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!

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.

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!