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.

The Huddle: Going to the Nations

The Huddle is our church’s monthly leaders’ convergence. In every The Huddle meeting we simply aim to come together to motivate, celebrate, and strategize. We celebrate life events, testimonies and victories. We also motivate our leaders from God’s Word and we glean on each other’s prayers. Topping off every meeting is our strategizing for our next moves in the coming weeks and months. The meeting is exclusive for those leading a Victory Group. We desire to bring as many people as we can to the meeting and so we try to help and assist more people to lead their own Victory Groups.

Tonight we had another fruitful and fun-filled meeting. We pitched in the vision to go to the nations. As a local church, we are embarking on two short term mission trips next year. We gave everyone the opportunity as we raffled the names for our two teams for both trips. That sure was fun! We are going to two creative access nations next year and this is really faith building. I’m praying that this will start and spark something new and something big for our leaders and for our church.

Tonight in some degree I believe we have created a shift in our local movement here in Dumaguete. We are serious in becoming a glocal (global local) church. It is our prayer that our church will be filled with more movers and shakers who would dream big and act big!

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Registration
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Ushers dressed as Vietnamese and Burmese
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Reviewing trivias for the nations
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Pinoy Henyo: Missions Edition
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Victory Dumaguete Staff and volunteer staff
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With Rianne. Sharing the passion for the Muslim world

In Honor of Chuck Smith

Here’s an Ed Stetzer article about the death of Calvary Chapel leader, Chuck Smith: In Honor of Chuck Smith

I have friends who attend Calvary Chapel-Dumaguete and Harvest-New Manila and have witnessed their deep passion for God. Because of my context wiring, I traced the roots of the Calvary movement and was all the more blessed to have read how things came into fruition in the world wide ministry lead by Ptr. Chuck Smith. He died today and has left an imprint in the hearts of thousands world wide. Yet another life worth imitating.

Chuck Smith with Rick Warren
Chuck Smith with Rick Warren
Calvary Chapel reached out to the hippies in the 60s and 70s. Here's an photo of one of its mass baptisms.
Calvary Chapel reached out to the hippies in the 60s and 70s. Here’s a photo of one of its mass baptisms.

Climbing in Faith

I was much thinner several years ago. I was so thin that I made tree climbing a hobby and I could climb any tree effortlessly. In my younger years, I would climb trees faster than anyone. I felt like I was gifted with limbs that allowed me to swing from branch to branch and I had more than enough strength to pull my slender frame upwards. I would climb a mango tree, a Santol tree, and a guava tree easily. When there’s kite fighting in the neighborhood (I don’t know if that happens elsewhere), one “fallen” kite would glide and everyone will chase it to the direction where the wind blows it. Whoever gets it, gets to keep it as his trophy. Usually it gets entangled on trees and that explains why tree climbing is serious business in the neighborhood. What I’m poor at in kite making I make up for tree climbing!

During climbs, I was never scared… until I looked down. I realized I’ve gone so high that the branches become thinner. I would literally shake coming down!

I realized our life’s journey is somewhat the same. We are fierce when we focus on our climbing and we are relentless when the branches are thicker. But as we proceed, the wind blows stronger, the flowers on the ground look smaller, the branches appear thinner and that’s when we stop! You don’t realize all of these, not til you look down. And that changes everything. Suddenly fear comes in.

All of us will come to a point in our life where the branches would appear thinner. We would hear cracking sounds every step of the way. If you walk through dry leaves and twigs on the ground, the sound of it de-stresses you and makes you eased. If you hear the same cracking sound whilst you’re on a tree, I could imagine you clenching for dear life.

When do branches appear thinner?

A career shift. A Family crisis. An upcoming due. A dying grade. A big decision. A relational conflict. Sickness. Death. Lost. And so on.

It is on times like these that we become more sensitive to the cracking sounds and the rush of fear and doubt comes in. It is during times like these that we look down and freeze.  This is worth contemplating on because it is also in times like these that the decision to trust God no matter happens is made. The Bible says, without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:6

If the thin branches freeze us and make us look down and open up the Pandora of fears and doubts in us, we will have to change our gaze and therefore shift our focus from fear to faith. Faith amidst any circumstance, a full trust in God tells us that we will keep climbing with certainty that God’s hands will keep us from falling and no one and nothing can snatch us from the hands of God (John 10:29).

What Defines Who & Who Defines What

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The issue is real. As evidenced by the thousands of tears and fears caused by insecurities in an individual’s identity, this is perhaps an area found most vulnerable by the unforgiving world. The world glitters and ‘shutters’. Ask a Christian if things like these matter and they adamantly stutter. Identity.
Every time this identity whirlwind comes in, two questions pop in mind:
What Defines Who?
Who Defines What?
1 Samuel 16:7 
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
God’s lesson for the prophet: It does not matter whether you’re stout and pout or lean and slim as long as your heart is trimmed for him.
This is perhaps one of the most potent arsenal of the devil— To bomb us with lies that tells us we are misfits simply because we are not like those people we like and we do not have what those people we like have.
Truth: What I have in this world and what I do not have in this world do not define who I am in this world, because I am not of this world in the first place. Last time I checked, my citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3).
What defines who? God’s Word defines who I am. God’s Word sets the course of my life. My trajectory is calculated and certain and I know where I will land.
Psalm 139:13-16 
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
Highlight two things: Intricately and Intimately
Factory garments are mass produced. They are all similar.
Hand knitted garments are singly produced. They are different.
Of the billions of people in the world, we get to have our own finger print. No carbon copies! It’s all because we’re knitted personally and individually. Think: I got in me the smudges of my weaver!
What does that tell me? It tells me that I am not a lump of cell that gradually metamorphosed to become who I am today. I’ve been  woven thoughtfully. God has intricately designed us for us to perceive that he intends to be intimately  involved in us.
Who defines what? Because I am intricately and intimately woven, my identity rests on my weaver. My weaver defines me.