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When the Lord delivered me from a vast army, I wasn’t aware it marked the end of the first leg of my amazing journey in Christ.
So at the beginning of the new year, I set out with the same mindset as I had before: to work and provide for my family.
First, I reminded myself of my priorities to keep me from being enticed by the world. These priorities limited my options. After exhausting all my remaining options, I realized if I would adhere to these priorities I’d be left with nothing.
“It’s impossible the Lord would leave me with nothing.”
He was silent.
I waited. Each day seemed like weeks and weeks passed like it was forever. I didn’t know if I felt discouraged, frustrated, or hopeless. I considered waiting as inactivity therefore unproductiveness, and therefore a waste of time.
Maybe God’s silence means I should use my brain and do something. I would love to resolve the matter on my own though that would mean compromising my priorities.
During my Bible reading, I was reminded of three characters who needed to wait but did not.
In Genesis 15, God promised Abraham descendants of his own. Abraham and Sarah waited, and waited, and waited for the promised offspring. After they had been living in Canaan for ten years, Sarah remained barren.
They became impatient and took matters into their own hands. It says in Genesis 16:
1 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; 2 so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.”
Abram agreed to what Sarai said. 3 So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. 4 He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.
When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. 5 Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.”
6 “Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.
16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.
They rushed God’s plan and “helped” Him accomplish His promise in their own way and timing, in their own limited understanding, which made the situation complicated.
Sarah gave her maidservant, Hagar, to her husband. Abraham passively agreed to his wife. Just as they planned, Hagar conceived but disobedience has consequences. Hagar despised Sarah, Sarah blamed Abraham, Abraham avoided his responsibility and told Sarah to do whatever she thinks best, so Sarah mistreated Hagar, then Hagar ran away pregnant.
Their impatience shows lack of trust in God’s sovereignty and power to do what He promised. This only resulted in marital strife and strained relationships.
The promised offspring came 14 years after this incident, or a total of 25 years from the time God called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldeans to Canaan. We find in Genesis 21, God did as He promised:
1 Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. 2 Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him.3 Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him. 4 When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. 5 Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.
Nothing is too hard for the Lord. God’s promises are not dependent on men but on His faithful character. He has His own way of accomplishing His plans according to His own time.
With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 2 Peter 3:8Tweet
Another passage that really struck me was 1 Samuel 13.
Israel went to war against the Philistines. With the Israelites having only a total of 3,000 men versus the Philistines with 3,000 chariots, 6,000 charioteers, and soldiers as numerous as the sand on the seashore, outnumbered is an understatement.
Their situation was critical and their army was hard pressed. All the troops with King Saul were quaking with fear.
The Israelite soldiers gathered together and waited for Samuel, the prophet, to arrive to make a burnt offering to God. Every day they waited increased the chance the Philistines would attack and Israel didn’t want to go to war without seeking God’s favor.
They waited and waited. Samuel said he would come in seven days but he did not come and the men began to scatter.
So Saul took matters in his own hands and made a burnt offering to the Lord even with a clear instruction from Samuel to wait and clear instructions from the Lord to the Israelites that only priests or Levites were allowed to make offerings and sacrifices to God on behalf of the people.
Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived.
Saul wanted to seek God’s favor before going to battle but he did it by disobeying His commands. He made a decision based on their circumstance and the fearful soldiers around him, not on the clear instructions of the Lord, thus his kingdom did not endure.
What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams. (1 Samuel 15:22)Tweet
It is difficult to wait and “do nothing” especially when we are troubled or worried. We tend to resolve our problems based on our limited knowledge and understanding instead of trusting God who is all-knowing, sovereign, and faithful.
Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and turn away from evil. (Proverbs 3:7)Tweet
God wants us to inquire of Him in everything. And we inquire of Him not just for the sake of asking but with an earnest desire to obey exactly what the Lord wants us to do.
Obedience first requires attentive listening or waiting on God’s instructions, then being fully compliant and submissive to what was instructed.
Not all waiting is waiting around like one would in line or doctor’s appointment.
Waiting on God is not passive but active waiting — actively seeking, trusting, and preparing for His will.
It is a beautiful season to fully trust and be patient in God’s plans and timing, not on our limited knowledge or strength nor in our circumstance. A time to learn from the Lord, to focus on His character, and be certain that He is in control [not us].
Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. (Proverbs 3:5-6)Tweet
First published on February 11, 2017. Rewritten October 2019.
I went out unafraid of the vast army ahead of me because of God’s promise and assurance to me the previous night. However, as the day unfolded, my heart was again in turmoil. I began to worry about a lot of things. I easily lost sight of Him. In my eyes, the vast army became greater than my Lord.
Are you really going to deliver me?
How can this be Your battle?
Why would You show favor to me when I am at fault?
Was that really Your message to me or am I only taking that passage to suit my own desires?
I became fearful and prepared to retreat but the Lord took hold of my heart and shifted my gaze back to Him.
My emotions were dictated by what I was magnifying. If I want my heart to be still, I need to focus on the steadfast character of the Lord, not on the changing circumstances and people around me.
I took refuge in His Word: “Stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you… and the Lord will be with you.” (2 Chronicles 20:17) This was the only thing that kept me going each day.
Finally, after three weeks in battle, I found relief. The Lord delivered me but not the way I expected it. He led me to a safe place but through a route I never wanted to take. Hoping to understand what happened, I asked the Lord: “Was it really necessary? Does it really have to be this way?”
He replied through the passage in Exodus 13:17-18:
When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle.
Even though the Israelites went out ready for battle, God knew they might change their minds and return to Egypt if they face war against the Philistines. So He led them through a different route. Then He had them turn back and encamp by the sea. Pharaoh thought “the Israelites are wandering around the land in confusion, hemmed in by the desert” so he pursued them but the Lord gained glory for Himself through Pharaoh and all his army. (Exodus 14:1-4)
At first, it didn’t make sense to take a longer and more difficult route when there are easier and shorter alternative routes for that same destination. But considering my hesitation about an important decision, I believe God did this so there would be no chance for me to change my mind and choose not to go out of my comfort zone.
The Lord is provident. He knows my heart. He knows exactly where He is leading me and what route I should take in the same way He knew exactly where He would lead the Israelites in their journey from slavery to the Promised Land.
Just when I thought the battle is over, He said this to me again:
“Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:13-14)
Oh yeah, the Lord is not yet done! This was just the first leg of a journey I never ever imagined even in my wildest dreams! I await in eager expectation to witness God’s glory and to see the fruit of His work.
But forget all that—
it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.
For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.
First published on April 14, 2017.
It wasn’t easy to make this important decision. After contemplating about it, I was still hesitant and thought of postponing my plan.
I asked the Lord what I should do. I had hoped He would tell me to do what my heart desired. But He instructed me the opposite and even told me to go an extra mile and do what was difficult for me.
God’s message was clear and I was rebuked that my desires and actions were reflection of my defiance. He wants me to submit and respect authority, to imitate His character, to not just have an exceptional output but more importantly have a right heart before Him. He also wanted me to do something that was not even necessary.
After a few weeks, I asked Him again what I should do. I had a feeling this event was something inevitable and I thought maybe the Lord just wanted to correct my heart before affirming my decision. But He told me the same thing as before — no.
As the situation went to a climax, I cried out to the Lord wanting to be out of it. I asked His leading if I can do what I had been asking Him. The Lord comforted me by reminding me of His character and the things He has done:
Father, You are ultimately in control – You always are in all situations.
You are the same yesterday, today and forever.
You never change Your mind.
My days are already set before You.
You are faithful and dependable.
You have shown Your faithfulness time and time again.
I have no reason to doubt You.
You are true, steadfast and unchangeable.
You are not swayed by mere men.
You are God all-powerful and all-knowing.
Yet in all Your majesty and splendor, You make time for me.
You have turned Your eyes on me and have shown me mercy…
The Lord led me to read 2 Chronicles 20:1-30.
A vast army from the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites came to wage war against Jehoshaphat, king of Judah. Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord.
At first, I just wanted to be encouraged with God’s character and the things He has done by reading Jehoshaphat’s prayer:
O Lord, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you.
Our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend?
They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying, ‘If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.’
“But now here are men from Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir… Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”
They cried out to God in their distress. And I realized this is the exact description of what I felt – distressed!
As I continued reading, the Lord comforted me with His response to Jehoshaphat’s prayer:
…This is what the Lord says to you: “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow march down against them…
You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you… Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.”
God’s response was addressed to Judah, Jerusalem and their king Jehoshaphat. But God’s character described in this passage is true for eternity and was the only thing I held on to.
Though they were greatly outnumbered, king Jehoshaphat obeyed without question. He trusted God and led the people to obedience. His confidence was not from great assurance in their military ability but confidence that comes in trusting God’s faithfulness to His promise and the assurance that He would be with them.
Early in the morning they left for the Desert of Tekoa. As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.” . . .
As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. The Ammonites and Moabites rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another.
When the men of Judah came to the place that overlooks the desert and looked toward the vast army, they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped. So Jehoshaphat and his men went to carry off their plunder, and they found among them a great amount of equipment and clothing and also articles of value—more than they could take away. There was so much plunder that it took three days to collect it.
The fear of God came on all the surrounding kingdoms when they heard how the Lord had fought against the enemies of Israel. And the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side.
The Lord was glorified through their obedience. He not only gave them victory over their enemies but also peace to the kingdom of Jehoshaphat.
Faith and trust in God produces obedience. Obedience is key to receiving God’s favor and blessings.
Problems, challenges and trials reveal the contents of man’s heart. And our response shows how we perceive God and how much we trust and obey Him.
The Lord is faithful in revealing my deepest sins, rebuking, correcting and confronting me through His Word — the Bible. At the same time showing and reminding me of His character, comforting and encouraging me to have a right heart before Him and to obey regardless how difficult or unreasonable it may seem.
We find true peace not in having a favorable circumstance but in God’s peace which exceeds anything we can understand. It enables us not to depend in our own strength or in what we see but only in God’s power and sovereignty.
God’s presence comforted me and His voice, through His Word, assured me. I found peace in the truth that though I am shortsighted, He who directs my path is all-knowing and trustworthy.
My situation did not change but the Lord changed my heart. I had the courage to face the vast army because my God promised to be with me. All I needed was to obey what He told me. The result belongs to Him.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
(First published on March 15, 2017 entitled: “Finding Peace and Comfort In the Face of a Vast Army”)
Further readings and study about King Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20:1-30
One of the greatest achievements we can have in life is becoming a parent and building our own family. But how do we define the word “parent” and how do we view the definition of “family”?
I became a widow at age 26 and my daughter was only two years old then. My husband was diagnosed with spleen cancer and eventually went home to be with the Lord after five months. I was left with nothing. I didn’t know where and how to start again.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)Tweet
I was stubborn and did not look unto God and His promises. I did not listen to His Word and did things my way.
I left my daughter in the care of my grandparents in Pangasinan, went back to Manila, and continued working. All I had in mind was to work, earn, and provide for my child.
Then I decided to leave the Philippines to work in another country in hope of having a better life. My daughter was eight years old. I moved her to the care of my younger sister in Baguio.
A 15-20 minute phone call everyday was never enough to satisfy my longing for her. I missed her so much but I had to be strong for her because I was the only “parent” she could depend on.
After years of working in another country, I decided to come home and stay for good. By that time, my daughter was already in her final year in college.
Reality hit me. My daughter’s personality was completely different from what I expected. I sensed a wall between us. She wasn’t even excited to see me. She didn’t even miss me. Well, I couldn’t really say what she was feeling or thinking because the truth was I didn’t even know her.
But life goes on. I must accept the consequences of what I did in the past. The Lord must have been telling me about it but I chose to follow my own decisions.
I went back to Manila and worked hard again since my daughter had yet to finish college. I stayed with my sister who encouraged me to go to church with her. I attended Sunday Worship and even joined a Bible study group. However, due to work demands, I stopped going to church and focused on my work. Going to church was never my priority.
But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33)Tweet
I continued my life this way, until I got sick. I was diagnosed with leukemia. My hemoglobin dropped too low and I was close to death.
I think this was God’s way of telling me: “Hey, child, this is your time. Return to Me. Give up your pride!” This became my real turning point.
I began to realize what kind of “parent” I was. All those years, I let my heart become so hardened by the experiences I had in life — from a very traumatic childhood to a very dramatic adulthood.
But God is sovereign! Holding onto what Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-29, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” and Matthew 6:33, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. ” I fully surrendered everything to God.
After my baptism in July 2016, the Lord allowed me to join the music ministry and to also become part of the children’s ministry in our church.
The best thing that happened is God made a way for me to be reunited with my daughter for good.
Last year, I attended #ParentsTalk in our local church. It helped and guided me on how to build my relationship with my daughter. With lots of prayers and through the help of God, my daughter and I celebrated her birthday together for the first time when she turned 22.
I thank God for He has made me the parent I am today. Now I can call my family a “family” with God as the head.
With all of this, I give back all the glory and praises to Him alone!
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-29)
A personal testimony of Yolly Guanlao. Her journey of being a parent to her daughter and being a daughter to her heavenly Father.
In August 2007, after the two-month gap in my employment and searching for answers about the meaning of life, I met four Christian co-trainees. I was drawn to them hoping they could tell me what I needed to know about God.
They welcomed my curiosity, shared their stories and the Gospel to me. They did not only tell me the most important truth I needed to know but also showed me how I could learn more about Jesus through their example.
I am a fruit of their obedience and labor in the Lord. I am forever grateful for them for reaching out to me and sharing the most important treasure anyone can ever have.
One day, Angge took me aside and told me she has something important to tell me.
After training, we were assigned to different teams on different floors and had different schedules so we seldom had the opportunity to see each other.
Weeks passed and I couldn’t wait any longer, so I went to her station and reminded her of what she promised to tell me. She took a quick break to accommodate me. We searched for a quiet place. Then she took out a colored booklet with no words in it.
She told me a story about a loving God who created mankind but mankind sinned against Him. Because of sin, they’re condemned to eternal punishment but because of God’s unfailing love He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross as payment for sins. . .
Uh. . . Why is she telling me the Gospel? Is this it? Won’t she tell me something I don’t already know?
Catholics also believe there is one God in three Persons, that the Bible is God’s Word, and that Jesus came to save mankind from sin. Since childhood, I believe that Jesus is God and the Savior of all.
But there were significant details I wasn’t aware of and didn’t understand even after the Gospel was presented to me and I was led to pray.
We’re taught that sins are classified according to gravity — venial sin (lesser sin) and mortal sin (grave sin) — and each has their own penalty.
While we are aware we are imperfect, we think only criminals are sinners and deserving of hell. But every kind of sin is rebellion in the sight of God. All sin violates God’s holiness.
Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5) that anyone who even looks at a woman (or man) with lust has already committed adultery with her/him in his/her heart.
He also said anyone who is angry without cause or hates another person is as guilty as someone who committed murder. Another passage in 1 John 3:15 says: anyone who hates another brother or sister is a murderer at heart.
No one is righteous—not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one. Romans 3:10-12Tweet
The Bible says: When people sin, they earn what sin pays—death. (Romans 6:23a)
The fitting compensation of every sin is death — punishment with eternal destruction, forever separated from the Lord and from his glorious power.
We always hear God is love, merciful, kind, compassionate, etc. But overlook the truth that God is also holy, righteous and just.
God is holy which means He is separate from everything impure. He does not take pleasure in wickedness; no evil dwells with Him. (Psalm 5:4).
For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. (Romans 3:23)Tweet
God requires holiness. If a person committed even one sin his whole life, that sin makes him fall short of God’s holy standard.
We’re taught that being good or doing good will earn us favor from God. But can this erase our previous sins? Does it bring us to the level of God’s holy standard? Does it make us blameless, spotless and worthy before God? Does God owe us heaven for the “good deeds” we have done?
For if keeping the law — being good, doing good deeds, or following God’s commandments out of our own strength — could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.
No one is good–except God alone. (Mark 10:18 b)Tweet
God is righteous and just. He does not leave the guilty unpunished. However “good” we try to be, we still have to pay the penalty for the sins we have committed and will continue to commit.
Unless we recognize our sinfulness and God’s holiness, we won’t recognize our need for a savior.
Since I was a child, we were taught in school and in the church about Jesus and I believe that to be true. But what I didn’t realize is the subtle difference between knowing and believing a piece of information as opposed with trusting and having faith in what you know and believe.
While I believe in Jesus as God and Savior, I didn’t trust Him with my life. I trusted myself with my life. I made my own decisions based on what I thought was right and beneficial for me. This reflects I am the lord of my life. I’d pray to Jesus only when I need Him.
James 2:19 states, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that–and shudder.”
The demons know and believe that there is one God but they don’t have faith in God.
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21)Tweet
Saving faith is not mere head knowledge. Saving faith is TRUSTING in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. It means resting upon Christ alone and what He has done.
Eternal life is God’s gift to everyone who will humble themselves to God, repent of their sins, and trust Jesus Christ alone for salvation.
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord. (Acts 3:19)Tweet
Those who put their trust in Jesus as the only savior are not righteous in themselves, but God has put them in Christ. So when God the Father looks at them, He sees Christ’s righteousness and holiness.
Only then will we be able to follow God’s righteous standard in a way that is acceptable to Him, not because of ourselves but through the enabling grace of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)Tweet
It was in the wee hours of the morning. I just had my lunch. I went to the main lobby and sat on a couch.
Then I saw Van seated at the end of the room, absorbed in her book. I went up to her and had a quick chat. She said she came in early and was waiting for her shift. I asked her what she was reading and she replied it was her Bible.
She’s not ashamed to read her Bible in public? Who even reads a Bible?
We were taught that the Bible is holy and is the written Word of God. An authority that guides us in our life. Anyone who sincerely believes this should be eagerly reading it and paying close attention to it. But in reality, it is a mere decoration which accumulates dust at home. I didn’t know anyone even opens their Bible.
Her refreshing example inspired me to buy my own Bible and motivated me to read despite the many difficult-to-understand passages.
They advised me to buy a certain version which is easier to read and understand. Then they suggested me to start with the Gospel of John.
One Sunday, Aiane invited me to their church. It was the first time I attended a Christian worship service.
During the sermon, the pastor mentioned something about idols made by human hands, then quoted Psalm 115:3-8
3 Our God is in the heavens,
and He does as He wishes.
4 Their idols are merely things of silver and gold,
shaped by human hands.
5 They have mouths but cannot speak,
and eyes but cannot see.
6 They have ears but cannot hear,
and noses but cannot smell.
7 They have hands but cannot feel,
and feet but cannot walk,
and throats but cannot make a sound.
8 And those who make idols are just like them,
as are all who trust in them.
He gave an example, made a comment and everyone laughed about it. Everything he said was practically true and on that sense their reaction was valid but I was offended because my belief was challenged.
So I snapped at my friend, “What’s so funny?!”
After the service, Aiane toured me around their church. It was completely different from the traditional churches I had been to.
As soon as we stepped out, I found myself praying: “Lord, I also want to attend a church like this but can You bring me to a church near our house or my workplace so I won’t have an excuse not to go.”
Looking back, I was amazed that even though I was offended with the truth, the Lord made me forget the offense and gave me the desire to be part of a Christian community.
More than two months later, the Lord brought me to a church just a block from where we worked. 😉
Mommy Mae lent me her Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren which was my first devotional book. As a new believer, this helped me understand Biblical truths that were too complicated or confusing for me. God also used this book to heal a wound in my heart I never thought was there.
She also gave me a Christmas present: Charles Swindoll’s His Name is Wonderful. This was my first Bible study guide. It was very useful in bringing me to a deeper understanding of God’s Word and His character as it examined the different names and titles of Jesus, each introducing a unique aspect of His infinite nature.
I remember those times when I would excitedly go home from work to meet with Jesus in spirit by reading and studying the Bible through the help of study guides.
It is through the reading and study of the Bible that we can come to know Christ more intimately.
For it is God who is producing in you both the desire and the ability to do what pleases Him. (Philippians 2:13)Tweet
(This story was first published on August 19, 2017. Rewritten in September 2019)
A personal testimony of Ma. Olivia Jill Temporal. Learn more about her on the Author’s page.
Read the whole series about her life story:
June 2007, in the process of changing jobs, I had a two-month gap in my employment. I considered it unacceptable but it can’t be helped.
There were a lot of things I thought of doing, but for some reason I didn’t do what I would have typically done. Instead, I became curious about things I never paid attention to. I was too busy with school and then with work so I didn’t have time to stop and think about life.
Oddly, I wanted to know more about God. I didn’t know what I wanted to know. It just felt like there was something important about God that I had to know but I wasn’t sure because I didn’t know what I needed to know. The feeling was subtle and non-urgent so it could be easily dismissed if I had other more important things to do.
I squinted at the white cottony clouds in the sky, “Are You really that way?” — Distant. Looking down from heaven with raised eyebrows and crossed arms. Recording every action and every word of mankind. Eager to punish every wrongdoing.
I only knew Jesus from Bible stories taught in school. I considered Him as loving, gentle, and gracious contrary to God the Father who I perceived as stern and unapproachable. Then there was little information taught about the Holy Spirit.
How can I get to heaven when I die? I’m afraid to die because I don’t think I’d go to heaven.
They say only good people will go to heaven. But how is it that those who are considered “good”, like priests and nuns, are also uncertain of their destination.
I’m not a good person because I know I am the most ill-tempered in our clan. I have done a lot of wicked things though not as evil as criminals. I don’t think I can be good because it’s difficult to be good. So what will happen to me?
I was raised in a Catholic family in a predominantly Catholic country. My siblings and I went to Catholic schools from grade school through college. Most of my beliefs and what I know about my religion came from school rather than my family or the church.
In college, I found some discrepancies between the Catholic Bible and what is taught in school and in the church. One of which is the teaching about the Ten Commandments found in Exodus 20.
I expected to read something familiar but I froze when I got to the second commandment: You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
I scanned the title page and found the imprimatur of the Catholic church. But why is this part of the Bible different from what we memorized in school? Did someone alter the teachings of the church and no one is aware of it? Surely, the Catholic church has a valid explanation.
I dismissed my questions because I had no one to clarify it with.
But more than answers to specific questions about my faith, I wanted to make sense of everything. I wanted to know what life is really all about. Do we live only to study, graduate, make money, get married, raise kids, grow old, then die? Is this all there is to life? These are common pursuits in life but to what end if we can bring none of these to the grave?
Is there really more that can and should be known about Jesus?
Despite attending a Catholic school and following practices of our religion, I never considered myself religious. I’d go to church only when adults initiate or when required in school. I’d remember to pray only when I need something from God.
But this time, I started going to church on my own. I listened attentively to sermons and became aware of the lyrics of songs in hope of finding answers which may be hidden somewhere.
One Sunday, I went to the church office and inquired how I can volunteer as a lector — a parish layperson who publicly reads a Bible passage, other than the four Gospels, during liturgy.
The elder lady advised me to join the choir, told me the meeting time and place, then quickly went back to what she was doing.
But . . . I want to be a lector. I don’t want to sing; I want to read. 😭 Is it because I look like a teenager?!
I had hoped to have access to the priests and other clergies, and use the readings as an opportunity to ask about the Bible, the interpretation of passages, and clarifications about Catholic teachings.
Nevertheless, I decided to attend the choir meeting thinking maybe all volunteers could easily approach a priest to ask about theological questions. After two meetings, I had proven choir is not my thing so I stopped attending.
Then someone (a cousin or a friend) told me about a novena in a parish near our apartment. It was every Thursday but it always seemed like a regular Sunday Mass overflowing with youth and young adults.
I regularly attended the Mass and novena all throughout that year, but I found nothing new and my questions remained unanswered. I didn’t know where to go, who to ask, and even what question to ask. I wasn’t sure if there was more to seek than just those rituals.
In God’s providence, He had prepared an answer for me even before I asked. At the end of that two months, I met four Christian co-trainees. As soon as they introduced themselves as Christians, I knew they were the right persons to ask.
I was never inclined to asking questions about faith from other religions because I firmly believed my religion is the truth. But the Lord had changed my perception toward Christians when I met someone who had a genuine character.
One day, one of them took me aside and told me she has something important to tell me.
Whoa! This must be the answer I’ve been searching for!
She took out a colored booklet with no words in it then told me a story. A story about a loving God who created mankind but mankind sinned against Him. Because of sin, they’re condemned to eternal punishment but because of God’s unfailing love He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross as payment for sins. . .
Uh. . . Why is she telling me the Gospel? Is this it? Won’t she tell me something I don’t already know?
Catholics also believe that there is one God in three Persons, that the Bible is God’s Word, and that Jesus came to save mankind from sin. Since childhood, I believe that Jesus is God and the Savior of all.
But there were significant details I wasn’t aware of and didn’t understand even after the Gospel was presented to me and I was led to pray.
It was only when I regularly read and studied the Bible using devotional books, attended a Bible study group and listened to Bible-based preaching that I gradually understood the message of salvation through Christ alone.
Through this message of salvation, I found answers to my questions and finally made sense of life.
If you look for Me wholeheartedly, you will find Me. Jeremiah 29:13Tweet
God created man in His image to share His love with us, for us to love Him back and give Him glory through that intimate relationship.
Adam and Eve had a perfect relationship with God until they disobeyed Him. Disobedience is sin and sin is rebellion against God. Sin severed their relationship with God and resulted to death — eternal separation from God.
This problem of sin is not just their problem but everyone’s. For all have sinned and fall short of God’s glorious standard.
God’s standard is holiness because He is holy. The idea behind the concept of holiness is “separation.” God is separate or cut off from everything that is sinful and evil. He is without sin and does not tolerate sin. Thus, the relationship was severed.
God is also just. He does not leave the guilty unpunished. The payment for sin is death. None can earn salvation with good deeds because God requires perfect holiness. Therefore, everyone is condemned to eternal separation from God. But this isn’t God’s intention for creating us.
So God made a way. Out of His unfailing love for us, He made a way.
God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8Tweet
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, left His throne in heaven, came into the world, lived a holy life and willingly sacrificed Himself on the Cross as payment for our sins so that everyone who trusts in His finished work will not perish but have eternal life.
Those who put their trust in Jesus as the only savior are not righteous in themselves, but God has put them in Christ. So when God the Father looks at them, He sees Christ’s righteousness and holiness. Therefore, through Christ’s holy life and sacrifice on the Cross, we can be made holy and be reconciled back to God.
Christ’s sacrifice restores the original intention of God in creating us — to give Him glory and enjoy Him forever.
But for us to receive that reconciliation, we need to repent of our sins and trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation.
Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy. Proverbs 28:13Tweet
The real meaning of life / the purpose of our existence, both now and in eternity, is found in the restoration of our relationship with God. He made us for Himself so He alone can fill and satisfy our heart and soul.
For everything comes from Him and exists by His power and is intended for His glory. All glory to him forever! Amen. Romans 11:36Tweet
A personal testimony of Ma. Olivia Jill Temporal. Learn more about her on the Author’s page.
Read the whole series about her life story: