“One day, you’re going to do this, too,” Tita Coney said while holding up that purple booklet called “One-to-One.” In my head, incredulous! Me? Do One-to-One???

one-2-one-221x300That happened about 7 years ago, in her home, during one of our regular discipleship sessions. The past few Mondays have been bits and pieces to my life since I became a Christian- my early revelation about lordship, my salvation because of faithful evangelists, and discipleship as a way to sustain my new and victorious life in Jesus. All of which I gladly received, and honestly felt like I needed. But this? I didn’t see this coming.

One to One is a process in our church wherein someone who surrenders his life to Jesus, commits to at least 6 meetings with a more mature, godly member of the church. Together they use the purple booklet I was talking about, and go through 6 Biblical principles one must understand if he really is serious about claiming his life in victory.

Obviously it sounds easier and more natural for me today. But back then I was really terrified of the thought that like Tita Coney, I’d also be leading someone in faith, somewhere, someday, somehow. Leadership gave me the chills. It scared me as much as cockroaches did. (If you know me when it comes to roaches, you’d get the exact amount of terror in your imagination.)

I think I was like that because I was more used to being a follower, and knew I lacked confidence in my own judgment and capabilities. I also was afraid of the responsibilities; to whom much is given, much is required!

My concerns were valid. After all, we don’t want unworthy leaders, right? Yet the Bible is filled with leaders of that kind! I mean hello, Moses the stutterer??? Paul the ex-slayer of Christians??? Abraham who succumbed to his wife’s scheme to fulfill what only God can…David who fell for Bathsheba…Peter who denied Jesus 3 times!

When I realized that, I found myself with no excuse. The Bible is filled with unworthy, even terribly fallen leaders who were changed and enabled by God. I knew God was asking me the same old question he threw at Abraham and Sarah thousands of years ago, “Is there anything too hard for the LORD?” Waaah. So then I said, I must do this.

I then started to pray for the very first ever person I was to do One-to-One with, and in a few weeks time I finally met Cynthia. Before our first meeting, I read and prepared. That meant polishing my testimony, or “my story.” I thought, who wouldn’t be convinced about this actress who used to strip for the movies and was drunk half her life but now turned to and completely surrendered to the Lord? And so I proceed to tell my looong story and only asked her afterwards about how she was and where she was in life. Point blank she answered, “Well, I have lupus and the reason that I am here with you today is because someone told me ‘let the doctors be doctors and let God be God.’”

jiFfM

Ack! There I was thinking I will wow and minister to her with my story, when the truth is God used her to tell me of His greatness and my pride. That day I learned that leading, although it has a lot to do with who you are and what you do, is really so little about yourself.

Since then I am happy to say that I have already matured a lot in the area of leadership. Thanks to years of struggling to put up my own group where I can practice ownership, dozens of speaking engagements that forced me to prepare and overcome stagefright, and models of leadership that I can easily find in church. And though I don’t really lead something as big as an entire organization as do my husband, or a whole movement as do the president of our ministry, I still would like to share a couple of things I have so far learned about leadership!

1. Lead and Lean

Through different situations and problems of those I lead, I have learned that even the best version of my testimony, my skills, or my experience, will not work apart from the power of God. To be able to effectively lead others, it is important to be wholeheartedly leaning on God, because only He can enable us to say the right things at the right time in the right spirit. Leading is only possible not by might, but by His Spirit!

2. Lead and Learn

Leading means never ceasing to learn and grow. If one is tasked to blaze the trail before everybody else, then she must be able to study and check and know the path ahead of everybody else!

Also, the more one leads, the more one learns. When leaders pursue the best for their subjects, they genuinely seek answers to their hard questions which consequently brings much knowledge and maturity.

3. Lead and Live

Actions speak louder that words can’t be truer than in the area of leadership. Just think about your parents. Have they ever told you to not do something which you found to be so hard to follow just because they do it themselves? Similarly, I find that my words don’t have power if my life can’t back them up.

There is this verse, Psalm 101:6, which I find to be true and with so much wisdom, “…he who walks in the way that is blameless shall minister to me.” This was actually King David talking to and about his subjects and it made me realize that even Kings will follow a person who walks blamelessly, righteously, with integrity!

4. Lead and Love

Leading according to the Bible is way beyond standing in front of millions while all of them watch you speak, or all eyes glued to one pastor preaching in the pulpit. Leading God’s way really is more unattractive than that.

But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

Mark 9:34-36 (ESV)

Jesus washed sinners’ feet. He didn’t ride in fancy cars to gain influence. He didn’t need opulence to be charitable. He didn’t need a stage to say speak the Truth. Instead He served, He spared time, He provided love, wisdom, and a real relationship that lasts till eternity. He gave His life, He gave Himself. Now tell me if this isn’t someOne who took leadership seriously.

Many think that being a leader means holding a glamorous position, when it really is more concerned about the welfare of others than his own conceited influence. I think that true leadership genuinely loves and so seriously does everything, even if it means dying to himself, if only to enact that love. 

In my life, aside from Jesus, I have been privileged to be led by some of the most awesome, selfless people in the world. But of all I’d like to take this opportunity to say that my husband is the best. In honor of this man’s amazing, graceful, leadership in our home, I’d like to close this blog by quoting a part of the vows I made before him, our loved ones, and the Lord, on our wedding day 4 years ago…

vow

 

 

 

On Discipleship

Monday, July 21, 2014

The past 2 Mondays have been dedicated to recounting stories that helped me to get to where I am today. Truly, I am blessed to be a part of the Every Nation Ministries and Victory Christian Fellowship. Those things took place in my life because a church body obeyed their calling and mission to honor God and make disciples.  It has been 30 years of doing so for them, and I am only one of those who are eternally grateful to be a fruit of the movement!

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Last week we agreed to talk about the value of evangelism and shared stories of when and how and what has happened since someone reached out and broke the good news to us. I got pretty emotional remembering mine, as it was such a defining moment to the new life I lead today.

Nevertheless evangelism is not the end all, be all of faith. Accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior of my life is merely the beginning. It doesn’t follow that a prisoner who’s just been freed will automatically act like a free man. Habits are formed within those years of enslavement to sin, and so it isn’t all that quick to get it out of our systems and claim the new life God is telling us to live.

I remember, when I started my regular meetings with Miss Coney Reyes, I still didn’t quite know how to dress properly. But as she discussed more of God’s Word and how it calls us to a life or purity and holiness, as well as my value in the Lord, I began to change my wardrobe little by little. From short and skimpy, I began to dress more decently.

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A Tita Coney story: One day Tita Coney saw me dancing on TV and noticed I put a tube top under my bra top and sent me a message, “I noticed that and I am sure God is pleased with what you did.” She recognized my efforts to honor God and I took it as a sign that I was doing right. An Ate Jenn (on the right) story: When I was just starting out in church, she took the time to sit down with me in one of the millions of parties we had before (haha) and just listened to me talk. I happened to tell her I love rainbows and she took that opportunity to say, “Do you know that rainbow in the Bible is a sign of God’s promise?” Since then, I have always maintained a rainbow-ful, hopeful spirit about a lot of things. Apart from this, Jenn’s generosity with her life- the way she shares it with me perhaps contributed to 80% of who I am right now!

She educated me so much in the area of sensuality- she taught me why the word SEXY is not a great way to describe a woman’s body. It is because it actually means sexually attractive- as in attractive for intercourse. And I knew in my head that if any man were to feel this way about me, it should only be my husband. Since I wasn’t married then, I began to be more mindful about my body, my dressing, in relation to lust and men.

Tita Coney encouraged me further by saying, “Remember, there is a price on your head.” She was referring to the price that Jesus paid for me as he died on the cross and bought me from the wages of sin. This single statement helped me to value myself as the Lord values me, and kept me from falling into unwise career moves and even ungodly romance.

Tita Coney also taught me the value of love, patience, kindness, and prayer. She once asked me in those days if I was still smoking and because I couldn’t lie I had to answer with a shameful, “Yes.” After which she said, “Oh that’s alright. God is still working on your heart.” I’m telling you that kindness “killed me” on that day. I melted in the grace of God she dispensed and I became more soft towards God each time we met and prayed over my unhealthy habit. In due time I was able to stop smoking. I’ve been nicotine free for about 6 years now!

Then there was Tita Coney again about my words- when I once used the expression “What the heck?!?!”, she told me that heck actually originates from the word hell. And when she saw me speak to a group of scholars many years ago, she reminded me to encourage others using more of God’s Word. Her guidance in the areas of speech and communication was crucial to my understanding that really, the tongue can cause life and death (Proverbs 18:21).

I actually have so much more “Tita Coney” stories to tell, and even “Ate Jenn” stories (who is also my mentor), and mother-in-law stories, and even completely random elders in church who have tried to encourage, as well as correct me, in line with God’s Will and Word. But the point is this: DISCIPLESHIP is KEY to sustaining a lifetime of victory in the Lord. And this is why I think so.

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Being a disciple of Christ is to be that girl in the middle, as well as on the side. To be discipled, always, by someone older and wiser in the Lord, and to disciple others to be followers of Jesus!

1) DISCIPLESHIP is the place where the Word of God becomes practical and alive.

It is someone always pointing out to me what this and that in my life is here and there in God’s Word. And also, this is where I see more mature Christians model most of those seemingly abstract or indifferent verses in the Bible. Like I have seen families abide by the careful commands of God and get victoriously freed from generational curses. Such topics appear in Deuteronomy and really, apart from these role models, it can be too vague and appear too impractical to apply in our lives here and now.

2) DISCIPLESHIP builds faith and character.

My stories there above shows two things; encouragement and open rebuke. Honestly, many people refuse discipleship because they want to skip the correction part. I have to admit that I was kind of like that, too. Although I was obedient to Tita Coney, there were people in church, who were definitely more mature than, nevertheless not close to me, who would say a thing or two about what I am wearing, what I posted, etcetera, etcetera, and I just hated it. What I realized though is that this is what it means to belong to a spiritual family- others looking out for you, and you looking out for others, and in subjecting ourselves to it we build accountability, superb sense of self-governance, faith and character!

3) DISCIPLESHIP always puts me back into the right place of humility and susceptibility to God’s Will and Word.

Whether I am being discipled or I lead others to be disciples of Christ, it always is a good thing for my heart. Helps me to keep the pride off while keeping me on my toes when it comes to faith, knowing that I don’t know everything and learning more as I teach others along the way!

4) DISCIPLESHIP is a place of generosity and charity.

Almost everyone will get to a point in their lives where we want to give to the poor and while that is good and also highly encouraged by the church, I think we also have to open our eyes to the fact that discipleship is also a form of charity. In it we have to be generous with grace patience, kindness, time and even money! Spending time with the lost, or fellow Christians who are also works in progress together with you, will really cost us. And it helps me stretch my capacity and joy in practicing generosity!

5) DISCIPLESHIP is relationship = DISCIPLESHIP is so much fun!!!

Discipleship is not only about learning, teaching, encouraging, rebuking- it is basically sharing life with others! It is growing in the knowledge of God together. It means countless hours spent in making memories, meeting for good reports, calling for prayer, eating out, traveling together, celebrating milestones, and the list just goes on and on!!!

disicipleship is relationship

Snippets of my life in discipleship- at one point I just had to stop grabbing photos from my external hard drive because discipleship isn’t anymore separable from the rest of my life.

6) DISCIPLESHIP is a command of Jesus, Our God, and doing it means I truly obey the God I say I believe as sovereign and I say I love the most.

“He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”

John 21:17

The Great Commission

“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:16-20

Saying we love God, we love Jesus, is not enough. We have to be fed with His Word and love and then feed others, as well. And we are to do this to all nations, without stopping until the world knows and acts according to the truth that Jesus is Lord of all.

 

Learning Fear

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Philip loves the shower. It is so much fun to watch him to excitedly jiggle the moment water hits him from the shower head. But today I realized that he doesn’t exactly feel the same way about all baths. When I bathe him gently by cupping warm water from a pail and pouring it slowly onto his body, he actually stares at me for quite some time as if to make sense of what’s happening.

Early on in Philip’s life my husband realized that “fear is learned.” He was able to say this because Philip almost always lets out the I’m-scared-kind-of-cry only after we ourselves, have let out a gasp, a cry of shock, or a jolt in response to something.  Sometimes my husband will be roughhousing my son (no worries, not to a dangerous extent, of course) and Philip will be totally fine with it. But try doing that with me around reacting frantically and I can assure you a cry from our baby will follow soon afterwards. I realized babies look to their parents for affirmation and confirmation. They feel something and our reactions seem to be the judgment they’ve been waiting for, about whether what they just experienced was good or bad.

As months go by (Philip is now 6 months, how fast!), the more my husband and I see that raising a child is really a nature and nurture kind of thing. Philip is naturally endowed with a lot of things, like his unique tender and strong kind of personality, generally calm temperament with moments of aggression and impatience. But we see that as he becomes more and more conscious, much of those he picks up also come from the kind of exposure we allow in his life. Like he used to not have been able to sleep in noisy places, but our traveling has not been able to permit total silence and so he eventually learned to catch his naps in my arms in crowded restaurants during peak hours.

Studies say that the most critical years in a child’s life is in his 0 months – 5 years of age. This is when neurons and synapses and all that jazz apparently fire and form what later on becomes the child’s way of thinking. And even if I don’t have this study, I actually see it in my daily grind with Philip.

My prayer today is that all of us parents will be careful to speak, move, react, and basically live around our children. Often asking, with what I just did, what could I have left inside my child’s mind? I hope, too, that moms like me can control our tendency to overprotect and allow Holy Fear- which is Fear of the LORD only, to remain in the hearts and minds of our children. For where there is fear of the Lord, there is wisdom. We may not always be right in our actions and words around them, but if they can have the wisdom of the Lord, then everything will be alright. :)

Have a great weekend everybody!

 

Dare to Share

Monday, July 14, 2014

It was an all day “in bed” Saturday kind of morning, with Joseph reading a book by my side, and Philip feeding at the breast while half asleep in my arms. I, on the other hand, was going through an overwhelming sense of fulfillment and thinking, “There’s no place I’d rather be.”

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What followed was a flashback from years ago- me in my terribly short hot pants, bra tops, wrong relationships, beer in hand, cigarette in between my fingers. And so I revert back to the present and told myself again, “No place I’d rather be, no place I’d rather be!”

The sharp contrast between those 2 conditions made me remember a series of events which in retrospect, helped determine my purpose and calling in life.

I was only 23 when I was first invited to a mid-week Bible study meeting. Back then I thought these were friends who had nothing more fun to do on a Wednesday. I was cynical and to these people I probably seemed like a murderer, a killer of joy, especially in my very own life.

Yet 2 years and more misery later, these friends have learned to just have me over for simple lunches and dinners. And it was within those countless hours of togetherness that I saw an unusual happiness which did not need help from any other substance aside from God’s presence and Word. I admit that it got me intrigued and envious. I wanted what they had.

Also because of their joyful and peaceful spirit, it made me happy to be around them and in their company I one day found myself attending a Sunday service in Victory Ortigas. This was when the Lord first touched me and prepared my heart to receive the Gospel.

…As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. 43 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years,[c] but no one could heal her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.

45 “Who touched me?” Jesus asked.

When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”

46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”

47 Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed.48 Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”

Luke 8:  42b – 47

I heard the preacher talk about this story which I never heard before. I felt like crying after the service and I wondered why. Quickly, my friends who brought me to the service prayed over me and asked if I wanted to meet with Miss Coney Reyes on a regular basis. They thought this will help me make sense of what I felt at the time. For some reason, I softened towards the idea and said yes to the plan.

True enough, our very first session alone made me realize what had been missing all my life. Apparently, I was angry, miserable, desperate, because I could feel the weight of my approaching death. While I knew I needed healing, I didn’t know where to get a cure. Until that moment, hope was absent. Then the appointed time came, and that string of seemingly unrelated events culminated in this first session where I heard the news- both good and bad.

Just like the bleeding woman, I was losing so much of my life as I had given it over to sin. The wages of sin is death. That’s what the weight was all about. But for the first time in my life a ray of hope cut through as I heard about the death, life, and power of Jesus. Again, just like the bleeding woman, I realized it was only Jesus I needed and “I shall be healed.

From that point of feeling like crap in the naked truth of my sins, Tita Coney helped me to thoroughly understand the healing and redeeming power and glory of Jesus, Our God. And the more I rested in His love and mercy, the more my path straightened; and the more my path straightened, the more I was able to reach my perfect place in life.

That is, in the place of forgiveness and a new life!

That is, in the place of forgiveness and a new life!

Today, I am far from perfect but completely confident that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. There is so much peace that comes with being in the center of God’s will. I surely have come a long way from where all these began- when a friend boldly asked me to join their weekly Bible study sessions even if it meant unfavorable, unkind response.

So to the evangelists, I have two things I want to tell you today.

One, do not be afraid to evangelize. Share the good news, whatever it takes. While timing is valuable and the manner by which we share it matters, share if God wants you to do so and do not be afraid of rejection or persecution. Please believe when I tell you it will all be well worth it within the grand plan of God for that person’s life.

Two, know that evangelism doesn’t only mean eternal life for that person, but also heaven on earth. Every time I think of how blessed my life is today, I cannot help but go back to those moments when someone boldly professed the love of God over my life even when I refused it.

See this thread: I know I only have Philip today because I married Joseph. I know I only have Joseph because I have a renewed mind, redeemed life. And I am only thus because I have Jesus in my life. And lastly, thanks be to God that someone obeyed His call to preach the gospel to the sinful, rebellious me. My victorious life started there, and I am still well on my way today just because someone dared to share and scorned worldly shame for God’s glory.

 

 

 

Many Members, One Body

Saturday, July 12, 2014

I am on a month long trip with my husband and dear Philip to the United States. This is the reason behind my silence on the blog. I do miss writing and telling you all about the wonderful stories we’ve been making as we go along this trip, but at some point I had to be honest with myself that I can only do so much.

Thank God my Philip is mostly a cool and calm baby, only having short and bearable bouts of crankiness when sleepy or tired. But he really still is a whole lot of work at 5- almost 6 -months. He can’t quite sit by himself yet, and at long periods of time, and is only gaining more control over his body on this trip. This means mobility is only possible with him in my arms or slung onto my body or his Papa’s.

On our way here to the United States was one of the most tiring plane rides of my life. Imagine that was about 16-17 hours of carrying our baby. (Except for about 3 hours worth of sleep in a bassinet provided by our carrier.) My butt felt like it was burning after a while, having to cradle a fat baby who even felt heavier being dead weight in his sleep. I did this for hours. 

I thought it would be easier, and I admit I was shocked with how tiring it turned out for us. My saving grace during that trip though was the strength of my husband. Though both of us terribly lacked sleep, in those crucial hours of just being unable to muster any more power to carry my son, Joseph relieved me of the work and held Philip for the next few hours. What came next was probably the most memorable sleep of my life.

So we went on with our travels, and our Philip got over his jet lag in about 4-5 days. We’ve been through Detroit, Nashville, and Orlando. Now we are here in Los Angeles, and have the privilege of staying with my family for a few days.

I once again see my niece Alex, who was also like our child when she still living in the Philippines. I hear she is doing so well only that she cut her thumb with a knife recently, and it almost fell off! She tells me how she’s been greatly immobilized by only one injured finger- cannot shampoo nor tie her hair without the help of her younger sister, cannot help in the kitchen, etcetera, etcetera.

This story brought me back to years back when I was still living a life of sin and rebellion. I remembered I was having a night out with friends and got terribly drunk and decided to kid around a poster on the wall of the bar’s bathroom. I tried to tear it from the wall, being all sentimental, as it said “Friends are Forever.” To my surprise, it was securely fastened on the wall that after sliding my fingers through it I got them back with what seemed to be dulled pain.

To make a long story short, I ended up with a deep cut on my ring finger, which I tried to preserve with a bandaid. Sadly, when I removed it the wound was still squirting blood and I thought it was time to take me to the hospital. So I find myself wailing in the emergency room at around 4 in the morning as I was being sewed up.

(See, it isn’t only unsafe to drink and drive. To drink excessively and do anything at all is just as dangerous!)

Bright spots were far in between in the days that followed. Just like my niece Alex, I couldn’t shampoo, can’t take a bath, can’t fix my hair, can’t do many other things efficiently, properly. I also felt feverish because the cold sometimes found a way to seep in through that small wound. I felt crappy and terrible for about a week and a half.

In my utterly feeling helpless and useless moments I realized that such a small finger- and it wasn’t even the most useful one! -meant so much loss to my whole body. See all four fingers became ineffective just because they can’t count on the force of my ring finger. The rest of the body also became significantly weaker just because one finger was down. I know it sounds absurd but it is true! I was surprised at the realization myself.

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Similarly, I think that life is meant to be done with a body of people where we are only but one member. Also, that parenthood best done by a complete set of man and wife, and a whole lot of loving family members to raise a child. All are of contribution and no one is too small in his part, although many of these may seem that way in size. How many times have we taken others for granted until we lose them and final feel the weight of their absence? As the saying goes, “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”

My prayer today is that God 1) help us all to nurture his appointed relationships in our lives and 2) will open our eyes to the value of each member of our teams -whether at work, at home, in school -and take the time to appreciate and affirm them. That as we go around telling them how special they are, we ourselves will be blessed by the fact that we are able to maintain a quality kind of life just because they are around.

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And having said this on July 12, 2014, let me honor my mother who is celebrating her birthday today, and say that life would surely be hard, less fun, and less full is she isn’t around. I love you and Happy Birthday, Mama! I am so blessed to be your daughter. :)

And to the rest: have a nice and breezy Saturday!

 

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