Today, by God’s grace, I and the youth group (Kabataang Kay Kristo Jesus or K3J) of our church will be handling the P&W and preaching at the worship service. And for this special occasion, God placed in my heart a new song. I’m sharing the lyrics below. Later I hope to find a way to share a recording of it.
Happy Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ!
SEEK FIRST THE KINGDOM OF GOD (GOD IS ABLE)
G – D – Em – C
Seek first the kingdom of God
And all His righteousness
And all these things will be added
Added to you
God is able to do
Infinitely more than we would dare to
Ask, so ask and it will be given to you
Seek God’s Kingdom—believe, and be blessed
God is willing to heal
Any and every disease and sickness
If we place our hands on sick men and women
In the name of Jesus they will be healed
God is able to do
Infinitely more than we would
Ever dare to ask, so dare to
Seek and be blessed
God is willing to heal
Any disease and sickness
If we place our hands on the sick
They will be healed
For the name of Jesus
Is above all names
So in the name of Jesus
Disciple all the nations
When I was little, I loved looking at pictures depicting the life of Christ in my grandmother’s Catholic prayer book. Of course, as a child, I didn’t know (or care) who the painter was, until many years later, when I would receive a book titled “Jesus: The Son of Man” containing high quality reproductions of Carl Heinrich Bloch’s Fredericksborg Palace Chapel paintings. Thank you, Ada, for the beautiful gift!
This is my seventh year of reflecting, through my blog, on my “happiest happenings” for a particular year. (For earlier annual reflections, see 2016, 2015, 2014, 2012, 2011, 2010.) My happiest happenings in 2017 are (not in any order):
1. Finishing my PhD in Education
I began my studies toward the PhD in education in 2010. I could have finished in 2013, but the Lord did not allow it; instead, I had to learn two important lessons.
First lesson: Please only God. I tend to be a people pleaser, but the Lord taught me not to please people but to please only Him: “Our purpose is to please God, not people” (1 Thessalonians 2:4b, NLT). I learned that when I please God, I do not need to concern myself with how other people might view me or my work. I also learned that pleasing God fulfills my potential and makes me happy.
Second lesson: Never compare myself with others. I remember Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata from long ago: “If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself .”
As soon as I have learned these lessons, I was able to defend my dissertation successfully and pass with flying colors.
I’m now thinking of whether to transform my dissertation into a book. The big question for me, based on my understanding of William Germano’s From Dissertation to Book, is whether I have sufficient material (research results) to give leaders the encouragement and the tools to improve themselves or their situation. I know that the Lord will guide me in this, too.
2. Salvation from Permanent Injuries
When, during a sudden downpour, my former car skidded, rammed through a tall lamp post, and crossed the traffic island into the other lane, I was profoundly grateful to the Lord that: (1) the only injuries I sustained were a stiff neck due to whiplash; and (2) there was no incoming traffic. The car was declared by the insurance company as a total wreck, and so I was able to purchase a newer and better vehicle, cash!
The Lord is good. Not only were I and others saved, but I also learned so many things (e.g., about the importance of the daily unhurried reading of God’s word and prayer in cultivating one’s relationship with God), and even got a vehicle that I really like!
3. Organizing a Medium-Sized Forum on Educating Generation Z
As head of the Society of University Fellows, which is celebrating its Pearl Anniversary this academic year, I organized what I hope would become an annual Fellows’ Forum on Higher Education, the inaugural theme of which was Educating Generation Z.
Gen Zers were born around 1995, at about the same time as the birth of the World Wide Web. While doing research for the situationer that I had to give, I realized that several paradoxes exist concerning Gen Z, one of which is what I call the Friendship Paradox: Though Gen Zers might have many friends on social media, they might have very few real friends. This can have several causes as well as effects, including what Jean Twenge suggests in her 2017 book on iGen that greater suicide risk is associated with longer average daily Internet use. Since the Forum, I have talked to various groups of people, trying to convince them of the need to study further how Internet use might be adversely impacting today’s children and youth, and what we can do about it.
4. Teaching about God’s Love and Our Fruit Bearing
I’m very grateful for having been asked to give the message for 2018 to my local church. The message was about John 15:16: “You did not choose me, but I chose you, and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. And the Father will give you whatever you ask in my Name.” For the first time, I articulated, based on experience and reflection, a framework for fruit bearing.
Bearing fruit can be viewed as a process that begins with an understanding of God’s love for us as unique individuals. This leads us to respond to God’s love in kind, by doing what God wants us to do, not out of duty, but out of love. As we obey the Holy Spirit in the big things as well as in the small ones, we bear fruit, i.e., our character becomes more and more like that of Christ, and people are drawn to Christ’s love through the testimony of our actions as well as words. And “the Father will give us whatever we ask in Jesus’ name.”
As I say goodbye to 2017 and welcome 2018,I thank God, first of all, who chose me before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), and whose love for me is so great that I can never understand fully it (Ephesians 3:19a, NLT).
And I also thank my family, friends, and those whom I minister to, for their love.
To everyone I wish a new year “filled with the love and power that comes from God”! (Ephesians 3:19b, NLT)
“The work of salvation, in its full sense, is (1) about whole human beings, not merely souls; (2) about the present, not simply the future; and (3) about what God does through us, not merely what God does in and for us.”
April 15, 2017. Eve of the Feast of the Resurrection of Jesus.
In preparation for this year’s celebration of the greatest of days, I read Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (2008), by N.T. Wright, whose The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is I read for Resurrection Sunday 2015.
The book can be viewed as having two main points.
First: The historical and bodily resurrection of Jesus points not only toward life after death (in heaven) but, more importantly, toward the “life after life after death” (148), i.e., in the “final coming together of [the new] heaven and [new] earth, [which] is God’s supreme act of new creation” (208).
Second: We who are created in the image of God, and who have been redeemed from death through the atoning death of Jesus, are led and empowered by the Spirit to reflect (94) the Resurrected Lord to all of God’s creation here and now, on this earth, as well as in the new one. “The intermediate stage between the resurrection of Jesus and the renewal of the whole world is the renewal of human beings – you and me! – in our own lives of obedience here and now.” (249)
Before, between, and after his painstaking exposition of the above points, Wright does his best to expose the errors in the popular worldviews of materialism and Gnosticism and their modern/postmodern variants, and in popular beliefs about death, life after death, the second coming, and the role of Christians in this present world.
Now to quote some of Tom’s sentences that either caused me to pause, to smile, or to weep:
“The work of salvation, in its full sense, is (1) about whole human beings, not merely souls; (2) about the present, not simply the future; and (3) about what God does through us, not merely what God does in and for us.” (200)
On life after death:
“Life after death, it seems, can be a serious distraction not only from the ultimate life after life after death, but also from life before death.” (198)
On reflecting God:
“One of the primary laws of human life is that you become like what you worship; what’s more, you reﬂect what you worship not only back to the object itself but also outward to the world around.” (182)
So in worship we reflect the Triune God back to the Triune God, and at work and in ministry we reflect the Triune God to the world. Wow!
On kingdom work:
“[B]uild for the kingdom. This brings us back to 1 Corinthians 15:58 once more: what you do in the Lord is not in vain. You are not oiling the wheels of a machine that’s about to roll over a cliff. You are not restoring a great painting that’s shortly going to be thrown on the ﬁre. You are not planting roses in a garden that’s about to be dug up for a building site. You are— strange though it may seem, almost as hard to believe as the resurrection itself—accomplishing something that will become in due course part of God’s new world. Every act of love, gratitude, and kindness; every work of art or music inspired by the love of God and delight in the beauty of his creation; every minute spent teaching a severely handicapped child to read or to walk; every act of care and nurture, of comfort and support, for one’s fellow human beings and for that matter one’s fellow nonhuman creatures; and of course every prayer, all Spirit-led teaching, every deed that spreads the gospel, builds up the church, embraces and embodies holiness rather than corruption, and makes the name of Jesus honored in the world—all of this will ﬁnd its way, through the resurrecting power of God, into the new creation that God will one day make.” (208)
Wow! In relation to the above, I can’t wait to read and maybe blog about Chris Travis’ inSignficant: Why You Matter in the Surprising Way God is Changing the World.
Still on kingdom work:
“We must therefore avoid the arrogance or triumphalism of the ﬁrst view, imagining that we can build the kingdom by our own efforts without the need for a further great divine act of new creation. But we must agree with the ﬁrst view that doing justice in the world is part of the Christian task, and we must therefore reject the defeatism of the second view, which says there’s no point in even trying.” (216)
And still on kingdom work:
“As far as I can see, the major task that faces us in our generation, corresponding to the issue of slavery two centuries ago, is that of the massive economic imbalance of the world, whose major symptom is the ridiculous and unpayable Third World debt… Sex matters enormously, but global justice matters far, far more. The present system of global debt is the real immoral scandal, the dirty little secret – or rather the dirty enormous secret – of glitzy, glossy Western capitalism.” (216)
And finally, on Easter:
“If Calvary means putting to death things in your life that need killing off if you are to ﬂourish as a Christian and as a truly human being, then Easter should mean planting, watering, and training up things in your life (personal and corporate) that ought to be blossoming, ﬁlling the garden with color and perfume, and in due course bearing fruit. The forty days of the Easter season, until the ascension, ought to be a time to balance out Lent by taking something up, some new task or venture, something wholesome and fruitful and outgoing and self-giving.” (257)
Now, what new, wholesome, fruitful, outgoing and self-giving task or venture shall you and I take up in the next forty days? 🙂
Happy Feast of the Resurrection!
P.S. Thanks to Raam Dev for the new, cool Independent Publisher theme. And also to the Automatticians for Twenty Ten, my blog’s first theme.
P.S. 2 As in previous Resurrection Sundays (see e.g., 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013), there were birds singing just outside or dogs barking happily at a distance. And this time, I also saw a rainbow. God is good.
It was six years ago when I began reflecting annually on my “happiest happenings” for a particular year (see 2015, 2014, 2012, 2011, 2010). My four happiest happenings in 2016 are (not in any order):
1. Driving and living in Nuvali
I’ve always shunned buying a car, which depreciates the moment it is taken out of the casa, so I’ve always tried to live within walking distance from my place of work or study. But living in Nuvali necessitates owning one because no public utility vehicle drivers may ply their trade in here.
I never expected to enjoy driving, but I do, though only in Nuvali and its surroundings, what with the beautiful scenery. I also enjoy driving to Tagaytay, though only in the morning, when there is no traffic.
Of course I don’t only enjoy driving in Nuvali but also living in it. I love the tranquility, the fresh(er) air, and the Solenad malls that are on the way home from work. 🙂
When I was a kid, I had a stereoscopic toy that showed beautiful scenes of various Wonders of the World, and the 3D photograph of Borobudur was one of those that I enjoyed looking at. I was therefore quite happy to visit it after a finishing a task in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. I went there at sunrise (as FB’s Mark Zuckerberg once did).
Borobudur is the largest Buddhist temple in the world and Indonesia’s “single most visited tourist attraction in Indonesia” (Wikipedia). Built in the 8th century at the center of Central Java and designed as a step pyramid, Borobudur’s pilgrims would walk up and around nine terraces, whose walls are filled more than 2700 exquisite bas-relief panels, until one reaches the top, which represents Nirvana.
On December 18, 2016, the youth group at church was rechristened K3J (Kabataang Kay Kristo Jesus) and celebrated its first year since its revival. Unlike when I first handled the youth at church in the early 2000s, when most of the members of the group were in college and were children of church members, most of the members of the youth group now, i.e., of K3J, are high school kids and have unbelieving parents. May the light of Jesus (John 1:4-5) shine in the lives of these kids and their families!
4. Ministry at home
I love it that my house has been used to minister to or mentor various persons and groups this year. There’s my Saddleback Small Group, which began meeting weekly on April 14. Since then we have studied Rick Warren’s The Invisible War and Miracle of Mercy, among others. Then there’s my best friend’s son, Joel, who did a 3-day retreat at my house last September; and K3J’s leaders, who did a 3-day retreat here on January 1-3. There’s also my PhDCS and MSCS thesis advisees, Tessie, Ian, and Regan, who came at least twice to the house. Finally, there are also my family and friends who came in December.
I thank God for all the blessings throughout 2016. May 2017 be a year of even more hearing and doing of God’s word (Matthew 11:28).
Resurrection Sunday, 2016. I was supposed to travel to Jakarta this morning, but due to a passport issue, that did not push through.
(As you read the rest of this post, if you’d like to listen to The Katinas‘ “Mighty River”, just click the Play button below. To stop it, just click the Pause button.)
RESURRECTION SUNDAY, the greatest of feasts!
How deeply glad I am to have been able, by God’s grace, to start this day reading God’s Word. The church youth and I are reading through the New Testament, one chapter a day, and today’s chapter is the 15th of John. What struck me is the 10th verse, which says that, among others, if I obey the Lord Jesus’ commands, I will remain in his love. At first, the verse seemed to say that God’s love is conditioned on my obedience: the more/less I obey, the more/less God loves me, which I knew in my heart not to be true. Soon, however, the Lord reminded me that his love is like a mighty “river of living water” (cf. Revelation 12:1-2) – always flowing, always giving life, abundant life – and that it is truly I who leaves the river instead of remaining in it! God, Who is Love (1 John 4:16), truly is wonderful! What’s more, John 15:7 guarantees that as I remain in the river (or on its banks, like a tree), the more fruit I will bear, for the glory of God!
After reading God’s Word and eating a delightful breakfast of bread and fruit, I celebrated the resurrection of the Lord with the brothers and sisters at Saddleback South Manila, which is inside the community I live in – Nuvali. As soon as I got back home, I searched my archives for the testimony I wrote for my local church’s newsletter about my Saddleback experience 13 years ago. Here it is:
Isn’t it amazing how, thirteen years ago, I “chanced upon” Saddleback Lake Forest, California, and now, thirteen years later, Saddleback South Manila and I decide to live in the same community?
Happy Resurrection Sunday!
As in previous Resurrection Sundays (see e.g., 2014, 2013), there were birds singing just outside, and dogs barking in the distance. Thank God for all things, big and small! 🙂
I actually read a couple of books during the Lenten triduum (Stephen Smith’s The Jesus Life and David Platt’s Follow Me), and planned to blog about them, but instead, here I am blogging about God’s mighty river of love and about my Saddleback experiences while listening repeatedly to Mighty River. 🙂
I’ve been wanting for a very long time to have a regular Christian activity at home, and on April 14, nineteen days after Easter and a hundred and thirty-five days after moving to my new house, I’d begin hosting a Saddleback Small Group at home! How did this happen? To make the long story short, on the Feast of the Resurrection I simply shared with Pastor Narry Santos my experiences at Saddleback Lake Forest and expressed my desire to be of help to Saddleback South Manila, and then he asked me if I wanted to host a Saddleback Small Group at home, and without hesitation I said, “Yes!” God is good!
I normally post my happiest happenings of a (solar) year on its last day, or on the first day of the New Year (2014, 2012, 2011, 2010). However, December 2015 and January 2016 were über-hectic because of my relocation, so I’m posting this on the first day of the new lunar (actually Chinese lunisolar) year instead. My five happiest happenings in 2015, in chronological order:
1. Ninong at Four Weddings
Three FORMDEV faci alumni got married last year – Nikko (FORMDEV Batch 8) and Chry (Batch 11) on June 28, Adz (Batch 5) and Ibe on Aug 28, and Danon (Batch 6) and Treena on December 6 – as well as one of my PhD mentees, Tessie, and former CCS faculty member, Philip, on June 27, and I was honored to be asked to be one of their ninongs. I do my best to pray daily for them, that their marriages would grow stronger each year and last until the end of their long, God-blessed lives!
2. A Month in Italy
As I wrote in God’s Canvas, I love travelling in Italy, enjoying its food, language, and art. The things I especially loved during last year’s month-long trip were: the presence of Jesus in the daily Eucharist; interacting with Lasallian experts and researchers such as Br. Alain Houry and Br. Diego Munoz; attending a concert of the Vienna Philharmonic at St. Paul’s; witnessing the canonization of the parents of my favorite saint, Therese of Lisieux, at St. Peter’s; a half day at the Sistine Chapel; a full day in Pompeii (at the ruins) and Naples (where pizza was said to have been invented); and a weekend in Milan, my favorite city, where I attended mass at my favorite Gothic cathedral, toured the 2015 EXPO, partied with overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), and bought what has become my favorite pair of shoes of all time, a pair of brown leather Nero Giardini trainers!
3. Receiving and Driving a Car
I’ve always thought that buying a car was a waste of money since it depreciates as soon as it is taken out of the casa. But when the Lord gave me in cash (Amazing! Thank you Lord!) exactly the amount of the best Toyota deal I got, how could I say no? I also never thought I’d like driving, but I do – though only when driving at high speed and listening at the same time to good retro music :-).
Three years ago, after writing a 124-page strategic plan for what would become the De La Salle University – Science and Technology Complex (DLSU-STC), I was so convinced of the potential of the said campus to be the premiere Catholic S&T campus in the country and Asia, that I bought a house and lot in Nuvali, only 10 kilometers or 15 minutes, away, though I didn’t get to live in it until last December (long story). I love it here – the open spaces, the cool air, the gentle rain, and waking up to a couple of birds singing (not a cacophony). And I’m very glad that as early as my first month here, the house has been used by the Lord to minister God’s word and encouragement to several groups of people already (see photos below), all of whom the Lord is using or will soon use mightily in his Kingdom.
5. Floodway 3000 (F3K)
I was tasked to lead a church project nicknamed F3K, short for Floodway 3000, the goal of which was to bring to Christ 3000 unchurched men and women living in an urban poor mega-community. To equip our local church to do this, I developed a framework that treats evangelism and discipling as spiritual disciplines in the same way that reading God’s word daily or praying daily are, and presents all these disciplines as simple three- or four-step processes. After an evangelistic Christmas concert last December, four unchurched teenagers started attending the youth fellowship in the afternoon, which I was called to revive just a month ago. Though few, these four are very precious, for they are the first fruits of our labor, a promise of more to come!
I thank the Lord for all these undeserved blessings. Truly, our God is able (and willing!) to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20)!
April 4, 2015. Eve of the Feast of the Resurrection.
I stumbled upon this book last Christmas. It was on sale yet gathering dust at a typical Christian bookstore, where the books that sell are devotionals and those that could be read as devotionals. Since I love books about Jesus, I grabbed it.
The author is N. T. Wright, former Anglican Bishop of Durham, whom Newsweek has called “the world’s leading New Testament scholar,” at least according to the Harper Collins blurb. More important for me than Newsweek’s pronouncement, though, is that it turns out that Timothy Keller, one of my favorite authors, praised Tom Wright’s book The Resurrection of the Son of God (2003, 813pp), which is Volume 3 of his magisterial series, Christian Origins and the Question of God (COQG).
At only 204 pages, The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is (2000) can be viewed as Wright’s making more accessible to laymen like myself the first two volumes of his COQG series – The New Testament and the People of God (1992, 535pp) and Jesus and the Victory of God (1996, 741pp). In Challenge, he describes how a historical-critical reading of the Gospels reveals the following:
To Jesus, Israel was called as a nation to manifest the love of God to the world. It was to be the light of the world, the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13-14).
Unfortunately, Israel’s leaders have forgotten her calling, and so have forgotten the real reason for Israel’s continuing theological exile. As a result, their agendas with respect to pagan (Roman) rule – whether the revolutionary agenda of the Zealots and the Pharisees, the agenda of compromise of Herod, or the separatist agenda of the Qumran community – were all wrong.
In true prophetic fashion, Jesus then calls Israel to repent (of its wrong agendas) and to believe in Him, her Messiah-King, who will liberate her from the enemy, and in his way, the way of love, as explained in his sayings collected into what we now call the Sermon on the Mount. To do otherwise would result in judgment, i.e., the destruction of Israel, particularly the temple, its symbol of national security and pride.
Jesus also makes clear to his disciples at the Last Supper (Matthew 26:28) what action he will take to liberate Israel: his blood has to be poured out for the forgiveness of sins, which, for Wright, would also mean the end of Israel’s theological exile.
Finally, Jesus makes clear to Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin (Mark 14:62) that he is the Son of Man in Daniel 7:13-14, and that he would soon be enthroned in heaven.
After this, as Israel’s Messiah-King, Jesus fights the enemy solo, and, in keeping with his own teachings, fights not using the weapons of this world but his own – love, expressed through his death on the cross.
Three days later, on the first day of the week, Jesus is vindicated through his resurrection. (I have blogged about the historicity of the resurrection elsewhere, so though Tom Wright allots a chapter to the subject in this book, and would eventually write the 813-page tome mentioned earlier on the subject, I won’t be discussing it here anymore.)
To his disciples, Jesus’ resurrection meant that all that he said – Israel’s calling to be light of the world, Jesus’ calling as Israel’s Messiah and Liberator, the coming of the Kingdom of God, the end of Israel’s exile – must be true! The first days of the Kingdom have come! And with them the promised blessings, not only for the Jewish believer, but for all the peoples on earth (Genesis 12:3) who believe in Jesus (Acts 13:31; Romans 10:9)! Hallelujah!
The question for us today is how are we to live out the meaning of the resurrection in this postmodern world? Wright suggests that we have to:
“learn that our task as Christians is to be in the front row of constructing the post-postmodern world. The individual existential angst of the sixties has become the corporate and cultural angst of the nineties… What is the Christian answer to it all?…What is missing from the postmodern equation is of course love.” (p.170)
I’ll end this post with this long quote:
“We worship other gods and start to reflect their likeness instead. We distort our vocation to stewardship into the will to power, treating God’s world as either a gold mine or an ashtray. And we distort our calling to beautiful, healing, creative many-sided human relationships into exploitation and abuse. Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud described a fallen world in which money, power, and sex have become the norm, displacing relationship, stewardship, and worship. Part of the point of postmodernity under the strange providence of God is to preach the Fall to arrogant modernity. What we are faced with in our culture is the post-Christian version of the doctrine of original sin: all human endeavor is radically flawed, and the journalists who take delight in pointing this out are simply telling over and over again the story of Genesis 3 as applied to today’s leaders, politicians, royalty, and rock stars. And our task as image-bearing, God-loving, Christ-shaped, Spirit-filled Christians, following Christ and shaping our world, is to announce…<big snip here>…forgiveness…for all who yearn for it, and judgment for all who insist on dehumanizing themselves and others by their continuing pride, injustice, and greed.”
Working out the practical implications of the resurrection in the postmodern and post-postmodern worlds is of course not something that can be done in one or two days, so… till next time! 🙂
Happy Resurrection Day!!!
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” (Revelation 5:12-13)