Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Abundant Health. Abundant Life

Abundant Health Forum in Manila

A reflection shared during the 1st Pan-Asia Methodist Abundant Health Forum held in Manila. 

John 10:10 … “ I came that you may  have life and have it abundantly.”

I am happy to share the good news because often, I bring bad news to the patient.

I always say that, because that is true. The hospital is the darkest and the loneliest place on earth. It is a place where you can see sorrow, anxiety, distress and hopelessness. People are sick and in pain while suffering from cancer, malnourished children dying of preventable death like dehydration or dengue fever. You have stroke patients or heart attack patients in the ICU. You have surgical patient with neoplastic masses if not vehicular accidents. These are just patients, these does not include the family members who are equally worried and hopeless with the condition of their patients.

The parents may be stressed out where to get the finances necessary to pay the bills and to buy the medicines. You have relatives and friends who have lost sleep and tired because they volunteered to watch over their patients. You have loved ones who are worried about the job of their patients. Even their own jobs and business that they need to attend to that was disrupted by this illness. You have children who do not know what to do if their parents will be gone. Then you have the health workers in the facility who are so tired of their work. They not only feel tired but feel abused and unappreciated. They feel like they are overworked but underpaid. They have lost hope because they no other recourse and this is the only option left they have. All they can see probably is darkness. Just like the blind man who was standing in front of the temple. But Jesus did something unexpected. On a Sabbath Day, Jesus healed the blind man. But it did not only bring sight to the blind, it also opened the opportunity for the blind man to believe in the Son of Man and become a follower of Jesus. The blind man was offered a new lease of life… not just life but a life of abundance that only comes from Jesus. Wouldn’t that be nice? If all those who are sick, lonely, hopeless, imprisoned, living in the dark will find a life of abundance in Jesus?

I often see families referred to my service for family counseling. How can I help the parents? I see cases where the father and mother are resigned to the fact that their family is a hopeless case. Some  parents have even contemplated to end their lives because their family was going nowhere and they are dragging their kids with them. They have lost all desires to live because all they have encountered are problems, challenges and all the limitations life can throw at them. They have not seen any signs of abundant grace from God. They need a miracle. Are we expecting that the cloud will open in front of them and a bright white light will come down?

The hospital should be a place of hope because hopeless people go to that place. They need hope. Any place of healing and restoration should be a place of hope and life. Jesus is our hope. Jesus can give us life. And Christians should be able to reflect the hope and the life that comes from Christ. When we minister to the sick and the dying are we just able to address their physical ailments without restoring their mental, spiritual health? We provide holistic healing of the mind, body and spirit just like Jesus did. We offer them life, the life Christ offered. For we are instruments of Christ healing. Simple miracles can happen everyday.

I remember when I was a resident physician in Mary Johnston Hospital. Before we bring the patient to the operating room for a surgical procedure. We talk to the family and the patient and explain what will happen. This helps allay their fears and anxiety. We prepare them mentally. Not only that, together with the nurses, we pray with the patient and the family. The prayer calms their soul. They appreciate that a lot. We do that because we recognize that we are mere instruments of God’s healing ministry – the healing of the body, the mind and the soul.

Jesus promised us life and a life in abundance. That life does not only mean adding more years to it, adding more meaning to it or adding more importance to it. That life becomes abundant because Christ offers us hope, peace and joy. In our healing ministries, we open the door that is Christ for people to see the abundant life. As Christians, we are called to bring this good news that is Jesus Christ to every corners of the world. Let us be faithful in our calling, let us bring healing in this broken world. Let us continue to share the life of abundance that we all have found in Jesus Christ.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Jesus is a community medicine practitioner

If Jesus is alive today, he could have been a health worker. He would be a great community medicine practitioner.

The proceedings in the last Annual Convention of the Philippine Academic Society for Community Medicine, it was very inspiring to see snippets of Jesus and His work in the activities of the doctors and students engaging the people and the community. Different schools and universities showcased their partnership with the community in addressing their health problems towards improving the quality of life of the people. One video presentation showed how the team of doctors and interns transformed one community from a slum area into a vibrant baranggay over the years of its partnership. The work of Christ continues with the work of the community health workers. It is not because some of these institutions are Christian universities, it is simple the nature of their work as community health workers.

Helping the poor and sick, feeding the hungry, freedom for the captive and transformation of the world into a better place. Sound like very Biblical but that is precisely what these health workers are doing. I cannot wait for next years convention as they highlight the different best practices of the different institutions engaged in community work.
PASCOM Panel Discussion during the R.Fernando Memorial Lecture.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

9 Things I Learned Getting to a United Methodist Church in Cebu

Lessons I learned after arriving at the Mactan International Airport at 8:05 AM to attend the Order of Elders and Workers Retreat. Here are the top 10 things I need to remember:

1. There is no breakfast meal in Jollibee. I was hungry but the only Jollibee store at the airport does not offer any breakfast meal. I had to find another store outside.

2. You can take the bus going to Cebu. I wanted to commute with the public transport in Cebu. They have a MyBus right outside the airport. It will bring right at SM City Cebu where jeepneys going all over are available.

3. Be ready with coins. The MyBus uses a tap card but if you do not have one, you need to pay the exact amount to the driver (actually you drop it in the box).

4. There is a Traveller's Lounge in SM. This is very convenient for travelers going through Cebu. One can leave their bags there or take a shower for only P50. I took the opportunity to freshen up before I proceeded to my destination.

5. The Mall opens at 10 AM. I had to wait for the Mall to open before I could get to the available restaurants inside to eat my breakfast. I just ordered some cheeseburgers to go.

6. Take the 12 G or 12 I jeepneys to get to Labangon. There is a terminal infront of the Mall where jeepneys plying different routes are waiting. It leaves on time and does not wait for the jeep to be full.

7. Fare is P9. SM Cebu to A. Lopez is a little far but is just 9 pesos, that is 2 more than the regular fare P7.

8. The jeep route passes through a couple of landmarks in Cebu. We passed through Sto. Nino, Pier Uno, the old downtown Colon and the Vicente Sotto Medical Center.

9. The divine worship starts at 10:30 AM. I arrived at the church at 11:02 AM.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Birthday Ko

It's my birthday! I celebrated it with my wife while the kids are out on vacation.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

God of Abundance comes on a Palm Sunday

This sermon was preached during the Harvest Festival Celebration of the United Methodist Church in Sinamar Norte, San Mateo, Isabela.

We are celebrating Palm Sunday. We welcome the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem. This Palm Sunday is an appropriate time to celebrate the Harvest Festival. Pero, do we only celebrate Harvest Festival if we have a good harvest? Paano kung lugi tayo? Paano kung wala tayong ipagpapasalamat? Do we need to level up our celebration.

Let us pray.

Palm Sunday is a time that we recognize Jesus as a king. As we wave the palm, we are shouting together with the crowd Hosanna. We are recognizing Jesus as king with an expectation of what he can do for us.

We read in the Gospel, the entry of Jesus in Jerusalem riding a colt and welcomed by the palms. This image reminds us that Jesus arrives as a King. What kind of king? King who will give them a better life.

The story of Palm Sunday is much like our story today. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the people were shouting Hosanna! Hosanna! Because they are recognizing the arrival of a king. In verse 10 we read, “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” a kingdom is coming. The people are expecting a new kingdom from this coming king. With that arrival they are also expecting something from this king. What are you expecting from your king? Every election, we anticipate a new leader. We expect that leader will bring in change for the better. We expect the leader to improve our current situation. We expect them to make our life better.

The people are expecting deliverance from this new king. The people of Jerusalem at that time is under the oppressive rule of Rome. Most of them live a miserable life. They do not want their current living situation. Mahirap ang buhay. Kulang na ang pagkain, mahal pa ang mga bilihin. Mataas ang presyo ng pagkain pero napakamura ng benta ng palay. Walang pera ang mga tao. Walang makain ng tama. Nagkakasakit na ang mga bata. Walang pambili ng gamot. Kulang ang budget. Walang pera. Just like Jerusalem, we currently live in a broken world. A world living in scarcity. Early on we are shaped by a theology of scarcity, we need more.

The people are shouting Hosanna. Hosanna means, “save us.” The people are recognizing that there is a new king coming to save them. Save them from what? Scarcity? A life that is miserable. We want to be saved by a king from this frustrating life.

And so as we welcome this King, we expect he will turn things around from a life of scarcity to a life of abundance. That is a reason for us to celebrate. Why not.

Kung wala kang pera, at panahon na ng sweldo – that is a reason for celebration. If for the longest time there is famine and drought and now it is harvest time – that is a reason to celebrate. And so we have every reason to celebrate the Harvest Festival. As we celebrate the Harvest Festival, we give thanks to God and celebrate the bountiful harvest. But do we celebrate a bountiful harvest because we want more harvest than the previous one? Masaya ba tayo kapag madaming pagkain dahil sanay tayong isa lang ang ulam. Gusto nating tikman lahat kaya kukuha ka ng madami at baka maubos agad. Masaya ba tayo kapag merong bonus sa sweldo dahil kulang na kulang ang sweldo natin. Masaya ba tayo kapag ka magaling na tayo dahil nga ang hirap magkasakit. Masaya ba tayo kapag madaming tao sa midweek service dahil madalas ay wala? Are we happy if we have something extra because most of the time we have nothing at all? If we are only grateful to God because we received something we do not usually have, then the entry of Jesus in Jerusalem is a reminder that we must go beyond the reasons for our celebrations.

The story of the triumphant entry of Jesus reminds us that the reign of Christ is far greater than any the mind of man could ever conceive or plan. The people looked for someone to fight their battles in the present day world. They expect a savior who will save them from the difficulties, struggles and all the negativities of life. But God is more than that. God will deliver us not only from worldly troubles but will set us free from the sins of this world. 

This is the promise of God. Jesus said in John 10:10, I came that you may have life and have it abundantly. Also, when we say abundance of God, we do not simply mean lots of material things. Abundance comes from the Greek word perissós an adjective that means "all-around, excess" – properly all-around, "more than" ("abundantly"); beyond what is anticipated, exceeding expectation; "more abundant," going past the expected limit ("more than enough . . . "

Abundance does not mean material wealth. It does not mean being rich or having a lot of material things. Abundance means fullness. It also means all around. It is fullness in all aspect of life – physical, mental, spiritual, relational with other humans and with nature. Michael Schult, a Methodist pastor, described abundant life as characterized by love, relationships, beauty, justice, compassion and simplicity. Abundance is beyond our expectation of life.

Palm Sunday reminds us of the expectation of the people that the king will make things better for them. But God works beyond our expectations. 

Traditionally, the Harvest Festival is the celebration of the good things and bounty that we received from God. Nagpapasalamat tayo sa magandang ani natin, dahil may promotion sa trabaho, yung mga estudyante, dahil nakapasa sa next level, grumadweyt sa school at natanggap sa college. Dahil gumaling sa sakit or dahil nadinig ang ating mga panalangin.

But what if we are sick? What if we did not have a good harvest? What if we live a miserable life? Do we still have an abundant God?

We must level up our understanding of the harvest festival. Yes, the Harvest Festival is a time of gratitude and thanksgiving for the blessings that we receive but we must level-up. “LEVEL UP”

The Harvest Festival is no longer just a time of thanksgiving for the abundance we receive. It is a time to celebrate the abundance of God. It is a time to celebrate and say we have more than enough. This is the theology of abundance. The Festival is a declaration that we don’t need more and we have more than enough. It then becomes a time to worship a God of abundant grace.

Thus, even if we did not have a successful harvest, even if we are living a medyo gipit na buhay, even if we are sick or even if we have troubles in life. We still have an abundant God worthy to be praised. We do not need more of what we have now, we have more than enough. 

Because we are satisfied with what we have, it allows us to see beyond the superficial. Our situation should not be reason for the celebration. Instead, we celebrate the goodness of God regardless if we had a harvest or not. Even if we have problems. Even if we failed in our goals. Even if we are sick. We celebrate and worship God because of his abundant grace. Amen?!

Now, to be clear. It doesn’t mean that we become complacent and it is okay to live a miserable life. We are saying that we are already satisfied with whatever we have now, thus our situation should not be the basis of our celebration. In the same way, because we worship a God of abundant grace, we must live our Christian life in hopeful anticipation of God’s abundant grace to supply our need. 

While a young, spiritually-indifferent Oxford don, John Wesley met the college porter late one night. The porter was a poor but deeply pious man. The evening was cold, and he was poorly clad, so Wesley urged him to go home for a coat.

“I thank God for this the one coat I possess,” the porter replied, indicating the threadbare garment he was wearing. “And I thank Him for water, my only drink during the day.”
Intrigued by this response, Wesley queried, “What else is there for which you are thankful?”
“I will thank Him I have the dry stones to lie upon.”
“Please, continue.”
“I thank Him that He has given me my life and being, a heart to love Him, and a desire to serve Him.”

Though materially poor, the porter was spiritually rich. By focusing on the priceless blessings he had received from God – physical life, a spiritually-transformed heart, desire and opportunity to serve the Lord – he had much for which to be thankful. As his heart welled up with gratitude, he also sincerely thanked God for the provision of his basic material necessities .We are thankful to God not because of the good things we have already received. We are thankful because of his promise. “I came that you may have life and have it abundantly.”

We have an abundant God and that is reason for us to worship him. Part of our worship to an abundant God, we give abundantly. John Wesley taught the early Methodist to be very gracious in giving to others. He taught them to “earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can.” John Wesley was a very rich man but he owned nothing. He earned a big salary but he gave them all to the poor, those in prison, to the sick and to the needy. He gave them to the ministry of the Methodist societies. Why did he do this, because John Wesley believed that he has a very gracious God who can abundantly provide for his needs. Because he believes this, he can confidently give everything he has for the ministry of those in need. He believes that God’s abundance should be shared. He taught the early Methodist that God’s abundance is not only to the physical but in all things, including mind, the spirit, social, relational and the natural world. The acts of mercy like feeding the hungry and visiting the sick are means of grace that Methodist Christians should do in response to the abundant grace we receive.  

We continue these kind of ministries until today. Let me share with you one of the new initiative in ministry of the United Methodist Church based on this abundant God that we serve. This year we are launching the Abundant Health ministry in the Philippines. Let us reflect on these excerpts from the program description.

As a church, we are called to minister to others because we serve a God of abundance.
Thus, as United Methodists, we are committed to creating abundant health for all – a global connection striving for mental, physical and spiritual well-being. Lifesaving health ministries are enriching the lives of people around the world, from South America to Africa, from India to the Philippines and the U.S.

The God of abundance, does not only provide bountiful harvest for our crops or business or finances but also abundance of good health in our bodies physical and spiritual. John Wesley emphasized this holistic salvation from God. “It will be a double blessing if you give yourself up to the Great Physician, that He may heal soul and body together. And unquestionably this is His design. He wants to give you … both inward and outward health.” – John Wesley, from a letter written in 1778 to Alexander Knox, a theological writer.

God calls us to the ministry of healing. We have opportunities to utilize our resources to extend hope to all people, offering them a path to wholeness, joy and abundant life in Christ.

Jesus’ mission on earth was inaugurated by healing (Matthew 4:23-24), and his healing ministries were a central sign that Jesus was the promised Messiah (Luke 7:20-22). Therefore, we understand that continuing Jesus’ ministry of healing is an important part of what it means to be disciples of Jesus Christ.

We believe that God, who is already at work healing, renewing, and redeeming creation, not only calls us to follow the path of Jesus in this way, but will also empower us with the Spirit as we step forth in mission to seek abundant health for all!

In response to God’s abundant grace, we must get involved by engaging in personal, congregational and community health ministries. We can get started by committing to promote Abundant Health activities in your congregation and community. 

We live in a broken world. Every day we see sick people, hungry people, we see homeless people, we see unemployment, we see bankruptcy, we see greed, we see destruction of the earth, and we see scarcity. But the good news, my dear brothers and sisters, is we have an Abundant God.

We do not have to live in fear that what we have will not be enough. We do not have to fear that the future may leave us with nothing. We have a God of abundance that gives us hope. A hope that God will supply all our needs. We have an abundant God that inspires us to respond with a cheerful heart. Psalms 118:29 reminds us to give thanks to the Lord for he is good. His mercy endureth forever.

As we celebrate this Harvest Festival, let us remember that our thanksgiving is not dependent on the bountiful things we have received. We are thankful to the abundance of God who came to this world of brokenness and scarcity. We level up our thanksgiving by responding to his abundant grace in giving back abundantly to His ministries. 

“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

My dear brothers and sisters, let us not leave in fear of scarcity and brokenness. We have a God of abundance. We have a king who promises us fullness of life. Wave your palms up high, shout Hosanna in the highest……… and allow the king to enter our hearts. 

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Love Month

Helping others achieve. There was never a business that talks about success by helping others succeed. It usually dog eats dog world out there. Some things are amazingly unique. Compassionate economics is real. I am only beginning to understand that business as mission is possible. I have experienced it.

This is the greatest accomplishment in the month. I helped my partners and younger sister-in-law succeed in their business. What great joy.

This is also the month that the Health Program grant was officially awarded to us.

I have come to know early that ministries require resources and funding to be sustainable. With great support from the church and the community, effective altruism will also be a reality in church health programs.

Things are going to be great. These are simple manifestations of God's promise when he said in John 10:10, "I came that they might have life and have it abundantly."

Indeed we have a God of abundance.

Friday, January 26, 2018

What are your goals for the New Year 2018?

We start a new year 2018.

We have a new house. We live in a new subdivision. We have a new neighborhood.

We have a new member in the family. These are some of our accomplisments for 2017.

We have new goals. We have new dreams.

We are excited on what the new year brings. As we start the new year, we always plan. However, we know that our plan may not be God's perfect plan. Yet, we still pray that the desires of our heart will be granted. But we remain humble to bow according to God's will.

As we commit this new year to God, we also re-commit ourselves in obedience to God's will. We strive hard to do our best and leaving the rest to God's desire.

God is in control. We trust in what God has in store for us.