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Round: Make the most of your new year

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“Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well”—3 John 2(NIV).

By Carol Round
Special to Inside The Pew

A New Year has arrived and with it the usual resolutions to lose weight, get in shape and quit smoking. Some look for quick fixes through crash diets, new exercise crazes or so-called “magical” pills while others seek a solution through surgery, bringing with it a host of possible complications and side effects.

Growing up in the 50s and 60s, I don’t recall seeing as many overweight people as is prevalent today. I also don’t remember seeing a fast-food restaurant on almost every corner. MyCarol Round mother was a stay-at-home mom who cooked healthy meals. When we did eat out, it was a treat. Today, eating out seems to be the norm as the choice of restaurants and fast-food places have grown as fast as our waistlines and hips.

Instead of setting ourselves up for failure by making resolutions each January, what if we turned to scripture for a permanent solution to our health problems?  What if we chose to do the following?

Make wise choices concerning our health. Sometimes, it’s difficult to know what the wisest choices are when we get conflicting information via the media. We must educate ourselves through reliable sources, including those from reputable organizations. (see Proverbs 2:6)

Practice self-control.  With an abundance of food choices in our country comes stress. How is that possible? Just walk down a supermarket aisle and check out the options available. It can be overwhelming. Too many choices can lead us to make hasty decisions. We don’t take time to study labels nor educate ourselves about the best food for our bodies. (see Proverbs 25:28)

Honor God with our bodies. How do we do this? By choosing wisely what we eat and drink and letting go of bad habits that lead to disease and early death. (see 1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

Ask for accountability. If you’re trying to make healthier choices, seek an accountability partner who will help you stay on track until your new lifestyle becomes a daily habit. (see 1 Thessalonians 5:11)

Rely on God’s power rather than our own strength. A new year brings resolve to do better for most of us, hence the word ‘resolution.’ However, we usually set out to accomplish them in our own power. That’s why most people fail. (see Philippians 4:13)

Choose to exercise our bodies. Say the word “exercise” and most people run in the opposite direction. Why is that? Do we equate it with hard work? Is it because we don’t want to make the time, instead preferring to vegetate in front of the TV? Exercise should be fun. Fun? Choose something that interests you and will keep you motivated. (see Romans 12:1)

Quit making excuses. Just do it! (Luke 14:17-18)

Start your New Year right. Commit all of your goals and plans to the Lord. Ask for His direction and guidance for the coming year. Make the most of 2016.

Carol Round is an author, a columnist, and a speaker. To learn more about Carol and her ministry, visit  her website or connect on Facebook or Twitter.

 

Round: Every morning is Easter morning

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Resurrection Sunday

By Carol Round
Special to Inside The Pew

“I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end; He will stand upon the earth” Job 19:25 (NIV).Resurrection Sunday

Holy Week dawned with a cloudy sky, rain showers and the threat of freezing temperatures in Oklahoma. It was mid-April. New plants were pushing their green heads through the soil in my flowerbeds. Would they survive the predicted late freeze?

The previous day, our church had celebrated Palm Sunday with the children marching into the sanctuary, waving palm branches and singing “Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest.”  Not only do our children look forward to this day, the congregation enjoys celebrating Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey.

In his Palm Sunday sermon, our pastor said Jesus fulfilled over 300 Old Testament prophecies—some of them between 400-700 years before Jesus was born—including his arrival on the back of a borrowed donkey. Traditionally, entering the city on a donkey symbolized arrival in peace, rather than as a war-waging king arriving on a horse. As Pastor Ray said, “The purpose of that first Palm Sunday was to demonstrate the Kingship of God, and to offer peace. It was a non-violent challenge to a very violent (Roman) regime!”

He added, “Palm Sunday was no accident.” Neither was the crucifixion nor Easter Sunday. The events that took place during theCarol Round first Holy Week were all part of God’s perfect plan, a plan to help us focus our hearts on the cross of Christ and His empty tomb. God’s perfect plan was to save humanity.

Evangelist Billy Graham said, “God proved His love on the Cross. When Christ hung, and bled, and died, it was God saying to the world, ‘I love you.’” But His love didn’t end on the cross. He further demonstrated His amazing love through an empty tomb, offering hope to those who believe.

Remember John 20:1-3? “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!’”

Some see Easter as no more than jelly beans, colored eggs, cellophane-covered baskets and giant candy bunnies but it is so much more. Easter is our symbol of hope, renewal and new life.

I came across the words to a song called “Every Morning is Easter Morning.” The chorus follows: “Ev’ry morning is Easter morning from now on! Ev’ry day’s resurrection day, the past is over and gone!” The first stanza includes the words: “I am one of the Easter people! My new life has begun!”

For people of faith, every day is Easter Sunday. When we accept the unconditional love of a Heavenly Father, who gave His precious Son for our sins, we can delight in what this youngster said, “Christmas is Jesus’ birthday, but Easter is everybody’s birthday.”

Easter was no accident. It was the Pinnacle of God’s Plan.

The author is available to speak at women’s events or to lead prayer journaling workshops. Email carolaround@yahoo.com

 

South African author reveals social concern with ‘Diamonds In The Dust’

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By Grelan Muse Sr.
Inside The Pew

The concern of HIV/AIDS around the world takes a front seat Dec. 1 for World AIDS Day. In the 20-plus years since the first commemoration, South Africa had made strides to help its men, women, and children. While there is work that still needs to be done, deaths from HIV and AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa have declined. In 2011, 1.2 million South Africans died from the disease, down 32 percent from 2010, according to the UNAIDS report. In addition, the reports explain 5.6 million people in South Africa are living with HIV/AIDS.

A social conscience from people within and outside of South Africa is needed to help South Africans through this catastrophe. Shirley Tucker, author of the award-winning novel “Diamonds in the Dust,” uses her storytelling ability and faith in God to present a story of perseverance, hope, amid the storm. The South African author tells the story of Ida Morgan, a woman who experience the unthinkable when her husband is murdered. Ida’s road to healing and wholeness is paved by “diamonds in the dust.” Ida begins to question God and wonder how He could allow the wicked to gain a victory. In the end, Ida sees it is not God’s way of punishing people, it is His way of placing Ida in a role to help defenseless people in society, including children who are afflicted with AIDS.

As a backdrop to the powerful novel is the realism Tucker uses to tell “Diamonds in the Dust.” The novel is the winner of the 2011 inaugural Athanatos Christian Ministries Christian Novel Contest and it is worthy of the award. The author allows the reader to see what life is like in South Africa, such as Ida coming in contact with AIDS sufferers, orphans, and homeless people in her country. Ironically, Tucker and her husband, Mark, are founders of Phakamani Foundation to distribute micro-loans to enterprising, but poor, women in South Africa.

Top reviews for the novel include Kirkus, where a reviewer concludes Tucker’s “Diamonds in the Dust” beholds “an addictive storyline that pulls at the reader’s social conscience and sense of justice, delivered in an honest, humane manner.” Furthermore, the Dove Foundation awarded Tucker’s “must read” novel the highest ranking a piece can receive, five Doves.

On this World AIDS Day 2012 (and everyday), it is important for those who confess His to listen to God’s divine call and help those in society who cannot help themselves. As it is said in Psalm 34:22, “The Lord redeems his servants; no one will be condemned who takes refuge in him” (NIV). Just as Ida found, forsaking our comforts and doing what is best in the name of God benefits everyone.

 

You’ve come too far, don’t give up now!

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Editor’s note: The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not reflect the thoughts of Inside The Pew staff.

By Phyllis Jenkins
Special to Inside The Pew

You’ve Come Too Far- Don’t Give Up, Now! This was the theme for our 2012 Powerful Journey Women’s Conference held on June 23 in Shreveport, La.

During my time of sharing, I encouraged the attendees to see their situations through the I’s of Christ and not through the I’s of others.

Why? Because when you see your situation through the I’s of others, you can easily lose your focus and direction. For example, God has given you a dream or an assignment and you can’t wait to get started. So you begin sharing your assignment or your dreams with others. But one by one, they make statements such as: Girl, I don’t see you doing that are you sure you heard from God? Or another might say, “The last time I tried to do something like that I fell flat on my face.” I, I, I…Before you know it, you find yourself asking the question, “God am I to move forward with this dream, with this assignment that You gave to me? The answer is a resounding, “YES.” If God gave it to you, He is more than able to fulfill it. Read I Thessalonians 5:24 – “The one who calls you is faithful, and He will do it.” Remember: The One Who gave you the dream or assignment is the Great I AM. See your dreams through His I’s.

Prayer: Father, forgive me for not following the dream that You gave to me. I’m Re-claiming it! I’ve Re-focused! and today I will make steps toward fulfilling it.  In the Powerful Name of Jesus, I Pray. Amen.

If you were blessed, inspired, encouraged & motivated by this ‘PowerLifts For The Soul’ Moment; please send your comments to phyllis@phyllisjenkins.com.

Over-comer, Believer, Dreamer, & Encourager are just a few words that describe Phyllis Jenkins. She is the founder and president of the Powerful Journey Organization, where she empowers women to live a balanced life by helping them: Find their Passion- Focus on What Matters Most and Flourish in their Calling. Phyllis is also the publisher of the Powerful Journey, an online magazine.  She inspires, equips and enlightens audiences of all ages through her practical and powerful presentations. With her captivating energy, she offers strategies which will fuel your Journey with Purpose, Preparation and Perseverance. Phyllis is confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6 (NIV).

Snyder: Recovering post-Christian Christians

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Editor’s note: The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not reflect the thoughts of Inside The Pew staff.

By John Snyder
Special to Inside The Pew

In the United States, many people are praying fervently and trying with all their might to recover a “Christian America,” and they’re convinced it can happen with just the right political candidate. “With our person in the White House we can go back to what we used to be!”

But even if we could elect St. Paul or St. Augustine as our new president, what impact would that have on a very un-Christian, post-Christian population without some massive spiritual awakening taking place first? It’s been said that no leader can be worse than the people who elected him/her.

It’s one thing for Christians to be living in a post-modern, post-Christian society, but it’s quite another for our churches to be packed with “post-Christian Christians.” What I mean is that unless and until we as Christians finally commit ourselves to live our lives as Jesus intended, it really won’t matter who occupies the White House or the seats of Congress, or sits in the Parliament of any other nation in the world.

Even if we can’t generate a predominantly Christian nation here in the USA, we can create a great number of Christian societies in the midst of it through our churches. But the church would have to be very different from what we see right now. By “different” I don’t mean in terms of the usual religious externals—clothing, appearance, religious language, and all of that—but in the way we act, what we value, and particularly how we treat one another.

“How they love one another!” and “With what great joy they live!” were things the pagan world said of the earliest Christians. Who says that about the church today? Virtually every poll that has come out in the last few decades has simply confirmed the continuous dismal slide of the church toward a complete conformity to the culture. We’re no longer distinguishable in any way from the secular world.

OK, so most of us have heard this before. Continuing to wring our hands about it won’t make any difference. Here’s what we can do about it. We can humble ourselves, turn from our own sin and selfishness, and give ourselves to prayer—real prayer, fervent prayer—continuing to ask, seek, and knock until God hears from heaven, forgives our sin, and heals our land (2 Chronicles 7:14).

For churches to have any impact on society, change has to begin in us and our families first. We need to clean up our act, ensure that our family is centered on Christ, and then become healthy, active members of a real, God-honoring church.

It’s been said of nations at one time influenced by Christian faith (but no longer) that their social problems are primarily the fault of the church. In other words, when the church really is the church—when the word “Christian” means a person in whom the Spirit of Christ dwells—things happen. The medicine of the Gospel works only when taken full strength. And history has demonstrated that the Gospel has the power to revolutionize society even when a minority are believers.

Few doubt that the world is at one of its most critical points in all its history. We can’t make a mistake here. We’re faced with a full-blown call to arms, not with the weapons of the world, but with unrelenting prayer and the power of the Spirit, manifest in sacrificial love and steadfast obedience to whatever God calls each one of us to do.

This just isn’t the time for Christians to be pursuing along with the world more and more luxury, ease, entertainment, property, toys, and all the rest. The church may have been lulled to sleep by bread and circuses as the rest of the culture, but we don’t have to remain so. Listen to the call of the Spirit. It isn’t too late…yet.

Let’s ask ourselves, what can we do personally to resist the slide toward total cultural absorption of the church?

John Snyder (@jisnyder)is a pastor, author, and conference speaker. He has taught New Testament Studies at New College Berkeley, California, and has pastored and planted churches in California, New York, Switzerland, and Hawaii. Snyder received his Bachelor of Arts from Vanguard University (Costa Mesa, Calif.); his Master of Theology and Master of Divinity degrees from Princeton Theological Seminary; and his Doctor of Theology from the University of Basel, Switzerland. Snyder’s new book, “Your 100 Day Prayer: The Transforming Power of Actively Waiting on God”, is now available from Thomas Nelson Publishers on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christian Book Distributors, and other major retailers. He is also the founder of Community 321, an online faith community, and Basel Community, an information and relocation service to expats in the greater Basel, Switzerland, area. Contact Snyder via email john@community321.com.

Forgiving your mother in the fashion God commands

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Editor’s note: The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not of the staff of Inside The Pew.

By La Vonne Earl
Special to Inside The Pew

Now that Mother’s Day has come and gone, many are able to breathe again. Mother’s Day is filled with mixed emotions for many people who have

La Vonne Earl

endured relationships that would be considered anything but perfect. In Hector Tobar’s article depicting the play “Cafe Vida,” he conveys the story of three moms that have endured homelessness, prison, and drug abuse. He gives a glimpse of what life was like for them. The guilt and torment that they have suffered knowing that they were not the best of mothers due largely to the life they lived. They are working on changing not only their future, but that of their children. One of the mothers, Alfaro mentions “for all the pain I was in, I knew there had to be something beautiful for me. By the grace of God, I found it.”

These are only but three of many moms that have suffered the painful things in their life that most of their children know nothing about.

Some, like these mothers, have found God’s grace and have changed their lives and continue to break the patterns to improve their children’s lives. Others continue to repeat the patterns by holding onto resentment and pain. In a study I have participated in for sexually abused women, author and counselor John Eldredge reminds us that every woman who is callused and cold on the outside is a woman who has suffered some form of abuse. We must remember that hurt people, hurt other people.

It is not always easy to tap into the pain and seek to console the woman who has the tough outer shell. For this reason most of these women live lonely and desolate lives as many tire of trying to form a relationship. For those of us children that long for that deep relationship with our mothers this is not an easy situation. But God’s grace is sufficient. If you will allow Him to fill you with His love, He will give to your mother what you alone cannot, forgiveness and love. Only He can offer the unconditional love that is life transforming. “Love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). We must follow Christ example and offer our Mothers the unconditional love and forgiveness that even we ourselves do not deserve.

In the end, we form our families and create the life that we desire. God tells us in scripture to proclaim that which we desire. “Call those things which be not as though they were” (Roman 4:17). We all create our own reality with our thoughts and feelings, so beware. Using your imagination for God’s glory by creating and seeing in your mind the beauty that is the true identity of your mother will increase the love that she feels coming from you! This is what brings healing and transformation.

Continue to pray, create and transform your relationships and your life! This will bring God’s Kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10).

California resident La Vonne Earl is a certified Christian life coach and counselor. A former Mormon, she has studied neuro linguistics programming, Sozo healing, and other avenues to bring healing into the lives of many. You may contact her at lavonne@yourkingdominheritance.com.