Thursday, September 24, 2020

Look! Something New!

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? Ecclesiastes 1:9-10




The author of the Book of Ecclesiastes seems to be very pessimistic. He says all is vanity, all is futile, at the very start. I guess this is what Pete Seeger thought as well. Pete was a defiant song writer. His publisher implored him, “Pete, can’t you write another song like ‘Goodnight, Irene’? I can’t sell or promote your protest songs.” Pete answered back, “You better find another songwriter,” Seeger wrote. “This is the only kind of song I know how to write.”


But Pete came up with a winner after he leafed through his battered notebook and found the words from Ecclesiastes. He composed “Turn, Turn, Turn” in 1959, which he felt was a call to action, another protest song. It became a hit and many artists recorded their own version of the song. But the most popular was the one released by the Byrds in 1965, which was imbued with a brisk sense of urgency and became the protest song of the 60s when American ground troops landed in Vietnam. 


“A time of war, a time of peace,” everyone sang the catchy melody, “A time to love, a time to hate, A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing. To everything (Turn, turn, turn) There is a season(Turn, turn, turn) And a time to every purpose Under Heaven, A time to gain, a time to lose, A time to rend, a time to sow, A time for love, a time for hate, A time for peace, I swear it's not too late.” Perhaps most of those singing did not realize they were quoting almost direct from the Book of Ecclesiastes.


More than a sense of futility, the Book of Ecclesiastes was a work of apologetics, a defense of a life of faith in God. What Quoholeth was really saying was that it was futile to live without faith. Life would have no purpose, no meaning. It would be a barren wasteland, a desert, a bankrupt life. 


In Isaiah 43:19, we read, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Only God can make something from nothing. Only God can create something new. Can we perceive how He is changing the world in this time of pandemic? If we take the time to stop complaining, and worrying, perhaps we will see this new world and opportunities He is creating. 


Father, help me to open my eyes wide to what You want me to see. Guide me in Your new paths and show me what I must do to lay hold of the treasures You have for me each day. 



Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Take Nothing


"...take nothing on the journey..." Luke 9:3




When St. Francis of Assisi heard the gospel on taking nothing for the journey on Feb. 24, 1208, he was overjoyed. I can't imagine anyone being overjoyed at Jesus' instructions to the Twelve Apostles to go out preaching but to take nothing, not even a walking stick! But Saint Francis had been feeling the pull of God in dreams and visions, and he felt that this was the clear direction he had been seeking.

Although he had been a rich young man, with a taste for luxurious clothes and good food, he had renounced his possessions to the dismay of his father, and embarked on begging for food and for stones to rebuild a small church.


Like Saint Francis, we too are pilgrims on a journey. We take different paths, but we go to the same God. We will all learn eventually that we need to take nothing on our journey. Everything will be left behind. Some learn this later than others. I have to confess that I am accumulating many things in my pilgrimage. I do not travel light. But sometimes a glimpse of someone dying, leaving with nothing, leaving the same way we all came to earth, gives me pause to think. Truly I need to learn to relinquish my hold on possessions, to make my baggage lighter and lighter.


"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose." (Jim Elliot, from his diary, Oct. 28, 1949)

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Raindrops

He said to them in reply, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.” Luke 8:21




It is easy to say we will read scripture and obey when times are good. How about when times are rough? Will we continue to praise the Lord and magnify His name as the Word commands in Psalm 34:2-3 and in many other verses? 


One of my favorite songs is “Blessings” written and sung by Laura Story. Here are the lyrics:


“We pray for blessings

We pray for peace

Comfort for family, protection while we sleep

We pray for healing, for prosperity

We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering

All the while, You hear each spoken need

Yet love is way too much to give us lesser things


'Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops

What if Your healing comes through tears

What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near?

What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?


We pray for wisdom

Your voice to hear

We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near

We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love

As if every promise from Your Word is not enough

All the while, You hear each desperate plea

And long that we'd have faith to believe


When friends betray us

When darkness seems to win

We know that pain reminds this heart

That this is not our home


What if my greatest disappointments

Or the aching of this life

Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy? 

What if trials of this life

The rain, the storms, the hardest nights

Are your mercies in disguise?”


The words come from the deepest pains of her heart. Her husband, athlete Martin Ellington, was diagnosed with a brain tumor just two years after they got married. After his operation, the surgeon said they would just have to wait and see if he could remember her, there were no guarantees he would even be alive! When Martin woke up after the complicated procedure, and saw her, he said, “You’re Laura Story! What are you doing here?” It was good he recognized who she was and when she told him she was his wife, he had the best possible reaction. 


After several years, Martin’s disabilities did not improve, and they also had the challenge of infertility, and a son’s birth defect to deal with. Laura had to come to terms with not being in control of her life, and this realization led her to write her book, bible study and CD, “I Give Up: The Secret Joy of a Surrendered Life”. In it she shares how she found blessing in surrendering her life to God. 


Laura says, “When we surrender, we invite God into our story as our King, and we take our rightful place in His story as beloved children and heirs. That kind of surrender is the real secret to joy, joy that is never threatened by circumstances that change day to day. It leads to a life that is adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike, ‘What’s next, Papa???’ (Rom. 8:15?17 The Message).”


Father, I invite You into my life as my highest joy. You know me and my foibles better than I know myself. With expectant faith, may I hear Your Word and act on it, knowing You always have the best plan for me! 



Monday, September 21, 2020

Needing Christ

‘The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus heard this and said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.’ Matthew 9:11-12




What do you think? If Jesus was walking around today, would he be with the priest feeding the poor in Payatas, or would He go to the gamblers and drunkards at the sleazy bar open at midnight? Would Jesus join the huge evangelical congregation singing hallelujahs to God in a brightly lit, state of the art auditorium, or a mass in the dingy chapel in the backwoods celebrated by a priest with a past? Something to think about. Maybe that is why God is not around physically, so He can be in every aching heart longing for His presence. 


We are all imperfect sinners in need of a Saviour, whether we know it or not. Perhaps more people are aware of it these days. In our Community Conference yesterday, one of our leaders said that hardships are a doorway to meet God. I believe more people today are calling on God than at any time in our near history. This worldwide pandemic is God forcing His way into our complacency, the myth of our self-sufficiency. He is asking us to confront ourselves, to ask ourselves, “What is it you really need?” I was listening to an interview on TV, and this well known director, singer and actor said, “I found out I need very little. Just the basic necessities of life. Since I don’t have work, I started using my hands, making things.” 


I’m taking this time to ask God what He wants to teach me. Jesus said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.” All of us are sick in some way. We all need Christ. In the end, we will find out, we need very little, and the most important is, we need our Saviour. 

Sunday, September 20, 2020

I Do You No Injustice!


"I do you no injustice." Matthew 20:13




This is one of Jesus' stories where we get a sharp insight into how God thinks. It's good to study it again and again. Jesus compares His Kingdom to the owner of a huge vineyard. The owner hires workers early in the morning, and tells them he would pay them one denarius, which was the normal daily wage. He hired workers again at 9 am, 12 noon, 3 pm, and lastly at 5 pm. 


When it came time to pay, the workers lined up, beginning with those hired last. They were paid a whole day's wage. When those hired earlier came to get their pay, they received one denarius as well. I think it is but human nature for them to expect more pay and so they were disappointed when they received the denarius. They complained, "We worked the whole day under the sun and you paid us the same as those men who worked a few hours!"


"My friends," the landowner answered, "I do you no injustice! Didn't you agree to work for one denarius? Take it and go. Am I not free to do as I please with my money? Should you be angry because I am generous?"


God is like that owner of the vineyard. He is always looking for laborers to work in His fields. He said, "The harvest is plenty, the laborers are few." (Mt. 9:37). He is not very discriminating about whom He calls. I know a former drug addict who now takes care of street children to give them a home and an education. I know of a heavily tattooed heavy metal rock star who gave up a multi-million dollar deal to follow Jesus and who now has been preaching to his fans. There are missionaries who toil in God's harvests for years, and there are murderers who make deathbed confessions. What do each of them receive? One denarius each. Eternal life. It cannot get any better than that! 


Thank You Lord for Your generosity and mercy to each one of us! You always want to give us a chance, even at the last minute. You are not stingy with Your treasure! 

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Faithful

“Knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God has been granted to you; but to the rest, they are made known through parables so that they may look but not see, and hear but not understand.” Luke 8:9-10




Who do we prefer to be? Someone who knows God’s secrets, or someone ‘though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand’ (Isaiah 6:9) Frederick Buechner said, “We learn to praise God, not by paying compliments, but by paying attention.” The parable of the sower in the 8th chapter of Luke shows us how important it is for us to listen, listen, listen to God, and obey. “But as for the seed that fell on rich soil, they are the ones who, when they have heard the word, embrace it with a generous and good heart, and bear fruit through perseverance” (v. 15). 


There are so many stories in the Bible about how God blessed those who were obedient, who simply remained faithful in spite of their limitations. There’s Moses who was insecure about his stuttering, Abraham, Joseph, Joshua, and even towering St. Paul who started out as an enemy of God’s favored people. In every story, their success did not depend on them but on God.


God called Rich Stearns to be President of World Vision United States back in 1998. But previous to his heading the humanitarian work of that organization, he was President and CEO of Lennox Collections, a luxury goods company with over $500 million in sales annually. He argued with God a lot because he had never been to Africa, he didn’t know squat about global poverty, and he had no theological training. Like Moses, he didn’t want to speak publicly, and like Moses, he thought he was the wrong person for the job. 


Rich Stearns wrote: “For me, the key moment in Moses’ story comes in Exodus 4, when God asks Moses, “What is that in your hand?” Moses had his wooden shepherd’s staff in his hand. God told him to throw it down, and as we know, God then performed a miracle by turning the staff into a serpent. Essentially God was saying, ‘Moses, I’ve got this. I am the God of miracles. You don’t need to worry about how this will turn out. I can use even a lifeless stick of wood to accomplish my will. I’m only asking for your obedience.’ God was saying the same thing to me in 1998. ‘Look, Rich, I’ve got this. I know what’s on your résumé. I am well aware of your shortcomings. I need your obedience.’”


Perhaps you are feeling insecure right now, shaky and not at all confident, like I am. My family has been in business for over 50 years now and we have never encountered conditions like what we are in right now. It’s mind boggling. So many challenges. But I hold on to God tightly, knowing He is in control. As Mother Teresa said, “God has not called me to be successful. He called me to be faithful.” 




Friday, September 18, 2020

Fulfilled and Revealed in the New

“Jesus journeyed from one town and village to another, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God.” Luke 8:1




What would have it been like to have heard Jesus? I know I would have wanted to sit at His feet, and just listen to Him preach. It would have been exhilarating. Just as I cannot have enough of listening to Scott Hahn, Ravi Zacharias, Brad Pitre, Louie Giglio, Steve Ray, Priscilla Schirer, the late Nabeel Qureshi, etc., I would have wanted to listen to Jesus forever! 


What a wonderful experience for Cleophas and another disciple who were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus when Jesus appeared to walk with them! At first they were downcast and filled with confusion about his crucifixion until, “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself.” (Luke 24:27) Their hearts burned within them as their eyes were opened to the truth, most especially when Jesus joined them for the breaking of the bread! 


I certainly would like to discover for myself what Jesus expounded from the Old Testament. It would have been so easy for Saint Luke to interview those two disciples and write down what Jesus revealed, wouldn’t it? Instead we have to discover this for ourselves, like digging for ancient treasure! The early Church Fathers, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, St. John Chrysostom, etc. in their Sunday sermons showed clearly that the New Testament writings were concealed in the Old, and the Old is revealed and fulfilled in the New. 


It is exciting to rediscover this for ourselves, to see how Jesus is the new Moses, how God sent a saviour baby who was targeted by an evil ruler, how that child grows up, passes through the water, fasts for 40 days and 40 nights. Moses receives the law of the covenant up on the mountain, and Jesus gives us His sermon on the mount. There are many more rich parallels in the Old and New Testaments which show us how God’s plan was put in place since the beginning of time. Nothing is an accident. Just as what we are experiencing now is not an accident. God’s plan is proceeding as it should. And we have a sure place in it.




Thursday, September 17, 2020

Little is Forgiven

“Little is forgiven the one whose love is small." Luke 7:47



What a dramatic turn of events in this chapter of Luke! Simon, a Pharisee, invites Jesus to dinner at his home. Jesus accepts, and as He reclines at the table, his legs and feet stretched out away from the table, a woman of some reputation comes uninvited. She is weeping, and she uses her hair to wipe away the dirt and grime of Jesus' feet. She opens her precious perfumed oil in its alabaster vase, and uses it on Jesus' feet. I can imagine Simon, with a little sneer on his mouth. He is a little amused by this, too entertained to put a stop to this intrusion in his home. He should have had her thrown out for her impertinence, but he likes seeing this so-called prophet and teacher being pampered by a "sinner"! During the first century, if a woman let down her hair, she could be divorced by her husband, and here, this woman, not only uncovered her hair, but was using her tresses to wipe Jesus' feet! If this man was really wise, he should know what sort of woman she was and would not have allowed her to touch him!!!!

 But of course, Jesus knows everything Simon is thinking, all the nuances, and He also knows what the woman is thinking and feeling and going through. Just as He knows our heart and mind as well! Oh the shame! Jesus sees all the condemnation and judgement in our mind. The lack of love in our heart. He knows when we look at others with indifference, when there is no charity in our spirit for others who need our help. What did Jesus say? "Little is forgiven the one whose love is small." Do we want to be forgiven? Then we have to tap into the well of love that God has for us and for all sinners like us. We need to see ourselves and others the way God sees us. Then there will be no room for condemnation, only compassion.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Love is Always Hopeful


“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:7-8




In April 2017, Pope Francis held a General Audience in St. Peter’s Square and he said:


“Of course, if we trusted only in our strengths, we would have reason to feel disappointed and defeated, because the world often shows itself immune to the laws of love. It prefers, so often, the laws of selfishness. But if the certainty survives in us that God does not abandon us, that God loves us and this world tenderly, then it immediately changes our perspective. ‘Homo viator, spe erectus,’ the ancients used to say [Latin: ‘Man is a wayfarer, (supported) upright by hope’]. Along the journey, Jesus’ promise ‘I am with with you’ enables us to stand with hope, upright, trusting that the good God is already at work, accomplishing what humanly seems impossible, because the anchor is on heaven’s shore. The holy, faithful People of God are a people that stand – homo viator – and walk, but upright, erectus, and they walk in hope. And wherever they go, they know that God’s love has preceded them: there is no part of the world that escapes the victory of the Risen Christ. And what is the victory of the Risen Christ? The victory of love.”


There is so much to ponder in these beautiful thoughts. So many people are feeling despondent and hopeless these days of the pandemic, that this quote supposedly uttered by business magnate Jack Ma of Alibaba has gone viral in Facebook and Twitter: “For people in business, 2020 is really just a year for staying alive. Don’t even talk about your dreams or plans. Just make sure you stay alive. If you can stay alive, then you would have made a profit already.” The thing is Jack Ma never said it. 


The year 2020 is unprecedented in its effect on the whole world. The more this year has to be about loving, and believing, and hoping and enduring. Not merely surviving.  Wherever we go, whatever we do, let us be certain that God’s love is already there and we are not alone, and we will not fail. 


Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Behold Your Mother

"Standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother... When Jesus saw His mother there and the disciple there whom He loved He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son." Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his home." John 19:25-27



Can we imagine how Mary felt seeing her son on the cross? Even if there were so many times that she had to accept God's inconceivable will for her life, I don't think it can ever be enough to cushion her from this last agonizing pain! Perhaps she couldn't think anymore. She could only be aware of her heart breaking into a million pieces.

Elizabeth Stone said, "Making the decision to have a child- it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart walking around outside your body." 

That must have been true of Mary more than of any other mother! From the moment she conceived, there was so much hinging on the way she would love this child, nurture Him, teach Him, protect Him, and then surrender Him to the world to do with as we pleased!

“Behold, your mother." Before Jesus died, He made sure His mother would be cared for. I think He would also want us to honor her and love her. Just as there is a place in Jesus' heart for His mother, we should also find a place in our hearts to honor a woman who gave up her heart to lodge in her son's body, and allowed it to be trampled on so God's plan would be accomplished!

“Hail Mary! Truly you are full of grace!” May you be our example of how we should learn to sacrifice for others, and be a Christ bearer to the world. 

Monday, September 14, 2020

Lifted Up

“And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” John 3:15




In the book of Numbers there is a very strange story of how the people complained against God and Moses. The journey from Egypt to the promised land was arduous and their patience was wearing thin. "Why have you brought us out from Egypt only to die in this desert, where there is no food or water!? We are disgusted with this wretched food!" 


In punishment, the Lord sent serpents which bit them and many died. When the people repented, realizing their sin, and ungratefulness, the Lord instructed Moses what to do, and Moses obeyed. He made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole and when someone who was bitten by a serpent gazed at it, he was healed. 


We too are on a pilgrim journey. There is much we can find to complain about, especially while we are stuck at home. We are unused to having all this time to fill. Or if we need to go out and work, we are weary having to wear a mask and face shield and remember to keep away from others. Or perhaps we work in the hospital and have the tedious routine of putting on PPE because our life depends on it. God never promised an easy carefree trip. What He promised is that He would walk with us on our adventure and bring us to the Promised Land. We need to find God's promises in the Bible and hang on to them. There are too many serpents roaming around waiting to bite us. But just as the Israelites could look to the bronze serpent for healing, we have Jesus to gaze at. 


Jesus tells Nicodemus in John 3:14-15, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.”


Lord, many things in the Bible are mysteries to me. Why choose a saraph serpent as an instrument for healing? But I do not need to understand everything. I just need to believe You and Your Word. I just need to walk with You and follow Your lead. I want to go where You will bring me, no where else. 

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Have Mercy on Me!

His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ Matthew 18:32-33




In this parable of a master and servant, Jesus shows how paramount it is to forgive those who have sinned against us. It is incumbent upon us to have the same compassion with others who have hurt us, as the Father has shown us time and time again. 


We can recite with the Jews these excerpts from the Al Chet, a traditional prayer recited during Yom Kippur, asking God for forgiveness:


Our God and God of our ancestors! Let our prayers come before You and do not hide Yourself from our supplication. For neither are we so arrogant nor hardened to say, "We are righteous and have not sinned," for truly, truly, we have sinned. May it be Your will, O Lord our God, to forgive all our sins, and pardon all our iniquities.


For the sin which we have committed in Your sight through arrogance of our will,

And for the sin which we have committed before You by breach of trust.

For the sin which we have committed in Your sight by casting off responsibility,

And for the sin which we have committed before You by denying and lying.

For the sin which we have committed in Your sight by evil thoughts,

For all of these, O God of forgiveness, forgive us, pardon us, grant us atonement.


For the sin which we have committed in Your sight, either knowingly or unknowingly.

And for the sin which we have committed before You through lustful desires.

And for the sin which we have committed before You by not lifting up Your Name.

And for the sin which we have committed before You by passing judgment.

And for the sin which we have committed before You by resisting those in authority.

For all of these, O God of forgiveness, forgive us, pardon us, grant us atonement.


For the sin which we have committed in Your sight by scoffing,

And for the sin which we have committed before You through talking idly.

And for the sin which we have committed before You through excess in eating and drinking.

For the sin which we have committed in Your sight by yet being proud,

And for the sin which we have committed before You through our lack of zeal.

For all of these, O God of forgiveness, forgive us, pardon us, grant us atonement.


Avinu Malkeinu (our Father, our King), we have sinned before you!

Avinu Malkeinu, in Your abundant mercy, cleanse us of our guilt before You.

Avinu Malkeinu, bring us back to You in perfect repentance.

Our Father, our King, be gracious unto us and answer us although we have no merits of our own. Deal with us in righteousness and lovingkindness, and save us.


Yes Lord, I say in remorse, have mercy on me, a sinner! St. Paul assures us , “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of His grace" (Ephesians 1:7).


Saturday, September 12, 2020

Sure Foundation

“I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, listens to my words, and acts on them. That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when the flood came, the river burst against that house but could not shake it because it had been well built.” Luke 6:47-48




Jesus wasn’t an architect but He tells us how important it is to build a house on a strong foundation. If a building is constructed on unstable soil or precarious slopes, an earthquake’s motion of side to side, and up and down will quickly turn the soil into a bowl of jello. This is what happened in Mexico City’s earthquake in 1985, resulting in damage worth 4 billion dollars. 


If the land you have has soft soil, you have to make sure that the foundation reaches deep into the bedrock, anchoring the building’s piers as rigidly as possible, so that it will be able to withstand shock waves. 


Out of an estimated 2 million earthquakes a year around the world, only a quarter of those are detectable, but only 100 each year causes damage. We are blessed if we have a home that can withstand the force of an earthquake. 


Jesus spoke of flood damage to homes not built on rock, but perhaps built on natural flood plains of rivers. When storms come, homes and buildings get damaged if they are not built well. 


How about our families and our own lives? Are we building on solid ground? Either Charles Reade or Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: "Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.” It takes a lifetime to grow our character and it starts from a good solid foundation. The best foundation is a person, Jesus Christ, who is the perfecter of our faith, (Hebrews 12:2), and a sure foundation (1 Corinthians 3:11). 







Friday, September 11, 2020

An Imperishable Crown

“Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown,

but we an imperishable one.” 1 Corinthians 9:25




There have been several admirable stories of athletes who helped others finish in the same race. There’s Simon Cheprot who gave up a gold medal to help a fellow Kenyan runner who collapsed during the Okpekpe International 10-km Road Race in Nigeria. He stopped running to lift up Kenneth Kipkemoi and carried him across the finish line. 


When reporters interviewed him after the incident, he said, “My dad told me, ‘When you’re walking and you meet a sick person on the road, help him. Do not leave him’, so that was the first thing that came to my mind when I saw my friend on the ground.”


In another race at the world athletics championship 500 meters heat, Braima Suncar Dabo of Guinea Bissao helped Aruba’s Jonathan Busby. He noticed that Busby was totally exhausted with 200 m left. Dabo helped him up, and with Busby’s arm around his shoulder, they both crossed the finish line. Dabo explained, “The main objective was to represent my country as well as possible and I'm happy I could help the other guy...My thoughts were to help him finish, that is the point of the race."


Then there’s Rob Gomez who did not win the $1,000 prize because he pulled up front-runner Jesse Orach who had fallen for a second time within sight of the finish line and held him upright the last 50 m. “They've put me on a pedestal I don't really deserve," Gomez told the Press Herald. “What people saw was just an example of the running community. It's not really special. It's just what we do."


We applaud these acts of sportsmanship, unselfishness, fellowship and kindness. We too are running a race. St. Paul says we race to win an imperishable crown. Let us follow the examples of Simon Cheprot, Braima Suncar Dabo and Rob Gomez, and run the race well, helping others along the way, encouraging them, supporting them, and bringing them with us to the eternal finish line.


Thursday, September 10, 2020

Secret!

“Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.” Luke 6:38




Everyone loves a good secret and this is the juiciest secret of all time. The measure of our generosity to God and to others will be the same measure God will use for us. Although it is not good to give expecting something in return, I believe it is good to test God in this. 


It says in Malachi 3:10, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”


I personally know a man, who because of some difficulty with finances, wanted to go abroad to see if he would fare better there. His wife, who did not want to live in another country, suggested he tithe. "Try it! Test the Lord!" she said. He did, and prior to the pandemic, he had a very successful practice. He received over and above what he needed. For myself, I have found that whatever I give to the Lord or to others, comes back to me a hundredfold. Whether it be my time, my talents, my money or my resources. God has been extraordinarily generous with me.


God's economy, the way He does things is so diametrically different from the way the world operates.


Consider the opposite. Don’t give. Keep everything for yourself. Hoard. Don’t help others with what you have. Money, talents, influence, time, use it all for yourself. I am picturing a miser who works hard to enrich himself, not thinking of his coworkers, the man outside his gate, a friend who is sick in the hospital. 


He will be exactly like the Dead Sea or the Salt Sea or the Devil’s Sea as it is sometimes called. The Jordan river empties into it but there is no outlet. Because it is landlocked, the water evaporates and leaves behind massive amounts of salt, making it so dense that people can float on top of it. No plants, algae or animals survive in this brackish water but at the very bottom there are microbial fungi and bacteria. This is what we become if we just receive all the blessings God gives us, and do not share. 


Oh, if only we could remember the secret of generosity every minute, every second of our day! Especially during this time when there is need all around us! 



Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Presence of God

“The world as we know it is passing away.” —1 Corinthians 7:31




Indeed, no matter how beautiful a flower is, or a woman, it fades, grows old, passes away. That is how the world is! My parents, once so vibrant and active and productive, got sick and confined to the bed, and left us. And me, I used to be so strong, and did not need anybody’s help carrying heavy things, am now quite dependent on others. With this pandemic, so much has been taken away from us. Many people have lost jobs, a feeling of security, even loved ones! The way children are learning has changed. We attend mass by turning on our computers or phones. Grandparents cannot even hug their grandchildren. Truly the world as we know it is quickly passing away! 


But we do not belong here fortunately! We are made for Heaven, our real home! How do we keep this in the forefront of our minds while we go about our busy lives?


We can start by counting our blessings! I realize how much God loves and cares for me when I see how my husband loves and cares for me! We can make heaven real by connecting our mundane everyday tasks to God! What is it we hate to do? For someone who hates ironing, she or he can pray for whoever owns the shirt under the iron, that she or he be protected from Covid 19. Whatever it is, we can, like Brother Lawrence, find the secret of joy doing menial, or routine things, like scrubbing floors, or even making a financial report. Brother Lawrence, was always, always, talking to God. If we practice the presence of God, we connect our soul to the eternal.


I believe my Covenant Community, Ligaya ng Panginoon (Joy of the Lord), prefigures the community we will join in Heaven. I know we will be together in fellowship for eternity. This makes Heaven more real to me! What makes Heaven more real to you?





Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Behold the Virgin

“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.” Matthew 1:22-23




Today Catholics celebrate the birthday of the blessed Virgin, frequently a stumbling block for other Christians who do not understand why we make so much of her. We call Mary the the Ark of the Covenant. See how the New Testament is concealed in the Old, and the Old is revealed and fulfilled in the New. 


The Holy Spirit overshadowed and then indwelled the Ark just as the Spirit overshadowed and indwelled Mary. Both Mary and the Ark became the dwelling place of the presence of God. Just as Mary traveled to the house of Elizabeth and stayed there for 3 months, so was the Ark brought to Obed-Edom, only a short distance away from Ein Kerem (Elizabeth's place in the hill country), and remained there for 3 months. John the Baptist, of priestly lineage, while in his mother's womb, leapt at the approach of Mary. So too David, dressed as a priest, leapt and danced before the ark. Inside of the Ark of the Covenant, were the stone tablets of the Law, the manna from the wilderness, and the rod of Aaron, the proof of true priesthood. Inside Mary's womb, was the Word of God made flesh, the Bread of Life, and the actual and eternal High Priest. (2 Samuel 6, Luke 1:39-41, Hebrews 9:4)


Just like Elizabeth, I ask, "Why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord shall come to me?" Just like David, I ask, "How can the Ark of the Covenant come to me?" Indeed He comes, ever new, ever faithful. I await Him and He comes. Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus! I thank the mother of Jesus who said yes in her obedience and humility so God’s more than wonderful plan can be fulfilled. 


Monday, September 07, 2020

Stretch Out Your Hand

"Stretch out your hand.” Luke 6:10



“Stretch out your hand," Jesus said to the man with a withered right hand, and the hand was restored. There is more to this story than a healing. In the Jewish mind, the right hand was the hand of power and strength. It was the "good hand".  You never shook another's hand with your left. You ate with your right hand and reserved your left hand for cleaning up dirt, cleaning your waste in the toilet. Remember that in Jesus' time. the Jews ate with their hands, no utensils.

Many biblical historians also surmise that this man was a stone mason and had crushed his hand while working. This man had lost his livelihood, his role as a provider and leader of his family, he lost his place in society, and his dignity. When Jesus restored his right hand, this man regained his role in his family and in his society.

There are too many in our world today in need of God's help, healing and restoration. Every night, my community comes together in prayer for our country, our church, those who are sick, who have lost their jobs, and lost their loved ones. There are just so many people and situations we need to intercede for. Yesterday morning we had a prayer meeting dedicated to the health workers serving in the front lines of this pandemic. We are all in the midst of a storm. Sometimes God calms the storm, and other times, God calms His children. That was the theme. 

Sometimes we are caught between a rock and a hard place. Life can seem hopeless and we can think we are abandoned by God. It may seem too simple, but if we stretch out our hand to God and stay in faith, He will touch us in ways that will amaze us. His answers may not be what we expect but trusting God is the best way to live our life. 

“Fear not! Stand your ground and you will see the victory the Lord will win for you today... The Lord Himself will fight for you; you only have to keep still.” Exodus 14:13-14

Sunday, September 06, 2020

God in our Midst


"For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." Matthew 18:20




“There am I in the midst of you.” “God with us.” As I ponder this I think what are we without God? Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Man is a god in ruins." Indeed, without God what is the purpose of our life? Would there be any meaning at all? Who can give us the joy in our hearts even in the midst of challenges? Who would surround us with a palpable peace even as our heart breaks when we see people going hungry, losing jobs, being imprisoned unjustly? 


The past months we have attended different Zoom meetings with other brothers and sisters. God was with us as we listened to talks and sharings, as we discussed, prayed, worshiped, and sang together. He was with us as we made plans and commitments. And I think about how all around the world, God is with families, parishes, churches, organizations, fellowships, sending His Spirit, His wisdom, His refining fire. Yes Lord, send a mighty wind across the earth. Move among us! Your people are in battle!


Just as You sent Your Son, an innocent, powerless babe in the arms of an equally innocent and insignificant woman, to infiltrate the enemy's battle lines, so You now send Your people. We are only powerful because You are with us! We are only wise because You are with us! We are only committed because You are with us! We are only victorious because You are with us!


Exodus 14:13-14 says, "Do not be afraid. Stand firm...the Lord will fight for you. You need only to be still." 

Saturday, September 05, 2020

So Much Hatred!

“When ridiculed, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we respond gently. We have become like the world’s rubbish, the scum of all, to this very moment.” 1 Corinthians 4:12-13



Persecution of Christians was rampant in St. Paul's day. He himself was a persecutor of Christians before he became a Christian. He was held on house arrest for two years, stoned and beaten up several times, jailed, and on June 29, 67 A.D., he paid the ultimate price for his faith in Christ. He was beheaded outside the walls of Rome. 

We may not feel it much here in the Philippines, although priests, the Pope and even God are insulted by the highest official in the land, but persecution of Christians is so severe in many parts of the world. In North Korea, Somalia, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan, Iran, Nigeria, and many more countries, Christian churches are being burned to the ground, homes destroyed, people beheaded for their beliefs. 80 % of religious intolerance in the world is directed against Christians according to the study conducted by the Intl. Society for Human Rights. In Mexico, drug cartels murdered 23 Christian leaders for standing up against them. Christian Coptic women were kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam, sold as slaves and abused in Egypt. 

So much hatred! There are organizations dedicated to eradicating Christianity that they are willing to kill young children or train them to kill. The goal of the Boko Haram in Nigeria is to stop Christian and Western education in their country and they have kidnapped several hundred girls from schools. The list goes on and on. Millions and millions of Christians worldwide experience high to severe persecution. 

How about us? Are we willing to spread God’s Word openly as Jesus instructed His disciples to do? “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation,” He said. It’s certainly easier to do it now, with our cellphones, and gadgets. We do not have to stand at street corners, or pay for expensive air time, to be able to invite our friends to join a virtual prayer meeting or a Christian seminar. These days, there are so many people who need to know God and His love. Let us encourage them, pray for them, and love them.