Friday, November 18, 2016

A(n awkward) story about grace

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LET'S start with a story.

Two teams entered a contest, and they were the favorites to win it all considering their respective backgrounds.

Team A has been dominating the said competition for quite some time, while Team B is etching its own story of success in recent times.

Then came the contest proper. Team A was the first to perform, and despite the pressures of being team number one, the squad made a beautiful performance.

Two teams later (there were eight competing squads), it was Team B's turn to give its best shot.

Its performance, however, was kinda unpleasant to see. The team went sloppy, and everybody thought, "They won't even make the Top 3."

After the remaining four teams did their contest pieces, the awarding came.

To everyone's surprise, Team A, with all of its "clean" showcase, would only take home the bronze.

The fans of Team A thought, "OK. We'll take it. Team C (another known dominating squad but has only made a renaissance recently) will win it for sure due to their epic performance."

Curiously, Team C's "perfect" routine was only good for second, and the people at the venue became more puzzled.

The champion team was announced, and, lo and behold, Team B won!

You may ask, "So what does this have to do with your Christian blog?"

Let's start with the first quote. Because of Team B's botched bid, it should not really make the podium. That's justice.

However, the judges, although they gave the necessary deductions, looked at the positives in Team B's bid and thought, "Hey! They have what it takes to win this." That's mercy.

Finally, the host's announcement of Team B as the grand winner is the "grace" part.

Let's connect this to the story of the Gospel.

Because of our sin, we're as botched and more of failures as Team B, so by rules of justice, we are losers. In fact, God has made a penalty for our sin: death, which the Apostle Paul ironically coined it as our "wages of sin" (Romans 6:23a). I almost forgot: everyone, including me, has sinned (Romans 3:23).

But God created us in His own image (Genesis 1:27), making us His prized possession. While justice says we should all die, the Lord loves us so much (John 3:16a) that he decided to acquit us and instead came down to Earth, taking the form of a human, and carried our supposed punishment to the cross, effectively giving us mercy.

In fact, He gave us a gift that we really don't deserve: eternal life (Romans 6:23b). Through Jesus' victory on the cross, we share His "championship" too as long as we embrace that He is our Lord and Savior. That's the ultimate example of grace.

If you want to have an eternal life and experience God's victory that He gave to you, pray this:

"Lord, I'm sorry for the sins that I have made. Thank You for Your sacrifice on the cross, and thank You that Your victory is our victory too. I embrace that victory and let Jesus Christ be my Lord and Savior. Thank You for the eternal life. In Jesus' name, amen." 

"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God... (Ephesians 2:8 ESV)"

PS: If the story above seems familiar to you, yes! That's what happened in last year's UAAP Cheerdance Competition. It may seem awkward for a Christian from UP to be inspired by the NU Pep Squad's upset considering all the controversies about the result that eventually led to UP Pep backing out this year. However, just like the upset, we are not deserving of God's victory, but He shared it to us.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The closure

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The Chainsmokers performed in the Philippines last month. Screen capture from
IT all started when the officemates of a high school friend of mine, who is now based in Singapore, posted a video of them dancing to the Chainsmokers and Halsey hit "Closer". They posted the video on the day my PBA D-League coverage ended, so I reposted the video the day after with the caption, "[I] would have loved doing one in Biñan (Alonte Sports Arena) last night (Stu Traveled mode: If you want to go to ASA, take the Mamplasan Interchange from SLEX and go east bound. ASA is inside the Biñan City Hall Complex)."

Exactly three weeks after they posted their "Closer" dance and with other people following suit, here I am updating my Christian blog (setting aside my sportswriter duties and snapping yet another dormancy period of this website).

Here's the thing: I accepted the "after-work challenge", or the "'Closer' dance challenge" for others. I already choreographed most of the steps (all by myself) while working out at the gym but eventually gave up and vowed, "I will just do a guitar cover instead (never too late to play the six-stringer)."

But everything changed when I joined my churchmates for a jog.

After we finished (we actually didn't finish the full course because two of us thought we took a different path) the run, I somewhat joked to my churchmates about the "zumba" dance by performing the first step of my "Closer" dance (Don't dare me to repeat it) while singing it.

Then one of my churchmates "rebuked" me about the song, currently at number one in various radio countdowns and may have had some airtime in "masa" stations as well.

This is where the point of this post comes in. "Closer", although in a "beautiful" manner, discusses about sex, especially the chorus (I am expecting Andrew, Alex, and Ashley [Halsey's real name] to air their side of the song if they see this). While there's nothing wrong in sex in general, the song primarily discusses pre-marital sex, which somehow degrades the sacredness of marriage (read Genesis 2). I simply overlooked the song's sense.

To be fair, there's nothing wrong if Christians patronize some secular music. In fact, I would say that I like "Closer" more than "Roses" and "Don't Let Me Down".

But again, I overlooked what "Closer" is all about, and that's the same for most of us. We tend to like a new hit so much that we ignore the message it implies, especially if it's NSFW.

To end this, I'm just gonna remind you that before you should check first the implied (or sometimes explicit) message of the hit song and determine whether it's "wholesome" to your standards or not. But above anything else, ask God that He will direct you as you listen to the tracks on the radio. And of course, there's nothing more pleasing to our ears than worship songs to our Lord. And to further discern what songs we should put in our playlists, here's God's (through Paul) tip for you:

" filled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord... (Ephesians 5:18b, 19 KJV)"

Another reminder: "...your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you... Therefore, glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19a, 20 ESV)

PS: If you're asking me if I will push through with the "dare", I am now backing out of the challenge.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

More than common sense

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Photo from the PBA
SO... It took a statement from Manny Pacquiao for me to make a comeback at TLIMC. After checking my Christian blog,... lo and behold, my last post was barely seven months ago!

Anyway, let's jump straight to the issue in question. The former boxing champ drew flak from the LGBT community and even some straight guys who also advocate the LGBT rights when he reiterated his stand against same sex marriage in the most awkward of explanations.

Pacquiao, currently a congressman and a senatorial aspirant, likened human relationships to that of animals and said that romantic relationships among two men and two women are nastier those of animals as per mere common sense.

Well-known personalities known to be gays publicly cried foul over Pacquiao with TV host Boy Abunda, despite the boxing legend's apology hours earlier, venting ire on live television.

Before I continue, I made sure that the next words you will see will not hurt my LGBT friends, but I just wanna say sorry in advance if there will be any LGBT member or pro-LGBT rights advocate who may get offended with this post.

Now, here's my take on the issue. First, I agree with most of you that Manny Pacquiao indeed made a wrong analogy of things during that interview with TV5. While I got his point, he simply used the wrong words.

Next, his Instagram post that followed the release of the controversial video interview quoted a Scripture which said, "Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men..." (1 Corinthians 6:9 NIV). I admire Pacquiao's decision to stand firm in his faith for God, but Paul's message to Corinth about that did not end there. Apparently, Pacquiao did not add Verse 10 which says, "nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God," and the most pivotal verse of the said Scripture part, Verse 11 that says, "And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."

Manny was somewhat wrong when he ended his statement with the "masahol" part (or probably his video was cut by TV5 at that part if Pacquiao continued after it). Many interpreted that part as if Pacquiao was saying people who will do same-sex marriage will go to hell. But here's the thing: we are now at the New Testament era, or what Bible scholars would call the "time of grace".

The law says, "If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them, (Leviticus 20:13 ESV)" but that was the Old Testament days or the so-called "time of law". Like I said, we are now at the time of grace. God knows that everyone will fail to follow all of His commandments because sin has already been part of our lives since the time of creation. While God is just and does not want sin to be ignored, He loves us so much being his most special creation. That's why He sent His Son Jesus Christ to earth to take the punishment we deserve, including the punishment for homosexuality. Because of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross, "sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace (Romans 6:14 ESV)."

While I felt the irony, I find it a good move that some members of the LGBT community sympathized with Pacquiao. After all, Pacquiao did not say that he hates the homosexuals but only the homosexuality. That's what God is telling us. Hate the sin, not the sinners. In fact, He said, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you... (Matthew 5:44 ESV)" Yes, Pacquiao may have sinned more than the mistakes the LGBT members committed as what they brought up, but one should remember that regardless if we sinned only once or more, we are still sinners who have fallen short of God's glory (Romans 3:23) but was given eternal life through Jesus (Romans 6:23). All we need is to believe in Jesus, and we will attain that gift from God (Acts 16:31).

If you want someone who is now feeling the confusion about his gender to realize who he or she really is according to what God said, start by building a deeper friendship. Once he or she feels the love of God in you, then you may start telling him or her what God thinks he or she is.

For the new Pacquiao haters from the LGBT side, I want you to discontinue the bashing. Yes, he may have hurt you a lot, but revenge is not the answer. While I still hope that you will meet God, if you're happy with your life right now, just enjoy it and make the most out of it.

I did not make this post in full support of Pacquiao's senatorial campaign (if you really wanna know my stand on whether to vote for Pacquiao or not whether from a sportswriter's standpoint or not, my Facebook, Twitter, and Ask.FM handles are open 24/7), but I'm here to tell you that God has already forgiven Pacquiao and the LGBT community. Yes, homosexuality is not in the Lord's vocabulary, but He loves us so much that "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8 ESV)." And it's not just common sense. It's the truth. God really loves us regardless of our identity.