Posted: April 30th, 2013 | Filed under: Blog | 1 Comment »
I missed my regular Monday morning post yesterday as I have been in transit from Melbourne. I have decided to re-post Joseph’s (my son) great post “God told me…”
I believe it will help all of us hear from God and grow in His ways. Happy reading.
Some time ago I was watching American Idol with my wife. A woman stormed out angrily from the auditions when the judges didn’t pick her. She was certain they were all wrong and she was destined for fame and fortune. Because God told her so. (It seems like every season has someone like this.)
A couple of teenagers start dating. They’ve got great potential but they refuse to receive counsel. There’s already cause for concern in the way they treat each other. People offer their time and assistance but they don’t take it. Why would they need it? They say God told them to date and that they don’t need other people. (This is a pretty repetitive pattern too.)
A few months ago, I preached in Victory Alabang. After the message an eighteen year old came up to me. I asked him if he needed prayer, but he shook his head. “I want to pray for you. God told me to,” he said. He prayed a prayer for me that was very encouraging and insightful for what I was concerned about that time.
These people were all convinced that God had spoken to them. And they’re just a few examples of billions throughout history who were sure they had heard from the divine.
What do we do with these people? Or what do we do if we’re that person? There are two extreme responses to this situation:
OPTION 1: God doesn’t talk to you! / God doesn’t talk to people! / No one hears from God!
It’s tempting to say this because it’s just too weird, difficult, or strange to process that thought of God, the Almighty, speaking to an individual.
But that would be a mistake because God does speak with people. And when He does, it’s unmistakeable. While watching the recently aired Bible series by the History Channel, my wife and I commented on how well the show depicted the strangeness of Abraham in saying he heard from God. But as strange as it was, the effect on his life and on the succeeding generations was unmistakably good. He really did hear from God.
So let’s not be closed to the possibility that you or other people can hear from Him. The Bible says that we can know the thoughts of God by the Holy Spirit which He gives to all who have believed in His Son Jesus.
OPTION 2: Everyone who says they hear from God is right! / Everyone is hearing from God right now. / It’s about what you feel.
In effect, this no longer focuses on what God is actually saying. It’s just a way of saying that whatever you hear and feel is right. People can easily abuse this perspective by claiming their own fantasies as God’s will. As a minister, I can’t count the number of times people have flashed this card only to have to retract later on what they were “absolutely sure” was from God.
But more concerning than the potential of being wrong, is how casually people throw around the name of God. I believe that God can speak to anyone and through anyone. But with this ability to hear from Him comes the responsibility to communicate it correctly.
God will not allow people to take His Name in vain. The Bible is full of warnings and judgments from God against people who claim to speak from Him but speak falsely. They do it to make themselves famous, take advantage of others, or get away with what their wicked hearts wanted to do all along. We say things like, “I’m sure this is what God would want for me,” when really we’re just looking to justify our own desires.
Honestly, I get very concerned for people who don’t take this seriously because God will not let His name taken for granted like that. For every time that we say, “God told me this…” we’ll have to give an account. He is very jealous about His name. And if He takes it seriously, we would be wise to do the same.
Both of these extremes are wrong. So what’s the remaining option then?
OPTION 3: God speaks and we must test and see which words are really His.
Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Don’t disregard that God could be talking. Don’t ignore what the Holy Spirit is saying.
Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil. But don’t just swallow things without thinking. Test them and see if they are right.
There are at least four tests we know from the Bible that we can use.
1. Godly counsel - Other people hear from God too. If we’re wondering if a particular insight, plan, or course of action is from God, other godly people in your life will probably hear it also.
2. Word of God - God will never say anything that goes against His written word, the Bible. If we really want to know it’s God speaking and not just the burrito you had for lunch, read the Bible.
3. Will be confirmed - If God says something’s gonna happen, it happens. Until there’s confirmation, then we should remember to keep open the possibility that we might be mistaken. You think you’re destined for American Idol stardom? Other people will confirm that in you. You think God has shown you who your future husband is? It’ll happen if it’s really from God.
4. Good fruit – If something is from God it produces good fruit. If something is leading you to sin, error, lying, acting without love, then we should check if this is really from God. I’m not saying God’s will never has any difficulty, but even when it’s difficult God gives us the grace to thrive in it.
Posted: April 27th, 2013 | Filed under: Blog | No Comments »
This was one packed week. It was the week of the Presence 2013 Conference in Sydney where I have been invited to speak. Here are some of the high lights.
First off: The praise and worship was amazing. it brought together C3′s worship leaders from the different congregations of the world, plus worship leaders from Elevation Church i n South Carolina. On the last day they had Citipointe’s Aaron and Becky Lucas and to top it all Darlene Zschech. Awesome!!
We also met some very wonderful people. Too many to post all here. Here’s a sampling:
Below left: Jimmy Oentoro is the founder and senior pastor of IFGF Churches of Indonesia. A movement of churches in forty nations. I will be speaking at the IFGF conference in June in Jakarta.
Below right: Emma. The doorman or should I say doorwoman in our hotel at QT Sydney. Marie befriended her and invited her to the conference and moved her one step further into the kingdom. She’s never seen or heard church the way Marie described it to her.
Above left: Children’s Church volunteers who manned the Big Top, the amazing kid’s ministry theme of the conference. It was encouraging to see volunteers who were young children and folks who were grandfathers.
Above right: C3 Pastor’s wives.
Thanks to C3′s great hospitality and hosting Marie and I had the time to sample the sights and experience Sydney.
Below left: Marie taking a photo of herself at the New South Wales Art Gallery and the gorgeous Queen Victoria Building next door from the hotel.
Below right: Experiencing the comfort of Australia’s inimitable UGG Boot.
Above left: Watching the parade on ANZAC Day (Australia, New Zealand Army Corps) a very important Ozy celebration remembering those who have fallen in defense of the nation.
Above right: Sydney’s iconic landmarks – The Opera House and Darling Harbor at night.
Posted: April 26th, 2013 | Filed under: Blog | 2 Comments »
Woke up this morning and read this post from my wife Marie on Facebook. It is awesome – I decided to copy paste the entire thing here and share it with you. Thank God for a wife who loves you despite knowing all the flaws and realities about you. May God return your blessing Marie. I love you!
Thoughts in Sydney
My dear Heavenly Father,
My mind is full this morning as I wake up at 6 am.
Today is Friday, the last day of Presence conference.
Joey speaks one more message today.
In my quiet moments with The Lord, He has given me some personal insights which I thought Of sharing:
1) I don’t have a Filipino God. They don’t have an Aussie God.
When I came into a conference like this, surrounded by thousands and thousands of strangers, on unfamiliar territory, from an entirely different church family, I was feeling a bit insecure and intimidated on Day 1.
God reminded me,”you did not come here, accompanied by a Filipino God. They didn’t come here with an Aussie God. You came here with the GOD of the UNIVERSE. There is no such thing as Third world or First world with me. I OWN IT ALL. I am THE SAME, wherever you find me. The power of my Word is the same. My promises are the same for all my children, wherever you find them.
There is not one place on earth that is unfamiliar to Me. No territory that I do not own. I am The Lord of heaven and earth. But more than all that, I am YOUR FATHER who accompanies you and is giving you this new experience. You will benefit from them. They too will benefit from you.
Yes my God lives in the Philippines. But He lives everywhere too.
I thank The Lord for opening the borders of my mind, on my 1st trip to Sydney.
2) I am grateful and so proud of my hubby, for going out of his Comfort zone a lot!
He is still sleeping now, but I thank you Jesus, for him.
If I feel intimidated, think of how he feels! He’s the one who has to speak! Several times!So I thank you for his faith and his courage. I know he is able to do this because You are his Dad too, his Mentor and his Strength.
Thank you that he is willing to go beyond his comfort zone and share whatever he has to give. Thank you for your Word that holds him steadfast through all the challenges and joys he experiences. Thank You too, for the way he fathers our sweet sons and the strong bonds he has with each one;
3) I am grateful for our EN spiritual family. So grateful for the example of Steve & Deborah and their years of sowing in our nation, so grateful to be part of the entire Victory Team in the Philippines from Manny Carlos to Mayet, from Paolo P to every volunteer who cheerfully and quietly serve, pray and love the Lord, despite the summer heat and all!
We would share stories from our Pinoy church life and they are blessed.
We keep saying over here in Sydney that we work as a team, we did not start this, but are only part of this team!
I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 1 Corinthians 3:6-7
Posted: April 24th, 2013 | Filed under: Blog | No Comments »
It was a perfect day. The weather was in true Aussie terms “awesome.” We’ve also had a good night’s sleep, our bodies have recovered from flights to Singapore, Sydney, speaking to Every Nation’s leaders, doing a marriage seminar Saturday evening and preaching twice at Oxford Falls Sunday.
Thank God for our hosts, C3 churches, who honor the Sabbath and has spaced our time here with breaks and made our Monday just perfect.
After walking around Hyde Park, the Domain and Sydney Botanical Gardens we headed for the Art Gallery of New South Wales. My artist wife who brings color to my life needed her art fix.
Interestingly all of these places had free admission. A little socialism does have it’s benefits, even for tourists. The gallery featured a rich assortment of Aussie art from turn of the century to contemporary, Aboriginal art, a European collection, a photo gallery, they even have an Asian collection.
As I toured the gallery a thought kept repeating itself in my head, beauty. Here are my 3 thoughts on it:
1. Beauty matters. To be sure there is beautiful art and there is not so beautiful art. As they say art is the free expression of what’s within. Just as Peter encourages us that lasting beauty resides inside of us as it makes its way out.
“…it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” 1Peter 3:4
But the point is that beauty matters. That’s because we are attracted to beauty. God is beautiful and it is what causes us to seek Him. ”One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.” Psalm 27:4
2. Beauty influences. As Marie took her time to savor art pieces I found myself browsing at some point and was just waiting for her.
While waiting, I thought of how beauty influences all of us. Whether that’s a beautiful sunset, a picturesque landscape, an artwork or even a beautiful woman. I am reminded of Esther in the Bible whose beauty influenced the powers at be and an entire nation.
I am often asked, what is it about Marie that made you want to marry her? Since I am a pastor I guess they expect me to say – because she was spiritual. Marie is certainly spiritual but that wasn’t at the top of my list when I first met her. Honestly, her beauty was a major influence.
3. Beauty fades. While beauty matters and influences, it does fade over time. ”Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30
Solomon points out that God makes everything beautiful in His time but has also set eternity in our hearts. ”He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart;…” Ecclesiastes 3:11
And like the artists that mattered in their time and influenced many, they all had something else in common, each artist as some point faded. Death is a certainty no matter how beautiful. Bottom line is everyone needs the Gospel of Christ for everyone has eternity set in their heart.
Have a beautiful week!
Posted: April 22nd, 2013 | Filed under: Blog | 3 Comments »
I was at the C3 Church’s Sunday service last night at Oxford Falls, a suburb of Sydney when Australian talk show host Jamie Malcolm exhorted the congregation. Jamie’s words were unforgettable I wanted to make sure I recorded them here so I could remember and share them with you.
Jamie spoke about generosity and giving but did it in a way I’ve never heard before. He spoke of how to get started in giving. His point was simple -all too often we think in terms of larger amounts rather than just starting out and doing something no matter how small.
His verses were the familiar, he who is faithful in little, but what was unforgettable was the story he told to illustrate his point. He talked of his little league soccer team having time with a professional trainer. The trainer set up a plastic cone on a spot and a soccer ball a ways away and then asked for a volunteer who could kick the ball and hit the cone.
A brave six year old came forward revved up kicked the ball that went east instead of heading south for the cone. It was then that the trainer asked if the parents had any ideas how the child could hit the ball. One said, maybe he should hit the ball with the side of his foot and others offered their own advice. Naturally they did it in a way that woud not further embarrass the boy who was already self-conscious from having missed the target.
Then the trainer then took the boy on one hand and the ball on the other. He placed the ball half a foot away from the cone and asked the boy, “now can you hit it from here.” The little boy peeped sheepishly upwards to the trainer and said, “yes.” He kicked and the cone went “tonk.” The trainer then moved the ball another foot and asked the boy “can you hit it again,” and the boy obliged and the cone went “tonk.”
After a few more moves the ball was where it originally was when the boy missed the cone the first time. But this time the combination of the boy’s confidence, aim and re-adjusted muscle memory and the cone went “tonk”. Jamie then made his point, we should learn to start small in our giving and gradually allow God to move us onward. Powerful stuff, I thought.
As I left church that evening I could not help to think of how his illustration is so true about making disciples. Often we make people who are new to the faith try to hit targets that are just out of reach. Jamie’s story reminds us that we need to help people who still don’t believe or have just begun to believe to see that a transformed life is not an unreachable goal but a reality that grows as we continue to grow in our knowledge and understanding of Jesus and His Gospel.
The words of James to the leaders in Jerusalem on what to say to the early church on how to engage those who are not of the faith captures the heart of Jamie’s story:
“It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.” Acts 15:19
Don’t make it difficult for people who are turning to God. Give them opportunities to hit the cone. For sure the sound of “tonk” makes them feel more confident, as they refine their aim to follow Christ. In time they will have good muscle memory in the ways of the Spirit.
Posted: April 20th, 2013 | Filed under: Blog | No Comments »
Had an interesting week – I was interviewed by Ed Stetzer at 3 PM US Eastern Standard Time which means 3 am in Manila. The interview was at the Exchange his regular live Q and A. Topic? What else, discipleship. Thanks Ed for promoting the book.
Also this week Marie and I left for Sydney. Our trip was for the C3 Presence Conference where I was invited to speak. We decided to come one day early and stay one day later so we could spend time with the leaders of the church of Every Nation Sydney.
Picture below is with Pastor Jason Hubbart and his wife Amy. I did a Small Group Leaders’ meeting and in the evening of Saturday Marie and I did a Marriage Seminar for the couples in the church.
Since I preached at the C3 Church in Oxford Falls Sunday, Marie spoke to the Every nation Church in Sydney – her first ever Sunday preaching overseas.
Posted: April 19th, 2013 | Filed under: Blog | 1 Comment »
Landed in Sydney four hours ago, where I have been invited to speak at Presence Conference 2013 of C3 Church Global. Marie and I will also be speaking on marriage at the Every Nation church here. Here is part of the message we will be sharing. It is our hope that it will encourage you in your own marriage.
“On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.” John 2:1
Theologians have often referred to this incident as Jesus’s very first miraculous act (see verse 11). What that tells me is that to Him marriages and families are vitally important.
“When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, ‘They have no more wine.’” John 2:3
In some ways marriage is like wine. Lively, sometimes light, fruity and carefree, other times deep, tangy and intense, all told wine represents spirit and fun.
Wine in marriage is like the special times in the midst of the mundane. They flavor the dull and humdrum and bring excitement to the boredom. In this story however, the couple ran out of wine. Life has it’s challenges.
A final point about wine and marriage is that both are meant to get better as they age.
“His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’” John 2:5
As in everything in life, Mary knew that for things to work the way they should – one needs to do whatever Jesus tells you.
“Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.” John 2:6
As I read this verse I was reminded of the six days most people in the world work in. The day in and day out of life: the commute, the eight hours, cleaning of the house, cooking, grocery, paying bills, breakfast, lunch and dinner…over and over. And just like the six days of the week that have 24 hours these were filled with somewhere between 20 to 30 gallons of ordinary water.
“Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water’; so they filled them to the brim.” John 2:7
It’s true that our days can be filled to the brim with the ordinary, monotonous and the common stuff like water. But as disciples we must keep to what Jesus tells us each day. Water also represents God’s word that washes us the bride of Christ and presents us as radiant and wrinkle free without blemish (Ephesians 5;26-27).
In short keep filling yourself with His word everyday – to the brim. Though it may seem like ordinary it is daily shaping us and preparing us. One day He will turn all that water into wine.
“Then he told them, ‘Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.’ They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew.” John 2:8-9a
That’s because Jesus can (and desires to) turn our ordinary day to day water into wine: lively, spirited, deep, colorful and one that gets better over time. Some may not realize what Jesus has done to our lives but others who draw from our day to day lives will know why our lives, marriages and families have turned from water to wine.
“Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, ‘Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.’ John 2:9b-10
But even though others don’t realize what a difference Jesus makes, they will know that our lives are not just water that has been turned to wine rather an endless supply of choice wine. The best wine that has been saved up for last.
This weekend give your water to Jesus and have Him turn it into wine. Trust Him that He desires to save the best for last…life keeps getting better when we do whatever He tells us.
Have a great weekend!
Posted: April 17th, 2013 | Filed under: Blog | No Comments »
For the last three months I have been wavering between switching from my Iphone to Samsung’s S3 smart phone. It is becoming obvious that the Android phone is a better deal and value than my trusted Apple phone.
This however, is not the reason why Koreans are my newest heroes.
For two years Pastor Enoch has been inviting me to speak at his Bible school somewhere in Taytay, East of Manila. Pastor Enoch who is South Korean is part of Hap Dong (United) Presbyterian Church, a large Korean church that has a strong missions call.
I have respectfully declined and endorsed other teachers whom I felt were more apt. After all I’m really not very good at teaching in a seminary setting. I don’t have a degree in theology or missiology.
Finally this year because of his insistence I accepted the invite. I was so glad I did. What I found was a team of Koreans on the ground in the Philippines serving in the poorest places in my country. There were over two hundred Filipino pastors and leaders who came to the one day marathon teaching on discipleship.
The church we were in was tucked in the heart of Manila’s shanties. Leaders from all over the country who minister in the most depressed areas came. They were an impressive bunch. It was encouraging to see that these Korean missionaries were not just making sure that their theology was right but were empowering them to go and make disciples.
Their Korean wives cooked and served everyone with a spread of Korean barbecue, noodles, rice, fruits and let’s not forget kimchi. And if you have not tried Korean barbecue grilled in aromatic wood coals, you are missing something.
Over lunch I found an entire team of Koreans who have dedicated their lives to the mission of reaching the poorest of Filipinos. Pastor Enoch himself has been living in the Philippines for more than 15 years with his family.
I also met Rev. Park and his wife. He is the veteran of the group. He had just retired after being in ministry for over 40 years in Seoul. After retirement, he and his wife decided that the best way to spend the next season of their lives was to move to Manila to give another 15 years of their lives reaching the marginalized of the country.
In the afternoon after I finished my sessions I met Pastor Lee. He and his family have been in the country for the last 20 years. They are presently living in Lucena, 4 hours South of Manila. During our brief talk he said, “I love your church in Lucena. Many of our people stay in my church but their children move to yours because your pastor is younger and I am so glad because you make disciples.”
I thought, “What a spirit, here’s a man who’s main concern is to turn people into disciples and not about growing his ministry.” As I drove home exhausted from the heat and multiple sessions I was equally refreshed and encouraged by the work of these men and women. I prayed that I will be as committed to the mission of spreading the Gospel as these Koreans even in my old age.
As far as my digital world is concerned I’m staying with Mac for my computer but I think I will finally end up using a Samsung S3. To be clear that’s not the reason why Koreans are my newest heroes.
Posted: April 15th, 2013 | Filed under: Blog | 2 Comments »
If my memory serves me right this incident happened more than 20 years ago. I never realized that a simple matter of how one squeezes toothpaste can cause so much aggravation and frustration. You see, I am the type who likes his tube squeezed from the bottom with every ounce of paste neatly exiting the tube. My wife Marie squeezes everywhere.
Imagine coming home to a mangled and disfigured tube after methodically emptying it in the morning. Sometimes when toothpaste is trapped at the bottom end of the tube because of the creases and dents I would express my frustration to Marie telling her to do something about the way she abuses our toothpaste.
Other times the creases crack the sides of the tube (this was in the days when tubes were made of aluminum) spilling out toothpaste on the white sink. I am tempted to draw a red arrow pointing to the near invisible waste to show her how uneconomical if not prodigal she is and how much of a sinner she was.
Then it happened during one of my frustrating moments. The Holy Spirit spoke His word to me as I held the mutilated tube. “…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28
In His still silent manner the Holy Spirit impressed in my heart the thought that “if you love your wife, do as Jesus did, don’t wait to be served but serve her everyday by fixing the toothpaste for her.” I was certain she would never turn from her fallen nature and she would still squeeze it the wrong way. But now God wanted me to serve Marie in this specific area – EVERYDAY!
That day I began a journey into service that would last a few years. Everyday I would fix the tube and everyday Marie butchered it. And with each passing day I felt how God felt about the infractions I would not willingly deal with. I also started enjoying the act of serving Marie. It became a challenge of how long I could endure long suffering and downright angst.
As I became more aware of my own toothpaste type issues with God I realized how small if not inconsequential Marie’s infraction was. Over time it really didn’t matter. The words of Jesus became a living mantra -” just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve” – it changed my life.
In God’s mercy and kindness one day as I was neatly fixing our tube the Holy Spirit dropped a brilliant idea, “why don’t you get Marie a tube for herself, this way she can torture it all she wants and you won’t need to fix it.” It was then that I realized that God can drop the solutions to our practical problems quickly but is often more concerned with the condition of our hearts and wants to fix it.
By the way, the picture above shows my toothpaste below and Marie’s tube above it. She still mutilates them but now I love her for it. Better yet I no longer have to fix her tube. Have a great week connecting to God and to one another!
An Unwelcome View
Posted: April 14th, 2013 | Filed under: Podcasts | No Comments »
In this message series on leadership, discover how Jesus set the example for godly leadership in how He lived His life, and how He compels us to follow His example.