Cup Running Over

After my leisurely evening bath in my new bathtub and then a round of Scrabble with the family, where as usual, was raucous and the hot fries went flying as fast as the hand could travel from the bowl to the mouth and back again until there was nothing left but a few salt crystals – I rested with a heart overflowing with thanksgiving.

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How could I not be steeped with gratitude at that moment, I felt so full the words of thanksgiving flowed from my lips like a stream? If you have dwelt long in a place where there’s only suffering, fear, and death hovering around you like a gnat hovers over a carabao (water buffalo), the simplest of things that bring you joy would be a reason to rejoice and thank God. There were long seasons, almost covering a year, when I was too ill and weak I couldn’t bathe. Thin layer of dirt mottled my otherwise flawless skin like maps. And when I had regained some strength, a sponge bath in bed was all I could have.

If you had been in the lowest valley of the shadow of death for a long time and the only things that made you alive were your undying faith and hope in the Lord Jesus Christ, the experience of recovery, no matter how hard and slow, would be to you a glorious one. A blessing so wonderful you will not forget to thank the Lord each and every day.

So, even if my family traveled to Island Cove in the historic province of Cavite and then to Timberland up in the mountains of San Mateo without me, I would remain joyful and grateful. Even if I cannot walk and travel, even if there are deep longings in my heart for my fervent dreams to be fulfilled, I choose to look at the little gifts the Lord scatters in my day everyday, like finding diamonds in the dust.

My husband insisted that he buy me a bathtub where I can bathe properly and even enjoy it. (About 3 years ago, we remodelled our adjoining bathroom to give leeway for my wheelchair. The old, embedded bathtub had to be removed). I’ve always wanted the classic bathtub, the one which stands regally on 4 clawed feet. It touches my incurably romantic soul :) . And since its smaller, it would fit perfectly in our bathroom.

Felix found the perfect one. He showed me a photo and I liked it instantly. But it wasn’t cheap. For me, it was too expensive I couldn’t possibly pamper myself with such luxury, so I vehemently told him not to buy it. True, we bought a faux rattan furniture for our patio just recently and the price was almost the same with that of the bathtub. But I had wanted to spend some time outside in our garden to breathe  in fresh air and look at the trees and the sky. Before Holy Week, we levelled out the floor of the patio (our bedroom opens to the patio) so my wheelchair could pass through without inconvenience. Then we bought the very comfy rattan sofa with plush cushions and pillows. I can now spend leisurely my afternoons and evenings there, that is, before the mosquitoes come to fly me away 😀 .

When Felix said that he found one which was 10,000 pesos ($200) cheaper, I felt the Holy Spirit whisper to my heart that a bathtub would make my life happier and more comfortable. (Previously, after my husband had bathed me in our bed, we had to dry it for hours because it had been flooded).

Is it selfish to receive God’s generous gifts? Is it bad to enjoy His bountiful blessings? I endeavor to live simply and modestly, remembering how the Lord Jesus had nowhere to lay His head (see Matthew 8:20). But if He chooses to heap His blessings upon us in whatever form – physically, materially, spiritually – should we not receive them with open arms and give Him thanks for them?

Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. (1 Tim. 6:17, emphasis added)

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Able-bodied people soak in bathtubs, indulge in spas, swim in pools, and bask in beaches without a mind for it. But for weak, ailing people like me, the things that healthy people take for granted are a luxury. My bathtub is so cute and sleek (wink) and comfortable. The comfortably warm water feels good on my body and induces me to sleep better. When Felix poured my Aveeno lavender foam bath, the scent which I like so much soothed me and the gentle white foams caressed my body (a body that has suffered a lot). As I luxuriated in my fragrant bath, I felt the love of my good and generous Father embracing me.

To be loved and cherished by the ever-loving, ever-giving God, is a blessing beyond measure. My cup runneth over and thanksgiving is poured out towards heaven.

I love You, I love You, I love You!

(That lovely lavender foam bath led to my desire for our cosmetic ingredients company to expand and venture into essential and fragrance oils. By the grace of God, we found a manufacturer and supplier in India, where rare and precious spices, and yes, essential oils, come from. Although I had retired from work since I got ill, I helped our company conceptualize the promotional materials. I painted a pretty floral and herbs border for the product lists and a lavender wreath for the label. A simple announcement was made on our company website, which I also administer, by God’s grace).

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Being able to use my gifts even in a simple way is another form of blessing and source of joy which I am deeply grateful for.

My soul shouts to my Lord Jesus, my Savior and faithful Father in heaven! I make my soulfelt thanksgiving a worship.

Amazement

Awe

Wonder

That night that I went to bed with heart overflowing, Psalm 23 came to mind. I love Psalm 23. It is a hope and strength and comforting companion in and through the shadow of the valley of death, but even out of it. It is a psalm often recited in death beds and funerals, but it is actually a psalm for the living! For the delivered, the healed, the tried and tested, the favored, the truly blessed!

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. (Ps. 23)

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Journey with Jesus,

Kingdom Living

I came to know kingdom living the moment I set foot on the worship service of Jesus Miracle Crusade International Ministry. It was a midweek service and even before the car doors were opened, I could hear the powerful reverberation of a whole stadium-size congregation worshiping in one accord. It overwhelmed my very sick and weak self. When I was brought at the very heart of the grandstand, I saw people in white clothes gripped in worship, as if they were entirely on a different realm. (Just a few hours before I left home, I had lain in bed, ashen and weak, the sound of voices around me seemed like it was coming from under the earth; it was death coming to fetch me. But I prayed for deliverance and salvation). Still in that dazed condition when we arrived at JMCIM worship service, I thought I had died and was caught up somewhere between heaven and earth.

kingdom living

Later on as I continued to attend worship services three times a week, heard a barrage of amazing testimonies (in a spiritually powerful way), and began to read the Bible, I understood that the Church the Lord brought me to lived like the early apostles and believers found in the Book of Acts. The stories I heard were replete with God’s power and nothing short of miraculous. It both encouraged and scared me. My hope was greatly strengthened for I knew that only God’s miracle could heal my broken body. And yet, the boldness and courage of those witnesses to trust God instead of doctors, specialists, hospitals, and drugs terrified me.

One testimony I heard which brought a bright hope to my soul as well as trepidation was the testimony of a brother whose wife was sick of breast cancer. He left home to offer prayer and fasting. When he came back after a 5-day fasting, he laid his hands on his sick wife and cast out the demons of cancer. Instantly, the tumor ruptured and the cancer flowed out of his wife’s body. I wanted that! Oh, how I wanted that kind of faith and miracle!

Through my continued reading of the Bible with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I knew and believed that the kingdom of God has come upon this Church.

But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Luke 11:20)

The faith and confidence of the Church to heal and cast out demons of diseases, vices, and addictions were hinged upon the mighty power of God through His Spirit and promises.

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judæa, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:8)

Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. (Luke 10:19)

Kingdom living is living victoriously in all areas of life, fully utilizing the resources of God’s kingdom in the here and now which are available to the children of God through the power of His Holy Spirit.

It requires a sturdy, unwavering faith in God. Faith that takes action. Faith that makes that first step. Faith that is confident and trusts completely.

Faith is a verb.

But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? (James 2:20)

During those first months after being saved, I was scared to face the truth: Do I have that kind of faith? Do I have what it takes to receive the miraculous?

It is true that trusting God completely with our very life is frightening when we have been taught to trust in man and his inventions. But the miraculous only happens in faith. And in obedience. In taking that first step to believe and trust. Didn’t the Lord Jesus Christ say many times, “Thy faith hath made thee whole”?

Kingdom living is believing and trusting in this power that Apostle Paul strained to describe and prayed that all followers of Christ would come to know:

That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power.(Eph. 1:17-19)

Exceeding.

Greatness.

Power.

Working.

Mighty.

It is as if the apostle couldn’t quite express God’s magnificent power in words. And indeed, words fail to describe it.

We know it. We believe it. And yet, we don’t always trust it or live it.

It is only by God’s grace and our willingness to surrender our doubts and unbeliefs and stepping out into faith that this exceeding great power will be at work mightily in our lives. The Lord Jesus will meet us in our cry for help,

“Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).

We have varying measures of faith; He will honor what little we may have. He said, “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed…” What could be tinier than a mustard seed? He has sown the seed of faith. He is the author of it. He will also perfect it (see Heb. 12:2).

We must bear the fruits of faith where He has placed us. When He puts us in front of our Red Seas or burning fiery furnaces or lion’ dens, He will also provide the faith and courage we need to step right into them. He promised:

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you. (Is. 43:2)

One night in 2006, Hannah, then 5 years old, was very sick. She had a high fever and was hallucinating. As red as a cooked crab and her eyes wild with fear, she was so terrified with the things she saw (she was screaming that there were horrifying monsters come to get her). She clung to me, trembling in fear. I straddled her as I waved my Holy Bible in the air, at the same time casting out the demons with all my strength. She would calm down and fall asleep, but after a while, she would open her eyes wide again and the same thing would be repeated.

Felix was in Pampanga then, praying and fasting. In our time of great crisis, he was in the best place for a miracle. Bringing Hannah to the hospital was not what I wanted. I couldn’t drive anyway. Still awaiting healing myself, I couldn’t even walk more than a few steps.

Our two Christian helpers and I sang praises to God, but at some length, one of them said that we needed to call the Pastoral House for help. At past midnight, two workers arrived. Together, we praised and worshiped, then they prayed over Hannah and cast out the demons. Hannah immediately fell asleep. We were all exhausted, too, so we all went to sleep. I implored the two workers to stay the night in the guest room.

It was 11 in the morning when Hannah and I woke up. We had a very restful sleep! She smiled at me, the sweetest smile I ever saw and will never forget. She then got up and ran to the kitchen. She said she was parched and wanted to drink. She was completely healed! Hallelujah!

But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Luke 11:20, emphasis mine)

But miracles don’t happen everyday. What, then, does kingdom living look in the everyday? It’s righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost (see Rom. 14:17). Nothing less.

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Journey with Jesus,

Of Starfishes, Sick Parrots, and Sonship

As you know, friends, the Lord has blessed me with another beautiful gift and that is watercolor painting. Sometime last year, the thought of creating something pleasing to the eyes occurred to me and I thought that watercoloring would not be too physically taxing for my fragile health. And so, I ordered my Royal and Langnickel beginner’s set.

The very first thing I drew and painted was a sparse cluster of morning glory flowers. I was very conscious of exhausting myself (something that really scares me and is hard to recover from) that I couldn’t give it my best: the colors didn’t come out correctly and I didn’t have the energy to work on it longer than was necessary. The result was a sparse cluster of — starfish crawling on purple petals! I could see the many flaws but my joy and gratitude to be able to do it in the first place could not be quenched. Until Felix saw it.

My very first water-colour project that looked like starfishes crawling on purple petals.

The pitiful morning glory flowers I first painted.

eagle head

My water-colour panting of an eagle head where I wrote Isaiah 43:31.

bluejay

The admired bluejay.

UPDATE: My first 4 serious watercolor paintings.

UPDATE: My first 4 serious water-colour paintings ready for framing.

UPDATE: My first poppy collection.

UPDATE: My first poppy collection.

UPDATE: My latest project.

UPDATE: My latest project.

I eagerly showed it to him when he arrived from the office, expecting that he’d be happy for me that I was painting with joy instead of miserably suffering in my bed-bound state. But, friends, he criticized my work so severely that I was seriously hurt. Yes, he saw the “starfishes”, too, and didn’t have any qualms in mentioning them. When he left the room, I cried for my wounded pride, for his insensitivity, and for his not seeing and understanding the things that matter to me. (My husband is not even an artist).

But that is not the real subject of this post :) .

I continued to paint and the Lord continued to add strength to me. Gradually, I improved my craft. My husband’s hurtful criticisms were so ingrained in my mind that they helped drive me to do better. I had that full intent in my heart to show him that those unfortunate morning glory flowers weren’t my maximum potential. I knew there was something more beautiful, more wonderful coming up of which I could yet praise God even more.

But that wasn’t only the reason why I stayed the course. I enjoy what I’m doing. It gives me something to eagerly look forward to. The inspiration and exercise not only bring me joy but I believe, even healing as well. Watercolor painting is therapeutic to say the least.

So, I continued to polish my work. I had become more meticulous in mixing my colors and learned some techniques watching videos on YouTube. The rest I left it to instinct.

Through the course of a few months, I had painted calla lilies, tulips, strawberries in the vine, orange jubilee flowers, a bowl of apples, a branch of blueberries, a manger, cascading wisteria, a tree (an illustration of Psalm 1), sunflowers, peony spray, lotus, peach roses, an eagle head (an illustration of Isaiah 40:31), and recently (just before this writing), a bluejay perched on a branch (an illustration of Lamentations 3:22-23).

Beginning with the third painting, Felix began to admire my work. There’s still a lot of room for improvement but I’m thankful that the Lord Jesus continues to pour out inspiration on me: my romance with watercolor painting deepens each day and blossoms so sweetly that my life is certainly more vibrant and colourful than ever before! Isn’t our Lord and Savior wonderful?

When Felix saw the bluejay, he commented, “It looks so alive.”

Grinning with pleasure, I asked, “You really think so?” He nodded his assent.

“It’s no longer a ‘sick parrot’? So, I’m already far removed from that sick parrot of grade 2?” I insisted as he continued to gaze at my painting. He knows the story.

Well, there should be a world of improvement from my drawing and crayon-coloring of parrot in grade 2 to my 48-year-old watercoloring self! That was practically another generation!

When I was in grade 2, I was entered in an art contest by our school where we competed with other schools in our town. I know now why they chose me: my father was a known fine artist in our town (one or two of his commissioned works, oil paintings, reached even the USA) and maybe they thought that I inherited his artistic prowess and also because I was an honor student.

A drawing of a parrot in all its bright orange-and-green plumage was pasted on the blackboard. It was to be our model.

After the contest, our works were judged and I learned that I came fourth. But there was quite a stir as my Lola Atring (my grandmother’s sister), an elementary teacher at the time, vehemently disputed with the judges that I should be placed second. They argued back that my parrot looked sick to which my fastidious-yet-with-a-remarkable-sense-of-humor lola replied with pride, “Well, who can readily draw a sick parrot among you?”

When this story was told to my father (by the said lola, no less!), I remember him smiling, followed by his deep-throat chuckle. He didn’t reprimand me for my poor performance.

As for my part, I couldn’t care less. I was too young! Maybe I didn’t have a competitive bone in my body then when it came to art, much less an artistic bone! I didn’t have to inherit my father’s artistic ability, did I? I didn’t have to be like him, completing his first oil painting on canvas at 15 or 17 (?). I didn’t have to accomplish what he had accomplished. I was my own person, still learning to pursue my heart’s desires.

This may well be true and in practice in our families today. But should it be the same with our sonship (daughtership) with God?

The Lord Jesus consistently showed His intimate relationship with the Father when He walked on earth. He was never far from the Father’s presence. He Himself testified that He did what He saw the Father do.

Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. 20 For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will. (John 5:19-21)

The Lord Jesus exemplified to us how to act as true children of God, how to live out our sonship (or daughtership): It is to do what our Father does and follow His ways and not our own. To be conformed to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ (see Rom. 8:29) for He and the Father are one. What He told and showed us to do – to worship God in spirit and in truth, to love as He loved us, to heal, to pray, to share the Gospel, and many other things – that we should do. So that we are truly sons and daughters of the Father in heaven.

Who we are, what we do –  should not be different from Him. We are to be partakers of His divine nature (see 2 Pet. 1:4).

We are to reflect our Savior’s light and beauty, awakening in His likeness (see Psalm 17:15).

As long as the branch is attached to the Vine, the very life of the Vine flowing to it, it will be one with the Vine, all its parts bearing the appearance of it. A grapevine will produce grapes and not another.

I am a daughter of God and my desire is to be like my Father, bearing His Spirit, His life flowing in and through me, my life a shining testimony to that.

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Journey with Jesus,

 

 

Rahab: Accepted in the Beloved

We first meet her in the pages of The Book of Joshua Chapter 2. Before crossing the Jordan, Joshua, the leader of Israel who replaced Moses, sent out two men to spy out the land of Canaan, especially Jericho. Along the thick wall of Jericho lived a harlot named Rahab. What good thing can one say about a harlot, in our modern language, a prostitute? But let’s consider Rahab. She had a house on the city wall near the gate. Her sinful “trade” must have brought her prosperity to be able to maintain a lodging house. We can assume that she was not your ordinary prostitute who earned just enough to get by. Some write-ups about her say that she was a very beautiful woman. Maybe she was selective with her customers and only bedded those who were wealthy and powerful. Or those who came to trade in Jericho and lodged in her house.

Rahab

We can also assume that she had other business enterprises such as flax (found on her roof where she hid the spies) and linen (the scarlet cord she tied on her window). Rahab, then, might have been a hardworking and shrewd businesswoman as well.

So, the two spies came to Jericho and lodged in Rahab’s house. When the king learned about it, he sent men to Rahab, demanding her to turn them in. But Rahab had hidden them, then bravely faced the king’s envoys, diverting them from her house to the fords.

Rahab voluntarily supplied the spies with inside information: that the heart of all Jericho had melted when news of the overwhelming victories of Israel reached them; that they knew God had given them the land. She herself acknowledged Israel’s God, saying, “For the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath” (v. 11). She then made a pact with them, in return to her kindness to them, that they would spare her and all her father’s household when they come to conquer Jericho.

Some commentaries say that one of the two spies was very well be Salmon, a prince of Israel of the tribe of Judah.

The next time we see her, it was the day the walls of Jericho fell (see Joshua 6). Joshua commanded his two former spies to bring out Rahab, all her father’s household, and their belongings as they had sworn to her. We can imagine Salmon thundering across smoking rubble to save Rahab and all her loved ones. They were brought to safety, outside of Israel’s camp, then later on were embraced to the fold and became a part of the people of God.

So, Rahab was brave, discerning, and was loyal to the God of Israel rather than to her king. We can also see that she was fiercely faithful to her family, courageously forging a pact with Israel to save them. I want to believe that she had maintained a close relationship with her family despite her shameful profession. Maybe she steeled her heart to do what she needed to do to be able to help her family and raise them up from poverty. And so, her family accepted her and loved her for her sacrifices. (I can say these things because I had written a similar testimony about a sister in Christ in my book Quiet Strength).

Many generations passed and she would be mentioned again by James and the writer of Hebrews. Her harlot label had stuck, not to reproach her, but to let readers know that she was the same Rahab who had hidden the spies. The label is her one-word testimony. She was included in the roster of the Heroes of Faith in Heb. 11 and James wrote how she was justified by her works (James 2:25), just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (Rom. 4:3). And she was accepted in the beloved.

But it’s not really Rahab’s heroism and subsequent salvation that I want us to talk about, but her personal life after the fall of Jericho. Specifically, her love life.

Amid the somewhat monotonous reading of the Genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1, we see the name Rahab. We learn that Salmon had married her and became one of the ancestors of the Savior. Wow. Salmon, a prince of Israel, had married Rahab the harlot.

When Israel adopted Rahab and her kin and they dwelt among them, she couldn’t have continued her sinful profession. For Israel, adultery meant death. No, just as the walls of Jericho had crumbled into heaps that would never be rebuilt, so had Rahab’s old sinful life. It was buried in rubble. When she set foot in Israel’s camp, she was a new creation in the Lord.

Salmon probably fell in love with her the first time he saw her. More than her extraordinary beauty, he was probably drawn by her character. Rahab’s story is a beautiful story of second chances. Don’t we all need them? Yes, beauty for ashes.

For those of us who had lived sinful and shameful lives, though not necessarily of the same magnitude like hers, we can see the threads of her story woven into ours. It could have been promiscuity, adultery, homosexuality, etc.

But our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ has saved us and has accepted us in the beloved.

…just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace… (Eph. 1: 4-7)

The saddest thing that could happen is for our labels to stick in our minds and in the minds of those close to us or who knew us, like a scarlet letter emblazoned across our chests. A for adulteress, for example. They may even tease us (thinly-veiled mocking) about our old life.

And when those people who matter to us most don’t seem to forget, and you feel it in every fiber of your being that that is the case, the wound they create could be so deep.

Do you think that Salmon lived with Rahab all the days of their lives loving her one moment, then despising her the next because he just couldn’t forget her past? Do you think Rahab lived the rest of her life walking with an invisible label stuck to her? H for harlot?

My answer: No to both questions. There is one proof that Salmon loved and honored Rahab the moment he accepted her into his life to be his wife ’til death parted them: Boaz. Maybe they had had other sons and daughters, but Boaz was the son mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy. We can see how honorable and loving Boaz had grown up to be. We can read his and Ruth’s beautiful love story in The Book of Ruth. If Salmon and Rahab’s household was riddled with distrust and strifes and hurts, Boaz could not have grown up into an honorable and kind gentleman, could he? The way he loved and cherished Ruth proved how he was greatly influenced by his father who led by example.

If the people in your life insist to see you as your past, don’t be offended anymore. It’s really their problem, not yours.

The Word of God does not dwell richly in them. Just believe what the Bible says: We are holy and without blame before Him in love. Accepted in the Beloved. Live thus, therefore, refusing to be pulled down by people who are just probably insecure or have nothing better to do. Courageously carry out God’s purposes in your life, and just like Rahab, raise children that will become honorable, Christ-loving men and women.

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Journey with Jesus,

Power to Become a Child of God

I asked our housekeeper how her “emergency” meeting with her estranged husband went. Earlier, she asked for a half-day leave to tackle the problem her husband was creating: he wanted to sell the house she and her kids were living in and split the money. Although it was his wife who acquired the lot and financed the building of the house, he wants to claim his conjugal rights. Our housekeeper was distraught. Years ago, they separated because he kept a mistress.

I told her we would bring her husband to our Church to receive the Lord Jesus Christ.

sonship

She stopped mopping, looked at me and said, “Oh no, ma’am. Nothing more can be done to him. Nothing can change him.” She continued her work like her slim hope was hinged on the mop rod.

“No man, however sinful he is, can stand against the power of the Lord Jesus Christ to save and change a life,” I answered.

I then proceeded to tell her about the testimony of a brother in Christ I  wrote on my Minister of Mercy blog. He was a drug addict of the worst kind. He would leave his family and disappear for days to immerse himself in his vices. As if drugs weren’t enough, he also drowned himself with alcohol at the same time. When he went home, he would “play” with his children, lining them up against the wall while he threw darts at them. By the mercies of God, He always protected the little ones.

One night, he came home high on drugs. The devil was at his throat, whispering to him to kill his sleeping, emaciated, very pregnant wife to remove all obstacles to his depraved life. And so, he took a knife and poised to stab his wife.

I stopped to ask our housekeeper, “Do you think your husband is more wicked than this man?” She shook her head but said nothing. I continued my story, how the Lord Jesus brought salvation to that man’s whole household. I told her that, years ago, I invited him to our home to record his testimony for my blog and have his photo taken. (To read the whole testimony, click here).

It is almost impossible to absorb, especially for a doubtful housekeeper who saw God as small as her hope, how a man who used to be so evil is now toting a Bible and sharing the Gospel and his testimony wherever he goes. But such is the amazing grace of God.

Apostle John wrote:

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13)

God does not simply make us His children when we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, but He also gives us power to be so, so that our sonship is not in name only, but is established through the manifestation of that power.

The true children of God, therefore, have power to live righteous, holy lives through the Holy Spirit that now lives in them. They cannot be born of God and still be slaves to sin, neither should they see themselves as lower and smaller than the position of a true son or daughter of God.

One night before my birthday last October 2, while I waited for sleep to come, I thought of the prayers I had fervently prayed weeks before my birthday that had remained unanswered up to that time. Among other things, I prayed that I would be able to bathe and wash my hair well more often and be able to groom myself and dress up for my birthday. But as I lay in bed that night with my hair which had become so oily due to infrequent washing and face that hadn’t been scrubbed clean to look radiant, I had a visit with self-pity.

The internal conversation started like this:

“You shouldn’t aspire to tidy up yourself and dress up to celebrate your birthday. Surely, you don’t have the nerve to pose before a camera and have your photo taken! Just hide in the shadows where no one can see you.” Maybe the pity party intensified that I just wanted to wallow in it, maybe I wanted to put myself down, even lower than what my illness had placed me, that I didn’t realize it was already the devil talking.

The voice said finally, “You are a cockroach! Thats what you are! So go hide!” (Friends, know that the devil is cruel).

The temptation to immerse myself deeper into the destructive sulking was there. A small part of me wanted to say “You’re right, I’m a cockroach!” to let God know how hurt I was that He didn’t grant my simple requests. But to do that would make me dumber than I already was at that moment.

Instead, I suddenly pulled out myself out of the senseless sulking and exclaimed inwardly in exasperation, “Oh, my goodness! Where did that come from? I am NOT a cockroach! Stop this right now, Rina. The devil is taking advantage of it.”

Sometimes, we are more of a sensual Christian than a spiritual one. We succumb to our feelings thinking that we can derive satisfaction from them. But we should have learned by now that doing such would profit us nothing. Among the devil’s many tricks, he wants us to see ourselves as the lowliest, the offscourings of the earth, so that in doing so, we bring God down with us and we sin in the process.

We were not only created in the image of God, we are being transformed in the likeness of His Son Jesus Christ. To see ourselves otherwise is to spurn God’s work in us.

But sometimes, it’s not only the devil who tries to bring us down. Even the people closest to us could affect us the same way. And when you’re unwell and suffering, that would be hard to overcome. Recently, I had one of those painful encounters with a family member. I was left feeling so discouraged I didn’t want to eat! When you’re hurt, it is not that easy to get back on your feet, dust off yourself, and move on. Yes, but your mind should rule over your emotions!

Wisdom must rule.

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7).

Wisdom is a product of a sound mind, the wisdom from above as described by Saint James:

But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. (James 3:17)

If I didn’t eat, who would suffer the more? Who was I punishing with my refusing to eat? It’s just a simple application of wisdom!

I took a huge, deep, cleansing breath, then told myself, “You’re hurt. It’s hard to swallow it. In the midst of the pain and frustration, it is even confusing. But you are a child of God. You have been given power to be so. So, act like one. You can overcome because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4).” I picked up the spoon and fork and ate with peace and satisfaction, even smiling to myself for the triumph.

On my birthday, I was able to tidy up, subdue my unruly hair, and put on my new peach blouse. I dared to take a birthday selfie and was shocked to see that the face I thought would show the ravages of illness instead showed the glory of my faithful Father. Hallelujah!

(Photo credit: @zuzu365 via @heart_imprint on Instagram).

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Journey with Jesus,

Blessed (Makarios)

I’ve been wanting to tell everyone about the adhering peace and joy in abiding in the Lord even amid diverse trials. But I couldn’t quite grasp the exact explanation and I wouldn’t want to be found lacking, especially by those who are not yet in Christ and are full of skepticism (and there are those who profess that they believe and serve the Lord but are doubtful of His workings; these are the ones who easily grow weary and complain when circumstances become hard). Then I read in my new devotional, A Word for the Day: Key Words from the New Testament, the deeper meaning of “blessed” in Greek from which it was translated.

blessed

In the introduction of the book, the author discussed extensively the importance of learning the Greek meaning of the key words used in the New Testament of the Bible. He explained that often, the English language falls short in accurately translating many Greek words, that is why it is good to go back to the original Greek meaning to gain a deeper understanding and make our faith walk more meaningful. (With that, I was fully convinced and really wanted to learn them, too, and not to seem scholarly :) ). One of those key words is blessed or makarios in Greek.

First, makarios speaks of “contentedness”. The idea is an inward contentedness that is not affected by circumstances. This is indeed the kind of happiness and contentedness that God desires for His children – a state of joy and wellbeing that does not depend upon physical, temporary circumstances.

Second, makarios goes even deeper, as Greek scholar Spiros Zodhiates points out, to refer to “possessing the favor of God, the state of being marked by fullness from God.” As Romans 4:7-8 declares, “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.”

Third, deeper still, one who is blessed is “one who becomes partaker of God’s nature through faith in Christ (see 2 Pet. 1:4). Zodhiates again offers, “To be makarios, blessed, is equivalent to having God’s kingdom within one’s heart. Makarios is the one who is in the world yet independent of the world. His satisfaction comes from God and not from favourable circumstances.”

(Quoted from A Word for the Day by J. D. Watson, p. 12).

This is exactly the thing I was looking for to be able to explain the steadfast peace and joy I have been experiencing throughout my many trials. I was trying to find possible, tangible “reasons” for this, why it is so, so that I could be able to share it with others, too. Now I have my answer: It is inherent in our blessedness. When we are blessed by God, we are also endowed with contentedness, the kind that is not affected by our circumstances. As the author of the book beautifully states, “a state of joy and wellbeing that does not depend upon physical, temporary circumstances”, which is exactly what God desires for His children.

This is what has been holding me all throughout my various difficult trials: a state of joy and peace which only God can give. There will always be seasons and reasons when we feel unhappy and discouraged, but our blessedness in the Lord is not affected by any of our circumstances. We are still that, blessed, makarios, although sometimes it doesn’t seem that way to our limited vision and finite understanding. In this state of blessedness:

  • There is strength in times of weakness, encouragement in times of doubt.

God is the lifter of our heads. (Ps. 3:3)

His strength is made perfect in our weakness. (See 2 Cor. 12:9).

God is faithful, He will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that we may be able to bear it (1 Cor. 10:13).

  • There is revival in times of weariness.

Times of refreshing come from the presence of the Lord (see Acts 3:19).

But whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:14).

The Lord was talking about the Holy Spirit which He will give to all who receive Him.

  • There is inspiration in times of dissatisfaction and drought.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. (James 1:17)

He gave gifts to men (see Eph. 4:8).

Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Rom. 5:5)

The Holy Spirit is an undying flame and well of inspiration to us.

  • There is peace that passes understanding and unbroken joy.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:7)

These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:11)

All these things point us to the sufficiency of God’s grace. It’s what sustains the blessedness. Moreover, it is the seed planted in us, nurtured by the Holy Spirit and the Word, until it bears the fruit of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). In this fruitfulness (blessedness), we become partaker of God’s nature, as the Greek Scholar Zodhiates said above. With the Holy Spirit residing in us, empowering us, it’s really that the kingdom of God has come upon us (Mat. 12:28). What a blessing!

We received this blessedness from the moment we received the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior. Imagine, complete forgiveness in place of our sins, eternal life in place of death! Nothing can ever equal this blessing. It won’t even suffice to put an adjective before it. It is a blessing pure and true, period.

And yet, trials and tribulations sometimes blind us to this truth. We forget this state of blessedness as we are subjected to God’s refining and pruning work by means of difficult and painful tests, then behold others having the time of their lives. We remember again the complaints of Asaph in Psalm 73. But when the Lord made him see the end of those who live in pleasure now, he realized that true blessedness in God is in being continually in His presence.

There’s a story I heard in church about the fattened pig. The pig is fed day after day by its master. It didn’t do anything but eat and rest and live easy, unlike the horse or the ox in the farm. Then one day, it was taken away to be slaughtered.

But we do not rejoice in the destruction of the wicked just as God doesn’t.

“Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord God, “and not that he should turn from his ways and live?” (Eze. 18:23)

In love, we pray for the salvation of the lost. We remember those who prowl the streets at night – men, women and children – committing all kinds of sin. And we pray for them. We give not only of our resources but of our time and love in prayer. The Lord Jesus said,

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)

There again is our blessedness played out in love. For true blessedness doesn’t envy, but blesses others, too.

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Journey with Jesus,

Living for Eternity

Before I found my way to putting up my own chemicals company 18 years ago, I had to work through the maze of odd jobs. The last two trained me rigorously in sales and marketing (the last one, being a combination of my ChE profession and marketing, put me exactly at the heart of my fervent dreams and shaped my future in business). I believe I was born an entrepreneur (I had been doing business since grade school 😀 ). One of the slogans I learned in those rigid seminars and trainings in sales and marketing was to “dress the part.” Later on, as my company soared to great heights of success, I didn’t only dress the part, but also learned to play the part of a young, successful business-and-careerwoman. And did it in style as I acquired worldly wealth, which a successful career woman must possess. This I learned in the world I lived in.

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There is this unwritten code of proving one’s success and showing it off to the world by the things we do and possess. Golds, pearls, and diamonds must adorn us. We get obsessed with signature fashion. There is a higher standard (often really painful to the pockets) we put into the brands we wear and patronize. There must be a trip or two abroad every year and vacations on holidays. A sedan isn’t good enough (unless it’s a BMW), it must be an SUV. The kids must go to a prestigious private school. Ateneo or La Salle wouldn’t disappoint when mentioned to friends. And so on as success rolls in and competition heats up.

Playing the part. That’s what people of the world learn and do.

Even the average Filipino family would want to sport the latest Apple product. IT’S A STATEMENT.

It’s not a bad thing to want to improve one’s standing in life – good education and financial and material prosperity and stability – and attain it through hardwork and diligence and belief in God and oneself. I myself advocate these things. But we do it to bring some measure of security, comfort, contentment, and happiness to our lives, not to be enslaved by any of it or a source of pride.

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

In the world, the wanting and attaining and competing never seem to have an end. Such was my life before Jesus. But when I gave my life to Him, everything changed. The words of Apostle Paul have become true for me: …It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me (Gal. 2:20).

All the golds, pearls, and diamonds had to go. Our Church, Jesus Miracle Crusade International Ministry, bans the wearing of jewelries. Others may say this is legalism, but for me, it’s liberation from covetousness. If you have the means and there is no teaching against wearing of jewelries, you can’t seem to stop accumulating. I had felt the “high” it brought and even at the peak of my worldliness, I knew it wasn’t right and I felt guilty as sin. The Bible says that covetousness (or greed) is idolatry. I’m thankful that there is actually a teaching on this matter which our Church upholds (see 1 Tim. 2:9-10).

So I lost that glitzy and glamorous lifestyle and Apostle Paul’s words became my own:

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him… (Phil. 3:7-9). 

As is proper among saints, therefore, we must not be consumed with worldly desires and possessions but be continually enriched by the Word. I can say for myself that my life is richer because of the Word.

Living the life that impacts eternity requires being centered on the spirit and not on the flesh and its desires. It is the spirit that dwells in the realm of God’s kingdom. We can only “worship God in spirit and in truth”, never outside of it. The apostle Paul says it best:

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. (Rom. 8:5-7 ESV)

To set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. In another place, we are taught to set our mind on things above, not on things on the earth… (Col. 3:2). For the things above are eternal. This should be our compass whenever we face the temptation to desire material things and pleasures that are outside of our grasp and God’s will.

But I know that there are Christians who still struggle seriously in this regard (I still do with a few things). They still have a bit of the worldly mindset or are influenced by it especially via Facebook, harboring deep desires for the things the rest of the world enjoys. If they won’t have them, they feel like they are being left behind.

Facebook brings all these objects of desire together effortlessly and makes it easier for those who have to compare and continue to compete, and for those who have not, to wallow in envy and discontent.

If we really consider it, if we really go down to what is essential: Does standing beside the Eiffel Tower really bring us lasting happiness? I mean, what of it, if only ANOTHER STATEMENT? It’s okay if God blesses us with such travels. But if not, we should not be too desirous of them (note: preaching to self :) ).

How about grand parties? I was already a born-again Christian when I saw the grand debut of the daughter of a rich and famous local celebrity and I thought, “These things aren’t for us anymore.” I instinctively thought that the life of a Christian should be in moderation [temperance or self-control – a fruit of the Holy Spirit], that they should walk in simplicity and modesty [freedom from vanity]. And they should! But I have seen Christians throwing lavish parties.

Others (especially those who can’t afford) may see them and will desire to have them, too. Then we have influenced our brother or sister in Christ to covet worldly things. We have become an offense [a cause of transgression or stumbling] to them. The Lord has warned us that offenses will come, “but woe to him through whom they do come!” (Luke 17:1). (A constant reminder to self).

Jesus wouldn’t choose to be born in a manger if modesty wasn’t one of the main lessons He wants us to learn. He always teaches by example.

Vain things, which are of the world and not of God, must not be the desires of a Christian.

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17 ESV). 

This new year, may we begin to live a life that constantly and intentionally chooses what matters most to God and His kingdom and impacts eternity.

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Journey with Jesus,

Living in God’s Faithfulness (Part Memoir)

A teacup I bought online from a local seller on IG reminded me of summers and rainy days gone by. The design is called Vintage Flowers and were it not for its price (I paid P560, roughly $12, for 2 sets of teacup and saucer), I wouldn’t have looked at it twice. But later on as I thought about it, the vintage flowers hue pasted on my mind, I was brought back to that little bedroom with the dilapidated balcony in my grandmother’s old house. And I was six years old again. One of my life’s greatest treasures are my childhood memories. They remain as vivid as the colorful butterflies that swarmed the blooming lantanas on summer mornings.

God's_faithfulness

The painted flowers on the antique bed’s iron headboard were like those on the teacup as I remember it. As we sat on that narrow bed, my eldest cousin (I was 5 or 6 and she was forever a grown-up lady) told me stories about the novels she read. I listened mesmerized. It was in that little room which smelled of an attar of freshly-starched laundry, talcum powder, naphthaline, and the adhering scent of decades-old memories that I first fell in love with reading.

Sprawled at the threshold of the crumbling balcony, I would read aloud, the vast, endless sky my ceiling and the trees and the birds my audience. It was an age of discovery and wonder. And security. Summers which saw trees lit up by droves of fireflies on dark nights and dragonfly catching as they came out to hover over the flowers when the sun was up.

That old house had long been torn down, but my beautiful memories of it remain alive. I keep them all in a treasure trove deep in my soul. It’s a testimony of God’s fierce love and care, maybe an imprint of forever in my heart.

If I need to feel Jesus’ love, I remember those days, those days when He answered even before I called (tears). For He healed me each time the flu visited. The steaming hot native chicken soup with ampalaya leaves tasted like heaven as healing and recovery melded with restored appetite (more tears). If the gracious Lord had been so caring when I was little, He was mighty strong when I went to college with big dreams in my heart and little (or sometimes none at all) money in my pocket. So, He blessed me.

If He was faithful then, He is still faithful today, even though life may have taken a new turn. Seasons change as surely as the sun rises in the east, but Jesus remains the same (Heb. 13:8); God says of Himself that He changes not (Mal. 3:6). Our lives change for a reason and purpose according to His will. This I have learned the hard way. No matter. The same God who smiled down at me as I chased butterflies and dragonflies in the heat of summer and waded through rain-flooded fields picking up snails is the same God who walks with me now through the “wilderness”.

I find great comfort from what David had declared. I believe these words took their form from God’s promise in Isaiah 46:3.

But You are He who took Me out of the womb;
You made Me trust while on My mother’s breasts.
I was cast upon You from birth.
From My mother’s womb
You have been My God. (Ps. 22:9-10)

From the very first breath we took out of our mother’s womb, God has been present and looking on with everlasting love. If we can’t believe this, how can we believe the miracle of life which is continually happening all around us? For how can the throbbing little heart and tender flesh and bones of a helpless babe grow with only the mother’s breast and love without the nurturing power of the heavenly Father who makes it all possible? Like the expectant seedling breaking through the dark earth to kiss the sun and drink in CO2, life is both a miracle and a gift, the main thread that weaves God’s grand scheme of things. Like what David wrote, we were cast upon Him from birth and we became His constant concern.

But God’s knowledge of us even goes farther than the day we first saw the light. From the foundation of the world, He chose us (see Eph. 1:4). In whatever manner we’ve been called, there has been a transformation in our life, a palpable change. To many of us, the change was so radical, fiery trials and all, that we didn’t know what hit us and we couldn’t help but wonder as though some strange thing happened to us (1 Pet. 4:12).

And we want to know and understand if God is really in all of it. In the early part of my salvation then subsequent trials, I found the answer I was looking for in Romans 8 and my soul found great relief and comfort. The words seemed to shine and leap off the page and spoke powerfully to me that I wrote at the margin of my Bible: God has indeed called me!

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. (Rom. 8:29-30)

Concerning us whom He has called:

He foreknew

He predestined

He called

He justified

He glorified

There is a master plan set from the foundation of the world and we have a vital part in it, according to His will and by His own grace. He will see it through to the end.

For those of us who are presently weighed down by trials that we groan in our spirits, we can find encouragement from Apostle Peter’s words:

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. (1 Pet. 4:12,13,16)

I believe the suffering that is mentioned above is not from illness or disease of the body, for how can Christ the Healer be glorified in it? But He will be glorified in our healing. Even so, I believe it is through the placidness of our spirit amid the storm that He is also glorified.

Just recently, I silently cried towards heaven and poured out the bitterness of my soul, not to grouse, but more like Hannah who prayed to the Lord and wept in anguish (1 Sam. 1:10). I feel like my physical suffering is like a battering ram that mercilessly beats my already weak body and it is wearying. It is during these desperate times that I feel my courage wane.

But I always find strength in the Word. Always. And lately, I’ve been drawing comfort and courage from this promise of His:

Even to your old age, I am He,
And even to gray hairs I will carry you!
I have made, and I will bear;
Even I will carry, and will deliver you. (Is. 46:4)

I want to emulate Joseph who, from his youth, went through hard and painful trials and yet, remained steadfast and unmovable in his faith in God. And God blessed him immensely in the latter part of his life. I believe this is the pattern that secures a blessed future. May we adopt this steadfastness and placidness of heart and spirit as we live in God’s faithfulness.

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Journey with Jesus,

The Savior’s Heart

The enemy’s goal is to alienate us from God. His work doesn’t end on the day of our salvation but it only intensifies us we embark on our faith journey and cling to our Savior Jesus Christ. His seemingly relentless temptations are both his attempts to draw us away from our new life and as tests on our faith. He capitalizes on the diverse trials we face to paint a picture of God that is cruel and indifferent to our deepest needs. He whispers to our unsuspecting ears that God delights in punishing us. And in the Christian’s weakened state due maybe to intense and constant hardships and sufferings, he or she becomes vulnerable against such lies.

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Through these lies, he affects our thoughts and emotions to sow seeds of doubts, resentment, and bitterness in our hearts. It is the embittered heart that clouds the truth about God and before we know it, the seeds sown begin to germinate. It is like The Parable of the Tares. Although it was used to illustrate the kingdom of heaven, it can also be seen as the field of our hearts. The Lord sowed good seeds into our hearts, but the enemy comes to sow tares. (Tares are weedy plants that grow in wheat fields). If we let him, what will our harvest be?

This is another examination of a heart that has been battered both by suffering and the devil’s lies. Though we wouldn’t dare think of turning away from God (no, not even in our wildest dreams!), the enemy might have succeeded in dousing the fire in our hearts that should have been burning for our Savior. Or maybe, the utter hardship and confusion the trials brought have wounded our hearts and the devil’s whisper “Has God indeed said…?” (Gen. 3:1) has somehow found its way to our grieving heart and driven us to ask in desperation, “Does God really love me?”

Such was my story and I didn’t even realize it was happening. These deep things about faith and our relationship with God, these roads in our spiritual journey that are less travelled – I didn’t give them much pondering. Until a few months ago. The hard trials and bouts of discouragement and the devil’s incessant whispering, taking advantage of the crisis, had brought me to Jesus’ feet each time, begging for help, love, and mercy. But what was becoming of my heart? Every now and then, it wallowed in self-pity and fought discouragement so powerful it had tried to drown me many times. I’m thankful that those episodes don’t last longer beyond an hour.

When my Savior and I found each other twelve years ago and He freed me from all sin, guilt, and shame, the feeling was so exhilarating that for months, I just wept in gratitude and awe before Him. It was a blissful “honeymoon” and I talked about it to whoever cared to listen. Then healing didn’t come. Instead, fiery trials did. The illness and suffering intensified and would last for years. Often, I felt like laundry being tumbled helplessly in the washing machine and there was no one who could pull out the plug to stop it.

Through those years, images of an angry God would float in my mind as I received the cruel blows on my body, blows that scared me and sent me trembling to the core and cowering in a dark corner (figuratively) (crying now). At other times, I saw glimpses of the Lord in my mind just standing in the background, watching me suffer so hard. One time, I even imagined my angel pleading to Him to do something (more tears). Those thoughts would parade in the periphery of my mind, unbidden, born out of desperation due to the intense suffering that battered my body. In those agonizingly difficult times, I couldn’t help but think of the almighty, all-powerful God as a severe, punishing God. It was always a painful thought.

Yes, my relationship with my Lord and King has been rather bittersweet, with peaks and dips like a roller coaster ride (now I can smile).

I can think of two Biblical men who felt the same way I did. David said in Psalm 32: “For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me.” This was my heart’s cry, too.

Through the years, my soul echoed Job’s soul-wrenching discourse. Season after season of sickness and suffering had me owning his words. I understood on a very intimate level every anguished word he spoke:

 But he is unchangeable [of one mind] and who can turn him back?
What he desires, that he does.
14 For he will complete what he appoints for me,
and many such things are in his mind.
15 Therefore I am terrified at his presence;
when I consider, I am in dread of him.
16 God has made my heart faint;
the Almighty has terrified me. (Job 23:13-16, annotation mine)

Job, once a powerful man, in his extreme suffering, became so terrified of God.

But back to the present. There is a need to heal from the wounds caused by our misconceptions of God, otherwise, we will never find true joy and wholeness in Him. And without our full trust in Him, that He is a just and merciful God, we can’t have complete courage to live the life He has purposed for us. Even if the trials have not fully passed, there is a need (now, not later) to re-acquaint ourselves with the heart of the Lord Jesus Christ, the express image of the invisible God.

I would like to see the heart of Jesus between the passages of Isaiah 53. We can know Him within the pages of the Gospel, how He went about proclaiming the Good News and healing all manner of sickness and disease and liberating those possessed by devils. But Isaiah 53 tells in detail what He has really done for mankind. For you and for me. It tells the poignant story behind the cross:

  • He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.
  • He was smitten by God and afflicted.
  • He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities.
  • Upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace.
  • With His wounds we are healed.
  • The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
  • He makes intercession for the transgressors.

Today, we declare that the devil’s lies and the false image of God he has conjured up in our minds are ground to powder and scattered in the water never to be seen again.

The wrath of God against the sin of mankind was poured out on the Lord Jesus Christ. There is nothing left for those who will receive Him as their Savior. God has laid our iniquities on Him. He bore them all upon His body — our sin, shame, punishment — to bring us peace. His wounds brought us healing. If He was crushed, afflicted, and punished on our behalf, how could we even think that God would delight in doing those things to us after we’ve received the Savior? There should only be peace and healing! For those are assuredly the things the Lord has won for us. He has finished the work! In fact, griefs and sorrows should not hold us captives anymore — He has carried them all! And even if we fall, He ever intercedes for us.

Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Heb. 7:25)

Here’s the heart of our God and Savior laid bare. He loves us so much He gave His all. Let not the enemy steal all that He had died for to give us: life and life abundantly.

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Just the Lord Jesus

Toward the end of the Jesus Finest Generation Choir singing on a Sunday worship service, as I watched via live webcast, the camera man focused on the backdrop of the riser which is the big, bold name of Jesus painted in red, and at that moment as my attention was drawn to it, everything faded to the background. I only saw His name, like a powerful presence, an invitation to look, to remember, to feel, to connect. In those few moments as the camera focused on that name, my spirit was awakened, my heart unfurled to give and receive love. There was only my Savior and me. With my ailing body’s physical difficulties and discomforts, I could only utter silently with all the pent-up longing — “I love You, my Jesus!” over and over. The tears couldn’t even find their way out, blocked by uncomfortable breathing. But the simple expression of my love was enough to assuage the deep need to worship. I knew that the Lord knew it was all I could give at that moment.

Jesusname

All day long (for our Sunday worship service is 10-5) as I watched our church’s live webcast, I was battered by my illness as usual, that many times, I needed to turn off the volume to get some rest. I only heard snippets of testimonies and the other choirs that I felt like I wasn’t really into the worship service. The hardships my illness brought drew much of my attention away and as I watched choir members and congregants being filled so powerfully with the Holy Spirit that they shook and trembled and wept and spoke tongues, I could only stare helplessly. I know the indescribable pleasure of entering into the glorious presence of the Lord. (I just wish I could do that more often, unhindered by physical limitations). But on that Sunday afternoon, the Lord beckoned me through the powerful pull of the sight of His name, to partake in His love and joy everyone in the congregation was feasting on. To be able to utter “I love You, my Lord Jesus!” with all that’s in me and feel His touch on my spirit were enough to offset the suffering. My heartfelt worship and Jesus’ unfailing love redeemed the day.

Just a day before, as fears, anxieties, and heaviness added to the oppression of my weak and suffering body, I pondered on the purity and simplicity of the Lord Jesus Christ. I sighed deeply as some sad news and messages reached me, each one making the burden heavier. I felt like a turtle that can’t shake off the weight from off its back and just leave it behind.

Life in the Lord is not complicated, I thought. Why do I always complicate things with endless worrying, analyzing, and mental wrestling?  In the Lord Jesus Christ, life is not supposed to be so complicated. Or is it?

In the end, I concluded that life in Him is both easy and hard.

It is not easy in that the Lord gave us clear commandments to obey and that we must walk the narrow road. It becomes hard when we try to straddle the Kingdom and the world and when we want to maintain a dual citizenship: of the world and of heaven; to want to be a citizen of heaven and at the same time be known in the world, however that may appear, whatever motives are behind it. It becomes complicated when the cares of this world and the desires for other things choke the Word, and it becomes unfruitful (see Mark 4:19). Consequently, we become unfruitful in love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control – the expected fruit of the Holy Spirit as He dwells in us.

No wonder there are times that we operate on less than love (and we all know how that looks). Joy is hard to find like a rare commodity. And peace? It becomes as fleeting as the glorious dawn and as elusive as the mist that vanishes with the morning. We build our lives on sinking sand, and often, we don’t even realize it.

There are so many instances in our daily lives that we don’t do as the Lord commands us to. For one, He tells us not to worry, but we do it without much effort and prodding. In His parable, He tells us to become fertile ground for the Word so we will become fruitful and lack nothing. But at times, we grow slack in nurturing the Word in our hearts as we mind other things, things that don’t impact eternity, like maybe the pursuit of worldly success or pleasures or just plain busyness. He tells us to store up treasures in heaven: working for that which has eternal weight in His everlasting kingdom. But it happens sometimes that our plans and goals are not aligned with His will. He tells us to not only hear His sayings but do them. REALLY. DO. THEM. In that way, we are building our lives upon a solid rock – Jesus – and whatever trials and tests that may fall upon them, however hard they are pounded — they will remain strong and standing still.

I believe that life in the Lord is not complicated if we only have one mind, one heart, one desire, and one direction. Just a level, straight path toward our Redeemer and His kingdom: eyes on Him, spirit connected to Him, desires aligned with His desires, and His perfect will our compass. Consider the paraphrase of 2 Corinthians 3:18 from The Message:

Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.

I think of the workers in the vineyard of the Lord, especially those in our Church’s outreaches in the far provinces whose lives are not highlighted through social media. Unknown to the world, almost invisible, except to those who hear and see their fiery preaching and testimonies, agonizing prayers, and laying of hands. They surrendered their lives to the Lord, turning their backs on worldly pursuits and pleasures, and just labor for their Lord and His Kingdom, day in and day out as our beloved Pastor Wilde Almeda has diligently taught and exemplified. Just as the Lord Jesus Christ had only one purpose in heart and mind, that was to do the will of His Father, so these workers follow His lead without complaints or desires for other things. Their lives are uncomplicated, filled with peace and spiritual power.

Life in the Lord is easy in that He promises to give us rest from our labors and burdens (the yoke of the world) and find rest for our souls. He says that His yoke is easy and His burden light. He gives us commandments to keep, in that way, His joy may remain in [us], and that [our] joy may be full (John 15:11). He says that in Him we may have peace. In the world [we] will have tribulation (John 16:33).

In the world we will have tribulation. This couldn’t be more true! But in Him is:

rest

yoke is easy and burden is light

joy

peace

These are the things we find in a life in Him. So, remove the veil (all appearance of worldliness) that obliterates that lighted path between us and the Lord Jesus Christ. There is a place higher than the ground we’re treading on, a holy place which is far removed from the world’s superfluity, a place where the Lord Jesus stands, beckons, and waits. For He raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:6). We find that place when we assume our positions in true worship.

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Journey with Jesus,