Posted: February 22nd, 2013 | Filed under: Blog | 1 Comment »
I had lunch with Joe and Ann Onosai on our last day in Hawaii.
Joe was a Samoan tribal prince who studied in Hawaii. At one time he was a top draft pick of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. After an injury Joe poured his competitive juices to the World’s Strongest Man Competition where he was twice a finalist in the 1990′s. Joe also came out in a Hollywood action movie alongside Steven Segal.
Today Joe is one of the pastors of an Every Nation church in Hawaii. Life wasn’t always a bed of roses for Joe. Having made friends and was influenced by the wrong friends Joe faced a tough and challenging life as a young man.
But Joe overcame and carried a burden for the youth. As a Christian he toured high schools and college campuses doing strength feats to attract the youth as he preached the Gospel to them.
I asked Joe to share with me his first thoughts that helped shape him. Joe quickly said it was ordinary people who shared their time and whose small words shaped who he is today. Here they are:
1. A policeman who saw Joe at a tender age of 13 being led astray by the wrong friends. His small words to him were, “Joe Onosai stop following the crowd and start leading them.” Joe claims that simple statement woke him up. He says many of his friends then are either in jail, dead or living worthless lives. He coud have easily been one of them.
2. A teacher who saw Joe struggling with school work but saw the potential in him said,”Quitting is not an option.” Joe claims these words still ring true today as a husband, father of three girls and grandfather. Life will always have challenges but quitting is never an option. Always give it your very best.
3. A college football coach who told him, “I’d rather see you play consistently good rather than be occasionally great.” Joe points out that all too often we want to be superstars for the moment rather than consistent performers who make our teams win. Consistency is the basis of life, imagine life that did not have consistent sunrises.
Small words have big strong impact in our lives. We need to give them as often as we can. But as the adage goes, we can only give what we have received.
The key is to consistently hear the promises of the Bible about Jesus, small words that have big impact: God so loves you. God’s promises are yes and amen in Christ Jesus. I will never leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid. I have come to give you life and life more abundantly. I have overcome the world.
Get your small words that have lifetime impact from Christ everyday and always be ready to give away your small words. There’s no telling who they will transform into big, strong men like Joe Onosai.
Posted: February 20th, 2013 | Filed under: Blog | No Comments »
The last meeting I had in Honolulu. The gathering of over 700 small group leaders from all the Every Nation Hawaii churches and some from Hope Chapel.
At the end of the day after is all said and done the key to strong healthy churches is empowered members who are disciples who make disciples.
Posted: February 20th, 2013 | Filed under: Blog | 3 Comments »
Last day in Ko Olina, Hawaii. At the gym today I was reminded of a discussion we had two weeks ago in Manila about burdens. Here is an expanded version of what I shared.
1. Distinguish between a load and a burden. There is a difference between a load and a burden.
The Bible tells us to carry our own load (Gal. 6:5) but it also tells us to carry each other’s burdens (Gal. 6:2). Loads are regular occurrences we are designed to carry. Examples of these are: caring for our love ones, work entrusted to us, providing for our families, even connecting with people God wants us to reach.
Burdens on the other hand are those that are beyond our ability to carry. This could be due to something unexpected, unknown or unusual. The first step in turning burdens into spiritual muscles is to correctly identify them. Is it a load or a burden? Once you have identified a burden, it’s time to…
2. Get someone to help you carry your burdens. Herein lies the importance of family and church (our spiritual family). We will all encounter burdens that we are incapable of carrying alone. It is our close relationships that allow us to carry these extra heavy loads.
Here are 2 reasons why we don’t get others to help carry our burdens. We are too prideful to admit that there are things we cannot carry alone. Another reason is we have not developed relationships with people who have the capacity and desire to help us carry our burdens.
Fact is there will be burdens that we will need others to help us carry. As important as that is there will be times when we won’t have someone to help us carry our burdens. What do you do then?
3. Think of it like a being in a gym. The picture of the dumbbell above is like that of a burden. It was not designed to be carried the whole day but in increments. Carrying a dumbbell the whole day is dumb. It will result in an injury. This is also true of burdens, as they can injure our faith.
It was Rice Broocks who told me how to carry burdens, “Think of it like going to the gym, pick up your burden and then set it down. then pick it up again.” Rice’s simple advise has helped me through the years. Burdens like heavy dumbbells should be carried and set down and then carried and then set down again. This way instead of injuring ourselves we end up building faith muscles.
Setting down our burdens is not just simply letting go and forgetting about them, but it’s about running to Jesus who said, “Come to me…for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Setting down means casting our cares upon Him. When we set down our burdens we allow ourselves to rest in the presence of God.
In time after we have rested and recovered from the weight of our burdens we can again carry them. This constant practice will build our spiritual muscles.Eventually what used to be a burden becomes just a load. When our muscles grow we put ourselves in a position to help others lift their burdens.
Posted: February 18th, 2013 | Filed under: Blog | No Comments »
Tonight President Obama gives his State of the Nation Address. I wrote this last week while I was in Hawaii where he grew up.
It was in his tender years here that young Barrack was influenced and moulded. And whatever world view he holds today was shaped during those formative years in high school and college. Here’s more to read about Obama’s high-school gang in Hawaii.
Faith in God and in His word is also shaped when we are young. This is why reaching high-school and college students is so important. They become the future parents, teachers, doctors, business people and yes, presidents.
I have been meeting with the leaders of the Every Nation church in Hawaii specially making time for the young men who lead our campus ministry here.
One of the men is Mark Younge, pictured above. He reaches out and disciples high school students. Campus ministers have the strategic advantage and distinct opportunity of shaping individual lives that affect destines of families and nations. Here are the key ingredients Mark shared with me in reaching the next generation:
1. Time and patience. Mark recounted two stories, one of a young man whose father murdered his mother and another student whose mother was in prison. Seemingly hopeless situations. He explains the importance of spending time and being patient with a generation that has grown up in dysfunctional families.
The Bible does say that love is patient. And patience is intricately connected to time. “Spending time and being patient allows them to realize that they are special and that someone has taken a genuine interest in them. This gives them hope and allows their hearts to be open.”
2. Truth and love. Time and patience allows us to connect but without the truth people will not be set free. The truth is we are sinners and nothing we do including our very best efforts can change that. We are rotten to the core. Truth is the first step to freedom.
Truth however, without love will only condemn young people and make them desperate unless they realize that God loves them despite their fallen state and rebellious nature. The Gospel is still the the truth and love combination that sets us free.
3. Ongoing discipleship. Understanding the Gospel is not a one time event but a life long journey. God is not just a doctrine, a set of religious tennets, or a belief. All that is important but God is so much more. He is the Creator of the universe, the King of Kings, the One who has no beginning and end, who declares I Am your eternal Father.
He desires that we follow Him in a life long relationship. This is the only way we can progressively grow not just in knowing who He is or what He requires but in an ongoing relationship that grows in trust, love, grace and forgiveness. This He initiated when He gave us His Son Jesus Christ to pay for our sins.
Those we reach on campus need to be discipled long after they have graduated from school. Who knows they could be the next president of the most powerful nation on earth.
Posted: February 15th, 2013 | Filed under: Blog, Uncategorized | No Comments »
The tweet and picture above is courtesy of my friend and host Pastor Norman Nakanishi who had me scheduled in five services from 8 am to 8 pm last Sunday. The picture was taken at half point.
The first service was tough since my body’s clock was still on Manila’s time (around 2:00 am). Straight from Discipleship 2013 last Saturday I flew to Honolulu for a week of meetings with the Every Nation Churches here.
After the last service I was hosted for dinner by some of the pastors. One of them asked me, “how do you stay energized for 5 services in the midst of your travels and still have something left-over to meet with us. Here were some of my responses and thoughts:
1. It’s not about preaching it’s about the people. Whenever I speak I consider the different groups present. I ask my hosts who they are and try to tailor fit my messages to them. If I know there are young children in the meetings I would add a Disney illustration or something that appeals to them. This way I keep them engaged.
By focusing on people and not the “job” of preaching I am energized as I visualize the impact my message will have on them. I think about the power of the Holy Spirit to transform lives as the He breathes on His word that comes out of me.
2. Preach like you are preaching for the first time. Through the years I have trained myself to speak as if I am delivering the message for the first time regardless of how many times I have already spoken.
Energy is dissipated when I feel like I am only repeating myself. The key here is to know that while it is the same message and the same room, the next meeting is with a different group of people. I treat every service as a special meal for the person on the receiving end.
Like a good chef I know that I have to deliver a fresh meal. Each service is a new customer who is expecting the same quality meal of the previous service…and I intend to deliver. Staying focused on the need to deliver something fresh helps to keep me energized. Thinking that person will go home full of God’s bread always energizes.
3. Preach like you are preaching to yourself. The last thing that helps me stay energized is I remind myself that I benefit the most from the preaching even though I prepared it.
Interestingly I have found that by taking this posture my messages get richer as more revelation come from the repetition. Instead of getting bored I end up with new discoveries on how to present my message better. Nothing energizes more than hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ again and again in fresh new ways.
The challenge of this process keeps me energized as I remain expectant of not just better ways to communicate but of revelations that lead to personal applications. Applications not just for the people listening to me but to my personal life as well…and that’s energizing.
Your personal take-away: As disciple makers we need to be reminded it’s not about our preaching but the people. We should treat every opportunity to preach the gospel like we’re presenting it for the first time, full of energy. Remember you are just as much a beneficiary every time you share.
Posted: February 13th, 2013 | Filed under: Blog | 1 Comment »
Last Monday I walked by this secluded beach in Ko Olina in Hawaii. Without the clean soft breeze, the chirping birds, the sound of waves splashing on the rocks, and the scent of the blue ocean… pictures like this are… well…just pictures.
No matter how beautiful this spot was it is of little value because I had no one to share it with. The Bible is indeed correct when it declares, “it is not good for man to be alone.” It’s funny how we work ourselves to death and take for granted what actually matters, our closest relationships. I could only wish Marie was with me at that particular moment. Life is meant for sharing.
Life is composed of multiple moments that are here for a while and then are gone. Makes you think of how important each moment we have with the people we love have to be maximized and taken advantage of. Life is meant for sharing.
In the morning I was interviewed on radio by Dr. Danny Yamashiro (right) of “The Good Life, Hawaii,” a Hawaiian Christian talk show. The interview was about my book “The LEGO Principle.”
On our way to the station we passed the high school where U.S. President Barrack Obama went to school. The conversation with Danny and my host Pastor Norman Nakanishi about the president’s roots and significant events in Hawaii’s recent history was so interesting I wish Marie was with me to share in it.
Then there was the art gallery I chanced upon that I was sure she would have enjoyed. I could imagine her lingering and asking about the local artists. And the holding pond that had baby sting rays and hammerhead sharks you could feed, something that she would surely be curious about and get her feet wet in.
We share life because Christ first shared it with us. As the sunset came into view I was glad I wasn’t walking alone. Jesus is with me even when I walk through the shadow of the darkest valley…in this case… walking in one of the nicest places on earth. Not only that He comforts me (Psalm 23:4).
Tomorrow I start work again as I hold meetings week long with the Every Nation churches here and with the folks from Hope Chapel with Pastor Mike Kai. Thankfully Marie is coming in another day, we will both be speaking at the gathering of leaders on Saturday. In the meantime…it is a good reminder that whether it’s sunsets, sand or green grass, life is meant for sharing.
And though this last picture is…well…just a picture. It too is worth sharing. Aloha!
Posted: February 11th, 2013 | Filed under: Blog | 2 Comments »
I first walked into the church service of what is today known as Victory almost 27 years ago. There is no question in my mind that one of the reasons why I am blessed today is because of this church. I would be nowhere near what I am today if I had not become a part of this church.
That evening in 1986 Marie and I stumbled into a small gathering of about 40 people. There were no polished singers and musicians, no flashy preaching but there was something distinctive. As early as then there was a passionate desire to honor God with one’s life and make disciples.
Today the same passion remains except now instead of 40 or so people there are over 60,000 people that have made Victory their home. Interestingly while the music and preaching have become more polished but the mission has not changed – “Honor God and Make Disciples.”
Last Saturday I sat in Victory’s Discipleship 2013 gathering at the Ultra Sports Arena in Manila. It’s hard to imagine that this gathering of over 7,000 small group leaders was the same church we walked into 27 years ago. Here were the three big take aways I had from the event:
1. It’s all about people. Throughout the three hour gathering I couldn’t stop crying as I listened to story after story of lives that were transformed by God as people were reached and discipled. More than just programs, processes and principles, discipleship is all about people. Yes God is honored by our individual lives but what will truly honor God in the long term is when more people are transformed, as their lives are changed, He is more glorified . This happens when we make disciples.
2. It’s all about empowering people. It was Harvard and Stanford chaplain Elton Trueblood who wrote: “There is no real chance of victory in a campaign if ninety percent of the soldiers are untrained and uninvolved, but that is exactly where we stand now. — Perhaps the greatest single weakness of the contemporary Christian Church is that millions of supposed members are not really involved at all and, what is worse, do not think it strange that they are not.”
The future of the Christian Church does not rest in a handful of professional career ministers but rests in the hands of ordinary people who have been empowered as disciples to reach out to their spheres of influence. Every single believer must be activated to go and make disciples. Young, old, male, female, rich, poor, everyone…yes, EVERYONE. This is the hope of the nations.
3. It’s all about Jesus. Steve Murrell reemphasized the that its all about the Gospel. The Gospel isat the heart of discipleship. Before we can help others experience the love of Christ, we must first experience it for ourselves. We can only give away what we have received. The Bible declares “We love. because he first loved us” (1John 4:19). As we experience the love of God in Christ Jesus on a daily basis we freely offer it to others.
As I write this post I am Honolulu teaching pastors and leaders what it means to go and make disciples. The church I am working with here does not have 7,000 small group leaders but 700. It does not matter how big or small a church is. Whether it is in Manila or Honolulu, Tokyo or New York — It’s all about people. People who have been empowered to go and make disciples. So that they can be turned into followers of Jesus. Honor God and make disciples!
(Thank you Rolica Binondo and Jen Punzalan for the pictures above)
Posted: February 8th, 2013 | Filed under: Blog | No Comments »
Daswani, Kishnani, Chulani, Murjani, Chotwani, Sidhwani, Gidwani. Notice the similarity? “ani.” Don’t really know why but someone told me at the reception that all these names were somehow related. Each of these families and clans have come from the same city or region.
It was our first Indian wedding. The family of the groom invited my wife and me to a three day feast that included a “rock and roll” event, a series of lavish meals, a ceremony in a Hindu temple that all culminated in a black tie dinner Sunday night. I didn’t go to all of the events but just two of them. And they were enough to make me think of extending my exercise routine today.
As I sat through the ceremonies and celebration I took mental notes on how a Christian should engage a culture and community that is not his.
1. Know the background. The Indian community in the Philippines are mostly Sindhi, they were natives from the Sindh province of Pakistan. After the partitioning of India in 1947, the Hindus, Sikhs and Jains migrated to India and other parts of the world. Some of them came to the Philippines and built communities in Manila, Cebu and Davao.
Many of them left because of Islamic persecution. Desiring to keep their faith in tact they risked the perils of living in far away lands in order to keep what they believed. Knowing this helped me engage them that evening. Learning the cultural background means engaging them where they live and not from a distance.
2. Build relationships. Cultures are real and powerful but I have found that relationships are equally as powerful. Marie and I were probably among the 5% (guessing) of Filipinos in the gatherings but we were welcomed like we were part of the family. What we experienced as guests was not just a feast but warmth among these people.
As we stepped in the temple Marie was met by the Auntie of the groom from Mumbai who said, “I know that dress, I bought it myself. My brother-in-law asked me to buy it for you. You must be the pastor’s wife.” Apparently our attires were bought by this relative from India.
My relationship with them is what has allowed me to speak into the lives of this family. Which leads me to my final point.
3. Preach the Gospel. Yesterday I had breakfast with one of the members of the family and re-explained the Gospel to him. No matter how long it takes and how many times you do it — preach the Gospel.
The Gospel is power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes. While relationships are important it is the truth of the Gospel that saves and transforms lives. It is not your convincing skills, art of persuasion but the simple message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that turns people from darkness into light. We are sinners, God loves us and He gave us His own Son to die for us.
“So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.” 2Timothy 1:8
Posted: February 6th, 2013 | Filed under: Blog | 1 Comment »
Whenever I officiate weddings I make sure I come early. With traffic unpredictable in Manila it’s just not worth the stress of being stuck not knowing if you will be late. That’s why I came one hour early for last Saturday’s wedding ceremony.
The banquet hall was empty except for one table where a few early guests sat. At the table our friends Junjun and Mae Perez were excitedly recounting a recent sighting of brightly colored rainbow. Junjun posted the picture above in Facebook. As Christians we believe that a rainbow is a sign of promise from God. A promise that He will never harm us or destroy us as it was in the days of Noah.
As Mae and Junjun spoke I was reminded of the number of times these colorful appearances have been a source of encouragement for me. One in particular stood out. Many years ago while vacationing in the mountains I chanced upon one of these rainbow sightings as I stepped out of our billet. It was probably the most majestic rainbow I have ever seen. The full arc and the vividness of the colors were resplendent, it is hard to forget.
The occurrence was more than 20 years ago and yet the encouragement of that moment has not left me. Here are three thoughts to inspire you the next time you see a rainbow:
1. A rainbow’s colors don’t change. Junjun explained that the order of a rainbow’s colors never changes. ROYGBIV – from top to bottom in descending order – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. Regardless of where you find one all rainbow’s remain the same. As such we can trust that God will be consistent with His truth and love, He is never changing.
2. All we can see is a portion. That day in the mountain I saw something I would never forget. The shape of the rainbow was a semi-circle. The book of Revelation tells us that a rainbow encircles God ‘s throne in heaven (Revelation 4:3).
A rainbow is a circle and every time we see one we need to remind ourselves that on this earth we will only see (at best) half of all that God has in store for us. The rest remains to be a surprise. Reality is many times when we see a rainbow what we see is a quarter or less. Yes God’s promises are trustworthy and amazing. But keep in mind that they are but a fraction of what we can see or imagine both here and in eternity. Expect to be surprised!
3. A beautiful bow of light. It was Sally Lloyd Jones in her book the Jesus Storybook Bible that wrote that the rainbow or “God’s war bow was not pointing down at his people. It was pointing up, into the heart of heaven.” God’s beautiful bow of light was His colorful way of reminding us that wrath and judgement have been witheld and that His Son Jesus would take the arrow for us.
A colorful promise that will never change and one that we can only behold but a portion of,…for now.
Thank you Junjun Perez for the picture above.
Posted: February 4th, 2013 | Filed under: Blog | No Comments »
Last Saturday I officiated the wedding of a young couple, Ace Subido and Elain Ojeda. Both were raised in loving Christian homes and spent many years in children’s church. Ace is the son of my friend Chai who lived in Japan when his father was the consul there. Chai’s business provides Japanese multi-national companies with translators. Elain is the daughter of Army General Nic Ojeda.
From the time the ceremony started to the end of the evening the wedding was marked with a spattering of laughter and a sense of joy. It began when the General escorted his daughter and before I (the officiating minister) or anyone could speak, he shouted at Ace saying, “What are you waiting for, come and get her?” Laughter ensued.
There was so much freedom and love in the room I was reminded of the verses in Galatians that explain the freedom and love connection.
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh rather, serve one another humbly in love.” Galatians 5:13
The Gothic roots of the word freedom is “freis” which means to be dearly loved. When one enjoys a measure of freedom it’s because it has been granted by someone who loves him or her. We have the freedom to enjoy life because God has set us free. Freedom is always rooted in love. And love always manifests in freedom. Here are three thoughts on love and freedom:
1. Freedom has boundaries. Lest you take this out of context this freedom is not about living freely at the expense of the other rather it is expressed in serving each other in humble love as the verse says. Freedom is vast and wide within the boundaries of God’s word. Any type of freedom that is not rooted in love will end up in slavery.
2. Our misunderstanding of love and freedom is a trust issue. Our lack of understanding of God’s love is why we often break away from His boundary lines – lines that as the Bible says have been set in pleasant places. We fail to realize that God’s garden is immeasurable. We mistakenly mistrust him for what seems to be freedom only to end up disappointed again and again. Freedom is rooted in love and both are experienced as we trust God.
As the verse in Galatians 5:6 says: “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” When we trust God or put our faith in Him we experience His love that we can freely give to others.
3. To be free means to walk in the Spirit. The spiritual life is not a speed run but a walk. It’s a journey. A relationship. The more we walk in step with God the greater measure of love and freedom we experience. Our lives are motivated and empowered by the Holy Spirit to live in righteousness, peace and joy. The result is real freedom safe within the boundaries of God’s Kingdom.
As Marie and I walked to our car in the cobbled streets of Intramuros, the cool breeze reminded me of the freedom I have enjoyed over the last 29 years of walking with God. Thanks Lord, to You be praise and glory always!
PS: Anson Yu, thank you for the photo of Ace and Elain.