Friday, July 10, 2020

Show Us the Way

“Take with you words, and return to the Lord.” Hosea 14:2




The prophet Hosea was a pitiful man. His wife had left him for a life of prostitution which mirrored what Israel was doing at that time to the God who loved them. Fickle Israel left God to go after false gods. And just as Hosea continued to love his wife, going after her and finally buying her back for fifteen pieces of silver, five bushels of barley and a measure of wine, so did God not give up on Israel. 


“There is no faithfulness, no kindness, no knowledge of God in your land,” the Lord accused Israel, “You curse and lie and kill and steal and commit adultery. There is violence everywhere, with one murder after another. That is why your land is not producing...Don’t point your finger at someone else and try to pass the blame! Look, you priests, my complaint is with you! ...My people are being destroyed because they don’t know me.” Hosea 4:1-6 


These charges can be made against our nation. Like Israel, God loves us very much. We are a beautiful people, almost always smiling and making jokes even in the worst of times. He gave us magnificent islands and seas rich and full of the bounty of creation. But we have turned away from Him, destroying most of what He gave us, wasting it, and choosing a leader who blatantly defies Him and His ways. All is not lost. Just as God continually called Israel back to Him, He still loves us and wants to help get us back on track. 


“Return, O Israel, to the Lord, your God; you have collapsed through your guilt. Take with you words, and return to the Lord.” In Hebrew, ‘words’ means things, realities, and the connotation is we need to repent sincerely. Rabbi Len Ben Sisi wrote that the power of repentance was so great it soars all the way up to the throne of glory. 


Yes, Lord, forgive us for abandoning You. Show us the way back to You! Father, we want to be pleasing in Your sight. Wash us clean of our iniquities, and heal our land! 

Thursday, July 09, 2020

Without Cost


“Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.” Matthew 10:8




Jesus sends out the twelve apostles with instructions to announce that the Kingdom of heaven is at hand, that the Kingdom is very near. As Jesus has freely given this good news of salvation and fullness of life, they were to give the same without cost to anyone who would listen. 


A couple of years ago, a funny incident occurred. Funny to most people but not to the man it happened to. The man was fixing an electronic lock in a Bank of America branch in Corpus Christi, Texas, when the door slammed shut and he was trapped inside the room of the ATM machine. He had left his phone in his truck so he resorted to sending SOS notes through the receipt slot. “Please help. I’m stuck in here and don’t have my phone. Please call my boss at 210- - -.” Everyone who withdrew money laughed and thought it was a great prank, until someone took it seriously and called the police for help. 


There are people all around us sending out invisible SOS notes. Sometimes they hide behind a door of nonchalance, odd humor, even irritability. Do we try to reach out and give what we have received from God without cost, or do we walk away? We live in a world that is full of broken, hurting people. God can use us, as broken vessels ourselves, to heal the broken hearted, to bind their wounds. It may just take a listening ear, a Viber message, a food package, a comment on Facebook to say we are praying. We may never know that our prayers, our encouragement, a positive word, was a gift at the right time to a person in need. Sometimes the best way to heal our brokenness and our neediness is to reach out to others and give whatever we can. 

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Hold on to Hope

‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Matthew 10:7




These are extraordinary times. I am 63 years old and I’ve never experienced anything like it. It’s like the world war of my generation. This pandemic is changing the whole world. Some may say it is changing in a bad way, hundreds of thousands of people are getting sick and dying, small and big businesses are failing, even closing down or declaring bankruptcy. Some people have committed suicide in their desperation at not being able to feed their families. Many are having a hard time dealing with fear and anxiety. Staying home, and the need to keep away from others, can make people feel isolated and lonely and can increase stress. 


Could we have ever imagined that this year, 2020, the world would stop? So many planned business trips, vacations, reunions, sports events like the Olympics were put on hold because suddenly airplanes had to stay on the ground, mass transportation stopped, and people had to stay home. Millions and millions of dollars and pesos in lost revenue! How long will it take before cruise ships can be filled with excited laughter and ply the seas again? Before arenas can hold crowds of people for concerts and contact sports? Before evangelists can preach before thousands? Here in the Philippines, we opened up for the economy and now the number of Covid 19 patients have been climbing. We have not flattened the curve, not by a long shot. 


I believe seeing what is happening through God’s eyes can help us cope. I think God is doing something amazing. We may not understand what He is doing, we may even ask him why, Lord, why? But God has always been more concerned about what is happening inside us than what is happening outside. His main goal, and He is one track minded about this, is to bring us to heaven. His greatest desire is for us to come to a deep relationship with Him. That is why He was willing to give His One and Only Son, so that we who believe in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. This is how much He loves us, will He not do anything for us, even to stopping the world? Let us not waste this opportunity to get closer to Him. If we are feeling anxious about anything, let us run to Him. If we lack something, let us call upon Him. Let us not succumb to the paralysis of pessimism, but HOPE, hold on to hope, and only God can give us hope. 



Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Plant Our Seeds

“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” Matthew 9:38




Jesus sends each of us out into the harvest with these words, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15 and Matthew 28:19). In Luke 14, we read the story where the master says to his servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.”


I feel that never has there been a time when so many people need to hear the good news, and we have the easy means to spread it. In the apostles’ time they had to walk to far places and speak to crowds without a microphone, without any advance advertisements. They would even be stoned, put in jail or run out of town for doing so. Today, we have the freedom to speak to our office mates, the people we meet, and even place our messages of hope on social media. We can follow Jesus’ mandate to preach the gospel where we are with what we have. We never know whose heart is ready soil to receive the seed we are planting.


A well known evangelist was invited to preach at Washington High School. When he called to say he could not make it but was sending a young man in his stead, the principal asked, “Who are you sending?” 

He answered, “Billy Graham.”

“We don’t know him, we don’t want him. We will just cancel the event.”

“Just try him out.”

The Youth for Christ rally pushed through on May 12, 1945 and after it, the well known evangelist asked the 26-year old Billy Graham, “How did it go?”

“I don’t know. Only one young boy came forward to receive Christ.”

“Did you get his name so you can pray for him?”

“Warren Wiersbe.”

Warren Wiersbe who died last year, was a Pastor, Bible teacher, conference speaker and prolific writer of 150 books. His Sunday sermons were broadcast on the “Calvary Hour” radio program. He became the Director of the Back to the Bible Radio Broadcasting Network. 


But we do not have to be an evangelist to plant seeds for the harvest. Stephen Baldwin of the celebrity Baldwin brothers, was evangelized by their Brazilian nanny. When Stephen and his wife Kennya hired Augusta, they noticed that she was always singing about Jesus in Portuguese. Kennya got so curious, she asked why every song was about Jesus. Kennya was taken aback when Augusta burst out laughing.

“What’s so funny?” she asked.

“Quite frankly, I think it’s a little bit funny that you think I’m here to clean your house.”

To Kennya’s amazement, Augusta told her that someone prophesied if she went to live with the Baldwins, Stephen and Kennya would one day come to faith in Jesus Christ and be involved in ministry.


Stephen recounts, “Augusta goes on to tell my wife that before she had accepted the job, she prayed with her pastor and some church members in Brazil. I haven’t told this part of the story a lot. She had a dream and saw me, saw my wife and saw my first daughter Aliya.” And that is how the former bad bad boy Stephen Baldwin became a Christian. 


Let us just plant our seeds where we can, and spread Jesus’ message of love and hope when we can. 



Monday, July 06, 2020

Courage, Daughter

"If only I can touch His cloak." Matthew 9:21




Jesus was always walking and I have no doubt that there were many more occasions that people tried to touch the tassels on His cloak. In the 9th chapter of Matthew, a woman who had been hemorrhaging for 12 years came up behind him. Although she was trying to be inconspicuous, Jesus turned around, saw her, and said, "Courage, daughter! Your faith has saved you." And she was healed.


Love heals. Love combined with faith always heals. One thing I like about Facebook is we are given many opportunities to pray for each other. We may live in different continents, but we can reach out to each other in prayer. When someone asks for prayer, I try to pray right then and there. And the wonderful thing is, I have seen answers to prayer proclaimed on Facebook as well. Jesus' cloak covers both the one who prays and the one who receives prayer. We are One in His healing Spirit. 


Let us not be afraid to reach out across the miles to pray for one another. I know it takes courage to pray. We are always hesitant because of our uncertainty if God is listening to us or not. We do not want to go out on a limb. We are so careful with our words. Sometimes our minds cannot wrap around the enormity of what we are asking that we ask for so little from a big God. But everyday, miracles happen. I’ve received two miracle healings from God and I am not afraid to ask for another. I don’t think God has a quota for each person. And He certainly won’t say, “That’s enough. You’ve said 5 prayers today. I’m not going to listen to any more pleadings!” We can just go about our day, the whole day, just talking to our Father, and asking Him for small and big things. 


When we do that, I know we are able to touch His cloak in love and healing. 


Sunday, July 05, 2020

Wounded


“Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me, your souls will find rest.” Matthew 11:28-29




Who is not heavy laden, burdened by the cares of this world, weary from all the uncertainty and confusion surrounding us during this pandemic? It may commuting safely to and from work now that restrictions have eased, balancing decisions of how to sustain a business, or discerning how best to give the kids a good education. The hardest challenge would be stressful relationships, not enough money to pay debts or a debilitating sickness. Yes, life is hard. Period. 


Jesus invited us to take His yoke upon our shoulders and learn from Him. How do we do this? There is nothing we would like more than to shed our heavy load and put it on His shoulders, but instead He asks us to take His yoke on ours! 


One bible verse is particularly apt- "Faithful are the wounds of a friend..." Psalm 27:6. I can't help but relate this to grafting. Why does God allow us to get wounded, heavily burdened? Perhaps it is the only way we can grow, and bloom and bear fruit. He is the vine and we are the branches. We are supposed to abide in Him, attach ourselves to Him, remain in Him, "No branch can bear fruit by itself." In grafting, the tissues of one plant are inserted into the tissues of another so that the two sets of vascular tissues are joined together. The "vine" contains the desired genes to be duplicated in the branch! But we can't get connected without the wounds on both the vine and the branch!


When God allows hardship to enter our life, we are invited to join with Him, to take His yoke on our shoulders. To be one with Him, to have a covenant relationship with Him who is the source of life, strength, and joy. Indeed, we may find that taking His yoke on our shoulders would be the best way to lessen our burdens! 


Saturday, July 04, 2020

New Wine!

"Do not put new wine into old wineskins." Matthew 9:17




Having never seen an old nor a new wineskin, this analogy is lost on me. Nowadays Wineskin is an app you use so Windows software can run on the Mac OS.


But what did Jesus mean? Wine skins made from goat, ox or pig leather are still in use in Spain and in the East. Old skins break easily if new wine is put inside because of fermentation. The new wine would swell and burst them open. I imagine myself listening to Jesus, following Him around. Would not His words be like new wine, exhilarating, fresh, original? Would not the words of the Pharisees and teachers of the law be in contrast, stifling, full of prejudice, and petty? I see Jesus healing on the Sabbath, and I experience freedom. I hear Him speak about the Kingdom of God and my heart sings. I listen to every word, and I follow Him. He doesn't turn me away. He wants me to listen. He heals the blind, the lame, the lepers! I too am made whole by His words, His touch. Nothing is the same! And the name too sacred to be spoken, Y-H-W?  I can call Him Abba Father now! 


Lord, I want Your new wine! Thank You that each one of us can drink from Your well, and never thirst! Thank You that You are as near as a prayer, and Your Spirit dwells in us! 


Friday, July 03, 2020

Unless I See

“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” John 20:25




The story of doubting Thomas reminds me of Nabeel Qureshi who asked God for dreams before he became a Christian. He was a devout Muslim, born of devout parents of the peaceful Ahmadi sect of Islam. His mother was a daughter and grand-daughter of Muslim missionaries. He was given three dreams at different intervals in his quest for the truth. 


Nabeel was what you might call a Muslim apologist and knew how to defend his faith. So in August 2001, when he saw his roommate, David Wood, reading the Bible, he challenged David and claimed that the Bible had been corrupted over time and the original gospel message lost. David was able to give him historical evidence of the reliability of biblical documents that Nabeel had to concede. 


Next they argued about whether Jesus claimed to be God. David was also able to show Nabeel that Jesus did claim to be God, and then that Jesus did die on the cross. Eventually, after investigating the evidence for himself, Nabeel also accepted that Jesus did indeed amazingly rise from the dead. Two and a half years later, Nabeel was reading the Bible for himself and asking how could one man die for another man’s sins? And how could the one true God be a Trinity? 


He was also finding that “at the end of my research, the arguments for and against Islam still hung in the balance, but one thing was abundantly clear: they were far from approaching the strength of the case for Christianity.” Muslims believe God speaks in dreams, that’s why Nabeel kept asking for God to give him dreams to make what God wanted him to do clearer.


In Nabeel’s last dream, he was standing before a narrow door. Beyond the door, there was a feast, but he could not go in because his friend David was blocking the door. When he woke up, he called David and told him about his dream. David pointed him to Luke 13. “ Why didn’t you let me in, David?” Nabeel asked. “Because you still have not accepted Christ’s invitation!” David replied.


Nabeel became very sad because he knew that accepting Christ would change his whole world. “But Jesus,” he said, “accepting you would be like dying. I will have to give up everything.” 


The verses in the Bible he was holding spoke to him, saying, “He who does not take his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for my sake will find it” (NASB). Nabeel felt that Jesus was being very blunt: For Muslims, following the gospel is more than a call to prayer. It is a call to die. He knelt at the foot of his bed and gave up his life. When he told his parents, they were devastated.


Some time after accepting Christ, Nabeel became an apologist and travelled the world proclaiming God’s truth. I like listening to his sharing and his talks on YouTube. He wrote his story in”Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity”, which became a bestseller. 


In September 16, 2017, Nabeel Qureshi, age 34, passed away, entering through the narrow door to be with Jesus, after enduring a yearlong battle with stomach cancer.




Thursday, July 02, 2020

Courage

“Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.” Matthew 9:2




I like listening to the late apologist Ravi Zacharias because he told many interesting stories. One of those he liked to tell was about Sami Dagher, a Lebanese founding pastor of the Karantina Alliance Church. He described Sami as a “teddy bear” of a man, small but packed with energy. One night at about 11 pm, Sami and his wife were in a car, Sami was driving along a road in Lebanon, when Sami stopped because there was a suitcase lying on the road. His wife dissuaded him from picking it up, but Sami proceeded to get out of his car and loaded it into the trunk. When they reached home, he opened the suitcase and he found it was packed with money. Every square inch was just filled with money. He was able to find a calling card and he called the number on it. 


“Hello? Is this Mr. So and So?” 

“Yes.”

“Did you lose something?”

The man on the other line was quiet for a moment, then, “Did you find it?”

“Yes.”

The man wanted to come over and get it, but Sami said, “Come tomorrow. I have no plans for your suitcase.”


When the man arrived the next morning he was so grateful to Sami, amazed that someone would return the money. He said that he had withdrawn all his money from the bank with plans of leaving the country. As a reward he offered Sami some money. Sami said, “No, no, no, I only accept that amount of cash in the collection plate. Come to my church on Sunday.” The man came with his family, and at the end of the service, they all went to the front to receive Jesus Christ as their Savior. As they asked forgiveness for their sins, and asked Jesus to come into their hearts, their tears fell. 


“You thought you had your treasure,” Sami said, “but the real treasure is Jesus Christ and His Words.” He gave them a Bible. There is no treasure apart from God. Whatever we are searching for, freedom, wisdom, power, riches, beauty or forgiveness. He is the source of all. 


Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Out, Out, Out


“They begged Him to go away and leave them alone.” Matthew 8:34




This is a very curious Gospel story. When Jesus went to the territory of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs came out from the area of the tombs. We are told they were so savage, no one could pass by that road. These men were evil, possessed by many spirits. Jesus exorcised them which to me is a good thing. But when the people of the town learned of this, they went to meet Jesus and begged Him to go away and leave them alone! Isn’t that the craziest thing? I would think they would celebrate! Two men are back to being normal, productive citizens, and they can all use the road to the tombs again. And a herd of demons were expelled from their midst! 


Sometimes however, people prefer the status quo to any form of change. The big thing for these people is they lost their herd of swine. The demons transferred from the demoniacs to the swine and the swine rushed down to the sea and drowned. Instead of rejoicing that Jesus was in their midst and they could learn things from Him, could ask Him to heal them, heal their daughters, even raise their people from the dead, they wanted him out, out, out! 


Some people think they’re religious and following God. I heard of one government secretary who starts their meetings with prayers and quotes Bible verses. But those under him are dismayed because he shirks his responsibilities, hardly appears for work but shows up for pictorials. He squanders government funds and reprimands his people when they make too rigorous a schedule when they have meetings abroad. I am thinking this would be the kind of man who likes his life as it is, and would want Jesus out, out, out should Jesus appear in his midst. 


How about us? Do we want the Lord in our midst? Are we not afraid of change? If He asks us to give what we most hold dear, will we still choose Him? Or would we want Him out, out, out? 

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

New Adventures

“Lord, save us!  We are perishing!” Matthew 8:25




My father loved to sail, even when he was 90 years old. He taught my husband Luigi to sail and they went off on many adventures together. Once they went off on a trip to Taal because there was a regatta. The wind was very rough, and as my daddy was getting on in age, Luigi went off by himself first. On his return he found my father waiting for him, all kitted out in his life vest. Obviously he wanted to go out even if the weather was so bad. Picture a small sailboat being swamped by the waves. The wind was terrifyingly strong. Luigi was  anxious because he knew he would have to take care of my dad if they capsized. But my dad? He was exhilarated. He was in his element. The strong winds and mighty waves excited him. Little did they know the fishermen were looking out for them, knowing the wind was so strong. They got back safely to the relief of Luigi, the fishermen and onlookers.


Life can be a ride on a boat. Sometimes it’s an easy, relaxing ride. Sometimes it is fraught with peril. Like during this pandemic. We don’t really know how to navigate, because we have never passed this way before. When my father knew he was nearing the end of his life, he talked to his grandchildren. He had built a boat in his backyard, and he had planned to go fishing in Simo Banks off the coast of Batangas. He showed them the map where Simo Banks is (so far!), and gave them instructions. Isabel was very receptive and daddy was so happy she said she would go. Even with a map, and navigational tools, I doubt it will be easy to get there, and I don’t know if they’ll catch any fish! The thing is, with or without a map, this journey called life is uncertain. But we can also be like my dad, excited about the twists and turns that God allows to happen. Challenged by new adventures, looking forward to what the future brings, and certain that with God at the helm, everything will be all right. 

Monday, June 29, 2020

Who Do You Say That I Am?

“But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16:16




After Peter answered that he knew Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, Jesus responded, “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My heavenly Father.” If we are asked by Jesus this very same question, “Who do you say that I am?”, what will our answer be? 


In the same way that Jesus gave Peter a mission after Peter declared Jesus was the Christ, so too we are given the mission to build His Church here on earth if we answer the same way. I came across a vlog of Abby Borja yesterday. She is a model who came from a very poor family. They were always thrown out of their home because she was an illegitimate daughter. She decided to do her best in school, so she will be able to take care of her mother. She worked very hard, became a model, host, then started an events company. In her vlog, she told the story of deciding to buy her very first expensive car last December. She named that car ‘Snow’. She was going to finance it using the earnings from her van which did Lalamove deliveries. Unfortunately, there was a surfeit of Lalamove drivers, business slowed down, and she had to get rid of her driver. In January, the Taal eruption occurred, all the weddings in Tagaytay she was in charge of were cancelled. Then the pandemic! All her income dried up suddenly! All the while, while she is narrating her story, she is crying buckets of tears. But she declares, “If there is one thing I am sure of, my God is my provider, I shall not lack! “ She shared that, “Our source of income may be drying up, our food supplies low, our bills pouring in, yet we can still be glad and praise God, for the greater our need, the more obvious it is when God provides for it.”


A Chinese friend offered her the chance to sell PPE products, and she did very well marketing and selling, that she was able to make a million pesos in earnings after all her hard work. If you look at her Facebook wall, you will see that she is really squeezing all her talents and resources trying to survive, selling not only PPEs, but plants, acrylic barriers, even Kani Aburi Sushi Torei with avocado that I am tempted to order. Interspersed between her posts on what she is selling are her testimonies. “I know my God will provide because He is able. But even if He doesn’t, still I will praise the God of my salvation!” Amen! Abby is really able to answer Jesus’ question, and now more than 2.7 million people know that Jesus is Abby’s Lord and Savior! 

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Alive and Powerful!

“Whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10:38-39




This verse is very significant for me because when I was in UP High School, a group of people from Gideons International dropped by with cute little red Bibles for each of the students. They spoke a little about the Bible, and then we had to promise to read the Bible every day if we wanted to get a Bible from them. The Bible was so cute, and I wanted one, and to this day, I still have that Bible with markings on the pages. So I know that I stopped reading the Bible when I read those words of Jesus, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” In John 12:25, the verse reads, “Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”


To a young girl in love with life, what would those words about the cross, and finding life if you lose it, and losing your life for Jesus’ sake mean? Not very much! I believe that Jesus intentionally did not speak in plain and simple language because one has to spend time seeking for layers of meanings. If one really wants to know the truth which is a priceless treasure, we need to read the Bible every day, pray about it, and like Mary, “ponder it in our heart”. St. Luke writes in 2:19,  “Mary treasured all these words (rhemata = acts of utterance) and pondered them in her heart.” The mother of Jesus was a very young peasant girl and she did not understand what was happening to her either. After all the mystery of the Incarnation never happened before or since. So she protected the words of the angel in her heart, not her mind, where it can get lost in all the meanderings of logic and cynicism, but in her heart, where God can give clarity and meaning. 


In the morning when I pray and read the Bible, I just like to think of the words I read just sitting and finding a place in my heart. I need not fully understand it. But I know that God’s word is “alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.”  (Hebrews 4:12) So let’s not worry, if we do not understand what we read all the time. Just trust God to reveal to us what He wants to reveal in His perfect time. 

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Not Worthy


 "Lord, I am not worthy to have you under my roof..." Matthew 8:8




We Catholics say these words before Communion during every Mass. These are the words a centurion said to Jesus when he heard that Jesus was coming to his home to heal his paralyzed servant.


"Lord, I am not worthy..." this coming from a man who had authority over a hundred men in the Roman army. He could have felt entitled, as many police captains feel entitled to favor. But this centurion knew his place. When one is sick, one needs a correct diagnosis in order to get an effective prescription for medicine that will heal you. If we don't know the depth of the problem, a doctor can't help very much. That's why a doctor has all those tests done, to get the real situation.


In this story, the centurion saw the situation for what it really was. He saw himself in relation to Christ. He recognized Jesus' authority. He knew he was not worthy to have Jesus visit him. How about us? Do we really recognize how unworthy we are in relation to God? We need to know the real situation so that God can "heal" us, and bring us to the place He wants us to be- His sons and daughters, bought by His Son's life.


Lord, I am not worthy to have you in my heart. Do your work in me, heal me, that I may have a true understanding of who I am. Beloved. Redeemed. Forgiven.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Through God’s Eyes


“Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” Matthew 8:2




Jesus stretched out his hand and healed the leper in this story in the gospel of Matthew. We pray about many things and sometimes we wonder why God is not answering our prayers. We just have to trust that God knows exactly what He is doing when He does not say yes to all our intercessions. 


Can you imagine how many people pray that they would win the lotto? The mother of Dionie Reyes kept praying that he would win the lotto and finally in April 2008, he did. He won 14 million pesos and after living the life of a millionaire for 3 months, he is now destitute and owes big sums of money. 


"I wish it never happened," William Post said. “It was totally a nightmare!" He won $16.2 million but after a year, he owed $1 million. There are many more horror stories like this.


A lot of people are under the illusion that having money would solve all their problems, and make them happy. Successful comedian Jim Carrey famously said, “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it's not the answer.”


Lord, we put our hope and our trust in You. Help us to see our circumstances through Your eyes. 

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Hope in the Lord

“Help us, O God our savior, ​because of the glory of your name, Deliver us and pardon our sins ​for Your name’s sake.” Psalm 79:9




The other day I was praying about many things. I was praying for our business, for wisdom to know what to do. I interceded for our many employees and their families. I implored God to bless and heal my brother who has colon cancer. Then I was asking God why He was not healing me. I am still coughing all the time, I need oxygen, I get tired just climbing the stairs. God did not answer me, and I went to sleep.




The next day I found out that while I was sound asleep, my husband Luigi smelled something burning. He was inside our bedroom and he went out to investigate, then came back inside. The outlet and plug of our airconditioner was so hot! It was a blessing he was still awake because the curtain was right next to the outlet and could have easily caught fire. 




It was as if God was answering my prayer of the night before. There are things in our life that God allows, and there are many, many things He saves us from. We just are not aware of them. We just need to trust Him. I have read many times that when autopsies are done, the coroner finds many diseases that are healed without medical intervention. In our life, God takes care of many things, protects us from accidents and even disasters that can change the course of our lives. There are many tragic stories about what happened on 9/11, but there are also amazing stories how some people were spared because they had to change a shirt, or they were fired from their job the day before, or because of traffic or some minor inconvenience. God’s ways are mysterious and we will never be able to fathom how He thinks or decides who lives or dies, who gets healed or when. We just need to pray and trust Him. Those who hope in Him will never be disappointed. 


Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Wonderful Works

“Truly you have formed my inmost being; ​you knit me in my mother’s womb. I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made; ​wonderful are your works.” Psalm 139:13-14




Here are the words of Pope Francis, in his General Audience St. Peter’s Square in April 2017:


“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 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.”


Yes, we were created in love, surrounded by love ever since we were a mere idea in God’s mind. God will never abandon us, even if it may seem so sometimes. The world is so full of uncertainty, sadness and pain. Many people take that as a sign that God has forsaken us. But that is far from the truth. Once I was praying about so many things, my brother’s health and well being, my own condition, our business, our country, our leaders. So many challenges confront us that it may seem overwhelming and hopeless at times. But I felt God say to me that the bigger the mess, the more material He has to work with. There is always victory if we work with God. Perhaps all we see is the difficulty, the suffering, the incompetence, the injustice, the evil of the system. But what does God see? 


If we see the beginnings of a baby in the womb, it does not look anything like a baby. But each day, each week, each month, the primitive form inside the womb is developing into an individual like no one else. God is working with blood cells, and neural tissue, and bits of bone, that at first looks like a baby dinosaur, but God sees the finished result. Yes, He will finish what He started, in our lives, and the lives of our loved ones. We just need to trust in Him who created us with love.


Tuesday, June 23, 2020

The Narrow Gate

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.” Matthew 7:13-14




Many, many years ago, before Korea was divided into North and South, a theological professor from Yale visited a country church in a rural Korean village. He had an interpreter with him. But when he began by saying, “All thought is divided into two categories, the concrete and the abstract,” the interpreter made a quick decision. 


The small congregation was composed of barefoot schoolboys and toothless grandmothers all eager to hear what this man from far away had to say. The interpreter began his own sermon, “Dear friends,” he said, “I have come all the way from America to tell you about the Lord Jesus Christ.” From that point on, the sermon was firmly in the interpreter’s hands (Samuel Moffet, Christianity Today [11/14/94], p. 55).


I am sure the Koreans profited more from the simple sharing of the interpreter rather than if the interpreter used the high falutin’ words of the esteemed theology professor from Yale. God is not distant and Jesus used stories that his listeners would be very familiar with, shepherds and sheep, vineyards, masters and workers, etc. In the gospel of St. Matthew, Jesus speaks of a narrow gate and another gate which is wide. We should choose to go through the narrow gate, not the gate which leads to destruction. The meaning is fairly simple. Fewer people will choose the narrow gate which is the way of Jesus, the way of humility, faith and eternal redemption. More people would rather live their life their own way, choosing worldly pleasures and relegating God on the side. 


Monday, June 22, 2020

The Measure

“Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.” Matthew 7:1-2




We have to realize that mankind, all of us, did something terrible to merit Jesus, God's son, dying on the cross for us. Sin is terrible, horrible to a Holy God. And that's why Jesus gave the gift of His life to each of us. We are all recipients of God's mercy and grace, not one is exempt. C.S. Lewis, when asked what made Christianity different from other religions, answered, "That's simple. Grace."


Victor Hugo's "Les Miserable" is a remarkably beautiful story about a man who made something of his life because he was the recipient of the unmerited favor of the Bishop of Digne. When the hero of the story, Jean Valjean, was released from prison on parole, he was given food to eat and a bed to sleep in by the good bishop. Valjean steals the silver and is arrested by the gendarmes and brought back to face the bishop. Jan Valjean was surprised when the Bishop says that he had given the silver to Valjean. “My friend, you left the best behind!" he exclaimed, and offered the massive silver candlesticks. These candlesticks were treasured by the Bishop because they were the last remnants of a formerly rich life, and presents from his great aunt.


In the musical, the Bishop sings to Valjean: 

"But remember this, my brother

See in this some higher plan

You must use this precious silver

To become an honest man

By the witness of the martyrs

By the Passion and the Blood

God has raised you out of darkness

I have bought your soul for God!"


Just as the Bishop recognizes that he was "bought" by God, ransomed to be reclaimed by God, we too should realize that Jesus' gifts of forgiveness, mercy and grace, should be passed on to others. Just as God gave us His Son as a free gift, we too should make our lives a gift to others. Let us not judge others with our critical eye, but see them through God’s loving eyes. 



Sunday, June 21, 2020

Mighty Champion

“But the Lord is with me, like a mighty champion.” Jeremiah 20:11




Who does not need a champion? I think we all do! Especially during this time of pandemic when all seems uncertain. We need people to pray for us, to encourage us, to be for us even if they are far away. Many of our friends and relatives are front liners, and they need us to be their “champions” by praying for their safety always. Many small and big businesses are in danger, and we need to be their “champions” by buying from them and supporting them at this time. Many people have lost loved ones, their jobs, their sense of security. We should do what we can, but we should also know that we have a real champion, our Father in heaven. We need not be afraid. Just as he takes care of every little thing that happens to us, He will also take care of the big, important things. 


We need to know God as our champion so that we can become winners ourselves. The story of Esther Ahn Kim is a powerful testimony of a person who knew God as her champion and was never defeated even when she was thrown into prison for 6 years. Like the Old Testament heroes, she refused to worship at the shrines to the sun god set up by the Japanese during their occupation of Korea in WWII. She prepared for her impending incarceration by eating decaying food and memorizing the Bible and many hymns. She knew she would be tortured so she prayed so as not to be afraid. “I knew it would be impossible for me to keep my faith in my own power,” Esther wrote later. “God would have to work through me if I was to stand firm. I decided to fast.” 


In prison, she ministered to many people. Murderers, swindlers and other criminals got to know Christ through her witnessing to them and serving them with compassion. After she was freed, her story of faith became the all-time religious bestseller in Korea. 


Indeed Lord, You are always with us. Thank You for answering our prayers, for showing us we can depend on You. May You teach us also to be Your soldiers, Your ambassadors, Your champions where You need us.