Passing By Repentance Trail

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imageThe dream is almost real, I could have sworn I was really a mountain biker travelling through uncharted territory. I saw myself trying to negotiate my way through rough and rocky roads. Then I became tired, I got off and pushed my bike trying to cut thorny bushes and stubborn weeds that got in the way.

“This is quite an adventure”, I said to myself as I put in all my efforts, but then I realized that the harder I tried, the more lost I became. I only grew more and more exhausted and consequently, more unable to continue my climb.

I told myself that If I succeeded and reached the top of the mountain, I would name the trail after myself. That way, maybe others who wished to climb the mountain could just follow “The Mayrose Trail”.

Suddenly, an old man appeared. He said, “There already is a trail for you to follow. One greater than what you have prepared.  You might have passed by it already. It’s called “Repentance Trail”

Fellow Christians, the way to the mountain of the Lord is not hidden. In fact, John the Baptist proclaimed it. He preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we must accept the sad fact that we are all sinners. Only a liar would deny that he never sins or has never committed any sin. In the family alone, there would be times when our children would do us wrong. As Christian parents, we have taught them the righteous way of amending their faults by admitting them, apologizing and not doing them again. And as loving and understanding parents, we forgive our children over and over again. We do the same when at times we also hurt our children in some ways.

To be truly Christian, we need to repent, confess and pray before we can ask forgiveness from the Father.

REPENTANCE

Biblically, repentance means to turn away from sin with a heartfelt desire to change and not to succumb to it again. We Christians, often fail in our battle against sin. We may have remorse over it and honestly desire not to commit sin again, but because of our fallen nature and our profound weakness, we often fail to carry out our repentance.

Nevertheless, by the grace of God, we are able to turn to Him yet again and receive the cleansing that is guaranteed through Christ.

This, however, does not mean that it is okay to go out and seek to commit sin again then try to repent of it later. Repentance is and should be  “a change of heart  that brings a change in action.” John the Baptist told the people to “bear fruits worthy of repentance”. Therefore, repentance involves restitution and the amendment of life.

CONFESSION

Confession of sins is also required before Christians can be forgiven, for John said,”If we confess our sins., He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness”.

The word confess means “to confess by way of admitting oneself guilty of what one is accused of, the result of inward conviction.”

PRAYER

Then Christians should also pray. A prayer that comes from the heart – a sincere, heartfelt prayer is a natural extension of repentance and confession.

Isn’t it life’s so wonderful when our sins are forgiven? Here are some of the most beautiful and poetic passages  in the Bible that deal with the manner in which God forgives His repentant children.

The great prophet Micah said, “God  will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. He will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:19)

When God forgives us our sins will be removed, “as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” (Psa. 103:12)

“God will blot out our sins and remember them against us no more.” (Psa. 15:9)

Our sins are wiped out of His memory, never to be brought up again!

Let us all then see the enormity of sin and the willingness of our Father to forgive. God has set conditions for forgiveness of His erring children. When a Christian sins, he must repent, confess and pray.

For Non-Christians – those who can not call upon God as their “Father”, you must “repent, and let everyone of you baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)

John the Baptist preached a baptism of repentance for he knew that those who heeded him would clear the path to their hearts., and they would not even Go to God. God Himself would enter their hearts.

Friend, have you passed by Repentance Trail? This, I tell you… It’s not just an exciting adventure but is TRULY a rewarding one.


UNDER RENOVATION

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imageThink of yourself as a living house. A simple bungalow.

GOD comes in and tells you, “I will rebuild you, I will make you great, bigger, sturdier.” You rejoice, filled with anticipation. God’s words run over and over in your mind. “I will rebuild you, I will make you great…”

The renovation begins. The rebuilding is underway. At first, everything that God does makes sense. He’s unclogging drains. He takes care of the leaks in the roof, checks the electric wiring. You’re happy, you’re satisfied with how the construction is going. No questions.

But then God started making changes you don’t expect. He starts knocking the house that hurts. At this point, questions like, “Do you know what You are doing?” begins to come to mind.

Many people hurt themselves and those they love by resisting God’s “renovation”, life’s transformation, that is. Holding onto the past will tear a person and family apart during a time of change. Such is the case of a person who is stuck into an immoral relationship or activities.  It may hurt the person to let go of a lover, in order to restore his broken family. At the same time, his spouse and children are also hurt by his unfaithfulness and infidelity.

The same is true for someone who is living a “devil-may-care” life and has to give up gambling and indecent businesses if he is to follow God’s way.

We must remember, the goal of the Christian life  is transformation in the likeness of Christ. Transformation  is the process of the Sanctification in which the Holy Spirit takes all of our degradations and turns them into glory, all of our deserts into gardens and all of our weaknesses into strengths.

Transformation entails sacrifices. It is important to understand, in transformation, resides the loss of old comforts and support. Oftentimes, painful moments have to be embraced, experienced and accepted. And these are the times when God’s “renovation” does hurt.

Moreover, Life Transformation does not erase a memory or change our personal history. Rather, it enables us to cherish even the worst moments in our lives, for through them God has inscribed eternal lessons onto our hearts and prepared us to minister to all who have suffered in the same way.

Believe it or not, you will bless someone one day with what you have experienced if you allow God to heal you, I am a living witness to that.

Every person has issues and has experienced hurts and pains. God always gives us the grace to obtain healing.

When you allow  God to heal you, your mess becomes a message, your test becomes a testimony.

So though at times when you feel that what God is doing seems contrary to what you expect, don’t panic! For God is leading you to a better life – the life of a true Christian.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” - Romans 12:2

If you allow God to transform you, then you have to renew your mind and to renew your mind is to get rid of your negative thoughts. Here are some ways:

  • Find Scriptures in what the Lord has to say about you. His love for you and His thoughts over you. The Bible tells us how BIG  God’s love is… for us. His love gives us great hope and encouragement to keep going in our Christian life. Where there is hope, there is no room for negative thoughts.
  • Meditate on God’s Word as truth. Jesus said, ” I am the Way, the Truth and the Life…” -If you follow Jesus, ask Him to guide you as you grapple with difficult issues. His Spirit will guide you.
  • When you have a thought opposite of God’s belief, then cast down the vain imagination. “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”2 Corinthians 10:5 (KJV)
  • Take Scriptures and quote God’s Word and truth over the lies from the enemy. This means recognizing the lies we believe, renouncing and rejecting the lies, and replacing the lies with God’s truth, and redirecting our thoughts to reflect our new beliefs.

You see, before the truth can change our lives, we must reject those false beliefs (lies from the enemy). The more we stand on God’s word the more His word will become truth. But it takes action from us to apply God’s word.

When we transform our minds, the result is peace because God’s truth always brings peace. It also brings healing and deliverance of our mind, will and emotions. When our mind, will and emotions are healed, then our behavior changes as well. Not only that, how we think about God, others and ourselves is also transformed.

Here is the reward of allowing the truth of God’s word to change our belief system: “It may not alter our past but it will transform our lives and gives us hope and wisdom for the future.”

Many times the only thing that is holding us back from the fullness of changing our lives is our inability to forgive others and ourselves. Unforgiveness is the super glue that holds us in bondage of our past and we’re not able to move forward in the high callings  of God and His purposes.

By taking God”s Word as truth, we will be free from living in anger, hatred and unforgiveness. We must realize that a spirit of unforgiveness complicates and compromises our daily walk with God.

This is then a good time to ask the Lord to search your heart of anyone you have not forgiven. You see, forgiveness  separates you from God and others.

Remember, God is always present, full of compassion and grace, and willing to heal our broken hearts and lives from the past. He desires more than we do to fill our lives with His hope, joy and peace.

Remember too, that transformation begins with LOVE. We have two choices: we can love ourselves through the transformation or continue to beat ourselves up…The choice is ours.

So if at times, you feel that God is renovating you in ways that hurt. Relax. God hasn’t suddenly gone berserk. Let Him be. Yes, He knows what He is doing. In fact, before he built you the first time (remember this is just a renovation), He already knew which part in your “living house” will decay. As a matter of fact, He is the only One who knows how long your “living house” will last.

So, stop whining….let me tell you a secret…He is not only rebuilding you into a sturdier, bigger bungalow, He is making a MANSION out of you! NO KIDDING!

 

 

No Shortcuts To Heaven

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“It was dark when it happened. A couple were traveling back to the city after a relaxing day on the beach,” the news reporter said. The couple recounted in the interview that before them  was a long stretch of highway broken by occasional overpasses by pedestrians. They further recalled, “as we rounded a corner, we saw a brightly lit sign which read “BLIND CORNER, DO NOT CROSS, USE OVERPASS’. Then they heard a thud and a muffled cry. The driver quickly stepped on the brakes. A glance at the front of the car told them all. They could just make out the outline of a woman’s body under the tires. She was dead.

Many mishaps before this have happened and many more, followed. But why?…Why didn’t those people use the overpass?

We must admit, it is easier and faster to take the shortcuts. As Richard Hendrix said, “Second only to suffering…waiting may be the greatest teacher and training… in godliness, maturity and genuine spirituality which most of us encounter.”

If Hendrix is correct, and I believe he is, then the general rule should be, “If we want to grow in godliness, we must grow in patience.” Unfortunately, the virtue of patience is slowly fading away. The emergence of advanced technology to make life easier is a factor, waiting has now become almost a thing of the past. No more standing in line to withdraw in the bank,  use the ATM. Everything is instant – noodles, coffee, fast foods to name a few. Quick and easy business? Create online shop.

Today’s world offers us shortcuts to almost everything. People have taken shortcuts to getting wealth. There are reports of high officials and ordinary persons who have resorted  to corruption, gambling, drug trade and other downright immoral and illegal acts in order to amass more and more wealth.

We also know of individuals who took shortcuts to justice and killed, putting the law into their own hands.

There are government officials who took the shortcut to power through bribery and cheating during elections.

In our current world, we find people who have brought ruin to themselves and their families through attempts to take shortcuts. And those who will stop at nothing to get what they want, whatever the cost.

Michelle Obama said, “We learned about honesty and integrity – that the truth matters…that you don’t take shortcuts or play by your own set of rules…and success doesn’t count unless you earn it fair and square.”

Honesty and integrity does matter for the Christian. Men have their own set of rules but it is only by following God’s law that we can enter God’s kingdom. But have we forgotten that there are no shortcuts to enter the kingdom of God? Have we forgotten that there are no short-cuts to receiving His power?

God has written His instructions in one book: The Bible. In it He warns us against laziness, against pride, against lust. The Bible also tells us that the only way to come to God is thru Jesus Christ, and the only way to be able to receive and use the power of God is through receiving the Holy Spirit and through faith in Jesus Christ.

It is in and by the power of the name of Jesus Christ that we are being saved and there is no other way by which we can be saved except through His name.

Likewise, we say “AMEN” through the name of Jesus so that we will receive the things we ask from God. The power to receive all the gifts  and promises of God come through faith in the name of Jesus Christ.

Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. – Matthew 7:13 (The Message)

So then, there are no shortcuts in our walk with Christ. There are no easy ways out by which we can skip certain things and jump straight to where we want to be.

We must all walk the path He sets before us and seek the truth through faith and the workings of the Holy Spirit. Certainly, there are no shortcuts to Heaven…

However, if you have taken the short-cuts and have broken any rules…There is still a chance for you, my friend…Ask God for forgiveness and you’ll find Him ever ready to bail you out.

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Rejoice, God Loves You Just The Way You Are!

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imagePeople come in all shapes, sizes — and personalities. There are some individuals who are carefully labelled  as choleric, sanguine, phlegmatic and melancholic.

But most of us don’t fit neatly in one box because our feelings change and our moods shift. At times, we are confident and exuberant, fully in control as though we’re on top of the world. At other times, we are cautious, hesitant and fearful of the unknown.

One of the most comforting truths about the Bible is that God knows and loves us just the way we are.

With Him we do not have to “play games” and pretend to be somebody we are not. We do not have to make a show that we are on “top of things” when we are really down and fearful in the inside.

The truth is, each one is distinct and unique in the eyes of God. No one is a carbon copy of you. Just as no two snowflakes are the same, no one else in all the world is exactly like you. Whether you’re a vibrant extrovert or a shy introvert, you are unique, one of a kind!

In the eyes of God, therefore, each one is special. You were created to fulfill a specific “mission”. The “mission”, He intends just for you. Thus, no one can replace you in the role that you were assigned by God. You maybe a medical practitioner, a nurse, therapist, artist, carpenter, laborer, a plain housewife, a struggling employee, retiree or whatever you do in life,  – that is your role.

You are most necessary and indispensable for that particular role. Therefore, rejoice and be grateful to the Lord that He has given you a purpose to fulfill – a divine mission to accomplish.

Whether you perform your role perfectly and in a meaningful manner or not, is irrelevant, because God expects each one to do, what one is capable of. He knows your limits, where you are weak and where you are good at. God does not expect ants to carry great loads of timber. Nor does God expects the elephant to fly in the air as do butterflies and doves.

He expects the birds and butterflies to fly and He love them for what they do. He expects elephants to fulfill their role in the forest. And He expects man to live as man. Each one in his own place, in his own sphere, can fulfill a task and gladden the heart of the Maker and contribute something to His plan on earth.

You may feel insignificant, but in the eyes of God, no one is indispensable. No one is useless. No one is lesser. And so, never compare and contrast , because there is no comparing and contrasting in unique things.

Hence, rejoice that you are special to God in His infinite love.

Rejoice that you have your own special place and role to perform in the creation of God.

Rejoice that His love is immediately available to you.

Rejoice that God made you just as you are and His love for you is unchanging and unqualified.

Rejoice that within you is the peace of God.

And most of all,  rejoice that God has called you to a mission, a very special duty to perform, that is, to live the Word, spread the Word and to spread peace to one and all.

Fulfill that mission NOW!

 

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Behold The Prince Who Came Down As A Pauper!

imageMark Twain’s “The Prince and the Pauper” tells the tale of two young boys, who were approximately the same age and were almost identical in appearance. One boy was the son of a King while the other was the son of a pauper. The two boys met and decided to exchange roles and stations in life. But underneath the story lies a truth of vastly greater significance than the boys’ trading lives.

In similar fashion, Jesus came to earth leaving His position at the right hand of the Father. He temporarily exchanged His heavenly position as He came to earth and lived with the reality of sickness, poverty and suffering.

Why did Jesus , the Son of the King temporarily relinquish His “Princehood” to live with men?

It is because of His great love for us that Jesus came to earth. He came to deliver the truth in a world of false beliefs. Because we are sinful, in a spiritually wrecked condition, we are in need of redemption but we could not redeem ourselves.

And so, Christ came into this world to be a final sacrifice for our sins, and this is the main reason why He came down to live with His creatures, men.

What is so amazing about Christ is how He, our Creator, God who is perfect, with all His glory, power and might, righteousness and holiness, came to live with men who are unrighteous and unholy.

He came down to do the will of the Father. For the Scriptures say, “For I have come not to do my own will but the will of Him who sent me.” As a servant, He, the Son of God came to obey and fulfill His Father’s will.

“Jesus came for all”, as the Bible says, “The grace of God has appeared to all men.” Christianity is for everyone but  not everyone responds to His call, only those who acknowledge they are sinful.

And for us to know this, we only have to look at God’s standards, His commands and His law, to find that we have not perfectly obeyed them and we have fallen short of keeping them.

The Greatest Love of All

Nothing compares to God’s love for us. It is beyond  measure of any kind. God’s love is unconditional and infinite.

Jesus describes the depth of His love for us, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands, and remain in His love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:9-11)

He loves us no matter what–even when we disobey. But we will live in His love, enjoy His love, as we obey Him.

When Jesus died on the cross, He defeated the devil and the power of sin. His shed of blood atoned for the sins of the whole world and satisfied the justice of God, once and for all.

No longer would people be powerless against sin and the devil’s schemes. No longer would they have to be separated from God.

As a physical reminder of that, at the moment when Jesus died on the cross, an earthquake shook Jerusalem.

In the holiest part of the temple, the huge, thick curtain separating the people of God tore in from the top to bottom. It was as though God was saying to us,  “Now you may come to Me, because my Son have opened the gates.”

This way is open for us now if we put Jesus into our hearts. Accepting Christ as the center of our life means giving Him all that we are, both the good and the bad, asking Him to help us live for Him. If we believe in Him, we will be saved.

When Jesus hung on the cross dying, He suffered for our sins, not because He had to, but because He wanted to.

As Isaiah puts it;

“Surely, He has borne our griefs and carries our sorrows, yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was pierced by our transgressions, He was crushed by our inequities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned–everyone–to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all .” (Isaiah 53:4-6)

            “God’s love is the Greatest Love of All.”

“He lay down His  life for his friends” (John 15:13).

Yes my friend, the Lord Jesus exchanged His life and place for us. He was the sacrificial lamb to save mankind and He brought the gift of eternal life by virtue of His death.

Christ was a Prince who came down as a pauper. What a paradox!

When God gave us a new life, it didn’t come on a silver platter or trimmed in lace and smelling of sweet perfume. Jesus, began His life as a pauper in a smelly, damp stable. He tasted real life, and that will be the flavor of your journey with Christ-no magic, just the promise that He will be with you and He will not abandon you.

And so, isn’t it wonderful that You and I were once a pauper but are now children not just of a King, but children of the  King of Kings and the Lord of Lords? This is because of God’s eternal love for us.

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The Bible And The Fulfillment Of Its Prophecies

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imageOver the years, men have fought over the Bible, argued over it, some have even died for it. We’ve seen dictators ban it from their countries claiming it brought unrest. Others have tried to destroy it, yet it endures.

The Bible has endured because not only is it God’s textbook for living but it also does away from the grim pessimism that grips so many today and tells us that there is hope for the hopeless.

The Bible also gives us prophecies- how the world was created and how it will end. Matthew 24:3-14 tells us that there would be series of events that would lead to the conclusion of the series of things.

I never thought that in this generation, I would consider myself an eyewitness to the fulfillment of the Bible prophecies, that we are now living in the last days. The signs of the times are presently unfolding and happening, critical times hard to deal with, is now taking place.

There is no doubt, all of us, regardless of our culture, race, background and color, are very much affected by the current world events.

The Bible says, “Nation will rise against nation, kingdom against kingdom.”

There are wars and reports of wars, issues on territorial disputes, terrorism, explosions and bombs everywhere. Innocent people are being killed.

Natural disasters like earthquakes, storms and floods., food shortages, increase of lawlessness, deadly diseases such as AIDS, Ebola virus in Africa, MersCoV in the MIddle East, SARS in Asia are shaking the world. Add to this, the global impact of climate change.

We live in a society plagued by abortion, domestic violence, child molestation, blasphemy, pornography, alcoholism, drug abuse and gambling. We all witness strange world events as it unfold before our very eyes. Global situation is escalating from bad to worse, we are living in a more troubled society. Need I emphasize that the world is wallowing in misery and despair?

Is there an end to all of this? Is it now normal to wake up in fear everyday?

The Bible tells us two things; the events and the signs which refer to the end times, that will take place in the present generation. This is now being fulfilled in this generation. “But the coming of Jesus,” the Bible says, “will come much later.”

According to the Scriptures, we cannot know the time of the Lord’s return, but it make it equally clear that we can know the season of the Lord’s return.

You yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night…But you brethren are not in the darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night or darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.

imageThis passage asserts that Jesus is coming like “a thief in the night.” But then it proceeds to make it clear that this will be true only for the pagan world and not for believers.

Therefore, His return should not be a surprise to those who know Him and His Word, for they have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to give them understanding of the nature of the times.

Brothers and sisters in Christ,  “So then, let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.”

For Jesus also said,“When you see all these things, recognize that He [the Son of Man - Jesus] is near, right at the door” Matthew 24:33.

 

 

God Is Infinitely Larger

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Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things. Isaiah 40:26

Great artists, inventors, scientists, world leaders and industrialists, all figure out in the list of the most famous people in the world. But would it be fair to say that the true measure of a person is his accomplishment?

Shakespeare for instance, was considered great because of the excellent literary pieces that came from his typewriter.

The Sistine Chapel and sculptures such as  “David” and “La Pieta” are synonymous with the excellence of Michelangelo.

We tend to judge an individual by his accomplishments but Shakespeare was greater than his writings and Michelangelo greater that his works of art. This being true, God is far greater than any or all of His creations.

If God is greater than what He has created, then how big is He?

We cannot even figure out how vast the universe is, or fathom the depth of the sea. There is one thing I am certain though, God is infinitely larger than any challenge, or any problem that shall confront me.

At times when I feel discouraged and the feeling of uncertainty  creeps into my being, I am comforted just by the thought that I am a tiny part of God’s creation. So, I just have to reach out by faith and say, “Thank you O God! You are far bigger than my need, your plans for me are far bigger than what I have planned for myself. I surrender everything to you O Lord. Please take charge of the steering wheel, and wherever you will lead me, I will follow with all my heart.”

My heart bleeds that the Lord Jesus made the supreme example of self-surrender. The night before His crucifixion, Jesus surrendered Himself to God. He prayed, “Father everything is possible for You. Please take this cup of suffering from me. Yet I want your will, not mine”. Mark 14:26

Lord, you agonized so much over God’s plan that you sweated blood. I understand that total surrender is hardwork, it requires intense warfare against my self-centeredness. And so I pray to you.. God, whatever circumstances  that  is needed to fulfill Your purpose and glory, in my life, that”s what I want it too..

Whatever You permit me to do and wherever you will lead me, “LORD GOD, THY WILL BE DONE.”

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Planting The Seeds of Compassion in the 21st Century

image With the fast evolution of technology, the 21st century is now at its 5th computer generation. The era where various gadgets ordinarily weave themselves  into everyday life. This has created a growing concern among many  how  technology particularly the computer and the Internet have impacted on the moral values of people especially the youth of today.

For many of us Christians, who profess and practice, “love thy neighbor as thyself”  we pose this big question: is technology in part to blame for the desensitization of the masses and the loss of empathy and compassion?

WHERE IS COMPASSION IN THE INTERNET?

Perhaps, one of the most amazing invention that has ever been made for mankind is the Internet. Beyond question, it has consistently been    an efficient tool in communication, media, business and economics and has made almost everything possible and reachable in all corners of the world.

However, while it provides a vast array of positive contributions to humanity, it  has also some adverse effects on people and  their lives as a whole. As a Christian, I am saddened by the fact that generally, many are losing their sense of compassion in the Internet.

Something I have personally noticed within the Internet world  is the large sense of disconnect there seems to be between people and their words. I’ve read and heard people say nasty things to one another in the comment sections, even personally attacking one another in social media like Twitter and Facebook.

One recent trending topic on twitter and facebook in the Philippines was about a celebrity/politician who sent a gift to another celebrity  with this message, “Life is short. enjoy it. You are so bless. Thank you for believing in me, I truely appreciate it”. This  created harsh criticisms over the wrong spelling/grammar  when the celebrity-recipient posted the picture of the message on Twitter.

I felt  sorry for the poor lady who may have suffered endless humiliation from TV interviews here and there as if no one has ever committed such a mistake before and as if such error was so big to create the whole world to condemn and laugh.

I wonder why people are becoming less and less sensitive nowadays. Can we  just put aside our intellect for awhile and just listen to what our hearts say? Can we just forgive others mistakes and weaknesses and focus on their good acts and sincere intentions instead?

Similarly, CYBER BULLYING is also on the rise. There are even  incidence about suicide that have been reported due to bullying in the Internet.

Take this case, during the Summer Olympics back in 2012, British diver Tom Daley reported a rather repulsive comment on Twitter following his gold medal loss. The bully wrote, “You let your dad down, I hope you know that”, referring to the fact that Daley was hoping to win the gold in honor of his father who died the prior year from brain cancer.

These are but a few examples of the callous comments that are made online on a daily basis.

What has happened to the generation of today? Where is the empathy? Where is the compassion and humanity?

VIOLENT VIDEO GAMES TURN-OFF COMPASSION INSTINCTS

Another “invention” in the computer world is the fast rising video games featuring violence which is gaining very high popularity among children and young adults. A new study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology provides more evidence that violent video games desensitize players to violence and makes them more violent in real life.

The study reached to the conclusion that violent video games showed less brain activity to real violence and therefore, turns-off the compassion instincts. Researchers of this study say, “people less emotionally affected by violence can be a coping strategy. They want to be able to turn on the news without having their hearts broken by the latest tragedy.”

When asked why the participants of this study would want to be less affected by violence and suffering, they said it would make it easier for them to function in a world in which violence is inescapable.

Now, I ask, “what would the world be if everyone has this kind of thinking?” Has violence really been a normal part of  human existence?

Sadly, the answer is YES! We see and hear about violence everywhere in the world. From the confines of homes where there is domestic violence, battered wives and children abuse, brutal killings in the streets to raging religious and territorial wars. This is the reality in the 21st Century.

“As we cannot avoid living in this fast evolving computer world, the most we can do is to help one another bring compassion awareness to the world, starting with ourselves and to our families.”

As followers of Christ, we are challenged to help others especially the youth to regain compassion and empathy back into their lives.

PLANTING THE SEEDS OF COMPASSION

Planting the seeds of compassion is the challenge Dalai Lama passes to the next generation. He said,”Turn the 21st century into a peaceful century through dialogue, respect mindfulness and fostering a oneness with humanity.” He further said, “we must make this century as a century of compassion.” The Dalai Lama was born in 1935 to a poor farm family in Northeastern Tibet, the Nobel Peace Prize winner shared warm memories of how his mother planted the seeds of compassion within him as a growing child riding on her back through the fields.

“She was always very gentle”, he recalled. “I think her gentleness sometimes spilled into me,” he said.

“Compassion”, he said “can occur on two levels: an inborn sense of concern for the well-being of others and an intellectual awareness that supporting our communities strengthens humanity. So, destruction of your neighbor is really a destruction of yourself because everyone is inter-dependent, that’s the reality,” he explained.

He stressed that Education is a critical step in nurturing those seeds of compassion. He said, “teaching students skills in mindfulness, respect and how to handle destructive emotions and achieve peace of mind.” 

This being said, parents, teachers and the community play a vital role in planting and nurturing the seeds of compassion.

PARENTS, TEACHERS AND THE COMMUNITY AS PARTNERS

Scientific studies identified compassion as one of the major building blocks of character that must grow into sustained concern for others, and children need certain kind of support and guidance from  adults if they are to turn their early positive inclinations into the mature virtues that constitute good character.

IN THE HOME

The most important place where compassion is learned is in the home. Like The Dalai Lama’s mother who always showed gentleness, parents should nurture their children with love and compassion. Consequently, the love they have instilled in their children will overflow not only within the family, but to others that their children encounter in the school and in the community.

Setting a good example in the home is the best teaching tool for parents. Logic would tell us that children who are brought up with much love and care are naturally more loving and compassionate than those who are not.

  • Children must practice compassion in their daily lives. Difficult encounters with family members, classmates and friends present opportunities to put themselves in another’s shoes. They also practice compassion when they practice giving without expecting anything in return.
  • Instill in them the love of animals-caring for pets is another way of practicing compassion.
  • Help Children to cope with anger. Anger is one of the greatest hindrances to compassion because it can overwhelm and cloud the children’s minds and spirits. We can help children by asking how their anger will help solve their problem and help them see both their positive and negative sides. This will teach them how anger leads to unreliable and destructive outcomes.
  • Teach children to self-regulate. Today’s children tend to be more daring and more aggressive. Therefore, it is very important for parents to teach their children the importance of self-regulation-the ability to stop or delay an action rather than behaving impulsively. Self-regulation is the antidote against self-destruction because it brings more time to fully discern before deciding to do something.
  • Praise children when they regulate themselves. Children will feel internal rewards for feeling appreciated. This serves as a moral-booster for them to continue their good deeds.

IN THE SCHOOL AND  COMMUNITY

Outside the home, the school and the community is where children get their most influence-from teachers, peers, classmates and neighbors.

Developing compassion in children involves all adults stepping up to do their parts. So like parents, teachers and community leaders should likewise be role-models to children.

  • Children can practice compassion through school activities like boyscouts,, sports leagues, charity work and other community service programs. Letting them experience how others are going through life’s sufferings and hardships  will bring them to “compassion awareness.”
  • Teachers should emphasize the moral and personal significance of serving others as these are also powerful inducers of character development.
  • Help children view work and service to others as a sense of “calling”, a means of contributing to the betterment of the world by using one’s personal skills and talents.
  • Also a hindrance to compassion, is bullying. Parents and teachers should work hand in hand to minimize if not to eradicate bullying in the home, in the school and in the community.They should emphasize that bullying is totally unacceptable and never tolerated.  If there are signs of bullying, they should address them early , before the behavior and its impact get worse. In this regard, it is important to create a safe and caring school and community.

In the 21st century and beyond, the rapid change in technology may be creating a great challenge to people’s moral values and their lives as a  whole, but empathy and compassion will always flourish and will continually thrive,  from the hearts of people especially the youth where the seeds of compassion are planted.

 

 

 

 

Of Living and Loving for 29 Years and Counting

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image Having been married to each other for almost 3 decades wasn’t at all that easy. Like any other “normal” married couple, we also had our shares of “stormy weather.” But with God’s grace and guidance we had stood by each other through thick and thin, and together we had endured the tests of time..  29 years ago, on July 28, l985 at Our Lady of Lourdes Mangato Church, we vowed, “to love each other… for better or for worst, till death do us part….”

And today, as we celebrate our 29th wedding anniversary, we renew our vows as we pray:

Dear Heavenly Father, we thank you for the graces and blessings you have given us during the past 29 years of marriage. We celebrate and recall the day when we are joined together as partners in life and we thank you for being with us on our daily journey together through life’s ups and downs.

We fervently ask you to increase our sense of belonging to each other, just as Jesus says, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one.” (Matthew 19:5,6 NIV)

We thank you that you have freely given us Your presence, strength, help and hope. We pray that we will continue to grow in our ability to work together for the good of each other, for the good of our family and for the good of the world. Fill us with love, forgiveness, patience and trust.

Guide us with the light of your word where it says, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (I Corinthians 13:4-8)

Increase our sense of companionship and friendship. Grant us the ability to laugh at our mistakes and the means to share the simple pleasures of life together. Enable us to speak the truth in love. Help us to be good listeners. And grant us wisdom and a spirit of cooperation as we make your good plans together on the tough issues and challenges we face.

We also ask you Lord to surround us  with good friends and neighbors. Protect our home. Care for our family. Provide for our needs. Guard our health. And may we enjoy many other anniversaries together. In the name of Christ, in union with the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever, we pray…..AMEN.

May I share this  HOMILY that I have researched  honoring long-married couples just like many of us…May it inspire, enlighten and strengthen us more as we continue our matrimonial journey…

Homilies

‘A living witness that God is love’

Archbishop Wenski’s homily at annual Mass honoring long-married couples

Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Archbishop Thomas Wenski – The Archdiocese of Miami

Archbishop Thomas Wenski’s homily at the annual Mass celebrating married love, and couples marking 25, 50 and more years of marriage. The Mass took place Feb. 12 at St. Mary Cathedral with more than 100 couples and their families in attendance.

The human race, male and female, were created in the image and likeness of this God who is love. Understanding that we are made in the image and likeness of God can help us to understand why God put into the humanity of man and woman the vocation – and thus the capacity and the responsibility – of love and communion.

imageToday, we honor you because your response to that vocation, with the help of God’s grace, has endured through the trials and tests of time. We honor all those celebrating significant milestones in your years of married life, especially those celebrating their golden or silver anniversaries.

Your vocation to a common life lived in the Lord – that is, within the holy bonds of sacramental marriage – is a witness to the fact that God does love his people.

Your coming together “in one flesh” in a relationship of mutual and exclusive fidelity “until death, do you part” is an image and symbol of the new and eternal covenant that unites God and his people.

As a sacrament, matrimony is a living and outward sign of Christ’s own love for his bride, the Church. Your unconditional love one for another, the mutual and exclusive fidelity of your love for one another, your love’s openness to life expressed through its fruits – your children and your good works – reflect the love of Christ himself.

He loves us to the end with a love that is unconditional, faithful and, through the gifts of his Spirit poured into our lives, fruitful. Yes, by your love for each other – in sickness and in health, for better or for worse – you give a living witness that Deus Caritas Est, God is Love.

It is a witness sorely needed today when so many people – and society itself –are confused about the meaning of marriage and family. Today, more than ever, we need your witness about the true “facts of life”, about the ultimate meaning and truth of conjugal life.

The many years you have shared together – and certainly no one can pretend that they were always easy or that there will be no difficult days ahead – but those many years have given you experience – but more than experience, they have given you wisdom. You must share that wisdom if young people today are to discover the beauty of the vocation to love.

As Pope Benedict XVI pointed out in his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, the word “love” today is frequently used and misused. Most commonly, it represents what the ancient Greeks called “Eros”; that is, the erotic love between a man and a woman. But the Church, from her earliest days, proposed a new vision of self-sacrificial love expressed in the word “agape”.

The natural human love between a man and a woman is a beautiful and sacred thing but it needs discipline and maturity, it needs “agape” lest it lose its true dignity and purpose.

Our modern society certainly has exalted “Eros” but at the same time it has also debased the human body and in doing so has impoverished Eros. Eros, reduced to just “sex”, has become a commodity – a mere “thing” to be bought and sold. The lack of modesty, our complacency with the “soft porn” that has invaded our popular culture, is not a sign of our society’s “being at ease” with the body – as opposed to an older generation’s supposed prudish uptightness. Rather, it is a sign of our society’s contempt for the human body.

Men and women today consider their bodies and their sexuality are purely material – somehow outside of themselves as if they were “extra baggage or an external shell” and thus to be able to be used and exploited at will.

Today, we see that many, including the President of the United States, believe that somehow fertility is a disease and pregnancy is pathology. And so, our government in its zeal to classify contraception, sterilization and chemical abortion as “preventive health care” is willing to ride rough shod over the religious freedom of Catholics and other Americans.

As Catholics, we do not believe that we are Platonic “ghosts in machines” or Cartesian “substantive minds”. We believe that we are “ensouled bodies” – we have one human nature, made up of a unity of body and soul.

Our bodies – and our differentiation into male and female – are not extraneous to our selves, to our very beings; rather our body and our sexuality are part of our identity as persons. Just as we speak of a sacrament as an outward or visible sign of an inner or spiritual reality, our bodies sacramentally display our souls.

As the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council reminded us, man can only realize himself through the sincere gift of himself. The “Theology of the Body” developed by Pope John Paul II speaks of “nuptial meaning” of the body, for the human body, constituted male or female, reveals man and woman’s call to become a gift for one another, a gift fully realized in their “one flesh” union.

The body also has a “generative meaning” that (God willing) brings a “third” into the world through their communion. In this way, marriage constitutes a “primordial sacrament” understood as a sign that truly communicates the mystery of God’s Trinitarian life and love to husband and wife – and through them to their children, and through the family to the whole world.

In this way, we can speak of the language of the body. Our body language can communicate the deepest sentiments of the human person created by God for love and communion. However, to be authentic, this body language must reflect the truth about human nature as created by God.

Only manifestations of self-giving that correspond to that truth will tend to that communion of persons to which humanity is directed. For this reason, adultery and cohabitation without marriage, one night stands and so called same-sex unions, while certainly described by some as “erotic”, are in themselves incompatible to our true vocation to love.

These expressions of a fraudulent “body language” are not worthy of the dignity of man created male and female in the image and likeness of God. It is a fraudulent body language that “communicates” only the counterfeit of true love.

Eros properly understood, however, does symbolize God’s passionate love for his people – and this Eros that attracts the opposite sexes to one another “leads a man and a woman to marriage, to a bond that is exclusive and therefore monogamous as well as permanent”.

This is exactly what Jesus affirms, when quoting the Book of Genesis, he says: “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” (Matt 19:5-6)

And of course, a distorted notion of Eros is not a just a product of our modern times. Although man’s vocation is to love, our capacity for love was wounded since that original sin of Adam and Eve. Because of that wound, we find the responsibilities of love very challenging, if not impossible. Even the apostles, when Jesus affirmed the indissolubility of marriage, complained: “If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” (Matt 19:10)

As Pope Benedict urges in his encyclical, a correct understanding of “Eros” needs to be rediscovered if today’s men and women are to respond faithfully to their vocation to love. A balance, between the ecstasy of “Eros” and the unselfish love of agape, needs to be reestablished.

The key to regaining such a balance, the Holy Father tells us, is found in a personal relationship with God and an understanding of the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ.

We are in need of grace to be healed of the wounds of sin: only God’s sanctifying grace can overcome the hardness of heart that led Moses to permit divorce. Only through the redemptive power of Christ’s paschal sacrifice was marriage restored according to God’s plan from the beginning and thus was raised by Christ himself to the dignity of a sacrament.

The hopes that people place in marriage are increasingly fragile in our age of easy divorce. Too many people, especially among our young, are cynical about the possibilities of entering into a joyful marriage that will endure until death. The hopes that people place in marriage are capable of being fulfilled only by acceptance of the Gospel.

For this reason we gather today at this “agape”, this celebration of the self-sacrificial love of Jesus Christ which is the Holy Mass. Here, we come wounded but seeking wholeness from the Physician of souls and bodies, Jesus Christ. And we are confident in the power of his grace – the grace that restores us to the spiritual health that makes reconciliation with him and with each other possible as is represented in today’s Gospel with Jesus curing the leper.

We ask you to once again renew the commitment that you made to each other so long ago, a commitment that has been tested and refined over the years, and a commitment that is now blessed and enriched by the wisdom of age. And we thank you for this witness.

     
         

 

Let There Be Peace

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Beyond shadow of a doubt, we now live in constant state of unease an anxiety, feeling like there is more to do and more to worry about. We stress about our to-do lists, even though no matter how many items pop-up, more will take their place. Isn’t that something familiar to you?

We feel like we can’t relax and be happy until we have achieved some goals, but when we get what we want, we just want more and more. There seems to be no satisfaction in the blessings that we are receiving from God, or have we forgotten to count our blessings?

In this chaotic world where we live, I am most certain that what most people look for, but are unsure how to obtain, is PEACE.

Here are some guidelines that may mean the difference  between peace and turmoil:

REDIRECT YOUR PERSPECTIVE TO GOD’S PERSPECTIVE

To lead a peaceful life we need to redirect our perspective to God’s perspective. It is only when we follow God’s path and God’s perspective that we also obtain God’s peace, and this is  through meditating on the Scriptures and becoming a living witness  of the Word.

Talking with His disciples, Jesus said, “Peace I leave you; my peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

PRAY

When your life is filled with bitterness, not much peace can fill your heart.

Pray, “Lord Jesus, I have sinned, I need you to fix the problem of my heart, I beg for your forgiveness and I fervently ask for your peace.”

Let us remember that Christianity is more than preventive psychiatry; it is a gift that brings eternal life and its by-product is peace.

BE CONTENTED

In a world that honors outward achievement, tells people they will never have enough, and encourages an impossibly busy life, peace and contentment can feel like a distant dream.

But here is the secret: there can never be inward peace without being satisfied with what the Lord is giving us. Think about it this way: As parents, we only give what is best for our children and when and  our children are not contended with what we are providing them, and they do not even show their gratitude, will that make us happy? This is similar to our Father, who provides us countless blessings.

Let us always be grateful and be contended with what life is giving us and we will find inner peace.

BE AN EFFECTIVE LIVING WITNESS OF CHRIST

Your old nature demands exoneration. Stop playing the “blame game” with your spouse, son, daughter, boss or even yourself. It produces anger, irritation and turmoil.

As you exonerate your old self, and you follow the Word of God through your actions, you become an effective witness for Christ in a lost world. A “witness” is someone who attest to a fact, so in order to be an effective witness, you must have a first-hand knowledge of Him.

John the Apostle speaks of this in 1 John 1:1-3, when he says, “That… which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at, and our hand have touched-this we proclaim concerning the Word of Life.”

Today, we who have experienced a new life in Christ give an account of His love and forgiveness, both verbally and in the way we live our lives. This is “witnessing”.

Have peace, be an effective living witness of Christ.

HOLD OUT THE OLIVE BRANCH

Life is too short to live with broken relationships. You’ll be amazed how different you feel when you say, “I’d like to be your friend. Let’s settle that issue that have divided us.” In short, hold out the olive branch.

 

So then, maybe instead of wringing our hands about  apalling evil acts in the world that creates turmoil and chaos, we ought to look within our own hearts. At our anger. Lust. Greed. Pride. Laziness. Indifference. And even hypocrisy.

We certainly cannot stop chaos in this world but we can find God’s peace in our own hearts. We can’t eradicate the evil in this world but we surely have a choice, but for us Christians we only have one:  to do good and be good.

 

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