Sunday, July 22, 2018

Be Strong

“The Lord is my shepherd...” Psalm 23:1



The beloved Psalm, the 23rd, was most probably written by King David towards the end of his life. After all that happened to him, the twists and turns, betrayals and victories, his serious sins against God and his punishments, he could still write, “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want. In verdant pastures He gives me repose; beside restful waters He leads me; He refreshes my soul.” King David knew His God intimately. 

Before he died, King David reminded his son who would be the next ruler, “And Solomon my son, get to know the God of your ancestors. Worship and serve him with your whole heart and with a willing mind. For the Lord sees every heart and understands and knows every plan and thought. If you seek Him, you will find Him...The Lord has chosen you to build a Temple as His sanctuary. Be strong and do the work.”  

We should take this advice to heart. We too are given this same work by God, to build His Temple here on earth, His Kingdom. We are to be Jesus’ hands, His feet, His eyes and His heart. In the Gospel reading today, Mark 6:30-34, we can follow what Jesus did. When He saw the vast crowd, His heart was moved with compassion and He taught them many things. We cannot teach a crowd, but we can teach one. We can teach one that the Lord is our shepherd, that if we follow Him, our souls will be refreshed. 

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Book for the Ages

“Woe to those who plan iniquity, and work out evil in their couches.” Micah 2:1




The Bible is a book for all ages, epochs and countries. I am amazed as I ponder the readings for today. In the 2nd chapter of Micah and Psalm 10, it is as if the prophet and psalmist are speaking in our midst, right here and right now about our present situation. 


“Woe to those who plan iniquity, and work out evil on their couches; In the morning light they accomplish it when it lies within their power.” (Micah 2:1) “Why,  O Lord, do You stand aloof? Why hide in times of distress? Proudly the wicked harass the afflicted, who are caught in the devices the wicked have contrived. For the wicked man glories in his greed, and the covetous blasphemes...The wicked man boasts, ‘He will not avenge it’; ‘There is no God’ sums up his thoughts. His mouth is full of cursing, guile and deceit; under his tongue are mischief and iniquity. He lurks in ambush...murdering the innocent; his eyes spy upon the unfortunate. You do see, for You behold misery and sorrow, taking them in Your hands. On You the unfortunate man depends; of the fatherless you are the helper.” 


Throughout the ages, there are tyrants, demagogues and dictators. They rise and fall, they destroy and they themselves are destroyed. They plunder, deceive, curse, and have people murdered. They say there is no God and act accordingly. Many people follow blindly. 


Let us set our sights on eternal truths. “These are times that try men’s souls” Thomas Paine said in 1776 in his pamphlet , “American Crisis”. We are undergoing a crisis today, and the battle is on so many fronts. Let us stand with faith and courage, knowing that as always, the battle is not ours but God’s. Our enemies will surely fall, but we know we already have the victory in Christ. Just as the prophets and psalmist speaks to us today of our plight, so too we can depend on God’s Word to give us hope. 


“For the Lord your God is the One who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.” Deuteronomy   20:4

Friday, July 20, 2018

I Have Seen Your Tears

“I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears...” Isaiah 38:5




The prophet Isaiah lived in 8th century BC and he was sent to give voice to God’s word. Here in the 38th chapter, King Hezekiah is mortally ill. After the King cries out to God, the word of the Lord came to Isaiah to go to Hezekiah and tell him, “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will add fifteen years to your life.” And this righteous king was healed and lived to become father to his son Manasseh who succeeded him at 12 years old. 


We do not need prophets to tell us that God hears our prayers and sees our tears. We need only to see the proof in changed lives and answered prayers. There is Saint Monica who prayed for years for her profligate son. It seemed as if it was hopeless, but Saint Augustine made an about face and turned to God in ways that far exceeded his mother’s hopes and dreams for him. 


I enjoyed listening to Father Donald Calloway’s conversion story. He seemed like a hopeless case too. He was addicted to drugs, pornography, sex, had hair to his waist, got treated in a mental institution with no effect, drove around following hard metal bands, joined the Yakuza in Japan and got deported because of crimes involving hundreds of thousands of dollars of stolen goods. 


His mother LaChita Calloway would cry herself to sleep at night praying for him. She herself was converted to Catholicism because of one Filipino woman who would tell her about God. One night her son was alone in his room and to keep from killing himself he decided to read a book about the mother of Jesus. He got beguiled and did not stop until he finished the whole book overnight. In the morning, he told his mom with a lot of embarrassment that he needed to see a priest. But it was 6 in the morning! He then ran to the nearest chapel and there were Filipina women there inviting him to pray the rosary. He looked at them like they were crazy! But when he attended mass, and the priest raised the host and the chalice, he heard a voice from out of nowhere, say, “Worship.” From then on there was no turning back for him. 


His mother said in an interview, “The road for my son has been long, with many winding turns. But out of the darkness there was always the light of the Lord holding out His arms," Mrs. Calloway said. "We must always hope in the promises of Christ and His unfathomable mercy. Blessed be God forever!"

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Grafted



“Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me, your souls will find rest.” Matthew 11:28-29

Who is not heavy laden, burdened by the cares of this world, weary from all the uncertainty and confusion surrounding us? It may be the commute to and from work, the traffic, the floods. Perhaps after a busy day in the office, we have to prepare dinner, clean the house, sleep really late doing chores. The hardest challenge would be stressful relationships, not enough money to pay debts or a debilitating sickness. Yes, life is hard. Period. 

Jesus invited us to take His yoke upon our shoulders and learn from Him. How do we do this? There is nothing we would like more than to shed our heavy load and put it on His shoulders, but instead He asks us to take His yoke on ours! 

One bible verse is particularly apt- "Faithful are the wounds of a friend..." Psalm 27:6. I can't help but relate this to grafting. Why does God allow us to get wounded, heavily burdened? Perhaps it is the only way we can grow, and bloom and bear fruit. He is the vine and we are the branches. We are supposed to abide in Him, attach ourselves to Him, remain in Him, "No branch can bear fruit by itself." In grafting, the tissues of one plant are inserted into the tissues of another so that the two sets of vascular tissues are joined together. The "vine" contains the desired genes to be duplicated in the branch! But we can't get connected without the wounds on both the vine and the branch!
When God allows hardship to enter our life, we are invited to join with Him, to take His yoke on our shoulders. To be one with Him, to have a covenant relationship with Him who is the source of life, strength, and joy. Indeed, we may find that taking His yoke on our shoulders would be the best way to lessen our burdens! 

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

WOYWW: Vengeance is Mine



On my desk- painting a doll’s face for my upcoming workshop. 



“Shall He who formed the ear not hear? or He who formed the eye not see?” Psalm 94:9


The whole Psalm 94 is a plaintive lament against injustice, arrogant leaders and evildoers perpetuating oppression. The psalmist calls for justice, that God sentence the proud to the penalties they deserve. Indeed, together with God’s people, we can pray this today with much anguish. 


Charles Spurgeon wrote in his book, “The Treasury of David”- “They were blindly wicked because they dreamed of a blind God. When men believe that the eyes of God are dim, there is no reason to wonder that they give full license to their brutal passions.” Do not our leaders elected to protect us and give us justice, act as if God is deaf and blind? Instead of good for the people, they promote legalised wickedness! 


Spurgeon further writes: “Must not such inhuman conduct as this provoke the Lord? Shall the tears of widows, the groans of strangers, and the blood of orphans be poured forth in vain? As surely as there is a God in heaven, He will visit those who perpetrate such crimes; though he bear long with them, he will yet take vengeance, and that speedily.” 


Yes, God is not blind. He is not deaf. He hears our cries. We can confess with the psalmist, “The Lord will not reject His people, He will not abandon His special possession...The Lord is my fortress; my God is a mighty rock where I can hide. God will make the sins of evil people fall back upon them. He will destroy them for their sins.” (Psalm 94:14-23)


So let us keep in faith, continue to pray, and fast. He who formed our ears can hear us, and He who formed our eyes can see every little injustice. We should keep calm and not even be angry. “Vengeance is mine,” says the Lord, “and recompense, for the time when their foot shall slip; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and their doom comes swiftly.” (Deuteronomy 32:35)



Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Remain Tranquil

“Take care you remain tranquil and do not fear.” Isaiah 7:4




The prophet Isaiah lived through the awful days of the civil war between Israel and Judah in 734 to 732 B.C. In chapter 7 of Isaiah, we find King Ahaz and his people worrying, alarmed and thrown into a panic  because the Kings of Aram and Israel were coming to invade Judah and take Jerusalem. 


Isaiah goes to King Ahaz with this message from God: “Take care you remain tranquil and do not fear.... Unless your faith is firm you shall not be firm.” 


In our life, we encounter many battles. ‘Armies’ come against us, some are invisible, some come in the form of words, seldom do we see guns aimed at us. But we do have real enemies that cause us to panic and be alarmed just like King Ahaz and his people. 


Today is the start of the 3 day fast in answer to the armies arrayed against us in our country. Here is part of the CBCP’s Pastoral letter:


“On July 16, 2018 on the feast of the Blessed Mother of Mt. Carmel, the mountain associated with the bold challenge of the prophet Elijah, let us spend a day of prayer and penance, invoking God’s mercy and justice on those who have blasphemed God’s Holy Name, those who slander and bear false witness, and those who commit murder or justify murder as a means for fighting criminality in our country. We invite you to join us, your bishops, in three days of fasting, prayer and almsgiving from July 17 to 19, 2018.”


Do we have faith that prayer and fasting is mightier than the swords and guns of men? Unless our faith is firm, we shall not be firm. Let us stand together, rejoicing that we have a God who fights our battles for us. 


Monday, July 16, 2018

Taking My Place

“...whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10:39




I like revisiting the exemplary story of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, who was imprisoned in Auschwitz in February 1941. He and his community had helped to house and feed 3000 Polish refugees, of which 2000 were Jews. He also broadcast illegally on radio and wrote about the atrocities of the Nazis. In Auschwitz, he would give away his meagre rations, pray over the sick and comfort those in need. He was beaten and tortured for his faith, singled out for hard labor until he passed out. 


In July 1941, three prisoners escaped and 10 random men from the same cell were chosen to be starved as punishment. When Franciszek Gajowniczek’s name was called, he cried out, “My wife! My children!” Father Kolbe stepped forward and said: “I am a Catholic priest from Poland; I would like to take his place because he has a wife and children.”


Father Kolbe and the other 9 prisoners were brought to an underground bunker stripped naked. One by one, they starved to death. One witness said that there was never any urine in the slop bucket when he came to clean it, for they drank it all. He would hear them singing and praising God led by the priest. Father Kolbe was one of a few who survived after two weeks. They were all injected with carbolic acid and burned unceremoniously. 




Father Kolbe was beatified on October 1971 and canonized in October 1982. Both times, Gajowniczek was a guest in the Vatican.  This man Saint Maximilian Kolbe gave his life for, declared, “so long as I have breath in my lungs, I would consider it my duty to tell people about the heroic act of love by Maximilian Kolbe."


How about us? One man took our place, and the eternal punishment for our sins. Are we so grateful that we would tell everyone who would listen about the amazing love of Jesus Christ? 


Sunday, July 15, 2018

Intentional

“In Him we were also chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the INTENTION of His will...” Ephesians 1:11




Intention means something one aims or plans for. Today, I, along with my brothers and sisters in my covenant community, Ligaya ng Panginoon, celebrate our 43rd anniversary since God called us to be a community of disciples on mission. 


In July 19, 1975, God said through one of the founding members, “And I will give you a name. It will be a very special name, for it is I, the Lord your God, Who will give it to you. It will be the name by which you will be known and by which I will be proclaimed.   I, the Lord your God promise this to you.” And God was the One who gave us our name, Ang Ligaya ng Panginoon, the Joy of the Lord. 


Many of us think that the events of our lives are accidents or coincidences. But God is always intentional with us, not only in the big things that happen, but also in the little things. When we peer through microscopes into the smallest molecular cells of our bodies, and into powerful telescopes to see the vastness of a universe expanding, we will see the fingerprints and the mind of a personal God who fine tunes everything for our existence. 


He is always waiting for us to listen to Him. He is longing to share His treasure with us. It may be impossible to believe but He yearns for our love. That is why He sent His Son as a sacrifice. We will never fully realize why and how much He loves us while we are still on earth. But one day, when we see Him face to face, He will show us. 

Saturday, July 14, 2018

He Giveth Again

“Not a single sparrow falls to the ground without Your Father’s consent.” Matthew 10:29




Charles Templeton was a charismatic preacher in the 40’s. He founded Youth for Christ and in 1946, he held crusades all over Western Europe with another charismatic young man, Billy Graham. Crowds would follow these evangelists, listen, and accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. But by 1948, Charles had doubts about his faith and God. He completely changed his world view and became an agnostic. One of the questions he wrestled with is the age old ‘Why would a good God allow all the pain and suffering in the world?” He put it this way, “Why does the omnipotent God, knowing that there are tens of thousands of men, women, and children starving to death in a parched land, simply let them waste away and die when all that is needed is rain?"


God is good and loves each one of us, but He also gave us the freedom to love Him back. He gave us the choice to rebel, to go against His Word and His law or to follow Him. All the evil in the world today is because we chose to disobey. But even when we are in pain, even when we suffer, if we choose Him, there is amazing, inexhaustible grace.


Annie Johnson Flint came to the faith at a young age, and was adopted by Christian parents along with her sister. She became a helpless invalid with little means and she started writing poems that were eventually published. It was painful for her to write with her twisted fingers, but her faith shone through her poems and she was able to minister and bless many. Although crippled, helpless and in pain, Annie never complained, and as she grew older, her suffering increased. She believed God could heal her in a heartbeat, but He chose not to, so she could glorify Him in her life. 


She wrote: “He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater, He sendeth more strength when the labors increase; To added afflictions He addeth His mercy, To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace. When we have exhausted our store of endurance, When our strength has failed ere the day is half done, When we reach the end of our hoarded resources Our Father’s full giving is only begun. Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision, Our God ever yearns His resources to share; Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing; The Father both thee and thy load will upbear. His love has no limits, His grace has no measure, His power no boundary known unto men; For out of His infinite riches in Jesus He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.”

Friday, July 13, 2018

Freedom!

"Take with you words and return to the Lord." Hosea 14:3




Sometimes all I do is talk, talk, talk to God,

not allowing Him to say a word to me! What are the words that we should say to God? This passage from Hosea is always

recited on the Sabbath preceding Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people.


The Jews usually observe this holy day 

with long fasting and prayer in the synagogue. It is a day of atonement and repentance. Perhaps the words we are to say are, “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us." 


No amount of sacrifice, punishment, no length of jail sentence can give us the forgiveness we need from God. He gives it freely, when we accept Jesus’ finished work on the Cross for us. If we realise the immensity of the freedom we have in Christ, we will spend our life rejoicing. 



(Erwin is in red)

In our prison ministry, we got to know Erwin Escalante. He was in prison for 18 years for a crime he did not commit. At the end of his case, the verdict handed down was “Reclusion Perpetua”, or a life sentence. He was transferred to Muntinlupa, where all the hardened criminals, the drug lords, the murderers, were. Inside, he was caught in the middle of a riot between two warring gangs. He almost got killed when one gang member cocked a gun at him but the gun did not fire. Other inmates were bloodied, others stabbed, but God kept Erwin safe, behind his plastic Orocan cover he used as a shield. 


Then, his case was overturned, and his family came to bring him home. After 18 years, he was out of prison. The family stopped in Star Mall to use the rest rooms. When Erwin saw the insides of the mall, he started jumping up and down, screaming in excitement and kissing the walls and floors! That is how excited we should be to realise the freedom we have in Christ! 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

SOS Notes

“Give as freely as you have received.” 

Matthew 10:8




Jesus sends out the twelve apostles with instructions to announce that the Kingdom of heaven is at hand, that the Kingdom is very near. As Jesus has freely given this good news of salvation and fullness of life, they were to give the same without cost to anyone who would listen. 


In July last year, a funny incident occurred. Funny to most people but not to the man it happened to. The man was fixing an electronic lock in a Bank of America branch in Corpus Christi, Texas, when the door slammed shut and he was trapped inside the room of the ATM machine. He had left his phone in his truck so he resorted to sending SOS notes through the receipt slot. “Please help. I’m stuck in here and don’t have my phone. Please call my boss at 210- - -“ Everyone who withdrew money laughed and thought it was a great prank, until someone took it seriously and called the police for help. 


There are people all around us sending out invisible SOS notes. Sometimes they hide behind a door of nonchalance, odd humor, even irritability. Do we try to reach out and give what we have received from God without cost, or do we walk away? We live in a world that is full of broken, hurting people. God can use us, as broken vessels ourselves, to heal the broken hearted, to bind their wounds. It may just take a listening ear, a hug, our presence. We may never know that our prayers, our encouragement, a positive word, was a gift at the right time to a person in need. Sometimes the best way to heal our brokenness and our neediness is to reach out to others and give whatever we can. 


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

WOYWW: The Battle is not Yours

On my table this week:

I am making a sample for my upcoming workshop, “Wrapped with Prayer”




“Sing to Him, sing His praise, proclaim His wondrous deeds.” Psalm 105:2




In the busyness of life, the messiness of our schedules, the craziness happening around us, who has time to take time to praise God, to sing His praise, and proclaim His wondrous deeds? We can see the busyness, the messiness, the craziness as battles we have to face, armies coming against us, invading our peace.


The same happened to King Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20. Vast armies of the Moabites, Ammonites, and Meunites declared war against him from beyond the Dead Sea. Jehoshaphat was alarmed at this dreaded news and sought the Lord for guidance. He gave orders that everyone proclaim a fast for he knew they were powerless against this evil. I can’t help but compare this situation to what is happening in our country, how we too are powerless to stop the juggernaut of evil being pushed from the highest levels of power against us. We too need to fast, and this is exactly what our Bishops are asking us to do on the 17th to 19th of this month. (http://news.abs-cbn.com/focus/07/09/18/read-cbcp-pastoral-exhortation-rejoice-and-be-glad)


God’s ways are certainly not our ways. When the people of Judah gathered together, one man prophesied, “This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours but God’s. Tomorrow march out against them. But you will not even need to fight.” The King appointed singers to walk ahead of the marching people, singing to the Lord and praising Him for His holy splendour. “Give thanks to the Lord; His faithful love endures forever!”




That is exactly what our Bishops advice as well! “Rejoice and be glad!” they exhorted. The more life becomes busy, the more our leaders become crazy, let us praise God harder and longer! Like Jehoshaphat and His people, let us keep our eyes on God and expect Him to fight our battles for us!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Reaping the Whirlwind

“They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.” Hosea 8:7




I chose this verse today because I love how it sounds even if I don’t understand it much. If we sow the Word, we will get a hundred fold harvest. That I understand. 


Sir Arthur Harris, a British Air Marshal in WWII, said in 1942, at the start the bombing campaign against Germany, “The Nazis entered this war under the rather childish delusion that they were going to bomb everyone else, and nobody was going to bomb them. At Rotterdam, London, Warsaw, and half a hundred other places, they put their rather naive theory into operation. They sowed the wind, and now they are going to reap the whirlwind.” What was the whirlwind but the devastation of huge swaths of Europe and Asia, 80 million deaths including the suicide of Hitler, war crimes trials and prison sentences, and so much more long-lasting change in the world. 


Perhaps we should ask if we are sowing any wind, something with a lot of noise, but with no substance. What are we chasing after? What is important to us? What will be the consequences? My sister who is head of our Human Resources in our family business often tells me that when she interviews prospective staff, she asks whom they admire and want to emulate. Often the dismaying answer is a celebrity who is rich and famous but leads a less than praiseworthy life. Many of the women are single mothers, or living with men not their husbands. They gave up their youth, their morals, their prudence, their future, for love, and they reap the whirlwind. 


We are made in the image of God and we have intrinsic value. But many people make their god in their own image. They choose their own ‘moral’ law to follow. They run after their own idols. Whatever it is, money, youth, a relationship they sacrifice everything for, if God is not at the center, it’s all for nothing. As Psalm 127:1 says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, we labor in vain who build it.” 


Monday, July 09, 2018

Broken in the Desert

“I will allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak to her heart.” Hosea 2:14




The Book of Hosea in the Old Testament is a very strange story which parallels God’s love for His unfaithful chosen people who sought after false gods. The prophet Hosea married a prostitute, who deserted him and ran after other men. Hosea had to buy her back for fifteen pieces of silver, five bushels of barley and a measure of wine. 


Even though Gomer, Hosea’s wife was unfaithful, Hosea was faithful. So too is our God with us. He continues to woo us, to try to win us back, to allure us. But why bring us to the desert? The desert is a place of barrenness, of brokenness. Sometimes it is only in our brokenness that we are silent and we seek after God. Perhaps when we undergo a hardship, a challenge, painful experiences, we ask, “Why me? Why now?” 


If there ever was one to ask, “Why me?”, it would be Saint Paul who was obedient to God, and gave all his time and effort to tell people to good news. But oh what he suffered! He was beaten, stoned, whipped, shackled, shipwrecked, abandoned...and the list goes on. And yet, Saint Paul wrote to the Romans, “We can rejoice too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know they are good for us- they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation...We know how dearly God loves us...”




There is nothing God wants more than our salvation, that He brings us back into His fold. When He leads us into the desert, we can be sure He is right there beside us. 

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Broken Pieces

“My grace is enough for you, for in weakness power reaches perfection.” 2 Corinthians 12:9




I think there is much to unpack in this passage, and that the more we unpack, the more we will find. Saint Paul starts the 12th chapter of his letter to the Corinthians with the words, “This boasting is all so foolish!” And he proceeds to boast, not about what he has done for God, and his experiences, even if there is much to tell, but about his WEAKNESSES! Very few people would boast about their weaknesses. 


According to recent statistics, Filipinos scroll through social media an average of 3 hours and 57 minutes a day! That’s a huge chunk of life! When we post, do we post about our achievements, travels, our kids saying the funniest things, food we enjoyed? Of course! No doubt about it! And I think that’s great! Personally, I love reading happy, excited posts. Do we boast about the bad report we submitted, the big mistake we made, the awful diagnosis we received at the doctor’s office? I’ve seen some posts like that, but they are few and far between. We like sharing about what makes us happy, rather than what makes us feel sad, or anxious, or puts us in a not so good spotlight. 


Saint Paul said, “I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may work through me. I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” Really? That is so opposite to what the world preaches! Perhaps like Saint Paul, we should see our weaknesses as a way for Christ to really shine through us. 


There is a beautiful Japanese art of repairing broken pottery called Kintsugi or Kintsukuroi which means “golden repair". It uses lacquer mixed with gold powder to put together the broken pieces. Instead of throwing away the pieces, or hiding the damage, it emphasises  it and treats it as part of its history. I think God sees our weaknesses and brokenness in this way, as part and parcel of who we are. He is more than able to use us as we are, broken pieces and all, and make us a masterpiece to glorify the Master!


Friday, July 06, 2018

With All My Heart

“With all my heart, I seek You...” 

Psalm 119:10




“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee.” Saint Augustine wrote those powerful words in one of his most well known writings, “Confessions”. He tells of his long journey from darkness into Christ’s marvelous light. 


Many people are searching for God but they do not know it because the great deceiver does his work well. I like what the famous actor Jim Carrey said, “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it's not the answer.” A well known sports celebrity who earned millions for just one game and all the accolades the world could offer, confessed that he had everything he ever wanted, but lost all that he loved. 


Mark Twain said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Do we know why we were born? Do we know the meaning of our existence? Do we know our purpose? All these questions can only be answered by the One who created us. Let us seek Him with all our heart and He will give us everything we need to live a joyful and fulfilled life. 

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Jesus Sees Our Faith

“Jesus, seeing their faith, said to the paralytic...” Matthew 9:2




Here we see how crucial our faith is. Two or more men carried a paralytic to Jesus. He saw the faith of the man, forgave the sick man’s sins and healed him of his paralysis. 


There are many people around us “paralyzed” by sin, fear, shame, greed, and even by their own past. We can bring them to Jesus but it is important that we have faith and not hopelessness. Even in the midst of darkness, and I believe our country is experiencing one of the darkest moments in recent history, we should resolve to depend on God and have faith that He has all the answers. 


I was listening to Lysa Terkeust’s story about her two adopted boys. Jackson and Mark were living in an orphanage in Liberia, a West African country ravaged by 14 years of civil war. They ate once a day, usually just a bowl of rice, and a little chicken on a good day. They trudged a long way to school and had to sit on a rock wall during lunch so they wouldn’t bother the others who had lunch. Every day they had Bible study, but one day the teacher said, “We won’t have Bible study today. I’ll call one of you, and you tell us what you want to thank God for.” Jackson was called and his mind was blank. He had no idea what to be grateful for so he sang a praise song. The next day, another boy was called. He did the same thing, and Jackson joined him. The next day, another boy was called, and he too sang a praise song, and Jackson and the 2nd boy joined him. On the twelfth day, 12 boys were singing a praise song when the American consul came for a visit. He promised to bring the “choir” to America to raise funds for the orphanage.  


When the boys sang in Lysa’s church, God spoke in her heart to adopt two boys. Lysa fought against that for a while, but she eventually did. Since then, 40 children from that orphanage were adopted. That was in 2003. 


Let us face the future in confidence and praise God no matter what the present looks like. God is on His throne and He has a wonderful plan for our life. “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11


Wednesday, July 04, 2018

WOYWW: Out, Out, Out!



Here is my desk today. I am working on some stuffed dolls for my upcoming “Wrapped in Prayer” workshop. 



For instructions, to make the doll on the right, here’s a link:



“They begged Him to go away and leave them alone.” Matthew 8:34


This is a very curious Gospel story. When Jesus went to the territory of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs came out of the tombs. We are told they are so savage, no one could pass by that road. These men were evil, possessed by many spirits. Jesus exorcised them which to me is a good thing. But when the people of the town learned of this, they went to meet Jesus and begged Him to go away and leave them alone! Isn’t that the craziest thing? I would think they would celebrate! Two men are back to being normal, productive citizens, and they can all use the road to the tombs again. And a herd of demons were expelled from their midst! 


Sometimes however, people prefer the status quo to any form of change. The big thing for these people is they lost their herd of swine. The demons transferred from the demoniacs to the swine and the swine rushed down to the sea and drowned. Instead of rejoicing that Jesus was in their midst and they could learn things from Him, could ask Him to heal them, heal their daughters, even raise their people from the dead, they wanted him out, out, out! 


Some people think they’re religious and following God. I heard of one government secretary who starts their meetings with prayers and quotes Bible verses. But those under him are dismayed because he escapes from his responsibilities,  hardly appears for work but shows up for pictorials. He squanders government funds and reprimands his people when they make too rigorous a schedule when they have meetings abroad. I am thinking this would be the kind of man who likes his life as it is, and would want Jesus out, out, out should Jesus appear in his midst. 


How about us? Do we want the Lord in our midst? Are we not afraid of change? If He asks us to give what we most hold dear, will we still choose Him? Or would we want Him out, out, out? 



Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Believe

“Do not persist in your unbelief, but believe!” John 2:27




We could read this as, “Do not perish in your unbelief, but believe.” Let us put ourselves in Saint Thomas’ shoes, or as he is most commonly called, “Doubting Thomas”. When he was told by the disciples that they had seen Jesus, he adamantly proclaimed the famous line, “Unless I shall see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” 


Thomas was not at the crucifixion but he certainly heard all the gruesome details from an eyewitness. The imprint of the nails, and the piercing of the sword at the side of Jesus became so concrete to him, that not even the testimony of the disciples that they saw the risen Lord, convinced him that Jesus was alive! How about us? What keeps us from believing in the power of Jesus to change lives and hearts, transform circumstances for our good and perform miracles? 


In Matthew 13:58, we see that Jesus was not able to perform many miracles in His hometown because His neighbors were skeptical. Perhaps we are too much like Jesus’ neighbors. We grew up with all the Bible stories. They are too familiar to us. We are not new believers, excited and eager to delve deeper into the Word, to dig into the truth.  


How do we get out of this mindset? I think it is as easy as asking Jesus to reveal Himself in a new way to us. Just as Jesus showed Himself to Thomas, and said, “Reach here your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing.” 


If we just open up a little, and allow Jesus in, He will meet us where we are. 

Monday, July 02, 2018

God’s Dreams in Our Hearts

“If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.” Psalm 95:8




It would be so easy if we heard God’s voice every morning and just had to follow what He said. We would be successful, have the perfect family, security for the future and know with absolute certainty we were going to heaven. Life would be simple, and we wouldn’t be confused about our priorities and busy ourselves about things that had no value. True?


God wants to speak to us, and if we read His Word every morning, and keep quiet enough to hear Him, we will get His instructions for most anything we need to know. It just takes a bit of effort every single day. But do we do it, and do we obey? 


One day in 2007, when Christine Caine, an evangelist and speaker, was in the Thessaloniki airport in Greece, she saw many handmade posters of missing girls. She found out that these young girls were trafficked and some sold on an auction block like slaves. She heard God tell her to help. “But God,” she argued, “I just gave birth! But I’m a woman! But I’m an Australian who lives so far from here...” Her buts were a mile long. God knew all those buts. He also knew that in 2008, Christine with all her buts would obey and start the A21 Campaign with her husband Nick, and would be instrumental in rescuing babies from pedophile rings, and young girls and women from sexual trafficking. Just last month, the head of the largest sex trafficking syndicate in Greece was put in jail from her organization’s efforts. 


Christine studies the Word, listens to God, and obeys. First it was the little things. How about us, do we listen and obey the little things God instructs us? Let us not harden our hearts so God can put His dreams into our hearts.