Back to Basics: Reflections on Discipleship

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More than a week ago, I had the privilege to sit down with the very first person I shared the Gospel with. His name is Jake, one my best friends. I also had the blessing of discipling this brother, even if I was only a one-year-old Christian then. We were both in our junior year in High School when we began our discipleship journey. To date, Jake is a manager at a renowned company, a happily married man and they have a wonderful baby girl.

In my heart of hearts, I was overwhelmed by God’s grace and was floored by the beauty of His redemptive work in people’s lives. Our initial exchange of jokes about our High School experiences gradually turned into a mood of quiet contemplation as we surveyed God’s hand over the terrain of our lives in recent years. That short yet sweet reunion made me think deeply about my perspectives on discipleship. I am not perfect, but by God’s mercies, I have learned a lot.

Thus, today, I would love to share with you a few reflections that I hope would help firm up our philosophy of discipleship. I believe these points are not exhaustive yet fundamental – simple yet non-negotiable.

First, we must ask ourselves: What is “discipleship”?

Scriptures teach us that a disciple is a pupil or follower of Jesus Christ. Discipleship, on the other hand, is the life-long process in which we, in personal obedience to God and not to people, grow into the likeness of Jesus Christ. This is done through dependence on God who is at work in us through His Spirit to will and to do according to His good purpose and for His glory.  (Luke 14:25-33; Philippians 2:12-13; John 15:8; Ephesians 3:14-19)

 What then is “disciple-making”?

I believe that disciple-making is, and must always be, the main mission of the Church. It is the intentional process of reproducing Christ-like disciples who will do the same for others. It is anchored upon Jesus’ mandate (the Great Commission) and is motivated by our love for God and others (the Great Commandment). The Great Commandment and the Great Commission must never be divorced. (Matthew 28:18-20, 22:37-40; 1 Corinthians 11:1; 2 Timothy 2:2)

 Why do we need to make disciples today?

  1. It is a mandate for all believers/followers of Jesus Christ.
  2. It is a humble privilege to take part in God’s redemptive mission.
  3. It is an opportunity to make a lasting impact to the following generations.

 What are other practical benefits of disciple-making?

  1. The focus of the church becomes simple. We learn to be sensitive to what the Lord wants to prioritize. We allocate our energies to the things that truly matter.
  2. When there are movements of disciple-making happen, more people are reached and transformed by the Gospel.
  3. God-focused leaders, Growth Groups and churches are intentionally reproduced.

What helpful reminders do we need to constantly embrace in this disciple-making journey?

  1. We begin with the end in mind – following Jesus and multiplying Christ-like disciples.
  2. We start discipling others by building authentic relationships with a small number of people.
  3. We help each other deepen in our relationship with the Lord through disciplined study of Scriptures, fervent prayer, and in mutual accountability.
  4. We grow wide in impact by mentoring our disciples on how to disciple others.
  5. We must remember that all these are done through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

Again, I believe the abovementioned points are not meant to be exhaustive yet fundamental – simple yet non-negotiable. For that is exactly the point: we need to constantly get in touch with the basics of a biblical kind of discipleship so that we will not get lost along the way. We will go through pains and heartaches, but all these are part of the necessary journey.

The disciple-making journey can only succeed when we abide in Christ, and our comfort is this: the God who called us is always with us. Let us press on, Church. Just like the Apostle Paul in Philippians 1:6, “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Press on!

 

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#NeverForget

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#NeverForget and #NeverForgotten were trending hashtags in the social media these recent weeks – a matter of national concern that struck our beloved countrymen. Yet these words took a different turn when I went through a personal reflection on Deuteronomy 8. These words had an even more profound impact carved in my heart, especially, as we all face this final month of 2016.

Deuteronomy 8:1-6 echoed, “The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers. And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years. Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you. So you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him.”

Amidst what the Israelites have gone through in their wilderness journey, the same call resounded – they were constantly reminded to listen, obey and to abide in Yahweh. Amidst all the seasons that we have gone through in our very own faith journey – the same call prevails for us until today. We have had our share of suffering and victories this year, but let us never forget that the Lord’s hand is all over every facet of our life. He provides. He disciplines. He leads. He teaches. He rebukes. He molds. He shepherds. He loves.

Deuteronomy 8 continued with this, “Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery…”

Yes, 2016 is about to end. The Christmas songs linger after a day’s shopping and strolling at the mall. Yet, beloved, let us never forget that Christmas is a commemoration of Emmanual – our God who is always with us! Therefore, before we get busy with all the festivities, allow me to outline a few practical things that can help your 2016 Christmas become a season worth remembering. 

  • Silence – Take this time to go on a personal or family retreat. Intentionally allot time for silence, solitude and spiritual reflection. Take the holidays as an opportunity to fervently dwell more on God’s Word, to write down your 2016 lessons and trace how God has been moving in your life over these past months.
  • Serve – Find ways to serve others, especially those whom we consider the under-served. Plan with your friends, family or Growth Groups on ways to bless a specific community, a family, or a worker of the Lord (e.g. missionary, church worker).
  • Share – Bring the gospel (the Good News of Jesus) to the table by sharing your testimony, or present the gospel in one of your Christmas gatherings in the family, in school, or in your workplace. Visit a few friends, pray for them, and share Christ’s message of hope to them. Let us lovingly include Jesus in our conversations.

I pray that the next few weeks will be such a meaningful time for you, your loved ones, and the people you’ll be connecting with as we all remember Jesus – who He is, what He has done, and what He will continue to accomplish in us and through us for the glory of His Name!

A Clearer Glimpse into the Heart of our Global God

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Last October 12-14, Teacher Karen Monroy and I ventured into a leadership conference where we hardly had any clue of what to expect. It’s called the CB Global Leadership Conference. What my feeble mind can understand is that GCF South Metro is a member of the Conservative Baptist Association of the Philippines (CBAP), which is part of a bigger body called “CB Global”. Other than its general structure, we really did not know what to anticipate in this conference.

On our first day at CB Global, it seemed like a mini-reunion with people I have served with at various occasions in the past (i.e. Wavemakers, IGSL). It was amazing! However, the more interesting part was to experience being with faithful men and women leading different ministries across 9 nations. It was utterly beautiful.

The morning sessions were spent on giving ministry updates per country. There were 2-3 reports shared per day, coming from this list of countries: Bangladesh, Macau, Taiwan, Hongkong, USA, Philippines, Indonesia, Japan, and Myanmar. As I listened, I am humbled by the harsh realities of what has been happening outside of the Philippines, such as security risks in Bangladesh, decline of Christianity in the USA, and the disruptive effects of calamities in Taiwan. It broke our hearts. After every report, we took time to encourage the leaders by praying for them and their country. We sang songs of worship and heard devotional messages from various ministers too. Nevertheless, my heart rejoices each time I remember each of them!

The next interesting part was to work with international NextGen leaders (those with ages less than 40) on evaluating what has been happening in CB Global, and to set some steps forward in preparation for the next breed of leaders to rise up. As Teacher Karen and I sat with them to do the brainstorming, I just believe with all my heart that the Lord is truly positioning His church – the larger body of Christ – for greater things!

Sharing all these, I pray that it would prompt all of us to fervently pray and seek our global God – whose heart goes out to all nations – that every people group and tribe would know that there is no other name under heaven by which one can be saved – other than the name of Jesus Christ! May our prayers eventually lead to concrete actions… and from actions towards a movement… and a movement towards national transformation!

The Struggle is Real!

Text: Matthew 26:36-46
Date: September 18, 2016
Event: The Hub Youth Worship, GCF South Metro

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated. Then he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.” And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.” Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again he went away for the second time and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” Again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.”

[The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Mt 26:36–46). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.]

Summary:

In this passage, Jesus teaches us that despite the struggle, our prayers should be intended to align our human will to God’s sovereign will so that His purposes would prevail.

Here our NextGen were exhorted to cultivate a prayer life that desires to surrender fully to God’s will and have a deeper appreciation of Christ’s redemptive work – nothing more, nothing less, nothing else!

As a challenge, we are to embrace three important things:

  1. Embrace the necessity of a growing prayer life.
  2. Embrace the intentionality behind a growing prayer life.
  3. Embrace the intensity and the beauty of our redemption.

A Certain Kind of Family

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(Duco Family, ca. 2006)

Family has always been close to my heart. I was blessed with a beautiful family – one which I can proudly say is of a certain kind. My college-level thesis moved around the concept of family. My prayers for the body of Christ here in GCF South Metro often included families. The family, which we coin as the smallest unit of society, will always take a special portion in my heart.

My Nanay is a homemaker, while my Tatay used to be a seafarer.  My father, Jimmy, passed away back in 1989.  I am the youngest of four children. I have a brother and two sisters. All my siblings currently reside in the United States and have their own families. My brother, Jem, and my sister, Emily, are both Physical Therapists.  Jill, on the other hand, worked as an Occupational Therapist. My mother, Lida, has just recently taken oath as a U.S. citizen. She usually stays with my siblings for a little more than a year, then she flies back to Manila to stay here for a 5-month vacation. This has been our scenario since 2009.

While my heart could not help but rejoice when I remember how blessed I am with my family, I could also say that the Lord has used my own circumstances to humble me in so many levels. Probably, some of you know that I have been denied thrice at the U.S. Embassy. I also missed two job opportunities. With all honesty, I think I will not be used to getting denied of a Visa. There’s a unique kind of pain that comes alongside it every single time. I have failed to go to my two sisters’ weddings, unable to attend children’s parties and most of our holiday celebrations, and incapable of caring for them when a member of the family gets hospitalized. I remember moments of deep pain where I end up with a seemingly blank stare and tears just flowed out of my eyes. Then, I’d keep sobbing and asking the Lord “why”. Why am I here? Why do you keep me here in the Philippines? Why am I in this kind of situation?

 As I paused, prayed and processed, I learned so many things that have helped me press on up to this point. Let me share a few of them for all of us to ponder on:

  • Brokenness is a necessary journey. In Scriptures, we see men and women who went through various episodes of pain, which the Lord has leveraged as opportunities to mold their character. Similarly, the Lord has allowed me to wrestle with Him on the area of family in order to keep me on my knees, to not trust in my own resources, to appreciate the beauty of His calling, to acknowledge that He makes things beautiful in His time, and to utterly look to Him with a posture of humility.
  • To love the family is a daily choice. Our schedules could get very tight and keeping up with the differences in time zones could take its toll, but we need to be intentional in keeping a close connection with family. I keep on reminding myself that intimacy takes time and that love is a deliberate action. Thus, through social media and communication tools, we keep each other updated with what is happening in our lives and share what God is teaching us across the seasons that we all go through. Moments such as these are truly nothing short of amazing.
  • Family is the best starting point for discipleship. While the rest of my family and I are unable to be together as much as we would love to, the Lord has enabled these circumstances to make our hearts grow warmer towards one another. Over the recent years, our family chats, phone calls, and e-mails have evolved into sharing our prayer requests, being authentic with what we think and feel, helping one another navigate through different and difficult transitions, exchanging lessons in ministry, and learning how to wisely deal with the questions that our little children in the family ask, especially queries about God.

My family will never be perfect, but I believe that ours is of a certain kind – only because the Lord is gracious and faithful. If left to my own decision-making, I could have simply grown bitter and resentful because of the circumstances that we are in. However, I have been affirmed that a certain kind of family is one that is anchored on God and His Word, one who loves as how Christ modeled love for us, and one that makes the home as the primary place for discipleship.

2 Ordinary People. 5 Lessons Each. 5 Years of Friendship.

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(At the bottom photo are Yang’s beloved parents, whom I highly respect: Tito Jack and Tita Minet. This was taken after we sought their blessing and affirmation to enter into a relationship.)

Within less than 24 hours, I did not have to “boost an ad” on Facebook (which was never our intention, by the way) to get such undeserved response, encouragement and affirmation from people across our circles.

Thus, on Yang’s behalf, we give our sincerest thanks to everyone who prayed with us and shared their kind words of blessings in this journey we are starting. While we are yet at that early stage of being “boyfriend” and “girlfriend”, I think it is good to pause, reflect and share a few principles that we have learned from the Lord and what we have been affirmed of, so far, as we seek His leading.

Below, you will find 5 lessons from me and another set of 5 lessons from Yang. The number five (5) essentially represents the number of years of our friendship. You would notice that our  writing styles are quite different, so bear with us a bit more as we share our hearts to you.

As a mentor-preacher, I try to keep things concise and my thoughts alliterated. So here are my two cents.

  1. Keep Christ at the very core — always!
  2. Keep a solid friendship as the bedrock.
  3. Keep a lifetime commitment (i.e. marriage, family) as the end goal.
  4. Keep “pushing” and “sharpening” one another towards his/her unique God-ordained calling.
  5. Keep yourselves connected to godly authoritative structures (i.e. family, church, leaders, accountability partners) where you can glean wise counsel.

Yang, being a doctor on the other hand, is able to articulate herself well in greater detail. Let’s learn from her.  

  1. Honor God. — Do not get into something that would decrease your appetite for His Word or presence.  If it does, that’s not His will.
  2. Wait. — God makes all things beautiful in HIS time, so wait on His timing.  Do not let love unravel until it so desires.
  3. Guard your heart. — For women, don’t fall for an “I love you” not backed up with marriage as an end-goal.
  4. Love. — Do not base love on butterflies in the stomach, pulses racing, or giddy feelings.  It is a decision to always place another’s highest good first.  We can, only because Jesus did it first.
  5. Strive for everyday purity. — Psalm 119:9-11 says, “How can a young man keep his way pure?  By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”

While the lists we wrote here are not meant to be exhaustive, we share them out of a grateful heart, cheerful heart and… a hopeful heart.

By the Lord’s grace, we hope that we can be a good testimony to this generation and the next ones — to become a kind of people and foster a kind of relationship marked by Christ-like love, purity, joy, faith and a firm desire to honor God.

At the appropriate time, we shall share more of our story to you. But for now, we humbly seek your prayers as we grow in this God-ordained relationship — all for the sake of Christ and all for His renown!

Oh, may our Lord bless you and keep you, our dearest friends!

Time-out!

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Hello, everyone! I’m taking a time-out from blogging this week. I’d like to take an extended time to rest, listen and re-align as I face the months ahead.

I’d appreciate your prayers as I press on in this faith journey while #musingovercoffee 🙂 Keep yourselves tuned in! I’d like to share more when I come back!

Under Pressure: About the Speaker

Hi guys! Some of you might really be wondering who will be facilitating the entire workshop tomorrow for “Under Pressure”. Here’s something for you, and I hope you’d appreciate how blessed we are to have this guy with us. 🙂

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About the Speaker

“I am John Ricafrente Pesebre of Ratio Christi Campus Apologetics Alliance International and the chapter director at Ratio Christi at University of the Philippines Diliman. I’m also the Educational Program Coordinator of GCF North Leadership Institute of the Conservative Baptist Seminary Asia. I’m a radio Bible teacher over at Back to the Bible Philippines’ “Tanglaw sa Landas ng Buhay” aired 7pm at 702 DZAS every Tuesday and Thursday.

My apologetics ministy has also taken me to numerous denomination-sponsored conference such as the Assemblies of God, Chinese Congress of World Evangelism, Conservative Baptist Association of the Philippines, iDisciple of the Luzon Southern Baptists and a host of other church-sponsored events. I have also had the opportunity to be a resource-person appearing at The 700 Club Asia aired at Kapuso GMA. 

I have been in the pastorate for more than fifteen years until I found myself in a major health setback. 

On January 7, 2013 I found out that both my kidneys failed. I had a year-long maintenance of dialysis treatments, 3 times a week. Bummer. On March 20, 2014, I received a kidney transplant with a kidney donated by my younger sister, sailor and firewoman, Prescilla.

There is one word that describes my life: REDEEMED. I get this to mean that God claimed me as His own. So until He’s not done with my divine assignment, Superman’s got nothing on me.”

What is Ratio Christi?

“Ratio Christi (Latin for ‘The Reason of Christ’) is a global movement that equips university students and faculty to give historical, philosophical, and scientific reasons for following Jesus Christ. Bringing together faith and reason to establish the intellectual voice of Christ in the University, Ratio Christi is planting student and faculty led apologetics clubs at universities around the world. Students, engaged in the battle for the mind, learn to defend God’s existence, the reliability of the Bible, and the fact of Christ’s resurrection. We seek a Renaissance of Christian Thinking in the University.

*Check out our Promo Video here: 

http://ratiochristi.org/media/videos/ratio_promo.mp4

*Here’s my Ratio Christi Chapter Director page: 

https://sna.etapestry.com/fundraiser/RatioChristi/John-Pesebre/

I hope this helps! Let’s pray for Pastor John and pray for one another too.

See you tomorrow, dear friends!

Living the “Now” with the “End” in Mind

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READ: Matthew 24:1-14

“And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (v. 13)

When we look at an epitaph, we see two dates.  The first is when a person was born, while the other is the date of one’ death. We often neglect, however, the short dash that exists between these two. The dash represents one’s life experiences and everything that comes along with it – the pain, the victories and the list goes on.  When you reflect on it a little more, and it would make the living breathing person ask: How’s my life? How am I living it? Where is my life headed to? What is really happening in my life?

The disciples inquired of Jesus about the things to come, and their dear Rabbi brought a heart-wrenching, faith-stretching news. Jesus shared about the birth pains that will occur before His return – wars, calamities, rise of false teachers, tribulation, and struggling with people who will continually reject the Gospel. Yet, when we look at vv. 13-14, we know there will always be hope for us who endure.

What, then, should we do with our own “dashes” in life? While we live and breathe, we press on in this race that the Lord has laid before us. The Lord began a good work in us and He will finish what He has started. We may suffer at the present, but Christ is our blessed hope. We may tremble today, but Jesus has been calling us to take heart for He has overcome the world!

  • For personal reflection, ask these questions: How’s my life? How am I living it? Where is my life headed to? What is really happening in my life?
  • While we anticipate Jesus Christ’s return, what are we doing at the present that contributes to our growth in our walk with Him? What areas do I need to improve on? Write some steps on your personal journal that we can take so we can grow deeper in our relationship with our Lord.

#heartcheck

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Greed, legalism, and other subtle evil motives. All these lurk and clothe themselves in the form of hypocrisy. Even the best teachers of the Law in Jesus’ day was not exempted from this kind of disease — this, I mean, a “disease of the soul”.

A “double life”, as what some would say, is a strong manifestation of the depravity of man. Most have substituted Christ-like character with a strict outward form of religion. Good works have been made the key standard of one’s spiritual maturity, rather than the fruit of a vibrant relationship with our Lord Jesus. If we pause long enough to contemplate, we know that this struggle is definitely real.

However, we need to understand that while man looks at the outward things, the Lord looks at the heart. The real condition of the human heart can only be fully scrutinized by the highest heavenly court, with God as the Judge.

Therefore, as we ask the Holy Spirit to evaluate our hearts today, may we not miss out on the reality that the Lord alone can also cure this pervasive disease of our soul. Yes, the Lord exposes our sin for He abhors it, but in our brokenness, we find that the Lord is fully committed in His mission of redemption — until Christ is formed in us!