To each HIS own

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By Rianne Lim

Archie & I have agreed since day 1 that the standard for which we are going to lead and coach couples who are about to be married, are newly married, or are married for a long time already is the Word of God (period). It is true that our testimony or love story can also be of big help to others, but if it becomes the central message and the main story in our coaching sessions, I think there has to be some checking and balancing that should be done there. It can also get to a point wherein it becomes the standard you impart to or teach others, and if they don’t meet your criteria or the standards or practices that you uphold, God only knows what thoughts you have in your heart.

For me and my husband, every love story and marriage blessed by God is wonderful and beautiful… truly beautiful! Whenever we drive home coming from a wedding (which by the way feels like we have one going every week!), we can only speak in awe about what we just witnessed that day—a beautifully written, Christ-centered union. And we stand amazed on how God never runs out of ideas on how to uniquely give each story its own twists and highlights. Some probably got engaged after just 2 months of dating, some may have fully enjoyed years of dating and only after a while decided to pursue marriage, some even have longer engagement season than their actual dating season, some also may have been disengaged first before they finally got engaged to the person God has prepared for them, some may have been pursued for marriage in their early 20’s or mid 40’s. Nonetheless, each story is a masterpiece, well thought of and wholeheartedly written by God himself!

Let me get this straight, I am not, in any way, saying that you can go ahead and deliberately commit mistakes, after all God can repair it later. What I am saying here is that the moment one heeds to the standard of God in their lives at any given season, no matter how different and unique each story is to another, it is still part of the beautiful story God has perfectly written so that His glory may be known through their union! To look down on one love story and esteem yours is a mockery towards God, for He is the author of not just your story but theirs as well.

Why coaching with your story as the HIDDEN standard is unhealthy:

  1. You will never depend on the Holy Spirit as you lead the couple in their pursuit for a Christ-centered marriage.
  2. You will less likely be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit as you minister to the couple.
  3. You will panic when the story of the couple is totally out of your league. And may end up hurting them instead of inspiring and helping them.
  4. Your pride grows and you forget that your story is still by God’s grace alone.
  5. When you find someone who has a “better” love story than yours, you pout and frown.
  6. You sow unnecessary seeds of insecurities and ungratefulness to the couple you are coaching.
  7. You can altogether dismiss a couple when they come to you not with your ideal story or standards, but with an honest heart that says, “We had a bad start. Can you help us honor God in this?” and you go on thinking “We told you so,” “See?”
  8. When you are a couple who has been tragically planted with seeds of insecurities and ungratefulness by people around you, you will forever remain silent about God’s story in your life and would only choose a handful of people to whom you want to share it with.
  9. You may be pushed to a point of convincing yourself that your added make-believe highlights and twists to the already complete and perfect story God has written for you is genius and inspiring. Thereby living a lie for the rest of your life.
  10. You will be hindered to celebrate other people’s stories on how God has been good and gracious in their love story.

And the list goes on…

I am glad you love your love story, it is actually a good thing. But I hope it doesn’t become a stumbling block to you and to the people around you, instead may it become a story that would keep on reminding you how good and faithful your God is, and how undeserving you are, but still….

Here’s to more weddings in the coming days, weeks, and months! And may you never be surprised to see tears brimming my eyes as the bride walks down the aisle (even if she’s completely unrelated to me!) in every Christian wedding I will be in.

Convictions make you throw up

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In the recent Grammy’s, Natalie Grant “went home ahead” of everybody else. She was jeered for that because critics said she did so after Katy Perry’s satanic performance.

Assuming that was really her reason, I think Grant simply “vomited” that which her system cannot take.

If you get poison in your system, you throw up in a matter of minutes. What do I know about vomiting or throwing up? First is that it is one of our system’s response when something’s “wrong”. Secondly, it is involuntary, almost automatic. I haven’t met anyone who find pleasure doing it.

If Perry and everybody else’s system of convictions are in no level near Grant’s, then they’re accustomed to what they’re accustomed with. For Grant, it simply violates her conviction. And because she can’t take it, she “throws up” and no one can shovel it in her mouth.

Our convictions toward many things are very important. It makes or breaks us. It is something that shouldn’t be on the peripheral because with them we can navigate through different circumstances.

While everyone would chuckle and giggle over an overly green joke, you remain silent. Conviction makes you do that.

While everybody else would be fine with a casual sex date, you are adamant about the idea. Conviction makes you do that.

While friends are fine with pornography, you repent at the slightest idea.

Conviction makes you do that. (Sorry I’m a bit tired to show more examples)

Our strong convictions do not gather the applause of the world. It doesn’t make us popular, doesn’t make us mainstream. It doesn’t make us “feel” right; it makes us feel alone at times.

But at the end of the day, if you look closely, all these things don’t carry any weight.

At the end of everything, what matters is that God is honored and in this world, we have represented Him in the most honorable way. By God’s grace, our convictions, hinged on our understanding of what Christ did for us, will carry us through.

So go ahead and keep throwing up.

Family Discussion

We just had our first Leaders Meeting for 2014. Met with with some of our ministry volunteers and leaders. We simply gave updates about where we are at as a church. The past months were like a whirlwind, things happened so fast and we figured out it would be best to get everyone on the same page and make sure everyone’s on the right track. We finally cascaded the system my we worked so hard on the past weeks. I also introduced the new guys on working on new roles in the church. I sensed a deep love for this spiritual family my wife and I share our lives with. I reiterated that awhile ago’s meeting was more like a “family discussion” than a leaders meeting. It is such a great privilege to serve the Lord alongside fiery and passionate, and loving and dedicated men and women such as this home church of mine.

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Praying together as a church
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Kids Coordinator Hya Tuquib fighting for the Kids Ministry.
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Tom Villegas updating the leaders regarding our campus ministry
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John Hupa showing the current growth trend of the ministry
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Discussing current trends in the ministry

Lessons from Onoda

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The picture above is that of Hiroo Onoda. He made global headlines last week when he died at the age of 91. His story’s an amazing one.

At the height of World War 2, he was sent as a commando in Lubang, near Mindoro. His orders from the Japanese Imperial Army were simple: repel enemy attacks and never surrender. As a young soldier, he took that marching order and stood his ground in the island during the war.

The following year, Japan fell into the Allied Forces and later surrendered. A lot of Japanese soldiers, aware of what has transpired surrendered to the Americans and Filipinos and went back to Japan. But not Onoda. Unaware of Japan’s defeat, Onoda remained in Lubang and carried out his military duties until he finally came out in 1974. That’s 30 years after the war!

While the rest of the world was recovering from the war, Hiroo Onoda stood on the ground he pledged to carry out his duties on. When he came out of hiding in the 70s, he was on his thirty year old tattered military uniform and rifle.

Reading his story made me reflect on two things:

First, it reminded me of Ephesians 6 which talks about the Armor of God. It tells us to put on the full armor of God.  Not to put on the full armor would make whatever you have a fool’s armor. I wonder if Onoda would have survived thirty years without his military armor. In the same way, we need the entire armor of God to repel and stand our ground in this rather hostile battlefield that we are in. If Onoda’s marching orders were clear through the years, the joy of our salvation would can never be taken from us when we protect ourselves with the full armor of God. Meditate and study Ephesians 6.

Secondly, when everything’s been said and done, I’d love to hear these words from God: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Nothing can be sweeter than knowing that God is pleased with you.

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Hiroo Onoda on his uniform in 1974
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Hiroo Onoda receives pardon from Pres. Marcos

Four Years

Today, I’m happily married for four years to the woman I can’t live without. Friends, it’s been four good years. I have been contemplating about our marriage the past weeks and I am just so glad we have the time for ourselves following some chronic busyness back home. And so tonight, I’m writing this on a very cold evening on a cross country backdrop with a congested ear slowly cracking to pop. My wife’s asleep with a double fleece blanket that’s serving her well.

True to everyone, our marriage isn’t a bliss. But I am glad I share this married life with someone who is equally committed to keeping a warm and fruitful marriage as I am. There isn’t a phone app that downloads husbandhood to anyone. Marriage is hardwork. And two pairs of hands working on it are better than one. I want to thank and honor my wife, Rianne for the love and sacrifice, for working hard for our marriage. It isn’t pure pleasure sharing a home with me, so I thank God for her audacity.

I did my first wedding last month and I made it clear to the couple that outserving one another can be a key in enjoying married life. My wife and I have been practicing it, and it (outserving/selflessness) works everytime! R. Zacharias even suggests that you have to be willing to “die” to yourself if you really want to get married. That equates to your willingness to die to your own convenience, interests, hobbies, pet peeves, traditions, routines, sleep, and even your favorite food. I’m blessed that this is a non issue in our home. And I believe this is birthed out of love for one another. Sometimes my wife serves to the extent of becoming a little “gentlemanish” towards me–securing my seat, carrying my stuffs, among others. It’s a little embarassing but I thank her for making me feel like a king.

I also love her heart of compassion. When we were dating, I learned that she always prays her favorite line from her favorite song that says, “break my heart with what breaks Yours”. That has been an everyday prayer. Thus, chances are, if you are poor, unheralded, and untapped, you do not miss the peripherals of Rianne. You are a topic for prayer over dinner.

And oh, if you see us driving around at 2am, it’s because we are extending the kindness to some of our four legged stray friends.

One thing marriage does to you is that it exposes you. And because of a compassionate heart that always chooses mercy and forgiveness, I’m just so glad that I’m loved just the way I was loved on our wedding day albeit my flaws.

That kindness of heart expresses itself in the most genuine love for people that I’ve ever seen. Sometimes I don’t mind being rude. I just have to cut short her long talks with people. That “long talk” actaully is usually just a 16th of a fraction only and the rest of the portion is all listening. She can listen to someone uninterrupted for hours. I.just.can’t.do.that. But that’s something I appreciate about her.

My wife is like a tender shoot. Through the years, her soft heart has allowed her to have an undescribable depth in her relationship with God. Her intimacy with the Lord allowed her to be still in troubling times. She can not hold up a life that displeases God. I deem it very important because that is humility, and humility extinguishes familiarity with God. And it allows her to lovingly obey the Lord, whatever it takes.

Four years into our marriage and it seems like we just exchanged vows yesterday. My wife is my darling. I miss her the moment I drive off our gates and I giddy-yup at the thought of going home. She is my best friend. I love picking any stories to start conversations with her. She is a companion and a partner, a woman I’d love to love again and again.

I remember the time when I stood nervously on the altar saying my vows. I have no idea what things are going to be like in the next years or decades. But the way I know my wife now, I’m confident that even if we meet a convergence of storms, we can count on what the Bible assures that we can be perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not forsaken, and cast down, but not destroyed.

Let me share with you why I’m so excited for our fourth year.
Four is the number of creation. In the Bible, before the first ever nostril breathed its very first breath, all the “necessities” were already created in four days time. Everything necessary to sustain life have already proliferated before God created the animals and Adam. Adam didn’t have to contend with a DPWH concreting project or an untrimmed garden or a sea foaming up no waves. Things were readied in four days.

Four years of being married is like us learning the ropes. There’s been funny times of misadventures and mistakes. At times, it wasn’t funny any more. But our four years are like years of preparation for us individually and as a couple. This gives me the sense of excitement because I know the next coming years may not come in full bliss, but I know they are going to be times of receiving unmerited favor simply because God has already prepared things for us.

To the woman I took home as my bride four years ago, I love you now and forevermore, Mine!

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Victory Dumaguete at Essencia

We have been holding our worship services out of our center for two weeks now. This is because of magnitude 7 earthquake that shook Visayas two weeks ago. We’re doing this as a precautionary measure until we deem our building safe to hold a big and wild congregation like us. This Sunday, we went to Hotel Essencia in downtown Dumaguete. It was one awesome Sunday made possible by our awesomely dedicated volunteers. Being afloat the past weeks coupled by the transitions we have been having the past months, it’s amazing that our people are in high spirits and are in faith for greater things like never before. Below are some pictures of our volunteers in action:

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Aldon Donesa serving as our greeter in the lobby
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Our greeters at the main entrance handing out candies with a smile
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Tech crew doing what they do best—make things run
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Big smiles amidst the big move
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Our 5pm crowd enjoying the service
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5pm service from the back

I wasn’t able to take shots in the morning service because we were figuring out things with some of our volunteers. To all the volunteers of Victory Dumaguete, my wife and I, together with the leadership team of the church send out our heartfelt appreciation for your commitment that’s beyond compare.  Thank you for your selfless service week in and week out. People who grow the most are people who serve the most!

Dreams in Sachets

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This one’s quite long, but hopefully it would be a helpful read.

Little, small, and tiny dreams produce little, small, and tiny results.

I was recently contemplating about how dreams could somehow set the projectile of our life. As a great grand son of a Chinese immigrant, and with a Filipino blood thicker than anyone else, I can’t help but notice the difference. Filipinos and Chinese are equally hardworking. But sometimes we resent our Chinese friends because they have grown so wealthy in our homeland. We feel like they’ve benefited from the soil we have cultivated. No. I really think the problem lies not in how we have cultivated our soil, but in how we have cultivated our dreams. My grandfather used to own a small boat and a large warehouse in a remote island. But before that, he was a fisherman. We love thinking “luck”makes it big for people when it’s actually their attitude and dreams that make the difference.

When I was young, my brother and I learned to make the most out of our “Tambis” tree. On summer, we would climb the tree and gather its fruits. We would sell them at the neighborhood. It started a partnership that ranged from selling iced water to iced candies, aquarium fish, and comics. My brother went on to carry his entrepreneurial skills. All of us can do that. But where does the difference lies? Why do others make it big while others don’t? It’s in the way their dreams drive their attitude. For some, selling stuff is a job and it stops there. Profit comes next. While for the others, it’s a job and a stepping stone altogether.
Take for instance those who peddle in the market. The majority would bring their goods to the market and are focused on selling them all. When everything’s sold, they go home happy and another day has passed. The others would do the same. Just that, while selling their goods, they open their peripherals, make their ears keen and are always on the look out for bigger opportunities. Why? Because their dreams tell them there’s something bigger out there and they would keep digging for it.

As a Biology graduate I’ve come to understand that we are a very rich nation. But the sad reality is we do not really benefit from it as how we are supposed to. I can not say that we have been ransacked by the Spanish, Americans, Japanese, and Chinese. It could be that our own minds have plundered us. Our “sachet” mentality have taken hold of us and have paralyzed us for decades, if not centuries. We have the skills and the intelligence, but we sometimes lack the attitude to dream big. We put our hope in a Last 2 gamble and we feel like kings and queens once we hit the jackpot. We burn time in tong-its and even use wakes as an excuse for another session. All of these while the others harp for another opportunity tomorrow. We are a nation of movers and shakers! We export brilliance to the world. That should tell us that there’s more to sachets, we can dream beyond SSS.

All of these realizations of mine has been reinforced when I became a Christian. Of course a lot of my perspectives and motivations have changed. Or has been placed on the right frame work.

As a Christian, I have no excuse not to live a blessed life. Caleb saw an opportunity when others saw giants. His friends were the ones who labeled themselves grasshoppers. Abraham looked up and saw the stars as his descendants and he didn’t bother to count, he had the faith to believe it. Jesus died on the cross and galvanized the promise of blessings and favor on us as God’s children. My attitude towards life reflects my belief system. My dreams are measures of my faith. Sometimes we downsize our faith to fit our situation instead of up-sizing our faith to break through the situation. We are facing a challenge in our church as our building has been damaged by the recent earthquake and we need to move to a new one. Faith solidifies our dreams while fear liquefies our faith. Faith makes the dream more palpable. My wife and I, together with our leaders are in faith in the face of fear. Sometimes I feel like our minds are too young for things like these, but how else do we mature aside from circumstances like these. If I bring with me a sachet mentality, we might survive but would never thrive.

Hindi pwedeng kapiranggot lang ang pangarap. That doesn’t activate faith! It makes us “droolers” instead of doers. No wonder we become envious crabs.

We recently rejoiced when two of our church members recently purchased their own cars. They have a faith story to tell.

There’s going to be a faith breakout! When that time comes, you can’t be caught napping. Because if everyone is on a diaspora, even your little niche might be taken from you simply because you’ve refused to dream big and act big. Little does not apply to you. You’re a winner, therefore act like a champ, dream like a champ, think like a champ, believe like a champ, and receive like a champ!

If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.
C.S. Lewis