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A Life to Conquer

This is meant to share insights and lessons I've learned through personal reflections as I learn more about Him. I hope, through this blog, His words reach and touch more people.

Be Still, God’s at Work…

Last night, before I went to bed, I opened my Bible app to check the “verse of the day”. I was surprised to see that it’s one of the bible verses that mean so much to me: “Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations and I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalms 46:10).

If you’ve read my  previous post (see here), this was the verse that God led me to when I was looking for comfort when I was at a crossroad. And I praise Him for leading me back to this verse now that there is so much uncertainty and restlessness in my life.

For a lot of people, the worst thing is not having to deal with hardships. Tough times are a given, Christian or not. The absolute worst thing is waiting. Even now that I have surrendered my life to Him, I admit that patience is still a struggle even though I’m more patient now more than I’ve ever been. The difference is I have conviction that He has a plan and I trust in His plan.

And I think, for most Christians I know, waiting for God’s answer is a constant “battle”. Because sometimes, He doesn’t really answer “yes” or “no” right away, He would just seem quiet. And I am at that state again. My wife and I have been praying for about a year now on two major life decisions. There’s still no clear answer. And whenever I do my quiet time and my prayers, He will just send encouragements and reassure me that He will keep His promise without really giving a definite direction to take.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not causing me any stress but it does make my heart a bit restless. It’s like reading a suspenseful “whodunnit” novel and you just can’t go to sleep without finding out how things will unfold.

So how do you keep still when restlessness sets in? What does keeping still even mean? 

To me, keeping still doesn’t mean not doing anything. It’s the exact opposite. What Psalms 46:10 actually means about “being still” is shifting our focus from ourselves to Him. That instead of looking at the situation that I am in, I should look to Him and look forward to His plan because His glory will be manifested in everything that He does in my life. That instead of looking at the time that is passing by, I should look to Him who is working in ways that I will never fathom. That instead of looking on what I can do, I should look to Him and trust in His goodness because of all the wondrous things He already did. He is God and He has infinite power and wisdom over everything. He is in complete control and everything will happen according to His plan. That is why, stumbling upon this verse at this particular time just blew my mind and comforted me in an indescribable way. It may seem to me that nothing is happening but God is at work… He is carefully placing each piece of His plan until it’s ready to be revealed to me.

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How God Made Me Her Husband (Final Part)

I took a long drive north in search of answers. I was waiting for an epiphany to come to me so I know what I’ll do next. But there was none. I came back to Manila and my problems were still there. One day, as I was confiding with my former boss in Globe, Joaf, she invited me to a bible study in their office. She told me that it would help and it was the perfect time to come to Him. At first, I was resisted the idea. I told her, I know the Bible already and I’ve known God all my life and He didn’t help nor answered any of my prayers. But because I had a lot of free time on my hands being jobless and all, I eventually went. During that study, one of them challenged my belief about heaven and hell. Like anyone whose faith is in doubt, I questioned what kind of god would condemn his creation to suffer? People are suffering everyday left and right for different reasons and yet he never seems to stop it. He was able to answer all my objections and I fell silent. I was the one who was backed into a corner.

That Sunday, I went with my former boss to the CCF service at St. Francis. It felt I was meant to be there and it somehow made everything seem lighter. I started going regularly, I started reading the bible again and I even joined a small group. One Sunday after the service, I re-watched the Passion of Christ. The first time I watched it, it didn’t really have any effect on me. But that Sunday, I finally understood what His death meant. All my life, I kept thinking that I deserved better but at that point, I knew what I deserved for all my transgressions. It was the first time that I felt His great love for me. Every wound he received, every drop of blood, was meant for me, his sheep. And as a good shepherd, He will never lead me astray and no matter how far I roam, He will always find me and take me back. And for the first time in my life, I was on my knees genuinely in awe of this great love. From that point on, I wholeheartedly accepted Him as my Lord and my savior.

My problems didn’t miraculously go away: I was still jobless, in debt and she’s still marrying another man. I continuously prayed for guidance and for Him to lead me. He led me to the verses in Matthew 6:25-34:

25 “This is why I tell you: do not be worried about the food and drink you need in order to stay alive, or about clothes for your body. After all, isn’t life worth more than food? And isn’t the body worth more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds: they do not plant seeds, gather a harvest and put it in barns; yet your Father in heaven takes care of them! Aren’t you worth much more than birds? 27 Can any of you live a bit longer[a] by worrying about it?

28 “And why worry about clothes? Look how the wild flowers grow: they do not work or make clothes for themselves. 29 But I tell you that not even King Solomon with all his wealth had clothes as beautiful as one of these flowers. 30 It is God who clothes the wild grass—grass that is here today and gone tomorrow, burned up in the oven. Won’t he be all the more sure to clothe you? What little faith you have!

31 “So do not start worrying: ‘Where will my food come from? or my drink? or my clothes?’32 (These are the things the pagans are always concerned about.) Your Father in heaven knows that you need all these things. 33 Instead, be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what he requires of you, and he will provide you with all these other things. 34 So do not worry about tomorrow; it will have enough worries of its own. There is no need to add to the troubles each day brings.

I realized that all my worries were not the things that I should be concerned about. If this God made a way for me to be saved, surely all the worries of this life are nothing but temporary. God will provide anything that I need when I need it. With Psalms 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God”, He reassured me that He was in control of everything that’s going on with my life even if I felt that it was spiralling out of control. It became clear to me what I needed to do. I needed to surrender everything to Him and let go of all my expectations, I needed to let go of all my desires and wants. My happiness should lie in Him and in what He provides me at any point in my life.

It had such a profound effect on me that my whole disposition changed. But I knew that meant that I had to let her go or rather, I had to let go of the hope that I was clinging on to all those years. Even if I parted ways with her several times in the past, I’ve always held on to my feelings for her. I always thought I couldn’t help it but I realized that although holding on brings pain, it became my comfort zone.

But God gave me peace that surrendering everything I was grasping at the palm of my hand was the right thing to do. It was the leap of faith that He was waiting for me to do. Though it’s hard to let go of what I’ve tightly held close to me for almost all my life, He also gave me the strength and the conviction to do so.

I first tried to do it over the phone but it was too hard for us both. She cried that I was being unfair and pointed out that we’ve done this twice before, only to end up in the same spot. But I told her this time it would be different, she was getting married and we both know that it was the right thing to do. She requested if we can meet before she moves to Macau (her fiancé was based there). She flew back to Manila a few weeks after. I had to consciously put some distance between us. I was mostly quiet the whole time because I was trying to put together everything I wanted to say. As we were sitting inside the car, I played her Rascal Flatt’s “My Wish” (look it up! here’s the lyrics of the song). It was everything that I wanted to tell her. I just want her to live a life that she’s been dreaming of and more. The only thing that mattered to me at that moment was her happiness, even if I wasn’t part of that… even if it meant letting her go.

She moved to Macau a few weeks after to be with him. The story could have ended there but God moved in ways I never expected.

She would call and check on me once in a while but this time I picked up, not because I wanted to cause trouble but because I thought that was what we needed to achieve a clean break. I was thinking she needed to get it out of her system so she could go back to a place where I was just a friend. But in the course of months, she told me she was having a hard time adjusting to her new life. It wasn’t what she imagined at all. I started sharing with her how I coped and how God has changed my heart. That maybe, it would also help her.

One time she was in Manila, I brought her to CCF. Little did I know that God will change everything for her right there. During that worship service, she looked at me teary-eyed and thanked me for bringing her there. I held her hand and told her that it’s okay. She later revealed to me that in her prayer, as she called out to God, He took away all of her doubts. Before I came back in her life, she kept on wishing that he would propose for years and it was clear to her that it was what she wanted. But when I came back, it made her unsure. And she felt guilty of “betraying” him after he had given her what she wanted. When she looked at me that day, she saw me covered in light and everything became clear to her. I was the one that God was setting aside for her. She cried as all the guilt and fear of breaking the engagement melted away. She cried as she was overcome with love, as she realized that she kept all her feelings aside for fear of making the wrong choice. She thought it was wrong to hurt the man she loved and to admit that she has fallen for another.

Well, she never told me all of this but I didn’t have to. I knew then that my part was to just encourage her to be closer to Jesus. I gave her a bible that she can read when she needs comfort. We saw The Passion of Christ together and it had the same impact on her as it did with me. As she broke down, we both prayed and she accepted Jesus in her life.

Soon after, she finally had the courage to break off her engagement. She eventually moved back to the Philippines. After a few months, she flew back to UAE for a job. This time, even if we would be away from each other, there was no fear in us. We both knew that it was just a matter of time.

A year after, I brought her back to where I first told her how I felt about her, that bench at V. Concepcion. Well, not in that exact spot, it was raining that night so we had to settle inside the car so close enough. I proposed to her that night and she immediately said YES!

After fourteen long years...
After fourteen long years…

In February of 2010, after fourteen long years of preparation, waiting and pruning, God brought us all together as we took each other as man and wife. In the end, it was not the love letters, the flowers or the grand gestures that defined our love for one another. Our love was complete because He was in it, He was the one who wrote it and He was the one who completed it.

It’s hard to imagine how things could have worked out if God was not present in the equation. Looking back now, Karina and I can see God’s hand in everything that happened. It was his design. Had I gotten my way earlier, we would have been unprepared and that would have been a catastrophe. Change one little detail and it could have resulted to a different outcome. As I have written in the beginning, sometimes God delays His blessing so we are equipped for that precious blessing when we receive it. I never thought all those times I was praying, He was just listening and He was already working without me knowing.

In the five years that we’ve been married, we’ve dealt with a long-term ailment, two years of long distance relationship and a lost baby. Any of which could have broken any marriage but God has molded us for 14 years so we can be perfect for each other. And He continues to make us stronger with every blessing and trial that comes our way. While it is not without bumps, our hearts and hands are full, knowing that He is in full control. After all, He showed us how faithful He is through it all. If He can give up His only son for us, if He can give us this magnificent love story and if He can bless us with a partner in life who’s perfect for us, how can He not provide for anything and everything else that we need?

Thank you for taking the time to read our story and we pray that it started a spark in you, strong enough to push you to discover the path that He has long prepared for you. And I’m sure it will be just as amazing! You just have to be brave enough to take that first step.

God bless!

How God Made Me Her Husband (Part Two)

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Two years after graduation, I was surprised to get a call from her. She was asking if I can go with her for a screening for a cabin crew position in Air Macau. I thought it was strange considering how we parted ways the last time. Maybe it was time that mended whatever feelings were hurt or maybe it’s just how it is with friends, no matter how long you’ve been apart, you’ll always find back to your “old ways” when you meet again. Her relationship with the other guy ended up badly a few months back. And of course I had to say to myself that maybe give I should give it another go.

So I did, I pursued her again. Even after she moved to Macau, I persisted. It was months of writing letters, e-mails, text messages and long distance calls. We would meet whenever she had a layover in Manila. Until one night, she called me to tell me that she met another guy in Macau and she fell for him. She was hoping that I can be happy for her and we can remain friends. I didn’t answer. I couldn’t answer. It was bad enough to be rejected once but twice? I was also angry how blind she was. At that moment, I just felt broken. All I could tell her was “I don’t think that’s a good idea” and I put down the phone. She tried calling me several times after that but I didn’t pick up her call again. She wrote me a letter but I never even opened it.

It was at that point that I shut down completely. I blamed Him for bringing her back even if it wasn’t meant to be. I blamed Him for not making me the man that she wants. I blamed God for everything. And this is where my morals and my faith went down the drain. If being good didn’t make me happy, I thought maybe I should just chase happiness wherever I can find it. At least even if I’m doing something wrong, at least I’m happy. And that’s who I became, in all aspects of my life, I let my own pleasure dictate the course. At work, I was obsessed with the idea of success that it made me hot-headed, impatient and arrogant. I became more disconnected with my family that I rarely went home to visit. I did date but I was never really able to keep any relationships because my first instinct at the hint of any problem was to run.

That went on for six long years. I must admit though that even in those times, I still thought of her and the hurt never really went away. At that time, I took a new job in Makati. In one of the social events of the company, someone approached me and told me that she knows me from somewhere. It turned out that she’s her cousin and she saw me in one of the photos Aina posted on FRIENDSTER (yes! we’re that old!). Her cousin gave me her new number and told me that she’s still single and she moved to Dubai a few years back.

I thought long and hard before I took another step. But I thought, who was I kidding? I never really gotten over her. I was still hurting even if I didn’t see her so what was the point of avoiding her? I figured, just go until she says yes and don’t take no for an answer. It’s at this point that I started going to church again… and only for one reason: to ask Him to give her to me. I remember even bargaining that I will come to church every Sunday if and when this happens.

When I finally called her, there was nothing awkward. I expected it to be but it wasn’t. It didn’t feel like we never talked for the past six years. Before we knew it, we’ve been on the phone for hours. That became a daily habit. The next time she flew in to Manila for a layover, we were so excited to meet again that we didn’t waste any time. Even if she got in around midnight already, I still went to see her. I brought her back to where we used to live back in college. As we sat down across each other (sa Jollibee Espana!) where we used to dine when were just students, we were smiling and laughing again like we were sixteen again. And I was sure and I had no doubt that it’s her. I can’t think of any other reason why I still look at her the same way when we first met if she’s not the one. We never ran out of things to talk about… we talked almost until wee hours of the morning. And we didn’t stop. The next few months, we were talking almost 5 hours everyday… over skype, cellphone. We would also go out and see each other whenever she has a flight in Manila. It felt good because it finally felt like we were getting somewhere.

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Reunited six years after!

But despite our closeness and our affection for one another, she felt that it wasn’t enough. One night, she called me past midnight. She explained to me that although she felt something for me, she didn’t see how we could be together. Then she dropped another bomb. Her ex-boyfriend from Macau came to Dubai and proposed to her that night and she accepted.

Just like that, I was back into the same position that I was.

Nothing was really going right at that time. I decided to resign from work because I felt unappreciated. My mom was sick. I thought, if people got what they deserve then I must have messed up something big time to deserve this. And so I did what I did best, I ran away from everything.

How God made me her Husband (Part One)

My wife and I just came back from a couple’s retreat organized by our church. It was a perfect reminder for us that there are three parties in a marriage: a husband, a wife and God. It is no accident that God has brought us all together and He designed our fate even before my wife and I knew each other. Each and every turn that we’ve went through in our lives were all part of a beautiful and elaborate plan that only He can design. It was not the easiest and shortest path but as we look back now, there’s very little wonder why God had written it the way He did. Our story is a testament that sometimes God delays His blessing and uses the time we spent waiting to prepare us to hold that precious gift.

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Couple’s Retreat July 2015

Karina and I met on our very first day in the university. Back then, I was a shy and soft spoken “probinsyano” who pretty much keep to himself. While everyone was busy trying to get to know the class, I was sitting quietly at the far corner of the room waiting for the first professor to come in. Suddenly the girl in front of the opposite row turned around, looked at me and smiled at me. I didn’t know how to react. I don’t recall if I even smiled back but I really felt awkward. I wasn’t used to getting any attention AT ALL. So it’s quite strange that this beautiful lady would even give me the time of day. But there was something about her that set her apart from everyone else.

And I realized what that “something” was as days passed and I got to know her better. She was kind-hearted, bubbly, warm and encouraging… something that I wasn’t accustomed to. What touched me most about her is her pure love for her family. She was so affectionate with her parents, her brother and even their pets (a dog and a monkey). Something that was very alien to me. My mom and my dad separated when I was seven. And for a time, it was challenging for all of us. Providing for our daily needs became the foremost priority for my mom. And I guess, when you make that a top priority, affection somehow gets lost in the mix. We mostly never talk about how we feel as long as responsibilities are kept and observed. And it was wonderful to see how warm and vocal they are about supporting one another. She’s like a warm light after a long stormy night. She brings comfort and a smile to everyone around her.

I tried to keep my distance from her because I knew she’s already with someone. They’ve been together for a couple of years and when you’re 16, that means it’s pretty serious, like “I’m gonna marry you” serious. I also felt I had nothing to offer her anyway. But that didn’t happen. Whenever they would have arguments and LQ, she would always come to me for comfort. It was in those moments that I realized that I do love her, because it also hurts me to see her in pain. So I started hoping and wishing that someday soon, she’ll realize that I could love her better than his boyfriend.

I started praying to God that He makes a way for us to be together. Now, you have to understand that I was raised as a Catholic. At that time, I did not really know God for who He is. And even though I have studied the Bible all my life, I never really had any relationship with God. I was just told to fear him, to go to church and to pray to Him for whatever I need. And much like the myth of Santa Claus, if I’m “good” enough, He will grant me the desires of my heart.

God seemingly answered my prayers two years later when they broke up. I waited for the perfect time to tell her. I was playing it over and over on my mind and I was convinced she’ll say “I love you” back. One night, after dinner, we were sitting together beside a lamp post along V. Concepcion street. I gathered all the courage I could muster even if my heart felt like it was on my throat, I took her hand and lovingly professed how I’ve fallen in love with her. Then there was this long pause and the complete opposite of what I was expecting to happen happened. She laughed in disbelief. She thought I was joking. That’s when I realized, I’ve been in the “friend zone” for too long.

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Back in those days…

But that didn’t stop me. I tried to show it to her every day as we grew closer and more affectionate toward each other. At that time, she moved in at a nearby dormitory. So aside from being classmates, we also became neighbors. We were doing almost everything together. We were inseparable. Even people around us noticed and kept asking us what’s going on. I did everything right… from flowers to favors to grand gestures (even before it became a “thing”). And I thought to myself, this is it! This is going to happen sooner than later!

But God had other plans. Summer vacation came and went. When we returned for our final year in college, she told me she met a man (and I mean a man, in his 30’s) and it happened so fast. She met him back in Dagupan during the break and they’re together now. I kept the hurt and the disappointment to myself. And I also moved on. I jumped into a relationship with someone else. But it was impossible to. I kept on prioritizing her over everything else… over everyone else. I would drop everything I was doing with just one text message from her. My world revolved around her and I let it… gladly. I didn’t know what I was thinking but I somehow convinced myself that she was my responsibility. And I was also very concerned for her because it didn’t seem that her boyfriend was good for her. She started missing some of our classes. Often times, she would come in late. We were thesis partners and she didn’t really have the time to meet me to do her share of the work. I was convinced he was causing all these. It came to a head when I confronted her about making excuses for him. She wasn’t obviously pleased… putting me at my right place and dropping a line that’s been used over and over in movies and teleseryes: “Bakit, ano ba kita?”

That was weeks before our graduation. That was also the last time we talked. I saw her briefly at our graduation and she just looked at me with a cold stare. And I just turned away.

Let Love Win

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It’s been weeks and the articles about the legalization of gay marriage in the US. Countless people on my social network using rainbow colored filter on their profile photo with #lovewins tag to match. I remained quiet. On the other side of things, I also read a lot of blogs and articles, reacting about this recent development. Some, out of passion, says it outright that the country is going to hell. The U.S. is going to be the modern-day Sodom and Gommorah. I maintained my silence. I didn’t post anything on Facebook, Twitter or WordPress… not because of fear of being “attacked” by people who sympathize with the LGBT community and people from that sector but I feel that with emotions running high, it was best to keep quiet and respect their “celebration”.

However, I am a Christian. I maintain the opinion that a marriage is between a man and a woman. It’s not to discriminate anyone but it is how God intended it. God has good reasons for such design and yes, I believe that it is for our own good. When a country like the U.S., whose pledge of allegiance contains “one nation under God”, the legislature should make sure that all laws that will be enacted is in line with God’s principles. Unless, the god that they’re referring to is a different god, God is unchanging despite the times. Yes, it might be more “okay” now for gay people to come out in the open but it doesn’t change what God has set thousands of years ago. A marriage is between a husband and a wife. So the idea that gay marriage should be okay to make sure that the “law” can keep up with the times, is just incredibly flawed. Unless God appears now and “change” His mind, we cannot just twist and reinterpret His words for everyone’s convenience.

BUT as all Christians should know, not everyone is called by God. Peter writes in 2 Corinthians 4:3-4: “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

What I’m trying to get at is we cannot simply “impose” our beliefs on everyone. Our faith does not give us the licence to hate people who do not see things from our viewpoint. The basis of our faith is founded on love and forgiveness, that Jesus died for us even if we’re not worth saving. Once we start hating the world for not following the measurement stick that applies to us is the day that our gospel and our truth is defeated. It is our responsibility as Christians to spread His word to the ends of the earth. And to do that, we have to make sure that we protect and honor the foundation of the faith that we are proclaiming. How do we do that when we start attacking non-believers and propagating that God will punish them for their transgressions? Paul was also faced with passionate opposition when he went on his missionary journeys. Not everyone he preached to believed and in the end, he also shook dust from his feet and moved on. It is just simply not our place to judge. We are His messengers and His disciples so let the time come that He will do the judging. For now, let love win. And by love, I mean His love that has the power to redeem people who he has called whose hearts are open to receive His message. Let us avoid, at all cost, to be instruments and reasons for people to shy away or be afraid of coming to Christ. Let us not result to hatred and violence the same way the Jews did to the early Christians.Let love win. Let His love win people over.

My main concern in all of these is the danger that it poses to brothers and sisters in faith in the U.S. who might be persecuted and be labeled as a “bigot” for refusing to participate in enacting this law. Probably one of the most known examples is the situation that the Kleins are now facing simply because they refused to bake a cake for a gay wedding. In the same way that the constitution protects the LGBT community, the Christian community should also appeal to the lawmakers to protect the beliefs of our religion. If we are to follow the logic that everyone’s interest is protected and respected, surely Christians should also be allowed to profess and uphold their faith. It is also my hope that the LGBT community respects that in the same way that they expect respect. However, if it comes to persecution and it is highly possible (I’m even seeing people vandalizing the church nowadays), I encourage brothers and sisters to hold on and be strong. Jesus himself said that the world will hate us the way that it hated Him.

In the end, it all boils down to choice. I choose to be a Christian and stand for what my faith stands for and nothing or no one should disrespect me for that. In the same way, if a gay couple chooses to be married and ignore what the bible says about it, I will respect that. But to insist to be married by the church of the God I believe in is just mockery and insult. And for a community that has long lobbied to be respected, they should know better.

God’s will before yours

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If you’re a Christian, you’ve probably heard any of these statements countless times:

“God has a plan for you.”

“…in God’s time”

“You need to surrender to His will”

But just how easy to yield to His will? That is, of course, assuming that you know His will. A lot of Christians struggle to even discern His will in their lives. Just like anyone, I’ve been through a number of crossroads when God seem silent and I kept on praying that He reveals the road that He wants me to take. And when He finally points me to the direction, I get stuck because it’s not necessarily the easiest path to follow.

I encountered this recently when my small group leader approached me and my wife to serve and start our own small group. Don’t get us wrong, we’re actually excited about leading a group of people and encouraging them to lead Christian lives. My wife and I have actually been discussing that prospect for about a year already. But at the same time, we always return to the same conclusion: we’re just not ready. Leading a group of people requires a lot of time, patience and devotion which we feel, at this point, we’re all lacking at. At the same time, I also had to struggle with my worthiness of being a Christian leader. I feel that I’m still a work in progress and therefore have a lot of weakness. What makes it even harder is our will to eventually relocate in the near future. And I just don’t want to start something that I may not be able to see through.

So for weeks, I had that restless feeling in my gut.

Then finally, I prayed that God give me whatever it takes to follow His will. He did, in an almost instant fashion. All the challenges I have put forward are still there but God reassured me that I was worthy and the only thing that He requires from me is my obedience. Let Him deal with all the obstacles that are paralyzing us from committing to His will. And what about our plans of relocating? I honestly don’t have an answer to that but ever since God has answered my prayer, I have slowly felt my own will fading away like a brick of wall crumbling.

It’s so hard sometimes to let go of our own will especially when it’s based on what our eyes see. But Psalms 143:10 served as a reminder for me that my God is sovereign, His will is always higher than mine. While my sight is limited by what my eyes can see, His extends far wider and far higher. The only way that we can let go of our will that’s based on practicality and logic is to ask help that He provides us a way to learn how to walk in faith towards His will.

Fearless: proclaiming the message of Christ

A nice and timely post speaking about how Christians need to react in today’s times. In a world where Isis openly kills Christians for their faith, we must not forget that darkness can only be defeated by the light, not by succumbing to it or turning into anger.

We are the church

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When we look around at the world we live in, it is obvious that darkness in encroaching. Depravity, greed, corruption, oppression and injustice are everywhere. Many Christians look at the encroaching darkness, and instead of strategically letting their light shine, become afraid and want to hide. Instead of allowing the approaching darkness to determine the way we live, we need to remind ourselves that the Light of the world lives in us. We need to spend less time worrying about the darkness and consider how we can leverage the light that we have been given. We are tempted to focus on getting more power or authority instead of just being faithful with what we already have.

2 Peter 1:3
New Living Translation (NLT)
By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life

Matthew 10:7-8
New King James Version (NKJV)
And as you go…

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When Bad Things Happen to Good People

Maybe it’s my Catholic upbringing or maybe it’s the culture I was raised in, but the first thought that used to come to mind when bad things happen was God must be punishing me for something I did. And I swear, it’s not only me! I’ve lost the number of times I heard this: “Have you heard what happened to him? Well, he deserve that. God must be punishing him for this and that…” or “That happened to them because they’re bad people…” I can’t exactly say that it’s not without basis. Growing up, reading through the Old Testament, you can imagine a young boy being afraid of God’s wrath towards people who displeased Him. I used to think that as long as I do good, the road ahead will be paved with blessings and good news.

But like every one who made the transition to adulthood, I realized that it’s not always the case. And so when bad things kept on happening despite of my “faith” (equates to praying occasionally and going to mass every Sunday), I started straying away further and further until I found myself looking at a world with a grim outlook. Everywhere I look, there’s always something wrong and it pervades… war, famine, corruption… where is God in all of this? If God is good, why does He allow this to happen? And just like any unbelievers, I adapted the thinking that men are ultimately responsible for their own fate, taking God out of the equation. And this is true for most unbelievers, I also lost count on the number of times I heard somebody said “If there is a God, He won’t allow this to happen…”

Now, let’s agree on one thing: BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO EVERYONE… whether they are Christians or not. No one has a monopoly on misfortune.

But now that I am a Christian, I finally understood that it’s not what happens that defines our faith, it’s how we respond to it that marks us as a man of faith. Don’t get me wrong, Christians also mourn and grieve when tragic things happen. But beneath that sorrow is acceptance and submission to His will. It’s in the acceptance that God also uses unfortunate things to mold us and bend us to the person that He has intended us to be. Take the case of Joseph who suffered through great troubles earlier in his life from mischief of other people (his brothers, his employer and his friends). Other people choose to see Joseph’s success as vindication and justice. Or is it the result of God’s work in shaping his character and destiny so he can be ready to fulfill the role that God has intended for Him. We must remember that it was all part of God’s plan even before Joseph was born when He shared the fate of His chosen people to Abraham.

Yes, bad things happen to people of faith but it doesn’t mean God does not hear us. It is through our faith that we see through the pain, the despair and the disappointment that God is continuously working in our lives.

PSA 1:2-3 GNT
Instead, they find joy in obeying the Law of the Lord, and they study it day and night. They are like trees that grow beside a stream, that bear fruit at the right time, and whose leaves do not dry up. They succeed in everything they do.

Other people who come across these verses may interpret in the way that God only showers blessings to good people or people who follow him. Wouldn’t it be so convenient if this is the case? But we cannot define success and failure the way the world does. God has a different definition of success: it is when our lives become more than our own so that His grace and glory is reflected through it.

The Christian Propaganda: Love and Forgiveness

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First, let’s get it out of the way: this movie is nowhere near to achieving cinematic excellence. The only reason why I’m giving this movie a 10/10 is because of the amount of hate that it’s receiving. Having said that, do I think it’s a movie worth seeing? Sure, if you are at least to open about hearing about Christianity.

That’s why it’s puzzling for me why some people who are not even remotely open to the faith would watch it and dismiss it as Christian propaganda. After having watched the movie, I think it’s targeted mostly to Christians to encourage to stand and testify for God. It’s not meant to be a movie to make you sway your faith. No, it doesn’t outline why you have to have faith in God. But rather, it challenges believers to do the most basic thing that we often neglect: to speak for Him.

There are a lot of reviews in IMDB (from who I presume are non-believers) calling this movie offensive, baseless and even “dehumanizing”. One review called out the movie for “demonizing” non-believers and atheists because every character who’s not a Christian were made out to be villains. But I would beg to differ. It didn’t paint non-believers as heartless and cold. It showed that people have their reasons for not believing. It showed that people have their own story why they feel they need to be a certain way. Kevin Sorbo’s character spent all his life disproving the existence of God because his prayers were not answered the way that he wanted it to be answered. The father who has thrown away his own daughter because she decided to be Christian, was shown to be torn between the love for his daughter and his own faith. Dean Cain’s character who was disconnected and focused in accumulating as much wealth and success was remorseful for an overbearing mother who was only trying to bring him to the faith. There’s a degree of truth in all of these stories. No way that the movie showed that all these characters were made out of cardboard or showed them as one-dimensional.

There was also someone claiming to be a minister reviewed this film and said that it’s just a bad movie and more of a propaganda more than anything. He even went to make a call for Christians to stop making movies like this. This just saddens me. He was expecting Christian movies to just focus on salvation. While it’s the central message that we Christians should be attesting to,  I don’t think Christian movies should be confined to this one message. This movie, I find, is very timely when most Christians just confine to the belief of the world to “get along”. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not calling for us to shove the truth down the non-believers’ throats. But we have to stand up for Him and know when our faith is challenged. The problem arise when Christians force our doctrines to non-believers and condemn them for their way of life. And there was a line in the movie that hit the nail on the head: you don’t have to defend Christ, it’s enough that you speak for Him. We are called to testify, not to pass judgment. We are not called to hate non-believers but rather show them love and forgiveness is possible.

This movie is not intended to put the spotlight on the non-believers but rather it turns the mirror on brothers and sisters in faith: to be reflective on how we conform and blend with the world.

So as a final word of caution: If you’re not a Christian and you’re looking for a movie to explain the basis of our faith, this is not the movie for you.

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