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,

Where Our Hearts Should Be

Years ago when I was grappling with the impact of my sudden illness that strapped me in bed all day, and even just to close my eyes and succumb to weariness was a scary thing, I would imagine the Lord Jesus Christ coming in the clouds with all His glory. I would imagine Him there suspended in the clouds while all of creation beholds Him, and I would take comfort and joy, amidst the pain and suffering and fear, in thinking that He’s coming back for me at last. That was my shining hope. It still is.

Only now, I scarcely imagine Him coming in the clouds, for I’ve slowly learned to take joy in the things around me, as my body gradually heals. As I began to relearn to dream, to aspire, to plan, even with my fragile health, feelings of sadness and frustrations are increasing as I draw joy more and more from my dreams.

Sure I haven’t given up my desire to travel and testify and share the Gospel, and this is a noble dream to have, aligned with the will of God. But I also dream (yearn!) of tending my home and family myself. I dream of remodeling our kitchen – mahogany cabinets, granite countertops, overhead oven – and working in it myself, not the maids. I dream of rising up early in the morning, praising and worshiping God longer, of preparing breakfast for my family and see the kids off to school with their healthy lunch packed neatly in their  boxes, of walking through our garden, tending the plants, growing my own kitchen garden…

I long to travel with my family to distant places once again, to see Europe, North America…

I hurt and I hunger, for all these remain a dream. When I cook, I’m assisted by maids. They bring everything to me on my working table, and that is outside of our kitchen for it would be tedious for me to be working there.

So I dream some more and the more I do it, the more I hunger and it is really painful. And I want to look for a way out.  There must be a hidden wisdom somewhere to shed light to this kind of hunger and waves of wistfulness, and set me free! And while I pondered, I was given this:

29 But let me say this, dear brothers and sisters: The time that remains is very short. So from now on, those with wives should not focus only on their marriage. 30 Those who weep or who rejoice or who buy things should not be absorbed by their weeping or their joy or their possessions. 31 Those who use the things of the world should not become attached to them. For this world as we know it will soon pass away.

32 I want you to be free from the concerns of this life. An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him. 33 But a married man has to think about his earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife. 34 His interests are divided. In the same way, a woman who is no longer married or has never been married can be devoted to the Lord and holy in body and in spirit. But a married woman has to think about her earthly responsibilities and how to please her husband. 35 I am saying this for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible. (1 Cor. 7: 29-35 NLT)

My dreams are not selfish, but if God is not giving fulfillment to any of them, as yet, I should not despair. I have been examining my heart lately and maybe the problem lies in our desire to have lives here on earth pat – perfect health, beautiful house and garden, blissful marriage, good kids, wonderful vacations, and whatever we desire that we believe would make our lives full.

But I’ve been thinking that if God filled us with all these, would we still desire Him? Would we still feel those pangs of hunger for Him? I think not. If all our treasures are here on earth, now, all the things that our hearts wish for, would we still long for heaven? No. I believe our hearts will stay earth-bound.

But the Lord Jesus counsels us to lay up treasures in heaven, for where our treasure is, there will our hearts be also (Mat. 6:21). That’s where our sights should be. That’s where all our desires and efforts should be geared towards. Lay up treasures in heaven, not on earth, for this world is passing away.

I believe God purposely leaves out places in us empty so He Himself would fill them. I believe these are present to curb the wayward tendencies of the heart. For if our lives are full now – wealth, honor, power, strength, pleasures – then we have our reward. But the Lord has reserved our rewards in heaven and He delights to present them to us when He returns.

Related: The Blessing of Hunger

Linked to Titus 2sday, Domestically Divine, Encourage My Heart, Teach Me Tuesday, State of the Heart, Women in the Word Wednesday, Proverbs 31 Thursday, Faith Filled Friday, Spiritual Sundays, Sharing His Beauty, A Wise Woman Builds Her Home, Walk with Him Wednesdays

When We’re Painfully Reminded

(Image source here)

Two Sundays ago, I received a letter from someone who has read my book Walking Along the Narrow Path. It was handed to my beloved husband in church. It was from a relative of one of our sisters-in-Christ. She belongs to another Christian congregation and according to her letter, she got hold of my book when someone from our Church lent it to her.

She said she read the book in two days with her sister who was sick of cancer. They started to read on Holy Thursday and finished it on Good Friday. She said that after they finished reading, she prayed for me. The next morning, Saturday, her sister died. But she continued to write, “I loved everything you wrote in your book.”

I cried when I read her letter. Two things instantly came to mind: while I was busy tending our home and my blog, someone was busy dying; and, why did they choose to read my book when they knew the hour was near?

Stories like this reminds me of the fragility and brevity of life. It also reminds me to cherish each moment that I’m given and to thank the Lord for it. And once again, I was reminded that my complaints, even though most of them are silent, are selfish. I was hushed by this poignant letter and made me look deeper inside again. Often, we see other people and their good lives and we feel a tinge of self-pity, and tend to forget that there are others whose lives are excruciatingly hard and are enveloped with hurting and suffering.

These painful reminders make me realize that, really, the most excellent thing to do is to live in daily deep gratitude to God.

Going back to the letter, she said that her sister Analyn, though she could no longer read, knew everything about me and our family by the time they finished the book. They read the book in two days. Analyn died on the third day. She was already that sick. The Holy Bible is the most important book of all, nothing can ever substitute it (“The Word is God”, I love it with all my heart), why did they choose to read my book before she died? It pained me just to think about it.

Then I remembered, the last chapter of my book is Heaven is Waiting, and the opening verse is this:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Rom. 8:18)

Then, I proceeded to discuss the promises of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Book of Revelations. Among the many Scriptures that I quoted in the book and in that last chapter, Analyn, though very sick, should have heard her sister read this:

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. (Rev. 21:4)

Since the letter-sender gave me her cell phone number, I asked if her sister had received the Lord Jesus Christ in her life and was baptized in water in His name, and she answered, yes, a few months before she died.

At that I was comforted by the thought that Analyn heard the promises of the Lord hours before she died, even just through my book, and I believe she was greatly comforted and felt the Lord’s love and embrace in those remaining hours.

It humbles me now as I ponder on all these things, how the Lord uses whatever it is in our hands for His glory and purposes, just as long as we humbly and sincerely offer it to Him. And through this, He has showered me yet again with fresh encouragement and inspiration to continue to do these things He has called me to do because I know that they are not in vain.

 So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. (Gal. 6:9 NLT)

Linked to Titus 2sday, Teach Me Tuesday, Encourage My HeartWomen Living Well, Winsome Wednesday, Walk With Him WednesdayFaith Filled Friday, Spiritual Sundays, Sharing His Beauty