Thursday, February 2, 2017

Arrival - what will you do in heaven?

I dreamed last night about Dad. It's been more than a year since he died. I think it was the movie "Arrival" that stimulated my dream. In the dream one of the grandchildren asked a healthy Dad "what do you want to do when you get to heaven?". He answered "that's a good question! Maybe I'll go fishing or camping".

I'm not sure why that is connected to the movie "Arrival" but I feel that it is. In the movie the heroine, a linguistics expert, is called in to help decipher the language of alien (octopi-like) creatures who have arrived in 12 locations around earth. It turns out that the aliens experience time in a non linear fashion so as the linguist begins to understand their language she also begins to experience time in a non linear way and conversations from the future impact her actions and she is able to "save the world".

What conversations would a future me have with me today? What would a future me who has experienced heaven say to me today? What would I like to do when I get to heaven? Does it matter? Is heaven even about me?

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Duterte first crisis : keep the lights and ac on

Philippine power supply jeopardized by Indonesian ban http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/06/27/1597092/philippine-power-supply-jeopardized-indonesian-ban

Friday, August 28, 2015

Philemon and Marilou: Runaways

Scenario: Chan Siu Fai was led to the Lord and discipled by Pastor Jorge de Ramos. As a result he started a small house church in his home and hired a helper, Marilou from Arrow Employment Services. Marilou was a big help with the house group, but did not return to work from a long holiday. She ran back to Manila, taking with her $5000 cash from the Chan family. While in Manila she ran into Pastor Jorge who recognized her and invited her to coffee. Marilou felt terribly guilty about what she had done and poured out her heart to Jorge and Bolen. They led her to the Lord and began discipling her. Several months went by and Pastor Jorge mentioned Marilou to Sir Allan. Sir Allan checked the records at Arrow and realized that the Chan's never terminated the contract and they hadn't hired another helper. Perhaps there was a chance for reconciliation. Pastor Jorge decided to write a letter to Chan Siu Fai. The letter is below.

From: This letter is from Pastor Jorge De Ramos, Senior Pastor of Capital City Baptist Church, committed to preaching the Good News about Christ Jesus, and from sister Bolen
To: I am writing to Chan Siu Fai, our beloved co-worker, and to our sister Yau Suk Ming, and to our fellow soldier Chan Chi Wing, and to the church that meets in your house.

May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.

I always thank my God when I pray for you, Siu Fai, because I keep hearing about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God’s people. And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ. Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people.

That is why I am boldly asking a favor of you. I could demand it in the name of Christ because it is the right thing for you to do. But because of our love, I prefer simply to ask you. Consider this as a request from me—Jorge, an older brother in the Lord and now also a preacher for the sake of Christ Jesus.

I appeal to you to show kindness to my child, Marilou Santos. I became her father in the faith while here in Manila. Marilou  wasn’t much use to you in the past, but now she is very useful to both of us. I am sending her back to you, and with her comes my own heart.

I wanted to keep her here with me while I am struggling here  preaching the Good News, and she would have helped me on your behalf. But I didn’t want to do anything without your consent. I wanted you to help because you were willing, not because you were forced. It seems you lost Marilou for a little while so that you could have her back forever. She is no longer like a domestic servant to you. She is more than a servant, for she is a beloved sister, especially to me. Now she will mean much more to you, both as a helper and as a sister in the Lord.

So if you consider me your partner, welcome her as you would welcome me. If she has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, Jorge De Ramos have handwritten this letter so you will know this is my desire. If she owes you anything I will repay it. and I won’t mention that you owe me your very soul!

Yes, my brother, please do me this favor for the Lord’s sake. Give me this encouragement in Christ.
I am confident as I write this letter that you will do what I ask and even more! One more thing—please prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that God will answer your prayers and let me visit  you soon.

Pastor Ron, my fellow co-worker in Christ Jesus, sends you his greetings. So do Bolen,Mark, Pastor Reynaldo, Simon Chan , and Luke, my co-workers.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Discuss:

  1. How does Pastor Jorge open his letter to Mr. Chan. Imagine this was written on church letterhead.  
  2. Read the opening prayer carefully. What did he pray for? From what he prays what do you learn about Pastor Jorge's and Mr. Chan's relationship?
  3. What does he ask Mr. Chan to do? How do you think Mr. and Mrs. Chan felt about this request? What would it take for them to take Marilou back? If they were typical employers what actions do you think they might take, IF Marilou returned?
  4. How do you think Marilou felt about going back? What motivation besides wanting a job could she have? What dangers was she facing in deciding to go back?
  5. We are not told the end of the story. What do you think happened? 
  6. In the real letter to Philemon, the actual letter was hand carried by the runaway slave Onesimus. Imagine that scene. How do you think Philemon felt when he saw Onesimus standing in front of him holding out a rolled up letter? How do you think Onesimus felt? 
  7. What is the hardest thing you have ever done simply because you wanted to obey the Lord? 
  8. Is there something hard God is telling you to do, but you  are resisting because it might have bad consequences for you and you are afraid? What do you think Marilou and Onesimus would tell you? What advice would they give you?
NOTE: The above letter is fiction, based on the real letter of Paul to his brother in the faith, Philemon.


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Calling for Mighty Men



In 2Samuel 23 there is a record of King David's mightiest warriors. Their exploits are similar to how the Vikings are portrayed on the History Channel mini-series of the same name.  If anyone makes a mini-series on the life of David, then I hope they will include the scenes described here. One warrior kills 800 enemy soldiers. Another stands back to back with David as they fight off an overwhelming number of the enemy.



Imagine the warrior - body covered with blood, surrounded by the dead bodies of his enemy - no longer able to lift his sword or axe, but it's okay, because no enemy is left, not one. They are dead or have run away.



Don't you want to be that man? What battles are we facing today? It seems that my biggest foe is sin. Hebrews 12:4 says "After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin."  Both James and Paul tell us to resist the Devil. He is an awesome warrior and we are not his equal.  Where do I find the strength to say to sin and Satan "You will NOT pass by here while I am alive!"? Who will stand back to back to me in this struggle? I need a band of brothers, some mighty men to fight alongside me. I'm not a great warrior, but I don't want to be listed as "the rest" who ran away in the face of the enemy. I don't have a great history of resisting sin and Satan, but it's time to take up my battle axe.



Lord of the Armies of Heaven,



Teach my arms to wage war. Give me a steadfast brave heart. Provide me with some brave men to stand side by side with me in this battle.  Amen.



2Samuel 23:8-17

8These are the names of David’s mightiest warriors. The first was Jashobeam the Hacmonite, who was leader of the Three—the three mightiest warriors among David’s men. He once used his spear to kill 800 enemy warriors in a single battle.

9Next in rank among the Three was Eleazar son of Dodai, a descendant of Ahoah. Once Eleazar and David stood together against the Philistines when the entire Israelite army had fled. 10He killed Philistines until his hand was too tired to lift his sword, and the lord gave him a great victory that day. The rest of the army did not return until it was time to collect the plunder!

11Next in rank was Shammah son of Agee from Harar. One time the Philistines gathered at Lehi and attacked the Israelites in a field full of lentils. The Israelite army fled, 12but Shammah held his ground in the middle of the field and beat back the Philistines. So the lord brought about a great victory.13Once during the harvest, when David was at the cave of Adullam, the Philistine army was camped in the valley of Rephaim. The Three (who were among the Thirty—an elite group among David’s fighting men) went down to meet him there. 14David was staying in the stronghold at the time, and a Philistine detachment had occupied the town of Bethlehem.

15David remarked longingly to his men, “Oh, how I would love some of that good water from the well by the gate in Bethlehem.” 16So the Three broke through the Philistine lines, drew some water from the well by the gate in Bethlehem, and brought it back to David. But he refused to drink it. Instead, he poured it out as an offering to the lord. 17“The lord forbid that I should drink this!” he exclaimed. “This water is as precious as the blood of these men who risked their lives to bring it to me.” So David did not drink it. These are examples of the exploits of the Three.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Ittai of Gath

Today I read 2 Samuel 18-20 where David wins back the kingdom, but loses his son Absalom who had usurped his throne.

David wanted to go out with his men, but they strongly objected. Was this because the last time he stayed behind he ended up sleeping with Bathsheba? The King, even an old king, should be in the field with the troops. ?? When his son is killed the King mourns loudly and Joab his general strongly rebukes him for not showing loyalty to his troops who have risked their lives for him. Joab was right - David cared more about the rebellious son than the 1000's of men who risked their lives to save the kingdom.

One of David's commanders was a man named Ittai from Gath. Where did David pick up a Philistine? It must have been when he served the Philistines and hid among them while running from King Saul. Chapter 15 introduces Ittai to us. He was the leader of 600 Philistine warriors who decided to follow David. When Absalom staged his coup, Ittai stayed loyal to King David. What kind of man wins the loyalty of a platoon of foreign fighters? In chapter 15, David tells Ittai he shouldn't follow him. He is saying to him "you're a foreigner. You don't have a dog in this fight. Why do you want to get involved?" Ittai answers, "I vow to the Lord and by your own life that I will go wherever my lord the king goes, no matter what happens - whether it means life or death."

"Dear Lord,

King David, your great great great ... grandfather engendered such loyalty among people who were not his people. He failed so miserably at times, yet was so loved. His love for you made him attractive, a man to follow. He was real and vulnerable in his love and his sorrow.  You are the perfect One, the descendant promised to King David, the greater King, the Messiah, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Don't you deserve even greater loyalty? "I will go wherever my Lord goes."  You know my heart, you know the weakness of my flesh, you know everything about me. Help me to be steadfast and loyal to you - whether it means life or death. "  Amen

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Savoring the Joy of forgiveness



I've been thinking about Psalm 32 a lot lately.

1Oh, what joy for those
whose disobedience is forgiven,
whose sin is put out of sight!

My sins are out of your sight, Lord, but some people are "public figures" and our sins once known are never out of the sight of other people. People remember our sins and label us as "that guy" or "that woman". David is often remembered more for Bathsheba than Goliath. It is unnerving to know that people look at me through the lens of past mistakes. 

2Yes, what joy for those
whose record the lord has cleared of guilt,
whose lives are lived in complete honesty!

This is the 2nd time joy is mentioned. Father, why don't I feel that joy? At the prospect of opening up my life to more and more people, all I feel is dread. You have cleared me of guilt and brought me back to a place of honest living, but some of those who hear this news, will not clear me of guilt. My past sin will define me in their eyes. I will always be "that guy who ..."  who what? who sinned? who recovered from a great fall and ended well? Why do I want to write the end of that sentence in a negative way. Perhaps I will be remembered as the one who finished well. It doesn't matter. God says I am the one who sin is forgiven and whose transgression is put far away in the depths of the oceans.

3When I refused to confess my sin,
my body wasted away,
and I groaned all day long.
4Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me.
My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.
Interlude

I love the interlude here. When I went through this experience of refusing to confess my sin, it went on and on and on. It was not over quickly. I did not move quickly from stubborn refusal to willingness to confess. It took countless days under your heavy hand, the threat of incurable cancer, tears, stubbornness, depression, thoughts of suicide and finally I broke. I had to suffer sleepless nights, nights crying myself to sleep next to my wife, hoping she wouldn't notice my sobs. It was not pleasant and it seemed to last forever.
Interlude.

5Finally, I confessed all my sins to you
and stopped trying to hide my guilt.
I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the lord.”
And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.
Interlude

How many times did I confess my sins to you, Father? You who counts the hairs on my head, you know the count. Was it hundreds? thousands? Yet until I confessed to my wife and others about what I had done, there was no relief. How are confessing to you and confessing to others related? Jesus said "if you are making an offering in the temple and remember your brother has something against you, go first and reconcile with your brother, then come and make your offering." My offering of confession was useless without confessing to those I sinned against. Maybe this is the heart of the matter: I have also sinned against the church and need to make amends to them as well. Perhaps then I will experience the joy of forgiveness you promise. Or perhaps there will be another group, then another, ad nauseum.  "All my guilt is gone. Interlude." Hit the "pause" button, meditate on that. ALL my guilt - GONE. 

Interlude:
As I think about sharing about my past failures and sin, the horror of my sin sinks into my soul. I see myself through the eyes of others. One person told me recently "I wanted to hate you when you told me about this." What I did is hateful in her sight, as it is in your sight. As I begin to realize the horror and darkness of my sin, I hope I will also appreciate more the sacrifice of Jesus to pay for my sin. I hope that confession is part of the healing process, healing from sin and its effects on my life. If there are yet areas where sin has its dark tentacles wrapped around my heart, then perhaps this opening up to others will reveal those areas and break sin's grip. Still, sharing with these sisters of mine is a fearful prospect. 

Interlude

6Therefore, let all the godly pray to you while there is still time,
that they may not drown in the floodwaters of judgment.

Wrap your mind around this: "let all the godly pray to you while there is still time". Not the ungodly, not the sinners needing repentance and confession, but the godly. The godly need to pray, to repent, to confess, to come to God. Paul said that there is judgement coming and it will start first with the house of God. Those of us who are believers need to pray. We need to repent and confess our sins to one another. Time is short. We could be swept away in typhoon river of judgment, yet there is time to repent. Today, while it is still today, do not harden your heart. (Hebrews 4). There is no time for one last indulgence, one last sin, there is only just enough time to turn around and like the prodigal, trudge back to waiting Father. 


7For you are my hiding place;
you protect me from trouble.
You surround me with songs of victory.
Interlude

Where else can I hide from my enemies? You are my hiding place. I cannot hide from my sin and my past, but I can hide from my enemies by running to you. You protect me from trouble. You surround me with songs of victory. I wonder at this phrase. What does it mean? Will those I tell my/your story to celebrate the victory you have wrought in my life? Or will they focus only on my failure? I have to believe that at least some will celebrate the victory. Last night I shared with my men's group and they celebrated. I'm not sure how the sisters in church will respond. It doesn't matter. "There is more rejoicing in the presence of God's angels over 1 sinner who repents, than over the 99 who need no repentance." Jesus himself will do the "happy dance" in front of his angels over the sinner who repents. Do the angels wonder at this - the Son of God dancing, whooping and shouting over a sinner who turns around? How does Gabriel feel when Jesus gives him a "high five" or says to Michael the Archangel "down low"? So un deity like, so undignified - it is like an man of wealth and position waiting on his front porch, staring off in the distance, seeing the outline of a weary figure against a setting sun. Could it be? At last - the younger son returning? In a flash he is off the porch, robes flying, sandals clacking, heading up the road as fast as his feet will carry him. The servants are aghast, but finally one has the sense to say "Well, go after him!" and they also run to see what could cause the Master to act in this way. It is his son - filthy, in rags, smelling like pigs, and completely at the end of his rope, the end of his hope. "Father I have sinned" is cut short by a crushing embrace, a bath, shoes for his feet, a robe, a ring and a party.

Interlude

8The lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.
I will advise you and watch over you.
9Do not be like a senseless horse or mule
that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.”

10Many sorrows come to the wicked,
but unfailing love surrounds those who trust the lord.
11So rejoice in the lord and be glad, all you who obey him!
Shout for joy, all you whose hearts are pure!

The offer is renewed. "I will guide you along the best pathway for your life." You made me that offer before, but I rejected it. I thought another pathway would bring me satisfaction and happiness. It brought some sensual enjoyment, but also overwhelming sorrow, the sorrow of the wicked, the sorrow of enslavement, addiction, of being trapped and unwilling to take the only way out. The offer is renewed "I will advise you and watch over you." I accept your offer, Lord. I will not be like a senseless horse or mule. I will obey you. Surround me, as you promised with your unfailing love. I rejoice in you for you have forgiven my sin and cleansed my heart. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God." Shout for joy!