Genesis 1: 3 “And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.”

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  • The story of creation is a reminder of how God created a world where He could dwell with His creatures and have fellowship with us.
  • On day 1, before anything else, God made sure that there was light.
  • John  1:9 tells us that the light of the world is Jesus. (“The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.”)
  • In order for us to shine this light, we must have Jesus in us:
    • We love because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)
    • We are able to serve because Jesus says that we are to offer our lives for our brothers. (1 John 3:16)
    • We are able to do good because God has designed us for that very purpose. (Ephesians 2:10)
  • Jesus tells us, “14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

A-One… A-Two… A-Three… A-CCOUNTING!

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“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:21

We recently discussed the topic of how to handle money biblically in our couples’ bible study. Some of the points made were the following:

  1. Putting God first in our life includes putting HIM in charge of our finances.
  2. Tithing — It is not 10% for God and 90% for us. Instead. ALL of it is God’s. When you offer the 10%, ask God for wisdom for the 90%.
  3. Tithing is not the same as offering. The verse “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” from 2 Corinthian 9:6 was referring to “offerings.” Tithes were a given in the New Testament; there was no question about it’s validity or anything like that.
  4. We are blessed to be a blessing. “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”- 2 Corinthians 9:8
  5. “One FLESH” = “One WALLET.” Husband and wife must talk and agree on financial goals, decisions and budget. We are to help each other and support one another in this area.

One of the suggestions made to help in financial management was to make a family budget and follow it with a clear and detailed accounting of one’s expenses. This is one point that I agree is a good idea, but I personally don’t do because I find it is too much work for somebody like me who doesn’t like numbers very much.  But this morning, I felt God give me a clarification on this matter.

Making a detailed budget and accounting ledger will only be helpful if it allows you to GIVE MORE for the kingdom of God and with much more cheerfulness in your heart as you do so. But if writing it down makes you realize how much you plan to give away and how little you have left  and it takes away the joy of giving, then something is not right. If you tend to look at your balance sheet as a means to make yourself feel justified that you can’t afford to tithe regularly… hmmm… that doesn’t seem very balanced at all. If seeing all those numbers on paper (or on your computer) makes you look at the amount you’ve already decided to give and wish you could use it for your own needs and wants; then it might breed the wrong kind of spirit (a covetous spirit) within you. In other words, if counting your money all the time makes you GIVE LESS, or give with a HEAVY HEART, then it might be time to do a “heart check.”

BUT, if putting down all your expenses neatly and in an organized manner gives you more freedom to GIVE MORE, then good for you! If after comparing your budget and the current month’s expenses, you find yourself excited because you realize you can actually allot a bigger amount for charity, then that’s great! If your balance sheet complete with bar graphs show you God’s faithfulness in providing all your needs and giving you with even more to share, then that’s wonderful! And if seeing all those numbers and counting all your blessings allows you to GIVE MORE with MORE JOY in your heart, then by all means, count it all!

Our family does it this way; we’ve decided on our financial faith goals and vision and with that in mind, we have a budget for all the major stuff (tithes, rent, housing loan, monthly internet fee, etc) and a working budget for our groceries and other expenses. As soon as the salary comes in, we settle all the major stuff, then just spend the rest according to our means (making decisions based on past experience as to what we can actually afford). What works for us may not work for you, but I’m just sharing just in case it does help you.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, it all boils down to how “ACCOUNTING” affects your heart. That is what really matters. For where you put your treasure in (whether you like to count it or not), there your heart will be. 🙂

The Bible in 90 Days Journal: 2Chronicles (Foolish Wisdom)

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Solomon brought Pharaoh’s daughter up from the City of David to the palace he had built for her, for he said, “My wife must not live in the palace of David king of Israel, because the places the ark of the Lord has entered are holy.” (2 Chronicles 8:11 NIV)

Solomon was clearly disobeying God’s instructions (which is not to intermarry with foreign women) when he married Pharaoh’s daughter and yet was careful not to let her live in a “holy place” lest he offend God. Hmmm…

God is not pleased with such half-hearted obedience and it eventually led to Solomon’s downfall. He put all those laws in place for a reason — He even said why (because the foreign women would lead them to worship the pagan gods), but we still see the wisest person who ever lived ignore God’s voice and still commit a very foolish mistake.

How many times have we also chosen to obey God’s Words that seem acceptable to us while at the same time consciously ignoring other commands that would cause us inconvenience?

“Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe.” – Proverbs 28:26

We cannot choose for ourselves what are the things that would be acceptable to God or not. To trust our own wisdom would be very foolish. Deliberately choosing to obey one aspect of God’s instructions thinking it is more important, while at the same time knowingly disregarding another is a recipe for failure. God has set up a standard of holiness and we need to know His heart if we are to understand how to follow Him correctly. True wisdom comes from listening and obeying God’s voice, whether it seems convenient or not.

“To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his.” – Job 12:13

The Bible in 90 days Journal: Exodus and Leviticus (Much Ado About Offerings)

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Reading through Leviticus was a much bigger struggle than Genesis and Exodus. I got overwhelmed with all the specific instructions about the what, when, and how to offer sacrifices; namely, the burnt offering, grain offering, peace offering, sin offering, guilt offering and ordination offering. Truly, there is “much ado about offerings.”

However, as I was reading through the chapters, I suddenly had a realization: If the Israelites had been commanded to make all these different offerings of animals and grain, then it must be assumed that they as a matter of fact had a lot of animals and a significant amount of grain with them. It was after all, from these daily sacrifices that the Levites get their portion and they even had regulations where and up to when they could eat it.

In Exodus 12:32, the Pharaoh sent them away with their flocks and herds after the death of the firstborn of Egypt, and so we know where the animals came from. Now as for the grain, it seemed unlikely for the people to plant and cultivate wheat in the desert, so it would be most probable that they brought a lot of grain with them as well when they left Egypt and crossed the Red Sea.

With this realization came a big question: If they had all these sources of food, then why would the Israelites complain of “starving to death” on the desert? They had their animals and grain which they could have eaten!

Here’s the scripture wherein they grumbled against the Lord:

The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. 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.” (Exodus 16:1-3 NIV)

This prompted a bit of researching (another stall in my daily reading, but I couldn’t help it; I have to try and make sense of what I’m reading, right?). Unfortunately, it appears that scripture is silent as to the specific source of grain while they were in the desert. They probably brought some from Egypt, it is possible they traded with other peoples while in the desert, or maybe they found some grain in the desert — it’s all speculation. However, since God commanded them to offer it, it would be safe to assume that God also provided them with a source where to get such offering.

What we do know is that for 40 years, God provided them with manna or the “bread from heaven” to eat. They had quail in the evening and manna in the morning the day after they complained. God made sure their needs were met, even though they weren’t always gracious nor deserving of God’s generosity.

The Israelites did not lack God’s provision. They lacked faith. And perseverance. And persevering faith.

Today, during our Praise and Worship, we sang the song, “Ikaw Lamang” which talks about God’s goodness and grace. As I sang it today, it became a personal acknowledgment of how God chose to show his goodness to me; how He has given me such a wonderful family; how He has blessed us with all that we need and more. I realized more deeply how God, by His grace and mercy, has allowed that a proud, spolied, fault-finding, rebellious and always complaining, miserable individual such as myself would ever be called a child of God.

Grace: “God’s unmerited favor.” Being blessed even when we don’t deserve it.

I found myself humbled at His presence, as I pieced together the different things He has led me to ponder on these last few days. I have been reflecting on how God has never allowed me to experience deep suffering and hard trials, and yet as a child and even as an adult, I was angry at God and complained about things that others would already count as blessings in comparison to their own suffering.

To put it simply, I know I’ve had an easy life compared to most others, and still, I spend a lot of time grumbling against God.

Not very far from what the Israelites in the desert did, right? They were blessed far more than any other nation; they have seen God’s mighty hand as they were kept safe from the 10 plagues; they saw how God made the Egyptians give them silver and gold as they left Egypt and they came out of bondage with much wealth; they witnessed how God parted the Red Sea and punished those who had oppressed them;  they were freed from slavery and was given a wonderful promise from God that they were to come to their abundant inheritance of the land of milk and honey.

With a renewed heart, I continued to sing to the Lord, asking forgiveness for my shortsightedness and thanking Him for His grace. I sang to ask for His help to always see His goodness in everything and to commit myself and my whole family once again to serve Him with all our hearts, soul and minds; to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice; an offering that will reach the heart of God…

To Love God with all that we are, and with all that we’ve got.

We may not always get it right, indeed we will fail often; but with God’s grace, we have a reason to have a faith that perseveres;  a confidence that “He who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”(Philippians 1:6)

Almighty God, You are soooo GOOD! We love You, LORD!

The Bible in 90 days Journal: Genesis (Lot Saved by God’s Grace)

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(Note: These are personal reflections regarding certain verses that caught my attention as I am journeying to read the Bible from cover-to-cover in 90 days. I am not a bible scholar or anything of that sort. I am but an ordinary person serving an extraordinary God.) 

THE STORY OF LOT: A Picture of God’s Saving Grace

With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.” When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them. (Genesis 19:15, 16 NIV)

What an amazing story of how God takes care of His chosen ones. Even if Lot was a stubborn sheep, hesitant to obey and not deserving any favors considering his many failures, the Good Shepherd remained faithful and kept Lot from being destroyed, even it it meant He had to purposely “grasp his hand” and lead them out of the city of Sodom and Gomorrah.

So both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their father. The older daughter had a son, and she named him Moab; he is the father of the Moabites of today. (Genesis 19:36, 37 NIV)

What men do for evil, God is able to turn for good. After receiving such mercy from God to spare their lives when Sodom and Gomorrah was destroyed, this little family who fled to the mountains sinned the unthinkable. But the offspring became the father of the Moabites, from which Ruth came from. Ruth was the mother of Obed (by her union with Boaz), who was the father of Jesse, who was the father of David.

The Bible in 90 days Journal: Genesis (The fall of man)

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THE GREAT DECEPTION AND FALL OF MAN

It is common knowledge that Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden and evil came to our world through their sin of disobedience. Satan deceived Eve by making her doubt God’s Words, and he made the temptation sound wonderful by making an offer that by eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they could “BE LIKE GOD.”

““You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and YOU WILL BE LIKE GOD, knowing good and evil.” – Genesis 3:4-5

This was actually Satan’s own desire as we read how he wanted to raise his throne above the stars of God and said, “I will make myself like the Most High.” (Isaiah 14;13, 14)

How ironic because this desire to “be like God” was in fact, God’s plan and purpose for the human race.

“So God CREATED MANKIND IN HIS OWN IMAGE, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27).”

From the start, God had in mind that man was to “be like Him” (made in His image and likeness). By eating the fruit from the forbidden tree, Adam and Eve bypassed God’s original plan which was in all likelihood, to have us undergo a certain “processing” of some sort so that we could be more and more like Him. When Adam and Eve were still connected to the Spirit of God, all wisdom and knowledge was given to them as it pleased God to so. When the serpent made them question God’s motives of placing a rule for them,  they took it upon themselves to use their own efforts to make this desired thing of “being like God” happen; they did not let God be God. This, of course, displeased our Maker, and our loving God who is also the God of justice punished them for their sin.

It seems that this desire to “be like God” and to exalt oneself was a constant struggle for man, for even right after the great flood, the people gathered together and said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, SO THAT WE MAY MAKE A NAME FOR OURSELVES; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

To me, what is striking is how people so long to achieve something that God has in fact already designed for man in the first place. Man tends to ignore “Master Planner” and tries to achieve the goal by his own strength, wisdom and efforts, rather than work with the Creator Himself and be led to become what He has created us to be, which again, ironically, is to be like Him.

But God, being the sovereign God who holds everything in His might hand, did not give up on mankind because of what happened that fateful day in the garden. Instead, God’s purpose remains, and to those whom He has chosen to believe, we are being perfected from glory to glory, with the goal to be more and more like Christ, ending in perfection with our glorified bodies when we will be like Christ and see Him face to face.

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, CREATED TO BE LIKE GOD in true righteousness and holiness.” – Ephesians 4:22-24

“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are BEING TRANSFORMED INTO HIS IMAGE WITH EVER-INCREASING GLORY, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” – 2 Corinthians 3:18

“For those God foreknew he also predestined to BE CONFORMED TO THE IMAGE OF HIS SON, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” – Romans 8:29

(Note: This particular revelation is something I learned from the ST505 course in http://christiancourses.com/ from Dr. Roger Nicole. As I started the the Bible in 90 days plan, it was one of the first things that came to mind as I read the book of Genesis.)

Of small sins and medium sins and big sins…

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The world believes we have the right to get angry with someone like Janet Napoles who allegedly stole P10 billion from the people’s money. She has a “pig’s heart,” people would say, and she deserves to “rot in hell”. The world says we have a right to condemn a Mark Joseph Solis who had the nerve to steal someone else’s photograph and win in an international competition, but whose deed was later found out and is now subject to international ridicule and anger. He brought shame to the Philippines as well and we may think it serves him right if he goes to jail for what he did.

The world thinks we have the right to judge and condemn people who are “evil,’ – those whose sins are far greater and weightier than the mistakes of any of us mere mortals. Our earthly conscience tries to comfort us with the fact that we deserve to feel good about ourselves because we know we will never be as “bad” as them. Our sins are “small-time” in comparison to theirs, and for that, we are thankful. Most of us are like the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable in Luke 18:9-14 who thought he was a lot better than others and said, “‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 

However, God’s Word – the Bible – tells us differently. James 2:10 tells us, “For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws.”

The world’s standard seeks to separate evil into categories:

  1. little, negligible-will-soon-be-forgotten sin
  2. medium, needs-more-time-to-heal sin
  3. gigantic, world-impacting-unforgivable sin

In contrast, God’s Word is the “great equalizer,” for Romans 3:10 says, “As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous–not even one.” In God’s eyes, we are all sinners, no matter how big or small our transgression, “sin” is “sin” and it has separated us from the love of God.

“All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us all.” – Isaiah 53:6

Little sinners, medium sinners and big sinners alike are all LOST —  some have wandered just a bit and all they need is a little holler to come back home; some are lost a little farther and would need fetching; while others are completely lost, are in the dark, or at the clutches of an enemy such as a lion or even drowning in the stream and need rescuing.

The truth is, whether we just need a holler, we need fetching or we need rescuing, we are all lost without a shepherd. And it is only by the “Good Shepherd” – Jesus Christ , who gave His life for us on the cross — that we may have peace once again with God.

Remember that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. The tax collector in Jesus’ parable went home justified before God because he recognized he is a sinner and sought mercy from God. The Pharisee on the other hand, thought he was already justified (through what he has done) by his proud attitude and thus, his coming to the temple was simply a show of religiosity and not the kind of true faith that leads to God’s saving grace.

And so we read, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18). What does this mean?

It means to be humble enough to recognize, we are all like Janet Napoles and Mark Joseph Solis who are lost and deserves to be damned in hell because we have all sinned. But, God’s grace of salvation is open to them just as it is for us. We are not better than anybody else. We all need Jesus. So, learn to forgive as God forgave.  Ask God to help us love as He has loved us. Let us be ready to show kindness, mercy and grace, especially for those who seem to deserve it the least.

And,

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” – Romans 12:21

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