God’s Way of Touching Us

IMG_0519Driving into a storm in the mountains in the middle of the night is a dangerous experience, and seasoned motorcyclists don’t usually recommend that. Mountain roads are muddy and slippery; dark clouds above you hover like a threat: to pour in more rains, as if to wash away the sad experiences of human downfalls. There are breaks on the road, gullies deep and shallow, that have been created by downpours that have prolonged. One single mistake, one miscalculation, and you will fall—-into the ditch, into the gully, or into the high cliff on either side of the road. Motorbikes such as yours may have been equipped with modern halogen lamps, but on a stormy night like this, their glow could hardly penetrate the thick curtains of fogs and mists before you. You are driving blind, and your temptation is to trust your instincts, or, as pilots would say,” fly by the seat of your pants.” But doing so would be courting trouble. You have no compass to guide you in the midst of the fogs.

But there are barking dogs. They warn you that you are approaching a hut, before you bump your machine into a mass of sleeping bodies.

What if you find yourself on this stretch of mountain roads with not a single house on either side, and no dogs?

We all face storms in this life, storms that threaten to confuse us, disorient us, or uproot us from our moorings. A call from home telling us of a family tragedy. News of betrayal. Unfriendly creditors collecting bad debts. Shattered dreams. Youthful sins. Adult carelessness. Legal discrepancies. Ethical issues. Unfaithfulness to vows. Deceptions of some kind. Name it.

What then? You need a barking dog. A barking preacher on the pulpit to remind you that sins have their harvesting seasons, and that these seasons may come anytime. A preacher like James, for instance. Read James 5:1-6.

Or you may need a gently barking dog. Maybe a gentle approach to a big problem of yours. Witness for example the prophet Nathan’s approach (2 Samuel 12:1-7). He tried a parable: Two men in one city; one rich, the other poor. The rich had exceeding riches and flocks; the poor had just one ewe lamb which he loved so much. The story goes on to say that the rich man had a visitor (perhaps he had come without an invitation, we don’t know); and to feed this uninvited guest, the rich man invited himself to the only ewe lamb his poor neighbor had, and dressed it to feed his guest. And the rest of the story says that this breach of etiquette and utter disregard of morality and law made David angry. He said: “That man shall die! Then Nathan gently broke the news: “You are the man, O King…”

How do you like that?

God too uses circumstances to remind his people of their waywardness. In Elijah’s time, it was three years and six months without rain (James 5:17), to punish them for their idolatry and other sins. As a result of this drought, the brooks and the rivers stopped flowing, the planting seasons ceased, the grass dried up, the cattle died. The sinners among them suffered, or died. What about the faithful? They learned to trust Him who owns the waters above and the waters below, the fat cattle and the lean, the meadow grass all brown or all green, the seasons of want and the seasons of plenty.

These are all circumstances and they all touch us, one way or another. They may hamper evil motives, prevent further wrongs, discipline the rebellious, and refine the faithful. If a circumstance prods us, we better stop and think, because the God of the Bible is also the God of circumstances!

More so, God uses people who are not His people to discipline the people who are His, to punish them, and to refine them. This was true in His dealings with the Jews during the Old Testament times. Seventy years of captivity and slavery under idolatrous Babylon, who was their enemy and definitely not God’s people, had taught the Jews, God’s ancient people, to go back to serving the true God. There is no reason that this won’t be true in our times; for He is the same God yesterday and today. For instance: A cursing passenger who tells a taxi driver cum Sunday school teacher that he hates drivers who cheat (this should strike the conscience of those who do). Or, a Catholic devotee cum vice president of the country who urges all citizens to pay their taxes, enjoins all employers to give to their employees what are due them (including better salaries and SSS premiums), or encourages one who embarks on a construction project to first secure a building permit. This should touch anyone of us who violate the country’s laws.

Even a denominational preacher, who definitely is not one of us, can teach us good lessons on walking by faith, faithfulness in church attendance, and more profound meanings of love.

You may not need a barking dog. Perhaps you need a whimpering puppy? Like that preacher or that member who whimpers because of the hurts he has suffered at the hands of his fellow Christians? We all need to listen to this also. What about the little child who complains of unfulfilled promises? We should be touched.

A Bible at the hands of holy men? Who said so? Even at the hands of a sinful preacher, it is still God’s powerful guide to those who want to come back to Him. Listen to this: “Then said Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples, Saying The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: , so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice” (Matthew 23:1-3). It is definitely the book, not the preacher.

When you are blinded by life’s disappointments, or dazed by life’s abundance, you need to listen to those voices, whether barking voices or not, whether whimperings or complaints, whether done on wrong motives or good. Those, plus the Bible, are God’s way of touching us.

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Visit these blogs and websites:

Church in the Valley. Start your day by visiting brother Paul Lachica’s blog. New looks, more improvements. News and articles that could inspire us to do more for Jesus. Click this link: Church in the Valley blog.

Mangaldan Church. Visit also the website of the Mangaldan brethren. Click this link: Mangaldan Church of Christ.

Church Growth-Philippines. This is the website of brother Ken Wilkey and the Murrells, where you can get plenty of downloads- free. Click this link: Church Growth.

Mountain View Church. Browse at my wordpress blog. Here you will find sermons you can use in preaching. Also notes about the sects and inspirational write ups to perk up your day. These could help you. We carry news too. Click this link: Mountain View Church.

Mountain View Church. This other blog of mine contains news and short write ups to inspire your day. No discussions about the sects, no sermons either. Click this link: Mountain View Church of Christ.

Bible Feast is our one-stop shop for articles, sermons and discussion notes. Definitely no news. It carries other write ups which one cannot find in my other two blogs. Click this link:Bible Feast.

Brother Seb’s blog, definitely the trailblazer among us bloggers, still is the most visited among blogsites by Philippine Christians. Visiting Word Ministry goes with my morning coffee. Click this link: Word Ministry.

Who Are We?

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This is the blog that tells the world who we are. We are a church trying to follow what the early Christians did in order to please their God, who is also our God. Jesus is our example and the Bible is God’s book that gives us directions on how to be like His Son.

Is it possible to be like Jesus, to be a Christian, today? We think so. Jesus did not impose on his disciples what is impossible to do; for if he did, salvation would no longer be by the grace of Him who died that we may live. Neither candles nor prayers, nor human merit could save any man. No pronouncements of any self-anointed person, be he a priest or a minister, can transform a sinner to one without sin. It is neither true that you can do the dying that you may live.

Someone died for you. Let that statement sink in that it may find a place in the modules of stock knowledge that you keep in your heart. It is not easy for any ordinary human to give his life that another may go to heaven. But one extraordinary life was poured out on that cross, and heaven went bankrupt, that you and I may be rich.

When that one life was snuffed out on Calvary hill two thousand years ago, it was made for the purpose of purchasing a church. Don’t ever believe anyone telling you that the church of Jesus is nothing but a bunch of bigots or a clique of fools. Sometimes we have to admit our message falls on deaf ears.

We may admit that we’re a bunch of good-for-nothings aiming for something much better, because we cannot make ourselves better! We are not righteous people, and if God were to look down on men and women today, He sees those who claim be righteous among mankind as a bunch of hypocrites, dressed in nothing but rags. Jesus’ people, those who have by virtue of his shed blood been washed, justified, and saved, can claim no other righteousness than the one that he himself provides. He is our righteousness.

You can make Him yours too- your mediator, your advocate, your justifier, your savior. The Bible tells you how. We can assist you in this matter. Give us a call today. Our phone number is +63-9292718925. Go ahead. You won’t regret it.

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The Stories of Some Christians Retold

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Boy Noval, Sam Tariman, and other men told me they already have stopped engaging in vices, no smoking, no wine-drinking.

Boy Noval told me that what motivated him to do right, to love his family, to be kind to everyone, and to stop bowing his knees to idols, was his father. His father claimed to be Catholic but did not practice it, was even very critical about idol worship. Boy stopped practicing Catholicism. His father stopped drinking after he got sick; Boy did not even attempt to try taking wine. His father read his Bible but never got to the point of obeying Jesus; Boy read his Bible and obeyed Jesus. There lies the difference.

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The Joy of Being With God

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As a church, we are blessed. We are blessed to become a blessing to others, especially to our fellow Christians. We are blessed to be an example to others, to be able to pray for others and encourage one another to grow and reach that stage of maturity in Christ.

Seven days the Lord has given us to use every week have proved the incredible value of that blessing. These who are in Bacayan, in Babag Uno and in Maraag–three young churches–have heard us preach and teach, have heard us talk when out of the pulpit, and have seen our manner of life, and our devotion to the Lord in serving Him and worshipping Him, and our wisdom as shown in the way we handle the Scriptures. Being with these people you will hear nothing but good words, encouraging words, words of admiration for the one who brought them the gospel, for the family who made it possible for Ed Maquiling to preach to them the Word. If you would stop them in the middle of a conversation and tell them you don’t deserve any of these accolades, they would insist that those really come from the bottom of their hearts. Very simple people whose lives have not been stained by the bad examples they saw from other preachers (of the denominations).

Oh yes, they have not yet seen Christian preachers quarreling among themselves. By these I mean preachers of the Lord’s church. I hate to think about the day when they will see us preachers debating and shouting and lambasting each other. They have not seen the rest. They have only seen me. They have only seen how I treat them, as brothers and sisters whom I truly love. I will not let them see that day. That will be a day of our misfortune, the day when we will curse ourselves for not living up to the example of Jesus.

Oh, how they love each other too. No Catholic can criticize a member of the Lord’s church here, in Babag or in Maraag, without any of these Christians coming to her defense. Rodrigo Sacamay, the very first among those in Babag Uno to be baptized, told us it hurts him to hear his brothers in the flesh castigating his fellow Christian. To which all in the assembly agree. Even they themselves, members of the one body of Christ in Babag Uno, have stopped criticizing each other. They all feel that they are one body. The pains of one are the pains of all. The hurts of one is everybody’s hurts.

A question I posed to them during our Bible classes ran like this: Whom would you accept into your home: (1) A man who teaches the truth but does not live up to what he preaches? (2) A man who preaches false doctrines but lives a very exemplary life? They had no choice of either of these! Isn’t that amazing? They would rather have a man who preaches the truth and lives likewise according to the Word that he preaches.

We are here seeing young disciples having a commitment and a deeper understanding of what it takes to be a christian, a true disciple of Jesus, one who is heaven-bound. They are trying to fulfill in whatever way possible, according to the ability the Lord has supplied them, their commitment to God. They in Babag Uno told me that nothing can stop them, nothing can hinder them to fulfill that commitment to serve God and be in heaven someday.

Fulfill a commitment? These brethren do not believe that their work saves them. They know by heart what Ephesians 2:8-9 says. They trust only in Jesus’ power to save, they knew that He saved them by His blood, and they knew the blood would be powerless to make a change in their soul if they did not meet the Lord in the watery grave of baptism, and they knew that they could lose that salvation if they would not remain faithful to Him all the days of their lives. Commitment in its totality. They could not bargain for a much lesser price. It is all or none at all.

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The Church of Christ in the Valley, Pongpong, Sto. Tomas, LU

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The history of Pongpong church is found in Paul’s blogs. Click here: Church in the Valley.

In his blog, Paul mentions many names of Christians who in more ways than one had contributed to the establishment and growth of the Church of Christ in the Valley, Pongpong, Sto. Tomas, LU – the Bejagons, Miro Annague, the Dulays, the Calonges, the Lachicas, the Mercados, the Panergos, the Villanuevas, the Doctoleros, KJ Wilkey, Bob Buchanan, Doug LeCroy, Seb Tanicala, Nick Fulgencio, Adrian Limbawan, Felix Bravo and many others. (I think I am suffering from short memory syndrome because I cannot remember all, sorry).

The good Lord in His infinite mercy had caused the gospel to be preached in that area of Pongpong through an accident of history- a certain Jesus Bejagon was there to visit his wife, not knowing that such a visit would be used by God to have His church established in that remote area of La Union (it is not remote anymore, because highways and feeder roads connect to it now).

Miro Annague I remember, though I was quite close to his son David (whose jokes still evoke laughter in my ears). But Jesus Bejagon I never had opportunity to meet. I just heard this name when I went to Leyte (in fact, I had gone to the very place where he grew up, where he at one time ministered). God bless these people, those still living and working to promote His kingdom, and may He bless too the memories of those who had contributed to the Pongpong mission though they are now gone. May your tribe increase!

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Indifference

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IMG_0528We all have a lot to say about indifference, about people who are indifferent. Blind they are to what they see. Deaf they are to what they hear. They care much about their personal safety and their own reputation they don’t want to get involved.

There’s this little girl who was a victim of child abuse. What was her fault? She, out of hunger and need, dipped her hands into her teacher’s wallet. Or so I was told. Her uncle knew of it. And he taught her a great lesson.

Her uncle cared, not for the little girl who was hungry, but for the family reputation (because it was the girl’s teacher who complained!), and never mind if he and his wife themselves had dipped their hands into the funds the girl’s adoptive mother sent for her food, education and daily needs. Never mind if it was twenty thousand pesos they stole from the little girl’s bank deposit; but they mind because the little girl stole only twenty pesos.

The neighbors knew of the little girl’s plight. But they did not say anything. They could have called the little girl’s adoptive mother abroad; they knew her phone number, they knew her email address. They were afraid of the girl’s uncle. They chose to be silent.

The uncle, out of shame, as I said, decided to do something: Nip that in the bud. Bring the lesson home so early so as to create a generation who is afraid to steal. Shame must be repaid, justice must be imposed. The little girl was crying, and her cries could be heard that early Wednesday morning from a little hut deep in the woods. The auntie and the grandmother, who was around washing plates, thought that was needed to wash away shame in the family. The uncle dragged the little girl into the kitchen area, put her fingers on the chop board – four fingers, one finger for each five pesos stolen – and chopped them with a bolo. As simple as that.

The neighbors knew and the neighbors saw. They did not do anything.

I pass by the little girl’s hut on my way in and out of Babag Uno every Sunday morning. Four fingers wrapped in rags. Those fingers would heal, God would see to that. But the wound in her soul would not. And the wound in mine seeks redress for the abuse done to this little creature of God who is not even a relation.

It’s been four weeks since I wrote the agencies concerned about this incident, supplied them with information needed to pin down the culprit, but there has been no action.

Time will come, and I am sure of that, that we in this generation shall repent not only for the acts of bad people but also for the appalling indifference of good people.

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