Going Back to the Well

I lie long and silent on the sofa, back flat on the sturdy surface, as my weary flesh throbs away the rigors of the day. It has been a rather long and struggle-filled day. As silence finally settles in our home with only the faint sound of my husband’s praising in the guest room, I have time to think and pray some more. Pray silently over and over. For even though the weary flesh and mind shout rest, there is this desire to draw still closer to the Lord Jesus.

In the midst of seeming lack of clarity, we really cannot afford to be apart from Him who gives light.

There could be various things that could bear down on one’s soul. I’m particularly wearied by household challenges that involve maids who lack self-discipline. Maids whom I share the Gospel with but remain unmoved, indifferent, and therefore continue in their ways which are so different from ours. At times this gets me and my husband into unavoidable conflict and disagreement because he just wants to consider the necessity of having maids, what with my need of assistance and our whole household to tend. But for me, I just want maids who are devoted to their work, who sincerely care for the welfare of the household and the people they serve.

Sometimes I get frustrated that these daily challenges encroach into my spiritual quiet, provoke me and even bring me to a place of weariness and discouragement. Often, my soul shouts, wanting me to be fully well so I could manage and tend our household myself.

It is past midnight and I am here lying on the sofa trying to find a solution to all this, all the weariness making me as still as a log. Questions flood my mind but the warmth and comfort from the faithful Lord that are slowly enveloping my tired body don’t escape my notice. He whispers gently, He touches the exhaustion away, and I stop analyzing and just say deep in my heart and mind, “I love You, my Jesus; I love You, my Lord” over and over.

In the silence, when one’s tired mind and body are ready to succumb to rest, He whispers His love and comfort and the soul is restored. 

…he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul… (Psalm 23:2,3)

Why do we sometimes find ourselves near to unravelling, succumbing to bitter conflicts, painful discouragements and self-pity? I’ve heard others who even have lost their spiritual fervor.

My husband gently stirs me up. He’s done praising and he will carry me to bed. As he lifts me up in his arms, a still small voice speaks in my heart, “I’ve given you all you need so you’ll never be thirsty. Remember what I had given you at the well. It is all you need. It is flowing freely, eternally. You might have forgotten to drink and fill yourself up to overflowing. Come. Come again and drink freely.”

Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:13, emphasis added)

Yes! Yes! Yes! How could we have forgotten? We may praise, worship, pray, and read the Bible everyday but we forget to wield the power of the Spirit! Sometimes we get into praise weary and come out of it weary still, forgetting to drink up and fill up all our vacant places to overflowing. Or maybe sometimes, we enter into praise with our minds busy with other things and come out of it almost not being able to contain and control the many plans that fill up our minds.

We go through weaknesses and weariness because we let our minds forget the power of the Spirit that the Lord has given us and what it can mightily do to our lives. We forget because we let the enemy stimulate our minds with other things, things of this world  – the Internet, social media, worldly pleasures, etc. Others become passionate with their jobs, careers, and businesses more than with the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.

But the fountain of living waters should be more powerful than any discord, discouragement, disappointment, self-pity, grief. It should bring more fire and passion than any job, career, or any other pursuit could. That is, if we let it flow in us freely and not block or choke it. Apostle Paul warned, “Quench not the Spirit” (1 Thess. 5:19) and “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30).

The Lord is that “Fountain of Living Waters” (Jer. 17:13). All other sources are “broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jer. 2:13). No wonder, even when one keeps on drinking in (not God’s light and living waters) what one thinks could fill, one remains thirsty and empty.

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

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,

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

Beyond Comparison

This conversation I had with my sister ended (I hope!) my practice of looking at people of the world and comparing my life with them, often, me, feeling and believing that they have it better than I do. So, as I had written in When We Look at the Temporal Instead of the Eternal, I used to look and think that these people are so abundantly blessed despite not serving and worshiping the living God in spirit and in truth. And as I had come to realize, our vision is sometimes shortsighted: tending to focus our attention to what is seen and not  to what are unseen which are the eternal blessings our salvation brings.

And as I had experienced amidst the trials, there’s also a great possibility that we may overlook the instantaneous gift we have received when we surrendered our lives to the Lord Jesus Christ, and that is our liberty. Sometimes, it’s easy for us to take it for granted, even forget, until we see someone struggling to obtain it.

People can be held captive by the enemy in many different ways: drug addiction, alcoholism, chain smoking, gambling, materialism and covetousness, promiscuity, womanizing, etc. One may not be looking like the wretched person that we know of. And that is exactly what the Lord has showed me lately. I had admired her; she seemed to have it all (well, except maybe true salvation), until I learned that she is chained to something destructive that she’s completely powerless to extricate herself from. Her addiction is so pernicious that no amount of rehab can save her.

I’m not happy that I learned she has a huge problem, but this has taught me never to think that there are people from amomg those who have not received salvation who are better off than those who have. This has made me realize the fact that the life of the redeemed is in no way comparable to others. Truth is, it is beyond comparison. The redeemed life is a freed and powerful life. It is a life free from bondage. It is a life sealed with the Holy Spirit and closely guided by it until we reach eternity. 

For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” (Rom. 8:15)

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Tim. 1:7)

And because of these realizations, my gratitude to my Savior and Healer has grown deeper. I have gained fresh new appreciation to my salvation and the new life it brought, despite the many trials. The glory of this liberty that I have obtained and hold has shone brighter. I will in no way trade it for the world. Having a deep, steadfast gratitude and appreciation to what the Lord has done for us helps us run the race with endurance, rejoicing all the way to the end.

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

What It Takes to Open the Eyes

My son Tim came bounding into the room; he couldn’t contain his excitement as he happily announced, “Mom, the rabbits’ eyes are open! The rabbits’ eyes are open!” He was jumping up and down and his eyes sparkled. I became excited, too, as together we cheered. Then, he grabbed my cell phone and before I could ask why, he was off.

He came back with a fresh video he took of the rabbits, focusing on their open eyes. As we viewed it, I could hear his recorded whisper, full of wonder and almost reverently, “Their eyes… they have opened their eyes.”

I marvelled at the wonder of it all: my son’s awe and the rabbits’ opened eyes.

Why would an adult like me be caught in the wonder of the moment? It is our first time ever to have a pet who gave birth. Our kids’ rabbit, Sophie (one of their bunnies that we gave last Easter), gave birth to a litter of 6 and 5 survived. The whole family was so excited about this event.

About 2 weeks passed and the baby rabbits’ eyes remained tightly shut. They groped as they played around in their cage. One day I told the family that it seemed they weren’t going to open their eyes anymore at all, and Hannah said incredulously, “Of course not, Mom!” That’s why when the day finally came that they opened their eyes to the world – it was to us a marvellous moment.

And isn’t it a wondrous moment for heaven, when a lost soul finally opens its eyes to the truth, that all the host rejoices? (Luke 15:10)

The opening of our eyes – it’s the work of God. It is a miracle. It. Is. Pure. Amazing. Grace.

How does one receive this grace? That in one glorious moment, one is able to really see at last? See and understand that what one does is sin and offends God? That the true Gospel of salvation is the hope of the world? That God is holy and one must serve Him in holiness? That Jesus Christ is the only Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that no one receives eternal life but through Him? That giving one’s life to Him is the best thing one could ever do with this one life?

How does one poor soul whose eyes the “god of this world” has blinded see the truth of God (2 Cor. 4:4), that He is to be worshiped in spirit and in truth (John 4:23), when one’s eyes are focused on what is seen, and worship the thing that was created instead of the Creator (Rom. 1:25)?

How does one see that the person who’s leading him or her is as blind as he or she is? That without the enduring mercy of God, they will both fall into the ditch? (See Matthew 15:14).

It takes tons of unrelenting, unceasing prayers with fasting.

It takes a life surrendered to God and set aside for the Gospel. It takes a lifetime sacrifice of the man – pastor – called, anointed, and sent by God (Jer. 3:15) “to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant” (Jer. 1:10).

It takes the concerted prayers of the true Church of the living God (Acts 1:14).

But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. (Acts 6:4)

This is what it takes: Give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the Word. When we pray and minister, we’re giving our own selves – mind, body and spirit surrendered to His will. What a noble way to give!

Yes, and all this – ALL THIS IS HIS GRACE! It is all His mighty power working in and through us.

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

Linked to Encourage My Heart.

When We Look at the Temporal Instead of the Eternal

(Meditating on Psalm 73)

I can so relate with Asaph. Read this:

Truly God is good to Israel,
To such as are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled;
My steps had nearly slipped.
For I was envious of the boastful,
When I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
 (Psalm 73:1-3)

See those sentences which I made bold to emphasize my point? Yes, I was intimately acquainted with the words of Psalm 73. In the past years, I used to marvel at other people, families, who did not worship and serve the Lord in spirit and in truth and yet, to my eyes, they were abundantly blessed. I used to enumerate to my husband the things I perceived they have and enjoy, like good health, happiness, peace, prosperity, friendships, pleasures, travels, celebrations, and I compared our life with them, us, serving the Lord diligently and steadfastly, yet, constantly being tried and tested. Through my limited vision, they seemed to enjoy life to the full without the tribulations that we were going through. I echoed Asaph’s words true-to-heart:

They have no struggles;
their bodies are healthy and strong.
They are free from common human burdens;
they are not plagued by human ills.
 (vv. 4-5 NIV)

Just like Asaph, I honestly believed what I observed, and because of that, I often lacked joy and gratitude. Envy and discontentment would invade my days ferociously, and I would often succumb to them. Although I revelled in the presence of the Lord during worship, I just couldn’t shake off the practice of looking at other people’s lives and comparing. You see, just as Asaph had actually believed for a time that he had cleansed his heart in vain – following closely after godliness and willingly yielding himself to God’s chastening every morning (vv. 13 and 14) – I lamented God’s refining of me, too, and envied those people whom I thought are “untouched” by the Lord. That is, the hand of God was not heavy upon them.

All day long I have been afflicted…

When I tried to understand all this,
it troubled me deeply. 
(vv. 14 and 16 NIV)

Ah, these words! So familiar. Having gone through physical suffering for so long, I used to dwell in them. They were constant companions.

Oh yes, until I went in to the sanctuary and the Spirit of the Lord spoke in my heart and made me understand. He made me see my error, my weakness. He made me see the painful truth: my heart was bitter and it wasn’t doing me any good.

When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,
22 I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you. 
(vv. 21-22 NIV)

The psalmist and I, aren’t we kindred spirits? For when the Lord made me realize my foolishness, I was greatly ashamed. When He made me remember His salvation, His great mercies upon me – taking me out of the miry clay and saving me mightily and giving me life so I could be with Him through eternity – I lay at His feet – repentant, humbled.

Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever. 
(vv. 23-26 NIV)

Ah! This is my song! These beautiful words – they are mine and they are true in my life. There’s nothing truer. He’s my portion forever! How could have I easily forgotten?

When I am weak and tempted to look at other people , I will remember Psalm 73.

And the story of the pig. Its master feeds him everyday so that it grows fatter and fatter. He washes it also. It does nothing but eat and sleep and sometimes digs on the earth with its snout for its pleasure. It is as if its master loves it so. But we know where the poor thing will end up someday – to the abattoir (like what vv. 18-20 say).

But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds. 
(v. 28 NIV)

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

Remain Faithful

I sit in the garden and I can’t help noticing the yellowing leaves of the Narra tree and its seeds maturing and browning, and a whiff of melancholy passes over my heart for a fleeting moment. It reminds me that not too long from now, it will shed all of its leaves and it’s Autumn again. I think of how time flies so swiftly, and for a moment, I get a glimpse of how I’ve been spending my days. Have I been riding on the wings of time, celebrating each moment and each season I’ve been graciously given? For time is a gift; we can never take hold of it. We can only spend it as the Lord purposes it to be: redeeming the time (Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days ~ Eph. 5:16).

And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. (Rom. 13:11)

I had a surprise visit with an old friend last week. In 2008, their family moved to Japan and has been living there ever since. She had visited me about two years ago, but I wasn’t feeling well then so I didn’t see her. But she brought copies of my book Walking Along the Narrow Path to Japan to be given out to her friends there.

So, she comes to visit but her family isn’t with her (holding only a picture of her daughter, Erika, who is Hannah’s childhood friend and a card from her for Hannah). We talk about Japan’s great earthquake and the devastating tsunami that followed just moments later in 2011. Tears threaten to leak out as I tell her how worried we had been for them and how futile my attempts were at contacting them (for I couldn’t, their cell phones and email not working). But prayers were enough. They are always enough.

She tells me they were just slightly affected by the earthquake (she means this in material damage but she sure was horrified swaying with the trembling earth). She says they were so scared, but thankful that they were not affected by the tsunami. Then, she gets serious as she tells us about the nuclear radiation. They are only a few kilometers away from the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant. They live in Ibaraki prefecture.

She says that the whole world has gone silent after months of bad news from the nuclear reactor meltdown, but in Japan, they are living with an invisible enemy. She says that local officials declared that they are not in war with a seen enemy, for then, they could defend themselves. But they are waging war with a killer that can’t be driven away. As she talks, I am thinking of Psalm 91. My personal, precious psalm.

 Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;

Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. (Psalm 91:5-6)

I ask how they are. Have they been experiencing any symptoms of sickness caused by exposure to radiation? No. Thank You, God!

Her Japanese husband doesn’t want to move, though my friend has been nudging him about it. Now, she comes home to Manila to buy a condo unit. Just in case.

I tell her that’s a good decision. (For I wouldn’t act as if I’m perfectly strong spiritually. Didn’t I want to move after experiencing the great flood of 2009 which reached the 6th step of our staircase?).

What do all these things mean? She wants to know. (When they were living in Manila, she attended a Christian congregation different from ours. By God’s grace, I always ended up giving counsel to her).

“The end is near” is my answer. “We cannot do anything about it. We can’t stop it. It’s written in the Word,” I continue. She’s nodding.

“What shall we do?” There’s pain in her voice. I see it, too, in her eyes.

“Remain faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ”, I answer earnestly. I search her eyes and hold her gaze, and say it again, almost imploring, “Remain faithful to the Lord.” …He who endures to the end will be saved (Mat. 10:22).

Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. (Rev. 2:10)

How do we remain faithful?

Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and keep His Word.

Trust only in Him. No, not in people or in our own resources, wisdom and strength.

Love Him above all things. Let your love for Him be constantly ablaze. Draw ever nearer to Him. He will draw ever nearer to you. For nothing shall separate us from the love of Christ (Rom. 8:35-39).

Abide in Him. Cling to Him. He gives to us eternal life; and we shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck us out of His hand (John 10:28).

Seek Him in the morning and in the evening. Hide under the shadow of His wings, in His ever protective Presence. His Spirit who dwells in us is our seal. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Eph. 4:30)

Declare Him to the unsaved.

Hold on to His promises. They are our bright, shining hope and durable inheritance.

To complete the reading of this post, please take a moment to meditate on Psalm 91 here.

******

Now, for my gratitude list (my gifts from His hand, in photos and words):

Freshly-baked orange carrot bread. But more than this, it reminds me of my Savior who “took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”” (1 Cor. 11:23-24)

Finally learning how to photograph at dusk or when the sky is dark and a heavy downpour is looming. To be able to capture that kind of atmosphere was a sweet accomplishment :).

Lounging with family on a Sunday night.

Listening to Hannah play the piano. I thank the Lord for His gift to her.

 

Might be linking up with A Holy ExperienceBetter Mom MondaysDomestically DivineRaising HomemakersBrag on God FridayEncourage My HeartSpiritual SundaysState of the HeartTeach Me TuesdayTeaching What is GoodTitus 2sdaysWomen in the Word WednesdayWomen Living Well