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God & Humanity

His Story

This is the greatest story every told. It is the story of our salvation from death to life by the great sacrifice of the Son. This story is summed by one verse that says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16)".

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UP Diliman

My campus

This is where everything began. UP is a university stereotyped as godless, but in God's own humor, I encountered Him in this very campus. I learned about journalism and Jesus. I read books and the Bible. I heard His call and I answered. I graduated but never left, because my calling is here in the heart of UP Diliman.

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Journalism

Accuracy, accuracy, accuracy!

Writing is not just art. It's passion. And Journalism is not just about writing, it's about the truth and handling it responsibly. Journalist capture a slice of reality and present it in words, photos and videos, hoping to effect change. Dive into this world of words!

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  • I share Jesus in words and deeds-- the whole of life

  • I love my campus and I want to see it under the banner of Christ

  • I capture people's lives in words, images and videos

  • My ultimate goal is the joy of Christ in all of my being

  • I am Pau- A Christian who happens to be a journalist

Our Latest Blog

Joshua 23- Remain Steadfast in God



This is my second sermon at Diliman Campus Bible Church, PM service. It is an exposition of Joshua 23. As we near the close of our book study, this chapter is a fitting challenge for all believers to remain steadfast in God.

Why? Joshua gives two reasons: 1) Because God is faithful and 2) Because God is fearsome.

And How can we remain steadfast? He adds three ways:

1) Keep and Do the Word of God
2) Cling to God, and
3) Love God

Dive into the message to find out more. May you be blessed! :)

  


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Remembering the other crucified men


Source: https://wonderwhat.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/three-crosses.jpg

On a Friday, more than 2,000 years ago, three people were crucified in Jerusalem. The one in the middle was Jesus Christ, and the two others were unnamed “robbers”[i] or “criminals.”[ii] Jesus’ crucifixion is undoubtedly the most famous in the world, but little is known of the two men who hung with Him, one on his right, the other on his left.[iii]

Did they know Jesus? Chances are, they have heard about His teachings, miraculous works and claims. This is the reason why they joined the religious leaders, Jews and soldiers in mocking and ridiculing Him on the cross.[iv] Their taunts follow the same line, “If this man is truly the Savior, the Son of God, the Christ, a powerful miracle worker, Israel’s King, then, why can’t He save Himself from the cross? If He is able to free Himself, we will believe!”

It is surprising to read that even at the point of death, these two robbers found the time to revile the Christ. Luke’s account preserves the mockery of one of the men, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself—and us!”[v] Truly, the depravity of the human heart runs deep. Paul was right when he wrote, “…There is no one righteous, not even one…Their throat is an opened grave; they deceive with their tongues; the venom of asps is under their lips, whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness…The fear of God is not before their eyes.”[vi]

But the story doesn’t end here. One of the robbers who previously joined the chorus of mockeries had a change of heart. After hearing his companion’s words, he “answered and rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not even fear God, because you are undergoing the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for what we have done. But this man has done nothing wrong!’”[vii]

Why the sudden 180-degree turn? Why this unexpected defense for Jesus? It is only by God’s grace that this man’s eyes were finally opened. The Lord removed the veil so that he could finally see Jesus for who He really was.[viii] He recognized His uniqueness when he saw the great crowd of people following Him, and of weeping women on the road to Calvary. Why were they weeping?[ix] They were weeping for Jesus! He must have thought, “Why are these women wailing for a criminal? What kind of man is this that a great crowd is hurt to see Him die?”

Then he heard Jesus address the women. He spoke tender words for a man condemned to die.[x] And on the cross, he heard Him pray for His persecutors, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”[xi] He may have asked, “Where does His peace come from? How can He ask for their forgiveness after the injustices He experienced?”

And he saw his silence and meekness amid the mockery and insults, pain and suffering. This man is totally in control. He can face death without fear.

And suddenly it hits him! Everything falls into place. He realizes Jesus’ innocence. People followed and mourned for Him because He was not a criminal. He did nothing wrong. He was gentle and kind, forgiving and composed because His conscience was clear. [xii]

And faced with the righteousness of Jesus, the robber saw his own wretchedness. His heart was gripped with the fear of God. He saw his wrong and acknowledged that he deserved the penalty of death.

And finally, he believed that Jesus is the Christ, Savior and King. The man understood that his body is doomed, but he sought salvation for his soul from Christ. He pleaded with the King to remember him when He’s back in His Kingdom in heaven. He sought the unimaginable but divinely possible by grace—a sinful criminal accepted as God’s righteous child.

And Jesus, full of mercy, responded, “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”[xiii] How is this possible? Peter has an answer, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, in order that he could bring you to God…”[xiv] Jesus died on the cross as a substitute for God’s people. He took the death penalty of the unrighteous and freely gave His very righteousness to all who believe so that they can become blameless, holy and acceptable before God.

The repentant man on the cross teaches us a great deal about salvation. Firstly, we are never saved by the good things that we do, by our religiosity or charity. He is the perfect example. If God had a scale and weighed his righteous acts against his sins, he does not deserve to enter paradise.

But Jesus gave Him access to heaven! Paul explains, “For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast.”[xv]

Salvation is by grace alone. It is a gift. It is not dependent on works. It is not dependent on the things we do. For if it were so, we can boast about our righteousness. We can say, “I was allowed to be in God’s presence because I did a lot of good things, I helped the poor, I prayed a lot, went to church often, did all my religious obligations.”

To this attitude, Paul adds, “I do not declare invalid the grace of God, for if righteousness is through the law (human works), then Christ died to no purpose.”[xvi] That is, if we can gain our salvation by being good here on earth, what’s the use of Jesus’ death on the cross? Why don’t we just spend all our energy doing good to reach God?

Secondly, we receive this salvation by grace through faith. Faith is the channel by which God declares us righteous, sinless, acceptable. Faith in what? Faith in Jesus. This faith begins with an understanding of who Jesus is—that He is holy, God’s Son, Lord, King, Savior, Christ. And it extends to an acknowledgment of who we are—sinful, wretched, filthy creatures deserving of death.

It is a faith that clings to and trusts in Jesus alone for one’s salvation. It turns away from man-made ways and institutions to reach God, admitting that there is nothing one can do to enter His presence. And finally, this faith submits to Jesus’ Lordship. It says, “I bow down before You, Lord.
You are now King over my life. I turn from my sinful ways. I give up the self and let you rule over every aspect of my being. Not my will but Yours be done.”

And thirdly, Salvation is ultimately the work of God, not man. Jesus said, “The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.”[xvii] God chooses us, draws us to Jesus, by grace gives us faith, declares us righteous, slowly transforms us into Christlikness and promises glorious perfection at His return. There is really nothing we can boast about. It was even said that humanity’s only contribution to the story of redemption is sin.

But the repentant robber’s story is a reminder that even the most vile among us is never too far away from God’s grace. All it takes is a heart of faith that is willing to acknowledge one’s need of Christ and willing to submit to His Lordship in one’s life.

If you have not yet done this, I invite you to seek Christ, trust in His salvation and submit to Him as King! God bless you!



[i] Mat 27:38
[ii] Luke 23:32
[iii] Luke 23:33; Mat 27:38; Mark 15:27; Mark 19:18
[iv] Mark 15:32; Matthew 27:44
[v] Luke 23:39
[vi] Romans 3:10-18
[vii] Luke 23:40-41
[viii] 2 Corinthians 3:16
[ix] Luke 23:27
[x] Luke 23:28-29
[xi] Luke 23:34
[xii] Luke 23:41
[xiii] Luke 23:43
[xiv] 1 Peter 3:18
[xv] Ephesians 2:8-9
[xvi] Galatians 2:21
[xvii] Luke 19:10

A Peek into a Minister's Heart



This is my first ever sermon in our local church at Diliman Campus Bible Church. It is an exposition of 2 Thessalonians 2:13-3:5. Entitled, "A Peek into a Minister's Heart," this message leaves us with six truths inside the apostle Paul's heart. These stirred him to continue serving the Lord amid ministry challenges and persecution.

As we listen to God's Word, I pray that Paul's example will also spur us to continue the fight of faith even if it's hard and discouraging, all for God's glory! May you be blessed!

Listen to the recorded message below:

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You can also read the outline manuscript here (please wait for the document to load):


4 Roman Catholic Teachings violated at the Feast of the Black Nazarene

Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno
Image Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/biagkensiak/857870853/

Contrary to popular understanding, many practices during the Feast of the Black Nazarene actually violate teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

Unknown to many, the Catechism for Filipino Catholics (CFC) contains the church’s official teaching on idolatry, the most debated issue surrounding the feast.

In this article, we will put the CFC and the Feast of the Black Nazarene side by side to see how the tradition actually breaks Roman Catholic teachings.

1. The Black Nazarene or Poong Itim na Nazareno is taking God’s place and the worship He alone deserves

Paragraph 887 of the Catechism for Filipino Catholics reads,
“The First Commandment forbids any other god than the Lord . . . that any created thing should take the place of God and receive the worship due to Him alone. It thus rules out all forms of idolatry which is the ‘substitution of someone or something else for God.’”

The CFC teaches that an idol or a false god is anyone or anything taking God’s place in one’s life, and receiving worship in the form of prayer, devotion or praise that belongs to God alone.

We need only to observe the millions who join the feast, how they risk their health and lives just to touch the statue during the Translacion, and no sooner realize that the icon has already taken God’s place not just in the event, but in their hearts as well.

We need only to hear the fervent prayers uttered to the poon and see the throng of people waiting to kiss it to see that the statue is already receiving worship that belongs to God alone.

One devotee was interviewed in a news program in 2014 and his words are very telling. “Kahit na sinabi nating lilok lang ng isang tao yan at ay gawa ng isang tao ang isang kahoy na santo, pero para sa pakiramdam namin bilang mga tapat na Katoliko eh may buhay siya kahit na siya’y kahoy (Even if we say that it was only sculpted by a person, that a saint’s wooden icon is made by a man, for us as loyal Catholics, we feel that he has life even if he’s wood).”

2. The Statue of Jesus is pretending to be the perfect image of God

Paragraph 889 of the CFC states,
“No Carved Images. God reserves for Himself alone the right to express and produce images of Himself… But the perfect image of God is seen in the life and sufferings of Jesus Christ, ‘the image of the invisible God’ (Col 1:15), on whose face ‘the glory of God shines’ (cf. 2 Cor 4:6). It is Jesus alone who could answer Philip’s request, ‘show us the Father,’ with ‘whoever has seen me has seen the Father’ (Jn 14:8-9).”

The Catholic Church’s official stand is that “the perfect image of God is seen in the life and sufferings of Jesus Christ.” Notice that it is the very life and very suffering of the Lord that perfectly embodies God—His attributes, power and love.

The emphasis is not on the physical characteristics, not on the length of His hair or the color of His skin, or His physique or His facial features. This is so because Jesus’ main concern on earth is not to give an idea how God looked like, but to allow people to experience how God was like.

That He is a God of grace and mercy who forgives those who repent and believe. And at the same time, a God of justice who judges sinners for their rebellion.

These truths cannot be captured by one sculpture, but they can be seen and relived and experienced in the pages of the Bible. So instead of looking at the poon, why not get to know Jesus by reading God’s Word?

And even if some argue that the poon is a replica of the physical Jesus, its faithfulness to how Christ really looked like is in question.

I once asked a staunch believer in statues how he could be sure that the Black Nazarene is the true face of Jesus. His answer was not convincing, “Yan ang ipinasa sa atin ng mga ninuno natin. Siguro naman alam nila ang itsura ni Hesus (That’s what’s passed on by our ancestors. I think they would know how Jesus looked like).”

3. Many devotees have fallen to the temptation of making the Black Nazarene a substitute to the reality of God

Paragraph 891 of the CFC is perhaps the most telling. Here we read,

“Yet we must recognize the ever present temptation: from merely reminding us of God, the material image tends to gradually ‘become’ a god, an idol. In such fashion the bronze serpent made by Moses on the command of the Lord to cure those bitten by serpents (cf. Nm 21:6-9) was smashed by Hezekiah because ‘the Israelites were burning incense to it’ (2 Kgs 18:4). An image can either bring the reality it represents to mind, to aid devotion and attention, or it can become a substitute for the reality itself, and thus be an object of idolatry. Thus the First Commandment forcefully reminds us that God, the Creator, is infinitely beyond any of His creatures; no image or mental concept can ever ‘capture’ Him. Deus semper major-- God is always greater.”
The Catholic Church realized the Filipino’s attraction to the physical, thus condoning the use of images and statues for the sole purpose of aiding devotion and attention for the religious (CFC 890).

However, it also realized the temptation that easily comes with these religious icons—they can gradually overshadow the God they are supposed to represent. That is, these icons, over time, can become false gods themselves, causing the faithful to worship them, rather than God.

When we look at the Feast of the Black Nazarene, it is easy to spot how the supposed representation has now become the center of attraction. If it were not, why then do devotees put so much emphasis on being able to touch, kiss or caress the material representation?

The God that the poon represents is omnipresent. That is, Jesus is not bound in a single place for His followers to jostle and trample on one another just to be where He is.

In fact, we can even read His very words in Matthew 28:20, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Jesus is with us always, wherever we are. Whether we are in the privacy of our rooms or in our offices or on the streets, He is with us.

So we don’t actually need to be near the poon or even inside a church to pray to Him if it is really Him we want to commune with. But if we insist on being close to the icon of the Nazareno, being able to wipe it with our handkerchiefs and kiss it with our lips, perhaps it’s the representation we’re after, not the God who’s supposed to be represented.



4. Many devotees believe that the Poong Nazareno has powers to grant their prayers

Lastly in paragraph 892 of the CFC,
“Catholic Filipinos are attracted very much to images and statues of Christ, Mary and patron Saints… the Church firmly insists on the valuable help such images can offer for authentic Christian prayer. Nevertheless, the Church is equally insistent on the proper use of such images, avoiding any and all appearances of making the images into idols, or treating them as endowed with some magical powers (cf. CCC 2132). This need for caution is confirmed by today’s ‘image industry’ which graphically illustrates how manipulative and deceitful human images can become, even holy images.”

Again we read that the Catholic Church allowed the use of images to aid the religious in their prayer. But it insists that there is a proper use for these images. They should not be transformed into gods, and devotees should not ascribe power to them.

But we have discussed throughout the article how the Black Nazarene has already become a false god in the life and heart of its followers. And in addition, they also treat it as if it has “magical powers” to grant them their requests.

Many of those who volunteer as namamasan (devotees who pull the Nazareno carriage through two long ropes) do so for various personal petitions. They believe that by their sacrifice, the poon will grant them their wishes, like the healing of a sick loved one or the deliverance from poverty.

Other devotees attempt to go near the andas (carriage) to climb it and personally wipe the statue with their handkerchiefs. They, then, believe that the cloth acquires miraculous or holy powers, transforming into a potent talisman.

These practices even caught the attention of retired Catholic Bishop Deogracia Iniguez who shared his concerns in an interview with ABS-CBN way back in 2009. He said, “They attribute some powers to the statue itself which is fanaticism, which is superstition. So something needs to be purified.”

In acknowledging that the poon has these powers, its followers unwittingly ascribe omnipotence to the statue, which is an attribute that rightfully belongs to God alone. Unlike the devotees, Job was correct when he ascribed power to God saying, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”

We have spent a lot of words expounding the CFC to show where the Feast of the Black Nazarene goes against Catholic teachings. But in the final analysis, a greater authority leaves us with powerful words against idolatry. This is what we read from God’s Word in Jeremiah 10:1-7

1Hear what the Lord says to you, people of Israel. 2This is what the Lord says:
“Do not learn the ways of the nations
or be terrified by signs in the heavens,
though the nations are terrified by them.
3For the practices of the peoples are worthless;
they cut a tree out of the forest,
and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel.
4They adorn it with silver and gold;
they fasten it with hammer and nails
so it will not totter.
5Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field,
their idols cannot speak;
they must be carried
because they cannot walk.
Do not fear them;
they can do no harm
nor can they do any good.”
6No one is like you, Lord;
you are great,
and your name is mighty in power.
7Who should not fear you,
King of the nations?
This is your due.
Among all the wise leaders of the nations
and in all their kingdoms,
there is no one like you.


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