Category Archives: Encouragement

Looking beyond past and present circumstances

Mauritania

Isaiah 43:16-19 (NIV)
16 This is what the Lord says—
he who made a way through the sea,
a path through the mighty waters,
17 who drew out the chariots and horses,
the army and reinforcements together,
and they lay there, never to rise again,
extinguished, snuffed out like a wick:
18 “Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.

Oftentimes God calls us out of our present and familiar situation and thrust us into new situations. That can include leaving behind our past and present relationships, jobs or places. The Bible shows a common recurring pattern for people called upon to follow God’s divine plan. This pattern can occur multiple times throughout a person’s life. Although this doesn’t mean everyone go through the exact same pattern since everyone is unique and different. Nevertheless it is still beneficial to learn from observing this pattern in others’ lives. These people usually go through the following pattern:

1. Deciding on whether to accept or reject what God has planned for them.

Taking that first step can be difficult sometimes because in some cases, God is asking us to give up familiar attachments we have (including relationships, jobs, places, lifestyle, etc…) before we can start our journey. Not everyone choose to accept this. One verse illustrates this point quite well –

Luke 9:61-62 (ESV) 61 Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Another verse illustrates God’s invitation to partake in His shared blessings, notice that not all accept His invitation –

Luke 14:15-20 (NIV) 15 When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”
16 Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’
18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’
19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’
20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’

Sometimes accepting what God has called us to do take a huge leap in faith, not knowing why or how they will accomplish what God had planned for them.

2. Undertaking what God has called them to do.

After accepting what God has called us to do, we enter a period of transition and change that comes with much uncertainty. Sometimes we second-guess ourselves or God on whether if we’re on the right path, if we have heard correctly, etc… Sometimes we longingly look back to the old days because that was familiar (and less painful) compared to present wilderness. It’s is not always easy in time of transition and test our obedience and faith in God. The question is, will we rise up to the challenge or dwell over present and past circumstances?

3. Reaping what they had sown, whether good, bad or both.

What we do throughout our journey determine what we will sow for ourselves in the end. Our previous choices and how we respond to God’s plan has very important consequences. For some, we receive the long-awaited blessings and for some others, punishments. Don’t take this the wrong way, He is extraordinarily patient with us and our weaknesses. He truly desires that all come to repentance, for us to grow and prosper in Christ.

2 Peter 3:8-9 (ESV) 8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

An example of this pattern comes from a book of Exodus and Numbers. In the first verse below, God has declared His plan to rescue people from oppressive slavery in Egypt.

Exodus 3:7-9 (NIV) 7 The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them.

He had declared His promise that His people will settle in Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey. We can see that God was acting out of His endless love for His people and wanted to remove them from negative circumstances and lead them to a better place (among many other reasons as well!). He wants this for everyone and He knows that the journey is not always easy! That’s why God guide us. That’s why we must depend on God’s guidance, not our own, for He knows the best path that lies ahead.

Later in the Exodus, we read about how God sent miracles after miracles, putting His plan in motion. God divided the waters of Red Sea to make way for Israelites to escape! He also provided them with heavenly manna and water to sustain them in barren wilderness. He also guided them by pillar of cloud during the day and pillar of fire during the night. How amazing is that? Despite numerous miraculous displays, some people still grumbled and complained about their present circumstances, thinking it was better to die in Egypt than in the wilderness.

Exodus 16:2-3 (NIV) 2 In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. 3 The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”

Then prior to entering the Promised Land, Israelites sent out twelve spies to scout out the land. When they came back, ten out of twelve spies gave negative report and casted doubt that they could conquer the Promised Land. Only two spies had faith and believed that they could conquer the Promised Land, despite the giants in the land. The assembly still doubted and grumbled. They looked back to ‘better’ circumstances in the past rather than having faith that God will deliver them and lead them to better place.

Numbers 14:1-4 (NIV) 14 That night all the members of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. 2 All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! 3 Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4 And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”

The Promised Land was theirs to seize, all they had to do was to act on that faith! Moses interceded on people’s behalf for their lack of faith. God forgave them. But nevertheless still punished them for their rebellion by not allowing them into the Promised Land for 40 years. Only their children will set foot in the Promised Land. Ten spies who gave bad report died by plague. The other two spies who gave good reports received God’s blessing of being able to set a food in the Promised Land.

This pattern doesn’t have to apply only to specific chapters of our life, but can apply broadly to our entire life. God has called on everyone to follow Him, bestowing each of them with unique God-given gifts. It is up to each individual if they want to follow God and use their gifts to advance His kingdom. The second part of this pattern consist most, if not all, of our life. We make series of choices that determines what we will receive in the end. The last part of this pattern happens when we die. We will either receive a blessing of eternity with God or a punishment of eternity without God. Remember, God desires that all come to repentance and follow Him. If we continue to keep faith and believe that Christ shed his blood for our sin then truly God will bless us with an eternity in Heaven.

Just keep chasing after Him and God will truly bless you! Just remember that journey will involve some sacrifices, ups and downs, and trials. But in the end, it will be worth it! Rest assured, God has your best interest at heart, and His kingdom as well! He is not doing this to torment us or to make our lives more difficult for no reason. It is simply part of our journey. He truly wants to see you succeed and prosper. He is breaking down what is not of Him and to build us up in Godly character – such as love, peace, joy, patience, etc…

Romans 5:1-5 (NIV) 5 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Philippians 3:12-14 (NIV) 12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV) 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

What does that mean for us? For some of us, God might be calling us to come out of our present relationships, jobs, or locations. It might not make sense at first. Just like how Israelites looked at the bleak wilderness and longingly thought of ‘better’ place in Egypt while the true blessings was in store for them in the future. As we saw, it was up to them to accept these blessings or not. As we read, many did not accept their promised blessings and chose not to go through grueling wilderness before receiving blessings from God. By looking to their past and present circumstances in a negative light, they actually hindered the blessings God had planned to give them in the present and the future. God didn’t withdraw his blessings from these people. Instead, they chose not to receive His blessing!

Some of us might be clinging onto old and unhealthy relationships (friendship/romantic/family) thus preventing us from opportunities for new relationships to emerge in our life. Perhaps God wanted to bestow us with something much better than what we have currently?? It could be just a simple character/personal development. It could be a new helpmate. It could be many other things. It’s not always an easy or pretty path to take, but nevertheless God will never forsake or abandon His children. He is continuously guiding us to a better place. Will we take a leap of faith? Even though it might cost us dearly?

A Christian Martyr – Kayla Mueller

Last night, I stopped by to visit a brother in Christ I hadn’t seen in a while. We caught up on what had been going on our lives. Then later on, a documentary on TV came on talking about Kayla Mueller. As I watched the program about her ordeal in Syria, my heart was truly touched and shaken to the core. I didn’t want to cry in front of my friend but when I arrived home, I allowed myself to cry a bit. It was a truly heart-touching story! I am writing this blog to honor her in memory and to highlight how her faith served as a light beacon shining for everyone to see. I will provide a brief summary with a link to the story below. But I warn you that it is a heartbreaking story to read and is not advisable for children to read.

http://abcnews.go.com/International/kayla-mueller-captivity-courage-selflessness-defended-christian-faith/story?id=41626763

For those who don’t know who Kayla Mueller was. She was a precious sister in Christ who had an abundant amount of compassion, sense of humor, and the heart of gold to help those who suffered. In other words, she had many wonderful traits in God’s eyes! Kayla had been involved in numerous organization devoted to helping suffering people. She had achieved so much in her life in helping others. As listed in this website – http://www.forkayla.org/ – She was involved in the following organizations:

African Refugee Development Center
Amnesty International
Contact Magazine
Danish Refugee Council
Food for Life Vrindavan
International Solidarity Movement
Just Peace
LHA Charitable Trust
New Day Peace Center
Northern Arizona University Center for Intercultural Education
Plum Village
Prescott Area Women’s Shelter
Save Darfur Coalition
STAND:NAU
Support to Life
Tibet Hope Center
Youth Count

Looking through this list, I can’t but admire her devotion and passion to helping others. I feel inspired by her action and look upon her as a role model. She was living out her faith in God virtuously through helping others.

As the story revealed, the terrorist organization ISIS kidnapped Kayla while she was helping at the hospital in Aleppo. What she endured was horrifying, yet she prevailed in the face of greatest darkness. It didn’t extinguish the light and love of Christ shining from her heart. As I read the story, I was amazed how she was still devoted to helping others even while undergoing unspeakable suffering – I am specifically referring to the part where she let the Yazidi girl escape while staying behind to increase their chance of success. She held on to her faith even to the point of death. Truly, God was with her every step of the way and strengthening her.  She died in February 2015, but exactly how she died is unclear. Nevertheless, she died as a Christian martyr. I do believe that God will reward her abundantly for her devotion and sacrifice in her life to the very end. I truly do hope I will have the privilege of meeting her in heaven one day!

I will close with two quotes from Kayla Mueller and a few verses from the bible.

I find God in the suffering eyes reflected in mine. If this is how you are revealed to me, this is how I will forever seek you. – Kayla

This is really my life’s work, to go where there is suffering. I suppose, like us all, I’m learning how to deal with the suffering of the world inside myself… to deal with my own pain and most importantly to still have the ability to be proactive – Kayla

Matthew 5:11-13 (ESV)
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

2 Corinthians 4:8-10 (ESV)
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.

Seeing God’s Gifts in Our Lives

Recently, God has shown me once again how He uses His children to help one another. I am deeply thankful to God for opportunities to be able to fellowship with my dear friends and opportunities to show love to other in many ways. I thought of several friends I hold dear in my life as I write this blog, and I am deeply thankful for their friendship, support, and love. I wanted to share how much that means to me, and to show how beautiful love can be when shared both ways. We’ve encouraged each other in the good times and supported one another when one of us has fallen into a difficult situation. It’s a rare gem in this fallen world where darkness and selfishness reign.

In a way, it allowed me to see a reflection of God’s character in people despite human shortcoming. Just think of how moon reflect sun’s light to illuminate the night. Christians filled with Holy Spirit and God’s enduring love are able to reflect His light onto other people, so people can understand better and learn more about God’s character.

God gave us His children for each other in our lives – for friendship, fellowship, support in difficult times, to care for one another, and the list goes on. In doing so, we are able to reflect God’s love to other people, both believers and unbelievers. Our actions can make a huge difference in someone’s life without realizing it. It might be the only opportunity that person might witness God’s love, possibly planting the seed in that person to eventually come to God later in life. Therefore, we are to make the best of every opportunity in how we interact with people, being able to reflect God’s love onto other’s lives.

I’ve experienced so many times when God spoke through a dear friend of mine, encouraging me and helping me grow ever more in Christ. When I see love, gentleness, kindness in a person, I am seeing a reflection of God’s character and thus this helps me understand Him in a deeper way.

Colossians 3:12-14 (NIV)
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

I do believe many things in our lives do happen for a reason, if not everything. There are people who builds us up, encourage us in many ways that made an impact on our lives. There are also difficult people or situations that make our lives challenging, but in a way these situation can push us out of our comfort zone and develop new tools/skills for dealing with difficult situations. Regardless, God is always with us in every situation we face, whether good or bad, and He will never abandon us even in the darkest moment.

Once again, I wanted to write to show my appreciation for friendships I had in my life and I look forward to continuing to make new memories as time go along. Praise God for giving us wonderful things in life! He is truly a loving Father and loves to bestow gifts upon us.

Overcoming our shortcomings with Christ’s love

A while ago as I was heading out after finishing a long day of work. It was dark and there weren’t too many people around. A young stray cat (around a year or two old) came up to me and meowed repeatedly. The cat was trying to tell me something. It kept on trying getting my attention. As a cat lover, I knew instinctively what the cat wanted. I was carrying a water bottle so I tried pouring the water on the ground but the cat didn’t seem to want the water. I didn’t have the food on me, so I struggled to figure out how to get the food close by and the stores were close to closing time or were already closed. The cat kept on following me, meowing loudly. I kept at a slow pace as not to abandon the cat. The cat stirred my heart with great compassion.

I wanted to buy food for the cat but was afraid that I would look foolish for doing so with people around. Also, I wasn’t sure if the stores were open then. As much as I hate to admit this, but my heart wavered between avoiding looking foolish and giving the cat what he/she needed. In the end, my immense love toward cats in general won out.

So I walked quite a distance, to the point where the cat eventually stopped following me. I then bought a can of chicken from a small mart I found to be open at this time. I felt blessed to find them since I wasn’t sure if I would find something suitable for the cat to eat. So, I walked a while back to where I last saw the cat, hoping that he was there. Lo! He was there. At first, I hesitated because there were people around but then I stopped caring how it appeared to others. So therefore, I opened a can of chicken for the cat. He ate them all! The cat must’ve been very hungry. He seemed happy and relaxed after eating.

Why and how is this relevant to God? I think looking back, out of all people who was around – the cat came to me, the very person who are experienced in dealing with cats and understanding what they needed. It shows that God still cares greatly about small creature which tends be overlooked by others. I also feel blessed that God used me to help feed this hungry kitty. Secondly, as my inner struggle showed, the sheer power of Christ love is enough to overcome our own shortcomings as long we allow Christ’s love to flow though us.

A Marathon with the Lord

jogging

Our walk with the Lord can be like a marathon. Some start strong and some start slowly. A marathon is not about how well or poorly we run, but rather that we are able to finish the race. We are to have a similar mindset in our walk with the Lord. We must remain steadfast in our faith, devotion and to have our heart continually affixed on Jesus Christ. There will be obstacles in the way in attempts to derail or distract us from reaching the true goal which is to keep our faith in God’s promise of everlasting life in Christ.

What good is if a person starts really strong and had done many impressive deeds in Christ but only to end up departing from the faith (as in not believing in God anymore). That person wasn’t able to finish the race. I’ve read different accounts about how pastors and devoted Christians decided to stop believing and speak critically of God (or against religion). These accounts leave me scratching my head and makes me wonder what caused them to lose faith. It is very disheartening when I read accounts like these. It reminds me of a parable about sower and the seed.

Luke 8:4-15 (ESV)
The Parable of the Sower
4 And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable, 5 “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. 6 And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. 7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. 8 And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” As he said these things, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

The Purpose of the Parables
9 And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, 10 he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’ 11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. 14 And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. 15 As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.

We must be vigilant since the evil one is extremely determined to cut us from God.

Let us make an important commitment to remain faithful to the very end, to be able to finish the race. God will always be with us, guiding us and encouraging us. Remember we still have free will, we can either choose to align our will with God’s will or choose our path apart from God’s will. It takes courage and huge commitment to remain faithful to the end!

2 Timothy 4:6-8 (ESV)
6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)
13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.