I was asked a couple of weeks ago to help the church slash school I was serving in, with setting up wireless access in two locations in the building that were to serve as classrooms. So that was done, and then a couple of days ago I was asked by the same people to help them out in setting up computers that have been donated to the church. While this was in progress, they approached me again with two favors to ask of me: Help them out with their ID photos, and to preach to the Senior High students in what was called their ‘chapel time’.
What started off as a side job quickly blew up into a whole bevy of tasks. I begged off on helping them with the ID photos, but I agreed to share a message to the kids as they asked – turns out their ‘chaplain’ was working nights.
It’s easy to assume that to share a message (and especially on the pulpit) seems to be a menial task. But the thing is, I’m pouring out my heart every time I share, and at this time it just feels as if I turn a valve on to release (positive) pressure – leaving me with more free space in my head to think of other things. And, really – it’s not as if I’m JUST releasing, but more of clarifying what I have on my mind – sure, I know that Francis Bacon said that clarity comes from writing, but your clarity is pretty one-dimensional if you just stick to one medium to share. At times, writing plays the part of being the finishing touch to what I share by speaking, but most, if not all of the time, it works the other way around – I know my readers are a whole lot more gracious with me than a live audience, and to speak before them helps me figure out what needs to be said, and what can be left alone. Speaking helps me to distinguish what messages and points I tend to prioritize, and in the aftermath I am left meditating and making adjustments. Yes, stubborn as I may be in certain methods, there are adjustments being made, even if they are as tiny as they can be.
But I’m obviously getting off track here. Of course, the biggest benefit there is to me preaching and taking the ‘chaplain’s’ task is that I’m not pouring my heart out to just anyone – no, I’m sharing to no less than the next generation. Say what you want about them versus the generation you think you belong to, but these folks are being brought up in a reality I can only describe as… well, unique. To leave some sort of influence in their hearts and minds, within such a small period of time – well, it’s not only a opportunity to think about, but it’s one that we as ministers ought to take whenever we do have the chance.
When I asked if there was a theme to follow, the principal told me one word – unhindered. When I asked if there were any guidelines, the administrator said, ‘keep it simple’. I do tend to run with my mouth, and oftentimes too fast that I get people saying that they couldn’t keep up.
Hence, me writing what I want to share… or, what I wanted to share, anyway. All this was supposed to be shared on August 19, but I ran out of time to finish.
It’s nice for me to have this opportunity to talk in front of an audience. The pandemic has been easing up to the point that I have actually been sharing in the pulpit for months, maybe even for a year now. I’ve shared in birthday parties, and even in funerals. But today is pretty special, because I’m talking to a particular set of folks – our students in the Academy.
Folks, you’re trusting me with your time, and your attention, so let me trust you with what’s on my heart. Literally. In the amount of time that I have with you I’m going to testify a little bit from here and there in my life, and then I hope to leave you all with something to think about.
I was a boy starved for attention, so my friends had a huge influence over me while I was growing up. As we spent more time together they were getting girlfriends, and naturally, I thought I ought to have one too. I had to thank God because at the time, not only was there the massive shift from analog telephones to cellphones, but we also saw the rise of promos – there was a time that everyone was getting two SIM cards, just because one particular service, Sun Cellular, was offering free unlimited calls and texts. Eventually, the other big players, Globe and Smart – well, they followed. I see some of you trying to figure out how old I am, and if you should know, I’ll just say that I’m 30 plus.
Anyway. That’s the environment I was in – one that was experiencing an increase in communication tech; pair this up with my then raging hormones and sure, I was literally looking for love in the wrong places. I had and probably still have an awkward demeanor in trying to approach someone and to maintain a conversation with her in public with no prior introductions… but when it came to texting, man – that’s where I was, well, ‘practiced’, if that’s a word. Textmates became callmates, but for some reason I was talking to people outside of Baguio, and it wasn’t as easy for me to even think about going to where these people were to meet them. Especially if it was Manila – Based on prior experience I thought the place was nice, but I didn’t think it was an ideal place to live. I mean, for one thing, it took forever to get there, then it was hot, then you had to deal with the people. It doesn’t help to judge an entire city based on their driving in our fair city.
At this point I want to apologize for all this rambling, but I thought it necessarily to paint a picture for all of us to imagine the situation and the circumstances I was in. Let’s move on. Looking back I noticed that whenever I would text someone, and if I see that they respond positively, I didn’t hold back in saying everything that I had in me for them to read, or to hear. Understand that back in the day we were still figuring out mobile etiquette – this was a time that people had to learn for themselves that you don’t call someone right away, but you text or message them AND THEN call them if they don’t respond within a given period of time. People were adapting and learning that CAPS LOCK IS EQUIVALENT TO SHOUTING AND you weren’t supposed to use it every time. On the other hand, people were sensitive with your verbiage – or at least my Dad was. In one occasion we exchanged texts and he asked me to go home, and I replied, ‘ok on my way home’ – soon as I got home, he told me he was frustrated with what he thought was my tone of voice in my text.
But I’m getting off track here. Like I was saying, I was still learning the ways of texting and messaging. Still am, actually. The girl wouldn’t text for days, and I would be the jerk who would text every hour, thinking I was leaving a positive impression on her, not knowing that it was more annoying that encouraging. And when she DOES text, it’ll just be a ‘hi’, and I wouldn’t take a hint – I’d reply with 5 texts. If I had just the smallest opening I would jump at it and try to milk it for all the dopamine I could get. Eventually I wouldn’t get any replies, and she wouldn’t pick up my 1000 calls. Understand that this was way before the word ‘ghosting’ was invented.
After one particular incident I thought I’d just ditch the whole relationship hype-chasing and focus on my work. I remember crying on New Year’s Eve, 2009, after the realization that the girl I was obsessed with was with another guy (see, it’s one thing to know something, and it’s another thing to realize it)… and after the onslaught of crying and screaming to God, I found myself saying these cheesy words – “Lord, I’m only going to tell someone ‘I love you’ after You tell me ‘I love you'” (and okay, I’m not sure if that’s what I said, or if I said ‘after I tell You ‘I love You’)…
…and it’s only after that, when I actually got me a girlfriend.
Things changed after this. Take note that I was in Manila at this time, and I had to face all of the threats I thought in my mind – the heat, the people, the crime. Before we were a couple I was just moving from work and to the dorm I stayed in, and nothing else. Now that we were together, all that didn’t matter. I didn’t care about the heat – in fact, I welcomed it. It was in the heat that I realized that you don’t actually want to have the air conditioner blowing straight at you – not unless you want a excruciating headache. I wasn’t afraid of the people – in fact, I learned so much about our brothers and sisters, so much that I’ve come to respect them for surviving, and even thriving in a high-stress location. I wasn’t afraid of the traffic and the crime – experiencing it all for myself (sans the crime), I began to enjoy Manila.
What a build up, right? Am I saying that y’all should get a relationship? Not really. But my point here is that this level of love can certainly get you to do so many stupid things – or to say it in a more positive way, it brings you to so many adventures. You may not be in a relationship. In fact, you may even be in relationships that aren’t as ‘adventurous’ as I described… but I will say this.
You are loved. Yes, you probably hear this in spades, or you’ve probably never heard it at all – My little bros and sisters, you ARE loved.
God knows you by name, and He knows all there is to know about you – He knows all that you’ve seen and experienced in your past, He knows all that you have ahead of you, all the possibilities and all the risks, and He knows all that you are right here, right now. The Bible says that He knows the exact number of hairs you have on your head – not only at one time, but at any given moment. He knows who you are as a whole, and He knows you down to the smallest and tiniest of details… He is that great and powerful that He not only knows all this about YOU, but for each and every human being that has, is, and will walk in this reality.
He knows all there is to know about you, and He loves you. How do I know this? Is it because of all the ‘blessings’? Is it because of His helping us get out of all the ‘curses’? No, folks, we know and we can proclaim without a shadow of a doubt that we are loved by no less than the Creator of the Universe, only because of Jesus Christ. Christ is the only begotten Son of God who was born as one of us – He was infinite and eternal, yet chose to forsake His glory to come to us and to live as one of us, to enjoy us, not from the vantage point of His infinite power and peace, but with us. He loved us THAT much that He ditched heaven to be with us on earth.
Yet that was not enough for Him. He may have lived as one of us, hanging out with us, eating with us, laughing with us, crying with us, enjoying sleep, sitting and talking to anyone and everyone. But He knew that He was born as one of us for a much greater reason, and a far more glorious demonstration of His equally amazing love – that was, to serve as the Lamb of God by way of offering His literal life, for the forgiveness of our sins, and to proclaim all who would believe in Him as righteous. Christ suffered the most painful and humiliating of deaths and was, even in His wretched state, resolute to finish what He really came to do – that is the Ministry of Reconciliation.
What is this Ministry of Reconciliation? Any and all belief systems we have devised for ourselves in this reality would say that the focus is on us to be worthy of a higher reward – it could be heaven, it could be nirvana, it could be to be filthy rich or clean rich, it could be any sort of thing that we believe brings us joy – But the Ministry of Reconciliation is Christ, who Himself is the Source of all Joy, coming from eternity to offer Himself as the ransom for our sin, that we would receive the reward that He deserves.
That was all accomplished on the cross, but how do we know that He actually pulled it off? Friends, we know He died for us – He stayed dead for 3 days, but on the third day, He rose again. I’m imagining that there was no more death to take, and nothing but righteous remaining in His being, there was literally nothing left for Christ to do but to walk out of the tomb. If Christ did not rise from the dead, then it would be a waste of our time to go any further, and we would have no proof of God’s love for us.
You ARE loved. God loves you, here and now, no matter what you’re going through, no matter where you are, no matter what you’re doing, no matter who you’re with. You can claim that you may never feel love here in this world, but I’m here to say that no matter what you are feeling, the truth remains that you are loved by no less than the Creator of the Universe, the Maker of Time and Space who is Himself beyond Space and Time.. and we are sure and confident of this because of Christ and His finished work.
It says in His word that Christ’s perfect love for you casts out all fear – so, friends, you’re able to do much more. Consider this – if I was able to face my own fears of the city of Manila because I knew in my mind and in my heart that I had a girlfriend who loved me, think about all the great things I can do – all the great and marvelous things YOU can do – if you knew for a fact that you are loved? No longer are you bound by fear of God getting angry at you and cursing you to hell, because Christ already paid such a great price for you to know that you have been freed of the curse of death and sin.
And, to be honest, that’s around where I stopped. I lost track of time for a second there, and I had to end with that. But you know where this is going. We couldn’t reach God, but it was Christ who came down and reached out to us. We couldn’t do anything for a thrice holy God to be pleased with us, but because we know through Christ how God is already pleased with us, we are fearless in our attempts to try anything, and everything.
Once we were barely alive – in fact, I believe that we were downright dead, and even worse, we were wretched, living death. But through Christ who did all that He did to reconcile us to God, now, it is as He says – even if we die, we shall live. I guess the ultimate point I wanted to deliver to the kids was just that they don’t need to look elsewhere for love – they ought to know that it was Love that found them.
What I plan to share for next week, if I am given the chance to speak to them again, is to say that it’s now because of this love that we are able to live our best lives. We understand that perfect love does cast out all fear, but I also believe that just as this love – which is the only love that there really is – is perfect, it is overflowing. An infinite God is capable of an infinite love, and it is this love that just continues to overflow in and through us. It’s this love that is the driver and the inspiration and motivation behind our actions, where once we did what we did without any sort of drive or direction. We not only have God’s love lavished upon us through Christ, but we also have the will of the Father celebrated in and through us, and in the process, His will is furthered by others seeing our lives, for them to be led to repentance… all happening in what seems like an infinite cycle, in celebration of our infinite and eternal God, whom we call Father.
That was a mouthful and a pretty long paragraph but I am glad that I still have a lot of time to go ahead and clarify this further. Please stay tuned to that updated article.
For now, if you’ve gone through all this, first off, thanks; but also, if you see any sort of issue with what I have to share, or whatever, I’d love to know what you think.
I think I’ll end here. Until my next post, may God bless us all.