Through the Fire: 14 Years and Counting

Our family almost lost our lives when our house burned down fourteen years ago. I can still recall how the Lord graciously led all of us out of the house before the roof fell to the ground.

Sometimes, I still wonder what it would be like if we weren’t around anymore, after November 19, 2004. We wouldn’t have been able to: 1) develop the relationships that we have right now, 2) discover skills and desires that God has placed in our hearts, 3) invest in both material and eternal things, and 4) experience God’s faithfulness and goodness the way that we did in the past decade!

Although, I have to admit, there are times when I do long for the day when I finally get to meet God face-to-face and start spending eternity with Him in Heaven. However, only He knows when that would be and as long as He wakes me up each day, by God’s grace, I will choose to seek and serve Him — no matter how difficult the struggles in this life may be. God, being the sovereign God that He is, allows me and my family to continue living here on earth since the fire incident. Indeed, it is a humbling reality!

I’ll be sharing a part of Psalm 71 which reflects what is in my heart as I remember God’s faithfulness today. 

“As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds, of your saving acts all day long— though I know not how to relate them all.

I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord; I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone.

Since my youth, God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.

Your righteousness, God, reaches to the heavens, you who have done great things. Who is like you, God?

Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.”

Thank You, Lord, for waking me up today… and for the 14 years (and counting) of being able to know You and experience You in deep and new ways here on earth. 

 

Thursday Tune #39: Clear the Stage by Jimmy Needham

“I want to hear Your voice. Lord, I only want to hear Your voice.”

I whispered this to God while I was sobbing one morning this week. I reached a point in my life where decisions and pressures have been terribly overwhelming. Not to mention the additional stress I put on myself and the various opinions and ideas that I receive from others who sincerely mean well. I’m at a crossroad in almost every aspect of my life and it really hasn’t been a breeze for me.

Yet, in my distress and confusion, I could see how God is still allowing me to develop a hunger for Him and His Word. By God’s grace, this chaos in my mind and heart is bringing me to my knees; helping me dig deeper in His promises and truths; and inspiring me to know and trust Him more.


A few hours ago, I had the privilege of studying Psalm 42 and this song struck a chord in my heart. The Psalmist expressed the struggles in his life and reminded himself of the hope that he had in God. I usually remember some of the verses in this Psalm because of an old song we used to sing at church which includes the lines, “Why so downcast, O my soul? Put your hope in God!” But, as I was reading this chapter, another verse caught my attention. In verse 8, it says: “By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life.”

In the middle of the Psalmist’s lament, he acknowledges God’s love by day and decides to sing in the evening. He sang not just any song, but a prayer to the God of his life! What a humbling moment that was! But then again, isn’t this what the Lord desires from us? To seek Him with all of our hearts, to worship Him even in the difficult moments of our lives, and to trust our Father God, as we lay our requests before Him?


I like how Jimmy Needham expressed what worship is through his song, “Clear the Stage”. I pray that you and I will be able to spend undivided, quality time with Jesus each day. I pray that more than anything or anyone else, we will hear and listen intently to His voice. Lastly, I pray that the words of our mouths and meditation of our hearts would be pleasing to Him (Psalm 19:14).

“Take a break from all the plans that you have made
And sit at home alone and wait for God to whisper
Beg him please to open up his mouth and speak
And pray for real upon your knees until they blister”

 

I Touched a Poisonous Mushroom

It was a pleasant pop of white color in a patch of green grass near our office. The gardener in me got intrigued by the mushroom as I wondered, “What if this is poisonous? Hahaha. Nah.” With much joy, I uprooted it from the ground and brought it back to my desk. I already imagined how I would preserve it at home because it was such a rare find! I took photos of it and even allowed my colleagues to touch it too! Everything was lovely until I began to search what poisonous mushrooms look like.

To my surprise, the first articles that I saw described the exact physical appearance of the mushroom that I just harvested. The type is called “Death Cap” which is responsible for 90% of the deaths caused by poisonous mushrooms. (Disclaimer: I am not a mushroom expert. So, it is possible that the mushroom I got was a “Destroying Angel”, which is another type with very similar appearances and deadly effects.)

At first, I was still in denial, but the truth slowly crept in me as my other colleagues realized it too. I found myself staring at the poisonous mushroom, thinking if it was still worth preserving. After a few hours, I decided to throw the bag away so I could prevent myself, my colleagues, and those at home to touch or mistakenly eat it. At that moment, I felt the Lord affirm me with this statement: “Good job for throwing it away! Isn’t it a lot like sin, Nic?”

Through the poisonous mushroom, the Lord taught me object lessons on the dangers of lingering in and / or loving sin.

FIRST: Death Cap mushrooms have a pleasant taste and a beautiful appearance.

I wrote this statement based on the articles of Mushroom Appreciation and Times Colonist. Of course, I did not plan to eat the wild mushroom, but, I clearly was intrigued by its beauty. When I realized that it was poisonous, I felt so deceived. It was fun to play with! It looked so pure, friendly, and harmless on the ground, and yet, this poisonous mushroom can kill someone.

In the same way, Hebrews 11:25 shows us that “…the pleasures of sin is fleeting” too. If we do not know this or take this into heart, we may end up being deceived by the beauty and temporary satisfaction that sin gives us as well.

SECOND: A single Death Cap mushroom, when eaten, can start damaging the liver and kill the body.

Based on this article , 6 to 24 hours after the Death Cap mushroom is eaten, the first symptoms of being poisoned are stomach pains, vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea. After 1-2 days, the body will seem like it has improved. But, by this time, the poison already caused serious damages to the liver, which eventually results to death. In order to survive, the victims may try to go through liver transplants.

Also, according to François Durand and Dominique Valla (2013) , Amatoxins (which are in Death Cap mushrooms), are so stable that heating or freezing it will not destroy its poison. So, even if the mushroom isn’t eaten, it is still important for one to immediately wash their hands after touching it.

It is a lot like sin. It says in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death…” Even if it is just one sinful act, it still leads to death (in this case, the eternal separation from God or “Second death”).

THIRD: Lingering in sin has its consequences not only in my life but in the lives of others too.

It’s sad to believe that when we commit sin, we are only risking ourselves in the process. Nothing could be further from the truth. The people around us are also exposed to the risks and consequences of our sins. Sometimes, we may not even realize it but we also end up causing others to sin in the process. I saw an analogy in the way I handled the mushroom. Instead of identifying first if it was poisonous or not and doing the necessary precautions, I allowed the mushroom to sit on my desk and I even showed it around, risking the lives of some of my colleagues.

Similarly, I’ve seen and experienced the consequences of my own sins and the sins of others and I cannot emphasize enough how heartbreaking it is to go through those moments. As I was pondering on this earlier today, I remember telling God, “I hate sin! I hate sin and its consequences!!” But, at the same time, I also remembered the moments in my life when I liked it; when I intentionally lingered in sin and enjoyed the temporary pleasures it brought me — even though I knew that it was breaking God’s heart too.

There is an intense need to break away from this, to have a distaste for sin, and to allow our desire for God and His Word to grow in our hearts. This will not be done by our own willpower, but by God’s grace and the work of the Holy Spirit in us. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 says, “…Such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

Before going home yesterday, I remember panicking in my heart because I started to think that although I washed my hands, some of the toxins might still be on it. I regretted my decision of harvesting it and questioned why God allowed poisonous mushrooms to grow on earth in the first place! God then humbled me with the ff. truths:

 

HE IS OUR SOVEREIGN GOD

The same indescribable God who made the galaxies, our complex human bodies, and the wonders on this earth is the same God who allowed these types of poisonous mushrooms to exist. I can question and complain all I want, but, I will never fully know and understand how and why God created the things that He did. It says in Isaiah 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.” Instead of grumbling about the hassles of the evil in this world and the temptations of sin, I am reminded to seek Him and His wisdom, knowing that He is sovereign over everything.

 

HE IS OUR SECURITY

Many years ago, God showed me that my sinful self needed to be saved from eternal separation from Him. God, in His great love and mercy, made a way through His Son, Jesus, who died on the cross to pay for our sins and rose again to show us that the victory is already His. I repented and accepted Him as my personal Lord and Savior and my eternity in Heaven was secured since then (Ephesians 2:8-9).

If ever I was indeed poisoned and was going to die in the next few days, I knew I was going to Heaven because of His grace. If we can trust Him with the biggest problem of our life, sin, then we can surely trust that He is able to work in and through us and our decisions, even if these include regrets, mistakes, and weaknesses. Even if we touch poisonous mushrooms or linger in sin again.

By God’s grace, I pray that when He does work in us, we will choose to immediately throw the poison away, seek Him and His Word, and let Him speak life and truth into our hearts instead.

I touched a poisonous mushroom. I hope you won’t do the same thing too. :O

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.