WHAT THIS VIRUS HAS ALLOWED ME TO PONDER ON

After taking a walk around our neighborhood tonight with my family (which we haven’t done in quite a long time), I remembered a composition my daughter in law, Pauline, sent me.

It is apparently written by Chinese pastor to a brother in Christ in Istanbul. I am uncertain about the veracity and accuracy of the author’s information, but the composition is worth the read and will cause you to consider the author’s insights nonetheless.

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“QUIET CHINA”

The hustle and bustle of China finally quiets down, the restless society comes to a still, and the restless Chinese people gradually calm down.

The wild animals that were once held by humans in cages finally managed to keep humans in cages.

Humans finally lower their proud head and have begun to think quietly: Are we still the king of the earth?

Mankind finally feels the power of nature once again….

In the face of the threat of death, human beings have only begun to reflect seriously, only to realize that a lack of awe-inspiring social atmosphere will lead to more harm and more risks.

The greedy heart is being purified by the virus, and the mouth that loves to eat is being punished by the virus. The people who have been soaking in the bright red and green places all day have been driven home by the virus, saying…. “Go home!”

There are fewer and fewer people on the street, few cars on the road.

The air is getting fresher…. the haze is gone…. the sky is getting bluer…. the sun is getting brighter…. family lives are getting warmer, harmonious, and cordial. People’s hearts have become more and more calm.

People who haven’t read for years have picked up books at home. Parents and children who had no communication, couples who couldn’t speak a few words a year have opened up the conversation box. Children who do not know how to respect the elderly have begun to be filial.

The virus teaches human beings a vivid and profound lesson. It makes us understand awe. It also lets us know what is called “good times.”

It also makes us feel true love on earth. It makes us gradually fall in love with “Return to the Road.”

We really should be grateful for this “enemy.” We need such an enemy to give us a “reminder” and give us “empowerment.”

The virus will not leave so quickly. It needs to see the cultivation of human good habits. The virus will not continue to rage, because human love will gather more power to keep the virus away. Time will tell us everything. Time will also prove what is right.

The virus reminds us that THERE IS AN ALMIGHTY.

And humans are just humans.

THE GRACE TO RELEASE BITTERNESS AND UNFORGIVENESS

Recently, I spoke to a man who felt offended and disrespected. While he had all the reasons to feel upset, it was very clear that his unforgiveness was eating him up. But it wasn’t just him, even his wife was greatly affected by his unforgiveness.

As a result, their relationships with their children, friends and other relatives were being affected. They would skip certain events and miss out on family gatherings because of the offense.

Hebrews 12:15 tells us to “see to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.”

When we allow bitterness to take root, three things happen.

1. Bitterness causes us to fail in obtaining the grace of God.

God’s grace is available for us to do the right thing. Morever, it is availble for us to be the right person even in a very difficult circumstance.

2. Bitterness causes trouble.

We may not perceive it but there are stumbling blocks that would hinder us from moving forward to all that God has for us. We end up staying at home. We avoid people. We lose our joy. We miss out on the peace God gives. These and so much more happen as a result.

3. Bitterness defiles other people.

To be defiled means to be ‘polluted’ and ‘contaminated.’ This is something God doesn’t want us to be in. When we are polluted, our minds are clouded and we end up saying things to others that can be hurtful, cutting and unkind. As a result, people get ‘contaminated’ and influenced by our words that they too look at other people the same way.

Lord, we know that your grace is available for us to release forgiveness and offense. We recognize that it is not the easiest thing to do, but that is why your grace is more than sufficient. Help us to embrace this grace so that we will not cause trouble and end up defiling others. Thank you for the freedom we will receive as we move in faith and respond to your grace to forgive. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.

IF WORDS CAN HURT, HOW CAN I DISCIPLINE MY TONGUE? HERE ARE A FEW QUESTIONS YOU CAN ASK.

In a comment culture we have today, it is very easy to drop words that can tear people down. Social media platforms’ comment sections have empowered each of us to say something after every post, article or photo. It can be a good thing or a bad thing.

In Ephesians 4:29, we are commanded – “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.”

In our desire to make people laugh or be funny, we occasionally end up crossing the boundary lines of respect and courtesy.

Here are a few questions we can ask ourselves before saying something or commenting online:

1. Will it hurt others?
2. Will it encourage those who will hear?
3. Will it build my character?
4. Will it be helpful to the person I’m talking to?
5. Will it glorify God?

As we start this year (and decade), may God give us to grace to be mindful of what we say… “to not let any unwholesome talk come out of our mouths but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (NIV)

Happy New Year!

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.

CONTRIBUTING FACTORS TO TEEN DEPRESSION

My wife Jenn and I spoke at a Marriage Retreat recently. During the Q & A portion, a couple asked about teen depression – how can we prevent it and how can we process it when it happens to our kids.

As we pondered the question more even after the retreat ended, I thought about three major (though not exhaustive) contributing factors to feelings of depression. Having worked as a guidance counselor and a teacher for many years, these insights have come from interactions with students and parents alike.

(DISCLAIMER: What I will be talking about are feelings of depression and not clinical depression for if felt for quite long periods of time, it’s best to consult a professional.)

The three contributing factors would be identity, family, and community.

1. IDENTITY

In an article written by Culture and Youth Studies, this current youth generation is the first to grow up without ever having seen a world without SMS, social media and similar forms of online platforms. Many of them access social media sites more than 10 times a day.

In a University of Missouri study, they found out that Facebook use was tied to depression, depending on how the users consumed the platform. The term “surveillance use” was introduced. It meant that users checked up on how their friends were doing and compared what they saw in their own lives which led to feelings of depression. They would “size up their accomplishments against others” producing envy that their gadgets, relationships, trips, clothing or possessions could not match up to what their friends posted. Thus, you can see #goals in their comments.

As parents, we have to teach our children that their identity and security can never come from what they have but in Who they have. Stuff will never satisfy. Only One can.

Our relationship with Jesus will be the answer. If we see who we are – sinners and messed up people and see who Jesus is – He who died a death we should have died and lived a life we should have lived, then there can be hope. Gadgets will get outdated. Relationships will come and go. People will change. Possessions will depreciate. And clothing will go out of style. But our relationship with Jesus is the only one that can truly satisfy.

We are accepted, loved and received. We don’t have to perform or prove ourselves. We belong not because of what we have done but because of what Christ has done for us in Calvary. This is the gospel that we are to preach to ourselves every day. We are fully known yet we are fully loved. For God so loved, He gave. He demonstrated this love that while we were at enmity with Him, He died for our mess ups.

We need to realize that we can send our kids to the best schools and give them the best education, but that too will never suffice. We can give them the largest lump sum one can give as an inheritance, but that too can never satisfy. “Silver and gold we have none.” But what we can give them is Jesus.

2. FAMILY

The relationships we have is a major factor as well. Having worked as a guidance counselor for years, children have come to my office countless of times asking for prayer. Much of our prayer items were related to familial relationships. From their parent’s marriage to their relationship with siblings, these are the content of our conversations.

This I can say – one of the best gifts we can give to our children is a strong marriage. There is a sense of insecurity that attaches when they feel that their parent’s marriage is shaky.

Wounds that come from how kids are treated growing up also come into play. From verbal abuse to physical maltreatment to emotional oppression, these are things that can lead to loneliness, sadness, pain which ultimately lead to depression.

3. COMMUNITY

Who our kids associate with is an important thing to consider. Hurt people hurt people. Insecure people attract insecure people. Broken people seek completion from others who unfortunately are just as broken. That is why the first factor is important. We need to know whose we are more than who we are. Because whose we are will determine who we are. As we embrace who God is in our lives, we begin to understand who He designed us to be.

A community who understands this will remind each other of our real value – value that is only found in Christ.

But when young people get together with others who are unsure of who they are in Christ, then they will merely try to feed off each others’ insecurities. Surveillance surfing happens to compare what others have and what they don’t have.

But a community who knows Who designed them and what they were designed to do will ward off emotions that will not be beneficial for the young person.

There is indeed hope. With man, it may seem impossible. But with God, all things are possible. What the enemy may have planned for evil, God has the ability to turn around for good. He can cause all things to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

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NOTE: If you are going through feelings of depression for more than 6 months, it would be best to consult a professional.

CAN YOU FEEL THE PRESSURE OF VALENTINES DAY?

To some extent, we call can.
That’s probably why CNN tells us that Valentine’s Day sales will skyrocket to $18.6 billion this year.

Why is there so much pressure? A few come to mind – social media posts, friends, culture, Netflix, songs on the radio. These and more can weigh a person down with so much pressure.

While it is good to celebrate love and the people we love, how do we not allow this day to dictate our emotions, lead to frustration, ruin expectations and harass us towards depression?

TO THE SINGLES:

1. Find someone to express your love towards.
I don’t mean to find a date or check out Tinder. You have so much love to share that there are many who need an encouragement or appreciation. From a relative in the hospital or a friend in dire need, looking outward rather than inward may be one of the best things you can do this Valentine’s Day.

2. Celebrate what you already have.
Try this out. List 5 things you are thankful for in your life. Pretty soon. You will notice a change of attitude. You have many things to thank God for.

Celebrate with friends. Go out and watch a movie or eat in Mercato. Just enjoy the company of friends God gifted you with.

3. Enjoy your day.
No pressure. Laugh. Live. Learn. Have fun.

TO THE MARRIED…

1. Clarify expectations.
We end up disappointed when we are unclear about some of our expectations. Worse, we compare our spouse to others that we see online. Be secure in your relationship. God brought you together. He is the glue that bonds you. Remember, the two have become one. He is the Author of your relationship.

2. Match expectations with your budget.
Because of the pressure that besets us, we forget that Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be just on February 14. You can celebrate before or after. That way, you even avoid heavy traffic and high costs. At the same time, Valentine’s Day doesn’t just have to be on February 14. It can be celebrated Jan 7, March 26, July 1, September 17. In other words, you can celebrate it every day with the one God gave you.

3. Enjoy your day.
Look at each other and say a prayer. Thank God for each other. Give each other a kiss (or more since you’re married. Ha!) But whatever it is, have fun. You are with the person gifted you with.

To the dads, make sure you make your daughters feel loved and appreciated. If they find it at home, they won’t need to look for it outside. I give my daughter a bouquet of flowers every year during Valentine’s Day so that when a man tries to sweep her off her feet by giving her flowers, it won’t really impress her much. Ha!

FAILURE DOESN’T MAKE YOU A FAILURE

This week, I heard about many students who felt discouraged after they didn’t make it to the university that they applied for. They felt that their dreams have been dashed.

There are those who started the year with bad news – losing a loved one.
Others, business hasn’t been growing. In fact, it’s been taking a nose dive.

But whatever our situation may be, know that our current reality does not determine our identity.

Jesus does.

Neither does your past failures.
Your past doesn’t determine who you are.

Being “in Christ” determines our identity.

Our theme this week for our prayer and fasting globally is “In Christ.”

“In Christ” determines our new identity. Being in Christ not only redefines who we are, but it also supersedes all other possible definitions. Gender, culture, nationality, ethnicity, political affiliation – every label is secondary and subservient to our identity in Christ.” (Ephesians: In Christ Manual)

Remember, His image is stamped on you. Who you are is because of who He is not what you have done or have failed to do.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)

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.

A LIFE THAT HAS BEEN SHOWN MERCY

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Emil grew up in a squatter’s area in Pasay city called Tripa de Galina. Because he grew up poor, he believed that he will die poor. All that changed when he met Dustin.

Dustin met him in the University of the Philippines. Because he wanted to reach out to Emil, he did something quite brilliant. He asked Emil if they could register together for the next semester. That being the case, he registered for the same classes and had the same breaks so that he could take advantage of those moments to share Christ with Emil. It actually worked!screen-shot-2016-10-31-at-8-44-20-am

“One thing that Dustin said that really hit me was when he said, ‘Emil, you have a great destiny in God.'”
“Who me? A poor squatter kid from Pasay?”

As Emil embraced the gospel of Christ, his life started to change. He realized how loved and accepted he was by his Father in heaven. That through Jesus Christ, he indeed had a great hope and future.

Today, he teaches urban poor kids about the love of Jesus and they too have a ‘great destiny in God.’ After finishing his mechanical engineering course from UP, he had a lot of offer to work in the country and abroad. But because of his extreme gratitude for God’s salvation project in his life, he chose to do kingdom work and is now a children’s pastor in Victory Katipunan.

Truly, when we have received mercy, we too can extend mercy. When we have received grace, we too can dispense grace. That’s the power by which we can do good.

Luke 10 tells us the story of the Good Samaritan. A man got mugged, robbed and left for dead. It wasn’t the Levite nor the priest that helped but the Samaritan, their lifelong enemy. Because of the racial divide, the Samaritan owed the man nothing but hostility and hate. But that wasn’t what he did. He helped the man, bandaged him, used his donkey and sent him to an inn to be nursed back to full health.

I realize that when we read this story, we point to ourselves and motivate ourselves through guilt. We need to be like the Good Samaritan. But we can’t be like the Good Samaritan until we meet the Great Samaritan. Until we meet the True Neighbor, we can’t be the neighbor we need to be for others. Jesus is the Great Samaritan who came down to our road of despair, picked us up from our destitution and nursed us back into newness of life.

May God give us the grace to always remember that what we have received, we can give away for that alone is the way to truly be a neighbor to others.

LORD, thank You for saving me. I was downtrodden and on the road towards destruction and yet you picked me up and rescued me. I have nothing to boast about for there was no way out of my destitution and sin. But You came. Your rescued. You gave me a new life. As a result, I can extend kindness to others for I have been shown kindness. This is my prayer, in Jesus’ name. AMEN.