Saturday, September 29, 2012

Salvation Is Free But You Must Believe

James, the half-brother of the Lord Jesus Christ, and a leader in the Jerusalem Church wrote: “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away’’ (James 4:14 KJV).

For more than a week, all the National newspapers and the TV shows, centered on the tragic “untimely” death of DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government) Secretary JESSE ROBREDO. He was only 54 years old; indeed too early to die for a good man and illustrious public official like him. It is quite obvious from his actuations and activities that the Secretary had no premonition as to when and how he would pass away.
My very much younger brother, BENIGNO D. CARIAGA II, only 58 years old, a retired Asst. Manager of Metro Bank, Main Branch in Davao City, died of heart attack. It was a surprise to me because he just visited me in my office five days before. Usually when he drops by my office, he will just peep by the door especially if I have a visitor, make a sign of his presence in his hand with a smile, but on his last visit, he entered my room, engaged me in a conversation for a short while despite the fact that, as usual, I was busy writing some pleadings to be filed in court. There was no indication at all, I observed, that he was in bad shape. The call of his daughter, Honey June to my daughter Atty. Susan who endorsed to me the cellphone at 5:00 AM last September 19, 2012, that her father died at the Davao Doctor’s Hospital a few minutes before, shocked me beyond description in words.

King Solomon, to whom God bestowed a supernatural wisdom, said: “It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting; for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth (or feasting)” (Eclessiastes 7:2 & 4 KJV). Thus, it is always a wise gesture to visit the house of mourning of our relatives and friends.

By the way, I wish to express our unspeakable thanksgiving to all those who condoled with us during the wake, and for the beautiful and expensive flower given by our fellowship through the order of President Jun Basalo which is expressive of “LOVE” of a brother in the LORD.

James compares human life’s duration to that of a vapour that appears a few minutes in the early morning and vanishes away. Human life lasts normally up to less than a hundred years with some exceptions. Compared to eternity which is the guarantee and promise of the Lord Jesus Christ to all genuine believers of God, human life is very short. Thus, the Lord Jesus talking to Nicodemus said: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16 KJV).

This kind of belief (or believeth in him) is not merely a head knowledge or intellectual belief, or informative belief but something RECEIVED in the heart of man which is evidenced by transformed or changed life.

Everlasting or eternal life resulting from the genuine belief in, and acceptance of, Jesus Christ as one’s SAVIOR and LORD is a gift from God. As in the case of any gift, this salvation is given free but only to those who genuinely believe that Jesus Christ is his only Savior and Lord. We do not have to pay for it; we are not given the gift of eternal life because we worked for it; but rather because of the LOVE of GOD to the genuine believer, not for any other cause or reason. Because if we can work for it, or it is the result of our good work, then salvation is the result of good works, which is no longer scriptural. Like any sensible and loving human father, he supports his children because he loves them, not because they are well-behaved or they are good. Most children, by the way have the tendency to be bad, for it is written, “They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no not one” (Psalms 14:3 KJV). Or take the case of a husband and wife. When the husband have no more love for his wife, his support for her stops. But for as long as there is that LOVE, the support continues, though the wife is not perfect as no one else is perfect, only Jesus Christ is perfect. Thus, the Apostle Paul said, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9 KJV). Paul also wrote,

23 For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet now God in his gracious kindness declares us not guilty. He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins. 25 For God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to satisfy God’s anger against us. We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us. God was being entirely fair and just when he did not punish those who sinned in former times. 26And he is entirely fair and just in this present time when he declares sinners to be right in his sight because they believe in Jesus. 27 Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on our good deeds. It is based on our faith (Romans 3:23-27 NLT ).

Consequently, because all have sinned, all deserve to die and be in hell, but God provided a solution to this dilemma, thus, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23 KJV).

Since life is short and death is certain, what do we do to attain everlasting or eternal life after our physical death?

We must personally prepare. The time to prepare is now while we are alive and conscious and have understanding of things and events (2 Cor. 6:2). No one can prepare on our behalf. Much more when death has stopped our heart from beating and the functioning of all our senses and our mind have failed and stopped, and when death has closed our eyes and sealed our lips.

No beautiful and most expensive casket or expensive mausoleum could save us from hell or, right or wrong, wherever some believe our soul shall be after death.

King Solomon, inspired by the Holy Spirit said,
5The living at least know they will die, but the dead know nothing. They have no further reward, nor are they remembered. 6 Whatever they did in their lifetime – loving, hating envying – is all long gone. They no longer have a part in anything here on earth” (Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 KJV).

Now that we are still alive and are conscious, and can make prayer and confession, personally, (not by others or by the priest or minister), is the time to prepare. “ If we confess our sins (personal), he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 KJV). Even the Lord Jesus Christ had to prepare, with a beautiful assurance and promise to all genuine believers that they shall be with him in heaven after resurrection from their physical death. Thus, Jesus Christ said,
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 x x x “Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.” (John 14:19)

When do we start preparing? Hebrews 4:7 records, “Today, if you will hear his voice (or read the word of God) harden not your hearts.” Only BELIEVE.

Glory be to God the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

(FGBMFI Davao City Chapter Bulletin, September 29, 2012)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Joseph, The Dreamer, The Inspiration Of The Godly

            Joseph of the Bible is the first of the two sons of Jacob with Rachel, his second wife. Benjamin is the younger son and the youngest of all the twelve sons of Jacob.

I first heard of the wonderful story of Joseph from my mother when she related in part Joseph’s story one night before we went to sleep with my younger siblings during my grade school days. Significantly, I now realize, she omitted, purposely perhaps, that part of the life of Joseph when he was enticed or tempted by the wife of Potiphar to lie with her, which we would not be able to appreciate and understand anyway for lack of knowledge or experience, and perhaps in order not to pollute our young and innocent minds. It is too bad that I can no longer ask my mother why she omitted the episodes of Joseph with Mrs. Potiphar. Incidentally, Joseph’s temptation with Mrs. Potiphar has been the topic of our guest sharer last Saturday fellowship, September 15, 2012. Someone remarked, that Joseph being then only a teenager, did not succumb to the temptation of Mrs. Potiphar because she was very much older than him. Joke only.

I personally came across the complete story of Joseph which is the longest account of any Bible character, recorded from Genesis 37:1-50:26 when I became a Sunday School teacher. Notably, his story significantly starts when he was seventeen years old, coincidentally my age when I started to work as stenographer-typist of the late Justice Leopoldo M. Abellera (which I related in my latest article on the Sept. 15, 2012 issue).

Joseph’s work was that of a shepherd of his father’s flocks with his half brothers. He reported to his father some of the bad things his half-brothers were doing (Gen. 37:2). The Bible tells us, “Now Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his other children, so that “one day he gave Joseph a special gift—a beautiful robe (a coat of many colors [vs 3 NLT]). In our modern Filipino term, he was a “sipsip” to his father. Consequently, “his brothers hated him because of their father’s partiality, so they couldn’t say kind word to him” (vs. 4 NIV).

I can relate to this favoritism shown by Jacob, you may call it, because having helped my parents send to school all my younger brothers and a sister (six of them) while I was myself a self-supporting student of law after resigning from the Abellera Law Office to work in a large foreign company, and helped my parents develop our farm into an irrigated rice land located immediately at the back of the Municipal town hall of Kapalong, Davao del Norte, Philippines. Because of my generous help to my parents, when my father during his lifetime divided our land which has been converted in 2005 into an exportable Cavendish banana farm, he apportioned to me a double portion, and named me the administrator. The difference in the kind treatment of me by my siblings to that of Joseph is that they have not complained so far, and upon the demise of our parents, they confirmed my “administratorship” as eloquently evidenced by the fact that they authorized me to sign on their behalf the Exclusive Banana Production and Purchase Agreement (EBPPA) with our exclusive buyer DOLE Philippines, Inc., Stanfilo Division.

God knows from the beginning to end our individual life.

He knew what will eventually happen to Joseph who was a “good boy”, so to speak. He knows the forthcoming persecutions to be made by his half-brothers because of his being a “secret agent” of his father.

As a way of revealing in advance to Joseph what will happen to him and to encourage him not to give up on his being a “good boy”, God revealed to him in a two-part dream, in a similar manner that God appeared to Solomon in a dream when he was newly installed as King of Israel to succeed his father King David where God granted his request for wisdom with bonuses as follows:

Behold, I have done according to thy words; so, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee , neither after thee shall any arise like into thee and I have also given thee that with thou hast not asked, both riches, and honour, so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days. And if thou will walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as thy Father David did walk, then I will lengthen thy days, and Solomon awoke , and, behold, it was a dream” (1 King 3:12-15 KJV).

Joseph had a two-part related dreams. First, he told his brothers: “We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.”

His brothers tried to interpret the dream by saying, “So you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” The scriptures say: “They hated him all the more because of his dream” (vs. 8).

Then, he had another dream which he again told to his brothers. “Listen,” he said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me” (vs.9). This made “his brothers jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.” (vs.11).

Then came the fulfillment of the dream. First of all, when his father sent him to check his brothers who were grazing the flocks of his father and to check the condition of his brothers, his brothers stripped him of his coveted multi-colored robe and throw him to a deep well without water. While they were eating their meal, a caravan of Ishmaelite merchants passed by. Judah proposed to his brothers not to kill Joseph but sell him to the merchants saying, “Come let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood”, to which all his brothers agreed (vss. 23-26). Indeed, even in Old Testament times, the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil (1 Tim. 6:10).

The Ishmaelite merchants sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, the Captain of the guard (vs. 36). However, because of a false charge lodged against Joseph of “sexual abuse” we call it today, he was thrown into prison.

The Bible tells us, “But while Joseph was in the prison, the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in prison” (Gen. 39:21-22 NIV). The Bible tells us further:

When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream: He was standing by the Nile,  when out of the river there came up seven cows, sleek and fat, and they grazed among the reeds.  After them, seven other cows, ugly and gaunt, came up out of the Nile and stood beside those on the riverbank.  And the cows that were ugly and gaunt ate up the seven sleek, fat cows. Then Pharaoh woke up.  He fell asleep again and had a second dream: Seven heads of grain, healthy and good, were growing on a single stalk.  After them, seven other heads of grain sprouted--thin and scorched by the east wind.  The thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven healthy, full heads. Then Pharaoh woke up; it had been a dream.  In the morning his mind was troubled, so he sent for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but no one could interpret them for him” (Genesis 41:1-8).

Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, "Today I am reminded of my shortcomings.  Pharaoh was once angry with his servants, and he imprisoned me and the chief baker in the house of the captain of the guard. Each of us had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own.  Now a young Hebrew (referring to Joseph) was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he interpreted them for us, giving each man the interpretation of his dream.  And things turned out exactly as he interpreted them to us: I was restored to my position, and the other man was hanged" (Genesis 41:9-13 NIV).

Whereupon the Pharaoh called Joseph out of the prison cell to interpret the meaning of his twin dreams. This was how Joseph interpreted the twin dreams of the Pharaoh:

"The dreams of Pharaoh are one and the same. God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good heads of grain are seven years; it is one and the same dream.  The seven lean, ugly cows that came up afterward are seven years, and so are the seven worthless heads of grain scorched by the east wind: They are seven years of famine.  "It is just as I said to Pharaoh: God has shown Pharaoh what he is about to do.  Seven years of great abundance are coming throughout the land of Egypt, but seven years of famine will follow them. Then all the abundance in Egypt will be forgotten, and the famine will ravage the land (Genesis 41:25-30 NIV).

Joseph recommended to the Pharaoh, the following steps to be done:

And now let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt.  Let Pharaoh appoint commissioners over the land to take a fifth of the harvest of Egypt during the seven years of abundance.  They should collect all the food of these good years that are coming and store up the grain under the authority of Pharaoh, to be kept in the cities for food.  This food should be held in reserve for the country, to be used during the seven years of famine that will come upon Egypt, so that the country may not be ruined by the famine" (Genesis 41:33-36 NIV).

The moral lesson is that while we are earning in abundance, save for the forthcoming famine days you never know when they will come or happen.

The Pharaoh said to Joseph in response:

"Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you.  You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you."

This is now the fulfillment in part of the earlier dreams of Joseph. The full fulfillment of Joseph’s dream came about when the severe famine spread to Canaan land, the country of Jacob and the siblings of Joseph.

Joseph was then the GOVERNOR of Egypt where Jacob sent his ten sons (excluding Joseph’s full blood brother Benjamin) to buy food. This is what the Bible says:

Now Joseph was the governor of the land, the one who sold grain to all its people. So when Joseph's brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground. As soon as Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them. "Where do you come from?" he asked. "From the land of Canaan," they replied, "to buy food."  Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him” (Genesis 42:6-8 NIV).

Everyone of us has had dreams. Many of our dreams have no significant meanings. But those people who are godly like the cupbearer, King Solomon and all others of their kind will receive revelations of the will of God through meaningful dreams usually figurative in character like the dreams of Joseph, the cupbearer, the Pharaoh of Egypt, or in some exceptional circumstances, like in the case of King Solomon, by actual direct revelation.

Let us, therefore, be sensitive to meaningful dreams which are revelations of God to us of what is forthcoming. Let us remember “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 NIV). Because of the love of God to the dreamer there is a forewarning for his guidance. Don’t give up despite the ordeals or hardship along the way. Keep on clinging to the LORD our God with all faithfulness: he will make us victorious in the end.

Let us bear in mind what the Bible promises to godly people like Joseph. “and the LORD was with Joseph and he was a prosperous man;” (Gen. 39:2); “Because the LORD was with him, and that which he did, the LORD made it to prosper” (vs. 23). If we want to prosper personally and in everything we do, let us emulate Joseph.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Successful Parenting

            I just had a talk over the phone with my first and eldest grandson named Bienvenido Karlo, II who was 21 years old last August 7, 2012 and who has been and still is in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. for about four years already. I believe that his father, my son, Atty. Neil, “idolized” me so that when his first son was born, he named him after me. Or perhaps, he wanted his own son to follow after me.

It is just like those many Filipino parents who idolized President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the U.S, during World War II, who named their sons Franklin, or those who idolized General Douglas MacArthur who named their sons Douglas, perhaps wanting that their son will be a resolute fighter and a great hero like the U.S. President or like General MacArthur. Likewise in the Philippines, many have been named Manuel after President Manuel L. Quezon, a bar topnotcher and a well-liked President, or Ferdinand before President Ferdinand E. Marcos was deposed, because perhaps they dreamed that their son will become a brilliant lawyer and undefeated politician who reached the pinnacle of success by being first, a World War II hero, second, a bar topnotcher with an unsurpassed general average but reduced by our Supreme Court to only 96% so he will not surpass the general average of Manuel A. Roxas, an equally brilliant lawyer and bar topnotcher who also became President of the Philippines.

In the earlier decades of Philippine politics, it seemed that success in politics depends on whether one is a bar topnotcher or a legal luminary like Quezon, Roxas, Marcos, Sergio Osmeña, Sr., Carlos P. Garcia, Elpidio Quirino, Jose P. Laurel, Sr., like Vice President Emmanuel Pelaez, Senators Claro M. Recto and Raul Manglapus, the latter two being summa cum laude in Ateneo de Manila law school, to name some of the more popular ones. It was only after President Corazon C. Aquino, a math teacher and a simple housewife who became President by people power and by God’s will that this Filipino political tradition has been broken. Some well-meaning Filipino voters used to say that it is not good to have brilliant lawyer-presidents because they know how to circumvent the law and thereby amass wealth to the prejudice of the nation, so they tried other professionals like a soldier, an economist and lately you know what—the “matuwid na daan” (in English, the straight way). This slogan, though political, is like saying, “I’ll follow the footsteps of my well-loved mother, President Corazon Aquino who was never involved in graft and corruption and who left a legacy of a good name in politics”. The wise King Solomon said, “A GOOD name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold” (Prov. 22: 1 KJV). These two factors made President Noynoy win the Presidency by landslide versus Gilbert “Guibo” Teodoro who was No. one in the bar exam during his time.

The wise King Solomon said, “That which is crooked cannot be made straight:” (Eccl. 1:15 KJV) In another version, “what is twisted cannot be straightened;” (NIV). Since more than 50 years ago, apparently Philippine politics had turned crooked, but can the scripture be broken? The Lord Jesus Christ himself answered this query by saying, “the scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). This brings to my mind, the theme song of the late President Ramon Magsaysay and his wife Luz Banzon Magsaysay, a President well-loved by the Filipino masses, “Que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be”.

I was overwhelmed with joy in the service of the LORD, and encouraged beyond words could express, when my grandson Karlo told me that he has been closely following my blog week after week. More so when he said that he has been repeating to his friends, both Filipinos and Americans, what he remembers out of my writings which also reminds me of the custom and usual manner of our illustrious FGBMFI Davao City Chapter President Jun Basalo, of quoting part of my articles, during his President’s time in our Saturday fellowship. I was told by my grandson that his favorite article, which allegedly he used to read and re-read was the story of my historic and miraculous passing the most difficult bar exam since the first bar exam in 1910 which was topped by President Manuel L. Quezon, and my latest article entitled: “Money Alone Could Not Bring Contentment”. I should be careful in my words, for if true that he is following my blog week after week, he will read this article.

My grandson’s attraction to my article on money brings back to memory the main reason why in my youth, I ambitioned to become a lawyer. When I was in High School, I had four boardmates: two beautiful lady teachers who were both single, and two respected lawyers in town who were processing land titles of numerous farmers. Back in those days, the salaries of teachers were paid by Treasury Warrants from Manila, the capital of the Philippines, which usually arrive late because of poor postal service. The teachers would incur debts and used to complain that almost nothing is left of their pay when their salary checks arrive. On the other hand, I observed that the two lawyers were joyfully counting plenty of money every evening. In those days, there were few lawyers and were accorded high esteem among professionals. I also observed that the two lawyers were often invited to speak in our school programs and activities, and, of course, they were well-dressed in coat and tie with Stateside shoes. In those days, because of American culture and influence for 50 years, no one was wearing barong Tagalog, our national costume for men, during formal occasions.

When I was studying pre-law already, at 17 years old, I was the Secretary-Stenographer-Typist of Atty. Leopoldo M. Abellera, a respected and well-known law practitioner in Davao City and province during his time. When he pull out his wallet to pay something, I observed that it is always full of money that it could hardly be folded. And since we occupy the same room, I would see his rich and valued clients pay him bunch of money. So, I thought all the more that it is really good to be a lawyer because lawyers have plenty of money all the time. I was that naïve thinking that all lawyers are like Atty. Abellera. Now I know that the legal profession is crowded below but up there in the sky, it is very spacious, and by personal experience, that one need only to work hard, be diligent, honest and be Christlike in character so clients are attracted, like they are attracted to a restaurant that serve special delicacies and delicious food. The moral lesson is: money more than the inclination and God-given talent is the primary consideration in the child’s innocent mind in pursuing a career in life, not knowing the formula for success in life which is: (1) What is my God-given talent? and (2) what is the need of the community where I live? Thus, one might be a very good mechanic, but if there are no vehicles or machines to be repaired where he lives, this one will never prosper financially. In the latter case, the mechanic should relocate himself to where the vehicles and machines abound. Therefore, as parents, be sure to carefully guide and mould your children’s desire for a career in life. Ask yourself: what is the God-given talent and inclination of my child?

My third grandson, the son of my Junior, also has been named Bienvenido, IV, probably for the same reason as the first. His parents and his only brother are in the States for more than eight years already. Bien IV is already 13 years old. I am alarmed and burdened with the information given by Karlo that he is somewhat a “Bugoy” (in English, a burly boy), because Karlo told me, of the bad influence of his childhood new environment. Jokingly, I quoted to him the favorite expression of Former President Joseph Estrada: “Birds of the same feather are the same birds”, and Karlo laughed.

God has been gracious to me and my wife because, our four children are all professionals: Susan, a UP graduate, a cum laude in her pre-law course and No. 9 in the 1991 bar exam and who is practicing with me; Bienvenido, Jr., who graduated law at the top of his class at Ateneo de Davao University (ADDEU) and No. 12 in the Board exam for mechanical engineers, who is in Chicago, Ill. U.S.A; Neil, an ADDEU alumnus and No. 18 in the Bar exam is also an Electrical Engineer who likewise is practicing with me; and last but not the least, Vilma, a registered nurse in the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand and the U.S.A., who inherited the brilliance of her mother, and working as NPA (Nurse Practitioner) and Head Nurse in a 300-room nursing and rehabilitation hospital in Chicago. The difference between an ordinary Registered Nurse and a Nurse Practitioner is that the latter can issue prescription like a physician. In the U.S., this is very important because, unlike in the Philippines, no one can buy medicine without prescription even for simple headache. How come that our children have all become “successful” professionals? Only by God’s grace and parental example and guidance.

Our children took their kinder and grade school education in Thompson Christian School – a Christian school founded by an American couple, Rev. Arthur and Dr. Evelyn Thompson, who were Ministers of the Gospel and the founder of the Foursquare Gospel Church in Mindanao, Philippines. By God’s grace, I happened to be the President of this school for 15 years. Praise God, Atty. Susan is now the President of her Alma Mater, again by God’s grace. Through Susan’s initiative and hard work, starting from the day that she was elected President of the Alumni of the school, the 32 years two-storey combination of hollow block and wooden materials main building built by yours truly during my term has been demolished and replaced by a wonderful fully concrete imposing three-storey building which will soon be completed, God willing, before the 53rd Anniversary of the school on November 18, 2012. To God be the glory!

Giving honor to whom honor is due (Romans 13:7), the foundation and most rooms of the first storey of the new building where the library is located, was built through the donations of Lifestream Church in California U.S.A. pastored by Rev. Thelmo Bringas, an Alumnus of the school. All the other floors of the concrete building were built through God’s miraculous instrumentality of then Davao City Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte in April 2010. Being miraculous, it cannot be repeated, just like any miraculous event. Thus, no one can turn an ordinary water into wine again; or turn again the water of the Nile river into blood; the Lord Jesus Christ cannot resurrect twice, etc. So, those who know the Mayor, don’t expect him to do another miracle for you.

The key verse of the school is Prov. 22:6: “TRAIN UP A CHILD IN THE WAY HE SHOULD GO: AND WHEN HE IS OLD, HE WILL NOT DEPART FROM IT” (KJV). Training a child, or children, is hardwork and needs a lot of money, patience, sacrifice, efforts and perseverance. Success does not come overnight.

Being a Sunday School teacher in our church in my younger years, I brought our children to Sunday school every Sunday. My Junior used to help me prepare my Sunday school visual materials and drawings. They participated in children’s and youth camps. Of course, they observe me perform my ministry in the body of Christ. I tried to follow as much as I could, what Moses by revelation of God instructed in Deuteronomy 6:6-9:

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (NIV).

The Scriptures tell us: “You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood (not from adulthood), and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 3:15 NLT).

Children should be educated in the mind, heart and hand, and this is only possible by educating them first at home, second, in church and, third, in a Christian school where the canonized Word of God, particularly Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Book of Psalms, is an integral part of the curriculum, and where the teachers are “born again” Christians who will do their ministry of teaching with earnest diligence, dedication and hardwork, according to the Word of God, for the glory of God.

One will ask, “what about those who are not educated in Christian schools?” The parents’ guide is the Law of Moses, specifically Deuteronomy 6:6-9 quoted above.

The parents are the first teachers. The father is the Priest of the home. Remember, “like people, like priest” (Hosea 4:9). Thus, the children normally are the exact duplicate of their parents in personality and character. President George Bush, Sr. produced President George, Jr.; President Diosdado Macapagal produced President Gloria; Atty. Susan, like her father, became also President of Thompson Christian School. Be careful then, for what you are will be reflected or duplicated in your children. The church is the second teacher. Then, the literal teachers in school, only as third teachers. This is successful parenting. (FGBMFI Davao City Chapter Bulletin, September 15, 2012)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

God Will Provide

            This is a sequel to my article published in our August 18, 2012 issue entitled: “The Reward of a Good Steward”.

The Bible tells the story that God tempted or tested Abraham to take his only begotten son ISAAC, whom he loved, to the land of Moriah and offer him there for a burnt offering. When Abraham had prepared everything for the sacrifice minus the lamb, Isaac asked, “My father, “behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering”.? Abraham answered, “My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering:… (Gen. 22:7-8) Abraham had the heart of God when he agreed to offer his only begotten son he waited for 100 years to be born (Gen. 21:5).

Abraham immediately obeyed without any word of complaint. He had complete trust on God’s command. No questions asked. He trusted God that whatever God commands will turn out finally to be good for him. This makes Abraham “the Father of Faith”. If we want to be blessed like Abraham who “was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold” (Gen. 13:2), let us be like Abraham who was obedient, trusting God, and a man of patience and perseverance.

Those employed either in the government or in the private sector stick to their jobs expecting and hoping that when they reach retirement age, they will receive a monthly pension till they die. Those retirees who are endowed with wisdom who feel that they will not live long after their retirement, elect to receive in lump sum their retirement pension usually for five years for those in the government, so they can invest it and generate more income and enjoy immediately what their money can buy while they are still alive. If they die earlier than five years, the government or the GSIS (Government Service & Insurance System) cannot get a refund. If they survive after five years, like the now made famous in the Corona impeachment case, Justice Serafin Cuevas, they continue to receive a monthly pension until their time is up by the will of the Lord. David said, “My times are in your hands; …” (Ps. 37:15 NIV).

Delving on retirement pay and the provision by God (Jehovah Jireh), when I was a young and struggling lawyer, as I did not know yet about what Christians call a “heart’s desire”, I had the ambition to become a judge or perhaps a justice so when I reach retirement age which is 70 years for judges and justices according to a special law on retirement passed by the Congress of the Philippines, the majority of whom are lawyers, I was thinking, by then, I can relax, eat, drink and be merry till I die! But God did not will it that way for me. “You can make many plans, but the LORD’s purpose will prevail” (Prov. 19:21 NLT). Notably, for other employees both in public and private, the compulsory retirement is at age 65 only.

My opportunity to join the government service came when my former boss, Atty. Leopoldo M. Abellera, the classmate of the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos at the University of the Philippines, and an acknowledged successful law practitioner in Davao Region in his time, invited me to join him at the Board of Transportation (BOT) inasmuch as from the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) he was appointed by President Marcos Justice of the Court of Appeals and concurrently the BOT Chairman which is now the LTFRB (Land Transportation Regulatory and Franchising Board). It has been said that Justice Abellera never decided any case because he devoted his time and effort at the BOT. There must have been much “treasure” at the BOT, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21).

The offer was attractive financially and with opportunities for advancement in government service, and probably a good stepping stone for a judiciary appointment, considering the very close relation of Atty. Abellera with President Marcos, but I know that politics is unstable, unpredictable and very temporary. I did not like to leave my private practice of law which was then picking up, and I thought that should politics turn the other way, I did not like to start from the beginning once again. When President Marcos was deposed, in retrospect, I was not mistaken in my decision. Truly, the Word of God is true that: “Thou will shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at the right hand there are pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:11 KJV). This is buttressed by what King David said, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way” (Ps. 37:23 KJV).

Henry Sy, the majority stockholder and practically the owner of SM, the largest mall and No. 1 taxpayer in the Philippines said, “Success requires hardwork and it does not come overnight”. That great inventor of the incandescent lamp, Thomas Alva Edison, said, “Success is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration”, Success is the product of hardwork.

The history of my private practice of law has been long and tedious by human standard.

By the grace of God and through dedication, hard work, perseverance and patience, I was able to build enough clientele to keep me very busy six days a week, so that more often, I can go home only after eight at night, just like Gen. Douglas MacArthur during his time, in spite of the fact that I have five (5) associates (including my daughter Atty. Susan and son Atty. Neil). By God’s providence, I was also able to build a two-storey fully concrete law office building in the heart of the City of Davao, Philippines, on a 650 sq. m. lot. which God allowed me to acquire in 1988. The whole second floor is my law office while the ground floor is rented by commercial establishments. However, always in the evening of my memory, I keep on asking myself, when I become too old and no longer able to practice my profession, where will I get money without being dependent on, or a burden to, our children?

By God’s grace and provision, again, when I was nearing the retirement age of a judge or justice that I ambitioned in my youth to be, from out of the blue sky, a satisfied client referred to me a group of landowners in Dujali, Sto. Tomas, and Carmen, Davao del Norte, Philippines, who formed a cooperative named DUSCAR banana cooperative. DU – for Dujali, S-for So. Tomas and CAR – for Carmen (DUSCAR). This cooperative of lowly farmers engaged my legal services because they have been sweet-talked by a businessman-farmer to convert their lands into a plantation of exportable Cavendish bananas, so that in three years they will become millionaires. Of course, all of them were excited to become millionaires. In the process, he borrowed the amount of P60 million from a bank as initial working capital to pursue and implement his banana plantation project, secured by a mortgage on the lands of the farmers. One paragraph of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the innocent farmers and the businessman-farmer is that for as long as the loan in the bank is not paid, the farmers will only receive P10.00 per 13.5 kg. box of exportable bananas.

The trouble came about because the loan was not paid by the businessman-farmer as stipulated in the MOA covered by the mortgage because he used the income in the plantation to build a palatial home, bought a backhoe for his use in his personal business; also to buy expensive brand new SUV vehicles for his business, personal and family use, charging all gasoline and maintenance expenses and all maintenance expenses on the farm from the farmers and to pay the salaries of numerous security guards he hired to guard the banana plantation from thieves of harvestable fruits, but leaving the amortization of the bank loan irregularly paid. The interest due was not fully paid and naturally the principal remained P60 million. While the businessman has been enjoying the multi-million income of the farms converted into banana plantation, the income of the landowners at P10.00 per 13.5 kg. box of exportable bananas ranges only in few thousand pesos which will not even suffice for their daily needs. They could not even send their children to school anymore. Some of the farmers told me that they have to eat cooked Cavendish bananas for breakfast, lunch and dinner, because they can no longer afford to buy rice. Naturally, the next inevitable thing to happen was that their mortgaged lands will be foreclosed by the bank.

To cut short a long story, I decided to file a case for rescission or cancellation of their contract with the businessman. However, the next problem was that they did not have money to pay the filing fee of the case in court which was quite substantial and my appearance fee per day of hearing considering that the case will be filed in Tagum City which is 54 kilometers away from Davao City, Philippines, where I hold office. Anyway, this was provided through their cooperative contributions, and I graciously agreed to prosecute their case without asking them an acceptance fee or without having any agreement on my fee in the meantime that victory for them was not yet certain, remembering what King Solomon said in Prov. 31:9 “Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy”. Finally and fortunately by the grace of God, the contract was cancelled by the court. They are now dealing directly with the bank and are now updated in their amortization payments.

I recommended them to SUMIFRU, a reputable international buyer and exporter of bananas, like DOLE-STANFILCO, to be their exclusive banana buyer. For my attorney’s fee, we agreed in writing that it shall be $.05 cents per 13.5 kg. box of banana that is produced in the banana farms for the next 15 years. This is now the answer of God to my heart’s desire of having a monthly pension which is equivalent to the monthly pension of an RTC judge for the next fifteen years, if, by God’s grace like King Hezekiah of the O.T. who lived for an additional 15 years, I survive that long. Thus, God’s timing is always perfect. He is never late but sometimes even advance. Indeed, it is true that when we “take delight in the Lord, he will give you your heart’s desire” (Psalm 37:4 NLT). Also, it is true that God is Jehovah Jireh (God who provides in his time in mysterious ways).

The chairperson of the cooperative told me that some of the futuristic thinking banana farmers raised the issue in Cebuano dialect: “Unsaon na lang kay tigulang na baya si Atty. Cariaga, kinsa man ang mag-servicio sa ato?” (In English, what will happen later because Atty. Cariaga is already old, who will then continue the legal services that we will need?). I asked her, what was your answer? She said, “Don’t worry, he has three children who are lawyers.” The wise King Solomon said: “A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children’s children: x x x (Prov. 13:22 KJV). Joyful really is the reward of serving the Lord with delight with love of neighbor as the primary consideration and in serving those who are poor and needy who cannot plead their cause.

So, the conclusion of the matter is what Jesus said: “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matt. 6:34 KJV). In another version, “Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day” (RSV). Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart” (Ps. 37:3-4 KJV). Delight in serving the Lord and look after the needs of your poor and needy neighbor, using your God-given talent, ability and skill, and the LORD will take care of you. God “will never leave you, nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). God will surely provide.

(FGBMFI Davao City Chapter Bulleting, September 8, 2012)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Money Alone Could Not Bring Contentment

            Everybody is looking for money, because money is essential to man’s existence as we live in a materialistic society. Even the Pastors and Evangelists expect to receive money after they have performed their ministry. “A workman is entitled to his meat [or hire]” (Matt. 10:10). In another version, “those who work deserve to be fed [or the worker is worthy of support]” (NLT).

The TV Evangelists will suddenly have an intermission advertising their books for sale, their sermons in DVD for any amount of donation, or soliciting donation, and thanking those who have donated. Of course, it is obvious that they need money to continue their regular TV ministry which is very expensive. There is nothing wrong in all these legitimate ways of raising funds for the Scripture says, “Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:14; Matt. 10:10 KJV). Frankly, I have no sufficient information about the Priests trying to raise money for the performance of their ministry because it seems to me that for them, everything including their Sutana are provided free by their denominational order, and they do not have any wife or family to support anyway, unlike the Evangelists, Pastors and other Ministers of para-church organizations who, besides their family obligations, should be wearing their best and most impressive which are usually expensive coat and tie and Stateside shoes to add to their personality and dignity of their ministry. This unwritten rule applies to Congressmen and Senators, as well as to lawyers whenever they appear in court. For lawyers, so that their clients will be ashamed to pay less than the standard appearance fee and to look good and successful to the judges or justices because usually “for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7 KJV).

The Lord Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart be also” (Matt. 6:21). Test yourself, which occupies more of your thoughts, time and efforts? How much time do you spend serving in the kingdom of God by using your God-given talent or ability? I am sure many will truthfully answer, “Of course, where I will earn money.”

What I know from personal experience is that rich people are not always happy and contended people. Thus, your wallet can be full of money. You may have multi-million deposit in your bank account. You may own a building, a hotel or a condominium. Your head can be full of information both religious and secular, but if your heart is empty because something is lacking, your life is also empty, and you are not truly happy and contented.

Yes, there is always something lacking in the heart of man besides money. Man is always thinking, “what will happen to me after I die or in eternity?”

The apostle Paul told his protégé and young Pastor Timothy, “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17).

Money is for movement or to be traded wisely to produce more, for our comfort and enjoyment and to be able to help our needy neighbor, not for accumulation or for time deposit in the bank. The parable of the talents related by Jesus Christ himself supports this idea (Matt. 25:15-30).

You can be rich in money and property but poor spiritually. Ideally, and seldom this happens, it is best for man to be rich both materially and spiritually, so he will be comforted and will enjoy his earthly life and be able to contribute to the proclamation of the gospel and help the needy, as well as enjoy in eternity in heaven with his creator. Normally, when one is rich materially and in good health, he does not care about spiritual things. This is the essence of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus related by Jesus Christ himself (Luke 19:1-31). Conversely, when one is spiritual, he is not usually affluent. But he has “enough”, and extend help generously to the needy neighbor.

Agur of Bible times who was reputed to be a wise teacher rightly said, “… give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me; lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, who is the LORD? Or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain” (Prov. 30:8-9 KJV). Thus, experience shows that our lives are more likely to be effective if we have “neither poverty nor riches”. Again, from my personal experience, the generous ones or “givers”, are these class of people. These class of people are also the best clients, not really the very rich ones while they are alive, for I have yet to come across a client who is very rich and not very stingy. But these very rich people are the best clients when they die, because when their estate is settled, even if only five (5%) of the value of the estate is charged by the lawyer who will settle the estate, that will amount to multi-million pesos.

I have a corporate client who ranks very very high in tax payment to the government. I filed a case, and as usually required by it, I submitted the Official Receipts issued by the court. The accountant called me, looking for a lacking Official Receipt of only P1,200.00 which I gave to the Sheriff who do not issue Official Receipts. Just to settle the matter, I asked if my own Official Receipt will suffice so that the amount will be considered as part of my attorney’s fee. To my relief, the accountant agreed!

Jesus Christ talked to the rich and the high and mighty in society. He saw a longing in their eyes for something that money could not buy. Nicodemus was a religious leader and a Pharisee and a member of the Jewish ruling council (or Supreme Court Justice in our modern times). He was, therefore, highly educated with logical mind and a respectable man in those days as it is today, but he felt something was lacking in him. He came to Jesus late at night, when the crowds were gone, desiring to know something else (John 3:1). What lies ahead of me … where will I be after this earthly life?... are valid questions asked by any sensible human being. These were the primary questions in the mind of Nicodemus. Whereupon, reading the mind and heart desire of Nicodemus, Jesus explained to him that for him to be able to see and enter the kingdom of God in eternity, he must be born again in the Spirit (or what Christians term in modern times, be “BORN AGAIN”). Jesus further elaborated that to be born again means he must believe Jesus Christ as the one and only Son of God so that he will have eternal life (John 3:16). The fact that Nicodemus accompanied Joseph of Arimathea to ask permission from Pilate for the body of Jesus and brought with him an expensive mixture of myrrh and aloes, “about an hundred pound weight” eloquently proves that he and Joseph were true believers and disciples of Jesus, and, therefore, in our modern day parlance, “born again”, and will be seen in heaven in eternity (John 20:38-40).

Zacchaeus, a rich tax collector (BIR man in our modern times [Luke 19:1-10]) sought the Lord Jesus by even climbing a Sycamore tree, which is not done by any rich man, wanting something worth beyond his money in abundance. Jesus said, “Beware! Don’t be greedy for what you don’t have. Real life is not measured by how much we own” (Luke 12:15 NLT). Being a true believer, despite being a publican (or sinner or more specifically an extortioner in our modern day terminology), Zacchaeus will also be in heaven!

The wise King Solomon said, “God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end” (Eccl. 3:11 NLT). Thus, a sensible man, like Nicodemus, is always thinking of the future and eternity.

Solomon was a very wealthy king. The Bible tells us, “So King Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth for riches and for wisdom” (1 Kings 10:23). He had everything material and spiritual in abundance—“everything a man could desire!” and with good fortune of having 700 wives and princesses and 300 beautiful concubines (Eccl. 2:8) of various tribes and nationalities (1 Kings 11:1-3), “the delights of a man’s heart”, the Scripture says, (Eccl. 2:8) yet he confessed: 
I thought in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. “Laughter,” I said, “is foolish. And what does pleasure accomplish?” I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was worthwhile for men to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives.
I undertook great projects: I built houses (or mansions) for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harem[a] as well—the delights of a man’s heart. I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.
10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;  I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil.
11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done     and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;   nothing was gained under the sun. (Eccl. 2:1-11 NIV).

Jesus knew exactly what the Holy Spirit revealed to King Solomon who put in words his observation: “Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied” (Prov. 27:20).

There is something that matters more than money - - THE LORD JESUS CHRIST IN A MAN’S HEART.

Only Jesus satisfies and assures eternal happiness of man. It is impossible to be truly happy in this earthly life without Christ in one’s heart. How do we know that Christ is in the heart of a man? The Bible tells us, “Wherefore by their fruits you will know them” (Matt. 7:20). For example, how do we know that a tree is an apple tree? Of course, by its fruit. How do we know that Christ is in the heart of a person? Of course, by that person’s character (or spiritual fruit)—Christlikeness.

The heart that has Christ is an “evangelist”, or a soul winner. He is concerned on how he can, by his God-given talent and assigned ministry, bring at least one soul to the kingdom of God in eternity. For instance, how can a soul be persuaded to accept Christ as his savior through his column in this one and only FGBMFI Bulletin in the whole world? Or being in-charge of the publication, like Anthony Relatado, how can he perform his ministry so that people will be attracted to read it. He must see to it that the printing is perfect, and the articles are well-arranged and the pictorials proper. For example, the arrangement in the Bible is instructive and ideal. First, the Law of Moses (in the O.T.) and the Gospels (in the N.T.). Then followed by the Epistles (or letters of instruction). Then we have the Proverbs (or Words of Wisdom of Bert Miranda) then last the maps or pictorials and advertisements.

Praise God that our bulletin is always short of copies nowadays. In the words of Anthony “it is selling like hot cake”. Although our fellowship had approved a rule that constant contributors are entitled to at least three copies, whenever I come in late, there is no more available copy for me. To God be the glory, Anthony. Rejoice in the Lord for your God-given ministry.

To be an effective soul winner, an evangelist must know the Word of God, like a successful salesman who knows his product from A to Z, so to speak. He loves the Word. He loves God, though he is still a sinner. We see in that person the fruit of the Holy Spirit, namely: “Love, joy, peace, patience (or longsuffering), gentleness, kindness, goodness, faith (or absolute trust in all things in God), meekness, temperance (or self-control)” (Gal. 5:22-23 KJV and NLT), and virtues of Christian character which are like unto it, the foremost of which is LOVE (or charity) for God and his fellowmen. (2 Pet. 1:5-8). He is always genuinely concerned and ready to help the needy like the Good Samaritan in the parable related by Jesus Christ (Luke 10:25-37).

Thus, even if one has just enough money to live by, with Jesus Christ (or the Holy Spirit) in his heart, this one is contented with whatever he has in his earthly life and is assured of his place in eternity with his God. Are you contented?

(FGBMFI Davao City Chapter Bulletin September 1, 2012)