The Equation

1 Timothy 1

People have forgotten this equation and have concentrated on selfish gain with everything being about themselves instead of being about God and about others.

But because of God’s immense and immeasurable mercy and grace, people are not condemned or sentenced to damnation. Instead they are given another chance. Just like the apostle Paul. And he sets himself as an example for this particular topic or aspect of ministry.

If you want to show authentic love you first need to have a pure heart. Don’t worry, God already sees our pure heart when we ask for His forgiveness every time we do wrong. Second, we need a clear conscience. This is somehow tied up with having a pure heart. Once Jesus Christ forgives our sins, He also takes away the guilt. Third, we need to have genuine faith. This means putting our total trust in God. It is believing that He will do what He says He will do.


Pure heart + clear conscience + genuine faith

= LOVE (for God and others)

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Unity and humility

Have you ever bought something that was an imitation—it looked like the real thing but lacked the quality of the original? Chances are the imitations wore out or broke before too long. There is nothing like the real thing, whether it be a cherished painting, a treasured piece of jewelry, or a precious relationship. Nothing quite meets our expectations except the real thing. But there are times in life when we are supposed to try to imitate someone—times when we want to model ourselves after an ideal or a role model. We don’t expect to be as good or perfect as the ’original,’ but it is in our best interests to try. Why? Because we have a perfect model for all we do in Jesus Christ!

Philippians 2:5-11 is one of the greatest passages ever written about Jesus Christ. It paints the perfect picture of humility—the humility of Jesus Christ. No one has ever come close to humbling himself like Jesus Christ did, and no one ever will. Yet, if the problems of the church and of the world are to ever be solved, we must humble ourselves just as Christ did. The church is too often divided. The only answer is the declaration of this passage: letting the humility of Jesus Christ flow in and out of our minds. The unity of a church depends upon every Christian walking in the humility of Jesus Christ.

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Have a Blessed 2009!

As we usher in the new year, let us ponder on what the apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians:

Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended: but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)

Have a Blessed 2009 filled with God’s love and purpose!

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Free Christian magazine

I’ve been receiving copies of The Good News magazine since last year (I signed up for a free subscription online). So far, I’ve been satisfied with its content.

The GN editorial staff presents world news in the light of the Bible (this is important to me) and features helpful articles on Christian living, providing practical solutions to the challenges individuals and families face alike.

And yes, this magazine is delivered to your doorstep for free. In these times of economic crisis, it seems to me like a great deal.

Anyway, I received a letter from the GN people today. Part of it reads:

We’d like to continue sharing The Good News with you, but we need to be sure you want to continue to receive it. Soon your last issue will be posted to you, and then…no more.

…You can keep The Good News coming for another two years — FREE. Simply return the card in the envelope we’ve supplied.

It’s fairly an easy decision to make. Surely, I don’t like to miss out on future issues packed with information as well as insights. So, YES, I’d like to renew my Good News subscription. I’ll mail the confirmation card pronto.

If you’d like to receive your own copy of The Good News magazine, click here for more details.

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Of ghosts and spirits

If someone asks me now if I believe in ghosts, my answer would be “‘yes” and “no.” Yes, I do believe that a spirit world exists; but no, I don’t believe that ghosts are dead people who have come to haunt the living.

There was a point in time — mainly, when I was a child — when I really believed that ‘ghosts’ were those restless souls of the recently departed, who roamed around the terrestrial sphere for 40 days to attend to some unfinished business. They would pay their loved ones and acquiantances a visit and make their (spooky) presence known.

Let me share some real ghost stories first before I proceed in making my point.

A few days after my paternal grandmother in the US died, our phone at home would ring at the stroke of midnight for a whole week. We would lift the receiver, only to find out after saying a sleepy “Hello” that there was nobody on the other end of the line. When I answered the phone one time, I heard only the sound of soft breathing. “That probably was your Lola,” my mother later said. “Maybe she wanted to talk to you.” I was her favorite grandchild.

That was enough to scare me (I was just 12 then…what did I know?). My grandmother, you see, was a spiritista. (I was told that she, along with her little sister, my great-aunt, and some friends, had “talked” to dead people during their regular sessions in San Juan.)

Years later, after the death of my mom’s beloved uncle, our battery-less smoke alarm in the kitchen would beep at 3 a.m. for three consecutive days. There was no logical explanation for this: there was no battery inside the gadget and nobody was cooking at that time. Of course we all heard the loud beeping sound — who couldn’t? — but nobody bothered to check out what caused the smoke alarm to go off like that — no, not even my dad, who had always declared that he was “fearless.”

And so, these real-life paranormal happenings reinforced my initial belief that dead people can really come back in spirit form — to haunt the living. This was what I was thinking when, with a vindictive streak, I whispered to a grade school classmate, who was a real bully, during a pre-funeral mass in church, “When I die, I’d pay you a visit in your house, grab both your feet with my cold hands, and drag you out of bed!” I swear, my classmate instantly turned pale after I made that remark. (I was a horror film junkie, and I had such vivid imagination.)

But things changed when I became a Bible-believing Christian (you get to learn the truth when you study the Scriptures closely). I learned in due time that the truth concerning ghosts and spirits had been twisted. I won’t elaborate now on the biblical basis that led me to this conclusion. But allow me to say this: there’s no life on earth after death. There’s no such thing as an immortal soul. Dead people can’t make visitations in spirit form after their demise. Dead people are as good as…well, dead. They can’t do us any harm, really.

These “ghosts” we see and hear– they’re not our dearly departed. They’re actually evil spirits that intend to instill fear in our hearts and mislead us.

The sooner I shared this truth with those who cared to listen, the sooner the evil spirits came hounding me. I’m not exaggerating.

Electronic items at home or in the office (e.g., cassette player, radio, TV set, alarm clock) would simultaneously turn on and off, without any human intervention. Ladies in white or black shadows would walk past me every time I was home alone. Invisible forces would push me around in my room in a tourist inn. Eerie sounds, like that of a woman wailing, could be heard along the empty corridor nearby. And creepy images (e.g., a monstrous-looking claw or a curly-haired girl who was not supposed to be in the picture) would later be seen in my newly developed analog photos.

Every time I went to the provinces to attend to my journalistic assignments, I would always bring home with me “horror stories” as pasalubongs (souvenir gifts). “Ate, someone was packing my bags in Benguet on my last night…” “Mom, someone was jumping on my bed when we stayed in this place on Mt. Makiling…” “Someone was running around my bed when I tried to sleep in my guest room in Marinduque…” “I was talking to my roommates in this Palawan tourist inn when someone suddenly turned on the TV…” And so on and so forth.

Fortunately, I stopped seeing or hearing spirits when my “third eye” — I was, after all, an active medium’s granddaughter, and I had dealt with the occult in the distant past — was “closed” a few years ago during a prayer session with missionaries.

The bottom line is, I believe that paranormal things do happen. However, we should not be tricked into believing that ghosts are dead human beings, who have come back to communicate with the living. Here is where the big deception lies. Unfortunately, many people are drawn into it.

While I believe that ghosts and spirits exist, I think it’s vital to question who is truly behind the creepy paranormal activities of these ‘creatures.’ Surely, God is not in the business of scaring us stiff when we least expect it.


TIDBITS: On a lighter note, did you know that graves are recycled in Switzerland after 25 years of use? This basically means that 25-year-old corpses are removed from their graves to give way to ‘fresh dead bodies.’ Talk about Swiss recycling at its most grotesque.

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Jim Broadbent and Colin Firth

And When Did You Last See Your Father?

Once again, I had the priviledge to watch European films during the 11th Cine Europa Festival here in Manila last September 11 to 21. It kinda suck because I was not able to watch the two films that I was really looking forward to see (After the Wedding and Love Songs). But I was able to watch 7 out of 15 movies so I guess it’s not that bad at all. Haha!

Anyway. Out of the seven films that I saw there was this one film that really struck me, big time. It is “And When Did You Last See Your Father?“, from United Kingdom, starring Jim Broadbent and Colin Firth. And that’s what I’ll be talking about.

The film is about Blake Morrison (Firth) and his conflicting memories of his dying father (Broadbent). As his father’s condition worsened Morrison contemplated their shared experiences, the intimacies and the irritations of their relationship. After his father’s death Morrison questions the nature of the bond between them, articulately expressing the contradictions, frustrations, love and loss bound into the complicated relationships which most of us have with our parents as we grow up.

This film is special to me primarily because of the voice over during the last scenes which stirred a great deal of thoughts and emotions in me. It goes like this:

When did you last see your father? Was it when they burned the coffin? Put the lid on it? When he exhaled his last breath? When he last sat up and said something? When he last smiled? When he last felt healthy? The last time you had an argument about something?

The weeks before he left us were like a series of depletions; each day we thought ‘he can’t get less like himself than this,’ and each day he did. So I’ve been trying to recall the last time I actually saw him, the last time he was unmistakably there, in the fullness of being, ‘him’.

I was teary-eyed all through out these scenes and I know that a lot of the people watching were also crying (I know because I heard a lot of sniffs in the dark.) By the time the movie is over and I got out of the movie house, I didn’t expect that I will feel what I felt.

I missed my dad, terribly.

My father died due to heart attack when I was six years old. Looking back, I don’t think I have any memory of my father, at least the ones that really count. I remember one time when he arrived home late at night. I also remembered a night when he and my mom were having a fight about his alcoholism and gambling. Other than that, I don’t think I can remember anything more.

The next thing that I remember is the night when my Mom had to rush out of the house because something happened to my Dad. Then I remember waking up one morning to find my relatives (from both families) inside our house. I think that was the first time I saw them all in one place. Then I remember my grandma watching me as I have my breakfast saying, “Sige kain ka lang. Ubusin mo na yan para makita mo na si Papa mo.” (Rough translation: “Go on, eat. Finish your breakfast so you can finally see your Dad.”) Then they brought me to his coffin at the house next door. I was wondering why there were lots of people in that place, with lots of lights and flowers. I can clearly remember that I was so silent as one of my uncle was carrying me. When I saw my Dad lying there in the coffin, tears just started rolling down my face. At that moment I didn’t understand what was happening, why he was there. I just knew that something’s not right.

Unlike Blake Morrison, I grew up without a Dad. I admit that i can relate to almost all of the situations in the film when it comes to parent-children relationship. The frustrations, the conflicts, the bond, the love. But still it made me wish I had a Dad who is with me as I grew up. It made me ponder what would my life be like have I had a father. Would it be much better or would it be worse?

I’m not complaining about what I, and my family, have right now. God has been good and faithful to my family, how he turned our life around, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything else. This is just a what-coud’ve-been moment. I can’t believe that after 19 years I still miss the father whom I know so little about.

This film may have stirred the sleeping need in me for a father, but it also made me realize that I should cherrish every moment with the people I have in my life. That when the time comes that i am asked when was the last time I actually saw them, in the fullness of their being, I will be able to mention a lot.

To end this post, I would like to pass the same question to you… When did you last see your father?

This was originally posted in Be Still…

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In Transition

It has been a year and a half since we left our beloved home church in Zurich. And after an emotionally stressful church-hopping here and there — I had been in this phase before as a young Christian in Manila — we’ve finally found a new church in Bern (see photo above).

We’re relatively new in this church. We know basically nobody there, except for my Taiwanese classmate in German class, who goes there “to hear Holy Spirit-inspired sermons” (her words). But she has no more time to integrate in the church community due to her busyness as a homemaker and Mandarin teacher. She just comes and goes.

I miss two things now: first, my Sunday School commitments in my former church in Zurich; second, my Filipino cell groupmates, some of whom I had become really close to.

Although my Sunday School assignment in Zurich involved only taking toddlers to the toilet — I was the “CR girl,” being the Sunday School teacher’s assistant — and preparing/serving their drinks, I know God honored my indirect participation in teaching young minds to love God and His Word with all their hearts.

Much as the head of the church’s Sunday School wanted to assign me some real teaching tasks — she told me I could really write great lesson plans — she couldn’t; I’m not fluent in Swiss German. In fact, I don’t know how to speak Swiss German at all.

It was a bit frustrating at first, considering I’ve had lots of experience in this field. But somehow, God assured me all throughout my Sunday School duty, when I was struggling with deep feelings of lack, that my seemingly ‘menial task’ was as good as doing the work of a Sunday School teacher. What was important was the personal motive behind doing the volunteer work, whether I was doing it for Him and Him alone, or only for myself (note: this sub-topic on motives deserves a separate blog post).

Meanwhile, as a member of the church’s Filipino cell group, I was afforded the chance to come up with fun ice-breaker activities and to lead Bible-based discussions based on sermons preached in Sunday services every now and then. I did some cooking, too (amazing, really). We took turns preparing dinner for a group of 18 or so every Monday night. I truly enjoyed this experience; it filled my otherwise weary migrant heart with joy.

Zurich is very far from the Swiss town we live in. By train, it takes us two hours to get to our Zurich church from our home, one way.

This geographical distance was the main reason why we had to leave the church against our will. Plus, the twice-a-week long trips to and from Zurich cost us our health –dearly. In the end, we had to bid good-bye to our leaders and co-members with a heavy heart, after four years of active involvement.

At any rate, I’m glad — relieved even — that after a long search, we’ve finally found a new church nearer to our place of residence, where we feel comfortable (doctrine and worship style).

And so, the life lessons continue. We really don’t know what’s next; we just hope and pray that things will pan out, according to God’s perfect plan.

(Note: This blog entry is cross-posted on X-Press Files, my personal blog.)

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