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CHRISTIANITY

ACTIVE STILLNESS

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10

I love the song STILL by Hillsong, especially the chorus where it says “When the oceans rise and thunders roar, I will soar with You above the storm. Father, you are king over the flood. I will be still and know you are God.” My wife and I found a Tagalog version of this song. It’s not translated word for word, but the thought of the song is expressed more accurately, in my personal opinion. The Tagalog version of the chorus goes like this “Suliranin man ay dumating (Even if predicaments come our way) Ikaw lamang O Diyos ang sasambahin (I will praise you alone O God) Panginoon ko sayo lamang, mananatili kalian pa man (Forever I will remain still in You o Lord).” I know, it’s not a very accurate translation, but the song is not the point.

Whenever I am confronted by verses that command me to BE STILL and get a grip on my anxious soul, I always think of just giving up. Most people would even say LET GO AND LET GOD and it always feels like a last resort. It’s like driving your car until it runs out of gas and then letting the momentum take you wherever. Subconsciously, I have equated being STILL to passively quitting. Que sera sera – whatever happens, happens. This was my mentality before I was confronted by a sermon preached in church just recently about INTENTIONAL GROWTH.

We Christians are saved by God’s grace alone. Our faith and understanding of God is also a gift that is made possible by the ministry of the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truths (John 16:13). We are privileged to understand spiritual things because we were permitted to understand spiritual things. When it comes to our spiritual growth, we are commanded to endure and show character in the light of hardship and persecution (Heb 12:7). Even Jesus said to love those who persecute us (Mat 5:44). So where does being STILL fit in this scenario of INTENTIONAL GROWTH?

I believe that being still is not passive in nature. Remember Jesus telling the storm to BE STILL? It required great power. The power that Jesus initially veiled as He lived His life as a human being (Phil 2:6-7). He had the power, He was just not flaunting it. In our case, we have that same power in Christ and we should recognize it. Being STILL requires an active understanding of God’s character and how He directly affects our lives. Being STILL is not giving up but pressing on and moving towards the goal that was set before us. Being STILL is a calling to pursue holiness in the midst of pain and corruption. Being STILL is our best option during times of uncertainty.

When we start to choose to be still, change is never guaranteed. Peace, on the other hand, can be attained in our STILLNESS. I love how the Apostle Paul told the believers in Philippi that God’s peace is beyond their comprehension and is able to guard our hearts and minds as we live in Christ (Phil 4:7).

As my wife and I go through rivers of doubts during her pregnancy, I pray for God’s sustaining grace as we attempt to intentionally grow in Him and actively pursue being STILL.

Photo by Sunyu on Unsplash

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CHRISTIANITY

PASSING OVER

The exodus account is one of my favorite stories in the Bible. Seeing the faithfulness of God all through-out the narrative is a depiction of unfailing grace and renewed mercy. The temporary uprooting of Jacob and his family was pre-planned by God in eternity past so that the lineage of Christ will be preserved. It gives you a glimpse of God’s love towards His beloved. Then, the time came for the Israelites to return.

When you read the first chapter of exodus starting at verse 8, you would see that the suffering of the Israelites started when a new Pharaoh came into power without being oriented to the history and origin of Joseph’s people. Fear was somehow instilled in the mind of this new leader. A major detail to the story of the Passover.

I will not be tackling the whole story. I expect that you have come here with a basic knowledge of the Exodus story, or even the Disney adaptation – Prince of Egypt. Now, let’s fast forward to the very last plague that would be the key to the Israelite’s release.

Now the Lord had said to Moses, “I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt. After that, he will let you go from here, and when he does, he will drive you out completely. (Exo 11:1 NIV)

Let’s pause. You might be thinking – “Why didn’t God just jump to this plague right here? Why go through all the trouble of sending nine plagues?” Well, it’s a very valid question. I asked myself that years ago, and I came across this study on how all the plagues God sent may have been a direct contradiction to one or two specific gods of the Egyptians. Just like how the last plague hits the ultimate power of Egypt – Pharaoh! The Egyptians worshipped Pharaoh. They even believe that he is the actual son of Ra – the sun god. So, when you think about it, the nine plagues before the final one is a precursor to the ultimate knockout move God has planned out. Now that God has the attention of both the Israelites and the Egyptians, it’s time to show grace and judgment in one pass.

So Moses said, “This is what the Lord says: ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the slave girl, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt – worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. But among the Israelites, not a dog will bark at any man or animal.’ Then you will know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel. (Exodus 11:4-7 NIV)

There’s the knock-out punch! I love how Moses wrote the last part of verse 7 – “Then you will know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel. God has drawn the line and made sure that the world will know the difference between those He has chosen and those whose heart has hardened from the mere revelation of His character. Let’s move on.

The Lord had said to Moses, “Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you – so that my wonders may be multiplied in Egypt.” Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh, but the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go out of his country. (Exo 11:9 & 10)

TIME OUT! That’s not fair! Pharaoh was bound to lose in the first place! Let’s clarify. First of all, God will always judge fairly (Psa 9:8). If we understand the nature of God, it’s common knowledge for the believer (It should be) that everything God has willed and purposed is and will be good (Rom 8:28) – final and beneficial. Secondly, God is also a God of mercy, compassion, and grace (Lam 3:23). Never will God contradict His essence just to prove a point. His characteristics operate simultaneously without any contradiction. Remember what I said? GRACE AND JUDGEMENT IN ONE PASS! Now, let’s go back to my first question – Why did it take 10 plagues when it could have been finished in one? What if, it’s also a show of grace to Pharaoh to acknowledge God’s power and sovereignty over everything? I love how an article in The Gospel Coalition explained that for the first five plagues, Pharaoh hardened his heart. It was not until the end of the sixth plague (Exo 9:12) that it mentioned the Lord hardening Pharaoh’s heart. Then, then the article said this:

Well how did God harden Pharaoh’s heart? God simply revealed himself. He revealed his power, supremacy, love for his people, hatred of sin, etc.. Through the signs and wonders of the plagues. It was this revelation of God that hardened his heart.

Even before the plagues happened, in the first verse we read, the information Pharaoh decided to believe was the foundation of his heart being hardened. He did not know who Joseph was, therefore the existence of the Israelites became a threat.

We have come to the part of the story where God gave the Israelites the whole day to prepare for His visit. This part amazes me because of the way God has included specific instructions for the people to follow. The details include what meal to eat, how to prepare the meal, how to eat the meal and even what to wear during the meal. The most interesting part is when Moses said this:

“Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants. When you enter the land that the Lord will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘it is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when He struck down the Egyptians.’” Then the people bowed down and worshipped. The Israelites did just what the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron. (Exo 12:24-28)

This was an event worth remembering. This was an event that future generations needed to hear about. It’s like God telling the Israelites – Don’t you forget that I chose you! And when I come passing through your homes, remember that I showed you grace! Grace to the Israelites. Judgment to the Egyptians. All in one passing.

So how does this story help us?

Well, dearly beloved, if you are a follower of Christ, then we should not forget that God chose us. Before the foundation of the world, we have been purposed to be In Christ. Spiritual death passed over us the moment we were reconciled in Christ. Grace pursued us the moment we were born to this fallen world. The elaborate story of the Exodus was given for us to deeply appreciate the extent of God’s faithfulness towards us. Even during the times when we fail and complain, just like what the Israelites will do after they are freed, God continued to show grace.

Now, hold on to these principles. Live life with a better perspective. Look at your circumstances through the lens of grace. Remember this fact – that through Christ’s loving mercy, He called onto death to pass over His beloved and offered Himself in our stead. The passing over of death is in itself an act of grace.

Photo by Cosmin Gurau on Unsplash

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CHRISTIANITY

HOLY WEAK

The end of the Lenten season is at hand topped off with a weeklong commemoration of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. The “HOLY WEEK” is anticipated by the Filipino people, not because of any spiritual undertone, but because of the long holiday weekend. It’s a chance for the working people to experience uninterrupted days of rest. So…who’s excited for a long holiday weekend? (If you’re reading this in the far future, I’m writing this during the enhanced community quarantine where everyone has been in lockdown for more than a month because of the COVID-19 pandemic.)

Celebrating Jesus should be a default for the Christian. Apostle Paul declared it best to the believers in Philippi – “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21 NIV) The life of the Apostle Paul before his encounter with Jesus in the road to Damascus was so much against God, and yet, God in His love and sovereignty pursued Paul (it was Saul back then) to live a life with a greater purpose. That is why when the great Apostle said “For to me, to live is Christ…” it was a statement that as long as he is living, the life he is living will be in parallel to Christ. He can confidently say that because he has nothing to lose. Even dying is gain…profit! That is why, if you only have this week to think about Christ, to honor His sacrifice, then what does that make us?

Dedicating our lives to Jesus is never easy. Even Jesus said that the world will hate us because of Him (John 15:18; Matt 10:22). We will even be persecuted because of Jesus (Matt 5:11). The Christian way of living will be hard, and the only way for us to live it out the way it should be is when we understand that our hope is in the Lord (Isa 40:31). That is why our best shot in this world is to really stick close to Jesus. How close? Like you have “…been crucified with Christ…” (Gal 2:20). When you continue the verse, it says there that being crucified with Christ gives you a grace-oriented perception that it is no longer you and I who are living, it is Christ living in us!

So let’s get to my main point.

We, who have been sanctified by the blood of Jesus Christ, draw strength from the God who pursued us. We are spiritually weak and vulnerable. And it is in our weakness where God’s power is made complete and full. That is why we should never be ashamed of our weakness (2 Cor 12:9). Our capacity to comprehend the grace, mercy, and compassion of Christ is all because of the power of the Holy Spirit in us who teaches us all things (John 14:26).

In conclusion, during the holiest week of the year, we have to accept the fact that we are weak. If Jesus, in all His power, decided to veil His deity and become a man just to fulfill the Father’s plan (Phil 2:6-8), then we, who are spiritually weak, have no choice but to submit to God.

This is my first installment in my personal reflection regarding the importance of knowing who Jesus is. I hope and pray, that as we progress in our walk with God, that our ultimate understanding of His nature would radically change the direction of our goals and aspiration in life.

Photo by Ümit Bulut on Unsplash

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CHRISTIANITY

ENHANCED SPIRITUAL QUARANTINE

After weeks of being quarantined because of the rising COVID-19 dilemma, people have resorted to social media as their source of entertainment and frustration. People would often like, comment, post, and share things that do not go well with everyone. People from the extreme left would refute people from the utmost right, and vice versa. And if you’re neutral, you become prey to both parties. The heavy desire of people to connect through social media would sometimes push us to become hateful, vindictive and just plain rude.

Don’t mistake my introduction as a sign of empathy or neutrality, because I have my own take on what is happening around us. I am just choosing to shut up. A handful of family and friends are the only people I prefer to share my insights. They know me well enough to rebuke me or encourage me in love, especially when my unsolicited opinion is suddenly shared on Facebook. But as I extend my time in social media, my mental and emotional state is slowly deteriorating. I feel stress is beginning to brew in the recesses of my soul.

Step back.

In a time when social distancing is urged, I firmly believe that SOCIAL MEDIA DISTANCING should be more encouraged. It’s high time for us, Bible-believing followers of Jesus Christ, to step back from the thinking of the world. Apostle Paul said it perfectly to the Christians of the Roman Empire – “Do not conform to the pattern of this world…” (Romans 12:1a NIV) Do not walk like the heathens do. Don’t talk like the unbelievers do. A higher calling is expected from us, and anything less is unacceptable. Anything less is plainly a violation of God’s integrity. Anything less is a sin. So if your social media account becomes so unbearable, and your notion of justice and fairness is being challenged with every post you read, then take the Biblical route. Don’t react like the world, but respond like Jesus. Master the art of compassion, and let God take your Christianity to the next level.

Reset.

“…but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:1b NIV) Stepping back is just the first step. Now is the hard part – changing. Transformation comes from a renovation of our thinking. My dad is in construction, and I remember him telling his foreman during a renovation of a building to TAKE DOWN FOUNDATIONS WITH COMPROMISED INTEGRITY and replace them with new ones. When our worldview is not founded on absolute truth, then integrity is sure to be compromised. If sin has caused the damage, then let’s confess our sins and let God cleanse us from all our unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Confession of sin is another way of stepping back and acknowledging that something needs to change. Don’t let the quicksand of social media hate pull you down a lifestyle void of compassion. Repent and be transformed. Continue your journey to a more pleasing and gracious version of you.

Dive right back.

With a better understanding of God’s love and grace, we have a better chance of surviving out there. I’m not saying that we will be able to withstand everything life will throw at us, but we “…will be able to test and approve what God’s will is…” (Romans 12:1c) That is what matters. Even Jesus, the third person of the Godhead, wanted what God the Father has intended for Him. Jesus earnestly prayed to God – “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42 NIV) YET NOT MY WILL, BUT YOURS BE DONE. Once every thought in our minds is fixed unto Jesus, and we slowly build a mental capacity to somehow grasp on to the Sovereignty, Omnipotence, Omniscience, and Love of our God, then we start to surrender everything to God. We lift up both hands in submission, knowing that God, in His unwavering righteousness, perfect justice, and absolute sovereignty, has everything in control. Whatever the government decrees, God has assured us that “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord…” (Proverbs 21:1a KJV). Whoever wishes us ill, “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?” (Psalm 118:6 KJV).

Stay rooted.

As we dive back into the social media stream, let us remain in Christ…and only by the grace of God can we remain in Him! Do not let the hate-filled comments, the burdening posts, and the discouraging news take you away from our stand in Jesus. Be armed with compassion and integrity, and “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8 NIV) It’s harder than it seems, but always know that when we fail and fall – Step back, reset, dive back in, and pray to God that we stay rooted.

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

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CHRISTIANITY

FEARDEMIC

These are trying times.

Here in our part of the world, our government has declared a nationwide community quarantine to curb the increasing number of people affected by COVID-19. We have been locked in our homes for almost a week, and I can feel anxiety creeping up on me. Not just about the current scare of being infected and even the possibility of my loved ones getting the virus, but the aftermath of this whole ordeal. Stocks have been in a freefall and businesses, big and small, are starting to lay off employees just to stay afloat.

I’ve been hearing of a great worldwide recession that’s coming, even bigger than what caused the great depression. Analysts from all over are trying to predict the economic pulse of the world after the pandemic. Everyone is looking for stability. Everyone is looking for security. I, for one, am guilty of this.

So what should we do?

Maybe after this sentence, you will hit the back button and look for another article to read. Still, I would like to tell you this – It’s time to anchor our stability and security on God! Yes, I am the kind of person who has built my entire belief system on the One Who created the heavens and the earth. I am a follower of Christ. But, that doesn’t mean that I am well off. In reality, fear is my go-to emotion. I’m not proud of it, but I need to address it. That is the whole point of this whole article.

From the start of the pandemic, fear has been slowly taking hold of my core beliefs. Slowly demolishing the system of beliefs that I have been learning all throughout my life. Biblical precepts were slowly being unloaded because of my unbelief. Fear took away my peace…and that opened a whole new level of internal problems for me. Panic and anger ensued. I was spiraling downwards…and I was risking the peace of my family too. I had to bounce back.

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

This passage gave me the opportunity to bounce back. God was offering a peace that was beyond comprehension. The kind of peace that will bound my thinking towards Jesus. So, when the writer of Hebrews told us to FIX OUR EYES ON JESUS (Heb 12:2), it was under the premise of gaining God’s gift of peace. If it was just up to us, fear will never depart from us. Remember, the spirit of fear is not from God (2 Tim 1:7). Peace is what God has in store for us.

Now, I don’t know when all of this will end. I have no clue what will happen next. I’m just taking it one day at a time…because today’s trouble is enough for today! (Matt 6:34)

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CHRISTIANITY

MORE THAN A WORD

Grace is just a common word for the common person. Nothing special. Nothing spectacular. Nothing breathtaking. Grace is just a word. But when you have nothing to show forth, grace becomes your everything.

My first personal and face-to-face encounter with grace came when I was a little over 11 years of age. A Pastor and dear family friend of ours made me realize that unlimited grace was just a positive decision away. The moment I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior, grace became amazing in my eyes. The fact that a sinner like me, with nothing worthwhile to show forth and righteousness as filthy rags, became acceptable in the sight of a perfectly just and righteous God. It made grace more than amazing and wonderful for me. The awesome fact that Jesus who knew no sin became sin for me so that I, the filthy sinner, can become worthwhile in the eyes of God. That was something I have truly appreciated in my early years as a Christian…til everything became complicated.

Years have passed and God blessed me and my family with so much. We were living a very comfortable life and our convenience became a breeding ground for leniency in our spiritual lives. Soon, our prosperity quickly turned from being a blessing to a heartbreaking test. We forgot what was important. Detailing our struggles here will be unfair for my family, but let me tell you this, we were left with nothing except for God’s grace.

Up until now, we are still recovering from what had happened. Hard times became harder and tensions within the family rose…but still, God’s grace overflowed from the heavens. We may never be as comfortable or financially stable as we used to be, but we are much more secured now as we were before. Now, we understand that security comes from the absolute source of grace. As long as God is in the business of flaunting grace, there is nothing to worry about.

I’m not promoting the abuse of grace but the idea that without grace, we are nobody with nothing going nowhere. Our lives are pointless and senseless without grace.

It’s no accident that you are reading my post. Maybe God is speaking to you and telling you that it’s time you allow grace to be more than a word.

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CHRISTIANITY

REALITY OF CHANGE

I don’t like it but I need it. I HAVE to change in order for me to be able to do stuff that really matter. Life is constantly changing, and not to change will be devastating. 50, 20, 10 years ago…things ran differently. The government for one has a constant fluctuation in growth…one decade we we’re a tiger economy, then a poverty stricken country on the next. People change for the better or mutate to a Hyde-like person. We are changing.

This morning, I was browsing the internet for stuff that would satisfy my interest-seeking media conscience. I had five browsers simultaneously running with one purpose in mind; fulfill my craving for information that could benefit my career and my spiritual life. 15 minutes in to my search for media-nirvana, I stumbled upon Pastor Ed Young’s blog. Pastor Ed Young is the Pastor of Fellowship Church and his recently concluded Sunday Sermon just got uploaded. He has a series on LUST called “Leaving Lust Vegas” and preached on the lust of the flesh. I watched the 28min teaser kinda clip…the rest of the sermon was available for download for a small donation. The clip revolved around the story of Lot and his decision to pitch his tent towards Sodom (Genesis 13) during an internal conflict with his uncle Abe. We all know that Sodom and Gomorrah provided services that would bankrupt Manila’s Red Light district. Unimaginable sexual lusts are marketed in that city 24/7…and Lot was slowly drawn from the outskirts of Sodom in to the heart of Sodom.

What struck me the most with Pastor Young’s sermon was the reality of how much effort we have to exert in order to integrate biblically good change within us. I am 25, and people say I’m still young…but according to a Wii console, I’m in a 36 year old body! Now that’s one change I need to address…but for the rest of my life, what do I really want to do? What changes should occur for me to be used by God? Another question that I need to ask myself is…am I willing to change at all?

I already know that change needs to begin within. As John the beloved said that as my soul prospers, the details of life will follow. I want to succeed in life, but not according to man’s standards. I want God’s approval and hear Him in my soul say “Well done!” I think seeking God’s approval is not a lust, but a desire.

So, what do I need to do? CHANGE

How will I change? Now…that’s a question for another blog entry to answer! For now, I’ll be doing baby bite size applications and try to implement as much renovation of the mentality as possible!

Photo by Adri Tormo on Unsplash