Saturday, October 31, 2020

See Ourselves Through God’s Eyes

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, 

but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” 

Luke 14:11

There are many misconceptions about humility.

One might say that it is thinking oneself

more inferior than others.

But I think humility is knowing the truth

about oneself,

knowing one's place in the world.

Seeing ourselves through the eyes of God,

our Creator.

Knowing that we need Him.

If we are talented, beautiful, intelligent, creative,

we should know it and be grateful.

We should be confident in our abilities,

knowing that God in His goodness

has given us our talents for a purpose-

to bless us and more so, to bless others!

BUT we should always always know that 

we are NOT better or superior to others.

Rabbi Israel Salanter said,

“I know that I have the mental capacity 

of a thousand men, 

but because of that, my obligation 

is also that of a thousand men.”

This is a perfect example of Luke 12:48-

"To whom much is given,

much is required."

Friday, October 30, 2020

Great are the Works of the Lord!

“Great are the works of the LORD, exquisite in all their delights.” Psalm 111:2

In another version, we find: “Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them.” 

If we are awed by how a huge airplane can fly in the skies effortlessly, and bulky ocean liners can float on the water, so should we marvel at how awesome God’s designs are. There are people who are content to think that all the intricacies we find in nature were arrived at by “evolution”, that there was no intelligent designer behind all the colors, and functions, and minute details. That is like accepting that one can make a dictionary by jumbling up all the letters, and having a baby point to form the words! 

We can spend our whole life pondering how the humble insects are miniature marvels of micro-miniaturization. There are so many awesome creatures in our midst! I don’t know if the dung beetle in Africa that eats feces, is the same as the salagubang in the Philippines, but it has been receiving much attention after the discovery that the beetle uses the light of the Milky Way for moving about! Researcher Basil el Jundi in Lund University, Sweden, found out that these insects are so unique, when they dance on top of a ball of dung, they take a photograph of how the sun, moon and stars are positioned! This helps in their navigation so they know where they are going and can keep a straight line rolling their ball of dung! How mind boggling that is! 

God took the same loving care when he fashioned our bodies. I am always so happy to see my niece’s baby. It seems as if every time I see him there is always something new to marvel at! I am thrilled when he struggles during “tummy time”, seeing him persevere trying to conquer that ‘pillow mountain’. The other day his grandfather was talking to him, and he was laughing so adorably as if in total agreement that Mamonluk hot noodles was something to look forward to! Truly, great are the works of our Father! We should be grateful He took such care in forming us and the world around us! 

Thursday, October 29, 2020

God’s Armor

“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil... Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness... In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, ...and take the helmet of salvation,  and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." Ephesians 6:10-20

Why do we need God's armor? If we believe the Bible and I do, it's because there are unseen forces doing battle against us. Many people don't believe in the existence of the devil. It's like he is something we outgrow, like a child's plaything. And that is exactly what the devil wants. He wants us to be “sophisticated” and scoff at these “mere superstitions”! But Jesus believed the devil existed, didn't He? And He battled against the devil with what? God's Word, which is, in this verse, the Sword of the Spirit.

A soldier uses a sword not only to defend himself but also to expand his territory and to take over the enemy's position. So it is necessary not only to read and hear God's Word, but we should also know how to use it. The way Jesus wielded the Word of God was He had it with Him. It was in His heart. 

Imagine if Jesus was in the wilderness with Satan, “If you really are the Son of God, tell the stones to become bread!" (Matthew 4:3), and Jesus had to search the scriptures for His parry!!! That would be the same as a soldier going to battle without his sword, without his armor!

So let's try to put God's Word in our hearts, and again, trust in the promises of God: “Submit yourselves to God. Resist, stand against the devil, and he will flee from you." James 4:7

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

And Jesus Went Up to Pray

"Jesus went up to the mountain to pray, and He spent the night in prayer to God. When day came, He called the disciples to Himself and from them He chose twelve." Luke 6:12

Before Jesus chose the twelve apostles (from the Greek word meaning "one who is sent away", like a messenger or ambassador), He prayed. This was a very important decision. Jesus prayed the whole night!

Most of the time, my prayers bring good fruit. Someone gets healed. A problem is solved. A brother gets a job. We reach somewhere safely. I have been praying big and small prayers since I was very young. But sometimes my prayers are not answered. My mother died. My father died. My brother is still sick. I am still on oxygen 24/7. 

But I look at Jesus and see that after praying the whole night up in the mountain (not in the comfort of His bed like I am), He still chose one man, Judas Iscariot. We can't say that was a good choice, can we? 

But I do believe it was an inspired choice. In a way, because of Judas and what he did, I am saved. Because of Judas, God's plan was fulfilled. But what of Judas? God only knows. If only he repented. I know that even if something goes very wrong, as it sometimes will, God can use that for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). 

So when my prayers aren't answered the way I want God to answer, I can only look to Jesus' prayer on the mountain and trust that God knows best. He has His own purposes. A bigger plan. A grander vision. I need only to stay in faith and trust that He has my very best in mind.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Like Yeast

“To what shall I compare the Kingdom of God?

It is like yeast that a woman took

and mixed in with three measures of wheat flour

until the whole batch of dough was leavened.” 

Luke 13:18-21

Pope Francis in his pastoral letter,


exhorts all of us, not just the clergy,

to be "in a permanent state of mission."

That wherever we are,

in our places of work, in our school,

our neighborhoods, our organizations,

we should be able, like yeast in dough, to permeate

and affect every environment we are in.

When my mother was alive, she would spend

her Sunday mornings speaking to students

who wanted to interview her about our business

for their school requirements.

After they finished with their questions,

she would say, "Now it's my turn."

She would ask what they believed in, 

and she would tell them about 

God and His good news for all of us.

She would talk about God, not only to students,

but to our suppliers, to BIR examiners, 

to anyone she just met! 

When I was young, I would roll my eyes

and think, "Here we go again!"

Now I realize she was merely doing what 

Jesus commanded us to do!

Pope Francis is a good example of 

someone who is permanently on mission.

He calls random people up,

he goes out at night incognito to

feed the hungry,

he joins the Vatican employees for a meal

in their canteen.

So should we too be more creative

in thinking of ways to permeate the world

with God's goodness and faithfulness!!!

Monday, October 26, 2020

Like a Tree

 "He is like a tree planted near running water, that yields its fruit in due season, and whose leaves never fade. Whatever he does prospers." Psalm 1:3 

After a strong typhoon, we ?see some trees uprooted, but some trees remain. What is the difference? It is perhaps the roots. Roots serve to anchor trees to the ground. But it is also how the trees get their food. The more roots and root hairs, the more a tree can absorb nutrients from the soil. The roots also are the trees' pantries, where they store food for later use. When a tree is cut down, and its roots remain, the roots can send up a shoot that can start to grow into a tree again!

How important it is that we develop a strong root system, that we be FIRMLY PLANTED and established in the Word of God, so that even if we become "uprooted" because of sin, there is always hope for new life! And how important it is that we keep a “store" of God's Word in our heart, so that when troubles come, we can draw strength and peace from it!

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Love the Lord Your God

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37-39

What an amazing exchange this is between Jesus and a scholar of the law! The Pharisee tests Jesus with the ultimate question: "Which is the first of all the commandments?" 

And Jesus gives the answer that we should love God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength. And Jesus adds that "The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these”

To me this shows that sometimes we make faith too complicated. We should just go back to the basics of what God wants from us. Basically it is a heart issue. God wants our heart. He wants us to be like little children who desire nothing less than to love Him and to love others as well. After all, is this not what anyone who loves desires? To be loved in return?

Father, may I see Your love for me for what it truly is- all-encompassing, all forgiving, all accepting! Your loving kindness and graciousness can never be measured. May I love You with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my mind, and with all my strength. And may I see my neighbor through your loving eyes, so I may love him too!

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Plant Seeds

“For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. So cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?’ Like 13:7

In Jesus’ parable, a man has been waiting for his fig tree to bear fruit but for three years, he has been frustrated. He tells his gardener to cut it down. This gets me to thinking about myself. How much fruit have I given to God in the last three years? 

I have been reading “The Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected” by Nik Ripken. Dr. Ripken is a missionary, part of the Persecution Task Force Team, and in 1998 he visited Communist China in order to interview Christians to see how they keep their faith in the midst of harsh oppression. He met with about 170 church leaders, 40% of whom had been imprisoned for their faith and tortured for at least three years. They told Dr. Ripken, “Prison is our theological seminary. It is where we go for training.” He met Pastor Chang, an 83 year old man who had just been released from his third prison stay. He was first thrown into jail for becoming a believer. The second time it was for leading others to faith in Christ and the third time was for leading a house-Church movement. 

He said that in jail they were abused and tortured, but small groups of believers could not be stopped from meeting for fellowship and study. They encouraged each other, and discipled new believers. There was, according to Pastor Chang, a huge church-planting movement within China’s prison walls! When these inmates were released, they would either join house churches or help start new ones. Eventually there were too many pastors to imprison, that the Communist Party made its own state religion, but it was too late. By the early 60s, the house church movement had spread like wildfire, that even arresting leaders like Pastor Chang could not stop it. 

When Christianity was first outlawed following WWII, there were about hundreds of thousands of Christians. By 1983, the estimate reached ten million, and today, tens of millions of Chinese identify as Christians. By 2030, China will have the world’s largest population of Christians! 

Why can’t we be as passionate as the Chinese people when they get to know Christ? Let us be more eager to plant seeds of hope, joy, and love wherever we are! The Holy Spirit is with us always! 

Friday, October 23, 2020

Whose Hands are Clean?

"Who can ascend the mountain of the Lord?  Or who may stand in His holy place? One whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean, who desires not what is vain.” Psalm 24:3-4

These days we buy a lot of alcohol and disinfectant. We use hand sanitizer after touching door knobs, elevator buttons, hand rails, etc. after holding money or using the toilet, we wash our hands. Never were more people so conscious of these precautions and protocols! When Josh was a baby, I used a lot of baby wipes. If only it was as easy to clean our hearts and hands for God!

In Rev. 7:14, we read, “...they have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb." Jesus' blood is better than any hand sanitizer, baby wipes or laundry detergent that purports to make clothes whiter than white! Jesus’ blood is the only way we can ascend the mountain of the Lord and stand before Him in His holy place! 

Here are the lyrics of the classic 1876 hymn by Robert Lowry:
“What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

For my pardon, this I see,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
For my cleansing this my plea,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Nothing can for sin atone,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
Naught of good that I have done,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

This is all my hope and peace,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
This is all my righteousness,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Now by this I’ll overcome—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
Now by this I’ll reach my home—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Glory! Glory! This I sing—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus,
All my praise for this I bring—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Set the Earth on Fire

“I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” Luke 12:49

Why in the world would Jesus say that? I think of the conflagration in Australia from July 2019 to March this year which devastated 46 million acres. More than 5,900 buildings are now dust, ashes and rubble. At least 34 people were killed, and nearly 3 billion animals were affected in Australia’s worst wildfire season in modern history. Is this what Jesus meant?

In Deuteronomy 4, there is a verse there which says, “For the Lord, your God, is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” In another version, it reads, “a devouring fire”. Devouring and consuming are certainly descriptions of the wildfires in New South Wales and Victoria! It is something to take seriously! 

The verse before v.24, reads, “Take heed, therefore, lest, forgetting the covenant which the Lord, your God, has made with you, you fashion for yourselves against His command an idol in any form whatsoever”. How serious a sin is making an idol in any form, shape or configuration? Very very very serious! 

An idol is a false God. It doesn’t have to be a piece of wood, or marble in a church. It can be anything we put in the place of God. It can be a person we obey and admire and defend even if he himself does and says things against God’s laws, and asks us to do things that God hates. It can be our work if our work separates us from God and the family we love. It can be many things if we put those things before God. Indeed, Jesus wants to bring fire into our lives to burn away whatever is dross from the gold. Are we prepared for God’s consuming fire? We need to be if we are serious about going to heaven! No dross is allowed there! 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Unfathomable Riches

“To me, the least of all believers, was given the grace to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ...” Ephesians 3:8

Would we believe a man who did an about face from being a passionate enemy of Jesus and His disciples to being His most ardent follower? In the book of Ephesians we see why. Saint Paul says he was given a revelation into the mystery of Christ, a mystery hidden from ages past and now made available to us, as coheirs in the promised inheritance, the inscrutable riches found in Him! Of course, he was willing to suffer, be plotted against, persecuted, imprisoned, and finally decapitated. His understanding and knowledge of Christ was so real, so all-encompassing, and so undeniable. 

Today this understanding and knowledge is available to us. We only have to read the Bible and pray that Jesus will reveal Himself to us. There are many stories of Jesus revealing Himself in dreams to many people. The parents of one young girl who was depressed and would cut herself in desperation approached a Youth for Christ staffer for help. The staffer prayed with the young girl and talked to her. “I will pray that Jesus will reveal Himself to you.” 

“I can’t do that,” the teenager protested, “God will strike me down for what I have been doing!” The YFC staffer convinced her not to be afraid. Two nights later, the teenager had a dream of a man who came to her. As He gently touched her where she had been cutting herself, she instantly was filled with joy and peace, and a sense of hope. He spoke to her and assured her of His love. 

Jesus actively seeks to call us to Himself. Let us approach Him with our whole hearts, eager to lay claim to all God has in store for us! 

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Light Your Lamps!

“Gird your loins and light your lamps...Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.” Luke 12:35-37

Very little is required of many of us I think. We are not part of a persecuted church, we are free to worship, and fellowship, even if we do it virtually at present.

In the book I am reading, one man in a Communist country urged: “Don’t ever give up in freedom what we would never have given up in persecution! That is our witness to the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ!” After Nik Ripken left his mission of feeding the hungry in Somalia, he felt very frustrated that he was not able to bring Christ there even after so many years. He then visited Russia, Ukraine and Eastern Europe to find out how the Christians there kept their faith strong after decades of communist oppression. In his book, The Insanity of God, Nik recounts many amazing stories the believers told him. “Why don’t you write this in a book?” he asked in awe. One man took him to the window to see the miracle of the sunrise. “Do you ever bring your son to see the sunrise? Persecution happens all the time.”

One man, Dmitri, said he had been raised in a believing family and his parents had taken him to church as a child. But over the decades, Communism destroyed most of the churches and many pastors were either imprisoned or executed. One day he told his wife that he would like to teach his young boys about Christ even if he had no religious training. With his wife’s eager consent, Dmitri started reading from their old Bible once a week, and explaining the stories, and praying. Since nothing can be hidden for long in small villages, with the houses so close together, and windows open, their neighbors asked to join in. A small group gathered, and more and more came, eager to discuss the Bible and sing and pray. The authorities noticed and threatened Dmitri again and again, but the people kept coming, hungry for the word of God. 

When the group grew to one hundred fifty people, Dmitri was forcibly brought to jail. There, he was the only believer among fifteen hundred hardened criminals. How did he survive seventeen years in jail with his faith intact? Every morning Dmitri would rise at dawn, face the East, and sing what he called a heart song to God. The second discipline was that whenever he found a piece of paper he would fill it with the word of God, and place it high up on a column in his room as an offering to God. He would get beaten for it, but he continued to do it. 

One day after 17 long years, after being tortured, Dmitri was dragged from his cell. The fifteen hundred criminals who used to taunt him when he sang, simultaneously faced the East, raised their arms, and began to sing the heart song that they heard Dmitri sing to Jesus every morning. The jailers immediately released their hold on Dmitri and demanded, “Who are you?” He responded: “I am a son of the Living God, and Jesus is His name!” Soon after that, Dmitri was released and was able to return to his family. 

“I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God.” That is what Jesus says in Luke 12:8. Let us continue to acknowledge Jesus as our Savior in good times and hard times! 

Monday, October 19, 2020

Treasure in Heaven

“Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.” Luke 12:21

God's gracious word can enlarge you, build you up, and give you an inheritance with all those set apart for Himself. Sometimes I rush through reading the Bible because I have read it all before several times. But when I slow down, I see gems like this verse: 

“I commend you now to the Lord, and to that gracious WORD of His which can enlarge you…” Saint Paul, Acts 20:32

When I am able to savor God's Word, I see it as a treasure room full of different finely set jewels, intricate gold pieces and the finest pearls. Just like that room in National Treasure but only bigger, limitless!

Many people through the ages have sought after gold, pearls, and jewels. Some have gone down deep into the sea to salvage pirate's treasure. Kings hoarded gems, explorers bravely set out to find cities of gold, pioneers spent years prospecting the elusive metal. Legends have grown around famous pearls. One particular pearl, the La Peregrina, has an illustrious 500 year history! After being found by a slave in Africa in the 1500s, and worn by Spanish queens and English nobility, it eventually ended up in Elizabeth Taylor's extensive jewelry collection. Once, she recounts in her book, she was so scared because she lost it. It was eventually found in the mouth of one of her puppies! The most perfect pearl in the world being chewed by a puppy!!

 One day, all these worldly treasures will be worth precisely that- nothing! Years and years of prospecting something that is worth nothing! So much time, money and effort spent searching for some elusive treasure under the sea worth nothing! 

What do I spent my time, effort and money on? Does it have eternal value or will it be eventually worth nothing? Jesus said we should store up for ourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where our treasure is, there our heart will be also. (Matthew 6:20-21) Let us dig in the vast treasure of God's Word and let it enlarge us, build us up and give us an inheritance worth far more than all the earthly treasures throughout the ages!

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Give to God

"Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's." Matthew 22:21

Here in this story, the Pharisees and Herodians were trying to trip Jesus up again. They ask him if they should pay taxes. Sometimes we are tempted not to pay the correct taxes because of what the government is doing with it. It was the same during Jesus' time. Even worse, the Jews were a dominated people, forced to pay debilitating taxes to feed Roman citizens. 

"Whose head is this and whose inscription?" Jesus asks about the coin he requested in answer to their question. 

The coin that Jesus asked them to bring Him had the image of a goddess on one side and the image of Augustus Caesar on the reverse. It also had another element abhorrent to the Jews: an inscription "CAESAR DIVI F." which signified that Caesar was God and to be worshipped. 

"Give to Caesar what is Caesar's..." He answers them. " And give to God what is God's." What a brilliant answer! In one short lesson, Jesus tells us succinctly that as we are all in the image of God, WE should give ourselves to God! We belong to Him and we are His!

The Jews knew very well that in first chapter of the Torah, it taught that God made Adam, "btzelem elohim," in the Image of God. In effect, Jesus was telling them, "Give your whole self to the One Who has imprinted Divinity upon you!" 

Thank You Lord for we are precious in Your eyes. We belong to You, You made us for Yourself. You created us for a purpose and in love. May we always treat others with the dignity and love we all deserve for we all brothers and sisters of the same Father. 

Saturday, October 17, 2020

What is Man?

"What is man that You should be mindful of him?" Hebrews 2:5

According to the United Nations the current world population is estimated at 7.8 billion as of October 2020 with the Philippines contributing 109,582,078 people to that number. 

How can we say then that God minds each one of us, loves each one as if there is only one of us to love? Does He really? 

Beth Moore, a preacher, likes to tell the story about when she was in a crowded airport hall and a stewardess came in, pushing a man in a wheelchair. His hair was long and scraggly, and he was just a sight that everyone followed their progress. Beth heard God say that He wanted her to brush his hair. She was quite adamant at first and didn't want to obey, but God was persistent. So eventually she went over and asked the man in a whisper if she could have the honor of brushing his hair. He couldn't hear very well so she had to repeat her question several times until the whole hall could hear, and he said yes. She had to find his hair brush in his bag because she didn't have one. It took some time before all the tangles of his matted hair became smooth. Then she got up, kneeled down in front of him, saw his tears, and asked, "Sir, do you know Jesus?”

"Yes I do. My bride said I would have to know Jesus before she'd marry me so I read the Bible and I got to know Jesus. But I've been in the hospital a long time and now I'm going home to my bride, and I thought that I must look a terrible mess and was feeling sad because I couldn't brush my hair by myself. Thank you so much. Thank you." By this time a lot of people, including the stewardess had tears running down their faces. 

Yes, God cares. He cares about what we care about. It's mind boggling to think that God would care about one man in 7.8 billion people, that He sent Beth to untangle his hair so he would feel he was presentable to see his bride. 

Lord, I know You care about me. I don't want to take for granted all the times You take care of me!  

Friday, October 16, 2020

God is Our Partner

“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body but after that can do no more.” Luke 12:4

In the book “The Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected”, Nik Ripken shares a lot of horror stories about the time he was in Somalia helping distribute food in a war torn country. One time his Somali chief of staff and right hand man, Omar Aziz, came into his office weeping. When he had calmed down enough to speak, he recounted that he was walking down a street when he noticed a malnourished woman sitting against a tree nursing a baby. He greeted her and she smiled back. When he returned the same way after finishing his errand, the woman and her baby were still there. This time the baby was squirming and whimpering, but the woman was not moving. In the brief time since he had passed, the young mother had died. 

He took the child, and was able to find some people who gave the woman a proper burial. It took him some time before he found a nursing mother whose child had just died to take care of the baby. But the experience was just too much for this man who had seen so much heartache already. “My poor country! What is going to become of us?”

Today, Somalia is recovering from a brutal two-decade civil war that has damaged almost every sector of the country. There are many heartbreaking stories about how the Somalis have been taken advantage of, brutalized, and used as pawns by warring clans. Around 500,000 people have died since the start of the devastating famine and civil war in Somalia. 

Covid 19 has killed more than one million people according to the official global death toll, but researchers say that figure is way below the real count. 

So much death. So much pain. But in God’s eyes, death is not a thing to be feared. A murderer, a virus, can only kill the body. It does not kill the forever part of us, our soul. That is why it is important to tend our souls. God is our partner in taking care of our souls. As St. Teresa of Avila wrote in the book about her life, “Beginners must realize that in order to give delight to the Lord they are starting to cultivate a garden on very barren soil, full of abominable weeds. His Majesty pulls up the weeds and plants good seed. Now let us keep in mind that all of this is already done by the time a soul is determined to practice prayer and has begun to make use of it. And with the help of God we must strive like good gardeners to get these plants to grow and take pains to water them so that they don’t wither but come to bud and flower and give forth a most pleasant fragrance to provide refreshment for this Lord of ours. Then He will often come to take delight in this garden and find His joy among these virtues.”

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Wake Up Rejoicing!

 “Sing to the Lord a new song...” Psalm 98:1

I woke up rejoicing because after several weeks of experiencing pains in my chest, I am thanking God there has been no pain for the third day now. We take so many things for granted. I remember when I used to have lots of wounds in my mouth and I could not eat, or talk or sing comfortably for years because of Pemphigus Vulgaris. When I did not have sores, it was such a blessing to be able to do ordinary things that almost everybody does without stressing about. Then there was the time I had to wear compression stockings every single day! So hot and itchy, and uncomfortable, and I had to change my whole wardrobe to either hide it, or wear black ones that looked like leggings. That was because of my Deep Vein Thrombosis. When my toes turned blue and my doctor said, “Congratulations! You don’t have to wear them anymore!”, I was absolutely ecstatic! 

I don’t want to take blessings for granted! I don’t want to breathe without thanking God! To walk, to see, to sleep well at night, to be with my family safe and sound.... But unfortunately I do take almost everything God gives me without thought of its value! 

In these abnormal days, after several months of staying home, or in the case of those who cannot work from home, having to wear a mask and face shield, and getting paranoid when people come near, it makes us reflect on our lives. How fragile it is! 

The Jews for most of their history have been exiled, persecuted, and have suffered greatly. But in spite of all the pressures of living in foreign lands, they have managed to maintain their language, culture, identity and spirit. When the temple was destroyed and Jerusalem pillaged, the focus of their worship transferred from the temple to their faith communities. That was when the Torah was rediscovered and read afresh.

I can say I also live in exile, in a foreign land. I am, after all, a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20). And like the Jews, with their songs of lamentation, I complain about this strange land I live in. The world as I know it is changing too fast, and I can't say it's for the better! Politicians lie with audacity and have no compunction to steal from the hungry and the homeless. There are apps and sites that promote adultery, and pornography, and people who are against abortion are insulted. Women jiggle and sing on TV in next to nothing! No, I do not feel like I belong!

Yet I can still sing new songs to the Lord! For His mercies are new every morning! And I know in every dark shadow, there is a light shining...even in the remotest region of the world! I just need to open my eyes to what God is doing. He keeps His promises, and I wait in faith, and journey with all the other pilgrims, to my promised land!

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

The Way of the Wicked

“For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” Psalm 1:6

The way of the wicked will perish, but while the wicked roam they make hell on earth. I am reading a missionary’s account of his trips to Somalia in 1992 when he represented many Christian relief organizations to see what they could do to help the people. The book is entitled, “The Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected” by Nik Ripken. 

Somaliland was in the grip of a terrible drought, and caught in a brutal miserable civil war. Nik’s first stop was Hargeisa. For the seventy thousand people who still ‘lived’ there, only seven houses had roofs still covering it. All the rest were just wandering hopelessly through their devastated city with no destination. On top of that there were thousands and thousands of land mines scattered around the city.

Nik was informed by his contacts that in Somali there was “ninety percent unemployment, eighty-five percent starvation or severe malnutrition rate, more than three hundred thousand citizens starved to death over the preceding six months, as many as three thousand starvation deaths a day.”

When Nik went outside of Hargeisa, he just saw more despair and signs of violent and inhumane cruelty. Armed raiders destroyed the old fashioned hand pumps and permanently sealed off the wells by filling it with rocks and sand. All along the way there were rotting carcasses of camels, goats, and even people. The smell was horrific. In the little villages they visited, emaciated mothers were begging that they take their children. In others, all they found were stick thin dead bodies. 

Relief agencies were hesitant to help because over 80% of the relief goods were stolen and never reached the hungry. 

Nik asked why the callousness, and one of his staff answered with a Somali saying he had heard all of his life: “Somalia against the world; I and my clan against Somalia; I and my family against my clan; I and my brother against my family; and I against my brother.” This is the essence of evil: selfishness. 

I pray that I will root out any selfishness within me. But I cannot do it on my own. Only by God’s spirit will we be saved.

“Brothers and sisters: If you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God. In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit.” Galatians 5:18-25

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Your Mercy

“Let your mercy come to me, O LORD, your salvation according to your promise.” Psalm 119:41

I have been listening to St. Teresa of Avila’s autobiography. She says a lot about being wicked, and sinning against God, but does not say what it is she has done. Luigi said that when you are close To God, you are more aware of your sins. In her autobiography St. Teresa wrote that she was very fond of St. Augustine...for he was a sinner too.’

What impressed me is that she spent a lot of her time talking to God. Although she is the total opposite of Brother Lawrence, who was a simple man, unpolished and awkward, they both ‘practiced the presence of God’. In contrast, St. Teresa was sophisticated, her father was one of the richest men in Avila, and when she was young, she was very concerned about her looks, make up, and even perfume. 

Much to the disappointment of her father, she entered the religious life at the age of 20. She was sick for a long time, staying in bed for almost a year. What pained her about her sickness was she could not pray all alone as there was always someone watching out for her. 

Eventually, she found the laxity of her Order disturbed her. There were too many visitors of high rank, and unsubstantial conversations that intruded on the practice of contemplation and solitude. She then founded a ‘reformed’ Carmelite convent with stricter monastic regulations which included flagellation! She was a reformer and during the last three years of her life, she founded several convents and even men’s monasteries. 

What transformed this frivolous young woman interested in romance novels into one who only lived to serve God with her whole heart, soul and body? We can say it was the mercy and grace of God. 

St. Teresa de Avila wrote: “Trust God you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. May you use the gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content knowing you are a child of God. Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and everyone of us.” 

Monday, October 12, 2020

The Sign of Jonah

“While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them, ‘This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah...’” Luke 11:29

We are always looking for signs, a red rose, a white rose, whatever. I remember when my mom used to call a particular book of meditations, the magic book, because when she would cut it, the words on that page gave her an answer that was particularly meaningful for her. 

In this passage from the book of Luke, Jesus told the crowd listening to Him that, “This is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah...” So many people followed Jesus around, jostled to listen to Him, because He was a miracle worker, He healed the sick, He raised the dead, He multiplied bread. If Jesus came today, crowds would follow Him as well. And He would say the same thing, “This generation is an evil generation.” Not much has changed. I am still selfish, seeking my own good, instead of looking after the needs of my neighbors. I may try to be pious but do I see things the way the Lord wants me to? Am I where the Lord wants me to be? 

Jesus already gave us the ultimate sign, the sign of Jonah. Of course the crowds during Jesus’ time would never have gotten the allusion, but we have the advantage of knowing what happened after Jesus was crucified. Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale for three days, Jesus stayed in the darkness of His tomb for three days. And just as He prophesied, He rose again to save us from our selfishness, and sin, and death to give us new life. 

Early this morning, I received word that a sweet friend of mine, a sister in Christ, passed away after a hard battle with cancer. Truly it is sad and difficult to accept that God did not heal her after we pleaded and asked for His mercy. May the young family she left behind be consoled by the reality that she is with the resurrected Lord who loves her best. We ask for signs but the sign of Jonah is our best and brightest hope for a new dawn! 

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Wedding Feast

“My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?” Matthew 22:12

We all enjoy weddings and when I get invited to a wedding, I usually plan way in advance what I will wear. Once I chose to wear a dull gold embroidered outfit made by a Japanese designer which I bought from the ukay-ukay. I thought that was a fitting wedding attire because I loved it! My sister however told me that no, on the contrary, it was not the right thing to wear for a semi-formal wedding because it was short! I was dismayed thinking the bride may have thought the same! 

In the parable Jesus told the chief priests and elders, He said that the kingdom of heaven is like a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. The invited guests did not come so he instructed his servants, “The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come. Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.”

The servants did so and the hall was filled. But when the king came to meet the guests, he saw one man not in a wedding garment and he was thrown out. Isn’t that so unfair? 

One can ask, what does the King expect? His guests were invited off the street!!! It's amazing that there were not more people unfit to attend a wedding! But you see, it was a Middle Eastern custom for the King to provide the garments for his guests. They had only to put it on.

In Genesis, after Adam and Eve sinned and they discovered that they were naked, they covered themselves with fig leaves. God rejected this covering made by their own hands in the same way that God would reject anything we did to "clothe" ourselves. Instead in Genesis 3:21, God made a covering for Adam and Eve out of the skin of an animal. Perhaps that animal was a lamb, a spotless perfect lamb. God killed the lamb and took its skin to cover the sin, shame and guilt of Adam and Eve. In Romans 13:14, Saint Paul admonishes us to put on the Lord Jesus Christ, to clothe ourselves with Jesus. All of our righteousness, our good deeds are as filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6). Only putting on the righteousness of Christ will do if we want to have a place in the Wedding Feast of the King!

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Learn the Heart of God

While Jesus was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.” He replied, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” Luke 11:27-28

Jesus’ mother exemplifies one who hears the word of God and observes it! She it is who proclaimed, “I am the handmaiden of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to thy word.” (Luke 1:38) I like reading stories and words of the saints, men and women of clay, who became enamored of God and filled with enthusiasm to read His word and let it dwell in their hearts. May we be one of those who wake up in the morning to hear what God has to say to us, and to be eager to try again to follow Him more nearly. 

Saint Teresa of Avila was canonized in 1622 AD and was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1970. In The Book of Her Life, an autobiography, she wrote that Truth was telling her: “...for all the harm that comes to the world comes from its not knowing the truths of Scripture in clarity and truth; not one iota of Scripture will fall short... Alas, daughter, how few there are who truthfully love Me! For if they loved Me, I would reveal to them my secrets.” 

Indeed, in the Bible lies available for us all the most wonderful secrets of God! How sad it is when a person refuses to read what God has given us so lovingly, what He has prepared and planned for through the ages! St. John Chrysostom, another Doctor of the Church emphasized, “To become adult Christians you must learn familiarity with the scriptures.” There are definitely no shortcuts. In one of his homilies St. John explained, “But what is the answer to these charges? ‘I am not’, you will say, ‘one of the monks, but have a wife and children, and the care of a household.’ This is what has ruined everything your thinking that the reading of scripture is for monks only, when you need it more than they do. Those who are placed in the world, and who receive wounds every day have the most need of medicine. So, far worse even than not reading the scriptures is the idea that they are superfluous. Such things were invented by the devil.” In Proverbs 4:20-22, we read, “My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are life into those that find them and MEDICINE to all their flesh.” 

Pope St. Gregory implored, “Study them, I beg you, and meditate daily on the words of your Creator. Learn the heart of God in the words of God, that you may sigh more eagerly for things eternal, that your soul may be kindled with greater longings for heavenly joys.”

And then there are what Bishop St. Isidore wrote in the Office of Readings: “If a man wants to be always in God’s company, he must pray regularly and read regularly. When we pray, we talk to God; when we read, God talks to us.” So important was the Bible to St. Bonaventure, that he composed the “Biblia Pauperum”, which means Bible of the poor. In his day, most people could not read or write, so he made a collection of pictures. His Biblia showed the important events of the Old Testament paralleling scenes in the New Testament, how the Old prefigured and was fulfilled in the life and teachings of Jesus. 

Today, we have no excuse. All sorts of Bibles are available for us to read and study, all versions, small, with big letters, huge margins to write on or draw on, etc. Let us read His Word, listen to videos about it, learn, study, meditate, and be blessed.