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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Daily Ponderings: Psalm 2

Where is your Allegiance
Recommended reading: Psalm 2
The second chapter of the book of psalms foretells of the coming of the Messiah.  It talks about the wretched behavior of nations towards God (v.1-5), the sovereignty of God and coming of His anointed one to come and rule the earth (v.4-9), and warning to the kings of the earth (v.10-12).   Although we are not kings nor rulers of the earth all of us are part of the nations that they lead and we, whether intentional of not, influence those who are watching us.

Sometimes the word of God is very straight forward and very pointed.  These verses speak of how insignificant we are in relation to God and his power.  Yet He loves us and through His Words he speaks to us, his creation, in order to allow us a chance to choose to follow Him.  Mankind was created and modeled after perfection - God himself (Genesis 1:27).  He provided us with all the potential to become citizens of His kingdom to enjoy His abundant love and blessings.  Man was made in God's image but God left him to master his own heart.  He had to be the one to direct his own heart. 

In January 1991, I came to the USA on a fiancĂ© visa.  Tim and I got married and after a couple of years I got my Green Card, which legalized my permanent residence in this country.   For a while that was enough for me.  However, having a green card does not qualify me to all the rights and privileges of a citizen.  For example: I need a visa whenever we go to another country; and I am not allowed to vote even if I have very strong opinions about matters that are being decided upon on elections.  These restrictions prompted me to try to get my US citizenship; filled out all necessary forms; made sure I had all the required documents; and studied the book called "Citizenship for Dummies" for the test.  Then I was ready, or I thought I was.  In the very back of the book is a sample of the oath for the final step to becoming a citizen.   The words to the oath shocked me.  To pledge my allegiance to the USA is no problem for me.  I love the USA!  However that is not enough - I must also denounce my loyalty to the Philippines.  "This is like a divorce!", I said.  "Let me think about it." 

God wants to have complete allegiance from His people.  He is a jealous God and shares His throne in your heart with no one.  He will bless those who take refuge in Him with inheritance that's beyond what we can imagine.  While those who are against Him will be simply crushed and destroyed because they did not present a "masterpiece heart" that pleased Him.   If you are still relying on something less than God for a good life and inheritance then your loyalty does not reside in Him.  "Kiss the Son lest he be angry...Blessed are all who take refuge in him." (Psalm 2:12)

One of these days, I will use my wise judgment to go raise my right hand and pledge to be loyal to this country at all costs.  :)

Dear Father, most holy and loving God, you are my refuge, my provider, and my deliverer.  I heard your voice when you called me.  Thank you.  Here I am bowed down at your feet ready to serve you. 

Monday, October 4, 2010

Revelation (Part 1)

God gave us the scriptures so that we would understand his character, his love and his plans so that we would know how to live accordingly.   The Old Testament is a compilation of stories, poetry and songs about God and His people.  We like to read them because their lives back then are often detached from our current lives that we look at their it as a "then"  Sometimes we are reluctant to study the Book of Revelation because of a preconceived idea that it is hard to understand.  We convince ourselves that it is full of symbolisms and deep secrets that only theology scholars could successfully interpret and understand.  However, symbols and parables are used throughout the bible - when God had a message for his people He used scenarios that make sense to us.  When God unveils a truth He intends it to prompt a reaction from those who hears it.  God did not give us an impossible puzzle in the book that was intended to enlighten the churches on "what must soon take place".

The Women's Ministry at Cornerstone is currently offering a bible study on Revelation.  As a by-product of my personal devotion and beyond what Beth Moore explains ("Here and Now...There and Then"), I will write a commentary on the book of Revelation.   Since the book shows a detailed and complete picture of what's to come, I will in particular focus on the things that would affect the way I view God and thus the way I live now.  To the churches to whom this message was revealed and to us who are now reading this book, the information contained in this revelation provide compelling reasons to re-evaluate life for a change.   These are not meant to be added in our data bank for us to pull out when ever we want to.  No.  In fact it was meant to be revealed to us for the purpose of heightening our knowledge of Jesus Christ - which would in turn serve as a basis of the choices we make in this life.  In an era where people treat the future as something "man-made", it is time to realize that the future has two destinations.  One is a road to eternal life with God and the other is a dead end where there is eternal judgment.  One is a reward and the other a punishment; one is glorious life the other is unimaginable torment.  We will be sorted according to the way we responded to the One True King.   

Revelation 1:1-9

"Blessed is the one who reads, hears and take to heart..." (Rev. 1:3).  There are three verbs that are mentioned in the third verse of the first chapter as actions that qualify someone to be considered blessed.  Reading, hearing and taking to heart the words of the book do not bring magical or mystical blessedness.  But it is the choice we make as a result of the knowledge revealed to us that makes us blessed or not.  All these were given to us so that we would know the truth and thus live by it.  Everything was revealed to us because God Himself wanted us to change. 

To the seven churches...   The church is the collective term that refers to the body of believers in Jesus Christ. This revelation was made for the church - those who already considered themselves followers of Christ.  It is not for those who are uninformed; nor is it for those who refuse to believe Him.  It is for them who got the idea.  If you believe in Jesus Christ then this message is intended for your eyes, ears, and heart.
About Jesus Christ - Jesus Christ is revealed.   The churches are now up for a new revelation.  They have known him as the Messiah since John the Baptist.  Some of these people to whom the revelation was made known saw Jesus live, teach, die and resurrected. At the writing of the Revelation it's been many years since they saw Jesus ascend into heaven.  Their hopes are beginning to weaken, faiths are being contaminated with the traditions of the world, and the pressures of life are pushing Christians to compromise their spiritual integrity.  The book of Revelation reveals Jesus Christ once more but in a way that they have not seen nor imagined before.  Through John they get a glimpse of events that will happen in the future when the Jesus Christ takes tramples those who did not believe in Him and rewards those who will be on His side.

The Alpha and Omega - who is, who was and who is to come (Rev 1:8) - The same Jesus who in the beginning was the Word (John 1:1), is the same Jesus who came and live among us and crucified, is the same Jesus who is revealed in the pages of the book will come back and reign as the King of all kings.  We have no way of escaping Him!  Be warned therefore lest we will be caught by surprise.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Another Beginning

So we are going to have a new director for the Women's Ministry at Cornerstone.   When Nancy Wroblewski announced that Josie Ross will succeed her - there was this awkward silence that followed.  I don't know if I am alone in the "uninformed group" but it came as a double surprise to me.  Why is Nancy leaving her post?  Why Josie?   These are not uncommon questions when new things happen.  We trust those who made decision and expect no answers but we ask them rhetorically anyway.  

Ten years have passed since my family started attending this church.  So far Josie will be the fifth women's ministry leader that I've seen.  This would give an average of two and a half years for a leader to stay.  That is not very long at all especially if a new leader has some innovations to bring into the ministry.   One might say that I have seen many.  I have seen authority, industry, and passion that came with every leader.   The one thing that I have not seen so far is vision.  One of the qualities of a good leader is clear vision.   To which direction will this new leader guide the women to?  Considering the numerous options around, a good leader must be able to lay out long term goals that truly reflect the faith and convictions of those involved.   Stick to those goals and determine ways to achieve them.  The world presents us with many options and tells us what to do.  In the absence of a guiding blueprint, anyone can guess what the outcome would be.

This is yet another beginning in our Women's Ministry.  Plans are being made.  Some changes are starting to happen.  I can only hope that this is not ningas kugon.   May God be glorified under this new leadership.
 
"The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can't blow an uncertain trumpet."
~Theodore M. Hesburgh

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Love Them

“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” ~ Hebrews 6:10

How can I show love to an invisible God?  This is not a mystery.  God left us with very specific instructions on how to love and work for His sake.  The extent of our concern and help to the "poor and less fortunate" is an expression of our love for God.  This is very scary to me because we are a generation of people who like to take care of ourselves.   The average person would act only for himself and his immediate family.  We play God to fix our own problems and to meet our own needs.  We depend so much on ourselves.  We push and push until we are exhausted trying to find our own hope, purpose and fulfillment.  On the contrary, according to Hebrews 6:10, when the time comes when God rewards or judges us He will refer on the records of the love we showed Him through helping His people.  We ought to act like God in meeting other's needs - unconditionally generous.  This is a God-prescribed formula - allowing Him to take care of you while you take care of someone else.  This is amazing! 
"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' ~ Matthew 25:40
Does my life show that I love God?  What am I doing to show it?  Oh my God, help me to love 'them' as I would love you.  Help me to depend on you for myself so that I can see and act beyond my own concerns. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Entitlement

Entitlement says "I deserve something.  I am qualified for a privilege.  I have the right and I must have it." 

We all get into this situation sometimes.   There are many ways in which we find ourselves fighting for what we believe we should have.  In the airplane one might say, "I am entitled to that little leg room under your chair!  So please take your bag out of my space!"   A child may say to his parents, "How come I don't have an iPhone?  You are being unfair to me!"  I believe that entitlement opens the door to mediocrity and shuts the way to understanding and reason. When we begin to claim for a privilege, we narrow down our focus and lose track of other opportunities.  That prerogative, when given enough emphasis, eventually overwhelms our ability to reason.

Jonah (Read Jonah Chapter 4) for example, believed that he is entitled to the shade from the vine, forgetting that he did not have any thing to do with its existence.  When the worm ate the leaves, he got upset because all of a sudden he was exposed to unfavorable heat. 
But the LORD said, "You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight.  But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?"
 Today a mother upset by a 30-minute change in schedule to accommodate a group piano practice was very angry.   Obviously her son did not let her know about it.  The mother did not plan and was not prepared for this change so she questioned and yelled at the teacher and could not be appeased.  She was determined to insist on who-knows-what - that she was not going to listen to any explanation.  The thirty-minute change in schedule was enough reason for her to ruin her relationship with her son's teacher.  Right there and then she was setting a not-so-dignified witness to her child and the rest of the students who were watching.

"Never let your sense of morals get in the way of doing what's right."  ~ Isaac Asimov

Many times we are like Jonah - we put our own agenda on top of everything because we think that we deserve all the success, comfort, good treatment, and blessings of this world.   Think again and evaluate "the heart" in relation to the things that we desire to have and do.  It could be that in the pursuit and protection of whatever we want we harden our shells and prevent our chance to grow outward.  It could be that we are willing to give up the other beautiful things just because of something we know we deserve.  We miss our chance to choose what is right because we are too busy fighting for the right way things should be done.   How many times have I seen this happen?  Beware!  (especially me).   God wants us to be beautiful and loving people.  He wants us to flourish...yet when we have enclosed ourselves with a hardened shell, He may need to break us in order for a new life to begin in us. 

The bible says, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart with all your soul and with all your mind.   Love your neighbor as you love yourself."  If we follow this commandments then what is the essence of entitlement?  Null. 

Father, help me to remember that my relationship with you is far more valuable than anything that I can get entitled to..  Help me to choose you at all times.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Daily Ponderings - Psalm 1


Psalm 1:1-3

1 Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.

2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.

In this day and age, prosperity is often associated with having the abundance of the things we desire at all times.  It is often equated with money. We make money because of our abilities and efforts.  We are prosperous when we generate a lot of money and vice versa.  Fortunately, God does not define prosperity with such parameter.  

Psalm 1 illustrates the picture of a blessed man as a tree planted by a stream of water.   His roots are planted close to God.   He absorbs the life-giving resource by meditating on it day and night.  It is implied that the man who is closely dependent on God will stand the pressures of this world. 

Oh God, please give me wisdom and understanding.  Help me to choose well and to be motivated to dig deep into your words.  

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

New Look

I just spent hours learning some Photoshop techniques to resize pictures and customizing the overall look of this blog.  The old template looked outdated.  It gave the impression that only people who are in their "second half" (over fifty-five) should be reading this blog.  That's not true at all!  Most of things that I write about here are supposed to be timeless. :)

Anyway, there you have it in full (girly) color!  Maybe this will inspire me to write more often.   Come back and find out!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Jesus: the Fulfillment of the Law



Them: Under the law.  Based on biblical stories, the Jewish people are law-abiding people; some are more anal than some but all of them lived their lives around rules to please God. These laws were written instructions which they read or were read to them on a regular basis. They lived with these laws since their forefathers were delivered out of Egypt under the leadership of Moses.  They broke these rules over and over gain; they offered sacrifices to appease God or to pay for their unrighteous acts.  The Pharisees, who thought that they got it, had to translate the laws into their own version so that they could fulfill them or be able to appoint a finger at anyone who would not be able to.

Jesus: The fulfillment of the law.  Throughout His life, Jesus campaigned for a new kingdom - the kingdom of heaven.  The expectation of everyone is that this new kingdom would involve a new militaristic administration with a new set of laws. A total change would be in place and expected.  In any type of political change, there would be those who are radical to favor the innovation. There are also those who are sentimental who would prefer to stick to the old and comfortable way of life.  As you can imagine, Jesus was creating a tension among the people regardless of heir social status.  Contrary to popular belief, Jesus said that he did not come to abolish them but to fulfill the law.
  
What does it mean to fulfill the law? 
The law that was impossible for any man to bear has been fulfilled by Jesus Christ when he walked the earth.  Jesus Christ, the man who lived a sinless life, was the only one approved by God.  Blameless, He was the only worthy sacrifice.  This was all God's plan... to give us a free pass to righteousness so that the world would know that He loves us (John 3:16).  This is love that is equivalent to the love that He gave to His son Jesus Christ (John 17:23).  That is very amazing!   Even better - "whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven."

You and I Now:  Free.    On our own it is still impossible to fulfill the righteousness that God desires of us.   However, we have been granted freedom through Jesus Christ.  We no longer live by the law but by God's grace.  Jesus paid for our freedom from unrighteousness and now He offers us the freedom to follow Him.  Will you believe Him and be free?  Then practice and teach the law also so that you will be called great in God's kingdom!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Ladies' Tea

Ladies' Tea
"Growing Together by Design"
Speaker: Helen Lewis
Saturday, May 1, 2010, 1pm to 3pm

Come and enjoy English tea with a friend…as garden coach Helen Lewis reveals the secrets of a green thumb. Learn some of the mysteries of plant life and intriguing relationships that promote fruitfulness and beauty in your garden.

We are in God’s garden. He placed us all here so that we could flourish to delight Him as we love one another. Even before there was time, He already planned a splendid setting where we can grow and enjoy His blessings together.

Bring a friend for a delightful time as we grow together by God’s design.

Get your tickets today! $10/each.
For more information call 916.933.5683
Cornerstone Christian Church, 931 Lassen Lane, El Dorado Hills

Friday, April 2, 2010

"Eloi, Eloi lama sabachthani?"

This narrative is written for Miriam to read at the Good Friday Service at Cornerstone today.  Miram is my nine-year old daughter.  hThe seven last words of Jesus are going to be presented by different church members who represent the different age groups in the congregation.
About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"—which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
For Jesus Friday was extremely agonizing.  He was tortured.  He was humiliated.  He was stripped of everything he owned - his cloak, dignity, friends etc. and he did not question, not one little bit.   At the height of his incomprehensible suffering as he hangs on the cross, he thinks of his biggest ever loss - his connection to the Father, and he says "Eloi, Eloi lama sabachthani/?".  He knows how it is to be close to the Father just like the way I know how it is to be with my daddy.  Because he loves me, I feel safe and protected when I am close to him.  I remember one of my cave tubing experiences.  This is tubing in a big cave.  It is dark inside the cave.  The water is deep and the current is strong.  It's like being in a big river except you can't see anything.  I was having fun until I got caught on a rock while everyone else was moving away from me.  My daddy used to hold my inner tube with his feet but this time he was away from me.  It was very scary!  I yelled my lungs out to call daddy.

Good Friday... Jesus hangs on the cross.  He feels alone and scared.  He is about to die.  He knew of his coming death but he would like to have the Fathe say one more time "It's okay".  He looks for God but He seems to be very distant right now.  Like a lost child in the cave, Jesus cries out into the black space, "My God, my God why have you forsaken me". 

Jesus knew why he would come to die.  This was not a surprise for him.  What surprised him the most is the separation from God.  Sin puts a rock wall between mankind and God.  As Jesus hangs on the cross he hits Enter and our sins were downloaded onto him so that He could pay for all of them.  At that time sin separated Jesus from God.   Of all his sufferings separation from God was the most painful.  I cannot imagine how my daddy would have left me alone in the cave. 

"My God, my God why have you turned your back on me?"  Jesus longed to reach out to God but He didn't extend his hand because Jesus was covered with all of our sins.  He was forsaken by God because of our sins.   As the perfect sacrifice, Jesus died to pay for the sins of the world. 

Today Jesus extends his hands to you.  Will you reach out to receive his offer?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Salt and Light of the Earth


Jesus talked in parables.  His ideas were unconventional but He presented them in ways that were familiar to the people listening to Him.  This style of talking sets the mind in the right position as it allows something concrete to base the new idea upon.  Simple as it may have seem, the message required deeper thoughts to understand it.  Since time immemorial, salt and light are among the everyday stuff of living.  Everyone understood what they are and what they are for.  However, when Jesus likened their lives to these concrete ideas, some ponderings on the part of the people became necessary.  Enough with spoon-feeding, it was time to sort the crowd - those who who understood Him and those who were headless fanatics.

"You are the salt of the earth." ~ Matthew 5:13a
Salt is used for seasoning.  Added at the right amount, salt is used to make foods taste better.  It enhances or exposes the hidden flavors of food.  Even in candy making, a pinch of salt is added to improve the sweetness of the candies.  It makes eating more gratifying and enjoyable.  As Christians we are meant to live a life of substance like that of salt.   This body is only the casing a more valuable portion of this life.  God had a purpose for each of us - to be a "seasoning" to life in this world.  When we offer ourselves to season the lives of others, we live a life that pleases our Creator.  Live therefore the purpose that you were prepared for lest you lose your significance.

Salt is used as a preservative.  First of all, no microorganism can stand the strength of pure salt.   Before the advent of refrigeration, the only way to preserve food especially in places with hot climates was salting.    Furthermore, when added to vegetables and herbs like garlic, salt absorbs the water out and preserves the flavor inside.  This allows them to maintain their usefulness over time.  Salt brings out what lies inside to create a balance between the internal and external conditions. 

How then shall we live if God intended for us to be salt of the earth?  Life around us can be bland and marching towards decay.  Preserve the inherent good while suppressing the inessential and destructive aspects of living. 

"You are the light of the world." ~ Matthew 5:14a 
Light reveals while darkness conceals.  Light bears the inherent ability to expose things so that the eyes would see things that are. However, depending on its position it may not serve that function.  Jesus calls us to poise our lives in such a way that we bring to light that which is true.  Hold your torch so that light floods in all directions.  If you have been filled with the spirit of God, does it show? 

Jesus came to earth to redeem His people who would inherit His kingdom.  You and I are here not to desire to live a life of comfort but of victory by proclaiming about His kingdom.  Victorious people are not complacent.  Through His grace, we have been empowered by the Holy Spirit so that our lives would be the light that peels away darkness.  After two thousand years, many still do not know about that kingdom.  If we have been graced with the knowledge of the truth about God then by all means let your deeds shed light.  Make sure that your lifestyle does not jeopardize your calling as the light of the world.

"In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." ~ Matthew 5:16

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Boardwalk Living


Earlier this month my family spent a weekend in San Simeon.  Along the bluff that runs above the beaches are miles of boardwalks. You could ignore them and take off cross country, but they were placed there for a purpose. They provide safety for the visitors and protection for the animals and plants in the coastal ecosystem.  Boardwalks provide a sense of anticipation because there is a destination--a destination that promises the best. The best view, perhaps, or the most freedom, the most fun. We can't always see that destination, though. We get only glimpses of the majestic ocean between sand dunes, or shrubs or around a small bend in the path. Without the destination in full view, our attention shifts to the things along the path.

On the boardwalk, there are signs that give directions so that anyone can reach the destination.  There are signs that tell travellers what they should not do such as "Do not feed the animals" or "Do not step on the plants."  The signs are placed there, at strategic locations, because somebody knew what temptations we might face.  I noticed, as we were walking, that my daughter, Shannon, was way behind.  She was distracted by the squirrels playing and running all around the boardwalk.   She knew she was not supposed to feed them, but she teased them by pretending to give them some food.  In the mean time, other people were approaching and we were getting in their way.

Matthew 5:13-7:29 : An Overview
Starting with Chapter 5, and continuing all the way to the Chapter 7, Jesus gives a sermon as he sits on the side of the mountain.   Aware of the temptations of this life and the tendencies of mankind, Jesus gave us guidelines for us to adhere to while we are on the boardwalk.  His sermon addresses three major aspects of our "boardwalk living".  I would summarize them as follows:

 1. Relationship to God (our destination) - Jesus emphasized the importance of keeping our focus on our destination - God Himself.  There are pleasures for us to enjoy on our way to Him.  He allows us glimpses of His glory even before we get there, although every once in a while our view of Him is obscured by our circumstances.  He waits for our arrival, when we can experience Him fully.  Pricilla Shirer, in her book "One in a Million," describes that kind of experience as the promised-land living.  That is our destination.  God has prepared an abundant life for us but we need to get there and experience it.

2. Relationship with Others (other people on the boardwalk) - The boardwalk is a shared path and, at times, there are people who walk with us.  We have to be considerate so that they will also enjoy their walk.  God wants the flow towards Him to be steady.  We need to love one another so that our journey will be pleasurable and smooth. 

 3. Protection of our Faith (footing) - The boardwalk is provided but there are no attendants there.  We walk there knowing that we can move forward on that path that has been provided for us.  The boardwalk is narrow; anyone can be careless and distracted.  Falling into temptation along the way will only delay my arrival to my destination.  

On this narrow path that leads to his kingdom, we must remember the destination. Otherwise, the distractions that are so common along the path will take us on a painful detour. Many times, our biggest difficulties are with our fellow travellers, but Jesus guides us on how to live with others gracefully, to hurt no one and stretch out extravagantly to others in love. 

Friday, February 12, 2010

Blessed Be...

I have missed one week in posting my continuing commentary on the book of Matthew but here I am again...

Matthew 5:3-10

On the side of the mountain the people were waiting for some hint to a future change that would soon improve their current situation.  Right now they are eagerly anticipating any statement from Jesus just like reporters do when they wait outside the White House when the President is about to make a statement regarding a controversial political issue.  Jesus accurately understood what the people have been thinking.  They were expecting a military take-over.  They were imagining a reversal of fortunes: the Jews would rule and the Romans would be their subjects.  In their minds this is the blessing that was considered apropos.   It is obvious that they wanted physical change; they just can't spell it out.  They wanted change in their environment and this could have been by way of a political unrest. 


Jesus had a mission and a plan of action that is entirely different from what the people had anticipated.  Instead of changing the physical setting, He intended to start a change from within.  It was a peaceful change that would start from their inner core.  Jesus intended to renew the peoples hearts in order to cause a spiritual change.  That change is required to all who would be part of His kingdom.

In any science class where students are required to participate in lab activities, the instructor always makes sure that the students know what specific words mean.  Knowing the meaning of terms means that you will be able to follow instructions without causing unnecessary disaster and knowing when certain occurrences are expected or not.  Jesus being aware in the discrepancy between His and the peoples' expectations took the necessary right step.  He started his lesson by giving them an unnerving and radical picture of true blessedness.  Blessedness as He described is a paradox in the sense that it starts as the opposite of what the conventional mind would believe but in the end great rewards await those who persevere beyond the test. 


Who are the Blessed Ones?

1.  They are those who are defenseless
"Blessed are those who are poor in spirit, those who mourn, and those who are meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness."

These are the defenseless people.  They are those who do not have ramparts or castle walls to protect them.  They are constantly vulnerable and losing to the enemy.  Jesus said, "Blessed they are."  The things that they were deprived of (defenses, estate, righteousness, comfort, and joy) will come to them in magnitude that is beyond their imagination.  "Theirs is the kingdom of heaven; they will be comforted; they will inherit the earth and they will be filled."

2.  They are those who are concerned for others
      "Blessed are those who are merciful...
           Blessed are the pure in heart...
              Blessed are the peacemakers..."

These are people who act on behalf of others.  They are those who make sacrifices so that others would enjoy life.  Search your heart, motives and activities.  Do they involve alleviating sufferings around you?  Do you cry for the widows and the orphans?  Do you help those who cannot pay you back?  Do you share your shelter with those who cannot invite you back to their homes?  Do you help even when no one pats your back for doing it?  Jesus points out that these are the people whom God is marking to inherit his kingdom.  May our actions be geared, therefore, towards reducing the pain and hunger and discomfort instead of soliciting praises from men or those we want to impress.

3.  They are those who suffer for God's name
Even from the very beginning, Jesus foreknew that following him would involved all sorts of persecutions and insults.   Yet, "Blessed are they..." he said once again.     "Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

Therefore...
Jesus' point was clear.  His consuming concern for the citizens of His kingdom is not limited to this world.   This life is but a boardwalk to the Garden of Blessedness.  Our life in this world pales out in comparison to the eternal life that He has come to offer us.  Do not get distracted by the vexations of this life focus on the great reward that lies ahead.  The flow of blessings begins as you take your first step towards your reward.

Related:  Before the Big Speech

Monday, February 8, 2010

One More Reminder

Not a lot of people have heard about him but in our family Steve Bell is a common name.  We listen to his album all the time.  Last night was a special night because we got to go see him in person at a concert in Capitol Christian Church.  It was interesting to hear him say the stories behind all the music that he plays.

Steve Bell is a guitarist and singer.  He is also a story teller with a Canadian accent.  The thing that caught my attention beyond his musical ability is his passion in "othering" which, in my own words, is the price that we give for the welfare of others. 

He used the example of Jesus washing the feet of His apostles.  The sacrifice of resource, prides, and comfort so that someone else's situation would improve. 

Sometimes, we get carried away by our own predicaments that we forget to open our eyes to others with compassion.  The gifts that God gives us were meant to be shared and we were meant to be the tunnels for those blessings to flow through.  We should not get in the way of the stream of goodness that comes from God.  There are many ways in which we all can be involved in "othering".  The following video reminds me of Our Brothers' Burden, which is a ministry that focuses on meeting the needs of widows and orphans in India.  The story about the way Our Brother's Burden started (Pastor Naha's coming to El Dorado Hills)shows that we don't need to look far away for an opportunity.  Sometimes it literally knocks at our doors.

The following video features "Deep Calls To Deep" - one of the songs that Steve Bell sang during the concert.  For me, this is one more reminder to make sure that I will extend my hands far enough to reach those who need help.  I hope it will do the same for you.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Daily Ponderings: Exodus 15:22-25

Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.) So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, "What are we to drink?" Then Moses cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. ~ Exodus 15:22-25
Life is full of ups and downs.  Sometimes the intervals between these two are irregular that we are often shocked by surprises.  We like to enjoy our triumphant feelings over the beautiful events and we covet the luxury of being comfortably forewarned of any lurking change of events.

About fifteen years ago, when we purchased our first house, we were very happy and feeling on-top-of-the-world.  I could still imagine the smell of the new carpet in that house and the closet freshener that the previous owners left in one of the bedrooms.  There were twenty roses in bloom, plums were ripening.  We were in our house and we liked it a lot.  Then our first mortgage payment was due.  At this time Tim was working for a company that was at the verge of bankruptcy.  We barely qualified to buy the house because the pay stubs that we sumbmitted to the lending agency, to prove his ability to pay a huge debt, were the last ones he got from the company.  Tim was mistaken when he decided to stay longer in that company.

Our situation was then very scary.  The question I had was, "Why did God even allow us to be in debt when we were going to lose our means to pay?"  Suddenly the pleasure we had in owning the house turned into worries.   My father-in-law was very kind, he helped us pay our all our bills.  At this time Tim, loyal as he was to the old company, started his search for a new job.  It did not take him long to find one.  Not only that, God surprised us in that Tim was offered a huge signing bonus which was more than enough to pay for all the obligations we had incurred during the time that he was not getting paid.  He started a new enjoyable job and we started to fully enjoy our house...this time with more trust in God.   We've now moved to a different house but Tim still works for the same company up to this time.

God sometimes brings us to the stream of "bitter water" so that we could watch Him turn it into "sweet water."  He wants us to trust Him only with the concerns of this world.

My God, you have shown me many great miracles in this life.  Help me remember them all the time so that when life seems dry that I would have the peace to watch in anticipation for the next miracle that you show me.  Like the Israelites, my trust sometimes fades with circumstances.  Father, help me in my unbelief.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Before the Big Speech

This is a continuation of my personal commentary on the book of Matthew.  

Context
In chapter 4 Jesus began his ministry.  He called the disciples and began preaching and healing people from their sicknesses.  Those who were following John the Baptist shifted their worship to Jesus, just like what John encouraged them to do.  The crowd got larger and seemed to be constantly anticipating for what Jesus had to say.  By tradition the Jews tell stories to their children and family for that matter.  Every Jew has heard the stories about Abraham, Moses, and all their forefathers and their sojourn in the wilderness with God.  This time the crowd sensed that Jesus offered a twist from what they've been used to hearing.  His style also evoked authority which is unlike the other rabbis they've listened to.  Beyond his stories and manner of speaking, He also healed the sick.  All these fueled their curiosity even further.   They might have wondered, "Who is this man?"  There was no doubt this crowd was ready to absorb any announcement that Jesus would tell them. 


He Saw the Crowds
Jerusalem at this point in time, has been under the oppressive rule of the Roman Empire.  If you remember when Jesus was born, King Herod, knowing that he was not the legitimate king of the Jews, was threatened when the Magi said that the true King has been born.  If we start calculating from a milestone that we all are familiar with - the birth of Jesus, and given that Jesus is now a teacher himself, were talking more than thirty years of not having a ruler of their own.  They've heard about the coming of their king and Jesus appears to be the one who has been prophesied to come and save them.  Now they are all ears to Him.

"Now when he saw the crowds..."  Jesus saw the crowds.  Have you ever wondered what He saw in the crowds of people who were following Him?  These were people who had a taste of Jesus' preaching and healing.  They were people from various walks of life.  Jesus, aware of this diversity in His audience, decided to address the people's plight to prepare them to listen to the rest of what he had to say.
Most of the people following Him were in what one would consider a dead end situation.  They must have been in such predicament for their lives with no hope of change in sight.   In the crowd were teachers of the law and scribes who looked forward to the day when the political situation is reversed.  They hoped that they would have dominion over their Roman enemies.  They longed to have control over the economy of their own land.   Some of them were poor with nothing, fishermen, or carpenters, etc. who hoped that someday their social status would be elevated.  Their minds were full of thoughts of abundant food, life of ease and comfortable homes as the mansions that their conquerors lived in.  Maybe they even thought of having a different outfit for the day other than their one and only robe which they used as comforter at night.  In their minds was a picture of themselves in costly robes as they've seen their Roman conquerors were wearing.  There were those who were mourning having lost family from whatever cause.   Christian artist, Jason Gray, calls them in his song, "All the Lovely Losers."  They were people who were poor in spirit, mourning, meek, hungry and thirsty for righteousness.  Some of them are those who were helping those in need: merciful; pure in heart; peacemakers and those who are persecuted for righteousness.   Jesus saw these in the crowd a picture of hopeful people longing for change.

He Went Up On a Mountain Side...
What did Jesus do when He saw the crowd?  "He went up on a mountain side..."   Jesus made Himself visible to everyone so that they would hear Him.  This was very important, He had a message.  His message was not predictable.  Everyone had to have the chance to hear Him carefully.  In these days this would be translated as having stood on a stage or platform equipped with a top-of-the-line sound system.  Without instructions given, all phones were silenced.  Everyone looked up to Him with anticipation.

...and He Sat Down
After seeing everything, He positioned Himself to address them.  What was striking here is that He did not just spoke to them as a teacher but someone who was one of them.   Jesus joined the people where they are. This I would think is an expression of His deep compassion for the people. He was not going to stand there and teach the people.  His feelings dictated his actions to take a different course..."and He sat down."  Remember that this event happened in a place where the Jews considered it self-defiling to walk the road the Samaritans walked.  However, Jesus from the very beginning was already different and this was not the time to be a slave to tradition.  He sat with the people just like a friend to a friend, His hands on their shoulders saying, "I see you and I'm here for you." 

Jesus was very deliberate with His actions and manners.  He came as an expression of God's love to His people and He lived that way. 

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Daily Ponderings: Malachi 4:1-2

"Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire," says the LORD Almighty. "Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings." ~ Malachi 4:1-2
Stubble:  the basal part of herbaceous plants remaining attached to the soil after harvest.

Stubble
by Helen Lewis

Once upon a life
A plant so full of potential
Now decapitated by the enemy
You have lost all your senses

Ruin has become your path
You have lost control of what you'd become
Your ability to drink life is lost
The light had ceased to be a gift of energy

You're a standing corpse
Constantly deteriorating
Moisture from the rain and dew
Now support those that seek your destruction

Life has left you
Your roots now refuse to anchor
And leaves withdraw from light and warmth
Your choice and influence are no more

With winter and rain...
Your chance is decay
With summer and heat
Your chance is fire and destruction

Soon no more
Just like him who is arrogant and an evildoer
Soon its ashes trampled by the righteous
And become dust under his feet

Made to be a hand of your maker
To give shelter and love
Now you're ashes - trampled,
Blown away and forgotten

I call on the Lord: awake my soul
Lest I'll be harvested by the enemy
Fill me with living water
And open my heart to the light that gives life.
~ o ~

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Daily Ponderings: Exodus 20:20


 "Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning." ~ Exodus 20:20
 
 
Two days ago, after a long period of contemplating, I offered to perform one little task for a ministry at church. This task is new for me and it would stretch me.  John Ortberg said in his video, "It All Goes Back in the Box", that when we try to get out of our comfort zone we expose our strengths and weaknesses.  Now I sit in the scary situation of scrutiny.  And who is my greatest critic but my own.  At this point my weaknesses flood my mind and I see my strengths disappearing.  Even as I wait to see if I will be allowed to do it, I feel like I'm now an open target.  Deep inside a part of me says I should withdraw my offer; the other side says to stop being an observer and get in the salt mines.  I am aware that there are many people who are more capable to do the job and maybe this is not where I should be.  If it turns out that someone else should do the job, then I will still have progressed myself by having been forced to look at my own weakness in terms of my attitude and acknowledging that I need to be transformed; to get rid of the things that are between me and God. 

Father, your words are so true and they guide me.  Help me to obey You with trembling.  Teach me not to be afraid of the things of lesser consequence for You are with me.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Daily Ponderings: Ecclesiates 3:1-8


A Time for Everything
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
 Life on earth is seasonal.  That's what this one long sentence tells us.  Seasons change to allow life to complete a necessary cycle.  For most plants, winter brings life to rest as spring brings all the vigor of life back.  Some plants die so that new seeds can develop.  This is God's design. 

In this life, we seem to favor stability because it makes us feel secure.  On the other hand, change threatens us because it brings us into an unknown situation.  Our natural reaction is to overcompensate for the change in an attempt to make us more prepared for any future change.  We buy insurance policies when we experience disaster; we hoard stuff when we foresee a shortage; we get a face lift when our facial skin elongates to touch the ground; dye our hair when they gray, we go green (change the bags we use) to save the earth from global warming, etc.  No matter what we do to prevent them, as King Solomon found out, it is a chasing after the wind.   In reality it is the seasonal changes in our lives that make us stronger and better prepared for any change.  The seasons of life are laid by God to make His creation know that He is God.  He manages the world and all that is in it.  He makes all things beautiful in His time.

I believe that the above verses in Ecclesiastes were written for us so that we will not entertain fear when changes happen in our lives.  Does your boss upset you?  Does your job frustrate you today?  Nothing is new to God.  All things that are happening now, He already had seen them happen before.   It is God's design that we should trust and depend on Him so that we can live in peace.  Be still...He is in control.

Father, hold me as I walk this life.  Help me to appreciate your blessings in every season and teach me to follow your lead.  Teach me to choose well regardless of my circumstances. 

Monday, January 18, 2010

Daily Ponderings: Malachi 1:13b-14

"When you bring injured, crippled or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?" says the LORD.  "Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king," says the LORD Almighty, "and my name is to be feared among the nations. ~ Malachi 1:13b-14
Offering sacrifice has been a part of the old world since time immemorial.  For the monotheistic Hebrew people, animal sacrifices were made as an offering of thanksgiving for blessing such as rainfall, good harvest, birth of a child, etc.  Sometimes they were made to make God happy or to appease Him for sins they had committed.  The animals offered were not your ordinary animal from the herd; they were the best of the best.  God was very particular about this.  Remember Cain and Abel?  Cain brought "some of the fruits of the soil" while his brother, Abel, brought "fat portions from some of the firstborn from his flock".   God is not going to settle for the ordinary because He is God.

In this day and age, what do we offer to God as sacrifice?  Since we neither bring our first harvest from our crops nor the firstborn from our flock, what are the things that we offer to God then?   Theoretically, this is very easy.  We've heard it preached in the pulpit many times; bring your tithes and offerings to the house of the Lord.  So we write a check and assume that our job is done.  Sorry to disappoint you but the scripture says that that's not enough.  We are urged to bring our bodies, holy and acceptable, as offering to God.  For our bodies to be acceptable to Him, we need to be in the best of our best behavior and doing the best of our best deeds.  It says in Malachi that if you still can do better than what you're already giving or doing then you are cheating God and He is very put out.

Oh my Holy God, I am yours.  Teach me daily to strive towards holiness.  Help me to do my very best for you and for others for this is pleasing to you.  I cannot do this on my own, so help me.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Guide To Starting Your Ministry

This is a continuation of my personal commentary on the book of Matthew as a result of my ponderings.  I'd like to point out here that I am indeed enjoying this exercise.  It is exciting to see how certain verses which I already have read before are now showing me something new.  The problem is writing my thoughts in English.  I seem to think in Ilocano (my native dialect) and yet, having been detached from that culture for twenty years, I can't speak straight Ilocano anymore.  I'm linguistically messed up. :) That should explain a lot of things, ha! 

 
Context: 
John's ministry was in full swing.  People were confessing their sins and repenting.  He was preparing the way for the coming Messiah.  Jesus on the other hand was already at the right age to begin in ministry.  He has publicly shown His obedience by submitting Himself in baptism and survived Satan's temptation without blemish.  Jesus was preaching here and there but John was still the superstar.

 
Reading verses 12-17 we can trace the model that Jesus adopted in launching His ministry.  The model may be old but it is applicable and worth considering in this day and age.

 
Step 1.  Put yourself under an authority
Remember that John the Baptist was the pioneer evangelist.  He was the first one telling people to repent and announcing coming of the Great One in this story.  When his ministry was fruitful, Jesus did not try to take the leadership role by competing with him; he stayed behind John but not idly.  He supported John and he got busy preparing Himself for the right time.  He worked on His personal "spiritual infrastructure".  

 
It is often difficult to put ourselves behind someone who is less than us.  Our tendency is to fight our way into that role by competition or indifference.  Jesus' example speaks humility.  In humility we shrink ourselves so that life might be more beautiful - a Helenist definition.

 
Step 2.  Step in when the need arises.
Verse 12 indicates the event that prompted Jesus to step in.  John has been imprisoned and his ministry is now jeopardized.  He moved from Nazareth to where John was preaching in greater Galilee.  He was prepared and ready.  Notice that he continued from where John left off.  He preached the same message, "Repent..."  Sometimes in our desire to make a mark, we change things for our personal promotion.  May it be that we will always remember the reason that we've been called, regardless of the magnitude of the responsibility that we have.

 
Step 3.  Organize your team
After Jesus positioned Himself for the ministry, the next thing He did was to organize His team.  He called those whose hearts were already prepared.  It would be hard to ask anybody to do something that they themselves are not convinced of.  Since we can't all be ministry leaders, most of us would play the team players.  To the team players, here's what to consider:
  • The call requires commitment (v. 19)
  • Your commitment is a sign of your obedience (v.20)
  • In obedience adjustment in your priorities is necessary (v.22)

 
Step 4.  Do the work the right way
Jesus preached in the synagogues, the traditional place of teaching.   He not only taught the people in order to heal them spiritually with his messages but he also healed them physically from their sicknesses.  This is the way to reach those who are lost.  Spiritual transformation is foremost of our objectives, but no less is involvement in meeting their needs.  Sometimes our ministry is obstructed by our unwillingness to care and serve those who we minister to.  We act as if our job is only limited to teaching them the words of God per se, rather than a way of life. We are supposed to teach them how to put these teachings into action by the way we live.  This is called discipleship. 

 
Jesus Christ came in this world in human form so He could teach us how to live.  Now I encourage you to use your imagination... what did it require for Christ to become a man and live among us?  It required a lot of love and humility.  Love and humility are also required from us when doing any work for God.  This is not an easy thing to do, knowing our human tendencies, but the scripture says, "...press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Phil 3:14).

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Haiti: Letter from Shelley


My friend Shelley Actis wrote an email this morning regarding Haiti.  She gave me the permission to post it here. 

"Dear Friends and Family- Thank you for all of your prayers as I traveled recently to Haiti. Praise God that He brought me home safely 6 days ahead of the earthquake. The Haiti that I left last Thursday, is simply not the Haiti that stands today. Please continue to pray without ceasing for the loved ones that were left in the wake. It has become so much more real to me having just been there and getting to spend time with those precious people. Praise God that the missionaries and families that I got to work with are all safe!! Some of their friends and extended family members have not been reached as of yet. Pray for His peace to pierce their hearts until they receive word. Port au Prince was once a city of hope, where people would flock in search of a better life. This came at a great cost, leaving behind loved ones in the villages, living on a pittance and in horrible conditions all in the hope of finding a better future. Praise God that He gave us a human spirit with great resiliency. Pray that He will raise up Godly workers to intercede on the Haitians behalf. I had the privilege to work alongside some of those precious workers while I was there. Kristie and Jean Jean Mompremier with UCI are missionaries there that are in the process of packing up their school bus with supplies and making the 6 hour trek to help out. If God so lays it on your heart to help out with those efforts, I can ensure you that your donations will be used with the utmost care. You can visit their website unitedchristiansinternational.org  to get to know them further and put a face with your prayers. Thank you for all the love and prayers that you have poured out to me, I deeply appreciate each and every one of you in my life.  Love in Christ,  Shelley"
 Shelley and Matt Actis are missionary appointees to Columbia along with their four daughters.  They plan to leave for the field in July.  We've worked hand in hand in Belize in the summer of 2008.  Since then, they've worked in Haiti as team leaders.  Leaving his job as a high school teacher in Clovis, Matt is preparing his family to move to Columbia to work as full-time missionaries. 

Daily Ponderings: Psalm 18:2

The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. ~ Psalm 18:2

An injured Haitian boy: Scared and holding tightly on what's left
  (Photo from BBC News- January 14, 2010)

Yesterday we heard about the catastrophic earthquake that shook Haiti.  Today the world gets a glimpse of the extent of devastation on so many lives.  Why does God allow these things to happen?

Like a father to his son, God is constantly trying to get our attention as we tread this life.  When we begin to get distracted or when our attention is focused away from Him, He makes His almighty presence known to us.  He does this in big and small ways so that we go back to Him like a child to his father and say, "You are my refuge and my deliverer." 

When everything is gone and life seems hopeless, my God, you are my shield and hope.  Father, take our Haitian brothers and sisters under your wings. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Daily Ponderings: 1 Peter 2:9

 "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light."  ~ 1 Peter 2:9
 If you are a follower of Christ, by God's grace you have been granted permission to approach your God directly.  Indeed you are a priest.

In the days of Moses, priests were a special group of people who were designated to offer animal sacrifices to God.  Animals were brought to the temple by the people for the forgiveness of their sins.  However, when Jesus Christ died on the cross He offered the one and perfect sacrifice for all.  He offered His own blood (not of an animal) that qualified you and me to become a child of the Most Holy God.  Now therefore, out of gratitude for this new life, we are called to offer our bodies as living sacrifices.  It is no longer poured-out-blood that pleases Him but a holy life that honors His name. 

 My God, how then shall I live this life?  Grant me wisdom and understanding so that I will choose to please you.  Your word is a lamp to my feet and the light for my path....

Sunday, January 10, 2010

River to Desert




Context
Rivers or any stream of water is often used in the bible to symbolize an environment of abundant provision (Psalm 1:3) and of life (Revelation 22:1).  Things that sustain life seem to be available near the river.  Life is easy and enjoyable with little to crave for.  Back in chapter 3 of Matthew we saw the dramatic convergence of the Holy Trinity by the Jordan River.  John the Baptist, who was of the same faith, was with Him.  John's fans, who were prepared to accept Jesus, were there.  It was at the river where the Spirit came down to join Him.  It was at the river where the Father announced His approval of Jesus.  Emotionally, this was indeed a high-moment for Him.

Chapter four brings Jesus to a different setting and audience.  He was brought to the desert to be tempted by--who else--Satan.  The desert is a place of scarcity and adversity.  Very few consumable life-forms exist there and those that happen to be in the area are all focused on survival and the fight for whatever is available.  Some life forms are naturally adapted to the desert and call it their home.  Those that thrive in there are equipped with specialized  survival mechanisms.  The desert is not a place for wimps. Great effort is required to withstand the adverse environment.  The desert is where Jesus was brought to shortly after His emotional-high moment.   I've wondered why was it necessary for verses 1-11 to be written in the gospel?   What am I to learn from Jesus' experience?

Jesus modelled the way to deal with temptation and He was subjected to the most extreme scenario.  When I was still doing plant research, I was trained to judiciously choose treatments in my experiments that would reveal the greatest effect in order to show the trend with clear drama.  A trained scientist would see the slightest change in plant behavior but to the general eye it might seem like nothing.  Jesus was exposed to an extreme situation so that all we could see His point clearly.  In the previous chapter, He showed us the way to live in a place of abundance and comfortable provision.  Then, in these verses, He shows us the way to live so as to withstand scarcity and adversity.  We can use these extremes to figure out our God-approved response. 

Temptation 1.  His spiritual position is challenged against His physical need.

"If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread."
Jesus has been fasting. Forty days without food nor water is awfully long. He was dehydrated, and depleted of whatever was in his system prior to fasting. In His human form, there is no doubt He was at the verge of dying. Photographs by the National Geographic magazine of people dying of hunger are close to what I imagine Jesus looked during this period. There would have been very little physical strength left.
Satan did not deny that Jesus was the Son of God.  He merely asked Jesus to prove it by using His power to turn stones into bread.  He was aware that Jesus is fully empowered and that He can do anything if He decides.  Instead, He said,  'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.' 

Jesus, hungry and thirsty,  responds to the sweet temptation of food by quoting the scriptures.  The right things He knew and believed before his circumstances changed still remain.    In his faintest vocal strength He made it loud and clear that bread is not enough.  Satisfying our physical need is not the sole necessity in maintaining life.  Live on-there is more to life than food.
 
Temptation 2.  His Spiritual position is challenged against his pride

"If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written: "'He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'"
Satan, knowing that Jesus was keen on conforming to the scriptures, incorporated some scriptural truths in his appeal to Jesus. Again, he acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God and yet he invites Him to prove His influence by throwing Himself down. After all, he says, the angels are all at attention waiting to do something for you. They won't even let you touch a stone. Whenever we become vulnerable in any way, we tend to camouflage it by unleashing our remaining strength. Back in my younger years, I was a member of a club called "Dress Up Nicely When Broke." The idea here was to protect personal pride. This was exactly what Satan wanted Jesus to succumb to. 

"It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" When He said this, Jesus is probably extremely weak and barely holding Himself up.  I remember a time when my family was on a six-hour layover in Frankfurt from Istanbul.  The airport was extremely busy all the seats were occupied.  I ached to find a place to sit and lay my back on anything solid.   Satan's invitation to a comfortable alternative to a chaise lounge was painfully inviting.  And yet Jesus, standing on His wobbly knees from starvation, turns to Satan, maintains his righteous obedience to God, and rejects his offer.

Temptation 3.  His spiritual position is challenged against material glory.

"All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me."
Finally, Satan tests Jesus with the ultimate weakness of men - control of vast material glory.  Coincidentally, Satan, as he lures Jesus to fall, also reveals what he desire to have.  He wanted Jesus to come on his side.  He wanted Jesus to shift His allegiance to him.  But Jesus said, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'"

Satan failed and yet he continues to pursue those who follow Jesus.   Make sure therefore that if you choose now, choose the winning side - Jesus. 

Jesus had a very clear pattern in the way He responded to temptation.  God remained as the standard of His righteousness.  Jesus persisted in obedience regardless of His condition.  When exposed to adverse circumstances, He acted according to what He believed. 

Temptation is part of living.  We are shaken all the time; sometimes the impact is harder than other times.  Captain Chesley B. Sullenberger III, before landing the Airbus A320 in the Hudson River in January 15, 2009 had only one thing to say to the 155 passengers to protect themselves from the unexpected event: "Brace for Impact!"  Temptation shows itself before it affects us but it is important to identify it sooner to allow time to brace yourself.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Single Story = Stereotype

Stereotypes are incomplete, oversimplified opinions based on prior assumptions.  Stereotypes are labels given to a situation, group of people or individual.  Having lived in three different countries, I must admit that I have been both a culprit and victim of this dangerous mistake.  Fortunately, I had the opportunity to find out for myself some truth behind the lies that I've convinced myself to believe. 

With little information at my disposal, I believed that American missionaries living in the Philippines were those who could not make it financially in the States.  Living in a developing country would elevate their status.  What a noble way to look and feel rich, I thought.  When I met Tim he was a short term missionary.  I can't forget a conversation we had when I asked, for some reason I can't remember, how much money he had.  His response was, "Yes, I have four hundred dollars in the bank."  For this story to make sense, I should say that at the time of this conversation, I was an independent person, working on my PhD dissertation, with a good job and satisfactory income.  His response confirmed my original opinion about missionaries.  Years later and after we got married, I found out the other financial story of people going on a mission when we as a couple applied to go and become full time missionaries to another country.  Tim had to quit his good-paying-job as a computer programmer to go begging churches for support.  Missionaries in fact can be those who are financially self-sufficient people with a goal to serve others and to please God in humility.  There was no better way for me to learn this truth than becoming a missionary "appointee". 

Based on prior assumption, when one disagrees with us we oversimplify the reason by saying that the other person dislikes us.  That is but one possible story.  Could it be that the other person sees something within my blind spot and that to disagree with me is a mere expression of concern?  To come up with an original closer-to-truth opinion, find out about the other story.  Research always reveal the unknown or unimagined.  Without it, we allow ourselves to live in a bubble of half truths or lies. 

Get a cup of coffee before watching this video for a more enjoyable viewing experience.  :)

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Resolve




A Resolve*
 For Every Morning of the New Year... I will this day try to live a simple sincere and serene life repelling promptly every thought of discontent, anxiety, discouragement, impurity and self-seeking cultivating cheerfulness, magnanimity, charity, and the habit of holy silence exercising economy in expenditure, carefulness in conversation diligence in appointed service, fidelity to every trust and a child-like trust in God . *From a 100-year old post card courtesy of my friend Soni Gaurano.
 This quote is very inspiring.  It was probably written by someone who thought about life so carefully.  This person longed for significance.   On the contrary, we live in a culture where we are encouraged to resolve to change our own situation in order to change the way we feel about ourselves.  

Recent polls listed the Top Ten New Year's Resolutions as follows:
1.  Spend More Time With Family and Friends
2.  Fit in Fitness
3.  Tame the Bulge
4.  Quit Smoking
5.  Enjoy Life More
6.  Quit Drinking
7.  Get Out of Debt
8.  Learn Something New
9.  Help Others
10 Get Organized

I see an obvious problem with this list; only one (#9) is not self-focused  The rest all seem selfish.

Our relationships almost always determine the way we live.  The way we relate with our God and the people around us make us either content or wanting.  Therefore if I can change the way I live so that I would love more- God, family, neighbors, those I encounter in my walk - then I believe that life can yet become significant.

Love never fails. ~ 1 Cor. 13:8a