Wednesday, March 29, 2006

God is missing!

There were two little boys, ages 8 and 10, who always got into trouble. The parents were at their wit’s end as to what to do about their sons’ mischievous behavior. So, out of desperation, they decided to bring them to their pastor. He has a reputation of being a disciplinarian.

The 8-year-old boy went in first. The pastor sat the boy down and, looking at him straight in the eye, asked him firmly, “Where is God?” The boy looked down and did not respond. So the pastor repeated the question in an even sterner tone, “Where is God?” Again the boy did not answer. So the pastor raised his voice even more and shook his finger in the boy’s face, “WHERE IS GOD?”

At that the boy bolted from the pastor’s office and ran directly home. He hid himself in the closet, slamming the door behind him. His older brother ran after him into the closet and asked, “What happened?” The younger brother nervously replied, “We are in BIG trouble this time. God is missing and they think we did it!!” (Adapted from Bits and Pieces by The Biblical Studies Foundation)

There is, I believe, a better way of discipling kids. The Bible says, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) In The Message paraphrase it says, “Point your kids in the right direction—when they’re old they won’t be lost.”

Let me clarify though that this is not “meant… as an absolute promise that would apply in every case. These maxims [in Proverbs] are meant to be good, sound, helpful advice; they are not presented as surefire promises of infallible success.” (Gleason Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties) That is, even godly parents produce ungodly children. Growing up in church or in a Christian family is not a fool-proof guarantee that kids will grow the right way

Yet, let me emphasize that having our kids in Sunday school will increase their chances of growing up to be the person God intended them to be. I believe the Sunday school will only complement but will never be a substitute for discipline at home. That’s why we see it as a partnership between the parents and the church. The Sunday school team will teach the kids what it takes to be a committed follower of the Lord. But I challenge us parents to model in our lives that kind of commitment for our kids.

My take? Let us train up our kids together.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Kids Say the Funniest Things

Allow me to share tidbits from an e-mail sent to me by my friend. It’s a collection of statements about spiritual things from the eyes of kids. Here are some of my favorites:

A Sunday school teacher asked kids: “Why is it necessary to be quiet in church?” One bright little girl replied, “Because people are sleeping.” (I hope she was not talking about our church! )

While they were walking on the beach, a father and his son found a dead seagull on the sand. “Daddy, what happened to him?” the son asked. “He died and went to Heaven,” the Dad replied. The boy thought a moment and then said, “Did God throw him back down?” (Next time, be careful how you answer…)

A wife invited some people to dinner. At the table, she turned to their six-year-old daughter and said, “Would you like to say the blessing?” “I wouldn’t know what to say,” the girl replied. “Just say what you hear Mommy say,” the mom answered. The daughter bowed her head and said, “Lord, why on earth did I invite all these people.” (Moral lesson: Teach your kids how to really pray.)

The Bible commands us: “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” (Proverbs 22:6, NIV) The Hebrew word for “train” is chanak. Throughout the Old Testament, this word consistently means “dedication.” We parents must dedicate our children to God. We must recognize that we are only stewards and we are accountable to the Lord on how we raise our kids. “Don’t you see that children are GOD’s best gift? the fruit of the womb his generous legacy?” (Psalm 127:3, The Message) The word also means “instruction” in Jewish writings. We must instruct our children “the way [they] should go” or everything essential to life. In Arabic, the word describes the action of a midwife to stimulate the palate of a newborn baby so it would take milk. We must create a thirst or desire within a child to fear and obey the Lord.
Statistics shows that the older a person gets, the smaller the chances that he would accept the Lord. That’s why it’s very important that we start them young. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A "Yes" Face

One time US President Thomas Jefferson and his friends were traveling on horseback. They came to a swollen river where the raging waters washed away the bridge. Each rider fought against the rapid currents as he crossed the river. It was very dangerous to cross the river.

At that time, a traveler who was not part of the team came. He watched as several riders struggled across the river. Then the stranger asked President Jefferson if he would give him a ride. His companions were surprised when the president agreed. When they made it safely to the other side, one in the group asked the stranger, “Why did you select the president?” The man was shocked. He had no idea it was the president who helped him.

“All I know,” he answered, “Is that the word “No” was written on the face of most of you. His was a ‘Yes’ face.” (Adapted from the illustration database of the Biblical Studies Foundation)

The Bible places much value in hospitality. One of the qualifications for a pastor is that “he must be hospitable” (Titus 1:8, NIV. See also 1 Timothy 3:2). The Message had translated it this way: He must welcome people. That’s why I join our greeters in welcoming our guests. It goes without saying that like pastor, like people. I’m really blessed whenever I our guests comments that our church is very friendly. I would even get text messages from visitors who thank us for being so welcoming.

Romans 12:13 commanded us: Practice hospitality. So, if we are not friendly, we are actually sinning. Again, let me quote from The Message: be inventive in hospitality. Therefore if you have any suggestions or creative ideas on how we can make the church more hospitable, please do tell us.

Hebrews 13:2 gives us this incentive: Do not neglect hospitality, because through it some have entertained angels without knowing it. (The NET Bible) That’s why let us extend a hand to shake another’s. Smile a lot. During the fellowship after the service, I encourage you talk to our guests. Listen more. Make them feel at home. We are not just trying to make an impression. We are actually serving the Lord through them. For Jesus Himself taught that when we welcome people, we are actually welcoming him. I was a stranger and you invited me in… I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me. (Matthew 25:35, 40)

Thus, brethren, let’s keep up the “yes” face!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Called to Belong

One day three pastors met for coffee. They found all their churches had bat-infestation problems. One pastor complained, “I got so mad I fired at them with my shotgun. It punched holes in the ceiling, but did nothing to the bats.” The second pastor lamented, “I tried trapping them alive. Then I drove 100 kilometers then released them there. But they beat me back to the church.” The third pastor boasted, “I haven’t had any more problems.” The two other pastors were so amazed. “What did you do?” they begged to know the problem. The pastor replied, “I simply baptized them. I haven’t seen them since.”[1]

Dr. Rick Warren, author of the bestselling Purpose Driven Life, wrote: “The difference between attenders and members can be summed up in one word: commitment!” The Apostle Paul explained that we need to make two commitments: “And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will.” (2 Corinthians 8:5, NIV) We are to commit to each other just as we are committed to Lord Jesus Christ. The question is, “Are you committed?”

Over 50 times in the New Testament it used the phrase “one another” or “each other.” Just to name a few…

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34)

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10)

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)

“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25)

All of these commands show what membership in a church is all about! These are the responsibilities of membership. Thus, this morning I will be preaching a message titled, “Enjoying Your Band of Brothers.” I pray that we will see the importance of the church in our lives. Next week we will also start Class 101 or Discovering Church Membership class after the worship service for those who would like to become a member of Makati Gospel Church.

Brethren, we are called not just to believe but also to belong.

[1] Adapted from the Reader’s Digest, July, 1994

Friday, March 03, 2006

Unconditional Love

Allow me to share this touching story about unconditional love, which Dr Richard Selzer wrote. He is a physician by profession and a writer by passion. He already received the National Magazine Award and the American Medical Writer's Award.

I stood by the bed where a young woman lies. Her face, post-operative, her mouth, twisted in palsy, clownish. A tiny twig of the facial muscles connecting the face to the mouth has been severed. She will be so from now on. As her surgeon, I have followed with religious fervor the curve of her flesh. Nevertheless, to remove the tumor in her cheek I had to cut that little nerve.

And late in the evening I go by to see her. Her young husband is in the room. He stands on the opposite side of the bed. They gaze at each other and touch each other
so generously. The young woman speaks to me. “Will my mouth always be like this?” “Yes,” I say, “it will. She nods, and is silent. Her young husband smiles. “You know,” he says, “I like it. It’s kind of cute.” All at once, I know that I stand onholy ground, so I lower my gaze.

Unmindful of me now, he bends to kiss her crooked mouth, and I am so close I see how he twists his own lips to accommodate to hers, to show her that their kiss still works.
Though we are sinners, crooked since birth, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8, NIV) That is His unconditional love. And this is the love that we are to share to people. Today’s message would deal with “How to Treat Others Right.” I believe these are timely words for us. As we reach out, as more people come in to MGC, we need to become God’s channels of His love. We are God’s arms that would embrace them. Remember, people do not care how much we know unless they know how much we care.

One seeker, who visited our church a few weeks ago, wrote in our visitor’s card that “Your church is very warm.” Now I hope she was not referring to the a/c. Let’s keep our church warm. Don’t ever think it is the ushers’ job to welcome people. Look for people whose face you don’t recognize. Get to know the person. Give the person a hearty handshake. Ask if there is anything you can pray for him or her. Get his or her contact numbers. Then, after the worship service, thank the person either through SMS or a phone call. Invite our guest to visit us again. Then be there the next Sunday to welcome the person. Studies shows that a person need to know at least seven people in a church before they would consider joining it.

What if you are that seventh person? Brethren, let us express God’s unconditional love.