Monday, May 22, 2017

Just Like Two Plus Two Equals Four

Source
When you hear 2+2 =4, you automatically know that this equation is an absolute truth.  The outcome does not change based on your feelings or opinions. As a matter of fact, without me stating the outcome you know what it is because this is an obvious truth.

In mathematics, an equation is a statement of an equality containing one or more variables. Solving the equation consists of determining which values of the variables make the equality true.
An equation is analogous to a scale into which weights are placed. When equal weights of something (grain for example) are placed into the two pans, the two weights cause the scale to be in balance and are said to be equal. If a quantity of grain is removed from one pan of the balance, an equal amount of grain must be removed from the other pan to keep the scale in balance. Likewise, to keep an equation in balance, the same operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division must be performed on both sides of an equation for it to remain an equality. (wikipedia.com)

Today I want to highlight a verse that contains two equations that can help us and then what is often our response, even though it is laid out so clearly.
These equations are from Isaiah 30, a chapter about the Israelites having misplaced trust by not trusting in God. And since we are no different from the individuals in the Bible, let's see what this particular verse means.  


Trusting God's promise means returning. If there is conspicuous disobedience in our lives, we must return to the LORD's ways. Outright disobedience is never consistent with real trust in God's promise. Returning also has the idea of drawing close to the LORD.
Trusting God's promise means rest. When we trust God, we don't have to strive for ourselves. We don't have to run all about trying to protect or guard ourselves. We have the best Protector, the best Guard in God. We can rest in Him, and when we do, it shows we are really trusting in God's promise. (Source: BLB.org)


Trusting God's promise means quietness. You don't need to argue for your side when God is on your side. Be quiet before Him and before others. It shows that you really trust Him.
Trusting God's promise means confidence. You aren't given to despair or fear because you trust God's promise. You know He can and will come through, and you have a profound confidence in the God who loves you. (Source BLB.org)

All of these things together mean a real trust in God's promise, and it means that we shall be saved, and it means that we will find strength. There is no person walking this earth more powerful than a child of God boldly and properly trusting the promise of the living God! (Source BLB.org)

This verse ends with the phrase, "and you would not." Everything was laid out for them, yet they would not. I was struck by this phrase because so many times things are laid out plainly for us to our benefit and yet we choose otherwise. I have been guilty of this but as I re-read this passage this past week I am grateful for God's grace towards me; for the opportunity to return to Him (i.e. repent); for the rest he promises; for the quieting of my spirit overtime and the confidence he has imbued in me. I can confidently say he is my strength and salvation.  


For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not. Isaiah 30:15


What about you? Is God your salvation and strength?
--Nylse

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Do You Have a Divine Appointment?

In our day to day lives oftentimes we have to make an appointment to be seen. If we're ill or there's a question about our health we make an appointment to see the doctor. If we need to get our hair done, we make an appointment. Nowadays we can even make appointments with DMV so that our time there is best used.

We make appointments because they're in our best interest to do so - we can manage our time and hopefully the person we made the appointment with, is aware that we are coming. They can be prepared for us and cut straight to the chase.

When you make an appointment you have made a determination or a decision.

God has made an appointment concerning us also - he's always available and he wants to do something for you:

To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified. Isaiah 61:3


He wants to replace your ashes with beauty.

He wants to replace your mourning with joy.

He wants to replace your depression, your spirit of heaviness with praise.

In Hebrew, this is rendered as replacing epher - ashes, with pheer - beauty. It's a play on words, shifting the placement of one letter makes it go from pain to joy or from pain to gain.

I love when I leave the doctor's office and I feel that a weight has been removed. It's not that I'm healed it's that I now have the knowledge to deal with what I have. Better yet, I love the feeling of lightness, of newness, of prettiness when I leave the hairdresser because of the attention and the care she took in doing my hair. I have felt like a new woman after leaving the salon and my hair is done and I try to maximize this feeling for as long as possible.

God is like the doctor and hairdresser all wrapped in one. Isaiah said he will give you beauty for ashes. God knew you would be burnt by life’s experiences. But he also knew he could replace that burnt out mess with something beautiful. He gives you the knowledge and the freedom because he replaces the old with the new; your sadness with joy. And it's so that you can have a purpose; the purpose that was determined from the time you were born but you just didn't know; circumstances clouded your purpose; you fought against it, but when you come full circle where he cleans you up and your dignity and honor are restored - you begin to know your purpose. You become as steady as a tree that has been divinely watered. When others who knew you before, ask "What changed?" You can sincerely say, "I kept a divine appointment, and I'm the better for it."



I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels. Isaiah 61:10


He's seeking you out and ready to manage your time wisely and turn things around for you, but are you seeking him? God has already determined that you are important to him. Have you determined his importance to you?

--Nylse

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Monday, May 15, 2017

Reflections from the Book of Judges

Christians are hung up on perfection. There I've said it. We like perfect churches with perfect people. We cater to the perfect. The safe space is really a perfect place. It's not for the flawed, broken or hurt among us. The imperfect are relegated to some place else, though we're not sure where that is, since what Christianity offers was supposed to be that place. Perfection is reflected in our cultural norms - a certain look, a certain type, a certain way to be. So we're conflummoxed, befuddled, unraveled when we read the stories that are found in Judges.

God wasn't hung up on perfect but we are. He used the ordinary, the fearful, and the marginalized all to accomplish his plans and purpose. In fact, all of these flaws were found within his chosen people - the Israelites. Clearly, chosen does not mean safe or perfect.


We see in this book the cycle that is so common to us who are also chosen - sin, repentance, deliverance, and obedience.
We see that replacing God with anything else has dire consequences.
We see that if you're willing, God can use whatever you have in your hand.
We see that God's justice is not like man's justice; we see that the wages of sin is death.
We also see that through death comes redemption. Samson’s death saves Israel from Philistine persecution, and Sisera’s death at Jael’s hands was a poignant symbol of Israel’s victory to be celebrated in song.
We see that God can empower a small group to squash an enemy.
We see the consequences of being self-centered and doing right in our own eyes which mimic the current state of affairs in our world.
We see that when you're chosen by God, you're not alone
We see that your personality can be subjected to your character; that your character determines your heart and God cares about your heart. 
We see that when you have a relationship with God, it's easy to discern his voice. Your ears are attuned to his voice.
We see that to be a hero of the faith simply requires total reliance and obedience to God and a willingness to follow.
We see that you can test God.
We see that God is very patient. Over and over he demonstrated his love for his chosen people though he was often angry at their chosen actions.
We see that no one is immune from bad behavior when they're not following God.
We see that the actions from one generation do affect the next, but God can always turn things around.

The next time you're down on yourself or are beating yourself up for something that you did, read the book of Judges. Sometimes we think we're unforgivable - but the stories in Judges highlight that nothing we can do will take God by surprise and though he may be angry at our actions he still has a heart for us. And who knows how he will use you and your flaws to influence the kingdom? Surprisingly, I was very encouraged and humbled by what I learned from this book; by how God used some of these macabre times in history to discipline and restore his people and that if he can do it for them, he can certainly work in my life. We as Christians should do as God did and embrace the imperfect among us.


For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword, piercing even to the point of dividing soul from spirit, and joints from marrow; it is able to judge the desires and thoughts of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

Do you see yourself as imperfect yet capable of being used by God? What will you allow God to do through you?

--Nylse

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Saturday, May 6, 2017

My Newest Superfood - The Papaya


Whenever I visit Jamaica, I noticed that my mother in law has a ritual. Every morning she wakes up bright and early and while singing or humming she peels and prepares a plate of fruit.

This plate is usually made up of whatever is in season or in her backyard. So we always have bananas, mangoes, cantaloupe, and papaya. She finds it cathartic to peel and then assemble this plate. If I try to help, I just get in the way so we'll talk while she works. (I help with other things).

She says papayas are good for you and that they aid in your digestion.

When I return back to the states, I usually go on the hunt for these fruits. Well, I live in California where there are many ethnic markets - Filipino, Korean, Mexican, Indian, combined with lots of farmers markets and I have been able to find the best papayas at the most reasonable price at the Filipino Market - It's the Mexican Papaya and it tastes similar to the one I eat in Jamaica.
This is a great price!

My mother in law likes to cut it vertically and scoop out the seeds like a melon, but I prefer to cut it horizontally into slices as its much easier for me to handle. Of course, you know that this goes into my daily green smoothie. The seeds are soft and edible, so I add a little bit of those to my smoothie also. She was definitely right about this superfood being good for you.

Papayas offer not only the luscious taste and sunlit color of the tropics but are rich sources of antioxidant nutrients such as carotenes, vitamin C and flavonoids; the B vitamins, folate and pantothenic acid; and the minerals, potassium, copper, and magnesium; and fiber. Together, these nutrients promote the health of the cardiovascular system and also provide protection against colon cancer. In addition, papaya contains the digestive enzyme, papain, which is used like bromelain, a similar enzyme found in pineapple, to treat sports injuries, other causes of trauma, and allergies. 

Read more about the papaya and its benefits here -  and then start incorporating it into your daily ritual. Your body will thank you.
--Nylse

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Monday, May 1, 2017

Women of the Word - Khristi Adams

The next installment in this series is Khristi Adams, who was introduced to my by my daughter who also contributes to this blog. Khristi is a young woman whose youth does not deter her from having a heart and passion for serving the Lord in the capacity as a speaker, student, youth advocate and author.
Khristi Adams



1. As someone who studies the Bible, what are your favorite tools and resources?
KA: Outside of the Bible, A Bible Dictionary, Matthew Henry Commentary (even though it is an old English format) and NT Wright Commentary. Online, I rely on Bible Gateway and of course Google; but I'm a big believer in checking and verifying all my sources.


2. Old Testament, New Testament or both?
KA: Both though I probably lean more towards the Gospel - Matthew, Mark, Luke & John. The Old Testament provides better narratives which are easier to preach and the New Testament reinforces. I like the real examples of the Old Testament combined with New Testament theology.


3. Why do you study the Bible? What was your initial motivation?
KA: I grew up in church and was involved in Youth Ministry. When I went away to college, I didn't have the safety of the church so I was forced to learn the Word for myself because I wanted to grow spiritually and learn about God. Now I study the Bible more for practical application. Your perspective can change over time, so as I speak I always ask, "How can this be applied to my life? How can this be applied to someone's life?"



4. How does inspiration work for you? How do you know that what you're writing or understanding is as if God is moving the pen and you're just the vehicle?
KA: I share knowing that I am not always the expert, but I'm being transparent and allowing God to work through me in whatever way He sees fit. It keeps me humble. I get a sense that something is happening and just let go of everything that's happening around me. Inspiration is easier to assess when preaching due to the immediate response of the audience.

5. How do you handle complex topics that may not align with popular views? (Can you give an example?)
KA: First, I make sure I'm clear on what I believe. Second, I'm confident in my "I don't know" especially as it relates to God's Word. As an example, women in ministry is a hotly debated topic. I know I've been called to minister to others as a woman. Many don't think the Bible can be sacred and contextual. Patriarchal culture is considered contextual, yet in context throughout the Bible, women ministered. Jesus was a part of the day's culture, yet he transcended culture. I use these thoughts to guide me.


6. When confronted by the truth of scripture, even for difficult topics, how does it re-orient you?
KA:
I focus on conviction vs. condemnation. Once convicted by God's word, my actions are very clear - repentance and changed ways.


7. Tell us a little bit about yourself, current projects you are working on and where you can be found.
KA: 
I can be found online at https://khristilaurenadams.com. Khristi is an Author, Speaker, Youth Advocate, Filmmaker & Playwright. She is the author of the book “The Misinterpreted Gospel of Singleness: a cultural critique of myths surrounding singleness in the Christian community.” Khristi is ordained with American Baptist Churches USA. She is currently an Associate Pastor of Pastoral Affairs at First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens. Khristi is a graduate of Temple University with a degree in Advertising and a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary where she obtained a Master of Divinity degree. Khristi is writer and director of the stage plays, God & Country, The Herstory Exhibitions and Yesterday I Died.She has done cross-cultural work in Ghana, West Africa; Kingston, Jamaica & Mexico working with churches, schools, prisons and community groups. She recently joined the Board of Directors for “Word Made Flesh,” a non-profit organization existing to serve among the most vulnerable of the world’s poor. Khristi is a Pastoral Counselor at Christian Wellness Center in Somerset, NJ & a featured writer on Huffington Post Religion, Off the Page (of Our Daily Bread) and several other online publications. In the Fall of 2017, Khristi will begin a Ph.D. program in Organizational Leadership at Eastern University.

8. How do you deal with discouragement and doubt? (Bonus question)
KA:
 I'm Surrounded by wise counselors i.e. I speak with my counselor/therapist as needed. In addition, I have people in my life that I can be vulnerable with and who keep me accountable. I try to take regular time for myself.

--Nylse

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