The Kati-kati Tribe of Guimaras Island

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Land, water, food, medicine and hope.

These are things that most of us take for granted. These have always been around. They generally have never been a problem for those of us who have the time and resources to access this blog.

We have places we can call ours – whether they’re just rented, owned by our parents or purchased. We have good pieces of real estate that we can call home, a place we can improve on and serve as our base of operations.

Water had always flowed for us too. Whether it comes from the faucet or a well, free-flowing or rationed, purchased in a water station or 711 – water had always been in abundant supply.

Food is in abundance for us. In every corner of our cities are fast food chains. Eat-all-you-can buffets are in most restaurants. Fish, meat, vegetables and fruits are in abundance in our markets.

We also have a steady supply of antibiotics, flu medications, wound-dressing items, pain-medication and others. Doctors are also in abundance. The difficulty for most of us is only in the choice of doctors to patronize and not where to find a reputable doctor.

And for most of us, hope is in abundance. It’s so abundant that we forget what it’s like not to have it. We and our kids are educated in good schools or even universities. There are new, high-tech courses that didn’t even exist 20 years ago promising unique professions. We have access to abundant industries where we could work in, or at least, apply for a job. Perhaps some of us have enough money in the bank to outlast a major crisis. Since the stock market crash of 2008, the world economy has been stabilizing according the some experts. Some say that the future economy is bright. Whether that’s true or we’re just living in another bubble is another topic altogether.

And so we do what most humans in times of abundance do: we leave behind a great amount of waste. We waste land, water, food, medicines and even hope. We waste everything, even our lives. Since everyone we know is abundant, we only think of ourselves. And since everyone is OK, we want to increase more than anyone else. Life, for us, is an adventure. For some though, life is daily survival.

This is what this article is about. To remind us that not everyone is OK. The problem with the abundance of these resources is their distribution in the world. There is no balance in this fallen world. There are indeed places abundant with basic needs. But there are places and people who are simply not equipped to secure enough land, water, food and medicine for themselves and for their families. If we expand our horizons enough, we’ll find them. For them, there is no hope of a better future. Every day, they wake up thinking only of one thing: “How can we survive today?”

But we want to dismiss this by simply saying, “It’s not my fault they’re in that mess. Why bother me? What did I ever do to harm them?”

Nothing, of course.

My prayer as I write this blog is that we would instead think like this, “I am living in abundance. These people are barely getting by. Maybe there’s a reason for that. Maybe what’s little for me is already lifesaving for them. Maybe I can help? Or is it I who needs their help?”

Is it not true that the rich, in the middle of their abundance, need help too that money could not buy? Is it not true that it is the poor who, in the middle of their lack, often have the most peaceful sleep and the heartiest laughter? Isn’t it curious that our Lord, when He visited us centuries ago, chose to be born among the poor? Isn’t it a wonder why He chose to entrust the most important story in the history of man to them and not to the rich and influential? I suspect that those who are poor have a lot to teach those who have more than enough.

The Aetas of the Kati-kati tribe of Guimaras Island, Philippines, is just one among many communities who need our help.

 

The Tribe

These thoughts were at the back of my mind when I went to visit the people of Kati-Kati a few weeks ago. I arrived there around 10am in the scorching heat. It was an almost cloudless day. The glare made me wish I brought my sun glasses along. The ground was so dry and hot I could feel my flip-flops soften. My shirt was already drenched with sweat. Thankfully, I brought a bottle of water with me.

The first thing I noticed were their smiles. They were the nicest people. They greeted me as I searched for a missionary friend of mine, Claire, who recently decided to devote her life living among the Aetas.

Claire with some of the people of Kati-kati.

Claire with some of the people of Kati-kati.

They were not wearing tribal loin cloths, strange tattoos, and piercings nor were they holding spears – as what we usually see in the movies. They dressed up like everybody else. There were a lot of little kids too. They cheerfully guided me to the tribe’s town hall where Claire was. She then introduced me to the tribe leader, Josephine, whom I found to be a very accommodating and cheerful woman.

Josephine is a teacher in a nearby Catholic school. She’s a mother of three and is the only person in the tribe who graduated from college and has a steady job. She’s been re-elected as tribe leader many times and wished others would take her place one day.

She gave me a brief background of her tribe. There were more than 80 families there. Many don’t have a steady income. Most of the men labored in the construction sites by day while the women took care of the households. To make ends meet, they seek out whatever odd job they could find. The women create native crafts to sell and, recently, they were taught by JCI (an NGO) to make liquid detergent soap to sell too. They don’t have any crops or any agricultural products that they can trade.

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The land they’re living on is not theirs. The government has directed them to transfer to a relocation site a few kilometers away. The lots in the new site will be donated to them, which is good. But there’s a catch. They have to spend their own money for the transfer of their belongings and the rebuilding of their homes to the new site. Money that they barely have. This was the situation of most of the tribe at the time of my visit. They have to relocate, but finances are keeping them from doing so. Minimum wage here in the Philippines is less than Php 300 or 7 USD a day. That is, if the individual is employed. The unemployment here is quite difficult for those who have graduated from college. But it’s even more desperate for the laborer who barely finished high school.

And then, there’s the water problem. In their current site, water is scarce. Claire pointed me to three wells in the distance. Josephine told me that the heat was drying up the wells and that they’re scraping the bottom already for it.

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I braved the angry sun and went to the wells. Truly, the water levels were very low. When I asked them how they get by if the wells dry up, Josephine said they would then have no choice but to buy from those who sell water by the gallon. One gallon jug of water is 5 pesos (less than 50 US cents), if I recall it correctly. For a family without a steady income, that’s another daily expense they have to take into account. I can only imagine how they would then have to save their water if they had four mouths to nourish in the punishing heat of every day. In the new site, to make things worse, there is no functioning water source yet and no news of a workable plan so far.

When Claire was done with her work with them, she took me for a brief tour of the place. She put on a sarong over her head to protect her from the heat. She offered me a hat. I declined. I would later on regret it. My nape was scorched by the time I got home.

We asked a girl, Wenwen, if we could tag along and see her part of the village. She reluctantly agreed. It was curious for me that a young girl, in a desperate situation, be reluctant to bring some people who might be able to help to her home. We followed her through the rocky path. I was amazed once again at how dry and hot the ground was. Claire showed me the “highlights” of the village as we went along. We passed by a mini-store. It was just a house made of wood and iron with its front converted into a store. It was one of the bigger homes in the area. And it was the only store in these parts offering cold soft drinks, water and ice.

As we got closer to Wenwen’s home, I saw the mini-houses. I call them mini because, well, that’s what they are. To us, they might look like miniature huts. I’ve seen mini huts like these in museums. But it was the first time I saw some with people actually living in them. I would wager that the comfort room of most of the readers of this blog are much bigger than these houses. I peered inside some of them, and I saw at least 2 adults and 3 little kids in one home. I can’t believe the heat that these people had to bear in their homes every day and the water they needed to consume to battle dehydration. I didn’t even start to think how they bathed or took care of nature’s call. There was just no room for toilets in those huts. And around the homes and along the paths, there was so much garbage littered.

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After snapping some pictures, I caught up with Claire and Wenwen. I was beginning to think of all the things in my life that I’ve taken for granted. There were just so many. I began to realize how much of a grumbler I really am. I am no different from the stiff-necked Israelites that God and Moses had to deal with in the desert who were never content with their blessings. I’ve spent only a few hours in Kati-kati, and I already have received precious gifts from them. The gifts of an opened eye and a humbled soul. All of my worries and concerns in my sheltered life are dwarfed by what these people are going through every day.

And God’s message was hammered deeper into my soul when I saw Nanay (Filipino term for mother) Virgie. Nanay Virgie is Wenwen’s mother. She’s a dwarf who couldn’t walk. She’s paralyzed from the waist down and couldn’t take care of herself. Earlier, when Josephine narrated to me Wenwen’s unique love story, she mentioned that Nanay Virgie was once abused by an unknown man and left her to care for Wenwen. I wasn’t able to ask how Nanay Virgie became paralyzed. When I saw her elbow wounds, I forgot everything. Some graphic pictures of her elbow wound is shown below. I wouldn’t recommend scrolling down if you’re eating.

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Being paralyzed, Nanay Virgie can only get around by crawling. She uses her elbows to do that. The ulcerations on her elbows come and go, they said. I’m not a doctor, so I’m not sure what I was looking at. But I was quite sure that it needed medical attention; a wound-dressing perhaps to cover it up. Some flies were already flying to it. And I was concerned that I was seeing the beginning parts of her elbow joint. I wished I brought some wound dressing materials along.

I understood, then, why Wenwen was reluctant to bring us there. She didn’t want to bother anyone with her difficult life. She used to be a college student. She was going to take up an IT course. But she had to quit for her mother. No one else could take care of her. She gives her baths, feeds her and transports her. She takes care of Nanay Virgie’s daily basic tasks. And they, along with their other relatives, depend only on Wenwen’s grandmother whose main livelihood was native crafts. This was probably why Wenwen and Nanay Virgie couldn’t get their hut fixed too. The floor, the walls and the ceiling had problems. When it rained, they get drenched. Due to the damages, Wenwen has to sleep with her uncle’s home nearby. Nanay Virgie has to call for her if she needs her.

After advising them to clean the wound and to look for a government health center, we said our goodbyes. My visit was done and I had to catch my boat at the port. As we walked through the hot fumes coming from the ground, Claire and I talked about how much work had to be done in the tribe; work that could not be done by only a handful of people. We had to look for more partners. Then, I saw a big home not so far away. From the looks of it, the people living in it must be rich. I asked Claire who owned it. She didn’t know. Then, questions, popped up in my thoughts, “Are they helping the tribe? Are they doing their part? They’re so near and so capable. How could the future change if they helped even just one family?”

Then something, or perhaps some One, in me turned the tables. As I traveled back home, the same questions faced me, “Am I helping the poor around me? Am I doing my part? I’m so near and so capable. How would the future change if I help just one family?”

And as I finish this article, these questions continue to move me. They say every Christian is touched by our Lord in a different way. Every Christian is moved by Christ in a different way. And, in my quiet times in the Lord and my reflections the past months, I think I have found what my soul has been struggling to hear from Him. My soul may have found the reason for its restlessness; what some authors would call, its holy discontent.

 

How To Get To Guimaras Island

Guimaras Island is part of the Philippines’ Western Visayas Islands. It’s nearest Panay Island. But it can also be accessed through Negros Island. But then you will have to cross to Iloilo City via a ferry.

Guimaras has two ports, Jordan and Buenavista, both of which are easily accessible from the ports of Iloilo City, Panay. I used the port to Jordan. It’s very cheap to get there if you use public transportation. The boat rides are about Php 30 or less than 1 USD, round trip. The vessel is a medium-sized boat made of wood (locally called a motor bangka) and the trip takes about 15 minutes. For those who have a fear of riding boats, it might help to know that these vessels have life jackets and the trips are quite uneventful.

To get from the Jordan port to the Kati-Kati village, you’ll need to go through the old market of the town of San Miguel. The jeepney fare going there is Php 8 or less than 50 US cents. From the San Miguel old market, you’ll need to charter a tricycle to Sitio Kati-kati. The fare is Php 30-50 or around 1 USD.

While I keep hearing rumors of improvements to the infrastructure and resorts of Guimaras, it has no big malls that I know of. But there are plenty of stores around selling the basics. I heard also that there are some small restaurants as well. I just thought to mention that in case there’s someone from the big cities reading this and planning to go. The motor bangka’s trips operate until 6 or 7PM only. You need to keep that in mind if you’re not planning to stay overnight in Guimaras. If you intend to stay in a hotel and take refuge in malls after visiting Kati-kati, it’s best to stay in Iloilo City.

 

How To Help The Tribe From A Distance

If you want to extend a helping hand but you can’t leave your job and family just now, you still can send help. The money we allot on a daily basis on non-essentials can mean life to the Kati-kati tribe.

The missionary friend I mentioned here, Claire, is connected with IRC-Guimaras. IRC stands for Ikthus Redeemed Community.

IRC Guimaras' Facebook Cover Photo

IRC Guimaras’ Facebook Cover Photo

They believe in helping depressed communities by helping them with their basic needs first before they share the gospel. They also do so by sending a missionary to live and interact with people they’re trying to reach. So they don’t just visit them, do a little project or worship service and then leave them to fend off for themselves. They don’t just provide a band-aid treatment to the poor. They aim to share in their difficulties, help them help themselves, and give the hope that only Christ brings. IRC is present in multiple communities in the country.

The government has leased IRC Guimaras a piece of land in Kati-kati’s new site for 15 years. And IRC will be building some structures there in the near future. I’m not an official part of IRC. So if you have more questions on their long-term plans, head over to their Facebook page.

If the Lord has touched your heart to give, here are the details as shared to me by Pastor Rey Del Rosario of IRC.

Account Name: Ikthus Redeemed Community – Philippines, Inc.

Account Number: 004528014841

Bank Name and Branch: Banco De Oro – Mandalagan, Bacolod City

Routing Number: 00002021000089 (for overseas remittances)

Special Instructions for donations:

For checks, please don’t abbreviate any detail. “IRC Phils.”, will not be honored for remittances.

There are 3 categories to write on the deposit slip of your donation for it to reach the Kati-kati tribe:

  1. “for Guimaras project designated funds” (email or PM IRC Guimaras on how to designate your donation. 100% of the net proceeds will be used entirely to the purpose for which it was given or designated.)
  2. “for Guimaras project general fund”
  3. “for Guimaras project worker (name of worker)”

In case you’re wondering why there are special instructions, IRC has been complying very strictly with BIR’s (Philippines’ Bureau of Internal Revenue) guidelines due to various corruption scandals associated with local NGOs.

 

Before You Go

If you’ve read this far, thank you. May the Lord Jesus pierce your soul and bless you with faith that bears everlasting fruits. I checked on Claire through SMS as of this writing. She reports that Nanay Virgie’s elbow wound is no longer open and “has gone black”. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing…

Before you leave, allow me to pass to you the same questions which, I believe, was the Lord’s message to me the day I visited the Kati-kati tribe:

“Are you helping the poor around you? Are you doing your part? You’re so near and so capable. How would the future change for them if you help just one family?”

God bless you.

 

 

 

What Christians Often Choose To Forget

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I think most know how a Christian is supposed to be like. Just one look at the Gospels and it’s clear -even to the skeptic- that Jesus is worth knowing and following. The problem however, is that we Christians are often huge failures in representing the Lord of our lives.

Believers are often selective of Jesus’s traits that they choose to follow. Some focus on Him being righteously angry on the hypocrites, and then choose to forget that He was also filled with compassion for the lost and innocent. Some focus on Jesus the teacher and choose to forget that He too was a man of action. Some would focus on Jesus’s miracles and wonders and choose to forget that there were times when He refused to perform miracles and to even speak.

But what makes me scratch my head often is how we believers choose to forget that Jesus, and the Holy Spirit He sent after He left, is full of gentleness. To His disciples, yes, He was especially stern, of course. Any good teacher or leader would be towards his closest followers if the salvation of the world were to be placed on their shoulders. But to the sinners, to those ignorant of Him and even to those who crucified Him – He was filled with gentleness. In fact, He was filled with more than just gentleness. He was filled with mercy and love for them.

It was taboo for a Jew to speak to a Samaritan in those days, much more for a public figure like Jesus. But He chose to spoke to the Samaritan woman by the well guilty of adultery. And He did so candidly and without prejudice. But more remarkable is that He spoke with gentleness to her and to her whole village.

It was also an outrage for a Jew to be touched by people labeled as unclean during those days. But Jesus chose to talk to one who had been bleeding for years and then allowed healing to course through her. He never rebuked her for the disturbance. Rather, He was amazed at her faith and treated her gently while the others wouldn’t even touch her.

Tax collectors were the plague during Jesus’s time. They were seen as terrible traitors who overcharged their fellow Jews. But Jesus didn’t chastise Zaccheus. He chose to be gentle with Him and ate in his home – a big honor not suited for a guy like him. After seeing the change in him, Jesus even showed delight towards the man many saw as a hopeless case.

Jewish adulterers were condemned to death by public stoning in the past too. When one such woman was dragged to Jesus’s feet awaiting His nod for the stoning to begin, He had no rebuke for the woman. With a few words, He disarmed the would-be executioners and declared the condemned woman as clean. He treated her with what most probably believed at that time to be undeserved gentleness.

There are many more of these acts of gentleness of Jesus and of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. In the HCSB, the word gentle occurs 11 times and gentleness 10 times. Here’s one passage from 2 Timothy 2:24:

The Lord’s slave must not quarrel, but must be gentle to everyone, able to teach, and patient, instructing his opponents with gentleness.

It is quite distinct from love, this gentleness. Love can be expressed in many ways. One can discipline, reprimand or even punish a child out of love to drive home a very important and urgent message. So it is with love between lovers and friends. But gentleness speaks more of a conscious decision to be very delicate with someone or something as if he or she were a newborn baby.

Merriam-Webster defines gentle as “having or showing a kind and quiet nature: not harsh or violent: not hard or forceful: not strong or harsh in effect or quality”.

This gentle nature is what we Christians often choose to ignore and forget.

In the Christian’s desire to speak the truth, he discards gentleness. In his passion for Bible exposition, the believer lashes at the lost souls that their Lord and Savior would have embraced. The light of the world becomes pure hate as we condemn the homosexuals and the sexually immoral. To our shame, non-Christian organizations are better at gentleness and comfort than those who profess to be Jesus’s followers. While we pound our Bibles on the pulpit, while we have a great time with our churches and small groups, the hungry and poor and sick are being fed by those who don’t even know Christ. While we’re busy trying to reach megachurch status, the harassed and the shepherd-less find comfort somewhere else.

And we’re not even gentle towards each other. We’re full of foolish pride and arrogance. We call each other siblings, but fellow Christians would lash at each other more often than not. The protestants refuse to call the Catholics, “Christian”, and reserve the term exclusively for them. The Catholics declare that the protestants cannot be saved without their church and traditions. We save souls, forgetting that we’re not even capable of saving our own without the Lord. We throw condemnation at each other like daggers and talk behind each other’s backs. We thrust the neophytes into the spiritual battle without regard for their safety and maturity. We find comfort not on each other arms, but on the arms of those who don’t bother with theology. We can’t utter a paragraph without a Bible verse in it, and yet our embrace is so cold. To our detriment, we see our churches shrink over time. While the cults gain more and more followers.

To the lost souls who may be reading this. Whether you’ve been called a backslider, a homosexual, a thief, a prostitute… Remember that Jesus would’ve embraced you and given you another chance. If a Christian has hurt you, pray for him or her. But please don’t give up on the Lord who taught us to forgive seventy times seven. Don’t give up on His people in the same way that He never gave up on you.

To you, the proud, arrogant and hurtful Christian. You’re in my prayers. Please pray for me too. I pray that we would remember that when Jesus was here, He was hard on His followers and to those who professed to be God’s annointed leaders. Especially the hypocrtical ones. To those who claimed to be His servant, the God of the Old and New Testament was especially tough in His discipline towards them. But, to the sinners, He was only gentle and compassionate.

And He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow…

 

The Companion

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Man wakes to another day with his companion. This companion he’s always had. He’s called it many names, but the trouble it brings remains the same.

This companion brings too many questions. Questions that are too deep for comfort. Questions that he has no answers to. Questions he runs away from. For they take whatever joy he has achieved to hold.

As man looks towards nature, the companion asks, “What is the purpose of such beauty? And when this beauty turns into chaos, who drives it?”

“It all came by accident. No one drives it.” Man answers like he’s always done before.

As he looks at his reflection in the mirror, the companion asks, “Such a masterpiece! Why were you made? Why are you here?”

“To work. To be a part of humanity. To leap from whatever adventure to another,” Man replied.

As man looked at the work of his hands, his companion asked, “What is the point of all your work? You will leave all this one day.”

“I know… You never fail to remind me behind closed doors. I don’t know. As long as it gives me the money I need to survive and thrive, I don’t care what the point is.”

As man looked at the world – the healthy, the sick, the rich the poor – his companion gives him another nudge and asks again, “What about the world around you? Why are they here? Is it an accident too that you’re in the midst of them?”

“The rich I despise. The athletic I despise. The poor and the sick I despise all the more. I want them all to look up to me. That is I think why I’m in the midst of them. Which reminds me, I must get to work. Go away.”

“One more question, if you will,” the companion pleaded, “Wouldn’t it be a great thing if a good God were in the middle of all this?”

“If he is, he doesn’t care. And he’s not much of a god, really. Look at all that’s happening! Why even seek him out? Besides, he’s too busy with the nice people. He has no love for me.”

And so man kept going the same way he’s always done. As the years go by, he became more determined to ignore his companion. Man didn’t like being alone or being still, for he knows that the companion will bother him again.

So he poured out all his resources and all his efforts to keep on moving. He did it all. Work. Business. Investments. School. Achievements. Entertainment. Fitness. Travel. Shopping. Gadgets. Properties. Dining. Partying. Fashion. And a tinge of good deeds here and there.

It went on for years and years. And one day, man realized that his companion has finally lost him. Behind closed doors, his companion was no longer there. With a smile, he said to himself, “I have found success and fulfillment.”

And then, The Time came. That time when all things faded and broke down. The man wanted to keep going, but his body was failing him. He felt his heart run out of control and his legs giving way. He lay on the floor, feeling the coldness creeping in.

Knowing that the end is knocking on his door, he forced himself to think of the good life he has lived. He thought about his loved ones and that made him glad. He thought about the work he will leave, it will continue without him. He thought about the money he’s accumulated, that gave him a good sense of accomplishment. He thought about having seen the world and all it had to offer, it made him happy. He remembers all the people he has helped, that gave him joy.

And then he remembered, all that cannot go where he’s going now. He will have to be alone when the cold overwhelms him. No one and nothing can come with him, he knows. He will go to a place with an iron door that no one could open once shut. And he didn’t know what’s on the other side. All the good feelings were suddenly snatched away.

Strangely, a few moments before his heart and lungs stops, he yearned for the questions of his old companion.

“This may sound strange, but I wish you were here old friend,” He whispered to no one.

“I have never left you,” came the reply. His companion was there.

“My old friend. I am glad that you’re here in my final moments. It’s strange to miss you. Your presence bring me peace,” man said with slight smile.

His companion did not reply. He came near and smiled, but with sorrow in his eyes.

As man felt his life ebbing away, he gathered all his strength to do what he always wanted to do but did not have the time. He wanted to ask the questions this time, to his companion. With gasping breaths, he began.

“What do you think is the point of all this? Nature? Me? Work? The world? People?” he struggled for his last few gasps of air and then continued, “Don’t you wish a good god is in the middle of it all?”

His companion wept. And then He replied, “I am the Alpha and the Omega. The Beginning and The End. I hold all things together. And all things were made by Me. I am the God whom you said did not do much of a job at all. And I have never left you.”

Man, struck with awe, struggled for words, “Why didn’t you –“ he tried to ask. But his strength was already leaving him.

“I have always loved you. You never did outrun me. I was always there as I am here now. I wanted you to know Me. That’s why I asked you all those questions. I didn’t want to force you to love Me back. Because, then, it wouldn’t be love at all. It would be fear… This world is fallen. I am about to replace it. I wanted you to be a part of it. I wish you didn’t drive me away. We could’ve done so many lasting things together…”

Man struggled to speak. He had tears in his eyes. He seized up. The words would not come out. But three words managed to escape his lips, “H-how do I –“

And then man’s clock finally stopped. His body went limp. His eyes closed for the last time. His companion wept once more.

 

Struggling with Discontent, part 3 of 3

This is the last installment of this 3-part article on Struggling with Discontent. In part 2, I talked about some of the things that give us discontent. Then I lingered on the inadequacy of the Prosperity Gospel to give the Christian a joy-filled life. Here’s the rest of it…

Here’s another truth. Here’s what else is real in our lives: the hard rules of the Earth.

These rules everybody must abide in, believer or not. Yes, God loves you. But don’t think He will bend these earth rules just for you all the time. More often than not, He allows these rules to have power over us to teach us discipline, perseverance and to develop our character. In case you’re asking why, let me remind you that He’s not your genie, He’s your Father in heaven.

Whether these rules would be miraculously suspended for anyone, its His call, not ours.

What are some of these hard rules that God often chooses for His people to work under? There are many. Let’s quickly go through a few:

The Laws of Physics. Throw a Christian and a non-believer from a 20-story building and they will both fall flat on the ground, regardless of their theology. Try it. Let me know what happens. I’m kidding.

No work, no pay. Amazingly, this is the law that most of us believers think we’re exempted from. Guess what?Even if you can make a pencil levitate in Jesus name, no income will come to you if you don’t work. No certain amount of prayer will make money sprout out of the ground if you don’t work hard. But, to be clear, the opposite extreme is also true. If you work hard without God’s help, you will also be working in vain. Any work done apart from Christ will eventually fall or deliver an empty life. But prayer without hard work, is also a recipe for failure.

Life not being fair. The Earth is not designed to be a child’s playground although it may seem like that sometimes. Evil is present everywhere and it affects believers and non-believers alike. We’re not supposed to be comfortable here. The Lord has prepared a place of peace and abundance for those who do believe in Him, and one day He will renew all things when He returns. But right now, the world is filled with fallen people. Let’s be thankful that evil can only go as far as we and God allow it to go. We are here not to love the world. But to love and yearn everything that is God’s.

The Appeal of Excellence. Being a meek and humble Christian doesn’t mean being mediocre. It also doesn’t mean that you can’t compete. You can strive to be excellent & competitive without being arrogant. You simply can’t be trusted and can’t be promoted if you don’t show the bosses that you’re capable – even if you’re a devoted Christian.

Value of Time. Whether you lose time from relationships due to vices or work or because of your service to God, you will lose loved ones all the same. Just because you’re a church volunteer doesn’t mean that your marriage will be miraculously mended without spending enough time with your wife. Its the same with your kids, your family and your friends. If time is used poorly, the result is always the same regardless of our beliefs…

OK, let’s stop there. What’s the point?

Instead of wasting time wishing for a better life, wishing for the prince charming to come, for superheroes to emerge, for Reality TV producers to walk up to us, for fortune to come as we pay Prosperity Gospel tele-evangelists – why don’t we use our God-given faculties, talents and skills to get off our behind and solve them instead? Instead of spending a lot of time daydreaming, why don’t we get the gears in our minds grinding? God designed your powerful mind not to park it, but to use it for His glory.

And if we can’t solve the problem regardless of how hard we’ve tried, then maybe we’re approaching the problem the wrong way… Or maybe we’re heading the wrong direction and God’s hand is not going with us and we need to change direction…

Because of His work on the cross, Jesus now isn’t just your Lord, Redeemer and Savior. He can be your always-present life-coach if you work on a relationship with Him.

The Lord Jesus did not promise an easy life. But He did promise rest even in times of chaos (Matt. 11:28). He promised never to leave us nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5). He promised that He will provide enough for us the way that He does for the birds of the air (Matt. 6:26). He assured us that we need not fear life with Him because He knows how to give good gifts – better than what’s in our minds (Matt. 7:11). His words bear in them power that the world doesn’t understand. Jesus is worthy of our trust. And all these promises are ours to claim by His cross (Gal. 3:26-29).

He designed each one of us to be problem-solvers not problem-hoarders.

He wants His children not to be overwhelmed but to be always persevering. Worrying and complaining only wears us down. Let us remember that Jesus is the best example of submission to the Father’s plan even when it seemed impossible. Let us also remember the great victory that He achieved and the highest authority that He has now over all things in heaven and on earth.

We have been given a Spirit of Power and not of fearfulness (2Tim. 1:7).

So lets stop fantasizing about a life without kinks and dents. Face those problems head-on and grab it by the neck. Use them as foot holds as they come. Use them to bring you ever higher. Let us work towards a life that is always resilient, always hopeful and always faithful.

The Power Of Desire

Firedancer

Your deepest desires dictate your actions.

Our desires have multiple layers. Its coverings are like that of an onion. The outer coverings are a reflection of what’s inside. There are many layers, but when you peel them off, you’re left with a small compact center.

Our desires are often a reflection of the deepest ones. And if you dig deeper, you’ll understand yourself better. It is profitable to a person if, before doing something, he asks himself first, “Why am I doing this?”

Our desires can be tricky. Most of the time we think that a certain desire is the very reason why we do things but later on discover upon introspection that the desire is actually just a result of an even more powerful desire hidden deeper in our hearts.

Let’s say you got angry at a sales clerk at the mall, shouting at her after she told you that you can’t return an item. At first, you believe that you’re emotionally stirred because its an injustice, that you need to set it right because you’re being wronged. So you scream at the clerk without so much as asking her what she’s went through that day and how low her salary is.

You walk away satisfied that justice had been done. That satisfaction is lifted up all the more by the fact that justice had been done yourself. And then days later, in a moment of calmness and reflection, you dig in deep into your heart. And then you find that the incident with the sales clerk was not about justice at all but because of a very deep desire of yours to be respected and even feared. Because once upon a time in grade school you were terribly bullied and no one interfered for you and you promised yourself along the way that it should not happen again. And that desire to protect yourself gave birth to your thirst for justice and vengeance. And at that moment with the poor sales clerk was really not about her, the mall and not even about the $10 shirt. Without you knowing it, one of your deepest undisclosed desires have taken control of you. That whole incident was in fact the 8-year old you, defending itself from the kids that bullied you decades ago. It was an unsettled part of you bursting out.

This is important I think because it will add value and nobility to our lives.

It could free us from our bondages. Upon realizing that a desire for prostitutes is rooted on a deeper desire for acceptance because the person was once upon a time rejected too many times by too many people – money and effort can be redirected to better things that soothes the same desire.

It could intensify our passion for work. On the verge of giving up, a person can recover from burn out after successfully uncovering that he has been working not just because of his desire for money but because of his desire to preserve the heritage of his parents.

It could help us with life-changing decisions. An aspiring politician can postpone his plans upon figuring out that his drive to succeed is not driven by genuine public-service but because of a deeper desire for fame, power and money. If all politicians did this, I wonder what kind of world we’re all living in right now?

In the book Emotional Intelligence 2.0, Bradberry and Greaves teaches us that looking deeper into our hearts is the key to making better decisions:

The biggest obstacle to increasing your self-awareness is the tendency to avoid the discomfort that comes from seeing yourself as you really are… Rather than avoiding a feeling, your goal should be to move toward the emotion, into it, and eventually through it…

This brings to mind what Jesus said in Matthew 12:34-35 about the source of the words we speak and the things we do:

For the mouth speaks out of the overflow of the heart. A good man produces good things from his storeroom of good, and an evil man produces evil things from his storeroom of evil.

Also, in Mark 7:15, He reminds us that we should be more careful of what’s going on inside than the food that we’re ingesting:

Nothing that goes into a person from outside can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him… For from within, out of people’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immoralities, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, evil actions, deceit, promiscuity, stinginess, blasphemy, pride and foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a person.

The widely accepted school of thinking teach that the way to discipline is the reward system. We reward what is good. We punish what is evil. This works, but most of the time it doesn’t. If it does work, it does so temporarily. Proof is the overcrowding of our prisons worldwide. There is clearly a missing factor in the way we correct ourselves.

Desires are powerful. Especially the deepest ones that hide deep in us. Those desires that have gained the ability to create multiple coverings around it. Desires that are able to tap into the power of the mind to dig itself deeper and deeper into the darkest parts of the heart.

Good news is, we’ve been equipped with the ability to harness these desires. We can either harness them and use them to propel us. Or we can allow them to subdue and control us.

The Bible offers help to those subdued by unwanted desires. And David asked from God in his writings in Psalms 51:10-12 for intervention because, just like us, he had desires that were getting out of control:

Create in me a pure heart, O God… Renew a steadfast spirit within me… Restore me… Grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

And the Lord answers in Matthew 11:28 and 2 Corinthians 5:17:

Come to me all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest… If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

No one comes to Jesus without being changed. Pastor John MacArthur of Grace Community Church said this:

The true mark of a genuine Christian is a changed life… his sanctification.

There is only one requirement God asks a person for Him to give the power to overcome unwanted desires. No, its not to buy a book or to deposit $100 in a televangelists’ account or to touch a TV screen like some idiot. Its simpler than that. It’s in Psalms 51:17:

The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. God, You will not despise a broken and humbled heart.

Come to Him with pride and your academic prowess, and He will not come. All you’ll see are the inconsistencies in the BIble. Come to Him with your desire for prosperity and you will find the company of heretical fanatics. But have that broken, humbled heart the Lord requires, and He will come to you and change you into the person you were meant to be.

The best parts of your life yet are in His hands.

Handed Over: The Christian’s Only Fear

The Scream, a painting by Edvard Munch via Wikipedia

The Scream, a painting by Edvard Munch via Wikipedia

There are few things that a Christian truly fears. I don’t mean here that believers are emotionless. Sure we get startled in an explosion. Or get anxious about some things beyond our control. Or get scared of heights or spiders. We do have our phobias still. We’re human after all.

The fear that I mean here is that state of being continually fearful. That fear that is the blackest of blacks. That fear that consumes you day and night and makes you give up on life. The fear that has no hope of rescue – that’s the fear that I mean, the fear that a Christian doesn’t have.

How can we have that kind of fear in our hearts if we are children of an Almighty God? How can we continually be afraid of anything if we have a Mighty Father beside us, 24/7?

No believer continued to be afraid when the recession hit in 2008 because we knew then that our Provider never left our side. No Christian was desperate as Supertyphoon Yolanda hit in 2013 for we knew then that He is always in control. How could we be afraid today of what will happen to our kids in the future if we know that God loves our kids more than we ever could?

We just can’t be afraid.

Sometimes we get derailed, we stumble a little bit, but we always find our balance. Sometimes we fall, but our hope never runs out. We always rise again for our Lord who gave everything up for us in love.

But there’s a fear that a believer does have. A fear that separates the genuine from the fake. For this fear only grips those who truly love God and desire Him deeply.

This fear is the Christian’s fear of being handed over to his or her unholy desires.

This is the fear of being allowed by God Himself to what you think is nice after He kept you away from it for so long. This is that event in a believer’s life when our conscience stops working and we go through a downward spiral of sin. That terrible time when God lets you go and stops interfering. You think that God is OK with it regardless of what’s in His Word, when in truth, He’s already miles away from you.

Picture a cat surrounded by a gang of pit bulls – pit bulls that haven’t eaten for days. The cat’s owner did all he could to keep him away from them, but the cat is stupid. He thinks that the pit bulls are friends and all that barking means they like him. No matter how sophisticated the cage is, the cat always finds a way to get out and rush to the other side. The owner always caught him in the nick of time. But then the cat is relentless. He wants what he thinks is the best for him. And he sees the owner not as a protector, but a dictator and oppressor. So what does the cat do? The next time his owner catches him, he claws and bites. The owner realizes that the cat’s problem is his desire, entrenched deep in his heart; reason will not work at all. So he sadly lets his cat go, and waits. What does the owner wait for? The cat’s own realization that he was wrong all along and his master is right. The cat’s own willingness – his panic – to get back to his master’s arms.The owner doesn’t want it, but the cat won’t listen to reason and will rather experience the pain and separation.

This is what happens to a Christian who will not stop on doing what he knows is wrong. This is what happens when the believer ignores the Holy Spirit and refuse to repent. God doesn’t want it because He knows it will hurt the believer, but the believer keeps wandering away and sees God as his oppressor. So God lets go. With great sorrow, He stands back as His child is devoured by sin.

This “handing over” is found in Scripture. The ESV and KJV Bible calls it “give up”. The HCSB Bible calls it “deliver over”. The NIV Bible calls it “give over”.

Let’s use the ESV for this article…

“So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels.” Psalms 81:12

“For this reason, God gave them up to dishonorable passions…” Romans 1:26.

“And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done…” Romans 1:28

Ephesians 4:19 is quite special because it shows the sinning Christian’s personal choice to give himself or herself over to depravity: ‘Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality…”

To illustrate this more, think of David and his adultery. After that, think of Solomon, his concubines and idolatry. Think of what happened next when God have them over to their desires.

This also brings to mind the BTK killer, Dennis Lynn Rader, of Wichita, Kansas who killed and tortured 10 people between 1974 to 1991. He was arrested in 2005. During the time of his arrest, he was president of the congregation council of Christ Lutheran Church in Wichita. Before his arrest, he wrote letters to police and media about his previous crimes. These letters were not letters of remorse but of boasting and taunting. Hiding behind an alias, he told the world of his desire to defile and murder women and children. It was discovered later that some of the letters he made were written in the church using the church desktop computer. When he pleaded guilty, it was without remorse. Police say that there are many “lucky” people because Rader was on the verge of relapse when he was arrested. He is now in solitary confinement. (Source: Wikipedia)

I will not say that Rader was never a believer in the first place and will go to hell. I don’t know that. Only he and God does. But here’s what I’m sure of, while he was a part of that church, God reached out to him repeatedly. Many times God forgave him and urged him to surrender. Many times, God would fight for him and tell him to stop his evil desires so that he won’t go back to where he came from in 1991 when he killed his last victim. But somewhere along the way, God had to let go. Why did God give him that much time? Why didn’t God strike him with death and disability right away? That is not for us to know. Fact is, God reached out to Rader. Rader wanted out. God let him go.

Christian, are you in that crossroad right now where God tells you to stop? Is the Lord urging you in your spirit to come back to him?

Is it a little stealing from the company funds? Don’t wait for God to let you go and let it grow into a full blown corporate crime.

Is it just a little gambling? Your God is trying to hold you back from bankruptcy.

Is it a little porn? If God let’s go, you won’t just lose your family, you could be on your way to becoming a pedophile. Maybe your first victim would be your own daughter.

Is it just one night of liberty with your boyfriend? If God let’s go, you better be ready for single parenthood.

Is it just a little torture of a puppy? Why do you think we feel so horrified when we see that done on any small animal? That’s God telling us that it’s not right. Dennis Rader started his serial killing with animal torture.

If God holds us back, it’s only because He wants us to get back to safety. Let’s love that about our Father. It’s an indicator that He’s there and that He cares.

It is with these same thoughts that David wrote, “..Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me…” (Psalms 23: 4).

I would rather have His loving discipline than live a life of separation from my Father.

David’s Deliverer

Why did King David call God his Deliverer? When the Lord tells us in the Bible that He will “deliver” His people, what does it mean? Why do we ask Him to “deliver” us from our sins in the Lord’s prayer?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word deliver as “to set free”, “to take and hand over” or “to surrender”… The meaning differs depending on how you use the verb. But in David’s case, the second definition would be the most appropriate application.

He calls God his Deliverer because when he faced the super soldier Goliath and he only had his faith, his sling and some small pebbles – God took him and handed him over to victory and glory. Both of which would have been impossible without God.

Its tempting to say, “Good for David, he has friends in high places. Too bad for me, I’m at the bottom of God’s priorities…”.

Its true that God favored David from the very beginning because he was after God’s own heart. That means that David didn’t want anything else in his life but God. When he did something, God was always first in his heart.

And that’s quite difficult to do in the 21st century, I admit that. Today, entertainment and information is literally just at the tip of our fingers. Knowledge is so easy to find. We don’t need anyone to explain anything to us, because we have a huge bank of information in the internet. Our prayer life and meditation is replaced by Google and YouTube. The modern man finds these sites more useful because they provide solutions within seconds. While prayer, church and Bible study – they take hours of your time without coming up with a solution.

Most don’t realize that Christians have something that David would have given all his royal treasury to acquire – the cross of Christ.

While David was a great man and a great King, he was still separated from God. He had faith, and God was pleased with that, but he didn’t have what you have: the very personal presence of God because of Jesus Christ.

What’s the value of that? Everything.

Because of what Christ did on the cross, David’s Deliverer is now your Deliverer. No, you’re far from deserving this gift, but He will create in you a pure heart. Yes, it’s impossible for you. But not for God.

To further illustrate this enormous favor from God, picture in your mind your favorite logistics company. What do logistics companies do? They deliver. Its not possible for you to take the plane just to deliver a parcel and go back again. It will take away too much of your time, your strength and money. So you go to the logistics company who specializes on doing that on a regular schedule for a small fee. So you, now, don’t have to do anything. You just stay where you are and your important parcel will be delivered to where it should go. You will have done something that would have been otherwise impossible without the logistics company – your “deliverer”.

I think you can sense where this is going now…

When Jesus died for you on that cross, He made David’s God, yours. Regardless of your past or your present situation. If you believe and ask Him to come into your life, He will come and never leave you. As you seek to know David’s God everyday, as you go deeper and deeper into the Spirit of God, you will find that He really does sees you as His very own son now. And as the day goes by, you will no longer recognize the person in your mirror.

David was just a favorite of God. The believer becomes a son or daughter of God. How much more will the Lord deliver His own to freedom, to victory to green pasture?

So. Much. More.

Its not possible for you – child of God – to get that job, that promotion, that home, that financial freedom that you aspire for, on your own. It is not possible for you to sever your ties with your most favorite sins on your own, because you really desire them and resisting fiery desires are quite difficult for all of us. But with your faith, your sling and some stones – it is. Why? Because David’s Deliverer is now yours. The same God who guided that pebble to the right spot on Goliath’s head will take even the smallest of your efforts further than you ever can. Yes, it’s too far. Yes, it’s too difficult a climb. Yes, it’s too painful a journey. And your Father in heaven is excited for you to get into that secret place and to call on your Deliverer.

God aches to be your Deliverer. If what you’re asking for is good and aligned to His plans for you, He’s excited to move alongside you.

He will strike down your goliaths one at a time. He will part your red sea one after another. He will feed your five thousand over and over again. Why? Because you have surrendered all to him as David did. Because you have received His Son Jesus into your heart and now claims you as one of His own. And when He does, He never will leave you.

Some aim to become like David and Solomon. They like referring to these great men when they commit adultery or when their flaws are singled out.They will quickly point out that even David and Solomon had concubines and were imperfect. So they too can have concubines and can keep their pet sin.

Modern day fools.

I think that’s a mistake. You and I were given so much more than David and Solomon combined. And so our goals must be higher.

Don’t aspire to be like David and Solomon. Aim to be better. Aim higher. Because the Son of God, Jesus, paid the highest price to make David’s Deliverer – yours.

Would you like to start that journey with Jesus? Would you like that new life and be that new creation? Would you like to discover more from God than the shallow knowledge that your friends have? Please pray this prayer in your own heartfelt words:

God of Heaven and Earth, God of the Bible. God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God of Moses and Elijah. God of David and Solomon. I invite you to come into my life through the cross of Your Son, Jesus. I admit that I can’t do it on my own. I am a hopeless sinner and I can’t stop hurting you. I’m tired of it all. I need help. I surrender my life and my soul to you. I don’t know how this works, but please be my Father, my Savior and Deliverer. Bless me with faith. Change me from the inside and out. Set me apart and make me Yours. And as I wait for the change to come, I commit to get to know You in the Bible regularly, to get to know imperfect believers like me regularly, to be a part of your church, and to spend time with you often in moments of reflection. Thank you for Your love. In the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I pray, Amen.

May 2014 be the year of the Lord Jesus for you.