WHEN WE DON’T AGREE

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Someone approached me last Saturday at our Every Nation Building Phase 2 Event. I wasn’t sure at first why she wanted to speak to me but after listening to her, I was so delighted to have spoken to her.

Arlene attended Victory Fort years ago but moved to Singapore to work for Yahoo for about 6 years. She is now back in Manila on route to Canada.

She related her story regarding how she struggled with smoking. She knew she needed to quit. She understood the physiological and spiritual ramifications of her habit but couldn’t seem to shake it off.

She’s asked her small group leader, Joyce, to stand with her all this time to believe God for freedom from this habit. She appreciated her small group leader for not only praying with her but also for accepting her without condemnation.

Arlene said she came across my blog entitled “How About Smoking or Drinking” a few months ago that helped her build convictions to finally get rid of smoking. She’s been off it 4 months now and praises God for the victory.

Paul the apostle addresses the issue of those that are weak in the faith in Romans 14 and 15. He says that there are those who are weak in the faith that abstains from eating food sacrificed to idols. On the other hand, there are those who’s faith allows them to eat without guilt. The church was divided over this issue and Paul expressed that in the essentials, we are to be solidly united. But in the non-essentials, we can have liberty over certain issues.

  1. ACCEPT ONE ANOTHER.

“As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.” (Romans 14:1)

We have a tendency to major in the minors – from worship style to clothing to what type of instruments we can use in church.

“One person believes he may eat anything while the weak person eats only vegetables.” (Romans 14:2)

While we may have different preferences, opinions and styles, we can move forward as the church of Jesus but being solid on the non-negotiables – salvation by faith, the Triune God and the cross.

  1. BUILD ONE ANOTHER.

“So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” (Romans 14:19)

We are called to build and not tear down. Paul warns the church to not cause anyone to stumble. Furthermore, he warns the believers to not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. It is not good to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. (Romans 14:20-21)

The question we need to ask ourselves is this: “What is the greater value?”

Our comfort or God’s kingdom?

Coolness factor or a soul saved for Christ?

Relevance or our relationship with Jesus?

Is Jesus our greatest value?

Romans 14:8 says that if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we died, we are the Lord’s.

Paul establishes the fact that we are no longer our own. Because we are not our own, our decisions are now determined by the One who does. We have been bought with a price. Our life is no longer ours alone.

  1. CELEBRATE WITH ONE ANOTHER

“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.” (Romans 15:10)

The goal is not uniformity but unity. We can have unity in the midst of diversity. We are called to appreciate it and even celebrate it.

Unity in diversity is a possibility as we aim to give God the glory.

If this is our goal – God’s glory – then we can move towards the same finish lines as long as He is our finish line.

EMPOWERED DREAMS

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Sometimes, people just need an opportunity  to be able to move forward in life.

Listen to Celyn and Anthony to be encouraged on how God opened opportunities for them to move a step closer to achieving their dreams and attain a better life out of poverty.

Real Life Foundation seeks to transform lives, families & communities through hope and education.

Their vision is to honor God by serving the poor and empowering their dreams through educational assistance, character development, and community service.

I pray that you’ll be encouraged as you watch their stories of faith and diligence.

 

PACQUIAO KEEPS HIS FAITH

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Yesterday was quite a sad day for the Filipino people. I can’t tell you how bad I also felt listening to the score cards and Pacquiao losing to Mayweather.

People asked me, “I thought Pacquiao was a Christian. If he is, then shouldn’t God give Him the victory?”

That’s a valid question and a very interesting one at that. If a person becomes a Christian, does it mean he will always enjoy victory?
You and I will have to consider Biblical examples of Moses, Abraham, David, Joseph, Josiah, Jonah, Job, Paul among many others who lived a life that pleased God but at certain times seemingly suffered defeat.

God is more interested in the process as well as in the outcome. God always works with the long term goal in mind. When going through a tough situation, we often desire for our circumstance to end or be cut short. But God doesn’t see it that way. He is the Master Craftsman who is building something beyond today. He is the Potter and we are merely the clay. The clay cannot say to the Potter, “what in the heck are you doing?” (my version of Isaiah 64:8)

What happens to us is not as important
as to how we respond to what happens to us.

 

And that is what God is after. Because if we don’t learn our lesson in the first run, we might have to go through it again so that He can make sure we get it.

I love how Manny responds after the fight. He calls for a prayer/worship service to honor God in spite of defeat.

In his words,

“Thank you for coming here, thank you also for your support last night. But you have to understand that the plans and ways of God are higher than our ways. The most important thing is, we have Jesus in our life. One day we will be with him in heaven.”

“What happened last night, that’s God’s plan because our plan is not God’s plan. God’s plan is higher than ours and we know that if we have Jesus, we have peace of mind.”

“My purpose is not boxing but to proclaim the name of the Lord in the whole world that Jesus is the name of The Lord.”

It is possible that you lose a fight and yet come out victorious. It really is a matter of perspective. In the game of life, we may not attain a single championship and yet come out as a winner.

ESPN ON PACQUIAO’S FAITH

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Skip Bayless of ESPN writes an article regarding the transformation of Manny Pacquiao.

“About three years ago he underwent a spiritual conversion — he says he accepted Christ in his life and was born again — and he’s now so on fire with his faith that, according to insiders, he reads his Bible throughout the day and shares his faith with random fans he meets. Just two Sundays ago, he gave his testimony to a packed house at the megachurch he attends just outside Los Angeles, Shepherd of the Hills Church, telling the throng how lost he once was while constantly getting drunk and cheating on his wife (who was with him that Sunday).”

More of Skip’s Article here.

But below is the interview on ESPN regarding Skip Bayless’ thoughts saying that “being saved doesn’t mean being soft.”

WHEN SACRIFICE IS NOT A SACRIFICE

Sacrifice is only a sacrifice if you don’t know what you’re trading it for.

I heard the story of Migz a few weeks ago and it utterly inspired me. He live a life that was separated from God and disobedient to His will. Recently, he went through Victory Weekend after a series of meeting with one who walked him through his faith in Christ. After surrendering everything to Jesus and understanding all that the gospel provides and redeems, he made a 180 degree turn.

His friends and people close to him asked him why. It was a sacrifice to give up all that he used to do and all for what? Faith in Christ? Won’t Jesus understand? After all, we’re merely humans, right? Prone to sin. Inclined to give in.

But speaking to him after 6pm service one Sunday, he said something that hit me hard.
“Sacrifice is only a sacrifice if you don’t know what you’re trading it for.”

Jesus sacrificed His all so that I can have life and life to the full.
I owed a debt I couldn’t pay. He paid a debt He did not owe.
Because of that, I am forever grateful.

Written below is part of the story of Migz. I pray that it will bless you, inspire you and challenge you to continue to look to Jesus both as Savior and Lord.

“I’ve spent a lot of time “finding myself” and ended up in the same place as before because I was too busy searching rather than being.

Religion has always been an identity crisis for me, I knew it was part of me, I just couldn’t figure it out then. I tried being dutiful, attending church, saying prayers – though sometimes not even knowing what I was saying.

It reminds me everyday why I choose to be Christian and live in a world of organized religion and follow the path that has been set out for me. I have never in my life been this close to religion, God and Jesus. I grew up saying prayers I never even understood until just recently. I always wondered where the “Our Father” came from only to realize it was from the book of Matthew.

I believe this was all part of His plan. If I was meant to learn it then I would have.
“His timing is perfect, and his presence is constant. He is always with you!” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

He gives you struggles to overcome – not struggles to accept as part of your identity, but to shape you to be the person He created you to be.

I choose to be Christian because I now have the lens to see the better side of me, the knowledge to be better and the strength that every struggle provides blessings that I may not even know I need.

I choose to be Christian because it has helped me see my purpose; my ability to help and lead people as I have in my work, to inspire people as I do with my students and bring it to a whole new level by helping carry out His word.

I don’t believe to be perfect nor do I think I ever will be, but being Christian gives me the strength to try to be, the courage to pick up from failure and try again, to repent, to be me- the person He created me to be. This all paves way to a better life.

I choose to be Christian because He Saved me. And He always will.

 

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PHOTO CREDIT: https://www.flickr.com/photos/36590684@N05/

“WHERE ARE YOU?”

Have you ever lost or misplaced something valuable?

I have. Several times.

And when we do, we take the whole day if necessary to look for what we’ve misplaced. Why? Because it’s valuable to us. The value we place on an item will determine the extent of effort we are going to put in to search for it. If it was a mere safety pin or paper clip, it won’t bother us one bit. But if it was our wallet that had our credit cards and driver’s license, then we will search the whole house to look for it.

When God asked Adam and Eve, “Where are you?” It wasn’t because He didn’t know where they were. He was asking, “Where are you in terms of our relationship?” To this day, He still asks and to this day He is seeking. Why? It is because God is a Seeker and a Saver. Luke 19:10 says that Jesus came to seek and to save the lost.

The word lost can be offensive. And there are 3 kinds of lost. First, there are those who are lost but don’t know they are. Secondly, there are those who pretend they’re not lost. (Ask husbands who drive around for hours getting in an argument with their wives and still not admitting they’re not lost.) Thirdly, there are those who don’t even care if they’re lost.

Jesus searched for Zacchaeus. Initially, Zacchaeus was curious to find out about this Jesus. Little did he know that it was Jesus that was seeking for him.

Here’s the message from yesterday’s second installment from our series entitled “Simple.”

FOLLOWING JESUS IS SIMPLE BUT NOT NECESSARILY EASY

In a social networking world, we can actually “follow” someone without actually having a relationship with them. I can tell you that Katy Perry who has the most Twitter followers in the world (about 62M) is now in Milan Italy and that she is enjoying the Italian tapas. However, that doesn’t mean I know her personally.

There are many who “follow” Jesus the way they would Katy Perry. The call to follow Him is not the twitter-follow kind. The word used was a present imperative which denotes continuity and is an ongoing command. It’s as if He’s saying, “Keep following Me. Do it on an ongoing basis to your last breath.”

FOLLOWING JESUS HAS A COST.

Someone came to Jesus and said, “I will follow You wherever You go.” He was ecstatic because he just saw 5000 people got fed with 2 fish and 5 loaves.

Jesus replied by saying, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Luke 9:58)

In effect, He was telling the guy that it will be inconvenient. He will be pulled out of his comfort zone. We are not told if the guy continued in following Christ.

FOLLOWING JESUS WILL CHANGE OUR PRIORITIES.

After His conversation, Jesus turned to another and said, “Follow Me.”

The 2nd guy’s reply was this. “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:60)

Was Jesus being mean? This guy’s dad just died!

Here’s the thing.
Number 1, his dad wasn’t dead. Jewish custom requires immediate burial for the person who just passed away. Number 2, Jewish tradition tells us that mourning takes 30 days. In other words, he wouldn’t even be there if his dad was dead.

In effect, what he was saying was this, “Lord, I need to wait and bury my father and wait for my inheritance. You already said it will be inconvenient. If I get my inheritance, then at least, I have a fallback.”

Following Jesus will change our priorities.

FOLLOWING JESUS WILL REQUIRE TOTAL COMMITMENT

The 3rd guy comes and tells Jesus that he will follow Him.
Jesus says something similar and said, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)

Jesus said that if we want to follow Him, there’s no looking back.

Responding to Christ is not a matter of emotion. It’s not a matter of an event. It’s not a matter of a momentary decision. It is total self-sacrifice… total commitment.

The following is the testimony of Vanessa who made a decision to follow Jesus. When she did, she understood that it had a cost, it will change her priorities and require total commitment.

WHEN YOU’RE SCARED TO DO HIS WILL

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Have you ever been scared to step out in faith to accomplish what God has called you to do?

I have. Many times.

I spoke to a teacher yesterday who stood up for her convictions regarding purity in front of her class. She works in a school that is extremely secular. As a result, she got severely reprimanded for voicing out what the Scriptures say. I told her that God’s authority supersedes all human authority. I prayed for wisdom and discernment so she can do what God has called her to do.

To some it’s standing for your convictions.
For others, it may mean saying no to ungodly business practices.
Or saying no to your boyfriend who wants you to go all the way.
For a few others, it’s asking for forgiveness to let go of some form of bitterness.

Whatever your circumstance might be, it is not our ability that validates the call to do His will, but the presence of God in all that we do.

Moses in Exodus gave God a barrage of questions.
“Who am I to do this?”
“What will I say?”
“How will I do this?” (Ex. 3:11-12)
But God only gave one answer, “I will be with you.”

That’s it?
Yup. That’s it.
“I will be with you.”

You see, it doesn’t matter who you are as long as you know who He is.
And it doesn’t matter who you’ll be up against as long as you know Who is with you.

May this encourage you this week as you discover, do and delight in His will.

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PHOTO CREDIT: https://www.flickr.com/photos/128130103@N07/

HOW ABOUT SMOKING OR DRINKING?

How about drinking or smoking?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked that question. Let me start by saying that this blog won’t tell you what to do and what not to do. If you have a relationship with Jesus, redeemed by His blood and empowered by His Holy Spirit, I pray you’ll be able to build convictions that will honor God by seeking Him.

We are all called to holiness. And this holiness has to be gospel-driven. What does gospel-driven holiness mean? It is a gripping response to His grace – that out of our gratefulness for His redemption, we respond with a heartfelt desire to please Him in every way.

Back to smoking and drinking.

Paul, the apostle, declares in 1 Corinthians 6:12, “Everything is permissible for me”—but not everything is beneficial.” (NIV84)
He is saying that because of my freedom in Christ, I can actually do anything I want. However, in the same breath, not because I can, I should. Everything may be permissible but not everything is beneficial.

Question. Can I eat my laptop computer? Technically, I can. But because I can doesn’t mean I should.

A few chapters later, Paul gives us principles that I would like to share with you. It has helped me make decisions through the years. I can’t give you a list of do’s and don’ts, rules and regulations. What that would do is to catapult us back to legalistic self-righteousness and performance orientation. My goal is to help us think through all that we do in the grid of these 3 questions.

1. Will this glorify God?

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Co 10:31)

Paul exhorts us to do everything for the glory of God.

Isaiah 43:7 (ESV) tells us that we have been created for His glory.
“Everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.”

The preposition “for” tells us that we were created by Someone intended for a particular purpose – for His glory.

2. Will it cause anyone to stumble?

Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God. (1 Co 10:32)

It is true that everything may be permissible. But the Apostle Paul makes it clear that our freedom should not cause anyone in the faith to stumble. If what I am doing causes someone to stumble or cause their faith to weaken, then I shouldn’t do it.

3. Is it a good example to follow?

Two verses later in the following chapter, Paul declares “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Cor. 11:1)

Will what I will do be a good example to follow?
If my kids see me, will it be a good thing to imitate? I realize the dichotomy in some of our statements at times to our children. “Do as I say, not as I do.” It seems that there may be a double standard somewhere. The Father that calls our children to holiness is the same Father that calls us as well.

If people who are far away from Christ see me, will it be a good example for them to follow?
I wonder how many people far away from Christ have been turned off by us because we haven’t been good examples.

I pray that these 3 questions would help us build convictions that will lead to a lifestyle of gospel driven holiness. The question is not how close I can stay by the cliff before I fall off but how far I can be from the cliff so that I don’t displease the One who gave His life for me.

Have a great week ahead.

NOT EATING A BURGER HONORS GOD?

How can not eating a burger honor God?

This week, Victory enters into a season of prayer and fasting. Every year for more than a decade now, at the first week of January, we dedicate for a time of seeking God.

Question, is it possible to seek God without skipping meals? Absolutely!
Will we get our answers to our prayers like getting our Christmas list checked by Santa because we are nice, not naughty? Well, it doesn’t work that way.

Fasting is not a magical exercise that when we do it, we log in spiritual points in heaven.

I love what Wesley Deuwel, former president of One Missionary Society once said,
“Fasting in the biblical sense is choosing not to partake of food because your spiritual hunger is so deep, your determination in intercession so intense, or your spiritual warfare so demanding that you have temporarily set aside even fleshly needs to give yourself to prayer and meditation.”

What fasting does is getting serious about connecting with God.

“When a man is willing to set aside the legitimate appetites of the body to concentrate on the work of praying, he is demonstrating that he means business, that he is seeking with all his heart, and will not let God go unless He answers.” — Arthur Wallis

Why fast?

1. Jesus fasted.

Before Jesus started His ministry, He fasted in the wilderness. (Matthew 4:1-4)
He was showing us an example of what it means to prepare by become spiritually strong even though one may be physically weak.

2. Fasting is an act of humility.

When we fast, we deny our physical appetites and communicate to Him that He takes top priority in our life. The Bible says that God gives grace to the humble and yet opposes the proud (James 4:6).

3. Fasting makes us sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
Acts 13:2

Fasting makes us sensitive to God and His leadership.

4. Fasting has health benefits.

You will lose weight but if that’s your goal in this season, it won’t work. You’ll just gain it back after. But one of the health benefits of fasting is that it cleanses our bodies from the toxins in our digestive system that we’ve accumulated during the past year, especially during the holiday season. Medical science tells us that it has been an effective cure for allergies and certain diseases.

But most of all, the discipline of fasting illustrates to us that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4)

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PHOTO CREDIT: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bardin/

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