WHAT CAN WE DO WHEN WE FACE CRISIS?

With the continuous threat of a major outbreak of COVID-19, what can I do to respond?

Last week, during our Metro Manila pastors meeting, Pastor Gilbert Foliente encouraged us from God’s Word. Sharing from Genesis 41, he presented principles we can glean from when the people of God were also faced with a major crisis which at that time was famine.

External threats are beyond our control. Romans 8 describes to us that the “world groans.” There is going to be a new heaven and a new earth. But in the mean time, what can we do?

Egypt, during the time of Joseph, had the threat of famine. The Pharaoh asked Joseph to interpret his dreams. What happened during that time gave us a template on how to respond when crisis hits.

1. TRUST GOD FULLY.

The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon. (Genesis 41:32, NIV)

All that happens in God’s creation does not escape God’s attention. He is sovereign and He is in full control. This means that nothing takes Him by surprise.

Because of this, we can trust that though we may not know what the future holds, we do know Who holds it.

Psalm 33:11-12 says, “The LORD foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.”

2. LEAD CONFIDENTLY.

“And now let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt.” (Genesis 41:33)

Every one of us are in some form of leadership capacity. We lead teams, families, units, corporations, organizations. At the very least, we lead ourselves. And as we lead, we can influence others positively.

Joseph was placed in charge over all of Egypt. And after that, he led with confidence knowing that it was God that was ultimately leading him. He wasn’t looking for a job. He was just there as a messenger. But God raised him up for His purposes.

In times of crisis, will we be the voice of faith or the voice of fear?
In times of trouble, will we be a beacon of hope or a source of unbelief?

Joseph trusted God to give him wisdom. We can do too.
Wisdom is being able to do the right thing at the right time.
Joseph had discernment.

And discernment is being able to distinguish between two options.
God has the ability to empower us with discernment to make the right decisions.

3. WORK IMMEDIATELY.

He was thirty years old when he began serving in the court of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. And when Joseph left Pharaoh’s presence, he inspected the entire land of Egypt. (Genesis 41:46, NLT)

As soon as Joseph left Pharaoh’s presence, he worked instantaneously. He didn’t take his sweet time. He went for it right away.

When crisis hits and danger is immanent, we need to be decisive and work swiftly because it can mean life or death.

The famine during Joseph’s time wasn’t coming until 7 years after his appointment as Governor. But he went to work right away.

4. PREPARE THOROUGHLY.

He was thirty years old when he began serving in the court of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. And when Joseph left Pharaoh’s presence, he inspected the entire land of Egypt. (Genesis 41:46, NLT)

As soon as Joseph left Pharaoh’s presence, not only did he work immediately, he prepared thoroughly by inspecting the entire land of Egypt. He studied, learned, evaluated, surveyed, supervised, worked. He did all he can to prepare for the famine.

We will believe God for the best.

But we will also prepare for the worst case scenario.
The important thing is to stay connected to the Holy Spirit so that He can give us clear instructions for what we need to do.

At the end of the narrative, we see in Genesis 41:57 that “… all the world came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe everywhere.” In the midst of crisis, Joseph, who represented the people of God, became a blessing to the world.

As we encounter crises, whether current or future, we can trust God fully, lead confidently, work immediately and prepare thoroughly. And as we do, the people of God, the church can be a blessing to the rest of the world.

HOW CAN I RESPOND IN LIGHT OF THE COVID-19 CONCERNS?

There are a garden variety ways to react but God has given us ways to respond through His Word.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7, NKJV)

God has not given us a spirit of fear. In the midst of COVID-19 concerns, Christ followers (the church) can shine as light and serve as a preservative of faith like salt. This is not a time to move in fear but to move in faith because of what God has given us.

1. POWER

There is power available to us and that is the power of prayer. The God we serve is ALL MIGHTY. He is omnipotent. That means, He has the ability to arrest this virus whether supernaturally or medically.

That being said, Jesus declared in Matthew 18:19, “Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.” We can agree in prayer and trust God for the results.

2. LOVE

Jesus tells us to love as we have been loved by Him (John 13:34). By His death in Calvary, He demonstrated the full extent of His love for us for all of eternity. Our sins have been forgiven and our eternal life has been secured.

Because of this love that we have received, we are now empowered to love others. We need to move in love.

Thus, there’s no room for xenophobia, apathy, neglect, malevolence or even detestation.

The early church conquered Rome through love in the midst of famine, pestilence and plague. They had no power, influence or wealth and yet through love, Christianity spread all over Rome.

3. SOUND MIND

Faith without works is dead. While we will continue to trust God through all these, we will move in wisdom. We have been given preventive measures by the World Health Organization. It will be wise to follow them. Following preventive measures does not mean there’s no faith. We have been given a sound mind to exercise wisdom in these times.

May we continue to move in faith not fear, love not malevolence and wisdom not neglect.

EMBRACE THE MUNDANE. LIFE IS NOT ALWAYS A CONSISTENT HIGHLIGHT.

I love watching the NBA. Since I was a young boy, I have enjoyed following some of my favorite teams like the Sixers, Lakers and Celtics.

But because of the limited time I have to day, I can only watch the highlights on YouTube. I love it because it will only take 9 minutes of my time to watch the highlights of the game. I skip the 39 minutes of errors, bad passes, missed shots and fouls. I only get to see the dunks, the three pointers and fancy passes. I only see 1/5 of what goes on the whole game.

In a day and age where we only see the highlights, we carry this over in our lives. When we scroll through our social media feeds, we will see, for the most part, highlights of people’s lives – their vacation, their outstanding OOTDs, their new gadgets, nice parts of their house, their laughter, their happy moments. When we begin to think that that should be much of what should be happening in our lives, we get sucked into the highlight culture.

In addition to this, we fall into the comparison trap. When we watch someone’s highlights, we can begin to think something’s wrong with our life because it’s not a consistent highlight.

It is an important discipline to embrace the mundane. In fact, it’s in the mundane that we see growth. It’s in the mundane that we develop perseverance. And it’s in the mundane that our character is built.

Here are a few things we can do to embrace the mundane.

1. Be thankful.

The apostle Paul commanded, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thes. 5:18) We are told to give thanks not FOR all circumstances but IN all circumstances – both when you’re enjoying a highlight or when you are going through deep valleys.

2. Persevere in faith.

We are called to “walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7).

When we don’t see what’s up ahead, we can trust the One who sees it. He knows the way. He has been there way before I even get there.

3. Make the most of every opportunity.

“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity” (Eph. 5:15-16).

Each day is a gift from God. Each moment for that matter, is a wonderful gift from God. Make the most of every moment given. Stay present. Value relationships. Rather than scrolling through your feed when you’re having coffee or dinner with someone, put your phone down and enjoy the conversation.

In a boring and mundane day, take the opportunity to be quiet and rest your soul before God.
Be still and know that He is God.

Life is not always a consistent highlight. Embrace the mundane. After some time, you’ll realize how much you’ve grown and life will be more joyful for you’ve unburdened yourself of the unnecessary pressures we put on ourselves.

HOW DO YOU RESPOND TO TRAGEDIES?

While I was driving this morning, I heard of a story about a couple who passed by a bake shop. They saw a delightful and pretty Barbie cake on display.

So the couple stepped in and talked to the store keeper. They said that they wanted to pay for the cake.
“I’m afraid it’s been reserved for a couple who has a little girl celebrating her birthday today,” said the shop keeper.

“Oh, no, no, no… We don’t want to buy the cake. We want to pay for the cake,” said the walk in guests.
Confused, the shop keeper politely asked, “Sorry, I don’t seem to understand. What do you mean?”

“We want to pay for the cake. We won’t take it home. We just want to bless the people buying it. But we would like to write a note for the little girl celebrating her birthday.”

Apparently, this couple had a baby girl that was stillborn. They wanted to celebrate with the couple who had a little girl. Though they had a tragedy happen to them, they found ways to celebrate with others who were blessed to have children. On their note, they wrote, “Happy birthday, dear. Just like your parents, we had a baby girl named Quinn. But she was born sleeping. (This was their way to explain to little girl that their child didn’t make it.) We hope you have a wonderful day!”

We all go through unpleasant and difficult circumstances. But a lot in life is not just what happens to us but also how we respond to what happens to us.

Difficult times squeeze out what’s inside of us – whether good or bad.

May God give us grace to respond in a way that will bring honor and glory to His name.

———

PHOTO CREDIT: https://www.amazon.com/DecoPac-Barbie-Birthday-Cake-Kit/dp/B01DONEADM

HOW CAN MY FAITH GROW?

 

The Niagara Falls is one of the wonders of the world. The Niagara river plummets 180 feet at the American and Horseshoe Falls which pours 681,750 gallons per second. But before the falls, you can still take a boat ride in the Welland River. Near it, there is a sign that is posted saying, “Do you have an anchor? Do you know how to use it?”

When rough waters come and the hurricane of life hits, that’s the question we all face – do you have an anchor and do you know how to use it?

We are told that we walk by faith and not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7) Without faith, it is impossible to please God. (Hebrews 11:6) The anchor we have is Christ and we connect to our anchor by our faith in Him.

How do we grow in this faith that’s been given to us by the Author and Finisher of our faith?

1. LOOK BACK

But recall the former days when, 
after you were enlightened, 
you endured a hard struggle with sufferings. (Hebrews 10:32)

The Hebrew believers were going through severe persecution at that time. Christians were being thrown into prison, fed to lions during Gladiator events and burned at the stake to light up the roads.

The author of Hebrews admonishes the believers to “recall the former days.” The New Living Translation puts it as “Don’t forget those early days when you first learned about Christ.”

Looking back means remembering His faithfulness.
If God has been faithful in the past, He certainly has the ability to be faithful in the future.

APPLICATION: List down 3 things every day and look back every so often and praise God for His faithfulness.

2. LOOK FORWARD.

For you had compassion on those in prison, 
and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, 
since you knew that you yourselves 
had a better possession and an abiding one. (Hebrews 10:34)

The Hebrew author was admonishing the believers to look forward to what God has in store for those who endure.

Eternity is a game changer. The way we look at the future will influence the way we live today.

Viktor Frankl, in his book Man’s Search for Meaning, was an Austrian psychiatrist who spent time in the Nazi prison camps. As he spoke with the inmates, he observed that many have died not because of lack of food or medicine but due to a lack of hope. In his book, Frankl said, “Those who have a ‘why’ to live can bear with almost any ‘how.’”

APPLICATION: What is the hope that you hold on to? Knowing that this life isn’t all that there is will inspire us to persevere to keep our eyes on Christ.

3. LOOK WITHIN.

My righteous shall live by faith. (Hebrews 10:38)
We are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. (Hebrews 10:39)

To look within is to understand who God called us to be. We have been made righteous not by our own merit but by the atoning sacrifice of Christ on Calvary. Knowing who God called us to be and do will propel us to keep enduring even in the toughest of times.

First Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple 
of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? 
You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. 
So glorify God in your body.”

Because we have been redeemed, our life is no longer our own. Thus, we now, in this life, glorify God in our body, no matter how difficult our circumstances become.

APPLICATION: Do you know who you are? Is your identity hinged on Christ? Where do you get value, significance and security?

 

 

WILL YOU SETTLE OR WILL YOU BELIEVE?

What you tolerate, you will never change.

Years ago, our bathroom faucet was broken. Instead of filling up a glass in a couple of seconds, it would take at least 30 seconds. But since we got used to it, we just tolerated it.

After a couple of months, we were able to get a plumber who can fix it and boy, we were grateful. Brushing our teeth was quicker and easier.

The human is very adaptable. We can make the adjustments quite easily. But when we adapt, we actually begin to settle. Because we got used to certain things, we are okay if our situation doesn’t change.

– “Because I already have 2 kids with him, though I wanted to get married, I guess, I’ll just settle with what we have.”
– “At least my job provides for my family. It doesn’t matter if it is hurting other people or disobeying the laws of the land as long as I’m being a good provider to my family.”
– “We’ve gotten used to it. I know we weren’t supposed to have pre-marital sex. But I don’t want to lose him.”
– “This wasn’t what I felt God called me to do. But I don’t know how to start. I’ll just settle for this.”

These and many more statements have been said. When we adapt, we begin to settle.

Abraham in Genesis 17 started settling. “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!” (17:18, NIV). It’s as if he was telling God: “Lord, I know you promised but it’s taking quite a long time (about 24 years). You know what, Lord, I’m okay with Ishmael. Just bless him. I can work with him.”

God said it was going to be through him (Abraham) and Sarah that their descendants were going to come. But they were beginning to settle.

God didn’t want them to settle. That was why He reveals Himself through a different name – El Shaddai which means God Almighty (Genesis 17:1). His name means that He is not subject to physical limitations like us. His power is infinite, unlimited and all-sufficient. He doesn’t need our help and advice to accomplish what He said He would.

Job declared in Job 42:2, “I know that you can do all things and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”

He is El Shaddai, God Almighty. He reveals Himself during impossible situations where He would get the greatest glory.

Allow Him to reveal Himself to you in the midst of your impossible situation as El Shaddai.

The question is – will you settle or will you believe?

 

WHEN LIFE THROWS YOU A CURVE BALL

 

I met Danielle and her mom a couple of years ago in one of the services of Victory Fort. They were devastated to find out that Danielle was found to be with brain cancer. They asked for prayer for the upcoming journey they were about to begin from hospital visits to chemotherapy.

What do you do when life throws you a curve ball? It all seems like a blur and you don’t even realize what hit you.

When David was faced with adversities that were overwhelming, he responded in Psalm 31:14,

“But I trust in you, O Lord;
I say, ‘You are my God.'”

Danielle and her mom, Riza, trusted the Lord and watch how God moved as they kept their eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of their faith.

 

WHEN THE ANSWERS TO YOUR PRAYERS SEEM DELAYED

Blog Banners.001Just because things don’t go the way we had prayed doesn’t mean God is not answering.

Mary and Martha had asked for Jesus to come because their brother Lazarus was deathly ill. But on hearing the news, Jesus stayed for a couple more days in the place where he was. Was this deliberate? Was He being intentional in His delay? I believe so. He is all knowing. He did say, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4)

Something was brewing.
What seemed to be a setback was actually a divine setup.

When Jesus came, Lazarus had already been in the tomb for 4 days lifeless. Martha brings in an accusation to Jesus and says, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:21)

We are quick to judge God’s intentions.
Lord, You are not really in control.
Lord, I thought You were all powerful.
Lord, You didn’t come through on time. Maybe You’re not that mindful of us.
Lord, I thought You were a prayer answering God.

But many times, we need to elevate our perspective to see something beyond what our natural eyes can perceive.

If Jesus came 4 days early, surely He is more than able to heal Lazarus from his illness.
The thing is, they would only experience Him as a healer.
But because he came a few days later, they got to know Him as the Resurrection and the Life.

What we see in the natural is very limited to explain all that’s happening in the spiritual.

God wants to reveal Himself to you the different attributes of who He is.
Often, we just see a limited view. But through our experiences and how He works through those circumstances will allow us to see Him in a new light and from a different perspective.

And when that happens, watch out for it bring you to a new level of praise.

By faith, when you do something you’ve never done before, you’ll be able to experience something you’ve never seen before.

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

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.

WHEN YOU NEED WISDOM

Blog Banners.001

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.