Tuesday, December 29, 2009

"Reimagining Church"

That's the title of a radical book (written by Frank Viola, “an influential voice in the contemporary house church movement”) which I am reading during this Christmas break. Though I may not agree with some of his proposals, what he pointed out regarding the practical implications of the church being an organism and not an organization resonated with my heart. God designed the church as an “authentic community.” It is rooted in the very relational, triune nature of God: “It is the unity of a community of persons who love each other and live together in harmony… They are what they are only in relationship with one another… There is no solitary person separated from the others; no above and below; no first, second, third in importance; no ruling and controlling and being ruled and controlled; no position of privilege to be maintained over against others; no question of conflict concerning who is in charge; no need to assert independence and authority of one at the expense of the others. Now there is only fellowship and communion of equals who share all that they are and have in their communion with each other, each living with and for the others in mutual openness, self-giving love, and support; each free not from but for the others. That is how Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are related in the inner circle of the Godhead.

And this is the very community that our Lord Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane that we would enjoy as believers: that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:21, ESV) We can get a taste of this heavenly community on earth when we actively partake in a small group. (In Makati Gospel Church, we call them Circles of C.A.R.E. or COCs) It’s more than a Bible study (important as it may be). It’s more than discussing what we learned from Sunday’s sermons or from the material at hand. It’s more than having a meal or coffee together (which we usually label as “fellowship”). It’s a sharing of each other’s lives, where we can cry and laugh together, where we are held accountable, where we experience the “one another” commands of the Bible, where we see Christ at work in each other’s lives and in the whole group. That’s why I pray that this coming New Year, we will all decide to join a COC.

Brethren, may we all enjoy authentic community!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

He is "Bro"?

Due to a popular, local telenovela, many people now call our Lord Jesus as “Bro” (short for “brother”). It seems to be a sincere attempt to humanize God. They feel that they could get close to Him that way. I suppose there was no intention to demean Him. However, we cannot call the Lord with just any name we want. In the Bible, the name reflects the nature (character) of the person. The names that Isaiah 9:6 gave to our Lord Jesus Christ revealed His divine nature. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (ESV)

Here He is called “Mighty God.” Cults that deny the deity of Christ try to wiggle out of its weight by saying that He is not the almighty God but only the mighty God. They usually claim that mighty is different from almighty. But Isaiah appears to be not making such a distinction. In Isaiah 10, he connected “mighty God” (v. 21) with “the Lord GOD of hosts” (v.23). In the New International Version, “the Lord GOD of hosts” is translated as “The Lord, the LORD Almighty”. Thus, for Isaiah, “mighty God” is the same as “almighty God.” Therefore, it clearly proves that Jesus is equal to the Father.

The name “Everlasting Father” also shows that the Messiah is God, since the prophet also called the Lord God “Father” (Isa. 63:16; 64:8). However, this does not mean that God the Son and God the Father is one person. They are one in the sense of equality but not identity (John 10:30).

At first, I only thought that only the names “Mighty God” and “Everlasting Father” emphasized that Jesus is God. But, reading on, “Wonderful Counselor” also proves His deity. (The Messiah is described as having “the Spirit of counsel” in Isa. 11:2.) Isaiah wrote that “the LORD of hosts… is wonderful in counsel” (28:29). That verse clearly refers to God Himself. He is the one giving counsel, not the one needing counsel. In stressing the sovereignty of God, Isaiah challenged the people with this question: “what man shows him his counsel? Whom did he consult, and who made him understand?” (40:13b-14). Thus, Christ as the “Wonderful Counselor” is “the [sovereign] LORD of hosts”. Then, the name “Prince of peace” reminds the readers of the Lord who will bring ultimate peace on earth (2:4). Thus, Jesus is not just our divine Big Brother.

Brethren, Jesus Christ is Lord.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

PCEC Statement on the Maguindanao Massacre

We, members of the Evangelical community, convey our deepest sorrow and share the enormous grief and anguish of our fellow citizens in Mindanao, the whole nation, and the international community, for the tragic and untimely loss of brothers and sisters who were mercilessly murdered in broad daylight last November 23, 2009, in the municipality of Ampatuan, Maguindanao Province. There is no adequate expression of what we feel and carry in our hearts. It is a most unfortunate event.

We condemn in the strongest possible way this senseless act of carnage against unarmed and helpless civilians – women of the Mangudadatu clan, women-lawyers, media practitioners, indigenous peoples representative(s), and other members of the delegation – all were there in their line of duty, including unborn children and innocent travelers on that ill-fated day.

We lament because of this mass killing. It is a barbaric and savage act, with complete disregard to the rule of law, human rights, dignity and even sanity.

We are one with the families of the victims and all people of peace who cry for immediate justice.

We ask our government to use all its powers to apprehend all the perpetrators and apply the full force of the law to address this heinous crime.

We join others in calling for the creation of an independent body to conduct a thorough and timely investigation of the Maguindanao massacre and to recommend prosecutions and such further actions required by law.

We ask for churches and other faith groups to open their premises to serve as “sanctuaries” or “safe space” to all those who are helping in the process of uncovering the truth of this incident who may likely be under attack and may need protection.

We call on all for sobriety, to continue to pray for peace, a transformation of the hearts and minds, the ending of the cycle of violence, and the healing of our land.

We pray that more people will get to really know the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, who taught us to “love your enemies”, “love your neighbors as yourselves” and who on the cross, prayed for those who killed Him and said: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.”

Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches
November 27, 2009

Brethren, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” Proverbs 14:34, ESV