Nestled in the mountains about a five hour drive north of Manila, Baguio is a city of some 300,000 + people. My I-phone tells me the weather back home in the D/FW metroplex is cloudy and 34 degrees. Here it is sunny and 73 degrees.
The Pilipino people are as gracious and hospitable as you would ever hope to find. Everywhere I turn, in restaurants, shops, or other places, I am met with smiles and courtesy.
Though this is not my first trip to the country, I never cease to be heartbroken at the poverty I see in many places. In the big cities, and especially in the outer provinces, stark poverty stares you in the face.
But there is another kind of poverty here; a poverty far more deadly. It is a spiritual poverty. Like so many places in our world, there are so many here who don’t know Christ.
Last Saturday in Manila, tens of thousands pressed into the parade route during the Catholic festival of the Black Nazarene. The “Black Nazarene” is an image of Christ carrying his cross that was carved sometime in the 17th century. Many believe it to possess miraculous power. It is brought out from the church in Manila every January 9th and paraded through the streets. Hundreds were injured in the press of the crowd striving to touch the icon. Two were trampled to death. Spiritual darkness.
Oh, there are churches here. But most of them are not evangelical, Bible-believing, churches. One group of churches in the country is actually a cult. They believe in a human Jesus, but not his divinity. Spiritual darkness.
Yet in the midst of this darkness, there is a light shining. Here, on the campus of the Philippine Baptist Theological Seminary, one of the highest spots in Baguio, sits a school with 150 students who have devoted their lives to changing the world for Christ.
At the gracious invitation of the president, Dr. Armand Canoy, I am here this week to deliver the annual Lide-Walker lectures during the day and preach each evening for the annual Bible Conference. I was asked to lecture and preach on the book of Hebrews, which of course is like saying “sic ‘em” to a dog.
As I write this, I am sitting in the open prayer pavilion surrounded by beautiful, tall, pine trees. In the gym 50 yards below me, where 500 chairs await pastors, students and other occupants tonight at the opening of the Bible Conference, I hear the melodious strains of praise music being rehearsed:
“Alleluia, all I have is Christ! Alleluia, Jesus is my life!”
Once again I am reminded that God has his remnant; shining lights of His truth.
And as I prepare to preach tonight the majestic first four verses of Hebrews 1, I am ever thankful that God has spoken His final word in one who is by His character and nature, a Son: Jesus. And this Son, when he made cleansing for all sin on the cross, sat down at the right hand of God (Hebrews 1:1-4).
God help me to give my life to the preaching of Your word, to the winning of the lost to Christ, and to the building up of Your church . . . to the glory of the Savior.