Wednesday, March 31, 2010

He Is Risen!

This Sunday, April 4, we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. This made our faith unique. Our gospel message rests on this truth. However, there are those who seek to deny the resurrection. One Muslim scholar said, “On the subject of crucifixion, the Muslim is told in no uncertain terms, in the Holy Qur’an… that they didn’t kill Him, nor did they crucify Him. But it was made to appear to them so.” (Source: http://answering-islam.org/) Most Muslims believe that somebody else other than Jesus was crucified. Thus, when the disciples saw Him, they thought that He had risen from the dead. But the Muslim writers are divided as to who got crucified in His place. Some said it’s one of the disciples. In a debate with a Muslim scholar, Josh McDowell, a leading Christian apologist (defender of the faith), questioned that point of view, “Then, others feeling that it might be a little unfair to put an innocent man there, say, well, it must be Judas Iscariot who was placed on the cross… But I always wondered, why did God have to have a substitute? Why couldn’t He have simply taken Jesus then? (Ibid)

There are those also who conceded that it was Jesus who was crucified on the cross. But they claim He did not die but just passed out in the cross. So, they claim, it was really resuscitation and not resurrection. But, John 19:34 tell us that “one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.” (ESV) McDowell points it out as proof that Christ did not merely swoon on the cross. “A wound of the type inflicted on Jesus, if the person were still alive, would not bleed out the wound opening, but bleed into the chest cavity, causing an internal hemorrhage. At the aperture of the wound, the blood would be barely oozing from the opening. For a spear to form a perfect channel that would allow the blood and serum to flow out the spear wound is next to impossible. The massive internal damage done to a person under crucifixion, and then being speared in the heart area, would cause death almost immediately (Ibid).

Thus, our Lord Jesus Himself died on the cross. That’s why the resurrection is a miracle. To claim that God substituted somebody to be on the cross other than Christ and that He made it to appear so is making Him a liar. That would be accusing the Source of all truth of deception. Our faith in the resurrection is based on the foundation of truth.

Brethren, He is risen!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Best Reason to Smile

“The broader your smile and the deeper the creases around your eyes when you grin, the longer you are likely to live”.

That’s the conclusion of a study conducted by researchers from the Wayne State University in Michigan. Studying photographs of US major league baseball players from the 50’s, the researchers grouped them according to “‘no smile’ if they were just looking deadpan at the camera… ‘partial smile’ if only the muscles around the mouth were involved in their grin… [and] ‘full smile’ if the mouth and eyes were smiling and the cheeks were both raised.” (Ibid) On the average, the “no smile” group lived up to around 73 years old, the “partial smile” group lived up to 75, and the “full smile” group lived up to around 80! According to the smile study, published in Psychological Science this week, “To the extent that smile intensity reflects an underlying emotional disposition, the results of this study are congruent with those of other studies demonstrating that emotions have a positive relationship with mental health, physical health and longevity (Ibid). In short, as the news item is titled in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, “Broader smile, longer life.”

Though the study gave us another reason to smile, I think the best reason why we should smile is not that we would live longer but that our Lord Jesus died for our sins and rose again on the third day. We may live long because we smiled a lot. But, sooner or later, we would still die. Our smile then would only last in our lifetime. Yet, when we accept the Lord Jesus as our Savior, we will smile throughout eternity. This Sunday is Palm Sunday, the start of what we call the Passion Week or the Holy Week. We were taught when we were children that we should not smile during this Week, especially on Good Friday. The elders reasoned, “Patay ang Diyos.” (“God is dead.”) But we Christ-followers have all the reason to smile. The night before He died, our Lord told His apostles, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.(John 16:20, ESV) After talking about how a mother’s anguish in giving birth would turn to joy after the baby has been delivered, He added, “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” (v. 22)

Brethren, smile because He lives!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Daddy Johnny, 64

We fondly call him “Daddy Johnny” or “Tito J.”

People remember Architect Juanito Carlos as the 60 plus-year-old who untiringly played badminton or tennis with those old enough to be his children, encouraging them to keep on playing when they could not keep up with his seemingly boundless energy. We also remember him as a prayer warrior, a soul-winner in our visitors’ room, a discipler with his wife, Mommy Deng, in our seekers’ team and a Circle of Care shepherd. To all of us, he was a dear brother in the Lord. He was so passionate in serving God.

It all started when he noticed his gums bleeding more than a week ago. He went to his doctor for consultation. Blood tests showed that his platelet count is way below normal. Immediately he was confined for blood transfusion and to determine what caused the low platelet count. His blood pressure was erratic. His platelet count remained critical. He went through further tests. Even before the result of his bone marrow test was released, he went home to be with the Lord last Tuesday, around 3:40AM, barely five days after he was admitted in the hospital.

The outpouring of love from people touched by his life was so overwhelming. They all have a story to tell about Daddy Johnny. When Deacon James Tioco visited him in the hospital, the first thing that he said was, “How was your recent talk that we prayed for?” Instead of giving a litany about his pain, which would have been really understandable, he thought of others first. My last talk with him was when he attended our Midweek Gathering one week before he got sick. He bought some bread for his construction workers who were working overnight in a project. He was such a gentle, caring person. A friend who went to the wake said, “We all lost a father.”

Though grieving with his family, we also rejoice with them because we know this is just a temporary separation. For we fellow believers will have a joyful reunion with Daddy Johnny. When he died, I thought of Psalm 116:15 “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints.” (ESV) It is not death per se that is precious in God’s eyes. It is the death of His people. In Hebrew, the word “precious” means “prized, weighty, precious, rare, and splendid.” According to the Bible Knowledge Commentary, “The death of a saint is not something the Lord considers as cheap; He does not let His people die for no reason.”

Brethren, our loss is heaven’s gain.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Casey's Heart

Eleven-year-old Casey Rogers will literally bring down the house… actually, a sports stadium. As a prize for winning the Kraft Foods’ Project Cheddar Explosion essay contest, Casey will press the trigger for an implosion that would demolish the Texas Stadium. But this was no ordinary contest. It was “for kids who have made a difference in their communities.” (Source: http://dallasnews.com/) And Casey is no ordinary boy. Three years ago, Casey saw his father, Pastor Russel Rogers, shooing away a homeless man. His heart went out for the panhandler. Reflecting on his past as a foster child, Casey thought, “I was just like, look how great y’all helped me… Why don’t I help them?”

So, he pioneered the Casey’s Heart, a ministry of Trinity Life Baptist Church of Garland, Texas, where his dad serves as the senior pastor. The charity collects goods and then distributes them to the homeless people. “Dallas’ homeless recognize [Casey] as the warm-hearted kid who often shows up in a downtown parking lot offering food and clothes.” When he heard about the essay contest, he wrote about his work. According to Kraft, “We received a lot of entries that were very impressive… Casey’s really stood out because of the great difference he’s made in his community.”

(Sadly, Dallas News got some negative comments from readers about Casey’s dad. One goes like this, “Dad, you ‘shooed away’ a request for help? Being a pastor and a dad surely you could have thought of a better way to show compassion. Doesn’t God want us to help even the least of us? Not a good example.” But I think he did exactly just that. He helped his son start a ministry that would do much better than doling out alms to the homeless.)

Casey’s labor of love helped the homeless get back on their feet. He fondly talks about one of his fruit, Fred, who got reunited with his family. Maura Gast, executive director of the Irving Convention and Visitors Bureau, finds it “hard to fathom that an elementary-aged kid dreamed up a way to help the homeless—and then followed through for years.” She added, “Maybe by the time you’re the age we are you’re too jaded to think you can do anything to fix it and when you’re young you don’t have any reason to think you can’t.” Truly, there’s no age limit as far as making a difference in the world is concerned… as long as we have the heart to do it.

Brethren, let us make a difference in our community.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Keep Your Soul in Politics (Part 4)

With all the mudslinging going on right now in the campaign for the national and the local elections, what columnist Andrew Jackson wrote in his “How to Engage in Politics without Losing Your Soul” (Christian Research Journal, volume 31, number 4, 2008) is very timely: “Don’t demonize anyone. Every person has been created in the image of God, and Christians must not demonize or dehumanize other people, whether we agree with them politically or not”. When we throw mud, we ourselves get dirty also.

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29, ESV) Yes, character is a political issue. However, keep in mind that each candidate is neither the God incarnate nor the Devil personified. Focus on issues. Don’t attack a person’s character or motives. No name-calling or insulting rants. Weigh whether a certain accusation has a basis or just wet soil. Of course, candidates love to dismiss all charges as mere political attacks. Yet some of these mudpacks do stick. It personally raises a red flag in me when all the candidate can answer to the charges raised against him is, “Politika lang yan.” (“It’s just politics.”) What we can do is read a lot of what respected opinion-makers wrote about the issues and then make our judgment call.

In addition to that, Jackson wrote, Don’t allow yourself to support attempts to divide races, male and female, rich and poor, or young and old. Partisan politics often divides society into voting blocks, and separates society instead of uniting it. Christians should function as peacemakers and reconcilers in the public square and should resist every temptation to join the game of dividing people for political gain”. Again, that’s the reason why it is very wise not to endorse a particular candidate or party. Jackson reminds us, Don’t become so intertwined with one political party that you forfeit your independence. When you do, you lose your right to be heard and to speak and clarify biblical truth to all politicians and political parties”. We are not just playing safe. We are not merely being neutral. Remember that, though we are non-partisan, we call for participation. We want to remain peacemakers. Our witness to the world is at stake. Elections come and go. But God’s agenda stays forever.

Brethren, focus on issues, not innuendos.