AS THE YEAR COMES TO A CLOSE…

As 2017 comes to a close, it is natural for one to reflect on what God has done in him, for him and THROUGH him.

Reading through Judges 10, in 5 verses, 2 lives of leaders were mentioned. One of which had this description:

“After him arose Jair the Gileadite, who judged Israel twenty-two years. And he had thirty sons who rode on thirty donkeys, and they had thirty cities, called Havvoth-jair to this day, which are in the land of Gilead. And Jair died and was buried in Kamon.” (Judges 10:3-5)

Many other judges and leaders were mentioned in that particular book in the Old Testament. Their lives, families and what God had accomplished through them were listed. But these were all that was mentioned about these 2 guys. Maybe the author of the book didn’t have the information or maybe not much was accomplished in their lifetime than just what was mentioned.

It made me think that when my life is over, what will people remember? Thirty children? That I rode thirty donkeys and ruled thirty towns?

What is my significant contribution to the Kingdom of God?
What will people remember about what God did through me?
Who are the people I helped in my lifetime?
How is the world a better place because of me?
Did I fulfill my purpose?

We are not merely called to live life to the fullest but more so to live it according to His purpose.
His divine vocation is more important than our personal aspiration.

WHEN YOUR CURRENT CIRCUMSTANCE DISPLAY THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF A FUTURE PROMISE

What do you do when your current circumstance display the impossibility of a future promise?

This is a valid question. We are faced with a garden variety of situations where our faith is challenged.

God said that He will provide but my mom’s hospital bill has now ballooned to 3M pesos.
God said that He is the Prince of Peace, but there’s so much conflict in our family today.
God said that if I believe, I will be saved together with my household. But my kids are in bad company and are not walking with God.
God said that He gives wisdom to those that ask, but I have messed up every time I got into a business endeavor.

Luke 1:5-25 narrates to us the story of Zechariah. The Bible says he was righteous, walked blamelessly and obeyed the commandments of the Lord. (1:6). But in spite of that, not every prayer item in their list had been checked off.

It is possible for one to live for God yet not have all his prayers answered. The goal is not the gift but the relationship with the Giver. Our relationship with the Giver is more important than the gift itself.

The Israelite nation hadn’t heard from God in 400 years. It’s been 4 centuries since God has spoken through a prophet. The last one was Malachi. But just because He is quiet, it doesn’t mean He has forgotten. He is faithful to fulfill His promises to His people.

Zechariah asked God how can they have a baby for they were in their old age. God was going to fulfill His promise. He will accomplish all that He said He would. It was just a matter of time. And He doesn’t necessarily reveal everything at one time.

There are things we don’t know, can’t know or won’t even know until the proper time. If God showed us everything He has planned in the next few decades, we might end up stressed, anxious or even fearful.

But at the end of his nine-month ordeal, he finally got it. God will accomplish what He wants to do. In the temple, Zechariah doubted. But after nine months, his faith grew and followed through with God’s instructions to call his son John though Jewish tradition dictated that the firstborn was to be named after his father.

Whatever failure we’ve made in the past, God can surely turn it around, covered by His grace. God can turn the marks of failure into memorials of grace.

As we continue with the Christmas celebrations this December, remember that God is faithful to keep His covenant promise even if we have been filled with unbelief.

WHEN WE THINK WE KNOW BETTER THAN GOD

What he thought was the greatest heist in the history of bank robbery became the dumbest.

McArthur Wheeler robbed 2 banks in Pittsburg in 1995. He had a gun but didn’t have a mask on. By 11:00 pm, his video taken by the CCTV camera was all over the news. By midnight, he was arrested. While he was being taken into custody, he was shouting, “But I wore the juice!”

Puzzled, the police asked him what he meant. Apparently, he learned that you can use lemon juice as invisible ink. So he smeared his face with lemon juice hoping that his face would be invisible to the bank security cameras. He was gravely mistaken.

This prompted 2 men, David Dunning and Justin Kruger, both from Cornell University to do a study which eventually became known as the Dunning-Kruger effect. It is when a person overestimates his ability. Those most lacking in knowledge and skills are least able
to adequately assess that lack.

We see this when we watch a basketball game where we feel we’re better than the players or in the America’s Got Talent where people who audition overestimate their talents.

It is possible to carry this over our spiritual walk with God. We think we can do a better job than God. We may not articulate it but we have definitely thought it.

“If only God gave me that promotion, I wouldn’t be in a financial mess today.”
“If only God provided us a baby, my husband and I would still be together.”
“If only God healed my mom of cancer, I wouldn’t be as messed up.”

This is the Dunning-Kruger effect at work spiritually.
But do we really know more than He does?

Isaiah 55:8-9 (NLT) says, “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

We don’t see the end from the beginning, but He does because He is the Alpha and the Omega.
We don’t know how things will pan out for we don’t have the full view of the things to come.

But because He does, then we can have confidence as we trust Him with all our hearts, not leaning on our own understanding, trusting Him in all our ways so He can direct our paths. (see Proverbs 3:5-6)

RAISING SONS NOT SERVANTS

Raising next generation leaders is a lot like parenting.

Because leadership development is a process and not a one-time event, there are a lot of conversations, teachable moments and even correction that happen along the way.

I was speaking with Joseph Bonifacio, our Every Nation Campus Executive Director the other day on this exact topic. We were trying to assess our own leadership styles and the styles we’ve seen others employ.

There are those who are like policemen.
Policemen check if people are following the rules.
Policemen are quick to waive their badge to wield authority.
Policemen are swift in making judgments and giving penalties.

Don’t get me wrong. We need policemen. They maintain order and they bring a sense of security. They serve and protect.

However, when leading a church or an organization, leading as a father rather than a policeman is the better route.

A policeman leads with rules while a father is by relationship.
Both have a vision.
Both have a mission they want to accomplish.
Both have tasks.
Both have people they lead.
Both have people they are accountable to.
But one leads with rules and the other by relationship.

As Steve Murrell said in one of our Asian Pastors Equipping Conferences, “I know that Joey Bonifacio has said that discipleship is relationship. I am here to also say that leadership is relationship.” I couldn’t agree more.

As a result, I have to look at my own leadership and ask, “Am I raising sons or am I raising servants?”

Servants say, “We have to obey because Pastor Paolo is here watching.”
Servants say, “We need to do this because Paolo said.”
Servants say, “We are obliged to do this because that’s the policy.”

Policies should serve the people and not people serving the policies.

Sons have a different perspective.
Sons say, “I do this not because I have to but because I want to.”
Sons say, “It is my privilege as a son to serve in the house.”
Sons say, “I have responsibility and ownership because I am a son.”

A policeman will patrol, regulate, protect and enforce. They may end up having their objectives accomplished but in the end, will raise servants (obedient citizens) and never sons.

As a father, I want to raise sons who can think critically and lead in the future. Maybe even replace me and become way better than me.

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF MY LIFE?

This is a question that every person will be confronted by at some point in their lives.

I went to a couple of funerals last week. While it is such a sad event and I sincerely am sorry for the loss of family and friends, I would dare say that I appreciate going to them as well for I am confronted by this question every time.

In Quora, many attempted to answer this ever-intriguing query.

Here are a few answers.

“You’re assuming there is a purpose. Why do you believe there has to be? It’s possible – indeed, quite likely – that life has no purpose at all, any more than rocks or hydrogen atoms have a purpose.” – Frank

“There is no purpose to life in general. Individual people can have a purpose. Perhaps animals can, but we don’t know.” – Peter

“There is no purpose to life in general. You have to create a purpose for yourself. This is the hardest question each of us asks in our life. “What is my purpose?” From that flows: “Who am I? What do I want? Where will I go? Do I matter?” It’s not easy. This essentially is “staring into the abyss.”

But He who created us didn’t design us without purpose. Even British philosopher and atheist Bertrand Russell said, “Unless you assume a God, the question of the purpose of life is meaningless.”

This means that if there’s no God, then there’s no grand scheme or significance to anything. You are a mere accident or a product of random choice. Thus, there is no right or wrong. If this is the case, why then ask the question of purpose?

But in Colossians 1:16, we are plainly told about what we were created to do.

“For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.”

All things were created BY Him, THROUGH Him and FOR Him.

You and I were created to bring Him glory.

This being said, we are to ask ourselves the question, “how then do I live my life in light of this?”

We are told that “whether we eat or drink, we do it for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31). This spills over our workplaces, campuses, neighborhoods, reunions, family gatherings and athletic events. You don’t have to be a pastor to give Him glory. You don’t need to be a worship leader to worship Him. And you don’t have to be a missionary to fulfill His calling in your life. You can give Him glory wherever you are and whatever you are doing at the moment.

And in view of what God has done through Christ, in view of God’s mercy, we now offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, our true and proper worship. (see Romans 12:1)

I’VE BEEN WALKING WITH CHRIST FOR A WHILE, BUT WHY DO I STILL MESS UP?

I met with several men early this morning to study the Bible. We are currently going through the book of Galatians. As we went through chapter 2, we got to the point where Paul had to confront Peter because of his wrong behavior. (Galatians 2:11-14) Peter was clearly in the wrong, which was why Paul had to bring correction.

After this, one of the guys asked a question. “Peter has been walking with Jesus for quite a while. And this incident happens after Pentecost. Isn’t it discouraging that after all this time, we still mess up?”

True. We still mess up. And it sometimes feels like we move two steps forward and one step back. But here’s the deal: God is not done with us. Life is actually a series of midcourse corrections.

An airplane never gets to its destination in one straight line. It may veer a bit to the left or a lot to the right. But with the Pilot steering, midcourse corrections are made.

Jesus is the Author and the Finisher of our faith. The goal is not spiritual perfection but spiritual progress. The aim is to not to make a mistake but to relentlessly pursue Christ. The objective is not to never veer, but to stay the course. “He who calls us is faithful, and He will surely do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

That’s what sanctification accomplishes.

At the end of Peter’s life, we are told by tradition that he was crucified for following Christ. And he asked to be crucified upside down because he didn’t feel worthy to die the same death as his Master.

He may not have started well. He may not even have been perfect in his walk with Christ. But he kept His eyes on Christ and stayed the course.

Remember, “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

AS A CHRISTIAN, WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO IN THIS PLANET?

Everyone has a mission.

Mission is defined as an undertaking, operation, task, job, trust or assignment. Every individual, every family, every group and every organization has a mission. Even Ethan Hawke has one.

In the recent Asian Pastors Equipping Conference, Pastor Steve Murrell asked a question that was addressed to everyone whether in full-time ministry or not.

“Does your mission line up with the mission of God?”

For us to be able to answer that question, we have to first be clear about what the mission of God is.

In Matthew 4:18-25, we can see 3 aspects of this Missio Dei or the mission of God.

1. We are called to MAKE DISCIPLES, not just GATHER CROWDS.

It’s not about how many people show up. The word crowd is a relative term. The mission is to make disciples. And Jesus did that in a small group relational discipleship setting.

The value is not about how many people show up in our meetings and services. The main value is Christ. And the Great Commission He gave was to go and make disciples.

When we get our identity from numbers, not from Christ, then we have missed the point of the mission of God.

2. We are called to PREACH THE GOSPEL, not COMMUNICATE MOTIVATIONAL SPEECHES.

These days, pastors have been called or even dubbed themselves as ‘thought leaders,’ ‘cultural architects,’ and ‘motivational speakers.’

Steven Seamands in his book “Give Them Christ,” he emphasizes the need to stay the course. We are called to preach the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and return of Christ. We are to preach Christ – who He is, what He did and what He is all about.

Preaching should lift us out of the temporal and set us on the track of eternal.

3. We are called to HEAL THE AFFLICTED, not SPIRITUALIZING PHYSICAL, SOCIAL and EMOTIONAL NEEDS.

Matthew 4:23 tells us that Jesus went about healing the afflicted.

We are to pray for the sick every chance we get. Sick people have a better chance of getting well the more we take time to pray for them.

Moreover, it is not just about healing the sick. It is also healing societal ills. We are to be an advocate for the oppressed, the hurting and the powerless.

This is the Missio Dei.

The mission of God is this: DISCIPLING, PREACHING, AND HEALING.

TOP 10 THOUGHTS ON BUILDING FAITH IN YOUR MARRIAGE

Last week, our pastors from Victory Fort, Victory Makati, and Victory Malate had a couples’ retreat. Allow me to share my top 10 takeaways from day 2 from Bishop Juray and Deah Mora’s session. (Thoughts from day one here.)

1. We are told that we are to be willing to pay the price to be successful. But we have to remember that we are not the only one paying the price when it comes to time. It includes our family as well.

2. When God put man and woman together, love was not mentioned in the equation in Genesis 2:20. We have over-romanticised love. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was right –

“It’s not your love that sustains the marriage but it’s the marriage that sustains the love.”You have the marriage. Therefore, work on the love.

3. Marriage will make you better, stronger as you allow it to. It causes you to do greater things than you can ask or imagine.

4. Children are a blessing from the Lord. We’ve found out that as the kids kept coming, God kept blessing. God sets us up for greater blessing, not greater burden.

5. Our differences in marriage were intended by God. Our goal in our marriage is not to find the differences but to work with them to grow us through them.

6. When sin comes in, it eventually destroys exclusivity. God’s intention for marriage was to make it special and exclusive.

7. We are called to trust God and to trust each other in our marriage. We are to trust God in our spouse and trust that God is at work in and through our spouse. We may not understand each other completely but God is at work whether we see it or not.

8. We trust God for our decisions. And after we’ve prayed, sought counsel and considered God’s Word and eventually still make a mistake, He has the ability to cause all things to work together for our good. (Romans 8:28) Remember, God can rescue us from our mistakes. God is bigger than our mistakes.

9. The goal in marriage is not comfort and peace but faith. Peace and security will only come as we have faith in God. It’s not the size of our savings. Peace is not found in our retirement plan or insurance policy. Peace comes as we have faith in God.

10. At 20, the Bible is true. Even at 70, the Bible is still true. And it says, “the just shall live by faith.” A family budget helps us see where we are. But budgets should not set our limitations. God dictates our finances. He is the Ultimate Provider. Move in faith, not in fear.

PRIORITIES IN MARRIAGE

Today is the first day of our couples’ retreat for our pastors for our Fort Hub (Makati, Malate and Fort Bonifacio).

Allow me to share a few quick takeaways from today’s session with Pastor Juray and Deah Mora.

– “More than having a Christian president, one of the greatest contributions we can give to this nation is a marriage that works at home.”

– Our devotion to God is our topmost priority. As He takes the #1 spot, He alone has the right to dictate on which ones will be number 2, 3, 4 and 5. That now eliminates anything that is not according to His will like for example a second or third wife.

– Your values will dictate your priorities. And your values are dictated by your highest value – God. If God’s purpose is for you to be in the Philippines with your family, then migrating to another country won’t be an option no matter how huge the salary may be.

– The saying, “Sacrifice today so you can enjoy tomorrow” only works with money but not with relationships. Whoever is sacrificed is always the one that is of lesser value no matter how beautifully we articulate it. Relationships suffer when we sacrifice no matter how good the reasons may be.

– Priorities reflect what we value.

THE GOSPEL IS NOT JUST TO BRING US TO HEAVEN

Is the gospel’s goal only to bring us to heaven?

I just finished a book by N.T. Wright entitled “The Day The Revolution Began.” It was quite a thought-provoking book. Loooong but thought-provoking indeed.

He pounded on the idea that the gospel is not just the gospel of the afterlife but the gospel of the kingdom.

To a fresh understanding of what I have called the “goal” of the gospel through a fresh understanding of the early Christian use of the phrase “forgiveness of sins” (which obviously relates directly to the early gospel formula “The Messiah died for our sins”). The goal is not for people “to go to heaven when they die.” That is never mentioned in Acts. The whole book of Acts assumes, first, that God’s kingdom has already been well and truly launched through the death and resurrection of Jesus (1: 6; 8: 12; 19: 8; 20: 25; 28: 23, 31); second, that this kingdom will be fully and finally established when Jesus returns (1: 11; 3: 21); and, third, that in this final new world all God’s people will be raised to new bodily life (4: 2; 24: 15, 21; 26: 23). (Kindle, page 154)

Once again, I do not think any early Christians would have denied that this was true, but it is interesting that they didn’t put it like that. (Kindle location 155)

I’ve often preached this part of the gospel – that we are forgiven, saved, rescued and receive eternal life. But this gives me a different perspective. I am saved not just from something (sin) but for something (the kingdom).

The “royal priesthood” is the company of rescued humans who, being part of “earth,” worship the God of heaven and are thereby equipped, with the breath of heaven in their renewed lungs, to work for his kingdom on earth. The revolution of the cross sets us free to be in-between people, caught up in the rhythm of worship and mission. (Kindle, page 363)

Our lungs have been renewed for worship and mission. We are in-between people. This is not our final destination. We are citizens of heaven. And while that hasn’t happened, we are called to advance God’s kingdom together.