Good News of the Kingdom of God

What Is Your Excuse?

lambs feeding02This week I happened to write an excuse letter for my son.  He was supposed to take up his mid-term exam but it was scheduled on a Sabbath, and so he needed to be excused, and was fairly granted.

 While on it, this also led me into thinking about the concept of “excuses” that sometimes people make or do. As we all know, an excuse can be valid only if it is sensible and the purpose reasonable. But even this, can also be abused.

Do you have an excuse?

By definition, an excuse is “to make allowance for a shortcoming; to overlook; to serve as justification for; to vindicate.” (Webster's)

According to one observation, no group of people has heard more excuses than teachers. And this can also be true to all types of teachers.  Imagine yourself to be a teacher, after having painstakingly prepared a lesson for your class, perhaps you’ve missed some sleep, but when you go to school most of the students are absent--especially those that need your lesson very badly. You cannot help but feel some frustration, then pity for the class. 

A search-based study suggested that there are five (5) commonly-used excuses people make every day for not going to work, school, or for an appointment:

  1. “It’s my birthday!” or other related “birthdays” excuse--children, parents, pets, neighbors.
  2. “It was raining, I cannot go out.”
  3. “I have my period (or cramps).”
  4. “I have fever (or I am sick).”
  5. “I am on a vacation.”

While these excuses can be valid reasons, one cannot help but also notice the abuses some will make on these excuses—it’s almost becoming a cliché. From personal observation, it is very interesting to note that those people using such excuses are the same persons who excuse themselves most of the time (all over again).

But what’s wrong with “excuses”?

An excuse is only reasonable and believable, something that you can relate with, if it is done rarely, in good faith—and in unforeseen circumstances.  But if an excuse is becoming a common thing, rather than the exception, then one can sense that something must be wrong (“abuses”).

Not surprisingly, the Bible also has taken note of many excuses people used for all the wrong reasons. Do you know how excuses started? Fact is, excuses began with the first sin ever committed. The book of Genesis first recorded thus:

“And He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?’

12 Then the man said, ‘The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.’

13 And the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” Genesis 3:11-13


Pilgrims of a City Whose Builder and Maker is God

pilgrimsA story…

During the thirteenth century Europe, a young Italian mother bore a son and named him “Mark” after the gospel writer in the hope that one day, he would grow up to tell truths just like his namesake.

It is however ironic that later, when Mark wrote his bestselling book on world travels, many skeptics labeled it “Il Milione” - “The Book of a Million Lies”. Instead of becoming a truth bearer, Mark was called Marco Milione or “Marco the Man with a Million Lies.”

Many Europeans found it impossible to believe Mark’s story of a faraway land. His claim was considered preposterous and even heretical in a 13th century Europe that believed the world was flat, that they were the center of the universe. But as Mark claimed, he was seventeen when he started an epic journey of his life that took him across the plains of Russia, the rough and rugged mountains of Afghanistan, the deserts of Persia (Iran), the desolate land of Mongolia and had seen the top of the world through the Himalayas mountains.

Mark was the first person to travel the world by foot from West to East. He was the first European man to enter (or discover) a city in the east called Cathay. Through an amazing set of circumstances, he became a favorite envoy of the most powerful ruler named Kublai Khan whose vast empire eclipsed that of the ancient Roman Empire. Mark saw cities that made European capitals look like roadside villages. The ‘great’ Khan palaces dwarfed the largest castles and cathedrals in Europe.  His court was so massive that its banquet room alone could seat 6,000 diners at one time, each eating on a plate of gold. Mark became the first Italian to taste that Chinese culinary innovation called “pasta”. As an officer of the court, he was able to travel and catalogue places no European would see for another 500 years.

After serving for 17 years in Khan’s court, Mark began his journey back home to Venice. Khan had sent with him gold, silk, and spices along with his recipe for making pasta! Mark was also guarded with 1,000 soldiers. But by the time he reached the Indian ocean, 600 of his men had drowned or died of disease.  After a harrowing two-year journey, a ragged Mark barely limped home, most of his riches were lost along the way.

When Mark began to tell his story, many people dismissed it as mythical. Coming from a family of priests did not help him, he was even rebuked for spinning lies.  When further troubles landed Mark on prison, he dictated his chronicles to another prisoner who happened to be a writer. His book became famous and was known in English as The Travels of Marco Polo.  But the cynical public dismissed it as Il Milione: The Book of a Million Lies.  He would never shake his nickname: Marco, the man of a million lies. At his deathbed, his family, friends, and parish priest begged him to recant his tales of China lest he rot in hell for his lies. Setting his jaw and gasping for breath, Mark breathed out his final words: “I have not even told you half of what I saw.”

Though 13th century Europeans dismissed his stories as the tall tales of an unrepentant liar or lunatic, history has proven the truthfulness of “The Travels of Marco Polo”. Today no one will ever deny the existence of China, and the reign of its famous emperor Kublai Khan, whose empire reached from the the Black Sea to the Pacific, from Russia, Mongolia, Korea, to modern day Afghanistan and India—one fifth of the world’s inhabited land area.

“Write the things which you have seen”

But do you know that thirteen-hundred years before Marco Polo, another journey—a vision was revealed to a man—but this time, this man’s journey took him to another realm or kingdom? He saw and penned it in a book we can call the “travels of John” in the book of Revelation. Apostle John opened the book of Revelation with his direct testimony as follows:

"I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. 10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, 11 saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” and, “What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea..

19 Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after thisRevelation 1:9-11,19


The Power of an Endless Life: Interactive Bible Study, Feast of Tabernacles 2011

The Power of an Endless Life: Interactive Bible Study, Feast of Tabernacles 2011 (video) - as derived by Gilbert and Ann Deboma from the Feast theme: “What is your understanding of the phrase "power of an endless life" (Hebrews 7:16) that God will share in His Kingdom? What are you doing and not doing in this present life that will prepare you for that power of an endless life?...”

“Earthquakes in Diverse Places …”

building a raft after march 11 Sendai earthquake (photo by chinapressphoto)The almost successive earthquakes felt in the Philippines and the entire Pacific region culminating to a destructive tremor that struck Christchurch, New Zealand last February 22, and the recent 8.9 to 9.0 magnitude quake that precipitated a massive Tsunami to hit Japan on Friday (March 11), left such  horrifying images and widespread destructions that it’s almost natural nowadays for people on the street to ask, “Is this the end?”

We humans often ask ourselves that question after some major disasters and/or natural calamities. Despite advances in technologies, most of these phenomena are hard to explain much less predict. We wonder whether these show God’s displeasure and wrath upon people or the much feared “sign” of the end of the world.

From Jesus’ Olivet discourse during the first century until now, most believers and keen observers of biblical prophecy talked about natural disasters such as earthquakes to be a precursor leading to “the end”. But do we have the proper understanding?

What do these earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, and other natural disasters mean today?

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus was recorded to have warned His followers of the following events (also found in Mark 13:1-37; Luke 21:5-36),

“Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” And Jesus answered and said to them: ‘Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying ‘I am Christ’ and shall deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows…” Matthew 24:3-8

Following the disciples’ line of question, Jesus responded by citing a number of signs that will precede his coming. Among the signs given were “earthquakes in various places”.  But quite interestingly, when Christ talked about earthquakes, famines and pestilences, He did not mean for some “end” to happen so quickly but merely a prelude to something more dangerous and insidious activities to occur.

Foremost among these is the rise of “false christs” or “saviors” leading to the massive deception not just of a few but of “many”(Matthew 24:5, 11).  Just like in any panic stricken community, confused and fearful to the seemingly insurmountable calamities around people, it is the tendency of many to believe and embrace promises given by would be “messiahs”. Thus, religious deceptions would be rampant and most people will be gullible to give in to some “false hopes” offered by them. These impostors will be using even the natural calamities to draw following for themselves.

“For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.” Matt. 24:24

Thus, Jesus’ emphatic advice is, “Do not believe it.” (v.26)


“Beauty For Ashes”

hand ashesSometime this week, as I went about my regular work, I noticed something different on the faces of the people I met. As I looked at them, they stared back at me incredulous, wondering perhaps why I did not wear what they were wearing.

It was Wednesday and most people I met on the streets, inside the malls and in some offices had this distinctive “ash” on their foreheads. “Ah, its 'Ash Wednesday!'” I thought, the beginning of the Roman Catholic's observance of Lent—the 40-day period leading to their celebration of passion and death of Jesus Christ.

The image I saw on the foreheads of people kept me thinking about those “ashes”  for the rest of the day.

I remember when I was about five or six years old, after seeing my mother was proud to wear those ashes on her head, I went straight to our kitchen, dipped my finger in the coal stove and put my own ash mark on my forehead, not knowing what the “ash” meant – it was considered “cool” to wear it.

We can call it ashes (“abo), dirt (“alikabok”), or clay (“putik) – all of which come from the same element or basic component which we call “earth”. The idea is to remind people of their mortality, the need to be sorrowful because of sin, and the necessity of changing their lives through self-denial and penance...

I will not dig into the controversial aspects of this Catholic “custom” which with a little research will show its questionable origin. What I would like to emphasize here is the important focus God has placed on the biblical symbols of “ashes”, “dust” and “clay” which I find lacking in the outward display of piety among people today.

While the concept of "Ash Wednesday" seems to pull back man from its present reality and reminded them of their past and so-called future destination – “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” – it is not what God had actually plan for man from the very beginning.


The Bread and Wine

If for six days, daily toil grabs bits and pieces of us, on the seventh day we remember in Whom we need to be one, how to be truly parts of the whole...

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