Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Children of the Light

"You are all children of the light and of the day..." 1 Thessalonians 5:5

The verse continues, "...we don't belong to darkness and night." But sometimes it seems as if we are in between, not in the light and not in the dark, because we compromise, and we don't speak out for the truth. If I was a doctor and my patient was found positive for cancer, do I tell her, "You're fine. You just have the flu. Take a few aspirins, and you will be ok in no time."? Won't I be guilty of malpractice? 

But when it comes to maladies of the soul and spirit, sometimes we are too ashamed to say anything. We have become inured to sin in the world, in our very own country. If we don't say anything, darkness will reach our own backyard and it will be too late to light our little candle. 

Monday, August 30, 2021

The Spirit of the Lord

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me..." Luke 4:18

When we were baptized into God's family, and in the Holy Spirit, we were anointed with oil, and made one with Christ. We can say as He did in the temple, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; therefore He has anointed me. He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind and release to prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord."

Have we taken this mission given to us seriously? Just like the apostles, we too are sent. The word apostle is from the classical Greek word 'apóstolos' meaning 'one who is sent away'. We all share in Christ's threefold mission as priest, prophet and king.

As prophet, we are supposed to reveal God and speak to others about Him. We are His witnesses. As priest, we can intercede for others! We are mediators, a bridge between God and man.

As King, or princess, as I prefer, we are given authority over a territory. Jesus came to announce the Kingdom of God, so that God can reign in our hearts. Just as Jesus exercised His Kingship by serving, we too should have servant hearts.

Lord, may we find renewed strength and power to serve You and remember that we share in Your threefold mission. Amen!

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Every Perfect Gift

“...every perfect gift is from above...” James 1:17

We don’t realize it but many, many gifts tumble down one after the other from heaven. I like to count my blessings and write them down after I read Ann Voskamp’s book, “One Thousand Gifts”. I count concrete blessings like “thank You for brothers and sisters who pray for me” or for “good sales”, etc. 

I usually take for granted how God gave me miracle skin, that no matter how many times I dirty it up, I can clean it. When I get a wound, it heals! Even the fact I can feel pain is a gift. I get a warning that I’m in danger if I get too near a heat source!  Our skin regenerates every 27 days, and even without me consciously directing my body, my heart pumps, my eyes and ears work, my hair grows! So many amazing gifts! 

 Another gift I usually take for granted is God’s word. In the same chapter of the Book of James we read, “Humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls. Be doers of the word.” And from St. Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews (4:12), “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” I woke up this morning with God speaking to my heart, that I should claim the authority He has given me through His word, to stand on His promises. 

But the most amazing gift is God’s love that surrounds us, sustains us, and allows us to grow in His light. We take so many things for granted, but God does not take us for granted. We have a Covenant with Him, and we walk in blessing!

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Well Done!

“Well done, my good and faithful servant.” Matthew 25:21

It must be wonderful to hear God say that to us, at the end of our journey here on earth. After graduating from University, many people congratulate us, more so if we get high grades and did well in school. For my dad, grades were not really important. We were never scared to show him our report card and I know that when my brother Robert presented his, full of red marks, my dad didn’t get mad at all! 

My dad was more concerned about how we lived our life, and how we used our gifts and talents. He was very happy when we made things, and used our creativity, just like him. Daddy was an engineer, and even during the war, he made his own toys from tin cans, pieces of wood, and rubber tires. He was a handyman around the house. Growing up, I appreciated how everything in our home was in good working order, the plumbing, carpentry and the electricity. He would even make our furniture. In our business, he always had so many ideas.  We were always encouraged by our parents to have our own ideas, and to make them. No one had to approve anything! Even if the idea was absurd, it would find its way to the store. When my youngest sister Tina sculpted a tiny tiny dog with a wheelbarrow, we put it on a wood plaque with a sign: “Caution: working dog!” I forget if we were surprised when it got sold, as there were other crazy products that found its way on our shelves! Like decoupage plaques by Meldy that looked so antique it could be thrown in the garbage can by mistake, or figurines that looked like they were melting in the heat! 

God is our Father and He is very pleased when we make use of the gifts, talents and resources He has gifted us with. Like my daddy, I believe God does not expect us to have excellent ideas and projects every time. But He is happy when we try our best to use it for good. 

Friday, August 27, 2021

Give Us Some Oil

And the foolish said to the prudent, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” Matthew 25:8

Jesus makes it clear in this parable of the wise and foolish virgins that there is a very real danger that some of us will get ourselves locked out of heaven. The question then is who is Jesus and do we really believe what He is saying?

People believe what they like, and sometimes do not even care to find out the truth for themselves. I believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, because of all the prophecies about His coming that were fulfilled. Mathematically speaking, the chance of one person fulfilling only 8 of those many prophecies in the Old Testament, is 1 with 17 zeros! There are a lot of other rational reasons why I believe Jesus was sent by the Governor of all the earth, and sea and skies, to teach us how to get into His Kingdom. And that is why I read His words and ponder it. 

If life was an adventure movie like Indiana Jones and there was a map to this awesome treasure that was more valuable than any unicorn, everyone would be searching for that map, wouldn’t they? But here and now, in our real life, the map is everywhere! In all the bookstores, sitting on our shelves even! All we need to do is sit down, open it up, and ask God to help us find our treasure and He’ll guide us through step by step! 

In the parable Jesus told about the 5 foolish virgins and the 5 wise ones, all 10 were waiting for the bridegroom to arrive. All of them were eager, expectant, vigilant. But alas! 5 of them did not have enough oil for their lamps and their flames were sputtering! They asked for some oil from the other five virgins who were prepared and brought extra but were refused. They had to leave their waiting post and buy some more oil, and while they were gone, the Bridegroom arrived and they were left outside, not able to join the party. 

The lamps represent our spiritual life, and the oil everything that keeps our faith burning brightly. We cannot borrow prayer or studying the Bible from others. We cannot receive it from our parents or borrow from our brothers and sisters in our church or community. We have to have our own oil so we don’t run out. 

Father, thank You for the treasure You have reserved for each one of us. Thank You Jesus for pointing the way and leaving us the map. Thank You Holy Spirit for never leaving us alone as long as we take the time to listen and read Your Word. 

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Stay Awake

“Stay awake, therefore! You cannot know the day Your Lord is coming." 

Matthew 24:42

Lots of times we are unprepared for what is coming. It might be an exam, a job interview, a basketball game, a workshop we're giving. Most of the time we can wing it. We don't fail the exam or make a complete fool of ourself in the interview. But how about when the Big One comes? Residents of Metro Manila and nearby provinces are warned that it's not a question of if, it's a matter of when. The 100 kilometer West Valley fault could shift at any time and the magnitude 7.2 earthquake could kill up to 34,000 people and hurt tens of thousands. Many who stocked up on canned goods, Go bags with flashlights and batteries and energy bars, have eaten their store already. 

Jesus is telling the disciples that they have to be prepared too. No one ever knows when their time is up. Just as we have to be prepared for the Big One or another type of disaster, we also have to prepare for when the Lord comes for us. But God does not only come when our time is up. We also have to be prepared every day, as He visits us   in the words of a friend, a prayer that resonates with us, a news article, even an unexpected health crisis. Jesus journeys with us in our everyday life, and if we are sensitive to His presence, and heed His call, He will one day say to us, “My good and faithful servant.”

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

The Unseen Guest

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed sepulchers, which outwardly appear brilliant to men, yet truly, inside, they are filled with the bones of the dead and with all filth.” Matthew 23:27

I have been guilty of superficial cleaning many a time. When guests are due to arrive, I dump all the clutter in my craft room, and then I am aghast when a kid opens the door, as kids sometimes do, and exposes what I have hidden inside! A "horror" guest would be one who opens drawers and peeks into the junk in the cabinets! But Jesus is always the unseen guest in our "home". He sees what is hidden in our hearts. He sees the clutter. He sees my resentment, my irritation, my envy, all those smelly things no one else sees!!!

Here in Matthew chapter 23, Jesus is speaking to the disciples about the Pharisees and teachers of scripture. He is quite disgusted that they are hypocrites and that they only "act out" their religion. They are like whitewashed tombs! "They try to look like upright people outwardly, but inside their hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness." 

In verse 26 of the same chapter, Jesus says the Pharisees are blind, “First clean the inside of the cup and the dish, and then what is outside becomes clean.” This reminds me of a Chinese restaurant in Paris of all places. We stopped for lunch there on our tour, and I glimpsed that the waiter had dumped all the used tea cups of the previous guests in a pail, and then started placing them on our table for us to use! Of course we hightailed it out of there in a hurry! 

Let us make sure that Jesus does not notice the same about us! Let us not only clean up the way we look and behave but make sure our hearts are pleasing to him as well! 

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Dr. Livingstone, I Presume

“I saw you under a fig tree.” John 1:48

Does Jesus see us under a fig tree the same way he saw Nathanael under a fig tree? “Under a fig tree” was a common place for prayer especially for young, rabbinic students, so Jesus was telling Nathanael that he saw Nathanael communing with God, and that he would see “greater things”. Indeed when we bow our head to God in prayer, our will definitely be changed! 

There is a story of a beggar who was at the great David Livingstone’s funeral. He was heard muttering, “You were right, Davey, you were right!” A man asked him why he said that, and the beggar explained that when they were young, he was David Livingstone’s classmate in Scotland. One day a preacher came and told them about Jesus and Davey went forward and gave his life to Jesus. The beggar said he refused to follow.

David Livingstone went on to be a giant of a man. He lived a lot of it on his knees. When he was young, he prayed, “Send me anywhere, only go with me. Lay any burden on me, only sustain me. Sever any ties, but the ties that bind me to Your service and to your heart.” And God answered, “Lo, I am with you always, even till the end of the age.” 

Henry M. Stanley, a journalist, was contracted to find David Livingstone, after the great explorer, physician and missionary went missing in Africa for 6 years. When he found the man, he asked the famous line, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” and continued, “I am the biggest swaggering atheist on the face of the earth. Don’t convert me!” Within 4 months, Stanley was on his knees accepting Christ because of Livingstone’s compelling faith and life. 

Livingstone died on his knees, weak and worn as he was, praying with the last breath in his body. He saw many wonders in Africa, and was influential in stopping the slave trade which he abhorred. But of all the wonders he saw, I am sure none can compare with meeting Jesus face to face! 

Monday, August 23, 2021

Saint Rose de Lima

August 23 is the Feast Day of Saint Rose of Lima. She is the first saint of the Americas, patroness of South America, and secondary patroness of the Philippines.

Isabel Flores de Olivia, the name her parents gave her, was born in 1586 in Lima, Peru and was known to be exceptionally beautiful. Even when she was very young, her desire was to be a nun, and she often prayed, and even fasted and did penance in secret. 

When her lovely face began to attract suitors, she cut her hair short, and  rub her skin with hot peppers to make it  blister. Although her parents were against her plan to remain unmarried, after years of conflict, eventually they relented and reserved a hut where she could live like a cloistered nun and spend long hours in prayer and acts of penance like wearing a crown of thorns. She was merely 15 when she became a Dominican tertiary and filled her days with prayer, acts of charity, caring for the elderly, the homeless and the sick. She would often bring them to her hut to nurse them. At 20 years of age, she joined the Third Order of Saint Dominic. 

She died at the age of 31 after a long and painful illness. Her constant prayer was, “Lord, increase my sufferings, and with them increase Your love in my heart.” Many honored St. Rose at her funeral for her acts of charity. Many miracles occurred after, which prompted her beatification in 1668 and then  her canonization. 

St. Rose de Lima, pray for the Philippines. 

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Words of Life

“Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” John 6:67-68

I was conversing with someone who said that he did not believe in God, and did not believe in the Bible anymore. He is just like the people in the 6th chapter of John who turned away from Jesus because it was too difficult to understand and follow Him. Even though Jesus said some hard things, Simon Peter and the other disciples decided to stay and trust Jesus.

Life can give us many jolts, we just need to trust God through it all. Two tall former basketball players, Clarke Bynum, Jr and Gifford Shaw, prayed hard and decided to go on a mission trip to Kenya. They got delayed for their first flight, and had to rebook another flight which they had to wait 8 hours for. They started to wonder if their decision to go on this trip was the right one. Finally they boarded British Airways Flight 2069, and they were given first class seats near the cockpit. After supper, both decided to get some sleep, when they were jolted awake by a nosedive. A man near them said in a terrified voice, “I just saw a man run into the cockpit!” There were screams coming from the cockpit. Clarke and Gifford rushed to help, and they saw a huge hooded man having the much smaller copilot around the throat. A Flight attendant and the pilot were also in on the mayhem. Clarke reached out and grabbed the assailant and after some struggling, they were able to drag the madman out of the cockpit. The plane pulled upward out of the near fatal nosedive at the last second! 

The Kenyan who rushed into the cockpit was 6 feet tall and about 200 pounds. What are the odds that two huge basketball players would be seated near the cockpit and would be able to rush in to help the overpowered crew? The plane had fallen 19,000 feet. In 5 seconds, the nosedive would have been irreversible! Clarke received the Order of the Palmetto, South Carolina’s highest honor, for his bravery in subduing the man with the help of other passengers. He was also awarded presidential commendation by Clemson University in 2001.

Sometimes, our life may take a left turn, or we experience inconvenient delays or we cannot understand why God is allowing us to undergo so much suffering. We should just trust God with our life, with the big and small things, because He has a plan. He always has a plan! 

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Heart of a Servant

“The greatest among you must be your servant." Matthew 23:11

Does this make any sense?

How do we grow into having the heart of a servant instead of feeling 'entitled' that we have to be served? One way is remembering that we have a purpose and to concentrate on that. We need to do the next right thing. 

I was impressed with the story of an usher. He is nameless but God knows His name! 

In November 1934, two young boys came into a tent where a revival meeting was going on. The place was full, so they turned to leave. But an usher saw them, put his big arms around them and said, “I'll find you seats, boys! Follow me!" He led them to two seats with the choir. 

That was the night that one of the boys, Billy Graham, gave his life to Christ, after listening to the preaching of Mordecai Ham. What if the usher was more interested 

in ogling some giggling girls? What if he was daydreaming? What if he was seething with some imagined insult? 

How many times have I concentrated on myself and what I think I am entitled to,  rather than being present in the moment doing the job I am supposed to do? Lord, forgive me. Teach me to be a servant like you. 

Friday, August 20, 2021

Your God, My God

 "Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.' Ruth 1:16

The Book of Ruth is so interesting and short, one can easily read it in one sitting. The first chapter is filled with hopelessness as we find Naomi and her husband Elimelech and their two sons leaving their home because of a severe famine. They settle in Moab, which showed their extreme desperation. Elimelech dies, and the two sons marry Moabite women. Alas! The two sons die as well, leaving three widows! In those days, women had no rights, widows had no defenders, no identities even. Naomi decides to go back to her homeland and she tells her daughters-in-law to return to their families for she cannot provide for them. After some persuasion and crying, one daughter-in-law obeys, but Ruth, the other, vows never to leave her. "Do not ask me to abandon you! Wherever you go, I will go, wherever you lodge, I will lodge, your people shall be my people, and your God my God."

We can assume that the witness of Naomi and her family to Ruth has been such that Ruth would elect to choose Naomi's way of life rather than the life she grew up with. She specifically chooses Naomi's people and Naomi's God. And because of this wonderful decision in the face of uncertainly, brokenness and hopelessness, Ruth is rewarded. In Naomi's hometown, she meets a worthy man who marries her and she becomes part of the lineage of Jesus Christ, one of the few women listed in the first chapter of Matthew. It is during challenging times that our choices reveal who we are. Trials show our true character and values. This gem of a story shows that God always has a plan, a bright future for those who choose Him!

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Wedding Garment

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

In Matthew 22, Jesus tells a parable about a King who gave a wedding feast for his son. When the invited guests refused to come, he had his servants invite people from the streets. Then he noticed a man not in proper attire and asked him, "My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?"

This reminds me of a wedding I attended. The groom's mother was in an ordinary shirt and pants. My sister Meldy, who is such a stickler for proper attire, spent the whole duration of the wedding thinking whether she should go home and get a gown for the mother to change into! She was sooo bothered!

 It is also very important to God that we are properly attired when we get to the heavenly banquet. All of us are invited. We are the people in the streets. We are the people dressed in the filthy rags of sin.

In ancient times, when people could not afford to dress formally enough to meet the King, you went to the Royal Wardrobe and there you would be helped into an outfit that would not insult the King. We ourselves cannot weave any garment beautiful enough to face God in, so we have to be robed with the righteousness of Jesus, washed white by the blood of the Lamb, paid for by Jesus' death on the cross.

Thank you Lord for my 'wedding garment’, fit for a princess!!

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

I Do You No Injustice

 "I do you no injustice." Matthew 20:13

Is God unjust? If we measure Him against human standards, He certainly is. In Isaiah 55:8, the Lord tells us, “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts, and My ways are far beyond anything you could imagine." (NLT) But the wonderfully amazing thing is He wants us to get to know Him. He wants us to become like Him. And that is why we have the Bible, the story of how an awesome God calls us to be His own, calls us to be His people. He is so generous, He wants to share His wealth of wisdom, peace, love, joy, and then ultimately eternal life in His Kingdom, with us, mere servants! 

In the parable Jesus tells in Matthew 20, there is an owner of a vineyard who  indiscriminately calls anyone to work for him. He invites workers at the start of the work day and says he will pay them the daily wage. Then he hires workers at midday, then at 3 o'clock, then at the 11th hour, one hour before all work finishes. He pays the workers who worked for one hour the daily wage. He paid the same amount to those who worked for more hours. The workers hired for the whole day complained. Perhaps we would grumble too! Working the vineyard is hard work. 

But what if the daily wage was eternal life? Is there anything more valuable than fullness of life that is eternal? That is God's promise for all the workers of His vineyard. As long as we serve Him, follow Him, love Him and His people, that is what we will get at the 12th hour. And just like the owner of the vineyard, God calls us all, the intelligent, the not so intelligent, the shy, the sick, the lame, the poor, the sinner, the drug addict, the prisoner, the drug lord, the corrupt politician, everyone! We are all invited to work in God's vineyard! And even if we worked for twelve hours or one, we will never deserve the reward God offers for working for Him.

Lord, thank You for the opportunity to work in Your vineyard. We are all imperfect people with our own unique flaws and weaknesses, yet You do not give up on us. Help us to see others with Your eyes, and to love them and be generous like You!

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Eye of the Needle

“It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." Matthew 19:24

There is an urban legend that this verse is about a small gate in Jerusalem called the "Needle's Eye" during the time of Jesus. It is so small that if a man on a camel were to pass through, he would have to get down, remove all the baggage from the camel and drag the camel through, kneeling on its haunches. So for a rich man to enter heaven, he would have to divest himself of his earthly goods, and kneel humbly before God. But there is no such gate in Jerusalem in Jesus' time and so Jesus did not mean this.

He literally meant it was impossible for a rich man to get to heaven on his own merit. Wealth was a sign of God's favor in Jesus' time, and even today. So the disciples were astonished, bewildered, exceedingly amazed, dumbfounded, when Jesus flat out said that the wealthy had no chance, zilch, of going to heaven. “So who can be saved?" they asked.

Jesus then says it is impossible for men. It is not only impossible for the rich, but also for the poor. It is impossible for any one. Because we would have to give up not only our wealth, but also our children, our parents, our spouses, our lands, our work. Everything. We would have to put God first. 

But Jesus does not leave us without hope. He said- "With God ALL things are possible." In Ephesians 2:8 we read, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this not of your own doing, it is the GIFT OF GOD!" Whew!!!! 

We shouldn't give up on ourselves just because we can't follow Jesus perfectly! Just because we can't give up everything and go to the ends of the earth and spread the Gospel. Just because we get impatient with little things and are ungrateful or cannot really forgive.  Jesus already paid the price for our salvation.  We just need to follow Him day after day, and we will change slowly but surely.  

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Blessed are You

“Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” Luke 1:45

The study of Scripture is amazing! You can find so many parallels in the Old Testament that finds fulfilment in the New. This shows me that what we believe in is not made up by man but planned by God for thousands of years. He journeys with man. In an Anawim meditation, this leapt out for me: “The plan of God gradually unfolded, despite the weaknesses and sins of men. God never thought that sin was a good reason to abandon the human family; He continued to work with us and through us, generation after generation, with our eternal salvation ever in mind.” 

One of God’s greatest gifts to us is Mary, the mother of our Savior. Today we celebrate the feast of the Assumption. In the Old Testament we see a foreshadowing of her role as Queen Mother of the King as an advocate and intercessor for the people. Mary is the new Ark of the Covenant. The Ark in the Old Testament was hidden in a cave when the Babylonians were going to sack Jerusalem in 587 BC.  In 2 Maccabees 2:7, Jeremiah advises the people who wanted to mark the cave, “No one must know about this place until God gathers his people together again and shows them mercy.” It was never found again. 

But the new Ark of the Covenant did reappear in the form of Mary who gave birth to Jesus in a “cave”, a dark stable. The old Ark contained three things, a copy of the Ten Commandments, a bowl of manna, and the budding staff of Aaron which was the symbol for the high priest. Inside Mary’s womb, was the Word made flesh, the bread of heaven, and the great High Priest. 

There are so many other parallels and echoes and foreshadowing in Scripture that cannot be discounted as signs God has left to show us His amazing plan. Let us be confident that even in the midst of turmoil in the Church, and in the world, God will work all things together for good for us who love Him and are called according to His purpose. 

Saturday, August 14, 2021

We Will Serve the Lord

“As for me and my household we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

We have made many inspirational and biblical plaques to sell in our stores. One of them is this verse from the book of Joshua. After the death of Moses, the great leader who brought the Hebrews out of slavery in Egypt to the edge of Canaan, it was Joshua’s turn to be commander when Israel took over Palestine. 

The Lord charged Joshua to lead His people across the Jordan River into the Promised Land. “Be strong and very courageous. Obey all the laws Moses gave you. Do not turn away from them, and you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of the Law continually. Meditate on it day and night so you may obey all that is written in it. Only then will you succeed. Do not be afraid or discouraged for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:7-9) 

It is good to read and study God’s words to Joshua at the start of the work God gave him. It is good to read and study God’s words at the start of our day, the start of a journey, a campaign, a new job, a new family, whatever we embark on. God’s promises stand forever. If we meditate on it and obey, we will be successful. There is nothing to fear because God promises to be with us. 

After Joshua experienced the truth of God’s word and promises, after the fall of Jericho, the victories against kings north, south, west and east of them, when the Lord had given the people rest from all their enemies, Joshua who was very old by then, called all the leaders and elders. He reminded them to obey all of God’s laws. “Be very careful to love the Lord your God. Honor Him and serve Him wholeheartedly. Deep in your hearts you know that every promise of the Lord your God has come true. Not a single one has failed!” (Joshua 23-24)

At the end of our lives, we too should be able to proclaim, “As for me and my household, we have served the Lord.” 

Friday, August 13, 2021

His Mercy Endures Forever

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, ​for His mercy endures forever…” Psalm 136:1

In High School I had to memorize a portion of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, the part where Portia proclaims, “The quality of mercy is not strained; It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. It is twice blest;

It blesseth him that gives and him that takes: ‘t is mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes the throned monarch better than his crown: His sceptre shows the force of temporal power...But mercy is above this sceptred sway; It is enthronèd in the hearts of kings, It is an attribute to God himself; And earthly power doth then show likest God's when mercy seasons justice.” 

Here Portia, disguised as a lawyer, is telling the court that Mercy must be freely given. It should not be constrained or forced. When we show mercy we not only bless the recipient, but ourselves as well. And when a powerful man shows mercy, he becomes most like God. 

Indeed all of us have greatly sinned against God by rebelling against Him. We were created in His image and to be in effect, “mirrors” of His glory. When we sin, we smudge that mirror. Romans 3:23 says, "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God." 

But no matter how smudged and dirty, and even broken our mirror is, God in His mercy can restore it for us. So great is His compassion and love for us, that when we come to Him for restoration, He will remove our transgressions “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12). 

Thursday, August 12, 2021

This Strange and Terrible Season

“You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.” Matthew 18:32

God is the same today as He was yesterday. In the Old Testament there are several accounts where God’s favored people were punished for their sins. God allowed their captivity or defeat, and even in modern times, the Jews were victims of the Holocaust. Is it because He wanted to bring them low? Is it because He did not want to forgive them? 

“For we are reduced, O Lord, beyond any other nation, brought low everywhere in the world this day because of our sins,” Azariah acknowledged when the Israelites became captives of the Babylonians. And he asked with a contrite and humble heart for God’s forgiveness for his people. We need to do the same. 

We are indeed brought low by this virus, that we cannot go about our regular busy lives. Our hospitals are filled with Covid patients. Our economy is in shambles. So many are hungry. We do not even begin to realize what this confinement is doing to our children’s mental health 

and well being. 

Are we able to look at this time, this strange and terrible season, with eyes of faith, and see the extraordinary gift God is giving us? This may be a time of purification, renewal, a strengthening of our faith. We need to stay home, that is true. But we also  have more time to pray, read the Bible and other books, be with family, clean and organize and find things to give away, indulge in our hobbies, find ways to connect with people in new ways, etc. 

God is calling us back to Him. We are His favorites as well, just like the Israelites. “The Lord disciplines those he loves, and He chastens everyone He accepts as His son." (Hebrews 12:6) Let us look for the ways we have disappointed Him and ask forgiveness. Perhaps there is some unforgiveness in our heart we need to root out. Perhaps there is envy, or condemnation, or perhaps we like to gossip. We need to bring it out to light and ask God’s mercy for our sins. And God is merciful and will blot out our transgressions FOR HIS OWN SAKE; and He will not remember our sins. (Isaiah 43:25)

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

For Where Two or Three are Gathered

"For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." 

Matthew 18:20

I have often quoted this verse when interceding for someone in a group. It's a comforting verse that says when there are two or more of us, Jesus is present. But we know that we don't need other people for Jesus to be with us! He is with us whether we are in a huge prayer rally or when we are alone in our prayer room at dawn. He is with us even when we are busy working or when we are asleep!

So what is this verse about? 

I may be wrong but it seems to be about judgement against sin. We need to be very careful about accusing others of sin. “Take one or two others with you, so that every fact may be established in the testimony of 2 or 3 witnesses," it says in verse 16 of the same passage. If we can't work out our problem between just two of us, best get other brothers and sisters to help out! And never talk behind each other’s back! 

Jesus also instructs in the same passage about how to behave towards an offending party: “If he refuses to listen to them, tell the Church. If he refuses to listen even to the Church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.” Lest we think we are supposed to shun him or shame him, we must remember how Jesus treated the tax collectors and Gentiles. Always with love, compassion and acceptance! 

Sound teaching! 

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Sow Bountifully

“Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will reap bountifully” 2 Corinthians 9:6

It is said the the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed (Matthew 13:31). Perhaps we are all given seeds to sow. Our words. Our deeds. Our money. Our talents. Our smiles. Our hugs. Our prayers. These are all seeds to build God’s Kingdom or even to destroy it. It is our choice. 

Dodie Osteen had something wrong with her two feet and she was very self-conscious about them. But one day, someone told her, “You walk like a princess!” And so ever since that time, she never forgot it and would walk with her head held high. Today at 85 years old, realishe continues to spread encouragement and healing to others. 

There was an overworked minister whose wife abandoned him, leaving their teenage daughter with him to care for. She was such a rebel, she would stay out late every night, provoking him to lecture to her all the time. His words fell on deaf ears, and he would pray and pray asking God what to do. One day when he was on his knees in despair, he heard God say to him, “Just love her.” That very night, when she came in late, he said nothing but just hugged her tightly. Every night after that, he hugged her tight. Today that young rebellious teenager now preaches the Word just like her daddy. 

What seeds are we sowing today?

Monday, August 09, 2021

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

“What  does the Lord, your God, ask of you but to fear the Lord, your God, and follow His ways exactly, to love and serve the Lord, your God, with all your heart and all your soul, to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord which I enjoin on you today for your own good?” Deuteronomy 10:12

I like reading about saints. They were ordinary people who loved God extraordinarily. Because of their love for God, they were able to fear the Lord (which really means to be in awe of Him), love and serve Him. Today is the Feast Day of a Jewish woman who became a Discalced Carmelite nun. She was murdered in the gas chamber in Auschwitz-Birkenau along with her sister Rosa, who was also a Carmelite nun. 

St. Edith Stein, also known as St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, rejected her family’s Jewish piety and became an atheist at the age of 13. In 1917, a colleague, Professor Adolf Reinach, was killed in the war. When Edith the Professor’s wife Anna, she was deeply impressed with Anna’s strong Christian faith and convictions. 

She started reading the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila and became drawn to the Catholic faith. After finishing the book, she  declared, “This is the truth!” She was baptized on January 1, 1922. She was very intelligent and she continued studying and writing. She translated the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas into German. Soon she became a teacher and lecturer around Europe about the role of Catholic women. 

When it became difficult to teach because of Nazi restrictions, she entered the Carmelites as Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. She devoted her life to holiness and self-offering even as the Nazis forced her to wear the Star of David over her habit. 

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross herself wrote, “I talked with the Savior and told Him that I knew that it was His cross that was now being placed on the Jewish people; that most of them did not understand this, but that those who did would have to take it up willingly in the name of all. I would do that. He should only show me how.”

Yes, Lord, show us how. 

Sunday, August 08, 2021

Living Bread

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” John 6:51 

God’s Word is creative and if He says, “Whoever eats this bread will live forever,” we better ask, “What can He mean? How do we eat Him if I want to live forever?” 

If we read it in the original Greek, Jesus uses the word “trogain” which means to GNAW, as a lion would eat the meat off the bones of its prey. “Unless you GNAW me, you will not have life within you.” This was very disgusting to the Jews because they were taught from childhood, from the Law and the Prophets, that they should never eat animal flesh with blood. Many followers left His side at this point. Did Jesus tell them, “Come back! I did not mean what you think! I only meant that you eat me symbolically!”? No! He let them go. 

In many ways the Old Testament prefigured the Holy Eucharist and the first Jewish Christians believed in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. They saw the Eucharist as the new Passover, the new manna from heaven and the new Bread of the Presence. Dr. Brant Pitre lectured about Jesus and the Jewish roots of the Eucharist. One of the points he brought out was that the mystery of the Trinity is foreshadowed in the tabernacle of Moses.

The 3 key symbols in the tabernacle, he said, were the Ark of the Covenant (God the Father), the lamp stand or the menorah with tongues of fire (Holy Spirit), and the gold table with the Bread of the Presence (Jesus). In the Jewish Talmud it says that at Passover, the priest would take the table from the holy place of the temple. And in the midst of the people, the priest would lift up the table with the bread and say, "Behold God's love ❤️ for you."

Thank You Lord for the bread that You give, Your flesh which You sacrificed to give us life and love! And thank You for choosing us to be your instruments to spread Your love to others!!!

Saturday, August 07, 2021

Faith as Small as a Mustard Seed

“Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20

Mountains are mentioned almost 570 times in the Bible, but the verses about mountains that intrigue me most are found in Mark 11:23, Matthew 21:21, and Matthew 17:20. In all these verses Jesus says that if we have faith even the size of a mustard seed, we can say to a mountain, "Move!" and it would move. We could say, "Melt!" and it would melt. Nothing would be impossible. Wouldn't we want a faith like that? I am sure there are many mountains we want to speak to. Mountains of cancer and so many kinds of sicknesses and addiction, financial need, broken relationships, etc. If only we could just say, "I rebuke you, tumor! Melt!", and it would disappear. And who would not want to make this mountain of Covid 19 to finally dissipate from the world’s horizon? 

I believe in everything Jesus said so it is not outside the realm of possibility for each of us to be able to do this. We do not need Jesus to come down and do the speaking for us. He wants us to learn from Him. In Romans 10:7, Saint Paul tells us that faith comes from listening to the Word of God. If we keep reading the Word aloud, we are making our faith grow. I like to not only read the Word, I like to listen to preaching and teaching on Youtube. I see my faith as a garden and I like to plant seeds of different kinds in my garden. 

I heard of this woman whose laptop, phone and iPod were stolen. She felt horrible but she had just listened to a talk and decided to practice what she heard. She decreed and declared that she wanted her laptop back, she wanted her iPhone back, she wanted her iPod back. Some days later, she received a call from a man who wanted to meet with her. "I'm the one who stole your things and I want to return it", he told her. They met at a coffee shop, and he said, "I was listening to a talk on your iPod. Bill Johnson's 'I want my life back', and I thought I should return your things." After that, the woman was able to bring the man to the Lord! 

Yes Lord, You work in mysterious ways! Teach me those ways Lord! I want to learn not only how to melt my mountains but I want to melt the mountains plaguing other people too!  

Friday, August 06, 2021

Insider Information

“This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” Mark 9:7

We celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord today. In a letter he wrote shortly before his death, Saint Peter reminisces about when he himself witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus. He writes that, “we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the power of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have seen His majestic splendor with our own eyes. And He received honor and glory from God the Father when God’s glorious, majestic voice called down from heaven, ‘This is my beloved Son. I am fully pleased with Him.’ We ourselves heard the voice when we were there with Him on the holy mountain.” 

Saint Peter continues, “Because of that, we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets. Pay close attention to what they wrote, for their words are like a light shining in a dark place...” (2 Peter 1:16-19)

This awesome experience made an incredible impact on the lives of Peter, James and John.  They each saw a glimpse of the glory beyond the cross. It was INSIDER INFORMATION and Saint Peter is telling us that, “We were EYEWITNESSES of His majesty! WE OURSELVES HEARD this voice from heaven!!! You HAVE to be attentive to this message!"

How urgent can that be? The message was so compelling that Saint Peter wanted to spread the message far and wide until he was martyred in Rome in the year 64 AD. Saint Peter said “Pay attention to what the prophets wrote.” Why? Saint Augustine said, “The New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.”

Are we paying attention? Are we listening? We are privileged to receive this insider information! Let us not let it go to waste!