3 A.M. MUSINGS

Yes, I am writing this in the wee hours of the morning and No, this is not an ode to the song by Matchbox 20, though some similarities may be seen except for the part where it says “…I must be lonely.” (just search the lyrics if doesn’t make sense)

A lot of things are keeping me awake these days – health scares, financial worries, pending projects, etc. Out of all those things, nothing is more potent than thinking about your purpose in life. “What should I be doing with my life?” I’m almost at my 40’s and I might still be considered young by most of the people I work with, but then it does not exclude me from wondering if I am doing what I am supposed to do. Don’t get me wrong, I love my work and most of the people I work with, but then something at the back of my mind is telling me that there is more I can do. This is the main thing that makes me turn on my computer and just start typing away.

IS IT TIME TO FINISH MY STUDIES?

This is always my insecurity. I was privileged to go to college but there came a moment in my life that I had to stop and help out. It was the common route for the struggling Filipino family. The eldest would start working so that the other siblings could continue their studies. I did not hate the idea. I did not despise my parents for it. I even felt that it was the honorable thing to do and I am glad that I submitted to my parents. Somehow, I feel like I am part of my sisters’ success – An Elementary Teacher and a Medical Technologist.

The privilege of restarting my educational journey was always available but often put aside. A lot of things were considered a priority. Then I got married, given two kids, and now a full plate at work. As I look at my life and the niche God had carved out for me, there is this need of upgrading. I am grateful and still at awe that God would use a high school graduate to manage His ministry. There is no doubt that God can use anyone He wants, but then I read somewhere that GOD USES PREPARED PEOPLE. Willingness is not enough to get us there. At some point, we will need to develop and enhance a particular skill set and learn to use new tools of our chosen trade.

SHOULD I GET A NEW JOB OR START A BUSINESS?

Financial security is one of the goal we have as a family. Currently, we are undergoing debt management. A lot of wrong decisions in life have pushed us deep into debt and we are starting the long journey out.

Some of my friends of the same faith have asked me, “Shouldn’t you just build capacity and let God handle your finances?” Technically, that’s what we are starting to do. Exercising my faith in finances does not mean doing nothing and waiting for God to bless me. I believe that building capacity is also being financially literate. Being a good steward means creating good cash flow and knowing when to invest. The underlying purpose in our goal to be financially secured is not just for comfort sake but also to open possibilities of helping out people and ministries. That’s why a second job or my own business seems promising.

There is this fine line between acceptable profits and selfish gains that I don’t want to cross. I don’t want to work my ass off just for the sake of making money. I want to make it clear for myself and my family why we need the extra money. Having a clear objective makes it easier for us to lay out our petition to God. As of today, we have a lot of things lined up and we are earnestly praying for God’s timely provision. Our family has gone through a lot of tight financial situations, and every single time, God has proven himself as the great provider. So now, upon the realization of God’s overflowing provision, the motive behind getting a new job or starting a business shifts from a point of financial gain to an opportunity of influence. This is what contributes to my early morning self-reflection moments.

EXPANDING OUR INFLUENCE

I believe that our purpose will have a lasting impact that would echo even after we are gone. What legacy are we leaving behind? What kind of influence do we have with the next generation? As a father of two kids, I have to take those question seriously. There is only so much I can do with the remaining time I have, so I have to make every day count. I cannot change the world for them, but I can equip them with the right mentality and attitude needed to respond to the changing times. If there is one thing I desire, that’s making sure my babies establish a belief system that can give them hope and confidence in living their lives. As a Christian, I know that Jesus is the foundation of that belief system.

For what shall it profit a man,
if he shall gain the whole world,
but lose his soul
?
Mark 8:36

My self-reflection will always come to this conclusion – Whatever I am doing, it should serve the ultimate purpose of God which is spreading the good news. Whether I would pursue my studies, get a new job, or start my own company, everything should serve the ultimate purpose. So now, the end is in mind, what’s next?

THE TIPPING POINT

The pandemic is slowly getting to me and my routine. My way of doing things is starting to have a bad taste in my mouth. Working from home was a joy at first. No early morning preparation. No long commute. It sounded like a dream. Fast forward to today, working from home has become a potential hazard to our mental state. I’m about to tip over and just lose it. An imminent breakdown of massive proportion is about to happen. I had to step back.

Just the other night, while my wife and I were chatting, I began to self-assess. What am I really feeling? Am I angry? Frustrated? Sad? Discontent? Why am I being overwhelmed by so many emotions? What is the root of my current problem? I bounced everything back to my wife and was given more questions to ponder. At some level, she is also struggling to find stability in our current situation.

MY CURRENT DILEMMA

I am an idealist and also a realist. I have a lot of things in my mind that I FEEL like I have to do but are constrained to what I can REALLY do. Back in our old church, I surrendered myself to be used by God in the mission field. I can still remember the moment I stepped forward to the front and get emotional to the distinct feeling of being called to actively involve myself in mission work. I started teaching in our local church as part of training and was even part of various ministries. Years started to pass and the FEELING of being a missionary boiled down to the question – am I REALLY called by God. As of today, I still have the same feeling but then other things are also impressed in my heart like starting a business, starting a ministry, finishing my studies, and even starting a second job. All of these are currently compiled in my brain and it’s starting to bleed over my routine and affect my current roles and responsibilities.

I remember telling my wife that I wish I knew what God was preparing me for. It’s like telling me that we are leaving in 10 minutes so I better prepare but then no other information is given. Where are we going? Are we going to stay long? Should I bring food? Then my wife said the most God ordained thing that smacked my spiritual senses. For her, not knowing builds up a good kind of anticipation and reminds her of God’s sovereignty. I could only do so much, and for the other things I am not capable to do, I have to apply FAITH!

APPLYING A HOSEA MOMENT

I’m currently restarting my personal devotion and was led to the book of Hosea. I concluded, that in order for me to successfully apply FAITH, I need a stable belief system that is founded on the absolute TRUTH of God’s Word. I believe that I have been complacent with my spiritual life, thinking that once a week is enough to nourish my soul. I was starving and I had no clue. That was also the dilemma of the kingdom of Israel during the time of Hosea. That is why, the whole book is a reminder of the effect of neglecting the most important thing.

When you go to the second verse of the first chapter of Hosea, you will see the heaviness of what Hosea will be undergoing for God’s work. It says there, “Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness…” Now, I will not go into the whole reason behind why God ordered such thing (Because there is always a legitimate reason if it came from God) but focus on the first 4 words in God’s message – GO, TAKE TO YOURSELF.

Hosea was a prophet. Mostly, prophets go about telling people God’s message for them like how Jonah was ordered to tell the people of Nineveh of their impending doom. But then, God would always have a message for the prophet themselves. The first order of business for Hosea was for himself. A heavy task that was met with pure obedience once you get to the next verse. Why did Hosea obey? A commentary I was reading once said – It is easier to obey if you understand WHO is giving the command.

Hosea was not blindly obeying. Hosea was simply obeying out of love and reason. The logic behind this is established on a belief system where God is the ultimate foundation. That is the basis of FAITH! That’s what I need. I know the story of Hosea and how He repeatedly took his wife back into his arms even to the point of buying her back, but I am still excited to go over the story verse by verse and really soak into the grace, mercy, and compassion of God without neglecting His justice and perfect Righteousness.

BROKEN AND SPILLED OUT

I remembered Steve Green’s song BROKEN AND SPILLED OUT about the woman who broke a box of expensive oil and poured it into Jesus’ feet. The song shifted the focus on Jesus, where it says that He was also broken and spilled out for us on the Cross. Then, the last verse of the song was more of a challenge for the Christian.

In sweet abandon, let me be spilled out
And used up for Thee

Eventually, we would reach a tipping point where we are not able to do anything. In that point of helplessness, we can still be used by God. We are still able to move forward. I’m not saying it would be easy. It would even be painful. But then, with God, nothing is impossible.

I pray that as we move forward, especially during these trying times, that we do what we can do and trust God with what we are not able to do.

Photo by Lane Smith on Unsplash

RECALLING THE PAST

In 1999, I received the hardest task given to me by my parents…that’s to go home alone to the Philippines and finish my last two years in High School. Most of my life was lived in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. My family, friends and even my knowledge of Christianity was established in the Middle East. Leaving everything behind and starting a new was not an easy task for a 14 year old. I may have the physique of a 30 year old but still an emotional quotient of a frail boy.

Being reminded of Ephesians 6:1, I obeyed my parents, even if I have to suppress my dismay and feeling of unfairness. On April 1999, my family and I flew back to the motherland. It was my last international flight. I psyched myself into accepting the reality that one month from that point in time; I will be left alone by my parents. The thought of separation was the most painful thing. Thousands of miles from your loved ones on a different time zone were more of a torture than a challenge.

Two years have passed, God granted me to graduate from High School. No honors but a true graduate none the less. 16 years old was the ideal age for my generation to enter college. I applied in UP, UST, MAPUA, LA SALLE and LETRAN. I was on fire. But that fire was quickly distinguished when all my applications were denied. Running low on confidence, I thought of just taking a short vocational course, convinced that my mental capacity can only handle only two more years of studying. But then, a friend told me to try La Salle top…not taft…but top…top of the mountain! La Salle Dasmariñas offered Computer Science (which was the in thing then). So I took the entrance test, and lo and behold, I was accepted. I was placed in Section 1 of BS Computer Science year 1. But my stay in that university was cut short because of financial matters. I only finished 1 year.

At 17, I decided to work. We had a small food stall in the Sucat area near the City Hall. So I helped out every morning, delivering food, washing the dishes, cooking big kalderos of rice, and packing up. I followed the same routine everyday for almost 4 months when an opportunity opened for me in School of Tomorrow, Philippines.

To summarize everything, 2002 I entered Living Heritage Academy as a database encoder under Mrs. Kakilala. In 2005, God gave me the opportunity to discover my hidden talent in graphics design. By 2007, my skills were enhanced, by God’s grace, from print design to video editing. 2008, a personal bump in my career and spiritual life lead me to resign from School of Tomorrow and work for a secular company. Higher pay was guaranteed but it was hard to ignore God’s tug on my heart back to my first love which is Christian Education and doctrinal teaching. 2009, I answered God’s call and went back to School of Tomorrow. Now, God has blessed me with the opportunity to show His grace to everyone through Multimedia Arts.

Looking back, it’s hard not to see God’s sovereignty in each important life changing situation. I hope and pray that your story would reflect God’s character and integrity. After all, we Christians are the light of the world, a city that is set on a hill that can never be hidden. And when people would see that light, they should not see us but instead glorify our Father Who is on heaven.

GIVING A DEFENSE

Last Sunday, we had a very interesting time at Church…well, we always do, but this time it’s different. During our life lesson’s time, the topic took a very heavy turn. It talked about conversational evangelism. Evangelism per se is the epitome of the divine directive that is given to all Christians. “GO YE THEREFORE…” is the operative phrase in the great commission of Christ to the church age believers. John Piper even said, “the good news that is not proclaimed is not a good one…it’s not even news!”

Personally, I was challenged with the drive of the message that day. I was examining myself on how I am fulfilling the great commission? What part am I doing? Am I not responding to God’s call? Is this part of the “CHANGE PROJECT” I set out to do? Are you telling me something God? These are questions that need to be dealt with in this lifetime.

To make matters even more complicated (yet affirming), I’ve just finished listening to Ravi Zacharias’ introduction to Apologetics, and I tell you, complicated is just an understatement! There are things in life that I wish I could grasp with just a phrase or two…but in reality, the things of God are too broad and infinite in character that words could barely contain their full significance. In this study, it teaches us how to “…make a defense” according to Peter’s 1st book in the New Testament. To MAKE A DEFENSE in the Greek is the word APOLOGIA which means apologetics. It is simply building a solid belief system that can be used to convey and explain itself using acquired and applied knowledge. It’s CONVERSATIONAL EVANGELISM. I think God is telling me something.

For quite some time I’ve been assessing myself in all aspects…thinking of my role in this world. Am I just a pawn of the princes of the power of this world? Or am I a new creature…armed with the mind of a deity who personally thought of me while being sacrificed for MY sins. Why am I here? What’s my DEFENSE?