Thursday Tune #38: Natutulog Ba Ang Diyos by Gary V

Two of the many things that I thank the Lord for today are my Bible study group with colleagues and the huge trees that protected me from getting wet. I was on my way back from the park to the basement parking when it started to rain. I didn’t have an umbrella with me and the nearest shaded area was quite far from where I was. So, I quickly walked towards the closest tree and stayed under it until the rain softened.

It was just me and a huge snail in that small area under the tree. I couldn’t help but thank the Lord for His provision even for that moment. Who knew that leaves and branches could give you such a relief! But, the main reason why I loved that moment so much was because our Bible study group just studied Psalm 121 tonight. In this chapter, we were encouraged by God and reminded of how He: 1) is our Creator who is greater than our problems, and 2) continues to watch over us.

My colleagues and I enjoyed our time sharing both our highlights and hurdles for the past week. We also learned new trivia on the stars, the sun, moon, earth, and galaxies, as we studied Psalm 121. I remember looking at the faces of my colleagues as we pondered on how amazing and indescribable God is. Even though we are just a speck here on earth, He chooses to love and pursue us still. One of my colleagues even shared: “Oh wow! If this is how great our God and Creator is, then this problem that I’m facing right now is very tiny! Why should I worry and stress about this knowing that He sees and knows everything; that I can trust in Him?”

Another colleague mentioned that through Psalm 121 and Isaiah 40:28-31 (another passage we read), she learned that we can never comprehend or fathom how God thinks or works. And this humbled her deeply. To which my other colleague responded, “It’s good that God IS our God, right? And not someone else.”

I still can’t believe that I get to spend one night a week with my colleagues outside the office where we get to learn who God is and who we are in Him. This is really by the grace of God and I can’t express the joy in my heart for rainy nights like this. For the past two months, we finished our “True Identity” series (as seen in the photo collage above). If it’s the Lord’s will, I’ll be facilitating a new Bible study series with them again starting next week. Please do continue to pray for us as we dig deep in His word and seek Him.

For this Thursday’s tune, I decided to share a Tagalog song sung by Gary V. It’s one of the songs that reminds me of Psalm 121.

Thank You, Lord, that we can find rest in You knowing that You created us, You care for us, and You will continue to watch over us forevermore.

Will This Bring Me Closer To You?

I always tell my siblings how much our pomeranian, Copper, likes me. Whenever I get the chance to bond with him, he stays beside me and licks me continuously! Also, 99% of the time, he comes to me when I ask him to. But, my all-time favorite moment with him happens during our walks at the park. Whenever he’s more than a meter away, he would look back at me, see me squat on the ground, run towards me, and pounce his tiny bear-like body on my legs. Afterwards, he would sit under me like a baby penguin sits under its parent.

Most of the time, his clinginess is adorable. But, there are moments when I just want him to stay still or stay at a distance from me. For example, yesterday, I brought him to the groomers so he could have his overdue haircut. Instead of sitting on the passenger’s seat, he jumped to me and attempted to sit on my lap for the whole ride. I knew I could get in trouble for this because it was a distraction while I was driving. So, I did my best to softly push him to sit still on the chair beside me.

After his grooming, I picked him up and drove back home. Again, he wouldn’t stop going near me. So, I thought of a compromise. I allowed him to sit on my left leg as I leaned it on the driver’s door. This made him feel at ease and I was still able to turn the wheel without him blocking me. However, in the future, I would need a better plan.

Nonetheless, I do enjoy hanging out with Copper. Even if there are other spaces on my bed, whenever he’s on it, he positions his body beside mine. Whenever I lay down on the floor, he would go out of his “cave” (a.k.a. the space below my bed) and sit beside me. It warms my heart to know that he trusts me and chooses to be close to me.

This scenario reminded me of how the Lord is pleased when I choose to draw near to Him too. It says in Hebrews 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Also, contrary to how I sometimes feel towards Copper’s clinginess, the Lord will never push us away when we seek Him. In fact, James 4:8 shows us that God will draw near to us when we draw near to Him.

In a way, this was a timely reminder for me because I have been dealing with a lot of major decisions lately. But by God’s grace, He has been helping me process my concerns with His Word, godly counsel, and prayer. Also, as I was pouring my heart out on my journal last night, I found myself writing these down:

“When faced with a difficult decision, Nicole, ask yourself this question: ‘Will this decision bring me closer to Jesus or farther away from Him?’”

“You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. Because your love is BETTER than life, my lips will glorify you.” -Psalm 63:1,3

Can I honestly say these verses from my heart?

Do I enjoy God’s presence in my life?

Does my heart yearn for him, thirst for Him, run to him, trust him, and abide in Him and His word in every season of my life?

Do I like what God likes? Do I hate what He hates?

Do I pursue what He wants me to prioritize now?

Do I seek and love Him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength?

Or do I give him my leftover minutes in a day? And linger in my doubt, laziness, distractions, pride, worry, and desire for treasures that will fade away?

If I think about choosing a decision, no matter how big or small, that will take me or others farther away from the Lord, I would immediately need to have my heart and motives checked and renewed by Him. Because it just wouldn’t make sense. WHAT OR WHO COULD BE BETTER THAN JESUS?

NOTHING! NO ONE!

Copper chooses to be as close to me as possible all the time. If my dog can do that to me, how much more should I have the desire and will to draw closer to Jesus? It boils down to making a choice… and choosing Him every single time will only be by His grace and by the power of the Holy Spirit in me.

Thursday Tune #37: I Am by Influence Music

A colleague asked if I could pray for her this afternoon. She was struggling with a number of concerns and her anxieties were already piling up. My heart ached because I knew that battling with anxieties isn’t an easy thing to do. In fact, in the recent days, I’ve had my own share too! Sometimes, I wish that there was an off button for worries and anxieties in life. Can’t I just erase them from my mind the moment I have them?

Two days ago, I struggled with it so much that I spent the whole day at work going through my tasks with a blank look on my face. It was as if my default mode was set to being melancholic. I was filling my mind with so many “What If’s” and this hindered me from intentionally laying my concerns before the Lord. Instead of having faith, I was nurturing fear in my heart. Instead of trusting in God’s sovereignty and love for me, I was trying to solve things on my own wisdom and strength.

That night, as I drove home, I took a deep sigh at the sight of the heavy traffic ahead of me. I only had two choices: 1) Spend the next hour grumbling on the road, or 2) Seek the Lord and listen to His Word. By God’s grace, I did the second option and I chose to listen to one of Chip Ingram’s podcasts about what to do when we are overwhelmed with anxiety. Yes, I specifically chose this topic. The main passage that Chip dwelt on was Philippians 4:6-7, which says: “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.”

My heart was crushed while I was listening to Chip Ingram’s podcast. Even if I’ve already read these verses a lot of times before, I was still moved by how intentional and gracious the Lord is with us. He knew that we would struggle with anxiety waaaay before we did and His sovereign hand has been guiding us all along through His Word. I was encouraged to develop a lifestyle of praying Biblically and specifically, more so when I encounter anxieties and worries.

Instead of just whining about my concerns and telling them to the Lord, I am reminded to remember who He is in my life. This is because my view of God will affect how I think, feel, and respond to different situations. It will also affect the way I seek Him and pray to Him. Here are some of the characteristics of God that I am encouraged to think about tonight:

“God is greater than all of my fears combined.

God is in control and is always on time.

God deeply cares for you and me.

God is faithful and He will continue to be.

God is merciful over and over again.

God is able to do more than we can imagine.

God desires that we grow in Christlikeness

God loves us — no more, no less.”

In relation to knowing who He is in our lives, I would like to share this song that I discovered on Spotify a few weeks ago. It is called “I Am” by Influence Music. I pray that it would strengthen our hearts as we seek the Lord and His Word even as we deal with anxieties.

 

Overcoming Addictions

“Just one more episode and then, I’ll go to bed.” This was one of the lies I told myself three weeks ago, when I mindlessly binge-watched a series on Netflix. It started with a random search on a Friday night which eventually led me to staying in my room watching 40 more episodes until Sunday midnight. Before I knew it, I was hours away from waking up and preparing for Monday’s work. I have succumbed to an addiction that I didn’t want nor planned to have in the first place. Why did this happen to me? How did I overcome it?

My weekends are usually spent with family and friends or by myself inside my favorite coffee shop. When I am alone, I enjoy writing on my journal, reading the Bible and books, and doing my other hobbies. During that weekend, you could just imagine the sudden shift in my entire system after I experienced the unproductivity. Unfortunately, I saw how it negatively affected me in the ff. areas:

 

PHYSICAL

My body clock was messed up because I watched episodes until the wee hours of the morning. This made my face have that zombie glow. It was intense! I could feel and see how tired my eyes were and I could not appreciate the beauty of the sunlight and nature the next day because they were all too bright for me. Out of my desperation, I remember telling myself “NEVER BINGE-WATCH AGAIN!” However, the day after, I ended up watching two more episodes before I slept. Oh, boy.

 

EMOTIONAL

My unproductivity and lack of sleep unleashed a side of me that I did not like at all. I was more irritable, insecure, stressed, and easily discouraged. I felt weaker by the moment because of my disappointment towards myself and how I wasted a weekend. I don’t even have to describe how I responded to different people and situations last week. You can just visualize how messed up my heart was too!

 

SPIRITUAL

Out of all the aspects that got affected by my recent addiction, this was the one that broke my heart the most. More than being unproductive and feeling my body give up on me, I deliberately chose NOT to spend time with the Bible and seek God during my rest days that weekend. I know. What was I thinking, right? The message to draw near to Him was loud and clear to me, but my stubborn self still did the opposite. That weekend, I felt so helpless and trapped that I ended up continuing what I was doing because it seemed irreparable already. But, God still pursued my unfaithful heart. I remember thinking: “Nic, you’ve experienced and accepted Jesus in your life. You know how He transformed you from the inside out. Have you forgotten about this? Have you forgotten about Him?” In the next few days, by God’s grace, I slowly came back to my senses and saw the addiction and my idolatry for what they really were.

To be more specific, I did three things to overcome this specific addiction:

FIRST: I humbled myself before the Lord and sought His wisdom. I asked Him to help me see the root cause of my addiction. In my case, I realized that I was hardening my heart towards God because of certain unanswered prayers in my life.  (James 1:5)

SECOND: I became accountable to people in my life that I knew would guide and remind me of honoring God as I let go of the addiction. (James 5:16 and Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

THIRD: I deleted the Netflix app on my phone and intentionally prayed and planned for activities that I can do to replace this addiction in my life. (Psalm 24:1, Ephesians 5:15-16, Romans 12:1-2)

Ironically, I have already exceeded the 6-month mark of fasting from my social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram). By God’s grace, this has helped me greatly in overcoming many concerns and in being a better steward of the resources that God has given me. But, I realized that it is important to continue abiding in the Lord and His Word if I want to persevere in this and honor Him through it. Otherwise, I will solely depend on my own feeble strength and eventually fall into more addictions in my life.

1 Corinthians 10 spoke to my heart two weeks ago, as God reminded me of certain principles in the Bible. These verses hit me hard: “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (v. 12-13, 23, 31)

By the grace of God, during the next two weekends, I intentionally spent time with Him and His word and I slept for longer periods of time. Woohoo! It was definitely more refreshing than what I experienced three weekends ago. Although I have to be honest, at first, it really did take a lot of effort for me to dig deep in His Word again. However, I am encouraged to keep my eyes focused on God’s faithfulness and grace instead of crippling myself with thoughts of shame, regret, and disappointment towards myself. My spiritual condition might have been wounded, but, I continue to put my confidence and hope in Jesus alone. May this truth resonate in my heart — His mercies are new every morning! They are new every morning.