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.

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.

I DON’T KNOW HOW TO EVANGELIZE

Evangelism sounds like such a daunting task for the Christ follower.
What do I have to do? Do I need to share my secret sins?

What if I grew up in a Christian home? Do I need to make my testimony sound amazing?
What if I get rejected?
What if they don’t want to listen?
Will I be ridiculed?

All these questions and more haunt us.

Dr. Rick Richardson, in his book, “Reimagining Evangelism” shares the concept of being a travel guide. Sometimes, we think that evangelism is closing the sale – that they pray the sinner’s prayer after we share.
But more than being a travel agent that tries to close a sale, be like a travel guide where we journey with people and inch them closer to a relationship with Christ.

One will plant, the other will water and someone else may end up harvesting (see 1 Corinthians 3:6-7).

But ultimately, it is God who brings the growth and draws people unto Him. (see John 6:44)

This Saturday, September 30, as Victory Metro Manila, we will endeavor to engage our community with the love of God.
For Victory Fort, we will #ShareAMealShareTheStory. (video below)

But however God moves you to share His love, know that you do it in the power of the Holy Spirit with the motivation of Christ’s love that compels us.

Have a great weekend ahead.

“I’M HUMBLE.”

“I’m humble.”
It’s typed with quotation marks for a reason.

While I was riding my bike to the office this morning, I thought about the times when people tell me that they appreciate my humility. How do I answer to that? “Gee, thanks. That’s one thing I’m proud of.”

Of course, I don’t say that.

But I’d think it though.

I realized that sometimes, the way I would respond was not because I was humble but because I was insecure. I would say, “I don’t know if I’m the best guy for the job” or “I am uncertain if I should be asked to do this.” It is quite difficult to distinguish from the outside whether it’s humility or insecurity, but you and I know which one it is if we really look into our hearts and be honest with ourselves.

Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? None of us can, but God does. His Spirit reveals to us the real condition of our hearts. We want approval, control, comfort or power. Or at least I do. These are the four root idols that you and I have according to Eric Geiger.

But gratefully, we are on the road called sanctification. Justification teaches us that we have been saved through the atoning work of Christ in Calvary. Sanctification is the process of us being molded and shaped into the image and likeness of Christ. Paul declares in 2 Corinthians 3:18, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”

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)

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, I look at my own heart and see the rottenness of it. My depraved condition shows me how much I need to preach the gospel to myself each and every day. But thank You, Lord, for saving me and transforming me from glory to glory until one day, I am conformed to the image and likeness of my Savior. Until then, may Your grace overwhelm me to follow you. And as Paul declared in 2 Corinthians 5:9, we make it our goal to please You… each and every moment of the day. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.PS. This was a tough one to write for it reveals the wickedness of my own heart. But I hope this helps some of you some way.

SELFISH GENEROSITY

I realize that the title sounds oxymoronic, but it made me think of it when I read an anecdote.

Once upon a time, there was a gardener who grew an enormous carrot. So he took it to his king and said, “My lord, this is the greatest carrot I’ve ever grown or ever will grow. Therefore I want to present it to you as a token of my love and respect for you.”

The king was touched and discerned the man’s heart, so as he turned to go the king said, “Wait! You are clearly a good steward of the earth. I own a plot of land right next to yours. I want to give it to you freely as a gift so you can garden it all.” And the gardener was amazed and delighted and went home rejoicing.

But there was a nobleman at the king’s court who overheard all this. And he said, “My! If that is what you get for a carrot—what if you gave the king something better?” So the next day the nobleman came before the king, and he was leading a handsome black stallion. He bowed low and said, “My lord, I breed horses, and this is the greatest horse I’ve ever bred or ever will. Therefore I want to present it to you as a token of my love and respect for you.”

But the king discerned his heart and said thank you, and took the horse and merely dismissed him. The nobleman was perplexed. So the king said, “Let me explain. That gardener was giving me the carrot, but you were giving yourself the horse.” (Keller, Timothy. The prodigal God: recovering the heart of the Christian faith. NY, NY: Penguin Books, 2016. Kindle)

Reading the anecdote, it made me think that it’s actually possible to give either for the glory of God or the credit of self. I can give with the purpose of personal satisfaction that I may feel good about myself.

In 2 Corinthians 8:2 -5, Paul described the generosity of the church in Corinth. “In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord…”

They gave first to the Lord. Our motive and the object of our giving has to be first the Lord. This will keep our generous hearts from being selfish.

MINISTRY IDOLATRY

As we were about to finish day three of our two week module for the Wheaton Graduate school with 25 students from 8 nations which includes South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Philippines, USA, Singapore, UAE, and a creative access nation, our professor Ed Stetzer ended the day talking about our role as pastors based on Ephesians 4:11-12.

We are called to equip the saints to do the work of ministry. He then lists down typical reasons why pastors don’t equip much. The following reasons were:

Job security
Insecurity
Pride
Idolatry

He focused on the topic of ministry idolatry. Idolatry is when we make a good thing the ultimate thing. And according to Tertullian:

“The principal crime of the human race … is idolatry. For although each individual sin retains its own proper feature… they all fall under the general heading of idolatry… all murder and adultery, for example are idolatry for they arise because something is love more than God – yet in turn, all idolatry is murder for it assaults God, and all idolatry is also adultery for it is unfaithfulness to God. Thus, it comes to pass, that in idolatry all crimes are detected, and in all crimes idolatry.”

Not all idolatry is carved stones of primitive people.
When idolatry drives us, idolatry dominates us.

If idols are not made with carved stones, what then are they made of in this day and age?

For the pastor, it may be:
– praise of people over pleasing the Father
– the value of career over faithfulness to Christ
– fear of failure over trust and obedience
– professional performance rather than personal devotion

How can we tell if we are prone to committing ministry idolatry?

1. How much of my contentment is connected to the tide of my ministry influence?
2. Do my prayers reflect that I am more thankful for the salvation God has provided for me or for the ministry He has given me?
3. If I had to choose, which would I prefer: a closer walk with Jesus, or a more “effective ministry?”
4. If my ministry were suddenly taken from me, would I still rejoice that my sins are forgiven?
5. Do I seek God only for His blessing and direction or do I also seek God simply for Him?

These are heart piercing questions and they are worth asking ourselves every so often.

May the Lord grant us the desire for Him alone, passion for His Word and love for the things that He loves.

STUDY TO SHOW YOURSELF APPROVED UNTO GOD

I am currently on a short study leave for a couple of weeks with 20 plus pastors, campus missionaries, and leaders from our Every Nation global family. While it is a lot of hard work because of the course requirements, it is indeed an honor and a privilege to get further equipping.

We are told in 2 Timothy 2:15 to “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”

Do your best to present yourself as one approved.

We are saved by grace, but the outworking of that grace is expressed in our day to day life. Paul said that “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” (1 Corinthians 15:10)

God’s grace was evident as he worked harder.

A worker who has no need to be ashamed.

The gospel is God’s power unto salvation. And because of that, we are not to be ashamed. (Romans 1:16). We have been given the privilege of sharing the greatest message of all time – the gospel of Jesus Christ. By it, we are reconciled back to our relationship with the Father.

Rightly handling the word of truth.

When we share God’s Word, it is a privilege. But with every privilege comes responsibility. We are to rightly handle God’s Word. We don’t have the luxury of sharing personal opinions for it is not what we think that’s important; it’s what God says that is.

Prayer:

Thank You, Lord, for Your Word. It is living and active. It is like a double edged sword that pierces the heart. Help us to rightly handle the Word with clarity, accuracy, and conviction from the Holy Spirit. May we share it with as many as we can for we know that it brings life to the soul that is dry, weary and in need of Your grace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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THE LOST SKILL OF LISTENING

In a world that values multi-tasking, listening has become a treasured commodity.

Why do I say that? It’s common that people are in front of screens (computer, smartphone, tablet, old fashioned TV set) while having a conversation with a family member, friend or office mate. How do I know? I catch myself doing the same thing.

We are told in James 1:19,
“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.”

Being quick to listen means to refrain from giving a quick reply or rebuttal whether to disagree, argue or even agree.

William Stringfellow puts it this way:

“Listening is a primitive act of love.”

It is indeed one of the best ways we can show love to people. It may be one of the most effective expressions of love for it honors the person speaking.

So next time someone engages you in a conversation, here’s what you can do:

1. Put your phone down (or gadget).
2. Face towards their direction.
3. Look at them eye to eye. Looking at another direction can still convey inattention.
4. Acknowledge what they are saying.
5. Clarify what they are saying if needed to make sure you got what they’re saying.
6. Allow them to finish their sentence before responding.
7. Respond accordingly.

How about you? Anything else you’d like to add to this list?

May God continue to give us wisdom in how to add value to the lives of people we encounter. Remember, they too were made in the image and likeness of God.