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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Book Review: You Are Forgiven

I'm thankful for the opportunity to review this wonderful book as a part of the Love God Greatly  (LGG)'s You Are Forgiven launch team. God's forgiveness is an awesome gift for Christ's followers. We all need it whether we realize or not. Five women of God joined together to write this must read. It's filled with relevant Bible verses about forgiveness, valuable insights, inspiring real-life testimonies, refreshing transparency, hope and encouragement. You Are Forgiven is a Bible study book and journal in one.

The book is designed for an 8-week study. You will learn about the need for forgiveness, the way of forgiveness, the depth of our forgiveness, the result of forgiveness, the call of forgiveness, the fruit of our forgiveness (gratitude, love, & joy), and the message of forgiveness. Each chapter includes Challenge and Prayer, Memory Verse, Scripture, the main message, Testimony, Daily SOAP (Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer), Reflection Questions, and My Response.

Do you struggle with shame and guilt? Do you still let your past define you? Do you have trouble forgiving someone or even yourselves? Are you shackled by the chains of bitterness/resentment? This book will help you reflect deeply upon the beauty & transforming power of forgiveness and thus able to enjoy living forgiven and free. The authors invite readers to ponder and appreciate what Christ did on the cross for us, to live out that truth and freedom in everyday life, and to spread the Good News in the lost & hopeless world. When we take time to marvel at how we have been so graciously forgiven by God through Christ, we are more ready and willing to forgive anybody anything. I highly recommend You Are Forgiven and I believe it will bless many people. I'd like to invite you to check out this impactful resource and join the upcoming LGG Bible study starting on August 29th. LGG provides the study guide free for download.

Note: When you purchase a copy of 'You Are Forgiven,' you support an amazing ministry! All funds are reinvested in the ministry to train translators from around the world so they can reach out to women with the gospel.

About the Authors
ANGELA PERRITT- Angela is a writer, speaker, founder and director of LoveGodGreatly.com, a nonprofit online Bible study ministry that reaches thousands of women in over seventy countries with God’s Word through their translated Bible studies. She and her husband live in Dallas, Texas with their three daughters. Angela is passionate about God’s Word and believes one woman in God’s Word can change a family, community and ultimately a nation. Her greatest joy is to encourage her children and others to love God greatly with their lives….one day at a time.

- Whitney has made a home with her husband Tyler since 1997, where there’s never a dull moment raising three active boys and a hilarious little girl. A storyteller at heart, you can often find her writing and speaking to women about the lessons of everyday life, intertwining how God faithfully reveals Himself and gives much grace along the way. Whitney serves as a writing contributor and editor for Love God Greatly, a global online Bible study community for women, and is Coordinator for the Global Advance Esther Initiative.

- Jen spent most of her growing-up years in Germany. As a teen, she moved to Africa as a Missionary kid. She attended Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. It was at Moody that she met and married her best friend, Joe. Together they have 4 children and live in the western suburbs of Chicago, where Joe is a pastor, and Jen homeschools their children. In this season of life God is teaching Jen how to apply the gospel to everyday situations and conversations. You can find Jen on her personal blog, JenThorn.com.

- Joy is the proud wife of a missionary pilot and blessed mommy to five amazing kids. She and her family live in Uganda, Africa. She loves good books, great conversations, hot coffee, traveling the world, and most of all, Jesus. You can also find Joy at JoyForney.org where she blogs about missionary life, messy motherhood and the Gospel in the midst of the mundane.

- Joan has been married to her God-given best friend, Bobby, for 37 years. They have been blessed with two children, their cherished spouses and five adorable grandchildren. Thirty-four years ago God mercifully became the Lord of Joan's life. Whether advocating for children in the court system or leading women's Bible studies at her home church, she longs for others to know the love of Jesus that transformed her life. Romans 8:37-39.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Christ's Grace Suffices

- Paul asks the Lord three times to take his "thorn in the flesh" away. Jesus does not take it away but offers His grace to bear it, instead. Christ's grace is sufficient for any affliction, trial, or hardship. His grace sustains and strengthens us. God knows what we need when we need it. Our weaknesses provide opportunities for the display of divine power. Paul boasts gladly about his weaknesses in order to show Christ's power resting on him. Paul is finally content to live with his "thorn" because he finds rest in Christ's power and grace.

- God may not always remove our problems, sufferings, sorrows or change our circumstances but He will always give us His grace to endure. Psalm 46:10a says, "
Be still ('raphah' in Hebrew means 'be weak, let go'), and know that I am God." God wants us to let go and be weak...thus lean on Him and completely depend on Him. Any hardship in life is an opportunity to showcase God's grace and glorify Him.

- God's power/strength is made perfect in our weakness. It stands out best/shines brightest when we are weak and humbly acknowledge that we need God's help and look to Him for strength. "Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always." (Psalm 105:4) Do you feel weak or weary? Perfect! You're in the perfect condition to receive God's grace, power, and strength. "It was the very experience of weakness which allowed Paul to discover God's strength." (Alistair Begg) When we think we are strong and can handle everything ourselves, we are actually weak because we trust and rely on selves, instead of God. When we realize we're weak, we become strong because we rely on Christ's strength. "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:13) Be humble and admit your limitations and weaknesses before God. You will experience the benefits and blessings of God's amazing, sufficient grace.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Merciful and Faithful High Priest

"For this reason He had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that He might become a merciful and faithful High Priest in service to God, and that He might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because He Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted." (Hebrews 2:17-18)

The purposes of Jesus being fully human (while still being fully God) include to destroy the devil and power of death, to free those who were in bondage to sin and fear of death, to be a sympathetic & trustworthy Mediator between God and us, and to make atonement for the sins of the people.

Even though Jesus Christ is absolutely perfect and sinless, He voluntarily took our sin upon Himself and suffered agonizing death on the cross in our place to pay for the penalty of our sin. This greatest sacrifice satisfied God's justice, righteous wrath, and holiness.

Jesus understands our weaknesses and intercedes for us in the presence of God the Father. Because He Himself suffered (but He never surrendered Himself to temptation) when He was tempted, He knows exactly what it's like to be tempted and He is able to help us when we are tempted. He is merciful (full of mercy, grace, love, and compassion) and faithful (we can always count on Him). "Since we have a great High Priest who has ascended into Heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have One who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet He did not sin. Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 4:14-16) Jesus Christ is our High Priest who can empathize with us. In His humanity, Christ was familiar with our needs, temptations, and problems. Satan tempted Him in the wilderness but He didn't succumb to the temptation; He did not sin. He overcame each temptation with God's Word. We don't have to sin when facing temptations, either. "The Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one." (2 Thessalonians 3:3)

We no longer need to fear dying since we know that when we leave this earth, we will live eternally with God in Heaven. Christ's death and resurrection defeated Satan & death and delivered us from slavery to sin; therefore, the Enemy, sin, and death no longer have power over us. We will be clothed with the imperishable and immortality. "The dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed...'Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?' The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." (1 Corinthians 15:52b, 54b-58) What marvelous victory all believers have in Christ!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for Your atonement, mercy, and faithfulness! Thank You for my eternal home with You in Heaven! Thank You for not leaving us alone to fend for ourselves here on earth! Please enable me to overcome any temptation and emerge from any trials victorious. Please give me a heart of empathy like Yours. Teach me, Lord, how to help those who struggle and suffer. Help me be a good listener and encourager. Use me, Lord, to be Your messenger of light, love, grace, mercy, and hope. Amen.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Incarnation and Deity of Christ

"The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, Who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14)

God's glory (divine presence) had dwelt in the tabernacle (Exodus 40:34) and in the temple (2 Chronicles 7:1-3), but had departed because of the nation's sin. Now God's glory was returning to earth in the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus is God; He is the physical, visible image of God (Who is invisible). He reveals God in human form ("The Word became flesh"). He's fully God and fully man. Jesus is God's Expression of Himself to mankind. Jesus is God's Message to mankind. The Word (Logos) is the Son of God, Who became incarnate in order to reveal God fully! It is incredibly amazing and mind-boggling that God became a Man and made His dwelling among us (love and humility at its best) in order to reach out to us, to let us (created beings) know & understand our Creator better, and to give His life so that we could be forgiven, redeemed, and have eternal life with Him in Heaven.

Jesus is full of grace and truth. He is the Light of the World (John 1:4, 8:12, 9:5, 12:46). He illuminates/communicates the knowledge of God to us. He is the True Light that enlightens us to see clearly our sin and our need for a Savior. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). He is the Embodiment of grace and truth. In Him is perfect redemption and perfect revelation.

May we imitate Christ by embracing both grace and truth! Grace and truth must go hand in hand. Some people are all about grace but they ignore the importance of truth (ex: avoiding topics of sin and hell, compromising or sugarcoating God's Word in the name of grace for fear of offending someone, etc) while others are all about truth but they lack grace (speaking truth from the Bible but with anger, meanness, arrogance, and disrespect). Neither group is effective in drawing people to Christ.

Prayer: Abba Father, thank You for sending Jesus into our world so that we can have hope and eternal life! It's because of Christ's life, death, and resurrection that we can be forgiven and saved. Please give me the boldness to share this good news with others every chance I get. May my life always be reflection of Your grace and truth! In Jesus' Name, I pray. Amen.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Sin, Consequences, and Forgiveness

"David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and spent the nights lying sackcloth on the ground. The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused, and he would not eat any food with them." (2 Samuel 12:16-17)

Think before you act! You reap what you sow. There are consequences to sins...some are more devastating than others, such as in David's case. More often than not, the consequences of our sin affect not only ourselves but also others, including those we love. As a result of David's sin (sleeping with Bathsheba and getting her husband, Uriah killed), his family was in turmoil, filled with many troubles (death of his & Bathsheba's first son, constant bloodshed, rebellion, his daughter, Tamar, was raped by his son, Amnon, who in turn was murdered by his other son, Absalom, his wives were violated in public). Don't ever think that one little sin is no big deal and that you can get away with it. Usually, one sin leads to another and then another. Slowness to repentance causes one to be more and more insensitive to sin. Look at David's descent into sins. Lust/coveting. Adultery. Murder (plot to get rid of Uriah) to cover adultery. Blindness to his own sin and injustice (until Nathan confronted him).

There's grace and forgiveness available for us when we repent and seek God. David's remorse made him a broken & contrite man and God forgave him & graciously spared his life (David deserved the death penalty for adultery and murder according to the law). He was called a "man after God's own heart", even with all the mistakes he made. David humbly confessed, "I have sinned against the LORD." (2 Samuel 12:13) He did not try to rationalize or make light of his sin or make an excuse. Psalm 32 and Psalm 51 show David's heart of genuine repentance, of joy from receiving God's forgiveness, and of gratitude for God's unfailing love. He pleaded with God to spare his son's life but in the end, he accepted God's discipline/correction/punishment and was not bitter towards God. After finding out his son was dead, David "went into the house of the Lord and worshiped." (2 Samuel 12:20) While God forgives sin (1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness"); He doesn't necessarily remove its consequences. "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life." (Galatians 6:7-8)

Finally, God gives and takes away; blessed be His Name!


"Most of us are guilty of perpetuating a culture that puts physical beauty on a pedestal. Despite professing that 'it's what inside that counts,' how often do our children, nieces, nephews, and students hear us praise others for their character?" (Heather Davis Nelson)

The emphasis on physical beauty/body image leads to body shame, discontent, and/or unhealthy obsession with diet (including eating disorders) and exercise, clothes and beauty products. There's no excuse for overeating and not taking care of selves. We still need to practice good stewardship and take care of the bodies (the Holy Spirit's temples) we've been given. But let's ponder this: Do we care more about our appearance than our character and/or do we praise others for their appearance more than their character? Do we tie our acceptance and approval of someone to his/her size, weight, and appearance? Do we live pressured and pressuring others regarding how we and they should look? Let us not contribute to this culture's disease!

"Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies." (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) Our wonderfully and intricately made bodies are meant to be used to honor/worship God, not to become a source of self-worship or other-worship.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Fear Can Make You Do Crazy Things

"David took these words (of enemies) to heart and was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath. So he pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard." (1 Samuel 21:12-13)

Fear can make you do crazy things! Fear made David flee from Saul to seek help from enemies (the Philistines). Fear made David pretend to be insane and act like a madman. By the way, even a great warrior and king like David is not immune to fear. When you listen to enemies' words and take them to heart, you can become afraid, anxious, or ashamed. The Enemy will use fear, worry, and/or shame as a trap to keep you from your potential. Lay all your burdens at Jesus's feet and let His grace & forgiveness wash over you and set you free to be whom He made you to be & to do what He wants you to do. He will give you strength, wisdom, peace, and courage that you need. Listen to our Shepherd's voice and follow our King's lead, instead of taking matters into our own hands out of fear! Faith will overcome fear. "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name, you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through fire, you will not be burned, and the flame will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. You are precious and honored in My sight, and..I love you...Do not be afraid, for I am with you." (Isaiah 43:1b-5a) Fear not! God is with you and for you!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Jesus, the Shepherd of Our Souls

"I Myself will tend My sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign LORD. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice... You are My sheep, the sheep of My pasture, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign LORD.'" (Ezekiel 34:15-16, 31)

Jesus is our Good Shepherd! "I am the Good Shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." (John 10:11). Jesus loves us and takes care of us, His sheep. He laid down His life for us. He helps us lie down (rest contentedly & securely). "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul." (Psalm 23:1-3a) He searches for the lost and brings back the strays. "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." (Luke 19:10) "I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek Your servant, for I have not forgotten Your commands." (Psalm 119:176) He heals the injured and strengthens the weak. "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." (Psalm 147:3) But He will destroy/punish "the sleek and the strong" which refer to "those with power who had fattened themselves by oppressing the other 'sheep'" (from the NIV Study Bible's commentary) This is a warning for all who are selfish, self-righteous, greedy, abusive, and oppressive.

Verse 31 shows a beautiful covenant God made to His children. It's the eternal relationship between the Sovereign Lord and His people/the Shepherd and His sheep. We belong to Him! Jesus is the Shepherd of our souls. What a blessed assurance it is to know that He watches over us, provides for us, protects us, feeds us, and guides us with a loving hand! "When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." (Matthew 9:36)

"The Bible, which throws the clearest light on man’s weakness and sin, exalts him to a height above all we could hope or desire. It marks out man from the rest of creation by the fact that he is capable by grace of hearing God’s voice, of following after and of loving Him. The Lord takes one of the tenderest relations of pastoral life when He says, “Ye are My flock”; and in the fulness of time we have the clear explanation of these words in those of Christ Jesus our Lord, “I am the Good Shepherd: My sheep hear My voice and follow Me.” He who believes that this world has been trodden by the human steps of the Son of God, that His prayers have ascended from it, that He shed His blood to redeem it, that He shared our humanity even unto death, and lives again at God’s right hand, can receive with joy unspeakable the marvellous promises of the destiny of those who are Christ’s. The love of God becomes a reality, life earnest, restoration to holiness possible." (D. Reith)

Prayer: Thank You, Lord, for Your promises that give us peace and comfort! Thank You for being the Shepherd of my soul and taking care of all my needs! You are the Source of my life, my growth, and my strength. Help me to always rely on You, trust You, and rest in You. Please guide me to do Your will and lead me as I lead others. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

David: Youngest but Bravest

"David was the youngest. The three oldest followed Saul, but David went back and forth from Saul to tend his father's sheep at Bethlehem." (1 Samuel 17:14-15)

David was the youngest but as we can see from 1 Samuel 17, he was the bravest among his siblings and as a matter of fact, among all the Israelites on the battlefield. David also is a responsible young man. Even though he probably preferred to be in the battlefield with the big boys (I can imagine it looked all exciting to him), he still kept up his responsibility of tending his father's sheep. The future king (already anointed by Samuel) was still willing to do such lowly tasks. That's humility, integrity, and obedience.

Since David was the youngest, his family didn't expect much from him. King Saul certainly didn't expect him to be able to fight Goliath. However, David did not let other people's low expectation of him deter him from doing what he knew as the right thing to do. David was zealous and concerned about honoring God and resented Goliath for defying the armies of the living God. Do you listen to naysayers and get discouraged? Instead, you and I must listen to our Shepherd's voice and follow His leading and His calling for our lives, regardless of what mockers or enemies say.

In the world's eyes, a shepherd boy is not equipped to fight a fierce warrior like Goliath. But God has equipped and prepared David in the fields of his everyday life for this fight. David recounted how God helped him kill both the lion and the bear in order to rescue the sheep. "The LORD who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine." (1 Samuel 17:37a) David's experiences as a shepherd were his building blocks to become a great warrior and king. More importantly, they displayed God's power and faithfulness to him upon which he would rely throughout his life. Remembering God's faithfulness in our lives is one way to strengthen our faith. Bloom where God plants you. David was overlooked by everyone else but handpicked by God! Despite how other people viewed him, David had God-confidence and that was enough.

Prayer: Lord, please give me strong faith, courage, humility, and integrity of heart like David's! Thank You for Your faithfulness in my life! Help me to overcome any giants in my life with faith and confidence in You. May You be glorified and magnified in my life, my marriage, my children, and my ministry!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Chosen by God

"He chose David His servant and took him from the sheep pens; from tending the sheep He brought him to be the shepherd of His people Jacob, of Israel His inheritance. And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them." (Psalm 78:70-72)

- God chose and appointed David, a shepherd boy to be King and the shepherd of His people. An unlikely candidate! He was the youngest in his family and he was overlooked by his own family. But God picked him to be king whose lineage from which Jesus would come! God's choices may not make much sense to us but He knows what He is doing. "The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7b) People tend to make assumptions based on appearances. People are impressed by what they see. But God looks at the heart! "For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed (loyal) to Him." (2 Chronicles 16:9a) He wants hearts that are fully committed to Him. He wants hearts with integrity. He wants leaders with a servant heart.
- Have you ever been treated as if you didn't exist, weren't wanted, or didn't matter? If so, you know the feeling. Remember this: You are chosen by God, you are loved by God, and you are treasured by God. God loves and cares for the insignificant, the overlooked, the lowly in status, and the outcast. God doesn't choose His servants for His tasks based on their resumes. The qualifications He looks for are different than what the world looks for. God uses F.A.T. people :). Faithful. Available. Teachable.

- No matter what your past/your background was, God can use you. The God who prepared David while he was tending the sheep has been preparing you and me throughout our lives. Don't discount your life experiences and skills. Psalm 78:70-72 shows that God was working in David's life from the beginning and using David's occupational skills for His glory and purposes. God equips those He calls.

- "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" (Jeremiah 29:11) Sometimes, His plan for us involves waiting. David had to wait for 15 years from the time Samuel anointed him to the time he became king over Judah. Waiting time is not wasted time; it's time that God uses to prepare us and refine us for His divine plan/calling He has for our lives. It's God's heart-training and character-testing program. Wait upon the Lord! Have confidence in God's perfect timing!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I am so glad and thankful that You have loved me with an everlasting love and have chosen me before the foundation of the world! Please use me for Your glory and Your kingdom. Please help me to be patient and to trust You & Your timing when I get frustrated with having to wait. Change my heart, O God, to be like Yours! In Jesus's Name, I pray. Amen.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Pray for All People, Including Those in Authority

"I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession  and thanksgiving be made for all people--for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness." (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
Do you pray for your leaders in government as much as you complain about them? In fact, we should pray, instead of complaining. Every time you're tempted to complain about them, pause to pray for them. God wants us to pray for all people, even those whom we disagree with. "Paul's command to pray for kings was remarkable considering that Nero, a notoriously cruel ruler, was emperor at this time (A.D. 54-68). When Paul wrote this letter, persecution was a growing threat to believers. Later, when Nero needed a scapegoat for the great fire that destroyed much of Rome in A.D. 64, he blamed the Roman Christians so as to take the focus off himself. Then persecution erupted throughout the Roman empire. Not only were Christians denied certain privileges in society, some were even publicly butchered, burned, or fed to animals." (commentary from Life Application Study Bible) This shows that we should pray for evil leaders as well as good leaders.
The purpose is that believers may lead a quiet and peaceful life (this doesn't mean compromising your moral standards/Biblical principles), which is instrumental to the greater purpose of bringing the Gospel of salvation to all people. Not all will be saved but salvation by grace through faith in Christ is offered to all. We must remember to pray for all people, including unbelievers.... yes, even the ISIS. God desires that through the Church's witness, all people may be saved and may come to the knowledge of the truth (verse 3-4). When we choose to honor God and His Word by obeying Him even when it's difficult and/or unpopular or even when we don't feel like it, the world will take notice and we will have an opportunity to point them to God. Be a light in this world of darkness. Be a reflection of Christ. Display the love and grace of God for all to see/experience. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Pray for the Body of Christ

"We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God's people." (Colossians 1:3-4)

Every letter written by Paul (except Galatians) begins with thanks or praise. Here Paul gave thanks to God for the Colossians' faith in Christ and their love for all the saints. God is the Source of these virtues.

Faith and love are gifts from God that we all should thank God for. Agape love flows from genuine faith in Jesus. In other words, the Colossians' love for all God's people proved their authentic belief in Christ.

How often do we pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world? I know I don't do enough. If you like to get some ideas about what to pray for, check these links out: http://www.gfa.org/pray/people-ministries/ , http://www.persecution.com/ , https://www.opendoorsusa.org/take-action/pray/ .

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You for the Body of Christ, for all my brothers and sisters in Christ. Please protect the persecuted church around the world and help them to stand firm in the faith no matter what. Please provide for all their needs. Please help us all to keep growing in faith and love. Please remind us to take our job as ambassadors of Christ seriously since it is Your will for us. Please empower us to faithfully and boldly spread the Gospel and be effective in our ministry of reconciliation. I pray for unity among Your children that we may love one another and work together to further Your kingdom. In Jesus's Name, I pray. Amen.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Watch and Pray

"Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Matthew 26:41)
The prevention for falling into temptation is being watchful (alert/aware) and prayerful (pray unceasingly). We humans are weak; therefore, we need the Holy Spirit to empower us to stand strong against temptation. If we don't stay alert and pray continually, we'll be more vulnerable to Satan's attacks, lies, & temptations and to succumb to our fleshly desires/sinful pleasures. When we start thinking that we're doing fine on our own and ignore spending time with God, we put ourselves in a dangerous position. Pride is an open door inviting Satan to have a field day. God promises to give us everything we need to live a victorious, godly life. Let us never take this wonderful promise and our prayer privilege for granted!

Be constantly watchful over yourselves and be aware of how the Enemy works. Guard your eyes, ears, tongue, hands, feet, mind, and above all, heart! "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." (Proverbs 4:23) Different people are tempted by different things (foods, drugs, alcohol, pornography, gambling, greed/money, power, fame, etc.) Avoid/get rid of anything that is not good for you (physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally). Pray and ask God to give you the courage and power to do so.

Effective prayer takes alertness and self-discipline. Our mind tends to wander. Stay focused. A prayerful life is a powerful life! Be alert and ask God for the strength to resist temptations and for wisdom & discernment to know "the way out". "No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it." (1 Corinthians 10:13)

"Prayer does not take our trials away--but it puts our life into the hands of God--so that in His keeping, we shall be kept from harm while we pass through our trials. It brings God's grace into our heart--to preserve us from falling into sin; and God's strength into our life--that we may be victorious over our enemies. Not to pray as we go into the day's dangers and trials--is to meet them without the help of Christ, and surely to suffer hurt, and possibly to fall into sin!" (J.R. Miller)

Monday, February 8, 2016

Pray for Divine Wisdom, Revelation, Knowledge, and Understanding

"I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better." (Ephesians 1:17 NIV)
- This (verses 17-19) is one of Paul's most beautiful prayers for the churches. It's one of my favorite prayers I pray for my children.
- "I keep asking"--shows persistence in prayer. It reminds me of Luke 18:1-8, the parable of the persistent widow. "Jesus told His disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up." (Luke 18:1)
- Paul prays that God will give believers wisdom and revelation through His Holy Spirit so that they may know Him better. Biblically speaking, Who you know is more important than what you know. To know God more must be our top priority. Christianity is about relationship, not rules. It is God's desire for us to know Him and it should be our desire to know Him more intimately. "Whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ--yes, to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death." (Philippians 3:7-10) Know Christ. Imitate Christ.
- "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." (Proverbs 9:10) "For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding." (Proverbs 2:6) The greatest wisdom of all is knowing God...knowing His heart and His will...knowing Christ. "It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, Who has become for us wisdom from God--that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption." (1 Corinthians 1:30) "My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in Whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." (Colossians 2:2-3)
- Revelation--God reveals Himself to us through Jesus, the Holy Spirit, His Word, His creation, His people, and circumstances. "'I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from Me there is no savior. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed--I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,' declared the Lord, 'that I am God.'" (Isaiah 43:11-12)
- Paul also prays that the eyes of our heart may be enlightened (in verse 18). In the Bible, the heart is the very core of life and the eyes of heart refers to true understanding. One can have a head knowledge of the Bible yet his/her heart remains dark and dead. There is such thing as empty intellectual knowledge of Scripture. Satan knows the Scriptures. Most atheists know the Scriptures. Pharisees and false teachers know the Scriptures. What do they all have in common? The lack of the renewed mind and transformed heart! We need the Holy Spirit to shine the light on the truth of Scripture in our heart and mind. Only then we can actually understand what God wants us to understand. It's like a light bulb being turned on inside of us so that we're able to fully see/know the benefits of the Gospel and grasp & appreciate the spiritual treasures/blessings that God gives us.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Pray in Faith

Faith in God is the key to effective, powerful, prevailing prayers. When you pray, believe and don't doubt. "When you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do." (James 1:6-8) Another important requirement for prayer is that we must forgive others (verse 25). And love others with agape. "If I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing." (1 Corinthians 13:2b) We cannot pray effectively if our unforgiving spirit and/or unloving heart have broken our fellowship with God.

A prayer of faith is a test of faith. Pray with confidence/certainty as if you've already received it and you shall receive whatever you ask (according to God's will). No obstacle, no matter how impossible it may seem ("mountain") is able to stand before a vibrant, childlike faith in God.
"Prayer is as natural as expression of faith as breathing is of life." (Jonathan Edwards)

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Persist in Prayer

"Then Jesus told His disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up...And will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night? Will He keep putting them off?" (Luke 18:1, 7)

The reason for this parable is to show us that we should always pray and not give up. God will honor patient, persistent, persevering prayer. God wants us to present our requests to Him without becoming discouraged if there's delay in the answers. Delay does not imply a lack of concern. His delays always have good purposes. God will surely respond to injustice done to His children.

Keep praying, surrendering all to God, and trusting Him that He will answer according to His will and His timing. Faith is the key! "Everything is possible for one who believes." (Mark 9:23) "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God." (Mark 10:27) If an unconcerned judge responds to the continual requests from the persistent widow, how much more will a just, loving, caring God respond to the continual prayers of His beloved children! Unlike this judge, God does not mind answering prayer/giving us help. He loves it when we come to Him pouring our hearts to Him. This is the heart of Abba Father. Jesus tells this parable because He wants us to not lose heart but to stay prayerful always.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Do Not Fret

"Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret--it leads only to evil." (Psalm 37:7-8)
I call Psalm 37 "Jealousy Buster" :). David shared his insights and wisdom that he had gleaned from years of walking with God. When you see immoral people and/or God-haters succeed and flourish, are you upset, annoyed, or jealous? Do not be so. Their success is brief (they will perish) but our blessings in the Lord are everlasting. Keep enjoying God (delighting in Him) and He will give you the desires of your heart which will be aligned with His (see verse 4 of this same chapter). Be still (rapha = be weak) before the Lord and wait patiently for Him to act. Why weak? God wants us to cease striving on our own strength and instead, submit to Him, lean on Him & His strength. He knows & wants what's best for us and his timing is perfect. It's hard for our human nature to wait and to be patient. Waiting period is a learning and preparing period. God has a purpose for us to wait patiently for Him, rely on Him, and rest in Him (be content in Him) completely. Let us make the most of our waiting time by knowing Him better and honoring Him by trusting & obeying Him no matter what!

"Do not fret" is mentioned 3 times in this chapter (in verses 7 & 8 above and in verse 1) "Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will son wither, like green plants they will soon die away." (Psalm 37:1-2) "The Hebrew word (for "fret") means to burn. The verb is in the Hebrew reflexive stem which could be translated, “Don’t work yourself into a slow burn” when you see evil men prospering. Don’t let it get under your skin; it will only lead you into wrong (37:8). One reason we get irritated when we see evil men getting away with their schemes is that we are assuming that we know how to run the world better than God does. So one aspect of submission to God is to put off such irritation, giving God the sovereign right to deal with evildoers in His time and way." (Steven J. Cole) God does not want us to be worried or anxious or envious or upset. Anger, wrath, and discontent can and often do lead to evil (causing harm and other sinful actions). Instead, God wants us to trust in Him and do good (verse 3), delight in Him (verse 4), commit our way to Him (verse 5), be still before Him & wait patiently for Him (verse7), be humble (verse 11), walk uprightly (verse 18), be generous (verse 21, 26), be just & faithful (verse 28), hope in Him & keep His way (verse 34), and take refuge in Him (verse 40). Simply trust Him and be at peace. Fretting steals your joy and peace. Don't compare yourselves with others. Be content with whom God made you to be and where He puts you right now. Stop worrying/fretting when the bad guys win. Shift your focus to God, our just & righteous Judge! Let go and leave all in God's hands. He will right all wrongs sooner or later. "The salvation of the righteous comes from the LORD; He is their Stronghold in time of trouble. The LORD helps them and delivers them; He delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in Him." (Psalm 37:39-40)

Five points that might help us have the right perspective and focus when we have trouble trusting God:
  • God is in control even when things are out of control. His sovereignty rules.
  • God is faithful even when we have little faith. He always keeps His promises.
  • God is good all the time even when nothing good seems to be happening right now. His goodness never changes.
  • God loves us no matter what we do or don't do...succeed or fail. His love never fails.
  • God is omnipotent. Nothing is impossible for Him.
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths." Proverbs 3:5-6

Monday, February 1, 2016

God Is Our Refuge

"Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your heart to Him, for God is our Refuge." (Psalm 62:8 NIV)
God is our mighty Rock and Fortress even when the world is falling apart. He is our Shelter and Refuge from the storms of life. He provides safety, security, peace, comfort, and protection from dangers and troubles. Find rest in Him; our hope is in Him. Trust in Him at all times; He is in control even when all around you seem to be out of control. Pour out your hearts to Him in earnest prayer; He listens and He cares. Do you feel like there's so much to do but at the same time feel worn out from relying on your own strength? You need to rest and trust God. He loves you with His unfailing love and He will empower you with His infinite power to accomplish what you need to accomplish in His strength according to His purposes. Do you feel you're being assaulted by people, problems, or the Enemy? Rest in God, our Refuge! He's got your back. If God is for us, who can be against us? Pour out your burdens before Him and watch Him work everything out. "The LORD is a Refuge for the oppressed, a Stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know Your Name trust in You, for Your, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek You." (Psalm 9:9-10)

"He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart." (Psalm 91:4) Do you see how calm an contented those baby birds are? That's how we should be :)! What circumstances are causing you fear, worry, or stress today? We tend to run to people or things for a refuge but they often fail/disappoint us. God is the only Refuge that never fails. Run to God and remain there... staying tucked in under the Almighty God's wings! He will carry you through no matter how difficult your situation may be.

Prayer: Father, thank You for being my Refuge/Dwelling Place where I can confidently & peacefully rest and stay put! Please help me to trust You completely even when I don't understand what You're doing. Thank You for Your faithfulness and abundant goodness to me! All is well with my soul because of You. In Jesus's Name, I pray. Amen.
"This, Christian, is what you must do. Sometimes, like Paul, you can see neither sun nor stars, and no small tempest lies on you... Reason cannot help you; past experiences give you no light... Only a single course is left. You must put your soul in one position and keep it there. You must stay upon the Lord; and come what may--winds, waves, cross seas, thunder, lightning, frowning rocks, roaring breakers--no matter what, you mush lash yourself to the helm, and hold fast your confidence in God's faithfulness, His covenant engagement, His everlasting love in Christ Jesus." (Richard Fuller)

Friday, January 22, 2016

Friday's Fave Five #105

It's time for another Friday's Fave Five (hosted by Susanne at Living to Tell the Story).

My Fave Five this week:
1. My left eye (that had vitreous hemorrhage at the beginning of this month) is able to see again! Yeah! It's not normal yet; it still has tons of floaters but I thank God for any and every improvement. Praise Yahweh Rapha (The Lord Who Heals)! God always heals His children. He may heal us instantly or gradually or ultimately (in Heaven). He already heals our worst sickness of all: sin-sick soul.

2. Last Saturday, we 
attended the red carpet premiere of KUNG FU PANDA 3 at Cinemark Clackamas Town Center. It's Po awesome :)!    

3. Yesterday, I used my iPhone to video-record my 17 yo son's piano covers and we posted them on YouTube. If you like them, please leave comments for him on YouTube. I know he would be so encouraged.

4. Yesterday, I watched the free simulcast from Evangelicals for Life. You can also watch it today.

5. I just finished reading Devotions and Prayers of John Wesley. It's very good! Here's an example of his prayers: "Lift our affections to things above, that we may have perfect contentment in well-doing and patient suffering. Free us from the cares of this world, from all distrust of Thy good providence, from repining at anything that befalls us; and enable us in everything to give thanks, believing that all things are ordered wisely and shall work together for good. Amen."

BONUS: On my other blog, I'm having two terrific giveaways right now: 1. CD Giveaway: PASSION Salvation's Tide Is Rising (ends 1/24) and 2. DVD Giveaway: Captive (ends 1/31)

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Strengthened with Power through His Spirit

"For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from Whom the whole family in Heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man." Ephesians 3:14-16 (NKJV)
Kneeling to pray signifies humble submission to God and His will. As I mentioned yesterday, our heart's attitude is more important than the outward posture. Yes, we can (and should) approach God/our Heavenly Father with boldness and confidence. At the same time, we must approach Him with reverence, awe, and humility.

Even though every human is created by God in His image, not everyone is His child. Only those who have trusted in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and have been born again by His Spirit are adopted into God's family as God's children and can call Him, "Abba Father". "The whole family" in this passage refers to every believer (whether Jews or Gentiles...they all are one in Christ, including those in Heaven and those still on earth). All believers share this family privilege of prayer. It's absolutely wonderful to be able to come to our Father anytime about anything, knowing that our Good Good Father who is loving, compassionate, all wise & powerful, cares so much about us and takes care of all our needs.

Paul prays for us that our inner being (the heart, the soul that lives forever, the new inward creation in Christ) may have spiritual strength/empowerment by the Holy Spirit, which in turn will lead to a deeper experience with Christ which enables us to comprehend His love and results in being filled unto all the fullness of God. "According to the riches of His glory"--shows the limitless, exceeding, abundant greatness & generosity of God's power/wealth/resources given to us the redeemed. "Since the Lord is infinitely rich in glory, let the saints get ready for a deluge! Why should we ask so little of so great a King?" (MacDonald) The Holy Spirit empowers and strengthens us to do God's will & God's work, to bear good fruit, to glorify God, to persevere to the end, to endure trials & suffering, to resist temptations, to make right & wise choices, to say no to flesh, to fear not & worry not, to speak the truth & share the Gospel regardless of what others think of us, and to live a life of faith & obedience. We definitely cannot do all this on our own strength. Since we have access to God's unlimited resources/spiritual wealth, we ought to walk and live out of them. We don't have to limp along as weak paupers. God is at work in us! "The power of Christ in you is greater than the pressure of troubles around you." (Unknown)
"You have . . .  a war to wage;  a race to run;  an enemy to watch;  a victory to gain.Your own strength is nothing. Even an angel's strength would not suffice you. You must be clothed with power from Heaven; you must be armed with God. I would not underrate your own weakness; and I cannot overrate the divine strength at your command.(George Mylne) 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Kneel and Pray

"Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, 'Tabitha, get up.' She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up." (Acts 9:40)
Peter knelt down and prayed for Tabitha (Dorcas) who was dead. God answered Peter's prayer and raised her back to life. A miracle that led many to believe in the Lord! Kneeling down to pray is a posture of humble reverence towards God. We see this several times in Acts. "Then he (Stephen) fell on his knees and cried out, 'Lord, do not hold this sin against them.'" (Acts 7:60a) "When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed." (Acts 20:36) "When it was time to leave, we left and continued on our way. All of them, including wives and children, accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray." (Acts 21:5)

More important than our outward posture is our heart's posture/attitude when we pray. We see the attitude contrast between the Pharisee and the tax collector when they went up to the temple to pray in a parable told by Jesus in Luke 18:10-14. "The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people--robbers, evildoers, adulterers--or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.' But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to Heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted." Our heart's posture towards God should be: complete surrender, utmost reverence, contrite repentance, utter dependence, deepest gratitude, humble obedience, undivided devotion, highest adoration, and total trust.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Pray Without Anger or Disputing

"I want men everywhere to pray lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing." (1 Timothy 2:8)
Lifting up holy hands is a Hebrew way of praying and praising. "Holy" refers to "morally and spiritually clean". "Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water." (Hebrews 10:22) Prayer should be done with a pure heart and life without anger (wrath/resentment) and disputing (quarreling). "Man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires." (James 1:20) "The Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful." (2 Timothy 2:24) "Whoever loves a quarrel loves sin." (Proverbs 17:19a)  Our anger and quarreling with others displease God and hinder our prayer/communion with God. The unity among the Body of Christ is important to God.
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