Saturday, November 29, 2008

For Countries Under Turmoil

Lord, bless these lands....
May peace and unity be restored
As they are home and refuge to many.

Lord, bless the leaders....
May they forget personal gain
And work for the good of everyone.
May they seek what is good and just
To lift the barrier that is separating their people.

Lord, bless the people....
May they remember that they are brothers and sisters
And that violence does not resolve conflict.

Lord, bless the foreigners....
May You Keep us safe and calm
And learn to help in some way, especially in prayer.

We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

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Daily Digest #188

Sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it. —Genesis 4:7

We're facing some problems here in Thailand. The protesters are still taking hold of the airports, but media says flights will resume Saturday night. Let's pray for peace in this country once again. Let's also pray that the stranded people find comfort and purpose for the rest of their stay here..... Anyway, let's make time to reflect on today's passage.

I've had issues with a person for some time. I was tempted to resort to saying harsh words, but acted indifferently instead. It was like being consumed by hate little by little. Then I realized how much I have let it take control over me. My days started and ended with anger. It was silly. When I look back, I realize how much time and energy I've wasted. I forgot to look around and discover other useful and helpful things. I even forgot to include these concerns in my prayers.

Bitterness and resentment are a waste of time and energy. When we allow these things to take over our lives, we'll end up living an empty life. The Lord invites us to free our hearts of anger and bitterness, and make ourselves hollow so He may fill us with His love. Let us allow God to cleanse our hearts. May we choose to build a closer relationship with God through His son, Jesus Christ. Pray always.

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2008/11/26

Dear children, let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions. 1 John 3:18 (NLT)

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Love is something you do. Do you really love someone? Let's see how you act toward that person. You show love by what you do, not just by what you feel.

Love is more than attraction and more than arousal. It's also more than sentimentality, like so many of today's songs suggest. By this standard, is love dead when the emotion is gone? No, not at all. Because love is an action; love is a behavior.

Over and over again, in the Bible, God commands us to love each other. And you can't command an emotion. If I told you "Be sad!" right now, you couldn't be sad on cue. Just like an actor, you can fake it, but you're not wired for your emotions to change on command. Have you ever told a little kid, "Be happy!" I'm trying, daddy!

If love were just an emotion, then God couldn't command it. But love is something you do. It can produce emotion, but love is an action.

The Bible says, "Let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions" (1 John 3:18 NLT). We can talk a good act: "I love people." But do we really love them? Do you really love them? Our love is revealed in how we act toward them.


2008/11/27

Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 1 John 4:7 (NLT)

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Love is a skill that can be learned. In other words, it's something you can get good at and that means you get better at love by practicing love.

You may think you're a good lover, but God wants you to become a great lover, a skilled lover, a master lover. Yet, most people never learn how to love. You can become an expert at relationships.

Wouldn't you like to become known as a person of extraordinary love? When people speak of you they might say: "He doesn't care who you are or what you look like." "She doesn't care where you've been or what you've done or where you're from."

The only way you get skilled at something is to practice. You do it over and over. The first time you do it, it feels awkward, but the more you do it, the better you become.

The same is true with love (1 John 4:7). Let's practice loving each other. As the Bible says, "Practice these things; be committed to them, so that your progress may be evident to all" (1 Timothy 4:15 HCSB).

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Daily Digest #187

Jesus answered them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin." —John 8:34

I learned that to get over a certain thing, one has to divert one's self to other useful things. Just like in sinning, instead of keeping strict rules to avoid it (where we usually fail because we justify that we are only human, and are natural-born sinners) or engaging ourselves to absurd repressions, why don't we make ourselves useful and express love in every opportunity?

When we commit ourselves to love -- LOVE as defined in Jesus' 2 greatest commandments, and as stated in 1 Corinthians 13 -- we also commit ourselves to keeping away from sin, which makes us slaves of love instead of sin.

I would like to share this article to you (read below). May you be enlightened as well. May we choose to love everyday. Pray always.

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2008/11/25

… That you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Deuteronomy 30:20 (NIV)

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Love is a choice and a commitment. You choose to love or you choose not to love.

Today we've bought into this myth that love is uncontrollable, that it's something that just happens to us; it's not something we control. In fact, even the language we use implies the uncontrollability of love. We say, "I fell in love," as if love is some kind of a ditch. It's like I'm walking along one day and bam! – I fell in love. I couldn't help myself.

But I have to tell you the truth – that's not love. Love doesn't just happen to you. Love is a choice and it represents a commitment.

There's no doubt about it, attraction is uncontrollable and arousal is uncontrollable. But attraction and arousal are not love. They can lead to love, but they are not love. Love is a choice.

You must choose to love God; he won't force you to love him (Deuteronomy 30:20). You can thumb your nose at God and go a totally different way. You can destroy your life if you choose to do that. God still won't force you to love him. Because he knows love can't be forced.

And this same principle is true about your relationships: you can choose to love others, but God won't force you to love anyone.

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Daily Digest #186

Nevertheless I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand. —Psalm 73:23

Do you ever find yourself in a situation where you think you solely produce the outcome that you pressure yourself into controlling even those that are out of your hands? Trusting the Lord is an essential concept I know in faith, yet most of the time I really don't trust Him. One experience I had was when a friend meddled with one of my personal issues. Of course, she got in the way, and because I was so determined of what I wanted at that time, there came a point where I hurt that person on purpose. Although something inside was telling me not to do it, I still did. I didn't even feel the guilt, but after some time I realized what I did was wrong. Then one day, God told me that it was time to confront, in a loving way -- then let go of the hurt. Not only was it liberating to be freed of hate, but our friendship was preserved.

I used to be tired and angry every day, although I always had the choice to let go and trust His ways. I'm glad I learned my lesson that time. It has helped me deal with another issue in my life right now :D For this, I personally thank God for reminding me to trust Him all the time. I invite you to join me in prayer -- may He bless each of us a life of faith and obedience. May we learn to listen to His words and obey. May we truly believe that God knows best. May we cast away our worries and lift our burdens to God. May His will be done always. Pray always.

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Daily Digest #185

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. -- James 1:19 (NIV)

Like some of you, I experience anger from time to time, and am usually unable to step up and confront especially when the person concerned is not a listener. I guess love and patience are always the key in dealing with difficult people. Somehow, the articles below have struck me, how some are acting like jerks because they're hurting. I can personally attest to this, for I do not throw a bad temper or put on a silent treatment when there's absolutely no reason. And I realize how I have become a prisoner of my own behavior when the person concerned does not care at all, or choose to ignore the issue. Those who have acted or act like a jerk, especially towards me, I now understand how they could be having difficulties in their lives, too.

We are stirred away from practicing kindness and love by focusing too much on things that make us analyze until we entirely lose peace of mind. I guess some of our issues do not really matter anyway. For this, I personally pray to God that He teaches us more about patience and love. I wish that we become a person who is not quick to anger, and a better listener. I also hope we can develop speaking openly, but lovingly, more. May we always be reminded that we may not be able to accept or understand everything about a person, but we can always choose to love. We may feel unloved or uncared for, but let us not forget that there is a great God who loves us dearly for exactly who we are. It is also guaranteed that there's at least one person in our lives who is presently giving or bound to give his/her unconditional love, even when we don't notice it much. Blessed are we to have found more than one -- from our family and closest friends. Pray always.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

How Will They Know?

He who loves God must love his brother also. —1 John 4:21

Did you ever notice that some Christians act decidedly un-Christian while trying to prove how godly they are?

One example is a man who angrily shuts his hymnbook and pouts through the rest of the service if the song leader does not sing every verse of a song.

Another example is the church where members argue against adding a new service geared toward youth, because they dislike the music.

Then there is the church in which the middle aisle is a demarcation line between two social classes of people who refuse to mix.

As Christians, we must stand for truth as spelled out in the Bible. Though truth was not violated in any of these situations, these professing followers of Christ acted in decidedly unloving ways. They chose to protect personal preferences rather than demonstrate the love of Jesus to a watching world.

As we read 1 John 4:7-21, we see that God’s love seeks to transform our behavior. In His love, we don’t react disdainfully toward others simply because we don’t agree.

Jesus said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Do others see the love of Jesus in you? — Dave Branon

May all I am and do and say
Give glory to my Lord alway,
And may no act of mine cause shame
Nor bring reproach upon His name. —Anon.

A church with one heart and one mind will make for a won world.

Taken from Our Daily Bread online, dated 22 November 2008

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Daily Digest #184

Why have you despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in His sight? —2 Samuel 12:9

I notice how unapproachable I seem in times of confrontation. It is usually one-sided, and I'm the one who confronts. I wonder if people only tend to agree with me, or are scared to offend me. In a way, I feel sad when I still need to ask before someone tells me what I did wrong. I'd rather have someone tell me in the face than act as if everything's okay, yet everyone's talking behind my back. Now, I realize, I have learned to criticize myself. However, an affirmation for one's musings can help in some way, and make one feel that he/she is loved and cared for.

At some point, I have lost the will to confront as well. But the passage today has reminded me how necessary it is in love. Sometimes, we have to put aside the thought of offending someone when we mean well and the concern has been in our prayers, and not just from our own selfish opinions. We have to take courage in helping the people we love, and bring them closer to God.

For this, let us pray. May we draw strength from God so we could be courageous enough to confront others when necessary. May we allow Him to put words into our lips, and guide us in our actions toward others. May we also have an open mind when others confront us, and see the good intention rather than the bad. May we continue praying for each other.

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Daily Digest #183

The Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. —1 Samuel 16:7

In terms of size, I see my fears as Goliath, and David as my faith -- or much smaller. The enemy has always been myself. I allow my faith to shrink with the slightest tests, and accept that my weakness and fears have overcome me. What I usually forget is that I am not alone in my battles, that He is my source of power and strength. There were many instances when I even denied His presence in my life. But through it all, He helped me get up. He even sent direct help without me noticing -- in forms of unlikely people and random strangers. He had given me hope when I thought it was lost.

The thing with David is, he used whatever he had, no matter how small he was. His size didn't matter to Him. He knew that God was with him all along. He chose to do his utmost, even without any idea how glorious the outcome would be... I can only wish to have faith like that, even just a little bit.

For this, let us pray. May we grow a faithful heart, like David's. May we take our battles to God, and trust that His ways are always the best. May we never fail to pray, and thank Him for all the blessings. Pray always.

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Daily Digest #182

Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel. —2 Kings 5:15

Believe it or not, we always have a choice. And the option to trust God is always available. It's just that we rarely use it that we create our own set of choices, and end up disheartened when things don't go our way.

Every day, God invites us to make that choice -- to trust Him. Our "superior" knowledge or experience might hinder us from taking the path He has set for us, yet He is constantly reminding us of His power over things through the impossibilities that surround us.

For this, let us pray. May we open our eyes and witness His works -- in and around us. May we learn to surrender and depend on Him, and trust His ways. May we learn to humble ourselves, admit that we are imperfect and weak, and let our weakness be His strength. Pray always.

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2008/11/18

. . . a time to embrace and a time to refrain. Ecclesiastes 3:5 (NIV)

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You'd think that living in Southern California means I'm surrounded by people who live a laid-back lifestyle. The truth is just the opposite: Most of the people I know are trying to cram more and more into each day.

For instance, a couple of years ago, I was with a group of friends driving down the interstate. At one point, I looked around and realized most of us were engaged in some activity other than talking to each other. Two people were on their cell phones; another was working on his BlackBerry; and a fourth was focused on his laptop computer.

As a joke, I declared I felt left out. I called the driver, who was sitting right next to me, and we chatted together on our cell phones for a few minutes! The point of our traveling together in the van was so we could grab time to talk face-to-face! Yet we felt pressed to get it all done.

That's when I realized the truth – we couldn't get it all done, and God never intended for us to make completing a to-do list the purpose of our lives.

The fact is, there are many things we think we must do that really are not worth doing. My point is this: You won't simplify your life by getting an electronic organizer. You won't even find it by convincing your neighbor, who makes Martha Stewart look like a sloth, to give you tips about coordinating your activities while still wearing a perfect dress and pearls like Beaver Cleaver's mom.

Simplifying is really about choices – prioritizing what is important – and then sticking to those choices no matter how tempting it is to add more to your to-do list. In fact, take those tempting activities and put them on a list of things not to do.

You are the only one who can assume responsibility for your time and clarify what's really important to you.

Now maybe you're thinking, "But I have to take care of the kids," or "I have to get this report done by Friday." I'm not naïve about the pressures many people feel today, but it may be that those things – your children, your work – are the priorities you keep on your to-do list, and you move other things to the not-to-do list.

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Daily Digest #181

A man of understanding is of a calm spirit. —Proverbs 17:27

We are so afraid of change. I myself wonder why. We tend to worry about things that have not come to pass. We burden ourselves with infinite questions on how to solve our problems even when they have not actually happened yet. When things actually happen, we sometimes take matters into our own hands, not minding if we would hurt others, or even ourselves. When we find ourselves threatened by change -- in our work environment, our neighborhood, or our homes -- we tend to plan ways on how to preserve our comfort zones. We forget that the only constant in this life is change.

I commend a friend for taking prayer as his first step to analyze what's been bothering him. He lifted all his worries to God before doing or saying anything. And for this, not only has he kept himself from making hasty decisions, but also he has peace of mind. He may not know what would happen next, but he trusts that God would handle the rest. I can only wish for myself to face life with such wisdom, calmness and grace.

For this, let us pray. May we learn stay calm and lift our worries to God. May we free ourselves of worry and trust that God is in control. May we do our utmost everyday to love and care for others, just as what He has instructed us to do. May we never forget the only 2 things that He has commanded us -- to love God with all our hearts, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. If we actually think about these, what else do we need to worry about? Pray always.

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Daily Digest #180

Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God. —Acts 5:4

I needed this reflection. It struck each instance where I have not shown any integrity in what i said or did. There were times when I advised a friend to love her enemies, when I myself have not done the same. I said forgive, yet I have not forgiven. I said look at the goodness in other people, yet I saw flaws and judged people in my mind. I said pray always, but I myself have refused to pray.

This serves as a reminder for me to search for and keep God's place inside my heart. Many times I have chosen to forgot or ignore His presence, which have led me to make unwise and unpleasant decisions.

For this, join me in this prayer: that He may help each of us to live with integrity. May His words be our basis for truth, and not our own opinions or judgments. May we learn to practice love and kindness at all times. Pray always.

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2008/11/14

Jesus replied, "The most important commandment is this: 'Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.' The second is equally important: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' No other commandment is greater than these." Mark 12:29-31 (NLT)

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Today's guest devotional is from Tom Holladay, teaching pastor at Saddleback Church.

One of the most noticeable things about Jesus' interactions with others is how people love to ask him questions. Crowds press in with questions; Jesus' disciples call him aside for questions; and those who disagree with Jesus try to trap him with questions.

It's easy to dislike this third group, and it often seems as though Jesus is wasting his time when talking with them. Doesn't he know that their questions are just thinly veiled attempts to trick him into saying something they can use to accuse him? Yet he patiently listens to their questions, and he answers them one by one.

One day the questions are coming fast and furious. One group asks a question about paying taxes; another group launches into a series of questions about marriage. Jesus' answers are brilliant and right to the heart, as always, but it seems that maybe it's time to move on and talk to some who are more open to what he has to say.

Then a teacher from the edge of the crowd asks a question with a slightly different tone. There seems to be a genuineness to his question not heard from the others. He simply asks, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"

In Jesus' answer is the most important statement about relationships you'll ever hear. As Jesus speaks, he leaves no doubt as to the value he places on relationships:

"The most important [commandment] … is this: … 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself' " (based on Mark 12:28-34).

Jesus' simple, clear answer to this question has the power to take our breath away. By choosing these two commands as the most important of all of the Old Testament commands, Jesus tells us how deeply he values relationships. He values our relationship with God, and he values our relationships with each other.

Your relationships with God and others will last all the way into eternity. Jesus knows full well that the swirling wonder and pain of our relationships tempt us to move them down our priority list.

"Who needs this?" we say, and so reduce our lives to simple hobbies, tasks, and entertainments. That's not the answer!

When I try to make less important that which is truly most important, it only causes more confusion. A life without relationships may well be a simpler life, but it is also an empty life.

The path to the greatest life possible and the greatest joy possible is found in the priority that Jesus taught us to keep at the top of the list: Place the highest value on relationships.

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Today's devotional is excerpted from The Relationship Principles of Jesus by Tom Holladay (Zondervan 2008). You can find out more about this book at www.saddlebackresou rces.com.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

YM with God

God: Hello... Did you call me?
Me: Called you? No.. who is this?

God: This is GOD. I heard your prayers. So I thought I will chat.

Me: I do pray. Just makes me feel good. I am actually busy now. I am in the midst of something..
God: What are you busy at? Ants are busy too.

Me: Don't know. But I cant find free time. Life has become hectic. It's rush hour all the time.
God: Sure. Activity gets you busy. But productivity gets you results. Activity consumes time. Productivity frees it.

Me: I understand. But I still cant figure it out. By the way, I was not expecting YOU to buzz me on instant messaging chat.
God: Well I wanted to resolve your fight for time, by giving you some clarity. In this net era, I wanted to reach you through the medium you are comfortable with.

Me: Tell me, why has life become complicated now?
God: Stop analyzing life. Just live it. Analysis is what makes it complicated.

Me: why are we then constantly unhappy?
God: Your today is the tomorrow that you worried about yesterday. You are worrying because you are analyzing. Worrying has become your habit. That's why you are not happy.

Me: But how can we not worry when there is so much uncertainty?
God: Uncertainty is inevitable, but worrying is optional.

Me: But then, there is so much pain due to uncertainty. .
God: Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.

Me: If suffering is optional, why do good people always suffer?
God: Diamond cannot be polished without friction. Gold cannot be purified without fire. Good people go through trials, but don't suffer. With that experience their life becomes better not bitter.

Me: You mean to say such experience is useful?
God: Yes. In every terms, Experience is a hard teacher. She gives the test first and the lessons afterwards.

Me: But still, why should we go through such tests? Why can't we be free from problems?
God: Problems are Purposeful Roadblocks Offering Beneficial Lessons (to) Enhance Mental Strength. Inner strength comes from struggle and endurance, not when you are free from problems.

Me: Frankly in the midst of so many problems, we don't know where we are heading..
God: If you look outside you will not know where you are heading. Look inside. Looking outside, you dream. Looking inside, you awaken. Eyes provide sight. Heart provides insight.

Me: Sometimes not succeeding fast seems to hurt more than moving in the right direction. What should I do?
God: Success is a measure as decided by others. Satisfaction is a measure as decided by you. Knowing the road ahead is more satisfying than knowing you rode ahead. You work with the compass. Let others work with the clock.

Me: In tough times, how do you stay motivated?
God: Always look at how far you have come rather than how far you have to go. Always count your blessing, not what you are missing.

Me: What surprises you about people?
God: when they suffer they ask, "why me?" When they prosper, they never ask "Why me". Everyone wishes to have truth on their side, but few want to be on the side of the truth.

Me: Sometimes I ask, who am I, why am I here. I can't get the answer.
God: Seek not to find who you are, but to determine who you want to be. Stop looking for a purpose as to why you are here. Create it. Life is not a process of discovery but a process of creation.

Me: How can I get the best out of life?
God: Face your past without regret. Handle your present with confidence. Prepare for the future without fear.

Me: One last question. Sometimes I feel my prayers are not answered.
God: There are no unanswered prayers. At times the answer is NO.

Me: Thank you for this wonderful chat. I am so happy to start the New Day with a new sense of inspiration.
God: Well. Keep the faith and drop the fear. Don't believe your doubts and doubt your beliefs. Life is a mystery to solve, not a problem to resolve. TRUST ME. LIFE IS WONDERFUL IF YOU KNOW HOW TO LIVE.... :-)

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Emptiest Day


They say You live in hospitals and trenches
And towers in the sky
And I'm not dying or fighting any wars
Except on the inside

The only thing I need is a void that You can fill
And I jump ship and run even further in Your will

And I am looking for the well that won't run dry
The rest that weary thoughts cannot deny
When You wrap Your arms around me
I can walk away or face the emptiest day

The words I find impossible to mention
Are written on a star
They say that I can find You in a flower
But I need You in the car

The optimism of my youth is dead and gone
But I'll save these speculations for another time and song

And life is only perceived through chemicals and emotion
But love, love is the island that overgrows the ocean

Words and music by Caedmon's Call

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Daily Digest #179

God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. —Revelation 21:3-4

Allow me to share this old entry from the Purpose Driven Life online -- a testimony of understanding and appreciating God's grace and mercy.

December 28, 2004

A reader who e-mailed me her testimony kindly consented to let me use it in a devotional. I can't help but think there's something here for all of us to reflect on.

If there is any such thing as a "good" Christian, I was one—once. I accepted Jesus as my Savior at age seven, and spent all of my childhood and early adult life immersed in the "Christian" lifestyle. I attended church faithfully, served in the ministry, said and did all the "right" things and stayed well away from all the "wrong" things.

I had it so "together," in fact, that I felt a little smug as I observed all the people who didn't. I made a big deal about how I didn't drink because I was a Christian, how I didn't smoke because I was a Christian, how I basically didn't do anything because I was a Christian. Each time I'd share my "track record" (thinly disguised as a testimony), I'd feel like a shining example of a life lived for God.The problem with not giving mercy to others is that you don't get any, either. When you think in terms of earning the love of the God of the universe, nothing is ever enough. This, of course, was God's point in giving us the law: so we'd know we couldn't do it. So we'd know we needed a Savior.

It didn't happen all at once, but gradually I realized that this "good girl" had completely missed the point. In my quest to please God, I'd taken credit for my own salvation. I'd become the very definition of self-righteousness. I'd avoided the most "visible" sins while harboring an abundance of secret ones in my heart and private life. I needed grace (undeserved, unearned favor). I needed a way to measure up. I needed a Savior, and it wasn't me.

Having ultimately realized that even though I'm "saved," I'm no more "good" than anybody else; I've stopped being mad at the world and started identifying with it. I know my own faults too well: I judge and criticize. I gossip. I yell at my kids. I overspend. I think unholy thoughts. I overeat. I ignore God when I need Him most. Honestly, sometimes I'm just grateful that He keeps me around!

I wonder what would happen if church became a transparent place where we openly shared our failures and deepest needs with each other. If we built fewer walls to insulate us from the bad stuff "out there" and built bridges to the "out there" instead.

I wonder what would happen if we realized that the one thing the whole universe has in common ("good Christians" included) is our desperate need for Jesus.

John Fischer is the Senior Writer for Purpose Driven Life Daily Devotionals. He resides in Southern California with his wife and son. John is also a published author and songwriter.

For this, let us pray. May we truly understand and appreciate everything God has done for us, and grow a humble servant's heart. May we never fail to count our blessings. And may we prepare ourselves for His coming. Pray always.

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Daily Digest #178

By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God. —Ephesians 2:8

The level of trust and love we have for the Lord shows in the way we live our lives and how we treat others. I, for instance, have been having a hard time reaching out that I act too reserved or uncaring sometimes. I find it difficult to ask for help, although I delight in helping others. Because of this, I figured how my faith falters most of the time. There came a point when I became very bothered by this that I started reading about misplaced hopes. I just felt that's what I've been suffering from. I realize how I have grown to put my faith in people, even myself, instead of God.

I do believe that it is through God that we are able to trust others. Wise men say that if one's faith were strongly grounded in Him, then he/she would have the courage to love others unconditionally. I guess that's what I need to work on. I've been worrying about and trying too hard to deal with steps 8, 9 and 10 when I haven't even started with step 1.

For this, please join me in my prayers -- that I grow a faithful heart, that I may learn to take away my pride and truly trust in His ways.

May we empty ourselves and let Him fill up the void. May we find peace, comfort and love in Him and reflect these blessings in the way we live our lives. Pray always.

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2008/11/12

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:11 (NIV)

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Today's guest devotional is from Tom Holladay, teaching pastor at Saddleback Church.


Relationships are filled with both wonder and pain. When I think of the pain of relationships, literally hundreds of pictures flood into my mind from my thirty years as a pastor:

· A couple on the verge of a divorce neither one wants yet both are choosing.

· Parents who can't get through to their child, no matter how much time, money, and heartache they invest.

· A son whose dad has treated him with the cruel contempt of abuse.

· A friend whose feeling of betrayal is so deep that she never wants to trust anyone again.

When I consider the wonder of relationships, I am equally overwhelmed:

· A marriage no one thought could be restored — but it was.

· Friendships in a small group that have become the bedrock of life.

· A family that would surely fall apart when the pressure of an illness hit — and yet they all came together in the most amazing way.

When Jesus came to this earth, he demonstrated that he understands both the wonder and the pain of your relationships. He experienced them both.

He came to begin a new relationship with you — a relationship that will strengthen all your relationships. Here's the truth Jesus taught us: Nothing is more important than relationships.


2008/11/11

Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 1 John 4:7 (NLT)

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Today's guest devotional is from Tom Holladay, teaching pastor at Saddleback Church.


Relationships are painful. Relationships are wonderful. We all live in the drama that plays out between these two truths.

I think of Neal and Robin when I think of the drama of relationships. Married for only a few years, their life together had started strong. And then, with a suddenness that tore their world apart, Robin suffered a brain hemorrhage.

As I sat with Neal in the waiting room on the night it happened, we heard the doctor speak in hushed tones about high-risk surgery and low odds of success.

Even if Robin were to survive the surgery, she would likely be in a semiconscious state for the rest of her life. Neal's immediate response was simple faith and sacrificial love. He believed that God had a plan even in this dire circumstance, and Neal was committed to love Robin, no matter what it would take.

Robin survived the surgery, and Neal kept his commitment to love. Day after day, he sat with Robin and spoke to her and nurtured her. Little by little, he loved her to unexpected restoration.

Robin learned to speak haltingly and began to be able to use her hands and arms again. She has even taken a few victorious steps on her own. Almost every weekend at church, there they are — Neal, a shining example of overcoming love, and Robin, a powerful example of overwhelming courage and faith.

Robin sometimes wonders just what she can accomplish for God in a wheelchair. The truth is, she speaks a life-changing sermon on the power of love by her mere presence.

Those who have been involved in Robin's care see her life as a miracle. The greatest miracle, they say, isn't in the healing (they've seen bodies healed before) but in the love.

This is the love of a couple who made the choice to continue to love, even in the most crushing of circumstances — Neal having chosen to practice sacrificial love in a marriage that wasn't close to what he and Robin had dreamed it would be, and Robin having chosen to accept and return Neal's love rather than allowing her own hurt to push him away.


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Today's devotional is excerpted from The Relationship Principles of Jesus by Tom Holladay (Zondervan 2008). You can find out more about this book at www.saddlebackresou rces.com.

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Daily Digest #177

I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the Lord. —2 Kings 22:8

When I was a child, I used to play treasure hunts and other "Indiana Jones" type of games. New discoveries delighted me that I created my own make-believe world in our front yard. As I grew older, I found interest in documentaries about quests for long-lost things. It was more of just gathering knowledge, like some sort of entertainment in recovering a missing part of history. But it's just recently that I learned to appreciate the lessons behind the stories -- how I can relate to them in some way, and use them should I get caught in a similar situation.

I used to treat the Bible like a history book, a collection of stories about people from centuries ago. But if we try to analyze the situations and lessons that come along with each story, we will realize how similar they are with our present day lives. We can identify ourselves with a Bible character one circumstance at a time -- we can be Moses, or Sarah, or Job, or Ruth, or Daniel, or David, or Elijah, or one of Jesus' disciples -- in weakness, or in strength. The Bible speaks about the truth, not only of the past, but of the present. It is the book of our individual lives.

May we always find time to read or listen to the Word of God every day. We may not feel the impact of the Words in the beginning, but with His help and guidance, we will eventually get wisdom -- most probably when we least expect it. May we learn live according to His will. Pray always.

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Daily Digest #176

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends. —John 15:13

It is truly important to remind ourselves every single day that we are loved. It lightens my mood when somebody tells me "Jesus loves you". I am still trying to make it a habit to tell myself of this fact every day. And it's always a bonus to have people or someone around to show that love directly. So let us count ourselves lucky if we still have our family and friends around, and for making us feel loved no matter who or what we are.

For this, let us pray. May our lives be a reflection of God's love for us. May we never forget to say a prayer for our family and friends, or people at work, or in our neighborhood. May we also keep our eyes and ears open for opportunities of service to God. Pray always.

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2008/11/10

But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me. Psalm 131:2 (NIV)

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Today's guest devotional is provided by Jon Walker


My older sister, Lori Hensley, a very serious prayer warrior, once taught me to meditate on Psalm 131 to help me move toward God's peace that passes all understanding:


We keep our hearts humble.
This doesn't mean we have a low opinion of ourselves. A humble heart means we know our position in Christ, and so we stop being responsible for the things of which we were never responsible. This frees us to live like God intended and allows us to make uncluttered choices that will move us closer to God.

We show the maturity of a weaned child.
The nursing child demands attention now, but the weaned child trusts and is content to wait. We quietly center ourselves on God, peacefully, without agitation and anxiety, and trust God is actively supporting us.

We hope in the Lord with confident expectation.
Truth says God will answer our prayers; he will respond to our needs; he will pave the path before us now and forever (Psalm 18:36).


2008/11/07

Counsel in the heart of man is like water in a deep well, but a man of understanding draws it out. Proverbs 20:5 (AMP)

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We all need mentors – people who personally coach us in our walk with God.

When I am with a mentor, I ask questions. Asking questions adds to the quality of your life: "Counsel in the heart of man is like water in a deep well, but a man of understanding draws it out" (Proverbs 20:5 AMP).

Every person has a reservoir of knowledge, skills, and experience to share and you're wise if you learn to draw them out.

In fact, you don't have to limit asking questions to just a single mentor who you meet with on a regular basis. You can meet a "mentor" anywhere.

My suggestions is to keep a 3x5 card with you that has a list of standard questions you can ask whenever you meet someone you can learn from; you then pull out your card and ask questions like:

· How do you handle stress?

· What have been the greatest successes in your life?

· What do you think contributed to that success?

· What did you learn from the greatest failure of your life?

· What would you do differently if you could start over?

· What kind of books do you read?

· How do you manage your time?

· How do you manage your money?

· What have been the greatest lessons you've learned?

· What have been the greatest surprises in your life?

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Daily Digest #175

A man who bears false witness against his neighbor is like a club, a sword, and a sharp arrow. —Proverbs 25:18

Lord, forgive us for speaking carelessly
about others to make ourselves look better.
Help us to think before we speak. Teach us
to be loving with our words. Amen.

You can never justify gossip.

Bato-bato sa langit, ang tamaan wag magalit! :D Haha, we can be very much into gossips. Not a day passes without us gossiping about something, aminin :-p And we usually don't take it seriously, or as a sin, as we are very much used to it. We delight in "chismis" such as "who got that girl pregnant" or "that man left his wife because", etc etc. I, personally, find entertainment in the latest celebrity gossips, may it be local or hollywood -- who's paired up with whom, who's the latest catch (of the police hehe), who's been given funny and rude comments, etc. Gossip has become part of our daily lives.

We may claim that we're just "concerned" about the person that's why we talk about him/her, like when put in a prayer where others can hear. No matter how much we justify our gossips, they only make matters worse. Honestly, if we're so concerned about someone, we would think of the next feasible step instead -- like to lend an ear or a helping hand. For me, silent prayer is the most immediate act anyone can make. Not only would be able to divert gossip into something good, but it would also help us practice humility.

For this, let us pray. May we grow a humble heart. May we learn to tame our tongues, and be reminded that we, too, are imperfect. May we learn to see Jesus Christ in each other's faces. Pray always.

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July 20, 2006

Jesus was very clear on judging another person. He said not to do it. (Matthew 7:1) But what about holding one another accountable to the truth? Don't we bear some responsibility for each other? And if we are to do this for someone, doesn't that involve judging them at some point?

Accountability is an important part of any relationship, especially one with a shared purpose in following Christ. We need each other in order to stay on the right track. The lures and temptations of this life are too great to handle alone. Paul writes, "If someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore that person gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted." (Galatians 6:1)

What's the difference between judging and confronting? Confronting involves doing something. Judging is all in your head. Confronting has an element of humility involved, because you know your own susceptibility to the same temptations. Judging always makes you better than someone in your own mind. And confronting always means direct contact. Judging is an evil little secret you keep to yourself or share with others in the form of gossip.

Years ago, a friend of mine was struggling over doing the right thing in an important decision he had to make. Another friend and I got the idea to go surprise him and help provide support for his decision. It didn't matter that it was a 10- hour drive to get to him (that was the surprise part) we wanted to show up as an act of loving confrontation to help him face the truth.

Now had we not made that trip, and had I used his moral failure as a means of making me seem better in my own eyes, and had I talked to others in ways that might demean him (even asking others to pray - – a favorite evangelical form of acceptable gossip) that would have been judging him. But instead we told no one, but went directly to him with our concern for him and the result was a big boost for all three of us.

I can't even tell you now what the issue was, or what he did about it -- – it's been too long now -- – but what I do remember is how blown away he was that we would care enough to go see him in person. And I know I still have a friend today.

If you ever catch yourself putting down someone in your mind, stop and realize you are judging that person, and then consider if you might be the one to go confront him or her in love. Put your information into action, or put it away and leave it with God. To harbor something in your heart about someone and not confront that person is to be a private judge, and the only one that really hurts is you.



January 12, 2006

Jim Van Tassel died last week. He was 96. This is sad news to a number of people who are or have been in jail in Orange County, California. Jim has been a chaplain there for thirty years. A former prisoner told me, "He showed me the compassion of Christ for the first time in my life… He never was particularly interested in hearing about my crime or how it happened; he just wanted me to know I could be forgiven and have a whole new life -- both of which seemed impossible at that time."

I think we all could benefit from Mr. Van Tassel's perspective. We often are more interested in the crime than the forgiveness. Gossip grows from this. Gossip is all about the crime and an opportunity to tell it to lots of people. Gossip is sometimes even disguised as a prayer request, as in: "Would you please pray for so and so, he really needs it. Why just yesterday I heard…" You can see where this is going.

Or how about the testimony that focuses more attention on the crime than the forgiveness? Some people have made a decent living off their testimony and the opportunities they have to tell it. I can remember being somewhat embarrassed by my testimony because it wasn't a juicy enough story. Of course I since have realized my crime was just as heinous as the worst criminal's, it was just in the form of private sins I didn't want anyone knowing about. This is another danger in focusing on the crime; it encourages all kinds of unwanted comparisons. Not to mention those who feel their sins are so bad they are beyond forgiveness.

When the real point to emphasize is that we have all have been forgiven. We are equally guilty and our stories are all remarkable.

Even as I write this, I catch myself realizing I could justify mentioning the crime of the woman who told me about Jim Van Tassel. It would make an impact. It was enough to get her nine years. But, you know, it doesn't matter. What matters is that she is forgiven, and she has a new life in Christ. That's how we want to think of her anyway.

And that's the case for everyone who has life in Christ. The forgiveness and the new life are the big issues. It's not about who we were or what we did; it's about who we are now and what we are doing as a result.

Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; the new life has begun!--2 Corinthians 5:17

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Friday, November 07, 2008

Daily Digest #174

Make haste to help me, O Lord! —Psalm 70:1

Honestly, I hate long waits. Just an hour ago, I was telling a friend how I'd rather buy dvds than wait for the download to finish. It irks me when it takes forever to load a page in the internet. I also don't like waiting for others, as I don't like others waiting for me, like during shopping. I'd rather go on my own just to keep up with my schedule. I always seem to be in a hurry.

But there are instances where waiting is really necessary, and that's when our character is tested. Many times I have found myself on the verge of giving up -- on my dreams, on other people, on myself. I used to get easily discouraged by what other people say, or others' bad experiences. Had I not been taught about hope and perseverance, I would have completely lost the will to wait. Waiting has taught me how to become less anxious and make use of my time on other useful things. I used to think that to be less anxious is to be less enthusiastic. But I figured how waiting actually preserves enthusiasm, instead of diminishing it -- except maybe when we wait for the wrong things where we quickly lose interest once we get them. Nonetheless, the waiting process molds our character and makes us better than before.

While reading the reflection above, it reminded me of a song. I would like to share the words to you. I hope the song inspires you as much. May we grow a patient heart, and trust in His ways. May we learn to call on Him at all times. Pray always.

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Be Still And Know
Psalm 46:10 / Zec. 2:13

Be still and know that He is God
Be still and know that He is holy
Be still oh restless soul of mine
Bow before the prince of Peace
Let the noise and clamor cease

Be still and know that He is God
Be still and know that He is faithful
Consider all that He has done
Stand in awe and be amazed
And know that He will never change
Be still

Be still and know that He is God
Be still
Be speechless

Be still and know that He is God
Be still and know He is our Father
Come rest your head upon His breast
Listen to the rhythm of
His unfailing heart of love
Beating for His little ones
Calling each of us to come
Be still
Be still

*if you want a copy of the mp3, tell me so i can email it to you ;-)


March 04, 2005

There is a story I came across recently, reportedly from the writings of Rabbi Kushner, about a group of tourists who went on a safari in Africa and hired several native porters to carry their supplies for them. After three days, the porters announced they would have to stop and rest for a day. When the tourists inquired as to why (they did not appear to be tired) the porters confirmed that fatigue was not the reason: "…but we have walked too far too fast and now we must wait for our souls to catch up to us."

Now our souls can't disembody themselves, but the picture of an inner disconnectedness is a powerful one, nonetheless. For many people from other ways of life, viewing a high-tech postmodern culture is probably like watching a people come right out of their souls. Certainly the ethical compromises and business scandals—even the sports steroid accusations—that have put famous people behind bars and under suspicion and made others appear like liars, or at the least, very clever spin doctors, seem to spring from an inability of a generation to find its soul. Have we tried too hard and moved so fast that we can't hear from our consciences anymore?

"Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10 NLT), says the psalmist, and though I'm sure we can know God as we go along—(remember the popular book in the '70s Are You Running With Me, Jesus?)—there is a part of knowing God that requires us to stop long enough to let our souls catch up with us.

The soul is the part of us that longs for God—that tells us how spiritually hungry we are. It's also the part that reminds us of the truth. For David, the psalmist, his soul was like his inner compass that told him the right way to go. He often had to stop and listen to his soul. Over and over again, his soul is thirsty (Psalm 107:9), it longs for God (Psalm 143:6), his soul cries out for salvation (Psalm 199:81), and it recognizes the truth about himself—that he is fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). If we don't listen to our souls we become spiritually disconnected. It's impossible to know God and not connect to your own soul.

So if you feel as I do sometimes, as if you have left your soul behind somewhere, it's time to stop and "let your soul catch up to you."

As the hymn writer once put it: "Be still my soul, the Lord is on thy side."

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Daily Digest #173

The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve. —Mark 10:45

When Jesus came down to serve mankind, He was full of love and grace. He lived for others. And He drew His strength from His Father to keep going until His task is done. His life is a perfect example of service -- selfless and ever faithful.

Ultimately, what matters is the heart that comes along with service. We serve, not merely out of obligation, but out of love. There's joy every time our hands are outstretched for others; or when our arms are wrapped around a grieving brother or sister; or when our time tables are messed up just to keep somebody company.

We can find the need to serve wherever we are. There's always someone in need of help, and every opportunity doesn't come along twice. The only question is, are we going to take the role?

Let's look around us and find that person whose life we'll touch today. There's always one. For this, let us pray. May we keep our eyes open, and prepare ourselves for service at all times. May we grow a humble servant's heart, seeking wisdom and strength from God, just as His Son did. Pray always.

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2008/11/04

We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 1:3 (NIV)

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Today's guest devotional is provided by Jon Walker


When Jesus loves, he works up a sweat; he rolls up his sleeves, gets on his knees, and washes our feet with his blood, sweat, and tears.


He labors at love, though his love is never like labor. He's a giver, not a taker, loving us into being with a gifted carpenter's hands. And he's no slacker, loving us until we can take no more; no more because we're filled to overflowing, his love spilling and splashing through our pores into the cores of those we love with his love, a love's labor not lost on a world that needs to be found.

He wrestles our fears and wrangles our doubts and labors at love until he's exhausted, lying prone in a garden, drinking from God's cup the nourishment necessary for one last heroic sweaty, bloody, tearful lift of the Father's infinite love; ready to die for God's undying love.

A Jesus-love sticks to it, even when the it seems like an unstickable fury that's no longer fun or convenient or even something you want to do. Jesus keeps on laboring in you and through you, finishing what he started, loving until the last with a love that lasts forever (John 13:1).

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Daily Digest #172

The Word of God is living and powerful, . . . a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. —Hebrews 4:12

Personally, I don't like being examined as if there's something terribly wrong with me. I feel so vulnerable. I become too ashamed to admit my weaknesses, and too proud to surrender my fears. But I figured, I cannot continue denying the fact that I am not well, nor the truth that I need others to help me. I am only fooling myself for believing that I can win my battles alone. Though I always forget that He knows everything about me, He has ways of reminding me to turn back to Him so I may see who I truly am. Everything points back to Him. And He offers everything that I may ever need.

For this, let me share this prayer. May we continuously seek His wisdom. May we be enlightened by God's Words and have a change of heart. May we learn to assess our thoughts before we put them into words and actions, so they may be righteous and kind. May we build a closer relationship with God through His son, Jesus Christ. Pray always.

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Draw near to God and He will draw near to you —James 4:8


It is essential that you give people the opportunity to act on the truth of God. The responsibility must be left with the individual— you cannot act for him. It must be his own deliberate act, but the evangelical message should always lead him to action. Refusing to act leaves a person paralyzed, exactly where he was previously. But once he acts, he is never the same. It is the apparent folly of the truth that stands in the way of hundreds who have been convicted by the Spirit of God. Once I press myself into action, I immediately begin to live. Anything less is merely existing. The moments I truly live are the moments when I act with my entire will.

When a truth of God is brought home to your soul, never allow it to pass without acting on it internally in your will, not necessarily externally in your physical life. Record it with ink and with blood— work it into your life. The weakest saint who transacts business with Jesus Christ is liberated the second he acts and God's almighty power is available on his behalf. We come up to the truth of God, confess we are wrong, but go back again. Then we approach it again and turn back, until we finally learn we have no business going back. When we are confronted with such a word of truth from our redeeming Lord, we must move directly to transact business with Him. "Come to Me . . ." ( Matthew 11:28 ). His word come means "to act." Yet the last thing we want to do is come. But everyone who does come knows that, at that very moment, the supernatural power of the life of God invades him. The dominating power of the world, the flesh, and the devil is now paralyzed; not by your act, but because your act has joined you to God and tapped you in to His redemptive power.

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Daily Digest #171

Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve . . . . But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. —Joshua 24:15

I thought the decision to follow God is as simple as making a single deal that one has to stand up for the rest of his or her life. Then I figured how I should make the choice every single day. I know I am weak, and I am a sinner, and the more I think about the "pact" that I made before, the more I find myself drifting farther away from Him. The will to follow and make Him my leader suddenly becomes an illusion, where I am actually doing what I think is right, which has never really given me the peace and content that He offers. It's like saying "God, You are in control" when in fact my actions speak "I am in control".

For this, let us pray. May we ask for wisdom to know His will. May we continuously seek His guidance in all that we think or do. May we find comfort and contentment in Him, and joy in doing our tasks. May we grow a kind, loving and patient heart as we go through our daily lives. Pray always.

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2008/10/31

An intelligent person aims at wise action, but a fool starts off in many directions. Proverbs 17:24 (TEV)

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Do you ever get to the end of your day and think "Did I accomplish anything today?" Where does all the time go?

If you don't master your schedule, it will master you. Here are three suggestions from the Bible for reducing the stress of your schedule:

Line up your priorities.
Obviously, you don't have time to do everything. You must make choices. You must decide what's really important and what isn't. Take some time to consider the direction of your life.

· "It is stupid to waste time on useless projects" (Proverbs 12:11 TEV).
· "You may make your plans, but God directs your actions" (Proverbs 16:9 TEV).

Lighten up your attitude. Do you really have to do everything on your to-do list? No one is holding a gun to your head. A lot of your stress is self-imposed. The Bible says that God gave us humor as a stress reliever.

* "Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up" (Proverbs 12:25 NLT).

* "A relaxed attitude lengthens life; jealousy rots it away" (Proverbs 14:30 NLT).

* "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person's strength" (Proverbs 17:22 NLT).

Look up to God. Stress is always a warning light that you've taken your focus off God and are looking at your problems from your limited viewpoint. I believe the single greatest cause of stress is this: We take ourselves too seriously and we don't take God seriously enough!

Need more time in your schedule?

* "Fear of the Lord lengthens one's life, but the years of the wicked are cut short" (Proverbs 10:27 NLT).

* "Those who fear the Lord are secure; he will be a place of refuge for their children" (Proverbs 14:26 NLT).

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Daily Digest #170

He . . . sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers. —Isaiah 40:22

Many times I have been reminded to view things at a different perspective. Whenever I feel my problems are huge, I later realize that I only forget to pray. My worries exceed the length of my prayers that I end up worrying more. I also realize that it's not the length of prayer either, but the depth of it. A shallow one only makes my mind wander more, and the essence of talking to God is lost. A heart and mind geared towards God allows us to look in His eyes -- where problems seem small and insignificant, and blessings overflow.

For this, let us pray... May we look up to God so we could change our perspective on things. Two weeks in the Philippines have changed my views on different things. But He kept on reminding me how He is always in control, and that I can only use the blessings I have to do my part for the time He has given me. May we believe that we are being molded so that one day, we may see Jesus Christ in the face of others, and Him in us. Pray always.

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What's Your Excuse?
2008/10/29

The lazy person is full of excuses, saying, "If I go outside, I might meet a lion in the street and be killed!" Proverbs 22:13 (NLT)
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It's rare to find people today who are willing to take complete responsibility for their actions. In the victimization that's present in our culture, our problems are always someone else's fault.

You can blame whoever you want – the government, your parents, the school you went to, television, your boss, or the rest of society. There's no need for you to feel bad; anywhere you look there are people to blame.

Sometimes our excuses are quite humorous. Consider these actual statements given to insurance companies by people involved in car accidents:

·"In my attempt to kill a fly, I drove into a telephone pole!"
·"Coming home, I drove into the wrong driveway and hit a tree I don't have."
·"The guy was all over the road. I had to swerve a number of times before I hit him."
·"I pulled away from the side of the road, glanced at my mother-in-law, and headed over the embankment."
·"I was on the way to the doctor's office with rear-end trouble when my universal joint gave way, causing me to having an accident."
·"I had been driving my car for 40 years when I fell asleep at the wheel and had an accident."
·"The telephone poll was approaching fast. I attempted to swerve out of its path when it struck my front end."
·"The pedestrian had no idea which direction to go, so I ran over him!"

Silly? Yes. But so are some of the excuses we offer, instead of taking responsibility for our mistakes, failures, and sins.

The Bible says, "The lazy person is full of excuses" (Proverbs 22:13 NLT). Ben Franklin once observed, "The person who is good at excuse-making is seldom good at anything else."

Living the 'Good Life'
2008/10/28

For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)

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A few years ago the planned community of Mission Viejo, California launched an advertising campaign to attract home buyers. They used phrases like "Mission Viejo: the California Promise" and "The place to live the Good Life." Although "the Good Life" is a well-worn phrase in our culture, I wonder how many people have ever stopped to define what exactly it is.

For some people the Good Life is confused with looking good. They are preoccupied with appearance, as if that is all that really matters in life. In America our culture idolizes beauty and puts a premium on being attractive. Advertisers capitalize on this knowing that the promise of "looking good" causes us to spend billions on beauty products, tanning salons, plastic surgery, liposuction, custom color coordination, and the latest styles in clothing.

For others the Good Life is confused with feeling good. Their goal is the minimization of pain and the maximization of pleasure, and they will use whatever it takes to achieve it: hot tubs, Disneyland, cocaine, virtual reality, world travel, the latest movie. The pleasure and entertainment industry is now the largest industry in America. The old 60's phrase, "If it feels good, do it" has become the modus operandi for much of our society.

For others the Good Life is confused with having the goods. Their chief ambition is to collect all the goods and goodies of life. They make as much as they can and spend it as fast as they can.

ome honestly identify their values with bumper stickers that say "The one with the most toys wins." Others are not that brazen but they still believe that the Good Life is something that can be bought.

The truth is: none of these things ultimately satisfy.

·No matter what you do, you can't stop the aging process.
·Pleasure is a by-product of the Good Life, not the goal of it.
·The greatest things in life are not things!

So what is the Good Life? It is the personal fulfillment and joy that comes from being good and doing good. It is the result of discovering and becoming exactly what God created you to be. Nothing else will fill that void in your soul.

The Bible says this: "For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago" (Ephesians 2:10 NLT).

When you use your life to help others, to do good, and to know and trust God, you will feel good about yourself. That is the Good Life. Don't let anybody con you into thinking it is something else!

Beware of Shortcuts
2008/10/27
People with integrity have firm footing, but those who follow crooked paths will slip and fall. Proverbs 10:9 (NLT)

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A few summers ago my family took a car vacation. We loaded up our van and headed out for an adventure. Our only goal was to see the western half of the United States. By the end of our two week trip, we'd put over 5,000 miles on the odometer.

For most of the trip we simply focused on enjoying the journey rather than rushing toward a destination. But in one of the states we traveled through (which will remain unnamed) we were so bored with the scenery that I got the bright idea of taking a shortcut to the next major town.

Looking at the map, the road for the shortcut appeared just fine – a straight shot to the next town. It could save us about an hour of traveling time. So we got off the beaten path and took the alternate route.

Big mistake! The road was fraught with difficulties:

· Construction work ...
· A line of slow trucks that we couldn't pass ...
· Cattle (then sheep) in the middle of the road ...
· Potholes the size of meteor craters ... and
· No gas station or restroom!

The bottom line: my proposed shortcut ended up taking longer, we nearly ran out of gas, and I had a very cranky family!

The lesson: Shortcuts are not always as good as they may seem. Sometimes the shortest distance to a goal is NOT a straight line.

We're often tempted to cut corners in order to speed things up or make a greater profit. But ethical shortcuts or short-changing someone else will always come back to haunt us. The Bible warns us: "People with integrity have firm footing, but those who follow crooked paths will slip and fall" (Proverbs 10:9 NLT).

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