Friday, December 18, 2009

The Season for Giving

Christmastime has always been associated with giving. A lot of people tend to spend more during the holidays in order to buy presents for friends and family alike. Most people would already have planned their Christmas shopping as stores compete to entice customers great and small with holiday deals and bargains. I'm sure the Christmas shopper will have to be overwhelmed by the many options of things to buy for someone else these days.

It's amazing to listen to a lot of people planning to buy a new TV set; or that PlayStation3 bundle for a cool low price; or that new iPod or iPhone on the rack; or maybe that new dress or those expensive-looking pair of shoes  (which are now on sale, of course). Not to mention the toys on this rack and that for boys and girls of all ages.

The staggering economy might not become too obviously felt these days as we rush through the stores to buy our presents to give away. Besides, it's giving something to those who are important to us that matters, right? And we set an example to the younger generation on generosity especially during this time of the year. At least they would learn to give presents to their cousins and friends and classmates in school, right?

Well, I personally don't agree to that at this point in my life. I believe our affluence has allowed even Christians to forget about what it really means to "give". We've come a long way that even if there are  about 159 million people or 77% of America professing to be Christians (according to the 2001 ARIS study), we see a great imbalance of things in our communities. Some families will definitely have a whole lot of presents to open on Christmas morning while some struggle to share a meal together on Christmas day because there was not enough food for everyone. 

I am reading on the book of Acts again and was really fascinated and personally challenged by the way the early believers lived their lives and how they really practiced "giving". In Acts chapter 2:42-45, we can see that the fellowship of the early believers was far from what we see in our community with "believers" today. Here's the picture of what they had before:

"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. (Acts 2:42-45)

I personally believe that they also had their share of trials and hardships in life but it was unlike the hardship many believers face today. Problems were a lot easier for them to bear knowing that whatever it was they needed, God provided through others who were willing to give. And look at how they gave... these people sold their possessions and goods in order to give to ANYONE WHO HAD A NEED! Has it never occurred to us that the early believers had EVERYTHING IN COMMON? Nobody was wealthier or poorer than the other. Nobody was hungry, nobody was homeless, nobody had a need that wasn't met. There were no needy persons among them! Just read Acts 4:34!

If our professing Christian churches and communities would just return to the biblical way of living as the early christians did, nobody would have to be cold, or hungry, or in need, or in debt in the family of believers today. We have totally deceived ourselves by thinking that when we give presents to our loved ones and our friends and our co-workers we are showing them a christian way of life of being generous. Are we really? The bible tells us that God loves a cheerful giver! How far are we able to give from what we have? $30? $50? $100? How about $1000? or $10,000 if we have it? We've really been so side-tracked today with our christianity. Most of us worry more about an uncertain future in this world by saving up money in the bank or in our 401K's than about our brethren who are REALLY in need today. 

I believe the very reason why the early christians were able to give as they did was because they have totally understood that they were only pilgrims of this world. This life was temporary. Nothing that they have was their own because they knew God owned everything they have. I wonder if the church today will ever be the same as the days of the book of Acts. I wonder if there ever will be a change in the way believers today view life and giving as it was really meant to be.

"For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." (Romans 15:4)

Now that it's the season for giving, let's really examine ourselves if we are willing to be cheerful givers and give the way the early church did. Are we willing to follow the way giving was really meant to be in the bible? 

May we think about "giving" this holiday season and become cheerful givers to those who

"LOVE must be sincere..." (Romans 12:9)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

JOY to the World!

I can't believe it's December already! This year seemed to have flown by me so fast. It wasn't easy being away from our kids since March of this year, much so being away from them when all around us "begins to look a lot like Christmas". I sometimes can't help but feel sad when I hear Christmas carols and see Christmas lights and decorations knowing that me and my husband, Ryan, will be spending the holidays away from our children. It may be because we've all been so accustomed to the traditions we have during the Christmas season where we find families gathering together for the holiday. Christmas trees decorated with colorful glass balls and yellow lights warm up the scene of the living rooms in houses. Gift boxes will soon line the floor around the Christmas tree and laughter and cheers will soon be shared as a family enjoys the season in each other's company. I know for sure my little boy, Ryan, gets so excited as soon as decorating for Christmas comes up. (Well, they still had their share of excitement back home in the Philippines as they put up their Christmas lights with their "daddilo"/grandpa & "mommilo"/grandma.)

When everyone around starts to get on with the hustle and bustle of the season, I can't help but stop and think if it is really all that matters. I feel sad being away from our kids this Christmas, alright, but somehow it's not just because I can't be there to see their faces when they open their presents. There is something else that stirs me inside into thinking beyond the "Christmas" thingamajigs that we so often focus on during this time of the year. What I want for Christmas this year is something more than what we put out as decorations at home. What I want for my family & friends is something bigger than the lanterns and wreaths we hang out on our front doors. It's something more important that the recipes we are going to use for this year's "Noche Buena". What I wanted was for all of us to look beyond the glitters of the Season and see the very core of this time's celebration. All I want for Christmas is for all of us to step back and ponder on the greatest gift we all could ever have in this lifetime, the gift of JOY. This is beyond the merriment that we put ourselves in as we celebrate the holidays. "Joy to the world!" as we sing it. Have you ever spent a little time asking yourself "Why?" 

"For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given... And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6)

"For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)

"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy..." (Isaiah 9:2-3)

When the rest of humanity was doomed to destruction as darkness swallows all of us because of the sin that has come into the world and into each of our hearts, God made a way for us to be reconciled to Him. He had to send His only Son, Jesus Christ, to be crucified and to die on our behalf. Why? Because not one ounce of sacrifice and good deed on our part could ever suffice to the requirement of God for the atonement of our filthy, wretched, grotesque sinful nature. The bible tells us "we all have sinned."We all deserve Hell because our God is not only a God of Love, but He is a Just God as well. And because He is Just, He has to hate sin and have sinners like us  face our consequences and be thrown to damnation for all eternity. Yet our God is also abounding in love and with this love He gave His Son, Jesus, to become our way out of the grip of Satan. He was born on earth to become man like all of us and to suffer death like the rest of us. On that cross, He bore our sins and received God's wrath on our behalf. But our joy lies in Jesus' victory over death since he also was God! That is why on the third day He rose again, breaking all the chains of Satan and Death and offering the grace of Salvation to all who believes in Him. Jesus is the only reason for any celebration that has something to do with the Christmas season. Not Santa Claus, not the presents, not Frosty the Snowman nor the lights or the decorations; not even family. 

We REJOICE in knowing that God has made a way for all of us when there seemed to be no way.  JOY, as defined in dictionaries is the emotion of great happiness and contentment. I like it best how the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it. It is "the emotion evoked by the prospect of possessing what one desires." Aren't you tired of running after various things that would satisfy your desires in vain? Listen to what Jesus said in John 15:10-11:

"If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete."

We may never realize it, but the only desire of our souls will be to have fellowship with our Maker, our God. The only desire our souls carry is to be reconciled with our Father in heaven. Jesus will give us HIS JOY (which is the fellowship and reconciliation with God) if we obey Him and remain in Him. And with this, our Joy - our source of greatest happiness and contentment and desire in this life, will be complete as we live reconciled with God knowing that we will soon have eternal life with Him through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. There will then be no need for us to struggle and search and grope around this world for contentment. No matter where we are and no matter what our circumstances be, if we have Christ in us, our Joy is complete.

My prayer this Christmas Season is that you & yours will meet with the source of your greatest happiness, contentment and desire.

I wish you and yours JOY, through Jesus Christ, this CHRISTmas season and always.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


It's really just around the bend. Families are now scurrying around making plans for the holidays, especially the first one coming up, the Thanksgiving holiday. Majority of the families in America are now lining up recipe books and filling up the pantry and the refrigerator with ingredients and ready meals for Thanksgiving dinner. Schedules were already moved to either a day before or after November 26, 2009 to allow ample time to celebrate Thanksgiving with the entire family. Many already have made plans to gather together for dinner on this fourth Thursday of November to enjoy each other's company. I wonder how many of these families, though, would sit down and really remember why they celebrate Thanksgiving Day.

Being an immigrant in the United States of America, I have not yet become very familiar with the many other holidays that this country celebrate aside from the major Christmas and New Year that my own country, the Philippines, celebrate. When I arrived in 2006, I was introduced to this other major holiday as we were making our work schedules in the hospital. A lot of the Filipino families who are already in America have been holding Thanksgiving dinners with friends and families just because it's a national holiday that everybody else is celebrating. But do we really understand the reality behind Thanksgiving Day?

Thanksgiving iss one important holiday Americans celebrate each year. You would find yourself surrounded with images of pumpkins, turkeys, cornucopias, corn and fruits like cranberries the moment Thanksgiving approaches. So I did my little research and extra readings that led me to understand that this particular holiday had a very rich and interesting origin. To make the long story short, it was a celebration of harvest of the legendary Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock. It was literally a celebration of Thanksgiving on the divine providence of God. Native Indians taught these pilgrims how to survive by growing their food. The pilgrims had a period of prayer and fasting to ask God to help their crops grow amidst the drought that took place. They eventually survived as they learnt to grow corn, beans and pumpkins from the Indians, most especially from the rain that God provided. In Autumn of 1621, the pilgrims organized a feast and they gathered together, with the Indians as their guests, to celebrate the bountiful blessings that they have received from God. The fourth Thursday of November became a permanent and official national holiday in America in 1941 as it was established by Congress.

It is quiet interesting to know that the origins of this particular holiday were humble hearts of pilgrims who acknowledged the Sovereignty of God in His provisions for them. This particular holiday was basked in prayer and fasting hundreds of years ago as these pilgrims placed their hope and trust in the Almighty God. It really makes me wonder if this is still the case today. I really wonder if the families who celebrate Thanksgiving still spend time in prayer (and fasting) in order to give thanks to God who has been Sovereign in all circumstances in our lives. 

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says that we should...

"Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." 

The verse does not say in SOME circumstances, but in ALL circumstances. It also didn't say giving thanks FOR all circumstances but IN all circumstances. Giving thanks in all circumstances does not mean being thankful if a loved one died in an accident. It doesn't mean being thankful that a friend is chronically and terminally ill. It doesn't mean that we are to thank God if our neighbor or a church member lost the only job that sustains their family. It's not the kind of thanksgiving that makes us robots just because of the sake of being thankful. It means that even if our circumstances are grim, we can thank God in all these because of His sovereign grace to help us carry through whatever storm we are facing. We ought to be reminded that we are to thank God for He is in control and that He is your sustainer when your emotional, spiritual and physical strength could no longer do. 

My prayer this Thanksgiving holiday is that every family who will gather together will remember to praise and thank God in all the circumstances that they have in life. It doesn't matter if there is a delicious, whole, golden brown turkey with stuffing and cranberry sauce on your table, or there's just a piece of pumpkin pie before your family this Thanksgiving. Let us all bow our heads down and spend time to give back all the Praise & Thanksgiving that our Lord and Savior, our Almighty Father deserves. He has continually blessed us beyond what we deserve, therefore, may we acknowledge His Sovereign power and control over ALL the circumstances in our lives and may we one day come to a point of gratitude where the ultimate offering of our lives consecrated to Him and Him alone be our only priority in this lifetime.

May God richly bless and keep you and your family this Thanksgiving holiday 2009!

Monday, November 2, 2009

From Kenya with Love

FBCP (First Baptist Church Pearland) has just recently launched their Kenya Orphans & Orphanage Ministry. God has made it possible for the ministry to put up an orphanage located in Kenya, Africa just outside the city of Homa Bay in the Kwoyo Village. This orphanage will house about 120 children that were abandoned for many different reasons.  The church launched the sponsorship program of the orphans in the month of October 2009 and has seen God's awesome power through the 120 orphans now lovingly sponsored by different families in church.

God really works in wonderful ways as He has allowed everything to fall into place in His time. His purpose in our lives always prevails and all the circumstances that surround us (whether we consider them good or bad)  will turn out to be a way for us to grow in our walk with our Lord Jesus Christ.

As you all know, our children are all back home in the Philippines at the moment. Being far away from them has given me the heart that beats towards children who are far from their parents, most especially those who no longer have their parents like the orphans of Kenya. God has prepared my heart to be able to sponsor a child through the Orphanage Program and help house, feed, teach and keep them safe. Being away from my own children made my heart pour out to these beautiful children whom God created. I could not imagine how they must feel not having any parent around to hold them and tell them they are loved most especially by God.

I have been struggling with the desire to homeschool my own children recently for the main reason to be able to teach them diligently the way they should go. My heart has longed to bring up my own children to bring glory to God in every way they can, teaching them biblical principles and helping them develop a deep sense of longing and love for Jesus Christ their Savior. What has made me so glad and willing to sponsor an orphan was the fact that these children will also grow up knowing the Lord. They will also be taught with biblical principles above other things. It makes me happy to know that God has brought a child in need into our lives to allow us to demonstrate & share His love and grace. What better way to teach my own children compassion and love but to show them that our family is being and doing so to a child in Kenya. And what better way to let the children in Kenya know that God is truly a loving God that even if their biological parents have abandoned them, they are birthed with Love in the hearts of the families who sponsored them.

“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27)

Let me introduce Felix to you (no, not the cat..hehe...). 
He is our 8-year old in Kenya, Africa. 

I am praying that God will one day allow our family to visit him in the orphanage. I pray that God will continue to supply for all our needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus! Pray for the orphans. Pray for Kenya. Pray for Africa. Pray for our world.

To the Jews First

I do not know how to begin with this particular post. The excitement running within my veins is sometimes too much to handle! (hehe) Anyway, let me share to you an experience I hope and pray would stir your soul to "Go!" for Jesus.

God has led me to the bible study group of First Baptist Church in Pearland's Mission/Evangelism Pastor, Pastor Don Schwarz. And just last Saturday, October 31, 2009, we attended a class on evangelism with Alan & Lynn Bond from a group called Jews for Jesus. It somewhat hyped me up because, allow me to let you in on a little secret, I am 6.25% Jew! (For real!) Hahaha... My great-grandfather stowed away from Italy years ago and came to the Philippines to start a new life there. It had always been a fact in our family that he was Jewish. I grew up being told that my great-grandfather was a "Hudeo" (as we call it in Filipino) or a Jew. I was never brought up with the Jewish culture, though,  if that's what you wanted to know. And we never really knew if my great-grandfather's family ever lived their lives following Jewish practices. My family was already mostly Catholic in their practice. Unfortunately, we never got the chance to reconnect with my great-granfather's side of the family anymore as we know very little of it. But it's exciting to know that 6.25% of me is Jewish by blood. (Praise my Y'shua!--- I learned that this is how Jews say "Jesus".)

Amazingly, God has led me to join an outreach we had for Jews for Jesus. It was the very first time I ever did something like that. It honestly gave me another push to really "Go!" for Jesus. This time, following the right route as Paul laid it out to us:

"I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile." (Romans 1:16) NIV

It was around 2:30 in the afternoon when Pastor Don gathered us in church.  We were scheduled to do some door-to-door evangelism and "bannering" that afternoon to reach out to any Jew in the community of Pearland, TX. I was imagining myself with the door-to-door group until Pastor Don popped my bubble! (haha... just kidding. It was God, if you could ever read this, Pastor Don.) I was included in the group that would hold the banners along a busy street and wave at people. My flesh initially cringed at the idea! (hehehe) I was thinking, Whoa! me? hold a banner and wave at people in their cars? Uhm... let me think (twice) about what I've gotten myself into... The result?

(Work it, girls! In Y'shua's name!)
 There's my BIG smile & wave; with Ms. Berta, Ms. Shirley & little Hope.)

Boy, you would never really know what hit 'ya when the Holy Spirit starts working! I had so much fun that afternoon waving and smiling at all the people that drove past us. It was such a blessing to have seen them wave & smile back. Some even gave their approving honks! (God was so gracious to us first timers to have protected us from negative responses at that time.) I was so hyper that afternoon that an entire hour standing there seemed like 5 mins. (I guess that was how Paul talked on and on for hours until midnight in the book of Acts!) God really didn't give us a spirit of timidity but of BOLDNESS! Praise Him forever!

The activity led me to realize that when we christians truly follow what Jesus had commanded us to do, to "Go and make disciples of ALL nations..." it should stir in us an urgency to go out of our comfort zones and reach out to the lost in this world. We are, after all, living in the end times and there are still so many of our family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances,  neighbors, and people in our community that needed the gospel!

I praise the Lord for allowing me to be a part of the Jews for Jesus evangelistic outreach this first week of November. Jesus is the promised Messiah for the Jews. Jesus is also the Savior of the Gentiles. May we, as the body of Christ, be emboldened by the Holy Spirit to reach out to the lost. It is, after all, the only work we were called to do on this earth. The rest of the picture of our lives on earth becomes incorporated in it and not the other way around. 

(Bro. Paul & Bro. Roy holding their banner a few meters from where we were.)

Are you A PART or APART?

Many of us profess our faith as Christians so easily without any effort these days. It seems like it's just a simple thing to say "I'm a Christian." But have we ever come to a point in our lives where we realize that there is more to it than saying we're Christians? The reality of it, sad as it is, is that so many of us are so blinded and ignorant of the TRUTH these days that we don't bother to delve into the real sense and meaning of our being a Christian (or let me use the more convicting way of putting it... "Christ-follower!").

Did we forget along the way that we are considered "DISCIPLES" of our Lord Jesus Christ? After all, He did command us to "Go and make disciples of all nations..." (Matthew 28:19). We are His learners, He is our Teacher. Therefore, if we would ever allow our mouths or hearts to say we're His "followers" we ought to make sure that we are made His "disciples" as well. Yet, a lot of christians these days are only good about "professing" to be one. If you are around them, though, you would realize that they look like the world, smell like the world, walk like the world, live like the rest of the world. They blend with the world so beautifully that they easily become a part of the facade of the world. How then can we say that we are truly Christ's disciples when we don't even stand out? If we PROFESS with our mouths that we are followers of Jesus, so called "Christians", we ought to remember that Jesus prayed for us this way:

"I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, 
but for those you have given me,  for they are yours." (John 17:9) NIV

It strikes me to know that Jesus himself made it so clear that for those of us who are His and consider ourselves followers of Him, we are no longer a part of the world. We become a different entity, we instead become set apart from the world.

In the kind of world we're living in today, it is but easy to blend in and go with the flow. The many things that can bombard an individual, even a (professing) "believer", to stray away from God has grown so powerfully these days. Almost all activities we do, even the simplest of it at home like watching TV or getting into the internet or even just trying to laugh at a co-worker's dirty joke, will cause us to be robbed of our focus and time with and for God. And we need to remember that we are so much a part of the world if we don't stand out for God's glory. If we are always in our "comfort zones" then we must rethink our stand in life. We must go back to examining ourselves if we are apart or a part of this world!

The apostle Paul reminds us to live our lives that would be a spiritual worship to God our Father. It is but a responsibility and an accountability on our part as "Christians" to be set apart!

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind..." (Romans 12:1-2) NIV

We must not deceive ourselves by just saying we are followers of Jesus. Those around us must be able to recognize that. We must not just blend with the rest of it. We stand out for Jesus! Let me share a verse in Ecclesiastes that led me to writing this post:

"Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head."
(Ecclesiastes 9:8) ESV

We, as Jesus' disciples, will definitely stand out with garments of white amidst a dark worldly backdrop! We ought to make sure our garments are ALWAYS white. This symbolizes RIGHTEOUSNESS, pure & unblemished! How can we ever be sure to ALWAYS have a white garment when our sinful nature struggles within us? The answer is easy, for if we have Jesus in our lives, we are more than conquerors! We will overcome! (Read Revelations 3:1-5)  

The author of Ecclesiastes says that we must be sure that we do not lack oil in our heads! Oil have always been used to anoint someone. By definition in christianity, anointing means to apply oil to as a sign of consecration or sanctification. And in case you do not know the meaning of being consecrated, it simply means  to declare or set apart as sacred. In the Old Testament we read that this anointing of oil is usually just related to the lineage of priests allowing them to approach the holy presence of God. Are we to claim this anointing of oil on our heads then? Listen, as disciples of our Lord Jesus we in the New Testament have this promise and guarantee:

"Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come." (2 Corinthians 1:21-22)

"But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth."
(1 John 2:20)

Friends, we ought to remember 2 Timothy 1:7, that we have not been given a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power! When we proclaim to the rest of this world that we are for Jesus, then we must be bold enough to be A PART of this community of "genuine" believers and make clear to all that we are APART from the world.


Thursday, October 15, 2009


When I arrived in Pearland, TX on August 21 for a time of refreshing I prayed to God to lead me to a church that will help me do just that. He brought me to First Baptist Church in Pearland and has been ministering to me since the first Sunday I attended fellowship. But little did I know that God had already laid out a beautiful schedule of "refreshing" for me on October 11-14. 

I have always acknowledged God's hand as He made ways for me and Ryan to relocate to the Houston area. I've prayed believing that God will allow us to start anew in this place. All this time I thought that God will help us start anew with our family life and our chasing after our dreams. But it wasn't until we sat in church listening to the Life Action Team minister to us that God made it so clear that it was our spiritual life that he wanted to renew!

In one of my quiet times before I even learned about the conference, God led my soul to Psalm 42 as it was exactly where I found myself in. I felt so parched and so thirsty for God's presence that every single waking moment I really felt what psalm 42 had described. Just as the deer pants for streams of water, my soul was also panting and longing and thirsting for the living God. It was exactly where I was, like when the psalmist in verse 4 mentioned that he remembers how he used to go with the multitude with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng. I was missing that so much, just praising in fellowship with joy and thanksgiving in my heart. Not that I wasn't attending church, for I was diligently in church on Sundays but my heart was just consumed with other stuff. I wasn't experiencing full joy and thanksgiving in my heart! My soul was so downcast.

Our situation wasn't easy even when Ryan arrived from the Philippines. The kids are still there, we both were jobless at the time and only had $50 left to use until God knows when, we didn't have our own car to use since it was still left in California, we were staying with my uncle's family and can't chip in some money to help out with bills, our financial debt was huge, the car payment was 3 months late already, and so much more. Our circumstances left us even more desperate and empty and uncertain. We felt like the storm will never end. Our souls felt oppressed by the enemy. We were agonizing through our daily struggle to start anew in this place. Everything seemed too difficult and unsettled... until God called for us to be still.

Two weeks before the Thirst Conference started, God has already given us a miracle. I started with my new job and was able to put in hours enough to receive a paycheck. We were able to tithe again! (Praise the Lord!) God made possible the shipment of our car from CA to TX. He even went beyond what we've expected as He made it possible for us to have enough money to get a new set of tires and to get a needed oil change for less than what it should be (God led us to stores that offered huge discounts). On top of that, we were able to chip in a little money to help my uncle out with the bills and we were able to put down a deposit for the apartment we were going to move in to. God works in marvelous ways! Even more wonderful is how He takes care of His children, even the wayward, rebellious and most especially the THIRSTY ones.

The conference was scheduled on October 11-14, 2009 in First Baptist Church in Pearland, TX. This was the first ever Life Action Team conference I've ever attended and it was something God has really prepared for me. As much as I thirst for God's presence and moving in my life again, that is how much He's met with me during the conference and even more! 

God has made me realize how much I needed to REMEMBER that He created me for HIS purpose and HIS glory, not mine. God opened up my eyes so that I remembered that my life's dreams here on earth - for myself and my family, are worthless. Our dreams have taken us so far away from our first love - GOD. It was shameful to stand before God with all our plans for this and that when all of it will be worthless in the end! I found myself hoarding treasures on earth and realizing that my heart has followed after the wrong treasures.

But God is a loving Father who always makes a way for us to be reconciled with Him. God has allowed me to REPENT for being unfaithful to Him. He has given me the chance to realize that I needed repentance for all the sins I've committed while I was going my own way. I had to repent for my selfishness, for my lack of love, for my pride most of all. 

Malachi 3:7 was one verse I hold dear now that I've attended the conference. 

"Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you," says the Lord Almighty.

God has truly convicted my heart of how I haven't kept His decrees. But His invitation to RETURN to Him is the sweetest call of grace and mercy. I have never really realized until now that I have forgotten how loved I am by God. His ways are truly higher. And He has equipped His children with the kind of grace that brings His power into our lives! The saving grace He's given is also a sustaining grace that will allow us to not only RETURN to Him but also REMAIN in Him until He comes again. 

This life we live is but a vapor and everything is futile. Our question should not be "What is God's will in MY LIFE?" but instead "What is God's will?" period. It's never about us... it's all about HIM. 

I honestly thought that this Thirst Conference will leave me feeling quenched, but it left me feeling otherwise. It has instead left me THIRSTY with a different kind of thirst. Come to think of it, I'm left much more thirsty than I first was on the first day of the conference. This time, though, it has left me THIRSTY for MY GOD.  The conference was not there to help me quench some thirst I have in my soul, but instead it stirred a deeper form of thirst that longs for higher things and holier things. The kind of thirst that will keep me running over and over and over again after my living Almighty Father's glory. 

The conference has truly changed me. God has truly changed my perspective. I continue to pray and be confident in the grace He has supplied for me. I will continue to live for the desires He has given in my heart during this conference. A deeper desire to serve and not be served; to love and not be loved; to glorify God instead of seeking to be glorified by men; to focus on heavenly treasures that moth and rust could never destroy; to truly offer my life as a living sacrifice; to make giving of myself a personal matter where I will be willing to be made materially poor in order that I and others might be made spiritually rich!

"According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 1:3-8) KJV

"Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen." (Jude 1:24-25) KJV

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Lamps for Life's Journey

We are all very familiar with Psalm 119:105 which says "Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path." It has always been one of our favorite verses and one of the top memorized verses of all time. I personally believe that this is also one of the most taken-for-granted verses that we have in life. I know I've kept this verse memorized for years even before I professed my faith in Jesus Christ, but it wasn't until I read over Proverbs 21 that I became convicted of how often I've taken Psalm 119 for granted and that I needed to get my wires straight in my heart! There is a need for us to be sure of what lamp we use to light our path.

When I read through Proverbs 21, the 4th verse caught my attention as it also mentioned of a lamp that may be used in life. Listen to what it says. "Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin." It is interesting to know that there is another kind of lamp that we tend to use in this life to light our paths and that is the "lamp of the wicked" as the bible calls it.

I had to search up the word "haughty" online to delve deeper into what it means because I just had to make sure my heart is aware of this kind of lamp so that I will NOT be using it at all in lighting up my way. Google comes up with a lot of links to the definition of haughty but for this blog's sake, I'm going to use the one from the Online Free Dictionary. Haughty is defined as having or showing arrogant superiority to and disdain of those one views as unworthy. I guess this is why the bible mentioned  having "Haughty EYES" because it has something to do with our view of others. This is the lamp that may be used by those God considered wicked. In fact, He made sure we know they are SIN. (And if you read it closely you can find that haughty eyes and a Proud Heart goes hand in hand for they're only considered singularly as a lamp and not two separate lamps.)
Most of the time we tend to lean into using this lamp in our life. We tend to consider ourselves superior than others -- knowing all things and being right always. We sometimes reach a point in life where we think of ourselves so highly that we no longer view other people as worthy of our consideration, our time, our understanding. Most often we feel that our opinions and thoughts and feelings are ALL that matters and anybody else's is not worth the time listening to. We have gotten ourselves so involved in a world that views SELF so highly that we no longer believe in "laying down one's life for someone else." We are so consumed by the pride of self that even if we profess to be followers of Christ, our actions speak louder than our words. We most oftentimes forget that God has given us a clear instruction as to what kind of lamp to use to light and guide our way, and that is His WORD. And his Word speaks of Love, of Patience, of Perseverance, of Self-Denial, of Kindness, of Submission to one another and most especially to God.

We ought to really check our lamps from time to time to make sure that we're holding the correct light to our path. Is it God's Word that you're holding up with your hand right now? Or do you feel that your path is so clear because you are, all this time, holding up the lamp of the wicked? We should be careful to make sure we are not holding the lamp of Haughty Eyes and a Proud Heart!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

My Wish for Radical Parenting

If there is one thing my heart grows heavy of each and every single day, it is being away from our children. Each waking moment in the morning stabs a conviction in my heart that I have sinned by not having them with us. It was a decision we made when we focused on what we can achieve in this life. We had to sacrifice time with the children just so we can work and earn enough money for the many dreams we have for the family. All this led to having to decide to leave the kids with my parents in the Philippines while me and my hubby work for some time here in the states. As parents we thought that if we could both have decent jobs and earn a good income, we could easily take care of all our family's financial problems. And since the kids become an obstacle to getting to our goal in a short time, we decided to sacrifice them for now and leave them to be cared for by others. Not that I don't have the gratitude towards my parents who lovingly opened up their home to accommodate the kids, but I was just crushed with the conviction that it is MY duty to take care of them.

In Deuteronomy chapters 6 & 11, parents have clearly been commanded to TEACH & IMPRESS the commandments God has given us. We parents are to talk about them when we sit at home and when we walk along the road, when we lie down and when we get up. All these are clear commands to teach our children in the way they should go. It is our responsibility (and accountability to God) as parents to lead our children in the teachings and ways of the Lord. The bible tells us to TRAIN them in the way they should go so that when they are old they shall not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).

How then can such be the case when children are separated from their parents because of work and careers? A lot of people may consider me radical, but this is my view of parenting. Every day I'm away from my children I sin against God for not teaching them and impressing them and training them in Godly ways. 

I guess the world's offer of security is so great of an enticement to us that if we do not become careful of our walk, we will succumb eventually to its power. I hope and pray that one day my family will come to the point where our only security is God, so I do hope and pray that families will one day heed this commandment for parents to be there for their children to teach them and train them.I pray for parents to one day realize that the only thing that matters in the end is the investment we put in for somebody else's life, most especially for our children's lives!   God have mercy on parents like me who sacrificed time and the children themselves in order to run after security in this world. May God open up the eyes of our hearts so that we may see that HE alone is the source of our everything.

The world and everything in it has led men and women into thinking that it is a MUST to have both parents work and to prioritize security above all else. We have allowed ourselves to be drowned by the ideals of feminism of empowering women to become successful in their careers because stay-at-home moms just aren't the right thing anymore. I guess that is why we also see the greatest decline in our society these days because most of us have failed to train up our children in ways that they should go.

If there's one career I would want to see myself succeed in, it would be as a Christian mom to our children. This is all I wish for... my own radical parenting.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Times When God Leaves Us

I have just been dealing with a week from hell. All the circumstances that surrounded us was just something too big for us to handle, eventually leaving me feeling so exhausted and weary. My husband and I were hoping and praying to start over in Houston, TX. All this time we have been accumulating problems and debts as we travelled from one place to another the entire 3 years we were in the states. Having passed his NCLEX-RN, we thought that everything would be a lot easier now that there will be two of us working. We were at least looking forward to paying all our debts and settling down in a place where we can raise up our kids.

I have always believed that God shapes our circumstances and that His sovereignty never fails in ALL the situations we face in this life. Our faith, though, comes face to face with fire to test the very heart of us. This is exactly what happened in my first couple of months in Houston. Having relocated to TX without our car was one tough situation to be in. It was never easy getting started with a job without having your own transportation. I was so blessed to have an uncle who was willing enough to lend his car (after allowing me to stay with them) for me to use to work for now. But it wasn't easy to have to work at a clinic that's about 25 miles away from where we are. It takes 50 miles back and forth for me to get to and from work. On top of that, we also needed to use my uncle's car for Ryan's drug screening and interviews and all. It was too much travel for my uncle's car to go through and I really understood his concern when he saw we've put in about 700 miles already in just a few weeks. My uncle's car is an oldie and it's his only reliable transportation to work. He has been saving mileage to make sure it would last until the time he can really afford to get a new one.

All this time we were trying to find ways to get a transportation of our own, but every single way we take leaves us hanging and empty in the end. There was no way we could get even a second-hand car because of our credit scores, nor can we rent one. (We've been trying to stretch our last $50 before I get my first salary this coming friday!) The pressure of not being able to work because of not having a reliable transportation left us feeling so helpless. Not to mention the kids are so far away from us and our baby girl was sick (again) and that their nanny's going to leave for good and --- !!!! We're standing between a rock and a hard place!

It wasn't until I heard the sermon last Sunday that God had made the reasons clear as to why He's allowed us to experience all this. Pastor Sonny of First Baptist Church in Pearland, TX talked about Isaiah 40:3-5. It wasn't until he said that all these shall come to pass before the glory of God be manifested in our lives that every dust settled. I knew all along that God was in control, but my faith was stale and waning away that I doubted and panicked if He was really going to see us through. I knew He was bigger than our circumstances but my heart was filled with a lot of worries that His sovereignty was no longer my only priority.

The sermon last Sunday talked about leveling our lives... Preparing a highway for the Lord. Making low all the mountains and high places, straightening crooked ways and smoothing rough edges. I have all that. I was surrounded by mountains of bitterness and anger and frustrations and pride. I had so many crooked paths in my life that I still tend to use a a detour when problems arise. My very heart was still so rough around the edges that God needs to smoothen it out before his glory (and grace) be seen in my life!

The passage I read this morning from John MacArthur's Truth for Today was hitting the nail on the head. 2 Chronicles 32:31 was the time when the bible tells us that God LEFT King Hezekiah alone to deal with some Babylonian rulers. After all his success in every aspect in life, this time God decided to leave him alone in order to TEST HIS HEART. I believe this is what God has been doing all this time to me. Testing my heart. Not that He doesn't know what's in it, because he is omniscient, He knows the very core of me already. But He does all this to let ME see the very heart of me. Unless I will let myself be pruned and molded and unless I will humbly look into my very own heart and acknowledge what's in there, God can never do any revival in it, nor can I ever see his glory manifest in me.

It wasn't until I heard Him through all His words that it made sense why we had to go through all the trials and tests. God is sovereign and He is the one who gives and takes away. His name is to be blessed ALWAYS! Not just in happy, full days but in trying and empty days as well. God is still sovereign. He has been all this time. And I praise Him for times when He leaves us to test us... I love it when He works mysteriously in our lives to WEAN US FROM THE WORLD. He always redirects our focus to Him, making sure we wean ourselves off of wrong priorities. Blessed be the name of the LORD!!!


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