HOW DO I GET THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT BACK?

My 19-year-old daughter, Janina and I had a conversation last week. She told me that she spoke with someone who wasn’t feeling the Christmas spirit this year. She asked her why and the answer was composed of several things that didn’t go well this year, specifically this Christmas season.

We continued our conversation and came to an insight:

If the Christmas spirit is based on current circumstance, then our Christmas will change from year to year. But if it is based on a past event – Jesus’ coming to bring hope, peace, and redemption, then every year will consistent for there is always a reason to celebrate.

Last Saturday, my wife, Jenn and I went to our son’s basketball game in Las Pinas. It took us 3 hours to get there, not to mention that we got lost which was totally my fault. At that moment, we weren’t feeling the Christmas spirit. What were our current circumstances? Terrible traffic. The possibility of missing our son’s game. The thought of burning hours in the car instead of doing something else productive. The list can go on.

As we progress through the Christmas season, here are a few things I’d like to suggest to remind us of the Christmas season.

1. Constantly remind yourself of God’s goodness and faithfulness, beginning with His salvation through Christ.

For in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly supplied to you. Therefore I will always remind you about these things, even though you know them and are established in the truth you have. I consider it right, as long as I am in this bodily tent, to wake you up with a reminder, knowing that I will soon lay aside my tent, as our Lord Jesus Christ has also shown me.
(2 Peter 1:11-14)

Everything after salvation is bonus.

2. Find gratefulness in every little thing.

“The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me.” (Psalm 50:23)

There is a miracle in every moment that God gives us.

3. Talk to others about the meaning of Christmas.

“In that day you will say:
‘Give praise to the Lord, proclaim His name;
make known among the nations what He has done,
and proclaim that His name is exalted”
(Isaiah 12:4)

As we ended our conversation, Janina said, “we often talk about Christmas as the season of giving. While that is true, it is more than giving. Christmas is about the Gift (Jesus) and the Giver (our Heavenly Father).”

May we all have a blessed Christmas!


I’ve posted below a Christmas song Janina composed as a result of her musings this Christmas season.

Lyrics:

VERSE 1:

I see lights all over town
decorations all around
but I don’t see you anywhere
Christmas music resounds
But you’re still nowhere to be found
I look and you’re not there

PRE-CHORUS 1:

This year, I won’t forget ‘bout you

CHORUS:

This Christmas I will do it right
I’ll tell your story with all of my might
How you gave up your life for mine
When you came the first Christmas time

VERSE 2:

So, It’s not about the mistletoe
or the man laughing, “ho, ho, ho”
let it snow? I’ll let you know

More than the gifts that we receive
or the food on Christmas eve
These things are temporary

PRE-CHORUS 2:

This year, we will remember you

CHORUS 2:

This Christmas I will do it right
I’ll tell your story with all of my might
How you gave up your life for mine
When you came down on Christmas time

VERSE 3:

One night, a baby was born
to be our King forevermore
His promises made true
He will wipe every tear
Finally, our Hope is here
In Him, all things are new

CHORUS 3:

This Christmas I will
do it right
I’ll tell your story
with all of my might
Oh, the story of Jesus Christ
How He gave up His life for mine
He was ready to pay the price
When He came the first Christmas time

TURN AROUND TRIP

 

Why did I even do that?

It was a quick turn around trip to Singapore.

My son, Ryan, had a basketball tournament for he was selected to be a part of the 15 and under team for the 7th Asia Pacific Youth Cup in Singapore. I flew on a Thursday morning to watch his games. Friday night, I flew back to Manila because our church had a Marriage Retreat my wife and I were supposed to teach in Tagaytay.

We drove up to Tagaytay for the retreat and I packed again that night to run to the airport at 1 AM to catch the red-eye flight back to Singapore. I had someone preach for me at the services I would normally be in – the 10 am and 12-noon services at Victory Fort.

I was so thankful for my younger sister who works for an airline that gives travel vouchers to family members. But since it was a travel voucher, I was merely on chance passenger status.

I got there 2:15 am and was told that the flight was overbooked. I wasn’t sure if I was going to get in. To top it, there were 2 other chance passengers trying to catch the flight.  I was told to come back 45 minutes before the flight was to leave. Long story short, I was anxious, exhausted and grumpy.

When I got to the line 45 minutes, I was grateful that there were 25 no-shows for that day. I secured a seat! And I was able to join my son again for the rest of the Singapore trip.

Why did I do that? Why come back to teach and then go back to Singapore?

I reckon that our church can have many pastors but my son can only have one dad.

It has been my prayer to never sacrifice family on the altar of ministry.

Here’s a video scrapbook of our recent trip:

WILL YOU SETTLE OR WILL YOU BELIEVE?

What you tolerate, you will never change.

Years ago, our bathroom faucet was broken. Instead of filling up a glass in a couple of seconds, it would take at least 30 seconds. But since we got used to it, we just tolerated it.

After a couple of months, we were able to get a plumber who can fix it and boy, we were grateful. Brushing our teeth was quicker and easier.

The human is very adaptable. We can make the adjustments quite easily. But when we adapt, we actually begin to settle. Because we got used to certain things, we are okay if our situation doesn’t change.

– “Because I already have 2 kids with him, though I wanted to get married, I guess, I’ll just settle with what we have.”
– “At least my job provides for my family. It doesn’t matter if it is hurting other people or disobeying the laws of the land as long as I’m being a good provider to my family.”
– “We’ve gotten used to it. I know we weren’t supposed to have pre-marital sex. But I don’t want to lose him.”
– “This wasn’t what I felt God called me to do. But I don’t know how to start. I’ll just settle for this.”

These and many more statements have been said. When we adapt, we begin to settle.

Abraham in Genesis 17 started settling. “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!” (17:18, NIV). It’s as if he was telling God: “Lord, I know you promised but it’s taking quite a long time (about 24 years). You know what, Lord, I’m okay with Ishmael. Just bless him. I can work with him.”

God said it was going to be through him (Abraham) and Sarah that their descendants were going to come. But they were beginning to settle.

God didn’t want them to settle. That was why He reveals Himself through a different name – El Shaddai which means God Almighty (Genesis 17:1). His name means that He is not subject to physical limitations like us. His power is infinite, unlimited and all-sufficient. He doesn’t need our help and advice to accomplish what He said He would.

Job declared in Job 42:2, “I know that you can do all things and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”

He is El Shaddai, God Almighty. He reveals Himself during impossible situations where He would get the greatest glory.

Allow Him to reveal Himself to you in the midst of your impossible situation as El Shaddai.

The question is – will you settle or will you believe?

 

HEALTH OVER HYPE

When a plant is healthy, it will naturally grow and bear fruit.

I spoke to Jared (not his real name), one of our small group leaders. He spoke to someone in church who stopped going to small group meetings out of the blue. He asked her why. Her response? She felt pressured. Her leader kept telling her, “since you have gone through this class and are done with that retreat, then you need to start your own small group.”

I am super sure that her leader meant well. Her intentions were to see her small group member take leaps of faith in leading someone to Christ. Growth and maturity happen when we lead others. But since she felt she wasn’t ready, she stopped going to her small group because she was afraid she was going to be asked again.

I told Jared this: “We have to remember, when a plant is healthy, it will naturally grow and bear fruit.”

We never see a farmer with a whip on his hand and force the plant or a tree to bear fruit. He does not whip the tree trunk to compel it to bear fruit.

What does he do? He fertilizes. He makes sure there’s ample water supply. He takes out any obstruction from the sun coming through. He does his best to do all he can to keep the plant healthy and remains in an environment of health.

I absolutely appreciate all our small group leaders. They work and labor in the field to bring many to Christ. They sacrifice time and resources. But let us remember that in our zeal to raise leaders, we want to make sure that the people we are leading are first healthy before we launch them out.

Relationship over rules.
People over process.
Health over hype.

What can we do?

1. Sincerely ask how they are spiritually.

Not if they doing ministry. Not if they are serving in church. Not if they are doing good deeds.
Ask if they are growing in their walk with Jesus.

2. Ask the Holy Spirit for discernment when they are ready to lead.

The Holy Spirit will lead us. He will guide us into all truth. If we acknowledge the Lord in all our ways, He will direct our paths. I realize that no one will ever be ready. I wasn’t and I don’t know if I ever will. But there’s a sense of timing and indicators to see if one is okay to be launched.

3. Perform check-ups every so often to see if they are growing and healthy.

Just because one is leading a group, it doesn’t mean he is spiritually invincible. How do I know that? It’s because I am not. I need people to help me, teach me, coach me, disciple me, train me and rebuke me if necessary.

As my pastor, Joey Bonifacio, would often say, “Slow is fast.”
When we hurry the process, we end up slower.
But when we take our time to strengthen and do all we can to see growth and health, then in time, God will launch them to bear fruit.
It’s never about the numbers.
Each one is valuable to God.

RELATIONSHIP OVER RULES


In our recent family trip to Melbourne, I met an owner and CEO of his company. He shared with me his experience when he took a business trip to Bali.

Because he had to stay a couple of nights, he booked at a 5-star hotel. He usually stays at the Ritz Carlton hotel, but when he looked at a hotel booking website, this other hotel (which also was a 5-star hotel) had a significant discount so he went ahead and booked a room himself to avail of the savings.

When he got to the hotel in Bali, he found out that his assistant also booked for him. Because of the double booking, he had 2 rooms under his name.

Talking at the guy at the front desk, he asked if there was any way to cancel the other room since he only needs one. The guy said no. Then my CEO friend asked if they could at least give him a couple of breakfast vouchers the next day so that his managers can eat with him during their breakfast meeting. The response? Another “no.” Frustrated, he asked, “Is there anything you can possibly do for me?” The front desk guy shook his head and said, “Sorry there’s nothing we can do.”

That night, my CEO friend went to a banquet he was invited to and met the General Manager of Ritz Carlton Bali. When asked about his experience with where he was staying, my CEO friend started venting his frustration to the Ritz GM. To this, the GM of Ritz said, “I’ll see what I can do.” My friend said, “No need. It’s okay. I was just sharing with you my experience.”

When my friend got back to his hotel room, he was surprised that there was a spread of food and goodies, a couple of bottles of champagne and a couple of breakfast vouchers for his managers. He called the Ritz GM and asked him what he did. The Ritz GM said that he just called the GM of the hotel my friend was staying in and relayed his experience.

My friend asked, “Why did you do that? I appreciate the gesture but why? You’re not getting anything out of this plus this was your competition.”

To this, the Ritz GM replied, “Wherever you are, you are Ritz Carlton family.”

Wow.

My CEO friend looked at me and said, “Pastor, guess where I will book next time?”

After he told me his story, I had a few takeaways.

1. Serve.

Whether it will directly benefit us or not, just go ahead and serve.

2. Insecurity is unattractive.

The Ritz GM didn’t feel slighted at all when a faithful client tried out another hotel. Sometimes we disconnect and cut off relationships because we feel people seem disloyal.

3. Empower others to serve.

It’s better to make a mistake on the side of serving people rather than serving policies. Remember to share this with your team members. And when they make a mistake by going over the budget or bending over backwards to accommodate when they decide to serve, commend rather than scold

Remember, relationship is more important than the rules. The rules serve the relationship not the other way around. Policies and rules are helpful. But they exist to strengthen and serve the relationships.

WHO I AM IN CHRIST

I am accepted . . .

I am God’s child. (John 1:12)
I have been bought with a price. I belong to God. (1 Corinthians 6:19,20)
I am a saint. (Ephesians 1:1)
I have been adopted as God’s child. (Ephesians 1:5)
I have direct access to God through the Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 2:18)
I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins. (Colossians 1:14)
I have been filled in Christ and I am complete in Him. (Colossians 2:10)

I am secure . . .

I am free forever from condemnation. (Romans 8:1,2)
I cannot be separated from the love of God. (Romans 8:35)
I am confident that the good work that God has begun in me will be completed. (Philippians 1:6)
I have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7)
I can receive mercy and find grace in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
I am born of God, and the evil one cannot touch me. (1 John 5:18)

I am significant . . .

I am Christ’s witness wherever I go. (Acts 1:8)
I am God’s temple. (1 Corinthians 3:16)
I am a minister of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18)
I am God’s co-worker. (2 Corinthians 6:1)
I am seated with Christ in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 2:6)
I am God’s workmanship. (Ephesians 2:10)
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)

HOW TO SAY NO BY SAYING YES

A few weeks from now, we are going to have our Couples’ Getaway, a retreat for married couples who want a refresher or even a tune up so their relationship can continue to honor God.

One of our ministry staff called me and asked how to communicate with a couple who was still unmarried and wanted to join the marriage retreat. For obvious reasons, it wouldn’t be wise for them to come along. But I assume that they wanted to strengthen their relationship with God and relationship with one another.

I went ahead and called  Jasmine (not her real name). I asked how long she has been coming to church with her boyfriend. In the conversation, I found out that not only did she want her boyfriend to know Christ, but they were going to get married in a few months.

After the conversation, I gave her a few suggestions. I told her that a good start is to attend our pre-marriage seminar entitled “Blueprint For Marriage”. Because they wanted to learn how to get started right in their marriage, the seminar would be a great help.

Since I also found out that she wanted her fiancé to know Christ in a greater way, I told her that I would be willing to meet them for coffee or lunch to help them in their journey.

Coming out of that conversation, I explained a few principles with our staff member to share how we can best serve our people in the church and even those outside.

1. GET CONTEXT.

Before saying “no”, it is important to get what is in their hearts. All Jasmine wanted was to get good teaching for their relationship. She also wanted her fiancé to know Christ which is a noble desire.

2. GIVE ALTERNATIVES.

Rather than saying “no” immediately, find ways to help them consider other options that would achieve similar results in the best possible manner.

3. GO THE THE EXTRA MILE.

After figuring out what is the best route to take during the conversation, serve by going the extra mile. Leadership is more than just influence. It is about serving.

It is critical that we learn to hear people out before saying no and find ways to serve them in the best possible way. We can say no, but not out of policy but out of a desire to serve. The principle is this: “people over policy.”

WHEN YOUR STRENGTH IS FADING AND THE WEEK IS BARELY STARTING

Last Sunday, Janina, Ryan and I joined a duathlon. Ryan, who’s 14, and I tried it last year and wanted to do it again this year. Janina, our 19-year-old, wanted to join us. Nathan also wanted to race but he got sick last minute.

Since it was the first time for Janina, I wanted it to be a pleasant experience for her that she would want to do it again next time. So I paced with her to guide her throughout the race.

Since it was a duathlon, the sequence was run then bike then run again. In the last leg, we were in our last couple of kilometers. We were tired and worn out. So our plan was to do a slow run, maybe even walk for a minute right before the last kilometer so that we can finish strong. Of course, we need to finish strong for the cameras and Instagram. 🙂

But right before we were at the point of the slow run/walk, out of the blue, Janina’s best friend, Hannah showed up. She surprised her. This gave Janina a boost and totally forgot about her exhaustion.

The Bible says in John 14:16 that the Holy Spirit is our ‘parakletos’ – helper, advocate, and comforter. When we say comfort, we usually think of ease and freedom from hardship. But comfort comes from 2 words. “Com” for “with” and “fort” for “strength” where we get the word fortitude.

The way Hannah gave Janina a boost of strength in the last kilometer of the race, the Holy Spirit has the ability to strengthen us for this life’s race we are running. And the awesome thing is that He doesn’t just do it in the last leg, but He has the ability to empower us the whole time.

PRAYER:
Holy Spirit, strengthen us for this week. We acknowledge and honor You as our Comforter, Advocate, and Helper. Because of this truth, as we surrender and yield to your leadership, we know that this week will work out for my good and ultimately for God’s glory. In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

—————————————————————-

Here are several photos from the race…

THE KIND OF LEADERSHIP NEXT GENERATION LEADERS LOOK FOR

I was speaking with a professor in one of the top business schools in our city one morning. Our discussion was on how times have changed in terms of leadership.

In the 70’s, 80’s and towards the 90’s, leadership was about STRATEGY, STRUCTURE and SYSTEMS. He came from the hippie generation and because that was the cultural element then, structures and systems were key to lead people who highlighted free expression towards an extreme extent.

But as the millennium shifted, things have changed. Harvard Business Review had an article on the changes in the leadership style that is needed to rally the millennial generation.

As my professor friend emphasized, it’s no longer STRATEGY, STRUCTURES and SYSTEMS but PURPOSE, PEOPLE and PROCESS.

Does this mean systems and structures are not important? Of course not. But what this means is that the way we lead the younger generation has to shift as well.

People over process.

More than top-down leadership, we employ inspirational leadership. More than positional, it is now collaborative.

May God give us wisdom as we lead others in this day and age.

HOW CAN I AVOID FALLING ASLEEP WHEN I READ GOD’S WORD?

If the Bible is living and active, how come I have a hard time reading it?
How can I study it and get the most from it?

Peter declares in 2 Peter 1:3-4:

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.”

God gave us precious and very great promises so that we can live a life that honors God and grow in sanctification to become more like Christ.

Here’s an acrostic that may help as you P.O.N.D.E.R. on a passage of Scripture each day.

Is there a …

P – PROMISE TO CLAIM

Bible Gateway tells us that there are about 5467 promises from God for His people. Herbert Lockyer wrote a book called All The Promises of the Bible and claims that there are about 8,000 promises. But whether 5,000 or 8,000 or 3,000 as some would say, that is definitely at least more than 8 promises per day in a year that we can claim.

O – OFFENSE TO REPENT OF

Whether an offense towards God or other people, the Bible, through the Holy Spirit has the ability to bring conviction when we are in sin.

N – NEW INSIGHT TO EMBRACE

The Bible is full of truths and insight that will revolutionize the way we live. Romans 12:2 says that we are to be transformed by the renewal of our minds. God’s Word transforms our lives by the new insights we can gain.

D – DIRECTIVE TO OBEY

From the Old Testament to the New Testament, there are instructions that God gives so that we can live a life that honors Him. In addition, since He is our Creator, He has a specific design and intent for each of us. His Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. (Psalm 119:105)

E – EXAMPLE TO FOLLOW

The Scriptures are filled with narratives of men and women who were called by God, lived for God and even failed before God. From these lives, we can learn lessons to avoid and error to avoid.

R – REASON TO PRAISE GOD FOR

There is always something in Scripture to be grateful for. There are many things in the Bible we can appreciate – from our salvation to what He does for us each and every day.

I pray that this will help you ponder on the Scriptures and give you a way to study His Word.

Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15, King James 2000 Bible)