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.

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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.

Daniel = Uncompromising

About four days ago, I was given the privilege to preach at our youth worship service in Greenhills Christian Fellowship South Metro. As you read this, you’d perceive this entry as more of a “post-preaching” reflection of Daniel 6:1-23. If you have a bible near you, I seriously encourage you to open it to the said passages.

Don’t worry, I won’t preach here like what I did last Sunday. All I want to focus on is a particular segment of the said text, because it’s been running in my head for the past couple of days. I sensed God’s leading to write something about it.  In verse 10b of Daniel 6, it says:

He (Daniel) got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.”

The context? Simply put, all the officials (except Darius) were against Daniel. In fact, an immediate injunction was signed and was announced that anyone who prays to any god or man other the king would be thrown to the den of lions! This order was effective for thirty days.  Hence, Daniel was limited to choose between two options.

A.  Live, by compromising. Besides, it will only take a month, right?

B.  Die, because of standing firm for the God he loves.

What did he choose? Despite the impending danger, he still chose letter B. Moreover, he was on his knees and prayed three times a day! Here, the modifier “previously”, in its original Hebrew text, means “from antiquity”. Meaning, it’s been a life-long habit! It’s his passion, and nothing changed despite the circumstances!

Daniel remained faithful to his daily discipline of praying to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  And what puzzles me further was his attitude of thankfulness even if things were not going in his favor.

I wonder, was there really something to be thankful for? Hmm… I’m not so sure. Why?

A.  All one hundred and twenty satraps (or governors) and two fellow presidents were after Daniel’s fall.

B.  He’s bound to be fed to the starving lions.

In short, he’s dead.

Yet God delivered Daniel in the most amazing way.

Oh, indeed, “…the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.” (2 Ch. 16:9a)

My prayer today is that we’d all have a “Daniel-like” discipline, a “Daniel-like” faith, and a “Daniel-like” attitude of thankfulness.

May we desire for a disciplined lifestyle of prayer fueled by faith. May we have that rock-solid faith produced out of knowing, believing in, and embracing the God revealed in Scriptures. And may we put on a kind of attitude that exclaims “thank You, Lord” even if we’re at wit’s end and things don’t go the way we want them to happen.

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*For your reference, here’s the link to the Scripture text I was referring to. I hope this helps, guys.


Consumer vs. Follower

About two weeks ago, I was listening to one of North Point Community Church’s sermon podcasts while going to work.  Andy Stanley (NPCC’s senior pastor) gave a very timely message/sermon on being a follower of Jesus. If you’ve read my blog posts in the past, you’d probably observe by now that discipleship is really, really close to my heart.

Anyway, going back to the said podcast’s point, what’s even interesting to note there was how Andy highlighted the fact that a lot of those who claim to believe in Jesus may sadly fall more into the category of being consumers rather than followers.

So, here’s a question for you. What is a consumer?  The lexical definition of the term is a “person who purchases goods and services for personal use.” To put it in a church/religious context, you may say that more and more people want to be associated with Jesus because of the “benefits” that come along with having a relationship with Him.

“Could that even be possible?” You might wonder.  “Isn’t that too harsh?”

Well, I believe that is possible, because I used to think that way too. I could take myself as an example. I guess my life would be the best evidence that I could give as of the moment.  Here are just some things I used to embrace:

  1. I prayed to God because I need to pass an exam or rush a requirement.
  2. I used to go to church only on my birthdays to lay down a “wish list” for the coming year.
  3. I told God that I’d follow Him as long as He’s in agreement with my plans and ambitions.
  4. I pledged to serve Him.  But to go on a mission trip or share the Gospel to a stranger? Hmm… Maybe next time – when I’m ready.
  5. I asked Jesus to come into my life to give me inward peace and to save me from going to hell.

Peace. Good results. Healthy family. Financial provisions. Smooth “love life”. Heaven.

Let’s think about the abovementioned items first.

Are they inherently bad? OF COURSE NOT.

Are they legitimate desires? YES.

Should they be at the top of our priority list? NO. (Pardon me for being straightforward.)

At this point, let’s check Luke 14: 25-27 (ESV).

Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”

A while ago, we described what a consumer is. Now, we’re going to clarify what a follower is.

To follow Jesus means you have to seriously put Him on top of all things.  Based from the passage, it doesn’t outright mean that you have to hate those you hold dear.  It simply means we ought to love Him – follow Him – to the point that all else will just fall second.

Yes, the gift of salvation is free.  But it only begins there, because the cost of being a God-follower (a disciple) is extremely high.  Here, you would know that salvation involve a change of status (from sinner to being a child of God), an infusion of new life, a change of heart, a change of mind, and a progressive pursuit towards Christlikeness.

Nothing mystical occurred.  Yet everything just transformed when I started to grasp this profound truth.

Taking a peek using God’s spiritual lens, I gradually understood that following God would involve so much risk and would not exempt me from deep hurt. Furthermore, to be a follower is not equivalent to a pain-free life.  But… But!  But to daily decide to follow Jesus (my personal Lord and Savior) gives me inexplicable joy, drives me to love others like He does, and creates in me a deep inward anticipation of the glory that awaits me at the end of my earthly journey.

I realized that I don’t want to miss the whole point.  Now, I can only reckon that my relationship with Him far outweighs all the treasures, all the glory, all the light momentary trials I’m experiencing and will be experiencing in the years to come.

I chose and will forever choose to be follower, by God’s grace.  I follow Him because He first loved me.

I want to challenge your thinking, friends.

Are you consumer? Or, are you a follower?

*You may view Andy Stanley’s message here – http://www.northpoint.org/messages/trading-up