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FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
 
 

FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL

OUR THEME FOR 2010
(Part 3)

WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF OUR THEMES SINCE 2006


CFC celebrated its silver anniversary in the year 2006. In that year, the crisis that had been brewing for the past few years would emerge strongly and result in the split of 2007. In all these years, God was speaking to us through the themes He gave us. God wanted to guide us and ensure that we would go on the right track. When we were unable to properly discern His direction, we suffered the consequences.

As we face the year 2010, with God having given us a challenging theme from a challenging book of the Bible, it is again imperative that we properly discern what He is saying to us. In order to be able to do that, we review the themes since 2006, and see how interconnected they are, giving us a stream that then leads us into our life and mission for 2010.

2006

In 2006, God gave us the theme “Showing His Power and Majesty,” from Tobit 13:6. As we were celebrating 25 years, a milestone, we naturally gratefully focused on what God had done in and through CFC. God had blessed our work of evangelization and mission, bringing us to 153 countries, exactly on the day of our 25th anniversary, in accordance with His prophetic word given over a decade previously that CFC would be in 153 countries by the end of its 25th year. So we rightfully celebrated 25 years of glory.

But there was more that God was telling us. We did not adequately consider the full line of the verse given, which read: “In the land of my exile I praise him, and show his power and majesty to a sinful nation.” (Tb 13:6c). God indeed showed His power and majesty through CFC, but just like Israel, where the very instrument of His work had become a sinful nation, CFC had started to veer away. CFC had started to sin.

Aside from leading us to rejoice in our 25 years of work, God was warning us as well. The verse continues: “Turn back, you sinners! do the right before him; perhaps he may look with favor upon you and show you mercy.” (Tb 13:6d). God was calling us to turn back from our sinful ways.

With that was God’s assurance, still a part of the same verse: “When you turn back to him with all your heart, to do what is right before him, then he will turn back to you, and no longer hide his face from you.” (Tb 13:6a).

The anniversary year 2006 was a call not just to celebration, but also to repentance. The year should have been characterized by both joy for blessings and sorrow for sin. Given the proper posture of turning back to God, then indeed we would have had great cause for celebration, not just for 25 years, but for what more was to come. “So now consider what he has done for you, and praise him with full voice. Bless the Lord of righteousness, and exalt the King of the ages.” (Tb 13:6b).

We did celebrate, but we did not repent and turn back from our veering away.

2007

For 2007, God gave us the theme “Hope in the Lord” from Lamentations 3:24. It was curious for us that God took the theme from the book of Lamentations, when hope is to be found in many parts of the Bible. We wondered a bit, but we did not know at the start the startling depth of God’s message.

Since we did not heed what God was telling us in 2006, He now gave a stronger message. God was warning us of impending doom if we did not turn back from our sinful ways.

The story of Lamentations is the story of God’s people Israel. God had taken a slave people from Egypt, entered into covenant with them in the desert, allowed them to take possession of the promised land, and built them up into a mighty kingdom. However, Israel would, even right after the exodus from Egypt, turn away many times from God, be unfaithful to their covenant, rebel or turn to idolatry. God was very patient with Israel. But finally, because He is a God not only of mercy but also of justice, God left Israel to suffer the consequences of her veering away. Israel was defeated by the Assyrians, then the Babylonians. In this second invasion by Babylon, Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed. The Israelites lost everything­their lives, their sovereignty, their freedom, their future, even the temple where God resided. The writer of the book of Lamentations expressed the collective despair and hopelessness of Israel. They had lost everything.

The story of Israel is the story of CFC. God brought us out of our slavery to sin and the enemy, entered into covenant with us, used us as His instruments to proclaim the very salvation in Jesus, and build us up into a big community that had renown throughout the whole world. But God was giving us a clear warning. Unless we repent and turn away from our sinful ways, then we would suffer the same fate as Israel. We would lose it all. God in His love and mercy did not want that to happen. And so God brought us to the book of Lamentations.

In the midst of what had happened to Israel, still there was hope. The writer recalled to mind his reason for hope: “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). This then led to our theme verse: “My portion is the Lord, says my soul, therefore will I hope in him.” (Lam 3:24).

We were supposed to learn the lessons of Lamentations, of what happened to God’s people Israel. If we did, and we turned back to God, then God would have blessed us, even more tremendously.

Unfortunately we did not learn the lessons of Lamentations. There were elders who did not understand what God was telling us, and those who simply did not accept, and still others who persisted in doing the very things that God was warning us about. The veering away continued and even intensified.

The result was disastrous: the crisis deepened, and CFC split.

For those of us who could see what was truly happening, we clung on to the theme message of hope. Though the split was painful and devastating, all was not lost.

God had wanted the whole CFC to step back from the brink, be restored, and continue to be blessed. But it was not to be. However, God’s love for CFC, and His purpose in raising CFC in the first place, continue. God will not be thwarted by the enemy in accomplishing His plan. And so God raised a remnant, which is CFC-FFL.

Even before the split, we had been working to restore CFC to what God intended for it to be. We started the restoration movement within CFC, to renew CFC from the inside and bring it back to its authentic charism. However, it was not to be. But with the split, now we could work for restoration, without being held back.

And so our constant prayer became this: “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). We simply hoped in the Lord.

But in the meantime, we were experiencing the chastisement of God. “For now you have indeed rejected us, and in full measure turned your wrath against us.” (Lam 5:22).

2008

Our lamentations continued. “The joy of our hearts has ceased, our dance has turned into mourning” (Lam 5:15).

But since God had raised a remnant, and we were striving to restore the authentic charism of CFC, then God was already at work. And so God brought us to our theme “Joy in Christ” for 2008. Because we were starting to get back on track, because God allowed the emergence of a remnant, because He could once again have a people who would be faithful to Him, then God was starting to look once again with favor on us. For that we could truly rejoice.

Interestingly, while our theme was our “Joy in Christ,” that is not actually what the theme verse says. What the verse says is this: “The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; he will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love, he will sing joyfully because of you” (Zep 3:17). It is God rejoicing in us! And it is only because of that that we ourselves rejoice.

Why will God rejoice? This has to do with His purpose in raising CFC. God had sent His own Son Jesus into the world to win salvation for mankind. Jesus did so on the cross. But God now depends on Jesus’ disciples to bring that salvation to the ends of the earth. So God raises individuals and groups to do this, sending them off with the Great Commission. One such group was CFC.

When we in CFC responded to the call, God greatly blessed us. He indeed will bless those whom He calls who respond, for this is His very own purpose and plan for the world. But when we veered away, when we had our infidelities, then God was grieved. God grieved not just for us, but for the work that He intended which we would no longer be doing.

Now with the raising of a remnant, the plan of God was back on track. And for that, God rejoiced.

In this year, through the book of the prophet Zephaniah, God promised restoration. “I will remove disaster from among you, so that none may recount your disgrace. At that time I will bring you home, and at that time I will gather you; …. when I bring about your restoration before your very eyes, says the Lord.” (Zep 3:18b,20). With restoration would return our anointing and empowerment, according to God’s own purpose. Our work of worldwide evangelization and mission would proceed, as God had already decided from all eternity. “For I will give you renown and praise, among all the peoples of the earth.” (Zep 3:20b).

This indeed was cause for great joy.

God has raised a remnant in CFC-FFL. “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). It is important that we be humble and lowly, knowing our sinfulness and our nothingness apart from God, fully committed to His forming and using us, and always dependent on His great mercy.

2009

The 2008 theme referred to “a mighty savior.” This now connects with our theme for 2009 from the book of the prophet Isaiah. “God indeed is my savior; I am confident and unafraid. My strength and my courage is the Lord, and he has been my savior.” (Is 12:2). Our theme for 2009 is “Trust in Jesus.”

The context of Isaiah 12 also intersects with what we have been given over these past years since 2006. First, God’s anger against us has abated. “Though you have been angry with me, your anger has abated, and you have consoled me.” (Is 12:1b). Because of this and because of our restoration, as we resume our work of proclaiming the salvation of God to the world, we rejoice. “With joy you will draw water at the fountain of salvation.” (Is 12:3a). We look to resuming our worldwide work. “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).

We move forward with confidence, not being afraid, despite the trials and tribulations that await us. We proclaim Christ, who is our strength and our courage. We proclaim the salvation Jesus won on the cross, which is that great sign of His divine mercy.

2010

Now we go to our theme for 2010. It is taken from the book of Job. Already having experienced how the 2007 theme from the book of Lamentations was so intimately connected with the story of Israel in her lamentations, the story of Job can be quite intimidating and can become a cause for great concern. This is why this year we have been prepared to simply trust in Jesus.

What lies in store for CFC-FFL in 2010?

For one thing, Lamentations ought to be a continuing posture. We continue to sin, and we continue to stray from God’s narrow path for us. Ongoing repentance is crucial. Full restoration to our authentic charism is to be sought after.

For another, we must continue learning the lessons given in these past few years. The themes given from 2007 to 2009 will always be relevant.

In fact, we have gone full circle from 2006 to 2010, in looking to the majesty of God. In 2006 we spoke about God’s power and majesty. In 2010 we look to “God’s awesome majesty” (Job 37:22b). The Almighty!

In 2006 we looked at Tobit; in 2010 we look at Job. Both men were devout and wealthy Israelites. Both suffer severe reverses and misfortunes. Both were mocked by the people. Both were needled by their wives. Both were grief-stricken in spirit. Both desire to die due to their affliction. Both stories involve the intervention of the enemy­the demon Asmodeus and Satan himself.

In the end, God triumphs! Both experience restoration, and both live to a ripe old age, happy and fulfilled.

What our themes between 2006 and 2010 taught us are enduring virtues that we will always need to have, as we live our lives in the Lord and do His mission. We must always have hope, joy and trust. These are the essential foundations for facing the difficulties and trials of life and mission.

Because God desires to use us in the power of His Spirit, God will continue to mold us. Such can only happen as we are purified through suffering, which is redemptive. Tobit suffered. Job suffered. We too will suffer, as we live our lives in righteousness and obedience to God.

In the end, all will work for our good.

In seeming hopelessness we must always have hope in the Lord. In inevitable times of grief we must rejoice always in Christ. And in difficulties and challenges we must always trust in Jesus.

And whatever happens, we must always know that God is just and righteous.

The Almighty!
Just and righteous is He.

(October 22, 2009)

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