Praise is an act of Faith

January 12, 2009

Yesterday, my wife and I attended Crossway Church. It is one of the congregations we go to when we are not doing circuit visits.

The worship leader was Aron. I knew his style, selection of songs and overall approach. When he started leading the worship, I knew that it was going to be difficult for me. I was in too much pain to be singing fast and upbeat praise songs. I was looking forward to the sobered hymns and réflective music. I closed my eyes and tried to sing as well but no words came out.
I heard Aron encouraging us to remember the good deeds of the Lord.  I remembered the Lord’s kindness and thanked Him again and again for what He has done and continues to do.  I remembered Hebrews 1:3 – how everything is being sustained by His name.

My quiet meditation would be interrupted more by the disruptive mental images in my mind. Pictures, words, frozen moments of our continuing challenge would wrestle my attention away from my praise.

It was difficult – and in a moment, my praise turned to despair.  There I was, in the midst of a very praise-filled congregation, alone and un-reached in my desolation.

I whispered “Lord, I cannot sing…”

He gently whispered back…”focus on WHO I AM and not on what you are going through right now…”

It was a divine answer that I needed to hear again.  Focus on WHO the LORD is.  FOCUS on HIS character and not on the ongoing trials no matter how difficult it would seem.

PRAISE the LORD because of WHO HE IS and not only BECAUSE OF WHAT HE HAS DONE.  Many times when we just focus on the latter, we would eventually find ourselves focusing on what HE HASN’T DONE YET. We will also find ourselves focusing on things that are still waiting for resolution, loved ones that need to be healed, freed from their bondage, dreams that are still yet to be fulfilled.

FOCUS ON WHO CHRIST IS.  I slowly recalled the nature and character of Christ. And out of pain-wracked heart, a small praise came out of my lips that could barely open up to sing.  I was not singing like I used to, but my heart was lifted up in praise.

Praise is always an act of faith.

We know this more intuitively and subjectively when it gets to be more difficult to praise because of the hardships we go through.  But the praise of the Lord is NEVER diminished by the overwhelming odds stacked against us.  We praise GOD for WHO HE IS. WE PRAISE HIM even if the answer may be a NO or a NOT YET.  We praise HIM because of HIS NATURE and HIS CHARACTER.

Praise is always an act of faith.

Yesterday, this subjective reality, was my objective reality.

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.

From one hurricane to the next

September 18, 2008

We are just beginning to see the aftermath of “Ike” – and even before we could fully assess the damage and the dramatic stories of the people who survived, financial hurricanes were blowing Wall Street. Reverberations of these financial meltdowns will have its effect in markets overseas.

Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and then the AIG (my Philippine insurance company is a subsidiary of AIG!) that needed BAILOUT.

What was touted to be the MOST STABLE among them needed an $85B infusion. I could not at the top of my head count how many zeroes you write after $85 much less comprehend what it all meant.

While everything may seem to be going back to normal, ( if we could still ever go back to that one, yeah) I am beginning to wonder about all the other banks (CITIGROUP and others). It was not just the reliability of the levees that were tested. It was not just the financial powerhouses that are being tested. It seems like ANYTHING that would claim to be STRONG, RELIABLE, FORMIDABLE are being tested to its very core.

In the global economy, climate change, OFW migration, corruption that are undetected to the highest levels, dirty political campaigns, showdown of powerful countries, continued bombings in Iraq and the unchecked wars in Afghanistan… NOTHING in this world is ever sure.  The very core of our belief and foundations are being shaken.

How about you?  How is your life? How are you doing?

If your life is like a small raft sailing a raging ocean, you are not alone.

It does not need an IKE in our lives to render our foundations, morale and sure-footing in crumbles. Sometimes it takes an unexpected call. Or you were waiting for the call that never happened. Maybe you just touched the wall of your job that said DEAD END, or you see the value of your hard-earned money dwindling before your eyes as you stare at the prices at the gas pumps, or you sigh at the end of another day and wonder “when will it be over?”. Or the relationship you cherished are now being thrown back at you like a used rag. Or the nights are getting shorter and the days are getting longer as you wait for a son to come home.

You are not alone.

I wish I have some magnificent words that will act like a balm over your searing pain.

I wish I could tell you when all these will end.

One thing I do know, is that all of these will also end for you.

Just like Hurricane Ike, the stormy weather will also pass.

The sun will shine again as you mend the broken panes of your windows to the world.

Hang in there.

It will be over soon.