Suffering

More than pain, suffering is foremost a problem of meaning. We say that because the initial question of a sufferer is always, “Why?”

Scripture has debunked the false thought that good people aren’t supposed to experience bad things. For one, categorically speaking, there is no one who is good. And then we go to Job who was upright in the eyes of God and yet was in the very eye of all the storms this world can offer. From there we conclude that bad things can happen to godly people. Suffering is no respecter of men. As my wife puts it, “suffering is an equalizer.”

So what then is the meaning of suffering?

In this side of eternity, we will never exhaust a substantial answer to our quest for the meaning of suffering. Job had several counsels during his times of hardships. Yet at the end of it all, he realized that what carried him through was the very counsel of God in the midst of suffering. When the curtains were lifted, he had a more profound relationship with God than ever before. From there we can say that suffering is actually a pilgrimage into a deeper faith in God.

Sometimes the breadth of our suffering results to a renewed depth in our communion.

Beloved, if you are suffering today, I pray that it thrusts you straight to the heart of God.

“The center of God’s will may take us into the eye of a storm. We should not seek, therefore, to confirm God’s will by the absence of adversity.” Allistair Begg

Kanlungan

Hanap ko’y kanlungan
Takbo ko’y Sayo lamang
Pangyayari tila salungat
Malalim man ang sugat
Dadakilain pa rin Kita

Sa hugong ng baha
Along pilit akong binabaon
Tawag kong puro iyak lamang
Nanginginig kong labi
Dadakilain pa rin Kita

Sa kalaliman sigaw ‘Yong Pangalan
Sa kadiliman Ika’y masisilayan
Makakapagligtas
Tanging Ikaw
Tanging Ikaw

Maghari magpakailanman
Itataas ang ‘Yong Pangalan
Pangambay walang kahulugan
Pagka’t Ikaw’y tanging kanlungan

Since politics is hotter than summer

Here are some helpful reminders for healthy political discussions:

Do not be naive.

Throughout history people have accepted the fact that there is a good reason for the separation of the church and the state. Governmentally, yes. But that is not to say that we will separate God from the state. God rules over both the church and the state. And the church remains to be the designated prophetic voice for the government, as Nathan was to David. So beloved, our roles go beyond the pew. Given a unique framework and worldview, Christians are called to speak and seek out the truth over matters that concern the nation, especially matters that concern the moral fabric of the nation. But a prophetic voice is not limited to these, because we are also the designated intercessors for the government (1 Tim. 2:1-3). A nation’s depleted morality is proportional to its prayer scarcity. For the christian man, information and intercession should always go hand in hand.

Do not be conclusive.

We have been afforded many platforms to speak our minds over pressing issues that concern the nation. Together with these, there seems to abound too an intentional proliferation of lies. When the people of a nation begin manufacturing lies, this is an evidence of a nation in spiritual desolation, under the judgment of God (Hosea 11:12, Romans 1). In part and parcel, we pray that none of us are involved in any of its distribution. We only have to be conclusive, when we get our adequate facts right.

Do not be digressive.

Intelligent discussions focus on an issue and do not wander away from a topic to pick from a shelf all sorts of things to toss around. Why do we tend to digress? At the root of it, is either of the two things: a convenience is being taken from us or an inconvenience is threatening us. When a convenience is taken or is threatened, we tend to speak too much.

We murmur when we suffer. But always think that there are different kinds of suffering. The New Testament church suffered heavily under the Roman magistrates, but theirs was a suffering for the gospel. Think about what we frown upon: these are actually just our preferences and conveniences. Does this count to eternity? No. So stop comparing that kind of suffering to that of the early church, unless you’re suffering for the Kingdom.

Do not be combative.

Even in informal usage, three exclamation marks are sometimes excessive. But to have 10 of those to make a point? That’s one angry keyboard. In this case, that’s one angry Christian behind the keyboard. Here’s a reality check: Remember Peter putting on a combative stance by pulling out his flint knife, cutting off the ear of the man who dared touch Jesus? You see, we become combative when someone dare touch our “lord”. If any, our political biases are a revelation— a revelation of true and false lordship in our lives. A combative stance is never winsome. Always remember, when our political biases hamper our witness we will be answerable to God.

To end, I implore you to understand God’s divine providence. Nothing calms a soul more than the knowledge that God is in charge.

Blessed Soul

Blessedness is knowing you.
Blessedness is to be known by you.
My soul in poverty,
You have blessed with eternity.

Oh at Calvary,
my inward man is blessed beyond.
My soul in poverty now rich with mercy.
My hands may plow and bear me none,
I still am blessed beyond.

Because blessedness is knowing you.
Blessedness is having you.
Blessedness is to walk with you,
Lord of cloud and fire.

From the bark of the tree,
streams down your blood,
a witness to your agony.
From your throne in heaven,
rushes down your river of mercy,
it crushes life’s deepest misery.

Oh at Calvary,
my inward man is blessed beyond.
My soul in poverty now rich with mercy.
My hands may plow and bear me none,
I still am blessed beyond.

Because blessedness is knowing you.
Blessedness is having you.
Blessedness is to walk with you,
The Lord of cloud and fire

Wise, Fool, & Wicked

How does one differentiate between a wise, a fool, and a wicked?

It all hangs on how someone responds to a correction.

A wise man takes heed like a sponge cupping in all the water. All you need to do with a wise man is to follow through an agreed action.

A fool makes repetitive mistakes over and over and over again. It’s like a merry-go-round minus the fun. Laying down a decisive time line to change is how you handle a fool.

A wicked person bites as a dog would if you take its bones. To the wicked, law should apply.

Brain Dumping

We have always been asked and taught to internalize things. Internalizing feeds the natural inclination of the human mind for individualism. Thus, the prospect of doing it is always satisfying.

In a world where much is going on, we have seen an increased demand to internalize and reflect on things.

There is a problem though. Because much is going on and much internalizing is happening, the tendency of being overwhelmed becomes an unavoidable occurence. Internalizing then won’t be much of a help when it should be of help.

The solution? Brain dumping. Leaders understand that externalizing is just as important as internalizing. There’s got to be a place to dump the brain out—-paper, board, or tablets. Only when you dump it out before you will you see which to pick & keep and which ones to toss away. There’s always something treasure-like in a pile of mud.

Ode to 10th

I pulled a chair and quieted my soul. Alas, I came right to my musings in an ordained timing.

No soon was I like a broken dam that can’t hold off its water. I could not keep my tears, thinking of the past 10 years.

Indeed I am sentimental. This matter, I understand is not trivial. For I reflect upon the union of our soul, that day on the altar when I felt like I’ve got it all.

The glory and grace of Christ abound in these years we are bound. As a matter of fact, that’s what’s keeping us around.

The vows we uttered at the altar seem like kept in a pristine jar. To break it is to nullify it, let God keep us from doing it.

As the tide of the seas retreat and reveal its mysteries, our marriage has seen all that there is. Yet the mystery and glory of marriage is our joy kept from pillage.

I stare at your beauty, I bless God for His mercy. What have I done to deserve the share of a titan.

As we venture the high seas of His calling, we know we are a little braver when we are together.

Ours is a knot that can’t be untangled. For in the secret, we have been bridled. Me to you and you to me. That is why we endear each other “Mine”. To us we know this is divine.

What will the next 10 bring? Or perhaps the next 20? Surely, I have no knowledge of. All I know is we live our lives surrendered off.

To the wife of my youth, my darling, my beautiful bride, my precious wife:

I genuinely love you with all of my life.

Tight Inside

I was wrong to think someone was playing a prank. I guess when you have victimized too many, you would expect something will back fire at some point.

When no one came laughing from behind, my expectations died down. The driver motioned for me to get in as he slid the overly greased door of the van. My friend couldn’t make it so he asked a driver friend of his to pick me instead. I have no qualms, except that I thought the van I was in was more like a relic than a vehicle—reason why I thought the entire thing was a prank. I can tell it’s a make created long before Pepe Smith became legendary. It’s the sort that had loose screws all over. I could predict an accident.

Surprisingly, 10 minutes on the road and everything was still smooth and tight. Drivers should know what tight means. I realized I was wrong to judge that van. Yes it was falling apart on the outside, but it was screw-tight inside. By saying inside I’m referring to its engine. The scarcity of resources for repair drove its owner to make a choice between investing on the glam of the outside or the integrity of the inside. Obviously, he made the right choice.

20 minutes in that van was a life time worth of lesson for me.

The crucibles of life will wear and tear us down. In this fallen world, we will be scarred, pained, and wounded. Time will chip away our youth. Yet if we heavily invest on the inside, we are able to soldier on.

Outside adornment cannot guarantee anything, yet at times we think it’s our everything. True value lies on the imperishable, in our inner being. Make sure you are tightened inside.

Courage by Vantage

At 9’6”, Goliath’s comparable to the height of a basketball rim in the NBA.

The death of this warrior is a celebrated story in the world. He was killed in battle by a young man and there’s always been a revelry about the fashion at which the man of Gath was killed. I’d like to encircle the event that lead to the triumph—-the audacity to walk into the battle line to face a formidable foe despite the odds.

With neck stretched out, young David yelled at this bully and he summoned all the courage he had in his fickle frame. Amazingly, the yelling match between the two ended in a dramatic fashion with David cutting off the champion’s head after putting him down with a stone on the forehead. It ended with the Israelites winning that specific battle in a valley both camps will never forget.

Got me thinking, with such level of odds stacked against you, where does one get such courage? Goliath was a towering reality. It’s no different with our circumstances, problems, and fear.

My analysis is this: When everyone looks at the towering man at 9’6”, they realize their less than 6’0” frame can’t stand a chance. They become like dogs tucking their tails behind their legs. But when David looks at this giant, he foolishly scorns at him and mocks his arrogance.

Why the confidence? Why the courage?

Because the shepherd boy, for countless times have had his eyes fixated on the heavens.

Scattered in Psalms are the words of David saying things like:

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”

He looks to the heavens and starts thinking, “I will look upon the goodness of the lord in the land of the living.”

He looks at the heavens and starts saying, “who am I that you are mindful of me?”

He looks to the heavens and starts declaring, “Whom shall I fear?”

It’s like saying, if my God is beyond cosmic in size, power, and strength, and then he sets his eyes upon me, what then is there to be afraid of?

Courage has something to do with vantage. A 9’6” trouble maker is laughable compared the infinite frame of our Maker. The expanse of the heavens is also the depth of his wisdom and power made available to those who put his hope in him.

Syria Keeps Bleeding

The back portion of the room was emptied as almost everyone made a hurried descent to the front where we were waiting.

The translator just said, “turid alsalata?” (You want prayers?) She then motioned to everyone to come forward if they wanted to be prayed for. That was perhaps one of the most effortless altar calls I’ve ever seen, almost Billy Grahamic in its euphoria.

I’m used to praying for people. I shuffle, group, lay hands, and pray for prayer requests on envelopes from people in the church I help pastor every single week. And I have been doing that as part of the staff for 12 years now.

This one was different.

The people who have attended this gathering were mostly Iraqis, Syrians, Arminians, and Kurdish people displaced by war in their home towns. Most of them are part of the millions of refugees who fled to Lebanon at the thick of the IS heightened terror in their towns. As the interpreter would tell me where they were from, I thought, “these are the places I hear on CNN—-Aleppo and Damascus in Syria and Mosul, Iraq.”

One by one we would ask them what they might want us to pray for. A frail old woman in her 80s, with her voice breaking, told me she only wanted to see her son before she dies. They got separated in the thick of the chaos and she fears that her son is dead. When I started praying, it was my voice that was breaking. There was this lady who would trade everything just to have a family reunion, she just wanted to see everyone so she could hug them. Another one wants the war to be over so they can go back home and rebuild their lives. There were dozens of them. Armed with no English at all, their eyes say it all. Eyes that have seen the most evil potentials of men, horrors that will haunt them for the rest of their lives.

It was a great relief when I was told that the war with IS could be over in a year or two. But just recently, Ghouta in Syria, home to almost half a million people half of which are minors, was bombed in an effort to purge rebels off their turf. With the complexity of the situation, we understand that this could not be entirely a battle with IS alone, but it yields the same result—-death. I’m praying that despite the reality that this terror is foreign to us, we will ask for God’s sovereign mercy over the land of Syria. I ask of you, beloved, fervently pray for the people in that part of the world. #SyriaIsBleeding