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.
Posted: February 1st, 2013 | Filed under: Blog | 1 Comment »
I had no idea who he was. One of our church members was his classmate in school. It was his first time to visit our church. It was obvious he was a Chinese businessman. At the end of the service his friend brought him forward to introduce him to me. After our brief conversation I offered to pray for him. He nodded in agreement.
Eyes closed as I prayed, the Lord gave me a picture of rabbit. I asked, “A rabbit Lord?” I sensed the familiar presence of the Holy Spirit was leading me to give the man a word of encouragement.
I opened my eyes and told him about the vision. Then I said, “I believe the Lord gave me a picture of the kind of person that you are. You are naturally good, you are a good son, brother, student and even as a businessman you have always done good. You are the type of person who never brought trouble on others and rarely got into trouble.” I added, “You’re the exact opposite of me.”
His friend stared quizzically at me and said, “that’s him. that’s exactly him, how did you know all that?” Then I said, “I don’t, but the Holy Spirit does.” I turned back to the visitor and said, “as naturally good as you are, the Lord wants to show you that-that is not enough. You need the salvation of Jesus Christ and God has brought you here to hear the message of the Gospel.”
The man wept as we prayed. I introduced them to the other pastors and told him he needed to get discipled. He said, “I will be back next week.” Here’s three thoughts on the incident:
1. No one knows people quite like God. When connecting with people, connect first to God. The Holy Spirit is always ready to speak to people and He uses ordinary people like us to be conduits to touch people. I find that often my prophetic visions or words work best when I give them to people I don’t know. That way I know that it has nothing to do with me but all to do with God.
2. Personal connections are just as important as preaching moments. One allows the power of the Word of God flow through the passion and personality of the preacher. Personal ministry imparts God’s way of making the person know He is a personal God. Actually both work together. This is why all Christians need to be activated. There is just not enough pastors and ministers to touch all people personally.
3. God uses our connection to Him to connect others. It’s an amazing privilege to be able to hear God and to be able to discern His will and plans for others. We are empowered by the Holy Spirit to do that. As Christians we should not doubt that ability. It is not reserved for a few but for all who confess the name of Jesus. It is an uplifting feeling to be able to connect God.
The man left church that day experiencing a connection with God and others. I went home exhilarated that God has used me to connect others to Him, yet again. Thanks Lord!
“…do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit” Matthew 13:11
Posted: January 30th, 2013 | Filed under: Blog | 1 Comment »
In order to connect with a group of successful young businessmen in Jakarta and realizing that most of the men were educated in the United States, I asked the group: “As a businessman is your posture Malthusian or Cornucopian?
Much of western economic thought gravitates toward Malthusian or Cornucopian camps. Thomas Malthus a British scholar was an Anglican minister who wrote extensively on matters of economics that leaned towards limited resources. Cornucopian thought came from the Greek’s idea of the “horn of plenty” or that there is unlimited supply that can be had with sound practices, as pictured above. I personally believe that the truth is somewhere in between.
My goal in bringing this up was to connect with them. Being a pastor I wanted the men to feel that I understood the world they lived in. I was thinking of Paul’s words, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” Their response however indicated that I did not connect, they asked, “Maltoo who? Cornoo what?” Here are three thoughts I learned that evening that may help you connect better:
1. Education is not culture. Even though each man was educated in the United States their way of thinking did not automatically shift into Western thought. Culture does not shift because of education, it shifts because of values. Education may inform us about something but what changes our culture (or way of doing life) is when we have taken the information to heart and turned them into our values. To connect well we should be sensitive to what’s valuable to the people we are connecting with.
2. Culture is powerful. Western connection tend to be cerebral. Just because these men lived and did business in the West did not mean that their way of doing life (or culture) has shifted. Instead when the food and drinks came the connection was instant. The conversation flowed just as the food did. Be sensitive to the culture of the people you are connecting with.
3. Listen and observe. As the conversations continued one of the men told me that the seat I was sitting in was where his boss died. Apparently we were sitting in the exact spot where a terrorist bomb had exploded some years back. It was opportunity to connect with the man at a deeper level with something that was clearly on his mind that was so far removed from Malthus or Cornucopia.
Keep connecting and would appreciate your thoughts on how to turn connections into opportunities to lead people closer to God and others.
Posted: January 28th, 2013 | Filed under: Blog | 1 Comment »
We are more connected than ever. Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin has shrunk our world. Yet despite all these statistics for divorce, separations and people who feel isolated don’t show signs of abating. That’s because connectedness is useless unless it turns into community.
A community is characterized by these three A’s:
ACCEPTANCE. Genuine community is about accepting people for who they are. I accepted each of my children for who God created them to be. Each child is unique and is distinct from the other. This is how families are and how churches should be if they are to be the communities God has ordained them to be. They are marked by impartiality, they accept people regardless of their background, skin color, age, political views and yes even their sexual inclinations. Churches should welcome everyone for who they are.
Acceptance however does not mean that people should stay they way they are. I accepted my children for who God made them to be but I also made sure that I discipled them for who God destined them to be. I accepted them as babies but did not allow them to stay that way.
AFFIRMATION. Anyone who has been retweeted or whose post was liked on Facebook knows how good it feels to be affirmed. But that is surface level affirmation. Genuine affirmation comes from those who know us for who we truly are, the good, the bad and the ugly and yet continue to affirm us with their friendship and relationship. This is one of the values of family and community.
When we lack affirmation from those who are closest to us we will seek it from the larger world around us. Affirmation is what creates a quiet confidence and an inner security inside of us. We don’t have to prove ourselves. This is why churches need small groups. For it is here where moments of affirmation naturally happen as people relate with one another.
AFFECTION. And while we can have hundreds of friends and followers on the internet it lacks the ability to give us affection. The gentle touch, the sincere ear complete with eye contact, the mention of our names, the prayer of faith, the idea that we’re not just a number. Herein lies the magic of community.
The family is our primary small group. But as we know not all of us have families to provide us with community. This brings us to God’s ordained community when family fails us, the Church. The place where people are available to us, where we are accepted for we are, where we are affirmed and where we experience affection.
The implication of this is two fold: Our families are the default community God has ordained for people. But just as important is that we the Church should represent these attributes of community. So that others may experience acceptance, affirmation and affection. Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin are great but unless they turn us into communities they remain nothing but online connections.
“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” 1Corinthians 12:26-27
Posted: January 27th, 2013 | Filed under: Podcasts | No Comments »
Last Sunday was our annual Volunteer Weekend. It is the time when we invite our members to take part in the various ministries of the church including being part of a small group. My message is taken out of 1Corinthians where Paul explains how the church is the Body of Christ and that although it has many parts it is one body. It speaks of the character of the Church of being His community on earth. It also deals with what it takes to see it form. Towards the end of the message I make a call to action and emphasize the importance of our motive for why we do what we do. May this message move you to find your place in the Body of Christ and enjoy your position and role in it.
Posted: January 23rd, 2013 | Filed under: Blog | 2 Comments »
My mobile phone rang this morning as her gentle raspy voice came through, “Good morning honey.” I knew it was my wife but she didn’t sound as familiar.
It was 8 am and she sounded like she had just woken up, then she said, “We slept at 5:30 this morning, I just woke up to tell you that Jinggoy texted me.” Jinggoy is her brother-in-law who is in town from Toronto to visit his ailing brother. She was reminding me that I was supposed to pray for him.
I replied, I’ve been exchanging text messages with him already, we’re meeting each other at 11. She was surprised and she was grateful. After 30 years I finally know what makes her happy. I’m sure she was surprised with the flowers I randomly brought home two weeks ago but what really thrills her is when I take the time for the people she cares about.
Marie slept out last night with her friends. They had a sleepover cum renunion of sorts. One of them was visiting from overseas. Often when you’ve been married as long as we have phone calls can become transactional, “what time are you coming home? Did you get my jacket dry cleaned, I’ll need it for my trip. How are the boys?” etc.
Today it was different. Can’t really explain why, maybe it was just the set of circumstances. I’ve been gone 5 days and now she’s out of the house and I’m alone. Her raspy voice became familiar when I was reminded of the many phone calls I’ve had with her when she was just my girlfriend. We’d talk till morning and then call again a few hours later just to check on each other. And this was in the days of clunky phones that were wired to a wall.
I’m not really sure what the difference was this morning, but it was sweet, refreshing and nice to connect with my girlfriend. I was reminded of how the Bible rarely calls our relationship with God as a husband and wife relationship but as a bride and groom. I guess it’s God’s way of reminding us that sometimes husband and wife relationships become stale and transactional while a bride and groom’s is always fresh, new and delightful.
“I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” Isaiah 61:10
Lord, I pray that my relationship with Marie stays fresh and delightful. May my relationship with You also stay that way. Do you have ideas how to keep a relationship fresh? Send in your comments, I’d like to learn.
Posted: January 21st, 2013 | Filed under: Blog | No Comments »
I landed in the middle of a flood in Jakarta that BBC News called deadly and chaotic. On Friday I had an early morning meeting with my friend David Meyer who was also in Jakarta for his mother’s outreach that was taking place in an outdoor stadium. The rains were relentless.
At the lobby the lady announced to me that the taxi wait in front of my hotel was at least 15 minutes. With the flood and chaos of the city she announced that it should take me at least another 30 minutes to get there. I was clearly going to be late, very late to the point of not making the connection with David as he had a busy day.
But I knew God wanted me to go anyway. For whatever reason that I would find out if I just went. it’s kinda like Moses asking God to give him a sign that He was sending him to free the Israelites and that he would succeed. I love God’s response:
“And God said, ‘I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain. Exodus 3:12
The sign basically was when you get them out and are standing in front me, that’s your sign. I don’t think that was the answer Moses was expecting. Be careful when you ask God for signs.
I read that story the day before and decided to just step out of the hotel. As soon as I did the line that was supposed to be there was nowhere in sight. Don’t know how it happened but it did. Within one minute a beautiful taxi was in front of me and I found myself in an empty street of Jakarta. I guess everyone thought they shouldn’t go out that day. I decided to time the trip. I was there in 10 minutes plus a few seconds. Incredible.
I got to the lobby of the hotel 10 minutes early. Had a great time with Dave. David who is ever gracious chatted despite the stress of rehearsals and setting things up in the pouring rain. The weather bureau, the internet had declared the rains would not stop for the next 3 days. As we parted ways I sensed that I needed to send up a prayer for David’s predicament. It was about 9:30.
By noon the rains have stopped and apart from a little drizzles here and there the last 3 days where clear skies and cool breezes. God must love whatever David and his Mom were doing in Jakarta. He answered our prayers.
God is indeed able. Our role is to trust and walk in faith despite what we hear, feel or see. Whatever you do connect with God everyday.
Posted: January 13th, 2013 | Filed under: Podcasts | No Comments »
“Beyond Normal.” Learn about God’s mighty wonders and miracles in the book of Acts. At the end of this series, may each of us understand and experience the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. May all of us also be activated to live supernatural lives through faith and prayer.