Archive for the ‘Our Theme for 2011’ Category

CALLED ACCORDING TO GOD’S PURPOSE

FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL

 

OUR THEME FOR 2011

(Part 45)

 

CALLED ACCORDING TO GOD’S PURPOSE

 

July 24, 2011

Today’s reading: Romans 8:28-30

 

 

According to God’s eternal plan for our lives, He proceeds according to a process. First, He knows about us from all eternity, and according to that foreknowledge, He predestines us (Rom 8:29). Then God calls those whom He has predestined, then He justifies those whom He has called, and finally He glorifies those whom He has justified (Rom 8:30). The process flows like this: God foreknew –> predestined –> called –> justified –> glorified.

We see this process at work in our 2011 theme verses from Isaiah.

Isaiah 49:1b — “The Lord called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name.” This speaks about God’s eternal plan for us, and the destiny to which we are called. God knew from all eternity that in this third millennium there would be a great need for a community that would evangelize massively and do worldwide mission, while renewing the family and defending life. This is CFC-FFL.

Isaiah 49:2 — “He made of me a sharp-edged sword and concealed me in the shadow of his arm. He made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me.” Because God has an eternal plan for us, He justifies us, that is, He makes us right in our relationship with Him, He forms us according to “the image of his Son” (Rom 8:29b), and He molds us to become His fitting instruments. Because we are to be at the cutting edge and at the forefront of His spiritual work, then He makes us sharp-edged swords and polished arrows. Because we will be afflicted in spiritual warfare, then He protects us by hiding us under His arm and in His quiver. In offense and defense, God is there for us.

Isaiah 49:3 — “You are my servant …. through whom I show my glory.” When God makes us His properly-formed instruments, then we are able to serve Him effectively and be instruments for His glory to shine forth. We too share in that glory, as we stand in for God and His work. Thus we are “made glorious in the sight of the Lord” (Is 49:5c).

 

We could view it this way.

 

God’s work

Romans 8

Isaiah 49

Foreknowledge

Predestination

Call

“For those he foreknew he also predestined …. and those he predestined he also called” (v.29a,30a) “The Lord called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name.” (v.1b)

Justification

“and those he called he also justified” (v.30b) “He made me a sharp-edged sword and concealed me in the shadow of his arm. He made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me.” (v.2)

Glorification

“and those he justified he also glorified.” (v.30c) “You are my servant …. through whom I show my glory.” (v.3)

 

Why is all this important to us? Well, first of all, because we want to do God’s will. We want His will to be accomplished in our lives. Too many times so-called Christians go their own way, with their own direction, agenda, priorities, preferences, etc. But God has already predestined us. We simply need to realize His call and give ourselves fully to Him.

Second, God gives a wonderful promise. “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28). If we allow God to work His will in and through us, then we know that everything will work out for our good. No matter what is happening to us right now, especially if we are facing affliction and suffering, we know that God will make things right.

Now there are two conditions to this promise being fulfilled. One, that we love God. Two, that we are called according to His purpose. Well, we know we love God, even as we are still far from loving Him with our whole heart, mind, soul and strength. The second condition can be problematic. Are we living our lives according to God’s will and purpose? Have we discerned and heeded His call? Are we allowing ourselves to be His instruments as His servants?

God has made known our call in all of our 30 years as CFC. The vision and mission God has given us ought to be clear by now. But we need to continue giving our “yes” to God, and allowing Him to form and mold us, simply for His own purposes. Then God’s eternal plan for our lives, as CFC-FFL, can unfold. Then we can truly be God’s “light to the nations, that (His) salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” (Is 49:6d).

 

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THE MOST HIGH OUR STRONGHOLD

FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL

 

OUR THEME FOR 2011

(Part 44)

 

THE MOST HIGH OUR STRONGHOLD

 

July 4, 2011

Today’s reading: Psalm 91:1-15

 

 

We are now 30 years old and have started on our 31st year. God has offered us the fullness of His strength, and we in turn “have made the Most High (our) stronghold.” (Ps 91:9b). We have the strength to do the very divine work of God, and God affords us security and protection as we do the work.

As doing the work of God gets us deep into spiritual warfare, against the powerful forces of the enemy, as we suffer affliction and pain and even death, we need to be constantly reminded that we “dwell in the shelter of the Most High, (that we) abide in the shadow on the Almighty.” (Ps 91:1). We are under God’s care and protection! As such, we simply look to the “God in whom (we) trust” and “say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and fortress” (Ps 91:2). We take refuge in a fortress!

 

Though the enemy intends to trap us and destroy us, “God will rescue (us) from the fowler’s snare, from the destroying plague” (Ps 91:3). Though the enemy hurls its diabolical slings and arrows against us, God “will shelter (us) with pinions, spread wings that (we) may take refuge; God’s faithfulness is a protecting shield.” (Ps 91:4). As such, we need never “fear the terror of the night nor the arrow that flies by day” (Ps 91:5). Even though thousands fall all around us, we are protected (Ps 91:7).

Not only that, God fights for us. It is His work after all. We are just instruments. It is God who wields the instruments. And it is God who is the stronger being who can defeat the strong enemy. If we allow God to use us as His instruments, then we “need simply watch; the punishment of the wicked (we) will see.” (Ps 91:8).

We are God’s soldiers. As such, God not only provides us our weapons and armor, but He also provides us guardian angels. These powerful beings are right there in the thick of battle with us. “For God commands the angels to guard you in all your ways.” (Ps 91:11).

With God and our guardian angels, then we can overcome the works of the enemy. God has already won over the ancient serpent, the dragon, and we are doing the mopping up operations. We share in God’s victory. “You shall tread upon the asp and the viper, trample the lion and the dragon.” (Ps 91:13).

 

With God as our stronghold, we are promised that we can always call on Him for deliverance from our distress. “All who call upon me I will answer; I will be with them in distress; I will deliver them and give them honor.” (Ps 91:15). Imagine being able to call, not only upon covering fire or back-up forces, but upon the great Creator-God Himself!

To effectively call upon God and experience deliverance, we need to have our personal relationship with Him. This way we cut through the bureaucratic red tape and go direct to the Commander-in-Chief. We acknowledge Him as our Lord and Savior. We turn our whole lives over to Him. We live out our covenant. We stick to God like glue! “Whoever clings to me I will deliver; whoever knows my name I will set on high.” (Ps 91:14).

When this is the case, then whatever else happens in our lives will be in accordance with God’s will. We are assured that “no evil shall befall you, no affliction come near your tent.” (Ps 91:10). Though we know that we will experience harm and scourges and disasters and afflictions in life, God will always turn these evils around so that they become blessings to us. Suffering becomes redemptive. Being humbled is a prelude to being exalted. Being emptied prepares us to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Embracing the cross makes us true disciples of Jesus. All things then work for our good.

 

“My God is now my strength!” (Is 49:5). My God is now my stronghold!

 

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MY GOD IS NOW MY STRENGTH!

FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL

 

OUR THEME FOR 2011

(Part 43)

 

MY GOD IS NOW MY STRENGTH!

 

June 24, 2011

Today’s reading: Isaiah 49:1-6

 

 

It is so significant that on the eve of our 30th anniversary, the reading for today would be from the very verses that form our theme for this year, that of Isaiah 49:1-6. It is the Lord affirming what He has intended to teach us and show us and impress upon us.

And so we review what God has been telling us.

 

“The Lord called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name.” (Is 49:1)

 

This is about destiny. According to the eternal plan of God, He raised CFC in 1981 and gave us our mission, that of evangelization through family renewal.

 

“He made of me a sharp-edged sword …. He made me a polished arrow” (Is 49:2)

 

This is about formation. In order to fulfill our destiny, we need to be formed according to the mind and heart of God. So through the years, God formed us to be His instrument and army. As His weapons, we would go into spiritual battle against the dominion of the evil one.

 

“You are my servant, …. through whom I show my glory.” (Is 49:3)

 

This is about servanthood. We are not just formed about the technicalities of our work, but we are to be those servants loyal, obedient and faithful to the Master. If we do the very work of God according to His mind and ways, then His glory will shine forth in and through us.

 

“Though I thought I had toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength, yet my reward is with the Lord, my recompense is with my God.” (Is 49:4)

 

This is about endurance and perseverance. If we are to be the good and faithful servants the Lord desires, we need to endure through the hardships of mission. There will be ups and downs, victories and seeming defeats. But we persevere, never giving up, never backing down. In times of frustration or impending disillusionment about how our work might be going, we look to God. We stand on the faithfulness of God. We trust in Him. And we know that whatever happens, if we do what we are called upon to do, then God will reward us in the end.

 

“For now the Lord has spoken who formed me as his servant from the womb, that Jacob may be brought back to him and Israel gathered to him; and I am made glorious in the sight of the Lord, …. It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel” (Is 49:5,6a)

 

God now reiterates what He is about. He called us from all eternity, He raised us in 1981, He gathered us as His people and formed us as His servants through the years, He restored us as a remnant in 2007, and He has manifested His glory through our life and work. But even all that is still too little. There is so much more.

 

“I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” (Is 49:6b)

 

God raised, formed and restored us in order to do the work of rapid, massive and worldwide evangelization. The work God has given is all about the great commission, given to all Christians, to proclaim the good news of salvation in Jesus. We do this by the witness of our lives and the testimony of our words. In this, the very light of Jesus shines in and through us.

 

We do divine work, according to a divine calling. As such we can never do this on our own human strength or resources. Indeed, through all these 30 years, we have relied on the power and strength of God. We are mere instruments.

Now, 30 years after, our vision and mission are clear. Our purification and formation through fire have been accomplished. Now, more than ever, knowing that the great and wonderful work of God in and through us over 30 years is still too little, we face the future with hope, joy and trust in the Almighty God who is just and righteous. Now, in work of proclaiming the good news of Jesus, in renewing families and in defending life, God is making available the fullness of His strength.

Let us give totally of ourselves, in even greater commitment and faithfulness, and always be able to say: “My God is now my strength!” (Is 49:5).

 

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PREPARED TO TAKE ON GOD’S STRENGTH

FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL

 

OUR THEME FOR 2011

(Part 42)

 

PREPARED TO TAKE ON GOD’S STRENGTH

 

June 20, 2011

Today’s reading: Psalm 33:12-22

 

 

God is consistent in His prophetic and guiding word. Through the years from the crisis of 2007, God has spoken to us strongly, preparing us for the greater work that is to come. Now, on the eve of our 30th year, in the same way that He summarized our CFC history through Isaiah 49:1-6, from where we get our theme for this year, God now summarizes our themes from 2007 to the present in one psalm. This is God showing us how He knits together the themes during the crucial restoration years of 2007 to 2011, affirming to us those critical aspects of our life and mission that He emphasized in these five years, and assuring us of His continuing and consistent call.

 

Our themes for 2007, 2008 and 2009 were hope, joy and trust, taken from the books of Lamentations, Zephaniah and Isaiah, respectively. Here they are in the psalm.

 

“For in God our hearts rejoice; in your holy name we trust. May your kindness, Lord, be upon us; we have put our hope in you.” (Ps 33:21-22)

 

These three virtues are crucial to our life and mission. Properly understood and lived out, they enable us to weather any storm, withstand any onslaught, and endure through any oppression. Mind you, there will be plenty of such challenges, especially as we continue to assault the dominion of the evil one.

In 2007 we had the crisis and split. Many thought the “future (was) lost, all that (they) hoped for from the Lord.” (Lam 3:18). But God gave us the theme of hope. “My portion is the Lord, says my soul; therefore will I hope in him.” (Lam 3:24). No matter how bad things are, no matter how hopeless the situation seems, we learned that “the favors of the Lord are not exhausted, his mercies are not spent; they are renewed each morning, so great is his faithfulness.” (Lam 3:22-23). Thus we simply prayed and hoped: “Lead us back to you, O Lord, that we may be restored: give us anew such days as we had of old.” (Lam 5:21). God heard our prayers and answered. He raised a remnant, the restored CFC, now called CFC-FFL.

In the first half of 2007, our situation was dire. “The joy of our hearts has ceased, our dance has turned into mourning” (Lam 5:15). In an instant, in the second half of 2007, the Lord turned that around. He turned our mourning into dancing, and planted joy in our hearts.

 

And so it was that for the next year, 2008, God gave us the theme of joy. God had restored CFC to its authentic charism, through a remnant that had been humbled by the crisis and that earnestly sought His help. “But I will leave as a remnant in your midst a people humble and lowly, who shall take refuge in the name of the Lord.” (Zep 3:12). Suddenly, from despair there was hope. From grief there was joy. From lamentations it became celebration. “Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!” (Zep 3:14).

But more amazingly, it was not only we who rejoiced, it was God Himself who was rejoicing. “He will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love, he will sing joyfully because of you” (Zep 3:17b). Why was God rejoicing? Because He was back on track with His eternal plan for CFC. Because the enemy was not able to destroy CFC as he intended. Because by raising CFC-FFL, He had restored His authentic work. God forgave any transgressions we might have made, and removed those who persisted in their infidelities and veering away. “On that day you need not be ashamed of all your deeds, your rebellious actions against me; for then will I remove from your midst the proud braggarts, and you shall no longer exalt yourself on my holy mountain.” (Zep 3:11).

We have hope because God can turn our mourning into dancing. And we have joy because our life and mission are in His hands, and He is about accomplishing His eternal plan. Whatever is happening in our lives, if we live our lives according to God’s ways and commands, we can always have joy.

 

At the core of our work is Jesus the Savior. He has won salvation for us on the cross, he continues to save us in this life from all that would bring us down, and finally he will bring us to eternal salvation. Our work of evangelization is about proclaiming the good news of salvation in Jesus. We look to the salvation of souls.

In 2007, God reminds us of this. “It is good to hope in silence for the saving help of the Lord.” (Lam 3:26). In 2008, God reiterates this. “The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior” (Zep 3:17a). In 2009, God enables us to affirm the reality. “God indeed is my savior” (Is 12:2a).

And if God indeed is our Savior, we are to trust fully in Him. And so it was that God gave us our theme of trust. “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid” (Is 12:2a, RSV). Whatever happens in our life and mission, no matter what affliction we suffer, no matter how adverse circumstances might be, however low we are brought down by the slings and arrows of the enemy, we are simply to trust God. We trust in His eternal call to us, we trust in His saving help, we trust in His love by which He withholds no good thing from us.

 

Now we come to 2010. In that year our theme was “The Almighty: Just and Righteous is He!” (from Job 37:23). God is the Creator, the Omnipotent One, on whom everything depends. The years had been building up to this. In 2007 God asserts that He is in control. “Who commands, so that it comes to pass, except the Lord ordains it” (Lam 3:37). In 2008, God stresses His awesome power. “I have destroyed nations, their battlements are laid waste” (Zep 3:6a). In 2009, God ordains that His awesome name is to be proclaimed to all the nations (Is 12:4-6). Now, in 2010, we simply are called to marvel at His awesome splendor. “From the North the splendor comes, surrounding God’s awesome majesty!” (Job 37:22).

In 2010, we learned the true meaning of worship. That is very important, because our very proper posture before the King of kings is what brings us into the throne room of grace and enables God to truly form us as His people. We also learned about redemptive suffering, from the story of Job, and we were led to joyfully embrace the cross of Christ. If Jesus is the Savior, and he went to the cross and suffered to win salvation for us, then, if we are to truly follow him as Master and Lord, we too should deny ourselves and carry our cross.

With a proper understanding of redemptive suffering, together with the virtues of hope, joy and trust, we can never be brought down by the enemy. In fact, when things get really rough, that is when we surge on ahead even more strongly.

 

The 2010 theme is reiterated in today’s psalm.

 

“By the Lord’s word the heavens were made; by the breath of his mouth all their host.” (Ps 33:6). “Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all who dwell in the world show reverence.” (Ps 33:8). “The Lord loves justice and right and fills the earth with goodness.” (Ps 33:5).

 

Finally we come to 2011. Our theme for this year is “My God is now my strength!” (Is 49:5). This too is reflected in today’s psalm, by way of reminding us that our life and work are not to be accomplished through our human strength. We need to look to the Lord, who in turn is looking upon those who are just and righteous and who hope in Him.

 

“A king is not saved by a mighty army, nor a warrior delivered by great strength. Useless is the horse for safely; its great strength, no sure escape. But the Lord’s eyes are upon the reverent, upon those who hope for his gracious help” (Ps 33:16-18).

 

In fact, this theme has also been building up through the years. In 2007, God warns us that He cuts down even His beloved people as they have relied on their own strength. “He broke off, in fiery wrath, the horn that was Israel’s whole strength.” (Lam 2:3a). In 2008, God avers that His power is greater than those of the nations. “I have destroyed nations, their battlements are laid waste.” (Zep 3:6a). In 2009, we learned to look to God for our strength. “My strength and my courage is the Lord, and he has been my savior.” (Is 12:2b). In 2010, God Himself speaks about His power and strength. “Have you an arm like that of God, or can you thunder with a voice like his?” (Job 40:9). God affirms that the strength of a war horse (Job 39:19), Behemoth (Job 40:16) and Leviathan (Job 41:4) only came from Him.

 

So today, on the eve of our 30th year, God reminds us of what He has been teaching us over the crucial four years of restoration, through the themes over five years. We will do well to learn and re-learn all the lessons, including the lessons of Lamentations and the lessons of Job.

The lessons are meant to form God’s people, who will relate to Him as Almighty God and Savior. The lessons are intended to prepare His people for the all-important work of this third millennium. This is the work of evangelization and mission. And this work is to proclaim the glory of God.

In 2007, we acknowledged who God is, the King of kings. “You, O Lord, are enthroned forever; your throne stands from age to age.” (Lam 5:19). In 2008, God avers why He raises up a people to serve Him, “that they all may call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one accord.” (Zep 3:9b). In 2009, the prophet Isaiah brings these two together, stating that God’s people proclaim God to the world so that they will give praise to Him. “Give thanks to the Lord, acclaim his name; among the nations make known his deeds, proclaim how exalted is his name. Sing praise to the Lord for his glorious achievement; let this be known throughout all the earth.” (Is 12:4-5). In 2010, we were given the opportunity to look even deeper into who God is, with the end result that humankind would give Him what is His due. “The Almighty! we cannot discover him, pre-eminent in power and judgment; his great justice owes no one an accounting. Therefore men revere him” (Job 37:23-24a).

 

Here we are now, in the middle of 2011, with the lessons of the past hopefully learned (though it is a continuing learning and growing in God’s wisdom), with the prospects for the future bright. And God has brought us to our present theme and its context in a passage from Isaiah.

God reiterates the call and the mission. “I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” (Is 49:6b). We have been through a lot, and all we have been through has been part of God’s formation. God raised CFC in 1981, restored CFC-FFL in 2007, but that is yet too little (Is 49:6a). We are God’s servant, and in doing His divine work, His glory will be shown through us (Is 49:3). When that happens, then we too will be “made glorious in the sight of the Lord” (Is 49:5c).

In learning the lessons God has taught, in understanding and accepting the call and mission, in living out the virtues of hope, joy and trust, in looking to awe of God, worship and redemptive suffering, we are now ready to look to what is beyond our 30th year. And we can confidently and joyfully do so, knowing that “(our) God is now (our) strength!” (Is 49:5d).

 

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STRENGTH IN WEAKNESS

FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL

 

OUR THEME FOR 2011

(Part 41)

 

STRENGTH IN WEAKNESS

 

June 18, 2011

Today’s reading: 2 Corinthians 12:1-10

 

 

Paul said, “I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” (2 Cor 11:30). Paul we know to be a strong, powerful, effective proclaimer of the gospel. He was a great apostle, even having “visions and revelations” (2 Cor 12:1b), even being “caught up into Paradise and (hearing) ineffable things” (2 Cor 12:4a). Yet the badge of honor he wore was the suffering he underwent as he served Christ. He reveled not in his strength but in his weakness. His paradigm was totally opposite from and contradictory to that of the world. He indeed was a great apostle, but he, like his Lord, knew that the call was to be a suffering servant.

Aside from following the very footsteps of the Master, which leads to the cross, what is it about weakness that is so important in Christian life and service?

 

Paul understood that pride was one of the strongest enemies of the Christian. As servants, God intends His glory to shine through our life and work (Is 49:3). And why not? If we do the very divine work of God, then inherent in that work is glory. It is God’s work after all.

But many who mightily serve God may begin to think that it is they who are so great, that it is because of their abilities and resources that God’s work is accomplished. Then pride sets in. It might be like the colt on which Jesus rode that thought the hosannahs were directed at him.

And so, with the glory, God gives affliction. This keeps us down-to-earth rather than our heads soaring above the clouds and swelling. It makes us realize how weak and vulnerable we are even as we are able to accomplish great things. It helps us to get back to full dependence on God and not on ourselves.

For Paul, aside from all the hardships, it was the thorn in the flesh. What was God’s purpose? Paul says it twice in the same breath. “Therefore, that I might not become too elated, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.” (2 Cor 12:7b). We of course are elated when we bear fruit for God, and rightly so. But Paul was concerned about becoming too elated, to already fall into sinful pride.

Now Paul knew he was intensely committed to God, that he had dedicated his life to Christ, that he would even die for the cause. Given everything that he was already suffering, he felt he could do without the thorn in the flesh, which to him was intolerable. And so he prayed, nay, begged, insistently, “Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me” (2 Cor 12:8).

God knew better. Or God wanted to deepen even more Paul’s already deep spirituality. So God gave the principle: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9a). God wanted Paul not just to experience some power, but to experience His power being made perfect in him. That could only happen through intense and seemingly intolerable affliction, where, at the end of our human strength, we rely totally on God’s grace, and become an emptied and humbled instrument that can now accept the fullness of His strength.

Paul understood the point. He could see the connection between human weakness and God’s strength. The less we look to our human strength, the more God can fill us with His own strength. The more we are humanly weak, the more God can be strong in us. And so Paul fully embraced and rejoiced in what God had designed for him: “I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.” (2 Cor 12:9b).

 

How about us? God allows us to suffer, but do we realize the redemptive nature of suffering? Do we shun suffering, to the point of veering away when we see the cross on the road? When we are suffering deeply, do we incessantly pray for the cup to be lifted, rather than at some point accepting and even rejoicing? Do we get angry at God, rather than thanking Him for His great purpose in our life in allowing us to suffer? Do we give up on the mission when the going gets really touch, rather than enduring and persevering till the end?

For the true servant of God, affliction is a given. To a great apostle of God, severe and incessant affliction is to be expected. If an angel of Satan beats us as we serve God, we must rejoice, for we are deemed worthy to be afflicted by the enemy.

We must know God’s principle. It is simply this: “when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:10b). If that is so, our posture is already defined. “Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ” (2 Cor 12:10a).

When we are finally able to grow in that posture, then we may be able to claim, “My God is now my strength!”

 

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BOASTING OF WEAKNESS

FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL

 

OUR THEME FOR 2011

(Part 40)

 

BOASTING OF WEAKNESS

 

June 17, 2011

Today’s reading: 2 Corinthians 11:18-30

 

 

In the world, “many boast according to the flesh” (2 Cor 11:18a). They boast of human achievements, of human qualities such as beauty or physical strength, of being elevated to high renown in business, government or sports. These are what make them happy and give them fulfillment. These are what they seek after. Oftentimes, the boasting becomes sinful pride.

Unfortunately, such boasting in the flesh has also seeped into spiritual work. Who has the biggest number of members? Who has the most influence in the Church? Who has recognition from the hierarchy? This can be the sinful pride of leaders. But members too are mesmerized by such and are sucked into the fleshly realm, not realizing how they become captivated by their leaders, how they are led astray from the authentic faith, how they are taken advantage of. “For you put up with it if someone enslaves you, or devours you, or gets the better of you, or puts on airs, or slaps you in the face.” (2 Cor 11:20).

 

What in truth is the mark of a “super-minister” of Christ? (Paul was battling the so-called “superapostles” who were leading the flock astray). It is not elevation to an exalted position, it is not applause of the people, it is not recognition by those in authority. It is the affliction one undergoes for the cause of Christ.

What counts is not the medal of honor pinned to one’s chest, but the mark of scourging on one’s back. What is of greater value is not the crown of jewels but the crown of thorns. What merits God’s approval is not being raised and seated on a throne but being raised and nailed to a cross. What proves one’s authentic work is not the applause of people but the jeers of onlookers.

And so it is that Paul “boasted” of his afflictions. “Are they ministers of Christ? I am still more, with far greater labors, ….” (2 Cor 11:23a). Then he goes on to list all the sufferings and pain he endured (2 Cor 11:23b-28). Paul was not complaining. He was boasting. He wore his afflictions as his badge of honor.

 

How is it with us? Do we seek comfort and convenience as we serve the Lord? Do we get discouraged when the going gets rough? Do we give up when we are not accorded the gratitude and applause we think we deserve? Do we look only to the blessings but shun the cross? Do we look more to the consolation of loving relationships but are less receptive to the discipline of being formed into an army?

For us in CFC-FFL, God has honored us by deeming us fit to be properly formed according to His way. He has deemed us fit to endure suffering for His cause. God allowed the crisis of 2007 that resulted in a split, but raised us as His remnant that He would restore to our authentic charism. He formed us through the lessons of Lamentations and then through the lessons of Job. He impressed upon us the blessing of redemptive suffering. He moved us along the path of discipleship and prepared us to embrace the cross.

How are we receiving all this? Are we learning our lessons? Are we being formed according to the mind and heart of Christ or according to the flesh? Are we avoiding or embracing the cross? Are we helping or hindering God in His efforts to prepare us for the greater work that is to come?

 

This year, on our 30th year, God offers us the fullness of His strength. But that can only happen if we have been formed through our weakness. Only as we have truly been laid low can God raise us up. Only as we have been emptied can God fill us. Only as we have embraced suffering can God truly pour out His bountiful blessings upon us.

After four years of intense formation, I pray that we can now truly say, “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” (2 Cor 11:30). Then we can rightfully follow that up and say, “My God is now my strength!”

 

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POWER FOR MISSION

            FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL

 

OUR THEME FOR 2011

(Part 37)

 

POWER FOR MISSION

 

Ascension Sunday

June 5, 2011

 

Today’s readings:

Acts 1:1-11

Matthew 28:16-20

 

 

This year, after 30 years of formation, God is ready to pour out upon us the fullness of His strength, so that we can truly become the servants through whom He will show His glory (Is 49:3). Our task is to become His light to the nations, so that His salvation may reach to the ends of the earth (Is 49:6b). This includes the internal dimension of growing in holiness, thus enabling us to manifest God’s light to the world, as well as the external dimension of doing the work of rapid, massive and worldwide evangelization.

Our basic mission is evangelization, according to the great commission of Jesus. “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19a). Jesus gave this final instruction to his apostles, and this same commission is for all who profess to follow him, all who are to be worthy to be called his disciples. This is our commission as well.

When God calls, he enables. “The Lord called me from birth …. He made of me a sharp-edged sword” (Is 49:1b,2a). In the same way, Jesus taught and gave instructions to the apostles (Acts 1:1-2), he sent them on practicum, he formed them, and finally he baptized them with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5b).

The baptism in the Holy Spirit is empowerment for worldwide mission. “But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8). It is what allows us to become witnesses of and to Jesus. We witness by our lives of holiness (the internal dimension), and we witness by proclaiming the gospel (the external dimension). People see Jesus in us, and people hear about Jesus from us.

Jesus said that all power in heaven and on earth has been given to him (Mt 28:18b). Now we are called to continue with his work of bringing salvation into the lives of people. This divine work, the very work of God, can only be done in the power and strength of God.

As we strive to be holy as God is holy, as we walk along the narrow path of righteousness and integrity, as we do not veer away from God’s call, as we embrace the cross of salvation, then may we truly be able to say, “My God is now my strength!”

 

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