Transforming Society through God’s Faithfulness

Zaccheus

Zaccheus

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:1-10 NIV)

There is a famous cartoon before, which has become a top grossing Hollywood movie- the Transformers. Two groups of robots fight each other in a robot planet- the Autobots headed by Optimus Prime and the Decepticons headed by Megatron. These robots have the capacity to transform themselves from innocent trucks or vehicles into monstrous and powerful robots equipped with high caliber guns and then back. However, while they have the power to change their appearance, they do not have the power to change their nature. An autobat will remain an Autobot and a Decepticon will remain a Decepticon from start to finish.

That brings us to focus the man in the text, Zaccheus. He was a rich man, a tax collector but many perceived him as a corrupt official. He was a very short man so he had to climb up a tree so he could see Jesus. All he wanted was to see who Jesus was but to his surprise, Jesus said that He would have to stay in his house.

Any person who wants to see Jesus must be ready for a miracle. Seeing Jesus is seeing His glory and in that instance, His glorious presence will dawn on that person, and He will never be same person again.

In the narrative, Zaccheus upon welcoming the Lord into his house felt a sudden change. He gave half of his wealth to the poor and promised that if he had cheated anyone, he would pay those four times. For a wealthy person to give up a big part of his possessions there must have been something very strong that had urged him- the power of Christ to transform life.

The greatest miracle of all has dawned on Zaccheus that precise moment. Jesus has saved him and has transformed him into a new being. This is the very reason why the Lord has come on earth- to seek and save the lost.

Are you curious to see Jesus and know who He really is? Come and see like Zaccheus and He will meet you right where you are and mend the wounds you might be hiding. He will meet your deepest need and will transform your life for good.

This miracle can transform society through those who have experienced in their lives the power of Christ and His unwavering faithfulness.

I have condensed this post from the message of Rev Daniel Miranda, District Superintendent of Northwest District QCPACE of the United Methodist Church, Philippines at our Worship Service on February 24, 2013 as part of the month-long celebration of our church’s (Lagro UMC) anniversary.

Image Credit: livingdusty.com

Advertisements

Five Elements in a Father’s Formula

Happy Fathers' Day!

We have celebrated Fathers’ Day last Sunday in church. In the morning divine worship service, our guest speaker, DS Rev. Dr. Daniel N. Miranda has spoken about the occasion. In the evening, Rev Orlino Veron, our Administrative Pastor, has delivered the message for the fathers. His text is from Luke 15:11-32.

“It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found”. – Luke 15:32

If fathering is a chemical mixture, to make a perfect mixture there five elements that fathers need to put together in good balance.

1. Grasp your significance to your family

Try your best to perform your responsibility to your family as a provider and protector.

2. Be present for your children

Love spells T-I-M-E. If we will read Proverbs 15:1-10, it assumes or suggests open dialogue between parent and child. We need to spend time with them so that we can have an opportunity to express our love and concern to them. We can have a chance to know what they need and feel.

3. Teach your children your skills and values by example

Teach your children by example. Do not just tell them what and what not to do. Let your actions speak them.

4. See the good qualities of your children first

Encourage your children by praising their good traits. It does not mean overlooking the bad ones but do not become over critical. Appreciate their good side so you can easily correct any bad trait.

5. A good time to laugh is anytime you can

Share the joys of faith to your children. Laugh with them and enjoy the good things of life with them.

Digested from a sermon by: Rev. Orlino Veron, Administrative Pastor, Lagro, United Methodist Church, June 19, 2011- Fathers’ Day Sunday

Note: Pastor Orly says he has borrowed the title of his sermon from a book by Rev. Jim Stanford- Five Elements in a Father’s Formula.

 

Image above courtesy of: http://desktoppublishing.com/clipart/fathersday/fd-thumbs.html

Forgiveness from the Cross

And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them for they know not what they do. And they parted his clothing, and cast lots.  –Luke 23:33-34

a cross on a hill

As the Lord was being crucified, He uttered the words, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (KJV2000). He prayed for forgiveness for those who were crucifying him on a cross. He was asking his Father not to count as sin all those things against them because they did not know Him as the Son of the Most High God.  They were not aware that were hurting God so severely.

Perhaps at that point, the Father could have sent ten thousand angels to destroy those ruthless people but the Lord mediated for them. He imparted grace and mercy in spite of the pain and agony they had inflicted on Him and all just to save the world from sin and hell.

The cross offers forgiveness of sin. Many times, we do many things that have hurt God so severely. Many times, we are not aware yet there are times when we know it is wrong yet we continue to do it as if there is no God who sees.

How many times have we asked God to bless us, answer our prayers and grant our wishes? Yet, many times, we are breaking His heart. Have we ever asked ourselves what pleases the all-giving and gracious God?

This is the time to search ourselves and see all our hidden faults and shortcomings. God offers a boundless grace for you and me. He wants to relieve us of all the miseries that we bear. All we need to do is to come to Him in prayer, ask Him to come into our lives and renew us by His loving grace. Let us accept Him as our Lord and Savior and ask Him to forgive us and save us from sin and death.

God is gracious. He forgives you.

Digested from the “Good Friday” sermon- “Seven Last Words Service”, April 22, 2011 by: Rev. Orlino Veron, Administrative Pastor, Lagro, United Methodist Church

Image Courtesy of: www.freefoto.com

Love Came Down at Christmas- 1 John 4.7-16

Several months after the Luzon killer earthquake in 1990, there was a Christmas TV ad for MY San Biscuit that caught my attention. It was a short film clip about Christmas. It showed a hand with a pencil, erasing the image of Santa Claus and drawing the image of Christ.

It has been a campaign to focus on the Christ of Christmas, who is the true essence of our celebration. The narrator said that we need a change of heart, less ho, ho’s and more hallelujah’s; he used the term “put Christ back into Christmas”.

Hence, Christmas has become so commercialized. Perhaps, it is a marketing strategy for business to make people focus on Santa Claus because that would attract people to buy more for gifts since they have more to spend, as if it is the most essential.

Perhaps, for Christians “putting Christ back into Christmas” is not an issue. The fact that we are all here to worship shows that we know the essence of the season although; we get caught up in the frenzy sometimes. “Last year. I only have three godchildren, now I have six yet my bonus has not increased, yet.” “A handkerchief again?” “Picture frame again?” “Towel again?”

I’m not saying that you should no longer give gifts to your godchildren. Gift giving is an expression of love, however, I’d like to emphasize that the primary responsibility of godparents is not to give gifts every Christmas but to become partners of the parents in leading their godchildren to Christ.

TO BE CONTINUED

Thy Kingdom Has Come- Concluding Part

Read: Luke 2:19

The kingdom of God has come on us. Jesus reigns completely. However, it may be difficult to understand at first how these words “The kingdom of God has come on us”  could bring comfort to a Christian who is having a hard time finding a job; struggling to get enough money for enrolment or food for the family; or one who is having trouble with his relationships. Let us notice what Jesus told Pilate before His crucifixion. He said in verse 36 of John chapter 18, “My kingdom is not of this world”… in verse 37, “You say that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth hears my voice.”

Christ’s rule is not how the kingdoms of the earth rule. He rules in the hearts and minds of men by the power of truth. He is a witness for the God who has made the earth and against the sin, which has ruined it (Isaiah 55:4). He came to reveal God’s truth which otherwise could not have been known concerning God and his will and good-will to men which he confirmed through the miracles He has performed among many people. By the word of His testimony, He sets up and keeps up His kingdom. Christ’s kingdom is not of the world where truth fails but in the hearts of men where the truth reigns eternal.

In this world, we need to endure all kinds of suffering. It is to remind us that this is not our home and that this world has no room for Jesus. However, those who belong to the kingdom hear His voice and follow Him faithfully no matter how this world makes it difficult for us. God has chosen us and has destined us to be heirs with Christ. There is great glory waiting for all who are in Christ. Jesus is preparing for us a new home, a whole new kingdom where all sufferings will cease. As Jesus has said, “I have overcome the world!”

On the first Christmas, Christ has come as a baby. However, at the fullness of time, He shall come again as King in all His glory and splendor. Those who belong to the kingdom shall meet Him in the clouds and shall be with Him forever (1Thessalonians 4:16-18). He expects our loyal service.

Let us keep and ponder God’s truth in our hearts. Let us always keep in our hearts and minds the great mercy and grace that we have received through Christ -by His death and resurrection- for that will give us the power to live as loyal people of the Kingdom of God.

END OF SERIES

Thy Kingdom Has Come- Part IV (The Angels)

Shepherds and Angels

Read: Luke 2:13-14

The first evidence of Jesus’ royalty was the singing of the heavenly hosts. A multitude of angels heralded His coming with great rejoicing.

However, the great rejoicing does not end there after the announcement. In fact, it has only been the start. Those who belong to the kingdom have a great part in that heavenly rejoicing. In Luke 15:10, Jesus said, “Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repents.” We bear the task of sharing the love of Christ. How will they know if we will not tell them? That would be the greatest Christmas gift we can give anyone. Let us allow the “stone that has struck the image by its feet to grow into a mountain”. Let the mountain in reply echo the glorious strain, Gloria, In Excelsis Deo, “Christ is born today in our hearts”.

TO BE CONTINUED

Image above courtesy of: Simply Divine Love Blog

Thy Kingdom Has Come- Part III (The Shepherds)

The Adoration of the Shepherds by Giorgione

Read: Luke 2:8

The angels announced the birth of Jesus to poor, night-shift shepherds in fields where they lay keeping their sheep that night. These men were no ordinary shepherds; they were the strong and tough kind of men; men of no fear. They had to tend and protect the flock at night from thieves and from wolves that might attack the sheep. Usually, shepherds armed themselves with slings and they were accurate with it. Yet when the glory of God shone around them, they were afraid. However, when they had realized the heavenly revelation- Baby Jesus was born in the city of David- they were quick to follow as the angels said. God chose them to receive the news of the Messiah’s birth and ordained them to be the earliest evangelists (v.15-17).

Such is the picture of the bearers of the gospel. God usually use simple people for great tasks. God has called us from our simplicity to be bearers of His good news. We do not need to be great public speakers to be evangelists. We do not need to become pastors except in instances when God calls one to be. As people of the kingdom, we only need to take with us the good news about Christ wherever we go and whatever we do like, the shepherds lay keeping their sheep.

TO BE CONTINUED

Image courtesy of: www.lib-art.com/artgallery

Thy Kingdom Has Come- Part II (The Manger)

A Manger Scene Painting

Read: Luke 2:6-7

The present Christmas festivities demand some extra cash than what we normally have. It seems that the joy of Christmas depends on how much money people hold in their hands. However, we cannot blame them. Life has been difficult the past years. It is so ironical that the first Christmas is a picture of scarcity: “no crib for a bed”.

Jesus was born in a stable -a place for feeding cattle- because there was no room in the inn. His parents laid him in a manger, instead of a cradle. The word, which we render swaddling clothes, came from a word that signifies to rend, or tear, which meant that his very swaddles were ragged and torn. Matthew Henry commented, “His being born in a stable and laid in a manger was an instance of, [1.] the poverty of his parents, had they been rich, the innkeepers would have easily made a room ready for them; but being poor, they must shift as they could. [2.] The corruption and degeneracy of manners in that age; that a woman in such condition was treated heartlessly. If there had been any common humanity among them, they would not have turned a woman in a delicate condition into a stable”.

(Source: Matthew Henry commentary on Luke 2:1-20 c/o http://www.blueletterbible.com)

However, if that was the condition and Jesus the ruler of the kingdom was in that condition, does it mean that those who belong to the kingdom should be in the same condition? No! Of course not!

Paul said in 2 Corinthians 8:9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might be rich.” Those who belong to the kingdom are rich! Can you say this? “I am rich!” “We are rich!” We can confidently say, “I am rich” because Jesus is our King and we belong to His kingdom! In Psalm 37:25, David said, “I have been young, and now am old, yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his offspring begging bread.” That is a testimony of no less King David himself. God does not forsake His people. They receive grace at the time of need. In the middle of poverty, the people of God will thrive.

Church-based Christian generosity was Paul’s way of addressing the issue of poverty in the first century church in second epistle to the Corinthians. Paul urged the Corinthian believers to show their love for the brethren. He was not asking them for what they do not have but he encouraged them to be generous with what they have. In that way, we will have a sense of equality just like in the Mosaic principle- “those who had gathered much had nothing over, and those who had gathered little had no lack.” That is the kingdom of God in action.

The problem sometimes, kindness is abused. However, that should not hamper the people of God from showing their love for the brethren.

There was a story (I just don’t have the means to verify its accuracy) about a couple who went into a city for a conference. Since there were many delegates, accommodation in hotels were full. The poor couple had nowhere to stay. They had to go to a small and old hotel. They knocked at the door. The hotel manager let them in. He told the couple “the hotel is full, and we do not have any room for you. But, if it is Ok with you, I offer my personal room so you can have a place to stay for the night.” The couple was grateful. Therefore, the manager fixed his room for the couple. A few months afterwards, the manager received a letter from the couple offering him a better job in New York City. He agreed. When he arrived in New York, the couple welcomed him in Waldorf Astoria Hotel. They told him, “This is our hotel and we want you to manage it.”

In Matthew 25:40, the King has said, “Verily I say unto you, since you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.” Whenever we show kindness, we are serving the King. Then we will not be like the innkeepers in Bethlehem who has driven the Lord away because there has been no room for love in their hearts.

TO BE CONTINUED

 

Image from: www.seekingGod.com

Thy Kingdom Has Come- Luke 2.1-20 (Bethlehem in Judah)

Nativity Scene

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a child is given…” -Isaiah 9:6 (KJV2000)

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord…” –Luke 2:11 (KJV2000)

Read: Luke 2:1-4

Bible Scholars say that among Biblical writers, only Luke dated the events he wrote by referring to Roman Emperors. His intention was to write a thorough and factual account of Jesus’ life by setting events in their historical context and here in particular, Christ’s birth.

It was the time when all Israel was under Roman occupation. The words “dark streets” in the hymn “O Little Town of Bethlehem” was a fitting description. It was the time when the empire was at its height. In those days of Augustus Caesar, the Roman Empire extended itself further than ever before or since, including Parthia and Britain. People call the empire Terraram orbis imperium—The Empire of the whole earth and that is why here in our text, Luke referred to the empire as all the world (v. 1) for there was scarcely any part of the civilized world that was not dependent on it. It was the time when Judea had become a province of the empire, so when the Roman Empire taxed all its subjects, the Jews were taxed as well. It was the first taxing that was made in Judea; the first mark of their servitude. Jerusalem was taken by Pompey the Roman general, about sixty years before this, who granted the government of the church to Hyrcanus, but not the government of the state for Judea was ruled by Cyrenius the Roman governor of Syria (v. 2): the Roman writers call him Sulpitius Quirinus. It was then, that the Messiah was born.

(Source: Matthew Henry commentary on Luke 2:1-20 c/o http://www.blueletterbible.com)

I observed significance for us of Luke’s mention of the Roman Emperor in the text in connection with the prophetic utterance of Daniel we can read in Daniel 2:31-45. It was about Daniel’s interpretation of a vision by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon about a great and frightening image. According to the vision, the head of the image was made of fine gold, the breast and arms were made of silver; the belly and thighs were made of bronze, the legs were made of iron and the feet and toes were partly iron and partly clay. Then a stone struck the image by its feet, it crushed the image to dust and the wind blew them away. Then the stone that struck the image grew into a mountain that filled the whole earth. Do you remember?

According to Daniel’s interpretation of the vision, the image represents four kingdoms of the world and in the days of the fourth kingdom, God will establish a new kingdom that shall stand forever and nothing could destroy. The stone that has struck the image by its feet and has grown into a mountain represents that kingdom.

In an insight section of the KJV2000 Devotional Bible, page 794, we can see a chart that shows a summary of the explanation of the vision. It is something like this:

Gold Babylon
Silver Medo-Persia
Bronze Greece
Iron/Clay Rome
Stone Kingdom Of God

 

In Matthew 16:15-18 (KJV2000), Jesus asked His disciples; “But whom say you that I am?” Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Peter’s statement is the very foundation of the Christian faith and at the center of every Christian’s heart. It is a divine revelation from the Father. Jesus replied to Peter, “You are Peter, (from the Greek “petros” which means “rock.” It was not Peter as a person but his statement of faith) and upon this rock I will build my church…”

In Isaiah 9:6-7, we read, “For unto us a child is given, unto us a child is born and the government shall be upon His shoulders…” A child would be born who would be the ruler of His people. In the days of Caesar Augustus, the king of the fourth monarchy, the prophecy was fulfilled. The ruler of the new kingdom was born; the kingdom that shall never end and not even the gates of hell shall prevail against it- the church. Up to this very day, the stone is growing into a mountain that shall fill the whole earth.

Christmas indeed is a time for celebration for the King of kings and the Lord of lords has come to rule! It is the day of the fulfillment of God’s promise of redemption for His people. Just like in the hymn, “the hope and fears of all the years are met in thee (Bethlehem) tonight”. It is not only true for the Jews but for every believer as well. Christ meets your every hope and every fear especially those who depend on Him totally.

TO BE CONTINUED…

 

Image above from: Bread Breakers Ministry

Spiritual Knowledge- John 16.12-15

“I have yet many things to say unto you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of Truth is come, He will guide you into all truth…”

A depiction of The Holy Trinity

There are things about God that we cannot readily understand. They are very profound and perplexing for human comprehension. The Lord knows this predicament, so He sends the Holy Spirit to speak to us and fill us with understanding. One important biblical truth that is so hard to comprehend is the doctrine of the Divine Trinity or One God in three distinct persons. Some people find it so hard to understand and even believe.

Someone has tried to unlock its mystery by trying to come up with a logical illustration. He said, “One person could be a father, a son and a husband all at the same time.” It sounds logical; however, the illustration is misleading.

It’s true that one person can be a father, a son and a husband all at the same time but that’s merely one person with three different functions. He cannot talk to himself like a father to a son, can he?

The doctrine of the Triune God is a divine mystery that we can clearly see in the Bible. Perhaps, the word “trinity” does not exist in biblical language, but the unique divine relationship between the three persons of God is undoubtedly present.

In Mark 9:7, about the transfiguration of Jesus, the Father spoke from the cloud, “This is my beloved Son, hear Him!” Clearly, the Father was referring to Jesus, His Son.

In John 8:58, Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, before Abraham was, “I AM”. Observe, (1) He referred to Abraham in the past tense and to Himself in the present tense. It is a clear revelation of His existence in eternity past. (2) “I AM” is the name, which God has given to Moses as His Name- Exodus 3:14-16. Clearly, it reveals Christ’s deity.

In Matthew 12:32, “and whosoever speaks a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in the world to come”. This clearly reveals the unique authority of the Holy Spirit, which shows His deity.

In Matthew 29:19, we can observe in the Great Commission that Christ has given power and authority in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. It goes to show the infinite equity of the three distinct Persons in One God. The divine mystery irrefutably exists and the Bible attests to it.

Yesterday has been Trinity Sunday. I pray that Spirit of God enlightens us all about this divine mystery of the Holy Trinity.