Category Archives: Christianity

Paul and His Ministry: A Reflection

With the semester coming to a close, I am constantly reminded to evaluate my performance in my ministries for the past semester. Through the recent weeks, I have been reminded time and again of how Paul does his ministry.

Paul, as we all know, was eager to preach the gospel in every way possible. We also know through our time in church, in Sunday school classes, or in our talk with other Christians that Paul’s eagerness was manifested by his missionary journeys.

Because of these stories, we tend to put Paul on a higher level than us. We could argue that he accomplished a lot of things for Christianity. Yes, he has done a great deal for the faith. What we seem to be forgetting, however, was that Paul was a human being like all of us. I like to emphasize this point because we can see all the more the power of God working in men like Paul. Paul was also a sinner before, and he was killing religiously. It was the power of God working in him that allowed him to do what he was able to do.

I particularly liked the human moment he showed when he was inflicted with the “thorn in the flesh.” Yes, it was a painful experience though we are not sure what it really alluded to. And yes, through this experience, Paul would write one of the most beautiful lines in the Bible: “‘my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” These powerful words echo the essence of our Christianity. The power of Christ and the wonder of His grace are perfected in weak creatures like us.

Another particular moment sums up nicely his passion for God and His ministry. Colossians 4:10 “My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings,” this simple phrase may not mean a lot, but the mere fact that a fellow prisoner was greeting the Colossian congregation meant that Paul was sharing about the Colossians. I could imagine the excitement and fervor as Paul shares about the churches he has planted, the people he ministered to, and the work God is doing among the nations.

My friends, this should be our attitude towards our ministry. It is not that we should gauge our success on our accomplishments. Success in ministry is based on how much we depended on God in every aspect of it. And this will lead to our hearts burning with passion as we share to the people about the gospel.

Christian Investment

One phrase stuck in my head as we had our dinner date with one of the missionaries our church is supporting:

Invest in the lives of other people.

A simple yet amazingly difficult task to do!

To invest means to devote time and effort on something. It can be likened to a business venture. In a business investment, the results you expect will not show immediately (unless, of course, you chose to do something under the table). Sometimes, the results you expect may not come into fruition.

There is a good thing about investing in people, though. We may have to labor, persevere, and be patient with a person. We may not see the results we are expecting to see, but one thing is sure. God is certainly at work in the life you invested in. In the end, we may or may not see the physical manifestation of our investments, but God will surely reward us for being obedient to His will.

“But it’s tough…”

Yes it’s tough, but let me encourage you by saying that nobody ever said it was easy. However, God did promise you that He will be with you until the very end of the age! Isn’t that more than enough? All the strength you need is found in God! If we are faithfully doing His work, the Lord is faithful and will be our provision.

Seeing how the Apostle Paul relied on God for strength as he invested in the lives of other people by preaching to them and mentoring them is also a motivation and a reminder for us. The Apostle Paul, like all of us, get tired and frustrated. One difference is that he did not allow these things to hinder his service to God and to other people. Shouldn’t we follow his example?

“So I was thinking…”

So I was thinking: “What am I doing with my life?” I have wasted so much time! I need to be investing in other people’s lives. God’s grace to me is enough reason for me to do so, but I’m not doing anything. I need to start. Refocus my life on the things that will last.

The term YOLO (you only live once) has been used over and over again. It often implies a negative action. People fail to realize, though, that along with YOLO is YODO. Yes, You Only Die Once. Start setting your priorities straight. Start investing in the lives of other people.

Youth Camp 2012 and the Grace of God

*delivered April 22, 2012 at Grace Gospel Church

Good morning! Today, I stand before you as a fellow follower of Christ humbled by His greatness in the recently concluded Youth Camp.

The camp was held last April 10-14 at the Caliraya Resorts Club. The camp had a target of 120 delegates. It is quite a huge leap of faith considering the recent attendance of the youth fellowship average around 30.  At the start of the planning, we were fearful as to the actual attendance of the camp due to a lot of old timers not attending this year. This, however, turned into a positive opportunity cost as it paved the way for more new comers to attend. A week before the camp, Registration reached 120 already (so much for a set of officers who had doubts… God really works in ways where His power is evident in our weakness). By the Saturday before camp, the slots were expanded to 130… then a day later, 140. The initial target of 40 new comers was overwhelmingly surpassed. Around 60 new comers attended the camp!

Through countless youth camps, God has shown that He is faithful in providing; and this camp is no different. Problems may arise, but those who rely on Him can claim victory in whatever obstacles or challenges they face. I am standing here telling you that this camp is a success. How? Well, we’re all dark and sunburned after a sports camp! Kidding aside though, we can look at it from a statistical point of view. During the camp, 10 accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior, 85 rededicated their life to following Christ, and 3 are considering full time ministry.

However, I learned in school that statistics like these are not the complete measure for gauging success. Hence, I came up with my own definition of a successful camp, and it is reaching the goals we set while we were planning. My goals for this camp were simple: one, to build lasting relationships with the delegates; and two, to be able to incorporate them to our discipleship ministry and allow all of us to grow together in Christ.

I could tell you that GOAL#1 is a success. Friendships and relationships were built during the camp. It’s not just the casual “hi, hello, how are you?” sort of acquaintance, but a deep “sharing of experiences” kind of relationship. For me, it doesn’t matter if we have 0 new believers or 100 new believers as long as we plant the seed. The Holy Spirit takes care of the rest.

GOAL#2 remains to be seen, however. Our task is not to convert souls but to follow them up, hold them accountable. Building friendships is a start, but GOAL#2 enjoins the whole church to help. We are one body; and as one body, we are to help each other in reaching the things God wants us to reach. What good is a camp if nothing happens afterwards? What good is a youth ministry if we are not able to build up young men and women to be Christ-like Christians? It would be a waste of time and resources if we just go through the routine and not be able to affect change in the lives of people. I encourage you then, as a church, to help us in our journey to fulfill GOAL#2: that is to incorporate them to discipleship groups and grow in the Lord together with them.

At the end of the camp, I was overwhelmed by the experience. Never have I experienced such joy and happiness after a camp. Knowing that God is there with you all the way is enough comfort. But knowing that He is there with you no matter how unfaithful, how doubtful, how small, how insignificant, and how unworthy you are compared to His greatness, His glory, His majesty, and His holiness is truly indescribable and overwhelming. Truly, truly we have a beautiful Savior.

Capitalism vs. Communism – What is the Perfect System?

Global media has been promoting the thought that capitalism is what we need. Born in a time where democracy is the prevailing form of government, primary educational institutions project the idea that communism is bad. Even public opinion is against communist sentiments.

These two ideas have had a long history. During the 19th century, at the end of the industrial revolution, Karl Marx propagated the idea of communism. Marx was a German philosopher who strongly refuted the ideas of capitalism. Marx wrote Das Kapital to further his ideas about a communist world free from exploitation. In order for this to happen, however, a revolution must occur. The proletariat (the lowest class of citizens) must overthrow the bourgeois and the elite. Marxism was further developed by minds such as Mao and Lenin. The friction between capitalism and communism reached its height during the Cold War. USA, the champion and flagship of capitalism and democracy was in tension with the communist USSR. At the end of the tension, the Soviet Union was dismantled. Walls were broken, and democracy apparently won.

Communism still thrives today, however, though this world is moving more and more to a capitalistic world, the words of Marx still give hope that someday a communist world will be achieved. Marx believed that in order to reach communism, the world has to go through capitalism in order for the proletariat to realize that they are taken advantage of. That realization is being stopped, however, by the dominant mass media which bombards everyone with dreams and aspirations that they will probably never achieve. Branding the communist movement only as a resistance movement also limits the clout of communism.

Here’s the question: what is the better system? Capitalism has promised us opportunities to compete. Communism promises an ideal and progressive world where everyone will receive what he/she worked for; in turn, no one will take advantage of others.

We have seen that capitalism, though dominant, will not live up to its promise. People, especially the poor, are being used as tools to further the interest of the few. We have seen the aggressiveness of the world in forcing China (a modern communist society) and its allies to being a capitalistic society. After all, who can fight against the wonders of Coca Cola? Who can fight against the dream of being filthy rich? No one, not even the poor people who are held back by the elite.

So communism is the answer? I don’t think so. While communism promises an ideal world, we don’t know the future. As long as people are living, the nature of people to be greedy will be here. In fact, capitalism started out as a movement to counter feudalism (all with good and ideal motives). The power was so centered on the monarchy that no opportunities were given to the others. Capitalism achieved the decentralization of opportunities. It only became a corrupt system when people realized they could take advantage of it. Same will be true with communism. People WILL ALWAYS find a way to exploit a system.

So what do we do now? Marx, et al. proposed the thought that it is the system that creates the avenue for exploitation. For me, however, it is the person himself/herself who creates the avenue for exploitation regardless of the system. It is not caused by the system. Investing in moral education is the answer. No system is perfect. No matter what the system, it is the corrupt hearts and minds of all the people (mine included) that corrupts the system – not the other way around. Moral virtues are important in clearing the greed and pride of a person. Simple yet hard to achieve.

This is where we, as Christians, come in. We know that we are NOT of this world. We have a mission to plant the seeds of change in the hearts of men and women. This is a challenge, but it is a challenge worth taking. It is not the system but the people. Take up the call, then, to change the people – NO MATTER WHAT THE SYSTEM IS.

Matthew 5:13-16 – Salt and Light

Topic Suggestion: Glacy

As a Christian, how many times have you heard the phrase “be the SALT and LIGHT of the world?” Exactly, countless times. In fact, too numerous to the point that we are sick of it. The meaning is lost already. However, we must realize that we are hearing it a lot of times because nothing is happening. We go to church proclaiming proudly that we are blessed by God, but we never share it to others outside the church! We don’t step out to preach the Gospel of Peace.

Light

What does it mean to be truly salts and lights of this dark world? First of all, we are not expected to change this world. That has never been our job. We are, however, expected to make a stand and share God’s love to the best of our abilities. The command given to us is never a passive action. When the lights are turned on, we know it. We can feel its presence. When the sun rises, we know it. We feel the change. This is exactly what Jesus meant in his “Sermon on the Mount”. As lights of this world, we are expected to shine. Hence we read Jesus uttering the words “nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket.”

Salt

What good is the salt if it loses its flavor? These words ring true even as we shine our light. Salt, though small tiny grains, can impact the taste of food exponentially. Salt is also essential to life as it is used as a preservative. As Christians, our impact should be evident. A sprinkle of our Christian love to those who need it would be the evidence of our effectiveness as salts of this world. Otherwise, we might as well be trampled upon by people.

The analogies used by Jesus in these verses are very interesting and very true. This is why, as Christians, we should start acting. Mobilizing ourselves is the hardest part in doing something, but it is an essential step in fulfilling the very command of Jesus to “go and make disciples of all nations”. What is there to fear? the assurance that God will be with us far exceeds any immature fear we have within us. The day is approaching; now is the time to be the salt and light of the world.

Proverbs 10 – To the sons and daughters

Meditating on Proverbs 10, you would immediately notice that this proverb is directed towards the sons (and daughters). “A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother,” these words are then supported by 31 verses of contrasting the righteous and the wicked.

While it may be taken as a general statement for all people, the first verse should sum it up nicely. These verses are directed more specifically to the younger generation.

“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all.” (v.12) With so much violence being promoted these days, one cannot escape the realities of hatred. We are bombarded by the media that this world is full of hate, that revenge is a solution to quell our hatred, and that nothing should stop us from doing so. Take it from Proverbs, however, and you will see a change in perspective. Or rather, you would realize that even before, our world really is twisted.

Love covers all. Love is the only thing that can quell our anger. Allow yourself to be covered in the love and grace of God; and in turn, you can love others as God has loved you. What benefits do we gain from hating our enemies? Nothing but strife. Hence, when confronted with situations where you are at a disadvantage, don’t fight back. Turn the other cheek. Love. Allow God to manifest Himself in the situation.

“When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” (v.19) The tongue can be a blessing and a curse. As young men and women, it is but natural to utter everything that comes to mind. Be careful with what you utter. Your words may hurt another person in the end. It is wise to think before you utter anything. It is even wiser to say less. Waive your right to say anything freely and help build a person up in the process.

To the sons and daughters, take heed and gain wisdom from this proverb.

On the Church Hymns of Old

Browsing through the hymns of old, I found comfort in the lyrics of the songs. These hymns have words that are so simple yet so deep. These hymns make you feel the spiritual experience the writer has gone through: the ups and downs of their lives and seeing God provide for them. It is indeed heart-warming and inspiring to know that people before have gone through so much yet chose to continue to glorify God.

However, this exact thought bothered me. I am saddened not because of the inspiring message of these hymns, but because of our current state.

It is true, we are Christians. We brag about our status. We are happy that God, in His infinite love and grace, gave up Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. We are truly blessed by what Jesus has done on the cross. However, our level of Christianity has gone shallow. It is true that we go to church, that we serve in the ministry. But what happens after? What happens when we are faced with circumstances that are not favorable to us? We fold. Sometimes we even blame God. It is sad, but it is the reality we must face.

I was struck by this as even I am guilty of it. I kept thinking how in the world could the people of old write such powerful and inspiring hymns? How could Joseph Scriven, whose fiancee died in a drowning accident a day before their wedding took place and whose second fiancee died before their wedding, write to his ill mother the words “What a friend we have in Jesus”? How could Louisa Stead respond to her husband’s death with the words “‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus”? How could Horatio Spafford, who lost a great amount of wealth in the great Chicago Fire, who lost a son to scarlet fever, and who lost all four of his daughters to a shipwreck, pen the words “It is well with my soul?” How could the blind Fanny Crosby write “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine” and so many more hymns?

I was inspired and ashamed at the same time. These people were no extraordinary men and women. They were not super humans who could brush aside their emotions. In fact, they are normal people like you and me living a normal life. How come we could not even utter these kinds of words when faced with difficult circumstances? We complain and rant, but we never did stop and lift it all back to God. We never praised His name in difficult times.

I was reflecting. We have everything now. We have all the means and time to meditate on God’s Word. We have all the technology to study further the qualities of God. It is precisely these things, however, that hinders us. Because of technology, our generation has a lot of distractions to keep us from growing our spiritual life. We choose to stay in the comfort zones of our church. We do not expand our spiritual walk. This is why when troubles come, we are caught unprepared; and we forget God in the process.

Hymn writers are not extraordinary, but they surely have the peace of God in them. That is why amid the trials and difficulties in life, they could testify that God is indeed the God of their lives, that it is everything to trust in God, and a loss to neglect Him. As Christians living in this day and age, being like the early Christians should be our goal. All the more as we see the day approaching.