ON HAND

Exodus 4:2 NLT

[2] Then the LORD asked him, “What is that in your hand?” “A shepherd’s staff,” Moses replied.

How many times have we pondered our future? How much does it take to fulfill our dreams? What do we need to reach our destiny?

Many times we can’t move forward because we believe we don’t have what it takes. No education. No money. No credentials. No tools. Too old. Too young. Too scared. Too timid. Too tired. We come up with hundreds of reasons why we can’t do it. We tend to become experts on excuses.

How many of us would look no further than what we already have? For Moses, a shepherd’s staff divided a sea. In David’s hand, a sling and a pebble fell a giant. For Joshua, a shout brought walls down. Nehemiah’s determination built walls up. A choir singing praises defeated Jehoshaphat’s enemies. Abraham’s faith secured the destiny of generations. Joseph’s dreams fed the world.

In the case of Moses, he had his share of excuses. He figured God made a mistake by appointing him His spokesperson. He was too old. He had stage fright. Stuttered when he got nervous, basically telling God “no can do!”. It’s funny when God seemed to relent by assigning Aaron instead (Exodus 4:13-14). But when they eventually came to face Pharaoh, Moses couldn’t get his mouth shut.

And, oh yes, the shepherd’s staff he was holding? A piece of wooden stick. Besides dividing a sea, it also turns into a snake. It brought down the plagues of Egypt. It held the enemies at bay and brought victory to the Israelites. It brought water gushing out of a rock. In Moses’ hands, it became the staff of God.

It’s not what we have, however tiny or insignificant they may seem to be, it’s what God can do with them. Lift up to God what we have on hand and dedicate them to Him. Use them to advance His agenda. Leave it up to Him and watch the wonders He can do with them. And looking at God’s track records, the outcome could be spectacular.

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LEGACY

Genesis 15:5 NLT
[5] Then the LORD took Abram outside and said to him, “Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That’s how many descendants you will have!”

Sitting on the beach gazing at the stars one night, I wondered what Abram (later God renamed him Abraham) was thinking when the Lord told him that he’ll have descendants as many as the stars. He didn’t get to see them. Or did he?

I remembered a conversation I had with my eldest son several years ago. Coming home from school one evening, he came to my room and told me how glad he was that I became a Christian.

Because of my conversion, eventually, my whole family became Christians. Then he made a promise: “Dad, I will see to it that my brothers and I will always follow Jesus. I’ll also make sure to share Jesus to our children and our grandchildren and have Him the center of their lives.”

Then he added, “Wouldn’t it be awesome for you to see mom and all of us, your children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, great great grandchildren and on, and on… in heaven? All because you received Jesus as your Lord and Savior.” Moments after my son left the room, my tears fell, my heart was full of joy.

Remembering that conversation, I can now imagine what Abraham was thinking when he looked at the stars. Now, we have more than one thing in common besides our name (yes, my full name is Abraham), we both have an eternal legacy.

Exodus 20:6 NLT
[6] But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands.

SEEING THINGS NEW

Revelation 21:5 NLT

[5] And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.”

New year. New things. Many times we hardly see them. We have this expectation that something new must be something big and extraordinary. Many believe that a new thing should catch our attention. But around us, things are changing everyday. Many are subtle, but new nonetheless.

Did you notice your wife’s new hair? Did you see your little girl grew an inch? Maybe it’s the same color, but your young son is actually wearing a new pair of shoes. How about your tie? See? You’re wearing the one you bought yesterday and nobody seemed to care. Sometimes we look over the horizon, not noticing the little surprises are right under our noses.

God loves to do new things, if you just let Him. For us to see these new things, there is something God wants to change first. Our hearts.

How do we see things? How do others see them? What’s new for the other guy, may be ancient to you. But would you appreciate his excitement? A new heart will help you, most especially the little things that matter to God. Like, when was the last time you said something nice to your grumpy neighbor? Stuck in traffic? Have you tried listening to a new song in your car’s CD player? Or have you ever asked the name of the shy guy who rides with you in the elevator every working day? How about smiling in the morning? Greeting the day with a song and prayer?

An old heart can be blind to new things, because it saw disappointment. Anger can make it cold. Doubt can fence it in. Fear can make it miss a beat. Pain can make it numb. And pride can make it hard, stone hard.

Ezekiel 36:26 NLT

[26] And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.

Want something new this year? Ask God for a new heart. You may not see new things everyday, but it will make things new everyday.

THE MANGER AND THE CROSS

Luke 2:12 NLT

[12] And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

Most of the world know the Christmas story. The virgin birth, the angels, the shepherds, the stable and the manger. The power of God displayed discreetly through Mary and Joseph and majestically by an army of angels. But the manger? The stable is smelly and uncomfortable enough, but who in the world would let a new born baby lay in a dirty trough? The royalty, splendor and majesty befitting the Son of God are not evident in a manger. One would probably expect a gold trimmed and bejeweled crib in a palace suitable for a prince. I guess that’s exactly the point… Who in the world?

An angel announced it as a sign. A sign of what? There’s not much you can say about a baby in a wooden box used for livestock fodder. It’s almost insignificant compared to the spectacle of a burning bush (Exodus 3:3). Gideon would probably search for a fleece (Judges 6:36-40). Heard about the talking donkey (Numbers 22:28)? How about a hand suddenly appearing and starts writing on a wall (Daniel 5:5)?

Ah, this brings me back to the question: Who in the world? Authors of this world would give us Cinderella, Snow White and other Disney characters, who are blue-blooded but simply got their adventures mixed up. How about Princess Diana? Nah. Even Mark Twain got a prince’s and a pauper’s birthrights switched and messed up. But none of them were settled in a manger.

But God is not of this world. Being born in a stable and set on a manger may not be a wise best seller plot but definitely draws our attention, eventually. (By the way, the Bible is the biggest best seller of all time). Only God can make a sign out of a manger. And a sign has a message, and God makes it clear what He wants to say. The manger is the announcement: His Son has come to save this world! And how exactly?

Fast forward about thirty three years later to another sign, another wooden one. The cross.

1 Corinthians 1:18 NLT

[18] The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.

We cannot understand with our overrated human brain, how God’s Son the Savior of this world could save us nailed to a cross. Most of the world know this story too and call it Lent or the Holy Week. Who in the world would make a message out of this? The question pops up again… Who in the world? As Paul wrote, it really sounds foolish. The message, just like any other, will only be understood when we receive it and believe it. Some, sadly and foolishly, would dismiss it.

The world 2,000 years ago is no different from the world today. They call it nonsense. Cultural diversity. Traditional differences. Individual rights. Unscientific. Illogical. Unsubstantiated. Superstition. Myth. Fiction. Humbug. Foolish.

Oh, we tried to save the world on our own. History is written by war, conquest, whoever got the bigger guns. Scholars created philosophies, politics, ideologies, religions. Science advances technologies so fast rendering yesterday’s obsolete. Medicines are developed to combat one disease only to fight another. Nations established democracies, authoritarianism, capitalism, socialism. Charity made efforts to alleviate hunger, poverty. Even comics created superheroes out to save the world with superpowers. Feeling better?

For God, the cross is the mission. What mission? By having Jesus the Savior die on the cross? Yes. How can that save us? He became a substitute so that we can be spared. From what? Eternal death. Why? Because God loves us so much.

1 Corinthians 1:24 NLT

[24] But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.

Only God can make signs out of a manger and a cross. Wisdom is in the manger. Power is in the cross. There is one thing common about these signs, Jesus was there. But Jesus didn’t stay long in them. He stepped out of the manger to reach out to us and He still does. He left the cross to open the door for us to His kingdom and He still does. Look with an open mind. Receive with an open heart. The message is clear. The message is grace. The message of the manger and the cross is Jesus.

HOPE

John 11:43 NLT

[43] Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!”

One night many years ago, a question was raised over the radio: “In one word, how would you sum up the Bible?” The best answer given was HOPE. Other spiritual books teach us love, kindness, how to be good. But only the Bible offers hope. And many believe that hope is gone when one dies. Well, not unless we place our hope in Someone before we do.

We’ve been going to wakes lately of people we personally knew. Some were former classmates from school. People we just had the pleasure of seeing again, after so many years, during our class reunions held a year or two ago. Now we’re having impromptu reunions in funeral parlors.

I wonder what would people do if I stand in front of a coffin and shout “Friend, come out of there!”. Just like Jesus raising a good friend from the dead, Lazarus stepped out of the tomb in front of a hundred awestruck witnesses. If I do that, people would probably freak out and stare at me startled thinking I’m a lunatic or grab me and throw me out.

But I’m more inclined to look at the people attending a funeral. Whenever I get the chance to speak, I share them Jesus. In this way, I can do something for the living and remind them of what Jesus told Martha.

John 11:25 NLT

[25] Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.”

You and I may not be able to raise people from the dead. But we can share Jesus and offer them hope to keep them living forever.

BEAUTY BLIND

It’s the time of year when all eyes are on the spectacle called beauty pageants. The Miss Universe contest is probably the most famous of all. Every year a woman brings honor, not only to herself, but to the country she represents. Many women from all over the world covet being crowned the most beautiful on the planet.

I can’t blame them. Beauty, for both men and women alike, attracts. Beauty sells. Beauty opens doors. It can also be quite exclusive. Don’t get me wrong. I know a lot of beautiful people, both inside and out. My concern is the standard we have set on what beauty should be and how we look at those who don’t make it.

I wonder what the Creator of the universe Himself has to say about it.

Isaiah 53:2 NLT

[2] My servant grew up in the LORD’s presence like a tender green shoot, like a root in dry ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him.

The ‘servant’ referred to by God is Jesus. Contrary to most believe, Jesus was not Hollywood material. May not even pass an audition as an extra. He is a face in the crowd. Common. No one would bother to take a second look. Maybe not even a glance. So, by our standards, God is beauty blind.

But to the Father, the Son is the most beautiful person in the whole universe, pure and perfect beauty in His sight. So beautiful that He is the only one accepted as the atonement for our sins.

The wonderful thing about the beauty of Jesus is that whosoever receives Him as Lord and Savior also receives His beauty.

Receive Jesus. Be a child of God. Be beautiful in God’s eyes.

WORLD WAR

2 Corinthians 4:8-10 NLT

[8] We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. [9] We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. [10] Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.

The first generations of believers suffered brutal and fatal persecutions. In some parts of the world, they still do. In most, it is not physical but a battle of hearts and minds. Modern Philippines is not spared. The battle is encroaching, like cancer, into our legal system, our work, our communities, our homes. From every arena; government, business, education, entertainment, media, science, family.. and even the church.. battles are being waged.

2 Corinthians 4:7 NLT

[7] We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.

We must remember those who came before us, their struggles and martyrdom, to bring the message of Christ to an imperfect world. We must persevere. The torch has been passed down to us.

Remember, the war is over. It has been won more than 2,000 years ago on the cross. What we have now are pocket resistance.

We are not fighting for victory.. WE ARE FIGHTING IN VICTORY.