Mess to Message

To be honest, I haven't been consistently right with God for the past few days, weeks, and months. My life is a crazy mess. Which would be fine if my crazy mess of a life has no consequence to other people. Unfortunately and to my shame, until I get myself together I am messing up their lives as well.

It's the perfect word, "mess". It's really only by grace that we are surviving day by day, that my life is not falling apart, and that sometimes, there are even really really good days. These are all completely undeserved.

Now I am presented with a great opportunity: To experience, once again, the kind of changes that happen when I recommit and persevere in "seeking first God's kingdom and righteousness".

I feel ashamed that, after all this time, after all the times God has proven Himself faithful and powerful, I have come to this low point of my life again.

But at the same time, I feel excited. I know that things will turn out awesome. I know it.

But I have to do my part.

Debt, Hard Work, and Evil Schemes

Thoughts on Proverbs 6:1-19

Prevention is better than cure. So, as much as you can, don’t get yourself into financial debt.

What would make someone cosign a loan for a stranger? What would make someone make guarantees that would eventually ensnare them?

Haughtiness, and pride, maybe. Thinking big of himself and wanting to gain a reputation for being rich. It could also be because he was tricked or scammed by people with ill intent. Whatever the case, his financial literacy (managing of one’s finances) is not good. The parable of the prodigal* son comes to mind.

Sadly, many men have fallen into this trap. Proverbs 6 gives instructions on how to get out of it. 

Basically? Do. Whatever. It. Takes.

First on the agenda: Get your lazy *** out of bed, out of the couch, out of that comfy chair. If I were to apply this to our day and age, I would add get out of social media, out of games, out of TV or Movies.

If we’re honest with ourselves, we know the things and activities we can – and should – give up.

“A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭6:10-11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I know these verses, but didn’t notice until now that it’s after a passage on debt, and directed to a “sluggard”. Under normal circumstances and for those who do good work, this is still a great mindset to have, but one that can be easily abused. These two verses can be used as justification by workaholic Christians. Don’t overdo it.

“A worthless person, a wicked man, goes about with crooked speech, winks with his eyes, signals with his feet, points with his finger, with perverted heart devises evil, continually sowing discord;”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭6:12-14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Some might be tempted with “get out of debt quick” or other “get rich quick” schemes. This is usually at the expense of others. Don’t do it, it will not end well. Proverbs says that the outcome for this is to be “broken beyond healing”.

It’s not often we get to know specifically what God hates, but Proverbs lists it up for us:

  • haugthy eyes
  • lying tongues
  • hands that shed innocent blood
  • heart that devises wicked plans
  • feet quick to run to evil
  • bearing false witness
  • sowing discord among brothers

Truly, the want of money (and the power that comes with it) makes men do detestable things.

To save us from falling on this trap, we need to make sure we are wholly devoted to God our Master.

(*Confession, I didn’t know what “prodigal” means until today)

How will people remember you?

Thoughts on Titus 3

Has it really been 2 months since the last post?

An acquaintance passed away the day I started meditating on Titus 3. He was young, my age, early 30s. His death was sudden – he was only admitted to the hospital only a few hours before and, as far as I know, he didn’t show any signs of sickness before then. He played sports regularly, had a vibrant social life, and seemed to enjoy his work too.

There’s much comfort knowing that he loves the Lord and is in peace in Heaven now. But his family and friends are crushed.

In the days after his death, messages from friends, family, and people whose lives were touched by him – whether directly or indirectly – came pouring in on social media. From their messages, I can tell that he lived a life of kindness, selflessness, laughter, and encouragement. He was a blessing to many people in his life, and even in his death.

This event brought me face to face with my own mortality. I spent many days and nights worrying, even anxious to the point of mini-panic attacks: “What if it happens to me?” 

What sort of life, what testimony, have I been living?

“Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.”
‭‭Titus‬ ‭3:1-2‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Am I living a life as one who has been forgiven, who has since then died to sin, and is victorious as the one who saved him?

“For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.”
‭‭Titus‬ ‭3:3‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Or, is there no change? Have I been like the seed sown among thorns where, “the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.” Mark‬ ‭4:19‬ ‭ESV‬‬

How will I be remembered?


Thoughts on Hosea 8

“Set the trumpet to your lips! One like a vulture is over the house of the Lord, because they have transgressed my covenant and rebelled against my law.”

‭‭Hosea‬ ‭8:1‬ ‭ESV‬‬

After reading this, I felt a chill up my spine – a feeling of dread. I know this: it’s that moment when you know that you messed up, God’s presence is gone and suddenly you are vulnerable.

“To me they cry, “My God, we—Israel—know you.” Israel has spurned the good; the enemy shall pursue him.”

‭‭Hosea‬ ‭8:2-3‬ ‭ESV‬‬

It’s not enough to know. Israel knew more about God than any other nation. In times of distress they know who is powerful, who is able to save. But knowing is not enough. There must be repentance, there must be a recognition and surrender to the His Lordship.

“They made kings, but not through me. They set up princes, but I knew it not. With their silver and gold they made idols for their own destruction.”

‭‭Hosea‬ ‭8:4‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Most of the time our problems are of our own doing. It happens when we make decisions without considering and consulting God. Whether it is because of direct defiance, or a simple lapse in judgment.

It just goes downhill from here. In spite of God’s discipline, the transgressions just gets worse and worse. And we try to fix the problems our own way. At one point we will try to ‘negotiate’ with God by doing ‘good things’, when all we really need to do is repent and turn our hearts back to him. Why is it so hard to do something so simple?

Hosea 8 ends with a sad note, I hope it will be better in the succeeding chapters.

Sit, Walk, Lie Down, Rise

Thoughts on Deuteronomy 11 (part 2.2)

“You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭11:19‬ ‭ESV‬‬

We’ve seen these passages before, in Deuteronomy 6:7-9. What did I write back then?

Wow. It’s taken me a year to get through 5 chapters of Deuteronomy…

Sadly, although I understood then what needed to be done and had some good ideas and good intentions, I never defined actual steps/actions that I would do..

Part of the fear of writing down my thoughts and the actions I will do is that it sets me up for potential disappointment if (when?) I fail. Like how I feel right now. But if I don’t write it down there’s no way to keep myself accountable to anyone. So here it is.

  • Sitting: During mealtimes, we can start a family tradition / habit. Something fun and meaningful to add to our prayer before meals. Should be prioritized over TV or other forms of entertainment. I need to get ideas for this.
  • Walking: The only time we can have a good conversation while “walking” is when we are inside the car. We noticed early on that Nate enjoys music (like his dad). So, trying to be a cool dad, I would play the Beatles as our soundtrack when we would go on trips. It’s lots of fun, singing along with him. We cannot deny that the Beatles were very creative – musically as well as lyrically. However, what were the lyrics? Good thing Nicole started playing Christian songs at home, and that Nate’s developed a couple of favorites. Now we play Christian songs during our trips. This should suffice for now.
  • Lie down: Oh yeah, we got one out of four, woohoo! It’s such a blessing to have started this, I don’t know how it happened. Now it’s part of our nighttime routine to have Bible Story time. We started with the Children’s Bible, and now we’re doing Goodnight Warrior. I look forward to this time with Nate everyday.
  • Rise: This may be a challenge since we don’t always wake up at the same time. If I’m still at home when my kids wake up, I can lead a prayer and/or reading of an encouraging verse.

Bottomline: Increase interactions, refocus topics, build an encouraging environment.

Heart, Soul, Hands, Face

Thoughts on Deuteronomy 11 (part 2.1)

“”You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.”

‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭11:18‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I think the first half of the chapter explained the What and Why, and then the second half explains the How.

Since laying up God’s word in one’s heart and soul is obviously meant figuratively, binding them as a sign on one’s hand, and as frontlets between one’s eyes must also be meant figuratively. Although, I am not surprised that people have taken this part literally.

Putting visual reminders around us, especially our hands and head, can be effective. The WWJD bracelet was a huge fad back in the day. I had one and wore them – not because of the fad – but because of a genuine desire to be reminded to be constantly thinking about Jesus. And, just like frontlets, it also served a second purpose of letting everyone who see me (my hands) know about this desire and be reminded themselves.

It worked for a time, until it didn’t. I took them off, never to wear them again. Is it because the fad died down? It did, but that wasn’t the reason. The reason was because of small compromises that turned into big sins. Guilt took over, and I was ashamed, that even with this glaring reminder in bold letters, literally in the palm of my hand, I failed and made mistakes.

In retrospect, I was just a new Christian then. I was just learning about Spiritual Discipline, Sanctification, what it means to be led by the Holy Spirit, etc. I still am. The failure is maybe because I needed to have a more comprehensive strategy – definitely more than just putting a rubber bracelet on my wrist.

God’s Word should be evident in four fronts:

  • Heart: How I think
  • Soul: How I feel
  • Hands: How I act and work
  • Eyes (Face): How others see me

Nothing wrong with having external reminders. I still use them. But just mottos, catchphrases, or bite sized verse reminders are not enough.

Knowledge without Action is useless. Action without Knowledge is futile.

Consider Today

Thoughts on Deuteronomy 11 (part 1)

“And consider today (since I am not speaking to your children who have not known or seen it), consider the discipline of the Lord your God, his greatness, his mighty hand and his outstretched arm,

For your eyes have seen all the great work of the Lord that he did.”

Deuteronomy‬ ‭11:2, 7‬ ‭ESV‬‬

What foresight it was to, first to put in writing, and then to setup reminders and events, of the supernatural events that happened during Moses’ time. I do not think it was to convince outsiders that the events happened, but it was more for the Israelites to remember themselves as well as to pass these (true) stories down to the next generation.

Verses 3 to 6 summarizes the events and, let’s be honest, if we think about them these are really quite unbelievable.

  • The 10 plagues in Egypt (while the area were the Israelites lived was unharmed)
  • The parting and closing of the Red Sea
  • The guidance by pillars of smoke and fire, daily provisions of Manna and Quail, water flowing from a rock (in the desert, feeding a whole nation)
  • The earthquake in Mt. Sinai (and the precision of the earth to break exactly where the camp of Dathan and Abiram was)

But what is even more unbelievable, is that the Israelites who have experienced these amazing things, were so quick to forget. You would think that supernatural experiences like these would leave a lasting impression, at least for one’s lifetime. But this generation of Israelites have failed over and over, eventually forfeiting their ticket to the promised land.

Well.. they are not alone. The Old Testament has some other examples as well. But most notable for me are the Apostles of Jesus. They literally walked with God, saw first-hand his miracles, heard directly his commands, and yet, even they had their doubts, even they had their lapses.

I guess that’s why God put His word into writing. That’s why He commands us to meditate on it day and night. That’s why He institued the Sabbath, and encouraged us to meet regularly to remind and encourage one another. Because we forget.

I don’t have similar experiences as the Israelites nor the Apostles, not in the same caliber for sure. But – as a family especially – we do have many, many, experiences in the past that surely was because of God’s grace and power.

Maybe we should have the same practice, of putting these experiences in writing, of considering them daily.

Verses 8-17 explains the Why. Simply – it’s for our own good.

Considering Daily strengthens us, helps us persevere in obedience. Because obedience leads to wonderful things, and disobedience leads to woeful things. This we already know from our own experiences as well as the experiences of others. We need to consider daily so we will not forget.

Fight Temptation through Discipline & Thanksgiving

Thoughts on Proverbs 5

“For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭5:3-4‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Temptation – by its very nature – is alluring, inviting, it looks good, tells you that it will make you feel good. Just a little closer, just a little compromise, it says.

Don’t. Just don’t. And when it calls, run the opposite direction. Run.

It never ends well. Since Adam, and all throughout the Bible, evident in your own experience as well as the experiences of others, we know that giving in will only mess up your life.

Falling (failing) is too easy, getting back up, not so much. And by the time you do, damage has been done. You have given precious time, honor, and strength, away.

What can you do? Aside of course from running away when it appears, because many times we don’t even notice that we are being tempted. Practice Discipline and Thanksgiving.

“and you say, “How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭5:12-13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Discipline is daily, minute by minute. Listen to the voice of the Teacher.

“Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth,”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭5:18‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Look around you and count your blessings. Adam and Eve had the whole Garden, all around them, when they were tempted.

Control your Self

Thoughts on Titus 2

Great follow-up to the last post. While the world is doing its thing (deceiving and hating), what are Christians called to do? What does it mean to show love?

For the leader, it means to teach sound doctrine. It means to be proactive in teaching, shining a light to deceit and hatred. 

But you cannot teach what you do not know. So it also means to be proactive in knowing sound doctrine – devoting yourself in God’s Word, letting the Holy Spirit work in you and through the Church. This is love in action.

Paul then lists some more examples for Older men, Older women, Younger men and Younger women. But the common characteristic for all four? Self-control. 

To love is to get yourself in check. We must guard our mind, our heart, our tongue, our hands and feet. Many times we already know what we should and should not do, but the self says, “No, I want it my way.” Other times, there’s not even a struggle, the self just goes and does what it wants. Control your self, even though it’s difficult. This is also love in action.

But Why? Why go through the trouble? Good thing Paul reminds us:

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,”

‭‭Titus‬ ‭2:11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

This is also the How. Grace through the sacrifice of Jesus has brought salvation to me and you. And it is also by grace that we are able to “live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.”

Justice and Healing

Thoughts on Hosea 7

It’s been 25 weeks since my last post. Although I tried to restart a few times, none of them got out of Draft. I hope this sticks.

And God’s Word is timely, as it often is. Politics has been crazy in the Philippines, consuming the everyday lives of Christian and Non-christian alike. I do believe the Church will survive this, because God’s love will prevail, but the dividing issues and differing opinions have caused hurt and will leave many scars.

There is evil. There has been and will be evil people doing evil things. For the life of me I could never understand why. But there it is.

One side cries out for Justice. Another side calls for Healing. Both are valid, why can’t we have both?

“When I would heal Israel, the iniquity of Ephraim is revealed, and the evil deeds of Samaria; for they deal falsely; the thief breaks in, and the bandits raid outside. But they do not consider that I remember all their evil. Now their deeds surround them; they are before my face.”

‭‭Hosea‬ ‭7:1-2‬ ‭ESV‬‬

True Justice and Healing can only come from God. 

What then, do I think we should do? We should trust in God’s Justice and we should love as Jesus loves. God sees all things and, as the rest of the chapter goes, will deal with evil people accordingly. We should remember this.

Should we then just ignore oppression? No. We should call it out. But keeping our eyes on Jesus as we do. 

There’s still more to be done for God and for His Kingdom and we may be distracted by things that are way beyond our spheres of control and influence. I think we should focus on people, especially those who God has brought to us to lead and to love.

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.””

‭‭John‬ ‭13:35‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Let’s start and persevere with this. Justice and Healing – from God – will follow.