Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Keep the Faith!

 "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." 2 Timothy 4:7
Saint Paul when he wrote these words to Timothy was almost at the last lap of his race. He was encouraging Timothy not to become weary in his own race. We are all in a race, and to be victorious, we have to remember to keep an eye on the prize and stay in our own lane. Can you imagine if you are a runner, and you are always looking in all directions to see how others are doing? How can you win? When King Saul started getting envious of David, his exploits, and the accolades David was receiving from the people, he became such a bad king that he wanted David killed!
I was just listening to Pastor Robert Madu, and he said that nowadays we sometimes look through feeds in Facebook and Instagram to see how we measure up. I was so amused when he came up with these little ditties: "Mirror, mirror in Facebook, Tell me how my life should look!" or "Mirror, mirror on Instagram, Tell me who I really am!" Really? Is this what modern life is like?

 I think what we need to do is concentrate on OUR race, and not look at what other people are doing. I can't be like my FB friends who are great at mentoring, or preaching, or making funny jokes! I love my friends who are wonderful cooks, have kids who are doctors, who have PhDs and I refuse to compare myself to them. Let them be the best they can be with the gifts and talents God gave them. I'll just be the best ME I can be with what God has given me! And if we can, let's help each other fight the good fight, finish the race and keep the faith!

 "Your daughter is dead." Mark 5:35
There's only one appointment that every man, no exception, has to keep, and that's with death. We have no choice or control over when that appointment is. Sometimes a person tries to kill himself, and is not successful. There is actually an association that studies suicide, The American Assoc. of Suicidology, and they report that there are 25 suicide attempts for every, and I guess this is the politically correct term, "suicide completion". 92-95% are failed attempts. A lot of those failed attempts are by celebrities: Brigitte Bardot, Drew Barrymore, Elizabeth Taylor, Drew Carey, Halle Berry, the list goes on and on.

But most people want to live. Some don't want to think about death. Some live as if they are not going to die. But I believe the best thing we can do about death is to prepare for it, and to prepare those we love for it as well. Death will not be something to fear if we know the truth about it. If we see our life on earth as a preparation for going though that door that leads to either eternal life with God, or if we reject what God has to offer, some other place which Jesus says will have weeping and gnashing of teeth. Ultimately, we really have to decide, whether we believe Jesus is God or not, that what He said is true or not. That's really the most important decision we will ever make in our life. If we sit on the fence and ho hum about it, we can't prepare well for death.
When my mom died, God gave me this very special gift of knowing in my heart heaven was real. Before she died, I thought I would be devastated, for we were very close. But when she died, I was ecstatic. I knew my mom was where she longed to be. All of us should long for heaven, shouldn't we? The alternative is just too terrible to bear! Are we preparing well for our appointment with death?
 "Please do not go on past your servant." Genesis 18:3
In this story in Genesis, Abraham was relaxing at the entrance of his tent, when he caught sight of 3 men standing nearby. Instead of being suspicious about what they were doing there, or getting irritated that they were "in his space", Abraham RAN to greet them and invited them to sit that he may SERVE them food and give them water to wash their feet. The strangers agreed and Abraham ran to ask Sarah to make bread. He had a servant prepare choice steer, and he himself got some curds and milk. There are many verses about being hospitable we can find in the Bible, and Abraham, our father in the faith, certainly practiced it to a large degree.

In Hebrews 13:2, Paul advises us, "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it." And certainly this became true for Abraham. The three strangers were messengers of God, and told Abraham that in the next year, Sarah would give birth to a son, even in her old age. Just as Abraham was hospitable to the three men, he was also "hospitable" to God's word. Like Abraham, we should create a space for encounters with God, who speaks to us through strangers, friends, family, events in our life, and through His Word. The more we are open to these encounters, the more we will grow and be fed. May Jesus find a place in the inn of our heart!!!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Paint Party Friday: Promise Keeping God!

 "Anyone who hears my words and puts them into practice is like the wise man who built his house on rock." Matthew 7:24
When we build a house, first we have all these ideas and an architect will try to translate our ideas and puts the plans on paper for us to approve. On paper, those plans may be beautiful, but what is more important is the land we build it on. Is it solid ground? In the city where I live there is what is known as the Marikina Valley faultline and there are around 70 villages and subdivisions that can be found along this line. The house we build could be attractive to other people, but if it is built on that faultline, that would be very dangerous in a strong earthquake. If it is build on low ground, then it could be life threatening during floods.

 Jesus said that on Judgement Day, we will be surprised because some people who "look good" to us, because they are religious, or preach magnificently to thousands, or have healing gifts, perform miracles, will not be let into heaven! I may paint on my Bible every day, and meditate and post on Facebook and Instagram, but that will not bring me into heaven. We may look good on the outside but it is very clear that what is essential is we read His Word and OBEY it! In Matthew 12:50, Jesus said, "For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." Do we want to be part of Jesus' family?

 "You and your descendants after you must keep my covenant throughout the ages." Genesis 17:9
Covenant. What is a covenant? It is an agreement, a commitment, a pledge. When Abraham was 99 years old, God told Abraham that He was El-Shaddai. He invited Abraham to walk with Him, and be trustworthy. And God, the Creator of the Universe, gave many amazing promises to Abraham. Kings will come from his line. Land. Blessing.

If we search the Bible, there are many promises that we too, as children of Abraham, may claim. As Paul writes to the Galatians in Chapter 3:7, "Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham." "If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Gal. 3:9) We are heirs, and as heirs, we have an inheritance we can claim. The term "gold digger" has a negative connotation, but if we mine the Bible for promises we can lay hold on, we are like gold diggers. The only difference is, we are sure to find treasure! We don't want to be "strangers from the covenant of promise" (Eph. 2:12), do we? But that is exactly what we will be if we are without Christ. The promise to Abraham of universal blessing is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. It is amazing if we are able to fully grasp that when God invited Abraham to walk with Him, we were in God's mind and heart as well. God said, "I will always keep the promise I have made to you and your descendants, because I am your God and their God." (Gen. 17:7) How wonderful that we have a promise-keeping God!


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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

WOYWW: God's Very Best!

 I can't believe what a small space I have to work on!
I moved my electric fan closer
because it is so hot these days!
But it also keeps raining hard!

 "I wonder what this child will turn out to be?" Luke 1:66

John the Baptist was born amidst amazing circumstances. His parents Zechariah and Elizabeth were very old, and they had no children because Elizabeth was barren.  One day, Zechariah, a Jewish priest was on duty inside the sanctuary in the Temple, burning incense.  An angel appeared, and Zechariah was overwhelmed with fear. Who wouldn't be? But the angel told him not to be afraid. "God has heard your prayer, and your wife, Elizabeth will bear you a son!"  Angel Gabriel then proceeded to list the awesome qualities of his son, and instructed him to name him John. "He will be great in the sight of God."

"How can this be?" Zechariah asked incredulously, "We are both so old!"  The angel reprimanded him saying, "God was the one who instructed me to tell you this.  Since you did not believe, you won't be able to speak until the child is born."  True enough, Elizabeth became pregnant, and she gave birth to a baby boy. When Zechariah wrote that the baby was to be named John, he instantly began to speak. Everyone was so amazed and the news of what happened spread throughout the Judean hills.  

 When we were born, God knew us too. No angel came to announce our arrival, but He formed us just as "fearfully and wonderfully" as He formed John the Baptist. We too have a purpose in our life.  We were not just dumped on earth without rhyme or reason.  When we were born, I do believe all the angels and saints rejoiced in heaven.  If an angel came to deliver the news, the angel would have listed our awesome qualities too!  

 In Philemon 1:6, Paul prays that Philemon would recognize and acknowledge all the good things he has in Christ.  WE have so many good qualities! We just have to recognize them and bring them out.  Each one of us can be just as important as John the Baptist, if we obey God, and follow Jesus.  "Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he," Jesus tells the crowd in Matthew 11:11. We may not aspire to be greater than John the Baptist, but I think it would be exciting to work with God who wants to bring out the best in us, and use us. That is how we will find meaning and purpose in our life!  

 "Let there be no strife between you and me..." Genesis 13:8
Abraham was a very rich man. He had sheep, cattle, lots of gold and silver and many tents. Lot, his nephew, was also very wealthy, and there was conflict between Lot's herdsmen, and Abraham's over the grazing land. How did Abraham resolve this? He said to Lot, "Let there be no strife, no quarrel, no arguments between us. Just choose which part of this land you want for yourself, and I will take what is left. If you choose the right side, I will take the left. If you take the left, I will move to the right." That was very generous of Abraham because in the first place, this was part of the Promised Land. It was given to him by God himself. Secondly, he was more senior, and should have had first pick. But what was important to Abraham? Peace.
Lot chose the seemingly better portion. The lush and green plains of the Jordan Valley meant plentiful water for his flocks. In verse 10, we read that it was like the garden of the Lord, well watered and fertile. I have heard many stories of siblings quarreling over land, money and businesses. Most of the time it ends badly or does not end at all! Is it worth all the strife and aggravation to quarrel with family over a piece of land or possession that you can't take with you when you die?
Even if Lot chose "wisely", the land he chose turned out to be a terrible place to live! In the 14th chapter of Genesis, 4 kings attacked Sodom, where Lot set up his home. Abraham had to rescue him! Then in Genesis chapter 19, Sodom and Gomorrah was destroyed completely because the people there were wicked, and did detestable things before God, all sorts of sexual immorality and perversions. Abraham had to plead with God to save Lot and his family.

I see here that sometimes, we may calculate to our best advantage and decide based on our human reasoning and due diligence, but what matters most is that we trust God, and be at peace with every one. God gives His very best to those who leave the choice to Him!

Joining the lovely Julia Dunnit for a 
peek at desks and projects!
I find a lot of inspiration
visiting my friends here:


Monday, June 22, 2015

Claiming My Inheritance

 "If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature..." 2 Corinthians 5:17
All of us have pet peeves. My brother in law the other week was asking, "Would you allow a man covered with tattoos to lead worship?" And I said yes I would! But I am sure that I would not want him to marry my daughter (if I had one!). Then there's my friend who hates bad grammar and one who even made a song about it. I was thinking that God does not have pet peeves about people. If someone came up to Him and wanted to be His friend, He would accept him. God would make him a new creation.
One of my favorite conversion stories is about the youngest Baldwin, Stephen. Stephen has 18 tattoos, and he was known as the "dumb jock of Hollywood" because of all the, well, dumb things he said and did. In his book, "The Unusual Suspect", he writes of "snorting enough cocaine to throw the entire population of a small South American country into anaphylactic shock." But he and his wife Kenya are now born again Christians and he is an evangelical Christian youth minister. In one interview he claimed, "It's real, it's changed my life, it's transformed my heart, I'm not who I was," Baldwin says. "No longer … do I feel the pressure of, 'how fancy are my shoes? Or what kind of car am I driving? Or how much money do I make?' None of that matters to me anymore … I'm having a daily experience with the spirit of God that's more priceless than anything I've experienced before."

 How did it start? When Kenya was pregnant, the couple hired Augusta, a Brazilian cleaning woman, because Kenya was from Brazil and that's what you do with a baby on the way. Kenya noticed that Augusta was always singing about Jesus and she asked, "Why is every song about Jesus?" And Augusta burst with laughter. "What's so funny?" Kenya asked and Augusta replied, "Quite frankly, I think it's a little bit funny that you think I'm here to clean your house!!!" The story came out that Augusta had a dream about Stephen and his little family. Before she accepted the job, she prayed with her pastor and some church members, and she was told in prophetic word that if she went to work for them, the couple would become believers and be involved in ministry. Now if I had been Augusta, would I have believed that was possible? I would be plenty skeptical! But God had a plan, and He used a Brazilian nanny to reach Stephen and his wife. And now Stephen is making a movie titled, "I'm in Love with a Church Girl" and he said, "God will let people think that they can make money with it as long as the gospel is preached." It is God's desire to make us all new creations in Him! It does not matter if we are covered in tats, leprous wounds, or if the wounds are in our heart. God wants us, and He will use a Brazilian nanny, a magazine, a TV show, whatever.

 "All the families of the earth shall find blessing in you." Genesis 2:3

Abraham was 75 years old when he was called by God to leave everything he was familiar with, to go to a land God will show him.  75 years old! And all those 75 years, what had he been doing?  He and his father before him worshiped other Gods, just like all the other people in his time. (Joshua 24:2) He lived in Ur, an ancient city located in modern day Iraq. It is actually near Nasiriyah where US and Iraqi forces clashed in the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.  How do I know all this? Google. And why am I so interested? Why do I wake up early, pray, read the Bible, listen to preaching, and research?

Simple.  Legal documents are boring to me.  I hate reading contracts and I have been known to sign documents without reading the fine print.  Sometimes the Bible can be boring too. All the seemingly insignificant details, the repetition and those genealogies! But what if you think of the Bible as like a will with your name on it?  Because that is what it is! I am sure that if someone called me for a reading of a will left by my great aunt so and so, and told me my name was in it, that I would receive a bequest, I would be super eager to go and listen, or even read every word!!!  To me the Bible is like a will.  There are instructions in it on how to claim my inheritance.  I will find blessing as part of Abraham's family. Abraham trusted in God, left everything to go to a land God showed Him. At that time, there was no CNN, no magazines. Abraham would have no idea where God will lead. Like Abraham, if I trust in God, read and obey His Word, I too can walk with God and He will lead me.  Yes, we walk with a faithful God!