Saturday, April 27, 2013

No Man Is An Island

Human beings do not function well as loners. God himself said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Gen. 2:18, NIV).

“Out of the ground (clay) the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every foul of the air…” but as for the woman, “he took one of his ribs (of Adam)… and made he a woman, and brought her unto the man, and Adam said, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man” (Gen. 2:19-23 KJV).

The woman is a masterpiece, a special creation conceived and created by God, to assist the man and to inspire him in doing his managerial job. She is very special because she was not taken “out of the ground” but she is “one of the ribs of Adam”, nearest to his heart for him to love and cherish all the days of his life.

King Solomon in Ecclesiastes 4:8, depicted a person who devoted all his energy to the pursuit of wealth. He did not have time for friends or family. He worked very hard, yet his wealth didn’t satisfy the void in his life. That person remained lonely.

After depicting the lonely man, King Solomon, illustrated the advantages of fellowship and partnership (vv. 9-12). He did so by referring to the value and productivity of two laboring together (v.9); of one helping the other when one falls (v.10); of two keeping each other warm on cold nights (v.11); and of two protecting each other when attacked (v.12). Then, he concluded, “A threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Eccl. 4:12) which is a proverbial way of saying “there is strength in numbers.”

This was vividly demonstrated when in 1986, several millions of Filipinos converged in EDSA in support of Former President Corazon C. Aquino, then Chief of Staff, Former President Fidel Ramos and the Secretary of National Defense, now the incumbent Senate President Johnny Ponce Enrile in what history records as the EDSA bloodless revolution. Because of the numerous citizens who expressed their solid support for the three named personalities, Strongman President Ferdinand E. Marcos vacated his office without the shedding of a drop of blood from any Filipino citizen or foreign national in the Philippines.

God has designed man for companionship, with a need for one another. So, be sure to have friends, and be a friend to someone and be friendly always. The Bible says, Abraham was called “the friend of God” (James 2:23). The Lord Jesus said to his disciples: “Ye are my friends, if you do whatsoever I command you” (John 15:14). He further said, “Henceforth I call you not servants;… but I have called you friends (vs. 15). Consequently, Abraham was blessed. How was he blessed? “And Abraham was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold” (Gen. 13:2), and his name is a great name in the Bible. He is called “Father Abraham”. And the LORD God further promised that whoever blesses Abraham will be blessed and whoever curses him will be cursed, “and in thee shall all the families on earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:2-3 KJV). Christians are spiritual Israelites. We should therefore strive to belong to the family of Abraham. The United States of America have been supporting (or blessing Israel [Abraham’s native country]) that is why “God bless America”.

I have a very close and a bosom friend, a surveyor-lawyer. He was first a surveyor, but finding him very intelligent and with logical mind, I encouraged him to study law. He hesitated, but when he found out that I paid for his enrollment already to prove how sincere and serious I was, he studied law. He found his study of law very interesting, enjoyable and useful in his first choice profession of surveying, and eventually became a lawyer, passing the bar with flying color in 1972.

My friend’s first case was a petition of his landowner-client who lost the title to his land. He asked me to accompany him when the case was scheduled for hearing. We started early from Davao City to Tagum City which is 54 kilometers away from Davao City. He loaded full tank his army Mac Arthur jeep which was then the favorite and appropriate transportation in Davao Province due to rough roads. He wore a new barong Pilipino. When his case was called, being a new lawyer, he first introduced himself to the presiding judge. Being nervous, he spoke very fast and did not pronounce well his words, especially his name. The presiding judge told him to go slow and repeat his name. Then, the judge remarked, “But compañero, the Register of Deeds has not been notified of your client’s petition. What is your pleasure?” Being seated beside him, realizing that he did not know how to respond, I whispered to him, “Pare, ask for postponement”. He retorted also in a whisper, “But the Register of Deeds is just a few meters away which could be reached by a marvel!” (jolen in local Filipino dialect). I again whispered, but the summons cannot just be served now. The judge was watching us. Hesitatingly, he manifested in broken words, “Your honor… I re-request for, for post-postponement”. The case was re-set to another date. He was relieved of his tension.

It was only about 9:00 A.M., so, he told us (including his client with two companions) to have breakfast. In the restaurant, he ordered breakfast for five. I declined saying that I have already taken by breakfast. So, he ordered only for four. The client who was seated beside me nervously whispered to me, “Atty. I have no money” perhaps realizing that my lawyer-friend ordered too much. I, in turn, whispered to my friend, “Pare, your client said, he has no money”. So, he paid for the bill, and he got no reimbursement for his gasoline.

With that traumatic experience, on our way home to Davao City, he complained of his “misfortune” that day. He endorsed the case to me, saying, he will no longer practice law. Since then, he did not like to handle cases in court.

Subsequently, he again endorsed another client. It was an intestate estate case of a landed client, in Davao del Norte and in Davao Oriental, with a 54 door two-storey apartment in Davao City. The client paid my legal services which is at least half of the total cost of my modest law office building in the heart of the city. The point is: he endorsed to me clients because I am his very close friend.

The foregoing demonstrate the value of close friendship, especially friendship with God (Jesus in person). If a human friend can bless us, how much more with God? Remember how God blessed Abraham his friend? To emphasize, “he was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold”.

The time to make friends is before you need them. Always make friends: they are a source of manifold blessings. Best of all, be a friend of God (Jesus).

[Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship International Davao City Chapter Bulletin, April 27, 2013]

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Unimaginable Influence of Wives

The history of mankind starts in the garden of Eden which is described as paradise. Meaning, everything is just perfect or complete that there is nothing more that any human being would desire, except that someone the Tempter who is more subtil than any creation of God will always try to find a way to win to his side through the lust of the eye, the pride of life, and something unexplainably desirable to man. There is something in man about these three things that only his strong faith in God can help him conquer these weaknesses, and only God can save him once he succumb to temptation.

The Lord God who created man after His own image and likeness appointed Adam to have dominion (or control) over all His other creations; and for his food (or meat), God declared, “every herb bearing seed which are upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed” and “to every beast of the earth, and to every foul of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, … every green herb for meat” (Gen. 1:26, 29 and 30 KJV).

God created man to worship and serve Him and to be the President and General Manager or Prime Minister or leader over all His other creations and subdue (or bring under his power and control), and to have fellowship with Him (vs. 28).

The Bible says, “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:16-17 KJV).

Now, comes the Tempter (through a beautiful multi-colored serpent) and said unto the woman, “Yea, hath God said, ye shall not (negative) eat of every tree of the garden?” (Gen. 3:1). Be extremely careful and cautious with NEGATIVE statements. The woman (who did not hear first hand the command of God) answered first positively, saying, “we may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither ye touch it (negatively), lest ye die” (vs. 2-3). Notice the positive and negative statements, and the added words “neither shall ye touch it” because she did not really personally hear the command when given by God to Adam. Men are prone to add something when repeating a narration of facts. Notice again the negative statement of the Tempter, “ye shall not surely die: (adding a tempting and twisted conclusion calculated to attract interest, sow doubt and suspicion) “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (vs. 5). Who does not like to be like God? (the creator of everything and anything and with unlimited power, and with Him nothing shall be impossible [Luke 1:37]).

And the Bible says, “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food (appealing to the fleshly appetite), and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise (who does not like to be wise?), she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, x x x” (vs. 6). And lo, and behold, she did not die! (at least physically and immediately). Hence, she must have concluded, the Tempter is right after all, it was God who lied! So, the verse continues, “and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat in disregard of the clear command given to him by God.” This will indicate that no husband can resist or will refuse a wife’s offer that appeals to his senses and pride, even at the risk of violating God’s command.

However, because of their sin of disobedience, spiritually they died. The Bible says, “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear” (Isa. 59:2 KJV).

Typhoon PABLO in the Philippines last December 4, 2012, destroyed and damaged the houses of numerous residents of Davao Oriental and in Comval province (Davao), Philippines, and devastated thousands of banana farms in Comval and Davao del Norte. Our banana farm being managed by my younger brother (Benigno D. Cariaga III also called “Ben”), suffered a 93% damage. From the usual minimum net income of P15,000 a month per hectare, suddenly there was no more income to divide among us brothers and a sister, nephews and nieces and in-laws, for those whose husbands have died already or not available. Everyone of us went to see for ourselves the badly damaged banana farm. True, there are bananas still standing but for those fruit-bearing or about to bear fruit, the fruits are small and no longer meet the export standard. In short, they are “rejects” and these fruits are not even fit for local market. It will take about six to nine months for the suckers to bear fruit and be harvested.

Now, there arose doubt and suspicion (except by me because I have complete trust and confidence in my brother) that our brother-manager must have done or doing something (?) resulting to this lack of income from our banana farm. What compounded the problem was that the share of one of our siblings which is adjacent to our corporate share, for some miraculous happening, appears not to have been affected very much by typhoon Pablo so that his harvest is almost the same as before Pablo struck. How come then that in the same farm which is almost ten times bigger in area, the harvest is just almost the same? This intriguing question sowed suspicion on why in our corporate share suddenly the harvest is nil, not even sufficient to defray the expenses for farm inputs and labor.

In a family meeting in which I was the “presiding officer” you may call it, after listening to the “unspoken” suspicion on my brother’s mismanagement, being exasperated by the suspicion on his honesty and integrity, my brother submitted a ready-made letter of resignation allegedly to avoid more trouble. Everybody was suddenly silent that one can hear the drop of a pin.

Breaking the defeaning silence, I somewhat came to the rescue of my brother who was already turning red and pale and I knew, though he was trying his best to control his emotion, in extreme distress, he calculatingly and emphatically explained that his wife (who was in the meeting and very silently observing) told him to give up his managership and added with emphasis that his decision is final. His eyes were tearful and reddish. Whereupon, emphatizing with the hurt feelings of my brother, I tried to assuage his feelings by tenderly touching his hand and saying, he should not be “onion-skinned”, speaking slowly and in a low tone. I can no longer recall word for word what I said quoting from the Scriptures about Love and Unity, trying to persuade him not to resign abruptly, to preserve our corporate unity. I remember that I said, “United we stand, divided we fall”. I gave as example, the case of the United States of America, that it was only when the northern and southern states (confederate and union) got united by President Abraham Lincoln that it became the most progressive and powerful nation in the world up to this day. Of course, history records that this caused extreme discontentment to some “unreasonable” minds which resulted to the untimely death of Pres. Lincoln. Of course, I am no Lincoln.

To my amazement, his wife most endearingly in an almost whispered manner and in all sincerity and seriousness remarked, “Ben, addressing it to my brother, pagbigyan mo na si Manong” (in English, Ben, give way to the request of your elder brother). Whereupon, my brother, as if the coals of fire in his head suddenly has been poured with cold water, said, “Alright, I will stay”. Praise God! Thanks for the timely and very appropriate words of the wife of my brother. Solomon said, “She (wife) openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness” (Prov. 31:26 KJV). As I write these paragraphs, my tears of joy for my brother are falling.

The influence of a wife is indeed beyond imagination which defies description in words.

The Bible records an account on how influential and extremely powerful a wife could be (Kings 21).

King Ahab coveted the vineyard of Naboth situated “hard (or near) by the palace” of the king. The king offered to buy the orchard of Naboth for any price he wanted, or he can choose any portion of land in his kingdom in exchange for his vineyard. But Naboth refused both offers, simply because it was the custom or tradition of the Jews not to sell their inheritance lest they become financially bankrupt.

The king “came into his house heavy and displeased” such that “he laid down upon his bed, and turned away his face, and would eat no bread” (vs. 4). The wife, Jezebel, asked the displeased husband, “Why is thy spirit so sad, that thou eatest no bread?” The king narrated his problem. Jezebel, remarked: “Are you the King of Israel or not? Get up and eat and don’t worry about it. I’ll get you Naboth’s vineyard!” (vs. 7 NLT). Jezebel forthwith ordered upon the alleged authority of the king, to take Naboth, put him in a chariot, parade him in the kingdom, with two hired men accusing him of blasphemy of God and treason against the kingdom. Being a traitor to the kingdom upon the false accusation of two witnesses, Naboth was put to death by stoning (vss. 8-14). Then, the wife told the king, “Now, you can take the vineyard of Naboth” (vs. 15). Notice how a wife can influence a husband. Of course, subsequently, God punished with tragic death both the king and his wife. Since then, no one ever named any man’s daughter Jezebel.

Wives have an unimaginable influence over their husbands. Therefore, wives should be careful in influencing their husbands! Husbands are much like Adam. Wives, remember God said in the Old Testament to the woman, “You will bear children with intense pain and suffering. And though your desire will be for your husband, he will be your master” (Gen. 3:16 NLT). In the New Testament, Saint Paul reiterated and emphasized this command by saying, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the Church: and he is the savior of the body. Therefore as the Church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their husbands in everything.” (Eph. 5:22-24 KJV). A violation of this injunction (command) of God will necessarily led to serious trouble. Wives should influence their husbands for good things, and this world will be like paradise.

[FGBMFI Davao City Chapter Bulletin April 20, 2013]

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Glory of the Young; The Splendor of the Old

      There is an adage, “Experience is the best teacher”. King Solomon, the wisest and richest man that ever lived on earth, such that no king or any man is wiser and richer before and after him (1 Kings 3:12-13; 10:23) said, “The glory of the young is their strength; the gray hair of experience is the splendor of the old” (Prov. 20:29 NLT).

King Solomon is the author of three books of the canonized Bible. He wrote Song of Solomon when he was young. This book which has 8 chapters is a dramatic story of two young lovers depicting by analogy the love of God to the church: the lover/bridegroom being God/Christ and the bride or love one, the church/believer. How the bridegroom loved and cared beyond description in words for his bride is exemplified by the love of God/Christ to the church/believer without equal. “They lived happily ever after”. So with God/Jesus Christ/and the believer, now in this world and the new world to come. And it shall be forever and ever because a believer has eternal life even now and in the world to come, in heaven with God where “all things are new” and “where there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away (Rev. 21:4-5 KJV).

When Solomon was already of middle age, perhaps 30 years old and above (before 50), he wrote proverbs, divided by theologians into 31 chapters. At a rate of one chapter a day, one can finish reading the book of proverbs in one month. Proverbs is a collection of “wise sayings” or adage for guidance in wise living or in making wise decisions of the multifarious issues or problems that confronts man in his daily living. God is the source of wisdom and “in Christ are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3 KJV). A believer of Christ can draw from time to time as needed, from these treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

It is very significant that it is written, “Man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1). No man can escape “troubles” or trials or challenges in life. So, to be wise, read, memorize and apply proverbs. To fully enjoy life, do likewise read, and apply the instructions of Song of Solomon where we will learn to love as Solomon said, “I am sick of love” (S.S. 5:8); “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” (6:3). This speaks of sense of belonging. One must belong to God: to Christians, they should belong to Jesus Christ (God in human form). He describes and characterizes love “as strong as death (no one can prevent death so likewise love cannot be prevented); jealousy is cruel as the grave” (be careful because of extreme jealousy, some are injured or even killed); the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame (be careful of your heart you will get burned); and he further said: “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it (8:6-7). Solomon is speaking through experience as evidenced by the fact that “he had 700 wives, princesses, and 300 concubines: and his wives (the pagan wives) turned away (from God) his heart” (1 Kings 11). In Pilipino-Cebuano dialect mixed with Spanish, “mapunggan pa nimo ang bahâ, nunca ang gugma” (again be careful of your heart). Our famous Filipino poet Francisco Balagtas said it in Tagalog this way: “O, Pag-ibig kung ikaw ay pumasok sa puso nino man, ay hahamakin lahat masusunod ka lamang” (in English, “Oh, love, if you enter the heart of anyone, it will do anything and everything just so it can be satisfied”).

Thus, the Lord Jesus Christ who was born of a woman lived on earth for only thirty-three years or so, and his troubles or trials ended no less in his crucifixion in the cross of calvary. He took or substituted the sinner’s place in the cross, so no believer up to his last breath has to die spiritually anymore but, on the contrary, he will live eternally with God (John 3:16).

It is significant and amazing that the Bible tells us that because of the Love of God toward us, Jesus Christ died for us while we were yet sinners (Rom. 5:8). Though a sinner, one need only a saving faith in God/Christ to be saved. The classic example here is the other criminal (thief) who was crucified with him. Because of his expressed belief in the DEITY of Christ at the last minute, the Lord Jesus told him, “Today, I tell you, thou shalt be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). This is the basis for theologians in saying that a sinner is saved by his Faith, not by his good works” which is the very theme of Paul’s assertion in Eph. 2:8-9. Of course, it follows that a saved sinner will do good works, if given the opportunity (Eph. 2:10). Obviously, however, the criminal had no more time or opportunity to do any good work. On the other hand, the other unbelieving criminal obviously, despite any good works he may have done, if any, was not saved because of his unbelief which is evidenced by the challenging and doubting words he uttered while hanging on the cross. “Actions speak louder than words”. Jesus said it scripturally, “for out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh” (Matt. 12:34 KJV).

Of course, because Jesus Christ is also 100% God, He resurrected on the third day as He predicted or told His disciples while He was with them teaching and preaching the FULL GOSPEL (good news of (1) SALVATION of the soul of men; of (2) BAPTISM of the HOLY SPIRIT which gives power to the believer to witness for God/Christ; of (3) HEALING as proved by the fact that all who have approached Christ for healing with faith, for whatever physical infirmities they were suffering from have been healed, and His power to heal is “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Heb. 13:8); and lastly, the Good news that Jesus Christ is the (4) KING OF KINGS and LORD OF LORDS” (Rev. 19:16). Fortunately, in a nutshell this is the ministry of our FGBMFI (Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship, Int’l.).

Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes which has 12 chapters when he was already old (fifty years old until his death), and after he had gained enough experience in life. Some three samples of the wisdom of Solomon included in Ecclesiastes are: “Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself? Be not over much wicked, neither be thou foolish: why shouldest thou die before thy time?” (Eccl. 7:16-17 KJV). For instance, an over righteous lawyer who happened to be FGBMFI President (not in Davao City) was shot to death. An over wicked retired Judge (not also in Davao City) was likewise shot to death.

Solomon further said, “For there is not a just man (righteous or believer) upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not” (vs. 20). For example, in the case of Rahab, a high class prostitute, two spies sent by Joshua to spy the promised land went to and lodged in her house. The king of Jericho learned of the presence of the two spies, so he sent soldiers with his order for Rahab to surrender the two spies. Rahab lied by saying that indeed two strangers went to her house, but they already left at dawn. If they will pursue them in the forest, they will be able to catch them, so the soldiers rushed to pursue the spies.

But the truth was that Rahab hid the spies in the roof of her house and covered them with flax. As soon as the king’s men left and the gate of the city closed, she let the two spies down the wall by a scarlet rope, and they successfully escaped. Before the spies left, Rahab requested that when they attack Jericho, she and her entire family should be spared. The spies agreed. Rahab sinned by telling a lie, but she did something good for the Israelite nation (Joshua 2). If we are fortunate to be in heaven, we will meet amiable and beautiful Rahab.

Be wise: let us apply to our life’s existence all the teachings of Solomon in the three books he authored, and surely we shall live happily, successfully and with full satisfaction in life and not be shot dead.

Being young is a blessing as much as to be old is also a blessing. Not everybody is privileged to become old. Let us learn from wise Solomon what he said on how to live wisely our youthful and old age. He said,

1Remember your Creator  in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come  and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them”—
before the sun and the light  and the moon and the stars grow dark,  and the clouds return after the rain;
when the keepers of the house (body) tremble,  and the strong men stoop, when the grinders (teeth) cease because they are few, and those looking through the windows (eyes) grow dim;
when the doors to the street are closed and the sound of grinding fades; when people rise up at the sound of birds, but all their songs grow faint;
when people are afraid of heights
and of dangers in the streets; when the almond tree blossoms and the grasshopper drags itself along and desire no longer is stirred. Then people go to their eternal home    and mourners go about the streets.
Remember him—before the silver cord is severed,  and the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, and the wheel broken at the well,
and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” (Eccl. 12:1-7 NIV)

The Constitution of the Philippines provides minimum age for certain public officials. For example, a Congressman should at least be 25 years old; a senator at least 35 years old; and a President at least 50 years old. It is assumed that normally the older a person, the more experience he has in life. Man learns from his experience or from his mistakes. The older we become with more experience, the better, except on matters that require energy and physical strength.

While there is time to retire, for a follower of Jesus Christ, the time to retire is not by age limit, but his physical and mental capacity to perform his ministry.

Moses served until his demise at 120 years old. Abraham started his mission at age 75. Pope Benedict XVI voluntarily retired because of his alleged physical incapacity due to old age. For the first time in the history of Christianity, a Pope compulsorily retired himself. There is a time to retire.

Solomon said,

1There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
4a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
  a time for war and a time for peace.
What does the worker gain from his toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on men. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time.” (Eccl. 3:1-11 NIV)

Older saints (or Christians) are often wiser saints, and they can make an enormous contribution in the kingdom of God by picking a sphere of service that matches their energy and experience. The value of treasures of experience is above the price of gold. That is the reason why we have elders in our churches who serve basically as advisers and consultants.

Sure, we may be getting older everyday, but the older we grow, the treasure of past experiences will make us wiser for the glory of God whom we worship and serve.

[FGBMFI Davao City Chapter Bulletin April 13, 2013]