Archive for June, 2012

Is Your Life Being a Fragrance to Others?

A Single Rose in a Beer Bottle

Many times we get so busy with living that we fail to take the time to enjoy the small and meaningful things in life. There is an old saying that says, “Slow down! Take time to smell the roses.”  But have you ever thought of your life as being a sweet fragrance to others?

There is a story told about a pastor in Houston, Texas, who ran a rescue mission. He related this story about a day that he placed a single rose in a beer bottle.

The rescue mission had been started in downtown Houston in a tavern. Since there had previously been 18 murders in 5 years in the tavern, the city had closed it. This pastor related, “Anything from New York to Mars came through the front door of the mission.”

This pastor had purchased 3 rosebushes and named each rose bush after each one of his children.  He was surprised to discover that it was not easy caring for rose bushes. When one bush wasn’t blooming, he decided that he would call that child and ask how that child was doing.

One morning, as he was leaving his home to go to the rescue mission, he saw one of the most beautiful roses that he had ever seen in his yard.  He decided to cut that rose and take it to the rescue mission. He thought to himself, “I wonder when was the last time that the people at the mission took time to smell a rose.” At the mission, there were runaways, drug addicts, mental patients, drunkards, and prostitutes. When he got to the chapel of the mission, he began to look for a vase to put the rose. Not finding anything, he went upstairs where there had once been a long bar.  Since there were no lights upstairs, he felt around behind the bar and felt a beer bottle. He took the bottle downstairs, placed the rose inside it, took it to the lobby, and set it on a table.

This pastor began to watch the people as they came into the mission. As they looked at the rose, their eyes would brighten up. They would go over and touch it. These people, who had been so busy with their sinful pleasures, would stop and look at that rose.

The pastor began to ask questions. The first man he asked was Paul, a man who should have been dead many times. “Paul, what do you see?” Paul said, “I see a rose.” All through the day, he asked that same question to many people. Not one person saw the beer bottle, they only saw the rose. The rose had covered the bottle.

Ladies, our lives are like that rose in that beer bottle. If there is any good in our lives, it is because of Christ. The Bible says that our wonderful Savior is called the Rose of Sharon. The beauty and fragrance of His love started blooming in our lives the day that we accepted Him as our Savior. Just like the rose in that bottle, our lives must be a fragrance to others.  When they see the evidence of Jesus Christ springing forth out of ordinary vessels, they will enjoy the sweet fragrance of the Rose of Sharon in our lives; they won’t even notice the vessel.  This can be achieved by:

  1. Being a testimony to others. The world is watching us to see how we react under pressure. Maybe the trial that you are going through right now is an assignment from God to reach someone.
  2. Cultivating Christian friendships. Most of us are too busy to cultivate friendships. The word friend comes from the Old English Freon. This word means love. Loving in the Biblical sense means to fully concentrate on the needs and pleasures of others. Ask yourself? “Why am I living? How do I want my life to count in terms of eternity?”
  3. Having a positive attitude. Our attitude affects everything we do. Proverbs 17:22 A merry heart doeth good like a medicine; but a broken spirit drieth the bones.
  4. Expressing appreciation to others. In Luke 17:11-17, Jesus healed ten lepers, but only one expressed his appreciation.
  5. Overlooking offences. Proverbs 12:16 tells us that a prudent (wise) man does not react every time something is done to him.
  6. Forgetting past mistakes. Philippians 4:14 tells us that we should forget those mistakes that we have made and press on to things that will please Christ and His work.
  7. Being hospitable. We must open our eyes and our hearts to the needs of those around us. Romans 12:13…given to hospitality.
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Joy Is a Choice

There are times that we feel depressed, discouraged, and overwhelmed. We begin to be unhappy for no apparent reason. We begin to think negative thoughts. When we begin to think these thoughts, we must choose to take every thought captive and think Biblical thoughts.

II Corinthians 10:5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.

Joy comes through true Biblical positive thinking?  Positive thinking flows through our minds when we give our worries and concerns to the Lord and make a conscious choice to think joyful and positive thoughts.

Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Here are some things that are crucial to living a joyful life. Following God’s keys will help us become dependent upon His direction and help us to make right choices for our lives.

Faith, not understanding, is the key to trusting .  I was listening to a sermon the other day by Adrian Rodgers. He said, “When you are going through dark and discouraging times,”

  • Don’t demand to understand
  • Be faithful even though you don’t feel like it
  • Don’t get bitter
  • Don’t be unwilling to wait.

Trusting the Lord and communicating  with Him is vital to our joy.  Communication is more than “give me” It involves talking, listening, and waiting for God’s grace to come into our lives. When God’s grace comes in, we will receive an outpouring of His love to undergird us and give us energy us for our work. Communication with God involves talking with Him not talking at Him. As we begin to intimately share our hurts with Him, He comforts us and gives us strength to endure the trials as we go through them. Jesus prayed in the garden, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” Jesus is never closer to us than when He is empathizing with us in our troubles. When we  cry out to Him in our pain, it is His nail-pierced hand that reaches out to us.  Trusting God frees us to view all of our experiences from His point of view. We begin to see  that even unpleasant experiences are sent to us are for our good and for His glory. We realize that that God is using these experiences to shape us for His purpose in our lives.

Focusing on being thankful for all experiences accompanies joy . I Thessalonians 5:18 In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. We must focus on being thankful if we want to live above our circumstances. When we face a difficult  trial, we usually become stunned, disorganized, disbelieving and numb. As our emotions escalate, we become anxious and fearful.  We begin to focus on our problems and begin to question life, our purpose, and God’s purpose.  On the other hand, if we thank God for the events He sends into our live and focus on His purpose, we will begin to feel joy and His presence.

You say how can I get the proper focus?

  • Get quiet and get on your knees and pray, “Lord, I thank You for the experience You have chosen for me. I would not have chosen it for myself, but You know me better than I know myself, and You know the lesson I need to learn. Oh Father, help me to experience the joy that will come if I just trust You through this situation.”
  • Listen for guidance. The Lord might speak to you in a still small voice and say, “My child, your humanity can not see as I see. Trust Me; what you are going through right now will be good for your future.”
  • Center your focus on trust. Eliminate distrustful thinking from your mind. Fill your mind with positive, constructive thoughts.

Matthew 14:22-30  And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away.  And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.  But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.  And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.  And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.  But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.  And He(Jesus) said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.  But when he (Peter) saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth His hand, and caught him, and said unto, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?

As long as Peter had his focus on Jesus, he walked on the water, but when Peter lost his focus, he began to sink.

Understanding that God made us the way we are and that we have purpose brings joy. As humans we all want to know that there is a reason to live. Unless we understand who we are and trust God with the direction of our lives, we will be overwhelmed when trials come into our lives. We must realize that we are not all equal; each one of us is a unique creation. We are created for a specific purpose that only we can fulfill. Comparisons with others keep us bound and limited.  Until God sees that He can trust us to use what He has  given us, He will not trust us with more.  He does not look down on us and say, “Poor you. I have given you less gifts (talents) than your neighbor. You don’t have to use your gifts to enjoy this life. Because you have suffered so much in this life, your reward will be in heaven.” Of course, He doesn’t say that! He tells us, “Use what you have and be happy! Your life conditions should not control your joy.”

Forgiving others  is crucial to joy. You say, “I think I could forgive that person, if he would only ask for it.” That kind of forgiveness is unconditional.  What you are saying is, “Unless that person meets my requirements, I will not forget how he has wronged me.” Forgetting doesn’t work! The mind never forgets. Your mind is like a computer that stores memories. Forgetting doesn’t bring release from hurt. When you store those hurts in your heart and let them simmer, they will periodically resurface and bring you pain. Forgiveness must come without any strings attached. This kind of forgiveness allows you to remember, but you will not be angry. True forgiveness says, “I will not bring the offence up to others; I will not bring the offence up to the person who has offended me; and I will not let my mind brood about the offence.”

Gen 45:1-5 Joseph shows us a great example of true forgiveness in Genesis 45:1-5.  He had every right to hold a grudge against his brothers, but he managed to refocus and forgive. He told his brothers, “Don’t be angry for selling me. God sent me before you to preserve your lives.”

Corrie ten Boom chose to forgive those who committed the atrocities in her life, and in doing so, found peace within her circumstances. Her family endured great suffering during WW II because they had sheltered Jewish friends, protecting them from the death squads. Her family was imprisoned at Ravensbruc, one of the most horrid of the concentration camps, where they died and she barely survived. After a clerical error resulted in her release, Corrie ten Boom slowly rebuilt her life in Holland. A renowned speaker, she was invited to speak about God’s forgiveness to an audience in defeated Germany. After her speech was over, a man walked toward her, held out his hand. At that moment she recognized him as one of the most cruel guards at Ravensbruck. In her book Tramp for the Lord, she relates the experience.

“I was face-to-face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze.

“You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,” he was saying, “I was a guard there. But since that time, he went on, I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein,”–again the hand came out–“will you forgive me?”

And I stood there–I whose sins had again and again been forgiven—and could not forgive. Betsie had died in the place-could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking? It could not have been many seconds that he stood there–hand held out–but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do. For I had to do it–I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition; that we forgive those who have injured us. “If you do not forgive men their trespasses,” Jesus says, “neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses…” Jesus, help me!” I prayed silently. ” I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.”     And…….so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place.

The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being bringing tears to my eyes.”I forgive you, brother!” I cried, “With all my heart.”

Controlling our thoughts affect  our actions and our joy: Philippians 4:8 Positive thoughts of faith, love, purpose, determination, and humor boost the body’s health and make the spirit soar. Negative emotions of hate, vindictiveness, revenge, despondency, and melancholy lower the body’s resistance to disease and burden you with chains of gloom. We can actually alter our temperature, our blood pressure, and our blood chemistry is a matter of minutes. We literally have the power to control our health and our actions through the thoughts we choose to think.  We must stop thinking, “I could rejoice in the Lord, If”. Stop and think of this world. One out of three people are going to be divorced. One out of two or three people are going to have cancer.  We are all going to have to go through problems. Death is universal, and we are all going to have to experience it.

Here are some suggestions to help renew your mind and keep your thought life healthy:

  • Immerse yourself in Scripture and prayer. Through reading the Scriptures and praying, you will get strength, guidance, energy, and courage to equip yourself for the day.
  • Don’t be afraid of your emotions. Express yourself. If you want to cry..cry. If you feel like laughing..laugh. Laughter brings joy to the heart. Proverbs 17:22 A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.
  • Celebrate small things. Make a habit of rejoicing or celebrating about small things such as making a new friend, cleaning the yard, or finishing a project. By doing this, you will begin to see blessings in the everyday moments of your life.
  • Be a memory maker for your family. Good memories are built from someone taking time to remind you that you are special to them. Memories hold families together. Here are a few examples of ways to make memories:
    1. Month-iversaries: On the day of each child’s birthday, do something for that child; a small gift, go on a picnic, go out to eat; just something nice to let them know they are special every month.
    2. Make a habit of praying with your children. It only takes a few minutes a day, yet it will bring you and your child many benefits. It will help you discover what’s on his mind as he or prays.
    3. Make a “Thanksgiving Box”. Prepare a box and instruct your children that any time during the week to write down things that they are thankful. During Sunday’s   lunch, read those “Thankful notes” aloud.
  • Look for occasions to thank people in your life.  Whether it is your child’s teacher, a janitor, a store clerk, a plumber, a hairdresser, a family member, a church musician, or a special friend, write a letter, text a message, or just tell someone “Thank you”.
  • Read a biography of a great Christian or missionary. You will discover that what you are currently experiencing is pretty petty in comparison to what others have experienced.
  • Exercise. Your mind doesn’t work well if it’s sluggish.
  • Plan a party or a time of hospitality for someone. As you begin serving others, your service to others will take your mind off your own problems.
  • Do everything for positive reasons. Don’t do things because you think someone will be irritated with you if you don’t. Do things because you want to please the Lord and feel good about sharing your time and your abilities. Colossians 3:23 Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily as to the Lord, and not unto men.
  • Listen to Godly uplifting music. Godly music will calm and refresh your spirit. The words of the music will remind you of God’s love and goodness.

Remember joy is a choice!  You can choose to hold a grudge or choose to trust God and accept His experiences help you grow spiritually. It’s your life. You can choose to blame your unhappiness and lack of enthusiasm on someone else. You can choose to blame God and say, “God is just not fair, and after all I’ve done for Him. Look what I have to go through.” You can choose to blame your problems on your family, your husband, other church members, your health, or your looks. You can choose to make any excuse you want for a rotten attitude, or you can choose to be joyful. The choice is up to you!

Planning Mission Trips

People make many mistakes when traveling outside the United States because they do not research the country and customs of the country where they plan to travel. An activity that you might freely do in the United States might be illegal to do in another country.

 Tips to Help When Traveling to Other Countries

  • Do your research. Search the internet or guidebooks for the country you plan to visit. You can also check with the official foreign website (travel.state.gov). This site will give you travel and safety tips when traveling to a particular country.
  • Respect the place and the people that you visit.  You might think that there is nothing wrong with posing in front of a heathen statue, but someone else might think that you are terrible for doing such a thing.
  • Write down the phone number for United States’ Embassy and put it in a safe and available place in case of an emergency.
  • Never carry anyone’s bag for him, no matter what he tells you. Drug smuggling in Singapore and many other countries is punishable by the death penalty. (It was a terrorist, who convinced a young Irish girl, to carry  the suitcase with the bomb in it onto PAN flight 103, Lockerbie, Scotland. That flight killed 270 people. Of course, the young woman did not know what was in the suitcase.)
  • Be aware of different laws about carrying items out of the country. It is illegal to carry a likeness of Buddha in Thailand.
  • Always dress modestly. Some countries dress in not that important, but in other countries such as in the Maldives or Abu Dhabi, immodest dress could result in imprisonment.
  • Kissing or other forms of public affection in many Middle Eastern countries could result in imprisonment.
  • Become aware of certain strict laws of the country. Example: In Singapore, there are heavy fines for littering and failing to flush a public toilet after using it.
  • If you are traveling to Muslim countries during Ramadan, be careful where you eat. In some countries, it is illegal to eat outside homes or restaurants during this time.
  • Do not pack too many clothes. When traveling in Great Britain, you will need to ride in small taxis and on trains. Pack light and wrinkle resistant clothes. It is easier to wash clothes out every night than to burden yourself down with too many bags.
  • Since most credit card companies do not charge large fees and do the proper exchange rates, always try to use your credit card to purchase most items.
  • Check health standards for the country you plan to visit.  Before visiting some countries, you will need to take shots for malaria and other diseases before you leave.
  • Be careful about being too friendly with men. In some countries, just smiling or speaking to men suggests that you are a promiscuous woman.
  • Avoid talking about how great the United States is in comparison to the country that you are visiting.
  • Avoid talking or laughing loud.
  • Do not push ahead of others in lines. (Usually Europeans are more polite than Americans)Learn some basic phrases in the language of the country you plan to visit. (Yes, no, please, thank-you, hello, goodbye, good morning, good evening, goodnight, nice, beautiful, wonderful)
  • Some hotels do not have bathroom in each room. Look for WC. This is the universal sign for water closet or toilet.
  • Give gifts—Europeans and Latinos love to receive gifts for any reason.