Saturday, August 22, 2015

Community Medicine makes you ask this important question...

I attended the National Colloquium on Community Medicine early this month. The speakers where fellow practitioners of Community Medicine. Most of them have been serving in the remote areas of developing countries like the Philippines for decades. One of the social teachings of Christianity is that the Gospels challenges us to have a preferential option for the poor. Repeatedly, the speakers noted that Jesus associated with the poor and sick. I was so captured by their thoughts and insights about their theological views and how it led them to practice medicine in geographically isolated and difficult areas. The poor and the sick is affected by the society one lives in. The doctor, therefore, must be able to consider and address the social conditions if the doctor really wants to treat the sick and poor. One important question captured my mind during that colloquium that I think every healthcare provider should consider and struggle with:

Is Christianity and Capitalism compatible?

The Philippines has an open market economy greatly influenced by the capitalist ideals of the Western world. The capitalist economy promises good life for its hardworking people. As of August 2015, the Philippine government prides itself as one of the fastest growing economy in Asia with a current annual GDP of 5.2% in Q1 and an IMF forecast of growth as high as 6.7%. However, the economic growth is not felt by the common masses as most live in poor condition. The latest SWS survey in the Q1 of 2015 shows 51% of Filipinos perceive themselves as poor. It seems the people that benefited from the growth of the economy are only the rich. The Forbes reported in 2014 that the 50 richest Filipino collectively earned almost half of the Philippine GDP. The 50 richest Pinoys earned $8.45 Billion in 2014 which is 51% of the $16.6 billion earned by the country.  Thus the cliche, the rich is getting richer and sadly the poor is becoming poorer.

The question then, how did 85% of the Filipino people who are Christians allow such injustice to take place? Regardless of affiliation, the Roman Catholic and the Protestant church have great influence in the mind and attitudes of the people. The mainline Christian teaching is to help the poor and the needy yet the Filipino people exist in a capitalist economy that seems to do the opposite? Is capitalism incompatible with the Christian teaching or is it being abused? But Jay Richards says that capitalism is the solution. If capitalism rightly drives us to do our best to produce better quality products, be competitive in a setting with equal opportunity to succeed and rid ourselves of poverty; should Christianity then blame the poor for being lazy, not competitive enough and responsible for their poor state?

What do you think?


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Sunday, July 5, 2015

What makes Health Promotion programs in churches successful?

The Bible is replete with stories and messages about taking care of our physical health. Jesus ministering and healing the sick shows us the importance of health in our life. Throughout history, Christians have been on the forefront of promoting good health among people. Today, health promotion in churches is arguably the best health ministry local churches can implement. It is cost-efficient, sustainable and effective program available. But not all programs will become successful. 
There are certain elements that makes a health promotion in churches successful. A research done by Jane Peterson et al (Peterson, 2002) in 2002 reviewed the literature on health promotion and identified seven elements that made the program achieve its intended goals. They were able to identify the following elements of a successful health promotion ministry:
1.       Partnerships
2.       Positive health values
3.       Availability of services
4.       Access to church facilities
5.       Community-focused interventions
6.       Health behavior change
7.       Supportive social relationships

As the church year starts this month and ministry planning coming, take time to consider these elements. Reviewing our existing health ministries and ensuring these elements are present can help us achieve the desired outcomes of our programs. 


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Monday, June 1, 2015

5 Things You Must Do When Moving

Packing things
Almost every year or two, we move to a new place. As missionaries, moving is nothing new to us. But it is still stressful every time we move. So to help ease out the stress, we do some simple things before we move to a new place. Let me share with you five things we observe to reduce our stress.

1. Search out the new place.
 - You can visit the new location and get familiar with the area. Familiarize yourself with the area and with the people too. We attended worship service in the closest church to our new home in the area just to familiarize with the people as well. If this is not physically possible, you can always check the place online.

2. Say good bye to the place.
- It is important to acknowledge that we are leaving a certain place and must bid it farewell. These places have special memories to us and oftentimes it has emotional attachments to us. Weeks before we left, we include in our prayers saying goodbye to the place and the memories it holds for us. This is where I taught my kids to ride a bike, celebrated Christmas and New Year together and other memories. Saying goodbyes help put closure and eases the stress on the emotions.

3. Say good bye to friends.
Goodbye Cards
- Or at least inform them that you may not be seeing them as frequent as before. People might hate saying goodbyes, but kids need this kind of activity to put order and closure in the part of their lives. We had our kids set one day to send goodbye cards and gifts to their teachers and friends as they will be moving to a new school. It is important to emphasize that goodbyes does not necessarily mean the friendships will end but that staying in a particular place does.

4. Move at night.
- Traffic is bad. But traffic eases out during night time. So plan to move your stuff at night time. I also love the image of moving at night and finishing all the transfers as the dawn breaks. It just sets the setting where God prepares something new with the new day.

5. Bless the household before moving in.
- As in literally before moving in, you must bless the household. Not just the house and the place but the people in the household. More than the new place, the people involved - the parents, the kids, the relatives who are moving - needs God's blessing and guidance. Before we even open the door of the new place and put the first box inside, we prayed together outside the new place and ask God to bless the household. God provides the comfort and the peace to remove all the stresses involved in moving to a new place.

We're moving today. Happy moving.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The girl effect: The clock is ticking

Early teenage pregnancy is a problem in our country that needs attention. In my practice, I have seen young teenage mothers. I even had a 12-year old girl with her second pregnancy. How can such things happen?

One of the things that greatly affects our society is the rising number of unwanted early pregnancy. Young women as early as age 8 are being  readied for arranged marriages. This is a tall matter as culture plays a big factor here. However, health promotion and educating the community can help them understand the health implications of such practices.We need to do something about this. The clock is ticking.


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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

How to Celebrate Birthdays with Technology

I am often on travel. Because of technology people are more mobile than ever before. We can be from one corner of the world and to the other side in just a matter of hours. Technology is supposed to help us live a better life. Although technology can let you travel a great distance in a short time, technology can also bridge people together faster. Here is how I was able to celebrate my birthday with my family despite the great physical distance with them.

1. The good "old" e-mail

Yes, email may sound old but it is still relatively a new technology that brings people close together. The first birthday greeting I received today is through my email. And to prove to you that email is not an outdated technology, the emails I received are from my friends who are senior citizens. Of course, they still pride themselves to being abreast with modern life because they know how to use an email. E-mails like mails can be saved. And I love reading mails again and again even after years have gone.

2. Facebook

Facebook messages can bring your message across faster. The simple greetings in my posts are heartwarming. The FB posts are public, making any birthday announced publicly. Good for me, I am not home so I am saved from the usual dinner blowouts and parties. But it blesses me to receive greetings, wishes and prayers from family and friends. FB can make e-birthday celebrations.

3. Skype

Skype allows you to feel like you are with your loved ones. The first greeting I received on my birthday was a skype call from my wife. Skype gives the technology where I can talk to my wife and see her at the same time. What more, it is free. I can even talk to other family members simultaneously even if they are in different places. Even with a different timezone, our celebrations can happen at the same time. My family prepared a thanksgiving meal for me with a cake and they sang a birthday song and I can see and hear them. I even get to blow the cake.

Technology can really bring people closer together despite the physical distance. But sometimes, we only realize this when we are apart. So, the next time we are together with our family and friends, let us make sure we enjoy each others presence. There is nothing much comforting than being in the presence of your loved one. "And remember that I am always with you..." M

atthew 28;20.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Three Steps to Glimpse God's Glory

* Sermon by Rev. Dr. Nezer A. Soriano delivered during Transfiguration Sunday in Kamuning UMC, Quezon City last February 15, 2015.
Text: Mark 9: 2 - 9.

The Lord be with you.

Recently puro, bad news ang nababasa natin at puro bad news din ang sinasabi ko sa mga patients ko. So, I am happy to share God’s good news today.
Let me share a story. I recently told a patient she has hypertension. She cried after I told her that. I asked what made her sad? She replied, she will probably die of heart attack or stroke in a few years time. I told her, she can reduce the risk if she would change her lifestyle. I told her if she would avoid eating lechon, kare kare, stop eating too junk foods, burgers and fries, avoid softdrinks, stop partying at night, sleep early and exercise regularly she would decrease the risk. She cried even further. (You are supposed to laugh). She was only seeing the disease. She only sees superficially.

Let us pray.

Today is Transfiguration Sunday and our Gospel story tells us about this event.
A week ago, Jesus was talking to the disciples about his coming suffering, crucifixion and resurrection. The disciples were scared at what they heard. They criticize Jesus for speaking about death. They only understood the superficial meaning of the sufferings Jesus will experience. Maybe they were scared for Jesus. Imagine your friend talking about the pain, humiliation, struggles and even death that he will experience.
Even though the disciples has been with Jesus for the longest time, and have witnessed the miracles of Jesus, how he healed the sick, how he fed thousands, how he commanded the wind and rain to stop, they only saw a Jesus as a mortal being prone to suffering and pain.

How long have you been Christians? I have been a Christian since I can remember. I know of Jesus from Sunday School. Every CI I receive Jesus in my heart. Just to be sure. Yet, everyday in the clinic and in the hospital, I only see things as they are. I only see sickness, suffering and pain as they are. And for many of us Christians, we just see things as they appear to us. Look at the person beside you. He is just a friend. Look at the other person across the pew, just any other church member. Every Sunday, we just see the worship service as a time to sing songs and recite your prayer requests. We often do that. Yes, we see Jesus but only superficially.
Now, everything changed for the disciples when they saw beyond the superficial. This is especially true for Peter, James and John in their transfiguration experience.  An experience when they had a glimpse of God’s glory.
We need to learn to see beyond the superficial to be able to see the glory of God, even if it is just a glimpse. Let us continue our story and journey with the Disciples and learn from them, how they were able to see beyond the superficial. And have a glimpse into the glory of God. Three basic actions.
First, climb and expect to see God.
Jesus invited Peter, James and John to climb up the mountain.  In the mountain, they saw God. The mountain has been symbolically the place where we meet the divine. I do not tell you to climb mountains although that is a good spiritual exercise that I will encourage you to do. But climb mountains everyday. Be intentional in meeting God out of the ordinary. In everyday people you engage with. In everyday activities that you do. In every place that you go. You can meet God there.
For example, when you go to church on Sundays. Do you expect to see God out of the ordinary things we do here in church? Or do you expect to sing hymns only? Do you expect that the words that comes from your mouth will be heard by God? Or when we light the candles as we begin the worship service? Do you just see a candle being lit? Or do you expect to feel the presence of Jesus symbolized in the light? Or when we give offerings? Are you intentional in allowing God to use these resources for his work or do you see money subtracted from your budget? Do you expect to see Jesus in the fellowship of your fellow Christians? Do you expect to see the image of God in the other person beside you? Hindi ko naman kilala yan eh. If you do not climb the mountain - if you are not intentional in finding time to meet God, it will be difficult to see God’s glory in ordinary things. Peter, James and John found time and were intentional when they climb the mountain that they will commune with God. Climb the mountain.

Let us continue our story. The disciples are now ready to see God. They prayed. So they closed their eyes and fell asleep. How many of you are falling asleep when you are praying? Paminsan nga kahit sa sermon, natutulog. Tignan mo yung katabi mo, kung nakapikit ang mata, wag mo distorbohin, nagdarasal lang yan.
In the Gospel of Luke, while the disciples were in the mountain praying, they were sleepy. Their eyes were closed or maybe half closed. The disciples had to open their eyes wide to see the transfiguration.

Open your eyes. That is the second principle.

Luke noted that Peter, James and John were very sleepy at that time but when they opened their eyes and became fully awake, they saw the glory of God. We need to open our eyes to see God’s glory out of the ordinary. We will only see the physical being of Jesus if we are sleep and half awake.
By opening our eyes, I do not simply mean that idilat mo ang iyong mga mata. Ako, dilat na dilat ang mga mata ko but sometimes I still do not see clearly. More than the physical eyes, we must see with the eyes of our hearts and our soul. That is the message of the song “Open the eyes of my heart” by Michael Smith. “Open the eyes of my heart… I want to see you… High and lifted up… Shining in the light of your glory”

When the disciples opened their eyes, the eyes of their hearts and soul, they saw a bright light shining from Jesus. God’s glory was revealed to them. If we open the eyes of our heart, if we are fully awake we can see God’s glory beyond the ordinary. They saw that Jesus was not just any other prophet or teacher, they saw he was divine.  They saw God’s glory.

Now I have to explain that the transfiguration of Jesus did not mean Jesus was transformed from ordinary to divine. No. when the disciples opened their eyes, they saw Jesus beyond the ordinary, and saw who Jesus really is and has been all along.
Since yesterday was Valentines, let's use the example of your best friend na babae. Dati you saw her only as a friend, but you have that transfiguration moment, she was not just your ordinary friend, she was the love of your life na pala.
Their view of the ordinary was transfigured. It was transformed. We can see God’s glory in everyday people we meet. We can see God’s glory in ordinary events in our lives. We can see God’s glory out of the sufferings we endure. We can see glory in everyday of our lives.

Speaking of Valentines Day. It was a day to celebrate love. But what kind of love did you celebrate? Did you celebrate your love for your husband and wife? Did you see God’s love in that? Where does the love come from in the first place? The love that you received from your parents? Or relatives? Where does that come from? The love that you give to your friends? Is that kind of love the love of God? What does it mean then for us Christians to confess that God is love if your love is not the glorious presence of God in your relationships?

Open your eyes to see God’s glory in the ordinary. Open your eyes to see God’s glory in ordinary relationships between husband and wife, parents and child, among friends and even with a stranger. Lagi ba kayong nag-aaway ng asawa mo? When you forgive your spouse and confess your shortcomings to God, do you not see the glory of God? Even among strangers, when you see boy respectfully giving his seat to the elderly in a full bus, do you not see the glory of God? When you go in the hospital and see a newborn baby cuddled by a mother, do you not see the glory of God? When you see a stranger, worshipping with us for the first time, do you not see the glory of God? Open the eyes of your heart and soul to see God’s glory in the ordinary.

The third action from the disciples is going down the mountain.

Going down the mountain means moving beyond the moment. After Peter, James and John saw the transfiguration of Jesus, they wanted to bask in the moment. They were awe struck and that was understandable. If you experience the most wonderful thing, you don’t want to let it go. Maybe that is why Peter suggested that they build altars there. He wanted to enjoy the experience and stay in that moment. He wanted it to last forever.

Just like many of us, we enjoy having wonderful experiences. I remember as a student, I had those wonderful moments after receiving grades from your exams. Pagkatapos mong maghirap mag-aral at magpuyat, you will receive the passing score and your grade for the semester. You enjoy that moment. You want it to last. Sometimes, you want it to be your last. Ayaw mo na. Kaya hindi ka na papasok sa next semester. What you do after the glorious moment will spell the difference. So for most of us, after that glorious moment, you have to go down from the mountaintop experience.

The disciples just did that. They had a glorious experience and wanted it to last. But like any wonderful moment, it had to come to an end. They had to go back down and continue the ministry work. And when their faith was being tested, they used that moment to strengthen them during the difficult time when Jesus was arrested, crucified until he resurrected.

You don’t have to hold on to that singular glorious moment. My dear brothers and sisters, the good news is that we can glimpse of the glory of Jesus anytime, anywhere. But we need to go down the mountain to have more glimpses of God in our everyday life. For God is always with us and around us. We can have a transfiguration experience and catch a glimpse of God’s glory everyday. Those little glimpses of God’s glory will assure us that God is always around us. That God is in control of everything. 

You can choose to live in that glorious moment or use that moment to find hope in times of struggles. You can choose to make that glorious moment help you carry through difficult times knowing that Jesus who is both human and divine had to suffer and be crucified like what we experience in this life. But just as Jesus overcome death, we know we will also triumph.  Allow God to transform our minds.

Climb. Open your eyes. Go down.

So my dear brothers and sisters, find and see the transfigured Christ in the ordinary things in our life and experience the glory of God. What you do after the transfiguration experience is up to you.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Love and Relationships

Valentines Day is always a season to talk about love, especially about relationships with other people. But as Christians, we tend to be swallowed by the popular culture understanding of romantic love. We hear pick-up lines that exemplify this distorted understanding of love. As Christians, we need to recapture true love based on Biblical truth. 

Listen as I preach on Love and Relationships and the perfect pick-up lines that mirror our Christian understanding. 

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