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

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

Journey with Jesus,

Working Out Our Most Important Relationship

When I read that part where the Apostle Paul told the Philippians to “work out [their] own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12), I didn’t really understand then what it entailed. I didn’t know how to do it in a deep sense, in a very personal level. I heard a preacher in our Church exhort about it in general terms, likening our salvation with that of a precious gift, and doing our very best to hold on to it, to not let it be snatched away by the enemy. I understood that we should not be complacent but always be watchful.

Then I read what Ms. Darlene Zschech had briefly written (I think on the back of one of her CDs?), “Just work out your relationship with Jesus.” It stuck with me. For that was at a time when I was struggling to understand what was happening with my life, straining to see the light amidst the fiery trials. When you’re tested to the uttermost, you want to have at least an understanding of what is happening, where your life is leading to, if God is even with you.

Working out our own salvation as Apostle Paul implores us means as much as working out our relationship with our Redeemer. It is synonymous. When we received our salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, we entered into a relationship with Him. Our salvation then can never be apart from our relationship with Him. When we work out our relationship with our Savior King, we are working out our own salvation. (Even the quality of our other relationships is determined by how healthy or poor our relationship with the Lord Jesus is).

Why is there a need? I believe all of us who received the Lord Jesus and His salvation have experienced the struggle to maintain a fervent, faithful, and trusting relationship with Him in varying degrees. This struggle is most felt during a hard and prolonged trial. In my case, it was a combination of physical, mental and emotional suffering compounded with problems and challenges in our company and household, spelling out a F-I-E-R-Y | T-R-I-A-L no less.

During that long chilly season, my relationship with my Savior was one which ebbed and flowed, now and then marred with doubts and fears, and threatened by feelings of sullenness, discontent, disheartenment, bitterness, and a few times, even silent rebellion. It was like you want to confront the One who has control of it all and know why. Why? You just want to know why.

It was during this time that I got so intimately acquainted with Job. Talk about being kindred spirits by going through physical suffering and the mental and emotional anguish it brought. Oh friends, I know how it was to live between life and death everyday. Job wanted a confrontation with God so much; He longed to understand the meaning behind all his suffering. Oh, how I had echoed Job’s laments!

There were times that I wanted to go far away from Him just to let Him know that I was hurt by His seeming indifference. Yes, I had struggled with my relationship with my Redeemer King: sulking and having a pity party one minute, then running to His arms the next. There was battle of wills: His and mine. Why doesn’t the Lord just heal me so I can continue to manage our company seeing my husband grapples with the intricacies of a chemicals company? That was just one of my questions in the early years.

There is a struggle because our own will and wants, motivated by our own limited understanding, clash with God’s will, His thoughts and ways. Although we were called to a personal relationship with Jesus our Savior, calling Him our best friend, He is still God and there is a need for us to surrender to Him – completely. To yield ourselves to Him in total abandon.

I have learned that during trials, our relationship with our Lord Jesus is tested and threatened. Faith, trust, hope, steadfast love – all these that weave the threads of the tapestry of our relationship with Him become most vulnerable. It is during these times then that we really get to work. Work out our relationship with Him. How?

One of the keys is to know Him more. In the early part of my fiery trial and my relationship with the Lord Jesus was precariously tested (well, that was as far as I knew with my limited view of the bigger thing, but it definitely wasn’t the same with Him; He was holding me steadfastly all the time and never letting go, but I didn’t know that), my constant prayer was to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18).

We can know Him more by spending much of our time reading and meditating on His Word.

Another way is to draw ever nearer to Him; seek His powerful presence through worship. My favorite worship song during this time was Jesus, Draw Me Ever Nearer by Keith and Kristyn Getty.

Do you struggle in your faith walk? Continue to work out your relationship with the Lord Jesus. This is one relationship that has utmost importance to us. He is our Bridegroom, we are His Bride. We look forward to His coming when we’ll be forever with Him.

Additional reading: First Love

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

  • One whole week without maids; it was like a holiday for our family and the peace, joy and intimacy it brought were priceless.
  • Singing praises with heart full of faith and fervent love for the Lord bringing a gush of hot tears as Tim struggled to breathe due to asthma-like cough.
  • A fruit gift basket with a beautiful card.
  • Eating bunches of lanzones with family.
  • My vegetable garden coming to life now.
  • Pretty boxed cards, good pens collection, new friends, and lovely written words
I’m linking up with other blogs, please check the list at the side bar.

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.

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

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.

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

Which Side are You On: Faith or Fear?

JMCIM brethren worshiping on the grounds of Amoranto Stadium during a Sunday service.

I often share about the powerful moving of the Holy Spirit in our church, not only during worship services but also in everyday life. I have mentioned a few times before and I’ll mention it again now (I hope you won’t grow tired of it), that we have worship services three-times-a-week: on Fridays, it’s an overnight service from 8:30pm to 4:30am the next day, and on Sundays, it’s a whole-day affair from 10am to 5pm. What do we do in so many hours, you ask?

Most of the time is spent in testimonies. In-between choir singing (5-6 different choirs), brethren in Christ take turns in testifying in the pulpit of the miracles, healings, and mighty deliverances God has wrought in our lives. These testimonies are not only salvation and conversion stories, but ordinary and extraordinary miracles that the faithful encounter in daily life. (I could say that we are always on the look-out for such and we won’t delay in bragging/declaring about them in the pulpit for the glory of God).

That’s why I was surprised to read how other Christians in the other side of the globe react to supposedly God’s miracle and mighty deliverance.

I’m currently reading this Christian book and I was really enjoying it until I reached near the end where the author related a story about their family being involved in a serious road accident where their car was totaled beyond repair, but they themselves walked out of it unscathed. What the author went through afterwards was what caught my attention, and there, I noticed the big difference between the “practice of faith” in other Christians’ lives and ours.

The author relates how she, after the accident, went through great anxiety as she recalled what happened to their family that night. She writes that it was as though the room was filled with fear as she thought about “what could have been” and bemoaned the almost endless what ifs. These haunted her as her sense of safety became decidedly undone. God just delivered her and her whole family from a near-fatal accident, making them walk away with barely a scratch and she writes that she didn’t feel safe!

This miracle in their life should have decidedly proven to them that God protects and delivers His children, and instead of being engulfed with fear, this should have brought them into that place of celebration and thanksgiving.

Marvel at and be in awe of God’s mighty deliverance and not on the foiled plan of the enemy.

I respect her feelings; she’s entitled to them. But I just want to emphasize the difference between a Christian walking in faith, and thus, victory, and one who is walking in fear and uncertainty. What I’ve read in that part of her book is not at all how we are taught, time and again, to walk in faith.

I’ve heard numerous testimonies in church of miracles of similar nature. In fact, I’ve written some of them, and continue to write: brethren who had been delivered from serious road and air accidents, shooting incidents, bombingsrobbery in public transport, robbery hold-ups, kidnapping, in danger of rebels, rape, electrocution accidents, calamities – you name it! I’ve heard multitudes of them I’ve lost count! And of course, our family has had its share of these miracles, too.

Brethren safely walking out of disasters that could have easily taken their lives. Why? The God we serve is mighty to save and deliver! And this should be declared in the pulpits and wherever we go. These testimonies remind me of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. For the God who delivered them then is still the same God that we serve now.

These events that happen don’t end up buried in fear and anxiety, but they culminate in the pulpit where glory is proclaimed as it should be and given to Whom glory is due – only to the LORD GOD ALMIGHTY!

She also writes that “[God] never promises our families will be safe. Not in the way we think. He does promise His presence, though.” How can a child of God not be safe in His presence?

There is a difference between the children of God – the redeemed – and the children of disobedience, aside from the salvation of their souls, and that is His manifest presence in their lives. And where the presence of the Lord is, there His protection is also.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name;
You are Mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you. 
(Is. 43:1-2)

The silhouette of an angel photographed during JMCIM’s Church Foundation Anniversary, Feb. 2012.

The angel[a] of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him,
And delivers them. 
(Psalm 34:7)

Are [angels] not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation? (Heb. 1:14)

10 There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.

11 For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.

12 They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone. (Psalm 91:10-12)

Endnotes:

  1. Read more of God’s testimonies here.
  2. Read the whole of Psalm 91 here.
  3. What I’ve discussed regarding the book is not my complete review of it.
  4. Know more about Jesus Miracle Crusade International Ministry here.

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

  • This last song of the Jesus Finest Generation Choir, Still, the humbling, the weeping, the tears, the indescribable hunger, the screaming guitar, the frantic hands on the piano, the one on the mambo drums crying out, the outpouring, the crescendo, the mighty sound all intermingling, heightening into a beautiful, magnificent, glorious praise and worship! The sobs came loud and strong – uncontrollable! And the whole being was once again embraced, enrapt in His powerful, palpable presence! Halleluiah!
  • Listening to the Bible Study of beloved Hon. Asst. Pastor Lina C. Almeda.
  • This Coffee Crumble with Chocolate Ripple homemade ice cream (and the reminiscing it brought!) that the whole family loves.
  • This Date and Walnut Bread using dates from Saudi Arabia, a gift from a beloved sister in Christ.

 

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

 

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.