Wednesday, November 30, 2022

New Beginning

“Come after me, says the Lord, and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19 

God calls each one of us in a different way. He is very creative. Simon and Andrew were casting a net into the sea to catch fish when Jesus called them both. At once, the gospel account reads, they left their nets to follow him. Sometimes God calls and we delay and delay and delay. Other times, it takes a miracle. 

In 2015, in the What’s New Worship center, the congregation was shocked at the testimony of their usually quiet sound man and musician. James Quentin Stevens revealed that in the afternoon of Nov. 10, 1982, he had held ten people hostage in Braddock Secondary School with a high-powered Mossberg hunting rifle. He had taken no lives but had been shooting at the ceiling. He described the attack as “demonic possession”, because he could hear voices telling him to kill the hostages and to kill himself. He put the gun in his mouth, and a woman on the floor shouted that he needn’t kill himself as he hadn’t killed anyone. 

Then he described an “out of body moment” when a hand clothed in a white robe reached out to him. He took the hand and he said, “I was saved. Peace came that I’d been looking for all my life,” he said, “All I did was touch this hand.” He was sentenced to 4 and a half years in prison and three years of community service. He was released early after two and a half years. 

The great thing about James’ story is that he can keep telling it again and again. “It’s the beginning,” he said. “Just when you think God is done with us, it’s the beginning.” With God, every day is a new beginning! 

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

God’s Kindness

“Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.” Luke 10:23-24

Father, help us to see with Your eyes, and to understand with Your heart. I know this is well nigh impossible, but perhaps with the gifts of the Spirit, we can achieve this little by little. Mother Teresa is my model here, she who said she was just a little pencil in God’s hand. Mother Teresa could not have loved the way she loved, hugging people with maggots nibbling at their flesh, visiting rat infested hovels, and even not being intimidated at all the high ranking people she had to talk to. Her focus really was on the purpose God gave her to do. Her eyes were on the prize. 

How about us? Perhaps for Advent we need to take time to assess if we are accomplishing here on earth what our Father wants us to do? Whatever it is, it should always be done with love. That is what Mother Teresa would advise:

“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”

Perhaps we have big dreams, a vision and mission that is far beyond our comfort zone. That is all very well, just let us never forget to always “see” the people Jesus loves and do for them what needs to be done. Mother Teresa said that if we give ourselves fully to God, He will use us to accomplish great things on condition that we believe much more in His love than in our own weakness. 

Monday, November 28, 2022

I am not Worthy

“Lord, I am not worthy to have You enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.”…When Jesus heard this, He was amazed and said, “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.” 

Matthew 8:5-11

The centurion from Capernaum did not call upon his Roman gods and goddesses to heal his servant. He also did not demand that Jesus take care of his servant. He is a perfect example for us on how to approach Jesus, in faith and humility. “Lord, I am not worthy,” he declared. We are all unworthy. We do not deserve God’s favor, or special attention. Much less are we entitled to all that Jesus won for us on Calvary’s cross! 

This Advent it will be good to take time to study in a deeper way why God made us (my son thinks we will only know this when we die and we ask God Himself), why He loves us even if we are so foolish and easily misled like sheep, why He died on the cross for us, why He delays almost all the time (it took years before He kept His promise to Abraham, David, the Jews, and now we keep waiting for Him to come again!), and anything else we want to know. 

It is actually good to ask God questions. I ask God questions all the time and He answers. Yesterday morning He said if I wait on Him, I guess wait on His answers, He will show me many things, even terrifying in wondrousness (I didn’t think there was such a word, but God can say anything He likes!) I do believe He is eager and very disposed to answer us. We will be in good company if we do this, as King David did it all the time.

“One thing have I asked of the Lord, that I will seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to INQUIRE in His temple.” (Psalm 27:4) We can read about what King David pondered about in the Psalms as he had a very close relationship with God, in spite of his many sins. 

If we have doubts that God will answer us, we can just look to His Word and know that we have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16), and that in John 10:27, we have Jesus’ assurance that, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” 

Sunday, November 27, 2022

City on a Hill

“Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain, ​to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in His ways, ​and we may walk in His paths.” Isaiah 2:3

It is sad and pitiful that even as we boast of being Asia’s only Christian nation, not many people would say, “Come let us go to the Philippines, that the Filipinos may instruct us in their ways, and walk in their paths.” We are a Christian majority in our country, with more than 79.9% Roman Catholic, 2.68 % Evangelicals, and 1.16 % belonging to various Protestant denominations. Unfortunately, one cannot say we are a good example to other nations as we elect extremely corrupt leaders. Based on the results of past elections, we do not seem to value honesty, integrity, accountability, and people who work hard to serve the poor. 

As Christians, Jesus admonishes us to be a light shining in the darkness, a city set on a hill, doing good works (Matthew 5:14-16). We should be the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:23). Why salt? It is used for preserving food, and enhancing the taste of dishes. In ancient times, when there were no refrigerators, one of the ways the people preserved their food was to salt it. Bacteria and other microorganisms cannot survive a salt concentration of more than 10%, so meat was cured by rubbing a mixture of salt into pork, then storing it. The meat was then protected from decay and putrefaction. 

As Christians, even if the environment all around us shows a breakdown of values, we should bring salt and light into our little corner of the world. We are clearly called to be not of the world even if we live in it. We should try to influence, and improve the neighborhoods we live in, the communities we are part of, the offices we work in, and especially the families we are born into. 

Advent is a perfect time to bring the love of Christ into everything we do. I just saw a picture on Facebook of a courier who was crying. Do we thank the guys who deliver our packages, maybe give them something, even if it’s just a pack of coffee? How about talking to the person next in line to us to say maybe her dress is nice, it really fits her? Let’s use our creativity to encourage others, to give them hope. I like praying for strangers on Facebook. What can we do to be light and salt to others each and every day of Advent? If we are able to do it for Advent, even in small ways, perhaps it can become a habit for a lifetime! 

“Do not worry if all the candles in the world flicker and die. We have the spark that starts the fire.” (Rumi)

“How far that little candle throws his beams, So shines a good deed in a weary world.”(William Shakespeare) 

“All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.” (Francis of Assisi) 

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Be Vigilant

Jesus said to his disciples: “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life…Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.” Luke 21:34-36

I did not know that our hearts may become drowsy from our daily anxieties! In the Amplified version, this is what it says: “But be on guard, so that your hearts are not weighed down and depressed with the giddiness of debauchery and the nausea of self-indulgence and the worldly worries of life…” In other versions, the word used for ‘drowsy’ are overcharged, overburdened, dulled, oppressed, laden, loaded down, clouded and made heavy. 

I guess that is why we have to be vigilant, alert, always on the watch, because anxieties are ever present. They are like the packages brought to our homes by Lazada. Sometimes we order them for ourselves even if we don’t need it! Sometimes we open other people’s packages. 

I know this is oversimplifying but with me, what works best is prayer. At the beginning and while the pandemic progressed, I was overwhelmed with anxiety for my brother who had been hospitalized. I was also thinking so much about how our business could survive, and how to provide for our employees. Then we were praying for so many people battling COVID, brothers and sisters in our community, their families, friends, friends of friends, priests and nuns, so many serious cases. Some even died 😭 I got palpitations thinking about the immensity of the situation. That is when my sisters and I started praying together. We were in different homes, and one sister was in Tokyo, but we prayed together every morning and never missed a day. My palpitations stopped, and I was able to see things from God’s point of view. 

We have to remember that anxiously thinking of all the things that can go wrong is not how to make things go right! 

Friday, November 25, 2022

No Fool

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” Luke 21:33

When Jesus said this, He had just been prophesying about warning signs of the end of the world: great upheavals in the heavens, wars, disasters, pestilence, famine, persecution and confusion. We can count on these happening because Jesus said so. As a matter of observation, many of these are happening now. But apart from Jesus’ prophecies about the end times, what is more important for us to heed are His guidance and instructions on how we are to live. Many saints have lived their whole lives trying to obey God and deemed it worth sacrificing their life doing so.

St. Catherine of Alexandria, whose feast day we celebrate today, converted to Christianity at the age of fourteen. As the daughter of the governor of Alexandria, she was part of the nobility. She not only studied the gospel, she also preached it all throughout Alexandria. She rebuked the Emperor Maxentius for persecuting the Christians and the emperor gathered 50 learned pagan philosophers to invalidate her beliefs. But young Catherine converted many of them, and even Maxentius’ wife, with the wisdom of God. She was martyred at the age of 18 in the early fourth century. 

I am reminded of what missionary Jim Elliot wrote in his diary on Oct. 28, 1949, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Jim was a young relatively unknown young man when he followed God’s call to evangelize the Quechua Indians of Ecuador. Jim Elliot also became a martyr, and all because he believed in God’s Word which will never pass away. 

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Thanksgiving Day

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving, ​his courts with praise; Give thanks to him; bless his name.” Psalm 100:4

Today our American and Canadian brethren celebrate Thanksgiving Day. We should actually be thankful every single day. There are so many positive emotional, social, physical, and mental health impacts of being grateful. I was just listening to a doctor on the TV yesterday who said that so many young people have mental health issues because of the pandemic. He said his schedule is so full as he has to deal with so many disorders ever since the lock downs. This affects not only young people who usually crave connections and interactions with others their own age, but also those who are older and more mature. 

Appreciating what we have can lead to more intimate and connected relationships, motivation and engagement, and less depression, according to Dr. Gail Saltz, a psychoanalyst at Cornell Medical Center. Our outlook becomes more optimistic and satisfied and our mood becomes more upbeat. Thanking God for our many gifts can give us more self-confidence and self-esteem and this can diminish feeling frustrated or envious when things don’t go as we want it to.

It may sound simplistic, but if we think about what we are thankful for before we sleep, better yet have a notebook where we list our blessings, perhaps even number them, most of the time we sleep better. But if I think about all the problems and challenges I’m facing, I have a troubled sleep, and sometimes I even feel my heart beat faster! Giving thanks to God diminishes stress and anxiety, and we can certainly depend on Him to take our burdens from us if we lay them at His feet in prayer. 

St. Paul exhorted the Philippians in 4:6-7: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Viva Cristo Rey!

“Sing to the Lord a new song, ​for he has done wondrous deeds; His right hand has won victory for him, ​his holy arm.” Psalm 98:1

Today is the Feast Day of Blessed Miguel Agustin Pro, priest and martyr. His father was wealthy and he was sent abroad for his studies to become a priest because of the Mexican revolution from 1910 to 1920. When he returned to Mexico in 1925, the church was persecuted by government decree. Church buildings were closed, most priests had gone abroad, bishops were tortured for surreptitiously giving the sacraments at night. Miguel had to disguise himself to continue to minister to the people. He was sentenced to death and executed for what he was doing. He died shouting, “Viva Cristo Rey!” “Long live Christ the King!” 

But all was not lost for Mexico, for the people were accustomed to shouting “Viva Cristo Rey!” There is a video of the same name that tells of the miracle in Juarez, Mexico many years after the revolution. Fr. Rich Thomas and Sr. Maria Virginia held regular Bible studies and prayer meetings in a Catholic community in El Paso, Texas. In December 1972, the group received a prophetic word from Luke 14:13-14, “…when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

They decided to go just across the border to the garbage dump in Juarez, Mexico, and feed the poor on Christmas Day. They prepared for 125 people- 125 burritos, oranges, apples, 2 hams, and a few tamales. When they reached the dump, they were stupefied by what they saw. People living in cardboard shacks, no water, so many flies, and they were working on Christmas Day!

Dr. Antonio Villalva who was there on that day saw that they did not have enough food, there were more than 350 people lining up. But when they started giving the food, the food did not diminish. People would go home bringing food, and come back to get more. One man testified that he put the tailgate of his car down, to allow a woman to cut her ham there to distribute. He said the ham was more than enough. After everyone ate and were filled, Fr. Rich had enough left over to bring to three orphanages! The community of brothers and sisters witnessed the miracle of multiplication of food that day, and it was the start of ministering to the poor people in Juarez. They built a youth center and had so many services for the people in the dump. There was also conversion for the people in both Juarez and El Paso. See the video about it on .

Truly “Viva Christo Rey!” 

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

God of Second Chances

“All that you see here – the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.” Luke 21:6

As Advent approaches, almost all our readings have been about the end times. We have had readings from the Book of Revelation from November 14. Although throughout the Bible we are given the intimation that Jesus may come very soon, it is balanced with the message that He may come not in years, or even thousands of years because He wants to give as many chances for people to get to know Him, and follow Him. Our Father is a God of second chances. That’s why Jesus warns that before the end comes, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.”

It reminds me of the way my mom induced us to eat vegetables when we were young. We would all be gathered around our dining table (for it seemed like hours!) and there would be this book propped open before us. The pictures on the book were very unappetizing, kids with knock knees because they did not have enough Vitamin D in their diet. There was also a crippled kid with beri beri because he had a deficiency of thiamin or Vitamin B1. Then there was a kid with bone deformities because of rickets, gum problems because of scurvy, blindness because of lack of Vitamin A. I don’t think the strategy was very successful though! 

I guess even if God has given us warnings time and time again, like the rich man in Luke 16:19-31, we disregard them like we disregarded my mom’s book! Here is the conversation of the rich man who was in hell and Abraham who was in heaven: 

The rich man said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

Monday, November 21, 2022

The Only Things

“I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest; for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.” Luke 21:3-4

What a lesson this poor widow teaches us during the biggest spending season of the year! It’s a pity she is unnamed for there are not many like her. Although, there are many saints who came from rich families, and were inspired to live in poverty, preferring to make the Lord their wealth. There is of course the well known story of St. Francis of Assisi- Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone was the son of a prosperous silk merchant and a French noblewoman. While he was in the army, he had a vision which caused him to return home and refrain from all his former indulgences. So startling was his change in habits, that a friend asked him if he was thinking of marrying. He answered, “Yes, a fairer bride than any of you have ever seen", meaning his "Lady Poverty".

Princess St. Elizabeth of Hungary, heiress St. Katharine Drexel, Russian prince Demetrius Augustus Gallitzin, highly born St. Norbert of Xanten are examples of those who gave up their wealth like the merchant in search of the pearl of great price. They deliberately left behind their high ranking families, renounced their inheritance, or used their wealth to start schools, etc. Let us walk beside these saints this season, and think of how we can help others. 

As I’ve always said, I write these meditations not to make an example of myself, but to preach to myself. I am always in need of reminders to stop buying stuff instead giving to those who need. After all, the only things we get to keep are those we give away. 

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Open Our Hearts Wide

“Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” And Jesus replied, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” Luke 23:43

In Pope Francis’ homily on November 24, 2019 during his apostolic visit to Japan, he said that the thief beside Jesus on Calvary was “meant to be there to accompany the Lord’s suffering. And that moment does nothing more than confirm the entire meaning of Jesus’ life: always and everywhere to offer salvation.” We too can be that thief, with all our faults, failures, and vacillations. Sometimes we are hot, sometimes we are cold, and sometimes we are lukewarm towards the Lord, and our responsibilities to our brothers and sisters. 

In the same homily, Pope Francis also says, “the Second Vatican Council reminds us, they are sadly mistaken who believe that, because we have here no lasting city and keep our gaze fixed on the future, we can ignore our responsibility for the world in which we live. They fail to see that the very faith we profess obliges us to live and work in a way that points to the noble vocation to which we have been called.” 

Advent is approaching and it is a perfect time to share, to be a bringer of joy, hope, and blessing to those who have little of the gifts of the season. Let us open our hearts wide, and our wallets wider so we can truly be beside Jesus not only as He suffers (“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40) 

…but also when He reigns. 

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Take heart!

“Blessed be the Lord, my rock, ​who trains my hands for battle, my fingers for war.” 

Psalm 144:1

Almost no one wants war, except of course those who earn a lot selling arms and weapons of mass destruction. Then there are always people who take advantage of their superiority, and who are able to twist the narrative to justify their aggressive actions. 

But there is a crucial war being waged around the word that we do not see. In Ephesians chapter 6, we are advised to put on the whole armor of God so we can take a stand against our enemy’s schemes. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” 

This reminds me of the termites we found hiding in our basement cabinets a long time ago. The cabinets looked the same as always but when you opened them, all our books and magazines had been eaten away! Our enemy is like that. He does not want us to know he is there wreaking havoc, destroying what is important to us. 

We cannot escape trouble as Jesus says in John 16:33. But that’s not all Jesus said. He reassured us with, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace…But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Together with Jesus we can be overcomers, victorious and unafraid! Yes, Jesus, train me for battle! I want to fight by Your side! 

Friday, November 18, 2022

The Path to Life

“In the way of Your decrees I rejoice, as much as in all riches.” Psalm 119:14

Can I say this honestly? That I value God’s Word more than riches? Recently there was a Powerball drawing in the US that reached $1.9B in prizes! I asked my nephew to buy me a ticket thinking to give the bulk to Angat Buhay. I am so aware that many, many people who won lotteries destroyed their lives afterwards. Some even committed suicide and many said they hoped they had never won it! And so I’m not in the habit of buying lotto or any kind of sweepstakes. 

I didn’t win obviously but it was fun thinking of how to safeguard myself from the siren call of having too much money. 

I think the only way we will desire God’s Word as a treasure far beyond whatever this world can give us is if we have a relationship with Him. Letters from a stranger will never hold more significance than letters from my mom or dad to me. So if we want to resist the lure of the world and all its “riches”, we have to put time into getting to know God and how much He loves us. 

“You will show me the path to life, abounding joy in Your presence, the delights at Your right hand forever.” Psalm 16:11

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Build a Fence

“...because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” Luke 19:44

If anyone had the right to be stressed, it was Jesus. He knew what was His fate. And true enough, he sweated blood, which only occurs under conditions of fear, extreme physical and emotional stress. The condition is called Hematidrosis, when the capillary blood vessels that feed the sweat glands rupture. 

I don’t know anyone who has experienced this, but stress is prevalent in our society today, especially in the Philippines. According to a new report released by analytics firm Gallup, stress is at a record high for workers around the world, with Filipinos having the highest stress among Southeast Asian nations. 

Whenever I feel stressed, I find comfort in the Bible or a favorite devotional. In “Streams in the Desert” for Nov.21, I read, “Talk to God about whatever may be pressuring you and then commit the entire matter into His hands. Do this so that you will be free from the confusion, conflicts, and cares that fill the world today....burden Him with it, and you will have put the concerns and cares of the matter behind you.”

“Build a little fence of trust around today; fill the space with loving work and therein stay.” We should also take the Acclamation for today seriously, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” (Psalm 95:8) 

If we do this, we will not miss God visiting us with His peace and wisdom.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

A Good Return

“To everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not,  even what he has will be taken away." Luke 19:26

Today's parable in the 19th chapter of Luke is about a master who left a talent each to his 10 servants while he went off to claim a crown. A talent is no small sum of money. Each talent was about 20 years wages of an ordinary person. So for someone on minimum wage, that would have been more than two million eight hundred pesos. They were entrusted to not only take care of it but to make it grow. When he came back, one servant made the mistake of just keeping the huge amount of money in a handkerchief!

When one is given a job, we have to do our best and use our skills so that the company who hired us earns from our labor directly or indirectly. If we are a good employee, we will make sure our employer earns a lot from our efforts! The same is true with what God gives us. We don't own anything. What we have is God's investment in us. And one day there will be an accounting of what we have done with all that God entrusted to us- our time, talent and treasure.

Sometimes in a business there is a dishonest employee. He steals money. Instead of the company earning from him, the company loses money :^((( In Jesus' story, the master reprimands one servant not because he stole, but because he should have, at the very least, put the money in the bank instead of keeping it in a handkerchief, so it could earn interest. The master takes the talent from him with much disapproval and gives it to the one who earned 10 times the talent! What would this demanding master have done if the servant absconded with the talent?

God rewards those who use their talents well. Those who are faithful with little will be entrusted with more. Those who neglect or squander what they have, or use it for evil and not good, will lose what they have, and even be punished. Perhaps it's time to take stock of our own talents and see if God is getting a good return on His investment in us.

 Father, teach us how to please You! 

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Nothing is Impossible

“Zaccheus, hurry and come down...”  Luke 19:5

This well known and well loved story about Jesus and the short tax collector, Zaccheus, teaches us we must never give up on people, and we must never ever give up on ourselves. Just one touch, one call from Jesus can change everything. No matter how bad, selfish, or arrogant a person is, even if that person has stolen billions from the national coffers, or killed so many babies in wombs of mothers, there’s a God shaped hole in all of us that only God can fill. Hurting people are those that most need God, especially when they are intentionally mean, insensitive, or cruel. 

Zaccheus was sort of a comic character. He was of short stature and had to clamber up a tree to see Jesus. He was the chief tax collector in Jesus’ day and he was very very rich. That meant that he was corrupt, mean and insensitive to people’s plight like so many in our government today. But that God-shaped hole inside him yearned for something, someONE! When Jesus was passing through his town, Zaccheus ran on ahead and climbed the sycamore tree, forgetting his dignity, the better to see Jesus. 

“Zaccheus, come down,” Jesus called, “I must stay at your house.” Did Jesus really say that? I must stay in your heart and fill that gaping hole where only I belong! You don’t have to go searching anymore for what you need. You don’t have to keep harassing people, and amassing wealth. I will teach You that I am your treasure. I am your joy. 

So if there’s anyone we know, insecure, grasping, cursing all the time, threatening, or bullying us or someone we know, let us pray. Get plenty of people to pray that Jesus will call him down from that lonely tree and fill his heart with what he needs. He may become like funny Zaccheus and turn his life around and follow Jesus! He may give away half of his wealth to serve the poor! Nothing, absolutely nothing, is impossible with God!

Monday, November 14, 2022

What Do You Want Me to Do for You?

 “What do you want me to do for you?" Luke 18:41

The Gospel reading today in the 18th chapter of Luke is about a blind man named Bartimaeus. He was begging by the road when he heard a crowd pass by. "What's happening?" he asked. When someone told him it was Jesus of Nazareth, he shouted, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"

The people in the crowd shushed him, reproved him, rebuked him, and told him sternly to be quiet. Perhaps if it was us, we would have been intimidated and shut up. After all, we would have spent a lifetime living in the shadows, just waiting for someone to help. Perhaps we would have been afraid, unwilling to risk more censure. There were probably many blind and sick people who were shushed by the crowd as Jesus passed. But Bartimaeus is mentioned not only in Luke, but also in Mark where he is named, and Matthew, because he did not give up. In the Amplified Bible, the translation reads that Bartimaeus screamed and shrieked some more, "Jesus, have mercy on me!!!!"

This reminds me of the story of the widow and the corrupt judge in the same chapter of Luke. Because Bartimaeus was persistent, Jesus could not ignore him. Just as Jesus does not ignore our prayers when we come to Him in our need. One very important lesson I learned from this story is that there will be many who will try to stop us from praying. It may be the distractions of the world. It may be ourselves. We stop praying because we don't want to be disappointed. Maybe we stop because we are sulking that God does not answer right away. It may even be brothers and sisters in the church crowd, shushing us because they just don't believe God will make miracles today! Lesson? Pray without ceasing and just don't give up! 

God is Faithful

 “…not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.” Luke 21:19

This a good assurance especially after Jesus said in the same instance, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.”

We need to always be wary because we have an ancient enemy out to destroy each and every one of us. He wants to destroy our country, our political institutions, our churches, our work places, our schools, our marriages, our families, our children. It seems to me like the world is getting more and more out of control.

We used to have well meaning, upright statesmen in the Senate and Congress. Now it seems all the cockroaches and rats are coming out of the woodwork aligning with each other to support their selfish ends! The church has always had its own worms destroying the wood of the ark, but now it seems the devil himself has infiltrated within! 

That’s why it is assuring that Jesus said even the hairs of our head are counted. That means every second of every day, God knows what’s happening to us, because our hair is always falling off and there are new ones growing! Even while the enemy is plotting all the time to destroy us, to make us quarrel with our spouse, or to introduce our children to pornography or digital cocaine, God is there. We only need to turn TO Him, to read His Word which is sharper than any two-edged sword that will reveal to us even our secret sins. If we repent, and intercede for one another, for our Church and our poor country, our God is faithful to hear us and heal us. 

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Pray Without Ceasing

“Always pray and not give up, do not turn coward, do not faint, do not lose heart." Luke 18:1

In Jesus' parable in Luke 18:1-7, there are two protagonists. One widow and one corrupt judge. Jesus used a widow in His story to emphasize her desperate situation. During His time, a widow had no influence, no social standing, no position in society. But she was able to get the judge to rule favorably because of her persistence. Jesus' sense of humor shows when He says the judge thought, "I care little for God or man but this widow is WEARING ME OUT. I am going to settle in her favor or she will end by doing me violence."

Jesus proceeds to give us the secret to the heart of God: "Will not God then do justice to His chosen who call out to Him day and night? Will He delay over them do you suppose? I tell You, He will give them swift justice."

Can you imagine how amazing that is? That we have the power to change the heart of God? I want to get into the habit of interceding right away when I hear of a need. Sometimes on Facebook, or on a blog or text message, someone asks for prayer. Wouldn't it be great if instead of just saying, "I will pray", we take the time to pray right then and there, to write our prayer?

Although we should act as if everything depends on us, much more should we pray as if everything depends on God, because it does!!! "More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of." (Alfred Lord Tennyson)

Friday, November 11, 2022

I Treasure Your Promise

“Within my heart I treasure your promise, ​that I may not sin against you.” Psalm 119:11

If our lives were in danger, and we are asked, "Are you sure God will save you?", what will we answer? My answer would be a resounding yes! That no weapon formed against me would prosper! (Isaiah 54:17) Not that I would remember the exact bible verse which I just googled, but I do know I can stand on the promises of God. In a few days I’ll be 66 years old, and I can say that my whole life, I have lived in the shelter of the Most High and the shadow of the Almighty.  He alone is my refuge, my place of safety. He rescues me from any trap and protects me from the plague. I need not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor fear the dangers of the day. I need not dread whatever stalks in darkness nor the disaster that strikes at midday. Psalm 91 goes on with many more promises, and in the Bible, there is so much more to claim. 

I know that my security lies not on myself, nor my husband, nor money in the bank. If we trusted only in our strength, and our wisdom, we would be severely disappointed! But if we place our trust in God and His promises, then we can walk upright in hope. God did not promise to bless us and protect us because we are good, but because He is faithful and because He loves us. But God always gives us a choice. We have to choose to claim His promises. We have to choose to listen to Him.  We have to choose NOT to listen and follow the enemy.  Sometimes God does allow bad things to happen. These may be a consequence of our actions, or it may not be. But if we stay trusting God, He will be sure and bring us through the dark valleys. 

Father, Your Word and Your promises are true. Help us to always trust in You, even during those times we do not understand why You are allowing things to happen to us. Help us to always stand on the the rock of Your word, and to believe Your promises. 

Thursday, November 10, 2022

You are the Vine, Jesus!

"I am the vine, you are the branches." 

John 15:5

We are branches grafted on to Jesus, the true vine. The Father is the vine grower. In the late 19th century, the European variety of grapes was nearly wiped out because of the plant louse phylloxera. It was saved when someone thought of grafting this European Vitis vinifera grape variety on to Native American varieties which were resistant to the bug. Up to now, any vine not planted with grafted rootstock is in danger of being destroyed by these microscopic sap-sucking insects. 

We too are in danger of being destroyed. The enemy does not want us to know that there is "phylloxera" damaging the way we think, the way our children think, the way our leaders think. This louse is everywhere in our society and there is nothing the devil wants more than that we are all unaware and oblivious. In the same way that phylloxera attacks the roots and prevents the flow of water and nutrients to the vine, the enemy wants to attack the very foundation of what we believe in. 

We only need to look to the Bible for the solution. Lord, may we be grafted to the true vine, and may we be taken care of by our Father, the vine grower. May we not be deceived by the enemy who wishes to destroy us by any means possible.  

Wednesday, November 09, 2022

What Would Jesus Do?

“Zeal for your house will consume me.” 

John 2:17

In the 2nd chapter of John, we see an uncharacteristic side of Jesus. When He went to the Temple during the annual Passover celebration, He was dismayed to see money changers, and merchants selling in the outer court. This was the area where the Gentiles were supposed to pray and meditate in peace. Instead it was a hubbub of cattle, sheep and doves, and the noise and movement made it 

impossible to pray. 

What did Jesus do? He made a whip from some ropes and chased the merchants out of the area. He turned over the tables of the money changers, scattering their coins. He told them, “Get these things and animals out of here! Don’t turn My Father’s house into a marketplace!!!” 

The leaders demanded, “What right have You to do this?” These same leaders should have been the ones to make sure the Temple and Temple grounds were kept holy so people would have a place to pray and worship God.

Today we have church leaders who are not taking care of Our Father’s house. They have not turned it into a marketplace, but into something worse. I am sure Jesus would like to turn a whip on many of the horrid things happening in the Church today. We’ve read about how some Catholic clergy protected child molesters in the church. How about some respected religious leaders participating in a nationwide struggle in the US to make abortion more accessible? Many religious groups and faith leaders support abortion access and are actively working to protect the right to safe, legal abortions. Which side would Jesus be on in this genocide of innocent babies? 

Father, there is so much upheaval and deception in the world today. May You not punish us in Your righteous anger, but protect us from the work of our enemy who seeks to destroy the Church, our country, our families. Let Your glory destroy the darkness in this world. May we constantly turn to You that You may live in us and we may radiate the presence of Christ to the world around us. 

Tuesday, November 08, 2022

Unprofitable Servants

When you have done all you have been commanded, say, “We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do." Luke 17:10

I will never forget this verse because one time I felt I did a good job for God and congratulated myself. So puffed up with pride, I got home, and this is the passage that greeted me! 

If we are full of ourselves as I so often am, but open to God's correction, we can depend on God to teach us to be humble. Here in this passage it seems as if God is a hard taskmaster who does not appreciate the work we do for Him. However, I know that when we feel insecure, uncertain of God's love, we can also go to His Word where He will say we are His masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10), and He did everything so that we can enjoy fullness of life (John 10:10), and be with Him in a place where we will never doubt our exalted status as His sons and daughters (2 Cor. 6:18)

When He says we are "unprofitable servants", He teaches us to model ourselves after Himself. Jesus humbled Himself, was humiliated, and did not act entitled like many of us do sometimes! He knew what His purpose was! He was a servant of all! He accomplished His task! We too have a purpose and out of gratitude to God's calling us, we say, “Here I am Lord, use me!" 

Monday, November 07, 2022

Increase My Faith

“Increase our faith.” Luke 17:5

Whenever I gave an art workshop, I always said that creativity is like a muscle. We all have it, but if we don’t exercise it, it will be limp, and useless. Use it all the time, and it will bloom, grow, and strengthen. There are many exercises and challenges available online to increase creativity. Creativity is not just for artists. Business people, teachers, mothers and fathers, every one on the planet  needs it all the time to be more effective, and successful in their jobs, different roles and relationships. 

In Matthew 13:58, we read that Jesus did not do many miracles in His hometown because of the people’s lack of faith. Is faith like a muscle as well? Can we grow in faith just as we can grow in creativity? No doubt about it! Like the gift of creativity, God has also given each one of us, a seed of faith. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ”, St. Paul writes in Romans 10:17. We have to become familiar with God’s Word, plant ourselves in it, stand on it, and put it into practice. 

We can go to God’s gym to develop our spiritual muscles by exercising our faith everyday, by believing in God’s promises, by rebuking the enemy’s whispers of hopelessness and deception. If someone is sick, we should pray for him and not be shy or insecure that our prayers will not work. Whatever challenge comes our way, let us use our faith muscles, pray continually, and one day we will be spiritual Schwarzeneggers!!! 

Let us become so strong in the faith that the devil trembles when we get up in the morning!!!