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:

Unsatisfed.

Lacking.

Incomplete.

Hollow.

Shallow.

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…

Unsatisfed.

Lacking.

Incomplete.

Hollow.

Shallow.

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…

Unsatisfed.

Lacking.

Incomplete.

Hollow.

Shallow.

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?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Crucified With Christ



It’s been a while since my last post here. I see dusts and cobwebs in this blog. I know what this means. I have broken a cardinal rule in blogging, i.e., to regularly posts to make it work. My writing is a hiccup of inspired moments followed by prolonged flat lines. The writing engine is not working as it should.

Most probably it is because I had wrong inspiration about blogging. I remember wanting to be an artist with writing as a medium. And I had to be a true artist – that is, putting on a lifestyle and a mindset of an artist. I had to embody the artist to be authentic. Wrong! No wonder I was drifting fast towards emptiness. I was seeking my identity as an artist than finding such identity in Christ.

I remember Paul saying “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20, ESV). How could I forget this so soon! Like Paul, I must remind myself again and again that I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I that lives but it is Christ who lives in me. The life that I live is a life of faith in Christ.

Time and again, I was drawn back to the old me, the old insecurity, the old pathetic habit of finding and seeking myself, my identity, my pride.The problem is that the self is a blackhole - a vacuum sucking in the very life that I am trying to find. I am constantly betrayed by the seeming promise it dangles before me - the promise of self fulfillment. There is no true life in seeking and finding the self. True life is found in losing it in Christ and taking his instead. Jim Elliot said "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."

Here I am, posting a blog entry again in this dusty blog but no longer seeking to be an artist per se. I am no longer seeking an identity apart from Christ.This blog is now simply a tool to share the truth about Christ, a medium to make Christ known to the world and nothing more. Paul again says “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Cor. 2:2, ESV).

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Throbbing Night at Torres Street





photo courtesy of wn.com
Time is progressing rapidly towards midnight but to the four guys over two rounds of SanMig Lites, time, like previous nights of their lives, lingers forever. Today is Friday, and as usual, the night clubs at Torres Street is alive with colored lights and throbbing music. The four guys sit on the small square table over the edge of “kasagingan” coffee shop, drinking their cold beers without saying a word. This coffee shop, with its low green and blue luminous lights has been their “balwarte” for several years now. The guys all work as call-center agents at Cyber Traffic.

Padi, the oldest of the four feels tired and worn out. At 45, he feels he’s already more than half spent. Several white hair strands show up on the side of his head. His nursing degree failed him. Four years ago, the PRC officially shut down most of the nursing schools in the country because of the declining demand of Filipino nurses abroad. All the promises of the unknown is now gone. The routine of Cyber Traffic and the weekends at this coffee shop are all that’s left for him.

A couple of years ago Padi was hopeful. He sent several résumé’s to the big hospitals in the city. Several months passed, a year, his emails still consisted of Facebook notifications “Jokoy commented on a photo”. Doubts crept in, slowly at first, then an outburst, and he was drowning. Then he decided on small clinics and health centers. But luck was nowhere near him. The last straw was the small, dingy, remote maternity lying-in somewhere in Panabo. He personally sent his résumé there. The fat owner, wearing a pink floral “duster” came out and flatly said no vacancy. Padi wimped away like a dog with its tail behind its legs.

Then he chanced upon Cyber Traffic on a local paper. It was a call center wanting ten applicants. He sent his résumé and got accepted. The long, agonizing years of studying nursing finally ends to a job in a tight cubicle, taking calls, listening to angry voices over the other end of the line, boring his butt on a computer chair.

Padi breaks the silence, “Often, I wonder, why are we here?”

Jay-pee looks at him, “Are you delirious? It’s Friday, you forget that?”

Padi lifts his beer to his lips. Jay-pee is about his age, with a Bachelor of Arts degree. Libera Arts is really nothing Padi muses. It’s a degree for the undecided. But he likes Japy-pee. His quick wit and brutal sarcasm can turn a boring discussion to a boiling argument.

“No, I’m not talking about us, here, now. I’m talking about life. Why are we here in this world?”

“Yeah. Adding to that, what is space? And Time? What is before all that?” says Noli.

Noli was a seminarian. Eight years ago he was on his way to the long narrow road of priesthood at Xavier Seminary. One afternoon, his Rector saw him drooling over a Victoria Secret magazine he’d tucked inside his backpack. His Rector decided to give him a furlough of one year. Noli was devastated. He loved his life in the seminary. But he had weakness - one that goes straight at the heart of a priesthood core vows – celibacy. The furlough turned permanent and Noli found himself at Cyber Traffic. He however, maintained his love for science, religion, and Philosopy.

 “If space is finite, with a definite end, then what makes the end after all? Is there something beyond space, a wall, or just nothing, and if it is just nothing at the end of space, isn’t that something after all?” Noli adds. He doesn’t really expects an answer. He drinks the last content of his beer.

Sammy was until this time, poring over a new Crichton novel,

“I haven’t given much thought about why we’re here. In fact, I don’t really care why we’re here. I’m here and that’s all that matters”

Sammy often brags reading all the “Jason Bourn” novels and watched all the movies of it. He has this weird ability of maintaining a discussion with a novel at hand.

Padi takes another sip and brings the bottle on the table,

“Well, these types of questions always put God in the picture. You know, the bible says, in the beginning God…”

“Oh, common, you don’t really need to begin with God. Science has progressed and is progressing. There’s a scientific reason why we’re here”. Noli protests. The invocation of God pricks his memory of the seminary, his Rector, and that afternoon with a Victoria Secret magazine.

“Yeah? How about the big-bang? What is the scientific theory why the ball exploded? What made it explode?” says Jay-pee, smiling.

“What ball?” asks Sammy with a bewildered look on his face.
“Your balls, they’re exploding!” Jaypee exclaims. A wide grin appears in his face as he gulps his last bottle of beer.

“Seriously you guys. Don’t you ever think about the meaning of life? I mean, are we gonna grow old and die as call center agents?” Padi says. He looks at Noli and Sammy.

“I mean, look at you. You’re in your forties, un-married, and still living in your parents. Aren’t you bothered by that?”

They all fall silent. The loud chorus behind them goes “I will survive, I will survive”. The mockery of the song pierces through their ears. The subjugating feeling pins them down on their seats.

“Who cares?” says Sammy.
“What?” Padi asks.
“I said who cares about what’s the meaning of life. Whether it has meaning or none at all, does it make any difference?”

“I guess, Sammy’s right” Noli says.
“Whether you know the meaning of life or not, you’re still doing the same thing you’re doing, in the very same spot on earth where you’re born! You’ll still be a call center agent on Monday”

“Unless you change career, like, um, becoming a call boy!” Jay-pee says, laughing.

Sammy quickly puts down his Crichton book, looks at Jaypee and says, “Well, what’s wrong with call center agent?”

“Nothing, really. It’s just that, it feels like, it’s an unwanted pregnancy. You did not plan anything and it just burst out. And your life is kind of stuck” Padi quickly explains.

“Yeah. It’s like one of those times you say, ‘this is temporary’, and before you know it, ten years passed and the thing becomes, well, forever” Nilo adds.

Padi thinks about “trisikad” drivers, taxi drivers, bus drivers, truck drivers, sales clerks, and the majority of Filipinos. Most have college degrees he reflects, a nation of square pegs and round holes. We’re all just a piece of the big pie, a microcosm of a skewed nation. Padi looks at his watch and reads “12:56”.

“Yeah. Nothing really matters” he says. He signals to the waiter and asks for the bill. They all chip in and pay the amount and stagger as they stand up.

“Well guys, see you at Cyber Traffic on Monday” Jay-pee says and mockingly executes a hand salute.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Cut and Paste


I wish I could “cut” all the books in my shelf and “paste” them on my brain so I wouldn’t have to go through the tedious task of book reading. My habit of collecting second hand books from Booksale makes my solitary shelf the Alexandria of our garaged-turned bedroom. My wife is no longer amused by the clutter of “The Great Deluge”, “The Coming Plague”, “Problematic”, I mean “Systematic Theology”, “The Destiny of Man”, “Then Shall Come the End”, etc.

“Why am I being punished like this?” the wife said.
“What?”
“You know what!”
“I don’t know what.”
“Could you please look at your book shelf. What is it telling you?”
“Oh, that.”
“Yes, that”
“That, my dear wife, is the very evidence of our existence. A neat and tidy bedroom means no one is living in it” I lectured while peering through the pages of “My Other Life” by Paul Theroux.
“Are you kidding me? You see the meaning of existence out of this clutter?” the wife beamed.

There’s a certain degree of knowing between husband and wife in marriage. It goes with the number of years being together. I know exactly when not to pursue an argument or else I would have to make my own cup of coffee. Deep within I agree with her. My books are a mess. Which brings me back to my first statement here – I wish I could cut and paste them all in my head.

Why couldn’t I? Of course there’s the barrier between human and non-human, but really, I wish some nerd out there could finally invent the technology for this. That would make my life easy and my wife happy. Imagine I can just Ironman-gaze at these books and “KAZZZUUMMM!” everything is downloaded in my memory. Everything would be there like,

“All rights reserved.
Copyright © 1993 by Jerry Seinfeld
Cover photos copyright © 1993 by Annie Leibovitz.
Library of Congress Catalog Card No: 93-14467
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including, photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher”

Or this.

“ISBN 0-553-57313-6
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA”

I won't mind if my left eye flutters uncontrollably everytime I scan these data’s, or that my tongue slithers in and out my lips each time I read an item there. I won't mind looking stupid at all just so I could have the luxury of cutting and pasting these books in my head.

I know the whole idea would make me a lazy slob but I won't mind the bargain. Isn’t that what is happening in modern life? I mean look at all things. We use to embark on a long journey to a nearby river just so we could have water to cook our food and wash our clothes. Now, all we have to do is turn the faucet on.

We have fantastic toilet bowls that either flushes or vacuum out the dirt from our asses. And for that, I wish too, they could add an electronic hand that, you know, could slide through the bottom to wipe it clean. And while you’re on the throne, how about two electronic elbows from both sides, popping out, complete with hands and fingers, putting on toothpaste and brushing your teeth?

Yes, I’m asking too much here. Humanity still values physical exertion of some kind. At least you’ll flip your thumb repeatedly when the light switch is broken, and pound it with your fist when the Christmas-light-bulb flips you out completely. Or that toilet bowls require you to actually sit on it, and that the 900 channels in your remote control will surely beat the lame muscles in your forearm.

There’s a pampering effect about modern technology. The easy life it breeds makes us less patient and less forgiving. The Claudine Baretto showdown may be a case in point. She expected the efficient modern airline system to place her baggages on the expected spot. When a glitch occurred, Baretto reacted and Pandora’s Box flipped wide open to the consternation of all involved but to the glee of scoop-hungry media.

Now, about my books. Well, it would do me enormous good to just clean up the mess.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Happiness


The last that I can remember feeling truly happy was when I passed the 2007 Philippine bar exams. I can only describe the feeling as intense, prolonged, and incomparable. I felt so fulfilled, hopeful, and proud. This good feeling lasted longer than the fleeting moments of joy we normally experience. It started the moment I learned I passed the exam, to the taking of the oath as a member of the Integrated Bar, and thereafter when I signed the roll of attorneys in the Philippine Supreme Court. The good feeling lasts even a few months after I embarked on my law practice.

Attorney’s oath taking is an elaborate ceremony in this country. It is usually held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, attended by all the Justices of the Philippine Supreme Court. I remember sitting on the third row of CCP, wearing a clean white long sleeves shirt, neatly tucked in a pinstriped, dark executive pants, with a light blue necktie. All of us wore togas. Sitting there, I was allowing the entire experience sinking in. The signing of the Rolls of Attorneys is also another ceremony that breeds happy feeling. This Roll, a thick and big log book with red hard bound cover, contains the names of the first who passed the bar in the 1900’s. It felt so unreal, writing and signing my name on that thick book.

Now, three years after, I could only recall those events and describe the feeling that goes with them. I cannot reproduce that good feeling no matter how hard I try. That, I believe, is the nature of happiness. Happiness is a passing traveler, stopping only for a cup of water, or a meal, or a night’s stay. It sets on its journey again the next day. Yet we hold on to happiness with a tight embrace. We frantically search for it, work for it, and pay for it with all we got. We make it our life’s goal. Happiness even dictates our major decisions in life. We change career, let go or create new relationships, permanently move to another place on the planet, all in pursuit of happiness.

Jon Joaquin this morning at All Nations Christian Fellowship talked about the concept of the “dark night of the soul”. He said something that got me to write this piece - “God’s purpose for you is not to make you happy but to conform you to His Son, Jesus Christ”. This statement, I think, is daring and in some sense contentious, yet contains a tone of truth in it. I, too often, assume on God’s purpose for me – to make me happy. This is obvious in the contents of my prayers. All too often, I set my eyes on my own personal satisfaction as against that of others. In fact, I am tempted to demand happiness as a right.

With happiness as our life’s aim, we tend to shun hardships, difficulties, and trials as evils. We tend to view them as sign of lack of faith or a failing spirituality. In the bible, there’s Job, the man who lost everything in one day - his children, his wealth and his health. Lying on the ground with filthy sores covering his body, Job could only regret the day of his birth. At this point Job’s wife glared at him saying “why hold on to your integrity? Curse God and die”. To which Job replied “you speak as one of the foolish women. Shall we only accept good things from God and shall we not accept bad things from God?”

We need to temper happiness into its proper place – it is merely a by-product, a result of pursuing something more fundamental. It is a by-product of a life lived in God and for God. It is the result of good and godly relationships such as family, friends, or church community. It is also a by-product of godly artistic endeavors or meaningful and creative works that augments a person’s worth and value. It is a by-product of a live lived for others. Happiness is a follower never the leader.

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