Thursday, February 29, 2024

Whatever He Does Prospers

"Blessed is the man...who delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on His law day and night...He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in due season, and its leaf does not wither, whatever He does prospers." Psalm 1:1-3

I am not that good with money, but my mom was. She could really save and make money grow. Although she didn't study anything about it, she listened and learned, and she read the Bible from cover to cover I don't know how many times. There's a lot about money in the Bible, and if we follow what the Bible teaches, we will prosper. That's what it says.

But what is prosperity? Here’s one definition: "It's a state of flourishing, thriving. Prosperity often encompasses wealth but does include other factors independent of wealth in varying degrees, such as happiness and health."

When we delight, are captivated by, entranced, thrilled, gladdened, take pleasure in the word of God, and meditate on it, reflect, deliberate, contemplate, ruminate, chew on, mull over His law constantly- whatever we do, we will prosper in it!

A lot of people put down the "prosperity gospel" because it doesn't really give a true picture of the Christian life. But I do believe that if we obey God and His teachings, we will thrive, we will be content, blessed and happy. Because we will have the right perspective about not only money, but things. From reading the Bible, I know that our money, our business, our things are not ours. It's all God’s and we are stewards. We are supposed to use our gifts, talents and resources, make it grow and do good. If we work with God, anything is possible!

God wants us to be generous with everything we have because He is generous and He wants us to learn to be like Him. And how generous is God? He gave His only beloved Son so that we might have "all things" added unto us (Mt. 6:33). THAT is what prosperity is all about!

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant

"The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life for the ransom of many."  Matthew 20:28

I tease my helper in our house, ate Lucy, that when we get to heaven, I will stay in her house, because I am sure she will have a mansion or a palace in heaven. She is so selfless and her heart is truly a servant heart. She always puts others first and hardly thinks of herself at all. I know she cannot do all she does without love in her heart. 

I do not know if this is true but I found this on Pinterest. “Leader” is mentioned only six times in the Bible (KJV). “Servant” is mentioned 900 times! Then why do we have so many Leadership Conferences? Is it because it is more difficult to be a leader or because more people would prefer to be a leader than a servant?

If we want to have a servant heart like Jesus, we need humility, humility, humility. We also need love, compassion and mercy in our own hearts. Otherwise what we do for others will be empty actions. We need to join our heart and will to the heart and will of God. There are so many people who require help in this needy world of ours. How do we even start? We need a listening heart and observant eyes. God usually brings people or situations to our notice, but we have a tendency to ignore them because we are too busy and caught up in our own needs. Like Samuel in 1 Samuel 3, we should answer God’s call with, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” Sometimes we are busy doing good things for God without finding out if they are what God wants us to do. 

Let us learn to take the time to listen to God, and to obey. That is how God can use us to do good things through us. Perhaps one day, when we reach heaven’s doors, we will hear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

The Greatest Among You

“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 counting the minutes till he could go home?

Saint Paul commanded us: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men . . . It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Col. 3:23-24).

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! 

Monday, February 26, 2024

Bought by God

Jesus said to his disciples: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.” Luke 6:36-38

We have to realize that mankind, all of us, did something terrible to merit Jesus, God's son, dying on the cross for us. Sin is terrible, horrible to a Holy God. And that's why Jesus gave the gift of His life for each of us. We are all recipients of God's mercy and grace, not one is exempt. C.S. Lewis, when asked what made Christianity different from other religions, answered, "That's simple. Grace."

Victor Hugo's "Les Miserable" is a remarkably beautiful story about a man who made something of his life because he was the recipient of the unmerited favor of the Bishop of Digne. When the hero of the story, Jean Valjean, was released from prison on parole, he was given food to eat and a bed to sleep in by the good bishop. Valjean steals the silver and is arrested by the gendarmes and brought back to face the bishop. Jan Valjean was surprised when the Bishop says that he had given the silver to Valjean. “My friend, you left the best behind!" he exclaimed, and offered the massive silver candlesticks. These candlesticks were treasured by the Bishop because they were the last remnants of a formerly rich life, and presents from his great aunt.

In the musical, the Bishop sings this beautiful song to Valjean: 

"But remember this, my brother

See in this some higher plan

You must use this precious silver

To become an honest man

By the witness of the martyrs

By the Passion and the Blood

God has raised you out of darkness

I have bought your soul for God!"

Just as the Bishop recognizes that Valjean was "bought" by God, ransomed to be reclaimed by God, we too should realize that Jesus' gifts of forgiveness, mercy and grace, should be passed on to others. Just as God gave us His Son as a free gift, we too should make our lives a gift to others. Let us not judge others with our critical eye, but see them through God’s loving eyes. 

Saturday, February 24, 2024

God’s Treasure

“You are my own special treasure...” Deuteronomy 26:18

In another version of the Bible we can read, “you are to be a people peculiarly His own...” How does it feel to be special, to be beloved, cherished, the apple of our Father’s eye? If we know this deep in our heart, if it becomes our fundamental identity as a precious child of the living God, we will be empowered to manifest His love to others. Just as it is true that hurting people hurt others, people who are sure they are loved are unafraid to love and be generous to others. 

In “The Anawim Way”, I read that “Lent is a perfect time to take up the challenge of love- the most worthwhile challenge of all. In this time of holy solitude, we ask God to bring to our minds the people whom we do not yet love, those who have offended or hurt us, our enemies.” 

Each of these people, even our enemies, is God’s special treasure, beloved by Him. Let us try to see them through the eyes of our Father. 

I remember this story of Brendan who was an up and coming DJ in New York. When he would go home to his apartment in Brooklyn, a homeless woman would ask him for money. Each time, he said he didn’t have any. She complained, “You always say no.” Brendan promised, “I am on my way to a job interview. If I get the job, I will take you out for Chinese food.” He kept his promise and surprisingly after that, they supported each other through the hard times. When Brendan lost his job, Jackie would buy groceries with what little money she had. Their lives eventually improved. Jackie was able to move out from living in the streets to a halfway house, the YMCA, and eventually to an apartment of her own. Brendan wanted to help and brought her to Target to pick out stuff she needed. Then he started a campaign online to raise $500. Their story went viral and they raised more than $6000. They decided to use the extra funds to help other women in need. 

Brendan was able to to see Jackie as someone worth his time, and he gained a friendship that made him a better man. Can we take a risk this Lent and see those who are different from us as God’s treasures? 

Friday, February 23, 2024

Hurt People Hurt People

“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment’. But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment...” Matthew 5:21-22

In March 2019, President Duterte directed his ire at Senatorial candidate Mar Roxas, pronouncing, “You’re nothing. I can even shoot you for free.” He continued to insult Roxas by saying he had no loyalty and was just good for being a traffic aide. I do not see the former President’s heart, but Jesus Himself says in Matthew 12:34, “Out of the abundance of the heart,  the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart brings forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. The words you say now reflect your fate then; either you will be justified by them or you will be condemned.” 

We have to be careful of our words, but even more, we have to watch our heart. We have to fill our heart with gratitude, and look at the good in people, otherwise we will become embittered and hopeless, and the words we speak, will reflect that. What makes a man like the former President, who is so powerful and successful in the eyes of the some, pummel and threaten others?

“Hurt people hurt people and they hurt themselves even more.” I thought this was said by Mother Teresa, but I can’t find the reference, and can’t find the author. If we are hurting, we need healing. We need to be made whole, or we spread the hurt to others. We say things we regret, we can say things we don’t mean, and there’s a snowball effect in our lives and the lives of others we cannot mend easily. It may be painful, but it is best to reveal the wounds, and clean it with  swabs of forgiveness.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Sign of Jonah in Iran

“The only sign I will give them is the sign of Jonah.” Luke 11:29

The sign of Jonah is a call to repent. In verse 32 of the same chapter, we can read what Jesus said to the “evil generation” listening to Him, “At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here.” 

Such an understatement! Jesus is much greater than Jonah, much greater than all the prophets combined! His grace-filled Words fill the Gospels, and the Old Testament all point to Him! When two young Muslim girls read Jesus’ words, they converted to Christianity, and put 20,000 Bibles in mailboxes in Iran. They started two house churches, and spread the good news.

In 2009, Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh were arrested and put in the notoriously brutal Evin Prison in Iran. At first, they were terrified, and prayed that they would be released. But as it became clear they had a purpose for being there, they became a sign of Jonah to the inmates, the prostitutes, and a sign of hope for the desperate. Even though it was dangerous to speak loudly, they would sing in tongues, and the Moslems around would feel the presence of God. Many would cry, confess their sins and turn back to God. 

After 259 days, they were both released. Many Christians, the UN, even the Pope wrote letters to the Iranian government. Now they are free, they wrote their story in a book, “Captive in Iran”, and vow to be a voice for those who are still in prison. The Lord is moving in the hearts and minds of countless Iranians questioning their Islamic faith. Now there are hundreds of thousands of Christians in Iran, and the numbers of Iranian refugees converting have grown tremendously over the years, even if they face persecution, and even death.

Lord, there is so much evil in the world. Like Maryam and Marziyeh, may we be a sign of Jonah where we are. But more importantly, may we sit at Your feet every day. Soften our hearts that we may receive You who are the source of all good things. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

I Choose to Forgive

“If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.” Matthew 6:14-15

In February 1993, the only son of Mary Johnson was fatally shot by 16 year old Oshea Israel. 20 year old Laramiun Byrd was shot in the head after an altercation at a party. Israel had been involved in drugs and gangs, and was tried as an adult. He served prison time for 17 years.

Mary Johnson was just consumed by hatred. She called it a "tsunami" of hatred. I think most of us would just plain understand this. I can't imagine not hating someone who shoots my only son!!! But Mary Johnson stayed in church and it would be 10 long years before she would be able to look at her heart and choose to forgive. Her Pastor asked her to teach a lesson on forgiveness and she heard Jesus say to her, "Mary, pray for him like you are praying for yourself." And she did. Then she heard, "Every time his name comes up, say, “I choose to forgive." She repented and forgave him with a true forgiveness. She did not know that as she prayed for Oshea, he changed too.

She went to visit him, and they talked. To love your enemy means you have to feel their pain. You have to get to know their story. You have to understand their history. And the more Mary and Oshea talked, the more they got closer. When Oshea was released from prison, Mary threw him a homecoming party. Her friends were there to support him too. Today, they live next door to each other, and share a porch. They go around sharing about the power of forgiveness.

There are many stories about how people are able to rise above their "humanness" and become superhuman. Loving is the only super power that we need. It is creative. It is transforming. It is redemptive. It is freeing. It is healing.

Monday, February 19, 2024

When Did We see You Hungry?

“Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?" Matthew 25:37

“The Holy Supper is kept, indeed,
In whatso we share with another's need;
Not what we give, but what we share, —
For the gift without the giver is bare;
Who gives himself with his alms feeds three, —
Himself, his hungering neighbor, and me." (James Russel Lowell) 

St. Martin of Tours was an 18 year old legionary when he met a beggar clad in rags at the city gate of Amiens. He decided to cut his great woolen cloak into two, and give half to the beggar. That night he dreamt that it was Christ wearing half of his cloak. 

St. Francis is famous for exchanging his rich clothes with beggars. And also kissing lepers whom he used to find revolting. Once when he did kiss a leper's hands and face, he looked around after mounting his horse, and could not find the leper anywhere!

"For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me." Matthew 25:35

Perhaps the best way to do Lent this year is to find Jesus in jail, in the hospital, at the orphanage, old age homes, or hungry in the slums in the city. In this parable of the Last Judgement, we see that in the Kingdom where God is Master, we will be judged not according to what we have accumulated, how much power or popularity or influence we have, but how much we loved.

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Born Into a Battle

“The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.” Mark 1:12

We are born into a battle. This Lenten journey we began last Ash Wednesday, is part of this battle we face against the ancient enemy. Just as Jesus faced Satan during His forty days of solitude, we too do not fight with human enemies. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12) 

Luigi, my husband, was telling me about the time he encountered a skunk in Busuanga. He was hunting squirrels to eat, but instead a skunk came out of the path and discharged an oily, yellow spray from its anal glands. The dog that accompanied him, rubbed his nose and eyes, started rolling on the ground and passed out. Luigi was able to run but when he got to 50 meters, he had to sit on the ground and lean on a tree because of a severe headache. He felt nausea, for the smell was so noxious and overpowering. 

If only evil emitted a foul smell and we could spot it right away from the color and overpowering effect on us. But evil likes to parade in fine clothes and perfume. It deceives and beguiles. During Jesus’ sojourn in the desert, Satan offered Him bread when He was hungry. Bread is certainly not a bad thing but the enemy knew if Jesus succumbed, He would be under His power. Satan wanted Jesus to satisfy Himself, not deny Himself. Another temptation was power: ‘The devil showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.” At this, Jesus said to him, “Get away from Me, Satan! It is written: The Lord, your God, shall you worship and Him alone shall you serve.” Then the devil left him…” 

If Jesus had to use the Word of God to fight evil, so should we do the same. Ephesians 6:17 says the sword of the Spirit is the word of God. We need to protect ourselves against the deceptions of the evil one, and familiarize ourselves with the weapon of God’s Word. 

Saturday, February 17, 2024

In the End

The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus heard this and said, “Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do.”

Luke 5:30-31

What do you think? If Jesus was walking around today, would he be with the crowd having fun in a fancy hotel or would He go to the gamblers and drunkards at the sleazy bar open at midnight? Would Jesus join the huge evangelical congregation singing hallelujahs to God in a brightly lit, state of the art auditorium, or a mass in the dingy chapel in the slums celebrated by a priest with a past? Something to think about. Maybe that is why God is not around physically, so He can be in every aching heart longing for His presence. 

We are all imperfect sinners in need of a Saviour, whether we know it or not. Perhaps more people are aware of it these days. Someone said of that hardships are a doorway to meet God. Does it seem that more people today are calling on God than at any time in our near history? This season of turmoil, confusion and insecurity worldwide is God forcing His way into our complacency, the myth of our self-sufficiency. He is asking us to confront ourselves, to ask ourselves, “What is it you really need?” I was listening to an interview on TV, and this well known director, singer and actor said, “I found out I need very little. Just the basic necessities of life. Since I don’t have work, I started using my hands, making things.” 

I’m taking this period of Lent to ask God what He wants to teach me. Jesus said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.” All of us are sick in some way. We all need Christ. In the end, we will find out, we need very little, and the most important is, we need our Saviour. 

Friday, February 16, 2024

Garment of Righteousness

"This, rather, is the fasting I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke, sharing your bread with the hungry..." Isaiah 58:6-7

I haven't been great at fasting! I know my friends from Victory and CCF sometimes fast for a whole week, having nothing but liquids! Me? Oh dear, I look for other ways to fast which is why I like this verse. I know that fasting from food produces fast results and I've done it before to intercede for something really important but here we see there are alternative ways to fast that please God. 

Lent is a time for spring cleaning, looking under and inside, to see where the cobwebs and dust balls have gathered undisturbed. Is there some envy lurking in the deepest recesses of my heart? I'd grab a hold of a long whisk broom and forcibly replace it with gratitude. Have I been pessimistic and hopeless about what is happening around us? I should intentionally look for verses about hope and trust. We should know deep in our hearts that it's not a question of IF God will move but WHEN! 

Are we bitter about someone? Do we hold a grudge? Have we hurt a brother or sister? Do we accumulate too much stuff? Oh dear, so many things to work on! And while we're at, let's remember that anything we do for others, we do for Jesus. If we encourage someone who is sick, bring food to an inmate, visit someone in an old age home, it's Jesus. If we are irritable with a beggar, or shout at our helper or a guard at a gate, it's Jesus too!

Lord, may I be aware of the cobwebs and dustballs in my life. Help me to clean up well so I may wear the garment of righteousness You have provided for me.  

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Choose Life!

“Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live..." Deuteronomy 30:19

Not many of us realize it, but the minute we are born into this world, we enter into a battle. That's why we are to choose- choose life, or choose death. My 98-year old auntie died several years ago, and she was cremated and her ashes placed into an urn on Ash Wednesday. My sister carried the urn in the car as we brought the urn home, while we awaited interment. It was so fitting that we had ashes with us on Ash Wednesday. From dust to dust...that is what we read in the Funeral Service in the Book of Common Prayer. Dust and ashes. That is ALL we will amount to in the end, if we do not choose to live a life poured out in obedience to God, in loving service to others.

Lent is a special season. "Lent" comes from the Old English word for spring, and spring is a time of renewal. A time when we can choose to go back to God. To look at the way we live our life and the choices we've made. In this spiritual battle we are in, let us look to the One who won the victory for us. How He remained faithful to the Father. How He took time to go to desert places to pray. How He served and gave His life for us. Choose life! Fullness of life!

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Return to Me

“Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart...” 
Joel 2:12

How plaintive the Lord sounds, pleading with us to return to Him. It reminds me of the father of the prodigal son, waiting and longing for his son to return from his journey away from his home and family. Truly the Lord yearns for us to be close to Him. That is why He created us, to have a relationship with Him. It’s not complicated. He loves us with a deep and faithful love, and He wants us to talk to Him and listen to Him. 

Sometimes we have a hard time praying, but like with many things we find hard, the answer can be sometimes very simple. All we need to do is talk to God. There is no formula, no wrong or right way. God does not give us a score or a rating when we talk to Him. We do not have to be good, we do not have to have our life in order. 

There is this scientist named Seymour Garte who is a professor at New York University. Sy grew up with parents who were atheists and Communists. He was also a radical Communist and atheist but the more science he learned, and he has a PhD in biochemistry, the more he felt that atheism did not fit with what he was learning. It took a long time of searching and asking questions, and feeling that he was missing something, when at almost 50 years old, God gave him a dream. 

He describes his dream: “I was outside of a walled garden. I knew that in this garden there was to be found everything I had always been looking for, but there was no way I could climb over the wall to get in. I kept going around the walls, trying to climb up, falling down, and getting terribly frustrated. And then a man showed up, and said to me, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ I explained I was trying to get into the Garden but could not scale the wall. He smiled and said, ‘Then why not use the door?’ and pointed to a door in the wall that I hadn’t seen before. I asked what I needed to do to gain entry. He answered, ‘Nothing, just open the door and go in.’ So I did.”

This season of Lent is a special time of grace. Let us spend time with God, ask Him to show us His face. We can tell Him anything! We can even go to Him in anger, frustration, disappointment and pain. Even if we have not talked to Him in years, He will not judge. He will just open His arms in compassion and love.

Monday, February 12, 2024

All Joy

"Consider it all joy, when you encounter various trials, for the testing of your faith produces perseverance."  James 1: 2-3

How can we ever consider it a joy when we encounter trials? But it is possible with TRUST- Trust in God, that whatever happens, He will turn it for good.

My mother, after a long and difficult journey, went home to the One who loves her best last February 15, 2014, ten years ago. I still miss her. During her illness, when she was battling tongue cancer, there were times I would think that God was not making any sense and I struggled with trying to understand. But when I decided I did not have to understand, that I would just trust Him, then I had the peace and joy that comes even in the midst of trial and difficulty.

I was looking for a miracle, and God indeed gave me a miracle. I thought I would be devastated when my mother left us, for she was my best friend. We could talk and talk and talk. We could even quarrel and talk some more until we could understand each other. But I was not devastated, I was not even sad, when God brought her home. 

I had been looking for grief, but I could not find him! I believe you need grief to heal and move on. Grief is good. But you do not need to heal when there is joy and gratefulness in your heart! Heaven became so real for me that I was afraid of death no longer. God gave me this gift when my mom died. I did not know it was possible, but it is! God can indeed do the impossible!

Sunday, February 11, 2024

All Who are Weary

“Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I do will it.  Be made clean.” 

Mark 1:40-41

Life can be burdensome. We carry a load on our back and it can break us or make us stronger. We cannot really carry it alone or it will make us bitter, desperate, rebellious and even hardened to the point of brittleness. Think of those who survived the Holocaust, who went through wars, and great famines, and just recently, this world wide pandemic! Where are we to go to look for the bright light we long for? 

When I think of burdens I remember Shrek the sheep. He became famous in 2004 for his fleece which was abnormally heavy! Merinos are normally shorn every year but Shrek was an expert in hiding in caves and avoided being caught for six long years! He belonged to the Bendigo sheep station near Tarras, New Zealand, and when he was finally found, his shearing was broadcast on national television. An average merino would just carry 4.5 kg, with an exceptional weight of up to 15 kg. Shrek’s fleece weighed 27 kg, enough for 20 large men’s suits! What a heavy burden, simply because Shrek kept hiding from his shepherd for six long years! He was a runaway rebel like many of us, preferring to carry our burdens by ourselves. 

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and my burden is light,” Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30. If we surrender, stop hiding, Jesus promises He will give us rest. All we need to do is to learn from Him, to read and understand and take His words to heart. He came to heal us. He gave His life so we can have life!