Press On!

Meeting old friends of 10 years meant a lot of catching up. Our daughter Dana’s just 2 years old and the only kid then, while yesterday, five more kids were added in the bunch (we have 1 more, one family has 3, the other one has 1, plus a cute 2 yr old from an extended family)! What used to be “weekday” dinner meetings are now Sunday lunch dates/meetings. Good thing we had it at the friends’ family restaurant , Tiyo’s Cuisine by Chef and Brewer where the food’s not only great and where the one peso coffee, yes Php1, is being served all-day long, but most especially where the waiters are apparently trained to be extra patient with children (just imagine 5 kids ages 2-9 years old!)  and the other customers were pretty much tolerant of the kids’ making the place a one big playground. ( They didn’t look annoyed, in fact I think they enjoyed the scene:-)) Thank God it’s Sunday! Isn’t it that family lunches are like this? Adults talk endlessly while kids are given a break and just – well- be just kids. Look at what 10 years can do!

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It is true that as time goes by, we “press on” to know each other more. Press on means we move forward, we progress.  Our talks were no longer limited to work and politics as we often discussed then, but also of families, our marriages, child-rearing and discipline , and yes , future engagements.  We have moved on from just knowing each other’s facts and bio. We pressed on to know more of each other in a personal  way.

Pretty much like discipleship, it is not enough to know the facts about Christianity. We should know Jesus more whom we follow in a personal, intimate way as we grow in our walk with Him. That is why we are called’ to “press on” to know Him!  Then He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring “.

Press on and grow!

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“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:14

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What is Your Marriage Story?

It is heartwarming to look at the stats of your blog occasionally. For my part, I get a glimpse of what people have been thinking about based on the “most searched” topics that I have posted. Recently, my top topic is about marriage. Just right as I have been longing to write something about this next story. Something not so mushy – forget about the “perfect one” based on human standards.

Let me introduce you to Hosea – a prophet in the past during the reigns of great kings of Judah and Israel. When the Lord instructed Hosea to marry Gomer, a prostitute, it was meant to illustrate the waywardness of Israel at that time. No matter how difficult the situation might be – he could’ve been an object of mockery and the subject of the ladies’ gossip ( as we do have in modern times), he did marry her as the Lord said so.

No matter how joyful or painful the situation is, every marriage tells us a story. Scary thought, I learned, but so true. To some, it might not be a good start (like this Hosea-Gomer love story), or bad things happen along the way, but in the end, the same God who restores His people back to Him can also redeem a broken marriage. Not an easy thing to do when God tells you to bring back the unfaithful one as He tells Hosea to “buy-back” Gomer but when we think of our own unfaithfulness and the price that God paid by giving His son, Jesus Christ – flesh and blood – for our own redemption, we know that no matter how messy or broken can that be, as long as there is a ray of hope, He can redeem and repair your marriage. Or,  when the mending  does not happen not because of our own doing, we ask – What’s to lose? to yield ? or to gain? We may bear the scars of the past, or might not be able to go back to our “Hosea” as Gomer did, but God is ready to receive us with arms wide open, if only we restore our relationship with Him. Amazing grace, isn’t it?

As flawed individuals, i see ours as an imperfect marriage story, but one that our good Lord has written perfectly to accomplish His purpose.  Yes, we have laughed and enjoyed successes together, but we have also gone through the darkest Valley of Trouble, but with each tear and prayer, He has transformed it into a Gateway of Hope.  I pray that may each marriage be a powerful testimony where promises are kept and vows are fulfilled – much the same way that God keeps His covenant relationship with us.

I pray not only for happy endings but joyful marriages. To those who might not be able to experience it here on earth, take heart, you have one for eternity. God loves you and will never break His covenant with you.

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photo via scotlandablaze.com

Deeply Loved

Nursing bad colds is what I dreaded for the week. Of course, nobody wants one but I guess the stress of moving, unpacking, cleaning and arranging , plus the bad weather , make a good recipe for one. I am comforted when I learned that Daniel (as I am reading the book of Daniel) experienced the same. Faced with “overwhelming situations” , like his case as he waited for the interpretation of the vision that he just had, he “lay sick for several days” (Daniel 8:27). When faced with “overwhelming situations” like my case , our physical strength just depletes. This “rest” gives me the time to draw more closer to God, my Yahweh Rapha , the One who heals.

What does He tell me this time? He tells me that :

1. Even if it takes quite long to see the answers to my prayers, He listens. He answers. Try to personalize the following verse as I do –

“Don’t be afraid, (Daniel) ________(change it with your name) . Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer.” (Daniel 10:12)

Looking back, I know now my prayers were answered based on God’s time table, not mine. And similarly, when we pray, there’s also a war being waged in the heavens as Daniel’s messenger has experienced.

” For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)

True enough, this battle is not ours, but God’s . He is our Yahweh Nissi, our Banner. When He came into flesh and died for us, He has won it all for us! If the answer comes in later or sooner, it doesn’t matter. From the time we present it and humbled ourselves before Him, He has listened.

2. I am deeply loved.

“Don’t be afraid,” he said, “for you are deeply loved by God. Be at peace; take heart and be strong!” ( Daniel 10:19)

I remember overcoming trials in the past and facing disappointments in relationships, I had this verse spoken everyday – “I have always loved you, says the Lord…” (Malachi 1:2a) . God’s love is unconditional and it knows no end, perfected on the cross  – the hope that brings humanity back to Him. How comforting and reassuring! And that same love gives us peace, courage and strength (Daniel 10:19b) to whatever “overwhelming situation” we are facing.

No matter how many times or in whatever manner people say they love me, God saying ” I love you deeply” matters more to me.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

“And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” – Romans 5:5

May God’s perfect love give you peace, courage and strength now and always…

 

Daniel’s Absence, God’s Presence

I remember a time when television networks were flooded with gameshows ( I think they are still right now though I just don’t get to watch lately!) and there’s this particular show, “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” that gives the contestant a “lifeline” by calling a friend (Phone-a-friend). This came to memory when I was reading Daniel’s story and that of his friends, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah (famous for their Babylonian names – Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego). We know that because of Daniel’s ability to tell King Nebu (short for Nebuchadnezzar, as my kids call him 🙂 ) his dream and interpret it as God has enabled him to do so, he was then placed in a high position in the King’s court while his friends were appointed as officers-in-charge of the entire Babylon ( read it here).

Things have gone well and prosperity abound, King Nebu, the superpower king built a golden statue and ordered his “minions” to bow down before it with an execution order to whoever does not. The blazing furnace awaits to those who defy the king’s decree. This part of the story (Chapter 3 of the book of Daniel) interests me. Why?

Daniel’s 3 friends knew their fate and but they have already made up their mind, they knew that death awaits them (again!) because of the faith that they profess, yet, they refused to compromise.

How many times do we succumb to the temptation to compromise to the things of this world? When we have experienced God’s miracle first-hand, we know that He who’s able to rescue us then, will save us over and over again!

Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah ( I prefer to use their original, given names) experienced it when Daniel was able to interpret the king’s dream when they were only an inch away from death’s door. Once again, God will be able to deliver them! When was the time that God was able to deliver us from a “blazing furnace”?  It was said that out of the King’s rage, he ordered the furnace to be heated 7 times hotter! Have we felt the heat of trials 7 times hotter than before? Think of that time when He was able to deliver us from that fiery furnace, He will be able to get us out again from that scorching heat, from the flames of trials! No compromises. Believe and declare the saving power of God like how these 3 young men declared before King Nebu;

  “.. we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. ” – Daniel 3:16-17

Sometimes in the heat of trials, it is tempting to call a friend – first , before God. Like what I mentioned earlier, I got reminded of this game show when we are given this chance to call a friend when the going gets tough. True enough, we appreciate it that we have several lifelines – our spouse, family, church, our small-groups, “BFFs,”  etc… but God desires that we call on Him first. Reading this chapter of the book, at first , I thought – “Why didnt they even think of calling Daniel who stays in the King’s court? Whom the King listens to and asks for advise? Why not ask for their best friend, Daniel’s help? ” Isn’t it that our “default mode” as a human is to call a friend when in need? Amazingly, these 3 young men didnt call for Daniel’s help. No mention of Daniel’s intervention. He was absent! But even then, it was a happy ending for the three. They came out unscathed, King Nebu praised the God who rescued these young men and he even issued a decree that no one will be able to speak against God! What’s more, he even appointed them to higher positions in the land!

Next time when faced with trials as if we’re in a blazing furncae and it is tempting to call someone first, call on Him first! The absence of “Daniels” in us is the great time when God’s presence is evident in our lives. Help comes from God, not men.

“Then call on me when you are in trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory.” -Psalm 50:15

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photo via wordpress

Nesting – 10th Edition

Finally, we are at home in our new, temporary place. After 10 house transfers in a span of 13 yrs of being married and growing a family, I thank God for the grace and the extraordinary ability to “nest”. I looked back at my previous post on Nesting and I know God’s not done with me yet – with my family. He is always at work in our lives and He continues to bring us to places where we are made useful for His work. My prayer is that in all things, and with every move,  may His name alone be glorified.

Amazingly, when God tells us to do something (case in point: our move)  He doesn’t leave a single detail behind. Reading the book of Ezekiel at the moment, I am in awe with the intricacy of details that God has shown this man on how the temple would be restored -from the floors to the ceilings, doors, gates and the utensils! Women love details, so you must’ve an idea how I was drawn to it. 🙂 But more than being a woman, I know God is speaking to me that He’s doing the same to us. When we decided to relocate, God didn’t leave a single, tiny detail behind. The kids’ education, my new “assignment”, our temporary home, our mobility, provision, even the ones that seemed trivial like the decors (would it fit my “Asian theme” ?) , kitchenware , double beds for the kids and more  – all of these were granted as I have specifically prayed for! We earned them not because of US but because He is God. He owns everything and He gives what He knows are best for us. If he hasn’t provided for those, I know now (after so many times of not being able to get what I thought I needed) that He withholds some things for a purpose, for our own good and protection. I am not only talking about material needs, but even of our health, or work or business. Yes, He gives us the freedom to do our own thing, but I always remember that all things may be permissible but not all are beneficial (1 Corinthians 10:23).  He may say yes, not for you, or  not now – just wait.  And yes not just wait , but to ‘patiently’ wait!

So for now, I just think of the other end of this rainbow that we have seen that week when we moved out of our ‘other’ home…

after an afternoon rain in the village where we used to live..

after an afternoon rain in the village where we used to live..

and wake up to mornings like this..

bright mornings in our new home :-)

bright mornings in our new home 🙂

 

Wherever the “nest” is, the good Lord provides. As we are surrounded by trees, I see birds around and I remember this,

”  Look at the birds in the sky! They don’t plant or harvest. They don’t even store grain in barns. Yet your Father in heaven takes care of them. Aren’t you worth more than birds? ”

– Matthew 6:26

I am grateful.. I am at peace.

 

 

Of Farewells and Discipleship

Saying goodbye isn’t the nicest thing to do. But since our lives are forever changing,  even the world’s spinning enables us to appreciate that fact that yes – we are constantly moving in this temporary home – a dot in the whole wide Universe, then we can say that goodbyes are part of our lives. I’d prefer the word “farewell” over goodbye for even if they mean the same thing – farewell has a nice ring to the ears and heart! Fare well means ”you go well..may God’s peace and blessings be with you. ”

When it was time to say our farewells to a group of ladies whom I have been walking along with in the spiritual walk these past 8 years (although some only for months  and weeks!) , it was a bitter-sweet one. Like Paul , who at first, was reluctant to meet the Ephesian leaders in Asia as he was hurrying to reach Jerusalem ( read the story here) , finally decided to see them to bid farewell at Miletus. Last Saturday was the same. I was not ‘reluctant’  to meet these wonderful ladies , in fact , it was meant to be a surprise until I learned earlier on that the venue would be in our home! It was the same in a way that these are the people whom we shared our lives with,  poured our hearts out, constantly encouraged, rebuked at times when needed. The church calls it discipleship. We bring others to Christ, have fellowship with them, empowering them as they lead other people to Christ… and the cycle goes on and on…It has been said that “Discipleship is relationship”. Great is the spiritual bond that i share with these women of faith.

What to say when it’s time to say farewell?  I shared some truths from what Paul said ( Acts 20:13-38 ):

1.  We do not know what will happen in the future but we can face it and face it with confidence!  What was only known to Paul was that the Holy Spirit tells him prison and suffering await him city after city (v. 22). It could be different to you and me. For us, it has always been from glory to glory. It will be our 10th move as a family and with each move, God always brings us to a better place , not that one that is perfect – far from it, even! – but one that constantly teaches us to be more patient, to endure suffering, to be more dependent on Him. So that in all things He is glorified!

2. Our lives are meaningless if we are not living out God’s assignment. God is calling each of us for a specific purpose. We are gifted in many ways – different but with the same goal. Sometimes , He brings us to another season, to another assignment. To me, my new assignment is to be a ‘WAHM”- (Work-at-home-mom) as I will devote my time in homeschooling the kids and some freelance work . Those who know me knew these are new challenges for me, having practically worked in the marketplace all this time. The constant and primary assignment is being a supportive wife to my husband. This means, preparing the home for him so whenever he’s done with his secondary assignment (his work), the home will always be the haven for him.  To the gracious lady whom I have entrusted the group, it’s also a new assignment for her! But just like Paul, whatever and wherever the assignment is , may we share in “the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God” (v.24).  There is always an opportunity for us to share the Gospel whether at home or in the marketplace.

3. Guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd the flock. Be on watch as His appointed leaders. Paul warned of false teachers as vicious wolves – of even people inside that may distort the truth and divide the church! (v. 28-31) How do we constantly guard ourselves? by abiding in Him, in His word, in the truth and by making it a habit to constantly meet. In short, don’t give up the small-group meetings! And continue in the business of discipleship!

4. Trust in God and in His grace.  I am entrusting everyone to God’s safekeeping. His grace will be our keeper and sustainer. The key is to realize that we should all trust in God , not on an earthly, imperfect man or woman.

In the end, I tell myself – if I have drawn these people more to me than to the Lord, then I have failed in discipleship. After all, we should be making Jesus followers , not church or man- followers.

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Thank you Lord, for the gift of friends, for Your Son, Jesus Christ who is the author and perfecter of our faith..who knew how it was to say farewell in the road of obedience to the will of the Father, giving us the assurance that  He has for us another Helper, the Holy Spirit, to be with us forever . We are never forsaken and our hearts will never be troubled.  Amen.

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“And now I entrust you to God and the message of his grace that is able to build you up and give you an inheritance with all those he has set apart for himself.” Acts 20:32

Fishers of Men

Recently, I was gifted with a lovely handcrafted fish brooch from Helen, a  good-natured Kiwi who owns a bed and breakfast in NZ where my husband stayed briefly while he was there. I told her it constantly reminds me of Matthew 4:19 – that we are called to be fishers of men.

What does it truly mean to be fishers of men?

When Jesus said to the fishermen Simon Peter and his brother Andrew “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men”,  they put down their nets at once and followed him.

To be able to understand how I can become a fisher of men, I need to know how fishermen are – how they behave, how equipped they are in doing their job and how they do it well.

A quick research tells me, the fisherman:

1.       Knows the fish that he is looking for.

2.       Studies the habits and behavior of the kind/s of fish

3.       Studies and familiarizes himself with the fish’s  natural habitat

4.       Knows what equipment to use inorder to get a bigger catch

5.       Knows the specific bait for a certain type of fish

And lastly :

6.        Knows he might spend a longer time out in the sea for that catch

In our Christian life and as we are called to be fishers of men, we should:

1.       Know the people that we are bringing to Christ (Matthew 11:27) , while not playing ‘’god’’ over these people.

2.       Get equipped through the empowering ministry tools in the local church that you are part of.  (Ephesians 4:11-13)

3.       Put on the whole armor of God to defeat the schemes of the enemy (Ephesians 6:10-18)

4.       Know that we bear the Message of Good News, no less!  Jesus Christ is the wisdom and power of God! ( 1 Corinthians 1:18)

And lastly, as it may be lonely sometimes in the sea of trials and adversities;

5.       Know that God is the God of comfort. Even if our flesh and hearts may fail, He is our strength and our portion forever. (Psalm 73:26)

On a personal note, Helen replied to my email and left me with these meaningful words,

“Sometimes, to be fishers of men requires much sacrifice i.e. having your husband away for often weeks on end, but God will enable you during these times of separation and will make you stronger as you dig deep into Him for your need.’’

So true. There are times when I miss my husband when he’s out ‘fishing’. Times like this, I turn to God for He is the source of my comfort and His presence is always more than enough!

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that lovely silver fish brooch I used as a belt clasp (taken with my “fisher” husband during our local church’s 18th yr anniversary celebration)