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!

The Greatest Identity Crisis

 

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The greatest identity crisis in life does not happen within adolescence nor when we reach a quarter of a century. It is not even upon reaching the age of forty, where most of us say that, “life begins at 40”. This great predicament happens when one claims to fully believe something yet, in our daily grind, lives a kind of life that is contrary to one’s belief system. What happened? Why is there a disconnection? What is actually happening in this great identity crisis? How can this be resolved?

Christians or followers of Jesus Christ are not exempted from this problem. In fact, we must admit that we are one of those most vulnerable to it. Every single day, we are faced with the choice of bending to our own will or cooperating with God’s will. It’s either we compromise or we abide. But is Christianity just about doing the right thing? I believe there’s more to it than simply looking at the outward behavior.

Galatians 2:20-21 is a clear illustration and a clarion call to the kind of identity we should all be putting on as a result of a regenerated, renovated soul – all because of the atoning work of Jesus Christ at the cross of Calvary. In the midst of a depraved world, we ought to be a kind of people who is marked by a new life in Christ where the old self is gone and the new has come. We are to be the kind of disciples who, though not perfect in this lifetime, would toil to surrender to God’s will with utter delight and forsake the old sinful nature with remorseful, repentant hearts. In a nutshell, the kind of life we live should be a reflection of an inward reality: a life redeemed and transformed by the living God.

We have been purchased with such an unimaginable price – at the cost of Jesus’ life. We have been called to such a holy calling, only made possible because of Christ who chose to represent us before the highest court under the judgement of God… and, my friends, He declared us free. Because of Him, we are a new creation.

Hence, today, let’s ask the Lord to scrutinize the inmost recesses of our hearts, and ask: do we abide in God as we claim that we are, or are we living a life in contrast to who we claim to be? May this great disconnection – this great identity crisis – be resolved and be fully surrendered to our Lord who is more than able to transform us from the inside going out!

Theology Precedes Methodology

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Our theology must ultimately precede our methodology.

This fundamental truth pierced deeply in my heart as Karen Monroy and I went through a month-long journey with Covenant Evangelical Free Church (CEFC) in Singapore for a short-term pastoral attachment. As most of you know, the Lord has used CEFC in various ways to partner with us in moving towards being an intentionally disciple-making church (IDMC).

What I imagined as a series of tedious trainings turned out to be a much-awaited opportunity for me to recharge, be renewed, to reflect and to re-align with God’s unique curriculum for my life. Having to receive far less text messages and phone calls as compared when I was here in Manila; being given opportunities to sit in classes and to observe their programs; then, the privilege of attending their prayer gatherings and worship celebrations were pivotal moments I deemed as God’s divine appointments for me and was a subtle call to allocate more time for extended solitude and unhurried theological reflection.

As I surveyed the terrains of my life, I recognized how much I could identify with what Pastor Edmund Chan wrote in Roots & Wings. Allow me to quote his statement in full when he said, “Life in the fast lane and the unceasing demands of modern living often trap us in a whirlwind of frenzy. Our chronic busyness is symptomatic of something deeper – an overcrowded soul. In this noisy workshop, the voice of God is often drowned out. And the bitter irony of it all is that we can be busy with God’s work and miss God out altogether! It is tragic to be caught in the thick of thin things!”

In being so busy with Kingdom work, we subtly highlight more on the “what to do” and the “how to do”, rather than focusing our energies in knowing the One whom we ought to serve – God! In this performance trap, we easily fail in understanding the logical reality that there truly is no kingdom without a King! We need to go back to simply gazing upon the beauty of our King, to seek Him with all our heart, and to know Him ever so intimately.

Therefore, we must come to grasp and constantly re-learn this fundamental truth: our theology must precede our methodology. While both are of immense weight in the economy of God, we must never confuse what ought to be prioritized. We need to learn to be meaningfully busy with what matters most. Like the Apostle Paul, he counted everything as loss in view of the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus our Lord! (cf. Philippians 3:8a)

I came home from Singapore with a good number of notes and some add-ons in my personal library. Yet what I took home and have treasured the most in this brief journey are not just the materials that were gained. Instead, my heart is full because of the indelible life lessons that God has deposited firmly in my heart through His Word, through my quiet reflections, through mentoring moments, and through journeying with kindred-spirit friends at CEFC who affirm me without fail that when we take care of the depth of our lives, God will surely take care of the breadth of our work and ministry!

Broken but Whole

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Reading: Job 42

“I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5-6)

Warren Wiersbe made a profound statement on Job 42, saying, “This chapter assures us that, no matter what happens to us, God always writes the last chapter. Therefore, we don’t have to be afraid. We can trust God to do what is right, no matter how painful our situation might be.”

God always writes the last chapter. Regardless Mr. Wiersbe’s context, I take it as God having the final verdict because he is in absolute control and he will do what it takes to accomplish his purposes, with our highest good in his mind. In view of God’s infinite wisdom and inexplicable might, Job understood his own frailty and he repented. Let us remember that repentance is two-pronged: we turn away from where we have fallen and then we pledge allegiance to God. Our dear friend, Job, did both.

In deep reflection on this man’s life during the past few days, we slowly grasp that fullness of life and brokenness essentially exist in one room – they are not mutually exclusive. Author Mike Yaconelli wrote: “Accepting the reality of our broken, flawed lives is the beginning of spirituality not because the spiritual life will remove our flaws but because we let go of seeking perfection and, instead, seek God, the One who is present in the tangledness of our lives. Spirituality is not about being fixed, it is about God being present in the mess of our unfixedness.”

Like Job, we may have been stripped off of everything that we hold so dear, but we are made whole again only through God’s redemptive grace. What are the volumes of truth that God has been pouring over your life this past week while meditating on the book of Job? Is there a churning that is happening deep with you? What is God asking you to do?

Reflect. Pray. Write down your thoughts. Pour your heart to God. Do what needs done. Then walk in humble, repentant faith.

Prayer Focus: “Thank you, Lord, for speaking volumes of truth over me as I reflect on the life of Job. It is only through you that I am made whole, so here I am asking you to lead me. Teach me again to walk by faith and not by sight. Amen.”

Let God be God!

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Reading: Job 37-41 

“Who then is he who can stand before me? Who has first given to me, that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine.” (Job 41:10b-11)

Let me give you a simple challenge. Slowly read Job 37 until 41 in one sitting. Rest briefly, then read the passage a second time. Try to chew on every word, and you’ll notice your heart begin to throb.

After all the characters’ exchanges and speculations, God could no longer remain silent! He could not be stopped! For every question that God asks in return, the only way we could respond is to keep our heads low, and say the exact same words that Job uttered: “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further.” (Job 40:4-5)

Suffering as if drains every ounce of strength from us. We cry out in our anguish. We weep in our prayers. In every sobbing, we hold on to our bosom to somehow alleviate the lingering pain. But have we ever considered to pause and begin listening to God? Have we been letting God be truly God in our lives? Or, have we been putting all the burden upon ourselves?

The greatest tragedy, I believe, is to focus all our energies in solving every known human problem yet miss out on God altogether. We need to get to our senses and recognize that sovereignty, righteous justice, steadfast love, mercy, holiness and grace are all wrapped together at the very heart of God. Therefore, he is always able to carry out his plans for each of us, above and beyond we can ask or imagine. So I exhort you to be still… and let God be God!

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!