Friday, July 31, 2020

Spiritual Muscles

“And he did not work many mighty deeds there because of their lack of faith.” Matthew 13:58

Whenever I give an art workshop, I always say that creativity is like a muscle. We all have it, but if we don’t exercise it, it will be limp, and useless. Use it all the time, and it will bloom and grow. There are many exercises and challenges available online to increase creativity. Creativity is not just for artists. Business people, teachers, mothers and fathers, every one on the planet  needs it all the time to be more effective, and successful in their jobs, roles and relationships. 

In Matthew 13:58, we read that Jesus did not do many miracles in His hometown because of the people’s lack of faith. Is faith like a muscle as well? Can we grow in faith just as we can grow in creativity? No doubt about it! Like the gift of creativity, God has also given each one of us, a seed of faith. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ”, St. Paul writes in Romans 10:17.

We can go to God’s gym to develop our spiritual muscles by exercising our faith everyday, by believing in God’s promises, by rebuking the enemy’s whispers of hopelessness and deception. If someone is sick, we should pray for him and not be shy or insecure that our prayers will not work. Whatever challenge comes our way, let us use our faith muscles and one day we will be spiritual Schwarzeneggers!!! 

Let us become so strong in the faith that the devil trembles when we get up in the morning!!!  

Thursday, July 30, 2020

His Masterpiece

“Indeed, like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand...” Jeremiah 18:6

When we were young, my mom would gather my siblings and I to make clay figurines. It was a lot of fun forming whatever we liked out of the clay. Sometimes there were little stones we had to remove. Sometimes the clay was too hard, and we had to add water, to press and pull on it, even pound on it, to make it malleable in our hands. My brother Robert would come out with masterpieces that even now are displayed in a glass shelf in our family home. My little sister Tina made this tiny, tiny dog and a cart and we were wondering how we were going to sell it! Whatever we made, even my awkward clay pieces, my mom would make molds of them, and we would make duplicates and sell them in the stores. The tiny dog and cart was mounted on wood, and had a sign which read, “Caution: Working dog!” Amazingly, people got amused and purchased the absurd thing! 

God is a master potter. In the 6th chapter of Jeremiah, we read, “Whenever the object of clay which he was making turned out badly in his hand, he tried again, making of the clay another object of whatever sort he pleased.” Sometimes the clay He uses is not malleable in His hand, and He has to add water, to pound it, and press it, and squeeze it, so He can re-form it into something better. Sometimes there are stones, even bits of leaves or stems that have to be removed. The thing is God is very patient and painstaking in making ang molding us. Sometimes it is painful for us, all this pounding and pummeling, but one day, we will see what God’s hand in our life has made of us. Each one of us is unique and lovingly made by the Master Potter. Each one of us is valuable in His eyes. If we are having a difficult time now, and it seems as if blows are coming from every side, let us continue to trust in a loving and faithful God who only wants the best for us. He will not quit on us, but will continue to stretch us until He is satisfied with His masterpiece. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Only One Thing

“Only one thing is required.” Luke 10:42

I am more of a Martha than a Mary in so many ways. Although I am seldom busy in matters of the household, I am never idle unless I am very sick. I tend to multi-task and it is not uncommon for me to be listening to a class on Skillshare and doing my work for Papemelroti. When Martha complained to Jesus about her sister Mary, He kindly reminded her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and upset about many things; only one thing is required. Mary has chosen the better portion and she shall not be deprived of it." 

Jesus in His reminder to Martha tells us in no uncertain terms, that listening to Him is SO important. Sitting at His feet and getting to know Him and His words will produce more results than any labor we do. 

We can get so disheartened about life sometimes, maybe our work, or relationships gone bad, sickness, finances, what's happening in our country... But what can get us through any seemingly hopeless situation is not racking our brains for a solution, but prayer and reading the Word of God. I heard about this experiment with rats put in water. Some rats were in a dark room and they drowned right away. Others were in a lighted room and they kept swimming for about 72 hours more than the rats in a dark room. The difference? Hope.

Hope is not tangible. We cannot buy it anywhere. Same with peace. Same with joy. But we cannot live a blessed life without these gifts from God. Indeed to be surrounded by His favor, we need only one thing. 

Jesus' conversations with Martha and Mary have not been recorded, but we too can have our own conversations with the Lord. When we are bothered and upset about many things, Jesus calls us to have a conversation with Him. To sit at his feet. Dinner can wait. Worrying can wait. Only one thing is required. That we listen to him. That we believe. That is the only way we will see the glory of God. Yes Lord, I will listen. I believe! I want to see Your glory!

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Sure Win!

“Just as weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his Kingdom

all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.” Matthew 13:40-42

Many people do not believe in hell anymore. But here Jesus describes hell as a fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. We either believe Jesus, who gave up His power and glory to tell us this truth among many, or not. In the world today, many people prefer to make up their own ‘story’ about what will happen when we die. They do not like the idea of a fiery furnace so they reject it, saying how can a good God do that? Or they reject God Himself. Many believe that all religions will lead us to heaven or nirvana because one can find truth in all of them. But how is that possible when they contradict one another? 

Why have I decided to believe Jesus and what He says? When I was younger, I searched for God in all sorts of books and readings. But if we want to find God, we need only to read the Bible. “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me.” (John 5:39) Many atheists and agnostics have become believers when confronted with mathematical proof that the prophecies in the Old Testament could only point to one man, Jesus Christ. The odds of one man fulfilling just 8 of the 300+ prophecies is 1 in 10 to the 17th power. Completely mind boggling, absurd and impossible. But one man's life fulfilled all the 300+ prophecies in the Old Testament!  No wonder Jesus said He wouldn't give us any more signs! There were more than enough signs. And there would be one more mind boggling sign when, like Jonah, Jesus was entombed for three days and rose from the dead! 

Sometimes we focus our energies and resources on all sorts of things. We want to become experts in this or that. We want to be the best in what we do, whether it be an insurance agent, teacher, or doctor. But we also have to think about what happens to us after we die. There is a treasure to be found even now which will endure when all our degrees, trophies and money will be worth nothing at all. Let us also spend time finding it! Life is not a gambling game, it can be a sure win! 

Monday, July 27, 2020

No Matter How Small

“The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the ‘birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.’“ Matthew 13:31-32

In the world, we put value on big things. Dominant personalities who take up center stage, multi-national corporations, singers that can fill stadiums with fans, celebrities with millions of followers on social media. God on the other hand, seems to think differently. His parables are about small, ordinary things. The mustard seed, yeast, a fishing net, even a rotted loincloth in the first reading for today (Jeremiah 13:1-11). Jesus surrounded Himself with ordinary people, outside of the fringes of high society.  They were not rich, learned, nor eloquent. BUT they were able to change the world in a BIG way, just as a mustard seed can grow into a big tree, and the tiny yeast can make bread rise. 

In the first reading, Jesus taught the prophet Jeremiah through his lesson of the loin cloth, that if His people cling to Him closely, He will rejoice in them, help them and prosper them. But if they are wicked, refuse to obey His words, walk in the stubbornness of their hearts, and follow strange gods, they will be good for nothing. (Jeremiah 13:1-11) Let us allow God’s word to illuminate our path so that no matter how small we are in the world, we can change our corner of the world for the better in a BIG way. 

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Pearl of Great Price

“The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.” Matthew 13:45-46

Have we found the pearl of great price? What are we willing to give up for it? 

Adoniram Judson, Jr. was a son of a minister, but upon developing a friendship with Jacob Eames, a devout skeptic and deist in university, he abandoned his faith and his parents’ religious instruction. Judson graduated as valedictorian from the College of Rhode Island & Providence Plantations (now Brown University) and everyone was eagerly watching what this bright young man would become. 

One day when he was traveling from afar to go back home, he arrived at an inn, and asked for a room. The man at the desk said there was no room available. As Judson was extremely tired after a long day on horseback, he asked that he might stay in the front parlor. The clerk then said there was one room, but the man in the next room was very very ill, and would shout and scream. Judson said he was willing to stay in the room next to the sick man as he was so very tired, he would probably sleep through it all. But it was not to be, the man next door was in such pain that his screams carried through the walls and kept Judson awake till the man suddenly quieted down. The next morning Judson inquired about the man, and if he was relieved of his pains. The clerk told him that the man had died, and that this man’s name was Jacob Eames. 

The shock of learning that the dying man was his old schoolmate who convinced Judson against his Christian convictions, was enough to bring him back to Christ. He eventually decided to be a missionary. He and his wife Ann went to Burma. By 1823, ten years after his arrival, he made 18 Burmese converts and had translated the entire New Testament to Burmese. He was able to translate the entire Bible to Burmese by 1834 and it was printed and published the next year. 

He died on April 12,1850, at the age of 61, after 37 years of back breaking missionary work, including 20 months imprisonment, and evangelizing in tiger-infested jungles. Adoniram Judson, Jr. found the pearl of great price, but he did not want to keep it for himself. He desperately wanted for others to find this treasure for themselves as well. 

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Treasure in Earthen Vessels

“We hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7

Of the short stories in the book “Chicken Soup for a Woman’s Soul”, the one that impressed me was that of Mary Kay Ash. Like many women in the book, she had a hard childhood, a difficult time trying to earn a living, and although she made good sales for the company she worked for, it was the men who would get promoted. When her first husband divorced her, she was left with three children to support. We can say she was “afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed...”. (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)

In 1963, after quitting from a job where women were not given the same opportunities as men, she started her own cosmetics company with $5,000.00 and her family backing her up. Her sons and her mom always said, “You can do it, Mary Kay.” They saw the gold in her earthen vessel.  Mary Kay’s company was founded not on competition, but on the Golden Rule, on praising people to succeed and on the principle of placing faith first, family second and career third. It was a company – as Mary Kay Ash would say – "with heart." Mary Kay died in 2001, but what she built lives on.

It is the Feast Day of St. James the Apostle today.  And it is so fitting that we read from St. Paul's 2nd letter to the Corinthians. Like St. James and all the other saints, we are 'earthen vessels', fragile, weak, easily broken. And like St. James, we hold the treasure of God's Spirit, something more valuable than any gold or precious metal. From a man of quick temper and selfishness, he became a man who traveled long distances to preach the good news and was the first of the apostles to be martyred for Christ. 

Let’s not forget we all have this treasure in earthen vessels. Sometimes adversity brings it out.  Other times we just need others to encourage us and say, “You can do it!” Nothing is impossible with God!

Friday, July 24, 2020

Carrot, Egg, or Coffee?

“The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy. But he has no root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away.” Matthew 13:20-21

We will know that God’s word has fallen on the rocky ground of our heart, if at this time of tribulation and hardship, we stop trusting Him, we begin to feel hopeless, anxious, and try to hold to on our own strength to cope. If that is the case, we may continue to spiral downward into depression. We need to cling to our Father more, with every breath we take. If we feel lost, all the more we need to read His word all the time, so that we can stand surely on His promises. 

Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do these commandments, that it may go well with the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey. Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:3-9) 

God’s word is medicine for our mind and heart. Proverbs 4:20-22 reads, “My son, give attention to my words; incline thine heart unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For my words are life to those who find them and health to their whole body.” The Hebrew word for health also means medicine. 

During this time of the pandemic we can either be a carrot, an egg, or coffee. When boiled in hot water, a carrot becomes soft, an egg becomes hard, but coffee changes the hot water into a fragrant, delicious drink. Let us strive to change the environment around us with the fragrance of our hope and encouraging presence. We can only do that if we stand on the solid ground of God’s love and His enduring Word.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Blessed to See and Hear

“But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear.

Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.” Matthew 13:16-17

Don Schwager wrote, “God can only reveal the secrets of his kingdom to the humble and trusting person who acknowledges their need for God and for his truth. The parables of Jesus will enlighten us if we approach them with an open mind and heart, ready to let them challenge us. If we approach God's word with indifference, skepticism, and disbelief, then we, too, may hear but not understand and see but not perceive. God's word can only take root in a receptive heart that is ready to believe and willing to submit. If we want to hear and to understand God's word, we must listen with reverence and faith.”

In the brutal war of Russia against the invading armies of Napoleon, Tsar Aleksandr Pavlovich resorted to going down on his knees in the Assumption Cathedral in the Kremlin. He kissed the holy relics and prayed for a miracle while Moscow was burning. According to one writer, God sent a “minor, minor prophet” in the form of a savage winter that ravaged Napoleon’s forces.

“The terrible sufferings of the French on their return march are well-known. There was even cannibalism, - a sure sign of apocalyptic times, - as the soldiers of the Great Army began to put their fellow-soldiers in the stew pots. Out of the vast army - nearly 600,000 men, only about half of whom were French - that set out for Russia, only 120,000 returned, 35,000 of them French. The Russians lost 400,000, but they had saved their homeland.” The Tsar had been humble enough to go down on his knees and acknowledge that they needed God’s help.

Today, here and now, we need God’s intervention. We need to go down on our knees to implore God to save us from this invisible but insidious enemy. May this pandemic draw us closer to God, eager to hear what He has to say.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Open the Door

Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord.” John 20:18

Few of us can say we have seen the Lord, but I have a friend who swears Jesus came to her bedside when she was young. Then there is the famous CNN sportscaster, Nick Charles, who died of bladder cancer. He too was visited by Jesus who sat with him while he was struggling with pain. “It wasn’t a hallucination,” he said. He told Jesus he was ready to go home, but Jesus said, “Not yet.” 

The thing is most of the time, we need to do things our way and refuse to open the door. Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain had a dream job, traveling around the world, and eating all kinds of food with interesting people. He really lived up to what he believed, “Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride!” Perhaps if he had been more open to what the Bible had to say, he wouldn’t have committed suicide in a luxury hotel in France. “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself.” (1 Cor. 6:19)

During Holy Week, I saw a Facebook post of Mel Gibson talking to a bloody and battered Jim Caviezel, who acted the part of Jesus in the blockbuster movie, “The Passion of the Christ”. Mel Gibson looked like he was having a deep conversation with Jesus. The thing is, Jesus is always waiting for us to talk to Him. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20) That is a promise we should claim again and again. To make a friend of Jesus who is willing to get bloodied and battered for us! If we open the door every day, one day we will say with excitement, “I have seen the Lord and it was awesome!”

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

My Brother! My Sister!

“Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.” Matthew 12:49-50

Jesus was speaking to crowds when someone interrupted him to say, “Your mother and brothers are outside. They want to speak to you.” Jesus answered, “Who is My mother and who are my brothers?” And stretching out His hand towards His disciples, He said, “Behold, My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is my brother and sister and mother!” 

I can picture Jesus expansively holding out his arms to emphasize how He has extended the circle of His family to include all those who do the will of His Father. This shows us how important it is to know the Father’s will and pleasure because we certainly want to be counted as Jesus’ family. 

Before the wedding of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, Meghan had to learn how to be a good member of the Royal Family. She had to learn how to dress, especially for official functions. They told her about dress length, not using dark nail polish, not showing too much leg, no plunging necklines, she had to smile all the time, not show her impatience or boredom. No Facebook, IG. She had to quit her job in Suits. I am sure she had to give up a lot of things. She also had to learn about who to curtsey to and who not to. If you think that is easy, it’s not. She has to curtsey to Princess Eugenie and Princess Beatrice, but not if Prince Harry is in the room, when they would have to curtsey to her!

In a way, we are like that too. It says in the Bible, that God’s ways are different than our ways, and His thoughts are higher than ours. We need to learn how to be a good member of His family. One thing God wants is that we will belong in His Kingdom and that’s why He gave us the amazing book, the Bible. In it we see how we can become a member of His family. We can also read the fascinating stories of other members of OUR family through the ages! 

Thank You Lord, for making a way for us to be a part of Your eternal, victorious,  Royal household where there is no place for deceit only truth, no hate only love, no violence only peace. 

Monday, July 20, 2020

What is Good

“You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: Only to do the right and to love goodness and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

In the NIV, this reads, “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” This is what God requires of us. I heard a preacher tell a true story about a very wealthy man who was miserable. The preacher was able to spend much time with the man because they were on a yacht in the Mediterranean, invited by a common friend. The man said that he and his wife were having problems and he pleaded with his wife to come back and they will fix things. She asked him to give her six months to think about it. He agreed. After six months, he asked her what her decision was and she said she needed three more months. He continued to wait. After three months, she decided that no, she wasn’t going to return. She said she was so tired of all his conditions, she just couldn’t do it. The preacher then continued to listen to all this man’s woes, and the man finally said the problem with following Jesus is there are all sorts of conditions. 

“Wait a minute, wait a minute!” the preacher stopped him. “You are complaining about your wife not coming back to you because you had so many conditions, and now you’re saying you cannot accept Jesus because He has conditions?” The man realized his foolishness and cried. The preacher was able to lead him to prayer and accepting Jesus. 

In a relationship, especially a good relationship, there are always conditions. The moral law governs how we are to act with God and our brothers and sisters. There’s this little movie about the “The Secret of the Stone Tablets”. In it, a young boy was playing archaeologist in search of the Ten Commandments. The problem was while he was looking for these “rules”, he disobeyed his dad, skipped school, lied and even betrayed his good friend. Near the ending when he gets found out, he confessed to his father that he did not know what was wrong with him. “I want to do what is right, but I just can’t! I end up lying to you and disobeying you! What’s the matter with me?”

The young boy was told by his father what we, like St. Paul discovered. We all want to do what is right, to love goodness, and walk humbly with our God, but we can never obey God’s laws perfectly. The only one who can change our stony hearts is God. “I will give you a new heart with new and right desires, and I will put a new spirit in you,” God promised through the prophet Ezekiel. “I will take out your stony heart of sin and give you a new, obedient heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so you will obey my laws and do whatever I command" (36:26-27 NLT).

Thank You, Father, for Your promise! You are our hope and consolation! 

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Like Yeast

“The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened.” Matthew 13:33

Jesus told many parables about the kingdom of heaven. I guess He wanted us to ponder what heaven was really like. Jesus proposed that the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field but an enemy sowed weeds in it when everyone was sleeping. When the man’s helpers asked if they should pull up the weeds, he said no because the wheat would get uprooted as well. He advised them to wait till harvest, and then the weeds would be separated and thrown into the fire to be destroyed. Doesn’t this show that God is very patient? In this world, the enemy has sown bad seeds but one day, we will see God’s justice. When the day of judgement comes, those who have chosen to oppose God will be separated and punishment will be meted out to them. 

Then Jesus compared the kingdom to a tiny mustard seed that would grow into the largest of plants. Faith is that tiny mustard seed. When we nurture our seed of faith all things are possible! 

Then we have the third parable where the kingdom of heaven is likened to yeast. The sizes of this single cell microorganism vary greatly, depending on species and environment, typically measuring 3–4 µm or micrometer in diameter. So small! Sometimes my husband makes bread, but he doesn’t do it often enough for my liking. So one time he used yeast that was dead already because it was in our shelf for too long. After waiting for some time, the dough did not rise. Yeast is the ingredient that produces gas that makes the bread rise. It feeds on the sugars in flour, and expels carbon dioxide in the process. How can the kingdom of heaven be like yeast? 

Like the mustard seed, yeast is tiny as well. God apparently likes to work slowly, using small things, sometimes these are too small to be noticed at first. But just like a mustard seed grows into a large plant, and the bread that grows because of the yeast, the kingdom of heaven cannot fail to spread far and wide. Christianity started with just a ragged taggle bunch of inexperienced preachers but armed with zeal, faith, and the might of the Holy Spirit, they travelled and reached the far corners of the known world. 

The enemy has always tried to plant bad seed within and without the church, but as we are assured in Jesus’ parable, He is the one allowing all these evil and wickedness to remain until one day they will be uprooted and incinerated. We know the Kingdom of heaven will prevail, no matter how bad things seem. As Jesus promised, “Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.” (Matthew 16:18)

All Our Tears

“For the wicked man glories in his greed, ​and the covetous blasphemes, sets the Lord at nought. The wicked man boasts, “He will not avenge it”; ​“There is no God,” sums up his thoughts.” Psalm 10:3-4

Martin Luther said of this psalm, “There is not, in my judgment, a Psalm which describes the mind, the manners, the works, the words, the feelings, and the fate of the ungodly with so much propriety, fullness, and light, as this Psalm.” 

We can witness all around us the works of those men who think there is no god, or if they believe there is a god, they believe in a god “who will never notice; he covers his face and never sees.” And those who persevere to do good may lament “Why, O Lord, do you stand aloof? ​Why hide in times of distress?”

Does the Lord stand aloof when the wicked wreak havoc in this world? We must always remember that our stay in this world is a “blink of an eye” compared to where we really belong. Even Jesus, when He was here on earth amongst men, did not escape the wrath and machinations of the greedy, and the wicked. He could have annihilated all who stood in His way. He did not have to submit Himself to the humiliations He suffered! 

“Jesus who is Justice himself came to overcome injustice by becoming a victim Himself. He submitted himself to the same sort of treatment that the poor suffered,” I read in “The Anawim Way”. The Lord declares in Isaiah 55:8-9, “For 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.” 

What this boils down to is we need to trust in the Lord, in His infinite wisdom. He is just, and faithful, and forgiving. He never forgets. It says in Psalm 56:8, He keeps track of all our sorrows. He collects all our tears in His bottle. He records each one in His book! One day, we will know our Father, really KNOW Him, and we will see how amazingly intricate was His plan for our life. The same way that the universe is so finely tuned to make the earth liveable for humans, God crafts our life so uniquely for us to bloom and grow. Our sorrows, challenges, joys and pains, are not coincidences or accidents, but are planned meticulously by a loving God who only wants the best for us. 

Friday, July 17, 2020

Wear Your Invisible Crown

“I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” Matthew 12:7

Here Jesus quoted from Hosea 6:6 when the Pharisees were on the judgement seat again, declaring what His disciples were doing was unlawful. 

When I was in High School, I had to memorize and recite Portia’s famous lines in William Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice”:

“The quality of mercy is not strained. 

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven 

Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest: 

It blesseth him that gives and him that takes. 

Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes 

The throned monarch better than his crown. 

His scepter shows the force of temporal power, 

The attribute to awe and majesty, 

Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings. 

But mercy is above this sceptered sway; 

It is enthroned in the hearts of kings; 

It is an attribute of God Himself; 

And earthly power doth then show like God's 

When mercy seasons justice.”

Yes, mercy is an attribute, a quality of God, love being the foundation of what He does. We do not deserve everything God does for us, especially His ultimate sacrifice of His Son Jesus. “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

Are we merciful like God? When we are in a more dominant, more powerful position, do we show compassion? I remember clearly when I did not. We had ordered a meal at a restaurant in El Nido, and I instructed the young waitress to separate the bill. When she came back, I got so irritated because she did not follow what I asked her to do. I berated her for it and I am still ashamed of my behavior. 

Mercy, as Shakespeare wrote, becomes the throned monarch better than his crown. We are all sons and daughters of the King of Kings. I believe we are here on earth to learn the ways of our Father, not only mercy, but goodness, graciousness, generosity and kindness. But most of all, love. Let us always remember to wear our invisible crown as we go about our day, and make sure that we wear it like a son or daughter of a gracious and loving God. 

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Happy Ever After

“My soul yearns for you in the night, ​yes, my spirit within me keeps vigil for you;” Isaiah 26:9

Many women yearn for a perfect bridegroom. They think their life will be complete if they find that one man to make them happy for ever after. I suppose this idea comes from the fairy tales we read when we were children. There usually was a prince who saved a damsel in distress and the story stopped with a beautiful wedding. 

To live happily ever after, isn't that what any bride wants on her wedding day? I forget which husband on my Facebook feed said that his wife was the perfect gift for an imperfect man, but I thought it was a beautiful sentiment.

I read in 1 John 2:25, “And this is the promise He made us: Eternal Life” and I thought about marriage, and how it is a covenant, a promise. Here in this verse, God promises us eternal life. He put a ring on my finger, just as another father put a ring on the prodigal son's finger. A PERFECT GIFT FOR IMPERFECT ME! I do not deserve it, I can never earn it, but God desires to give me eternal life, to be together forever.

There are many things that God does that I do not deserve. He gives me a beautiful wedding dress to replace the rags of my sin and shame. He washes me clean by forgiving me time and time again like Hosea forgave his harlot wife.

Sometimes, because I pray every day, and buy food for the poor and do other good deeds, I think I am in right standing with God. I am complacent and un-needy. But I am as far from holiness and righteousness as the east is from the west! And yet, Jesus, my bridegroom takes me by the hand, and walks me down the aisle, and says, "Yes, I do. I do die for this precious one. I do promise to give her eternal life with Me and My Father in My Kingdom." 

That is the perfect ending and beginning, and the best part is, it is NO fairy tale!!

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Little Enough

“...although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.” Matthew 11:25 

I think most people are a complicated mixture of humility and pride. Sometimes we have this humility that makes us not step up because we think we can't do something, we are not capable, we don't have what it takes. We prefer to watch as other people "take the limelight". But I think being humble means that we know the truth about ourselves. C. S. Lewis in his remarkable book, "Mere Christianity", wrote, "True humility is not thinking less of yourself: it is thinking of yourself less."

I enjoy listening to the preacher, Francis Chan, because he tells funny stories about himself. He told of one of the first times he did a conference and John MacArthur, the famous author-preacher etc. was in the audience. While he was speaking, Francis kept looking at John MacArthur. When they were driving home, Francis Chan's wife asked him, "What was that all about? You weren't yourself!" And Francis Chan said, "John MacArthur was in the audience!" "Let me get this straight," his wife said," You were preaching about the presence of God, and you were worried about the presence of John MacArthur????" 

How many times do we refuse to use our gifts, the gifts God has given us, because we are afraid of what other PEOPLE will think? Humility is knowing that we are nothing without Christ. We can do nothing without God's presence and power.

Here’s a practical challenge for us. Let's rate ourselves against Mother Teresa's humility list!

1. Speak as little as possible about yourself.

2. Keep busy with your own affairs and not those of others.

3. Avoid curiosity.

4. Do not interfere in the affairs of others.

5. Accept small irritations with good humor.

6. Do not dwell on the faults of others.

7. Accept censures even if unmerited.

8. Give in to the will of others.

9. Accept insults and injuries.

10. Accept contempt, being forgotten and disregarded.

11. Be courteous and delicate even when provoked by someone.

12. Do not seek to be admired and loved.

13. Do not protect yourself behind your own dignity.

14. Give in, in discussions, even when you are right.

15. Choose always the more difficult task.

“Few of us are big enough to become little enough to be used of God," Vance Havner wrote. Lord, help me to become little enough so You can teach me Your ways, and You can accomplish what You want to accomplish through me!

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Mustard Seed Faith

“Unless your faith is firm ​you shall not be firm!” Isaiah 7:9

In the NIV, we read, “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.” Jesus said that if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we can move mountains! Can we imagine that, NOTHING will be impossible for us to do! And what is the size of a mustard seed? It is only about one to two millimeters in size but it can grow into a 30 foot high bush with a 20 foot spread! Unfortunately we cannot buy a seed of faith from Shopee, Lazada or even Amazon! But I believe every human being is born with some faith that God invests in us. We are supposed to make it grow, like the servants in the “Parable of the Talents” in Matthew 25. 

In the story, a master goes on a journey and entrusts his servants with a portion of his property. To one, he gave five talents, to another two, and to the third he gave one talent. He gave each according to his ability. When he came back, he found that the one he gave five talents to, doubled his money by trading. Same with the one he gave two talents. But the one he gave one talent to hid the money in the ground and did not grow the money he was given. The master was well pleased with his two servants and pronounced, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ Let us not talk of the servant who buried the money as we do not want to be like him! 

How do we grow the faith we have been given? Saint Paul tells us the easiest way: faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17) I believe faith is like a muscle. We need to read the Bible often, intentionally hear the Word by listening to preaching, and songs of praise. We also need to practice it all the time, use it, by praying and confessing the Word of God. We need to claim God’s promises, searching the Bible for this treasure God left us, so our faith will grow. But as the story of Jairus shows (Mark 5), we also need to surround ourselves with people of faith. Even Jesus could not work miracles in His hometown because people there scoffed and did not have faith. Faith is an amazing gift that God has given each one of us. He wants us to make it grow. We just need to walk closely with Jesus, read His Word, give it a chance to come alive in our life. 

Monday, July 13, 2020

Time of Reckoning

“Wash yourselves clean! Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil; learn to do good. Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, ​hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow.” Isaiah 1:16-17

I feel that now is a time of reckoning. I have a heavy spirit, and feel like someone has died. Indeed, something has. Something evil has risen in its place, and it is leering at us in seeming victory. When Congress voted to deny ABS CBN’s continued franchise, those 70 plus Congressmen were saying to us that the rule of law was unimportant. What was more supreme was what their majority party wanted. The SAGIP party-list lawmaker actually claimed that the testimonies of the Bureau of Immigration, Department of Justice, Securities and Exchange Commission, the Department of Labor, and other government agencies weighed little as it is Congress alone that grants franchises. “It is the will of Congress that should be accorded due respect simply because it is Congress that has the sole and ultimate authority to grant or deny application of franchises,” Congressman Rodante Marcoleta said. Are not the Congressmen elected to be representatives of the people? 

Before I go on my high horse, feel righteous, and condemn them all to hell, I need to stop and see myself with the same mirror. God has put us in our place for a purpose and a reason. He has given us gifts, our intrinsic value, our whole life, and He has asked us to represent Him here on earth. Have we used our gifts and resources for His glory, or have we used them to enrich ourselves, to lord it over others, to railroad our agenda over the good of others? We are His ambassadors here on earth, His hands and feet, His voice. Do we make justice our aim? Do we correct the wrong we see as much as we are able? Do we hear and see the orphans and widows crying in our midst and do we do something about it? In Matthew 7:3, Jesus says, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” And before that, He warns, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Sowing Seed

“A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path...” Matthew 13:3-4

We have probably heard or read Jesus' parable of the sower sowing his seed far and wide several times. It seems the sower does not care if the seeds fall on a footpath, on rocky soil, thorns, or on good soil. Shouldn't he take care where to throw the seed so it will grow well?

Most of the time I am like a sower who does not sow my seed until I find the right soil to sow it in. The problem is I really cannot tell. I cannot see inside a person's heart to find out if he is ready to receive the message that God loves him and has a wonderful plan and purpose for his life. I guess we just have to risk rejection if we want to follow Jesus' command to "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to everyone!" 

When my husband was young, he was part of Christ's Youth in Action and they had this exercise called random evangelization. One time a group of them were instructed to go around Luneta Park in pairs and just find someone to talk to about Jesus. My husband and the guy he was with walked around the park a long time trying to discern who to talk to. They were hesitant to approach just anybody until the time given them was almost up so they went near this guy who was just waking up. They started talking to him. Amazingly, they found out that this man was contemplating committing suicide! Because my husband and his friend talked to him, he believed that God was watching him and he was able to carry on with his life and his problems. Years later, my husband saw this man's picture in a newspaper with a short article about his success with his job. 

Lord, may I obey You and be like the sower who sows his seed everywhere he goes. There is a lot of seed! We need never worry about the supply! You will take care of the soil, and the sun and the rain! 

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Send Me!

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send?  Who will go for us?” “Here I am,” I said; “send me!” Isaiah 6:8

Today is the Feast Day of St. Benedict. My husband studied in a Catholic School, the El Colegio de San Beda, which was established in 1901 by the Order of St. Benedict. The Benedictine monks became the pioneers of Christian civilization, preaching the gospel, preserving Scripture as well as other sacred writings of the Church. Their influence from the 6th to the 13th centuries was so great, that the historians called these the "Benedictine centuries".

The most fascinating story about St. Benedict I've come across happened when a poor man asked for some oil and the cellar master in the monastery refused to give any because he claimed the monks would have none left. St. Benedict was so dismayed and angry at "the distrust of God's providence", that he knelt down and prayed. The monks were soon to see oil bubbling and flowing out of the little pot of oil! 

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, Robert Wagner, 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 stunned Hollywood to become a Benedictine nun in the Abbey of Regina Laudis.  She was the prioress in the Abbey from 2001 to 2015. Sister Dolores listened to the ear of her heart, which is also the title of her autobiography. A documentary was made of her life, and it was entitled, “God is the Bigger Elvis”. 

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! “Here I am,” we can cry, “Send me!”

Friday, July 10, 2020

Show Us the Way

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 09, 2020

Without Cost

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

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

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

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