MAKING A COME BACK

…is just so hard…

For months, I’ve been enjoying the pleasures of self. I have been feeding my egotistical desires without any regret. I have been succumbing to the lust pattern of my flesh…the cravings for approbation and power. I was going down so fast that I never realized the damage I was doing to myself and the people who genuinely love me unconditionally. I was a wreck…and still am…but now, I’m going back.

Back to the One Who loved me first. The One Who died for me even if I was still His enemy. The One Who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross. The One Who knows my name. I’m going back to Jesus. Not that my position in the family of God has been compromised. Romans 8:38 & 39 is clear that nothing can separate me from the love of the Almighty. But, even if I am secured on the inside, for the past few months, I have been living a lie as stated by 1 John 1:6.

I have been teaching and leading prayer and leading worship
routinely…a hypocrite at best. There were times when the Holy Spirit rebuked
me to recover and confess my sins, but the evil I have chosen has already
engraved a path of least resistance in my conscience that it took only a couple
of minutes before I was back in the cradle of sin. Pseudo-happiness took over
the joy I once had with Bible Doctrine. A mistake that happened one small
choice at a time.

Now…I am crumbling on the inside. My norms and standards are slowly picking up the pieces. Doctrine is once again renewing my mind so that I can have the strength to not conform to this world. I cannot fathom the depth of God’s grace, mercy and compassion.

Just as I was reading a portion of my scheduled 12-week devotion
with my wife, I was brought to tears reading this principle “Every event in your life must be understood and interpreted by the Scriptures, for the God revealed in scripture does not change.” Then it goes to Malachi 3:6.

We are so blessed to have an Immutable God. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. And it is because of His mercies and compassion that we…the broken and sinful…are not consumed. So how stupid am I not to go back?

Para sa Kanya o Laban sa Kanya

 

Nasanay tayong mabuhay na hindi pinapansin ang Diyos. Nasanay tayong magpaka-manhid sa mga mumunting kalabit Niya at magbingibingihan sa mga bulong Niya. Nasanay tayong magdahilan…gumawa ng paraan…lahat ng pwede, basta hindi lang magmukhang corny or uncool.  

Sa huli, dalawang bagay lang yan – para ka ba sa Kanya o laban sa Kanya?

Paano ba mapaparangalan si Cristo?  Paano ba naluluwalhati ang Diyos?
 Wala kang pwedeng gawin o ibigay sa Diyos para maluwalhati Siya.
 Hindi sa mga bagay na ginagawa natin nadadakila ang Diyos, kundi sa
kung ano ang ginagawa Niya para sa atin.  Naluluwalhati Siya kung
nabibiyayaan Niya tayo.  At para mabiyayaan Niya tayo, kailangan nating
magkaroon ng kapasidad na tumanggap ng biyaya Niya.

Kamakailan lang bumili ng larong Monopoly ang kapatid ko. Tuwang-tuwa yung pamangkin kong 3 taong gulang lang. Siyempre, pwedeng-pwede niyang paglaruan iyon, kaya lang may problema. Hindi siya marunong maglaro noon. Wala pa siyang konsepto ng pera, ng pagbili ng mga ari-arian, etc. Pagdating ng panahon, pwede niyang laruin iyon, pero hangga’t wala pa siyang kakayahang mag-addition o maintindihan ang gamit ng pera, hindi niya mapapakinabangan ang larong iyon.

Ganyan ang konsepto ng kapasidad. Sa tuwing pinipili mo ang Diyos, sa
tuwing pinipili mong sundin Siya kaysa problemahin ang sasabihin o
iisipin ng iba,  lumalaki ang kapasidad mo. Kasi kung idadahilan mo
yung ibang tao kaya ka nag-aalangang sumunod, para mo naring sinabi sa
Diyos na hindi Niya alam kung ano ang katumbas ng pagsunod sa Kanya.

Alam ng Diyos ang mga plano Niya sa buhay natin (Jer. 29:11) at wala Siyang ibang hangad kundi ang ikabubuti natin.

Para ka ba sa Kanya o laban sa Kanya – nasasaiyo kung paano mo sasagutin iyan.

MY LAST SUNDAY IN AMERICA

“Every Praise, every praise is to our God…”

That was the song that stuck to my head while I was on Crossway Baptist Church –  the second church we went to last Sunday. Every little thing that happened to me on my trip to the US is a realization that everything is due our God!

Last Sunday was memorable to me since I was able to see the sending church of Pastor and Ma’am Hooge. An auditorium that seated 2000+ people and numerous room for Sunday school. They have classes for almost everyone. Kids to grandparents, singles to couples, students to workers, old timers to new comers, everyone had a program they can go to. It was amazing to see how God has been working in Highstreet Baptist Church. Pastor Hooge also drove me by the original building which was bought by another church. God is indeed good!

Then, after having lunch with the Merits, who by the way told me that they “miss y’all back home,” Sir and Ma’am brought me to ma’am Hooge’s uncle Bob who once had a 20 piece guitar collection. He’s 90+ years old and still plays like Chet Atkins. He let me play the one and only guitar in his collection. It was a privilege!

After quite some time, we headed to Crossway Baptist Church, another big church, for the evening service. Paula Buscho, Pastor and Ma'am Hooge's only daughter, is part of the Praise and Worship team there. They introduced me to a great praise and worship leader, Mark Mathes, who is also the composer of the song "Sometimes it takes a mountain" that is sung in one of the Gaither DVDs. He invited me to join and observe their practice run upfront and got extra blessing when they let me join the team during their evening service. It was really a blessing…my knees were literally shaking in fear and excitement…mixed emotions at its best. Now, I have a new friend in the ministry of music.

Church hopping last Sunday was fun, but nothing beats the fulfilment I get whenever I am in Faith Baptist Church – South Metro. A lot of people have told me that 2 weeks in the US is not enough…that I should extend my stay. Yes, 2 weeks is not enough to understand and really take in the culture of America, but I am more interested in going home. As the famous line said “There’s no place like home!”

SLAP IN THE FACE

When realizations in life hits you so hard that it feels like an actual slap in the face!

Two nights ago, while attending a convention here in Warrensburg, Missouri, a unique message about sin were given to an audience of over 2000 students and a handful of adults. The text was taken from the story of Jacob and how he purposefully lied to his father just to get the inheritance. I thought – a common message that was fit for the average teenager…but never have I been soooooooo wrong! A different light into this story made me question my own Christian living. The speaker didn’t hold back…and it felt like heads were rolling from the bleachers of the auditorium.

We have bought into the mentality that certain sins are harmless and that we could get away with some…just like jacob did with her momma’s be-like-Esau plan to fool Isaac. Well…you sure could get away with it, but the effect would last longer than you think…for Jacob, it was 20 years or more before he wrestled with God.

At the moment God appeared and started battling it out with Jacob, the Almighty then did something…He asked the same question Jacob’s father, Isaac, asked back then…”WHO ARE YOU?” After 20 years, Jacob was given a harsh reminder of what he did to his earthly father…now, would he do the same to his spiritual father and claim to be someone else?

Finally, at the end of the struggle…Jacob finally told the truth. He said “I am Jacob…” in his language, it was like saying…”It’s me…the deceiver.” I’m glad it didn’t end that way…I’m glad that grace was greater! Because in the end, God said…nope…not anymore! From now on, you’ll be called…ISRAEL.

From a deceiver to a powerful nation…what a slap in the face…by grace!

– just another quickpost –

LOVE

Last Sunday, I received a letter from one of our young people. She was among the first batch of outreach kids we ministered to when our church held its first youth camp. As how things usually go during and after youth camps: she accepted Jesus as Savior, became active in the church’s young people, and then, she gradually stopped attending. She would attend during special services or if the church has an event, but other than that, we don’t usually see her. I do not know how long she has stayed in church or how long or how many times she has stopped attending but lately, she started being active again. She even volunteered for our VBS and has expressed her desire to be involve in the various ministries of our church.

To get back to the letter I received from her, it is very humbling to see someone experience God’s love and be changed by it.  I was reviewing my old blog and saw this post from March 2010 and thought of sharing…

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As a kid, the memories I had of my 2 lolas were of the exact opposites.  I remember getting awakened by my lola on mornings during weekdays to prepare for school, my breakfast ready with milk or a hot chocolate drink that goes with it or my bath prepared for me.  Of course, my ate was treated differently.  Lola will wake her up and tell her to get her food, eat breakfast and take a bath…along with a reminder to move fast or we’ll be late for school. That along with numerous occasions where she expressed her favor towards me led to my being teased as lola’s favorite by our relatives.  Well, admittedly, I really am lola’s favorite apo but during those days, I never did acknowledge that…until we transferred to the province.  This time, we lived with my mother’s side of the family. The lola who used to prepare my bath or my breakfast is now a million miles away and was replaced by the lola who prefers to give MILO or bread to her other apos because we were not her favorites.  Talk about being on top then ending in the bottom of the rank.  I was demoted from being the favorite to being among the not-so-favorite.

I remember how part of my reason for trying really hard to be the best in school was so I could somehow get her approval.  Aiming for the pilot section when I entered 1st year, impressing my teachers, making sure that I get in the honor roll, aiming for the next higher rank every grading period…until it became too impossible to get her approval that I just had to stop.

Have you ever tried so hard to gain someone’s love and approval that if you were given the power to grant whatever they wish for, you would?  Or have you had a person’s love and approval but you choose not to believe it instead?  

If you have not accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, I hope that you’ll learn to understand that He loves you.  As one song goes, nothing you can do can make Him love you more and nothing that you’ve done can make Him close the door.  He loves you and He died on the cross for you. For my fellow believers, on the other hand, I hope that you’ll remember that like the father in the story of the Prodigal Son, God does not care what you have done, HE JUST LOVES YOU AND WANTS YOU TO KNOW THAT.

To quote Max Lucado: God did what we wouldn’t dare dream.  He did what we couldn’t imagine.  He became a man so we could trust Him.  He became a sacrifice so we could know Him.  And He defeated death so we could follow Him . . .Only a Creator beyond the fence of logic could offer such a gift of love.

Child-like Faith and Spiritual Cliches

 

“Sometimes obeying God is waiting on His timing.”  

 

In our church’s second campus, we have been giving the older kids responsibility in teaching the younger class’ lessons. We arranged them in pairs and have them take turns in handling the 4- to 9-year old class. To assist them in fully understanding the lesson, I translate it in Tagalog and just send the lesson to them thru Messenger. 

This week’s lesson was about Isaac – The Son of Promise and one principle struck me: “Sometimes obeying God is waiting on His timing.”  We’ve heard this time and again…wait on God’s timing.  Wait on Him, His timing is always perfect.  God always keeps His promise so you can trust Him to keep His Word…

…”Spiritual Cliches”, we have lots of them.  An instant answer to a troubled friend, some words of wisdom to encourage, but as “spiritual” as we may sound, how have we understood these “spiritual cliches”?

As overused, unoriginal or uninteresting these statements may be, it amazes me to see how kids believe these with all their hearts.  Yes, God indeed keeps His promise.  Yes, His timing is always perfect.  

Oh to have child-like faith.  Devoid of the idea that something is cliche.  Because as cliche as it may seem, that is the truth and choosing to not believe it will not change that fact.  I think we all need to go back to being children.  

So even if the PT results are always negative, or I get left out when mothers are recognized, or I hear another pregnancy news – let me be reminded of that cliche: obeying God is waiting on His timing.  Because He knows me, loves me, cares for me, and He has nothing but the best in store for me and my hubboy.

 

Pamamaalam

Nakakatawang isipin na ni minsan hindi sumagi sa isip ko na naging bata ka rin at minsang naglaro.  Hindi ko naisip na minsan sa buhay mo, napalo ka rin dahil sa tigas ng iyong ulo.  Nakasanayan ko ng ganyan ang agwat ng edad natin.  Magkaiba tayo ng hilig at may mga bagay akong gagawin na hindi mo na kakayanin.  At kahit nakikita ko ng ika’y unti-unting tumatanda, sa paningin ko hindi ka naging mahina!

Maliban nalang nung araw na iyon…

Nasanay akong ikaw ang umaalalay sa akin.  Ang sumisigurong sa bawat hakbang ko hindi ako tutumba, sa bawat pagtawid hindi madidisgrasya. Pero nung araw na ‘yon, nag-iba na.

Ang mga kamay na noo’y bumabalanse sa akin, nung araw na iyon ay nanginginig at naghahanap na ng kakapitan.  Ang mga paang tiyak ang mga hakbang at alam ang patutunguhan nung araw na iyon ay napapagod na at nag-aalangan.

Napagmasdan kita noon…

Maputi na pala talaga ang mga buhok mo.  Ang mga kamay mo’y kulubot at tila pagod na.  Kung dati’y dinodoble ko ang mga hakbang ko para maabutan ka, ngayon kailangan ko nang bagalan para masabayan ka.  Kung dati’y tumitingala ako para kausapin ka, ngayon kailangan ko ng yumuko para marinig ka. 

Hinawakan ko ang kamay mo…

Ilang beses na ba akong napalo, nakurot at nadisiplina ng mga kamay na ito?  Ilang beses na ba akong hinandaan ng pagkain, pinaliguan, pinaglabhan at pinagplantsa ng damit?

Naalala ko ang mga umagang yuyugyugin mo ko para gisingin. “Tanghali na!” yan ang madalas mong sabihin, kahit alam naman nating ‘di pa nga sumisilip si haring araw.

Naalala ko ang mga paso ng dila ko sa mainit na Milong tinitimpla mo at pinapainom sa akin bago ako maligo. “Para ‘di lamigan ang tyan pag naligo ka,” sabi mo, kahit alam naman nating ininitan mo na ako ng tubig panligo.

Naalala ko ang mga ampalaya at gulay na hindi ko na halos nginunguya at iniinuman nalang ng tubig para malunok lang. “Kumain kayo ng gulay!” yan ang utos mo. “Maraming batang nagugutom. Wag tatayo na may tira pang pagkain ang plato. Ubusin mo kung anong inilagay mo.” Sabay saway na simutin ang pagkain sa platong gamit ko. Kaya naman ni isang butil ng kanin sinisiguro kong walang maiiwan sa plato ko..hanggang ngayon.

Naalala ko kung paanong tinawid mo ang dagat para lang puntahan kami ni ate sa probinsiya ni Nanay – kahit wala kang kasama sa biyahe, kahit walang susundo sayo at wala kang kakilala pagbaba mo ng barko, kahit yun palang yung unang pagkakataon na nakarating ka sa lugar na iyon, at kahit malayo pa ulit ang lalakbayin mo mula sa pantalan papunta sa barrio nila Nanay.  Lahat ng iyan hindi naging hadlang para puntahan mo kami.

Naalala ko kung paano mo pinoproblema ang problema naming lahat…at ng minsang pinagsabihan kita na ‘wag ganon, pinagsabihan mo ako na “ang sakit ng kalingkingan, dama ng buong katawan, kaya dapat lagi kang handa na tumulong.”

Sa lahat ng ito…sa lahat ng panahong napagsaluhan natin…kung may pag-aalinlangan man ako, ito’y walang iba kundi ang pagsasawalang-bahala ko na maraming taon na ang lumipas, at kasabay nito, lumipas na rin ang iyong lakas. At bagama’t alam kong may katapusan ang lahat, tila baga sinadya kong kalimutan na kasama ka sa matatapos, mawawala, magpapahinga…magwawakas.

Walang pag-uusap na naganap sa huling dalawang araw na nakita kitang buhay…sapagkat tanging ako lang ang nakakapagsalita noon.  Ngunit hindi ko ikinalulungkot iyon, sapagkat alam kong kung may ulirat ka man, titingnan mo lang ako, ngingitian at pakikinggan.  Sapat na para sa aking makantahan ka habang hawak ang iyong mga kamay.  Alam kong hindi ko magagawa iyon kung may ulirat ka dahil alam nating dalawang kapag ginawa ko yon, luluha ka at hindi ko matatapos ang kanta.

Pumanaw kang wala ako sa tabi mo…hindi man sinama ng Diyos sa plano Niya na nasa tabi mo ako nung kinuha ka Niya, nasisiguro kong lahat ng bagay ay may kadahilanan.  Nasisiguro kong di na pagod ang iyong mga paa.  Nasisiguro kong di mo na irereklamo na ang bagal mong maglakad.  Nasisiguro kong makapagpapahinga ka na.  At higit sa lahat, nasisiguro kong masaya ka sa piling ng Diyos na buong puso mong pinanampalatayaan at pinaglingkuran.

Salamat lola!  Hanggang sa muling pagkikita!

TRUE LOVE IS…

GRACE FILLED in all aspects. I can never imagine mankind surviving without true unconditional love. The functional virtue of every motivated believer is true unconditional, integrity love. Love that knows no boundaries and limits. Love that unites and demolishes the spirit of offense. That’s true love.

If you are stuck with the notion that love should be uplifting and encouraging…then I hate to break it to you like this, but Jesus had the truest kind of love and He got bruised and beaten and nailed on a cross because His love was so overwhelming that the pharisees got sick of it. But then, Jesus never did stop loving…even in His darkest hour. the person who penned the book of Hebrews understood that there was an ultimate motivation behind this kind of love…a deep kind of joy that was set before Him in order to despise the shame and endure the cross.

 

The picture above is a constant reminder for me about the radical kind of love that Jesus demonstrated on the cross of calvary. Jesus, who is the embodiment of love, sacrificed himself so that we in turn might know true love. Then, once we gain Christ’s love, we are now able to share this life changing truth to everyone around us.

 

If you haven’t experienced the love Jesus is offering, then I’m telling you my friend that now is the appointed time for you know.Ã� 

More Than A Word

Grace is just a common word for the common person. Nothing special…nothing spectacular…nothing breath taking.

Grace is just a word…but when you have nothing to show forth…grace becomes your everything.

My first personal and face-to-face encounter with grace came when I was a little over 11 years of age. A Pastor and dear family friend of ours made me realize that unlimited grace was just a positive decision away. The moment I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior, grace became amazing in my eyes. The fact that a sinner like me…with nothing worthwhile to show forth…with righteousness as filthy rags…became acceptable in the sight of a perfectly just and righteous God…made grace more than amazing and wonderful for me. The awesome fact that Jesus who knew no sin became sin for me so that I, who have done nothing, can become worthwhile in the eyes of God. That was something I have truly appreciated in my early years as a Christian…til everything became complicated.

Years have passed and God blessed me and my family with so much…we were living a very comfortable life…and our convenience became a breeding ground for leniency in our spiritual lives. Soon, our prosperity quickly turned from being a blessing to a heart breaking test. We forgot what was important. Detailing our struggles here will be unfair for my family…but let me let you this…we were left with nothing…except for God’s grace.

Up until now, we are still recovering from what had happened…times became more difficult and tensions within the family rose…but still, God’s grace overflowed from the heavens. We may never be as comfortable or financially stable as we used to be, but we are much more secured now as we were before…because now, we understand that security comes from the absolute source of grace. As long as God is in the business of flaunting grace…there is nothing to worry about.

I’m not promoting the abuse of grace…but the idea that without grace, we are nobody with nothing going nowhere…our lives are pointless and senseless.
It’s no accident that you are reading my post…maybe God is speaking to you..telling you that it’s time you allow grace to be more than a word.

GRAPHIC NOVELS: My first love

Only a few people in my life are aware of my fascination about comic books. They keep me up at night as I read and re-read these masterpieces. These 32 to 80-paged works of art often serve as my inspiration as an artist. The unique storytelling approach of each panel captivates the nerd in me. I have the utmost respect to the people who write the stories, pencil the initial draft, ink the final look and go as far as coloring them. I love the look and feel of printed goodness in matte and semi-gloss paper.

A certain type of fulfillment is achieved whenever I get a hold of old printed copies in newsprint. The way the colors are overlaid with great care shows the dedication of the artist in this particular craft. Now, the tools of the trade leveled up, but the passion of these artists remain as bright as before.

Comic books gave me a deep appreciation to details. Each stroke, shadow, silhouette and color portray an emotion that can’t be described by mere words…it emphasizes the thoughts of the protagonist or the impending doom of the antagonist. Just like Jim Lee’s portrayal of Batman…he’s the good guy, but the way Jim Lee inks this badboy gives us the idea that a dark side is looming over him…a passive bad ass image. Carlos Ezquerra, the creator of Judge Dredd, considered the image of the main character in conceptualizing this iconic embodiment of the judge, jury and executioner. From the head piece that resembles an executioner to the fascist symbol of the American eagle during the 70’s. Everything inside a panel is carefully thought of before inking it.

In our present day, graphic novels have crossed over to digital media. You can easily download new issues with a simple tap and swipe of a smart phone…but nothing beats ink on paper and the feel of flipping through the pages and even getting paper cut in the process. The whole experience for me is just satisfyingly weird. I don’t have a particular series or even a preferred publisher…I just pick up whatever interests me…whether if it’s Batman, Superman, Judge Dredd, The punisher, Archie or even my local favorite – Pugad Baboy. Comics has been a vital part of my life as a graphic artist…and I pray that one day, I can use this particular passion of mine to showcase the things God has been doing in my life!

So…if you haven’t experienced reading a comic book, try to pick up one now and tell me what you think!