Wednesday, August 27, 2008

zooming out

by Kevin Heffernan (California, U.S.A.)

MY dad brings his camera along wherever he goes. For him, even a walk around the neighborhood can turn into an opportunity for a photo shoot. As years have gone by and our family has welcomed in-laws, children, and grandchildren, Dad has zoomed out his camera lens more and more so that we all fit in the picture.

Watching Dad has taught me something important. To help us maintain perspective on our circumstances, my wife and I apply the concept of zooming out. When money is tight, a loved one is ill, or a conflict arises, we take a few minutes to shift from our limited viewpoint to God's more long-term outlook. This is a practical way to increase joy and to decrease fear.

Focusing on close-up shots of any problem can be overwhelming. God does not want us to live in fear. Rather, God wants us to experience the abundant life possible for us. When we feel consumed by a situation, we can "zoom out."

Friday, August 22, 2008

Look up

In the previous posting we talked about 'Goliaths' of many kinds that we have to face in life. In order to be able to face and overcome those Goliaths, we need to have proper training as David had as a shepherd. Besides, we need to be equipped with the right tools.

Most of the time we are being surrounded by Goliaths. We cant move forward because he is right in front of our way but we cant move backward either because another kind of Goliath is standing there. We try to go to the left but the Goliath of family crisis is hindering us. We turn to our right, hoping to see an opening to escape but Goliath of financial problem is also staring right to our face.....where should we go? what should we do?

I could imagine if David was also in that situation. When he saw the giant Goliath, he might speak to himself "What a giant!..we could I run?! But can I run away?..If I run away, King Saul must be very angry at me and have me killed"...So what did David do? He faced the giant in faith!! He looked up at God and step forward fully relying in Him.

We are in the very same situation quite often then not. Surrounded by giants of life issues and have no where to go. What can we do?..Look up to God because He is watching over is...He will deliver us from that giants...We might think that God is not watching but He does...Remember when we go watching our child taking part in activities in school?...When he is performing with his teammates, we as parents will try our best to focus on him. We did not really look at the entire team but we focus on our child alone. Even though there are many of them out there doing the activities or performance but our focus is on our child only. We just know what and how he is doing. He might do not see us because we are sitting in the middle of a big crowd..but at times, when he look up, he will see us sitting there.....

As a child of God, we just need to look up to the Father...we know He is right there focusing on us, watching us....take a time to look up....

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Facing Goliath

In our life, everyday is a challenge by itself. Carrying out our responsibility as fathers, sons, daughters, employees, employers, teachers, students and so on challenges us in various ways. Quite often we failed in our battle against those challenges. We failed in overcoming those obstacles. But whether we realize it or not, more often than not, our failure was usually due to our own attitude towards those challenges. Are we well prepared?. Are we using the right tools?

Reflecting on preparedness and tool choices, the battle between David and Goliath gives a very good example. Prior to being called to face the giant, David was a young and brave shepherd. He used to defend his flocks against foxes with only his slingshot. When he came to battle against Goliath, Saul lent him some armor, which was too big and too heavy for David. So instead of taking the armor and sword, David wisely chose his slingshot. The slingshot had served him well in defending his flocks. he really knew how the slingshot works. But the most importantly, he came against Goliath in faith to God.

Quite often we also make choices. When we rely on our own devices, we quickly find that the job overwhelms us. When we rely on armor and sword, we find that the armor and sword are too heavy for us. But when we step out in faith, relying on God's power and grace, even with the least sophisticated tools, there is no end to what we can accomplish. Even with only five loaves and two fishes, we can do beyond our expectation if we walk in faith and totally relying on God's power and grace.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

a perfect direction

by Tori Tremaine Walker (Kentucky, U.S.A.)

The psalmist prayed, "Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me."
-Psalm 119:133 (NIV)

AFTER visiting a friend, I began my journey home, following his directions through miles of beautiful farmland. Time lagged as I drove on and on past unmarked roads winding their way through fields of corn. I began to have doubts. Could he have made a mistake in the directions? Maybe he left out something or forgot an important turn. I almost turned to go a different way that I thought must be correct. But then common sense took over, and I realized I could trust his directions. He had lived in the area all his life; certainly the route he outlined would lead me safely home. Sure enough, before long I reached the highway and headed home. His directions were perfect!

God also offers us direction for life. But often we doubt God's guidance or think maybe we have a better way. Sometimes we neglect to seek God's direction at all.

The guidance we need comes through the Bible, through the Holy Spirit speaking to our hearts, through prayer, through situations we experience, and through people God brings into our lives. God will give us direction if we ask, and we can be certain that God's guidance is always trustworthy.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Aaron of our life

Is there any time in life when we feel like giving up? When we fed up of many things around us? Time when we lost almost all of our confidence to move on? I'm sure there is..

There must be time when we feel everything is not as we have wished for...Surely, if God asks us to do something during that trying moment, we will certainly try not to say yes to God. We will try our best to negotiate even though we know God is able to do whatever He wants to do. At that time, we will be the best person in reasoning.

Just like Moses when God first called him and told him to go and speak to the people of Israel. He tries his best to reason with God. He reasons about what to tell them if the ask about God's name, what if the do not believe that Moses has really seen God. God gives him answers to all his questions even shows him signs that He is really a true God. But even with all that signs and assurances, Moses still not willing to do it. Because he acknowledges God power and strength, he use his own weaknesses to reason with God. "I am not good in talking. I am slow of tongue". Very good argument but what God said in response?..."Who has made man's mouth?"...Reading the Book of Exodus up to this point, I am expecting God to use His power to transform Moses into someone who has the ability to speak with authority. But He does not do that. Maybe Moses was expecting the same or perhaps he was expecting God to give him task that will not involve talking. But God is beyond man's expectation. Far beyond. Indeed, He put Aaron in the picture. Moses and Aaron will compliment each other. Moses does the talking with God, Aaron does the talking with the people of Israel.

When we feel lost, when we feel defeated, when we feel we are full of shortcomings to be able to do that job, talk to God. Speak out our inabilities to Him and He will provide 'Aarons' for us.....

Thursday, August 14, 2008

putting love into action

    by Kenny A. Noble (Indiana, U.S.A.)

    I was preoccupied with tasks around the house and paid little attention to the distant voice outside my back door. I assumed that I was hearing the neighborhood children playing, but later I realized that someone was calling for help. Finally alarmed, I ran toward the sound and discovered a neighbor with his fingers caught in the engine belt of his garden tractor.

    "Help me!" he cried.

    I cut the engine belt and set him free. He had tried to repair the running engine. Fortunately the motor had stalled, leaving his fingers only pinched and bruised.

    I left feeling guilty, knowing that if I had responded at his first cry, I could have spared him some of his suffering. As I prayed to become more sensitive to my surroundings, God helped me to see that I also sometimes fail to notice the emotional pain of the people around me. I realized that preoccupation with personal interests had often made me insensitive. I determined from that moment on to listen more attentively and to be sensitive to the needs of those around me.

Love has been the central of Jesus's teaching. Firstly, He tells us to love God with all our heart. Secondly, He tells us to love one another, to love our neighbors, to love our enemies. Why love God?. By loving God, we will do our best to obey God's commands. If we do not love God, we will ignore all His commands. But love must be put into act and in good faith. We cannot just say we have love but do not put it into action. Loving God means doing and following His commands.

Love one another, love your neighbors, love your enemies. It might be easy to love one another especially families and friends. So as to love our neighbors. But how about to love our enemies? If we love our enemies, do we still have enemies? Loving our enemies is similar to making friend with our enemies. I realize that what Jesus wants us to understand is that we live in peace with one another. To love one another is the way of living that He wants us to practice. By loving one another we do not have enemies.

But that love need to be put into act not merely in word and in tongue. And the act of love must be in good faith....

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

live the word and live by the word

by Paul M. Nagano (California, U.S.A.)

The Word became flesh and lived among us . . . full of grace and truth.
-John 1:14 (NRSV)

WHEN I was first introduced to Christianity, I had no real knowledge of God or that God was a God of love. My Sunday school teachers taught me John 3:16, "God so loved the world . . . ." They also taught me Psalm 23 and the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13. Being taught from the Bible was a real revelation to me. In reflection, what really convinced me that these teachers were genuine and that what they were teaching me was true was the way they lived their lives. Whenever I was absent from Sunday school, they would visit me and express their love and care for me.

I was from an immigrant family - poor, lonely, rather isolated, and neglected. But what I was taught became truly meaningful and life-transforming; what I was being taught was made flesh in the lives of these Sunday school teachers. Over time, my whole life and purpose in life were transformed as the Word became flesh to me personally. I surrendered and committed my life to God's love and have endeavored to serve God as a minister for 63 years. In Jesus, the Word of God became flesh. When love becomes flesh, things begin to happen. They did in my life.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

forgiven by grace

by Tony Nancarrow (South Australia, Australia)

All of us make many mistakes.
-James 3:2 (NRSV)

EVEN though Simon the Pharisee neglected to offer Jesus the customary courtesies of hospitality - foot washing, a kiss, anointing - he is appalled that Jesus would allow this sinful woman to touch him. Jesus then tells a parable about two people whose debts were forgiven by a compassionate moneylender. One had been given a large sum and the other a much smaller amount. Jesus asks Simon which of the two would love the moneylender the most. When Simon identifies the one who has been forgiven the most, Jesus draws parallels between the parable and the woman who has anointed his feet.

A marginalized and judged woman responded to the generous love and grace of God in a way that a religious leader was unable to do. God's way is unbound by legalism. Rather, God's way is the way of grace, forgiveness, generosity, justice, compassion, and inclusion - a message embodied in Jesus.

Like Simon, we all know what it is like to make mistakes and to think ourselves always right. But God's love and forgiveness challenge our self-righteousness. If we truly receive the freedom God's grace gives us, we will be slow to judge and quick to forgive.

Monday, August 11, 2008

the beauty of change

by Star Ferdinand (Texas, U.S.A.)

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
-1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV)

LOOKING up at the hills near Lake Elsinore, California, I remembered the hills behind the neighborhood where I grew up. They were a great place to play - fairly safe, with just a slight element of danger to add excitement to our days. Several years later, those hilltops and tiny caves were gone, replaced by large, modern homes.

Just as neighborhoods change over the years, so do people. We go through various experiences that change us. Whether the results are for the better depends largely on our attitude.

Consider the apostle Paul. Both he and his living conditions changed after his experience with Christ on the Damascus Road. Rather than arresting Christians, he became a courageous and bold defender of the faith. He was beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, and imprisoned. Paul certainly had good reason to complain, but he thanked God. Why? Paul recognized that his greatest treasure was Jesus Christ and the righteousness Christ offers.

Change is inevitable for all of us. So when it comes, we can look for the new opportunities God is offering in it and, like Paul, we can rejoice, give thanks, and embrace the change.

Friday, August 8, 2008

He is watching over us

by Lilia Michelle Rivera Martínez (Puerto Rico)

The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.
-Psalm 34:7 (NRSV)

HAVING lived through two experiences that changed my life, I have learned that God's concern for my life is real.

Several years ago, on two separate occasions, I was attacked by an armed assailant. I never thought I would experience such traumatic and frightening events. However, prior to each attack, I sensed God's presence. Seconds before each attack, I heard the words of Psalm 34:7: "The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them." Afterward, I understood why God had brought to my mind those words.

Today, after many years, I also know that a Christian is not guaranteed a life free from unpleasant or ugly situations. But God cares for us and never abandons us. We can be secure in this hope.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

pray persistently

by Ann Staatz (Oregon, U.S.A.)

Be persistent in prayer, and keep alert as you pray, giving thanks to God.
-Colossians 4:2 (TEV)

A mother robin built her nursery on the beam supporting my back porch roof. The beam was a dry, safe place for raising babies, but I pictured the floor covered with bird droppings. I decided the nest had to go. I batted it down with a broom and dropped the dried mud, sticks, and string into my garbage can. Two days later, another nest appeared in the same place. With the broom I again made short work of the robin's painstaking creation. Several days later, yet another nest rested on the beam.

My heart softened as I thought, If this mother robin has worked that hard, carrying one stick at a time, one drop of mud at a time to the beam, maybe I should leave her alone. So I did.

The robin's persistence reminded me of the story Jesus told his disciples. A widow repeatedly brought her case before a hardened judge. Because of the woman's constant requests, the judge finally agreed to hear the case. Jesus was illustrating that we should continually bring our needs before God in prayer. If a woman's repeated request eventually caused an uncaring judge to consent, certainly our consistent prayers will gain the ear of our loving heavenly Father. Often we become discouraged and give up praying. Instead, the story in Luke tells us to continue praying and never give up.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Why should we read/study the Bible?

As a young Christian, we might ask why should I read the Bible. There is a lot of valid and acceptable answers to this that we had heard from other people or had read from Christian's books. Personally, my reason for studying the Bible is that I want to know God and His commands. The Bible speaks about the many characters of God. It talks about God's commands. It talks about how we should live.

Recently, I found this interesting site explains quite clearly the reasons to why should we read the Bible. I am truly blessed by its insight. Therefore, I would like to share it with you.

The article says:

    Simply stated, we should read and study the Bible because it is God's word to us. 2 Timothy 3:16 states that the Bible is "God-breathed." In other words, it is God's Word to us. There are so many questions that philosophers and people have asked that God answers for us in Scripture: What is the purpose to life? Where did I come from? Is there life after death? What happens after death? How do I get to heaven? Why is the world full of evil? Why do I struggle to do good? In addition to these "big" questions, it gives a ton of practical advice in areas such as: What do I look for in a mate? How can I have a successful marriage? How can I be a good friend? How can I be a good parent? What is success and how do I achieve it? How can I change? What really matters in life? How can I live so that I do not look back with regret? How can I please God? How can I gain forgiveness? How can I handle the unfair circumstances and bad events of life victoriously?

    We should read and study the Bible because it is totally reliable, without error. The Bible is unique among so-called "holy" books in that it does not merely give moral teaching and say, "trust me." Rather, it gives us the ability to test it by checking the hundreds of detailed prophecies that it makes, by checking the historical accounts it records, and by checking the scientific facts it relates. Those who say the Bible has errors have their ears closed to the truth. Jesus once asked which is easier to say, "Your sins are forgiven you," or "Rise, take up your bed and walk." Then He proved He had the ability to forgive sins (something we cannot see with our eyes) by healing the paralytic (something those around Him could test with their eyes). Similarly, we are given assurance that God's Word is true when it discusses spiritual areas that we cannot test with our senses, by showing itself true in those areas that we can test (historical accuracy, scientific accuracy, and prophetic accuracy).

    We should read and study the Bible because God does not change and because mankind's nature does not change - it is as relevant for us as it was when it was written. While technology changes around us, mankind's desires and nature do not change. You find, as you read the pages of biblical history, that whether you are talking about one-on-one relationships or societies, "there is nothing new under the sun." And while mankind as a whole continues to seek love and satisfaction in all of the wrong places, God, our good and gracious Creator, tells us what will bring us LASTING joy. His revealed Word, the Scriptures, are so important that Jesus said of them, "Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). In other words, if you want to live life to the fullest as God intended, listen and heed God's written is even more important than eating!

    We should read and study the Bible because there is so much false teaching. The Bible gives us the measuring stick by which we can determine truth from error. It tells us what God is like. To have a wrong impression of God is worship of an "idol" or "false god." We are worshiping something that He is not! The Bible tells us how one truly gets to heaven...and it is not by being good or by being baptized, or by anything else we DO (John 14:6; Ephesians 2:1-10; Isaiah 53:6; Romans 3:10f., 5:8; 6:23; 10:9-13). Along this line, God's Word shows us just how much God loves us (Romans 5:6-8; Isaiah 53:1f.). And it is in learning this that we are drawn to love Him in return (1 John 4:19).

    The Bible will equip you for serving God (2 Timothy 3:17; Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12). It will help you know how to be saved from your sin and its ultimate consequence (2 Timothy 3:15). Meditating on it and obeying its teachings will bring success in life (Joshua 1:8; James 1:25). God’s Word will help you see sin in your life and help you get rid of it (Psalm 119:9,11). It will give you guidance in life, making you wiser than your teachers (Psalm 32:8; 119:99; Proverbs 1:6). The Bible will keep you from wasting years of your life on that which will not last and does not matter (Matthew 7:24-27).

    Reading and studying the Bible will help you to see beyond the attractive "bait" to the painful "hook" in sinful temptations, so that you can learn from others' mistakes rather than making them yourself. Experience is a great teacher, but when it comes to learning from sin, it is a terribly hard teacher. It is so much better to learn from others' mistakes. There are so many Bible characters to learn from, both positive and negative role models, both often coming from the same person's life at different points. For example, David, in his defeat of the giant, Goliath, teaches us that God is greater than anything He asks us to face (1 Samuel 17). David, in his giving in to the temptation to commit adultery with Bathsheba, reveals just how long-lasting and terrible the consequences of a "moment's pleasure" can be (2 Samuel 11f.). Knowing the Bible gives us a real hope and peace when everything around us seems to be falling apart (Romans 15:4; Psalm 112:7; Habakkuk 3:17-19).

    The Bible is a book that is not for mere reading. It is a book for studying so that it can be applied. Otherwise, it is like swallowing food down without chewing and then spitting it back out nutritional value is gained by it. The Bible is God's Word. As such, it is as binding as the laws of nature. You can ignore it, but you do so to your own hurt, just as you would do so to ignore the law of gravity. It cannot be emphasized strongly enough just how important the Bible is to our lives. Studying the Bible can be compared to mining for gold. If you make little effort and merely "sift through the pebbles in a stream," you will only find a little gold dust. But the more you make an effort to really "dig into it," the more reward you will gain for your effort.

May all of us be blessed.

Monday, August 4, 2008

never too late for coming back

by John R. Adair (California, U.S.A.)

Paul wrote, "I do not claim that I have already succeeded or have already become perfect. I keep striving to win the prize for which Christ Jesus has already won me to himself."
-Philippians 3:12 (TEV)

FOR as long as I can remember, I have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. As a young child, I attended church regularly.

During my teenage years, I stopped attending church. I began working weekends and after school to save money for college. My behavior changed, and much of what I said and did was not Christlike. I grew away from the church and from Christ.

After a number of years, I realized that I felt incomplete. It took me a while, but I finally figured out what had been missing in my life. It was Christ. But then I felt it was too late; I had done too much that was bad. I just did not feel "good enough" to come back to Christ.

But I started attending church again anyway, and realized that it was not too late. Jesus died on the cross so that we all could come back to him. Because of this great love, our past sins are forgiven. When we ask for forgiveness, God forgives us - not because we are good enough but because Jesus Christ is.

Friday, August 1, 2008

focusing ahead

by Cathy Fooshee (Kansas, U.S.A.)

Jesus said, "I have come in order that you might have life -- life in all its fullness."
-John 10:10 (TEV)

I am a bicycle rider. I love the freedom, peace and contentment I feel when I'm riding my bicycle. Sometimes I ride on busy roads. At those times, I often ride the white stripe on the side of the road to leave as much room as possible between the passing cars and my bike. I find that I can easily stay on that stripe if I keep my focus well ahead of my front wheel. It is when I look down at the stripe just below me that I become wobbly and find myself in danger of falling into harm's way.

I see the same importance of focus in the Bible story about Peter. When Peter was walking on the water toward Jesus, he was able to stay on top of the water as long as he kept his focus out ahead - on Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves below his feet, he began to sink.

In life, we have a daily - sometimes even minute-by-minute - choice. When troubles come our way or life's cares begin to overwhelm us and rob us of the abundant life God intends, we can either keep our focus on Christ, with whom all things are possible (Luke 1:37), or look at our fears and begin to wobble. Keeping our focus on Christ frees us to keep our minds and hearts open to receive the abundant life God offers and to be a channel of God's love to others.
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