Consider Your Eating Habits

At the TableThe holiday season is nearly over. You know you’ve overindulged. Maybe you’ve added a few pounds. You know you haven’t taken time to exercise properly because the holiday season has been busier and you just haven’t had enough time. Maybe you feel sluggish and just not like yourself. So what do you do?

A large percentage of the population approaches the new year with a fresh resolve to change behavior. They make New Year’s resolutions. In the top ten most popular New Year’s resolutions you will find these: lose weight, eat healthier, drink less, quit smoking and exercise more. Why would these be so common? Perhaps because after a month of too much food, too little exercise and less that ideal schedules, we just don’t feel good. We know the answer is to make some new goals and get a fresh start. We instinctively know that if we want our physical bodies to come back into line, we need to make some changes.

But what about our spiritual health? Do we recognize that when we haven’t been feeding our spirits the right diet we can also get sluggish and flabby in a spiritual sense? Our spirits need a regular diet of God’s Word. We also need regular daily check-ups in God’s presence so He can tell us the things He desires us to know. But we also need to cut out the less than healthy parts of our spiritual diet just like we do with our physical diet. Even if we eat lots of fruits and vegetables and get plenty of good protein and lots of fiber, if we continue eating donuts and French fries on a regular basis, we still may not be caring for our bodies in the most optimal way.

Spiritually speaking, we need to pay attention to the “junk food” we are feeding ourselves every day. Perhaps we need to consider what we can cut from our daily intake. Perhaps we would benefit from looking at what we allow into our hearts and minds every day. Maybe we can make some changes that allow God more room to work because there is less clutter in His way. It’s kind of like comparing the way fats clog our arteries in our body to how worldly indulgence clogs our spiritual arteries.

I know I’ve found that writing these devotions is much more difficult if I’ve neglected this intentional feeding of my spirit. I’ve found it’s much more difficult to hear what God has to say when I’ve filled myself up with things of the world. They aren’t all necessarily sinful things, just too much of something that distracts me from God’s voice.

While I’m not particularly inclined to make New Year’s resolutions, I do think it’s wise to consider my behavior and recognize that I make choices every day that either draw me toward my Father or away from Him. It may not be as visible as our efforts to lose weight or exercise where we can see definite results. We need to trust that God will use our desire to draw closer to Him for our good even when we can’t really see any difference.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

With regard to making healthy choices for our bodies, we are really fighting a losing battle. There is only so much we can do to prolong life on this earth. Eventually our bodies will fail us and we will need them no longer. Our spirits are a different matter entirely. We are continually being transformed into the likeness of Jesus, Himself. More and more each day. One choice at a time.

What choices can you make today that will draw you closer to your Heavenly Father?
What will you feed your spirit today?

Mary and Joseph’s Packing List

unnamedThey embarked upon a journey that neither of them had chosen. They were compelled by the government to take a trip that would take them eighty miles from their home. Mary was not just a little pregnant, she was, according the scriptures, “great with child.” She knew her time was near and yet she had to travel a long and difficult journey that would take about a week to complete.

What did she pack to take on her trip? Only what she and Joseph could carry themselves. There were no luggage handlers to load and unload their baggage. There were not suitcases with wheels and handles. Mary and Joseph didn’t take several changes of clothes, toiletries or reading material to entertain them on their journey. They didn’t take an extra pair of shoes or dress clothes for an evening out while they were away. They likely only packed the bread they would eat on the trip and perhaps a blanket or two if they had an extra. Talk about traveling light!

But they took one other thing with them. They took a complete trust in their Heavenly Father who had told them He would care for them.

Psalm 23:1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

They knew God would care for them because He had promised to do so and they believed Him. That doesn’t mean they didn’t fight some doubt but after all, if Mary was in her final days of her pregnancy, they’d had several months to wrestle with their doubts. I would like to think that by this time they were beginning to have some assurance in their hearts that God would  keep His promise to them. He’d already seen them through the long pregnancy and the ridicule that they likely experienced from their friends and family.

They knew what a shepherd’s job was. They knew that if God was their shepherd, he would lead them and feed them. He would also protect them, provide shelter and keep them safe. He would care for their every need like he’d been doing since the day the angel had told them of the coming of their son, Jesus.

They were indeed, as helpless as sheep. They were vulnerable and weak. But they knew their shepherd was able to meet their needs. They were in want of nothing.

What do you need from your shepherd? Do you believe He is able and willing to care for you? Spend a few moments this Christmas season thanking Him for all the ways He gently and lovingly cares for you.  For the Lord is your shepherd, you shall not want.

Is the Universe Collapsing?

Photo courtesy http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=22672&picture=ce-space-scene-1Is our Universe on the verge of collapse? According to scientists we are headed for the end of the world. Well, I’m sorry to burst their bubble but those of us who are Christ Followers already knew that.

In an article that I read today, they talk about how a Danish university has “proven” scientifically that the universe is preparing to collapse and that in fact, the process may have already begun. That sounds like doomsday predictions that have been occurring for centuries, probably since the beginning of creation.

As residents on this planet, of course we would be concerned about what happens if the world ends. What happens to us? Will humanity cease to exist? Again, as believers we already know the answer. So when I hear these predictions I don’t get fearful or worried. I actually get excited.

According to the article, the theory called “the big slurp” predicts that the Universe will expand to the point where it cannot go any further and will then come crashing back to the center to be completely destroyed. “Yes, the universe will probably collapse,” and: “A collapse is even more likely than the old calculations predicted,” says the article.

Romans 8:22-25 “For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.”

Picture a circle of people with large rubber bands and raw eggs. Each person has their egg in the rubber band and begins stretching it away from the center, as far as the rubber band will stretch. Finally when it can’t go any further the egg slips from each person’s hand then, suddenly propelled by the contraction of the rubber band, goes crashing with all the others into the center, completely destroyed. It’s an extremely simplified example but you get the idea. Can’t you just hear those rubber bands groaning as they are stretched to their capacity? And if we listen, we can hear all of creation groaning as it awaits God’s final redemption of His followers.

For 400 years Israel waited to hear from God, waited for the prophecies that promised a savior to come to pass. Ever since Jesus ascended into Heaven we have been waiting for his return. God told Zechariah and then Mary and Joseph that the promise was on it’s way. Could it be that God is again letting us know that the time for which we have been waiting is near?

Don’t you just love it when scientists think they’ve found out something new, only to find that they are proving scripture? That makes me want to shout!

2 Peter 3:10 “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.”

So how does this apply to us? How can we possibly incorporate the end of the world into our daily lives? It’s really quite simple. We focus on doing what matters most. We spend our time furthering the Kingdom of God. We love and encourage each other while we still can, praying “come Lord Jesus.”

Hebrews 3:13  But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

Are You Peculiar?

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If you asked most people to define the word “peculiar” you would get some variation of this: “something or someone who is odd, strange, unusual or weird.” Most people would not appreciate being called peculiar. It definitely has a negative connotation in our current culture.

But looking at the 1828 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, I find the following:

Peculiar – One’s own; belonging solely or especially to an individual; not possessed by others; of private, personal, or characteristic possession and use; particular; individual; special; appropriate.

Our modern culture has shifted this word, peculiar, to mean something to be avoided or kept at a distance. No one wants to be called peculiar. They don’t wish to appear odd or strange. Most people would rather blend in and be inconspicuous.

But in the King James version of 1 Peter 2:9 we read, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” This doesn’t mean strange or weird, it means they belong to God. Peculiar comes from the Latin word peculium which means “private property.”

We are a peculiar people! We belong to God. We are His and no one else’s. He claims us as His own. And maybe to the world that looks strange or weird. If belonging to God makes me seem strange to the world, so be it!

If following after Christ means you stick out and look different than the world, is that okay with you? How peculiar are you willing to be? Will you stand firmly on the fact that you have been chosen by God, no matter how that looks to the world?

The Secret to Overcoming Your Troubles

Original illustration by Jim SuttonI love the wisdom of Dr. Seuss. He had a way with words that cut to the chase. Take this quote for example.

“I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind. Some come from ahead and some come from behind. But I’ve bought a big bat. I’m all ready you see. Now my troubles are going to have trouble with me!” -Dr. Suess

Can you just see one of his characters standing with a huge ball bat in his hand, poised to take on whatever is coming his way?

Of course, as Christ Followers, we don’t go out and buy a big bat. We have no need of one. We are already equipped with everything we need to face whatever comes our way.

This life is full of troubles. Everyone I know is going through something. And the troubles do seem to come from every direction. Sometimes we just want to raise the white flag and say we surrender, we give up, we’re tired and can’t fight anymore.  But we need to take the words of the good doctor and stand our ground, facing our troubles with confidence.

Since we don’t have need of a big bat, what do we have to fight against these troubles? We have a sword. According to the Bible, we have been given armor and a sword.

Ephesians 6:17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

We only need one weapon. The rest of that passage talks about items that are for protection. The only weapon we need is the sword of the Spirit which is God’s Word.The key to success is that we take the sword. We can’t just leave it lying on the ground and expect it to help us win the battle. We must take it up and use it with skill that comes from practicing with it daily.

When we have the sword and  face our troubles God has promised us the victory. And remember, we will never have to fight alone. God has promised to be with us.

Hebrews 13:6 So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?

Pick up your sword and move out with confidence. The victory is yours!