Of Christ’s Fullness

I was glad when, a few days before Christmas, I arrived at the Book of John in my daily Bible reading and journaling. This is what I do: I read one book from the OT Beginning at Genesis, then one book from NT, beginning at the Book of Matthew, back and forth. What preceded John was Deuteronomy, so it was law to grace. Unlike Luke, John doesn’t retell the birth of Jesus, but it is equally rich in powerful promises. Walking through the Book of John is like walking through a diamond mine.

GRACE. My original watercolor painting on 9" x 12" wc paper. (Reference photo by Serah Loud via IG).

GRACE. My original watercolor painting on 9″ x 12″ wc paper. (Reference photo by Serah Loud via IG).

Full of bright expectations, I was on the lookout for God’s riches in the form of words and promises. And they came, like precious gems sparkling in a dark cave.

And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:16-17)

Of Christ’s fullness we have all received. 

His truth. His grace. His forgiveness. His salvation. His healing. His life.

Yes, because,

…As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God… (John 1:12)

the right

to become

children of God

As the Lord Jesus is, so are we in this world (part of 1 John 4:17). . Heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ (part of Romans 8:17).

But sometimes, it just doesn’t seem that way. We fall ill. We suffer. We become destitute – of food, of strength and courage, of healing, of deliverance from problems. Dreams are not fulfilled. Longings are not satisfied. We groan. Tears fall.

But all these don’t change the truth: To those who have received the Lord Jesus Christ and who believe on His name, they are the children and heirs of God. We have that unseen treasure, treasure that neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal (part of Mat. 6:20)…

neither death nor life

nor angels nor principalities nor powers

nor things present nor things to come 

nor height nor depth…

Nothing and no one shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom.8:38-39).

So we suffer tribulation, but in essence, in truth, in reality – we are good. We will be fine.

It is well with our soul.

We are not left behind. We are not forsaken. We are not poverty-stricken. The Lord Jesus said in Rev. 2:9: “I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich)…” Yes, heirs-of-the-kingdom-of-God rich. 

A beloved preacher in our church and his wife came from a wake an hour after Christmas Eve. They were going home to their place knowing that they didn’t have any food prepared for noche buena. So, when they passed by Mini Stop, they realized they were hungry, so they entered and had each a siopao (Chinese steamed bun). The beloved preacher told his wife cheerfully, “So, this is our noche buena.”

While the rest of the Philippines celebrated Christmas Eve with tables laden with food, gifts piled up under the Christmas trees, and carols and laughters ringing out, the beloved preacher and his wife enjoyed their siopao. And they were perfectly fine.

And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. (John 6:35)

When we maintain a “kingdom of God” perspective, we wouldn’t know or see lack. We only know what we have in Christ.

It would have seemed in my last post that all I desire is to go to places I’ve never been and fill up my senses with the things I would see and experience. But that is not what is foremost in my mind. My desire is to do the will of God. I already have a plan set in place: When I’m already well, I will go wherever the Lord sends me to – to testify and win souls.

At the beginning of 2016, I set my life’s theme based on Isaiah 6:8: “Here am I! Send me.”  Throughout the year, every prayer I prayed for my healing, I ended it with, “Here am I, Lord, send me!”

I wasn’t sent anywhere except to my painting table or the patio. Still, it is well with my soul.

A MOST BLESSED, PROSPEROUS, VERY NEW YEAR TO US ALL!

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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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Encouragement for the Journey

On January 2, 18 years ago, I stood at one of the windows of Cainta Municipal Hall registering my chemical trading business. The whole place was deserted (maybe I was the only over eager person to be processing her business permit a day after New Year’s Day), but I was so full of hopes and big dreams it was hard to wipe the grin off my face or extinguish the brightness of my eyes.

encouragement for the journey

Eighteen years have come and gone since that day, I couldn’t have known then how much stuff could be squeezed into that entire length of time.

On New Year’s Day 2005, while being cooped up inside our Church’s fasting house in Pampanga (not fasting but desperately waiting for healing), depressed and uncertain of the future, the Lord spoke to me, “Go home, my child. Wherever you go, I am there with you.” This was not your ordinary “sensing” the voice of God, but it was the kind which pierced through my darkness, jolted me out of my pity party and sent us packing without delay. Within the same hour, we were leaving the sanctuary of the fasting house headed for home. Between that time and New Year’s Eve 2014, I recovered enough to be able to travel to crusades, give birth to my son Tim, start my blog, then fall ill again.

New Year’s Eve 2014 found me on the throes of death. When I knew for certain that I wouldn’t recover after hours of gasping for breath, I positioned myself in such a way that death may come not too harshly. But after turning, anticipating death to come in a matter of minutes, the struggle slackened. The powerful flow of air entered my system unobstructed. The breath of life flowed in and out of my nostrils, flooding my whole body with great relief. I didn’t know what to make of it: Was it deliverance? Was I out of danger? Has death given up on me? While confusion reigned during those few moments, a frantic voice was shouting in my mind, “Breathe! Breathe the air I freely give you!” I gave all my concentration in inhaling and exhaling. When I could finally turn over and speak, it was about half-hour to 2015.

It has been a year since that scary and glorious night, but I’m still here being held by God.

What do these things tell? Proverbs 19:21 may partly answer this question (for we can never completely unravel the mysterious workings of God):

There are many plans in a man’s heart,
Nevertheless the Lord’s counsel—that will stand. 

God’s purposes and plans, they will ultimately stand. We may never understand His ways and thoughts. That is not our part. Our part is to believe and trust. When we have finally grasped it, we would have embraced wisdom. That kind of wisdom that cannot be compared with all the things we may desire; it is in fact a tree of life (see Proverbs 3).

The path of a Christ-follower is never easy. It is strewn with trials of all kinds. After all, it is the narrow path and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God (part of Acts 14:22). But the marvelous thing is, there is enduring peace and joy even in the midst of life’s storms. That is what walking after the Spirit and in wisdom brings. We are somewhat healed of our deep longings and we carry on day after day after day. That is why the Holy Spirit is the Comforter, the Helper in all our travails. Without Him, life is like a desolate land.

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. (John 14:16-17)

How thoughtful and caring our Savior is that He wouldn’t leave us alone in this world that is full of troubles and toils! He had it all planned before the foundation of the world. He had it all covered. All we need to do is trust and obey. The Holy Spirit who dwells in us enables us, even empowers us to carry out God’s purposes and plans, even though sometimes we don’t understand. Yes, even through pain. Through Him we are constantly loved and held and kept.

David was a man who was acquainted with troubles. But he knew whom to trust and cling to. In all his tribulations (and there had been many!), he never grew weary of God. Yes, he had questions directed towards Him, strings of them. He walked so intimately with God that he knew He could very well handle them. Through deliverance or desperation, his sight was always heavenward. His praises and prayers became the psalms. Psalm 63 exquisitely expresses his dependence and awe of God:

Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,
My lips shall praise You.
Thus I will bless You while I live;
I will lift up my hands in Your name.
My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness,
And my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips. (vv. 3-5)

In the midst of David’s stark difficulties, he learned that God’s lovingkindness is better than life. Life could be cruel. But beyond all this, there is hope that never dies. It is the life in Christ in the here and now that transcends all pain and hopelessness. It is this life in Him, in His enduring lovingkindness, that life on earth becomes bearable, a little piece of heaven. It is Christ in [us], the hope of glory (Col 1:27).

But some of us are more like Asaph (I am one occasionally :D). In Psalm 73, Asaph had been downright honest of what he’d been through. He was envious of other men, the ungodly, so much so that he admitted he almost stumbled in his own faith walk. He went on to enumerate the ungodly’s perceived “blessedness”:

They are not in trouble as other men,
Nor are they plagued like other men.

…They have more than heart could wish.

…[they] are always at ease… (vv. 5,7,12)

Then he looked into his own life and saw the huge difference. He saw how he had humbly subjected himself to God’s continual correction and for what? And as he tried to assimilate it all, it pained him too much. Until he went into the sanctuary and God gave him deeper understanding. He realized his error and his heart was grieved, so much so that he goaned, “was so foolish and ignorant; I was like a beast before You” (v. 22).

God made him see that he was the one who was truly blessed, not the ones he was envious of. He then wrote these beautiful words:

Nevertheless I am continually with You;
You hold me by my right hand.
24 You will guide me with Your counsel,
And afterward receive me to glory.

25 Whom have I in heaven but You?
And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.
26 My flesh and my heart fail;
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (vv. 23-26)

Oh, what truth! What great encouragement!

In our own faith journey, we were like Asaph one time or another. Isn’t it so wonderful that we have these treasures of wisdom now for our own counsel and edification? Oh, praise God for continuing to speak to us powerfully through His Word!

Like Asaph and all the other heroes of faith and early Christians that had journeyed before us, our journey of faith is peppered with lessons both painful and sweet. We have to embrace each one with humble hearts then echo Asaph’s praise (vv. 23-26).

I invite you to read and meditate on Psalm 73.

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To Lose One’s Life

Often, I’ve asked myself this: If I were living my dreams – pursuing the career I love, being successful, traveling the world, and immersing in the good things it offers – and God called me to drop everything and follow Him, would I? And often, the answer I get in my heart of hearts is that – I don’t know. Probably not. It’s disheartening, but I believe that’s just the way for most of us: We cannot surrender everything, absolutely everything, unless God does something radical in our lives. Like loss of health and strength.

The rich, young man of the Gospel comes to mind. He wanted to inherit the kingdom of God and yet, he couldn’t, just couldn’t give up everything and follow Jesus. And what did the Lord say after the man left? That it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man or woman to enter the kingdom of God. Why? We go back to the first paragraph. We need not be very wealthy like the rich, young man in the Bible, but we do have stellar careers, properties like condo units or cars, jewelries, overflowing wardrobes perhaps that we just can’t live without.

So, it’s hard. Impossible even, as the Lord Himself has said. But look at what He said next: “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27).

He makes it possible for us to surrender everything, lose our lives for His sake, follow Him, and later on, enter into His kingdom.

Before He even calls us, He knows what our reactions would be. That’s why He does things to us to get our attention, to let us realize that when we desire to save our lives, we’re going to lose them. But when we lose them for His sake and the Gospel’s, we save them.

For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. (Mark 8:35)

To lose one’s life for Jesus is to find it. How much simpler could it get? And yet, not all of us get it. Unless the Lord makes it possible for us.

He made it possible for me. I was like that rich, young man. I was leading my own company, had properties, cars, jewelries, overflowing wardrobe, travels, and a stellar career that brought all the success and fulfilment. But God wanted me. He wanted me to partake of His salvation and kingdom. He wanted me to know Him and love Him enough I would follow Him to the ends of the earth. But He knew I couldn’t, and wouldn’t, turn my back to all that I had. So, He stripped me of my health and strength, so serious I could no longer work. I’m thinking now that He probably wept when He did it. But He knew my salvation was much more important than anything in this world.

When I lost everything, He let me know that I had Him. He made me realize that when I have Him, I actually have everything.

He made it all possible for me – lose my life for Him, know and follow Him. But the losing and denying of oneself, the taking up of one’s cross, and following Him are decisions we make every morning, every day. We renew them again and again. It is a daily decision.

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

A daily decision to choose life or death. So, choose life. Lose it for Jesus again today, and tomorrow, and the next. For we will find it in Him. He is our life.

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Praying for the People’s Salvation

Meditating on Psalm 123:

Unto You I lift up my eyes,
O You who dwell in the heavens.
2 Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters,
As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,
So our eyes look to the Lord our God,
Until He has mercy on us. (Ps. 123:1-2)

This is our prayer to the God who holds the universe. Our country has been battered and broken by disasters and tragedies, but we continue to hope and wait for mercy until the Lord save and restore our people.

After super typhoon Haiyan wiped out our Church’s outreach in Iloilo in the Visayas Region, the beloved workers set up this temporary place where the brethren can gather to worship the Lord. Notice the mud they are stepping on. But they are unmindful of it. What’s important to them is they remain faithful in serving the Lord whatever may come.

They set up a temporary shelter under a tree. It doesn’t matter how austere their place of worship is, for “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17: 20-21, emphasis added).

The salt and light of the earth. To God be the glory!

Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us! (v. 3)

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“The Wrestlings” Discussion {Chapter 5: Eyes on Jesus}

Chapter 5 of my ebook The Wrestlings Along the Narrow Path encourages to keep our eyes on Jesus and I discussed there Luke 11:34-36, of having our sights singularly towards the light.

This is hard. We live in a world of excess, entitlements, and privileges, and we tend to desire also what the world enjoys. I admit I have been guilty of this lately. Even before summer started, I have been feverishly planning for our family going to the nearest resort. But as my unwell and weak body resists these plans and while I look at relatives and friends who go places, vacationing to their hearts’ content, I have also been struggling on and off with the pain brought by my unsatisfied hunger.

But the Lord has been helping me and showing me how to live not craving for the things of this world but for Him. It could be very hard and painful sometimes, but I believe this is a “given” to any true Christ-follower. We can never escape it, so we might as well learn to embrace it. Isn’t this the essence of the Lord Jesus’ words when He said that he/she who loses his/her life for His sake and the kingdom’s will find it? It is the exact opposite of how this world operates.When one loses one’s life, there is always pain involved.

So, I’m learning, really learning, to turn my gaze away from the world and on to the Lord Jesus. See not, hear not, and dwell not in the things that may weaken our resolve to follow Christ and where He’s leading us. Too much craving and giving in to it weaken our hold of the Word and in its power to transform us. Looking at the things we lack and dwelling in the thought that life would be better having them or being able to do them will make our spiritual life empty, powerless, and dim.

But that is not the kingdom of God at all. For the kingdom of God is within one who is indwelt by the ungrieved Holy Spirit. And if the Holy Spirit is not grieved, He works mightily in that person’s life. There will be abundance of righteousness, joy, peace, love, and ordinary and extraordinary miracles. There is power to live a beautiful, victorious life! Not a life that is bent down with sorrow from unfulfilled dreams, bitterness, and discontent. For this is what we have received:

For God has not given us a spirit of fear [or joylessness, discontent, self-pity…], but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Tim. 1:7, bracketed annotations mine)

I myself sometimes forget that I have received the Spirit of God and that’s why I sometimes find myself wallowing in lack instead of rejoicing that the kingdom of God is within me, and therefore, I have everything and I know no defeat only victory! When weakness hounds me, my thoughts usually wander to Anna, the prophetess. She was a widow for many decades and she lived all those years serving God in the temple with prayers and fastings night and day. (See Luke 2:36-37). She did not leave the temple nor the presence of the Lord. When I see people leave and go places, including my family, and I’m left alone, I think about Anna. Her heart, eyes, and feet did not wander away from the Lord. I get encouragement from her.

Endnotes:

For those who have not yet availed of the free PDF copy of my ebook, I request you to sign up at the side bar and you will receive your copy via email. Thank you!

The Wrestlings Discussion Series:

The Wrestlings Discussion {Chapter 1: Eyes of Envy}
The Wrestlings Discussion {Chapter 2: Envy, Competition, and Covetousness}
The Wrestlings Discussion {Chapter 3: Heart of Covetousness}
The Wrestlings Discussion {Chapter 4: Jealousy}

Have you visited Live Joy-Fully! already? :)

Photo courtesy of Bro. Edu Cortez of Extreme Details Photography.

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