Faith that Works Through Love

Every time I read something about the Rapture, the Great Tribulation, and the imminent coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (like the book I’m reading now, Maranatha: Our Lord, Come) or hear news that a brother or sister in Christ has gone to be with the Lord, I have this instinctive desire to do more for Christ and it’s basically triggered by fear. But always instantaneously with the thought are these questions, “Why would you want to do that? You want to make sure that you will be saved? You want to do more just so you will be assured of salvation?” And even before the questions are complete, I know that to even think to do more to make sure I receive God’s promised salvation is misunderstanding God’s grace altogether.

I know there’s no way I can work for and earn my salvation; the Lord Jesus has completed the work for me. So, that checked, how can these reminders minister to me? It is not to do more to make sure I will be saved, but to be more faithful to my Savior, to burrow myself deeper into Him. For it is my faith which keeps me attached to Him. For to be far from Him, let alone be cut off from Him, would spell death for me. For it is faith in Him that has saved me. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31).

So, what I can do is to prove my faithfulness to Him. When I seek Him more with all my heart and spend more time in His presence, I’m being faithful to Him. When I do my best to obey His commands, honor them, and live them out in my daily life, I’m being faithful to Him. When I desire Him to expand and grow my love for others, so that I delight to think about the welfare of the widow and the fatherless, to the “least of these”, and do something for them, I’m being faithful to Him.

It is my faithfulness to Him that drives me to do more, and it has become clear to me that I can only prove that faithfulness through my love.

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love(Gal. 5:6, emphasis added)

Faith that works through love.

It took two full years before I got a good grasp of it. For faith without works is dead (James 2:20). And the greatest faith is rendered as nothing without love.

…if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. (1 Cor. 13:2)

So, it is a trio:

FAITH that WORKS through LOVE.

Now I understand fully why our dearly beloved Hon. Pastor Wilde Almeda would want to leave the comforts of home and the congregation of the saints and enter into the “lions’ den”, the camp of the most feared terrorist group in the country, the Abu Sayyaf, to preach the Gospel, pray for the sick hostages, and help with their safe release.

It was great FAITH that WORKED through unfeigned LOVE; fearless faith proven through fervent love for the Lord and for the unsaved. He loves the Lord so much he would obey Him and follow Him to the ends of the earth. Halleluiah! To God be the glory!

And I think about beloved Brother Alvin Flores, one of the prayer warriors who went with the beloved pastor in that most dangerous peace mission, as he went to be with the Lord just three nights ago. Together with his companions, he experienced the horrors of being in the constant presence of the enemy; escaped at night without the light of the moon and stars, in danger of wild beasts and falling into deep ravines; stayed on the ground with his knees deeply rooted in prayer as bombs fell from military planes, cutting down trees and turning over the earth in their wake.

Their faith saw them through that 3-month ordeal and came out of it unharmed. Faith that was not without love. And it is this faith that was proven through love that Brother Alvin finally laid at his Savior’s feet as he saw Him at last.

Related posts:

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My gratitude list ~ the things I am thankful to the Lord for:

(For over a year now, I have been joining Ann in sharing my one thousand gifts list, but I haven’t been numbering mine. I believed that my weekly list was just a small fraction of God’s daily gifts and to number them would be putting a limit to the rather COUNTLESS blessings. But today, I will start to number them, but write only the ones that may edify and encourage others, leaving the rest written on my heart).
  1. For another evening out with the family (another “travel test”); relishing these healing moments from the Lord.
  2. For the loving support and patience of my beloved husband; he is one with me in stepping into faith at this time of our life.
  3. For the love of my daughter Hannah, quietly receiving her little brother’s hostilities and punches inside our parked car just so I wouldn’t be stressed while their dad went into the restaurant.
  4. For Tim always wanting to sit beside me when I go out to the garden.
  5. For Thursday night which found me praising, worshiping, and weeping before God; weeping in deep gratitude for His enduring mercies – how can the soul forget?
  6. For brethren welcoming fellow Christians from the states, embracing and showing brotherly love. Blessed to see the wondrous sight!
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Journey with Jesus,

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,

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).
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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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How Have We Been Redeeming the Time?

One evening last week, I received a “blanket” text message from the main Church of Jesus Miracle Crusade International Ministry. Beloved Hon. Pastor Wilde Almeda had seen a vision during prayer. He saw the Lord in tears. He was weeping because there were brethren who turned their backs on Him and had chosen to embrace the world. And there were others whose love had grown cold. He wanted to warn everyone that His coming is very near. Then the beloved pastor saw heaven open and the Lord handed trumpets to the angels. The Lord Jesus is coming very soon, so the beloved pastor’s earnest reminder is for everyone to be fervent in serving the Lord, to be vigilant and to not let the enemy deceive anyone.

After reading the important message, these words instantly came to mind: “redeeming the time”.

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Eph. 5:15-17)

And I asked myself, “How have I been redeeming the time?” I realized that I came short in fulfilling this.

I had seen in other devotional blogs (and I had written it on mine, too) how this phrase had often been used, but when I read the urgent message about the vision, it was only then that I really put my whole attention to it.

We might have been consistently sharing the Gospel and our testimony through speaking and writing, but we might not have realized that there was an element missing all the time. I know that there are so many in our Church (JMCIM) whose fervor in winning souls has not waned a bit throughout the passing of time, but I definitely can’t speak the same for myself. When I examined myself, I found out that I have slackened my grip on my desire for the salvation of others. All the while, I believed this was just normal, thinking that we really couldn’t push our faith to others, even to family and friends.

But I realized that this slackening, this relaxing, was taking longer and complacency was actually slowly creeping in. How could I say that when all the time I had been writing prolifically on my blog about the Gospel? I must confess, it lacked the element of urgency. Yes, urgency. When we take action to win souls for Christ, the driving force behind it is not reluctant obedience – you know, just to show God that we’re doing our assignment – but the thought that every second that passes, the unsaved is in the brink of falling into the Pit, that it might already be too late for them.  We have to really care for their salvation

I want to see it this way (and therefore, would move accordingly): the salvation of souls is an emergency. It is as if we only have little time, and indeed we only have today, to do what we need to do. That alone should move us into action. This is “redeeming the time”.

There are reasons why our urgency gradually slides into complacency.

Indifference and Coldness of Others

There was a season that I profusely shared God’s truth and testimonies to loved ones, spending almost the whole day talking about testimonies after testimonies. They might have been touched and believed for from then on, they would ask for prayer whenever the need arose, but that wasn’t enough for them to receive the Lord Jesus Christ and be baptized in water in His name. They still preferred the old life, the religion that they were born into and grew up with. And though we’re definitely not giving up, our fervency hibernates indefinitely, but until when? I know I need to come out of my cocoon, to wake up from my complacency and begin winning my loved ones feverishly once again.

Fear of Persecution

Maybe we don’t want to hear people say all manner of hurtful words or insults about our faith. But that’s taking it to the extreme. What I had been guilty of was feeling quite embarrassed when I speak about Jesus and my faith, and the people I talk to made attempts to ignore the topic. I then learned to be discreet in bringing up the topic of salvation. But maybe I had become overly cautious to the extent of neglecting to do what I needed to do.

We ought to obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:29)

I admire the second-generation movers of our Church. I want to specifically mention beloved Teth (one of our beloved pastor’s children) and her beloved husband, Minister Luke Smith. They have settled in America with their four children but they make it a point to come home to Manila yearly to minister, sacrificing their children’s schooling. Just last Saturday, Oct. 27, the couple organized a concert for the youth entitled Jesus Miracle Youth Crusade Freedom Concert. Hannah and her Dad went to the concert while I stayed home and watched via live webcast. I was amazed at the preparation they had put into it in just a matter of weeks. Thousands attended, most of them youth.

The special numbers presented were all anointed – singing, special testimony, play, and the invitation to receive salvation. I was blown away by the power and glory of the Savior.  Beloved Teth and Minister Luke, together with their family and siblings, gave their all and it was so soul-stirring – such an inspiration! They shook the foundations of the stadium, so to speak, with their all-out, indefatigable singing and worship that hundreds of the youth that came received Jesus Christ. But it wasn’t only a great opportunity to bring salvation to the youth, it was also a time of revival for believers like me.

Their zeal speaks of how important and urgent the matter of salvation is.

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Veron Pagulayan

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Thank you to all who joined!

God bless you!

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

  • finishing 8 days of half-day fast
  • victorious Jesus Miracle Youth Crusade Freedom concert
  • spiritual revival: soul was stirred; blessed beyond expectations!
  • for brethren in Christ who inspire!
  • laughing with family until tummy hurt
  • true and durable joy
  • long and tight hugs
  • amazing, faith-fortifying testimonies
  • Hannah having had a wonderfully blessed time during the youth concert
  • slow cooker meals
  • Tim singing his kindergarten songs loudly
Photo courtesy of Sis. Helen Grace Arcilla.
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A Deeper Understanding of “Resting in the Lord”

I had been reading Christian books and devotional blogs mentioning the oft-quoted phrase “rest in the Lord”, but it was just very recently that I had a real grasp of it. I mean, it is easy to say it but what does “rest in the Lord” really mean? After the truth has sunk in my soul, I realized that “resting in the Lord” could feel very risky and scary. These are the things involved: risk and fear. That’s because we had been taught to rely on visible things rather than on the invisible God. But to truly rest in the Lord is to spurn these, to let go of these in exchange of plunging oneself at the feet of God, trusting completely in His mercy.

I don’t know how deep or trying your reason to choose to rest in the Lord is, but as for me, I took inventory of the years that I “rested in the Lord”, and I came to realize that to truly rest in the Lord is to believe that He can help, save, and deliver in the MOST urgent need. It involves a REAL belief, so real you could almost touch and taste it. That kind of belief is the seat of trust.

Because you truly believe, then you can trust, and therefore, you can rest.

There is no true rest when there is a shadow of doubt in your belief of a true and living God, a breathing, seeing, moving, fast-acting God – an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God.

I had wrestled with death not just a few times, and I remember my beloved husband offering to bring me to the hospital or buy me an oxygen tank at least. It was truly scary but I had always chosen to rest in God instead during those fear-filled walks through the valley of the shadow of death. I believed that the commotion that would be brought about by calling an ambulance, transferring me into it, the nurses milling about, the panic, the anxiety-filled trip to the hospital and then the hustle and bustle of the emergency room would be more than enough to stop my breath altogether.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4, emphasis added)

So, I always chose to rest in God, keeping my body as still as I could as I trusted in Him to save me, to deliver me to the next breath and heartbeat and to the next, until He brings recovery. I would keep still as an electric fan blew hard on my face, thinking hard about the Lord Jesus. When things were better, I even sang praises in my mind. He is a VERY PRESENT HELP in times of great need.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)

And though the flesh is weak and perishes, there is rest for the soul (Mat. 11:29). That is what resting in the Lord brings – rest for the soul.

When illness, suffering, difficulties, anguish, confusion, fear, weakness, worry overwhelm, I rest in His Word. His Word enlightens me, strengthens and comforts me. The Word is God (John 1:1).

To rest in God is His will for us. To be still in His presence and be confident in Him and His power are what He truly wants us to be. He has counselled us about this long time ago, that when we rest in Him, He will save and strengthen us (Is. 30:15). But the world had taught us to run elsewhere to get help. We had learned to rely on tangible things to quieten our souls and momentarily bring peace to our minds, not quite grasping the truth about God and what He is able to do. For with God all things are possible. (Mark 10:27)

Friend, are you looking for rest for your weary soul? Rest for your sick body or unquiet mind? The Lord Jesus is bidding you. He says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Mat. 10:28)

Photo courtesy of my friend Myriss Torres.
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