Day 1: Refuge and Fortress

June 15, 2012.  Friday.

At 7:30 A.M, I left the house going towards a place, which I know would be the start of the journey I’ve began praying for since December of 2007.

It was quite a “wrestling match” with the Lord.  No audience involved. No referee.  Just me and Him.  It was never easy coming up with the decision to work not in a clinic, a hospital, or do “home health”.  This time, by God’s grace and mercy, the Lord called me to serve Him full-time in a local church as part of their pastoral staff.

Anxiety, anticipation, fear and joy – a strange concoction of such feelings crept in as I stationed myself inside my cubicle.  I honestly don’t know where to start.  Even if I’ve been in the ministry (as a volunteer) for more than eleven years now, everything just seemed different.  Everything’s new.  I was only left with one thing to do. I grabbed my bible while whispering a prayer to God, uttering words like these:

“Father, please speak to me.  Affirm me today.  I’m scared, but I know You have called me by name. I really need You.”

The passage assigned for me to meditate on that day was Psalm 91, which I want to share with you here. It’s a little long, but I enjoin you to read along and contemplate on the words of the psalmist.

My Refuge and My Fortress

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High

will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress,

my God, in whom I trust.”

For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler

and from the deadly pestilence.

He will cover you with his pinions,

and under his wings you will find refuge;

his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.

You will not fear the terror of the night,

nor the arrow that flies by day,

nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,

nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

A thousand may fall at your side,

ten thousand at your right hand,

but it will not come near you.

You will only look with your eyes

and see the recompense of the wicked.

Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place—

the Most High, who is my refuge—

no evil shall be allowed to befall you,

no plague come near your tent.

For he will command his angels concerning you

to guard you in all your ways.

On their hands they will bear you up,

lest you strike your foot against a stone.

You will tread on the lion and the adder;

the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.

“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;

I will protect him, because he knows my name.

When he calls to me, I will answer him;

I will be with him in trouble;

I will rescue him and honor him.

With long life I will satisfy him

and show him my salvation.”

Today’s the 17th and I can already feel both the fulfillment and the tension in this phase of transition.  It’s difficult.

But no amount of fear nor difficulty could surpass the peace that the Lord gives – especially when you know that it is God who calls us.  Furthermore, we can remain confident that He shall provide us with whatever we will need to accomplish His agenda.  It may be hard to believe, but it’s true.  (Oh, what a great God we serve, right?)

My prayer for you today is that your heart would burn as you open God’s Word, just like the people at the road to Emmaus.  May God meet with you wherever you are and in whatever situation that you may be.

I pray that you would be refreshed with the truth that He alone is our refuge and our fortress, which we can always trust!

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It’s Never Really About Me.

Before anything, I just want to thank the Lord for the long weekend!  It’s just refreshing to have been able to rest, relax, and reflect longer than the usual.  It’s such a blessing!

Okay, I think I need to get started before I get carried away. Haha!  So, let’s begin.

About two or three days ago, I started to read and meditate on the first letter of Paul to the Corinthian church with a focus on chapters 12-14.  Surprisingly, it was what our lead pastor (P. Lito Villoria) largely covered on when he preached his sermon last Sunday!  I perceived that as God’s affirmation of what He has been teaching me recently.  The said passages in 1 Corinthians mainly talk about spiritual gifts, by the way.  And I must say “divine appointments”, such as that, are pretty mind-boggling and overwhelming!

I remember writing, a couple of weeks back, about people who embrace the “I’m-just-not-good-enough” attitude (refer to “WANTED: Ordinary people”).  And today, I sensed the prompting to conversely write on the “I’m-more-than-enough” mentality.  I’d like to tell you more about it, if you may.

Here’s a personal account.  Many times in the past, some situations lead me into thinking that I could be an “all-around guy” after all.  I can sing.  I can teach.  I can preach.  I can write.  I think I’m good at giving sound advice.  If I’m passionate about something, I work hard to excel in it.  I can dance too (sadly)!  Kidding aside, these thoughts somehow led me to deceive myself instead.  Gradually, I clung to prideful thoughts.  Other than that, I’ve begun to subconsciously take care of pride like a “pet sin”.  I was just denying it, I guess.  It took time, guts, and much faith before I was able to honestly unearth and openly confess the matter before the Lord.

I was longing for people’s regard and affirmation.  I liked the attention.  These largely caused the problem, I observed.  In short, I want my share of glory.  When I kept on denying that pride was not an issue for me, I had the following troubles related to it.  Here are most of them:

  1. Difficulty asking help from people.
  2. Keeping personal struggles to myself. It’s hard for me to share personal details, especially negative ones.
  3. Being easily frustrated when I don’t receive any credit.
  4. Trying to be somebody that I certainly am not.
  5. Unnecessary stress caused by the longing for people’s affirmation.

Some of which are highly interconnected if you noticed, but can you identify with at least one or two things I mentioned above?

At this point, I have to make it clear that some of them are not inherently wrong (i.e. being affirmed by people in what you do), okay?  However, 1 Corinthians 12-13 were one of the key eye-openers for me.  Even though this passage in Scripture does not directly deal with pride, it provides us a wider, deeper perspective why anyone can’t be called a “super-Christian” nor any individual be called a “complete package”.  Why?  Answer’s simple.  Each of us were designed and gifted differently.

It may sound cliché for a moment there, but a perspective that seems commonplace may be frequently neglected, right?  Hence, let’s dissect the idea a bit further.

Each individual has been designed differently. 

God has given every human being unique gifts. 

However, there’s a limitation there.  No one can possess everything.

So, what does this have to do with the problem of pride?

Scriptures say that spiritual gifts were for the building up of the body of Christ, the church.  Note that we serve as different parts of a single body.

Therefore, if one would just decide to accept the fact that he/she can’t have nor do everything on his/her own, pride should be set aside.  Pride is unnecessary.  What’s more thrilling to grasp is that if one would yield to the paradigm that all of us are merely helping each other, contributing to something larger than ourselves, then pride should be pushed out of the way.  Again, pride won’t be of any help at all.

This “I’m-more-than-enough” (or you could say, “I’m-overqualified”) life view limits our vision, primarily because all we see is but ourselves. In this manner, we simply feed our E-G-O.  However, only if we would just recognize and view each of us, as pieces of a ginormous mosaic – a God-sized canvas – that surpasses all comprehension, then the spotlight veers away from the poor puny egocentric “me”… towards the glory of the Maker and Giver of our gifts.

Is it bad to be recognized? Not at all!  Be thankful!

Yet we just need to be sold out to the fact that it’s really never about us. It’ll never will.  For from everlasting to everlasting, it was always about Him.