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IDENTIFYING PASSION KILLERS

While preparing for the message for the Youth Service, my good friend and fellow campus missionary, Roel Layug shared to me about passion killers among the youth in the church. What are passion killers? These are things that rob our enthusiasm and zeal for our faith and relationship with Jesus.

  1. Ungodly relationships : Relationships that lead us away from our intimacy with God, causing us to sin and disobey God’s will. Godly relationships help us to value more our relationship with God and pushes us to honor Him and walk an ever increasing path of obedience to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Mike (not his real name), a student, came to know Jesus at our campus ministry. Realizing what Jesus did for him, he left his ungodly relationship with his girlfriend, pursued his relationship with Jesus, and is now one of our fruitful leaders – sharing the gospel in his campus and leading fellow students to Christ.
  2. Unbelief : This comes from a heart that is not sold out to God, who He is, His ability, His promises, His unfailing Love, His forgiveness, His redemption, and His sovereignty. When challenges come, our unbelief can cause us to be overwhelmed by fear, anxiety, and insecurity. The only way to counter unbelief is to move in faith in God’s words and promises. When in doubt that God will provide, believe that everything comes from Him. When sickness strikes, believe God’s word for healing. When relationships are broken and dysfunctional, move in faith that God is able to change hearts and minds. When faced with uncertainties, hang on to God’s promises. Heaven and earth will pass away, but the word of God will last forever. Even in the midst of unbelief, God remains to be faithful and loving. Unbelief hinders us from fully receiving God’s promises and breakthroughs. The only way to counter unbelief is to hold on to God’s word, and that can happen when we commit to do our part of knowing God through the Bible, prayer and devotion, and a community of believers.
  3. Voices we listen to – Nowadays, social media, society and peers makes huge influence in our youth; they set the trends of what is in or out, what is cool and what is out-of-the-date; and most of the time, these are the voices our youth listens to. First Corinthians 15:33 says, “Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character”. It is true that whoever we listen to or who we are with most of the time, influences us, whether big or small. I’m not saying that we must not be with them, actually we must be with them, like what Paul did, but we need to filter the things that is according to God’s word and that are not – this can happen if we soak and meditate in His Word. Ultimately the only voice we need to listen is the voice of God. To hear God we need to create that quiet environment for us to hear Him speak. When we know God’s voice we easily discern other voices that are not from God. God’s voice is redemptive, regardless of our failures, shortcomings and sins. The voice of God is distinctive, it loves you but it leaves you unchanged, accepts you, affirms you, comforts you, and secures you. What matters most is the voice of God than the opinion of men.

Every time I meet with young people and hear of their challenges, I ask these questions, What is God telling you? How is your quite time and daily bible reading? What is/are God’s word regarding the matter.  As they faithfully seek God and keep the spiritual disciplines, our young people will remain passionate for God and the gospel.

I’m thankful to my fellow campus missionaries in Ortigas for sharing their insights about this topic.

Will your future be thankful from your decisions today?

We are who we are today because of the decisions we made in the past. If you are physically fit today, it’s because you decided to commit to being fit. Maybe the best question we can ask ourselves today is “Years from now, will I be grateful for the decisions I made today?”

More than 10 years ago, during 2009 prayer and fasting week, I prayed and believed for the impossible to happen in my life and that was to go back to college and get a degree. During that time, I was working as a call center agent and helping provide for my family in the province. The financial challenges in my family drove me to give up the dream of a college degree and accept the weight of being the breadwinner.

But it was through a class in church back in 2007 that once again reignited that desire. Since then it has been constantly brewing in my heart, a hopeful thought that haunted me for two years. My response to this thought was resistance and saying how could it be possible? Considering the weight of responsibility I felt for my family. Who would support and help my family if I pursue my desire?

At the 2009 prayer and fasting, I said to God, yes I want it, and I want to continue. Started believing in my heart what can be, rather than what cannot. I felt it was God calling me on this and it was Him who put this desire burning in my heart. The one who called me is ultimately faithful and in that I rested.

A month after the prayer and fasting, my mom called me up to share her good news! She was hired to work in Macau as a domestic helper. The month that followed was another answered prayer, my sister’s education in a private school will be fully supported financially by a relative until she graduates. Isn’t that great?

God took off every hindrance, showing that truly nothing is impossible with Him. That year I resigned from work and went back to college as a full time student. The journey wasn’t easy, there was plenty of hurdles along the way, but the very words of God brought sustenance and strength throughout the journey.

Today I am grateful that I had made that decision to respond in faith. I am thankful that God enabled me to move in hope in a seemingly cornered and hopeless situation. This experience enabled me as well to see God in action in my life.

But truly the best decision I ever made was the moment I accepted Jesus Christ in my heart as my Lord and Savior back in 2006. I would not have the faith to believe for the possibilities If I did not embrace his Lorship over all things . I am in Christ, so is my life and all it’s circumtance.

At the end of the day, we all make faith decisions.

Three things I want to point out;

• Never make life decisions base on personal limitations.

• Pray and trust God in all circumstance.

• Obey and act in faith in accordance to God’s words and promises.

What decisions are seemingly challenging and impossible for you, but will make you thankful in the years to come?

3 ways to Cultivate Spiritual Hunger

How do we set up ourselves for greater desire for intimacy with God and spiritual growth? Or maybe do you desire to know God more and more in your relationship with Him? Would you want to experience God more than before? May these 3 ways help you cultivate spiritual hunger.

1. Ask for it.

Asking entails humbling ourselves before God, acknowledging that left to our own, we cannot do it. We need God’s power and grace in our lives to enable us to hunger and thirst for more of Him in our lives.

For everyone who asks receives. He who seeks finds. To him who knocks it will be opened. – Mathew 7:8

Spiritual hunger is something that we cannot manufacture on our own. Asking God is our starting point in all things, developing intimacy requires communication.

2. Develop Spiritual Disciplines.

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. – Hebrews 12:11

Starting new disciplines isn’t always easy at start; but it springs from a heart that is committed to growth and intimacy with the Almighty, not by obligation but of joyful delight. If God is of top priority, then daily spiritual discipline is nonnegotiable.

These are personal disciplines of reading and understanding the Word, reflection, prayer confession, and obedience to the Word.

The more we discipline ourselves, the more we know God, the more we desire for more of Him and growing in trust in Him. Spiritual disciplines are never the means to attain salvation but the means to get deeper in knowledge of God.

3. Preach the Gospel to self and accept it daily.

Our understanding of the gospel directly impacts how we live our lives and so are our misunderstandings about it. We need to be reminded of the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross and its implications. Reminding ourselves of the Gospel keeps us grounded to our own depravity. Accepting the gospel daily sets us free from our inadequacy and it enables us to live the life to full in Christ.

The gospel leads us to inside-out transformation.

As we end: let me encourage with this promise:

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” – Mathew 5:6 ESV

What The Past Year Taught Me

When life and circumstances seems crippling, cornered and no where to go, succumb to darkness of hopeless and grief; a time when emotions are high and overwhelming.

The days felt like days of mourning and grief, as if someone you dearly loved passed away. Moment of immense tears and sadness no words can ever describe. Such a despair I can only do but cry.

This was me a week before entering 2018, the last quarter of 2017 had a plotwist that brought much pain and challenge, a time when life and circumstances hit hard. I was overwhelmed with the circumstances that I have, combined my reflections with disappointments and discouragement for 2017 that surfaced on the very eve of Christmas to days that followed was filled with emotional pain.

I had an overwhelming number of family challenges going through back home, along with thoughts and reflections of shortcomings, failures and discouragements both personal and in ministry. All were overwhelming at the same time. I didn’t know how I would celebrate Christmas at that time, at a very special time to be with family. All I wanted was to be alone. Though my closest friend would invite, the grief within was overwhelming I deeply wanted to be alone.

I wandered how will I ever surpass this season. I cried to God almost every day, to remove this grief and mourning in my heart and restore my joy. I prayed for God to help me to hope again and restore the joy of my salvation.

As I waited, I felt God comforting the pain I am going through by sending my friends. It was a season I felt my heart was callous from hoping and joy. Deep within a still small voice saying never give up hoping, never stop believing, and above all never stop calling to God.

A year later, as I spent time with family for the Christmas season, as I look back my heart was filled with peace, and assurance that whatever 2019 and the years will bring, I can rest in his power. As He has sustained me and my family in 2018, how much more in the years to come. Truly apart from God’s goodness and faithfulness I didn’t know I could have survived. This only inspired me to be in faith all the more. The weight of challenge hasn’t lighten up, yet God’s presence through the storm breathes life and hope everyday.

We all have crosses to carry, the weight will never be easy. But as we take it, let’s continue to fix our eyes on Jesus. The cross he carried far more outweighs the ones we have. As we enter 2019, we can continue to rely on his unfailing character.

If we are in Christ then, so are our situations. Nothing escapes in His sovereignty and power. In christ, we rest in His capacity.

Moving on & New Beginnings

New year means new beginnings. While it is wonderful to ponder and write down things that we are thankful for the previous year, it would also be great to reflect on our failures, frustrations, pains and discouragements. We need to free ourselves from all the baggages that have been weighing us down. We can do this through honest reflections and acknowledgments that will lead us to humility before God and Him freeing us from such things. This way we can truly move forward to a year filled with hope and soar high.

Start fresh, back to zero.

We should start the year free from familiarity to face new challenges. Don’t hold on to your trophies, recognitions and achievements because our past successes may not help bring us to success this year. In other words, what got you here may not necessarily get you there. Let us desire to have a heart that is excited for new mountains to conquer – now with a greater dependence on God in being successful and not only from years of experience. Sometimes we rely on our past successes more than relying on God.

Let go.

In our previous journeys, we may have encountered frustrations, disappointments, discouragements and hurts. Today, it is time to let go. Let go and let God. God, being above all these things, is everlasting and powerful. And when we start to acknowledge that God is at the center and that He is the One who orchestrates all things, we will have peace knowing that He is perfectly in control. He knows better and He knows best. As we allow Him to rule in our hearts, He will give us peace, restoration, strength, healing, new direction, and He will also fill us with a new sense of hope.

Failures do not define us.

We won’t have success all the time. Human beings are limited and bound to fail one way or another. However, failures should never define you neither give you your identity. Rather, we can take them as learning curves to help us become a better person. We only truly fail when we fail to see the beauty and the lessons these shortcomings bring us. Only God has set your value and you are always priceless before Him.

As you start the year, be in faith for greater things. And as you journal your faith goals, dare to believe big, dream big, and expect big things. Hold on to God who rules, reigns and creator of all things. Rest in His promises with expectant hearts for the object of our faith is of incomparable greatness beyond measure.

… But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead – Philippians 3:13

May you have a joyful new beginnings this year!

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!