Monday, October 19, 2009

Relationships are Worth Restoring

“If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you . . . agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends” (Philippians 2:1-2 Msg).

Relationships are always worth restoring.

Life is all about learning how to love, and God wants us to value relationships and make every effort to maintain them instead of discarding them whenever there is a rift, a hurt or a conflict.

In fact, the Bible tells us that God has given us the ministry of restoring relationships. For this reason a significant amount of the New Testament is devoted to teaching us how to get along with one another.

The Apostle Paul taught that our ability to get along with others is a mark of spiritual maturity. Since Christ wants his family to be known for our love for each other, broken fellowship is a disgraceful testimony to unbelievers. This is why Paul was so embarrassed that the members of the church in Corinth were splitting into warring factions and even taking each other to court.

He wrote, "Shame on you! Surely there is at least one wise person in your fellowship who can settle a dispute between fellow Christians" (1 Cor. 6:5 TEV). He was shocked that no one in the church was mature enough to resolve the conflict peaceably. In the same letter, he said, "I'll put it as urgently as I can: You must get along with each other" (1 Cor. 1:10 Msg).

If you want God's blessing on your life and you want to be known as a child of God, you must learn to be a peacemaker. Jesus said, "God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God" (Matt. 5:9 NLT).

Notice Jesus didn't say, "Blessed are the peace lovers," because everyone loves peace. Neither did he say, "Blessed are the peaceable," who are never disturbed by anything. Jesus said, "Blessed are those who work for peace"--those who actively seek to resolve conflict.

Peacemakers are rare because peacemaking is hard work, but because you were formed to be a part of God's family, peacemaking is one of the most important skills you can develop.

Unfortunately, most of us were never taught how to resolve conflict, so over the next few days, we’ll consider the steps necessary to resolve conflict.

From the Purpose Driven Life online

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Daily Digest #364

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! —Psalm 46:10

Allow me to share another article from the Purpose Driven Life online:

God Wants You Strong

“Then Jesus said to him, ‘Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.’ At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked” (John 5:8–9 NIV).

For 38 years the man was paralyzed in a sickly cycle of passive dependency, coping to make it to the end of each day, longing for something else.

It’s the kind of circular survival thinking that traps us in a death-like state where we’re ruled by our fears and our stress, far removed from the abundant life Jesus promised.

Then Jesus said, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”

He gave the man an option: “You can get up and walk, step into faith and leave behind your fear. God is strong, and he wants you strong.”

Like our own steps of faith, the first step was surely the hardest for the man. He had 38 years of experience telling him his legs would not support a walk; he had no experience in trusting this man named Jesus.

It took courage, energy and pain to take the first step, but then, he had one step of experience telling him Jesus might be right; two steps telling him Jesus could be right; three steps telling him Jesus must be right; four steps telling him Jesus is absolutely right.

Jesus didn’t enslave the man; he liberated him, empowering him with choice and independence from his fears.

When we’re paralyzed in confusion and fear, the questions remain:

• Do I want to be healed?
• Will I do whatever God says to be healed?
• Will I pick up my mat and walk, making godly, healing choices?
• Will I step into faith and walk away from my fear?

Pray – ‘Father, I want to be healed. Help me in my unbelief. Be my strength and my boldness. Amen.’

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Daily Digest #363

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. —Matthew 5:16

I would like to share an article from the Purpose Driven Connection (excerpts from S.H.A.P.E.: Finding and Fulfilling Your Unique Purpose for Life, written by Eric Rees).

God Designed You to Make a Difference

God doesn’t create anything without value. He is the ultimate craftsman. And he designed you specifically to fulfill a unique role in his ultimate plan to establish his kingdom on earth. Even though each of us has made mistakes that make it more difficult for him to perfect, we still are a special work of the Creator’s hands. He even takes time to know about our day-to-day lives. In fact, he is smiling right now, rejoicing as you seek to discover the masterpiece you are to him.

The Bible says, “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).

This verse helps us understand that if we want to discover our mission or purpose in life, we first need to look at the masterpiece God has made us to be. While self-help books tell you to look within, I’m saying the key to living the life you were meant to live is to look to God and ask him to help you discover your uniqueness. Once you discover who you are, then you can start figuring out what God has planned for you, the specific way he designed you to make a difference in the world for him.

Another translation of Ephesians 2:10 uses the word workmanship to describe our uniqueness. It’s from the Greek word poiema, which literally means “work of art,” and is the root of our English word poem. You are a work of God – and nothing but the highest and best comes from his hand. Like the artist who takes scrap metal and turns it into an amazing sculpture, God takes our lives and fashions them into a masterpiece.

Your Unique Ministry

God created you as a unique masterpiece because he has a specific purpose for your life – a specific and unique “contribution” that only you can make.

What does that mean? Your contribution is the unique service God created you to make, a ministry only you can perform. It is the specific mission God has given you to fulfill for him on earth. It is what I like to call your unique Kingdom Service.

I define Kingdom Service as “your specific contribution to the body of Christ, within your generation, that causes you to totally depend on God and authentically display his love toward others.” Your Kingdom Service is way more than a career. It is a special commissioning from God to make a significant difference on this earth.

I have discovered that most people, myself included, tend to define their contribution in life by one of three things: trends, what others tell them, or by truth. When we let trends guide our life, we simply are living to fit into the current styles of the world. When we let others tell us what we should be doing, we are living to please them and win their approval. However, when we let God’s truth define our Kingdom Service, submitting to his authority and desiring to please only him, we are able to lead a life of lasting significance, fulfillment, and Kingdom impact.

With this encouragement, challenge yourself to invest in God’s kingdom in a way that will last long after you are gone. Be a contributor, not a consumer. For some people, that means trading in a career for a full-time ministry. For most of us, however, finding and fulfilling our Kingdom Service means discovering how God wants us to minister in the paths and relationships of the daily lives he has given us. For all of us, it means determining that we will let God use us to impact eternity and leave a heavenly legacy on earth.

Your Kingdom Service is expressed through the unique S.H.A.P.E. God gave you. The S.H.A.P.E. concept was developed by Rick Warren, who writes, “Whenever God gives us an assignment, he always equips us with what we need to accomplish it. This custom combination of capabilities is called your S.H.A.P.E.”

Your S.H.A.P.E. points to five specific characteristics:

Spiritual gifts
A set of special abilities that God has given you to share his love and serve others.

The special passions God has given you so that you can glorify him on earth.

The set of talents that God gave you when you were born, which he also wants you to use to make an impact for him.

The special way God wired you to navigate life and fulfill your unique Kingdom Purpose.

Those parts of your past, both positive and painful, which God intends to use in great ways.

Rick continues: When God created animals, he gave each of them a specific area of expertise. Some animals run, some hop, some swim, some burrow, and some fly. Each animal has a particular role to play based on the way they were shaped by God. The same is true with humans. Each of us was uniquely designed, or shaped, by God to do certain things.

Wise stewardship of your life begins by understanding your shape. You are unique, wonderfully complex, a composite of many different factors. What God made you to be determines what he intends for you to do. Your ministry is determined by your makeup.

As we allow God’s hands to lovingly mold us, we submit ourselves to his purpose in creating us. God specially designs each of us for doing his will on earth. Each one of us is intentionally shaped to fulfill the specific plan he has for each life. Understanding this amazing concept should produce in us a desire to humbly and gratefully accept the role God has created us to fulfill.

When we reach this position of heart – when we become pliable and welcome the loving pressure of God – we understand that his purpose is to handcraft us for a special role only we are able to fulfill.

Note: Erik is a pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California.

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Daily Digest #362

In everything give thanks. —1 Thessalonians 5:18

At a recollection last Friday, we were asked to reflect on our "Jerusalem", "Judea", "Samaria" and "to the ends of the earth". Each symbolizes either a person that you would help bring closer to God, or a place where you would do your mission: "Jerusalem" is a member of your family; "Judea" is your neighbor, friend, co-worker; "Samaria" is an outcast in the society; "to the ends of the earth" is a place where you wish to do community service. We would discern and pray for each until they are fulfilled. I have yet to realize what they'll be, and I have a feeling that God will reveal them to me in due time. I still had issues to overcome, which He made me ponder over the past week, and actually opened opportunities for me to straighten out. He taught me how each person has a mission of his/her own, and no matter how i fail to understand or accept, I should at least respect and honor the unique journey God has willed upon them. I was also taught to honor my parents, no matter how "human" they seem to me, and always thank God for having them in my life. I was very much humbled when Papa told me, upon asking forgiveness for something I did, that there was nothing to forgive (I had to remind him of what I did because he forgot it already) and that he would love me no matter what. I simply saw Jesus in him.

All these blessings brought a lot of energy and sincere enthusiasm in me yesterday. I couldn't wait to give something back to express my gratefulness. Though I realize I should be thankful for my blessings everyday, yesterday felt extra special because several of my past prayers were finally answered through the tiny details that only the Spirit of God would allow me to see. Indeed, God's timing is always perfect.

For this, please join me in prayer. Thank You for sending Your Holy Spirit to guide our decisions and to open our eyes to see Jesus in others. Thank You for always hearing our prayers, and moving us with Your answers in ways that would truly cause change within us. Lord, we know we are weak, that is why we ask for strength and courage to seek Your will at all times. We ask for Your protection. May we overcome temptations to sin, and turn our doubts and fears into prayers. We ask these in Jesus' name. Amen.

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Daily Digest #361

Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out. —Proverbs 20:5

Wow, the Daily Bread entries this week are on a roll :D I've been hit here and there by the truths that I've been denying myself to believe, and follow, these past few days. And God's truths continue to prevail! I have been called to accept and understand people in my life, but I refused and insisted on what I thought was best. There's no love in what I did, although I claimed I loved those people. I realize how my pride has taken over, and how I've given into the fear of losing it. I demanded to be heard and be understood, but I also forgot to listen and understand. I thought I was being selfless, but I turned out to be the selfish one. In the middle of all these, I asked God, "what's the matter with me???" I couldn't help but complain how I've become worse rather than better. Still, He assured me of His love and forgiveness, which is always humbling and awakening.

For this, join me in prayer. Lord, thank You for your message to us today. Thank You for giving us the chance to be Your ambassadors of love and peace. We are sorry for those times when we chose to disobey, and went our own way. Lord, we ask for faith in Your love and mercy. May we allow Your Spirit to grow in us and manifest true love in our lives. These we ask in Jesus' name. Amen.

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Daily Digest #360

Whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? —1 John 3:17

The reading today made me reflect about my choices. I realized I have not been kind and generous. I've been picky in terms of giving and helping out others. I find it hard to trust people easily. And when I do, I set expectations which when are unmet could lead me to anger and frustration. But I learned how these expectations have bruised and ruined some of my dearest relationships (family and close friends alike; some of which I am still too proud to mend). I have reacted badly to complains and rejections -- which I may also have expressed on others -- and it kept me from loving and giving unconditionally. I always forget how God has been generous and patient with me all this time. It's a shame how I claim to love God and to be loved by God, when I do not let His love manifest in me sometimes. But He has ways to remind me to pray in moments of weakness -- when I choose my own comfort over others' needs -- to look at the brighter side of things, and to accept, if not understand, the things that I cannot change.

For this, please join me in prayer. Lord, thank You for the lesson you imparted to us today. We look forward to learning more from You, and to becoming real Christians. May our choices be pleasing to You. May we be humble servants, doing our utmost for the task at hand. May we continue to pray for others, to count our blessings, to forgive, to LOVE and to serve You with all our hearts, just as Your Son did. We ask these in Jesus' name. Amen.

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Daily Digest #359

My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you. —Galatians 4:19

Earlier today, I had 4 kids re-taking the exam in the computer room. One of them had been a real pain in the *(&)% for the longest time. I had to sit with him and make him read the instructions one by one. As he read aloud, I asked him to do exactly as instructed, but he couldn't. I asked him if he understood what he read. The first time, he answered 'yes' but just guessed which buttons to click. So I asked him to read again, asking questions in between just to reiterate what was being asked of him, and he finally did everything correctly. So from a score of 10, he got an 80 on his second take.

I realized how I've been like this particular student. I read Bible passages, share them to others, yet I still get lost sometimes. I guess I also read without really understanding. When I read beautiful verses, or sing glorious worship songs, I sometimes miss the meaning of the words that I fail to apply them in my own life. I have hurts that I have yet to overcome, and wants that I have yet to surrender. Indeed, maturing takes a lifetime. But I thank God for giving me a chance to choose His will everyday. I thank God for reminding me to pray when I am on the verge of giving in to sin, and for still loving unconditionally me when I fail Him. He allows me to learn, unlearn and relearn the things I have forgotten or ignored so I could make a wiser choice the second time around.

For this, let us pray. Lord, thank You for showering us with knowledge and experiences to learn from. May these turn into wisdom, so we may glorify You in everything that we think, say or do. Thank You for the gift of choice, for drawing us closer to You no matter how much we resist sometimes. May Your will be done on us always. We ask these in Jesus' name. Amen.

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Daily Digest #358

No one can serve two masters. —Matthew 6:24

Allow me to share an article from the Purpose Driven Life about contentment, and trust in God. Read below:

“…Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” (Matthew 6:32-33 NLT).

God promises to meet all your financial needs if you (1) ask Him for help; (2) learn to be content; (3) practice giving in faith; (4) maintain your integrity; and (5) trust Him with your life.

Worry is really just a form of atheism. Every time you worry, you’re acting like an atheist. You’re saying, “It all depends on me.” That’s just not in the Bible.

Worry is a warning light that you doubt the love of God. Yet, the Bible says God “provides food for those who fear Him; He remembers His covenant forever” (Psalm 111:5 NIV).

The book of Romans tells us that God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for you to pay for your salvation. If God loves you enough to send His own Son to die for you, don’t you think He loves you enough to take care of your bills?

God solved your biggest problem when He saved you. Don’t you realize that any other problem is minor by comparison? The bottom line is really this: Am I going to believe that God will do what He says He will do—that He will provide for me?

If you’re serious about being set free from financial fears, then it’s your choice. But you must choose to do what God has clearly told you to do. He’s laid it out. He said, “I will do this—the promise—if you will obey the premise.”

I want to challenge you to solidify your commitment.

• Are you committed to asking him for the things you need, rather than going out and charging it?
• Are you going to start learning to be content, and to stop comparing?
• Are you going to start worshiping with your tithe as God has commanded and believe that he’s going to take care of your needs?
• Are you going to live with integrity and be honest in your finances?
• Are you going to start trusting Jesus Christ completely with every area of your life?

For this, let us pray. Lord, may we make this commitment with you -- to ask, to be content, to stop comparing, to become more generous to others, and to trust You completely in all the areas of our life. Thank You for giving us a fresh start every day, and for giving that chance to be closer to You. We ask for Your protection and guidance. May Your will be done on us. Amen.

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Daily Digest #357

Whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. —John 14:13

God's reminders are everywhere. We usually perceive them in an unexpected way, and from the most unlikely people. It just proves how God designed each and everyone of us, in a unique way yet connected to each other.

Allow me to share an article from the Purpose Driven Life online:

Start with the Faith You Have

“[The boy’s father said,] ‘If you can do anything, do it. Have a heart and help us!’ Jesus said, ‘If? There are no ‘ifs’ among believers. Anything can happen.’ No sooner were the words out of his mouth than the father cried, ‘Then I believe. Help me with my doubts!’” (Mark 9:22–24 MSG).

Is it possible to be filled with faith and doubt at the same time? Yes!

You can have faith that God wants you to do something and still be scared to death. Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is going ahead and doing what you’re called to do in spite of your fear.

You have to begin with the faith you already have; it may be just a little, but you start there. A beautiful example of this is the story of the man who brought his sick son to Jesus in Mark 9. Jesus looked at the man and said, “I can heal your son. If you will believe, I will heal him.”

The father then makes a classic statement: “Lord, I do believe. Help me overcome my unbelief.”

Have you ever felt like that? “Lord, I have some faith. But I also have some doubts.” This man was filled with faith and doubt, yet despite his honest doubts, he went ahead and asked Jesus for a miracle. And he got his miracle—Jesus healed his son.

Mustard seed faith moves mountains. No matter how weak or how frail you think your faith is, it’s enough to get you through what you’re facing because your “little faith” is in a BIG GOD.

Matthew 17:20 says, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed . . . Nothing will be impossible for you.” That’s not a lot of faith; in fact, it’s just a little faith. But what else does that verse teach? “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move,’ and it will move” (NIV).

Mustard seed faith moves mountains. Don’t get this reversed; we tend to read this verse backward; we want it to say, “If you have faith like a mountain, you can move a mustard seed”—as if it takes enormous faith to do a very little task.

Everybody has faith. You had faith this morning when you ate your cereal—faith that your spouse didn’t put poison in your granola!

You had faith when you sat down in your computer chair—faith that it wouldn’t collapse.

Everybody has faith; the difference is what you put your faith in.

Sometimes people will tell me they don’t want to surrender to Jesus until all their questions are answered; they don’t want to make a commitment until everything is understood.

God wants you start with the faith you have, and based on the example of the mustard seed, you don’t need a whole lot of faith to do great things for God. You just need a little.

So here’s a trustworthy equation: Little Faith + Big God = Huge Results!

• You take your little faith; “Lord, I believe! Help me with my unbelief!”

• And you place your faith in our big God.

And then he’ll show you how he works out huge results.

For this, let us pray. Lord, thank You for reminding us everyday of Your love and power over our lives. Thank You for sending Your angels to help us get through our difficulties. Lord, please help us in our unbelief. May the little faith we have seek Your will, and give glory to Your name. We ask these in Jesus' name. Amen.

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Daily Digest #356

Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever! —Revelation 5:13

If you can remember my previous posts, you may have felt a sense of worry and lack of faith. Our grad school class was really anxious about how the debates and research papers would turn out. Our prof was giving us a difficult time in class, encouraging us to drop the course if we wouldn't take it seriously. Everyone admitted that he/she has never worked so hard since college! All I could do was pray, that everybody gave it his/her best shot, and that the professor would be in a really good mood.

You know what? Our prayers have been answered! Not only did everybody endure till the last minute, but our professor also turned out to be kind-hearted, and was an excellent mediator. Honestly, we were all surprised to find ourselves appreciating the class in the end. We learned more than we expected, and gained more friends. It was an extraordinary experience for a multi-cultural class of 60 :D.

I couldn't help but rejoice and thank God more for helping each of us endure and persevere till the end. Last week, I couldn't imagine how all of these would end (I was seriously juggling tasks at work and in school). For this, please join me in prayer... Lord, thank You for the strength and courage to face the every-day challenges on our way. We thank You for sending us your angels -- encouraging us, giving us hope, making us smile in spite of everything. We thank You for the relationships you have blessed us with. Please protect our family, our friends, our workplaces and our neighborhood. These we ask in Jesus' name. Amen.

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Daily Digest #355

The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious. —Ecclesiastes 10:12

I was tempted to send an anonymous letter to the dean last week. We were just annoyed at how the prof was handling the class, treating us like college freshmen instead of professionals. But last week, there was less yelling and more smiling so we all got to relax in class (maybe too relaxed, as most of us got really sleepy). We figured maybe he had personal issues we didn't know about, so we can only do our utmost to finish the course. I also realized how he's assigned basic stuff on the foundations of education... I guess we just overreacted because our previous professors were very considerate and fun.

We're all busy individuals, each with our own concerns, and we fret at every inconvenience we experience in our lives. The reflection has taught me to lengthen my patience, and to see the brighter side of the situation -- which is the opportunity to learn more, not just about the course, but also about myself.

For this, let us pray.... Lord, thank You for the everyday opportunity to show Your love in our lives. Thank You for allowing us to experience Your grace even in the most unexpected places, and Your love even from the most unlikely people. Lord, please tame our tongues. We ask for forgiveness for the times when we choose our will over Yours. We ask for guidance, that we may follow your path at all times, and learn to be slow to anger. We ask these in Jesus' name. Amen.

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Daily Digest #354

What things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. —Philippians 3:7

I just had a quick conversation with an elder about "backsliding". This got me into serious thinking last night. He said most of those who backslide are the ones who cease praying, eventually slipping back to their old ways. I assessed myself and realized how I've held on to habits that have kept me away from Christ. These are the things He continuously tells me to let go, but I have chosen my own will over His. Mostly out of comfort, or for believing it's the easiest way out. But when I look at it closely, I realize how I've been afraid to face some of the things at hand. I hold on to what I'm used to having, to prevent myself from falling or making mistakes. I thought by doing this, I was being brave, but it was actually cowardly. What I thought was faith in God turned out to be faith in myself alone.

This brings us all back to embracing the power of prayer. It is only through constant prayer that we learn to surrender to God and let go of the things that keep us away from Him. For this, let us pray.... Lord, thank You for opening our eyes to the things that matter most -- our relationship with You, and with others. Lord, though it may be hard for us to let go, please be patient with us. We ask for strength and courage to face our trials. May we cling to you at all times. These we ask through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

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Daily Digest #353

[Jesus said], “I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” —Luke 7:9

Allow me to share the May-26 entry of My Utmost for His Highest about "unanswered" prayers:

Pray without ceasing . . . —1 Thessalonians 5:17

Our thinking about prayer, whether right or wrong, is based on our own mental conception of it. The correct concept is to think of prayer as the breath in our lungs and the blood from our hearts. Our blood flows and our breathing continues "without ceasing"; we are not even conscious of it, but it never stops. And we are not always conscious of Jesus keeping us in perfect oneness with God, but if we are obeying Him, He always is. Prayer is not an exercise, it is the life of the saint. Beware of anything that stops the offering up of prayer. "Pray without ceasing . . ."— maintain the childlike habit of offering up prayer in your heart to God all the time.
Jesus never mentioned unanswered prayer. He had the unlimited certainty of knowing that prayer is always answered. Do we have through the Spirit of God that inexpressible certainty that Jesus had about prayer, or do we think of the times when it seemed that God did not answer our prayer? Jesus said, ". . . everyone who asks receives . . ." ( Matthew 7:8 ). Yet we say, "But . . . , but . . . ." God answers prayer in the best way— not just sometimes, but every time. However, the evidence of the answer in the area we want it may not always immediately follow. Do we expect God to answer prayer?

The danger we have is that we want to water down what Jesus said to make it mean something that aligns with our common sense. But if it were only common sense, what He said would not even be worthwhile. The things Jesus taught about prayer are supernatural truths He reveals to us.

For this, let us pray. Lord, thank You for never ceasing to hear our prayers. Thank You for always looking into our hearts and healing them all at the same time. We praise You for Your power over our lives. Lord, help us in our unbelief. Teach us to be patient. May we grow in faith, and trust in Your will and time always. Amen.

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Daily Digest #352

[God] comforts us . . . that we may be able to comfort [others] with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. —2 Corinthians 1:4

Here are some excerpts from an RBC Ministries article about where to find comfort ("Where Can We Find Comfort, pp. 5-6, 30):

One of the things we learn from the Bible is that the reassuring Spirit of Christ works in ways that are not always our ways. This is graphically illustrated in the life of someone who probably experienced as much trouble as any war veteran, addict, sexual-abuse victim, or bereaved person you have ever met. Yet in spite of all his pain, he came through it praising "the Father of mercies and God of all comfort" (2 Cor. 1:3).

We know him as the apostle Paul, the converted killer-turned- spiritual- advisor. As a battered, bruised, and often sorrowing representative of Christ, Paul is a case study of how the Spirit of God can give comfort and help in the midst of trouble.

He is an example of someone who was able to get beyond the tormenting memories of what had done to others (Acts 8:1-3; 1 Tim. 1:12-17) and what others had done to him. Yet Paul was more than a survivor. While remembering and bearing the scars of the past, he wasn't broken and embittered by his memories. He was able to look back and see that the darkest times had actually prepared the way for a sunrise. He wrote convincingly about a mysterious yet real source of comfort that freed him from his memories....

Paul explains where we can find comfort in his second letter to the Corinthians, namely, from:
1. God who comforts
2. Weakness that helps
3. Conscience that reassures
4. Sorrow that changes
5. Spirit Who empowers
6. Faith that sees
7. Person who cares
8. Strength that sustains

I believe most of us can relate most to #7. But seeking comfort from another person alone is not enough. Like us, the other person is only human who has limits and weaknesses. Our expectations may be great that we pressure the other person to provide what he/she simply cannot give. Most relationships are broken because of high expectations. I have my own share of experiences regarding this. But the experience taught me to turn to God. He made me realize how my fears and weaknesses have affected my judgment about others. He heard my prayers, answered my questions (which was A LOT) and gave me a different perspective. His responses humbled me and caused me to repent, to heal and to share a bit of comfort to others as well. I still have to make up for my shortcomings, and I thank God for giving me that opportunity every day.

What about you? How has God comforted you? Please feel free to share :D

Let us pray. Lord, thank You for being our Comforter. Thank You for giving us a different perspective when all we see are flaws. Lord, forgive us for allowing our fears and weaknesses to cause us to give in to sin. We pray for our relationship with others -- our families, friends, neighbors, officemates, sisters and brothers in the community, and our enemies. May we continue to seek comfort and strength in You. Amen.

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Daily Digest #351

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. —Psalm 19:1

As I was doing my research last night ("religious education" for my grad school class), I came across a video about God's existence proven by Einstein in class. You may watch, or read the lines below:

A University professor at a well known institution of higher learning challenged his students with this question. "Did God create everything that exists?"

A student bravely replied, "Yes he did!"

"God created everything?" The professor asked.

"Yes sir, he certainly did," the student replied.

The professor answered, "If God created everything; then God created evil. And, since evil exists, and according to the principle that our works define who we are, then we can assume God is evil."

The student became quiet and did not answer the professor's hypothetical definition. The professor, quite pleased with himself, boasted to the students that he had proven once more that the Christian faith was a myth.

Another student raised his hand and said, "May I ask you a question, professor?"

"Of course", replied the professor.

The student stood up and asked, "Professor, does cold exist?"

"What kind of question is this? Of course it exists. Have you never been cold?"

The other students snickered at the young man's question.

The young man replied, "In fact sir, cold does not exist. According to the laws of physics, what we consider cold is in reality the absence of heat. Every body or object is susceptible to study when it has or transmits energy, and heat is what makes a body or matter have or transmit energy. Absolute zero (-460 F) is the total absence of heat; and all matter becomes inert and incapable of reaction at that temperature. Cold does not exist. We have created this word to describe how we feel if we have no heat."

The student continued, "Professor, does darkness exist?"

The professor responded, "Of course it does."

The student replied, "Once again you are wrong sir, darkness does not exist either. Darkness is in reality the absence of light. Light we can study, but not darkness. In fact, we can use Newton's prism to break white light into many colors and study the various wavelengths of each color.... You cannot measure darkness. A simple ray of light can break into a world of darkness and illuminate it. How can you know how dark a certain space is? You measure the amount of light present. Isn't this correct? Darkness is a term used by man to describe what happens when there is no light present."

Finally the young man asked the professor, "Sir, does evil exist?"

Now uncertain, the professor responded, "Of course, as I have already said. We see it everyday. It is in the daily examples of man's Inhumanity to man. It is in the multitude of crime and violence everywhere in the world. These manifestations are nothing else but evil.

To this the student replied, "Evil does not exist, sir, or at least it does not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God. It is just like darkness and cold, a word that man has created to describe the absence of God. God did not create evil. Evil is the result of what happens when man does not have God's love present in his heart. It's like the cold that comes when there is no heat, or the darkness that comes when there is no light."

The professor sat down.

The young man's name - Albert Einstein

It's amazing how God's power and wisdom manifests itself in situations that deny His existence. God is all-knowing, all-powerful and loving. We may wonder why He allows bad things to happen, but there are answers yet to be revealed in His will and time. Our personal relationship with the Lord determines how we perceive things. His love and faith in us enable us to endure no matter how difficult or hopeless things get.

For this, let us pray. Lord, we praise You for Your power over everything in this world. Your love has changed our lives, from the inside out. May we give glory to Your name in everything that we do. Amen.

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Daily Digest #350

I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. —Philippians 3:1

Allow me to share a reading about eternal life. Here's an excerpt from the article ("Where Do We Go From Here", p.32):

Looking Ahead

Do you know where you are going after you die? Or are you like the pilot who lost his navigation equipment, became disoriented, and then announced to the passengers, "Ladies and gentlemen, the bad news is that we don't know where we are going. The good news is that we're making great time."

Is your life flying by without real direction and purpose? Do you have serious doubts about where you will spend eternity? If so, remember these words of Jesus: "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out" (Jn. 6:37). The choice is yours. If you seek God's forgiveness through Christ, you will be forgiven. You will spend eternity in heaven. You will no longer have to fear the grave.

But what if you are sure that you are headed for the resurrection of the righteous? Then you must remember the judgment seat of Christ. You must so live that you will reap a harvest of eternal gain rather than loss. You must immerse yourself in God's Word to know what He values most. You must even now be concerned about imitating Christ in your attitudes and actions (Eph. 5:1-7).

Christ wept over the lost condition of mankind. He gave His life for sinners. His love and compassion were obvious to all who came in contact with Him. What about you? Do people sense your concern for the lost? Are you willing to give of yourself that others may come to know God?

May God help us know where we are going when we die -- and to be faithful until we arrive.

We may be too busy worrying about our lives, and neglect our relationship with others and with God. God teaches us that there's more to life than our careers, our accomplishments and our earthly possessions -- He has given each of us a purpose. May we focus on the eternal rather than material things this world offers. May we learn to endure until God's work in us is complete. May we live a life like Jesus, and look forward to joining Him in His Father's kingdom.

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Daily Digest #349

God is love. —1 John 4:8

Allow me to share 4 related articles from the Purpose Drive Life online (read below). May we be reminded how much God loves each of us. Pray always. God bless!

God Says You Are Accepted

“Therefore, accept each other in the same way that Christ accepted you. He did this to bring glory to God” (Romans 15:7 GWT).

Most of us spend our entire lives trying to earn acceptance. We want to earn it from our parents, peers, partners in life, from people we respect, maybe even from people we envy. The drive to be accepted is a deep drive that can influence the kind of clothes you wear, the kind of car you drive, the kind of house you buy, even the career you choose.

Remember as a kid you wanted so badly to be in the in-crowd that someone would say to you, “I dare you to do this,” and they’d suggest something that was either stupid, or that put your personal safety at risk. But, you did it anyway because your desire to be accepted overruled the desire for safety.

We do it because we love the feeling of “I’m OK, I’m accepted; somebody accepts me.” When you’re accepted, it does tremendous things for your self esteem. The truth is Jesus accepts you and that acceptance is not based on your performance. In fact, you may have received Christ and accepted Jesus into your life, but do you realize that you’re able to do that because Jesus accepted you? You don’t have to earn his acceptance; you don’t have to prove yourself to him.

We need to stop thinking, “I’ve got an unpleaseable God up there and I’ve got to be a good boy, or good girl, to be accepted.” God, through Jesus Christ, has already accepted you. That’s the good news!

The Bible teaches, “Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me” (Psalms 27:10 NIV). Now, the fact is, some of you had an unpleaseable parent. No matter what you did, it wasn’t good enough. For instance, if you got B’s on your report card, you had a parent who wanted A’s. If you got lots of A’s, that parent wanted straight A’s. No matter what you did, you couldn’t find acceptance.

The tragedy is that some of you even today are still trying to prove yourself to an unpleaseable parent. You’re still trying to earn that acceptance. I want to say two things to you:

1. In all likelihood, you’re not going to get it. If you haven’t gotten it by now, then you’re not likely to ever get it—and that is your parent’s problem, not yours.

2. You don’t need that acceptance to please God. You’ve been accepted by God. There are nearly 6 billion people on the planet, if some of them don’t like you, who cares? You don’t need it. You have been accepted by God!

God Says You Are Valuable

“You have been bought and paid for by Christ, so you belong to him—be free now from all these earthly prides and fears” (1 Corinthians 7:23 LB).

God says not only are you accepted, you’re valuable.

How much do you think you’re worth? I’m not talking about your net worth; I’m talking about your self worth. Don’t ever confuse your valuables with your value as a person. You can be rich or poor but it has nothing to do with your value as a person.

What determines value? There are two things that determine value in life:

1. It depends on what someone is willing to pay for it. How much is your house worth? Not as much as you think it is, and probably not as much as it was a year ago. Your house is worth what somebody is willing to pay for it. No more.

How much is a baseball card worth? To some of you, it’s worth nothing. To Matthew, my son, it’s worth a lot of money. Some people are willing to pay $10,000 for a baseball card.

How much is a piece of art worth? Whatever someone is willing to pay for it.

2. It depends on who owned it in the past. Sometimes something is valuable because of who used to own it. For example, would a car owned by Elvis Presley be more valuable than a car you owned? Probably. Or, would a guitar be more valuable because it was owned by John Lennon? I read about a pair of stinky, smelly, worn out basketball shoes that sold for $7,000 at an auction because they happened to be owned by someone named Michael Jordan.

Based on these two things, what’s your value? Ask yourself, “Who owns me?” “What was paid for me?” The Bible says, “You have been bought and paid for by Christ, so you belong to him—be free now from all these earthly prides and fears” (1 Corinthians 7:23 LB).

You have been bought and paid for by Christ. You belong to Jesus. How much does that make you worth?

Now ask yourself, “Who do I belong to?” The Bible says you belong to God. God exchanged his own Son for you! The cross proves your value. Jesus didn’t die for junk. You are incredibly valuable. Nobody has ever paid a greater price than God paid for you. You are acceptable and you are valuable!

God Says You Are Capable

“It is he who saved us and chose us for his holy work not because we deserved it but because that was his plan long before the world began—to show his love and kindness to us through Christ” (2 Timothy 1:9 LB).

You have a right now to go directly to God; you have direct access. You don’t have to pray through anybody else. You don’t have to confess through anybody else. You don’t have to go through anyone else to have fellowship with God. The Bible teaches that you have a direct line now.

In addition, God says you have been gifted for ministry to serve other people. Every Christian is a minister. That doesn’t mean every Christian is a pastor, rather minister. Anytime you’re using your talents and gifts to help others you’re ministering.

Notice the Bible verse above says, “He saved us for his holy work.” You are saved to serve. Why did God save you? So you could serve him.

You may be thinking, “How do I know what my ministry is?” You look at your talents, your gifts, and your abilities. You look at how God shaped you. God wants you to use those talents and gifts to help other people. Every time you do that, that’s called ministry: nothing fancy, scary, or supernatural about it. It’s just helping others.

Can you minister in a sales office? Yes, you can. Can you minister as an accountant? Yes, you can. Can you minister driving a truck? Sure! Anytime you’re helping other people in his name, you’re ministering.

In fact, God says you’re necessary in the church. You’re a necessary part of this family. Look at it this way, if I don’t use my talents—you get cheated. If you don’t use your talents—I get cheated. Everybody else in the congregation gets cheated.

We’re all important; we’re all necessary to do our part as we fit together.

God Says You Are Forgiven

“I am the God who forgives your sins, and I do this because of who I am. I will not hold your sins against you” (Isaiah 43:25 TEV).

Some of us, even though we’re believers, think whenever we’re having problems that God’s getting even with us; that God’s just trying to get back at us.

It’s like the guy who was driving up to a mountain lake and on the way up it starts snowing, so he gets out to put chains on his tires. While he’s doing this, another car comes along and slams into his car. And he watches in horror as his car goes over a cliff.

He continues up the mountain on foot, in the snow and sleet, and he’s getting sick from the cold. Then, as he rounds a corner, he sees that his cabin has burned down. He starts hitting his head against the wall, and asks, “Why me, God.” The heavens part and a voice says, “Because some people just tick me off.”

Some of you really feel that is the way God feels about you. You think that whenever you’ve got a problem, God is ticked off. But the Bible says, “I am the God who forgives your sins, and I do this because of who I am. I will not hold your sins against you” (Isaiah 43:25 TEV). God doesn’t hold a grudge. If you have received Jesus as your Savior, then there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. He doesn't rub it in, he rubs it out. He doesn’t rehearse it, he releases it.

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Daily Digest #348

He restores my soul. —Psalm 23:3

Oh, how very timely :D I believe some of us are feeling "cast down" at the moment. The reflection explains how important it is for us to cling to God more in moments like this. We may not be aware that we are carrying baggages which we thought we have long forgotten. However, the passage reminds us of God's love, that no matter what choice we make, and no matter how grave our sins are, He still welcomes us into His loving arms and gives us rest. He continues to teach us about forgiveness -- how we should forgive others, and most especially, ourselves. He reminds us how every single one of us matters -- that the universe will never be complete without our existence. And that's more than enough reason to get up and live again :D

I would like to quote Psalm 91 from the Bible. This goes especially to those who need inner healing. Please read below, as if it was your own prayer.

Psalm 91

1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

2 I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust."

3 Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare
and from the deadly pestilence.

4 He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

5 You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,

6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.

7 A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.

8 You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.

9 If you make the Most High your dwelling—
even the LORD, who is my refuge-

10 then no harm will befall you,
no disaster will come near your tent.

11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;

12 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

13 You will tread upon the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

14 "Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.

15 He will call upon me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.

16 With long life will I satisfy him
and show him my salvation."

And allow me to end this with Romans 8:37-39. I feel very fortunate to have read it last night:

37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

How deep is the Father's love for us! :D May we always remind ourselves of our worth, and be grateful to be part of God's family. Pray always. God bless!

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Daily Digest #347

A merry heart does good, like medicine. —Proverbs 17:22

While we're on the subject, I wanna share a couple of Christian jokes to you :D Keep smiling! May this be a day of laughter and lightness of heart. Pray always. God bless!

Jonah and the Whale

One day, a teacher was talking to her first grade class about whales when a little girl had a question.

Little Girl: "Do whales swallow people?"

Teacher: "No, even though they are much bigger than a person, they have throat pleats that filter their food of krill and plankton.

Little Girl: "But Mrs. Thurston says Jonah was swallowed by a whale."

Teacher getting angry: "Blue whales cannot swallow people."

Little Girl: "Well, when I get to heaven I'll just ask Jonah if he was really swallowed by a whale."

Teacher, still red with anger: "What if Jonah went to hell?"

Girl: "Well, then you can ask him."

The Lord is My Shepherd

A Sunday School teacher decided to have her 2 nd grade class memorize Psalm 23, one of the most quoted passages in the Bible. She gave the children a month to learn the chapter.

One little boy was excited about the task, but he just couldn't memorize the Psalm. Although he practiced and practiced, he could hardly get past the first line. The day came for the children to recite Psalm 23 before the congregation. The little boy was nervous. When his turn came, he stepped up to the microphone and proudly said, "The Lord is my Shepherd and that's all I need to know!"

How to Get Into Heaven

A man dies and mets St. Peter at the Pearly Gates. Peter says to the man, "Here's how it works. You need to have one hundred points to get into heaven. You tell me about all the good things you've done. They are all worth a certain number of points. If your total is one hundred or more, you can come in."

"Well," says the man. "I was happily married to the same woman for 52 years. I never looked at another woman. I was attentive and loved her dearly."

"That's great," says St. Peter. "That'll be two points."

"Hmmm," says the man. "This is going to be harder than I thought. Well, I attended church regularly, volunteered my time and tithed faithfully."

"Wonderful," says St. Peter, "That's worth another point."

"One point!" says the man. "Okay, okay. I was involved with a prison ministry for twenty-five years. I went into the prison, at least monthly, and shared Jesus with them."

"Wow!" says St. Peter. "That's another two points!"

"Only two points!" says the man. "At this rate, it'll be by the grace of God that'll I'll ever get into this place."

"Bingo!" says St. Peter. "That's one hundred points! Come on in."

Forest Gump and St. Peter

When Forest Gump died, he stood in front of St. Peter at the Pearly Gates. St. Peter said, "Welcome, Forest. We've heard a lot about you." He continued, "Unfortunately, it's getting pretty crowded up here and we find that we now have to give people an entrance examination before we let them in."

"Okay," said Forest. "I hope it's not too hard. I've already been through a test. My momma used to say, 'Life is like a final exam. It's hard.' "

"Yes, Forest, I know. But this test is only three questions. Here they are."

1) Which two days of the week begin with the letter 'T'?"

2) How many seconds are in a year?

3) What is God's first name?

"Well, sir," said Forest, "The first one is easy. Which two days of the week begin with the letter 'T'? Today and Tomorrow."

St. Peter looked surprised and said, "Well, that wasn't the answer I was looking for, but you have a point. I give you credit for that answer."

"The next question," said Forest, "How many seconds are in a year? Twelve."

"Twelve?" said St. Peter, surprised and confused.

"Yes, sir. January 2nd, February 2nd, March 2nd …"

St. Peter interrupted him. "I see what you mean. I'll have to give you credit for that one, too."

"And the last question," said Forest, "What is God's first name? It's Andy."

"Andy?" said St. Peter, in shock. "How did you come up with 'Andy'?"

"I learned it in church. We used to sing about it." Forest broke into song, "Andy walks with me, Andy talks with me, Andy tells me I am His own."

St. Peter opened the gate to heaven and said, "Run, Forest, Run!"

Catholic Heart Attack

After suffering a heart attach and having quadruple bypass surgery, a man woke up to find himself in a Catholic hospital with nuns taking care of him. As they nursed him back to health, one of the nuns asked him if he had health insurance.

"No," he replied, "No health insurance."

"Do you have any money in the bank?" asked the nun.

"No. No money in the bank."

The nun asked, "Do you have any relatives you could ask for help?"

The man replied, "I only have a spinster sister, who is a nun."

At this the nun because irritated. "Nuns are not spinsters. Nuns are married to God!"

"OK, then," said the man. "Send the bill to my brother-in-law."

The Pope Wants to Drive

After getting all of the Pope's luggage loaded into the limo (and he doesn't travel lightly), the driver notices that the Pope is still standing on the curb.

The Pope was still standing on the curb.

"Excuse me, Your Eminence," says the driver, "Would you please take your seat so we can leave?"

"Well, to tell you the truth," says the Pope, "they never let me drive at the Vatican, and I'd really like to drive today"

"I'm sorry but I cannot let you do that. I'd lose my job! And what if something should happen?" protests the driver, wishing he'd never gone to work that morning.

"There might be something extra in it for you," says the Pope.

Reluctantly, the driver gets in the back as the Pope climbs in behind the wheel.

The driver quickly regrets his decision when, after exiting the airport, the Supreme Pontiff floors it, accelerating the limo to 105 mph.

"Please slow down, Your Holiness!!!" pleads the worried driver, but the Pope keeps the pedal to the metal until they hear sirens.

"Oh, dear God, I'm gonna lose my license," moans the driver.


The Pope pulls over and rolls down the window as the cop approaches, but the cop takes one look at him, goes back to his motorcycle, and gets on the radio.

"I need to talk to the Chief," he says to the dispatcher.

The Chief gets on the radio and the cop tells him that he's stopped a limo going a hundred and five.

"So bust him," said the Chief.

"I don't think we want to do that, he's really important," said the cop.

Chief exclaimed, "All the more reason!"

"No, I mean really important," said the cop.

The Chief then asked, "Who ya got there, the Mayor?"

Cop: "Bigger."

Chief: "Governor?"

Cop: "Bigger."

"Well," said the Chief,"Who is it?"

Cop: "I think it's God!"

Chief: "What makes you think it's God?"

Cop: "He's got the Pope for a limo driver!"

The Athiest in the Woods

An atheist was walking through the woods, thinking to himself,

"How beautiful the animals are!"

"How majestic the trees are!"

"How powerful the rivers are!"

As he walked along the river, he heard rustling in the bushes behind him. He turned and saw an 8-foot grizzly bear charging towards him. He ran along the path as fast as he could, but when he looked over his shoulder, he saw that the bear was closing in on him.

He kept running, but when he looked over his shoulder again, and the bear was even closer. Then he tripped and fell on the ground. The bear was right on top of him with his right paw raised to strike him. At that instant, the atheist cried, "God help me!"

Time Stopped.

The bear froze.

The forest was silent.

A bright light shone upon the man and a voice from the sky said, "You've denied my existence for all these years and have taught others that I don't exist. You've even credited creation to a cosmic accident. Why would you expect me to help you out of this predicament? Are you now a believer?"

The atheist looked into the light and said, "Well, I would be hypocrite to suddenly ask You to treat me as a Christian now, but could you, maybe, make the BEAR a Christian?"

"Very Well," said the voice.

The light went out.

The sounds of the forest resumed.

The bear lowered his right paw and brought both paws together. He bowed his head, and said: "Lord, bless this food which I am about to receive from Your bounty through Christ our Lord, Amen."

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