“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:10
I had the privilege of sharing my testimony to a youth congregation last night. It was held in a beautiful sanctuary in Malate called Ellinwood Church, a community which grew from the first American Presbyterian mission in the Philippines in 1899. Every last Friday of the month, they hold a contemporary worship service and invite a speaker to share their testimony. It was Rochelle Kraut Barinaga (Rosh) who invited me, a good friend from High School, and the giver of my first bible.
Rosh and I have a similar spiritual background, Catholic school girl upbringing, a respectful but removed image of Jesus, a works-based concept of salvation and church attendance done out of duty.
She found Jesus ahead of me, propelled by the faith of the man she eventually married. Shad, her husband, is studying to become a pastor and is one of the elders of Ellinwood church. I tell you this, Mr. and Mrs. Barinaga are two of the most unconventional church leaders that you will ever know. Shad’s arms are completely covered with tattoos and on his head sits a mohawk. Rosh has her own collection of ink, and her hair is rockstar chic, shaved on the side and edgy. Not your regular dose of Sunday church goers, so to speak.
Yet this couple is also two of the most blessed, most wonderful people that I have ever met. In September 2010, before I met Jesus, I was considering becoming a tattoo artist. I wasn’t earning then and didn’t have the money to buy the equipment necessary. Lo and behold, Rosh called me up out of the blue and told me that she and Shad wanted to bless me with a tattoo kit. Machine, power supply, inks, needles, the whole works. I could not believe it. Why anyone would spend a small fortune to “bless” someone was beyond me. And how did she even know that I needed a tattoo kit?
Almost two years has passed and the answer came. I received Jesus and circumstances have led me to their church last night. I sat down in front of my computer today, meaning to write about my testimony and the many kids who were on fire for Jesus. Instead, I can’t help but remember how Rosh and Shad blessed me with that tattoo kit. Suddenly, I understand how they, how anyone, can be capable of such a selfless act.
Only a life touched by God can lead to what the Barinagas did for me that day. Only a life led by the Spirit could know what a person needs and then fulfill it, with cherry on top.
Why is that?
Because of what Jesus did for us on the cross. We, as sinners (because of the sin that was passed to us by Adam), did not deserve salvation. We deserved to die. Yet Jesus pulled the most selfless act of all time. He died on the cross for us so that we may live.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
Pretty awesome of Him, huh? You bet.
Now our slates are wiped clean, our hearts are pure and holy once again. There is no need for shame, for guilt or for condemnation. We have been made new by the blood of Jesus. He has done all that needs to be done. Do you see how powerful this gift is?
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” – 2 Corinthians 5:17
Do we deserve this gift?
Frankly, we don’t.
But He gave it to us anyway. And as long as you keep asking, He will keep on giving, without question and without tiring. And this never-ending, overflowing, eternal gift has a name.
It is called grace.
It is grace that transforms us, empowers us, restores us and establishes us.
It is grace that strenghtens us when we are weak,
and it is grace that pulls us back to our feet.
It is grace that makes us sing and dance and worship in His name.
It is grace that enables us to seek His face all over again.
It is grace that moves us, it straightens out our ways,
and it is grace that brings peace and joy to our days.
It is by His grace that we have been saved. Not by good works, not by our own efforts, not because we tithe and not because we go to church every Sunday. His love for us is enough.
It is the greatest gift of all.
To Rochelle and Shad, two of the coolest and most graceful people I know, thank you for blessing me with that tattoo kit a year and a half ago. The dream of becoming a tattoo artist has passed but the seed that you planted in me has not. May more people get to know Jesus and understand the power and beauty of His grace through the both you. God bless you and your daughter Silly more and more. In Jesus name, Amen.
“For it is by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9