Rushing Through Life

I found out that even at painting, we rush, too. Or maybe I’m the only one. I think that’s one of my weaknesses in watercolor painting – I so want to see the end product that at some point, I hasten it up, committing mistakes in the process.

rushingthrough

I was very eager to start the third piece in my Magnolia Project because it involved one of many lovely Bible verses that I treasure. It started out good and promising. The white magnolia petals and its pink stamen were pretty in their simplicity. Even the background color I used came out surprisingly comforting, too – a combination of very light cerulean blue and olive green. I used a thick mop brush to spread the wash and when it dried, it created tinges of blue and green and I thought it was lovely. But I wanted to see the final product, so I rushed through the hand lettering which is not my strong point. To make the story short, I ruined the painting because I didn’t take time in writing the verse. Although I used Finetec metallic gold, that didn’t do the trick.

I lamented my white magnolia flower and its buds. I regretted rushing through the project and not taking my time to produce a carefully-painted artwork.

Before I became a born-again Christian, I used to measure time by productivity. As I looked back at the year that was, I measured its quality and magnitude by how much I had accomplished in my business – sales, new products, new projects, new developments, new territories. How many trips and seminars abroad I went to, and if I had invested in a prime property or upgraded my vehicle. The goal was always to move forward and move up. Always adding knowledge and experience into my profession. I was contented if my year had been full and frenetic.

I used to qualify the years by how the dreams were lived.

Life was always a rat race. For me, it wasn’t as much about competing as it was about aiming higher, setting more ambitious goals and achieving just as much. If you’re an overly ambitious businessman or woman, every hour must count toward the fulfilment of every goal.

I put up my own chemicals company at 30. And from Day 1, I didn’t stop running the lane of fulfilling dreams and ambitions and unstoppable success.

Then illness came and time stood still.

When you’re staring down illness and the threat of death, your perspective shifts dramatically. You’re apt to forget about all else and just want to survive. Realizations, naked and clear, suddenly play a powerful role.

Early on in my illness, I knew without a doubt that it was “a call” from above. I trembled in fear just by the realization of it. In panic, I set out to make peace with God and to align my whole being with His will. And fast, tearing down all obstacles. I thought I couldn’t afford a moment’s delay. I understood clearly then that man’s salvation is an emergency. There might not be another chance…

And so I received my salvation a day after my 36th birthday. The peace that flooded my being was one I had never experienced in my entire life. I felt that finally, I was placed on a firm and hallowed ground and that there was absolutely no other place on earth I’d rather be. My whole view of life and the world changed overnight: I was no longer the overly ambitious, over-achieving businesswoman. I was now a person who had received abounding grace and mercy and who was desperately waiting for healing. My worldly life had ended and a new one had begun. I was born again in an entirely different realm, raised up together, and made [to] sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (see Eph. 2:6).

I knew it then when a rich friend from the gym I used to frequent called to invite me to an affair in a plush hotel. She excitedly told me of her plans to get us fabulous hair and makeup appointments in the salon and wear our gorgeous best. She didn’t know I was very ill and unable to move normally. (I withdrew from the world so suddenly and quietly it would seem like I had vanished into thin air).

When the call ended, I slowly hobbled to the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror. My days of worldly pursuits had ended and there was no turning back.

But in my sickbed, I begged the Lord to hasten to heal me so I could go back to work. My company was limping with only my staff running it. But more than that, I desperately wanted to go back to the work I so loved. Although I had just become a true child of God, I was unaware that I was still identifying and defining myself by my work and not by my daughtership.

Weeks turned into months wherein I desired to get well and recover to be able to go back to work. Eventually, Felix had to takeover the management of the company. Still, healing didn’t come.

I was rushing through God’s refining process. Although still very sick, my vision and desires rested on the career I had unwillingly left behind. I couldn’t settle in to God’s own plan for me. I thought my plan was also His.

The waiting time, which I had hoped would only take weeks, took years. And finally in 2007, more than three years after that last day that I worked in the office, I totally surrendered to God and His will. A revelation happened on that afternoon in our bedroom and I vowed never to go back to work again. I was God’s and He could do with me whatever He wished. Then the rushing through life stopped.

I slowly settled in to the new normal. I stopped counting months and years before I could go back to work for there was no more work waiting for me. God had chosen Felix to lead our company. I settled in to His pace and learned to seek His will and purpose for me. I hadn’t a clue what it was, but I believed that I had all the time in the world to figure it out, as long as I remained fastened to His side.

I look back at the years that had passed, still in the long waiting season, and I can no longer valuate them as I used to. No worldly achievements, accomplishments, or acquisitions to count. There is only walking with Jesus, ever abiding and continuously learning and growing in Him. Unlike before when I looked back at my prosperous years, they were neatly aligned like shining trophies prominently displayed where everyone could see. Now, it seems to me that my years are jumbled and remembered only by seasons of illness and suffering interwoven with enduring tender mercies, healing moments, good and perfect gifts, Jesus’ unfailing love and faithfulness and His constant presence.

I’m learning to embrace these years and to count them as not wasted but ones that have an impact on eternity.

The world measures the years by success and growth and profits and the things that can be seen and touched and flaunted. Heaven measures them entirely differently.

(Photo: My watercolor painting of sky, hills, and meadows. I invite you to visit my art gallery on Facebook :) ).

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The Pull of the World

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

pull of the world

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Lord Jesus said that we are salt and light.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Photo credit: Jose Luis Casti via Flickr).

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Stand in the Holy Place

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

(image source)

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

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

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

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

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

 So I said:

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

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

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

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

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

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Our Deepest Hunger

When I wasn’t yet a born-again Christian, my work was my passion. It was what defined me. My name was synonymous to it. My world revolved around it, not only because it consumed much of my time, but it also consumed my heart and mind.  There are many things in this world that can possess our whole beings and consume us, without us ever realizing it (though there are also people of the world who seek to be consumed by their own passions and be swallowed whole by them). But even the people of God are not immune to such passions.

I’ve been thinking much about it lately, that when we become passionate about things that steal our time for God, both in our hearts and minds and in our deeds, these things become idols to us. What could we be so passionate about that would dilute our fervent devotion to God? I can think of many things: work, business, relationships, hobbies, pastimes, material possessions, and yes, even the talents God gave when used inordinately. In the authorized King James Version of the Bible, a part of Apostle Paul’s letter to the Colossians reads like this:

Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry. (Col. 3:5)

Notice that it mentions inordinate affection, which I believe, very well covers our subject matter. The Free Dictionary defines inordinate as “exceeding reasonable limits; immoderate; not regulated; disorderly; unrestrained in conduct, feelings, etc. (for example, an inordinate lover of antiques); uncontrolled.”

I also thought about covetousness as the source of idolatry and analyzed that covetousness doesn’t only mean excessive desire of possessing worldly things, but also other things which we might not have given much thought, such as coveting the world’s admiration, or people’s approval, or men’s love and attention, or visceral happiness and sensual pleasures, etc. I looked up covetous in the dictionary and it is defined as, “marked by extreme desire to acquire or possess, for example, covetous of learning.”

One morning last week as I praised and worshiped the Lord, I was suddenly caught up in a strong desire to cry out to Him, “My Lord Jesus, be my life’s passion! Be my heart’s greatest desire!” I begged Him as He pried open my heart, saw what’s in there and whispered, “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love” (Rev. 2:4).

I pray that my deepest desire is to be passionate about Jesus. For He is ever passionate about us, though we have yet to grasp its depth. We just have to think about the cross, examine His words, and look at His works and enduring mercy in our lives, and we would know that God is passionate in His love for us.

May the Savior Jesus Christ be our deepest hunger and the only One who can satiate it. Listen, for He may just be knocking at your heart’s door and whispering, “I have somewhat against thee.”

My Lord Jesus, I just want you!

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Sweetly Abiding

One can directly feel the effects of faithfully abiding in the Lord. The benefits seem to flow without interruption. This is, of course, bred by one’s fervent desire to draw closer to the Lord and a willingness to be led by Him. It’s like a good child who is a joy to her parents: the child feels loved and cherished by them while she is also obedient to them. She doesn’t follow them resentfully. On the contrary, she delights to love and honor them. I believe it is much the same way with our relationship with our heavenly Father.

Sometimes there are things that drive us away from our devotion to Him. Unanswered prayers, for instance. But our Savior is faithful to woo us back to Him. And when He does, we would know. We would feel it. And we would come to Him with our remorseful hearts and silent tears of our sincere humbling down before Him. And I believe that’s what He desires of us: our repentant hearts that are yearning for His love and embrace.

That is more or less the picture of my relationship with my compassionate Savior. Every now and then, He brings me to that place of knowing that there is nothing more wondrous and more fulfilling than a healthy relationship with Him. One can get first-hand favor, yes, direct from His hand. If you would ask me what makes me faithfully abide in the Lord as I do, it is both fear and love. It is my love for Him that reigns in “springtime”, when all I want to do is praise and worship Him with all I am and serve Him with all my heart and might. But it is my great fear of Him that stops me in succumbing to the lure of sin. 

Sometimes we tend to love ourselves more than God. The pull of temptation to please ourselves becomes too strong that our love for Him fades into the background. And we do that which we ought not. Yes, as I ponder on these things now, I think our love for the Lord is sometimes put on the back burner while we chase our selfish desires. But our fear of Him should stop that. That kind of fear that originates from His being a holy and just God, and that there is a corresponding consequence to every choice we make.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (2 Cor. 5:10)

By the Lord’s abundant grace, I have this constant fear of being separated from Him. I cannot imagine myself being cut off from Him, the very Source of my life. Yet, I know that sin can easily do that; when I choose a different path away from Him. But as long as I do not cease to cleave to Him, most especially during moments of weakness, He is faithful to hold me tight and never let me go. 

And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. (John 10:28)

The Lord Jesus Christ has made me feel time and again, especially now, how truly nourishing and absolutely fulfilling it is to abide in Him. He supplies all I need to live abundantly: the breath of life, peace, love, joy, hope, and His faithful answers to my earnest prayers.

 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

I dedicate this post to the sister in Christ that I am counselling. May the Lord make these written words speak to you powerfully.

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The Beginning of Blessings

Meditating on Psalm 128.

Blessed is every one who fears the Lord,
Who walks in His ways. (Ps. 128:1)

The beginning of all blessings is that moment when we have a fear of God. This kind of fear comes from His being an all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-living God. A God who loves justice. When we begin to have a fear of God, wisdom has dawned on us. When we truly fear God, we humble ourselves to Him and beg Him to help us obey His commands. We may believe in God but it doesn’t mean we fear Him. When we truly know Him and let Him reign in our lives, His fear will be upon us and we will walk in His ways.

There are so many who say they believe in God but in their lives, they don’t fear Him. They continue to commit sin. There are even others who profess their love of God but in truth, they don’t honor Him. When we disobey Him, we don’t fear Him and we don’t honor Him in our lives. But the world is crawling with hypocrites.

Saturday night last week, we celebrated Hannah’s 13th birthday. My cousin who works in the Office of the Ombudsman came. Late into the night, we talked about corruption in the Philippine government especially among the politicians and their pending, most controversial cases. Corruption’s tentacles have reached even to the remotest municipality. No wonder why the Philippines remains to be a poor country. (Big sigh). What’s so exasperating is that, you see these corrupt vipers going to church or mentioning God in their speeches. As their acts of debauchery were discussed, I almost gagged.

I sat up straight and said something about righteousness that I was sure was so out of line but I needed to say it anyway. “True change in our country will start from the self. If every individual will have a true fear of God and follow His righteousness, we will have leaders and citizens who are incorruptible.” This was met by awkward silence (and gaping mouths?) followed by snickers. Maybe my relations have lost hope in the people long time ago.

But maybe God has not. As long as His offer of salvation stands, there is hope. And when the people’s hearts have changed and turn to the living God, families will become stronger, communities will be united in righteousness, and the country will be peaceful and prosperous. With God all things are possible. We just have to keep on believing, praying, preaching the Gospel of salvation, and winning souls for Christ.

When you eat the labor of your hands,
You shall be happy, and it shall be well with you.
3 Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
In the very heart of your house,
Your children like olive plants
All around your table.
4 Behold, thus shall the man be blessed
Who fears the Lord. (vv. 2-4)

(Beautiful photo courtesy of JMCIM sister in Christ).

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Pulling Down Strongholds

After morning prayer, I laid my back against the pillow and closed my eyes to rest awhile. I thought, “I don’t think I can resume today my Bible Study with the kids in the early evenings. I still don’t have enough strength to discuss and stress the lessons.” An inner voice answered me, “It’s important that you resume and that’s beginning today. Just open the Bible and the strength will be supplied.” I still didn’t know. And I didn’t have any clue what lay ahead of the rest of the day.

At sundown, I heard scuffling and screaming from upstairs. I knew the kids were in disagreement and were fighting again. I couldn’t walk, couldn’t run, couldn’t climb up the stairs, although in these instances, I always want so much to be able to do all those things. I sent  a maid to tell them to come down. There would be explanations, and in the end, always a showing of humility from both sides (with my urging and insistence), apologies, and reconciliation. The little one came without hesitation, face sullen.

I had to ask a maid twice to fetch the older. I was beginning to feel irked and frustrated. The older, she’s developing an independent disposition that is not always honoring as she’s entering puberty. Sadly, there had been many instances of her showing a rebellious heart which had caused me grief and drove me to more gruelling prayers. There are not so many things that puzzle me about life, but motherhood remains to be one of them. And I’m feeling it’s getting harder as my daughter and I are entering into her adolescence.

She came and I tackled first the problem at hand: Why couldn’t she come down at once? Why always the resistance? The exchange became more difficult and frustrating when I learned that the things she needed to do and had been daily reminded of for days remained unaccomplished. But that same afternoon, before the uproar, when she came to me for something she needed at the bookstore, I listened at once and did what she requested, as always.

There is no willing obedience without having learned honor first. As a mother, I do my best to model humility and honor. I sincerely ask for forgiveness from my children when I am wrong and have hurt their feelings. I tell them that I listen to their needs and act on them because I honor and care for them. We teach them to honor us, their parents, and one another, and in so doing, they are honoring God in their lives.

At dinnertime, when the daddy arrived from mid-week service, I hoped to unite the family around the table and, yes, resume our evening devotion reading the Bible. No, she wouldn’t come and didn’t want to eat. How much longer and more painful this “rebellion” would be! Rebellion dishonors the rest of the family and, ultimately, God. Rebellion must be rooted out. 

And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. (Eph. 6:4)

More furor. How can you turn ugly into beauty? I wept, I begged, I expressed my love. This love of a mother, I realized, is as durable as a diamond though the heart is many times broken. More efforts, yes. Parenting is like Jacob wrestling with God until you have obtained victory. My ailing and weak body was begging for rest, but when all had quieted and settled down, we found ourselves around our table, the daddy opening our NKJV Greatest Stories of the Bible to chapter 2 which is Genesis 3, after his opening prayer. We listened to him reading how Adam and Eve challenged God by rebelling and disobeying Him. And how they lacked humility by not acknowledging and repenting of their sin, but instead, blamed another.

What Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden could still be occurring in our homes over and over:

Rebellion

Disobedience

Lack of humility (repentance)

Dishonor

With hearts pried open by aches, love, and the words of the Lord, these lessons were talked about, instilled, and hopefully digested to the inmost being. I saw bowed heads, faint nods. I saw a cold heart thawing. We prayed in closing. Around our dinner table, I saw the beauty of the Lord once again shining.

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled. (2 Cor. 10:4-6)

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Afflictions’ Purpose

Meditating on Psalm 119: 57-80.

Before I was afflicted I went astray,
But now I keep Your word. (Ps. 119: 67)

In the passages of Psalm 119: 57-80, the psalmist acknowledges that his afflictions are from the Lord and they were sent to remind him he’s gone astray from the Lord’s statutes. Almost always, God sends afflictions to His people to draw them back to Him. I base my observations both from my own experience and from the many testimonies I’ve heard.

God will send all sorts of “calamities” to break us, strip us off, send us to our knees, with the purpose of calling our attention. He may do it to an individual, to a family, to a community, or to a whole country. He doesn’t do it merely to punish, but in His great faithfulness and mercy, He is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9, emphasis mine).

Today, my mind is particularly focused on the latest calamity that has ravaged our land, claimed over a hundred lives, and ruined properties and important landmarks. Calamity after calamity, our nation and people are battered and afflicted. Before they can even completely scrub off the hardened brown clay from off the flooded floors, posts, and walls; before the evacuees can even settle back to their damaged homes; before the communities can even start restoring devastated properties, and grief-stricken families begin to heal – another tragedy strikes.

I mourn for my country. Month after month, a catastrophe breaks out, whether force majeure – alluvion, super typhoon, earthquake, landslide, drought – or man-made – sea tragedies, corruption in government, rebellion, war – these are all designed by the soveriegn God (except for corruption, rebellion, or other immoral acts) to bring the people to repentance. To turn them away from their idolatry and immorality to worship and serve the one true living God.

If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people;

14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. (2 Chro. 7:13-14)

God is speaking loud and clear, but do the people hear?

God’s judgments are just and it is in His faithfulness that He does these things, with the utmost intent to reconcile the people to Him.

I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are right,
And that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.
76 Let, I pray, Your merciful kindness be for my comfort,
According to Your word to Your servant.
77 Let Your tender mercies come to me, that I may live… (vv. 75-77)

And whatever happens, He alone can comfort us in our sorrow; He alone can liberate us from our afflictions, and restore us, as an individual, a family, a community, or a nation.

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When Faith is Dead

I think the hardest lot to receive the Gospel of salvation are the people who profess they already have Christ but it ended there. There are many who do believe but do not and cannot follow Him. Many say they know Christ but in their lives, there is no likeness of Him. It is harder to bring the Gospel to these people because they believe they have a stable religion and that it holds them securely. They follow church traditions and hold on to them fast. These are ingrained in their veins for years of practicing them and they insist that what they do and have is the real thing.

What they have is religion. But can having a religion alone save us? Can having faith alone, that is, you profess you know Christ and  believe in Him and call on His name, without following Him and doing His commandments save us? I know a lot of people who go to church every Sunday but once they come out of it, they proceed to do what they are accustomed to doing: gossip, cuss, gamble, and all other acts of a life of depravity. The Lord tells about them in Matthew 7:21:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.

Aren’t they what James 1:22-24 describes?

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror;24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.

And this:

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. (James 2:26)

I know two women who seem to really love the Lord, their favorite expression is “God is good!” But these two women are a couple. They live together as “husband and wife” and have been for a very long time. But what does the Lord say?

“If you love Me, keep My commandments. (John 14:15)

For it’s not enough that we profess our faith and love of God yet we do not follow Him. There is no regeneration [Spiritual rebirth] that happened,  for merely taking hold of religion doesn’t give a person “new life”. The token of a genuine faith in Christ and of truly being in Him is having a transformed life, becoming a new creation. 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Cor. 5:17)

What we need is to receive the true Gospel of peace, a real reconciliation with God through our genuine repentance, baptism in water in the name of Jesus, and baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). And to continue in Christ. The continuing, or abiding, is the most vital part.

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. (John 15:4-6)

But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. (Mat. 24:13, emphasis mine)

 What we need is an authentic relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

(Photo taken from Flicker and edited at picmonkey.com).

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My Comfort and Hope

Meditating on Psalm 119: 33-56.

36 Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness.
37 Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way.
41 Let thy mercies come also unto me, O Lord, even thy salvation, according to thy word. (Ps. 119:36-37, 41)

As we read and discuss these verses in Psalm 119, I would like to remember and share with you the days approaching my salvation. Those were days of enormous difficulties accompanied by fears and trembling and great confusion. “Birth pains” I call them now. I was to be born again of the Spirit and “labor pains” surrounded my delivery. But I didn’t know that then.

As I had written a few times before, one moment my life was at the peak of career and business success, the next moment, I was stripped off of all strength – physical, mental, emotional. During the years of my worldly success, I had beheld vanity and lived in covetousness, whether consciously or unconsciously. But all that ended in my sick bed, when, a day after my 36th birthday, my family and office staff surrounded me and looked at my state helplessly.

It was at this time that I was already seeking God’s salvation desperately. In the midst of my utter weakness, something powerful was telling me to seek the Lord Jesus Christ for He was my only hope. Let thy mercies come also unto me, O Lord, even thy salvation, according to thy word (v. 41). I told everybody that I was looking for a Christian Church where I could go and serve the Lord. I needed His forgiveness so much.

When everybody went out of the room, one of my senior employees stayed behind and asked if I wanted to be prayed over by their Church’s prayer warriors. They are from the Jesus Miracle Crusade International Ministry. This was the answer to my cries to God. And thus, I received my salvation. The complete forgiveness of my sins healed my soul, mind, and heart. Later on, my body received gradual healing, too.

And I will walk at liberty,
For I seek Your precepts.
46 I will speak of Your testimonies also before kings,
And will not be ashamed. (vv. 45-46)

With my salvation came my liberty. And I have walked therein to this day. I live to give glory to my Savior. I testify of His unfailing love, goodness, and miracles to anyone who will listen.

But with the difficulties that accompany my incomplete physical healing and the daily challenges and struggles of walking in faith and holiness, I wrestle in my prayers to God just like the psalmist who clings to the Lord in all his afflictions. So, I too, cling to His Word. To His promises that He will not let me be tempted and tested beyond what I can endure, but that He will always deliver me.

49 Remember the word to Your servant,
Upon which You have caused me to hope.
50 This is my comfort in my affliction,
For Your word has given me life. (vv. 49-50)

The Lord Jesus Christ is, and always will be, my hope. He is my comfort in my affliction.

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Journey with Jesus,