A Survey of my Faith Journey

September 2000

I was in high school and wasn’t really the type who’d be interested with anything related to church.  I’m not a product of Sunday school; not even a bible reader.  I went to the local parish on my birthdays and attended mass when the school required me to do so.  There was nothing special, to be honest. I only approached God like an “ATM” or a “wishing well” during exams or when personal issues came up.  I quickly did the “sign of the cross” for three consecutive times before I started a basketball game or when about to take shots on the free-throw line, and… that was it.  In a nutshell, I remembered God when something’s needed or when I’m already at my wit’s end.  In my mind, I knew that God was good and loving, yet deep within me, I perceived Him as somebody distant and incapable of having an intimate relationship with a person like myself.

However, on one rainy September evening, my big brother started seriously talking to me about spiritual matters.  He was a regular attendee of GCF Ortigas then.  I respected my brother, so I just listened to what he had to say. After a few more minutes, he opened his huge blue bible and shared the Gospel to me.

During that time, I recognized this inexplicable void in my heart.  I just felt so empty.  Was it because I didn’t grow up with my father (who passed away when I was three)?  Did I just want to be sure that I’d go to heaven when I die? Was it because we were not financially stable (my mom was a homemaker with four young children)?  Was I just lonely?  I really don’t know what factors were playing in my mind and heart, but what was clear was that I’m a sinner in dire need of a Savior.  “I need You, Lord”, was all that my heart could say.

God perfectly knew that my good works would never satisfy His standards, so He reached towards me instead, by sending His only begotten Son – Jesus Christ.

That was day one, and my life was never the same again.

 

December 2007

Years flashed fast.  While I was in clinical training as a Speech Pathology intern, I was still actively involved with my growth group, in discipleship, and in the youth worship team.  I thought, “Well, I guess I’m doing just fine.”

On the eve of a coming year, I fervently contemplated about my faith journey and sought what God’s desire is for my life.  As I prayed and prayed, I found myself crying alone in our living room because that was the time I sensed His call for me to go into full-time pastoral ministry.

I sought my family’s counsel and likewise shared my heart to some people in the church, asking them to pray with me.  These people wisely advised that I take time to seriously pray about it, to “test the waters”, and to discern if I’m simply deciding out of impulse.  Besides, I was three to four months away from graduation! Even if it was a tough crossroad, I listened and obeyed.

I worked for the next four years as a Speech-Language Pathologist.  I worked as a consultant, attempted to start my own clinic, bought stuff I couldn’t afford before, frequently gave my disciples treats, et cetera!  Things were going generally well.

But the Lord, I believe, had a different agenda.

 

June 15, 2012

“Are you really doing what you should be doing?” a question I often struggled with. Since 2007, this has been God’s nudge during my December retreats.

Gradually, those gentle nudges turned into bouts with waiting and painful shaking.  I became restless, to the point of having sleepless nights.  God shook me to my core – breaking my pride and self-sufficiency.  As I cried to the Lord, He frequently led me to dwell in these three very powerful Scripture passages.

18 And Jesus came and said to them,  “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

6 …whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. (1 John 2:6)

2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men   who will be able to teach others also. (2 Timothy 2:2)

With the help, prayers, and counsel of godly family and friends, I came up with the decision to resign from my job effective May 15.  Exactly a month after that, the 15th of June 2012, what I’ve started to inquire of God four and a half years ago turned into a reality.  It’s time to pursue what He’s called me to do.

By the Lord’s grace, I am now serving as a pastor (in-training).  I acknowledge that this is a “god-sized” task, and I firmly believe that tasks like this can only be done by a ginormous God – our God revealed in both the Old and New Testaments.  All I have to do is to delight in Him, embrace His Word, and keep in step with Him.

——————–

How about you? What’s your story like?

I encourage you to chronicle how God moved in the past and how He works in the details of your life today. And, be simply amazed.

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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!

Wor[k]ship: A Personal Application

If you’re on track with my entries, last week I wrote something about living a lifestyle of worship in the workplace (check  https://musingovercoffee.wordpress.com/2012/02/28/workship/).  I find it interesting because I got to engage in a similar discussion with a disciple of mine just this past Saturday.  I find it absolutely cool.  But it’s likewise challenging because the Lord would usually (and immediately) put to test what He has been teaching you. Like a regular student, you undergo long exams so your teacher would know if you really got the lesson or not.  Today, though, it wasn’t just about theory but life application.

I was about to finish my day at work earlier this afternoon.  I went out of the therapy area and what caught my attention was not my last student, but his mother who was in tears.  In an instant, I had to bring them to a separate room.  I was unsure of what to do next, but all I was able to utter was this question:  “How can I help you?”  For a moment there, I was surprised I asked that.  It was never my intention to meddle with personal matters, but I recognized that it was a divine appointment.  I didn’t have the time to get back to my contract and check if this was part of my job description.  I wanted to be very cautious, but I felt God nudging me to minister to this hurting parent.  I listened, but the matter was too heavy that I could not give an answer.  I caught myself being silent for a couple of seconds.  I took a deep breath, and asked if I could pray for her.  And she agreed.  After we prayed together, she admitted that she had nobody else to open her problem to, since all she had during that moment was her 4-year-old child (my student). As I continued to listen, I was simply awestruck by God’s work.  This situation is certainly bigger than myself, so I’m thankful to the Lord for breaking through mightily at that particular moment.

I have to be honest, friends.  At the level of my own fleshly nature, I could have just ignored the matter.  I could have just walked away, and went straight to do my task. But seeing this through the lens of Jesus, I had to step out in faith.  I desired to please my heavenly Master and do the task that He’s placed in my heart to do – to serve and love His people even when it’s inconvenient.

By God’s grace, I could say that I love where I am now not because it’s easy, but because I get to meet people who have a sense of brokenness within them. I love where the Lord has planted me, because He’s blessed me with such an opportunity to bring the church outside of its four walls.

Two weeks ago, I remember myself preaching to our youth group that the church in its in original Greek text would refer to the people (“assembly”, “congregation”) and not the structure.  The church is a living organism, capable of movement, where Jesus is at its very core.  (Oh, what a way to put this truth in application!)

As I recall what transpired today, I could only stand in awe of God.  I’m so thankful that it was Him who moved and that He enabled me to flee from the temptation of being apathetic.  I’m thankful for the parent who opened her heart to me, even if we hardly knew each other.  I’m grateful for each detail — for the Lord was in it, above it, behind it, through it.  All these things were definitely for His glory and for our good.

Wor[k]ship

This video’s such a strong rebuke and reminder for me, particularly during this season of my life.  May the Lord bless the people who created this!

On the other hand, as I meditated on the message that it was trying to convey, I was reminded of Paul’s call to the church at Colosse:

“Slaves, obey in everything those who are earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.  Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.   You are serving the Lord Christ.  For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.

Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.”

— Colossians 3:22-4:1 (ESV)

I pray we’d all learn to move away from the dichotomy of work and worship.  Let’s remember that our work is our ministry.  Our place of work is our mission field.  We have been planted there for a purpose!

And by the Lord’s grace, may we all stand as salt and light wherever we may be!

A Father’s Love.

Other than being a minister largely to the student and young professional populations, I work as a Speech Pathologist on a part-time basis.  In this season, I work primarily with children and adolescents with disabilities.  I guess this is a facet of my life I hardly talk about in my blogs.

Here’s a confession.

I remember myself wanting to quit three months before graduation.  I wanted to enter seminary to be a pastor.  I could vividly recall crying out before the Lord on New Year’s eve, inquiring of Him since  I practically don’t know what to do anymore!

After comtemplating and seeking sound counsel from people whom I’m close with (i.e. family, accountability group), I decided to finish my studies.  I started working in this kind of profession in less than two months after college graduation.

I had my share of ups and downs as a newbie clinician, I must say.  Until today, I’d grope at saying that I’m really good at what I do.  I have caused joy on some days; disappointments on most days.  I still got a long way to go.

Nevertheless, I admit that doing what I do now transformed me in many (and I mean many) ways.  Some may think or say that, since I’m the “service-provider”, it’s generally a one-way “transaction”.  We get paid for the job, and that’s it.  But that’s not how it works!  We learn so much from these people, just as we try to help them in their process of learning to be independent.  (If you are one of my colleagues, I’m sure you’d agree!)

So tonight, I’d like to share a video about a father’s love for his daughter, who’s been diagnosed with autism.  It likewise represents one of the many reasons why I press on in this vocation.

I may not have a “Pastor” attached to my name.  But I believe I’m doing the work of a pastor not within the walls of the church, but in the company of hurting families who have a member (or members) with disabilities.

The Lord knows my desire to do more for them.  But my capacity’s limited.  Therefore, I decide day-by-day to serve these kids — giving my all for a few which I personally wish I could do for everyone.

I enjoin you to begin doing something for our differently abled brothers and sisters. It can be as simple as not laughing at them, and just showing them some concern. Help them instead. Love and accept them, regardless. I implore you to start acting on it… today.

May the Lord bless your heart!