We are in Talk 6 of our Wilderness series. It’s the story in the book of Numbers—and we are almost at the end of it.
And our one big message for today is
Move On—God is with you.
I have to clarify what this means.
Sometimes, we just say to people, “Move on ka na lang.—Just move.” Sometimes, feeling belittled. But sometimes, we also say persistently, “Push on ka na kasi.”
Let me ask you one question:
Have you ever been heartbroken before?
Perhaps, the person you love did not love you back. One time gave you hope, but it didn’t happen.
Perhaps, you lost your job. You applied for a position. Did not get in. Perhaps you built a business. It failed. Did not work. Or did not flourish because of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID) Pandemic.
Perhaps you have a dream. But it did not come true.
I know someone who went to Japan for the first time. He saved money to get to Japan. He got there. He was supposed to stay there for seven days. Day 1, he tested positive with COVID. He had to be quarantined in his hotel room. Then he had to go home. Heartbreaking, yes?
I go deeper. Maybe a family member passed away. The pain of regret also breaks our heart.
When You Are Heartbroken
So, let me ask you again: Have you ever been heartbroken? Admit it.
When your heart is broken, you need to grieve. When you lost something, when you feel that sense of loss, grief happens – and it’s okay. It’s okay not to be okay.
And I believe the way to move on is to first– before you go to the resolution— you’ve got to start with recognition.
I say this: Grief heals. And the only way to move on is to move through. Meaning, you pass through it. It’s okay to feel sad…It’s okay to sing sad songs: Oh, it’s sad to belong to someone else, when the right one comes along… Ikaw sana ang yakap- yakap—wish you were the one I’m embracing…
But those songs have ending. Grief, like any other good medicine, it has a time limit. Take an anti-biotic for one month, instead of one week, you may even die.
Bitterness has a time limit. Say, “I am not bitter. I am better.”
Grief, past its expiration date, becomes toxic. It does.
I’m also grieving now. One of our colleagues whose husband passed away— suddenly succumbed to heart attack. Why? I don’t know. It just happened.
Another colleague, her child, only five years old, passed away. In a span of 10 days, two deaths. It breaks my heart.
You know, the best gift that you can give to those who are heartbroken— especially in acute situation— the best present is your presence. There are no words, there’s nothing you can give better. Money can help—it does, practically. But the best present is your presence. And that’s okay– on a certain period of time.
But there is an expiration date.
I remember, I was counselling, helping a teenager.
The mother told me, “Please talk with my child. Because she no longer wants to study. It seems, she has become a different person. Let’s help her. Can you counsel her?”
So, I talked with the girl. I asked her what happened. She said,” I cannot sleep. I feel anxious. I can’t focus…”
She was jittery and she revealed she had a fight with her boyfriend, and flashback of what happened kept filling her mind.
I asked her since when their quarrel happened. She said, “Six years ago…”
The Lesson in Numbers
There’s another story. I work with a lot of seafarers.
One told me, “Doc, I know you’re preaching at The Feast. Please pray for my brother who’s a seafarer. He had a good job. He’s an official on the ship. But he stopped working and went into business, put up a restaurant. But the business went bankrupt. So, now, he’s depressed, and he does not want to go back work in the ship.”
I said maybe the business failed because of the COVID Pandemic.
He said the business was already a failure even before the Pandemic. That happened five years ago.
When we say Move On—God is with you, that’s the Good News. I’m speaking to those of you who are feeling stuck, feeling so offended by what had happened to you, feeling so afraid of the wilderness that’s in front of you, or maybe surrounding you, the dark cloud engulfing you. The bright days are gone.
My message for you today: Move on– because God is with you.
And I want to take a good look back at a bigger perspective… The book of Numbers that we’re discussing now is about the Israelites’ long journey in their wilderness classroom.
God brings us into the desert, into the wilderness not for us just to be in pain— and He’s happy that we are having a hard time. No. It’s because we are hardheaded and we have to learn hard lessons.
That is what’s happening to the Israelites during that time. And God was teaching them one very important lesson. And this is the summary of Numbers:
Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers—the first few books of the Bible lead us to two questions. I’m giving these as a point of reflection as to where we are now in the study of the Bible.
I want you to look at the questions, recognize where we are and answer yourself. Don’t tell it yet to your seatmate. Keep it a secret.
Some of you may be coming to church asking, “Lord, lead me.
Lord, give me directions.”
Maybe this is it. Maybe we’re full of our own wisdom and our own directions. Maybe today, we can rely more on Him. Trust His will. Trust His timing. Trust the pain that He allowed—for us to learn that lesson: for us to break through.
It takes some breaking—sometimes, to break through.
And so, if you reflect on these questions, you can actually have already take-home message for today.
So, going to Numbers:
The 40 years of the Israelites wandering around the wilderness is over. The first generation who went out of Egypt, they are dying or already dead. It has been 40 years since they left Egypt.
So, there is a new generation—the children of the first generation, those younger generation, they are ready to enter the Promised Land.
In Chapter 20 of Numbers, the Israelites find themselves in the exact place a terrible, tragic place where their ancestors decided to reject God — to trust themselves rather than trust God.
Tragedy in the Wilderness
I want you to mark this word: Kadesh.
I want you to remember this name.
(Backstory: During their wandering in the desert, the Israelites camped in Kadesh (south of Canaan, the Promised Land).
From Kadesh, Moses sent to Canaan 12
spies (or chieftains serving as scouts) to explore the Promised Land and see if it is good for the Israelites to live there).
In Kadesh, that same geographical spot,10 spies who went to the Promised Land told the Israelites to give up the Promised Land because they saw giants there and they concluded they could not conquer the land. Only two spies or scouts– Joshua and Caleb– reported the Israelites would be able to conquer the land.
So, for trusting God, God blessed Joshua and Caleb to lead the younger generation of Israelites into the Promised Land.)
Map shows Egypt from where the Israelites started their journey to Canaan, the Promised Land, which is just north of the Sinai Peninsula.
At right, Kadesh amid the wilderness where the Israelites set camp…
Rejecting God’s Gift
Instead of trusting God, the older generation rejected the gift of God to them. And it was very tragic—because the entire generation who decided to follow their own way instead of God’s way, they got what they wanted. They remained stuck in the wilderness. (The 10 other spies, along with Moses, died in the wilderness).
So, here’s for our reflection: Sometimes, when you feel stuck in the wilderness, when you feel as if there’s nothing good happening in your life, maybe, maybe, maybe because it is just you trusting you.
Maybe, maybe, maybe, today, you’re going to begin to lift your eyes to the One who is our help.
That’s why we were singing, My God is fighting for me. My God is moving now.
Doesn’t even have to be a display, like fireworks. When God moves, God moves here (from the heart), softly, gentle like the Spirit.
The older folks were dying.
And I want to go there—From Numbers 20.
The story begins with the death of a leader — a very important person:
Miriam was the sister of Moses. Miriam was there looking after the basket, protecting the baby Moses. So, instead of being killed, he eventually got adopted to the household of the Pharoah. And that’s why she had been there from the very start, from the time when Moses was a baby, all they way to supporting Moses through the journey out of Egypt—even through the wilderness. She passed away. She’s now dead.
The author tells us about her death only in passing. As if there’s nothing (significant about Miriam). The author just told us about her death. And it’s very strange—because she was a leader of the community. Yes, or no?
In the end of this chapter of Numbers, this book of the Bible, you also see Aaron, Moses’s brother, also passed away.
Heart to Heart
Imagine: For now, something strange is happening. Imagine what Moses could have been feeling at this time. Like I said, it’s a heart-to-heart talk today. How do you feel when someone who has been looking after you for the longest time passes away? Does not enter the Promised Land.
After Miriam died, the Israelites came up to Moses complaining:
Here we go again… Despite the many, many years of the faithfulness of God, people are complaining again.
It happens to all of us. Yes. Sometimes we are so ungrateful– forgetting what happened, what faithfulness God manifested to us. And when you read the other complaints, you’ll see the lack of water was the last item. More than the water, they were complaining about something else.
Let me read the verses again:
Here We Go Again…
In Kadesh, 40 years ago, in that same geographical spot, the Israelite spies who went to the Promised Land brought back samples of figs, grapes, pomegranates.
Numbers 13 says:
They are in a place—a terrible place, a “cursed” place. Back again after 40 years.
Do you feel stuck? Sometimes, feeling heartbroken: “Here I am again. Trusting.
I am going out of my mind… because I already gave everything; nothing was left for me. I wasn’t making the right decisions again.”
So, here’s the interpretation. Look at this:
The place was freaking the Israelites out. It reminds them of their painful past, and they’re back again there. This was where Mommy and Daddy, Uncle, Aunt – this was the place where they rejected God: “And we’re here again. Let’s get out of here. I no longer like it here.!”
They wanted to move on. They wanted to get out of there. They wanted to go to the Promised Land. It is still a promise at this time. They haven’t arrived in the Land God promised them.
You wanted to move on. But sometimes, it gets back to you. You are stuck… There’s one more person in the story who is still stuck—probably doesn’t seem wanting to move on. You know who is that?
Let me call our next preacher. No, he’s not the one☺. But he will tell the story of this man who also got stuck in the wilderness.
Let’s give a big hand to Bro. Audee Villaraza!
Moses Rejects God
AUDEE VILLARAZA: Good Morning, Everyone!
What I love so much in the story is that it’s not like your typical Hollywood story where, you know, how fairy tales usually end— the main characters always live happily ever after.
Not in this story. If you’re expecting a Hollywood happy-ending story, you’re not going to get it—at least not in the story of Moses. Because this is the part where Moses starts to reject God.
Let me me tell you the story:
In the process of trying to give water to the people, God tells Moses a specific instruction.
He says in Numbers 20:7-8:
So, the instruction was simple: speak to the rock.
But instead of speaking to the rock, Moses does the complete opposite:
See, when you strike something once, that can be out of impulse.
It’s just something caused you to do that. But you do it twice? That’s a message. It’s a message of frustration. This guy is angry.
And this is not the Moses that we know—the Moses we’ve been studying is the Moses who has been patient, understanding, compassionate. The Moses we’ve known is the one who has been pleading to God, bowing before the Lord to plead for an entire nation.
There’s something wrong with Moses here.
This is not the guy that we know. But I want you to know how God responds to the action of Moses:
Terrible. Moses doesn’t even get to enter the Promised Land. That zone that
God promised to him. You know what this moment is?
This is like you’re courting the girl, you exert great effort to win her. You pay for her fare, you escort her home, but she only says, “Thank you, Brother.”
She wants only to be friends.
Moses doesn’t even get to enter the Promised Land! Why is that? What did Moses do that merited such a severe punishment?
Two good reasons:
Reason Number 1. God said it already: “Because you did not trust Me enough…”
It seems to me that God doesn’t want people not trusting Him.
And remember that Moses and the Lord have been together since the very beginning. Moses had seen the Lord follow trough miracle after miracle. They’ve been together through the ten plagues. They’ve been to Sea. They’ve been together during the provision of manna in the desert.
Moses has seen miracle after miracle. I always tell people this: If you have a hard time trusting God in your life, take a good look at His track record.
How many times has God followed through in your life? How many times has God saved you from that place? If you have trouble trusting God, just take a look at what He’s done for you. Because every testing in your life builds a platform for you to learn how to trust Him even more.
So, if you’re carrying a difficult problem right now, and God saved you before, I want you to say this with me: “If God did it then, I believe He can do it again.”
That’s the first reason: Because Moses did not trust God enough.
Moses Anointed as a Leader
Reason Number 2: Because Moses is not the ordinary person.
Even before he was born, there was already an anointing placed over his life. It might had been unfair for Moses, but did God force Moses’ hand to accept the calling? No. Moses freely accepted that calling. He said “Yes” to the Lord.
So, there’s a certain anointing—a great anointing over the life of Moses.
But with great power comes great responsibility, great accountability.
So, there was an expectation for Moses being the leader of a nation— to lead the people of Israel. And yet Moses disobeyed the Lord. But why did Moses rebel in the first place? I think that’s something we need to ask right now.
Why did Moses rebel? The author kind of hints to us that it had something to do with his sister Miriam. Miriam died in Kadesh—in the wilderness. And Moses loved her greatly. But when she died in the desert, sadly, a part of him wanted to stay in Kadesh because that’s where his grief was.
We’re talking about grief, right?
I wonder how many of you can relate to this: that when you sometimes lose somebody you love greatly, and you feel such great pain– you don’t mind carrying the pain if only to have one more moment with that person… You want to stay in a place, in a situation… You keep the clothes of that loved one because it’s the only reminder of that moment that you shared with that person.
A Painful Song
There’s a song about this. The song, Let the Pain Remain by Willy Cruz, goes like this:
Love comes, love goes… But a certain feeling never lets me be…Somehow, I know, quite a part of me has been changed since you’ve been gone like a sturdy tree that’s seen a thousand seasons, I still shared my leaves in winter to grow them back in spring to welcome life again… To welcome you… So goes my life… still believe in dreams of having you around… Too bad, memories feed the mind and not the heart where I want you to be… So, I ask myself would you have left behind for me to go on each day to live as if I have you once again… What else is there that’s real… But all this pain that I feel … So let the pain forever in my heart…
for every pain brings this one moment spent with you … I let the pain bring on the rain… if that’s the only way…. If there’s no other way to be with you again.
I actually know the songs in the entire album… Don’t challenge me…☺ It’s a painful song, right? But it’s so real. How many of us want to remain in pain? To attract that pain. Because we want to stay in grief. Because that’s the only moment when we feel that person again.
Queen Victoria was the head of the United Kingdom monarchy in the 1860s. And on December 14, 1861, her husband Prince Albert died. Because of typhoid fever. He was only 42 years old. So, it was an untimely death.
And you know, she entered into a state of mourning and that’s fine. That happens to a lot of us.
But here’s the problem: She never left the state of mourning.
She stayed in brokenness.
She stayed in heartache. She wore black even up till the time of her death.
See, this is the problem when you stay stuck in the past. Stay stuck in grief. If you do not let your past die, your past will not let you live.
A Time of Violence
And that’s actually what happened to Moses. Moses was so stuck in the past he was using a tool that God wanted him to use for good– he was using it in his brokenness, he was using it for bad.
What was that thing? The staff that he was carrying.
Remember the staff that he used to hit the rock? The stick represents violence.
It represents what you do to put things in order. Moses was born in a time of violence.
(Backstory: Some 400 years before Moses was born, worldwide famine drove the Israelites to leave Canaan and settle in Egypt. They became slaves there and later, they became so numerous that Egypt’s Pharaoh feared one day a male Israelite would become so powerful and take over Egypt.
So, the Pharaoh commanded all baby boys killed. This was the time Moses was born. To save him, his mother put him in a basket and let it flow on the Nile River while his sister Miriam followed the basket which was discovered by an Egyptian princess who adopted Moses. He eventually grew up to be a prince in the Egyptian kingdom.
In time, God called Moses to lead the Israelites to freedom, to the land God promised their ancestor Abraham. But in the Numbers story, they wandered in the wilderness.)
In Egypt, Moses learned the culture of the stick. They would use the stick to punish people. Moses, when he became an adult, he saw an Egyptian hurting Moses’ fellow Jew. He killed that Egyptian.
A Tool of Miracle
So now, Moses, being used by God to free the Israelites from slavery, carried a staff, a tool of a miracle. When he lifted the staff, it turned water into blood.
As the Egyptians ran after the fleeing Israelites who were already at the shore of the Red Sea, Moses lifted his staff and the sea parted, allowing the Israelites to pass—but the sea closed and the Egyptians drowned.
The stick was a tool of miracle that God used. But in the hands of a broken person, it can be used as a tool of chaos.
And I wonder what kinds of tools from your past that you’re still carrying now. That you’re bringing to your present. And you might be bringing to your future.
God wants to teach us something good today.
You notice, Bible characters would oftentimes fail in trusting God.
And this is really our story: How we fail time and time again in trusting the Lord and how we become disobedient to the Lord.
Moses failed. Abraham failed. Jacob failed. David failed. But where everybody failed, that’s where Jesus Christ succeeded. That’s why, if you notice, every Bible story actually points to one Person. It only points to Jesus. Jesus would become the new Moses. He would become the new Adam in the sense that He would perfectly trust, perfectly obey the Father.
He said, “Nevertheless, not my will but Yours be done, oh, Father.”
And I believe that should be the posture of our heart. That we would trust the Lord every time.
But you see, when people prayed for a Messiah, they thought that God would send the Messiah in the form of a general, a soldier, a violent man who would overthrow the Roman authorities. Instead, when Jesus came, He didn’t come wielding a staff. He didn’t come wielding a stick.
Instead of Stick… Shalom Jesus came wielding shalom: Peace be with you.
He says, pray for those who persecute you. Turn the other cheek.
This is not the kingdom you’re expecting. It’s a different kind of kingdom.
Remember Jesus on the Cross…
Remember the stone that Moses hit — and water gushed out?
Jesus would become that very stone, that very rock. His side would be struck with a stick. A Roman spear would pierce Him on the side—and water and blood would gush out.
So, Jesus is now the rock. We know Him as a rock.
But you know, thinking about it… Jesus has been here… He knows what tragedy is all about. He knows what grief is all about.
And in case you’re wondering whether Jesus knows what you’re going through right now, or what you’d been through, I know that He knows. Why? Because He’d done it. He’d experienced it.
He lost His father Joseph. The Bible says Jesus wept when John the Baptist, His cousin, was beheaded. The Bible says Jesus also wept when His good friend Lazarus died.
So, know that Jesus knows what you’re going through.
Grieve… Then Start Living Again
I want to share with you one last story. It’s from the book of John.
John tells the story:
When Mary saw Jesus… I mean how much joy would you feel when you see Jesus. Mary had lost her Savior.
She lost the Messiah.
To the world, He was dead. So, when she finally saw Jesus, she wanted to cling to the Messiah.
How many of you would do that if you lost the person you love and you see that person again? Would you want to embrace that person tightly and never let go?
That’s how Mary felt.
But Jesus said, “Don’t cling to me for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father.”
Here’s the lesson:
If you are going through some trouble right now, and you’re grieving—
yes, grieve as much as you can, as much as you need to.
Grieve, feel the pain. But there’s come a point in your life where you need to start living your life again. Even if it means that you bring the pain with you. Even if it means that the pain is just there… But you slowly live your life — little by little.
Pick up the habits. Pick up the routine. Even without that person anymore.
Jesus Moved On
Because the truth is, your sorrow should have a shelf life. I can’t be there with you forever. That’s got to go.
Because that was Jesus did. Jesus didn’t stay in death. Jesus didn’t stay in the tomb.
What did He do?
He moved on
My friend, you’re not meant to stay in grief
You’re not meant to stay in brokenness. You’re not meant to stay hurt.
You’re not meant to stay in defeat. You’re not meant to stay in pain.
You’re not meant to stay in suffering.
Jesus never meant for you to do that. You’re not meant to stay in bitterness. You’re not meant to stay in anger.
Because Jesus is showing us right now that if He did not stay in death, if He did not stay in the tomb, it simply means that He’s got to move on.
He’s got to move on to the Father. He’s got to reveal His glory!
And yes, sometimes I know that it’s painful and God doesn’t always remove the mountains in front of you. But that’s only because it means that He want to walk it with you. He wants to climb that mountain with you. When you walk through the valley of death, you should not fear evil. Why? Because God’s staff and God’s hand guide you.
God Is with You
Preach the Word to somebody:
God is with you.
And because God is with us, you can bet that we can move on. You can move on. You can move on. You can move on from that hurt. You can move on from that breaking.
You can move on.
Because God is with us. He’s never left us. He’s always here with us. And He’ll not quit on you. The grace of God will never guide you to places where the grace of God cannot guard you.
Everybody, lift up your hands in this place. Come on. Hallelujah!
Jesus, look at all Your children trusting You this moment. We might not trust You all the time but right now, without a shadow of doubt, we commit to trusting you. Teach us to be faithful, teach us to be obedient. We love You and we thank You for walking with us, for never leaving us. For never quitting on us. Thank You, Jesus that You give us the courage and the strength, and the grace to move on. In Your Name. Amen.
We want to give you this opportunity to commit your life to Jesus. If you’ve never really said anything to declare upon your life that Jesus would be your King and your Savior, we’re going to give you this beautiful opportunity to do so. If there are first-timers who have walked in here, and you’ve never had life with Jesus, you’ve never experienced an encounter with Him, today, I pray that that would change and that you would answer the calling to have life with your Savior. But if you’re just like the rest of us here who serve week after week who declare our life is the Lord’s, then this moment is also for you. And let’s do this together—whether it’s your first time, second time, third time, or your end time, we want to do this as a Community, as one Family.
So, I’m going to pray for you. You will pray some of the words, but at the end of the prayer, what I want, you to shoot your hand up.
Together, let’s celebrate life with Jesus:
Jesus Christ, You are our Redeemer and you came into this world so that so that You could save broken people like me. So, Jesus, starting today, I will declare that You and You alone will be my King. I put You at the seat of the throne of my heart. Starting today, I will love You, I will serve You, and I will worship You.
I love You. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Are you ready to commit your life to Jesus? Here we go: Shoot your hands up. Hallelujah!
DIDOY LUBATON: We want to greet Fr. Bob McConaghy a Happy, Happy Birthday!
AUDEE VILLARAZA: It’s such a tremendous opportunity to be able to have life with you, Fr. Bob. At your age, you’re still so strong, so wise, and so sharp. You remind me of Moses – not because he’s old—It’s such a wonderful gift to be with you to lead us, as pastor, to shepherd us.
You have so many sheep. Thank, you. Thank you so much, Father. We pray for more years, more life to come
DIDOY: Fr. Bob, 76 years of age, 48 years in ministry.
FR. BOB: Two more years…
DIDOY: This is my wish for you that God leads you to the 50th year of ministry and many, many years to come and on behalf of the Community, thank you for not just being our pastor, not just a priest doing the Sacraments, but you have also become our friend and our family. Salamat po.
FR. BOB: Yes, this is my home. I come from the United States but this is my home and you’re my family.
One final thing: Many times, over the years, people would ask me, “Fr. Bob how old are you?”
Immediately after meeting me, I developed an answer: Now, I am 76. But I used to say, I’m older than I once was but younger than I will be. And that throws them off completely.
DIDOY: On behalf of the whole Community, Fr. Bob, we thank you, and we appreciate you and we love you. Happy Birthday!
You always pray for us. Now we’d like to pray for you.
FR.BOB: Oh, please.
DIDOY: In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Father in Heaven, we have Fr. Bob here, right in front of all of us and right this moment, we celebrate him. We thank You for creating such a wonderful human being— a blessing, like an angel to us. Speaking Your Word, speaking Your truth, giving us You, Your Presence into this world, into this Community, and Family.
In a mighty special way, we lift to You Fr. Bob, your son. We pray for wholeness of health to come upon him, healing of mind, body and heart, and spirit.
We pray for greater things ahead– yet we haven’t seen before, yet still in store for him. Greater things for faithfulness in his ministry, the prayers of his heart that we don’t know but you do know. We lift them up to You.
We lift Fr. Bob to You. And we think You for him. Oh, that You would bless Fr. Bob indeed and enlarge his territory some more that Your hand would aways be with him and keep him away from evil so that he may not cause pain.
And Mama Mary, bring him closer to Jesus. Pray for him always. This is our celebration and prayer. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.