Heart Healthy

Hamburger

People who eat at the Heart Attack Grill can’t say they weren’t “pre-warned”—by the unique name of the restaurant—that the food served there is probably ultra-high in unhealthy calories.

In February 2012, a man had a heart attack while eating a “triple-bypass burger” at the Grill. He was taken to the hospital in an ambulance.

In April 2012, a woman collapsed at the Las Vegas diner. She was eating a “double bypass burger” lathered with cheese and bacon, and smoking cigarettes. She was also taken to the hospital in an ambulance.

I wonder if they got well and came back for another burger.

The Grill’s tasty but “unhealthy” menu also includes “flat-liner fries” cooked in pure lard, butterfat milkshakes and no-filter cigarettes—served by waitresses dressed as nurses.

On top of all that, the Heart Attack Grill offers its super-high calorie meals for free to hungry customers who weigh more than 350 pounds. That’s good marketing but lousy dieting!

How’s your appetite for the Scriptures? Unnoticeable. Slight. Increasing. Ravenous.

How’s your intake of “spiritual” calories? Not enough. Too much. Balanced. Heart healthy.

Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible. It has 176 short but insightful verses. Every verse spotlights the importance of the Scriptures—and presents a nugget to mine, a principle to explore, a truth to believe or a challenge to tackle.

Friend, I challenge you to set aside an hour today to study and reflect on Psalm 119—or at least take 15 minutes to read and chew on a few verses. You’ll discover the value and importance of trusting and exploring the Scriptures.

The warrior-king David memorized the Scriptures to galvanize his commitment to being a man of integrity. He prayed, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11).

David meditated on the Scriptures to rivet his mind on what God values. He prayed, “I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times … your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors” (119:15-16, 20, 24).

David mined the Scriptures for nuggets of wisdom and insight. He prayed, “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me. I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes. I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts” (119:97-100).

Simply put, we memorize, mine and mediate on the Scriptures because that’s the only sure way we can receive the right amount of “spiritual calories” and stay “heart healthy” every day.

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Lost and Found

lost and found

There’s no doubt that your grass is unusually long and desperately in need of a mowing when it’s so high, you can lose a car in it.

That’s what happened to a 78-year-old widow in Georgia. She lost her car in the front yard. Apparently, the elderly woman phoned the police to report that her late husband’s big Chevy van had been stolen. But then, just a few hours later, she placed another call to the police.

After looking more closely in her front yard, she discovered the inoperable vehicle parked there—in the last place anyone had seen it—obscured and overgrown by grass that hadn’t been mowed for a long time.

I wonder what that lady’s neighbors said behind her back. I wonder why they didn’t mow her tall grass. I wonder why they didn’t look for her “lost” vehicle.

Long ago, the leaders of Judah lost the Book of the Law somewhere inside the temple. That means they couldn’t find the first five books of the Pentateuch—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. I wonder what happened to the Book. I wonder how they lost it.

Maybe the priests put it up on a backroom shelf, and forgot about it. Maybe it got buried under junk inside a closet, pushed under a pile in the corner or covered by dusty cobwebs.

We don’t know where they lost it, or why they left it there. But apparently, the leaders were okay with abandoning the Scriptures. Somebody put the Book down, nobody went back for it and everybody stopped reading it. They just kept on living, as if the Book wasn’t missing.

But one day, the high priest Hilkiah found the Book inside the temple, and gave it to Shaphan who took and read it to young King Josiah. After hearing the Scriptures, Josiah wept and tore his robes, and ordered five leaders to go and pray for God’s guidance.

Josiah repented on behalf of the nation, assembled everyone at the temple and then read the entire Book to them. The people of Judah came to their senses and got right with God—and an incredible revival broke out and swept across the land (2 Kings 22-23). 

I wonder if you’ve ever lost your Bible. Left it on a church pew or an office desk. Misplaced it somewhere inside your house. Tossed it into the car trunk. It sounds crazy, but some people often lose their Bible—just like they misplace a jacket, a watch or a set of keys.

I wonder where you usually put your Bible. On the coffee table. Inside a desk drawer. On a bookshelf. In the back seat. On a nightstand.

Friend, I hope you’ve got a special place for your Bible—inside your home and your heart. I hope you see it as a rare treasure, and enjoy exploring it. I hope you’re reading God’s Word—and “hiding” it inside you heart.

David sang, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” and “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long.” (Psalm 119:11, 97). Is that the cry of your heart?

 

Live to Give

Hands giving

When the congregation of St. Michael’s Catholic Church of Grand Forks, North Dakota, was overwhelmed by four-million dollars in damages caused by a huge flood in 1997, parishioners at St. Michael’s in Long Beach, New Jersey, rallied and raised money to help with the repairs.

Now fast-forward 15 years to 2012—when Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey’s coast. The horrific storm demolished the Long Beach church building.

When the parishioners of the North Dakota congregation heard about it, they pulled together and raised money to help their struggling friends rebuild. They enthusiastically welcomed the opportunity to encourage and help the congregation that’d graciously assisted them.

Both congregations put compassion into action, helped each other recover and rebuild and demonstrated generosity and gratitude.

Do you give joyfully and generously to God and his work? Do you help others? Does your congregation come alongside and serve needy people?

Years ago, the Apostle Paul encouraged a struggling congregation in Corinth to give eagerly and sacrificially to help others—like some poor believers scattered across Macedonia were doing.

Despite their extreme poverty, these Macedonian believers gave generously—above and beyond their ability—as God prompted and provided for them. That’s why the apostle could urge the Corinthian believers to imitate the Macedonians’ example of generous giving.

Paul wrote, “And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity” (2 Corinthians 8:1-2). They gave joyfully.

“For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints” (2 Corinthians 8:3-4). They gave sacrificially.

Out of their poverty, the Macedonian believers gave purposefully—responded eagerly to opportunities to help and bless others. Can others say the same of you and your congregation?

I encourage you to follow the Macedonian’s example and look for ways to honor God, help others and give generously—as God prompts and provides.

Together, as purposeful believers and gracious congregations who care about others, let’s demonstrate humility, generosity and sacrifice. Let’s honor and reflect God by how we give.

Let’s remember God’s example:  “For God so loved the world that he gave …” (John 3:16).

Then, let’s partner with God—and live to give!

 

Once Lost, Forever Found

lost person 2

A veteran shrimp-boat captain plying his trade off the coast of Crab Island near Florida made an unsettling and surprising catch. After hoisting his predawn haul onto the deck of his boat, Matt Willingham discovered that he’d also pulled up a prosthetic leg.

Fortunately, he didn’t find a dead body, but Willingham did notice that the prosthetic limb was emblazoned with a University of Kentucky logo. So, when he got back on shore, Willingham tracked down the manufacturer to help him identify the leg’s owner.

Because of some irregular markings on the rather expensive prosthetic, it wasn’t difficult for the manufacturer to locate the owner.

Long story cut short—Fred Robinson, a former Kentucky Wildcats running back from the 1980’s, lost his leg in a workplace accident. Then, just a few years later, he lost his prosthetic while swimming in the nearby ocean on Memorial Day weekend.

When Robinson got the phone call, he was shocked at first. Then, he just started laughing, and hollered:  “They found my leg!”

Long ago, while teaching his early followers, Jesus told three stories about finding something or someone that was lost.

A poor woman lost one of her ten coins, but found it after looking everywhere. A compassionate shepherd lost one of his 99 sheep, but found it after searching everywhere. A forgiving father lost his youngest son to wild living, but one day saw him walking in the distance, ran quickly and hugged him and welcomed him home with a big party.

In the same way—but infinitely more so—Jesus never stops looking for lost people. His heart is compassionate. His eyes are alert. His legs are strong. His arms are open wide.

Do you know why Jesus pursues lost people?

The Bible says, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). Our Savior is looking for lost people to rescue for all of eternity.

Friend, is Jesus looking for you?

Maybe you’re lost and wandering. Perhaps you’re confused and disoriented. Maybe you’re rebellious and unruly. Perhaps you’re dirty and vagrant.

If so, it’s time for you to stop, turn and run to the Savior. He’s looking for you.

I like how David pictured God’s amazing rescue, “He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me …” (Psalm 18:16-17).

Friend, it’s time for you stop being lost and homeless like the prodigal son. It’s time for you to come home and celebrate with your forgiving Father!

 

 

Nobody’s Perfect

Exam taking

Ten classmates at University High School in Irvine, California got perfect scores on the same exam on the same day.

In June, standardized testing grades on that exam were sent to the school officials. They were surprised to see that ten students got a perfect 35 score on their ACT college aptitude exams. That’s the first time any school has managed to rack up 10 perfect scores in the same year.

But frankly, nobody on Planet Earth is perfect. Not by a long shot. Everybody makes mistakes. More than we can count. More often than we can remember.

We struggle every day—and often stumble. Take nose dives. Scrape our knees. Get bumps and bruises. Wake up with bad acne and lousy attitudes. Put on belly fat. Get age wrinkles. Grimace and frown. Turn gray and go bald. Dye hair and wear wigs.

No matter how hard we try, or how much we improve—we’re a long way from being perfect.

Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden and tried to hide from God. Jacob cheated his brother and deceived his father. Abraham lied about Sarah to save his neck. Moses got angry and murdered an Egyptian.

Ten of Moses’ spies panicked and twisted the truth. David committed adultery with Bathsheba and then killed her husband. Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. Peter got cocky. John Mark went AWOL. Ananias and Sapphira lied and died. And the saga of sin continues.

Nobody’s perfect. We struggle and sin. We do our own thing, and go our own way. Do you know why? The Bible says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

David knew that truth—and sometimes ignored it. But David would eventually come to his senses, confess his sin to God and pray, “Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” (Psalm 51:2). That’s how David got right with God.

Later, John taught and wrote, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness … My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin.  But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” (1 John 1:8-9).

Simply put, we’ve got an inborn inclination to deceive, disobey and defy.

But our heavenly Father is righteous, faithful and just. He’s gracious and patient. He’s eager to forgive and purify us when we humbly confess our sins to him. Every time.

So then, let’s stop often to examine what we’re thinking, saying and doing. Then, as necessary, let’s honestly admit our sins to our gracious Father—and get right with him!

 

Lost and Adrift

Man Lost at Sea

After floating adrift at sea for 16 long hours, Glenn Ey of Queensland, Australia, was spotted by an eagle-eyed first officer aboard a low-flying passenger jet.

The Australian yachtsman first got into trouble when he became stranded about 300 miles off the coast of Sydney. Hours later, as the search for the missing sailor started, Australian search and rescue officials radioed international airline pilots flying into Sydney and asked them to assist with the search.

That’s why the crew of an Air Canada 777 dropped to 5,000 feet to look for the missing man—and just as the jumbo jet banked hard to the right to continue on to Sydney, the plane’s co-pilot saw the lost yacht. Not long after he radioed in the location, the search and rescue team was able to rescue the lost seaman.

Similarly, the spiritual “safety” and eternal destiny of pre-Christians—unsaved or lost people—is at stake everywhere around the world. The Bible says it’s our responsibility to go and do whatever we can to find and help rescue lost people from an eternity separated from God.

Are you looking for lost people? When you find them, do you radio for the Holy Spirit’s help—and join in a “spiritual search and rescue” by reaching out and sharing the gospel with them?

God commissioned us to stay on alert, prepared and ready to toss a life-line of hope to others. He called us to look for people who’re adrift and lost in a sea of sin—and then help rescue them by sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, our only Savior.

Luke says of the first-century disciples in Jerusalem, “They never stopped proclaiming the good news …” (Acts 5:42). If Luke observed how you reach out and talk with people around you, could he write the same report about you?

The Bible says, “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge:  Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season … keep you head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist.” (2 Timothy 4:1-2,5).

Paul charges young Timothy—and every believer—to go and find lost people. Why? Simply put, we’re found; and they’re lost—and need to be rescued. It’s a life and death situation.

Our Savior is coming back soon to “rapture” (catch up) his Church from Planet Earth forever. Time is running out—and anyone who hasn’t come to faith in Jesus will be left behind.

That’s why we must look for lost people and help rescue them before it’s too late. That’s why we must keep our hearts soft and our eyes peeled for lost people.

Know this:  if we stop caring about the people around us, and if we shirk our responsibility to share the good news of Jesus with others, they don’t stand a chance. They may be lost forever.

Will you be a life-long member of God’s “spiritual search and rescue” team?

 

No More Mashed Peas

Riding on Dad's Shoulders 1956

I enjoy eating great food!

Santa Maria tri-tip and Alaskan king salmon. Grilled veggies. Beef tacos and bean burritos. Big cheeseburgers and strawberry shakes. Spicy chicken sandwiches and sweet potato fries.

No more gumming Gerber’s baby food. No more slurping milk from a bottle. No more sitting in the high chair. No more being spoon-fed. No more settling for mashed peas.

For a few months, I drank and ate like a baby. But one day, I stopped spooning and gumming my Gerber’s. I started chomping and chewing with my teeth. I got an appetite for all kinds of good food—and a lot of it. As I grew into adolescence, I ate more frequently and ravenously!

As followers of Jesus, our heavenly Father expects us to mature and eat like grown-ups, not babies—personally, spiritually and Biblically. He wants us to enjoy and feast on his Word.

We start out as spiritual babies. During our infancy, we desire and drink the milk of the Word, as we grow in Christ. Then one day, we ditch our bottles, retire our spoons, and wield our forks.

That’s why Peter wrote, “Like newborn babes, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation” (2 Peter 2:2). From the get-go, our life goal is to mature in Christ, and to become spiritual adults.

To grow up spiritually and Biblically, we must discover how to feast on the Scriptures. We must stop spooning pureed pork chops, and start chewing Biblical beef steaks.

As we grow steadily, God invites us to devour his Word. Explore it. Study it. Figure it out. Feast on it. God expects us to learn how to feed ourselves—and to stop relying on others.

The apostle Paul encouraged young Timothy—and all of us: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). That’s a clear call for us to diligently study the Scriptures.

In a nutshell, we must look, listen and learn. We must handle or “cut straight” the Word if we want to accurately understand and share what it says. That’s also how we bulk up as believers, and “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior” (2 Peter 3:18).

My friend Richard taught and lived out this principle: “No Bible, no breakfast.”

Only the Scriptures can nourish and strengthen our souls, fuel us to think and live Biblically, and equip us to serve our Savior and love people in a spiritually starved world.

So then, let’s crave and enjoy a hearty diet of God’s Word today. Let’s feast on the Scriptures—and grow strong and tall in Christ!

Lost Treasure

Painting Renoir Skiff

A Virginia woman drove into West Virginia—where she went to a flea market, and spent $7 on a cardboard box containing a Paul Bunyan statue and some odds and ends.

She didn’t think much of the green and pink painting that she found inside the cardboard box—that is, until she uncovered and looked at the back of the frame, and saw the word “RENOIR” written there. To her surprise, she’d bought a valuable painting for just a few bucks.

An East Coast auction house offered to help the woman sell her original masterpiece, painted by the famous French impressionist master, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and valued today by experts at $100,000 or more. That’s a lot of cash for something that was stuck in a box and forgotten!

Have you ever discovered a lost treasure? King Josiah did.

Josiah was eight-years-old when he became king of Israel. He lived in Jerusalem, and reigned for 31 years. He worshipped God, lived with integrity and pursued righteousness.

The Bible says, “He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and walked in all the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left” (2 Kings 22:2).

Unlike many of his predecessors, King Josiah had a whole heart for God, just like King David.

About 10 years after becoming king, Josiah sent his secretary Shaphan to the temple, directing him to account for the money collected to buy supplies and repair the temple.

That’s when the high priest Hilkiah told Shaphan about his incredible discovery. He said, “I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the LORD” (2 Kings 22:8).

Imagine that, the Book of the Law—the first five books of the Bible—had been neglected, and lost inside the temple for years. Stuck on a shelf inside God’s house, it was gradually covered with thick dust and cob webs. It was left and lost among less important things.

Excitedly, but with some embarrassment, Shaphan told King Josiah about Hilkiah’s startling discovery—and then he read aloud from the Book to the young and humble king.

Josiah tore his royal robes, and wept openly. Then, he ordered the high priest to go to the LORD, confess their corporate neglect of the Book and seek his direction. Next, God blessed Josiah because of his broken and repentant heart.

Today, God’s people still misplace and bury the Book.

How? We neglect, ignore and lose God’s Word when we stop reading and delighting in it. We grow callous, apathetic and indifferent toward it. We abandon and forget about it.

Have you tossed your Bible—or do you treasure it more today than you did yesterday?

 

Inside My Heart

Letters

In 1968, my father went to Vietnam, where he fought the Viet Cong—and taught the South Vietnamese how to provide triage care and run field hospitals in a war-torn countryside.

Just before he shipped out of Camp Pendleton, Dad put his hand on my shoulder, and told me to take care of Mom and my brothers. I was a 7th-grade boy—and I did my best, working hard as the “man of the house” and tackling chores Dad usually did. I took my new role seriously.

At times, I wondered if Dad would be okay and if I’d see him again, but I never wondered if he loved me. I knew he loved and thought often about Mom, Doug, Jeff and me.

For as long as I can remember, my now 81-year-old father has told me, “Son, I love you.”

That’s why he wrote at least one letter to me almost every day for two years—and some days, he wrote two or three letters, just to me. Of course, he wrote many letters to Mom (sometimes as many as four letters a day) and my brothers.

I think it’s safe to say my loving father wrote more than 700 letters only to me, which he signed “Love always, Dad”. They were full of encouragement, hope and joy.

I kept a lot of Dad’s letters and put them in a special box, along with a lot of other letters, cards and keepsakes. I treasure them—and every once in a while, I take out that box and sift through the things I’ve kept. They’re prized possessions that I cherish, deep inside my heart.

King David cherished the Scriptures—God’s “love letters” to us. One day, inspired by the Holy Spirit, he sat down and wrote Psalm 119—the longest chapter in the Bible. He carefully crafted 176 verses that spotlight and communicate his love for the Scriptures.

David wholeheartedly and joyfully treasured the written Word of God. He memorized and meditated on it. He cherished and craved it.

David wasn’t perfect, not by a long shot. He had a lot of warts. He made a lot of mistakes. At times, he was a knucklehead. He sinned and rebelled. But he treasured the Word in his heart.

He wrote, “I have hidden your word in my heart. I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts. I delight in your commands because I love them. I keep your precepts with all my heart.” (Psalm 119:11, 14-15, 47, 69).

“Oh, how I love your law. My heart is set on keeping your decrees. I love your commands more than gold. I open my mouth and pant, longing for your word. See how I love your precepts. I obey your statutes, for I love them greatly” (Psalm 119:97, 112, 127, 131, 159, 168).

Can you hear David’s heartbeat for God? Do you cherish the Scriptures? I believe David had a strong spiritual pulse because he had a huge thirst for God and a hearty appetite for his Word.

Do you wholeheartedly love God and treasure the Scriptures?

 

Hold the Line

Fumble

“Stay strong. Hold the line. Stay in the fight. Make your stand. Stay in the game. Don’t quit. Don’t back down. Don’t give an inch. Don’t let anybody get by you.”

Strong leaders bark these gutsy commands—and courageous men and women answer the call. They step up, run forward and tackle the challenge. They’re a breed set apart.

They’re military commanders. Battalion chiefs. Firefighters. Quarterbacks. Defensive linemen. Navy SEALS. Police officers. Fighter pilots. Parents. Surgeons. Pastors. Teachers. Coaches. And the list goes on.

They stand up—and refuse to back down. They do whatever it takes to hold the line—regardless of the cost.

Did you know God expects you to suit up and hold the line?

Ephesians 6:13-14 says, “Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”

God commands us to wear his protective armor so we can stand firm and stay strong.

We don’t hose hot fires or target enemy soldiers. We don’t round up bad guys or tackle running backs. Our fight is very different and more dangerous because it’s spiritually camouflaged.

We’re opposing the enemy of our souls—our adversary, the devil. We’re waging war against his evil forces. We’re exposing deception and opposing darkness.

Are we strong enough to hold the line against our enemy? Not if we try to fight in our own strength. Do we have an effective battle plan? Not if we haven’t read the New Testament.

As believers in Christ, we can resist and defeat the enemy only if we follow his winning strategy.

We must trust our great God who is all-knowing and all-powerful. Wear the impenetrable armor of God. Walk in the light. Know and declare the truth. Recognize our identity in Christ.

Ephesians 6:10 says, “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power …” God is the source of our strength. We’re puny and powerless without him.

1 Peter 5:8-9 says, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith.” God equips and empowers us to stand firm in our Lord Jesus Christ.

As spiritually strong warriors, we can resist and defeat the enemy only by wearing the armor of God, knowing our identity in Christ and wielding the Word of God. That is God’s unbeatable strategy for us. Remember, we engage in spiritual combat with the enemy—all day long.

Alone, we’re no match—but in Christ, we can suit up, stand firm and win the victory!