Sunday, July 20, 2008

A Taste of Heaven!

My family and I have just returned from a vacation we have been planning for the last 3 to 4 years. Our adventure took us from our familiar stomping Grounds in Detroit, MI to the majestic mountainous wonder of Western Canada where my wife's sisters and their families make their homes. It was the third such trip for Luz, my older 3 daughters and I, and the first for our youngest Victoria and our son-in-law Mike.

Plane rides are always exciting and we all enjoyed our flights, but did note that the cost of fuel was leading to a more "No frills" flight experience - no meals, a small glass of soft-drink or two and maybe a very small bag of 5 or 6 miniature pretzels - NO FRILLS! Nevertheless, we wanted our focus to be on our time with family in Vancouver and Victoria, BC and what a time we had!

There were over a dozen of us assembled in Luz's Sisters homes - first Liza and her husband Tim hosted us in Vancouver and later Lanie and her husband Mike hosted us in Victoria. As always, first came the screaming and unrestrained emotion from sisters who had not seen one another for a few years, followed by waves of sumptuous food. In Vancouver we were treated to the traditional Filipino delicacies, Pancit Canton, Adobo, fish and rice with the added benefit of some healthy alternatives of fruit salad, blueberry pancakes made with unrefined flour and numerous other healthy and tasty dishes added by Liza's husband Tim. In Victoria, we had more of the same thanks to Lanie and to Cousin Ruby, and we got to witness first-hand the amazing handiwork of Lani's husband Mike, who built their house by himself - 4,000+ square feet of it, an amazing display of craftsmanship that provided more than enough room of all of us to live comfortably for the week. This was capped by a spa day at Lanie's professional Salon, where our wives and daughters were pampered at Cerelina's, the spa Lanie has named in honor of the woman who gave birth to her and her 5 siblings. I know of three of us in particular who have been blessed by the fruit of Cerelina's labor as it has manifested itself in the lives of our amazing wives!

One aspect of British Columbian living that was a real fringe benefit, was the physical element to all of the fun. We were told that BC is the healthiest of all of Canada's provinces. Everywhere we went involved walking, hiking, lakes, beaches and hills. Talk about guilt-free indulgences! As soon as you ate, you burned it off with some kind of outdoor physical activity. Another characteristic of the area that struck a cord with us was its diversity. There are parts of Vancouver that make it difficult to determine just where in the world you are! For instance, when we visited one of the Asian Night Markets, the sights, sounds, tastes and smells were so overpowering that our youngest daughter Victoria exclaimed with loud and unrestrained joy, "Mommy,I love it here in the Philippines!" That phrase got me to thinking. Though what we experienced in the night markets was wonderful, it was just a shadow of what a market experience in the Philippines is like. Granted, it had many elements one might find in the "real thing" but it was only a faint reflection of a totally different reality altogether.

I believe that is a part of what the Apostle Paul was conveying about our understanding of eternal truths and perspectives when he stated that in our walk of faith we often "see through a glass dimly." There are times when we are blessed to enjoy amazing manifestations of God's love and purpose for our lives, but even at their best, these instances are but a "foretaste of Glory Divine." Our trip was wonderful, but it had to come to an end. Tears of joy were replaced by tears of melancholy as we embarked on the ferry leaving Victoria and heading back to Vancouver and the road back to Seattle, USA. Having family members in your sight gave way once again to wondering how they were doing and keeping them and their problems in prayer from afar.

As wonderful as our time was, it makes me remember that this world isn't really my home and that there is a place being prepared for me and others who have placed their faith in the Jesus Christ. We are promised inheritances that can not be denied and loving relationships that cannot be diminished by time, space or trouble. The little bit of Heaven my family and I experienced this past week made me yearn even more for the Real Thing that will never end. I am eternally thankful for the goodness of God who gives us good things in this world to help us appreciate the great things in store in the world to come! In the meantime, I look forward to another taste of heaven as soon as He allows it! Until next time...


Monday, July 7, 2008

God Can handle Our Tough Questions!

I don't typically base my posts on sermons, but the reaction I received from the message I preached yesterday has led me to share some thoughts I presented on July 6 during my Sunday Sermon to the Eastside Congregation. I believe this particular message hit home because everyone experiences setbacks, hurts and disappointments that cause them to ask tough questions. It's comforting to know that we aren't the first generation to ask tough questions and that the Scriptures are actually full of accounts of people of faith confronting God with some very candid inquiries.

Habakkuk is one of the minor prophets of the Old Testament - not minor because of degree of importance of who he was or what he wrote, but minor because of the brevity of the book he authored as opposed to the longer or major prophetic books like Isaiah and Jeremiah. Though is book is brief in length, it is deep in content and definitely major league in the substance of what he pens. Habakkuk began his ministry during a period that was the last great stand for godliness in his generation. The nation was ruled by King Josiah, who after beginning his tenure of service as a boy, discovered the then long-neglected scriptures and led a comprehensive revival in the land that dispensed with false worship and re-established the nation's commitment exclusively to the Lord God Almighty. When Josiah died, the momentum of the revival died with him and the land began to rapidly descend back into wickedness and a total disregard of the Lord. As Habakkuk witnessed this alarming retreat to godlessness and wickedness, he presents the Lord with a series of "why" questions that strike a cord even today with anyone who has a sincere desire and devotion to live for God. See if you can relate to these questions:


I know I can definitely relate to these questions! They are gripping,honest,and pertinent to the real world and the way it seems to work. I'm not going to attempt to answer these questions point by point as I did in my sermon, because this blog entry would either be too long or not long enough. Nevertheless, I will share some of what Habakkuk's questions tell us about the nature of God.

More than anything, Habakkuk's exchange reminds us that God is open and eager for us to seek a deeper relationship with Him. Do you have a complaint about your present life circumstances? Have you experienced a numbing loss that has caused you to have doubts and uncertainties? Has the daily grind of life spawned a cynical spirit within you and tempted you to think you never see justice for all the evil
in the world? God is ready to hear your complaint. Scripture has many examples of these kinds of questions from people like Abraham, Job and David to name a few. Though the Lord does not always give us the specific "because" answer, he does give us powerful faith-building reminders of His past faithfulness and comforting thoughts of promised strength to prevent us from losing hope.

God also wants us to keep eternity in mind. The Bible is a Book that doesn't merely address the life we presently live, but the life that is to come. This includes the promise of eternal justice, Heaven or Hell. It means an eternal reward for those who know the Lord, and even recompense for those who have suffered greatly for standing firm in faith during great difficulty. Revelation 20 informs us that everyone will give an account for how they have responded to the Lord. There will be no short changing those who have kept the faith and no bypassing those who have rejected the Lord. Everyone will give an account.

We must keep God's love and concern for our troubles in mind. God cares.
He cares so much that He wants to give everyone the maximum opportunity to turn from sin and to turn to Him. 2 Peter 3:8 and 9 states the issue like this:
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

In other words, if it seems like God is taking a long time to make things right, take into account that His desire is to give the wicked more time to repent. The righteous in Jesus are in good stead no matter what the situation. It is those who don't know Christ who have cause for worry. God is on top of the situation and is giving more people a chance to "come home!"

So when you find yourself getting tired of running the race and fighting the good fight, remember a few verses to keep your head high and looking for the redemption God has promised will come:

Isaiah 40:31 - "But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles,they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint." So...when life feels more like a kick in the gut instead of a pat on the back, look to Lord to gain strength and don't be afraid to ask the tough questions. God can take it and he can take your faith to new heights even as you struggle in this rough and tumble world. Until next time...