Monday, November 18, 2019

Fifty Years and Counting: A New Journey of Life

Somebody said, “50 is the age when you look back and smile at what you have achieved, frown at those missed opportunities, and release a slight chuckle at those moments.” 

I've officially entered the golden age; thus, another level of adventure awaits. I believe I’m at the point of seeing life from a top-view perspective. It is simply having an attitude of “I’ve been there and done that” standpoint. Life, as I move forward, becomes a new epic journey. My children are in their 20’s and living out their lives with fullness and great expectations. Also, my wife and I celebrated our 25th year of marriage. Altogether, the year 2019 is a double whammy for my marriage life and my personal life. 

What could be better than this? From a spiritual perspective, it is expecting greater things from God’s and being ready for them one step and one day at a time. Life is indeed great with abundant blessings; however, they are not without challenges. The only difference between facing them is having God at our side. He makes all things possible when things seem impossible. What’s my goal in the next years inching towards the end? Keeping my mind focused on what’s important and valuable as a family man and a disciple of Jesus. Restating what the apostle Paul said: “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead" and "I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:14). There’s no higher aspiration than finishing God’s calling in my life through godly wisdom and biblical guidance. 

From a biblical background, listed below are some of the references I found in the Scriptures about the number fifty: (Source:
      The number 50 derives its meaning from its relationship to the coming of God's Holy Spirit. 
      Fifty can be found at least 154 times in the Bible.
      After Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene on Sunday morning, April 9 in 30 A.D., he ascended to the Father in heaven (John 20:17). His ascension, as a type of firstfruit from the dead (Revelation 1:5), occurred on the day God told the Israelites they were to wave a sheaf composed of the firstfruits of their harvest (Leviticus 23:9 - 11). It is on this day that the count of 50 days to the Feast of Pentecost begins.
      In the New Testament, the word Pentecost comes from the Greek word for fiftieth (Strong's Concordance #G4005). Also known as the Feast of Weeks or Firstfruits, it was on this special Holy Day that God first poured his Holy Spirit upon about 120 believers who had gathered to keep the day (Acts 1:15, 2). They became the firstfruits of God's spiritual harvest of humans. 

Finally, new things are ahead and I’m pretty excited about what the Lord prepared for the next phase of my life and ministry. I’m blessed in fulfilling my calling and serving God’s ministry through JRAM. Being surrounded by mighty men and women in pursuit of God’s best makes it all worthwhile. No dull moment, as one may say. Indeed, greater things are yet to come. 

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As each day comes and goes, I’m fully persuaded that I’m placed exactly where God wanted me at this point in my life. Whatever may happen next, it’s all in His hands. I trust and entrust to God every aspect of my life, whether good and not so good things. It’s all about learning the lessons intentionally and growing in God’s grace daily. This is the day that the Lord has made, and I will rejoice more in the next days ahead. Become excited with me and keep me in your prayers as well. 

Thanks for sharing your time in reading this short reflection as I enter my golden age towards a life that honors God. 

Monday, September 30, 2019

The Good Samaritan: Loving Others in Unexpected Ways

Matthew wrote the reason why Jesus’ spoke in parables: All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world” (13:34-35).

What is a parable? Listed below two descriptions and its significance:
1.     A parable is a fictitious or made-up story designed to teach a lesson through comparison.[1]
2.     Parables are told so that only those who really care will come to know the truth.[2]

In this parable, Jesus focused on the significance of the Samaritan. According to Biblical Archaeology Society Staff,[3]Looking at the Jewish social structure, one can observed the Samaritans were viewed closely with Gentiles than Jews.” What practical lessons can we learn from this parable in today’s fast-paced world? First, it is about applying love to an individual not based on one’s status of life. In this parable, Jesus taught genuine love is applied beyond our situation because of our love for God. Given the opportunity, our response comes from God’s love deposited in us by Jesus’ love and sacrifice. The apostle John stated, We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother (1 John 4:19-21). 

Here’s an illustration to compare: 
In an engine-room it is impossible to look into the great boiler and see how much water it contains. But running up beside it is a tiny glass tube, which serves as a gauge. As the water stands in the little tube, so it stands in the great boiler. When the tube is half full, the boiler is half full; when the tube is empty, the boiler is empty. Do you ask, "How do I know I love God? I believe I love Him, but I want to know." Look at the gauge. Your love for your brother is the measure of your love for God. ~ S. S. Chronicle

Next, applying love to an individual is not anchored on the prevailing culture and social structure. Jesus taught an enduring principle of loving others beyond the current culture and outside of our comfort zones. When faced with a hard decision, God’s love becomes the only measuring stick of our response. Here’s what the Scriptures say about this: There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love (1 John 4:18).
Here’s a story illustrating this lesson:
A criminal under sentence of death was waiting the day of execution. A minister attended him. All efforts to lead him to repentance seemed unavailing. Going home, he met a man who was known all over the district for his life and good works. The conversation turned upon the criminal. The minister requested the elder to go and see him. He did so, and sitting beside the criminal, he took his hand in his, and said, with much fervor and simplicity, "Wasn't it great love in God to send His Son into the world to die for sinners like you and me?" In a moment, the fountain of the man's heart was broken up and he wept bitter tears, and afterward said, "When the minister spoke to me, it seemed like one standing far above me, but when that good man came in and sat down by my side, and classed himself with me, and said, 'Wasn't it great love in God to send His Son into the world to die for sinners like you and me?' That’s when I couldn't stand it any longer and repented." ~Author Unknown

Finally, applying love to an individual is not anchored on one’s capability or ability. Jesus taught applying love involves a willingness to go the extra mile. The only source of strength in ministering to others in need comes from God’s love as the only source of our motivation whenever we do it. The apostle Paul stated, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10). Dr. M. Scott Peck explained it well, Sacrificial love has transforming power. Genuine love is volitional rather than emotional. The person who truly loves does so because of a decision to love. 

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The apostle Paul summarized what genuine love is all about: For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5:14). Jesus, in sharing this parable, expanded the application of God’s love based on the law beyond people’s comfort zones. In applying God’s love genuinely, it is not just applying love based on God’s law but applying Jesus’ brand of loving others as his disciples:  A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). 

No matter how anyone spins the story, Jesus’ love for people stands above any story and leading many into experiencing God’s genuine love. In the end, Jesus illustrated in this parable an expectation for God’s people to become a Good Samaritan at all times. 


Friday, August 30, 2019

Living Life to the Fullest – Remembering Eliza Navo-Kalaw (August 11, 1975 - July 30, 2019)

The five of us.
One of the hardest times of life is losing a sibling in their prime. Adding to the grief is seeing the youngest among us gone. However, knowing what she went through and how she exhibited strength while battling cancer in the past six and half years, provided relief. Why? Growing up with Eliza, I saw two distinctive traits: strong character and charm.
I was 12 yo and
she was 6yo.

Our childhood provided many opportunities for developing our individualities. Most importantly, she knew her value in our family and even took advantage of it as the youngest one, both in a good way and in the cleverest way! Her ability in talking her way out of things especially in a bad situation was
With Mom and myself
priceless. In retrospect, she took us all hostage to her charm. Also, adding liveliness to the process resulted in getting what she wanted without any opposition. And that’s a very good problem we all knew we had with her. Simply, it all boils down to this fact: we all had our soft spot for her because we loved her too much.

Eliza loved life and the many adventures it brought her. Illustrating in the many faces of Eliza below, one can observe how she enjoyed living life to the fullest.

Even when faced with a stark reality of approaching death, her ability to impress everyone with cheerfulness was evident. At all times, she never looked back at the “what ifs” but always looked forward to the various “why not?” Any opportunity, however small, became a possibility and even when experiencing pain, her aim was attaining fulfillment with joy. Witnessed by many, her endurance in seeking joy at every moment inspired those around her. Always looking ahead and never giving into being bedridden. Given the chance, even with an ounce of strength, accommodating people was her priority. She loved people and showed generosity in doing so.

Having cheeseburger dinner
with her husband, Stefano.
It was her last meal.
With Evelyn, Arlene,
and Joan.
Throughout her journey, however short it might be, showed courage under pain. She displayed faith at every moment and encouraged others to do the same. She was unstoppable in pursuing the best at every chance she gets and facing the end of her life was no different. Eliza only allowed the positive view of life and the prospect of going home in heaven became her last battle cry. I am certain, given more time; Eliza’s motto of living life to the fullest is something everyone must attain no matter what the cost.

Thank you, Eliza, for imparting your life to many you’ve met and encountered, both personally and professionally. You displayed how one’s life is lived even with death hanging on your head. You’ll never be forgotten and will be remembered for the impact you made.

We’ll meet again in heaven. Enjoy your new adventure there!

Eliza Navo-Kalaw obituary:

Friday, June 28, 2019

Practicing Genuine Religion

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The apostle James stated, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (1:27). According to UNICEF, there are 151 million orphans(defined as a child who has lost a mom, dad, or both) worldwide.[1]Implementing a precise application of a biblical-based religion is an essential component of what Christianity is all about. Seeing God’s people apply it biblically is crucial to the testimony of the Gospel’s truth. John Newton explained, “Religion to a true believer is like water to a fish: it is his element, he lives in it, and he could not live out of it.

Allow me to provide critical principles in practicing genuine religion that pleases God daily. First, the precise application of a biblical-based religion is not an external fa├žade. It radiates from personal testimony of God’s mercy received. God declared, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6). Therefore, outward religion without heartfelt action is of no interest to our God.

Next, the precise application of a biblical-based religion is an application of God’s concern for implementing justice, mercy, and knowledge of God. Prophet Amos exclaimed, “Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Amos 5:24). Therefore, outward religion without spiritual fruit in our lives becomes a mere formality.

Lastly, the actual application of a biblical-based religion sees one’s genuine faith-in-action. It is not an empty religion of legalism that the religious leaders n Jesus’ time showed: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others” (Matthew 23:23). Therefore, outward religion without authentic compassion for the downcast, the outcast, and those needing God’s forgiveness is hypocrisy before God. D. Thomas added, “To attain religion should be the supreme aim of our life. It is not a means to an end; it is the grand end of being; it is the Paradise of soul.”

Listen to Jesus’ description of practicing false religion and its consequence:

Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for pretense make long prayers.  They will receive the greater condemnation.” (Luke 20:45-47)

Basically, the religion that the religious leaders practiced comes from purely showing off luxuries and exhibiting religious appearances, albeit, superficial in nature. Jesus gave an excellent picture for all of us to remember as we implement a precise application of a biblical-based religion. Keep our focus on serving others genuinely and be mindful of how God sees our personal objectives in doing them. Finally, let God be glorified as we serve those in need.

Let’s talk again!


Friday, May 31, 2019

Encounters in Moving Forward

Albert Einstein stated, "Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving." People are designed to move forward. Becoming stagnant due to past experiences leads to hopelessness. Having a clear understanding of life's journey towards the fulfillment of one's destiny is crucial. The Scripture is specific on what we need to expect, "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28, ESV). Our journey with God produces assorted variables in fulfilling His plans and purposes. 
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What encounters can a believer of Christ expect in moving forward? First, there's the encounter of the unseen. In calling Abraham, the author of Hebrews shared this description," By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going(11:8). Anne Graham Lotz explained, "Abraham wasn't perfect. He failed, made mistakes. But, he would go back, get right with God, and then just keep moving forward. He didn't quit when things got hard. He just kept on going." Abraham, in his encounter of the unseen, responded with complete faith and trust in God's wisdom. 

Next, there's the encounter of the unforeseen. Elisha's servant saw angelic protection after seeing enemies surrounding them: So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha (2 Kings 6:17, ESV). Elisha reminded his servant in remembering God's power. When things seem to be unclear, we need to remember this adage, "Problems are not reasons to give up, but a challenge to improve ourselves, not an excuse to back out, but an inspiration to move forward” (Author Unknown).

Next, encountering the known. Joshua's experience of fear in accepting his assignment is a great example:

After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' assistant, "Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you (Joshua 1:1-3, 5). 

God reminded Joshua of standing on God's abiding presence in moving forward. God called him to look ahead with God on his side. Stephen Covey told many of this saying, "We develop our character muscles by overcoming challenges and obstacles." 

Last but not least, it is encountering the unknown. When the disciples received the Great Commission from Jesus, we see the great unknown in play:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20)

The disciples received their mandate and fulfilled their calling. They did it by never giving up no matter the obstacles along their way. We have Christianity today and tomorrow because of their perseverance.

In the end, we need to remember that in moving forward, Denis Waitley expressed a simple truth, "Don't dwell on what went wrong. Instead, focus on what to do next. Spend your energies on moving forward toward finding the answer."

Let’s talk again!