Monday, September 28, 2009

Ondoy

It was an epic flood due to a record rainfall. Tropical storm Ondoy, “bearing winds of 85 kilometers per hour with gusts of 100 kilometers” (Source: http://inquirer.net/) hit us mid-morning. “About 100 families in different areas in Metro Manila have been evacuated as incessant rains caused heavy flooding in the national capital region… In San Mateo, Rizal, at least 269 families were reported to be severely affected by rising floodwater”. As I was writing this, the statistics are steadily rising. In the news, the government just declared Metro Manila and 25 provinces under state of calamity.

Dela Rosa Street became the Dela Rosa River. (Watch the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fv7KKVtRbRQ) The floodwater rapidly reached waist deep. It engulfed the cars parked along the street while the owners watched hapless and helpless. Our basement parking overflowed to the brim. Slowly, the waters seeped into our church office. We hurriedly cleared up the lower shelves of our filing cabinets, stacked up boxes on chairs and got our office equipments out of harm’s way. (Kudos to our staff, janitors, drivers and guards who did everything they could do for the church even if some of them were wondering about the plight of their own families.) I got text messages from friends all over Metro Manila requesting for prayers that they would be rescued. They were shivering on their roofs, hungry and wet. My wife Ellen and my son Jessey got stranded in the Mall of Asia. (Jessey competed in a Science Olympiad.) Deacon Manuel Go, Jr. and his wife, Sister Yvette, got stranded in the International Graduate School of Leadership. (They were supposed to be attending a marriage enrichment seminar there in IGSL. They decided to spend the night there.) The Brighthouse dormitory of IGSL got flooded. So they evacuated the students and their families to the gym. Facebook got inundated with pictures and videos of the deluge. It was such a depressing sight! My best friend, Pastor Jesse Dedel, posted on Twitter that he saw a man on a wheelchair trying in vain to cross the flooded street. Sadly, no one’s helping him. He also Twitted, “Pinoys haven’t seen flooding like this in 42 years!” No wonder our government was caught flatfooted! (Heads must roll, though.)

While watching the flood rise, I thought what a certain Daniel Wolpe wrote about a man who stood before the Lord, his heart breaking from all the pain, sin, and injustice he saw in the world. He cried out, “Dear God. Look at all these sufferings in your world. Why don’t you send help?” God responded, “I did send help. I sent you.”

Brethren, we are God’s help. Let us do something!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Issachar

It’s more than 230 days before the 2010 national and local elections. But it seems things are heating up. Even my Facebook page is getting flooded with posts campaigning for this or that presidentiable! In fact, the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches recently came up with guidelines should a church decide to be partisan (that is, endorsing or campaigning for a certain candidate) or non-partisan (engaging in voter’s education without endorsing anyone in particular) for this coming elections. (In case you are asking, our church will remain non-partisan.)

In the midst of all these I believe we should be like the “men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chronicles 12:32, NIV). Though very few in number, “They were men of great skill above any of their neighbours” (Source: Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible). Dubbed as “weather-wise,” they knew the right time to plant and to harvest. Deuteronomy 33:19 tells us that “They will summon peoples to the mountain and there offer sacrifices of righteousness”. That means that they also knew “the ceremonial times, the times appointed for the solemn feasts”. Lastly, “they understood public affairs, the temper of the nation, and the tendencies of the present events.” These were opinion makers. Thus there is such a dire need that we become like them!

In the coming elections, we must focus on pressing issues rather than political personalities.
We must sift through everything we hear or see nowadays to detect whether it is factual or mere propaganda. Does it really give us the information we need to know about a candidate and what he stands for or is it just a sleek infomercial? One area that we need to be discerning is how we handle surveys. Though a good marketing tool, surveys are not Gospel truths. They just reflect people’s preferences from a certain segment at a given time. We should always ask where they got the sampling for the survey, how they conducted it and how scientifically they interpreted the responses. Personally, I am always wary of candidates who would trumpet survey results as if they already won the elections. It is too early at this time to conclude anything at all. Popularity is at best fickle. What we could do now is to carefully weigh the qualifications, the track record and the issues the presidential wannabe got involved with. That way we can make a wise, informed choice the day we cast our votes.

Brethren, let us be like the men of Issachar.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Feast in Front of Foes (Part 2)

I wrote this article here in San Carlos City, Pangasinan during the ministry week of the International Graduate School of Leadership which started last Thursday, September 10. (Deacon Manuel Go, Jr. is with the Baguio team.) As soon as we arrived in Pangasinan, we hit the ground running by doing classroom evangelism in Dagupan National High Scholl. I almost lost my voice speaking before students in hot and humid classrooms. The next day our team evangelized the students of Turac National High School (Believe it or not, this public school of around 600 students has a Wi-Fi hotspot!) We are also training pastors and church workers in facilitating small groups, youth ministry, church leadership and preaching seminars. This Sunday (September I3), I will be preaching in the worship service of San Carlos City Baptist Church.

Other than what I went through personally in the past weeks, I saw that the enemy busied himself attacking. Last week, Pastor Cesar Magalong, the pastor of our host church, including his immediate family, key leaders and workers of their church suffered food poisoning. Most of them were hospitalized and they just got out on the day we arrived. Though still pale and weak, the pastor accompanied us and graciously hosted us. While we were evangelizing the students, someone mischievously scratched my car. And, as we were training pastors and church workers how to use the “Four Spiritual Laws” booklet for evangelism, our team leader in the San Aguilar, Pangasinan team sent me an urgent text message. Somehow, his files in the USB thumb drive were erased. He needed his PowerPoint presentation in the training that they are conducting there. Since I have a backup copy, I had to rush to an Internet cafĂ© to e-mail it to him. Now, I just got word that thieves broke into the house where the Laguna team is staying. They carted off a laptop (that sounds very familiar!), cell phones and other stuff. Good thing that the team was sleeping when it happened. They weren’t hurt.

Yes, the enemy tried to hinder God’s work. These desperate attempts show that we are where God wants us to be. 1 Corinthians 16:8-9 tell us, “But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me. (NIV) Opposition to the work is a sure sign that God has opened a wide-open door for effectual ministry. He will always prevail!


Brethren, please wage warfare with us in prayer.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Feast in Front of Foes

When it rains, it…? And it appears that when it pours, it’s a downpour. You already know that my son Jessey was hospitalized due to dengue. (Thanks for your prayers! His recovery is really a miracle.) Then, a few days later, his PSP has gone kaput. The technician lamented that it is beyond repair. Then, last Thursday, around 6PM, he got held up on his way home from school. His school bag, including my Macbook, got stolen. He brought the laptop to school for a class presentation. Three teenage suspects picked him up right in front of our house, brought him a block away then robbed him. I just praise God he was unharmed. That was really scary! Nowadays people get stabbed or shot or beaten up. I told him, “God gives us problems either to punish us or to polish us.”

The morning before the mugging, I spoke before grade and high school students, faculty and staff of a Filipino-Chinese Christian School. My verse was Psalm 23:5. “You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You welcome me as a guest, anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.” (NLT) Psalm 23 is usually called the Psalm of the Shepherd. King David who wrote this psalm was a shepherd before he became king. In verse 5 David shifted from the image of a loving shepherd to the image of a gracious host. He changed perspective from the eyes of a sheep to the eyes of a visitor. I think he has in mind a Bedouin shepherd who welcomes or invites people in his tent for a meal. Note the first part of the verse: “You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.” The Message version goes like this, “You serve me a six-course dinner right in front of my enemies.” What does it mean? In his “Psalm 23: A Psalm That Calms the Soul,” Robert Deffinbaugh wrote, “According to the Bedouin law of hospitality, once a traveler is received into the shepherd’s tent, and especially once his host has spread food before him, he is guaranteed immunity from enemies who may be attempting to overtake him… No greater security or comfort could be obtained by a traveler in the ancient Near East than to be offered the hospitality of a home. It was understood that this was a provision of shelter and food, but even more it was a guarantee of protection from harm.(http://bible.org/) While reflecting on the robbery incident, it hit me! God has indeed allowed us to feast in front of our foes. He secured my son. That’s a blessing of life!

Brethren, enjoy the feast!