Saturday, June 25, 2005

Love is Something You Do, Not Feel

Our Mother, just like most other human beings on earth, has her share of faults; there are times when I wish she was a much better mother than she had been. Yet, in one area, she is a much better mother than any I have yet come across, if not the best. It was she that taught me the true nature of "what men call 'love'", even if she herself did not always remember. And knowing that nature, even if I myself do not always remember, helped me to find the best woman for my wife.

For one thing, unlike other mothers, Mom had always talked to us about how to treat a girl, how to identify the girl one wants, how to treat a girl one wants, what to do when one gets the girl one wants, and how to treat a girl when you aren't sure one still wants the girl—all beginning at the tender age of six. Mom would always speak from experience, never having read any how-to books on love or any of that; this is probably why during those times she would talk to us we didn't particularly trust her judgment. She bungled up turning down men who courted her, for instance, taking a Bible verse out of context. But for as long as I can remember, there was the advice: "Always be a gentleman" "Always give the girl the benefit of the doubt" "If she behaves so, she doesn't love you" "If she behaves so, then she's attracted to you" "If she does this, then it's probably love" "If you love her, then do this..."—all given long before any kind of desire or attraction to the opposite sex. When we would watch a romantic movie when I was just eight years old, she would patiently explain her take on the dynamics of the relationship in the same way my Dad would explain philosophical concepts. Thanks to her, the full glory of emphathy was mine when I first watched Tchaikowsky's Swan Lake in animated form at age 10; thanks to her, I understood jealousy, suspicion, and duty in many a Shakespearean play while I was barely in my teens.

It was my twin brother who believed the nonsense propagated by other mothers, that one can be too young to think about love. He now feels that he can never feel capable enough to find love in a woman; he never listened to our Mom on those ocassions, thinking he had plenty of time later. He would later let his 21st birthday come and go before thinking that now he can think about "adult" love (though, strangely, he always believed that he first fell in love as an eight year old boy). My other brother, now married and with a beautiful daughter (the niece I featured formerly) also listened to my mother's talks. It is this listening which I credit to his success in finding the girl he will love forever back when he was in his last year in elementary school, and loving only her until they were married more than a decade later; all this inspite of his faults and being tempted along the way. My twin, inspite of the nobility he tried to cultivate in his character, had made it a habit not to learn too much about insights gained from even failed relationships (first manifested when he would not listen to Mom as a child); as a result, his only foray into courtship turned so ugly it ended a lot of friendships and fostered a lot of bitterness in some individuals that survive to this day.

I am sure that I have my own faults, and I never would have found my wife if it hadn't been for the decades of preparation and insight my Mom gave me. Other mothers will steep their children in music or the arts in the hopes of having an accomplished musician or artist in the family; yet would think that it was improper to teach a kid about love or sex. How many relationships have failed because young people do not know enough, for instance, to spot the genuine from the not? How many who are in "successful" relationships live in various stages of distress, hurt, jealousy and pain, because they never learned how to behave in a relationship? How many are hurting, because they were never taught that love is not love without fidelity, loyalty, kindness and discipline? How many do not know the power of sex, and either underestimate it or overestimate it, to their detriment? Even when we didn't want to hear it, Mom taught us all that...

... and I'm glad I listened. Of all the joys in my mortal life right now, the chief and greatest is the wonderful woman that God gave me as a wife... and I wouldn't have recognized her if, years ago, my Mom thought it was improper to tell a young boy about a women and how to think and behave to preserve one's personal honor.

For that is, in the end, what love really is about—not the feelings and passions that one is sure to have, but how to act and what to do when in the throes of those feelings and passions. I sometimes do not remember, but I do not forget.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Gaming and Racing

Recently started working as a temp for the Office of Gaming and Racing (sounds funny, doesn't it?) under the Department of Justice. I'm helping a panel who are reviewing the caps (or restrictions) placed on gambling machines here in the state of Victoria in Australia. It's eye-opening work as I have met mayors and members of the Parliament during the course of this assignment. One thing that surprised me is that these politicians move around like ordinary citizens, without hangers-on or a cordon sanitaire. Another thing is that they know their constituencies very well and are proactive with their approach to the gambling problem in their municipalities.

Sadly, I'll only be at this job until the end of August. Hopefully, I'll be able to find other work before my term ends. I'm thinking of applying for other office work or maybe a call centre position. One difficulty I'm having is that I can't apply for work in Communication Research or Public Relations or other Communication work here because I don't have "local experience." This is a common problem for migrants who are looking for work in their own field. One accountant I know who worked for a multi-national company in the Philippines recently moved here and was stunned that she was repeatedly rejected by companies because she hasn't worked as an accountant here. So now she's working as a volunteer in our church. I also know of two doctors who are now factory workers.

I find that it is proving really difficult to find work here but I'm relying on God's guidance for the next steps.

Freedom Day

Irecently received the following e-mail from a friend which he sent during "Araw ng Kalayaan" or Day of Freedom in the Philippines. I think his is a timely message we really need to ponder:
I have been turning over in my head the past few weeks the scandal of “jueteng-gate” that has befallen our once again beleaguered nation. I almost decided that I would finally write again and express what was in my heart the same way I did in EDSA II when we, the students of U.P. Law, spoke out against Mr. Estrada. Almost.

I read a chapter on the life of Daniel (of the Bible) through Brother Andrew’s book, “A Time for Heroes”. And what he wrote floored me. “Even in the darkest hour, God will not forget a people as long as there is even one person who qualifies in the sight of God to be a hero of the faith, who can claim his nation back for God.”


After reading the scroll of Jeremiah, Daniel said, “I prayed to the Lord and made confession.” (Daniel 9:4) Brother Andrew continues, “In this mighty prayer of confession, he worshipped God, the great and awesome God who keeps covenants and is steadfast in loving kindness for those who love him and keep his commands.”


“Then Daniel admitted the condition of his people, confessing their sin – not just a few little mistakes, but “…we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from thy commandments and ordinances; we have not listened to thy servants…” (
Dn 9:5,6) In all this Daniel identified with the people, yet when we study the life of Daniel it appeared he is just about the only person (other than Jesus) of whom nothing negative is mentioned anywhere in Scripture. He was a mighty warrior for God, but he got on his knees in sackcloth and ashes, humbling himself to identify with his people.”

“After confessing the sin and praising the Lord, Daniel said, ‘O my God, incline thy ear and hear;… for we do not present our supplications before thee on the ground of our righteousness, but on the ground of thy great mercy. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, give heed and act; delay not, for thy own sake, O my God, because thy city and thy people are called by thy name. (Dn. 9:18-19)”


Finally, I almost wept after reading Daniel 9:7 where it was written that the people were covered with shame because they were scattered in far away lands brought about by their unfaithfulness to God and His commands. I thought of my own grandparents and other relatives; I thought of fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters who left for foreign lands – some to be abused, some even killed – because our own land could not adequately provide for their families.


Our beloved
Philippines is about to celebrate Independence Day once again. But instead of celebrating or protesting – depending on one’s politics or lack of it – I propose a different act of patriotism. The following passage about a different Biblical character will give you an idea of what I’m talking about.
On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned." The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. Then he issued a proclamation in Nineveh: "By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let any man or beast, herd or flock, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish."

When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened. (Jonah 3:3-10)

I am suggesting that we put our money where our mouth is. I challenge all Filipinos who love our country to begin a forty day fast for our beleaguered nation beginning June 12 up to July 23. Skip just one meal a day – or even
merienda – and spend the time instead to pray for our country. Your church or organization or family can take turns even. But please pray and fast. It’s useless if we just fast as it’ll just be a diet gimmick. We have to pray. To ask forgiveness and ask for help. That is all.

I issue this challenge because the solution is no longer political. The battle is spiritual. And we Filipinos have to bring our country – but first ourselves – before the throne of heaven and of grace once again. Then genuine change will come.

Joshua Jerome Q. Santiago

Monday, June 20, 2005

Dad: Travelling Companion

When I became old enough to travel, I think my Dad supposed that I was also old enough to accompany him to his speaking engagements. I have always accompanied my Dad around even when I was much younger, but the role of travelling companion actually belonged to our Mom before. But there was that rather brief period, from the time I was seven years old to the time I was around twelve that I accompanied my Dad almost as often as my Mom. My twin would sometimes accompany us on these trips.

I usually accompanied Dad whenever the place where he was supposed to speak was too far away for my Mom to travel comfortably or, if near, when my Mom was not feeling well enough. Because of that, I feel that I became a rather seasoned commuter much earlier than any of my brothers. I knew the right sort of bus to ride, for instance, if one wants to go to Taft Avenue from Dasmariñas, Cavite. I knew that the fare from Pedro Gil to Libertad was only a peso, two pesos from Pedro Gil to Pasay, but if we took the new-fangled Light Rail Transit, no matter how far we went, we would only pay two pesos. As far back as I can remember, I already loved following and making directions, and when I was a kid, I can rattle off all the details of a trip including the most trivial of landmarks the same way a child of my age can memorize TV and radio commercials. Of course, as with most of us former kids who no longer can memorize much of anything we used to hold as second nature because we supposedly had much more important things in mind, I now need the aid of a good map.

At any rate, those long trips with Dad were, for me, one of the most memorable because I felt that my Dad and I became so much closer. Long talks happen on long trips, and usually, those long talks were the ones that set the tone. Dad would start of as an adult with a child, with the usual adult-to-child banter of "Would you like me to buy you some of that candy/peanuts/etc.?" or "Would you like to sit close to the window/driver?" or even "Would you like to hand over our fare to the bus conductor?" Eventually, Dad would forget that I was a kid as the trip "dragged" on. He would talk about the church or group of people we were about to meet, he would talk about the politics and person-to-person dynamics, for instance. He would then discuss his sermon/speech/lecture with me, which was easier for both of us because I had been looking over his shoulder the night before as he made it. I would ask questions, and he would patiently answer, teaching me new words so that I can understand the oftentimes complex concepts. I am so glad those trips were long; I feel that Dad was talking to me the way he did, patiently explaining things, precisely because the trips were long and there had to be something to talk about while we travelled.

Sometimes the result of our talks was that Dad had some new material at the very last minute, already discussed, weighed and debated that by the time he arrived he would have a much better talk than he had just before we left. That was just one of the only perks: Dad loved eating in restaurants, and if we were not fed by our hosts, he would take me to the really nice restaurants and order food which I normally don't get to have.

But, the best of it is when my Dad would call me forward and introduce me (or us, if E- was with us) as his son to a room full of grown-ups. I (or we) were shy, but I always loved hearing the love and pride in our Dad's voice as he would tell them about his "boys".

I think I learned more from those trips about everything that needs to be learned than any one class in school. Reading, writing, listening, and speaking were much more illustrative when our Dad was living it and not when some teacher was merely reading out of a textbook (or worse, listening to us read out of a textbook).

This Fathers' Day is probably the very last I would spend with my Dad, for I will soon leave the Philippines (I don't know how long I will be away). Unlike previous Fathers' Days in the past, today wasn't so glitzy or flashy. My brothers were all off on their own assignments somewhere, and I am the only one with Dad now; but even he was too busy... too busy, in fact, to eat the lunch my Mom lovingly prepared for him.

But no matter where I am, what I am is because my Dad, even when he committed mistakes (a lot of them really bad ones, but he didn't mean it), he still raised us better than I thought was possible. We aren't so rich... we aren't "ahead" as much as I want to. But he taught us the importance of integrity and the authenticity of intellects, while other Dads were meanwhile merely teaching their kids to merely beat the system. For that, I am eternally grateful.

Thanks Dad.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Becoming a Better Witness for Christ


This is a sermon that I will deliver tonight; it is my first sermon ever.


Introduction


There is a reason why I am the only one in the family, other than my Mom, who is not a pastor. So, just in case I do not sound so good, I hope you wouldn't take it against my Dad. I decided not to use the lectionary, and since I haven't been here in Fairview Park very long I have no idea about your particular needs that I can speak about. I thought that the safest bet for me is to talk about something that I know about and feel strongly about.

I don't think I can be called an internet junkie, that is, somebody who cannot have a day pass without going online and surf the internet. However, I until recently, I have been online quite a lot and, apart from checking my eMail and updating my website, my brother, my Dad and I have developed the habit of joining online forums, where we can discuss anything that comes to mind. It was, of course, while we were joining these forums that we found that even if we expected that people will not always agree with you, they will disagree with you in quite unexpected ways. And this is especially if they know you are a Christian.

For one thing, I had always assumed that Christians were generally liked around the world. Oh, there were those countries with Muslim or Hindu extremists that want us dead, of course; but in more civilized countries, I had thought that even if they disagreed with us, we were generally respected, if not liked or loved. I was shocked, therefore, to learn that there are more people who dislike and hate Christians than those who dislike those followers of other religions.

I can spend the entire evening describing the sort of "injustices" that forum moderators put Christians through, from unfair and very partial treatment, name-calling, provoking and outright disrespect. We were victims of some of it. What bothered me is, first of all, that their stereotype of us is very different from what I had thought Christians stood for, even in supposedly "Christian" countries. Another thing that bothered me is that, up until they found out that we were Christians, we were treated with respect and friendliness, and our opinions were treated fairly by people who also seemed to be fair and open-minded. How did all this "misconception" (if any) happen? The primary reason, I find, is that non-Christians on the whole just find us unbelievable. A Christian singing group called DC Talk put it very aptly:

The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today
Is christians who acknowledge jesus with their lips
Then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle.
That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.
It is a big mistake to say to ourselves that "No, that's not me... everybody knows that I'm a Christian. My life glorifies God everyday! Maybe they are talking about somebody else..." All the atheists and agnostics I have corresponded have very different reasons as to why they don't believe in God, but they are one in seeing all Christians, even the ones that seem to do okay, as people who are bad. The implications of this is grim: we are being ineffective witnesses of Jesus Christ to the world. And this has happened because we have neglected our Christian and Bible-based duties in the following areas, which, if we had followed it, would allow us Christians to still be respected even if they do not agree. Two of them I will present to you tonight.

We have become unconcerned about what we should know

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
I Peter 3:15–16
One very common problem with Christians is that we have become unconcerned about how much we know about our own religion. I mean, c'mon! So, we were sinful... we deserve death... Christ died for us so we wouldn't die... end of story! How simple can it get? A lot of us would cheerfully state that our Christianity is uncomplicated, with only just the basics and none of the trappings. Well, of course, "Mere Christianity" is an ideal worth working for, that is, if what we mean by "trappings" are those useless rituals, "godless myths and old wives' tales" (as Paul warned Timothy about). But if it is knowledge about the history and story of our faith and for the hope that we should all have, these are trappings that we cannot afford not to know.

For instance, one of the most bitter internet debates I participated in was the question on what exactly does it mean to be saved. If someone asked you that question right now, how will you answer it? It sounds preposterously simple, doesn't it? Saved from our sins, of course! But what are sins, and why would our sins incur penalties from God? Are sins arbitrary or absolute? And why would a supposedly just and loving God punish someone for, say, something as innocuous as eating certain types of foods or behaving a certain way? If one was not familiar with the Bible stories we so carelessly label as "Children's stories"— not just some, but all of it — one cannot hope to explain the necessity of salvation to a world that prides itself on it's supposed open-mindedness and it's relative morality.

"Of course," one may reason, "I don't ever associate with unbelievers. Faith, after all, and not knowledge is what saves you." Even if that last one was true, not knowing enough also harms Christians. First of all, our fellow Christians, especially our children, get a partial idea of what Christianity is about and, if we are not careful, may twist what little knowledge they have about God and his relationship to man. Jesus (in Matthew 18:6–7) says

[W]hoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!
Matthew 18:6–7(NASB)
Very strong words indeed! People who cause "little ones who believe in" Jesus to sin (NIV) incenses Jesus so much that he wants some millstone hung around that guy's neck and dropped in the ocean to "sleep with the fishes". That's akin to the Mafia practice of giving a person concrete boots then dropped into the river. That strong! But how, one can ask, can a person botch it up so much? We all know about the sin of comission and omission; yet everytime we go out and give even fellow Christians the wrong idea about God, we commit both.

During those online debates, I would mentaly cringe everytime an uninformed but well-meaning Christian makes hasty declarations based on their partial knowledge of the scriptures. There are atheists and skeptics have made it their goal to go after these sort of Christians to prove that Christianity is an illogical and irational religion and go on to "prove" that it is the source of all prejudice, bigotry and injustice in the world. It perpetuates the notion that atheism as truth to the atheists while destroying the faith of those weak Christians. What a stumbling block if there ever was one!

For instance, how do we explain what is now considered a trite phrase — that we love the sinner but hate the sin? Think, for instance, of the gambling lord, the pimp, or the openly gay individual? A lot of us just don't know enough to explain why what they do is a sin and it should stop being done, while at the same time why we want them in our churches and not away from it. Do you know why gambling/prostitution/homosexuality is wrong? Or whether it should be wrong? What if one of these individuals walked through our door right now, wanting to worship with us and take communion... will we accept them? Do we know why we are accepting them?

A young lady in a former church I was in was talking about how lovely that story Aishite Imasu was. I could think of a lot of reasons why that story was really good (which it is), but was unprepared for her particular reason. You see, she was particularly touched when the character of Jay Manalo still chose to love the character of Dennis Trillo even after he found out that he was a spy and a man. "Biro mo, minahal pa rin siya kahit na lalaki siya!" It seems logical—Ichiru (Jay Manalo's character) loves Ignacio (Dennis Trillo's character) based on his personality and not on his political/cultural loyalties and his gender. Of course, that homosexuality suddenly gets this sort of blessing, that you can love whomever you want regardless of gender, is taken for granted. One can appreciate, perhaps enjoy the movie for its historical significance and the insights it can teach us; but really, if our youth cannot even distinguish what is sinful from what is noble and true, Satan can take a vacation and just leave us to tempt ourselves.

The difficulty is that those who will justify sin have done their homework. They know exactly why their sin isn't really so bad, graduating to the point that they question and openly mock God for ever considering that sin worthy of punishment (and therefore blaspheming God). Do we know that God does not delight in punishing people "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9) yet "cannot tolerate wrong" (Habakkuk 1:13)? Can we ever explain any of that to one who asks if we only know a little? The Bible says

11Much more could be said about this subject. But it is hard to explain, and all of you are slow to understand. 12By now you should have been teachers, but once again you need to be taught the simplest things about what God has said. You need milk instead of solid food. 13People who live on milk are like babies who don't really know what is right. 14Solid food is for mature people who have been trained to know right from wrong. 6 1We must try to become mature and start thinking about more than just the basic things we were taught about Christ. We shouldn't need to keep talking about why we ought to turn from deeds that bring death and why we ought to have faith in God. 2And we shouldn't need to keep teaching about baptisms [a] or about the laying on of hands [b] or about people being raised from death and the future judgment. 3Let's grow up, if God is willing.
Hebrews 5:11–6:3 (CEV)
If we know too little, we wouldn't know what we are doing. And sometimes, those actions we do with very little knowledge are being closely watched.

We have become unconcerned about how people see us

11Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 12Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
I Peter 2:11 & 12
Sometimes we are so sure of our salvation, so sure that God is a forgiving God, that we sometimes forget that whatever other people know about the Christian God is based on what they see of us, and just do whatever our passions instruct us. Nothing can be more destructive, for instance, to suddenly discover that some highly respected church leaders were involved in adultery, or embezzlement, or in some other "sin", except perhaps knowing that these leaders justify or rationalize their sin or, if they "repent", they callously throw it off as just one more sin that God will forgive anyway. The Bible says

No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. 10This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.
I John 3:9 & 10
This does not mean that we will stop sinning magically once we are born again. This means that sinning will no longer be natural to us as it had been. Justifying an affair based on the supposed "love" they have, for instance, inspite of all the biblical injuctions agains it is clearly not the way to go. In fact, sins like that which require focus, dedication and deliberateness shouldn't happen anymore! We would be left with bad habits, of course, which we strive to eliminate, and we battle with our worldly desires everyday. But to knowingly do a sin not only endagers us, it gives the wrong impression to fellow believers, and makes us look like idiots to unbelievers.

For example, it seems to be alright for unbelievers to believe in free sex, apparently; that's what they say, and we rightly condemn that. Yet, if Christians, while saying with their lips that it is wrong do it anyway, our credibility with anyone goes out the window.

I once taught in a Christian School where, as a matter of course, we teach the students that it is wrong to cheat and have public displays of affection, among other things. At the beginning of the term, we still had our credibility intact and the students follow us (out of fear, if for nothing else). Yet, by the middle of the term, it was obvious that there were much more delinquent students that we thought. Now, the honest thing to do is, well, grade them fairly, and let the delinquents (no matter how nice they are personally) fail. Yet, to our surprise, we had a "meeting" where we gathered to bring the quota of failures down to just twenty percent (20%) per section. To do that, we had to willfully manipulate the grades to believably ensure that even if their grades weren't sterling, they passed. Sometimes, we had to choose between two students to decide who passed or failed, not on their performance but in an arbitrary manner. If it were just the failures, the damage wouldn't be so great. But we also had to tweak even the grades of good students highter if they seemed to be lower than was expected of them, and poor students lower who unexplainably perform better that quarter.

If we didn't do that, the parents swoop down on us like vultures and question our skills as teachers. So we did it, and no one was the wiser, right? Wrong. In fact, the students themselves, who knew very well that they didn't do well but suddenly found themselves passing or, worse, failing when someone with similar performance passed started suspecting that there was some hocus pocus with the grades. The result is no longer any surprise: good students become complacent and lazy since they have already established themselves as "good", mediocre students who pass realize that they can get away with poor performance, and those poor few who can't pass cannot see better performance as the key, since an improvement is apparently seen with suspicion.

So, later, we may bring them on spiritual retreats and give them evangelistic talks. We may take them on "Trust Walks" and guide them through emotional and tear-stained deliverance sessions. But, if my observations were anywhere accurate, they saw all of these motions as just a part of what a normal student had to go through in school, like exams, quizzes, and bullies, and then promptly forgotten. Who can blame them? They know, even if their parents don't, that we have let go of our morality at the drop of a hat.

When we don't follow our own rules, that is, live out Godly lives inspite of the consequences, we shouldn't be surprised if the pagans don't trust us. We will be mere hypocrites in their eyes, muttering "do as I say not as I do." Jesus said that that is for Pharisees in Matthew 23:3; we don't want to be Pharisees, do we? It's just like that commercial on TV: "Sa mata ng bata, ang mali ay nagiging tama, kung ito ay ginagawa ng mas-matanda." Same thing with Christians, not just with non-believers but with Christians as well.

Conclusion

24For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.
Romans 2:24 (KJV)

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
Matthew 5:16 (KJV)

5For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 1:5-8 (NIV)

26For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
James 2:26 (KJV)
I would like to close with these four verses. There is much more at stake here than merely being insular, taking care only of our own. We have seen that even when we think that we are providing a good example, there are many times that we don't. It is useless to think it is not so, or that it is their fault as to why "mahirap silang umintindi". God once told Ezekiel that a man's blood is on our hands if we don't try to save him (Ezekiel 33:8-9), but at the rate we are going we don't have the knowledge to be credible enough to warn him and even if we do our actions make hypocrites of us all.

The danger in giving sermons like this is that even the preacher isn't perfect. Sometimes we stumble, sometimes we fall, sometimes we lose our step, all of us. "23For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," (Romans 3:23, NIV) but, the good news is that though we all make mistakes "are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus" (Romans 3:24, NIV). How then do we become better witnesses?

The key lies in remembering that very fact, that even we can be mistaken. As a former high school teacher, my mates and I have been sometimes taught not to show any weakness and to pretend that we know more than we actually do. This becomes tricky during times when we don't know and the students do. We have been sometimes told that students will learn to disrespect us if we ever let out our ignorance. Thank God, that little myth is being disproven. I found that what students really think is the real factor that earns our respect is consistency. We need to show them knowledge, that is, we need to be trained in what we do and our particular area, but we will never lie and say we don't know. We will tell them what is expected of them and follow it ourselves, even if sometimes the powers-that-be over-rules us. It prevents us from becoming ineffective and unproductive as teachers. Or, at least, tip the scales favorably.

As Christians, it is our duty to do the same. What a student really hates is an ignorant yet know-it-all teacher, and the world and baby Christians hate an ignorant yet know-it-all, hypocritical Christian. We should increase our knowledge para 'di tayo mapahiya and be consistent with our actions para 'di tayo pagtawanan, but being big enough to admit that we don't have all the answers.
What If I Stumble?
by DC Talk

[the greatest single cause of atheism in the world today
Is christians who acknowledge jesus with their lips
Then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle.
That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.]

What if I stumble?
What if I fall?

Is this one for the people?
Is this one for the lord?
Or do I simply serenade for things I must afford?
You can jumble them together, my conflict still remains
Holiness is calling, in the midst of courting fame

Cause I see the trust in their eyes
Though the sky is falling
They need your love in their lives
Compromise is calling

(chorus)
What if I stumble, what if I fall?
What if I lose my step and I make fools of us all?
Will the love continue when my walk becomes a crawl?
What if I stumble, and what if I fall?

What if I stumble, what if I fall?
You never turn in the heat of it all
What if I stumble, what if I fall?

Father please forgive me for I can not compose
The fear that lives within me
Or the rate at which it grows
If struggle has a purpose
On the narrow road you’ve carved
Why do I dread my trespasses will leave a deadly scar

Do they see the fear in my eyes?
Are they so revealing?
This time I cannot disguise
All the doubt I’m feeling

(repeat chorus)

What if I stumble?
Everyone’s got to crawl when you know that
You’re up against a wall, it’s about to fall
Everyone’s got to crawl when you know that (2x)

I hear you whispering my name [you say]
My love for you will never change [never change]

(repeat chorus 2x)

What if I stumble, what if I fall?
You never turn in the heat of it all
What if I stumble, what if I fall?
You are my comfort, and my god

Is this one for the people, is this one for the lord?

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Thinking Aloud: Missing Comforts

It is, of course, possible for a person to survive without that much stuff. There are certain "comforts" which, if pressed, a person can learn to live without. Even if some have objected and called merely "surviving" as not living, even if surviving and living are the same thing, it cannot be denied that life is much more bearable with at least those things that provide comfort.

One of those missing comforts for me right now is the capability to go online. I have existed (there's another word in addition to surviving and living) for so long without needing the internet, and I am sure I can exist again. But, it is a missing comfort and as such not having it is uncomfortable. While the internet was around, I can communicate with my wife inexpensively. I can also satisfy my craving for more and more knowledge, download books to read, as well as give me the thrill of exploring. It also allows me to communicate my thoughts with the joyful threat of it being read by someone who may care.

That is what galls me the most about this lack of access to the internet, the fact that I cannot express myself when the stimulus is felt. For there are a lot of other "comforts" which is currently denied to me which I cannot gripe about (comforts some of which I am entitled to, most of which I definitely am not entitled to; which doesn't change the fact that lack of such "comforts" are extremely uncomfortable and frustrating). The object of most good writing is not a mix of ramblings with no one topic, or a lot of topics connected by the mere denominator of me. No; what people actually want to read is one article with just one topic and one treatment... and it was much easier when you had today to write about the frustrations of losing important things during a transfer, tomorrow to write about the indignities one must go through during the general introductions and the "getting-to-know" phase of being in a new place (especially if the people you want to introduce yourself to thinks much more highly of themselves than you; no matter how humble one is, and I'm not very, it is still an unpleasant experience being looked down upon), and then the next day to be annoyed at the household shenanigans.

Oh, why not keep a logbook then? Like a diary or a journal? Well, "been there, done that" and my journals are mere dusty, termite eaten books in a small box. Anybody who has ever written has always written for somebody else to read. It is a big lie that all we writers, good and bad, or especially the extremely mediocre, that propagates the lie that we only write for ourselves and only for ourselves. People who talk to themselves either have invisible friends, or they belong to a mental institution—these people have problems, issues, etc. Yet people who write to themselves are somehow seen as being... what? Heroic? True to their art? What a laugh! People write to be read... the reason why we want to believe that it doesn't matter whether we are read or not is because we cannot please everyone and it is easier to pretend that we have pleased ourselves.

For instance, I have always wanted to write the sort of articles on the level of TIME, Readers' Digest, or Christianity Today... you know, the sort of articles that discusses something in more than just three pages. The only way one can ever learn to write that way is to have as much practice as one gets, and I am quite sure that in the past, people are given that opportunity to grow. To grow, that is, one can be at one time not so skillful, or witty, or endearing, or any of those lovely adjectives, and keep on writing until one becomes skillful, or witty, or endearing, or any of... well, you get the picture. Yet, and I am at once admitting that maybe my experience is unique, I find that writers should be good the first time around, they are demanded to be good... or they just will not be given a chance. Well, at least, when I can blog regularly, I can have that practice, even if my readership is low, and the few "friends" who know about it don't find any inclination to read it... but I can practice, at least. And, I practice giving it in those little bite-sized lengths that this generation can stand to occupy their attention.

Well, that's just the problem: even if good writing manifests itself in tight, one topic, one goal and one objective writing, the swirl of ideas in my head now is anything but. I hate the whole process of transferring to a new place (I know I can write at length about that), I hate having to get to know new people again (ditto), I hate having to lose my stuff (ditto; oh, heck! ditto for the rest of the list), I miss my wife, I feel so unwanted, I feel so unneeded, and I don't know what I want to do with my life. They are all a jumble, and as such, when they remain a jumble in my head, and nobody understands a jumble, it drives me to lethargy. When I write, I take the first steps to understanding myself, the world around me and my place in it; at least, insofar as those subjects that I write about.

But I am not immune to criticism... I have ever wanted to please. Who can I please? So far, very few; so even in this, one of my beloved activities, I find myself mediocre.

The one thing that stands so clear in my mind, in bold 40 point type, is that with money comes happiness. All the people who have much more money than I are happier than I am. The answer seems to be simple: just get a good enough job that supplies that money. Yet, to get those sort of jobs, one must first have money: to study for, to prepare for, to seek, to find, to keep the job. Some have argued that I am smart. Well, no matter how smart one is, if one doesn't have the money, that all one guy will be: merely smart. I want to give my wife and family a better life, and I know I can... but to get that better life, it seems, I must purchase it. I have tried so hard to start as I am, for years, with no success. Even those I know who have the smarts, even if they are not in the ministry, do not get plenty of money or security if they had started out poor. Yet those with mediocre minds and mediocre hearts, just because they were born with more money than they can spend, they are the doctors, the lawyers, the scientists... in short, everything that I have wanted to be. I have met a lot of people who, with their money, was able to acquire enough polish to be what this world would characterize as "intelligent" or "smart"... they have acquired accents, acoutrements and the "means" to be as "high class" as they seem.

Yet, because my Dad was poor, though his IQ is 152, he remains, well, remains the way some mediocre probinsyano can hope for. He has very little polish, though he is smart, and because of that, even if he is smart, opportunities are denied him. My mother-in-law, no matter how industrious and skillful, because she started poor, can only have the security of her own home, but will never be free from financial worries. . . . They deserve to be happy and carefree as the next coñotic around, and yet both have to work harder than they deserve. . . and for what? Neither are truly appreciated, if what little pats on the back they get cannot be considered "appreciation."


And so there remains just one logical question left to ask: are poor people, no matter how skillful or industrious, ever entitled to the same comforts that rich people have (even if they never earned it)? Are all people ever so equal to ever hope to be entitled to the same sort of comforts? The answer, apparently, is "not ever."