Tuesday, December 28, 2010
The time and place: Christmas Eve at Central Assembly of God, Springfield, Missouri. The sermon: "God's Gifts at Christmas," an illustrated sermon with lovely decorated boxes alongside the pulpit. The story behind the sermon: Hilarious! Pastor related how a generous department store's Customer Service Department came to his rescue to provide and decorate the needed boxes for his sermon. Delighted, he borrowed a truck (the boxes were BIG!), and as he drove up our busy main thoroughfare, two boxes fell off the truck. He retrieved one easily; the other meant a turn-around, a stop in a parking lot. As he walked toward the box, he discovered someone had gotten there first. "Go find your own present!" a grouchy man shouted as he walked away--with the EMPTY BOX. Needless to say, the greedy thief has, by now, been quite surprised and disappointed--a sad commentary on HIS Christmas spirit, but it sure makes a good story!
Christmas is over, presents unwrapped, and a lot of empty boxes are scattered everywhere. So what's IN an empty box? NOTHING! Or...is it really empty? Are the ghosts of Christmasses past and life in the present filling the empty boxes until they burst with frustration and pain? What do we do with the empty boxes hidden deep within our lives? Come to the well--"Heaven's Customer Service" is waiting to help us--but you must bring the empty boxes with you, all of them!
A Helping Word...or Two!
Empty the Box of a Bitter Spirit!
Christmas is over--you've smiled and been gracious as you've opened loved one's gifts. But deep inside there's an emptiness and discontent you can't quite put a finger on. God can--He knows that the empty box isn't really empty--it's full of a long-held bitterness and unforgiveness, and it's eating you alive. There'll be no peace until you bring the empty box to the foot of the Cross. You must "let go" those invisible contents that nobody REALLY knows but you and God. And when you do, He'll fill the box full of His love and forgiveness. He'll fill it to overflowing, and its contents will spill out to the very ones who have hurt you so. Why? Because it's HIS love--it's awesome and it's available for you--IF you'll give Him the empty box!
Empty the Box of a Broken Heart!
Christmas is over--you've covered well the hurts of your life; you've laughed and joined in the fun. But deep within there's a painful emptiness you feel. God feels it too. He died of a broken heart--and He understands yours. That forsaken, rejected feeling fills the empty box, and it's hurting--bad! AND it will continue to hurt until you bring the empty box to the foot of the Cross. You must "let go" the broken relationships, the bruises and heart pains that have hurt and scarred you deeply inside where no one, but you and God can see. Let it go--cry it out at the foot of the Cross. He loves you, and He'll fill you with His supernatural love and peace. He cares; He knows the pain, and He wants to free you. His love is awesome and it's available for you--IF you'll give Him the empty box!
Empty the Box of a Burdened Soul!
Christmas is over--the boxes emptied of ties and trinkets; socks and scents. What about the empty box INSIDE? It LOOKS empty; it FEELS heavy! No one knows the heavy burden you carry deep within--it's sealed in that empty box, invisible to the world, but known to you and to your Lord. Bear the heavy empty boxes no more. Bring them, filled with all your sins, your sadness, your sorrow, to the foot of the Cross. Lay down the burdens--give that empty, heavy box to the Lord, and let Him fill it with his forgiveness, His grace, His comfort and His love. His love is awesome and it's available for you--IF you'll give Him the empty box!
Empty boxes. Symbols of the invisible pains we bear, the emptiness we feel. Bitterness, brokenness, burdens--hidden deep within heavy hearts. Oh, we look fine on the outside, dressed in our Christmas reds-and-greens, munching the goodies at the Christmas dessert table--our tummies are full, but our hearts are empty--hurting and heavy, barren of God's love. THAT'S why HE came--to fill us with His goodness and mercy. So if YOU are carrying around an empty box, and it's KILLING you, take it on ONE more journey--to the foot of the Cross. Empty its invisible contents of disappointment, despair, desolation--whatever it is--and let your Lord fill it with HIMSELF! He's in the business of filling boxes--and hearts--and lives--with His overflowing love, joy and peace. He'll even decorate your box --with HIS radiant joy--so all can see a Christ-filled person, overflowing with the love of God. Let Him do it for you today!
...and that's just a thought or two--from my heart to yours!
His Healing Words
"That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend, with all saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be FILLED with ALL the FULLNESS of God (Ephesians 3:17-19 KJV)."
"Lord, here's the empty boxes of my life, filled with all the invisible "stuff" of life that hurts and disappoints and brings heaviness--and emptiness. I let it all go, I leave it at the foot of Your Cross, and I receive the fullness of Your love and life, which is mine because of You! In Jesus' Name. Amen."
Sunday, December 5, 2010
You've heard plenty of talk about 'separation of church and state' - making sure that Christianity doesn't GROW where someone doesn't want it. I was shocked to hear what the GRINCH's latest work was about! Can you imagine no Christmas trees in a business, in the hospital lobbies, and not even in the fire halls around the city? Well, get used to it. I read in this devotional that it has come to the town of Birmingham, be sure, it will soon be in our city. What happened is this – I heard a man that she called GRINCH had decided that it was a symbol of Christianity; therefore, it had no place in those areas mentioned above. This guy wasn't very well-informed, to think that the Christmas tree had any place in Christianity. Sure, it's a tradition with us in America, and other parts of the world, but it has not one thing to do with Christianity. So, to remove the Christmas trees, while leaving the wreaths and lights, makes absolutely no sense. But, when did being 'politically correct' make any sense?
God, some try to take stop Christianity in different ways, even during the holidays. However those of us who belong to you, realize they can't get to the Spirit within our hearts and we give you praise for the Spirit that dwells within us! Praise your sweet name Jesus. Amen.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Does the meaning of Thanksgiving mean something more to you and your family than a day of eating, watching the games, the parades, and getting ready for shopping? Has the meaning of gratitude been a little lost in your home? If so, then spend some time this month utilizing some or all of these tips to redirect your family back to the real meaning of Thanksgiving.
• Write Bible verses that name the attributes of God on fruit-shaped cut-outs. Place them in a basket or cornucopia. During a time of family devotions or at a meal, have each family member select a fruit from the basket and read the verse aloud. Then discuss ways your family has experienced each of God's qualities.
• Think about reasons for ingratitude. Most of us are incredibly blessed, yet we find reasons to complain. This week, any time family members complain about something, have them place money in a jar. Your family can decide the amount. Then at the end of the week, donate the money to the soup kitchen or mobile meals to help with Thanksgiving meals.
• Think of someone you love and appreciate, but rarely see. Make plans to call, send a card, or visit that person. Find out if there is a special need, pray with the person, and provide materially or with an act of service.
• Focus on praising God. Let each family member select a praise chorus or hymn. Sing a different one at each meal instead of saying a blessing. Thank God for material provision, physical health, spiritual blessings, our country, our church, and family.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
I know the busy season of the holidays are vastly approaching and just want to encourage you to stay faithful in the disciplines of a disciple of the King. It would be a tragedy for the season to come and go only to have found ourselves caught up with the season without celebrating the reason. Let your focus be Jesus and your time with Him filling. It may take some extra planning and effort on your part to make sure you meet with Jesus everyday but set your alarm and get up earlier than normal but please meet with Jesus!
Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.
A short devotion:
A Christmas Candle
A Christmas candle is a lovely thing;
It makes no noise at all,
But softly gives itself away;
While quite unselfish, it grows small.
- Eva K. Logue
John the Baptist said of Jesus: "He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less." John 3:30 (NLT)
We are like this Christmas candle that holds the flame, burning strong and bright the light of Christ. We softly give ourselves away in worship of Him and service for Him, that we might become less and less, and that He might become greater and brighter through us.
Friday, October 29, 2010
A myriad of questions have been raised about Halloween. Should Christians participate in Halloween? What should our attitude be towards Halloween? Should we simply ignore it? Should we vigorously attack it? Or should we, as Christians, find ways in which to accommodate it?
Before offering some suggestions on how we as Christians might best relate to Halloween, I think it would be appropriate to first consider the pagan origin of Halloween.
The celebration of Halloween, also known as the witches’ new year, is rooted in the ancient pagan calendar which divided the year into Summer and Winter by two fire festivals. Before the birth of Christ, the day we know as Halloween was part of the Celtic Feast of Samhain (sah–ween). This feast was a celebration of Druid priests from Britain and France and commemorated the beginning of Winter. It was a night on which the veil between the present world and the world beyond was pierced. The festivals were marked by animal sacrifices, offerings to the dead, and bonfires in recognition of departed souls. It was believed that on this night demons, witches, hobgoblins, and elves were released en masse to harass and to oppress the living. For self-preservation many Druids would dress up as witches, devils, and ghouls, and would even involve themselves in demonic activities and thus make themselves immune from attack.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
11. Go to church once a week
12. Read the Bible daily
13. Read through Bible in a year
14. Join a weekly Bible study
15. Read Christian books
16. Read biographies of the saints
17. Memorize key verses
18. Surround yourself with godly friends
19. Unplug the phone and turn off email during your devotions
20. Set aside a special place to meet with God that doesn’t overlook any
mess or undone work
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Monday, October 18, 2010
2. Study and meditate on the names of God
3. Study and meditate on the names of Jesus
4. Study and meditate on the names of Holy Spirit
5. Set an appointment time to meet with Him daily
Sunday, October 17, 2010
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives." 1 John 1:9-10 (NIV)
I remember the day I realized I have Adam's Disease. It took me awhile to notice—in fact, most people with this debilitating condition don't ever recognize it. But the best doctor I know pointed out its symptoms, and though I hated to admit it, I've frequently displayed them.
Could it possibly affect you as well? Maybe so.
Adam's Disease is an insidious condition that interferes with the patient's ability to grow. It does this by preventing the patient from admitting and taking responsibility for their sin. Take a look at the first confirmed case:
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?"
He answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid."
And he said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?"
The man said, "The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it." (Genesis 3:8-12, NIV)
What we have here is a textbook case of acknowledgement-avoidance and blame-shifting. Classic traits of Adam's Disease.
Adam hid because he sinned—he did the very thing God personally commanded him not to, and he knew it. He ate the fruit. He held it to his mouth, bit in, chewed, felt the juice dripping from his chin—and then his eyes were opened. Opened to what he had done, and opened to how miserable it feels to disconnect from God.
Trying to change the subject and avoid talking about his sin, Adam said he was hiding because he was naked. Nakedness … a lesser offense. A problem, not a sin. A state that wasn't really his fault. After all, he didn't make himself naked. God did.
And that's where the second most prominent feature of Adam's Disease kicks in: blame-shifting. After trying to minimize the severity of their sin, the patient enters a frenzied state of denial and begins casting blame. He searches for a scapegoat. God will do; other people work even better, particularly those who are not without sin either. So the patient turns the attention away from themselves, leveling accusations (no matter how old) to shift focus and blame on others.
If we are skilled orators or experienced arguers, this often works for us in our relationships. The problem is, we walk away from the confrontation feeling victorious rather than convicted. We actually talk ourselves into feeling self-righteous after sinning.
Without conviction, however, there is no repentance. Without repentance, there is no grace to change. Without change there is no growth. Only future sins to be committed, glossed over, denied and forgotten. And in the process, we don't realize how miserable we truly are - how sick our souls become.
The doctor that pointed all this out to me, the Great Physician, said He could heal me of this disease if I would come to Him with a humble heart, confess and be cleansed. He showed me that confessing my sin, rather than concealing it, would set me free. And He showed me it won't not hurt to say, "I'm sorry."
For those outside the faith, Adam's Disease is fatal. For followers of Christ, it is completely curable. So, could it be you? Could you suffer with this tendency too? My best girlfriend advice - make an appointment with your Great Physician today.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
8 cups cubed day old bread
1 cup egg substitute
2 1/4 cups fat-free milk
1 3/4 cups half-and-half cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted
3 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup packed brown sugar
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup fat-free milk
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp butter
1. Place bread cubes in 13X9 baking dish coated with cooking spray. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, egg substitute, milk, cream, sugar, butter, and cinnamon. Pour evenly over bread.
2. Bake, uncovered, at 350 for 40-45 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.
3. Meanwhile, for caramel sauce, in a small saucepan, combine brown sugar and flour. Stir in milk until smooth. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until thickened and bubbly. Reduce heat; cook and stir for 2 minutes.
4. Remove from the heat. Stir a small amount of hot mixture into egg yolks; return all to pan, stirring constantly. Bring to a gentle boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat; gently stir in butter. Serve with pudding. Refrigerate leftovers.
Nutrition Facts: 1 piece with about 2 Tbsp. sauce equals 278 calories
Friday, October 1, 2010
By Jan Johnson
I’ve had great ideas over the years of how God could solve my problems. I listed solutions for Him: Change my grouchy neighbor’s heart; cure my friend of cancer; make my spouse as devoted as the ones described in the how-to books on marriage. Some of these things happened and some of them didn’t. I felt that God disappointed me too many times.
I see now that I have been using prayer as a weapon of control. I have tried to control God-as if that were possible!
With a surrendered attitude, I can bring my requests to God in a different way. I’m still fervent and consistent, but I don’t have to tell God what to do. Instead, I watch, wait and cooperate.
To accept God’s sovereignty is one more necessary surrender.
Passage Romans 9:1-29
VERSE: Romans 9:21 “Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?”
Have you ever had a day that you felt nothing you did worked out the way you planned it? We often start our days with preconceived ideas of how the day is going to be or even wake up in a great mood to find that for some reason it drastically changes. When having a day that is challenging, learn to ask yourself, am I measuring up? Not measuring up to the world’s expectations but to what God has planned for you that day.
Often we use our friends, co-workers or relatives as a measuring stick. Proverbs 29:25 says, “The fear of human opinion disables; trusting in God protects you from that (The Message)”. Today’s challenge is this: “Will I seek God first?” He wants us to pour out our energy on Him. It is that very trust in Him that will keep you connected and aware of His presence throughout the day. Every step you take today will build faith if you surrender to God. Take time this day to read your Bible because that is how God primarily speaks to us. Then ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you how what you have read applies to your life or what He wants you to focus on in the passage. Then, if you’re like me, right it down so you won’t forget. Carry it with you throughout the day and glance at it whenever you have a chance.
As we walk in faith it will be easy to look around to see what others are doing. Be keenly aware we are all in different places in our life, and what is easy for you may be a great challenge to someone else. It is easy to criticize others but God wants us to focus on him. Matthew 7:1-5 says, “Don't pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It's easy to see a smudge on your neighbor's face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, 'Let me wash your face for you,' when your own face is distorted by contempt? It's this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor (The Message).” We may have people in our life who struggle every day fighting additions, have a loved one dying, or are new to the faith. We may be going through what seem to be insurmountable difficulties in our own life. Because of this we must seek Him first to strengthen us internally and soften us externally.
God gifts all his children differently so let’s find our own strengths and use them to help others. Then when we look at others, look for their gifting, so that you may direct people to their path if they have a need in that area. Now that is using your mind to measure up the right way!
Friday, June 18, 2010
Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself.
With eagles soaring over their heads and eagles’ nests perched on the ledges of the Sinai mountain range, this image would be very clear to the children of Israel.
As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: So the LORD alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him. - Deuteronomy 32:11–12
After selecting a site on a high precipice, the mother eagle builds her nest. And as her newly-hatched eaglet grows, he’s comfy and cozy, until one day the mother eagle overturns the nest and the young eagle is sent tumbling downward, squawking all the way. Just before he hits the rocks below, however, the mother eagle swoops down and rescues him, bearing him upon her wings. She returns him to the nest, only to overturn it a few days later and bear him on her wings yet again. This process is repeated six or seven times, until one time, the eaglet catches a thermal and starts flying. Higher and higher he goes, set free to experience life in an entirely different dimension with a higher perspective than he ever had previously.
Because faith cannot grow in comfort and security, we’ll all be knocked out of our nests of cozy complacency from time to time. What do we do at such times? “They that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength,” Isaiah declares. “They shall mount up with wings as eagles” (40:31). To wait upon the Lord doesn’t mean to passively wait, but to wait on Him as a skilled waiter would wait on the guest of honor. To wait upon the Lord means to lavish praise, to minister, to fellowship day by day, moment by moment. And those who do, mount up with wings as eagles.
This Daily Devotional is an excerpt from the book "A Pillar By Day" by Pastor Jon. "A Pillar By Day" is a collection of 365 short devotions from the Old Testament books of Genesis through Deuteronomy.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
June 1st, 2010 from Sandra Byrd
So often I find myself asking for a removal of difficult situations and circumstances. But that’s where God teaches me to rely on Him …
We were a family in disarray, like a loosely held bunch of pickup sticks when the hand that has clasped them lets go. Our young daughter was seriously ill – again. Months before she’d been rushed to Children’s Hospital where, after 11 hours of constant asthma treatment, and a near miss admission to the ICU, her lungs finally broke open. Six months later here she was, down again, missing two more weeks of school as doctors searched their experiences and resources to help. We pleaded to God for an answer, for relief, for help. Help seemed long overdue in coming, if at all. God remained silent.
Our son, overlooked during the acute phases, was putting on a good face but his school work and attitude began to fray. My work was pushed aside and began to pile menacingly at my desk. My husband had permanent ashen smudges under his eyes from many sleepless nights. Still, my daughter’s waxy complexion and complete lack of energy reminded us: she’s not well. We needed a break.
After two months, she seemed to turn a corner. Some kind friends who offered us the use of their beach front condo for a long weekend, and we’d been planning on it for months. Well, wouldn’t you know, my daughter came down with a fever the day before we were supposed to go. We NEEDED this break. We wrestled with whether or not we should go. In the end, after prayer, my husband and I both felt that we should go, no matter what.
So we drove.
On the way down the coast, I prayed, Lord, I can step forward in faith here, I don’t NEED to hear from you, but I’d like to.
A few hours later we stopped for dinner and then continued our drive south. We were going a new way – one printed out from the Internet – a way we’d never been before because it was supposed to be safer, but perhaps a bit longer. After driving for some time I asked my husband, should we get a map and make sure we’re okay? At this point, it was 9pm. He agreed, and we pulled into a dimly lit one-horse town at a highway-side Chevron.
My husband got out of the car and went into the gas station. Within seconds, two young people came flying out of the same station, crying and gripping one another’s hands. They ran toward a van parked in the side parking lot. I tried, from my own vehicle, to look into the windows of the gas station. I could see no one. No attendant, no customers, no husband! Minutes dragged by. I couldn’t leave my kids alone in the car and go look and see what was happening. We locked the doors. And then we prayed!
Suddenly, an ambulance screamed up. Then a fire truck roared in. Emergency workers poured out of it like ants and raced into the store. Through the window, now, I could see my husband standing, so I breathed easier. Next I saw other heads, a woman, clutching a baby to her chest, being ushered into the back of the ambulance. A minute or so later my husband emerged from the store and a young man in his early twenties pumped my husband’s hand before getting into his car and following the ambulance.
As my husband got into the car we all shouted, “What happened?”
While the car was still turned off, he recounted his tale. As soon as he’d walked into the store a woman held out her baby to him and said, “Can you save my baby?” She quickly told him that the baby hadn’t been breathing for a short time. No one at the gas station knew infant CPR and so the crisis had grown. My husband had been trained in all forms of CPR so he quickly answered, “Yes, I can help.” He knelt down, gently extended the baby’s neck, opened her mouth and began to treat her. At each moment he felt the Lord guiding him: when to breathe just a little, when to puff a bit heavier. Shortly thereafter he felt the baby’s feather breaths responding to his. By the time the ambulance arrived, the baby was crying. THIS time, a crying baby was a good sign.
The father later told my husband that the baby had had a seizure in their van on the way up from California, the first the baby had ever had or the parents had ever seen.
As we drove away, and it got quiet again, I felt the Lord speak to me. “There’s your answer,” He said to my heart. And I knew what He meant, as I continued to pray. In this world, there will always be sickness and sorrow and trouble and problems. That baby may have epilepsy, and a life time of management ahead of her. We are not in heaven yet, and sickness steals upon us all, and sometimes dominates our lives for a time. But God has numbered that baby’s days, and not one of them will be snatched from her before His exactly appointed time. He made sure to get us there to keep her safe that night. In the same way, my own daughter will have health issues to manage throughout her life, because we’re not in heaven yet. But I can rest easy, knowing that God alone has appointed her days, and He alone will make sure that she lives the full measure of them. If he cares so much for that little baby girl, I know he cares for my daughter, too.
My daughter’s fever was gone the next day, and we had a wonderful time.
We never did get a map. But we found our way just fine.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
I always ask the question, "Do you have something to get back to?"
Rich and I have a good marriage. Yeah, we fight occasionally like anyone else, but we readily admit we're soul mates. The Holy Spirit brought us together. Most everyone around us recognizes it—even a United flight attendant, who remarked how much fun we seemed to be having as a couple.
That's all dandy, right? Well, sure, as long as.....
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Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Because it’s easier to ignore spiritual issues, God often uses physical symptoms to help me take a closer look at what’s happening inside. Insomnia forces me to examine what I’m not handing over to God. Tension headaches ask me to slow down and loosen my grip. My physical illness got my attention, so I decided I’d work on what lay beneath.
I’d developed a pattern of taking on too much. In order to (falsely) comfort my overly busy self, I ate the wrong things in the wrong quantities. I finally understood that my overfed but malnourished body was an outward reflection of an overfed but malnourished soul. While I had many activities that looked good on the outside and garnered praise, they ate up time I might have spent deepening my relationship with God.
I’d relegated my prayer life to rushed pleading in the midst of trouble; my relationship with God felt empty and silent, stagnant and struggling. My body displayed on the outside what was happening on the inside. In the process of healing one, could I heal both? It was time for me to take a serious assessment.
First, I looked at how I ate. I’d run to a warehouse store and stock up on high-quality processed foods that were easy to slap together—maximum bang for my time and buck. Lots of prepackaged items, lots of convenience, lots of microwave ding. Though my family dined together many nights a week, when we timed ourselves, we were astonished to be finished and rushing to the next activity in fewer than 15 minutes.
Sadly, that’s what my spiritual diet looked like too.
Instead of savoring and pacing my lessons, I’d wait till the night before to scan the Bible and fill in the blanks for my weekly Bible study. I was more concerned about showing up with filled blanks than in deeply understanding what the teacher, and the Word, might have in store if I’d spend the time to digest slowly and meditate. What was the “real” meal I needed to savor? In Matthew 4:4 Jesus reminds us, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
That wasn’t how I wanted to handle physical or spiritual eating, so I had to make some changes.
Considering my blood-sugar profile and that I’d had gestational diabetes, I knew I had to minimize my refined carbs intake. I’d heard if you cut back on bread, after awhile you lose your taste for it. With a twinge of sorrow, I realized that abstaining from daily Bible reading had caused me to lose my taste for it. I’d put off spending time with Jesus and reading the Bible to the end of the day—after I’d gotten everything else done. Unfortunately, by then I was either too tired to learn, or I simply told the Lord that I needed time for “me,” certain he’d understand.
Like a husband who’s been ignored, God became distant. The apostle James urges, “Come near to God and he will come near to you” (4:8). I can testify that the opposite is also true. Lonely for our former intimacy, I realized that just as I needed to decrease the amount of refined carbs I put in my body, I needed to increase my time with Christ, the Bread of Life for my soul.
I spent 10 to 20 times the number of hours reading books or talking with friends as I did reading the Bible or talking with God. Most of the Bible studies I attended were based on supplemental books—valuable, but not direct, exegetical study. What I got tasted good and, to some level, nourished my soul. But it was predigested—it didn’t require my body, or my soul, to do the hard work. God designed our bodies to extract nutrition, phytochemicals, minerals, and other good things from raw food. Supplements are only supposed to supplement! Might our souls work that way too?
Next, I looked at what I ate. When I made a commitment to eat only healthy, natural foods, I weeded out much of the refined sugar in our diet. My daughter came to me one day, asking, “Where did you buy this orange?”
“Safeway,” I answered. “Why?”
“It’s so sweet,” she said.
The oranges weren’t really sweeter. They tasted that way because we’d removed everything from our diets that would give us a quick high—refined sugar and its diet dupes.
When my body and spirit are tuned only to recognize “sugar high” experiences, the natural sweetness and goodness of a quiet relationship between God and me goes unnoticed. Instead of demanding immediate (and positive) answers to prayer, great insights, or tangible blessings, I’m developing a taste for simple conversations, Bible reading that reaffirms what I’ve learned but doesn’t necessarily lead to great insight, and long-haul trust without instant answers.
A friend and I recently reminisced how when we were kids, dessert was atypical—a looked-forward-to experience. I realized I needed to stop expecting dessert every day. Once in a while, God gives me a spiritual brownie—an immediate answer to prayer, a financial windfall, or a situation immediately resolved. When he does, I relish the sweetness for its rarity.
Just as we use the healthy food pyramid to know the types of food to eat, we can use Scripture to guide what we ingest spiritually. The apostle Paul tells us, “Let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise. Use his words to teach and counsel each other. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus, all the while giving thanks through him to God the Father” (Colossians 3:16—17, NLT). This means that I spend regular time ingesting the message about Christ and let it fill my life. Sometimes I listen to the Bible or hymns or praise music on my iPod; sometimes I spend a few minutes reading in the morning or online over my lunch break, or I sing along to worshipful music.
As I continued these habits—hard to build, at first—I realized how much I missed them when I skipped a day. I’d reacquired my taste for God.
Finally, I realized it’s not just about eating; it’s about getting active. An article in the New York Times noted, “Fitness isn’t about working out at the gym or running a marathon … . Fitness is important for coping with life’s emergencies, big and small, whether it’s running to make an airport connection or fleeing a burning building.” Our motive shouldn’t be to look good, although that might be a pleasant side effect. We need to exercise for overall health and to prepare for unexpected but unavoidable calls upon our reserves.
Similarly, the spiritual muscles I’m building aren’t for flexing at Bible study, hammering my family, or pontificating with others. In addition to helping me live more healthfully day-to-day, they allow me to flee when tempted, endure when tested, and stand firm during suffering. Our family recently took an unexpected and harsh financial blow. A restored relationship with God allowed me to weather the storm with tears and faith—not a bag of Doritos. Taking care of my body and my spirit isn’t for vanity, it’s for health.
I’m allowing myself the kindness of slow but steady increase in health and spiritual growth. I used to be in the “Three pounds a week or I’m switching” diet plan and the “Read the Bible in 60 days” camp. I now understand that my body will release weight gradually and my spirit will mature slowly. That’s okay. I’m willing to take a “long obedience in the same direction,” as Eugene Peterson put it. “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30, NASB).
As this transformation takes place, both physical and spiritual health fall into alignment. I don’t give myself quotas—with Bible study, with counting calories, or any other measurable results. I rely on progress in my health and the quality of my relationship with God. In her Bible study, Thin Within, Judy Halliday writes, “When we stumble and fall, we rely upon God’s amazing grace and the power of the Holy Spirit. He gently leads us back onto the path of his provision.”
My heart health extends more deeply than a clogged artery. God graciously allowed the physical pain to draw attention to my spiritual need, the heart that in the end, matters most.
Ideas to Help You Metabolize!
A Dramatic Walking Partner. I never liked listening to audio Bibles—they seemed cheesy or boring. My mind wandered and I could never remember what I’d just heard. Then I discovered the amazing Inspired by the Bible Experience. The cast of 80 African American actors brings Scripture to life in a remarkable way. You can hear Joseph’s smarmy teenage voice gloating to his brothers about his dreams, Judas Iscariot sounds like a hustler right out of Ocean’s Eleven, and Jesus’ teaching shakes my soul. Old and New Testament add up to 100+ hours of walking and listening. The time flies by.
Hot Lunch. In their best-selling book, You: On a Diet, Doctors Roisen and Oz state, “Sex and hunger are regulated through the brain chemical NPY. Some have observed that having healthy sex could help you control your food intake; by satisfying one appetite center, you seem to satisfy the other.” If you’re married, consider inviting your husband to meet you at home for “lunch” one day a week while your kids are in school. You’ll draw closer to your spouse and never miss the food.
Spread Sheets. I learned that the “spread” in my tummy indicated a laxness in other areas of my life. As I learned to stick faithfully within a food budget, I experienced better ability to stick within my financial and time budgets too. Disciplining one area reinforced growth in the others. Examine your “spending” in those three budgets—food, money, and time—to see if they may correlate. —SB
Originally published in Today’s Christian Woman by Sandra Byrd
Please goto the link for Works in Progress to read more from Sandra Byrd
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
A man dies and goes to heaven. St. Peter meets him at the pearly gates.
St. Peter says, "Here's how it works. You need 100 points to make it into heaven. You tell me all the good things you've done, and I give you a certain number of points for each item, depending on how good it was. When you reach 100 points, you get in."
"Okay" the man says, "I attended church every Sunday"
"That's good, says St. Peter, " that's worth two points"
"Two points?" he says. "Well, I gave 10% of all my earnings to the church"
"Well, let's see," answers Peter, "that's worth another 2 points. Did you do anything else?"
"Two points? Golly. How about this: I started a soup kitchen in my city and worked in a shelter for homeless veterans."
"Fantastic, that's certainly worth a point, " he says.
"hmmm...," the man says, "I was married to the same woman for 50 years and never cheated on her, even in my heart."
"That's wonderful," says St. Peter, "that's worth three points!"
"THREE POINTS!!" the man cries, "At this rate the only way I get into heaven is by the grace of God!"
"Come on in!"
Sunday, March 14, 2010
The Cracked Pot
A water bearer in India had two large pots, one hung on each end of a pole which he
carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, and while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream to the master's house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.
For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water to his master's house. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect to the end for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.
After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream. "I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you."
"Why?" asked the bearer. "What are you ashamed of?"
"I have been able, for these past two years, to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your master's house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don't get full value from your efforts," the pot said.
The water bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his compassion he said, "As we return to the master's house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path." Indeed, as they went up the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun warming the beautiful wild flowers on the side of the path, and this cheered it some. But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad because it had leaked out half its load, and so again it apologized to the bearer for its failure.
The bearer said to the pot, "Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of your path, but not on the other pot's side? That's because I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you've watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master's table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have this beauty to grace his house."
We all have our own unique flaws. We are all cracked pots. But if we will allow it, the Lord will use our flaws to grace The Master's table. In God's great economy, nothing goes to waste. So as God calls us and we seek ways to minister together, let us not be afraid of your flaws. Acknowledge them, and allow God to take advantage of them, and you, too,can be the cause of beauty on life's pathway. Go out boldly, knowing that in our weakness there is strength, and in our imperfections there is purpose.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees
1/4 pound butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 bag chocolate chips
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Cream the butter & sugar, add eggs and beat well. Add sour cream and vanilla. Sift flour, baking powder and soda. Add and mix well.
Grease 9 X13 inch pan.Pour 1/2 batter into pan, sprinkle cinnamon mix and 1/2 bag of chocolate chips. repeat...
Bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes.