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!

 

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!

UNDER PRESSURE: What is this About?

Whether we are at home, in the office, in school, or even in the public place, you will have a sense that the Christian faith is consistently under pressure. Some may be overt, while others come subtly in the form of our personal doubts.

Apologetics, on the other hand, is providing a reason and defense for our faith done in a manner that honors the Lord and that which builds others up. Wherever we may be in this whole spectrum of circumstances, seasons and the sets of faith challenges that we face today, we are inviting all students, young adults and parents of youth to join this workshop!

Our NextGen Ministries will be hosting this event on August 27 (Saturday), 8:00 A.M to 4:00 P.M. This workshop will be facilitated by a good friend, Pastor John Phillip Pesebre. Registration comes with a fee of Php 100.00 (lunch and materials included).

We will be setting up a booth at the ground floor after the worship services, so you can sign up, have a slot reserved for you and settle your payments as early as now. Should you have any question, kindly reach me at +63917.805.0531 or e-mail me at mike.duco@gcfsouthmetro.org.

For your reference, our speaker has also provided an outline of “Under Pressure” so you can have a clearer idea of what we will be covering in this workshop. We hope to hear from you, and see you on August 27!

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A. Apologetics and Christian Identity 

As regular as the pressures on our faith, as overcoming those pressures, this 4-session section focuses on explaining the important place of apologetics in the life of a believer. Special attention is on the idea that apologetics is not just a specialized ministry but a day-to-day Christian way of thinking, especially in times of faith-testing experiences. As such it is a habit that helps the believer mature. Courageous self-investigation that leads to be better self-understanding.

Session 1: Picturesque and the Christian’s Idea of the Beautiful (1 Peter 3:15)

Session 2: Apologetics and Relocating Your Identity Back in Christ (Romans 12:2; 1 Peter 1:13; Matthew 22:37)

Session 3: Kafkaesque to Picturesque – Apologetics and Who You are in Christ (Isaiah 26:3)

Session 4: Doubt to Doxology: Overcoming Objections and Doubts (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)

B. Apologetics and the 4H Method: A Personal Curriculum 

Focuses on the theory and practice of applied apologetics. The goal is to familiarize the participants with the 4H method and then begin to practice how it is done.

Session 5: Hear

Session 6: Help

Session 7: Heal

Session 8: Honor

C. Apologetics for Family/Group Leading and Discussion 

Focuses how to use apologetics in small group discussions. The goal is to integrate the 4H preparations in actual group meetings.

Session 9: How to Prepare the 4H Lesson for Group Discussion

Session 10: Apologetics and Family/Group Discussion

“Under Pressure” is ideal for senior high schoolers, college youth, young professional, parents of youth and youth leaders. 

 

 

 

God’s Commission: Our Everyday Commission

Here’s a message I gave at the ENGAGE conference held last August 6, 2016 at GCF South Metro. May this spur all of us to focus on Jesus Christ and on His Great Commission, which is our Everyday Commission!

P.S. Pardon the singing voice towards the end. 😉 I missed to end the recording after the message, but then, I think it was a good thing to include the song in this podcast to seal the challenge. God bless you!

On Rootedness, Fruitfulness and Everything In-Between

 

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What we are so concerned about is a reflection of who we are. Your “fruit” defines your “root”. Your “root” determines your “fruit”. Then we take it some steps further and deeper, and we realize that “who” we are is much rooted in “whose” you are. Are we mastered by our Lord Jesus Christ, or are we led by another?

John 15 is a clarion call for the church of Christ to abide in Him – and only in Him. Jesus is the vine, the Father is the vinedresser, and we are the branches. Just as a branch cannot live apart from the vine, we are unable to do anything good apart from abiding in Christ. In being rooted in Him can we bear fruit. And in order to bear more fruit, we need to go through the process of pruning. Thus, we might want to further wrestle with this question: Why do we need to go through the pruning? I find two critical reasons.

  1. While we live and breathe, God is not finished with us yet. He is doing something in us every single day — until Christ is formed in us!
  2. It is a necessary journey in order for us to bear fruit — hence, glorify God!

Bearing fruit in God’s name is a mark of a genuine Christ follower. In John 15, we are given a better understanding of what kind of fruit God is looking for within us. Allow me to share five of my observations found in the life of a fruit-bearing disciple:

  1. A life marked by surrender to God’s will
  2. A life marked by obedience to God’s commands
  3. A life marked by intimacy with God
  4. A life marked by love for others
  5. A life marked by the “putting on” of the character of Jesus Christ (cf. Galatians 5, on “fruit of the Holy Spirit”)

Though these points are not fully exhaustive, I pray that this would lead us to an unhurried theological reflection towards a transformed life. Take it to heart that rootedness in Christ leads to fruitfulness for Him!

A Paradox: Pain is Gain

Reading: Job 32-36

“Behold, God is exalted in his power; who is a teacher like him? Who has prescribed for him his way, or who can say, ‘You have done wrong’?” (Job 36:22-23)

In Elihu’s speeches in this discourse, he introduced a different dimension in understanding suffering. He somehow communicated this big idea that God has things to teach his people which they can only learn through pain. Elihu also described God in terms suggesting that he may have had a more realistic and fuller concept of God than Job’s three friends did. The former presented God as a wise teacher, while the latter emphasized God’s character of being a judge. Both parties have presented their cases well, but for today, let us dwell a bit more on what Elihu had to share.

Jeff Manion, lead pastor of a thriving church in the United States, described God’s discipline as “inflicting pain for redemptive purposes”. Now, think with me for a moment, and let’s do an honest introspection: What is the most recent event that God has used to discipline me? What did God change in me through that process?

Elihu may have had an incomplete understanding of what Job was experiencing, and he most probably had a limited view of what God was doing in Job’s life. However, it is good and wise to consider our momentary sufferings as one of God’s instruments for us to grow towards spiritual maturity.

Proverbs 3:11-12 says, “My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” Let us not lose heart in the face of problems, but be of good courage as we give way for God to accomplish his redemptive and transformative purposes in us, for us, and through us!

My Heart on the Matter

nardasTechnology, the Internet, and postmodern thought have been shaping our worldviews, and the youth are most prone to its adverse effects. Proverbs 22:6 says,“ Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Thus we need to join with God’s mission in winning their hearts back to loving God, loving people and loving His Word, with the deepest hope that they will grow so deeply rooted in Christ as they grow in years. With this in view, what is God doing in building up the next generation of disciples and disciple-makers? Let me share my heart on the matter.

First, I had the privilege of witnessing a group 50 children and a team of 18 staff gathered last May 4 to 6 at Rizal Re-Creation Center in Laguna for their Children’s Camp called, “Mission Possible”. We had the opportunity to lead the kids in singing songs of worship, in doing fun team-building activities, in the study of the Word, in small group discussions and in prayer times. The study on the life of Jonah allowed us to look at the big picture of what Scripture is teaching about God’s plan of redemption and restoration leading up to His clarion call to make disciples of all nations (ct. Matthew 28:18-20). We also learned that only through God’s empowerment could we say that the mission is possible! In hindsight, as a person who has hardly experienced any camp for children, Daily Vacation Bible School (DVBS) nor attended any Sunday School class in the first fifteen years of his life, it is just overwhelming for me to know that our church family has been blessed with such ministry platforms for our young children that will help them shape their core values in life. Seeing them experience and enjoy these opportunities brings profound joy in my heart.

Secondly, as I write this to you, I am in Baguio City to help out in the “Momentum” Leadership Camp for pastors, workers and youth leaders from North Manila churches (mostly, from Quezon City) under the umbrella of the Conservative Baptist Association of the Philippines (CBAP), where GCF South Metro is likewise affiliated with. Having the privilege of being part of the teaching team in the Youth Ministry Foundations track, our focus is to engage leaders to study the life and ministry of Jesus Christ then contextualize these principles in building disciple-making movements in the Philippines and beyond. All these are driven by a passion to help bring back the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) and Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-40) in the heart of the Church. Similar to what we desire to see happen in GCF South Metro, let us pray that this leadership camp would indeed create a momentum for the local churches to walk in faithful obedience to the ultimate call of loving God, loving people and to multiply authentic disciples of Jesus Christ.

Finally, we are on our last leg of preparations for “The Game Changer” Youth Camp this coming June 5 to 7 at Rizal Re-Creation Center. One lexical definition of a game changer is, “a newly introduced element or factor that changes an existing situation or activity in a significant way”. In our context at The Hub (the name of our Youth Ministry), our prayer is to see a growing wave of students/youth who are centered on God and who will serve as catalysts of positive change in our society by passionately extending the love of Christ to the homes, the campuses, to the communities and beyond. Our camp registration is ongoing and there are limited slots to fill, so we encourage the families to visit our booth at the Ground Floor lobby as soon as you can. Our team would be very happy to accommodate your queries and other registration needs! This is indeed an exciting season for our NextGen so please continue to uphold us in your prayers! Should you have the burden to partner with us in any of our ministry opportunities, please do not hesitate to approach me.

Above all, in our efforts to invest on the lives of our people and build platforms for multiplying disciples, my heart cry is to see every ministry of our church have prayer dependence on God at the bedrock of everything that we are and everything that we do. As we push forth in the 40 Days of Prayer as a church, let us not give up on praying for one another, for GCF South Metro, for our surrounding communities, for the country and for the nations who are still have yet to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.

Thank you for allowing me to share my heart on the matter, and with much prayer, I hope that all these would resonate in your heart of hearts as well.

A Call for Solitude

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One of the concrete vehicles that have effectively helped build up leaders over the course of time is the Breakthrough Weekend, a short-term retreat intentionally organized for people to experience rest and spiritual renewal. This is done in partnership with Covenant Evangelical Free Church of Singapore, the host of the said event. GCF South Metro is proactive about this because we see the critical need that caring for our soul is necessary in fulfilling our God-ordained roles and responsibilities.

Hence in our pursuit of mentoring next-generation leaders, we will be sending our NextGen leaders to the upcoming Breakthrough Weekend for Men and Women. Our team will include three of our pastoral staff (myself included), plus four men, and eight women. We will be in Singapore on March 18 until the 24th. Please pray for God’s protection upon us and, above all, that our love for the Lord may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that we may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ (cf. Phil 1:9-10).

[Note: With this in mind, I will not be posting any blog within the next 7-8 days. I will take this time as a week-long break. I hope to write about my personal experience and reflections as soon as I get back.]

Prayer Sounds Greek to Us

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There are several major things that we could never effectively teach in one class or seminar — one of them is prayer.
In an over-stimulated culture that may be considered “allergic” to solitude, our default answer to a call for prayer is we have no time. Perhaps some can bear to attend a worship concert, while never will they participate in a prayer meeting. I guess that’s too boring.
But why is prayer so close to God’s heart? Why is it important to get on our knees and pray? The “giants of the faith” prayed so passionately and desperately. Jesus Himself modelled it. Think about it. Is prayer simply a habit for the religious, or is it something that goes beyond that?
Most of us would say that prayer is our way of communicating with God. In short, that’s how we talk to God. But have we ever considered listening to God? Some would say that it is our way to ask God for any help (which is true and good!), but have we considered asking God: “Lord, I surrender this matter to You. Let Your will be done!”?
A large number of people do not pray in solitude because we fear the unfamiliar. It feels weird, and we fear that people would find us weird. We also do not pray because we hate the silence. We plug into all our gadgets, run Spotify wherever we go, and play music until our eardrums bleed just to drown out all the background noise. But why should the absence of noise be so threatening? Can’t we just choose to be still for a moment? Think about these things.
As we reflect, I long to see that as we worship and meditate on God’s Word today, may our attitude shift towards prayer. May we learn to pray so earnestly, with a sense of desperation and a genuine hunger for the presence of God in our lives!