Right Place at the Wrong Time

“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.” — 1Peter 5:6

How many of you have gone to the place of your dreams only to find out that the timing was not so favorable? It must have felt like having a glass full of ice-cold water poured on your warm head. Frustration and worries obviously tried to steal my joy when it happened to me about two years ago.

While I marveled at the favor of renewing my passport via the DFA courtesy lane and seeing it stamped with a multiple entry visa at the U.S. Embassy, my 2016 U.S. trip did not exactly come out as an opportune breakthrough. Yes, I made it to the land flowing with milk and honey! I enjoyed the clean air, the warmth of the American culture and the luxury of their Thanksgiving celebration. But the discomfort of the coming winter season was too much for my system to manage. And so, it dawned on me that maybe I was in the right place at the wrong season.

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The conference venue in Grand Prairie looks amazingly spacious, but the multicultural environment only reminds me of a YWAM conference.

It was not an issue to come back home to the Philippines in about a month had I met my expectation of being able to promote my book to thousands of audience. Unfortunately, the conference my former pastor (with two other church leaders) and I attended only had a few hundred participants. Our pastor was supposed to speak, but he did not even make it to share his testimony. So why even bother to insist on my book promotion?

I would have come back home financially blessed had I been brave enough to extend my stay and accept a job offer to serve as a home care worker in Michigan or simply assist my sister in Texas for a month or two. Honestly, though, I wasn’t that brave or self-sacrificing for an adventure that others wouldn’t mind stepping into for the sake of their families.

My elder sister was also too protective to release me to go to other places other than back home. Although she was generous enough to tour me around and fund my shopping spree, I just felt like I was stuck in their house. I wasn’t able to do what I thought would have compensated my unmet expectations.

Was it a consequence of some unwise decisions? Maybe pride had crept in from the start as I was looking to prove my worth. Maybe I had placed things in my hands and not under the mighty hand of God. Despite all these maybes, I found encouragement from the timely preaching of the senior pastor of New Beginnings in Bedford. It wasn’t an accident that we made it to that church. He said, “Just when you think God is not at work or it seems He is not moving, He’s really doing something.”

The pastor expounded on the second chapter of the book of Joel. Verses 21-25 specifically spoke to me:

“Do not be afraid, land of Judah; be glad and rejoice. Surely the Lord has done great things! Do not be afraid, you wild animals, for the pastures in the wilderness are becoming green. The trees are bearing their fruit; the fig tree and the vine yield their riches. Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given you the autumn rains because he is faithful. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before. The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil. I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten— the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm — my great army that I sent among you.”

Now as I reflect on what has gone wrong, the Lord has given me this assurance that in due time, and as I learn to humble myself under His mighty hand, I will be in the right place at the right time for the right reasons. The opportune moment is coming because our God is a God of second chances. He can intervene with His abounding grace to bring forth vindication and restoration!

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?

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)

Childlike Prayer

Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?
Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then,
though you are evil, know how to give good gifts
to your children, how much more will your Father
in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him?

Matthew 7:9-11 (NIV)

One of my greatest dreams was that of having my own laptop for my ministry and writing career. I would pray for this need occasionally– until I became more desperate and started praying daily at the wee hours of the morning. My prayers seemed selfish, but those were the most meaningful times I had with God. I was literally coming to Him like a little child asking for a special something from his daddy. It no longer bothered me whether the Lord would grant my request or not. All I knew was that my Father would not give me a stone or a snake when I asked for some technologies that would make me more productive in my job.

Thank God– He did work things out in just six months! I did not have the means financially. But God made a way that I finally got my laptop and digital camera. Two months later, I got blessed with a photo quality printer plus a bonus computer table and chair!

Not only did I get a breakthrough in my prayer life. I also discovered one remarkable attribute of our Father: He delights in our humility, when we come to him like little children, when we pray not just lengthy pretentious or indifferent prayers, but simple prayers coming from a heart full of expectation and faith.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.

For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds;
and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

– Matthew 7:7-8 (NIV)

Reality Test

READ: Matt 6:24-34 (NIV)

My husband and I have been serving as missionaries under a non-salaried mission organization. While we raise our own support, we’ve experienced both living in lack and abundance and yet have learned to live a carefree life, with Matthew 6 really sinking in our hearts.

My family of origin, though, couldn’t fully accept our God-given vocation. My sister would often worry about me and ask, “What about going back to real work?… So what about your plans?… Your children? Don’t you have plans for their future?”

What sensible and practical questions that we had never seriously thought of. When I tried to put on my sister’s world view glasses, I actually began to ask myself, “Are we being irresponsible for not even thinking about our children’s future?” We have a seven-year-old daughter and a baby boy who both have a lot of growing needs. “Can we afford to raise them or give them good education?”

Honestly, I was caught unprepared and even a bit upset to answer my sister’s inquiries. I didn’t want to sound spiritual. But at the back of my mind, I know and I am confident of the answer. The first requirement in our calling is to trust God. He’s the Boss! We’ve seen His faithfulness in other people’s lives and in our lives as well. We only have to count His blessings and be faithful to His call. No more question marks…

I was young and now I am old,
yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
or their children begging bread.
They are always generous and lend freely;
their children will be blessed.
— Psalm 37:25-26