Tag Archives: christian

The God who speaks.

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It is probably the question most asked by Christians all around the world, throughout the centuries: Where is God when the whole world is falling apart? 

I’m studying the book of Hebrews for our New Testament Epistles Class, and I am learning to appreciate the beauty and message of this sermon-epistle.

If it is true that Hebrews was written as a sermon for the persecuted Christians in around AD 64, during Nero’s time, then we have a picture of what its purpose was. It is interesting that the writer-preacher of Hebrews thought that the way to to address the Christians’ discouragement and fear of death was to begin with, and focus on, the Supremacy of Jesus.

Truly, the basis for our courage and confidence is Jesus Christ’s supremacy, and the fact that through Him, God has spoken, and continues to speak.

OUR GOD IS THE GOD WHO SPEAKS. This is the writer-preacher’s message to his  ragtag, disheveled, immensely discouraged and fearful audience.

At a time when the believers may have thought God was absent and blind to their suffering, they are reminded that God still speaks. He has spoken through Jesus, and continues to speak through His written Word, and through the Comforter.

I am reminded of myself last year. I’ve been thinking of this for several days now – how I felt so… numb, especially in the second half of 2016. 2015 to early 2016 was painful, and the rest of 2016 just left me with a dull throbbing. I was mourning so many things — some family issues, heart issues, and the fact that I had to give up so many of what gave me joy, among other things.

I felt like just going through the motions. I felt like God was silent.

Truth be told, I wasn’t excited for the new year. I think… I was even a little afraid that I would be the same joyless machine devoid of motivation and purpose.

But God still speaks. He has spoken, and will continue to speak. He is present, and will always be.

Let me rest in that truth. Let me listen to His voice.

[Reflections on Hebrews 1:1-2:4]

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A good reference for the study of Hebrews, in case you’re interested:

William L. Lane, Hebrews: A Call to Commitment (Vancouver, British Columbia: Regent College).

When Christians are Hypocrites

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A few days ago, an instructor in UP Los Banos allowed a Christian organization to do “Classroom Evangelism” (CE). The CE was documented, and photos of it were uploaded  on the Christian org’s official FB page.

Another instructor saw the online evidence, took screenshots of the FB page and posted it in his timeline, saying that according to UPLB policies, such activities are illegal. Last I checked, the Christian org who authorized the CE, was reported to UPLB authorities.

In a matter of hours, this particular Christian org drew bashers.

And in a few days, similar hostile posts, not necessarily pertaining to this particular CE), were resurfaced and bumped back to the FB newsfeed.

Like this one.

[EDIT: I was told that this post on The Elbi Files was posted before the CE event referred to at the beginning of this blog. In any case, it does not affect the points I tried to make below. My apologies for overlooking this fact and for any misunderstandings I might have caused.]

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At this point, my reaction to the bashing is… sadness. Yes, the post reeks of fallacies and generalizations, but the accusations!

I am terribly sickened and saddened and frustrated and embarrassed… and altogether grieved at the fact that this anonymous poster makes these statements as fact, as something from his/her own experience and observation.

But here are some of my initial thought on the issue (not necessarily ordered in a progressive manner):

The hostility of some of the UPLB students and faculty is fascinating. It somehow confirms what I’ve been telling my international friends this whole time — that just because we Filipinos are outwardly polite doesn’t mean we are listening to you. Case in point: this anonymous poster. His/her message is a very vilifying one, and yet he/she posted anonymously! The anonymous poster could be anyone; in fact, he/she could be someone in the CE class, listening quietly.

The anonymous poster makes references to some questionable (immoral?) org practices that apparently Christian students participated or engaged in. The anonymous poster criticizes these Christian students, calling them hypocrites, even (fascinatingly) quotes Bible verses! The anonymous poster seems to know what Christians should not participate in — such as stripping, or sleeping around.

This is our reality, and it should sober us: while not everyone here in the Philippines possesses a Christian worldview, many do have an idea of Christian morality. And how could they not know? We stop strangers and talk to them about the Bible. We post about our Christianity online. Christian TV networks freely do broadcasts. They know, they are exposed… and they hold us to that standard.

I hope this incident makes this particular Christian org (and all other Christian orgs and affiliations) rethink or evaluate the current evangelism methods and approaches they practice. Yes, evangelism still must happen. But I believe we need to be more creative, discerning, and wiser about this.

I hope this incident causes Christians to really think of our convictions regarding contemporary issues such as the LGBTQIA. EVEN MORE IMPORTANTLY, I hope we are convicted to express and live out these convictions in a relevant, but also loving, and humble way

I truly am grieved with this situation. I, too, am sobered by the reality that at any given moment, without God’s grace and power alone, I could be one of those who compromise my faith. Really, the ease with which I can fall into temptation frightens and frustrates me. And yes, I have been a hypocrite more times than I would care to admit.

Whatever the turnout of this situation may be, I hope we as a Christian community learn from this. And also repent. Oh, we must. After all this, we must.

[EDIT: I was told that this post on The Elbi Files was posted before the CE event referred to at the beginning of this blog. In any case, it does not affect the points I tried to make. My apologies for overlooking this fact.]

True Love Pursues

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The Love Bridge at Penang Hill. December 2015.

We define God by what we think love is,” so Darin Hufford, author of “The Misunderstood God”, says.

Immediately, the word “pursuing” comes to mind, and I think of how God kept pursuing His people, no matter how many times they stumbled, or disregarded his Word, or even killed His messengers.

I think of how, even despite routine rejection, He keeps persevering, and of how He Himself came down to earth to pursue them.

And the picture of a father running after his toddler comes to mind. I see in my mind images of a father watching the child’s every move, on guard lest the kid stumble.

Of a father listening to his daughter’s ambitions and dreams, hopes and wishes. Of my dad listening to my hopes and wishes.

Of a mother wanting to ease her child’s pain.

Of a mother doing everything in her power to let her child have the best. Of my mom dreaming big things for us.

Of a man taking every moment possible to be with his love, to find every opportunity to learn every aspect about her, persevering to understand, to know, to really know who she is.

Of a woman looking forward to every moment with him, and marvelling at how wonderful he is.

I believe true love pursues.

No wonder I get hurt and confused when people who claim to love me, don’t pursue me.

 

But how do YOU define love? Let me know in the comments!

[ Wrote this 5 years ago! I first posted this at my other blog. Also, this is by no means an endorsement or promotion of the book “The Misunderstood God”. ]

Writing Stories from the Mission Field Encourages me to Go to the Mission Field

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“Our desire is to send more workers to the harvest field. We have a lot of young people in our church right now, and we are encouraging them to go. But we are also encouraging the older people to go. Wasn’t Moses very old when he started his ministry?” –Ptr. Andy Parco

In the last two days I have interviewed people for some stories I am writing for CBN Asia (a freelance job).

It wasn’t an accident that when the list of stories were sent, I chose the stories related to overseas missions. That was not a random choice. I wanted to hear stories from the field, talk to different people, and listen to how God is actively working in their lives.

I was not disappointed.

Power in Declaration

I am blown away – blown away – by the intensity of their passion, the way they owned their ministry, and the systematic, organized way (at least from what they told me) in which they go to see things through. As a writer, these are some of the things that top my “Things I love to write about” list.

In some small way, I hope that my stories would be able to communicate the profoundness of their ministry, the love and devotion they put into it, and the hopes and dreams they have.

There is power in sharing, declaring the mighty works of God. Sharing how God’s power worked in our lives does something, both to the messenger and the listeners — whatever the medium may be, whether it is through the spoken or written word, even through music.

As I talked to these people on the phone, I wanted to say, “I don’t know you, ma’am / sir, and this is the first time I’ve spoken with you, but I want you to know, you are family because of our Heavenly Father. And I love you with the love of the Lord.

God is at Work in the Philippine Church

This morning, I concluded my last interview. I put my phone down, and opened a new Word document and tried to start writing.

I couldn’t write. Not yet.

I couldn’t understand – a sudden wave of emotion had gripped me, and I had to pause for a moment. I wanted to cry. I wanted to yell. I was overwhelmed with… something.

I was overwhelmed with amazement. Amazement at what God is doing in the Philippines. The people I interviewed are from Lucena and Ilocos, and they both had something in common: ownership. Ownership and an intense desire to mobilize their own kababayans to “go to the nations”.

And I was overwhelmed with a sense of gratefulness to God. For using the brothers and sisters I just talked to, to further His kingdom.

I don’t know you, ma’am / sir, but God is using you greatly. Your work is important, and I believe God is honored with your sacrifice.”

Writing their Stories Encourages me to Go

Listening and writing these stories is an awesome job.

It humbles me and gratifies me that in some small way, I am able to declare what God is doing through my stories.

But writing these things does something else in me: it stirs up a long-held desire to go. Writing their stories encourages me to go.

I don’t know you, but God is using you to speak to me. And if I ever get the privilege of meeting you in person, know that you are one of the long line of special people God has used and is using to nourish this passion I have to serve Him. Thank you.”

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A picture with my teammates in my first overseas mission trip back in 2012.

 

Forgiving my Bully

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High School: Teen Girl Upset at Others' BullyingLast December, I met a childhood friend, after about 8 years!

I went to school with this girl. There were very few of us in our class, and as little girls do, we bonded. Naturally, we reminisced a lot of our childhood, elementary days.

We talked about our how chubby she was back then, we talked about our teachers, we talked about the crush we shared... aaand about our bully.

Man, he was such a bully like no other. Of course, to anyone who was bullied, his/her bully is always someone like no other. So, to me, he was a bully like no other. He consistently terrorized me with what mattered most to me in those days, and even now: WORDS.

He teased (and “tease” is a rather conservative word, trust me) me endlessly!

About my nose. My eyes. My height. My skin color.

He called me names I would rather not repeat and choose to forget but some I simply cannot erase from memory.

He called me ugly.

That I went to a private Baptist elementary school mattered little, not to mention the fact that this boy was a pastor’s kid. Actually, that made matters worse. I felt he was untouchable, that the reason he could get away with everything was because his dad got up in the pulpit.

No one, as far as I know and remember, told him off.

The one time I finally got the moxie to talk back to him and tease him back for his dark skin, his mother (who was also a teacher at the school), called me to her office and scolded me. So unfair.

I went to high school bearing all the damage elementary school and this kid gave me. I became very insecure. My previous experiences with him taught me to be as unobtrusive as possible, to try to not get anyone notice me, and as a result I became very quiet, always hesitating to participate. I had no real friends.

Why bring up all this past?

I bring this all up because this is part of my life that God redeemed for a very long time.

Because kids constantly hurt each other, and those wounds can scar for a very long time.

Because these wounds can cause significant impacts, and we grow up one way, sensing that something has gone wrong, but not knowing what it is, and what caused it.

Because adults can take a proactive role in teaching children that this is wrong. In my case, no one told me that I was wronged. No one told my bully that what he was doing was wrong.

I’m still single and do not have a kid yet, but I can say with certainty that parents’ and other adults’ roles in the formation of a child is important and cannot be taken lightly.

It is with peace in my heart and ease of conscience that I say that I have forgiven my bully.

Years of encouragement from loving people around me, years of discipleship and mentoring, years of learning to get affirmation from God  and His Word has helped me forgive him and realize that he has likely been going through some difficulties I could never even imagine.

He is a pastor now, just like his dad, and the last time we spoke, I learned that he is helping out to get a new ministry started.

God has redeemed me, and He has redeemed my bully.

 

 

Tunnels: Savoring the Bitterness without Turning Bitter

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“Some tend to forget, some tend to dwell. Me? I will do neither”

-from the short film “The Places We Should Have Gone” by Wong Fu Productions

 

I have been praying, for the last several months, that God take away the pain. It is so inconvenient, and I am afraid that it might turn me into a selfish, bitter, (word that rhymes with witch). If I have any fear, it is that this experience will turn me into a nasty waif.

I have prayed so hard for God to take away the pain, to not make my heart involuntarily twitch every time I see, or hear, or remember about the Painful, Awful Happening, if only for the reasons that I want to do my job more effectively, and be able to rejoice with my friends.

I have prayed for this Tunnel to end.

But the Tunnel is still long, and the darkness is still thick. At times I think I see a pinprick of light in the distance… then I wonder if it is nothing but a trick my mind plays on me.

Four months since the Painful, Awful Happening, and only now am I beginning to understand and accept that this pain is here to stay, like an unpleasant cloak I must wear, like some terrible-tasting medicine I must take — to make me better, to hone my character, to remind me to keep trusting Him.

Now that I’ve accepted this, my prayers now have changed from “Lord, take this away” to “Lord, help me still love with this” and “Lord, let me not be bitter”.

I doubt if anyone starts out dreaming of becoming Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge never dreamt of being the old, mean, thing that he was.

It is in the tiny decisions you make along this dark, painful journey that’ll turn you into one though. And it will require tough concentration and consciousness to NOT give in to the temptation of becoming bitter.

Still, His grace is sufficient.

 

 

Read the first post in this series:

Introduction: Tunnels: Journeying in the Dark

Why I don’t live for Others

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Photo from campusministrytoolbox.org

Photo from campusministrytoolbox.org

“The ultimate purpose of life,” he said, “is to live for others”.

I remember a conversation I had with a Sports Science student last semester.

I was using the Perspective cards. We had reached the “Meaning and Purpose of Life” category, and so I asked him which among the cards represented what he believed to be the meaning and purpose of life.

He picked the “To Live for Others” card.

When asked why, he explained that the neighborhood he is from was where drugs and other unhealthy stuff abounded. He hoped, as a Sports Science student (and eventually, graduate), to be able to influence the kids in his neighborhood for something better. It was a very noble, honorable aspiration, and I told him so.

It made sense that he believed that living for others is the purpose of life.

With fervor in his voice, he explained further that helping others, “pagtulong sa kapwa”, is the noblest undertaking in the world.

He asked me what I thought was the Purpose of Life, so of course I chose: “To Live for God.”

“Why?” he asked.

I remember detecting a hint of an accusation in his voice: as if I had turned my back on the human race by choosing to live for something as abstract – or worse, divisive – thing as the “concept of God”. To him, God, or the idea of God, is synonymous or equal to, impersonal institutions, huge chapels, religious rituals and whatnot. Why would anyone live for THAT? Why not actually do something worthwhile?

I explained to him that God is not just a concept.

God is a person, and the ultimate Giver of my purpose. I told him God is for change and justice. God also desires that kids’ lives not go to waste because of drugs or whatever sinister element out there. God desires that evil be stopped.

And I told him that although there are many other noble things people could live for, I picked the “Live for God” card because ultimately, living for God will enable me to live for others, and live for all those other noble

I reflect on this experience because I realize that the question: What must I live for? is something that echoes in every human being. (Those who deny the fact that we must, indeed, live for something may try to brush it aside, end up in an existence of purposelessness.)

The Christian answers this question by pointing to the ultimate Purpose-Giver, Jesus Christ, who He is, what He did, and why He came in the first place.

Moreover, the kid’s question “Why not actually do something worthwhile?” and the implication that Christians are passive and oblivious to social evils and injustices is something challengers always throw in the Christian’s face.

It follows then that if my Purpose is anchored on what Christ did, and who He is, then I, as someone seeking to be like Him, should act on these things that God cares about: redemption, freedom, justice.

Do you see? A Christian so intent on being like Christ will – must – eventually learn to love others, and fight for them.

It’s the beautiful paradox: to live for others, I must live for Christ first.