Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Treasure Of Eternity

I am now in my early scriptural age of three score and ten [70] (Ps. 90:10), which means that I’m looking at a maximum year of about 15 more years of life to enjoy the material and spiritual blessings of God. Everything is in God’s hand. “My times are in thy hand”, the Psalmist says (Psalm 31:15).

Many people, whether in their fifties or whatever be their age, unfortunately don’t bother to read the Bible - - the love letter of God to all men. Why? Because they do not love God.

In my youth, I have to read, review and re-read the letter of my girlfriend such that I can memorize it like John 3:16. Why? Because I love her and I don’t tire reading her love letters. I enjoy reading her letters: they are my inspiration to live. So also if we love God (Jesus Christ in person), we don’t tire reading or even memorizing the Bible. The Bible inspires us especially in times of trouble: whether in our personal relationships, social or otherwise, in business, in our chosen profession, or in our finances, and more so during times we are afflicted.

I was in my early 30’s (like the age of Jesus Christ) when I was afflicted which led me to seek God, His kingdom and His righteousness [Jesus Christ] (John 3:16). Praise God and by his grace, I have overcome my affliction and am still alive and very active in my chose profession - - that of a human advocate - - the profession of our LORD Jesus Christ.

In Psalm 119 vs. 67, we read: “Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word”. … “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn they statutes” (vs. 71). When I came to know the Lord and his Word, I found out: “The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver” (vs. 72).

I have found the way to the salvation of my soul (John 3:16) and I found out that the Word of God “is a lamp unto my feet, and light unto my path” (vs. 105). Now, I can truly say from the innermost recesses of my heart, “O how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day. Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than my enemies: for they are ever with me” (Ps. 119:97-98).

As a lawyer and an active practitioner of the profession for almost half of a century now, I have plenty of “enemies”, yet I can truly affirm and relate what the Psalmist said: “How sweet are thy words unto my taste! Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through thy precepts I get understanding: (wisdom) therefore I hate every false way” (vss. 103-104). I can relate to the Psalmist’s conclusion: “Therefore, I love thy commandment (law and precepts) above gold, yea, above fine gold” (vs. 127).

No matter how much more time we have left in this world, we can start reading the Bible today if that has not been our practice previously. Resolve to read it regularly. It is the Book that will bless us and guide us while we are still in this valley of tears and joy, foremost to “make us wise unto salvation through faith in Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 3:15), and we can be sure of blessedness of eternal life here now in this world, and in the new world to come.

In all books, literature and reading materials, there is nothing that compares with the canonized Holy Bible. We can read in the Bible the most interesting stories or accounts of love, riches, prosperity and poverty, of kings and the most ordinary people as examples for us to follow or to avoid. We can learn the most interesting spiritual laws as well as human laws and principles of right living. In a word, we can acquire WISDOM. King Solomon said: “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her. She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace: a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee. Hear, O my son, and receive my sayings; and the years of thy life shall be many (Proverbs 4:7-10 KJV). And, if we “walk” according to the ways of God, we shall have the most precious treasure for eternity - - eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ, the LORD and only Savior of our soul. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

How To Be Wise?

Whenever we think of, or come across, the word wise or wisdom, our best specimen character is none other than Solomon, the son of King David and Bathsheba.

Solomon was a young man (only 20 years old) who was handpicked by his father, among all his legitimate other brothers, to succeed him when he was already in his deathbed. Very young then, he was charged with the responsibility of governing one of the most prosperous kingdoms in the ancient Near East, now known as Israel, a territory earmarked by God for his chosen people. The domain or territory of this kingdom (nation) extends from the Euphrates River to the border of Egypt.

The Bible tells us, “For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor chosen you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people” (Deut. 7: 6-7 KJV).

With so much and very heavy responsibility, Solomon young and inexperienced, needed supernatural help. He must have prayed for divine help until he fell asleep. In his deep sleep, he dreamed that God asked him. “Ask what I shall give thee” (1 Kings 3:5 KJV). Solomon did not ask to be healthy or wealthy or to have long life. He did not also answer directly, but give some preliminary remarks or statements like a lawyer preparing a memorandum to prove his case for submission to court, as follows:

And Solomon said, Thou hast shewed unto thy servant David my father great mercy, according as he walked before thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with thee; and thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.
And now, O Lord my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in.
And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude.
Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?”
(vs. 6-9 KJV).

The Bible says, “The speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing” (vs. 10).

God said to him,

11 And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment;
12 Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, 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 unto thee.” (vv. 11-12 KJV)

And the Lord God gave him bonuses besides, as follows:

13 And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches, and honour: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days.
14 And if thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as thy father David did walk, then I will lengthen thy days.” (vs. 13-14 KJV)

The word translated “understanding” in Solomon’s request (v. 9) actually means “hearing” or discerning. God gave Solomon a hearing (discerning) heart so he could judge the cases/problems of his nation and people, and “discern between good and evil.” This, in short, is the biblical definition of wisdom: knowing what is good and bad, and choosing to do the good (1 Kings 3:9).

In the book that Solomon wrote when he was already a young king, he said: “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him” (Prov. 18:13 KJV). In a modern translation it is worded: “What a shame – yes, how stupid! - to decide before hearing the facts!”. In our justice system in the Philippines, this is the “right to due process”, meaning, hear first to know the facts before you render judgment of acquittal or condemnation.

Wise men (which includes women) hear God through His Book. They may read other books, of course, but when rendering opinions or judgments, they make their opinions or decisions and actions anchored solely by the Word of God to be correct. There is no greater wisdom than one coming from God which are now written in the canonized Bible. The best and reliable human judges of today are those who read and know the canonized Bible and apply what is in the Bible.

The apostle James said, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, (like what King Solomon did), who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). King Solomon already knew this by revelation from God before James wrote his book. How will we acquire wisdom? Ask for it from God. READ, re-read, review, analyze and MEMORIZE the canonized Bible, more particularly, Song of Solomon (which deals on love relationships), Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, so when the occasion or opportunity arises, we can be guided by the wisdom coming from God. This is hard work and requires much hours and days even months or years, but it is extremely rewarding.

God bestows His wisdom to those who consult God, or read the canonized Bible.

(FGBMFI Davao City Chapter Bulletin, June 22, 2013)

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Who Deserve To Enter Heaven?

Love. Forgiveness. Mercy. Grace. Goodness. Compassion. Kindness. Generosity. Joy. These are characteristic traits of our Lord Jesus Christ. One who exhibits these characteristics is Christlike. He is bound to succeed here on earth and is on his way to paradise.

For example, when a woman caught in the very act of adultery was brought before Jesus by the Scribes (experts in the law of God also called lawyers) and Pharisees (religious leaders), Jesus was asked what he had to say. Under the Law of Moses, the penalty for the sin is death by stoning. This is also a violation of the ten commandments of God given through Moses. In their human wisdom, there was no more avenue for Jesus to exculpate (acquit) the woman. Therefore, the Scribes and Pharisees were expecting a judgment of guilty and condemnation by death, especially because in the New Testament, “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23).

However, after some few moments of writing something in the sand before giving his answer, finally the Lord Jesus answered: “He that is without sin among you let him first cast a stone at her” (John 8:7). Of course, no one is without sin, as the Bible says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). The Bible also says: “And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst” (John 8:9). The woman was saved from being stoned to death, but the Lord Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn thee: go and sin no more” (vs. 11).

This true story demonstrate very vividly love, forgiveness, mercy, grace, goodness, compassion, (kalo-oy in Visayan dialect; awa in Tagalog language), kindness. Surely, there was joy in the heart of the Lord Jesus, as much if not more than the “joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth” (Luke 15:10 KJV). This is being Christlike.

Whatever sin we have committed, as soon as we BELIEVE, ACCEPT Jesus as our only LORD and SAVIOR, and REPENT, God generously bestows upon us the gift of ETERNAL LIFE (John 3:16; Rom. 6:23).

Christianity is about Christ and His loving, forgiving, merciful, gracious and compassionate gift of eternal life.

The characteristic traits of Jesus Christ shining through our life will make others see in us Christlikeness. Then, others will also want to know and accept Jesus Christ as their LORD and Savior.

A Christlike person is a living and walking Bible. His life is a living sermon or preaching of the Word of God.

How will we know a Christlike person? The Lord Jesus Christ himself said, “Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:16 KJV). “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them” (vs. 20). What are these fruits? The Lord Jesus was referring to the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance (self-control) (Galatians 5:22-23 KJV), these are the character traits of a spiritual or born again person. In the conversation between lawyer-magistrate-pharisee Nicodemus, Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3 KJV). He further clarified, “Except a man be born of water (in the flesh) and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (vs. 5). Only Christlike or “born again” people can enter the kingdom of God.

[FGBMFI Davao City Chapter Bulletin June 15, 2013]

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Remembering Our Sins No More

Do we worry that there are certain sins that we will be punished by God someday after our physical death? I said “we” because myself is included.

The Old Testament Major Prophet Isaiah ascribed of God:

25 “I, even I, am he who blots out
your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” (Isa. 43:25 NIV)

Isaiah figuratively repeated this prophecy in Isa. 44:22 when he again said of God:

“22 I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist.
Return to me, for I have redeemed you.” (Isa. 44:22 NIV)

We all know that when the cloud is swept away, we no longer see it anymore, and when the morning mist is dried, it exist no more.

Jeremiah another Major prophet, also prophesied:

33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

34 No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jer. 31:33-34 NIV)

Christians are spiritual Israelites. They are “grafted” into the Israelite people. Thus the Bible tells us, “For ye are all children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. There is no more Jew for as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. These is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if he be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26-29 KJV).

The Chief Psalmist, King David in a poetic manner said:
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father has compassion on his children, o the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;” (Psalm 103:12-13 NIV)

Of course, we all know that it is impossible for the east to meet with the west, for they are of opposite direction. So, once our sins (transgressions) are removed, they no longer exist.

Many of us (again, I said “us”, because I am included before I knew the Scriptures), doubt these promises of God through the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah and Psalmist King David and as expounded by the Apostle Paul.

King David committed adultery with the beauteous Bathseba who became his wife when she became widowed after David’s murder of her husband, the faithful soldier Uraiah. Solomon who later became the wisest man and king that ever lived was their son. (1 Kings 3:12; 10:23). Adultery and murder were heinous sins in Bible days and punishable with death by stoning. However, in the Philippines, our criminal law provides a penalty of only prision correccional in its medium and maximum periods (2 years 4 months and 1 day to maximum of 6 years) for a conviction of the crime of adultery. However, David repented of his sins in this wise (vs. 51:1-15).

Have mercy on me, O God,
because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion,
blot out the stain of my sins.
Wash me clean from my guilt.
Purify me from my sin.
For I recognize my shameful deeds –
They haunt me day and night.
Against you, and you alone, have I sinned;
I have done what is evil in your sight.
You will be proved right in what you say,
and your judgment against me is just.
5For I was born a sinner –
Yes, from the moment my mother
conceived me.
But you desire honesty from the heart,
so you can teach me to be wise in my inmost
Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Oh, give me back my joy again;
you have broken me –
now let me rejoice.
Don’t keep looking at my sins.
Remove the stain of my guilt.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
Renew a right spirit within me.
11 Do not banish me from your presence,
and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me again the joy of your salvation
and make me willing to obey you.
13 Then I will teach your ways to sinners,
and they will return to you.
14 Forgive me for shedding blood, O God,
who saves; then I will joyfully sing of your
15 Unseal my lips, O Lord that I may praise
you.” (Psalm 51:1-15 NLT)

That is why the Bible (New Testament) tells us:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 NIV).

This confession and repentance is very important and must be done by the sinner so he will be forgiven. If we are blessed to reach heaven, we will meet king David.

God longs to forgive sinners! But in the minds of many people, this thought seems too good to be true. Countless sermons have been preached to convince guilt-ridden individuals that this is true and the truth. Many of these sermons emphasize that God not only forgives the sinner but also forgets the sin.

Some people would say, “those prophecies and Biblical principles are good or applicable only during Old Testament times.” The answer is found in the New Testament when the writer of Hebrews (which many theologians believe to have been authored by Saint Paul because of his style in writing) said:

12 For I will forgive their wickedness  and will remember their sins no more.” (Heb. 8:12 NIV)

Remember, “God doesn’t say He will forget our sins – He says He will remember them no more!” His promise not to remember them ever again is stronger than saying He will forget them. For we are well aware, especially when we get to be of senior age, like me, we forget for a while but afterwards we remember again! So it is much different when we remember no more! Now that reassures us! Because Christ died for all our [past, present and future] sins (1 Cor. 15:3), God promises to forgive us and never bring up our sin again because he remembers them no more (Ps. 103:12).

God, whose every way is perfect, has promised and recorded it in the canonized Bible. We must believe it by faith – that our sins are erased, blotted out like clouds, evaporated like the morning mist and remembered no more by our God. Whenever God says something, it must be true and it will really come to pass. Just BELIEVE!

To enjoy life and the future, accept by faith (believe in our heart) God’s forgiveness for our confessed sins.

(FGBMFI Davao City Chapter Bulletin June 8, 2013)

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Pressing On The Upward Way

Our God loves us beyond description in words that like little children, He wants us to press on toward maturity in our spiritual life.

The Psalmist said,

25 Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.
26 My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.
28 But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all thy works.” (Ps. 73:25, 26 & 28 KJV)

We are only sojourners in this world of tears and joy. We must press on toward our destination on high – heaven. Jesus Christ himself said, “And if I go to prepare a place (heaven) for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:3 KJV). If Jesus makes a promise, 100% it shall come to pass.

There is a beautiful song, the favorite of many Christians:

I’m pressing on the upward way,
New heights I’m gaining every day –
Still praying as I’m onward bound,
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”

All progress in our spiritual life is marked by our quest toward that end that only one thing is necessary: God Himself “who art in heaven” (Matt. 6:4).

We should always be pressing on toward knowing God and loving Him – moving toward that destination to be with our God. The Psalmist said, “… God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever” (Ps. 73:26).

Notice the repeated word “heart” in the aforequoted verses. The heart is the center of all our emotions, feelings and desires. “Delight thyself also in the Lord and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart” (Ps. 37:4 KJV). The heart is likened to an engine. Once the engine stops functioning, everything also stops.

This is the reason why when a person is dying, as an ultimate remedy to revive the patient, the doctors will pump the heart. When the heart stops pumping, the person dies physically forever.

The Bible tells us, “Keep thy heart with all diligence for out of it are the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23 KJV). Diligence means constant, persistent and earnest effort to accomplish something, with all carefulness, leaving no stone unturned, so to speak. The “issues” are the niceties of life, as well as challenges and problems of life. That is why in Philippine TV dramatics, there is that drama “Be Careful With My Heart”. Why? The Bible tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9 KJV). Our knowledge and love and devotion to God will guide our heart from the deceitfulness of the adversary.

That perspective changes the way we look at everything. The joyous feeling of love, as well as the suffering and adversity become the means by which we are made hungry and thirsty for God. Disappointments, problems and physical afflictions and infirmities become the tools that wean us away from earthly occupations and move us toward a preoccupation with God alone. Even sin, when repented of, becomes a switch to push us closer to God so that we can experience His love and forgiveness. All things become useful when viewed as the means to the highest good – drawing near or pressing on toward God.

Is there anyone without any problem or trouble in life? The obvious answer is written in the Bible: “Man that is born of a woman is a few days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1 KJV). “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” (2 Peter 3:8 NIV). Significantly, our Lord Jesus Christ was born of a woman (Mary, mother of Jesus), so he had plenty of trouble culminating in his death by crucifixion. Nevertheless, the Bible assures us, “The righteous (believer) cry, and the LORD heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles” (Ps. 34:17 KJV) “Many are the afflictions of the righteous (believer): but the LORD delivereth him out of them all” (Ps. 34:19 KJV). Be a believer of Jesus Christ (God in person) and “thou shalt be saved (Acts 16:31). “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9 KJV). More than that, we will know and experience deliverance from all our troubles and what is true love of God which is constant and unchanging.

Like Paul, we may say, “… but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth unto those things which are before. I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14 KJV). Don’t make the past bother you. There is nothing you can do anymore. Just go on forward March as a good soldier.

How do we press on? With a humble and grateful response to God’s love (Jesus Christ in person). But all begins with God and from our heart. Our God seeks us first (1 John 4:10 & 19 [we love him, because he first loved us] so that we may seek Him alone first before anything else in this world. The phrase, “he first loved us” is very significant. God is our “suitor” or lover who serenades us because he loves us very dearly which will draw our reciprocal love for God. It is likened to a suitor in love with a woman, who shows love to the woman, and the woman responds positively. If we respond to the love of God, and be like His only begotten Son (be Christlike), then and only then shall everything be fine with us and all things we have need of are added unto us (Matt. 6:33), even life that is eternal in earth and in heaven. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son (Jesus Christ) that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Let us keep pressing on the upward way, our eternal destination.

God and God alone is our hope in this life and in the new life to come.

(FGBMFI Davao City Chapter Bulletin, June 1, 2013)