The Lion and the Bear

London, England

I’ve tried to write this post a few times but it always came out too long. I guess there is much to say on the topics of adversity, courage, and victory. But I want to keep this piece as accessible as possible, as practical as possible, as livable as possible, because no insight left unpracticed and un-lived has ever benefited anyone. In many ways this can fool us into thinking that just because we hold a certain ideal or certain opinion we live according to them.

Many times we don’t.

It’s like asking someone, “Do you believe that God is all powerful?”

“Yes.” He answers

“Do you believe that He loves you and does what is best for you?”

“Yes.” He replies again.

“If He has all the power in the world and does what is best for you, how much time do you spend with Him on a daily basis? Does it not make sense to spend as much time as possible with Him?”

The usual answer that I’ve heard these days is, “Um… I don’t really have a set time, but I pray every now and then throughout the day. I just feel Him throughout the day.”

“And what happens when you don’t feel Him?”

This usually leads to, “You can’t judge me!”

I give this example to point out that we many times hold an idea and think we live it when we really don’t. It is possible that we hold the idea that we are Christian when we really don’t live like Christians. We hold the idea that we love God when we don’t even spend time with Him. He is our random invisible friend, on call when we feel Him. We hold the idea that we are obeying Him when we’re really just doing whatever we feel like doing, and rarely stopping to ask the very simple question of, “What would You have me do?” We hold the idea that we are close to God but are easily discouraged, easily offended, easily insecure, selfish, unkind, and entitled, all descriptions of people who are not close to God.

I am very many times guilty of all of the above. I’m glad I’ve had time on this trip to have slower days to rest and pray, to really go back to the simplicity of “Jesus, You are my Lord. What would You have me do?”

There’s an attack in London, “Jesus, You are my Lord. How would You have me respond? How would You have me feel? My impulse is to fear, give me courage.”

There’s an attack in Manila, “Jesus, You are my Lord. How would You have me respond? Who would You have me comfort? How would You have me pray?”

There’s a work issue, “Jesus, You are my Lord. How would You have me respond? Please give me clarity and a sound mind.”

This posture of, “Jesus, You are my Lord.” simplifies our decision making. What is right isn’t what isn’t convenient but what is God-glorifying, what God-obeying, and what is God and man loving. It helps bring clarity to our thoughts, especially during periods of frustration, of high pressure, high stress, of confusion, of sadness, and of fear. When we put things aside and say, “Jesus, You are my Lord. Speak to me.”

I think about how I’ve practiced this simple prayer. Despite a checkered past of both victory and struggle against sin, I’ve learned that many times the only decision we need to make is the one right in front of us, which is, “Will I make Jesus Lord over this next decision?”

Deep in millions of debt? Or have a big financial goal? Make Jesus Lord over your next expense. Then do that again. Maybe the millions are currently out of reach but the next decision is well within your control.

In the different areas of life, with the next decision, make Jesus Lord.

I was reminded of this while sitting with Yasmin in the emergency room of St. Luke’s Medical Center. We had to rush to the hospital Friday midnight because Yasmin’s left foot was very swollen. We were worried it could be a blood clot, and extra concerned because we were scheduled to fly out to London Saturday. After a couple of hours and some tests, we were advised to get an ultrasound to be sure. This would mean missing our flight, rebooking, more spending of money we don’t have, and missing time with family. My normal impulse feelings started swirling, I could feel the frustration, impatience, and grumbling bubbling up. But somehow I managed to catch myself and ask, “What’s the most important thing right now?” The most important thing was Yasmin’s and my son’s health. Let’s make the decision that protects that. What’s even more important than that? That God is glorified even in our inconvenient and scary moment. Let’s have the attitude that honors that. Then we just faced every other decision the same way, not muddying the choice with how we felt or our fears about the future, but looking at things very matter of factly, but surrendering every immediate choice to the Lordship of God. Somehow we managed to complete all the tests, rebook our flights for the next day with minimal financial damage (though it still hurt). More importantly, Yasmin and the baby were shown to be well. Most importantly, I believe, we glorified God.

Where did we learn to process life this way? Was it through a sermon from a charismatic preacher? Was it through the popular Christian book of the day? Was it through an emotional moment at a Christian concert? When I praying and thinking about the events of that weekend, I remembered a very special verse to me:

And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.” But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” And David said, “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the LORD be with you!” – 1 Samuel 17:33-37

We learn how to trust God for big things by trusting in Him for the smaller things. David, while simply serving his father faithfully, and learning that God’s power was helping him succeed in this task and against the threats he was facing, was being taught how to face something much bigger and with bigger implications.

He didn’t learn how to defeat giants through thinking big or faking it to make it. He learned how to defeat giants by being faithful with something smaller, protecting something smaller.

Too many times we’re waiting for that big break, we’re praying to God for that big dream, that wish, that hope, and we’re missing the preparation of today. Praying for that big business break? How is your workmanship today? Are you excellent today? Or are you already faltering? Are you already tired where you are?

Praying for a spouse? How are your current relationships? Are you good at apologizing? Are you good at forgiving? Are you good at serving? Because if you’re not, you’ll lose your spouse. You can expect that. If you’re not beating the lions and bears of selfishness then you’ll be crushed when it’s the giant.

Praying for a spiritual revelation? How are you with your daily devotions? How are you with obeying your parents or authorities? How are you with obeying your spouse?

We learn how to defeat giants by defeating the lions and the bears, because if we can’t trust in God’s power for smaller things, we won’t trust Him for bigger things. We will have no experience to remember, no answered prayer to hold on to, and no proof of God’s work in our own specific lives.

So let me summarize into one sentence: We need to apply God’s power to defeating the lions and bears of life, that we may learn how to apply His power to   life’s giants.

If we really believe what we say we believe, if we have convictions (not just opinions), if Jesus is really Lord, then we must apply His Lordship (His purpose and power) in our decision-making, and if we do, we will succeed, and with each success, we will grow in confidence that we can trust in Him no matter what we face. This is what it means to grow in faith. It’s not some mystical zap that now makes us more believing or more patient or more loving. It is exercising our faith by obeying God’s word with every decision, finding that not only is this the right thing to do but it is also the beneficial thing to do, the pleasing thing to do.

I love this approach. It removes the burden of my many mistakes and focuses me on one thing: glorifying God with my next decision. From my experience, whether it’s a challenge brought about by my own bad decisions or someone else’s, by relying on God’s power for the immediate and succeeding decisions, I find that even the gigantic problems are now beatable, because The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me.

It’s About Whatever It Takes

I’m having a late dinner as I type this at my favorite Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, the one with the best view of Burgos Circle in Fort Bonifacio. I don’t know how many stories, or talks, or blog posts I’ve written while eating one of the three relatively cheap meals I rotate here.

Tonight, I have decided to write, finish, and post the last part of my 5-part series on relationships. This is the nth time I’m attempting to write this, and my laptop contains more than a few unfinished versions. In reality, each of the last 4 parts have been difficult for me to write. They’ve been hard because I’m talking about an area that is not exactly a strength of mine. I haven’t always valued people, I haven’t always chosen right, many times I get the wrong message across, and I do fall into minimum requirements and entitlements. So writing this, thinking through my position on relationships, has really been an exercise for myself more than it is a how-to guide for perfect relationships. So again here’s my disclaimer:

I am NOT an expert on this. Not even close. As I share this, I don’t share the thoughts of a wise man, but those of a simple person learning through prayer, observance, study, and mistake after mistake. It’s important to me that my readers don’t ever think I’m this super great guy or a role model. Life has enough pressure on it’s own, if my thoughts can help then great, but I don’t need nor want unrealistic expectations of this good guy that’s very far from who I really am. What I am, who I am, is a guy who wakes up early, works hard, makes mistakes, says sorry, fixes things, makes more mistakes, and more, and learns sometimes, but the whole way never giving up and always running to God over and over and over again because He never gives up on me.

And this is the best point to jump into Part 5: It’s About Whatever It Takes, because that’s God’s way with us. To some, He has met us in our youth, to others later in life. Sometimes He speaks to us through a book, sometimes we hear Him in a song, or find Him in a moment both dark and amazing, and even sometimes through someone else. But whoever we are, whatever way to reach us, whatever language we understand, or whatever circumstance He has to place us in, or people to surround us with, for as long as is needed, He, our Father, does whatever it takes to reach out to us to show us His love so that we can enjoy a relationship with Him.

In our relationships, are we doing whatever it takes?

Whatever it takes to what?

Are we doing whatever it takes to show them that they’re most valuable, that we chose them and choose them daily, that we’re excited about the unlimited possibilities, and that no matter what happens we’ll find a way, or make one, to show them that we love them.

And let me make it clear that the goal is to love them NOT be with them. Sometimes it seems that we do whatever it takes to stay in a relationship but don’t put enough effort to love. Relationship is the form but love is what powers that form.

Aren’t they the same thing.


Being in a relationship means being with someone. It may mean having a friend, or a husband, or wife, or mutual understanding, or one of those crazy other terms that dont make sense to me. Loving someone means being patient, kind, not envying, not boasting, humbling ourselves, not being rude, not seeking our own ends, not being easily angered, it’s rejoicing in the truth, always protecting, always trusting, always hoping, and always persevering.

Sometimes, maybe even many times, we find ourselves in relationships that have gone dry and we’re wondering what’s missing. We feel unfulfilled in the relationship so we wonder whether it’s us or them, whether we did something wrong, or where we went wrong, what can we do to fix things, or compare notes with talk shows, websites, and “experts”. Some people will advice finding similar interests or hobbies, getting makeovers, taking a vacation, or buying new stuff, and these aren’t bad, but they’re shallow and cheap, and won’t fill that high-standard hunger in every human being to be truly loved.

My opinion, and that’s all this is, a humble opinion from a non-expert with a track record of mistakes, both of you should DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO LOVE. It’s not about having a certain number of hours together, or having me time or her time or alone time, or our media-planted romantic gestures, or remembering birthdays, or buying expensive things, but about doing whatever it takes.

And if it includes all the above, then it includes all of the above.

So value the right things, value the right person, and choose well depending on who you and what you value because when you’ve chosen you have to do whatever it takes to love them.

That’s a lot of work.

That’s probably why I prefer the office.

But if you value the right things and have chosen well, you don’t need to worry, because, as I’ve said in the past, you can never go wrong with the priceless things will always be great no matter how expensive they are. They’ll always be a steal.

If you want to read the others, you can read them at the following links:
1. It’s About What’s Most Important
2. It’s Not About What You Think You Deserve. It’s About Who You Choose
3. It’s About What You Got Across Not What You Think You Said or Did
4. It’s About Infinite Possibilities Not Minimum Requirements
5. It’s About Whatever It Takes

It’s About Infinite Possibilities Not Minimum Requirements

“Some people make things happen, some watch things happen, while others wonder what happened”

This is part 4 of my 5-part series on relationships. I’m jumping to this point because the thoughts on this topic are flowing right now. Writing takes a lot of discipline, but there are days when the inspiration for a certain piece is there and you better seize her. Besides, I’ve been getting messages asking me to continue.

If you want to read the others, you can read them at the following links:
1. It’s About What’s Most Important
2. It’s Not About What You Think You Deserve. It’s About Who You Choose
3. It’s About What You Got Across Not What You Think You Said or Did
4. It’s About Infinite Possibilities Not Minimum Requirements
5. It’s About Whatever It Takes

Before we move forward, I’d like to make it very clear that I AM NO EXPERT on relationships. I’m no expert on anything. I’m not an expert Christian (not even close). I’m not an expert businessman (just ask the banks). And I’m definitely not an expert on people or relationships (just ask anyone).

But I’m learning, and I’m sharing with you the lessons along the way.

Irrelevant Minimums

I noticed something interesting about our top staff members:

The excellent ones always exceed expectations. The ordinary ones usually disappoint.

I noticed this too among the people I know. The excellent, disciplined, hardworking, persevering, consistent, and faithful people, even with their mistakes, seem to continue to grow and impress. While the ordinary people, by ordinary I mean the average well-intentioned human being, seem to be stuck in a rut.

What does this have to do with relationships?

A lot actually. Because the principle here is this:

Excellent people are not after the minimum achievement or meeting a minimum requirement. They’re after something much bigger the minimum becomes irrelevant. Relationships with minimum people are bound to disappoint. Relationships with complete devotion will surpass your wildest dreams.

Ordinary people are simply trying to pass. Excellent people are giving it all they’ve got.

It’s the difference between the guy who guns for a passing grade and the guy who goes for an A+. They’ll both pass the test, but only one of them is getting the reward. I’m not saying that this is about grades. It’s not. It’s about changing your perspective to aim and reach for the infinite possibilities available to us instead of just going for the minimum requirements.

Let’s connect this even closer to relationships. Think about your best friends, your favorite relatives, your spouse or partner, or any favorite human being. None of these great relationships are based on having some sort of minimum time spent, or words spoken, or pats on the back, or dinner dates. Our best relationships are too big for that.

How many times they date you isn’t an issue, they always have something prepared.

You’re not mad they forgot your birthday, they already keep you front and center every day.

You don’t have to count how times they were at fault, you know they’ll fix things when they say they will.

What’s the point? You’re not worried about the minimum requirements of a relationship when the person you’re with is already exceeding them. Now before you start checking if your partner or friend is a minimum person or not, check yourself. Are you someone who is going for excellence in your relationships and exceeding expectations?

Here are some examples:

You’re not worried that your folks will get mad at you for being lazy, you’re already studying very very hard.

You’re not arguing based on a mental list of things you did for a person, you’re too busy thinking of what wonderful thing to do for them next.

You’re quick to apologize when you’re wrong, because being united in truth is better than always sounding correct.

Excellent people don’t have to worry about faithfulness issues, they’re already completely devoted. That’s the meaning of faithfulness by the way: complete devotion, and not just not-cheating.

And why do we have to be excellent at all? Because why live life and run our relationships gunning for the minimum required of us? Why let our work life be just about paying the bills? Why let our marriages be just about providing for the kids and accepting that we’re going to get ugly no matter what? Why can’t it be about chasing something and someone you’re passionate about?

Some of you might say, “Because that’s reality, David.” No, that’s your reality, a reality you put on yourself when you settled. Whether you settled because you were disappointed before, or hurt, or unsure, or confused, you’ll end up just living a life justifying why you never achieved more.

Instead of the minimum requirements, let’s persevere towards the infinite possibilities. Infinite meaning the eternal and limitless options available to us when we live by faith.

Again this is not an article to take to your partner, this is a reminder for me not to be the type who settles for minimums but to reach beyond.

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