Saturday, May 19, 2012

What Does The Christian Gain?

Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Matt. 6:33.

I was then in my first year high school when a certain Pastor Ciriaco Lagunzad in Tagum City, now Davao del Norte, one afternoon gathered some students in our school and held a Bible study. I have forgotten the whole lesson of that first meeting, but Matthew 6:33 was the verse he used in teaching our class. He related his personal experience looking for money when he was a young Pastor. He said he prayed, “Lord lead me to a man who will buy from me a Bible”. Indeed, accordingly, he was led to a man who bought from him a Bible worth P5.00. During the time of President Manuel L. Quezon, this was a lot of money! I thought then that to look for money, it was only a matter of praying for it. Anyway, this verse which he required us to memorize by heart stuck to my mind and heart, especially because everytime he comes to teach our group once a week, he would first of all call one of us to recite this verse, until everyone in our class memorized the verse. Since then and up to this day, this has become my favorite verse in my life.

One other verse that he caused us to memorize by heart was John 3:16 which says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life”. These are the only two verses I can remember on all of those once-a-week Bible study classes that Pastor Lagunzad so devotedly and religiously conducted.

In seeking the kingdom of God first, I was led to the UCCP Church in Tagum City during my high school days where the cousin of my father, Petronilo S. Cariaga, who was then a Lieutenant in the Davao City Police Department and later a retired Police Colonel, was a pulpit minister every Sunday. To me then, he was the best preacher I ever heard, inasmuch as I have not known or heard of Billy Graham as there were no television sets then, and there was no radio where I was boarding. I would then look forward to every Sunday to hear him preach and be with him who would put his hands upon my shoulders. Oh, how I relish and enjoyed those younger days of mine!

One day, when I was in Davao City already practicing my profession as a young lawyer and already married with four children, the wife of my Uncle came to our apartment crying. She was crying because the lessee of her former low-cost Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) house which she was able to construct out of a P3,000.00 DBP housing loan, scolded and berated her youngest son who picked a mango fruit from the mango tree she planted beside her DBP financed apartment. She wanted to repurchase the apartment from Atty. Jesus V. Occe├▒a to whom she gave as payment of the latter’s attorney’s fee for his legal services rendered to my auntie. The price in 1969 was P30,000.00 which was then a lot of money. Since I did not have that much cash, I requested her to negotiate payment by installment. She succeeded to negotiate a P10,000.00 downpayment and P5,000.00 yearly installment. I was able to pay this out of my retainer and notarial fee then from the Rural Bank of Tagum City.

I renovated the house completely using modern building materials then in use and using well selected molave and narra 3 x 8 wood for door and window jambs, alternate molave, tindalo and magachopoy for flooring, and narra for paneling. Except for the narra which abounds in our farm, all the hardwood I used came as donations from my clients. I have to ask my farmer- clients and they willingly gave. “Ask and it shall be given” is indeed true to life (Matt. 7:7). Of course, the mango tree had to be cut down to avoid a similar conflict as what happened in the past, and to give way to the renovation I introduced. Like the City of Rome, I built our residence in seven years because I did not borrow a single cent from the bank. Now, at present day cost and due to the passing of time, the lot and the renovated two-storey house is worth multi-millions. Praise God for his manifold blessings.

And because of the proximity of my new residence to the Davao City Foursquare Gospel Church, before the Church was fully airconditioned, I would hear the Pastor preach every Wednesday and Friday evenings and during Sunday mornings and evenings. I was first attracted to the golden voice of the Pastor, Rev. Thelmo Bringas, which was similar to that of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos, my idol as a lawyer and an astute politician. I requested my Policeman Pastor-Uncle, Col. Cariaga who has then become a minister of the denomination, to accompany me so I could listen to and personally see the Pastor with a golden voice. The subject of the preaching happened to be the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). I then thought that I was just like the rich man, not that I was rich and wear purple attire, or that I ate sumptuous food everyday, but because like the rich man in the parable, I was not concerned of spiritual things in life; that if I die then, like the rich man I would surely land in hell. Having been extremely blessed spiritually with the preaching, I returned to hear more on the preaching of the Pastor four times a week, until I became “addicted” that my week was not complete unless I go to church and hear the Word of God preached. Indeed, it is true that “Faith cometh by hearing the Word of God” (Romans 10:17).

Besides attending the services in Church, the Director of the Halls of Life Bible College then, Dr. Felipe S. Ferrez, Jr., who was the Sunday School teacher in the English class, wrote me a short enticing and persuasive note inviting me to his class. It was an honor and a privilege for me to be specially invited, so I attended the class. Again, I was so much blessed with the lesson that like one who has tasted a sumptuous food or menu from a restaurant, I always attended his class thereafter Sunday after Sunday which was held before the Sunday morning service.

Not so much busy then as a young lawyer, and having been invited to enroll in the Halls of Life Bible College by my other Sunday School Mentor, Rev. Elvie Carbajosa, I enrolled to take up the Standard Ministerial course for three years. There, I met a younger lawyer, Atty. Leonides T. Tan, who became my classmate and sparring partner. We graduated together in 1974. After graduation, I became a Sunday School teacher myself which paved the way for me to go to U.S.A. “the land of the brave and the free” at God’s sponsorship. I strongly believe this is God’s way in preparing me for this ministry of writing a column in our Saturday bulletin, which again is a special privilege extended to me by God through our fellowship’s well organized programming and administration.

In the middle 70’s, Rev. Veronico T. Suan who was then the spiritual adviser of the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International, Davao City Chapter (FGBMFI this Chapter) invited me to attend the Saturday morning fellowship as the representative of our denomination. Of course, I obliged because again I considered it an honor and privilege to represent our denomination in such an “exclusive” organization of men in our city, and lo and behold! I met again my sparring partner and classmate Atty. Tan who was then the President of this chapter. Also, I found out that another lawyer, Atty. Raul O. Nengasca, was also a member of this fellowship, and a former President, succeeded by Atty. Tan. When Atty. Tan was promoted and appointed Field Representative for Mindanao, by God’s providence, I was elected in his stead, and I held the position for many years - - 17 years in all. I was able to invite Atty. Dick Togonon, but after establishing his own church and school, he stopped attending our fellowship. Among many others, I was able to bring in to our fellowship, such significant personalities as Engr. Abundio T. Merced, my client, who later became President of our Chapter. He, in turn, invited his best friend, Rey de Leon who was to assume the Presidency of a Rotary Club of Davao City but chose to give up his position and instead joined our fellowship. He was elected later as the Executive Vice President of the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCCII). Rey de Leon sponsored me to become a member of the DCCCII, in which prestigious organization of businessmen and professionals in Davao City, I later became a President for two terms and Chairman of the Board (the highest position attained by any member) for one term. Rey de Leon was appointed by me as the Chairman of the most successful attendance-wise national convention in 1985 of FGBMFI in the Philippines up to this day, at the Central Bank Building at Davao City. He became one of the incorporators of FGBMFI, Philippine Chapter, together with Narciso Padilla, Rey Katigbak, Dr. Tony Yumang of Cebu, Atty. Leonides Tan and myself, among others.

I praise God that while some of those personalities I mentioned above are no longer active in our fellowship for having passed away to join the Lord God Almighty, and some for other reasons only God knows, I have remained with this fellowship and am lately christened “The Moses” of our fellowship. To God be the glory!

If there is anyone who enjoys happiness even in this life, it is the faithful followers of Jesus Christ. Their names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Rev. 20:12; 21:27; 22:19) elevated and greatly exalted to be partakers of salvation – heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ to an imperishable inheritance (Romans 8:17).

Seeking the kingdom of God and his righteousness will result to happiness beyond measure because it is finding “wisdom and understanding” and the “merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies; and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her. Length of days is in her right hand (I have reached beyond three score and ten like some of our faithful members such as Capt. Remy Celeste, Dr. Jake Cruzado, Engr. Rudy Junsay to mention some [Praise God]; and in her left hand riches and honor” (Prov. 3:13-16 KJV). By God’s grace, not to boast but only to prove the truth of the Word of God and the subject of this article, from literal rags to material riches generously bestowed by God to me which are the banana farm in Kapalong, Davao del Norte; the lots in Davao City; the Mitsubishi cars and Korean SUV and cars (I know of and have to love Mitsubishi and Korean cars only) and, of course, to God be the glory, a lucrative practice of the law profession, which is eloquently proved by God’s provision of a modest law office building in the heart of our City which I built in four years because again, I did not borrow a single cent from the bank.

The honors are my having been the longest serving President of our Chapter, my most treasured spiritual crown on earth; my having been elected the President of the largest Chamber of Commerce in Mindanao for two terms and Chairman of the Board for one term. I was appointed by President Fidel V. Ramos as management/employers representative in the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board-XI in 1994 which position of honor and prestige among business people, I hold to this day and which gives me an opportunity to appear on TV once in a while in connection with wage issues. This adds to my exposure to the business community and to the general public as a professional. My clients in the barrios would tell me, “Atty. I saw you on TV”! I asked them, “what did I say? They would invariably answer, “I can’t remember, I was so excited and proud to see my lawyer on TV”.

All of these I attribute to my having sought first the kingdom of God and his righteousness before my secular interests, and hopefully the crowning glory will be everlasting life and abode in a mansion in heaven (John 3:16). (FGBMFI Davao City Chapter Bulletin May 19, 2012)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Be A Child Of God

How does one become a child of God? What are the benefits of being a child of God? What do we gain if we are a child of God?

The answer on how to become a child of God is found in John 1:12. It says: “But as many as received Him, to them gave he the power to become sons of God, even to them that believe on His name” (KJV).

The most significant benefit that one gains by being a child of God is eternal life and abode with God in heaven, the home prepared by God (Jesus Christ is God himself [John 1:1]) for all his true disciples or believers. Thus, the Word of God says, “Let not your heart be troubled: Ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3 KJV).

The Lord Jesus Christ about two thousand years ago, had gone to God the Father’s kingdom and prepared the many mansions where the true believers will reside when they reach their final destination called HEAVEN. “… for he is the one who died for us and was raised to life for us and is sitting at the place of highest honor next to God, pleading (or interceding) for us” (Rom. 8:34 NLT).

The new Heaven is described in part in Revelation Chapter 21:1-27 and Revelation 22:1-5. Why new? Because there is an old one. The old one is this world where we live now. But soon, this will be dissolved and all the elements will melt by extreme heat and fire (2 Pet. 3:10).

There are very rich people who live in beautiful mansions here now on earth. Those of us who are fortunate to have entered upon the mansions of rich people at least have an idea of the beautiful mansions prepared by Jesus Christ [John 14:2] which must be exceedingly more beautiful than any mansion designed and made by human hands. It must be the very best - - beyond the imagination and comprehension of the finite human mind. We have to be there to know the beauty and experience the comfort of mansions made by God.

In a human made mansion, we see beauty of design and the materials used are durable and very rare and expensive. Everything we find in that mansion are made either in U.S.A., Germany, Italy, or England, and are extremely luxurious and very beautiful and comfortable and where everything one needs for a comfortable living is in place by this world’s standards. It is wide and cool more than like a centrally airconditioned place. It should be more than the centrally airconditioned atmosphere of our Baguio City in the 1980’s in the mountain province in Luzon. It is probably like springtime in four-season countries like the United States and Australia, to mention places where I have personally gone to and stay for some months. Imagine now that these descriptions of extraordinary beauty, comfort and durability of the mansions and all things that could be found in heaven, are eternal, unlike the present mansions and things of this world which will decay by the passage of time. Who then is not excited to be in heaven as against the place of eternal torment?

In heaven, one will travel from place to place like how Jesus Christ ascended to heaven after his resurrection. Those who will be in heaven will no longer be under the control of the Arab people for there is no more need for oil and other petroleum products to fuel Jet planes. They won’t even be at the mercy of airline companies to hook up for a promo fare. One can enter any enclosed premises having glorified bodies like Jesus Christ. There is even no need of door locks because there are no more secrets. Everything is transparent, and there are nothing anymore confidential or to hide. No more thieves for these class of people can’t enter heaven. Everybody is equal – no more poor, middle class or rich people! Everybody is perfect in everything, loving, courteous and humble. Everybody is Christlike in other words!

If we could appreciate this great blessing, what an advantage it would be to us! We are given the power, privilege or right of choosing or electing to be sons of God and thus save our soul and live eternally with God in heaven. Believing and receiving is our part of the contract. We are to believe and receive Christ as our personal Savior, and are to continue to believe in Him till our last breath. This means abiding in Christ, showing in Him, at all times and under all circumstances, a faith that is a representation of His character – a faith that works by love, and purifies the soul from all defilement.

We must each obtain the salvation of our soul for ourselves. No one can depend for salvation on the experience or religious practice or prayer or any human act of any other individual. We must each personally become acquainted with Christ, believe, repent, and accept him as our Lord and Savior during our lifetime. God has revealed to King Solomon, the wisest man that ever lived on earth, that, “For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything. Neither have they anymore a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. And also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 KJV). And so, he added, “whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy night; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest” (vs. 10).

So that our hasty temper, our misshapen character, our selfishness, envy, jealousy, pride and arrogance, or any impurity of soul, body, or spirit can be transformed into Christlike character and virtue. For us or others to work for our soul’s salvation after our demise will be too late. Impossible! No more hope at that moment. God has called us to glory and virtue.

Our canonized Bible relates the story of the angel Lucifer whom God created to be full of wisdom and perfect in his beauty and in his ways, but his heart was lifted up because of his extraordinary beauty and was corrupted in his wisdom due to his powerful intellect.

Because of his self-exaltation beyond measure, he thought himself equal with God. He said in his heart, “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the North: I will ascend about the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High” (Isa. 14:12-14 KJV). Notice the numerous “I” in his ambitious dreams. This caused his downfall. Be careful of the ambitious dreamer who has numerous “I” in his conversations. You might fall down with him.

We are to walk as Jesus Christ walked on earth, following closely in His footsteps, manifesting His meekness and lowliness.

Thus, Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians and to all of the peoples of the world as well,

Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had.  Though he was God,   he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal’s death on a cross. Because of this, God raised him up to the heights of heaven and gave him a name that is above every other name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”. (Phil. 2:5-11 NLT)

The service of Christ is pure and elevated, so must all believers strive to do. The path He traveled is not one of self-pleasing and self-gratification, but self-sacrifice for the sake of the sinners. He speaks to the people and to His disciples, saying, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34 KJV). Jesus Christ demonstrated His supreme sacrifice by His crucifixion in Calvary to save sinners who believe, repent and accept Him as their Lord and Savior. He did not use silver and gold which all belong to him (Haggai 2:8) to purchase the soul of men but his own precious blood (1 Pet. 1:18-19; Heb. 9:22).

The price of heaven is submission to Christ. The way to heaven is obedience to the command, “Deny thyself, take up thy cross, and follow Me”. As Jesus journeyed, so we must journey. The path He followed, we must follow; for that path leads to the mansions He has already prepared for the true believers and Christians, otherwise known as “CHILDREN OF GOD”.

Be a child of God and be with Him eternally in his abode – HEAVEN. (FGBMFI Davao City Chapter Bulletin May 12, 2012)

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Guilty But Declared Innocent

In our secular courts, when an accused is sentenced guilty beyond reasonable doubt, the penalty prescribed by the criminal code is imposed. In the spiritual court of justice, it is the reverse. Even if one is found a sinner (guilty), the Lord Jesus Christ will suffer the penalty by substitution. He had done or served the sentence for the sinner already once long time ago in the cross of Calvary.

It is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one.” Rom. 3:10-12.

You can search the world over and you will find not one, no one, none who is innocent or righteous. There are zero innocent, not-guilty human beings living on this planet at the present time! Which means that if we go from door to door in our City of Davao, or in the whole Philippines, or all over the world, our methodical survey would reveal that not a single individual in any home on earth is morally guiltless. “There is none who does good, no, not one.” “The Scriptures cannot be broken” (John 10:25), the Lord Jesus Christ said it about two thousand years ago, and this is true yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:8).

It is also written: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Rom. 3:23.

The verdict for all of us is “guilty”, and the sentence is death. And it is further written: “For the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23).

When Gov. Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross at calvary, JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS, the Chief Priests of the Jews asked Pilate, “Write not, The King of the Jesus; but that he (Jesus) said, I am King of the Jews”, Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written” (John 19:19-22 KJV). Meaning to say, if it is written in the Scriptures, it can no longer be changed, and it is bound to happen.

Then how shall we, who long to be in heaven with God, be freed from the terrible sentence of death forever? Are our offenses, our transgressions, our iniquities, our sins pardonable?

The answer of God is YES, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NIV). John added: “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (vs. 18). John said further, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (vs. 17).

One evening while King David was relaxing in the roof deck of his palace, “he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon (2 Sam 11:2 KJV). The woman was Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, one of the soldiers of his kingdom. The scripture says, “David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her … and she returned unto her house (vs. 4). And the woman conceived, and sent and told David, and said, “I am with child” (vs. 5). David sent message to his general of the army, Joab, to send to the Palace Uriah. Of course, Joab complied, and when Uriah was in the palace, David asked him “how Joab did, and how the people did, and how the war prospered.” Thereafter, he said to Uriah, “Go down to thy house, and he was given plenty of meat (pasalubong) for his family. But instead of going home, Uriah slept at the door of the king’s house with the king’s servants, and did not go down to his house (vs. 8-9). When David discovered that he did not go down to his house, he asked Uriah why. Uriah answered, “The ark, and Isreal, and Judah, abide in tents; and my lord Joab, and the servants of my lord, are encamped in the open fields; shall I then go into mine house, to eat and to drink, and lie with my wife? As thou livest, and as thy soul liveth. I will not do this thing” (vs. 10-11). Okay, David said, let us eat and drink, and he made him drunk, expecting that this time, Uriah would go home, but again he did not go home. So, because of the hard-headedness of Uriah, in the following morning, “David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it through Uriah himself. In that letter he said, “Set ye Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retire ye from him, that he may be smitten, and die” (vs. 14-15). Of course, as expected, Uriah was slain in battle. After the mourning period of Uriah’s wife was ended, Bathsheba became the wife of David and bore him a son, and he became King Solomon.

David was “a man after mine (God’s) own heart” (1 Sam 13:14; Acts 13:22), yet from the above story, he was tempted like any macho man, and committed a sin of immorality and finally murder. In those days, the first offense was punishable by stoning, and the second by death through crucifixion. There is no dispute that in spite of the guilt of David as narrated above, because he confessed and repented he will be found in heaven. (Ps. 32:1 and 5; Ps. 51:1, 2-3; 9-13).

For He [God] made Him [Christ] who knew no sin [innocent] to be sin for us [guilty], that we [sinners longing to be chosen] might become the righteousness [rightness of innocence] of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). Amazing grace! “For it is by grace ye have been saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9 KJV).

A practical and actual illustration of this spiritual truth is the case of former President Erap Estrada of our own Philippines. Erap was declared guilty by the Court and was sentenced to serve imprisonment and stripped of all his political rights. But then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo extended to him an absolute pardon, or clemency, the consequential effect of which was that his guilt was completely ERASED, and was again qualified to run for President, as if nothing happened in the past. What an amazing grace extended to Erap by Pres. Arroyo!

This is the same situation with all of us sinners who believe, repent, confess our sins and accept Jesus Christ by faith as our savior and God. We are guilty but by the power of the blood of Jesus Christ that was shed in the cross of calvary, we are declared innocent and freed from the penalty of sin which is eternal death. What an amazing grace from our God! (FGBMFI Davao City Chapter Bulletin, May 5, 2012)