Family Discussion

We just had our first Leaders Meeting for 2014. Met with with some of our ministry volunteers and leaders. We simply gave updates about where we are at as a church. The past months were like a whirlwind, things happened so fast and we figured out it would be best to get everyone on the same page and make sure everyone’s on the right track. We finally cascaded the system my we worked so hard on the past weeks. I also introduced the new guys on working on new roles in the church. I sensed a deep love for this spiritual family my wife and I share our lives with. I reiterated that awhile ago’s meeting was more like a “family discussion” than a leaders meeting. It is such a great privilege to serve the Lord alongside fiery and passionate, and loving and dedicated men and women such as this home church of mine.

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Praying together as a church
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Kids Coordinator Hya Tuquib fighting for the Kids Ministry.
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Tom Villegas updating the leaders regarding our campus ministry
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John Hupa showing the current growth trend of the ministry
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Discussing current trends in the ministry

Lessons from Onoda

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The picture above is that of Hiroo Onoda. He made global headlines last week when he died at the age of 91. His story’s an amazing one.

At the height of World War 2, he was sent as a commando in Lubang, near Mindoro. His orders from the Japanese Imperial Army were simple: repel enemy attacks and never surrender. As a young soldier, he took that marching order and stood his ground in the island during the war.

The following year, Japan fell into the Allied Forces and later surrendered. A lot of Japanese soldiers, aware of what has transpired surrendered to the Americans and Filipinos and went back to Japan. But not Onoda. Unaware of Japan’s defeat, Onoda remained in Lubang and carried out his military duties until he finally came out in 1974. That’s 30 years after the war!

While the rest of the world was recovering from the war, Hiroo Onoda stood on the ground he pledged to carry out his duties on. When he came out of hiding in the 70s, he was on his thirty year old tattered military uniform and rifle.

Reading his story made me reflect on two things:

First, it reminded me of Ephesians 6 which talks about the Armor of God. It tells us to put on the full armor of God.  Not to put on the full armor would make whatever you have a fool’s armor. I wonder if Onoda would have survived thirty years without his military armor. In the same way, we need the entire armor of God to repel and stand our ground in this rather hostile battlefield that we are in. If Onoda’s marching orders were clear through the years, the joy of our salvation would can never be taken from us when we protect ourselves with the full armor of God. Meditate and study Ephesians 6.

Secondly, when everything’s been said and done, I’d love to hear these words from God: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Nothing can be sweeter than knowing that God is pleased with you.

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Hiroo Onoda on his uniform in 1974
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Hiroo Onoda receives pardon from Pres. Marcos

Four Years

Today, I’m happily married for four years to the woman I can’t live without. Friends, it’s been four good years. I have been contemplating about our marriage the past weeks and I am just so glad we have the time for ourselves following some chronic busyness back home. And so tonight, I’m writing this on a very cold evening on a cross country backdrop with a congested ear slowly cracking to pop. My wife’s asleep with a double fleece blanket that’s serving her well.

True to everyone, our marriage isn’t a bliss. But I am glad I share this married life with someone who is equally committed to keeping a warm and fruitful marriage as I am. There isn’t a phone app that downloads husbandhood to anyone. Marriage is hardwork. And two pairs of hands working on it are better than one. I want to thank and honor my wife, Rianne for the love and sacrifice, for working hard for our marriage. It isn’t pure pleasure sharing a home with me, so I thank God for her audacity.

I did my first wedding last month and I made it clear to the couple that outserving one another can be a key in enjoying married life. My wife and I have been practicing it, and it (outserving/selflessness) works everytime! R. Zacharias even suggests that you have to be willing to “die” to yourself if you really want to get married. That equates to your willingness to die to your own convenience, interests, hobbies, pet peeves, traditions, routines, sleep, and even your favorite food. I’m blessed that this is a non issue in our home. And I believe this is birthed out of love for one another. Sometimes my wife serves to the extent of becoming a little “gentlemanish” towards me–securing my seat, carrying my stuffs, among others. It’s a little embarassing but I thank her for making me feel like a king.

I also love her heart of compassion. When we were dating, I learned that she always prays her favorite line from her favorite song that says, “break my heart with what breaks Yours”. That has been an everyday prayer. Thus, chances are, if you are poor, unheralded, and untapped, you do not miss the peripherals of Rianne. You are a topic for prayer over dinner.

And oh, if you see us driving around at 2am, it’s because we are extending the kindness to some of our four legged stray friends.

One thing marriage does to you is that it exposes you. And because of a compassionate heart that always chooses mercy and forgiveness, I’m just so glad that I’m loved just the way I was loved on our wedding day albeit my flaws.

That kindness of heart expresses itself in the most genuine love for people that I’ve ever seen. Sometimes I don’t mind being rude. I just have to cut short her long talks with people. That “long talk” actaully is usually just a 16th of a fraction only and the rest of the portion is all listening. She can listen to someone uninterrupted for hours. I.just.can’t.do.that. But that’s something I appreciate about her.

My wife is like a tender shoot. Through the years, her soft heart has allowed her to have an undescribable depth in her relationship with God. Her intimacy with the Lord allowed her to be still in troubling times. She can not hold up a life that displeases God. I deem it very important because that is humility, and humility extinguishes familiarity with God. And it allows her to lovingly obey the Lord, whatever it takes.

Four years into our marriage and it seems like we just exchanged vows yesterday. My wife is my darling. I miss her the moment I drive off our gates and I giddy-yup at the thought of going home. She is my best friend. I love picking any stories to start conversations with her. She is a companion and a partner, a woman I’d love to love again and again.

I remember the time when I stood nervously on the altar saying my vows. I have no idea what things are going to be like in the next years or decades. But the way I know my wife now, I’m confident that even if we meet a convergence of storms, we can count on what the Bible assures that we can be perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not forsaken, and cast down, but not destroyed.

Let me share with you why I’m so excited for our fourth year.
Four is the number of creation. In the Bible, before the first ever nostril breathed its very first breath, all the “necessities” were already created in four days time. Everything necessary to sustain life have already proliferated before God created the animals and Adam. Adam didn’t have to contend with a DPWH concreting project or an untrimmed garden or a sea foaming up no waves. Things were readied in four days.

Four years of being married is like us learning the ropes. There’s been funny times of misadventures and mistakes. At times, it wasn’t funny any more. But our four years are like years of preparation for us individually and as a couple. This gives me the sense of excitement because I know the next coming years may not come in full bliss, but I know they are going to be times of receiving unmerited favor simply because God has already prepared things for us.

To the woman I took home as my bride four years ago, I love you now and forevermore, Mine!

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Victory Dumaguete at Essencia

We have been holding our worship services out of our center for two weeks now. This is because of magnitude 7 earthquake that shook Visayas two weeks ago. We’re doing this as a precautionary measure until we deem our building safe to hold a big and wild congregation like us. This Sunday, we went to Hotel Essencia in downtown Dumaguete. It was one awesome Sunday made possible by our awesomely dedicated volunteers. Being afloat the past weeks coupled by the transitions we have been having the past months, it’s amazing that our people are in high spirits and are in faith for greater things like never before. Below are some pictures of our volunteers in action:

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Aldon Donesa serving as our greeter in the lobby
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Our greeters at the main entrance handing out candies with a smile
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Tech crew doing what they do best—make things run
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Big smiles amidst the big move
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Our 5pm crowd enjoying the service
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5pm service from the back

I wasn’t able to take shots in the morning service because we were figuring out things with some of our volunteers. To all the volunteers of Victory Dumaguete, my wife and I, together with the leadership team of the church send out our heartfelt appreciation for your commitment that’s beyond compare.  Thank you for your selfless service week in and week out. People who grow the most are people who serve the most!

Dreams in Sachets

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This one’s quite long, but hopefully it would be a helpful read.

Little, small, and tiny dreams produce little, small, and tiny results.

I was recently contemplating about how dreams could somehow set the projectile of our life. As a great grand son of a Chinese immigrant, and with a Filipino blood thicker than anyone else, I can’t help but notice the difference. Filipinos and Chinese are equally hardworking. But sometimes we resent our Chinese friends because they have grown so wealthy in our homeland. We feel like they’ve benefited from the soil we have cultivated. No. I really think the problem lies not in how we have cultivated our soil, but in how we have cultivated our dreams. My grandfather used to own a small boat and a large warehouse in a remote island. But before that, he was a fisherman. We love thinking “luck”makes it big for people when it’s actually their attitude and dreams that make the difference.

When I was young, my brother and I learned to make the most out of our “Tambis” tree. On summer, we would climb the tree and gather its fruits. We would sell them at the neighborhood. It started a partnership that ranged from selling iced water to iced candies, aquarium fish, and comics. My brother went on to carry his entrepreneurial skills. All of us can do that. But where does the difference lies? Why do others make it big while others don’t? It’s in the way their dreams drive their attitude. For some, selling stuff is a job and it stops there. Profit comes next. While for the others, it’s a job and a stepping stone altogether.
Take for instance those who peddle in the market. The majority would bring their goods to the market and are focused on selling them all. When everything’s sold, they go home happy and another day has passed. The others would do the same. Just that, while selling their goods, they open their peripherals, make their ears keen and are always on the look out for bigger opportunities. Why? Because their dreams tell them there’s something bigger out there and they would keep digging for it.

As a Biology graduate I’ve come to understand that we are a very rich nation. But the sad reality is we do not really benefit from it as how we are supposed to. I can not say that we have been ransacked by the Spanish, Americans, Japanese, and Chinese. It could be that our own minds have plundered us. Our “sachet” mentality have taken hold of us and have paralyzed us for decades, if not centuries. We have the skills and the intelligence, but we sometimes lack the attitude to dream big. We put our hope in a Last 2 gamble and we feel like kings and queens once we hit the jackpot. We burn time in tong-its and even use wakes as an excuse for another session. All of these while the others harp for another opportunity tomorrow. We are a nation of movers and shakers! We export brilliance to the world. That should tell us that there’s more to sachets, we can dream beyond SSS.

All of these realizations of mine has been reinforced when I became a Christian. Of course a lot of my perspectives and motivations have changed. Or has been placed on the right frame work.

As a Christian, I have no excuse not to live a blessed life. Caleb saw an opportunity when others saw giants. His friends were the ones who labeled themselves grasshoppers. Abraham looked up and saw the stars as his descendants and he didn’t bother to count, he had the faith to believe it. Jesus died on the cross and galvanized the promise of blessings and favor on us as God’s children. My attitude towards life reflects my belief system. My dreams are measures of my faith. Sometimes we downsize our faith to fit our situation instead of up-sizing our faith to break through the situation. We are facing a challenge in our church as our building has been damaged by the recent earthquake and we need to move to a new one. Faith solidifies our dreams while fear liquefies our faith. Faith makes the dream more palpable. My wife and I, together with our leaders are in faith in the face of fear. Sometimes I feel like our minds are too young for things like these, but how else do we mature aside from circumstances like these. If I bring with me a sachet mentality, we might survive but would never thrive.

Hindi pwedeng kapiranggot lang ang pangarap. That doesn’t activate faith! It makes us “droolers” instead of doers. No wonder we become envious crabs.

We recently rejoiced when two of our church members recently purchased their own cars. They have a faith story to tell.

There’s going to be a faith breakout! When that time comes, you can’t be caught napping. Because if everyone is on a diaspora, even your little niche might be taken from you simply because you’ve refused to dream big and act big. Little does not apply to you. You’re a winner, therefore act like a champ, dream like a champ, think like a champ, believe like a champ, and receive like a champ!

If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.
C.S. Lewis

Generosity: Machine Gun Givers

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In 2010, Rianne and I joined a couple friends of ours for a stroll in a mall in Ilo-Ilo. We came across a car display in the center of the mall, and being young couples, we took time to look at the cars and we quickly made our picks. We then laid hands on the cars we wanted and prayed and claimed it for ourselves. We went out that place with grin on our faces. I thought that was just another episode of a young couple’s adventures. Three years after, our friends are now driving a brand new Ford Everest! I took time to contemplate on it as we celebrated with them.

No doubt about it, their Everest can be attributed to their rich generosity. Inspired from watching the movie, The Machine Gun Preacher, I call people like our friends, The Machine Gun Givers (They don’t give out guns, they just give like guns).

What are Machine Gun Givers like?

1. Machine gun givers are radical givers.

I have to further explain this because radical generosity has become a cliché instead of an everyday practice. Generous people are people richly blessed because money is not their God. If something is not an idol (god), it’s easy to give it away. Their thoughts are not on the next meal, but it’s on the next giving opportunity! Every time they come in a coffee shop, a party, a meeting, their giving antennae is already up. The opposite of that is someone who always wants to be on the receiving end. If you are someone like that, haven’t you wondered why you have always been on the receiving end for the longest time now? Jesus said it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).

2. Machine gun givers give a lot even when they have little.

Even if they are low in ammunition, they give generously. And because of that, they don’t run out of ammunition. Generous people live lives that are not dictated by the abundance of money or the lack of it. They give sacrificially, joyfully. Mark 12:41-44 records the offering of a poor widow. You get to understand one thing in that story: sacrificial giving does not escape the eyes of God. When we give to people, we give the best. Why? Because we are to be imitators of God (Ephesians 5:1), and we all know that He has given the best.

3. Machine gun givers’ giving is not calculated.

I’m not suggesting that giving should not be thought upon. But calculated giving is giving within the means, there is little or no faith in that. Of course, I am for practicality, but at the end of the day God is pleased with faith (Heb. 11:6). So our measure of faith is what matters. Again, I’m talking about machine gun givers. If you’re a caliber .45 or a pistol, I know you would protest. I can be a reckless giver. My wife can be reckless giver. I do believe that when we give beyond what is comfortable and easy, we are putting our trust in God and we are moving in faith and not in fear. I calculate on God’s mathematics, not on my own.

Stories of Machine Gun Givers:

My brother could have easily been a millionaire at the age of 23. He gave away so much to so many. He lost parts of it, but I never saw him in lack and I never saw him deprived. I never saw him lack the wisdom in producing wealth!

At age 18, my sister has bigger savings than any teenagers her age. She has started her own business with her own money, that way she could help out my parents. One thing my wife and I noticed about her, she is a relentless giver! She fights for her giving.

My pastor falls in the same category. I’ve worked with him for several years and I know their travails as a family, but he surely is one of the most incredibly generous people I have ever met. The times I got a rebuke from him were the times I would insist on paying for meals.

On a side note, the best fights I have ever seen are fights as to who pays for the meal. If there is no fight, one thing is clear, no one on the table is generous. There are creative ways in outpointing your opponent in meal paying (there’s the under the table style, glance and wink at the waiter style, C.R. muna ako style,…). It sure is fun!

Another guy: Ted Tiu. A 72 year old retired pensioner. He is an epitome of generosity. He knows one thing: stewardship. He is a vessel of God’s blessing simply because he has proven himself very faithful in that.

Another thing I’ve noticed with Machine Gun Givers is that they enjoy their provision. They enjoy their blessings. These people with all discipline absolutely store up food in summer (Prov. 30:25), no question about that, but they also understand one thing: that God’s rich blessings are for their enjoyment. (1 Tim 6:17).

So, having said all of these, here’s my prayer for all of us: Bratatatatatatatttt!!!

Gossip & its Brood

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Half truths. Lies. Loose talks. Backbiting. Slander. They are all the same. They all destroy.

Our staff at church is quite clear about this killer. Gossiping & lying are grounds for termination. We take the matter seriously because we know that it seriously destroys relationships. If you hate people, this would be the best thing to do to ward them off. Bible says a whisperer separates close friends. (Prov. 16:28)

To my knowledge, we gossip in two ways:

1. Blatantly

2. Subtly

Blatantly. Slandering, backbiting, rumor (verified or not) spreading — these are all blatant, upfront gossiping. Paul mentions in 1 Timothy 5:13-14, Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. House to house there can be translated to restaurant to restaurant, church to church, coffee shop to coffee shop, room to room, and office to office. See the connection between idlers and gossipers? They fall for gossiping because they have no regard for the Kingdom (for the Christians). There is no urgency in their heart for the preaching of the gospel. They mind other people’s business. The sense of urgency is to let loose the tongue instead of preaching the gospel. Normally they are troublemakers because they spread lies. And usually and quite sadly, they are the ones who do not grow in their faith.

The role of a gossiper in any relationship is clear: he/she destroys. Proverbs 26:20 For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases. It’s a peaceful world without them around.

Sometimes we make excuses and justifications that we are just making normal rumblings, or maybe sharing our “valid” concerns, or just venting out. Worst is, sometimes we do it in a form of prayer request. “I think we need to cover her in prayers. I feel like there is something wrong with her.” Then comes the domino of questions, “Why, what’s wrong with her?

Do you know that sometimes we gossip in the name of accountability? Remember, the scope of accountability covers you, and not the people around you. So do not go to your accountability partner/s sharing your thoughts about other people for the sake of accountability. Shame! Not to mention, dumb and foolish.

Gossip has been well marketed by the devil in the church. Don’t fall for the slick marketing promo.

Subtly. Let me talk about the second one. Subtle ways of gossiping are very much prevalent among us Christians. These are words we say that make our listener question the ways and character of the person we are pertaining to. It insinuates us to think wrongful things about the person.

Oh, how can he afford a phone like that when he holds an ordinary job?” “I’m not sure how well he relates with his wife.” “Oh really he was out of town? All by himself??” Etc.

The words of a whisperer is like a choice morsel; they go down into the inmost parts. (Prov. 18:18) A morsel is something you take in small amount.  If you are a ‘dipper’, by that I mean just a mere listener and confider of a gossiper, take note of what the Bible says about you: An evildoer listens to wicked lips and a liar gives ear to a mischievous tongue. Proverbs 17:4 Just in case you don’t understand that, it basically say that for savoring gossip, you are an evildoer and a liar.

Okay, Now what?

If you are not part of the problem stay away from the problem. You are not the solution. If you find yourself in the middle of a gossiping friend, try changing the topic. If you hear concerns, encourage them to bring it up to the person concerned. It’s good to ask help from your leaders, but sometimes in times like these the number of our leaders swell up to 15. Get what I mean?

If you can’t hold up to your friends who love gossiping, might as well choose friends who would take you in a different route. Proverbs 20:19 Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler.