Friday, June 27, 2008

1%

There was a time when the way the US government would respond to a security scenario depended on whether there was a high or low probability that it would happen. If the odds appeared to be high, they would act preemptively to prevent the scenario from ever happening. If the odds seemed low, however, they would just take note of it. Then 9/11 happened.

Now I hear that even if there appears to be only a 1% probability of a terrorist attack happening, they treat it seriously and act accordingly. There is now no room for error. Lives are at stake. Security policies are now marked with urgency. They are not taking any chances now.

When it comes to the judgment day, there is 100% certainty that we will face God. If this is so, how come we live as if it will never ever occur? Hebrews 9:27 tell us “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (ESV). Our beliefs will determine where we will spend eternity. If we put our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, we will have eternal life. If we reject Him, we will suffer in hell. Our behavior will determine how we will spend eternity. If we think that heaven will be one boring eternity, where we will be dressed in ill-fitting, white robes, fitted with wings and just float from one cloud to the other while playing the harp, then better read the Bible again. We catch a glimpse of this in the parable of the talents. To the servant who invested the money (the talent was a currency at that time), the master declared, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:21) Note the words “I will set you over much”. In another parable, the master gave the steward who doubled the money entrusted to him charge over ten cities. We will definitely not be idle in heaven! As Rick Warren said, “Life on earth is a dress rehearsal for eternity.”

Thus, Ephesians 5:15-16 command us, Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” (NIV)

Brethren, let us treat life seriously and act accordingly!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Finally...

Finally, after around 20 hours, I made it home yesterday.

When Dr. Ramesh Richard asked us to write a resolution, an area in our lives that we would deal with, I wrote in the 3x5 card that I would deal with my tendency to be impatient.

Heavy traffic. Late people. Delays. Those and a host of other things make me impatient. I made a resolve to deal with that.

I have this nagging suspicion that that has something to do with my saga in my flight back home. [Note: If you missed that "saga," you may read about it here in my blog: http://straightfrompastor.blogspot.com/2008/06/i-missed-my-flight.html]

While waiting for my American Airlines plane to be repaired in the DFW airport, it already crossed my mind. Then, I missed my flight to the Philippines by a few minutes in SFO airport. Hmmm.

Then, during my long trip aboard Singapore Airlines from San Francisco to Hong Kong then Hong Kong to Singapore, I was in the middle seat. In my desire to get on a flight as soon as possible, I forgot to specify my preference. I usually like to seat either window or aisle seats. My arms need some space to move (especially when eating). But, there I was. For about 15 hours, in the middle of two people. Sigh… count to ten… at least in my flight from Singapore to Manila, I was in the window seat. I arrived tired. My legs were crampy and I felt clammy in my clothes.

Then, I discovered my two checked-in luggage wasn't there. All the books, my notes, my wife's new electric can opener and other stuff are all there. American Airlines assured me that my luggage would be on the flight that I missed. It was supposed to arrive ahead of me.

I had to file a missing luggage report. I almost blew my top… then I remember what I wrote in that 3x5 card.

Then, I had to drive home. A member sent his driver to drive my car and fetch me at the airport. He got off in Makati, a few minutes from the airport. I then took the wheels. Then, lo and behold, the traffic went to a syrupy slow pace. Like Charlie Brown, I sighed, “Good grief!”

God really means business. He is interested in our character more than our comfort.

[Update: Just got a call from the airline. My luggage has been located. PTL!]

I missed my flight

Sigh. I missed my flight.

I checked in at the DFW airport early. As in, two hours before the flight. While waiting, I listened to the MP3s of our just-concluded GPA. I did not hear the announcement that there was a gate change.

15 minutes before boarding time, I glanced at the flight monitors. I was shocked to see that the gate for my American Airlines flightto San Francisco, CA has been relocated to another about halfway across the airport. I ran and took the train to reach it, just in time for the boarding.

I sat in my assigned seat and waited.

...and waited.

It appears that the gate confusion was just a foretaste. The lady pilot announced that there was a technical problem in a very important navigational device. So, we had to get off the plane and wait outside while it is being repaired.

I asked the agent at the desk and he told me that that's the only flight I could get on to catch my Philippine Airlines flight to my country (with a short stopover at Guam). He assured me that if we leave before 845PM, I could still make it.

After almost three hours, we got on the plane again. But we arrived 20 minutes before the boarding time for my connecting flight. I heard my name called. I rushed to the front door of the plane. The agent told me that if I want to catch my plane, I have to run.

I ran, carrying my two carry-on bags. I was not wearing my rubber shoes. I was wearing my leather shoes (since I taught in a Sunday school class of NorthWest Bible Church in the morning). I ran from the domestic flight area to the international flight area of SFO airpot.

Huffing and puffing, I recalled the days I missed the Baylor Fitness Center. I think that sprint made up for all my absences in the gym. My legs cramping, sweat dripping all over me, I finally made it to the check in counter of Philippine Airlines.

It was already closed. I missed my flight.

Suddenly, images of Tom Hank's movie, The Terminal, flashed in rapid succession in my mind.

I walked back to the American Airlines counter (in the domestic flight area!) to ask for help.

I learned that Philippine Airlines is overbooked for the next days. The flight I missed is the only flight that night.

Maybe they would arrange for a hotel accommodation. All my clothes are in the checked-in luggage. I see myself standing helplessly in front of the Golden Gate. I prepared myself for a long wait.

The agent told me they would rebook me in another airline. She got me a Singapore Airline flight leaving at 1:20AM. But, it will be flying to Hong Kong. Then, fly to Singapore. And then I would have to catch a flight to the Philippines (Oh, no! Not again. Groan). If you would look at the map, the Philippines is between Hong Kong and Singapore. If I could just jump wearing a parachute... I feel like a boomerang.

So, instead of arriving at 530AM in the Philippines, I will be arriving around 5PM.

Update: I'm now back in the Philippines. But, my checked-in luggage got lost along the way :-(

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Homeward Bound

By the time you are reading this, I am preparing to fly back home. Please pray for a safe trip. I will be boarding the plane at the Dallas Fort Worth Airport around 4PM this Sunday afternoon in Texas (5AM, Monday, in our country). Then change planes at San Francisco, California. After a short stopover at Guam, on Tuesday early morning, I will set foot on the Philippines once again.

I praise God for the privilege of representing our country in the Global Proclamation Academy (GPA) here in Dallas Theological Seminary. Other than listening to our dear master coaches, I enjoyed the friendship of 24 other pastors all over the world. I experienced the loving hospitality of my host families, who opened not only their houses but also their hearts to me. Couples and churches also hosted dinners for us, brought us to a rodeo and a country concert.

I admit there are times that I felt I don’t deserve to be in the GPA. A delegate teaches in a university. Another one is pursuing his doctoral degree. A pastor planted 100 churches. Another got blacklisted in his country for his faith. As I listen to their life stories and ministry reports, I am both awed and humbled. I am not only challenged but I am also changed.

I hope to hit the ground running. There are so many things I want to share with you. I want to impart not only notes on lessons but, much more, I want to share my life enriched with my GPA experience. I pray you would get more of me. (I am not referring to my weight though that is included.) I pray that you would receive back a better, more effective pastor.

But, here’s the challenge. This GPA is not just a God-moment for me. It is also for you, my dear church family. We are a part of the worldwide Body of Christ. Let us not just enjoy the confines of the four walls of our building. Let us break through our comfort zones and make an impact for Christ right where God raised us for such a time as this. We are a catalyst in our spheres of influence that He gave us. There is a world out there.

Brethren, see you soon!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Go Fast Or Far?

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” That’s an African proverb I learned from Pastor Sammy Gumbe from Mozambique, one of the delegates here in the Global Proclamation Academy (GPA).

Here in the GPA, I got a chance to see the world. With delegates from 25 countries, I finally matched a face with a country. We listen to each one’s life story and ministry updates. I already shared my life story yesterday. Next week, I will share what God is doing in our country. What a tremendous joy to see the hand of the Lord all over the world!

In the Philippines, we are deluged with all sorts of teachings (mostly from the West). We are pulled from every direction with different patterns touted to be the key to church growth. That is, they claim that when we follow the way they do things in church, they guarantee that our ABCs (attendance, building and cash) will grow fast.

Not so true. Models are just that. Models. Some may work. Others may not. I learned that firsthand as I interacted here with my fellow delegates (I praise God that GPA has put up an interactive website where we can continue to network with each other). It may depend on the context. But largely I see that it depends on whether it is really based on the Word of God.

“Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules. (2 Timothy 2:5, NIV) The success or failure of a model rises or falls according to the rules of the Bible. We may go far. We may go together. We may even go fast. But if we do not get our directions from the Word, we are going the wrong way fast and far. Our Lord called that “building your house on the sand.” (Matthew 7:24-27) Paul called that “building on the foundation using wood, hay or straw.” (1 Cor. 3:10-15)

Brethren, let us go far together… in the Word!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Big in Texas

We often hear it. Everything is big in Texas. From food servings to shopping malls, truly everything is big here. The gym we visit every morning is humungous. (Yes, with all the food they give us, I really have to exercise!) Other than the Olympic-size swimming pool, there’s the 8,000 square foot weight and cardiovascular area. And that’s only the second floor! Add to that the cushioned indoor track or the outdoor jogging trails in their almost 3-hectare park. But, Rajiv Richard, our resident facilitator, told me that his son’s school gym is much, much bigger than that! Truly, everything is big in Texas.

Dr. Robert Coleman and me.

I also met giants… of the faith.
In the first few days of the Global Proclamation Academy, we had the privilege of listening to them. One of them is Dr. Robert Coleman, author of “The Master Plan for Evangelism.” For forty years, this classic, biblical book on discipleship has challenged and instructed over 5 million people worldwide. He is already 80 years old. I asked him the secret of a lifetime of ministry. He said, “Always keep your priorities in mind.” (What’s our priority in MGC? I pray that we would focus on our mission statement: “Glorify God by Multiplying Biblical, Committed and Loving Followers of Jesus Christ.”)

Dr. Charles Ryrie and me. The Bible I am holding is my autographed copy of his Ryrie Study Bible. The guy next to us is Pastor Juan Diego of Costa Rica.

Another giant of the faith is Dr. Charles Ryrie, author of the ever-handy Ryrie Study Bible. He is already 83 years old. He is very precise in his analysis of the theological issues that we face nowadays. I find him also a warm, witty person.
I asked him what’s the pressing need today. He answered, “I think Christians now are not sure who or which would rule their lives.” He pointed out that that confusion is rooted in the erosion of Biblical authority in the hearts and minds of people.

They remind me of Hebrews 13:7-8. “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (NIV) I find myself praying that I would be like them in their passion. Most people their age would be in rocking chairs or nursing homes. But Coleman and Ryrie are still faithfully serving the Lord.

Brethren, let us imitate the faith of these giants!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Preach the Word!


Praise God! For the third time (second this year), Sermon Central (http://sermoncentral.com/) featured me as a contributor. What a privilege!

I post there the manuscripts of the messages I preach in our English Worship Service at the Makati Gospel Church. Other than Sermon Central, I also share these messages in the radio broadcast of "Tanglaw sa Landas ng Buhay" ("Light in the Path of Life") of Back to the Bible Philippines.

I praise Him for enlarging my borders. People from as far as Africa, Saudi Arabia, England and Italy have e-mailed me, thanking me for the sermons I posted in Sermon Central. Only eternity will reveal its fruit!

This, I believe, is an affirmation of my personal mission statement. My purpose in life is to glorify God through being a catalyst that brings out the best in my spheres of influence; specifically my family and the segment of the Body of Christ that God opened a door of ministry to me. In view of this, one of my guiding values in my life and ministry is "Teaching for Lifechange." Since the Word of God is the supreme authority for my faith, life and ministry and God gave it for transformation, not for information, I teach the Bible in all its simplicity, practicality and authority to change lives and to equip people for fruitful ministry.

May God continue to be honored through me and the ministry He entrusted to me!