Friday, May 30, 2008

Go For It!

By the time you are reading this, I am already in Texas, USA. (In this picture, I stood in front of Elm Street in Dallas, Texas, where US President John F. Kennedy was assassinated November 22, 1963. Behind me is the Texas School Book Depository, now Dallas County Administration Building. That's where the assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, positioned himself at the corner window of the 6th floor of the building, the square one beside the arched windows.)

God graciously opened a door for me to join the Global Proclamation Academy (GPA) in Dallas Theological Seminary. The GPA is “a once-in-a-life time, ministry-defining experience with the finest master-coaches available to explore biblical spirituality, theological discernment, and effective preaching.” (http://www.thegpa.net/) It is a 3-week “by invitation only” program where “no more than one leader will come each year from any single country.” (Ibid) It is such a great privilege to become part of GPA Batch 2008!


Allow me to thank those who prayerfully supported me on this trip. Rest assured that I would make the most of this conference. God has a purpose why He gave me this opportunity. It appears things are happening fast (at times, so fast) in our church. I have to confess that there are moments when I feel so overwhelmed with what He is doing in our midst. That’s why I am so blessed to be a part of a team that pursues excellence. On my own, I don’t think I could have accomplished much. Maybe I would have failed right then and there at the onset.

Thus, we cannot afford to just watch things unfold right before our very eyes. God is inviting us to join Him in making it happen. When Makati Gospel Church (MGC) invited me to pastor the English Worship Service, what clinched it was what Dr. Andrew Liuson told me, “In MGC, you will be pastoring leaders.” It excites me to become a part of what God is accomplishing in MGC. Each one of us is a leader in our own right, in our personal spheres of influence.

I always like how The Message translated 1 Corinthians 15:58. “With all this going for us, my dear, dear friends, stand your ground. And don’t hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort.” This is my appeal to you also. We need you on our team.


Brethren, let us go for it!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Debate on Video Games

“Just because you play as a criminal doesn’t mean you’ll become one.” This in a nutshell is the conclusion of Harvard Med School researchers Lawrence Kutner and Cheryl Olsen, who wrote the book, “Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games and What Parents Can Do.” They refuted alleged misconceptions about the cause and effect relationship between violent video games and violent behavior, “that there is no data to support the simple-minded concerns that video games cause violence.” But before you grab your X-box or PSP, read on.

How did they come up with conclusion? They did a two-year study of 1,200 middle-school students. Most of the data were collected through interviews. Yes, the gamers themselves claimed that violent games do not make them violent. There lies the flaw of this study. Who in his right mind would admit that he became violent because of those video games? Would young gamers incriminate themselves? Plus, Kutner and Olsen admitted they “did note a link between mature-rated titles and aggressive behavior, as a significant number of both boys and girls who played M-rated titles reported getting into more fights over the past year than kids who didn’t play M-rated games.” But they “point out that this simply demonstrates a correlation between violent games and aggression, not that one causes the other, suggesting the possibility that the kids attracted to mature-rated games were naturally aggressive to begin with.” (Source: Yahoo! News)

Of course, we are not blaming everything on video games. It is not as easy as just banning our kids from playing video games. The least we could say is that it is a contributing factor to childhood hostility that may eventually lead to adult aggression. We parents must realize that we are responsible for what our children play with. We have a bigger influence than environment on the lives of our children. I also agree that there is no guarantee that our children would grow up godly, even with faithful Bible instruction. But, without God’s Word, it is guaranteed that our children would not grow godly. (See Ephesians 6:4)

Brethren, let us train up our children in the way they should go.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

God is good?

We Filipinos are no strangers to calamities. That’s why our hearts go out for the people of Myanmar and China. According to Yahoo! News, the Red Cross estimated that the cyclone death toll in Myanmar could reach up to almost 130,000. Images of piles upon piles of rotting corpses circulate the Internet. (However, the military junta gave a much lower casualty estimate of more than 38,000 dead and almost 28,000 missing.) Add to that the more than 2.5 million people who urgently needed food, water and shelter. But, due to the restrictions imposed by the Myanmar government, foreign aid has only reached 270,000. World Food Program needs 55,000 tons of rice to provide a three-month supply for 750,000 people. Yet, only 361 tons have been shipped so far. Sadly, there were reports of relief switching. High-grade rice became brown, smelly rice that even dogs would not eat. Like Job who received bad news after another in rapid succession, while we were still reeling from the calamity in Myanmar, a 15-second, 7.9-magnitude earthquake jolted Sichuan, China. Because around 26,000 people remain buried in collapsed structures and more than 1,400 missing, experts fear that the 15,000 casualty estimates could rise even higher. The quake directly affected 10 million people. The fact that China has a strict one-child policy made the loss of children more painful.

In the midst of all these, can we still say, “God is good”? Jeremiah, dubbed as the weeping prophet, saw his doomsday prophecies come true. Babylon laid an 18-month siege on Jerusalem. There was so much hunger and thirst that mothers resorted to the despicable act of cannibalism. Thus, Jeremiah cried out in his aptly-titled book of Lamentations, “Should women eat their offspring, the children they have cared for?” (2:20, NIV) If ever there’s a person who could question the heart of God, it was Jeremiah. But, he did not. Instead, he declared, “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (3:21-23) Let us pray that the people of Myanmar and China would still see God’s goodness despite of these tragedies.

Brethren, God is good, no matter what.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Holocaust


While my wife Ellen and me were in Israel, the nation held the Memorial Day for the Holocaust. It is dedicated to the six million Jews who sacrificed their lives during World War II. The day meant a lot for the Jewish people. The Israeli flags were in half-mast. All stores closed early. In our hotel, there wasn’t music in the lobby. Instead, there was a booth displaying pictures of some Holocaust victims. Guests can light candles in their honor. Last May 1, a siren sounded throughout the nation, calling everyone to observe a minute of solemn silence. We also visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum. It was sobering to see not only the videos and pictures but also the personal belongings of the victims and other relics.

During our educational study tour in Israel, I noticed that they spared no effort in preserving their national parks that were traditional and historical sites of Biblical stories. All over the place I saw boulders piled up on each other, serving as stones of remembrance. It shows their resolve to remember their history. Doron, our Jewish tour guide whose grandparents perished in the Holocaust, told us that remembering their history gave the Jews the strength to survive. They connect their present and the future to their past. Remember the saying, “Ang hindi lumingon sa pinanggalingan, hindi makakarating sa paroroonan”? (In English, “He who does not look back could not move forward.”)

We also have a rich history of faith. The Bible tells us, “Everything written long ago was written to teach us so that we would have confidence through the endurance and encouragement which the Scriptures give us.” (Romans 15:4, God’s Word) History is not just a study of names, dates, places and events. We are to glean its lessons through the lives of men and women of God in the Scriptures. We are commanded, “Remember your leaders who have spoken God’s word to you. Think about how their lives turned out, and imitate their faith.” (Hebrews 13:7) The best way to honor the past is to hone our lives according to its lessons. That also poses a challenge for us to continue the legacy of faith. As one song goes, “May all who come behind us find us faithful!”

Brethren, may our lives make our faith worth imitating!