A Heart and Mind on Things Above

I feel the nearness of God not only when blessings abound, when prayers are answered, and peace and joy are to be had, but more so when He speaks during difficult times. When He gently (or strongly!) reminds and reproves and puts us back on track when we sway. It is truly a sad thing when we so need His light and guidance and He is quiet. When we plunge headlong into our erroneous ways and we become distressed by them, who will lead us in the paths of righteousness but the Shepherd Himself?

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The power of God is as prominent in His correction of us (and so, we repent and change our course) as when He performs a miracle. In my life, I dance (in my spirit) in happiness when He speaks clearly, and I listen and obey, and so, peace floods my being, especially in hard situations when my emotions are dumb as a mule.

I had one of these experiences just recently when I sorted out my bags with the help of the kids. I haven’t used a bag in years since I only inhabit our bedroom and patio, but I wanted to haul out all my old bags and see if I could pull out one to be given away. Through the years since I stopped working, my bag collection has dwindled. I have been taking them out to give away and those few remaining are the ones I really want to keep. Really expensive ones.

But I had the shock of my life when I found out that some of those bags that I was referring to were no longer in my closet. Nowhere to be found in the whole house. Months before this, we also found out that my favorite-ever Coach sandals, a gift from my sister-in-law, and other imported leather sandals and Hannah’s boots were all gone. But even before we found this out, my Canon DSLR camera and Hannah’s cellphone had also been stolen. This time, we found out belatedly that my bags were stolen, too! There was a time when we emptied our en suite closet and put them all in the guest room closet while our bedroom was being renovated. That must be the time the stealings occurred.

My Coach, Lancel, and Longchamp bags were all gone. These bags were slightly used and as good as new. Imagine my devastation when I found out about this third batch of stolen properties!

When my Coach sandals (which I only used when I had my picture taken – for blog and FB purposes – since I can’t walk yet) was stolen, I cried. Finding the bags also gone, I could no longer help my anger. I was angry and dismayed at the same time. I couldn’t rein in my emotions and my peace was slowly flying away.

Then God’s still, small voice spoke:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Mat. 6:19-21)

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. (Col. 3:1-2)

Immediately, I made a U-turn from the road of unprofitable emotions and obeyed God’s voice. What relief! What freedom! The Lord Jesus said that if we continue in His Word, we are indeed His disciples, “And [we] shall know the truth, and the truth shall make [us] free” (John 8:31-32).

Not only that. I also summoned Conching, our housekeeper, whom I have brought to the Lord months ago, and preached to her these words. (Conching isn’t a suspect in the stealings). The remaining bags sprawled in front of us, I told her of the words of Jesus. I needed to triumph over the devil’s work: my stolen things and the negative emotions the discovery brought. And the best way to do that was to quash him with God’s Word.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.

This commandment reminds us to be sober – moderate – in all things. It guides us not to hoard material things, especially the ones that are very expensive they are a luxury. Or things that are not really needed, superfluous. It teaches us not to live in excess or extravagance, pampering and lavishing ourselves with this world’s goods to the extent that we may grow distant or indifferent to others’ lack. Satisfying all our earthly desires without restraint is not Christlike. It may even numb us from seeing and feeling the deep needs of the world. 

Though we may have the means to satisfy our appetites, we may not act on it, but live within the bounds of simplicity and modesty. I can’t reconcile the thought of a Christ follower filling up her house with very expensive gilded Italian furniture that is fit for a royalty, for example, or with Murano crystals lining up shelves and gracing side tables. Aren’t these just a few examples of lust of the eyes and pride of life?

When I was still a businesswoman and living a worldly life, I was a shopaholic. Every time I traveled abroad, I hauled two rolling suitcases: one filled, one empty. The empty suitcase would be brimming with purchases when I flew back home. I loved to shop the prestigious brands. If it was generic, I didn’t want it. I also loved jewelry, the genuine kind: diamonds, pearls, and gold.

But all that changed when I received the Lord Jesus in my life. With the Holy Spirit now residing in me, sobriety and simplicity also now reign in my life. In our church, Jesus Miracle Crusade International Ministry, wearing of jewelry of any kind is discouraged. So, no one does. And that is a good thing, for the desire for jewelries makes one to covet.

The essence of this teaching is to uphold a life of holiness – modest and simple – and to veer our attention away from worldly things to godly things. To make us set our minds on things above and not on things on the earth. 

If wearing of jewelries is banned because of the above reasons, shall we then satisfy our desires on other things just because they are not specifically banned? A collection of signature bags, shoes, and clothing perhaps? To regularly upgrade to the latest iPhone because we don’t want to be left behind? To buy a sleek BMW or a handsome SUV? To live a posh life?

This doesn’t sit well with the Lord’s reply when a scribe announced that he would follow Him wherever He went.

And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Mat. 8:20)

This is the Lord’s caution to all who desire to follow Him: life with Him is not a bed of roses. It is not living in a fantasy world where all our wishes come true, but a life that denies itself daily.

Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. (Luke 9:23)

Deny ourselves from earthly desires that do not have an impact on eternity.

(Photo from Pinterest).

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Journey with Jesus,

Experiencing the Word

Living out God’s Word, that is, putting it into practice in our daily lives (e.g. “Love one another as I have loved you”), is not the same when I say, “experiencing the Word.” To experience God’s Word, for me, means that we live through it, letting it seep in and through our flesh (every pore and vein and nerve where life pulsates), our feelings (whether they be peace or fear, joy or depression, etc.), our minds (that sense and strength of reason), and our souls (that vital part of us that strains to connect with the Divine). Where “living out the Word” entails an act of obedience, “experiencing the Word” is walking through and dwelling in it in faith and letting its power work mightily in and for us.

experiencing the Word

We may do it for healing and strength, to usher in peace and unbroken hope, or to deepen  our faith. Or just simply to enter into worship.

When we set out to experience God’s Word, we are positioning ourselves to receive with open hearts and hands. Mostly for me, experiencing God’s Word is borne out of desperation.

January 2004. We had just received salvation weeks before, and amid the chaos brought about by my undiagnosed illness, the speedy and unstoppable waning of my strength and the skyrocketing of my fears and panic, we scrambled to grow and strengthen our faith. Felix was learning to worship by singing praises and I was reading the Word as if my life depended on it (and in truth, it did).

On that January morning, I had just eaten a meager breakfast and as I slowly let my weak body touch my propped up pillows, my insides trembling, my nerves humming like a motor all over my body, and my back felt like it wasn’t there, I tried to grasp strength from the praise music playing on the cassette player. Weak and dizzy, my body wanted to succumb to sleep, but I was afraid to give in to it, thinking I might not wake up again. But when I closed my eyes, the vision of the Lord Jesus coming in the clouds in all His glory played on the terrain of my mind.

There was brightness all over me there as I beheld the Lord, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; and his feet like unto fine brass… and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength (see Rev. 1:13-16). 

The vision’s message was: Someday, whether I am asleep or awake, at the trumpet’s call, the Lord will come to take me (and all who believe in Him) and I will be forever with Him in eternity. There was nothing to fear. He has sealed me for eternal life where God shall wipe away all tears from [my] eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away (Rev. 21:4).

That vision with its powerful message instantly calmed my flesh and fears and I went to sleep in peace and comfort. It was my first Word-experience and it brought me strength and hope for the months and years that followed.

Later that year, I lay in a cot in one corner of the chapel of our church’s fasting house in a nearby province. Living in the chapel where there were long hours of praise and worship, morning and evening, and workers and payer warriors praying and fasting brought me spiritual strength as I continued to battle my illness. I was leaning heavily on my Savior, Healer, and Comforter.

Lying there, my insides, though empty, wanting to rise up to my throat, threatening to cut the air, I played in my mind the Bible scene where Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, implored the Lord to come heal his daughter. Being in internal panic myself moment by moment, I could relate to this frantic father’s desperation.

His young, only daughter lay in bed at home, dying. Every single second was essential. He has heard of the Miracle Worker who healed the sick, made the lame walk, and opened the blind’s eyes. His daughter’s miracle was within reach. He only had to make haste. When he finally found Him, he dropped to his knees and begged Him to come.

“I will come,” was the Lord’s calm reply. They set out, but a delay was inevitable. Another desperate soul desired to be healed. It had been 12 long years of waiting and she believed, now was her time. After the brief delay, someone from Jairus’ house came to tell him that his daughter was dead.

What now? I imagined Jairus’ heart stopping for a beat or two, and his knees threatening to buckle down. But before earth and sky came crashing on him, the Lord was quick to assure him, “Be not afraid, only believe.”

Over and over as fear and illness threatened to snuff the life out of me, I played that scene in my mind. When I felt like I was losing the battle, I believed and trusted in the depths of my soul that Jesus cared for me, as much as He cared for the woman who crawled behind to touch the hem of His garment and Jairus’ dying daughter, and so, He wouldn’t fail me, too. Even at the throes of death. I clung to this with every weak heartbeat and incomplete breath: “Fear not. Only believe”,  imagining the Lord assuring me with eyes of compassion and power. (See Mark 5).

During one of those long seasons where illness and suffering defined my days, I relived the story of the hapless Syro-Phoenician mother and every time I did, hot tears spilled copiously as sob after sob, I reasoned with the Lord just as she did.

Wanting so much to be relieved of my suffering, I begged the Lord to let me pick up crumbs that fell from the children’s table. I was willing to be like a dog if that was what would move His hand to heal me. I knew that I had been made a daughter of God (John 1:12) and had access for a good seat “at the table”. Meaning, His promises had been made available to me when I received Jesus into my life, just as Apostle Peter had written: His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises (see 2 Pet. 1:3, 4).

But if it pleased the Lord that I humbled myself and showed Him how much I wanted healing and be so bold as to importune Him for it, then I would gladly do it. And so, for a season, I became that Syro-Phoenician mother begging for the crumbs of healing for the sake of my young children.

But the most beautiful reliving of the Word I have ever experienced was the story of my own salvation seen through the encounter between the adulterous woman who was about to be stoned to death and the Lord Jesus. That scene, which was taken from the movie Passion of the Christ, was used in a music video featuring the song You Raise Me Up. While I listened to it, I saw myself in filthy rags, daring to raise my face toward the Savior as He gently lifted me up from the miry clay and assuring me with so much love and mercy, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (see John 8).

Aahh! The power of that moment! It gripped me so profoundly I could only sob and praise in eternal gratitude!

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Journey with Jesus,

Pride and Reputation

What’s really holding us back into the fullness of Christlikeness? Why do we slide back in our faith journey time and time again? There could be a lot of things that stunt our spiritual growth, in growing in the grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18). Number one could be the world’s influence. It could influence our beliefs, mindsets, and affections and create conflicts in our being, that is,  if we are not fully surrendered to God. This influence spawns pride and all the other things attached to it. An air of self-importance and a desire to be regarded highly, for example. Pride comes in many disguises, and yes, it could deceive the not-so-vigilant Christian. That’s why it’s important that we should be humble enough to subject our hearts and motives to close examination and keep our hearts open to God for counsel and correction.

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But that’s not always the case. Sometimes, we succumb to our intense emotions and let them trump our desire and disposition to obey Christ. When that happens, we have let the world’s beliefs and teachings to overcome our belief in and grasp of the truth of God’s Word.

The world’s beliefs and teachings run contrary to the Lord Jesus’ teachings. And yet, if we are not that diligent in following Christ and walking after the Spirit (we may be lax in praising, praying, reading the Bible, and fasting), we may consciously or unconsciously adapt the world’s beliefs and mindsets, letting them affect our dispositions, behaviors, and attitudes.

For instance, the world, through various self-help books, adamantly teaches about self-esteem. (And we have that natural tendency to think highly of ourselves, and that, if we are not totally surrendered to the Holy Spirit, it just might take a life of its own, rise up to invade our hearts and overpower us). But the Bible teaches us to esteem others better than ourselves and to forbear, with hearts ready to forgive.

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. (Phil. 2:3)

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. (Col. 3:12-13)

In another place, Apostle Paul teaches thus:

For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. (Rom. 12:3, emphasis mine)

We grow in the grace and knowledge of our Savior Jesus Christ through the Word of God. The Bible, especially the Gospels and the pastoral letters, teaches us everything we need to learn to know and obey Christ and grow into His fullness. But if we have not embraced the Word and let it permeate our being, or if we let ourselves starve of it, spending more time online, endlessly browsing our social media news feeds and watching worthless videos instead of reading the Bible and meditating on it, we will remain ignorant of the words of life and untrained in dealing with life graciously and competently.

To live in God’s Word is to live in true power.

But if we starve ourselves of it, we will always slide back. We will be a heavy burden to others instead of steadily growing, bearing much fruits, and leading others to Christ by the very life we lead.

The Word of God is truly a lamp unto [our] feet, and a light unto [our] path (Ps. 119:105). The wise in Christ utilize it to help them traverse this difficult thing called life and emerge victoriously. Being victorious doesn’t always mean we get what we pray for. It often means that we mature spiritually through the trials, learning as we should, and God accomplishing what He has purposed for us: conforming more and more to the image of His Son (see Rom. 8:29). For example, it is hard to readily forgive if we do not cling to the Word for wisdom and guidance. And yet, even if we know the Word, we still need to pray agonizingly with humble hearts and tears, for it to move mightily against the devil’s strongholds: pride, anger, selfishness, etc.

And it will. Unfailingly.

So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. (Is. 55:11)

If we surrender to God’s Word powered by our unceasing prayers, it will deliver us and set us free from whatever is holding us captive, may it be anger, unforgiveness, lovelessness, coldness, indifference, etc.

But if we harden our hearts against it, if we wouldn’t listen to the Holy Spirit’s prodding and let our pride grow bigger than our stature, we have not really learned Christ. Our pride would blind us from the truth of God’s Word and we would be like a tree stump – short, stagnant, barely living.

Do you find it hard to let go of your desire to be treated with high repute to the point of hurting your relationships and being hard-hearted towards God’s Word? We can never discount the power of the Word in our lives. But if we do not know it, how can we apply it? If we do not study it, how can we abide in it?

This is what the Word can do:

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Heb. 4:12)

The Word will help us discern the intents and thoughts of our hearts when we subject ourselves to it. We can’t hide anything from it. If we know the truth, yet go on following our will and emotions, we live in hypocrisy.

Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin. (James 4:17)

We all want to receive this blessing from God:

The Lord make His face shine upon [us],
And be gracious to [us];
The Lord lift up His countenance upon [us],
And give [us] peace. (Num. 6:25-26)

How do we make that happen? The answer is in Isaiah 66:2:

“…But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word.” (Is. 66:2, emphasis mine)

When we make the Word our dwelling place, we are constantly guided and hard-heartedness will find no place in our lives.

I love the constant guidance of God through His abiding Holy Spirit and His Word. His voice may not be audible, but I can strongly sense His counsel, ever-guiding, ever-speaking to my heart. And when I feel like He is silent, I pray and draw closer to Him. Always, my prayers are accompanied with this silent whisper, “Draw me closer to You, oh, Lord.”

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Journey with Jesus,

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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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.

living_for_eternity

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,