The ‘new’ begins

The ‘new’ begins

Vision Casting 2017

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“God will dwarf everything He has done with what He will do in this season of new beginnings.”

That has been the declaration of Jesus Is Lord (JIL) Church Worldwide President and Spiritual Director Bishop Bro. Eddie C. Villanueva since JIL’s 38th anniversary celebration last October 2016. And he is right, because God has already started doing just that.

Last January 14, over 8,000 JIL pastors, leaders and workers who attended the Vision Casting in Camp Praise Valley, Norzagaray, Bulacan experienced the palpable presence of the Living God. Both lively and heart-felt songs were offered unto God, bringing the delegates jumping to their feet and, even, down on their knees.

“Pagpasok ko pa lang po dito sa Camp Praise Valley, damang-dama ko na ang presence ng Lord (Even upon entering Camp Praise Valley, I have already felt the presence of the Lord),” Ptr. Jovi Villanueva-Binalla, CYN Director and International Operations and Youth Affairs Director General said.

Camp Praise Valley, which is one of the “golden places” of JIL Church’s formative years according to Bro. Eddie, will once again be opened for the training of faithful and committed pastors and leaders of JIL Church. Now renovated and given a modern look, Bro. Eddie envisions it to be also an international training center, where leaders from all over the globe could be equipped and empowered.

In conjunction with that, the Administration Building, Camp Praise Valley’s very first building, was dedicated that day. The building was named after Engr. Jun Manzano, a respected and trailblazer structural engineer who “served JIL significantly… without fanfare,” Bro. Eddie said.

The event was also peppered with testimonies of JIL pastors and leaders like Rev. Alex Garcia, Rev. Virgie Hernandez, and Sis. Menchie Tobias, to name a few.

With all the wonderful things God has done during the Vision Casting, Sis. Dory Villanueva, JIL Church’s Vice President, admonished the delegates, “The vision has to be kept in prayer.”

Because as God is indeed creating a new wave of His blessings and anointing for the JIL Church, so must JIL people remain steadfast in Him.

Declaring His GLORIOUS SPLENDOR, exalting Jesus

The contrast of the landscape against the woman, the details of the transparent veil on her head, the soft contouring of her face as seen in the smooth transition from one color to another—all these and more have made art analysts from then and now marvel at Leonardo da Vinci’s genius, to the immortalization of the “Mona Lisa.”

But if we want to look at great masterpieces, we need not go to the Louvre Museum. We can just look up at the evening sky and see the shining stars, feel the invisible but palpable breeze tousling our hair, or stare at the mirror and into that complex confluence of bones and muscles and organs. Because all of nature, the whole universe, even our very beings, are canvasses. Intricate works of art.

Works of art that point to the glorious splendor of the One who created them all—everything—out of nothing, at just the command of His lips. The Great Designer, our Mighty God, who is:

Terrifyingly magnificent. The mountains quake before Him, the wild winds are hushed at the sound of His voice, the planets rotate and revolve at His bidding. So when Moses saw Him as a burning bush, he was warned not to come any closer; when Isaiah caught a vision of Him, he cried, ‘Woe to me! I am ruined!’; and when Paul encountered Him on the road to Damascus, his eyes were blinded. Powerful, holy, terrifying—this is our God.

But He is also beautiful, splendid, magnificent. Yes, Moses, Isaiah, and Paul were terrified in seeing a glimpse of Him, but they were also awestruck, mesmerized. The towering mountains and the orange sunset suddenly lost their charm. After seeing the real thing, the one Source of nature’s beauty, Moses, Isaiah, and Paul chased after nothing and no one else, like a groom who found his bride.

Mysteriously familiar. For thousands of years, the world’s greatest minds have yet to understand the whole of the universe. So much unexplored space and unreached galaxies—even with the aid of scientific discoveries and technological breakthroughs. Now, if the universe is this vast, how much more God for whom the earth is but a footstool? Mighty, awesome, powerful, splendid, holy, righteous, majestic—He is all of these and so much more! Even Moses, Isaiah, or Paul could not paint for us the whole picture of God, for He is incomprehensible, far too lofty for our little brains.

But we can know Him. Not all of Him, yes, but we can know Him: when we are afraid, we know Him as our Fortress; when the economy is failing, we know Him as our Provider; when our health is falling, we know Him as our Healer; when people are against us, we know Him as our Defender. Whatever the season of life, we know Him as OUR God.

Transcendentally near. Throughout history, no one has ever come close to our God. Think of Alexander the Great, who, in his fifteen years of conquest, dominated most of the known world in his day, without ever losing a single battle. Then, at the age of 32, Alexander was defeated… by a disease. But our God, supreme in every way, will never be defeated by anything—even death. He proved that when He came back from the grave three days after dying on the Cross.

The Cross? Dying on the Cross? Why? Because transcendent as He may be, He is also a God who is willing to lay down His life just to save us puny people from the cruel hands of death. Not a far-away god who could not be moved from his high pedestal, but a God who comes down… who walks among the poor and touches the leper… who is personal, near.

So, the next time you look up at the evening sky and the shining stars, the next time you feel the breeze against your hair, the next time you see your reflection at the mirror, remember the One who created it all—terrifyingly magnificent, mysteriously familiar, and transcendentally near—and fall down before Him in worship.

“Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth.” (Psalm 96:9)

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

With the never-ending list of needs and the ever-growing price of goods, plus the barely increasing salaries and the likely diminishing sources of income, we sure experience shortage—of money, food, water, even of sleep, health, sanitation, and safety—whether we be unemployed, employees, or employers.

But these endless, countless shortages ‘fall short’ when we set them against a sixteen-word sentence found in Philippians 4:19: “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

As simple as that, and all our worries dissolve. Why? Because these sixteen words had been etched to our hearts—more through experience than through memorization.

Abraham sure would agree on that. He experienced it foremost, and most palpably. In fact, it is in his chapter that God introduced Himself as the Great Provider:

“Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its thorns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, ‘On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.’” (Genesis 22:13-14, emphasis added)

Based on Abraham’s experience, we can learn that:

God’s provisions abound in times of need. With his son, Isaac, bound and laid atop the altar, and with the knife already in his own hands, Abraham was a man who was in dire need—of an interruption, a substitute, a miracle, or all three. Because, simply, he needed Isaac. Alive. Then, just at that very moment, a voice called, “Do not lay a hand on the boy.” Abraham must have sighed deeply. Help has come.

God’s provisions abound in times of impossibility. But still, a sacrifice had to be made. But who? Or what? They were up on the mountain and there was no one besides them. Then, “Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its thorns.” He need not search, need not sweat. A sacrifice had been delivered right into his hands.

God’s provisions abound in times of obedience. Abraham only wanted Isaac alive. He got that, yes. But he also got much, much more: “…because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.” Simply because he obeyed God’s command.

What is it that you need today? Payment for your children’s tuition fee? For the electric bill and water bill and internet bill? For the house loan and car loan and salary loan? Or do you need rest from a stressful workplace? Peace from a troubled home? Healing from a terminal disease?

As God did to Abraham, He will provide for you—no matter how hopeless or impossible the situation may seem to you. Just do not forget the four-word key to unlock the sixteen-word promise.

OBEY.

ROADS

ROADS

Paved or swampy, wide or cramped, flat or steep, smooth or rough. Which kind of road do you usually take?

Daily life includes inevitable encounters with roads: when we take our kids to school, eat out with friends, conduct business, or even as simple as when we buy from the sari-sari store. Our day-to-day activities involve stepping out of our homes and, hence, taking the roads. To prove just that, an automotive trade journal says an estimated number of 1.2 billion cars in the planet are hitting the roads every single day—1.2 billion people journeying to a specific destination.

That is right, a destination. Just like how every bus ride leads to a stop, or every car trip has to pull over, every journey has an end—this, a point worth pondering on as we reflect on our personal lives. After all, the life we live IS a journey.

You are on a journey.

But let me ask you… As you journey in this life, what is your destination? At the end of it all, where do you expect to arrive?

The apostle Paul needed not to think twice on this matter. He writes, “…I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me… I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus…” (Philippians 3:12-14, MSG).

To JESUS.

For Paul, the destination is not a place but a person. The person of Jesus.

Because, much like our literal journeys, the roads of this life will not always be paved or smooth. There will be bumps of worries, cracks of problems, storms of disappointments, and roadblocks of failures along the way.

After all those, after the rough, cramped, steep, and bumpy journey, are not His arms the best place to be in? And is not His face the best thing to see? What better joy is there?

So let me ask you again: At the end of it all, where do you expect to arrive? May you utter the same words as Paul’s:

“To JESUS.”

SUMMER

SUMMER

We are at that season of the year when we feel that we are elbow to elbow with the equator. With the sun’s scorching heat against our skin, large and heavy beads of sweat trickle down our foreheads—even when we are steady and still, in front of a giant electric fan!

The irony, however, is that while our skin is drenched in sweat, our body, however, can be dry. Or, more aptly, dehydrated. This happens when the amount of fluid that gets out of the body is not duly replenished. This is the very reason why, although taking a shower or swimming in the pool could indeed refresh us, we are advised to drink lots and lots water (not pool water, though!).

Because the need is from within.

Much like the need of each of us. That persistent, nagging need to be filled. Because there is, deep down within us, a feeling of being incomplete, of being empty.

Some of us may have tried to fill the void with medals and trophies, money and fame, alcohol and drugs, relationships and sex. But still, the void remains. In fact, it feels wider… deeper.

Because that nagging need can only be filled by the One whose imprint is in the every fiber and every vein and every organ of our body. The One who created humankind with His very hands—and the same One who saved humankind with His nail-pierced hands.

Jesus Christ. He promises us water that will never make us thirst again. Ever. Because He, well, He IS the living water, the well of life.

So let us come and drink. And be quenched. And filled. And satisfied.

FEET

FEET

If you would look at his feet, you would probably feel your insides lurch and belch. Because his feet, well, his feet are dirty and grimy, callused and bruised. You see, he was but a simple man. A carpenter. And simple men just walked—on dusty streets, on muds and puddles, with no shoes on.

But if you would look at the direction of his footsteps, you would surely feel your insides warm and soar. You see, his feet always moved—to the poor, to the hungry, to the sick, to the weeping, to the sinning. To everyone who needed him.

On and on his feet moved, responding to every cry and every call—yes, every call. Because when they called for his feet to be nailed to a cross, he did not walk away. Instead, he walked toward them… toward his death.

Because, you see, that was the very reason why he walked. He stepped down from heaven, walked among men, and trudged to Calvary, that all men would find their way to the path of life everlasting.

So do not look at his grubby, miry feet. Look instead at the direction of his footsteps.

But then, if you are poor, hungry, sick, weeping, or sinning, you won’t have to look for his feet. He will come to you. To bless you, fill you, heal you, comfort you, and forgive you. Just as he had come two millennia ago.

Because that was the very reason why he walked.