; walk away from evil (Proverbs 4:25-27).

Dear Lord, thank You for the many blessings You have given us. We know that every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father. Help us be mindful Lord the Giver rather than the gift and not to expand our wealth to the point of losing ourselves. Restore us Lord as we refocus our lives and fix our eyes on You that we may once again devote ourselves to love You more and more every day.