Persecuted for Righteousness
Reflection on the message of Bro Josh Gurango
What’s great about being persecuted? How can I rejoice and think myself blessed when I am being attacked or ridiculed about professing my faith in Christ? What is there to delight in when I get mocked for my convictions and sneered at by friends for making unpopular choices?
These days, a young woman who believes she must keep herself pure before marriage is made fun of by her peers. A young man who refuses to indulge in alcohol and vices is sneered at and called all sorts of labels. A businessman is thought to be foolish for not playing the bribing game in his business dealings. A son/daughter is teased for choosing to follow the curfew set by their parents. A wife is frowned upon and thought of as crazy when she speaks about submission to her husband, and a husband is jested by his colleagues for staying faithful to his wife.
Such situations may be considered inconsequential and senseless by the world’s standards, but to a Bible-reading, Bible-believing and Bible-obeying Christian, this is the cost of following Jesus Christ. It is said in Matthew 16:24 by no less than Jesus Himself: that one must take up his cross and follow Jesus. And if this is His command, how are we to be joyful when we are facing persecution? While these convictions and principles make absolutely no sense to the world, it does make complete sense to someone who has a true relationship with Jesus; one who seeks righteousness.
In this day and age, anyone who does not give in to peer pressure to join in the fun and sinfulness of the world will be rejected because the world sees the poor in spirit as pushovers and the mournful as holier-than-thou. Being meek is the antithesis of man’s egotistic nature. And the wonderful fruits of righteousness, mercy, purity in heart and peaceable spirit are seen as weaknesses, as liabilities that will not advance one’s selfish purpose. But as Christ-imitators, we are to continuously seek, hunger and thirst for, and live in righteousness, because true righteousness is tested when persecution comes.
When we become Christ-followers, we aren’t called to seek or look for persecution, but we are called to expect it. And this isn’t limited to just being made fun of or mocked, but even to the extent of giving up our lives for the sake of faithfully proclaiming the gospel. Paul affirmed this truth in 2 Timothy 3:12, and this was also said by Jesus in Matthew 5:10-12: to undergo such persecution for righteousness sake, to be insulted, slandered and abused on account of Him, should be considered a blessing. But we cannot see or experience joy in persecution unless we see that the reason why we are persecuted is more valuable than how we are suffering.
In short, we must be able to see that our relationship and eternal life with Jesus Christ as more precious than our affiliation with and temporal life in this world. And if we aren’t yet being persecuted for our faith, then we must examine ourselves whether we truly understand what we are living and must be suffering for.
by Tini Tadeo-Castillo
Ignorance is a choice. It may stem from unbelief, rebellion, fear of truth or dread of being rebuked. Either 1) we don't believe something so we never bother to learn about it, 2) we are stiff-necked and willful to bother learning about something so we just don't, 3) we are scared that all that we believe to be true are in fact false, that all of our beliefs will be debunked; or 4) there is fear that when truth is exposed, we will be convicted of something.
This holds true with Scripture. The Bible is written to be read, a beautiful love letter of a Creator to its creation. So how come many people refuse to do open it and read? It could be any of the reasons I stated. Many claim to believe and fear God but if people really do, why not read His story? His promises? His love letter? His character revealed and alive in every single page? The truth stated and that lies therein?
So yes I find it really lamentable--that those who question God's words could find that there is anything worth debatable, questionable or hurtful about it when they don't even bother to find out about what they want to disprove, question or denounce as cruel, wounding or spiteful. It is so easy to feel judged, to feel mocked or treated unjustly because it makes us swallow the bitter pill and feel that it goes against our desires, choices and our lifestyle. Well, we are naturally self-centered that way. It is part of every human being’s sinful nature, yours and mine. Our instinct is to retaliate, to defend and to hold our ground and think we are the oppressed and wounded that needs to stand up for ourselves. So what to do? READ THE BIBLE and know what you are fighting against. That is how every debate works, know who you are opposing.
When we come to the crossroads of humility vs pride, the latter often wins. And when it wins, it leads us to remain obstinate about finding the truth because truth is NEVER EVER selective. It is absolute and it never misses! Rather than finding the truth, we search for the synthetics and we fabricate truth to suit us. And at some level, this is ignorance—a choice to turn around and NOT FACE the truth. And one more thing truth is? It pursues. In the deepest of deeps, lowest of lows, farthest of far. We can run but we can NEVER EVER hide from it. You can bet on that!
~ For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.~ Hebrews 4:12
by Tini Tadeo-Castillo
“Is JESUS Supreme in Your Life”?
Reflection on the message of Pastor Jess Lantin
Is Jesus supreme in my life?
I don't know about you, but this question pierced right through my heart. Not just pierced but stabbed and probed at it, too. It was very personal and invaded my very core. I would liken it to my colonoscopy and gastroscopy experience where tubes with cameras were inserted in order to check my digestive system for anything that would reveal the cause of my abdominal pain. It was intrusive and uncomfortable, like I was violated. Being asked that question felt similar, except it was more assailing, impugning the legitimacy of my Christianity, challenging my spiritual journey, and disputing my relationship with Jesus. Did you feel the same way with the question?
Listening to Pastor Jess last Sunday did not change the way I feel about how personal it was. It still probed, impugned, and challenged. Except that I realized, it should. It ought to examine and reveal what's within and see the cause of my spiritual pain. It was a question posed to convict. And if it didn't? Then the better question to ask is "Who is Jesus to me? A man, teacher, prophet, or LORD?"
The six tests Pastor Jess mentioned — faith, love, hope, fruit, prayer and joy — caused me to take a closer look at my testimony, my walk, and my life. As someone set apart by Jesus, am I a credible witness? Is Jesus the object of my faith? Are my thoughts, actions and decisions anchored on the truth of God's Word? Does my hope lie in the certainty of His promises? Are my prayers aligned with God's will? Is my life producing every good fruit as every believer should and must? Is my joy complete knowing that I was rescued, transferred, redeemed and forgiven? Are my love and forgiveness sincere? Have I fully understood what grace is and how it works? If I do have a full grasp of it, am I being an agent of such grace?
When the preaching ended, I found myself thinking of the phrase "Right believing, right living" and examining what I believed about who Jesus is, and how this phrase has impacted and will impact how I live my life. A jarring thought hit me. If I see Him and believed Him as JUST a Savior who redeemed me from my sinful past, but I didn’t treat Him as the Lord of my life, then it is safe to say I am in big trouble. The presence or absence of those six things Paster Jess mentioned are an honest gauge of whether Jesus is truly supreme for me.
I am relieved, in a way, that the conviction was there. The question I mentioned earlier, which I have asked myself repeatedly, accomplishes its purpose of making me fully aware of what I must do to align my pursuits to God's will. I praise God for every pang, puncture, poke, and stab in the heart I feel with sermons like this one. It brings me to the ground, taking me down and away from any spiritual pride that blows up my ego and steers me away from God. It brings a painful but remedial humility that I don't naturally have. It leads me to come clean and seek God's direction. It drives me away from any false supremacy in my life, back to the One who must be the only one supreme: Jesus.
For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, 14 who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins. ~ Colossians 1:13
by Tini Tadeo-Castillo
Practice Radical Love : Go, Repent, Forgive!
Reflection on the message of Ptr Jess Lantin
Jonah has always been a curious character in the Bible for me. He blatantly disobeys God by going the other way, then he gets swallowed by a big fish. Then, he gets vomitted near the place where we was supposed to go, thus making him obey God finally. I admit I felt stunned reading about Jonah's defiance to God's instruction. This guy had the gall to disobey God! I thought, how could someone openly disregard the Lord's order and get away with it? The audacity to flout the directive coming from God himself was quite shocking.
But that sentiment quickly departed me as soon as I realized I was Jonah. Defiant, disobedient and audacious in turning away from what God wants me to do. I had my own Nineveh that God was instructing me to pursue relentlessly with radical love. And I had my own Tarshish where I ran off to because this order from God did not sit well with me. The Ninevites in my life were as unlovable and detestable, thus I find myself often turning the other way. Simply because I could not love them for their seemingly unrepentant heart and what seemed like an unchanged life. Ifind myself revolted with their callous hearts but what I failed to see was my own hardened heart that refuses to love the way God loved me. With such haughtiness and willfulness, God continued to pursue me. God allowed big fishes to swallow me in order to get me to the place He willed for me to be. There was no escaping the Lord! He kept teaching and modeling radical love to me. I came up with a hundred reasons to defy Him, yet He gave me million chances to repent. When I finally understood the lesson and repented, God through His grace gave me the ability to forgive the Ninevites in my life. It wasn't easy as they never showed remorse, some kept insulting me and were unrepentant. But understanding God's heart through it all, I knew I had to forgive. I knew that God extended the same grace and mercy to me so who was I to withhold the same from others?
Today and through the rest of my life, I seek to keep understanding God's heart for me. I ask wisdom that comes from Him so I can open my heart to the lessons He want me to learn, the direction He desires for me to take. I aim to immerse myself in His Word for it is through my knowledge of the Bible that I will be able to learn of His desires and purpose for me. There will be times my feet may refuse to GO but I know that when my heart is surrendered, God through His grace will move my feet. There will be days when it will be a challenge to REPENT but I know that when I bend my knees, God's grace will compel my heart to follow. There will be moments, many moments when I will be tested to FORGIVE. I pray that I will be reminded that God forgave me first. I received His grace thus I cannot withhold the same from others.
To practice radical love means to love like the love God had for Jonah and the Ninevites, to love like the love He showed to me—relentlessly and intentionally pursuing!
Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. ~~ Psalm23:6
by Tini Tadeo-Castillo
JESUS UNBOXED: Jesus Came to Save
Reflection on the message of Pastor Jess Lantin
I never truly understood the gospel despite many teachings I heard of when I was younger. All I had was head knowledge. I knew facts but not reason. And even when I was given reasons, I had questions deep within. And even when my questions were given answers, I still refused to accept. My heart never understood what kind of love God had for His children, for a sinner like me, what it took to save me. What did it really mean that Christ died for me while I was still a sinner? What did it really mean that Jesus' mission was to save me? Am I that significant? Did I matter that much? I was perfectly fine in my little kingdom, refusing the gospel for it was convenient that way. I was self-sufficient. Who needs Jesus? What made it worse was pretending I understood it. Oh the hypocrisy! I'd go to church to hear it week after week yet never actually living it out. I led a double-life, pretending I had Jesus yet refusing to let go of my favorite sins. I was bankrupt, morally and spiritually and eventually my career, finances and my relationships followed suit.
Even in that state of all sorts of bankruptcy, I was afraid to come to God. Two reasons--one, I was afraid He'd take away something I had set my heart to keep, my idol, the favorite sin that I still held on to, even in that hapless state. Second, I thought I wasn't good enough to come to Him. It took me a while to turn to Jesus, to accept Him and finally acknowledge His Lordship in my life. That one moment when I was hapless and broken, was what it took for me to come to Him, speak honestly, confess my need of Him. He met me in that helpless moment.
He met my shattered heart with compassion. Psalm 147:3 became very real to me. I loathed myself as I realized what it truly meant that Jesus died for me while I was yet a sinner, but He took my shame, carried it and nailed it on the Cross. He told me there was no condemnation because I am with Him. Exactly what Romans 8:1 and 10:11 promised. I had expected judgment and a deaf ear to my plea but I got a God who told me He loves me and hears me.
As I deepened my relationship with Jesus after that fateful day, I finally had the full comprehension of the breadth, depth, height and length of God's love for me. God had planned everything all along. As prophesied in the Scripture, Jesus would come with that singular mission. To save. Who? The lost sheep that was me. He was the seed destined to die. For who? For a sinner like me. Yes I am significant in God's economy that way! There was no way I can pay for my sins so His Son Jesus Christ had to come so I can be saved. It is not just true for me, but for all of us. If that thought is not enough to soften hardened and proud hearts, not enough to assure doubting hearts, not enough to make us lay down our proverbial guns and surrender our little kingdom...then I don't know what does and what will.
What Jesus did for you and me deserves so much more than just our excess time, more than just Sundays, more than hurried prayers and . He deserves glory. In every corner of our life, He must reign. In every action, thought and word we utter, we must be careful that our life draws other lost sheeps to Him. He is King whether we make Him king of our life or not. He deserves a life that is dedicated to serving Him, glorifying Him and making Him #1.
JESUS UNBOXED: Jesus is the True Shepherd, Be Secure
Reflection on the message of Ptr Jonathan Bradford
I've always related the shepherd-sheep relationship with a father-son one, but never mother-daughter. In the course of last Sunday's message, I began to see it from the perspective of a mother. Security has always been fundamental to a relationship between parents and their children and, indeed, kids always find security in the loving arms of their mothers. I know, I do. I read in a book some years back that shepherds would not only call to their sheep but even sing. And the sheep would recognize the unique voice of their shepherd and begin to find him; something that mothers do when their child is still in their womb. So it's no surprise that babies become calm upon hearing their moms speak and sing lullabies.
I also read that the mother sheep leads their lambs while following the shepherd. The lamb sees its mother, follows her so closely and every need is met by its loving mother: the warmth from closeness, her milk for nourishment, and the protection she gives to the lamb. Not until they grow up and are weaned do they begin to find their place within the herd and follow the shepherd on their own. This picture encouraged me to continue pursuing a deep and personal relationship with Jesus. As the mother sheep, I am to walk closely with Jesus while I raise my lambs, carefully showing them how to do the same so that when the time comes that they take their place in the world, they would have their own personal relationship with Jesus and walk closely with Him. It is both a sobering thought that I am raising my children to let them go, yet being assured that letting them go means releasing them to God's hand. I know now that what I must focus on is making sure that my child is a lamb who will one day become a parabolic sheep, not a goat, following and loving his Shepherd.
The security we give our children on earth as mothers is truly remarkable. I know many mothers would go to such lengths to protect their sons, would provide lavishly for their daughters and the desire to keep them within arms’ reach and sight is something only mothers would understand. Yes, we hover that way. I know I once did! But when I began to understand and see the parallelism of Jesus as my Shepherd, that I am the sheep and my kids are the lambs, I realized the gravity of my role as their steward. My children do not belong to me; I was only entrusted by the Lord to care for them and raise them to be a godly man and woman. And because I know my Shepherd is a loving one, a compassionate, merciful and gracious, protecting one, I am assured. He loves them so much more than I will ever love my children. Knowing what He went through to save me, His one lost sheep, to bring me back to the flock, how can I fear letting go? How can I not be at peace, releasing them to the One who sacrificed all for His sheep? How can I not have joy knowing that He knows the names of my children, He knows their natures and needs, knows them intimately and completely? How can there still be doubts in my heart when I know from experience that even when my children will fail, there can never be anything or anyone that can separate them from God's love?
A blessed Christmas to all the sheep of our one true Shepherd!
“He will feed His flock like a shepherd: He will gather the lambs in His arm, He will carry them in His bosom and will gently lead those that have their young.” (Isaiah 40:11)
“Alive and Active”
Reflection on the message of Ptr. Peter Tan-chi
[Grow in Love]: Delight in God’s Word, Be Blessed
I am a bookworm. As such, I have read and encountered so many beautiful love stories over the years, countless action-packed novels, and a myriad of books that spoke to my soul. But never has there been any book that has touched me to the core, and has spoken to me on so many different levels; never has there been anything that has convicted my spirit to the point of repentance; never have I encountered a book as beautiful, as extra-ordinary, and as hard-hitting, yet as comforting, as the Bible.
I went to two different universities and have been exposed to God’s Word during Theology classes, particularly the Pentateuch. But I admit, I never fully appreciated reading the Bible then. To me it was tedious, time-consuming and boring. Only when I started to have a relationship with Jesus a few years back, did I start realizing the value of reading God’s Word. Suddenly, the words leapt out of every page and every verse took a whole new meaning. Gone were the days when I’d fall asleep in the middle of reading the Book of Numbers. Back then, my general reaction to Leviticus and Deuteronomy might have be summed up as 'ho-hum'. But after my encounter with Jesus, I found myself delighting in reading the Torah, desiring to know His plan of redemption, and discovering the amazing backdrop to everything in Scripture that would follow.
As I began to see and taste the Lord’s goodness in my life, my desire to read the Bible increased. I began to understand the heart of God for me, the wisdom He wanted to impart to me in order to live a life pleasing and worthy of Him. In God’s Word, I found comfort to my pain, answers to my questions, healing to my spiritual sickness and teachings to my ignorance. As I immersed myself in and meditated on His word day by day, my delight increased and my spirit thirsted even more. Why would it not, when all I read continued to fill every crack, crevice and void in my life. All I longed for, I read in His promises in the Scripture: peace, joy, love, and prosperity. The the more I read, the more God became real in my life! I came to understand who the Father was, to feel first-hand how much He loved me, His beloved. Not only did the Bible rebuke me, but it taught me that God’s plans for me are way better then my own and burdened me to be an effectual doer of His Word and not merely a hearer.
Today, the Bible continues to speak to me. God’s Word continues to deliver comfort and assurance in my darkest times, continues to give hope and strength when I feel weary and discouraged. It is indeed, alive and active! I delight in the freedom I have to read the Bible and I desire nothing more but for people I know, to read, taste and see God’s richness and goodness.
Reflection on the message of Ptr. Jonathan Bradford
Jesus Unboxed : Jesus is the God Son, Worship Him
I have always seen Jesus as someone with great power, a supreme being. I would call Him the captain of my ship and sometimes even referred to Him as the moving force in my life. But when my life turned into a huge mess, I found myself face to face with the real Jesus. Coming to terms with the consequences of the countless sins I committed wasn’t easy. It was a fast descend from my lofty position and believe me when I say that seeing the ground come close to your face does not exactly paint a pretty picture. God was humbling me and what a humbling process it had been. As I spiraled downhill and my sins were confronted by a Holy God, I felt all sorts—shame, awe, guilt, remorse, wonder, fear.
What kind of love was it that could extend grace to a wretched one like me? I was in sheer awe! Yet another pressing question that came was, who was I thinking I could work my way around sin, mocking God’s sovereignty, feeling privileged to knock on His door on a whim and claiming His blessing? The gall of a creation to demand grace for sins perpetually committed against its Creator! I wanted His grace yet I insisted to live a life that called for His wrath. Until the day I had come to the realization that I was spiritually dead, separated from God and needed a Savior. I fell to my knees shaking and ashamed that I had reduced Him into just being a cosmic figure who I pray to when things were out of order and then forget about when things are going well. I suddenly felt small seeing how I had done disservice to His sovereignty and power when I trusted my own might and controlled things to fluff my ego. I had limited who He truly and actually is by magnifying who I was in my head—the center of the universe. In an instant, the blatant disobedience I had committed time and again made me feel small and guilty against an infinitely just and holy God. He is just, take my word for it, for I reaped the consequences of my sins. Yet He is full of grace that He withheld His full wrath when He searched and found my heart to be truly repentant.
As I stood at the foot of the Cross, I realized that my life ought to be lived like a life that is set apart. Many times until I meet Jesus, I will be convicted to counter flow and hate the world. It will be an unpopular choice. But it’s the least I can do for a holy, just and loving God whose grace is immeasurable. Today, I know I must decrease and that Jesus must increase. I seek to obey in faith and I shudder at the thought that I am still susceptible to reducing Jesus in my life. I pray I won’t. A life of genuine, sincere and heartfelt worship is the least I can do for a Jesus, the one who shed His blood for me.