It has been said in Heb 12:12 that we must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, for the very reason that He is the author and perfecter of our faith. The same could be said of the story of our brother Enzo, whose testimony speaks of the manifold grace of God that writes stories amazing stories of people whose lives have been lead to faith in Christ.
Looking back from the beginning
Like most of us, I underwent a difficult life before coming to know Christ; having grown up in a seemingly regular home; except for an unspeakable relational gap between me and my father. Later on I learned from my mother that the reason for the apparent aloofness of my father was brought about by the fact that I was in truth adopted after my mother showed me a letter from my biological mother entrusting me to the care of my adoptive parents. Realizing this I, began to ask difficult questions from God as to why such a 'tragic fate' came about my life.
It was during that time that I began contemplating a lot of things which, would at times go as far as suicide. But praise God for the love and care of my mom which caused me to refrain from arriving to such rash decisions.
As time went on, when I grew up into adolescence, as most kids my age savoring the apparent ‘freedom’ that comes with living life as I pleased. Thankfully God was already at work. Without my knowing, it was at that time when I eventually come across Cristina Derillo on Friendster, who’d eventually be used by God to plant the seed of the Gospel, and who’d also get me in touch with an evangelical Christian church. It was there that I learned about God, and the joy of Christian fellowship.
However this newfound faith was easily retarded as the 'world' and its pleasures consumed my time and attention that it led me to fail in my studies.
It was there that I came to a realization that I was in fact really living an empty life and like in the story of the Prodigal Son in the Bible, I realized the necessity of repentance and turning to God in faith.
A New Beginning
Later on, God again used Cristina and her friends to invite me to Grace Bible Church. During its Easter service last April 16, 2006, God gave me a "burning desire for the Word" akin to that of the Disciples in Luke 24:32. Eventually, what was supposed to be my first visit to GBC would be followed by another and it didn’t take long for me to become involved in the church’s youth ministry, where I was immersed in the study of the Bible and in fellowship with fellow young Christians.
It was in those various activities such as the Afternoon Service message series on the Epistle to the Romans and the Restback youth retreat that I’ve found real spiritual satisfaction in terms of knowing God and experiencing Christian friendship. And as it went on, I also began to notice how I was being changed by the Lord and how He enables me to let go of my bad habits that I had long before I became a Christian.
Along with it came the realization which answers the question as to why my life unfolded in such a manner: it was for me to become a witness to the power of the Gospel of Christ in the lives of men.
Life Goes On
As of now, life along with its ups and downs still goes on for me. I’d encounter the same struggles that we as people seeking to do God’s will experience. But by God’s grace I continue to persevere in my newfound faith in Christ and I cannot help but look back feel blessed by what Pastor Lito once said to me in one of our conversations, that even though I may not be with my biological father now; it is certain that I now have a Spiritual Father in heaven Who is actively at work in my life, and a spiritual family in the church who’d care for me.
As for my parting words all that I can say is that life still goes up and down but I have Jesus to hold on to, and whatever circumstance would come my way, He will never let me down, no matter what. Never under estimate Jesus. Our mission as disciples of Christ is to tell everyone of the Good News of Jesus and my story is just one of the 'good news' that our Lord has penned.
Glory to God!
I'm sure many of us made New Year's Resolutions this year? If so, how many have you broken since January? One of the best ways to keep a resolution is to set some low standards. Do you know that one of the most popular resolutions year after year is to lose weight (or gain weight just like me) and exercise?
I want to suggest this morning, that while it is important to be in our best physical shape, it’s even more crucial for our church to get involved in some "body building" exercises. We want to make sure that GBC is healthy and so we’re going to "work out" by studying some of the "one another" statements in the New Testament.
I believe that that the most important thing we can do, our most revered resolution, if you will, is to personally surrender our lives to God. Once we surrender to the Savior, we must then flesh out our faith in fellowship with others. The life of worship is a life lived in the context of relationships. God saves us individually through personal faith but He doesn’t leave us to live the Christian life alone. We see that in Romans 12:4-5: "Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others."
In Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, and Colossians, Paul makes over 30 references to the church by using the analogy of a human body. Just as our bodies need care and attention, so too, the church can only be healthy and experience growth when everything is brought into balance and properly exercised.
Vigorous church growth is always multi-dimensional. We must strive to keep our five purposes/mission statement (GRACE) as a church in equilibrium with each other in order for the GBC body to remain healthy. In other words, our message must remain biblical and our mission must reflect balance.
Have you ever noticed how easy it is to get out of balance in your life? The same is true for the church. We must guard against overemphasizing one aspect of ministry at the exclusion of the others. Some unbalanced churches end up stressing only one or two purposes and can easily become unhealthy.
We use this GRACE statement to guide our preaching diet and leadership decisions so that we don’t ignore any of the biblical mandates. While we must continually focus on all FIVE purposes, it’s also helpful on occasion to isolate one characteristic so that we can understand it in greater depth and experience the advantages of a church-wide emphasis on this one particular aspect. For the next two months, we’re going to give our attention to the "C" of GRACE: Caring for one another.
I’m reading a very challenging book right now called, Courageous Leadership by Bill Hybels. The picture that he paints of the church is gripping: "There is nothing like the local church when it’s working right. Its beauty is indescribable. Its power is breathtaking. Its potential is unlimited. It comforts the grieving and heals the broken in the context of community. It builds bridges to seekers and offers truth to the confused. It provides resources for those in need and opens its arms to the forgotten, the downtrodden, and the disillusioned... Whatever the capacity for human suffering, the church has a greater capacity for healing and wholeness…the radical message of transforming love has been given to the church" (Pages 21-23).
Are you ready for a good work out? Let’s pump some biblical iron so that we can experience this radical message of transforming love.
After graduating, their names became a regular in the prayer request list of the GBC church bulletin. They asked for everyone to pray with them as they review and prepare for the exam that will make them “legitimate” nurses. Everyone saw how they worked hard; but what was more noticeable was how this group of aspiring RNs (Registered Nurses, that is) banded together and come out of this “make or break” exam getting what they have worked so hard for.
After graduation, how did you make you prepare for the Nursing Board review?
After four years of hard works, sleepless nights, and endless quizzes and requirements, God has been faithful that we have endured them all! But it is not yet over, here comes our six months in-house review hosted at the preferred review center of our college department and during that time, we were also completing our Operating Room (OR) and Delivery Room (DR) cases. Whoosh! Even though there was so much work to be accomplished, God has provided the needed strength to all of us. Likewise, it was such a blessing that God also prepared us both intellectually and spiritually. We were having our devotion and prayer every Saturday before our review class would start and we were also given the privilege to join the Mission in Benguet (MIB).
Aside from the review, how else did you prepare for the Nursing Board?
Since our review session ended last October, we decided to have our group study for the remaining 2 months. Sometimes we have it in our church or in a friend’s house. If someone is not available, we just studied on our personal time. Moreover, one of our churchmates, a recent board passer was a great help because he lent his precious books to us.
What role did your friendship play as you prepare for the Nursing Board?
During the time of our reviews, we learned the value of friendship and being sisters and brothers in Christ. Like Shadrach, Meschach, and Abed-Nego (written in the book of Daniel), we supported and strengthened one another in difficult times. We stood together in honoring God and in prayers.
Having taken the exams, how was it waiting for the results to come out?
Though we were anxious about what would be the result of our exams, we presented our prayers and petitions to God with thanksgiving; and truly what is written in Phil. 4:6-7 is true; the peace of God that transcends all understanding guarded our hearts in Christ Jesus.
How did you feel seeing the results of the exams?
After 44 days of waiting, we felt so blessed and a joyful feeling filled our hearts because among us no one failed the examination. In addition, we are so thankful to all of you who have prayed with us and for us.
Now that you have passed the Nursing Board, what are your plans?
As of now we are planning to work here in the Philippines. Maybe after 3 or more years, some of us might want to work abroad. But at the moment we want to practice our profession here in our country while serving the Lord.
Anything else you’d like to share to the people who have seen your hard work during your preparations and have prayed with you as you waited for the results of the exams?
We would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude for your persistent prayers for us. Truly our God is so faithful especially to His children! God has revealed us that if we truly and genuinely delight ourselves to Him, He will really give the desires of our hearts.
It is our yearning that our attitude in giving thanks to the LORD would be the same kind of eagerness and sincerity we always express when we all seek His will regarding our prayers. May it be a “yes” or a “no”….He will always give what is best for us!
All of us have passed the Philippine Nursing Licensure Examination that we may give back all the glory and honor to God… Let’s continually praise Him!
In His grip,
One of my favorite Bible characters is Peter because I can identify myself with him; his character, weaknesses, and failures. There is always a little bit of Peter within us.
Call him impetuous if you will, but it is because of Peter that we have some insights into the Master’s mind that perhaps we, otherwise would not have been privileged to, had it not been for the impetuousness of Peter!
The text before us reveals that Peter was a lot like many of us! Look at his immediate response! Jesus had just told him how he was going to die, yet the first thing he wants to know is what’s going to happen to John!
What was Peter’s motivation in asking this question? I can think of 2 things:
1.) Perhaps he couldn’t stomach the thought that he would be the only one to die a martyr’s death!
Somehow, we feel a little better when we know that we are not the only ones suffering or going through something! And if we are not careful, we will let others’ experiences serve as an excuse for us not to do anything about our experiences. In fact, there are many Christians who don’t do, simply because others are not doing! We fail to understand that God is not going to judge us based on what others did or did not do! Our judgment will be based on what we did or did not do! Every man will have to see God for himself! What others do not do is not a valid excuse for our failure to do what we should do!
2.) Perhaps Peter wanted to know whether or not his experience would be unique or was it something that John would suffer also.
There is a natural human tendency to always try to compare one’s experience with the experience of someone else! Sometimes we do this to make ourselves feel better than others! You remember the self-righteous Pharisee don’t you? Sometimes we make this comparison to try to make sure others are doing as much as we are doing! You remember when Jesus went to visit Mary and Martha’s house?
But notice how our Lord responded to Peter’s inquiry! He said, (in our common everyday language)"Peter, don’t you worry about what is going to happen to John, that’s none of your business! Your business is to just follow me!" That’s the message the Lord has for us today! Many Christians don’t do what they are supposed to be doing because they are obsessed with making sure others are doing! Everybody is trying to watch and make sure everybody else is doing and as a result, no one doing their own business!
If we are not careful, we can even fall into this trap, even in regard to ministry. Someone asked me: "Ptr. Lito, why don’t you do like pastor so and so?" My response was that each man has a unique calling. The Lord did not call me to do or be like pastor so and so; he called me to do what he called me to do!” We err when we try to pattern our ministries and churches after the ministries of others. Each Christian, each church, each ministry has a unique calling. I am out of order when I try to do what the Lord has uniquely called you to do. You are out of order when you think that your experience is the "norm" and thereby measure everybody else’s experiences by your own. It’s not ours to try to enforce the diligence of others; our task is to make sure that we are doing that which the Lord has uniquely called us to do. What difference this will make in our church!
In Peter, we can see the error of our being overly concerned about what he has given others to do. Though your fellow Christian may seem to be prosperous while you are suffering God is not unjust. You don’t know what that brother has been and is going through. Don’t worry about him: You just make sure that you are doing what the Master has assigned for you to do. We will be accountable to our own task someday.
A December to remember
A meaningful celebration this season was those moments I shared with the people I serve. To name a few were the Small Group Christmas Fellowship held last Dec.3. It was an early celebration but I was amazed of how God provided for the overflowing gifts and food that time. As was said, "walang umuwing gutom at luhaan" especially the people in the outreaches we are ministering. Even the extended program for our SGM leaders was fun. Thanks to the support of our sponsors and friends from GBC. But Christmas is not always fun. The death of Warlita Aquino on Dec.10 brought sorrow to us and the bereaved family but we praise God for the opportunity to extend comfort through the preaching of God's word and songs during the funeral and interment services. Then we had the Christmas Cantata held last Dec.17. With just few weeks of preparation, the choir managed to present a beautiful and meaningful message to bring us back to Bethlehem through their songs. As my long time friend Ptr. Mac Blanco who attended that night commented "wala paring kakupas-kupas ang choir nyo". Praise God!
Another meaningful event was the Christmas Fellowship I had with my co-workers last Dec. 22. Together with our families and some deacons, we spent that day with simple games, prizes and affirmations from each other during our exchange gifts. The evening was special when the choir caroled us, gave encouraging words and prayers. I also enjoyed the time I spent with them when we went to NTM in Bataan last Dec26. Our mini-concert brought encouragement to all of the missionaries who came to attend the conference including Emma and Clara, our old time missionaries. One choir member was so happy to see the place once more after 20 years. Of course my most meaningful was the Christmas I spent with my family and in-laws. Aside from requesting me always to say grace for the food (kasi Pastor), we won 2 major prizes during the game. If you happen to guess what were those prizes, (and the game) we will give them to you. Ask my wife Loida.
I must admit that Christmas is sometimes stressful. Many times I slept late at night because of varied things to attend to and it is not something I am accustomed to do. But it did not deprive me of a meaningful experience because I spent Christmas with my brothers and sisters in the Lord. They are not just connected with me but most of all related to me because of our common bond After all, the essence of Christmas was when Christ spent time with the people whom he loved.