Life Hidden with Christ

A few weeks ago, I was chatting with a fellow Christian artist friend. She knows the physical difficulties I am going through (in fact, she gave me an emu balm she bought during her trip to New Zealand to help soothe my atrophying legs) and she also shared her own health problems (although I could sense that she was trying to downplay her own health challenges because she knows how hard I’m suffering). At the end of our exchange through Viber, she expressed her faith in our Lord Jesus healing us both, and I replied that yes, He will keep us and protect us under the shadow of His wings. For I felt then that, we, as mothers who long to be strong and live long on the earth, need the Lord’s all-encompassing protection and keeping.

hidden with Christ

I was feeling frustrated while painting something for my blog theme, for I felt exhausted after even just half an hour working. But my Lord comforted me, whispering to my heart that it’s okay, that I need not rush things and I need not produce perfect. Just something to bring Him joy.

When I am sick, weak, and fearful, all I want to be is under the shadow of God’s wings. I want to hide myself in that safe place from everything that’s making my life hard until it all comes to pass. Sometimes, that means I am invisible to the world, too, and that’s fine with me. Being hidden, obscured from the world’s prying eyes, is a definition of safe and peaceful for me. For the more than 13 years of illness, I’m used to my quiet life at home.

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me!
For my soul trusts in You;
And in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge,
Until these calamities have passed by. (Ps. 57:1)

When life is looking up bright and some measure of wellness is mine to hold, I venture out into the world, albeit virtually through social media. I would share photos of our family and our simple celebrations. I would share my art and words to encourage. I also like the connection I have, especially in Facebook, with loved ones and friends old and new, far and near.

My motive for sharing our life in photos and words through Facebook is to let others know that despite my health situation, we are doing fine by the grace of God. That there is real joy and peace in our hearts despite the trials, and there is always a reason to celebrate and thank the Lord. Whenever I arise from the ash heap of sickness and suffering, I post a photo of myself (in a pretty blouse and maxi skirt and with a light makeup) as a testimony of God’s enduring mercy and to send a message to the world: “Hey, the Lord keeps me alive!” I want God to be glorified in that regard.

But sometimes, I can overdo it. Sometimes, the inner motive becomes something like, “Hey, people! We are doing fine, far better than you think. We are not left behind. We are not pitiful. See? We’re having a party. The husband and the kids went to this place and that place, etc. etc.” It is then that the motive is tinged with pride and comparison.

Sad to say, social media is not all connection, but also a breeding ground for comparison. And competition.

With great dismay, I have examined my heart and found out that not all my motives in posting on social media are pure. They are tainted, in one way or another, with pride and the desire to be admired. It is terrible, I know, but that is the human heart if we don’t search it every now and then and let the Holy Spirit guide it even in the smallest matters, like posting on social media.

I’m not sure if this is true for you, too, but I think that there is this tendency of the human nature to flaunt to the world that one’s life is beautiful, even if only on social media. If a life is “true and through” good and beautiful in the Lord Jesus Christ, then go ahead and testify it to the world, for God’s glory and honor and for the edification of others. Nothing more, nothing less. Never to make others feel envious, or less-than, or miserable. And even if that isn’t our purpose, we may still end up affecting others in a negative way if we are not careful.

Our lives in the Lord should edify and not bring others down. Edification is defined as the instruction or improvement of a person morally or intellectually*.

So, when I felt that connection in Facebook has turned to comparison and realized that my life was overwhelmed with envy and that I wasn’t growing spiritually but rather shrinking inwardly, I slowly retreated to the quiet of my solitude.

In the past, I used to think that my life in obscurity is something to be ashamed of. I don’t want people feeling sorry for me and our family. I don’t want them thinking that we’re not normal. So, when I saw the opportunity through Facebook to let others know we’re thriving in spite of, I grabbed that.

But now, the Lord is teaching me that the hidden life, the unknown, obscure life we live for Him is not something to be ashamed of. Life still happens, very much throbbing with events, both miraculous and mundane, even if the world doesn’t see. Even though it’s hidden from the world’s stage, life’s every moment still matters, every season full of purpose and meaning, when lived at the center of God’s will and love. We have only one audience. God. There is only one we need to please to the uttermost. God.

Many people including myself, want approval. But there is only one approval we need to seek. God’s.

The days I was putting up this blogpost, I reached Judges 13 in my Bible reading. Manoah seemed so in awe of the message of the angel regarding the birth of their son Samson that he blurted out, “What is your name, that when your words come to pass we may honor you?” But the angel of the Lord was quick to reply: his name is secret. He wanted to remain anonymous. He wouldn’t receive honor from men, only God’s esteem.

Like the angel of the Lord, may we not seek to be honored and applauded. May we always seek to bring glory and honor to God and not to ourselves.

Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. (Col. 3:2-4)

*From the online dictionary.

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Whole Again

I love You, O Lord, my strength

I love You, O Lord, my strong high tower

Where else can I run?

Where else can I hide away?

Whole Again

So my heart has been singing lately. Gigantic exhale. What a relief, what a joy as my Lord and Savior King folded me back into His exhilarating love! As I struggled to fix what was ailing my heart and spirit, He waited patiently. He gave me room. He is so gracious (and gentlemanly) like that. My grappling culminated last Friday overnight worship service when a song offered by a group of beloved adult sisters gripped me and I sobbed and sobbed in surrender. For quite a long time, I had been doing my best to hold it all in, and although I had been asking the Lord for mercy and help, I realized that night that I wasn’t really relinquishing everything. There was still that insistence to hold onto sorrow (and all other negative emotions akin to it) due to unmet longings and unanswered prayers.

But that night, and after fasting from Facebook for many days (which, I’m glad to tell you, has been like a soothing balm), the Lord made me realize how miserable I had let myself become. Yes, miserable, poor, needy, pitiful. But I was glad that He made me realize the fullness of it and led me to Himself and the truth that only He can do something for me. Not the world. Not the things I see that make me feel miserable in the first place.

That night, it was an altogether surrender all over again to His mercy, love, and sovereignty. And to what He offers.

Oh, I sobbed unabashedly as the ladies sang. I could be that and more before Him. So hungry, so in need of Him. I raised my hands and sobbed, “Remember me, my Lord.” I am sure I cried out many other soul-deep supplications, but suffice it to say now that He let me see my hapless state, and again, reminded me of His words as at the last:

I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. (Rev. 3:18)

But even before that night, I was gradually recovering emotionally and spiritually as I stepped up my spiritual life, shunning Facebook and the world in general, and writing on my prayer journal more fervently, inviting the Lord on and between the pages of it as I communed with Him. Throughout the day, I would whisper a prayer or a praise or a word of thanks. As I turned more inwardly, towards myself and our own home and life, I became stronger spiritually everyday. Hallelujah!

I am now slowly assimilating the fact that, immersing my senses in the world and its wiles had made me “scattered”. That is, my thoughts, emotions, desires, and decisions had gone quite awry (imagine charged particles or substances not in equilibrium, but then, that’s Chemistry 😀 ) when they should have been united – WHOLE – if only I’d focused on Jesus and the things of God alone. So lately, I have been whispering a prayer: “Draw me ever nearer to You, Lord Jesus. For only near You I am healed and whole and holy.”

I had let the things I see in this world (mostly through FB since I can’t go out) influence my mindset and affections that should have been otherwise entirely influenced by the Lord Jesus and His words and truth through His Holy Spirit. There is an entirely different “world” from the one we see physically or virtually, and we can easily miss it if we do not intentionally turn our eyes from the ones we’re used to seeing or love seeing and diligently seek it. This another “world” is the kingdom of God on earth where we can see signs, wonders, and miracles.

But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Mat. 12:28, emphasis added)

Looking at the world may stir up grievances instead of pure thanksgiving to God. It is then that we compare and see what we lack and feel discontented and begin to complain.

It is this deceitfulness of the world that the Lord has warned us about.

“…the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” (Mark. 4:19)

It is this desire for other things that sways our heads and hearts into the direction they should not take. But as I peeled off my eyes of the world and looked straight ahead, I saw the things of God – His wonders and miracles.

She is a mother of six. Her husband, who was addicted to drugs, abandoned them. She had to rear her children on her own and she was not wealthy. Actually, she was dirt poor. But she was resolute to care for her 6 children: feed, clothe, and send them to school no matter what. No matter if she picked up garbage which she did. She worked night and day with her bare hands. She worked, not minding the stark hardship of it all. If you heard her testify and say, “Life. Was. Very. Hard.”, you would know and understand the hardship she went through.

He was a construction worker before he became totally blind. He is an orphan and his remaining family and relations abandoned him. He was blind and so alone. He couldn’t work anymore. He lived in a wooden cart. Many days would go without him tasting any food and lived only by water. He was hungry, thirsty, cold, and so lonely. One day he cried out toward heaven for God to take his life and end his suffering. He said, “So, I won’t feel this pain in my heart anymore.” 

As I listened to these testimonies in the past days, I realized that I had been looking the wrong way. This here is where the eyes of God are trained on. This here is true life, kingdom life where God works and His heartbeat is felt and heard.

As I teetered on sulk and feeling faint, the Lord waited patiently. When I finally came to wisdom, He met me with an abundance of His grace.

He anointed my eyes with eye salve and I am again truly seeing. And I was healed. Spiritually. Whole again.

The mother of 6 has now a schoolteacher, some are in college, some are in high school. And her husband has come to Jesus and He restored their family.

The poor blind man received the Lord Jesus. After a few months of diligently attending services, He could see. Now, many others are being saved because of his testimony.

(The testimonies I shared here are from our church, JESUS MIRACLE CRUSADE INTERNATIONAL MINISTRY. The man who used to be blind is our beloved Bro.Michael Garcia).

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A Wall and a Window

Growing up into an adult, I noticed a peculiar aspect of my personality: I was the kind of person who observed people, even strangers, and try to think about their lives, their homes, their work. I study their countenance, the furrows on the brows, the longing in the eyes, the faraway look, the slumped shoulders, the crinkles at the corners of the eyes when they smile, and I would try to look beyond what my eyes could see. I would look at a woman sitting on a bench, for example, and I would begin to think, “What is she feeling? Does she have a problem at home that weighs down on her heart? How are her home and family look like?” Or maybe an aging man, and these things would run through my mind, “Does he have happy grandchildren that love him to pieces? Or is he longing for the days of old, when life was far different that it is now? Is he estranged from his daughter. Does he long for her?”

WINDOW. My watercolor painting on 9" x 12" wc paper. (Reference photo for this painting by Sonja Aric via Instagram).

WINDOW. My watercolor painting on 9″ x 12″ wc paper. (Reference photo for this painting by Sonja Aric via Instagram).

One time, I told my older sister about this peculiarity in me and asked her if she did the same. She said no, she never did that and asked why would I do that?

One day many years ago, I stopped at a busy intersection at a plush village where the wealthy Filipino-Chinese reside. A young boy about 7 years old played on the bars of a gasoline station at the corner. His sampaguita garlands hung at the end of the bar while he played. I watched and drew up this story in my mind: he was a happy boy. Though he was poor, he had a loving mother who fed him, washed his clothes (his t-shirt was shabby but tidy), and sent him to the public school. Tears pooled at the corner of my eyes and I sniffed.

Do you observe people that way, even ones you do not know? Do you look beyond what you see on their facade?

If you do, then you might love to talk with people face to face, too. You want to listen while studying their expressions: the purple spider web veins peeking through translucent skin, how their eyes light up, or show coldness in their depths.

What delights you? People and conversations, words spoken, the resonance and cadence of voices, funny stories and the bursts of laughter punctuating them? Stories that stir up the soul and make you want to reach out to the person and squeeze their hands? To look at the tears that stream down from their eyes and make you want to whisper words, words that, if possible, were drawn from the heart of heaven itself, to soothe that sorrowing soul and stop the flow of tears?

But technology is changing all that. Do people, especially the younger generation, still observe people? Are they learning to study people and learning to empathize in the process? Do we still visit with one another and make delectable conversations without the intrusion of gadgets? 

When the husband comes home from work, does he lounge in his favorite chair, put up his tired feet on a stool and start conversation with you? You have probably been waiting for him and are eager to hear about his day, or he about your day. There are stories to be told, things to be discussed, anecdotes to be shared.

But he opens up his cellphone and launches on a date with the Internet. Or Facebook. He is (more) eager to  browse and read of other people’s stories than his and yours. You get hurt and dismayed.

A virtual wall, as high as the Berlin wall and as wide as the Great Wall of China, is built.

If communication between spouses or the parents and their teens are already strained, the wall the gadgets build could prove to be indestructible. Communication, which is vital in our relationships, would suffer greatly. If people don’t intentionally foster healthy communication within their marriages and families, there is no real growth, both in the individuals and the relationship as a whole. People would not flourish as they should but may get lonely and depressed, or worse, indifferent.

The smartphone, the iPad, or any other gadget that makes one captive, is a sturdy wall that divides us from our spouses and/or families and it is not easily broken down. No, not even with a battering ram.

Do people still talk face to face? In waiting lines and lounges, in the parking lot, in the public market, in the park. Or have we discarded that and bury only our faces in our gadgets? I have seen weird pictures where people in a public place are lost in their gadgets and no one was talking to any one.

Do we want to behold our screens more that the faces of the people in our lives?

In our home, I fight tooth and nail against the invasion of gadgets and do my best to not let the wall rise up to such extent that it’s impossible to scale it. I fight to break down the walls these gadgets are creating and sadly, there has been a lot of tears shed on my part. But I m not buckling down and giving up an inch. If my family had its way, the gadgets would not be put down. But I fight for the old ways. I want to treasure those things that gadgets cannot replace: story-telling and rings of laughter around the table after dinners, heart-to-heart talks between a parent and a child, or between the husband and the wife. No walls. No barricades. No screens.

But even though social media has been abused that we have let it divide us from people, it is also a window to the world in forging new friendships.

There is no clearer example of that than in my life. I haven’t been able to go out these many years. My world revolves around our bedroom and the adjoining patio which leads to a small garden. I have not been receiving visitors except for family members composed of my mother, siblings, and niece. (The excitement of visiting exhausts me). I haven’t relished friendships in the longest time, the way I had before I fell ill. Two of my closest friends now live in Canada. In my whole ailing life, I had considered myself friendless.

That is, until I met a new friend through Instagram. She is a watercolorist like me, except that she is strong and healthy and has a career. We are both moms, about the same age, and most of all, we both love the Lord Jesus Christ. Soon, she was sharing her professional fine watercolors to me, which she has in piles, at cost prices. We began the habit of chatting on Viber and encourage each other regarding our art. She insisted that we meet and paint together. I would have loved that, for she has a storeroom of fine watercolor paints and brushes collected from around the world 😀 . Except that, I can’t travel farther than our living room.

So, we started to paint at the same time but in our own homes using the same model as reference. This arrangement has excited us, pushed us to persevere when the painting gets tough 😀 , and challenged us to do our very best and reach our maximum potential.

Even Felix my husband is happy that I had found a friend, if only through social media.

 Social media can either be a wall or a window. Choose now how it will serve us.

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The Pull of the World

In September last year when my husband arrived from a three-day prayer and fasting in our church’s fasting house in Pampanga, I asked why he didn’t go straight to work which he was wont to do in years past. In the earlier years after our salvation, whenever he came back from the fasting house, he never failed to visit the office on the same day. Except that time when he fasted for 15 days, he always came home radiant and showing perfect health and strength, like he didn’t abstain from food for three days. That last time, however, I noticed him looking emaciated and tired.

pull of the world

“I’m still feeling weak,” he answered. He just confirmed what I’d been suspecting. I told him about my observations of his fastings in previous years and the recent ones and he acknowledged that yes, it was different now. I was emboldened to tell him why it was so.

Months before he finally decided to leave for the fasting house, I was fervently praying that the Lord would speak to him and prod him to go back to his first works. And every time I did, I felt a resistance to my prayer, a struggle. The Lord was telling me that we had gone so far away from the spiritual zeal that we used to have. The gradual shift from our burning spirituality to one which was affected by secularism in recent years has somehow weakened our confidence and watered down the faith that can move mountains we used to have. I knew that and I could feel that deep within me. Because of this, I prayed the more urgently and passionately, acknowledging our faults and failings.

I put the blame on this: When we opened our doors to the Internet and social media, our focus began to shift. Ever so gradually, but it happened.

The years following our salvation, our world revolved around Church, morning and evening praise and worship, prayers, regular 3-day prayer and fasting for my husband, Bible reading (I only read the Holy Bible then, many times a day), and crusades during summer. It was rather a closed world, hedged by God’s Holy Spirit.

Then social media came to our life. In late 2010, I created my very first: Twitter. I shared encouraging tweets and verses everyday. A few months later, I created my blog, Minister of Mercy, where I wrote and shared the many amazing testimonies in our Church. Later on, I felt I wanted to write some more and share my life in the Lord and His Word to the world. So, I created Our Healing Moments and began to write in earnest. Both were gifts from heaven. My territory expanded outside the boundaries of our home. The world opened up before my eyes as the Internet broke down barriers between continents and I was introduced to the community of Christian bloggers. It was a gradual but very rewarding process. It was a time of stepping out into the world again, albeit virtually.

It was much later that I entered Facebook for the sole purpose of creating a page for my blogs and be able to share to a wider readership. There was a certain degree of apprehension on my part at first. Although I was already into blogging, I didn’t want to totally break down the walls around my private world of only God, Church, family, and a few choice neighbors. I had become used to that world, a far cry from my years of career and business. Being ill and weak, I felt safe and secure in that world.

But in the end, I had my FB account and to make the story short, I was again in the world through social media. Not long afterwards, Felix created his own FB account. Gradually (and I really observed this closely), members from our Church, from the least to the greatest, joined in. My FB community has burgeoned into proportions I didn’t quite expect. The opportunity to share my writings through my blogs has gradually increased and continues to do so. I’m really thankful for that. But somehow, we have changed, and that change is largely influenced by FB.

I now lament that instead of being soaked up with the things of God, to some degree, we are being drenched with secular things, just by lingering on that seemingly endless FB newsfeed. It is not as much as spending too much precious time there that should have been wisely spent in Bible reading and meditation, prayer and worship as it is an influencer of one’s mindset, affections, and desires.

For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. (Rom. 8:6 ESV)

I told my husband that our immersion in social media has diluted the anointing, the density of our spirituality, and has somehow doused our fiery faith. He could only agree. In the past, he offered prayer and fasting every three months. Now, eight months had passed before the last one. The Lord warns us:

Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. (Rev. 2:4-5)

At the end of our conversation, my husband and I both agreed that complete and steadfast obedience to God and His will is always the most excellent way, for us to be in His perpetual remembrance and favor. We both saw the benefit of laying up treasures in heaven and investing on future needs being met and God’s blessings in general through fervent, faithful, intentional, and unceasing prayers now.

The Lord Jesus said that we are salt and light.

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. (Mat. 5:13)

Our saltiness will lose its potency when we adopt the ways of the world instead of being a light to it. When that happens, the Master will find no use for us. But it’s never too late to purge ourselves of the pollution of this world. Apostle Paul encourages us:

 If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work. (2 Tim. 2:21)

The chameleon’s color changes according to its environment. When we linger too long in the world, like the chameleon, we will adapt its color. But when we faithfully abide in the Lord Jesus Christ, we will be conformed to His image as God has predestined us to be (see Rom. 8:29).

That night, I lay in bed in our already dim and quiet room as I listened to praise music. I still can’t sing, my diaphragm being weak. But when I don’t enter the presence of the Lord through worship, the more that weaknesses catch up on me.

We only realize how hungry we are of God when we are already being filled by Him through worship. We realize that all those times spent fretting and worrying would have been prevented by intentionally abiding in His glorious presence.

Something miraculous happens in praise and worship. Even when we are just listening and not able to sing, when we put our all into it, the Lord transforms us from inside out.

So I lay still and just let the Lord love on me, whisper words of comfort and courage, strengthen me, expand my heart and mind, feed my soul. Heaven drew near and the love of Jesus was a tangible thing. Tears escaped from the corner of my eye.

(Photo credit: Jose Luis Casti via Flickr).

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Journey with Jesus,

The Lighted Path

If I could I would be too busy doing life I may not have time to visit Facebook, except maybe to post something encouraging and inspiring to others in their faith journey, and for those who are still seeking, to point them to the Savior. I always tell my husband that if I wasn’t bedbound, he would rarely see me in front of my laptop. There are so many things to do outside of the Internet and social media – the real world – that given the chance, my hands and days would be so full. And my life so fulfilled.

lighted_path

Why would Facebook or other social media open up my day when there is my Lord and King waiting to spend precious hour with me? And yet, though I spend my mornings in prayer, in His Word and other devotionals, I feel it’s not enough. If my diaphragm were strong, I would fall on my knees in praise and worship after I’d seen the kids to school. In the glorious circle of God’s presence, love, joy, peace, power, and answers to prayer are let down from heaven in a huge sheet which one could feast on. Why wouldn’t I want to enter into that?

I dream of preparing hearty breakfast for the family even before the first light of morning peeks through the windows. Maybe freshly-baked buttery and crumbly biscuits with omelet as soft and fluffy as the clouds. Crispy bacon, a glass of fresh milk in front of each school kid, and lunch boxes with maybe  scrumptious chicken salad sandwiches, napkins with my message on them, and all my love, before we click them shut and they kiss me goodbye as they run for the waiting car. And I would smile to myself, heart about to burst in gratitude. I would whisper it, of course, put words to my heart-praise, not wanting to let the moment pass without blowing a kiss of thanks toward heaven who had wrapped its loving arms around me.

No, during those glorious moments, there wouldn’t be thoughts about Facebook or Twitter or Instagram. In that life, I would have learned that it didn’t take any social media to etch every precious memory, every heartfelt praise into pixels, but rather into His Books which couldn’t be erased for eternity.

When tears of adoration and thanksgiving had washed over me and cleansed me that I would feel like a new creation once again, a lamb whose wool is as white as snow in the heart of winter, I would rise from my knees and maybe spend some time in the garden. I’ve always known the joy and contentment derived from working with earth, with vibrant flowers and lush leaves in infinite shades of green covering the place like a colorful quilt.

In the afternoons while the kids are still in school, maybe I would walk around our neighborhood, say “Hi!” to folks who, like me, stay at home, and engage them into a warm conversation and tell them about Jesus. On the succeeding days, I might walk the same path, talking to the same people, for faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Rom. 10:17). Then try a new, unbeaten road, where the light of the Gospel had not yet shone.

This and more is how I envision living my life after illness. Hallelujah! Praise God!

But while I wait, I’ll do my best not to spend too much time on FB. Why? Because my FB newsfeed, with the exception of Church posts and testimonies, has become a microcosm of the world. And whatever is wrong with the world? The beloved Apostle John gives us an answer:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 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. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

FB is a good place to connect and reconnect with family, relatives, Church brethren, and friends old and new. It may serve as a free diversion to those who have plenty of time to kill. I miss my friends that I only see now on my newsfeed. Had my circumstances been different, I would have loved to visit with them, at their place or mine or at a cozy cafe. How wonderful it would be if I could invite them over for tea, play catch up, and tell them about the One who forgives, saves, heals, changes lives, and loves faithfully!

But that’s not happening. At least, not yet. In the meantime, my FB newsfeed shows a window to the world which, if I’m not careful, if I let my guard down, will do me more harm than good. Everyday, there’s an overload of photos of grand vacations, travels, celebrations, dinners, shopping expeditions, gifts, acquisitions, material possessions, and yes, a wealth of selfies. An overdose of all that can influence our hearts to embrace the world’s superfluity, the antithesis of the life Jesus exemplified. In His own words, we see the stark simplicity of the life He lived: “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Mat. 8:20).

It’s with sadness of heart that I have to say these things, but they speak the truth, for even some Church brethren fall into one or more of the above-mentioned categories and I often wonder, “What will happen to the anointing?” Yes, whatever happened to the admonition to not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of [our] mind, that [we] may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God?

In times past, I had been guilty of the same, but the Holy Spirit has been convicting me for so long, and now, I only desire to be an authentic Christ follower, by God’s grace. Before I post anything on social media, I pause and examine my heart and ask these questions: Why do I want to post this? How will it affect those who see or read it? A motive-check behind my actions is set in place like a brake. Apostle Paul reminds us to make edifying of others be the motive behind our actions. Edifying is defined as “enlightening or uplifting so as to encourage intellectual or moral improvement”. A few verses about edifying:

Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel. (1 Cor. 14:12)

…Let all things be done for edification. (1 Cor. 14:26)

…But we do all things, beloved, for your edification. (2 Cor. 12:19)

Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. (Eph. 4:29)

Lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life. If that is what we see on our FB feeds and they stir up ungodly thoughts and emotions in us that our spiritual growth is hampered, linger not too long that we might leave unwhole. That is not the lighted path the Lord wants us to walk on. Facebook and all other social media and the secular things we see in them should not be the lifestyle of a Christian. Next time we go there, may we not forget that we are supposed to shine as lights in the world. May our posts and comments reflect that truth.

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The Surrounding Nations

No, I have not all of a sudden shifted gears and am now writing about politics. We are still turning pages of Scriptures and we’ll be doing that all the days of our lives as the Lord gives us grace.

Finally nearing the end of their 40-year journey through the wilderness, as they prepared to enter Canaan, the young-generation Israelites with the exception of Joshua and Caleb, were commanded by God to utterly destroy all the nations surrounding them. Please take time to read the following passage as it will bring us to the heart of our topic today:

surrounding_nations

“When the Lord your God brings you into the land which you go to possess, and has cast out many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than you, and when the Lord your God delivers them over to you, you shall conquer them and utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them nor show mercy to them. Nor shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son. For they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods; so the anger of the Lord will be aroused against you and destroy you suddenly. But thus you shall deal with them: you shall destroy their altars, and break down their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images, and burn their carved images with fire.

“For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. (Deut. 7:1-6)

The Lord wanted Israel to:

  • Utterly destroy all the surrounding nations, sparing no one and nothing.
  • Not make any covenant with them or intermarry with them.
  • Destroy their altars, break down their sacred pillars, cut down and burn their carved, wooden images with fire.

Why? Because:

  • The pagan nations will turn their hearts from following God.
  • They shall be snares and traps to them, scourges on their sides and thorns in their eyes. (Josh. 23:12-13)

And because:

  • They are a holy people to the Lord their God.
  • They were chosen by God for Himself, His special treasure, above all the peoples on the face of the earth.

The Christians of today are the modern Israelites. As the ancient Israelites were redeemed from bondage in Egypt, so we were redeemed from the bondage of sin. For God so loved us. Apostle Peter describes our status as:

…a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God… (1 Pet. 2:9,10)

We are still in the world although not of the world, but I often wonder: Have the world and the things of the world been a snare and a trap, a scourge on our sides, and a thorn in our eyes? Have they been influencing us in a way that holiness has been compromised and diluted by too much secularism? We have to admit we are bombarded and stimulated daily by secularism through technology: the burgeoning social media and the infinite offerings of the vast cyber-universe that is the Internet. We need not make a single step outside of our homes. The Internet opens up the world for us, every nook and cranny of it.

Social media is not an evil in and of itself, but how we use it or abuse it is how we could be ensnared by it. We abuse it when we let it saturate our lives instead of being drenched by the Word and the Holy Spirit’s fire.

I often wonder if it has become the main influencer of my mindset that clashes with my peace and the harbinger of the emotional roller coaster I often find myself in. For example, what I mostly see on my FB feed are not exactly in line with Jesus’ teachings. They tend to speak loudly about the ways of the world rather than Jesus’ life: His light and simplicity. Maybe some may think of me as over righteous and a wet blanket. But when we, who were predestined to be conformed to the image of our Lord Jesus Christ, let our eyes feast on a panoply of material things and worldly ways, we will find out that these will be the ones occupying our hearts and minds rather than the things of God. What we ingest will what mostly influence our thoughts, emotions, and actions. Even beliefs, like entitlements claim. We get ideas (and I mean that in a selfish way). We become restless (that is because we have been affected by what we saw); our peace and contentment rocked.

Actually, the effect is two-pronged: If something brings us inner turmoil instead of peace and joy, it must be from the side of the enemy and the Holy Spirit has been grieved and is now convicting us. If we have grown sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s movement within us, we will be able to discern it immediately.

The more that we are replete of the things of the world (even just through photos), the more we are farther and farther away from knowing the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Remember the admonition in Romans 12:2.

I admit I had often let social media, especially Facebook, make my life miserable. My FB friends list is an eclectic mix of Christians and worldly and everything in between. Although I’m using it (and quite successfully I must say) to share my blog and to encourage as much as I can, it has also served as the launching pad for feelings of envy, comparison, self-pity, bitterness, and the like (that is because of my hard situation), and also critical and judgmental thoughts as I see worldly possessions (sometimes blatantly) paraded. (And then there are the endless selfies. It’s…wearying, to say the least). I go there to encourage and most of the time, I leave discouraged myself!  How ironic! And that is just by looking! I marvel at how using our eyes the wrong way can bring so much misery. And darkness, too.

They shall be snares and traps to you, scourges on your sides and thorns in your eyes. How very true!

But if we focus our eyes on the purity of the Lord Jesus Christ, we will absorb His light. You will love this:

“The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness. Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light.” (Luke 11:34-36)

The eyes are the gateways through which light enters in. But if what we see makes the light dim within us – negative emotions and thoughts that make us sin – our bodies will be full of darkness! No wonder we fall into diverse afflictions!

We are still in the world but we can choose what our eyes behold.

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Stand in the Holy Place

One night last week, I began to lament to my husband how that my newsfeed is being crowded with news about my FB friends’ travels. Relatives, friends, even brethren in Christ seem to go from one place to another again and again, I told him. Then, when a hint of bitterness slowly crept into my heart, I added, “Why don’t I just close my FB account?” My beloved husband stared at me, his expression inscrutable. “Oh, well. I’d better worship the Lord. That’s the best antidote against the onset of feelings of bitterness, dismay, discontent, and all their kin,” I said with a sigh as I turned away from him and set my heart to worship.

(image source)

So, I played Christy Nockels’ Waiting Here for You worship song over and over while I sang along with it, hands raised, eyes tightly shut. Once again, for probably the 4180th time, I ran to Jesus and laid myself at His feet. I’m sure people of the world have their own ways to escape their overwhelming sorrows. Retail therapy, gym, eat out, a night out with friends and booze – just to name a few. But for me, entering into the presence of God never fails to soothe my afflicted soul. So, I sang and worshiped until tears streamed down my face and I sobbed because of the powerful touch of God upon me.

The last time I read this phrase (which was just recently), it gripped me in a way that it hounded me for weeks: …stand in the holy place… (Mat. 24:15). I know I don’t always stand in the holy place. Sometimes, I find myself standing in the place of bitterness or discontent, even unhappiness. At other times, I stand in the place where there’s too much hunger for the fulfilment of dreams and desires. More often than I’d want to, between my morning and evening devotions, I find myself in places where I strain to entertain myself through writing (a Christian novel), reading (Christian romance novels), watching (Halmmark movies), Facebooking. And I know, deep in my soul, that these are not totally holy places. My soul cries out silently.

That shaft of light that emanates from the Savior is not found in the places of pleasure, but only in His presence, in the place where we humbly bend our knees, bow our heads, and worship the One true living God in spirit and in truth.

Let not our surroundings hinder us from approaching that shaft of light, thinking that we are unworthy. On our own, we are unworthy. For He alone makes us worthy. That’s why we come to Him, again and again, not because we are holy and without blemish, but because He is. And in His presence, in His holy place, He washes us from all filth.

Stand in the holy place. And yet, our feet are so rooted in the earth where temptations abound. “Gravitational pull” in the form of sinful pleasures, idolatries, etc., keeps people stuck on the earth. Even Christians, too, in their unguarded moments and moments of weakness. However much we strive to be holy, our surroundings can taint us. This reminds me of the Prophet Isaiah:

 So I said:

“Woe is me, for I am undone!
Because I am a man of unclean lips,
And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips;
For my eyes have seen the King,
The Lord of hosts.”

6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth with it, and said:

“Behold, this has touched your lips;
Your iniquity is taken away,
And your sin purged.” (Is. 6: 5-7)

Like the Prophet Isaiah, we dwell in the midst of a people of “unclean lips” (sinfulness, not only among the people around us but where we put ourselves into, like the Internet, etc.), but when we come before the holy throne with humble and contrite hearts, God is merciful to purge us from all filthiness. So, stand in the holy place.

But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7 NLT)

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He Colors My World

I have been used to my world, a world exclusive to those who are suffering: dim, sad, silent. Fortunately, I have been endowed both with introverted and extroverted personality. When I was still working, I utilized the one to succeed in sales and marketing, and the other to enjoy solitude while I reloaded. My introverted personality helped me survive the years of solitude due to my illness and suffering. But at first, the inability to see the outside being bed-bound brought great melancholy. No wonder, after my husband bought me a wheelchair and I was wheeled outside of our room in the Pampanga fasting house, the sight of the azure sky, the trees, and the grass made me sing.

Every time I hear a newborn baby cry or touch a leaf or see the sky
Then I know why – I believe!

There were months that my world got so colorless and quiet with only my silent prayers and praises keeping me company. I would squeeze my eyes tight as I waited hopefully for relief from my suffering. There were seasons I only knew blankness.

When the Lord called me to write, He also gave enough strength for me to be able to do it. A few years later, He inspired me to read encouraging Christian books (when I was saved, I had someone burn all my secular books). And so, even though I haven’t been able to go out for a long time now, the Lord colored my world with words.

Lately, I found myself enjoying socializing via Facebook. After more than a decade of being ill and isolated from the outside world, I felt uneasy to be “out” there again (even though I haven’t left my bedroom). I write on my blogs to draw people nearer to God and encourage other Christians in their walk with the Savior, but I am in that stage of initially testing the waters to be completely open to socializing. There are many, both JMCIM brethren and old friends, who want to come visit. But I say “No”. It’s not that I have become totally antisocial, but my illness hinders me from entertaining visitors.

At times I daydream of welcoming friends at home and sharing to them the Gospel; having coffee or tea with them while enjoying a heartwarming discussion. That would be wonderful and I look forward to the day! In the meantime, the Lord is slowly leading me to be friendly and warm on FB which is the only place I can visit with friends and acquaintances without traveling. Considering my situation, I sometimes feel skittish warming up to old friends and former classmates. Fact is, I go running to the Lord Jesus seeking approval, quietness, and rest when I feel I have been exposed too much :).

In one of those times while I laid myself at His feet, wanting Him to know that my heart has not been stolen by FB, He assured me that He wanted me to be happy and be myself. He spoke in my heart that He gave me friends to color my world, that I should not be afraid. And that He knows that nothing and no one can take His place in my life. He let me know that expanding my territory by forging friendships will enrich my spiritual life. After all, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” as apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 5:6. Or, as Ms. Holly Gerth cutely puts it: “Love is Faith Expressed” or L.I.F.E.

So, how can we show our faith if we are afraid to show our love? Our faith works through love. There is no other way. We thank God for bringing color to our world and we should not be scared to be out there, whether physically or virtually. He holds us and He will never leave our side.

(Photo of Hannah playing Kundansoy during her piano recital at the Meralco Theater).

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