“Challenge your Heart”

heart

It’s a piece of advice from a friend who’s been teaching PE for many years. Although she said it in the context of walking for physical fitness, it resonated with me in a broader and deeper way.

“Challenge your heart, Yna.” I need to hear it at the start of the new year. It’s what I need to do every time I’m tempted to take the quick and easy route.

Whenever I feel lazy to rise up early to have my Quiet Time with God, I must challenge my heart and pull my lazybones out of the bed.

Whenever I feel bored with routines at work and at home, I must challenge my heart to snap out of the boredom and do what needs to be done.

Whenever I have ill feelings towards someone who provokes me to be mean, I must challenge my heart to respond with kindness instead.

When I feel hopeless about the darkness I sense hovering over the Philippines, I must challenge my heart to choose the path of hope and courage.

When other affections lure me away from the things that matter most, I must steer my heart to focus only on the essentials.

A prophet of old once wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” Jeremiah 17:9. I know that’s true about my own heart. That’s why I can’t agree with the secular world’s  mantra to “Follow your heart.”

“Challenge your heart, Yna.” Thank you, Ned, for your simple and wise advice. I will certainly do it in my walking exercises.  And, by God’s grace, I will also challenge my heart to stretch its capacity to dig deeper into the mystery of the Word; to love those people in my life that I’d rather ignore; to be brave when terror threatens in this country; and to be more joyful in the presence of her infinite Lover.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

DOWNPOUR

rain-gray

Yesterday when the rains poured hard again, and at noontime today as the downpour seemed unstoppable, I couldn’t help but think about last week, at the Manila International Book Fair. In the wake of two impending typhoons throughout the week,  I anxiously prayed for good weather.  On the first two days of the fair we had moderate rain showers from 3pm onwards. But, by the grace of the One whose Voice all of creation heed, the typhoons changed their course, and the sun was up, and we saw no downpour on the next three days. Instead, we experienced a downpour of visitors –old friends (fellow “people of the Book”); new acquaintances, and curious strangers came to  our booth at Aisle I to “READiscover” with us the “Life-Changing Word; World-Changing Truth” we share through the books we publish and distribute. Also, we received a downpour of thanks and encouraging words for how we “inspire people through the printed word” (as a book fair guest posted on his Facebook timeline).

2(Photo by Jon De Vera)

 

  (Photos by Nixon Na)

 

This morning, at our midweek staff devotions at OMF Lit, we gathered to celebrate a record-breaking success at last week’s event.  Realizing what we had accomplished in just five days, I felt a sense of wonder and gratitude for the daily grace poured down on us at the book fair.

At lunchbreak, as I sat alone in my room and watched the pouring rain, I listened to my soul as it whispered, “Thank you, Abba, for granting a simple request from your child of feeble faith. And thank you for Your overwhelming downpour of grace.”

yna-with-seed-kids(Photo by Trixie de la Pena)

Why I Welcome 2013 with Hope –3 Reasons Gleaned from Psalm 65 (Part 3 of 3)

WHO GOD IS assures me of a new year that will demonstrate His goodness, power, and love.

WHAT GOD HAS DONE reminds me that nothing is impossible for those who trust and obey Him.

I WELCOME 2013 not only with hope, but also with happiness . . .

BECAUSE OF WHO I AM IN GOD’S EYES

father-and-child-holding-hands

 In Psalm 65 verse 4, David declares to the people of Israel this wonderful blessing:

“Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts! We are filled with the good things of your house . . . ” (New International Version).

“Blessed are the chosen, blessed the guest at home in your place. We expect our fill of good things in your house, your heavenly manse . . . “(The Message).

“What joy for those you choose to bring near . . . What festivities await us . . .” (New Living Translation).

Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is the man whom You choose and cause to come near, that he may dwell in Your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house . . . “ (Amplified Bible).

With quiet confidence, I claim the same promise of blessing in Psalm 65:4  because God’s own Son, Jesus, counted me among His chosen.  Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you” (from The Gospel of John, chapter 15, verse 16).

Because I believe in Jesus and received Him to be my Saviour, I’ve been given the right to become a child of God. Wow, I am a child of God! It might sound audacious, but that’s what is written in His Word (see John 1:12).  And I’m sure God loves me because Jesus said,  “… the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God” (John 16, verse 27).

Like David and the people of Israel, I do expect my fill of good things under the care of my heavenly Father.  Those “good things” may not always be material blessings, but I know they will all be for my good.  I will delight in the nearness of God; I will rest in His presence. I will be satisfied in His loving kindness. And so, I welcome the new year  with hope and look forward to 365 days of God’s goodness and grace.

“For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations” (Psalm 100: 5).

Why I Welcome 2013 with Hope –3 Reasons Gleaned from Psalm 65 (Part 2 of 3)

Image

WHO GOD IS gives me more than enough reason to be hopeful this new year. But as I reflected on Psalm 65 this first week of 2013, David’s beautiful song led me to two more reasons for my personal assurance. Thus, I welcome 2013 with hope . . .

Because of What God Does for His People

God hears their prayers (verse 2). David wrote out of his personal knowledge and experience of the God of Israel. He knew how God answered the prayers of his forefathers – for protection from their enemies, for provision for their needs, for direction in their long journey to the land that Yahweh promised them. In his own life, David saw how God answered his cries for help, especially when he was pursued by his enemies.

God grants forgiveness to those who ask for it (verse 3). David experienced this truth for himself. He failed many times, big time! He described his situation as “overwhelmed by sins.” He committed adultery with Bathsheba who was married to one of his soldiers.  Not only that, he used his power as king to have Bathsheba’s husband killed in battle. David wrote many psalms (e.g. Psalm 40) that expressed his deep sorrow for his sins and his personal experience of Yahweh’s mercy and forgiveness.

Thousands of years after David, God sent his own Son, Jesus to die on the cross for the sins of the world. Those who encountered Jesus and believed in His message of forgiveness from sin and promise of eternal salvation became his bold followers. They proclaimed the good news to others, and those who believed them spread the Word . . . which, by God’s wonderful grace, reached me generations and generations after them. To this day, God offers His free gift of forgiveness to anyone who comes to him in humility and helplessness.

God does awesome deeds and wonders (verses 5-8). The history of Israel was rich with Yahweh’s wonders and miracles. David’s forefathers, led by Moses, journeyed in the presence of God from the moment they stepped out of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 4:33-34).  Yahweh parted the Red Sea for them to escape the Egyptian soldiers.  Throughout their Exodus, He led them in the form of a cloud or fire. He  showered them from the heavens with food in the midst of the desert.

When Jesus came to Israel, he demonstrated the power of God his Father. He healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, raised the dead to life, fed 5000 people from five small barley loaves and two small fish. He turned around the lives of tax collectors, prostitutes, demon-possessed men, thieves, and murderers. Finally, He died on the cross for mankind’s sin and rose again on the third day, sealing the promise of resurrection for those who made him their Savior. I can’t think of any other miracle greater than this!

To this day, God has worked wonders in the lives of the faithful.  Healing from sickness, healing of relationships, protection from evil, financial provision, freedom from addiction, changed lives! This 2013,  I look forward to witnessing the Lord’s awesome deeds in my life and the lives of my family and loved ones; in my local church, in my community, in my country; in this world He created for His glory!

God blesses and provides abundantly (verses 9-13).  David believed that the abundant harvest he and the people of Israel enjoyed was God’s plan in the first place. “You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance (verse11).  Yahweh cared for their land, their streams and their rivers, and sent the rains to ensure that His people would have their grain. Imagine “meadows covered with flocks” and valleys “mantled with grain” (verse 13)! David’s rich metaphors describe the riches God bestowed on His beloved.

Despite global warming and the worldwide recession (which are humankind’s own making), despite famines and poverty in many parts of the world, I still believe that God continues to care for His Creation and to provide for His people, abundantly if He so desires. He gives according to His bounty (which is boundless); He gives with liberality.

The psalmist and king, David had proven the God of Israel and wrote beautiful songs in praise of Him.  The Son of God Himself, Jesus lived among the people of Israel and showed them the face of his Father.  People of faith through the ages had testified to the unfailing love and goodness of the one true God they worship.

As for me, this same God has remained constant and faithful. He answers my prayers. He assures me of His forgiveness whenever I fail. He works wonders in my life in many ways I’m not even aware of. He provides for my daily needs and gives much more than I expect. He delights and surprises! He protects and strengthens.  He loves unconditionally. He has done all these for me because He loves me. I believe He will do so again this year and next year and all throughout my lifetime.

Why am I hopeful this 2013? For my hope is real because it rests on nothing less than God’s wonderful  love, goodness, and grace.

“Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works in man’s behalf” (Psalm 66:5).

“And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Romans 5:5).

Why I Welcome 2013 with Hope — Three Reasons Gleaned from Psalm 65 (Part 1 of 3)

Image

Psalm 65 came to me on Sunday, December 30, 2012 — two days before New Year, and I’ve been ruminating on its personal assurance to me as I begin 2013.

A psalm of David, it is bursting with hope and confidence for the future. I can see 3 reasons why:

 First Reason:  Because of Who God Is

Consider the God of Israel whom David praises in his poetry:

He is a listening God who hears the prayers of his people (verse 2).

He is a forgiving God (verse 3).

He is a giving God (verses 4 and 9).

He is a saving God – “O God our Saviour” (verse 5).

He is the Hope of the earth (verse 5).

He is powerful and strong (verse 6).

He is Creator of the world (verses 6 and 7).

He is Ruler of all nature and Ruler of all nations (verse 7).

He is a caring God (verse 9).

He is God of abundance and overflow (verses 11-13).

He is God of joy and gladness (verses 12 and 13).

Psalm 65 speaks to me of a good and beautiful God. How wonderful it is that this God who had made himself known to David thousands and thousands of years ago is the same God I trust and worship today! He is the God of History – unchanging and unfailing; all-true and all-loving.

My hope for 2013 rests not on a stable government nor a robust economy; not on material wealth nor prospects of prosperity; not on powerful leaders nor benevolent do-gooders. My hope rests in God alone because truly he is “God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas” (verse 5).  This is why I look forward to this new year with quiet hope and great expectation.

No Room

I’ve been reflecting on the birth of Jesus Christ this Christmas week to keep myself focused on the real Celebrant amid the busyness and noisiness surrounding the season. Yesterday I did a Lectio Divina (divine reflection) on the apostle Luke’s account on Jesus’ birth in chapter 2 of the Gospel of Luke. Reading the chapter slowly, I listened to the words speak  to me quietly. I began with verses 1 to 7. As I read the passage again and again, the phrase that kept stirring my heart is “no room”.

Jesus was born in a manger because there was “no room for them in the inn” (verse 7). There was no room for the One “through whom all things were made” (John 1:3). God the Son, the co-Creator of heaven and earth came to the world, but the world did not recognize him and had no room for him.

From the day he was born and throughout his life until his final breath, Jesus experienced the reality of having “no room” — in his hometown, among his own people, in the world. How unfortunate that the world had no room for the One it needed the most — the Savior who came to save us from our helpless sinful state!

I can’t help but wonder how Jesus feels about how Christmas was celebrated all over the world. Amidst the overeating, overdrinking, overspending, over-partying by most of us, I had to stop and ask myself: Was there room for Christ in the households that feasted on lavish food and exchanged expensive gifts? Was there room for him in the extravagant Christmas parties and family reunions? Was there room for him in the Christmas concerts and carollings? Was there room for him in our spirited conversations and hearty laughter? Was there ever room for him in this most-awaited occasion of the year we call CHRISTmas?

I’m grateful that by the grace of God, I had the opportunity to open the door of my heart to Jesus on that Christmas of 1975, when I received him as my Saviour and Lord. My heart became his room, my body his temple. My life now belongs to him — to transform, rule, and use for his purpose. Still, I have to admit that there were days in 2012 spent for myself alone — when there was no room for Jesus in my schedule or in the choices I made. Yet He remained faithful, and loving, and true. He has kept his promise to never leave me nor forsake me.

This Christmas season and in the coming year, may we give Jesus his rightful place in our lives. May it not be said of us that “there was no room” for Jesus in our hearts.

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” (the words of Jesus in the book of Revelation, chapter 3, verse 20).