Monday, December 30, 2013


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What and how many gifts did you receive this Christmas? 

I'm sure that whatever they were -- cheap or expensive, useful or not -- you gladly received them, especially if they came from loved ones.

But did you savor the best gift of all -- Jesus? Unequalled. Irreplaceable. Our friend for all the seasons of our lives.

Jesus has no expiry date like some of the gifts which we briefly appreciated -- because we either immediately consumed them, stashed them (no use for the immediate future), or recycled them for others because budget or time prevented us from shopping for everyone. 

Through Jesus, God gives us brand new grace every day, just like freshly squeezed orange juice. New sweetness. New tanginess. New refreshing. New nutrition.

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"The Lord's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease. For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." Lamentations 3:22-23

As we welcome the new year, the one who sits on heaven's throne reminds us: 

"Look, I am making everything new! Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true." (Revelations 21:5)

I don't know about you, but I'm just plain sick and tired of sitting through replays -- recollections of my self-produced soap operas: bitter or ill feelings about others, regrets, unforgiveness, resentments, fears, worries, sad experiences, and the litany of apologies for things I failed to accomplish. 

Frankly, even if I sent out invitations, no one would attend my pity parties. 

But only Jesus would. That is, if I allowed Him to be the Star of the party; with self pity and self-centeredness relegated to the bleachers. My old self may scream and rant, but if I get into the habit of having Jesus as my anchorman, center-of-the-universe-me should soon revolve around the Son who really is the Master of this universe. 

Because if He permanently resides in our hearts, we too must let Him be: Lord of even our emotions and thought processes. 

In His presence is joy forevermore, strength, peace, and an assurance that even if the earth rocks-and-rolls to the beat of a 7.5 earthquake or a tsunami of a problem comes battering, you can believe that He will keep you safe in the palm of His mighty hand. 

Jesus is still the great news ever, even as we welcome the new year.

Many believe 2014 will bode well for many, it being the year of the horse, "whose spirit stands for an energetic, warm-hearted, intelligent and able attitude," says a website.

But would't you agree that placing one's hope in or even identifying ourselves with a zodiac sign or any created being is a bit of a stretch? The horse is just that -- a horse, wielding nothing more than horsepower, or what your airconditioning motor fires out to cool your room. 

*(see photo credit list)
Anchor your life on Jesus who completed the work -- all we would ever need for life and godliness -- for us! He says in Revelations 21:6: "It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega -- the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty, I will give freely from the springs of the water of life."

He has our past, present and future covered. How refreshingly and thirst-quenchingly cool is that!

May Jesus, our Great News ever, be the center of 2014!

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Monday, December 23, 2013

(Originally published in the Campus Crusade for Christ  newsletter)

It's all too painful. This nation dubbed as the happiest in the world must be reeling from some kind of multiple sclerosis, its head not knowing left from right, right from wrong. 

"What were they thinking?" might be a question all of us wanted to pound our lawmakers with, after the 10 billion peso Napoles-cum-lawmaker PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Funds) scam blew in their faces. 

So all this time, we were being taken for a ride? Our taxes not spent for their intended purpose? No wonder our politicians cheat and bribe and even kill to get elected. And no wonder barrio folks don't even have access to clean drinking water and electricity. 

What is so current about electricity if it sputters and dies on a daily basis and people just could not go about their normal way of living—or making a living? And we're surprised that they brave mega-populated Metro Manila to get a job—any job! 

You have, of course, read all the back and forth on why typhoon Yolanda was more tragic than it should have been. With communities summarily destroyed and thousands of families grieving—for their dead, their presumed dead and their stolen past—experts say the physchological cost of rebuilding will be astounding. 

One would assume that if the Philippines hosts more than 20 typhoons a year, we'd be a more organized event planner so that when Yolanda's cousins come bursting, we'd be ready with our battalions of to-go defenders, responders and aid. 

Oh, we could list a litany of laments. And I'm sure you're sick and tired of that. Enough! 

Haven't we gotten the message yet? Isn't it too obvious, as obvious as the clear morning light, that this merry or sorry-go-round of tragedies and social ills could not be solved or remedied by politics or pow-wow? 

Businesses could only do so much. Every child must have access to education, but even that is not enough. As a matter of fact, we're one of the best exporters of labor—highly skilled, professional and English speaking workers. 

Because neither employers with their strict code of ethics, nor education with its teachings on life values and principles, can tame the wild pasaway beast inside. 

Just look at how drivers cross the red light or take the lane supposedly for oncoming vehicles. Consider the under-the-table shenanigans not only in government offices but also in businesses. Note the statistics of separated couples or teenage pregnancies. 

And yet, even more developed economies are not immune from all these nor the natural calamities which batter us year in and year out. All these are signs of things to come. 

Matthew 26:7,8,12 remind us that there will be famines and earthquakes in various places; that there will be an increase in wickedness and that the love of many will grow cold; and yet, these are just the beginning of birth pains. The earth as we know it will no longer be the same.

Yet, we still have hope for our nation: 

Psalm 33:12—Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He chose for His inheritance. 

Isaiah 9:6—For to us a child is born,  to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father. 

It has been a constant refrain, and we all need to ring it louder as the day of His coming draws near: Preach Jesus. Live Jesus. Model Jesus. 

And let's continue to pray for our leaders, because unless Jesus takes the lead over their lives, the lord greed and I-Me-Myself—with no regard for the welfare of our people—will continue to consume them. 

For many of us at the Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC) and the people we've reached, Jesus has indeed become our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father. Wouldn't it be nice if Jesus would be all these—not just a name in their consciousness—in the lives of our loved ones, neighbors, communities and most especially our leaders?

I became a believer when someone from CCC shared Jesus with me. I didn't know I was lost until I found—rather I've been found by—Him. Like everyone of our kababayans walking around and believing themselves to be gods and masters of their destinies, I realized soon enough that I was INDEED a sinner, but could be saved and transformed by His grace. Then I realized: My heart has been changed, and could indeed OBEY Him!

That's the gift everyone needs to receive this Christmas and all the days of their lives. 

Jesus is Immanuel, the God who is with us!

Change? Yes! Only Jesus can make it happen. Because He resides in our hearts. He is our Shelter. Let the rains and the winds batter. If the greatest One lives in me, of whom—or  what—shall I be afraid? 

We as a nation need never be afraid.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Let me be a party pooper as you prepare for your next Christmas affair. 

You've by now prettified your house, bedecked your Christmas tree with tinsels, balls, flowers and ribbons. Maybe even invaded Divisoria or Rustan's -- depending on your budget -- to make sure you didn't miss anyone in your Christmas gift list. 

And not to forget the parties! What food to prepare. The presents. What fineries to wear. For half a dozen parties, reunions and nights out. 

Just listing all the above made me woozy. Does Christmas have to be this stressful? I ask that every Christmas time. And someone always reminds me: 

"It stimulates the economy -- all this buying and selling."

"Life would be a complete bore if we didn't have this long holiday of feel-good carols, partying, niceties and gift-giving."  

How about answering this question: Is it good for your soul? A definite, "Yes!"

Delete the stress, Christmas is a must! Christmas celebration as we've all been accustomed to may be demanding, frenzied and tiring, but it is all up to us to ferret out the diamond from the rough. 

Go ahead, shop, party and relish all the puto-bumbong, bibingka, castanas and jamon served before you. I enjoy every bit of these even if my doctor scolds me later for laryngeal over-use and heightened cholesterol, sugar and triglyceride levels. 

And because you may have received your bonus and have some extra cash, bless your loved ones and others in need. 

But remember that all these are just the garnishings of Christmas.

If by chance any of these peripherals could not be served, Christmas remains to be the most important event for anyone and for humankind.

Think of our kababayans who lost their loved ones and material possessions to the recent typhoon and last year's typhoon Yolanda. Consider the poorest nations of Africa who don't even have access to clean water, good nutrition and decent medical care because their leaders have abandoned them. 

We don't even need to go far. Metro Manila teems with poor people living in shanties and boxes for their shelter under bridges. 

Jesus came that the those living in darkness may see the light (Matthew 4:6). 

One way or the other, we are all in darkness -- beset not only by material lack but emptiness of the soul. Hopelessness, addiction of some form, lust, greed, selfishness -- the list is endless. Statistics have proven that the most number of suicides occur during this season, especially in rich countries! So the tinsels and trimmings don't make for gladness.

Jesus knew precisely what we needed: Immanuel, meaning God with us! Sin has separated us from Him. So He gave us Jesus. Confess Him as our Savior and Lord and He starts to take residence in our minute-by-minute existence. 

He's not after being celebrated as a pageant king only at Christmas time or holy week or just on Sundays. He wants to be our Resident Physician, Teacher, Provider, Strength, Peace, Grace, Mercy and whatever else you need to fill your empty life with, 24/7.

Isaiah 9:6 -- "For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."

Luke 2:13-14 -- Angels appeared with a multitude of heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased." 

Christmas is all about God's peace to those who please Him. Wouldn't He be pleased if we received Jesus as our most cherished gift? With or without the peripherals, CHRISTmas won't just be merry, but joyful. 

Have a merry Christmas! Remember, Christ is the reason for the season.