WHEN DEATH BRINGS GAIN

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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.


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WHEN BAD CIRCUMSTANCES LEAD TO GOOD RESULTS

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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.


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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
Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 7.54.24 AM
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


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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.


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WHAT IF MY PARENTS ARE NOT HONORABLE?

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5. Honor Dad Mom.001

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.


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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.


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TIMES WITH DAD THAT MEAN A LOT

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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.

 

 

 


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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.”

 


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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!


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WHEN THE ANSWERS TO YOUR PRAYERS SEEM DELAYED

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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.


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WHO SHOULD I VOTE FOR?

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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.


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WHEN VALUES ARE CLEAR, DECISIONS ARE SIMPLER.

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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.

 


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EASTER MORE SIGNIFICANT THAN CHRISTMAS?

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Blog Banners.001Christmas is the most celebrated time of the year. I can understand why. 

But what Christmas started, Easter actually completed.
The climax of Jesus’ mission on earth wasn’t His birth but His resurrection.

Theologian and apologist Henry Morris had this to say,

The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the crowning proof of Christianity. If the resurrection did not take place, then Christianity is a false religion. If it did take place, then Christ is God and the Christian faith is absolute truth.

What then is the reality, reason and relevance of the resurrection for the 21st century Christ follower?

1. REALITY

Jesus was crucified, died, buried and rose from the dead. Paul writing 20 years after Jesus died says in 1 Corinthians 15:6, “Then He (Jesus) appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of who are still alive.”

This is a critical statement of proof for the resurrection for there were 3 major theories to dispute the bodily rising of Jesus from the grave.

HALLUCINATION THEORY: The disciples were deluded thinking that Jesus rose from the dead.
Now if this were true, it’s hard to have 500 people hallucinate at the same time. And after they’ve finished tripping, you would think at least one would recant after being faced with a death sentence.

HOAX: Jesus’ body didn’t rise from the dead but was just stolen to make people think He rose.
This too is a hard one to pull off. It’s very hard to find someone willing to die for a lie.

SWOON THEORY: Jesus just fainted and didn’t completely die.
The Romans were experts at torture and execution. They couldn’t let this happen. And even if this theory was true, a half dead, wounded, mangled messiah wouldn’t be able to inspire followers to change the word – a fearful group to suddenly become extremely bold.

There’s only one explanation: He DID rise from the dead.

2. REASON

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:17)

Paul tells us that Jesus defeated death, hell and the grave by rising from the dead. But if Jesus didn’t rise, then we would still be in our sins. And if this is so, we are to be pitied among all men for we are believing a lie.

“If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all that he said; if he didn’t rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead.”― Timothy Keller

3. RELEVANCE

Because He rose from the dead, we too have the hope of victory over death. That’s why Paul could trash talk death to its face and say,

O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting.
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! (1 Corinthians 15:55, 57)

Because of this, we can live life fearlessly.
Because of this, we can be steadfast and immovable.
Because of this we can continue to abound in the work of the Lord because our labor in Him is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58)

Easter is not just a symbol but a powerful event that is a game changer!


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WHAT’S SO BLACK ABOUT BLACK SATURDAY?

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I was told to stay home during Black Saturday.
I couldn’t play with my friends because it’s a day of mourning.
I was also told that I couldn’t laugh or even smile because “God is dead.”

I could understand the significance of the day for it is a good moment to reflect on what Christ suffered. But at the same time, I was thankful that someone explained to me through the Scriptures that the fact is, God’s not dead. He is more alive than you and I are. His death accomplished more than we can ever wrap our brains around.

It was at Calvary that a Divine Exchange took place:
He took all our sins and we took on His righteousness.
An unfair exchange indeed but a amazing one nonetheless.

Let me share 3 words that were so highfalutin and foreign to me that I began to appreciate even more as I studied them.

1. EXPIATION

Expiation means the removal of our guilt and sin. Jesus’ death removes (expiates) our sin and guilt. What we feel as guilt coupled with the reality of it are taken away from us and placed on Christ who discharged it by his death on the cross.

John 1:29 calls Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
Isaiah 53:6 says, “The Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on him.”

2. PROPITIATION

While expiation refers to the removal of our sins, propitiation is the removal of God’s wrath towards us because of sin.

Jesus died on our place to remove the wrath of God that was to be poured out upon us. This was something we deserved for we have offended a holy and righteous God.

But because of His love, He poured all His wrath on His Son at Calvary. He removes His wrath and turns it into favor.

Hebrews 2:17 tells us that Christ made “propitiation for the sins of the people.”
1 John 4:10 tells us that “this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

The wrath we deserve, Jesus took upon Himself so we don’t suffer its consequences.

3. RECONCILIATION

While expiation is the removal of our guilt and sin, and propitiation is the removal of God’s wrath, reconciliation is the removal of our alienation from God.

Sin separates us from God. There is a huge wall that divides when we sin against God. But Jesus’ death removed this wall of alienation and, therefore, reconciling us back to God.

Romans 5:10-11 tells us “For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved by His life.”

All these took place when Jesus suffered, was crucified, died and was buried.
He died so we can have life.
He was wounded so we can be healed.
He was punished so we can be forgiven.
He endured rejection so that we can be accepted by the holy and righteous God.
He was cut off so that we may be joined to the Father.

As the Hebrew writer declares, how great a salvation we have!
Black Saturday is not at all that dark. In fact, it was something necessary for Him to go through so that we can enjoy what we have today.

Rejoice! He is not dead. He is alive. And what He accomplished, He did for you and for me so that we can enjoy a relationship with Him!


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DID JESUS REALLY HAVE TO DIE?

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Most will acknowledge that they have offended a holy and righteous God.
Many realize that they haven’t lived a perfect life.
And hordes will admit that they displeased their Creator.

But here’s a question many ask:
Can God not just grant divine amnesty and declare,
“By My authority, I now give you divine pardon!”

Did Jesus really have to come, become like one of us and die a torturous death on the cross?

Some of you might remember, there was a time when the people of God were held in captivity under the rulership of the Egyptians. God always wanted a people of His own but because they were under slavery, they weren’t their own nation.

God was calling them out through Moses but Pharaoh didn’t want to let His people go. To convince Pharaoh that it was He who was calling them out, He had to send 10 plagues to communicate to Pharaoh that Yahweh is the Lord. The last plague was the plague of the first born where all the first born was going to be visited by the angel of death.

But God’s instruction to His people was to get a lamb, cook it as their meal.
Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 9.03.11 AMHowever, they are to take the blood and wipe it on the doorposts of their homes so that when the angel of death comes, it will recognize the blood of the lamb on the doorposts. As a result, the angel of death will “passover” their home.

It was the last straw that caused Pharaoh to release God’s people from the clutches of the Egyptian hands. From that time on, it became an annual celebration meal of God’s redemption. You could just imagine the first born during that very first Passover meal thinking,

“The only reason I’m alive is because that thing on the table (the lamb) isn’t.”

Fast forward about 1500 years later, Jesus was having a Passover meal with His disciples. He took the bread and the cup, gave thanks and distributed them to His disciples. The meal was complete except for one thing – the lamb. They were probably thinking, “we have the bread and the wine, but where’s the lamb?”

And here’s the clincher:
“The lamb was not on the table for The Lamb was at the table.”

It was the night before Jesus was going to be crucified.

Why did Jesus have to die?

1. Sin’s payment was death. Sin is a capital offense. For the wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23). Jesus paid for our death so we can live.

2. Only a perfect sacrifice can pay the penalty. Only Jesus could fulfill this since He was both fully human yet fully God. The sacrifice had to be a perfect, unblemished, sinless sacrifice.
God made Him (Christ), who knew no sin, to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

3. A Holy God cannot allow sin go unpunished.
Jesus paid a debt He didn’t owe to save a people who owed a debt they couldn’t pay.

That’s why when John the Baptist saw Jesus, he declared, “Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” This sacrifice no longer just covers our sins, He is able to completely wash it away.

All we need to do is to trust His atoning work in Calvary.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

This is a reason to rejoice!
This propels us to worship!
This truth will result in a life of gratitude!


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WHAT’S SO MAUNDY ABOUT THURSDAY?

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What’s so special about Mandy Thursday? I understand Friday for that’s when Jesus was crucified. Saturday was when Jesus was in the grave. As for Sunday, it was the greatest event in all of human history.

What happened on Thursday? And why’s so “maundy” about it?

Maundy comes from the Latin word where we derive the word ‘mandate’. It was a day where a command was given by Jesus. It was on the night before he was betrayed where He took the cup and the bread, blessed and gave thanks to share the meal with His disciples.

It was during the meal that Jesus took a basin of water, wrapped a towel around His waist and started to wash the disciples feet. So what was the “mandate” that made Thursday Maundy?

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this, all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

What He did (washing the feet of his disciples) preceded what He said (love one another).

It was a powerful moment for if He only told them what they needed to do, they would most likely obey but the impact wouldn’t be as intense and compelling.

If their Master could serve them the way He did, how much more can they do the same to others?

His command to love one another is an overflow of the love we have received.
We love because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)

REFLECTION APPLICATION:

1. Pray to Jesus now and thank Him for His sacrificial love to take our place on the cross for He died on our behalf. He paid the debt He didn’t owe because we owed a debt we couldn’t pay.

2. Pray for someone now to know Christ personally as their Lord and Savior (family member, friend, officemate, classmate).

3. Text that person a verse to encourage and reflect on what Jesus did on the cross.


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MAKING THINGS RIGHT WHEN CHOICES WERE WRONG

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Many today misuse the grace of God to excuse their behavior to continue living in their lifestyle of sin.

Yes, the grace of God is available to save us from sin, but it is also available for us to say NO to sin.

Titus 2:11-12 declares: “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.”

Nick and Elma came to church after being invited by their children. They have been in a live-in situation for years and had thought that since they’ve been in the same situation for 25 years, God would somehow understand.

The grace of God empowers us to correct whatever wrong we’ve stood for in the past.

Watch their testimony on how God spoke to them to make things right.

 


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FORGIVING WHEN YOU’RE HURTING THE MOST

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Oklahoma City Thunder coach Monty Williamswife was killed in a car accident. And in front of 900 friends and family members, he delivered a moving and speech of love, strength, wisdom and forgiveness.

I want to close with this, and I think it’s the most important thing we need to understand. Everyone is praying for me and my family, which is right, but let us not forget that there were two people in this situation. And that family needs prayer as well, and we have no ill will towards that family.
In my house, we have a sign that says, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” We cannot serve the Lord if we don’t have a heart of forgiveness. That family didn’t wake up wanting to hurt my wife. Life is hard. It is very hard, and that was tough, but we hold no ill will toward the Donaldson family. And we, as a group, brothers united in unity, should be praying for that family, because they grieve as well. So let’s not lose sight of what’s important.

Towards the end of his speech, he thanks everyone who came and said something profound.

“We didn’t lose my wife. When you lose something, you can’t find it.
I know exactly where my wife is.”

Words of hope, security and faith.

On a time of trial, where are our eyes turned towards?

Hebrews 12:1 encourages us to fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith.

Here’s the video of his eulogy.

 


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THE PROBLEM WITH REDEFINING MARRIAGE

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Through the years, certain words have been redefined.

I remember growing up, the word “salvage” meant someone getting killed. But later on, I found out that it really meant rescuing and saving something or someone.

Same with the word “dope”. I grew up thinking it was drugs. These days, young people say, “That dope doh!” which means, “That’s so cool!”

In basketball, to get a facial doesn’t mean going to a dermatologist to get cleaned. It means getting dunked on in your face.

Certain words when redefined seem harmless. But there are certain words when we redefine them will not only be dangerous but outright destructive.

Marriage is one of them.

Jesus in Matthew 19 talks about marriage.

1. Marriage is a PHYSICAL union.

Matthew 19:5 says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

It is a physical union, a coming together of sorts, between a man and a woman. These days, we have moved boundary lines and allowed marriage no longer just for male and female but people of the same gender.

We’ve rebelled against those lines and said we can have an affair as long as it’s in secret. Ask Ashley Madison about it. Their tagline says that because life is short, then have an affair.

2. Marriage is a PROVIDENTIAL union.

Matthew 19:6, “So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

It is God who joins two people together.

While it is true that He does that, in the bigness of the Sovereignty of God, He has given us the freedom of choice to make the decision who we will get married to.

3. Marriage is a PERMANENT union.

Matthew 19:6, “So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Divorce is the undoing of the work of God.

The only reason why divorce was allowed was because of the hardness of our hearts – sin.

That’s why in many wedding vows, the promise is till death do us part. It’s not until another career do us part nor another bank account do us part or another person do us part, but until death do us part.

“When emotions become the primary basis for our decision to get married, then emotions will also become the primary basis for our decision to separate.”

Here’s my message yesterday at Victory Fort that further expounds on this topic of marriage.

God bless you guys.


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“GOD WITH SKIN”

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A father was tucking his son to sleep. After the lights were turned off, the son asked his dad to stay a bit longer with him.
To comfort his son, the father said, “Son, God is here and is always with you.”
To this, the little boy replied, “Yes. But I want someone with skin.”

Right before the turning point of history – from BC to AD, God had manifested His presence in various ways. While His people were in the desert, it was through a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
When they entered the promised land, God manifested and rested His presence in the temple.
But right at the central point of history, at the fullness of time, as Paul said in Galatians, God sent His Son as a full manifestation of His divine presence.

Paul wrote the church in Colossae saying, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” (Colossians 1:15)

“Image” implies representation and manifestation. Jesus was representing the Father. But not only did Jesus represent His Father, He Himself was God. He declared, “Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9)

How significant was this for you and me?

First and foremost, it meant our salvation. Through Christ, we are redeemed because of His atoning sacrifice at Calvary.

At the same breath, He is not just for us, He is also with us – “Immanuel.”

Hebrews 4:15 tells us, “For we do not have a high priest incapable of sympathizing with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin.”

As you go through life, fear may strike. At times, frustrations may hit you. Furthermore, testings and trials may come your way unexpectedly. But the assurance of His presence as we go through them assures us that we are not alone. He is for us and not against us. He will never leave nor forsake. He is the same yesterday, today and forever.


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