Saturday, April 30, 2022

Stand for Truth

“Stephen, a man full of God's grace and power..." Acts 6:8

Saint Stephen was the first martyr of the Catholic faith. His story is short but very dramatic. When the Church was growing, there were some complaints that some widows were not getting their share of food. It was decided that the disciples would preach the Word, and seven men would be chosen to take care of food distribution. One of these men was Stephen. In Acts 6:8, Stephen is said to have performed "amazing miracles and signs". You would think more would have been written about this, but it is just one line, as if this was quite ordinary among the disciples of Jesus.

Apparently Stephen did not merely distribute bread to the members of the Church, or he would not have gotten himself into a whole lot of trouble. Jews from all over would debate with him, and he would be able to defend the faith with wisdom. Some men lied about what he said, and he was brought before the Sanhedrin. In John chapter 6, Jesus told the crowds to "NOT work for perishable food but for food that will last unto eternal life." Stephen made sure to follow what Jesus said. Even before the Sanhedrin, he spoke with conviction, filled with the Holy Spirit, about God's plan through the ages. This infuriated the Jewish leaders and they dragged Stephen out of the city and stoned him. This does not happen today. But are we brave enough to stand up for truth, even if we will get stoned with criticism or censure? Do we make sure what we say is backed by facts and the decisions we make are based on truth, and not by disinformation or even malinformation? Are we willing to spread God's Word in a skeptical world, in the middle of a group of friends who would ridicule us, perhaps? 

Friday, April 29, 2022

Easter Faith

“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” John 6:9

I am sure many of us are praying for a miracle. I certainly am, and I am pestering God night and day for a miracle for my brother to get healed, and for a change for good in our country. Sometimes we do not see, even if God is already giving us a miracle. For my brother, many doctors have already told him, “We don’t know why you are still alive.” When there is life, there is hope, while he is trying another protocol.

For our country, I am constantly amazed at the unfolding signs around us. It took one woman to say yes to God’s call after she prayed and discerned. I am sure it was an extremely difficult decision. But I think she had God’s promise that if she made a stand, others would stand with her. And true enough, many are making a stand, many are contributing with zeal and passion whatever they can to what has become a peoples’ campaign. 

Like the little boy with five barley loaves and two fish, we give what we have into the Lord’s hand for His blessing. And lo and behold, it multiplies! So many volunteers preparing lugawans in street corners, baking pink bread to give away, putting stickers on water bottles and pink biscuit packs to hand out to riders. We buy collaterals with our own money, bimpos for tricycle drivers, aprons for market vendors, arm sleeves for riders, tarps, caps and tshirts and of course fans and leaflets to give out during house to house campaigns and walking rallies. In my parish, they have story telling activities for children and their parents, where they give out prizes for the correct answers to questions. They have dancing contests as well. So much inventiveness in this crusade. 

How I marvel at the inspiration and creativity that has been unleashed in the recent few months. It’s like a renaissance of the arts! Poems, paintings, sculptures, murals, graphic design elements generously given free to use, books, and songs! So many beautiful songs! And wonderful artists collaborating and sharing their gifts so willingly without asking for anything in return. Even if I’m not really into rock bands and singers, I’m delighted that there’s a growing interest in OPM. And how about those rallies which start out by a call for donations because there’s no political machinery to set it up? 

We see a glimpse of how beautiful our country can be when we are generous, and kind, and willing to part with our time, talent and treasure because we love our country and have hope for the future. Father, how good You are to us! Thank You for the “Easter faith” You put in our hearts to see the work You are doing in our midst. 

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Obey God

“Better for us to obey God than man!” 

Acts 5:29

Many people today obey man rather than God for different reasons- expediency, political correctness in the name of tolerance, money, popularity, convenience, selfishness, etc. The apostles were different. Even in the face of death, arrest, or jail, they stood their ground.  “We must obey God rather than men!” Where did they get their courage and strength?

They knew Jesus, they were witnesses, and they had the helper Jesus sent, the Holy Spirit. Sometimes people think it is easier to follow the ways of the world. An unwanted child in the womb? Get rid of it. A tax problem? Give grease money. Caught in dilemma? Lie. Lie. Lie. Follow the path of least resistance. It is not easy to obey God’s laws. That is what the world wants us to think. But that is only when God is out of the equation. 

God is bigger than our problems, our dilemmas, any trouble facing us. I confess that I can be anxious about even the most absurd things, but sometimes it is not absurd at all, like a few months into the pandemic when we realized it was not going to end soon.

One of our employees was telling us yesterday that her friends would ask her what will happen to our business. It will probably close because we are not selling essential items. But our staff said she held on to God’s faithfulness, knowing He will take care of us. She quoted from Matthew 5:45, “He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” It is only when we stop worrying and go back to God’s promises that we can relax. 

“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess. 5:18) “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Phil. 4:6) “With God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26). 

Like the Apostles, we can know Jesus by reading about Him, talking to Him and listening to Him, and following His wise ways. And with the Holy Spirit, we can be victorious and obey Him rather than men.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

God’s Love

“God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.” John 3:16

The story of the prophet Hosea is amazing. The Talmud, the central text of Rabbinic Judaism, of which the Torah is part, calls Hosea the greatest prophet of his generation. And he is the only Jewish prophet who left any written prophecy.

What is amazing is God told him, this shy bachelor, to marry this beautiful woman Gomer. But God also told him that she would be unfaithful. In spite of that, Hosea, like any obedient prophet, went and wooed Gomer, loved her, and had three children with her. It went downhill after that because she left him for a succession of men. He had to rescue her from slavery and bought her at an auction for fifteen pcs. of silver and a bushel of barley!

This story of a love so great and forgiving foreshadows the story of God's love for us.

God is always asking us to return to Him. In spite of our sins and unfaithfulness, God says to us, "Return to me, your sins have been your downfall. But only return and ask me to forgive your sins, and I will heal your waywardness and love you freely. I will turn away my wrath and be like dew to you. You will blossom and bear fruit." (Hosea 14:2-10)

"That is the story of the Bible isn't it? At Bethlehem God entered the slave market  where the whole human race was putting itself up for auction, prostituting itself and its humanity to a cheapened life. But on the cross the Lord Jesus paid the price, the full price for our freedom, and bought us back. This is the story of God's love and God's heart -- His loving desire to make of His people the full persons He intended them to be." (Ray Stedman) 

“I took you in my arms; I drew you with cords of kindness, love and heart is overwhelmed..." (Hosea 11:3,8)

This is God saying He loves us, He loves us, He loves us!!! It's a crazy love, an unimaginable love! Imagine a billionaire saying he would exchange his magnificent mansion for our hovel, his unlimited bank account for our meager savings. The Great Exchange! And it has already been offered to us!

Jesus says to us, "I'll take your poverty and give you My riches. I'll take your sin and trade it for My righteousness. I came into your decaying world to give you eternity!"

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Son of Encouragement

“There was a certain Levite from Cyprus named Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (meaning 'son of encouragement')." Acts 4:36

What's in a name? This man Joseph must have been a real encourager to merit a change of name from the apostles! Sometimes God changes names in the Bible, but it's because of a future mission, like Simon to Peter (the Rock), or Abram to Abraham (father of many nations), Sarai to Sarah (Mother of many nations), Jacob to Israel (having power with God), etc. The name change had something to do with what God would make of that person. But in the case of Barnabas, the apostles called him Barnabas because of what Barnabas already was. He embodied the spirit of encouragement.

 After Saul was converted to the Christian way, and others were still skeptical about him, and avoided him, it was Barnabas who befriended and defended him. (Luke 9:26-27) He really gave Paul a chance to grow in leadership as he asked Paul to co-pastor with him in Antioch. (Acts 11:25-26) Paul and Barnabas undertook many missionary journeys. Barnabas also sold his land and gave the money to the apostles to distribute to those in need. Barnabas also liked giving people another chance, he didn't give up on them. Although Paul did not want to work with John Mark again as he had deserted them in a missionary journey, Barnabas insisted he would go with John Mark to Cyprus after a sharp disagreement with Paul. This only shows saints aren't perfect! These are real people who get disappointed, who need to work through disagreements, and fail in some way or another. And that's why we need encouragers like Barnabas!

Let's work towards a Barnabas spirit of encouragement! The Church needs more people to build others up, and bring out the best in others!

Monday, April 25, 2022

Prowling Lion

“Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your brothers and sisters throughout the world undergo the same sufferings.” 1 Peter 5:8-9

Not many people believe in the devil today, and that is exactly what this wily enemy wants. He wants us to scoff, “What? The devil? That fictional character our parents used to scare us with?” The more he is hidden in the dark, the more powerful he is. That is where he thrives, in darkness. He likes to manipulate our thoughts, and win in the battle for our minds. 

I read this true story of a man who got stuck in a refrigerator car when all his factory mates went home to celebrate a birthday. He got frantic while pounding on the walls because he believed the refrigerator car was plugged in and he would freeze to death. When he was found the next day, sure enough, the hospital report concluded he died from freezing. The odd thing was the refrigerator car was not even connected to the power supply.

The mind is a powerful thing and the devil knows how to manipulate it. I remember when my late brother-in-law, Jing, used to tell me that thoughts are like a mad dog. If you let it just roam free, it will go all over the place and can wreak destruction. We have to rein it in right away, and keep the leash tight. If we are anxious, depressed, or confused, we should not let our minds wander into places that will makes us even more morose. The Bible says, “Finally, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)

Sunday, April 24, 2022

It is the Lord!

It is the Lord!” John 21:7

After Jesus’ death, Simon Peter decided to go back to his fishing. This shows me that he was not yet aware of what Jesus wanted him to do. Thomas, Nathanael, James, John, and two other disciples went to go fishing with him as well. But they caught nothing, zilch.

Despondent, they rowed back to shore and caught sight of Jesus but they did not recognize Him. “Children, did you catch any fish?” When they answered no, Jesus told them, “Throw out the net on the right-hand side of the boat and  you’ll get plenty of fish.” They obeyed and went back to shore. 

John was the first to recognize Jesus. “It is the Lord!” He cried. It was curious to me that they had obeyed Jesus even when they did not know who He was. They were that desperate. They got a big catch. That was a miracle in itself because how could they find so much fish in shallow water? Another curious thing about this story is that when Jesus asked for the fish, only Peter dragged the net from the boat to the shore. They had caught 153 large fish and yet the net was not broken. 

This event is clearly a foreshadowing of the work of Jesus’ followers. We are called to be fishers of men. We will only be successful even in the shallow water of our own inadequacies, if we follow His leading as the disciples did. The net is a symbol of God’s church and the 153 counted fish? We are each, everyone one of us, counted, important, precious in God’s eyes. 

Peter alone dragged the net to Jesus because Peter had a special role to lead the fledgling Church. After the meal of bread and fish, Jesus told Peter to take care of and feed His sheep. The people Jesus chose to start His Church show me that God does not choose the best and the brightest. He doesn’t select great speakers, or even the nicest people. They all had faults and weaknesses but they were willing to rely on Him and follow Him. If we are willing to do that, He will use us. 


“Do not persist in your unbelief, but believe!” John 20:27

We could read this as, “Do not perish in your unbelief, but believe.” Let us put ourselves in Saint Thomas’ shoes, or as he is most commonly called, “Doubting Thomas”. When he was told by the disciples that they had seen Jesus, he adamantly proclaimed the famous line, “Unless I shall see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” 

Thomas was not at the crucifixion but he certainly heard all the gruesome details from an eyewitness. The imprint of the nails, and the piercing of the sword at the side of Jesus became so concrete to him, that not even the testimony of the disciples that they saw the risen Lord, convinced him that Jesus was alive! How about us? What keeps us from believing in the power of Jesus to change lives and hearts, transform circumstances for our good and perform miracles? 

In Matthew 13:58, we see that Jesus was not able to perform many miracles in His hometown because His neighbors were skeptical. Perhaps we are too much like Jesus’ neighbors. We grew up with all the Bible stories. They are too familiar to us. We are not new believers, excited and eager to delve deeper into the Word, to dig into the truth.  

How do we get out of this mindset? I think it is as easy as asking Jesus to reveal Himself in a new way to us. Just as Jesus showed Himself to Thomas, and said, “Reach here your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing,” He can reveal Himself to us in a unique way. 

If we just open up a little, and allow Jesus in, He will meet us where we are. 

They Refused to Believe

 "...they refused to believe it." Mark 16:11

The writer of the Gospel of Mark is John Mark, who traveled with the apostle Paul. When he settled in Rome, he wrote down Peter's recollections of Jesus' life. The last chapter of his writings are a short summary of what happens after Jesus' death, 

starting from when the women discover the empty tomb. The disciples did not believe Mary Magdalene when she delivered the news that Jesus was alive. Neither did they believe Cleopas and his companion when they reported seeing Jesus on the way to Emmaus.

Jesus then appeared to them and rebuked them for their disbelief- “their stubborn refusal to believe". Do you think Jesus is frustrated with the disciples here? Disappointed? Is He thinking they are hopeless? He can't depend on them? That they can't be trusted with the mission He wants to give them?

On the contrary, right after rebuking them, He says, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the good news to everyone, everywhere." I can imagine Jesus being frustrated with a lot of us! We are being given so much! We are entrusted with so much treasure in His Word. What do we do with it? But then I know, because I see it in my own life, that no matter how much I fail, Jesus never gives up on me. He still gives and gives and gives! Every day, He opens up His treasure chest. And every day, we just need to be still, listen, and trust in His Holy Spirit to help us accomplish the mission He has for each of us. 

Thursday, April 21, 2022

God Cares

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

According to the United Nations the current world population is estimated at 7.9 billion as of April 2022 with the Philippines contributing 112,321,991 people to that number as of January this year.

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

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

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

Yes, God cares. He cares about what we care about. It's mind boggling to think that God would care about one man in 7.9 billion people, that He sent Beth to untangle his hair so he would feel he was presentable to see his bride. 

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

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

See Thee More Clearly

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

In the 20th chapter of John, we can accompany Mary as she proceeds to Jesus’ tomb early on a Sunday morning, after waiting for the Sabbath to end. We can expect her to be weeping as she approaches the tomb, but she notices the stone is rolled away. There are two angels in white sitting at both sides of the stone where Jesus’ body would have been. When the angels ask why she is weeping, she answers perplexed, “Where have they taken my Lord?” 

As if that was not supernaturally dramatic enough, she turns and sees Jesus without recognizing Him. She thinks Jesus is a gardener! “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him!” she accuses. When Jesus says her name, “Mary!”, she finally recognizes Him, and says in awe, “Rabbouni,” which is Hebrew for teacher. 

Many times we do not recognize Jesus. I am sure He has visited us many times. Is it not that He said, “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:40) Sometimes He comes to us in the poorest of the poor, in the sick, in the weary, and the hopeless. When we do something for them, for an orphan, a typhoon victim, a prisoner, we can be sure we do it for Jesus. And although we do not call them “Rabbouni”, the poor, the sick, the disabled, they can all teach us something profound. We can be transformed if we open our hearts to God’s proddings. God’s ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts, but if we care to learn His ways and His thoughts, He will train us in all sorts of unique means. 

This Easter season, may we ask God for the grace to “see Thee more clearly, love Thee more dearly, follow Thee more nearly, day by day”.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

The Empty Tomb

“At daybreak on the first day of the week the women who had come from Galilee with Jesus took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb; but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.” 

Luke 24:1-3

The belief in the empty tomb, that Jesus rose from the dead is indispensable to being a Christian. If we don't believe that, we might as well not be a Christian. Very early on Sunday morning, the women went to the tomb, fully expecting to use the burial spices they had brought to put on Jesus' body. But instead they found that the stone had been rolled away. It was a very large stone, very heavy, and they discussed this puzzle for a while.

You can imagine how frightened and bewildered these women were. They were already in such a mix of emotions at what had happened to their beloved Jesus, and now this! Even the men dared not visit the tomb until the women told the implausible story of the empty tomb. They were all so afraid for their life, that this is proof that the story of the empty tomb is true. Why would timid, frightened people become suddenly so brave and committed, ready to face opposition from the powerful Roman leaders ?

"German theologian David Strauss first advanced a theory nobody has been able to refute since 1835. A person in Jesus' pathetic condition would never have inspired his disciples to go out and proclaim that He is Lord of Life who triumphed over the grave. They wouldn't have started a worldwide movement based on the hope that they too would have a resurrection body like His." (p. 271, Case for Christ by Lee Strobel)

Theologian Gerald Collins said: "In a profound sense, Christianity without the resurrection is not simply Christianity without its final chapter. It is not Christianity at all."

"I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me,” Chuck Colson wrote. “How?  Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Every one was beaten, tortured, stoned and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren't true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world-and they couldn't keep a lie for three weeks. You're telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible!"

The resurrection is the very basis, the very heart, the rock of our Christian faith. Today we celebrate that Jesus is risen, He is risen indeed!!

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Holy Saturday

There is no mass offered today, so no dedicated daily readings. We are waiting, like Mary the mother of Christ, the disciples, and the women, in silence and stillness for something to happen. 

Perhaps we wait for some explanation, some clarity, about what really happened on Good Friday. How can God die? The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche famously stated that “Gott ist tot”. “God is dead”. He claimed that because of the Enlightenment, the so called “Age of Reason”, the possibility that God exists was eliminated. 

Today, we see how many prefer to live their lives as if God does not exist. We do not want to be “controlled” by old fashioned values, we prefer a truth that is relative, and we want our minds to be unfettered. We choose to put our faith in our capabilities, talents and resources. When before it was commonplace to believe in a personal God, these days it is a radical notion. Or we see people who want to compartmentalize God. When I make comments on social media about how I am praying that people will see the truth, or that I want God to intervene in what is happening in our country, I get many comments to the effect that I should just relegate God to Church, and I should not include God in conversations.

But God can not be stuffed into a box of our own making. He is the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords. No matter what people think or say, God will be victorious. We need only to watch and anticipate with hope, a palpable hope that beats with every thump of our heart. And so in silence, we wait. 

Friday, April 15, 2022

Future Full of Hope

 "Jesus washed the disciples's feet..." 

John 13:16 

Jesus told them that they ought to do the same, it was their duty as His followers. In Jesus' day, people would provide water or a servant to wash feet to make guests comfortable. What would constitute washing feet today? 

Perhaps anything that would make someone feel accepted, loved, and appreciated.  Anxiety, loneliness, fear, grief, and insecurity can stick like dust and may be washed by a kind word, a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, prayer or concrete help or act of service. 

How can we be Jesus to someone today? How can we help others see their future full of hope?

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Faith that Sees Beyond

“Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” Matthew 26:21

As we near the climax of the Lenten season, we accompany Jesus as He journeys toward His crucifixion. In John chapter 13, He very clearly shows He knows what is to befall Him. He gives the disciples a lesson on servanthood as He washes their feet. “This is the path of blessing.” 

In great anguish, He reveals, “One of you will betray me!” Judas left abruptly. Then Jesus talks about the new commandment He gives to them: Love one another as I have loved you. Your love will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” Peter then bravely pronounces that he was ready to die for Jesus. “Die for me? Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me!” Jesus revealed. 

Sometimes we are like Judas, betraying Jesus when we sin against Him. Sometimes we are like Peter, desiring with all our heart to lay down our life for the Lord, and then denying Him with our words to others in the world. Are we brave enough to stand up for Jesus? 

We have to build up our faith because the time is coming when we will have to be brave just to stand on the side of truth and righteousness. During the Holocaust, a Pastor is memorialized in Corrie ten Boom’s story. When the ten Boom family was helping to save a Jewish baby from being killed, the Pastor dissuaded them asking how could they put their lives in danger for one baby. “You will all be killed!” 

Corrie’s 85 year old father, Casper, answered, “It would be an honor to die for God’s ancient people!” He and his family continued to aid the Jews to escape until they were arrested. He died in Scheveningen Prison 10 days after his arrest. Casper ten Boom and his family had a faith that sees beyond suffering, pain and trials. How bout us? 

Monday, April 11, 2022

Small Things with Great Love

“Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages and given to the poor?” 

John 12:5

Jesus was in Bethany in the house of his friends Lazarus, Martha and Mary. While Jesus was reclining at the table, Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. Spikenard during Bible times was used to anoint those of high honor, and symbolized the very best, like the “gold standard” does today. 

Because it was very expensive, perhaps worth 3 years’ wages, Judas Iscariot was indignant. “It could have been sold and the money given to the poor!” What he did not realize was that whatever we give to Jesus will never be wasted. Our time, our money, our resources, our gifts and talents.  Whatever we give, He will use and multiply a hundredfold. 

Some people may think time in prayer, time spent reading the Bible, is a waste of time.

But that is because they do not see invisible things!

Many people thought Mother Teresa was wasting her life on the poorest of the poor. But she was really wasting her life on Jesus. “Each one of them is Jesus in disguise,” she declared.  "If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one." And then one of my favorites: “In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love."

Are we wasting our life doing small things with great love? We also should remember that just as the fragrance of the spikenard remained on Mary’s hands and hair, when we love extravagantly, do good generously, we too are left with happy feelings and experience less stress. 

Each one of us is unique and precious and has a role in building the kingdom of heaven. Lord, may I do my very best with the small things you have given me to do. May I not count it as a waste when I give my time, talent and treasure to Your work. 

Never Give Up

“I tell you, Peter, before the cock crows this day, you will deny three times that you know Me.” Luke 22:34

“Though all may have their faith in You shaken, mine will never be," Peter said this to Jesus in, I imagine, a firm decisive manner (Matthew 26:33). But as we all know he betrayed Jesus three times. The great difference between Peter and Judas is that Judas gave up and did not repent. He was so filled with guilt and remorse and who knows what else! 

As we enter into Holy Week, I look to Peter. Like Peter I have betrayed Jesus many times. I can be impatient and unkind, and one of the worst thing Jesus hates, judgmental! But Jesus knows our weaknesses and forgives us, even if we find it hard to forgive ourselves! We just need to never give up and look to Him to be washed clean.

Thank You Lord for never giving up on us, for allowing Yourself to be forsaken by Your Father so we wouldn't be! Thank You for the example of all the weak men like Peter and the saints, who did not give up, but when they turned to you for strength and forgiveness, were able to go on victoriously!

Saturday, April 09, 2022

The Heart of God

“I will turn their mourning into joy, ​I will console and gladden them after their sorrows.” Jeremiah 31:13

I read about this lady named Hu Xinglian. She is a professional mourner, a "kusangren", who is hired to ensure that a Chinese funeral is noisy with cries and wailing. She even comes with her own sound system, six members of her band and multi colored spotlights. After all the impassioned sobbing, there is a lot of festivities. I do not think this is what God had in mind when He pronounced through the prophet Jeremiah that, “I will turn their mourning into joy…”

I think if we can see deep into the heart of God, there is a lot of grief. Grief over the many sins and failures of man. And so, if we want to connect with our Father, we should grieve and mourn for that which He grieves and mourns over. Our personal sins. The sins of our leaders. The aggression in Ukraine, the plight of the refugees pouring into Poland, the hunger in Haiti, etc. The number of lives lost to abortion, cancer, people destroyed by drug addiction, broken marriages…

After all these, God promises comfort, consolation, yes even joy. In Revelation 21:4, the promise is, "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." Do we take this promise for ourselves, for us personally? 

We can take the words in Ezekiel 37, our first reading for today, and allow God to break into our life and speak to us: “I will deliver you from all your sins, and cleanse you so that you may be my people and I may be your God….I will make with you a covenant of peace; it shall be an everlasting covenant with you, …and I will put my sanctuary among you forever. My dwelling shall be with you, I will be your God, and you shall be my people.” 

Yes Lord, even as we grieve for these "former things", we look forward to the day that there will be no more pain. Thank You for Your promises, and Your mercy, grace, and truth we can depend on. 

Friday, April 08, 2022

Mighty Champion

“The Lord is with me, like a mighty champion..." Jeremiah 20:11

Who does not need a champion? I think we all do! Here in the Philippines, we are going to have our Presidential elections in 31 days. It seems clear comparing the two front runners who has the better track record, who has been serving the people for several years ever since she was young and not into politics, who has no stain of corruption, and who many many experts say will be able to get our country back on track. Unfortunately the other candidate has resorted to misinformation, lies and deception. Even a Hong Kong newspaper published an article about how “Filipinos fall for fake history”. We need a champion on our side if we are to be saved from our enemies. 

We need to know God as our champion so that we can become winners ourselves. The story of Esther Ahn Kim is a powerful testimony of a person who knew God as her champion and was never defeated even when she was thrown into prison for 6 years. Like the Old Testament heroes, she refused to worship at the shrines to the sun god set up by the Japanese during their occupation of Korea in WWII. She prepared for her impending incarceration by eating decaying food and memorizing the Bible and many hymns. She knew she would be tortured so she prayed so as not to be afraid. “I knew it would be impossible for me to keep my faith in my own power,” Esther wrote later. “God would have to work through me if I was to stand firm. I decided to fast.” 

In prison, she ministered to many people. Murderers, swindlers and other criminals got to know Christ through her witnessing to them and serving them with compassion. After she was freed, her story of faith became the all-time religious bestseller in Korea. 

Indeed Lord, You are always with us. Thank You for answering our prayers, for showing us we can depend on You. May You teach us also to be Your soldiers, Your ambassadors, Your champions where You need us. 

Thursday, April 07, 2022

In God’s Heart and Mind

 "You and your descendants after you must keep my covenant throughout the ages." Genesis 17:9

Covenant. What is a covenant? It is an agreement, a commitment, a pledge. When Abraham was 99 years old, God told Abraham that He was El-Shaddai. He invited Abraham to walk with Him, and be trustworthy. And God, the Creator of the Universe, gave many amazing promises to Abraham. Kings will come from his line. Land. Blessing.

If we search the Bible, there are many promises that we too, as children of Abraham, may claim. As Paul writes to the Galatians in Chapter 3:7, "Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham." "If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Gal. 3:9) We are heirs, and as heirs, we have an inheritance we can claim. The term "gold digger" has a negative connotation, but if we mine the Bible for promises we can lay hold on, we are like gold diggers. The only difference is, we are sure to find treasure! We don't want to be "strangers from the covenant of promise" (Eph. 2:12), do we? But that is exactly what we will be if we are without Christ. The promise to Abraham of universal blessing is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. It is amazing if we are able to fully grasp that when God invited Abraham to walk with Him, we were in God's mind and heart as well. God said, "I will always keep the promise I have made to you and your descendants, because I am your God and their God." (Gen. 17:7) How wonderful that we have a promise-keeping God!

Idols of Today

“Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who sent his angel to deliver the servants that trusted in Him..." Daniel 3:28

For each martyr or saint that God saves from death, there are probably hundreds of thousands that He doesn't and prefers to bring home to Him. In this story of Daniel, the King Nebuchadnezzar made a gold statue 90 feet tall and 9 feet wide, and he commanded that everyone bow down to it at the sound of a musical instrument. Anyone who doesn't would be thrown into a blazing furnace.

When it was found out that some Jews put in charge of Babylon defied this order, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were then called before the King. "Is this true?" the King asked, "I will throw you immediately into the furnace! What god can save you from my power?!"

But the three obstinately refused to bow down, saying, "Our God whom we serve can save us. But even if He doesn't, Your majesty can be sure we will not worship the golden statue you set up." 

Today there are no golden statues we are ordered to bow down to. We will not be thrown into a furnace if we do not follow a King's orders. The ways of the enemy are much more subtle. What are the idols today? Can it be ourselves? If we put ourselves before God than we are our own idol. If we reject God and His commandments, making our own rules and following our own path, if our purpose and goal is self-fulfillment and satisfaction without regard for our neighbors, can we say that we are not our own god? I am not exempt from this tendency.

I keep hoarding more and more things like the man in the Luke 12 who thought to build bigger storehouses for his crops. But I do not have time enough to make use of all that I have! Jesus ended His parable with the wise instruction: "Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God!"

Lord, may I realize my many follies. Teach me to put You first and to stop doing the things that bring me farther away from You.