Trappings

I am fascinated to look at our Church’s mimers’ costumes and observe how they have evolved through the years. It seems to me that every year, they are becoming more and more “interesting”. That is to say, the accoutrements have become more complicated, intricate. There are different mimer groups from outreaches around the country and when they come to the Central Church on special occasions, one would see the diverse colors and designs of their garb. The cut is becoming more meticulous: sleeves flaring out from the elbows like a 360-degree fan, vests covered with sequins, sleeves fanning out from the shoulders down the length of the dress so that when the mimer spreads out her arms, they look like diaphanous wings. Other embellishments include glittering fabrics, floral appliqués, sheer, bright fabric attached somewhere in the body which flies with the wind when the mimer moves. The colors are mostly combination of whites, blues, and bright pinks.

My watercolor painting of white lilies on 9" x 12" 100% cotton wc paper.

My watercolor painting of white lilies on 9″ x 12″ 100% cotton wc paper.

One time I commented to family about this. Then someone asked me that if I were to design the mimers’ costume, what would it be like? When it came to adorning myself, I always knew what I want: simple but elegant. The elegance is emphasized in the sheer simplicity of the garb.

So I told the family that if I were to design the mimers’ costume, it would be made of pure white, flowy fabric, cinched at the waist, then flows down to the ankles in full biased, the sleeves fanning out like wings, and the only color is the wide gold girdle around the waist. (Maybe what was playing on in my mind was the description of the Lord Jesus’ clothing when the apostle John saw Him).

I tend to lean toward simplicity and bring out the real beauty out of that. Especially now that I am a Christ lover.

But recently when I was combing through the books of Moses in the Old Testament, I observed that God has a penchant for a wide array of precious jewels and embroideries of golden threads adorning the tabernacle and the priests’ vestments. He was very meticulous in laying out every single detail to Moses. In my imagination, they were regal to a fault. Fit for a king. So, the mimers’ desire to adorn themselves with such elaborate trappings is just being true to the Old Testament picture. And I smiled.

But I can’t help focusing on the New Testament where the center is the Lord Jesus Christ: the embodiment of simplicity. I close my eyes and imagine myself walking where the Saviour and His disciples walked, even the life of the early Christians after the Lord’s ascension, and I get the overall theme of the time, which was stark simplicity. From the birth of Christ to His death, His life spoke of simplicity. No trappings. Just the pure Saviour of the world, Word became flesh Healer that was manifested for all to behold.

Has God changed then? No. We know that God changes not (see Mal. 3:6). But the physical tabernacle that was described in the OT where God promised to dwell in has become the Body of Christ, comprised of believers where the Spirit of the Lord dwells.

For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said:

“I will dwell in them
And walk among them.
I will be their God,
And they shall be My people.” (2 Cor. 6:16)

We need not adorn ourselves with costly jewels and clothing for the Holy Spirit to come dwell in us. He will abide in the heart of him or her who has wholly received the Lord Jesus Christ and who now walks after Him and not after the flesh.

I believe that the adornments of a Christ follower are now those of godliness: humility, modesty, a worshipful and grateful heart. The truth of God, the grace of the Gospel, the power of the Holy Spirit.

that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works. (1 Tim. 2: 9-10)

But, oh. Here’s the sad part: We put on trappings not necessarily made of jewels, fabric, or any other superfluous materials. We put on pride, the inner desire to be admired, liked, or loved, false confidence, even spurious love and service to Christ.

That is why there are some of us who make extra effort to make our photos “like-able”, to make our lives appear perfect (if only on social media). Oh, I know. I am guilty of it on occasions, too. And unless I present myself to my Father in heaven, bare and vulnerable, I would continue doing it, even though only subconsciously. But He speaks, and by His grace, I listen.

It dawned on me recently that these trappings that we put on can be the reasons why fear takes a grip on us sometimes and we feel weak. Last week, when I saw my daisy meadow painting used as the backdrop for the testimony pulpit during a very special occasion in church, I felt so excited my heartbeat became so fast and erratic I began to hypervent and almost fainted. My illness doesn’t allow me to get overly excited or depressed because it affects my breathing. Before that, I was having a hard time recovering from a full lunch (that usually happens). It was aggravated when I saw my enlarged painting.

I uttered in my mind over and over, “All glory belongs to You, Lord”, while doing my best to downplay my emotions. After a while of this and silent prayers, the Holy Spirit spoke in my heart:

You are experiencing this because your first reaction was to be happy and proud of yourself. It is hard for you to sever your emotions from the pure and the sullied and I understand that. But if you focus your heart and mind on Me, only Me, not on yourself or your surroundings, peace will descend and settle in your heart and you will be calm.

Hallelujah! We have a Savior who knows our frailties. Aren’t we glad of that? I am deeply grateful that I am known perfectly of God.

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Heb. 4:15)

Fear reigns in our hearts when we are not pure in heart. When we put on the trappings of this world and not Christ. The worldly mindset is for us to put on the things of this world to be approved and admired by it. But the Bible tells us to put on Christ.

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. (Rom. 13:14)

And we are not talking only of the issues of the heart, but the material trappings that we love to adorn ourselves with. Just because. We make extra effort to put on goodly apparel, even sacrificing simplicity and modesty which we have learned in Christ. He tells us to consider the lilies of the valley…

The Lord wants us to look at the lilies of the valley. Simple and not superfluous.

When people look at us, what do they see? Do they see the imprint of the world or of the Lord Jesus Christ? Do they glorify God because of what they see in us or is the Body of Christ criticized?

And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:17)

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A Heart and Mind on Things Above

I feel the nearness of God not only when blessings abound, when prayers are answered, and peace and joy are to be had, but more so when He speaks during difficult times. When He gently (or strongly!) reminds and reproves and puts us back on track when we sway. It is truly a sad thing when we so need His light and guidance and He is quiet. When we plunge headlong into our erroneous ways and we become distressed by them, who will lead us in the paths of righteousness but the Shepherd Himself?

things above

The power of God is as prominent in His correction of us (and so, we repent and change our course) as when He performs a miracle. In my life, I dance (in my spirit) in happiness when He speaks clearly, and I listen and obey, and so, peace floods my being, especially in hard situations when my emotions are dumb as a mule.

I had one of these experiences just recently when I sorted out my bags with the help of the kids. I haven’t used a bag in years since I only inhabit our bedroom and patio, but I wanted to haul out all my old bags and see if I could pull out one to be given away. Through the years since I stopped working, my bag collection has dwindled. I have been taking them out to give away and those few remaining are the ones I really want to keep. Really expensive ones.

But I had the shock of my life when I found out that some of those bags that I was referring to were no longer in my closet. Nowhere to be found in the whole house. Months before this, we also found out that my favorite-ever Coach sandals, a gift from my sister-in-law, and other imported leather sandals and Hannah’s boots were all gone. But even before we found this out, my Canon DSLR camera and Hannah’s cellphone had also been stolen. This time, we found out belatedly that my bags were stolen, too! There was a time when we emptied our en suite closet and put them all in the guest room closet while our bedroom was being renovated. That must be the time the stealings occurred.

My Coach, Lancel, and Longchamp bags were all gone. These bags were slightly used and as good as new. Imagine my devastation when I found out about this third batch of stolen properties!

When my Coach sandals (which I only used when I had my picture taken – for blog and FB purposes – since I can’t walk yet) was stolen, I cried. Finding the bags also gone, I could no longer help my anger. I was angry and dismayed at the same time. I couldn’t rein in my emotions and my peace was slowly flying away.

Then God’s still, small voice spoke:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Mat. 6:19-21)

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. (Col. 3:1-2)

Immediately, I made a U-turn from the road of unprofitable emotions and obeyed God’s voice. What relief! What freedom! The Lord Jesus said that if we continue in His Word, we are indeed His disciples, “And [we] shall know the truth, and the truth shall make [us] free” (John 8:31-32).

Not only that. I also summoned Conching, our housekeeper, whom I have brought to the Lord months ago, and preached to her these words. (Conching isn’t a suspect in the stealings). The remaining bags sprawled in front of us, I told her of the words of Jesus. I needed to triumph over the devil’s work: my stolen things and the negative emotions the discovery brought. And the best way to do that was to quash him with God’s Word.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.

This commandment reminds us to be sober – moderate – in all things. It guides us not to hoard material things, especially the ones that are very expensive they are a luxury. Or things that are not really needed, superfluous. It teaches us not to live in excess or extravagance, pampering and lavishing ourselves with this world’s goods to the extent that we may grow distant or indifferent to others’ lack. Satisfying all our earthly desires without restraint is not Christlike. It may even numb us from seeing and feeling the deep needs of the world. 

Though we may have the means to satisfy our appetites, we may not act on it, but live within the bounds of simplicity and modesty. I can’t reconcile the thought of a Christ follower filling up her house with very expensive gilded Italian furniture that is fit for a royalty, for example, or with Murano crystals lining up shelves and gracing side tables. Aren’t these just a few examples of lust of the eyes and pride of life?

When I was still a businesswoman and living a worldly life, I was a shopaholic. Every time I traveled abroad, I hauled two rolling suitcases: one filled, one empty. The empty suitcase would be brimming with purchases when I flew back home. I loved to shop the prestigious brands. If it was generic, I didn’t want it. I also loved jewelry, the genuine kind: diamonds, pearls, and gold.

But all that changed when I received the Lord Jesus in my life. With the Holy Spirit now residing in me, sobriety and simplicity also now reign in my life. In our church, Jesus Miracle Crusade International Ministry, wearing of jewelry of any kind is discouraged. So, no one does. And that is a good thing, for the desire for jewelries makes one to covet.

The essence of this teaching is to uphold a life of holiness – modest and simple – and to veer our attention away from worldly things to godly things. To make us set our minds on things above and not on things on the earth. 

If wearing of jewelries is banned because of the above reasons, shall we then satisfy our desires on other things just because they are not specifically banned? A collection of signature bags, shoes, and clothing perhaps? To regularly upgrade to the latest iPhone because we don’t want to be left behind? To buy a sleek BMW or a handsome SUV? To live a posh life?

This doesn’t sit well with the Lord’s reply when a scribe announced that he would follow Him wherever He went.

And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Mat. 8:20)

This is the Lord’s caution to all who desire to follow Him: life with Him is not a bed of roses. It is not living in a fantasy world where all our wishes come true, but a life that denies itself daily.

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)

Deny ourselves from earthly desires that do not have an impact on eternity.

(Photo from Pinterest).

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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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Salt and this Material World

I walked purposefully towards the little shop, a spring in my every step as my pumps hit the concrete floor. My heart felt like bursting in eager anticipation to what I was going to have – again. But this was not the thrill that I felt as a child when I was about to open my gifts on Christmas Eve. This “high” was different. When the girl in the shop saw me, she was grinning, and reached for something in the drawer. She handed me a small box, saying with a wide smile, “You’re going to love it, ma’am!” I opened the box without hesitation and there they were: the most exquisite set of bluish grey shiny pearls surrounded by diamonds – ring, pair of earrings, and pendant. “Wow! These are gorgeous!” I muttered under my breath, almost whispering in awe.

Standing there in the small jewellery shop, I had “worshiped” a set of pearl and diamond jewelries. It was my nth order of made-to-order jewellery. There were the “eternity” bracelet, sets of diamonds, pearls, and gold, diamond rings, etc. I have certainly forgotten their shapes, colors, and designs. I was a successful business and career woman and I was donning success literally. I shopped as a pastime. I shopped as a therapy. I shopped for no reason at all except for the pure thrill of it.

I saw myself as a microcosm of the real material world. Like me before, the world is hungry for more material things. And the sad part is, it thinks that it is okay. But I’m going to cut to the chase: Can you imagine the Lord Jesus Christ shopping to His heart’s content? Can you imagine Him getting “high” acquiring a new leather jacket, a pair of signature Italian shoes, or picking up a made-to-order diamond-encrusted bracelet? No. Even though He owns “the cattle upon a thousand hills” (Ps. 50:10) and planted the gold in the land of Havilah (Gen. 2:11). Can there be fellowship between the material world and the lowly Savior born in a manger with itchy hay for mattress? What’s wrong with the world anyway? John provides an answer.

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

Wait, there is more.

19 And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness. (1 John 5:19, emphasis mine)

The whole world lies in wickedness. NIV is more succinct:

19 We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. (1 John 5:19 NIV, emphasis mine)

When the Lord called our family to the Church where we are serving Him now, we learned that there would be no wearing of jewelries and the clothing must be decent and modest: long skirts and dresses for the women. Was I disappointed? I was clinging between life and death and all I wanted was Jesus, His salvation and healing. I wanted to be delivered from my fears that were choking me to death. In other words, the least I wanted was disobedience from my part. It was as if my heart was saying to the Lord, “Lord, it seemed good to You to strip me off of my health and strength and mental soundness. There went my work also. You could very well take my whole life in a wink if you chose it. Why would it dismay me that You will strip me off of my jewelries and branded fashion, too? No, Lord. Take everything from me that offends You. I just want You.”

So, ever since I received the Lord Jesus, no jewellery has adorned my body. I worship Him in my modest long skirts and dresses and these don’t mean just a style of clothing. They mean humble obedience before the Lord, meekness and simplicity that honor Him – virtues that come from a surrendered heart made holy by the Savior.

Salt and this material world. Preservative and perishable food. That is what it’s all about. It’s like the “ten righteous” bargain of Abraham with God concerning Sodom. That if there were ever ten righteous found, the whole Sodom and Gomorrah would be preserved from total annihilation. So, now I understand. The Lord had to strip me off of all these worldly trappings to make my preserving power more effective. For there is no salt that is partly sweet or partly sour or partly other. Salt should maintain its 100% saltiness to be effective. And when it is adulterated, how can you make it salty again?

13 “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)

How do you adulterate a “salt of the earth”? When he or she compromises with the world and loves the world. I praise and thank God for liberating me from the bondage of materialism. Now, my affections cannot be divided between God and this material world.

(Image taken from here; edited at picmonkey.com).

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