WHAT THIS VIRUS HAS ALLOWED ME TO PONDER ON

After taking a walk around our neighborhood tonight with my family (which we haven’t done in quite a long time), I remembered a composition my daughter in law, Pauline, sent me.

It is apparently written by Chinese pastor to a brother in Christ in Istanbul. I am uncertain about the veracity and accuracy of the author’s information, but the composition is worth the read and will cause you to consider the author’s insights nonetheless.

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“QUIET CHINA”

The hustle and bustle of China finally quiets down, the restless society comes to a still, and the restless Chinese people gradually calm down.

The wild animals that were once held by humans in cages finally managed to keep humans in cages.

Humans finally lower their proud head and have begun to think quietly: Are we still the king of the earth?

Mankind finally feels the power of nature once again….

In the face of the threat of death, human beings have only begun to reflect seriously, only to realize that a lack of awe-inspiring social atmosphere will lead to more harm and more risks.

The greedy heart is being purified by the virus, and the mouth that loves to eat is being punished by the virus. The people who have been soaking in the bright red and green places all day have been driven home by the virus, saying…. “Go home!”

There are fewer and fewer people on the street, few cars on the road.

The air is getting fresher…. the haze is gone…. the sky is getting bluer…. the sun is getting brighter…. family lives are getting warmer, harmonious, and cordial. People’s hearts have become more and more calm.

People who haven’t read for years have picked up books at home. Parents and children who had no communication, couples who couldn’t speak a few words a year have opened up the conversation box. Children who do not know how to respect the elderly have begun to be filial.

The virus teaches human beings a vivid and profound lesson. It makes us understand awe. It also lets us know what is called “good times.”

It also makes us feel true love on earth. It makes us gradually fall in love with “Return to the Road.”

We really should be grateful for this “enemy.” We need such an enemy to give us a “reminder” and give us “empowerment.”

The virus will not leave so quickly. It needs to see the cultivation of human good habits. The virus will not continue to rage, because human love will gather more power to keep the virus away. Time will tell us everything. Time will also prove what is right.

The virus reminds us that THERE IS AN ALMIGHTY.

And humans are just humans.

IS BEING GOOD, GOOD ENOUGH?

Is being good, good enough?

“Man’s religion is about what man can do for God. Christianity is about what God has done for man.”

The beauty of the gospel is that what Jesus Christ has done on the cross is already enough to save us from our sins and give us the wonderful gift of eternal life. It is already finished! Being good is not a requirement, but it is the overflow of a heart that’s grateful for receiving salvation and victory in all areas of our life.

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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.

HOW DO YOU LOVE THE UNLOVABLE?

It’s easy to love the people who think and act like you and those who are kind and good to you. But what about those who hurt and offend you?  

Loving others is seen in repaying evil with good and extending forgiveness to those who hurt us. This is only made possible when we experience the acceptance and unconditional love of God that while we were still His enemies, Jesus Christ died for us. We don’t deserve anything, but because of His grace and mercy, He is showering us with His love so that we can love others from all walks of life.

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HOW CAN I LOVE WHEN MY OWN LOVE TANK IS EMPTY?

 

Generally, there are three kinds of love that we see and maybe even experience every day – unidirectional, transactional and unconditional.

Unidirectional is the kind where I will stay in the relationship and keep the friendship as long as I am receiving from the person I am with.

Transactional is more like a 50/50 proposition. As s/he gives, I, too, will give. As long as s/he is giving something and I have something to give, then we’re fine. But when we’re all out, we bail from the relationship.

Then there’s the unconditional kind of love. I will keep giving even if there is no expectation of being reciprocated. That kind of love is sacrificial and selfless.

But how can I keep giving when my own love tank is already empty? Fair question.

In John 13:34, Jesus said, “…love one another just as I have loved you.”

He gives not only a new standard – to love people but also a new source – His love for us. Self-love is not a bad thing as long as we understand that it is totally insufficient. Sometimes, we don’t even know how to fully love ourselves.

But Jesus gave and demonstrated the full extent of His love for us in Calvary (see Romans 5:8). As a result, we can draw from that unconditional, unending and unlimited supply of His love for us.

How did He love us, then? And how can we love others with the kind of love He loved us with?

1. SERVE

Matthew 20:28 says that “even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus loved us by serving. He served by giving His life as a ransom. A ransom is to pay off to purchase someone’s freedom. We were enslaved to sin and through His death and resurrection, by faith in Him, we have been set free.

Application question: Who has God called me to serve even if that person has offended me? Remember, our sin is an offense towards God and yet He still served us.

2. SACRIFICE

Part of sacrifice is suffering for the benefit of others. 1 Peter 3:17-18 says, “For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God.”

Because Jesus sacrificed for us by not repaying our offense with punishment but with grace, we are called to do the same.

1 Peter 3:7 (NIV) says, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”

Application question: Who has God called me to not repay evil with evil or insult with insult but instead go the opposite spirit by blessing and doing good to them?

3. SEEK THE GOOD

God had every right to bring punishment. But instead of justice, He showed mercy and grace. He sought to do good for us through Christ. His desire is not just for us to have life eternal but also life abundant (see John 10:10).

Application Question: How can I seek the good of those I don’t necessarily agree with or even those that offended me?

We are told by Jesus, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35) Our love for people makes God visible to people. 1 John 4:12 says, “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”

May God grant us grace this week to draw from His supply of unending, unlimited and unconditional love so that we can love others the way Jesus loved us.

MAKE ONE

“We bear fruit as we abide in His love.”

Abiding in the love of God is our response to the love that we don’t deserve, yet He has lavishly given us, when He sent His one and only Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins so that we may have a fruitful life. And this love that fills us everyday is made evident as it overflows to an extension of His love to the people around us.

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BE ONE

“There may be times when we need to return to our place of failure in order to restore our posture of faith.”

Often times, we feel disappointed and frustrated when we experience failures repeatedly. Our quick response is to quit or give up. But, there are times when God allows us to experience adversity so that we may be reminded to hope in Him again, to continue to believe for breakthroughs and to have a fresh encounter with the One who holds everything in the palm of His hands.

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INVITING GRACE

“We enter into God’s rest when we trust Him with our past sins, present circumstances, and future hope.”

Real rest can only be found in the loving arms of our Heavenly Father, when we fully rely on the finished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross; when we trust that He has given us the free gift of salvation and the opportunity to start anew; and when we believe that He continually carries us in whatever season we are facing and will be facing in the days, months, and years to come.

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ENRICHING GRACE

“Our grasp of the amazingness of grace is directly proportional to the desire we have to express and demonstrate our thankfulness for it.”

Realizing that we don’t deserve anything good, yet because of God’s amazing love and grace we have been forgiven of our sins, given the gift of eternal life and blessed with an abundant life; may we show our gratitude by extending the same generosity in the way we love and give of ourselves to others.

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