“GOD WITH SKIN”

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A father was tucking his son to sleep. After the lights were turned off, the son asked his dad to stay a bit longer with him.
To comfort his son, the father said, “Son, God is here and is always with you.”
To this, the little boy replied, “Yes. But I want someone with skin.”

Right before the turning point of history – from BC to AD, God had manifested His presence in various ways. While His people were in the desert, it was through a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
When they entered the promised land, God manifested and rested His presence in the temple.
But right at the central point of history, at the fullness of time, as Paul said in Galatians, God sent His Son as a full manifestation of His divine presence.

Paul wrote the church in Colossae saying, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” (Colossians 1:15)

“Image” implies representation and manifestation. Jesus was representing the Father. But not only did Jesus represent His Father, He Himself was God. He declared, “Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9)

How significant was this for you and me?

First and foremost, it meant our salvation. Through Christ, we are redeemed because of His atoning sacrifice at Calvary.

At the same breath, He is not just for us, He is also with us – “Immanuel.”

Hebrews 4:15 tells us, “For we do not have a high priest incapable of sympathizing with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin.”

As you go through life, fear may strike. At times, frustrations may hit you. Furthermore, testings and trials may come your way unexpectedly. But the assurance of His presence as we go through them assures us that we are not alone. He is for us and not against us. He will never leave nor forsake. He is the same yesterday, today and forever.


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“YOU DON’T BELIEVE IN WHAT YOU’RE SAYING”

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Blog Banners.001“I don’t think you really believe in what you’re saying.”

Joe Kim (not his real name) was telling me today regarding his experience before he met Christ. He was in high school when someone shared the gospel to him in Korea. He felt that his friend had just come from an evangelistic seminar and he was his friend’s first “project.”

Growing up in a Buddhist background, Joe wasn’t all that interested. In fact, he challenged his friend’s faith by telling him that “he really didn’t believe in what he was saying.”

When his friend asked how come he said that, Joe’s answer was, “Well, if you really believed in what you’re saying, it would show in how you live.” Joe loved his friend. In fact, they were often together, even in parties and drinking sprees. But he concluded that what his friend declared didn’t really work.

“If you believed in what you are declaring, you’re life would be different.”

Joe’s statement hit me. In fact, it hit me quite hard.
I began to look at my own life to see if what I believed lined up with how I lived my life.

Jesus addressed the crowds and told them this about the religious leaders of his time,

“Pay attention to what they tell you and do it. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they teach.” (Matthew 23:3)
What they taught didn’t line up with how they lived.

Our lives are sometimes the only Bible our friends will read. We can say one thing but if our life exemplifies something else, it will be difficult to believe. Does this mean that our lives need to be perfect? By no means. However, the important thing is that we’re progressing towards what God intended for us to go towards – to become like Christ. And THAT would be entirely by His grace working itself out in our daily lives.

LORD, thank You for saving me by Your grace. It is never by personal merit or deserved achievement. As I grow in the knowledge of Your grace and salvation, allow me to grow in greater Christ-likeness and holiness. May my life be a story of someone who was undeserving yet unconditionally cared for, fully known yet fully loved. And for that, I am forever grateful. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.


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WHEN YOU NEED WISDOM

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You can tell a person’s spiritual condition as you observe where he gets his wisdom and strength from.

David, together with his mighty men just lost their wives and children to the Amalekites. His men even thought of stoning him to death as a result. He cried so many tears that the Bible said that he no longer had any strength left to weep.

But he found strength in the Lord His God. (1 Samuel 30:6)

He later inquired of the Lord if they were to pursue the Amalekites.
God told him to go for it.

Right about the same time King Saul was seeking wisdom. But Saul looked for it through the witch of Endor. This was the beginning of a downward spiral spiritually.

Here is where you can observe one’s spiritual condition.
Saul sought wisdom through worldly means.
David sought it from God who knows all for He is the Alpha and Omega, knowing the end from the beginning.

When push comes to shove, who do you run to for wisdom and strength?

The Scriptures are readily available for us. His Word is our primary source for insight about life and living.

Let’s approach Him who not only knows everything but desires the best for us at will ultimately bring Him glory.


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“I FEEL SO DIRTY.”

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Blog Banners.001“I feel so dirty because of all the things I’ve done. I’ve messed up my life. Where can I go?”

Back in the Old Testament days, people were deemed unclean through a variety of ways: by skin diseases, discharges of bodily fluids, touching something dead ( Num 5:2 ), or eating unclean foods ( Lev 11 ; Deut 14 ).

The Law gave provisions how one becomes clean. One of which was going through a purification process. The unclean person was to be washed in what the Jews called “living water.” Living water was distinguished as one that is not stagnant but moving water like from spring, rivers and rain. Stagnant water would be from cisterns or big reservoirs.

When Jesus met the woman at the well in John 4, she was drawing cistern water. He knew that she had lived a life that was impure (for she had been with different men) yet used the water from the well as an object lesson.

Jesus said told her, “If you had known the gift of God and who it is who said to you, ʻGive me some water to drink,ʼ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

You see a person who is unclean has the ability to make another unclean by being in contact with them. A person who touches a dead person becomes unclean and whoever he touches will be unclean as well.

But it is only living water that would make an unclean person clean through the purification rites.

Jesus is the Living Water. The world may have caused us to become unclean because of sin but as we come to Him, we are made clean. He alone can bring complete cleansing that now makes us justified, blameless, perfect all because of His sacrifice on the cross.

If you are reading this and you have been marred by misdeeds and submerged in sin, come to the Living Water for He only not cleanses you, He gives you a fresh slate… a new start.

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation- the old is gone and the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

I’d like to invite you to pray this prayer:

“Lord, I have been separated from You because of my sin. I am unclean because of the mess I’ve created due to the wickedness of my own heart. I feel so dirty. But Your Word says that You are the Living Water that can make me clean. I come to You and in faith trust You as Lord and Savior, Lover and Forgiver, Master and Purifier of my life. Your death on the cross takes the curse of sin from me to be transferred onto you and Your righteousness imputed and passed on to me. Thank You for this gift of salvation and purification. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”


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CLAIMING THE PROMISES OF GOD

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Someone said that there are 3,000 promises written in Scripture for every believer. That’s more than 8 promises to claim per day! Other estimates go up to 7000 to 8000 total.

Now whether it’s 3,000 or 8,000, unfortunately many are unaware of them. And it is quite difficult to claim something you have no knowledge of.

The Bible says in 1 Peter 1:4 (NLT), “And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.”

He has given us great and precious promises! May we discover them and claim them.

Watch how we can discover and claim the promises God has for us.


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WHEN ODDS ARE STACKED UP AGAINST YOU

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Blog Banners.001What do you do when life throws you a curve ball and are now facing an overwhelming situation?

Psalm 42 is a cry to God at a time of desperation. Many believe that it was King David who wrote this Psalm during the time of his very own son, Absalom, taking over the kingdom that God established for him.

In Psalm 42:11, the psalmist speaks to his own soul,

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?”

After his question, he follows it up with an imperative commanding himself to put His hope on the One who can rescue him from his situation.

“Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”

The following video is a testimony of a man who had all the odds stacked up against him and his family and yet persevered not only in faith but also in praise.

Watch Joseph Carodan’s journey of seeing his son almost lose his life and the faithfulness of God to deliver Emman.

May this video bless you.

 

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WHEN GOD SEEMS SLOW TO ANSWER

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“No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God.” (Romans 4:20)

When facing a daunting challenge ahead, we have two choices – to press on with faith or to give up in unbelief.

I remember one of our pastors from Mindanao giving his testimony of God’s faithfulness. He and his wife have been praying for a baby for years. They wanted to enjoy the first couple of years of their marriage so they felt it was fine not to have a child yet. But as year 3 came, they realized that it wasn’t happening. Year 4 and 5 came and they were getting worried regarding what might be the concern.

Year 6 and 7 came and still no baby. At this point, when you go through this type of situation, what do you do? Do you accept that it’s the will of God or continue persevering in faith? For my two friends, they kept trusting God.

Similar to Romans 4:20, they stayed the course and allowed “no unbelief to make them waver concerning the promise of God.”

And here’s an important truth:
“A promise is only as good as the person who makes the promise.” (Dare To Believe Manual)

Because God said it, then that settles it!

If you have a promise from God, hold on to it. Don’t let go. Keep on keeping on because He who promised is faithful.

What happened after year 9? My friends got their answer to prayer. Baby Rania was born.

I can’t explain why Rania came on the 9th year of their marriage. Some answers to prayer come on the 5th or 9th or 15th year. But as you go through the journey, embrace the process for God is bringing about something you and I may not fully understand at the moment. But in time, we will realize that God makes all things beautiful in His time. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)


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OUT OF THE OVERFLOW

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It is said that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.
Have you ever experienced a time when you said something and you realized it was coming out of an overflow from what’s on the inside?
Frustration?
Anger?
Disappointment?

Or on the other hand it could be something positive.
Faith.
Love.
Joy.
Excitement.

I remember a time when I was praying for provision for my family. I knew that God said that “He shall supply all my needs in Christ.” I knew that the Word tells me to trust in the Lord with all my heart. But the next phrase that came out of my mouth was “what if it doesn’t happen?”

What I had in my heart eventually came out. What I believed or didn’t believe was ultimately articulated.

Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:13, “I believed, and so I spoke.”

As a result, I endeavored to fill my heart with the Word for the Bible says that faith comes from hearing the Word of God. (Romans 10:17)
When my heart is filled with God’s Word, it will eventually overflow and influence my speech and ultimately my actions.

Lord, help me go to Scriptures each and every day to fill my heart with words of life not death, strength not weakness, and joy not sorrow. May your Word be a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

I mentioned yesterday that I will start a series on the miracles of Jesus.  However, due to the Prayer and Fasting week, I’d like to jump off from the devotionals given that can be found in Victory’s website.


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WHEN I’M AT THE END OF MY ROPE

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Blog Banners.001Have you ever been in a desperate situation?

Someone deathly ill.
Business on a downturn.
Relationship gone sour.
Spirituality grown cold.
Facing a hopeless situation.

Two men who have been blind all their life must’ve heard about this miracle worker named Jesus. They followed him around. When they had a chance, they cried aloud and said, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.” (Matthew 9:29)

They had the audacity to interrupt Jesus’ busy schedule! Didn’t they know that the Lord had a lot of appointments to go to? They were being very insensitive!

But what’s amazing about Jesus is that he is never too busy for us. When we call out his name, he responds, especially when we do it in faith.

HIS MERCY

We approach Jesus on the basis of His mercy.
The 2 blind men cried out to Jesus and asked for mercy.
Some call out to Jesus as if he was their attendant.
A few treat him like Santa Claus.

But these two men understood that they can only approach Jesus on the basis of his mercy. They knew that they deserved nothing and could only ask for what Jesus could spare them.

Paul tells us in the book of Romans to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice in view of God’s mercy. Anything we can do for God stems from what He has already done for us.

HIS NAME

“Son of David” was a messianic title attributed to Christ. While they were calling out for mercy, they were also crying out in faith. They were stepping out in faith that if this Jesus was really what men said he was, then he would have the power to meet them at their point of desperation.

Calling Jesus “Son of David” expressed their sense of his deity, dominion and power, declaring that he was the Messiah.

OUR FAITH

The 2 blind men were asked, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” (Matthew 9:28a)
What a question!
Previously, he just restored a girl back to life. Whoever has heard of this miracle would be so pumped to go to Jesus for a prayer.

So what was their answer to Jesus’ question?
They said, “Yes, Lord.” (Matthew 9:28b)

Interesting that they didn’t just answer with a simple yes. They followed it up with “Lord.” This was an act of faith indeed!
He is not just the Christ, he is also the Lord.

Jesus doesn’t just meet us at our point of need but more so at our point of faith.

PRAYER:

Lord, we thank You for the example of the two blind men who dared to believe. They acknowledged who You are and trusted that You are able to do what you decided to do.
I pray that we would have the same faith to believe you in the darkest times – that what You’ve said You would do, You will actually do. Thank You that You are not only a Covenant Maker, You are also a Covenant Keeper. And for that, I lift up my praise to You. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.

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This week is Prayer and Fasting week for Victory all over the Philippines and for Every Nation Worldwide. The theme is #DareToBelieve. For the next 5 days, including today, I will post reflections on the miracles Jesus performed as a response to the faith of those who dared to believe.


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HOW CAN HARDSHIP BE A SIGN OF GOD’S LOVE?

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Blog Banners.001I would remember growing up that my mom would often say, “I am disciplining you because I love you.”

As a child, I would be confused.
“But mom, if you loved me, shouldn’t you give me everything I want? Why are you preventing me from getting the things I like which will add to my happiness?” This was how I would respond.

When I became a parent, I slowly started to understand what she meant.
But when I read certain verses from Hebrews, it made even more sense.

Reading through the book of Hebrews will give us a perspective.

You might ask, “How can hardship be an indicator of God’s love?”
“If God loves me, shouldn’t He always rescue me from tough times?”

An Act of Love

“For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” (Hebrews 12:6)

As a father, God disciplines us to prevent us from hurting ourselves.
There is a way that seems right to a man but the end thereof is destruction.
If it seems that what you want you haven’t been getting, maybe there’s a greater reason.  Though you may not see it at the moment, trust that He has something bigger in store.

Treatment As Children

“Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children.” (Hebrews 12:7)

There are times that hardship is discipline. When those moments come, remember that God is treating you as His son or daughter. He doesn’t only knows what’s best, He desires what’s best for you.

Painful But Productive

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11)

Discipline is never pleasant. I have yet to see a child request discipline from his parents. Our sinful nature has the propensity to push the boundaries and when caught, we are more sorry because of the consequences we receive rather than genuinely being repentant.

Discipline may not be pleasant. But in the end, we are harvesting righteousness and peace as we are being trained… even through the discipline process.

But remember this, “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)
Because of this truth, we can be rest assured that He is at work though we may not see it at the moment.


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UNEXPECTED GIFT

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Have you ever received an unexpected gift?
I have. And most likely, you also had a similar experience.

The Jewish people were expecting a Messiah that would set them free from Roman rulership. But what they got was a baby, wrapped on swaddling clothes with a feeding trough as his crib.
But little did they know that this small baby was the Mighty God that Isaiah 9:6 was referring to.

The gospel of John parallels the thought Isaiah had in chapter 9. John chapter 1 declares that in the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God and the Word was God.

Here are a few truths we can draw from John’s declaration.

1. JESUS IS GOD.

Jesus was both with God and God Himself according to John.

Even Paul declares in Philippians,
“Though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8)

People don’t like this truth because if they embrace this truth, then that would mean allegiance and submission to Him.

Now, because Jesus is God, He is worthy of all our worship. Paul says to the church in Rome that we are to offer our bodies as living sacrifice which is our spiritual act of worship (Romans 12:1). This being said, everything now becomes worship – work, studies, recreation, conversation, plus a whole lot mre.

2. JESUS IS GOD OF CREATION.

John 1:3 says, “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”

Jesus was the source of creation. All things were made through Him – the planets, living things and non living things.

Colossians 1:15 says that Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created through him and for him.

Now, because Jesus is God of creation, He has all authority and power.
He doesn’t only have legitimate rulership, but supernatural power to do all that He says He would.

3. JESUS IS GOD MADE FLESH.

John 1:14 tells us that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

This is the powerful truth about God become like one of us – the incarnation of Christ.
Jesus became one of us so that he can become one with us.
And because He is God made flesh, we have access to His grace.

As we approach Christmas, may we remember not only the Christ child but He who redeemed us has always been and will always be in full control, not only of the universe but of our lives as well.


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SIGNS THAT THE LOVE OF MONEY IS CREEPING IN

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Lines are helpful.

They provide demarcation, identification and protection. Basketball won’t be as fun if there are no demarcation lines. Maps won’t be helpful if you can’t identify where you are and where you’re heading. They also provide protection for if you are in a construction zone, they will keep you from falling into a ditch.

But there are lines that you can afford to cross. However, there are those that will cost you everything.

Crossing the outside lines of a basketball can only cost you a turnover. But crossing enemy lines during war can cost you your life.

1 Timothy 6:6 says that “godliness with content is great gain.”
There is a fine line between contentment and greed.

Experts tell us that an average person thinks about money 50% of his or her waking time – how to keep it, save it, spend it, invest it, take care of it.

Money is not evil in and of itself. In fact, Proverbs 8:21 says, “Those who love me inherit wealth. I will fill their treasuries.”

Wealth is as neutral as a knife. Knives are helpful in the kitchen and in the jungle. But when used to hurt or inflict bodily harm, that’s when it becomes dangerous.

Wealth is not related to how much we have; it’s related to whether we are content with what we have.

Here are a few ways we can determine if we the love of money which is the root off all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10) is creeping in:

1. When we spend more time thinking of how to get more money than how to do a better job at work.

When we are more consumed with getting more of it than doing a better job at work to give glory to God, then we run into major bumps.

2. When we feel that we never have enough.

Buying and spending are legit. We need food on the table, clothes on our back and roofs over our heads. But when it reaches to a point when we are always dissatisfied and our desires become insatiable, the love of money may be creeping in.

3. When we flaunt it.

Love for money creeps in when we get joy out of wearing, driving, living, showing what we have.

4. When we resent giving it.

All that we have is by the grace of God. Grace is getting what we don’t deserve. Therefore, all that is in our hands are really not ours. He owns them all. Giving to God is not giving but giving back. Giving back communicates that what we have is really not ours in the first place.

5. When we sin to obtain it.

Being dishonest on our Income Tax, manipulating numbers in our expense account, logging in the wrong numbers and taking advantage of other people’s ignorance are some of the indicators that the love of money is creeping in.

Paul tells Timothy to “take hold of the eternal life to which you were called” (1 Timothy 6:12). In effect, he is saying to not lose sight of the eternal perspective.

This life isn’t all that there is.

Jesus died on the cross to set us free from the world’s enslavement. Don’t go back there again. In fact, Paul reminds the church in Colossae to ‘set your hearts on things above not on earthly things’. Jesus has set us free. We are no longer bound by these.


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CHRISTIANS AND HALLOWEEN

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How should we respond to Halloween?

Years ago, it wasn’t as big as it is today in the Philippines.
Because it’s gaining popularity, we get asked a lot of questions both from parents and kids alike.

Following is an interesting article by Travis Allen of Grace To You.

Let me know your thoughts.

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Halloween. It’s a time of year when the air gets crisper, the days get shorter, and for many young Americans the excitement grows in anticipation of the darkest, spookiest holiday of the year. Retailers also rejoice as they warm up their cash registers to receive an average of $79.82 per household in decorations, costumes, candy, and greeting cards. Halloween will bring in approximately $8 billion this year.

It’s a good bet retailers won’t entertain high expectations of getting $79.82 per household from the Christian market. Many Christians refuse to participate in Halloween. Some are wary of its pagan origins; others of its dark, ghoulish imagery; still others are concerned for the safety of their children. But other Christians choose to partake of the festivities, whether participating in school activities, neighborhood trick-or-treating, or a Halloween alternative at their church.

The question is, How should Christians respond to Halloween? Is it irresponsible for parents to let their children trick-or-treat? What about Christians who refuse any kind of celebration during the season—are they overreacting?

THE PAGAN ORIGIN OF HALLOWEEN

The name “Halloween” comes from the All Saints Day celebration of the early Christian church, a day set aside for the solemn remembrance of the martyrs. All Hallows Eve, the evening before All Saints Day, began the time of remembrance. “All Hallows Eve” was eventually contracted to “Hallow-e’en,” which became “Halloween.”

As Christianity moved through Europe it collided with indigenous pagan cultures and confronted established customs. Pagan holidays and festivals were so entrenched that new converts found them to be a stumbling block to their faith. To deal with the problem, the organized church would commonly move a distinctively Christian holiday to a spot on the calendar that would directly challenge a pagan holiday. The intent was to counter pagan influences and provide a Christian alternative. But most often the church only succeeded in “Christianizing” a pagan ritual—the ritual was still pagan, but mixed with Christian symbolism. That’s what happened to All Saints Eve—it was the original Halloween alternative!

The Celtic people of Europe and Britain were pagan Druids whose major celebrations were marked by the seasons. At the end of the year in northern Europe, people made preparations to ensure winter survival by harvesting the crops and culling the herds, slaughtering animals that wouldn’t make it. Life slowed down as winter brought darkness (shortened days and longer nights), fallow ground, and death. The imagery of death, symbolized by skeletons, skulls, and the color black, remains prominent in today’s Halloween celebrations.

The pagan Samhain festival (pronounced “sow” “en”) celebrated the final harvest, death, and the onset of winter, for three days—October 31 to November 2. The Celts believed the curtain dividing the living and the dead lifted during Samhain to allow the spirits of the dead to walk among the living—ghosts haunting the earth.

Some embraced the season of haunting by engaging in occult practices such as divination and communication with the dead. They sought “divine” spirits (demons) and the spirits of their ancestors regarding weather forecasts for the coming year, crop expectations, and even romantic prospects. Bobbing for apples was one practice the pagans used to divine the spiritual world’s “blessings” on a couple’s romance.

For others the focus on death, occultism, divination, and the thought of spirits returning to haunt the living, fueled ignorant superstitions and fears. They believed spirits were earthbound until they received a proper sendoff with treats—possessions, wealth, food, and drink. Spirits who were not suitably “treated” would “trick” those who had neglected them. The fear of haunting only multiplied if that spirit had been offended during its natural lifetime.

Trick-bent spirits were believed to assume grotesque appearances. Some traditions developed, which believed wearing a costume to look like a spirit would fool the wandering spirits. Others believed the spirits could be warded off by carving a grotesque face into a gourd or root vegetable (the Scottish used turnips) and setting a candle inside it—the jack-o-lantern.

Into that dark, superstitious, pagan world, God mercifully shined the light of the gospel. Newly converted Christians armed themselves with the truth and no longer feared a haunting from departed spirits returning to earth. In fact, they denounced their former pagan spiritism in accord with Deuteronomy 18:

There shall not be found among you anyone…who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For whoever does these things is detestable to the Lord (Deuteronomy 18:10-13).

Nonetheless, Christian converts found family and cultural influence hard to withstand; they were tempted to rejoin the pagan festivals, especially Samhain. Pope Gregory IV reacted to the pagan challenge by moving the celebration of All Saints Day in the ninth century—he set the date at November 1, right in the middle of Samhain.

As the centuries passed, Samhain and All Hallows Eve mixed together. On the one hand, pagan superstitions gave way to “Christianized” superstitions and provided more fodder for fear. People began to understand that the pagan ancestral spirits were demons and the diviners were practicing witchcraft and necromancy. On the other hand, the festival time provided greater opportunity for revelry. Trick-or-treat became a time when roving bands of young hooligans would go house-to-house gathering food and drink for their parties. Stingy householders ran the risk of a “trick” being played on their property from drunken young people.

Halloween didn’t become an American holiday until the immigration of the working classes from the British Isles in the late nineteenth century. While early immigrants may have believed the superstitious traditions, it was the mischievous aspects of the holiday that attracted American young people. Younger generations borrowed or adapted many customs without reference to their pagan origins.

Hollywood has added to the “fun” a wide assortment of fictional characters—demons, monsters, vampires, werewolves, mummies, and psychopaths. That certainly isn’t improving the American mind, but it sure is making someone a lot of money.

THE CHRISTIAN RESPONSE TO HALLOWEEN

Today Halloween is almost exclusively an American secular holiday, but many who celebrate have no concept of its religious origins or pagan heritage. That’s not to say Halloween has become more wholesome. Children dress up in entertaining costumes, wander the neighborhood in search of candy, and tell each other scary ghost stories; but adults often engage in shameful acts of drunkenness and debauchery.

So, how should Christians respond?

First, Christians should not respond to Halloween like superstitious pagans. Pagans are superstitious; Christians are enlightened by the truth of God’s Word. Evil spirits are no more active and sinister on Halloween than they are on any other day of the year; in fact, any day is a good day for Satan to prowl about seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). But “greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). God has forever “disarmed principalities and powers” through the cross Christ and “made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them through [Christ]” (Colossians 2:15).

Second, Christians should respond to Halloween with cautionary wisdom. Some people fear the activity of Satanists or pagan witches, but the actual incidents of satanic-associated crime are very low. The real threat on Halloween is from the social problems that attend sinful behavior—drunk driving, pranksters and vandals, and unsupervised children.

Like any other day of the year, Christians should exercise caution as wise stewards of their possessions and protectors of their families. Christian young people should stay away from secular Halloween parties since those are breeding grounds for trouble. Christian parents can protect their children by keeping them well-supervised and restricting treat consumption to those goodies received from trusted sources.

Third, Christians should respond to Halloween with gospel compassion. The unbelieving, Christ-rejecting world lives in perpetual fear of death. It isn’t just the experience of death, but rather what the Bible calls “a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire which will consume [God’s] adversaries” (Hebrews 10:27). Witches, ghosts, and evil spirits are not terrifying; God’s wrath unleashed on the unforgiven sinner—now that is truly terrifying.

Christians should use Halloween and all that it brings to the imagination—death imagery, superstition, expressions of debauched revelry—as an opportunity to engage the unbelieving world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. God has given everyone a conscience that responds to His truth (Romans 2:14-16), and the conscience is the Christian’s ally in the evangelistic enterprise. Christians should take time to inform the consciences of friends and family with biblical truth regarding God, the Bible, sin, Christ, future judgment, and the hope of eternal life in Jesus Christ for the repentant sinner.

There are several different ways Christians will engage in Halloween evangelism. Some will adopt a “No Participation” policy. As Christian parents, they don’t want their kids participating in spiritually compromising activities—listening to ghost stories and coloring pictures of witches. They don’t want their kids to dress up in costumes for trick-or-treating or even attending Halloween alternatives.

That response naturally raises eyebrows and provides a good opportunity to share the gospel to those who ask. It’s also important that parents explain their stand to their children and prepare them to face the teasing or ridicule of their peers and the disapproval or scorn of their teachers.

Other Christians will opt for Halloween alternatives called “Harvest Festivals” or “Reformation Festivals”—the kids dress up as farmers, Bible characters, or Reformation heroes. It’s ironic when you consider Halloween’s beginning as an alternative, but it can be an effective means of reaching out to neighborhood families with the gospel. Some churches leave the church building behind and take acts of mercy into their community, “treating” needy families with food baskets, gift cards, and the gospel message.

Those are good alternatives; there are others that are not so good. Some churches are using “Hell House” evangelism to shock young people and scare them into becoming Christians. They walk people through rooms patterned after carnival-style haunted houses and put sin on display—women undergoing abortions, people sacrificed in a satanic ritual, consequences of premarital sex, dangers of rave parties, demon possession, and other tragedies.

Here’s the problem with so-called Hell House evangelism: To shock an unshockable culture, you have to get pretty graphic. Graphic exhibits of sin and its consequences are unnecessary—unbelieving minds are already full of such images. What they need to see is a life truly transformed by the power of God, and what they need to hear is the truth of God in an accurate presentation of the gospel. Cheap gimmickry is unfitting for Christ’s ambassadors.

There’s another option open to Christians: limited, non-compromising participation in Halloween. There’s nothing inherently evil about candy, costumes, or trick-or-treating in the neighborhood. In fact, all of that can provide a unique gospel opportunity with neighbors. Even handing out candy to neighborhood children—provided you’re not stingy—can improve your reputation among the kids. As long as the costumes are innocent and the behavior does not dishonor Christ, trick-or-treating can be used to further gospel interests.

Ultimately, Christian participation in Halloween is a matter of conscience before God. Whatever level of Halloween participation you choose, you must honor God by keeping yourself separate from the world and by showing mercy to those who are perishing. Halloween provides the Christian with the opportunity to accomplish both of those things in the gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s a message that is holy, set apart from the world; it’s a message that is the very mercy of a forgiving God. What better time of the year is there to share such a message than Halloween?


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BUILD THE A.R.R.O.W.

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Building a tree house was one of the most challenging yet fulfilling endeavors I accomplished with my father.
He had a house in the province that had a huge backyard.  Right in the middle of the yard was a massive tree that was shouting to have a tree house on top of it.  I asked my dad if he was up to it.  He agreed and without wasting any time, we got the materials that were suitable for the project.
Now it wasn’t a sophisticated piece of work but it was work indeed.  Aside from the effort and time we poured in, we needed to have the appropriate materials to build our “mansion” in the sky.

As in any building, structure and undertaking, it is important to have the right raw materials. In building a family, there are “raw materials” we need to fashion in the lives of our children.

The Bible says in Psalm 127:1 that “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.”  

First and foremost, God is the Builder of any household.  We cannot hallucinate and think we are the master builders.

Furthermore, in verses 3 and 4, the psalmist says, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.  Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.” 

This verse compares children to arrows that we can fashion.  Arrows were made not to merely stay in the quiver.  They were made to be released.  But while they are with us, here are a few things we can build in them.

A – ttentiveness

R – elationship

R – esponsibility

O – bedience

W – isdom

In the next few weekends, I will expound on each “raw material.”

But before I talk about the arrows, I want to make one important statement:

“Arrows can only be successfully launched if the bows are reliable.”

As parents, we need the grace of God to prepare and equip us to raise the next generation of world changers.  And it starts with a relationship with the Master Builder, God.  Any progress or gain will never have a lasting impact apart from God’s involvement, intervention and influence through His Word.

The only way we can fulfill all that God has designed for us as parents is if we allow Him to fashion us and equip us by His Word.

You’ll be surprised how the principles from this antiquated book are still so relevant to 21st century parenting.

Till next weekend’s post.


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TURNING YOUR MESS INTO A MESSAGE

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For many, life has become an endless search for acceptance.

It can be caused by a myriad of reasons – from growing up in a dysfunctional home to rejection by a parent, from being an outcast to always being the last one picked for a team.

As a result, the search has led them to look for it in the wrong places.

In John chapter 4, Jesus met a woman who had everything going against her. She was an outcast for she was a Samaritan, broken for she has had 5 husbands, and thirsty for she asked about water that won’t make you thirsty ever again.

Jesus knew everything about her – her background, her lostness, her brokenness and her transgressions.

But here was the clincher …

Jesus knew her absolutely yet loved her unconditionally.

She recognizes that this man she was talking to was no ordinary man but a prophet. In fact, when she started to talk about the Messiah, he introduces Himself and says, “I who speak to you am He.”
Her life from that day was no longer the same.

She shares to people from her hometown, and the Bible says many then believed in Christ. And here’s their declaration,


“It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” (John 4:42)

Even if your life’s a mess, Jesus can turn it into a message.
He did it for the Samaritan woman. He can definitely do it for you and me.


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TRIALS CAN EITHER TRANSFORM OR DEFORM

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Blog Banners.001Difficult circumstances can either TRANSFORM or DEFORM us.
The outcome will depend on how we respond to it. 

Will we respond in faith or in unbelief?

The apostle Paul writes in the book of Romans:

“No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.” (Romans 4:20-21)

How did Abraham keep himself from wavering in unbelief?

1. Grew strong in faith.

The Bible says that faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Coupled with hearing the Word is obeying the Word.

Abraham heard the word directly from God in Genesis 12. Not only did he hear, but he also obeyed. And as he obeyed, he saw that God followed through with what He communicated.

Our faith will grow as we hear and obey the Word. The book of James says that we shouldn’t merely hear the Word but also obey it lest we end up deceiving ourselves.

2. Gave glory to God.

Abraham’s eyes were fixed on the One who called him, not on the circumstances nor on the people around him. That didn’t mean he never had his moments. But because Abraham’s steadfast gaze was upon the One who holds his future, he honored God even in the difficult moments. God ultimately got the glory as a result of Abraham’s faith.

As John Piper would often say,

“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

Faith coupled with contentment that we have all that we have in Him will evidently surface in our life if it’s there. We don’t even have to manufacture it. People will notice and consequently glorify God.

3. Remained fully convinced.

Abraham was told that he will have a son that will give birth to a nation. And when God did, his faith to trust in God’s word was tested. He was asked to sacrifice Isaac at Mount Moriah. While he was willing to sacrifice Isaac, God stopped Abraham from doing so and provided another sacrifice on Isaac’s behalf.

But whatever was in Abraham’s mind at that moment, he was fully convinced that God would either give him another son or raise Isaac back to life. He was fully persuaded that God had the ability to do either.

Being fully convinced doesn’t mean we will always know the outcome. But even in the midst of uncertainty, Abraham was certain of one thing: God is both willing and able to fulfill His promises.  He never turns back on His Word.

Author C.S. Lewis declared,

“Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.”

Will you continue to trust Him and remain fully convinced?


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UNBIBLICAL KIND OF GRACE

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These days, grace has been taken to unbiblical proportions. There’s a lot of talk, conversations and messages about grace but I believe that it needs recalibrating back to what Scripture declares.

I know that one blog can’t cover the vastness of this truth.
I also realize that it might not be the most popular post I’ll write about.

As a pastor, I encounter countless of counseling sessions with couples who live in for a variety of reasons ranging from convenience to financial pragmatism. As i officiate baby dedications, a number of the parents had their babies first before they got married. Granted that repentance and faith were part of the journey, the chronology of the God’s original design for marriage and family life has now been reversed. The original sequence of courtship, engagement, marriage, honeymoon and then babies has been interchanged.

The unbiblical teaching of “it’s-ok-because-I-can-repent-tomorrow-because-God-is-gracious-and-forgiving” has become prevalent.  It has taken a turn towards licentiousness.

Titus 2:11-12 declares: “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.”

GRACE BRINGS SALVATION

The Apostle Paul tells Titus that God’s grace has appeared to bring salvation. It is by grace we have been saved through faith which is God’s gift, totally undeserved so that no one can boast. We were all deserving eternal punishment because of our sin. (Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23) Even if we’ve tried to produce righteous acts of our own, they are still filthy rags in His sight. (Isaiah 64:6)

But because of the mercy and kindness of God, He sent His one and only Son to provide a way for us to be reconciled back to the Father. (See John 3:16)

GRACE TEACHES US TO SAY NO TO SIN

Paul says that grace teaches us to say “no” to ungodliness and worldly passions, live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.

Grace doesn’t give us the license to do whatever we want.
Grace empowers us to do all that God commands.

When people preach on the Lordship of Christ, it is very possible that they be dubbed as legalistic. There is a thin line between legalism and pursuit of holiness. What is it, you may ask? The motive.

Legalism desires to gain greater favor from God by accumulating brownie points in heaven while impressing others with their moralistic self-righteousness. On the other hand, the one who pursues holiness does so out of gratitude to the immense salvation he received because of the grace of God.

I love how R. Kent Hughes puts in his book, The Disciplines of a Godly Man.

“There is a universe of difference between the motivations behind legalism and discipline. Legalism says, ‘I will do this thing to gain merit with God,’ while discipline says, ‘I will do this because I love God and want to please him.’ Legalism is man-centered; discipline is God-centered.”

Legalism is man trying to be saved (or gain divine favor) through his good works, while Biblical holiness is one who is already saved, showing good works as a result of their salvation.

 

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PHOTO CREDIT: http://joshuareich.org/2015/06/29/when-grace-isnt-what-you-expected/

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RUN 50 by 50 at 50

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To run 50 kilometers for the next 50 days at age 50!
Who in the world would think of doing that?
There’s no insane person who’d even consider.

Ferdie Cabiling just did.

Starting September 5, 2015 at 3am, he will run from the southernmost tip of Mindanao, Maasim of Saranggani province to the northernmost tip of the Philippines in Aparri of Cagayan.

When people hear about his plans, their first question is “why?”
This actually was my first question too.

But when I heard about his reasons, they moved me to support why he is doing what he is doing. I met Ferdie in 1993. He has become a teacher, discipler, leader, coach, mentor, tormenter (!) and friend. He’s taught me a lot and this run has become one of his greatest lessons he has downloaded. This one is not through a sermon nor a teaching, but through his life.

Two reasons why he is running: national and personal.

National because he is on an all out war against poverty. This he endeavors to do not by himself but by creating awareness in his little (maybe big in this case) way raise at least 2 million pesos by asking people to sponsor 1000 pesos per kilometer he runs.

As Richard Stearns, the US President of World Vision said in an interview about poverty, “Education has been given as a major tool to change the game.” Studies show that it is not dole outs nor freebies that help poverty stricken families but education.

The number 2 reason why Ferdie is running is rather personal.
His battlecry is, “I run for those who can’t.”
He mentions in his interview on TV Patrol recently that his son, John Philip, who suffers from Sturge-Weber syndrome has difficulty running because of his delayed motor skills.
“Without realizing it, he has become my inspiration to run.”
This he said at a recent blogger’s event days before the start of his run.

The first reason is overwhelmingly moving.
But his second is inordinately stirring.

A father running for his son who can’t.
I say, this is what this nation needs. A dad who will run for, run with and run alongside the next generation to somehow alleviate their suffering, vicariously fulfill what they can’t achieve and somewhat see them fulfill their destinies.

Salute to Ferdie Cabiling. We’re cheering for you!

ferdie-capiling-run50-2-20150904_7B85F9C9C40647B4A899674B986E43D1

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For more information about #Run50 and #RunAcrossthePH, visit www.ferdiecabiling.com.ph.

Also read A Pastor’s Race For The Next Generation” featured on Rappler.


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DON’T GET STUCK IN THE PAST

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Blog Banners.001A week ago, we had our annual Couples’ Getaway at Victory Fort. In the evening, we had a costume party with 70’s as the theme. Lots of couples took it so seriously that they had costumes tailor made. Now, my wife Jenn will not be left behind. And she wanted me to wear one too.

To avoid World War 3, I had to come in costume as well. Like what the Bible says, “Submit to your wife.” Oh. Doesn’t it say that?forget the past MSI copy.001

We laugh at the costumes because it’s looking fashionably old and funny. But using what we wore that night for our day to day clothing will look like blast from the past.

It’s funny when it’s mere clothing but not at all amusing when it involves life experiences.

Paul says in Philippians 3:13, “Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.”

Forgetting the past involves past successes, past failures and past hurts.

1. PAST SUCCESSES

Have you ever heard your grandfather talk about the good old days? The good old days are good but the good old days are also old. What do I mean? There are a greater things God has in store for the future. He is an “immeasurably more” kind of God as Ephesians 3:20 says.

Sometimes, the good that you accomplished in the past becomes
the hindrance to the best that God has in store for your future.

2. PAST FAILURES

We all have committed mistakes. We all have made bad decisions. Who hasn’t?
Business decisions. Relational mishaps. Financial choices.

But failure only becomes permanent
if we don’t learn anything from it.

3. PAST HURTS

Inevitably, someone will say something that will cause offense.
Someone will do something that will be extremely painful. And it’s absolutely valid that they did the very thing that has brought misery and agony.

But remember this, it is difficult to drive forward
if you are constantly looking through the rear view mirror.

Paul says to forget the past and look ahead.

We can no longer do anything about the past. But we can definitely do something about the future. And as we look to God for strength, He will overwhelm us His grace.

Lord, thank You for all that I’ve been through. The Bible says to give thanks in ALL circumstances. I’m not necessarily thankful FOR all circumstances. But I am thankful IN all circumstances. May I have an attitude of gratitude as a face life head on this week. You will go before me and You will be my rear guard. As Psalm 16 says, “Because You are at my right hand, I will never be shaken.” In Jesus’ name. AMEN.

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PHOTO CREDIT: http://wd5b.net/wp/?attachment_id=31

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RAMPING OFF

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old_man_basketballMondays are usually rest days for me. As a pastor, weekends are usually packed with ministry. I am grateful that on Monday mornings, my wife, Jenn, allows me to take some time to play basketball with friends from church.

The guys I get to play with are literally guys half my age. Playing with them is interesting to say the least. Interesting because they don’t know how to deal with playing with someone as old as their dad. They’re respectful because of my age (and function in church) so they tend to be nicer but get upset when they fall behind or lose (which rarely happens).

One Monday morning, I wasn’t playing very well which is not seldom. Our team was trailing primarily because I wasn’t making the shots I was taking. Blame it on exhaustion or team chemistry, but bottomline was because I was medieval and disintegrating. But here’s the thing, I didn’t take myself out of the game to replace myself with someone who could do a better job.

Pride.

That was the main reason. Trying to prove to myself or others that I can still hack it caused me to stay too long.

This is a major reason why many stay too long in a leadership position. People want to feel significant and desire to hold on to their title as long as they can. As a result, the upcoming guys end up hitting a lid or simply leave the organization.

I told our staff, colleagues and especially my superiors that when the time comes, it will be more helpful for me that they tell me that I am no longer effective instead of keeping quiet, tolerate and simply endure my leadership. It’s not beneficial to me nor for the organization I lead.

As consulting expert, Rachel Ong, would say, “When you replace yourself, there’s always going to be another position of influence waiting for you.” She would often use the example of Lee Kwan Yew. He retired and turned over the leadership of Singapore when he was in his prime. He passed the baton and got out of the way. As a result, not only was there great respect but other leaders ran to him for insight, wisdom and counsel. That’s what it means to be a statesman. One can actually influence without having a title. He exemplified it. And got honored for it.

Growing in leadership doesn’t mean holding on to the title and keeping a firm grip on your role. Discernment will dictate when to ramp off so that you can build another up. In the end, your leadership will not just be a title but a legacy.


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