Where to Put Your Energy?

Jude 1:18-23 English Standard Version (ESV)

18 They[a] said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.”19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.

We only have 24 hours everyday. The challenge many of us are facing is where do we put our time and energy every single day. As Christians, the temptation is to put them somewhere that doesn’t matter for eternity.

In the book of Jude, he warns us that in the last days, there will be scoffers (whether religious or not) who would follow their ungodly passions that would cause divisions in the church and who would move in the flesh or do things that would give them reason to sin or cause others to sin even to the point of using Bible verses out of context to justify such behavior.

I have personally seen this with the people who believed in the teaching that the grace of God has forgiven us already so let us sin more to experience God’s grace more. Or let’s sin since we are already forgiven.

Some, to a lighter extent but operating on the same spirit would justify the right of every Christian to drink beer and wine, to smoke a bit but not excessively, to test the boundaries of sexual pleasure (not committing sex but would do everything short of sex) and so on and so forth, if you get what I mean. It is not sin but it is also not wise and beneficial and for some would cause as a stumbling block.

So we see groups of people forming a tribe to fight for their right to party the Christian way – let us smoke, drink, be sexually active but with boundaries. We have read and seen some godly pastors preaching on it is okay to drink but not get drunk and drink for the glory of God and honestly I get the idea but what I don’t get is the way it is communicated. Why make a big fuss about something that won’t even affect history or change people? Recently some churches had to back track on their teaching that drinking is okay because their congregation went too far in applying it in their small groups and personal lives that they start getting drunk.

In the book of Jude, we are commanded where to expend our energies as Christians and it is not on the subject of our trivial passions.

20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment[b] stained by the flesh.

1. Build yourselves up in your most holy faith. 

Faith comes from hearing and reading the Word. Exert your energy in building up your faith by devouring the Scripture and applying it. Have a Bible reading plan. Listen to podcast of preachers that preach the Word of God.

2. Pray in the Spirit.

Prayer is essential for a Christian. Prayer is not to get us ready for the battle – prayer is the battle. Through prayer, we wage war against the enemy. Intercede, get a prayer notebook, pray for the unreached people of the world, pray for God to use you to disciple others.

If there is one area where the Scripture tells us to get drunk, it is in the Holy Spirit. Let the Spirit of God overflow in you so you can effectively reach the nations.

3. Keep yourself in the love of God, waiting for His mercy.

Preach the gospel to yourself everyday. Remind your self of God’s grace. Let the love of God define you. Let the mercy of God remind you of who we are before and who you are now.

4. Extend mercy to those who doubt. 

Build relationships and start discipling others who don’t know Jesus yet. Do it with the spirit of grace and mercy.

5. Save others by snatching them out of the fire. 

Share the gospel to those in need. Preach Jesus. Pray and reach out to people whom God has put a burden in your heart. When was the last time you led anyone to Christ? It takes time to engage, establish, equip and empower disciples to make disciples. I think this is where our energy should go.

It’s time we do something bigger than ourselves rather than debating on the latest theological issues or proving that Calvinism is better than Arminianism, or defending your right to drink beer and wine. Let’s get busy doing the right thing.

 

 

 

 

Never Say Never to Discipleship

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The man on the middle is Mon. He got saved at Victory Fort, was one2one and discipled by the man on his left James. When Mon moved to Victory Greenhills, he joined our Victory Group. You knew he was young in the faith but at the same time we did sense that he had a great destiny and call to disciple other men.

Though quite hesitant the first time he was challenged to lead a Victory group, he prayed and asked God for courage to make disciples and invite some of his friends in his house for small groups. Prior to starting one, he was discouraged when somebody mentioned that he was too young in the faith to lead a small group. We had to point Mon back to Scripture and encourage him that God sees other wise.

As Christian leaders, we are called to speak faith and call out the leadership gifting of the people we are discipling. Empowering disciples is risky but necessary. The apostle Paul was breathing out murderous threats in Acts 9:1-2 but in the same chapter, Acts 9:18-20, he was discipled when he had an encounter with the Lord.

Acts 9:18-20English Standard Version (ESV)

18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened. For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. 20 And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”

Talk about empowering! When was the last time you have empowered someone to make disciples. Just like James who saw something in Mon to believe in him, we need to continue moving in faith in calling out the leadership giftings of the people we are discipling. God called us to make disciples, not fans – so let’s make disciples!

 

Victory Worship Album Review

I finally got my CD of the much awaited Victory Worship “Radical Love” Album that has hit Manila by storm, being the most downloaded album in ITUNES Philippines when it was released last Friday.

Now to clear everything out – I am a pastor of Victory Greenhills. I have been a member of Victory since 1991 and now I am making a review of the 2nd Victory Worship album released. Trivia for those of you who live in the age of TAPES during the early 90’s. We actually released a Victory Album called “God Is On our Side”. So the Radical Love album is technically our second one.

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So here is my review: The Radical Love album is AWESOME! WORLD CLASS! and SPIRIT-FILLED. Again not a bias review but I think it is awesome. The songs dished out in the album are faith building, theologically sound and awesome. Did I say awesome already?

Second, it’s WORLD CLASS. It was actually mixed in Nashville where we have our Every Nation office. None other than Grammy Award Winner Otto Price, who is part of our Every Nation church who helped make this album possible. So when I downloaded the album at Itunes, I was amazed by the quality of the recording. It is at par with the best of the best.

Third, it is Spirit-filled. The songs in the album pumps me up all the time. It is great to listen to the CD in Manila traffic. Instead of focusing on Metro Traffic, the presence of God fills my car and I get to worship with some awesome, world-class, spirit-filled music.

Lastly, it is made up of Filipino worshippers. Worship leaders from different Victory congregation collaborated for this worship project that I pray would bless not just the Victory churches but the church in general.

Below is the official music video of Radical Love. You can buy your CDS at all House of Praise outlets or download the full album at Itunes.

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