Showing posts from 2007


My best friend, Rev. Jesse Dedel, ushered me recently to the wacky world of

Christine Gambito, a Filipina in the US of A, was “always looking for a creative outlet and had thought of one day doing a one woman show.” She found YouTube. She then took videos of herself portraying different characters in her family. Now, the world is her audience. She is currently the #5 most subscribed channel of all time on YouTube! Plus, she has been nominated by The Filipino Channel’s “Balitang America ” for Newsmaker of 2007! (Hope she wins!) One of my favorite videos is “Tanks,” a spoof of how her family celebrates Thanksgiving. (Yes, “tanks,” is short for “thanks.”) I will not spoil the fun. Watch it yourself. But, at the end of the video, her mom (who else but Christine!) said, “Tanksgiving becomes Tanksliving.”

Here in the Philippines we don’t celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. But Christmas is fast approaching. And it is a season for thanksgiving. We got the best gift ever from…

If God Became Man

In his bestselling Evidence That Demand a Verdict, Josh McDowell posed this question: “If God became a man what would we expect Him to be like?”One of the 8 answers that McDowell proposed was, “If God became a man we would expect Him to have an unusual entrance into this life.” In Isaiah 7:14, we see this prophecy: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Before, people questioned whether there was really a prophecy because there was a time that the only Old Testament Hebrew text we have had was the Masoretic text, which a group of scribes complied around A.D. 500. That’s 500 years after Christ. So, these critics are accusing that it was not really a prophecy but something written after the fact. But, in 1947, a young Bedouin shepherd discovered ancient scrolls of the Old Testament in a cave near the Dead Sea. These scrolls were dated 550 to 900 years earlier. As in, at least 50 to 400 ye…

My Take on "The Golden Compass" Issue

Yes I got the e-mail, too. I believe you got it also. I am talking about the warning circulated through the Internet about “The Golden Compass” movie based on the first of a bestselling, multi-awarded trilogy of books by Philip Pullman, an avowed atheist. Allegedly, this movie is about kids, the lead characters in the movie, who killed God. Other than having Nicole Kidman as one of the stars in the movie, this religious controversy is a surefire way of turning it into a runaway box-office hit. Is this true? Or is this just part of a slick ad campaign? [My conspiracy ‘spider-sense’ is tingling] According to BreakPoint (a commentary on issues based on Biblical worldview), “the girl and the boy at the center of the story do not kill God, though they are present when a being calling himself God is killed.” (Nov. 26, 2007) That being turns out to be an angel who claimed to be God. However, BreakPoint warns, “the part about Pullman hating the idea of God is completely accurate. He uses his …

Defend the Faith

“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…” (1 Peter 3:15, NIV)

There’s no doubt about it. Our Christian faith is under attack. In just a short span of time, we have faced bestsellers from Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code (who wrote that “almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false”) to Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion (who wrote that “when one person suffers from a delusion it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called religion”). What do we do? Ignore it and wait for it to blow over like the proverbial ostrich’s head in the sand? But there is no sign of waning. Instead the attacks are intensifying. What we can do is make the most of the opportunity. “Opportunity?” you may be asking incredulously. Well, thanks to Brown, Dawkins and other skeptics who are churning out these attacks, sales o…

Erap’s Pardon is Cheap Grace

Official Statement of the Institute for Studies
in Asian Church and Culture (ISACC)

On the surface, granting former President Joseph Estrada executive clemency may seem like an act of compassion. In reality, it is cheap grace.A pardon is an act of grace. It is a concept borrowed by jurisprudence from the biblical idea of ‘unmerited favor,’ meaning that the offender is spared the penalty for ‘sin’ or breaking the law, not because of any merit in him nor of any circumstance that might lighten his case, but because the punishment has been paid for in his behalf by someone else – the Son of God himself. For God to forgive, his own son had to be sent to the cross.
The demands of justice had to be met before God could pardon our sins. Because he is just, he did not seek reconciliation by simply sweeping things under the rug. He did not issue a general amnesty and bury our guilt and grievances under a show of bonhomie. Instead, in his mercy he stripped himself of immunity, took upon…

Pray for my son Jessey


Please pray for my 10-year-old son, Jessey Cortez, who will be competing in the World Youth Scrabble Championship on December 3-6, 2007 in Johor Bahru, Malaysia(See under "Philippines":

He will also compete Causeway Scrabble Challenge on November 30-December 2, 2007 (which will take place in the same venue).

Last Sunday, I personally witnessed a scrabble competition in SM North (Jessey was the youngest player in that tournament). Just imagine they played 8 games! On a single day! In Malaysia, they will be playing 22 games in three days. The mental and physical demands must be that great!

"Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will serve before kings; he will not serve before obscure men." Proverbs 22:29, NIV

Please pray for the preparation and provision for these tournaments. Thank you for your prayers. May God be glorified!

Why Your Parents Act Like That (Part 3)

Six-year old Jill was helping her father Dave do some gardening in the front yard. She chattered away about her Sunday school lesson on Adam and Eve. Dave asked her, “Did you know Adam and Eve sinned?” Jill replied, “Yes.”“What did God do to them as a punishment?” Dave asked again. Her answer was immediate and matter-of-fact, without even looking up: “He made them have kids.” (From the illustration database of Sermon Central)

Sometimes parenting is so challenging that it seems like punishment for our sins! Let us finish the “Seven Ways to Understand Your Parents,” which I heard in “Family Matters” (a radio program hosted by Rev. Clem Guillermo and Carmen Go-Vargas aired every Monday to Friday, 9:30AM, over 702 DZAS AM). We already saw that 1) there is no parenting school; 2) our parents lived in a different world; 3) our grandparents “experimented” on our parents also; 4) our parents want to protect us from mistakes they committed in the past; 5) they have pressures, too; and 6) they l…

Why Your Parents Act Like That (Part 2)

Allow me to continue sharing the “Seven Ways to Understand Your Parents” which I heard from “Family Matters” (a radio program hosted by Rev. Clem Guillermo and Carmen Go-Vargas aired every Monday to Friday, 9:30AM, over 702 DZAS AM). We already saw that the reasons why your parents act like that are, first there is no school for parenting, second your parents were “victims,” too and third they love you so much. But they just don’t know any better.

Fourth, parents lived in a different world. Neither your world nor ours are better or worse. It depends on what areas our worldviews collide or intersect. For example, let us talk about tattoos. Mention tattoos to your parents and immediately in their minds they conjure images of hardened convicts with blue-inked tattoos covering their entire bodies. “Walking comics,” your parents called them. But for you, tattoos are just a colorful, fashion statement.

So, understand where your parents are coming from. Try listening to them. Maybe both of you…

The Pardon

It is as shocking as the Glorietta blast. I had to read the news headline many times before it sank in. “Arroyo pardons Erap.” I leave it to legal experts to debate the pros and cons of the executive clemency extended to the former president, who was convicted of plunder. It still does not make sense to me, though.I recall a similar situation in the Bible (Matthew 18:21-35). A king ordered an audit on all the governors ruling in the different provinces of his region. One was found guilty of plunder. He embezzled 10,000 talents. To give you an idea, a talent was equivalent to 75 pounds of silver. That’s astronomical considering that the total amount of taxes collected annually by Rome from the province of Galilee alone was only 300 talents. But this governor stole ten thousand talents! If we compute that, he owed the king millions or maybe even billions of pesos. Obviously, the governor squandered it all. “Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his c…

Offensive Pugad Baboy Cartoon

"Pugad Baboy" is a famous cartoon strip here in the Philippines. One can read it in one of the major broadsheets here, The Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI,

This morning, Oct 18, 2007, Thursday, I found this:

I immediately e-mailed PDI.

I am an avid fan of "Pugad Baboy." I have tolerated PM Jr. even if there are times that he used religion as a butt of his jokes (i.e. the "kulto finish" episode).

However, I find today's "religious nut" cartoon offensive (where Mang Dagul finds himself conversing with a person who asks him, "Paano ka nagpapasalamat sa biyaya na ibinigay sa yo ng Diyos?" [How do you thank God for the blessing He gave you?] Then Dagul cries out: "Religious nut!"). Yes, we all had our share of so-called religious nuts. But, just talking about God does not make one a nut case. This is stereotyping people who just wanted to talk about God. It is unfair. I don't find it funny.

Feel free to e-…

Why Your Parents Act Like That (Part 1)

This is for our youth. But, of course, parents can eavesdrop :-)

Ever wondered why your parents act like that? That there are times you feel out of sync with them? Allow me to share the “Seven Ways to Understand Your Parents,” which I heard a few days ago in “Family Matters” (a radio program hosted by Rev. Clem Guillermo and Carmen Go-Vargas aired every Monday to Friday, 9:30AM, over 702 DZAS AM).

First, you have to understand that there is no school for parenting. A billboard got it right: “When a child is born, a parent is born.” Yes, there are excellent books and seminars in parenting. But, knowing how to parent is different from actually doing it.

Second, your parents were “victims,” too. Their parents also “experimented” on them. So, either your parents are parenting you the way they were parented (that’s the only way they know how) or they were trying to do it differently. I know it is not good to feel like a lab rat. But, at least, thank them for the effort. They tried. Yes, they…

I Resign

Yes, you read it right. I resign.But, before you think of anything, I am not doing an Abalos. Remember the Purpose Driven Covenant I asked people to read in the English Worship Service on my first Sunday as an associate pastor of MakatiGospelChurch almost three years ago? Time and again it’s good to remind ourselves of that covenant. Here are some excerpts:“I’m tired of waffling, and I’m finished with wavering… I refuse to waste any more time and energy on shallow living, petty thinking, trivial talking, thoughtless doing, useless regretting, hurtful resenting, or faithless worrying… I won’t be captivated by culture, manipulated by critics, motivated by praise, frustrated by problems, debilitated by temptation, or intimidated by the devil.”1Those are the things I have resigned and will continue to resign from. Some people think that to resign is to give up without a fight. But a dictionary entry shows that the verb “resign” can also mean “to give up deliberately or to renounce. We ha…

Time for Metamorphosis

A man from a backward province visited Metro Manila for the first time with his wife and son. He could not believe his eyes as he marveled at the sight of towering skyscrapers and huge shopping malls. Inside the mall, he saw an old, gaunt woman limp towards the elevator. The doors closed. Then a few minutes later, when the doors opened, his jaws dropped to the floor when a young, beautiful woman got out of the elevator. The father excitedly shouted at his son, “Quick! Go get your mother.” (Adapted from the illustration database of Biblical Studies Foundation)Some of us with drooping eye bags, double chins, wrinkled face and bulging stomachs would love such a dramatic change! But, I personally admit, it is not that easy [Excuse me. Hand me over that glazed donut, please.] If it was hard physically, just imagine spiritual transformation! Romans 12:2a commands us: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”First we have to st…

The Starbucks Gospel

“Starbucks will never even come close to changing the world like Jesus did, but it has made a significant difference in our culture.” That’s a quote from the very creative The Gospel According to Starbucks: Living with a Grande Passion by Leonard Sweet. He drew lessons from Starbucks on connecting with seekers while he was, I suppose, sipping a decaf. He adds, “The experience-oriented Starbucks world we live in calls for an equally evolving perspective on how we do church.”Sweet wrote that people buy latte or mocha frap not for the caffeine but for the experience. “In the same way that Starbucks strives to create the best experience for enjoying coffee, we need to step into the best experience of faith… With Christianity, it often seems like we promote ideas and methodologies rather than inviting people to simply experience God. People want an engaging, relevant faith. They do not want mere intellectual faith. They long for a living faith.I read of a pastor who asked an actor how com…

The Verdict

"Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people." Proverbs 14:34, NIV

[Note: This is my personal stance and does not in any way represent Makati Gospel Church or its leadership.]

I admit that I doubted that the Sandiganbayan would render a guilty verdict on the plunder case of former President Joseph "Erap" Estrada. So when the anti-graft court handed down the "guilty" verdict, it really came as a surprising relief. Now I will not discuss the merits of the case. I am not a lawyer. You can watch or listen or read the pros and cons over the media. And it can still be appealed. It is not yet final.

Let me focus on the rule of law instead. As a country, we thrive on shortcuts (whether in getting a driver's license or in unseating the powers that be).
We ousted two presidents already through "People Power." Erap faced an impeachment court but it was cut short by a walkout. Then people massed in EDSA. The rest is... well, history…

Call the Elders

One cowboy saw an Indian kneeling on the ground, his head pressed to the ground. He asked, “What do you sense?” The Indian curtly replied, “Two wagons. Two horses each. The first one carries the cargoes. The second one carries a family of six. The horses are black. The drivers and passengers are all white.” Astonished, the cowboy exclaimed, “You heard all that from the vibrations on the ground?”
With a sigh, the Indian cried, “No. They just ran over me about 15 minutes ago.”
Even if my head is pressed to the ground, I have no way of knowing what’s going on in your life unless you tell me. I am not omniscient, though at times I wish I am. You are not living inside Big Brother’s House. Wiretapping is out of the question, of course.☺
May I suggest an area where we can serve you better?“Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord wil…

Missing Limb

I am not pulling your leg. I promise.

A biker was enjoying a fun ride with a group of friends in Hamamatsu city, Japan. When he was making a sharp turn on a curve, he skidded and bumped into the central safety barrier of the road. He felt excruciating pain. But he did not even stop to take a look. He just kept on riding.

At the next junction, more than a mile later, one of his friends stopped him and frantically pointed to his right leg. Believe it or not, his leg had been severed just below the knee! He actually failed to notice his missing limb. Both the man and the leg were rushed to the hospital. But, according to Yahoo! News, “the limb had been crushed in the collision”.

You may be asking, “How can one fail to notice that his leg was accidentally cut off?”But, let us look from a spiritual perspective: “Have you ever noticed anyone missing from the worship service lately?” Romans 12:5 says, “…in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. (NIV)


It seems recall is the word nowadays. Mattel has recalled and is still recalling its Fisher-Price toys that feature various Nickelodeon and Sesame Street characters due to lead poisoning hazard. Suddenly, Elmo and Dora seem no longer cute and cuddly. Mattel is also recalling its Polly Pocket play sets. This toy contains magnets that fall off due to manufacturing defects. If swallowed, these magnets could fatally cause choking or intestinal perforation or blockage. All in all, this recall cost Mattel a whooping US$30 million and its stocks dipped. It involved almost 19 million toys worldwide. The disgraced head of the toy factory in China , which Mattel blame for the lead-tainted toys, has committed suicide. Now, Nokia announced its own recall of 46 million batteries (marked BL-5C) made by Matsushita Battery Industrial Company of Japan between December 2005 and November 2006. It's due to around 100 overheating cases that occurred globally. Though there were no reports of serious i…

How To Be Happy Inside Out

What immediately comes to your mind when you hear the word “holy?”[1] In his book “The Pursuit of Holiness,” Jerry bridges wrote, “To some minds the very word ‘holiness’ brings images of bunned hair, long skirts, and black stockings. To others the idea is associated with a repugnant ‘holier than thou’ attitude.” Is that your mental image of holiness?Usually we think of holiness as living a boring life, always wearing a long face. We end up asking, “How come people who are disobedient to God have so much fun?” We feel we are missing out on life. But our Lord Jesus declared, “Blessed are the pure in heart…”[2] The Good News Bible goes like this, “Happy are the pure in heart…” In short, happy are the holy. There can be no true happiness without true holiness. There can be no peace without purity. Because in the Bible, holiness equals happiness. Thus this morning, we will talk about “How To Be Happy Inside Out.” Again, to make it easy for us to remember, I summarize today’s message in the…

Thriller Inmates

When we hear the word “prison,” images of hardened criminals, tattoos and riots come to mind. Well, it seems a locally-produced video is making waves over YouTube that would change that mindset!More than 1,500 inmates of the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC) in orange prison garb danced in unison to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”[1] I think they already added some hit songs to their repertoire. If they are not wearing those orange clothes, you would not think they are inmates. It is both amazing and amusing to watch them make their well-executed, choreographed moves. They are so synchronized! No, it is not a novel way of punishing the prisoners. Human rights activists actually enjoyed a good laugh here. It is just one way of proactively disciplining and exercising them… something that the inmates themselves enjoyed a lot! I think that’s better than solitary confinement, higher walls and tougher security. So far, they got more than 3 million hits (or visits. No…

The Fish and The Cross

Back then, when the Roman Empire persecuted Christians, worship gatherings were secretly held. How did the early believers identify fellow Christians?

One of ways is through the “ichthus.” As you can see in the figure, it looked like a fish, for it was actually the Greek word for “fish.” But the word “ichthus” is actually an acronym in Greek of “Jesus Christ, Son of God Savior” So, if a believer wanted to know if the person he was talking to is also a Christian, he would draw an arc on the ground with a staff or with their foot. To confirm that he is a fellow believer, the other person would then draw an intersecting arc to form the image of a fish. Another symbol that the early Christians used was the sign of the cross. They would draw the cross on the ground or trace it on their foreheads to signal that they were believers.
Sadly, these symbols either became superstitious acts or pictures on bumper stickers. People tend to focus on the symbols rather than the meaning behind it. We ma…

Much Ado about Harry

By the time you are reading this, the final installment of Harry Potter series is already out. Some of you have read it and already knew the much-awaited, much-speculated upon ending of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.” According to USA Today, “more orders have been placed for this book than for any other in history… It is the largest pre-ordered book in history.” I suppose that means author J.K. Rowling will remain as the richest woman in Britain, the first ever to become a billionaire through writing.

Really, there’s much ado about Harry. Well, this is not an article on whether we should or should not allow our kids to read Harry Potter. My concern is what we can learn from this.

First, our kids can still enjoy reading. Steve Riggio, CEO of Barnes & Noble said, “Harry Potter brings forth the idea that reading a book is perhaps the greatest form of entertainment of all.” In this world of X-box and massively multiplayer online role-playing games, that’s a breath of fresh air.

Not Getting What You Deserve

A mother once begged Napoleon to pardon her son. The emperor denied her request for the young man had committed a certain offense twice. Napoleon emphasized, “Justice demands death.”

“But I don't ask for justice,” the mother explained. “I plead for mercy.”

“But your son does not deserve mercy,” Napoleon replied.

“Sir,” the woman cried, “it would not be mercy if he deserved it, and mercy is all I ask for.”

Touched by the woman’s love for her son, Napoleon declared, “Then, I will have mercy.” And he spared the woman’s son from certain death.[1]

Justice is getting what you deserve. But mercy is not getting what you deserve. We are supposed to be punished for our sins. We deserve it. And God is just if he will do so. Yet, when we cried out for mercy, God gave it to us even if we really don’t deserve it.

Since we received mercy, we ought to give it also. William Mounce wrote, Mercy is a requisite quality of those who belong to God… Since God is merciful, he in turn desires his followers to…


The US Army sent a young soldier for a yearlong tour of duty in Ireland . Before he boarded the plane, his fiancé gave him a harmonica. She said, “I want you to learn to play this. It will help to keep your mind off those Irish girls.”[1]

Every time he writes, the soldier would assure her that he was practicing and playing his harmonica every night. After a year, she met him at the airport. He immediately grabbed her to kiss her. But she pushed him back.

When the man asked why, she looked at him straight in the eyes and said, “Before you kiss me, I want to hear you play the harmonica.”[1]

The Bible made it clear: “God wants you to be holy… God has called us to be holy, not to live impure lives.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3a, 7, NLT) In fact, “without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14b, NIV) That’s how important holiness is. Thus, God will take it personally if we fail to live up to His standards. “Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives…

Blessed are the meek

“I’m sorry but you have rabies,” a physician told a dog-bite victim.

The patient immediately got a pad and pencil and started writing. Worried, the doctor asked, “Are you writing a will already? I know that rabies is usually fatal. But I heard there were a few who survived it. We can still try to cure you.”

The patient barked, “No, I’m not writing a will. I’m making a list of all the people I’m going to bite!” [1]

“Don’t get mad. Get even.” That seems to be the world’s motto. But that’s weak. Our Lord Jesus proclaimed, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5, NIV) Merriam and Webster Online Dictionary defined “meek” as “enduring injury with patience and without resentment”.In short, a meek person does not hold grudges or take revenge. It is just sad that the dictionary also defined “meek” as “deficient in spirit and courage”. I beg to disagree. Meekness is not weakness. A meek person is a strong person.

It takes a strong person to turn the other cheek or to w…