Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Review: NIV Ragamuffin Bible

My Review:
I am familiar with NIV Bibles (I own a few); however, I had never read any of Brennan Manning's writings before. I'm glad for the opportunity to review the NIV Ragamuffin Bible. It's filled with insightful reflections, devotions, and quotes from Brennan Manning. He highlights God's extravagant & unrestricted love and grace! I enjoyed and appreciated his Christ-centered, grace-filled, humble and honest writings. Do you feel like a ragamuffin... ragged, wretched, unworthy, and unlovable? Brennan wants you to know beyond a doubt that God loves you, treasures you, and delights in you. If you feel broken, disheartened, and exhausted, check out this Bible and prepare to be refreshed, encouraged, and inspired. This Bible would make a great gift for new believers and those who struggle with embracing God's unconditional love and grace.

"Christians filled with the authenticity, commitment and generosity of Jesus would be the most spectacular sign in the history of the human race. The call of Jesus is revolutionary." (page 443)

"Through no merit of ours, but by his mercy, we have been restored to a right relationship with God through the life, death and resurrection of his beloved Son. This is the Good News, the gospel of grace." (page 1281)

~ I received a free copy of this Bible via The B & B Media Group, Inc. in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Advent Day 20: Jesus, the Pioneer and Perfecter of Faith

- We are surrounded by a vast crowd of those who had run their race for God victoriously (including all the heroes of faith in chapter 11). They are witnesses who watch us run in the course of our faith life. Their faithfulness is an encouragement to us. We are not the first to struggle with the problems we face. Others have run the race and won; we can, too.
- We must cast aside anything that hinders our relationship with God and/or our spiritual growth. We must immediately cast aside sin upon recognition and not allow it to entangle/entrap us. We don't want these things to impede our running or knock us off course.
- Let us run the race marked out for us with patient endurance (perseverance)! This "running" (Christian living) involves hard work. Don't give up when things get tough. Look unto Jesus, the Ultimate Example of the faith life! We must keep our eyes on Him Who is the Pioneer (Leader/Author) and Perfecter (Finisher) of our faith. We will stumble if we take our eyes off Him to stare at ourselves or at our circumstances.
- Christ endured! For the joy set before Him! At the right hand of the throne of God, Jesus is now sitting and having authority and position as Ruler, High Priest, and Advocate. He came to that place through suffering and endurance by way of the cross.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Advent Day 19: Good News of Great Joy

- The first announcement of the Messiah's birth was given by an angel to some unknown shepherds. They were considered outcasts in Israel. This demonstrated the beautiful grace of God toward mankind. The poor/the lowly/ the plain/the ordinary, not the rich and mighty were given an honor to hear about the good news first.
- The Messiah came to be both the Good Shepherd (John 10) and the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Therefore, it seemed fitting that the good news about God's Shepherd and Lamb be given first to humble shepherds.
- The good news is for everyone, not just for the Jews. This good news will cause great joy. The good news is that God had sent a Savior to meet our greatest need (being healed & delivered from sin and making peace with God).
- Jesus Christ is a Savior from sin. He is the Messiah, the promised Deliverer. And He is the Lord. "For us there is but one God, the Father, from Whom all things came and for Whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through Whom all things came and through Whom we live." (1 Corinthians 8:6)
- A great company of angels joined the first angel in praising God. Our response to Christ's birth should be wonder (like the shepherds) and worship (like the angels).
- The purpose of the salvation plan is "glory to God"! "To the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves...In Him we were chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him Who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of His glory...When you believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, Who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession--to the praise of His glory." (Ephesians 1:6, 11-12, 13b-14)
- God's glory 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. "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)
- Peace is given to those whom God is inclined to favor. Shalom (peace) means much more than a truce. It means well-being, security, soundness, and completeness. It has to do more with character than circumstances. "Peace is not the absence of trouble, but the presence of Christ." (~Sheila Walsh) Peace is calmness in our heart no matter what's going on around us, knowing that God is always in control. Peace is soul at rest in Christ. The peace that Jesus gives us is out of this world (John 14:27)!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Advent Day 18: Joy in God's Presence

- God makes known to us the path of life. "The path of life leads upward for the prudent to keep them from going down to the realm of the dead." (Proverbs 15:24)
- He fills us with joy in His presence. The is the indescribable joy of a life lived in relationship with God/constant communion with our Heavenly Father. God's presence makes all the difference in the world!
- He also blesses us with eternal pleasures.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Advent Day 17: The Joy of the Lord Is My Strength

- Celebration is not meant to be self-centered. Ezra associated celebration with giving. "Send some to those who have nothing prepared"--this gave those in need an opportunity to celebrate as well. When we share and give to others, we are strengthened spiritually and filled with joy. "It is more blessed to give than to receive." ~Jesus (Acts 20:35b)

- "The secret of Christian joy is to believe what God says in His Word and act upon it. Faith that isn't based on the Word is not faith at all; it is presumption or superstition. Joy that isn't the result of faith is not joy at all; it is only a 'good feeling' that will soon disappear. Faith based on the Word will produce joy that will weather the storms of life." (Warren Wiersbe)

- The joy of the Lord is our strength! Rejoice in God's Word. Rejoice in His forgiveness. Rejoice in the Lord always. This joy of the Lord gives us strength to obey and persevere. Find joy in Who God is, in His faithfulness, in His presence, in His provision, in His power, and in His promises.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Advent Day 16: Walk in the Light

- John wrote this Epistle so that others may share his feeling of fellowship and joy in Christ and with one another.
- Light represents God's truth, righteousness, purity, goodness, and holiness. Darkness represents evil, sin, ignorance, wickedness, and the lost world.
- God is Light! Light is God's very nature. He is perfectly holy and true. He alone can guide us out of the darkness of sin.
"Walk in darkness"--walking in sin/flesh, out of the will of God Who is Light. We cannot have fellowship with God and still walk in darkness. The Light reveals what is right and wrong; we must respond to that light continually. Walking in the Light reveals our sins; thus we need constant cleansing. Sanctification is an ongoing process. To claim that we belong to Christ but then to continue living for ourselves and walking in darkness (evil and immorality) is hypocrisy. We cannot love God and court sin or the world at the same time.
- "Look, the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29b) Jesus has paid the penalty for our sins and His blood has purified us.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Advent Day 15: Come Worship Him

- The Bible does not indicate how many wise men came to Jerusalem to look for Jesus.
- God guided and directed these wise men by a special star. It went before them and stopped over the place where Jesus was.
- The chief priests and teachers of the law knew about the prophecy in Micah 5:2. Most religious leaders believed in Old Testament prophecies so they knew that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. Ironically and sadly, when the Messiah for Whom they had been waiting finally came, they did not recognize Him.
- Herod called the Magi secretly and pretended to be interested in knowing where to find Jesus and wanting to go worship Him. He lied. His motive was to locate and kill the newborn King.
- The visit of the Magi (wise men) must have taken place when Jesus was between 1 to 2 years old. By this time, Mary and Joseph were married and lived in a house.
- The three gifts symbolized Christ's identity. Gold was a gift for a King. Frankincense was a gift for deity (the Son of God). Myrrh was a spice for a person who was going to die.
- A special divine revelation directed these wise men to avoid Herod on their return to their country. They obeyed.
- These men from a faraway land recognized Jesus as the Messiah while most of God's chosen people in Israel did not. The Magi traveled thousand of miles to see Jesus. When they finally found Him, they were overjoyed, bowed down, worshiped Him, and gave Him gifts. May we come and worship Christ for Who He is, not for what we can get from Him! May we offer Him our all!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Advent Day 14: The One and Only Son

- The incarnation: God became a Man in order to win man to Himself. God revealed Himself through the Son in human form. He became One of us to redeem all of us.
- By becoming human, Jesus Christ became 1. the perfect Teacher--we see how God thinks and thus how we should think (Philippians 2:5-11); 2. the perfect Example--He's our Role Model Whom we are to imitate...He shows us how to live and gives us the power to live that way (1 Peter 2:21); 3. the perfect Sacrifice--Jesus laid down His life as a sacrifice for all our sins; His death satisfied God's requirements for the removal of sin (Colossians 1:15-23).
- The Word incarnate is also the answer to Moses' prayer. "Then Moses said, 'Now show me Your glory." (Exodus 33:18)
- When Christ was born, He was completely human and completely divine (Colossians 2:9). Before Christ came, people could only know God partially. After He came, people could know God fully because He became visible and tangible in Christ. Christ is the perfect expression of God in human form.
- Jesus is the Embodiment of Grace and Truth! The nature and will of God are revealed in Jesus Christ. May we be like Christ...full of both grace and truth (not just one or the other)!
- "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16) The entire Gospel is summed up in this verse! Here God demonstrates what true love is. When we love someone dearly, we are willing to give freely to the point of self-sacrifice. God paid dearly with the life of His one and only Son because He loves us so much. Jesus accepted our punishment, died in our place for our sins, and offered us the new life  (abundant life and eternal life). That's why Jesus came and made His dwelling among us. This is the Ultimate Love that saves and frees us for eternity!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Advent Day 13: Children of Light

- Jesus warned them that He would be with them in person for only a limited time and that they should take advantage of His presence while they had it. Apparently, they didn't heed His warning.
- Sadly, many still continue to show resistance to the Light because they love/prefer darkness. "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed." (John 3:19-20) These people may not realize but the time to receive the Light is limited. They cannot afford to wait until later because death comes to all of us and often unexpectedly. Once they die, darkness will indeed overtake them for eternity.
- Like a light shining in a dark place, Jesus points out the way we should walk. If we believe in Him and walk in His light, we become children of light, revealing the truth and pointing people to God. "Live as children of light (for the fruit of light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord." (Ephesians 5:8b-910) By the way, our homeschool's name is Children of Light Christian Academy :).
- As Christ's followers, we are to be Christ's light bearers, reflecting His light to the world. How brightly is our light shining? Can others see Christ in our words, attitudes, actions, and reactions?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Advent Day 12: God Sings over Us

- God's presence is the best Present! It sounds like a cliche but it's true. His presence makes all the difference in the world! Emmanuel = God with us! God is always present whether we "feel" His presence or not.
- The Lord is the Mighty Warrior Who saves. He is mighty to save. Rest in His power! Nothing is impossible with God. What a mighty God we serve!
- God takes delight in us! He creates us for His pleasure; He desires to have an intimate relationship with us.
- In His love, God will no longer rebuke us, but He will rejoice over us with singing. How incredible it is! What heights of love! I want my life to always bring joy to God's heart :).

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Advent Day 11: Light on my Path

God's Word is the light that shows us the way to go so we won't stumble as we walk on this life's journey. We must study the Bible and apply it in our daily lives so that we may stay on the right, narrow path.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Advent Day 10: The Most Important Commandment

- Jesus was quoting from Deuteronomy 6:4-5.
- God's laws are not burdensome. Jesus summarized all God's laws into 2 simple principles: love God and love others.
- The most important commandment of all is to love God completely with all we are and all we have. God is to be loved with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
- "If you love Me, keep My commands...Whoever has My commands and keeps them is the one who loves Me. The one who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I too will love them and show Myself to them... If you keep My commands, you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commands and remain in His love." ~Jesus (John 14:15, 21, 15:10)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Advent Day 9: God Is Love

- Love comes from God. He is the Source of true love, which is very different from the world's shallow and selfish view of love. God's love is unconditional, unending, selfless, and sacrificial.
- An evidence of being born-again Christians is love, which is a fruit of the Spirit. If we truly know God, we will love as He does.
- By His very nature, God is love! "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16) Through His life and death, Jesus exemplified what it means to love. The Holy Spirit gives us the power to love.
- "This is My command: Love each other." ~Jesus (John 15:17) John took Jesus' command seriously (you can tell when you read 1 John :)) and we should, too!
- "We cannot choose whom we will love if we claim to be Christians." (Unknown) God wants us to love everyone, even our enemies....because He loves everyone.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Advent Day 8: Immanuel/God With Us

- Since Mary was pledged to be married (betrothed) to Joseph and found to be pregnant (through the Holy Spirit) before they got married/had physical union, Joseph seemed to be faced with 2 options: having her stoned to death or divorcing her. Being an honorable & considerate man (he "did not want to expose her to public disgrace"), he decided to divorce her quietly. Surprise! God had the third option in mind--"take Mary home as your wife" (marry her)!
- Apparently, Mary did not try to explain her situation to Joseph but chose to trust God to take care of it. Even if she did, would Joseph have believed her, anyway, without any divine authentication? Most likely not.
- Jesus = Jehovah saves--His Name points to the purpose of His coming, to save people from their sins.
- The prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 ("Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a Son, and will call Him Immanuel.") was fulfilled by the miraculous conception and birth of Jesus Christ.
- The virgin birth of Jesus is extremely important because God's Son had to be free from the sinful nature passed on to all other human beings by Adam. He was born without any trace of human sin.
- Immanuel = God with Us! "The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us." (John 1:14a) He is also the omnipresent God Who never leaves us nor forsakes us.
- Can you imagine how scandalous this whole thing looked to others? Nevertheless, Joseph chose to obey the angel of the Lord's command to take Mary home as his wife. He chose to do what's right (in God's eyes) rather than being afraid of what others might think.
- Caesar Augustus's census decree went out in God's perfect timing and according to God's perfect plan to bring His Son into the world. This was to fulfill the prophecy in Micah 5:2, "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for Me One Who will be Ruler over Israel, whose origins are of old, from ancient times."
- "There was no guest room available for them" after their trying journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem (about 80 miles)--When we do God's will, we're not guaranteed a comfortable, difficulty-free life!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Advent Day 7: Christ Is Our Peace

"'But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me One Who will be Ruler over Israel, Whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.' Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor bears a Son, and the rest of His brothers return to join the Israelites. He will stand and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the Name of the Lord His God. And they will live securely, for then His greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. And He will be our Peace." Micah 5:2-5a
- Ephrathah was the district in which Bethlehem was located.
- Micah had foretold long ago that Bethlehem would be Messiah's birthplace. This prophecy was fulfilled by Christ (Luke 2:1-7, Matthew 2:1-12).
- God's Greatest Gift to us came to a small, humble town, Bethlehem. Bethlehem means "house of bread." The Bread of Life (John 6:35) came into this world in the "house of bread"!
-  "No priest, no theologian stood at the cradle of Bethlehem. And yet, all Christian theology finds its beginnings in the miracle of miracles, that God became human."~Dietrich Bonhoeffer
- "From of old, from ancient times"--The promised eternal King/Ruler in David's line, Who would enter human history as a man, had been alive forever.
- "He will be our Peace"--Because of Christ's first coming, we have the opportunity to experience peace with God with no more fear of judgment and no more guilt/condemnation. Christ's peace is out of this world (John 14:27) At His second coming, all wars and weapons will be destroyed (Micah 4:3-5). "For He (Jesus) Himself is our Peace." (Ephesians 2:14a)
- "Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you." (2 Thessalonians 3:16) Praise Yahweh Shalom (The Lord Our Peace)!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Advent Day 6: Christ Is Our Hope

- Isaiah 11:10, "In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to Him, and His resting place will be glorious."--Here it also adds, "in Him the Gentiles will hope"! How thankful I am that salvation/redemption is not limited only to the Jews!
- The power of the Holy Spirit causes us to overflow with hope. Biblical hope is a confident anticipation in Jesus Christ, the Hope of glory. Our future in Him is secure. We know He will return. We know that we'll be with Him for eternity. "We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure." (Hebrews 6:19a)
- We, Christians, should be abounding in hope because our hope is in Jesus Christ, Who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. As we trust in Him, God fills us with His indescribable joy and unexplainable peace.
- What do we do with this marvelous hope? We should be artisans of hope, radiating hope everywhere we go. Many people in this world struggle with hopelessness (just look at the suicide and attempted suicide statistics). May we be blessings that bring hope to others! Tell them about Jesus! "But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." (1 Peter 3:15)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Advent Day 5: The Lord Our Everlasting Light

- It reminds me of Revelation 21:23 where this beautiful promise is also stated: "The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light and the Lamb is its Lamp."
- I'm so thankful that Jesus, our Everlasting Light, invaded our sin-sick, spiritually dark world. We were once blind but now we see!
- "Your days of sorrow will end."--This wonderful promise gives us hope and encouragement to be able to face anything on earth. Trials are temporary. The light of Christ's presence is everlasting.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Advent Day 4: Righteous Branch

- This is a prophecy about Jesus (Righteous Branch), in Whom the promise of David's eternal throne (2 Samuel 7:16) would be fulfilled. It echoes Jeremiah 23:5-6.
- "A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit." Isaiah 11:1
- God always keeps His promises. He is forever faithful. "The Lord is righteous in all His ways and faithful in all He does." (Psalm 145:17)
- Jesus is the King of kings who always does what is just and right. We can trust Him at all times.
- "In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which He will be called: The Lord Our Righteousness." (Jeremiah 33:16)--The commentary from Life Application Study Bible says about verses 15 and 16, "These verses refer to both the first and second comings of Christ. At His first coming He would set up His reign in the hearts of believers; at His second coming He would execute justice and righteousness throughout the whole earth."

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Advent Day 3: The True Light

- Jesus Christ is the True Light; He helps us see our Way to God (through Jesus) and shows us how to walk along that way. Christ has chosen to reflect His light through His followers to this dark world. We are mere reflectors of Christ's light, pointing others to Him, the True Light. The Light of all lights! "Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven." (Matthew 5:16)
- Although the entire Old Testament pointed to Jesus Christ the Messiah's coming, His own people did not recognize Him and rejected Him. The refusal of His own people to receive Him when He came to live among them is tragic and inexcusable.
- All who receive Christ (believe in Him) as their Lord and Savior are reborn spiritually, receiving new life from God and right to become children of God. Through faith in Christ, this new birth changes us from the inside out--our attitudes, desires, and motives. Being born of God makes us spiritually alive and puts us in God's family.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Advent Day 2: The Word

- "In the beginning" takes us back to Genesis 1:1. The Word was in the beginning because He's God the Creator.
- "The Word was with God and the Word was God"--this suggests equality and association with God, confirming the deity of Jesus Christ.
- In Hebrew Scripture,
  • the Word was an Agent of creation: "By the Word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of His mouth." (Psalm 33:6),
  • the source of God's message to His people through the prophets: "The Word of the Lord that came to Hosea ...When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, 'Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the Lord.'" (Hosea 1:1a, 2)
  • God's law/His standard of holiness: "I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You." (Psalm 119:11)
- In Greek philosophy, the Word (Logos) was the principle of reason that governed the world, or the thought in the mind, while in Hebrew thought, the Word was another expression for God. Jesus is God's Expression of Himself to mankind. Jesus is God's Message to mankind. The Word is the Son of God, Who became incarnate in order to reveal God fully!
- John used the Word to describe Jesus, the Creator of the universe, the Ultimate Revelation of God, the Living Picture of God's holiness, the One in Whom "all things hold together" (Colossians 1:17). 
- John showed Jesus as fully God and fully human. Although Jesus took upon Himself full humanity and lived as a man on earth, He never ceased to be the eternal God Who has always existed, the Creator and Sustainer of all things, and the Source of eternal life.
- Since we are created beings, we have no basis for pride whatsoever. We exist only because God made us and we have gifts only because God has given them to us. With God we are special, unique, valuable, and treasured; apart from God, we are nothing.
- Jesus Christ is the Creator of life and His life brings light to mankind. The Word communicates light (the knowledge and wisdom of God) to us. In His light, we see ourselves as we truly are (sinners in need of a Savior). When we follow Jesus, the Light of the world, we can avoid stumbling blindly in darkness and falling into sin and destruction. He lights the path ahead of us so that we can see how to live. He also removes the darkness of sin from our lives. May the light of Christ always shine brightly in our lives and thus make us shine in this world of darkness! "For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them." (Ephesians 5:8-11)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Advent Day 1: The Annunciation

- The Messiah was to be born in David's family. Joseph was a descendant of David.
- Mary was young, female, and poor. Unlikely candidate for being the mother of the Messiah. But God chose Mary for one of the most important tasks ever: to raise up the Son of God. God chose a humble woman, in a lowly home, in an obscure village. God can and will use you if you trust Him and submit to Him, regardless of what ability, experience, education, or background you may have.
- "Jesus" is the Greek form of the Hebrew "Joshua" which means The Lord saves/Jehovah is salvation. Just as Joshua had led Israel into the promised land, Jesus would lead His followers into eternal life.
- God had promised David that his kingdom would last forever. "Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before Me; your throne will be established forever." (2 Samuel 7:16) This promise was fulfilled in the coming of Jesus, whose reign shall continue throughout eternity.
- Mary's unhesitating acceptance demonstrated her devotion to God, faith, and obedience. She was willing to risk disgrace and divorce to comply with God's command. Disasters awaited. Her friends and neighbors would ridicule her. Her own fiance would come close to leaving her. Her parents could reject her. People could easily consider her crazy. Nevertheless, Mary humbly submitted to God's will.
- Mary believed the angel's words and agreed to bear the child, even under humanly impossible circumstances. She trusted God and knew that God is able to do the impossible. She just wanted to serve God ("I am the Lord's servant. May Your word to me be fulfilled") at all cost.
- Mary's submission was part of God's plan to bring about our salvation. Through her Son would come the world's only hope!
- Jesus was born without the sin that entered the world through Adam. He was born holy, conceived by the Holy Spirit, through a virgin. Jesus remained sinless (He always obeyed God) and was thus able to die in our place for our sins and make us acceptable to God.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Book Review: Whispers of Hope by Beth Moore

My Review:
I collect devotionals! I enjoy reading Beth Moore's books. Therefore, I'm quite pleased to add this beautiful book to my devotional collection :). Whispers of Hope covers a variety of topics that help readers grow in their walk with God and their prayer life. I agree with what Beth Moore says in the introduction of the book, "Prayerful lives are powerful lives!" Is your prayer life dry or unmotivated? Be refreshed by this book. There are 70 devotionals altogether. Each one starts with Bible verses and a Scripture Reading assignment. Each devotional is only one page long (short but engaging and impactful) and is followed by 2 journal pages where readers can write out their P.R.A.I.S.E. (Praise, Repentance, Acknowledgment, Intercession, Supplication for Self, and Equipping). Check out this insightful and encouraging read! It will help you focus on God. Be still and listen to God's whispers of hope! Spend much time in devotional prayer and enjoy the sweet intimacy with God!

"To really live we need passion for Jesus and purpose to serve Him...We represent hope to people who may have given up on finding real life. We are stones rolled away, giving them a glance into the empty tomb. We provide evidence that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life...Share what God is doing in your life and commit to be a living stone before your friend." (p. 23)

"When we extend goodness to those who hate us, we give them a taste of the goodness of One far greater. Many will never 'taste' God until their appetites have been whetted by the goodness of one of His more palatable ambassadors...Our job is to offer people a taste so they will want the main course." (p. 175)

"To appreciate God's work in our lives through pleasure and pain, we must understand that He thinks in terms of the whole. Of completeness. Of pieces that finally fit together as one...Look at each piece of your life as part of a whole. Has God been faithful? Then treasure these things. And ponder them in your heart." (p. 184)

~I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Expressions of Thanks

- God will abundantly reward those who give generously. This is spiritual enrichment so that we can be generous on every occasion. We are blessed so that we will be a blessing to others. God gives us resources to use and invest for Him/His kingdom work, not to hide or to hoard for ourselves. When we give and invest what God has given us in His work, He will provide us with even more to give, to share, and to serve Him.
- Our generosity/giving for the needs of others produces many thanksgivings to God. Those who receive our gifts will be helped and will praise God.
- May our lives be overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God! Generous giving. Selfless service. Faithful obedience. Unceasing prayer. Joyful praise and worship. Wholehearted devotion.

Friday's Fave Five #89

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

My Fave Five this week:
1. Lamb curry and chicken samosas with cilantro chutney. We enjoyed our Indian theme dinner last night.

2. A great quote from Oswald Chambers, "We are not meant to be seen as God's perfect, bright-shining examples, but to be seen as the everyday essence of ordinary life exhibiting the miracle of His grace."  

3.  This week I had a few "Wow! Thank You, Lord, for that!" moments. He cares even about the little details of my days. Praise Yahweh Rohi (The Lord Is My Shepherd)! He leads me, guides me, and refreshes my soul. His presence makes all the difference in the world! I can and I will testify of His goodness, faithfulness, power, love, grace, and mercy forever. The more I know God, the more I love Him and the more grateful I am for Him. The more I love Him and the more grateful I am for Him, the more I want to know Him and to make Him known.

Isaiah (12) and I had lots of fun building tracks and playing with hot wheels. We also had fun playing with bean bags. Simple joys are the best! Glad he still enjoys spending time with Mom and enjoys his innocent childhood :)!

You can watch Bible Bee 2013 live online today and tomorrow. Register for free at https://www.biblebee.org/_pages/webcast.php .

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! By the way, I've been participating in Good Morning Girls' Thanksgiving Study these past two weeks. I've posted my thoughts each day on this blog. Check them out if you're interested :)!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Come Before Him With Thanksgiving

- This is an invitation to worship God. Sing. Rejoice. Give thanks.
- He is the Rock of our salvation. We can and should always praise and thank God for our salvation if nothing else.
- I'm thankful for God's gift of music. Music can be powerful, meani
ngful, worshipful, insightful, inspiring, encouraging, or soul-stirring. It can trigger our memories, speak to our heart, cheer us up, make us want to dance, refresh us, remind us of God's goodness, etc. And music is used for expressing our thanksgiving to God and worshiping Him. I'm thankful that God cares about the heart of His worshipers, not the voice . I love to sing to the Lord. "Sing to Him, sing His praise, proclaim all His wondrous deeds." (1 Chronicles 16:9)
- God wants us to have a thankful & joyful heart and extol (praise lavishly) Him with music and song. Please join me in singing this song to the Lord.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Prayer with Thanksgiving

- Prayer with gratitude is the cure for anxiety. We should thank God for what He has already done before we make any new requests.
- God's peace is different from the world's peace. "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." ~Jesus (John 14:27) This inner peace is the tranquility of spirit that only God can give. It's not found in positive thinking or in absence of conflict. It comes from knowing that our God is in control and putting our trust in Him completely. Calmness in our heart in the midst of chaos :)!
- "Transcends all understanding"--God's peace surpasses all our reasons and circumstances. It's unexplainable and unfathomable. The presence of Christ, the Prince of Peace, makes all the difference in the world. He is our Peace (Yahweh Shalom)!
- When I fix my thoughts on the power of God, the promises of God, & the purposes of God and give thanks continually for His presence, provision, & protection, His peace guards my heart and mind. I pray. I trust. I rest.
- "Guard"--protect from harm, not letting anything penetrate, watch over, shield, defend
- To sum up this passage: Want God's peace? Worry about nothing. Pray about everything. :)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Overflowing Thanksgiving

- We can learn much from Paul. Paul had faced sufferings, trials, and hardship as he preached the Good News about Jesus Christ. But he knew that one day these would all be over and he would obtain God's rest and rewards. Eternal perspective is the key. No matter what happens to us in this life, we have the assurance of eternal life when all sufferings will end and all sorrow will be no more. What a glorious hope!
- When we realize that there are purposes and benefits in our sufferings, it helps us live above the pain, discomfort, and difficulties and focus more on our finish line. Some of the benefits include reminding us of Christ's suffering for us, keeping us from pride and self-reliance, causing us to look beyond this brief and temporary life, proving our faith genuine, and providing opportunities for God to demonstrate His power and faithfulness.
- I'm thankful for the gift of God's unconditional, undeserved, and unending grace. I am daily dependent on God's grace and it still amazes me. His grace is always sufficient for you and me. I'm forever grateful that I've been saved not by works but by His grace alone. May we never cease to be amazed at God's grace and may grace continue to cause our thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God! "But He (Jesus) said to me (Paul), 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
- I want to share this song with you. I hope it encourages you all :).

Monday, November 18, 2013

We Give You Thanks

- David acknowledged God for Who He is (His attributes) and for what He has done. He realized that everything belongs to the Lord. God is the Head over all and Ruler of all things.
- What should be our response to God's greatness, power, glory, majesty, splendor, kingdom, provision of wealth, honor, and strength? We are to give thanks to Him, exalt Him, and praise His glorious Name. Praise Him from Whom all our blessings flow!
- Prayer: Lord, please make my life be a thank-You card for all to see and an endless praise song to You for all to hear.

Book Review: Knowing God by Name

 Knowing God by Name by Sharon Jaynes, Mary Southerland, and Gwen Smith

I had always wanted to study the names of God in depth. I was thrilled when I received this book. I totally soaked it all in :). Knowing God by Name was written by three gifted writers. It's an eight-week devotional that covers 40 names of God. In the Bible, names are very important. They often reflect the characteristic attributes about the persons. Even more so, God reveals His character by referring to Himself by different Names. He wants us to know and understand Who He is, what He does, and how we should relate to Him.

Who is God to you? Elohim (The Creator). El Shaddai (The All-Sufficient One). Adonai (Lord and Master). Abba (Father). You may be familiar with these. But God is so much more! He is also the Jealous God, the God Who Sees, the Lord Our Peace, the Lord Who Heals, the Lord Our Righteousness, the Lord My Restorer, and more. For most of the names, the authors include the original Hebrew or Aramaic or Greek words. The book is divided into 8 weeks and each week consists of 5 different names. Day 6 of each week is "Now It's Your Turn"--the section which includes questions to help readers ponder each of the five names/attributes covered in that week more deeply and personally, suggestions for digging deeper into God's Word and into worship, and journaling pages for readers to write down their thoughts and/or prayers. At the beginning of each day's devotion, you will find a Bible verse in which the name is used. Each devotion concludes with a prayer.

I enjoyed all the Biblical truths, practical insights, and personal stories shared in this book very much. I learned a lot. I also appreciate the pronunciation guide for God’s Hebrew and Greek names :). This book is a gem; I highly recommend it! It can be used for personal study or for small groups. Prepare to discover about God in fresh ways, grow closer to Him, and experience Him more intimately! It will enrich your understanding of Who God is, will strengthen your faith in Him, and will deepen your relationship with Him. The more I know God, the more I love Him and the more grateful I am for Him. The more I love Him and the more grateful I am for Him, the more I want to know Him and to make Him known.

You can watch their free online videos for this study at http://www.girlfriendsingod.com/knowinggodbyname/. You can read Chapter One here.

One of the names covered in the book is Yahweh Rohi (The Lord Is My Shepherd). I really like what Mary Southerland shares, "The certainty that we are loved fosters peace and eliminates stress. Sheep don't come across as stressed-out creatures. In fact, they seem almost oblivious to danger. Sheep don't worry about where their next meal is coming from, if they will have a place to sleep each night, when the next enemy or thief will attack, or even what the next day holds. When sheep are sick or in need, they simply turn to their shepherd, instinctively knowing he or she will take care of and comfort them." (p. 125)

~I received a copy of this for free via Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Be Thankful and Worship God with Reverence and Awe

Eventually the world and everything in it will vanish; only God's kingdom will last for eternity. Christ's followers are part of this unshakable kingdom. Our future is built on a solid foundation that cannot be destroyed. That's an amazing reason enough for us to be thankful, to gladly serve God, and to worship Him with reverence and awe. We are eternally secure in Christ! Praise God for that! We're royal children, heirs of God, and co-heirs with Christ. Live accordingly :)!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Give Thanks In All Circumstances

- "Rejoice always"--our joy is not dampened by affliction or other difficult situations because it's rooted in our relationship with Christ. "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4) "This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." (Psalm 118:24) "The joy of the Lord is your strength." (Nehemiah 8:10b) In fact, joy may even thrive in trials when we discern the glorious purposes of God and trust in His love, grace, faithfulness, sovereignty, and promises (see James 1:2-4, 12). Such joy is not self-manufactured, but is the fruit of the Spirit.
- "Pray continually"--it's possible to have a prayerful attitude at all times. This attitude encompasses acknowledging our dependence on God 24/7, being aware of His omnipresence and His presence within us, and determining to trust and obey Him fully. It then becomes natural for us to have a constant communion with our God throughout the day by praying frequent, spontaneous, short prayers (in addition to our prayer time/quiet time with Him). 

- "Give thanks in all circumstances"--Paul was not telling us that we should thank God for all circumstances that take place (evil things done in this world are from Satan and depraved sinners, not from God), but in all circumstances. Even in hardships, we can still be thankful for God's presence and for the good He will bring about according to His purposes.
- "For this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus"--"This"/God's will includes constant joy, continual prayer, and boundless thanks, made possible in Christ Jesus. Want to do God's will? Be joyful, be prayerful, and be thankful!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Be Thankful; Christ Rules!

- Let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts! That peace He talks about in John 14:27, "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." Our hearts are the center of conflict in our desires and feelings. We must surrender all to Christ and let His peace that surpasses all understanding take control over our hearts.
- We must diligently study God's Word. The indwelling Word (message) of Christ has a transforming influence on believers' lives. Teach and admonish one another with God's Word. It's the source of all wisdom.
- Although the early Christians had access to the Old Testament, they did not yet have the New Testament. Their stories and teachings about Christ were memorized and passed on from person to person. Sometimes the teachings were set to music ("through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit"); therefore, music was an important part of Christian worship and education.
- Doing "all in the name of the Lord Jesus" means bringing honor to our Lord Jesus Christ in every aspect and activity of our daily living. As Christ's followers, we represent Christ at all times--whatever we say and whatever we do.
- In essence, to live in the name of the Lord Jesus is to surrender all to Him/to His Lordship and to live as Jesus Christ's representatives (His ambassadors: 2 Cor. 5:20). Christ's Lordship of our lives changes not only our behaviors but also our attitudes and motives. Our attitudes become conscious reflections upon the will of Christ and our actions become acts of thanksgiving to Christ. We desire to do it all for the glory of Christ. External rules, even when good, are not adequate for every situation; the "rule" (Lordship) of the indwelling Christ is the only sufficient guide. "So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh...if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law." Galatians 5:16, 18
- This passage mentions about thankfulness three times! "And be thankful." "Singing to God with gratitude in your hearts." "Giving thanks to God the Father through Him." What a wonderful reminder for us to be thankful to God always...to give thanks in everything...to have gratitude (grateful attitude) in our hearts at all times!
To ponder: What impression do people have of Christ when they talk or interact with us? What changes would you and I make in our lives in order to honor Christ? Do we remember to give thanks to God in everything/in all circumstances?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Enter His Gates with Thanksgiving!

- God alone is worthy of being worshiped. Let's enter joyfully into God's presence with thanksgiving and praise.
- It's so important for us to remember God's goodness, love, and faithfulness. God is good all the time. His loves endures forever. His fai
thfulness/dependability never fails and extends through all generations.
- Thank You, Lord, the Giver of Good Gifts! Thank You, the God of Love! Thank You for Your agape (unconditional love) for us...for loving us with an everlasting love. Praise El Hanne'eman (The Faithful God)!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Give Thanks to the Lord, Call on His Name!

- "Give thanks to the Lord, call on His Name (proclaim His Name)"--this means a lot to me right now since I have been studying and reflecting on the names of God. The more I know God (His attributes/ character), the more I love Him and the more grateful I am for Him. The more I love Him and the more grateful I am for Him, the more I want to know Him and to make Him known.
- One of the keys to having a thankful heart is to remember what God has done in us, for us, and through us. One of the Israelites' problems (that caused them to often complain) was that they were forgetful of all that the Lord had done for them.
- If we're truly thankful, our lives will show it. We can't help but sing praise to God and tell others of all His wonderful acts. In addition, we will use our time, talents, and treasures to honor and glorify His Holy Name. When we glorify God, we're giving a reflection of His character. To magnify God is to make Him easy for all to see.
- Gratitude in the hearts of those who seek the Lord will be expressed in rejoicing...in indescribable joy (regardless of any circumstances).
- "Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always"--our focus should always be on our Lord (fix your eyes on Jesus). Seek Him first and always. He should be our Priority and we should relentlessly pursue Him. Remember that He is our Strength and He Who has us in His hands is all powerful and mighty. Do we look to people and things for satisfaction/fulfillment? God wants us to look to Him, rely/depend on Him alone! Looking to the Lord & His strength and continually giving thanks to Him take our mind off our problems and needs.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Jehovah Jireh

This upbeat song encourages my heart and is perfect for me right now :). I've been studying and reflecting on the names of God. One of them is Yahweh Yireh/Jehovah Jireh "Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means 'the Lord will provide'). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: 'On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.'" Genesis 22:14

As a parent, it's always difficult for me to imagine being in Abraham's shoes when God told him to sacrifice Isaac, the promised son Abraham waited for 25 years to receive. I really admire Abraham's faith and obedience. He obeyed God (he did what God told him to do without even questioning God for details or reasons at all). He was willing to surrender all (even if it meant his one and only son) to God. He demonstrated extreme trust and confidence in God when he said to his servants, "Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you." (Genesis 22:5) "We" not just "I"! How did he have such confidence? Abraham completely believed God's promises to him (before Isaac was born, God promised Abraham that countless descendants would come through his son) and knew God would fulfill His promises. Besides, Abraham "reasoned that God could even raise the dead" (Hebrews 11:19a). God did provide a ram in a nearby thicket for a substitute sacrifice for Isaac.

To ponder: Are we willing to surrender all to God and trust Him for our every need/every situation?
                  Are we walking in faith and in obedience? Notice that God's provision came after Abraham's obedience, not before. Step out in a childlike faith even when you cannot understand it all.
                  Do we remember to thank God for His provision...for being our faithful Provider?
                  Do we have such confidence in God as Abraham did? If not, let's pray for that :)!
God will provide for what we need (needs are not the same as wants). He already provided for our greatest need, the need for a substitute to pay the penalty for our sin and die in our place. He provided His one and only Son, Jesus Christ! "If we can trust God for our eternal salvation, how can we not trust Him to provide for the "little" things of life?" (M.E.Howard) God loves you and He will provide for what you need when you need it. "My God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:19) "God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work." (2 Corinthians 9:8).

This post is linked up with
Weekly Writing Challenge: Moved by Music, Faithful Friday @SimplyHelpingHim, Fellowship Fridays @Christian Mommy Blogger, Faith-filled Friday @Missional Women, Spiritual Sundays, Sharing His Beauty @The Beauty in His Grip, Playdates with God at The Wellspring, "Hear It, Use It", The Weekend Brew @My Freshly Brewed Life, and Inspire Me Monday @Create With Joy.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Should Christians Be Actively Involved in Solving Social Issues?

"He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8

"Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow." Isaiah 1:17

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to l
ook after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." James 1:27
There are many more Scriptures that answer the question: Exodus 22:21-23, Deuteronomy 15:1-11; 24:18-20, Psalm 10:17-18; 82:3-4, Proverbs 14:31; 23:10-11, Isaiah 10:1-3; 58:6-11, Zechariah 7:9-10, Matthew 25:31-46, Luke 12:32-34, Acts 2:42-47.

We are called to be light in this dark world....to help the poor...to defend the defenseless...to be a voice for the voiceless...to be artisans of hope to the hopeless...to share with those in need...to make a difference in the world. There are so many social issues such as poverty, starvation, lack of clean drinking water, injustice, oppression, diseases, abortion, human trafficking, and orphans. We are to actively demonstrate Christ's love to all people. We must put our love into action. God wants us to use our time, talents, and treasure to help the hurting world for His glory and for His kingdom. Here's a good related article: http://www.gotquestions.org/social-justice.html.

God of Justice

God of Justice, Savior to all

Came to rescue the weak and the poor
Chose to serve and not be served

Jesus, You have called us
Freely we've received
Now freely we will give

We must go...live to feed the hungry
Stand beside the broken
We must go

Stepping forward keep us from just singing
Move us into action
We must go

To act justly everyday
Loving mercy in every way
Walking humbly before You God

You have shown us what You require
Freely we've received
Now freely we will give

Fill us up and send us out
Fill us up and send us out
Fill us up and send us out, Lord

This post is linked up with Faithful Friday @SimplyHelpingHim, Fellowship Fridays @Christian Mommy Blogger, Faith-filled Friday @Missional Women, Freedom Fridays @My Turn for Us,  Spiritual Sundays, Sharing His Beauty @The Beauty in His Grip, Playdates with God at The Wellspring, "Hear It, Use It", The Weekend Brew @My Freshly Brewed Life, and Inspire Me Monday @Create With Joy.

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