SOUL FOOD

Romans 10:17 NLT

[17] So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ.

As we mature, we don’t normally eat everything that is served to us on a plate. I, for example, remove the fats, skin, tendons of any meat. Of course, I don’t also eat the bones that are still in a fish or any meat. I don’t eat the shells of crabs or lobsters. I also cutting down on carbos, so I eat few rice as possible. I love fruits and vegetables, so I eat a lot of them as much as I can.

There are people who leave the onions alone or avoid the chili. Some would prefer extra gravy or add sauce to their food. So, we only take into our mouth what we see are good for us. After all, what we eat eventually goes to our stomach and nourishes the body. As the saying goes, “We are what we eat.”

We should also do the same with our ears. We need to develop the wisdom to stay away from unhealthy words. Not all informations or news bear the facts or the truth. So we need to have the discernment to listen to the positives and block off the negatives. Like sauce, we may add something good to our ears to feel better. After all, what we hear eventually goes into our brain that nourishes our soul. So, we are what we hear.

And the greatest words that we need to hear are from God.

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TRUST

John 14:1 NLT

[1] “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.

My dad used to say, “If you want to lose a friend, lend him money”. I grew up understanding that trust is earned. I still believe that. People fail. I was robbed a few times by people I trusted. I was lied to by people I thought are good people. Well, I can’t say I even trust myself. I fail many times on delivering promises too.

God, on the other hand, delivers… Always. He has a very long track record of delivering His promises. It will do us good to believe that.

But it’s not a matter of trusting God that I’m concerned about. It’s about trusting ourselves of having enough faith to trust Him during times of trouble. The world can really hit us where it really hurts: our pockets, our families, our health, our names, our hearts. We couldn’t focus or think straight when bad things happen. Desperate times, desperate prayers. We cry, we kneel. When our world is falling apart, the words of Jesus “Don’t let your hearts be troubled” don’t seem to allay our fears. There are moments that our troubled hearts seem to pound ten times faster, a hundred times harder. Worrying can be hazardous. Our hearts can only take so much. When people hurt us, we tend to hurt back. When sickness hits us, faith wavers. We don’t normally tell people to stay calm when they’re in the water drowning.

Trust in God, and trust also in me”, it’s that word again… Trust. It’s convenient to trust God during good times. It’s easy to trust God when everything is going our way. We give thanks when life is comfortable. We shout our hallelujahs when blessings arrive. But when disaster strikes… that’s where the “trust” part is put on the spotlight.

But the thing is, if we don’t trust God, who will we trust? If we want to move forward, or simply survive, where can we run to? The worst place we can be is being pushed in a corner. And guess what, most of the times we’re the ones who got ourselves there in the first place. Animal instincts could push someone to give up or fight back, depending on what animal we’re talking about.

But we humans have a God. A loving living God. A God who gave everything to us, for us. If we go back to the verse, God is not only giving us an assurance, He is giving us an order. Believing in an assurance takes faith. Following an order without question requires submission. So, when “troubled hearts” situations overwhelm us and our trust in God wobbles, submit to Him. Surrender. Give in. In a contest, one surrenders when he loses. With God, one surrenders and he wins.

By the way, before I forget, this assurance and command is followed by the most wonderful promise ever.

John 14:2-4 NLT

[2] There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? [3] When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. [4] And you know the way to where I am going.”

SMELL LIKE…

2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT

[18] So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord-who is the Spirit-makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.

A Korean guest visited me in my office the other day and we talked about our common faith. In clear English, he said, “Believers should smell like Jesus.”

Smell? That was a first. I haven’t heard that one before. He continued, “… You don’t have to talk or do anything before people start recognizing that you’re a Christian. They should sense God in you.”

I was, wow…

This got me thinking, among the five senses, smell can work with the invisible. We tend to stay away from a foul odor and get attracted to something fragrant, without necessarily having to see it or touch it.

But how does Jesus smell like? People 2,000 years ago didn’t carry around deodorants, much less any toiletries. They worked and walked under the heat of the day sweating and I can bet you they didn’t smell, uh, nice. I’m not too convinced that they really took baths everyday during those days. The only time I can say with confidence that they took baths is when they went through the ritual of purification before facing a priest and during very special occasions. Or when they get to be baptized by John in the Jordan river (which isn’t exactly pristine either). I really doubt if anyone carried a bar of soap. Although soap was invented around 2,800 BC, I don’t think it was mass produced back then.

My Korean guest was not talking about what our physical noses can pick up. It’s more like what our spiritual noses can. It’s about sensing something good, something pure. Something, even behind the dirt and grime of our mortal bodies, holy.

It’s not what we do, it’s what Jesus does, through us. It’s not who we are, it’s to whom we belong to. Our words and actions are things people hear and see from us, but it’s our lives that should smell like Jesus even when people are not around to hear us nor see us. When we begin learning to love and surrendering our lives to Him, we won’t only be looking like Him, but smelling like Him. A total image copy. It gives a new enlightening perspective on the name Immanuel.

So, the question is not how we smell like… It’s WHO do we smell like.

GIVE AND TAKE

Job 1:21 NIV

[21] and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”

Job said those words and are often quoted during funerals. But Job didn’t know better. It was God who gave him all, but it was the devil who took everything away. Job probably didn’t know the enemy nor saw the evil hands that took away everything he had and owned.

Someone who came to church asked us: “Is it true that everything that happens to us are God’s plans? Is it true that He will give us something better from the ones we lost?”

I had the same questions long ago. And as I searched the Bible, I found out that the only things God would take from us are things we idolize and keeping us away from Him. He also takes the lives of the godly to spare them from evil.

So, bad things happen because of the devil? Not entirely. Natural circumstances and situations also play a role, things beyond our control. There is a season for everything, Solomon said. But even through these challenging times, God is still in charge and His plans for us will still be fulfilled in our lives as long as we continue trusting Him. Most of the times, these situations serve as catapults to our God-ordained destinies. I’ve met and known people who stood tall and won in spite of their circumstances.

Now, most of our pains are self inflicted. Man is a major culprit. We do things that hurt us. We thwart the good plans of God. That’s the sad part. The worse part is when we blame God: Why did this happen to me? A pastor once said: “God seldom answers the question ‘why’. Because He knows we’re not looking for an answer. We are looking for an argument.”

So, for those of us who have faith in God but undergoing trials and struggles, the best question is… “Lord, what do I do next?”

God is a blesser, not a taker. Always remember the blesser, not the blessings. And like Job, give praise to God for everything… Good or not-so-good, given or taken.

SPIRIT POOR

Matthew 5:3 NIV

[3] “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Several years ago, Maya and I shared the Gospel to a young lady during a garden party…

Lady: You mean, if I only accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I’ll get to heaven?

Me: Yes.

Lady: I don’t think it’s that simple. It should be more complicated than that. (Stood up and sat in another table)

Me: (to Maya) Hmm.. Just because it’s from God, it has to be complicated? (Maya simply smiled)

Then I heard a faint shout, “Bote, dyaryo…”. I glanced and saw a “mambobote” pushing his cart and passing by outside the wrought iron gate.

Me: I bet I’ll have better chances with that guy. He would understand the Gospel. It’s simple.

God: (in my heart) Yes, the Gospel sounds simple enough. But I had to bear what my Son went through to become the Gospel. It’s for people like that mambobote. Man’s intellect and logic blind them. Arrogance hinders them. Until they come searching for me, they won’t find me. Doesn’t that young lady remind you of someone?

Me: Yes, Lord (with welling eyes and bowed head), she does.

God: Blessed are the poor in spirit.

Maya: (apparently “heard” our conversation, smiled and put her hand on mine) We must continue sharing Jesus.

Me: Amen. Excuse me. (I stood up and started walking towards the gate)