Wednesday, March 27, 2013


What is the one scene in Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” you can’t bear to watch? Yes, it’s the beating part, or to be precise, the “scourging” part. That scene - not only because of its gory, barbarous display but also because of its length - is difficult to stay on.

I was watching it again last night with the Young Adults in our church at ANCF. I suddenly remembered, quite too late, this was the scene I had difficulty watching the first time I saw this movie. In the middle of it, I decided to take a leak. Inside the lavatory, which was at the back end of our small sanctuary, I heard the repeating "whisssp!" accompanied by hurtful moanings. I went back in time to catch the remaining part of the scourging.

A Scourge, which in Roman times called “the flagellum” is a whip or a lash, designed to inflict the most painful and severe punishment because of its flesh-tearing effect. It contains three cords - with balls of lead on each of them. In "The Passion of the Christ", the scourge we see contained pointed, sharp edged leads which added more sickly, gut-wrenching effect to the viewers like me.

I eased on my chair in time to see a Roman soldier swung his flagellum so hard, the sharp, edged end of the leads obligingly clawed deep in the right side of the Christ. The soldier mockingly pulled it back with all force, ripping a chunk of flesh out. My insides knotted, twisted, and squirmed. So this is what they say the “visceral effect”?

But there is another, more profound reason why this scourging scene is so hard to watch. The Christ in the movie, Jim Caviezel poignantly says, “People turn their eyes away when they see it, and what they're seeing is their own sin. It is not wanting to deal, at times, with their own sin. It's that hard to look at. But this film forces you to see yourself, not the way you want to see yourself, but as God sees you”[1].

That’s very true. Every whip, every sharp lead clawing onto the flesh of Christ, and every chunk of flesh ripping out of it, is a view into the real nature of our own sins. We see the cold cruelty and barbarous destructiveness of our sins. Every whip of sin rips the heart of God because every sin is a deliberate act of defiance, of rebellion against Him. Sin is a direct and deliberate statement to God saying, “I don’t need you to direct my affairs”.

In the film, and this is true in the actual historical event, we see Jesus Christ suffered immensely for our sins. He bore our sins with every stinging whip of the flagellum. But this is only half the truth. Jesus did not suffer alone. The Father suffered as well. Tim Keller says that while the Son suffered immensely, displayed in words, “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me!” the Father suffered together with Him. Jesus suffered “fatherlessness” while the Father suffered “sonlessness”. In other words, both the Son and the Father suffered during the crucifixion of Christ.

But is His suffering worth it? Yes, because in His suffering, he looked at us and for Him, that made all worth it. Keller says, “In Isaiah we are told, ‘The results of his suffering he shall see, and shall be satisfied (Isaiah 53:11)’. This is a stupendous thought. Jesus suffered infinitely more than any human soul in eternal hell, yet he looks at us and says, ‘it was worth it’. What could make us feel more loved and valued than that?”[2]

Truthfully, it all boils down to God’s love to us. He bore our sins, suffered immensely for it, all because of His love to us. With this, the famous passage is infinitely true, “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16)[3].

[1] Jim Caviezel who plays Jesus in “The Passion of the Christ” described what he went through during a shot while he was hanged on the cross: “And let me tell you, I was on that cross. Many people who looked up there, I may be playing Christ, but a lot of times I felt like Satan. I had obscenities wanting to come out of me. It was so cold it was like knives coming through me. I had hypothermia. I don't know whether you've dealt with that, but on one day of hypothermia I was so cold I could barely get the lines out. My mouth was shaking uncontrollably. My arms and legs went numb. I was suffocating on that cross. In the mean time, you watch people have coffee and laugh. They were very indifferent about what I was going through.”

[2] Time Keller, THE IMPORTANCE OF HELL,, New York City.

[3] Taken from the New American Standard Bible.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


There is a young girl about 8 years old, with a smile like a grassy field covered with rainbow flowers under the afternoon sun. She is unpretentious, telling things as there are. Her laughter echoes through the school yard when she’s at play. She is, however, just fair with school work. But her friends are varied and many, drawn by the life radiating through her.

            This little girl is “in love”, the kind which people say “puppy love”. A boy, her age and a classmate, the brightest in class, captured her tiny heart. She often tells him she likes him. During the break, while her teacher is lost in the folds of the faculty, she writes his name on the black board, in bold strokes, and with words “I love you”. Everyone in class does not find this embarrassing or annoying, which is queer. Perhaps it’s the innocence of the whole thing or the funny streaks of pink appearing on the boy’s face. Whatever it is, no one cast a sly at this sheer display of affection.

            Wearing a short, shiny dark hair, with all the silky strands combed to one side, the boy is a perfect picture of a catholic school boy. You see, he has a vow -he dreams of becoming a priest. One can immediately see the typical plot of our story. The boy is one of those rare souls who, from birth, feels so certain of his path; knows exactly why his here for - a prospect disconcerting to the many who grope, mess up, and wallow in uncertainties. The boy desires to be a priest. He does not say anything good or bad to the little girl.

            Relentless and unperturbed, the girl calls him at home - telling him what she often writes on the school blackboard: she likes him and she loves him. This takes place every day, in the afternoon around 4:00, a few minutes right after school. This becomes a predictable routine: every day, around 4:00 p.m., a phone call, and words “I love you”. The young boy, true to his saintly core, remains composed. He does not say anything good or bad to the girl.

            Time flies in clear strides, and along with it, the events that are forever stuck in the pages of its wings. The girl is now a young woman – full of life and jest. She’s unpretentious telling things as they are. Her laughter reveals the fine bents on her slim cheeks. Her friends are varied and many. She and the boy, who is now also a young man, go to the same college. She still maintained her vice but this time with a twist: she writes little notes to the young, soon-to-be priest. These notes simply contain a smiley, no words. She never missed a time doing this.

For all the myriad things in her life that changed, one thing remains: she calls him at home, around 4:00 in the afternoon, a few minutes after school, telling him, “I’m here”. The words may be different but not the routine. The young man, being prim and dignified, neither says anything good or bad to her.

            One day, an afternoon, around 4:00, something’s changed. Something is missing. At first, he cannot figure what it is. What has changed? What is missing? Then he senses it. There is none of the usual and familiar sound - the phone does not ring. At this hour, at this place, there should be a phone call. There must be a phone call. This routine, which has become a part in the rhythm of the young man’s life, is suddenly not there. Of course he can care less about that. He is on his way to his dream – the priesthood. But he feels uneasy, distracted, and unable to do his usual chores.

            At school, the following day, he looks at the young woman’s chair - it’s empty. He scans the room. She’s nowhere. The class went on. His mind adrift, streaming through the infinite possible reasons, looking for something sensible, something logical and at the same time craving the familiar. He flips open his leather notebook, took out the several notes with drawn figures of smiley.  Finally, after class, he dares himself to ask someone.

“Oh, didn’t you know? She died yesterday around three.”

The classmate goes on telling the details of her absence - her ordeal, her repeated fainting, but he can’t hear her. His mind is reeling, his senses numb. He could only hear, faintly, as if an echo coming from a long tunnel, the word “cancer”. He stood there, forever fixed, gazing at something, but not really looking at anything.

Just like that, something is missing, a phone call does not arrive and the whole world is gone – like a picture of people with a face that is torn away, the whites on the edges of the tear shows the deliberateness of the tearing. What has gone? What is missing? The routine? The chance to say goodbye? The young man, soon to be priest, remains standing, unmoved, his feet is cemented on the ground. He is gazing at something, but not really looking at anything.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Craving for God

Last November 22, 2012, our Young Adult's Evangelistic Night at ANCF Church went so well. In fact, it went more than we imagined it to be. The church hall was filled - at least all the chairs was used. Aaron Atanoza commented that we made "history" with it. And I was thoroughly satisfied with the entire production. 

And yet no matter how hard you prepare for a big event like this, with all the loopholes shut closed, there are still things that's left unchecked - the battery of my Nikon 5100 DSLR was fully exhausted just before I delivered the message for the event. We could not capture it in a video. Well. I have learned to trust God's sovereignty in all things.

So, I will just reprint my message that night here in lieu of the video. Here it is:

When you wake up each morning what do you think about? Most probably, you think about your life and your future. But what comes in your mind about your life and your future? We wake up in the morning and think about these things and we don’t feel so good. Why? Because the thoughts are somewhat negative and yet they are undeniably true. These thoughts are:






What do I still lack?”

            The irony of this all, is that we live in a time in human history where we seem to have everything. We are in an age where entertainment, goods, food, and wealth pervades all of life. We have tons of magazines, books, cd’s, dvd’s, blue rays, mp3’s, mp4’s, ipod, ipads, cable t.v. Above all we have INTERNET! With the latter, we have Facebook and Twitter - we can see people in distant places, old friends, old memories, old life, new prospects, etc. We are so rich with all these goodies and yet, we feel so…






What do I still lack?”
We are craving for something,

Something fundamental and so basic,

Something more than what we see, feel, hear, and taste,

Something not of this world,

Something spiritual and transcendent,

Erwin Mac Manus wrote a book “Soul Craving” and in it he identifies what we crave in life, why we crave these things, and who can satisfy all these cravings.

Craving for Meaning

            Mac Manus says that we all crave for meaning. The greatest question that man ever asks in his life is “WHY”? The ultimate question of life is not “where”, “how”, or “what”, but “why?” Until now, amidst all technological breakthroughs, progresses in psychology, sociology, biology, physics, or chemistry, we are still asking “WHY?”

            We look around and we see everything. We ask where all this came from? And in our modern mindset, we embraced a particular explanation – everything came to be accidentally. A cosmic accident took place in the billion years past, and it created a chain of causes and effects and out came this world in which we live where animals, trees, mountains, lakes, sea, rivers, people, human beings, now exist. Everything simply EVOLVED from this cosmic accident, we say.

            But why?

            Even if we comfort ourselves with the knowledge of science we still feel the weight of the question why? Why is there life? Why is there people? Why is there everything?

            We ask why because we are designed for meaning. We ask why because we need meaning. We crave for meaning in life. We crave for significance. We can’t live without meaning.

            Craving for meaning is actually craving for truth. What is the truth of all this? What is truth about life? What is truth about existence? Who then can answer this?

            Jesus said “I AM the truth!”

            He said, “you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free”.

            We are designed for truth. And if Jesus is truth, then we are all designed for Jesus. We cannot live and seek truth apart from THE TRUTH. We are punishing ourselves when we do this. We must come to the truth because we are designed to be with the Truth. And the truth is not a thing but a person, and his name is Jesus Christ.

Craving for Hope and Destiny

            Hope is like the sunshine. Take the sun away and everything is dark and gloom. Take away the sun and there is only darkness. We are all drawn to the light. And light is hope; it is destiny. Without light, we have no hope. We have no destiny.

            A young girl was constantly and crudely bullied in school. Everyday, the bullying continued until she had had enough. She wrote a letter to her parents and took her life. The bullying took the sun away from her. It took the light away from her. It took the hope away from her. And finally, the darkness was overwhelming. She killed herself. That is what happens when we lose hope, when we see darkness and never the light.

            “We need the hope of a future in order to survive in the present. We thrive when we are optimistic about the future. We cannot simply exist. We long for a sense of destiny. ‘It is important to fully live each moment, but equally important to make sure that we do not live only for this moment... We have to believe in tomorrow to function well today. It will never be enough for us simply to exist... Without a future there is no hope, and hope is essential for our souls to thrive’”. (TheoCentric blog, quoting Mc Manus)

            Jesus said, “I AM THE LIFE”.

            To have hope and destiny is to have life. We are designed for life and not death. Death is not the purpose of existence, life is. Life is the purpose. Life is the destiny. Life is our hope. Jesus said, “he who believes in me, although he may die, he shall live”. In another portion of the bible he said “I have come that you may have life, and have it more abundantly”.

            If Jesus is the life, it is foolish then for us to seek life apart from Him. If he is the author of life, we therefore cannot seek life apart from Him. We must come to him because He is hope, he is destiny, he is life. Life is a person and his name is Jesus Christ.

Craving for Love

            Another area of human craving is the craving for intimacy. And intimacy is actually a craving for love. Take away love and everything falls apart. Take away love in the family, and the family crumbles. Take away love between man and wife and the marriage collapses. Take away love in society and society disintegrate. Nothing survives without love.

Erwin Mc Manus says, "We cannot live unaffected by love. We are most alive when we find it, most devastated when we lose it, most empty when we give up on it, most inhumane when we betray it, and most passionate when we pursue it. The human story seems more driven by the insanity of love than the survival of the fittest."

"Home is ultimately not about a place to live but about the people with whom you are most fully alive. Home is about love, relationship, community, and belonging, and we are all searching for home."

"If God is love, it is maddening when we are running from God and yet searching for love."

“When we are disconnected from God, we find ourselves increasingly empty of love. Jesus, it seems, is certain that the more you love God, the more you will love people."    

            Jesus said, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” Love therefore is a person and his name is Jesus Christ.

            It is clear at this point that what we need, what we crave for is Jesus. What we crave for meaning, what we crave for hope, and what we crave for love is OUR CRAVING FOR GOD. God designed us to crave for Him. God designed us to seek Him. God designed us for Him. It is therefore futile and foolish for us to seek hope, meaning, and love apart from God. It is foolish to live our lives apart from God.            

            But Jesus is constantly inviting us. He is constantly wooing us. He is constantly crossing our path to capture our attention. He is constantly knocking on our door and waiting for us to open up for Him.

            This morning, you may have felt…






What do I still lack?”

            But Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”

            What is your response to this invitation? Will you embrace it? Reject it? Set it aside for another time, saying, “not now Lord! I have so many things to do than accept you!” How is it going to be for you tonight? Will you reject the author of hope, meaning, and love? Or will you deny your pride and say “yes”. What is it going to be?

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