Tuesday, November 18, 2008

an undivided heart

"Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in Your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear Your name." Psalm 86:11

When Mariane sent me this verse throught a text message, it struck me. I realized that i should offer to God an undivided heart.

When i reflect on how the Lord has blessed us individually, i am reminded that it is only proper for us to give to Him a totally, undivided heart. To do so would be to put God first in everything, first in our thoughts, and in all things we do, bearing in mind His love, goodness, mercy and grace. I should not even attempt to compete with God's love for her. Even the idea itself is unthinkable. God wants our undivided attention.

Because we know "... that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." - Romans 8:28

"...for in Him we live, and move and have our being." - Acts 17:28
I remember what i wrote, quite a long time ago, that "God does require so much."

"I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God which cost me nothing" - 2 Samuel 24:24

Monday, November 03, 2008

God is good all the time

Whenever i hear people in church say “God is good,” i hear a common response “all the time.” I believe it was influenced by one of Don Moen’s popular song. I get to hear it often. And almost always, when a response is said automatically without thought or hesitation, it somehow losses its meaning. When we say “God is good all the time” do we really believe it? Or do we just say it lackadaisically out of a whim? What does good really mean? And what does the phrase “God is good” mean?

The term good in itself is a very ambiguous one. Dictionaries offer different and wide definition of the term good from being morally excellent or virtuous, to having admirable, pleasing or superior qualities. Good, given in this context would be an adjective describing someone, in this case, God. Good in this instance would refer to God’s character.

Most often, i associate the goodness of God based on how much material things i have or how happy i am at that time. I know it’s not the right attitude but there is a natural tendency to thank God more when good things come. I admit that recent events in my life make me aware of how good He is towards me. I feel blessed and it makes me humble. In response, i am grateful to know that He granted me something i have desired even though i knew i deserved less. But in all these things, i do believe that the goodness of God doesn’t change. God is good even if things around us seem to dispel that fact.

If “God is good all the time, ” would it still hold true when sickness or trouble come my way? I dread for that event and i would pray that it would not come to pass. But even so, yes, i would still declare that God is good. He has many promises to us that are overwhelming, that if we only take time to read and understand, would surely amaze us. One of the most quoted is His promise in the book of Jeremiah which reads
“For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
I believe that more than the “prosperity” promise, one that we should be thankful the most is His promise of “listening” to us and allowing us to “find” Him when we seek Him with all of our heart.

If we have a measure or test of goodness, God would be the standard. Everything else that doesn’t meet His standard would fail. In fact, because God is a Holy God and we have a sinful nature, we already failed to meet God’s standard. The apostle Paul mentioned in Romans that all of us have sinned and fell short of God’s glory.

But the goodness of God is still evident in that He is even the one who gave us a rescue plan. If the US government today would pay billions of dollars as a bailout plan for its failing economy, it fails in comparison to the rescue plan God has provided through the death of Jesus Christ, His Son. In this, I will forever be grateful!

The goodness of God surpasses time. It doesn’t change even if our society’s standard does change. The world would still need Jesus even if society says otherwise. God would still be God, and God would still be good, all the time, no matter what.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Guarding her heart

It has been more than eight months since I first asked Mariane if she would consider praying for the possibility of having a relationship with her. We have been acquaintances for almost two years before that, in a small group in our church. We were never really close but we were occasionally exchanging emails and sending text messages. She said she would consider.

And between those months, we never so much went out together. We have agreed to get to know each other better by going out on group dates.

She mentioned about the principle of “guarding her heart.” That is why she never even allowed me to accompany her home. It was a good thing that I understood the principle. For me, it meant that I would have to respect a lot of things about her. I would have to respect her time which meant I would have to be conscious about limiting my calls during office hours, or sometimes not calling at all. I would have to respect her emotion that is why I never even told her how I felt for her. If we wanted to get to know each other better, we had to avoid developing too much emotional attachment. It would not be fair for both of us if during the “getting to know” stage, we end up realizing we are not meant for each other and yet have already developed emotional bond with each other. That would be very tragic.

A lot of my friends and officemates can’t understand the concept. I was not easy and there were a lot of times I desired to have spent more time with her. But I believe it worked well for me because my life never revolved around her. And I believe it worked well for her too. We both had our individual life, focused on serving God through church ministry, secular work and even our family, while getting to know each other.

Some of my friends were even mocking me because our courtship, if it may be called courtship, is not the traditional way. I didn’t mind the ridicule at all. It mattered less for me that friends would understand. What mattered most was that she understood my intention. When I asked her to pray for it, I never asked for her response afterwards. When she said she would consider praying for it, I trusted her enough to tell me her response, and God’s answer, at the right time, whatever her answer would be.

But some friends understood. And I am very much thankful for their counsel and their prayers. More than ever, I believe in the power of God revealed through prayer.

It has been more than two weeks since she said “yes.” During those two weeks, I have witnessed that it was God who orchestrated events in our (me and Marian’s) lives. I felt humbled, amazed, awed and grateful. I felt all these things because I knew I never deserved her love, and I never deserved His grace. I realized I am blessed beyond I can imagine, and for that I am very much thankful to God!

Today, we are still getting to know each other better. Each day, we are becoming the best of friends. We have agreed to put God in the center of our relationship. Another principle we have agreed is in limiting our physical contact. It means I can hold her hand, and occasionally put an arm over her shoulder, but nothing beyond that. No kiss. Not even a goodbye kiss. Not even on the cheeks. And so looking back, I realize more and more that it is my heart she has been guarding, and not the opposite. And because of that, I admire her even more.

In being a friend to her, I recall something I wrote before:
For friendship to develop, the virtue of patience must be at play. Friendship can never be rushed, nor can it run roughshod through course of time. It should take its time in season, like a seed unable to do anything but just wait for its time to bloom.
And in putting God at the center of our relationship, I will quote again a concept God impressed to me more than five years ago:
If I, fully human, am capable of loving a person with so much intensity, how much more intense could the love of God be for me? Then, it is not also right that I love God more intensely than I love that person?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

When the socks in my shoes got wet

For the past two days, I've been soaked wet going home. As if by an appointed time, and twice in a row at that, just when I was about to disembark from the bus I was riding at, that the rains begin to pour. And for the past two days, it was a tremendous downpour. I feel as if the heaven's are having fun, like splashing bucketloads of water into people. Ahh, but on a different light, I can see people rhythmically throtting and going in the same direction for a cover. As if choreographed, people would open their umbrellas in a coordinated beat. But if Gene Kelly is a Filipino, would he be caught waddling the flooded streets of Manila in his tuxedo, singing in the rain?

Apparently, there's a typhoon, and his (or is it her) name is MARCE. I wonder how they name typhoon names. I think that in the 1990's PAGASA asked the public for suggestions because prior to it, all typhoon names are female names. And baroque names at that, like those of Bebeng, Undang and Bising.  It's really archaic.

I just love the way meteorologists would describe movements and status of the weather. Here’s one example of the latest weather report about Typhoon Marce:

Issued At: 5:00 p.m., 10 September 2008
Synopsis : At 2:00 p.m. today, Typhoon "MARCE" was located based on radar, satellite
and surface data at 230 kms East of Basco, Batanes (20.3°N 124.2°E) with
maximum sustained winds of 150 kph near the center and gustiness of up to
185 kph. It is forecast to move North Northwest at 07 kph.

It said Marce was “located” as if at one time or another, the typhoon get lost and again found. Like a game of hide and seek? I love the word “gustiness” too. It gives personality to the typhoon. Gusty!

In PAGASA's site, they have an archive of typhoon tracks (or directions) in jpeg format from year 2001 to 2005. On an average for those period, we had 19 typhoons per year. There is also a link for the "Most Destructive Tropical Cyclones" from 1948 to 2000, categorized monthly, with at least two or three of the most destructive typhoons per month. From that period, Typhoon Nitang (31 Aug to 04 Sep. 1984) had the most casualties with 1,492 while Typhoon Ruping (10 to 14 Nov. 1990) did the most damage in the amount of Php 10,276.5M, followed by Typhoon Rosing (30 Oct. - 04 Nov. 1995) at Php 9,330.4M. But I think Milenyo in 2006 was the most violent typhoon I have ever witnessed. Never before have I seen so many trees uprooted and billboards tumbled. I saw a billboard in Magallanes toppled on top of a bus, and even the large “S” sign in SM’s Mall of Asia went down.

Still, I prefer rainy days than the searing heat and the humid air summer brings.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Burgers, fries... and buckets of urine?

As we were waiting before a scheduled meeting inside a client's office in Makati, I grabbed a magazine in their rack nearby. It could be a good time to keep updated about current events. Recently, I have been fascinated with the hoopla surrounding the US presidential nominations. McCain's selection of a female nominee for vice president, who was virtually unknown, aroused different reactions. So I thought it might be interesting to read some news about it. I picked The Economist September 6 Issue and was reading about news and views about the Republican National Convention. I found the following news amusing:

Outside the Republican convention, largely peaceful protesters were marred by a few thugs who smashed windows. More violent disruptions were avoided, however, because police informants infiltrated a gang of anarchists who were allegedly planning them. Police seized weapons and buckets of urine, apparently intended for throwing at people.

Lawyers for some of those arrested demanded the return of their possessions. "Who should we return the urine to?" asked the judge, according to the Star Tribune, a local paper.

I wonder where the world is going to.

On a lighter note, after we had a training in Eastwood this afternoon, I and my officemate Claude went to a popular burger chain for a snack. Her treat. Burgers, fries and soda. As we were chatting, she dissected the burger, separated one halfbun from another, arranged and piled one fry in a column on top of the patty, poured catchup on top of the fries, and put the sandwhich back together again.

Curioused and at the same time amused, i thought i might as well give it a try. Interestingly, except for the crisp whenever i would bite, i could never tell the taste of the french fries apart from the burger.

It made me remember when i was a kid and i didn't like what was prepared on the dining table, I would pour either condensed milk, sugar or powdered chocolate drink (Milo), or whatever sweet is available over hot cooked rice. Somehow, I still do something similar whenever I would eat a bar of chocolate. I get a spoonful of rice to somehow dispel the "oversweetness" of the chocolate. Call it quirky? Claude revealed that she used to put rice in coffee in a bowl.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

My Vision

This is not something about my future plans. But it's related to my vision. I woke up early and saw heavy deposits of mucus on the lower right side of my right eyelid. On my way to work, i thought it was getting worse so I had to immediately go to our clinic when I arrived. The nurse did not give me any medication. I guess she was hesitant to give me anything she isn't sure of. I was instead advised to have a check up with an opthalmologist. I know she is not a doctor but I wonder what is good of a nurse in a clinic if she can't even recommend anything than that of pointing me to go to a doctor anyway? CPR i guess? Speaking of vision, the nurse is a pretty sight to behold. Perhaps I'd go there again next time.

So I took a leave. But of course I first had to tell my boss of the nurse's diagnosis and recommendation. It's funny how she reacted when I mentioned that the nurse suspects it must be "sore eyes". Specially when I mentioned that it's not necessary that I touch anything in order to infect, because if it's viral infecting could be airborne. She looked at me as if to say "Don't go near me! Get out of here! Right now! I mean it!" Incidentally, I learned that the term sore eyes is most common in the Philippines. In other countries, they call it red eye or pink eye. Medically, it's called conjunctivitis. I didn't learn that from the nurse.

At the hospital, I was surprised to see a lot of patients lined up in the opthalmology. Most of them are already in their past sixties. Perhaps weakening of the eyesight is one of the earliest indicator of ageing. I thought it was hair loss. But of course hair loss is more visible, and sometimes affect even those who are not aged yet. It must be the genes.

As I'm waiting for my name to be called, I thought of those people who are diagnosed to be terminally ill, and are given specific timeline. It made me think, what would I do if I am given months, or days to live? How would I react? Of course it would be a far fetched idea for someone to have a sore in the eye and be diagnosed terminally ill. Or is it? What could be worse? Say, the loss of eyesight in one of the eyes? Well, I haven't given it much thought. Even worse would be to go totally blind. But which could be more difficult, someone born blind or someone who experienced sight and eventually became blind?

More than that, my actual worry is of how much the prescription would cost this time. I'm not worried about the doctor's professional fee. My HMO card would cover that, but the medicine won't be. I wonder if he would prescribe a patch in the eye ala-Jack Sparrow, that would be cool. Still, how much would that patch cost? My fear was right, when I went out of the doctor's room, her nurse read the prescription and mentioned that it may not be available in the local drug stores. So where could I possibly buy one? Well, you're guess is as good as mine. And of course, i had to shell out Manuel Roxas and his two siblings. But then again, I won't trade them for an eye.

Speaking of the eyes, I think I might as well research on the difference between an opthalmologist and an optometrist. Basically, i think when you consult each one of them, the former would recommend surgery and the latter would recommend a pair of eyeglasses.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

House MD

I was able to watch at least two consecutive episodes of the TV series House MD. And so far, I am fascinated by its lead character and its plot. Its lead character, Dr. Gregory House is played by Hugh Laurie, a British actor doing an American role. Dr. House is a (I hope I got this right) diagnostician who leads a team of doctor using the Socratic (or dialectic) method in asking (and answering) series of questions, eliminating the impossible, and ultimately arriving to a diagnosis.

What I find interesting in the program is that it somehow touches on philosophy, basically on questions of ethics and morality, in relation to medicine and biology.

In the first episode of its second season, titled “Acceptance”, Clarence, a death-row inmate suddenly suffers an attack where his heart beats so fast and pumps out air instead of blood. Dr. House initially diagnosed it as hypoxia (shortage of oxygen in the body, I got this from Wikipedia) with fluid in his lungs and told the warden that Clarence would die in about an hour, and should call an ambulance. The warden told House that he is sentenced to die anyway but House told the warden that the state is specific in the manner in which he is going to die.

It also touches on the question whether it was worth it to save the life of a deathrow inmate. Personally, it made me ask what is the value of a person’s life? Would one person’s life be more valuable than another? Would a convicted murderer’s life be less valuable than, say a philanthropist, for example?

In the latter part of the episode, Clarence was diagnosed to be having a pheochromocytoma, a small, adrenaline-secreting tumor that causes rage or panic attacks. Dr. Foreman, one of the doctor in House’s team, believed that the tumor caused random shots of adrenaline, which led to rage attacks, that made Clarence become a murderer in the first place. When foreman said that he would testify for Clarence’s appeal, House responded that to give Clarence a “free-pass” would insult (my word) those who suffered the same malady but was able to control their adrenaline rush such as race car drivers, etc. He said that removing the tumor “puts a stop to those random shots adrenaline, but it doesn't absolve him."

Would it really be possible that our emotions are affected by our biology? This is an almost similar question I asked in the second episode “Autopsy” where Andie, a nine year old girl terminal cancer patient is suffering from hallucinations. The medical staff admires her for her “bravery” but House is unimpressed. House believes that her “lack of fear” is a symptom that a clot is affecting the fear center in her brain, wherever that maybe. Could it really be possible that our body dictates our emotion? Personally, I would sometimes feel “ill tempered” when my head aches. Would that be a similar symptom to Andie’s? I don’t know, but my guess is as good as yours.

Other interesting sidelights of the show is in the first episode when Dr. Cameron, a female doctor had a patient who appeared to be anemic, but x-rays indicate she has lung cancer. Cameron refuses to believe it, and referred to Dr. House for other possible diagnosis. When she referred the case to House, he wrote on the board the words “Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance” and then crossed a line in the word “Denial.” Cameron identified these set of words to be the “five stages of dying.” In a scene after that, when House refused, Cameron became angry and again afterwards pleaded him for other possible diagnosis, House responded “You just made a completely seamless jump from anger to bargaining.” House crossed the lines on both the words “Anger” and “Bargaining.” Apparently, the words House wrote on the board referred to Cameron’s response to her patient’s condition.

Two of the scenes I found amusing was when Dr. House was eating some chips, placed on top of a patient and Dr. Wilson was shocked to see him doing such. Apparently, the patient is in coma, and House told Dr. Wilson that he (House) asked the patient’s permission. House was also wondering why the television was turned on inside the patient’s room. Wilson said that some people believe that patients’ in coma can still hear. House asked why not turn on a radio instead? Another amusing scene was when Dr. House brought alcohol (I’m not sure if it’s whiskey, a gin or wine, I couldn’t tell the difference anyway) inside the patient Clarence’s room and they both had several shots. It turned out that the alcohol was apparently a cure for Clarence, which House assumed to have tried to commit suicide by previously drinking copier fluids which contains methanol, a poisonous substance.

Watch House MD every Tuesday night at 9pm on 2nd Avenue cable channel.

Terms of Venery

The study of (and playing with) words is quite fun, if one would consider it. I remember in particular, one game I had fun playing was called Balderdash. The fun part of the game is in inventing phony definitions of almost unknown but real words and bluffing other players into taking that definition to be true.

One particular area I have been interested in is in the English terms for different groups of animals. The term used to define groups of objects is called a collective noun. But when collective noun is referred specifically to groups of animals, it is called terms of venery. Venery is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the art, act, or practice of hunting.”

Venery comes from the Latin venari, where I would guess we got the word venison. Interestingly enough, the word venereal, which comes from the Latin from Latin venereus means something differently. I don’t know if the word vino which means wine would have any relation to its word origin as well. So there must be a possibility that in one way or another, the venison you eat, the wine that you drink and the disease you may acquire after much intoxication seems plausibly related in origin. But that is a different story altogether.

In terms of venery, a group of dogs is not just simply termed so, but is called either a kennel of dogs or a pack of dogs. Although pack is more popularly referred to a group of wolves. Amusingly, a group of baboons (or of old white men) is called a congress. A group of ants is called either an army or colony, perhaps because most of them are either soldiers or workers? The most popular are terms such as school of fish, flock of pigeons, pride of lions. But what i found most interesting are terms such as bloat of hippopotami, convocation of eagles, murder of crows, parliament of owls, crash of rhinoceri.

For a longer list of terms of venery, check out the site Fun with Words at http://rinkworks.com/words/collective.shtml or Ojohaven's Collective Noun page at http://www.ojohaven.com/collectives/.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

All too human

It was in late December when a friend was rushed to a hospital because of an infection in her spinal cord. After learning of her condition, I immediately searched the internet of the symptoms and causes. I felt crushed to read that for some, recovery is generally poor. Some patients even show no signs of recovery at all.

As humans, we are not exempt from sickness or diseases. This oftentimes jolts us back to the reality that we, after all, are mere mortals and are subject to decay. But for some, this realization comes so sudden and unexpected.

I visited her in early January. In the wall of her room are posted routine exercises which are very easy and even negligible for us to perform, but for her was crucial in order to regain mobility. She was given doses of steroids that were perhaps beyond the normal dosages. But behind all the medicines and therapy, I saw someone determined to overcome her ailment. Not dismissing the miracle which God bestows to His people, and the prayers of her friends, I felt it was also her determination that made her survive the worst of her condition.

It must be this kind of determination which Viktor Frankl meant when he quoted Friedrich Nietzsche’s words “He who has a will to live for can bear with almost any how.” In Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning, he told of prisoners in the holocaust who, when all hope or faith in the future is lost, would eventually lead to their doom.

“The prisoner who had lost faith in the future - his future - was doomed. With his loss of belief in the future, he also lost his spiritual hold; he let himself decline and became subject to mental and physical decay. Usually this happened quite suddenly, in the form of a crisis, the symptoms of which were familiar to the experienced camp inmate. We all feared this moment - not for ourselves, which would have been pointless, but for our friends. Usually it began with the prisoner refusing one morning to get dressed and wash or to go out on the parade grounds. No entreaties, no blows, no threats had any effect. He just lay there, hardly moving. If this crisis was brought about by an illness, he refused to be taken to the sick-bay or to do anything to help himself. He simply gave up. There he remained, lying in his own excreta, and nothing bothered him any more.”

Last Sunday, I was surprised to meet her along with some friends over lunch. Although I could not muster to tell her how ecstatic I felt to see her again, even with surgical mask in tow, sharing with us her story and laughing at our own stories as well.

In the same lunch however, another female friend shared to us a medical condition that she herself would have to undergo. A lump in her breast was found and she is pondering on the option of having the lump surgically removed through excision, or of going through mastectomy. The latter would involve a partial or complete removal of the breast while the former would have it conserved. In the first option however, a hefty financial amount may be necessary. As we bid farewell to one another, the glint in her eyes cannot hide her fear. I am not a woman, obviously, but I can feel her fear, albeit masked in her smile, as it must be in every woman who would be in her shoes. At the same time, I can also sense her stillness in such a daunting situation. We prayed for her before we left. In the end, who else do we turn to for help but God?

Both of them are dear friends. I have known them for so many years that I treat them like real sisters, blood-sisters. And as such, I admire their courage and strength. More than that, I admire their faith. If I, God forbid, would undergo a similar or even less trial, I hope that I would be as courageous, as strong and as faithful as they are. I can only turn to God for help.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Why You Can Have Confidence in the Bible

As i was reading the discussions between Dr. Harold Sala and Mark Ellis in Guidelines commentary on March 7, 2008, i can't help but share the story read by Dr. Sala from his soon-to-be-released book, Why You Can Have Confidence in the Bible. He read the story of Gaylord Kambarami, the General Secretary of the Bible Society, who tried to sell a New Testament to a man in Zimbabwei. Here's the script:

Few people ever struck a stranger deal than did Gaylord Kambarami, the General Secretary of the Bible Society, who tried to sell a New Testament to a man in Zimbabwe. As Gaylord talked with the man, he could see he was interested. The stranger, however, was not interested in the content of New Testament but was eyeing the size of the pages and the texture of the paper. It was just the right size to make cigarettes. In fact, he told Gaylord he wouldn’t buy it, but if he gave it to him, he would take it and use the pages for cigarette paper.

“I understand,” Gaylord replied. “I will make a deal with you. I will give you this book if you promise to read every page before you smoke it.” Pleased with himself that he indeed had the better end of the bargain, the man agreed to do so. Gaylord gave him the New Testament and the man walked away.

Years passed. Then one day Gaylord was attending a convention in Zimbabwe, when the speaker on the platform recognized him in the audience. Pointing to him excitedly, he said, “This man doesn’t remember me, but I remember him.” He explained, “About 15 years ago he tried to sell me a New Testament. When I refused to buy it he gave it to me, even though I told him I would use the pages to roll cigarettes.” He continued this strange testimony saying, “I smoked Matthew. I smoked Mark. Then I smoked Luke. But when I got to John 3:16, I couldn’t smoke anymore. My life was changed from that moment!”

Now the former smoker is a full-time church evangelist devoting his life to showing others the way of salvation he found in this little book which has just the right size pages to roll cigarettes. And Mark, I have eleven stories like that, rather thrilling ones, of the lives of people that have been transformed by this book.

If you want to read some excerpts from Dr. Sala's new book, go to http://www.confidenceinthebible.com/

I asked Guidelines' permission for us to post it in our local newsletter PRISMS Online. If you want to read the newsletter, go to http://prisms.110mb.com. If you are encouraged by the articles, please let us know by signing the Guestbook and pass the link to your friends.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Oftentimes, there are things we already dismiss because we take them for granted.

Yesterday afternoon, four of my officemates and I had lunch and shared about our beliefs. In that instance, I mentioned that not all who attend church are believers. What was important, more than our religion, is our personal relationship with God. I was given an example yesterday evening.

Yesterday evening, I attended the third part of an evangelism class. Here we were taught the importance of sharing the Gospel. At the end of the evening, we were given a survey sheet, and were told to go out two by two to share the gospel to at least one person. I told my partner Therese to be the one to approach a person and conduct the survey, while I’ll share the Gospel afterwards. We didn’t go far from the building when I saw a girl sitting at an empty table, obviously waiting for someone. I told Therese to approach her but she was hesitant. What if she was a member of the church also? I thought there was nothing for us to lose and we obviously have to do our task. I asked the girl if she was busy and if it was okay to interview her. She agreed. Her name is Chiqui.

Therese was right. Chiqui mentioned that she’s a “born-again” and that she has been attending CCF, the church we’re also attending, for almost a year now. I thought to myself that we just had to go on with the survey and that I wouldn’t anymore share the gospel.

The last two questions were leading questions. We would be asking her if she is sure of her salvation, and lastly if she answered no, to ask her if she wanted to be sure of her salvation. I was surprised that she answered no when asked if she was sure of her salvation. And so she also said yes when asked if she wanted to be sure of her salvation. I ended up sharing the Gospel to her after all.

Although I know that this incident was not an accident, and that I felt overjoyed to be used by God to share the gospel to Chiqui, I also felt sad to find out that even though she has been attending a Dgroup, she still wasn’t aware of the gospel and is not assured of salvation.

And so I again realized that not all who attend church are believers. And so I hope that small group leaders would always emphasize the gospel in our discussions.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Love and its concept

Love is a word with a very broad and extensive definition. It may be because of this reason that there are many of us who fail to understand its very concept. Or to some of us, because of experiences that are not so desirable, love may have eventually turned out to be just a concept.

Although I don’t claim to be an expert on this this subject, I will try to attempt to discuss this in a manner I so understand and am familiar with.

William Shakespeare, in one of his most famous sonnet wrote about love in so elegant a manner that I cannot help but write a part of it. He wrote that “love is not love which alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove. Oh no, it is an ever fixed mark that looks on tempests and is never shaken.” He described love as a “commitment” or so this is how I understand it. And because it is a commitment, it is not altered but instead it is a “fixed mark” that is never shaken. You may say that it sounds so ideal. Yes it is. But shouldn’t it be ideal? Isn’t it right that we should have an ideal, or a standard when we talk about important things such as love? And when ideals are discussed, what could be the best standard of love?

Before I discuss “standards”, it is better to define our terms or definitions first. C.S. Lewis, in his book “The Four Loves” divided love into four categories based on the four Greek words for love, Storge, Philia, Eros, and Agape. Storge is defined as Affection. It is the type of love for those whom we are bound to by natural chance, such as our family. Philia is that of a strong bond between two people who share the same interest. Friendship may fit in this category. I would define Eros as Romantic love, that desire we feel for the opposite sex. It is the sense of being “in love.” And the last one, Agape, is regarded by Lewis as the greatest among the four. It is an unconditional love which is not dependent on any lovable qualities that the object of love possesses. To put it simply, it is “love undeserved.”

If Agape love is the greatest among the four, where could we find this type of love? Where is its source? Just to make a point, let me state that in finding the source of Agape love, I am not saying that the other types of love is not important. But if Agape love is, as Lewis put it, the greatest among the four, then it may be best to learn of this love first in order to understand the others as well.

The term Agape has been used by the early Christians to refer to the self-sacrificing love of God for humanity.

1 Corinthians Chapter 13 describes to us what love is. It also describes to us what love is not. The apostle Paul said that if we do not have love, we are nothing. If this is so, could we interpret that the whole totality of humanity is its ability to love? That without this ability, we are “nothing” as the apostle Paul said? Should it be our highest goal then?

When asked about what the greatest commandment is, Jesus replied “'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

I may say, that to love is the greatest act there is for us to follow. And the primary object of that love is God. We should love God above all else, and in every totality of our being, that is our heart, soul and mind.

The next question to ask then is “how can we love in this manner?” Our only option is to turn to the source of love itself, or to make it better, to turn to the source of love Himself. A verse in 1 John 4 tells us that love comes from God. And so we are told to love one another. This is how it was written for us:

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

I recall a quote from author and apologist Ravi Zacharias when he told about the story of his brother marrying someone whom he never personally met before. Ravi’s brother told him “love is as much a question of the will as it is of the emotion, and if you will to love someone, you can.” I have always maintained that love is a commitment, not just an emotion. If love is more a question of the emotion, and that no commitment is involved, what happens then when one day the husband will wake up and “feel” he doesn’t love his wife? Because if it is not a commitment, why is it then that a groom and bride say their vows to each other? Is this part of the wedding ceremony only a farce then? I hope not!

In the apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans, he said that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” God himself commited to love us even when we don’t deserve such. Even when we were still uncapable of loving Him back. While we were still sinners.

God himself commands us to love Him. It is no wonder why we desire so much to love and to be loved in return. Yet while we seek for love in all directions, the problem is that we seek love in the wrong places. We should learn to seek God so that the void in us may be filled. God is the source of love. He is first and foremost the source of true love. He defined best what true love is, and what love is not. If to love is the greatest act, then the primary object of that love should be the primary source of love Himself, and that is God. Only then, when we learn to truly love God, can we truly love others. Yes, it is ideal, and that is how God intended it to be.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

I am praying for someone.

I am torn between revealing my intentions right away and developing our friendship. You see, I have no problem with revealing what my feelings are. I have always been vocal and candid with how I feel and I believe I am eloquent enough to expound emotions in words. I always thought that clear communications, which I believe involves sincerity, is the key towards gaining trust. So, I think that for friendship to evolve, and trust to be gained, intentions should be revealed. Yet at the same time, I fear that she would shun me should I expose my intentions. Or that we both would not know how to react and move on in different directions. But for friendship to develop, the virtue of patience must be at play. Friendship can never be rushed, nor can it run roughshod through course of time. It should take its time in season, like a seed unable to do anything but just wait for its time to bloom.

I admit impatience, but I also desire to pursue someone at the cost of waiting. I hope and pray that she enjoys my gift of friendship also. But more than that, it is my prayer that that friendship will turn out to be something even more beautiful, with the help of God. After all, wine doesn’t ferment overnight.

God, If only the future is like a distance away that could be viewed in a spyglass, and you would allow us to glance for even just a small amount of time. What are your plans?

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

We look forward to the coming of another year. We make resolutions and promises that we hope to keep. I just wonder sometimes. What difference does it make to have a resolution for the coming year? What I mean to ask is why do we have to wait for another year to change whatever things we have to change in our lives? Why wait if it is necessary? Or is one year a good period to change? Perhaps because another number is added to a year, which makes it much easier to remember. Should we not we change whenever necessity demands for it? But then again, we don’t make a self analysis that often. So it must be that one in three hundred sixty five days is good to set aside for self analysis.

I myself don’t make that much personal analysis in my life. Not that I don’t have to. I think I do. And when I think of the things I necessary have to change, there is much to be done. But of course, it is much easier said than done. It is always my principle that in order to change something, another thing must take its place. It will be difficult to change something we have been habitually doing if we just refuse to do it. Something different but of greater value must be done, and it must become a habit to replace an old habit. And it is something we must do continually.

I think what I do need to change is the way I interact with people. I noticed that I have not been too concerned about other people as I think I should. In fact, I sometimes have an “I couldn’t care less” attitude. Sounds snotty? Yes sometimes, I admit. But what I thought was that for as long as I am not harming anyone, it isn’t important that I have to be involved with their lives. On my own, I have a lot of concerns, so why do I have to bother with other concerns? Even with friends, I have a limited circle, which makes it more convenient to “manage”. Yet even with a limited circle, I have not spent much time with them either. Not as much I think I should have. This makes me admire people who keep a lot of friends, and acquaintances, and manage to make time and effort to know how each and everyone of their friends are doing. It takes too much effort to do that, and it will drain one physically and emotionally. But to some, rather than being drained, it seems as if it is their secret on what keeps them going and moving on.

The next question for me is how would I do it? Next step after analysis: action plan.