Freed from the Past

Freed from the Past

Struggles in his past made it hard for Pao to believe that God could rewrite his story and free him from all the pain, guilt, and shame. But God proved to him that He can make all things new. Here is his story.

I grew up having a deep hole in my heart.

All my life, I have never seen my dad. He was already married to another woman when he met my mom. It was not easy to grow up without a father and even harder to know that I am a product of a wrong relationship. It was difficult to carry the guilt and shame that went along with that knowledge.

In high school, I battled with identity issues. But instead of opening up to someone about what I had been feeling, I tried to cover it up by performing well in school. Seeing people getting ridiculed for acting different than what was expected of them made me feel afraid. I did everything I could and even entered a relationship prematurely just to dispel any possible doubts or suspicions about my gender identity.

But when I went to college, I suddenly started to embrace the identity I thought I was running away from. I entered relationships that were not pleasing to the Lord, and did things that only pulled me away from God. I thought I had freedom by doing things that only pleased myself. But I was so wrong.

In 2009, my classmates invited me to attend a youth service at Victory Fort. I started attending regularly without really taking things seriously nor having the heart to honor God with the way I lived my life. But things changed after a while. I started feeling empty while doing the things that gave me temporary joy. I grew tired of jumping from one relationship to another. I felt empty. I felt a deep longing in my heart.

On July 9, 2011—while struggling to deal with so many things in school and in my personal life—I cried out to God. I emptied my heart to Him and poured out all my thoughts and doubts. I texted my classmates and asked them to join me in attending the youth service. I did not know that God had already planted seeds of His Word in my heart. That same day, I accepted Christ in my life and resolved to follow Him—no matter how hard. No turning back.

After I made a decision to follow Christ, He gave me the grace to withdraw from my old ways and led me to people who helped me grow in my faith. I attended discipleship classes and felt that He was preparing me to serve full-time in the ministry. Little did I know, He was actually preparing me for something bigger.

Before I went on a short-term missions trip abroad, I met Jill. She was my schoolmate and she knew my past. Jill went through a lot in her family so I started praying for her. At that time, I was just asking God to help her grow in her faith and overcome her family’s plight. I did not know that eventually, I would ask God for something else.

During my missions trip, God dealt with my growing feelings for Jill. I prayed and tried to run away from the idea of actually pursuing someone. I knew it would be difficult for her and for me. Jill knew everything about me; I feared that she would reject me because of my past. But God gave me the courage to overcome all my doubts. After my missions trip, I admitted my feelings for Jill and told her about my intentions to pursue her.

Jill did not say “yes” right away, but after three months of praying about it, she allowed me to pursue her—regardless of what she knew about my past—and eventually agreed to enter into a relationship with me. God gave her the grace to love and accept me for who I had been and who I am now.

Last year, after another short-term missions trip, I proposed to Jill. It was amazing how God prepared our hearts for it and allowed us to have a new beginning with Him. Now, we are married and believing God for greater things next year as He takes us on a new journey together.

We can live a life free from guilt and shame because we have a God who loves us no matter who we were and what we have done. Only He can take us from a place of pain and loneliness to a place full of His love and grace. We can start anew and move forward—no turning back.

Beyond the Series:  Sharing the True Meaning of Christmas

Beyond the Series: Sharing the True Meaning of Christmas

Every year, families have reunions and traditions over the Christmas season. Knowing the reason for these makes it easier for us to welcome the season with excitement and pure joy. In this article, Judy Cabiling shares how she reinforces the true meaning of Christmas to her children through their cherished traditions at home.

 

What are your Christmas traditions in your family?

Most of our Christmas traditions at home have already changed over the years. They evolve as our kids grow. There were traditions that we used to do when our kids were still toddlers that we no longer do today because they do not serve their purpose anymore.

More than anything, it is very important that we know why we are doing what we are doing. Purpose always comes first. In our family, our purpose, right from the beginning, is to reinforce Christmas and celebrate family history. It is our goal to create pleasant memories with our children through the traditions that we do at home.

Currently, one of our family traditions is opening our home to people we have history with—our friends, relatives, and coworkers in the ministry. Doing so enables us to spend time with the people that are close to our hearts and have been with us throughout the year.

Aside from hosting dinner or lunch for our friends, we also gather as a family and listen to Christmas stories after lighting the advent wreath candles. We know that with all the activities and responsibilities we have, individually, it is hard to gather together as a family. So, during Christmas, we intentionally spend time together just to pray and be with each other.

How do you teach your children the true meaning of Christmas through the traditions that you do together as a family?

Aside from explaining things to our kids in a language that they understand, we also involve them in the traditions that we do at home. We want them to feel the excitement that this season brings, so we make sure that they are involved with all the preparations. Sometimes, it is hard for parents to involve their kids in the preparations (like cooking, cleaning, and decorating) because they tend to slow things down, but I personally believe that doing such allows them to get a sense of joy and anticipation each time we celebrate this season.  After all, it is Christ’s birth that we are celebrating. It is a good reminder for them that Christmas is a joyous occasion because its true meaning lies not on what we are doing, but on who we are remembering.

 

Knowing the reason for this season changes a lot about how we celebrate Christmas. Even the traditions we do at home become meaningful because we know why we are doing what we are doing. Every little tradition becomes purposeful and serves as an opportunity for us to bring our families closer together and to God. May God’s presence be with you and your families as you celebrate Christ’s birth!


Judy Cabiling serves in Victory Ortigas and is the wife of Bishop Ferdie Cabiling. They have been married for twenty-seven years. They have two Children—Elizabeth and John Philip.

Beyond the Series is a set of interviews on topics related to our sermon series.

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.

Rediscovering Christmas Series

Rediscovering Christmas Series

It is very possible to go through the Christmas season with a shallow understanding of what happened when God became man in Christ Jesus. In this series, let us rediscover the truth of Christmas and know more about the incarnation.

Here are the topics for each week:

  • Week 1: Jesus the Messiah
  • Week 2: Jesus the King
  • Week 3: Jesus the God-Man
  • Week 4: Jesus the Redeemer

May this series help us have a deeper understanding of who Jesus is and allow us to celebrate the Christmas season with a greater sense of reason and purpose.

See you at our worship services in Metro Manila, or at any of our churches in more than 90 locations throughout the Philippines!