Spelling out integrity

integrity
More often, integrity could be hardly spelled out.

Proverbs 14:34 Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.

Integrity is a tough word. It calls for purity, devotedness, faithfulness, and unwavering commitment. To be a man of integrity is a tough virtue.

In today’s environment, there are very few people we can find to be as such. One reason is that the people who were once men of integrity fell away from the virtue when great temptation came. And, the same could be said for the remaining few – many of them would fall away from the narrow road of integrity once tested big deal.

For the students, staying away from copying could never be easy. Do an honest survey and a very small number would dare to claim they have never copied during exams. Copying is just one thing. Not to say stealing intellectual and material properties – in different proportions and ways. Virtually everyone is guilty.

In the government, how much resources in different forms should have been given to the right people but sadly went into the pockets and hands of the few greedy? Our nation is known as one of the most corrupts in the world.

Even families are experiencing corruption. Unfaithfulness between married couples are becoming rampant. Siblings betray each other, or protect each other even at the expense of dishonesty. And in other ways the list could go on.

The Christian Church is not exempted – no. Many of the world’s systems that are anti-biblical have been popularly embraced by the Church for the sake of marketing, acceptance, and power. Many believers have also denied the simple Gospel in exchange for money, entertainment, prestige and honor.

God is looking for a people who are willing to offer their lives for the sake of righteousness. God wants to see devout lives that are fully surrendered to His ethical principles of justice, mercy, and uprightness. With these kind of people, God could do wonders of societal transformation. God desires for holy vessels whom He can use to change the world. Sin brings reproach, righteousness exalts – individually and corporately.

The Good Thing About God

Grace-for-all
Grace conquers all our deficiencies.

Actually the title isn’t so good. Upon finishing reading this short reflection, the reader will come to see that there are countless reasons to prove that God is so good.

For one thing, who in the earth could say that he or she deserves God’s Grace? Of course there are many out there who would dare to claim so. These are the people who have missed altogether the true meaning of Grace. For them grace is earned, which is at once at odds with its real definition. Grace, Biblical grace is unmerited favor. Favor is for the obedient, but Grace is given even to the disobedient.

The forgiveness of God comes close to the list. God is so merciful and forgiving, that to forgive and forget a multitude of sin could be seen as part of His character. Yes I am emphasizing forgiveness here, and not His wrath to come at the day of Judgment when He recompenses every man for his or her evil deeds in hellfire.

The sweet sovereignty of God is another one. If not for His sovereignty, there could be no miracles or other stories that defy physical and natural limitations imposed by nature. Because of this many lives are saved – not in the natural means. And even problems, the insurmountable ones are overcomed. Thanks to His omnipotent power.

There are still a lot more, but let me tell now my story. For the past two weeks I have been down and could not move. I really feel unworthy. But God told me to act as a leader in an outreach – yes, He tells me to act – unworthy though that I am.

The Endless Pursuit

Jesus

Sin always finds its way in me. No matter how much I try to avoid it, in so many subtle ways it could always reach out to me. God’s Grace however, catches me for restoration.

Matt Redman sings in his new album, Your Grace Finds Me, that God’s Grace is the same for the saint and for the sinner. Yeah, yes. There is grace for the righteous and for the sinner, or in other words, for the saved and the unbeliever. But also, no. There is a special kind of grace that is exclusive only for the saved. In God’s eyes, the saved are forever righteous. They have been justified. And, in great contrast, the good works of the unsaved are like filthy rags. Strong comparison. Heart-flattering for the saint, condemning for the wicked.

Sin damages my heart, and God’s Grace is always there to heal me. After committing the most hideous sins, i would bow down in prayer and ask for cleansing and forgiveness. Yes, immediate cleansing I receive, but it should not stop there. True repentance always calls for the changed mind and heart, and of course ways of life. Period. Anything less than that is not true repentance but only confession.

It is indeed an endless pursuit. Running away from sin, being taken by sin, and being catched and snatched away by God’s grace.

As long as a saint is on earth, the pursuit is endless. In heaven, this pursuit cannot happen. How I long to be with Jesus!

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The Delight of Teaching God’s Word

English: ESV Study Bible Hardcover Cover
ESV Study Bible – the Study Bible I often use when studying the Bible.

Teaching the Word of God is truly a delight. It is one of the few things in life that truly brings pleasure to my soul.

Teaching requires that we study the teaching material first. In the endeavor to teach the Bible, in any form, in preaching, Bible Study, evangelism, or others, studying it first gluttons my heart to high spiritualities. It is one of the wonders any Bible teacher experiences from time to time. It is in fact listening to God.

A true teacher of the Scriptures will do his or her best to live out what he or she is preparing to teach. This, again, fulfills the deepest longings of the soul. Any true obedient disciple of Christ knows that trying to live in the perfect will of God is one sure thing to live a meaningful, fulfilled life. It is the highest achievement any human can achieve.

Then comes the blessed task of teaching it. If we have tried our best to study and live the Message, then the act of teaching is really in a sense a completed task. It has its own duties, but once we have tried to study and live the Word, then we can be assured that God will bless also our work of teaching to others what we have experienced ourselves.

Criticism or Love?

English: Christians in Action, Parkview Road. ...
Often, in the Church we find judgement and judgemental people.

Humanly, it is very easy to judge, especially in a Christian community. I have observed again and again that Christians are more prone to judge than the others.

And why?

Christians know better. We have a lot more of the moral values at our disposal. We know a lot regarding the right and wrong, the high standards of acceptable ethical living. But these things, no matter how good they are, are being used by the devil to bring discord to relationships and the brethren. Our knowledge of morality is being used by Satan to our destruction.

We easily become backbiters, when we discover that some of the brethren has certain weaknesses that we do not have. Or, when we are criticized, admonished, or corrected, we become super self-protective that we deny them and criticize them in return – all because we are self-righteous. These devilish attitudes are very common and observable in the Christian community. We see seldom see mature Christians who are able to face correction and criticism in humble ways.

On the part of those who give criticisms, very few of them are correcting their brethren for the sake of love. Very, very, rare. More often they simply do it out of self-righteousness too, to exalt the selves by degrading others. Their ways of correction easily reveal the inner motives of their heart.

One good example of what I am saying can be observed during the meeting of leaders. When one leader is accused by another leader, the accused one retaliates by pointing out the weaknesses of the one who corrects him or her. There is no real acceptance or acknowledgement of the mistake, only refusal and self-protection. This example is very common. There are many others which strongly illustrate my idea.

What is happening to the Christian churches? Where is the love? It is very good to return to the exhortation of Paul to the Galatians:

 (Gal 6:1-5) Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden.

We should bear one another, and not fight or pull down the other. We should not think lofty of ourselves, for we are accountable ourselves to the Lord. Looking too much onto others diminishes our real examination of the self.

The Epic Battle

Armor of the condottiero Roberto da Sanseverin...
Let us wear on our complete spiritual armour and engage in battles!

The Christian life is a fight. A fierce battle. Every side could be at odds, every corner could be a battleground. Of course many are your friends, but many still could act as your enemies, no matter how much you befriend them.

Do not give up! Heads on toward the battle! Put on your helmet, wear your armour and sandals, carry your shield, raise up your sword! This is another combat! An epic battle!

Strike hard! Aim best! Shoot ahead! There are many witnesses – the saints of the past are all watching, watching and expecting that every Christian would share the same victory they had.

Every unnecessary weight should be removed – excess burdens. Sin should be dealt and buried and burned. Run the race without those filth! Just run with freedom in Christ!

Yes, look unto Jesus – the Author and Perfector of everything that we have as Christians! Just look and reflect unto His Glory, and in the process be the more transformed into His blessed likeness. The more we look at Him, the more peace we gain, the greater is our focus, and increasing is our strength!

That is the way to our epic battle! That is the Christian Life! Turn away from baggage and filth, and focus on the Holy. This way, we could win this. Like the countless saints before us, we will win this too!

 

Prayer Concerns:

Family relationship and the ministry. My preaching this Sunday at Calapan Bible Church, with Acts 16:1-5 as the Text. Wisdom in studies, especially in Math, I am really weak in this subject.

Thanks!

Let Me Preach Again

English: Christ preaching petite tombe’
Christ is the best preacher of all.

Preaching isn’t easy, but I like it. It is the divine task among all the others that satisfy me the most. Since 2004 I have been preaching, and it has been a wondrous journey. Time and time again I would reminisce those moments, each sharing some unique lessons and experiences.

But I have stopped preaching for a while now. For at least four months I have not set foot to preach on the pulpit. Then an invitation from a council member of a church and its pastor once again awaken my desire to preach.

True I am not as strong and prepared as before. But I still have the skills, those are not easily lost, but could fade in time when not used. However, it is not the skills that is most important, but is the preparedness of the heart and the right standing in front of God. Though of course preaching is not at all earned, for no one is worthy, but is accepted as a free gift on the merit of Christ and His righteousness. That is why though it could be certainly practised and developed, it could never be mastered.

That gives me the incentive to preach. True preaching is always the product of God’s Grace – I mean to say true powerful preaching that transforms the heart.

Preaching as an overflow of God’s Grace, does not mean I do not have to act. I would study and meditate again, read and reflect. I would strive to be strong again, to be holy, and that is the most important thing. Read, study, live the message, and preach it. All for the Glory of God.

 

The Poor has Always Got Something to Say

Around four million1, the current number of poor Filipinos today. The poor, Chavannes Poor Fisherman

though serving as a constant challenge to the government is still the powerless and voiceless group in the society. By the term ‘poor’ we may extend the meaning also to the physically and mentally disable. Big steps are always considered to alleviate their condition, but their real needs as human beings are not always truly met. The longings of their hearts are still unheard but they have much to say, if we are only willing enough to listen. Listening to them is not easy. It would often require the unmasking of the strong self, and stooping down to embrace weakness.

Very fascinating to me is the example of Jesus as stated in Philippians 2:5-8 “You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had, ​​​​​​​who though he existed in the form of God ​​​​​​did not regard equality with God ​​​​​​as something to be grasped, ​​​​​​​but emptied himself ​​​​​​by taking on the form of a slave, ​​​​​​by looking like other men, ​​​​​​and by sharing in human nature. ​​​​​​​He humbled himself”. Jesus lived it out for us – the perfect example of true service, which means identifying yourself with the people whom you serve. And the very same principle is true if we would like to reach out to the poor and listen to their hearts.

The life of the late Henri J. M. Nouwen is an outstanding example of this humble service. He was a strong man – a catholic priest, and a theology professor. He taught at Harvard, Yale, and Notre Dame, and many looked at him as great, but deep within he felt depressed and discouraged – there was a big hole in his heart that is left unsatisfied. All of that would change as he spent the last ten years of his life ministering as a pastor of the L’Arche Daybreak community in Toronto, a place for those with intellectual disabilities. Living with these ‘weak’ people made him realize that his vast knowledge of theology is futile and in fact making him incapable of relating and ministering to them. It was then that God spoke to his heart that he had to let go of his greatness and embrace the world of these people. He was then healed from his depression by listening to these people, and found his deepest fulfillment as a priest, friend, author, lecturer and mentor. What God taught him thru these weak people is far greater than all that he learned as a student and a university professor. God spoke thru the mentally incapable, teaching him more the realities of God’s love and brotherly love, and Henri became a better person.

My own experience of serving a poor community of fishermen at Pinamalayan recounts the same thing. Forgetting and setting aside my comfortable life at Calapan, I ventured to live the life of the poor. I was continuously interacting and listening with (not just to) them, trying to get in touch. Literally living with them opened my heart to what these people have to say to the world.

I admire many things about these people. They taught me how to rest and be still. Rest is such a beautiful practice! It is giving yourself some time to set free from busyness, to relax and let the thinking mind and the longing heart blend on a wondrous contemplation. True reflection has become a stranger to many, thus they are deprived of a wonderful way for self-searching and communion with their Creator.

Living with them imparted unto me simplicity of life and contentment. I have found out that much of man’s worries are unrealistic, because they emerge primarily from being not contented. Living simple and being content goes hand-on-hand; if you live simple enough it shows a heart that is content, and if you are content then you are willing to embrace a simple life.

They also showed me perseverance and faith. I have interviewed some of them and was surprised that one family earns for as low as Php. 15 weekly, yet still life goes on. Sometimes, these fishermen catch nothing or very little at all during a night of stress at the sea – yet, they still manage to support their families. They just say that it’s normal, and they don’t take it too seriously to avoid added stress. They simply believe and they know that there will be better days ahead.

These people know very well to give thanks and be appreciative to every little gift they receive. Their hearts are always full of gratitude, amidst all hardships. In some sense, they are greater worshipers than I am, for I tend to give praise to God only when receiving grand privileges or gifts. But these people are constant praise-givers and they do honor God in everything, big or little. Though poor, they are rich in heart.

I also learned that real education of the heart takes place as we invest quality time with the people. Giving gifts is good but what a person really wants is your time, approval, and acceptance. Small gifts become so much bigger only if you show that your gifts are wrapped up with genuine love. A hypocritical show of love is of little value, but genuine expressions of love even in small ways could produce miracles. These people have showed me again and again, to my shame, that what can truly help these poor people are not gifts but love and acceptance. So quality time with them becomes too important.

Another important lesson is that though the mind matters, the heart is still much more important. The first months of my service to them arose some oppositions from differing religious beliefs. Some key church leaders wanted a debate, but I just kept silent. I just continued to show them genuine love and to continue harness a good relationship with all of them. In a relatively short time, we gained their trust and approval.

The most important lesson of all is that I have understood more the reality of God’s love in a much deeper way. How could God love a people whom He allows to live poor for so long? Now I think I have the answer: in God’s mystery He uses their hardships to bring them closer to Him. And secondly important lesson is that God has taught me to become a greater lover of men: exercising love for them has little by little taken away my prejudices, biases, and selfishness in life.

These lessons I have not learned during my four-year seminary studies inside a four-walled classroom at a Bible School. But these poor people are great instructors of the heart. I now see life on a bigger perspective. Thanks for a communal life with them, I have been set free from my wrong thinking and ideals in life. Yes, though they are the voiceless in the society, yet they have taught me big things, and indeed they are people of powerful positive influence – only if we would listen.

1 Annual Per Capita Poverty Threshold, Poverty Incidence and Magnitude of Poor Families, by Region and Province: 1991, 2003, 2006 and 2009, National Statistical Coordination Board

Psychology and Charles Darwin

English: Charles Darwin (1809-1882) in his lat...
Charles Darwin, the main proponent of the Theory of Evolution, which was never proven true in the history of Science.

Psychology. A subject that has so many principles and beliefs and claims and theories that are unbiblical and contrary to the teachings of Christ and the Apostles.

Well, this morning, in our first General Psychology class for the semester, our competent teacher asked us about a particular person that has popularised the word “adaptation.” I literally answered, “Sir maybe one of them was Charles Darwin, by his natural selection theory.”

The professor gave a big Yes. However, at his second question, which deals more about natural selection and how adaptation relates to it, I didn’t answer and let someone else do. I was  hesitant, and at the same time avoiding the spirit of competition grow in my heart. I was  hesitant  because in my heart if I continue to tell ‘theories’ regarding evolution, then maybe subtly I am becoming Darwin’s proponent by allowing others to wonder at his great unproven hoax.

This is real life. I am a Christian living in an unbelieving world which blindly supports theories that are in direct opposition with biblical truths. These fallacies are required to be tackled and ‘believed’ in the classroom. Evolution and Psychology, I am not a big fan of them. Though yes, some of psychology isn’t harmful to the Christian faith and maybe even submit to it, but generally, it is still a man-made philosophy. I would rather go with the idea of  Intelligent  Design, which supports the Law of Creation as found in the first chapters of Genesis in the Bible.

May God empower me, give me strength and wisdom that I may not compromise my faith – at all cost.

Seeing the Glory of God and Its Benefits to the Soul

If we desire to give God the Glory and worship that He rightfully deserves, we should seek to see his greatness and be proactive in making more (and more) rooms for Him in our life. If we desire to have more of our flesh crucified, the best way is to let God take full control of our lives, and surrendering ourselves (and self-righteousness) to His will in sweet resignation – the very essence of making more room for God and less for ourselves.

But before we can truly have the desire to surrender ourselves (and our will) to
Him, we need first to see His Greatness. The more we realize the greatness of God, the more we are humbled to the ground in reverent submission (Lev.9:24; Dan. 10:8,9; Isa. 6:1-5), making us to realize our littleness or nothingness. To contemplate on the Greatness and Sovereignty of God is the best antidote for human pride. The worship of God should be worshiping God is simply the attitude-and-act of glorifying God by the offering of the self as an acceptable sacrifice (Rom. 12) – for the chief end of man is to glorify God (knowing, loving, and honoring Him) :

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power:
for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are
and were created. (Rev. 4:11)
The LORD hath made all things for himself (Prov. 16:4a)
For of him, and through him, and to him,
are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen.(Rom. 11:36)

And, worshiping  the Glorious God provides the happiest moments of life here on earth. In Him I find real satisfaction for my dry and hungry soul – ever thirsting for something or someone who is ever to satisfy the thirst. In worshiping God, I have my most substantial joy. In living the life of reverent submission, there comes an abundance of strength, power, and fulfillment.

And this is Christian Hedonism (however trivial the term may sound!)- finding your JOY IN GOD – the only unceasing fountain of everlasting joy:

      As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants
       for Thee, O God, for the living God (Psa. 42:1-2)
       My soul thirsts for Thee, my flesh yearns for Thee, in a
       dry and weary land where there is no water. (Psa. 63:1)
       O taste and see that the Lord is good. (Psa. 34:8)

My chief end is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever, where
He is most exalted, and I am most humbled down
and satisfied.