Saturday, February 25, 2006

Just Like Heaven

Well here we are in Ottawa...finally. We're still unpacking and jetlagging but we're here. Over some pizza pockets, Micah-el said as only she can, "Canada is just like heaven." How different this new world is. And how different our life is going to be. Even when we were in the airport in Nagoya, I could feel the difference; as if the air seemed lighter. When we were making our final descent into Ottawa from Detroit, I was stunned when I looked out the window to see a snow-covered Ottawa with winter-dead trees and clear and bright cold sky. God, what have you gotten us into?

Two events marked the turning of the page of this new chapter in our lives. After we arrived in Ottawa, PGMA declared a State of Emergency. All classes in all levels were cancelled. The 20th Anniversary Celebration of EDSA 1 (which ousted then President Marcos) was dispersed. All rally gatherings were forbidden. Warantless arrests were made. Gosh! I go away for just one day and the country falls apart! LOL

The second event happened a few hours ago. Over dinner, our house was shaken by an Ottawa! We couldn't believe it. But this must have some kind of significance for us. Unrest followed by an earthquake half a world apart.

Then i remembered Acts 4 where another nation was in a state of emergency and an earthquake jolted them as well. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the Word of God boldly (Acts 4:31).

Maybe Mic-mic was right....this is like heaven.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

FUEL! (2006.02.19)

This was our first gathering since dissovling the weekly Sunday worship services. We had to hold it at Metropolis Star Mall, Muntinlupa (on the other side of SLEX across from Festival Supermall).

On February 5, 2006, we did something that very few churches have ever tried to do...Instead of meeting as a congregation every week for worship and teaching, we began meeting in simple churches all over Metro Manila. This is what happened on that Sunday:

148 adults...
26 children...
14 new people...met as
10 different simple churches in Laguna, Cavite, Muntinlupa, Paranaque, and Quezon City.

This represented NOT people who sat quietly and passively by as they watched a worship leader and a pastor conduct a “church service.” Rather, this represented a higher than average number of people who were actively engaged in activities which promoted fellowship, participation, learning, and sharing.

I led our congregation down this path because I believe that we must begin to BE the church and not just DO church. A congregation-based church experience does not promote the kind of environment that produces New Testament disciples of Jesus Christ. That’s because New Testament churches are meant to be small, participatory, and connective. These dynamics just don’t exist in a larger worship service.

Our vision is to help disconnected people become fully devoted followers of Christ. We want to see a vast network of simple churches in homes, offices, factories, schools, classrooms, coffee shops, call centers, parking lots, malls and wherever else a small group of people can meet to passionately pursue the mission of Jesus Christ.

This way of being the church is as old as the New Testament. It’s really a return to a more apostolic and ancient way of life. And yet, we must realize that no matter how promising our church structures and way of organizing are, there will never be a substitute for the life found in the passion of loving our Lord Jesus.

We read in Revelation 3:14-20...
 14"To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
      These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation. 15I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. 19Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. 20Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me."

The church in Laodicea was full of notable deeds. These good things did not escape God’s notice. They were functioning the way a church should by serving society, meeting needs, performing good works. But there was something missing. Jesus says to this well organized and performing church, “I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”

What was it that was so repulsive to God? Lukewarmness. This was evident not in their actions but in their attitude. What attitude? It was the thinking that, “ [They] do not need a thing.” When you feel self-sufficient, you don’t need anything...including God. And it was this condition that sent Jesus gagging in spasms. What did the church lack? Passion. In the end, Jesus was pushed outside of the church knocking and waiting to get back inside.

A lack of passion is evidence of the absence of Jesus.

Why is passion so important for us?

Passion energizes. Whether you meet in a cathedral, home, or mall, church can become quite routine. Routine is the archenemy of passion. When we feel that church is routine, it becomes predictable, lifeless, and dull. A passion for Jesus and his mission is our life force.

Passion infects. All it takes is one person in a simple church to share his passion for Jesus and the rest of the group feels the life. If we’re going to make an impact on society, we must become passionately contagious. There are no methods or techniques that can ever compensate for a lack of passion.

Passion attracts. There is something attractive about a woman in love or a man on purpose. They know what they’re about. Their passion makes them transcend the here and now and live on a different level; a level where most people only dream of living.

Without passion, church becomes a lifeless corpse. When the church has lost its passion, it needs artificial life support systems like rules, laws, traditions, and political mechanisms to give it a semblance of life. We become civil but not loving. We may do what’s required of us but we have no joy. In this case, the church may exist but it isn’t alive!

As we move into a new era for our spiritual family, I urge you to keep your passion for Jesus alive. If you find yourself cooling off, here are a few things you can do:

1. Ask God to renew your passion for Him. God wants you to be excited about life. You can turn to Him to get your heart on fire for God again.

2. Search the Bible for fresh revelations that excite your soul. We get excited about things that we discover. Let God speak to you through His Word.

3. Put yourself in an environment of passion. Ignite! Fuel. Aldersgate Conferences. These are all events that create an environment of passion. Don’t miss any of these. Joining these experiences will raise your passion level.

4. Spend time with passionate people. Because passion is contagious, you should spend lots of time hanging around people who are passionate for the Lord. These spiritual friends will make a big impact on you. And who knows, you’ll be surprised that you make a difference in their lives too!

5. Feed on what inspires you. What excites your soul? A certain movie? Song? Show? Art? Book? Whatever it may be, make sure to plug into it regularly. God does not limit His presence to only religious settings. You can find God in that which is noble, beautiful, excellent, and inspiring.

Friends, being passionate is a choice. It is a choice of reckless surrender to Jesus. It is a choice to hunger and thirst and reach out for him. It is a choice to lay aside everything else in pursuit of his presence and his power in the now. It is a choice to realize that you need him more than anything. Choose passion.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Aldersgate 2006:Understanding the Times and Knowing What to Do

Here are some pics from last week's Aldersgate conference where I spoke. It was a powerful 4 days with about 750 people in attendance. Though the numbers aren't confirmed, we had about 250 pastors up in Baguio for this year's spiritual renewal conference. That's the most pastors we've ever had in attendance.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

6 Days to Go!

Well, we're very busy trying to get things packed for our trip back to Canada. It's exciting and frightening at the same time! I'm looking forward to walks in the cold, brisk air. Ah....being able to walk outside without fear of an asthma attack. Nice.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Heroic Leadership

I never thought I would be reading a book written by a former Jesuit...and enjoy it! Chris Lowney does a great job surprising me in his inspiring book Heroic Leaderhip: Best Practices from a 450-year-old Company that Changed the World. It gave me a greater appreciation for this Roman Catholic order and the contributions they have made over the centuries. I was surprised by how much I really identified with the Jesuits (Society of Jesus) and their leadership values. Here are a few excperts that stood out for me...

"We're all leaders, and we're leading all the time, well or poorly.
Leadership springs from within. It's about who I am as much as what I do.
Leadership is not an act. It is my life, a way of living.
I never complete the task of becoming a leader. It's an ongoing process."

"Circumstances will present a few people with world-changing, defining-moment opportunities; most will enjoy no such bigtime opportunities in their lifetimes. Still, leadership is defined not by the scale of the opportunity but by the quality of the response."

"A leader's most compelling leadership tool is who he or she is: a person who understands what he or she values and wants, who is anchored by certain principles, and who faces the world with a consistent outlook. Leadership behavior develops naturally once this internal foundation has been laid. If it hasn't been, mere technique can never compensate." (Really think about this one! -Mark)

(4 Guiding Principles of Jesuit Leadership)
Jesuits became leaders by...

1. Understanding their strengths, weaknesses, values, and worldview.
2. Confidently innovating and adapting to embrace a changing world.
3. Engaging others with a positive, loving attitude.
4. Energizing themselves and others through geroic ambitions.

"A...leader is not content to go through the motions or settle for status quo but is restlessly inclined to look for something more, something greater."

The greatest contribution this book offers for me is the practice of Examens as a daily tool to integrate these guiding principles into everyday life. Here's my outline on how to do this.

1. There is an inductive phase where for 30 days a person goes through a time of meditation and self-reflection to establish a foundation of self-awareness. We must discover for ourselves what our strengths, weaknesses, values, a worldview are. What do we care about? What do we value? Who are we? And how do I fit in the world?

2. The above will help us establish key goals for our lives; goals birthed out of self-awareness and discovery. These are innate goals that become guiding stars for our lives.

3. Every morning, upon waking, we meditate and remind ourselves of these key goals for our lives. This is the launching pad for the day.

4. Around noon, we take another 5 minutes to reflect and think upon theprevious few hours in light of our key goals. Have we been living up to who we've discovered ourselves to be? Have we contributed the way we know we must contribute?

5. Later in the evening around supper time, we take another 5 minutes to do what we did at noon.

In this way, we are constantly aligning ourselves to what really matters to us and to our role in the world.