A Change of Heart

A Change of Heart

We do not have to earn God’s love because He has already chosen to love us first. Here is a story of a man who became part of a church to pursue love, only to realize that Love Himself had been pursuing him. 

 

I grew up thinking that I had to earn the love of God. Being the eldest of seven children, I grew up with the pressure that I had to always do the right things and be responsible. Somehow, there’s a fear in my heart that if I fail to do what’s right, God will get angry and reject me. Knowing that I do not always do the right thing and that I’m not as patient and forgiving as I need to be only made me feel frustrated and alienated from God.

In 2007, I met a woman who attended Victory. Having the mindset that love is something I had to earn, I did things that I knew she would appreciate, considering that I had a different religion. I joined the same church and became part of a Victory group even though my heart was not really in it. I went to church only because my mind was set on pursuing someone, not knowing that I was there because God was set on pursuing me.

I started noticing something different from the people I met in church. I saw real joy and peace in their lives. I saw a group of people who were committed to obey God, and it did not seem like a heavy chore for them. They were obeying God not out of obligation or fear of being rejected and punished, but out of love. The testimonies I was hearing and everything I was learning in the Victory group made me curious to know the God they were talking about. When I heard the teaching about loving your enemies, praying for them, and blessing them, I was shocked. It was not only a new concept; it seemed unfair, unacceptable, and even unwise. It was then that I started seeing God’s heart.

I realized that God had already chosen to love me even if I had not done anything to deserve it. He loved me first, and He loves me unconditionally. I can stop trying to earn God’s love because He has freely given it to me. Knowing this truth released me from a very heavy burden. I wanted to know this loving God and experience Him in my life. In spite of the knowledge that my decision would not be taken lightly by my family, I turned away from the religion I had grown up in and surrendered my life to Jesus. I completely trusted Him for the strength to face everything that I knew I would go through.

As expected, it was very difficult, but I saw God’s hand move in my situation. I experienced the joy and peace that do not depend on circumstances but on a relationship with God. I enjoyed the blessings that come from belonging to a church community. The challenges I faced brought me and Luzebel, the woman I had initially pursued in church, closer. We got married six years after I became a Christian. Although I did not see my parents for some time because of my decision to follow Christ, they had a last-minute change of heart and attended our Christian wedding. Now, they welcome my weekly visits, and I am praying that they would also experience God’s great love.

My wife and I have now been serving God together for seven years. In all the challenges we have faced, we carry with us the assurance that the love that drew us near to God will also cause us to triumph. His love will never fail.

. . . and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts . . .

Romans 5:5

Mazhar is a high school teacher and serves as a volunteer in Victory Zamboanga. 

Let God’s Peace Reign

Let God’s Peace Reign

Will you allow a difficult situation to steal the peace in your heart? See how April, one of our campus missionaries, held on to God’s joy and peace in the midst of a trying situation. Read her story here.

 

In our family, I was the first one to become a Christian. I grew up in a broken home, and there was so much bitterness in my heart before I came to know Christ. When I accepted Him as my Lord and Savior, I realized how much I needed Him in my life; He accepted me and made me whole. I can always have peace in my heart because I have God’s joy, peace, and love.

In April this year, however, something unexpected happened in our family; my mother had a stroke. My stepfather had passed away just a few years back, so seeing my mother in that state took a heavy toll on me. Our situation threatened to take away the joy and peace in my heart.

But it failed.

Amid our family’s plight, God held my hand and reassured me that He is with me—no matter what. Though it was unexpected and I was the only one who could look after my mother who was in the ICU at that time, God never made me feel alone. He provided everything we needed and used people to help us overcome what happened. There was miraculous recovery. There was provision.

And there was peace.

God revealed to me that I could be still in the midst of a storm. More than the provision for my mother’s medical expenses and her fast recovery, it was God’s peace that really carried us through. It overflowed not just in my heart, but even in my mother’s, too.

While recovering, my mother would frequently join me in the worship services of Victory Santa Cruz. She would dance and praise God even if she could only move her left hand. She would always be filled with so much joy despite her condition and impaired speech; she never had self-pity. And though struggling, she would always make an effort to raise her hand during ministry time. Her heart was always overflowing with God’s grace and love.

Now, my mother is still on her way to recovery, but we are beyond blessed and grateful for God’s peace. Every waking day is a challenge, but His peace always sees us through.

When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul. Psalm 94:19

God is our lone source of peace. When pressed with life’s problems, we can seek God and allow His peace to reign over our situation—no matter how difficult it is. He leads our soul to a place of calm and rest. We can go through each day knowing that we have a God who is King over our lives.

Renewed with a Purpose

Renewed with a Purpose

When you find yourself plagued with anxious thoughts, will you keep them all to yourself and retreat to a dark, lonely pit? Or will you turn to God and ask Him to silence all your fears? In this article, Franz shares how he accepted Christ in his life and allowed Him to replace his negative thoughts with overflowing joy, peace, and a renewed purpose.

 

Before I met Christ, I thought I was living a good life. I was an average student, but I managed to land a good career. I had the means to go to different places and live a life of adventure. I should be happy—I should be okay, at the very least.

But I wasn’t.

For years, there had been a big hole in my heart. I tried to fill it with so many things, but each time I did, the hole just grew bigger. It engulfed me and brought me to a dark, lonely place.

Feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy kept creeping up inside me in spite of everything I had. It seemed as if something was terribly wrong with me. I kept comparing myself to others, feeling completely helpless over something even I could not understand. Before I realized it, I was already isolating myself and allowing the lies in my head to steal the remaining joy and peace in my heart.

After four months of constant battle and struggle, I consulted a psychiatrist who told me that I had clinical depression. I took several medicines that were supposed to make me feel better. But along the way, I just felt more sad. I could no longer sleep the way I used to, and more anxious thoughts filled my mind.

Just when I was about to lose hope and give up, my sister reached out to me. She, along with other relatives, encouraged me to step out of my isolation shell and helped me find another doctor who gave me the psychotherapy and medication I truly needed. After months of praying for and with me, she also convinced me to go to church with her and join a Victory group.

At first, I just listened to the preaching without taking everything to heart. I even raised my hand to acknowledge that I receive Christ as my Lord and Savior without meaning it at all. But as I continued to hear God’s Word, something different happened. I did not know that God was gently planting seeds in my heart. He was, bit by bit, taking away the clutter, removing the things that were blocking His light. Soon, I realized that I was not alone in that dark, lonely, chaotic pit. He was there all along, trying to reach my hand.

All my anxious thoughts were slowly replaced with His overflowing joy, peace, and love. Despite all my insecurities and self-doubt, God accepted me just the way I was. He had accepted me wholeheartedly even before I made a decision to receive Him in my life. There was nothing more humbling than that.

God’s love allowed me to see how precious I am in His eyes. It must have crushed His heart to see me give my negative thoughts the power to dictate my value and purpose. That was never His plan. His mercy and grace revealed to me that I am more than my fears and anxious thoughts. I am more than my insecurities. I am more than my depression. I am His.

With the help of continuous medication and psychotherapy, I am now close to full recovery. I am thankful to my family who helped me get the medical attention I needed, but I am more grateful that I got to know Christ. Now, I have a renewed passion to live—with a greater purpose—and serve my God.

I am currently serving in Victory Alabang as an usher. God’s grace has changed me from someone who spent days and nights wallowing in unhappy thoughts into someone who is ready to give out smiles to people. Every day, He continues to fill me with so much joy and peace.

There are days when I feel lonely and all the negative thoughts resurface, but God always silences my fears and assures me of His love—of my identity in Him. He also surrounded me with a church community that never fails to encourage me and point me to the Lord. He is my safe place and my true refuge.

I will say to the Lord, My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust. Psalm 91:2

Indeed, only God can fill the emptiness in our hearts. Only He can quiet our restless thoughts. Our purpose does not lie in how we feel or what we think about ourselves. Our purpose lies in how God sees us. We are His, and He values and loves us more than we or other people do.

Finding Peace In God

Finding Peace In God

Adette Purto“I prayed to God to take away everything from me,” Adette confesses, “I just wanted Him to give me peace.”

Adette Purto is a 44-year old mother of three who financially supports her parents, apart from taking care of the needs of her own family. Blessed with the kind of work that affords her to live comfortably, she enjoyed many things that money could buy. However, she soon realized that the material things didn’t really fill the void in her heart.

“I was working myself to death,” she shares, “But I felt unloved and unappreciated. I longed to be loved.”

After she got married, Adette faced a different battle but it still stemmed from the same issue she had faced for years: rejection. In February 2007, she found herself telling God to take away everything, and to just give her peace and happiness. She may not have understood the depth of her prayer, but Adette felt so mired in misery, it was her only recourse. In the months that followed, Adette felt God taking things from her. Interestingly, it was also the time she started to look for ways that would get her out of misery. She started engaging in new age philosophies and witchcraft.

“My business went down, my son almost died of dengue, and I had a terrible car accident,” Adette enumerates. “A train collided with my car, and I was dragged for 500 meters.” Despite her stubbornness and disobedience, God spared her and she wasn’t harmed in the accident, despite the car being a total wreck. With nary a bruise on her, Adette knew God was reaching out to her. She did not know it then, but that moment became her turning point in life.

Her best friend ministered to her after her accident, and told her that God wanted her undivided attention. She attended the first worship service of Victory Pioneer on the first Sunday of 2008. “The moment I entered the hall, I knew I was home and it was the place I have been looking for,” she says, “The Holy Spirit welcomed me.”

Despite being financially broke, emotionally hurt and physically tired, she felt welcome and at peace; that night, Adette responded to the altar call and surrendered her life to Christ. After a month, she was connected to a Victory Group and underwent ONE 2 ONE. Before long, she declared her faith and was water baptized at Victory Weekend.

With God now at the center of her life, her relationships with her family changed. “The gospel made me receive the peace and happiness I have been longing for,” she reveals, “The emotional pains were healed by the unconditional love of God. I was able to forgive because I was forgiven, too.”

Today, Adette is one of the Discipleship coaches of Victory Pioneer. She has been serving in that capacity since 2009, and was also the Discipleship coordinator for the 5pm worship service. This means that she is coaching Victory Group leaders how to lead their respective Victory Groups. Juggling the demands of being a working mom and a discipleship coach, Adette still finds time to lead her own Victory Group.

Adette Purto group“I am making disciples because someone else took the time to disciple me and help me live the life God intended for me,” she says, “I experienced the transforming power of God in my life and sharing it to other people is the least I can do.” For Adette, the time and energy she spends coaching other leaders and mentoring other women is a small sacrifice compared to the sacrifice that Jesus did for her on the cross.

She is grateful for the people who have stood by her throughout her journey. “My spiritual family served as lamp posts,” she shares, “As they pray with me, cry with me, and believe with me, I receive enough light to continue walking.” For her, the Christian life is not meant to be lived alone. Having experienced the true value of belonging to a spiritual family, Adette has put it in her heart to continue reaching out, mentoring and raising other leaders. From someone who used to thirst for love and peace of mind, Adette is now a testament of God’s overflowing love and it is exactly this love that allows her to give herself to others.