PACQUIAO KEEPS HIS FAITH

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Yesterday was quite a sad day for the Filipino people. I can’t tell you how bad I also felt listening to the score cards and Pacquiao losing to Mayweather.

People asked me, “I thought Pacquiao was a Christian. If he is, then shouldn’t God give Him the victory?”

That’s a valid question and a very interesting one at that. If a person becomes a Christian, does it mean he will always enjoy victory?
You and I will have to consider Biblical examples of Moses, Abraham, David, Joseph, Josiah, Jonah, Job, Paul among many others who lived a life that pleased God but at certain times seemingly suffered defeat.

God is more interested in the process as well as in the outcome. God always works with the long term goal in mind. When going through a tough situation, we often desire for our circumstance to end or be cut short. But God doesn’t see it that way. He is the Master Craftsman who is building something beyond today. He is the Potter and we are merely the clay. The clay cannot say to the Potter, “what in the heck are you doing?” (my version of Isaiah 64:8)

What happens to us is not as important
as to how we respond to what happens to us.

 

And that is what God is after. Because if we don’t learn our lesson in the first run, we might have to go through it again so that He can make sure we get it.

I love how Manny responds after the fight. He calls for a prayer/worship service to honor God in spite of defeat.

In his words,

“Thank you for coming here, thank you also for your support last night. But you have to understand that the plans and ways of God are higher than our ways. The most important thing is, we have Jesus in our life. One day we will be with him in heaven.”

“What happened last night, that’s God’s plan because our plan is not God’s plan. God’s plan is higher than ours and we know that if we have Jesus, we have peace of mind.”

“My purpose is not boxing but to proclaim the name of the Lord in the whole world that Jesus is the name of The Lord.”

It is possible that you lose a fight and yet come out victorious. It really is a matter of perspective. In the game of life, we may not attain a single championship and yet come out as a winner.

ESPN ON PACQUIAO’S FAITH

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Skip Bayless of ESPN writes an article regarding the transformation of Manny Pacquiao.

“About three years ago he underwent a spiritual conversion — he says he accepted Christ in his life and was born again — and he’s now so on fire with his faith that, according to insiders, he reads his Bible throughout the day and shares his faith with random fans he meets. Just two Sundays ago, he gave his testimony to a packed house at the megachurch he attends just outside Los Angeles, Shepherd of the Hills Church, telling the throng how lost he once was while constantly getting drunk and cheating on his wife (who was with him that Sunday).”

More of Skip’s Article here.

But below is the interview on ESPN regarding Skip Bayless’ thoughts saying that “being saved doesn’t mean being soft.”

COACH ERIC ALTAMIRANO’S JOURNEY WITH THE NU BULLDOGS

PHOTO CREDIT: www.abs-cbnnews.com

What seemed to be the laughing stock of the league became a shining example of faith, discipline and hard work.

This was the story of Coach Eric Altamirano’s journey. He recounts when he took the post as coach of National University Bulldogs 4 years ago and how God brought him and the team from cellar dweller (60 year title drought) to this year’s UAAP Season 77 champions.

Watch his testimony below and I pray you will be inspired and realize that God is a turn around specialist. What seems to be a set back can very well be a Divine Set up to bring honor and glory to His name.

IF ONLY SYNDROME

We like dreaming of possibilities. We also like imagining what might have been.

That’s not necessarily wrong but when coupled with unbelief, it could be dangerous.

While the Israelites were in the desert and arrived at Kadesh, there was no water to be found in the area. As a result, the people grumbled and complained against Moses saying, “If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the Lord! Why did you bring the Lord’s community into this desert, that we and our livestock should die here? Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!” (Numbers 20:3-5)

The “if only” syndrome usually strikes at a moment of difficulty. We don’t even realize it but it hits us suddenly.

“If only I went to the doctor sooner, then I wouldn’t be in this shape now.”
“If only he stayed in the office, this accident wouldn’t have happened.”
“If only I went to that school, then my life would be better.”
“If only she said yes to him, it would’ve been a perfect story.”

I slipped into this when my mom got very sick. She was very ill and the doctors in Manila for some reason couldn’t figure out what she was suffering from. After 5 months in the hospital with doctors attending who were from 3 hospitals, we had to fly her out to The Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota. They were able to diagnose her Hodgkin’s lymphoma in a mere couple of days. But because her body was so weak and suffered multiple organ failure, she went to be with the Lord not long after the doctors discovered what was really wrong.

Every so often, I’d slip into the “if-only-syndrome”.

“If only we brought her to Mayo Clinic right away, she may still be alive today and would’ve enjoyed her grand children.”

But that’s not what happened. I often asked myself how come we didn’t. I don’t know why and I have no answer. Sometimes, it results in beating myself up on what could’ve been.

But it helps me not one bit.

When trouble hits, rather than falling into the “if-only-syndrome”, doing what Moses and Aaron did would be a better option…

“Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the tent of meeting and fell facedown…” (Numbers 20:6)

What happened next?

“The glory of the Lord appeared.” (Numbers 20:6b)

How many times have we missed the glory of the Lord from appearing just because we slipped into the “if-only-syndrome?”

Lord, help us to zip our mouths and run into your presence. And just maybe, as your presence comes into our circumstances, we realize that You are so in charge that we don’t even need to worry.

In Jesus’ name. AMEN.

 

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PHOTO CREDIT: https://www.flickr.com/photos/iiana/2023309677

THE CHALLENGE OF FACING GIANTS

Your giants and mine can represent a garden variety of things. It may range from financial lack to illness, relational stress to business strain, spiritual dryness to deep depression.

The Israelites were told to send men to enter the land God had promised to give them. However, they allowed circumstances to dictate their response rather than keeping their eyes on the God of their circumstances.

The Lord said to Moses, “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.” (Numbers 13:1-2, ESV)

It was clear what God wanted to accomplish. He was giving them the land. They weren’t even taking it on their own. It was being given to them.

Coming back from the exploratory trip, the 12 men that were sent into the land of Canaan allowed their circumstances to dictate how they would respond.

A few lessons here.

1. Don’t doubt in the dark what God has told you in the light.

Opposition is inevitable. To a certain degree, it is to be expected. God didn’t promise that it was going to be easy. But He promised that He will carry us through it.

Challenges in life will come. And when they do, remember what God told you before those challenges came and hold on the them as Gollum would to the “preciouuussss” ring.

2. Hear the facts but hold on to the truth.

But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” (Numbers 13:31)

The fact is, they are bigger.
The fact is, they are stronger.
The fact is, they are more numerous.

Those may be facts but the truth of God’s Word holds true.
“I am giving the land to you.”

The fact is, they are bigger, but the truth is, God is fighting the battle for you.
The fact is, you don’t have enough, but the truth is, God is going to supply all your needs. (Philippians 4:19)
The fact is, you are lying in bed sick, but the truth is, He is Jehovah Rapha, the God who is your healer.

3. What you see with your physical eyes may not necessarily be what God wants you to see through your spiritual eyes.

And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. (Numbers 13:32)

It is true that the Nephilim were much bigger. But they missed the fact that their God is way bigger.
When we place our thumb right in front of our right eye while closing our left, it seems way bigger than anything we look at. It will look like our thumb is bigger than a car, an airplane or even a skyscraper.
But God wants you to look at your situation from a different perspective. He is way bigger than you can even define.

4. The way you see yourselves is how others will eventually see you.

We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” (Numbers 13:31-33)

The 10 men (not including Joshua and Caleb) saw themselves a certain way. The Bible says, that they looked like grasshoppers in their own eyes and as a result, they looked that way from their enemies vantage point as well.

You and I are who we are not because of how we see ourselves or how others see us. We are who we are because of who God created us to be.
More so, because of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice on Calvary, we are no longer enemies of God but His own children.

Think about it. We may need to shift from staring at our giants to focusing our eyes on our God who is way bigger than any giant we will ever face.

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PHOTO CREDIT: https://www.flickr.com/photos/28642695@N07/6367537159

 

 

 

DON’T JUST GROW OLD IN THE FAITH BUT GROW UP

It’s so easy to replace the message of the gospel with other fillers as we chronologically advance in our walk with God.

I say chronologically advance because it is possible to grow old in the faith but not necessarily grow up in our faith journey.

Meet a few of hypothetical church members that may be sitting in our pews these days.

1. Busy Bobby

Bobby is busy jumping from one church conference to the next, a current ministry to an additional one and one church activity to another.

However, Bobby’s world and God’s world have never crossed paths. All the church activities have had little impact on his heart and on how his life is being lived.

For him, the gospel is reduced to participation in church activities and ministries.

2. Legalistic Louie

Louie has a set of rule for every situation. He is a walking list of dos and don’ts. His children sees Christianity as a set of rules which has become a heavy burden to carry.

Legalism ignores the depth of our inability to earn God’s favor and pursues the goal of performing to gain God’s nod.

3. Mystic Marie

Marie thrives on emotional experiences. She hops from one conference to another hoping to get a spiritual high every time.

However, while goose bumps are experienced, her faith often falls flat. She faces discouragement and depression 24/7.

Our faith in Christ is not stoic. Our Christianity is peppered with human emotion. However, we cannot reduce the gospel to mere emotional experiences with Jesus.

4. Theological Thomas

Thomas knows the Bible inside and out. He has memorized hundreds of verses and can cite different theological views by every known Bible scholar out there.

However, his character is far from being Christ-like. He is arrogant, critical and looks down on people who opposes his views.

He has mastered the Word but has not allowed the Word to master him.

5. Psychological Sally

Sally loves God but is an offense magnet. Because of the rejection she has experienced in life, she looks to the Word to bring healing and restoration. And rightly so.

But if we see others’ sin as greater than our own, we have a tendency to see Christ as a therapist rather than Savior.

We are flawed and in major debt yet we are unconditionally loved and accepted.

The Bible is not a mere self help book. It is the narrative of God’s redemptive plan for you and me.

These have become replacements to the gospel.

I love what Karl Barth said when asked what’s the one most profound theological precept he has ever encountered.

This was his answer, “Jesus loves me this I know… for the Bible tells me so.”

The gospel is not a self help technique. It is not a mere emotional experience neither a theological thought. It is not a way to gain favor from God.
It is a message that we receive, believe and respond to.
It is good news. This is the gospel by which we have been saved.

The gospel “is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16)

WHO WE ARE AS A FAMILY

Day 1 of Every Nation Conference. 

Russ Austin. 52 nations represented.

A fitting opening message to kick off the Every Nation World Conference. Pastor Russ aptly defined who we are as a family of churches the way a realist like Manet or Courbet paints a historical scene or an object.

Three descriptions… BIG FAITH. RADICAL DISCIPLESHIP. SPIRITUAL FAMILY.

BIG FAITH.

We are a global and missional organization that refuses to stop.
We see a red light yet we still go as if it was green.

Relentless would be the word. How come?
It’s not because we have confidence in ourselves.

We just know that we will do something BIG just because we know our God is BIG.

And as a family, we just believe that together.

RADICAL DISCIPLESHIP.

This is just part of the culture in our family. And we do it with passion… radically.

We teach people to obey in obedience to the Great Commission in Matthew 28.

We do it because Jesus is worth it.

We have been misunderstood for doing what we do. But we do what we do because we want to give Him our best because He has given us His best.

SPIRITUAL FAMILY.

We go through ups and downs. We just know we’ll make it through because God is with us and because we are walking together.

We are better together and we are better because we are together.

Spiritual family is a gift. It is such a gift to be in relationship with one another.

Walking with one another for years, some for decades is an absolute gift from God.

But out of the 3, the most fragile is SPIRITUAL FAMILY. And THIS is the very thing we have to guard and protect.

And by His grace, we will not just do life together for 20 years (this year is Every Nation’s 20 year anniversary) but for the next 100 and beyond.

FEAR IS INCREDIBLY PARALYZING

I was reading the “Action Bible” to my kids as I was tucking them to bed.

We came to the story of Jacob and Laban when Jacob left without asking permission from his father-in-law because he was afraid that he wouldn’t be allowed to leave.

In the Action Bible, the conversation when this way …

Jacob left without permission because of fear.

But little did he realize that in the background, God was already speaking to his father in law.

Many times, our decisions are influenced by the “what-ifs”.

“What if God doesn’t pull through?”
“What if I give this money for His purposes, and then the bills start piling up?”
“What if I grow old single and alone? Maybe I should just settle for second best.”
“What if my business falls apart because I keep paying the right taxes?”

Fear is incredibly paralyzing. But let me tell you that faith, on the other hand, is incredibly freeing.

When you and I understand that there’s Someone in control… Someone who runs the show, better than we can run it, then that truth sets me from from micromanaging, controlling and manipulating the situations in my life.

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Cor. 5:7)

Fear will push me to do things that may be out of His will while faith inspires me to trust that He is in charge. And because He is, I know that I am in a safe place.

Fear is incredibly paralyzing while faith is incredibly freeing.

Which one will you choose?

WHEN YOUR FAITH WEAKENS

What do you do when your faith gets weak? How do you pump your faith?

There are several reasons why this may happen – unanswered prayer, persecution, problems, trials…

The Apostle Paul wrote his protege Timothy an encouragement. He mentions that many have forsaken the faith and have even deserted him as he is now in chains for the gospel.

He exhorts Timothy to be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.’ (2 Timothy 2:1)

This will be evident in 3 ways.

Dedication of a soldier

Paul reminds Timothy to endure hardship. (2 Timothy 2:3)

The reason for this exhortation? There will come a time that as we follow Christ, hardships will come our way.

Giving up is not an option. His grace is more than sufficient.

Discipline of an athlete

An athlete competes according to the rules (2 Timothy 2:6).

Otherwise, he will be disqualified and all the months and years of preparation will all be for naught.

Part of the disciplines we’ve been called to imbibe is the discipline of reading His word.

Pastor Bernhard Wewege writes a good blog about this – Taking the 21 day challenge.

Diligence of a farmer

The farmer painstakingly plants and patiently waits.

Paul declares a promise in Galatians 6:9…

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

How do you pump your faith?

Well, after giving the 3 pictures of a Christian to Timothy, he proclaims a simple statement…

Remember Jesus, raised from the dead. (2 Timothy 2:8)

Absolutely simple but definitely not simplistic.  The statement is pregnant with truth.

The reason why we can is because He did.

When He said, “It is finished”, it meant everything that’s required for our faith to last has been accomplished by Him at the cross.

The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is the same power that will sustain you.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. (Philippians 1:6, NLT)

 

COURTSHIP AND FAITH

The object of your faith is greater than the reason for your fear.

I had lunch with a young man recently who wanted to pursue someone.

I asked him what was keeping him from laying down his intentions. They’ve been friends for sometime. They seem to get along well. They both have jobs. And most of all, they both love Jesus.

Was there an assurance that she will say yes to courtship? NONE.
I couldn’t give him one and he definitely had no idea if she was going to say yes or no.

But he was decided to go for it.

He said he’s prayed for it and believes that this is what God wants him to do. He is attracted to her physically, but more so spiritually because of her heart for God.

I gave him a firm handshake. I told him that I realize that he’s taking a risk but that’s all part of the adventure. I was actually proud of him.

Even in pursuing, faith is involved.

Fear can paralyze. But faith can galvanize.
Fear can debilitate. But faith can activate.
Fear desists. But faith persists.

Remember, the object of your faith (God) is greater than the reason for your fear.

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. (Hebrews 11:1, NLT)