Sunday, December 21, 2008

Arrgh!!! So Many Things To Do!!!

It is supposed to be the “most wonderful time of the year!” But why are we so busy? So stressed? In between our regular workload, school, and family obligations, we still have several hours long of shopping to do, gifts to wrap and deliver, heavy traffic congestion to contend with when we visit our loved ones and close friends, write letters and cards to our family and relatives who live far away, attend (and host) the obligatory office parties, neighborhood get-togethers, barkada parties, church socials, school programs…

Add to the fact that everybody is experiencing some sort of financial crunch. Business is slow and difficult; jobs have no security. No wonder many of us would wish to be Scrooges at this time of the year.

Do you know that when Jesus arrived on earth as a baby during the first Christmas, the situation was no different from the one we are experiencing at the moment? It was a busy time in Bethlehem as they were conducting the census. People from all over the empire were traveling to their ancestral hometown. They were probably jostling each other for souvenirs to buy and take away, spaces to rest and sleep, as well as sites to see. (That was why there was no more space in the inn for the God of the universe to be born.) Nobody realized, nobody noticed the birth of a Baby who would be the Savior of the world; except for a few shepherds.

Are you like the innkeeper, who was busy attending to his guests that he relegated the Baby to the manger? Are you one of those people, who are busy buying and sightseeing that they did not notice the special Baby at all? Or are you one of the shepherds, who upon hearing the good news, dropped everything important just to see and visit the Christ Child?

This is the season to remind ourselves that Christ came to earth to bring peace, joy, love, salvation. It is time to change our priorities and perspectives as well. Learn to quiet down and seek Him, so that we may be able to make this season truly the most wonderful time of the year!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

search string: “TRUTH”…

Modern man can get any information at his fingertips. In a few blinks of an eye (depending on the speed of your modem and internet connections), you can access all the information available in the World Wide Web. Google (and googling) has replaced the need for traditional library research work. Wikipedia has replaced the traditional Encyclopaedia Britannica for quick references.

Convenient? Definitely. Good? Perhaps, but not entirely. For instance, emailing has replaced the traditional snail mail. It is good in the sense that emails can be transmitted to the recipient in a matter of nanoseconds, compared to snail mail which may take weeks. However, the art of handwriting has been replaced by speed on the keyboard, and that replacement is not exactly good.

Wikipedia as a source of information may or may not exactly be reliable. Contents of the traditional bulky encyclopedia were well-researched and well-documented, edited by many scholars and experts in their respective fields. The contents of Wikipedia, on the other hand, are volunteered by diverse sources. Sometimes it does give us the useful information we need, but Wiki does not guarantee its sources’ accuracy. More often than not, their articles may be written by any Tom, Dick, or Harry who simply has a web site. How do we know if it is reliable? Check the source, and the source of the source.

Google the word Jesus and you get 191 million references! Google the word Bible, you get 115 million results! Each of these sites has varying opinions and views about Jesus and the Bible. Not all of these sites are written by theologians, Bible scholars, seminary professors, or Biblical archeology and history experts. Which of these millions of sites are reliable then? Check out their source.

What should be our ultimate reliable source? The Bible!!! The Living Word of God (Hebrews 4:12) is the ultimate source of Truth and its standards should be our guideposts for living. The Bible is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16). It is the Word of God written down for you – His child -to read. It is unchanging. It is timeless. Throughout these two millennia, His Word still applies. It is inerrant – completely, totally. Wikipedia has received a lot of criticisms for many of its inaccurate contents. But the Bible has stood for Truth up to this new century, and will still be the Truth until the end of time (Mark 13:31).

Be like the Bereans, (Acts 17:11) who were described to be noble-minded. Receive the Word with great eagerness and examine the Scriptures daily, so that you would know what is true, what is good, what you need to know, and what you need to do.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

CMN Breaking News: Neighborhood Water Station Not Charging…

Imagine that you are living in a dirty, polluted city. (Probably like Manila, a hundred times worse). But near your home, is a water fountain, always gushing out fresh spring water. It is free flowing, inexhaustible, clean and cool. It is very, very accessible. So, you enjoy the fountain, you enjoy the water. You keep coming back to the water. (It is free anyway!) It refreshes you and your whole family. It gives strength and energy to your life. Because it is the best water in the world, and there is none like it, you will never, ever choose any other water source or any other drink except the spring water from this fountain. You enjoy it so much, you tell other people about the wonderful qualities of the water. Soon, more and more people come to enjoy the water. This makes the water fountain very, very valuable. This is good, because soon, the water fountain will transform the dirty and polluted city into a cleaner city.

Do you know that in the Bible, God pictures Himself as a mountain spring of clean, cool, life-giving water? (John 4)

Your relationship with God should be like example of the fountain of spring water described above. We do live in a disturbing and dirty world whose priorities and values are different from the standard imposed by our Creator. By the abundant grace of God, we are given the water of life – Jesus Christ. We should enjoy this water and enjoy sharing the water of life with our family and friends. This is what God commands us to do.

And yet, why is it that we often look for other sources of water? Other sources of happiness? Other fountains can only provide temporal, fleeting happiness. Why do we put our trust in money, possessions, positions, titles and worldly pleasures? Do you know that it is a sin if you prefer the other fountains rather than the life-giving water of God?

Without God and a life of intimate fellowship and dependence on Him, our soul becomes like a desert, a parched land. The sad thing is if you keep indulging in other fountains, you will not even realize that you are already dehydrated to the point of sickness and death.

It is time to evaluate our lives and recognize the One True source of life-giving water. May we be like the Psalmist (Psalm 42:1) who says “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for Thee, O God.” And if we do so, Jesus has promised that we will be blessed, for “those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Saddam’s Grandpa knew GOD?!

Have you heard of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon (present day Iraq)? Daniel (of the lion’s den fame) served under him. He reigned at around 605 B.C. At that time, his kingdom was known as the Babylonian Empire. He was a brilliant military strategist. He was the one who conquered the southern kingdom of Judah, his kingdom stretched from Egypt to Middle Asia to Southern Europe. He was also a brilliant architect. He built many bridges, aqueducts, temples and other structures considered modern and innovative at that time. He is famous until now because he was the one who built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the wonders of the ancient world.

Like most men who have accomplished much, he was puffed up with pride. One day, as he was strolling around his magnificent palace, he reflected to himself and said “Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence, by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30) While the words were not yet finished in the king’s mouth, a voice from heaven came saying, “Sovereignty has been removed from you. You will be driven from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field. You will be given grass to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you until you recognize that the Most High is the ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes.” (vv 31-32) In just an instant, everything came true. He began eating grass like cattle. In no time, his hair has grown like eagle’s feathers and nails like bird’s claws. After the period of time, the once mighty King’s reason was returned and he finally acknowledged and blessed and praised and honored the One True God, who has dominion over all kingdoms, in all ages.

The great Nebuchadnezzar learned in a very hard way that accomplishments must not lead to pride, but to the exaltation of the Lord God, who is the author of everything. If the Lord is so insistent that a pagan king assign all glory to its righteous recipient, how much more should we, His children, take care to do the same?

Whatever our worth may be, whatever things we can do, whatever we have, we have to recognize that all these things, including our very lives, are from God. Everything depends on Him and Him alone. Our appropriate response should not be pride or self-fulfillment but adoration and worship and praise for our great God who is the source of all.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Remember Abraham sent a faithful servant back to his former homeland, Nahor, to get a wife for Isaac from his relatives there? By the water well, when Abraham’s servant realized that Rebekah was the woman Isaac was to marry, he immediately got out the jewels he had brought along for the occasion. He gave her two gold bracelets and a gold nose ring. (Rebekah must have quickly slipped the jewelry on and run home excitedly to tell her family about what had happened by the well.) A nose ring! Probably, it was an acceptable form of jewelry during the Old Testament times. But nowadays, if you wear a nose ring, people would label you a rebel, a punk, or something else.

The Old Testament mentions jewels and jewelry many times. Both men and women wore jewelry. They commonly wore “armlets, bracelets, signet rings, earrings, and necklaces.” (Numbers 31:50). The Israelites took their jewelries from the people with whom they were at war (when they won the war, of course). 2 Samuel chapter 8 records David gaining a big amount of gold, silver, and bronze when he conquered the nations surrounding Israel. He dedicated all of it to the Lord. His son Solomon also used gold, silver, and bronze to build the fabulous temple in Jerusalem.

The New Testament, however, specifically mentions jewelry only once. Peter was speaking to wives, but this is also applicable to men. “Your adornment must not be merely external – braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.” Don’t we look in the mirror everyday to check our outward appearance? But how often do you examine your inner condition, which is more important to God?

People nowadays are always concerned with outward appearances, including believers. It is not a sin to be well-dressed (Proverbs 31:22), but it is wrong to be obsessed with outward appearances at the expense of inner beauty. A beautiful woman who lacks inner beauty and character is like a pig with a gold ring in its nose, according to Proverbs 11:22.

It is wrong for a believer to place too much value on external appearances. It is also wrong to seek man’s approval rather than to strive to please God. Remember, God always looks at your heart. So, clothe yourself with a gentle and quiet spirit. Like the Proverbs 31 woman, strength and dignity should be our clothing. We should open our mouth in wisdom. Teaching kindness should be on our tongue. We should not eat the bread of idleness. After all, charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a person who fears the Lord, he shall be praised.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Think Green

Green is “in” nowadays. We should add “greens” to our diets. It means we should eat more vegetables and fruits, rather than “red” meat. We should adopt a “green” lifestyle. In our homes, we should use less chemicals so that we do not contribute to water pollution; plant more “greens;” turn off lights and appliances we do not use; use less plastic. There are many other ways to turn “green.” It simply means to do all these little things in order to protect and preserve whatever our planet Earth has left of its resources.

Many people ask, what is the use? What is the effect of deliberately thinking and doing “green?” They cannot see the immediate benefits of going “green” so they do not want to invest time and effort to do it. These people do not realize that by helping protect the Earth, they are helping themselves and their children to have healthier lives as well. Is it not true that using less chemicals would save our lungs from toxic fumes? Is it not true that having some plants around the house would immediately give us more oxygen? And the simple act of turning off lights and appliances would not only lower our electric bills, but also save some carbon for the Earth as well.

People view prayer in the same way. Many people do not consistently pray; they do not invest time and effort to pray because they do not see the benefits of regular prayer. They do not realize that prayer would benefit their own spiritual lives. Instead of prayer being as natural as something we do everyday like breathing or eating, it seems that we only pray when there are problems or crisis in our lives – which should not be the case.

We should continually devote ourselves to prayer (Col 4:2). Pray unceasingly. Pray with passion and persistence (Luke 11:9). Pray with thanksgiving (1 Thess.5:18). We are commanded by our Lord to do so.

Prayer deepens our faith. It deepens our fellowship with God, increases our dependence on Him. It gives us confidence that God will open the door and give us a way (Col 4:3) Prayer will give us direction (Luke 6:12-13). Sometimes, prayer forces us to wait. Instead of feeling frustrated, we will learn to accept God’s time and God’s will. Prayer opens up our spiritual eyes. It enables us to see what God is doing and how He is doing things; helping us realize that God’s ways are indeed higher than ours. Prayer aligns our heart with God’s heart. It changes our characters, our thoughts, our priorities, our actions. Prayer enables us to move forward, to be the person that God wants us to be. Without prayer, we cannot accomplish anything! Prayer will enable us to truly experience the glory of our Father in Heaven.

With all of these benefits of prayer, we cannot afford not to pray!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Gold Medals

Josh Davis won three gold medals in swimming at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, then two silver medals at the 2000 Games in Sydney, where he was captain of the U.S. swim team. Of course Michael Phelps won more gold at this year’s Beijing Olympics, but Josh Davis has won a lot more than the Olympic gold.

In his book, The Goal and the Glory (2008), he shared the glory of winning the Olympics, the joy and celebration as the medals were hung on his neck. He shared the feeling of pride and pageantry as he faced screaming fans, endless interviews, TV cameras. In his own words, “everybody who saw us treated us like gods.”

However, what happened the morning after?

“When I woke up the next morning, all the excitement, all the hype, all the adrenaline … it was all gone! Granted, I was still living in the Olympic Village, eating the free food, and looking forward to some more races, but the mood was drastically different from the night before. I had finally tasted the best the world had to offer, and it was sweet … but oh, so short! Having had a taste of glory, I now felt empty. It was sobering to experience the shock of a high so high followed by a low so low.”

“I looked for encouragement and perspective in God's Word, turning to 1 Peter 1:7: "Your faith is of greater worth than gold." I found comfort in the knowledge that my relationship with Jesus is infinitely more valuable and more precious than gold. Matthew 6:19-21 adds these words: "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." I realized then that my medal wouldn't last forever, but it was good to know that there is something that will.”

“Several people over the years have accidentally dropped my medal, and it is dented and scratched. Meanwhile, my cool monogrammed Olympic suitcase is falling apart, my Olympic towels are starting to unravel, and some of my Olympic clothes have bleach stains. This wear and tear reminds me that, eventually, everything material in this world will fall apart. God's Word reminds us that there are only three eternal things: God, his Word, and the souls of men and women. And when we invest our lives accordingly, by serving God and others in and through his love, we are storing up gold medals in heaven that will last forever.”

Meanwhile, Josh Davis is looking forward to his awards ceremony in heaven. He knows and understands that his Olympic ceremony experience will pale in comparison to that awaiting him in heaven.