Meditations

Poetry: In the Beginning God...

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GENESIS

In the beginning…

there was…

beauty, harmony, joy, love, and peace

in a place called paradise.

 What a perfect beginning!

Ended…

When man finally decided

to choose the way of death.

 From then on…

There is a continuous struggle…

to quest for the impossible…

But,

man could never approximate…

an iota of what he had…

From the beginning.

 Where is paradise?

Where is the beginning?

What an endless quest…?

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A Life of Prayer

life_as_prayerIt was about the middle of the night while still preparing for my message, when we received a text message from  the Deboma family in Zambales requesting for an urgent prayer for Juan Miguel. Apparently, Miguel (the 2nd of three Deboma siblings) is suffering from stomach ache since coming home from school that afternoon and it was already late at night and the pain has not subsided and even became more unbearable.   So I requested Ann (the mother) if I could speak with Miguel and I asked him if it was really painful and he replied, yes. While we are praying over the phone, I can hear from the background, Miguel uttering, “aray ko po”, “aray ko po!”. I couldn’t help but pity the young boy, who, when not sick would play silently and all alone, as if he has his own world, and satisfied with whatever things he finds to play with.

Thirty minutes or one hour after we prayed, they sent a text message that Miguel was already sleeping soundly.

That was a prayer, and my message for today will be about Prayer.

Prayer, more than anything else (we would all agree), is the true test of one’s devotion and intimacy with God.   Prayer to a Christian is like breathing. It should be as natural as breathing.  We can in fact say that one cannot be called a “true- blue” Christian, (or one cannot experience what true Christianity really is all about) if he or she does not know how to pray.

Prayer is as essential and as basic as life itself to a Christian.  One cannot be called a Christian if he/she does not know how to pray to God and asked for His help in times of adversity or when faced with stressful situations.

Truth is, if you truly consider yourself a dedicated Christian, there is no need for someone (nor this sally of mine) to remind you that you ought to pray always. It is as basic as sleeping in the evening and waking up in the morning—that’s what prayer is.

But prayer is not an “all exclusive” formula. I’m saying this because there are those who think that since they know how to pray and they in always pray to God, all they have to do is to sit back and wait for an answer. But rather, prayer should be an all inclusive work, meaning, that if you want your prayer to be the most effective prayer of all, then make your life, make your work, a prayer to God. It is all inclusive—everything you do in life should be a prayer to God.

However, there are times that our prayers are not being answered.  Most of us have deep intimate prayers that are waiting to be answered, even up to now. I have my own prayer, you have your own petitions or prayer.

Bibilically speaking, I could cite at least ten hindrances to an answered prayer. These are:

1. Our prayer is not being answered because there is disregard to God’s law. You can read that in Prov 28:9. One who turns away his ear from hearing the law,Even his prayer is an abomination.

2. A lack of compassion, a lack of empathy for those who are in need. You can read that in Prov 21:13 Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be heard.

3. Pride could be another reason. We can read that in Luke 18:9-14, Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified ratherthan the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

4. A sinful way of life, we can read that in Isa 59: 1-2,

 

Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened,
That it cannot save;Nor His ear heavy,
That it cannot hear.
2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God;
And your sins have hidden His face from you,
So that He will not hear

A way of life that is contrary to the words of God may be one reason why your prayer is not being answered.

5. Unconfessed or hidden sin. We can read that in Psalm 66:16-18

Come and hear, all you who fear God,
And I will declare what He has done for my soul.
17 I cried to Him with my mouth ,And He was extolled with my tongue.
18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear..

So it says here, if you regard iniquity in your heart, meaning, those sins that only you know, then the Lord will not hear your prayer.

6. Disobedience or being rebellious or presumptuous. We can read that in Deut 1: 43-45.

So I spoke to you; yet you would not listen, but rebelled against the command of theLord, and presumptuously went up into the mountain. 44 And the Amorites who dwelt in that mountain came out against you and chased you as bees do, and drove you back from Seir to Hormah. 45 Then you returned and wept before the Lord, but the Lord would not listen to your voice nor give ear to you.

 

Ultimately, because of the rebellious and presumptuous attitude of the Israelites, the Lord did not listen to their prayers which resulted to their defeat from the hands of their enemy.

7. Praying with a wrong motive. In James 4:1-3.

Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires forpleasure that war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet[a] you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.

That is asking, praying to God with all the wrong motives in life and God so will not hear that prayer.

8. Broken relationship. Do you have a broken relationship? God will not hear your prayer. In I Peter 3:7. Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.

Similarly, you can read in Matthew 5:23-24 about reconciling first to your brother before coming to God.

9. Unforgiving attitude. In Mark 11: 25. “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.

We need to have that forgiving attitude. We do not need to bestow forgiveness, but we must have that attitude to forgive. Jesus Christ says, if we do not forgive neither will your Father in heaven forgive our trespasses.

10. Doubt of lack of faith. In James 1:5. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

 

A prayer that lacks the faith to do it —God will not answer. As it says, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for”, so you need to have that positive assurance, for your prayer to become effective.

Going back to our question, what if, you think honestly to yourself, Oh God, I don’t see anything from the list the things that I do. Honestly and with a pure heart, I can say, I follow Your laws and commandments, I have compassion to the needy, I don’t have pride, I confess all my sins, I listen to your word, my family life is alright, I am forgiving, in fact, even if they do not yet apologize, I forgive them already. And I do not doubt you, because I believe that you will answer my prayer, etc.

And yet, you have not received answer to your prayer. You may have started thinking that since you have already waited far too long enough, there could probably no answer to your prayer.

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Seeking For Hope Amidst Crisis

after earthquake tsunamiIn times of crisis or natural calamities, most of us will have no difficulty praying to God for deliverance. This also very true when we find ourselves in the midst of extreme stress and fear, we can instantly pray and ask for God’s immediate intervention in our life. As one maxim goes, “there are no atheists in the foxholes”; it underscores this tendency of people to believe and hope for a higher power.

But when it comes to trusting God and fully submitting to Him all our lives, that’s another matter.  We think it as far fetched as to border on religious shallowness. We rely on our knowledge and material resources.

Where do your faith and security truly lie? With whom do you put your hope in?

By now most of us have probably seen how widespread and gruesome the images and pictures of the aftermath of a very powerful earthquake-triggered tsunami that almost wiped-out an entire town in Japan. We have seen footages of once bustling cities like Kesennuma, Ishinomaki, Iwate—from the Sendai, Miyagi, and Fukushima prefectures (respectively), now filled with mud.  City streets littered with debris of once beautiful houses, nice cars and luxury boats and ships, now turned into rubble by a strong torrent of sea waters. Death toll still on the rise and those who survived the onslaught are still searching for their missing loved ones. And, on top of this, the very alarming successive explosions of its nuclear facilities that could melt down and ignite apocalyptic nuclear catastrophes.

In a very rare televised address, the 77-year-old Japanese emperor Akihito encouraged his people and emphasized to never lose hope.

“I truly hope the victims of the disaster never give up hope, take care of themselves, and live strong for tomorrow,” said the emperor from his Imperial Palace.

It was a much-needed address to a beleaguered people but actually did little to provide understanding and alleviate the concern and fear of most people, wanting assurance and real security.

So where do our hope and comfort lie?

Let the words of the prophet Isaiah offered us some lasting consolations, Isaiah 40:

“Have you not known?

Have you not heard?

Has it not been told you from the beginning?

Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?

It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshopper,

Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,

And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.” (verses 21-22)

Moving forward in verse 25:

“To whom then will you liken Me,

Or to whom shall I be equal?” says the Holy One.

Lift up you eyes on high,

And see who has created these things,

Who brings out their host by number;

He call them all by name,

By the greatness of His might

And the strength of His power;

Not one is missing.”

Why do say, O Jacob,

And speak, O Israel:

“My way is hidden from the LORD,

My just claim is passed over by my God.”(verses 25-27)

Do you not know? Have you not heard? For whom can we find hope? Let us follow the line of the continuing verses:

“The everlasting God, the LORD,

The Creator of the ends of the earth,

Neither faints nor is weary.

There is no searching for His understanding.

He gives power to the weak,

And to those who have no might He increases strength.

Even the youths shall faint and be weary,

And the young men shall utterly fall,

But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength;

They shall mount up with wings like eagles,

They shall walk and not faint.”(verses 28-31)

Whom do we wait for? We wait for the LORD eternal alone!

This kind of waiting is not merely passive. It is a dynamic and deliberate act of trust based on the full assurance of faith as exemplified by His son, Jesus Christ.

By dying on the stake, He made it possible for individuals and families, nations and tribes to come to Him with the promise of eternal hope.

“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Galatians 3:27-29

“This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:39-40

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away...” 1 Peter 1:3-4

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,  teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” Titus 2:11-14

You and I can trust God to help us not only in times of need or calamity but will even provide us the full assurance of a living hope. But this will come only thru a conscious and deliberate choice to put ourselves utterly under His will.

Indeed, hope springs eternal.*

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, And whose hope is the LORD. Jeremiah 17:7

*Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin'd from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

-Alexander Pope (British Poet),
An Essay on Man, Epistle I , 1733

A Child To Behold

vivian_mattea_fae

Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister,
Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 
When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by,
He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” 
Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!”
And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home. 
John 19:25-27

It has been a puzzle to me for sometime before, the special act of Jesus Christ as described in the above verses.  Why would Jesus Christ, who was already in agony on the cross still be mindful of his mother’s plight? Why did He instruct the apostle John to treat Mary as his mother and to even take her home?

As we can read in verse 25, Mary’s sister was also there. Sons and daughters of Mary were still alive and could very well take care of Mary. So why did Jesus Christ choose apostle John and prearrange with him to take care of Mary?

It was only at this time of our family’s mourning over the death of our baby Mattea that I realized two things out of these last words of Jesus Christ.

One is Jesus Christ knew how hard for a mother to undergo a very painful experience such as the death of her child. He knew the agony of a mother who nurtured a child and then, at the peak of the child’s life, death would snatch him away.

Jesus Christ knew that His mother would wonder why her innocent child should die. Jesus Christ knew that even if it was maybe known to Mary the prophecy about His death, it would still be difficult to witness the prophecy coming true.  Jesus Christ knew that even if He will be resurrected  three days after, the three days would be like three thousand years of weeping and grieving for Mary.

Our baby Mattea, who was diagnosed to have a rare condition called hydranencephaly, had been given a “verdict” that she would not live long enough, no more than 24 hours after her birth, but God our Father has extended her life up to four months and 28 days.

So it is a great blessing that we were able to take care of our baby, attend to her need, love her, and we even saw a glimpse of her real face (despite the physically deforming condition)— those are the intimate and precious moments that seem like infinite. Our baby died peacefully on her sleep almost a month ago. Our family is slowly moving on with our lives- School work for our children, Ralph and Arielle and quest for jobs for both Raul and I.

However, at various times during the day, the pain of losing our baby comes back. The heart-wrenching grief that I felt when I first knew that baby Mattea has “slept” on me pierces through my consciousness like a javelin.

And so it gives me comfort to realize that as much as Jesus Christ cared for His mother, He cared for mothers like me who lost a child. That is why He made this special gesture of entrusting His mother to apostle John, his beloved disciple.

And why John? Why didn’t He call His brothers and sisters? Why didn’t He tell His aunt who was present with Mary to take care of her sister?

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“What For?”

What is the purpose of this life?While talking to one of my new friends I found out that he doesnt believe in a Supreme Being Who created the vast universe...a Creator Who has no beginning and Who has no end!

Ironically he believes that what comes and goes, comes again in a cycle. This reminded me of what a wise king of the Israelite nation wrote, “That which has been is what will be,That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun.”(Ecclesiastes 1:9).

My friend believes that we are here on earth just to live and go through what will happen today or tomorrow. A plain and simple purpose.

With all the modern technology surrounding us, we still witness how the rain falls from the sky, how the bird spreads its wings and glides, we still hear the thunder roar and the lightning strike, we still can savor the sprouting leaves from the stems of a tree branch... and despite all that... most people tend to live lives in quiet desperation... with the modern way of living, of highly sophisticated gadgets which never seem to stop being upgraded, still most men search for the meaning of life, the very purpose of life they have now!

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In The Lion’s Den

lion makes a killWhen I was younger, my late father used to bring me to the zoo for some retreat and education. There I really enjoyed viewing different animals God made. It was pleasing to my young eyes but I also felt sorry for their plight, lingering inside a cage like criminals condemned to rot in jail.

Years passed, I have my own family now.  Once in a while we also visit the zoo for the same reason, but this time with the purpose of bonding as well.  The last time I went with my family was before I left the Philippines to work here in Canada.

So much of the fond memories... anyway why am I saying this? Well I was reminded of this after reading a recent news item about a man visiting the zoo beaten and almost gored by a lion. How did it happen? The lion is inside a cage or den, and outside the fence are large signs that bear the words “DO NOT FEED THE LION.”

Now one may ask, “Why do others continue to disobey, despite the warning sign?” Are we excused? Definitely the answer is a big no! The Bible says “The heart is deceitful above all...” (Jer.17:9, Rom.7:15). As in the case of the man, why was he still tempted to go over the fence and sneak into the lions cave? The reward is brutal, he barely escaped with his life...

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P/T or F/T?

part time, full timeAcross one of the most prosperous countries in the world today is a dire need of laborers or employees. You could see in almost all the newspapers on every street corner and establishment the intention of business-minded people to hire more laborers to man their businesses.

The words “HELP WANTED:F/T and P/T”, or the words NOW HIRING are visible to everyone. FT means full time and PT simply means part time...and you could imagine that job vacancies are begging for laborers in this part of the world. No wonder most people living here if not all had dual jobs, as I also personally think that this contributes for the need of more part timers.

How about you? Given the chance to see those signs hanging around everywhere and knowing you are both qualified and willing to take the job..would you settle for F/T? Or would you want to enjoy the best of both worlds and balance which job is better and settle for the P/T? Well whatever you choose should be considered seriously. All matters...

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