Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Shalom!


Praise God for the privilege He gave my wife Ellen and me to join an educational study tour in Jordan and Israel, the Promised Land! I will be uploading more pictures in the future. Shalom!


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Church At A What?

The ad of Country Rock Church says it all: “A New Kind Of Church For Real People Wantin’ A Real Faith.” As its main attraction, it touted, “For Real! Top Regional Bands, Pizza, Wings, Rowdy Fun And A Short Message.” Where? “At A Pub In Sydney.”

At a what? Yes, you read it right. This “barroom church” meets every Sunday night at the Pub Lounge in Sidney, Western Ohio (USA). Rev. Chris Heckaman of Sidney United First Methodist Church is constantly on a lookout “for creative ways to reach people in unconventional places.” I just could not imagine what he meant by “rowdy fun” but the “short message” of Heckaman “compared staying on the bar’s mechanical bull to learning how to get along in life.” (Source: Yahoo! News) In my mind, I see the pastor holding on to the saddle for his dear life as he rides a mechanical bull that simulates the wild kicking and spinning of a (what else?) bull in a rodeo. Then, catching his breath while picking himself up from the ground after the bull threw him off, he would open his bible and preach. Believe me. It’s not for the fainthearted! I heard that people enjoyed the first gathering (Around 100 showed up!) that Heckaman planned to do it weekly. (Yes, I could almost read your minds. Thanks but no thanks!)

I know the Apostle Paul wrote, “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:22-23a, NIV). But, I just feel that church is stretching it a bit far, though I am not judging their sincerity in doing so. There’s a difference between publicity stunt or gimmickry and creativity in ministry.

But, the ad pointed out a legitimate longing deep in people’s hearts: “Real People Wantin’ A Real Faith.” They are looking for a faith that connects. They are not really seeking to be entertained but to be encouraged. They want a message that is relevant to their everyday lives. The problem is we tend to say with our lips that God is real but deny it with our lives. Let us show that we are real people with real faith so that people would be wantin’ it.

Brethren, it’s not the antic but being authentic that counts.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Ploning

[Disclaimer: This is my personal opinion and does not represent in any way Makati Gospel Church.]

We Christians almost lost the culture wars by default. I said “almost” because I am an optimist. I still believe we can still make a difference. Still, by God’s grace, we can make an impact in our society.


People say “Indie” (short for “independent”) films do not make money. Why? They tackle serious topics that the bigwigs in the movie industry won’t dare to produce because they say it will not be a box-office hit. So those big movie outfits (not all of them I hope), with their big budget and big name stars, settle for the moneymaking formula (Read: sex and violence). Thus, people turn to Hollywood movies instead. As a result, the local movie industry is dying or what we see now are the death throes. Sadly, those who do produce Indies churn up movies with, as someone noted, “the stereotype images of third world poverty, sex and gambling trade and violence proliferating from current crop of Filipino films recognized in international film festivals.” So, we hear of those movies that are critically acclaimed but paint us as gamblers or macho dancers. As a Filipino, I cannot be proud of such works, though there are some notable examples (like Cherry Pie Picache’s movie, “Foster Child”). Yes, they say, art only imitates life. But, it is such a poor imitation.

That’s why it’s such refreshing news to hear about Panoramanila’s maiden project, “Ploning.” The release date is April 30, 2008. Set in scenic Cuyo, Palawan, the movie is about a local woman
’s story of hope and love. I personally know some of the people who bankrolled the movie. They are Christians who are pursuing a life that matters, who said enough is enough and cannot just watch helplessly as our culture is squeezed into the mold of the society’s corrupt system. I have committed to support them in prayer. When I watch the movie, I will pay my ticket instead of asking my producer friends to give me a complimentary ticket because I want this movie to earn. I will not buy pirated copies of this movie. If this becomes commercially successful, I believe it would encourage more Indie producers to come up with quality movies.

Brethren, it’s time to redeem the culture.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Risk of Love

Alex Koehne. Image source: ABC News
Jim and Lisa Koehne (pronounced KAY-na) felt they gave what a transplant surgeon called “a gift from the Almighty” when they donated the organs of their 15-year-old son Alex, who at that time doctors thought died of bacterial meningitis.

But, autopsy showed that Alex actually died from a rare form of lymphoma. The Koehnes later learned that a 52-year-old man who received their son’s liver died a few months later of the same blood cancer. Then a 36-year-old woman who received the donor pancreas also died from lymphoma. Two recipients of the donor kidneys had it removed and are now getting cancer treatment.

Jim and Lisa Koehne. Image source: The Sag Harbor Express
(However, please do not give up your donor cards. Experts assure us that such case of getting cancer from an organ donor is extremely rare, as in only 64 in a study of 230,000 cases in the U.S.)

Despite what happened, the Koehnes do not regret their decision to donate the organs of their son. They still believe that organ donation saves lives. They have even started a foundation to fund cancer research. (Source: Yahoo! News)

Image source: Jeff K. Clarke
Such is the risk of giving. When we love a person, we make ourselves vulnerable. We risk rejection or ridicule. However, we must keep on loving. The fact that some people may not appreciate what we are doing should not make us withdraw from it. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (Galatians 6:9-10, NIV) I believe the one another commands in the New Testament reveal what God wanted the church to be. Though there is always a risk that others would not or could not, we should still seek to become a “one another” community.

My take? Still, let us risk love.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Gospel According to Oprah?

Talk-show host Oprah Winfrey (whom Time and CCN called “arguably the World’s most powerful woman”) was listening to a sermon in a Baptist church on the characteristics of God.

Oprah was shocked to hear that God is “a jealous God” (Exodus 20:5, NIV). She claimed this led her to search for the truth: “God is jealous of me? And something about that didn’t feel right in my spirit because I believe that God is love… And so that’s when the search for something more than doctrine started to stir within me.” That’s when she allegedly “took God out of the box”. (Source: http://www.probe.org/)

Sadly, her quest led her to turn her back away from the Biblical faith she claimed she had since childhood. She became “an evangelist for smorgasbord spirituality.” Now, over 2 million people from 139 countries have already participated with Oprah Winfrey in a live Web-based seminar on Eckhart Tolle’s bestseller, “A New Earth Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose.” (Due to space limitations, I cannot discuss the contents of the book.)

Oprah asserts that, quoting one of her favorite quotes from Eckhart, “Man made God in his own image. The eternal, the infinite, and unnamable was reduced to a mental idol that you had to believe in and worship as my God or our God.” But Oprah is guilty of doing just exactly that. She declared, “I don’t believe that Jesus came to start Christianity… Well, I am a Christian who believes that there are certainly many more paths to God other than Christianity.” She crafted her own idol because of a misunderstanding of the “jealousy” of God. I am not in any way questioning Oprah’s sincerity. Yet, she is seriously wrong. Definitely she is preaching a different gospel.

Our Lord Jesus declared, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Even if it doesn’t feel right, even if one does not believe it, it does not make it wrong. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) This is the true Gospel.

Brethren, let us share the Gospel of Christ, not that of Oprah.