Tuesday, July 7, 2020

RAPTURE: FACT OR FICTION?

When the last trump sounds, are you ready to
meet the Lord in the air? Image credit: CBN.com

Can it get any worse than this? A grim picture of the days to come.

As the corona virus pandemic escalates—yes, worldwide—will our sheltering, physical distancing and face-mask days ever end?

With many businesses dead or gasping for air, will unemployment—thus increased criminality—be our daily fare?

In the Philippines, neighbors are warning each other: Bolt your gates. Be extra-extra cautious in public places. Scammers and criminals have risen in number. Once hailed as heroes, our OFWs have returned in droves, mere statistics among the ranks of the unemployed.

Americans' sense of prosperity, peace and security has been rocked not only by this pandemic but also by violence. With just a few months before elections in November, many warn of more destabilization by leftists.

And more: Unrest and increased defiance of authories in many other countries. Earthquakes and natural disasters becoming more frequent.

What on earth is happening?

Don't be alarmed, the bible says.

Are we already in the great tribulation which Jesus Himself talked about in Matthew 24? In verse 12, He says, “Lawlessness will abound, and the love of many will grow cold...”

In Luke 21:11, He spoke of earthquakes, famines, pestilences, fearful events and great signs from heaven.

These things will come to pass, yet Jesus assures us: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in Me,” John 14:1. What assurance! But why does He say this?

Have you studied bible prophesies? If you do, you'll soon realize that almost all—except the “end-of-days-events” which Jesus talked about in Matthew 24, and which He revealed to John in the island of Patmos (Revelations)—have come to pass.

“The bible accurately foretells specific events—in detail—many years, sometimes centuries, before they occur; and of the 2,500 bible prophecies, about 2,000 have already been fulfilled to the letter, with no error,” writes “Reasons to Believe” author Hugh Ross, an astronomer who has made it his life mission to prove that “science and the bible are allies, not enemies”.

Of the 44 prophecies about Jesus in the old testament, all have been fulfilled. It is this same Jesus who promised in Revelations 3:10, “Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.”

Most bible scholars agree that the “hour of trial” refers to the seven-year tribulation, the horrors of which the world has never experienced before; and that the words “keep you from the hour of trial” is the rapture, the experience of being caught up or taken away—saved from the prophecied seven years.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 “For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so we shall ever be with the Lord.”

God saved Noah and his family from the great flood which killed entire humanity. Archeological finds have confirmed the authenticity of this event.

Biblical characters Elijah and Enoch were themselves caught up in the air and were “no more”.

Jesus ascended to heaven after His resurrection.

God is powerful. He loves us so much He sent His Son Jesus to save from our sins. How could the rapture be laughed at by others as just a myth or a fairy tale if Jesus Himself revealed it and everything which He taught was true? Millions of changed lives all over the world would attest to that!

Is anything too impossible for God?

Man's pride/self-centeredness, aka sin, has turned our world into a madhouse—where right has become wrong and vice versa; where science and godlessness are praised and God is shunned.

But whether people believe or not, God is still God. He is still seated on His throne. And He will take us—rebellious, hardheaded dust—to account.

Jesus is the way back to Him! If we do return, we become His adopted children.

So let today be the day of your salvation. Tomorrow may be too late.

Prayer: Jesus, I repent. Save me from my sin. The world has indeed gotten worse by the day. Save us from the worst still to come. Help me to understand your Word that I may walk in faith and obey Jesus all the days of my life. Amen.





Wednesday, June 24, 2020

ELSEWHERE CLASSROOM


   Kids have taken to digital learning
 as easily as fish to water. 
How long has it been since the corona virus brought humankind to its knees, making our lockdown state seem eternal?

Not much of an agony for retired folks; we're used to just staying put. But younger generations? Pity them!

This shuttering has dashed marketplace people's dreams of flying high. Many are unemployed. Families are struggling, money-wise. Economies are in tatters. Seems like a bad dream.

Online learning has become the forced normal for virtually all students. Such a shame that for kids among the poor, the prospect of schooling has altogether stopped, making the yawning gap between rich and poor even wider.

What unusual times! We can only believe that soon, God—by His amazing grace—will wiggle us out of this pandemic's deadly tentacles.

I've been pleasantly surprised that today, I'm into online teaching (courtesy of a dear colleague), the only mode left for schools to continue educating their students.

Do I like it? I love teaching, but it feels lonely in my virtual classroom. I miss the interaction, the impassioned debates, the excitement in the air during workshops, the wide-opened eyes which seem to ask for more, my students' eureka moments.

I miss doing live lectures, my own aha! moments as I learn from from their learnings, and being their go-to person when they struggle either with their lessons or their lives.

I used to complain that today's students no longer read books but rely mostly on the internet to complete their tasks. Books used to be a student's best friend and bed-mate. No longer.

My worst nightmare is magnified ten-fold as I see the culture of reading going puff, more so today.

I've always believed that reading legitimate authors' well researched and carefully-written works—as opposed to snippets of information gleaned here and there in the world wide web—inspire imagination, creativity, independent thinking, innovation, and yes, even wisdom, as students try to make sense of the harsher world they'd face after school.

But adjust we must, teachers and students alike, even in our shuttered state. I've gotten used to meeting and conversing with them in our virtual classroom. 

What about younger kids' education in these sheltering days?

We know that mastering reading, writing and math is just part of the whole equation; and that getting a grip on their EQ (emotional quotient) preps them to be prim and proper, best of all, considerate, kind and people-savvy individuals. That's what schooling equips them with—the firmness, understanding and grace to be around bullies and nice classmates alike.  

Nowadays, young kids get their “formal” learning online.

For our eight year-old granddaughter, school today means sitting in front of the computer and accessing her lessons online. She's taken to it like fish to water. I catch her from time to time acting out or voicing a stage character—prompted by an online theatre program. Cool, huh.

Children are resilient. They easily adapt. But we wonder how this forced normal will impact their lives down the line. Will sheltering cause them to be crumbly wafers? But who's to say which way of teaching is better?

It's tough being a parent nowadays. Especially in the US, parenting has turned doubly tedious as mother or father takes up the slack from their kids' teachers . This calls for creativity, inspiration and patience.

Parents are still their children's best teachers, stepping up their game when they need to.

Proverbs 22:6 "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it."

Prayer: Lord God, we pray for parents and their children. This current pandemic has upended their lives. Parents struggle with making a living and teaching their kids. Give them wisdom to manage their time wisely so that they can spend productive and enjoyable learning times with their children. May teachers cope well with teaching online and students make the most of their learning online. In Jesus' name, amen.


Thursday, June 18, 2020

CHOICE AND CONSEQUENCE

Grandkid three crowned her hair with spiked covid-like plastic globules, resulting in tangles. Crying (hers) and sighing (mine) sweetened our drama. The untangling took forever. 😜

Then it was grandkid four's turn—with her sister's Barbie doll. The entanglement was so severe, my first impulse was to shear her mangled hair. But a half-bald Barbie? No way. So I let it be. Let them play with their messed-up doll.

Buying a new Barbie came to mind (These two girls share only one.), but then, where's the teaching opportunity in that? 

Entanglements—better to experience them at play where crying and sighing are just skin-deep, than  in adulthood with their more ouchie consequences. 

Psalm 90:12 Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a life of wisdom. 

A day has 24 hours. More than half of these we spend making choices; the rest for gaining back strength through rest or sleep. Choice is a day-in, day-out affair. 

Will I sleep a little longer or rise early to take my usual walk? Will I have breakfast? What kind? 

At work, will I shut the door to finish that report my boss has been bugging me for days? But what if other hassles get in the way? 

Bedtime. No not yet. Got to watch at least one more episode of Crash Landing On You (favorite Korean telenovela). But oh, got to watch the next one too, kasi bitin (cliffhanger) naman

Each decision has a consequence. Go without breakfast or exercise? Lack of sleep? Health issues!

Slacking at work may lead to a miniscule or zero salary raise, no promotion; worse, your behind being kicked out the door. 

It gets more serious than those. We've known folks who've been entangled in drugs, gambling, pornography, illicit relationships. The higher you step up the ladder of poor choices, the harder the fall—even with one careless move. 

One sniff? One night of thievery? One fling? One thing leads to another. 

It may not happen to you, but to a loved one. The pain is equally unbearable, isn't it? Especially when that someone takes his life and renders innocent children fatherless. 

So this freedom "thing" which many tend to shout out loud to authorities so that they mock the law—where will it lead them, and us? 

That's why there are rules. They're our even playing field. Obey the law. Respect the authorities. Within these boundaries, we can live peacefully—even enjoy our days. 
 
These covid-19 days: wear your mask, practice physical distancing, do a fist or foot bump instead of the usual beso-beso (kiss).

Where rules are flouted or common sense disregarded, uncertainty prevails. That's why God has given us His Word—our standard. The Bible is the whole expression of God's instructions, our life manual if you will. 

Matthew 22:37-40 "Love the Lord your God will with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength... love your neighbor as yourself... on these two commandments hang all the laws..."

This is our level playing field. 

Yet Jesus knows our weaknesses. Who could follow all these rules? No, not one. 

Romans 3:23 "For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."

That's why Jesus came, offering Himself as the Way, the Truth and the Life, John 14:6. 

From tangled hair to tangled life—it's His business to unentangle our mess. Better yet, to help us from getting tangled! 

Prayer: O God, I repent and humble myself before You. Cleanse my heart and keep my way straight and safe. Forgive me for my wrong choices. Renew my mind. Change my heart of stone with a heart able to hear and obey your Word. Jesus be my Savior and Lord. Amen. 






Thursday, June 11, 2020

GLORY WHERE IT’S DUE

   My grandaughter Natalie and I outdo each other with our Mona Lisa smirk.. er... smile. 3rd&4th image credits: Netflix, Our Planet


Ever heard a painting arguing with it's creator? Here's a sampler: 

Mona Lisa portrait: I don't look that nice. Add a little more smile to my grin.

Leonardo da Vinci: I'm quite happy with it. Your smile exudes mystery. 

Portrait: But I don't like it. What's a portrait if the subject is boring? 

Leonardo: Ah, but I love it! So let it be. 

And it shuts up. 

Of course I just made this up. My apologies, Leonardo. 

The truth is, the Mona Lisa smile has for ages been studied, interpreted and written about—one of the reasons Da Vinci, a genius of his era, is widely regarded as an icon. 

Taking inflation into account, the Mona Lisa fetches today for $2.67 billion—humongous enough to wipe out France's debt, a writer quipped.

And of course I'm using the Leonardo-portrait conversation as a metaphor. Because if truth be told, most of us behave like the Mona in my imagined story.  

"Why am I trapped in this body?" 

"When God poured out ugly, I must have been given the biggest umbrella to catch it all." 

Unknowingly, many of us have taken for granted or pushed our Creator aside, replacing Him with  the lesser gods of self will or pride, money, fame, power. 

“I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul,” wrote William Ernest Henley in his poem Invictus. I once believed that, till I realized it should be the other way around.

What a slap on our Creator. He has from the very start wanted His design, His way, reflected in us. 

Van Gogh’s Starry Night painting is admired the world over. Michelangelo’s Creation painting on the ceiling of Sistine chapel is Rome’s pride. The Mona Lisa has brought Da Vinci glory. 

Just like their works of art reaping accolades for these artists, we too—created beings—must give Him glory, referred to in the original Greek language as an opinion of praise, honor, splendor. 

He gets the glory if we trust and obey Him, because He being Our Creator has fitted us with the wares to not only survive but be a star in this soundstage called life, with Him as our Director. 

We are clay in the Potter’s hands (Isaiah 64:8). He molds and fires and glazes us just like a priceless porcelain fit to adorn a palace. 

Remember where we come from. "The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being" Genesis 2:7. 

Proof that we're but dust? Wait till you're cremated and your body is reduced to just a bagful of dust. Mud more likely. 

The breath of God sustains us, so He deserves all the glory! The created's purpose is to glorify his Creator. 

Psalms 150:6  “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!”

Nature it seems does it better than us. 

“Praise the Lord from the heavens... angels... hosts... sun... moon...shining stars... waters above the heavens... Praise the Lord from the earth... great sea creatures... all deeps... fire and hail... snow and mist... stormy wind... mountains... hills... fruit trees... cedars... beasts and livestock... creeping things and flying birds...” Psalms 148:1-10. 

I’ve recently started watching Netflix’s “Our Planet” series. And I’m awe-struck. Words are not enough to describe the incredible tapestry of God’s creation, how the nano-est and the biggest of them are so uniquely fashioned—they take my breath away. 

More awe-inspiring is this: everyone has a gig all its own. The krill sustains the squid, salmon, seabirds and whales. Tiny  phytoplanktons are not just their appetizers; these microscopic beings also affect oceanic formation of clouds which are then sucked inland to rain down on us. Lions feast on wildebeests and wildebeests thrive on succulents and grass. 

One giant symphony of life—of dependence and harmony—and God’s unseen yet obvious hand conducting everything to perfection. Simply mind-boggling!

And look at us. We can plan, lead, design, invent, analyze, concoct, compute, compose, act, sing, dance, even fly to the moon. Ever wonder where dust such as us get all that limitless wisdom and daring? 

Life. Sustainability. Creativity. Power. Integrity. All of these and more He’s effortlessly put together to make the earth a habitable place for you and me, courtesy of Jesus our Creator. 

Art collectors pay out-of-this-world prices to possess paintings like the Mona Lisa. Jesus paid the highest price—His shed blood through His death on the cross—to repossess us and guarantee our victory up to the time we leap out of this world into His.  

So please, please, give Him all the glory. Let it be His and His alone.  

Sunday, June 7, 2020

ACCESS

Image credit: www.alamy.com
Picture this:

From your limousine, you hurtle down and push your way towards the airport gate as your hand nervously fiddles through your Ferragamo bag.

"Ticket?" asks the guard. "No ticket, no entry," he stares at you coldly while the public address system announces, flight so and so has departed. And you scream the scariest of screams.

A bad dream, huh?

But could there be a worse nightmare than this: when your soul departs from your mortal body, reach eternity's gate and you're told, "Sorry, your name's not listed here."

Admit it. We think we could manipulate our way to heaven in much the same way that we use money to buy a first class airline ticket to a dream destination.

But the Bible is clear. We could not bribe our way to heaven; yes, not even with our good works!

"On that day, many will say to me, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty good works in your name?" And then I will declare to them, I never knew you, depart from me, you workers of lawlessness." Matthew 7:22

God loves it when we do good. Yet, first things first. Numero uno requirement:

Belong to His family. Sonship must be first be established before we can prove by our actions that we are genuinely His.

"But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe in His name." John 1:12

Why would Jesus insist, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me," if He didn't value our Father-son relationship with Him?

He's the only means through whom access to God is possible! The only ticket to your eternal destination.

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so no one would boast." Ephesians 2:8-9

Now this might be a hard pill to swallow, especially if you're way in deep as far as being morally upright and helping others are concerned.

But take it from Jesus. Charity, if motivated by your desire to outweigh your bad deeds with good—is hypocrisy. Good deeds, if they're just meant for show-and-tell, or for praise release, or to preserve your cool image, or have your name inscribed in church pews, are stinkers as far as He's concerned.

Isaiah 64:6 says our righteous acts are like filthy rugs to Him.

Most everyone believes in Jesus. In mind, yes. But genuine faith in Jesus is this: Repenting and totally surrendering yourself to Him to be your Savior and Lord. Then our good works are done out of love, as a form of thanksgiving for His grace, and to glorify His name.

Come on, Jesus died for you and me; paid a high price to ransom our soul from death or eternal separation from Him. Until our hearts are stamped with Jesus's blood, our ticket to His kingdom is a fake. Invalid. Inadmissible. Even if you do a world of good.

But there's more. His grace through Jesus, gives you access to every good His kingdom has to offer.

You want peace in the middle of turmoil? His is a peace which surpasses understanding. He settles your heart because you're planted on the Rock of our salvation.

In fear of sickness or violent people lurking around? His grace surrounds you like a shield. And not to forget, His angels encamp around you.

And in the midst of sorrow or pain, I can have joy in my innermost because this I know:

He who paid the price for my sin and saved me from hell, will guide me wherever I turn—though darkness, intimidating characters, pestilence and dark days lurk around.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

THE SCIENCE OF EVERYTHING

Image credit: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/

We're all currently awash in an ocean of scientific data and health advisories regarding Covid-19. 

Some of them have panned out to be genuine; many proven fake. 
                                 
But we're a bit more cautious now. Ignore the fakes. Consider the credible. Too, find out their source. Quacks or the real deal?

Doctors, epidemiologists, scientists (or whatever “ists” they've added to their titles) we're prone to believe.

And they deserve credit, having spent years investigating the whys and wherefores of what's hidden from our totally pedestrian minds. They intimately know bacteria, virus, and every nano particle inhabiting our guts or lungs or heart or brain or nerves.

Come to think of it, without the science, medicines and inventions concocted by these awesome minds, where would we all be?

Yet, we may have looked at all these awesomeness from the wrong side of the coin.

Before anyone has figured out the physics, the cosmology, the physiology, the biology, the immunology ---or whatever “logy” of things---Someone had it all pat!

These data have been there from eternity waiting to be uncovered.

This Someone has so designed our bodies so that doctors---upon learning the whats and whyfores of our complicated make-up---can sytematically study, conduct experiments and resolve our health issues.

Psalm 139:13&14 “For You created my inmost being... knit me together in my mother's womb... I am fearfully and wonderfully made...”

Thousands of years after this psalm was written, scientists today tell us that each person is made up of 10 trillion cells, with our DNA stretching 744 million miles---woundable to the moon and back 1,500 times. Wow!

Jesus Himself created us, so He knows us inside and out.

1Corinthians 8:6 “... there is one God the Father, from whom all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.”

John 1:3 “All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.”

God made sure the science behind His beautiful creation made sense---for future generations of those who would dare explore the complexity of the human body, even its defenses against pathogens.

Thank God for scientists, doctors and researchers who help us see what incredible creations we really are.

My puny mind understands very little of my physiological make up---how to deal with this pesky virus, avoid heart disease or cancer, or why I need to stay away from sugar to remain healthy.

But to doctors and scientists, God has poured out wisdom so vast and profound. They're the ones who figure out for us things we could hardly fathom about our health and the universe around us.

However, they too are created beings; and their science, if based on faulty premises, may easily be debunked. History is full of trashed scientific assumptions.

So where does our hope and help come from? We look to The One who made us.

He created the universe and the earth with the full backing of heaven's glory. Couldn't He too provide the solution to this pandemic? He had from from the beginning of time put together the equation, the calculus and the algorithm of everything under the sun and even those around it.

So let's put our trust on the Originator of life. Because from Him too will come the wisdom to reverse our seemingly helpless trajectory as human beings.

He has long possessed the science of everything, figured out everything that can be figured out even before we knew we'd encounter them.

May our doctors, scientists, leaders look to Him for wisdom.

May our sheltering days end.

And may everyone look to Jesus for freedom, not only from disease, but too, for the salvation of their souls.


Sunday, April 5, 2020

STUCK

Image credit:
https://www.nytimes.coml
Netflix, if you search hard enough, can be a treasure trove of inspiring real-life stories.

For two nights, we've been glued to “Unorthodox,” a four-episode series about Esty, a young Jewish woman trapped in an arranged marriage which she tried to escape.

It was inspired by the memoirs of Deborah Feldman who left her ultra-conservative Hasidic community in Williamsburg, New York, to build a new life in Berlin. 

Hasid per Wikipedia means pietist or piety. Hasidists are ulra-conservative Jews who are extremely devoted to observing the law and its letter. 

The story was an eye-opener, to say the least---that in this age, a group of people still adheres to whatever Moses and those after him who imposed rule-upon-rule-upon-rule on their people.

We applaud those who observe Mosaic law. But could anyone, really?

This contemporary Hasidic community thought they were doing just that. As the story unfolded, we follow an innocent young woman weighed down by layers of do’s and don’t’s, and rituals and forms:

First, the arranged marriage. Imagine getting hitched with someone you'd never met.

Image credit: https://www.womenshealthmag.com/life
Second, the pressure to procreate. Marital sex without love or pleasure, and for the mere purpose of producing an heir could be punishing.

Third, women treated as subordinate to men. Esty practically didn't have a life---forbidden to sing or play the piano or follow any of her passions, because “women simply were not allowed to”. But she did it in secret anyway, and found her voice in Berlin..

In short, a culture of rules without heart. If we search hard enough, we'll discover many more tribes or cultures with even more abusive or stringent demands than these; with women and children mostly at risk.

And isn't it strange that in our day and age, we still find people stuck in ways which value rites or forms—-even cruel practices---more highly than love, compassion and respect.

I can't judge if this movie's producers were biased. But this we're sure of:

God knew we could not follow the law in its entirety. That's why Jesus came---that grace and truth be ours (John 1:7); and the law be etched in our own hearts and minds (Hebrews 10:16---not decreed by man, but with the help of His Word (the bible) and His Spirit in us.

That's why we can do good, love, be patient and self-controlled, kind, faithful, gentle; and most of all experience His peace (Galatians 5:22-23)---none of which can be taken away from us despite difficult situations; and against such, there is no law!

I pray the real Esty would know this---that freedom is found in Christ alone, because physical freedom is not freedom at all unless one's soul is saved from sin which in itself is entanglement. 

Prayer: O God, help me to understand that real freedom is found only in Christ. Help me to understand your Word. Plant it in my heart and mind, that I may follow and obey you and no longer be trapped by what others expect of us. Save me and rule over my life from now on. In Jesus' mighty name.