Forgetting the Former Things

This is a long blog.  I had been trying to write this since I attended the Proclamation of the Year of Jubilee last March 22 and 23, and now it’s finished.  It may be too political for some and too spiritual for others, but at the end of the day, can we really separate the two?

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Up until a month ago, I was still undecided as to who I will vote for president in the coming election.  Like other voters, I’ve been doing my homework and researching about the different candidates’ records, platforms, and backgrounds.  I had been strongly considering one presidential candidate who not only consistently topped the surveys but also seemed to be the real deal.  However, I changed my mind.  Why?  This blog will give the reasons.

History revisited

During the May 10, 2004 Philippine presidential elections, I was one of the many hopeful Christians who volunteered as watchers for the Bangon Pilipinas Party.  Armed with unwavering faith, I gladly gave my time and effort to support my candidate.

Before the election, I campaigned for him.  I also successfully convinced a lot of my friends to vote for him.  I joined the gatherings called by his party.  I was one of the millions who went to Luneta for his miting de avance, the day when the Quirino Grandstand turned into an awesome sea of yellow.

The support for my candidate was overwhelming.  I was so sure in my heart that he would win because I believed God wanted to give us a righteous leader.

However, he did not win.

Many Christians, myself included, felt betrayed by our own faith.  My friends asked me, “Why didn’t he win?  I thought God was on his side.”  I had no answer.  I even secretly prayed that they wouldn’t think I believed in a God who did not keep His promise, or that I voted for a man who thought he heard God but really didn’t.  I didn’t want them to think Christians were weird.

Yet, even if the questioning in my heart was there, I silenced it by obeying the word of God that tells His children to pray for those who are in authority.  I do believe God did not allow him to win the 2004 election according to His supreme wisdom, and I accepted the outcome with renewed faith that God will turn things around for my nation someday.

The results of the 2004 elections was devastating not because of Bro. Eddie Villanueva’s loss, but because of what happened to the Christian churches after the election.  This was the sadder part of the story.  There had been a lot of bickering, fighting, and division within the body of Christ and among church leaders, leaving ugly and painful wounds.  To this day, I think, the wounds are still there.

If God’s plan for the Philippines is good, pleasing, and perfect, then why – just when it seemed evident that a righteous leader can rise up to lead this nation – did the opposite happen?  Righteousness did not shine.  Instead, injustice and unrighteousness sprang up all the more in the years that followed.

Turning of the tides

The Bible says that God is not a liar, and He does not change His mind.  He has indeed promised wonderful things for my beloved Philippines.  Can it be possible that what many Christians thought was a failure – Bro. Eddie losing the 2004 election – will be used by God to bring about His sovereign will?

In the last 6 years, we have seen the rise of wicked and unjust acts being committed by our government officials.  Some had been done blatantly without much care for coming up with good alibis, yet the guilty parties got away with it.  Life went on with them still in power.

The present administration is facing so many issues, the most serious of which, I believe, is the human rights violation of many activists/leftists.  According to statistics, more leftists have disappeared and died during president GMA’s term than during former president Marcos’ entire 20 years of rule.

These ‘leftists’ included people merely suspected of rebellion.  Some student leaders have gone missing.  And many leaders of people’s organizations, who were common fishers and common farmers fighting for a cause and not necessarily leftists, had been murdered.

[I am not pro-leftist, but killing and torturing them is not the solution to peace and order.  And I do know that not all people’s organizations are leftists because I have talked to and interacted with some PO leaders (fishermen) during my years as a case study researcher and writer.  In fact, some people’s organizations are founded with the help of nongovernment organizations in the hope of empowering the community to have their own livelihood projects and to manage their own resources.]

Wickedness and unrighteousness continue to increase.  The good news is, righteousness and conviction of sin has increased along with them.  In recent years, there has been a marked intensity of boldness among ordinary Filipino citizens (not just the leftist groups) to challenge and speak against injustice and corruption.

It is no coincidence that heroes like Jun Lozada and Joey De Venecia have risen up, defied their fear, and spoke boldly to uphold the truth.

It is no coincidence that a priest was elected governor of Pampanga in 2007.

It is no coincidence that bribes amounting to hundreds of thousands of pesos being handed out to government officials in brown paper bags were caught on camera.

It is no coincidence that after years of successfully avoiding the Dacer-Corbito issue, a senator, who withdrew his candidacy last year, is now on INTERPOL’s red notice list for a standing warrant of arrest for double murder.

And it is no coincidence that, where people used to cower in fear of thieves, snatchers, and muggers, it is now the latter who are afraid of falling into the hands of angry people lest they be beaten to death if they got caught.

Filipino people are now fighting back.  There is an increased boldness to face wickedness in the eye as if to say, “I won’t tolerate you anymore!”

This is a turning of the tides.  The Spirit of God is working in the hearts of the Filipino people and turning their hearts toward truth and justice.  Righteousness is springing up from the ground.  I believe this is a significant indication that the tides are turning in favor of God’s purposes for the Philippines.

The floods brought about by typoon Ondoy last year caused great destruction and loss of lives, but good things also came out of it.  First, it roused the Christian churches to start praying seriously for the nation, something that has been long overdue.  Second, it not only showed the Filipinos’ extraordinary resilience against adversity, but it also allowed God to remind us as a people of one very important thing that has been buried underneath all the negativity and skepticism against our government: hope.  We remembered that there is hope.

The opportune time

I mentioned earlier that I attended the Proclamation of the Year of Jubilee for the Philippines last March 22 and 23 in The Arena, San Juan.  I would like to share here some of the things that I learned from that conference.

I first heard about the year of Jubilee for the Philippines when I attended the Metro Manila Prophetic Conference last year.  Bishop Dan Balais, head of Intercessors for the Philippines, shared how God showed him that 2010 is the nation’s year of Jubilee.  Simply put, according to the Jewish tradition of counting years, 2010 marks the year of celebration of our nation’s Jubilee year, the 490th year since Ferdinand Magellan brought Christianity to the Philippines in 1521 (the Jubilee year is celebrated on the 50th year; see Leviticus 25:8-11).

If we carefully study the Bible, we will know that numbers mentioned there are not just quantifiers.  They are significant, and God speaks to us in the present time through patterns found in His word.

What does the year of Jubilee for the Philippines mean?

According to Biblical descriptions, when the year of Jubilee sets in, lands that were bought should be returned to their original owners, hired workers should stop working and return home, people can go back to their own properties, debts are cancelled, and alien slaves are set free.  It is a time of great celebration for the Jews, a time of rejoicing over the goodness and faithfulness of God.  It is a year of rest.

To enter into our nation’s year of Jubilee means the same thing: returning of our lands and possessions, coming home of our OFWs so that families can be whole again, cancelling of our debts, and setting free of the captives in our land.  Knowing that with our God, circumstances are never accidents, then it’s no accident that our presidential election is being held on the celebration of our nation’s Jubilee year.

The year 2010 is a crucial turning point for our nation – either we turn toward our nation’s good, pleasing, and perfect destiny or we turn away from it and lead our nation to further decline.  Everything falls on the shoulders of the body of Christ.

The power of participation

One of the most common questions we hear as Christians is, “If this is God’s will, then why should I strive to do something about it?  Isn’t He a faithful God who will fulfill all His good promises by His powerful hand?”

Yes, God is faithful to all His good promises, and not one of them has failed or will ever fail.  However, He does expect our participation in the process.  And no, this doesn’t contradict faith (faith without actions is dead, after all).  The reason why He wants and expects our participation is because He will bring about His purposes on the earth through His people.  He will not use angels.  He will not come and do things by Himself.  He will use us, His children, the redeemed of the Lord, in partnership with His Spirit.  We are co-laborers of Christ.

This is why Jesus conferred upon us all His authority in heaven and on earth.  He is now in heaven, sitting at our Father’s right hand, so He looks to us who are here on earth to move on His behalf as empowered by His Spirit.  We are to use the authority conferred upon us to carry out the work of the kingdom.  Only God’s children hold that authority on earth.

This is part of His redemptive plan for mankind.  When God made Adam, He commanded him to subdue the earth, meaning He gave Adam authority over the earth.  However, when Satan caused Adam to sin, he fell and turned all that authority over to Satan, making him the prince of this world.  Because of what Jesus (the last Adam) did, we are raised back to life, and everything that Satan stole from us has been returned, including the authority to rule over the earth.

Dutch Sheets wrote a book entitled Intercessory Prayer: How God Can Use Your Prayers to Move Heaven and Earth.  In it, he addresses the question: “If God already knows what I want even before I ask Him, then why should I still pray about it?”  In other words, why should we still pray if we are already sure of God’s promise?  Can’t we just sit down and wait in faith?

To answer these questions, he cites an example from the book of Kings.  Elijah has pronounced drought in Israel.  After three years, God commands Elijah, “Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land.” (1 Kings 18:1)  We all know the story:  Elijah obeyed, showed himself to Ahab, and challenged and killed the prophets of Baal, which caused the people to believe and declare that the Lord is God.

After this, Elijah went to Mt. Carmel and prayed seven times for rain.  Why did he have to pray for rain, and seven times at that?  Didn’t God say He will send rain on the land?  If God had already promised that it would rain, why did Elijah have to persist in prayer for it to happen?

Because God uses His people to bring about His plans on the earth.  He uses His people to birth His will through prayer, and He uses His people to live out His will through their action.  God has conferred upon us all authority, and He waits for us to move.

The call for humilty, unity, and forgiveness

In the conference that I attended last March, the speaker, a prophet from India, stressed a number of things about our Jubilee year.  Yes, everything that the Bible promises about the Jubilee year will come true for the Philippines.  Yes, there will be a powerful outpouring of God’s Spirit in the land.  However – as all New Testament prophecies are conditional – there are certain conditions that the church must meet.

First, we as God’s church need to humble ourselves in prayer and fasting before Him and repent of our sins and of the sins of our land.  We are to stand in the gap, in humility, for our beloved Philippines.

Second, we are to repent of the wounds we have inflicted upon each other.  God is calling us to put down the weapons of warfare that we have used against each other and aim those weapons at our real enemies.  God is calling us to have unity and oneness of heart.  We are also to release forgiveness to those who have wronged us.

Third, as one body, we should then come together and pray earnestly for God to rain down His Spirit on the land.  He waits for worship to spring up from His children and for our weapon of warfare against the darkness to be released, which is the praise of God’s goodness and mercy.

Our turning point as a nation is not just about voting for the right president.  Even if we vote for a good leader, or even if we install a leader from God’s own people, if the church will not humble herself, be united, forgive, and pray earnestly, our Jubilee year will merely pass us by.

The fulfillment of God’s promises for our dear Philippines does not rely on the next president.  It does not even rely on Bro. Eddie’s shoulders.  Everything hangs on the church’s participation.  Will we come together and lay hold of our nation’s destiny at this opportune time, or will we shrug our shoulders and get on with our lives?

Are we willing to humble ourselves before God in prayer and fasting?  Are we willing to release forgiveness?  Are we willing to lay aside our differences and be united as members of Christ’s body?  Are we willing to stop criticizing other churches and comparing them with ours?  Are we willing to spend time in prayer for our nation at the cost of dropping our other activities?

God’s promises for the Philippines will not be fulfilled if the church is not ready because He will use the church to enforce His will.  He cannot use His body if some parts are dislocated.  He cannot use His body if some parts are wounded.  We need to come together, work together, pray together, and believe together.

If we do these things, then God will give us a righteous leader, and righteousness and prosperity will be restored in the land.

The choice

Now, we are faced with the May 2010 election.  Among the 9 presidential candidates, there are 6 who can be considered as seriously contending for the presidency: Manny Villar, Noynoy Aquino, Joseph Estrada, Richard Gordon, Gibo Teodoro, and Bro. Eddie Villanueva.  We are faced with choosing the right candidate.

How do we know who the right candidate is?  Simple: we ask God who His choice is.  We have to remember that it’s His choice, not ours.  In every decision that we make, it must always be His choice, not ours.  We must always ask Him and never move until He gives an answer.  He is Lord.

Like I said earlier, I strongly considered one candidate because of his clean record.  He seemed to be the real deal.  He didn’t look like he had anything to hide.  He may not have enough experience but I was willing to overlook that.

I didn’t consider him because he carried the name of his parents; I considered him because he carried the burden of protecting the name of his parents.  And knowing who his parents are, who are heroes in their own right, protecting that name was indeed a great burden to bear, maybe great enough for him to shun evil and corruption so he can live up to that name.

But then, doesn’t president GMA also have a name to protect?  She carries the name of former president Diosdado Macapagal, who earned the label “The Incorruptible” because of his integrity.  That’s a tough name to live up to.  When president GMA started her political career, she got votes because people banked on her father’s name and their memory of him.  And now, well, we all know what happened.  Obviously, having a name to protect is not enough.

Just recently, I read an investigave report about this candidate that I used to consider.  It was put together well with the backing of good research.  Actually, I haven’t read a good piece of investigave journalism like this for quite some time, and the report was a breath of fresh air amidst sensational journalism.  After reading the four-part series, I became even more convinced that my decision not to vote him is right.  As the saying goes, if there’s smoke, there must be fire somewhere.

Some people are considering another candidate because of his intelligence.  He has the brains, he has the skills, and now that he seems to have severed ties with president GMA (or is it the other way around?), people are beginning to like him and are even sympathizing with him.

Intelligence is a good quality that a leader must have.  However, former president Marcos was also intelligent.  In fact, he was very intelligent.  He was famous for winning a case in which he represented himself as his own lawyer.  That’s how smart he was.  And, again, we all know what happened.  Intelligence is not enough.

There are other qualities that people are looking into and taking into consideration in their choice for a president.  We now know that having a name to protect is not enough.  Intelligence is not enough.  Strong political will is also not enough, because without the fear of God, political will crumbles to serve interests that do not serve God’s purposes.  We’ve seen this happen to some politicians who used to be the very embodiment of integrity but are now just like the rest.  Strong political will is not so strong when faced with greed and temptation.

How about the rags to riches story of one candidate, who claims that because of his experience he can relate best to many poor Filipino people, i.e. the masses?  That story is now being contested by people who are digging into this person’s history, and according to reports, his family could actually have been middle class while he was growing up and not poor like he said.

We can dig up all these issues, but the question is, who can you trust?  I will give my trust only to someone who has the fear of the Lord, who has it in his heart to protect His name and His cause.  The fear of the Lord protects us from sin, temptation, and fear of people.  It keeps us from being pressured by people into doing actions that will displease God.

The former things

One of the things that the speaker said in the conference last March that really struck me was about Isaiah 43:19.  The verse says, “See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”

The speaker said that God is saying to the church through this verse that this is our year of turning point as a nation.  God will do a new thing not just for us or through us, but also IN us.  We will be walking a way that we have never walked before.

There will be rivers in places where a desert used to lie.  There will be a way in the wilderness, and God is going to show and teach us His way, His system.

Then he said something that really blew me away.  He pointed out that these are good and exciting promises, but often, we forget to look at the verse before Isaiah 43:19.  Verse 18 says, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.”  The verse commands us to stop thinking about the things that happened in the past.

Many times, we miss the new thing because we keep remembering the past.  But God’s promise in verse 19 is He is making a new thing.  This means He is making something that we haven’t seen or witnessed before.  We won’t see it if we keep looking at old patterns.

It’s a NEW thing – it has no precedents.  Therefore, we should not make the mistake of looking back at history and searching for something to compare it with.  This new thing is an entirely different thing from what we already know.

The speaker was right.  Even in my personal life, I often miss the new things that God is giving me because I keep looking back at the old things, the old patterns of failure, the old patterns of disappointment.  Instead of taking the stance of faith and being excited at discovering the new thing that God is giving me, I process each circumstance that comes my way according to my past experiences.  I forget that I am to blot out the memory of the old things so I can be blown away by something I have not witnessed before.

When Bro. Eddie announced his candidacy last year, I just shrugged it off.  I even found myself being a little bit skeptical about his decision to run for president.  He’s setting himself up for another failure, I thought to myself.  Why vote for him just because he’ a Christian when there are other candidates more capable than he is?  God uses non-Christians too.

Yes, God uses people outside of the church for His purposes.  Ultimately, however, He waits for the opportune time to raise up someone from His own to carry out His sovereign will on the earth.

In the Old Testament, He used a Gentile king to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.  He can do the same to the Philippines but still it will not be His perfect will; it will be only be a means toward the end of having someone from His own lead this nation.

He must use His son or daughter to shine His light and make the world salty.  Why?  Other people cannot shine His light because they are not the light of the world.  Other people cannot make the world salty because they are not the salt of the earth.  God can only use them to a certain extent, and they can only do a few “good” things.  Only His own can shine His light and become salt to this nation.

If I will be more honest with myself, I have to admit that my skepticism at Bro. Eddie’s candidacy for president stems from his losing the previous election.  Because of the 2004 election’s result, I have opened my mind to other possibilities.  The next president doesn’t have to be him.

Now I see how heavily my choice for president affects the future of my nation.  I have to make the right choice at this opportune time.  If I mess it up this time, the next opportunity might be many more years away.  For the sake of this nation that I dearly love and the generations of Filipinos after me, I must be able to discern and understand God’s will at this specific time.

The assessment process

Often, our idea of what a leader should be like is far from God’s idea.  We see a person who speaks well, knows what he is saying, carries himself well, and stands confidently, and we think, Now that’s a leader!  However, God’s idea of a leader is not like that.

Biblical history resounds of stories wherein God chose the seemingly unqualified person for highly daunting leadership tasks: Moses, David, Gideon, Joshua, Peter, and many others.  We, on the other hand, in our foolishness tend to set human standards for leadership.  This same standard caused Israel to miss their King when He was in their midst: Jesus was just the son of a carpenter – what’s so kingly about that?

But God’s standards are different.  He sees people and situations differently.  He took David, who knew nothing but worship God and take care of sheep, and made him king.  He had no prior experience in governance.  But he had a beautiful heart, a heart that seeks after the things that please the true King, and for God this was enough to qualify him to be ruler over Israel.

God qualifies those whom He calls.  We need to constantly ask God to help us see things with His eyes, or we will be misguided by our human mindsets.

Laying hold of our destiny

This is the year of Jubilee for the Philippines.  This year is our Sabbath of Sabbaths.  If we miss this opportune time, it will not come again after another 490 years.  Yes, we will have breakthroughs in this nation.  Yes, God will still prosper us and give us blessings.  But they will not be the same as what He has in store for us right now, at this moment in time in our nation’s history.

God has a perfect will.  We should not settle for second best.

Will we miss this opportune time?  Or will we lay hold of our nation’s destiny?

From Ephesians 5:13-17:

But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. God is letting His light shine so I can see the things that He is showing.

This is why it is said: “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” I will rouse from my sleep and shake off my indifference.  I will pay attention to the call of the season.

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. I will make the most of every opportunity to be used of God so His kingdom can come to the Philippines and to the world.

Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. I will ask God to help me understand what His will is.

Finally, after understanding all these things, from Job 28:28:

“And he said to man,‘The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom,and to shun evil is understanding.’ “ I will vote wisely.

And from James 2:17:

In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. I will do my part so the conditions needed for God’s promises to be fulfilled in my nation will be met.

For years, we have prayed for the righteousness of God to shine in this nation.  We all want to see things turned around.  We already have what it takes to succeed.  The Filipinos are among the most intelligent people in the world.  We adapt well in any culture.  We excel in what we do.  We are resourceful and creative.  We already possess world-class skills.  Now we only need the most important ingredient to propel our nation forward: righteousness.

If we have righteousness, then when we go to other nations, we will not only bless them with our skills but with the message of hope that comes from the gospel.  What a blessing we will be!  This is God’s promise for us.

I love the Philippines.  I am willing to believe every promise that God gives regarding my nation because I know that I can believe God.  My God never lies.  That’s why I am laying hold of my nation’s destiny right now.

“From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.” – Matthew 11:12

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2 Responses to Forgetting the Former Things

  1. akosiniko says:

    Godbless you more Sir.
    Let us change the Philippines for God’s glory

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