Thursday, March 04, 2021

Look for Lazarus

“They will not be convinced...” Luke 16:31

This is the only time Jesus gives a name to a character in a parable. His name is Lazarus. He is a poor man, diseased, with oozing sores on his body. The dogs would come and lick his wounds. Lazarus was begging every day outside a rich man’s home. Perhaps this rich man is nameless because it can be you or me every time we ignore the needs of others. Sometimes the poor, the sick, the orphaned, the widowed, the imprisoned, they are right there in front of us, and we continue to pursue our own business. We do not realize that they are open doors to heaven. We forget that what is most important to God is not how much money we make, how big our home is, how far we’ve climbed, how many places we have travelled to, but how much we loved our neighbor! 

In the parable, the rich man goes to hell, and Lazarus goes to heaven. The rich man pleads with Abraham to send Lazarus to his 5 brothers to warn them that hell exists. But would his 5 brothers take time to listen to Lazarus, do you think? No, they will not be convinced by Lazarus. They would not mind him with his stinking clothes, and dirty hands. 

Perhaps we live in a gated subdivision and there is no Lazarus at our gate. For Lent, let us look for Lazarus and his family so we will not be one of the nameless in Jesus’ eyes. Or at the very least, if we are staying safe in our home, let us open our hearts and our wallets and give alms to organizations that are helping the poor at this time. 

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

What the Future Holds

“Promise me that these sons of mine will sit, one on your right hand and the other at your feet in your kingdom.” Matthew 20:21

In another version, it says that the mother of James and John asked Jesus that these two sons of hers be given places of honor in His Kingdom. Jesus replied, “You do not know what you are asking!” Mothers always want the best for their sons. We plead with God for their good health, safety everywhere they go, friendships that will influence them to go the right path, authentic faith, etc. 

Salome, the mother of James and John, had the unique position of being right there with Jesus and His apostles right after He described His death and resurrection. She could not have foreseen that James would be the first of the disciples to be martyred, slain by the sword when Herod Agrippa had started persecuting leaders of the Christians. When James was lead away, his accuser was so moved by his courage that he repented, accepted Jesus and asked to be executed alongside James. 

Salome’s other son John was the only one of the original Twelve who did not die a violent death. He passed away of old age after writing several books of the New Testament. 

We never know what the future holds for us, and for our loved ones. We can only pray that we all finish running the race well. Jesus tells us how: “Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. For even I, the Son of Man, came here not to be served but to serve others, and to give my life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:26-28)

Tuesday, March 02, 2021

We Become Like That Which We Love

“You have but one master, the Christ. The greatest among you must be your servant.” 

Matthew 23:10-11

Usually, if we hang around with people who like eating out, we end up eating out a lot. If most of our friends visit the gym often, we inevitably buy exercise outfits and work out. Mannerisms, the way our friends talk, their attitudes rub off on us. I used to go out with some friends who cursed. Even if I was determined not to do so, sometimes I would catch myself saying a bad word. My mom heard me once when I was home say a word that was constantly repeated by this group, and almost washed my mouth out with soap!

It is also catching if we spend time with Jesus. We will be influenced by the way He prays, and loves, and serves others. Bishop Fulton Sheen wrote in his book, Life is Worth Living, that “We become like that which we love. If we love what is base, we become base; but if we love what is noble, we become noble.” 

Colin Powell wrote something that bears thinking about: “The less you associate with some people, the more your life will improve. Any time you tolerate mediocrity in others, it increases your mediocrity. An important attribute in successful people is their impatience with negative thinking and negative acting people. As you grow, your associates will change. Some of your friends will not want you to go on. They will want you to stay where they are. Friends that don't help you climb will want you to crawl. Your friends will stretch your vision or choke your dream. Those that don't increase you will eventually decrease you.”

I am part of a covenant Christian community. We are all different kinds of people. I doubt we would ever have met if not for community. One thing I know, we all love God and strive to love, serve, and encourage one another. Christ is our master, our leader, our friend. It is not a perfect community, but I know I am in the right group. Have you found friends who will help you to become what God purposed you to be? 

Monday, March 01, 2021

Give Till it Hurts

“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

“Give, God tells us. Give till it hurts. It’s been hurting for a while now. But we’ve never been happier.” These words were uttered by Jason Brown, the former NFL center who was paid $37.5 million when he was signed by the St. Louis Rams. He left all that behind and bought a 1,000 acre farm in North Carolina and has been farming full time since 2013. The amazing thing is he gives everything he grows, except what his family eats, to the poor. Jason’s First Fruits Farm provides the fruit and vegetables that go to food banks and soup kitchens. 

“We’ve donated more than a million pounds of food since we started.” Jason said. “My father sometimes tells me that if we keep giving like this, pretty soon we will be the ones needing help. He’s got a point. But I also recognize that I’m attached to a kingdom with unlimited resourcesthat I’m loved by a generous God. And so we keep giving. We keep working. We keep doing what God called us to do. I’m working harder now than I ever did playing football. I’m sacrificing more now than I ever did playing football.” 

When asked why he does it, why he left such a lucrative career to work hard in a farm with little financial return, he answers: 

“Here’s the difference between my life then and my life now: When I go to bed, I have a sense of peace and satisfaction. The stress that I felt playing football is gone. And, although it’s been replaced by different stresses, I know that all my problems come with a purpose. A mission. I know that what I’m doing now isn’t just for me. It isn’t even just about all the thousands of people who might otherwise go hungry. It’s for God. I’m doing what God has truly called me to do.

“For all the work I do, for all the weariness that sinks and settles deep into my bones, I wake up every morning, look out the window, and feel . . . amazed. And I feel God beside me. Above me. Everywhere. Because I am right where He has called me to be.”

Indeed when we give to God’s work, we will receive much more than we have given. 

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Insider Information

“And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.” Mark 9:2-3

Everybody gets excited about insider information, be it about stocks, or someone getting engaged, or having a baby! That's why there are TV shows, magazines, websites devoted to inside information. When Jesus was transfigured on top of a mountain, only Peter, James and John were with Him. Only these three got to share in Jesus' huge revelation. And now, with Matthew, Mark and Luke writing about this "inside information", we get to know about it as well.

The three disciples watched in awe as Jesus' appearance changed. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became whiter than white. If that wasn't enough, Elijah and Moses appeared. A cloud came over them all. Can you imagine what the disciples must have been experiencing by this time?

In the Old Testament God manifested Himself to the travelling Israelites with a cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. He could not show Himself to them. He was too too inscrutable, too too awe-inspiring, magnificent...I doubt there are any words to capture what our God is. Our minds cannot wrap around the idea of God, much less describe Him. But God wanted us to know Him. And so, He said to the 3 disciples, in a voice that came out from the cloud, "THIS IS MY BELOVED SON. LISTEN TO HIM." Can God be any clearer than that?

In Matthew 17, we see that Jesus touches the terrified disciples, who had fallen face down on the ground, and said, "Don't be afraid." The insider information the disciples received and which we now can share with others, is that they saw a glimpse of the glory of Jesus, and they saw how men like Moses and Elijah would share in that glory. And that even if God is terrifying and unapproachable, we who will one day have to face Him before His throne, need not be afraid, IF we are with Jesus. IF we listen to Jesus. 

Saturday, February 27, 2021

God’s Ways

“Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? “ 

Matthew 5:44-45

This is very difficult to obey, but I remember women offering flowers to soldiers during our People Power Revolution in EDSA in 1986. The whole world witnessed our non-violent civil resistance against the threat of the military through the CNN live coverage. Who would have imagined that offered prayers, flowers, and sandwiches, would be successful in bringing back our democracy and would inspire other countries to take the same peaceful path against tyranny? 

A few years after, the Berlin Wall was dismantled, ending the Cold War. A portion of the wall is dedicated to the Philippines in remembrance of the People Power Revolt that inspired the Germans to do the same. 

I read about a man named Daniel. Before he attended a church in Southern California, he lived in Uganda, when Idi Amin was President from 1971-1979. At that time, he was caught and tortured brutally for being a Christian. For several days at a time, a guard would hang him from his feet and whip him. One night as the guard was leaving, Daniel said, "Have a nice evening."

The guard turned back to him, and asked incredulously, "How can you say that to me? After what I have been doing to you?" Daniel then told him about Jesus, about the blood shed on the cross for him, about freedom, about how he had been forgiven and loved. A few days after that, the guard helped him escape, brought Daniel to his house, fed him and let him share about Jesus to his family. 

Jesus’ way is hard. He teaches us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. He says His Father makes His sun rise on the bad and good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. God’s ways are not the world’s ways. If we want to be His children, we have to learn His ways. His way is the way of love. 

Friday, February 26, 2021

God’s One Desire

‘You say, “The Lord’s way is not fair!” Hear now, house of Israel: Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair?’ Ezekiel 18:25

Ezekiel chapter 18 is full of questions and puzzlements if there is such a word. I think of our business, and the rules we have. All our employees sign a paper with a list of minor offenses, serious offenses and offenses in between with corresponding consequences. If an employee commits the serious offense of dishonesty and is given the appropriate consequence, the employee cannot say he is unaware that dishonesty is counted as a serious offense. If he asks why he is suspended, the HR manager need only to point to the consequence attached to the offense. If the employee continues to commit the same offense, one can say it is his choice to get terminated. It is not the company at fault. 

I am assuming that most people want to go to heaven. The Bible is full of instructions on how to get there. Even if someone has been wicked for most of his life, he can still enter heaven if he repents of his sins: 

“If the wicked man turns away from all the sins he committed, if he keeps all My statutes and does what is right and just, he shall surely live, he shall not die. None of the crimes he committed shall be remembered against him.” In one sense, we can say the Lord’s way is unfair. Everything is stacked in our favor. God’s one desire is to get us all to heaven, and He did everything, even to giving His only begotten Son, so that we might live and not die. If we face a judge after we die, Jesus for sure will pay the price for our sins. IF HE KNOWS US. “You are My friends if you do what I command you.” (John 15:14)

Isn’t it a life or death decision to know what Jesus commands so we know the consequences of our actions? 

Thursday, February 25, 2021

I Will Trust in You

“Put in my mouth persuasive words in the presence of the lion and turn his heart..." Esther C:24

There are additions in the Book of Esther that are found in my Catholic Bible that I could not find in other versions. The verse I found interesting today is found in Esther C:12-25 (inserted Chapter 4). ‘Queen Esther, seized in mortal anguish, had recourse to the Lord. She lay prostrate upon the ground together with her handmaids, from morning till evening..."Put in my mouth persuasive words in the presence of the lion," she prayed.’

Esther was a Jewish orphan, raised by Mordecai, and because of her beauty, was chosen by King Ahasuerus to replace his recalcitrant Queen.When the Jews were going to be annihilated by order of Haman, the contemptible, proud, right hand man of the King, Mordecai advised Esther to plead on their behalf.

Before doing so, Esther together with her handmaids, interceded the whole day and night. She asked God to save them and teach her what to say. Her prayer lasts from verses 14 to 30, and concludes with, "From the day I was brought here till now, your handmaid has had no joy except in You, O Lord God of Abraham...

Deliver me from my fear."

Queen Esther was rightly afraid of going before the King.She tells Mordecai that anyone who goes before the King without being summoned suffers the automatic penalty of death. (Esther 4:11). We all have to confront fears in our life. Fear of a loved one dying, fear of cancer, fear of the future, of loneliness, of not getting married, losing our job, incompetence, helplessness...The list is long, but faith is the step we need to take against fear. Faith says that what I cannot do, what I cannot control, what I cannot foresee, is all in God's hands. He knows me, He knows the future. AND what's more, He loves me!

There is nothing, NOTHING that happens to me, that is NOT under His jurisdiction and control. I will trust in Him no matter what. I will trust in Him even when circumstances appear dire and spinning out of control. I. will. trust. in. Him. Period.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Sign of Jonah

“The only sign I will give them is the sign of Jonah.” Luke 11:29

The sign of Jonah is a call to repent. In verse 32 of the same chapter, we can read what Jesus said to the “evil generation” listening to Him, “At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here.” 

Such an understatement! Jesus is much greater than Jonah, much greater than all the prophets combined! His grace-filled Words fill the Gospels, and the Old Testament all point to Him! When two young Muslim girls read Jesus’ words, they converted to Christianity, and put 20,000 Bibles in mailboxes in Iran. They started two house churches, and spread the good news

In 2009, Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh were arrested and put in the notoriously brutal Evin Prison in Iran. At first, they were terrified, and prayed that they would be released. But as it became clear they had a purpose being there, they became a sign of Jonah to the inmates, the prostitutes, and a sign of hope for the desperate. Even though it was dangerous to speak loudly, they would sing in tongues, and the Moslems around would feel the presence of God. Many would cry, confess their sins and turn back to God. 

After 259 days, they were both released. Many Christians, the UN, even the Pope wrote letters to the Iranian government. Now they are free, they wrote their story in a book, “Captive in Iran”, and vow to be a voice for those who are still in prison. There are hundreds of thousands of Christians in Iran, and the numbers of Iranian refugees converting have grown tremendously over the years, even if they face persecution, and even death. 

Lord, there is so much evil in the world. Like Maryam and Marziyeh, may we be a sign of Jonah where we are. But more importantly, may we sit at Your feet every day. Soften our hearts that we may receive You who are the source of all good things. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Watch What You Say

"Thus says the Lord: As the rain and the snow come down from the heavens and do not return till they have watered the earth, making it yield seed for the sower and food for others to eat, so is My word that goes forth out from My mouth: it will not return to Me idle, but it shall accomplish My will, 
the purpose for which it has been sent."
Isaiah 55:10-11

God's Word is creative. He said, "Let there be light,"and there was light. 
He created everything in this way.

He also gave man a part of His creative power. In Mark 11;23, Jesus said: “If you do not doubt in your heart, but believe what you say will come to pass, you shall have what you say."

So we have to watch our words, and be conscious that no negative words come out of our mouth. “We're not going to make it!" “What dim prospects!" “It's going to be a miserable day!" And especially never speak a curse over children! “You’ll never amount to anything!” “ How stupid can you be!”

"The good man out of the good treasure in his heart produces what is good. The evil man out of the evil storehouse brings forth that which is evil, for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." Luke 6:44-46

So let us fill our heart with good things, so that we speak good things! 
"...whatsover things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue and if there be any praise, think on these things." Phil. 4:8

There is so much that is good and wonderful in the world, why is it that a lot of times we concentrate on the negative?

I've been watching the way my mind thinks. And I've resolved not to allow negative thinking to run away like a mad dog, but to reign it in, pull its leash. I've got some ways to go yet, being a judgmental person a lot of times, but I've got time to work on it! 

Monday, February 22, 2021

My Shepherd

"The Lord is my Shepherd..." Psalm 23:1

My husband likes to tell of the time he visited a shepherd and his flock. He offered to take care of the sheep while the shepherd took a rest.

"Well, you see that's the problem. See if they'll eat if you give them food."

 My husband got the food and called out to the sheep. They did not come near. When my husband would go near, they would move away warily. The farmer then explained, "They're nearsighted. They can’t see you. But they know my voice."

He called out, and they came to feed. In John 10:4-5, Jesus explains, "The sheep follow him because they know his voice. The sheep will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of a stranger." 

Do we know the voice of our Shepherd?

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Your Ways O Lord Make Known to Me

"Your ways O Lord, make known to me; teach me Your paths." Psalm 25:4

What a wonderful prayer to start our time with the Lord! Even if we've been reading the Bible for years and have gone from cover to cover, we will never be able to say, "I already know Your ways. I can stop reading and learning now." 

Even monks, nuns, and preachers have to ask God to continually guide them and teach them His ways. In St. Benedict's Rule for Monks, there is this important dictate: "Listen, O my child, to the precepts of the Master and incline the ear of thy heart." 

There was a beautiful, very successful actress in the 50s and early 60s named Dolores Hart. She made movies with Elvis Presley, Montgomery Clift, Anthony Quinn, and other famous leading men. Just when she was going to sign a contract which would have made her even more successful, she left her flourishing career in Hollywood, and her fiancé, to become a Benedictine nun in the Abbey of Regina Laudis.  She found out about the Abbey when she went on a retreat there after an exhausting time in her career. She recalls, “I wasn’t expecting just how peaceful it truly was. I found inner certitude. I felt like this is where I belonged. It became more than just a retreat. It’s the kind of feeling you get when you meet the person you’re going to marry. The more I came to visit the more it came calling to me. And the more I knew God was present to me in a very special way that I couldn’t deny.”

She is now 82 years old, wears a beret on top of her habit to keep her warm, and continues to receive letters asking her about how to find God and get closer to Him. She listened to the ear of her heart, which is also the title of her autobiography. 

Faith is a journey, an adventure. We need to be courageous, listen to God so He can lead us, and open up possibilities we would never even dream of! 

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Help Others

“If you bestow your bread on the hungry ​and satisfy the afflicted; Then light shall rise for you in the darkness, ​and the gloom shall become for you like midday.” Isaiah 58:10

In bookstores, it is a given that we can usually find a section on “Self-Help” or “Self Improvement”. An entire industry survives on giving ideas for people to help themselves out of depression, anxiety attacks, how to become a better leader, how to meet goals or find their purpose. But have you ever come across a bookstore or library with shelves full of books entitled “Helping Others”?  I love bookstores and libraries and I can spend a whole day browsing through books. One of the  best libraries I have visited was the Vancouver Public Library. Almost every day, after visiting the different parts of the city, my family and I would end up in their wonderful library. In the huge nine floor structure that resembles the Roman Coliseum, I don’t think there was a section centered on that topic. And yet, helping others, encouraging and supporting others, is so important to our spiritual, mental, emotional and even physical health. 

When Dr. Karl Menninger, founder of the Menninger Clinic was asked, "What should you do if you feel a nervous breakdown coming on?" he replied: "Lock the door of your house, go across the street, and do something to help your neighbor."

God’s ways are not our ways. God’s economy is not our economy. God’s solutions are not our solutions. If we lack money, we should give alms. If we are not happy, we should go and make someone happy. If we need something, we should give something away to someone in need. If we are constantly harassed and feel there isn’t enough time to do all we have to do, we should slow down and ask someone how they are doing. If we lack confidence, we should make somebody feel good about themselves. If we feel we were treated unfairly, or we feel unloved, we can combat that by being kind and generous to someone. A study conducted in 2017 found that when people who suffered chronic pain volunteered their time to help others, they experienced decreased pain and felt a sense of purpose. People who regularly volunteer find that it minimizes their stress and improves feelings of depression. 

There is a smart saying that goes “anything that’s wrong with you can be fixed by a change in me.” We can bring that into a broader perspective and say “anything that’s wrong with the world can be fixed by a change in me.” We might say we can’t do anything about terrorists or the pandemic. But that’s not how God thinks. He asks for our loaves and fishes, the bread that we have right here, right now, and He can multiply that and bless it until we have more than enough to feed the hungry, change the world and our perspective. Right here and right now, that is what God is asking for. Helping others who need help is what will save us. That is His promise. “Then light shall rise for you in the darkness, ​and the gloom shall become for you like midday.”

Friday, February 19, 2021

Cleanse Me

“My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; ​a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not despise.” Psalm 51:17

The great statesman, Winston Churchill, once said, “In the course of my life, I have often had to eat my words, and I must confess that I have always found it a wholesome diet.” Not many people appreciate the diet of humble pie, and we often learn humility with the greatest difficulty. 

Something was very wrong in the Vienna General Hospital between 1840 and 1846. It was one of the largest teaching hospitals in the world but in the maternity wing, the mortality rate was staggeringly high. The mothers would get raging puerperal fever, painful abscesses in the uterus and birth canal and die within three days of giving birth. After studying the problem, two doctors, Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis, and Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, proposed that the doctors who did autopsies should wash their hands before going to the maternity ward to deliver babies. The doctors scoffed in disbelief! Some even erroneously maintained that the dirtier the doctor, the better, because then they were very well trained as they regularly performed autopsies!

Dana Tulodziecki, a philosophy professor, wrote that the “doctors weren’t pleased that  Dr. Semmelweis, essentially implied that they were responsible for killing all those women.” That was probably the reason why it took a surprisingly long time before doctors realized how very important hand washing and sterilizing their instruments were. 

Yes, it is most humiliating when we realize the problem is us. When will we be sensible enough to know that humility is the root of all virtues and the surest sign of strength and wisdom? Let us allow God during this season of “spring cleaning” to show us how we put ourselves as the center of everything and interfere in His perfect plan for us. 

“Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness; ​in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense. Thoroughly wash me from my guilt ​and of my sin cleanse me.”

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Choose Life!

"Choose life then that you and your descendants may live." Dt. 30:19

In Deuteronomy we find several sermons of Moses. He encouraged the Israelites to faith and obedience, and gave them many, many instructions on how to live. There were also promises that if they obeyed, God would keep His covenant of unfailing love, bless them and make them into a great nation. In Dt.30:19, God said to His people, "I'm giving you a choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Choose life that you and your descendants may live." 

I remember when Josh was young and I wanted him to go to the young adults camp included in our community program. It was his first time so he was naturally apprehensive. "Don't I have a choice?" he asked me plaintively. "Yes you do," I said. "You can choose to enjoy yourself or not." 

God our Father sets out His instructions to us in the Bible. In Dt.30:11, He says through Moses that these commands are not so hard to understand. He put it in our hearts so we can obey. We too, like my son, have a choice before us. Do we obey Him and enjoy the journey? Or do we struggle against every bit of rule, instruction or command? 

Lord, may I continue to get to know You more and more. May I love Your Word, and obey You with a heart set on pleasing You. I choose You. I choose life! 

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Come Alive

“And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” The disciples answered, “Seven.” He said to them, “Do you still not understand?” 

Mark 8:20-21

Jesus spent a lot of time explaining to His disciples, and a lot of times, He would ask them, “Do you still not understand?” I can fully relate to how my mind would boggle if I was one of Jesus’ followers. I am sure following Jesus around, seeing the miracles of the loaves and fishes, healing, exorcisms, and listening to His discourses for days on end, would be overwhelming. I think I would have a paper and pen everywhere we went. And that is what scholars think Matthew, the tax collector, did. 

Edgar J. Godspeed wrote, “Jesus now has a secretary, a recorder, such as Isaiah and Jeremiah had, to such tremendous advantage!...Tax collectors were not only proficient in writing but many of them knew shorthand, in Jesus’ times and a hundred years before. While we cannot say that Matthew used it in taking down Jesus’ utterances . . . even without it dictation could be taken down with great speed.”

Many scholars have done thorough studies of reading and writing during Jesus’ life and times. Allan R. Millard for one, writes that there is an impressive array of material evidence to show that Galilee was not “illiterate backwater”, and that coin hoards there “reveal the need for records and the existence of robust trade and trade routes”.  He concludes that because of the “ubiquity of writing in first-century Palestine, the variety of writing material and scripts, and the range of circumstances in which people wrote....This is not to say the Evangelists began to compose the Gospels in Jesus’ lifetime, but that some, possibly much, of their source material was preserved in writing from that period, especially accounts of the distinctive teachings and actions of Jesus.”

We are so blessed these days! When we have a question about the Bible, there are ways to find out the answers without going through dusty stacks of books in old libraries. When I was reading the 8th chapter of Matthew this morning, I asked myself, how did people write in those days? Was it easy to write? Would someone listening to Jesus have recourse to writing down his lessons if they desired to? And the answer is yes! 

There is a letter to Tiberius Caesar that has survived through the ages, supposedly written in 32 AD by the governor of Judea, Publius Lentulus, that describes Jesus. It was brought to the Vatican about the 9th century. “There lives at this time in Judea a man of singular virtue, whose name is Jesus Christ, whom the barbarians esteem as a prophet, but his followers love and adore him as the offspring of the immortal God. He calls back the dead from the graves and heals all sorts of diseases with a word or touch. He is a tall man, well shaped, and of amenable and reverent aspect; He has hair of a color that can hardly be matched, falling into graceful curls, waving about and very agreeably couching about his shoulders, parted on the crown of his head, running as a stream to the front after the fashion of the Nazarites. His forehead is high, large and imposing; his cheeks without spot or wrinkle, beautiful with a lovely red; his nose and mouth formed with exquisite symmetry; His beard of a color suitable to his hair, reaching below his chin and parted in the middle like a fork; His eyes, bright blue, clear and serene, look innocent, dignified, manly and mature.” There is more, but we get the picture. It has not been proven without a doubt to be genuine. 

What we know is much has been written about Jesus for He is a man without equal. More important than what he looked like is what He did and said. Let us read the Word that God has left us for our benefit and use the tools at our disposal to help us understand, and make Jesus come alive for us. 

Monday, February 15, 2021

My Brother’s Keeper

 "Am I my brother's keeper?" Genesis 4:9

None of us has perfect families. Just the fact that we belong to it makes it imperfect already!! Although we love each other, try to be kind and generous, something will happen to bring out some thorns. Usually it's not even intentional.

In the story of Cain and Abel, the conflict starts with both of them offering God the fruits of their labor. While God favors the offering of Abel which consists of several choice lambs from the best of his flock, God is not so pleased with what Cain gives him. Reading from the original Hebrew shows that Cain offered the last remnants of his harvest. Leftovers. A Jewish writer said he offered hemp seed or flax, trifling things. One wonders why he bothered to bring anything to God at all! And God made His displeasure known. 

In Malachi 1:6-14, God is not pleased when we do not offer to Him our best. It is the same as when we give a worthless gift to the President or to an important guest. It is as if we give them an insult instead of a compliment! But even after Cain insults God, God still teaches Him by saying that Cain should learn to respond in a right way to His teachings because "...if you don't, watch out! Sin is waiting to attack and destroy you!" Sin has a way of escalating. From envy, anger, then hatred. Before Cain knows it, he is the first murderer!!!

 After Cain kills Abel in his rage, God asks him where Abel is. "Am I my brother's keeper?" Cain answers defiantly. In Ezekiel 33:7-9, God makes it clear that we are responsible for our brothers and sisters. We are stewards of our relationships. And that is why God constantly reaches out to us. He takes it upon Himself to reconcile us to Himself.

Thank you Lord for Your loving kindness to us! Thank you for Your perseverance and faithfulness to us! Thank you for Your forgiveness!

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Invisible Crown

“...whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31

“Noblesse oblige”, a French phrase which translates to “nobility obligates” or “nobility obliges”, means that people of noble ancestry have an unwritten obligation to act honorably, responsibly, and generously towards others, especially the less fortunate.

Is there anyone more noble than a son or daughter of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords? We are children of the living God, and we should always remember to wear our invisible crown. What we do reflects on our Father, especially if we claim to be Christians. We may be the only Bible others may ever see. 

Alas! We may not always present ourselves on our best behavior, but we may be assured as heirs of our Father, “Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the Church to Himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind – yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish” (Eph 5:25-27). 

Without spot or wrinkle or blemish! Yes, Christ gave Himself for us so that it is possible by going to Him every day to be washed clean of our pride, arrogance even, our feeling entitled, our selfishness, our lack of compassion, and everything that makes us dirty and separates us from our noble family. 

Let us strive to live in a way that every day, we get closer and closer to our Father, and nearer and nearer to doing everything for His glory! 

Saturday, February 13, 2021

God’s Plan

“He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.” Genesis 3:15

God’s words to Eve, the first woman, is very enigmatic, but when you look at the whole panorama of God’s plan from Genesis to Revelation, we can understand it better. As St. Augustine once observed, “The New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.” 

Adam and Eve sinned and Eve said the “nahash”, the literal translation of which is serpent dragon, had tricked her. God then warned the “nahash”, “Because you have done this...I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.” 

In Hebrew we see the word נָחָשׁ (nahash), and according to the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, “Throughout the Old Testament nahash is used to refer to powerful, even gigantic, evil creatures. Isaiah calls the nahash a sea dragon, the great Leviathan (see Isaiah 27:1). Job also uses nahash to depict terrible sea monsters (see Job 26:13).”

From the first book of the Bible, if we go to the last book, Revelation, we meet the “nahash” again (chapter 12). This same horrible, fierce serpent dragon with seven heads and ten horns intimidates a woman clothed with the sun about to give birth. The “nahash” was just so ready to devour the offspring of the woman. But was he able to? No. The offspring was snatched away from the “nahash” and was caught up to God. 

The “nahash” still intimidates us into submission, like it did the first woman. It deceives, feeds lies and misinformation so that we will disobey God, and not only that, follow what the “nahash” says. But it cannot frustrate God’s plans and purposes. Let us rejoice and meditate on God’s Word this Lent. As Lent draws near, let us prepare to understand God’s declaration of war on the “nahash” who wants to devour all of us! 

Friday, February 12, 2021

We are God’s Masterpiece

“Blessed is he whose fault is taken away, ​whose sin is covered.” Psalm 32:1

During the Renaissance there were a lot of sculptures carved by masters. Marble from several locations in Italy were quarried and masterpieces made of these slabs from the area of Massa Carrara and Alta Versilia. There is one huge marble called “giant” that we will concern ourselves with today.

It had already been carved on two different occasions by two different master sculptors including the prolific Donatello. Both sculptors gave up on the project because of the marble’s many flaws and inferior quality. The slab was also brittle, weak, and had veins and countless taroli, or pinholes, riddling throughout the block. The marble was abandoned for more than twenty-six years before the authorities, the Arte della Lana, determined to have it finished. Many sculptors examined the marble, even Leonardo da Vinci. Aside from the flaws, there was the work already done by Donatello and Rosellino to consider. It necessitated binding decisions as to the spacing of the legs and shoulders. Finally, it was 26 year old Michelangelo Buonarotti who convinced the guild, and was given the official  contract to undertake this challenge on August 16, 1501. 

Michelangelo extracted from this single flawed marble block his 17 feet tall, 12,000 pound David. So in love was Michelangelo with his work, that he sculpted in utmost secrecy, barely sleeping and hardly eating. He worked on David for two years, concentrating his focused attention on it, until January 1504. 

Giorgio Vasari, wrote about the magnificent David in his book, “Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects”. He said that it was “certainly a miracle that Michelangelo...” was able to “ restore to life one who was dead," and then Vasari listed all of the largest and most grand of the ancient statues that he had ever seen, concluding that Michelangelo's work surpassed "all ancient and modern statues, whether Greek or Latin, that have ever existed." Michelangelo’s brilliant masterpiece has stood on display at Florence's Galleria dell'Accademia since 1873. 

If a mere human can make a masterpiece out of an abandoned, flawed, cold piece of stone, what can God do with the human heart? Indeed if we put ourselves in the hands of our Creator, surrender to His chiseling, hammering, cutting and carving, what might He make of us poor miserable scraps of clay? Indeed, just like Michelangelo, God loves each of us, and I can imagine Him, working on us in secret, guarding the masterpiece He is bringing out in each of us. It does not matter if we are riddled in sin. If we give our lives over to Him, He will cover our sin with His very own blood and wash it away. One day He will unveil His beloved creation and we will be in awe and rejoice!