Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Grace and Beauty

While in Egypt, most likely, Abraham picked up Hagar as Sarah's slave. She may have been a gift of Pharoh after he discovered Sarah was Abraham's wife and not his sister. whatever it was, Hagar was the slave of Sarah.

Sarah encouraged Abraham to have a child through Hagar when it was obvious Sarah was to old to conceive. The Word says, "Sarah...took Hagar...and gave her to Abraham as a wife." This was not uncommon and we see later that Rebecca did the same thing. Hagar became proud and full of disrespect (contempt) to her mistress when she realized she was pregnant with Abraham's child, so Sarah went to Abraham and blamed him for the problem she created! "May the wrong done to me be on you!...May the Lord judge between you and me."

Wait a minute! You, Sarah, came up with the idea! What are you talking about? As if that was not enough, Sarah then became a terrible mistress and mistreated Hagar so badly that Hagar ran away.

Next we find Sara eavesdropping in the tent. The LORD told Abraham that in a year's time Sarah would conceive and have a son. Sarah laughed. Now, she laughed to herself, but we know from Scripture that God knows our hearts and our thoughts, so He asked Abraham why Sarah laughed. Then Sarah lied. She denied laughing. She lied to the LORD's face!

Now Isaac is weaned - probably two or three years old. Ishmael is about 15 or 16 years old here and, being a typical teen, he was laughing at the big deal being made by Abraham at the big party thrown to celebrate weaning - much like the first birthday party in the Philippines. My impression is that Sarah was a very protective mother since she had waited 90 years for motherhood! Sarah was angry. She demanded Abraham drive away Hagar and Ishmael so that her sole would be the sole heir. Jealousy, greed, coveting, anger, bitterness are all part of this.

Do you get the picture of Sarah? She was not a good person!

Yet... God is full of mercy and grace.

I Peter 3 hold Sarah up as a woman who "adorned the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit!"

Wait a second! That is not the woman we just saw!

"For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening."

Sarah lived under law, but grace triumphs law!

Hebrews 11:11 tells us that it was "by faith that Sarah herself received power to conceive...since she considered Him faithful Who had promised."

After she laughed, she was caught by the LORD and she realized who He was and she believed! Am I ever convicted by God of my sin to the point that I change and believe His promises?

This is so encouraging to me. Even when I sin, when I don't trust God and live faithfully, blame others for problems I made for myself, lie, and am unkind and unreasonable to others, angry, jealous, etc, God still gives me grace. He still brings me to repentance and forgiveness. He can still cause me to be a work of His grace and beauty, someone who adorns the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit!

Oh, Lord! Work in my life. I need Your grace and I need to be a grace-giver. I long to adorn myself as Sarah did, honoring my husband and being more beautiful on the inside than the outside. Help me to prioritize my time and my "beautification" to be in line with you and Your Word. Thank you so much for the example of Sarah and the encouragement it brings to me today.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I was wrapping up a fix-it project for my daughter, Pami, when my cellphone rang. Startled, I answered. Then came the voice; “Pastor Paul, did you forget that you are invited as our special guest speaker at our annual ministerial ceremony? Can you still join us?”

Oh no!!!

There are times I am frustrated with my own shortfalls as a human… I assured the pastor I would be there asap and rushed to change into the only other clothes I had brought with me: jeans and a golf shirt, definitely not keynote speaker appropriate attire! Oh well, it was the best I had. I jumped into the car and raced to get to the venue, praying all the while that God would use what was suddenly a gaping weakness for His glory. I knew that whatever I said would either reveal my gross lack of preparation OR be Spirit-filled with His words. I prayed for the latter.

The occasion was the Cainta Ministerial Association’s annual installation of new officers. Cainta City is part of the sprawling metropolis, but it is just outside the official “Metro Manila” boundaries. It was amazing to see the number of those officers, both the outgoing and incoming, who have undergone the 6-month Life Discipleship training in our home. The invited mayor gave his address about what the association can do in cooperation with this city government to improve the quality of life for its communities and for other nearby communities.

I arrived in the middle of the city mayor’s speech. As I sat down, I felt the calm assurance that God would provide for what I should say from His word when I got up to speak. And sure enough, He did by His grace. I was invited to share some biblical encouragement with exhortation that focused on three things:

1) Pray that you may be given a heart that seeks after God so that you may know Him and his love even more (I John 2:15-17, I Corinthians 6:11).
2) Commit yourself to a life that lives by and teaches the principles of God’s Word (I John 14:5-17, Matthew 28:19-20).
3) Prepare and follow-up those who will be faithful to teach others also (2 Timothy 2:2, 20-21, 24-26).

This message was well received and I offer my full gratitude to the Lord. Please pray with us that these men and women will be faithful to be examples of the faith teaching others in this ministerial organization to teach others also.

PS - I looked at what the ministerial officers were wearing and guess what? Some of them were wearing jeans like I had to wear. Whew! While my jeans were not what I would have planned to wear, they sufficed in a pinch.


There is nothing quite so thrilling as seeing your children doing more than what you can do by teaching others what you have taught them to do.

The same is true in ministry. Paul and I headed off to Bauan, Batangas for the graduation of 15 students early December 20. These students have worked diligently to do the lessons and assignments. Batch 4 graduate, Pastor Jim Delos Santos, has been their faithful teacher.

These students are all full-time workers/pastors in local churches that are a part of Jesus New Covenant International. JNCI has a unique story. It began as a Bible study for overseas contract workers (OCW) from the Philippines in a country that is closed to the Gospel! As the OCWs returned home, they started Bible studies in their own neighborhoods and towns. JNCI now has three churches in Canada, 19 churches in the Philippines, at least one in Japan, plus churches in two major cities of that “closed country”.

It was a real privilege to be able to participate in the graduation exercises of this group of special people. They are committed to carry their training to yet others, spreading the message that we are to “be doers of the Word and not hearers only.”

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Patty and I have been under a marathon of ministry activities recently. We had a special reunion for all qualified pastors and church leaders of past Life-Discipleship graduates. Great testimonies came out from the reunion last month. A sample of those testimonies is well worth posting here.

Pastor Lito is a member of the first batch of pastors and church leaders who were trained in our home dating back to 2007. Since then, he has trained two groups of prisoners at the Philippine National Penitentiary. Next February, plans are in place for him to begin training a 3rd group of prisoners, some of whom attended seminary in Maximum security, under Life Discipleship.

This prison compound has four Evangelical denominational churches each with their own church facilities inside. A few years ago, we were able to start a Christian worker’s library and resource center for these prisoners with many of the books coming from libraries of churches in the Seattle area and from the low desert in Southern California. With the impact from this pastor and what this ministry has done for those prisoners combined with results of their testimonies, the churches inside along with Volunteer Religious Workers from the outside are planning to build a new training and resource center. Included will be the transfer of the library and a classroom.

Two of the prisoners who have become pastors since their release attended the reunion celebration. They had wonderful encouraging testimonies to share with all who attended. A highlight of one ex-prisoner’s vision is to multiply this ministry to yet another high security national prison in the south. Big, big challenges to his vision lie ahead of him. How we praise the Lord for what He is doing with this ministry for the prisoners.

The weekly training session for a current group of pastors and church leaders are on-going. They're scheduled to complete their training by mid-January.

Pastor Lito speaking to the prisoners.

One of the prisoners sharing his testimony.

Graduating prisoners sharing their testimony in song

The prisoner's Certificate of Completion

A prisoner receiving his certificate and a free book to enhance his life in Christ

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Pastor Ogie

Several years ago our hearts were broken by the tragic story of Pastor Ogie and his wife Gina. Their simple home burned to the ground with three of their four children trapped inside.

Missionaries mobilized to give assistance to this grieving poor pastor, his wife and one remaining child. A missionary doctor treated them for TB and other illness. We pitched in to purchase a small lot and construct a simple home for them to call their own. Someone else bought a nice small motorbike. The whole family rides it – together!

Pastor Ogie was referred to us for Batch V this year. Paul interviewed him and noted that he struggled to express himself in English. The referring pastor paid the P500 ($12) deposit on his materials. (If he completes all the requirements for the certificate, this money is refunded.)

Pastor Ogie has been a faithful student. His assignments are all up to date and done with the greatest of care – read that “easy to read”! It is clear that he comprehends the lessons and is applying them in his life better than many of our other pastors who do not have a struggle with the language.

A month ago, Pastor requested a meeting with us after class. In front of him was the Counseling Record form from his packet of worksheets. “How do I properly use this?”

A story unfolded of two women in the church, an unsaved husband, and adultery. Children are being affected as well as the testimony of the little church in an area in the grips of a corrupt and controlling cult. We carefully and prayerfully discussed where he needed to begin in counseling the ladies. We showed him how to use the form to plan for the counseling sessions, keep records, and track progress. Tears flowed as we prayed.

The next week he was grinning from ear-to-ear! He told us how the offending lady had actually come to him for counseling! He and Gina had the plan and kept perfect notes – even color coded! He told us the form was of great help in preparing and identifying areas that needed to be addressed.

Please pray for this dedicated couple as they seek to serve a very depressed area just east of Metro Manila. And, pray for God’s provision to repair the rim on his motorcycle. The roads he needs to travel are hard on rims.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Our Kitchen

Just thought I would share a little about our food during class.

I made "Raised Orange Doughnuts" this week for our starter. Some of our students come from quite a distance, traveling for several hours to get here. We have something for them to eat when they arrive. Some weeks it is "Pinoy" (Filipino) spaghetti - with hot dogs in it, pancit, egg pie - what we call custard pie, banana BBQ, or even their breakfast bread - pandasal - with CheezWhiz, or their highly sugared peanut butter. Other weeks I have fun and serve something that will probably be new to them. Pumpkin pie is always a hit. They love the tuna-mac salad with cheese cubes in it. This week I made the doughnuts and for the first time had pastors coming into the kitchen to tell me, "These are really good!" Thank you, ancient Betty Crocker recipe cards! I then had a load of fun having them guess the secret ingredient: sweet potatoes! In a few weeks I will try them out with a chicken quesadilla!

One of the pastors came in to the kitchen after lunch and asked if we have a hundred menus! Fely, my helper and cook for all this food (I am the assistant cook) laughed and told them, "No."

I have 13 menus. While all three groups have the same food upon arrival each week, we serve a different lunch each day. With three groups a week, that is four weeks of menus with one left over. That automatically rotates the menu so they have 13 different meals at our home before they eat the meal a second time. So, I have 13 salads that I serve and 13 main dishes! For some main dishes that are mostly meat, there is also a veggie dish - like today. It really works great. So, I am still laughing at the pastor's question...100 menus?

Filipinos do not usually eat salads, but I have yet to have one not eating salad by the time our class is over - 22 weeks. Today's salad is one of the one that gets them going - Cambodian Salad. It is made with Napa Cabbage (the Ellis' kids' favorite- NOT! It was our "lettuce" while they were growing up. It was always soaked in bleach to kill the critters and retained some of the taste -yuck), bean sprouts, carrot, red pepper, garlic, basil and mint and topped with fried garlic bits and chopped peanuts. The dressing is soy sauce and lime juice. The pastors declared it very Pinoy! Fely had another chuckle as she told them it was Cambodian.

The kitchen is quite the gathering place for about half the ladies during lunch break. They all know where my book of menus and recipes is and freely access it. What is my main task? Teaching 13 ladies or seeing that all 39 of our students eat nutritious and delicious meals? For some of them, class day is the best meal of the week. What a privilege to serve them this way!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Led by the Lord - in the little things

I never cease to be amazed at how the Lord directs our paths and decisions from day to day - often without our knowing. Every so often God shows me that after the fact and I think it is to give me chills of excitement and awe.

I recall when we ordered our first 50 manuals from Hong Kong in 1995. As a last minute decision we ordered five manuals in Chinese "because we have a sizable Chinese population here in the Philippines." The day those manuals arrived we also had a letter from Alice Ngo requesting a seminar with her Chinese students!

It has happened again.

For three years we have had pastors come to our home for 22 weeks of training. For three years I have served unlimited 3-in-1 (coffee, creamer, and sugar) packets, hot tea, Milo, Tang, and instant iced tea. This year as I was purchasing tea bags, my eye caught "Ampalaya" tea - an herbal tea widely promoted even by physicians here for diabetes. I bought two boxes. Yesterday, Vicke mentioned that she is diabetic. I pulled out the sugar-free 3-in-1 for her with instructions that she needed to come to the kitchen for it.

"Oh, no. I don't drink coffee. I only drink ampalaya tea."