Count your Blessings

We are “blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ”

I don’t know if you can identify with me, pero parang mas tight ang Christmas na ito compared last year. Tight in a way na parang mas maraming outflow kaysa inflow. Sa tingin ko lang naman, though aminado naman ako that in one way or another, malaking factor ang mga unplanned expenditures ko this year.  

I missed blogging, really. Sa sobrang dami kong ganap this last quarter, halos wala akong oras na harapin ang laptop ko to jot down my thoughts. Marami akong blog ideas to write about kaso nanatili na lang sila sa notes section ng cellphone ko, nalipasan na ng relevance ang majority. Salamat sa holiday, kahit paano napahinga.

I read the first chapter of Ephesians the day before Christmas. I loved how alive and timely the word of God could be! As of that moment, two of my friends lost a loved one. I can’t imagine how totally different this Christmas will be for them. But the word of God is full of assuring words – that we are “blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). How loving can the Lord be that even in the darkest moments of our lives, we can still see the “silver lining”, as Catriona Gray nails it. I just pray for the Holy Spirit’s comforting embrace be upon them in this trying times.

Going back to Ephesians 1, I recognized how easy it is for most of us to look for what’s lacking rather than appreciate the things that we enjoy. Mas madali kasi ma-appreciate ang mga materyal na bagay kaysa mga blessings na hindi mo naman nahahawakan. Yet the Apostle Paul’s thanksgiving is not much of the material things that he has, but the spiritual blessings every believer enjoys in Christ.

God has adopted us into His family. He graciously purchased with the blood of Jesus and forgave our sins. He has showered us with kindness, along with wisdom and understanding. He has included us in his eternal redemptive plan of bringing everything together under the authority of Christ. He has given us an inheritance through Jesus Christ. And if God’s believability does not convince you, He has given us a seal – the promised Holy Spirit – as a guarantee. Hindi ba sobrang blessed natin spiritually?


We may not have a lot of material things to count, but our fingers would not be enough to count the spiritual blessings we have in Christ Jesus.

If life is just about accumulation of material things, siguro nga napaka-kawawa natin as Christians. Especially those who gave up a lot for their faith. If life is about worldly wealth, malamang nasa dulo tayo ng pila. Kasi naman our standards for living are counter-cultural, beyond normal kung iisipin. We consider ourselves blessed when we give; instead of getting even, we forgive; when insulted, we turn the other cheek; when we want to be great, we serve; and when we want to live, we die to ourselves.

But life isn’t about wealth accumulation, and material things do not mean the world to us. If the world considers us poor based on its standards, it doesn’t matter. We know for ourselves that we are rich beyond the riches this world has to offer. We may not have a lot of material things to count, but our fingers would not be enough to count the spiritual blessings we have in Christ Jesus.

Dun pa lang sa joy of salvation, panalo na tayo e.

Let me join the Apostle Paul in this prayer: “I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance” (Ephesians 1:18).

You are beyond blessed. Receive that.

Behind the Scenes

God works even behind the scenes

From Acts 27-28

May mga pagkakataon na mahirap para sa atin na makita ang kamay at mga gawa ng Diyos kapag tayo ay nasa gitna ng pagsubok. People say that we should keep the faith, we have to remain strong, and other well-intentioned encouragements. Pero ang totoo, minsan mas ramdam natin ang pain na dala ng problema kaysa providence ni Lord. Faith indeed is an ever-developing virtue sa atin. We have to make it flourish in our life.

Pero what’s amazing sa work ni Lord, even in the sidelines and behind the scenes ng buhay natin, evident Siya. Hindi Niya kailangan ng approval natin, ng audience natin for Him to begin working wonders. Kumikilos Siya in ways na hindi natin namamalayan. Advanced Siya mag-isip!

When Paul was being transported to Rome, yung sinasakyan nilang barko ay nasira ng bagyo. Hindi lang basta shipwreck ang nangyari – totally devastated, naubos ang lahat ng kanilang mga gamit, nagkandagutom-gutom sila, at halos mawalan na ng buhay at pag-asa. It was a very challenging episode sa buhay ni Paul.

But they were all spared. May plano si Lord. Napadpad sila sa isla ng Malta where a lot of miracles happened. Nagkataon na nandun si Paul to minister to the sick people of the island. Ministry call for the faithful servant. Pero para sa mga kasama ni Paul – everything that had happened was a mishap. It was a close call of death.

Iba-iba sila nang naging pananaw sa nangyari. Pero si Lord, iisa lang ang gustong iparating – that He is in full and total control of everything.

As they we’re doing what they can to go on with their respective lives and duties sa isla ng Malta, God has made them so favorable sa mga tao. They were a composition of prisoners and prison guards, of Jews and non-Jews, of Christians and non-Christians. Yet they all became objects of favor from the people. At ang lahat ng nawala nila sa shipwreck ay muling naibalik through the generosity of the people.

This is an example of how God carries His work as we carry His work. He does what He’s good at – doing miracles and leaving us in awe, habang tayo ay nagtitiwala at nagpapatuloy sa kung saan Niya tayo tinawag.

Paul and his companions were able to reach their destination in spite of the shipwreck that has happened because God worked even behind the scenes.

Go Back to “Bethel”

God met with Jacob at Bethel when he was still a needy person. And now that Jacob is already full to the brim, God commanded him to go back to Bethel.

Bethel is the place where Jacob first encountered the Lord. It was the place where he was given a dream and a promise. The place was originally called Luz, but Jacob renamed it Bethel because for him, it is where God resides – “house of God”. It was a special place, a refuge, a safe haven.

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Jacob landed on Bethel as he was fleeing from the wrath of his brother Esau whom he deceived. He was so broken then, fearful, helpless and without anything to go on living. But it was during that most trying time, when everything has been stripped away from him, that God made him a promise – “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

And in response, Jacob promised:

“If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.”

A few years passed and God has been faithful to His part of the promise. Jacob’s wealth has increased tremendously and he became a father to a huge household. Moreover, he has once again earned the trust and the forgiveness of his brother Esau. And true enough, God has brought him back to Bethel, with all of God’s promises fulfilled!

God met with Jacob at Bethel when he was still a needy person. And now that Jacob is already full to the brim, God commanded him to go back to Bethel. It is as if God wants him to look back on how things went in his life. God wants him to go back to his first altar, to where his faith begun.

Surprisingly for Jacob, he demanded his household to purify themselves and to give him their pagan idols to be buried in the ground. And as Jacob went to worship the Lord in Bethel, God once again confirmed His promises – and for the second time Jacob was blessed with the name Israel – a name change signifying that he is no longer identified with his past sins and mistakes.

If you are a Christian, like Jacob, we all have our “Bethel” where we first encountered the Lord. Our Bethel can be a place or even a person. While we all know that God is everywhere, Bethel is a special because you know you commune closer with God there.

Are you in a moment of loss and despair? Why not go back to your Bethel and take refuge there? If life’s anxieties has brought you to your knees, rest your case to God and find relief in Him. Or perhaps everything in your life is going well right now. Still, God will be pleased to meet you at Bethel. It doesn’t matter whatever season you are in, Bethel is where the God of the universe meets with the vulnerable you.

As you return to Bethel, think of the things you might need to bury: your pains? Your regrets? Maybe your achievements? Anything that takes off your focus from God can be a pagan idol that might need to be buried on the ground.

Go back to Bethel. God is waiting for you there. He will gladly refresh you with His promises to never leave you, and will remind you that you are no longer the same fearful, broken and helpless person you used to be. You are no longer “Jacob”, but “Israel”.

 

The #SuperBlueBloodMoon and How We View Life

Peeking through God’s glory and power is like looking through a telescope. We can see a glimpse, but not the whole picture. We can take a peek, but we can never comprehend Him in whole.

Much like the rest of the world, I also was very eager to witness the historic super blue blood moon that happened January 31. I even brought with me two orders of Spam fries courtesy of BFF Diner’s Felipe’s Chicken Fillet to munch while waiting for the spectacular celestial show (unfortunately, it didn’t last that long. Mabilis lang naubos haha!). I wished I should have brought chips and drinks din, as I never thought it would take us until almost 11pm. Buti na lang we decided to take a dinner first before embarking to a long night of “tayuan and tingalaan”.

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I was with Laarni and her two training mates, Facs and Mercs (yes that’s how they each other). Luckily, the moon and the skies did not disappoint us. The sky was very clear and I can’t remember any sight of clouds the whole duration. I am also fascinated how many people, mostly students, gathered in the grounds of PAGASA Astronomical Observatory in UP Diliman. May media presence pa! Nainggit pa nga ako sa mga may dalang panglatag sa damo, parang ang sarap maki-higa. Hahaha!

I tried to capture the moon with the puny phone camera, but what could I expect? It was like trying to eat a soup with a fork. Hindi kaya e. Mabuti na lang pwedeng maki-silip sa mga telescopes na naka-set up sa venue. At least may clearer view sa bloody red moon. Indeed, it was a sight to behold! Ni hindi ako nakaramdam ng pagkangalay sa for almost 2 hours! It was an amazing experience!

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Wala e, eto lang talaga kaya ng phone camera ko. Haha!

While I am staring at the moon that time, I can’t help but be amazed how great and awesome the works of the Lord is. Imagine, with just a word, things such as the light, the heavens and the moon came to existence! With just a word, all things, seen and unseen, living and non-living, came into being. Kung may ipinamamalas pang nakakamangha yung buwan na madalas na nating nakikita, how much more yung mga bagay na hindi pa naaabot ng ating mga mata?

My few seconds from the PAGASA telescope triggered my reflective mood, again.

The telescope and microscope basically has the same function: to magnify things which are barely noticeable with our naked eye. Yung mga bagay na masyado nang maliit para makita natin ang detalye, pinalalaki ng microscope and telescope for our sake. Para mas maappreciate natin, para mas mapag-aralan, para mas mamangha tayo.

But their major difference is that, microscope magnifies things that are too small for us to see, the telescope magnifies things that are too far for us to appreciate.

When it comes to our problems, we end up getting afraid and lost and exhausted whenever we look at it as though it is too big for us to handle, as if it is larger than life. Yes, problems and difficulties may sometimes seem insurmountable and overwhelming. I’ve been through that. Yung tipong hindi ka na makaahon sa dami ng trabaho, sa bigat ng pasanin, sa hirap ng pagsubok. But like anything placed under a microscope, problems, when magnified become more scary and unsolvable.

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Nag-set up sila ng projector para mas magnified mong makita yung moon.

Simply put, parang sa microscope, may mga pagkakataong pinapalaki natin ang mga bagay na maliliit, and then we convince ourselves na, oo nga, mahirap to, nakakatakot to. Then we end up feeling defeated and hopeless. Have you ever seen a specimen under a microscope? Ang hirap intindihin di ba? Yung ibang image pa nga, nakakatakot (I have on my mind images of bacteria na may mga cilia, cilia pa. Haha). Likewise, a problem magnified takes away the courage in us.

Punta naman tayo sa telescope. Telescopes are used to have a sight of things that are too far for us to see, like the moon and the stars. Maliit man tignan ang buwan at ang mga bituin sa gabi, pero alam naman natin na hindi siya isang bagay na maaari mong sungkitin. The moon and the stars are enormous in size. Only distance makes them look small. We use telescopes to appreciate them in a distance. To see how do they look. Unfortunately, we can only do so much with our telescopes. Hindi lahat ay kayang ibigay at ipakita sa atin ng telescopic lens. We can only have a glimpse of their glory.

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Laarni peeking through a telescope. Tapos ako sa kanya nakatingin. Hahaha! ❤

Peeking through God’s glory and power is like looking through a telescope. We can see a glimpse, but not the whole picture. We can take a peek, but we can never comprehend Him in whole. Kakapiraso, kakapinranggot lang ang kaya nating makita sa enormity ng glory ni Lord. And the best part? Everytime we try to have a glimpse of God, we get more and more amazed, na ayaw na nating tumigil! I remember parang ayaw ko nang umalis sa telescope that night sa UP Observatory, kung hindi lang sa mga nakapila sa likod ko haha! God’s majesty can never be captured even by the best and largest telescope the man has created. Imagine, hanggang ngayon dini-discover pa rin ang mga planets within and outside the solar system. Yet God has created the whole universe just with the power of His words!

May dalawang uri ng tao sa mundo base sa uri ng lens na madalas niyang tignan: ang microscopic or telescopic lens. People who view life through the microscope often look at problems too and ends up exhausted. Nauubusan ng lakas, napapagod kakahanap ng solusyon, nasasaid ang pananampalataya. Moreover, people who view life through the telescope often gets excited with the Lord and receives strength and encouragement from the enormity of God. The problem doesn’t go away instantly but he knows that God is bigger than any problem he may encounter.

Habang nasa UP Observatory ako, I felt reminded: “dear son, no matter how enormous your problems are, no matter how insurmountable your tasks may seem, always remember that I am bigger than any of your worries. I am greater than all of your concerns. If you need encouragement and reminder that I am just here beside you and you are not forgotten, just look at the sky. I am the One who created the sun, moon and the stars. I will carry you through.”

Thank you Lord. You are amazing! Salamat din po sa libreng pasilip sa telescope ng mga taga-PAGASA. Na-appreciate ko ang #SuperBlueBloodMoon.

Ikaw, how do you view life? Through a microscope, or through a telescope?

PS. Di ko lang talaga type ang Chemistry kahit nung highschool ako.

PPS. Pinangarap ko din kasing maging astronaut dati, hence my bias. Hahaha!

Photo credits: unsplash-logoSam McJunkin

 

Dirt and Diamonds

What if we begin to invest in the lives of ordinary folks within our reach?

They say that in terms of being best of friends, dogs are to men while diamonds are to ladies. Though I am not a lady, I wouldn’t mind owning a piece of diamond! Who wouldn’t want one? This piece of jewelry is definitely a fortune. No wonder, if you adorn a lady with such a precious stone, she ends up beaming with pride.

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I was reading a leadership book and I stumbled upon an interesting illustration about diamonds. It says:

“In a best-case scenario, in the world’s most diamond-rich mining locations, about one hundred tons of dirt must be removed per carat of diamonds. In the average diamond mining locations, 1,000 tons of dirt yield one carat of diamonds. That’s a lot of dirt to remove in order to discover a small number of diamonds.” (Murrel and Murrel, 2017)

I realized that in one way or another, we are all polished diamonds in the making. While some have been found out, polished and are already flaunting their sparkling beauty, some of us still lie beneath the surface, waiting to be removed from the dirt. We all have potential, we all have a purpose. However, we have different seasons. Some are being fleshed out from the dirt, some are awaiting discovery.

It’s easy for us to look at people with “sparkling” personality as if they’re the only real deal. We look up to them. We try to pattern our lives with them. But if we look around us, we will discover that a lot of people are waiting for us to lift them out of the dirt and help them to find their “beauty” within themselves. We look at the old cab driver and see him just as he is – an old cab driver trying to make both ends meet. We pass by “mommy” usher in the church and see her as she is – simply a married woman who tries not to miss her Sunday routine in spite of her marital problems. We try to ignore and not give much of a concern to that unruly teenage neighbor because we think we have more things to attend to than spend time with a “delinquent” juvenile.

Only those with glittery lives catch our attention.

But what if we begin to invest in the lives of ordinary folks within our reach? What if, while waiting for our complete transformation to become flawless diamonds ourselves, we try to unearth some people from the dirt, help them clean them up and speed up their “makeover” process? The concept may seem odd and vague but I think you know what I mean – let us add value to people, help them in their respective journeys and believe in what they are capable to do. Let’s give them hope, encourage them, and share our lives to them. Let’s begin to look at them as who they really are – a diamond!

In order for a diamond to be a sparkling diamond, it must be unearthed first.

“But only if we get our hands dirty can we find a diamond in a pile of dirt. Are you ready to get your hands dirty? Are you willing to get dirty? ”

Unearthing is not easy. Unearthing means work. Unearthing looks messy and will get your hands dirty. But only if we get our hands dirty can we find a diamond in a pile of dirt. Are you ready to get your hands dirty? Are you willing to get dirty? If one can find a diamond in a pile of dirt, I bet he’ll say “it’s worth it!”

I am once a resident of the dirt, wallowing in the filthiness of circumstances and personal view of live. But some people helped me up and encouraged me to see life the way God sees it. I began to see that I am not a product of my circumstances but I am a child of God. I began to see the beauty of life. I began to discover that I am not worthless because I am treasured by the Lord. This is because some people saw past through the dirt in me and saw me as a diamond.

I know you have a story to share too! Now share your story to other and begin investing in a life today. Do a good deed, an act of kindness. Look at people pass through their façade. You’ll never know, you might be living under the same roof with a precious diamond.

In Pursuit of God

He is a God that can enter the realm of our experiences – not just a God we can fathom with our intellect.

There is a world of difference between knowing about God and knowing God. We may know Him – His works in the past, in the present and what He will do in the future. We may know a lot of things about Him – His awesome qualities and stories about Him. We may know Him by name, but unfortunately we may not know who He really is.

The sermon today really hit the mark. I can no longer justify myself. I was rebuked to the core, challenged to take honest assessment of myself and moved to take my knowledge of God to the next level. He is more than what my mind can conceive, much more than what every good book can describe of Him, even more than doctrines can ever produce depicting Him. He is God – the only real God with whom no substitute can ever compare.In Pursuit of God.jpg

What makes this God so special is that He is a personal God. He is not a distant God who just looks towards us – His creation, and leaves us wondering what to do with life. Instead, He has given us His lavish grace and blessings for us to appreciate that He wants the best for us. Who would have thought that an omnipotent God who alone can create the universe with just a word from His mouth will care about us – creatures who are even incapable of reciprocating the kind of love He gives us. If there is one word I can describe God’s love towards us, I’d like to say that it’s a stubborn kind of love. And I am forever grateful to that.

It’s one thing to enjoy Him – His love, His grace, His forgiveness – all His many benefits; it’s another thing to really pursue Him. Now a convicting thought lingers on my mind: how am I really pursuing Him? Or am I, really?

Is it enough that I know about His love? Is it enough that I appreciate His wondrous works that benefits the helpless soul that I am? Is it enough that I just savor the beauty of His grace, enjoying the lavishness of His love incomprehensible? Pwede, pero depende.

It’s one thing to enjoy Him – His love, His grace, His forgiveness – all His many benefits; it’s another thing to really pursue Him. Now a convicting thought lingers on my mind: how am I really pursuing Him? Or am I, really?  The mere thought makes me think how unfair I [we] really am [are] when it comes to relating to Him.

Being busy for the kingdom is not a thing to be confused with being intimate with the King. We can do all the crazy stuff out there to at least say we’re busy pursuing Him, but in the end, our soul’s connection to the Father determines the futility of our actions. In Him, there is fullness of joy, there is peace beyond understanding and love beyond any condition. No amount of activity can fake out what only God can produce in and through us.

Amidst all the ministerial busyness, is He really the One being sought after? Or are we just downsizing Him to an activity we can jot down on our planners? He is more than that. As Psalm 34:8 says, His goodness can both be tasted and seen.

He is a God that can enter the realm of our experiences – not just a God we can fathom with our intellect.

Don’t Pull Out the Plug

Whatever your situation, no matter how frustrating it is, we can always bring the matter to the Lord.

At one time or another, we have experienced a season of disappointments on God’s plans and directions in our life. There are moments when we pop the question, “where are You Lord, and why is this happening to me?” We doubt His instructions, and more so His instructions, or most of the time His silence – His seemingly lack of concern to the emotional turmoil we are dealing with.Don't Pull out the PlugThis has been the case with prophet Habakkuk. He lived during the final days before the nation of Judah was conquered by the Babylonians. He was burdened, and in his distress he called out to God in the most honest, truth-seeking prayer he can mutter.

As I read the book of Habakkuk, I was able to glean significant realizations on how do we relate to God during our times of distress and how can we be encouraged with the example set out by the prophet. But the most important thing to note is that Habakkuk is just like us, so natural on his emotions, but unlike most of us, he is exemplary on his faith.

  1. Like Habakkuk, we can honestly cry out to the Lord

The prophet was brutally honest about his frustrations on what is happening around him. Injustice was rampant and he is sick with violence and plundering he witnesses from time to time. His frustrations were vent out to God: “O Lord, how long shall I cry, and You will not hear?”

Is this scenario familiar? Daily we hear the news and cringe on humanity’s dying morality and justice. National issues frustrate us every single day.

Let’s make it more personal. We all have our share of frustrating situations, like being backstabbed by a close friend, or failure to settle a maturing debt. Or maybe, a loved one was rushed to the hospital, leaving us in a state of panic.

The problem is when people have questions, instead of looking up to God for answers, some prefer to form societies, and within these gripe groups they try to seek for answers.

Whatever your situation, no matter how frustrating it is, we can always bring the matter to the Lord. He doesn’t mind you asking Him questions, neither is He bothered when you blurt out your doubts. Habakkuk is a perfect example of a person who courageously uttered His frustrations to God. In the first place, He knows our hearts and all out thoughts, so why shy away in your prayers?

The problem is when people have questions, instead of looking up to God for answers, some prefer to form societies, and within these gripe groups they try to seek for answers. The good thing about Habakkuk’s prayer is not just his honesty, but to whom He expresses it. He knows that when it comes to the matters of the heart such as his frustrations, only the Lord has the answer.

  1. Like Habakkuk, we must wait upon the Lord

Habakkuk received an answer from the Lord, but the answer is not what he has expected to hear from the God of justice. It was like he is expecting that good will triumph against evil, but what he received as a response was “something more evil will wipe out the evil” – a stark contrast from what he desires to happen, or at least expects to happen.  He obviously cannot fathom God’s train of thought on that matter.

Habakkuk embraced God’s promises and sovereignty even in times of his confusion. He trusts God’s timing that someday, justice will be served and His questions and doubts will be given a crystal-clear answer.

Just like us. We pray for certain things to happen but God gives us a different response. Indeed, His ways are higher than ours. His timetable is different, His logic incomparable to us human beings. Hence, some ends up being bitter, forsaking their relationship with the Lord.

Yet when it comes to Habakkuk, the Lord’s incomprehensible response served not as a reason for him to desert God, but as a reason to cling to God more. In fact, his name Habakkuk came from the Hebrew verb “habaq” meaning embrace. Thus his name probably means “someone who embraces or clings”. Habakkuk embraced God’s promises and sovereignty even in times of his confusion. He trusts God’s timing that someday, justice will be served and His questions and doubts will be given a crystal-clear answer.

  1. Like Habakkuk, we ought to put our joy in the Lord

Disappointment in life is often a ticket to sudden halt in our spiritual journey. When things don’t go well, when we can’t find any reason to rejoice because of what we see around us, it is easy to lose focus and energy, even lose joy in our Christian walk.

During the time of Habakkuk, it is hard to find encouragement when you know that imminent danger is coming your way. Yet Habakkuk chose to put his hope and joy in the Lord. Towards the end of his book, he has written an encouraging psalm that is for us to take hold of:

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,

yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.

Habakkuk 3:17-19

Habakkuk is saying, in our language, that “even when all things went wrong – even when the economy falls, when the prices of commodities soar high, when the elections turn out differently from what I am expecting, even when my health fails and people desert me – still I will trust in You Lord. You are the source of my Joy and my strength, and in You alone I place my trust”.

This doesn’t mean we will dismiss our questions. This doesn’t mean we will stop seeking answers. This only means that even when we don’t understand his plans, we will not pull out the plug of our relationship with Him.

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Habakkuk is encouraging us, don’t pull the plug.