Well, it is Christmas and the New Year’s time once again. This is the first Thanksgiving and Christmas here in the states with family and friends in eight years. Thank you, Lord. But I must say, I miss my home and church in the Philippines.
Because we serve the Lord Jesus, we serve where He leads us, and we move in His timing. We solely serve in His providence. All the earth is willed by His sovereignty. Thank you, Lord!
The Bible says, “before the foundation of the world” God chose us to be saved by His Son Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 1:4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,
Before God created, He knew the cost. He knew we would reject Him as God and Creator. He knew that because of our rejection (sin) we would die. He knew the second person of Himself, The Word, would need to become flesh. Jesus Christ the Messiah would need to pay the price of our sin, death so that we might live despite ourselves.
Well, knowing the cost, He created us in love. And amazing to me, He created us with the unique gift of His image and likeness. He created us eternal and willing to forgive us through His love demonstrated on the Cross paying for our sin.
God chose the day He would create us and then chose the day He would fulfill His promise – The day of His birth arrived. It was the day to become the incarnate man so He could die for our sins on the cross. He took on humanity to save us.
For me, Christmas is the day Jesus became flesh to die so I might live. I think this passage explains it best. The ISV puts it in poetic verse. It is beautiful to read and wonderful to contemplate.
Philippians 2 International Standard Version (ISV)
6 In God’s own form existed he, and shared with God equality, deemed nothing needed grasping. 7 Instead, poured out in emptiness, a servant’s form did he possess, a mortal man becoming.In human form he chose to be, 8 and lived in all humility, death on a cross obeying. 9 Now lifted up by God to heaven, a name above all others given, this matchless name possessing. 10 And so, when Jesus’ name is called, the knees of everyone should fall, wherever they’re residing. 11 Then every tongue in one accord, will say that Jesus the Messiah is Lord, while God the Father praising.
Maybe this is why Christians have such loving hearts and enjoy giving. Truly we are created in His image and likeness.
Here is a Filipino story of giving. It comes from my new book THE ENEMY IS ROARING AND THE LORD IS BLESSING.
Short Stories of Faith and Encouragement
“When they saw us coming, they had hope.”
One day, we went to pray for a family that had a miscarriage in the seventh month. The baby was a boy. Two of our Grace Chapel youth were from this family. Just a few days before, these two youth were recipients of clothes and school supplies sent from our home church in the USA.
It was rainy season. We walked into the mountainous part of Dacutan, where Grace Chapel is. Juliana, six of our Grace Chapel ladies, and Pastor Jojo and I went to pray for them and give a love offering. Our travel was a muddy footpath, wading across a river, and walking an old bamboo hanging bridge.
I am a large American and the Filipinos who walk this bridge weigh considerably less. It was faith that God would protect me that caused me to step out on the bridge. Thanks to Him, I made it to the other side. The mud path had sugarcane stalks and sticks covering it so our feet would not sink too deep. I had seen school children come from this area carrying their shoes to keep the mud from them.
As we walked the path to their home, many people joined us. Some of the community members and the family said that when they saw us coming, they had hope. We finally arrived at the bamboo home. You could see easily through the walls, and it was leaning and in need of repair.
A few of us stepped inside. The mother was sitting on the bamboo floor, also with many missing pieces. You could see she was very weak, her eyes full of tears at our sight. Beside her was a cardboard box with the dead baby boy wrapped in a blanket inside. His small face was showing. Near the box, on the floor, was a single small candle lit as a symbol of mourning. The father was off preparing the grave at the local public cemetery.
The ladies were quick to make sure the mother was okay, offer words of sympathy and check to see that she and the children were safe. The family had no money for a doctor or medicine. We prayed for her healing.
I observed several of the children were malnourished. Four of their children come to the Grace Chapel feeding program on Saturdays. Sometimes they show up at our home, and we feed them.
The mother was 38, and this was her tenth child. The father helped deliver the already dead baby. He had to push the baby out. If he had not been brave, maybe the mother would have died during delivery. We prayed she would have no infection. Pastor Jojo offered a prayer of healing and comfort. The ladies continued to speak with the mother and tried to help with the words from their hearts.
As I walked home, my thoughts were about how blessed my family and I are. I thanked God for our health, our home, and the means He has given us to care for ourselves and others.
Also in my heart, I was trying to understand the helplessness they must feel. It is their daily life. In spite of their poverty, the Filipinos are an enduring people. When I see the children, they are smiling, clean and well mannered.
Oh Lord, help us to bring hope and love to the Filipino people wherever You establish us.
The mother went to the medical clinic. They used our love offering for medication. She is now in good health. Thank you, Lord!
The oldest of their children, a teenage girl Hanny, has since come to live with us. She is a blessing to Juliana, helping around the house. With the money she earns from us she can continue in school and help her family.
There are too many like this in the Philippines. I have been told 30% of Filipino children are malnourished. There is so very much more we can do.
The Good Shepherd says "I will feed My flock and I will lead them to rest," declares the Lord GOD. "I will seek the lost, bring back the scattered, bind up the broken and strengthen the sick; but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with judgment” (Ezekiel 34:15, 16).
As Paul Harvey would say – “page two” of the story next
I CALL HER HANERS
This story is about Hanny, the girl mentioned in the story above. Juliana calls her Annie or Ann. I call her Haners.
Several years ago, I wrestled with the fact that I cannot help everyone. The poverty and suffering around me is harsh and breaks my heart continuously. As I have said before, so many times I have to walk away so I can clear away my tears. I pray I never become accustomed to it or stop seeing the suffering.
Someone shared with me that I could not help everyone. That is true. However, there are some, with the Lord’s help, I can. So I focus on those the Lord brings into my path and into my heart. There are many. Thank you, Lord Jesus. The story of Haners is about one the Lord brought into my path and into my heart.
Haners is the oldest child of the family mentioned in the previous story. When her mother miscarried, Haners had already been coming to Grace Chapel. When we approached the home to pray for her mother and family, I could see her sitting in her bedroom through the missing pieces of outside walls as we approached.
Our first year here in 2011, I was preaching at Grace Chapel. Haners and some of her siblings also attended. At that time, we fed the children and adults who came to church nutritious meals. She was thirteen at the time and was hard to miss. She is pretty, with a big smile and eyes that look directly at you. Shortly thereafter, I discovered she is intelligent, determined and willing to work hard to accomplish something with her life. One of the things I like most about her is she is always helping her family.
Not only was I noticing her at church, but she and a girl friend were showing up on the weekends doing chores around our house. They came looking for food. Juliana would have them do cleaning in exchange. Soon it was just Haners showing up. Juliana not only provided food for Haners, but also some to take home for her family, plus a little allowance as well. Haners was a hard-working, honest girl.
Soon we needed her to come on Friday nights. Not long after, she would stay with us a night or two. Haners was also active with the Grace Chapel youth. Eventually, Haners was staying with us every weeknight and visiting her family on the weekends. Juliana pays her an allowance and also helps with the cost of school projects, transportation to school, lunch and uniforms. She is a member of the family and a big help and blessing to us, especially Juliana.
Am I singing her praises? I guess I am. Not everyone we try to help is a success story. We have had our hearts broken many times trying to help, only to find they do not appreciate it or even dislike us later. I will not let those discourage me. There are also the ones whose lives we have made a positive difference in both spiritually and in quality of life.
I also noticed her dedication to her schoolwork. Almost two years ago, I asked Haners how her school grades were doing. As usual, she said okay. I began asking to see her grades at the end of each semester. In the beginning, her grades were around 81-83. Not bad. One day I asked her what she wanted to do with her life. She said she wanted to take hotel & restaurant management at the local university.
I was pleased she wanted to go to college but disappointed in the degree program she chose. It made sense though, because it is the least expensive for a four-year degree. As I have observed, many students choose that one. I estimate that maybe 5,000 students per year graduate with that degree but cannot find a job. After all, how many motels are there in the Philippines: a third world country? Certainly not enough to fill all those jobs. Most colleges have the course.
I asked Haners what she would want to study if she had the money for whatever she wanted. Her answer was nursing. That makes sense as she doctors our pets and cleans wounds for us and others. She also helps take care of Tatay, Juliana’s father. He is 93 years old and needs complete care. She loves it.
Therefore, I told her she needs to bring her grades up and I will see if there is a sponsor or sponsors for her. Every semester she has improved her grades. The last report card her average was 92.44. She is ending her senior year and excited for college.
I told Haners’ story to a few potential sponsors and their responses were favorable.
The Enemy Roaring
The enemy roaring was poverty. Haners thought her only option would be the cheapest college degree. Actually, she probably thought she had no chance at college due to finances.
The Lord Is Blessing
Haners found our Lord and was baptized. She knows He is real now. A Bible sits by her bed, and she is reading it. She now has hope and faith. I believe our Lord will follow through with Haners and she will shine His light in her life.
Thank you, Lord, that we have been able to help hundreds. And thank you, Lord, that we can help Haners. Thank you, Lord, that she has brightened our lives, and we have seen you work in her. You are an awesome God!
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:1-5).
MERRY CHRISTMAS & A BLESSED NEW YEAR to you all. May our Lord continue to bless you richly with His continued love, mercy, and grace.
Your partner serving Filipinos in Jesus name.
The Bragg Family