INSPIRING STUDENTS | How they are making ends meet.

Not all are privileged to go to school, and for some, getting a college degree is a dream far from being achieved. The realities of financial lack give little option but to work and help contribute to the family’s needs. But then there are those who, despite all the impossibilities, resist and refuses to give up, get all the more determined, and are armed with a vision and hope to push forward against all odds. They strive to make ends meet, and they find creative ways to make a living. These are just some of the ways they make ends meet:

Tutorials: One of the opportunities they grab a hold of is offering tutoring services, which may have started from simple sessions with a neighbour’s child to recommendations from relatives and friends. This grows until a network of connections is built and more formal opportunities to tutor are established.

House Chores Services: One of the many options to take into considerations is doing  house chores. You need not go far as the best place to start is within neighbourhood,and within a network of relatives and friends.

Selling: Some of the things I personally did during college was to make and sell homemade sandwiches. I also sold frozen goods supplied by a friend (tocino,embotido, and longanisa), even adobong mani packs. Other students sell perfumes and other goods. One student from STI would sell balut, just to make sure he has his daily allowance.

 Part time jobs and rackets: Some students I’ve met, constantly, make use of their skills such as singing, event hosting, playing musical instruments, acting as event clowns, event coordinators, and even doing random errands for someone.

 Working in a fast food chain: This is one of the most common options for most students, but this is also one of the most challenging. Sometimes, work shifts come before or after class, and because of these challenging schedules, students don’t get enough sleep. One should carefully consider the academic load when entering into a job like this. I had batch mates who took quite some time in college, juggling studies and work as server or cook. When I was a student, my classmates who did this were my constant reminder to be grateful, to be inspired and to persevere.

Call Center Jobs: There are still a few graveyard warriors who continue to inspire many people, juggling their graveyard shift and studies. When I was working at a BPO company, I was surprised to see an employee in student’s uniform, only to find out that after the shift, she would go directly to class. I can only imagine how all her sacrifice was not in vain as I’m sure she has gone far in pursuing her dreams.

Scholarship Grants: There are so many scholarship grant available out there. If you’re a student looking for one, try checking your options starting from the school, barangay program, to the local government and research on non-government organizations focused on helping deserving yet underprivileged youth.

God did not leave us powerless against lack or poverty. The determinant of our richness and success is not our environment nor lack, but in our identity in Christ. Through Jesus Christ, we can rightfully claim every promise of God in the Bible. In Jesus Christ, we will be able to live a storm proof life. In him we are made victorious. At the end of the day, It is the object of our faith that will sustain us and will make us victorious.

HOW TO WELCOME CHALLENGES

Last January, in one of the prayer and fasting lunch services at Victory Ortigas, a random lady approached me to offer prayer, which I gladly welcomed. The first part of her prayer came this way:

“Welcome Challenges this year”

I could not recall the rest of her prayers. But it indeed struck me, because it was clear to me that God was speaking through her.
Doing ministry is not easy, It can be very overwhelming and I have honestly come to a point of pleading to God to take it away, or at least, make it a bit easier. It was a breaking point. But every time I talk with God, He constantly reminds that it is He who orchestrates everything in my life, including the overwhelming challenges in the ministry. It is He who placed me here and that He did not make a mistake in assigning me that weight for the task.
Looking back at that time of prayer with the lady, I realize how God revealed to me my response (which is fear) to the potential challenges that will come my way this year. This made me ask myself, “so how should we welcome challenges?”

Pondering on this question, here are some of the points which came to mind:

1. Recognize that all challenges that come to you are allowed by God.

· Go direct to God above who entrust this to you. Seek Him with all your heart. Ask to give you wisdom and guidance on how to handle the challenge. Recognizing that all these challenges were allowed by God, will make you see that it is also God who can deliver you out of it. Take to heart that it is God−ordained.

2. Respond with the right heart.
· How we respond to challenges matters. We can either keep on complaining or take on the challenges and thank God. As God has entrusted the challenges, He will enable you to perform it. Heart check is crucial as we respond in this journey. God is maturing our faith and relationship with Him.

3. Be courageous and strong. 
· God’s Word to Joshua, as he took on the new leadership role was “Be very strong and courageous in all your challenges.” Remembering that God is with you in every step of the way will encourage you to be strong and courageous. Do not be intimated with what will come your way, for the Lord your God is with you.

   4. Be excited for what God will teach you through your challenges. 
· Keep in mind that this faith journey comes with amazing learnings and revelations, no matter how difficult and impossible it may be. One of the benefits of facing challenges is breaking of wrong mindsets. Most of the time I find myself limiting an unlimited God, then I repent and realize how God is expanding my faith.

We are just in the first quarter of 2017 and I find myself delightfully excited to what comes my way. Do not close doors yet for challenges, for God is mighty in your life and He will deliver you through it.

Motives 2017 | Heart to serve 

This was the main call for my fellow missionaries and I during our first meeting for the year. Realizing how excited we are to carry out our tasks and victoriously overcome the challenges in our responsibilities in the campuses and in the church (and of course to achieve our respective personal goals), it is also equally important that we reflect on what our hearts truly desire for this year. Why does our service matter? And, what is the heart behind our service?

No matter how good our actions are, at the end of the day, motivation matters. Our heart before God is of UTMOST importance− more than our actions and their results. The Bible says,

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” – Philippians 2:3-4 NIV

In these verses, we are reminded to serve, not to promote our own interest and reputation, but to serve the interests of others. Whether you consider yourself a leader or not, we are reminded to serve GOD and not man. How can I serve God by serving my teammates and leaders more? How can I be a blessing to God by being a blessing to my campus, my community, and my family?

If we find our hearts gearing towards focusing on our own interests and what we will gain in exchange of our “service” to God and others, it would not hurt to take a few steps back, to rethink and recalibrate our hearts with this Scripture and with Jesus. By overcoming pride  and honestly assessing the motives behind our services, we become more like Jesus, our ultimate example of humility and genuine service. As we have more and more of Jesus in us, there becomes less and less of us each day as we continue to serve. Again our motives matters most to God than our actions.

For Christians, may we always be reminded to imitate our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and to serve the way he did – selflessly.

Rejoicing amid brokeness

Christmas is indeed the most wonderful time of the year, Where most  families gather together and having a meaningful celebration, the birth of the savior. It’s the time of the year we look forward to be re-united with our loved ones and spend dinner together.

But what if this Christmas, you are home alone or far from family and loved ones? What if a family member has passed away and you don’t feel celebrating Christmas. What if because of irreconcilable difference with loved ones makes it impossible to be together? What if you found out some one in you love is dying out o cancer or going through legal battles?

Whatever it may be, the Bible is very clear :

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice. – Philippians 4:4   

God is good even when circumstances is bad. No matter how bad things are around, we can always rejoice.

The birth of Jesus Christ is the only happening that can bring greater joy. He came for the forgiveness of our sins, the hope of our salvation. In him we have redemption and freedom. In him we have peace. He is the testimony of God’s mercy and goodness to us.

In Jesus Christ I have found the  very reason to rejoice, the comfort and strength. His love and goodness is so overwhelming, I can’t help but rejoice and be filled with gratitude. This is the invitation of Jesus for each and everyone.

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my savior. – Habakkuk 3:18

If you only rejoice when you feel like it, and circumstances warrants it, you will never rejoice much and you will miss a lot of joy. For when you rejoice in the Lord and focus on Him, joy begins to flow out of your inner being and strengthens you.The Joy that is more than having peace and security, unstoppable in all circumstance, that is incomparable in all things, that can only be found on Jesus.

Overcoming Christmas stress? 

Feeling tossed between tidal waves in the middle of the ocean since my return to Manila a week ago -that’s how I can describe myself, at least in the past few days. Christmas time is an awesome, wonderful time to celebrate and reunite with good old friends, colleagues, and family. However, this “awesome, wonderful time” can also cost us with a lot of things and inconveniences. If we are not watchful, we will unknowingly grow hearts of complaints and grudges because of the many things that are happening around us. And this is not the way it should be!

Below are some points on how we can avoid and overcome this:

IDENTIFYING THE STRESS FACTOR

Stress can be both good and bad. But what is causing the stress within us? When stress begins to surface, it’s important to identify what triggers it by asking ourselves honest questions like:

  • Am I stressed because things are not happening my way?
  • Am I stressed because my travel time went beyond what I expected?
  • Am I stressed because I have so many expenses for all the Christmas parties I need to go to?
  • Am I stressed because I’m not getting the things I want?

And there are a lot of other questions that we can ask ourselves whenever we start getting stressed!

As we examine what triggers stress in us, let us also examine the way we respond to these triggers. Our response reveals a lot about the condition of our hearts before God. It takes humility to be honest before God with how we feel about ourselves and our situation, and to surrender everything unto Him.

GRATITUDE!

Christmas parties! From officemates, to friends, neighborhood, community, family reunions, volunteer group, churchmates, discipleship group and a lot more depending on your involvement. There are just so many parties to go to that sometimes, we come to a point that one party becomes “just another activity.” This is the point when I start thanking God for each group and party, and for the fruitful relationships I have this people. But honestly, I’ve had to let go of some parties, especially those with conflict in schedule and location.

Having a thankful heart for all the people and relationships in this season will help us go above feeling overwhelmed with all the parties and events.

EXPENSE! (BOTH TIME AND MONEY)

Celebrating this season means going through many inconveniences – from heavy traffic jam, to crowded malls, to so much things to buy. Most of the time, exchange gifts are set to a range of amount and parties have prescribed outfits or costumes. When budget starts to run low, expense stress also starts. We have to think smart and organize when it comes to spending. Come to think of it, almost everyone is giving away something this season, both time and gifts. Expense is temporary, but the relationships being built through the time spent and appreciation given to people go a long way. When we start to see people as expenses, we should start checking and recalibrating our hearts also. Examine why we have come to this point.

On the other hand, when we start to magnify God’s goodness, kindness and generosity, and fully understand the expense of our forgiveness and redemption, I am sure the sure our hearts response is gratitude and rejoicing. The expenses we have at this time are nothing compared to God’s expense when He sent His Son to us – the Reason why we are supposed to celebrate (and not fret over) this season.

JESUS IS THE REASON

Let us always go back to the reason of the season. It is not the sale going on the malls, nor the presents we give and get, nor the Christmas parties and bazaars we go to. Neither is it about you and me! Christmas season is always about our LORD JESUS CHRIST, nothing more, nothing less.

Whatever stresses and frustrates you, don’t miss out the very reason for the season, our Lord Jesus. The greatest gift we can have for ourselves is accepting Jesus in our hearts as Lord and Savior.

The greatest gift we can also give to our friends, colleagues, and families, is letting them know the saving knowledge of receiving Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, trusting in His finished work on the cross for our Salvation and forgiveness of our sins. He has accomplished what we can never accomplish on our own and that is more than enough to keep us rejoicing and celebrating this season.

Have a joyful, stress-free and merry Christmas!

Know the condition of your flock.

How do we lead the people entrusted to us?  How do we work with them? As leaders, what should be our posture towards our team?  What guiding principles can work on a general img_8332setting? As of writing, I am reading a new book entitled, “The Way of the Shepherd”,  7 Ancient Secrets to Managing Productive People by Dr. Kevin Leman and Bill Pentak.

The first chapter tackles the principle: “Know the condition of your flock.

As leaders, managers, and overseers we can be preoccupied with the work but not with the workers. Yes, we need to get things done, but we should be reminded as well that people are tired of being treated like a number. They don’t want to be treated just as employees or volunteer but as individuals. It is our people who get things done. Our people is our greatest advantage.

And this will mean:

  • Follow-up the status of your people as well as the status of the work.
  • Getting to know them one at a time,  their goals and dreams, motivations, career ambitions and frustrations, intentionally knowing what impacts them at the moment.
  • Engaging them through the regular basis. This happens when we go out of our comfort zones and getting along with them, keeping eyes and ears open and asking plenty of questions.
  • The most important is this – following them through, it means keeping up with them with what’s going on in their lives.

Above all else, this should come from a heart that really cares for people. Whether they are full time staff or committed volunteers, knowing the condition of your flocks matters.

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” 

This chapter reminds me so much of Proverbs 27:23.

“Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds”

Leaders won’t be able to manage what they don’t know.

Reflection questions:

  1. What is the posture of my heart towards the people I lead?
  2. Do I compromise my people for the sake of the work?
  3. Am I intentionally getting to know them and going out of my way?
  4. Am I listening to them?
  5. Am I asking enough questions?
  6. Am I keeping up with what’s going on in their lives?
  7. Is my motivation really to care for them?

As we try to reflect and answer these questions, we need the grace of the Lord Jesus to be the leader He wants us to be. We need Him to change our hearts. We need Him to overflow in our hearts so that we can genuinely love and care for the people – His people.

Gratefully offended daily

Offense is one of  life’s inescapable reality, whether  we like it or not it will come our way. We all had our taste of offense whether we may be the cause or the receiving end. But how can I be grateful when the offense happens daily? How do you handle it? or take it?

As I was reading and reflecting on the lines of Isaiah 59:22

“but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.”

These lines speaks so powerfully of what separates me from my creator, SIN, that causes me to be independent from God. This reminded me that deep in my core, I am truly a sinner and nothing of it deserves God’s goodness and grace. That, by faith alone in Jesus and His finish work, we can only be save and nothing else. That we can have rich and have satisfying life. That forgiveness is made available and true freedom can be attained at the cross. That is the gospel!

Daily, I need to seek God, pray and read the bible and remind myself that only Jesus can save me, nor ultimately satisfy and give me fulfilment. My good works have no value, but only the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. My great representative in fulfilling the law that I can never fulfill. This is where the daily offense happen.

The truth is the gospel is offensive because..

  1.  It tells us we are not capable of saving ourselves.
  2.  It tells us that we need a Savior, more capable and powerful than us.
  3.  It tells us that we are foolish like a sheep that needs a shepherd.
  4.  It tell us that on our own, we will never amount to anything.
  5.  It tells us that human intellect is limited.

and a lot more reasons to be offended.

And yet I chose to embrace all this everyday. The truth is God’s truth is offensive. Our response is either humility and embrace Jesus in our life or be led away by pride, independence and arrogance.

God’s truth is offensive yet worth embracing and worth rejoicing. We will never know how wonderful the good news is unless we fully understand how really awful the bad news is. We need a Savior in the name of Jesus Christ.

For that I am truly grateful to the core. And I don’t know with you, with what you choose. But I pray that you may consider the truth and respond in humility, acknowledging that salvation, freedom and joy can only come from Jesus Christ.

“The Christian gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for me.” – Tim Keller