Turning Lemons into Lemonade

By Eprex Balucay

1 Thessalonians 5:16

Rejoice always, 

‘Thank you’ is a phrase used by most people and it is overly emphasized when something good has happened. These two words are accompanied mostly by an abundance in things, accepted favours, treats, and such. However, looking into 1 Thessalonians, Paul exhorts the believers to “give thanks in all circumstances…”. The word “all” is not to be overlooked in the slightest bit as it means everything trivial and prejudicial that comes passing in your life. One example in the Bible is Job, the man who had everything taken away from him, yet had the mindset to still thank the Lord for what has happened. He said in Job 1:21b, “…The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” 

What had made Job steady and focused on God despite having everything around him crumble before his eyes? Firstly, Job had recognized that everything is for God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31) and not for his own. We are stewards of everything God has given to us, including our very own lives. Knowing that we are God’s stewards, we are required to be faithful to Him (1 Corinthians 4:2) by serving one another through the gifts that God has entrusted to us (1 Peter 4:10).

Secondly, we are not to be dictated by our fleshly desires anymore, for we have put to death the deeds of the body (Romans 8:13). A reason why we fail to be thankful to God is that we focus more on gratifying what we feel about the situation rather than seeing every circumstance in God’s point of view (Romans 8:5). The old man [the flesh] craves for what he had before: ego and self-gratification which leads to sin unimaginable. Knowing that we are God’s children and not our own, the duty to mortify our sinful self grows more apparent and becomes our daily battle (1 Corinthians 15:31).

Lastly, we must depend fully on God alone, for knowing that we put to death our flesh, our strength comes solely from God (Colossians 1:29). Those who wait on God will have his strength renewed (Isaiah 40:31) and to those who long for rest, Jesus calls His own to run to Him when they are weary (Matthew 11:28-30). When we rest in Jesus and draw our strength from Him, we have none to thank but God Himself.

When trials and problems come, be aware that we are stewards of grace who kill our fleshly desires and draws strength from God. We live for and through God; this reality reveals to us the sovereignty of God in everything, He controls all things, and He always knows what is best for us. 

Love Letter

By Janelle Mellany Umali

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

See, everything was perfect until one serpent with underlying questions of temptation. It led man astray.

Now ever since birth we strived to be blasphemers. Away from God's will and living for "will you give me this, give me that, God?" or even, "will you give me proof that there is God?" See this is what human nature has become..

One particular birth however, forever changed everything.

This baby of innocence, indeed he was sinless.

Proceeded through life just as we have.

Underwent every kind of temptation when He was in the desert in starvation. He gave his followers instructions to live life in the right direction.

He had a confession that He is indeed God, here to bring us salvation.

See he was more than just a man.

 

Still they beat him.

They whipped him at about 180 beats per minute and his heart did the same.

They forced him to carry his cross across Jerusalem despite him falling flat on his face.

They hammered those nails like it was some sort of percussion.

He had major wounds.


Shameful.

The soldiers spat on him, mocked him, treated him like trash.

Betrayal.

Judas gave him away just for a pile of cash.

Denial.

3 times before the rooster crowed and Peter fled for fear filled him, didn't wanna be bashed.

But what these people don't know is that all this was part of God's plan.

 

Nail-pierced hands, see the one on his right-hand side was right

Opened his eyes to realize the real lies of accusations upon Christ.

This Christ was righteous, in fact, had the right to come down that cross like "get your facts straight."

Instead He came to straighten our crookedness, cleanse our unrighteousness, moreover He gave His breath to satisfy our breathlessness.

His crucifixion was to write a love letter

All his life his own mother, Mary recognized her son's face but this time it didn't let her

It left her down on her knees weeping. This love letter however paved a way and led her..

Led us. Let us see beyond our own wickedness and trust in His goodness.

This letter was to show us how much He loves us!

The great King fell down, and we were to blame.

All so that we may not have to burn in flames.

Yes, they put a crown of thorns upon His head, and He died a vicious death.

 

But see the story does not end there. I said the story does not end there!

That love letter of showering bouquets of sin-defeating affection.

Three days later when He rose, it got the world's undivided attention.

"Dazy" , but now I can confess with my tulips,

Jesus is Lord! He came over to die but overcame death! He is risen!

Our total weight of sin He subtracted. Reversed the division between God and man and multiplied our reasons to live this life to the fullest. Excuse the math but now through the trials and suffering, He says "Get up. Been there, done that."

He gave His life so one day He could hold us tight.. say "I'm His and He's mine."

John 3:16 says "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life."

This ultimate sacrifice let us one day be with Him in paradise.

A Note from the Clearys

Remember the Clearys when they visited us in March? Read about it in "A Note From the Clearys" as they give an update about their first month in Tanzania. The Clearys are volunteers that work with Rufiji Lighthouse which is under the East Africa River Mission. Let us keep them in our prayers as they continue to serve the LORD in East Africa. Tutaonana Baadaye for now! [Swahili for see you later]


Click below to read their full post!

The Unwilling Soldier

By Ezra Alderete

Long ago in a far away land, there lived a young man with a strong eagerness for tales of grandeurs of battles of old found in books and his father’s stories. His father, you see, is a warrior and a veteran of past wars, this gave the young man a passion for it. The young man loved it so much that he went to classes and studied outside of his regular days. Everyday he would beg his father to regale him of stories and show him some techniques. He would go to the libraries, ask scribes and even took lessons in sword-fighting from other veteran soldiers.

The young man found friends that share the same joys as him, maybe not to the same extent as him. He was so infatuated with it that he even considered to join the army. Sadly however, the land seems to be at peace and support on an army has been cut thin. He was dismayed by this but determined he convinced himself that this will not stop his passion. Ultimately however, he became a blacksmith’s apprentice. If he can’t wield be in the army and paid to wield the sword at least he can make one and practice with it.

His time as a blacksmith was dull, creating mundane items for everyday use. He was bored majority of the time but during his breaks and free times he would continue practicing the swords he makes and, at times, while reading or re-enacting his favourite stories. He would often be found fussing over the fact that he can’t seem to use these beautiful swords in a real fight. There seems to be a scarcity of individuals entranced on the idea of fighting in wars and battles, as it should be, but only a couple of men. He would sport his finesse ways of fighting against these men in a sparring match and would even flourish some moves just to brag how good he has become. He would brag to those around him that the play-fighting they do has become stale and uninteresting to him now. The young man would even boast of how easy it has been. Nonetheless this would not stop him from doing these sparring matches and of course in the process, show off.

On one fine day however, the young man was leisurely sitting under an apple tree reading his books and resting from a day’s work. Spotted by an old friend, huffing and puffing as he ran towards the young man, gasping for air and falling on his feet. “The Empire!...  It lied… to us all!,” he mumbled almost losing each word with haste, as if being chased by hounds all night. The young man calmed his friend down and inquired about what is troubling him. The friend stated that there is a rebellion a foot, a Hero emerges from among the lands and with him opening the eyes of the people to the injustice and grievances about the Empire. With each story the young man was persuaded, or at least understood. He nodded in agreement to his friend, a look of recognition filled his eyes and with distraught he bid his friend farewell, as the other raced towards the city with haste.

The young man once again fell to the ground as he contemplated on everything he has heard. The Empire, the peace, the lives they lived are this all a lie. This whole time he was blind. As time passed and the night drawing near, the young man slowly stood up and sluggishly walked home. As he reached his house he was met by his father, the veteran soldier garbed in his Imperial Armour, greeted the young man with a smile. He spoke of what he has heard from news, never really naming from whom the news came from, regarding a rebellion and the façade of the Empire. His father reassured him that this is only a propaganda and nothing more. It was all a lie, as the Empire has been good to them. He faked a smile, still confused in his mind but did not want to show it.

Everyday He would return to his friend asking questions and it seems to be showing a great deal interest to this rebellion. He would inquire every time if this would lead to a war, fighting perhaps which really has peaked his interest. His friend would assure him that it would be inevitable. The young man would partake in the secret meetings tucked away in the shadows of the city. He would join the gathering in the streets, and even with the preparation of the men on fighting. Yes, he would train these men to be soldiers for a war that he knows is fast approaching, as he is known in these parts as a great sword-fighter. The young man was passionate in what he does, his love for fighting is going to be of good use. He is showing such great promise and a possible leader to this Rebellion.

News of him spread throughout the rebellion. Though no one outside of the Rebellion knew about him, only rumours of a warrior-teacher, and the young man kept it that way. In the morning he would work for the blacksmith, sharpening the swords of the Imperial army and at night would silently meet and train the Rebels. It was perfect for him, a life with the passion of what is true and just, doing what he loves but at the same time unfettered by immersing within the safety of the Empire. It’s all about managing time.

Due to the growing number of rebels and them being well equipped in the city, not only by equipment but also with skills, the Hero himself wanted to meet this great young warrior-teacher. This Hero ventured far, and the young man was brought into his presence. The Hero pleased by what the young man has done and asked if he is willing to fight with him. He has prepared enough soldiers and he himself a capable fighter, but alas, he urged that he cannot. He expressed to the Hero that he needs more time, he needed to further sharpen his weapons first and expressed that he is in the process of perfecting the creation of his sword. The Hero smiled and stated that when he is ready with his weapon that he should join them. And so, the Hero and his army waged war with the Empire.

The young man rushed into creating his weapon, and after days of working with it, he has created a beautiful weapon. One ornate with beautiful metals, precious stones and, of course, well balanced. A truly powerful weapon and not to mention stunning blade.

The war continued, and the Hero came back from a great battle and once again met the young man to inquire if he has completed his weapon. The young man confirmed that he did and even strutted it up to the Hero. “Truly a beautiful and formidable sword”, complimented the Hero, “a very powerful item on your side.” And like before the Hero queried the young man if he is joining them in the fight to come. The Young man quickly shook his head and explained to the Hero that there is only a couple of books and scrolls he needed to finish that could greatly aid him in the battle ahead. He advised that he is almost done with them and assured that Hero that it would be valuable knowledge to have in his arsenal. Once again, the Hero smile and stated when he is finished with his learning to join them. And with this, the Hero and his army departed, and the war waged on.

The Young man quickly brushed through the texts he wanted to finish. Passionately finishing the lessons and cramming as much knowledge and techniques as he can, placing a much-needed confidence in his heart. Practiced for a couple of weeks on things he has learned, and seemingly mastered it with ease. During this time however, The War has pushed the rebels back, nearing the city where the young man resides. The Hero once again met the young man and inquired about his learning and his training. The young man confirmed that he has become better because of it and quickly boasted his new-found knowledge. Impressed by the knowledge the young man now has acquired, the Hero queried if the young man now would join them in the fight. With hesitation the young man bowed his head down advised the Hero, that he needs lastly to speak to his father to change his mind. He believes he is a powerful ally and believes that his father would see reason. The Hero looked at the young man and gently placed his hands in his shoulder with a sure, calm voice said, “the unwillingness to fight in this war doesn’t take you out from the battle, it just places you on the other side but go then.” The Hero quickly left the presence of the young and join his army as the war waged on.

The young man shook from what the Hero said, rushed home to find his father. He convinced himself that he is not unwilling to fight, he loves it. There is nothing wrong with preparation and more pressing needs is important, like family. As the young man entered his home, he found his father preparing for the fight. He speedily placed his hand on the top of his father’s sword and spoke to him about this War with the Rebels and to open his eyes. His father looked at him with unbelief, as he shook his head and advised his son, that deep in his heart the young man truly doesn’t believe in all that nonsense. He moved his son out of the way and said, “I know that you are my son, but know this full well, if you join the other side I will not hesitate to cut you down and remember this you will lose everything.”

Still in disbelief and saddened about what his father said, rushed to join in the fray outside of the city to aid the Rebels, and possibly fight his own father. As the young man arrived in the battlefield, he saw the fight not going well for the Rebels as they are being pushed back. He saw the Hero and his troops pushing another way, trying to run through the weak flanks of the Empire. At this time the young man saw his old friend fighting and retreating to the alleys of the city where they will find refuge in their hideaways. The young man joined his friend and found themselves into the mouth of an alley. His friend advised him that they both can hold off the soldiers so that their comrades can escape. The young man looked at his friend and nodded. As the soldiers drew near, his friend loudly beckoned the young man to join him but at this moment the young man froze. He gazed at his friend’s eyes and at this moment feeling discouraged and afraid, dropped his sword. The young man walked slowly, passing by his friend and into the Imperial soldiers. As he meets them, they passed by him, nodding in approval as they trod on, they knew he is the son of a veteran Imperial soldier, loyal to the Empire. His friend shocked by what happened felt betrayed and fell, routed and overwhelmed by the Imperial soldiers. The young man looked back, saw the Rebels soldiers, his students, his allies and his friends flanked, blocked off and losing their lives. As tears rolled down from his eyes, as he fell to his knees. This young man, though he believes it or not, though he takes it or not, is now standing against the Hero and his army, a war that wages on… 

“In a Christian life and the war with the World, the unwillingness to fight doesn’t take you out from the battle, it just places you on the other side”

GOSPEL (Part Two of Two) - The Gospel Demands

By Stanley Alday

There are five principles that the gospel demands that I find essential in the Christian life. Throughout my growth in the knowledge of Jesus and my love for our Lord, I have applied these very principles. What Jesus said to his disciples, in John’s account, struck my heart. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” This verse will be included in the next five principles.

I pray that this will help you understand what the gospel requests from you, so that you would be aware of how you ought to serve Christ and walk in a manner pleasing to Him.   

1. To obey the gospel 

The gospel demands obedience from His people. We are not only gifted with faith and knowledge, but God has also given us a wonderful privilege to obey Him. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, writes, “... the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake…” This comes to show that we, as His people, must obey Him with all of our heart, mind and will.

2. Not just obedience but joyful obedience and love for Christ
True knowledge of the gospel results to joyful obedience, and love for Christ. Our obedience is what differs us from demons. Demons know God, accept His lordship and obey Him (Mark 1:24-27). But not us. Piper puts it this way, “Christians don’t just believe the same facts the devil believes. We love and embrace the truth about God.”1 We are not only to proclaim Jesus is Lord, but we do it with great joy and love. We know this by our observation of Paul’s attitude. He writes in his letters to the Romans:

17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed.  Romans 6:17

25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.  Romans 7:25

In these letters, the way Paul expressed his thanks to God does not seem like he was doing them out of grudge or frustration; he expresses them with love and relief, as it should with us. We are not only to remember the gospel with intellect, but we are to love it and joyfully obey it. If we are the opposite, and we continually go on with an attitude of grudge, then it is imperative for us to re-examine our faith.  

3. That we hold on to the gospel unashamedly

We are not to love something and be ashamed of it, especially with the gospel. We are not to reluctantly speak about it with other people. We are to speak of it freely and with great confidence in Christ. According to Paul, in his teachings to the Romans, he states that he is not ashamed of the gospel as it is the power of God and in it, the righteousness of God. Piper emphasizes that, “God is the gospel.1” He does not mean that good news is God, he means that wherever the gospel is, God is there, and to be ashamed of the gospel, is to be ashamed of God. There is solidarity with God and His gospel.

4. That we carry out the mission the Lord assigned us—Evangelism

The result of holding the gospel without shame is our attitude of freely proclaiming it with a view of planting Christ to others. As a church, one of our objectives as laity, not just assigned to preachers, is the proclamation of the gospel in our secular workforce. Jason Allen, a president at Midwestern Seminary writes, “Every Christian is called to minister … [i]t is part and parcel of the Christian life.2” The intended meaning here is not to preach at a pulpit at work, but to share or gossip about the gospel with others. God has placed us in different positions to serve Him in the expansion of His kingdom through ministering to others (Matthew 28:19-20).       

5. To guard it at all cost
When the gospel is under attack, we have been taught by the apostle to guard the gospel at all cost. There will come a time where there will be great opposition in the church, and we must stand up to protect it. Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, rebuked them saying, “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another…3” Paul was shocked at how the Galatians, in his time, were so easily persuaded to turn to a different gospel (which is not really a gospel v.7). From this, we learn the exclusivity of the gospel—that there is only one, true and saving gospel. 

Lastly, we must tie it all together. The gospel is the life, death and resurrection of Christ and it demands from us a few things—our love, joy and obedience. It is all about our Lord Jesus Christ and so it is imperative to have our minds, hearts and wills set on Him - that way, we would walk in a manner worthy of the Lord. All of us must only be for the Lord our Master alone,  and All of Him for us. Thus, let us love Him and seek Him daily in His unfailing Word. 


Happy the man whose hopes rely

On Israel’s God; he made the sky,

   And earth, and seas, with all their train;

His truth forever stands secure;

He saves the oppressed, he feeds the poor,

  And none shall find His promise vain.

- Isaac Watts          

          



——————

    1. John Piper, God is the gospel. (2011, par. 1)

     2. Jason Allen. Discern Your Call to Ministry. Introduction: What does it mean to be called to ministry. (par.9).

     3. The apostle Paul (Galatians 1: 6). Paul rebukes the Galatians by pointing out the exclusivity of the gospel.