Friday, April 12, 2024

The Bounty of the Lord

“I believe that I shall see the bounty of the Lord in the land of the living.” Psalm 27:13

There are occasions when God comes at just the right time you just know He’s there. Like when my family was having a conference with an Organizational Development Expert and she asked me what I did the day before. If she asked me what I was doing an hour before I could not have answered because  my brain is like a sieve with holes in it. But amazingly, the day before, I wrote down ALL of my tasks, and it was long and messy and detailed, and even had the time. Now who else but God would give me the inspiration to do that?!?

Every day God shows up for me, and I see His bounty. When I read the Bible, I know the Holy Spirit is there or else I won’t be able to preach to myself, let alone to others. I know God meets me exactly where I am, with all the failures in my past, and stupidity, and messiness. I just have to make myself available. God is the only one who will accept us exactly as we are! No condemnation! That is why we can claim the good things He has for us now and in the future! 

The Bounty of the Lord

“I believe that I shall see the bounty of the Lord in the land of the living.” Psalm 27:13

There are occasions when God comes at just the right time you just know He’s there. Like when my family was having a conference with an Organizational Development Expert and she asked me what I did the day before. If she asked me what I was doing an hour before I could not have answered because  my brain is like a sieve with holes in it. But amazingly, the day before, I wrote down ALL of my tasks, and it was long and messy and detailed, and even had the time. Now who else but God would give me the inspiration to do that?!?

Every day God shows up for me, and I see His bounty. When I read the Bible, I know the Holy Spirit is there or else I won’t be able to preach to myself, let alone to others. I know God meets me exactly where I am, with all the failures in my past, and stupidity, and messiness. I just have to make myself available. God is the only one who will accept us exactly as we are! No condemnation! That is why we can claim the good things He has for us now and in the future! 

Thursday, April 11, 2024

His Gift of the Spirit

“He does not ration His gift of the Spirit.” John 3:34

It's amazing how Waze gets us to where we want to go. Even if we make a wrong turn, it just recalculates, and we can still turn up at our destination. I think that's why God gave us the gift of the Spirit. Because God definitely wants to get us to heaven. Even if we take several wrong turns, if we call on Him, we can depend on the Spirit to take us Home!

Thank you Lord that You called us to follow You! That even if there are forces against us, You will prevail! And we can trust that You will finish the work you started in us and bring us Home!!! 

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Go Out and Preach!

“Go out now..and preach..all about this new life." Acts 5:20

After Jesus died, the apostles saw Him several times. He told them that they would receive power, and that they were to proclaim the good news to all, up to the ends of the earth. From timid, scared men who were hiding, they became bold and fervent, and witnessed every where. They preached and performed many miraculous signs. Some people would get healed just from being under Peter's shadow! So you can imagine the crowds and commotion that followed them!

The High Priest and the Sadducees were not happy about this! They were jealous and threw the apostles in jail. But an angel came in the night and set them free. "Go out now ...and preach to the people about this new life!" And so Peter and the apostles went back to the Temple at dawn and started preaching!

Do we realize that we too have been set free? It may not be from an actual jail cell, but sin and death can be as real and confining as a jail cell. If we have no addiction to sexual sin, if we have no need of inner healing, if we are free from depression, if we are not bound by a desire for alcohol, that is by the grace of God! We live in a broken society where so many are in need of freedom. If we are free, let us help others who are not free by giving them the message of life like the apostles were driven to do. 

If we have need of healing, let us go to Jesus and say, "Lord, I want to be free! Pour down Your grace upon me! I need You! Forgive me and heal my brokenness!" Truly God's lavish and extravagant grace, His unmerited favor, is available to all! He is the same yesterday, today and forever! 

Tuesday, April 09, 2024

I Know You Will Provide

“The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own…” Acts 4:32

Today, it will be very difficult to find a community like the first group of believers where the followers of Christ sold their homes and gave the proceeds to the community. But there are still people who will put God’s mission and will before their own personal benefit. I just finished reading the autobiography of Vic Gutierrez, one of the early members of the core group of our community, Ang Ligaya ng Panginoon (The Joy of the Lord). 

Back in 1976, Vic was asked by Father Herb Schneider, the leader of the newly formed community, to consider giving up his job as vice president of a small PR-advertising company to work full time to shepherd the Word of Joy Foundation. This was a fledging enterprise designed to make Catholic literature and cassette tapes regarding the charismatic renewal available to the public. Vic and his wife Agnes had been married little over a year, Agnes had quit her job to be a full-time mother to their baby Joy, and they were paying off their loan for the house they had built. The stipend Father Herb mentioned was barely enough for the needs of a growing family. It seemed ridiculous for Vic to even consider it, but the couple prayed for hours before the Lord. After adding up their monthly expenses, it did not seem the money would be enough to live even a very simple life. But after discerning, they both agreed it was the Lord’s plan for them. Vic held up the paper with their computations, and holding Agnes’ hand, he prayed, “Lord, I commit my family to you. I know You will provide.” 

The very next day, Vic spoke to his good friend and business partner about his plan to quit. Tony Vasquez, instead of dissuading him, volunteered to give Vic a monthly subsidy to help with his finances. Amazingly, the amount was exactly what they needed to fill the lack! God used his friend Tony to confirm His plans for Vic and Agnes. 

Through the years, God has continued to bless and provide well for Vic and his family as He obeyed God in the many ups and downs of their journey. Vic has been able to testify that indeed, “I know the plans You have for me, Lord, plans for a future full of hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). 

We may be sure that the Lord of the Universe is ready and willing to take care of us as we desire to obey and follow Him! Do not be afraid! He goes before us always! 

Monday, April 08, 2024

How Can This Be!

“How can this be?" Luke 1: 34

Sometimes a passage jumps out at you. you've read it many times before, but this time, it strikes a chord. In the first chapter of the Gospel of Saint Luke, I found this verse interesting, "I investigated accurately everything from the beginning..." (Luke 1:1-4)

I can imagine this writer amazed at what had occurred and desiring to come to the truth. He interviewed many of the disciples and people involved in this out-of-the-ordinary series of events. If Mary was still alive, St. Luke would have interviewed her to verify her story. What would he have found?

 A woman still amazed, still in awe at God's goodness? In spite of all she had gone through? The stigma of her virgin pregnancy, the flight to Egypt, knowing hundreds of babies were being slaughtered because of the search for her Son, and ultimately the horror of seeing her Son hanging on the cross, mutilated, seemingly defeated.

"How can this be?" she asked. How can this be that God chose me? How can this be that God would want to make me part of His plan to save humanity? How can this be that I would carry the mysteries of the universe in my womb? 

If we think about and realize God’s love for us, we will ask the same. How can this be that God loves us so much to make a plan so inconceivable as to give prophets a glimpse of it thousands of years before its fulfillment? How can this be that God sent His only begotten Son to die on the cross so if we believe in Him we can live forever with Him? It’s like if we gave our life for an insignificant paramecium but even more absurd because God is all powerful, and the idea is light years away from anything we could ever understand with our brains. 

Greg Boyle in his book, “Tattoos on the Heart”, wrote, “The desire of God’s heart is immeasurably larger than our imaginations can conjure.” Our repose can only be thank You, Father, for Your immeasurable love! 

Sunday, April 07, 2024

Choose the Giver of the Gifts

“The power that has conquered the world is this faith of ours.” 1 John 5:4

Now that is a pretty bold claim! This was written by Saint John the Evangelist in Ephesus in AD 95-110. 

In another version we can read, “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”

There are many businessmen and world leaders who are already super successful, super powerful, but keep wanting more and more. Nothing this world offers is enough for them. There are many sports stars who have achieved the pinnacle of success and found they were still searching for more. One of them was retired cornerback Deion Sanders. His list of career highlights is so long, I got tired of scrolling down the page. He was one of the biggest, most famous, richest superstar athletes in the world with a $10,000 bed in a $5.7 million dollar home and a collection of luxury cars, but he just felt empty. He said he had nothing until he found God. He felt so empty and lonely even if he had everything and achieved everything he could ever want. 

One day, after searching and talking to his Christian friends, this happened: “I was lying there in bed about four o’clock in the morning when I was awakened by these awesome lights in my room. I say it was like a 747 had landed beside my bed, and there was this incredible rush of wind that felt like a helicopter had come in with it.” 

“I remember opening my eyes just the slightest bit and saying, ‘God, if that’s You, take me! Take me, Lord,’ and I was trembling all over. Before long it was silent and the lights disappeared, and later that night I got up and opened my Bible to a passage that said, ‘If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation’ (Romans 10:9-10). The words hit me like a ton of bricks. I knew they were meant for me and at that precise moment I was delivered.”

Now he is so vocal about how he got saved, and he puts in time helping troubled youth find meaning in their life. Deion’s post on X yesterday was: “You are not alone! God sees you, wants u & loves you. God can't overtake your will. Your freedom to choose, do, speak, think & love he gave that to u so u when u woke u in life u would choose the giver of the gifts. Think!”

Lord, may we not believe that conquering the world lies in getting all we want from it. May we not be captivated by all that is enticing in the world. May we go after the one true treasure, You! 

Saturday, April 06, 2024

One Who Saves a Life

"It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard." Acts 4:20. 

I think about these ordinary men and women, much like you and me, who witnessed such extraordinary events, miracles, and HAD TO speak about them! Even if the authorities told them to shut up, they could not quench that inner urge to tell the world about the awesome truth that Jesus is alive and His words are true!

Sometimes we have a chance not only to speak about what God has done for us, but to act in His name and be a witness of God’s saving grace. 

In 1945, Edith Zierer was freed from a Nazi labor camp. She was so weak she collapsed in a busy village train station. Many passed by but no one helped until a young seminarian stopped to give her a cup of tea and a sandwich. He also carried her on his back to catch a train many miles away and accompanied her to where she wanted to go. 

In 1978, Edith read in her Jewish newspaper that Karol Wojtyla was elected Pope! She recognized the name of her rescuer and wrote him. When they met, Edith recited a line from the Torah: “One who saves a life, it is as if he saves the whole world." 

I believe God gives us all opportunities to save and change lives. It may not be as dramatic as Edith's story, but nevertheless, let us keep a look out for those opportunities to proclaim the Gospel in word and deed! 

Thursday, April 04, 2024

Times of Refreshment

“Repent...that The Lord may grant you times of refreshment..." 

Acts 3:19 

Who doesn't want to be refreshed? Reinvigorated, restored, rejuvenated? It's not cool to talk about sin and repenting, but that's the only way to get cleansed in our spirits. Much like our body needs to be washed every day so that we can feel good and free from dirt, we need to declog our spirits of the grime, the dirt that accumulates every day. 

I remember the times my whole family would join in the International Coastal Cleanup to remove trash from our beaches. Along with other volunteers, we would spend a day picking up used diapers, shampoo sachets, soda bottles, so much plastic, and put them in bags. It was not so satisfying because after a whole day’s work, there was still so much garbage left on the beach! There really needs to be a continuous effort, not just once a year! because trash piles up! 

It’s the same with our sins. Lord, may I see myself clearly, the way You see me! May I repent of my selfishness, being judgemental, whatever sin You see in me, that You may give me times of refreshment!

Wednesday, April 03, 2024

Burning Hearts

“Were not our hearts burning within us?" Luke 24:32

Imagine if Jesus were the one giving the homily on a Sunday?! We would be spellbound because He spoke with authority. Even if He spoke for more than an hour or two or three hours, our hearts would burn within us just as the two walking to Emmaus in Luke 24. “Beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” If only what Jesus said on this journey were written down for us to read! It would have been fascinating! 

We have to remember that Jesus explained to them things concerning Himself in the OLD Testament. There were references to Jesus in all those old books! From Genesis 3:15, where there is mention of the enmity between the serpent and the woman’s seed, to the last book of the Old Testament, where the prophet Malachi prophecies that “the day is coming...the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings” (Malachi 4:2-4). 400 years later and indeed the Son of all righteousness was born to a virgin (Isaiah 7:14). 

Just as Abraham was asked to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac, and Isaac had to carry the wood upon which he would be sacrificed up Mount Moriah, God the Father gave His only beloved Son for atonement of our sins. Like Isaac, Jesus had to carry the wood of the sacrifice, His cross, up to Calvary. When Isaac asked his father, “What will we sacrifice?”, Abraham answered, “God will provide Himself the lamb.” Just as Abraham received his son back from a sentence of death three days after the command was given, because it was a three day journey to Moriah, so Jesus rises on the third day. There is so, so much in the books of Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Kings, etc. that have parallels in Jesus’ life! It is amazing!!!! 

In every book in the Old Testament, we can see signs and references to Jesus and His redeeming work, life,  sacrificial death on the cross, and resurrection. It is like a treasure hunt to find it all. It’s not so hard with Google’s help! We have to delve deeper into Scripture so our roots will get buried so deep in God’s work and revelation, no sinister work of the serpent can pry us loose from God’s love and plan for us.

Tuesday, April 02, 2024

Why are You Weeping?

“Woman, why are you weeping?" 

John 20:13

Jesus asked Mary Magdalene why she was weeping twice in John chapter 20. She didn't recognize him, and thought he was a gardener, of all people! But then, can you blame her for not being very observant, or sensitive to God's presence? After all, she had just lost the One who loved her most! She felt lonely, devastated even. When she went to the tomb on that first Easter morning, it was still dark, but she could already see that the body of Jesus was not there.

When Jesus asked her, "Why are you weeping?", she answered in despair, "Please sir, if you have carried him away, TELL ME WHERE???"

How many times are we like this? We cry, distraught, fearful, angry even, because of seemingly hopeless circumstances. We do not see God in our everyday. It is amazing that Mary did not even give importance to the two angels sitting at the head and the foot of where Jesus had been laid. This was an allusion to the Ark of the Covenant, to the Mercy seat (Ex. 25:22).

When we are at our lowest, if we turn to the Lord, it can be the beginning of a new hope. The most desperate situation can hide the shining truth, that God is alive, and moving in our lives to bring us to the place we most want to be!

Monday, April 01, 2024

The Lord is Our Portion

“O Lord, my allotted portion and my cup, you it is who hold fast my lot.” Psalm 16:5

I think the women were quite bewildered and befuddled with the events of Easter morning. How could it be that Jesus had risen from the dead? They saw His body bloodied and torn and broken just the Friday before. And now, miracle of miracles, the stone is rolled away, and Jesus meets them and even talks to them! They touch his feet, embrace his feet, too timid to hug His risen body! Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” They must have been so excited to be the bearers of such astounding news!

Why do we believe this amazing story? The Jews continue to believe that Jesus’ disciples stole His body in the middle of the night. Why don’t we give credit to this? First because the disciples were cowering in fear, hiding away somewhere they wouldn’t be found. That’s why it was the only the women who came to the tomb. In those days, women were not credible witnesses, their word would not have been believed. So if the story was concocted, they definitely would have said men found the tomb empty! But no, it was the two Mary’s who faithfully went to the tomb early in the morning.

One of the most convincing reasons why we believe in Jesus’ resurrection is because the timid, hopeless and fearful disciples were transformed into daring, courageous men who were confidently preaching with authority and boldly witnessing the resurrected Christ. They were willing to die to obey Jesus and most of them were martyred because of this. It could only be because they saw Him alive as they claimed, as did so many other people, in small groups and large groups, during the day, or night, outdoors and indoors. They risked their lives for the gospel. 

Today, we need not risk our life to talk about Jesus Christ or to follow His way. But we need to stand up for Him because little by little, our Christian way of life is being belittled and mocked. Even our former President attacked our God and our Church. In other countries, it is very difficult to be a Christian. Let us stand fast in our faith, holding on to the Lord who is our portion, and our inheritance! 

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Bridge to Life!

“Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; see, here is the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.” (Mark 16:1-7) 

The reading for the Easter Vigil ends with verse 7. It does not include verse 8 which says, “And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” 

Father Herb Schneider at our mass yesterday intriguingly said that the end of the gospel of Mark is a question to each and everyone of us. Will we be like the women, will we be afraid and run away, or will we do as Jesus wants us to do, and “go and tell others, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”? 

Yesterday my 3 year old grandson watched the cartoon version of the crucifixion and the resurrection that Saddleback Church produced. He said it was amazing, and he had so many superlatives for the Easter miracle. During the flogging, he asked if Jesus was going to be all right. He was so fascinated with the dying and rising that he wanted to watch it again and again! 

Can we be like a little child and see the breathtaking, awesome gift God has given us, or are we so used to hearing about it every year that it hardly matters to us? 

Many people have said correctly that the moment we are born, we begin our descent to death. But for those of us who follow Christ, love Him and obey Him, He has built us a bridge to life. We can hasten to meet Him who is our hope! Let us also hasten to tell others that because Christ is truly risen from the dead, our pilgrim journey towards life and love is assured. 

A blessed, holy Easter season to everyone! 

Friday, March 29, 2024

Most Amazing Love

"It was our infirmities that He bore, our sufferings that He His stripes we were healed." Isaiah 53:4

The story of Jesus' crucifixion is the very heart of the heart of the Gospel. In the Garden of Eden, God pronounced man guilty of sin, and man was driven out of the garden.

In the crucifixion, it is man rejecting God from their city, and giving Him a death sentence!

And the amazing thing is God allows it! Why? Because of the most improbable love of all, the craziest, most amazing love!

"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Speak to the Weary

“The Lord has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might speak to the weary a word that will rouse them.” Isaiah 50:4

I think this verse refers to Isaiah the prophet, but it also points to Jesus. And as we are supposed to be imitators of Christ (1 Cor. 11:1), we should also strive to speak and write to the weary and discouraged, words that will rouse, encourage, and strengthen them. Many people are anxious at this time, confused and disheartened. We should think of ways to be Jesus to them. 

The thing is if we use our own words in our own strength, sometimes it just isn’t enough. Cordie was a member of the James Island Fire Department when they were called to put out a house fire. After he and the other firemen were able to extinguish the fire in the den, they started salvaging what they could, and cleaning up the burned materials. Cordie noticed that all the keys of the piano got melted into one lump from the intense heat. 

They continued to clean up until Cordie found a large book which turned out to be the family Bible. He brought it to the lady of the house. It was the only thing that survived intact. All the pages were undamaged! This experience impressed Cordie so much and taught him that the Word of God is indestructible and dependable. 

“The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God endures forever." (Isaiah 40:8) May we use this great gift of God’s Word to strengthen ourselves and others.