“In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” – Acts 20:35
I remember how the observance of Halloween around our Castlebridge community was so different this year than it was last year. First of all, the preparations we made last year were just phenomenal. I recall how we went all out decorating the gym at the school like it was a one-day VBS. We led everyone in singing and played games where prizes were given out to the winners. Our church members heartily donated chocolates, candies, and even little toys imagining what it would be like for even the kid at heart to receive such treats.
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.” – 2 Corinthians 4:7-12
In the Filipino parlance, “Nanay” is an endearing term we use to call our moms. As with other languages, it is one of many variants of references for mothers – one that conveys not just respect and admiration, but love.
As many of you know, Nanay Belen, the mother of our dear sister Lisa Sabinosa, has been in the care of our hospital system since February of this year after having undergone surgery and a heart problem thereafter that caused her to be immobile. She is now at the EW Bickle Centre – a rehabilitation facility for those requiring complex physical care. My wife and mother joined me in visiting her last Sunday after having recovered myself from an abdominal pain that kept us away from church that morning. Lately, I’ve been feeling vulnerable under the weight of my own frail, human physical condition.
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NIV)
A popular urban legend has been sneaking innocently into the minds of people everywhere. It has to do with the fact that the month of July 2016 has the unusual occurrence of having 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays, and 5 Sundays. What’s not very factual is that the urban legend claims that this happens only every 823 years – even having the dubious connection to a Chinese label of “silver pockets full”, i.e., relating to good fortune. In fact, this is more common than it seems. January of this year 2016 also has this characteristic of having 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays, and 5 Sundays, so that totally debunks this myth that has been spreading around.
With this misinformation comes a fervent reminder that time is precious. What a blessing to know that we have 5 weekends in July – the peak of summer when everyone is looking for “more” time to spend outdoors and enjoy a short reprieve from the more prevalent cold days of Canada.
But having “more” time is a misnomer. We don’t really get “more” time. Time has been set for us. It is a consumable product. We cannot add to it nor lessen it. That’s what Solomon reminded us in Ecclesiastes 3. Time is appointed. We either use it or it passes us by. We can never recover time that has been lost to complacency.
As a precious commodity, let’s be wise stewards of time. Invest it in building relationships and establishing connections with people. Put it to good use by recognizing eternity is of great consequence with time. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6:2: “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” Use this time to ponder God’s plan to bring you under His grace that you may experience everlasting life – when time is no longer of any essence.
“His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said. When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.” – Job 2:9-13
I shared this story to the congregation when I preached last Sunday on bitterness. I was hesitant at first but I realized that God can use such a tumultuous episode in our lives as a way to build and encourage others. I know that He did it for me. Such incredible pain can turn one who trusts in the Lord to someone useful for His kingdom. I hope you see why as I recount such a harrowing experience…
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
As a pastor, the events that I look forward to the least are funerals and burials. But perhaps I shouldn’t feel that way. It’s perhaps the most significant in the life of one who has surrendered their life to Christ. The transition to total rebirth has truly taken hold in their life as they are welcomed to their eternal dwelling place. I got to witness that yet again when we laid to rest our beloved sister in the Lord, Teresita Gonzales – dearly loved mother of Jenelle – just yesterday at Glen Oakes.
The blog this week will seem like a eulogy, partly an encouragement, but mostly exhortation from God’s word. Much of what will be here are reflections that I shared at her memorial service yesterday. Continue reading