As the year is about to end, many people are either caught up in the festivities observed by the world around us, taking advantage of the so-called holidays to spend as much time as we could with families and friends, or showing love and care by sharing what we can to provide the needs of our loved ones or those who are in need. While some are dampened by the sorrows and trials that we encounter in life, some continue with a positive outlook and are able to see gain even from misfortunes encountered and may continuously be experiencing. For us, who have stood up for what is right, our ability to endure have been severely tested, and though persecuted and oppressed beyond our humanly possible strength, we are still standing and about to walk on into another unknown chapter of our life, another year in the greatest fight of our faith, hopefully with more fervor and zeal, knowing only that it is our Almighty God who will continue to guide and lead us as He has proven in the past. Thus, we are thankful to God and Christ.
Regardless of our circumstance, there is one thing every true disciple of Christ never fails to do, and that is, to give thanks to our Almighty God for all the wondrous blessings He continuous to shower on all of us, and to our Lord Jesus who intercedes all our prayers and needs on our behalf. We do not attribute the glory to any man, not even to ourselves. This does not mean we are not grateful to those who lent a helping hand when we were in need, nor ignore our debt of gratitude to those who were at our side when we needed them the most. We also thank them and repay them for their goodness in the best possible way we can and we are thankful for them because like every good thing we have in this world, they too are God’s blessings into our lives. Therefore, before any man, we are thankful to God and Christ first.
What is there to be thankful for, some might say, and some even ask, shouldn’t we just give thanks to God if things are prosperous and peaceful and forgo it when things are rough and the going gets tough? This is what Apostle Paul reminds all of us:
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Living Bible
16 Always be joyful. 17 Always keep on praying. 18 No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
Therefore, in every circumstance in life, whether it is commonly perceived as good or bad, we should ALWAYS be thankful. Why? Because this is the will of our Lord God for those who belong to Christ Jesus.
The problem is, there would be no religion or group of faithful people who will say that they do not belong to Christ. Everyone will claim that they are the ones who truly belong to The Lord. So how do we determine who are those who truly belong to Christ and fulfill God’s will in giving thanks?
Psalm 100:4 Good News Translation
Enter the Temple gates with thanksgiving; go into its courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and praise Him.
What is one of the manifestations of belonging to our Lord Jesus Christ?
The true servants of our Lord will always give thanks, praise and magnify God’s name and not anyone else’s name. But is this what is currently being observed by a group of people who claim to be of Christ or a part of His body and the sole recipient of Christ’s salvation? NO! For it is no longer God’s name whom they praise and give thanks to in many occasions wherein praise, glory, and honor should be ascribed to the Almighty. Who then, do they offer the accolades of thanks to? To none other than their so-called leader, EVM or Eduardo V. Manalo. They may blatantly deny this but their actions reveal their misguided faith. One look at these images and a person with a brain will realize the folly that these people have fallen into.
And because they have misappropriated their adoration and veneration towards man rather than towards God, these people, unknowingly yet undeniably, fell into idolatry. Others would probably be quick to reason out that idolatry only refers to inanimate objects that are personified as god-like but unfortunately, idolatry is defined as an extreme admiration, love, or reverence for something or someone. And I don’t know about you, but these actions of these followers of EVM make the word “extreme” seem like an understatement.
Are these acts of idolatry by the members of the Church of Christ under EVM’s Administration acceptable in the eyes of our Lord God?
Exodus 20:3-6 Revised Standard Version
3 “You shall have no other gods before me.
4 “You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; 5 you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
This verse is very familiar to most of us for it was always used during Bible Studies to scripturally contradict the practice of venerating or worshipping of saints and the graven images or even the likeness of people and other creatures or objects. Yet for the blind followers of EVM, a mere likeness will never be enough, for they aim for perfection in their images of EVM.
2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 Good News Translation
3 Do not let anyone deceive you in any way. For the Day will not come until the final Rebellion takes place and the Wicked One appears, who is destined to hell. 4 He will oppose every so-called god or object of worship and will put himself above them all. He will even go in and sit down in God’s Temple and claim to be God.
Needless to say, we all know that idolatry is an evil work of darkness and idolaters will not inherit the kingdom of heaven. So what should a person do in order to escape the trappings of idolatry that has already plagued the current Iglesia Ni Cristo under Eduardo V. Manalo?
Ephesians 5:11 New King James Version
11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.
We are instructed not to have any fellowship, association or membership with people who commit unfruitful works of darkness, which includes idolatry. Therefore, this is a matter of making a choice. Whether to remain having fellowship with EVM and his church or to release one’s self from the shackles of spiritual slavery enforced by fear and fanaticism. But severing one’s fellowship from the works of darkness is only the initial step for it should be complemented by an act of courage in exposing them. Unfortunately, a lot of people begin with the first step but fail to follow through with the second step that would complete God’s calling to those whom He shall set aside in these last days. Admittedly, standing up for what is right is NEVER easy, especially when you’re up against a powerful, influential and vindictive leader of a global church, capable of not only harming you and your family but ruining your life entirely. This fight is not for everybody. Fair enough…
Does the Bible give us examples of God’s chosen ones who bravely stood for their spiritual convictions although it wasn’t easy, and may have even been a matter of life or death? Absolutely! Servants of God like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Let us read this chapter in the Book of Daniel to fully grasp the power of God that prevailed in the lives of those who chose to do not what was easy and comfortable, but what was right in the sight of our Almighty God even if it would cost them their lives.
Daniel 3:1-28 Living Bible
3 King Nebuchadnezzar made a gold statue ninety feet high and nine feet wide and set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon; 2 then he sent messages to all the princes, governors, captains, judges, treasurers, counselors, sheriffs, and rulers of all the provinces of his empire, to come to the dedication of his statue. 3 When they had all arrived and were standing before the monument, 4 a herald shouted out, “O people of all nations and languages, this is the king’s command:
5 “When the band strikes up, you are to fall flat on the ground to worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s gold statue; 6 anyone who refuses to obey will immediately be thrown into a flaming furnace.”
7 So when the ban began to play, everyone—whatever his nation, language, or religion—fell to the ground and worshiped the statue.
8 But some officials went to the king and accused some of the Jews of refusing to worship!
9 “Your Majesty,” they said to him, 10 “you made a law that everyone must fall down and worship the gold statue when the band* begins to play, 11 and that anyone who refuses will be thrown into a flaming furnace. 12 But there are some Jews out there—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, whom you have put in charge of Babylonian affairs—who have defied you, refusing to serve your gods or to worship the gold statue you set up.”
13 Then Nebuchadnezzar, in a terrible rage, ordered Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to be brought in before him.
14 “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego,” he demanded, “that you are refusing to serve my gods or to worship the gold statue I set up? 15 I’ll give you one more chance. When the music plays, if you fall down and worship the statue, all will be well. But if you refuse, you will be thrown into a flaming furnace within the hour. And what god can deliver you out of my hands then?”
16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not worried about what will happen to us. 17 If we are thrown into the flaming furnace, our God is able to deliver us; and he will deliver us out of your hand, Your Majesty. 18 But if he doesn’t, please understand, sir, that even then we will never under any circumstance serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have erected.”
19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury and his face became dark with anger at Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He commanded that the furnace be heated up seven times hotter than usual, 20 and called for some of the strongest men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and throw them into the fire. 21 So they bound them tight with ropes and threw them into the furnace, fully clothed. 22 And because the king, in his anger, had demanded such a hot fire in the furnace, the flames leaped out and killed the soldiers as they threw them in! 23 So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego fell down bound into the roaring flames.
24 But suddenly, as he was watching, Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in amazement and exclaimed to his advisors, “Didn’t we throw three men into the furnace?”
“Yes,” they said, “we did indeed, Your Majesty.”
25 “Well, look!” Nebuchadnezzar shouted. “I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire, and they aren’t even hurt by the flames! And the fourth looks like a god!”[c]
26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came as close as he could to the open door of the flaming furnace and yelled: “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God! Come out! Come here!” So they stepped out of the fire.
27 Then the princes, governors, captains, and counselors crowded around them and saw that the fire hadn’t touched them—not a hair of their heads was singed; their coats were unscorched, and they didn’t even smell of smoke!
28 Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, for he sent his angel to deliver his trusting servants when they defied the king’s commandment and were willing to die rather than serve or worship any god except their own. 29 Therefore, I make this decree, that any person of any nation, language, or religion who speaks a word against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb and his house knocked into a heap of rubble. For no other God can do what this one does.”
Many of God’s true defenders of the faith experienced very similar situations in the course of this fight on the side of God’s righteousness. And throughout every dire situation, when we have lost all hope and could no longer rely on others for help nor on our own strength and knowledge, we experience the power of our Lord God taking control over our lives and steering us toward the right direction just in the nick of time. For even the Apostles experienced the same miracles in their predicaments before:
2 Corinthians 1:8-10 Living Bible
8 I think you ought to know, dear brothers, about the hard time we went through in Asia. We were really crushed and overwhelmed, and feared we would never live through it. 9 We felt we were doomed to die and saw how powerless we were to help ourselves; but that was good, for then we put everything into the hands of God, who alone could save us, for he can even raise the dead. 10 And he did help us and saved us from a terrible death; yes, and we expect him to do it again and again.
Let us be comforted by the fact that we can expect our loving God to save us again and again for as long as we let Him direct our paths in order to serve Him according to His divine will.
So now that we are slowly witnessing God’s plan for us, the Small Remnant of God’s nation, the few survivors of the besieged city, should we easily give up? We do not know what to expect in the coming year, or how hard things will become in our journey towards our salvation and hope could easily be lost. Should we lose heart? Apostle Paul explained his conviction ’til the very end…
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 Living Bible
16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our inner strength in the Lord is growing every day. 17 These troubles and sufferings of ours are, after all, quite small and won’t last very long. Yet this short time of distress will result in God’s richest blessing upon us forever and ever! 18 So we do not look at what we can see right now, the troubles all around us, but we look forward to the joys in heaven which we have not yet seen. The troubles will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever.
So as we bid this passing year farewell and open our arms to welcome the coming new year, let us continue to give thanks with a humble heart to our Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ for their unceasing love and mercy on each and every one of us. We may not be praising and thanking Him in a once esteemed and Holy Temple which is now severely neglected, or in a very expensive, or rather debt-ridden Arena, remember that no synagogue, no matter how prestigious will ever compare to the pure and pristine body of Christ that we must put on so that we may offer ourselves as a Holy Sacrifice when we give our thanks to God. This is what we should never fail to embody in our lives so that our thanksgiving and praise will be acceptable and our sins be forgiven.
But as we go thru life striving to be worthy before our God, let us all the more resist the temptation of being self-righteous and live a life of humility as shown by our Lord Jesus Christ…
Luke 18:9-14 Good News Translation
9 Jesus also told this parable to people who were sure of their own goodness and despised everybody else. 10 “Once there were two men who went up to the Temple to pray: one was a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood apart by himself and prayed, ‘I thank you, God, that I am not greedy, dishonest, or an adulterer, like everybody else. I thank you that I am not like that tax collector over there. 12 I fast two days a week, and I give you one tenth of all my income.’ 13 But the tax collector stood at a distance and would not even raise his face to heaven, but beat on his breast and said, ‘God, have pity on me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you,” said Jesus, “the tax collector, and not the Pharisee, was in the right with God when he went home. For those who make themselves great will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be made great.”
Our Lord Jesus Christ taught us a valuable lesson in order for us not to exalt ourselves as better or more righteous than others. For it will be through the grace of our Lord God by which we will be judged and not by anyone’s standards or our self-perceived goodness or value.
Once we have overcome this stumbling block of our faith then we will be able to free ourselves from bondage and we will be able to continue in the proper manner of worshipping our Lord God, befitting His holy name.
So as we celebrate the coming new year, let us not forget our brothers and sisters in the faith all over the world who stand with us. Along the way, there were a few who perished and sacrificed their lives so that others may live on to fight for the cause. Let us not forget those who are victims of injustices, persecution, oppression and those who are still in constant hiding and barely survive. Our tasks may be different but I believe that each one serves a purpose. There are those that may be on the front lines, on the sidelines, and those who are nameless and faceless, yet we are all united in spirit and in faith to follow God’s message as we witness the more complete fulfillment of the prophecy written in:
Isaiah 1:8-9 New King James Version
8 So the daughter of Zion is left as a booth in a vineyard,
As a hut in a garden of cucumbers,
As a besieged city.
9 Unless the Lord of hosts
Had left to us a very small remnant,
We would have become like Sodom,
We would have been made like Gomorrah.
It is our faith that we are among those set aside by God, the few survivors, the very small remnant of the daughter of Zion or the Church of Christ in these last days. That is why we now carry the seal of the living God in our heart as members of Christ’s body who will continue the work of salvation in these last days…
Isaiah 1:17 New Living Translation
Learn to do good.
Help the oppressed.
Defend the cause of orphans.
Fight for the rights of widows.
This is how we give thanks to our Almighty God. This is how we celebrate His love and compassion for all of us.
Prophecies are being fulfilled. While we patiently wait for God to complete His work in all of us, be thankful to God and Christ.
~ Antonio Ramirez Ebangelista
“They tried to bury us…they didn’t know we were seeds.”
“Unlike you, I don’t have power or money, but what I do have is a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you tell the truth now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will expose you.” – A.E.
Philippine Daily Inquirer Article: “Antonio Ebangelista writes Philippine Daily Inquirer, Warns Iglesia Elders”
Question adn Answer: Q & A with Antonio Ebangelista
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