Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Things to think about your Church Halloween Party

Do you have Halloween Celebrations in your Church? Why? Or why not? Here are some reflections you can do in your church for the Halloween.

Halloween was traditionally celebrated by Christians as All Hallow's Eve on the night before All Saint's Day (Nov 1). It is a day to remember our continuing communion with the saints who walked ahead of us and to the recently departed loved ones. More than remembering them and celebrating their faith, we celebrate the object of their faith - that is Jesus Christ. We are reminded that even in the mortal death of our physical bodies, the object of our faith continues to live because we worship a living God.

A good scripture to reflect as we remember the dead is John 11:32-44(ESV). It talks about the dead Lazarus and the Living Christ Jesus.
32 Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”
38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

In the story of Lazarus, we are reminded that Jesus can raise up the dead (not a zombie – because they remain dead) and give life to it. It is not about raising a dead physical body but about GIVING LIFE TO A LIFE THAT IS DEAD. For our reflection:

1. Do you remember, once in your life you were dead because you did not know God. But God called you out (Lazarus... change it into your name, come out) And you came out of the grave and you now have life. How was your dead life before? Do you want to go back to the grave and be dead from God's presence? Is that what are we doing today, going back to the grave or following the voice of Jesus to come out?

On Nov 1 or 2, we go visit our dead. We go to the cemetery. What do you do there again? Do you pray for their souls or do you celebrate their life?

You can have your personal reasons. It may even include the reunions we have made as a tradition. But as Christians, we are told that everything we do, including celebrations, must glorify God. So the question I would like us to reflect:

2. Where is God in this holiday event? How is God part of this activity? Or maybe God is out of the equation. When you visit the cemetery, what will be the role of God? When you have a reunion with your family, what will be the role of God? When you will be invited to join Halloween parties, ask your host what will be the role of God? When Jesus came to see the dead Lazarus, Jesus had an important role to play.  What is His role now? 

Lastly, let us look at Mary. She loved her brother Lazarus so much. All she wanted was for him to get better. So when Jesus came in late, she was upset. Mary blames Jesus, “if you had been here... if... if...” Mary thinks of the possibilities IF Jesus came in earlier. Lazarus could have been saved. But Mary did not know what the heartbreaking death of Lazarus could turn out to be. That depressing event is now one of the most miraculous stories that manifest the power and divinity of Jesus. 

3. What depressing stories about our beloved’s death manifest the glory of God? Do we see anything good come out from the sad events in our lives? How can we turn the melancholy of November into a glorious story that points to Christ (mas)?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Bohol Earthquake: 3 Ways How the Church Help Feed the Babies

Last October 15, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit the Visayas and greatly damaged Bohol and Cebu. Response for relief efforts immediately poured in.

Powdered milk for babies were donated by well-meaning groups. One of them was a Church-related organization. However, our law, specifically Executive Order 51, regulates donations of milk during emergencies. Violations of EO 51 has been reported in evacuation centers.

Breastmilk is still best for babies, specially during emergencies. When disaster strikes, water usually becomes scarce. In Bohol, potable water is one of the primary problem. Unclean water is dangerous for babies. Formula milk needs water. If it is scarce, you cannot feed the baby. If the water is unclean, you cannot feed the baby. Breastmilk is the best option for babies during crisis situations. Popular beliefs that mothers cannot produce milk during stressful situations are not true. Mothers can still produce milk as long as they keep breastfeeding babies. Breastmilk is still the best response during emergencies.

What churches can do, if they want to feed the babies?

First, the church can help find expressed breastmilk and donate it to evacuation enters. There are milk banks in most government hospitals. There are also mothers who express their milk and give the "excess" milks to these milk banks or to other organizations.They can also help find volunteer "wet nurses" to help feed breastmilk to babies. Wet nurses can be from among their members or from breastfeeding mom groups.

Second, the church can encourage mothers to continue breastfeeding. The church can partner with breastfeeding counselors to help educate mother how to properly latch the babies. The church can set-up lactation stations where mothers can breastfeed their babies confidently. This area can also be a venue where the church can teach the benefits and the advantages of breastfeeding infants to mothers and expectant mothers.

Last, feed the mothers. As long as the church can feed nutritious food to mothers to keep them healthy, the breastfeeding mom can sustain the nutrition needed by babies (especially those 0-6 months).

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Three Steps To Know How Education Reduces Poverty

As part of the Children's month celebration, this week focuses on the Children's right to Education. It has always been communicated that education significantly reduces poverty.  But how do we understand this concept as Christians?

Countless research have shown evidence on the impact of education in reducing poverty. This is the reason why NGOs, CSOs and the national governments have intensified their efforts to strengthen the education of its population. The Global Partnership for Education has reported that:
  • If all students in low income countries left school with basic reading skills there will be a 12% cut in global poverty.
  • One extra year of schooling increases an individual's earnings by up to 10%.
  • Wages, income and productivity are higher where women receive a better education.

 So where is God in the equation? Is education really reducing poverty or is there a powerful God working at this and uses education as the tool for reducing poverty? Philippians 2:13 reminds us that "it is God who works" and not just us or our knowledge or education in itself. God is at work.

This Children's Month, we must educate children about the work of God in reducing poverty. We must emphasize that God loves people so much that God educates them and gives them knowledge to raise their living condition. Let us be careful about teaching them "the fallacy" that education is the key to fight poverty. Instead, we must emphasize God's work. Three steps needs to be settled to know how education can reduce poverty. If we can answer these 3 questions, people will see the real reason how poverty is reduced. Deuteronomy 11:13, 19 guides us in answering these steps.
  1. Who will teach? "You..." v19
  2. When and where to teach? "...when you are sitting... walking... lie down... or rise up..." v19
  3. What to teach? "love the Lord your God, and serve Him with all your heart..." v13
The Bible reminds us that God is at work and God wants you to participate and teach the children about God's work. Are you up to the challenge?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

What to tell the parent beside you when they bottle-feed their babies during Sunday worship?

This month of October is Children's month. The theme is focused on fighting poverty through upholding Children's right. This week, I gave a short devotion on the rights of a child to the basic needs like food and healthcare. These basic rights to food and healthcare starts among infants by giving them exclusive breastfeeding for six months, not bottle-fed from milk formulas. Breastfeeding is the right of every children especially babies 0-6 months old.

Christians should be at the forefront of promoting exclusive breastfeeding simply because it is God's design. If we use properly what God has purposely designed, we are worshiping God. Simply, breastfeeding is an act of worship!

Let me highlight what Isaiah 66:11-13 assumes when it used breastfeeding as an illustration how God comforts and encourages those who faithfully worship God. The Bible tells us that breastfeeding:
-   nourishes ("nurse and be satisfied, v.11)
-   gives comfort ("be satisfied from her consoling breasts, v11)
-   supplies all the needs ("I will extend peace to her... and the wealth of the nations..., v12)
-   strengthens relationships ("be carried on her arms, v12)
-   comfort and security ("a mother comforts her child, v13)

Should churches just be a place of prayer? or should we intentionally have an area for breastfeeding mothers while they are in worship? Do you church actively advocate breastfeeding or its just another sermon on a Sunday morning? What do you tell the parent or guardian beside you when they bottle feed their babies during Sunday worship?

For some devotional materials on what the Bible says are the benefits of breastfeeding, visit: