GOING THROUGH THE CRUCIBLE EXPRIENCE

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“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.”

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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“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

 

 

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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?

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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.

CHOICES WE MAKE AS WE HELP OTHERS FOLLOW CHRIST

Blog Banners.001In my recent Japan bike trip with Ryan (click here to read about it), we were guided by Google maps on my phone. I would shout out directions to Ryan if we needed to turn left or right. When I would give an instruction, he would do it, not because it was a command but because it was a relationship based on trust.

Discipleship is following Jesus and helping others follow Christ. As we follow Christ, we listen to His instructions not because we have to but because we want to, knowing that He desires what’s best for us. This trust is based on the relationship we have with Him.

Discipleship is relationship.

It is a relationship on 3 levels:
Relationship with God.
Relationship with other believers.
Relationship with the lost.

If we are going to help others follow Christ, there are 3 choices we will need to make as we do so.

1. OPPORTUNITY OVER OUTCOME

And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up… (Luke 19:5a)

Jesus had a mission. He was about to sacrifice His life so that mankind could be saved. It was important to get to Calvary but wasn’t so focused on the outcome that He missed the opportunity to stop and speak with Zacchaeus. Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem but when He got to Jericho, He looked up and took some time to be with Zacchaeus.

Sometimes we are so busy that we miss out on divine appointments.

We miss out on divine appointments when we are quick to dismiss seemingly human distractions.

2. RELATIONSHIP OVER RULES

Jesus… said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” (Luke 19:5b)

During those days, there was an unwritten rule that they were not to eat with sinners and tax collectors. People hated tax collectors because though they were Jewish, they worked for their enemy at that time, the Romans. Moreover, when they would collect taxes, they would get more than required so they could pocket the extra. They were corrupt and abusive aside from working for the enemy.

Jesus stopped to speak with Zacchaeus. In fact, He didn’t just want to eat dinner with him, He wanted to stay in his house! People were wondering, “Jesus, what are you doing?!!!” This is not acceptable!”

But Jesus broke the ‘rule’ so that He could build a relationship with Zacchaeus.

To treat people the way Jesus treated them, we need to see them the way Jesus saw them.

I’m just grateful God valued me so much that He sacrificed His only Son so I can have redemption. I was insecure, lost and without purpose. Thank God for the gospel that saved me.

3. PEOPLE OVER PROCESS

“For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)

Jesus had a process He was going to go through – suffering, death, burial, resurrection and ascension. But He wasn’t so caught up with that process that He missed out on the very people He was going to die for.

Why? Because lost people matter to God.

Sometimes, we can get so caught up with the process that we miss out on the simplicity of loving people. We are worried about the form, that we miss out on caring for people. We are wrapped up with the program that we miss out on the very reason why we even have a program.

I remember going through One2One discipleship with someone I met 2 and a half years ago. We initially started with One2One booklet. But because he had a lot of questions, we had to set the booklet aside to answer his questions. We tried to do the Purple book. We got to chapter 4 and it was helpful. But since he still had lots of questions, we actually went straight to the book of Romans. The process is important but sometimes, we have to ask God for wisdom what tool to use because people are more important than the process. Finally, after 2 years, we finished one2one and he was able to go through Victory Weekend this past March.

Jesus stopped to encounter Zacchaeus. He had a process to go through but He didn’t let that stop Him from spending time with the very people He was about to die for. Why? It’s because lost people matter to God.

I love how Joey Bonifacio put it:

God who is most valuable, so valued us that He gave us Jesus who is most valuable to Him.

As we continue to honor God and make disciples, may we do it with zeal coupled with sensitivity to the leading of the Holy Spirit and the compassion of Jesus.

WHEN DEATH BRINGS GAIN

Blog Banners.001From the moment we’re born, we consistently strive to achieve some type of significance in our family, school, workplace, community, and society.

Rewards are given to those who excel – medals, trophies, certificates, plaques. And rightly so for hard work, time, and resources have been poured into gaining them.

I was in high school; one particular semester, I made it to the honor roll. I can tell you that didn’t happen very often. And that’s a huge understatement. But that particular semester, I got a medal for getting second honor. But more significantly, when I got home, I got a very special chocolate cake from my mom. Those who know me, chocolate cakes are far more valuable for me than a medal.

Gains and achievements bring joy and fulfillment. While this is so, Paul challenges us to think long term and to view things from an eternal perspective.

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Philippians 1:21 (ESV)

For if to live is something else, then to die is a loss. “How can it be a loss?” you might say.

I’m glad you asked.

If to live is gaining wealth, then to die is a loss because we can’t bring anything to the next life.
If to live is succeeding in your career, then to die is a loss.
If to live is getting married, then to die is a loss.
If to live is purchasing your dream house, then to die is a loss.

But if to live is Christ, then to die is gain. How come?
Because this life isn’t all that there is.
What we sow in this life, we will reap in the next.
What we plant in this life, we will harvest in the next.
What we invest in this life will yield in the next.

Paul encourages us to keep our eyes not on what is seen but on that which is unseen. For what is seen is temporal but what is unseen is eternal.

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, thank You for this reminder. It is amazing how You re-calibrate my perspective through Your Word. It is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. Teach me to keep my eyes on that which is of eternal value. May I never be swayed by temporal things. I will continue to excel wherever You position me – whether in the campus or the workplace so that I may give You glory. But internally, I will also remember to keep my eyes on You, the Author and Perfecter of my faith. Thank You for the glorious inheritance I have in Christ Jesus.
IN JESUS’ NAME. AMEN.

WHEN BAD CIRCUMSTANCES LEAD TO GOOD RESULTS

Blog Banners.001How can bad circumstances lead to good results?

Is that even possible?

I lost my mom.
I missed my exam.
I received a bad report from the doctor.
My business crashed.

Paul was relating his experience to the church in Philippi. He was in chains. He was imprisoned. And he didn’t have many years left. Somehow he knew.

But his posture was incredibly astonishing. He sees his suffering and adversity as good things.

How could he say that? This is what he said:

I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. (Philippians 1:12-13)

Again, how can he say that? Well, what he valued wasn’t what an average person would value. More than his life and freedom, he valued Jesus and His gospel.

He said that his imprisonment served the advancement of the gospel. Furthermore, he said that his imprisonment was for Christ. Since the gospel and Christ were of most value to him, what he went through paled in comparison.

Question: What, or better yet, who is of most value to you?
When we know that He is the One who has the ability to orchestrate the events of our lives, then what happens now is nothing compared to what He ultimately wants to accomplish.

He holds our life in His hands.
And where He will lead, I will follow.

PRAYER:

Lord, thank You that You are Sovereign and in control. There is nothing that happens in my life that escapes Your eye. In fact, You are able to orchestrate all that happens such that, ultimately, it will be to advance Your gospel and give glory to Your name. Help me remember this always. And may my life be a pleasing sacrifice to You each and every day.
In Jesus’ name. AMEN.

LESSONS FROM BIKING AND HIKING TO MT. FUJI

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Our third child, Ryan, recently turned 13. And for some reason, he had the crazy idea of cycling from Tokyo to the foot of Mount Fuji and then hike up to the summit. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. It was his passage into becoming a man and my passage of officially realizing that I’m old.

Biking 110 kilometers through several hills and a couple of mountains was not fun. I had to ask myself, “Why am I doing this again?”

This question came up again as we were hiking up to the summit of Mt. Fuji (3,776 m). We would stop and rest. And when we would, I would end up literally asleep for a few moments. When I would wake up, I would literally think I was in a bad dream… a nightmare, actually.

Because we had a lot of time to think and talk, we came up with a few life lessons along the way. Allow me to share them with you.

1. When you fall, just pick yourself up and move on.

At the summit, the winds were strong. They were as strong as 50 kph. Everyone had to stay low and duck many times as the strong winds would come by.

Walking was even a challenge. So there were times we would be swept by the wind and fall. We can choose to stay on the ground or just pick ourselves up and continue. We continued.

Life’s like that. We get hit and fall. The choice is ours. Will we stay knocked out or pick ourselves up and keep moving forward?

2. Don’t miss on what is happening now because you’re in a hurry to see what will happen next.

As we were climbing down from the summit, we were just so excited to go Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 4.45.22 PM
back to base camp and rest. But because we were in such a hurry, we were missing a lot of the stunning view.

Life offers too many beautiful events and experiences. When we are in such a hurry, we miss out on the lessons, messages and the simple joys life has to offer.

3. Preparing is hard work but being ill-prepared is harder.

We trained. We prepared. We got ready.
I read up on a lot of those that did what we did.
But somehow, we weren’t as prepared for what we were going to go through. And boy it was tough.

Preparation is hard work. But it’s harder if we are ill-prepared.

4. Keep your eye on the goal.

While biking, as long as we could see Mt. Fuji from afar, we were encouraged to
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keep going.

We will be discouraged, exhausted and tempted to quit. But as we keep our eyes on the goal, we will eventually get there – one step at a time.
Keeping your eyes on the goal will keep you from quitting.

5. Trust the GPS.

As we cycled from Tokyo to Fuji, I had my Google maps on. I would tell Ryan to turn left when we needed to or turn right as necessary. But there were times he had his earphones on and we would miss a turn because he couldn’t hear me say “turn left.”

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 7.51.15 AMGod knows which way is the best. He knows the GPS well because He planned it. But because we have too many voices in our ears, we get distracted. Thus, we miss our turn and end up in a place where we didn’t want to be in.

But thank God that, by His grace, He is able to cause all things to work together for our good. As we listen to His voice, He reroutes and gets us back on track.

6. We will face uphill challenges along the way, but in the end, it’s all worth it.

This was what we were trying to convince ourselves about the whole time we were trekking for a total of 8 hours to the summit.

“This will be worth it.”
And it was
The view of the sun rising from the summit was more than amazing.

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 8.14.43 AMLife will throw us a few curveballs and get us through uphill climbs. But if we are convinced that this is where God has placed us this season, then when we get to our destination, we will realize that it was all worth it.

7. Don’t just look forward to the destination; enjoy the journey as well.

We so badly wanted to reach the summit that we didn’t even talk to each IMG_0934other. Our legs were hurting and our eyes were shutting due to lack of sleep.

But managing to chat, interact, reminisce, and reflect on these lessons also became a highlight in the end.

 

To watch snippets of our adventure, I’ve posted 2 videos below of our bike trip and our hike up to the summit of Mt. Fuji.

VIDEO 1: CYCLING FROM TOKYO TO MT. FUJI

 

VIDEO 2: HIKING TO MT. FUJI SUMMIT

GOD WILL COMPLETE WHAT HE STARTED!

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An unfinished project is unsettling.

I’ve had a few of those growing up. Our teacher would give us a project. I would start strong but somehow, along the way, I would get distracted and end up haphazardly finishing it or not quite finishing it at all.

I look back and cringe at how I didn’t even finish what I started.

But God is so unlike me. Thank God!!!
What He starts, He finishes.

Paul assures the church in Philippi with this statement, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

THE AUTHOR OF THE GOOD WORK

The Bible says that He began the good work in us.
In Genesis, we see God at work. In fact, He didn’t just finish the work, He completed it magnificently. He even had an extra day to sit back and relax to enjoy His creation.

God has the unbelievable ability to finish what He started.

THE PURPOSE OF THE GOOD WORK

Paul tells the church in Philippi that it is a good work that He began. And that good work is for your good and ultimately for His glory.
Romans 8:28 says that He is able to cause all things to work for our good because we were called according to His purpose.

His divine ability can orchestrate all the events in our lives to line up for our good ultimately leading up to bring glory to His name.

THE CERTAINTY OF THE GOOD WORK

He who began … will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

He can and He will.
God doesn’t just have the divine ability but He also has the divine intention to complete what He started.
Remember, everything that God does is good. When He started His creation, after each day, the Bible says, “it was good.”

He can and He will.

Lord, thank You for this coming week. Thank You for the assurance that as I start my week, You are with me. You promised that if I acknowledge You in all my ways, You will direct my path. Thank You that what You started in me, You will complete. Give me the grace to trust that truth. You can and You will. That’s my declaration for this week. In Jesus’ name.
AMEN.

WHAT IF MY PARENTS ARE NOT HONORABLE?

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An auctioneer brought out an old, ugly and worn out violin with incomplete strings. No one seemed interested for it looked like junk. But after raising the violin for everyone to see, he mentioned that it was a 17th century Stradivarius owned by one of Napoleon’s generals, Count Gabriel Jean Joseph Molitor.

Immediately, you could hear gasps coupled with oohh’s & aahh’s.

When we talk about honor, the sense of respect that brings about that “aahh” is what comprises honor.

The Bible tells us to honor our father and mother.
Here are a few FAQ’s I get asked all the time.

1. WHO DO WE HONOR?

We are called to honor father AND mother. It’s not an “or” but an “and”.
Some will say, “Paolo, it’s easy to do that to my mom. But my dad? Hmmm… I don’t think so.”
Or, “Paolo, my dad is so lovable and was always there. But my mom, she was never there. How can I honor someone who didn’t even care for me?”

The command doesn’t give us a footnote, exception clause or fine print. It just says honor your father and mother period.

When we honor our parents, we honor God.

2. WHY SHOULD WE HONOR THEM?

This command has a promise attached to it, “that your days may be long in the land.” (Exodus 20:12)

There are natural consequences to honoring and obeying; and so does the converse. If we dishonor, there are negative consequences.

Honoring our parents is not for their benefit but it is for us.

But ultimately, we honor our parents for our benefit; we do it for the glory of God. The benefits are merely the by-product of honoring our parents.

3. HOW DO WE HONOR?

We honor them through our thoughts, our words, and our actions.

What are we cultivating in our thoughts?
If we cultivate hatred, disrespect and anger, guess what will come out of our mouths?

Matthew 12:34 says that out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.

On the other hand, if we cultivate gratefulness, forgiveness and unconditional respect, that is what’s going to overflow from our hearts and eventually through our mouths.

4. WHAT IF THEY’RE NOT HONORABLE?

There are times when one may feel that their parents don’t need the honor the Bible tells us to give them.
But again, the Bible gives us the command and says to honor period. It doesn’t say that we are to honor them when they are kind and exceptional parents. We are to honor them because it’s the right thing to do.

Here are a few practical things to do:

a. Give grace.
Sometimes, we have raised the level of expectations to levels we won’t even meet ourselves.
Cut them some slack.
They are wicked, sinful and flawed sinners like the person reading this blog… that’s you and me.

b. Give forgiveness.
Forgiveness lets them off the hook.
We decide to not allow what they’ve done to hurt us the way it has in the past. We let go of the offense.

Note: Only those who have been forgiven have the power to do the same to others.

c. Give honor.
In the military, there’s a statement that they use – “Salute the rank.”

For more about this point, check out this blog by Joseph Bonifacio.

d. Give an example.
If we live a life that dishonors our parents, we end up setting a pattern for our kids to follow. When we dishonor our parents, we model to our kids how they are to treat us.

e. Give thanks.
There is always something to thank God for our parents. You can start by being thankful that you are alive today. Even just that, it’s a reason to be grateful.

The best antidote to a grumbling heart is a grateful heart.

To hear more about this topic, you may watch last Sunday’s message.

WHEN REJECTION HAPPENS…

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One of the hardest things to go through in life is to be rejected.

Nobody wants it.
No one seeks for it.
None desire it.

But we’ve all experienced rejection in one way, shape or form.

Getting turned down by a client.
Being left for another man.
Experiencing abandonment by a parent.
And so on.

Jesus met a woman at the well in John chapter 4.
She is not unfamiliar with rejection for she has had 5 husbands and the one she is with at the moment wasn’t a permanent relationship probably to avoid further rejection in the future.

Jesus asks for a drink of water.
In her mind, she was asking why this rabbi would approach her.
Number 1, it was obvious that she was a woman.
This was not kosher in those days.
Number 2, she was a Samaritan.
Jews didn’t associate with Samaritans.

But in her mind, she was probably thinking that if this rabbi knew her deepest secrets, he would end up rejecting her as well. And more than verbal rejection, he would probably have her stoned to death.

“Good thing he doesn’t know about my immoral past.”
Or so she thought.

Jesus asks her, “Go call your husband and come back.” (John 4:16)
“What should I say? If I tell him about my 5 husbands plus the one that is not mine, I’d get rejected again.”
She gives Jesus a safe answer and says, “I don’t have a husband.”

To this, Jesus said, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” (John 4:17-18)

He knows!!!

But here’s the thing. Jesus offered her living water. And He did that way before she confessed her real condition and situation. Jesus knew her fully but loved her unconditionally by offering her living water.

Here’s the principle:

To be loved and not known is superficial.
To be known and not loved is rejection.
But to be fully known and yet unconditionally loved
is the heart of the gospel.

You and I have been rejected because of who we are and what we’ve done. But Jesus loves us unconditionally even though He knew us completely.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
He showed His love before we even came to Him.
Way before we went to church.
Way before we started reading our Bible.
Way before we acknowledged His presence in our lives.

I love how Bishop Juray put it:

“Our God knows us at our worst and yet is the One that loves us the most.”

Next time you feel rejected, remember that you are accepted by your Heavenly Father.
Through Christ, you are loved, received and accepted.

TIMES WITH DAD THAT MEAN A LOT

me and my dad

Every year, dads haul their tents and bags and bring their kids to camping to have one of the best times they can have.

This year, we had it at Clearwater Clark Pampanga.

For some dads, it was their first time to camp with their kids. For others, they have come year after year after year. The experience of sunburn (because they didn’t heed mom’s directive to put sunblock), no toothbrush for 24 hours and science experiments aka breakfast/lunch/dinner.

But most of all, times of prayer, worship and learning from God’s Word have always been a highlight.

I love what Bishop Juray Mora said in his message to the dads,

I believe that our future will be greatly affected more by what happens in our homes than whoever wins in the next few elections that we face in our lifetime. Our greatest contribution to our children is not a financial nest that they can rest in. Our greatest contribution to our children is a home where a relationship with Christ is most valued, a home where their mother is loved unconditionally including them.”

To watch the recap of the recent camp, click the video below.

 

 

 

WHO CAN BRING LASTING CHANGE IN A NATION?

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“Diyos-Diyosan” is a socio-political film made with the intention to educate voters of what is happening in the political world that will be shown in theaters in Metro Manila starting May 4.

It is about those who want to lord it over all (diyos-diyosan) and about the Lord of All. Let us reminisce what happened during the EDSA People Power and after. The characters are not real, but a composite of what happens around us. We hope that this film helps us all to make the right choice for this coming election.” (Cesar Buendia)

Our choices matter and will have an effect on the future of our children

Princess Punzalan has this to say about her character in the movie:

“Estrell has a lot of hurts caused by the government. She became a rebel and an atheist. She saw that her bitterness and her decisions that were driven by it did not make her life better. In the middle of the film, she has a change of heart and becomes an advocate for the truth that gives people real and lasting freedom.
She stops relying on her own understanding and strength and starts relying on the only One who truly has the best perspective, perfect wisdom and power to really change the world.

The people we rely on will have limitations.
But only God has the real power to change this nation for the better.”

 

WHEN ELECTIONS CAUSE DIVISION

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One of our Victory Group leaders messaged me this morning asking how she should respond to relatives, friends, and even church members who are at odds due to differing opinions and preferences regarding the ongoing election campaign.

It has become divisive and estranging. Families end up not talking to each other, office mates argue, and friends quarrel over who they feel would be the best to lead at this season of our nation’s history.

Here are a few random thoughts I shared with her:

1. What is most important?

I am saddened by how certain people are responding and reacting to all these. The Bible says we are to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3)

That being said, we have to keep things in proper perspective.

Long after this election is over and done with, blood relatives will still be family. Church community will still be our spiritual family. Division or breaking relationship is simply just not worth it.

Some of the candidates won’t even remember us long after the elections are over.

Values determine priorities. And when the priorities are clear, decisions are simpler. It may not necessarily be easier but it is simpler for you know what or who is most important.

2. How about social media posts?

Posting on social media is not the problem. It’s what we post and how we say things are some of the concerns. Forcing, arguing, throwing hate, mud slinging are what makes it unhealthy and problematic.

3. Can I really be sure?

We can’t be completely sure who God has chosen to be the next president, vice president, mayor, councilor, etc. Remember, even the prophet Samuel made a mistake in choosing who the next president was. He thought it was the eldest son of Jesse. David, the youngest son, was who God chose.  Man looks at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart.

But this is what I am sure of: GOD IS SOVEREIGN!

He changes times and seasons; He removes kings and sets up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. (Daniel 2:21)

He is in charge over the affairs of men. He can even use a Pharaoh or Cyrus to fulfill His purposes. How come? Because He is in charge!

4. What should we do?

First of all, go out and vote according to who you feel God has put in your heart.
Samuel had to hear the voice of God.
We all have to go to God, pray and vote according to your conscience.

5. What else can we do?

Pray! Pray! Pray for our nation.
This election campaign has been very divisive.
To reiterate what Ephesians 4:3 said, “Make every effort to keep the unity…”
To make every effort means to do your best within your powers to maintain unity.
“A kingdom divided cannot stand.”

How do we maintain unity? We can agree to disagree agreeably.
When someone shares who they will vote, we can maintain unity by respecting their opinion and not trying to convince them to change their mind. They’ve thought long and hard and hopefully have prayed.

Agreeing to disagree agreeably means respecting their opinion even if it differs from yours.

Remember, we can win the argument but lose the relationship in the process.

To quote Pastor Dennis Isleta, here’s what he said,
“I feel restoration does not begin after the elections but even as early as now. True Christlike character ought to be shown when no one is yet winner or loser. It is easy to be Christlike after one has won, and easy to be less Christlike when one has lost. So is it true about praising God for victory or asking Him for help for the nation when defeated.”

Hope this helps us.

God bless the Philippines!

WHEN THE ANSWERS TO YOUR PRAYERS SEEM DELAYED

Blog Banners.001Just because things don’t go the way we had prayed doesn’t mean God is not answering.

Mary and Martha had asked for Jesus to come because their brother Lazarus was deathly ill. But on hearing the news, Jesus stayed for a couple more days in the place where he was. Was this deliberate? Was He being intentional in His delay? I believe so. He is all knowing. He did say, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4)

Something was brewing.
What seemed to be a setback was actually a divine setup.

When Jesus came, Lazarus had already been in the tomb for 4 days lifeless. Martha brings in an accusation to Jesus and says, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:21)

We are quick to judge God’s intentions.
Lord, You are not really in control.
Lord, I thought You were all powerful.
Lord, You didn’t come through on time. Maybe You’re not that mindful of us.
Lord, I thought You were a prayer answering God.

But many times, we need to elevate our perspective to see something beyond what our natural eyes can perceive.

If Jesus came 4 days early, surely He is more than able to heal Lazarus from his illness.
The thing is, they would only experience Him as a healer.
But because he came a few days later, they got to know Him as the Resurrection and the Life.

What we see in the natural is very limited to explain all that’s happening in the spiritual.

God wants to reveal Himself to you the different attributes of who He is.
Often, we just see a limited view. But through our experiences and how He works through those circumstances will allow us to see Him in a new light and from a different perspective.

And when that happens, watch out for it bring you to a new level of praise.

By faith, when you do something you’ve never done before, you’ll be able to experience something you’ve never seen before.

WHO SHOULD I VOTE FOR?

Blog Banners.001Who should I vote for?

What are the guidelines in choosing the next president, senator, congressman, mayor, and so on?

The Bible gives us principles we can draw from the different leaders and kings that have ruled in the Old Testament.

One of them is Abimelech.

Abimelech was one of the sons of Gideon. His name meant “my dad is the king.” This would already give you an idea of what kind of character he was.

Gideon was one of the judges in Israel. A judge was one whom the Lord raised as a temporary and special deliverer and rescued the Israelites from their oppressors. After Gideon and his 300 won the war against the Midianites, the people wanted to make Gideon king. His response?

“I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you.” (Judges 8:23)

Gideon was reiterating what already has been established in Deuteronomy 33:5 that the Lord Himself was their King. They weren’t a monarchy but a theocracy.

GREAT LEADERSHIP ACKNOWLEDGES WHO THE ULTIMATE LEADER IS.

All of us are under authority.
Whether you’re the head of your house, student council president, unit manager, CEO or board chairman, you have delegated authority.
God is the Supreme Authority and there’s no authority that we are able to wield apart from Him delegating it to us.

Now, since Gideon chose to not become king, guess who aspired for it? His son, Abimelech did.

Abimelech goes to his mom’s house and hires her to be his campaign manager. After which, he goes to his relatives and gets their loyalty. And then, he goes to the key leaders of his city to explain his platform. He had great execution but with bad intention.

He was hungry for power and desired to get it whatever it took.

As a result, he killed his half brothers – all seventy of them. For whatever reason he had in mind, he needed to get rid of all the possible hindrances from him becoming king.

HUNGER FOR POWER CORRUPTS JUDGMENT.

As he started his campaign, his relatives spoke to the leaders of Shechem .
“So Abimelech’s uncles gave his message to all the citizens of Shechem on his behalf. And after listening to this proposal, the people of Shechem decided in favor of Abimelech because he was their relative.”(Judges 9:3, NLT)

It’s not wrong to have a relative rise in leadership. Moses and Aaron were brothers as they led Israel out of Egypt. But relationship is not the main qualification but character and competence.

Does the person have integrity? And does he have the skills to lead the city, region, province, nation?
David led God’s people well. And the Bible says that he led them “with integrity of heart and skillful hands.” (Psalm 79:72)

During the campaign, Abimelech’s relatives gave him 70 pieces of silver out of the house of Baal-berith. (Judges 9:4)

Campaign funds are necessary but somehow, they started using funds from evil sources. And here’s the principle:

MONEY FROM EVIL SOURCES IS RARELY USED TO HONOR GOD OR HELP OTHERS.

In choosing the next leader, it is important to know where they get their campaign funds for where they get it from is where they will be grateful towards.

With these campaign funds, Abimelech “used the silver to hire some lawless, dangerous men as his followers.” (Judges 9:4, NET)

He then goes to his father’s house and set out to kill his 70 brothers.

Be wary of men of violence.

MEN OF VIOLENCE ARE OFTEN SURROUNDED WITH MEN WHO ARE VIOLENT THEMSELVES.

But as the story goes, the very people who crowned Abimelech as king were the same people who plotted to get rid of him. The way he started his kingship was also the manner he was exiting it.

While the men of Shechem was trying to pursue him to get rid of him, he ran to a tower. As he approached the entrance, a woman dropped a millstone on his head and cracked his skull. Bad leaders and bad people attract each other, use each other and destroy each other.

But before we ask why we have bad leaders, let’s ask ourselves, “Are we a bad people?”
Are we manipulative? Are we clannish? Are we selfish in our thinking?
The leaders will come from the very people they will lead in the future. The leaders of tomorrow are already the leaders of today. Are we living in integrity? Is there a sincere love for the nation? Do we pay the right taxes? Do we still go when the traffic light’s red? Do we put the litter in our pockets or flippantly throw them on the streets?

What then is a sign of good leadership?

Jesus told us in Matthew 20:25-28:

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

A LEADER THAT SERVES IS A LEADER WORTH FOLLOWING.

Why do the candidates have to say, “When I am elected, I will do this and that…?”
Why wait till they’re elected? What have they done now? What is their track record?

A leader is one who serves now and not when he is elected.

These are thoughts from the life of Abimelech and are by no means exhaustive.
I pray that God will give us the insight and pray through who we will write on the ballots when the time comes we go to the precincts.

But most of all, to those who follow Christ, we are called to pray for our leaders and our nation.

We are told in 2 Chronicles 7:14:

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

As the people of God we are called to:

1. Humble ourselves.
2. Pray.
3. Seek His face.
4. Turn from our wicked ways.

Because of this, God will hear our prayers and heal our land.

God bless the Philippines.

WHEN VALUES ARE CLEAR, DECISIONS ARE SIMPLER.

Blog Banners.001When values are clear, decisions are simpler.

Now, simpler doesn’t mean easier for many decisions we need to make are difficult. But when priorities are clear cut, choices are simpler.

I read a recent article by Sports Illustrated on Jermaine O’Neal, a six-time NBA All-Star, Most Improved Player in 2002. He helped Indiana Pacers reach the NBA Playoffs 6 times but never got a championship ring.Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 8.34.42 AM

In 2013, he signed with the Golden State Warriors to play through 2014. But after a year with the Warriors, he decided to call it a career. The year after that, the Warriors went on to win their first championship after a 40-year drought.

When his former team won the championship, he was watching the game back at his house in Southlake, Texas. His 15-year-old daughter, Asjia watched her dad watch the game and asked, “Are you OK?”

O’Neal didn’t say a word.

She knew he was pondering on what might have been if he stayed another year.

Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 8.34.17 AMBut for years, he told his family that they were his priority. His daughter just recovered from an open heart surgery. And while contemplating on signing with the Warriors for another year (the year they won the championship), his son told him, “Hey dad, I need you.”

“Physically, I could have done it. Mentally, no. My son and my family asked me not to, and that was the trump card. That did something to me. I was seeing changes in my son, he became more angry. And for a guy who didn’t meet his dad until seven years ago myself, I understood what it meant not to have a dad there,” O’Neal mentions in his interview with Sports Illustrated.

After she asked her dad if he was ok, Asjia walks up to her room.

A few minutes later, she sends him a text telling him about how happy she was that he was home. After recovering from her open heart surgery, she made it to volleyball team in her school and is now a rising star.

Asjia tells her dad how she appreciates him not only being home but also being able to travel with her to watch her play her volleyball games.

“Dad, you being home is like you being a champion.”

This text made what he gave up all worth it.

“It made me so emotional. When she wrote the text, how much it meant to her, to get that, it cleared up everything. All the emotions I had, missing out on the championship. That did it and I knew right away that my time was over,” O’Neal said.

“Sometimes you can’t be a champion. That doesn’t determine who you are,” he says. “But you can be a champion father, and that means everything. That means everything.”

When values are clear, decisions are simpler.

To read the full article from Sports Illustrated, click here.