Hope for the Smudged and Broken

My father was an artist. I remember vividly one evening when I was in grade school that he came home drunk. He had been working on a special project for our town’s celebration every summer called AgRo (the exact words these letters represented escape me, but AgRo was like an expo of various agricultural products, native arts and crafts). His project was a set of pitcher and half-dozen mugs sitting on a tray all made entirely of bamboo. For hours on end, he patiently polished the bamboo pieces until they were shiny and smooth. After that, he painted on each one a cluster of bamboo trees.

When he left the house that afternoon, he had finished painting all the pieces and meticulously set them on their bamboo tray to dry. But a neighbor, his old buddy, who came from Manila came to our house and saw my father’s work. He held and examined them, admiring each piece, as my mother and I watched.

When my father arrived that night, he saw at once the paint smudges on his bamboo project. He knew there was no way to repair them. He was so dismayed that in great feeling of frustration, he shoved the whole tray from off the table and all the pieces fell on the floor. My mother and I were shocked. When he left, I saw his pained expression. I felt for him. Slowly, my mother and I began to pick up the pieces and mended the broken handles with wood glue.

After almost four decades later, I would come to know, really know, another Father. But instead of seeing Him greatly dismayed with me – covered in miry clay and all broken – He mercifully and lovingly picked me up, mended my broken parts and healed my wounds.

How could something that is covered with filth and with a heart and body so broken it couldn’t function properly be transformed into a thing that radiates the beauty and light of its Creator? But that is how the mercy of my Father in heaven works in a terribly messed-up life like mine was.

His workings are all so wondrous. But why doesn’t everybody see that? Why don’t the smudged, the wounded, the broken run to Him to be recreated, to become new – a new creation? These are the things that I saw:

  • One cannot see the truth in one’s life

One has been completely blinded by Satan’s lie that one believes one’s life is good, all good. I have two female friends who live as a couple, and by the world’s standards, they are blessed abundantly – health, finances, happiness – that their favorite line is “God is good!” To be in the belief that God blesses and favors those who do not obey His Word and follow after righteousness is a very dangerous thing. For it would be more difficult to make them un-believe the lie.

  • One cannot believe that God can forgive and change him or her

A testimony was shared to me by a sister in Christ whose mother-in-law asked her doubtfully when she told her about  the Gospel of salvation, “Can God forgive my sins?” (Her mother-in-law had committed abortion many times due to poverty. In the Philippines, one need not go to the doctor to have an abortion).

But God forgives anyone who comes to Him and repents and receives the Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. This is His promise:

“Come now, let’s settle this,”
says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
I will make them as white as snow.
Though they are red like crimson,
I will make them as white as wool. 
(Is. 1:18 NLT)

The mother-in-law believed and plunged herself at Jesus’ feet, repenting and humbling herself. She was made into a new creation – sanctified and clothed with righteousness.

Endnotes:

  • Read more of my testimony here.
  • Know the keys of salvation here.
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Journey with Jesus,

God Saves Us from Our Adversaries {and the Testimony of Bro. Albert D.}

(Meditating on Psalm 70)

Let them be ashamed and confounded
Who seek my life;
Let them be turned back[a] and confused
Who desire my hurt. 
(Psalm 70:2)

I was reading and re-reading Psalm 70 and thinking what would I write about it for Journey Through the Psalms Friday, then I remembered the testimony of Bro. Albert D., a former member of the New People’s Army (NPA). I cannot write everything in detail here, but I hope a brief retelling of it would suffice (I’m writing from memory of his testimony which I’ve heard a few times).

This testimony would prove that God gives His angels charge over His children, the elect, so that they will be safe in all their goings-out and comings-in. (And I pray that you will not grow tired of reading testimonies of God’s mighty power, saving grace and miracles for how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will? ~ Heb. 2:3-5).

For He shall give His angels charge over you,
To keep you in all your ways. 
(Psalm 91:11)

I just love this verse, don’t you? I pray it morning and evening for my family like this, “Give Thy angels charge over them…” and always, peace and assurance from the Lord and King wash over me.

In the late 80s, when our beloved Hon. Pastor, Evangelist Wilde Almeda was zealously preaching against communism, two members of the NPA from Mindanao were sent to assassinate him. One of them was Bro. Albert D. They started surveillance of the beloved evangelist’s movements. They would wait at the curb outside of the pastoral house for hours on end everyday. Bro. Albert testifies that they would be falling asleep waiting for the beloved pastor to come out. One time, one of them asked someone who came out of the pastoral house what the beloved pastor was doing. They were told that he was praising, worshiping, praying and fasting and would not be coming out for hours yet.

Later on, they were able to study the beloved pastor’s schedule. He regularly went out during worship days, without fail. Many times they attempted to shoot him during a stop at an intersection, but always, their high-powered weapons failed. They would return to their rented house and fire their rifles and guns and these would be working perfectly.

Months passed and they failed to assassinate the man of God. They later received news from the province that they were already the ones being hunted down by the group. Bro. Albert’s parents warned him not to come home. Later, he learned that his parents were murdered.

One day, he was trying to escape his pursuers. He happened to pass by the Quezon City Memorial Circle. He saw that there were many people gathered inside. The crowd was thick and he believed that he could hide safely in the midst of the throng. And so he did.

He escaped his attackers but he would soon find out that he fell directly into the hands of the living God (but in a good, marvelous way!). As he stood amidst the worshiping crowd, he recognised the man on stage. With fury rising up and pulsing in his veins, he drew near the stage and aimed his gun at the beloved evangelist, muttering, “You are the reason my family was murdered! Now, I’m going to finish you!”

But before he could pull the trigger, he saw two beings standing before and behind the beloved evangelist ready to strike. They were huge beings in white, according to Bro. Albert. He was so stricken with fear that he fell upon his knees, shocked and completely without strength. At this point, some brethren noticed him and they arrested him. But the beloved pastor stopped them, declaring, “Don’t arrest him! For God is the One who just arrested him.”

And that was how Bro. Albert was amazingly saved. He didn’t know the Lord Jesus Christ before this time. The Lord revealed Himself to him in His own wonderful, marvelous way! And that was how our beloved pastor was miraculously delivered from his adversaries.

GOD

IS

AWESOME!

Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You;
And let those who love Your salvation say continually,
“Let God be magnified!” 
(Psalm 70:4)

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

What Surrender Truly Means

We surrendered our lives when we received the Lord Jesus Christ and let Him reign in us. But, as I had found out, the years go by and we come to realize that there may still be many things that we are holding back. The heavy burden that we carry every now and then may prove that we have not surrendered all to Him. For He himself promised that when we come to Him, He will give us rest from our labors and heaviness (Mat. 11:28).

This heavy burden that we insist to pick up and carry and go about our days hauling it  may come in different packages.

On our own, trying our best to analyze our problems and always straining to find ways to solve them (problems with the self, marriage, children, work, etc.).

Always striving to be good and do good in the sight of God and man, but the burden is heaviest when we fail and err, stumble even.

The guilt, shame, and inner turmoil our failures and shortcomings bring.

The fear of displeasing God for giving in to our emotions, for being easily provoked, for lacking self-control, for forgetting His commandments in the heat of the moment, for failing to be a light to others, and for just being plain foolish and weak in a moment’s time! The fear of losing His favor, of not receiving His blessing but His chastisement instead. Even the fear that He may decide to take me already that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus (Remember 1 Cor. 5:5?). And naturally, I greatly hold on to my life. As far as I’m concerned, all THAT is heavy!

These negative emotions that come to visit every now and then – envy, comparisons, self-pity, discouragements, discontent, hunger, unfulfilled dreams, pesky desires and wants that we know are not aligned with God’s will. The struggle, the energy used to try to curb them, and the feelings of guilt and shame why we even have them close to our hearts and minds! They maybe godly desires and dreams but they carry with them the heavy burden of hunger.

I had all these at one time or another and while I sat there sobbing and feeling all the turmoil swirling within me and thinking (and at the same time listening to that inner voice!), “So, when will you pick up yourself and stop all these already!” (It was more of a shout than a question), I was at the same time wondering what the Lord Jesus could be thinking of my miserable state!

To have the fear of God is a good thing, but to try to hold on to all these things and muster every ounce of strength to carry the heavy burden will.not.work. And so one night, hauling all my burdens on my back, I dared approach the Lord. For one who had wonderfully messed up all good intentions, it was even hard to approach at all. But we have nowhere else to go. And we know that in the Lord, one would always find mercy. He has always room for a broken and contrite heart. 

This is the way we can approach the throne of grace boldly, not that we are confident because of our perfect performance (for we miserably fail, don’t we?), but because we know He is perfect to forgive; He is strong to lift us up, and His love is complete to cover our shortcomings.

And that night, I gave Him all that I had been holding. Every.single.one.of.them. I did not leave anything un-surrendered.

Until we fully learn to hand over to Him all that we carry, surrendering absolutely EVERYTHING to Him (fears, problems, confusions, hurts, hunger, desires, dreams…) and not holding back anything, we will never truly find rest. Only in COMPLETE SURRENDER shall we find rest for our souls (emotions, mind, will).

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Amazing Grace

(Meditating on Psalm 69)

Save me, O God!
For the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in deep mire,
Where there is no standing;
I have come into deep waters,
Where the floods overflow me. 
(Psalm 69:1-2)

One would open to the introduction page of my book Walking Along the Narrow Path and one would be greeted by this soul-piercing verse. This was exactly where I was, where the Lord had so mercifully fished me out.

The dusk gathered fast, once again threatening to steal what little strength, both mental and physical, I had left. I hadn’t known fear so real and powerful until the time that God had thought it good to end all my wallowing in the mire. Salvation comes in many different ways. Mine was knowing a kind of fear that could literally wipe out all sanity and physical strength.

Fear was a frequent visitor and when it came, panic enveloped and engulfed my whole being, choking the very life out of me. It was a debilitating, paralysing kind of fear. How could one escape such powerful grip? I didn’t know. My husband was beside me once and I told him, “Can you just lend me now some of your strength, just enough for me to be able to go through this moment? Can you just be my strength, for I’m losing it?”

But as for me, my prayer is to You,
O Lord, in the acceptable time;
O God, in the multitude of Your mercy,
Hear me in the truth of Your salvation. 
(Psalm 69:13)

Not long afterwards, I was laid at Jesus’ feet. His salvation, and the complete forgiveness, comfort and knowledge of the truth it brought, washed over me like an avalanche. And I have never been the same since.

He took my sins, every single one of them, in exchange for life. He took my fears in exchange for His peace. A kind of peace that passes all understanding. He took my pain in exchange for His love. He took my burden in exchange for His rest. He took my weakness in exchange for His strength. He took my shame in exchange for His beauty. He took my brokenness in exchange for His healing.

Amazing, abundant, unspeakable grace!

I will praise the name of God with a song,
And will magnify Him with thanksgiving. 
(Psalm 69:30)

For all He’s done, I will forever praise Him. Below is one of my favorite worship songs that I often sing to the Lord in my private worship time. I share it with you.

Unholy Union

And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? (Mat. 19:4-5)

I see them basking under the Bahamas sun on a pristine beach, silvery sand clinging on bare tanned shoulders and wide smiles pasted on their faces. They smile for the camera as they await dinner aboard the cruise ship, she, looking fabulous in a spaghetti-strapped silk red dress. They vacation in cozy cabins beside still lakes or fly to other countries, enjoy the sights, shop and buy some souvenirs. The world may behold them and it would think that they are living the good life. And indeed, that’s what she said before sitting down for one of those dinners with friends, sporting an elegant black tube dress. The good life.

This was her dream. And now, she’s living it to the full: good job, nice condo, “perfect” partner.

I’ll be honest, my heart was pinched by envy as I gazed at their photos. Then reality set in and a feeling of sadness took over; righteousness that is in Christ put its foot down and the truth was upheld. In the world’s standards, their life is the good life. Only that, they are both women. And they are my friends of old.

And then there was another one. I had known her since we were young back home in the province. She was a sweet, thoughtful friend. Then they migrated to another country and after about a couple of lovely birthday cards that she sent, I never saw or heard from her again. But the Internet has shrunk the world, and I saw her again, just months before she tied the knot with the love of her life. She had changed her gender to man and her title to Mr. They were married before a priest in a church that claims to be Christ’s. Two people born females now “husband and wife”.

What shall a Christ’s servant do? If I keep quiet and do not speak the truth, what am I but a fake follower?

 Love does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth. (1 Cor. 13:6)

So, in the midst of fear of losing friends and maybe receiving others’ rage (Oh, Lord, thou art my shield!), I write this – out of my obedience to the truth, for the mercy of God compels me, and out of my love for the unsaved. For I fear God the more, lest I might find myself condemned by Him.

17 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me: 18 When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand.19 Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul. (Eze. 3:17-19, emphasis added)

IN THE BEGINNING, THERE WAS ONLY A MAN AND A WOMAN, A HUSBAND AND WIFE, A HOLY UNION ORDAINED AND BLESSED BY GOD

By the wisdom of God the world was created. We can see that God created everything perfectly. There was nothing askew, nothing out-of-order. Even in the most basic, simplest analysis, we see that He designed holy union as “lock and key”. The male and the female. We see then that we change His perfect design of things by insisting that a key can be used with another key, or a lock can be opened with another lock.

We have changed this perfect wisdom into the basest of things because the world we live in is depraved (see 1 John 5:19). Please  read Romans 1 here.

They exchanged the truth about God for a lie.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.

Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones.

In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men.

Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

(Rom. 1:24-27)

But they do go to church. I know of one who receives them and officiates their wedding ceremonies, and it has the gall to label itself as Christian? I remember the Lord’s words:

I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. (Rev. 2:9, emphasis added)

But the Lord Jesus Christ loves you and is waiting for you with arms wide open, ready to receive and forgive you, to pour out His abundant grace upon you and give you a new life upon your confession, repentance and surrender.

Know more about the Gospel of salvation here.

******

My gratitude list (the gifts I received from the hand of the gracious Lord):

  • This great opportunity to share the Gospel to the world (most especially to long lost friends :)).
  • My beloved mother and sister traveling from the province to celebrate our mother’s birthday here.

  • Being able to eat in our formal dining table after so many years to celebrate my beloved mother’s birthday.

  • This very messed-up all-chocolate boston cake I made for my mother (the top layer collapsed during transfers making the cake look like a yummy heap :)) that gathered love and family and cheerful conversations around my mobile kitchen.

  • These freshly-baked papparoti buns (buns with coffee topping and butter filling) which accompanied our afternoon of playing catch-up with family.

  • Bird watching and photography: an answered prayer since that was the reason why I bought IS telephoto lens.

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

Mercy

(Meditating on Psalm 67)

May God be merciful and bless us.
May his face smile with favor on us. 
(Psalm 67:1 NLT)

Today I want to talk about mercy. If there is only one word that I remember God for, it is mercy. I adhere mercy to Him. He Himself is mercy.

There is not a day that I don’t think about His mercy. Every triumph, simple or glorious – I thank Him for His mercy. And every struggle, I hope for His mercy. Most people would rather remember Him for His grace. It was written somewhere: All is grace. And indeed it’s true. For haven’t we been saved by grace? But I’m more likely to use mercy. For considering my fragile health, I live by His mercy every single day.

Divine mercy encompasses God’s love and grace. Because of His great mercy upon His fallen creation, He extended His abundant grace toward them, making a way to save them from their sins. This is how He shows and proves His amazing love to them. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again (1 Pet. 1:3 NLT).

Between my dark and sinful past and my life in Christ now is an ocean of God’s mercy. Its width can never be measured and its depth can never be fathomed; the old and the new never meeting, like the immeasurable space between heaven and hell. That’s how He has saved me.

His mercy flows continually. Going in and out of great suffering, I have come to know the depths of His mercy and how it endures. In the eye of the storm, one’s soul wouldn’t cry any other but, “Have mercy, O God! Please be merciful unto me!” Yes, one would knock hard upon God’s mercy. He is mercy.

And He raised me up from the bed of languishing so I may praise Him. I praise Him, never forgetting His past mercies. This is how I remain humbled and surrendered to Him, with heart overflowing with gratitude. And herein is His grace.

Let the peoples praise You, O God;
Let all the peoples praise You.
Oh, let the nations be glad and sing for joy! 
(Psalm 67:3-4)

I share with you this testimony of a sister in Christ that I wrote in Minister of Mercy: Touched His Garment. I pray you’ll be blessed!

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

Called in Weakness and Brokenness

I know for certain that had not the Lord stripped me off of all that made me proud and self-sufficient (first, my health and strength, then, as a result of this, went my career also), I wouldn’t have easily surrendered my whole life to Him. But it wasn’t only illness that changed the course of my life, enabling me to receive the gift of grace and transforming my life altogether, but it was more due to the brokenness that sin had wrought in me.

At the fullness of all the folly and sinfulness, God is so gracious to send fear in one’s whole being; fear so real and raw and life-threatening that the sinner realizes there is NO OTHER who can deliver him or her from it but the One who has sovereign power over his or her life. So, fear, in this respect, is a tool which God wields over the sinner to bring him or her to repentance. When the Lord called me, I approached with so much fear enveloping my whole being (fear, not toward Him who mercifully saves, but fear that comes from sin and which threatens to destroy one’s very existence). There was no feeling of pride from past performances and accomplishments. There was only brokenness: a sick body and spirit.

I knew then that I was one of those mentioned in 1 Cor. 1:26-28:

For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are.

I know from testimonies I’ve heard that God calls the simple (in wisdom) and poor and weak, but He has called me, too, at the height of my fear (weakness) that paralyzed my otherwise brilliant mind and with a very sick body that was devoid of strength. And if I’m humble and honest enough to admit, I have been called, too, among the base things of the world and the things which are despised (v. 28), for not only the drug addicts and drug pushers, murderers, rapists, and good-for-nothing drunkards and revilers fall into this category, but also the impeccably-suited, excellent-mannered adulterers and adulteresses that lead corporations, and the spotless Barong Tagalog-clothed, smart-talking corrupt government officials, and whoever hides behind a ‘clean’ facade to cover up one’s sinfulness and brokenness. Aren’t these what the Lord talks about in Matthew 23:27? “You are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.”

I was called in weakness and brokenness, what was there to glory of? Nothing, except in the cross. For in the cross, my sin and shame and all my brokenness were nailed and I was healed.

How then could my sibling who was proud of me (all my siblings were and I believe up to now) of all my worldly success, and who looked up to me tell me to just stop it already and return to my old self and old life. I assume they almost couldn’t stand it – the Christlikeness – for it is entirely different from the life they used to enjoy with me. Of course, I understood and forgave my sister’s ignorance.

But if we are all honest and humble enough to acknowledge and admit our sinfulness and brokenness, we will all come to repentance and receive salvation of our souls. For we are all fallen people. If we are humble and brave enough to come out of our hiding, from our whited sepulchers, from our covering of self-righteousness, we will know and experience a life that is free from any and all kinds of bondage.

And this life is in the Lord Jesus Christ.

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