Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Lesson from Mario Sepulveda, Chile Mining Rockfall Incident Survivor

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. Timothy 1:7

About three weeks ago, an incredible rescue operation took place in a cooper and gold mine somewhere in the Atacama desert in Chile to save the lives of 33 miners who were trapped 2060 feet below the earth. It was such a happy-ending story since all the trapped miners were rescued.

But for 17 days after they were trapped and before their existence was confirmed by rescuers, the miners had the horrifying realization that they could all die painfully from starvation, from disease, from suffocation, or worst, from each other. These were the days that each of them had to face their worst fears.

Imagine that you were with these miners buried under the earth. Smell the damp and sickening odor of the soil all around you, hear the drop of water that fall to a puddle of mud nearby, feel the uncomfortable heat rising from the surface of the earth, look at the rock-sealed exit, and observe the distressed faces of your companions. How would you feel when it dawn on you that there’s no way out, and that the situation is now out of your control? Will you freak out? Will you accept your fate peacefully? Will you switch to survival-of-the-fittest mode? Or will you remain hopeful?

I believe the honest answer is, “I don’t know.” Our worst fears can make us do things that can even shock us. Think of the evil things that men are capable of during war time. Does the holocaust ring bell?

We don’t know (yet) the drama that surrounded the trapped miners during these harrowing 17 days. But the comment from one of the rescued miners, Mario Sepulveda, was quite revealing. He said, “I was with God, and I was with the devil. They fought, and God won.” He then added, “I grabbed God’s hand and never doubted that I will be rescued.”

Wow! Sepulveda may not be speaking from the physical perspective, meaning he didn’t actually see God and the devil, but from a spiritual perspective; he felt God’s presence, as well as, the presence of the enemy in his heart. Both made their pitch, he listened, switched sides from time to time, and finally, chose. All while buried under the earth.

When we are at our lowest, when reality contradicts our deep hopes and beliefs, that is when our faith is put to a hard testing. Yes, it was a test, a knee-shaking, hope-stealing test, indeed. And Sepulveda, and the rest of the miners showed the world how to pass the test.

When we are at our deepest trouble, when problems and life’s difficulties push us deeper than before, and when it seems that there is no way out, remember the miners. The successful rescue operation in Chile was not just a triumph of engineering, planning, and operation. But more importantly, it was the triumph of the collective human spirit over the gates of hell.

In the valley of death, fear will knock on our door. Not once or twice, but more often. And he won’t go away…unless…we allow our faith in God seal the door of our heart. Mario Sepulveda did it, and so can you and me.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

"You're Out of Tune!"

On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." Matthew 9:12~13

There was once a young boy who loved music. He hummed, whistled and belted out with joy every time he heard his favorites songs in the radio. His repertoire included the songs of Max Surban, Yoyoy Villame, Barbara Streisand, the Beatles, and others.

One day, while serenading his pet cat and dog, a bully sneaked in from behind. As the little boy hit crescendo, the bully began to laugh as if he heard the funniest joke in town. He gasped and pointed his finger to the young performer. “You’re out of tune!”

The young boy’s ego was murdered. From that day on, he was never the same. He still loved music, but deep inside he believed that he was never good enough.

A few years later, he was invited by his music teacher to join the school choir, but he never did. In high school, he longed to be in the choir, yet he never auditioned. He believed he was not worthy. The bully left a bitter taste in his love for music that just won’t go away.

Friends, maybe somewhere in your past or even today, you are like this young boy. You don’t want to get into close relationship with God not really because you don’t want to, but maybe because you don’t feel worthy. Sin bullied you, like the rest of us, into believing that you are dirty and don’t deserve to be loved by our God. Don’t make the same mistake that I made as a young boy; don’t believe your bully.

Jesus came not for the perfect, but for sinners like you and me. Come and join in His supper and partake in His saving words. You’ll never be the same again.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

ABC of Decision Making -- The Simpliest Way to Make a Decision

1 To man belong the plans of the heart,
but from the LORD comes the reply of the tongue.
2 All a man's ways seem innocent to him,
but motives are weighed by the LORD.
3 Commit to the LORD whatever you do,
and your plans will succeed.
                                               Proverbs 1:1~3

When I was a junior student, everyday I felt panic building inside of me. I was about to graduate from high school, but I still couldn’t decide what course to pursue in college. It was like being pushed to the plank, the sharp sword pointing at my back and the dark wide ocean before me, when I couldn’t decide yet what to do once I'm in the water. A long time ago, I decided not to bother dreaming about college because I believed that my parents couldn’t afford it.

Fortunately, God sent me a beautiful angel. I was already enrolled in a three-year course in a local technical school when my English teacher, Maam Erna, came to our house to help me get a government scholarship. Months later, I received a letter from PESFA that stated that I was chosen as one of their scholars. The surprising part was that I can only avail of the scholarship if I took up a Bachelor of Science (BS) course. What a blessing!

I was both happy and perplexed though. What course should I take? I mulled over this question when my eyes caught sight of my brother’s book, Grob’s Basic Electronics. That’s it! I decided to take up Bachelor of Science in Electronics and Communications Engineering, not particularly because I like electronics or communications, but because I thought that my parents can save money from buying books since my brother already had books in electronics.

Did I make the right decision?

Not long ago, I started teaching my eldest daughter how to make decision. Since she is still very young (8-year old), I tried to make it as simple as possible. I call this the ABC of making decision.

A – Acknowledge your options
B – Balance each option
C – Choose the empowering option

To acknowledge is to realize that we have options. Each time we face a situation, and event or a problem, a crossroad is laid before us. Before we jump in or say mini-mini-mo, it helps to clear our mind by asking…

What are my options here?
Who can help me figure out what are my others options? Who is the right person(s) to approach?

To balance is to compare our options to a yardstick, a guideline or a standard. This is done by asking the following questions:

Which option is right based on my faith,values and principles in life? Which option aligns with God’s will? (For moral questions)
Which option is close to my heart based on my dreams in life? (For everyday questions)
Which option is correct based on my knowledge and experience? (For technical questions)
Who can help me understand the merit and demerit if each option? Who is the right person(s) to approach?

Finally, we choose. However, after acknowledging our options, and balancing it against our faith, values, belief, dreams, knowledge and experience, this time we have to do alone. This is a personal thing. To arrive at a quality decision, we have to…

Choose the option that aligns with your faith, your values and principles in life.
Choose the option that aligns with your dreams in life.
Choose the option that aligns with what you think is correct based on your knowledge gained though education, and experience.


In every decision we make, there is always a motive – the reason why we do things or say things. So before we choose, let’s try to examine our motive and see if it aligns with what we hold is true. We may fool the people around us, but God can see through us.

We can make all sorts of plans and decisions, but it is up to God to bless this or not. We can plant  the seed, but it is up to God to make it grow. A car accident, a terminal illness, an earthquake, a fire, a drought, a typhoon, a recession, etc. can simply throw a monkey wrench to all our plans in a blink. God always has the last say.

Years later, I am now here where I am today after I took that path based on that one book. Did I regret that decision? No! It was not that best way to choose a career though. I am happy because along the way I found the right way -- Jesus. I am truly amazed when I finally realized that God's way is the best way "all the time". (Before, I thought that God's way is for losers and non-achievers only. I was so wrong.) And I am very excited that I found my own means of serving and pleasing Him now.

Imagine. You are in your deathbed and an angel approaches you. Then he asks you, “Who do you want to please first: God, yourself or others.”

What would you say? Would you wait for the time that you are in your deathbed to make the best decision in life? Before you jump to you next to-do work, mull over this very important question and decide for yourself. Your eternity depended on it.