Friday, November 4, 2011

Where Our Real Hope Lies?

“Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.” – 2 Samuel 12:10
David was called a man after God’s own heart. God was with him when he killed wild beasts that threatened his sheeps. God was with him when he killed the giant Goliath in the Valley of Elah. God was with him when he succeeded King Saul as the second king of the Jews. God was with him in every victory in the battlefields. God made him powerful, rich and famous. Not only that, from his lineage came the Messiah which forever engraved his name in the history of the salvation of man. Clearly, David had a very special place in God's heart.
Yet despite his special relationship with God, David faltered. He committed not one but two grave sins in succession. First was adultery. Then murder.

When I reflected on the fall of David two questions immediately came to my mind. Why David hit rock bottom? If a man with such special relationship with God faltered then what hope there is for us lesser mortals?
Let me ruminate on my first question. Despite David’s superhuman accomplishments he was still human; he experienced sensations, desires and urges – hunger, thirst, sex, etc. – like the rest of us. Though these are God’s built-in mechanisms to sustain our human body, and the humanity in general, these also become the Enemy’s favorite entry points for his attacks on us. His goal is to get us addicted to certain sensation, desire and urge and go overboard like David.
David was vulnerable to sexual sensation and urge. Evidence of this was his habit of keeping a number of concubines aside from his wife. This was not too bad in David’s time since he was king. But he went a little further and crossed God’s line by committing adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite. Then his selfish desire to keep Bathsheba only to himself led him to plot murder against Uriah. He abused his God-given power as king over Israel and committed grave sins. He hit rock bottom.
This leads me to believe that for us Christians to be able to love and serve God effectively, we should be the master our body, not the other way around. We should strive at every moment to live a lifestyle of doing what is right even when it’s difficult, uncomfortable, painful and scary. Serving God without self-control is like trying to swim with no legs and arms. You get nowhere, and have no real growth.
This lead me to the second question, "Is there hope for the rest of us who lesser than David?"
Yes, there is. God forgave David and restored him though the consequences of his sins weren’t lifted from his shoulder. Like David God loves us that He gave us His only son so that whoever believes in Him shall live and not die.
Jesus came with a message of hope and love. He came to save, and not to condemn. In fact, our salvation was already signed by Him with His own precious blood. It’s a done deal!
But in order for us to avail of the salvation offered by Jesus we need to (1) Sincerely repent of our sins and confess, (2) Believe in Him, and (3) Follow His teachings and commandments. No one can be saved by being a Lone Ranger; many of us don’t even realize how desperately we need Christ in our life.
In retrospect, I never got healed from my addiction to pornography when I fought it with sheer will power no matter how hard and long I tried. The saying “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” was so real to me during those dark times. My breakthrough came when in my despair God spoke to my heart that I cannot do it alone. Then the process of healing started when I acknowledged this truth.
(By the time I asked God’s forgiveness I was crying bitterly out of shame. When all my tears of sorrow ran out a strong urge got hold of me – the urge to proclaim, “I love you Jesus.” I kept saying this over and over again because it felt so good. And I cried again a lot, but it was already tears of joy.)
Trying to attain salvation on your own by doing good to look good before God is a ‘subtle’ recipe for disaster since no one can do, say, or think 100% good all the time. Sooner or later your spirit weakens and falters to the many traps that the Enemy laid ahead of us. To make matter worse, God's legalistic standard is so steep and strict that it is written, “…the wages of SIN (even only one) is death...” Trying to attain salvation by our own good works is simply not sustainable. In the end we will only end up bruised and frustrated.
When all is said and done, it turns out that our real hope lies in our love for Jesus. (He said, “No one comes to the Father except through me…”) In doing so, instead of finding yourself naked and trembling alone – being your own lawyer – before GOD the FATHER and the other heavenly beings in the Courtroom of God, you will find yourself standing behind Jesus when you hear Him say the sweetest words you will ever hear in your entire life, “Father, he is with me.”

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Learning from David How to Respond to Distressful Moments

David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the LORD his God.

Then David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelek, “Bring me the ephod.” Abiathar brought it to him, and David inquired of the LORD, “Shall I pursue this raiding party? Will I overtake them?”  -- 1 Samuel 30:6~8

After working for three years in NEC Technologies Philippines, in September 5, 2003 my dream of being sent to Japan for a business trip came true. However, instead of being in high spirit, I was too nervous, more than I aught to be, because just the other day I caught the virus that causes sore eyes. I was worried that a Mactan or Narita airport official or a PAL staff would notice my pinkish right eye and order me to go back home.

But I had one more fear much worse than being sent home – the fear of getting lost. I heard from my colleagues who had one or more Japan business trips under their belt that train stations, most specially the Tokyo Train Station, were like a maze, and one could easily end up on the wrong train platform or board the wrong train. To top it off, not so many Japanese could speak straight English even in Tokyo, and my Nihonggo was quite limited, so asking for direction seemed like scaling Mt. Apo during rainy days.

After some luck, I finally got out of Narita Airport Custom, and on my way to the train station where I would board a train that would take me to Tokyo Train Station. The first thing that I did was to buy ticket for the Narita Express (NEX), but due to inexperience I chose a train that would arrive 10 minutes later thinking that finding the right platform would be a breeze. After all, I wasn’t in Tokyo Train Station yet.

Several minutes later. To my horror, I couldn’t decide the right way. I tried asking for direction a couple of times earlier, but I got ‘lost’ in translation. So there I was standing somewhere inside the Narita Airport Station, countless people rushing around to their destination like guided drones. Both my arms and shoulders ached from its loads – two no-stroller-attached-to-it bags filled with kilos of rice, a number of canned goods, noodles to last a month, and some clothes, plus a big backpack filled with books, goodies and a 2-kilo Compaq laptop clinging from behind.

Three minutes before the arrival of my train, my entire body was overheating. Sweats dripped freely from my face. I didn’t care anymore.

In desperation I approached a young man, probably in his late teens or early twenties, wearing a black business suit. “Doku,” I managed to say while pressing repeatedly my right index finger to my NEX ticket.

“Ah, the platform for the NEX train,” my young Japanese ‘friend’ replied in straight English, to my great delight. “Come, follow me. Hurry!”

I dashed after him like a Pier Quatro porter hauling two sacks of rice on his shoulders…effortless.

Finally, when I got to my train I dropped to the couch like a condemned building whose pillars were shattered by a number of detonated bombs. Some tight middle-aged Japanese men in well-ironed black business suit glanced flittingly at me with amusement. I must have looked a curiosity or a novelty in their perfectly ordered world, but I was so beat up to care.

King David must have looked down at me with amusement too from his perch up in heaven. We shared the same feeling of distress, but I responded in a way that could be funny to him – I relied on my own limited strength, and nearly collapsing as a result.

In time of distress and trouble, David showed us how to respond. First, he looked to his God for the strength to carry him on. By contrast, in that distressful moment, I relied on my own strength to carry me through. I never bothered to call upon God because I was trapped in the belief that if I have to do this right, I have to do it my way.

Second, he trusted God’s wisdom more than his, and asked for His guidance. By contrast, I did not do this either. My first impulse was to look for direction from Japanese. There was nothing wrong with that except that I declared to His face that I didn’t trust Him. Yet He was merciful to me despite my stubbornness; he sent a kind person to guide me.

Knowing David’s greatness as a warrior and a leader, it was easy for him to be carried away by his accomplishments and then rely more on his own strength and knowledge like many very successful people would do. But David was not like most people. And his uncommon approached made him very successful.

As for me, I learned David’s secret much, much later. My only consolation was, it wasn’t too late.

In summary David's formula to fight distress is (1) Find your strength in the Lord (2) Ask for His guidance.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I Can Choose

"Yet to all who received him, to those to believe in his name, he gave the right to become children of God."  -- John 1:12

When I was still an engineering student, I encountered a lot of mathematical and scientific equations. We, students, were expected to memorize these equations by heart to pass the course.

I didn't have a very good memory so I devised a study plan that would help me remember these equations. Every weekend, I wrote all the equations I learned during the weekdays in a notebook, and recited these repeatedly until I can recall them instantly.

The next week, I wrote again the new equations I learned that week. But instead of reciting only the new equations, I also recited the equations from the previous week, and so on. So my strategy was to refresh my memory every week, and I find this very effective for me.

As a Christian, we also need to memorize by heart the words of God to become a successful student in the university called life. This is a must. Everyday we are bombarded with lies from everywhere that are subtle and destructive to us, so we need to know the truth. God's word is the truth and it is our light in times of confusion, and difficulties.

Like any typical student, I take notes and write my reflections. In the past month, I was silent; Daily Snacks was silent. During my silence I experienced new things, I learned new things, and I took notes. Now I will share to you my reflection in a form a poem.


Today I remind myself that I can choose…

I can choose to become the Father's son or be condemned forever;
I can choose to struggle through life with Jesus or to struggle alone;
I can choose to repent and change or to remain shackled to sin;
I can choose to be faithful or be paralyzed with fear.

I can choose to embrace the truth or to live in lies;
I can choose to be encouraged or to be envious;
 I can choose to be one of the bests or stay in mediocrity;
I can choose to spend my time bearing good fruits or to waste it away.

I can choose to care for others or be absorbed with myself;
I can choose to accept their failings or to be a hypocrite;
I can choose to forgive and heal or to wallow in hatred;
I can choose to light a candle or to grope with them in the dark.

I don't have to go with the flow,
Because God gives me the power – the power to choose at EVERY moment;
Lest I lost my way into the wolves,
I choose to go His way even if it's difficult and scary…

In life we always have a choice. Our Creator gives us that power. Exercise that power everyday to choose what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely and honorable because unseen powerful forces are conniving that you may forget this power or not exercise it at all.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Debt Ceiling Dispute Between US Senate and Congress: What's Happening To This Great Nation?

12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  –Ephesians 6:12

It was around 10:30PM. I was looking up at the sky which was filled with thick, dark clouds. Just the other night, a number of stars dangled from this very sky which now appeared quiet and gloomy. Suddenly, a cool wind blew against my face and into a nearby tuba-tuba tree, shaking its leaves out from their slumber. Then a thought came to me – sometimes things are not what they seem to be.

Right now in the US, the Republican-controlled Congress locks horn with the Democrat-controlled Senate. The topic of dispute is the deficit-reduction plan; the Demo wants to raise the debt ceiling, hence continue to borrow money to pay off debt and finance national growth while the Rep wants to lock the current debt ceiling or at least temporarily raise it and then cut spending. What makes it critical is the fact that both houses should arrive at a resolution before August 2 or else the US government defaults national debt. This is unprecedented, and this is very bad not just for USA, but the entire world as a whole.

As the world watch, glued to the edge of their seats, let me ask this question: Is this just a mere battle of political will between two powerful forces in the US government? Or is this something else?

Sometimes things are not what they seem to be. What we see in the lower and upper house of the US government is not just a mere intellectual or political battle between brilliant lawmakers, but a battle as ancient as the time itself, the battle between good and evil. Yes, it’s a spiritual battle, as well. And it’s not good Republicans versus evil Democrats, and vice versa, either. It’s the innate goodness within men (lawmakers) versus the evil desires planted by the ancient enemy of man, Satan.

 Picture this. As the US lawmakers earnestly sought out the best solution for the good of their country, Satan and his demons came to secretly spread seeds of confusion, doubt, fear, mistrust, selfish motives, accusation, etc. among the lawmakers. The Enemy’s objective – create division which will lead to destruction – and from what I saw in the news today, they seem to be winning. Or are they?

This crisis in the American government is not purely intellectual and political in nature, but spiritual as well. It is my belief that what makes the resolution difficult to hammer out is not the lack of brilliance or statesmanship, I believe that these men are the cream of the crop or they won’t be there, but the lack of awareness that they are not only engage in intellectual debate, but in spiritual battle as well. Indeed, this situation calls for unity and prudence, but for this to happen under the current situation, prayers and fasting are needed as well.

Now as you settle in the comfort of your living room in front of your TV awaiting for news updates, let me remind you that the battle does not only rage red and hot in the confines of the Capitol, but also right inside your own living room, inside your heart and mind. Yes, not just the US lawmakers, but all of us are at war against these hidden forces of evil, so let us all put on the armor of God and believe that behind those thick, dark clouds God’s love, goodness and glory twinkle, awaiting for the right time to shine through. And He never fails.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


So Jesus said to them, “Well, then, pay to the Emperor what belongs to the Emperor, and pay to God what belongs to God.” When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.   – Matthew 22:21~22

A giant wall of dust rolled through the Phoenix area last Monday. It was so high it reached 900m and created winds of 40 to 48 kmh, with gusts of up to 64kmh according to the National Weather Service. Based on the report I read in the web, the visibility was down to less than 400m in some areas.

When I saw the picture of the long line of cars before the ominous haboob, I got mixed feelings – don’t blame me, I haven’t seen one in my entire life. I was relieved for those drivers who were leaving the giant dust wall, and scared for those drivers whose car were heading directly to it. I can only empathize with the latter; they knew that what they were about to enter was dangerous, but they have to get to their next destination.

Isn’t our life’s journey very much like this? We plow through life jumping from one appointment to another, from one task to the next in our to do list. As a result, we get used to our daily routine and put on hold our spiritual growth in favor of economic progress until a giant dust storm snaps us out of our trance.

For two months I cannot make myself write for the Daily Snacks. There were many reasons I can enumerate, but I can sum it up in two words, dust storm. But God was so good because that period of low visibility was not solely meant to make me suffer, but really to teach me a very important lesson which I want to share to you today.

“The moment that I (you) do not like to pray is really the time that I (you) need to pray for at this moment the enemy is given a measure of control over my (your) feelings to tempt me (you) to abandon my (our) God.” 

Loving God is not about following a wonderful feeling; it’s about making the decision to come to Him even if the feeling is not there. And here’s the surprising part: afterward, out of this decision comes a wonderful feeling.

When it hit me, I felt like the Jews in the passage above; I was amazed with God.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

How the River Monster Works?

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. -- John 10:10
Have you seen the Discovery Channel TV documentary River Monsters hosted by extreme angler Jeremy Wade? If you haven’t, try watching it; it’s very fascinating. However, real life is the exact opposite of it. Instead of being the river monster, we all are the unsuspecting fishes swimming in the big river of life. The real river monster is the extreme angler, and his name is Satan. He is a very experienced and skillful angler with a bag full of tricks on how to snag souls.

The first thing to remember about the River Monster is that he wants to stay undetected while attacking his prey because it’s easier to catch a soul this way; this way he is pretty clever. He litters the river of life with countless fishing lines, and stays behind the bushes camouflaged.

How does Satan catch souls? This is a very interesting question. To try to answer this, I will draw from more than 35 years of experience as a sinner and insights from the booklet, One on One, by Steve Murrell. 

Satan usually uses three basic steps depending on the spiritual strength of his prey.
  1. Grab the attention of his target
  2. Deceive his target by telling lies and half-truths
  3. Tempt his target to commit sin
As Christian way stay out of trouble by focusing on the Lord and following His teachings and ways. But Satan is a clever attacker. He flashes a DISTRACTION to grab the attention of the hapless target. It could be anything and these generally fall under three main categories – wealth, fame and pleasure.

Once Satan grabs the full attention of his target, he DECEIVES his target by telling lies and half-truth. The main motive is to divert the focus of the person from God to himself or herself. Satan would chant, “Is it true that you will go to hell? It can’t be bad if it feels so good, right? Forget God. Forget the needs of others. Focus on yourself and your needs. Nobody cares about you so you have to look after your own interest. Who needs them anyway? You’re self sufficient. You are your own man. ” Lies! Jesus said, “Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from God.” Now that’s the plain truth!

When a person becomes full of himself or herself and forgets God and doesn’t care about other people, he is ripe for the final blow – TEMPTATION to sin. A person who ignores God and doesn't follow his ways is no match to the evil River Monster. That poor soul will be shackled and trapped to a dark deep pit of sin where short-lived pleasure, emptiness, misery, pain, and torment abound.

Satan does not come with good intention. He hates men and women. But is there hope to the captured? And is there a way to avoid being snag by the River Monster?

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Puppet Master and the Unsuspecting Puppets

Jesus answered them, "“Most certainly I tell you, everyone who commits sin is the bondservant of sin.  -- John 8:34

One of my all time favorite movies is the Sound of Music. It is such a beautiful movie and has all the ingredients of a great movie -- romance, drama, suspense, comedy, and wonderful music.

One of the scenes that I'd like to point out, not only because it is good to the eyes and ears but also it drives home my point, is the puppet show. In this scene Maria (Julie Andrews) and the Von Trapp children play puppet masters. They made the puppets act and dance while they sing wonderfully. It was such a beautiful scene that can capture the heart of any unsuspecting move-goers.

In real life, more often than not, we are unsuspecting puppets playing the whims not of the gentle and talented Maria, but that of an evil Puppet Master. And he is not serenading us, rather he is constantly cursing us. This Puppet Master is called the devil and he is for real. The main reason a lot of us ignore him is because we cannot see him in the form that many of us expected -- two horns, bloodshot eyes, bat-winged, arrow-pointed tail, charcoal dark skin and carrying a trident. The truth is he wants us to be oblivious of him so that he can carry out his spiritual attacks to his clueless victims undetected.    

So how does he works? First, he will try to snag us by tempting us to commit a single sin. Think of one sin as equal to one attached line or string. Second, he will try to tempt us to sin some more. More sins mean more strings of control. Then, once we are snagged by many lines, the Puppet Master will then try to make us an agent of his evil plans of destruction towards our fellow men and women. Get the picture? Think of a person deeply addicted to alcohol, illegal drugs, pornography, gambling, etc. Does he or she bring good tidings to people around him or her? Most likely he is oozing with evil intent.

But before you press that 'condemn them' button let me point out two things: (1) they are just victims of the evil Puppet Master (2) the Puppet Master is about to snag a line on you; press that button and your snagged.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

For the Sake of My Children

Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. -- Proverbs 22:6

One of my greatest worries is that my children will grow up following the wrong path of life. I would rather be poor with children that God will be proud of, than gain more, but loss my children to the wrong ways of life.

I have this scene in mind. After I pass by this life, God meets me and asks, “How are your children?” With a ‘big’ smile in my heart I replied, “I raised them in accordance to your ways.” Then He said, “Well done my son.” Wow!!! What joy it will bring to me because even just thinking of it already brought tears of joy to my heart. How much more if this is already for real?

Back to reality. The first hard question that I need to ask is, “How can I raise my children in accordance to God’s way?” 

I have a mini library at home and a number of my books are about parenting. A few helps, but somehow something is missing. Then it hit me – I need to teach them about the truth of life. After all, spiritual battle is not just about choosing between right and wrong, but first and foremost, it’s about knowing the truth from the lies. 

So now I’m down to the next question, “What truths about life that my children need to know first?” 

What I want to capture are the most essentials, and hopefully use these to form the basic foundation of their character. Hopefully, time is still on my side. So I started reading and scribbling, and I want to share to you what I got:

(1) An almighty God exists, He is holy and doesn’t like sin
(2) Sin displeases my God, it separates me from Him and it lead to destruction; sin is detestable
(3) Satan exists, he is evil and he wants to destroy men, women and children
(4) Satan cannot harm me if I am with my God (because He is more powerful than him) so he will try to deceive me to forget my God, and to commit sin (to be separated from Him)
(5) God gives me the freedom to choose – I can choose to love Him and do good things or to ignore Him and live a sinful life
(6) I am a sinner, but God still loves me so much because He is my Father and I am His child, so He gives me a way back to Him (even if I don’t deserve it)
(7) The way back to my God is through His divine Son, Jesus Christ; whoever believes that He is Lord and Savior, and repent of their sins shall be restored to the Father and be healed
(8) A good follower of Christ looks for the truth, speaks of the truth, and follow His teachings and examples; he detest Satan and sins
(9) The world is full of distractions and lies spread by Satan to lead men, women and children to sin; to avoid being deceived, I must make Jesus my closest friend; I should talk to Him every day to ask for help and guidance
(10) God's ways and the truths about life are written in the Bible, so I must study and read it every day so I may grow in spirit and become more like Jesus in character

I cannot choose how my children will become when they grow up. It's their choice. However, I can help them prepare for what lies ahead. This way I give them a fighting chance. The hardest part is that I should not only teach these to them, I also need to show it to them. I am an imperfect father, and I can see very rough waters ahead of me. But this is a journey that I have to make, not only for my own sake, but more importantly, for their sake. So God help me!

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Invisible Veil Over Our Head

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. – John 14:6

While sitting down near a table inside my hotel room here in Shunde contemplating on a work related problem, a startling revelation came to me and I would like to share to you. But before that, allow me to tell you a small snapshot of my life to drive home my point.

I was probably in grade 5. It was around 6 o’clock in the evening, and quite dark because the electric power tripped off earlier. My friend, Sonny, and I decided to entertain ourselves by playing catch-me-with-your-eyes-blindfolded – it was an absurd choice. The first it was me. I bent my knees and spread my arms wide and swept the area that I passed by hoping to grab my friend’s limbs. Unknowingly, I was heading towards our wooden stairs made of hard tugas. Ouch! I bumped my right knee to the edge of one of the steps very badly that we had to stop the game. I writhed in pain. 

No one in his or her right mind would attempt to walk with his or her eyes close or with a blindfold. We all know that to reach our destination we have to see where we are heading. The fact is, I and most likely you, have been walking through life blindfolded most of the time without even knowing about it. Unlike the game I played, our eyes are not covered by a piece of cloth, but by an invisible veil of lies! And Sonny is not responsible for this either, but the father of lies himself, Satan.

The world is full of lies. Look around you. You can see these outside, and can hear this inside of you. As a matter of fact, while I was typing this article, a lot of lies flew over my head: "you can’t finish this", "you are not good enough", "no one will appreciate this", "it’s not worth your time"…blah, blah, blah. The truth is, I am not a Roald Dahl or a Stephen King, alright. But I have enough education and a little talent to write a simple message.  And most important of all, I love writing about my God, and I love touching other peoples life with my pen. It makes me feel happy, peaceful and alive. 

When Jesus was tempted by Satan in the desert three times, He always replied, “It is written…” Actually, Jesus wasn’t just quoting the Holy Scripture verbatim, but really He was just exposing Satan's lies by replying truth as it was written; the truth always beats  a lie. In short, Jesus showed us that to be able to tear Satan’s veil of deception in our life we have to know the truth! If you think about it deeply, temptation is simply an invitation by the Enemy to abandon the truth, and embrace a lie with a promised signing bonus of instant pleasure or relief. But in truth, the ultimate reward is slow and sure death.

It all boils down to this. Unlike what I used to think, and maybe some of you, spiritual battle is not only about choosing between right and wrong, but first and foremost, it is also about knowing the Truth from the Lies. The moment a baby first wail and cry, it not only announce to the world his or her first day of attendance, but also his or her ignorance. True, God blessed this baby with a brain, some talents and a built-in conscience, but still that baby is ignorant in many ways including in spirituality.   

Therefore, one of our essential pursuits is to educate ourselves with the truth about life. But where can we find the truth? The answer lies in the Holy Bible. We owe it to ourselves to study and learn about what our God has to say about how we should live our life. Unless you find it amusing to bump and scrape your knees against the steps of hell, then you don’t have to lift a finger to remove the veil that might be hanging over your head now…I don't find it amusing, and I hope you too.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Japan Earthquake Tsunami: Making Sense of the Disaster

When his master head the story his wife told him, saying, “This is how you’re slave treated me,” he burned with anger. Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined.  – Genesis 39:19~20

Nineteen ninety-seven. I closed my eyes as I held my breath. Any second now I would feel the impact... Thug! Touch down! Welcome to Japan! I could see that my companions, Victor and Menchie, were relieved just like me. It was the first time for the three of us to travel to Japan, and the first time we rode an airplane.

As the airplane taxied around the Narita International Airport, I looked outside the window and I saw human beings in yellow and orange winter clothing hurriedly and methodically working. The airport which was very big and technologically sophisticated was intimidating to an inexperienced traveler like me. However, in the outskirt of the airport,  I could see the welcome view of many trees. Very impressive.

That business trip was followed by several others. At first, I felt so out-of-place; I couldn’t hardly wait to go home. But slowly the beauty of Japan, and the culture of its people captured my heart. The place was simply amazing. It was like being in a room that felt and smelled technology with workaholics all over the place. But the moment you stepped out of that room, you would be transported to a beautiful, scenic nature with crystal clear running river water, and greeneries all around you. In Japan, nature and technology coexisted harmoniously. And those workaholics? It turned out, to my surprise, that they knew how to have fun too and could even go crazy in a fun way. This was a place where work and recreation had a very clear boundary.

It’s been around 4 years now since the last time I visited the place I considered my second home country. I missed it already. That was why I was shocked and disturbed when I saw the devastation brought by the 8.9 magnitude earthquake, and that unbelievable tsunami. Watching in the internet those powerful waters with burning houses, cars, boats, debris rushing across farmlands straight into the city was simply surreal. It’s like watching the movie 2012 except that this time it was for real! I could just imagine the death toll, the millions of dollars worth of damages, and the sorrow of the Japanese people. How could God let this happen?

The same question must have popped up into Joseph’s head when his own brothers sold him to slavery because of jealousy, and when he was jailed because of Potiphar’s wife false accusation.

I won’t pretend to understand why this devastation happened. I don’t. Trying to do so is like trying to pick God’s mind using my own puny brain. What I do know is that under God’s plan, something good and beautiful will always come out in the end. The story of Joseph, son of Jacob, is one good example. The ‘misfortunes’ that beset him were really God’s way of preparing him for His grand plan – to make him governor of all Egypt, second only to the pharaoh, and in the process saved his father, brothers and their families from starvation.

When bad things happen to us remember the story of Joseph. Instead of being bitter and losing hope, let’s keep the faith alive knowing that God is in control, and that His plan is more beautiful than we could ever imagine when it unfold in the end.

PS1: To my Japanese sisters and brothers in Christ, I mourned with you. You’re losses are great. However, knowing the resilient spirit of the Japanese people and your dedication to excellence, I know that your country will rise above all this stronger than ever. 

PS2: In the picture above, houses are swept by water following a tsunami and earthquake in Natori City in Japan. Click here to read more.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Script of a Nobel Peace Prize Winner

The way we live our life is based on a script. For example, when I have no urgent matters to attend to I get lazy, but when my plate overflows I shift to hyper mode and get a lot of things done. Not my best script though. Another script is, when I meet a disappointment I took it as a lesson. Finally, when I receive financial blessing I sit aside a small amount for God. A script is a set of concepts that directs our behavior.

The question now is, who taught you your script? The circumstances surrounding you? The people around? The movies you watched or the books you read?

It's important that we based our script from the right sources because our script could make or break us. The script we follow every minute of everyday determines the kind of life we will live. Are you blessed or cursed? Are you at peace with others or at war with the world? Are you building or destroying? Are you loving or hating?

There was once a woman who wrote one of her scripts in the wall of a home for the abandoned children. This script was central to how she became what she was, and what kind of legacy she left behind...


Do It Anyway

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.


You must be wondering who this Nobel Peace  Prize laureate is? She is no other than Mother Teresa herself. The writings can be found in the wall of one of the children's home in Calcutta under her care. This is known as The Prayer of Mother Teresa.

Every morning, when we wake up, God hands to us a fresh clean empty sheet of paper.What are we going to write on it? The same old junk we consumed yesterday? Or a script that brings a new ray of hope to our life and to the world? Mother Teresa showed us hers. It's now time to examine ours and write on our wall something that really matters...Is your script patterned from God's will like that of Mother Teresa's?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu: The Woman Who Took a Leap of Faith

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ 
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” 
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”    -- Luke 10:29~37

Is life all about eating, working, playing and sleeping, and then death? I believe that life should be more than this. I believe that our life should matter to the people around us, and to the world that we will someday leave behind. Our life should be a contribution to making the world a better place.

While teaching St. Mary's High School in Calcutta, Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu saw the poverty and suffering of the people outside of the convent. The hopelessness and despair written all over the faces of the poor, the sick and the needy outside the school stirred deeply her soul. Her heart ached to help out. But can she leave behind the comfort within the walls of the convent, and go out to live among the poorest of the poor? And what can she do? She was just alone with very limited resources.

Dark clouds of doubts and fears must have descended upon the mind and heart of Agnes. The sheer size, difficulty and complexity of the task could paralyze even a strong man, much more a frail nun. But in 1948, she asked permission from her superiors to leave the convent school, and devote herself to working among the poorest of the poor in the slums of Calcutta. Agnes helped and served people suffering from various incurable diseases, affected by natural calamities and those unwanted by the society. Love, humanity and helping others selflessly were her reasons to live.

At first, she single-handedly started an open-air classroom for poor children in one of the slums Calcutta. Lack of fund didn’t deter her passion to serve the poor. But soon God blessed Agnes’ effort and volunteers came in. Also, the order she founded, ‘The Missionary of Charity’, grew worldwide thus allowing more people to receive God’s love and care through the order.

Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu or more popularly known as Mother Theresa of Calcutta has long been gone; she died last September 5, 1997. But that one decision she made left a positive global impact that inspired thousands, if not millions, of people to follow the footsteps of the Good Samaritan. Truly she was the neighbor that Jesus talked about. She is an inspiration to us all that no matter what our situation is right now, if we take a leap of faith in God, then we can do great things that will help make the world a better place. Then our life will not be wasted at all.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

One Year Anniversary! I Am Just a Messenger...

Today I’ve reached a milestone. A year ago, I was inspired to start something I haven’t done before in my life. I felt uneasy and uncomfortable, to say the least, because in doing so I would not only come out from my comfortable shell, I would also expose myself to the critical eyes of the world. What if I will be emotionally hurt and embarrassed in the process? What if I cannot sustain it? What if …?
When I was a little kid I participated regularly in a community prayer called ‘barangay’. In one of the prayer sessions, I was called by the prayer leader to lead a mystery in the rosary. I silently declined. She called me repeatedly, but I didn’t budge in even a single inch. Why? I was afraid to make a mistake and embarrass myself.

Pass forward many years later. I had a nagging in my heart -- to serve God. Like the little child in that prayer session, I silently ignore it. Why? I was afraid to confront it directly because I was worried of what God would ask of me to do. Maybe He would ask me to make a fool out of myself. Who knows? So I ignored it.

But God was persistent. Through a series of events I came to a point that I ‘decided’ to open my heart to what He would ask of me. And this was how the Daily Snacks for the Soul was conceived. I wrote and published the first message – I like to call an article a message – on Feb. 17, 2010. That was a year ago.

To celebrate the first year anniversary of this blog, I posted a series of questions addressed to myself. This will give you a better understanding of why I am doing what I am doing now. Hopefully, you will be inspired.

Why blogging? I really don’t have a lot of natural skills, but I do love to write poems. So one day I gave writing a try. Later I found out that I was truly happy writing articles related to God. There was peace and deep satisfaction. Also the experience was quite unique. It’s hard to explain. It was like entering a tunnel without knowing where it would lead me to, and once I was on the other end, I was amazed -- “Whoah! I didn’t know that.”

Why I chose the name ‘Daily Snacks for the Soul’? I only wanted to write short articles. So it’s like a snack, not full meal. Also, the articles that I had in mind should be inspiring, enlightening and biblical, so I put the ‘soul’ in there. Finally, I added ‘daily’ because ‘Snacks for the Soul’ was already taken. Maybe I should have chosen ‘weekly’ over daily, but it was the latter that stuck to my head.

Why I decided to do this? I was tired of being afraid, and of saying ‘no’ to God. Also, there was a series of events that made me realize that I have to make a choice then. I chose to serve God in my own little way. Now I am happy that I made that decision.

How did I overcome my fears? When I decided to do this not for myself, but to give glory and honor to God, that was when a lot of my fears vanished. I figured that some people may laugh at me or criticize me, but I know that my God can see clearly my motive. And what He thinks of me is more important than what other people think of me.

Did I have struggles along the way? Discouragement, distraction, writer's block, criticism, self-doubt, time constraint were just a few of my struggles in the past year.

Did I receive praises and encouragement? I really believe that God is looking after those who serve Him. In times when I was at a low point, God sent people to inspire and encourage me. I like to call them angels. A simple ‘thank you’ or ‘your blog touched and inspired me’ can really go a distance. I think the sweetest reward in my chosen role is to know that what I am doing makes a difference, a positive impact in the lives of other people. To me that’s priceless.

How did I keep myself grounded? Every time I receive a compliment I always remind myself that I am not the source, I am just a messenger.

To the readers of the Daily Snacks, it is my hope and prayer that through this blog you will one day discover (if not yet) the role that God has sit aside for you in His kingdom, and that may you find the courage to accept it. It can be scary. But believe me that once you get over it your life will never be the same…

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Best Definition of Love I Ever Read

Happy Valentines day ot all!

One of the interesting things happening during Valentines day back in my elementary days was the eagerness of many students to share their own definition of what love is. Love is blind. Love conquers all. The greatest love of all is love for oneself. When it feels right, it must be love. Love doesn't hurt. And many others.

Years later I ran across what I believe is the best definition of love. Since it's a day of love  I believe it's appropriate that I share this to you specially if you haven't read it before.

   "If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 

   Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 

   Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 

   And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love" 

This definition is taken from 1 Corinthians 13.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Physics and Relationships

3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.  – Philippians 2:3~4

In high school, one of my teachers told us that physics was a tough subject. So when I entered college to take up engineering, I was apprehensive as to how I would cope with the subject. I survived my fourth year physics, but I thought that college physics should be a lot more difficult. I was afraid yet determined.

After a few classes, I gradually realized that there were already formula that would guide us students in solving problems. So the real challenge for me was to keep this bunch of formula and equations from jumping out of my head during the exams, and to know when to apply these. Fortunately for me, I found a way to make my life easier. I forced myself to love physics and I backed it up with lots of hard work. Yes, it was a shotgun marriage, but it worked!

I knew of some students who would grimace when they heard the word ‘physics’ and make a puke gesture. I can understand that. But now let me tell you why I like physics. Physics is simply beautiful. Once I got over the common cliché attached to it like ‘hard’ and ‘difficult’, I saw a world of matter and energy interacting ‘perfectly’ with one another. It's beautiful because it attempts to explain this ‘perfect’ interaction, an interaction made ‘perfect’ by God Himself.

Once a phenomenon is fully understood, the theory used to explain and predict it is elevated to a higher status called laws. Some of the famous laws are Newton’s laws, Einstein’s laws, Thermodynamic laws, etc. As a rule, a law should hold through in any and every conditions and circumstances.

Our interaction, our relationship with each other is also governed by laws that if followed will lead to great relationship. Fortunately for us, we don’t have to have an IQ similar to Einstein, Newton, etc. to discover these. All we have to do is to open the book of God, the Bible.

Take for example these words taken from the book of Philippians:

           Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.
Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.             

Put it simply: For a relationship to work, everyone involved should stay humble, unselfish and look after the best interest of the other first. The model, to me, should look like a circular chain with each link supporting the other.

This is quite contrary to what is practiced by many people today. This should explain why our world is what it is right now. We are globally interconnected by the internet, but there’s no sense of global brotherhood and unity. Even in the confines of our homes, this holds true sometimes.

It’s about time to put God’s way into practice. What was spoken 2000 years ago still holds true today. Let us start with our own home, and our own community. This is quite a daunting challenge, but with God’s grace nothing is impossible! God doesn't intend for us to do it alone, but we have to start with ourselves. 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Different New Year's Eve

“The Devil had already put into the heart of Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, the thought of betraying Jesus.” -- John 13:2

I checked my cellphone, it was already 11:00pm. In an hour, a new year will come. My mind started going over my list of desired New Year’s resolutions. You see, my idea of a New Year celebration is to eat with my family and then later curl into a quiet corner to reflect on the past year, and look into the new year until early dawn.

By then, I was already etching to go inside our house to prepare the arrival of 2011, but my wife was still joyfully attending to the customers of her small sari-sari store. And our children who were still outside were in a festive mode since their cousin, Jay-Jay, just arrived from Canada. It was a happy night for all the families in our little compound.

Then the glasses of beer started coming in courtesy of my brother-in-law, the father of Jay-Jay. Since I’m not really a big fan of beer I began concocting polite ways to decline the offer. But then it occurred to me, this was my opportunity to practice what I preached – value relationships. I told myself that I would drink not because I craved for a cold beer (I didn't), but to celebrate the arrival of my brother-in-law and his family. Besides they only visit once a year; a few glasses of beer shouldn't be a big deal.

Unfortunately, I misjudged my system and had more beer than it can handle, so sheepishly I announced my retreat, and staggered to my home. As the firecrackers detonated, blew and sparkled in the evening sky by midnight, I was happily snoring into dreamland – good night to curling into a quiet nook to reflect and write.

Every start of the year, many of us are compelled to make a New Year’s resolution because of the idea of a fresh start. It’s like a new empty book is handed to us to write anew our life story, to correct the past year’s mitakes. In truth, many of us are eager to write not only a good story, but a great story about us. And this is perfectly normal.

So we merrily skip and jump our way into the new year full of excitement. However, before we get disillusioned we should not forget that every great story requires great effort and great sacrifices. Sooner or later, in our journey we will hit a brick wall. “Why can’t it be easy,” a few hisses.

God plant good dreams in our heart. However, He also allows thick brick walls along our way. This is not to stop us but to force us to change ourselves. Because only a new us, a great us, can pass through the thick wall and play the great story that you and I wanted to write for ourselves. And we pass through not by fighting it, but by adapting to it – changing our thinking, habit, and attitude. The ‘you’ and ‘I’ now are not qualified, at least not yet.

So if the brick wall is my (and your) friend, why I failed to play out all my previous resolutions? The brick wall was not the problem as you may already know now; the problem was doubt and fear. While God plants good thoughts in our heart, Satan does the opposite – talk to poor Judas. Satan twisted the way we look at the brick wall, as an insurmountable, three-eyed, hairy giant monster to be avoided and feared rather than as the forging hand of God that will change us for the better, and therefore should be welcomed.

Looking back at my New Year’s Eve, I really did not just drink beer, I sipped a potion of change that celebrates frienship and connection with my brothers-in-law. Yes, it was a different New Year for me, but a new me begs for a new and a better story….so does your story for 2011, my friend.

PS: I did finish writing my New Year's resolution a couple of days after, and I now carry it with me everyday.