Monday, September 5, 2022

SCULPTURE IN PROGRESS

Image credit: travel.com

Trivia: Between being a painter and a sculptor, which calling did Michelangelo take pride in?
   

Painting? No! He agonized about completing his Sistine Chapel "Creation"—did it in six years. It was in fact discontinued because of clumping problems with his paint and his back-breaking position while painting from a scaffolding. 


"I'm a sculptor, not a painter," he argued with Pope Julius II, but did it anyway because of the latter's insistence. 


One of Florence, Italy's most prized attractions today is Michelangelo's 15 ft. sculpture of David—the Bible's shepherd boy-turned hero who smote and killed Goliath with a single stone from his slingshot, and won Israel's war against the Philistines. 


Here's an interesting back-story on this piece of sculture: 


Two earlier sculptors rejected this quarried stone—"tall but narrow block full of imperfections, tiny holes, and visible veins," per travel.com; "it remained in the courtyard of the Opera del Duomo for another 25 years."


Till Michelangelo. Patiently chipping puny bits of hard impervious stone into dust, chisel by tiny chisel, hammer by hammer stoke, he turned this once rejected bloke into a masterpiece. 


Blokes. You and I. Ordinary. Dude. Dudette. Carnal. Sinful. Failure-bound.


Yet under our divine sculptor's chiseling, we can be a David, Pastor Steve Houston reminded us at church this Sunday. "We are all work in progress," he says. 


One tiny bit of chiseling is painful. Achey-breaky hearts. Pain. Discomfort. Depression. God allows all these to shape and mold us into the sculpture piece He originally wanted us to be—conformed to His image. 


"But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle 
you," 1 Peter 5:10.


And He doesn't give up on us.  Not just yet. Even if you're like murderous Paul who persecuted believers (Acts). God used the hammer on him one day, and there he was, blind for three days, unable to eat or drink. 


A big jolt. A sledge hammer. God knows the kilojoules to hit us with to get our attention and keep us on the road again.


Jesus turned Paul's situation around. He just needed to ask, "Lord, what do you want me to do?" Then the biggest evangelist of all time came to being. 


God is all ears. With all the chiseling and hammering pounding you to pieces, who are you gonna call? Life is tough. Problems pounce sometimes in tsunami proportions. 


Sin all around—and within us—make life a bit messy. Why not come to the Rock of our salvation? 


The real David, Psalm 61:2-3 "From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings." 


With Jesus as your Lord and Savior and Refuge, no chiseling or hammering can topple you. 


Strengthened? Established? Settled? Yes! 





Thursday, August 18, 2022

THE PLOT THICKENS

Is this piece about a telenovela or a new best-seller? Wished it were. 

This is way more sinister, blacker than black. 


A pied piper has been deluding our children with honey-coated tar—to lure them to the cliff, unfortunately. 


"My body, my choice." "My gender is up to me." "Truth is mine to concoct, nothing is absolute." But to what ends?


And it seems we’re (parents) helpless to stem this tide. 


My, how the powers of darkness squirm with delight. Satan and his underlings, heaven's fallen angels, have since the beginning of time been at it—preventing babies from seeing the light; and dragging to hell those who make it through life.


If he can get babies destroyed early enough in utero, the more guilt-strapped women he can trap. If he can harden children's hearts early enough, the more prone they would be to rejecting God.


Satan's puppets—those who unwittingly do his bidding to orchestrate his dubious plans?  Power-hungry and greedy politicians, idiologues and their fawning sycophants have become his deputies. Yet they think they're doing all of us a favor, that women's rights be upheld, and children be free to decide which lifestyle suits them—yet to their destruction. 


Their latest strategy? Take parents out of the equation. Bar them from exercising authority over their children.


Before you dismiss this as one grandma's hyper-dramatic rambling, read today's news and be shocked. 


In it's AB 1184 bill passed last year, the California Family Council effectively prohibits insurance companies from revealing to policyholders (parents) "sensitive services of anyone on their policy, including minor children—such sensitive services including abortions, puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, except sex change surgeries."


Ergo, parents need not know if their kids opt for, say, abortion or hormone treatments. 


And how's this for craziness: "they" should now be used instead of the pronoun "his" or "her". LBTQ has been expanded to LBTQIA+. In the long history of mankind, when has plain "girl" or "boy" not sufficed? 


Genesis 5:2 He (God) created them male and female and blessed them. Doctors and scientists would agree with God on that. 


The sadder part? The multiple sex and permissiveness culture is being shoved upon our throats through the educational system! So if one's middle schooler wants a sex change or if a girl who gets pregnant orders abortion, as demanded, he or she would get it! In California and seven other states. Because, hey, girl, "it's my body, my choice!"


What about the unborn's right? Abortionists and misguided rights groups argue, "They're just a bunch of tissues."


But it's not just in this part of the world that the assault on children—be they unborn or otherwise—is happening. It's a worldwide campaign waged by Satan in so many forms.


Some interesting facts... 


When Moses was born: Exodus 1:22—"Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: 'Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.'" Pharaoh feared the Egyptians would be overpowered by their Israelite slaves. 


Matthew 2:16-18 details Herod's massacre of infants to make sure that Israel's promised Messiah—one who would be safe Israel—would be eliminated. 


Since the US Supreme Court decision in 1973 to legalize abortion nationwide, 63 million abortions have been done in the US. This law has of course been overturned recently, so women's rights proponents have furiously taken to the streets again for it's reinstatement.


Wikipedia: China has a history of infanticides spanning 2,000 years. It's 1980 one-child policy had led to unprecedented abortions till 2015. 


Per the World Health Organization (WHO): In sub-Saharan Africa, 45% of all child deaths are linked to malnutrition. This is traceable to wholesale corruption in government. 


UNICEF stats: More than 125 million girls and women alive today have undergone some form of female genital mutilation. 11% of girls world-wide are married off before age 15. Leading causes of death in children under 5 years are preterm birth complications, pneumonia, birth asphyxia, diarrhoea and malaria. About 45% of all child deaths are linked to malnutrition. Mostly attributable to corrupt governance. 


Child Labor Foundation: 25% of human trafficking involved children who were sold for forced labor and sex. 


Glean the pattern. Since time immemorial, babies and children have been the enemy's object of destruction. 


Who will lobby for them? Who will protect them? Aren't parents supposed to be their children's primary advocates? 


It is a frustrating going-against-the-tide effort for many families. Thank God for organizations taking up their cause even to the courts, or NGOs and missionaries caring for children and women in oppressive regimes. 


We can do volunteer work, like counselling young women on making right choices, helping them appreciate the sanctity of life; or contributing to organizations engaged in such efforts. 


Yet, let's start with our own families. Proverbs 22:6 "Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it." 


I worry for my grandchildren's future. I'm sure you do too. Yet, the Bible assures us, fear not, for He has conquered the world, and the evils plaguing it. So pray! Pray that the Lord's protection be upon all the children of the world; and we'd all be vigilant and take action, as the Lord leads us. 


Thursday, August 4, 2022

THE BIG PICTURE

Image credit: Reuters.com
“If there is a God, why is there so much evil in this world?”

“Why poverty?”  “Why disasters?”  “Why wars?”  

The list goes on ad nauseam.

We’ve at one time or another asked these questions, right? I have. And they’ve boggled my mind.

Have many rejected God for these reasons? Would you, pretty please, bear with me and patiently read this introspection…  

I’m no brainiac, scientist or preacher, yet I see it clearly. This beautiful world we live in, and the universe we’ve come to know more and more because of NASA, speak loads about One so powerful and mighty, He must have made all of these possible.  

Any scientist worth his salt will attest: nothing comes from nothing; for every action, a reaction. Everyone’s quite agog about the big bang theory; yet who or what ignited the big bang, and what causes the universe and its milky ways to percolate as they’re doing so now? We’d surely be crushed to smithereens without someone powerful enough controlling them. Could only be God!

Image credit: NASA.com
Here’s the mind-boggling part for me: the nature of man. Dust, you and I are, right? (Ever peered at the cremation chamber and seen one’s material remains—maybe once an illustrious and powerful person—now burnt to a crisp, then to dust?) The bible is right, “for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return,” Genesis 3:19b.

So if we’re mere dust, what are we really? God’s awesome creation—just like the mind-boggling universe. But God desired something better for this dust. He breathed life into it, Genesis 2:7.

Genesis 1:27: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” That’s what it means “to be created in His image”—not this body we pamper with age-defying enhancements and blings.

Our body is just the laminate. The breath of God in you—that’s the real deal!  

And being created in His image, we too have the same free will as God’s. Freedom of choice is the one distinctive which makes man stand taller than, say, elephants, whales, dolphins, dogs—no matter how smarty-pants they’ve been trained to be.

Free will caused man’s downfall. Adam and Eve fell for the serpent’s (actually the devil’s) ruse. Yet, God being God had prepared in advance a rescue plan. Jesus, who reigned with Him from eternity, came to save lost humanity. No one else could ransom sinful man from sin but God’s only Son.

He thus set aside for Himself a nation—Israel—through whom Jesus stepped down to earth. A man just like you and me, He became acquainted with our grief and struggles. By His dying on the cross, He ransomed us from sin, reuniting us with our Creator God.

Yet man is still given a choice. Salvation is not automatic. Remember, He has given us free will.

Image credit: missionaries.com
That’s why today, those who have already believed in Christ are being sent to the ends of the earth to make Jesus known—the Savior of mankind. To thus reunite man with our Creator God. Jesus is our way back to the Father! History’s sinners, and today’s sinners—as long as they placed their faith in God, and later on, in Jesus—could now be back in His grace!

So, dear John and Judy, let’s circle back to our original question. “If there is a God, why is there so much evil in this world?”

You and I live in a fallen world. Sin abounds. It has caused us to abuse our limits, skew our sense of right and wrong, blur our senses from discerning truth from lie, enthrone dictators and autocrats who enslave and invade others to quench their thirst for power and conquest.

God is continuously calling us out. He’s still withholding His full wrath, patiently demonstrating His love through Jesus, and waiting for people to repent and accept His grace. This verse is key: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that those believe in Him might not perish but have eternal life,” John 3:16.

Image credit: crosswalk.com
What about the tribes and nations who worship vain idols and false gods? Worry not. He promised that the end will not come until the gospel has been preached to everyone. Everyone!

Christian missionaries have infiltrated once unreached tribes. The internet has made it possible for the gospel to go viral, everywhere.

It’s a phenomenon! Throughout history, billions of I-me-and-myself-centered and prideful souls who’ve encountered Jesus have testified of changed hearts and lives. The living Word—Jesus—turns lives around, no matter their circumstance. In closed cultures and tribes—those who worship detestable  gods—no amount of beheadings, burnings and abuses could stop believers from believing in Jesus.  

So, is God a hard taskmaster, having let suffering to proliferate?

Ann Graham Lotz: “For years, we’ve been telling God to get out of our schools… government… our lives. And being the gentleman that He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and protection if we demand He leave us alone?”

This book by Amir Tsarfati
might help you understand
the Book of Revelation.
God does not leave us in the dark about His plans. Jesus warned us in Matthew 24 of the signs to usher in the end times, e.g., wars, famine, earthquakes, increased wickedness. Are we seeing these now? Most definitely, and with greater intensity. Yet, greater wrath is yet to come.

Read Revelation. More terrible times lie ahead, that’s for sure. Yet this shouldn’t surprise us or cause us to fear. His love and grace still abound. He’s still waiting for everyone to repent. Have you? Call on Jesus that you may be saved. 

That’s God’s whole s scheme of things. How do you see yourself in it?

God being God never misses a bit. His purpose will prevail. He wants everyone to humble himself before Him—that the curse of sin and death may vanish and we be restored to a relationship with Him, in the kingdom He originally planned for us to inhabit.  

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for your great love. You’ve patiently waited for me. Today, I let go of my pride, forgive me. I repent of my sins. Jesus I confess I am lost without you. Be my Savior and my Lord. Save me from the wrath that is to come. Holy Spirit, help me to obey, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Friday, June 10, 2022

MARVEL

Awesome. Jaw-dropping. One runs out
of words to describe Sedona's (Arizona) majestic rock formations. 


Allsedona.com made it easy for me: "Sedona is best known for its surreal landscape. Filled with dreamlike rock formations, monoliths, cliffs, and canyons, it is an adventurer’s paradise. Most of the mountains... have distinct characteristics, some uniquely named like Bell Rock, Cathedral Rock, Capitol Butte, Coffee Pot Rock, and Snoopy Rock."


Was God being a bit playful when He spoke these parts into being? He certainly splashed them with colors, textures and shapes like they're random strokes on an impressionist's canvas. 


Photo images alone don't do justice to this real-deal magnificence.


God's glory in this part of creation is evident. Romans 1:20 "For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse."



The long and sometimes winding road from Phoenix, Arizona (where we've been treated by our son's family for a week-long vacation; thanks, Carlo and Opal; and spent with family friends Philip and Sheryl An) was a buffet of deserts—blazing hot not cold like your usual sweet meal-ender with a double "s"—laced with saguaro cacti and a cacophony of desert blooms, rock and sand formations, vari-colored mountains...

Then a seeming oasis of greens where a thriving city sits. Yes, lush forested areas amidst endless deserts! 

Actually reminded me of dried-up halo-halo (traditional Pinoy dessert) topped with vanilla ice cream! 


Truly a treat and an eye-opener especially for one with shaky faith. 


Psalms 95:3-5 "For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In His hand are all the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to Him. The sea is His, for He made it, and His hands formed the dry land."


So look up the mountains, the sky, the ocean. God's wondrous creation is reason enough to do a hallelujah cha-cha.


I once heard Louie Giglio preach on NASA's recording of the heavenly bodies' seeming musical cadence. He then juxtaposed those sounds with the song "How Great is Our God". Song and sounds actually jived. In sync to magnify our awesome Creator! 


Which made Psalms 19:1 quite a revelation to me:


"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language their voice is not heard."


No need to go far to behold His glory. It's right within you.  


 


You and I are such wondrous creations, doctors and scientists are only just starting to unravel the intricacies of the human brain and the other complex systems synced with it. 


Proof of how amazing gorgeous-dust-us are? The technologies and inventions (cars, planes, the internet, medical breakthroughs, etc.) which have made our lives a bit easier and enjoyable. 


He alone therefore deserves all the glory. Not the sun. Not the mountains and their trees. Not the cows on the hills. Nor any other idol like our bank accounts and accomplishments.


Revelation 4:11 "Worthy are You, our Lord and God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power; for you created all things, and because of Your will, they exist, and were created and brought into being."




Images top to bottom:  One of Sedona's amazing rock formations. Jack and not Jill but me. Carlo, Opal and kids Natalie and Coco. Philip, Sheryl An, birthday girl Audrey and Pau-pau. Interesting Arizona facts found in one of its restaurants. 



 




Monday, May 30, 2022

MEMORIAL DAY THOUGHT: HEROES


What would you be up to if you're 91? 

Me? I'd incessantly be crying out to God, "Take me home, pretty please!" 

91? That may not even be an issue with Commander Vern Jumper. He's fit as a fiddle! And he seems to enjoy his role now as a volunteer at the Midway aircraft carrier-turned museum—precious reminder that America, no matter how severely criticized for it's entanglement in Vietnam, cares about nations' right to exist. 

Cdr Jumper is flesh and blood hero. And charming and sharp at 91! Move over Superman; you're a mere  fantasy. 


In our recent visit to the Midway, hubby Jack and I learned how he and his colleagues evacuated thousands of Vietnamese and Americans from Saigon as the country started to fall apart. Here's one of his amazing stories: 

He was then the carrier's air traffic controller. An errant South Vietnamese plane attempted to land on the carrier. First and second attempts to land proved unsuccessful. There were just too many planes on the flight deck !

Could have been a total disaster if the pilot hit the runway right off. Solution? 

Those planes were ordered off the deck. Pronto! Safe landing! Whew! 

That oncoming plane was piloted by a South Vietnamese carrying his entire family to safety. His first attempts to land could have razed the carrier itself. 

Cdr Jumper was certain God heard his cry. 

As the country observes memorial day, let's remember Cdr Jumper—as well as all the other veterans and active members of the military—in our prayers.

2 Corinthians 1:10 "He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again."

Photo notes: Jack with Cdr Jumper. Jack imagining Cdr Jumper's exploits with as he surveys our Vietnam hero's plane. 


Wednesday, May 18, 2022

ABORTION: RIGHT OR DEATH OR LIFE

Abortion has become one of the hottest topics today in the US.

A leaked draft of the US Supreme Court's ruling to strike down the right to abortioncurrently enshrined in the Constitution due to a 1973 ruling based on the Roe v. Wade casehas raised a ruckus from pro-choice supporters.

And why not? That law, once overturned, will make abortion illegal nationwide, leaving individual states to deal with their own abortions issuesand their laws vary. Many speculate that those seeking abortion just need to flee to other states like California with it's very liberal abortion laws.

I recently watched the documentary, The Matter of Life, with church-mates; thanks, Precy and Caloy.

Some thoughts on the abortion divide:

Abortion proponents have consistently harped on a woman's right to her body. "My body. My right.  My choice."

What about the unborn's right? Unless we realize that fetuses are living, breathing, thriving human beingsand not just clumps of tissuesthen we would be guilty of denying their right to exist; with their mothers' rights being treated as more important.

Babies, unborn or born, have a right to live as much as you and I.  Just because they could not fight or defend themselves does not mean that they should be denied that right.

So, from the outset, the unborn should, must, be treated as persons! That's what pro-life proponents argue. Babies grow from one stage to the next but they are definitely distinct individualsalready! even in the womb!

They may have started as fertilized eggs, initially unrecognizable as humans, yet designed and destined to maturejust like seeds growing to full blown trees, afterwards producing fruits.

God is the author of life! David tells us so in Psalms 139:13-16 "For you formed my inward parts... I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made... My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret... Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, everyone of them, the days that we're formed for me, when as yet there was none of them."

Abortion proponents argue that religion should not be used to slap and deny women their rights. So let science inform us: At two months in the womb, a baby's heart starts beating. But at that stage when the egg and sperm join, life has started!

Alright, let's remove religion out of it. The 14th amendment of the US Constitution's Bill of Rights states "... nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within it's jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws..."

The unborn has life! Why should they be denied their rights? Just because no one is lawyering for them? Just because they're unable to shout or scream? And just because women's rights advocates shout louder and bolder and angier?

Using graphic images, a doctor interviewed for "The Matter of Life" documentary explained how a fetus gets violated in the abortion process. Heart-wrenching is the only way to describe it. Each of the baby's body parts gets torn apart. Bloody murder, to put it bluntly.

Those images remained with me for quite some time. Unsettling! Isn't that your reaction too when confronted with news about gruesome killings? But why do liberal government leaders and extreme women's rights advocatesturn their backs on this holocaust-like decimation of infants.

According to Fox, 63 million abortions have taken place in the US since Roe v. Wade in 1973.

What woman would want to be in this predicamentfind herself one day in an abortion clinic?

She may have erred, yes; but she doesn't need to spiral down into a deeper and murkier hole by committing another mistake. Compassion, not condemnation. That's what she needs. Information toothat there are alternatives and people she could turn to for help.

This is where believers can make a difference. Church should be a family anyone can run to for love, healing and restoration.

A case in point: Mina (not her real name) got pregnant and sought abortion. Yet she met Lucy (not her real name), a faithful follower of Jesus. She listened, spent precious time and resources, and prayed with Mina. She recently gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. Mina could not have done it without the support of Lucy and her new spiritual family.


An unwanted pregnancy need not end in someone's the mother's or an innocent baby'stragedy. Both of them can thrive and have a happy life, together or apart. 

Babies are precious in God's eyes. Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these," Matthew 19:14.

Deuteronomy 30:19 "I call heaven and earth to record this day against you that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Therefore, choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live."

 

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

IMPOSSIBLE?

                                              (Image credit: Telegraph/Amir Tsarfati) 

I struggle through long flights. 

Legs and feet numbed due to uneven blood flow, I'd seesaw between, "Hope there were a shorter route," and, "This is probably the last of my travels!"

Yet, long travel times are the least worrisome of all. 

How long has the Russian invasion of Ukraine been? Barely two months since February 24 this year. That's the more obvious war we've watched with bated breath these days; but to Ukranians, the Russian assault has been going on since 2014. That's 12 long years! 

Ukranians must have been praying, "Stop already! I want to get off!" They certainly need our prayers. 

Gives us a saner perspective on our travails or travels, doesn't it? 

But who's to say your trouble is less of a headache than mine? All of us, at any one time, in any part of the world, are going through something. A burden which might be too heavy to bear! 

A failed relationship. Rebellious children. An unbroken yet self-destructive habit. A deadly disease. All bound to get you dismayed, disillusioned or depressed. 

Where can we run to for protection? Or escape? 

Psalm 21:1-2 "I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and Earth."

The hill, or the highest mountain, cannot shield you. Nature itself may crumble on you. Strong winds or tsunamis may crush you. 

Yet realize this: Jesus created everything. So everything is under His control! Even the rotation of the sun and the earth around it. Even your very breath. The rhythm of your heart. The electrons of your brain. 

The great I AM, Alpha and Omega (Beginning and End) holds everything in between, and therefore possesses the power over our travels or travails, be they long or short, big or small. 

John 16:16-24 "When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough... They saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened. But He said to them, 'It is I; don’t be afraid.' Immediately, the boat reached the shore where they were heading." 

Feel like you're traveling alone? Ask Jesus into your boat. He's the only one who can make your fear vanish into thin air. 

The One who put creation into motion can even shorten the length of your agonizing wait. 

And this is what we pray for—for the people of Ukraine. And for you who have become weary waiting for your miracle. For with God, nothing is impossible, Luke 1:37. 

Prayer: Lord God, we cry out to you for the people of Ukraine, and for those who feel they have reached the end of their rope. You are Savior, Redeemer, Lord, Master of all of creation. Nothing is too difficult for you. You promised to save. And you will! This we pray in the mighty Name of Jesus.