THE DIFFICULTY OF DEALING WITH OFFENSE

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Offense is a very difficult thing to deal with.
False accusations.
Untrue statements.
Stolen opportunities.
Painful conversations.
Hurtful words.
Silent treatment.

These and more are hard to go through.

In Luke 15:20, when the prodigal son came to his senses and endeavored to return home to his father after squandering all his inheritance and ended up working in a pig pen, he didn’t know what to expect.

Neither did the father know what to expect. Without context and without knowing how the son would respond, he runs to him and embraces him. He leaves his porch and offers forgiveness to his son.

I thought that was incredible. Without any idea how the son why the son came back and how he would respond, he goes. The son could be coming back for more money. He could be coming back to steal from his brother. He could be coming back for some other reason but without context, the father goes and offers forgiveness.

When he embraced his son, he must have smelled like the pig pen. Remember, he just came from there. But here’s the truth:

The magnitude of God’s love is greater than the stench of our sin.

He buries his face into the son’s shoulders and kisses him.
He must have played this scenario in his mind over and over.

When offense happens, we usually replay both the painful experience and what we would do when we see that person – what we would say, how our facial reactions be like and our rebuttal to their excuses. But the father must’ve replayed in his heart how he would respond for out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth will speak and our actions will show. His response? Compassionate and forgiving love.

And here’s my main point: When offense happens it’s always your move.

Jesus said in Mark 11:25, “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone.”
And then in Matthew 5:23, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go.”

In both scenarios, Jesus says to go and offer forgiveness, whether you’re the offender or the offended. It’s always your move.

The father didn’t stay on the porch standing and waiting for his son to crawl on his knees and beg for forgiveness. He runs and offers it.

That’s the picture of many homes today. Too many people stand on their porches with folded arms and the painful experience replaying in their hearts waiting for the offender to crawl for forgiveness.

“Well, it’s his fault.”
“She started it.”
“I’m not to blame. He is.”
“They caused the mess. They need to clean it up.”

We all stand on our porches of pride and sink into hellish misery.

May the Lord give us grace to remember that the way we’ve been forgiven empowers us to forgive others. With the mercy dispensed to us, we can dispense it to those who have offended us.

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your amazing example of forgiveness. None of us deserve it. Not of us are worthy of it. And yet, You did not remain on Your porch in heaven but came to us – from heaven to earth, that we may receive forgiveness, freedom and restored fellowship with You. Help us to do the same with people whom we have offended and those who have offended us. May we be a people who is forgiving for we knows what it means to be forgiven. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.

YOU ARE AN OVERCOMER

blog-banners-001(Snippets from Carol Mkize’s message at the Every Nation World Conference 2016 Day 3)

Ukunqoba is a word that means overcomer.
You are an overcomer because God abides in you.
Intimacy with God will drive you to continue when you are no longer with other people.
You will overcome because God’s word abides in you.
Chaos is fertile ground for Christians.
Everything we learned we can now apply in the campus.
1 Samuel 17:38-40: Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them.
“I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off. Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.
To (Spiritual) Fathers:  
What God used for you to overcome, it might be time to put it down.
The armor you used may not be the armor the next generation will use.
To the Next Generation.
Try it on first.
Don’t deny it right away.
Obedience and submission are not out of the question.
Don’t assume first that it will not work.
We have to walk with this God our fathers walked with.

CAMPUS NIGHT

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(This message was shared by Joseph Bonifacio at the Every Nation World Conference 2016 Day 3)

Why do we do campus ministry?

We do it because we are crazy enough to believe that if we can change the campus, then we can change the world.
This is not just a slogan. It’s our objective.
This is not just a dream we have for ourselves.
This is Jesus’ dream for every son and daughter of God.

How then does this translate?

1. CONNECT WITHOUT COMPROMISING.

Matthew 5:13. You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

Everyone is called to do this.
Let’s teach the next generation to connect with their generation without compromising their faith and values.

2. EXCEL FOR GOD’S GLORY.

Matthew 5:14. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.

Excellence cannot be hidden and neither can lack of excellence.
Excel for Christ so that the world will ask why and would want you to be in their team.

3. REDEEM ALL OF SOCIETY.

Matthew 5:16. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Salt that remains in the salt shaker is useless.

The answer to the complication of wickedness is a complication of righteousness. The problem of society is found in the root of sin. And that answer to that is Jesus.

Don’t blame the rottenness of the world. You are called salt and light mainly for that reason – so that you can bring the needed change.

VIDEO SNAPSHOTS FROM CAMPUS NIGHT HERE:

MULTI-ETHNIC HEADACHE

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(This was a message given by Pastor Steve Murrell at Every Nation World Conference 2016, Day 1.)

When Pastor Steve’s American friend met his future father in law who is Japanese, they had no clue how their cultures were so different.

When introduced, one will shake hands (American)  and the other will bow (Japanese). But his friend got a little too close to give a handshake. With a slight bow and being so close to his future father in law, they ended up bumping heads… a multi-ethnic headache.

In Luke 24, there was not a lot of ethnicity in the church. God had to open their minds to understand what Jesus mentions in verses 45-47.

Being called to go to every nation, we will be with people who look different, talk different and maybe even smell different. But the call remains – Go to all the nations!

This gospel is going to be preached to all nations.
The word for nations is the word “ethnos”.
The gospel is going to other ethnicities.

People talk about being color blind. But the problem with being color blind is that you don’t get to celebrate color.

“The church is like the eye. It has a little black in it and a little white in it. And without both, we cannot see.” – C.H. Mason

This gospel message has to go out to the nations and you are the messenger.
A witness is a messenger.
But you are not going alone. Jesus said that His Holy Spirit is going to come.

As a motorcyclist is foolish to go out without a helmet, so is a witness who goes out without the Holy Spirit. It will not only be foolish but also dangerous.

WALKING TOGETHER

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(This was a message given by Pastor Brett Fuller of Every Nation Virginia at Every Nation World Conference 2016, Day 2.)

Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet? Amos 3:3

Walking together has many benefits. It may have challenges but the fruit we produce is so much better. We can do things much better than if we do them all by ourselves.img_3429

Walking together requires CONVICTION, CONSISTENCY and COMMITMENT.

1. CONVICTION

Conviction to walk together in the midst of diversity.
Acts 13 shows us picture of diversity. The leaders were Barnabas who was Jewish, Simeon who was also called Niger (word when translated is black), Menaen who was a friend of Herod, Lucius from Cyrene and Saul who was a Jew who loved Gentiles.

Walking together requires a conviction to walk with each other no matter the differences.

2. CONSISTENCY

Walking together also requires consistency.
There ought to be a rhythm.
We are with one another enough that we have lots of opportunities to offend each other. But that is not the issue. We are walking together in the rhythm of the same beat – to go and make disciples of all nations.

We walk together towards a specific direction.
Direction is necessary to get to where we need to go. Going the same direction means confining myself to a navigable route. One of the highlights being in an Every Nation Conference is being in the sessions. But equally amazing is walking through the lobby meeting with the people we can call family.

“We may not know each other – I don’t know you and you don’t know me but I like being with you because we’re going the same direction.”

3. COMMITMENT

And finally, walking together requires commitment.
We are with each other enough, we will give more than enough reason to stop walking with each other. We will say things that may offend. We will give each other dozens of opportunity to say goodbye. But we are here for the long haul. And it is a privilege to walk together for the long haul for the purposes of God.

This is miraculous.
But while it’s miraculous, it doesn’t happen by serendipitous moments.
It is because we make a commitment.
Coming to a conference like this maybe inconvenient and expensive but we wouldn’t have it any other way. We’re walking together for the long term purposes of God.

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HOW AN ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE CHANGES HOW WE VIEW THE PRESENT

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In the day to day ministry that I am privileged to participate in, I get to speak with many people who would hit a speed bump in their relationships, careers and future aspirations.

Jessie (not his real name) is uncertain about his future in the current position for he has in the company because he decided to keep his integrity intact by not giving in to the pressure of getting involved with under the table deals. As a result, he gets bypassed for every possible promotion he should’ve had the past years.

Sharon just found out that her husband has had an affair. Though it wasn’t a long drawn out relationship, still, it has crushed her and has no clue how to put the pieces back together with her 2 children.

Rick perseveres to witness to his schoolmates about the gospel message of Christ and yet rejection and persecution slammed the door shut everytime he opened up spiritual conversations.

Now, with our limited perspective, it seems that giving up is a viable option. But this is not what we are told in the Scriptures. The Bible will make no sense at all without the eternal perspective.

In Colossians 3:2-4, Paul declares:

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

We are told that as a result of what Jesus has done, our lives are no longer lived for our own benefit. With this in mind, we are given a perspective – “this life isn’t all that there is!”  There is a glory that will appear when Christ appears. There is a better end than what we are living in right now. Sin has been conquered. We have been redeemed and heaven and earth will be restored when the New Jerusalem appears. All the troubles, hardship, brokenness and sacrifice would make no sense without an eternal perspective.

Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:19 that “if only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied than all men.”
If God isn’t taking us somewhere, then following Jesus is a sheer waste of time!

Why would Jessie keep standing up for his convictions in the workplace?
In everyone’s eyes, he is being stupid.
Why would Rita forgive her husband’s transgression? He doesn’t deserve it. He may be repentant but he’s caused her lots of pain. Without eternal perspective, she is just getting duped.
Why would Rick persist on sharing God’s love to his friends?
If there’s no eternity, then he is just wasting his time.

Everything God does and everything God calls us to do will only make sense from an eternal perspective. Paul says, if our hope is only in this life, then “we are to be pitied than all men.”

But that’s not where the story ends. The story ends with Christ as King of all kings and Lord of all Lords. The story ends with Jesus on the throne victorious. The story ends with God’s people from every tribe, language, nation and people worshiping the Ancient of Days.

Remember, this life isn’t all that there is.
When we see things from an eternal perspective, things eventually make sense.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:18)

RADICAL FORGIVENESS: “First A Sinner, And Second, Sinned Against.”

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A failure to grasp the grace that have been demonstrated to me will cause the failure of demonstrating grace to other people.

I grew up religious. But we all know that being religious doesn’t necessarily mean being righteous. I had a semblance of virtue but only I knew the wickedness brewing inside of me.

It didn’t take long to show on the outside what stemmed from the inside – pride, greed, immorality, selfishness, self-righteousness. And when it did, I would mess up big time.

Gratefully, at 17, God rescued me from my sinfulness. But that rescue mission didn’t stop that moment when I accepted Christ. He had to rescue me daily from slipping back to my old self. I am forever grateful for the gospel that frees me from sin, the Holy Spirit that sanctifies me to become more like Christ and the hope of the resurrection that is to come where sin will no longer be present.

I used to have great difficulty dispensing forgiveness. I said “great difficulty” because to this day, offense is never an easy thing to deal with. But it has become quicker to forgive when I remember that I myself have been forgiven.

I love how Colossians 3:13 (NLT) puts it.

“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”

Make allowance for each other’s faults.
In other words, Paul was telling the church, “Expect it. You’ll have to practice forgiveness for offense will happen. The people you have relationship with, they have faults. They are not perfect. Because of that, not only will you have to make allowances for their faults but choose to forgive when the opportunity arises.”

How in the world can we do it?
As the Lord has forgiven, we are to forgive others.

This we need to remember, we are first a sinner
and only secondarily sinned against.
Read it again.
We are first a sinner and only secondarily sinned against.

When we have no idea how much we have been forgiven, it will be hard for us to release forgiveness. If we don’t comprehend how much grace has been dispensed toward us, then we will have a hard time dispensing the same grace to others.

And this will extend to our marriage, friendships, work relationships, family relationships, classmates and church friends.

The more aware we are of our own need for grace, we become more willing to extend it to others.

“But this person doesn’t deserve my grace! You have no idea how much he/she offended me.”
Well, that’s why it’s called grace.
Grace is kindness undeserved.
The bottom line is that the person we choose to forgive may not change when we first extend grace.

Once we embrace this truth, it will not just benefit those we forgive. It will greatly free us from baggages we’ve been carrying for days, weeks, months, maybe even years.

Grace changes everything!

NOTE TO SELF, PASTORS AND FULL TIME MINISTERS

 

 

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The call to shepherd God’s people is an amazing privilege. While I believe that every calling is important in whatever arena – marketplace, academe, athletics, business, entertainment, media – God has specific instructions to those who have been called to full-time ministry.

Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. (1 Peter 5:2-4)

We are called to serve in these ways:

1. Willingly NOT obligatory.

It is an extreme privilege to serve the King.

Serving Him is not a “have-to” but a “get-to”.
Imagine, we get to do what we do. Years ago, we were lost, without purpose and no direction. But because of His grace, we have been given the opportunity to feed the sheep (John 21) and care for the flock (1 Peter 5).

If you find that you are forcing yourself to meet people, prepare for the message on Sunday, pray for people, then consider what’s causing it. Either check your attitude or check your calling.

2. Sacrificial service not personal gain.

We live in a culture where people love to serve. We are a very hospitable people. People love to serve those who are called to serve in the Kingdom of God full time.

As a result, it is quite possible that we can start to enjoy certain ‘privileges’ that are given. We are called to serve and not be served. Jesus came to do just that. We are called to follow that example.

You might find yourself being the first in the buffet line, or being given a seat while everyone stands, or getting special treatment because you are the ‘special guest’ or your Starbucks drink is paid for with an extra chocolate chip oatmeal cookie. When you do find yourselves in these situations, consider the reasons, motives, and consequences.

3. Leading by example NOT lording over people.

A lot of lessons are really more caught than taught. And the power of example can never be underestimated. Paul declared, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.” (1 Cor. 11:1)

Peter encourages the elders of the church he was writing to lead by example. It’s a tough call but the grace of God is overwhelmingly available. He who called us is faithful and He will do it. (1 Thes. 5:24).

Are we asking people to do things that we ourselves won’t do?
If no one else will do it, are we willing to take the initiative?
As we lead, are we doing it for Christ or just so we can give a good example?

That being said, let’s continue to pray for one another, the church of Jesus and all who have yet to hear the wonderful message of Christ’s work on the cross.

Jesus said that He will build His church and the gates of Hades will not prevail. Our role? To continue to plant and water. The growth and increase? That’s up to God.

To all the pastors, thank you for all that you do for the Kingdom of God. I honor you for loving Jesus, preaching the gospel and training leaders who will go into all the world and make disciples of all nations.

May the Lord bless you and keep you.

CHOICES WE MAKE AS WE HELP OTHERS FOLLOW CHRIST

Blog Banners.001In my recent Japan bike trip with Ryan (click here to read about it), we were guided by Google maps on my phone. I would shout out directions to Ryan if we needed to turn left or right. When I would give an instruction, he would do it, not because it was a command but because it was a relationship based on trust.

Discipleship is following Jesus and helping others follow Christ. As we follow Christ, we listen to His instructions not because we have to but because we want to, knowing that He desires what’s best for us. This trust is based on the relationship we have with Him.

Discipleship is relationship.

It is a relationship on 3 levels:
Relationship with God.
Relationship with other believers.
Relationship with the lost.

If we are going to help others follow Christ, there are 3 choices we will need to make as we do so.

1. OPPORTUNITY OVER OUTCOME

And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up… (Luke 19:5a)

Jesus had a mission. He was about to sacrifice His life so that mankind could be saved. It was important to get to Calvary but wasn’t so focused on the outcome that He missed the opportunity to stop and speak with Zacchaeus. Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem but when He got to Jericho, He looked up and took some time to be with Zacchaeus.

Sometimes we are so busy that we miss out on divine appointments.

We miss out on divine appointments when we are quick to dismiss seemingly human distractions.

2. RELATIONSHIP OVER RULES

Jesus… said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” (Luke 19:5b)

During those days, there was an unwritten rule that they were not to eat with sinners and tax collectors. People hated tax collectors because though they were Jewish, they worked for their enemy at that time, the Romans. Moreover, when they would collect taxes, they would get more than required so they could pocket the extra. They were corrupt and abusive aside from working for the enemy.

Jesus stopped to speak with Zacchaeus. In fact, He didn’t just want to eat dinner with him, He wanted to stay in his house! People were wondering, “Jesus, what are you doing?!!!” This is not acceptable!”

But Jesus broke the ‘rule’ so that He could build a relationship with Zacchaeus.

To treat people the way Jesus treated them, we need to see them the way Jesus saw them.

I’m just grateful God valued me so much that He sacrificed His only Son so I can have redemption. I was insecure, lost and without purpose. Thank God for the gospel that saved me.

3. PEOPLE OVER PROCESS

“For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)

Jesus had a process He was going to go through – suffering, death, burial, resurrection and ascension. But He wasn’t so caught up with that process that He missed out on the very people He was going to die for.

Why? Because lost people matter to God.

Sometimes, we can get so caught up with the process that we miss out on the simplicity of loving people. We are worried about the form, that we miss out on caring for people. We are wrapped up with the program that we miss out on the very reason why we even have a program.

I remember going through One2One discipleship with someone I met 2 and a half years ago. We initially started with One2One booklet. But because he had a lot of questions, we had to set the booklet aside to answer his questions. We tried to do the Purple book. We got to chapter 4 and it was helpful. But since he still had lots of questions, we actually went straight to the book of Romans. The process is important but sometimes, we have to ask God for wisdom what tool to use because people are more important than the process. Finally, after 2 years, we finished one2one and he was able to go through Victory Weekend this past March.

Jesus stopped to encounter Zacchaeus. He had a process to go through but He didn’t let that stop Him from spending time with the very people He was about to die for. Why? It’s because lost people matter to God.

I love how Joey Bonifacio put it:

God who is most valuable, so valued us that He gave us Jesus who is most valuable to Him.

As we continue to honor God and make disciples, may we do it with zeal coupled with sensitivity to the leading of the Holy Spirit and the compassion of Jesus.

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.