OF FREEDOM AND FATHERS

Bro. Eddie C. Villanueva

It was June 12, 1898. With the reading of the Acta de la proclamacion de independencia del pueblo Filipino or the Act of the Declaration of Independence in Kawit, Cavite, the Philippines was proclaimed a free nation and, 118 years since, we still commemorate that grand moment in our history every month of June. With that, let me greet you this month a glorious and victorious Independence Day!

Coincidentally, it is also on the 3rd Sunday of this month, that we celebrate Father’s Day. So to fathers, like myself, a blessed and happy Father’s Day!

With these two celebrations marking the month of June, it is but apt that we declare this a month of honor. Because the independence we freely enjoy today came with a high price tag—a price tag our fathers willingly paid for.

In honor of our forefathers. Who valiantly fought, and willingly died, for our country’s freedom. From Lapu-lapu to Andres Bonifacio to Jose Rizal; and, even, to every single Filipino whose life was voluntarily given up for this nation… we honor them. For theirs is the blood offering that purged our land from all oppressions—sacrificially yet gladly, given in the name of liberty, for the future of this land… for us.

In a haunting scene in his novel, Noli Me Tangere, Rizal could have spoken on behalf of all of them, through the words of a dying man: “I die without seeing dawn’s light shining on my country… You, who will see it, welcome it for me… Don’t forget those who fell during the nighttime (emphasis added).”

In honor of our earthly fathers. They whose hard work and selfless toil brought us to better living, allowing us access to greater freedom—be that physically, financially, spiritually, and others.

Just like how a mother’s love is used by the Scriptures to describe how God loves, so is a father’s. Just as God is compassionate, a father is (Psalm 103:13). Just as God protects and cares for His children, a father does (Deuteronomy 1:31). Indeed, for being God’s extension of His steadfast love, abounding provision, courageous strength, and gentle discipline, our earthly fathers deserve nothing but our highest gratitude.

In honor of our church fathers. Our freedom of worship, faith expressions, doctrines, and, even, our Christian disciplines… God granted these to humanity through them.

Testimonies of personal encounters, literary pieces, and written and oral traditions, among others, have survived the tests of time and persecutions that characterized the early Church age. During the time when men were beaten, tortured, and killed for their faith, God’s faithful disciples never wavered. Their open wounds, battered figures, and slain bodies have served as living testaments to the present church—that the faith we boldly profess, and the God we wholeheartedly serve, is indeed worthy of our entire being.

Truly, as once was said by the renowned author, Tertullian: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

And lastly, in honor of our Heavenly Father. Who, in His great love for the sinful humanity, sent His one and only Son into the world to save all of us. To die for us… that we might live through him (1 John 4:9).

This one act driven by the Father’s love freed us all from the grips of Satan. But more than that, it has given us holistic salvation, which, taken from the original context of the Greek word “diasozo” (through and through), means a life saved here and thereafter. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross did not only—albeit ultimately—ransom us from the pits of hell. It, too, guarantees us a satisfying life while we are still here on earth.

So, whoever you are, if you are in need of any kind of freedom in your life, come to our Father. In complete surrender, allow His love to permeate every aspect of your life, and see how He can transform even your darkest moments into a liberating experience.

In the declaration made at the Cross of Calvary, we have all been liberated—from sin, sickness, scarcity, and all kinds of prison cells, assuring us of a life that is truly life here and thereafter. For 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 His kind of freedom is sealed by a declaration… as the Son, in obedience to the Father, shouted: “It is finished!”

BE SAFE, IN HIS PRESENCE

BE SAFE, IN HIS PRESENCE
Bro. Eddie C. Villanueva: Personal message on the tragic earthquake in Visayas 

 

We share in the sorrow of our fellow citizens – our fellow men, women and children – who now grieve for the loss of their mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, children and loved ones. We share in the horrors that the tragic earthquake has brought in its wake: children buried alive inside buildings, historic landscapes and cherished places of worship razed to the ground, homes and workplaces shattered… everywhere chaos as people run in fear and panic and deaths continue to toll with every aftershock. A trauma meant for a dozen lifetimes condensed in a few minutes of unforgettable terror.

The earthquake that hit Bohol, Cebu, Siquijor and its neighboring islands recently has hit our country hard, once again. Many local and international experts are describing the strength of the earthquake as being ‘like 32 Hiroshima atom bombs.’ As of the most recent count by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), the death toll has already surpassed 150 and is still counting, with more than 3 million people in more than 1,000 villages affected by the initial tremor and its equally deadly aftershocks. 

Needless to say, cost-wise, damages are in the millions. Heritage-wise, priceless. Security and relationship-wise, devastatingly irreplaceable.

Now, more than ever, is when we need God. 

Today, more than ever, is when we should set our differences aside – of whatever nature they may be – and come together as a united people before His throne of grace. 

This is the moment, more than ever, when our prayers should be heard, when our hands should be linked in solidarity and our hearts should be beating as one, for the sake of our suffering countrymen. 

This is the time when the Body of Christ and all genuine lovers of our God and nation should labor side-by-side that our beloved country may rise again from the depths that this earthquake has dragged us.

For this is the truth of the matter: there is no specific place in this world that is truly safe. We will all be ultimately hurt. And we will all, in at least one point in our lives, hit our rock bottom in complete helplessness. 

Be safe, in God’s Presence. It is only in His arms that we can find true refuge.

It is only in the arms of Him who looked at man’s sinfulness and, instead of wiping them out and creating a new race, He left His majesty, was born flesh and blood and suffered among His creation that He may die for them and save them.

It is only in the arms of Him who sees injustice where the law is blind, who sees oppression where society has grown numb and who sees worth in the lowliest castoffs of civilized man.

It is only in the arms of Him who knows us better than ourselves – our secret hurts, our most shameful thoughts and most disgraceful deeds, our little hopes, forgotten acts of kindness and fondest dreams – that we can entrust the full weight of our souls, knowing that He is both able and willing to hold us, regardless.

Of course, there is no harm in taking safety precautions; it is the smart thing to do. It is what any sane person would do. But even as we enforce precautionary measures upon precautionary measures, we must remember that they are just that – calculated actions for caution. They are never really guarantees. We can as easily get hurt by an enemy as by a friend that we trust with our lives; or devastated by an illness caused by existing vices like smoking or drinking, as by cancer that came out of nowhere despite a lifetime of healthy living; or even wounded by standing in a corner as by daring death in extreme sports. 

Thus, instead of searching for what, let us search for Who. Let us search for the Loving God who is knocking at our doors as He calls out–– 

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

Stop holding tight to the burdens that life has thrown your way, He is inviting us to come to Him and–– 

“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

There is no one – no matter how greatly burdened – that He will turn away! 

To all who come to Him in complete surrender, His loving arms are ever open, for the Lord our God declares––

“God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him.” (1 John 4:9)

As a people, let us all work together to rise above the horrors of the past few days.

As men and women and children who yearn to run to a safe refuge, let us all run to Him, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Let us all BE SAFE, IN HIS PRESENCE.