At Peace with God’s Testings

A son whose simple dream was to get a good job abroad to bring prosperity to his family; who loves his father and mother that even at a young age, he accepted a job offer to work in China, just so he can help them. A son who loves the Lord Jesus and served Him faithfully. But fate would have it that this young man would taste the bitterness of God’s hard testing. While believing that his dream was at last within his reach, he ended up in a prison in China and was locked up. He was charged of transporting drugs to that country – a “drug mule”. How harder could it get?

How could he face the reality of a dream shattering to thousand irretrievable pieces? But maybe that’s easier to accept and come to terms to compared to the horrifying and uncertain future in prison in a foreign land with a charge that when proven guilty would send him to his death. How could he face every single day, knowing that that country is the world’s leading executioner?

And then there’s this wife whose fervent prayer is a blissful marriage, but what she’s been having for years is a difficult one, one that often sends her to great despair  and lose hope even of life, let alone a harmonious and peaceful married life. A wife whose soul is wearied by her spouse’s unkindness and seeming lack of love by the way he treats her most of the time. A wife who prays and wrestles, strives and fails, rises and believes, only to see herself go through the same cycle over again.

A wife who wants to hide from her God because she just couldn’t face Him with repeated failures and ugly mess. Who wants to escape and run as far away from frustrations, unhappiness and confusions as possible. A wife who thinks that the fights she never wanted make her unwhole and impure in the sight of God and what shall she do now? What shall she do with her dreams and her desire for almost-perfect marriage? How shall she close her eyes from the world’s standard of a happy marriage? But most of all, how shall she live with the daunting realization that this might just be the case for the rest of their life here on earth?

The son in prison survives every single day because of Jesus. In the dark prison cell, He is his light. In moments of uncontrollable fear, He is his strength. Jesus’ love is kept hidden in his heart; nothing in this world could steal it from him. And the fire of his love for Him which flourished throughout the years that he served Him freely, keeps burning in his heart.

He reads his Bible everyday like it was his lifeline (indeed, it IS our lifeline!). He is given strength from above to rise up morning by morning to share the Gospel to his fellow prisoners, even to those who oversee them. He has given up thoughts about his own life and future. Maybe in the soul level, he has died to them. He lives surrendered to God and His will. He lives embracing his testing, suffering, and calling.

And the wife? Jesus spoke to her to embrace her life with all its testings and hardships. She should not run away from it but let Him do His work. She should not think that the mess, the failures, the frustrations do not make her impure as long as her heart is right with Him, connected with Him, and her whole being – her eyes, heart, mind and soul – is focused on Him.

And she was freed and knew that with the exhilarating freedom came a commitment, a covenant, that. she. will. not. dare. take. her eyes. off. of. Him. Her eyes, heart, mind, and soul must be engaged fully with Him. And yes, she can. She can go on with life, marriage, family, plans, service, ministry, with joy!

How can they be at peace with God and their woeful situation? How can we be at peace with our own testings and sufferings? It is this, this is the key:

For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. 20 For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us,[a] leaving us[b] an example, that you should follow His steps:

22 “Who committed no sin,
Nor was deceit found in His mouth”. (1 Pet. 2:19-22)

When we do good and suffer, and we endure the grief and take it patiently because of God – this is COMMENDABLE before Him.

We were CALLED to suffer with Christ and follow His steps.

This is our freedom, the balm to our pains and sufferings. This is our light in our confusions and comfort in our afflictions. This is our assurance in our discouragements and encouragement in our failures and frustrations.

Related article: A Reward for the Righteous (includes the testimony of the brother in Christ who was mentioned above).

Journey with Jesus,

When the Space Between Heaven and Hell Became Narrow

(Meditating on Psalm 82)

Last week, my husband went home to the province to attend the wake of his uncle. His uncle, together with his beloved wife, received the Lord Jesus Christ some years ago but their ten grown-up children who were scattered abroad have not. When my husband arrived in his uncle’s home where the wake was being held, he saw many people gathered around gambling tables. This is a common scene in the Philippines where the wake of a dead person is usually held in the home. People from around the neighborhood would flock to the place , set up gambling tables, and this would run the whole night, night after night until the day of burial.

On the last day of viewing, preachers and workers from the provincial outreach of Jesus Miracle Crusade International Ministry came to hold a worship service and Bible Study. The gambling tables were pushed to the side to make room for the service. The gamblers who were really just ordinary folks that included fathers, mothers, teenagers, and idle people who mostly do nothing but gamble, smoke, and drink liquor, stood to the side as the worship service began.

My husband noticed that these people stayed far and showed a general disinterest or boredom.

They do not know, nor do they understand;
They walk about in darkness;
All the foundations of the earth are unstable. 
(Psalm 82:5)

JMCIM worship services and Bible Studies usually last for at least 4 hours, with at least 1-2 hours of praise and worship. My husband was hoping that the people and bystanders would come near and listen to the Good News and receive the Lord Jesus Christ, but they remained where they were.

As my husband was telling me what he saw, I imagined the Lord bringing near the kingdom of God to these people, but they chose to be rooted to the ground where they stood – a shaky, dangerous ground that could give in any time and swallow them all up. I imagined that  for a few hours, the Lord brought down heaven (by this I mean God’s salvation) levelled to the ground where the people stood, but they chose to not move and walk over to the other side. For a few hours, the space between life and death became so narrow and they only had to cross that line, then everything in their lives would have become entirely different.

For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. (Heb. 4:2)

They could not enter in because of unbelief. The enemy has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts. After the Bible Study, the people rushed to the gambling tables. My husband observed that they couldn’t wait to start what they loved doing. This, truly, is a most deplorable situation.

But as long as we have breath, we will pray, testify, and preach the Gospel.

Journey with Jesus,

The Practice of Love

The kids and I gather together this evening. I had been desiring for our family to have a gathering in the evenings to read the Bible, talk about what we have read, each give thanks for the day, then pray. But I know that my beloved husband can’t be easily invited to such. He sings praises, worships and prays every night for more or less two hours. Gathering with the family for the purposes I have mentioned is a thing he’d rather not join. This saddens me but I was determined to start with our two kids.

Hannah and I have been meeting to read the Bible and discuss, but this time, we include soon-to-be five-year-old Tim for he also needs a lot of teaching and praying over.

Lately, I have been thinking deeply on how to honour God more in my life. I felt that there must be something more to all the things that I do, something that is wrought by the Lord in and through me. I know that I lack and I err and I fail to follow through all that He wants me to  be and to do.

So the three of us gather together, forming a small circle (I don’t want any of the Lord’s words to fall to the ground). We talk about love. I point out to them that we are not loving the way the Lord Jesus wants us to. I tell them that sometimes we choose to be impatient, unkind, ungentle to one another. I point to myself. Why do I let myself speak harshly at times and snap rather than pay attention? Why can’t I completely rein in my temper and just be known for my gentleness? Why can’t I stop myself from answering back their dad when I am hurt? Why can’t I just take the pain and keep quiet? Most often, it’s my pride that gets hurt. So then, why can’t I just kill my pride? Didn’t the Lord tell us to pluck out our eye or cut off our hand if these make us sin? To have a meek and quiet spirit is still my earnest prayer.

“If I am not known for my gentleness, what am I known for? What are we known for?” I ask them, voice cracking. Why would you shove your brother to the side? I am looking intently at Hannah. Why can’t we love just like the Lord loves? Tears find their way out.

“We can’t stay like this”, I tell them. But I also tell them that I’m thankful I’m hurt and broken this way, for that means I’m not numb to God and His commandments. For if one has become numb and unmindful of God and what He thinks, one has become barren, spiritually dead. I am thankful for His tuggings at my heart for I know I am fully feeling, knowing, seeing. I am fully awake! The tears flow freely.

And I tell them more, like the Lord’s commandment (well, more like an urgent plea) to His disciples before He was taken to be crucified.

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (John 13:34-35, emphasis added)

We will be known as the Lord’s disciples by the way we love  one another.

“Can we begin to practise love, really, intentionally practise love everyday starting today? Just like how the Lord loves us?” I ask them. The Lord is not harsh nor unkind nor shoves nor shouts at us. Hannah nods sincerely.

I hold Tim’s face. His still-baby skin feels so soft in my hand. I tell him about loving by showing respect. I tell him what is love and what is not. I explain, I implore, and I am held in awe by how his beautiful eyes grow bigger and rounder. His eyes have opened and rounded to the full and I am amazed at the beauty of the faith of a child. If only we could easily open our eyes that big and round and fix them to Jesus, just like little children do. 

Maybe then we would not miss anything. Maybe then we could practise love everyday, even every moment.

We end with prayer. I pray and reach and cry out to God. I offer up our lives; we are His. For only in His light do our uglinesses vanish and we are changed. And we love Him so, with all our hearts, minds, and souls. Copious tears keep streaming down. We have been touched.

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Be Fully Awake!

Some time ago, I wrote The Lukewarm, taking heed of the Spirit’s leading and teaching at that time. Without a doubt in my heart, The Lukewarm was inspired by God, and I invite you to read it if you had missed it before as a background for this post :).

I was reminded by this post last night after I heard the testimony of a sister in Christ during Friday overnight service. She and her beloved husband are pastoral workers; the sister also sings in the Jesus Finest Generation Choir. From her testimony, I understood that her husband had grown lukewarm in his service to God. Why did I conclude that he was lukewarm and not cold? Because as I had written in The Lukewarm, the lukewarm make the effort of showing to everyone that they are still in the faith and going through the motions of serving God, but the fervor is gone.

They do it in hypocrisy, a farce, a thing which God hates.

I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot.16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot,[a] I will vomit you out of My mouth. (Rev. 3:15-16)

So, for a long time, this brother made a show of serving God every worship service, but as his beloved wife has testified, he wasn’t really into the things of God: praising and worshiping, praying, and reading the Bible daily. When he was in the worship service, he did his menial job but spent most of the time talking with his peers. He did not worship during time of deep worship, and he did not open his Bible during Bible Study and preaching.

Many times his beloved wife admonished him, even encouraged him to open up and talk about his spiritual state, but he wouldn’t listen. Until one day, the Lord took his health and strength. He became sick of diabetes and UTI among other ailments that afflicted him. He lost a lot of weight. Then there came a time that he became very ill that he was brought to the hospital. He was struggling to live.

Because of God’s chastisement, he changed his attitude towards Him. He repented of his negligence and shortcomings. He became more fervent in worshiping with the strength he had; he read the Bible often during the day, and his prayers became earnest, agonizing.

Until today, he is still begging God to heal him and give him another chance to honor and serve Him. He and his beloved wife continue to pray and be zealous in serving Him amid the hard trial.

I am thankful to God that He is ever faithful to send us reminders for us to perfect our ways before him, either directly to us or through a brother or a sister. This is a wake-up call for all of us. We cannot hide anything from God, no, not even the deepest crevices of our hearts. He knows everything in there more than we do. Remember the apostle’s admonition:

And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. (Heb. 4:13)

There is no more time to be complacent, to be lukewarm in our love and service to God. He is coming so very soon and He wants to awaken us from our spiritual stupor. We need to stop acting and faking it and going about our lives being numb to the things of God, but at last be fully awake to them!

And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. (Rom. 13:11 NIV)

Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning… (1 Cor. 15:34 NIV)

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My gratitude list ~ the gifts I received from the hand of the Lord:

  • healing of Hannah of her stomachache and diarrhea with fever
  • late-night giggling and laughing with her about something funny that she said
  • renewed inspiration to write and photograph
  • delectable cakes from neighbor
  • luxuriating in exotic-scented bath products
  • new inspirations, new beginnings ~ change is good!

I’m linking up with other blogs, please check the list at the side bar.

A Heart Check

(Meditating on Psalm 81)

Sing aloud to God our strength;
Make a joyful shout to the God of Jacob.
Raise a song and strike the timbrel,
The pleasant harp with the lute. 

For this is a statute for Israel,
A law of the God of Jacob. 
(Psalm 81:1,2,4)

This, also, is the statute of our Church: to sing praises and worship God not only during worship service when the congregation gathers, but also in our own homes, in the morning and in the evening. Those who do this fervently with a willing spirit are blessed beyond their hearts’ desires, specially with a stronger faith in God.

But there are those who neglect to praise and worship and their focus was diverted to the things of the world: agendas, schedules, plans, and passions with other things like careers, hobbies, and other pursuits that may veer one away from deep communion with God. The more time spent with our pursuits, the less time we give in seeking God. Even in the time of private praise and worship, one may not be spiritually present; one’s mind and heart may be upon the to-do lists, or other exciting projects that await.

When our affections and passions (am I being redundant?) are diverted from the living God to the things of this world, aren’t we loving, adoring, and worshiping them instead? Isn’t this a form of idolatry? God admonished His people Israel:

There shall be no foreign god among you;
Nor shall you worship any foreign god. 
(v. 9)

I’ve heard testimonies in Church that they got so engrossed with work or flourishing businesses that they began to neglect to praise and worship God with all their beings. They had forsaken the Spirit’s admonition. They could no longer listen to Him for their hearts had been captured by their passions or given away to their work’s demands. Until one day, they found they no longer walked in the presence of the Lord. The Holy Spirit had left.

But My people would not heed My voice,
And Israel would have none of Me.
12 So I gave them over to their own stubborn heart,
To walk in their own counsels.
 (vv. 11-12, emphasis added)

To be given up by God is a most dreadful thing to happen.

Where do are our affections lie? Do we praise God with our lips but our hearts are far from Him? Do we worship in vain? Or do we delight in Him more than anything in this world? It is good to always have a heart check.

God’s Perfect Plan

God has a perfect plan for all of us: to save and call us and give us eternal life. This was established even before time began and fulfilled through the Lord Jesus Christ.

[God] has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, 10 but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.  (2 Tim. 1:9-10)

This was what the Lord has done:

He has abolished death (eternal death in the lake of fire)

He has brought life (eternal life with Him in heaven)

Only through Him shall we receive these:

Wisdom in exchange for our madness and foolishness.

Righteousness in exchange for our sinfulness.

Sanctification in exchange for our uncleanness and natural sway towards impurity.

Redemption in exchange for our condemnation and eternal punishment.

(1 Cor. 1:30)

This is God’s perfect plan for us, His amazing grace, His ultimate blessing. Who wouldn’t want it? But the tragic truth is, there are many who miss on it. The following maybe the reasons why:

They have not heard the true Gospel of salvation (for false doctrines abound which are devoid of truth and power).

They don’t believe in or have a clear understanding of the existence of heaven and hell.

They choose the pleasures of the world which they can revel in now over an everlasting life which they can’t quite believe or grasp.

Self-righteousness. They believe that they are good, they do good works, and have not committed a grave sin.

Then there are those so-called Christians but in their lives the teachings of the Bible are not at all evident. They are not fooling anyone, but they themselves are fooled.

So, we continue to tell the world of God’s love and we will not relent. We continue to tell and show that God loves them and is not willing that anyone should perish, but that all should come to repentance and be saved (2 Pet. 3:9 paraphrased).

Oh, friend, if you have been repeatedly turning a deaf ear to the true Gospel of salvation, to Jesus’ calling; if you have been resisting His love and mercy for whatever reason, don’t do it any longer. Come to Him. Receive Him. Know the keys of salvation here.

(Photo courtesy of Bro. Edu Cortez of extremedetails.com).
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More Than Overseas Workers

It is with great gladness that I share this with you today. Though I’m still recuperating from severe diarrhea with fever and body pains that I suffered during the holidays, the Lord has brought a new wave of freshness to my humble work.

I’ve heard so many testimonies from overseas workers and seamen in our Church, JESUS MIRACLE CRUSADE INTERNATIONAL MINISTRY, of how they are being used by the Lord to advance His kingdom. Our country, Philippines, is known for “exporting” work force – professionals as well as skilled workers – to all parts of the world, but mostly to the Middle East. They are called OFWs or Overseas Filipino Workers. A lot of Filipinos also choose to work as seamen since this is a high-paying job, and though life in the ship is hard, compounded by the agony of being far away from their loved ones, they make the sacrifice, for it is through their overseas jobs that they can put food on their tables, build their dream houses, and send their kids to school. So, in general, that is the life of the overseas Filipino worker.

But the Christians from our Church who are OFWs are more than that. They are also zealous workers in the vineyard of the Lord, even in a foreign land which maybe hostile against Christianity, or aboard a cargo ship surrounded by other nationalities. For years I’ve been hearing their testimonies of how they work to preach the Gospel side by side with their jobs wherein they were hired, but it is only now that I realized this is actually the fulfilment of God’s great commission.

Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. (Mark 16:15)

(Above photos were taken during the JMCIM-Saudi Arabia Spiritual Revival Gathering held last October, attended by Riyadh, Al-Khobar, Jeddah, and Dammam brethren with their visitors. Photos courtesy of Sis. Luchie Villacarlos.)

(Photo taken during the 5th Church Anniversary of JMCIM-Dubai Outreach, courtesy of Bro. Enry Bantay.)

They voluntarily give themselves to the furtherance of the Gospel, despite their full-time job, and put up outreach stations where they can meet and worship. They invite colleagues, co-workers, and friends, and their groups continue to grow. More outreach stations are mushrooming, specially in the Middle East. In Saudi Arabia, they go to such dangerous lengths just to gather and worship. I wrote about JMCIM-Saudi Arabia’s activities here. I hope you’ll have time to read it and be encouraged by how these beloved brethren in Christ put their lives in danger for the sake of the Gospel. Through their labors and the unceasing prayers with fasting of our beloved Hon. Pastor Wilde Almeda, many have received the Lord Jesus Christ, Muslims have converted, and they continue to serve the Lord to this day. 

(One of many Bible Studies at POLO/OWWA, Doha-Qatar)

Lately, the beloved brethren in Qatar have been holding crusades in the OWWA (Overseas Workers Welfare Association ) Office where many of our beloved countrymen are housed. Most of them are destitute, being faced with seemingly unsurmountable problems, such as disputes with the government, their employers or co-workers or battling illness. After they had heard the Gospel and received the Lord Jesus Christ, their problems had been resolved and most of them had been sent home.

(General worship service of JMCIM-Hong Kong; photo courtesy of Sis. Satty Bulusan)

(Beloved HK brethren giving out Church invitations; photos courtesy of Sis. Satty Bulusan)

In Hong Kong as you know, many of our countrymen work there as domestic helpers. Brethren from JMCIM maintain an outreach station there and they meet every Sunday when most of them are off from work. Every now and then, the main Church in Manila sends a preacher to visit them and stays for weeks. After their Sunday worship service, these faithful brethren go out and share the Gospel to others and bring them to Christ. It would be late when they return to the homes where they serve. That is how they spend their day off.

The seamen are not behind in their calling either. They are as zealous in sharing the Gospel and winning souls. Whether they are captains of the ship, engineers, technicians, or cooks, they are used by the Lord in furthering the kingdom. I’ve heard many testimonies of how they had been saved through a fellow sailor. Indeed, in our Church, seamen form a large number and they serve the Lord with their families.

These Christians have tasted first-hand the goodness of God: they have received His tremendous mercy and the blessings of a new life in Him. These are living testimonies – freed from vices and addictions, healed of diseases and illnesses, families restored – who believe without a doubt that they are heirs of eternal life. These are the things that drive them to share Christ and His Gospel.

Additional reading: A Light to Others (with the testimony of Bro. Ren Gumayagay, a seaman)

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My gratitude list ~ the gifts I received from the hand of the Lord:

  • Being healed of severe diarrhoea, fever and body pains after prayer and laying of hands by my beloved husband.
  • the love and care my daughter Hannah showed while I was sick; grateful to see how she has learned love and learning Christ.
  • Tim thoughtfully putting an orange on my food tray
  • anointed testimonies and choir singing on Sunday service; the Lord’s fervent love that never grows cold
  • worshipers being filled with the Holy Spirit, speakings in tongues, the mighty sound of the powerful moving of the living God – a glorious, glorious sight!
I’m linking up with other blogs, please check the list at the side bar.