Behind the Scenes

God works even behind the scenes

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From Acts 27-28

May mga pagkakataon na mahirap para sa atin na makita ang kamay at mga gawa ng Diyos kapag tayo ay nasa gitna ng pagsubok. People say that we should keep the faith, we have to remain strong, and other well-intentioned encouragements. Pero ang totoo, minsan mas ramdam natin ang pain na dala ng problema kaysa providence ni Lord. Faith indeed is an ever-developing virtue sa atin. We have to make it flourish in our life.

Pero what’s amazing sa work ni Lord, even in the sidelines and behind the scenes ng buhay natin, evident Siya. Hindi Niya kailangan ng approval natin, ng audience natin for Him to begin working wonders. Kumikilos Siya in ways na hindi natin namamalayan. Advanced Siya mag-isip!

When Paul was being transported to Rome, yung sinasakyan nilang barko ay nasira ng bagyo. Hindi lang basta shipwreck ang nangyari – totally devastated, naubos ang lahat ng kanilang mga gamit, nagkandagutom-gutom sila, at halos mawalan na ng buhay at pag-asa. It was a very challenging episode sa buhay ni Paul.

But they were all spared. May plano si Lord. Napadpad sila sa isla ng Malta where a lot of miracles happened. Nagkataon na nandun si Paul to minister to the sick people of the island. Ministry call for the faithful servant. Pero para sa mga kasama ni Paul – everything that had happened was a mishap. It was a close call of death.

Iba-iba sila nang naging pananaw sa nangyari. Pero si Lord, iisa lang ang gustong iparating – that He is in full and total control of everything.

As they we’re doing what they can to go on with their respective lives and duties sa isla ng Malta, God has made them so favorable sa mga tao. They were a composition of prisoners and prison guards, of Jews and non-Jews, of Christians and non-Christians. Yet they all became objects of favor from the people. At ang lahat ng nawala nila sa shipwreck ay muling naibalik through the generosity of the people.

This is an example of how God carries His work as we carry His work. He does what He’s good at – doing miracles and leaving us in awe, habang tayo ay nagtitiwala at nagpapatuloy sa kung saan Niya tayo tinawag.

Paul and his companions were able to reach their destination in spite of the shipwreck that has happened because God worked even behind the scenes.

Availability, Not Ability

Doing the ministry of the Lord is not about ability. It is about a heart of servanthood, which is evidenced by availability.

When we talk of ministry, you will find out that availability counts more than the ability. In fact, even Jesus, the greatest leader and influencer of all time, chose people not because of what they can do but on their willingness to submit to God’s agenda and schedule. He could have chosen the Pharisees, the spiritual leaders of the time, to mobilize the Good News. They have the influence, prominence and the eloquence to carry out His divine mission. But Jesus turned the world upside down with his ragtag team of ill-tempered, proud, doubtful and cunning disciples. Again, ability counts less, availability matters.

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Yet the world looks after people with obvious gifts and prominent influence. We often follow those whose star shines the brightest. We admire them from a distance. We want them on our team. We think we can do more when we get the best and the brightest turn our steering wheel. While there’s nothing wrong with this, often this leads to frustration and defeat. We can’t always have the best people work for us.  They are often busy in their own domain that they might not have time the capacity to give you their full attention and own wholeheartedly your vision. They might not always be available.

But we have around us those whose star flickers unnoticeable. They may not stand out but they are there. We just fail to notice them, but they are waiting for their turn to take part in something worthwhile, something great. These “average-gifted” individuals fuel the team’s productivity, and bring the most contribution to the table. They are present most of the time, and are willing to sacrifice for your vision. They have nothing to lose but everything to gain.

There is wisdom when Paul said “God chooses the weak to shame the strong”. The famous, the influential, the strong, the intelligent – the best out there, are busy being the best in their respective domains that they don’t have time to work with others, to work for others, to be there for others. But invest in people who are always around you, no matter how “weak” they seem, and see how God do some wonders through their efforts. These people, like the disciples of old, have the potential to turn the world upside down.

Doing the ministry of the Lord is not about ability. It is about a heart of servanthood, which is evidenced by availability.

 

Stop and Stoop Down

What makes us less of a human? Sometimes it is not our lack of compassion. Most of the time, it is our preoccupation with too many things.

The story of the Good Samaritan is one of the most common stories being told in a Sunday school class. The message is simple: there was a Jew who was robbed and beaten by bandits, left half-dead beside the road. Then came a priest, followed by a Levite (or a church worker) who both saw the man yet chose to pass him by. Until a man, a despised Samaritan, took notice of the body lying on the road, tended the wounds and took care of his needs – and much more! #HopeInHumanityRestored

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Obviously, the one to be commended is the one who stopped and stooped down to help. What he did was heartwarming and brings butterflies to the stomach. It is indeed an awesome story to share.

Digging deeper to the background of the story, we’ll find out that the Samaritans and the Jews are not in good terms. The rift between them is so immense that it is uncommon for Jews and Samaritans even to associate with each other. That’s why the disciples were so surprised to see Jesus talking to a Samaritan woman at the well. Thus, Jesus’ parable about the Good Samaritan isn’t a cool, mushy story the first time it was told – it is both counter-cultural and unheard of.

Fortunately, our family, nor any family I know, was never involved in rido, or clan/family wars. But this is a reality with our brethren in southern Philippines. Tribal wars still exist in many parts of the globe. No matter how we brag about building bridges through technology and globalization, we can never deny the fact that cultural walls are still on the rise and it comes multi-faceted – racism, sexism, religious indifference…

“How often we pray for God to use us for His purpose – and then when He interrupts our lives to answer our prayer, we list all our inadequacies”

To stop and stoop down is easier said than done, especially when you, or someone you love, are being despised, when you’re being harassed, being taken advantage. But is it impossible? I don’t think so.

Inasmuch as I would like to relate myself to the Good Samaritan, I believe I am more of the first two took notice, but chose to pass by instead.

Surely, the priest and the Levite are both good persons. They are both committed to their calling, both devout and above reproach. Just like most of us. We are responsible employees, responsible parents or sons and daughters. Generally we are good people. We took pity for those who are victimized by wars, famine and uncanny sicknesses. We feel sorry for those who live in unimaginable poverty. We shed tears for people whose situations move our hearts to the core. In the first place, we are humans beings, created in the image and likeness of God. We are no rock nor piece of metal.

They both saw the half-dead person lying on the road. I believe they both felt pity towards the person. But maybe, and this I am not sure, maybe they are caught up with their own schedules. They have more important things to do than to stop and stoop down to help a total stranger, much more someone who belongs to the opposing party. They have ministries to attend to! They have meetings to facilitate, sermons to prepare, members to counsel, small groups to lead. They are busy. They already have too much on their plates and they cannot afford to add more burden to themselves. Maybe this is why I relate to them more.

I love how Christine Caine, the founder of A21 Campaign, a non-profit organization who strives to end human trafficking, puts it: “How often we pray for God to use us for His purpose – and then when He interrupts our lives to answer our prayer, we list all our inadequacies”

It is my desire to be used by God mightily to make a difference in the lives of others. I always yearn to be an instrument of change and an inspiration to many. I want to do great exploits for the Lord. This is what it means to be a “servant of God” – to be an extension of Jesus’ hands and feet and eyes and ears. Yet from time to time, as He leads me into situations to “suit up my Christian armor”, I end up pursuing the more comfortable, easier path, to the point that I cross to the other side of the road as if I didn’t notice the helpless around me.

What makes us less of a human? Sometimes it is not our lack of compassion. Most of the time, it is our preoccupation with too many things.

How many people scream for our attention yet we chose to disregard them because we have other things of “greater importance”? How many people asked for help, asked for a listening ear, but all we offer is our divided attention – or no attention at all. Instead of kneeling beside the person like what the Samaritan did, we distance ourselves. We are caught up with our own “busyness” that we can no longer afford to stop, much more stoop down.

What makes us less of a human? Sometimes it is not our lack of compassion. Most of the time, it is our preoccupation with too many things. This is my personal prayer: that the next time I see someone in need, I will be courageous and compassionate enough to stop whatever I am doing and stoop down, offering help even if it costs me my inconvenience. Lord, make me like You.

Fan the Flame

God doesn’t call the qualified rather He qualifies the called.

fan-the-flameConfession. Hindi ko talaga feel ang youth ministry. I feel like I just don’t fit in. Wala akong charisma, wala akong wit na kagaya ng karamihan ng youth leaders na kilala ko. Hindi ako kasing lively magsalita, hindi energetic at lalong hindi sporty type. I have a boring personality, so to speak – something na hindi fit para sa qualifications ng isang youth leader. Habol: Ang corny ko nga daw mag-joke. Haha!

Good thing that God doesn’t call the qualified rather He qualifies the called. Ayun, may pinaglagyan ako. Ang ministry na inaayawan ko at never kong pinangarap ay naging isang malaking bahagi ng aking personal spiritual growth. And I learned to love it. Iba rin.

When it comes to discipleship, though isa siya sa mga topics na interested akong binabasa, medyo foreign sa akin ang actual practice. I grew up kasi wanting to do things on my own. Reserved akong tao. I keep a very few number of friends. Kaya naman basing on what I read from books, discipleship is a huge step of faith para sa akin. But I know that I am called to disciple, the same way that all believers are all called to do.

Discipleship, is not about being comfortable with your spiritual status but about getting your hands dirty in doing the job with the results embedded on your mind. Dapat may bunga kang inaasam. Dapat may patutunguhan.

So aside from embracing the youth ministry leadership, kasabay na sinubukang kong mag-step out of my comfort zone and invest into discipleship na matagal-tagal na ring nagli-linger sa puso ko. Not the general discipleship type na bahala na sino ang sumalo ng efforts ko, but the intentional discipleship na mag-iinvest ka talaga, magtatanim, mag-aalaga at maghihintay. #ParangPagIbig Haha!

Discipleship, is not about being comfortable with your spiritual status but about getting your hands dirty in doing the job with the results embedded on your mind. Dapat may bunga kang inaasam. Dapat may patutunguhan. Otherwise it is just another kind of huddle offered by the different groups.

Pagdating sa pagdi-disciple, mahaba-haba ang lakbayin. Matagal-tagal na panahon bago magbunga ang mga itinanim. Asahan na rin ang mga frustrations and times na gugustuhin mo na lang sumuko. Discipleship is no walk in the park but it is all worth it.

Isipin mo na lang na para kang isang posporo. Hindi ka magliliyab kung hindi ka madadarang sa init, sa pressure, sa friction. Magiging uncomfortable at times, magiging mahirap, masakit, mabigat.

Yet our motivation should be this: that through our seemingly “small” investments of prayer, genuine concern, and the Word itself, we are sending the next generation a message that we care for them. Discipleship is sending a message to our kids and grandkids that we love them that’s why we want them to experience God’s love as well.

If you’re into discipleship, my prayer is that you keep on fanning the flame. Ang isang malaking sunog ay nagsisimula sa isang maliit na spark. #ParangPagIbig, nagsisimula sa spark. Haha! Isipin mo na lang na para kang isang posporo. Hindi ka magliliyab kung hindi ka madadarang sa init, sa pressure, sa friction. Magiging uncomfortable at times, magiging mahirap, masakit, mabigat. Minsan hindi na lang puso mo ang ibinibigay mo, kundi pati baon mo at oras ng tulog. But imagine Jesus, He took time investing in the lives of His disciples. Parang walang patutunguhan sa una. Misfits of society pa ang pinili niya. But the tiny sparks nang maliliit na mga posporo aka disciples ni Jesus ay naging wildfire which eventually turned the world upside down.

And speaking of Posporo, check this song out. There is no better way to end this post than this. #MyKindOfMusic. Keep the fire burning mga ka-posporo! Alab pa!

In Pursuit of God

He is a God that can enter the realm of our experiences – not just a God we can fathom with our intellect.

There is a world of difference between knowing about God and knowing God. We may know Him – His works in the past, in the present and what He will do in the future. We may know a lot of things about Him – His awesome qualities and stories about Him. We may know Him by name, but unfortunately we may not know who He really is.

The sermon today really hit the mark. I can no longer justify myself. I was rebuked to the core, challenged to take honest assessment of myself and moved to take my knowledge of God to the next level. He is more than what my mind can conceive, much more than what every good book can describe of Him, even more than doctrines can ever produce depicting Him. He is God – the only real God with whom no substitute can ever compare.In Pursuit of God.jpg

What makes this God so special is that He is a personal God. He is not a distant God who just looks towards us – His creation, and leaves us wondering what to do with life. Instead, He has given us His lavish grace and blessings for us to appreciate that He wants the best for us. Who would have thought that an omnipotent God who alone can create the universe with just a word from His mouth will care about us – creatures who are even incapable of reciprocating the kind of love He gives us. If there is one word I can describe God’s love towards us, I’d like to say that it’s a stubborn kind of love. And I am forever grateful to that.

It’s one thing to enjoy Him – His love, His grace, His forgiveness – all His many benefits; it’s another thing to really pursue Him. Now a convicting thought lingers on my mind: how am I really pursuing Him? Or am I, really?

Is it enough that I know about His love? Is it enough that I appreciate His wondrous works that benefits the helpless soul that I am? Is it enough that I just savor the beauty of His grace, enjoying the lavishness of His love incomprehensible? Pwede, pero depende.

It’s one thing to enjoy Him – His love, His grace, His forgiveness – all His many benefits; it’s another thing to really pursue Him. Now a convicting thought lingers on my mind: how am I really pursuing Him? Or am I, really?  The mere thought makes me think how unfair I [we] really am [are] when it comes to relating to Him.

Being busy for the kingdom is not a thing to be confused with being intimate with the King. We can do all the crazy stuff out there to at least say we’re busy pursuing Him, but in the end, our soul’s connection to the Father determines the futility of our actions. In Him, there is fullness of joy, there is peace beyond understanding and love beyond any condition. No amount of activity can fake out what only God can produce in and through us.

Amidst all the ministerial busyness, is He really the One being sought after? Or are we just downsizing Him to an activity we can jot down on our planners? He is more than that. As Psalm 34:8 says, His goodness can both be tasted and seen.

He is a God that can enter the realm of our experiences – not just a God we can fathom with our intellect.

Train of Thanks 16

Because we’ll never run out of things to be grateful for.

How strenuous it is trying to accomplish so many things at a time, but I am glad God never fails to supply me with much needed strength for day to day.  Let me share some of the highlights of my week for this thanksgiving series.

  1. I am not new to series of meetings but whenever I face such events, just like what happened this weekend, I feel like I need double portion of strength to sanely participate in all the brainstorming sessions and reporting. I thank the Lord for reminding me that all my labor for His sake is never in vain, and that I am working for a kingdom that will never be shaken.
  2. After careful prayer and consideration, I took the challenge of taking the youth ministry leadership for the church. I can still remember how I refuse to work with the youth department since I know I am not that relational and I do not have a charismatic personality. Yet here I am, excited to chart the ministry game plan with my enthusiastic partner. I am personally excited for God’s mighty moving in the lives of the youth of our church!
  3. With regards to the Youth Ministry lead post that I accepted, I was officially installed last Sunday, along with all the appointed church officers. With our official appointment comes my prayer that a ministry offered to the Lord and presented for accountability in front of the church is a ministry that is to be empowered and be taken care of God.
  4. I am thankful that the verse “steady plodding brings prosperity”, something I first encountered when I attended a Biblical Financial Study by Crown Financial, inspires me to save even a meager amount of money, for I know the sacrifice will soon pay off. My meager savings and sacrifices a few months back became my source for very timely expenses and purchases. Now, I am trying to increase my savings. J
  5. Last Sunday, I had a very wonderful time of reflection and recreation. It is good to hear messages of confirmation from the Lord, knowing that you have been praying for God’s encouragement for your undertakings. In addition, I was brought by my friend to a cosplay event at SMX, something that is very new to me. I felt so entertained. But the highlight of the day was when I am just gazing upon the waters on the bay side. Very relaxing.

We will never run out of things to be thankful for from day to day. What’s yours?

 

The Lord is Speaking, Are You Listening?

Amos has heard of the Word of the Lord and he took it seriously. How serious are you with the Lord?

We all have different calling in life. Some are called to serve as public servants, others as entrepreneurs. Others still, choose to devote themselves to ministry and making a difference in the lives of others. Iba iba man ang ating pinagkakaabalahan, dumadating tayo sa punto na kuntento na tayo, kahit pa routine na lang ang lahat. Ok na, we can go along. When we get exposed to something at nakasanayan na natin masyado, it eventually becomes our comfort zone. Ayaw na nating umalis, kuntento na.

Not so with Amos. He is a farmer, specifically a dresser of sycamore trees, and a shepherd. All his life he is devoted to tend the animals and the sycamore trees under his care. Probably he is content with his lot. But when he heard God calling Him to be a messenger to the Israel, he willingly obliged.

Upon hearing the Word of the Lord, we are always left with two options: either to take the Word seriously and obey, or to ignore the Word and delay. In the case of Amos, he chose to obey.

Having heard from the Lord made Amos obey without any compromise because he is convinced and he trusts the One who is calling him for a career move. Take note that he is no professional prophet, but he took the challenge seriously because he who called him needs to be taken seriously. Upon hearing the Word of the Lord, we are always left with two options: either to take the Word seriously and obey, or to ignore the Word and delay. In the case of Amos, he chose to obey.

What he did is no simple task. Hindi kagaya ng pagpapalit lang ng company o ng lugar na titirhan. Originally from the land of Judah, he was tasked to preach in the land of Israel, a land enjoying a time of prosperity yet the people engaged in corruption and moral degradation. In fact the time he set foot on Israel, he was confronted by a priest named Amazaiah and told him to just go back to the sheep and the sycamore trees. “Di ka rito nababagay. Di ka naming kailangan. Bumalik ka na lang sa inyo. If you want to preach, preach there. Don’t earn your living here.” Napagbintangan pang pinagkakaperahan ang ministry! Good thing, Amos didn’t back off.

Their outward religious rites don’t necessarily reveal what’s going on in the inside. And to make things worse, they are so impressed with themselves and their religion, looking forward for God’s blessing to shower upon them as if they have done nothing wrong.

He has a message of warning to the people of Israel – na sa kanilang karangyaan, sa kabila ng katiwasayan ng kanilang buhay, nakakalimutan na nilang makinig sa Diyos. The Israelites has been living a life of compromise and hypocrisy. They have forgotten the fact that they are a people of God and that they should be a living testimony to their neighbors of God’s faithfulness. They have been living a prosperous life, full of magnificence, but their hearts are far from the Lord. Their outward religious rites don’t necessarily reveal what’s going on in the inside. And to make things worse, they are so impressed with themselves and their religion, looking forward for God’s blessing to shower upon them as if they have done nothing wrong. And God wants to rebuke them through Amos.

Amos has heard of the Word of the Lord and he took it seriously. So serious that he went the distance and faced persecution because he knows how serious the Lord is as well. He was able to stand for what is right and resist going through the motions. It became possible because he heard the Word of the Lord, and he took it seriously.

The Lord is speaking, are you listening? Will you take Him seriously?