Have you ever experienced this?  Have you ever considered that when you are just about to really throw in the towel and give up, that is when something happens to lift you up?

I have read this somewhere, when I was a lot younger, that the night is at its darkest when dawn is about to break forth…

I remember waking up my boothmate (Booth 1010!) Aaron Bennis at 3 am, during my senior year, just to show him a phenomenon I had never seen before.  I woke up at 3 am (we were located in the Piney Woods of Texas!) and saw a very clear delineated line of darkness and light.  It was the one of the most spectaculars things I have ever seen. It was as if the heavens were a blank slate of black and white.  The edge of  the blackness  – was really at its darkest… or maybe it could have been inherent, or the juxtaposition of darkness and light highlighted the dramatic contrast of each.

It is similar to what we experience from time to time.

A parallel to this is when “God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness.”

When we have just given up.  When we have thrown in the towel. When we don’t want to fight anymore and just surrender everything to Him (shredded threads and all…) and suddenly, His mercy is made manifest in our lives.  The mercy and grace is made “perfect” because there is nothing left to distract us.  In our utmost dependence on Him, God’s strength becomes perfect for us.

Recall the experience of Mary crying at the sight of the opened tomb and with just the graveyard clothes left by Jesus.  Consider Mary Magdalene, just waiting for the angry stones thrown at her – just waiting for them to hit her shame-racked body.  Consider the disciples who rowed for about 8 hours through the night, tired, discouraged maybe wondering what was going to happen next – and only to be deathly afraid at the sight of Jesus walking on water.  Consider the widow and her son who prayed as they cooked their last meal and knew that there won’t be any meals afterwards and how they readied themselves to die of hunger…

When you look at the scriptural evidences… it seemed that the night is at its darkest, just when the light is about to break through.

I must admit that I do not want to sound pollyanna-ish about the whole thing. The last thing I would want is to minimize what you are going through. Some of you may have lost your homes due to the recession.  Thousands have lost their jobs and have wiped out their savings and other bank accounts.  I know of a father who lost his precious 2-year old son on Christmas day.  We hear of thousands of OFWs who are facing potential job loss because the world’s economy is running to the ground.

It is very dark right now.

But I submit to you – light is about to break forth.

Never lose hope even if your heart is tired of hoping.

Never stop praying even if every part of your body would like to deny the existence of the ONE who can make all things possible.

And in the words of a well-loved statesman… “Never, never, never quit…”

This is not a hope that is based on the theology of tomorrow – or the incantations of the superstitions.

This hope is firmly grounded on WHO Christ is.

Securely fastened in His unconditional love not just for some, not just for the righteous – but for all of us.

So stop fighting my friend.

Jim Elliot, one of the 5 missionaries killed in the jungles of South America as they tried to evangelize the Auca Indians wrote: ” I open my hands to give what I cannot keep, to gain what I may never lose…”

Open your hands to give all the pain and sorrow that you cannot keep.

Open wide your hands to receive mercy and grace that you in Christ will never lose…”

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.

” Would I Be Enough?”

January 7, 2009

Driving home late one evening, about 2 weeks before Christmas 2008, I felt a stirring within me.  I was having a quiet driving conversation with the Lord and I was telling the Lord how Christmas has become a season for self-centeredness and consumerism.

How it was easy to lose the real reason of the season when the preparation of the heart involves looking at physical gifts, expensive gadgets and awesome parties, to name a few.

Since I was talking with the Lord, I asked the Lord what gift He would give me.

I started naming those gadgets I had been salivating for quite some time now:

Xperia – yes Lord, that is such a nice phone and wow all the features are really good.

OMNIA – wow Lord that is also nice..

iPhone – that one too… wow just one of those cool nifty gadgets and I knew it would be a real awesome break!

But then I felt the Lord asking me a question:  ” If I were to come wrapped in a present, WOULD I BE ENOUGH AS A GIFT?”

There was a pause.  “Am I Enough?”

The following morning, I shared this conversation with Wifey over breakfast. It was a very powerful reminder that the real reason for the season is not those cool laptops, cellphones, parties etc… the real reason is JESUS HIMSELF.  He is the gift.

Little did I know that when the Lord asked me that question, He was already preparing me or giving me what I would need as we experienced what I have called “the bleakest period” of my life in recent years.

The huge problem is still not over.  I can already begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I was asked by a friend how I was doing and that simple question became such a profound question that it literally hurt inside as I tried to answer the simple question.

On the eve of Christmas day, I found myself staring at the horrors of pride and un-forgiveness.  Pride does hurt and makes the righteous fall. Unforgiveness makes one sink deeper than what is imaginable.

I remember driving home with Wifey a little past midnight… with tears literally blinding my eyes.  And as I drove, I heard the question “Am I Enough? Am I enough?” being asked of me.  It was not asked in a condemnatory way but I knew that answering that question would give me the strength to make it through the deepest valleys.

As each day slowly progressed, as each painful moment was slowly played out – I found myself answering “Yes, you are enough!  Yes, you are enough!

I didn’t want anything else. I didn’t long for the parties and the sumptious dinners.  No I did not want anything else – not even the solution to our dilemma. I only wanted Christ.

On Christmas day, like a bruised reed, I got up from bed and with no schedule for the day, just watched FOX news as they showed the Christmas sermon of Ptr. Rick Warren.  I briefly smiled when he started using Hebrews 11:6, a passage I had used for one of the retreats I had conducted recently.

But what really struck me was when he said ” Do not exert too much energy focusing on the solutions to your problems… focus on WHO HE IS. FOCUS on CHRIST alone…”

It was definitely a message for me.  I was too weak and too hurt to find any solution – and that was the perfect state to just seek Christ alone.  Lord, yes you are enough. You are more than enough!

We are almost there, but not quite.  The other night I felt like I went through an extensive open heart surgery.  It was clearly needed – and the heart can only be healed through such an extensive heart operation.  I even praised God for allowing it to happen.  The “heart stitches” have been done – and in its most fragile state, utmost tenderness must be done to ensure its proper healing in the days to come.

Yes… our healing is on its way.

Yesterday as Wifey and I went to the mall to get some of our groceries, I was very surprised to hear the Christmas songs still being played in the mall.  I missed Christmas.  It all just came and went.  It was a long vacation here in this country – made longer in our anticipation to see the end of what we were going through.

I found myself humming the songs “O Holy Night…”, ‘Come All ye Faithful…”

I was singing again.  My wounded heart is able to sing again – and it was my wife who quietly pointed it out to me when she said “Hubby is singing again…”

I smiled quietly.

Yes Lord… thank you.. You are the only Christmas gift I would ever want in this lifetime.

Lord, you are more than enough.

Serenity Prayer

January 4, 2009

This is my first post for 2009.  The Christmas break is ending soon and it seemed like it just came and went.  Now the Christmas lantern needs to be taken down and other christmas decors need to be put away.  I had barely enjoyed the lights and now it is back to the usual grind.

Let me share with you this Serenity Prayer.

May it usher peace in your hearts during those dark and discouraging moments.  I read this again and again tonight, and the more I did, the more I realize its simplicity and its profundity.

God, grant me the serenity

to accept the things I cannot change,

the courage to change the things I can,

and the wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time,

enjoying one moment at a time:

accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;

taking, as Jesus did,

this sinful world as it is,

not as I would have it:

trusting that You will make all things right

if I surrender to your will;

so that I may be reasonably happy in this life

and supremely happy with you  forever in the next.

AMEN

Reinhold Niebuhr

ABS-CBN news reported last night that there has been an increase of filipino families not eating 3 meals a day. In recent nights, they had also reported that crime against property has significantly increased when compared with other crimes.

The recent spate of crimes are becoming economically driven.

I could only give a quizzical look over those news items where people were lining up to buy the latest 3G iPhone. They sold more than 11million units in the early days of opening sale. Lines upon lines of people were willing to do it just to hold in their hands, the most prized gadget in months.

Sometimes it makes me wonder, when is the breaking point?

As more and more people worldwide are feeling the heavy blows of economic recession/depression/inflation and unbelievable rising cost of everything, everybody’s question is until when? When will this stop? When will things go back to normal?

An aunt from the US emailed and said they are bracing for a possible economic depression. There is an on-going consumer-led recession right now in the US and corporations are seeing a big slump in their profits because people are buying less. (Buying less because of the lesser value of their money, as has been the case here)

Earlier I said I gave the iPhone news item a quizzical look. I feel like there are certain parts of the world that has subjectively closed their eyes on the plight of the people. Life goes on in certain places where the economic recession is still quite a long way. The rest of the oil-dependent countries are reeling with these realities while the price of fuel in the Middle East ( Saudi Arabia) per liter is just about P5! Imagine that, the price of liter of gasoline is cheaper than a piece of Kalihim bread in the local bakery!

5.00 PHP

=

0.112082 USD

Philippines Pesos United States Dollars
1 PHP = 0.0224165 USD 1 USD = 44.6100 PHP

http://www.xe.com/ucc/convert.cgi

What an imbalance. Even the Pope in his talks said that we have squandered the earth’s resources. Kofi Annan said that it is the impoverished people of Africa and Asia who are the front-liners in the effects of the global climate change as these countries are very dependent on food production and agriculture.

I have been scouring for news items and things that would show that even our local government cares about the people. That there are programs in place, actions being done and officials rushing to create policies so that many more impoverished people would be helped.

When is the breaking point?

Romans 8:18-28 (New International Version)

New International Version (NIV)Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Future Glory

18I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that[a] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

22We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

26In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.

More Than Conquerors

28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,[b] who[c] have been called according to his purpose.

Powerful words. Powerful words of encouragement. While we may suffer still, there is a point when all of these things will stop and we will be liberated from decay and bondage. V28 is a statement that must be taken in faith and by faith especially as we go through difficult times. This the OBJECTIVE REALITY.

1. God is at work for the good.

2. God is at work for the good of those who love him.

3. God is at work for the good of those who love and are called according to His purpose.

Hang in there. God hears your cries. God is not a God who is un-moved by the plight of His children. His heart breaks when we suffer because He loves us so much. But when we look at the pain and suffering in our lives, we may only be seeing the small piece of the whole masterpiece, yet God sees the whole thing in completion.

He is with us in our difficulties, and yet, He has already seen us as conquerors.

Another inspiring scripture is

4 Even to your old age and gray hairs
I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

Let us hang on to God’s words. While every circumstances and situations may dissuade us from holding on to the word of God, I pray that God would enable us to trust more, believe more, hope more, and when necessary, endure more.

Until we see how God has redeemed what we have been through.

In Jesus’ name,

AMEN

Death of a Pastor. . .

June 23, 2008

We were about to end the Men’s Conference last Saturday when a colleague showed me an sms on his phone. One of our elder pastors in Southern Luzon died from a cardiac arrest early that morning. Ptr. David Oloya has passed on.

I was on the phone giving instructions to my wife who was at that time having car problems, when the Area Superintendent in Southern Luzon approached me and shared some very recent events with Ptr. Dave. He said that last June 16, Pastor Dave celebrated his 77th birthday. The church leaders gathered around him and presented to him a birthday cake (it was his first bday cake) and he blew the candles. The Superintendent said “he was a picture of perfect happiness” at that time. It turned out to be a wonderful birthday gift, a wonderful time with people who loved him, a wonderful time to honor the man of God because he was about to go home.

In 2004, Ptr Dave was sent to Kerala, India to teach at a livelihood center there as part of the denominational missionary efforts. I still remember him sitting with us inside the office of the national director as we were waiting for the send-off ceremonies downstairs. I was part of the Missions Board at that time and part of the sending ceremonies would be to ask some questions we would like to ask our missionaries before they take off. I remember asking him why in his old age would he want to go overseas to become a short-term missionary?

Ptr. Dave was quiet for awhile and then slowly opened his hands before me and said ” Pag tinitignan ko nga ang mga kamay ko na kulubot na… tinatanong ko nga ang God kung may magagamit pa ba Siya sa mga kamay na ito? Ang sabi ko sa Panginoon – gamitin lang Niya ang mga kamay na ito ng naaayon sa kanyang kagustuhan…” (When I look at my wrinkled hands, I could not help but ask the Lord if He could still use these hands? I told the Lord to use these hands according to His purpose and will…”)

What he said 4 years ago never left me. I can still picture him infront of me with his wrinkled hands open before my eyes. I was asked to say the prayer at the send-off ceremonies. There were no dry eyes in that conference hall that afternoon. God in His abounding grace and mercy, has deemed to send 2 senior citizens to India so that through their skills, the gospel will be preached.

Ptr. Dave Oloya is now with the Father. He has faithfully served the Lord for 30 years.

Thank you Lord for the life of Ptr Dave. Thank You for your life that has been made manifest in His. Thank you for the impact that his life had on the people, communities, churches and outreaches that he did. Thank you for loving him and sustaining him throughout his physical life. We have been blessed by who he has become.

I am looking at my hands as I type this and the same prayer is being formed in my lips.

“Lord, I also open my hands and wonder how you could use these. Use these hands according to your will and purpose in my life…. Thank you for the privilege of participating in your Kingdom work. Our efforts are puny and we make a lot of mistakes. But I realize now that we do not need to worry too much about the results because it is not about us, it is all about YOU. ”

In Jesus’ name.

AMEN.

PS. Ptr Dave – I will see you in heaven. The next time I see you and you open your hands, I will see how glorious your hands have become.

Five-fold surrender

April 8, 2008

The mind surrendered to be an intelligent Christian

The heart surrendered to be a loving Christian

The body surrendered to be a useful Christian

The spirit surrendered to be a dynamic Christian

The will surrendered to be an obedient Christian

– Charles Roesel

Lord show me which area of my life have I not fully surrendered for your unhindered use?