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


"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


“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! 

Friday, July 09, 2021

Do Not Worry

“ not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say.” Matthew 10:19

Every day I read my Bible, read Anawim or some other meditation book, and write down what I feel God is telling me. I used to paint on journals, then on my Bibles, and now on my iPad. I’ve done this for years. It was in 2006 when I started embellishing my journals to help me remember the Bible verses. Then in 2009, I started putting my meditations on my blog. I felt God wanted me to share His Word with others, and it was as if He had trained me for it, in the years I would just write and write on my innumerable journals. Sometimes I wonder why I do it, but then as long as He gives me the words, I know God wants me to do it. I believe whatever the task God gives, He will supply what we need to accomplish it. 

Although I read a lot, I have a difficulty remembering what I’ve read or who wrote it. Google is my best friend because I just search something like “lady who lost her arm in war” or something like that, to remember a particular story with relevance to what I want to say. What Jesus told the disciples in Matthew 10 holds true for me. I need never fear what I am to speak, or write. He provides magnificently. And if He doesn’t, that’s all right too. He has another plan. 

I remember when I was inviting a friend to Bible study, and she asked me a question about the Bible. I could not answer, even if I felt it was an easy question. Anyway, the very next day, she asked the same question of a stranger who was at the right place at the right time. The stranger turned out to be a Pastor and he was able to answer the question to my friend’s satisfaction. My friend who was a nominal Catholic converted and became evangelical. I believe that was and is God’s plan for her. She homeschooled her children and became really active in church in the States. 

Sometimes we do not embark on something because we are anxious we cannot do it. We need to be confident that if it’s something God wants us to do, He will be right there with us. If it’s something God wants to happen, we need to make ourselves available. Let us offer whatever measly “loaves and fishes” we have so we can be a part of God’s plans, whatever they are! 

Thursday, July 08, 2021

Without Cost

“Give as freely as you have received.” 

Matthew 10:8

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

In July 2017, a funny incident occurred. Funny to most people but not to the man it happened to. The man was fixing an electronic lock in a Bank of America branch in Corpus Christi, Texas, when the door slammed shut and he was trapped inside the room of the ATM machine. He had left his phone in his truck so he resorted to sending SOS notes through the receipt slot. “Please help. I’m stuck in here and don’t have my phone. Please call my boss at 210- - -“ Everyone who withdrew money laughed and thought it was a great prank, until someone took it seriously and called the police for help. 

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

Wednesday, July 07, 2021

Amazing Bible!

“But Joseph concealed his own identity from them and spoke sternly to them.” Genesis 42:7a

I like reading all sorts of books. I love “Pride and Prejudice” and all of Jane Austen’s books because I like reading about other times and diverse places. I just finished two of Daniel Silva’s excellent suspense thrillers. The author created quite a complicated protagonist who is a Jewish intelligence agent, assassin and art restorer. Too unputdownable! Now I am reading “A Woman of No Importance”, a true account of Virginia Hall, a glamorous American spy who changed the course of World War II. 

Whatever kind of story one likes to read, we may find it in the Bible. But the difference between the Bible and other books is we can see the mind of God through the Bible even if it is written by many authors. There is a common thread binding the books in spite of the fact that about forty individuals were inspired to put pen to paper or dictate what they wanted to set down. The books of the Bible were written over the course of about 1500 years by prophets, priests, shepherds, a physician, fisherman, tent maker, a king and even a tax collector! 

God used them all to share His love and His plan for all of us. And the proof that God was the inspiration behind the books is the “New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New” as Saint Augustine once observed. Indeed the key to fully understanding the Bible is to see how Jesus and His mission has been prefigured in many of the stories of the Old Testament, just like in the story of Joseph from Genesis chapter 37 to 50.

Joseph the dreamer foreshadows Christ our Messiah. Both Jesus and Joseph were beloved sons, sent on a mission, rejected, conspired against and sold. Just as Jesus was stripped of his clothes, Joseph’s many colored coat was taken from him. Both Jesus and Joseph were falsely accused and suffered for the sins of others. Jesus was put into a tomb and resurrected. Joseph was put into a pit and then pulled out. Joseph saved Egypt and the surrounding areas from famine. Jesus is redeemer of the world. The list goes on. But my favorite similarity is that Joseph was with two criminals in prison, one of whom was executed, the other set free. Wasn’t Jesus crucified between two criminals? Only one was saved. 

Father, thank You for Your Word. You made sure we would see Your movement in history, in Your God ordained foreshadowing of Your divine plan. When we read the Bible not only do we read about someone who changed the course of World War II, but we read about Jesus Your Son, who can change the course of our lives!

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

Moved with Compassion

“My heart is moved with pity..." Mt. 9:36

We are all made in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:27), and I do believe that we have some of His character. After all, we are "created to be like God, truly righteous and holy." (Ephesians 4:24). We can see this instinctual compassion in a child who cries in empathy when her playmate is hurt, or who takes pity on a wounded kitten. My sister’s grandchild cried when he saw my husband’s hair being cut! 

As we grow older, we try to protect ourselves from pain and distress and get immune to the faces of need we see around us. It takes a lot for me to give money to a beggar

because I think of syndicates, and I remind myself that giving money just encourages begging, or allows street children to buy rugby to sniff. I much prefer buying them food but it is not always convenient to stop what I am doing to do so. 

 In Matthew 15:32, Jesus is confronted with a great crowd who had been following him for three days. He said, "They have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, for fear they may collapse on the way." A practical concern. How about me? Do I naturally feel compassion for the woman and child sleeping on rags and filthy cardboard on the sidewalk? Do I want to do something for the man languishing in jail for a crime he did not commit? How about a street child in danger of being preyed upon by unscrupulous men?

 Even if I do not feel "moved to pity" like Jesus, if I want to be like Him, I can start with a small action of mercy. Just like being happy starts with smiling. Charles Darwin said , "The free expression by outward signs of an emotion intensifies it." And William James notes that if someone does not express an emotion, then he has not felt that emotion at all. And Shakespeare famously said that giving mercy blesses the one who gives it and the one who receives it. 

God is rich in mercy (Eph. 2:4), and if we want to be the same as our Father, we don't have to wait till we feel compassion, we can just DO IT! Mercy is as mercy does! Jesus wants us to see one another through the eyes of compassion He has for us. 

Monday, July 05, 2021

Your Faith Has Saved You

“Courage, daughter!  Your faith has saved you.” Matthew 9:22

The story of this woman who had been hemorrhaging for 12 years can be very discouraging. She spent everything she had for doctors and medicine and she was not getting better. In fact she was getting worse! I know so many people who have been sick a long time. In fact I am one of them! I have Thalassemia, a genetic blood disorder caused when the body doesn’t make enough hemoglobin, an important part of red blood cells. It may have triggered all the calcified emboli in my lungs. One and 1/2 years after my open heart surgery to remove it, I am still breathless, and still need healing for my lungs. 

Sometimes I feel like that veiled woman in a crowd in search ofJesus. "If only I can get close to Him. If only I had enough faith." This woman was very fortunate in that she managed to touch Jesus' garments and she was healed instantly. In the 5th chapter of Mark, we read more of this woman’s story. Jesus looked around at the crowd surrounding Him, and asked, "Who touched me?" What is important to me is that Jesus looked for her. For 12 years, perhaps she was feeling neglected by God, insignificant. How many times do we pray, "Do you care, God? Do You know what I am going through?" This is what our enemy wants, that we think God does not care, God does not know what we are going through. In this battle of the mind, we need to fight for the truth.

God does care. We matter to Him. Every single one of us. We are loved. That is what we want to know in our heart. "Who touched me?" is the cry of a God who wants to connect with us. Faith is our connection. "Daughter, your faith has healed you," Jesus said. And so with us. Our faith that whatever we go through, whether 12 years or not, whether it is about healing, or broken relationships, or lack of money or whatever, God walks with us. God is there, loving us whatever we are going through. He will never allow things to happen to us that is not good for our character. That will not make us bloom. In the next story of Jairus and his daughter, Jesus says, "Do not be afraid. just trust me."

Yes Lord, I trust You. You will work everything in my life for my good, because You love me, and I love You! (Romans 8:28)