Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cabangan Church: A Negrito Congregation in Zambales

The church in Cabangan is the only church of Christ in the Philippines whose membership wholly consists of Aetas, or Negritoes (Spanish for “little black men”). At the time we met them (November 1989), they were led by a matriarchal figure named Rosita. I say “led” because I noticed that all the men listened to her, like her word was law. She was the wife of the most mature man among the group and exercised great influence among them. It was she who scheduled the classes for us.

These Aetas came down from Mount Pinatubo because food was scarce in the mountains. And so in the low lands they made do with what they could gather and hunt— wild animals like lizards and snakes and bananas and wild fruits from the riverside near the settlements of the Ilocanos. They helped in the harvesting of palay, and got paid either with money or with palay.

This was in the last days of 1989. I volunteered to do much of the teaching, in Tagalog, which they also understood. My brother-in-law Tom would read the passages I cited in class in the Zambal dialect (the dialect of the Negritoes) using the Zambal translation of the Bible. That was how they came to know of the grace of Jesus and of their great need for a Savior. We spent a whole month teaching them. When they were ready, Tom baptized them in a river nearby.

We in a manner of speaking converted a whole village of them in San Juan, Cabangan, Zambales, consisting of 25 men and women not including children. After they became a church, we conducted worship services in the afternoons of Sunday. Tom and his family and I were then based in San Narciso. I was helping him grow the church there too.

I left Zambales for Butuan City in February 1990. Tom went on and taught some more Negritoes in the area. His big break came when he baptized Ilocano families who owned farms in Cabangan. It signaled the beginning when the brown brethren (the Ilocanos) were gradually assimilated with the black brethren (the Negritoes) in the spirit of oneness with the God who saved both of them.

In the middle of 1990′s the late brother Lee Smeltzer donated some money to acquire the 1.5 hectare property above the Negrito settlement, now located in the village of Dolores, Cabangan. A year or so later, a chapel was built for this church with the funds donated by other US brethren.

There were fifty or more Negrito brethren in attendance when I preached there last Sunday, November 7, not including children. Tom told me that this Negrito church consists of 300 or more members. Many did not come; one reason was that the majority had moved to other places in Zambales, to Manila, and to Mindanao in search of jobs and opportunities to make a living.

Last Sunday I spoke on the subject so dear to my heart, using Hebrews 12:1-3 as text. I think I spoke for an hour, but nobody even noticed it! The Aeta brethren were reacting to my sermon, smiling as I spoke, making some favorable comments on my illustrations, nodding their heads in agreement!

That Sunday morning they had a meeting, and made a decision to support the coming Lectureship event this November 20. Each family will contribute a hundred pesos for the food. They already had collected over a thousand pesos for this purpose. Marcial the preacher says he will donate a sack of rice. They expect an attendance of over a hundred on that day. Five speakers, including Tomas Lizardo and me and others from Kalaklan church will be speaking on this lectureship.

There is a plan to establish here a Bible school that will serve the Negrito and Ilocano brethren in the area. Two teachers have volunteered to teach. You will hear more about this work in the days ahead.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Lectureship at Upper Kalaklan

November 1, 2010 was All Saints Day for those who observe this Catholic feast, a time they say should better be spent wishing the dead had been well. We however spent this day communing with the saints at Upper Kalaklan, at the meeting place of Olongapo church. It was a one-day lectureship attended by brethren from Central Luzon, specifically Zambales, Bataan and Pampanga. It was one lectureship I did not expect I would find myself in, since I never had any invitation.

I came with my brother-in-law Tomas Lizardo and nephew Tom Lizardo Jr. But the brethren who recognized me made me feel welcome! Recognized is a better word. Brother Fred Angangan, for example, knew my face even if my name is still a stranger to him!

And oh, was I glad to see my old friend Higato Tulan Sr! He is now directing the PIBI-Angeles. He was the first speaker. He spoke on the subject that he considered he was well-prepared to tackle on: The use of instrumental music in worship. It was a good lecture.

Fred Angangan spoke on death and life beyond the dead. It should benefit those who have doubts on whether or not the dead cease to exist after this life, on whether or not Hades is a fact.

Another timely lecture was the one discussed by brother Daniel Elamparo on the subject of the family. A very much needed teaching that the young and the not so young could benefit from.

Tom Lizardo Sr. spoke on the subject of local autonomy. And I was called on to be one of his two panelists. Our job was to answer questions. Difficult questions, like those one tackles in a Bible college situation.

I met Ruel Vitug, a brother who also aspires to be one of the elders of the church of Kalaklan someday, and I encouraged him to keep on with this goal. This man is one to whom they have entrusted the life and the future of PIBI-Kalaklan, and they have found no better man!

And I met Rudy Gonzales! And this after twenty years! Fresh in my memory is that day when he offered us a shelter for the night when I knocked at his door with my daughter Abigail in tow. He never knew me then, but he knew my sister Diane and my brother-in-law Tommy, and that was enough for us.

What I wanted to see was sister Flor Poblete, but she was not around at the time. Maybe she was busy. But I had been told that sister Poblete had been the brain behind this lectureship and that she spent her own money for the food and other expenses for this event.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

My Visit to Zambales

You could say it’s not my first. For Zambales, that stretch of land between Bataan and Pangasinan which with its vast rice fields and mango orchards and higher per capita income from OFWs has contributed much to the economy of the Philippines, has fascinated me ever since I first came here in 1989.

Much has changed in Zambales. The sleepy towns of Castillejos, San Marcelino, San Narciso, San Felipe, Cabangan, and Iba, are sleepy no more. You know Castillejos to be the birthplace of Ramon Magsaysay, the only Ilocano president most loved by the Ilonggos. Now the town has its share of metropolitan life. San Marcelino now boasts of an Agora, a market place, which I guess is the biggest in all Zambales. San Narciso and San Felipe have attracted investors, and you now see businesses rising up. And Iba? You should it these days. A single mall– they call it the Happy Valley Mall– is just the beginning, for one day you will see SM and Robinson giving this town, the provincial capital of all Zambales, the much-needed boost.

And Cabangan. It was here where we– my brother-in-law Tommy Lizardo and I — had baptized a whole village of Aetas in 1990. Cabangan used to be vast fields filled with golden grains, but the presence of gasoline stations and hardware stores and grocery markets is a welcome sight.

Last Sunday, October 31, was not my first time to preach in Iba, Zambales, where the Lizardo family is based. Oftentimes, I don’t mind being asked to do both the preaching and the Bible teaching. It is a great thing to be nurturing God’s people wherever they are. And the Christians of Iba appreciate good sermons.

The church meets in one of the rooms in a hotel fronting the Victory Liner terminal. The hotel has a somewhat amusing name: “Mama Dear.” Some Christians from Palauig, from Botolan and from Iba proper call Iba Church of Christ their home congregation. Last Sunday we had Christians from Cavite and Laguna too who came to visit their ancestral homes in Zambales for a week or so and thought of fellowshipping with the church of Iba. We had a number of these last Sunday. One of them was brother Romy Piocos. He came with another couple.

My brother-in-law Tommy Lizardo is the preacher here. He is being assisted in the work by brother Joseph Collado. Joseph used to teach at PIBI-Olongapo City, but later decided to take up a course in education. He was our song leader.

Yesterday, Wednesday, I taught a class in Cabangan. I met Rosita, the Aeta lady whom we baptized in 1990. She is now 70 years old and is disabled. She is now a widow, and lives in one of the huts built on the property of the church. When she heard me, she got out and shook my hands. After twenty years, she still remembers me!

I saw Annie. She was just an eight-year-old girl when I first saw her. Now she is a mother of a brood.

I saw Leo Franco. He is an Ilonggo from Mindanao, but came to Zambales to be with his Aeta wife. It was Leo who was the more talkative among the group.

There are others who attended whose names I have not yet committed to memory. But we shall see each other in the days ahead.

Cabangan Church of Christ now has a chapel of its own, built on the property donated by the late brother Smeltzer. Brother Marcial, an Aeta who has been educated at PIBI-Olongapo, is their preacher.

Plans are in the offing to build a Bible college here that will serve the Aetas and Ilocanos and other lowlanders in the area.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

We Need Change!

Change! It should be a welcome thing for you and for me. For without it, there would have been no butterflies. All our sunsets and sunrises would have the same worn-out look all year-round. Clouds above us would be like flotsam floating and drifting toward ennui’s sea. Without change, mind you, every day for three hundred sixty-five and one-fourth days of our lives, the rains of heaven would wearisomely patter in the same old measured drops that could not initiate a reading on a rain gauge; we like rains to come pouring sometimes. Heaven’s display in that dimension creates in the beholder such malaise that lingers on —never interesting, never exciting.

You may welcome that cherub face of a darling babe at birth, but at age thirty that cherub face of a darling babe is already a “Bondying,” a tiresome monstrosity, better retired. Oh, when will he ever grow up? you would say in much exasperation.

Because there is change, each day comes to us with a hope that the burden that in the past was too heavy would now be lighter. Since tears have already run dry on the pillow of last night’s weeping, the pain of today would be bearable, or otherwise banished. Smile now adorns that once mournful face.

Change is welcome. You suspect that aging is a terrible thing? It crowns your calendar days with experiences too great and too noble. Maybe you still wanted to be the star on the football field, or the greatest marathoner the world had ever seen. But wait, do not arthritis and muscle pains too come with their own blessings? Arthritis and its accompanying pains are like a pair of wheels in a wheelchair to carry you and give you that much-needed respite from the labors of the day. Is not dementia a state of mind and body that needs a welcome hug? It is to make you forget even the pains and hurts of past struggles with men and weather and worries. Think that that star you had been should now become an icon to be admired and memorialized. Know too that that greatest marathon runner that was you should now be watching other runners pass before your eyes. You were the first and they are just making their own niche next to yours. Relax and retire now those athletic shoes and start savoring the joys of the man you had once been

We need change to flavor our days, even to savor with renewed joys those days of our past joys. We need change to let that once bragging youth give way to the mature man, and make us better persons.

We need change badly. The man that we once were should now retire. We need to replace that anger with love. We need to throw away those words that make pain and create hurts in the hearts of other people, and substitute warmth in its stead.

Wonder why God chooses older men to be elders in the congregation? Because God wants older men to set the stage of a new world that He wants to create. Because as you age, your strength too diminishes. And as your strength diminishes you do not need to fight it back by still shouting at the top of your voice! The young who will hear you do not believe that you can carry out your threats! Besides, an old man who pounds tables is to me all short fuses but no gunpowder! He is the last crack of lightning in the night-time sky. All pfft and no put.

The world that we are needs to grow old and die. But it has to grow old in grace and die in grace. And as we grow old, as we lay dying there, welcome the young on that stage which is the finality of our earthly struggles. We are at the center of it, they watch us leave. Like the ancients who grew old in grace, let us let that grace wrap itself around us as we leave the world of the living. Let our footsteps be for the young to trace, and our lives their examples to emulate.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Lord's Church in Dasmariñas, Cavite

A hodgepodge of factors came into play in God’s purpose to establish a congregation of His people in Dasmariñas, in the province of Cavite. Call it divine providence with God controlling events to achieve His design. Call it serendipity for the excitement it offers to its beholders.

Many factors. Mention for example the literature sent by the president of a Bible college in Baguio, which sparked religious curiosity. Mention a young OFW named Geminiano Mendoza whose contact with a restoration church in Guam and some A. G. Hobbs tracts he had brought home motivated the desire of the Javier-Sico clan, consisting of sister Resurreccion Javier-Hembrador, sister Gloria Javier-Sico and her husband Jacinto Sico, and the Silvas, the Guevaras, the De Mesas, the Mangubats and the Mendozas to find the ancient roots of the true faith, and their decision to break away from the Disciples of Christ, a faith which they for a while had held so dear, then their insistence for a thus-saith-the Lord as a reason for every doctrine and practice when their new found faith was questioned and challenged. That’s providence of God that offered man the joys of discovering what’s true and what’s approved. But we are getting ahead of the story.

The story of the founding of the Lord’s church in Dasmariñas must begin with Corporal Luis Javier, ancestor of the Javier-Sico clan whose number predominates the membership of this congregation, one of whose descendants, Nepthalie Javier Sico, is now the minister of this church. For it was on his plot of land in the village of San Jose, close to the town of Dasmariñas, that the present chapel of Dasmariñas church of Christ now stands.

The Tagalog province of Cavite was the heartland of later Philippine revolution. Concerning that revolution, recall that Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo was its leader, and was also the first president of the short-lived republic that came after it. Recall that not too far away from Dasma is Imus, the seat of this republic. In this forsaken land of a people who rebelled against mother Spain, God the Father of all mankind carved out a congregation of men and women who obeyed His will, the first church of Christ in all of Southern Tagalog region.

Luis Javier, whose corporal rank he got as a Katipunero while engaged in the 1898 Revolution, found employment as a blacksmith in the American Naval Base in Sangley Point, in a thankless job where he often clashed with his Yankee boss. But he embraced the Presbyterian faith the Americans brought to our shores.

That Presbyterian faith was not to remain. In those days, his fluency in Spanish and his flair for oratory made him a stage figure, haranguing the Hare-Hawes-Cutting Act, introducing political candidates on stage, campaigning and crusading for a cause, speaking in Presbyterian meetings, but more especially defending the Presbyterian faith in debates. In one of his discussions he lost to a Disciples of Christ debater. Debates in those days were much like wars of conquests: The defeated became the spoils of war. So Corporal Luis Javier left the Presbyterians and became a Disciples member; more so, he became a Disciples debater and proclaimer of their gospel. He loved his new found faith he supported it, defended it, and walked kilometers of distances from the barrio of Dasmariñas where he lived to surrounding villages of Malagasang and San Francisco de Malabon (now Gen. Trias) to plead its cause. He was the principal mover and one of those who started the Malagasang Disciples church. In those days, Malagasang, like Dasma, was a barrio of Imus.

All three of Corporal Luis Javier’s children—Juan, Resurreccion and Gloria—became Disciples. Brother Nephtalie Sico, the present minister of Dasma church, remembers attending with his siblings the Sunday school taught by Malagasang Disciples lady teachers.

Juan, the only son of Corporal Luis Javier, migrated to Olongapo, started a family, and raised his sons and daughters as Disciples. In one instance, he attended a religious meeting in Bajac-Bajac and got into contact with a Church of Christ missionary. The missionary promised to send him a tract that perhaps was to change his life and his religion, if he provided them his address; instead he gave them the address of his sister Gloria Javier-Sico, now married to Jacinto Sico, who lived with another sister, Resurreccion, in Dasma. Months later, sister Gloria Javier-Sico received a New Testament Christianity magazine from Ralph Brashears, director of Philippine Bible College-Baguio City. That tract was to arouse their curiosity in religion.

Corporal Luis Javier remained a Disciples of Christ member until he died, and never saw the changes that were to happen in the Philippines religious landscape. The Malagasang Disciples church ceased to be because it was absorbed in the religious umbrella called the United Church of Christ in the Philippines. Juan Javier never left the Disciples.

A young Disciple named Geminiano Mendoza was to bring to fruition the seed that had been planted. Working in Guam, he gravitated to the Church of Christ group, became interested in their teachings and brought home some tracts of brother A. G. Hobbs. Two of those tracts, titled “The Origin of Denominations” and “Safe or Sorry,” helped to turn the Dasma Disciples, consisting of the Sicos, the Silvas, the Mangubats, the Mendozas, the De Mesas and the Guevaras around. Joined by Isabelo Hayuhay and another Disciple minister, they cast their lot with the Church of Christ.

An interesting twist of history happened in the course of their journey. Isabelo Hayuhay later associated with the anti-Bible College, anti-benevolence segment of the Restoration Movement. The Dasmariñas disciples, now consisting of believers whom Jimmy Mendoza had helped to usher into the kingdom, came to be nurtured by the workers from the Pi y Margal branch of Philippine Bible College, most especially by brother Paulino Garlitos. American missionaries—Bob Buchanan, Ken Wilkey, Charles Smith, Ray Bryan, Douglas LeCroy, Bill Cunningham— came and helped edify the new church.

Neph J. Sico, grandson of Luis Javier, finished his degree at PBC-Baguio in 1974 and became the minister of Dasma church. Other youths from Dasma followed him—Loida Sico, Willie Mendoza, Joel Sico, Olly Silva, Raquel Sico, Jeffrey Sico, and Ramir De Mesa.

Dasma church has now become the home of the Church Planting Institute (CPI). A new building of CPI, donated by brother Rolly Abaga, has risen beside the Dasma meeting hall. CPI has 9 students. Its teachers include Neph Sico, Jun Patricio, Rolly Abaga, Jonathan Pagarao, Jun Michael Pague, Gerry Superiano and Moises Gonzales.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Gathering of Kindly Souls

“A gathering of kindly souls” is how I best describe the gathering of Christians from the churches of Makati (Metro South), Marikina, Caloocan (Caloocan church which hosted the affair, and Bagong Silang), Taguig, Antipolo, Las Pinas, Pasay, Quezon City (from such areas as Payatas, Lagro, Diliman, Alejandro Roces), Tondo, Manila, Cavite areas (such as San Jose-Dasmarinas, Imus, Bacoor, Dasmarinas-Bagumbayan and others), Batangas areas (such as Lipa City and Rosario), Calamba, Laguna, Baguio (from Rimando Road, Center Point, Midtown), Pangasinan and Paniqui, Tarlac; Naga City, Camarines Sur; Bacacay, Albay, Cebu City and others. We can’t recall all, but my readers who had attended that gathering remember and know.

Seeing again the brethren you’ve been missing, bonding with classmates and students (those who sat at one’s feet in one’s bygone Bible college years), fellowshiping with fellow preachers, with brothers and sisters whose faces one remembers but whose name he doesn’t, kindling a relationship with those kindred spirits who have just been ushered into the kingdom of the Lord Jesus, is really refreshing, to say the least. This too is a fellowship where Christians’ love for fellow Christians is reaffirmed.

The affair is the National Evangelism Workshop and Seminar (NEWS) facilitated by brother Jun Patricio (preacher of Metro South-Makati church) and brother Randy Macapagal (minister of Caloocan church). Caloocan church building became the venue. The gathering lasted two and half days (morning of December 21 till noon of December 23).

The theme of the seminar is “Benevolence as an Effective Means of Evangelism.”

Typhoon Ondoy and the other typhoon, both equally destructive, are still fresh in our minds; but it was one calamity– no, a double calamity— that brought out the best in our brotherhood. When God touched the lives of men and women in this country through calamities, His people in the churches both here and abroad also found a common chord by which they could be one with the sufferers: shelter, clothing and food for their bodies, and spiritual food for their souls. Visiting the needy and the suffering when they are at the lowest ebbs of their lives, taking a bag or two of food assistance, speaks a lot about what makes all men brothers and sisters. But taking a Bible and counseling them from God’s Word, explaining to them God’s purpose and plans, brings their minds to the right focus and speaks great things about the great family-hood that we could have in the great beyond. The NEWS seminar only serves to affirm what we believe all along: That our lives, our days, our energies and our wealth are always, and should be, at the disposal of the great God who cares for all and wants His people to perfect their love for Him by sharing their worldly goods to those who need help (1 John 4:12; 3:17).

Click here for photos from that event...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Rising Above Humanness

Factor forgiveness into your system, even if you’re not a theologian, even if you’re not religious. As a believer you’ll tremendously need that in these days when brotherhood falling outs have become as common as common colds, when domestic estrangements become ordinary fares on TV, on the internet, at the breakfast table. If you’re church-less, you’ll need forgiveness—-you too need to forgive or be forgiven—- in order to move on with life.

Forgiveness, as the song goes, is like seeing a bunch of yellow ribbons tied to the old oak tree: The people you had offended and sinned against are welcoming you back. Welcoming arms. It is a symbol too great to ignore. Not seeing that, you don’t get down from the bus of your life, you just roll on, you go find yourself a hide-away where you can start a life, perhaps incognito.

They who have not forgiven you, you who have not been forgiven, are still entwined in that human fault that characterizes most men and women. To sin is a fault; to not forgive is also a fault.

Man is made to forgive and be forgiven. The fault of humanness is as old as Eden. When humanity left that garden, they never turned back. Their sinfulness made it next to impossible to turn back. To go back to that garden of God’s fellowship, we need the refreshing of the soul, even a little nod and a smile from heaven, telling us everything now is all right.

Some cannot forgive because they have a difficulty deleting the memories of the pains and hurts in their system; it takes a while, if not a long while, to forget them. Maybe you have the resolve of an Elin Nordegren, and I cannot fault you. In fact I empathize. If you had a spouse like Tiger Woods, who could in an interview still say “family comes first,” and keep on having trysts with 14 women of different stripes, I understand why you are Elin Nordegren. That pretty model turned celebrity wife, descendant of the Vikings, had in her system that iron will to not take things sitting down. Already she had consulted a lawyer about renegotiating the prenuptial agreement with Tiger Woods. Already she had arranged for one or two movers to haul their things. Already she and her billionaire golfer husband slept and ate separately. Divorce papers, to be filed in court as soon as the ink gets dry, will formalize their status: estranged now, divorced forever.

That is why I can never be a spiritual advisor to an Elin Nordegren. There’s this family, four of whom I had the joy of admitting into the kingdom of Jesus years ago: The husband and his wife, his mother-in-law, and his sister-in-law. Five years into their spiritual journey they found themselves in a storm. Some winds blew with a great blast into their lives bringing with it problems that tried their strength and mettle: Husband’s joblessness, his vices, his fornication. The wife alone was the bread-winner. One night fresh from tutoring a Chinese lad, hungry and tired, she caught her husband and her sister doing their thing on their bed. Rage flew, plates and kettles found their targets. To escape the furor that arose over the scandal, the husband left that night for Manila with his sister-in-law in tow, his partner in the crime so called.

Months, perhaps years later the husband came back. The wife could not forgive. No amount of scripture could turn her mind around. I was told the husband did not deserve any forgiveness because he never changed, he did not turn a new leaf.

I can’t blame you if you admire Elin Nordegren and seek to imitate her resolve to teach a lesson to a husband unyielding in his resolve to keep on sinning.

Not many seem to understand that forgiveness benefits more the one doing the act of forgiving than the one being forgiven: “If you will not forgive other people their trespasses, neither will your Father in heaven forgive you your trespasses.” For that reason, to be forgiving is to be spiritual. It is to rise above our humanness.

You may forgive or you may not. It is your choice. Heaven, this you must know, shall be filled by people who made the right choices in this life.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

When Moving On Means Moving Out

Last Sunday, December the 13th, I preached to a congregation of teary-eyed Christians. I spoke slowly, weighing every word.

My topic was about Paul’s farewell to Ephesian elders, Acts 20:17-38. Not a difficult passage to exegete, but the difficulty lies in the emotions. It is in the heart.

It is not because after nine years of laboring with them, we now have seen the end of our days as a missionary; it is because the times have called us to move on, and the only recourse open to us is to move out. Out of the place of labors we have come to appreciate for its serendipity and excitement. Out of the sight of brethren we love so dearly.

As they read the passage, as they listened to me, brethren could not help but be touched, even as they recalled the hardships of my labors among them, which they all knew too well. They recalled how I walked the long distance from Cebu Trans-Central Highway to the mountains of Babag, with its unpaved road slippery and muddy even after a slight rain, on days when I had no motorcycle. They saw the dangers I had gone through preaching to their violent neighbors who would not listen, but who would even threaten me; they heard of one who almost chopped me with a machete, not because of religious disagreements but because I caught him in his sin (in his sin against me) and I confronted him. They saw my patience, as I read to them the Will of the Lord in His Word, motivating them to obey their King, which resulted to their becoming children of God. They recalled seeing me soaking wet and shivering after being caught under a storm when my motorcycle wouldn’t run. But they saw that I was happy doing what I had been doing.

Ahh… What a great fulfillment that was.

My sermon took an hour, punctuated by pauses. I even had a hard time finding the right words to say.

This afternoon, everyone looked at me as I spoke. The sun was about to say goodbye, and teardrops began to fall. I told them it would be a long time before they would see my face again.

They knew and understood. But if they have accepted what the fates offer them, what logic and practicality give them as an option, I’d say I am not sure.

At the conclusion I hugged each of them, both the ladies and the men; and they all wept profusely on my shoulder.

They asked me for prayers, and that’s what I did. After we’re done, the men left hurriedly—they could not contain their emotions.

The women? They lingered a little longer at the door of the meeting place. For one more time, I hugged them and left.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Renato Austria

I only knew Renato Austria as a face and a name on Facebook when brother Sonny Catalan introduced him to us. That was more than a week ago. Chito Cusi wrote about him. Gigi Carranza wrote about him. But I never knew him much. These last few days, however, tidbits and short notes kept adding to the scarce and limited information that I have of him, giving me in a way an almost complete profile of the man.

Atong (as he was fondly called by close friends and fellow disciples) was an active member of Midtown church in Baguio, a teammate in the church action group called MARCH for Christ, and had for many years been involved in the work of the Lord in many lands of Asia. At one time I and some brethren in Cebu did some follow-up of the mission MARCH had begun in Kalibo City, Aklan, but our paths –Atong’s and mine—never crossed.

But Atong, like the rest of those MARCH people, had done a great job in places perhaps too many to mention. If the church had wings to fly and feet to walk, Atong and the rest of them were those wings and those feet, flying to the heartlands of the heathens, walking on paths rough and muddy, on raging rivers, under heavy rains, from daybreak to daybreak, in a bid to turn these heathen hearts into heartlands of God. If the church had hands and lips, Atong was one of those, reaching out their hands to these men without God, with offers of food for the body, and proclaiming with their lips the food that could nourish the soul.

While Atong and the rest had been waging a war to win the hearts of men and women for Christ, he had also been waging a silent war in his own body. It is a terrible war. For the war in the cancer wards is a war we could lose, since science has not yet found a potent cure for it, like it did for TB. Cancer is our modern blight and our only way out of it is an early prognosis that can be done in labs by doctors skilled in the job. For brother Atong, it was too late to know he had caught it.

Death and cancer however must be understood in the light of God’s plan for man in general. For man, the creature whom God had molded from the dust of the ground and breathed into with the breath of life, is not meant to dwell in this domain of dusts forever, in this habitation corrupted and defiled by so much sins, by so many wrongs man did against his fellow man. Atong knew so well the face of unbrotherliness because he too had gone to Myanmar and China. This world has gone a long way since the day God created an Eden in the heart of it. We have forgotten that we all came from one womb, and that every man is in fact a brother to everyone. Eden, the former home of the first human family is too close to the Arab and Jewish lands where the hateful war of brother against brother has been waged since time immemorial. Atong with the rest of our brethren had tried to change what outlook everyone had had with others of their kind, by taking to them just that message of brotherliness that God has wanted them to see.

The only cure for death and the blight of death is hope in Jesus. In His great mercy, God allows us to weep and view the death of a loved one as a loss for us. But God also wants us to understand that death is a gain. Death is the closing of one door and the opening of another--the door to glory. Atong had served God well and enough already. God wanted him to come to his glorious home, a life there that is a lot better than the life here.

Our prayers are for those whom this dear brother has left behind—his dear wife and two kids. God always loves His own. And so while we remain in this land of tears and sorrows, we still feel secure and well. Why? Hear God speak:

“Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained strangers unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them; and those who are ill-treated since you also are in the body. Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for God will judge the immoral and adulterous. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, ‘I will never fail you nor forsake you.’ Hence we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid; what can man do to me?”’ (Hebrews 13:1-6).

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Paul G. Allen

Paul G. Allen. Well, who’s he? An American computer programmer who, with Bill Gates, founded Microsoft in 1975. Helped nurture that company from its humble beginnings. Now’s he’s definitely reaping the fruits of his labor. Allen is on the list of the world’s fabled rich. Forbes has ranked him the 42nd richest man (as of February 11, 2008), being worth an estimated $16 billion.

Paul Gardner Allen was born on January 21, 1953, in Seattle, Washington, USA, to parents Kenneth S. Allen and Faye G. Allen. His father was an associate director of the University of Washington libraries. Paul attended Lakeside School, a private school in Seattle, and befriended Bill Gates, who with him shared a common enthusiasm for computers. For a start they used Lakeside School’s teletype terminal to hone their programming skills. After graduation Allen attended Washington State University, dropping out after two years in order to work as a programmer for Boston’s Honeywell. It is said that it was Allen who convinced Gates to drop out of Harvard University in order to create Microsoft.

You’ll hear about Paul Allen today vacationing in style on Hvar, in the Adriatic sea, off the Dalmatian coast, Croatia, aboard his super-yacht The Octopus. The fabled rich and his fabled yacht. The Octopus, 126.18 meters long, in 2003 was the world's largest. Built at the cost of $250 million, it was the priciest yacht ever. It has two helipads for its two helicopters, a movie theatre, and a studio capable of professional level recording production. Because of her very huge size, Octopus cannot dock at most ports, but she has a 60 foot tender to service her. And inside Octopus, there are seven other smaller boats. It also carries a fuel-cell-powered 10-person submarine capable of staying submerged for two weeks.

The Octopus requires a crew of 60 to operate her. First launched in 2003, this super yacht has been seen in Portugal, St. Martin, and New Orleans. She was designed by Espen Øino Naval Architects.

Allen also owns the Tatoosh, his second yacht, the 12th largest in the world, which tours Galapagos, Palau and New Zealand; a third yacht slightly smaller than Tatoosh, named The Méduse, the 65th largest in the world; and two Boeing 757s.

Seven years after they had founded Microsoft, Allen was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease, a form of cancer. During those radiation treatments that lasted a year and ten months, Allen continued to work part-time at Microsoft. In March 1983 he retired from the company, bought a number of yachts and two Boeing 757s and spent the next two years traveling, scuba diving, yachting, skiing and spending time with his family. "To be 30 years old and have that kind of shock - to face your mortality - really makes you feel like you should do some of the things that you haven't done," he told Fortune. Having retained a 13 percent share of the company, he continued to serve on Microsoft's board.

Thought for Today: "There is great gain in godliness with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world; but if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs... But as for the rich in this world, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on uncertain riches but on God who richly furnishes us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good deeds, liberal and generous, thus laying up for themselves a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life which is life indeed" (1 Timothy 6:6-10, 17-19).

Saturday, August 1, 2009

God's Way of Touching Us

Driving into a storm in the mountains in the middle of the night is a dangerous experience, and seasoned motorcyclists don’t usually recommend that. Mountain roads are muddy and slippery; dark clouds above you hover like a threat: to pour in more rains, as if to wash away the sad experiences of human downfalls. There are breaks on the road, gullies deep and shallow, that have been created by downpours that have prolonged. One single mistake, one miscalculation, and you will fall–into the ditch, into the gully, or into the high cliff on either side of the road. Motorbikes such as yours may have been equipped with modern halogen lamps, but on a stormy night like this, their glow could hardly penetrate the thick curtains of fogs and mists before you. You are driving blind, and your temptation is to trust your instincts, or, as pilots would say,” fly by the seat of your pants.” But doing so would be courting trouble. You have no compass to guide you in the midst of the fogs.

But there are barking dogs. They warn you that you are approaching a hut, before you bump your machine into a mass of sleeping bodies.

What if you find yourself on this stretch of mountain roads with not a single house on either side, and no dogs? What if you are deafened by the blasts of rains, lightnings and thunderstorms, and you are not hearing the barking of the dogs? What if their barking sounds like mere whimpering? And what if the dogs don’t bark at all?

We all face storms in this life, storms that threaten to confuse us, disorient us, or uproot us from our moorings. A call from home telling us of a family tragedy. News of betrayal. Unfriendly creditors collecting bad debts. Shattered dreams. Youthful sins. Adult carelessness. Legal discrepancies. Ethical issues. Unfaithfulness to vows. Deceptions of some kind. Name it.

What then? You need a barking dog. A barking preacher on the pulpit, for instance, to remind you that sins have their harvesting seasons, and these seasons may come anytime. A preacher like James, for instance. “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned, you have killed the righteous man; he does not resist you” (5:1-6).

Or you may need a gently barking dog. Maybe a gentle approach to a big problem of yours. Witness for example the prophet Nathan’s approach (2 Samuel 12:1-7). He tried a parable: Two men in one city; one rich, the other poor. The rich had exceeding riches and flocks; the poor had just one ewe lamb which he loved so much. The story went on to say that the rich man had a visitor (perhaps he came without invitation, we are not sure); and to feed this uninvited guest, the rich man invited himself to the only ewe lamb his poor neighbor had, and dressed it to feed his guest. The rest of the story says that this breach of etiquette and utter disregard of morality and law made David angry. He said: “That man shall die!” Then Nathan gently broke the news: “You are the man, O King…”

How do you like that?

God too uses circumstances to remind his people of their waywardness. In Elijah’s time, it was three years and six months without rain (James 5:17), to punish them for their idolatry and other sins. As a result of this drought, the brooks and the rivers stopped flowing, the planting seasons ceased, the grass dried up, the cattle died. The sinners among them suffered, or died. What about the faithful among them? They learned to trust Him who owns the waters above and the waters below, the fat cattle and the lean, the meadow grass all brown or all green, the seasons of want and the seasons of plenty.

These are all circumstances and they all touch us, one way or another. They may hamper evil motives, prevent further wrongs, discipline the rebellious, and refine the faithful. If a circumstance prods us, we better stop and think, because the God of the Bible is also the God of circumstances!

More so, God uses people who are not His people to discipline the people who are His, to punish them, and to refine them. This was true in His dealings with the Jews during the Old Testament times. Seventy years of captivity and slavery under idolatrous Babylon, who was their enemy and definitely not God’s people, had taught the Jews, God’s ancient people, to go back to serving the true God.

There is no reason that this won’t be true in our times, for God is the same yesterday and today. For instance: A cursing passenger who tells a taxi driver cum Sunday school teacher that he hates drivers who cheat (this should strike the conscience of those who do). Or, a Catholic devotee cum vice president of the country who urges all citizens to pay their taxes, enjoins all employers to give to their employees what are due them (including better salaries and SSS premiums), or encourages one who embarks on a construction project to first secure a building permit. This should touch all of us who violate the country’s laws.

Even a denominational preacher, who definitely is not one of us, can teach us good lessons on walking by faith, faithfulness in church attendance, and more profound meanings of love. You may not need a barking dog. Perhaps you need a whimpering puppy? Like that preacher or that member who whimpers because of the hurts he has suffered at the hands of his fellow Christians? We all need to listen to this also. What about the little child who complains of unfulfilled promises? We should be touched.

A Bible at the hands of holy men? Who said so? Even at the hands of a sinful preacher, it is still God’s powerful guide to those who want to come back to Him. Listen to this: “Then said Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples, Saying The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: , so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice” (Matthew 23:1-3). It is definitely the book, not the preacher.

When you are blinded by life’s disappointments, or dazed by life’s abundance, you need to listen to those voices, whether barking voices or not, whether whimperings or complaints, whether done on wrong motives or good. Those, plus the Bible, are God’s way of touching us.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Preacher and His Preaching

Is preaching a tired old business? On the contrary it is a business that concerns itself with the most important thing one could ever think of: That of making ourselves right with the God whom we have displeased.

Displeased, you say? Yes. We displease Him when get out of line or misbehave. We displease Him when we are out of step with His will and purposes for us. We displease Him when we refuse to heed His pleadings. We displease Him when we wallow in the mire of sin. We displease Him in every which way we turn when that turn turns out to be bad. And we can never make ourselves right with Him, not even with ourselves, unless He supplies us with the formula to make us attuned to Him again.

Consider this, dear soul, and be honest with yourself. You need God. You need Him when this business of life gets tiresome and you want to drop out or drop dead. You need Him when everything about you and around you bubbles with joy and when your whole being resonates with great thanks for the One who created this place for you to dwell in for a time and to enjoy the fruits of your earthly efforts and strivings.

Preaching concerns itself with souls, with the plight of the soul, with the destiny of that soul. And becoming a preacher is simply to answer the most important need of all: Of making ourselves right with Him when everything within us and without goes wrong. For when one is down and out and wandering aimlessly in the alleys of the world or drifting like deadwood in the oceans of life, there is a preacher who makes your concerns his concerns too. For preaching is meant to express that one simple act of kindness letting you know of and extending to you the great love the one Great Redeemer has for you.

There is one other thing: When we come to the end of this life's journey, there is still one dilemma that we need to resolve: Where are we going? The preacher gives you the best option.

It is the preacher's way of life to keep in step, and to help you too keep in step with Him. He won't force his way into your life unless there is an invite. The preacher may be the gentlest man in town you could ever befriend for he could shower you with the love that God has also showered on him.

For our lessons on the preacher and his preaching life, click this link.

For our lessons on God's great redemptive plan, click this link.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Longings of An Adult Childhood

“Where are you going and how long will you be away?”

That’s my youngest child Abby asking. My former students at the Manila School of Evangelism would remember that little girl five years old in 1989 who kept telling them she missed her mother and that she wanted to go home, but she would not without her daddy. Her way to defy parental separation was to leave her mom for a while and live with me as I kept transferring from one job to another. Yes, she was that close to me when she was young. But the long night time in that school room that became our sleeping quarters after school hours would often pester her heart like a virus. She would cry out for Dioly’s motherly presence and her way to connect with her was to pour tears over Mr. Felipe Cariaga’s junk phone, and I would grant her that wish—in my newfound skill of mastering the art of make believe— and she would cry on that phone the whole night, stopping only when sleep invited her to rest, and then she would blurt out in her gentlest way, teary-eyed and tired, “Pauli na ta” (”Let’s go home,” meaning to Bacolod, meaning leave this job). This rite repeated itself from day to day, from night to night.

Brother Rudy Gonzales of Olongapo City would probably remember that little child who would not separate from me even in her sleep. We slept for a night in their house in Upper Kalaklan. This is so because after that stint with Manila School of Evangelism we found ourselves bound for a new job at San Narciso, in Zambales. (Thanks for the hospitality and the good memories, brother Rudy!).

Abby’s cousins in San Narciso would remember that little girl who was always trying her hand at everything, including adjusting to the new environment I had forced her to adjust in, and she did, albeit with much fear. Months later her longings found satisfaction when her mom came to take her home. Abby was the child who in her innocent way did things to keep our family intact. She was my wake-up call. From that time on, there was no more separation.

As she grows older in our home in Cebu, she has come to enjoy her freedom–lots of it, including coming home very late at night. These days her mom is not home. And when I said I am leaving for a few days, which means she would be solo, she was back to her old childhood again. “What will I eat?” She was smiling of course. She has a job.

I think of my kids as three little boats. Time to let them loose on the ocean. Will they manage?

That too is a good question for me.

There is always that little child in our adulthood that suffers the empty nest syndrome. Because this world is not meant for living alone. Because this world is not a homestead in the jungle where you could try staking out your claim with just an axe and a hoe and a box of match sticks minus a wife or another company. God knew that, so He made an Eve from an Adamic rib.

Am 62 and an orphan, and I admit the child in me longs for that fatherly hug and motherly comfort too. I had lots of it when I was young; and they were as regular as the beatings of the ipil-ipil stick as big as my ring finger, which my parents had in handy, the better to ring me in whenever I thought of rebelling. I remember my ancestors, however, not for the stick but for the love they splurged on me.

Our daughter Karla is lonely too and she’s now a mother. Part of the solution is to get son and get mom. And so: Hello world. I have just entered this new state of my life: A grandfather without a grandson. A husband without a wife. And what separates us is a plane ticket and an hour’s flight.

I can’t help longing. When an adult 2 plus 60 years old starts to long, he becomes a child between 2 to 6. It is a system coming full circle. The adult child in me wants to resurrect my parents, the grandfather child in me wants to call back my grandson to my side. What would life be without Jacob? It is no longer a question of “Will he manage?” but “Will I manage?” When we start longing, we also miss our sense of balance.

We long for someone because our lives are diminished by their absence. Will denial diminish that feeling? My grandson Jake has come to master the art of grandpa snubbing. When I called his phone a week after they were gone, I heard a childish voice answer, “Cebu Pacific, may I help you?” I said I am looking for my grandson. “This is not Jacob. This is the ticket seller.” All right, may I reserve a ticket for Manila. April 26. Want to visit my grandson. “Sorry, Sir. All flights are fully booked. Please buy your ticket next year.”

I miss playing the game of make believe with the boy on the other line.

It is not fun when the ones you miss are not beside you. Cellphones may have shortened the distance. True, with a laptop and a webcam, via Yahoo Messenger, the voice and the face behind that cellphone becomes half of the reality that you are missing. But with these gadgets, communication becomes brief; the aches, the pains, and the fears are consigned only to a few sentences, sometimes with verbs without subjects, sometimes with subjects without verbs. We violate grammar rules to make communication concise. Even the tales of the squabbles are lost.

Ah. We still miss that reality’s other half.

Earthly longings may be forever, but the Lord has put it there for a purpose. The best longings is one for the real place up there. We long for our real Father. We miss our real Home.

Sometimes I think of heaven as one reality where I can be a child again. There I know I will be safe from all harms. There, the little child in us will find the real connection that made us one great heavenly family.

Lessons From Twins

Two sets of twins, one Spanish, the other Chinese, have kind of sorted their own lives, rectified human errors that caused their separation at birth, and sued their hospitals for damages.

The Chinese twins are suing a Beijing hospital because an alleged mix-up (hospital’s fault, so they say) had led to their separation for two decades, with one of them believing he was someone else’s identical sibling.

On the other hand, the Spanish twins (no names given, but they are women) who got separated at birth by nurses’ error and reunited by chance 35 years later are also suing the state-run Canary Island hospital for damages.

In both the Spanish and the Chinese cases, the “twins” had been brought up under the wrong belief that they were twins. Both sets of twins felt affected, saying “their world has turned a bit upside down.” Both sets have grown up separately, and sought kinship connection to the twin that he or she has lost.

But take this other case of twins who grew up under one roof, who competed with each other for parental favors, with the competition getting so nasty, the rules of the game becoming so unprofessional you could imagine them going at each other’s throats!

It began when a Middle East couple pleaded for a child, just one, because even after many years of marriage they had no child. But the joy of her pregnancy became the trouble of her heart. It seemed as though children—not just one child— were fighting inside her womb! (That early, the fetuses were already at each other’s throats!) “I cannot endure it,” the wife said. “This cannot be just morning sickness!” So she came to inquire of God. And she was told this:

“There are two boys in your womb, and they are actually two rival nations. They will compete with one another, they will fight. One will be stronger than the other; and the older shall become a servant of the younger.”

And sure enough, she had twins. The first was born so covered with reddish hair that one would think he was wearing a fur coat! They called him “Red,” but oftentimes he was known by the name “Hairy.” The other twin was born with his hand on the older boy’s heel; they named him “The Grabber.” Their father was sixty years old when the twins were born.

The boys grew up outsmarting each other. The older boy became a skillful hunter; the younger stayed at home, being the quiet sort, and trained to become a good cook. Just here you could say the skill of one could be a complement to the other: “You do the hunting, I’ll do the cooking!” But it did not. The older was the father’s favorite (who would think that with venison you could find your way to your father’s heart? But he did). And the younger became the apple of his mother’s eye.

The younger boy is actually one of the most important characters. You may not be attracted to him after seeing the worst side of him. He was not just a supplanter, a grabber, he was also a deceiver, “the man who drove a hard sharp bargain at the expense of his own brother, taking advantage of the older brother’s weakness to gratify his covetousness.”

I understand that the older brother did not offer to sell his birthright; he asked of his brother a kindness, to satisfy his hunger. It was the younger brother’s chance to play the part of the sympathetic twin but he did not; instead he took the opportunity to seize what was not his. The older brother was willing to barter the most important of all to escape a temporary discomfiture. “When a man is dying of starvation,” he said, “what good is his birthright?” By his shortsightedness he allowed himself to be defrauded. In the language of one preacher, “He traded eternity for a bowl of soup.”

One despicable act led to another. And to secure the blessing of the father who was almost blind, the younger brother got the help of an equally deceitful mother. “Your hairy skin tells me you’re my favorite son, but your voice tells me you’re not,” the father commented. The physical can be deceiving. Anyway, he asked that his favorite steak be brought in. And the grabber got what he wanted.

If you read the narrative, many years later his sins came to haunt him. In the parlance of Robert Southey, the writer, “The chickens came home to roost.” He too was cheated of his wages, of his first option to marry the woman he loved, of his shares as a tenant in the ranch farm his father-in-law owned.

Well, some may discredit the younger boy for his smallness and meanness, but we must appreciate the true and the strong about him, his foresight, his appreciation of what the birthright could bring, and his fine sense of values. The Bible values these as most important.

Two brothers, two siblings. While they lived under one roof, they also grew up separately. They were just two in the family, but it looked like their home became too crowded with them. Under that circumstance, the motherly advice worked best: Separate, you guys, or I will die early. Years later the twins met in a tearful reunion, each one forgetting each other’s hurts and pains.

Either Jacob or Esau could be like some of us. Members of the one family of God, the church. Spiritual siblings who don’t like each other and seem to be always at each other’s throats. My advice to these brethren: Grow up separately. Learn to forget the past. Overlook the faults. Bloom in the place where the Lord has planted you. Someday, when circumstances are good, your paths might cross, and you might learn to like each other again. Prepare for life hereafter. As my grandson Jacob, 7 years old, when asked would often say pointing to heaven: “There are no people fighting up there.”

Monday, February 23, 2009


“Manhid” is one Tagalog word I learned when I first read illustrated classics written by the likes of Mars Ravelo, Pablo S. Gomez, and Mike Relon Makiling. It is the word you would hear when someone vies for your attention but your life’s dreams and acts are focused on something else. “Manhid” means insensitive. You are “manhid” if you shut your ears to the cries of the poor and the needy, when you leave the scene of the crime, when you bump someone on the trail of life and don’t apologize.

The case is the same when the prosecutors suggest technicalities, when the judges turn a blind eye, and the guilty go scot-free. In which case criminal lawyering would be a lucrative option, since pockets are lined. The victims? They can only howl: “Mga manhid kayo! Wala kayong puso” (You are all insensitive! You are heartless!).

This better of half of mine with whom I pledged “I do” (that was thirty-seven years ago!) in that private dwelling in Pasig which the late missionary Ray Bryan called home, with “Here Comes the Bride” being played to keep us in step and Felipe Cariaga pronouncing the conditions that tied us to each other for life, does not understand why I patronize that poor vendor who comes at my door with her little urchin in tow, imploring me to buy her delicacies– “they’re no good, they’re not up to standards,” my wife would say. I’d tell her I am just sensitive to the plight of the poor vendor; the profits that she makes will probably extend her business for another day, and will mean food for the family. Having been poor, I patronize the poor. As simple as that.

One is “manhid” if he observes the literalness of the law, like when he insists the church collection is only “for the saints,” invoking 1 Corinthians 16:1. It does no good to quote Galatians 6:10, “As we have the opportunity, let us do good to all men, especially to them of the household of faith”; the hobbyists go around it, too.

“Manhid” one is not when someone points out to him why he posted the writings of an “evil man” on his blog. “Evil” is the word the commentator used to describe the man, and says that that man also has left a trail of abusive relationships in the past. Well, the blog owner happens to believe that everyone who may have a penchant to do evil also has the capacity to do good. Since the blog owner is not insensitive, he does what makes his reader happy.

Sensitive to issues. Sensitive to cries. Sensitive to the environment. The hair that lines the skin is there for a reason: It jolts you back to your senses and makes you feel the coolness, or the coldness, of the surrounding, giving you the option to put in more firewood to the stove, or die of hypothermia. Sensitive to logic. The heart that the Bible talks about is not that hollow muscular organ that receives blood from the veins and propels it through the arteries; it is the brain where thoughts are conceived and filtered and logic is molded and where action is prodded by what’s best under the circumstances.

Be sensitive to calls for action. Calls from men sermonizing on the pulpits and from the Word raging in its urgency in the privacy of your bedroom, speaking to your heart to stop sinful actions. Calls for help for needy Christians. I believe we have wasted much time arguing on the methods, we have misspent precious hours logicalizing the madness of our hermeneutics, when true hermeneutics begins when one truly listens to what God in His Scripture says.

It matters much to the Lord that we act right, and with dispatch. That is the essence of human sensitivity.