Can I share my thoughts without being hated?

People of faith are not, after all, asking people to subscribe to their theology; they are asking them to subscribe to their public policy views, and to respect their rights to participate without their religion being impugned. This is not too much to ask in a democracy.

- Ralph Reed

It’s a whole new world out there. So many ideas, so many school of thoughts when it comes to everything under the sun. One of the hottest one is when it comes to politics, government and policy making.

I never thought my blog on Deped’s removal of the God-loving in their vision statement would cause much stir that an open letter from a group of secularist and an article in rappler mentioned me as demonizing a group who don’t believe in what I believe in (which of course is misquoted), to stir up controversy in social media.

When we start sharing a biblical worldview, it is without a doubt that people would disagree. I get that and I know that. And honestly, there is no end to the debate. Who is right and wrong will not be the concern of those who are against the worldview we are holding. It is about getting our ideas out there without being labeled as self-righteous, haters and anti-Christian.

A worldview that has a religious flavor in it is dismissed as mystical, irrational and something our lawmakers must avoid. The result of this is a false dichotomy between faith and public life. So in a way it is saying leave something so valuable to you privately and don’t let it out in the public square while on the other hand, secularist and others could bring their arguments in public. It is double standard and it is a dangerous precedent to lawmaking and policy making. What we tend to forget is that religion has given us some of most cherished absolute truths in our history as a nation, which we gladly legislate.

- All men are equal because God created them in His image

- Taxation derives from the consent of the governed

- Slavery is evil

- Human life is sacred

I hope our brothers and sisters who don’t share our faith and worldview would also respect our views – it is a democratic country anyway

Mistakes leaders Make #6: Faithless Frugality replacing Fearless Faith

I know, coming from a Chinese guy this might seem like a contradiction. I have been taught about the value of every peso and I was raised frugally by parents who came from a poor background. I have seen how they work so hard to achieve financial success in the world. And now as a pastor, I tend to put some of the business practices we do in church. Nothing wrong with our frugality but the question we have to ask all the time is:

Is our frugality based on fear or faith? Is our vision based on fear or faith? Is our spending based on fear or faith.

There is a saying that says: “Ships are safe in the harbor, but that’s not why ships are built.”

So true. When there was an opportunity for our church to expand in Greenhills – I had to wrestle with the idea of getting a place. We knew that getting a bigger place requires bigger faith and bigger place means it could add more people who can encounter Jesus. I am blessed to be surrounded by men of faith who challenged my faith-less thinking.

There is a temptation for us as leaders to back down from God given opportunities to expand His Kingdom. We tend to rationalize on certain situations but if we are honest about it – most of it are rooted in fear.

Sometimes our idea starts noble. We save money for the church. But if it is rooted in fear and unwise frugality – it can lead to hording. Dave Kraft suggested that we take healthy and appropriate faith risk while at the same time striving to be financially prudent and wise.

On the other hand, we must be careful not to make grand decisions without thinking it through or sometimes masking making foolish financial decisions with the reason that it was made in faith. I have seen a lot of leaders commit this mistake whether in business, purchasing a house or loaning one, or just expenditures that was way beyond them in the reason that God is good all the time and all the time God is good.

Ecclesiastes 7:18English Standard Version (ESV)

18 It is good that you should take hold of this, and from that withhold not your hand, for the one who fears God shall come out from both of them.

We want to avoid the extremes of faithless frugality and presumptuous faith – Dave Kraft

Why Outlawing Religion Divides us More

As a follower of what is happening in Christianity around the world, we have presently seen outlawing religion as a bad move by the government. Efforts by countries like Russia, China, Khmer Rouge and during the time of the Nazis in Germany tried to outlaw religion in an effort to stop it from dividing society or eroding the power of the state. The result: OPPRESSION.

“The 20th century gave rise to one of the greatest and most distressing paradoxes of human history: that the greatest intolerance and violence of that century were practiced by those who believed that religion caused intolerance and violence.”

Alistair McGrath, The Twilight of Atheism.

Tim Keller adds:

Going hand in hand with such efforts was a widespread belief in the late 19th century and early 20th century that religion would weaken and die out as the human race became more technologically advanced. This view saw religion as playing a role in human evolution. We once needed religion to help us cope with a very frightening, incomprehensible world. But as we become more scientifically sophisticated and more able to understand and control our environment, our need for religion would diminish, it was thought.

Taken from A.F.C. Wallace, Religion: An Anthropological View ( Randon House, 1966), p.265

But this has not happened, and this “secularization thesis” is now largely discredited.

note: for some account of how sociologists have backed away from the secularization thesis, see Peter L. Berger, ed., The Desecularization of the World: Resurgent Religion and World Politics (Eerdmans, 1999)

We have seen this happen in China and Nigeria and I’m not just talking about Christianity but all major religions who believe that there is a God.  With Christianity, the growth has been supernatural. When the Chinese Communists expelled Western Missionaries after WWII, they thought they were killing off Christianity in China. Instead, as of 2014, China has the most number of Christians in the world today. ( considering they have no facebook and twitter).

Religion is not an opium of the masses. Sorry Karl Marx. Rather, it is a permanent and central aspect of the human condition. It’s hard for non religious people, secular people to admit because as what Tim Keller said, ” Everyone wants to think that they are in the mainstream, that they are not extremists. But religious beliefs dominate the world and there is no reason to expect that to change.

Some Ideas taken from Reason for God, Tim Keller, p.6-7

The Truth About Christianity

I was listening to a preaching of Christine Caine and she mentioned a one liner that struck me. She said, “We have confused tolerance with endorsement.” In an age where you have to be politically correct and sound like being tolerant to all views – we have created an environment in which it is considered unenlightened, insensitive and hate filled to make the claim that we know “the truth”.

We have been exposed to some thinking that all major religions are equally valid and they all teach the same thing. Some even say that if you think that your religion is more superior than others – then you are a right wing extremist or moralist and a hater of men. The problem with that thinking is that it assumes that religion that continues to sacrifice animals and babies are equal to all religions in the world. I think majority would not agree to that.

If we insist that the God of all religions is the same when they are in reality not because the doctrines of all religion pertaining to God have major differences – then we are positioning our view as more superior and more enlightened than the beliefs of most major religions. So in reality, you are doing the very thing that you are forbidding others to do.

Christianity makes an exclusive claim. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus never backed down from an exclusive claim of salvation and truth. And it is not an arrogant stance for Jesus to make that claim.

Many say that Christians are arrogant, ethnocentric and proud because they believe in an absolute God and claim exclusivity that Jesus is the only way. Isn’t the statement Christians are arrogant – also arrogant and ethnocentric?

The idea that it is wrong to say such things is deeply rooted in Western traditions of self-criticism and individualism. To say somebody is ethnocentric is really a way of saying, ” Our culture’s approach to other cultures is superior to yours.”

So the fatal flaw in this approach to religion and Christianity is that skeptics believe that any exclusive claims to a superior knowledge of the spiritual reality cannot be true. But this objection is itself a religious belief. It assumes God is unknowable or a force or loving and not wrathful rather than a person who speaks in Scripture. All of these are unprovable faith assumptions.

Lastly, this kind of thinking believe they have a superior view of things. They believe the world would be a better place if everyone dropped the traditional religious views of God and truth and adopted theirs. Therefore, their view is also an exclusive claim about the nature of spiritual reality.

Tim Keller, Reason for God, page 12-13

 

 

Mistake Leaders Make #5: Busyness instead of Visioning

Busyness is the new spirituality – Fred Smith

As I was reading chapter 5 of the book Mistakes Leaders Make (Re:Lit) by Dave Kraft, he discussed about how some leaders are good at being busy but not actually leading. In some cases with religious organization and churches, we tend to look for those who are available and ask them to lead the church, a certain ministry or a department in church. The problem with this kind of practice is we tend to attract people who are good doers but not necessarily great leaders.

I learned this principle when I started leading the youth ministry. As a volunteer, I was good at doing things. When my youth pastor wants something done, I’ll do whatever it takes to make it happen. I was a good doer. But when I was given leadership responsibilities – I realized that I need a certain level of leadership skill to make things happen. And as I look back, I realized the reason I was doing what I was doing before when I was a volunteer, is because my leader then was actually a great leader who inspired me to achieve greater things.

An unforgettable experience I had one time with my leader and pastor, Ferdie Cabiling, was during one of our meetings I told him how I was being invited left and right to speak in different organizations and churches. I wanted him to give me a pat in the back for doing something so “significant”.

But I thank God for his visionary leadership. He said, “great job Dennis” and then proceeds to take out a piece of paper and said, ” Can you list down the people you are currently discipling?”

I was schooled that day. Schooled for my own good. I was busy but I was not leading anyone. Since that day, I have reminded myself that a leader is a visionary. He talks about the vision, he leads with the vision and he energizes others with the vision of his organization.

Marcus Buckingham said in his book The One Thing You Need to Know: … About Great Managing, Great Leading, and Sustained Individual Success

What defines a leader is his/her preoccupation with the future…leaders are fascinated by the future…Whenever a person strives to help others see a better future, there is leadership…you do it because you can’t help it. You do it because you see the future so vividly, so distinctly that you can’t get it out of your head.”

 

Mistakes Leaders Make #4: Pleasing People

” I don’t know what the secret to success is, but I know what the secret to failure is and that’s trying to keep everybody happy.” – Bill Cosby

Don’t live your life impressing everyone or anyone, including you. We cannot please anyone. You talk about God’s love – some would agree, some won’t. You talk about and challenge people to make disciples – some people would say your a visionary leader and some would say you are too pushy. So what do you do?

If you succumb to the temptation to please everyone – you won’t do anything significant in life. I remember a time when somebody was questioning the vision of Victory to go to the nations. He said, ” Why go to the nations when there are millions of people who haven’t heard the gospel in the Philippines?” I thank God that Pastor Steve and the leadership of the church stood their ground. They heard from the Lord and went all out in planting churches around the world. Today Victory is the largest missionary sending church in the Philippines. Because they did not lead to please people we are able to raise world class missionaries who then trained local leaders in the mission field to become the senior pastors in their nation.

Galatians 1:10English Standard Version (ESV)

10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant[a] of Christ.

For the local church pastor, that means we have to create a culture where there is no fear to make mistakes. Leadership should be empowering not frightening. Leaders lead, tyrants rule with fear. Also we should all work towards a culture where everyone is focused on a clear goal, vision and purpose. Our core values must be intact and it must be seen in our vision as a church or organization.

You can buy the book at Amazon:

 

Reasons Behind our Faith

Everybody in this world stands for something. Some stand for things we don’t believe in and that is where we live in today. With so many beliefs and school of thoughts, we have to learn as Christians to engage our culture.

I am no apologetics expert, I might leave that to my friend Joseph Bonifacio and Pastor Rice Broocks – though it would be helpful to read books like God’s Not Dead: Evidence for God in an Age of Uncertainty or Tim Keller’s The Reason for God or visit William Lane Craig’s website Reason for Living.

As a nation, we have been founded by the word of God. The people who wrote the constitution of the Philippines acknowledged there was a God and even asked for the aid of Almighty God to help build the laws and constitution of the land. It says a lot about us as a nation. The implication in the 1987 preamble of the Constitution of the Philippines acknowledges that there is a God, He is sovereign above all and that we need His help. Being guided by God our lawmakers and leaders of the land made sure that God was not forced into our nation because not all believe in God.

books-1It is now 2014. The internet has changed the game of spreading ideas. More and more we see secularism and humanism enter our culture, our songs, our entertainment, our literature and our politics. We are in an era where different world views abound which means there will come a time different world views would be clashing.
With that premise, we as believers of God  should learn to look for reasons behind our faith and skeptics who might be reading this blog, must also learn to look for a type of faith hidden within their reasoning.

Tim Keller said it well in his book Reason for God,

You cannot doubt Belief A from a position of faith in Belief B. For example if you doubt Christianity because “There can’t be just one true religion,” you must recognize that this statement is itself an act of faith. No one can prove it empirically, and it is not a universal truth that everyone accepts. If you went to Middle East and said, “There can’t be just one true religion,” nearly everyone would say, “Why not?” The reason you doubt Christianity’s Belief A is because you hold unprovable Belief B. Every doubt, therefore, is based on a leap of faith.

Some people say, “I don’t believe in Christianity because I can’t accept the existence of moral absolutes. Everyone should determine moral truth for him- or herself.” Is that a statement they can prove to someone who doesn’t share it? No, it is a leap of faith, a deep belief that individual rights operate not only in the political sphere but also in the moral. There is no empirical proof for such a position. So the doubt (of moral absolutes) is a leap.

Some will respond to all of this, ” My doubts are not based on a leap of faith. I have no beliefs about God one way or another. I simply feel no need for God and I am not interested in thinking about it.” But hidden beneath this feeling is the very modern American belief that the existence of God os a matter of indifference unless it intersects with my emotional needs. The speaker is betting his or her life that no God exists who would hold you accountable for your beliefs and behavior if you didn’t feel the need for him. That may be true or it may not be true, but, again, it is quite a leap of faith.

Taken from Reason for God, page xviii, Tim Keller

 

Mistakes Leaders Make #3: Pride

John Stott said that pride is the greatest enemy and humility our greatest friend. It is our greatest enemy because most of the time we can’t see our pride. That’s why we are proud because we can’t see that we have moved away from humility.

I thank God for my wife who is my pride checker. I thank God for the Holy Spirit that quickens me when I move in pride or if I have the spirit of pride.

images-1

Matthew 23:11-12English Standard Version (ESV)

11 The greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Gary Thomas in his book Thirsting for God said,

All the saints are convinced that sincere humility is the foundation of all virtues. This is because humility is the daughter of pure charity, and humility is nothing else but truth. There are only two truths in the world, that God is all, and the creature is nothing.

Now that is a strong quote to keep us grounded in humility. Mistake 3 and 2 are close cousins. Pride is thinking highly of myself that I wish people were more like me. Envy is wishing I were like other people.

Another thing to look for especially among next generation leaders especially the gifted and successful leaders according to Dave Kraft is this thinking:

It seems to me that the reason leaders, especially young, gifted, and early on successful leaders, do not repent of pride more often is because many are willing to overlook pride and self-centeredness in themselves and others as long as results are being achieved.

I have seen leaders publicly admit to pride but never address it or truly repent of it. Often their followers are so enamored by the success being achieved that they are willing to ignore the public, in spite of God’s clear denunciation of it in his leaders and despite the damage it causes.

Ideas are based on the book Mistakes Leaders Make (Re:Lit) by Dave Kraft.

Mistakes Leaders Make #2: Comparing instead of Contentment

In my last blog I shared about mistake number one: replacing Jesus with ministry and today let me share with you the 2nd mistake most leaders commit.

ALLOWING COMPARING TO REPLACE CONTENTMENT.

comparison1In a world where achievements and stats are often displayed for the world to see (whether it is pinterest, instagram, church websites), most of us tend to look and covet for the success of church ministries in our city.  That is a wrong move.  Do not compare somebody else’s highlight reel to your reality.

Even within the church, we tend to compare the programs, achievements, success and failures of different departments creating a very hostile environment for pastors and leaders to fail. One of the biggest room we should have in church today is the room for improvement. The mentality with this mistake is that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

James 3:14-16English Standard Version (ESV)

14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.

We have to be content with who we are, where we are, what we are doing and what God is doing through us. Church ministry and leadership does not define us. Jesus defines us. We must be clear about that.

Now self analysis and feedback is different. We need to practice the discipline of comparing ourselves to ourselves.

Dave Kraft said that it is good to compare what is happening through me and in me with what could potentially happen. It is good to compare where I am in my growth and ministry and ministry effectiveness with where it is possible to be, with God’s grace.

Church leader, wherever you are in your ministry, find contentment not in your work but in Christ. Let Christ define you and not your work. Stop comparing and ask God to give you the strength to be content with who you are.