Our National Purpose

I’m posting something I wrote for one of our discussion forums in Asbury Seminary. (I’m in seminary, by the way.) I just wanted to archive it for personal use and to share with some friends and colleagues. But if you’re subscribed, you’ll get a notification. This is the kind of thing that is guaranteed to excite and sober me up at the same time.

The forum discussion asked us to think about unique cultural gifts that our context has that contributes to integration and holism in the world.

This was a fun exercise, but also one that makes me very passionate. It’s these kinds of thoughts that make me passionate about campus ministry, church growth, and national transformation in the Philippines. More than just seeing a large church movement or even a prosperous nation, we want to see this nation fulfill its purpose, which I believe has to do with helping other nations fulfill their purpose.

I see at least three distinct ways that the Philippines provides integration and contributes to holism globally.

First of all, like many Asian nations, the Philippines has a very strong community and family feel. We are very aware of how members of the community feel and how we feel is determined by our connection to the community. This can have obvious drawbacks, but when it is redeemed it is a very powerful tool for infusing communities with warmth, joy, caring, and unity. Filipinos have often become the relational glue in churches, companies, families, and other organizations in different parts of the world. I believe God has given us this characteristic to serve the world with.

Secondly, Filipinos have a natural propensity for service. In its unredeemed form, this is seen the vast number of Oversees Filipino Workers (OFWs) who are in service roles all over the world, varying from being maids, nannies, nurses, doctors, physical therapists, and more. There is a high demand for Filipino service around the world. But even these people who have to leave the country because of poverty are used by God to bring the Gospel into some of the most inaccessible locations – from oil rigs in the middle of the sea to Arab sheikh households. Besides this, the act of serving our fellow man and woman is a reflection of our Lord Himself. Many Filipino hospice nurses double as ministers to their patients.

Thirdly, Filipinos have a unique global position because of the cultural mix of East and West. This allows the Philippines to serve almost as a bridge between East and West. Many anthropologists and sociologists have remarked on how Filipinos aren’t “as Asian” as the rest of their neighbors and often sometimes bear similarities with the Western nations. This can be attributed to over 300 years of Spanish colonization, over 50 years of direct American colonization, and more than 50 years of indirect American cultural production that still has Filipinos aspiring for all things American.

Because of this, we can bridge the gap between continents. In the church world, it makes the Filipinos great missionaries because we have no history of aggression or long standing feuds against other nations. Translating to another culture isn’t difficult since all Filipinos do this regularly. Our Filipinos missionaries have planted churches in almost every nation in Asia now.

In our movement, Every Nation, God has given us a breakthrough church in the Philippines. But we see our role as being a bridge to serving the rest of the nations of the world. In our campus ministry, for example, we’ve adopted many systems and processes from the United States that have been very effective for us when contextualized properly. Now, our campus ministry in the Philippines is in a position to serve the other campus ministries in China, Japan, Indonesia, India, Singapore, Vietnam, etc. We share the very systems we adopted and teach them to contextualize things the way we did. What a marvelous thing to think that such a small and powerless nation politically could be a conduit for transforming other nations through the Gospel!

All of this put together – strong relational ties, propensity for service, and a unique global position – tells me that a significant part of the Philippines’ purpose is to serve other nations and help them know God and take their place in the roster of redeemed nations. It would our joy, our honor, and our privilege to know that God used our small efforts to bring other nations into His Kingdom.

What You Don’t See

One way of generating insight isn’t just to look for what you’re not seeing. Too often, people only analyze the things that are visible, without giving thought to what is invisible.

Some examples:

    • Instead of asking successful people what they do, try asking them what they don’t do that everyone else automatically does. Once, I approached church and business leaders I respect and asked them what they didn’t do, but everyone else around them seemed to do. The answers were interesting. One friend of mine, a very successful businessman, church leader, father, and husband revealed that he never watched movies when they came out. To him it was a waste of time and money. He always just rented movies for free from his local library. (This is in the US.) I don’t know how much it helped him, but his simplicity of lifestyle was woven through every aspect and it allowed him to be successful and have one of the most well-rounded lives I’ve ever witnessed – physically fit, great marriage, great kids, financially prosperous, extremely generous, intelligent, quick learner, faithful friend, etc.
    • At Unashamed 2017, we had a roster of speakers. People often focus on them and ask about their preaching and leadership strengths that got them the job. But what about the ones who didn’t preach? We have plenty of capable (even better) older preachers who didn’t speak at the event. Why not? What did that accomplish? What does that say about their leadership? We also had plenty of up-and-coming younger preachers who didn’t preach either. Why not? What were they doing that was better than having them preach? Comment or PM me your best guess and I’ll tell you if you’re close or not. If you’re close enough, I’ll give you the answer.
    • Social media presents us so much information, too much information. It’s tempting to think that everything is in what we see. That the entirety of a person’s life is what the media (mainstream or social) presents to us. Nothing could be further from the truth. Behind everything we see is plenty more, maybe it’s even more significant. Sometimes my Instagram Stories reflect great parts of my day. But most of the time, they go empty when I’m so busy living and making significant memories. Not everything is recorded and posted real time. Sometimes the best stuff stays offline.

Anyway, you get the point. Don’t just look at what you see. Ask yourself what you’re not seeing. You’ll be surprised at the insight.

The Blog Behind the Preaching: Do Not Judge (Victory Fort, 10 & 12 PM Services)

I’m trying something new where I blog about a preaching I did. This is something like DVD extra features of the preaching, including a Behind the Scenes, Deleted Scenes, and Director’s Commentary. It’s also a great place to link some of the content I featured in the message for those who want to revisit it.

Listen to the preaching here.

Behind the Scenes

This preaching was a little easy to prepare because I was already convicted by the verses. As I mentioned, I tried to count the number of times I would make hasty judgments in the week. There were so many that I lost count. That made the preparation easier. As someone once said, “You preach best the messages that you need to hear the most.”

Deleted Scenes

Here are some great points that I didn’t get to say because of time or were feedback given by other people who were reflecting on the message.

    • One other bad tendency is hasty judgments. We don’t bother to get to know the person. We don’t bother to build a relationship. And we don’t bother to help restore the person. Shooting from the hip rarely produces an accurate shot.
    • The guys at the discipleship group had some great insights. We discussed the two extremes: being harsh and judgmental or being uncaring and apathetic. A number of them said they can pingpong between the two. When they try to correct, they tend to do it harshly and when it’s met with resistance they become apathetic. I think we all swing from one extreme to the other often.
    • Mark Muleta gave a great analogy in our discipleship group today. He said, “I think I need to work on being Restorative. I tend to go in to operate on a person and it’s like I open them up and remove the problematic part, but I don’t help put them back together. So the person is still vulnerable, lying there on the operating table.” Christian judgment and correction mustn’t just point out what’s wrong, but also help put the person back together.

Director’s Commentary

That point in the 12NN service about removing the speck and not just pointing it out wasn’t in the notes. It just came out while speaking. That’s totally the Holy Spirit. (Well, everything is possible because of Him. You know what I mean.)

It would be hilarious if someone complained about me spoiling The Lord of the Rings. I think there were more problematic things I said than that, especially in the 10 AM.

Related Media

Here’s my blog on the Jeff Bethke and Kevin De Young conversation. There are links to all the relevant media at the bottom.

Here’s the link to the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip.

Here’s the link to the YouTube video of the conversation between Frodo and Gandalf.

I’m Not Indispensable

I recently had a problem at work. I had agreed to meet some people and mentor them in ministry. Every Nation values Leadership Development and mentoring leaders is always time well-spent. But because of some schedule changes, I wasn’t able to meet them at the time we originally expected.

At first I tried to cram it into my schedule anyway. “I’ll make it,” I reasoned. “I just have to get to my first appointment quickly, stay the required amount of time, then dash across the city to get to the next one. I think I can beat the traffic. I’ll just be getting to bed really late. But what’s life without a few sacrifices here and there?”

The problem was it wasn’t just “a few sacrifices here and there.” This has become my lifestyle over the past years. Packed schedules, meetings on top of meetings, and very little margin for anything. After being convicted of this, my wife and I are both attempting to coral our runaway schedules. We don’t want to be driven by pride, need, or the pressure to keep moving. We want to be obedient to God.

So I did something I don’t normally do: I successfully adjusted my schedule. I called the affected people, explained the situation, and offered a more calm meeting time. Instead of packing in one appointment after another, I now had margin to spend time with God, my wife, and my son, while doing my work.

Then something crazy happened! The person understood! They weren’t offended that I had to prioritize my health or my family. They didn’t backslide because I was concerned for my health (and theirs). They didn’t lose their calling because I adjusted our mentoring time so that I could sleep well. I started to wonder why I didn’t do this more often.

But here’s the craziest part, when I moved my appointment the world didn’t end, civilization endured, God’s Kingdom continued to advance, and He remained on the throne. I guess I wasn’t the one holding it all together. Maybe I don’t need to stress as much as I thought. I’m  not as indispensable as I think. As Kevin De Young says in his wonderful book, Crazy Busy,

“But the truth is, you’re only indispensable until you say no. You are unique. Your gifts are important. People love you. But you’re not irreplaceable.”

This brings so much peace and freedom. It releases us from being driven by performance. It allows us to be us and God to be God. Maybe this was just for me, but I doubt it. I know there are people out there who are driving themselves to the ground from a false sense of obligation, maybe even using Christian words to justify it. I hope these words help put us in our proper place, the place of grace.

With a Little Help From My Friends

After two fulfilling but tiring trips abroad, Carla and I found out that the baby we were quietly expecting had passed away in the womb. Second miscarriage in two years. I took some time to rest, then went back to a few meetings at work. While I was glad to be doing what I love to do with people I love working with, something wasn’t right with me.

I was moving and thinking in slow motion. Each command from my brain had a delay before my body responded. Like an online game character with high lag. I also felt disconnected from the people I was interacting with. Maybe it was because of my stopped ear which hampered my hearing, or maybe because I wasn’t telling people about what we were going through.

As the days wore on, I felt less and less energy to keep working. I just wanted to go home and sleep, even though we’d been sleeping well and early. I had no passion for things that normally excited me. Normally I can call on huge amounts of energy (too much, if you ask Carla or my officemates), so not having that felt terrible.

 

It’s okay to not be okay…

Thankfully, some mentors like Pastors Gilbert and Paolo reminded me of the need to take it easy on myself during this time. That was very helpful.

What definitely didn’t help was reasoning with myself that I had no reason to be down.

You just came from overseas. You’re well-rested. Get back to work. It’s not like you’re the one who miscarried; it’s Carla. Why would you feel down about losing a baby? You’ve got Philip. There are people who don’t even have one child. You’re fine, start acting like it.

But none of my internal pep talks helped.

It also didn’t help that I was isolating myself. I chose not to tell some of my friends because I wanted to avoid explaining all over again. And there was an internal dialogue for that also.

Yeah, don’t tell them. It’s not like they can do anything to help. They’ve got their own problems to deal with also, do you really want to add to that? Besides, you don’t have a reason to be down. They’ll think you’re just whiny.

I finally had to be honest with myself that things weren’t alright. And that’s what started to fix things.

 

But don’t wallow in it. Fight back.

Acknowledging the problem was the first step. So last Saturday as I was walking to another meeting, I turned off the podcast and began speaking in tongues. Out loud. I didn’t care what the passing cars thought of this crazy guy babbling to himself on the sidewalk. Maybe I was crazy for walking around outside in the heat of lunch time. But at least it was faster than being stuck in traffic.

Then I started listening worship songs. And the point rang home, my circumstances change and my feelings are unstable, but God doesn’t change so it’s always appropriate to worship Him.

That got me to the next step. Ask for help. I was encouraged by the thought that there are people out there who I could contact out of the blue. People who would pray, with no need for awkward questions or unhelpful suggestions. I had to choose who I would contact and stuck to people in the same timezone so I knew they could pray immediately. I wrote a message that in so many words basically said, “I need help. Please pray.” And they did.

That was the turning point. It felt like a heavy blanket was removed. I got home to see Carla in a similar state – having a difficult day, but fighting back through worship and prayer. While we had some more bad news ahead, we didn’t feel like we were sinking underneath it. In fact, we’re surprised by how okay we feel, even as we slowly get back into gear.

This experience really fleshed out this Bible verse for me. If you’re going through difficult moments now, I hope you know you don’t have to face it alone.

And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. 1 Samuel 23:16

 

Here’s Carla’s blog also.

“You want Papa to do it?”

Philip has the sweetest temperament. He is kind to all babies. Very sweet and affectionate to his mom and me. And he takes pleasure in making his mom happy.

That’s why it’s really jarring when he loses his temper. Our sweet, even-tempered boy suddenly starts throwing things around in rage. It usually happens when he’s playing with his Duplo sets and he can’t get it to do what he wants to do.

But now he’s learned a trick. He goes up to me and with his big eyes asks, “You want Papa to do it?” I fix the unruly LEGO pieces and he goes back to playing with his LEGOs happily.

A lot of the time, I’m like Philip. I lose my cool while I’m at work, when I’ve got a God nearby who’d gladly help. I don’t (always) throw things around, but I get worried, fearful, impatient, irritable, or unable to sleep when life starts to stress me out. My wife and son can see this the most.

Then I go to God, our Heavenly Father, and say, “God can you help me with this?” And it’s remarkable how quickly He fixes things. It leaves me wondering. Why didn’t I just do that from the start?

We’re all a lot like Philip. If you’re stressed about something now, don’t take it out on yourself, your family, or your work. Go to your Heavenly Father and ask Him, “Can you do this with me?” The results will surprise you: faster work, better outcomes, less stress.

Philippians 4:5–7

5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.