DON’T GO BACK THERE

blog-banners-001Have you ever been tempted to go back to your old ways?

Seeing your old friends.
Visiting your former school.
Looking at an old boyfriend/girlfriend’s Facebook page.
Going to a website that you know you shouldn’t be in.
Making illegal shortcuts to close a deal to meet a quota.

We’ve all been there.

In Genesis 24, Abraham told his servant to look for a wife for his son Isaac. And these were his instructions:
– Go to my hometown.
– Find a wife for my son.
– Take her back here.

The servant had a question: “Perhaps the woman may not be willing to follow me to this land. Must I then take your son back to the land from which you came?” (Genesis 24:5)

At this point, Abraham strongly commands his servant.
“See to it that you do not take my son back there.” (Genesis 24:4)
“If the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be free from this oath of mine; only you must not take my son back there.” (Genesis 24:8)

Abraham had to make it clear. He cannot take his son back there.

I’ve always wondered why this was so.
I realized why. If the servant brings Isaac back to the land where they came from, there is a strong chance that if Isaac meets his future bride, either she or her family would encourage him to stay behind.
Thus, what God called Abraham out of, his descendants will end up living in.

Here’s the lesson:
Set up strong guard rails today so that it will protect you from the possible traps in the future.

Some practical tips:

1. Identify what are the strong temptations to go back to your old life.
2. Determine what kind of guard rails you need to set up to prevent you from going back to your old life.
3. Trust God for victory every single moment temptations come.
4. Talk to friends you can be accountable to.
5. Testify about God’s goodness everytime He gives you victory.

Heavenly Father,
Thank You for saving us and making us Your own. We were lost, without direction and without purpose yet You thought about us. As David puts it, “What is man that you are mindful of him and care for him?” Thank You for giving us new life by the regeneration of our hearts through faith in Christ alone. But there are times when the flesh battles with the spirit nature. The temptation to go back to my old ways is quite strong. Thank You that You have given me Your Spirit so I may be able to say no to sin and say yes to You. Pour out Your grace every single day so that I may live to please You every single moment of my life. IN JESUS’ NAME. AMEN.

A LIFE THAT HAS BEEN SHOWN MERCY

blog-banners-001

Emil grew up in a squatter’s area in Pasay city called Tripa de Galina. Because he grew up poor, he believed that he will die poor. All that changed when he met Dustin.

Dustin met him in the University of the Philippines. Because he wanted to reach out to Emil, he did something quite brilliant. He asked Emil if they could register together for the next semester. That being the case, he registered for the same classes and had the same breaks so that he could take advantage of those moments to share Christ with Emil. It actually worked!screen-shot-2016-10-31-at-8-44-20-am

“One thing that Dustin said that really hit me was when he said, ‘Emil, you have a great destiny in God.'”
“Who me? A poor squatter kid from Pasay?”

As Emil embraced the gospel of Christ, his life started to change. He realized how loved and accepted he was by his Father in heaven. That through Jesus Christ, he indeed had a great hope and future.

Today, he teaches urban poor kids about the love of Jesus and they too have a ‘great destiny in God.’ After finishing his mechanical engineering course from UP, he had a lot of offer to work in the country and abroad. But because of his extreme gratitude for God’s salvation project in his life, he chose to do kingdom work and is now a children’s pastor in Victory Katipunan.

Truly, when we have received mercy, we too can extend mercy. When we have received grace, we too can dispense grace. That’s the power by which we can do good.

Luke 10 tells us the story of the Good Samaritan. A man got mugged, robbed and left for dead. It wasn’t the Levite nor the priest that helped but the Samaritan, their lifelong enemy. Because of the racial divide, the Samaritan owed the man nothing but hostility and hate. But that wasn’t what he did. He helped the man, bandaged him, used his donkey and sent him to an inn to be nursed back to full health.

I realize that when we read this story, we point to ourselves and motivate ourselves through guilt. We need to be like the Good Samaritan. But we can’t be like the Good Samaritan until we meet the Great Samaritan. Until we meet the True Neighbor, we can’t be the neighbor we need to be for others. Jesus is the Great Samaritan who came down to our road of despair, picked us up from our destitution and nursed us back into newness of life.

May God give us the grace to always remember that what we have received, we can give away for that alone is the way to truly be a neighbor to others.

LORD, thank You for saving me. I was downtrodden and on the road towards destruction and yet you picked me up and rescued me. I have nothing to boast about for there was no way out of my destitution and sin. But You came. Your rescued. You gave me a new life. As a result, I can extend kindness to others for I have been shown kindness. This is my prayer, in Jesus’ name. AMEN.

THE DIFFICULTY OF DEALING WITH OFFENSE

blog-banners-001
Offense is a very difficult thing to deal with.
False accusations.
Untrue statements.
Stolen opportunities.
Painful conversations.
Hurtful words.
Silent treatment.

These and more are hard to go through.

In Luke 15:20, when the prodigal son came to his senses and endeavored to return home to his father after squandering all his inheritance and ended up working in a pig pen, he didn’t know what to expect.

Neither did the father know what to expect. Without context and without knowing how the son would respond, he runs to him and embraces him. He leaves his porch and offers forgiveness to his son.

I thought that was incredible. Without any idea how the son why the son came back and how he would respond, he goes. The son could be coming back for more money. He could be coming back to steal from his brother. He could be coming back for some other reason but without context, the father goes and offers forgiveness.

When he embraced his son, he must have smelled like the pig pen. Remember, he just came from there. But here’s the truth:

The magnitude of God’s love is greater than the stench of our sin.

He buries his face into the son’s shoulders and kisses him.
He must have played this scenario in his mind over and over.

When offense happens, we usually replay both the painful experience and what we would do when we see that person – what we would say, how our facial reactions be like and our rebuttal to their excuses. But the father must’ve replayed in his heart how he would respond for out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth will speak and our actions will show. His response? Compassionate and forgiving love.

And here’s my main point: When offense happens it’s always your move.

Jesus said in Mark 11:25, “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone.”
And then in Matthew 5:23, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go.”

In both scenarios, Jesus says to go and offer forgiveness, whether you’re the offender or the offended. It’s always your move.

The father didn’t stay on the porch standing and waiting for his son to crawl on his knees and beg for forgiveness. He runs and offers it.

That’s the picture of many homes today. Too many people stand on their porches with folded arms and the painful experience replaying in their hearts waiting for the offender to crawl for forgiveness.

“Well, it’s his fault.”
“She started it.”
“I’m not to blame. He is.”
“They caused the mess. They need to clean it up.”

We all stand on our porches of pride and sink into hellish misery.

May the Lord give us grace to remember that the way we’ve been forgiven empowers us to forgive others. With the mercy dispensed to us, we can dispense it to those who have offended us.

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your amazing example of forgiveness. None of us deserve it. Not of us are worthy of it. And yet, You did not remain on Your porch in heaven but came to us – from heaven to earth, that we may receive forgiveness, freedom and restored fellowship with You. Help us to do the same with people whom we have offended and those who have offended us. May we be a people who is forgiving for we knows what it means to be forgiven. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.

YOU ARE AN OVERCOMER

blog-banners-001(Snippets from Carol Mkize’s message at the Every Nation World Conference 2016 Day 3)

Ukunqoba is a word that means overcomer.
You are an overcomer because God abides in you.
Intimacy with God will drive you to continue when you are no longer with other people.
You will overcome because God’s word abides in you.
Chaos is fertile ground for Christians.
Everything we learned we can now apply in the campus.
1 Samuel 17:38-40: Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them.
“I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off. Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.
To (Spiritual) Fathers:  
What God used for you to overcome, it might be time to put it down.
The armor you used may not be the armor the next generation will use.
To the Next Generation.
Try it on first.
Don’t deny it right away.
Obedience and submission are not out of the question.
Don’t assume first that it will not work.
We have to walk with this God our fathers walked with.

CAMPUS NIGHT

blog-banners-001

(This message was shared by Joseph Bonifacio at the Every Nation World Conference 2016 Day 3)

Why do we do campus ministry?

We do it because we are crazy enough to believe that if we can change the campus, then we can change the world.
This is not just a slogan. It’s our objective.
This is not just a dream we have for ourselves.
This is Jesus’ dream for every son and daughter of God.

How then does this translate?

1. CONNECT WITHOUT COMPROMISING.

Matthew 5:13. You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

Everyone is called to do this.
Let’s teach the next generation to connect with their generation without compromising their faith and values.

2. EXCEL FOR GOD’S GLORY.

Matthew 5:14. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.

Excellence cannot be hidden and neither can lack of excellence.
Excel for Christ so that the world will ask why and would want you to be in their team.

3. REDEEM ALL OF SOCIETY.

Matthew 5:16. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Salt that remains in the salt shaker is useless.

The answer to the complication of wickedness is a complication of righteousness. The problem of society is found in the root of sin. And that answer to that is Jesus.

Don’t blame the rottenness of the world. You are called salt and light mainly for that reason – so that you can bring the needed change.

VIDEO SNAPSHOTS FROM CAMPUS NIGHT HERE:

MULTI-ETHNIC HEADACHE

blog-banners-001

(This was a message given by Pastor Steve Murrell at Every Nation World Conference 2016, Day 1.)

When Pastor Steve’s American friend met his future father in law who is Japanese, they had no clue how their cultures were so different.

When introduced, one will shake hands (American)  and the other will bow (Japanese). But his friend got a little too close to give a handshake. With a slight bow and being so close to his future father in law, they ended up bumping heads… a multi-ethnic headache.

In Luke 24, there was not a lot of ethnicity in the church. God had to open their minds to understand what Jesus mentions in verses 45-47.

Being called to go to every nation, we will be with people who look different, talk different and maybe even smell different. But the call remains – Go to all the nations!

This gospel is going to be preached to all nations.
The word for nations is the word “ethnos”.
The gospel is going to other ethnicities.

People talk about being color blind. But the problem with being color blind is that you don’t get to celebrate color.

“The church is like the eye. It has a little black in it and a little white in it. And without both, we cannot see.” – C.H. Mason

This gospel message has to go out to the nations and you are the messenger.
A witness is a messenger.
But you are not going alone. Jesus said that His Holy Spirit is going to come.

As a motorcyclist is foolish to go out without a helmet, so is a witness who goes out without the Holy Spirit. It will not only be foolish but also dangerous.

DO YOU WANT TO BE SAFE OR BRAVE?

 

blog-banners-001

(This was a message given by Pastor Oscar Muriu of Nairobi Chapel at Every Nation World Conference 2016, Day 1.)

Are the things you are living for worth Christ’s dying for?

For Christ’s love compels us. (2 Corinthians 5:14-20)

Selfishness has become an accepted feature in Christianity.
It’s become how God will help me and bless me. We have to remember that the purpose of my life doesn’t revolve around myself.
We act as if God belongs to us rather than us belonging to Him.
God is not interested in your plans for your life but for your involvement in His plans for your life.

Whatever is to my profit, I now consider loss. (Philippians 3:7-9)

There are no great advances made in Christianity by men who are unwilling to give up their lives. We have to remember, we no longer live for ourselves any longer.

We are Christ’s ambassadors, given the ministry of reconciliation.
Each day, about 155,000 people slip into Christless eternity
It will take a sacrifice to not live for self.

Here’s the choice that our Father wants us to understand as Christians – and I believe this is the choice of our age: “Do you want to be brave or safe? … because you cannot be both!” (Gary Haugen, International Justice Mission)

Brave means trusting God for your future.
Brave means to not know the details before obeying.
Brave means that God doesn’t have to ask for your permission.
Brave means that God doesn’t have to explain before you obey.

If your God has to ask you first then he is a small god.
Brave is not the absence of fear but the assurance of His peace.

Jesus proved His love on the cross.
He doesn’t have to prove His love for you again.

You and I are dead to ourselves when we gave our lives to Christ.
Dead men are no longer afraid. They don’t flinch.
Poke them and they will not react.
However, some of us have never died. We just fainted.
There’s still self-preservation left inside the coffin.

Challenging question: “Is what you’re living for worth Christ’s dying for?”

FAITH TO GO AND FAITH TO SEND

blog-banners-001

(This was a message given by Pastor Wolfi Eckleben of Every Nation London at Every Nation World Conference 2016, Day 2.)

Isiah 6:8. Who will go for us?

The life changing answer to a life shaking question:
“Here am I. Send me!”

The call of discipleship includes going to the ends of the earth.

Discipleship is not only about maturing but also about movement – COME, GROW, GO.

We can’t release the arrows if we don’t have the bows to launch them.
Not everyone is going to go. Some will have to send.

What makes a sending church?
Their groaning – they pray about reaching the nations.
Their going – they are on the move and always involved in missions.
Their growing – they are developing and training leaders.
Their giving – they are generous with the cause of Christ.

The three big “going” questions to ask:

FAITH: What have you heard?
FRUIT: What have you done?
FAMILY: Where is home? Who will send you?

screen-shot-2016-10-05-at-10-15-56-pm

WALKING TOGETHER

blog-banners-001

(This was a message given by Pastor Brett Fuller of Every Nation Virginia at Every Nation World Conference 2016, Day 2.)

Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet? Amos 3:3

Walking together has many benefits. It may have challenges but the fruit we produce is so much better. We can do things much better than if we do them all by ourselves.img_3429

Walking together requires CONVICTION, CONSISTENCY and COMMITMENT.

1. CONVICTION

Conviction to walk together in the midst of diversity.
Acts 13 shows us picture of diversity. The leaders were Barnabas who was Jewish, Simeon who was also called Niger (word when translated is black), Menaen who was a friend of Herod, Lucius from Cyrene and Saul who was a Jew who loved Gentiles.

Walking together requires a conviction to walk with each other no matter the differences.

2. CONSISTENCY

Walking together also requires consistency.
There ought to be a rhythm.
We are with one another enough that we have lots of opportunities to offend each other. But that is not the issue. We are walking together in the rhythm of the same beat – to go and make disciples of all nations.

We walk together towards a specific direction.
Direction is necessary to get to where we need to go. Going the same direction means confining myself to a navigable route. One of the highlights being in an Every Nation Conference is being in the sessions. But equally amazing is walking through the lobby meeting with the people we can call family.

“We may not know each other – I don’t know you and you don’t know me but I like being with you because we’re going the same direction.”

3. COMMITMENT

And finally, walking together requires commitment.
We are with each other enough, we will give more than enough reason to stop walking with each other. We will say things that may offend. We will give each other dozens of opportunity to say goodbye. But we are here for the long haul. And it is a privilege to walk together for the long haul for the purposes of God.

This is miraculous.
But while it’s miraculous, it doesn’t happen by serendipitous moments.
It is because we make a commitment.
Coming to a conference like this maybe inconvenient and expensive but we wouldn’t have it any other way. We’re walking together for the long term purposes of God.

img_3428

 

HOW AN ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE CHANGES HOW WE VIEW THE PRESENT

blog-banners-001

In the day to day ministry that I am privileged to participate in, I get to speak with many people who would hit a speed bump in their relationships, careers and future aspirations.

Jessie (not his real name) is uncertain about his future in the current position for he has in the company because he decided to keep his integrity intact by not giving in to the pressure of getting involved with under the table deals. As a result, he gets bypassed for every possible promotion he should’ve had the past years.

Sharon just found out that her husband has had an affair. Though it wasn’t a long drawn out relationship, still, it has crushed her and has no clue how to put the pieces back together with her 2 children.

Rick perseveres to witness to his schoolmates about the gospel message of Christ and yet rejection and persecution slammed the door shut everytime he opened up spiritual conversations.

Now, with our limited perspective, it seems that giving up is a viable option. But this is not what we are told in the Scriptures. The Bible will make no sense at all without the eternal perspective.

In Colossians 3:2-4, Paul declares:

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

We are told that as a result of what Jesus has done, our lives are no longer lived for our own benefit. With this in mind, we are given a perspective – “this life isn’t all that there is!”  There is a glory that will appear when Christ appears. There is a better end than what we are living in right now. Sin has been conquered. We have been redeemed and heaven and earth will be restored when the New Jerusalem appears. All the troubles, hardship, brokenness and sacrifice would make no sense without an eternal perspective.

Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:19 that “if only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied than all men.”
If God isn’t taking us somewhere, then following Jesus is a sheer waste of time!

Why would Jessie keep standing up for his convictions in the workplace?
In everyone’s eyes, he is being stupid.
Why would Rita forgive her husband’s transgression? He doesn’t deserve it. He may be repentant but he’s caused her lots of pain. Without eternal perspective, she is just getting duped.
Why would Rick persist on sharing God’s love to his friends?
If there’s no eternity, then he is just wasting his time.

Everything God does and everything God calls us to do will only make sense from an eternal perspective. Paul says, if our hope is only in this life, then “we are to be pitied than all men.”

But that’s not where the story ends. The story ends with Christ as King of all kings and Lord of all Lords. The story ends with Jesus on the throne victorious. The story ends with God’s people from every tribe, language, nation and people worshiping the Ancient of Days.

Remember, this life isn’t all that there is.
When we see things from an eternal perspective, things eventually make sense.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:18)

DRONE PARENTING

blog-banners-001Drones are very popular these days, especially in taking photos and videos during weddings. They’re cool, fun and take amazing shots.

But when it comes to parenting, it can become uncool, not fun and unamazing when done in the wrong way.

screen-shot-2016-09-29-at-7-15-39-pmDrone parenting is hovering around your kids and staying with them as much as you can so that you know their every move and hear their every conversation.

Just to let you know, when your kids are infants, toddlers and grade school, you have to hover over them. They need you to guide, lead and point them to the right direction.

However, when they get older, it won’t be as feasible and practical.

Drone parenting is when…

– You go to every high school party they attend.
– You listen to every conversation they have with their friends.
– You try to read every tweet, sms, Instagram comment, telegraph app message and the like.
– You watch every viral video that they watch on Facebook or You Tube.
– You filter every reading material they come across with.

To be clear, I am not saying to detach yourself from being involved in your children’s life and leave them to figure things out for themselves. But at the same breath, we have to know that we can’t hover over them 24/7.

From 0-6 years old, our kids are in the telling stage.
We tell them what they should do most of the time.
“Brush your teeth.”
“Time to sleep.”
“Eat your vegetables.”

From 7-12 years old, our kids are in the teaching stage.
We teach them to start making small decisions on their own.
“Blue shirt or red shirt?”
“Batman or Superman?”
“Cheese fries or Barbecue fries?”
But obviously in major things, we still have huge inputs.

From 13-18 years old, they are now in the training stage.
We train them to become more and more independent.
“Just take Uber going to your friends house.”
“Study for your exams on your own.”
“Determine how much you’ll save and how much you’ll spend.”

From 19-adulthood, they are in the coaching stage.
Our role as parents is to just coach them when the have a question.
But since they’re adults, they have to be empowered to make their own decisions.

The older our kids get, the less dependent they will be on us.
However, our goal is for them to be more dependent on God.

screen-shot-2016-09-29-at-7-00-23-pmAllow me to pray for all the parents reading this.

Heavenly Father, thank You for the honor of raising, training and discipling the next generation right in our home. We don’t always get it right and we end up doing dumb things. But, Lord, in our hearts, we desire the best for our children. Teach us to be sensitive to Your leading, obedient to Your Word and teachable in our moments of inexperience. By Your grace, we will be the best parents for our kids and by faith, we will see a generation rise up that will please You with their lives.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.

GOING THROUGH THE CRUCIBLE EXPRIENCE

blog-banners-001

“For a young person, ‘crucible’ is only a word from the dictionary. But as you mature, it becomes a testimony in your life’s journey.”

These were some of the wise words we received from Pastor Frank Damazio when he spoke to our pastors this past week.

He said that some of the greatest leaders you’ll ever read in the Bible went through the greatest trials in life. Brokenness brings about the greatness in a leader.

He then introduces the concept of the crucible and it’s place in Christian leadership. He says that many times in the Bible, you’d see that before a person is used by God greatly, he had to go through trials severely. Joseph had to spend some time in prison after being falsely accused. Daniel was in the lion’s den. Moses was in the desert of Midian for 40 years. Jonah was in the belly of a fish for 3 days. Over and over, we see people that were used by God in amazing ways. But before He did, they had to go through the crucible.

A crucible is a metal container where things like gold and silver are melted in. It is in the crucible that they are reshaped. Going through the fire will reshape you indeed. The question is, will you allow God to do it? Because sometimes, in our struggle to rescue ourselves from the crucible, we end up missing on what God’s trying to accomplish.

When we rescue ourselves from the crucible experience, we miss out on some of the best lessons God is trying to teach us.

Pastor Frank tells the experience he had when he was in Cape Town South Africa. When he visited, he learned more about the life of Nelson Mandela while in prison. One thing that he said that I will never forget was this – “The man that went in the prison was different from the man that came out.”

As Nelson Mandela embraced his crucible experience, he came out of it reshaped. Hatred was taken out and unforgiveness dissipated. He was a different Mandela.

Crucibles are what gives meaning to your life’s journey. It’s what defines you as a leader. It galvanizes in you what can never be taken away. It’s what you would call a defining moment. And the darker the trial, the greater the grace that’s provided.

Will you embrace your crucible experience for your good and ultimately for the glory of God?

RADICAL FORGIVENESS: “First A Sinner, And Second, Sinned Against.”

Blog Banners.001

A failure to grasp the grace that have been demonstrated to me will cause the failure of demonstrating grace to other people.

I grew up religious. But we all know that being religious doesn’t necessarily mean being righteous. I had a semblance of virtue but only I knew the wickedness brewing inside of me.

It didn’t take long to show on the outside what stemmed from the inside – pride, greed, immorality, selfishness, self-righteousness. And when it did, I would mess up big time.

Gratefully, at 17, God rescued me from my sinfulness. But that rescue mission didn’t stop that moment when I accepted Christ. He had to rescue me daily from slipping back to my old self. I am forever grateful for the gospel that frees me from sin, the Holy Spirit that sanctifies me to become more like Christ and the hope of the resurrection that is to come where sin will no longer be present.

I used to have great difficulty dispensing forgiveness. I said “great difficulty” because to this day, offense is never an easy thing to deal with. But it has become quicker to forgive when I remember that I myself have been forgiven.

I love how Colossians 3:13 (NLT) puts it.

“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”

Make allowance for each other’s faults.
In other words, Paul was telling the church, “Expect it. You’ll have to practice forgiveness for offense will happen. The people you have relationship with, they have faults. They are not perfect. Because of that, not only will you have to make allowances for their faults but choose to forgive when the opportunity arises.”

How in the world can we do it?
As the Lord has forgiven, we are to forgive others.

This we need to remember, we are first a sinner
and only secondarily sinned against.
Read it again.
We are first a sinner and only secondarily sinned against.

When we have no idea how much we have been forgiven, it will be hard for us to release forgiveness. If we don’t comprehend how much grace has been dispensed toward us, then we will have a hard time dispensing the same grace to others.

And this will extend to our marriage, friendships, work relationships, family relationships, classmates and church friends.

The more aware we are of our own need for grace, we become more willing to extend it to others.

“But this person doesn’t deserve my grace! You have no idea how much he/she offended me.”
Well, that’s why it’s called grace.
Grace is kindness undeserved.
The bottom line is that the person we choose to forgive may not change when we first extend grace.

Once we embrace this truth, it will not just benefit those we forgive. It will greatly free us from baggages we’ve been carrying for days, weeks, months, maybe even years.

Grace changes everything!

MESSING UP IS NOT THE END OF THE ROAD FOR YOU

Every person desires to get a fresh start, a new beginning when we mess up.

The Bible promises for a restart, a refresh and regeneration.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Vincent lived a life that brought severe consequences.
Yet by the mercy and grace of God, he experienced a new life when he met Christ.

Watch his story.

FINISHING STRONG

Blog Banners.001

Finishing strong in the midst of troublesome circumstances is one of the major challenges we face in life.sub-buzz-4649-1470497808-1

Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima was no exception. In the recent Rio Olympics, he was chosen to ignite the cauldron during the opening ceremonies. De Lima, a distance runner, is best known for taking home bronze medal instead of gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics because he was pushed to the sidelines by a protester. (video here)

He was leading late in the run but his dream of getting gold was crushed because Cornellius Horan grabbed him and knocked him into the crowd.

sub-buzz-29658-1470494064-1

As a result, De Lima lost several seconds from his time causing him to finish 3rd instead of 1st. But De Lima remained positive, buoyant and unfazed. He crossed the finish line with a joyful attitude and a cheery smile. He had a choice to stay in the ground when he was pushed to the sidelines. Yet, he did not allow that set back to keep him on the ground.

grid-cell-19729-1470496694-9 grid-cell-19729-1470496692-4

The author of Hebrews put it this way:

“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the Founder and Perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2)

We can run the race with endurance because of these 3 reasons:

1. Jesus is the founder of our faith.

He started our faith. And what He starts, He will complete.

2. Jesus is the Perfecter of our faith.

He has the ability to strengthen and perfect our faith in the middle of the raise.

3. Jesus is our finish line.

It’s not the rewards we will receive in heaven that will keep us going. Jesus is the Finish Line. He is the goal. He is our prize.

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, I thank You for the strength to endure the race, grace to keep going and joy to stay in the race in the midst of challenges. Thank You that this race is going to be all worth it for You called me to run it and I will stay in it because You are my finish line. Help me to consider it all joy when I face difficulties of various kinds because I know that the testing will produce perseverance so that at the end, I will finish and lacking no good thing. I commit to You all that I do. May my life be as worship unto you.
IN JESUS’ NAME. AMEN.

—–

PHOTO CREDIT:
Koji Sasahara / AP
Diether Endlicher / AP
Ezra Shaw / Getty Images

MOVING FORWARD IN THE MIDST OF SUFFERING

Blog Banners.001

“Why do I still suffer even though I’m already a Christian? I thought after I come to Christ, all is going to be well.”

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the funeral of a man who was a wonderful husband, amazing dad, great employee and faithful servant in the church. He and his wife were remarkable examples to other couples. But one morning, MC was violently stabbed, which caused his death.

I was told that in his last few moments, before he went to be with the Lord,  his last few words to his wife were, “It is as it is. It is well.”

Wow.

How can one say this?
What hope was he holding on to that would cause him to make this declaration?

I realize that there are no amount of words to try to explain or even attempt to bring comfort to his wife and family in this time of tragedy. But God’s Word gives us a few hints as to why we go through what we are going through.

Paul tells the church in Philippi:

For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. (Philippians 1:29-3)

Here are a few things that point to why we go through suffering:

1. PROOF

Suffering is one of the proofs that we follow Christ. His teachings are actually counter-cultural. If we go with what Jesus says, the Bible says that “everyone who wants to live a godly life will suffer persecution.” (2 Timothy 3:12)

Jesus says that in this world, we will have tribulation. But we can rejoice because He has overcome the world. (John 16:33)

2. PRIVILEGE

Paul says that we suffer “for the sake of Christ.” Paul tells us that suffering is “granted” to us – which means it is a gift.

Now, how can this be a gift?!?!  It’s a gift no one would actually want to receive if you ask me. But, somehow, even James says to consider it pure joy, when we go through suffering and trials for it, will bring about steadfastness and perseverance that we may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2)

3. PARTAKING

As we partake in the suffering, we are partaking it with Christ.
Paul in Philippians 3:10 desired to “know Christ and the power of His resurrection and share in His sufferings, being conformed to Him in His death.”

Furthermore, in Romans 8:17, we are told that “Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”

Sharing in His sufferings would mean sharing in His glory as well.

It definitely is easier to say it’s a privilege to partake in His sufferings. But the grace of God is overwhelmingly sufficient for His strength is made perfect even in our weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your Word that gives me comfort in times of trouble, strength in times of weakness and wisdom in times of confusion. In moments of suffering, You have promised that You will never leave nor forsake. For this, I am always grateful. May You grant me the grace to keep moving forward when I feel like giving up. I declare that this week is going to be a victorious week in the midst of difficult circumstances for victory is found as I live in Your presence daily.
IN JESUS’ NAME. AMEN.

NOTE TO SELF, PASTORS AND FULL TIME MINISTERS

 

 

Blog Banners.001

The call to shepherd God’s people is an amazing privilege. While I believe that every calling is important in whatever arena – marketplace, academe, athletics, business, entertainment, media – God has specific instructions to those who have been called to full-time ministry.

Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. (1 Peter 5:2-4)

We are called to serve in these ways:

1. Willingly NOT obligatory.

It is an extreme privilege to serve the King.

Serving Him is not a “have-to” but a “get-to”.
Imagine, we get to do what we do. Years ago, we were lost, without purpose and no direction. But because of His grace, we have been given the opportunity to feed the sheep (John 21) and care for the flock (1 Peter 5).

If you find that you are forcing yourself to meet people, prepare for the message on Sunday, pray for people, then consider what’s causing it. Either check your attitude or check your calling.

2. Sacrificial service not personal gain.

We live in a culture where people love to serve. We are a very hospitable people. People love to serve those who are called to serve in the Kingdom of God full time.

As a result, it is quite possible that we can start to enjoy certain ‘privileges’ that are given. We are called to serve and not be served. Jesus came to do just that. We are called to follow that example.

You might find yourself being the first in the buffet line, or being given a seat while everyone stands, or getting special treatment because you are the ‘special guest’ or your Starbucks drink is paid for with an extra chocolate chip oatmeal cookie. When you do find yourselves in these situations, consider the reasons, motives, and consequences.

3. Leading by example NOT lording over people.

A lot of lessons are really more caught than taught. And the power of example can never be underestimated. Paul declared, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.” (1 Cor. 11:1)

Peter encourages the elders of the church he was writing to lead by example. It’s a tough call but the grace of God is overwhelmingly available. He who called us is faithful and He will do it. (1 Thes. 5:24).

Are we asking people to do things that we ourselves won’t do?
If no one else will do it, are we willing to take the initiative?
As we lead, are we doing it for Christ or just so we can give a good example?

That being said, let’s continue to pray for one another, the church of Jesus and all who have yet to hear the wonderful message of Christ’s work on the cross.

Jesus said that He will build His church and the gates of Hades will not prevail. Our role? To continue to plant and water. The growth and increase? That’s up to God.

To all the pastors, thank you for all that you do for the Kingdom of God. I honor you for loving Jesus, preaching the gospel and training leaders who will go into all the world and make disciples of all nations.

May the Lord bless you and keep you.

DO I NEED TO LIVE A PERFECT LIFE?

Blog Banners.001

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. (Philippians 1:27)

What does it mean to live a life worthy of the gospel of Christ?
Do I need to be perfect?
Should I strive to be sinless?
What if I sin again?

Here are a few thoughts on what it’s not followed by what it is according to Scriptures.

What “living a life worthy of the gospel” is not:

1. A way by which we can earn our salvation.

No one can ever receive God’s forgiveness and redemption by his own merit. As Isaiah puts it, “our righteousness is as filthy rags.” (Is. 64:6) Our personal righteousness doesn’t measure up to the standards of God’s holiness.

2. A way to perfection.

Perfection can never be achieved apart from the imputation or transfer of Christ’s perfect moral record upon our imperfect moral record. When a person comes to faith in Christ, a divine exchange happens – Christ’s righteousness upon us and our unrighteousness upon Him.

3. A way to gain more favor from God.

To a person who has been rescued by Jesus’ gospel redemption, there’s no additional favor to gain for he already has the full extent of God’s love and favor through Christ.

As a result, the saying is true –

There’s nothing you can do to make God love you less
nor make Him love you more.

In Christ, we have the full extent of His love.
For God demonstrates His love for us that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

Man’s depravity forever excludes him from being “worthy of the gospel.
His salvation merits his uncompromising, unmitigated, undying commitment to live as those who are saved by the only One able to save and the only One who is worthy of praise. (Tony Miano)

What then, does it mean to live a life worthy of the gospel?

It is living a life consistent with God’s Word resulting from being justified by Christ alone through His work of redemption. In other words, as Paul puts it, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: the old is gone and the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Only he who has been changed on the inside will be able to demonstrate that on the outside by the power of the Holy Spirit. What comes after salvation is the sanctifying work of the Spirit to change us to become more like Christ. This too, is by His grace.

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, thank You for sending Your Son to be the atoning sacrifice for my sin. I understand that I am saved not by my good works but only through Christ’s work on the cross. Help to me to grasp that in a greater way and embrace it more and more as each day would pass. By Your grace, help me to live for You in the power of the Holy Spirit so I can live a life that brings glory to Your name. May my life be pleasing to You and You alone. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.