D R . E L R O I


Friday, December 27, 2013

Sixth Year is Christmas 2013

Nothing special occurred to me this Christmas only it was my sixth celebration as a Christian. Two Christmas ago, I remembered the Lord has spoken to me through the “Cat & Dog Theology” book and I was enlightened in a way like it was the first time I saw the light. This time, I am still in the middle of reading “One Sided Christianity” by R.J. Sider and my heart is being moved to respond beyond what I am currently doing with the HIV&AIDS ministry and pray for more involvement in social transformation and more on evangelization at the same time.

Honestly in the past few weeks after that trip in Ormoc, it seems to me although I am not sure yet, that God is putting a new desire in my heart. Aside from the HIV work through CoH or Channels of Hope, which remains my first love in terms of ministry, and counseling I guess I am starting to like to go on a mission abroad but I am still praying about it for it could be only the effect of that wonderful experience in Ormoc and of this book. However, I know I have to continuously do my calling and go where the Lord is asking me to go no matter what.

Moreover, six years ago, December 13th, to be exact was the day when I have yielded my life to God the Heavenly Father and asked Jesus Christ to be my Lord and Savior. A lot of things have happened, a lot of things have changed but few things remain in which I believe God has still a purpose. Knowing and living for Christ alone must go on…thank you Lord for the gift of life. Through rejoicing and suffering, joy and pain, obedience and rebellion, victory and failures, may you continue to transform me towards becoming the man that you have wanted me to become…a man after your own heart… may I continue to die with Christ and also live with Him, continue to endure and also reign with Him (2 Tim. 2:11-12) all for your glory and honor.

Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year to everyone!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Typhoon Yolanda Ormoc Survivors Psychosocial Processing (PSP) Experience - A Reflection

For the first time in my whole life, the only time I cried over the news on TV was on the huge devastation and inconceivable effect left by typhoon Yolanda to the people of Visayas. As a Christian, I was deeply moved that I have prayed to God that He give me an opportunity to take my part and do it for the affected people. Thus, when ATS announced that teams would be sent to do stress debriefing to our brothers and sisters in some parts of the region I instantly signed up. I just knew that this was the chance the Lord has given me and I have to go. With my professor and eight other team members, whom mostly I have just met, I went prepared for anything.

The day came and I was still bothered with the possibilities of discomfort I might experience, working with people I was not close to, and fear of being not able to provide the help. Nonetheless, I was more excited for this trip as I surrendered all of these worries to the Lord. To be able to sleep in a barangay hall instead in a tent and use a clean toilet and bath in a neighborhood church, which the Pastor one of the team members befriended with just a few hours when we arrived, was an answered prayer already. After meeting Pastor Paul, we learned that it seems impossible to visit the places that were planned prior to the arrival so we just prayed and let the hands of God lead us to maximize our stay. On our first day, we got invited to join the Dawn Watch Prayer by the pastors. From there, we were able to talk to pastors from different churches and all of a sudden our second day was already filled up. And then, I believe the Lord has brought the team to minister to this neighbor church and they were all blessed and grateful after the debriefing process. We wrapped up our first day by ministering to the barangay Purok leaders and evening devotion. The second and last day was spent with seven different churches were the team spread out to preach for the Sunday service for most of us, followed by the PSP. It was only perfect to end this trip with the sharing of all our striking experiences on our last evening that have truly blessed each and every members of the team.

As we listened to the prayers of pastors in Dawn Watch, I have learned that they view this calamity as God’s punishment to our sinfulness that I think was strongly influenced by this particular prophecy they kept mentioning for this region. In response, I have introduced to the people I talked to the God who revealed Himself to me as a loving and compassionate God in the midst of a life disaster, which I personally experienced. I have learned that to feel doubt about our God and the words we preach is a normal reaction in times like this. But irrefutably, I was greatly encouraged and touched by their faith despite of the losses they have experienced in which I have seen as their way of protecting themselves from deep pain and more questions. Hence, I helped people to lament and pour out to God what they truly feel with the disaster through this PSP. The result was astoundingly indeed a blessing for all of us that their hope to spring back was intensified and they have wished that we would come back for others. Also in the midst of a blow, I cannot ignore the fact that natural evilness of human can also maneuvered the situation such as politicking a simple relief-goods giving and that really infuriated me quietly. Largely, I was truly amazed by the faith and hope of the survivors to hold on and very strong will shown by the smiles on their lips to have their life back.

One of the utmost impact on me was the decision made by this pastor, whom his church I was assigned to minister, that in spite of his option to leave the city he opted not to but stayed to attend to his members even he and his own family experienced the same losses. Truly, obeying to God’s calling to us brings real joy and meaning to life in which not only brought me out of my comfort zone but also made me do things I thought could not do such as preaching and living in discomfort through taking part in a portion of suffering of my fellow countrymen. Indeed we are at our happiest when we serve Him at the right place and at the right time.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

School, Health and HIV Ministry

Thank You Lord for being there in every step of the way. Truly, " Without good direction, people lose their way; the more wise counsel you follow, the better your chances" (Proverbs 11:14, MSG) and "Plans are established by seeking advice; so if you wage war, obtain guidance" (Proverbs 20:18, NIV). After weeks of seeking God's will and guidance for this semester through counseling and advice seeking from wise friends, finally I got enrolled with peace in my heart...no worries or doubts but excitement and a looking-forward attitude! I have only one subject and one semester remaining after this school year and I will graduate earlier than I have planned.

As for my health, four weeks ago I did all my regular medical laboratory check up such as FBS, cholesterol, creatinine, and other numbers that need monitoring including CD4 test or number of Commanding Officers white blood cells that is responsible in keeping our immune system healthy and well functioning. Virtually all the results are in normal range and the CD4 cells has increased to a whooping 631 from 457 last year praise God! Healthy lifestyle physically, mentally, emotionally but more importantly, spiritually is truly the way towards healthy living! Thank you Lord for this miracle, another proof that God still heals today!

Last week, for the first time in my five years of traveling, I have encountered challenges from check-in to immigration on my way to Bangkok to participate at the pre-conference of interfaith networks on AIDS in Asia at ICAAP 11 or International Conference on AIDS in Asia Pacific. As I was waiting for things to happen whether I can get through or not, I was reminded how I got in this situation from the start and asked God if I was really in the right place or if it is really His will to be here. But one thing I have noticed with myself was…I have never been that calm and at peace in a stressful situation like that, and believed that things will go well if this is God’s will. In fact I was able to finish several pages of the book that is a required reading at school, while waiting. Well, I told myself, “If this was the old me, I could have ranted and simply backed out and went home.” Thus, who says people cannot change? But moreover, and I believed this is the best thing I realized in the situation…I have simply trusted the Lord and let Him take over of the situation instead of yielding up to worrying and stressing myself out. Hmmm…Lord thank you so much for I think you have changed me and still changing me to become the man that you truly want me to become.

Aside from meeting and becoming friends with some few of the key people in the Interfaith Network of Religious Leaders Living with HIV&AIDS (INERELA) and Asia Interfaith Network on AIDS (AINA), very briefly I was tasked to present the plan for the Philippines as we engage in AINA. For now, I am still uncertain of the reason why the Lord has brought me in this conference. Perhaps it’s more of building my network, testing my faith and the truth I believe in, and reaffirming my true calling in Jesus as I met and talked with this very strong HIV+ woman Pastor and a couple of faith leaders in same-sex relationships for the first time. Nevertheless, I praise the Lord and thank Him for this short but still blessed trip.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

When God Speaks and Calls Me to Obey

The Lord never fails me whenever I ask Him to either just simply let me feel His presence strongly or speak to me very clearly whether with specific words or simply about anything just to hear from Him that He's there for me always in times of struggles, joy, and loneliness. Romans 8:28 was brought to me in a different level with a reason that I still do not know yet but that's okay for it is an opportunity to trust Him more! And then I thought God was done with me speaking through this service message last Sunday but I was wrong.

After church, I paid a visit to my couple friend just to use their WiFi and have a chat with them but the Lord has a different plan. Well, I was able to use the Internet and saw this on a status from a Facebook friend. "If You Continue To Do What You Always Done, Then You Will Continue To Be Who You Have Always Been! Nothing Changes Until You Make It Change!" I just read it in a passing manner and liked it then moved on scrolling down. After surfing the net and done with the emails, the wife and I talked with the permission of her husband, just the two of us, regarding her very personal problem. At the end of the counseling, not as a counselor but as a friend, I was glad that it truly helped her and I felt the Lord’s Spirit leading me all through out the conversation. Also I realized, I do really enjoy listening to people and be an agent of change! So I left their home feeling happy, to have dinner with another good friend. It was a long waiting invitation and finally it happened.

Over dinner as I was sharing with him my financial dilemma for this coming semester and decisions I have to make...he told me something that was exactly has the same meaning with the FB status I just read! Although my heart was a bit resistant because I know what is this “new thing” I have to do to make a change - only I really do not want to do it.... suddenly I was reminded by this status. I guess the Lord is truly serious to test my faith and obedience this time on the financial aspect of this life and I really need to pass this test. My heart skipped as he talked about this because this “new thing” I was referring to was actually the suggestion of my Pastor when we had our talk several months ago, which is to send letters to people asking for financial support so I can finish my graduate studies without struggling much with money. This is something, knowing my capability to make money on my own, that I do not want to do. In short, it is more of a pride and self-dependence or self-sufficiency on my part, which is the kind of autonomy that God does not want for us wherein we always fail. God’s message is clear; He wants me to trust in Him – fully – with my finances as I finish my master’s degree.

God has called me for His purpose and I love Jesus. Hence, all things will work all together for good. I just need to act on and increase my faith in Him through obedience. I have got to do something new to make changes, big change actually to take place. Oh dear Lord, please give me the courage, wisdom and strength to do what I have to do.

It was indeed a super blessed Sunday! Lord you are truly good! Thank you Lord for giving me a gift of discernment, a listening and more sensitive heart. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

First Time as a Sunday Preacher, School Stuff, and Health Update

Whew! It has been a couple of months since the last time I posted an entry here. The truth is, this semester’s courses have used up most of my time. Lots of readings and papers are normal I guess for graduate school students but what really stressed me out and stretched me out a little bit more was the comprehensive exam.

Oh yes, I simply cannot believe I came nearly this close to finishing my masters in Pastoral Counseling and it will be earlier than I have set and expected when God brought me in the Bible school two years ago! The exam was held more than three weeks ago and a couple of weeks prior to that were spent reading and studying the eight major counseling courses. With the help of classmates and prayers, I thank God for the wisdom, strength, grace and the opportunity to appreciate more the ministry of helping people through counseling by allowing us to understand more and integrate the skills, theories, techniques and knowledge combined with the personal gifts He has given us, which all helped us to get through and successfully pass this test. And I was so happy to get a high grade for this! It was the grade I aimed and prayed for so thank you Lord Jesus! The hard work of studying and praying truly has paid off.

Another surprising thing that happened just recently was when I have my first experience to deliver God’s message in a Sunday! Two weeks ago I have accepted an invitation from a good friend with the usual mindset each time I receive a request to speak. I thought I said yes to an ordinary gathering in this church just to share God’s goodness and faithfulness into my life but I was astonished to find out few minutes before the event that I will be the main speaker of their evening Sunday service! The challenge came when I realized it was a liturgically formal kind of service and I did not dress up for the occasion! But that did not matter at all for people were so blessed and the elder of the church affirmed it. The service has finished and I still can’t believe that I just have my first experience as a Preacher on a Sunday service! I have enjoyed and kind of like it to my surprise. God got me there!

But somehow it was not all good things. If you can remember, early this year I have posted about a certain author quoted by my professor in this class on homosexuality and sexual ethics in the Bible that has disturbed and got me confused (Blog entry March 26, 2013). Well unfortunately, I have encountered it again this semester with another professor and astoundingly, it has the same impact on me. I have struggled again honestly but this time at least I was able to converse with this teacher, which actually resulted to a term paper that I have finished and submitted just last week. It led me to look deeper with the passages and came up with an honest self-narrative account on how God has really spoken to me and where He called me. I just hope and pray that it will not only get a high grade but whoever who will read it will be blessed too.

Semester break has just begun but I have three more requirements to finish including the real work with my internship. I only have 12 units remaining to graduate but I am still praying for God’s clear direction this coming semester for my savings are not enough to carry me through till the end of the program. My finances are telling me to work again and still unsure where. God wants me to finish my studies as a full time student according to our last conversation and I do not know yet if He wants me to test my faith and depend fully on Him financially until this time. Of course I have got something that I have been and keep on praying for so please do pray for me as well.

As for my health, I have not got sick for quite some time now and I continue to pray that the Lord will keep me healthy and maintain my CD4 count normal and viral load undetectable, and free me from any illnesses or infections. My last CD4 count was last year for I am waiting until this time to have this test for free again through my Philhealth package. It is really a bit tough when you are financially challenged and there are regular laboratory tests that you need to do. But I know God will provide for He is Jehovah Jireh! God bless you all.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Suffering and the Sovereignty of God

John Piper and Justin Taylor are the general editors of this wonderful book, which is mostly a collection of now polished talks given at a certain conference by the other six contributors including Joni Eareckson Tada. I got this as a token from Logos Hope through my German brother in Christ and good friend when he invited me a couple of months back as one of the speakers in the CoH workshop. And I was so glad to have and read this book for it gave me a better and brighter view on suffering and God’s sovereignty not to mention that He has spoken to me through some few chapters, which truly touched my heart and brought me to tears, and led me to really pray. I am beginning to be convinced that book is the Lord’s favorite means when He wants to speak to me personally.

Whenever something terrible happens to us, more often than not, we ask ourselves or God Himself the question, “why me?”  Well, I asked this question when I got infected with HIV and when I became a Christian, I asked the same question with my homosexual struggles. Why not ask the other way around like, “why not me?” Surely, nothing bad or evil can come from God but He can ordain or allow it to happen like what happened to Job. Somehow I am already aware of this fact but it was strengthen more by this book and see pains, suffering, sickness, poverty, child abuse of all forms and other difficulties in this world a new light. For obvious reason in my case, I got to know the Lord Jesus Christ through HIV but the tussle really came when I struggled about calling it a blessing or a gift so allow me to share some of the important knowledge I have learned from Piper and his colleagues.

In my five years and six months journey with Jesus, He has shown me God’s sovereignty on everything as in ALL things in this world including ALL the good and the bad things for such work altogether for good to those who believes in Him (Rom. 8:28). C.S. Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Clearly in my deafness, God used HIV to call me for His kingdom.

The reality and depth of pain are in the Bible but also we can find in it, hope, hope for the pain and suffering. Most importantly, we are all able to get through all these pain and hardships by and through the amazing grace of God. His grace is abounding and overflowing not during the good times but during suffering, pain and struggles. In my case, Lord’s grace is overflowing each time I fall and be able to get down on my knees, pray and ask for forgiveness and strength. God can raise us out of our hopelessness and meet suffering in His terms in the same way we can meet joy in His terms and not ours so that we can pass hope on to others like what I do in “channels of hope” ministry. Why? All these, HIV&AIDS, homosexual or SSA struggle, all other sins such as pride, selfishness, disobedience, hardships, calamities, sickness, and all the evil things in this world whether it is caused by our own sinfulness or it just happened despite of our obedience to Him, had happened so that you and I would rely not on (myself) but on God who raises the dead (2 Cor. 1:9).

Piper talked about not wasting a cancer for that was the suffering he experienced so I replaced this with HIV and homosexual struggle as I read it. I believe that God can heal me physically, by medicine or miracle, as well as my sexual brokenness so it is right to pray for both healing. HIV&AIDS is not wasted when God heals it for He gets the glory, that’s why HIV&AIDS exists. If not healed, God still gets the glory if we will only cling on to Him because by His grace He will sustain us.

HIV and SSA sharpen my awareness of how thoroughly God has already and always been at work in every detail of my life. If you are following this blog, you are a witness of this. In the testing ground of evils, our faith becomes deep and real, and our love becomes purposeful and wise (Powlison).

Satan designs to kill and destroy us, and our love for Christ but God designs to deepen our love for Christ. HIV&AIDS does not win if I die; it wins if I fail to cherish Christ. Satan meant it for evil but God meant it for good (Gen. 50:20, Piper). A great, life-threatening illness like HIV or life-threatening weakness can prove amazingly freeing. Nothing is left for me to do except to be loved by God and others, and to love God and others (Powlison).

My HIV is not a waste for I believe it was designed (or ordained) for me and led me to seek comfort from God, think about death, cherish Christ and deepen my relationship with Jesus, treat sin like never before, have hope, and use it as a means of witness to the truth and glory of Christ. Finally, therefore, I have fully accepted that HIV may seem to be a curse at first but now that God has turned it into a blessing, I am now okay to call it a gift. The blessing comes in what God does for us, with us, and through us. He brings His great and merciful redemption onto the stage of the curse (Powlison) like what He has done to me. I made my greatest advances in holiness on the hardest days of my life. It brings me to His presence, not to be sinless but to sin less, which makes suffering (like my SSA, sexual and other struggles in life) meant to wean me from sin and strengthen my faith. This thought made me most satisfied in Him where He is most glorified as Taylor said.

I was so blessed by Piper’s conclusion for it was my sentiment so allow me to end this entry with that.

“God, if you love your glory infinitely and you are more glorified in me when I am more satisfied in you, and my sin is being manifest by the slowness of my being satisfied in you totally, then it must be that the struggle that I am having with my own sin will somehow in someway cause me to be more satisfied in you. Someday, I’ll look back on my own sin when I’m in heaven and say, ‘How could such grace have carried on with me?’ and I’ll love His grace more than I ever would have, had I made progress more quickly.”

That’s terribly dangerous to say for it might lead us to sin more but the Bible has warned us to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect. And everyday that we fail, be in our face giving thanks to the cross of Christ.

If someone will ask, “Why there are so much suffering and why the process of sanctification so slow?” It is because we (and the whole world) are so evil but God is sovereign. He can do whatever He wants for His glory for He is God.

If you want more, get and read this book and be blessed. Shalom!