A Beggar But Not Beggarly

On the early morning after we celebrated my son Tim’s 10th birthday the night before, I found myself begging before God as at other times. Only this time, my silent cries seemed to resound from my corner of this earth to the splendors of heaven. And although the past days I wanted to be still and quiet as I waited on Him, this time, I couldn’t be thwarted in my begging over and over.

This is an image I got from Google. There was no time to paint the theme because my Tim birthdayed).

This is an image I got from Google. There was no time to paint the theme because my Tim birthdayed).

If I will live and remain here (which is my primary prayer), there must be another – and much better – way to live than spending most hours of everyday in bed and feeling unwell and weak and suffering. There must be an escape from the fears brought about by one’s sickness, inadequacy, and incapacity. Fears that show themselves as nervousness, anxiety and panic attacks that drive the heart to beating so fast and the breathing haywire. (This happens when I get worried about a loved one’s safety or the like).

There must be a deliverance from this kind of harsh suffering.

And there must be a doorway through which the bright sunshine of tomorrow can pass in all its radiance. When kids go away for a time for leadership camps or when they represent the school in global leadership conferences in another country – there must be joy and rejoicing and celebrations of victory, and not a whirlwind of fears and worries of how on earth a sick mother would be able to handle it all?

Or how would the same mother stanch the desire of being able to go away at last with family this Christmas season? How would she block the thoughts that come unbidden, of evergreens and cozy lodges away in the mountains and the incandescent faces of family, for at last they have gone away, especially that of the kid who has lived a decade on earth and still has not experienced a family getaway with his beloved mom with them?

How can a mother just steel her heart and not feel or think or dream of any of those things?

<Whisper> Dreaming for me has become a painful thing.

So I beg. I beg for a miracle. I beg for healing. I beg to be released. I beg to be raised up. I beg to be enabled.

I am a beggar before God. This is the best position I can take in my situation.

Aren’t we all beggars before Him in one way or another? Haven’t we all been Bartimaeus at one time or another? Or the Canaanite woman? Or Jairus?

And behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue. And he fell down at Jesus’ feet and begged Him to come to his house, 42 for he had an only daughter about twelve years of age, and she was dying… (Luke 8:41-42, emphasis mine)

Aren’t we beggars all?

I ache to understand this: Why, after the Lord Jesus promised, that when we seek, we shall find; when we knock, the door will be opened to us; when we ask, it will be given to us – the thing that is most sought after is not found, the door is not opening, and the thing most fervently asked is not received?

I ache to know the answer to this: Why, after the Lord Jesus promised that If [we] can believe, all things are possible to him who believes – that one very important thing we are believing in is not becoming possible?

So, we cry and continue to cry, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

We are beggars before God in prayer but not beggarly. For we are heirs of eternal life. And whether now or then we might receive answers to our deepest prayers, the Lord Jesus Christ should be enough. And He will give us peace and joy for the journey.

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The Number of Our Days

It happened one Sunday that our only housekeeper would leave for a day and a night off and Felix and the kids would attend church the whole day and we didn’t have any other choice but to let Angie, the “little” sister-in-law of our laundry lady, to assist me. I felt a bit apprehensive since Angie, a wisp of a young woman (her size the half of Hannah), had not been trained to assist me. And we would be left on our own for the whole day! Although she had proven herself trustworthy and industrious when it came to housecleaning, I was wary when it came to her assisting me.

My apprehensions were not unfounded as the first mishap happened in the morning when I sent her to the store and she locked herself out! I couldn’t open the gate for her so I instructed her to hitch up her long skirt, climb the fence, and jump inside. She did it but she came back to me panting hard like a dog. Still, she apologized profusely.

Around early afternoon on my next meal, I rang the bell for her. I did it many times but she didn’t come. I listened to my surroundings trying to track her where she could be in the whole house. I heard the faucet outside near the kitchen in full stream. She was washing something and singing at the same time. She couldn’t hear the doorbell which was in the dining area. After sometime, she turned off the faucet and heard the persistent ringing. When she came to me at last, tears were already streaming down my face.

Again, she apologized profusely. I couldn’t get myself to be angry at her, both because of her humility and youth. I was already eating but tears continued to flow. I felt that all the grief, heaviness, frustration, misery, and all other pent-up emotions were converging, melding and mixing into a steaming brew that couldn’t be stopped.

“Don’t cry anymore, Ate,” Angie offered helplessly.

“I’m crying because my life is hard,” I answered in the bitterness of my soul.

“At least, Ate, you’re still here, with your family. You’re alive. Just thank the Lord that He continues to give you life,” she insisted gently. I know those words so well. Angie was speaking from a heart that loved and adored the Lord Jesus. She is a sister-in-Christ.

“Yes, I know that. But I’ve been sick and suffering for almost 12 years now. It’s hard and I know this is not supposed to be the life of a child of God. It is His will to heal,” I replied as more tears flowed.

Angle’s simple words of encouragement, though I had known them all along, brought a renewed strength and inspiration to me. Even long before that day, I had been thanking God everyday that I was still here with my family. But when I heard the words from her, innocently but sincerely spoken, I could believe again that God has a purpose for my life.

Other sufferers, both Christ followers and otherwise, would desire to be emancipated through death. Those who do not have Christ in their lives would rather leave this world and all its pain and suffering and embrace the numbness, the darkness and finality of death and the grave. While those in Christ would rather greatly desire to enter into glory, to be with their Lord where sickness and suffering and weeping would be no more.

But I’m like Apostle Paul who uttered, “But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.”

When I think about my children, now 14 and 7, I cannot get myself to desire to end my suffering through death. That is selfish. By God’s grace, I can and will endure sickness and suffering as long as I can still be with my family, especially my children who need a mother to nurture them in the love and admonition of the Lord. This is my number one desire and ardent prayer: to be delivered of all this sickness and suffering and walk in divine health, even though the waiting is excruciatingly hard.

What’s more, I have this innate desire and need to always choose life, hold onto it. I live in the Vine, my Savior’s life flows to me. That is the truth that holds me together.

There was a time in my physical suffering that even a hardly-noticed verse had encouraged me when all others seemed to fail. For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion” (Ecc. 9:4, emphasis mine). I could see there was a precious wisdom in it. Though ailing and suffering, figuratively a dog, I still have something to be thankful for: the breath of life in me and the hope that comes with it.

I don’t have to go too far, I only need to scroll down my FB newsfeed and see that people die even before reaching a ripe old age, including those in the family of God. What makes me think that I can lay claim to life like I’m entitled to reach a good old age, full of days just like David had? But truth is, by God’s promises, I can. And you can, too! The Lord Himself promised:

So you shall serve the Lord your God, and He will bless your bread and your water. And I will take sickness away from the midst of you. No one shall suffer miscarriage or be barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days. (Exo. 23:25-26, emphasis mine)

There is a promise, a blessing from God, that He will fulfil the number of our days. As long as He has pronounced it, we can lay claim on it. It is ours. Close your fist tightly around it and never let it go. He honors our faith.

But what is the number of days that He has purposed for us? Psalm 90:10 gives us an answer:

The days of our lives are seventy years;
And if by reason of strength they are eighty years…

He will fulfil the number of our days which in His Book is 70-80 years (or even more as long as He’s not returning yet!). That’s a ripe old age considering the times. It’s what we’ve got and we have a choice to lay claim on it by faith. Our times are in His hand (Ps. 31:15) and oh, how I find a whole universe of freedom in that! Sometimes, news of somebody we know or a member of our Church family passing away may perturb us, but we only have to remember that our times, each one of us, are in God’s hand and there’s no reason to fret. He says that “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion” (Rom. 9:15). We will live then looking to His enduring mercy and compassion! We will rest in the truth that whatever things we ask when we pray, believe that we receive them, and we will have them (Mark 11:24), especially when He has promised it.

And indeed He has and even repeated it:

With long life I will satisfy him,
And show him My salvation. (Ps. 91:16, emphasis mine)

Amen and Amen!

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My Source of Strength

My source of strength is Christ and His Word. Christ and His Word are one.  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The King of kings and Lord of lords who came to dwell among us and died for our sins is called the Word of God (see Rev. 19:13). No wonder the author of Hebrews wrote:

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and ofmarrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Heb. 4:12)

The Word of God is living and powerful.

You may have heard and read that countless times it has lost its effect in you. But that is very wrong.

God’s Word is light, strength, and life. And because it is living, it does. It acts. It moves. Because of the Word, God is not a distant, unapproachable God. We can know Him intimately through His Word, as intimate as it can ever be, like His very life courses through our veins. We are the branch, He is the Vine. We live in the Vine, being nourished by it every single day. And the deeper we are rooted in Him, the deeper we’ll know Him, the more our faith is strengthened, and the more we become bold and courageous to face the future, although now we may be in a difficult place. But we can see past all that, because we trust in the Word – God’s promises – and we hold onto each one.

My love story with the Word began when one of the beautiful children of our beloved pastor counselled me when I was still a baby in Christ: “Immerse yourself in the Word of God”. She spoke the words with so much intensity that I nodded vigorously and resolved to immerse myself in the Word beginning that day.

There were months when I was very sick and weak that I couldn’t hold my large KJV Bible let alone read it, so I would ask one of the house helps to read for me. If they read only in Tagalog, I asked for a Tagalog Bible and it was fine with me. By reading to me everyday, one of them fell in love with the Word, too, that she asked for her own copy of the Bible and read late into the night. Later on, that nanny received the Lord Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior and was baptized in water in His name

I’ve been ill for almost 12 years now and long seasons of intense sickness and suffering had come and gone. During a particularly hard year, I discovered audiobible. And it was heaven! I would listen to chapter upon chapter, even whole books, until I would fall asleep.

Then there came a time just recently, in one of those hard seasons, that even listening made my heartbeat erratic and my breathing more labored. So, it became both hard to read and listen. It had come to that. Singing audibly was the very first one to go. So, I couldn’t count on that, either. But I could still pray. I prayed God’s Word. I declared them powerfully in my heart.

 A few months ago, I uploaded an ESV Bible to my Kindle. I thought reading on Kindle would be a lot easier for me. And the Lord met me where I stepped out in faith. I could again feast on His Word using Kindle. Then, I became bolder and more inspired that I ordered an ESV journaling Bible. Immerse in the Word, remember? I was excited to start using it, but to my great dismay, the words are so tiny I could hardly read them. Hannah helped out and put a magnifier app in my cellphone. Now, I’m reading my journaling Bible like focusing a laser on the words I love. That’s what I call relentless. All by His grace.

I pour out all my faith onto the Word like a drink offering. If it wasn’t for it, I would have succumbed to my body’s trembling in sickness and fear and shrunk into something that is uglier than death itself. I would have whittled away like a useless driftwood that could only be used for kindling.

But it’s the Word that nourishes me, gives strength to my flesh and bones and heart, sees me through every difficult day, and adds to my life. I declare the powerful words over my life throughout the day, especially during physical struggles, like an IV of a potent medicine, a lifeline, a supply of oxygen.

It should work. It shouldn’t fail – that cannot happen. God’s Word cannot be rendered powerless or impotent when applied with full faith.

At the factory Corrie Ten Boom was assigned in after she and her father and sister were arrested by the Nazis for hiding Jews during the Holocaust, she was asked if she needed personal care items like toothbrush and soap. She didn’t have them but she asked instead for a copy of the New Testament. She knew she could survive without a soap or a toothbrush, but she couldn’t possibly live through the horrors of her captivity without God’s Word. After a few days, she received a pocket-sized New Testament Bible, a toothbrush and a soap*.

*From her book Hiding Place.

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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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God’s Presence Through the Word

Meditating on Psalm 119:81-112.

My soul faints for Your salvation,
But I hope in Your word.
82 My eyes fail from searching Your word,
Saying, “When will You comfort me?”

Unless Your law had been my delight,
I would then have perished in my affliction. (Ps. 119:81,82,92)

Psalm 119 essentially talks about God’s laws, precepts, statutes, and testimonies. In other words, and as we apply the psalm in the present, it talks about the Word of God, the words that proceeded out of His mouth which were faithfully recorded in both old and new testaments and became the Holy Bible. The psalmist, in his extreme need, hopes in God’s Word, in His promises, and not on anything else. He diligently searches God’s Word, looking for the fulfilment of the promise which is in it. By holding on to and delighting in God’s promises, he is delivered and doesn’t perish in his affliction. What great light, penetrating from long ago, does this bring us!

The psalms teach us that in everything, in all our trials and tribulations, may they be diseases of our bodies, problems that break our hearts, or great dangers we face – we can put our hope and trust in God’s Word, in His promises. This is the one thing that makes us wiser than the wisdom of the world.

Oh, how I love Your law [Word]!
It is my meditation all the day.
98 You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies;
For they are ever with me.
99 I have more understanding than all my teachers,
For Your testimonies are my meditation. (vv. 97-99, annotation mine)

The Word of God teaches, rebukes, corrects, and trains us in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). It heals our diseases. He sent His word and healed them… (Ps. 107:20). But it is also a channel through which we can feel God’s powerful presence. We praise and worship God to enter into His presence and feel Him moving mightily in us. But we cannot always sing with strength, especially those of us who are sick and weak.

There are seasons in my illness that my abdomen becomes too weak to vocalize. For weeks, even months, I cannot sing praises in my private worship time, but I compensate that in immersing more in the Word, morning and evening. I honor and worship the Lord as I soak up His Word, verse upon verse, passage upon passage, chapter upon chapter. There are times that He grips me so suddenly in His presence as I plough through His Word, that my spirit is caught up in His embrace. And I would stop in the middle of reading, raise my hands and worship, and bask in His glorious presence, tears cascading.

One night many months ago, when my son Tim was suffering from an asthma-like cough and my husband was away praying and fasting, I felt, heard in my spirit, and saw in my mind, the Lord talking to me. In the early evening, I read Him between the pages, during the ministry of prophet Elisha. I was so in it – the places, His words, His power, His presence. As if I was there myself. When later that night, Tim sat up and told me that he couldn’t breathe, I raised my hand towards heaven and cried out to God. As I prayed and begged Him to help Tim, I saw Him in my mind (my eyes were tightly closed) and He spoke to me.

“You spent time with Me tonight. You delighted in My words and works. You know Me, who I Am, what I can do. I will not fail you. I am with you. See, I am here. Just so very near you.” (Choking back tears). I was weeping because of the Lord’s holy presence and His words. And when I laid my hands on my son to cast out his sickness, I saw in my mind that it was God’s prophet Elisha who was laying his hands on my son. Before the night was over, Tim began to recover. Hallelujah!

Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path. (v. 105)

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