Theology Precedes Methodology

IDMCi

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!

Worship Amidst Pain

Title: Worship Amidst Pain

Reading: Job 1-7 

worship

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21)

Famous author by the name of C. S. Lewis wrote, “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” This is easier said than accepted, I believe, for this is not the common worldview of man. When pains in life come, it is as if we are instinctively compelled to make truce with an angry God. Does this occur to you as well? What is your knee-jerk reaction to life’s difficulties?

Today’s passage directs our attention to Job, a man who had all the things that one could ever hope for – a great family, a thriving business and a good moral standing. Furthermore, he was a man who enjoyed an intimate relationship with the Lord. He was, in fact, noted to be “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1:1,8). However, almost like in a snap, things that he treasured in life were taken from him one by one. His flock, his servants, and above all, his children – gone!

Yet in his anguish, Job did not sin nor charge God with any wrong. Instead, he worshipped. Job understood that grieving and worshiping were not two incompatible roommates. He did both – a deep catharsis of the soul while praising the God who holds all things together!

I pray that we would all see our circumstances as Job does. May we allow God to use our pains as a stage where he can proclaim his goodness, mercy and steadfast love!

Prayer Focus: “O Lord, thank you for you are in control of all things. When times get tough and I do not understand, help me to lean on your grace, wisdom and strength. Amen.”

God begins. God sustains. And, God completes.

I missed writing for almost two weeks now, so I’d like to give you a clearer glimpse of what the Lord has been doing during that span of time.  I could honestly say that it was quite a tough “ride”, but all the events — when put together — could only point towards a profound truth:  what God started, He’ll sustain, and He’ll complete.

March 24, 2012. I was at Maria Montessori Foundation in Ayala Alabang when this photo was taken, and was granted the privilege to facilitate their teachers’ recollection.  These people were “non-Catholic” staff (both teaching and non-teaching) and belonged to various denominations (i.e. Baptist, Pentecostal, Iglesia ni Cristo, etc.).  When I received the invitation, I was so in doubt about my capability.  I wrestled with the thought for some time, but when God gradually broke my doubt and pride, I knew this was the Lord’s assignment for me.  The Lord was so gracious to me from the preparation process until the day I met with this wonderful set of people.

As I spoke to these guys, all I could feel was the joy of seeing them be transparent, vulnerable, and so much in need of God. Just… “WOW”! The 4- to 5-hour session that we had was just overwhelming, and I am so excited to hear more about the impact that they’re causing in the lives of the next generation (their students) and to the co-teachers they work with.


March 31, 2012. Exactly a week after my time at Maria Montessori Foundation, I got to be with the people from GCF Ortigas Youth L.I.V.E. (Living in View of Eternity) on their “Worship Project”.  Roughly 30 minutes before the event started, the team/band and I had a brief time to be still before the Lord in prayer and in meditating on God’s Word (focusing on Nehemiah 6:1-4). For some reason,we agreed that it was a season of “rebuilding” for most of us, particularly in the ministry we have been called to.  Truly, God’s Word is living and active.  It was so refreshing to spend a moment with their worship team even prior the start of the service.

(*Disclaimer: Pardon my look in this photo. Haha!)

Then, the service started by allotting more time in the reading of psalms and in personal prayer. This is needed. Well, I believe every church needs a time like this — where people would step on the “brakes” and remain still in His presence.  It’s a reminder that we have to lessen on the “church activities”, if necessary.  Instead, we should prioritize our time with the Person behind our “church activities” before we do anything else.

After that, the Lord opened an opportunity for me to preach His Word to their youth group.  We dug deep into 1 John 1:1-4 and 2:1-6, making it a solid foundation as to whowhy, and how we ought to worship God.  It really is a delight to see young people respond so passionately to God’s Word. I was awestruck!  Eventually, we ended our time together by leading to this conclusion:  People who live in view of eternity are people who live a life(-style) of worship.  Those who live a life(-style) of worship are those who walk as Jesus walked.  (cf. 1 John 2:6)

Basically, these are the things that transpired during the past couple of days.

I wish I could share in further detail what God has been teaching me in this “faith stretching” season, but my time for now is up.  I will put things into writing at the appointed time. (Hopefully soon!)

All I want to emphasize at this point is the fact that God completes what He has started in you. He’ll do whatever it takes to show His glory and to let you know that He’s after what is good for us.

Therefore, let’s take heart and let’s press on!

Lesson(s) Learned, 2011 Ed.

The holiday fever’s still on! And ironically, I also had a bout with fever (literally), plus nasty hyperacidity attacks this past week. It was supposed to be a time for vacation, a much-needed time for relaxation; but things didn’t really go as planned. It was only until today that I got to quietly sit down and relax. (Thank You, Lord, for healing me!)

Now, where do I start? It has been almost two weeks since I last wrote a blog and I think I’m starting to grope for words already. I guess I got totally “drained” after being sick for a couple of days. (Boo!)

On a different note, earlier this evening, I was having quite a serious talk with the Lord during my “quiet time”. It was refreshing to end this day filled with so much reminders from His Word. Just this week, I have had several “amen and ouch” moments — being rebuked, corrected, and led again to walk in His ways.  On top of what I’ve been learning, what encourages me most is how the Lord urges me to persevere in my circumstances, and to always hold fast to the Gospel and His promises. (If you like, you can check 2 Peter. Reading three chapters tonight won’t hurt, right?)

Afterwards, thoughts rushed in as to how my life changed this 2011. Overwhelming.

I must be honest, this year has been a whole lot better. (Way better!) No kidding nor exaggeration. To clarify my point, the situation, in itself, have hardly changed. I still have a lot of things to settle. The work opportunity abroad is still pending.  I don’t have a brand new car. I live within my means.  On a human/earthly perspective, there’s nothing really fancy about my circumstances now.  What really changed this year was my heart — my attitude towards my life situations.

So now, let me just outline or highlight for you 10 life lessons I have learned (and still learning) to embrace.  They are written in no particular order, by the way.  Like I’d always say in my previous writings, accept what’s good and just ignore what’s not beneficial for you. Besides, these are just my two cents.

Mike’s Life Lessons for 2011:

  1. I’ve learned to focus on the things that really matter.  I cannot afford to stretch myself to the point of breaking, and end up ineffective. I need to learn to say “no”, when necessary.
  2. I need to focus on a few people whom I can mentor. What I wish I could do for everyone, I need to do for a select few because I am ultimately not the Lord. In the long run, quality will beget quantity.
  3. Handling one’s finances is a spiritual matter. I am a steward of God’s earthly riches, therefore, how I use what He basically lent me at the very beginning is part of my personal worship.
  4. Everybody has the potential to change and become better. Whosoever is without sin, let that person cast the first stone.
  5. My job is my ministry. They are not mutually exclusive.
  6. Our weaknesses can be used for God’s glory. I’m not a born writer, yet I strive to blog to somehow reach the hearts of people. I never imagined myself preaching, but now, I preach whenever an opportunity is given. I could never really put in a box, as to what God can do in and through you.
  7. Just as my job is my ministry, my family is also my ministry. Who we are at home could be a very strong testimony to others.
  8. What we own/have, and what we have achieved, do not define our character.
  9. When situations seem to go wrong despite choosing to follow Christ, press on nevertheless. Remain steadfast, teachable and humble. Compromising should never be an option.
  10. Waiting on the Lord is essential for growth. In fact, I can consider it a spiritual discipline. Running ahead of Him is merely futile.