My Journey in the Christian Faith

My goal in sharing with you this story is to thank God and His providence in leading me in my journey as a follower of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to thank as well those whom God has used in helping me grow in the faith. In my other article, “The Testimony of God’s Grace in My Life,” I shared with you how I came to a saving knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Here I would like to relate my growth in the Christian faith highlighting some people who helped me and those ones that I want to help me along the way.

People Who Helped Me Grow in the Faith

God has sovereignly and uniquely strengthened me in the faith using people who are devoted first to Him. My brother, Melchor, first modeled to me the Christian life. His example of faithfulness to God challenged me to stay strong in the faith. He was one of the few people who was concerned for my spiritual growth early in my Christian life back in 1987.

When I was still new in the Christian faith, he would always bring me to a Pentecostal church every Sunday and let me join in every lecture and seminar the church was offering. Though he never taught in any of those lectures I still consider him as my 'teacher'. After the class he would talk to me and try to explain further what the teacher had said. He would also compare notes with me and ask me if I have more questions. He also became my first discipler because he modeled to me how to study the Bible and pray privately and publicly. In the first year of my Christian life he served as my personal discipler.

I was also a college freshman when my brother took care of me as a new Christian. The following year I started involving in a Christian fellowship inside the campus. There I have experienced continuous spiritual growth as I attended Brother Elmo Velasco’s Bible study group. Three times a week he would lead a small group Bible study. There were five of us who would regularly attend his group and he became a discipler to us. He taught us the basics of prayer, fasting, Bible meditation, church involvement and other Christian disciplines.

One time he led us in giving out Bible tracts to other students inside the campus. On another occasion he asked me to enter a room with students waiting for their class. Then he let me share my personal testimony of how I came to know the Lord Jesus Christ. That was my first experience in sharing my faith with other people. It was through his coaching that I became an active witness for Christ in the campus.

I also realized that my skill in leading group Bible studies was first learned from him. He also became a spiritual guide to me. His warm and pastor-like personality served as an example to me on what it means to be a servant-leader of Christ. He also brought me to many trainings and seminars. I felt as if he wanted me to learn many things.

Through the early mentoring of these two people I have gained enough knowledge and understanding on how to live the Christian life. I have learned basic skills in witnessing and leading Bible study out of my relationship with them. On my last year in college, I got involved with Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF).

While with IVCF I experienced a tremendous spiritual growth when I joined its month-long leadership training camp known as Kawayan Camp (KC). It was like a mini-Bible school. There I was enabled to strengthen my knowledge of the Holy Scripture and enhance my skill in studying it and in leading Bible studies. It also helped me grasp the basic Christian doctrines and disciplines as we studied the theology and practice of the Christian life, listened to Bible expositions from Genesis 1-3 and lectures on the kingdom of God and other topics relevant to life and ministry as a Christian student.

The camp also helped me come to terms with my struggles in my personhood and relationship with my family. The different lectures by and my personal interactions with the IVCF staff and speakers, as well as my conversations with fellow campers helped me settle some personal issues haunting me in the past. In that camp it was not all lecture and study but also a real and healthy interaction in a community of fellow believers who share the same struggles in life as followers of Jesus Christ.

I brought these knowledge, experiences and skills with me when I joined an evangelical church. Pastor Elvin Mijares, the resident pastor of Caloocan Bible Church, has helped me grow more as a believer. He encouraged me to join a local team of young people who ministers to the high schoolers in a nearby campus. He served as a counselor to me in joining this team. Being my local church pastor I learned from him deep spiritual insights through his expository sermons every Sunday. It was through him that I first learned the rudiments of preaching textual expository sermons. His study habits and discipline in preparing for these sermons provided a model for me on how to do the same.

One of the greatest impacts he had on me as a leader was his love for books and the discipline of reading interactively. He would always lend me his books and I saw how he interacted with the author. He wrote his comments and questions on the margin and highlighted those ideas that he deemed to be important. Because of that I started buying Christian literature for myself and did the same. Also this led me to start reading my Bible in the same manner.

Another influence he had on me is in the area of humility and simplicity. He never projected himself as a super Christian or a perfect pastor or pretending to be somebody who knows a lot. He simply did his best to live out his faith. He did not hide his fears, his angers, his failures and his weaknesses. He cried and poured out his anguish and frustrations in life and ministry in his sermons, as well as during Wednesday prayer meetings. He could manage to laugh also. In fact he laughed a lot and oftentimes aloud. He is so down-to-earth and a light-hearted person.

Although there was no formal commitment for him to mentor me, yet I consider our relationship as that of a mentor-protégé. Oftentimes he allowed me to stay with his family, eat with them and spend time with them. He let me see who he was as a husband and a father. I became a family friend to them as a result. In the process I learned a lot about building a Christian family out of that relationship I had with him and his family.

Pastor Elvin also served as a mentor to me when I joined Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship staff team. With his years of experience with IVCF he provided me the right perspective in this ministry. My interactions with him became an informal way of learning the ups and downs of campus ministry. His perceptions and precautions were seeds of wisdom as I tried to figure out my way through the student ministry.

Several people mentored me while I was with IVCF. Jun Singson is one worth mentioning. He became a Kuya (big brother) to me. He imparted principles and strategies on how to start and sustain group Bible studies among high school students. I remember how he brought me to different high school campuses and introduced me to several key teachers and students whom he was working with. I learned through that experience that having a good relationship with people is an important element in doing the ministry.

Peer counseling was another type of mentoring that I had experienced while with IVCF. Gary Celis, a fellow field staffworker became an accountable partner to me. In times of loneliness and confusion Gary acted as a concerned friend and co-worker. He gave me timely words of encouragement and affirmation. Gary possesses traits of a good counselor. He was willing to listen and accept people in spite of their weaknesses. I can be transparent with him with no fear of rejection. He corrected my misbehaviors without passing any judgment. The relationship I had with him provided the venue for me to grow in my listening and people-skills, which are important in ministry among students.

I would like to mention Kuya Darrell Mortalla as well. He was my IVCF co-worker in Davao City and pastor at Grace Evangelical Free Church. I served the Lord with him in IVCF and Grace EFC and it was a pleasure working with him. His wisdom and wit are both inspiring and contagious. His devotion to the Lord and dedication for His kingdom are genuine. His ability to expound the Scripture and apply it to daily lives is just awesome. He has a kind pastoral heart, too, for the Lord's flock. I was privileged to minister side-by-side with him and to have learned significant lessons in the Christian life and ministry under his mentorship.

Authors Who Influenced and Shaped My Early Christian Life and Ministry

Early in my Christian life several authors helped me get established in the faith. John R. W. Stott, through his acclaimed book Basic Christianity, left an imprint to my soul as I tried to understand the new life I have in Christ. Stott systematically explained man’s universal sinfulness as well his violation of God's law as summarized in the Ten Commandments. Through the simple explanation of the Ten Commandments Stott is able to prove that man is guilty in violating all those commandments and in desperate need of a Savior.

In Christ, Stott argued, God displayed both His justice and love. Man deserves to die because God’s justice requires death as a penalty for his sin and disobedience to the moral law of God. But Christ died in man's stead paying for the penalty of his sin and disobedience.

In Christ’s death God’s wrath was propitiated. Thus man’s sin was atoned for at the cross of Calvary. This is where God showed His holy justice and gracious love – at the cross of Jesus where He died on behalf of sinners like me.

Stott also explained that in Christ’s perfect and obedient life God’s righteous requirement was satisfied. Thus anyone who believes in the finished atoning work of our Lord Jesus Christ will be saved and clothed with the righteousness of Christ.

This is the way God provided for man to be saved and forgiven. Therefore man, by God’s enabling grace, must repent from his sin, ask God’s pardon and believe in the death of His Son as the only means to be reconciled with Him. It was through Stott’s clear presentation of the gospel that the Holy Spirit enabled me to understand my fallenness and God’s unearned favor in Christ.

As I slowly grow in the faith Charles Swindoll, Neil Anderson, and Max Lucado helped me along the way. Swindoll’s Strengthening Your Grip and Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life, Anderson’s Victory Over the Darkness, and Lucado's In the Grip of Grace helped me in my understanding of the Christian life. Though I didn’t fully agree with their teachings, God, in His sovereignty, used these authors in my personal knowledge of Him and the abundance of His grace in Christ at that point in my Christian journey.

Additionally, when I decided to join IVCF I thought I was ready to face the student ministry’s demands and challenges. Life as a student worker is no joke. It is not easy. It is not only taxing physically, it is sometimes draining spiritually and emotionally. I think this is a typical experience for men and women in people-helping ministry.

Two prominent Christian authors mentored me as I struggled in my personal life and ministry among students. The first was Paul Borthwick. His books Feeding Your Forgotten Soul and Leading The Way ministered to me. The former helped me understand what I was going through. It also provided me valuable insights on how to stay spiritually and morally healthy as a student worker. The latter gave me the courage to take the challenge of leadership especially in critical times when faithful and morally responsible leaders are hard to find.

The other author was Bill Hybels. His books Too Busy Not To Pray, Who You Are When No One’s Looking, and Honest to God? challenged me to live the Christian life with the knowledge that God is all knowing, ever present and ever pure. His wisdom deepened my knowledge of the Christian life. His simplicity and very practical approach to life provided me the model to practice the different Christian disciplines more consistently at that point in my Christian journey.

People Who Helped Sharpen My Perspective in Life

My five-year stint with IVCF increased my appetite to read. Shortly after I left campus ministry, four outstanding Christian authors continued to impact my life and understanding of the grace of God as I read their books. The first was R.C. Sproul whose books The Holiness of God, The Soul’s Quest for God, Chosen by God, and Grace Unknown are still very valuable. Sproul is more of a popular theologian and his writings are easy to understand. It is as if he is just talking to me face to face. His passion and skill to communicate Biblical truths is contagious. God has spoken to me through His Word as I read Sproul. To some degree, Sproul has marked me theologically.

Another Christian author whom I delight reading is Jerry Bridges. His expositions on holiness, godliness, grace, and sovereignty of God are superb. I have been greatly blessed by God’s wonderful grace in reading Bridges. His books The Pursuit of Holiness, The Practice of Godliness, Transforming Grace, Trusting God, and The Disciplines of Grace are my frequent companions when I want to read and study God’s Word. His impact is in the area of holiness and personal obedience to God. His wisdom empowers me to take holiness seriously. By the power of the Holy Spirit, Bridges’s warnings against legalism and antinomianism save me from trying to earn God’s favor by performance, on the one hand, and from abusing His grace by living licentiously and irresponsibly, on the other hand.

John MacArthur is also a favorite writer. He faithfully expounds the Word of God and communicates clearly to his reader. I especially like his books Ashamed of the Gospel, The Gospel According To Jesus, and Our Sufficiency In Christ which deepened my knowledge of God and understanding of the message and the implications of Christ’s gospel. To a certain degree, these books motivated me and made me more confident in sharing the gospel. Also his book Ultimate Priority led me to a deeper understanding of why and how should we worship God.

J. I. Packer is also very influential to me. When I first read his book Knowing God, it was as if God was talking to me saying, “I gave you my Son for your life and salvation, now live a life of faithful service by my Spirit.” I can't thank God enough for the blessing of His grace to me through Packer's careful and faithful exposition of the Biblical truths he wrote in the pages of that book. It is still one of my favorites and I promise myself to read that book, or at least part of that book, every year.

I am grateful to God for the lives and ministries of these authors. Surely God has used them and is using them still to impact my life with their gospel-centered books. But the other person who really has a great impact in my life as a Christian, especially as a Reformed Christian, is Pastor Nollie Malabuyo. He is the one who introduced me and taught me and my family the Reformed faith back in 1999. He is also responsible in encouraging me to study in a Reformed seminary. The Reformed denomination which I am now a part of was organized partly due to his faithful teaching of the Reformed faith and mentoring.

I also would like to thank the Lord for my seminary professors and mentors at Mid-America Reformed Seminary who taught me how to think Biblically and minister pastorally. My thanks to Dr. Cornel Venema, Dr. Nelson Kloosterman, Dr. J. Mark Beach, Rev. Mark Vander Hart, Rev. Alan Strange, Dr. Peter Wallace, Prof. Blaine Conklin, Rev. Ron Scheuers, Dr. John Sittema, Rev. Paul Ipema, and Rev. Jason Tuinstra. They've been gracious in giving their time and energy to train and mentor young and aspiring pastors like me.

My Personal Commitment

While I have been learning from different people with diverse backgrounds, in various ways and in different degrees, still, Lord willing, I desire to grow more in the knowledge of God and His grace. Lord willing, I would like to take the time to learn some more from the early church Fathers such as Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp of Smyrna, Athanasius, the Cappadocian Fathers, John Chrysostom, Cyprian, Augustine, and others. I also want to be acquainted with the great medieval theologians and their writings particularly Anselm, Thomas Aquinas, and Bernard of Clairvaux.

Definitely I want to be influenced by the Protestant Reformers – Luther, Calvin, Bucer, Bullinger, Ursinus, and others who followed their faith like the English Puritans and the Dutch Reformed theologians. Their knowledge of God, prayer life and passion for godliness are exemplary. Their influence in the past and even in the present is noteworthy. I can see God’s grace and mercy flowing out of their beliefs and behavior. I am not only impressed. I am inspired and challenged by their pursuit to serve and follow Christ. God is blessing me by their words and works.

I also would like to be adequately informed by the writings and theologies of some great Puritans like John Owen, William Perkins, Thomas Watson, Thomas Boston, Richard Sibbes, Jonathan Edwards, and those preachers and theologians in the Reformed tradition like Francis Turretin, Wilhelmus a Brakel, Abraham Kuyper, and Herman Bavinck. I am also interested to explore and study the theologies of the Hodges (Charles and A.A.), B. B. Warfield, Louis Berkhof, Geerhardus Vos, J. Gresham Machen, John Murray, etc.. Then I would surely enjoy the writings of contemporary writers such as my seminary professor Dr. Cornelis Venema, Drs. Sinclair Ferguson, Gregory Beale, Richard Gaffin, Vern Poythress, and Michael Horton, and other Reformed and Evangelical authors.

Ultimately my desire is to read, study, meditate and live out the Bible in order to glorify God. I am also desiring to faithfully study the Christian faith as it is the summarized or expressed in the ecumenical creeds of the Christian Church and the Reformed confessions in order to grow in my knowledge of the Christian doctrines and to be able to live consistently with these Scriptural doctrines serving the Church, body of Christ, and the kingdom of God.

As I grow in my understanding of the Word of God I also desire to be more obedient and devoted to the Lord, living a holy life out of gratitude to His undeserved grace to me in His beloved Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I implore the enabling grace of the Holy Spirit as I embark on this lifetime pursuit of knowing God, glorifying and enjoying Him forever. Soli Deo Gloria!


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