Friday, October 30, 2015

Jesus, the One Who Takes Away Our Shame


I invite you to think carefully about the supreme test Jesus faced in the race. Hebrews 12:2 offers this intriguing statement: “[Jesus] endured the cross, despising the shame.” Shame is a feeling of disgrace, embarrassment, humiliation. Forgive me for stirring the memory, but don’t you have a shameful moment in your history? Can you imagine the horror you would feel if everyone knew about it? What if a video camera of that event were played before your family and friends? How would you feel?

That is exactly what Jesus felt. Why? You ask. He never did anything worthy of shame. No, but we did. And since on the cross God made Him became sin (2 Corinthians 5:21), Jesus was covered with shame. He was shamed before His family. Stripped naked before His own mother and loved ones. Shamed before His fellow men. Forced to carry a cross until the weight caused Him to stumble. Shamed before His church. The pastors and elders of His day mocked Him, calling Him names. Shamed before the city of Jerusalem. Condemned to die a criminal’s death. Parents likely pointed to Him from a distance and told their children, “That’s what they do to evil men.”

But the shame before men didn’t compare with the shame Jesus felt before His Father. Our individual shame seems too much to bear. Can you imagine bearing the collective shame of all humanity? One wave of shame after another was dumped on Jesus. Though He never cheated, He was convicted as a cheat. Though He never stole, heaven regarded Him as a thief. Though He never lied, He was considered a liar. Though He never lusted, He bore the shame of an adulterer. Though He always believed, He endured the disgrace of an infidel.
[Taken from Just Like Jesus by Max Lucado]

THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.


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Letters to Annie: Don't Let Your Problems Get You Down

Like Wonder Woman, Be Strong!
Dear Annie,

            I noticed that you’re having bad moods lately. Yes, problems come and go. I will see you soon okay and we going to talk about it face-to-face. Though we’re separate hundreds miles away, I try my best to be there when you need me. If not physically, then through phone calls. All of us face those occasional days when things don’t happened the way we want it to be or when relationships around us went through brokenness, arguments and pain. But, when we find ourselves overtaken by the frustrations of life, we must catch ourselves, take a deep breath, and lift our thoughts upward. A.W. Tozer wisely advise: “Keep your feet on the ground, but let your heart soar as high as it will. Refuse to be average or to surrender to the chill of your spiritual environment.

            Although we must occasionally struggle to rise above the distractions and disappointments of tough times (or probably tough relationships), we need never struggle alone. We are for one another. Or better, God is here – eternally and faithfully, with infinite patience and love. “People who do what is right may have many problems, but the Lord will solve them all” (Psalm 34:19). And I believe our friends, family members, and maybe close colleagues are also willing to help us restore perspective and peace to our souls. “The first step in solving a problem,” write John Peter Flynn, “is to tell someone about it.” Our only action is to let them.

            Remember I told you to be optimistic about life? Well, I want to add to that. Be a realistic optimist. Your attitude toward the future will help create your future. So think realistically about yourself and your situation while making a conscious effort to focus on hopes, not fears; on self-growth, not stumbling blocks; on God’s sovereign power, not present problems. My Annie, don’t let your problems get you down!

Here are some of my favourite quotes that help to restore my perspective when I’m having difficult times. I hope it can help you too: “He who can’t endure the bad will not live to see the good” (Yiddish Proverbs); “The worst thing in your life may contain seeds of the best. When you can see crisis as an opportunity, your life becomes not easier, but more satisfying” (Joe Kogel); “Storms make trees take deeper roots” (Claude McDonald); “Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadows” (Helen Keller); “The human capacity to fight back will always astonish doctors and philosophers. It seems, indeed, that there are no circumstances so bad and no obstacles so big that man cannot conquer them” (Jean Tetreau); “Every problem contains within itself the seeds of its own solution” (Edward Somers); etc. You can have all my quotation books when you marry me!

My love, this is a trustworthy saying: “Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Don’t let your problems get you down. Let God cares for you.

I miss you. You look prettier when you smile you know [laugh]!
I love you Annie.

Most genius and supportive boyfriend ever,
Richard

THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.


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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Letters to Annie: Let's Build a Relationship that Will Last


Dear Annie,

            I’m not as romantic as you thought I’m, but I want to be. People always accused me as insensitive, maybe that’s true in some sense. And definitely I’m one of those who have been in relationship failures for so many times. I’m learning to understand and seek to improve myself from my mistakes. And then I met you… An ordinary beginning, something that would have been forgotten had it been anyone but you, Annie. But as I started a conversation with you that day, I knew before I closed my eyes to sleep that night, you was the one I could spend the rest of my life looking for but never find again. Now I’m started to miss you deeply even as I write this letter.

            So I asked myself this question: Do I want to build a relationship that lasts? Yes, with you! Then a thought came to my mind, I believe it is from the Holy Spirit – a reminder and a command – I (and you too) must start by making Lord Jesus Christ the cornerstone of my (our) relationships. It’s not that we want Him to be Lord, but to acknowledge that He is Lord and He will be the cornerstone, the centre, everything in our relationships. Because in order for us to always be in love we must draw love from its source – God. “Let us love one another, because love come from God. Whoever loves is a child of God and knows God… for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8). Love-God kind of love; brother and sister in Christ kind of love; and loving one another kind of love.

            Annie, I understand now that God does not intend for us to experience mediocre relationships; He created us for far greater things. Building lasting relationships, I learned, requires not just love but compassion, wisdom, empathy, kindness, respect, trust and forgiveness – yes – lots of forgiveness. “[God] showed his love for us by sending his only Son into the world, so that we might have life through him. This is what love is: it is not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the means by which our sins are forgiven” (1 John 4:9-10). Because we are redeemed-sinners living in imperfect world, we will sinning against God and each other in the future. Therefore we must ready to repent from our sins and we need lots of forgiveness as shown by God to us. Lotssss of forgiveeeenessss. Love and forgiveness is always together.

Sounds like a lot of work, right? Well my dear, I think God gives us high demand on lasting relationships is because God is in the business of everlasting lives. He wants the best, and we must give our best. Because God knows that we are capable of doing that work, and because He knows that the fruits of our labour of love will enrich our lives in the end.

As for me, I want to live a life that puts Jesus in the centre of everything.
I want to become the man that can lead and influence you to know God more.
Built to last? Let God be the cornerstone in our relationships.

I love you,
Richard

THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.

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Jesus the Master-Teacher, Gave the Scriptures to Reveal Himself to Us


Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Explain to us the parable that says people aren’t defiled by what they eat.’ ‘Don’t you understand yet?’ Jesus asked. ‘Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. But the words you speak come from the heart – that’s what defiles you. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you’
(Matthew 15:15-20,
NLT).

Jesus “went into a house (probably in Capernaum) to get away from the crowd” (Mark 7:17, bracket mine) and to spend time with his disciples. Often Peter would act as spokesman for the disciples, and he always seemed to speak honestly (sometime too rashly).  In above passage, Peter was simply saying, “Hey, I still don’t get it.” In a couple of years Peter would be confronted directly with this very issue of clean and unclean food (read Acts 10:9-15), where he would learn that nothing should be a barrier to proclaiming the Gospel to non-Jews, which are Gentiles like us. Here Peter was simply expressing the confusion that all the disciples were experiencing.

Jesus knew the crowd didn’t understand but seemed very disappointed that his disciples had also failed to comprehend. Jesus’ question “Don’t you understand yet?” shows that discipleship is a process of growth. We must understand this, for ourselves and others. Although the disciples knew much about Jesus, they still had more to learn. Then Jesus explained that what comes out of a person – evil thoughts and deeds – are what defile that person, not what goes in the mouth (Of course, gluttony is a sin!). Moral defilement has nothing to do with food, but with sin in the heart. Jesus wasn’t simply teaching theology or showing he could out-argue the Pharisees. He wanted the disciples to understand this important truth. The more time they spent with Jesus, the more they would understand and put into practice. They get to see how Jesus lived and asked questions. What great privileges!

Think about this: The disciples may not have heard everything or they may have been overly concerned about offending the religious leaders. Whatever the reason, they didn’t understand Jesus’ words about clean and unclean foods and defilement. Although we don’t have Jesus sitting physically with us and explaining his teachings, we have God’s written Word – and a wide range of Bible study resources. God gave his Word to reveal himself and his plan to us, to tell us how to believe and how to live. What an amazing gift! (If you want read about the argument of the defilement issue, read Jesus wants Us to Live from the Inside Out. Click title).

Ask God’s Holy Spirit that he would illuminate the Scriptures for you as you study his Word.
Don’t you understand yet? Ask Him.

THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.
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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Letters to Annie: Understand the Importance of Encouragement in Relationship


Dear Annie,

            I did it! Oh, no, Jesus did it! Sharing last night was good and I’m satisfied with what I shared. I know that since yesterday God’s spirit is working in their hearts and God’s Word faithfully preached will not return void but will bear much fruit. Amen. Thank you for your encouragements. I like it when you said, “clear your heart… clear your mind and share sincerely… put God first and pray is the important thing…” Thank you I appreciate it. I read: “Pleasant words are like a honeycomb. Sweetness to the soul and health to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24). Your words strengthen me.

            I see us as a team sport, and you and I need occasional pats on the back from one another.  We are a couple and a partner, brother and sister in Christ, we are lovers. As Christians, we are called upon to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ, and we are also to spread a message of encouragement and hope to the world. But first, it must start with us. Again, thank you for your encouragement.

            Whether we realize it or not, many people with whom we come in contact every day are in desperate need of a smile or an encouraging word. Our colleagues in office, family at home, friends we hang out with, and strangers we walked by. As I realize the important of encouragement to me from you, my love one, I can extend it to others. Barbara Johnson writes, “We can never untangle all the woes in other people’s lives. We can’t produce miracles overnight. But we can bring a cup of cool water to a thirsty soul, or a scoop of laughter to a lonely heart.” You see, since we don’t always know who needs our help, the best strategy is to try to encourage all the people who cross our paths, will all that we have in God’s wisdom.

            Let’s encourage one another. Let’s use pleasant words to lift up our spirits. If in the future we argue about certain issues, may we never speaks the word that we will regret later. Even if we want to correct or give advice, may we speak it all in the spirit of love. Sometimes, even very few words can make a very big difference (for better or worst). As Fanny Crosby positively observed, “A single word, if spoken in a friendly spirit, may be sufficient to turn one from dangerous error.”

When I said I don’t earn much, you encouraged me about how privilege my calling is; when you said you’re not perfect, I over and over again said to you that you are; when I’m lack of confidence to share the Word, you reminds me to not to use my own strength but God’s; and when you were thinking of joining a competition, I said go for it! We are at our best when we encourage one another without having the desire of becoming greater. I love you. You’re the best of me.

                                                                                                                        You’re special in my heart,
Richard

THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.

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Monday, October 26, 2015

Jesus warns Us Not to Follow Blind Leaders


Then the disciples came to him and asked, ‘Do you realize you offended the Pharisees by what you just said?’ Jesus replied, ‘Every plant not planted by my heavenly Father will be uprooted, so ignore them. They are blind guides leading the blind, and if one blind person guides another, they will both fall into a ditch’” (Matthew 15:12-14, NLT).

By confronting the Pharisees regarding their teaching of traditions above or same level with the Scripture (read Matthew 15:1-11), Jesus was establishing himself as the right interpreter of the Scripture. God had given Israel numerous dietary laws, but these laws and the religious leaders’ interpretations of them had become more important than the meaning behind them, leading to the idea that people could be clean before God because of what they refused to eat, for example. And because the Pharisees had become the religious authorities of the day, they naturally become offended by what Jesus said. The disciples pointed out this offense, implying that Jesus had made a great risk against religious establishment (“Jesus the controversial,” said John W. Stott).

Because of their hard-heartedness, Jesus explained that they were being rejected as leaders of God’s people and like weeds in the garden (symbol of evil influences), they would be “uprooted.” Then Jesus told the disciples to “ignore them.” The disciples shouldn’t follow, listen to, or regard the hypocritical Pharisees. The issue is this – the Pharisees claimed to be leaders of the people, but Jesus turned this around to show that, in reality, they were “blind guides” who would lead people the wrong way and thus resulted them to “fall into a ditch.” That’s hurt!

Think about this: Today many claim to be religious authorities. Some teachers, preachers, pastors, para-church workers, and others draw large crowds and have huge followings in churches, special events, concerts, seminars, online, and in publishing. Although they (us, including me!) may sound and look good, we must be careful whom we follow. Our earthly spiritual leaders should affirm basically; 1) Jesus as fully God and fully human; 2) Jesus as the only way to salvation; and 3) the Bible as God’s written and inspired Word, our only rule for faith and practise. Any leader who is offended by those beliefs and values should be left behind. Don’t follow them. If their living doesn’t match with their teachings, don’t follow them. As soon as we know the true motive of a teacher or preacher is not God’s glory, we should stop listening to him or her.

On the positive note, by all means follow the right and godly leaders.
By the way, Who are your spiritual leaders?
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.


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Letters to Annie: Be Still and Wait for God's Voice (Sometime I Reflect on Us)


Dear Annie,

            I miss you so much. When I first looked at you few years ago, I barely know you. You looked so innocent and I’m, well, so casual. There was no serious conversations, no proper ‘hi,’ always in the distance. What weird is that I can’t barely looked you in the eyes. By all mean, we tried to avoid eye-contact. But then, everything was just normal. Never crossed my mind that we will be together like this. Funny, now I can’t even remember any time when I didn’t even think of you. When I be still, reflecting… I thanks God for every moments I have with you. Why I didn’t get to know you early in my life? Thankfully, God’s plan is good.

            I think that is how God want us to think and know Him also. Psalms 46:10 instructs, “Be still, and know that I am God.Be still. Funny how the Bible teaches that a wonderful way to get to know God is simply to be still and listen to Him not in rush and noisy ways. “Deepest communion with God is beyond words,” writes Madeleine L’Engle, “on the other side of silence.” You know, when I’m in silence and solitude I can reflect many blessings that God had given me (that include you, my dear). I also can hear His deep small voice for guidance and instruction. Isn’t this is what you want from God?

            As you know, the demands of everyday life weigh down upon us. Because of our working loads and everyday responsibilities, we can easily be tempted to ignore God’s presence or – worse yet – to rebel against His commandments. But, when we quiet ourselves and acknowledge His presence, God touches our hearts, restores our spirits, and help us to think and see things in God’s perspective. If we want to get to know our Heavenly Father more, silence is a wonderful place to start.

            It’s not about where we are physically but it’s about the position of our hearts. As illustration, I can think of you even in the midst of busy traffic or in the noise of conversations.  My heart belongs to you. In the same way – even more – we can hear God speaks to us anytime if our hearts focusing on Him. Let’s be in silence and solitude with God more often. Let’s go to a quiet place and listen (You may want to find a place for you to have a quiet time). It’s good for our souls and relationship with God and one another. If we keep listening long enough and carefully enough, He’ll start talking.

Annie, I write this letter not as much as I want to teach you,
But it was you who reminds me about silence and solitude.
To be patient and wait upon the Lord.
You wrote to me, “I will wait for God’s voice…
…so I will follow His voice.”
Yes darling, let us be still, and know that God is God.

I want to marry you,
Richard
P.s.: I love you!
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.

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Sunday, October 25, 2015

Jesus wants Us to Live from the Inside Out


Then Jesus called the crowd to come and hear.
All of you listen,’ he said, ‘and try to understand.
It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you;
 you are defiled by what comes from your heart’” (Mark 7:14-15, NLT).

Jesus called out to the crowd, wanting them to beware of those who would lead them astray and to be careful to get their values and priorities straight. The Pharisees taught that eating with unclean or defiled hands would defile a person before God (Mark 7:5). Jesus explained that they had it backwards. Defilement is an internal matter, not an external one.

Certainly God is concerned about our actions, but focusing on outward actions can pull us away from the more important issue – the condition of the heart. Just as the Pharisees’ emphasis on traditions had caused them to ignore God’s commands, emphasis on external issues can cause us to neglect internal ones. Conversely, a person who is right on the inside will reflect that reality with how he or she looks at life, speaks, acts, and relates to others. The Pharisees should have known this. Often God had told his people that he valued mercy and obedience based on love more than merely observing rules and rituals (for example, you can read it from 1 Samuel 15:22-23; Psalms 40:6-8; 51:16-19; Jeremiah 7:21-23; Hosea 6:6; Amos 5:21-24; Micah 6:6-8).

Concern about the inside, the “heart,” should come first and then outward actions. Think about this: While we don’t have a long list of ceremonial rituals and regulations like the Pharisees, we make our own lists. These may involve food and drink, clothes and entertainment, worship style and more. Some believers go even further, adding their own behaviour tests of a person’s commitment to Christ. Yet we are painfully aware of the people we’ve known who looked good on the outside but were far from God (Could it be you?). Instead, God wants us to live from the inside out. Lord Jesus said, “It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart” or positively put, God “sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Living inside out.
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Letters to Annie: Love (Not Lust) is the Greatest Way to Build a Lasting Relationship


Dear Annie,

            My most beautiful Annie. I love you. How to explain my love for you? If we try to build a relationship with one another based only on physical attraction, we’ll be disappointed, especially you. Lasting relationships aren’t built upon lust, they are built upon love – real love.

But first, how can I define love? Hmmm… most definitely, I understand that it’s something more than physical attraction (though you’re amazingly beautiful to me, inside-out). Genuine love is patient, understanding, consistent, consideration and commitment. I hope you agree that genuine love doesn’t just sit around and do nothing; it gets translated into acts of caring and kindness – both large and small.

            Love is always a choice. I choose you; you choose me. Initially, of course, we may “fall in love,” but it takes work to stay there. We may be “swept off our feet,” but the “sweeping” is only temporary – sooner or later, if our love is to endure, we must plant our feet firmly on the ground. The decision for us to love one another for a lifetime is much more than the simple process of “falling in” or “being swept up.” It requires “reaching out,” “holding firm,” and “lifting love.” Love, then, becomes a decision to honour, respect, and care for the other person, come what may!

            “Love is a force more formidable than any other,” writes Barbara De Angelis, “It is invisible – it cannot be seen or measured, yet it is powerful enough to transform you in a moment, and offer you more joy than any material possession could.” It’s hard for me to explain my love for you, this quote is the closest one to my heart.

Because I love you this much (see my hands open wide), sex can wait! I’m really serious about us, and we, I hope, are really serious about putting our Lord Jesus Christ first, and it is worth the wait!

 Is that enough for me to explain my love for you?
Well, we’re just getting started. There will be many stories and experiences ahead of us.
God’s love for us is enough and able to sustain our love for one another
– as long as we both love Jesus first. This is the greatest way to build our relationship.
I’m praying for us. Will you pray too?

Your man,
Richard
P.s: I miss you!

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Friday, October 23, 2015

How to Spot False Teachers within Christianity


The Bible makes it clear that there are false teachers in the world, and there may be false teacher in our churches. Unfortunately, false teachers don’t clearly identify themselves. They tend to look and sound like biblical teachers. This leaves us in a dangerous situation.

Fortunately, God has given us four ways to spot a false teacher in the book of Jude. The recipients of Jude’s letter had false teachers in their midst. Jude wanted these Christians to know how to find the false teachers and remove them from a position of influence. Here are the four ways to spot a false teacher:

1) Their lifestyle doesn’t match their teaching. Jude 1:8, “In the same way, these people—who claim authority from their dreams—live immoral lives, defy authority, and scoff at supernatural beings.” False teachers often preach on holiness and teach a strict code of ethics that they expect everyone to follow. However, their personal lives often fall short of their message. If a person’s behaviour doesn’t match their preaching, then it may be that they are a false teacher.

2) They think they’re the smartest people in the church. Jude 1:10, “But these people scoff at things they do not understand. Like unthinking animals, they do whatever their instincts tell them, and so they bring about their own destruction.” False teachers tend to undermine and underestimate the teaching and authority of the established pastors and leaders in a church. They are constantly questioning the church’s teachers, and even contradicting them (Sounds like myself. Forgive me O Lord).

3) They stir up disunity in the church. Jude 1:16, “These people are grumblers and complainers, living only to satisfy their desires. They brag loudly about themselves, and they flatter others to get what they want. False teachers often cause divisions in churches, ministries, fellowships and small groups. They cause disruption in just about every group they find themselves in. They treat others well only to get them to follow their lead.

4) They don’t produce any real fruit. Jude 1:12, “They are like shameless shepherds who care only for themselves. They are like clouds blowing over the land without giving any rain. They are like trees in autumn that are doubly dead, for they bear no fruit and have been pulled up by the roots.” False teachers don’t really help others pursue God. They might have followers, but these followers aren’t growing in their love for Jesus and his church. False teachers care too much for themselves to see real fruit developed in the lives of others.

How aware are you of false teachers within Christianity?
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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Letters to Annie: Be an Optimist Christian, Don't Give In to Pessimism


Dear Annie,

            I need to share you a story. A not-so-closed-friend of mine, who studied in a theological school, (He said to me once, “I’m a Calvinist-reformed.” I don’t know what that really mean, and I think he’s just repeating his favourite preacher’s sermons) asked me, “Are you a Calvinist or Arminian?” I know he wants to have a theological debate with me. I know about the Calvinist’s 5-points (TULIP) and because I admire David Pawson and John Wesley, I know about basic Arminian’s arguments too. But I don’t want to argue with him. So I answered, “I’m an optimist.” I can tell his eyes widen when I continued, “I think if I labelled myself to either one of that, I’ll become a pessimist Christianlike you, I thought to myself.

Annie, my dear, life is hard. Anyone who want to live a godly life in union with Christ Jesus will be persecuted. Bad things will happened. So if persecution is a sure thing, why we need to add more troubles by being pessimist? I want to be an optimist Christian! Pessimism and Christianity don’t mix. Why? Because Christians have every reason to be optimistic about life here on earth and life eternal. As. C.H. Spurgeon observed, “Our hope in Christ for the future is the mainstream of our joy.” But sometimes, we may fall prey to worry, frustration, anxiety, and our hearts become heavy. What’s needed is a large dose of perspective, God’s healing touch, and the Word of God: “Give your worries to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will never let good people down” (Psalms 55:22).

Let us make a promise to ourselves today: vow to be a hope-and-joy-filled Christian. Think optimistically about our lives, our families, our future together and our friends. Let us trust in God’s love, hope and don’t fear of the future. Our future is belongs to God. When we filled our hearts with hope and gladness, we can share our God-given optimism with our friends and loved ones.

A very close friend once told me, “If you genuinely believe that God is good and that His Son died for your sins, how you can be pessimistic about your future? The answer, of course, is that you can’t!” I agreed. But Annie, sometime we forget that actually Jesus’ resurrection and ascension (not only his work on the cross) are the biggest reasons why we have to be an optimistic Christians. Jesus is Alive! Jesus the Victorious! Curse are the anxious and sad-face Christians! Optimism is a choice. When we choose to trust God for everything, we can rest in His promises to take care of us the way He sees fit. Knowing that we have a loving heavenly Father who desires to care for us and provide for us should give every child of God a reason for true optimism.

By God’s grace, I pray that you and I will be filled with God’s joy.
Don’t forget to text me today okay. Smile my love.


                                                                                                                                    Miss you very much,
Richard
P.S: I’m also optimistic about marrying you
(Am I sound too preach-y lately? ha2)

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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Letters to Annie: Lasting Relationships are Built Upon Trust and Honesty


Dear Annie,

            It will always be you. I can’t imagine what my life will be if there is no you. When you said you love me, I trust you. I trust you to be faithful because you also want me to be faithful to you too and I want nothing else, except for you to be happy. I read in the book of Zechariah 8:16, “These are the things you must do: Speak truth to one another; render honest and peaceful judgements in your gates.” God is the God of truth, and to trust is to tell the truth. Let us be transparent to one another.

            From my observations and personal failures, I learned that lasting relationships are built upon honesty and trust. Without trust, people soon drift apart. But with trust, relationships grow and flourish (But envy, jealousy and unwarranted suspicious are trio-evils in relationships). Even though we’re not married yet, I like what Ed Young recommends to young couples in his book, “Trust is like ‘money in the bank’ in a marriage. There must be a reasonable amount of it on deposit to ensure the security of a marital union.” As Christians, by God’s grace we should always be trustworthy, encouraging and loyal. “The single most important element in any human relationship,” writes Catherine Marshall, “is honesty – with oneself, with God, and with others.” We should be thankful for the people who are loyal to us. I’m very thankful for you.

            I asked myself, Do I want Annie to trust me? and Do I want my friends to trust me? Yes, yes for both. Then I thought, if I want people to trust me, I should first be a friend that they can trust. We first become who we want people to be and to treat us. We don’t demand trust. We grow it, we give it away – we earn it. If we ever having an issue of trust in the future, let’s take Charles Swindoll advice: “Whatever you do when conflicts arise, be wise. Fight against jumping to quick conclusions and seeing only your side. There are always two sides on the streets of conflict. Look both ways.”

 I want to build a firm foundation of trust with you – no shaky foundations. A foundation of meaningful relationships. If we want our relationship to last, trust God, be honest and trustworthy. But then again, let’s not too focus on ourselves. God is our greatest priority, without Him we are nothing. Psalms 20:7 says, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses [some in human relationships]: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God (Bracket mine).
God be honour and gloried in us.

I call you tonight.
I miss you.

Your faithful,
Richard

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Jesus challenges the Pharisees: Who You Come to See? Are You Displaying a Christ-like Disciple?


One day some Pharisees and teachers of religious law arrived from Jerusalem to see Jesus. They noticed that some of his disciples failed to follow the Jewish ritual of hand washing before eating. (The Jews, especially the Pharisees, do not eat until they have poured water over their cupped hands, as required by their ancient traditions. Similarly, they don’t eat anything from the market until they immerse their hands in water. This is but one of many traditions they have clung to – such as their ceremonial washing of cups, pitchers, and kettles). So the Pharisees and teachers of religious law asked him, ‘Why don’t your disciples follow our age-old tradition? They eat without first performing the hand-washing ceremony” (Mark 7:1-5, NLT).
                                                                                                                
 Many were coming to “see” Jesus because they thought he might be the promised Messiah; some of these people were honest seekers who truly wanted to know him. Others weren’t quite as involved, but they came with good motives, too, wanting to see the one who was teaching, healing, and changing lives. But these religious leaders came “to see Jesus” and then the next verse says, “they noticed.” They, however, were neither seeking information nor merely satisfying their curiosity. They actually came to scrutinize Jesus as they tried to find fault in order to judge and silence him. Unable to discover anything wrong with Jesus’ actions, they turned to his followers and “noticed that some of his disciples” hadn’t washed their hands before eating.

After seeing the non-traditional actions, the religious leaders asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples follow our age-old tradition?”  [I smiled] At least they were honest about the fact that this was their tradition, not a divine command, although they often gave their traditions and interpretations of Scripture almost the same authority as God’s Word. Since the common people did not follow all of the extra restrictions and rituals of the Pharisees, they considered them ignorant. The fact that Jesus’ disciples did not follow all of the laws of the Pharisees’ tradition led them to resent Jesus’ teachings and try to discredit him. According to the Pharisees, if Jesus were truly a rabbi, he and his disciples would follow all of the traditions. The Pharisees had religious blinders on their eyes, seeing only their own rituals and traditions.

Do you know? During the centuries since the Jews’ return from Babylonian captivity, Jewish religious leaders had added hundreds of religious traditions to God’s laws, regulating every part of Jewish life. The Pharisees and scribes considered these traditions to be as binding as God’s law itself. They were wrong, of course, as Jesus pointed out.

Think about this: Firstly, today people still come “to see Jesus” with a variety of motives. Some sincerely seek the Saviour. Many look with curiosity. But we still have cynics and critics who try to pick apart Jesus and his followers, looking for problems and negative evidence. Maybe it’s good to ask our own motive “to see Jesus,” it is mere curiosity? Find faults? Or really want to know the truth? What drew you to Jesus? How did you first come “to see” him?  Secondly, although the religious leaders’ attitudes and actions toward Jesus and the disciples were wrong, we know that in reality people often form their opinions about Jesus by watching his followers. As those called “Christians” (‘Christ-ones”), we bear his name and enhance or detract from his reputation. So, what opinion of Jesus do you think people might form just by watching you?

Please continue to read Mark 7:6-23 to know Jesus’ response.
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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Letters to Annie: Substance is More Important than Appearance


Dear Annie,

            I love you just like you are. You’re beautiful. No doubt. If you think you’re not or you think people don’t seem to look at you that way – who care? – I, I earnestly think and confess that you’re beautiful. But you must understand that I first fall in love with you is not because you’re (just) beautiful but because you’re God-fearing woman and you’re freakingly love Jesus. Even though you always say you’re “not perfect” (of course, my dear) you know that in Christ you’re perfectly perfect. It is perfectly okay.

            You see, we’re living in a society that is obsessed with “looking good.” Jesus said this to the Pharisees, “You make yourself look good in front of people, but God knows what is really in your hearts. What is important to people is hateful in God’s sight” (Luke 16:15). Everywhere we turn, we’re confronted with a steady stream of subtle messages that try to convince us to look good. Like Brennan Manning said, “The temptation of the age is to look good without being good.” These messages are not only false, but they are also dangerous to our spiritual and emotional health. Remember the day you said to me that you doesn’t care much about my look? I was very relieved. That’s another reason why I fall for you.

            I want to build a better life and stronger relationships with you. So here’s a great place for us to start: worry less about appearances and more about substance. Let’s do this! For sure, when we do this, we may find that we’re a little out of step with the world, which is – perfectly okay – who care? “You will quickly be deceived if you look only the outward appearance of men,” writes Thomas A. Kempis, “and you will often be disappointed if you seek comfort and gain in them.” After all, the world sees people and things as they appear to be, but God sees them as they really are. People look “at the outward appearance, but [God] look at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). And that’s the way we should see them, too.  The old-time saying is forever true: “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”

The world shouts, “Appearance! Appearance! Appearance!” But God whom we worship affirms, “Heart, heart, heart, I look at your heart!” My Annie, in Christ our hearts are renewed day by day – pure and holy – unto God. Can decent, courteous and simple appearances be our mottos? (But once in a while there is nothing wrong with grandeur and gorgeous appearances. In the end of the day, God looks at the heart). May we don’t be too worried about what we look like on the outside but be more concerned about the kind of persons we are on the inside.

God loves us just like we are.
Jesus loves you just like you are.
In the same way (maybe less than Jesus), I love you just like you are.

I never tired of saying,
“I miss you”,
Richard

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Monday, October 19, 2015

Jesus is More than the Prophesied Prophet: Lord, Messiah, Emmanuel


“When the people saw him do this miraculous sign, they exclaimed,
Surely, he is the Prophet we have been expecting!’
When Jesus saw that they were ready to force him to be their king,
he slipped away into the hills by himself
” (John 6:14-15,
NLT).

The people were impressed. What Jesus had done in multiplying the loaves and fish was a sign that Jesus was not a mere mortal. At the very least he was the prophesied Prophet to come. The people saw and filled their stomachs as a result of this sign – who could have missed it? And this led them to believe that Jesus was “the Prophet” Moses predicted (Deuteronomy 18:15-18). Apostle John who wrote this Gospel doesn’t say the people were wrong to think of Jesus as “the Prophet,” but the next verse (“force him to be their king”) shows they thought this Prophet should be a political leader. In this they were wrong.

Do you know? Elisha foreshadowed this Prophet (who was one and the same as the Messiah) to come. According to 2 Kings 4:42-44, Elisha fed one hundred men with twenty loaves (a 5:1 ratio), but Jesus fed five thousand with five loaves (that’s a 1,000:1 ratio!). Isaiah 25:6-9 says the Messiah will prepare a banquet or feast for all people, Jews and Gentiles. This miracle showed Jesus to be the actual, real Messiah. (By the way, most Muslim scholars and teachers claim “the Prophet” that Moses predicted was prophet Muhammad. But by a careful study on the context of this verses of prophesy, this claim can easily be ignore. I have written a booklet entitled Muhammad in the Bible? to prove that this claim [and some other claims] is wrong. You may ask for your copy by commenting below).

The people wanted a king, a leader who would free Israel from Rome during the New Testament times. The people expected this of the coming Messiah-King (but Jesus first coming was to be Messiah-Servant. Jesus came as lowly servant, soon his second coming, he will rule as King of the Universe). When Jesus realized their intentions, he left. Jesus’ Kingdom would not be an earthly one established by a vote of popularity. He came for the people, not popularity. In the wilderness, Satan had already offered Jesus this same opportunity for political power (Matthew 4:1-11). Jesus said no then, he said no here too. Jesus knew immediate opportunity was nothing compared to what His Father had planned.

Think about this: Later we find that the people may have been more interested in Jesus’ meeting their physical needs than anything else (see John 6:22-40). If we were there, will we noticing about Jesus’ true identity and power? As the disciples watched Jesus, they began to discover his person and purpose. More than feeding the hungry people on a hillside, Jesus was revealing his true identity and limitless power. In each incident, each interaction with the Lord, the disciples understood a bit more. Pray that God may give us increased realization of Jesus’ character and holiness and power. We should thank God for revealing Himself through the living Word, Jesus and the written Word, the Bible. Jesus is more than “the Prophet,” he is God in the flesh, he is the Messiah, he is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords – the Son of the living God, Emmanuel.

THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.


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Letters to Annie: Let Us Beware of Temptations (Forgive Me?)


Dear Annie,

            I miss you more today. I know you feel the same way. This morning I feel I want to hold your hand. I wish to kiss you. And then… my imaginations failed me, I’ve sinned against God and you. I’m sorry. It’s true that we lives in a temptation-filled world and we are all sinners (Both of us are redeemed-forgiven-sinners). The devil is hard at work in our neighbourhoods, and so are his helpers. Someone once said, “Give Satan an inch and he’ll be a ruler.” Here in the 21st century, the bad people are working around the clock to lead you and me astray. That’s why we must remain vigilant. Be alert and prayerful.

            In a letter to believers, Apostle Peter offers a stern warning: “Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). What was true in the New Testament times is equally true in our own. Satan tempts his prey and then devours them (and it’s up to us – and only us – to make sure that we’re not one of the ones being devoured!). Warren Wiersbe advised, “A Christian should no more defile his body than a Jew would defile the temple.” For the Jews, the Temple is a sacred and holy place; likewise, we have to treat our bodies as sacred and holy unto God.

            As a young couple and adults in search of godly relationships, you and I must beware because temptations are everywhere. Satan is determined to win (even though he is losing against Christ); we must be equally determined that he does not. “Above all,” said Thomas A Kempis, “we must be especially alert against the beginnings of temptation, for the enemy is more easily conquered if he is refused admittance to the mind and is met beyond the threshold when he knocks.” Let’s be strong in the Lord by His strength and power. Temptations will surely come, but we don’t have to fall for it. We have Jesus or more accurately, Jesus have us. I respect you. We must take care of one another. I know you will.

God will surely help us because “no temptation has seized [us] except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let [us] be tempted beyond what [we] can bear. But when [we] are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that [we] can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13, bracket mine). God gives us wisdom and humble hearts to get through every temptations! Let us pray every day for this relationships and for young couples and youths around us. May we become salt and light of the world around us – that the Father in Heaven will be glorified. Amen.

I will never imagine those sinful imaginations again. I promise. I’m sorry. Forgive me?

                                                                                                I miss you,
Richard

THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.
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Sunday, October 18, 2015

Letters to Annie: Thank Your for Insisting Upon Mutual Respect


Dear Annie,

As I read the Scripture today, my heart-fall on this verse: “Here is a simple rule-of-thumb for behaviour: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God’s Law and Prophets and this is what you get” (Matthew 7:12, The Message). This verse remind me of you. Us. Annie, do you remember when you said to me that you respect me and in return I should respect you too? You’re wise. As a man, I should say it first. My older friend once asked me, “Do you respect yourself enough to demand that your date respect you, too? Please, please, please answer that question with a resounding YES!” I nodded my head. “I told my youths, especially the young girls,” my desperate friend continued, “if you don’t respect yourself, other people may find it easy to take advantage of you.

He urged me to understand this: the more you respect yourself and your partner, the more likely you are to make smart decisions and the smarter decisions you make, the more reasons you’ll have to respect yourself. This statement reminds me of my reading from Beth Moore’s book which I highlighted “If you are willing to honour a person out of respect for God, you can assured that God will honour you.” So Annie, I asked my friend, how to avoid making such bad decisions and get self-respect? He gave me four tips: 1) Don’t do things that you know to be immoral, imprudent, or impulsive; 2) Make the conscious effort to invest yourself in activities that improve your own life and the lives of others; 3) Associate yourself with people who encourage you to think and behave in ways that are pleasing to God; and 4) Ask your Heavenly Father to guide your path and direct your thoughts. Then he told me to tell you: “Make sure Richard respect you and you respect yourself, and both of you respect God. Demand this from him!” I wrote it down because he looked very serious.

Thank you for respecting me – and I respect you. May God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit be honour and respect in our lives. That’s for now. I hope to hear from you soon. I miss you so much.

This much,
Richard

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Friday, October 16, 2015

Jesus Gives in Abundance even Beyond Our Wildest Expectations


Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he gave the bread to the disciples, who distributed it to the people. They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftovers. About 5,000 men were fed that day, in addition to all the women and children!
(Matthew 14:19-21,
NLT).

Jesus, acting as the host of the soon-to-be banquet, took the loaves and fish, thanked God beforehand for the provision he was about to give, and then broke the loaves – and the miracle occurred in Jesus’ hands. He gave the bread to his disciples to then give “to the people.” He did the same thing with the fish. The disciples acted as waiters (reminds me of doing part-time as waiter at the Hilton and Riverside Hotel), taking the bread and fish, distributing it, and then returning to Jesus to get more. They continued to serve the crowd until everyone had had enough to eat.

What an amazing miracle. Before the eyes of the disciples and the gathered crowd, the small offering of food had somehow multiplied so that everyone had more than enough to eat. Through this miracle, God was authenticating Jesus as his Son and portraying the generous blessings of the Kingdom through the power of the Holy Spirit. Just as God had provided manna to the Israelites in the wilderness (Exodus 16) and had multiplied oil and flour for Elijah and the widow at Zarephath (1 Kings 17:7-16) and oil for Elisha (2 Kings 4:1-7), he was providing bread for the people on this day.

The people, especially those far from the scene, probably couldn’t see Jesus multiply the loaves and fish. On the other hand, they had been watching Jesus perform miracles all day. The disciples had also seen the healings, yet even they wondered about Jesus’ ability to provide food for them and the crowd. Jesus took that small donation and increased it to an incredible amount, plus leftovers! (“…twelve baskets of leftovers”). God can do anything. He can, and will, multiply what we give to him – beyond our wildest expectations. Think about this: God gives in abundance. If we take the first step in making our time, abilities, and other resources available to God, he will show us how greatly we can be used to advance God’s Kingdom.

If we just give God the little that we have,
We can trust Him to make it go around
(Gloria Gaither)

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Letters to Annie: Expect His Abundance


Dear Annie,

I miss you. But let this note become a reminder for us to stay focus on the Lord. Lord Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). When Jesus talks of the abundant life, is He talking about material riches or earthly fame? Hardly. The Son of God came to this world, not to give it prosperity, but to give it salvation. Salvation. Thankfully for us, Christians, our Saviour’s abundance is both spiritual and eternal; it never falters – even if we do – and it never dies. We need only to open our minds and hearts, to repent of our sins, to look to Him, and His grace become ours.

God’s gifts are available to all, but they are not guaranteed; those gifts must be claimed by those who choose to follow Jesus. As believers, we are free to accept God’s gifts, or not; that choice, and the consequences that result from it, are ours and ours alone.

As we go about our daily lives, may we accept God’s promise of spiritual abundance, and may we share it with a world in desperate need of the Master’s healing touch in our workplace, community and home. Abundant living may or may not include material wealth (Thanks God for everything!), but abundant living always includes the spiritual riches that you and I receive when we obey God’s Word. “If we were give all we wanted here,” writes Elisabeth Elliot, “our hearts would settle for this world rather than the next.” May our focus is always on the eternal. Annie, God give Himself to us – Jesus Christ – and in Him we can have abundant life! Amen.

I miss you
Your Mr,
Richard

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Jesus is Infinite and Omnipotent: Boy's Five Loaves and Two Fish Made All the Difference


Late in the afternoon the twelve disciples came to Jesus and said, ‘Send the crowds away to the nearby villages and farms, so they can find food and lodging for the night. There is nothing to eat here in this remote place.’ But Jesus said, ‘You feed them.’ ‘But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish,’ they answered. ‘Or are you expecting us to go and buy enough food for this whole crowd?’ For there were about 5,000 men there
(Luke 9:12-14,
NLT).

Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, ‘There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?’” (John 6:8-9)

The disciples were shocked by Jesus’ response and – so do I. They didn’t understand what he was saying. How could they possibly feed this huge crowd? Thus they gave him the typical reasons his request seemed impossible: too many people, no stores, no money. So Jesus told them to find out what they actually had (see Mark 6:38). A check of the resources yielded just a boy with five loaves of bread and two fish, a small boy’s lunch that he was willing to share for Jesus’ use.

The Bible doesn’t tell us what the boy was thinking or even where his parents were, for that matter. Was he the only one who had thought ahead? He was risking a lot, turning over his lunch to Jesus. We don’t know the interchange between the boy and the disciples, but they brought the food to Jesus. In all the accounts of this incident in the Gospels, we read nothing about the disciples giving of their resources to Jesus. Instead, they expressed their grave concerns about the problem and their doubts about any possible solutions. In contrast, the boy gave Jesus everything he had, even though it wasn’t much in light of the huge need. The boy’s faith in Jesus, expressed by turning over his meager resources, made all the difference.

Think about this: Because we are painfully aware of our weaknesses and limitations, we can easily think we have nothing to offer to God. After all, we might think, I’m only a housewife or I’m only a layperson or I’m only a college student or I haven’t been a Christian very long or I’m poor. We and our resources are meager, but our God is infinite and omnipotent, with unlimited resources. He wants us to release control, to turn everything over to him. Yes, we are poor; He is rich! Yes, we are finite; He is infinite! Yes, we are weak and doubtful; He is omnipotent! With all that we have, with Jesus, we can make a difference. 

THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.

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