FINDINGS PUBLISHED in the Atlas of the Human Planet 2017, reveal the grim prospect that imperils the human race. Noticeably, according to the researchers, four decades worth of satellite data show that “global exposure to natural disasters has doubled since 1975, largely as a result of population growth and development.” More specifically, it tells the following:
Earthquake is the hazard that accounts for the highest number of exposed population. The number of people living in seismic areas has increased by 93% in 40 years (from 1.4 billion in 1975 to 2.7 billion in 2015).
In 2015, 414 million people lived near one of the 220 most dangerous volcanoes and could suffer from the consequences of eruptions.
Tsunamis affect coastal areas in many regions, but dangerous areas are more concentrated in Asia. Japan has by far the highest amount of built-up surface exposed to tsunamis, followed by China, and the United States of America.
Flood, the most frequent natural disaster, potentially affects more people in Asia (76.9% of the global population exposed) and Africa (12.2%) than in other regions. The world population potentially exposed to flood is around 1 billion in 155 countries in 2015. 11% of the area built-up on Earth is potentially exposed to this hazard, too.
Cyclone winds pose a threat to 89 countries in the world and exposed population increased from 1 billion in 1975 up to 1.6 billion in 2015, (about 24% of the world population). In 2015, 640 million people are exposed to extremely strong cyclone winds. China is by far the country with the largest number of people potentially exposed to storm surge as consequence of tropical cyclones: 50 million of Chinese people live in coastal areas included in the hazard area and this number increased by a factor of 1.5 in the last 40 years.
HOW FAR would you go to help a friend, a neighbor, or even someone you don’t know who is in dire need of assistance? Undoubtedly, varied are the ways to show one’s concern for the poor, the marginalized, and those struggling in life. As members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church Of Christ), it is our Christian duty to demonstrate our love and compassion to someone in need for God to abide in us (I John 3:17).
Loving our fellowmen
The Bible, in no uncertain terms, makes clear that the most important commandment is to love God with all one’s heart, strength and soul (Mark 12:28-30). For this reason, we joined the Church Of Christ because we truly believe that it is only in this Church where we can render proper reverence, service, and worship of God. In having done so we will receive salvation on Judgment Day.
Moreover, to ensure our salvation, our Lord Jesus Christ taught the second most important commandment that we should fulfill:
“The second most important commandment says: ‘Love others as much as you love yourself.’ No other commandment is more important than these. The man replied, ‘Teacher, you are certainly right to say there is only one God. It is also true that we must love God with all our heart, mind, and strength, and that we must love others as much as we love ourselves. These commandments are more important than all the sacrifices and offerings that we could possibly make.” When Jesus saw that the man had given a sensible answer, he told him, ‘You are not far from God’s kingdom.’ After this, no one dared ask Jesus any more questions.” (Mark 12:31-34 Contemporary English Version)
Hence, according to Christ, loving our fellowmen is the second most important commandment. As Christ’s servants, such genuine and altruistic love must be manifested in our lives—it is something we should not avoid doing.
Manifestations of love for humanity
We can show such love for our fellowmen, especially the needy and impoverished, by doing humanitarian work. This is the reason the present Church Administration encourages us to be mindful of the plight of many less fortunate people who need help, sharing or giving material resources as much as we can or extending varied expressions of charity. This in accordance with Christ’s teaching as elucidated in His parable about the Good Samaritan, thus:
“A teacher of the Law came up and tried to trap Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to receive eternal life?’ Jesus answered him, ‘What do the Scriptures say? How do you interpret them?’ The man answered, “Love the Lord our God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind”; and “Love your neighbor as you love yourself”.’ ‘You are right,’ Jesus replied; ‘do this and you will live.’ But the teacher of the Law wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, ‘Who is my neighbor? Jesus answered ‘There was once a man who was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when robbers attacked him, stripped him, and beat him up, leaving him half dead. It so happened that a priest was going down that road; but when he saw the man, he walked on by on the other side. In the same way a Levite also came there, went over and looked at the man, and then walked on by on the other side. But a Samaritan who was traveling that way came upon the man, and when he saw him, his heart was filled with pity. He went over to him, poured oil and wine on his wounds and bandaged them; then he put the man on his own animal and took him to an inn where he took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. “Take care of him,” he told the innkeeper, “and when I come back this way, I will pay you whatever else you spend on him”.’ And Jesus concluded, ‘In your opinion, which one of these three acted like a neighbor toward the man attacked by the robbers?’ The teacher of the Law answered, ‘The one who was kind to him.’ Jesus replied, ‘You go, then, and do the same’.” (Luke 10:25-37 Good News Bible)
The Church Of Christ today remains unwavering in its commitment to our destitute and disadvantaged fellowmen, in fulfilment of Christ’s mandate. This was recently highlighted by its walk-for-a-cause campaign, the Worldwide Walk to Fight Poverty. It aimed to raise awareness of the miserable condition of millions of our fellowmen gripped by abject poverty and to help them alleviate their sorrow and suffering. This and other charitable acts and projects initiated by the Church worldwide are made more significant in the light of unusual catastrophes, disasters, and tragedies that continue to occur on a daily basis. Indeed, there is no end in sight to extraordinary occurrences affecting many people today that call for each off us to prove our concern and compassion for others for the good of humanity.
God’s early servants fulfilled His commandment to love and help their fellowmen. Job helped the poor, the orphans, and the widows (Job 29:12-13). Apostle Paul showed his charitable act by bringing “contributions of charity and offerings” (Acts 24:17 Amplified Bible). In addition, a disciple of Christ named Tabitha was “rich in acts of kindness and charity which she continually did” (Acts 9:36 AMP2015).
Presently, the Church Of Christ, under the leadership of its Executive Minister, Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, continues to extend its help across the globe to the poor and needy, members and nonmembers alike, through acts of benevolence and generosity especially to the victims of disasters and calamities.
Those who help the needy and are concerned about the poor—not withholding their love for fellowmen especially when they have the means to do so—are not on the losing end because God lays I store His blessings for them:
“ … You must never have bad thoughts about a person that needs help. You must not refuse to help him. If you don’t help that poor person, then he will complain to the Lord against you. And the Lord will find you guilty of sin. Give the poor person all that you can. Don’t feel bad about giving to him. Why? Because the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you do.” (Deut. 15:9-10 Easy-to-Read Version)
“Happy are those who are concerned for the poor; the LORD will help them when they are in trouble. The LORD will protect them and preserve their lives; he will make them happy in the land; he will not abandon the to the power of their enemies. The LORD will help them when they are sick and will restore them to health.” (Ps. 41:1-3 GNB)
Above all, eternal life will be received by God’s servants who obey His commandment taught by Christ to care for the needs of others, especially the poor. The Bible made this very clear:
“Once a man came to Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he asked, ‘what good thing must I do to receive eternal life?’ ‘Why do you ask me concerning what is good?’ answered Jesus. ‘There is only One who is good. Keep the commandments if you want to enter life.’ ‘What commandments?’ he asked. Jesus answered, ‘Do not commit murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not accuse anyone falsely; respect your father and your mother; and love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ ‘I have obeyed all these commandments,’ the young man replied. ‘What else do I need to do?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you want to be perfect, go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; then come and follow me’.” (Matt 19:16-21 GNB)
HAVE YOU NOTICED how the calamities and disasters of late are becoming more unusual and bizarre? The high-magnitude earthquakes occurring in greater frequency during the last decade.1 The fierce storms that cause severe floodings, on one side,2 while sucking dry some shores, on the other.3 The ensuing famines as reflected in the rising rates of hunger and poverty.4 News of such disasters can already be disheartening to observers. How much more is it for the surviving victims and their affected loved ones?
But even if we are nowhere near the calamity-stricken places, we also face problems of our own. Our daily troubles may not be as catastrophic as those captured in media reports but they can also be devastating and seemingly insurmountable. In fact, we also find ourselves in uncertain situations that test the limits of our inner strength and confidence.
When problems hit us where they hurt the most, how must we cope? As members of the Church Of Christ, what should we always remember in the face of the obstacles we never thought we would go through?
Our hope is greater than our troubles
God is our hope. Life’s tragedies can be unimaginably difficult, but the help that comes from God is far greater than any unusual disaster. The Bible tells us:
“God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us.” (Eph. 3:20 The Message)
What God can do is far beyond the sphere of our limited knowledge, capacity, and imagination. His power is infinite and wondrous. No problem cannot be solved by God’s help.
Not only do we have God to rely on; we also have His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to give us “the strength to meet and overcome every difficulty and circumstance” (Phil. 4:13 Last Days Bible). Rather than panic or cringe in fear, let us take courage in believing that God can and will help us even in ways no one could guess or expect.
God’s help: felt and experienced
Experience has proven how wondrous God’s promised help can be. Thankfully recounting how God rescued the Israelites from their fierce enemies, the Psalmist said, “If the LORD had not been on our side when our enemies attacked us, then they would have swallowed us alive in their furious anger against us” (Ps. 124:2-3 Good News Bible).
Enemies are not just people; even situations of circumstances that run counter to our favor can be as menacing and overwhelming. But as what the early servants experienced, “the LORD … has not let our enemies destroy us. We have escaped like a bird from a hunter’s trap,” for, indeed, “Our help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth: (Ps. 124:6-8 GNB).
That is also the experience of the faithful Christians in the first century led by the apostles. Through all the persecutions, distresses, and difficulties they suffered, they found God’s grace sufficient, His loving-kindness more than enough, and His mercy always available regardless of the situation. And with the power of Christ that dwelt in them, they overcame their weaknesses and emerged strong—truly able, truly powerful and truly drawing from God’s strength (II Cor. 12:9-10 Amplified Bible 2015).
Learning from our overwhelming burdens
When Apostle Paul confidently asserted on behalf of his fellow Christians then, that they were glad and well-pleased with sufferings, it was not as if the trials they faced were light and easy. In fact, during the apostle’s missionary journey to Asia, what he and the brethren went through completely overwhelmed them. “The burden was more than we could bear,” said Apostle Paul, stressing that they even told themselves, “this was the end.” Nevertheless, because God saved them from imminent death, the apostle realized that such overwhelming experience taught them a valuable lesson: to trust not in themselves but in God (II Cor. 1:8-10 Phillips Translation).
What it means to trust in God
Trust in God cannot be faked. Those who truly trust in God are the ones who (1) fear, (2) revere and (3) worship Him (Ps. 31;19 Amplified Bible).
To fear God is to hate evil Prov. 8:13). God-fearing Christians, therefore, renew their lives completely. They don’t lead sinful lives.
To revere God is to be obedient to His will, for those who are reverent before Him live in responsive obedience (Phil. 2:12 MSG). They don’t just pick and choose which commands to obey. They follow all of God’s teachings uncompromisingly.
To worship God, His servants gather themselves together to sing hymns, offer prayers, give offerings, and hear His words inside the temple or house of worship (I Cor. 14:26, 15; Heb. 13:15-16; Ps. 5:7; Isa. 2:3). Those who trust God don’t forsake such meetings for worship (Heb. 10:25).
Therefore, those who trust in God renew their lives completely, keep on obeying His commands responsively, and fulfill their duty to worship Him constantly. In so doing, they have the assurance that God’s help will always be available for them, especially when they need it most.
God is waiting for us to ask for His help
When terrifying things happen, it will be a terrible thing for us not to approach God and ask for help. The Lord God expects His people to call on Him:
“I’ve made myself available to those who haven’t bothered to ask. I’m here, ready to be found by those who haven’t bothered to look. I kept saying ‘I’m here, I’m right here’ to a nation that ignored me. I reached out day after day to a people who turned their backs on me, People who make wrong turns, who insist on doing things their own way.” (Isa. 65:1-2 MSG)
Let us not disappoint God as done by those who ignored Him. Doing so will not help us get through our troubles but will only make things worse. No matter how severe our hardships are, we must keep on worshiping God, obeying His commands, and renewing our lives. For, when we prove hat we fully trust and take refuge in Him, we will be able to surmount any unusual tragedy or disaster in life:
“My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, … God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.” (Eph. 3:14-20 MSG)
By MARLEX C. CANTOR
Based on the lesson taught by the Executive Minister, Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, during his pastoral visit to the Local Congregation of Muntinlupa, Ecclesiastical District of Metro Manila South on September 30, 2017
1Tyagi, H. (2014, October 25). Worldwide Surge in ‘Great’ Earthquakes Seen in Past 10 Years. Retrieved from www.nbcnews.com
2Loria, K. (2017, September 26)). This Hurricane Season Has Been Exceptionally Bad—And It’s Not Going To Get Any Better. Retrieved from futurism.com
3Meyjes, T. (2017, September 10). Ocean Disappears As Hurricane Irma Sucks All Sign Of Water Away From Beaches. Retrieved from metro.co.uk
4Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters. (2017, September 13). Cred Crunch Newsletter, Issue No. 48 September 2017-“Disaster Data: A Balanced Perspective”. Retrieved from reliefweb.int
THE TERM “SMALL FOUR” is derived from a passage in the Bible which states: “Four things on earth are small, yet they are extremely wise” (Prov. 30:24 New International Version, emphasis ours). The “small four” refers to four creatures or animals. Despite their smallness, they are extremely wise. What are these four small things and why are they extremely wise?
“Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer; coneys are creatures of little power, yet they make their home in the crags; locusts have no king, yet they advance together in ranks; a lizard can be caught with the hand, yet it is found in kings’ palaces.” (Prov. 30:25-28 NIV)
The four small things are the ants, coneys, locusts, and lizards. Although they have certain weaknesses and disadvantages, they also have certain good qualities. It is important to have those qualities in order to improve our living condition especially in these trying times.
“Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer” (Prov. 30:25 NIV). Ants are not only known for their industry—they keep going and going looking for food while they can. Ants cannot gather food during winter or even the rainy season. Hence, they store up food in the summer.
Ants display foresight—the ability to think ahead and to envision possible future problems or obstacles (Microsoft Encarta, 2009). A person who has foresight knows the value of time. The Bible itself shows how important time is: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven” (Eccles. 3:1 NIV).
Time is one of those precious resources given to us. A person who knows its worth will not waste it. No one can regain lost time. The young generation should consider this and learn foresight from the ants. In the near future, the children of today will marry and start their own family. Are they prepared for such a great responsibility? Someday, their parents will be gone. Can the children of today be able to stand on their own feet once that happens? Thus, the youth are given this biblical advice: “Listen, my son, be wise and give serious thought to the way you live” (Prov. 23:29 Today’s English Version). Wise children are those who give serious thought to the way they live. They do not waste their precious time on wicked things that only prevent them from attaining their noble goals and aspirations in life. As early as possible, the youth should learn diligence and hard work.
“The coneys, a race without defenses, yet they make their home in the rocks” (Prov. 30:26 New Jerusalem Bible). Vulnerable as they are, coneys make their home among the rocks.
Coneys are resourceful enough to turn their disadvantage into an advantage. They use the softness of their bodies to insert themselves easily between rocks, where they can find their home and protection.
We humans have our own sets of weaknesses and disadvantages. We should not make these an excuse not to be able to improve our living condition. Let us also strive to overcome them; do our best to improve our own abilities. But most especially, let us seek refuge in the “Rock of unyielding strength and impenetrable hardness.” The Bible states: “With God Who is our shelter and refuge. In the Christian era, the strength from God is felt through the power that Christ gives. Apostle Paul experienced this:
“And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (II Cor. 12:9-10 New King James Version)
We should find strength and protection from our Lord God through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is sufficient for all our needs. When we are weak, that is the time when the strength that God gives through Christ is all the more felt in our lives.
“Locusts have no king, but they are able to work together.” (Prov. 30:27 Easy-to-Read Version)
One locust does not pose a threat to anyone. But when locusts arrive in swarms, they are a force to reckon with, as the ancient Egyptians in Moses’ time witnessed. The plague of locusts devoured “everything growing in the fields and the fruit on the trees … in all the land of Egypt” (Exod. 10:13-15 NIV). However, it is not the destructive behavior of locusts that we should imitate. Rather, it is their working together as a group. This is called teamwork and collaboration.
As there is strength in number, there is strength in unity. We can achieve greater things by always upholding the spirit of unity (Eccles. 4:9, 12).
Take note also that locusts have initiative—“no king, but … work together”. One should have this quality to succeed in life.
The Bible states that “a lizard can be caught with the hand, yet it is found in kings’ palaces” (Prov. 30:28 NIV).
Lizards are everywhere. They live not only in ordinary houses. They can also be found in kings’ palaces. This shows the lizards’ determination despite their physical imperfections.
Therefore, setbacks or negative experiences can be turned into positive ones. Apostle Paul teaches: “And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans” (Rom. 8:28 Living Bible).
All that happens to us, including painful experiences can work for our good. We may have different imperfections and handicaps but we should not lose hope. We should have the determination to work hard to prove ourselves and achieve our goals in life. Various “rags-to-riches stories” serve as testimonies to the significance of having determination—firmness of purpose, will, or intention (Microsoft Encarta, 2009).
Four things on earth are small, yet they are extremely wise. We can all benefit from the wisdom of the “small four”: the ants’ diligence and foresight, the coneys’ resourcefulness, the locusts’ teamwork and collaboration, and the lizards’ determination. So it is wise—and it pays—to be diligent, hard-working, and persevering.
THE PREVALENCE OF HOPELESSNESS and of people resorting to criminal acts when they find themselves in dire straits can be interpreted as lack of trust in God. Sadly, many think that believing in what God can do in times of difficulties is an idea that has become outmoded or has lost its usefulness.
“Desperate times call for desperate measures” is how some people justify their aberrant behavior—saying adverse circumstances force them to commit their misdeed. Others, on the other hand, succumb to hopelessness and misery. More than 300 million people suffer from depression, the World Health Organization says.
But despair has no place in the lives of God’s faithful servants. They believe that God Who parted the Red Sea to deliver the ancient Israelites from the Egyptian army, made water gush out of rocks to quench their thirst, and performed other works of wonder is the same God Whom they can rely on to make miracles in their lives.
Apostle Paul says: “God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!” (Eph. 3:20 The Message)
Nothing is impossible with God. He can do anything in our wildest imagination, far more than we could ever request. His power has not diminished through the ages, for He neither faints nor is weary (Isa. 40:28). Though we may not see today the same kind of miracles He performed during the olden times, God’s omnipotence remains evident in the lives of His chosen ones today, the members of the Church Of Christ.
The Iglesia Ni Cristo is God’s modern-day miracle. Facing seemingly insurmountable odds, this Church bucked the trend and made astonishing feats where others have lagged and failed. From its modest beginnings and preached by a man seen to be bereft of earthly virtues, the Church has spread far and wide—with congregations in 142 countries and territories, and members from more than 130 races and ethnicities.
Some might point out that other religious organizations have also started small and grown extensively. But what make the Iglesia Ni Cristo feats truly remarkable are the enormous odds stacked against it. It emerged in the Philippines at a time when Catholic beliefs were already widely entrenched within the archipelago and Protestantism had deeply taken root—the surrounding were simply too hostile and not conducive for the growth of the then budding Church. Compounding the problem was the eruption of the Second World War, and the subsequent foreign occupation of the Philippines.
The Church survived those testing times—flourishing and growing by leaps and bounds despite the unfavorable setting. Such expansion remains unabated even now when the so-called Religious Recession has afflicted majority of Christian-professing groups. While many churches are experiencing significant drop in their membership and clergy, the opposite is happening to the Iglesia Ni Cristo. Multitudes of converts are being added continually, hundreds of ministers are being ordained yearly, and scores of new houses of worship are built annually.
Members of the Church Of Christ have proven true in their life what Apostle Paul taught: God can do beyond what His people could ever imagine or request. The uninterrupted triumphs of the Iglesia Ni Cristo in its 104-year journey are nothing less than miraculous and bespeak God’s infinite power and glory—as He fulfilled His promises to the Church in these last days (Isa. 41:9-16; 43:5-6, 46:11-13; 62:11-12 ). It is He, the omnipotent God, Who made the impossible possible, the unachievable achievable.
“Because I have the strength to meet and overcome every difficulty and circumstance, through the power that Christ gives me.” (Phil. 4:13 Last Days Bible)
Hence, true Christians in desperate times cling tightly to God. When life gets tough and burdens become too heavy to bear, they turn to their Creator:
“My response is to get down on my knees before the Father …” (Eph. 3:14 MSG)
In choosing a place to stay or use for various functions, people prefer one that suits their liking. However, when it comes to worshiping the Lord God, should people still be the ones to choose where to worship Him? God Himself states, thus:
“You must not worship the LORD your God in their way. But you are to seek the place the LORD your God will choose from among all your tribes to put His Name there for His dwelling. To that place you must go …” (Deut. 12:4-5, New International Version, emphasis ours)
How about others? What do they say about where the Lord God could be worshiped?
“VATICAN CITY—It might be called Cappuccino Catholicism.
“Young Catholics told their Church elders on Saturday that the faith should be spread in the places where they like to hang out, such as coffee bars.
“‘We would like the Church to meet us in the various paces in which she currently has little or no presence,’ reads part of a 12-page document written by some 300 young Catholic delegates from around the world, who met for a week at the Vatican.’
“‘The Church should try to find creative new ways to encounter people where they are comfortable and where they naturally socialize: bars, coffee shops, parks, gyms, stadiums and any other popular cultural centres,’ it said.
“The delegates met in Rome to share their ideas and concerns with Vatican officials ahead of a synod, or meeting of bishops, in October, on the theme of ‘Young people, the Faith and Vocational Discernment’.
“At a news conference presenting the paper, which will feed into a larger working document to be used by the bishops, participants said they wanted their Church to be more open and transparent and less severe.”
Pullella, Philip. (25 March 2018). The Catholic Church—coming to a Starbucks near you? Retrieved from http://www.gmenetwork.com
The Catholic Church had a abundance of saints during the Middle Ages. Sainthood then required three ways for one to be declared a saint, namely, “a Servant of God heroically lived a life of Christian virtues or had been martyred for the faith. The third, less common way, is called an equivalent or equipollent canonization: when there is evidence of strong devotion among the faithful to a holy man or woman, the pope can waive a lengthy formal canonical investigation and can authorize the veneration as saints.”
The early Catholic Church canonized many martyrs who died for the faith during the Roman pesecutions. There were many monks and hermits who lived heroically and ther were others venerated by the common folk without Church approval but eventually listed as saints.
The saints canonized at the present time are very few and some of them did not live during our time.
The present pope has approved a new path to sainthood which is a “heroic act of loving service.” This new path does not specify that the candidate for sainthood should be a member of the Catholic Church.
So, we can expect more of those who lived during the contemporary period to be canonized as saints.