One of the most difficult things I’ve had to deal with is comparing myself to others who have walked the same road that I have. There are many people whom I admire and respect, those who have accomplished so many things, accomplishments that I hope to achieve some day, achievements that I can’t seem to wait to lay a hold of.
Then there are individuals who are walking the same path that I am currently. It’s a hard-fought battle for me, not to see them as competition or adversaries, but rather teammates and comrades. It’s a feeling of one-upmanship, being pushed to be greater, to do better, to do more than the next person. In a capitalistic American society, this is the right mind-set, but in the area of ministry, one can be considered delusional.
It was the apostle John that stated “He must increase but I must decrease.” How absolutely necessary when speaking about our Savior and apropo when talking about our peers.
In my mind, I use Proverbs 27:17 as a quasi-justification for my emotions: “As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” My friends, my peers, those I look up to, are used to sharpen my countenance, therefore I must do the same. I must be an iron to them to help sharpen their countenance.
But this in turn transforms into a challenge, a competition, a desire to “beat” and “win.” It no longer becomes a humble ministry, but rather a prideful contest.
I can do more. I can influence more people. I can be more popular. I can win. I will win.
What sad state of affairs when this mentality has infiltrated my character. I loathe myself because of it. And it is not something that I can simply set aside. I’ve been working so hard at it. Everytime I see someone I love accomplish something great for the Lord, I hate that my first gut reaction is to ask myself “How can I top that? How can I do better than him?”
This is all for the Lord. And one of my greatest weaknesses is to assume otherwise due to the pride of life that has permeated throughout my thinking and my heart’s direction. It is James that reminds me not to boast in my tomorrow, “Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’ (James 4:15)
Unfortunately, I have “boast[ed] in [my] arrogance. All such boasting is evil.” (James 4:16) My pride is but one of the thorns of my flesh. It is this relocation to the Philippines that I hope my pride will be set aside in place of humility. “For God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (Prov. 3:34)
To my friends who walk this journey with me, in sincerity, humility, and love, your progress and achievements inspire me to do more but to be LESS. Though I may not have voiced it to you, I ask that you forgive me for challenging you, and placing myself in a position to try and supercede you in my superficial, fictional contest of ministry. Please pray for and teach me how to be more humble, to approach ministry and friendship the way you have with me; with genuineness and a fervor to simply serve the Lord out of obedience, not acclaim, prestige or rewards.
My delusional idea of a competitive ministry has brought me to the edge of my cliff. It’ll be my pride, or lack thereof, that decides whether or not I take another step.
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded! – James 4:8
Ever wonder how anything ever gets done in this world? Not specifically the world objectively, but our own personal world. How do we truly measure our own productivity? Is it by the size of our paychecks or the amount of critical praise received from our superiors? Is it a personal barometer where a little voice inside of our heads tells us we’re doing a good job?
Half a world away and I’m considering the financial obligations I have left to pay. When I worked full time to eke out a living for my family, I felt the LEAST productive. I worked to earn a paycheck and immediately there was a standardized method for the allocation of funds. Groceries, diapers, school loans, credit card bills, rent, and utilities. Over and over again. Once our second daughter came along, the expenses rose while the income stayed the same. I was treading water every day.
Sorry, but treading water gets you nowhere nor is it productive.
Now here I am, across the Pacific Ocean, no longer tied to a paycheck, but without the bi-weekly income that I received for the last 13 years. Each week, depending on the God of this universe to consider His servant just enough to survive for a few more days.
The priority of my productivity has now transferred from the temporal to the eternal, from moth and rust, to streets of gold, from a rat race, to finishing the race.
The measure of my productivity now lies with my wife and daughters, with the church and ministry, with the opportunities to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ and winning others to Him.
So the sacrifice that was made is an effort to remain obedient to Him, serve Him, be faithful to Him, because God has never forsaken me. I will do my best to fight the fight, to finish the race, to keep the faith. And on that fateful day, I’ll know that my effort was not in vain when He welcomes me with the words, “Well done good and faithful servant.”
Those are words that I’ve never heard from anyone… and simply want to hear from the only One.
(Photo taken from http://www.hclabc.bc.ca/files/images/4504118_good_job.jpg)
It is simply unbelievable, (yet believable) that there are those in this world who sincerely claim to be followers of Jesus Christ and believers in His Word and yet apply and teach it in only a way that bears subjective reasoning. Too often have I read, heard, and seen of pastors, preachers, and other church leaders who claim that their revelation comes directly from God Himself.
News flash: There is no longer any DIRECT REVELATION.
God reveals Himself to us in His Word, not through dreams, visible manifestations, or audible voice that “speaks to us,” and that “our spirit hears.” The idea that God has selected some to exclusively hear His Word while the rest of us are kept in the dark has us inching closer and closer to that other world religion that has its leader speaking Ex Cathedra. Why can you hear Him and not I? Are you more selectively chosen, more of a light, more of a salt than I am? What makes your salvation greater than mine? Have I not accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior? Have I not been born again? Have I not been imputed righteousness? Do I not also believe that salvation is by grace through faith in Him, not of ourselves, lest any man should boast?
Why did God choose you, not me? Sounds more like a reformed faith to me rather than some selective relevant, revelation of grace.
If anyone claims to be a believer in Christ, follower of God, and obedient to the Word of God, yet claims direct revelation, the most basic, fundamental argument that they are making is this: “I need to hear directly from God because HIS WORD, THE BIBLE, IS NOT ENOUGH.”
For anyone to make this implicit claim does not believe in the veracity, inerrancy, and complete inspiration of the Scriptures. God has given us everything we need to know in His Word. This “New Covenant” does not revert back to the “Old Covenant” when God dealt audibly and directly with His followers through voice and anthropomorphism. Again, defining this as a “New Covenant” in any manner subjects it to a post-modernistic opinion that it is your own subjective truth, that this is what you believe the New Covenant is.
I understand it appeals to the masses. I understand that it brings more attention and glorification to the one claiming it. People appeal to the emotional aspect of faith, hoping to create an experience of tears, goosebumps, and “Spirit-moving/slaining.” I also can claim that God spoke to me and garner hundreds if not thousands of followers by following it with miracles that are spoken “in the name of Christ!”
But I’ve read, heard, and researched others who have claimed the same thing, as if they came in the name of God only to divert from the truth of apostolic theology. And I know of one more who will come, sit on the throne of God, and commit the abomination of desolation, claiming to be God Himself.
Are these modern day individuals so far from them? Haven’t the apostle’s spoken out to the churches in Asia Minor, Ephesus, Corinth about the false teachers that have come, not only from outside the church walls, but those who will come from within? Who is keeping these people accountable, especially when others reach out to them, feeding and stroking their ego, believing that they are truly preaching and teaching the apostolic theology of the Word of God?
It’s hard enough to fight against the principalities and powers, against the various other denominations and ideologies that teach that Christ is not God, He is not Savior, and that there are other various means to salvation and to God. Now we have to fight against those who claim to be His children as well, but distort and interpret the Word of God only as they see fit?
As the apostle John told the church, we truly are in the Last Hour.
(Photo taken from http://www.cowichanfamilylife.org/counselling/images/anger2.jpg)
In the book of Acts, when Gamaliel addressed the council regarding the preaching of the apostle’s, he pointed out that if the preaching and plans were of men, it would be overthrown. But if it came from God, it would not and cannot be overthrown, and therefore the apostle’s were to be left alone. The plans of man is tempting and more easily acceptable. We seek to place it into the hands of the one of whom we know will make the same decisions we would ourselves make. We’d rather have it in our own hands rather than anyone elses.
When it’s finally time to place it in the hands of God and humbly give His plans precedence over ours, we still find many arguments justifying why it should remain in ours. In the end, our plans will be found out when it is overthrown.
The difficulties of living a life of faith is that one needs to trust in someone who “through creation, His invisible attributes are manifest.” In a world of scientific discovery, tangible, credible, visible evidence is mandatory. Don’t give me “invisible.” It doesn’t work.
But neither do the plans of man. If so, the only outcome is that of being overthrown. The control that we hope to possess works negatively against us when it comes to placing faith and trust in God. Placing faith and trust in God means the control we hope to possess is now possessed by God. We gain nothing from trying to micro-manage our lives, sorting out a Plan A, B, and C, with contingencies for all the potential failures that we’re sure to happen. It’s only been a month into our move to the PI, and I’m grappling with this same problem.
It took a serious case of the flu, a realization of added fiscal responsibilities, and a heart to heart with my grandfather to turn my eyes back to Jesus.
It is a journey that will be tremendously difficult, but one that I willingly trod. Are there times I look back down the road I’ve just traveled with longing eyes, desiring to turn around and walk back to a more familiar place?
Sure. But that would just bring me back to the person I was.
So I keep walking forward… to the person that I hope to be.
(Photo taken from http://www.artmuse2.com)
It’s been awhile since the last post. The latest scapegoat is the current transition of my family and I from the United States to the Philippines. We sold or donated all of our belongings, moved out of our home, and uprooted from the only home that we’ve ever known, to a brand new one that demands our combined efforts to make INTO a home. Difficult to say the least.
And to be quite honest, a large part of me wishes we were back in the US. It’s still difficult for me to wrap my mind around the fact that we are now in a different country, serving and obeying the call of God to minister to the people here. Normally, I would just throw myself into my work, but even that has been put on the back burner in order to ease myself and my family into this new life.
It’s not easy. But as I’ve shared to many of those close to me, I didn’t want to be a person who talked about faith, but rather one who lived a life of it. How could I tell others to have faith in God if/when I’ve never displayed a level of faith that demands this level of sacrifice. My family and I was faced with a decision, at a crossroads, and we wanted to be able to look back when it is all said and done, and say that we did jump in with both feet, threw caution to the wind, and didn’t take the road that was more comfortable and familiar.
So here we are… more than 12,000 miles away from friends and family, those we grew up with and grew to love over the last few years. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to be there right now. But when you turn the page of a good novel, you expect to read something different, something eventful, something interesting, something… that’ll make you want to turn the next page after. You want an instant-classic, a page turner, an edge of your seat, suspenseful, New York Times Best Seller that you simply can’t put down.
When it’s all said and done, is that what I want? Is this the reason why we left for the Philippines so abruptly as we had? Do I crave the positive reviews of critics claiming job well done? Is that the book that I want others to read?
No. My book may have a title that is unappealing to the masses and will probably never hit the shelves based on my own merit.
No… the book that matters to me is the one that my daughters want me to read before they go to sleep.
When they close their eyes and fall asleep, I turn the page on a life that I simply can’t put down.
(Photo taken from http://www.maddamura.eu)
I know. I’ve been lagging in getting back to blogging. Please FORGIVE me. (I supposed that’s why I chose the title for this post.) In actuality, there are so many things that I wish I could get around to, but I’ve found better things to spend my time with. Daughter #2, Jaelyn Audrey demands much of her parent’s time. And we’re giving it to her, not out of obligation, but out of a sincere desire, knowing that Gina and I won’t have them at this age for very much longer.
But these past couple days have been an eye opening, humbling, knock-me-to-my-feet-and-onto-my-face, sort of experience. I recall reading in Charles Colson’s book “Loving God” about the story of Nathan and David, where God used Nathan to convict David of his hidden and self-justified sin.
I’m so very glad that God has given me my own Nathan.
When we’re exposed, we typically cower back into a defensive stance, backs against the wall, ready to engage in self-preservation. How dare anyone accuse us of wrong doing while implicitly expressing their own self-righteousness? Even if they’re right.
But the Christian faith is about development, maturation, and progression. It’s not about complacency and stagnation. It’s about growing, learning, changing, and conforming to the Christ-like character that we’re supposed to emulate. So when it was my turn to act out in typical human reaction, it was more than expected to defend my person, justify my sin, and turn the tables on my accuser. When the writing was on the wall and a response was demanded, I opened my mouth to say…
Humbled, I apologized and asked for forgiveness. Even when the conversation turned more heated and I had the opening to display the past sins of my accuser, I immediately turned it around and put the attention back on me.
It was me who was wrong. It was me who had sinned. It was me who had hurt you.
Even when I wanted to defend myself, I couldn’t. I was in the wrong and I should not, cannot justify that. Even if the world finds it acceptable to do so, there’s a higher standard that I’m trying to live by. Sometimes I fail living up to that standard, sometimes I barely make it. Either way, I’m trying.
My Nathan exposed my sin that ultimately is always against God. Others may be hurt because of our thoughts, words, and deeds, but all my sin is always against the righteousness of God. But what amazes me is not the willingness of my Nathan to forgive me, despite the hurt and anger I’ve caused. Don’t be mistaken. That fact brings an awe that I can’t describe.
But remembering that above it all, forgiveness from man doesn’t merit my salvation. Forgiveness from God is necessary for eternal life.
But before forgiveness can happen, it’s our choice of action when our backs are against the wall… because forgiveness cannot happen until an apology is given.
I’m wrong… and I’m sorry.
1 John 1:9
(Picture taken from http://www.internetmonk.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/03/forgiveness1.jpg)
I suppose it’s time for some reflection. It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything on In Deed In Truth and it’s not for lack of content. I’d even hate to pawn it off on lack of time. But reality is reality. Can’t fake the funk.
It has been a ridiculously insane 2 months. The beginning of autumn was a progressive, forward thinking, looking toward new and exciting developments, time of the year. On August 7, 2009, we welcomed our second daughter into the world. The last 3 months has been filled with diapers, wipes, breast milk, screaming newborns, screaming older sisters, and not nearly enough time to cultivate and nurture the marriage between a husband and wife. Up’s and downs. In’s and Outs. Kriss and Kross… don’t it make you wanna jump, jump.
Not only did the Lord give me another beautiful baby daughte, but my secular full time job maintains its consistent demands as well as the church in Pasadena, CA. Unfortunately, many things had to take a back seat and the last 6 months has forced me to prioritize big time.
I’ve tried to maintain the level of activity with Events For Christ, but my family, church, and work has demanded more of my time and attention. As much as I wanted to keep EFC going and growing, it was just far too difficult. But things are starting to slow down and get into a nice rhythm. EFC seems to be back on my radar and I can’t be more excited. Thank you to all those who continue to encourage us with your support for Events For Christ
Not only is EFC back on my radar, but a brand new ministry movement has pushed itself to the front of the line. The Road to Peace is a new ministry that the Lord has placed on my heart and I’ve obliged to undertake. Starting with a rally this month, a conference in January, videos, pictures, books, t-shirts, sponsorships, collaborations, and the sort spewed about, needless to say, not much else has found its way into my schedule. I have a team of 4 individuals with another 4 consultants. It’s God’s providence that He doesn’t allow me to feel how big this may get. We are the US division. We already have a South African contingent. Sometime in 2010, we’re hoping to be able to travel internationally and bring this movement overseas. (We’re looking into penetrating the Philippine market starting in 2010 as well.) Big ideas. An even bigger God.
Speaking of the Philippines, a little birdie told me that there’s a need for my presence in Forest Hills, Cebu City, where the main organizational ministry is located. As vice-chairman of EL International Church Inc, it’s important for me to be in the midst of all the goings on of EL International. Lord willing, we’ll be opening our elementary school next year, continuing the construction of the building, attending to the details of the library, and adding more components to the computer lab. Not to mention the 7 additional congregations that are currently planted. There’s a congregation in Valenzuela city, PI that is still without a pastor but diligently worships and serves weekly.
As busy as I think I am here in the US, I know that things are 100 times more arduous and hectic in Pinas. It helps me keep things in perspective.
My older sister warned me earlier this week of the work load that I’m carrying. From her viewpoint, being the sole provider of my family and carrying everything else is unhealthy and hazardous to my heart. A myocardial infarction might be in my future. I pray that it’s not.
All in all, as busy as my days, nights, weeks, and weekends may be… as overwhelmed as I may potentially feel, I’m having fun. I’m doing what I love to do, which is serve the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. I don’t feel like I’m wasting any of my talents and gifts because I’m just focusing on giving it back to Him. It brings joy to my heart.
And as long as my daughters rush to the door every time they hear me and usher me into my home with open arms and wide smiles, welcomed to a family based on love and support, God’s goodness is revealed to me every single day.
And I challenge God…Can it really get any better?
(Picture taken October 2009, Keilah Naomi at Finkbiner Park in Glendora, CA)
A while back, I remember having a conversation with someone at an event. Our conversation was going quite well and we were discussing many issues of the ministry. Mid sentence, he stopped me from talking and asked me if I could take a picture of him and the speaker for the evening, that had just so happened to be within proximity of where we were. At that moment, our conversation ceased as his conversation with the other person began.
What am I to think? Obviously what I was saying wasn’t nearly as interesting as what he could be talking about with the other person. In retrospect, the look on his face as I was speaking made it look like he had mentally checked out and was just looking for an opportunity to ask me to take this famous photograph.
I can’t fault him for his actions. If you want to talk to somebody, then you want to talk to somebody. I just hope that I’m never the cause of a cancelled conversation.
Coming in a day and age where there is so much exposure, self made, man made with an ease of publicity, anybody at any time can become popular on many levels. Want to show your face? Youtube it is. Got something to say. Podcast. Afraid of exposing your face or voice? Get a blog. Anybody, anywhere can come out of nowhere and rise to prominence and fame. (Daniel’s little horn anyone?)
But just as everybody is going in one direction, hoping for that recognition, I’ve been spending the last few years, trying to stay away from the pull of popularity. (Even at this moment, this blog is read only by my family and a few friends. Though this entry may make me seem hypocritical, I assure you, my intent for this blog is not for popularity. In due time, it will be a vehicle meant for more theological, educational purposes).
As carnal human beings, there are insecurities that lie in wait. When others begin to feed our insecurities, the more we crave it. When others shower us with praise and push us toward celebrity status, it’s hard to remain humble. The enemy takes hold of any opening, and we begin down a slippery slope.
As a Christian, a believer in Jesus Christ, we should all be defined by service. I work, do the things I do, sacrifice, and toil because I want to serve. I want to serve because I was bought at a price. I want to serve because greater love has no man than this, than a man serve (lay down his life for) his friends. I need to serve… because Christ served me by dying for me. This act of service shouldn’t be done with attaining worldy rewards in mind.
Other pastors, preachers, teachers, speakers, evangelists, theologians, and clergy leaders may love the attention, crave it, and possibly handle it better than I could. Kudos to them. However, let’s not be mistaken. I’m not saying that ALL attention is bad. I just don’t want any additional attention that might tempt me to think of myself as anything more than a servant of God.
I’m not walking that path. Give me the path less travelled by. Let me walk the road marred by sacrifice and tears. Let me trod the trail that evidences no sign of celebrity compromise, blinded by the flash of photography.
And let me walk it with Christ leading me.
Picture taken from http://baseballsnatcher.mlblogs.com/paparazzi.jpg
10. If you poke someone in the eye, you need to apologize.
9. It’s best not to eat cereal with your hands… and then run them through your hair.
8. You should always eat fruit with every meal. Preferably cut up strawberries or peeled oranges.
7. If you did something wrong, it’s best not to look like you did.
6. You always need to take care of those you love.
5. You should always take a nap at least once a day. No exceptions.
4. It’s always comforting to fall asleep with family.
3.It’s always nice to wake up to family.
2. I don’t deserve any of God’s blessings that I receive in life.
and the #1 thing I learned from my daughters…
“Love never fails”
Photographs taken by Justin Lacanilao
This self-revelation came to me. A new nickname. Just call me… The Book Cover. Why? Because I get judged, that’s why. I’m just wondering if there’s some sort of vibe or look that I give off that makes people immediately judge me either positively or negatively. I’m not sure. But I always get the feeling that people see me differently than I really am. Maybe I should work on my first impression.
Or maybe it’s because I’m 26 and when people introduce me as a pastor it means nothing to them. Maybe in the eyes of many, I haven’t yet paid my dues, or my credibility is called into question, or maybe they “despise me because of my youth.” Maybe I haven’t made it around the circuit enough. Maybe I haven’t spoken at enough churches or taught at enough universities or my name isn’t as well known as others.
Maybe it’s the way I dress. Shorts, t-shirt, and some kicks don’t necessarily scream out that I’m a pastor. Maybe my look discredits me and leads others not to take me seriously when it comes to the ministry.
The Book Cover. Don’t judge me just yet.
I have to be honest. Most of the people who find out that I’m a pastor engage me in conversation and we begin to have a nice talk about the ministry, my life, my testimony, their life, their opinions and an overall “getting to know you, getting to know all about you” moment. But there are some that seem to not want to have anything to do with me when they find out that little nugget of information. And it’s not the people that first come to your mind.
These are the ones who are established members of various ministries. They are other pastors, teachers, Bible school professors. They are the elders, the deacons, the associate pastors and church leaders. They are the ones that have years of experience on me. They are the ones that I shake hands with and say but two words to me. They are the ones that I hope to look to for encouragement, advice, guidance, direction, and possible mentorship.
Maybe I’m making a big deal about it. Maybe it’s my insecurities. Maybe it’s me creating some sort of internal controversy to further motivate and inspire me to do more and be more for God.
Whatever it is, the fact still reminds.
I’m human. And I don’t like to be judged.
But what can I do about that? I don’t know. Prove to others that I’m not who they seem? Work harder to prove to myself that I’m not who people think I am? Judge others just as extensively and shallow as I seem to be judged by first impression, just to give them a taste of their own medicine?
I may just do that. All of it may be justified, even urged by others. I just may, but not just yet.
Because as of right now… I still have some reading to do.
Picture taken from http://blogacademy.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/first-impressions.jpg