Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Grieving of Christmas

Today is Holy Innocents' Day.

The celebration of the Christmas season have focused on the joy it brings to the world. But the joy is misdirected to the emotions of laughter and fun. If such is joy, then the grieving this season is misplaced. Yet, during this season of joy some of us grieve the loss of their loved ones. Such is the case of my friend who lost his wife on the eve of Christmas. And I see many more grieve as I make my rounds in the hospital. But grieving is nothing new on Christmas. Matthew reminds us of what the prophet Jeremiah said, "A voice is heard in Ramah,weeping and great mourning,Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted,because they are no more.” Yes! There was weeping and grieving even in the first Christmas. But, yes, there is still joy. Because the Immanuel allowed for humans to be reconciled with their God so that the innocent children and the many more people who died will have Eternal Life. And so cry... we grieve... but because of the baby born on Christmas we are still joyful!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The King of Fairies and mermaids

Last night; I was telling my 4 year old daughter Neya the Christmas story. We were at the part where the Three Kings were following the Star of Bethlehem to see the newborn king; Jesus; who is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and everybody else when she excitedly commented "Daddy; he is also the King of fairies and mermaids." I replied "Yes! Jesus is also the King of all prince and princesses." And then Neya stood up and exclaimed " I am a Princess and Ading Ken is a Prince but Jesus is our King. Even you Dad; Jesus is your King!"
I could not say more. That was both a reminder who is the king of the world and the king of our lives. That there was the Gospel message that night!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Fourth Sunday of Advent 2010 Reflections

“Celebrating Christmas in the Hospital” (Adapted from Hail the Heaven Born by GKBaker)
Advent is the season of preparation, anticipation and expectation of the coming Messiah, how do we, as people in the hospital, make ready?
Scripture: Matthew 1:18-25
Key Verse: he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him (v.24)
Focus of the Lesson:
Matthew tells the story of two people who gave in to the will of God while putting aside their personal honor and glory. The mystery and majesty of God’s preferred future is shown before us, inviting us to move out of our preferred comfort zones and into the will of God.
Goals in study:
1. To see how God uses unusual and unconventional means for his purpose
2. To understand what “God above all” means
3. To realize how we are instrument of God’s perfect plan
What is your plan for your future? What is God’s plan for you? Are your plans aligned? Often, we map out plans for ourselves without consulting God. Joseph reminds us of the proper attitude this Advent. As we prepare for the coming of the king, our hearts and our desires including our plans should be one with God. Is our work in the hospital according to God’s plan? Or are we doing it for our personal honor and glory? Joseph set aside his own personal honor and glory to put God first. As we prepare this Advent, let us learn from this lesson.
The key phrase in the scripture lesson is “he did what… the Lord commanded him.”
Interpreting the Scripture:
1. Why does Matthew need to set things straight?
2. How did Joseph respond to the situation
3. What does it mean for Joseph to set aside his pride
Sharing the Scriptures:
1. How do Mary and Joseph inspire your faith and obedience to God?
2. How do Joseph’s actions speak to you about honoring God over your personal needs and desires?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Third Sunday of Advent 2010 Reflections

What is Christmas? What do we expect? What are we supposed to look for?
“Celebrating Christmas in the Hospital” (Adapted from Hail the Heaven Born by GKBaker)
Advent is the season of preparation, anticipation and expectation of the coming Messiah, how do we, as people in the hospital, make ready?
Scripture: Matthew 11:2-11
Key Verse: “Go tell John, what you hear and see” (v.4)
Focus of the Lesson:
We have preconceived notions about what Jesus is and what Jesus does. And we prefer a Jesus that conforms to our specifications. We expect and WANT that kind of Jesus this Christmas. Yet, we get something unexpected.
Goals in study:
1. To learn from the experience (expectation) of John the Baptist
2. To consider what it means to “Tell John what you hear and see”
3. To see “Christ” – mas differently
Where is God? Can you see God? Can you hear God? People continue to search for God. The Christmas season is a time for the religious and even the non-religious to find what is “missing in their lives.” People keeps seeking for that something that make sense out of everything else in their lives, on what gives them joy. But after all the gifts have been opened, it seems that they never saw what they are looking for. First, we may not really know what we are looking for. Next, maybe we are looking at the wrong places. Matthew speaks of what people see and hear with the coming of Jesus.
The key phrase in the scripture lesson is “what (do) you hear and see.”
Interpreting the Scripture:
1. John the Baptist was sure that Jesus was the Messiah, why did he send for investigators?
2. What the Bible say about Jesus vs what we want Jesus to be
3. What to tell people about what we heard and saw this Advent
Sharing the Scriptures:
1. Who is Jesus and what is he doing in the world?
2. In what ways does Jesus’ response to John help you broaden your perceptions?
3. How can the patients see Christ-mas in me?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Second Sunday of Advent 2010 Reflections

“Celebrating Christmas in the Hospital” (Adapted from Hail the Heaven Born by GKBaker)
Advent is the season of preparation, anticipation and expectation of the coming Messiah, how do we, as people in the hospital, make ready?
Scripture: Matthew 3:1-12
Key Verse: “Bear fruit worthy of repentance” (v.8)
Focus of the Lesson:
Christmas is not just the birth of an innocent baby Jesus. The sermon of John the Baptist reminds us that the baby born is a “Righteous Judge” who will separate the chaff from the wheat.
Goals in study:
1. To examine the imagery of John the Baptist vs Christmas
2. To consider what it means to “bear fruit”
3. To respond to the prophet’s call
As we anticipate Christmas in this Advent season, we see many symbols and signs pointing to Christmas. We see lanterns, Christmas lights, Christmas trees, nativity scenes, angels singing and gifts. The season is full of images that points to joy, cheerfulness, goodwill and love. But there is another side to the Christmas story that we often forget. John the Baptist has a different message than how we usually understand Christmas. He was preaching and preparing the people about the coming of the Messiah who will judge and make us accountable.
The key word in the scripture lesson is “bear fruit.”
Interpreting the Scripture:
1. The picture and the message of John the Baptist vs our traditional Christmas images
2. Confessing our sins and bearing fruit
3. The sermon message of John and the message of Advent
Sharing the Scriptures:
1. What family traditions do you observe during Advent and Christmas?
2. How does John’s sermon challenge you to see the incarnation differently?
3. How will you respond to the prophet’s call to repent and bear fruits worthy of repentance?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Advent Reflection 2010

God gives us different personal messages. Thus, in this season of Advent, I prepared a guide to help me and my friends in the hospital reflect this church season.

“Celebrating Christmas in the Hospital” (Adapted from Hail the Heaven Born by GKBaker)

Advent is the season of preparation, anticipation and expectation of the coming Messiah, how do we, as people in the hospital, make ready?
Scripture: Matthew 24:36-44
Key Verse: “Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming” (v.42)
Focus of the Lesson:
Even as Christians, sometimes we get caught in the business of this world. Advent reminds us of our tasks in waiting for the coming of Jesus. But we never can tell when Jesus is coming, yet we should always be ready when that time comes.
Goals in study:
1. To examine the imagery of Christ return
2. To consider what it means to “wait”
3. To work with others in keeping awake and in watchful waiting
Advent marks the season of waiting. It is the hopeful anticipation of the coming of the Messiah. The first Advent happened almost 2000 years ago. We now participate in the Second Advent. The scripture lesson today tells on the manner of the return of Christ. But it also points to us the manner in which we anticipate this return.
The key word in the scripture lesson is “awake.” Waiting for the second Advent is not a passive activity. Matthew reminds to be “awake” – watchful waiting, so that we are ready when the “thief comes in the night.” Watchful waiting should is a way of life that demands for us to be awake so that we will not slumber into inattention, apathy and disobedience to God. To keep ourselves awake, we can watch over one another – pray for the others, show love and service to God through our friends, neighbors and patients, engage in holy habits like worship, prayer and reading the Bible together – so we can keep ourselves from falling into spiritual slumber.
Interpreting the Scripture:
1. The Coming of the Messiah
2. The thief in the night
3. Matthew 24 and Advent
Sharing the Scriptures:
1. Share practices or habits that you think can keep you watchful. Which of these do you participate regularly?
2. What are concrete things you can do this Advent season to be more vigilant and watchful?

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Nea said "Dad I don't want to go to Sunday School because you forgot something. You did not give me an 'offering.'" I replied,"well you can give anything to God as an 'offering' especially that which is important to you." She said, "does God like lollipop?"

Starting kids young in giving will teach them to show their love to God by sharing and being generous. But more than that it teaches the kids to give back to God what really belongs to God. Even at an early age these kids teaches us that our worship is not complete if we go to church but not bring back what belongs to God.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Principles of Stewardship

Principles of Stewardship
(Preached at Tuguegarao Central UMC)

Luke 19:11-27
When I was first asked to bring the Good news this Sunday, I asked Pastor Boni if I can focus about stewardship of the body, how to maintain good health, because I am a doctor. The pastor said “can you instead preach on the biblical principles on stewardship.” We are stewards of many things, not only our bodies, but also of our faith, our relationships to one another and even our health. Because these are all given by God. Something that we need to take care of. But I was tasked to preach on God's word about stewardship on resources and possessions. He asked me to focus on the biblical principles about these. And so let us prepare our hearts and minds as we listen to the Word of God. Let us pray…

Today is Laity Sunday. In other churches, we are reminded of the role the lay people play in church. The Methodist church grew over the years because of the laity movement. Today is also Harris Memorial College Sunday. Other churches, like ours, celebrate this day to support the ministry of this institution in molding young people into better Christians. Today is also Stewardship month. Like the other celebrations, we have reasons in celebrating this event. We celebrate stewardship month to remind us of our responsibilities as Christians. But do we practice Christian stewardship only during stewardship month?
Even though we only have stewardship month once a year, we should be Christian stewards’ everyday of our lives. We should remember to be Christian stewards in every activity that we do. From the moment we wake up, to the things we do during the day, when we eat, or work until we go to sleep. Our daily activities should be guided by the knowledge that we are Christian stewards. Do we know what it means to be a Christian steward?
The Gospel of Luke is a book full of stories about the stewardship, the kingdom of God and what it means to be stewards. One of the stories about that is our Gospel lesson for today. It tells the parable of servants who were entrusted by their master of his possessions. From this parable, we can learn what the Bible teaches us about the principles of Christian stewardship. There are several principles that we can learn, and today we will be highlighting seven of them.

1. Ownership - It is not yours, it is Gods (faith that is).

In verse 13, the master called for his ten servants and gave them each ten minas. Or equivalent to 3 months of salary. The average 3 month salary for a househelp here is Php 7500 to 9000. So the servants were given money to invest until the master comes back. So who owns the money? It is the master. Thus, as stewards, it is our Lord and Master who owns what we have now. The Bible is very clear on this. Even from the very beginning of the world, all the way back to Genesis, to the creation story, chapter 1 verse 1. In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth. And God made the animals in the field, the fishes in the sea and the birds in the sky. Even man and woman are God's creation. Sometimes, I hear some Christians say that we are –co-creators. I don’t know what they mean. We are not creators. We are creatures. We are all created by God and everything else. And that means, everything here on this earth is God’s property.

2. Provision – God provides us; we do not need more because his grace is sufficient and he provides with equal opportunities

Still on verse 13, the master gave them ten minas. Something was given to all the servants for their custody. Other pastors have called this the allocation. Two things to note here: Everyone was provided with talents and resources. So do not say that you do not have talents because God provides us with everything we need. We do not need for more. Yet our human frailty always leads us not to be content as if we still lack something. But God provides and God provides us with enough. You see, the parable here in Luke is similar to the parable in Matthew about the master and the talents. But here in the provision lies the difference. In Matthew, the servants were given different talents. One servant had more talent than the others. While in the parable in Luke, all the ten servants received the same amount of minas. Biblical commentators have noted that the equal gift is the same gift and opportunity that we receive from God. We are all given resources and equal chances of successfully growing it. And what God provides for us is enough for our needs.

3. Obedience - use the gift according to God’s desire

We continue in verse 13, and the master said “Do business with this until I come back.” There are two points that is important to note in this verse. First is the instruction to use the resource. It is clear that the master wants the servants to do something with the minas that he entrusted them. Second, we are given a free will to how to use it. If we look clearly, he did not specify what kind of business the workers should do with it. Any business will probably do. This gives the workers freedom to choose how to spend the minas. That is why other pastors call this the principle of Freedom. This is an important principle for us stewards of God. We are given the liberty to choose how to use the resources that God has given us. However, John Wesley was quick to point out that as Christians our freedom is limited to obeying Gods will. Although we are given instructions to use Gods resources, the ways and how to use it is left to our own conscience. We are not God’s robots. We can choose freely. In the parable, the first servant used it in a way that allowed him to gain 10x more than the original pounds. The other servant traded the pounds and used it differently than the other servant that allowed him to gain 5x more than the original. The third one did not do anything and he gained nothing. Take note here of what the master said in verse 22, “I will judge you by your own words, you wicked slave.” He said wicked, or in other words, immoral or sinful. The servant who did not use the gifts given to them was called sinful. Why? For the simple reason that he disobeyed God’s instructions. God said, do business with these and he did not obey the instruction. As stewards of God, we must listen to God’s instructions and OBEY.

4. Profitability - the gift should bear fruit for God (do not keep it to yourself)

Another important principle in stewardship is profitability. Now we cannot run away from this. It is not enough that we did something with the resources that God has given us. It is not enough to utilize it. It should bear fruit. In verses 14 to 21, we see the different outcomes of the businesses that the servants did with their resources. Some of them profited more than the other. What does it mean to be profitable? In the parable, the important point is that the resources bear fruit FOR GOD. Profitable does not mean you earn ten fold or five-fold. The amount of gain is not important. It is God’s discretion how he rewards us. What is important for God is that we have gained something FOR GOD and not for ourselves. In the parable, whatever the servants gained from the resources they have, they gave it ALL back to God. After they have returned it, then they were given corresponding rewards. The servants profit was not the profit from the gifts from the master but another gift from the master after they have returned the profit of resources to God. In our lives, we often think that the profits we gained from the gifts and resources from God is already the reward we “deserve.” That is why we no longer give it back to God. Or even if we give back, we give with a heavy heart because we think that it is ours already. We always forget that the money was not ours in the first place.

5. Accountability – we are answerable to God (need to be responsible for our actions)

In verse 15, the master came back from his journey and called all his servants. He then asked them how they did with the resources that he has given them. He was asking them to account for their actions. In the end, this is where it will all boil down. When the great master will come back, he will call us one by one and we will be asked, “What did you do with the resources I have entrusted to you?” this is something we should never forget. John Wesley reminded us that our job as stewards is numbered. There will come a time when we will no longer be stewards. That is the time when God will call all of us and we have to account for the actions and decisions we have done.

6. Application - use it for God (there is no indifference)

In science, we have what we call the law of use and disuse. If you do not use your muscles, it will deteriorate and become small. If you do not use your car for a long time, it will just rust and deteriorate over time. Same as in the parable, if we do not use the gifts from God it will be gone. It will be taken away from us and given to the one using it. But that is not all. The second part of the phrase is more important. John Wesley reminded us that when we apply or use the resources of God, either we use it for God or not. There is nothing in between. It is either we use our time, talents and treasures for the glory of God, for increasing our knowledge of God, in sharing the love of God, or not. And again, we have to be accountable to that.

7. Compensation – you will be rewarded accordingly

God has graciously compensated the faithful servants. The two servants who used their minas and resources properly were given extra rewards by God. Not only that, they were also commended for their efforts. This is our goal in life, to be like the other two servants. These two servants obeyed the six other principles. They recognized that they are not the owner of the minas. They were satisfied with the provisions provided to them by their master. They used their freedom wisely for the benefit of increasing the minas. They were productive with what they did. They were accountable for their actions. They did not run away from the consequence of their decisions. They used their resources and because of all that, they were compensated greatly. On the other hand, the wicked servant was punished.

This stewardship month, let us be reminded of our role as Christian stewards. The good news my dear brothers and sisters is that there is still time. We can still do something with the resources that God has entrusted us. Let us be faithful stewards from now on and onwards until our Lord and Master come back again. And so when God will call us to make an account of the resources he has entrusted us, God will say to us, “Well done, by good and faithful servant.”

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


1. Diaz, Ziegfred. Principles of Stewardship. From www.zdiaz.com (Accessed Oct 12, 2010)
2. Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary. Luke 19. From jfb.biblecommenter.com (Accessed Oct 12, 2010)
3. Matthew Henry’s Commentary. Luke 19:11-27. From www.christnotes.org (Accessed Oct 12, 2010)
4. Patterson. Richard. The Use of Three in the Bible. From http://bible.org (Accessed Oct 13, 2010)
5. Warren, Rick. How to Invest Your Life. From www.preaching.com (Accessed Oct 12, 2010)
6. Wesley, John. The Good Steward. Sermon 51. From www.new.gbgm-umc.org (Accessed Oct 12, 2010)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Dressing Up

I am not a fashion guru. I don't even know anything about fashion. But as a professional, you need to know how to dress well and look good. But again, I am not trained how to dress that way. The question is how should one dress properly? There was even a research study about this.

"How should doctors dress up?"

I was in Church this morning and I sure wore my appropriate Sunday clothes - an untacked short-sleeve polo, khaki pants, and leather shoes. I did not dress as a doctor nor did I dress up as a clergy. I just go to church in my usual smart casual clothes. This is what makes me feel comfortable. I do not like dressing up to be recognized and given special attention for being this and that. After the service, I was greeting people and somebody who recognized me started introducing me as a doctor. Somebody then commented, "are you really a doctor? because you don't look like one." I just smiled. What she meant was that I was young and did not dress like the other doctors in the congregation, long-sleeves or Barong Tagalog with black silk pants and formal leather shoes. It's always a complement for me to not give an impression that I am a doctor or a clergy.

There is no prescribed attire of how doctors should dress save for the scrubs and the blazer when they are in the hospital. But when a doctor is out of his/her workplace, there is no way one can know he/she is a doctor. This is in contrast to some persons who can be recognized by their dress. For example, a clergy can wear his clergy attire or put on his clergy collar. Sometimes they wear their cross and we know that they are ministers. Obviously, I did not look any of the two.

But as I was reflecting on this, I remember one bishop who noted how I dress. He gave me an advice that we should dress appropriate to the occasion. He said, when we need to be seen as a doctor in the hospital, we should look like one. It helps the patients have confidence if they know they are being attended by a doctor who dresses like a doctor and not as a patient. If we are in the church, we should dress like a clergy as appropriate for the occasion. He also added that we must dress appropriately to where we are. If we are in the streets then wear street clothes. If we are in a formal event then we must be in coat and tie or gown. This also helps us blend with the crowd especially if we are trying to reach out to people. Most importantly, the way we dress or look will not become a reason for people to stumble in their growth.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

I am not scared

"I am not scared of Jesus kasi mabait siya" (I am not scared of Jesus because he is good), exclaimed my daughter. We went to the Calvary Hills in Iguig one lazy Sunday afternoon. We were planning to take a little walk, have the little kids run around the cathedral grounds and appreciate and reflect on the depictions of the stations of the cross. So much for planning.

There were many people that day. Some highschool students were practicing their "sabayang pagbigkas" piece. Some students were practicing on their dances. There were lots of distractions and it was not a the perfect time for reflection. The little Nate was also asleep so there goes the hope of letting the kids run around to give me and my wife an opportunity to take a stroll. Since Nate was asleep, we had to carry him. That meant no more chance in walking and tracing the stations of the cross. We also wanted to come closer to the statues and appreciate the art and bust depiction of Jesus passion, but Nea was hesitant.

The first station that we passed through was the Pieta, where the badly beaten body of Jesus lies in the loving embrace of Mary. Nea saw Jesus all bloodied and miserable. But more than the image of Christ, I think she was scared of the oversized statues that looked so real. I asked her, "that is Jesus, do you want to touch him?" She replied, "No!" I asked again, "why, are you scared of Jesus?" She said, "I am not scared of Jesus kasi mabait siya."

I wondered what Nea meant with what she said. She explained that "mabait si Jesus di ba, kasi mabait siya sa mga kids like me. My teacher said in Sunday School that Jesus is so good he made us mother earth, the seas, the sky, the trees and all the animals. O di ba, he is good? So I am not scared of him."

"Oo nga naman." Why would I be scared of somebody that is good? If God is good, then why be scared of God? Of course, fear and scared are two different things but that's a discussion for another essay. I was thankful that at an early age Little Children, like Nea, already have an idea that our God is a good and loving God.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Worshipping in the Mall

Where is the proper place of worship?

This is the question that my friend ask me. But that got me to thinking, "should there be an exact location for worship?" I know that the OT tells us that people go to the "House of God" to worship because that is where God lives. But after the word was made flesh, we were taught that an all-powerful God can be anywhere. Of course, there are some things to be considered in the worship place but not necessarily an exact location. This is precisely why we now see worship services taking place in malls.

My friend who is a priest told me that after the Vatican II, the Roman Catholic church have been discovering innovative ways to reach out to the people. He said, statistics show that most people and families go to the mall on weekends, especially on Sundays. Its alright if people go to mass first before going to the mall, but that is not the case. The numbers of people attending church is declining because they are all in the mall. So the solution: bring the worship service to where the people are. That sounds familiar.

In the 18th century, a preacher named John Wesley was known for bringing the word of God to where the people are. He preached in the marketplace, in the coal mines and on top of tombstones just so he can bring the good news of salvation to the people. Thus, we can say that this evangelistic method is a Methodist legacy. But I am not confident enough to say that the Methodist are carrying on this tradition. I am not saying that Methodist or any other denomination should also put another place of worship in the mall opposite the place where the Catholics are worshiping. That will just give a whole new meaning to the mall as the "one stop shop."

I looked at my friend who asked me "where is the right place of worship?" I told him that was a tricky question. But offered a thought, "look into you heart first and know if you are indeed worshiping God."