Dear all, sorry for my lack of posts. I shall regain writing soon. There will be three posts coming up this month ; one for each missing month.
01 Sep 2013 Leave a comment
11 Then the angel of the LORD came and sat beneath the oak tree at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash of the clan of Abiezer. Gideon son of Joash had been threshing wheat at the bottom of a winepress to hide the grain from the Midianites. 12 The angel of the LORD appeared to him and said, “Mighty hero, the LORD is with you!” 13 “Sir,” Gideon replied, “if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about? Didn’t they say, ‘The LORD brought us up out of Egypt’? But now the LORD has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites.” 14 Then the LORD turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!” 15 “But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!” 16 The LORD said to him, “I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.” 17 Gideon replied, “If you are truly going to help me, show me a sign to prove that it is really the LORD speaking to me. 18 Don’t go away until I come back and bring my offering to you.”The LORD answered, “I will stay here until you return.”19 Gideon hurried home. He cooked a young goat, and with half a bushel of flour he baked some bread without yeast. Then, carrying the meat in a basket and the broth in a pot, he brought them out and presented them to the angel, who was under the oak tree. 20 The angel of God said to him, “Place the meat and the unleavened bread on this rock, and pour the broth over it.” And Gideon did as he was told. 21 Then the angel of the LORD touched the meat and bread with the staff in his hand, and fire flamed up from the rock and consumed all he had brought. And the angel of the LORD disappeared. 22 When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the LORD, he cried out, “Sovereign LORD, I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face!” 23 “It is all right,” the LORD replied. “Do not be afraid. You will not die.” 24 And Gideon built an altar to the LORD there and named it “The LORD Is Peace.” The altar remains in Ophrah in the land of the clan of Abiezer to this day. 25 That night the LORD said to Gideon, “Take the second best bull from your father’s herd, the one that is seven years old. Pull down your father’s altar to Baal, and cut down the Asherah pole standing beside it. Judges 6 :11-25 (Taken from the New Living Translation Bible)
When I read this passage two parts of it is highlighted in my heart; namely: the angel’s assurance and the calling of Gideon.
First of all, the angel of the Lord asserts Gideon that the Lord is with him in verse 12. More often than not I encounter students who are Christians and struggle with the assurance that we have for certain hat God is with us in his Spirit. The moment we are saved, (through our spiritual baptism), the Holy Spirit resides in us and we can be certain of that. Some say it is in a way like having a lamp plugged into the socket. God indwells in us already through his spirit; we are already plugged in so to speak.
I enjoy reading Gideon’s calling because it is so much like it is in our days. To my mind, us Christians fall too much in the cheesy “miracles of God”, that is, we expect God to respond to our prayers in ways that may put the natural structure of the world, the scientific reality into question. After all, we do find remarkable things in our Bibles; things that we hold true and are “scientifically impossible to have happened”. I ask God that at least 100 students trust Jesus as their Lord and Saviour and then expect it to happen with no one to reach out to them. It can happen but I don’t think that is what God is up for. When I read Gideon’s story I see myself so much like him, failing to expect God to do his miracles through us, through our insufficiency. I love how the angel does start reinforcing Gideon in the knowledge that the Lord is with him. Through our believing in Jesus, God is with us and this gives us the power and the confidence that God can do mighty things through us, with us and in spite of us. However, I must confess that turning water into wine is a very very cool miracle to witness.
Yet again, we see nowadays, just like Gideon, the big question. If God is with us, then why all these things happening? Why do bad things happen?… I would not like to direct the point of this homily on this but I would venture say that these things are not a proof of the nonexistence of God but rather the presence of brokenness, and sin in us, in the other, in the entire world.
In light of God’s presence in us, the second point comes along with it. Y’weh wants to use Gideon to deliver the people of Israel from the Midianites. It’s a bit as if God was telling Gideon: “Gideon, I want to use you to deliver my people, are you in?.” Gideon in return flips out and wonders “how on earth would that be possible? For starters, if God is with us, then why are we going through all this? Plus why me, the least of least?”
Throughout the history of God’s people I see that he thrives in turning the weakest link into the strongest. It’s part of the immense analogy that we see about God’s people: the last will be first, the smallest tribe and people become the biggest, the weak, then becomes the strong. Gideon doubts in humility. Later on Mary, the mother of our Lord, doubts in humility. We doubt that God can do great things in our lives for his glory. We see ourselves too small, ignoring how big we are in Christ.
“Why me? How come you are calling me to do this and that? I am just one person, I can’t change the world, or my surroundings for that matter!” I often complain to God. In return, he assures me that “it is all right”, “Do not be afraid. You will not die” (verse 23).
What is God calling you to do? What is keeping you from taking action steps towards it? Do you truly believe that God is with you and that you will not die?
My prayer for you is that you may find the confidence to fulfill God’s calling to be one person with God to change the world for the glory of His name. So be it.
12 Jul 2013 Leave a comment
1 Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town. 2 There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was one of the most influential Jews in the Roman tax-collecting business, and he had become very rich. 3 He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowds. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree beside the road, so he could watch from there. 5 When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!”he said. “Quick, come down! For I must be a guest in your home today.” 6 Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. 7 But the crowds were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled. 8 Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have overcharged people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!” 9 Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a son of Abraham. 10 And I, the Son of Man, have come to seek and save those like him who are lost.” Gospel of St. Luke 19:1-10 (taken from the New Living Translation)
In the summer of 2010, the city of Granada (southern Spain) was preparing herself to welcome the annual festivities of the Corpus Christi. This feast has been celebrated in the ancient city for centuries. The whole city becomes a feast, with ornaments everywhere, and the city centre becomes even more populated than it normally is. Yet, in this specific summer something different was happening. At the Alfa (stands for Almanjáyar en Familia) civic centre, Marcos* was rather disappointed. Unlike other days, Marcos was sitting alone on one of the school’s chair using a big cardboard box and putting random stuff such as used straws, pieces of paper and magazines in it. Normally he would use his gypsy, witty irony to make fun of other kids; something which was custom among the children of that neighbourhood when it comes to entertainment.
I approached Marcos and asked him: “Say, what are you creating?” At first he didn’t even look up, since he knew very well who I was. He recognised my voice, and today, it was not the day for me to be encouraging him to behave and to be a good boy. “It’s the fair!” he responded harshly and with a sense of entitlement. “Wow, the fair!” I responded . In a closer glance, you could see that the former chaos was actually not quite so but a nice distribution of the structure of one of the tents of the fair. He had the roof out of straws, the tables and chairs for the people, the dancing area, the little ponies for the kids to ride. It had got everything.
I was very impressed of the detailing and originality of Marcos. Up to this point, it was quite a hard grasp for me to make him sit and do a couple of math problems or simply read aloud a short story to practise his reading skills. “You could be an architect in the future, Marcos” I remarked. “Me? An architect? Are you crazy, teacher?!” he snorted, as if I was absolutely outside of my mind to think that he could be an architect.
A bit of this is what I see in the person of Zacchaeus. I always found Zacchaeus as the short (Luke 19,v.3), fearful guy who was so worried about what people would think of him that he would mask himself and shyly climb a tree to be able to see Jesus. In my opinion, I think Zacchaeus had struggled all his life to be like the rest without being like the rest. His stature forced him to excel on other things to prove his worth on something else besides his failed stature. As a way to compensate for this, he ends up being this powerful chief collector. He had been scarred all through his life by people that he wanted to get back at them by becoming the mean, wicked man who would be in charge of collecting the tribute to the Caesar. In a way he would have spent his young life, just like Marcos, thinking “If they can’t love me for who I am, they will fear me and despise me. At least those are also feelings.” Again, this is simply a way I like seeing the Zacchaeus of Scriptures, but I could be easily wrong . Yet, it seems right to me that Zacchaeus would be this way; that he would want to know what’s going on and why so many people were following this somewhat prophet. It makes sense that only in this way he would be curious enough to go and climb a tree. He was able to see Jesus, to know what’s going on, in other words, to be like everyone else, but at the same time, he would be remaining in his comfort zone. His status quo would then be that of being involved in a different way, pretending he does not care while actually caring.
The astonishing part of this piece of Scripture comes when Jesus actually notices his presence and not only does he notice but he talks to him. I love this part. In verse 5 we can read “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! For I must be a guest in your home today.” Jesus comes out of his way to reach him. He is graciously spotted out from among the crowds, despite of all that Zacchaeus thought he was: the proud, the sinner, the outcast, the short, the powerful, even the forgiven perhaps. Like Marcos’ incredulity at me suggesting him being an architect, Zacchaeus is having Jesus in his home, with incredulity and amazement.
It’s funny that in spite of how we see ourselves, God sees us through different lenses. I think that whether you are a Zacchaeus or not, whether you are less or more than the rest in accordance to your self’-image, Jesus calls you by name and wants to live in your home.
In other parts of Scripture, the body is referred to as the house of someone.. Jesus wants to reside in your heart, in your life, in your home. He wants to be part of you.
Zacchaeus, out of such a generosity of Jesus wanting to dine with him, he responds with generosity: he wants to start giving part of his possessions to the poor. He extends his forgiveness to his surroundings. “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a son of Abraham. And I, the Son of Man, have come to seek and save those like him who are lost.” says Jesus. I take two things from Jesus’ answer: first that the promise of Y’WH to Abraham is carried out through the New Testament, and even to this day and two, that salvation comes from Christ, accepting that he is Lord and Saviour of my life.
Furthermore, out of that salvation, freely given to me by Christ, I am prone to give life to others as well, just like Zacchaeus did.
I find it right for me to call to your response to Christ. He wants to become the whole in your life. He longs to extend his death and resurrection onto your life. Will you accept Christ today in your heart and proclaim that he is Lord and Saviour of all, of you?
Let me conclude this month’s message with an invitation for you to pray the following prayer, in other words, if you want to but do not really know how to welcome Christ in your heart, let me help you with a prayer I encourage students to talk to God with (please notice this is not some sort of magic formula that you pray and its magical words will make you saved; it is a prayer from your heart, the words are not that important)
Lord Jesus, I want to know you personally.
Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins.
I open the door of my life and receive you as my Saviour and Lord.
Thank you for forgiving me of my sins
and giving me Eternal Life.
Take control of the throne of my life.
Make me the kind of person you want me to be.
* the name has been changed for security reasons.
17 Jun 2013 5 Comments
In the past I have wanted to pray with you and for you and I decided to share my prayers and thoughts with you while I was reading this incredibly gorgeous psalm.
Into Your Hand I Commit My Spirit
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.
31 In you, O Lord, do I take refuge;
We can rest assured that God is our best refuge and our trust in him does not put us to shame.
let me never be put to shame;
in your righteousness deliver me!
2 Incline your ear to me;
I believe the answer to this prayer is in Psalm 34:15
rescue me speedily!
May you always have the trust that he hears your cry. Let him be your rock, that something that never moves.
Be a rock of refuge for me,
a strong fortress to save me!
3 For you are my rock and my fortress;
Yes, Lord. You are our rock, our fortress. There is none like surrendering everything to you and follow your guidance.
and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me;
4 you take me out of the net they have hidden for me,
for you are my refuge.
5 Into your hand I commit my spirit;
Many times have I prayed this…such a humbling attitude for my life!
you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.
If Jesus is your Saviour, you are redeemed and saved.
6 I hate those who pay regard to worthless idols,
May we stay away from idols in our life and trust in the Lord.
but I trust in the Lord.
7 I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love,
Rejoice! Be glad! God is faithful!
because you have seen my affliction;
you have known the distress of my soul,
8 and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy;
This reminds me of the loving compassion of Yahweh
you have set my feet in a broad place.
9 Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;
May we all come to this prayer when in trouble
my eye is wasted from grief;
my soul and my body also.
10 For my life is spent with sorrow,
I think of the “counterpart” Romans 12:12
and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my iniquity,
and my bones waste away.
11 Because of all my adversaries I have become a reproach,
May the persecution of your life because of the
especially to my neighbors,
Gospel not stop you from proclaiming that Jesus is Lord.
and an object of dread to my acquaintances;
those who see me in the street flee from me.
When I decided to be a missionary many of my former friends stopped talking to me. I am a filthy loser for them.
12 I have been forgotten like one who is dead;
I have become like a broken vessel.
13 For I hear the whispering of many—
terror on every side!—
as they scheme together against me,
as they plot to take my life.
14 But I trust in you, O Lord;
In distress, David always finds trust. How encouraging!
I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hand;
He controls your life. Do not fear! He’s got your back at all times
rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!
16 Make your face shine on your servant;
May your life reflect Jesus’ face of love through sacrifice.
save me in your steadfast love!
17 O Lord, let me not be put to shame,
for I call upon you;
let the wicked be put to shame;
let them go silently to Sheol.
The point here I don’t think is to fall into anger and revenge but to remember Deuteronomy 32:35; His is vengeance.
18 Let the lying lips be mute,
which speak insolently against the righteous
in pride and contempt.
19 Oh, how abundant is your goodness,
I thank you Lord for all the goodness of my life. Even in your correct me, your gentle hand strokes me.
which you have stored up for those who fear you
and worked for those who take refuge in you,
in the sight of the children of mankind!
20 In the cover of your presence you hide them
from the plots of men;
you store them in your shelter
from the strife of tongues.
21 Blessed be the Lord,
Blessed be his name!
for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me
when I was in a besieged city.
“I am cut off from your sight.”
But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy
Blessed be his name!
when I cried to you for help.
23 Love the Lord, all you his saints!
The Lord preserves the faithful
Blessed be his name!
but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride.
Let us not forget that after all he is God and deserves thus treatment
24 Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
Let us be strong and take courage in this hope.
all you who wait for the Lord!
(taken from http://www.esvbible.org/Psalm+31/)
17 Jun 2013 1 Comment
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the church of God that is in Corinth, including all the saints throughout Achaia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are abundant for us, so also our consolation is abundant through Christ. If we are being afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation; if we are being consoled, it is for your consolation, which you experienced when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we are also suffering. Our hope for you is unshaken; for we know that as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our consolation.” 2 Corinthians 1:1-7 (taken from the New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, Anglicized Text)
About two months ago I tore my meniscus. I knelt on the floor from the sofa and my tibia twisted in a very painful way. I immediately felt the need to stretch out my leg to make it pop, just like I have done many times before. Unfortunately, this time it was different. I popped my knee by stretching out the leg, I flexed it to get up and I could not stretch the leg again. The pain was so agonising and excruciating that for the first time in my life I cried from the pain of my knee. I soon went to St. Anthony’s Hospital whose staff helped me ease the pain until the operation.
During all this time, ‘The Passion of the Christ‘ (directed by Mel Gibson) was on TV. It was hard to conceive how on earth did he endured all that pain and suffering. How did he managed to carry a massive log of wood until the Golgotha. It’s mental! “I feel you, brother,” I recall myself telling the Jesus on the screen in the midst of my narcotic-filled reality. So when I read this passage some days ago, I was brought back to the time when I tore my meniscus. I think it’s absolutely wonderful what St. Paul brings us in this passage. Paul reminds us of the encouragement that we find in Christ to endure and how as a church, our calamities and our joy both have a purpose.
I hardly think of the sufferings of Christ being abundant in my life (v.5) but come to think of it, it really makes sense. If we have a new life in Christ, then my sufferings are just a constant reminder of Christ’s sufferings for me.
For example, when I was waiting for the operation, I had to use crutches. It’s amazing how much an injured knee can deprive one from autonomy. I barely could do anything on my own. It was hard to admit that I needed help from others. I had to render my lack of autonomy and accept help from others.
Secondly, Paul brings not only a message of hope through our reality in Jesus but also challenges us to fulfill our part as the body of Christ. In other words, because we can find both suffering and encouragement in Christ, we can go to him whenever we suffer for encouragement; because our support comes from God, we ought to support others.
Some days after the operation, I had Greg and Debbie – my landlords- come over and lay their hands over my knee. It was an encouragement for me to see how the pain disappeared for a little while. The members of my community were a massive help to carry on as their care, prayer and encouragement really helped me understand that I wasn’t alone. At the same time, my suffering helped them to carry on doing God’s will as a community. They also felt the calling as a body to protect me through prayers, and I think that’s what St. Paul is talking about in this passage. He speaks of his suffering being beneficial to the church. In verse 6 we see this as when I was “afflicted…your consolation and salvation” was taking place. Even in pain, God brings glory to His name by shaping his Church more as it should be.
Many students cannot find a close relationship with Christ because they fail to understand why there is still evil in the world if Jesus is Lord of all. Why is there pain, suffering, tragedies, etc? Why do even Christians suffer so much? Why do they have cancer, or they die in car accidents?… Well, this is a much bigger topic to talk about and I would not like to use this space to answer all this. However, I would like to point one of the reasons that we find in this reading. Paul brings the point that in our suffering we see Christ, so we ought to find encouragement through Christ in the promise of his resurrection and future coming.
My prayer for you is that you may always be encouraged regardless the circumstances knowing that in Christ, you have your salvation, your companionship. May you be fulfilling your role in the Church. Amen
24 Mar 2013 1 Comment
When I was a young boy, my parents taught me how to type on a typewriter, an old, heavy and cold type-writer. I remember very vividly that the first lesson they taught me was to constantly type the letter “a” and the letter “s”, which on that board would correspond to the two letters at opposite ends of the middle row. The keys were very hard to type and each letter was separated enough for my young thin fingers to slip in and cause me deep pain. After several hundreds of attempts, I gained certain dominion on typing “a” and “s” in a quick way and avoiding the fingers sliding along the keys. I learnt two valuable lessons that day. First, that learning to type with an electrical type-writer is less painful than a mechanical one (I shifted to the electric one some years later) and second, that dominion takes practise sometimes.
I share this story with you because with Lent, I find it a little bit like my typing lessons: it can be painful, it does not take one day certainly and acquisition of good skills takes time, a lot of time. I have recently kept away from posting anything on this blog primarily due to my hectic schedule and also, because I wanted to enjoy Lent as best I could during the busyness of my life. Yet, I wanted to share with you a bit of what God has been teaching in me. I hope you find it helpful.
As you may have guessed from previous posts, I enjoy practicing and living a liturgical year. Reliving the ministry of Christ, his passing from this earth and his life in general helps me gain some perspective and reality in my life. These events force me to wonder what it might have been having him around us in a bodily presence.
What I have been learning during Lent was nothing ground-breaking or new for you or for me but rather a reminder yet again of coming back to God.
Lent is commenced by the reading of this passage on Ash Wednesday and I think of it as an exciting passage that allows me to look inwardly, in retrospect and check how I am doing in my daily walking with God.
Once again, when I did this check-up, I didn’t like what I saw. I wasn’t doing as good as I thought. In looking at the sin beneath the sin, I saw that the idol that had dethroned God in my life was the idol of Approval.
I realised that in order to be approved by my community, by my co-workers and my family, I would do “religious things” like writing homilies, or doing a 15-day fasting.
I understood during the lenten season that I had to repent from this. I had to get back to the basis of why to do those things in the first place. Fasting without God is not fasting, but a lame diet or simply legalism. Homilies that do not praise and focus on God are nothing but the empty words of an eloquent charlatan.
I recently heard a girl saying that “recognising my sin is humbling because we acknowledge that God is the only one who can work on that sin.”
I read this interesting book by World Harvest ministries called “Gospel Centered Life”. This book suggested investigating your sin in the following steps:
1. Identify the sin that is on the surface.
2. Prayerfully consider what is the sin beneath the sin; that is, the root of the sin that is on the surface.
3.Worship Jesus for his victory over this sin.
4.Look up clear promises that you can rely on in order to defeat this sin.
I would add “Mark 1:15” in between steps 2 and 3.
Focusing on Jesus in the Gospels has helped me see where my surface sin was. A friend of mine recently said that the Good News is not “good” unless we find ourselves in the story. And I think this is absolutely true. If we are unable to find ourselves in the redemptive story of Jesus, the story that we’re about to celebrate at Easter, then the Good News is not good, and I would even say it’s not even news for us. We’d become indifferent to the Truth.
So it is true that we are not perfect but there is beauty in that. Brennan Manning says that “All is Grace” and I find it quite true. If we look at ourselves, we may find nasty things that we’re not proud of or even able to change but in God’s Grace, we ought to find ourselves. We ought to look at Jesus and see where we stand. Some would find that they’re in front of the cross, looking at it and not willing to fully grasp what it entails, that Jesus died and resurrected for us. Some others would stand gladly behind it knowing exactly what is to come for those who wait in Him. I think it is a game of looking at our past, by holding it accountable in our present and looking with hope to our future.
“Our task in the present …is to live as resurrection people in between Easter and the final day, with our Christian life, corporate and individual, in both worship and mission, as a sign of the first and a foretaste of the second.” (taken from N.T.Wright‘s Surprised by Hope, page 30)
That’s precisely our task on earth. A life filled with the Spirit should reflect this lifestyle that Wright describes. To me this Lent has been a refreshment to my soul in that while I’m not where I wanted to be with God, I know where I am and where I am going. To my mind, that’s the purpose of Lent.
My prayer for you is that you gain your identity in Christ wherever you are and accept with dignity and maturity the flaws that you bring to the cross.