Sunday, December 15, 2013

"Be Patient"

Today's sermon text was James 5:7-11.

Patience means abiding, enduring, or bearing through suffering or trial. One who is patient is said to have a long fuse or, in Biblical terms, a long nose. See Romans 5:1-8 for the benefits of patience to a Christian. Other reasons to have patience in this life are:
  • God is first patient with us (by the whole span of events from the Fall to the coming of Christ) - see Galatians 4:4-5, Psalm 90:4, and 2 Peter 3:8.
  • We can't rush God - but should instead savor and maximize life
  • At Jesus' second coming (looking at the scope of eternity), we will no longer need patience
1 Thessalonians 5:14 urges us to keep busy doing God's work while waiting. Work hard and be patient. The opposite quality, impatience, destroys the promised harvest of righteousness. All will come clear in the end. His grace is sufficient - live like you believe it, and become an example to the world in the process.

Soli Deo gloria!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

"Give thanks and praise to God!"

The sermon text for this message was Luke 17:11-19, the story of the ten lepers cleansed by Jesus.

There are three things for a Christian to do this Thanksgiving: pause, take a moment, and give thanks . . . for everything. Why do we do this? We receive Christ's forgiveness, which engenders thanks, or an attitude of gratitude. If this thanks is specifically directed toward God, it's a deliberate act of faith. Where do we do this? We give thanks in church, that is, in the presence of Jesus. He asked the one who came back, "Where are the other nine?" This is a classic example of being "spiritual" (i.e. not in the church of God but keeping to oneself) versus "religious" (i.e. in the church, as God commands).

God's mercies are great! Especially in the USA, we have prosperity, good weather, and freedom of worship lacking in other countries, to name but a few blessings. Don't forget about God, nor be unthankful to Him. We deserve nothing. All things are a gift from Him - including the ability to earn money, lest we become mammon-worshipers. Recognize this fact by acknowledging, by His word, the greatest gift - eternal life with Jesus. In all circumstances, give thanks to Him . . . through Christ in your heart. Follow the leper's example of returning thanks after the fact.

Soli Deo gloria!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

"A Healthy Mind, Heart & Soul"

These are highlights of a presentation I attended today based on Matthew 22:37.

Part 1 - a healthy MIND

  • The first step is to assess and adjust your focus; pay attention to where you want to go!
  • Scriptures: 1 Peter 1:13; 2 Timothy 4:5; Matthew 6:33; and Philippians 4:8
  • Focus on what God is shaping you to be. He speaks through many ways, whether they be meditation on the Scriptures themselves, corporate worship, prayer, friends, or service.
  • Your brain has key needs:
    • Fuel - eat a rainbow; choose darker over lighter foods when given the chance; shoot for fish 5x a week; try to have 50% of your plate be produce (fruits and vegetables)
    • Exercise - increasing your heart rate increases blood flow to the brain, resulting in more fuel
    • Stimulation (based on neuroplasticity, or the "use it to not lose it" principle) - it can be as simple as reading aloud or using your non-dominant hand for certain (safe) tasks like tooth brushing
    • Sleep (results in pruning or "defragging" to organize what you've learned that day) - at least 6 hours; let stress go before going to bed, with whatever techniques work for you
Part 2 - a healthy HEART
  • In 2003, cardiovascular disease killed 1 in 2.7 American women; it is the leading cause of death.
  • In women, indicators of a heart attack are very often ignored. They include up to 4-6 months of or sudden onset of unusual fatigue, flu-like symptoms, and indigestion.
  • Risk factors:
    • Can't change: you were over 8 pounds as a newborn; you bore a child under 5 or over 9 pounds; you experienced preeclampsia; you developed gestational diabetes; you have a condition causing chronic inflammation (e.g. an autoimmune disease); you have a positive family history of cardiovascular disease (e.g. heart attack in a male if under 55 years old or a female under 65); you are older than 50 (male) or 65 (female)
    • Able to change: smoking (don't quit cold turkey, but wean); poor diet; lack of mindful aerobic exercise; blood pressure persistently above 140/90; waist circumference over 35" (measured just above the hip bones); fasting blood glucose over 100
  • Know your blood lipids!
    • Total cholesterol should be under 200
    • LDL ("bad") cholesterol should be under 100
    • HDL ("good") cholesterol should be over 50 (female) or 40 (male). This can be raised only by exercise or by prescription vitamin B (doses can cause flushing, however).
    • Non-HDL cholesterol should be under 130
    • Triglycerides (sticky sugar-fat compounds) should be under 150
  • Nutrition facts:
    • Omega-3 fatty acids, great for the heart, are found in crushed flax seed, herring, sardines, salmon, albacore tuna, lake trout, flounder, and anchovies. Don't get it from krill.
    • Women over 50 should not take iron supplements, as they can raise the risk of uterine cancer.
    • Most vitamin pills are not absorbed effectively. Gel capsules are all right for vitamin D (which many people are deficient in); for others, choose chewable vitamins or whole foods so your body can absorb the nutrients.
    • In general, we eat far too much salt. The speaker recommends going on a total salt hiatus - not adding it to anything you prepare. She said that it takes about 2 weeks for your mouth to get used to the changed flavors of foods, after which they will taste normal despite lack of salt.
Part 3 - a healthy SOUL
  • Scriptures: 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Genesis 2:7; Colossians 3:2; 1 Corinthians 13:12 / Matthew 14:28-31; Acts 2:1-4 / Genesis 1:2; Isaiah 64:8; and Romans 8:29
  • C. S. Lewis - we are essentially eternal souls. We know this because time flies! :-)
  • We are also divided beings.
    • Believers in Christ have a body + soul + spirit (i.e. faith, a gift from God)
    • People who do not believe have a body + soul (their faith is a product of the mind)
  • As a believer, ask yourself: (1) Do I love Jesus? (2) Do I let Jesus love me?
  • As a human, ask yourself: (1) What do I worship? (2) How is this reflected in my use of time?
  • Studies from UC-Berkley and other places show connections between forgiveness and health; worship habits and increased longevity.
  • Consider this analogy: fields must be prepared (tilled and planted) to benefit from the rain. Assess your spiritual health, as well as the indicators you use to measure this health.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

"Staying Close to Jesus"

Today's sermon was based on Luke 8:28-36, the account of Jesus' Transfiguration.
How do I know what God wants me to do? Must I have a "mountaintop experience" for every instance where I need the leading of God's specific will?
The point of mountaintop epiphanies - the Transfiguration itself as well as the experiences we as Christians occasionally have with the palpable nearness of God's presence - is not to stay always in their blazing glory. Instead, as the text shows, the point is Jesus' death and resurrection (a greater glory) that assures of freedom in God's personal presence always. This freedom is found in the Lamb of God, Who takes away the world's sin.
We are God's baptized children by faith. As children, our duty is to "listen to Him!" How do we do that? Meditate on the Bible - and live it out. It is both the story of God's love for us and instructions on how to live. The Spirit will give understanding as we read the whole Bible, time and again. 
The Holy Spirit always points us to Jesus, through the Word, relationships, and our hearts. Regarding relationships, we serve our neighbor in the unified Body of Christ, whatever his or her need. We serve our enemies, too, risking their rejection but not fearing it whatsoever. All things weigh against Jesus. Regarding our own hearts, consider Psalm 37:4. He gives us good desires to displace our evil ones. 
Lastly, consider your gifts. If they're God-pleasing desires, then pursue them and watch what God will do with them! "Without Me you can do nothing" (see also Psalm 127).
Soli Deo gloria.