Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Prepare The Way Of The Lord

by Bro. Eddie C. Villanueva

In the Bible, one book is known as The Book of Salvation.  It is the book written by the prophet Isaiah whose name means, “The Lord is salvation.”

The book of Isaiah can be divided into two parts: Isaiah 1–39 and Isaiah 40–66. The first 39 chapters contain very strong messages of judgment against Judah. Mercifully, however, also intertwined in their story is Isaiah’s warning and call for repentance and holiness. But his warning was unheeded and the captivity of God’s people was pronounced.

It is in this condition of desolation when the promise of Isaiah 40 came.  “Comfort my people,” God decrees!  Hence Isaiah 40 comes like fresh rain in the middle of dry summer. It is the harbinger of the last 27 chapters that contain God's message of pardon, salvation, and glory. Through Isaiah, God revealed His redemptive plan through the coming Messiah.

* * * * *

Isaiah 40:1-5 declare: “Our God has said: “Encourage my people! Give them comfort. Speak kindly to Jerusalem and announce: Your slavery is past; your punishment is over. I, the Lord, made you pay double for your sins.”

“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

In the heart of this proclamation, the LORD’s saving grace rings loud and clear: He is the Father of Compassion and the God of All Comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3), the Redeemer of His people (Isaiah 44:6), the Restorer of all things, and the King who will return in glory.

* * * * *

In anticipation of the revelation of His glorious coming, three things may be observed:
1) the readying of His way,
2) the removal obstacles, and
3) then the revelation of His glory.

I. READY THE WAY.  "Prepare ye the way of the Lord." The "way of the Lord" is "the way of holiness" (read Isaiah 35:8), and the only mode by which to prepare it is the mode adopted by John the Baptist (read Matthew 3:2-12). He prepared himself by preaching the doctrine of repentance, administering the ordinance of baptism, pointing at the Messiah, exhorting the people to believe in Christ, and calling upon them who listened to him to likewise prepare His way and make a plain path to meet Him in, by repenting of their sins, amending their ways, and cordially embracing Him when He comes, laying aside all those sentiments which were contrary to Him, His Gospel, and His Kingdom (see Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible).

Simply put, the only way to ready the path for the coming of the LORD is to repent of one’s sins and pursue holiness. Because without holiness, no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).

II. REMOVE THE OBSTACLES. “Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.” One Bible commentator puts it this way: “This is but a figurative way of stating that no hindrance can affect the onward march of the Redeemer.” 

Certainly, on that day, there shall be a holy reversal: The poor and lowly shall be raised up; the proud and self-righteous depressed; the crooked and dishonest induced to change their ways for those of simplicity and integrity; the rude, rough, and harsh rendered courteous and mild (see Pulpit Commentary).

III. REVEAL HIS GLORY. “And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
When the proper preparation of the path of the LORD is complete, there shall be a revelation of His glory and might. This is the glory of the Lord that shall be revealed: “Christ Himself, who is the brightness of His Father's glory, and His own glory, as the glory of the only begotten of the Father; the glorious perfections of His nature, seen in the miracles wrought, and in the doctrines taught by Him; the glory of the divine Father, in the face or person of Christ; and the glory of His attributes, in the work of salvation by Him; all which is most clearly discerned in the glass of the Gospel, or in the ministry of the word, by John, Christ Himself, and His apostles: and all flesh shall see it together; not the Jews only, but Gentiles also; not with their bodily eyes, but with the eyes of their understanding; even the salvation of the Lord, and His glory, as displayed in it, being set forth in the everlasting Gospel to the view of all” (see Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible).

* * * * *

Since God, in His sovereign goodness and grace, first opened the door to the Jesus Is Lord Church for the preaching of His Word in British Columbia exactly 23 years ago, up to this time, our passion and pursuit has never changed – that of proclaiming Jesus is Lord, to the glory of the Father, through the working of the Holy Spirit, for the salvation of the perishing souls.

And as we move on to our 24th year of service to Him, we know no better way to further His Kingdom and His cause other than to continuously prepare His way.

I say a special prayer of thanks unto Him who is able to keep us from falling, to Christ who is our Lord, for every valley that He lifted up, for every mountain that He made low, for every uneven ground that He leveled, and for every rough place that He made plain. Surely, in all things and at all times, His Word is true, His wisdom is inerrant, and His ways are just.

I also say a special prayer of thanks unto God for all the JIL leaders and members who are the LORD’s flock. Forget not His promise, “If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land. But if you refuse and rebel, you will be destroyed by swords.' The Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 1:19-20, GWT)

Jesus is LORD over British Columbia! Jesus is LORD over Canada!

Shalom! Shalom!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Unbreakable Legacy

by Bro. Eddie C. Villanueva

When the first child of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge was born on July 22, the world was all a-buzz.  Virtually every media network on the planet carried out the news – and within minutes, it was all over the World Wide Web.  Undeniably, anything that concerns the royal family fascinates us.  The Queen and her perpetuating lineage of heirs to the throne undoubtedly intrigue us.

Soon after the child’s birth was announced, a naming game ensued. Now that the child’s gender was out, what will his name be? Some netizens suggested Oliver; others recommended Edward, Harold, even Richard.  Few Filipinos also joined in the guessing game and volunteered the names Santiago and Felipe. Asked about their reason for the name selection, majority said they thought the names fit the baby because they were names of kings and royalties of ages past.

It was not too long when the discerning parents finally named their firstborn George Alexander Louis, or His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge. And the choice was not unfounded; the names were deeply carved in the Royal Family’s history.

* * * * *

I say this without the slightest hint of malice, nor disrespect, but only pure amazement: Is it not curious that even in mischievous jests, nobody dared float the names Nero, Ahab, or Judas for the unnamed lad. The reason for this is simple: We all know better. We all know that the child who is third in succession to the throne of the British Monarchy must take on a name that will be at par with the illustrious names of his royal forebears; he must live out his life in accordance to the noble legacy that he is bequeathed with. Life from henceforth will most likely become more and more challenging for the young prince. Prince George will have to get used to living a highly scrutinized life. And unlike stories that grow old as they are repeatedly told, the world's interest in him will odds-on only intensify as he ages.

But before we get heartbroken over the would-be-life of the newborn prince, it will serve us right if we do some introspection as well.  We have to also come to terms with the tricky part of life – that we are all under observation, royalty or not. We are all being watched. And the life we are living is going to be remembered no matter what. Eventually, it will all boil down to the kind of legacy that we will leave behind.

* * * * *

Legacy.  It is one of the nobler pursuits of right-thinking men, because it is what remains long after a person is gone.  It is what one remembers about a pilgrim’s journey.

The secret to leaving behind a good legacy is found in Proverbs 22:1: “A good name is more desirable than great wealth. Respect is better than silver or gold.” The Message Bible offers a more contemporary interpretation of the passage and words it for us this way, “A sterling reputation is better than striking it rich; a gracious spirit is better than money in the bank.”

In this day and age when everything is conveniently sacrificed on the altar of hedonism, egocentrism, and compromise, it is important that we never lose sight of the fundamentally indispensible – a sterling reputation, a good name, a gracious spirit.  We need these if we desire to ultimately carve our names on hearts, rather than on tombstones.

* * * * *

Hebrews 11 or the Heroes of Faith Honor Roll in the Bible names the people in biblical history who left inspiringly beautiful legacies.  They made it to the elite list because of the kind of life that they led.  Interestingly, Hebrews 12: 1-3 relates their stories to the continuing stories of those after them:

“Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!”

By virtue of mere generational succession, we are the ones continuing today the legacy of the saints before us. Tough act to follow, but if we hope to keep the wheel of faith moving and labor to never break the cycle of unrestrained devotion to Christ and His cause, we have to follow the counsel of Paul. We have to seriously get on with the race that is set before us, strip down, start running, and never quit!  We have to rid ourselves of sins, keep our eyes on Jesus, and learn from Him. We need to allow God to work out His unbreakable legacy in us, then through us. We have to count it all joy to endure all kinds of trials, just as the martyrs of old did. To remain committed to God when it is most difficult is how we forge our own legacy of faithfulness to Him.  This is also how we will be able to leave behind an unbreakable legacy for others to follow, to the praise and glory of Christ.

Monday, July 15, 2013

God Bless, Canada!

by Bro. Eddie C. Villanueva

An online report pegged the current number of Filipinos working or residing abroad at roughly 9.5 million to 12.5 million, or about 10-11% of the total Philippine population1. A separate online report said that there are about 842,651 Filipinos living in Canada today, making Canada the third top destination for Filipinos overseas2.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Government in the Philippines said that there are approximately 7,500 Canadians residing in the Philippines3.

The various numbers essentially tell about one reassuring story of strong and friendly bilateral relations between the Philippines and Canada.  It is most heartening indeed for citizens of both countries to find home in foreign lands.

Over the past 26 years of doing ministry work in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec, Canada has been a most gracious home to the international outreach ministry of the Jesus Is Lord Church4. A Philippine-based, Christ-centered, Full-Gospel Christian Church that is also doing ministry work in 55 countries around the world, the Jesus Is Lord Church is blessed to have found a home in Canada, wherein the people accepted the church.

Hence on the celebration of this year’s 146th Canada Day, the united and collective prayers of blessings of JIL Church members worldwide go out to the amazing people and nation of Canada.

It is the LORD’s principle to protect and care for the foreigners, the orphans, and the widows. “The LORD protects the foreigners among us. He cares for the orphans and widows, but he frustrates the plans of the wicked” (Psalms 146:9, NLT). 

It is His purpose to defend their cause. “He ensures that orphans and widows receive justice. He shows love to the foreigners living among you and gives them food and clothing” (Deuteronomy 10:18, NLT).

It is also His promise to bless those who act justly, such as those who do good to more than 800,000 vulnerable Filipino pilgrims who finally have found their home in Canada.  “Blessed are those who act justly, who always do what is right” (Psalm 106:3, NIV).

In blessing, you shall surely be blessed. God bless Canada! Happy 146th Birthday!

Shalom! Shalom!


Thursday, July 4, 2013

What Do You Seek?

by Bro. Eddie C. Villanueva

“What are you looking for?”

In life, there is seemingly no question that can jar a person into deepest contemplation other than this probing inquiry.  It easily pierces right through the heart, effortlessly shakes the very core of one’s soul, and utterly reveals the real person of a man.

It is not surprising, therefore, that when the first two would-be-disciples of Jesus came after Him for the first time, John 1:38 says that He responded to them with the very same question: “What seek ye?” In other words, “What do you want?”

Fast-forward to our present time, the same question of Jesus continues to prod and nudge us. As we turn to Him, He turns right back at us and asks us: “What do you seek?”

To the discerning, the question of Jesus is considerably the greatest and grandest offer of a lifetime! It is, in fact, as good as receiving from Him a blank check with our name on it. But before we hastily make genie out of God, let us take a quick look at how the first would-be-disciples of Jesus responded to His inquiry:
“Jesus turned around and saw them following him. He asked them, "What are you looking for?" They said to him, "Rabbi" (which means "teacher"), "where are you staying?"” (John 1:38, HCSB)

Surprisingly, there was no mention of request for wealth, or healing, or miracle. There was no mention of petition for power, fame, or indestructibility. Rather, the would-be-disciples responded to Jesus’ question with their own question,“Where are you staying?”
In this beautiful exchange, we can glean two beautiful lessons on seeking God and following hard after Him:
  1. That we ought to seek and value the Person of Christ beyond the blessings that come from knowing Christ and having Christ as Rabbi, Master and Teacher; 
  2. That we ought to not be satisfied with a one-question-conversation with Jesus, but that we ought to seek His dwelling that we may abide with Him.
The Psalmist also discovered the overflowing goodness of seeking God and finding Him, and the inexhaustible grace of having everything by having God. 

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm16:11, ESV).

These are what God is making available to us when we make Him our delight: 1)the path which leads to the Source and Centre of all life, even God Himself - the way to heaven; 2) fullness of joy, literally, satiety of joy - enough, and more than enough, to satisfy the extremest cravings of the human heart; 3) at thy right hand, ready for bestowal on the saints; 4) pleasures for evermore, an inexhaustible store, which may be drawn upon for ever (Pulpit Commentary). Simply, nothing can be grander than that.

“What are you seeking?”

From the example of seekers in ages past, it will serve us right today if we likewise respond to God, in all humility and sincerity, “LORD, I seek You, and You only!”

Shalom! Shalom!