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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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,

The “Older Son” Mentality

I wrote this September last year and queued it for posting. It’s 5 months old but powerful testimonies such as this and the lessons we learn from them never go out of style).

We sat down to dinner to partake of the takeout that Felix brought home after attending the anniversary of an outreach of our Church a few towns from our place. Midway, he told the kids to listen well to the testimony he heard and he was going to share. The testimony was about a young man who backslid and turned back to a life of debauchery. Completely forgetting the Lord who had saved him, he revelled in all kinds of vices. There wasn’t a day that he wasn’t inebriated. This went on for 8 long years.

Older Son Mentality

For the record, I’m not that fond of stories about backsliding. They irk me.

My husband continued. The man soon met his doom (in our common belief, it was either God’s judgment or His protection over him had been removed). He figured in a fatal motorcycle accident fracturing his skull. He was rushed to the hospital. A fourth of his brain was removed. He was comatose for two months.

At this point, I want to insert the grave warning from Hebrews (for that’s what I thought after listening thus far to the testimony):

For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.  (Heb. 10:26-27)

Still, my husband continued and looked like there was much more to tell. The man testified that while in coma, he was flung into hell. There, he was tortured by demons night and day, forcing him to drink gallons upon gallons of liquor. He testified of many other horrible things that he witnessed in hell. I will not go into the details now, but these terrifying things that he revealed – kids’ obsession with cartoons like Pokemon, video games, rap music, etc. – all met their punishment in hell. These were the ones my husband emphasized to the kids, warning them to never be involved with any of those things.

I reminded him that Hannah and Tim, by the grace of God, don’t watch Pokemon and the like and never listen to rap music. As a rule in our home, we only play praise music. We don’t have a cable service or a powerful antenna. It’s very rare that the kids watch TV except videos on YouTube like Oggy and the Cockroaches. I had to mention that secular program because Tim is fond of it. But that night, he was told never to watch it again.

[Update: Tim never watched Oggy and the Cockroaches from then on. When we gladly open our hearts to the Holy Spirit’s voice and invitation to an intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus, obedience to Him in every aspect of life becomes sweet].

My husband was not yet done. The man awoke from coma but couldn’t recognize anyone including his mother. He couldn’t function physically and mentally due to the damage in his brain. But his mother, who remained faithful and fervent in serving God even when all these trials came her way, brought his son’s picture to our beloved Pastor Wilde Almeda. After pray over and laying on of hands (with just his picture) by the man of God, he was miraculously healed. His mind and all his bodily functions were restored and he recovered completely.

Undoubtedly, as the other countless testimonies I’ve heard in our Church, Jesus Miracle Crusade International Ministry, this one was astounding, there’s no denying that. I should have punctuated it with a shower of Hallelujah! and Praise the Lord! as I’m wont to do. I’m an unapologetic “glutton” for amazing testimonies, especially ones about miraculous healing. I feast on them. Aside from the Word, I fill up my soul with them to nourish my faith. But this time, I reacted differently.

This wasn’t about the brother who backslid, almost died, and was healed. This was all about God and His amazing grace and mercy. I could very well see that. But even before my husband ended his story, a shadow had crept into my heart like a dark, ominous cloud casting gloom on the earth. The testimony depressed me, not at all because of its triumph, but to me, it turned into a story of jealousy. I knew that I shouldn’t turn the spotlights away from God toward me (again!), but my understanding was so narrow that I wanted to think about me. I knew it was wrong. I knew so well it wouldn’t benefit me at all. And it wouldn’t honor God, which is the utmost concern. But still, I opened my mouth to put into words the bitterness that had risen up within me. Mine wasn’t an agitated reaction but more of a feeling of dismay. Or maybe of cold acceptance of my plight.

I acknowledged God’s great mercy toward the brother, that He is, without a doubt, a very merciful God. But I couldn’t stop myself from reminding my husband that He seemed to have overlooked me all these years that I had been faithful to Him (by His grace!). Since I gave my life to Him, I didn’t turn back. But this brother, after knowing Him, turned his back and dishonored Him for many years. But after all that, God restored his health. It was a bitter pill to swallow.

Do you hear the words of the older son echoing through time? I did! With sparkling clarity! I had become the older son in the Lord’s parable and resented my prodigal brother! I knew I shouldn’t question God’s judgments, so, after saying these words, I kept my mouth shut and no longer mentioned the matter for the remainder of the night.

As I rested after dinner, I prayed to God and asked for forgiveness for sulking and being jealous. I told Him I honored His judgments and that He was a righteous and just God. (I did that because I knew it was the right thing to do). Then the words of the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 came to me: “[Daughter], you are always with me, and all that I have is yours” (v. 31).

For a while, I let those words roll in my mind and sink into my heart. All that I have is yours. At that moment, it was imperative to me that I acknowledge the blessings of His constant presence in my life all these years. There must be tangible proofs of His love for me despite my unhealing. Then the image of my beautiful son Tim appeared in my mind. He is, undoubtedly, one of God’s wonderful blessings to me.

Around 2005, I dreamed twice of a beautiful baby boy sleeping beside me. I became ill and unable to work in 2003. In 2005, I was still waiting for healing, but I had enough faith to believe that the dream would become a reality. And it did. In 2007, I gave birth to my son Tim. I was still waiting for healing, but this great miracle happened in the middle of that.

Every time I’m with my boy, the memory of God blessing me with him is never far from my mind. And my heart sings gratitude.

Like me and the older son in the Lord’s parable who was always near his father he couldn’t see the continuous flow of blessings in his life, do you also sometimes miss seeing and appreciating God’s goodness in yours? In what ways have you done it?

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Journey with Jesus,

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,

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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The Fruits of Praise

One night a few weeks ago, during those rare occasions when I could listen to the sound of music without it interfering with my breathing and heartbeat, I listened to songs of praise which I had missed so much. I upped the volume and let my whole being be enveloped by heavenly music and lyrics that bring much delight to the God of the universe. One of my all-time favorites, In the Name of the Lord, played and my spirit soared as the song crescendoed. The floodgates of my heart opened and though I couldn’t vocalize just yet, my diaphragm being weak, my love and adoration for the Lord Jesus Christ poured out. This was the silent cry of my worshiping heart: I love You, Lord, with more than ALL of me!

ps134

Worship tears down all barriers between our hungering spirit and the Spirit of God. When our spirit is caught up in the whirlwind of praise and spontaneously cries out words of worship — we have entered the glorious presence of God. And in His presence is fullness of joy (Ps. 16:11). The worshiping heart transcends all pain, sorrow, disappointments, discontent, and any other negative emotion that tries to bring the spirit down.

Months after I received my salvation 12 years ago, I stayed in one of the bedrooms upstairs which overlooked the neighbor’s spacious garden. This was where the young family like ours usually ate on weekend mornings. They were a happy family. In contrast to ours, we were newly-mended and although the Savior’s stitching job was secure, we were still scattered as my husband focused on learning the intricacies of our business which I had relinquished to him as I battled with my illness. It was very rare that we ate together as a family since I often ate in bed. That and the suffering and uncertainty my illness brought made me wallow in sorrow and self-pity. In one of those times that I looked out the window and was overwhelmed with such emotions, I raised my hands and poured out my anguish to the Lord by means of soulful songs of praise.

Immediately, I felt like I was wrapped in a comforting embrace and my trembling and sorrowing heart was held and soothed by an unseen hand.

Worship is surrender of all that we hold, positive or negative, tangible or otherwise. And in that surrender is complete acceptance by the Lord, a sweet relief that equals no other. A liberation.

(In 2007 while I was heavily pregnant with Tim, the family next door sold their garden lot to us, let out the house to another, and left to live somewhere nearer their kids’ schools. We tore down the wall and built our own patio, attaching it to our newly-acquired garden. Since then, it has long been a witness to our family’s celebrations).

I don’t know of any other Church who is as devoted to praise & worship and prayer & fasting as The Jesus Miracle Crusade International Ministry through the leadership of our Beloved Pastor Evangelist Wilde Almeda. Worship services are held three times a week and last for hours. Friday overnight service is from 8:30pm to 4:30am of Saturday. Two hours are allotted to congregational singing at the start of the service. Different choirs sing in between testimonies. Their anointed singing fills one’s soul to overflowing.

In 2004, a year after I received my salvation, our family stayed in one of the fasting houses of our church. This one had a spacious chapel, quarters for praying and fasting brethren, and the compound was surrounded by trees. My soul desired to stay there as my illness raged on, accompanied by constant fears and nervousness that seemed to engulf me. I found great comfort ensconced in the house of God where my ailing and weak body and trembling heart were drenched with the morning and evening praise. This saw me through to another day and to another day after that and so on.

Workers and brethren alike sing praises from the rising of the sun to 3 in the afternoon. Then, the workers break their fast and eat a modest meal. They will then either rest, assist in Bible Studies elsewhere, or are called upon to visit the sick. By the power of the Holy Spirit, the sick receive healing and recover after being prayed over and laid hands on.

At home, we adopted this spiritual discipline early on and worshiped the Lord in the morning and evening. One night as Felix sang a solemn song, his knees rooted to the floor beside the bed (I was lying in bed trying to concentrate while going through physical discomforts), when a powerful force suddenly took him and shook him so hard he was moved from his place to a few feet away, all the time uttering words of worship non-stop while tears cascaded down his face. I had just witnessed his baptism of the Holy Spirit and it was awesome! Hallelujah! When it was over, he felt spent but said that he had never felt anything like it before. He was empowered!

“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Later on, I had regained enough strength to have my own little private worship in the mornings and evenings. I would sing a few songs, striving to invite the presence of the Lord. And even in between those times, when my spirit was thirsty and my heart needed uplifting, I would run straight to His arms through praise. When the tears had run their course — my whole being was awash in a holy cleansing and my heart was released from whatever held it captive.

But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)

But there were seasons, too, when I became sicker and my abdomen was too weak to sing a single stanza. I would then listen to praise music non-stop or sing silently in my heart during rests. Then there came a time when my heartbeat and labored breathing would inhibit even the sound of music. I then began the practice of inhaling and exhaling the word Hallelujah in a melody that was soothing to my heartbeat. I always recovered in the end. This was rather at the bottom rung of the ladder of praise and worship, but still, it goes the same direction: heavenward. This reminds me of Revelations 4:8: They do not rest day or night, saying: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty…”

I believe without a doubt that praise and worship, besides prayers and fasting, has contributed greatly to my life’s continuance. 

Some years ago during a Finest Choir singing, the Holy Spirit moved so powerfully and touched both the choir and congregants. The mighty sound of His moving echoed through the stadium as singing and speaking of tongues prevailed. Then one of the choir members who was filled with the Holy Spirit shouted “I love You, My children!” over and over. I stirred from where I was sitting and whispered, “Dearest Jesus, is that You speaking?” I thought, “Am I hearing it correctly?” I looked at my companions but they didn’t seem to hear or understand the prophetic message.

The message was repeated a few times, I couldn’t be mistaken. I raised my hands and face toward heaven and uttered, “It is You! It is really You! And You love us so!” I was drenched with my own tears as I wept in the glory of the moment. It is awesome to hear our Savior’s love.

Worship creates intimacy with God that no other thing can. The things we can’t express through prayer are spontaneously expressed through worship as our spirit becomes one with the Spirit of God.

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Praise and Worship

Meditating on Psalm 150.

Praise the Lord!

Praise God in His sanctuary;
Praise Him in His mighty firmament!

2 Praise Him for His mighty acts;
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness!

3 Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet;
Praise Him with the lute and harp!
4 Praise Him with the timbrel and dance;
Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes!
5 Praise Him with loud cymbals;
Praise Him with clashing cymbals!

6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord!

In our Church, Jesus Miracle Crusade International Ministry, we were taught not only to praise and worship God every morning and evening, but through every circumstance, be it celebration or grief, sickness or healing, battle or victory. In prayer and fasting, praise strengthens the flesh and spirit. Through any sickness in our home, praise terrifies the enemy and it flees. My husband and I sing praises until a sick child goes to sleep. Praise defeats Satan’s schemes, for he can’t stand true worship of God. When the powerful, holy presence of the Lord descends, no work of the devil can prosper. There is only victory.

 But there was a time that I was too weak and sick I couldn’t sing a single stanza of praise. This depressed me, so I compensated it with more reading and meditating on the Word. God was faithful to honor my offering. While reading His Word, I would feel His touch and tears would stream down my face. I’d found that soaking ourselves in the Word ushers in His holy presence, too.

But having said that, singing praises with all our beings is the best WAY to feel the presence of the living, breathing, all-powerful God. I know there are Christians who sometimes dither in approaching the throne of grace because of their failings and shortcomings. The feeling of unworthiness bars them. I go through those, too, sometimes. But I’m slowly understanding the Savior’s heart for me, and that is – He wants that I approach Him however messed-up I am or however I’ve messed things up. I’m learning that when we withdraw from Him because of feelings of shame or unworthiness, it is really pride that is prodding us. But if we humbly present ourselves to Him, bowing down before Him with our repentant hearts and tears – He will not turn us away.

Though wounded and bruised because of our own stumblings and failings, because of hurts brought by dashed hopes, unkept promises, prolonged suffering, unanswered prayers – we sing, we seek, we invite Him into our lives. And He will surely come. He will touch our hurting places and heal them. He’ll heal our spirits, even our bones and flesh.

So never give up on praise. Our souls thrive in worship. It feeds on worship of the living God. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!

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Trust that Strengthens

Meditating on Psalm 146.

Praise the Lord, O my soul!
2 While I live I will praise the Lord;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. (v. 2)

It feels good to be reminded that if there’s anything that we should be doing the rest of our lives, that would be to praise and worship God with our whole beings. For those who have tasted and seen the steadfast goodness of the Lord, this will be an easy task. I believe miracles only happen when we put our complete trust in God. When we give up all control and trust in man and believe without a shadow of doubt that God will come through for us when we put all our trust in Him – He will then show Himself strong and will begin to work on our behalf. It is from this place that miracles are bred. On the other hand, unbelief keeps us away from them.

Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief. (Mat. 13:58)

It is naturally scary for mere humans like us to put our trust in the One who is invisible. Our inclination is to trust man and thing which we can both see and feel. But I have experienced that it is in the place of greatest need and danger, when we are completely helpless and vulnerable, that complete trust in God can spring up. I know that most people would rather go from one specialist to another and be subjected to invasive medical interventions just to obtain cure and healing from their diseases. As long as they have money to spend on these expensive doctors and procedures, their trust lies on them. But what of the poor who have nothing but are rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who see the miracles of God in their lives? I’ve proven this to be true in Jesus Miracle Crusade International Ministry which is replete of God’s miracles.

Do not put your trust in princes,
Nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help.
4 His spirit departs, he returns to his earth;
In that very day his plans perish. (vv. 3-4)

The one who wrote Psalm 146 was one who had the wisdom to know and believe in the God who is all-powerful. Thus, he had both witnessed and experienced the wondrous works of God without the help of man or his inventions.

Who executes justice for the oppressed,
Who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord gives freedom to the prisoners.

8 The Lord opens the eyes of the blind;
The Lord raises those who are bowed down;
The Lord loves the righteous.
9 The Lord watches over the strangers;
He relieves the fatherless and widow; (vv. 7-9)

Read again the above verses. He does all these, and yet, we still find ourselves doubting, or feeling weak and helpless or even miserable and hopeless. We still get to question His love for us. But what if we reverse it and think that it is our unbelief and distrust of Him that hinder Him from working mightily and marvellously in our lives? Only believe.

(Photo courtesy of my friend Perla Frisberg).

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Keep Following

My beloved husband arrived home late last night from one of the crusades in the province just as I was having a midnight meal. He joined me, spooning beef soup from my bowl generously. I wasn’t surprised if he was tired and hungry. From overnight prayer meeting last Friday, he went straight to Pangasinan to attend the crusade in one of the towns there, stealing only a few hours of sleep in their home in San Fabian. At some point, he told me of a man in a wheelchair who came to the crusade. Unable to walk, he was carried by workers to the beach where they were baptizing. When he came out of the water, he was already walking. As always, the workers and brethren who witnessed the healing were amazed and worshiped God for the miracle. He said it as if miracles like that happen everyday.

But there was not a single word that came out of my mouth. No, not a sound. I remained bowed before my plate, quietly chewing  the bits of meat like I hadn’t heard anything. I heard him alright but my heart seemed to have clamped shut against such news. It was received with an icy silence from me that he didn’t push it any longer.

As the silence stretched between us, I tried to examine my heart. I reached deep in there and groped for what I could find. It was clear as noonday: I could no longer get myself to leap in joy for such news. I lost count of the times I had heard of such in the past 11 years. Until recently, I would get myself to raise my hands to worship God and be awed by such a miracle. At first, I did it believing and expecting it would soon happen to me, too. Later on, I did it because I believed it was the right thing to do. But recently, I just want to remain silent and be true to my feelings.

Have I lost faith in God that he still works miracles to this day? Have I become so bitter that I can’t get myself to praise God for such news of a miracle? Neither. I examined my heart and I found out my faith in God has not waned a bit, neither my love for my Savior Jesus Christ. They are all intact there. I know also that when I hear testimonies in church through the live webcast by brethren who have experienced such miracles FIRST-HAND (for example, a mother who prayed hard for her child’s healing from a scary illness), the Holy Spirit still touches my heart, makes me tear up, and stirs me to raise my hands and give glory to God.

I think that’s the operative word: FIRST-HAND. It should be heard first-hand and spoken not unremarkably. I know I always, always share testimonies of God’s miracles here and on my Minister of Mercy blog, so that’s second-hand for you, right? But I heard and saw them first-hand and when I share them to you, I’m praying and hoping that God will anoint my words and by His grace, touch you by them.

The other thing is, because I have not experienced such kind of miracle in my own life after waiting for 11 years – standing up from my wheelchair and walking at last – I have gradually come to the realization that it doesn’t happen that way. At least, for me. So when I hear of second-hand testimonies of such magnitude (even coming from my own husband), my heart clamps up. And I have decided I will not force myself to react in a way that is not true to my feelings. It’s just not authentic.

When we finally went to bed, my husband told me that my mood seemed to be on the heavy side. Again, I did not reply. I didn’t know what to say. As I pulled the blanket to my neck, I was thinking, How could I explain to him what’s in my heart? No, he wouldn’t understand. It’s better to not say anything.

I am learning to process spiritual things silently with the help of the Holy Spirit rather than react as usual, saying praise words and “Amens!” without my heart into it, just because they are what’s expected of me. Honestly, I’m growing weary of hearing testimonies from faraway crusades of the lame being able to walk again, just. because. it’s. not. happening. to. me. When I was still able to travel, we went to crusades, too, and 100% expected a miracle happening to me: being completely healed and able to walk normally again. But it didn’t happen to me. Although based on others’ testimonies, it happened to them: crippled but walking again. For a long time, I wrestled with God why this was so. I hurt and wept and analyzed why God was healing the crippled that came to Him the first time while He turned His face away from me. Been there. Done that.

Last night as I pondered on these things, I knew for certain I had nothing against the Lord Jesus Christ. I love and adore Him still and always will. So, I began to sing in my heart.

'Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, 
and to take Him at His word; 
just to rest upon His promise, 
and to know, "Thus saith the Lord."

What. I’m. Saying. Is. This:

I WILL BELIEVE AND LOVE AND FOLLOW AND SERVE THE LORD JESUS CHRIST WITH OR WITHOUT A MIRACLE!

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God’s Love and Care

The lovingkindness of Jesus is played and replayed over and over through His followers. This is how they prove their faith —> through love. Faith that works through love (Gal. 5:6). We cannot follow Him without living and loving like Him. And it’s a great comfort to know that He is ever-present in our lives and He ever guides us in this world where evil pervades. We know love and are able to love because He first loved us.

Even before the last school year ended last March, I was thinking of adding one more child to our group of sponsored children. The last school year passed without a hitch, by God’s grace, and our three sponsored children were happy, receiving good grades and garnering medals. Praise the Lord! Our family doesn’t sponsor through Compassion International. Our Church, Jesus Miracle Crusade International Ministry, is not affiliated with them. We sponsor children from among our beloved brethren in Church, prioritizing those who are either fatherless or orphans.

I had been meaning to request a sister in Christ in the Visayas to look for such a child this summer in time for the new school year in June. But all pastoral workers and choir members are busy all throughout summer, what with spiritual revival and healing crusades happening all over the country.

At the same time, I was also looking for a stay-out laundrywoman. I wanted to maintain just one stay-in housekeeper (I’m happier and better off that way 😀 ). I believed that was the perfect arrangement for our family. So, I prayed earnestly for it. Through the help of other sisters in Christ that I contacted, one day, I received a call from a beloved preacher’s wife from one of our Church’s outreach stations near our place. She said she had somebody she could give us to do our laundry twice a week. I was elated.

One night, before the laundrywoman (also a sister in Christ, I was told) was expected to report for work, we had unexpected visitors. I had not seen them before. They were pastoral workers from the outreach I had mentioned above, including the beloved preacher’s wife and the laundrywoman. They came to check our place. Before they arrived, I was struggling for breath, doing my best to keep still to be able to recover. My husband received them. Before they left, they entered our bedroom and offered to pray over me and lay their hands on me. And I revived! We talked for a while, sharing our testimonies to each other, and crying a little as we pondered on the love of Jesus for each one of us. Oh, I felt the love and comfort of Jesus right there and I was refreshed!

Later on, as Sis. Melanie (the one the Lord sent to wash and iron our clothes) came in and out of our home, we learned that her beloved husband was sick and unable to work. They have 6 kids, the eldest is 13 while the youngest is 2. One afternoon before she left, she confided to me how she felt burdened working and providing for the family alone. I offered to find other households from our neighborhood who might be looking for a stay-out laundrywoman. And on that same night, I discussed with my husband my intention to sponsor one of Sis. Melanie’s children. He agreed at once. I am happy with our decision.

I am amazed at how the Lord never gives up working through us. And it is always a blessing to be used by Him. He blesses us as we bless others. In His Kingdom, no one is really left out: everyone has a need and something to give. It’s God’s love and care working through the brethren that makes the Body of Christ beautiful.

 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ (Mat. 25:40)

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Journey with Jesus,