Wednesday, December 30, 2015

BRAND NEW

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They don't compose music like they used to, from my point of view at least. Honestly, I get unnerved by most of today's songs, with some exceptions. 

Back in my day―when "traffic" meant making a few stops at intersections because the traffic light or policeman said "Stop!" (and which everyone obeyed)―we easily caught a song's lyrics and melody. (I sound really ancient, don't I?)

One group I particularly liked in the 70s (Now I'm really Jurassic!) was the Stylistics, with their endearing soul songs lovely-fied by its lead crooner Russell Thompkin's yummy falsettos. 

Recall (Now I'm talking to my co-senior-card flashers.) the chorus of "You Make Me Feel Brand New:"


"God bless you
You make me feel brand new
For God blessed me with you
You make me feel brand new
I sing this song 'cause you
Make me feel brand new"

It may have been composed for someone else, but doesn't that sound like a song for Jesus too? For who else could make you and I brand new, except for Jesus―our Creator―who came from heaven to save us? 

2 Cor 5:17―Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

We'll say "Bye-bye!" to 2015 in just a few hours. Bye-bye to what? Maybe a baggage-full of regrets, frustrations, unforgiveness, bitterness. The details are too murky or complicated to even imagine. But He knows what we've struggled with or the life-bombers the devil has thrown our way. 

In Christ, we can confidently say "Adieu!" to the old and welcome the new―and not have the past festering us all over again! He's got new things in store.

Isaiah 43: 18-19―"Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert." 

Our Creator has all the power in the universe to flatten a mountain or calm the storm for us, but that's if we'll let Him! But He's given us the free will to do it our way or His way. Saying "Yes!" to Jesus means He will: 

"…give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart." (Ezekiel 36:26, NLT) 

Problems will still come, yes; but your new heart with its new understanding to deal with situations will make all the difference. Because even wisdom is God-breathed! 

Just like brand new! A new product coming out fresh from the factory gets to be stamped its manufacturer's brand and seal of guarantee.  

Is anything too hard for our Manufacturer?

O Lord, forgive me for having depended on myself and my possessions more than I trusted you. You are my Creator, who by your wisdom can teach me everything for a victorious life. I leave my 2015 baggage out and welcome now my newness in Christ. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

LIGHT STEPPING INTO DARKNESS

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Lest we forget, the Jesus whom we celebrate at Christmastime is both our Creator and Savior. 

Before Jesus stepped into the picture---darkness!   

Pre-history, scene one, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep" (Genesis 1:1-2). 

The Son of God, referred to in John's gospel as the Word---"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God"---did speak the universe  into being. 

"Through him all things were made" (John 13a).  

Scene two, long after man's separation from God because of sin, Jesus the Savior was born, and "people living in darkness have seen a great light," as prophesied by Isaiah,  
"on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned." 

People may deny all they want, but truth be told, millions, maybe even billions of people today "live in the land of the shadow of death." 

Dysfunctional relationships. Sickness. Lawlessness. Rebellion. Financial lack. Pride. Greed. Arrogance. Religious persecution. We're all too familiar with stories of individuals, even hordes of people (think refugees from ISIS) stuck in mires they could not escape from. Some of us deal with issues which suck the life out of us---making our days joy-less, peace-less.

Jesus not only came to unshackle you. He also grants victory in spite of hopelessness. That's why this time around, He is Savior! But remember, He's your Creator too---who formed you in your mother's womb and knew you even before you were born (Psalm 139).

No one needs to remain in the dark or wallow in despair.  

Psalm 27:1?The Lord is my light and my salvation---whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life---of whom shall I be afraid?

So it would be a pity if we greet people, "Merry Christmas!" yet only enjoy its "merry" part---the 13th-month pay, parties and sumptuous handaan, and gifts galore. 

Christ is Christmas. For once, focus on the greatest gift that's been given, our biggest reason for rejoicing.  

Jesus, Savior! Haven't you received Him yet? 

Jesus, I admit, I could not tackle life on my own. I need you to light my way. Would you be my Savior? Forgive me. Speak life into me. Make me a brand new creation, in Your Name I pray. 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

BLOOD AND SNOW-WHITE

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"Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful. And since we've got no place to go, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!"

Don’t you just feel all Christmassy whenever you hear this 1946 Sammy Cahn and June Styne ditty? 

We’re  blessed to bask in our own tropical climate this side of the world, yet once in a while—and especially at Christmastime—we pine for the snow-capped pine trees and landscapes enjoyed by our New York or Toronto cousins. 

Brrrrr! Now, I’m shivering and want to don my fur coat and mittens. 

Why this fascination with snow? I love snow, but just from afar. Think uber migraine-inducing freezing temperatures  and painstaking snow-shoveling  tasks, and your mind will soon be Boracay-bound.

What seems more interesting about snow is the bible’s reference to it.  

Isaiah 1:18—“Though our sins be scarlet or red, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”

Read with me a line from Grace Chong’s blog highlighting the significance of Jesus’ shedding His blood for us: “Unlike Herod who caused massive bloodshed among hordes of people, Jesus shed His own blood for all people of the world…”

The devil through Herod may have tried to kill Christmas but God’s purpose could not be stopped. On the third day after He willingly went to the cross and died, Jesus rose again. 

The Messiah—who became Immanuel, God with us—rose again, declaring and proving Himself to be the Truth, the Life, and the only Way through whom anyone can be reconciled with the Father. 

Blood turned snow-white.  What a sweet reminder of our heavenly Father’s unconditional love for mankind. 

That’s why I love Christmas.

Jesus, thank you for willingly going to the cross for me and your promise to take my sins away from me—“as far as the east is from the west”  (Psalm 103:12). What a comfort to know that I am forgiven and that I’m a new creation in Christ.




Wednesday, December 2, 2015

MARY DID YOU KNOW?


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It's Christmastime! Imagine with me for a moment when Mary's little baby---Jesus, the very reason we celebrate Christmas---was born more than two thousand years ago.

Surely, she must have marveled at how beautiful He was. But being a young mother, she too must have cringed at the thought of caring for someone so helpless---that her carefree young life would now be radically altered while she nursed this infant to adulthood.

But remember, Mary knew WHO this baby was: the promised Messiah! The angel told her so!

Picture Mary, heartbeat racing---better yet, heart bursting---even as she lovingly beheld her baby wrapped in swaddling clothes. She was in breathing distance with God Himself, her Lord and Savior!

Sharing with you what should officially become everyone's Christmas anthem, composed by Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene:

MARY DID YOU KNOW?

Mary did you know that your baby boy                                         Would some day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy
Would save our sons and daughters?

Did you know that your baby boy
Has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered                            
Will soon deliver you

Mary did you know that your baby boy 
Would give sight to a blind man? 
Mary did you know that your baby boy 
Would calm a storm with his hand?

Did you know that your baby boy
Has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby
You have kissed the face of God

Oh Mary did you know?

The blind will see, the deaf will hear 
The dead will live again                                                        
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak                     
The praises of the lamb

Mary did you know that your baby boy       
Is Lord of all creation?                                                   
Mary did you know that your baby boy               
Would one day rule the nations?                                                                                                                              
Did you know that your baby boy                              
Is heaven's perfect Lamb? 
This sleeping child you're holding

Is the great I AM!




Prayer: Thank you Jesus for saving me from sin and reconciling me with the Father. I'm sorry that I've taken Christmas quite lightly. Help me to meditate on its significance. I offer you my heart and my life in return, as a pleasing sacrifice to you my Savior. Thank you for adopting me as your child. In your name I pray.


Monday, November 23, 2015

SINNERS WANTED

Imagine yourself looking for a job at Jobstreet and your eyes catch this strange headline: "Wanted: Sinners."

You'd probably sneer, thinking, "Whoever placed that ad is either crazy or stupid." Naturally, because an employer of sound mind would want to hire qualified people—no room for bunglers or incompetents here! 

But what if the advertiser turns out to indeed be God? 

His "wanted" ad would further read: "The righteous need not apply." 

That was precisely what Jesus said when the Pharisees accused Him of eating with tax collectors and sinners: "For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners" (Matthew 9:13b).

Oops, run that by me again, is this really Jesus talking? 

Listen further: "The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." (Luke 19:10). 

Romans 3:10-12—"...There is no one righteous, not even one. There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless, there is no one who does good, not even one."

That means no one qualifies. Not even one? The whole truth and nothing but the truth! Remember, we're all Adam and Eve's kids to the nth degree. We've inherited their sin-gene. 

"Wait! I go to church Sundays, help the poor and pray a lot. Don't all these add up to my being-right-with-God account?" 

But your conscience forces you to think back: 

"Hmm, yesterday, I wanted to kill my boss for shouting at me. He's so mean, he deserves to die."

"I wished my nosey, sour-graping and slanderous neighbor would just become mute or be paralyzed." 

If you admit you've murdered or lusted in deed or in thought, and done other despicable acts not worthy of print, then you're in good company. Jesus welcomes you, just like Zaccheus the tax collector, who after being acquainted with Jesus turned his life around. 

God imposes just one condition: Aminin! Admit that you're a sinner and confess Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. 

Jesus commanded (John 3:7b): "You must be born again." As Creator, Master and Lord, Jesus has every right to impose His own rules if we sincerely want to be in His team. Don't forget, His is the only name given by which everyone may be saved, Acts 14:12. 

How can one whose heart has been so darkened by sin even start to please Jesus? The Father has taken care of that too; He promised:

Ezekiel 36:25-27—"Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances..."

Brand new in Christ! That's how He qualifies. 

Jesus, I'm not even qualified to come to you. I am a sinner. But I boldly come into your throne of grace. Forgive me. I confess Jesus as my Lord and Savior. Change my heart of stone to a heart of flesh. In your name I pray.

Friday, October 16, 2015

SINCERELY, MOM

An open letter to my children:

Please do not be embarrassed as I share my heart through this blog. I come from a family unaccustomed to openly complementing each other (My "I love you's" are as rare as desert rain.); but let me nonetheless do that right now.

Too, I'd like moms elsewhere to seize the moment. There may not be a next time, especially when your kids live in another country. So this is my warm-my-kid's-heart dayin lieu of an unattainable cuddle time.

I thank God for you! We've surely had our shortcomings as parentsoh, quite a lot! But by His grace, you too have come to know Jesus as your Lord and Savior. And you've married spouses, and became parents of children, who love God. That's our greatest reward―that your entire household walk in the fear and instruction of the Lord.

Oh yeah, once in a while, my heart is gripped with fear, especially when I imagine our grandkids growing up in a world where "bad-ass" behavior is applauded, where defying the rules is the norm,  where being godly is ridiculed, and the gospel of "do-what-makes-you-feel-good" is preached.

What if they get bullied if they stand for their Christian values? What if they get hooked on forbidden pleasures? What if they reject godliness and righteousness, and shun Jesus as their compass? Because the bible talks of a timewhich I believe is nowwhen lawlessness will increase and the love of many will grow cold (Matthew 24:12).

But you know what? My what-if fears have been overshadowed by His Grace: His promise to never leave you or forsake you. His promise to bless from generation to generation of those who fear Him. No fear in God! He's in control, still seated on the throne.  

By His grace and with your spouses, you've prioritized the family members' needs more than your bank accounts.

Daughter, you sacrificed your career to make sure you're always there for your husband and kidsyour schedule built around their school hours and their activities. With your new online business, you're now a step closer to being more accessible to them, especially in their critical growing up years. 

I know vanillacandy.com.au will be blessed because you've sought His will.  With your passion for fashion, you will one day be designing and manufacturing your own clothes line, with your own daughter as your assistant. How cool is that?

Son, God used you as my Amazing Grace 101 lesson. From that frail little boy who wanted to retreat in a shell because you were too afraid of people, you've bloomedinto a loving and protective husband and father, a top-notch sales person and an anointed drummer. I have always believed that you can sell anything! Even Jones Bridge if you wanted to. 

May your dream to build your own business come to pass, in His perfect time, and as you persevere. Pray without ceasing! His promise is true. As you're faithful with little, God will make you in charge of more.

Your father and I love you all, lifting you up to God everydaythat He may shower you with good health, strength, safety, provisions, and most of all His peace that passes all understanding.


His grace abounds; so should you. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

DON'T SLAM THAT DOOR!

Have you ever slammed the door on anyone's face? Or has anyone slammed the door on you?

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That must have hurtlike a slap on the facegiving you enough ammunition to rage or hit back, even curse. 
  
Pastor Robert Solijon recently revisited with us the story of the prodigal sonone of the most touching parables taught by Jesus (Luke 15:11-31)a classic case of "door-slamming" especially when the son demanded, "Give me my share of the estate."
   
Had I been in this father's shoe, my knee-jerk reaction would have been, "The nerve, you ingrate!" And would have left him in the coldtill he repents. Di ba?

Because that's just like being told, "I don't want to have anything to do with you anymore. Give me what's due me." In other words, "You're dead!" And that's painful.

Overly dramatic me would probably respond with, "You might as well have stabbed my heart."

A son or daughter turning his or her back is probably the saddest day in a parent's life. But come to think of it, we've all been guilty of slamming and shutting that door on our loved oneswithout us realizing itwhether you're mom or dad or son or daughter.

Hurting words. Insensitivity to their feelings. Selfishness. Shaming them in front of others. Physical abuse. All these are door-slammers and alienators, causing someone to be defensive, unresponsive, uncaring and resentfula recipe for a broken relationship or dysfunction in the family.    

The father in this story, however, never ceased loving. He kept the door of his houseand heart open. He kept on hoping. He waited and waited, till the son returned.

Without question, and even before his ingrate of a son (who smelled like a pig) could utter, "I'm sorry," the father rushed headlong to embrace him, gave him a robe, a ring and slipperseven threw him a shindig. How's that for forgiveness and "as-if-you've-never-strayed" attitude?

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No amount of disrespect or rebellion could breach a father-son relationship. That's probably the attitude Jesus wants us to have for our loved ones. And instead of selfishness, we could do with a little more kindness, patience, meekness, love, and loads of grace to keep anyone from shutting us off. 

The prodigal son was ready to ask for forgiveness. His father knew. Our heavenly Father knows tooif and when our hearts crumble.

Jesus demonstrated that while we were yet sinners, He died for our sins, bringing us back to as-if-you've never-been-away-status with Father God.

He did say (Hebrews 8:12), "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."


Father, I've pretty much slammed the door on you many times in my life. Forgive me. I'm sorry too for the way I've unkindly and shabbily treated my loved ones and others. I humble myself before you. Enable me to listen and obey your Word. In Jesus name, amen.     

Monday, September 21, 2015

LET'S KICK BUT

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Ever tried arguing with yourself?

For example: you want to learn to paint. Though you hadn't held a brush or touched a canvas previously, a part of you says, "I would love to do it. I know I'll be good at it. "  

Yet a more persistent voice tweets, "I'll simply be inept at it. Why would I even dare?"  And you banish your original thought into your brain's trashbin of broken dreams.

Pastor Paul Chase's (Alabang Newlife Christian Center) recent wake-up call: "Stop making decisions based on your old self. If you've committed your heart and life to Jesus, start thinking in terms of who you are in Him."

Even if you had believed otherwise, God declares: 

• You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. (Philippians 4:13)

• You are a new creation in Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

• You are more than a conqueror. (Romans 8:37)

• His grace is sufficient for you and His power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Pastor Paul suggests: Delete your buts―and its other esoteric versions such as "nevertheless," "however," "nonetheless!"

No more excuses! Christ paid dearly for you. If God says you can do it, then you really could! How?

2 Corinthians 10:5: We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought  to make it obedient to Christ.

Didn't He bundle His gift of eternal life with all the enabling traits to make you walk godly, productive, victorious? Didn't He too declare that you can do as He did, even greater?

"Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these…" (John 14:12)

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Yet, this big bully of a word BUTbutts in, whispering:

"But I'm not talented."

"But I might just waste my time on something I'm never good enough at."

"But no one might appreciate my work."

Pastor Paul reminds, "… put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator" (Colossians 3:10); reject thoughts which magnify your old self versus your new state in Christ.  

He explained further: Our self-image happened slowly. These thoughts were piled through time, setting and molding us in our own little boxes which have become our comfortor discomfortzone.

Come to think of it, someone told me a long time ago: "I wasn't good enough," so I grew up believing I would not amount to somethinguntil Jesus set me free from that box and gave me wings to fly.

David, declared by God to be after His heart, never settled for the labels stamped on him by others.

He was a mere shepherd boy and not even part of King Saul's army when he volunteered to face Goliathat whose taunts, the whole Israeli army trembled. 

His brother Eliab accused David of conceit  for even wanting to do the job. King Saul doubted David. He allowed David anyway because he didn't have much choice. Goliath ridiculed him.

1 Samuel 17: 45: David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied." 

With one stone from his sling, David struck Goliath dead.

God's favor surrounded David. But he stood by God's Word and it made a world of difference.

God has your back too, if indeed Jesus is your Lord and Savioryour  key to having the mind of Christ.


Jesus, I commit my life to you. Be my Savior and my Lord. Teach me to think your thoughts. Crush every negative and vain imagination which used to dictate my decisions and actions in the past; and replace them with thoughts that conform to your Word.  

Sunday, September 6, 2015

MASTERPIECE

File:Van Gogh - Starry Night - Google Art Project.jpg
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One of my favorite painters is Vincent van Gogh, one the most admired impressionists of the 20th century.

"Starry Night," probably his most popular, has been reproduced and copied countless times by art students and artist-wanna-be's. The original is reportedly priced at more than $100 million.

I'm one of those wanna-be's—pretend artists actually, attempting to catch even a spark of his genius. Do I even come close? Closer maybe to being able to hold a paint brush properly; but nein—no! I'm just a great pretender.

My painting mentor, Ted Luna, was kind enough to have me know, "yes, it's good to copy the master"—so that, in the long run, I might develop a style completely my own.

Oh wow, how many canvasses, paints and brushes do I need to murder to qualify me as a "master?"

But that's what masterpieces are—copied, admired, hailed. And valued as priceless. Many of them have been stolen for the fortune to be gained for their sale.

God regards us too as His masterpiece.

Ephesians 2:10—"For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago."

Psalm 139:14 says you and I have been fearfully and wonderfully made. We are wondrous creations, not even a Mona Lisa or Starry Night—or the most brilliant of man's inventions—can compete. 

Sin may have marred and scarred man's heart after the fall, but God's redemptive love makes us brand new in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17—"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new."

God has breathed His Spirit into His "masterpiece"empowering us to do good—something we'd be powerless to do in our old sinful state, when we were full of ourselves and our pride.

That's why as Christ-believers, we can with conviction, confess that, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13).

If we are God's masterpiece, I wonder how much value He has affixed on us?

Enough for Jesus to leave heaven's glory! The Son of God became the Son of man; then willingly shed His blood for us—a shameful death—so that those who would put their trust in Him would be saved.

That's worth more than the $100 million affixed on Van Gogh's. Worldly riches are soon gone but our inheritance is eternal. Glory to God!


O Lord, help me to see that you have saved me—made me your masterpiece—to glorify Your name by enabling me to do good works. 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

PLEASURE MARATHON

We've often talked of millennials as narcissists and center-of-the-universe beings, concerned primarily with self-gratificationthis leaning to constantly project themselves as a-OK and on top of the world, especially among their peers.
                     Image credit: http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/                      
pictures/2014/10/7/1412679646851/Krispy-Kreme-doughnuts-014.jpg

Their selfie photos, foodie adventures, love-love fashion brands, must-have gadgetsthese they've nonchalantly bandied about on Facebook, their tweets and blogs.

Guess who's caught on? With a few exceptions, almost all of usyes, even baby boomershave joined the bandwagon. Age gaps have been blurred. Those in my generation oftentimes find ourselves pitching FB images which we would have been embarrassed to crow about during our time, like one's new mani-pedi, up-do or vroom-vroom, or the ooh la la (read: branded) presents received on a recent birthday.

Parents shower their children with too much praise, to the delight of FB friends returning the applause many times over. Lolos and lolas (I'm one of them. Mea culpa!) call everyone's attention to their grandkids' cuteness and smartness. Uh-oh! We need to heed psychologists' warning. Heaping too much praise on kids contribute to self-centeredness. Uber-narcissists in the making? Oh no! 

Hollywood, mass media and the internet have craftily and subliminally motivated us with viral and graphic images of pleasure: Traveling far and wide. Dining like there's no tomorrow. Keeping one's youth. Enthroning Kim Kardashian and company. Proclaiming Caitlin, aka Bruce, Jenner, a hero.

Image credit: http://panpacifictravel.com.ph/wp-content/
gallery/slide/indian-travel-packages-5.jpg
Live la vida loca. Indulge in tactile pleasures. Life is short. And while you're at it, make sure it's on Facebok, Twitter or your blog. How these messages have resonated! 

This excessive affirmation of one's goodness and physical attributes as well as this need to gratify our pleasure pointshave they led our generation to believe that everything is permissible? "If it feels good, do it!"  

What does the bible say about these?

1 John 2:16For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

1 Peter 2:11― Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul…

That we can enjoy life and its blessings is a gift. We've been created with emotions and physical senses. But to crave for and be in love with things and carnal experiences (which are here today and gone tomorrow)or desire to gain approval or applause by men, rather than Godis vanity, a chasing after the wind.


Lest we forget, we too are spiritual beings; and must be led more by the Holy Spirit, whose fruit in us manifests through self-controlalong with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and gentleness (Galatians 5:22-23). 


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

FIL-AM WORTH EMULATING: MORE THAN A CONQUEROR

Joel Monsalud proves that with faith and perseverance,
 Pinoys can excel in any field anywhere.  
 In his book "American Story," former TV journalist Bob Dotsom hails those "who are practically invisible... who change our lives but don't take the time to tweet and tell us about it."

They don't necessarily seek media mileage but manage to warm our hearts anyway through their courage and simple acts of kindness. 

Just like Joel and Heidi Monsalud, our new-found Victory Church (San Diego) friends.

"Have a bag of cherries. Baka lang po gusto nyo," they messaged early Monday morning. Just when I typed "yes" and our house address to guide their GPS, Joel was at the door, bag of fully-ripened berries on hand. What, a virtual freeway?

I go gaga over cherries, so a plump purplish berry immediately found its way into my belly, side-stepping my ritual caffeine fix. It started with a light chika before church worship last Sunday. Our conversation turned to arthritis and how cherries help relieve its symptoms. 

Joel and Heidi with their girls Jouie and Mikee
We've not known Joel and Heidi that long but from the very start, their heart for volunteerism surfaced:  Always the first to come on Sunday mornings to set up a container-full of equipment needed for worship service in a rented school gymnasium. Greeting attendees and directing traffic at the parking lot. Freezing our wacky poses into complimentary Fathers' Day photo souvenirs. Even caring for others' babies.

They clearly model Christ's attitude of servanthood and humility.

But there's more to this couple than meets the eye. Joel's life is cinderella-esque.

This Pinoy of modest beginnings (Olongapo City, Zambales) is a hovercraft pilot with 23 years of service with the US navy. At this writing, he awaits confirmation of his retirementceremony slated at the historic Midway aircraft carrier, now a museum, permanently docked in San Diego.

Always keeping in mind God's promises—his favorite being Romans 8:37 "... we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us," Joel considers himself blessed to have passed (out of thousands of applicants) the US Navy's rigorous requirements when it recruited Pinoys for service.

Though he was a college graduate (BS Psychology), he didn't mind starting as a mechanic, later becoming maintenance man, then as hovercraft pilot—expertise he acquired through hands-on and bits of formal training. 

Joel and his hovercraft team
"It's all about God's grace," he admits, that he and his team, Assault Craft Unit 5, have conducted successful missions, some of them so life-threatening they miraculously escaped death. He recalls their most dangerous—the 2003 Iraq invasion, and their subsequent retrieval of Navy Seals when his hovercraft's engine died, its propeller lost, as scud missiles flew above.

Joel gives us a glimpse of the Navy's role: "Whenever we sail off, everything—military tanks, ambulances, war equipment, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, etc.—comes along."

The hovercraft is the fastest of all military sea-going crafts. It runs through land, water, mud, ice and other surfaces. A hybrid US navy-marine first responder unit, the hovercraft team is always the first on the scene, either to deliver tanks and personnel, supplies or relief goods in typhoon-ravaged sites.

"We come right in the eye of the storm," says Joel.

Jesus' apostles experienced being in the eye of the storm too. They feared for their lives. But in one instance, Peter volunteered, (Matthew 14:28) “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” And he walked on water.

Joel must have taken Jesus' words (v 27) to heart: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

He may not have walked on water like Peter, but Joel's faith has nonetheless emboldened him to look the storm squarely in the eye and believe, "I can do this!"

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me," Philippians 4:13.


Lord, give me a servant's heart, esteeming others higher than myself. Holy Spirit, guide me, protect me and teach me not to fear even in the face of danger. My life is in your hand. There will I find rest. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

JESUS DIE-HARD

"You're such fanatics."

"What a bunch of fools."

"Self-righteous bible-quoting die-hards."

If you're a Jesus believer and follower, you get comments like these a lot.

But I say, bring it on!

I used to get hurt when those around me mocked my faith. They may not say it in your presence but you know they talk about you having gone looney as they make this circular motion on their temple.

But I'd rather be ridiculed for doing it His way than being found to have laundered money, or for being corrupt or taking advantage of others.

You see, if you've discovered the greatest treasureand Jesus is the greatest treasure of all nothing in all the world, not even the jeering of those you love, can discourage you.

Jesus' promise and faithfulness to fulfill it is enough: "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (John 10:10).

I had my own Jesus momentwhen I realized how sinful I was and needed Him to save memany years ago. My life hasn't been the same since.

Until you know Jesus, life is a confused-sad-merry-aimless-fearful-go-round. Oh yeah, I thought I was doing fine, but deep down, I was grasping at strawsdoubting my ability to make anything of my life. You could qualify me an agnostic, believing in a god who was uninvolved, distant and unknowable.

That born again experienceand subsequent encounters with Him through the bible and through others who lived like Jesusopened my eyes to His awesomeness, power and majesty. Unless you start seeing God this BIG, you continue to be your own god.

The only cure for narcissism is Jesus. He wants a personal relationship with you and me, so we can see things His way.

I knew too, the moment I prayed to accept Him as my Savior and Lord, He took residence in my heart. Something good happened within me, a journey from one glory to another:

I used to think money and position were my source of security, but Jesus patiently proved He would be my provider and my source of promotion too, as long as I honored Him with my life and finances.

How could I, even if I considered lying to avoid embarrassment, all of a sudden think, "That's not right;" then resist that urge altogether? 

Jesus is the Great Teacher. John 14:38"…the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you."

Whywhen gossiping used to be second nature to mecould I now bite my tongue to avoid slandering someone?

My biggest whywhy could I sleep soundly at night when prior to my knowing Jesus, I couldn't get a decent zzzz because I worried too much?

Philippians 4:7(ISV)―Then God’s peace, which goes far beyond anything we can imagine, will guard your hearts and minds in union with the Messiah Jesus.

Where was all this coming from? It could only be Jesus!

He says of those who have a relationship with Him: (John 14:23) "Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them."

The best news ever? Everyone who acknowledges Jesus can change. No sin or rebellion is too big for Him. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. Who better to ask for a total makeover than Himyour Maker?

Simply, a Jesus die-hard is one who:
·         Has repented of his sins, acknowledged Jesus as his Savior and Lord
·         Develops a hunger to know Him more, His Word and His willthe bible being the source of all these
·         After discovering and proving that God works in awesome ways, obeys Him more and more, allowing Him to be Lord, even if opposed by othersin spite of supreme court justices or politicians justifying sin as right

Our Maker could not be mocked. Either He is Lord or not at all. Either His truth prevails or not at all. 

So many recent events have made believers fearful of persecutions. But why fear? Jesus still sits on the throne. He is in control. But He's patient, allowing everyone to come to repentance.

But He cautions believers not to confront God-and-truth bashers with hate. If you've indeed been set free, then speak the truth in love and demonstrate it, just as Jesus did.

Most of us live in places where we can freely worship and practice our faith. Believers in terrorist-controlled states would rather die than renounce their faith in Jesus. If push comes to shove, will you too?

That's what it means to be a Jesus die-hardbecause you know in your heart of hearts, Jesus will prevail, no matter what. He's coming soon so let's not be found slacking or keeping mum.

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). He's all these and everything else you've ever wanted. Rest in that and hold your light up in the darkness.

If all these sound strange to you but you want to experience more of God in your life, sincerely pray:


Jesus, I need you. I repent of my sins. I accept you now as my Lord and Savior. Holy Spirit, help me to obey. Father, have your way in me. In Jesus name.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

SMARTNESS AVALANCHE

informationoverload
image credit: http://www.learntotradethemarket.com/blog/
information-overload-drowning-trading-success
Aren't you glad you exist in the here and now?

I refer, in an itsy-bitsy way, to my contemporaries. Some of us may be in life's pre-departure area, ready to blast-off to our eternal home; but hey, we're fortunate to have been the front-end audience of this once spooky animal called information technology.

Remember that two-pound mobile phone back in the early nineties? I realized soon enough that I needn't put up with inefficient PLDT anymore. Recall too how you, with clenched teeth, eyeballed that strange contraption called the computer as you navigated Wordstar with its strange-sounding language? 

"Menu" all of a sudden didn't refer to food choices anymore. 

"Surfing" turned from just conquering ocean waves but straddling through a "web" that wasn't the spider's domain any longer.

"Wow, knowledge at our fingertips!" We must all have exclaimed.

Today's young people seem to have been born IT-savvy, as if their brains have been hard-wired with algorithms. While my generation drowns in the sea of new computer and smart phone functionalities, our toddler counterparts seem to instinctively know which icons to push in an Ipad.
Image credit:
 http://www.danadorsi.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/information-overload.jpeg


Given written assignments or grouped for workshops, my students just type some key words; then out tumble videos, images or words to put together a report or devour a case study.

It is true that knowledge is power. Easy-access information because of the world-wide-web and telecommunication technology excuses no one from not knowing what they need to know when they need it.

Case in point: To prepare my favorite pasta yesterday, I googled; then cooked a pretty mean puttanesca. Jack wanted to improve his painting so he surfed the web for color contrast and harmony lessons. Want to improve your English? You know where to look.

So we think we're smartbecause we know so much.

The bible speaks of a time (which I believe is now) when knowledge will increase (Daniel 12:4).

Which begs the question: If today's generation is so smart, why are more and more of them making wrong choices?  

We didn't read as much texts in my time, yet why are today's students reluctant to ask "why?" and "how?" or even make an effort to analyze? Has the prevalence of information sucked them into a comfort zone so comfortable that they're afraid to wager their own well-thought out evaluation?

Information overload has also made it harder for many to distinguish between fact and fiction. Where really is the dividing line?

The bible also says that falsehood and lawlessness will prevail in our time. Matthew 24:11-12―"Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold…"

This explains why, in spite of too much knowledge, many in this generation prefer live-in and same-sex relationships. Many are mired in drug, alcohol and porn addiction.

What we need then is not more information but more of the truth to make the right decisions in spite of  info-overload.

The first must-truth: Proverbs 9:10The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Wisdom-knowledge-understanding is a triple braided cord. It can be yours in Jesusthe Word who supersedes every information offered by the world-wide-web or your peers.  

O Lord, enable me to make sense of every knowledge which confronts me every day. Help me weed out the lies and the unnecessary from the truth and what's useful. Holy Spirit, help me to decide to go the righteous path. May I have your mind, Jesus.


Friday, June 19, 2015

HOME NOT ALONE

It has probably crossed your mind: What if my surname is "Gates" or "Zobel?" And what if because of that affiliation, I get a financial windfall, enough to satisfy my fantasies? Just because of that revered name! 

Well, we can dream, can't we?

Come to think of it, why wasn't I born to a clan which would allow me to wallow in a whirlpool of endless luxuries?

Pastor Robert Hern (Victory San Diego) recently placed this thought in perspective: "God assigns us to a family."  Indeed!

I never asked to be my parents' daughter; and they probably said seven is enough, until I came.  

It seemed Nanay and Tatay endlessly toiled, to make sure we grew up into respectable human beings.
They bequeathed to us one of life's most precious acquisitions---a college education.

"We need to have a place to call home," Pastor Hern added.

Our family was a rowdy and noisy bunch for sure. Can you imagine ten heads (some kinky-haired) around the dining table, each kid wanting more of this and that, especially our favorite dessert saging na saba?

I remember my then-seven or eight year old brother Dan being chased through the entire town by our older sister Mita---her bakya (wooden slippers) ready for the hurl because he endlessly teased her for being rotund. "Nanay taba!"

Can you imagine our parents seesawing between applying the leather belt, the hug, the instruction or the reward; and making sure they treated us all fairly? "No cursing!" "Do your duty!"

So I learned to dish-wash to perfection, applying Nanay's science into it: start with the cleanest (drinking glasses); remove all the filth first; end with the dirtiest. Hygiene was paramount.

Our resources were meager, but our memories rich.

Happy, sad, funny, embarrassing, annoying, challenging. Whatever form they took neatly piled up into the shape of a home. Home afterall is a state of security and learning and love and rebuke and forgiving. And a refuge from the storm.

Home is not a place but a character builder with its battery of training modules meant to toughen and tenderize you, train you with rules and duties but also make you flexible and understand others' limitations, and equip you with knowledge yet let you discover that information without wisdom is empty and capricious. 

Home is where you get to be you, but be a team player as well---where you learn to give, to wait your turn, to be handed down things, to share, to take instruction, and to treat family as importantly as self.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12: "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: if one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone. Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." 

"America is a nation of strangers," said Pastor Hern, "with four in ten people experiencing loneliness. Could it be because many have never experienced home, especially since divorce or separation is an easy alternative?

Family is about growth too. But growth is elusive without Jesus. He's the great equalizer, because He's the only real blesser. He'll take you wherever you are and promote you from one glory to another. 


Just make sure that He has made your home His address too.  

O Lord, all of us have somehow lost our way. Bring us home. You are our real Home. May Jesus be the Lord of every household and every relationship. 

Image credits: 
http://www.monologuedb.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Macaulay-Culkin-home-alone.jpg
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http://www.designsponge.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/ds-diy-braided-extension-cord-step9.jpg