If God is For You

READ: Zephaniah 3:14-20

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My first formal book launch on Friday afternoon (December 2nd) in a technological college made me a bit anxious. The librarian who coordinated the event with us reminded that the school could only provide the venue and that the program should run for an hour and extend for another 30 minutes for a question and answer portion and book-signing.

With all the preparations and details to be finalized, my heart pounded and my mind started entertaining these thoughts: “What if no one will show up? What if only five or ten students will make it to attend the launching program?”

All I could do was ask, “Wait Lord, did I make a mistake here?” I knew it that God normally answers through His Word when our minds are flooded with questions or doubts. So I grabbed my devotional guide and Bible. The passage for that day goes: “He will rejoice over you. You will rest in his love; he will sing and be joyful about you” (Zephaniah 3:17). The verse simply came to life and silenced all anxieties. It assured me that while the number of my audience may not reach 100, I have One who is more than enough. My Facebook page fans (or likes) may not increase dramatically, but I can take joy from the Greatest Cheer Leader one could ever have. He is worth more than a million fans. His commendation is priceless!

Turn to the sidelines; that’s God cheering your run. Look past the finish line; that’s God applauding your steps. Listen for him in the bleachers, shouting your name. Too tired to continue? He’ll carry you. Too discouraged to fight? He’s picking you up. God is for you. –Max Lucado

Lesson from Pacquiao and Marquez

READ: Psalm 147

Watching the Pacquiao versus Marquez third match yesterday made me a little anxious of Pacman being outsmarted. Just like almost everybody else watching from television, I thought Marquez was so good that he was landing real solid punches. Thanks to my hubby who knows better than I do when it comes to boxing. He was also more focused as we were watching, so he explained that our champion actually outpunched the Mexican challenger (as proven by the CompuBox stats).

marquezBut wait, there was Marquez raising his clenched fists at the end of the 12th round! Surprised smile  He simply looked like he was declaring his victory! How could he presume he just won without hearing the final decision of the judges? Isn’t it a boxing protocol to do your best on the ring and leave the results to the assigned pundits? Confused smile

On the opposite end of the ring was the humble Manny Pacquiao, probably nervous of the soon to be announced verdict. Aware of his limitations and mannypraysknowing that he had to wait for the announcement, he resorted to his habit of going to his corner to bow down and pray after each fight.

Some critics and viewers may justify that Juan Manuel displayed rightful confidence. In the spiritual realm, however, I saw two opposing spirits: Pride versus Humility. Pride exudes haughtiness, not being able to submit to authorities or accept defeat. Humility does have uncertainties . . . although trusting in the greater power of his Creator.

In the end Humility wins. He and his supporters do not even have to celebrate or defend themselves. . . . Pride and his camp continue ranting. With this, they go on to prove who the real losers are. . . . I hope you’re not one of them.

For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” –Matthew 23:12

Get Rid of those Remnants

READ: Isaiah 43:18-19

Every intimate and serious involvement with another person creates soul ties that cannot be easily broken by time, distance or mere physical separation. My previous post entitled “Moving On” brought up this issue on soul ties. But just what are soul ties and how are they formed?

Stephen Gola, in his site Divorce Hope, describes that soul ties are like connections or bridges in relationships; they are formed many different ways as by willing or forced sexual relations, by speaking words of commitment or vows like “I will always love you,” “I will never forget,” and by accepting things that may be symbols of a covenant, commitment or a love relationship.Bonfire

Speaking confessions and prayers from the heart are not the only essential steps in breaking soul ties. The same site above stresses the need to get rid of the things that remind you of the person and the broken relationship. While I had already returned (fourteen years ago) the engagement ring from my ex-fiancé only a week after our breakup, I must admit that several months back when I wrote my previous post, I still had a few small things kept somewhere.

So I resolved to take off a few leaves (with written notes related to my ex) from an old notebook…. I also pulled out a leftover picture from an old photo album…. What else? Some more post cards…. They all deserved to vanish, so I threw them into the fireplace. They are “to remain a ruin forever, never to be rebuilt” (Deut. 13:16). The emotions they tried to rekindle have been ushered to death, never to resurrect or bother once again.

Moving on necessitates a symbolic and decisive act. Isn’t it a lot easier to move on without any visible baggage from the past?

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” — Isaiah 43:18, 19a


Moving On

READ: Philippians 3:12-16

Marrying your first boyfriend or girlfriend is quite romantic. Having an ex, though, or a number of them gives you experiences to learn from.

To think and say that “Past is past…” sounds appropriate. But believe me, sometimes it’s nothing more than a cliché—overused and abused—while it doesn’t really speak of the truth inside your heart. If you have an ex, chances are, you might have had a few recurring dreams about the unforgettable guy or lady from your past. You may have wondered how it would feel to see him or her again, now that you are happily married.

Guess what…. The real test whether you have moved on or not doesn’t actually lie on having a new partner or a spouse. An unplanned personal encounter will reveal the real score.

Six years ago, I happened to meet my Korean ex-boyfriend in Baguio City where my family and I were supposed to attend a three-month training school. He was not one of our fellow students, but unfortunately, he served as interpreter for a Korean couple who were our classmates. Somehow, I knew it that I would see him there, but I wasn’t expecting he would be a part of the school.

My husband was even teasing me as to how my reaction and feelings would be. We had gotten married a year after the breakup. My ex did three or four years later…. I was just curious how it would feel, since our relationship was ended only through a series of communication by phone calls and letters. As far as my knowledge, I had completely released forgiveness and let bygones be bygones despite the lack of a formal breakup.

The first time I saw him in eight years, I just couldn’t explain how awkward and uncomfortable it was. I must admit having mixed feelings…. Angry? Yes, for finally seeing the coward—the man who did not have the guts to break up with me in person. Ecstatic? Yes, sort of, because there was still a soft spot in my heart for him.

Thank God that my hubby has been blessed with security and understanding! He knew it that I struggled for days and weeks with my mixed emotions. There were also times when I would get to see the wife of my ex. With a bit of jealousy, I thought, “Good for them! They want to have a baby, but until now they are childless….” All the while I was so proud then of having a lovely four-year-old daughter.

Guilty of all my negative thoughts, I consulted a professional counselor who was also our speaker in the school during that week. I went on with my confession about my ex … that it was a relationship that was hoped to end up in marriage eight years ago…. The third party was no one but God … and that I couldn’t help but still be resentful … and yet at the same time it’s crazy that I would often catch myself secretly staring at him….

The counselor smiled and assured me that what I was going through was normal, considering the lack of a proper closure in my previous relationship. Also, it became clear to me that every intimate and serious involvement with the opposite sex creates soul ties that cannot be easily broken by time, distance or mere physical separation.

So we did cut off my soul ties with my ex verbally and spiritually in prayer. I wanted to settle things out with a formal heart to heart talk and tell him right on his face, “I’m releasing you…. I’m moving on with my life… I speak blessings to you and your wife….” I was told, however, that it was unnecessary. But even if I wasn’t able to do things as I wanted, I thank God that He has brought real healing in my heart through bumping into the man who caused my heartbreak.

I can only look back and smile at the past for all the precious lessons it has blessed me with. With no bitterness and regrets, I can say that I have moved on. Like the Apostle Paul I declare, the one thing I do…is to forget what is behind me and do my best to reach what is ahead (Phil. 3:13).

What Really Matters

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READ: Romans 9:14-18

 

Who do you think you are? A brilliant scientist? A multi-awarded teacher or researcher? A popular pastor and speaker? A successful businessman or a self-made entrepreneur?

As for me, I am nobody to the world. But the truth is—in the eyes of my Father–I’m not a nameless, insignificant person with an equally insignificant message.

Even as I’m trying to promote my first book as a newly published author, there are friends and acquaintances who are happy for me. I’m grateful to them for being there to cheer and share the joy of attaining the first step to a big dream. I feel honored that they wouldn’t mind spending a few minutes to take a look at my book page, click LIKE or even write some encouraging notes.

I also thank God for those friends and acquaintances who simply shrugged off their shoulders or even raised their brows…. That’s part of life. You can’t please everyone and you can’t expect one and all to share in your joy, or much more, support your endeavor.

While I am not hurt or offended by those who ignore my book campaign, I just couldn’t help but wonder what’s causing their indifference…. Maybe people change. They are too busy…. They have their own lives to live. I could be right or wrong with the answers I have in mind….

I am only sure of this: I am His daughter. My joy and success do not depend on the approval of men. What is most important in every pursuit I take is the endorsement and favor of my Father God, the King of All Kings. I can hear him say, “Your hard work is meaningless…. Everything is useless if I AM not with you, more so if I AM not for you.”

So then, everything depends, not on what we humans want or do, but only on God’s mercy. For the scripture says to the king of Egypt, “I made you king in order to use you to show my power and to spread my fame over the whole world.”

Romans 9:16-17 (GNB)

God of Restoration

READ: 1 Peter 5:6-11

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My daughter (when she was a toddler) and my three-year-old boy simply love books. How I wish they were bookworms. But the thing is they just enjoy turning the pages–until they get bored and start scrunching and tearing them to pieces.

Naturally, I would discipline my kids and explain to them that books are precious…. How many children’s books were destroyed? Well, I’m not exactly good in math.

Where I’ve been “expert,” though, is in the art of restoring the pages of each book. No matter how many pieces are there, I would take time to pick them up and put them together with a transparent adhesive tape. It gives me fulfillment that even though the books no longer look perfect, they are fixed and back in shape to serve their purpose again.

Amazingly, we have a GOD who does the same thing….There may have been times when mistakes, hurts, disappointments, worries, fear, anger, unforgiveness, or the enemy’s attacks have set in and messed up our lives….There we stand miserable, broken and rendered useless. Yet as we come to Him, becoming as humble and consenting as those lifeless bits of paper are, our God begins to pick up our mess and put the pieces back together.

Nothing is wasted in the hands of our creative God…. And His grace is a lot better than any kind of adhesive tape. Our pages may not look perfect yet  in our own eyes, but it pleases Him when we’re back in shape to serve His purposes in our lives.

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered  a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.”

–1 Peter 5: 10 (NIV)

All About Faith

READ: Hebrews 11: 1-40

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Our first overseas mission trip as a family gave us our much-needed big leap of faith. We heard about going to Taipei, to be on staff in the first Family Ministry School in Taiwan. Our visa and airfares were released. The pocket money and the ground fees necessary for our more than three months of stay, however, was not visible yet. While we believed that God would bless us, we never wanted to go empty-handed.

Can we survive, without a stable support base, in a developed city with its high cost of living? Hebrews 11:1 echoed a revelation, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Despite the lack of cash and financial support, we finally decided to go, knowing faith that doesn’t take risk is no faith at all.

A few hours before boarding the plane, something remarkable occurred in the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Departure Lounge while having our quiet time. The Bible passage was right on time for our situation. We left only with a few dollars in our wallet and we did not know how much money was in our bank account—we simply had no time to check through an ATM. It was walking on the waters, indeed! But we were at peace to go. No more last minute doubts or worries. We turned to our our devotional book and it read: “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him! The young lions lack and suffer hunger; But those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing (Psalm 34:8,10).”

We believe it couldn’t be a coincidence. We almost cried as we read the passage that reminded and assured us of God’s faithfulness. We also went through trying times. But from day 1 through our last day in Taiwan, God worked in ways we simply did not expect.

About three years later, my two kids and I were preparing to visit my husband Joel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Being a wife of an OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) this time, my eyes were opened to reality and the practicality of life. With the world economic crisis that might not get better, I was contemplating whether we should go or not: “Why not save the money, instead of spending the relatively big amount in a less-than-a-month visit? We knew it how to hear, believe God and take a step of faith, but maybe faith should only be for those who are in missions and full-time ministry.”

A little hesitant to pack and get ready for the trip, I wasn’t expecting that God’s preliminary confirmation for Taiwan would be the same go signal for Malaysia. Isaiah 55:5a once again prompted, Surely you will summon nations you know not and nations that do not know you will hasten to you.” With such a reassuring declaration that came as a personal encouragement, I had no more reasons nor excuse not to go….

Although I had set aside my new devotional guide while waiting at the Clark International Airport, I opened the small book when we were already in Malaysia. Guess what was the passage for our flight date—it was Psalm 34:8, 10—exactly the same Scripture that had enlightened me at NAIA, prior to leaving for Taiwan.

The next surprise came through an anointed worship service. The Chinese Malaysian pastor preached on Isaiah 55. Each verse seemed to have come to life as the pastor was reading the entire chapter. I couldn’t help but cry in awe with the realization that I did not make a mistake—it was not an accident that I was there, hearing the same Scripture which had pushed me to go. I was thankful, at the same time, to have chosen to live by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).

As “…faith comes from hearing the message (Romans 10:17a),” faith is for everyone who has ears to hear. No matter where we are, what we are doing and how much we earn—be it working with a marginalized income in a small factory or  with the high-paying corporate world, or serving in a non-salaried mission organization—each one of us is called to live by faith.

The world says, “To see is to believe.” While it’s too tempting or even natural to live by what we see, no other lifestyle is more rewarding and pleasing to God than living by faith.

You move and live by faith when you act based on what you hear from God, even if you do not see it yet with your own eyes.

All About Grace

Peter came up to the Lord and asked, “How many times should I forgive someone….?” Jesus answered: “Not just seven times, but 77 times.” – Matthew 18:21-22 (CEV)

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“Enough. I give up.” This was all I could think of, while I was on a bus on the way to my church’s Sunday worship service. My husband and I couldn’t settle some differences and I was really offended, upset and on the brink of quitting on my marriage.

Seven years were too much. I made up my mind and I was already thinking of an annulment. I didn’t have the money for it, but at least, I thought I might as well strive to make things legal. It was as though I had reached a certain level of emotional stability that I would no longer feel hurt no matter what happens.

As I started to consider some options on what I am going to do with my then five-year-old daughter, I still managed to pray and ask God to intervene in our situation.

It was time to get off from the bus. Alone by myself, I walked in to our worship service. The church bulletin was handed to me by one of the ushers. I couldn’t believe what I just read—that Sunday’s preaching topic was on “Holiness.” I quietly said to myself, “How appropriate for my husband…. He should have been here with me.”

After a series of songs by the worship team, our pastor came up the stage and welcomed everyone. He proceeded with his preaching, “…I was actually supposed to preach on ‘Holiness’ this morning, but the Lord impressed on me earlier to speak on ‘Grace’ instead…” He went on to articulate, “Grace is about forgiving…77 times…it is limitless…. It is about peace-making…. Grace is about not giving up….”

The message, which I thought should have been for my husband, turned out to be absolutely for me. It stabbed and softened my stubborn heart. Dumbfounded on my seat, I had no choice but to cry and repent of my legalism and self-righteousness.

I went home humbled and ready for peace, forgiveness and reconciliation. Well, the rest is history. Until now I couldn’t help but be amazed with how God’s has intervened in my marriage relationship. He has erased words such as I give upenough… and annulment from my vocabulary.

The lesson I learned: God is able to save and restore our marriage to the extent that we allow Him to be the center of our relationship. Above all, our God is a gracious God. We are able to receive and extend His grace only for as long as we let Him reign in our hearts.

Who dominates your heart and marriage relationship?

Where Do We Stand?

READ: Ephesians 4:20-32

Politics has invaded our Christian life. Some so called brothers and sisters in Christ do not get along well with one another because of personality differences. Brother A does not talk to Sister A due to a conflict that has not been resolved. Sister A leaves the church or the organization still with bitterness in her heart. She talks to Brother B and Sisters B and C about the problem with Brother A and his allies. Another coalition has emerged.

The cycle goes on and on. . . . Who is in charge? We have yet to meet the heroes, Brother C and Sister D, who actually know it all. They will tell you what has gone wrong. They can even pinpoint who has this and that failure and character flaw. They will pray and hear God for you. They can plan and run your life if you want them to.

Can we identify who we are in the midst of this cycle? As for me, at one point or two in my life, to a certain extent, maybe I became Sister A, B, C and D.

Sometimes it’s tempting not to speak to others and just be good in front of them and in the next moment, speak behind their back. It’s too easy to set aside a hurt or a conflict and pretend that everything is all right, much more to decide for those who are under us even if we are not supposed to lord it over them. After all, politics is all about falsehood and control.

Again it’s sad, but the dysfunctional cycle is unbroken and real. . . . A new cycle only begins to break in when we vote for grace and truth. That is, when we let Jesus become the center of our every relationship. He came to get rid of politics. Didn’t He?

“What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretense.
Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ’s body we’re all connected
to each other, after all…”

–Ephesian 4:25 (MSG)

He Knows Your Name

READ: Isaiah 43:1-10

Have you ever wondered why you are called by your name? Or maybe you were like me who would rather be called with another nickname or pet name. I never really liked my given name until my wedding preparation.

I still couldn’t believe it that I would be getting married— and that I would soon be a bride and a wife. So I said to the Lord, “Please encourage me and give me more confirmations…”

One time while working in the office, I just found myself browsing a Vine’s Dictionary. I was wondering if I could find my name there. I had actually been a little disturbed with the definition of my name. Greek Mythology defines Nympha as a seductive goddess of beauty. Hoping to find a better definition in the Vine’s, I turned the pages and read. To my surprise, Nympha, in its original Hebrew meaning, means “bride” or “young wife.”

Whew! Not only was I so glad with the redeemed meaning of my name. I also thanked God for confirming that it was His will for me to get married and be a bride and a young wife.

But now, thus says the LORD, who created you,

O Jacob, and He who formed you,

O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you;

I have called you by your name; you are Mine.”

— Isaiah 43:1 (NKJ)