He Who Overcomes

They stand among the debris, mismatched flip-flops protecting their feet from the hazards they are stepping on, remnants of their homes, as they answer a local reporter’s questions. Three women, wives and mothers, probably related to each other or neighbors. The reporter notices their pretty-once mismatched flip-flops and comments. The women giggle, amused. No, these are not theirs. They found them among the debris that’s why they don’t match. The reporter asks one of the women if she loves purple. She looks down at her feet and says, yes, she thinks she likes purple, and laughs.

The reporter was trying to bring to the surface that endearing quality of the Filipino women: warmth in the face of life’s vicissitudes. Even when nothing matched or made sense.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper squats in front of the shanty made of blanket and sticks. He is talking to two men, one young, one old. They are what’s left of their families, of what once a neighborhood. The old man cooks for the two of them. They have each other. Cooper stands up and approaches a lone woman and asks how she is. She’s looking for her daughter is the answer. She will not leave the area until she has found her daughter. Alive or dead, she needs to know. So, she keeps on walking, searching.

Anderson Cooper saw the courage and resiliency of the Filipino people. He later said, “Thank you for showing us how to live.” How to live in the midst of indescribable grief.

(Photos from BBC)

The senior BBC reporter hops off his chartered helicopter on a small island, signs of Haiyan’s destruction everywhere. Suddenly, the kids come running to him. They come from everywhere. They congregate around the Brit reporter. He at once seems to assume a father-like stance (or maybe Santa Claus?) and asks the children what they need. The tallest among them, a skinny girl, answers earnestly, “We have been given food, but we need shelter. We lost our houses. We need materials to build our houses.” She speaks in unbroken English and one can feel she’s loving that chance to be able to talk to a foreigner. The reporter repeats her request in a question and they all answer in unison: Yes! The reporter warms up to them. The kids are bursting with gladness that someone visits them; with gratitude that someone listens to them; and with hope for still a bright tomorrow. Because they just believe and trust. Children do that.

All these scenes that play out in my mind bring me to two things: the promises of the Lord to those who overcome and the untarnished faith of a child which opens the kingdom of heaven.

2 Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, 3 and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat. 18:2-4)

In The Book of Revelations, the Lord pronounced many promises to those who overcome. In the early months of my illness and salvation, when I was still trying to grasp what had happened to my life, these passages in Revelations helped me understand and, yes, overcome my dejection and confusion. In Revelations 2 and 3, seven times the Lord said that “He who overcomes” will receive the specific promises.

I began to understand that God gives us things, hard things, to overcome so that we can qualify for those promises. I thought that if He doesn’t give someone something to overcome, how can that someone get the chance to receive His promises? Only he or she who had had things to overcome will receive each promise. Therefore, when God gives us something to overcome, He is actually giving us the chance to be recipients of His promises.

These hard things that He gives us, often we think we can’t possibly overcome. The initial reaction is fear. But I believe that when He does, He will also supply the grace we need to be able to overcome: faith, strength, wisdom. Sometimes it’s a tough battle, long and excruciating. But we continue to wrestle until He gives us victory.

In my long years of sickness and suffering, there was, and still is, a wide array of things I needed to overcome: fears, complainings, bitterness, doubts, self-pity, sorrow, discouragement, hopelessness. The Lord has faithfully helped me through all these, to overcome each one. Victory in these areas doesn’t always come easy. But I now have a clear understanding that we are called to be overcomers. To be more than conquerors.

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[a]

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[b] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:35-39 NIV)

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A Place to Hide

When I see the photo of the Philippine flag tattered but still flying, I can’t help but bite my lip and try not to succumb to weeping. Our tattered flag symbolizes a country and a people broken and battered by the continuous onslaught of evil: corruption, war in Mindanao, insurrection, floods, earthquake, and just recently, super typhoon that took lives and property, and maybe, even hope to some. With these sentiments and tears, I begin my post today.

There were news that, after Typhoon Haiyan devastated our country, a big and famous church refused to receive townsfolk seeking refuge to their sturdy building in the heart of Tacloban, Leyte, the hardest hit province, while the typhoon raged. Those people were desperate and ran to that church’s edifice, hoping that they would be received and find safety there. But they were cruelly turned away because they were not members of that church.

This is a homegrown and second largest church in the Philippines next to the Roman Catholic Church. They are called Iglesia ni Cristo (translated: Church of Christ), but most people call them by the name of the founder, Iglesia ni Manalo, which is just as well since it appears that they don’t have the right to carry the name of the Savior. Would the Lord Jesus Christ turn away anyone? They may boast of their sturdy edifices, their churches’ buildings high spires proudly reaching to the clouds, but if the Lord doesn’t dwell there, what good does it do? Absolutely nothing!

In 2006 when our family traveled to nearby provinces to attend crusades of our Church, I had observed this one thing: most, if not all, of our Church’s outreach stations’ buildings are not made of a sturdy foundation. I was barely three years old in the Lord and still had that worldly thinking in me. I was ashamed to feel dismayed seeing the unattractive and seemingly weak structures that composed the outreaches’ buildings. I was still in the worldly mode thinking that a church building should look magnificent. Our main church regularly holds worship service in a stadium which is not at all unusual for huge congregations.

But our Church’s outreach stations’ buildings symbolize the poverty and humility of Christ when He walked on earth. Not that they would rather keep it that way, but, in the provinces where life is hard, the Gospel is brought to the poor and the needy. They may be poor materially (some outreach stations have curtains for walls), but they are rich in faith. And I might have forgotten where the Lord delivered His sermons: on a hill, on the mount, on a boat, at the seaside, in someone’s house. Our outreaches’ buildings may be weak but our Church’s foundation is the Lord Jesus Christ.

News reached us that in one outreach station that was directly along the path of the super typhoon, when the outreach building was wiped out, the beloved brethren in Christ tried to flee but couldn’t stand up to the force of the howling winds and lashing rain, so they just lay flat on the ground in a vacant lot, their faces kissing the wet earth. They yielded their bodies to the mercy and protection of the Lord God Almighty.

(image source)

Where do you go when there is nowhere to hide? Where do you run to? For even the designated evacuation centers were swallowed up by the storm surge and the people who sought refuge there perished. Where do you go when there is no safe place to be? For even the mansion-like houses of Tacloban were not spared by the fierceness of wind and water.

This was what our family talked about after our nightly devotion around our table. I said, “The safest place to be is in the Lord Jesus Christ.” When buildings fail to harbor us, there is a cleft in the Rock where we are always safe. We are safe in the hand of the Savior.

And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. (John 10:28)

Psalm 91 was given to us so we will know who holds, covers, and protects us.

He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;

You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,
Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.

A thousand may fall at your side,
And ten thousand at your right hand;
But it shall not come near you.

Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place,
No evil shall befall you… (Ps. 91: 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, emphasis added)

And yes, He is able to deliver from any and all harm. Even from super typhoons. Our brethren in Visayas are all safe. Hallelujah!

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Thoughts on Empathy

There is a word that came to me in the aftermath of the monstrous storm that ravaged our land and our people. I see this father in the news, a day after the typhoon left, carrying his lifeless daughter in his arms, his wife beside her. There is chaos around them. Someone is trying to lead them out of that place of devastation. But the father, he hesitates; he looks around, like trying to find the answer why he’s carrying his daughter in his arms, already lifeless. The wife looks at him – utter confusion and shock have locked up the dam of tears inside. They can’t even cry. Mourning can wait, they are probably thinking. There are more pressing matters at hand, like taking one step in front of the other. To where, I know they don’t have any idea.

(image source)

Where do you go from the place where your life has been shattered? Where do you sit? What will you think? How do you breathe? How do you live from now on? Do the people not affected by the catastrophe really care deeply beyond supplying food, water, and clothing? I mean, they would dump clothes they don’t like anymore into sacks and large garbage bags, or write a check, or buy canned goods and noodles to be sent away to the people waiting in hunger and thirst and cold. These graces which we are deeply grateful for will assuage their hunger, quench their thirst, and warm their shivering bodies, but are they enough to reach and soothe the sorrowing soul, stanch and warm the broken and bleeding heart?

(image source)

Really, how do you reach out to them? Or do you even think beyond the giving of relief goods to reaching them where healing could start, by God’s grace? When you think that you will never want to experience this tragedy in your own life, then you can imagine and maybe feel what they are going through, and this realization might urge you to do something more, even beyond the norm. And maybe with that, I have attempted to put meaning to this word called “empathy”.

em·pa·thy

noun \ˈem-pə-thē\

: the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions : the ability to share someone else’s feelings (Ref.: merriam-webster.com).

If you have empathy, you don’t go about displaying your photos enjoying, celebrating, feasting, and probably having the grandest time of your life. If the people who are suffering and sorrowing see them, they would be hurt. These won’t help them, but may plunge them to deeper despair and bitterness. It’s just wrong timing done in bad taste. If you have empathy, you want to be silent to honor them and what they are going through, and think about them; pray for them with tears; and do something for them to make them feel that, yes, they are loved and cared for by the Body of Christ.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. (Rom. 12:15)

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Gal. 6:2)

I want to think that, just like Job’s friends who came to sit with him on the ashes and be present for him, we may also sit with the grieving families among the debris, but minus Job’s friends’ condemnations, and just be present for them in their grief. And maybe, the Lord will open our mouths so that we will speak the words that could start the healing process. For you see, the best thing in the world that we can give them, after relieving them of their hunger and thirst, is still the Lord Jesus Christ. The hope and life and healing that are in Him. For He alone can raise up the people from the ruins and the debris, and give them new life: a future and a hope. 

(Our Church is now preparing to go to the ravaged areas to bring victuals with healing hands and prayers, and hope).

From the bottom of my heart to the point of weeping in gratitude, I would like to thank all the nations that donated to our beloved country for the victims of the super typhoon Haiyan, to all local donors, to all the volunteers, both locals and foreigners, and to all who prayed and are still praying for our country and our people. Thank you! You are much appreciated (tears).

If you have been blessed by your visit here, please like Our Healing Moments on Facebook and connect with me there. Thank you!

I might be linking up with these lovely blogs.

Journey with Jesus,