Thursday, January 27, 2022

Let Your Light Shine

Jesus said to his disciples, “Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket or under a bed, and not to be placed on a lampstand?” Mark 4:21




Isn’t this a rather absurd question Jesus puts to his disciples? Naturally a lamp should not be hidden away. Neither under a bed nor under a basket! But Jesus asks it nonetheless to emphasize a point. He is talking here about the light of Christ, our faith, conviction and hope in our Savior. Many of us have a tendency to keep our faith to ourselves, thinking it is enough to be a “good” person, but not advertising that we pray, and believe in Christ, for fear of being ridiculed, or rejected. We are happy with our lives as it is, we don’t want to be known as a radical Christian, much less a rabid one, especially in the cultural climate we have today. 


In The Anawim Way, I read that, “Sometimes, we hide – or smother – our faith under a “bushel basket,” a receptacle for collecting and carrying things. In other words, we give priority to collecting and carrying the things of this world; we are preoccupied with possessions and work and money. At other times, we hide the light of Christ under a “bed,” a place of comfort and rest. This represents our dedication to pleasure, as well as our spiritual laziness – a common enemy of faithful discipleship. We do not let our light shine because we simply do not bother to make the effort, and we would prefer an easier path. So, even though we have received the light of Christ, our selfishness leaves us sitting in darkness, and deprives others of light as well.”


Let us remember that part of our calling as Jesus’ followers is what He commanded after He rose from the dead, in Mark 16:15-16: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Stir Into Flame

“Stir into flame the gift of God bestowed when my hands were laid on you.” 2 Timothy 1:6




Years ago, when I started in the Charismatic renewal, my family and I attended several Life in the Spirit Seminars. We would join rallies and fall in line to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. I do not know how many times we went to the front to receive an anointing. I can’t remember how many times hands were laid on my head. 


I knew that God had stirred my spirit when I had a hunger for His Word. Every line from the Bible became rhema, every phrase would jump out at me. I would read every page, underline the words, and make notes in the margins until my Bible fell apart and needed rebinding. 


In the 1st to 3rd chapters of Revelation, Jesus asks John to write letters to seven churches. In 2:4, we read, “But I have this complaint against you. You have abandoned the fervor of your first love for me.” This is a sign of the end times. More and more people will turn away from God. More and more will lose confidence in the Gospel. Truth will no longer be absolute, subverted by agnosticism. Meaninglessness will prevail. Doesn’t it sound like we are already at that point? 


Saint Paul reminds Timothy and all of us to stir into flame the gift of God. We should not allow the flame of our love for God to die down into embers or charcoal. We should not be complacent, ok with the status quo. Lord, help us to persevere in running the race. May we always set aside time in our busy day to connect with You and learn at Your feet. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Freedom

“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" Acts 9:4




Today we celebrate the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul. Prior to his conversion he was so intent on persecuting Christians, the followers of Jesus, and sending them to prison. After his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus none was more zealous in planting churches in Asia Minor and Europe. 




Harriet Tubman was a black American born into slavery. She escaped and was able to rescue several slaves using what was known as the “Underground Railroad”. She said, “I freed thousands of slaves. I could have freed thousands more, if they had known they were slaves.” 


Many of us do not know we are enslaved. We can be in bondage to things, like me! I cannot throw things away because I am always thinking I can make something out of old clothes, books, even toilet paper rolls! There are some who like to go shopping even if they have so much already. Then we can be in bondage to our appearance, addictions, hobbies, indulgences, relationships, work, the list goes on. When something controls how we act, how we feel, then these things can boss us around. Freedom from slavery begins with recognising what are our masters. 


Saint Paul recognized his Master, Jesus Christ. That’s why he spent his life preaching so others could be set free. In John 8:32, Jesus says, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Let us not only know the truth, but like Harriet Tubman, who was a staunch Christian, help others find the truth. 

Monday, January 24, 2022

The Only Thing

"Ezra read out of the book from daybreak till midday." Nehemiah 8:3




Daybreak till midday? I can imagine what grumbling there will be if a priest or preacher reads from the Bible from daybreak till midday! Just yesterday during the homily of Father Nocomora in the mass at Our Lady of Fatima, he said that the Gospel reading from Mark 3:20-21 was a favorite because it had only 3 lines! 


After the walls and gates of Jerusalem were rebuilt, Jewish exiles returned to the city and the people had settled in their towns. One day in 445 B.C., all the people assembled together at the square inside the Water Gate. Then Ezra the priest brought out the scroll of the law and read aloud to the men, women and children gathered there. The people paid close attention, and then after Ezra read from early morning till noon, they lifted their hands and worshipped the Lord. After that, it was the turn of the Levites, the other priests, to explain what was read so the people would understand. 


The people started weeping for they realized their sin before God, but Nehemiah and the Levites instructed them, "Don't weep on such a day as this! This is a sacred day. Don't be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength! Go and celebrate!" 


The Word of God, as it says in Hebrews 4:12, is full of living power. It is sharper than the sharpest knife. It can cut deep into our innermost thoughts, and exposes us for who we really are. If we spend time reading it and deliberately trying to understand it as the people in the square did, we will realize how poor and wretched we are before our God. But God does not want us to remain in our wretched state. He wants to pick us up from the mud, and give us new life in Him. That is truly something to rejoice about! Isn’t it amazing that He did not want to remain a distant, uninvolved Father, but He wanted us to get to know Him. The Bible is a love story from beginning to end. 

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Jealous of the Stars

“And from that day on, Saul was jealous of David.” 
1 Samuel 18: 



Jealousy. We are all eaten up by it some time or another in different degrees. Here we have King Saul, powerful, rich, famous, and he feels jealous of David who killed Goliath the giant. All the women are now crazy about David and sing ditties about him, “Saul has slain his thousands, ​and David his ten thousands.” Instead of being glad that he has a hero in his midst, someone who can help him with his battles, Saul is bitter and resentful and PLANS to kill David! I doubt if anyone I know has been jealous enough to think of killing anyone, but we can see how sin progresses. Saul has been disobedient to the Lord and Saul knows he has lost God’s favor. He wants to kill his rival, David, who has God’s favor. 

Instead of asking forgiveness and repenting, Saul feeds his rebellious nature and puts himself in an even worse position with the Lord. Sometimes, we just don’t know how to count our blessings! American country music artist Gary Allan said, “ You can be the moon and still be jealous of the stars.”

Father, if there is anything in me just a tiny bit rebellious against You, please root it out at the start. Reveal to me what does not please You and help me to be victorious over it. May I be always grateful for who I am, where I am and what I have.

Living Power

"Ezra read out of the book from daybreak till midday." Nehemiah 8:3




Daybreak till midday? I can imagine what grumbling there will be if a priest or preacher reads from the Bible from daybreak till midday! Just yesterday during the homily of Father Nocomora in the mass at Our Lady of Fatima, he said that the Gospel reading from Mark 3:20-21 was a favorite because it had only 3 lines! 


After the walls and gates of Jerusalem were rebuilt, Jewish exiles returned to the city and the people had settled in their towns. One day in 445 B.C., all the people assembled together at the square inside the Water Gate. Then Ezra the priest brought out the scroll of the law and read aloud to the men, women and children gathered there. The people paid close attention, and then after Ezra read from early morning till noon, they lifted their hands and worshipped the Lord. After that, it was the turn of the Levites, the other priests, to explain what was read so the people would understand. 


The people started weeping for they realized their sin before God, but Nehemiah and the Levites instructed them, "Don't weep on such a day as this! This is a sacred day. Don't be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength! Go and celebrate!" 




The Word of God, as it says in Hebrews 4:12, is full of living power. It is sharper than the sharpest knife. It can cut deep into our innermost thoughts, and exposes us for who we really are. If we spend time reading it and deliberately trying to understand it as the people in the square did, we will realize how poor and wretched we are before our God. But God does not want us to remain in our wretched state. He wants to pick us up from the mud, and give us new life in Him. That is truly something to rejoice about! Isn’t it amazing that He did not want to remain a distant, uninvolved Father, but He wanted us to get to know Him. The Bible is a love story from beginning to end. 

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Love One Another

Jesus came with His disciples into the house. Again the crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat. When His relatives heard of this they set out to seize Him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” Mark 3:20-21




This passage had me completely perplexed which is why I wanted to think about it more. Why would Jesus’ relatives think He was crazy if crowds gathered about Him, making it impossible for Him and His disciples to eat? I should have thought this happened many times during His ministry. Did they always come out to rescue Him? One passage we may remember relating to this is what happened in the same chapter, verses 31-35.


While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, His mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to Him. Someone told Him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to His disciples, He said, “Here are My mother and My brothers. For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”


Was Jesus rejecting his relatives? On the contrary, He was building a new family which includes you and me IF we do the will of our Father. This was not easily understood by His kin. First He chose the disciples, and then He continued to preach to all who would listen to form a new community. How generous God is that He includes each of us in His plan! We become brothers and sisters. “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)










 



















Friday, January 21, 2022

Jesus Chooses Us


“He appointed Twelve…” Mark 3:14




Jesus chose the twelve to be His apostles, His companions and also those He would send out to preach. Many of them became saints, but one committed suicide after betraying Him.


Today is the Feast Day of Saint Agnes of Rome. She was obviously very beautiful because there are so many stories about how men desired her. But Agnes wanted no other but Jesus to be her bridegroom. She suffered martyrdom at twelve or thirteen years of age because she refused one of her suitors and he betrayed her as belonging to a Christian family. She was murdered during the persecution of Christians upon the order of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. 


In stories like Cinderella, the Prince usually ended up with beautiful maidens like Saint Agnes. The heroine was not only attractive but was usually good, kind, sweet, and generous. But Jesus is different. He, the Prince of all ages, sometimes prefers the ugly, vengeful, mean, vain step sister, doesn’t He? He did say He came for sinners like you and me. I believe if Judas the betrayer went to Jesus and asked forgiveness, he would undoubtedly have been forgiven, no matter what he had done. The problem was Judas thought he was beyond hope. 


No matter what we have done, we should never lose hope. Jesus chooses us again and again. We should be like the Apostles and spread that message to everyone who will listen. Jesus chooses us! 

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

The Battle is the Lord’s

“For the battle is the Lord’s and He shall deliver you into our hands.” 1 Samuel 17:47




The classic story of David and Goliath is a parable of good versus evil. Here is puny David, a youth remarkable only for his bravery and trust in the Lord and in his gifts. Then there is the Philistine Goliath, a seasoned warrior of many battles, who in his own words, promised to “leave David’s flesh for the birds of the air and the beasts of the field.” Goliath was a giant of a man described as a champion whose height was six cubits and a span (9 feet 9 inches or about 3 meters!). Not only that, he was heavily armored with a bronze helmet on his head, a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels (125 pounds or about 58 kilograms). On his legs he wore bronze greaves, and his bronze javelin was slung on his back. His spear shaft had an iron point which alone weighed six hundred shekels (15 pounds or about 6.9 kilograms). 


David refused to put on armor because he wasn’t used to it. Where did his confidence come from? He proclaimed bravely, “You come against me with sword and spear and scimitar, but I come against you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel that you have insulted.” (1 Samuel 17: 45)


We come up against many battles. There is this pandemic which has gone on too long, which even the brightest scientists, policy makers and strategists have not been able to defeat. There is this Global Lockdown unlike anything we have experienced in our lifetime. Aren’t we experiencing the worst recession since the Great Depression, the most uncertainty for the most people in a crisis that is not yet over? And here in the Philippines we are also facing an unprecedented fight between two distinctly different candidates for the May elections. One candidate is extremely well funded, and backed by many seasoned political giants and machinery. The other has volunteers and donations in her camp.


When we are on the side of good, we can depend on the Lord backing us up. The battle is the Lord’s. We may not understand what is happening, we may even think He is sleeping, and not answering our prayers. But in Isaiah 55:8-9, we are reassured by God when He tells us that, “…my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” We need only to trust Him. 






Tuesday, January 18, 2022

With God’s Heart

“Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him. Not as man sees does God see, because he sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7




When God sees Nick Vujicic, what does He see? God sees his heart. When we look at Nick, what do we see? A man with no legs and arms! That is the first thing that strikes us. Nick was born with the tetra-amelia syndrome but even if he does not have arms and legs, he goes around the world preaching to millions of people. 


In his autobiography, he writes that his mother rejected him when the nurse brought him for her to hold. “Take him away! I don’t want to touch or see him!” she cried out and his father vomited. His mom and dad were probably so distraught, they left him in the hospital at first. His mom managed to hold him when he was already four months old. But that did not define Nick. Of course, Nick questioned God. Why was I born this way, he asked. He felt hopeless and depressed and wondered if suicide would solve his problems. He felt this way for seven or eight long years and asked God many questions. 




It was only when Nick took God seriously, and began to read the Bible, that he was healed emotionally and spiritually. The verses from John 9:1-3 resonated with him as He realized that God had a plan and a purpose for him. “…this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” From age 19, Nick had been able to give inspiration and encouragement to others by sharing his testimony. “You have a choice. We can choose to dwell on disappointments and shortcomings. We can choose to be bitter, angry, or sad. Or when faced with hard times and hurtful people…we can choose to learn from the experience and move forward, taking responsibility for our own happiness.”


Nick’s special condition has enabled him to reach hurting people that no one could reach. He has had opportunities to serve God in a special way. One time, he had a short meeting with the President of Ecuador. A few days after that, the President had to consider a law that would allow abortion of disabled fetuses. He vetoed it because he said Ecuador needed more Nick Vujicics! We may not have as big a challenge as Nick, but certainly we have as special a role to play in God's scheme of things! As Nick always says, “I am God’s creation, designed according to His plan for me!” 














Monday, January 17, 2022

Obedience Brings Blessing

“Obedience is better than sacrifice.” 

1 Samuel 15:22




“Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” (Luke 11:28) I remember my dad telling me the story of the 1941 movie about Sergeant Alvin York starring Gary Cooper. Sgt. York was a mountain boy from Tennessee, who had little schooling, and helped provide for his family of ten brothers and sisters by hunting, fishing and a lot of hard labor. He was always in a lot of trouble because of his hard drinking and brawling until he met Jesus Christ as a young man. His conversion experience came at a revival meeting in 1915. After that, he studied the Bible seriously and stopped drinking and fighting. When York got drafted for WWI, he applied to be a ‘Conscientious Objector’ because he did not want to fight, much less kill anybody. He believed that God did not want him to do that. He was denied and he was willing to face the consequences of his disobedience.


York’s Commander, a Major Buxton, was a Christian as well, and he urged the young man to study God’s Word related to war and obedience to one’s country. After studying the Scriptures and much praying, York decided that he could, in good conscience, defend his country. He joined the army as an infantry private in the 82nd Division and was sent to France in 1918. 


York was a crack shot owing to all the hunting he did, and he distinguished himself in an October 8, 1918 attack where his battalion aimed to capture German positions. York with his pistol found himself exchanging fire with about thirty of the enemy’s machine guns, and he just shot as sharp as he could, all the while shouting at them to come down because he didn’t want to kill more of them than he had to! Eventually Imperial German Army First Lieutenant Paul Jürgen Vollmer who commanded the 120th Reserve Infantry Regiment's 1st Battalion, offered in English to surrender the unit to York who accepted. 


York eventually received 50 decorations and his citation for the Medal of Honor reads: “After his platoon suffered heavy casualties and 3 other noncommissioned officers had become casualties, Cpl. York assumed command. Fearlessly leading seven men, he charged with great daring a machine gun nest which was pouring deadly and incessant fire upon his platoon. In this heroic feat the machine gun nest was taken, together with 4 officers and 128 men and several guns.” 


During the investigation that gave him the Medal, York explained to General Lindsey that, “A higher power than man guided and watched over me and told me what to do."   Truly, obedience brings blessing even in the hardest circumstances! Especially in the hardest circumstances! 


Sunday, January 16, 2022

On Solid Ground

“Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” Luke 2:48




I usually had no problem being obedient even if people would say my parents had some absurd rules. Like we always needed a chaperone when we went out with a guy.  Even when Peggy was a widow already, had a daughter and was back living with my parents, she needed a chaperone to go out with Charlie, who eventually became her husband. One time, my sisters did not want to go out with me, so I asked my dad to accompany me. I was invited by a neighbor to a rally of the preacher Greg Laurie, and I knew my dad listened to him. I didn’t really consider it a date, but my friend did not appreciate my chaperone. He asked when we went off to get some drinks, and left my dad guarding our seats, “Patsy, why did you do this to me?” I suppose I was quite heartless for I laughed in amusement. I got reminded of this when I read the gospel reading for today. 


What was in Jesus’ mind when He did not tell His parents where He was off to? Didn’t he know they would worry? Wouldn’t it have been a simple thing to just tell them he didn’t want to go home yet? I suppose He was just so focused on getting the truth out, so more and more people would have solid ground to stand on in terms of faith. We can surmise all we want, but we will never really know until we get to heaven and ask Jesus Himself. There are many questions we have about the Bible, and that is perfectly all right. We should not be afraid to ask questions about our faith, about Jesus and about the Bible. 


What is important is we get the fundamental basics right. For instance, some people refuse to believe that Jesus was a real person, even with all the proof, even when historians, Christian and non-Christian alike, agree that Jesus was a real person, He existed and He died on the cross.  There is more testimony for Jesus’ existence than Alexander the Great’s! A majority of scholars even agree that Jesus rose from the dead! Without the resurrection, there would be NO Christianity, it would fall like the Tower of Babel. So I listen to a lot of apologetics, the religious discipline of defending the the truth of the Christian faith through systematic argumentation and discourse. 


The talk of American historian and New Testament research scholar, Gary Habermas, entitled 'The Resurrection Evidence that Changed a Generation of Scholars', shows us the recent developments in historical scholarship which allow even a sceptic to conclude that Jesus rose from the dead.  I may not understand half of what he says, BUT I know that the resurrection of Jesus can bear scrutiny. My faith rests on solid ground. 


Saturday, January 15, 2022

Follow Me

As he passed by, he saw Levi, son of Alphaeus, sitting at the customs post. Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed Jesus….Some scribes who were Pharisees saw that Jesus was eating with sinners and tax collectors and said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus heard this and said to them, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” Mark 2:13-17




If Jesus walked about today, would he see us in His mercy, and call out, “Follow me!” or would we be like the Pharisees and scribes who thought themselves spiritually healthy? The Church, it is said, is not a museum of saints but a hospital for sinners. (St. Augustine or Abigail Van Buren or Morton Kelsey?) Although I cannot find the correct attribution for that quotation, I know Pope Francis said, in an interview with the Jesuit magazine La Civita Cattolica, “I see clearly that the thing the Church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the Church as a field hospital after battle."


My dad always talked about his adventures during World War II. He was still young then and he walked with his brother for several miles from Baliuag to Manila, hiding from the Japanese. Then there is his story of his brother Dever who was caught and executed by the Japanese for printing an underground newspaper. He would also tell us about the destruction and pillage of Manila, and then the excitement of seeing the tanks and planes of the Americans. That was his war. 


I feel this COVID pandemic is our war, and our children’s war. So many stories about how many people got sick and even died. Then when we think it may almost be over, another wave of enemies come in, all invisible! After all these months, how many of us are not broken, in need of healing from wounds of isolation and sometimes despair? 


We are all sinners like Levi, and Jesus sees us with His look full of mercy, and He calls us. Do we know that we need Him, we need His guidance and strength, His care. The Church is a field hospital after and during battle. We need our communities of support groups, to pray for us, to pray for, to support us, and to give support. We are in this together. We are in this journey with Jesus. He does not forsake us in our time of need. 

Friday, January 14, 2022

Mustard Seed Faith

‘They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to him, “Child, your sins are forgiven.”’ Mark 2:3-5




How wonderful to have friends like these four men who brought the paralytic to Jesus’ attention! The sick man was helpless, and we do not know what he was thinking, if it was his friends’ initiative to bring him, or if he begged them to carry him across the uneven cobblestones in Capernaum. What we can surmise is these four were not hired men, they had faith, they had persistence, and they were not stopped by the crowd. They had come to bring their friend for healing, and they made a hole in the roof of the home where Jesus was, and lowered him down! I would like to be like them and bring my friends to Jesus’ attention. 


There are so many who are in need right now, some are sick with COVID, with cancer, some are depressed and some have homes that were destroyed by the last typhoon. We need to be like the four men, and be persistent in prayer, to have faith that Jesus can see, so that He will say, “Your sins are forgiven”, and then help them. How do we grow our faith? In Romans 10:17, St. Paul writes, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” We need to build up our faith by reading the Word aloud, or listening to YouTube or podcasts. There are so many resources available for those who want to have a richer, deeper faith. Let us show Jesus our mustard seed of faith and give it fertile soil in which to grow. 

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Good Success

“Why has the Lord permitted us to be defeated today by the Philistines? Let us fetch the ark of the Lord from Shiloh that it may go into battle among us and save us from the grasp of our enemies.” 1 Samuel 4:3




After a fierce battle, the Israelites were defeated by their foe, the Philistines. They could not imagine why God allowed this. They were feeling entitled I suppose, and arrogantly came up with their own plan for victory. They used the ark of the Lord of hosts, bringing it in the midst of the fray. What do you think happened? Did they win? Did God allow Himself to be used by a presumptuous people? 


“The Philistines fought and Israel was defeated; every man fled to his own tent. It was a disastrous defeat, in which Israel lost thirty thousand foot soldiers. The ark of God was captured, and Eli, the priest’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were among the dead.” 


In the narration of this event, it was apparent that no one prayed about the plan. The elders were probably frantic and decided on the spur of the moment thinking that God will just follow and give them good success. 


It must be noted that EVEN Jesus prayed about His plans. In yesterday’s gospel reading, Mark 1:29-39, we see Jesus healing the mother of Peter, then healing many more. Early the next morning He went to a deserted place and prayed. The apostles searched and found Him there and said, “Everyone is looking for you.” Then Jesus told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” He did not go with the apostles where people were waiting for Him. 


Jesus got His marching orders from His Father. We should too. We should not presume that we know best. There are so many variables that can happen. The future is a closed door, and only God knows what is behind it. I remember many years ago, I was praying about the plans for our business, the business my mom started 55 years ago. I was wondering about how it could continue after listening to some experts and reading books. I learned that poor transitions and a lack of succession planning are the single biggest factors in the failure of family businesses so I was asking God what we should do. I distinctly remember Him telling me, “Do not worry. I have a plan.” After that, I relaxed. I did not know that several years after, there would be a pandemic and my niece and her plans for online platforms would be key to our business survival. Truly, if we put our dreams, plans, and vision in God’s hands, He is ready and willing to take care of us. 


“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Your Servant is Listening

“Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” 1 Samuel 3:10




How many times did the Lord call Samuel before Samuel answered Him? Three times. For us, it can take many, many more times, I think. Samuel was living with Eli the priest, in the shrine of the Lord in Shiloh. His mother had dedicated Samuel to God. We are not so blessed as to have nothing to do but devote to God all our time and energy. Samuel was already learning at a young age how to listen to the Lord.


How important it is to reserve a quiet time for the Lord so He can speak to us! 


Steve Clark in his book, “Catholics and the Eucharist: A Scriptural Introduction,” wrote: “There is nothing more important than to have God speak to us. We belong to a relatively self-confident human race. We live after centuries of technological development. We can handle more and more of the uncertainties of life, acquire more and more knowledge, power, and comfort. Those of us who are adults with an adequate education, job, financial standing, and home often feel that we can get our lives to go much the way we want them to.


“Yet, we also know that tragedy may happen to us or those close to us. We know we are not doing well with our responsibilities in various respects, and the consequences may be bad for us and others. Accidents also may happen at any time. Moreover, even though we resist the thought, we know that a destructive global war that might destroy all we hold dear is still possible. And we all know we will die one day and perhaps become helplessly incapacitated before that.”


We are in a global war right this very minute, and we cannot see the enemy. Just when we think we are winning the war with these modern vaccines, there comes another wave and the numbers of infected are unprecedented. Whole families are getting sick! My intercessory list is so so long! What is God trying to tell us? C.S. Lewis wrote that, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world…”


Speak Lord, Your servants are listening. Help us to hear You and heed Your words. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Be Kind

“I am an unhappy woman. I have had neither wine nor liquor; I was only pouring out my troubles to the Lord. Do not think your handmaid a ne’er-do-well; my prayer has been prompted by my deep sorrow and misery.” 1 Samuel 1:9-20




How many times have we judged others and have been wrong about them? Most of the time we do not even know. Here in Hannah’s story, the priest in the temple thought Hannah was babbling in her drunkenness. He did not know that she was deep in prayer from her sorrowing heart. She was barren, but the Lord in her goodness, granted her prayer and gave her a son who would grow up to be the prophet Samuel. 


I think of the climate we find ourselves in today where it is so hard for people to see the fake news from the truth. We forward messages that we have not confirmed or checked the sources of. I get insulted and cursed for saying that a particular candidate can be depended on because of their past record of helping the poor and those with no voice even before they got into politics. People prefer to get their news on TickTock or YouTube or Facebook, not realizing they are being manipulated. They judge candidates based on spliced videos, or a slip of the tongue. What has happened to us? 


If it was not so sad, it would be funny, that on Facebook groups about Downton Abbey or Jane Austen, which I am a part of, people sometimes get into bitter arguments about the pettiest matters. Members insult each other, and say the rudest things! At times, I get surprised in our subdivision group chat, somebody calls out another in public for doing something offensive to him. We used to be a polite people, people who thought first before shooting off a comment. Always, and I remind myself of this, we need to be kind because everyone, no exception, is having a hard time. I guess many are stressed, exhausted, and facing so many battles from all sides. 


Like Hannah, we need to pour out our troubles to the Lord. And like Eli the priest, if we speak out unkindly, we should ask forgiveness, and speak a blessing on those we judged too harshly. 






Monday, January 10, 2022

Fishers of Men

“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Mark 1:17




I will always remember my dad for being eternally young and enthusiastic. Even when he was 90 plus years old already, he would not let his feeble frame stop him from going out on a fishing boat in Batangas with fishermen to find fish. He walked slowly to the boat with someone to support him. He was put in a chair to be carried inside the boat. He was out in the sun for 6 hours looking for fish. His fish finder conked out but he came back still convinced there was much fish to be caught off the coast of Batangas. He was not discouraged after hours under the sun.


We too are called to be “fishermen”, but not of fish, but of men. Do we easily get discouraged after people don’t respond to our invitation to join an online prayer meeting or listen to an inspirational talk? I listened to a woman share about how she found the Lord after a neighbor just kept persistently listening to her problems. They would be sitting down at a coffee shop or on the steps to her home, and the neighbor would patiently encourage her and pray for her, until one day she decided to go with her to a Life in The Spirit Seminar. 


Ric Warren, the founder of Saddleback Church, wrote on one Facebook post, “The night before my father died, my wife, my niece, and I were in his bedroom by his side. Dad suddenly became very agitated and tried to get out of bed," Warren continued. "Of course, he was too weak to get up so Kay insisted he lay back down. But he kept persisting in trying to get out of bed. Finally, Kay in exasperation said 'Jimmy, you CANNOT get up! You are dying. We will get you whatever you need. What are you trying to do?'


"My dad replied, 'I've got to save one more for Jesus! I've got to save one more for Jesus! One more for Jesus! One more for Jesus!' He began to repeat that phrase over and over and over. It is no exaggeration to say that during the next hour, he repeated the phrase probably a hundred times: 'Got to save one more for Jesus!'"


No wonder Ric Warren is so passionate about what he does! “While my head was bowed,” Warren recounted, “my dad reached out and placed his frail hand on my head and said, as if commissioning me with a sacred calling, 'Reach one more for Jesus! Reach one more for Jesus!' It was a holy moment and I knew what I was supposed to do the rest of my life, regardless of problems, illnesses, conflicts, critics, attacks, delays, difficulties, or any other barriers," he wrote.


Sunday, January 09, 2022

Beloved

“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Luke 3:22




In another version, we find: "Thou art My beloved Son, on You my favor rests." And in the Amplified, it says, "This is My Son, My Beloved, in Whom I delight." I went through different versions because I imagined myself, during my baptism, with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit being present along with my parents and godparents. God looked down and said, "This is my beloved daughter! My favor rests on her! I delight in her! She pleases me well!" Blasphemy? Indeed not!


Jesus paved the way for us to be part of His holy family. We are adopted sons and daughters of God. We read that John the Baptist protested strenuously to Jesus' request to be baptized, but Jesus insisted. "This is the fitting way to fulfill all righteousness, to perform completely what is right." (Matthew 3:15, Amp.)


Jesus went into the waters of baptism just like any sinner even if he was sinless. He joined with us, sinful humanity, and shared the travails, weakness and death of ordinary human beings. Because of His obedience, the Father was well pleased with Him. In His baptism, the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, were present. In our baptism, Father, Son and Spirit were present as well. We are one family, one church. And when Jesus was baptized by John, even though He did not need it, He was saying to each one of us, I am one with you. I will be with you through thick and thin, I will journey with you, I will see to it that you finish the race. I will do everything, even to dying like a common criminal, so that the good work started in your baptism will be carried to completion (Phil. 1:6). 


Thank You Jesus for everything! You made the impossible possible for us!