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!

TSIDKENU: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS

Yet, we must also consider that truth that we can never be God’s agents of righteousness in the world if we ourselves are not living in His righteousness. This is the reason why He Himself redeemed us from the power of sin and made us new persons. Because of this, we can “…draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water (Hebrews 10:22).

We were born sinners and lovers of wicked deeds because of the sin of Adam and Eve. But we have been washed by the blood of Jesus Christ which made us righteous before God’s eyes. As a result, we have been saved from the punishment of sin which is eternal death and separation from God. Of course, to save us from eternal punishment is not the only purpose of God in redeeming us from sin. In the same way, He also bestows upon us the hope of being transformed unto His likeness day by day.

Knowing all these, we are called to do two non-negotiable things in our Christian walk. First, we must boast only of the righteousness of Christ. In Philippians 3:9, Apostle Paul expresses his desire to “…be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.” We must never covet any credit for the goodness that is reflected in our life. It is only because of Jesus Christ that we can walk uprightly.

Second, we must live in righteousness as determined followers of Christ. We must exemplify God’s word in James 1:22: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” It is never enough that we know what pleases our God. We must act on every word and every command that He gives us through the revelation in His Word. If we live contrary to His will, we cannot be considered genuine believers, and in doing so, we are piercing the heart of God who gave Himself up for our complete redemption.

Hence, brothers and sisters in Christ, I sincerely urge you to continue living in God’s righteousness that He might be glorified in your life. Always remember that He Himself has promised the great reward in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Whatever we want for our country – freedom from wickedness, oppression, injustice – we can definitely receive if we choose to live according to the will of God and walk in His righteousness.

God bless you all and God bless the Philippines!

JIREH: THE LORD WHO PROVIDES ALL OUR NEEDS

Yet, He has a requirement for us to experience His all-sufficient provision. This can be seen in the life of Abraham, the father of many nations and a model of genuine faith in God. When God commanded him to offer his only son, Isaac, he immediately obeyed God, without hesitation or complaint. He did not tell God, “You promised me to be a father of many nations! Why are you asking me to kill my only son?” What he did was to prepare everything they needed for the burnt offering and set off in the journey towards the mountain. What a faith!

Then at one point in the journey, Isaac asked him where the lamb is. To which he responded, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering” (Genesis 22:8). Now, we are enlightened about God’s requirement: one must trust God plans fully and obey Him completely. Abraham exemplified this and he was rewarded with God’s miraculous provision.

As Christians, we are called to become the Abrahams of our nation – true believers who live by faith and not by sight. We are the people who will declare the power and promise of Jireh in our country besieged by enormous debt and abject poverty. Hence, we are commissioned to do three things.

First, we must possess an unshakeable trust in God which will enable us to continue dreaming for progress. Now is the time for us to shun apathy, complacency and mediocrity so that we may significantly contribute to hasten the fulfillment of our glorious prophetic destiny.

Second, we must be willing to take risks in obeying God without any reservation. As His promise tells us, blessings will overtake everyone who lives in full obedience and submission to His sovereign will.

Third, we must allow ourselves to be the extension of His Hands by helping the poor and needy in our country. If we really want God’s outpouring, our aim should always be for God’s heartbeat to be ours. Without any iota of doubt, the heart of our Lord beats for all who are in desperate need of the caring touch from His people.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, my assurance for all of you is found in Psalm 37:25, “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.” Never be overcome by any worry or fear whether in the present or in the future. As long as you are obeying God, you can rely on this unchanging truth – our God is Jireh, the Lord who provides all our needs!

God bless you all and God bless the Philippines!

EL ELYON: THE LORD WHO OWNS OUR BELOVED NATION

What does this mean for us then? First, we must realize that everyone who is in need, no matter how small or big the need may be, can trust and rely on Him. There is no exemption to this great promise. Whenever we feel hopeless about our seemingly unending necessities, what wiser decision can there be than to call upon the Name of El Elyon? He owns the whole of creation, and therefore He is in control of every aspect of our life. Keep in mind that no world-renowned personality or organization will ever be able to give us the same assurance coming from the Almighty God. As Apostle Paul’s oft-quoted declaration says, “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). He empathically says “all,” hence we are sure that the Almighty God will provide our every need at the right time and place.

Second, we must admonish the greedy and corrupt to heed God’s command to turn away from wicked schemes. They need to understand that their merciless actions lead to the continuing suffering of millions of Filipino people. Evidently, they have become blind to the mandate of God to become responsible stewards of His resources. Now, our hope is that they may be transformed by the power of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the only way for them to be freed from the clutches of selfishness, injustice and corruption.

We must remember that it is only by acknowledging the sovereignty of the Living God—God, El Elyon—can we truly experience a life of sufficiency and hope as well as generosity and selflessness. If we all choose to put our trust in God—the Most High—there is no reason for us to worry about life and the challenges that come with it. Likewise, once we understand that God owns not only us, but every person there is, we will all the more feel the heartbeat of the poor and marginalized, hence responding to their pain and suffering.

Finally, brothers and sisters, let me remind you this unchanging truth: El Elyon who is the Owner of all things is the same God revealed in Romans 8:32 which says, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things.” As we acknowledge His sovereign rule over each and every one of us, let us fully entrust our life in the Loving Hands of the God who gave His only Begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in order to save us and bring us back to His family.

God bless you all and God bless the Philippines!

RAAH: THE LOVING SHEPHERD OF OUR NATION

Yet amidst this saddening reality, the Almighty God reveals Himself to us as Raah, the Lord our Shepherd. Out of His love and compassion for us, He invites us to utter the words of the psalmist, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” (Psalm 23). Doesn’t this give us overwhelming assurance and hope? The message is crystal clear: If we let Him be the Shepherd to guide us as a people, we will surely experience the abundant and prosperous life that He has planned for us.

Not only does the promise entail abundance and prosperity. We must also remember that our Living God is not a negligent shepherd without deep concern for the sheep. He is the Good Shepherd who stays with us in the face of all kinds of danger. The psalmist talks about the “valley of the shadow of death” yet remains steadfast in his faith by saying that there is no reason to be afraid while walking through this dreaded place. Why? It is because of the abiding presence of the Good Shepherd. Like him, we are called to possess that kind of faith. Despite all challenges and trials our country might face, we must continue to believe that our Loving Shepherd Himself will keep us safe from all harm.

Above all, we must keep ourselves reminded of Jesus’ words in John 10:11, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” This points us to His supreme sacrifice at the cross of Calvary. There, He proved His willingness to die to redeem us from sin and save us from eternal punishment. This is the ultimate evidence that He is truly our Good Shepherd to whom we can entrust our individual lives and our beloved nation as a whole. The God who gave His life for us is the only One who can bestow eternal life, lasting peace, enduring strength and authentic freedom for each and every one of us.

Hence, my challenge for all of you, fellow Filipinos, is to faithfully follow Raah, the Lord our Shepherd. John 10:4b says, “the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” As a nation, we must seek to know the Good Shepherd who holds the answer to our every need and has the power to unite us towards genuine change and progress. And may we, as one family, declare with faith: the Lord is our Shepherd, we will not lack any good thing.

God bless you all and God bless the Philippines!

ELOHIM: THE CREATOR OF OUR GLORIOUS PROPHETIC DESTINY

With this, we ask, how can we renew our strength to face another year of our life? How can we once again recover from the rubbles? In times like these, the Holy Spirit urges us to return to His word and find assurance in the revelation of His Person.

Genesis 1:1 (NKJV) says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

In the very first sentence of the Bible, the Almighty God is revealed as Elohim – He is the God whocreated everything out of nothing. Imagine that, at the command of His voice, the Living God made the earth and sky, all living things, and the crown of His creation – the human being. In that single sentence, we see the awesome and unequalled power of Elohim – the Creator of all!

But allow me also to remind you of this awesome truth: everything God created was a magnificent masterpiece. He is certainly not a mediocre who settles for low quality or second-rate work. He is Elohim, the most excellent craftsman who assessed His work and saw that “indeed it was very good” (Genesis 1:31a). And this reality applies not just to the creation of the universe but also to the present situation of our beloved nation, the Philippines.

Let us declare this with passion: our Ever-living God is the creative craftsman of the destiny of our nation. He is the One who said in Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV), “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” This is a timely promise of God for the Philippines – for us who have gone through tragic and sorrowful circumstances. And this must be our shield against any discouragement and temptation to doubt the power and love of the Awesome God.

It is not God’s will for us to lose heart, instead we must all the more put our complete trust in Him who has prepared the most wonderful plans for our nation. Remember that He is not yet done with the Philippines. We may be experiencing dreadful times right now, but step by step, He is leading us towards the completion of His magnificent masterpiece in us.

Elohim from the realization of the glorious prophetic destiny of our beloved nation – the Philippines.>

God bless you all and God bless the Philippines!