When Obedience and Zeal Go Together

A few years ago, I dreamed of putting up a house of worship in my hometown in the province. At that time, I had been through a lot: prolonged illness and suffering, partial healing, pregnancy, postnatal illness and suffering, but to serve God was foremost in my heart. I could have died when I delivered my son, considering that I wasn’t well. But He made me live and I wanted to give back to Him.

So we bought a lot at the outskirts of the town. It was along the highway and on the other side was the great river that flowed deep and quiet. After just a few months, a single-storey house was erected. There was ample yard left where a tent could be put up if worshipers overflowed.  Some workers from another town would come every Saturday to hold a Bible Study. They also visited some homes bringing the true Gospel of salvation. But their small group didn’t flourish. The preacher who visited every Saturday died and the Bible Study was discontinued.

I had thought that the one who took his place would continue the weekly visit to our town. But that was our (my husband’s and mine) mistake, not following it through closely. For since then, the place has become desolate, except for my beloved mother who would bring someone to cut the grass that had grown tall and thick.

We wanted to obey God wherever He led us to, but I now realized that we should have also prayed hard for our hearts to be ripe and ready, to be steeped with God’s zeal.

So, there was negligence on our part and it really pains me now to think about it. One of the reasons was I became very ill in early-2010 near unto death and spent most of the rest of that year recovering and hoping for God’s mercy yet again.

I had been unceasingly praying for the salvation of my loved ones and the people of our old town, but the Lord made me realize that even my prayers lacked urgency. For if they would have been frantic and more fervent, these would have driven me to act without delay. It saddens me now to think that I had waited for almost 2 years before preparing this letter requesting for workers to visit our town and resume the weekly Bible Study there.

But I’m ever grateful to the Lord that He completes whatever is lacking in us, like our love and fervency. He supplies them, the desires of our hearts, and alerts us so we could hear His voice and prods us into action to accomplish His plans and purposes. He is faithful to remind us that the harvest is ripe; our hearts are ready to dive into serving Him without reservations. I believe this is the fruit of my abandoned prayer and worship I offered not too long ago. I wrote this in my journal just after that private worship filled with the presence of the Lord:

I sing at the edge of the bed. I sing, though my breathing is short, breaking the lyrics into divided words and phrases with pauses. For my hunger to get well to be able to travel must not be greater than my hunger for Him. Just for Him.

And when I feel His sweet, comforting presence gently descending upon me, and the tears start to roll – I know there’s nothing in this world that could taste better, feel more wonderful, than His love. I want it most.

And in His presence, in His love – every desire, every dream for self, fades into the background. 

When we earnestly pray and truly surrender our lives to God, abandoning all fears, doubts, and reservations, and denying our own wants and dreams – He will put His desires in our hearts. His desires will become ours and we are able to do those which He has planned and purposed for our lives. Our obedience and service to Him then bear fruits.

For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. (Phil. 2:13)

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Reflections on Healing Moments’ Second Year {and a Beautiful Bible Giveaway}

It was late at night one weekend. The whole family was just wrapping up the after-dinner cavorting, storytelling, laughing, and all things love and joy the Lord has blessed our family with. When the kids were about to go to their own beds, Hannah saw me sit up to prepare for my nightly devotion. (Often, when husband and kids have gone to bed, that’s the only time I start to praise, pray, read my Bibles, and write on my blog). She asked, “Mom, are you going to write now?” And I told her I had to sing praises and worship first. I cannot just start writing without first worshiping. I rely solely on God for wisdom and inspiration.

It’s my second year of blogging, both here and in Minister of Mercy. At the start of the year, I felt the Lord leading me into a whole new way of writing. That is, to give more of myself. And after almost a year of giving through writing, I know I have grown fuller and deeper.  I liken it to a river that has been dredged. As I continue to follow the path of writing what’s truly in my soul, heart and mind, and what I could dig up from my journey with the Lord Jesus, as long as it ministers to the reader – my spiritual life has definitely become deeper.

Every time I read the Bible, write on my journal, or even when I’m cooking, I meditate on what to write about. The Lord has been teaching me to choose that which I myself had gone through or presently going through and also to not be too wary in sharing the lessons learned or still learning, the struggles and wrestlings I find myself in, and to not only focus on the victories. For God is glorified both in battle as well as in triumph.

These past months, I have been mindful of His urgings and have listened to His counsel that when I give myself this way, I have really nothing to lose. For my life has been surrendered to Him. He owns it and I am hid in Him. I have also found unusual joy in writing to share those things that others would rather choose to keep hidden.

What I tell you now in the darkness, shout abroad when daybreak comes. What I whisper in your ear, shout from the housetops for all to hear! (Mat. 10:27 NLT)

I recently read two Christian books whose authors wished they had a powerful testimony to tell. Yes, they bemoaned that they grew up as good girls, studied and married as good girls, and so their experience of God was also safe. They wanted to have a testimony that tells of how the Lord Jesus Christ had turned their lives around, like that of the testimony of a former drug addict, adulterous woman, and such like.

Reading this has certainly made me more grateful for my life. I have always talked and written about my testimony and my deep gratitude to the Lord for turning my life around, restoring my family, and raising me up from my sick bed. But I have not really considered holding such a powerful testimony to be a precious gift in and of itself. I often wished I were saved by a different reason, by just being a good girl perhaps. But as I had written in one of my testimony posts, I know that wouldn’t have worked. If I continued to be a good girl and did not stumble just as when I had my young family, I know I wouldn’t have this intimate relationship with God now. And I wouldn’t even have a salvation to speak of, for being good doesn’t save anyone, but faith in the Lord Jesus Christ does.

So, by the grace of God, I will continue to share my testimony for therein He is glorified. I will continue to rip my heart open to give, by way of prayers and written words.

So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us(1 Thess. 2:8, emphasis added)

******

2nd Blog Anniversary Giveaway!

A leather-bound, embossed designed KJV Bible from Christianbook.com.

For all Our Healing Moments email subscribers and “likers” on FB.

To join:

  • Leave your comment below.
  • Giveaway open to Philippines only (OFWs are welcome to join; if you win, your giveaway will be sent to your Philippine address).
  • One recipient will be selected.
  • Closes on Saturday, October 27, 6PM.

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

  • hubby and kids’ weekend trip to the pottery that I planned
  • these deep-red flowers from our neighbour arranged in these rustic jugs from the pottery
  • hot leek soup and crusty homemade whole wheat buns
  • all-homemade fish burgers
  • afternoons in the garden with family, food, and pet rabbits!
  • one of the kids’ pet rabbits surprising the family with a litter of 8 without us even knowing she was pregnant!
  • reading God’s Word morning and evening and writing on my journal – two things that never fail to bring inner peace and joy
  • good books and written words
  • remembering God’s sure mercies bringing tears to the eyes and heartfelt worship
  • for the anointed and wisdom-filled preaching on Sunday service

Endnote: Photo courtesy of my friend Perla Frisberg

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The Practice of Remembering God’s Wondrous Works

This photo courtesy of my friend Myriss Torres.

(Meditating on Psalm 78)

There is a spiritual practice that we could all benefit from. Both David and Asaph had shown it many times in the book of Psalms. I learned it in the Church where the Lord has put us. It is the practice of recalling God’s mighty deeds that He has wrought in His Church, among the brethren, and in our own lives. The other word for this is testifying.

Here in Psalm 78, Asaph once again contemplates on all the wondrous works of God that He has done in Israel. Line after line, he tells of the journeyings of God’s people and the many proofs of God’s faithfulness toward them.

In my own spiritual journey, I have found quiet contemplation on God’s mercies to be a very helpful tool in strengthening my faith and keeping my love for the Lord constantly burning. We can either shout out our testimonies in the pulpit, share them with the unsaved, meditate on them, or sing them out.

Yes, sing them out in our private worship time. In this way, they remain fresh in our minds and the overflow of thanksgiving to God happens easily. If you sometimes find it hard to concentrate in singing praises to God by singing songs you’ve learned, then sing that which naturally and spontaneously comes from your heart. Sing to Him with your own lyrics of love and thanksgiving. Sing to Him recalling all His tender mercies and marvelous deeds. In my case, I think back on the days that I was bound in bed, very sick and weak and to the point of death, and how He had mercifully raised me up from my sick bed and showered me with good things. It doesn’t take long before I would feel His touch and then I would be enveloped in His sweet, powerful presence.

Telling to the generation to come the praises of the Lord,
And His strength and His wonderful works that He has done. 
(Psalm 78:4)

Last Friday, I shared with you a brief retelling of the victorious Talipao (Mindanao) Peace Mission which God had wrought in JESUS MIRACLE CRUSADE INTERNATIONAL MINISTRY. Once again, the prayer warriors who had experienced the horrors of being in the constant presence of the Abu Sayyaf and the military assault that followed – a three-month ordeal – recalled how the Lord had delivered them mightily day and night.

How the high-powered guns and weapons of the Abu Sayyaf did not have power over their bodies.

How they would be down on their knees praising God as the bombs from the military planes bombarded the area.

How they would be running at night with the Abu Sayyaf in complete darkness, on the rugged mountains of Talipao, Jolo, Sulu, in danger of wild beasts and falling into deep ravines.

One memory after another, they recalled God’s mighty deeds, shouting out their praises and thanksgiving. Below I share more photos of the 12th Victorious Talipao Peace Mission Anniversary held on October 7 at the Amoranto Stadium, Quezon City, Philippines.

I would also like to share with you this amazing testimony of a brother in Christ that I wrote over at Minister of Mercy entitled Double Miracle. Now, some would be cynical about it and would refuse to believe. But if, through reading the Bible, you can believe in a God who is all powerful and works miracles, how can you not believe in His present-day miracles wrought in His Church and experienced by the redeemed? If you believe that God never changes – “Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8) – then you must also believe that He still performs wondrous works and marvellous deeds to this day. To read testimony, click here.

Endnote: All JMCIM photos courtesy of Bro. Guetz Febrer.

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Inside the Enemy’s Camp {A Mission That’s Worth a Thousand Crusades}

(Meditating on Psalm 77)

We’re in Psalm 77 in our Journey Through the Psalms Friday, and how very timely to be discussing about it now that our Church, JESUS MIRACLE CRUSADE INTERNATIONAL MINISTRY, had just celebrated the 12th Mindanao Peace Mission Anniversary last October 7.

This is all I could remember about it. I was resting comfortably on our new bed in our new townhouse watching the evening news. I caressed my bulging tummy; I was about 5 months pregnant with our first baby. I saw in the news how these emaciated prayer warriors together with their beloved pastor were battling and struggling against all the hardships they were in as their stay in the Abu Sayyaf camp was prolonged indefinitely. What little I can remember of it (because I didn’t really focus my attention, there were other things in my mind then that were more exciting – how selfish I had been!) was that, those Christian men were staying strong in their faith amidst all the perils around them. I remember thinking, “Why would anyone want to go to that hellish place?”

It would be three years later when my memory would be refreshed about that news, when I was brought to the feet of Jesus at JMCIM, dying and shaking from unexplainable fear. It would be months later, as we continued to serve the Lord and hope for His healing, that I learned that the Church where the Lord had mercifully brought us to was the one who bravely entered the Abu Sayyaf camp to pray for the 21 Sipadan hostages and help with their release.

Every year as the Church celebrated this victorious peace mission in Talipao, Jolo, Sulu in the island of Mindanao, I would hear about the amazing – A.M.A.Z.I.N.G! – testimonies of the 12 prayer warriors who had experienced the horrors of that place in the presence of the fierce Abu Sayyaf. Just a few weeks prior to JMCIM’s entrance to the camp, a Catholic priest, Fr. Gallardo, was captured by them. They extracted all his nails and plucked out his eyes before they brutally chopped off his head.

I cannot now write all the testimonies of God’s mighty deliverance during their three-month ordeal inside the enemy’s camp and the military assault that followed. How could Bible-wielding, weak and emaciated (from daily fasting up in the cruel mountains of Jolo, Sulu) Christian men escape the fierceness of the Abu Sayyaf and later on, the canons and bombs from military planes (for the government had declared an all-out war against the Abu Sayyaf but they (Abu Sayyaf) insisted that the JMCIM Christians would stay close to them)?

I cried out to God with my voice—
To God with my voice;
And He gave ear to me.
In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord;
My hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing;
My soul refused to be comforted. 
(Psalm 77: 1-2)

The bombs would drop from the military planes, cutting off trees and spattering the earth. The Abu Sayyaf would be fleeing to wherever they could escape, but the faith-full Christian men, always anticipating God’s mighty deliverance, would be on their knees, arms raised up to heaven, yielding their bodies to God’s protection WHICH.NEVER.FAILED. (Sobbing now).

And God delivered them triumphantly, all thirteen of them. They were not hurt by the Abu Sayyaf nor the bombs and canons of the military assault. HALLELUIAH!

But the beloved pastor suffered much. Due to prolonged fasting (he had fasted 40 days and 40 nights before entering the Abu Sayyaf camp and continued it during much of their stay in the mountains), his body weakened so much that he could hardly walk and talk. He is still recovering until now. I remember the apostle Paul’s words: I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus (Gal. 6:17).

As the years passed and the Church continued to wait for the beloved pastor’s full recovery and as it travailed still in heartbreaking trials (the passing away of the beloved assistant pastor, Lina C. Almeda, among other trials of faith), some despaired (I was one of them) if the Lord’s eyes and miracles were still on His Church, JMCIM. But we were wrong in even letting that thought enter the mind. For God again showed His amazing miracles – healings, lives changed, deliverance – and let His powerful presence felt in the congregation every worship service.

I read Asaph’s laments and I can imagine the beloved pastor (and the beloved brethren) awake in the night, meditating on God and His wondrous works.

You hold my eyelids open;
I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
I have considered the days of old,
The years of ancient times.
I call to remembrance my song in the night;
I meditate within my heart,
And my spirit makes diligent search.

Will the Lord cast off forever?
And will He be favorable no more?
Has His mercy ceased forever?
Has His promise failed forevermore?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies? Selah (vv. 4-9)

I hold these precious words close to my heart. They serve as lamp in the dark, wisdom in weakness and confusion.

Last Sunday, October 7, the whole Church gathered together again to remember God’s goodness and celebrate His mighty deeds that He has shown. Once again, brethren, specially the prayer warriors of the victorious Talipao peace mission, shouted out their praise, testimonies, and celebratory messages in the pulpit. Human strength is not enough to shout out God’s wondrous works to the ends of the earth.

And I said, “This is my anguish;
But I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.”
11 I will remember the works of the Lord;
Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.
12 I will also meditate on all Your work,
And talk of Your deeds.
13 Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary;
Who is so great a God as our God?
14 You are the God who does wonders;
You have declared Your strength among the peoples. 
(vv. 10-14)

Below, I share with you photos of this blessed event. I pray these will be a blessing to you.

Congregational singing – joyful. These were those on the grounds.

The beloved brethren with their umbrellas to fend off the heat of the sun.

The Children’s Choir

Youngsters in worship (Children’s Choir)

The Adults’ Choir (brothers’ side)

Youth and Singles’ Choirs combined. Those on their knees were being filled by the Holy Spirit.

The musicians

A sister worshiping.

Beloved workers in the vineyard of the Lord (preachers, prayer warriors, pastoral workers).

The Jesus Finest Generation Choir

Up close

Hands in praise

The beloved JMCIM mimers

The Adults’ Choir (sisters’ side)

Our dearly beloved Hon. Pastor Wilde E. Almeda in the pulpit. He was in the verge of tears remembering how God had mightily delivered him and the 12 prayer warriors.

The altar call

Endnotes:

  • I thank beloved Bro. Edu Cortez of ExtremeDetails for providing the beautiful photos. God bless you so much more, Bro. Edu! (Lord willing, I hope to get some photography lessons from you in the coming days :)).
  • I was blessed to have browsed the manuscript of the book written about the Talipao peace mission by an American (CIA) who had studied and followed through the whole event. I hope and pray that it will be published soon.
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From Fear to Love

(Meditating on Psalm 76)

You, Yourself, are to be feared;
And who may stand in Your presence
When once You are angry? 
(Psalm 76:7)

The Bible teaches us to fear God. In fact, Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes summed it all up and concluded everything that have been written into one simple, yet very important verse:

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. (Ecc. 12: 13, emphasis added)

A very simple and clearly-worded commandment, a reminder, and a nugget of wisdom which can change the course of our lives. Indeed, the pursuit of a righteous life starts in having the fear of God. In the absence of it, life leans on sinfulness. It opposes everything that God has commanded.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom… (Prov. 9:10)

We begin to have a grasp of pure wisdom and to know God when we learn to fear Him. It is fear of Him that we begin to seek His truth and His righteousness. It is what urges us to find our way to Him. It is fear of Him that we want to seek and obtain His salvation. This fear of Him is what will drive us to pursue Him, know Him, believe in Him and in His Word.

Our fear of God is the beginning of our faith. When we fear Him whom we do not see, we believe in the existence of an Almighty God in whose hands our lives are held.

Ultimately, the faith that sprung up from our fear of this powerful God drives us to humbly surrender our lives to Him, repent, and accept His offer of salvation through Jesus Christ. It is then that we begin the journey of a changed life intimately guided by His Spirit.

It is good that the fear of God is completed in us, compelling us to obey all His commandments. But a Christian that has been born of the Spirit progresses to the higher ground, a place where love dwells. This new creation now bears the fruit of the Holy Spirit, topmost of which is love. He or she now walks in love, and whatever he or she does, he or she does it for the love of the Lord. This is the higher ground – the place where true freedom and joy are experienced.

We can easily see the difference between doing things for God in fear of Him, or in our fervent love for Him. Do we go to church because we fear the consequences if we don’t, or do we go because we hunger for His holy presence? Do we praise Him for hours because we know it is what He desires and if we don’t, we fear that He might be displeased of us, or do we praise Him because our hearts are burning in our love for Him and our spirits can’t get enough of Him, drinking of His holy fountain?

Do we suppress our resentments to other people, doing our very best to forgive those who have hurt us – although our hearts say otherwise, thinking ill thoughts of them – because we fear the Lord’s anger might be kindled against us? Or, do we love Him enough to show our gratitude to Him by loving even our enemies as He has commanded?

Love liberates! Because of our fervent love for the Lord, we can now willingly obey His commands (John 14:15), even the hard ones, like loving your enemies, praying for them, and blessing them. It is love that compels us to honor and obey Him. A love that has been born out of His tender mercies for us. We love him, because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). He first showed us how to love, and now we can do it also by His Spirit who works in and through us.

…God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in Him. (1 John 4: 16)

When we have been perfected in love, there is no more fear for perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4: 18).

Related post: First Love

Endnotes:

  • This is an edited repost from the archives.

  • Photo of Umbrella Rocks Beach in my hometown of Agno, Pangasinan, Philippines, courtesy of Agno LGU.

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To Have a Life

It was late Monday night, I sat at the edge of the bed to sing praises to the Lord and worship. After a few songs, I knew the Lord has ushered in a new day, and it was already the day of my birth. I began to sing spontaneously, singing that which my heart wanted to cry out. It wanted to shout to the Lord its deep gratitude for His mercies that endure.

When the need for God is deeper and more urgent – like the next heartbeat perhaps – and His mercies and rescue come like a gentle rain — gratitude is more profound.

So I lift up my whole being towards Him, trying my best to express my gratitude for all He’s done in my life, if that were possible. But truly, there are no words or songs enough to convey this.

I thank Him for my life and for the countless times that He has come to my rescue. He has never failed me. And during seasons of celebrations, I still strain to remember the times of great need. This helps me maintain a posture of being bent down low and stay in the path of humility and thanksgiving.

It was early 2005, my body was busy dying, but my spirit was busy believing, trusting, and hoping. When I rested from reading the Bible or listening to Bible Studies on tape, I counted the flowers on the wallpaper of my daughter’s room where I spent that first quarter. Or I would watch through the window the townhouse being built in front of our house, how each rivet was driven into the corrugated roof. Counting flowers on the wallpaper – one can’t avoid it when one is bound in bed like I was.

Later on, I found inspiration and enough strength to color children’s coloring books. I wanted to pass the time more enjoyably and my fingers were ready for the exercise.

Years later when I was already basking in God’s healing grace, I wanted to do something which would celebrate God’s mercy and goodness in my life. I wanted to make use of my regained strength which would make me remember constantly how God has raised me up from my sick bed. That was the time I wanted to prepare special snacks and meals for the family. And the table of thanksgiving was set up. It is now a fast becoming tradition of our family.

The weak hands and fingers that couldn’t be used to put food into my mouth and were later on exercised by making strokes of the crayons on the pages of a coloring book, are now the hands that knead dough to make bread or stir a batter or temper egg yolks to make a custard or scoop ice cream that I have made. The family gathers around the table and I don’t fail to think about the goodness and faithfulness of God. Every bread that I make and put on the table makes me think of Him who held the bread, broke it, and offered it for the life of the world. He is the living bread.

“I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” (John 6:51)

Faith has triumphed over flesh. The body that was bound in bed now lives a fulfilling life, a life the Lord has purposed when He called me to walk in His presence.

He is calling us to have a life in Him – a life redeemed, healed, and made whole by Him. Friend, are you in the dark and don’t know what to do and where to go? Jesus is calling. It is all possible for Him.

Know the keys of salvation here.

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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.