Wednesday, December 16, 2009


December 16, 2009
Today’s readingsIsaiah 45:6-25Psalm 85:9-14Luke 7:18-23
God is the Almighty!God reveals who He is through the prophet Isaiah. He is the Creator-God. “For thus says the Lord, the creator of the heavens, who is God, the designer and maker of the earth who established it” (Is 45:18).In a similar way, God also revealed Himself to Job. God asks Job a series of questions, speaking of His wisdom and power that are totally beyond the capability of Job. God starts off by establishing who He is -- the Creator-God. “Where were you when I founded the earth?” (Job 38:4a). God the Almighty is totally inscrutable, as His rapid-fire questions to Job indicate. Job could only feebly answer, “Behold, I am of little account; what can I answer you?” (Job 40:4). God presses on, speaking of His creations Behemoth[1] and Leviathan.[2] Job again answered, “I have dealt with great things that I do not understand; things too wonderful for me, which I cannot know.” (Job 42:3).God is inscrutable; God is a mystery; God is the Almighty. Isaiah and Elihu both speak about the mystery of God.
God is hidden from us. “Truly with you God is hidden” (Is 45:15a). Elihu says He is “The Almighty! we cannot discover him” (Job 37:23a).
God is totally unique. “I am the Lord, there is no other” (Is 45:6b,18d,22c). Elihu says He is “pre-eminent in power and judgment” (Job 37:23b).
We cannot question God. “Woe to him who contends with his Maker; .... Dare the clay say to its modeler, ‘What are you doing?’ .... Woe to him who asks a father, ‘What are you begetting?’” (Is 45:9-10). Elihu says “his great justice owes no one an accounting” (Job 37:23c).
Now part of the mystery of God, which Job could not figure out, is God’s seeming tolerance or allowing both good and evil in the world. Indeed, God confirms this. “I form the light, and create the darkness, I make well-being and create woe;[3] I, the Lord, do all these things.” (Is 45:7). Job experienced both. God tremendously blessed him, and then God allowed him to be severely afflicted.How are we to handle it all? Well, we cannot fully understand God, as we have already seen, because His ways are mysterious. This is why we need to turn to God’s revelation of Himself. And that is: He is just and righteous. And even more importantly, He is the Savior.
“It was I who stirred up one for the triumph of justice” (Is 45:13a,NAB). “I have aroused him in righteousness” (Is 45:13a,RSV).
“Only in the Lord are just deeds and power” (Is 45:24a,NAB). “Only in the Lord, it shall be said of me, are righteousness and strength” (Is 45:24a,RSV).
“Let justice descend, O heavens, .... Let the earth open and salvation bud forth; let justice also spring up!” (Is 45:8,NAB). “Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the skies rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation may sprout forth, and let it cause righteousness to spring up also” (Is 45:8,RSV).
We cannot fully understand God. But we know enough, that He is the savior. In fact, we have not seen God, but God came to us in the form of a man, and He is Jesus. Jesus is our Savior. “Truly with you God is hidden, the God of Israel, the savior!” (Is 45:15).God our Savior is a just and righteous God. He is totally unique. “There is no just and saving God but me.” (Is 45:21d,NAB). “And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me.” (Is 45:21d,RSV).God tells Israel, and us who are the new Israel, that we have been saved by Him. “Israel, you are saved by the Lord, saved forever!” (Is 45:17). That should be more than enough for us. No more questions are needed. No more doubts ought to be entertained. If we have such a God, one who is a just and righteous Savior, then this must elicit the proper response from us. Elihu, after speaking about God (Job 37:23), speaks about our proper response: “Therefore men revere him, though none can see him, however wise their hearts.” (Job 37:24). We respond in reverential fear and in humility.What should we do?
We must continue to listen to His divine revelation. “I will listen for the word of God” (Ps 85:9a). It is God who reveals Himself to us, and who shows us the way we are to go, which is the way of peace. “Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people” (Ps 85:8a,RSV). Job listened to God in silence and humility, and God restored him and brought him peace.
We are to be faithful to His revealed ways. God proclaims peace “to the faithful” (Ps 85:9b). We are to be obedient to His commands, and live a life of holiness.
We are to “trust in him” (Ps 85:9c). Whatever happens to us in life, we trust in Jesus who is just and righteous, and who loves us with an eternal love. “Turn to me and be safe” (Is 45:22a,NAB). “Turn to me and be saved” (Is 45:22a,RSV). In Jesus we are saved; in Jesus we are safe.
We to be loyal to the cause of Christ. “Near indeed is salvation for the loyal” (Ps 85:10a). We are to evangelize, proclaiming Christ to all, so that they might experience the salvation won for them on the cross. “Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land.” (Ps 85:9,RSV).
When we do the above, what is the result? Bountiful blessings! God restored Job’s blessings twofold. For us God assures:
Salvation and glory (Ps 85:10,NAB/9,RSV)
Love/mercy and truth/faithfulness, justice/righteousness and peace (Ps 85:11,NAB/10,RSV)
Abundance (Ps 85:13)
Prosperity and good fortune (Ps 85:14)
Vindication and glory (Is 45:25)
Job’s life was transformed from great adversity to great blessings. This is how our Savior acts. Jesus brings us from out of darkness into his marvelous light. He plucks us from death and into life -- an abundant life on earth, and eternal life thereafter.If we are suffering great adversity, know that God can and will reverse our fortunes. He is the Almighty for whom nothing is impossible. Jesus makes the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers clean, the deaf hear, the dead raised to life (Lk 7:22). During his public ministry, Jesus brought wholeness to people as he “cured many of their diseases, sufferings, and evil spirits” (Lk 7:21a). God did the same for Job. God healed him of his physical affliction, removed his extreme suffering, and stayed the hand of Satan against him.Perhaps most importantly, just as Jesus “granted sight to many who were blind” (Lk 7:21b), God opened Job’s eyes to truly see. “I had heard of you by word of mouth, but now my eye has seen you.” (Job 42:5). Because he saw God for who He truly was, Job was content. Job was secure in his full acceptance of the Almighty, trusting only in His justice and righteousness.
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[1] The hippopotamus.[2] The crocodile.[3] God permits evil for the sake of a greater good.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

FW: FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL - Having a Life-giving Household

CFC-FFLHaving a Life-giving Household Households are small pastoral groupings of members. They are essential to the life and mission of our community. They are where members are cared for, and where members continue to grow in the Lord. A household is led by a leader assigned to it. However, every member of the household needs to take responsibility for the good conduct of the household, and help ensure that it becomes life-giving for everyone. If there is anything amiss, household members should speak up and discuss the problem, and together, under the direction of the leader, take steps to change the situation. The leader, being a servant, must be open and even desirous of such inputs, as a way of ensuring that the household members themselves find the household life-giving. What makes for a life-giving household? First are the technical aspects.
(1) It must be regular. Household meetings are never cancelled, unless getting to the meeting becomes physically impossible, such as in the case of flooding.
(2) It must be on time. There is an arrival time, and there is a starting time, about 15 to 30 minutes after. Members should strive to be at the meeting venue at the arrival time. This gives some leeway to unexpected traffic.[1] If one arrives early, then all the better, so that there is some fellowship time. One does not arrive and immediately jump into the worship portion. Further, the meeting should start on time at the agreed on starting time, or at most just 5 or 10 minutes later, even if not everyone has arrived.
(3) It must have the three basic ingredients of worship, discussion/sharing and fellowship.[2] It must follow the prescribed times for each aspect. Worship is about 30 minutes, discussion/sharing is for one hour, fellowship is for 30 minutes to an hour. Overall it should be from two to three hours.
(4) It must NOT become a service meeting.[3] There are other designated times for service meetings.
(5) It must end on time, and not too late in the evening (if it is on an evening).[4] A household meeting certainly should not spill over into the next day (that is, after midnight).[5]
In all the above, the household leader must be the one to ensure these happen. Members who violate the above must be reminded and encouraged. If they continue to do so, they must be corrected more forcefully. Secondly, what makes for a life-giving household is the fraternal aspect. The household members are brothers and sisters in Christ. They are journeying together along the path of Christ, which is the way of holiness. They have a responsibility, as they themselves grow in the Lord, to help the others grow as well.[6] A relationship as brethren in Christ can mean a number of things.
(1) It is a relationship of love. Household members are to love each other as Christ has loved them.
(2) There is fraternal correction. Such is not just left to the household leader, but everyone else takes responsibility to correct whatever is amiss.
(3) It is a relationship of friendship. Household members should desire to grow in their friendships and to the ties that bind. It should be such that they look forward to being together for the household meeting, and eagerly anticipate it.
(4) It is a relationship of loyalty. Household members guard their hearts from anger, resentment or the like. If there is any personal problem, it is resolved quickly.
(5) It is a relationship of trust. Household members trust each other enough to become vulnerable, such that they can openly share their lives, especially their challenges and shortcomings.[7] The principle of confidentiality is to be strictly observed.
Thirdly, what makes for a life-giving household is the pastoral aspect. We have households so that we will grow in the Lord. The household, normally being held in the church that is the home, is a school of spirituality. Thus a number of elements are important.
(1) Worship should be alive and vibrant. Household members must participate actively in the singing and the prayers. They should be open to receiving and sharing the word from the Lord. They must have the faith to know that they are in the presence of Jesus, and accord him the praise and worship that is his due.
(2) There should be serious discussion and sharing. Normally the men meet separately from the women.[8]
(a) For the first year, the discussions follow a specific track, based on the teaching courses that are taken up.
(b) For the succeeding years, there is flexibility as to content. It can be Bible sharing, personal sharing, or discussion of a particular topic.
(c) For discussion of topics, there are many resources available in the Church. In particular, the books and writings of the Servant General are suggested topics to be taken up.
(3) The household leader must strive to be a true servant leader.[9]
Finally, since the household meeting is basically a spiritual activity, there is the needed spiritual preparation. All members of the household, especially the leader, should spend some time, before arriving at the household venue, praying to God about the meeting.
(1) Ask God to bind any spirits that are not of Him, and to send His angels to stand guard along your way and over the venue.
(2) Ask for wisdom and discernment.
(3) Ask for the grace by which every member of the household will be joyful and loving.
There are many life-giving elements in community. There is our personal prayer and Bible reading. There are the many teachings, formation tracks, and leaders training. There are the assemblies and other activities. But the household is unique in that the receivers are also the givers, and vice versa. The household is thus the basic cell of community--for formation, for fraternal relationships, for moving the whole community forward. (SG. Dec 15, 2009)[1] When someone is late, he often says it is because of the traffic. Indeed there was traffic, but if you ask him what time he left his home, you will see that he left already late.[2] Unless it is just a time for fellowship, which normally happens once a quarter.[3] If there is an urgent need, the fellowship portion can be turned into a service meeting.[4] For example, 8pm to 11pm. If members can meet earlier and end earlier, all the better.[5] When it is already the time of fellowship, those who need to leave earlier than the rest should feel free to do so.[6] While the household leader is the basic pastor, every member, sharing in the priestly ministry of Christ, ministers to everyone else.[7] It is not necessary to bare all secrets.[8] This is very important. Only in rare times should the men meet together with the women for this portion. This is basically so that the men will grow together as men of God, and the women as women of God. Men and women have different needs, and different dynamics in relationships. Further, this allows them to take up different topics for discussion and sharing.[9] Let your other “bible” be the book Servant Leadership.

Thursday, November 19, 2009



(Part 5)


Our theme for 2010 and its various elements are very much reflected in the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) and in the life of Mary.

The Almighty!

Mary bursts out in a psalm of praise. “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; The Mighty One has done great things for me” (Lk 1:46,49a).

Job initially looked for answers from God. God answered, but only spoke of His omniscience and almighty power. Job accepts and is humbly content.

Mary also questioned the angel Gabriel. Gabriel spoke of the power of the Most High, for whom nothing is impossible. Mary accepted, acknowledging her being the Lord’s servant (handmaid).

We too are called to recognize and acknowledge the golden splendor and awesome power and majesty of God. This is our starting point in our knowing our rightful place in our relationship with Him.

Call to reverential fear

“His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.” (Lk 1:50).

Elihu spoke last, before God finally speaks. Elihu means “My God is he.” He defends God’s justice and explains suffering. Job does not answer him, perhaps seeing the right in what he said. Elihu spoke of reverential fear: “At this my heart trembles and leaps out of its place, to hear his angry voice as it rumbles forth from his mouth!” (Job 37:1-2). “From the North the splendor comes, surrounding God’s awesome majesty!” (Job 37:22).

Mary too was awed by the greatness of the Lord, by the Mighty One who does great things, by the One who shows might with His arm.

We too, in recognizing the Almighty God for who He is, should stand in awe and reverential fear before Him. Our very life and well-being are in His hands. We are totally dependent on Him.

Righteous is He

“and holy is his name” (Lk 1:49b).

Elihu said: “far be it from God to do wickedness; far from the Almighty to do wrong! .... Surely, God cannot act wickedly” (Job 34:10b,12a).

Mary was told of the holiness of the Triune God. “The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.” (Lk 1:35). Mary could only exult: “holy is his name.”

Job was blameless and upright. Mary was conceived without sin and was the holy mother of God. We too are called to be holy. Peter tells us: “as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct, for it is written, ‘Be holy because I am holy.” (1 Pet 1:15-16).

Just is He

“He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.” (Lk 1:52-53).

Elihu said: “the Almighty cannot violate justice. .... He withholds not the just man’s rights, but grants vindication to the oppressed.” (Job 34:12b,36:6).

Mary speaks of the reversal of human fortunes, of the lowly being singled out for God’s favor. This is God’s justice, when people receive what is their due. The hungry will be satisfied and those who weep will laugh (Lk 6:21), while those (the unjust rich and powerful) who are filled now will be hungry and those who laugh now will grieve and weep (Lk 6:25).

Job asked God to weigh him in the scales of justice, confident that he would be innocent, and proceeded to cite his just acts (Job 31:6-34). We too are called to act justly, giving to everyone what is their due. In being just, we will experience the justice of God. “Do me justice, O Lord, because I am just.” (Ps 7:9).

Call to humility

“For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness” (Lk 1:48a). “He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.” (Lk 1:51).

Job is humbled by his suffering and by the unjust rebukes of his friends. He is further humbled by God’s response to his seeking answers from Him. He realizes his place in the face of the Almighty God.

Mary humbly says, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38). She realizes her place as a humble instrument of the Most High God.

We too are called to humble ourselves. Our personal attitude must be that of Jesus (Phil 2:5), who “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, ... he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” (Phil 2:7-8). Peter instructs us: “clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for: ‘God opposes the proud, but bestows favor on the humble.’ So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.” (1 Pet 5:5b-6).

Redemptive suffering

“and you yourself a sword will pierce” (Lk 2:35a). “my spirit rejoices in God my savior.” (Lk 1:47).

Job was blameless and upright; he feared God and avoided evil (Job 1:1). He was innocent. But he nonetheless suffered terribly. Then God redeemed him from his affliction and restored him.

Mary, just like any mother (or father), suffered terribly when her Son suffered. Jesus was thought to be crazy by his relatives, was betrayed by Judas, was abandoned by his apostles, was demeaned by the people, was tortured, and finally suffered an excruciating death on the cross. Mary was there, right up to the foot of the cross, until Jesus died. But Jesus’ death, and subsequent resurrection, resulted in our salvation. Mary herself, for her unique role, is our co-redemptrix.

We too are called to redemptive suffering, which is the way of the cross, which is the way of a disciple of Christ. In the world there will be affliction, such that we experience pain and suffering. But such are intended by God to purify us and to draw us closer to Himself. Suffering spurs us on to greater holiness.

Blessings in the end

“behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.” (Lk 1:48b).

In the end, Job is restored to health and wealth, and is blessed double what he had before.

In the end, Mary is enthroned as Queen of heaven and earth.

In the end, we too will be blessed and rewarded. We will be with God forever in heaven, with Jesus our Master and Mary our mother. Job will be there too.

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(Part 23)


November 10, 2009

Today’s psalm reading (Ps 34:2-19) continues to teach us about looking to God who delivers the just. Our theme for 2010, taken from the book of Job, tells us about reverential fear (or awe) and the call to righteousness and justice. These are all interconnected.

The one who is holy is one who will fear the Lord. The one who fears the Lord is one who is on the way to holiness. “Fear the Lord, you holy ones” (v.10a).

Those who fear the Lord and who are growing in righteousness and justice are those who can call upon the Lord for help in times of distress. “Fear the Lord, you holy ones; nothing is lacking to those who fear him.” (v.10). “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. The Lord has eyes for the just and ears for their cry.” (v.15-16). “When the just cry out, the Lord hears and rescues them from all distress.” (v.18).

Life is full of struggles and pain and crosses. We will be afflicted, some way, somehow. Many times we will be tested and will be at the point of helplessness and hopelessness. These times are not necessarily bad for us. They are times that should lead us to God, and trust more in Him.

No matter what is happening to us and around us that weighs heavily on us, we have the assurance: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, saves those whose spirit is crushed.” (v.19). This is not just a pious statement, but it has been shown in the life of our Lord and Savior Jesus. He has gone through such anguish and torment. He was crushed in spirit. Still, he endured, and God came through for him.

So God will be there for those who fear Him and are growing to be just and righteous.

David in his psalm teaches us about the fear of God. “Come, children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” (v.12). In what ways do we show fear of the Lord.

First, we avoid sin and wrongdoing. “Turn from evil” (v.15a). But we do not only avoid sin, we also foster virtue. “Turn from evil and do good” (v.15a). In doing good, we are to work at justice, and “the Lord has eyes for the just” (v.16a). Justice is giving to each person what is their due as children of God. If we relate to others in this way, then the fruit is peace, that is, being in right relationship with everyone. There then need not be conflict in the world. Thus we “seek peace and pursue it” (v.15b).

Second, we guard our speech. “Keep your tongue from evil, your lips from speaking lies.” (v.14). James tells us about the power of the tongue (Jas 3:1-10), by which we can bless and curse. Satan is of course the father of lies (Jn 8:44). So we are not to speak evil of one another, and we are not to judge others (Jas 4:11-12). Such speech is what causes disunity in the body of Christ, which ultimately affects adversely its witness and its work.

When we do the above, then we will experience the fruit of God’s love and care. We will be saved from all distress (v.7), we will be delivered from our fears (v.5), we will not be shamed (v.6b), we will be radiant with joy (v.6a), we will have life and prosperity (v.13), we will lack no good thing (v.11b).

Wow! What a wonderful blessed life, even amidst adversity. We fear God, and we then need not fear anything else. We seek God and He answers us (v.5a). We are always secure, with the angel of the Lord encamping with us (v.8a). Nothing at all is lacking for us (v.10b).

What is unfortunate is that many do not know such a God. Many do not recognize His hand in the crosses that come our way. Many miss out on the bountiful blessings that come with clinging to Him and turning our lives over to Him. Many do not know how good God truly is. If we did, and we turned to Him, then we would be happy in life. “Learn to savor how good the Lord is; happy are those who take refuge in him.” (v.9).

What do we say and do in the face of such a great and wonderful God? The Almighty! Just and righteous is He!

With awe and great amazement, let us then bow down in worship. “I will bless the Lord at all times; praise shall be always in my mouth. My soul will glory in the Lord that the poor may hear and be glad. Magnify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.” (v.2-4).

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November 18, 2009 Today’s scripture (2 Mc 7:1-31) always makes for fascinating reading. It is about the martyrdom of a Jewish mother and her seven sons, all in one day. The seven sons are subjected to gruesome and horrible torture. The book was written to encourage God’s people in times of persecution. Indeed, the book was popular among the Christians of the early centuries, who were subjected to persecution, and many of them were martyred.Today Christians are still persecuted in many places in the world. Today there are still martyrs for the cause of Christ. But today, many Christians, especially those living in the First World, live a comfortable Christianity. They avoid pain and discomfort. And when a little affliction comes their way, they easily wither away.But there will always be pain and crosses in life. It might be a devastating typhoon with severe flooding, like what Ondoy wrought. Or it might be so many other different things. For Christians, what is important is how they endure and persevere. One thing that will help a lot is to understand a bit more why God allows such suffering, especially in the lives of the innocent. In a word, such suffering is redemptive.First, suffering can be purification from sin and wrongdoing. “We, indeed, are suffering because of our sins.” (2 Mc 7:32). Many people will not turn away from their sins unless something drastic happens to them. Perhaps a serious illness, or an accident, or the loss of a loved one, or bankruptcy, or a devastating flood. But such events, painful as they are, are God’s way to get our attention, to teach us our lesson, and of course to turn us back to Himself. “Though our living Lord treats us harshly for a little while to correct us with chastisements, he will again be reconciled with his servants.” (2 Mc 7:33).Second, such suffering can be redemptive not only for ourselves but for others. As there are many who do evil but do not know how to be otherwise because they do not know Christ, then it is left to those who do know Christ to make reparation for their sins. We then become sacrificial lambs, but in being so, become mediators and intercessors. “Like my brothers, I offer up my body and my life for our ancestral laws, imploring God to show mercy soon to our nation” (2 Mc 7:37a). The suffering of a just person can be redemptive for the unjust.Third, such suffering brings us, who are all sinners, back to God and back to His eternal plan for us. It is the way of the cross, the very way God Himself chose. Jesus won salvation for us by going to the cross. There is no other way. Certainly not the gospel of prosperity, or the gospel of going to heaven in first-class comfort. “Through me and my brothers, may there be an end to the wrath of the Almighty that has justly fallen on our whole nation.” (2 Mc 7:38). When we understand how suffering can be redemptive, then we no longer disdain suffering (that is, if suffering is for the sake of righteousness). We endure and bear suffering “courageously because of (our) hope in the Lord.” (2 Mc 7:20b). We endure and bear suffering, even unto death, without giving in to the ways of the world that can relieve our suffering, because we put “all (our) trust in the Lord.” (2 Mc 7:40).We hope and trust in God, because He is merciful and He has a great and wonderful plan for us, which He wants fulfilled in our lives, but which our sins prevent from happening. So as a father to his child, God disciplines us in order to bring us back to the right path. Such discipline is often through affliction and pain. But even in the midst of the most terrible suffering, we are assured: “He never withdraws his mercy from us. Although he disciplines us with misfortunes, he does not abandon his own people.” (2 Mc 6:16).What is our life on earth after all? It is preparation for our life in heaven. We are pilgrims merely passing through. We invest ourselves not in this life but in the next. We may suffer deprivation in “this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever.” (2 Mc 7:9a).Given all these, we not only do not disdain suffering, but we embrace it with joy. Eleazar, a venerable old man also martyred, when he was about to die under the blows, uttered: “The Lord in his holy knowledge knows full well that, although I could have escaped death, I am not only enduring terrible pain in my body from this scourging, but also suffering it with joy in my soul because of my devotion to him.” (2 Mc 6:30). Redemptive suffering. Suffering that leads to redemption. So very different from the wisdom of the world. So very challenging for us, to be able to take on God’s own wisdom, and see the value and blessing of suffering in life.We suffer but for a moment, but we reap the joy of everlasting life, according to God’s plan for us. “My brothers, after enduring brief pain, have drunk of never-failing life, under God’s covenant” (2 Mc 7:36a).
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