THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS

THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS

Greetings of joy to all Filipinos and all Philippine-loving people!

With all the bright lanterns, colorful decorations, and cheerful carols filling the streets, it is undeniable that we are in that season when hearts are warm even though the air is cool.

Christmas. That time of the year when we seem to be most generous–not just in giving gifts but, also, in giving a smile, a pat, or a hand. And rightly so, because Christmas, in its very essence, is a story of giving:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16, NKJV)

Take note that God gave not just any son, but His only Son, His most beloved Son, Jesus Christ, who, in turn, also gave:

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45, NKJV)

God gave His Son, the Son gave His life, for all of humankind to be rescued from the pit of death we ourselves dug. What a gift it is: freely given but expensively bought! Dare we waste it?

Therefore, this Christmas, more than any material gift we could buy from stores, let us not forget to share the gift we received from God. Let us tell that boy on the street, that woman who weeps, and that man who drinks his problems away that they need not beg or weep or drink, because God so loves them to the point of giving His Son for them.

But aside from sharing God’s gift to others, let us also not forget to give to God: our thanksgiving and praise, love and devotion, even our very life. For, doesn’t His lavish gift deserve such a lavish response? Aren’t our lives little compared to the gift He bestowed? And don’t we owe our very lives to Him?

Finally, in conclusion, let us make this spirit of giving our daily living, not just a Christmas tradition. May we not wait for bright lanterns, colorful decorations, or cheerful carols before we give–just as Christ did not wait for us to be perfect before giving His life to us.

Shalom! Shalom!

Declaring His Liberating Peace, Exalting Jesus

Declaring His Liberating Peace, Exalting Jesus

Bro. Eddie Villanueva

The whole world is in chaos. The Global Peace Index of 2016 tells us that terrorism is at an all-time high, battle deaths from conflict are at a 25-year high, and the number of refugees and displaced people are at a 60-year high.

As if those were not enough to confound us, we even have our share of personal worries and stresses—passing the midterm exam, paying the next bill, waiting for the medical test result, or fixing a shattered relationship. No wonder that, in the US alone, anxiety disorders afflict almost forty million adults (National Institute of Mental Health). All over the world, on average, one person commits suicide every forty seconds (World Health Organization).

With everything happening in and around us, peace has become a most sought-after commodity. Look at what happened to two World War II soldiers who were found in Mindanao’s mountains. The horrors of war caused them to retreat and hide there… for 60 years. Had they not been found in 2005, they would not have known that the war has long ended—and their hiding, futile!

Now, beloved people of God, the world’s terrors and our heart’s troubles are indeed overwhelming, so it is but normal to feel fear. In fact, fear is a perfectly natural reaction during unnatural events. BUT when fear begins to stifle us, begins to rob us our life, then it becomes wrong. Think of the 60 years the two soldiers wasted. 60 years of isolation, of unrest, of not being.

Do you have any worries today that cause you to hide? To run? I say DO NOT let any tumult or disturbance shackle you. Because while tribulations are sure, there is Someone who is surer. Someone who remains the same even through this ever-changing world. Someone who is fighting with and for us. Someone who promised to never leave us nor forsake us. Someone who gave up His all—His life—to free us from all adversities: our Lord Jesus Christ.

He defeated the greatest affliction in all universe. Yes, that which is crueler than a terrorist attack, severer than a nuclear war threat, and graver than a worldwide pandemic: sin. Through His crucifixion and resurrection, He slayed it and freed us from all its oppressive chains.

If He was able to do that, is there anything that He could not do? Call to mind all the worst possible scenarios that could ever happen in this world. Combine them all and even then, our God WILL still emerge victorious. And because He has won over sin and all of life’s sorrows, so can we:

“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4, NKJV)

May you find comfort in this, that you may have a peace-filled life.

Shalom! Shalom!

DECLARING HIS ABOUNDING PROVISIONS, EXALTING JESUS

DECLARING HIS ABOUNDING PROVISIONS, EXALTING JESUS

Bro. Eddie Villanueva

Greetings of joy—especially to every father there is!

This month, we are celebrating the strength of a father—a strength that is determined not by the tenacity of his muscles, but by the great love he has for his family. Reality dictates that sheer power will be exhausted, but not love. In the words of St. Paul, “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13, emphasis added)

As I myself am a father of four, love is the reason why I have endured countless back-breaking tasks and many strength-draining jobs. Love is also the reason why I did not mind, even after a whole day’s work, carrying and running after my children when they were young. And love is still the reason why I stay up late or, even, travel countless miles, just to give my children advice, now that they are already facing problems of their own.

Because that is just how it is for us, fathers. In the name of giving our family the best life that they could have, we would do anything and everything.

Now, if we, fathers, love this way, how much more our Father in heaven? Matthew 7:11 says, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (NKJV)

In the same way that our children depend on us, we, too, can depend on the Father—and most trustingly! Because while we would do anything and everything for them, we could not do everything.

But our Father in heaven CAN. For His love never fails, even His strength never fails. Because He Himself never fails: He whose very hands formed us into being; He who not only parted the Red Sea, but also made the seabed dry; He who could make food and fire fall down from heaven; and He who would just say,“Be healed,” and people would get healed from all kinds of diseases.

But the ultimate proof lies in Romans 8:32, which states: “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”

In our direst condition, the Father came to our rescue—no, He even went below the verge of any human and logical comprehension by giving His one and only Son, that we might be lifted from the dark pit of death and eternal damnation! With this, what could the Father not do for us? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Therefore, whether you be a father who feels tired and stressed; or a fatherless who feels all alone and all forsaken, do not forget that there in heaven, watching over us, is a Father who never sleeps, never tires, never leaves, never fails.

God bless us all and God bless the Philippines!

Declaring His Devoted Tenderness, Exalting Jesus

Declaring His Devoted Tenderness, Exalting Jesus

Bro. Eddie Villanueva

Peace and blessings to all!

If there is one love that can be the closest approximation of the love of God here on earth, I would say it is the love of parents. And because this month is when we celebrate motherhood, I would like to especially honor them who wake up the earliest and sleep the latest, who squeeze in caring for the house, the children, and the husband while working, and who make the most comforting meals and hugs and advice: our mothers.

Because even while I myself am a father—and a father who wants nothing but the best for his children—I would have no hesitations in saying that it is our ‘ilaw ng tahanan’ who makes our house a home. Because no matter how strong a father one may try to become, he still needs the warmth that comes from a mother’s heart.

Therefore, this May, remember to thank God for the life of your mother, your wife (if you have one), and, even, those women who inspire and encourage you. Show them how you appreciate them—their outer and inner beauty, their efforts and sacrifices, their whole person. Finally, give them gifts and tokens, bring them to a restaurant, treat them to a vacation, or, simply, say “I love you.”

Because, for all their selfless love, efforts, and sacrifices, our mothers and wives deserve these—and more. As Proverbs 31:31 has put it, “Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.” This, even when we are certain that they do all those out of sheer love, without expecting anything in return.

In the same way, as we honor our dear mothers, let us also take the time to pay tribute to the mother in whose lands we are rooted: our Inang Bayan.

As this month is also election month, and as this national election seems to be one of the most crucial and controversial in our country’s history, I believe that now more than ever should we, Christians, fulfill our role of standing in the gap between God and the Philippines. In the words of British-Irish statesman Edmund Burke, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

What should we do, then? 2 Chronicles 7:14 says let us humble ourselves and pray. Therefore, let us pray for a clean and honest elections. Let us pray for peace and unity to prevail. Let us pray for the right people to be elected. Finally, let us pray that, in the end, it is God and our country who will be declared the real champions.

Moreover, aside from praying, let us also cast our vote—for God and country. This is our role as Christian citizens. More than a right, this is our responsibility.

Finally, let us not forget to honor the mother in whose riches we have found air, water, food, and more: our Inang Kalikasan.

Because we are not just citizens of the Philippines, we are inhabitants of our planet Earth. It is one of God’s wonderful creations—and He gifted it to us. But we must also remember that He entrusted it in our care.

Therefore, it is our obligation to preserve our environment, even in actions as simple as disposing our waste properly, conserving water, protecting and caring for animals, lessening the use of harmful chemicals and substances, preserving energy, or using alternative energy sources.

If we would watch the television or read the news, we would see the many repercussions neglecting the environment has caused us: floods, pollution, depletion of the ozone layer, global warming, and so much more. Let us not wait for that day when this earth we inhabit is destroyed beyond salvage. This is the littlest we can do to say thank you to God who created this world.

In the end, be it our mothers, our country, or our environment, it really is all about that one word we have been mentioning: HONOR. This is the best we could do to the mother who bore us in her womb, the mother who took us in her soil, and the mother who nurtured us in her bosom.

Shalom! Shalom!

DECLARING HIS SUPREME AUTHORITY, EXALTING JESUS

DECLARING HIS SUPREME AUTHORITY, EXALTING JESUS

Bro. Eddie C. Villanueva

Salutations to all Filipinos and, also, to all Philippine-loving people!

I have always been a fighter. When capitalist owners tried to suppress the rights of labor workers, I fought. When hospital administrators refused to admit a gravely wounded patient, I fought. When notorious syndicates attempted to grab various lands in my province, I fought.

I have always fought, but I have not always won. I can still vividly remember that instance with the land-grabbing syndicates: I even sent letters to the highest person in the land, the president himself, but my efforts then seemed to fall on deaf ears and blind eyes.

Well, until I asked the help of someone higher: the all-powerful ruler and owner of things in heaven and on earth, THE LIVING GOD.

What took me months of painstaking effort, God did in only five days! This is simply because He is “far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.” (Ephesians 1:21, NKJV)

Brothers and sisters, this is the God we serve. Everything is under His sovereign control. Just look at how He masterfully created the eight planets, aligning them with such precision that any collision would not be possible; or how He powerfully defeated Satan, taking away the sting of death when He resurrected from the dead.

And so, just as He could perfectly arrange the planets and the entire universe and just as He could easily kill death, we could all be assured that He could also put together the broken and disordered pieces of our lives and, even, of our beloved nation.

You see, our country has been stricken and battered here and there—from the first and second world wars to the Martial Law in 1972, from Pinatubo eruption in 1991 to Ozone Disco fire in 1996, from Smokey Mountain landslide in 2000 to Typhoon Milenyo in 2006, and from Bohol earthquake in 2013 to the many other problems that beset us throughout history.

Add to that persisting problems such as the intolerable Metro Manila traffic congestion, rampant crime and corruption, and the surplus of jobless, homeless, and penniless, among many others, and we can really say that the Philippines has gone through countless difficult times.

While we should do our part in becoming responsible, law-abiding, and nation-loving citizens, the hope of our nation ultimately and primarily lies in GOD. Psalm 127:1 says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.” (NIV)

This means that, as I myself have experienced, we can exhaust ourselves rallying in the streets or involving in philanthropy and charity, and yet those will not be enough—until God is given the rightful authority in all the eight pillars of our society, namely: church and family, government, business and economics, education, science and technology, media and entertainment, arts, and environment.

Therefore, my fellow kababayans, if we want our dear country to win, let the prayer of your hearts be this: that God would rule and reign over each of the 7,107 islands and, even, in each of the 104,280,890 people of the Philippines.

Jesus is Lord over the Philippines!

DECLARING HIS SELFLESS SERVICE, EXALTING JESUS

DECLARING HIS SELFLESS SERVICE, EXALTING JESUS

Bro. Eddie C. Villanueva

Solemn greetings to my kababayans!

Marx, Lenin, and Mao Tse-Tung. My exposure to their teachings and principles gave me the courage to fight against grinding poverty and rampant injustice that have been shackling the masang Pilipino.

And yet, if there was one message that has revolutionized my life, it would not be Marx or Lenin or Mao. It would have to be the message of the Cross.

In the early times, the Cross meant punishment, and not just a simple punishment, mind you, but the severest and cruelest punishment. You see, the Cross was reserved only for the lowest of social status (slaves) and the lowest of moral standards (capital offenders).

But Jesus Christ, who was neither low in social status (He IS God) nor low in moral standards (He is blameless in every way) was nailed on a most horrible and humiliating Cross! And for what? For you and me, dirty sinners–

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-24)

God sent His Son, His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, that all of us, no matter how sinful and unworthy, might have a full life here on earth and, more importantly, eternal life in heaven (John 10:10b). No other teaching promises us this!

Therefore, this Lenten season, as the message of the Cross transformed the atheist-communist Eddie, may it also free you–from guilt, shame, and sin. All you need to do is accept the love He is offering you. Then you will also be free from your fears, worries, and doubts… even from your sicknesses, troubles, and sufferings, because:

“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

And so, my dear fellow Filipinos, may the message of the Cross be truer in our hearts now more than ever before. May we never look at it as just a piece of wood, but as a symbol of God’s tremendous and incomprehensible love for each of us.

Finally, may the Cross also propel us all to do as Jesus did. May we all learn to get out of our comfort zones to extend a hand to our fellowman: It could be a bowl of rice or a piece of blanket… it could even be a simple smile, a little text message, or a short visit… it could also be an “I’m sorry” or an “I forgive you.” Whatever it may be, it does not need to be grand and expensive. It just have to be, like Christ’s offering at the Cross, voluntarily and wholeheartedly.

Shalom! Shalom!

DECLARING HIS AUTHENTIC LOVE, EXALTING JESUS

DECLARING HIS AUTHENTIC LOVE, EXALTING JESUS

Bro. Eddie C. Villanueva

Heartfelt greetings to everyone!

We are again in the month of the year where flowers, chocolates, and stuffed toys fill shops and stalls. While the law of supply and demand dictates that their prices are significantly higher at this time of the year than in any other season, they are still purchased, even if it means skipping a meal or two, all in the name of love.

Because love, in its purest form, always gives. It does not count the cost, only the happiness it will bring the receiver of the gift.

Our heavenly Father loves like that—and even more. Because the gift He gives and the price He paid is far, far greater. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Even though we are a mere speck in His grand creation and even though, practically, we are the ugliest in all His creation because of our sinfulness and disobedience to His will, He still wholeheartedly paid the greatest sacrifice just so we might be saved from imminent death and eternal punishment in hell. He gave His Son, His only Son, Jesus Christ.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

What a price He paid, for such creatures of little value like us! And yet He never counted it His loss, only counted it our gain. Because of His love, we can now have full life here on earth and eternal life in the thereafter—all for free. Could there be a love greater than this? Indeed, it is a love so incomprehensibly undeserved and so overwhelmingly authentic… a love that far surpasses anything this world has ever and will ever experience.

Therefore, this February, do not only remember God’s great love. Receive it if you haven’t because, I tell you, it will be the best choice you will ever make in your life… and proclaim it if you have, because it will be the best news your family, friends, and neighbors will ever hear.

Have a love-filled month AND life, everyone! Shalom! Shalom!

DECLARING HIS VICTORY, EXALTING JESUS

DECLARING HIS VICTORY, EXALTING JESUS

Bro. Eddie C. Villanueva

Greetings of peace and blessing to all my kababayans!

My heart aches every time I see a fellowman in need. As a reader of Mao Tse-Tung, this brought me to the streets to rally for the cause of the poor and marginalized. But as a Christian, this has brought me to the streets to trumpet the cause of Jesus Christ and what He went through so that everyone of us might have a life that is truly life. Because I no longer just see a fellowman in need, I see a fellowman in need of Christ.

Just a few days ago, as I was traversing through the busy streets of Manila, almost all the faces I passed by—men and women, young and old, rich and poor—were marked with a certain look. From the baby carried by a young teenager begging for money, to the well-groomed man grumpily slumped on the backseat of his car, everyone’s faces were all hungry for victory.

Of course, all of us want to be victorious, and there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, we MUST want victory, because in John 10:10, we read the very words of Jesus Himself, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

This victory, however, is more than just the victory we all dream of. It is more than just a big house, a new car, and a thriving business—all of these will eventually rot and fail. It is a victory that is lasting, that can never be taken away from us, because it is a victory paid for, not by money, but by the very blood and life of Jesus Christ:

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:55-57)

This victory is forgiveness of sins and removal of shame. This victory is freedom from the grip of guilt and the chains of death. This victory is fullness of joy in this present time and eternal life in the time to come. And this victory IS ours.

That is, IF we are IN Christ. 1 John 5:4-5 says, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”

Therefore, if we want genuine victory, we must declare Jesus’ victory over our lives by making Him the Ruler and Lord of our hearts. After all, the greatest victory there is is a life IN and WITH Jesus Christ.

So let us go to the Source of all victories, the Great Victor who slayed death with His life, Jesus Christ, and experience a life of victory.

Shalom! Shalom!