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!”

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.”

Together, for God and Country

Together, for God and Country

The Jesus Is Lord Church Worldwide (JILCW)’s Statement
on the Recently-concluded Elections

As a church with the dictum GOD and COUNTRY, the Jesus Is Lord Church Worldwide (JILCW) has always been praying for good governance and righteous leadership, and for this election, God specifically answered us by giving us three victories:

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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.

Declaring His SUPREME AUTHORITY, exalting Jesus

Among the hall of famers for the world’s strongest, there stands a record of the “most cars pulled by one man.” The number? 14 cars. For impact’s sake, that is equal to 22 tons or a whopping 20,000 kilograms altogether! What great strength this man possesses in his hands!

Yet, strong as he is, he cannot ever bear the weight of the whole world on his shoulders, try as he might. Because that 20,000 kilograms is but a dot compared to the earth’s mass: a gargantuan 6,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 kilograms!

Now, with that in mind, imagine the vast power of He for whom the earth is but a footstool… who actually created the earth AND the entire universe, with just the command of His lips… and who watches over everything there is in the universe, day in and day out.

The all-powerful, ever-living, transcendent GOD.

“For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.” (Colossians 1:16-18)

This means that—

God has supreme authority over nature.

“…all things have been created through him and for him.”

The laws of nature does not apply to Him. Not bound by time or space, He has no beginning or end, existing everywhere at all times. What is more, nature obeys Him. The ravens did not dare refuse His command to deliver food for prophet Elijah… the Red Sea did not dare refuse His command to make a way for the Israelites… and the raging winds and the violent waves did not dare refuse His command to be still for the Twelve’s boat. In short, the whole universe trembles at His voice!

God has supreme authority over circumstances.

“…in him all things hold together.”

But His power is not just loud and terrifying, it is also tender and caring. Did He not open Hannah’s barren womb after seeing her tear-filled eyes? Did He not multiply the bread and the fish after hearing the five thousand’s growling stomachs? And did He not raise the widow’s son after feeling her grief-stricken heart? Just as He did for Hannah, the five thousand, and the widow, believe that God has the power to change every situation—yours included—no matter how hopeless it may seem.

God has supreme authority over life.

“…so that in everything he might have the supremacy.”

Because more than our circumstances, He has a claim on our very lives. Was it not He who has allowed us the privilege to walk on this world He has designed? Was it not He who has also designed every fiber of our being? And was it not He who has given us life? It is just but right that our hearts, minds, and souls be wholly and willingly surrendered to His supreme authority… that we live our lives for Him and Him alone.

Over nature, over circumstances, over life, over ALL. In His supreme power and authority, He can do anything that He wills to do—like carrying the 6,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000-kilogram earth, plus the many daily concerns of the billions of people living in it. While this is a rather simple way of putting how sovereign God is, may this lead us all to submit our whole lives to Him and just allow Him to carry us, wherever He wills.

Declaring His SELFLESS SERVICE, exalting Jesus

“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask… Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” (Mark 10:35, 37)

James and John. They were two of Jesus’ disciples, in fact two of Jesus’ closest disciples (together with Peter). As proof, Jesus singled them out among the twelve on many occasions, as in the healing of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:37) and in the Transfiguration (Mark 9:2).

This is probably where they were coming from when they asked Jesus that request. They were James and John—THE James and John. They were part of the Big Three. So they felt entitled. So much so that they, ironically, demanded from their Master: we want you to do for us whatever we ask; that each of us would sit at your side in your glory. How selfishly ambitious and utterly arrogant!

But we, too, tend to be like them at times. Remember these ‘prayers’? Give me this, Lord. Give me, that. Here. Now. How about these lines? I’ve been attending church consistently. I’ve been serving in the ministry for years. So You HAVE to reward me with this, Lord!

Yes, we, too, have been like James and John. We tend to forget that He is God and that we, well, are not… not as powerful or as intelligent or as strong as we think. So let us look at how Jesus answered them so that we, too, may remember.

Have the right perspective. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized in the baptism I am baptized with?” (v.38)

The names of the Bible greats were not written there for nothing. They did not just sit and stare. They paid a price—a high price. Let’s consider Noah, the seemingly ridiculous command of God, and the truly ridiculous comments of his peers. Or Joseph and the thirteen long years batted with all kinds of trials and tests. And let’s not forget Job, minus all his livestock and children—but plus the boils all over his body.

We say we want to be great men and women of God? Then, let us remember Jesus’ words. Can we drink the cup, with all the pain and suffering it entails? While Noah did survive the flood, Joseph did save his family and all Egypt from the famine, and Job did receive double blessings from God—they first drank the cup. Because greatness is borne in and through the lowest and toughest experiences.

Have the right attitude. “…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.” (v.43-44)

The world tells us we have to make it big—big salary, big savings, big house, big name. Let us be clear here: there is absolutely nothing wrong with having all those big things; God calls all those blessings. What is wrong, though, is the attitude of being big: when we look down at our fellowman whose salary or name is not as big… when we look at the mirror and conclude that the reflection we see is far, far bigger than others… and when we don’t look up anymore to recognize the only One who IS big.

Do we really want to make it big? Then it’s time that we take each other’s hand, celebrating each other’s strengths and filling in each other’s weaknesses; and, more importantly, it’s time that we finally take that nail-pierced hand that has been reached out to us all for the past two thousand years. Because, really, on our own, we are nothing. We are weak, broken, and empty.

Have the right model. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (v.45)

Probably because of the many achievements and feats we have accomplished, or the many skills and talents we are capable of, or the many topics and disciplines we are knowledgeable of, that we think we are somebody and not just anybody… that we find it really hard to put others first.

But if we will just look at the King of kings and Lord of lords who created the entire universe with just a “Let there be”—how He left His throne in all its splendor to walk among the poor, touch the sick and the outcasts, receive utter scorn and humiliation, endure whips and lashes, and die the worst man’s death on the Cross—if THE God stooped that low, why can’t we? Why shouldn’t we?

All these said, may the prayer of our hearts be, “Teacher, we want to do for You whatever You ask. Help us to have the right perspective and to gain the right attitude as we tread on the path of selfless service which You Yourself have modeled to us.”

Love Letters

Love Letters

I recognized his handwriting instantly, so much so that I laughed remembering how awkwardly a pen fits in his hands. I recognized his words, so much so that I felt my heart skip as I imagined his voice whispering those to my ears. I recognized it all, so much so that I imagined his face, his smile, his love. The world around me faded, as I got drowned in his written words of love.

Love letters. They are more than just papers. They are passion-filled papers that overwhelm, even stop, our hearts. More than bringing romantic flashbacks, they produce a certain music that makes our spirits move and groove. And more than giving us shudders of excitement and delight, they create in us a certainty that someone is truly and deeply in love with us that all we can say in response is, “What an expression of love!”

Yet, I wonder, of all the love letters, these ‘love on paper,’ you have read, which do you consider as the best one? You might mention Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets, Ninoy Aquino’s “I Have Fallen in Love with the Same Woman Three Times,” or, even, your grandma’s golden anniversary letter to your grandpa. Sure these all are sweet, but do any of these pass as the sweetest? They certainly ARE good, but are they the best? The grandest?

Let me introduce to you a lover I know. Then you decide.

This lover, like everyone else consumed with love, also wrote a letter. However, unlike many, His wasn’t on paper but on a cross… scribbled not by pen but by nails… painted not by ink but by His own blood.

Sounds unbelievable? Well, you wouldn’t believe this next one. That letter’s recipient…

…is you. Yes, you.

And for you He didn’t mind leaving His kingdom, didn’t mind being rejected, didn’t mind facing the cross, didn’t mind giving His all… even His life. He loves you so much, He didn’t mind. At all.

So yes, the best love letter ever written was for you… to reach out to you… and to save you.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. (1 John 3:16a)

CHRISTMAS SEASON

CHRISTMAS SEASON

First, He redeems us from our life in the past. Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We all have our own record of wrongs—we could have caused our parents a great deal of headache, we could have greatly contributed to our country’s problems and, in all these, we have grieved the very heart of the Living God. But however dark our past may be and no matter how big our sins may be, God’s love is brighter and His forgiveness, vaster. Because of this, all of our sins are now atoned for by the blood of Jesus Christ. We are a new creation, the old is gone, the new has come!

Second, He assures us of our life in the now. God does not only take away our sin and shame, He also gives us the best life we can have here on earth. Through Jesus Christ, we now have a life of blessings, strength, joy, peace, and hope. So, if you ever feel lonely and homesick, or if you are worrying about Noche Buena and exchange gifts, do not hesitate to come before God, because it was He who first drew near us, one fateful night in Bethlehem. Our assurance lies in this promise: “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)

Third, He promises us life in the hereafter. This is the bottom line of the Christmas event: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Jesus came from heaven to earth to make a way between us, vile men, and the Holy Father—that we may enjoy blissful and eternal communion with God in His kingdom in heaven, where there will be no more death nor mourning nor crying nor pain. What a great life awaits us, simply because we accepted Jesus Christ, the reason for this season, in our lives.

Therefore, with Jesus, our past, present and future are all secure—which makes not only Christmas, but every day of our lives, wonderful. So let us not allow for Christmas to just pass by. Let us celebrate it, along with the full life we have received through the rich love, grace, and mercy of our ever Living God.

A blessed Christmas to all of you!

God bless you more and more! Jesus is Lord over Hong Kong!