Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal

What God Does With Ordinary People

Volume 5 No. 286 May 15, 2015

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Las Vegas - Feb 2015 by Dr. Jacob Mathew
Spectacular Water Show at Bellagio, Las Vegas, NV.
Taken from the top of the Eifel Tower, Paris, LV by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Malankara World
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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1. Saying Good Bye - Obituary

Yes, if we believe in Jesus, we will never die. It is an amazing promise. For us, death is merely the passing from this life with all its sorrows into life eternal in the presence of our Lord. ...

This Sunday in Church: Sunday Before Pentecost

2. Bible Readings for This Sunday (May 17)

Bible Readings For The Sunday before Pentecost
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Lectionary/Lec_sunday-before-pentecost.htm

3. Sermons for This Sunday (May 17)

Sermons For The Sunday before Pentecost
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_sunday-before-pentecost.htm

4. The Kingdom Remains

By His ascension, the Lord has established His throne in heaven. His kingdom is His Church, which continues His mission on earth (Psalms 103). Jesus fashioned His kingdom as a new Jerusalem, and a new house of David (see Psalm 122:4-5; Revelation 21:9-14). He entrusted this kingdom to His twelve apostles, who were to preside at the Eucharistic table, and to rule with Him over the restored twelve tribes of Israel (see Luke 22:29-30). ...

Featured: What God Does With Ordinary People

5. Inspiration for Today: A Divine Life Cannot Be Concealed

A Divine life cannot be concealed; the light must shine. ...

6. Kill Me Now, God

Even God's greatest leaders and prophets got to the point in their respective stories where, even after witnessing indescribable miracles and blessings, their circumstances were so overwhelming, impossible and undesirable their attitude was, "Just kill me now, Lord!" Exhausted in body, soul, and spirit, they cried out that they had had enough. They could go no longer in their own power. ...

7. Skeletons in the Closet - Failed Saints

The fuller story of these biographies in Scripture reveals a God of incredible grace and compassion (not to mention patience), Who uses frail, stumbling children to fulfill His purposes. ...

8. Peter - What Christ Does With Failure

Behind this story (story of Peter) lies a wonderful, liberating, hope-filled truth: Failure is an event, not a destiny. This is good news because we all fail sooner or later, and if we are honest, we all fail over and over again. As Peter's story abundantly proves, it's not our initial failure that ruins us. It's what happens next that matters. ...

9. Five Truths For Underachievers

There is tremendous blessing in learning to fill the role that God wants us to fill with contentment and joy. We are called to take the lowest seat and to attain greatness in serving. This may come in the form of being a Gospel minister, or it may come in the form of providing meals to those in need in the body. ...

10. Walking Into The Unknown- The Christian's Shoes

Spiritually we must become as dependent upon our Heavenly Father as a little child is upon its natural father. When a little child sits at the table, its least concern is who pays the taxes or how the provisions were made for its food; but through a childlike faith that child depends upon the provisions of its father. That is the childlike faith the Lord wants in you and me....

11. Health: Get Lean for Life, Starting Now: How to Kick Off Healthy Mental, Nutritional, and Physical Change

Fitness, nutrition, and weight loss expert Warren Honeycutt says getting healthy for life is all about balance and sustainability. Here, he shares tips to help you get started. ...

12. Recipe: Rice Pilaf with Black-Eyed Peas and Green Beans

13. We All Fail: What Happens Next Is Important…

I could have let fear of rejection lead me away from my friendship with Beth after she turned me down the first time (or the second time)! But in life we must risk failure and persevere in order for there to be a worthy reward. ...

14. About Malankara World

Saying Good Bye - Obituary

by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Malankara World

This week had been hard on me personally. First I heard about the tragic death of Rejoy Reji in Philadelphia. He was the youngest son of Mr. Reji V. Koruthu and Mrs. Elizabeth Reji. He was a Sunday School student and altar boy. I do not know him personally and the details of the accident. Media reports say that the father lost control of the car that resulted in his being pinned between the car and the garage door. A neighbor reported seeing the crying father holding his child's head on his lap in a pool of blood while a nurse was trying to resuscitate him. When I read that report, I was reminded of Michael Angelo's Pieta, where St. Mary is holding the dead body of Jesus in her lap at the foot of the cross. There is an oversized sculpture of this on MC Road on the way from Ettumanoor to Kochi (near Koothattukulam) in Kerala on the south side of the road. It is so huge that we cannot miss it. It makes you think. One of the hardest thing any parent will have to endure in life is to attend the funeral of one's own child. It is truly sad.

Dr. T.V. George
Dr. T.V. George

Then I heard the death of my dear friend Dr. T.V. George in Washington, DC. Dr. George (we used to affectionately call him Dr. TV) and his wife Achamma were my mentors when I came to the US for the first time in 1971. There were only a handful of Keralites in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in those days and they treated me like family. Dr. George was a Senior Engineer at Westinghouse in Pittsburgh at that time. He hails from the Thonipurackal-Thycodam family in Puthuppally, Kottayam, Kerala. After graduating from St. George English High School, Puthuppally in 1952 Dr. George attended Madras Christian College, Madras (now called Chennai). He came to the United States and got his MS and PhD in Electrical Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He served there as an Assistant Professor in Electrical Engineering before joining Westinghouse in Pittsburgh.

I was invited to his house very frequently and, as a bachelor, that was a feast. At that time, I didn't have a car and there was no bus to the suburb called Monroeville where he lived, he had to often drive the 20 miles to Oakland to pick me up and later drop me back at my apartment. Achamma, his wife, was a perfect hostess. She hails from "kochu Paret" family in Puthuppally, the family of HG Ivaniose, commonly known as Paret Thirumeni.

For the youngsters brought up with the smartphones and internet, it is difficult to imagine the 70s in Kerala where phones were very rare and communication systems were mainly by word of mouth. People just dropped in unannounced; but they were all treated to lunch or dinner based on the time of the day. Achamma once visited Kerala and wanted to visit her grandmother in Chalakkudy, a day's trip from Puthuppally in those days. Since they only had limited time to spend there, she called Chalakkudy from Puthuppally to tell them that they are coming the next day to ensure that everyone is there. A treat awaited Achamma when she entered the home in Chalakkudy after a tiresome trip. The grandmother was furious! She screamed at Achamma for calling ahead of time!! "Calling to let us know that you are coming? Who are you, the Prime Minister of India?", she asked Achamma. We had a big laugh recalling that event.

Dr. George had done some pioneering work with laser and pasma research those days. He was interested in nuclear technology - areas such as controlling thermonuclear reactions and technology of heating fusion plasmas, especially the development of Megawatt Gyrotrons in the submillimeter frequency range and transmission/launching systems for Electron Cyclotron Heating. At that time BARC - Bhabha Atomic Research Center - was being established in Bombay (Mumbai) and the Senior Staff visited Westinghouse to observe the state-of-the-art research conducted there. Later, they approached Westinghouse and asked them to recommend a senior scientist who can lead the research at BARC. Westinghouse recommended Dr. George as the most qualified for the job. BARC was thrilled till they found that Dr. George was an Indian. (The name George, obviously sounded American to them!) They basically told him politely that an Indian at the helm would not get the same respect as an American! True story.

He and his family later relocated to Washington, DC area to work as a nuclear physicist in the Office of Fusion Energy Sciences at the Department of Energy. For 30 years until his retirement, he served as a DOE Program Manager. After completing my studies, I went to Tennessee to take up my first job and later came to Cleveland, Ohio. I visited him several times at Maryland. He had visited us at Cleveland. The connections slowly faded with passing time.

A month ago, my cousin in Washington told me that Dr. TV is diagnosed with Prostate Cancer. Immediately, I called and talked to Dr. George. He said he is slowly dying. He was very cheerful for a person in that condition. In fact, his cheerful attitude deceived me. I didn't realize his condition was that serious. I would have visited him earlier if I knew his time was running out. I was planning to go to Washington to see him after the memorial day when the weather is little better. Plus, the springtime in Ohio is very busy with everything gets scheduled during the short time between the end of the winter snow - about end of March - and the beginning of the heavy vacation period - about May end.

Unfortunately, Dr. George was called to his eternal home by his heavenly father before the Memorial day. We have said many times in Malankara World that if you have to do something, especially if it concerns another person, don't wait; do it asap because you will never know if that person will be here tomorrow. Achamma, Dr. George's wife, told me that she took him for a routine examination at the hospital last Friday and they wanted to investigate why he had elevated temperature. He passed away in her hands two days later surrounded by the family who came to celebrate the Mothers' day together. The last thing he said to her was "I love you mol." We Keralites (especially those who were born and brought up in Kerala) do not say that. Achamma said it was the first time he ever said that to her. What an appropriate time to do that!!

In his book, 'You'll Get Through This' Max Lucado wrote:

"Good-bye. No one wants to say it. And death is the most difficult good-bye of all.

After our church had five funerals in seven days, the sorrow took its toll on me. I chided myself, "Come on, Max, get over it. Death is a natural part of living."

Then I self-corrected. No it isn't. Birth is. Breathing is. Belly laughs, big hugs and bedtime kisses are.

But death? We weren't made to say good-bye. God's original plan had no farewell, no final breath, day, or heartbeat. No matter how you frame it, good-bye doesn't feel right.

God has served notice. All farewells are on the clock. He has decreed a family reunion. What a reunion it will be. Revelation 21:4 says, on that day, "He will wipe every tear from their eyes."

This long journey will come to an end. You'll see Him. And you'll see them. Isn't this our hope?"

Fr. Haren, Senior Priest at Saint Monica Catholic Church in Garfield Heights Ohio, where we conduct our (St. Basil's Syriac Orthodox Church, Cleveland, Ohio) services, many times perform 2-3 funerals on Saturdays. Fr. Haren makes it a point to come between the funerals to say hello to us (He is someone who is truly special). We think that, after some time, funerals become a routine thing for many priests; but many have old me that they never get used to it. It is always hard because each case is different. My uncle, who is a cardiologist, said the same thing. A cardiologist sees several deaths in a year. It is part of the job. But it is never easy. No one will ever think that death is routine. As Max Lucado said, death is not natural for us. We are not designed to say 'Good Bye.'

Even Jesus found it hard to deal with death. We remember the visit of Jesus to Bethany to the home of Martha, Mary and Lazar. Lazar was dead and was 'buried.' When Jesus visited, the sisters were very agitated and began to cry. They were joined by others who came to comfort them. Looking at all the grieving people, Jesus also "cried." Jesus knew that he was going to raise Lazar; but he still could not resist from crying. Yes, death is not natural. Jesus has overcome death and, because of him, we can look forward to eternity and not to death.

Paul said he had a desire "to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far" (Philippians 1:23). He also said, "We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:8).

"For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself."
(Philippians 3:20-21)

Our soul is designed to be with God. Psalmist said,

O God, You are my God;
Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You;
My flesh longs for You
In a dry and thirsty land
Where there is no water.
(Psalm 63:1)

My soul follows close behind You;
Your right hand upholds me.
(Psalm 63:8)

Yes, our soul wants to go to heaven to be with God. The body is buried until the day of resurrection when Jesus returns to the earth. 1 Thessalonians 4:14 says, "We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him." It will be a great reunion.

Jesus said,

"I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25).

Yes, if we believe in Jesus, we will never die. It is an amazing promise. For us, death is merely the passing from this life with all its sorrows into life eternal in the presence of our Lord.

Dr. Ray Pritchard summarized this promise:

Death is not the end of the road, it is only a bend in the road. For the believer, death is the doorway to heaven. For the unbeliever a passageway into unimaginable suffering. These things are true even if we do not fully understand them. They are true even if we don't believe them.

Don Wyrtzen beautifully expressed this truth in his song, "Finally Home":

Just think of stepping on shore, and finding it heaven;
Of holding a hand and finding it God's;
Of breathing new air and finding it celestial;
Of waking up in glory . . . and finding it home!

Most of us are familiar with the childhood prayer, 'Now I lay me down to sleep.' However, it is a shortened version of an Old English prayer, which goes like this:

If I Should Die Before I Wake

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John,
bless the bed that I lie on.
Before I lay me down to sleep,
I give my soul to Christ to keep.

Four corners to my bed,
four angels there aspread,
two to foot, and two to head,
and two to carry me when I'm dead.

I go by sea, I go by land,
the Lord made me by his right hand.
If any danger comes to me,
Sweet Jesus Christ, deliver me.

He's the branch, and I'm the flower,
pray God send me a happy hour.
And if I die before I wake,
I pray that Christ my soul will take.

Yes, Christ is the keeper, the caretaker of our soul. Our dear ones are safe and secure with Jesus.

God bye Dr. George. Thanks for the memories.

This Sunday in Church: Sunday Before Pentecost
Bible Readings for This Sunday (May 17)
Sermons for This Sunday (May 17)
Featured: The Kingdom Remains

by Dr. Scott Harn

Scripture: Acts 1:15-17, 20-26; 1 John 4:11-16
Gospel: John 17:11-19

Today's Reading from Acts begins by giving us a time-frame - the events take place during the days between Christ's ascension and Pentecost. We're at the same point in our liturgical year. On Thursday we celebrated His being taken up in glory, and next Sunday we will celebrate His sending of the Holy Spirit upon the Church.

Jesus' prayer in the Gospel today also captures the mood of departure and the anticipation. He is telling us today how it will be when He is no longer in the world.

By His ascension, the Lord has established His throne in heaven (Psalms 103). His kingdom is His Church, which continues His mission on earth.

Jesus fashioned His kingdom as a new Jerusalem, and a new house of David (see Psalm 122:4-5; Revelation 21:9-14). He entrusted this kingdom to His twelve apostles, who were to preside at the Eucharistic table, and to rule with Him over the restored twelve tribes of Israel (see Luke 22:29-30).

The twelve apostles symbolize the twelve tribes and hence the fulfillment of God's plan for Israel (see Galatians 6:16).That's why it is crucial to replace Judas - so that the Church in its fullness receives the Spirit at Pentecost.

Peter's leadership of the apostles is another key element of the Church as it is depicted today. Notice that Peter is unquestionably in control, interpreting the Scriptures, deciding a course of action, even defining the nature of the apostolic ministry.

No one has ever seen God, as we hear in today's Epistle. Yet, through the Church founded on His apostles, the witnesses to the resurrection, the world will come to know and believe in God's love, that He sent His Son to be our savior.

Through the Church, Jesus' pledge still comes to us - that if we love, God will remain with us in our trials and protects us from the evil one. By His word of truth He will help us grow in holiness, the perfection of love.

Featured: What God Does With Ordinary People

Inspiration for Today: A Divine Life Cannot Be Concealed
"There is something in the conduct, disposition, and countenance of a good man that reports itself; his influence is felt in the world, the Church, the family circle. A Divine life cannot be concealed; the light must shine."

John Woodhouse

Kill Me Now, God

by Shawn McEvoy, Crosswalk.com Managing Editor

If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death right now -- if I have found favor in your eyes -- and do not let me face my own ruin."
Numbers 11:15

...while he himself went a day's journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die." I have had enough, Lord," he said. "Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors."
1 Kings 19:4

Now, O Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.
Jonah 4:3

What kind of a person feels like this? A schmo like me, at times, sure. Maybe you, or people you know. Surely not the heroes of the Old Testament.

Well, truth is, even God's greatest leaders and prophets got to the point in their respective stories where, even after witnessing indescribable miracles and blessings, their circumstances were so overwhelming, impossible and undesirable their attitude was, "Just kill me now, Lord!" Exhausted in body, soul, and spirit, they cried out that they had had enough. They could go no longer in their own power.

The first quote above is from Moses, who had a People Problem. The wandering Israelites were hungry, and as usual, it fell to Moses to solve the problem. He cried out to the Lord, "Was it I who conceived these people? Was it I who brought them forth?" He looked around and couldn't figure out how to satisfy everyone.

The second quote is from Elijah, who had a Pity Problem. This was a prophet who had just called down fire from heaven, destroyed the prophets of Baal, and witnessed the end of a long drought. But just a few verses later, one vow from one wicked queen has him in such despair that he fears he can't go on like this.

The third quote is from Jonah, who had a Pouting Problem. He'd finally obeyed to the point of going to Nineveh and preaching repentance, but when the Lord relented and stayed his hand rather than destroying the city, Jonah wasn't happy. He folded his hands and "became angry" that the destruction he forecast never arrived.

Consider who these men were and what they had seen, what the Lord had done through them. Moses parted the Red Sea and led a people out of slavery. Elijah stood strong for Israel during a time of tremendous pagan influence, prayed down fire and rain, and actually never died (so chalk up at least one unanswered prayer!). Jonah is one of the first stories we tell our children, about how God provided a great fish to swallow him for such a period as he could learn about obedience and repentance.

Not only that, but these guys all show up in the Gospels, in one way or another. Moses and Elijah are present at Jesus' transfiguration (Mark 9). In Matthew 12:38-41, Jesus tells the Pharisees they won't get any sign from him other than the sign of Jonah, foreshadowing the three days He Himself would spend in the belly of the Earth.

But interestingly enough, Christ apparently never felt this way. He knew His destiny was to die, but even so prayed that such a cup might pass from Him. And let's not forget that He is our example, not Moses, not Elijah, and not Jonah, great as they were.

When we feel the way that these guys did, we need to realize that anyone wanting to die is under attack. And our enemy can bring that attack through people, pity, and pouting. It comes when our body is not healthy, our soul is not happy, and our spirit is not holy.

But conveniently enough, Paul shows us a prayer that covers all these bases. He writes in 1 Thessalonians 5,

"Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass."
(1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

You aren't alone when you feel like you can't go on, or like you would be better off dead than standing strong in the face of the overwhelming task God has given you, especially when you are weak in body, soul, and spirit, and the enemy is on the attack. And truly, it is comforting to know that some of the Bible's greatest faith warriors and miracle workers shared these feelings. But it doesn't mean they were right. Let us not indulge hopelessness, for it may always be found. Instead, let us remember that we serve a God of hope and of miracles and we follow the One who never copped to people, pity, or pouting, but willingly laid His life down for others, not for Himself.

Intersecting Faith & Life:

Develop a plan that gives you exercise and rest in proper amounts for your body, soul, and spirit, so that you will be less prone to attack.

Source: Crosswalk the Devotional

Skeletons in the Closet - Failed Saints

by Stephen Davey

So that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.
1 Corinthians 2:5

When God decided to give mankind the record of Scripture, He accomplished it by giving a record of people's lives. Strangely enough, He decided not to edit out all the failures of our forefathers or the sins of the saints.

One wealthy media mogul commented not too long ago that "Christians are losers." What he probably meant was that all of the Christians he had come in contact with had been less successful than he had been. Then again, he might have known a Christian or two who had failed to live up to what he intuitively knew a Christian should be.

Frankly, you'd think that God would do everything possible to enhance the reputation of His saints - not spill the beans on what they were like during moments of total failure and rebellion.

However, one of the strongest arguments for the inspiration of Scripture is that it includes details that you and I probably would have edited out . . . or covered up. But God didn't. He pulled the skeletons out of the closet of some of His choicest servants. He recorded their failures, often with more detail than their successes.

God could have left the flawless history of Abraham intact. After all, he was called one of God's friends. Did we need to know that Abraham lied about his wife being his sister in order to save his own skin - not once, but twice?! And then we learned that his son Isaac would inherit the same problem of not telling the truth - too much information?

And what about King David? We would have liked to hear only that David was a man after God's own heart, he courageously killed Goliath, served as Israel's greatest king, and prepared Solomon to build the great temple. Did God really have to tell us of David's adultery and murderous cover-up . . . and then throw in the account about his utter failure as a father to Absalom?

Then there's Jonah. The summation of his ministry could have ended with chapter three, where all of Nineveh repents after hearing him preach. Now that's a success story worth repeating! Instead, God tacks on one more chapter which shows Jonah throwing a temper tantrum because he wanted Nineveh to burn, not turn. At the end of his biography we find out that Jonah wasn't interested in their redemption, but their annihilation.

Why scuff the polish on the shoes of our greatest saints? The answer is equally straightforward: God wants to communicate that He uses undeserving, foolish, sinful, faithless, and even incompetent people to accomplish His work in the world . . . which leaves room for you and me.

The fuller story of these biographies in Scripture reveals a God of incredible grace and compassion (not to mention patience), Who uses frail, stumbling children to fulfill His purposes.

He's also letting us know that failures aren't fatal. Where sin abounds, grace abounds even more.

If you've failed in your past [think: Abraham, Moses, David, Samuel, Gideon, Peter, Mark, and the list goes on], you're in good company. Get on your knees and confess your sin, and then get back up on your feet and live for Christ.

Add your biography of faith to all the others of past and present generations. Delight in the fact that God has the gracious habit of using losers to demonstrate His ultimate victory over sin and sorrow.

So shove those skeletons back into the closet, lock the door, and get into the game . . . you have no excuse to sit this one out!

Prayer Point:

Ask the Lord to help you remember that He alone is able, trustworthy, and good. Thank Him for these truths and reflect before Him on the many times that He has forgiven you in your life. Thank Him for second, third, fourth (and even more!) chances to serve Him.

Extra Refreshment:

Read Matthew 1 and note the names of and references to former failures.

Source: A Wisdom Retreat

Peter - What Christ Does With Failure

By Dr. Ray Pritchard

Gospel: John 21

Let's begin with a poem called "And God Said If" that helps set the scene:

If you never felt pain,
Then how would you know that I'm a Healer?


If you never went through difficulty,
How would you know that I'm a Deliverer?


If you never had a trial,
How could you call yourself an overcomer?


If you never felt sadness,
How would you know that I'm a Comforter?


If you never made a mistake,
How would you know that I'm forgiving?


If you never were in trouble,
How would you know that I will come to your rescue?


If you never were broken,
Then how would you know that I can make you whole?


If you never had a problem,
How would you know that I can solve them?


If you never had any suffering,
Then how would you know what I went through?


If you never went through the fire,
Then how would you become pure?


If I gave you all things,
How would you appreciate them?


If I never corrected you,
How would you know that I love you?


If you had all power,
Then how would you learn to depend on me?


If your life was perfect,
Then what would you need me for?

Pause and consider that final line for a moment:

If your life was perfect,
Then what would you need me for?

This is a sermon about a failure so shocking that we still talk about it 2000 years later. There are really two parts to Peter's story - his three-fold denial the night Jesus was arrested and how Christ forgave and restored him. The first part depends wholly on Peter, the second wholly on Jesus.

Peter was in charge of his own failure.
Christ took charge of restoring him.

Behind this story lies a wonderful, liberating, hope-filled truth: Failure is an event, not a destiny. This is good news because we all fail sooner or later, and if we are honest, we all fail over and over again. As Peter's story abundantly proves, it's not our initial failure that ruins us. It's what happens next that matters.

  • Failure doesn't mean you have blown everything. It means you have some hard lessons to learn.
  • It doesn't mean you are a permanent loser. It means you aren't as smart as you thought you were.
  • It doesn't mean you should give up. It means you need the Lord to show you the next step.
  • It doesn't mean that God has abandoned you. It means that God a better plan.

Only those who have greatly failed will truly appreciate this story. If you have only failed in small things, then you will not be deeply moved. But if you have known the shame of large failure, then listen up. This story is for you.

When we have failed, especially when we have failed those we love the most, our mind becomes a swirl of emotions - Embarrassment . . . Anger . . . Fear . . . Shame . . . Despair. We feel dirty and unworthy because we acted foolishly. When we have hurt someone deeply, we want to know if they still love us or have we blown everything?

Will they ever forgive me?
Can I ever forgive myself?

Peter never forgot what happened when he denied Christ. As long as he lived, he never forgot that terrible night. Tradition says that he would start weeping whenever he heard a rooster crow. Tradition also says that he would wake up every night and pray during the hour when he denied the Lord.

How does Jesus restore his fallen disciple? The answer comes in five stages.

I. He Sent for Him.

When the women arrived at the tomb early on Sunday morning, an angel announced the good news and instructed them to "go, tell his disciples and Peter" (Mark 16:7). What does that mean-"his disciples and Peter?" Peter's denial has separated him from the other disciples. No doubt he wondered to himself many times-"What am I now? Am I a traitor or am I a disciple?"

Peter may have failed in the Upper Room, but Jesus sent for him. Just a few hours earlier Peter had said, "Lord, you will never wash my feet" (John 13:8). And then later he bragged about his courage. He bragged that if everyone else deserted Jesus, he would never desert him. How wrong he was. Under pressure the bold apostle turned to butter.

Peter may have failed with Malchus, but Jesus sent for him. Peter meant well, but his futile attempt to protect Jesus accomplished nothing. "Put your sword away," Jesus said. "It must be this way."

Peter may have failed in the courtyard, but Jesus sent for him. "Are you one of those men who were with Jesus?" "Jesus! I don't know him." "Didn't I see you with his disciples?" "I don't know the man." "Aren't you a follower of Jesus of Nazareth?" He begins to swear as only a fisherman can swear. "I tell you, I don't know that man." In the distance a rooster crowed. Moments later Jesus was brought out from his trial before the high priest Caiaphas. Luke 22:61 says that the Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. That's when the full impact of his sin hit him. Realizing what he had done, Peter went outside and wept bitterly.

After all that, the risen Christ sends for him! He doesn't write Peter off as a permanent failure. He doesn't put him in the "Biggest Loser" category. Jesus still has plans for Peter, plans to give him a hope and a future, plans to give him a second chance.

II. He Met with Him.

Where did Peter go after he denied Christ? The answer is, we don't know for certain because the Bible doesn't say. But we can surmise that Peter did what most of us do when have blown it big time. When we have made a huge mistake, the last thing we want is to be around other people, especially the ones who know us best and love us the most. Having let them down, we don't want to see them at all. Sin separates us from God and from God's people. Sin isolates us so that the devil can convince that, having made such a stupid mistake, no one wants to be around us again, ever. So we spend our hours in a miserable prison of self-imposed solitary confinement.

I think that's what happened to Peter that weekend. Wherever he was, he must have felt alone in the world. The last thing we are told is that after Jesus looked at him, Peter wept bitterly. We are not told where Peter was during the crucifixion on Friday or during the burial late that afternoon. We can guess that he retreated to some lonely spot, there to replay those awful moments in his mind so he could beat himself up all over again and ask, "Why? Why did I do it? What made me think I was so much better than the others? How could I have been so stupid?" and "What does Jesus think of me now?"

We find an answer to that last question in the fact that Jesus made a special appearance to Peter sometime on Easter Sunday. We don't know where or when precisely nor do we know how long the meeting lasted. But twice the New Testament mentions that the meeting took place:

"It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon" (Luke 24:34).

"He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve" (1 Corinthians 15:4-5).

I am especially heartened that Jesus met with Peter before he met with the rest of the disciples. Aren't you glad about that? Jesus not only sends for Peter. He goes to meet him before he meets with the others.

What amazing grace. There will be no public humiliation. Since Peter denied Christ, things must first be settled between the two of them. With wisdom and grace, Christ comes after Peter and doesn't wait for him to make the first move.

III. He Challenged Him.

Now we come to John 21. It is evening on the Sea of Galilee, not long after the Resurrection. Peter and six other disciples have spent the night fishing and end up catching nothing. In the morning a man calls from the shore, telling them to put their nets on the other side of the boat and they will catch fish. They end up with so many fish, they can't haul the net because it was so full of fish. When he realizes the man is Jesus, Peter impulsively jumps in the water and begins swimming for shore. It turns out that Peter and the other disciples caught 153 fish simply by obeying the word of Christ.

If Christ was watching the disciples from the shore all night, why didn't he speak up sooner? Why allow his men to toil for hours in frustration? The answer is, they needed to fail. Failure in this case was the necessary prerequisite to eventual success. If that unidentified man had spoken up sooner, they would doubtless have rejected his advice. "What do you know? We're professional fishermen. We know where to find fish. We've spent years fishing this lake." But let the night pass and the sun come up and they are ready at last to listen to the voice of the Lord. So it is with all of us. The Lord allows us to fail in our own strength so that we may learn that only by his power will we ever succeed. Microsoft founder Bill Gates said, "Success is a lousy teacher. It makes smart people think they can't lose." The disciples needed to fail so they could learn to depend on Christ for their victories. Sometimes it takes shameful failure for us finally to wake up and see our need of Christ.

When we read John 21:1-14, we should connect it in our minds with Luke 5:1-11 where Jesus tells Peter to go out into the deep and let down his nets for a catch. Despite his doubts, Peter follows Christ's command and ends up catching so many fish, they filled up two boats. So now we have come full circle. The question is the same on both occasions. "Peter, will you obey me even when it makes no sense?"

It is the same question the Lord asks us every day. Will we obey even when we think we have a better way? Will we obey even when the way forward seems unclear? Will we obey when our instincts tell us to do something different? Will we obey when we have failed on our own?

IV. He Reinstated Him.

After the breakfast was over, Peter and Jesus took a walk together. This is the part of the story most of us know best.

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?" "Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my lambs." Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?" He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep." The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you."Jesus said, "Feed my sheep" (John 21:15-17).
Peter and Jesus had this conversation around a charcoal fire (v. 9). The particular Greek word for "charcoal fire" is used in only one other place in the New Testament, in John 18:18 to refer to the charcoal fire in the courtyard where Peter denied the Lord.

By one fire he says, "I don't know him."
By another fire he says, "Lord, you know I love you."

By one charcoal fire he denied Christ.
By one charcoal fire he is restored by Christ.

Several questions come to mind as we read this passage. Why did Jesus ask Peter three times, "Do you love me?" Answer: Because Peter had denied him three times. Why did he do this publicly? Because Peter denied him publicly. The other disciples needed to hear Peter openly declare his love for Christ. Without hearing those words, the doubts would linger forever.

The man who had been so boastful, so sure of himself, so confident of his own courage, is now thoroughly humbled. Jesus' first question-"Do you love me more than these?"-was a subtle reminder of his previous boast to be more loyal than the other disciples. In his reply Peter declares his love for Christ, but he refuses to compare himself with anyone else. As painful as this was, it was absolutely necessary. Jesus is cleaning the wound so that it might be properly healed. He is getting rid of Peter's guilt and shame by dealing with it openly.

Consider what Christ doesn't do. He doesn't try to make Peter feel guilty. He doesn't humiliate publicly. He doesn't ask him, "Are you sorry for what you did?" He doesn't make him promise to do better. He just asks one question: "Do you love me?"

Once we have hurt someone we love, it is hard to look them in the face and it is harder still to be questioned about our true commitment. "How could you have done that? What were you thinking? Do you even love me at all?" But the questions must be asked and the answers must be given. And they must be repeated if the truth is to be fully told.

Peter needed to see the enormity of his sin, and he needed to hear Jesus ask these searching questions. Only then could he grasp the magnitude of Christ's forgiveness. Only then could he be truly restored. Without the pain, he would not get better. Years ago a friend shared this thought with me: "The truth will set you free but it will hurt you first." Often we don't get better because we don't want to face the hard truth about what we have said and done. But until we face the truth about ourselves, we can never be free.

There are three qualifications for those who would serve the Lord:

The first is love.
The second is love.
The third is love.

First we love, then we serve.
First we love, then we speak.
First we love, then we lead.

When Christ asks the question the third time, Peter's heart is grieved and he blurts out, "Lord, you know all things." With those words Peter renounces all his self-confidence. On that fateful night in the Upper Room, he thought he knew himself but he didn't. Now he's not so sure. He doesn't even trust his own heart; instead he trusts in the Lord who knows all things. This is a mighty step forward in Christian growth. It is a great advance to come to the place where you can say with conviction, "My trust is in the Lord alone." Sometimes we have to hit bottom and hit it hard before we can say those words.

Did it work? Did the painful surgery produce the desired healing? Yes. Peter never denied Christ again. And just a few days later, on the Day of Pentecost, fully restored, he stood in the temple courts and preached a mighty gospel sermon to the very men who had crucified the Lord (Acts 2:14-40). Three thousand people were saved that day.

The old Peter was gone forever. A new man was born when Jesus restored his fallen disciple.

V. He Reenlisted Him.

Early church tradition says that Peter was crucified upside down in Rome because he said that he was not worthy to be crucified in the same manner as his Lord. It is remarkable that Jesus skips the rest of Peter's life and concentrates only on how he will die (John 21:18-19). Although he failed in the past, in the end he will glorify God in his death. In the Upper Room Peter had rashly boasted that he was willing to follow Christ to prison and to death (Luke 22:33). It's as if Jesus tells him, "You were right about that, more right than you knew. Someday you will have a chance to keep your promise. And I know that in that day you will not fail." The early historians tell us that Peter lived and died faithful to Jesus to the very end.

So we come to the end of the message.

What does Christ do with failure? He redeems it!

God is able to forget our past. Why can't we? He throws our sins into the depths of the sea and puts up a sign on the shore which reads, ‘No fishing.' (Erwin Lutzer).

Peter remains a figure of surpassing interest to us. We can't get enough of him. We know him well because we see him every morning when we look in the mirror. We love Peter because we can see ourselves in his story. In fact, his story is our story. For all of us the process of Christian growth is long and painful, with many ups and downs. Peter the rock often seemed very un-rocklike. It took repeated failure to produce rock-solid character in him. But Jesus never gave up on his man.

Here is the final irony. From beginning to end, Jesus believed in Peter more than Peter believed in himself.

So it will be for all of us.

"If your life was perfect,
Then what would you need me for?"

The real hero of Peter's story isn't Peter.
The real hero is Jesus.

That's why John 21 is in the Bible, so that all of us Peter-types would know that though we fall again and again, by God's grace we can keep on getting back up.

What mercy!
What grace!

If he did it for Peter, he can do it for me and for you.

Perhaps you've heard it said that over the gate of heaven there is a sign that reads "For Sinners Only." That's a legend, of course, because the Bible says nothing about such a sign, but it would be entirely appropriate. And in my imagining I picture another sign, on the inside of the gate, one that reads "By Grace Alone." Those two statements tell us who goes to heaven:

For Sinners Only.
By Grace Alone.

And, finally, there is the longstanding legend that Peter will meet us at the gates of heaven. While there is no biblical proof of that, it would be appropriate for Peter to be there because he understood more than the others what those words really mean.

© Keep Believing Ministries

Five Truths For Underachievers

by Nick Batzig

One of the most important verses in all of Scripture regarding the uncertainty of human success and achievement is Ecclesiastes 9:11. There we read, "the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all." This verse has become almost the singular source of self-evaluating recalibration for me in life. My mind returns there whenever I begin asking questions like:

  • Why does one advance more than another?
  • Why aren't those who are most successful by human standards also always those who are most wise, knowledgeable and gifted?
  • Why can one pour out his or her time and energy only to see others who don't seem to be working as diligently passing them by?

The answer is, of course, that "time and chance happed to them all;" but there are also numerous lessons to be learned from a meditation on what Scripture teaches about God's sovereignly advancing one and withholding advancement from another. Here are five things to keep in mind when seeking to evaluate your place in the world:

God's Favor is Not Measured by Human Measurement.

We are so accustomed to measure success by human standards, rather than learning to be asking whether what we are doing is pleasing to the Lord or not. This was the overwhelming teaching of the Apostle Paul who concurrently taught that he "worked harder than any" (1 Cor. 15:10) and that "he made it his aim to please God" (2 Cor. 5:9). There are only two kingdoms that men seek to advance - their own or God's. The same Apostle elsewhere declared, "Am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ" (Galatians 1:10).

Human Praise is Fickle.

The Psalmist set out the emptiness of man's praise when he declared: "You get praise when you do well for yourself" (Psalm 49:17). Charles Spurgeon explained the emptiness of human praise well when he wrote:

"He who is still flattered by the companions of his pleasure can little guess the wretchedness which will be his portion should he become poor, or slanderously accused, for then one by one the parasites of his prosperity will go their way and leave him to his fate, not without cutting remarks on their part to increase his misery. Men have not so much power to bless by friendship as to curse by treachery. Earth's poisons are more deadly than her medicines are healing. The mass of men who gather around a man and flatter him are like tame leopards; when they lick his hand it is well for him to remember that with equal gusto they would drink his blood. ‘Cursed is he that trusts in man.'"1

God Often Protects His Children From the Potential of More Sin and Greater Falls.

On Judgment Day, God's people will be shocked to learn how He was orchestrating the events of their lives - how many times He kept them from attaining certain desires because He knew that it would have led them into greater sin or a greater fall. This is seen, in part, what the Lord said to Abimelech, when he had taken Sarah to be his wife. The Lord told him, "It was I who kept you from sinning against me; Therefore I did not let you touch her" (Genesis 20:6). The higher men rise the farther and harder they fall. Count it a blessing to know that God may have kept you from rising higher in status in order to protect you from falling far and hard from such attainment.

The Lord Wants Us to Know Him as the Chief Reward of Our Soul.

God has dealt the perfect lot to us in life. Often, He keeps us from greater success in the earthly realm so that we would learn to delight in Him whatever our condition. This is the rationale behind the prayer in Proverbs 30:8-9: "Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, 'Who is the LORD?' or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God." This is perhaps the difficult spot at which our souls must learn to rest. Jeremiah's penman, Baruch, wanted a little piece of the fame pie for helping to write the prophet's message. The Lord came to him and said, "Do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not…declares the LORD. 'But I will give you your life as a prize of war in all places to which you may go.'" (Jer. 45:5). The Lord wants us to learn to be content with our redemption and with His offering of Himself to us in Christ. This was the basis for the Lord's rebuke of Israel through Jeremiah when He said,

"My people have committed two great evils: The have forsaken Me, the fountain of living water, and have hewn out for themselves cisterns - broken cisterns that can hold no water."

By keeping greater measure of success from us, the Lord is often teaching us to treasure Him above all else.

The Lord wants us to learn to be content with whatever lot He deals us.

We must learn, as Sinclair Ferguson has helpfully put it, "to play second fiddle well." Not all are used as Paul or Peter. Every Paul needs a Barnabas, and every Peter needs a John Mark. God has given differing gifts to different members of His body. Not all the members have the same function. There is tremendous blessing in learning to fill the role that God wants us to fill with contentment and joy. We are not to "think more highly" of ourselves than we ought to think (Rom. 12:3). Instead we are to soberly assess the gifts that God has given us so that we might settle into the role to which He had called us. We are called to take the lowest seat and to attain greatness in serving. This may come in the form of being a Gospel minister, or it may come in the form of providing meals to those in need in the body. Every member is needful.

Reference:

1. An excerpt from Charles Spurgeon's exposition of Psalm 88:8 in his Treasury of David

About The Author:

Nick Batzig has written numerous articles for Tabletalk Magazine, Reformation 21, and is published in Jonathan Edwards and Scotland (Dunedin, 2011) Nick is also a regular panelists on 'Christ the Center', the host of 'East of Eden: The Biblical and Systematic Theology of Jonathan Edwards' and the editor of 'The Christward Collective'.

Source: Christianity.com Daily Update

Walking Into The Unknown- The Christian's Shoes

by Ralph Bouma

"Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days, so shall thy strength be,"
 - Deuteronomy 33:25.

One of the things that makes the way rough is that it is unknown. There is nothing more haunting than the unknown. If you have an enemy to encounter, and you do not know whether he has chariots of iron, or if he just has a sword in his bare hand, you don't know if he is armed with tanks and airplanes or bombs, or if he is just fighting as an infantryman. The unknown is frightening.

But look at our life journey. If we are not walking by faith in Christ, the unknown is what makes it rough. That is what makes it that we must walk by faith. If we knew, we could walk by sight, and that of course is our weakness. Our natural desire is to walk by sight. We would like to see it all laid out on a map and know exactly where we are going and what the end of the journey is.

Hebrews 11:8 tells us: "By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went."

He couldn't walk by sight. When the Priests that bare the Ark came to the brink of Jordan, they didn't just stand there and watch the water open up and then enter it. They started forward. JOS 3:15 says, "And as they that bare the ark were come unto Jordan, and the feet of the priests that bare the ark were dipped in the brim of the water, (for Jordan overfloweth all his banks all the time of harvest) that the waters which came down from above stood and rose up upon an heap . . . " As they proceeded forward the water was gone. And that is the way it is in our lives. Every step we take is going to be a step of faith. The command was go forward, and as they commenced going forward, the waters divided. When the Lord opens the way for us to go forward that doesn't mean that we can see the journey's end. The end of our journey is unknown. That is why we walk by faith.

We read in Isaiah 42:16: "I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known."

Jesus said in Matthew 18:3: "Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven."

Little children do not have understanding of all the particulars of life. They walk by faith. They walk by holding their father's hand with such faith in him, believing he knows where he is going. That is the way you and I have to walk.

Those who know not the path they travel and walk in darkness know what it is to become dependent. When you and I have to go forward with no knowledge of what the Lord has in store for us, the unknown is an exercise of faith, and it is thereby that we become dependent on the Lord.

That was the confession of King Solomon, who became the wisest man to ever live on the earth. He said in 1 Kings 3:7: "And now, O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in."

This is a precious place to be. That's the Spirit of Christ. That is the place where you and I must come. That's wisdom. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. We must see that we are as little children and do not know how to go out or come in. That brings us to the Lord every step.

When the sinew of Jacob's thigh was shrunk, he halted on every step, realizing he needed the strength of God to take that next step.

That is what these shoes of iron and brass are all about. We start walking dependent on the Lord.

Spiritually we must become as dependent upon our Heavenly Father as a little child is upon its natural father. When a little child sits at the table, its least concern is who pays the taxes or how the provisions were made for its food; but through a childlike faith that child depends upon the provisions of its father. That is the childlike faith the Lord wants in you and me. Amen.

Faith is the brightest evidence
Of things beyond our sight;
Breaks through the clouds of flesh and sense,
And dwells in heavenly light.

By faith we know the worlds were made
By God's almighty Word;
Abram, to unknown countries led,
By faith obeyed the Lord.

He sought a city fair and high,
Built by the eternal hands;
And faith assures us, though we die,
That heavenly building stands.
- Gadsby selection, 1838

Health Tip: Get Lean for Life, Starting Now
How to Kick Off Healthy Mental, Nutritional, and Physical Change

Fitness, nutrition, and weight loss expert Warren Honeycutt says getting healthy for life is all about balance and sustainability. Here, he shares tips to help you get started.

Memphis, TN (May 2015) - Yes, bathing suit season is right around the corner, and for many people, that's motivation enough to get up off the couch, break a sweat, and seek out a healthy(ish) snack. But if you're still wavering, Warren Honeycutt wants you to consider a few things.

First, it's never been easier to get healthy. From healthier restaurant menus to community exercise initiatives to free instruction and information on the Internet, the world is increasingly geared toward getting fit for those who wish to. Secondly, we're looking at a future in which bad health will be penalized. Increasingly, employers and insurance companies are paying attention to who is costing them the most money and are preparing to pass on those costs to their source.

"The point is, right now is the time to get started on getting lean for life, whether you're relatively healthy or haven't broken a sweat in years," says Warren Honeycutt, author of Get Lean for Life: 7 Keys to Lasting Weight Loss (Get Honeycutt, Inc., 2014, ISBN: 978-1-5008011-7-5, $19.95, www.getlean.guru). "But you need to know one thing up front: There are no lasting quick fixes. I'm talking about instituting habits you can stick with for the rest of your life."

Honeycutt says that sustainable lifestyle change is a three-legged stool. Those legs are Mindset, Nutrition, and Exercise, and it's important to focus on all three.

Honeycutt practices what he preaches. A respected expert in weight loss, fitness, and nutrition, he is a championship bodybuilder who has been a Southern Classic Physique Champion, two-time Mr. Tennessee, and six-time Mr. America finalist. Now, at age 62, he enjoys perfect health without any prescription medications. Honeycutt offers personalized fitness training through his comprehensive Get Lean program, which features detailed fitness videos for exercising at the gym, at home, at the office, and while traveling; personalized meal plans; motivational material; and more.

Here, Honeycutt shares tips to help you get started on developing sustainable and healthy mental, nutritional, and physical change:

Mindset

Know your reasons why. First, get clear on why, exactly, you are trying to make a lifestyle change. For instance: I don't want to have a heart attack like my dad. I'd like to have more energy. I want to be around for my grandchildren. I'm tired of disliking what I see when I look in the mirror. And so on.

"Without a powerful, authentic 'why,' the 'how' of getting fit will be very short-lived," comments Honeycutt. "You need a reason that will still be relevant long after your willpower has been drained. And be sure to write down your reasons for wanting to make changes in your nutrition and fitness habits. Magic takes place when we transform our thoughts into the written word!"

Understand that the biggest barrier to living healthy is mental. Henry Ford once said, "Whether you think you can, or think you can't - you're right." He was absolutely correct. Your self-talk and attitude will be the deciding factors in your quest to get healthy. Why? The hardest part of exercising and eating right is taking the first step - and overcoming that barrier is largely mental.

"The body hears every thought the mind has," confirms Honeycutt. "It is vitally important to understand that the body follows the mind. Our mind - especially the subconscious mind - determines the long-term success (or failure) of any nutrition and fitness program. Once the mind is in the right place, changing and sustaining your habits will become as easy as texting, driving, or walking."

Measure your progress. Yes, literally measure your waist, hips, chest/bustline, neck, etc. on a regular basis and record the results. Take progress pictures too. On a day-to-day basis, you may not feel as though your nutrition and fitness efforts are making much of a difference, but over time, the numbers don't lie. Seeing your waist measurement steadily shrink can be a huge source of pride and motivation.

"The tape measure is one of the very best tools to gauge progress," Honeycutt states. "So once you've identified your goals, take all your measurements and forget about measuring for two weeks. Then take them again at the same time of day as the first set of measurements. If you have designed the correct program for yourself, you WILL see progress. This is not philosophy; it is science."

Give yourself a break. You will fall off the wagon at some point. It's inevitable. Maybe you'll look down in surprise to find that you've finished the entire bag of potato chips, instead of just the few bites you meant to have. Or perhaps you'll press the pause button on exercising while you're on vacation and then neglect to push play again once you're back home.

"Whatever the circumstances are, it's important to understand that tomorrow really is another day," Honeycutt says. "You can't change the past, but you have full control over the future - so when you've slipped up, direct your mental energy to planning your next meal or workout instead of dwelling on your mistakes. Be as kind to yourself as you would be to your best friend. Encourage the most important person in your life...YOU!"

Nutrition

Get a basic nutrition education. Often, people have one foot in 15 different diets (No carbs! And eat like a caveman! And oh yes, lots of green smoothies!), and as a result, their food intake is far from balanced. Alternatively, they might be relying on box meal plans, which are (at best) short-term solutions. A much better option, says Honeycutt, is to take the time to learn about health and nutrition so that you can make smart choices for yourself.

"For instance, when you know that 100 calories of simple carbohydrates will be digested almost immediately, whereas 100 calories of complete protein will take several hours to be digested and metabolized, you'll be able to choose a snack that will keep you feeling satisfied longer," he shares. "There are many sources available to help you gain a good understanding of nutrition, including my website, www.getlean.guru."

Clean out your pantry. When turning over a new nutritional leaf, many people say to themselves, Well, I'll eat what I already have in the house, then I'll start buying healthier items. That's understandable - not using what you already have feels wasteful. But Honeycutt encourages you to get rid of all the junk - right now - anyway.

"Throwing out all of your unhealthy items in one fell swoop sends a pretty powerful psychological message," he observes. "You may be surprised by how big the pile is and how empty your pantry is afterward! Plus, I think if you're going to start eating healthy, it's best to just do it - torturing yourself with the last remaining bag of potato chips doesn't do your motivation any favors. And the good news is, you don't have to trash everything. Take any unopened and unused items to a local food pantry."

Master a few healthy meals. If you don't have any healthy meals in your household rotation (be honest - you know that French fries don't really count as a vegetable), now is the time to master some new recipes. To start, learn to make three or four healthy options for each meal (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) and keep the ingredients for each on hand. (You may even be able to make more than you need and keep portions in the freezer for later.)

"As time goes on, you can add more meals to your repertoire," Honeycutt says. "And while you're shopping for ingredients, pick up an insulated container with compartments. That way, if you know ahead of time that you'll be in an environment that doesn't lend itself to smart eating choices (such as the break room at work), you'll be able to bring a healthier option."

Plan ahead. If you think about it, you'll probably admit that you tend to make your least healthy dining choices (think drive-thrus and "junk food") when you just aren't sure what else to eat. Taking a half hour every Sunday (for example) to plan out your meals and snacks for the week, and to make out an appropriate grocery list, can be a real game changer. If you know you have the ingredients for spaghetti squash with marinara sauce in your fridge, for instance, you'll be much less likely to pick up a pizza on the way home from work.

"Personalized meal plans that take into account personal preferences and dietary restrictions (like being gluten-free) are a big part of my Get Lean program for a good reason," says Honeycutt. "When you plan healthy meals, you're much more likely to eat them.

"On that note, I'd like to share one of my personal favorite options for snacks and meals," he continues. "Protein shakes (my personal favorite kind of protein powder is Optimum Nutrition) can really support your fitness goals. If you want a slow burn, choose casein. For quicker digestion, go for whey. I love taking a scoop of protein, a serving of almond milk, fresh fruit, and ice cubes, and blending it all to the desired consistency. Absolutely delicious - and quick and easy to prepare."

Exercise

Start small. When you're fired up about getting fit, it's tempting to rush out and spend a lot of money on a gym membership or complex home gym equipment. But Honeycutt advises you to wait if you don't already have those things.

"Start small and take baby steps when it comes to integrating exercise into your daily life," he advises. "A pair of tennis shoes, elastic exercise bands, and 5- or 10-pound dumbbells are all you need to get started. Once you have established the exercise habit, then you can upgrade to that gym membership or elliptical machine!"

Know how to get the most bang for your buck. If and when you do start going to the gym, take the time to learn how to use the machines. Often, newcomers gravitate toward the familiar treadmill, bike, and elliptical, and avoid the other equipment.

"Working with a trainer, even for just one or two sessions, can really help," Honeycutt states. "He or she can explain which machines to use, how to use them safely, and how often. Be sure that your trainer understands your goals and is qualified to give you maximum results in minimum time!"

Schedule your workouts. Workouts are not going to happen if you don't plan ahead and assign them a time on your schedule. It's that simple. So figure out when you'd like to exercise, whether that's first thing in the morning, over lunch, or in the evening, and block out some time on your calendar.

"Even when you schedule your workouts, it will be incredibly easy to think of excuses not to follow through," Honeycutt comments. "Look back at your reasons for getting fit to reinforce why you want to take this journey. (This is why I encourage you to write them down!) You deserve to live a life of energy, passion, and enthusiasm, and your family deserves to have you in this setting."

Find something fun. If you're one of those people who really loves crunches, lunges, and lifting weights, great! If not, don't limit yourself to these types of exercises. Your willpower won't last forever, and you'll eventually fall off the wagon if you dread every single workout.

"Remember that any movement is good for the body, mind, and soul!" Honeycutt says. "Our bodies are designed to move, and anything that doesn't move is dead...or soon will be. So take your dog on longer walks. Bike with your kids or grandkids. Take a dance class. Plan a vacation to a hiking destination. And so on. Your options are unlimited!"

"Remember, a healthy lifestyle is all about staying balanced for the long haul," Honeycutt concludes. "The changes you make now need to be things you can make a lifetime commitment to. And yes, they're worth it - because they'll extend your life and enhance its quality."

About the Author:

Warren Honeycutt is the author of 'Get Lean for Life: 7 Keys to Lasting Weight Loss'. An expert in weight loss, fitness, and nutrition, he is a championship bodybuilder who has been a Southern Classic Physique Champion, two-time Mr. Tennessee, and six-time Mr. America finalist. Now, at age 62, he enjoys perfect health without any prescription medications and a physique that is the envy of most 25-year-olds.

A popular speaker on fitness and nutrition topics, Honeycutt's expertise has been featured by NBC, CBS, ABC, LifeExtension, A Second Look at Sports, LiveStrong, Live Relentless, and more.

Recipe: Rice Pilaf with Black-Eyed Peas and Green Beans

by Madhur Jaffrey

Ingredients:

2 cups long-grain rice, preferably basmati
10-ounce package frozen black-eyed peas
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
Dash of cinnamon
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium-size clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 medium-size onion, peeled and finely chopped
1/4 pound green beans, trimmed and cut crosswise into
1/2-inch pieces
1-1/4 teaspoons salt

Directions:

1. Place rice in large bowl with cold water to cover. With your hands, swish the rice around quickly; pour off most of the water. Repeat 6 to 8 times, or until water is no longer cloudy. Cover rice with water; set aside 25 minutes.

2. In medium-size saucepan, bring 11/2 cups of water to a boil. Add black-eyed peas and return to a boil, breaking up frozen block of peas with fork as they are heating. Cover, turn heat to low, and simmer 10 minutes. Drain peas in colander.

3. While peas are cooking, combine coriander, cumin, turmeric, Cayenne, black pepper, cinnamon, lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon of water in small cup. Mix thoroughly and set aside.

4. In large, heavy-gauge saucepan or skillet, heat oil over medium heat. When hot, add garlic and onion. Cook, stirring with wooden spatula, until onion turns brown at edges.

5. Add spice mixture and stir well to combine. Fry about 1 minute.

6. Add the drained rice, black-eyed peas, green beans, and salt. Cook over medium heat 2 to 3 minutes, stirring carefully so as not to break the grains of rice. Lower heat if rice begins to stick to bottom of pan.

7. Add 3 cups water and bring to a boil. Cover tightly, first with aluminum foil and then with a lid. Turn heat very low and cook 25 minutes. Keep pilaf tightly covered until ready to serve.

We All Fail: What Happens Next Is Important…

by John O'Leary

"It's perseverance that's the key. It's persevering for long enough to achieve your potential." - Lynn Davies

Last week, I shared that the common denominators of those who model resiliency and achieve success are: having a clear goal; willingness to risk everything to become more; learning from failures; and choosing to stand up and step forward.

Today, I'll share a personal example showing how it worked for me – and will absolutely work for you, too.

My junior year at St. Louis University I met my wife. It took me all of 30 seconds to realize I was head over heals for this girl.

But, it took me another year to finally build up the courage to ask her out! When I finally did - we had hung out dozens of times, obviously grown close and I was finally confident that she would say "yes." So, when I asked, I was anything but ready for this response, "John, you are like a brother to me."

My friends, I don't know what you've heard about Missouri, but this was her way of saying "NO!" …and letting me know, as sweetly as she could, that she wasn't interested and it wasn't likely to change.

In my mind, I failed. But: when you know your why, you can endure any how.

So, we remained "brother and sister" for another 12 months. With all that time passing and spending so much time together I felt that surely things had shifted for her! So I asked her again.

She looked at me sweetly, and told me nothing had changed. She still loved me…like a brother.

We all fail, my friends. What's important is not what leads up to it or how you feel in the midst of it, but how you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and continue to stand tall after it. We must "persevere long enough to achieve our potential."

Our friendship continued with casual dinners, movie nights and I even brought her to my REAL sister's wedding! We shared a wonderful friendship, even if not exactly the one I'd envisioned.

It was on one of our casual dinners that an inflection point occurred. We were at a wonderful Italian place (her favorite kind of food), sitting on the patio (my favorite place to sit).

Shortly after ordering she leaned over to me and said she had something to tell me.

She went on to say that the past six months, every time she'd spent time with me, she'd gotten butterflies in her stomach. She had fallen for me - this was her way of asking me if I'd date her.

I was shocked. I didn't expect it and didn't know how to respond. So I told her I don't date sisters. KIDDING - I said "Yes! Let's try this!"

Three years later, we were married. Today, we're blessed with four healthy kids, a strong marriage and great families.

I could have let fear of rejection lead me away from my friendship with Beth after she turned me down the first time (or the second time)! But in life we must risk failure and persevere in order for there to be a worthy reward.

Are there things in your life that you have allowed to pass you by because your fear of failure kept you from pursuing them? It could be a girl, like me, or a dream job, or a new adventure, or running for office. Are there areas of life that are stagnant that are in need of you recommitting to? Perhaps decisions in regards to your health, your faith, your work, your family.

Remember, once you get clear on your "why" - your goal, your purpose in life, in your day in the activity at hand: then all you have to do is persevere long enough to achieve your potential.

Copyright © 2014 Rising Above, All rights reserved.

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