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Saturday, January 27, 2018

How to Handle Tests

I only have to watch my students take an exam to observe that there are lots of ways to handle tests. My students:
  • Fidget—Some almost dance around in the chair. Some fiddle with their hair, necklace, etc. Some are in perpetual motion the whole test long.
  • Talk—A few look like they’re talking out loud. Or, maybe they’re singing? I'm glad I can’t hear what’s going on!
  • Look like the Mona Lisa—Some have sly smiles on their faces, like they’re thinking, “Mrs. Keiser, I know what you’re up to.”
  • Smile—I mean, they’re outright enjoying the test. (Yes, these students are few and far between.)
  • Scowl—Several knit their eyebrows together and scowl through the whole test.
  • Cry—On occasion, I’ve seen tears. I am sincerely sorry.
  • Have poker faces—Truly, some of my students could be thinking anything, and you’d never guess!
  • Bite fingernails--To the quick! It is almost funny.
  • Yawn--I'm not sure what this is saying about my tests.
My students handle tests in different ways.

And, so do Christians. Some of us:
  • Scowl.
  • Shake off problems.
  • Take them very seriously.
  • Fuss and become anxious and fidgety.
  • Cry.
  • Endure.
  • Show joy.
The Bible assures Christians that trials will come. (They come to everyone, by the way.) We will face persecution, loss, and the normal, everyday trials that come with living in this world, with other people. It’s part of life.

So, what do we do when trials come? The Apostle Paul said something I’m not sure I fully comprehend: My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations (James 1:2). Joy? All joy? The next verse says, Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. Oh, great, it’s so we’ll learn patience! Just what we’re supposed to be joyful about! I’m sure you’ve heard the old preacher cliché, “Don´t pray for patience. The Lord will send you some trials.” Well, I think it misjudges God a little, but the truth is, we learn patience by going through hardships.

Let’s look at some more Bible passages about handling tests and trials.
  • Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us (Romans 8:35, 37).
  • Referring to the churches in Macedonia, Paul said, How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality (2 Corinthians 8:2).
  • Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong (2 Corinthians 12:10).
  • So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure (2 Thessalonians 1:4).
  • That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:7).

When trials come, we should:
  1. Depend on the Lord. Pray. Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you (1 Peter 5:7).
  2. Realize that God can and will help us through any situation. In the context of being imprisoned and suffering, Paul said, I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me (Philippians 4:13).
  3. Recognize that Jesus truly understands. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour (help, aid) them that are tempted (Hebrews 2:18).  Speaking of Jesus, the writer of Hebrews says, For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:15-16).
  4. Know that God will not give you more than you can bear—with His help. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it (1 Corinthians 10:13).
  5. Leave judgment and vengeance to God. O LORD, thou knowest: remember me, and visit me, and revenge me of my persecutors; take me not away in thy longsuffering: know that for thy sake I have suffered rebuke (Jeremiah 15:15). Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord (Romans 12:19).
  6. Rest in the Lord’s care. Jesus said, Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).
  7. Be joyful. Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice ... Be careful (anxious) for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:4, 6-7).
  8. Keep a heavenly perspective. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; 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 (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).
God bless you in whatever test you face today.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Are Social Media Good? Four Ways to Make Sure They Are

I am okay with or without social media. I mean, when I go on vacation, I leave my computer at home. I don’t even own a smart phone. It’s a true vacation. I don’t need to answer anyone, and I don’t email or post anything. I lose touch with the world for a little while. I schedule some necessary posts ahead of time, and then I go away. I enjoy being with my husband and seeing new places with him. We have fun conversations, or we just slouch around watching the TV news at the end of a long walking day.

As you know, we live overseas. One of the ways I keep in touch with family, friends, and online friends with similar interests is through social media. It helps me reach out from my own living room. I can ask questions, get answers, check on the kids and grandkids, and send pictures almost in the blink of an eye.

I live a full life and am rarely lonely, but when I am, I reach out to others. “How are you?” is the question I ask most often. Then, we have a chat. It’s a wonderful thing!

But, social media can also produce nasty reactions, if you let them. Your online friendships can erode your contentment, eat away at your self-confidence, and make you feel like dirt. Just compare your collapsed cake with the Frozen-themed princess birthday party you saw on Pinterest. You don’t add up. Your kids will never forgive you for such a ratty party. This is what you think as you sit down in a funk.

Mr. and Mrs. So and So* must have a perfect marriage. After all, they get professional photos taken about every two months, and they’re playing together, hugging each other, and seem to be so in love. Your husband does not think you need to spend $150 for a photo session even once a year! So you start griping to yourself about Hubby, and you think what you’d like to do to him instead of loving him as he is—pictures or no pictures.

Letitia is always taking selfies. She is gorgeous, and you can’t blame her! Who wouldn’t take selfies, looking like that? You walk by the mirror and just about pass out from the shock. Your hair looks like a rooster walked across the top, and your make-up consists of … oh, that’s right, you didn’t put any on today. You begin to wonder if Letitia wakes up looking like her selfies or how many hours it takes to be that pretty. You become dissatisfied with your own looks. The extra pounds from your last baby, your crooked teeth—which you’re positive everyone is staring at—and your hair, which kind of has a mind of its own…. Oh, if you could only be like Letitia!

Sandra post-boasts about her latest purchase, a really cute purse. It was on sale for only $250—a real bargain! That would be your grocery money for the whole month. You start to grump about what Hubby brings home and how much isn’t left over after the necessary expenses are taken care of. Why can’t you rejoice about a $250 on-sale purse?

Mrs. Figbert shares photos of her home just about every week. White surfaces, no clutter, beautiful decorations, priceless art and antiques. It looks like no one ever cooks or sits down. You think of your five kids and two dogs and how long a white couch would stay white. You think of red spaghetti sauce and the gray and white rug under Mrs. Figbert’s dining room table. You compare your life—and your house—to hers, and you’re convinced you come up short. It’s another reason to grouse.

Lillie is at a specific restaurant with her girlfriends one night. Two days later, she posts photos of her husband with her and two other couples at a glamorous steak place. The next week, she’s out for fancy hamburgers at lunch with a co-worker. But, Lillie is nothing compared to Pam! Pam and her husband are always traveling. You count at least three exotic places in the past four months: Italy, the Bahamas for Christmas, and now, they’re in Tokyo, enjoying sushi.

You sit in your favorite chair, nurse your cup of cooling tea, and feel sorry for yourself. Social media has made you mad at your friends, husband—and kids, since they'd never keep a sofa white—and the dogs. You can't forget those lousy mutts! You’re disgusted with your face, hair, house, friends (or lack thereof), and financial status. You’re discontented, and you feel yucky.

How can social media be used for your good? Let me propose a few ideas:
  1. Don’t believe everything you see. A photo is only a photo. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things (Philippians 4:8).
  2. Join a social media group of fellow Christians with similar values to yours. You can encourage them, and they will encourage you. Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man's friend by hearty counsel. Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend (Proverbs 27:9, 17).
  3. Use social media like a prayer list—and actually pause and pray. Pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much (James 5:16b).
  4. Resist the temptation to compare yourself to others, and find contentment in your own circumstances and in the Lord. Other moms with five kids and two dogs don’t live in pristine white houses, either. Most children are quite okay with a collapsed cake, a few gifts, and lots of love on their birthdays. Moms with a bunch of kids usually don’t take a lot of selfies: they are busy investing in their family. Many other people live on budgets and do just fine. Be real. You don’t need to be someone else. You are you. Let your conversation (lifestyle) be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee (Hebrews 13:5).

* All of my illustrations are completely fictitious, though typical of situations found in social media.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The New "Christian" Alcohol

Fermented cranberry sauce
Ginger “ale”
Lacto-fermented ketchup, fruit, etc.

All are considered good for your health.  The idea is to ingest live, good bacteria, which “boost your gut microbiome”1 and make you feel marvellous. Do they really help? Studies show an improvement in digestion. Studies also caution against using these for people with immune system deficiencies and children.

Just so we understand exactly what we’re talking about:
  • Kombucha is fermented tea.
  • Kefir is fermented milk (dairy or otherwise).
  • Kimchi and sourkraut are different ways to ferment cabbage.

Fermented food and drinks are all the rage. “Fermentation is the process by which yeast or bacteria convert sugar to alcohol, and it occurs when bread leavens or beer and wine are made.”2

And, Christian women everywhere are brewing in their kitchens.

I was curious to know if there’s a significant alcohol content in them. According to my research, this is what I found:
  • Kombucha’s alcohol content can be from .5% to 2.5%.1
  • Kefir’s alcohol content after 24-hours’ fermentation is from .08% to .1%.
  • Of course, fermented cabbage is much less.
If you compare kombucha to beer, it has about half the alcohol content or less. Kefir’s is less than half of kombucha’s.

So, is this problematic?

I really don’t know, although they say that drinking enough kombucha can give people a buzz. My sources didn’t specify an amount, but I would guess one would have to drink a lot.

The question for Christians is about consistency. If a Christian refuses to drink anything alcoholic, is brewing and drinking kombucha or ginger ale consistent with a non-alcohol stance? Could it possibly lead to developing a taste for beer and other alcoholic drinks?

I have no idea. I'm only asking questions.

Here are a couple of the Bible’s warnings:
  • Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise (Proverbs 20:1).
  • Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright (Proverbs 23:31).

One of the qualifications for pastors, deacons, and Christian women leaders is:
  • Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous (1 Timothy 3:3).
  • Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre (1 Timothy 3:8).
  • For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre (Titus 1:7)
  • The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things (Titus 2:3).

Here’s permission to use alcohol medicinally:
  • Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts (Proverbs 31:6).
  • Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities (1 Timothy 5:23).

We know that biblical wines were “home brews” and not processed the same way beer, wines, and liquors are made today. Would leading Christians in Bible times have used naturally fermented drinks and foods? Would they have made kombucha, kefir, or ginger ale? (I think they would probably have enjoyed kimchi, if they lived in Korea, or sourkraut in Germany.)

I’d like to hear your thoughts on the subject of fermented foods and drinks. What do you think? Are they okay for Christians? I would love to have your input.

(Please keep the discussion kind. I respect your opinion, either way. Thank you.)



Saturday, January 13, 2018

You Aren't "God" to Anyone (and Eight Things You Can Be)

I know what they mean by “Be God to someone today.” But, you can’t. You aren’t. You can’t even dream what that means.

There’s only one Person who’s ever been God to anyone, and that’s Jesus, because He actually is God. Do you remember this Bible conversation? And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God (Luke 18:18-19).

How about the phrase, “Be God’s hands”? Can we be God’s hands to someone? When we reach out to help someone, are we God’s hands? Not exactly, and here’s why: God’s hands are infinite.
  • God hands created everything. The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land (Psalm 95:5).
  • God’s hands are connected with truth and judgment. The works of his hands are verity and judgment; all his commandments are sure (Psalm 111:7).
  • God’s hands are so big that He measures the skies with a handbreadth. Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? (Isaiah 40:12)
  • God’s hands heal. And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people (Matthew 4:23).
  • God’s hands hold His own people tightly, forever. Jesus said, And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand (John 10:28).

It's true that God uses people in His work. It’s also true that when we do something kind for another person, it's just like we're doing it for Jesus Himself. But this talks about Christian service, not “being God” to anyone. It’s about doing good for the Lord’s sake.

I love this passage. Jesus used this story to teach his disciples. For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me (Matthew 25:35-40).

When Jesus gave his parting commands, He didn’t say, “Be my hands” or “Be God to others.” He said, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world (Matthew 28:18b-20). Because of Jesus’ power and presence, we are enabled to go, teach, spread the gospel, baptize, and disciple. It’s all because of God’s power. We’re nothing without Him! All the energy--the Greek word for "power" is the root for dynamite--comes from God.

I know it’s about word choice, but when people say “Be God” they’re actually misrepresenting our role as Christians. We are absolutely nothing without salvation through Christ. We can’t do anything without His empowerment. All our best works are nasty when compared with His holiness. We dare not even think of ourselves in God's terms. No human can presume to be God or be His hands. It’s impossible!

So, what can we do?
  1. Be saved. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name (John 1:12).
  2. Be a witness in all the world, starting at home. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8).
  3. Be separate from the world's system. I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God (Romans 12:1-2).
  4. Be glorifying to God in everything. Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).
  5. Be a servant to others. For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another (Galatians 5:13).
  6. Be a servant to the Lord. Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ (Colossians 3:24).
  7. Be thankful. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
  8. Be holy. But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation (lifestyle); Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).

Let God be God. We need to recognize our total dependence on Him, and serve Him with all our might. And, let’s be more careful that our Christian terminology lines up with biblical theology.