Thursday, August 05, 2021

The Gates of Hell


 “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18




I have read much about the corrupt Popes with mistresses and children. Then there were Popes who spent more time power-politicking than attending to the affairs of the Church. There was a Pope who complained that he did not hear enough screaming when Cardinals who had conspired against him were tortured. The list is long and wearisome. 


That is why God spoke to St. Francis in the dilapidated chapel of San Damiano, “Repair my Church, which has fallen into disrepair.” God was giving Francis a mission to return the Church to the radical simplicity of the gospel, to a life of poverty and prayer. 


In the earlier days of persecution, becoming a Pope was a quick death sentence. Pope Cornelius was totally dedicated to Christ. He was exiled and martyred in 253. Pope Clement I or Saint Clement of Rome, while imprisoned, led a ministry among fellow prisoners. He was executed by being tied to an anchor and thrown into the sea. So many Popes died as martyrs from St. Peter in c.67 to Pope John I who was imprisoned and starved to death in 526. 


The Church has saints and sinners just as we can find in the genealogy of Jesus, and His chosen disciples. Today, there are many forces out to destroy it. There are attacks from the inside and outside. But one thing is for certain, “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Mt.16:18) 

Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Great is your Faith!

 "Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish." Mathew 15:28




This is one story in the Bible where Jesus was intentionally unkind. Why did Jesus reject the Canaanite woman in her great need? She called out to Him, "Have pity on me! My daughter is tormented by a demon!" Jesus was so rude, He actually compared her to a dog!


There is always a lesson in what Jesus does and says. And the obvious lesson here is the power of persistence and not giving up. The degree to which we are willing to persevere and hound God, will be the degree we will get what we want from Him. I am reminded of the time I felt rejected by God when He did not answer my prayers right away. I persisted in praying for my mom's healing. I felt like I was in the dark, with no answer, no light. 


But when I got out of the dark room, I saw the picture God was developing. It was a picture of great love, and my greatest wish. For when all is said and done, my greatest desire for my mother, indeed for myself and all my loved ones, is to be with the One who loves us most! And God is so powerful, nothing is impossible with Him! When my mother went to be with God, I was soooo ecstatic for her! I was still sad my best friend was gone from this earth but there was no trace of the devastation I felt certain I would experience. 


Indeed, when we feel God's rejection, we need only to look humbly beyond what we see,  persist in prayer, and never give up!

Tuesday, August 03, 2021

Take Courage

“Take courage, it is I. Do not be afraid.” 

Matthew 14:27




When I was young, my father had a fishing boat berthed in Batangas. He had always wanted a boat and he had marine plywood ready to make one when I was a baby, only for the plywood to be used for my crib. 


One day, I think it was somebody’s birthday, he took our family out to sea. Unfortunately although the day started out fine, when we were so far away from shore that we could see big ships near where we were, the wind became so strong. The wild waves tossed our boat perhaps just like the waves frightened the disciples most of whom were experienced fishermen. I thought we were going to die! I started to panic and pray. But I looked at my father and he was so calm as if there was nothing to worry about. He was even excited! He was always in his element when he was out at sea. Daddy claimed he felt closest to God in the middle of the water. 


After this, I felt better, my queasy stomach settled, and my panic dissipated. When we are in the midst of any terrifying storm, if we look at the circumstances, we can panic and feel afraid. But if we look at Jesus knowing He can calm any storm, we will be at peace, the "peace beyond understanding".


Right now, we are in the midst of a storm. We can even say we are in a prolonged war against an unseen enemy. We can get engulfed in a sea of hopelessness and despair if we focus on what is happening around us. I know of so many who have gotten sick, so many who have even died. The war is being waged on so many fronts.


But we must not allow this pandemic, this war to turn us away from God. If we look to Jesus, we will see the blessing in the storm and know that God is doing a new thing in the lives of His people. We can trust Him with our very lives. 


Monday, August 02, 2021

Miracles Needed

But they said to him, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.” Then he said, “Bring them here to me, ” and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over. (Matthew 14:17-20)



We need miracles today. Many are hungry. Many are desperate. Businesses are closing. So many have lost jobs. The economy is barely surviving. Another battle is raging fast and furious on the health front. Doctors and nurses are overwhelmed with the need and desperation around them. Many of our health care workers show signs of depression. This pandemic shows no signs of abating. 

We need a miracle worker who can make food for thousands from an offering of five loaves and two fish. What is God’s answer to a doctor or a nurse who wants to give up, who is depressed, scared, drained because there is no end in sight and no help in the horizon? What is a businessman to do when he has loans to pay and no money coming in?

Where else do we look for comfort but in the words of the Bible? “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6:34) We need to take one day at a time. If we worry about the what if’s of the future, there will be no end to our worries and anxieties. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?" (Matthew 6:25) If we stand on God’s promises, He will be faithful to take care of us. That is what I say to myself. He has taken care of our business for more than 50 years, He will continue to take care of us. We have only to trust in Him. 

"Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him." (James 1:12) “I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair." (Corinthians 4:8) 

Only in God can we find answers. If we try to find it within ourselves, or in our government, we will come up empty. Corrie Ten Boom, who went through so much suffering during the Holocaust and survived victoriously, proclaimed, “If you look at the world, you'll be distressed. If you look within, you'll be depressed. If you look at God you'll be at rest.”

Sunday, August 01, 2021

Bread of Life


“I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger...” John 6:35




True stories abound of very rich people, celebrities even, who earned hundreds of millions of dollars, and ended up scrounging in garbage bins and living out of cardboard boxes or cars. There are also people who won millions in the lotto, who thought all their problems were solved but who became even more enmeshed in problems and disasters. No matter how rich or privileged a person is, he can never guarantee that he will never go hungry. 


There is only one Person who can give us that guarantee that we will never go hungry if we stay by His side. Jesus. He said, “Do not work for food that perishes but for food that endures for eternal life , which the Son of Man will give you. For on Him, the Father, God, has set His seal.” 


During Biblical times, seals were often made of wax, embedded with the personal imprint of the one who makes the guarantee of authenticity. Here Jesus assures us that it is God the Father Himself who guarantees Jesus as the Bread of Life. Whoever depends on Him, who accepts Him as Lord, will never hunger. 


When we pray the Lord’s prayer from Matthew 6:11 and Luke 11:3, we say, “Give us this day our DAILY bread”. But most Christian scholars today reject “daily” as the translation of the word “epiousios” in the original Greek New Testament. These scholars as well as Saint Jerome back in AD 382, translate it as “supersubstantial”. Jesus instructed us to ask for supersubstantial bread. That is why we will never hunger, never perish, never die. 


Like the apostles let us pray, “Jesus, give us this bread always! You are the bread of life. I believe in You! 

Saturday, July 31, 2021

What Should I ask For?

“Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” Matthew 14:8




This is what Salome, the daughter of Herodias asked for after asking her mother for advice, “What should I ask for?” The young girl had just danced for King Herod and his guests. He was so pleased with her performance that he promised to give her ANYTHING she asked for, "even to half of my kingdom!"


Salome was only 12 (according to a Jewish historian) but she must have been sultry and seductive in her movement. I can't imagine a jaded man like Herod being captivated by a cutesy, childish dance.


"What should I ask for?" the child asks her mother, echoing children throughout the ages, in need of guidance and wisdom. And instead of wise counsel, what did she get? Herodias instructs her to ask for John the Baptist's head!


Salome hurries back to Herod and demanded, "I want the head of John the Baptist, RIGHT NOW, ON A TRAY!" She did her mother better! This just shows that when we teach a wrong thing, it escalates. That's the nature of sin. Perhaps that's why it says in Exodus 20:5: "I, the Lord your God, visit the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation..."


If we want the best for our children, we should dig up any seeds or roots of sin in our lives, so that it will not grow into a shrub or tree in the lives of our children!

Friday, July 30, 2021

Empowered by the Spirit

“Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds?” Matthew 13:54




Jesus visited his home town, Nazareth, after several years. The people who knew him were astonished when He taught in the synagogue. “Is he not the carpenter’s son?” they asked. “Where did he get such wisdom and mighty deeds?”


Jesus promised in John 14:12, “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me shall also do the works that I do. And greater things than these shall he do, for I go to the Father.” I believe if we really believe this promise, we will be ever ready to pray for people and lay hands on them. Sometimes I forget, sometimes I am too shy to do this, sometimes I am afraid of rejection, and sometimes I am too tired. There are just so many concerns to pray for, it seems never ending! Really, I have to get over this and just keep praying over people and telling them of God’s love. 


In 1958, David Wilkerson was a young, skinny preacher. He read in Life magazine about the dangerous gang-infested ghettoes in New York. He was so bothered by it, that he left his pregnant wife to go into those dark places that even the police wouldn’t dare enter. 


There he encountered Nicky Cruz, the leader of the Mau Maus, a tough group of gangsters who enjoyed killing, drugs, alcohol and women. As Nicky tells it, the skinny preacher, was shaking when he entered the Mau Maus’ lair. David just kept repeating, “Jesus loves you, Nicky!” Nicky spat in David’s face and hit him, and  threatened to kill him, but David just kept at it, praying over Nicky, until Nicky and the other gang members cried like babies. 


Nicky Cruz’ life changed. He continues to tell his testimony around the world and how, “I will be in heaven with David because he was bold enough in the power of the Holy Spirit to tell a kid holding a switchblade in his face that Jesus loved me.” We can listen to his testimony and also watch the film, “The Cross and the Switchblade”, starring Pat Boone as Pastor Wilkerson on YouTube. 


Where did David Wilkerson get his wisdom, his boldness, and his mighty deeds? Nicky Cruz did not know it at the time, but previous to David’s visit, the preacher had been praying day and night for Nicky and his gang. David did not go alone. He was empowered by the Holy Spirit!

Thursday, July 29, 2021

One Thing

“There is need of only one thing.” Luke 10:42




One of my favorite stories in the Bible is of Martha and Mary in the 10th chapter of Luke. Here we see Martha doing many things while Mary, her sister, was listening to Jesus. When Martha asks Jesus to tell Mary to help her, Jesus replies, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—

or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”


I find it very strange that Martha is not happy that Mary is taking care of Jesus while she prepares what to serve Him! Unless perhaps Jesus has been there so often, being a good friend of Lazarus, that she takes Him for granted! Does she really want Mary to help her, leaving Jesus all alone? Don't we do this too? Jesus is always with us, He never leaves us, and that is why we sometimes take Him for granted. 


Do we make sure to carve out some special time with Him like Mary? And not just a harried "thank you" or "please..." during stolen moments between all we have to do? “There is need of only one thing...." Jesus said.


Stormie Omartian wrote, "If we don't deliberately build our lives around these ‘garden walks’ with the Lord, the world will rapidly and relentlessly fill our hours with other commitments."


Lord, I'm sorry for treating you so casually!

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

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 he has and buys it." 

Matthew 13:45-46.




Yes, the Kingdom of God is priceless. 

Even if we sell everything we have, we can't buy entrance into Heaven. But you know what? Jesus gave up all His glory and power to help us get into the presence of the Father, to be part of His family!


When we went on a boat cruise in Halong Bay, we took a tour to a pearl farm. The guide showed us that the pearls were hidden in these ugly, mud encrusted shells. They had to dig into all that muck to find the pearl. 


We too were encased in sin and darkness 

and Jesus was willing to give His life to ransom us from that hopeless fate.


We are God's treasure, His pearl of great price, and He paid for us with the life of His Son! More often than not, we take Jesus' great sacrifice for granted. If we only realize HOW MUCH God loves us, it would change the way we think and overturn our lives!

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

As Far as the East is from the West

“As far as from the east is from the west, so far has He put our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:12




Every time I go to confession, it seems I confess the same sins over and over again. But in the same way we should never give up on ourselves, we should never give up on others. God always gives, even the hardest criminal, the option for authentic conversion. 


It used to be that the Angola Prison in Louisiana was the bloodiest and most notorious prison in the whole of the United States. Blood on the wall, on the carpets, everywhere, and if one went in, they would give you a knife to defend yourself. There were 5300 inmates and 85% were on life sentence without parole. 45 inmates were on death row. Nathan Burl Cain agreed to take the job as warden if he could do it his way. He served for 21 years, from 1995 to 2016. He placed Bible verses every where and had inmates attend bible studies. There was a degree program for theology for former gangsters who wanted to be pastors. The New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary put up a branch there and developed many faith leaders. If you visited the prison at that time, you wouldn’t even hear a word of profanity from the staff or the prisoners. There was a real spiritual atmosphere about the place. 


In the execution chamber, there were two pictures. One was a painting of Daniel in the lion’s den painted by one of the inmates. It signified that God can rescue you even in the direst of circumstances. The other picture was of Elijah rising to the heavens on a chariot of fire. If God won’t rescue you from the lion, He will rescue you in another way! 


Thank You Lord that You never give up on us! When we ask for forgiveness, You will put our transgressions as far as the east is from the west! 

Monday, July 26, 2021

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




How absurd to compare the Kingdom of Heaven to yeast, but that is precisely what Jesus did! Yeast is so tiny, so minuscule, they typically measure 3-4 micrometers! A micrometer is one millionth of a meter! 


This reminds me of what a Chinese Christian leader said. They were happy to be ants or termites infiltrating into the darkest corners of the world where the Gospel has not yet been preached. They do not even want to build concrete churches but are content with home churches where the faithful meet. Little is known about their work for they work best in secrecy and without fanfare. Many of these men and women have been imprisoned and tortured, and even killed, but their blood is the seed of the church in China, the yeast that makes it grow. 


God's strategies are not our strategies. Where we would conquer mightily, He prefers slowly but surely. When God led the people into the land He promised, His plan was not to destroy all the pagans living there. "But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land” (Ex. 23:29&30). 


God has a plan, and His ways are not our ways. His thoughts not our thoughts. When we think we see evil prevailing in our midst, we just need to pray and do our part and be that one millionth of a meter yeast in our part of the world. 

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Weeds Among the Wheat

“The Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field.” Matthew 13:24




The disciples asked Jesus to explain to them the parable of the good seed and the weeds in the field. While the man was sleeping, an enemy sowed weeds among the wheat. The man told his servants to allow the weeds to grow with the wheat, but during harvest time, they are to be gathered and burned. In this parable, Jesus identifies this weed as Zizania (Greek). This type of weed, known as Darnel, grows in Palestine and resembles wheat, except that it is poisonous. It is almost impossible to tell the two apart except at harvest time. Wheat has brown grain and Zizania has black grain.


Is it not that when there is a news story about a man or woman who starts shooting people, or who holds someone hostage, or brings a plane down, there are always relatives or neighbors who say, "He was a good man/ woman, a good neighbor/ classmate/ co-worker. I would never think he/she would do that!! No indication at all!" 


It is only when wheat and the Zizania "bear fruit" that we can identify which is which. In the same way, it is only with our fruit that we know if we are children of God or children of the enemy. The enemy continues to sow bad weeds among us, people who bring confusion, anger, division, hatred of God and man, persecution, etc. into the world.


The way the parable ends, the man who sowed good seed said, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.” What this parable makes certain is there is hell, a place for the weeds, and it seems futile to say that God is too good to allow people to burn in it. God is patient and always gives enough time for people to realize their sin and turn back to Him. More importantly, we need to reflect on what kind of fruit are we bearing?

Friday, July 23, 2021

Parable of the Sower

“Hear the parable of the sower.” Matthew 13:18




I am wondering how many times I've read or heard Jesus' parable of the sower sowing his seed far and wide. It seems he 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!  We just need to do our part and spread Your Word far and wide. 

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Why are You Weeping?

"Why are you weeping?" John 20:13




After reading the four Gospels' accounts of the resurrection story, I find it a little hard to put it all together in one cohesive story.


But that is not surprising considering how sometimes there are so many versions of one story depending on who is telling it. What is different about the Gospel story is that women are the primary witnesses. During those times, a woman could not even appear in court as a credible witness, so if the Gospel story was just made up, as some believe, the writers would never have used women as witnesses.


In the 20th chapter of John, after Mary Magdalene had gone early to the tomb while it was still dark, and had seen that the stone had been rolled away, she ran quickly to Simon Peter and to John to tell them. Perhaps they hesitated, but they went. After seeing for themselves, that what she said was true, they went back to their homes. Isn't that strange? They did not try to investigate, they did not look for any signs around the tomb, they did not look for anyone to ask. They just left. They were still in their "fear" mode. They had assumptions about what happened, and did not want to interfere. Jesus, their leader was dead, they did not want to be connected to Him any longer.


But Mary, Mary wanted answers. She stayed. She did not want to leave until she had some clue to what happened. Aren't women like that? We can't let go. We like to solve things, until we sometimes become busybodies!!! But this time, Mary gets her reward. Jesus appears and asks why she is crying. And then she recognizes Him and she is filled with joy!


 Let us not be afraid to cry. Pope Francis said that sometimes tears are the lenses we need to see Jesus. Recalling the story of Mary Magdalene, the Pope said, “let us ask the Lord to give us the grace of tears — it’s a beautiful grace” — and ask for the grace “to be able to say with our lives, ‘I have seen the Lord,’ not because He appeared to me, but because I saw Him with my heart.” Christian witness, he said, can be summarized as: “I live this way because I’ve seen the Lord.” (Homily about Forgiveness, at the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae)

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Saint Apollinaris

"A sower went out to sow." Matthew 13:3




Jesus spoke of a farmer sowing seeds on different kinds of soil, until finally the seeds fell on good soil and yielded grain a hundred fold. One saint who was like that farmer was Saint Apollinaris. He was amazing! Saint Peter ordained him Bishop of Ravenna. Many miracles of healing followed where he went and he won many to the Christian faith, but at what price?!


Unbelievers and idolaters were so furious with him that he was beaten cruelly several times until he was half dead. He was captured and forced to walk on burning coals, he was stretched on a rack, and plunged into boiling water. Even if he was driven from Ravenna, he would return and be subjected to all sorts of torture just to get rid of him. He was hacked with knives, imprisoned in a dungeon, left to starve, attacked with stones on his mouth so he would stop preaching! Through all this, Saint Apollinaris was Bishop for 26 years. He is one of the first great martyrs of the Church. Can you imagine how powerful and stirring his homilies would have been?


Thank You Lord for the example and inspiration of the saints and martyrs. Even if today Christians are not tortured, may there be enough evidence to convict us of being Your disciples!

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Who is My Mother, My Brother?

“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, no Instagram. 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 19, 2021

Fear Not!

"Fear not! Stand your ground and you will see the victory the Lord will win for you today...The Lord Himself will fight for you; you have only to keep still." Exodus 13:13-14




It is very difficult to keep still, to be patient, and trust in the Lord. We would rather do something NOW, right this minute, decide NOW. Proceeding with my own plans NOW is more comfortable than waiting on the Lord. 


After graduation, most of my son's classmates had jobs already. One of his best friends started working the very next day after their Commencement Exercises. Although Josh had several job offers, he waited and prayed. Like I always do, I also prayed for him. He told me that all the good start ups had their offices in BGC. That was too far! With the traffic, it would easily take him more than 6 hours a day just to get there and back! And parking fees would be enormous! 


I told Josh that nothing is impossible with the Lord! We just waited and prayed. One day he received an email. He got a job offer from a start up with great investors behind it, in line with what he really wanted to work on, free parking in the office, flexible time, casual clothes, offices in Mandaluyong (soon in Quezon City). All his boxes were ticked! All his mother's boxes were ticked and more! It turned out he did not even have to go to the office! He worked from home! So almost nothing changed with the onset of the pandemic. He just continued to do his work from the safety of his own bedroom. God is good! 


Thank You Lord, that when we wait on You, You work on our behalf! Thank You for Your favor! 

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Send Me!

“I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear and tremble; and none shall be missing, says the Lord.” Jeremiah 23:4



We are badly in need of shepherds today, don’t you think? We have lost our way. We need revival in our land. In the world. In the 1700s, John Wesley, the preacher who formed the Methodist Christian denomination of which my father was a part of, at first did not seem like a man who would spark a revival. But eventually he believed the world was his parish and he never slowed down. He traveled 4,000 miles annually and preached about 40,000 sermons in his lifetime. His meetings were full of spiritual fervor. His secret was that he would spend hours on his knees in prayer every day.

In 1940, a group of theology students went on a tour of England with Professor Edwin Orr, an author of several books about evangelical revivals. One of their stops was Epworth Rectory, once the home of John Wesley. After bringing the students around the first floor, they went to Wesley’s bedroom. There on the carpet next to the bed, Prof. Orr pointed out two worn spots where the great reformer knelt every day interceding for the wind of the Holy Spirit to sweep through England and spread to the United States. 

As the students were piling into the bus, the Professor counted and noticed one was missing. He went quickly inside and eventually found one young man in John Wesley’s bedroom. His knees were planted on the same spots where Wesley had fervently prayed. The student was repeatedly asking the Lord, “Do it again, Lord! Do it again… and would you do it again with me!” Professor Orr placed his hand on the student’s shoulder and said they were all waiting for him on the bus. The student slowly got up and joined the others on the bus. What do you know? God did it again through that young man…. Billy Graham! 

Do we want the winds of revival to sweep across our nation? It starts with us on our knees! “Here I am, Lord! Send me!”

Saturday, July 17, 2021

So Much Treasure

“The time the children of Israel had stayed in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years.” Exodus 12:40




Although the Exodus and the Passover recounted in the Torah is central to Jewish belief, many consider it just a legend or even a fairytale with no basis in fact. Many Biblical scholars and archaeologists argue about different issues of this part of Jewish history, but many of them agree that it did occur in one form or another. 


I like “digging” around for archaeological evidence, listening to YouTube videos of archaeological finds and reading about proof of the Hebrews sojourn in Egypt. One clue was found in diggings uncovered by the University of Chicago in the 1930s which showed the remains of a complete house characteristic of Israelite dwellings in Western Thebes, Egypt. Then in the book, “Unearthing the Bible “ by Titus Kennedy, the author wrote, “Hieroglyphic inscriptions mentioning the ‘land of the nomads of YHWH’ were discovered on the walls of two New Kingdom Egyptian temples and a temple pillar in Sudan. Currently, these are the earliest known texts that contain the name YHWH (Yahweh), the name of God in the Hebrew Bible.” 


Then there is the Sphinx Dream Stele. “Scholars consider this text to demonstrate that Thutmose IV was not the natural heir to the throne,” Kennedy writes, “but the death of his older brother, the firstborn and original heir, allowed him to eventually become pharaoh…Thutmose IV had an older brother named Amenhotep who was the heir, but he mysteriously disappeared or died.” Was Amenhotep the first born who perished with all the Egyptian first born sons in Exodus 12:29? 


I personally choose to believe that God reveals Himself through the many different stories in the Bible. We can see the Exodus as a foreshadowing of the resurrection and salvation of Jesus- His saving us from the slavery from the bondage of sin bringing us to the promised land of freedom and rest. Again as in so many narratives of the Bible, the New Testament is concealed in the Old, and the Old Testament is revealed and fulfilled in the New, as St. Augustine said. 


Moses prefigured Christ just as the manna prefigured the Eucharist. In the 430 years the Hebrews were toiling and suffering in Egypt, it may have seemed as if God was not hearing their prayers. But it just took one day for God to save and free them from this bondage. The same is true whatever hardship we are experiencing right now. It is so easy for God to save us with His mighty hand. We just need to put our full trust in His love and mercy. So much treasure to dig up in God’s Word! 


Friday, July 16, 2021

Mercy


"I desire MERCY, not sacrifice." Matthew 12:7




It's hard to balance discipline and mercy when people do wrong, because we always want to teach a lesson about consequences of their actions.


If they intentionally disobey rules, or are dishonest, we want to mete out a justifiable punishment. We sometimes fear if we’re too soft, they won't learn the lesson and they'll do it again. But how about God?


“The wages of sin is death," (Romans 6:3) shows death is what we deserve for sinning! And yet the verse continues, “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." That is pure mercy, pure grace, and pure sacrifice for us!


And so when deciding on the consequence, it is always best to temper it with mercy, to bear witness to the truth of God's own love and unbelievable mercy! 

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Wounded


“Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me, your souls will find rest.” Matthew 11:28-29




Who is not heavy laden, burdened by the cares of this world, weary from all the uncertainty and confusion surrounding us during this pandemic? It may be commuting safely to and from work now that restrictions have eased, balancing decisions of how to sustain a business, or discerning how best to give the kids a good education. The hardest challenge would be stressful relationships, not enough money to pay debts or a debilitating sickness. Yes, life is hard. Period. 


Jesus invited us to take His yoke upon our shoulders and learn from Him. How do we do this? There is nothing we would like more than to shed our heavy load and put it on His shoulders, but instead He asks us to take His yoke on ours! 


One bible verse is particularly apt- "Faithful are the wounds of a friend..." Psalm 27:6. I can't help but relate this to grafting. Why does God allow us to get wounded, heavily burdened? Perhaps it is the only way we can grow, and bloom and bear fruit. He is the vine and we are the branches. We are supposed to abide in Him, attach ourselves to Him, remain in Him, "No branch can bear fruit by itself." In grafting, the tissues of one plant are inserted into the tissues of another so that the two sets of vascular tissues are joined together. The "vine" contains the desired genes to be duplicated in the branch! But we can't get connected without the wounds on both the vine and the branch!


When God allows hardship to enter our life, we are invited to join with Him, to take His yoke on our shoulders. To be one with Him, to have a covenant relationship with Him who is the source of life, strength, and joy. Indeed, we may find that taking His yoke on our shoulders would be the best way to lessen our burdens! 

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Like a Child


 "You have hidden these things from the wise...and revealed them to the childlike." Matthew 11:25




My husband Luigi is very popular with children. When kids see him, they run to him, eager to play, wanting to be hugged tight. What is it about children that delighted God? Jesus said in Luke 18:6, "Let the children come to me, do not stop them from approaching me for the Kingdom belongs to such as these." If only we could be more like little children and run to Him who loves us!


Sometimes we hide from Him because we feel guilty, or because we disagreed with something we read in the Bible, or because we think we have all the time in the world. We think God can wait.


But children, they don't like waiting, do they? Perhaps that's why God wants us to be like kids. Children are eager. They are persistent. They are teachable. They are waiting to be amazed, they want to be amazed. When was the last time we were amazed at what God has done? When was the last time we read something in the Bible and our heart leapt? If we are more childlike, less dependent on our own thinking, God will reveal the treasures in His Kingdom that He hides from those who are wise in their own eyes! 


Lord, may I be like a child, dependent on You! Eager to be fed from the Master's hand!

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Harden Not Your Hearts

“If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.” Psalm 95:8



It would be so easy if we heard God’s voice every morning and just had to follow what He said. We would be successful, have the perfect family, security for the future and know with absolute certainty we were going to heaven. Life would be simple, and we wouldn’t be confused about our priorities and busy ourselves about things that had no value. True? Maybe not. There is nothing easy about obedience. 

God wants to speak to us, and if we read His Word every morning, and keep quiet enough to hear Him, we may get His heart for those He loves. If we want this enough, usually God will oblige. 

One day in 2007, when Christine Caine, an evangelist and speaker, was in the Thessaloniki airport in Greece, she saw many handmade posters of missing girls. She found out that these young girls were trafficked and some sold on an auction block like slaves. She heard God tell her to help. “But God,” she argued, “I just gave birth! But I’m a woman! But I’m an Australian who lives so far from here...” Her buts were a mile long. God knew all those buts. He also knew that in 2008, Christine with all her buts would obey and start the A21 Campaign with her husband Nick, and would be instrumental in rescuing babies from pedophile rings, and young girls and women from sexual trafficking. Their crucial work continues and just last month, A21 freed 26 people from Cambodia, Greece and Bulgaria from sex and labor trafficking.

Christine studies the Word, listens to God, and obeys. First it was the little things. How about us, do we listen and obey the little things God instructs us? Let us not harden our hearts so God can put His dreams into our hearts.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Finding Life

“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” 

Matthew 10:39




This verse is very significant for me because when I was in UP High School, a group of people from Gideons International dropped by with cute little red Bibles for each of the students. They spoke a little about the Bible, and then we had to promise to read the Bible every day if we wanted to get a Bible from them. The Bible was so cute, and I wanted one, and to this day, I still have that Bible with markings on the pages. So I know that I stopped reading the Bible when I read those words of Jesus, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” In John 12:25, the verse reads, “Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”


To a young girl in love with life, what would those words about the cross, and finding life if you lose it, and losing your life for Jesus’ sake mean? Not very much! I believe that Jesus intentionally did not speak in plain and simple language because one has to spend time seeking for layers of meanings. If one really wants to know the truth which is a priceless treasure, we need to read the Bible every day, pray about it, and like Mary, “ponder it in our heart”. St. Luke writes in 2:19,  “Mary treasured all these words (rhemata = acts of utterance) and pondered them in her heart.” The mother of Jesus was a very young peasant girl and she did not understand what was happening to her either. After all the mystery of the Incarnation never happened before or since. So she protected the words of the angel in her heart, not her mind, where it can get lost in all the meanderings of logic and cynicism, but in her heart, where God can give clarity and meaning. 


In the morning when I pray and read the Bible, I just like to think of the words I read just sitting and finding a place in my heart. I need not fully understand it. But I know that God’s word is “alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.”  (Hebrews 4:12) So let’s not worry, if we do not understand what we read all the time. Just trust God to reveal to us what He wants to reveal in His perfect time. 

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Take Nothing for the Journey

“Take nothing for the journey..." Mark 6:8




My family knows that when I travel I make such a fuss about packing. The earlier I start packing, the more I bring. If I am going to a cold place, I think twice, thrice, four times about how many jackets, sweaters, blankets, thermal underwear to bring. I always pack so much, because I bring art materials, or a sewing kit, or both. But I'm not the only one who brings odd stuff on a journey. My brother once brought out some cheese and a cheese grater when we went to Coron. 


When Jesus sent the disciples on a mission to proclaim the good news, He told them to take nothing for the journey except a walking stick. No food, no traveling bag, no money. The disciples couldn't depend on anything but what they learned from listening to Jesus, and asking Him questions. Obviously, Jesus thought they were ready or He would not have sent them out to be laughed at or ridiculed. They passed the test because verse 12 and 13 says “they preached repentance. The Twelve drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.”


We should try Jesus' way sometimes. I don't really mean going off without anything at all, but without the baggage of needing to wait for the right time to talk to others about faith and how God is just waiting for us to approach Him. Wherever we go, there are so many hurting people in the world, needing to hear about our Savior who cares, and who loves us enough to die for us. We are all called to be missionaries. 


Pope Francis in a 2015 Spiritual Reflection tells us: “It is Baptism that makes us missionaries. A baptized person who does not feel the need to proclaim the Gospel, to proclaim Jesus, is not a good Christian.”

Saturday, July 10, 2021

All the Hairs on our Head are Counted

"Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father's knowledge. Even all the hairs on your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." Matthew 10:29-31




 When I was young, maybe about 11 or 12 years old, I remember staring at this plaque on our wall which read, "God is love". It was crudely made as I had made it myself from built up cardboard covered in gesso. While staring at it, God spoke to my heart saying, "Yes, I am love." And from then till now, I never doubted it.


I think it was one of my foundational experiences. Because I knew God loved me, I grew up confident in that love. It did not matter if people rejected me, hurt me, laughed at me, judged me, thought me weird (of this, there were many!). Everything was OK, because, Hey! God loves me!


If we are not confident of God's love, we can search for signs, take note of it, and thank God for it.


Somebody gave me a chocolate bar, yey! God loves me! Somebody encouraged me, somebody paid me a visit, God answered a small or a big prayer, Yey! God loves me!


I found a lost thing, I have money to pay for something I really really want, the coffee smells great, I have time to draw, Yey!!! God loves me!!!


If we are more conscious of the small things God does for us, we won't doubt His BIG love!