Don’t be a Religious Hypocrite

I have been a religious hypocrite before. I tell what is wrong with others without first taking efforts to clean myself.

Matthew 7:3-5 (KJV) And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

However, promoting religion or faith while pointing out the wrongdoing of others isn’t necessarily being hypocritical. It depends on the motive, which sometimes cannot be readily seen.

There are certain examples in the Bible wherein being religious and pointing out the mistakes of others can be labeled as hypocrisy, and these usually involved the religious leaders of that time.

You are a hypocrite if you show your good deeds to others to be praised. One example is how some stood in long prayers to be seen, subtly telling others that they don’t pray enough.

Matthew 6:5 (KJV) And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

You are a hypocrite if by doing good you look upon yourself as more holy than others. In a parable, Jesus pointed this out clearly:

Luke 18:10-13 (KJV) Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.

The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

You are a hypocrite if you tell others religious instructions, yet you yourself don’t apply them in life. This is a popular hypocrisy among teachers and leaders. So be warned, if you are a teacher of God’s Word, for you will be measured with higher standard (James 1:3).

Matthew 23:2-4 (KJV) Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat:

All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.

Yet, if your motive for pointing out the wrongdoing of others is restoration and out of pure love, then it is not hypocrisy. It is rather being an accountable brother or sister in Christ.

Galatians 6:1-2 (KJV) Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

Speaking the truth can sometimes hurt, especially if it means telling others their sins. However, it must be done. But it must be done in Christlike love.

Ephesians 4:15 (KJV) But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:

Proverbs 27:5-6 (KJV) Open rebuke is better than secret love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

Without the Ministry I am Lost

Jesus is considered by scholars such as Weber ...
Jesus’ reason to live was to obey His Heavenly Father by the means of selfless service.

There are many things that could keep any Christian away from the ministry for a certain point of time.

One of the most common is sin. Sin destroys the strength and the credibility of any servant of God. It also renders him/her powerless – he or she is stripped of the miraculous empowering of the Holy Spirit.

Another factor is the busyness of secular life. Though everything should be spiritual for the saint, but much of the activities that comes from the world takes away some precious time that should be set aside for God alone.

Yet to avoid the ministry is a suicide for the growing Christian. In fact a Christian could never grow without being involved in the ministry. The ministry does not need Christians who think they don’t need the ministry. Rather, these proud Christians could never survive without the ministry.

I am saying this out of Scriptural truth and experience. The ministry is not just important in the life of the believer. It is also essential.

God bless His hard-working servants in the vineyard.

The Good Thing About God

Grace-for-all
Grace conquers all our deficiencies.

Actually the title isn’t so good. Upon finishing reading this short reflection, the reader will come to see that there are countless reasons to prove that God is so good.

For one thing, who in the earth could say that he or she deserves God’s Grace? Of course there are many out there who would dare to claim so. These are the people who have missed altogether the true meaning of Grace. For them grace is earned, which is at once at odds with its real definition. Grace, Biblical grace is unmerited favor. Favor is for the obedient, but Grace is given even to the disobedient.

The forgiveness of God comes close to the list. God is so merciful and forgiving, that to forgive and forget a multitude of sin could be seen as part of His character. Yes I am emphasizing forgiveness here, and not His wrath to come at the day of Judgment when He recompenses every man for his or her evil deeds in hellfire.

The sweet sovereignty of God is another one. If not for His sovereignty, there could be no miracles or other stories that defy physical and natural limitations imposed by nature. Because of this many lives are saved – not in the natural means. And even problems, the insurmountable ones are overcomed. Thanks to His omnipotent power.

There are still a lot more, but let me tell now my story. For the past two weeks I have been down and could not move. I really feel unworthy. But God told me to act as a leader in an outreach – yes, He tells me to act – unworthy though that I am.

The Endless Pursuit

Jesus

Sin always finds its way in me. No matter how much I try to avoid it, in so many subtle ways it could always reach out to me. God’s Grace however, catches me for restoration.

Matt Redman sings in his new album, Your Grace Finds Me, that God’s Grace is the same for the saint and for the sinner. Yeah, yes. There is grace for the righteous and for the sinner, or in other words, for the saved and the unbeliever. But also, no. There is a special kind of grace that is exclusive only for the saved. In God’s eyes, the saved are forever righteous. They have been justified. And, in great contrast, the good works of the unsaved are like filthy rags. Strong comparison. Heart-flattering for the saint, condemning for the wicked.

Sin damages my heart, and God’s Grace is always there to heal me. After committing the most hideous sins, i would bow down in prayer and ask for cleansing and forgiveness. Yes, immediate cleansing I receive, but it should not stop there. True repentance always calls for the changed mind and heart, and of course ways of life. Period. Anything less than that is not true repentance but only confession.

It is indeed an endless pursuit. Running away from sin, being taken by sin, and being catched and snatched away by God’s grace.

As long as a saint is on earth, the pursuit is endless. In heaven, this pursuit cannot happen. How I long to be with Jesus!

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The Fear of Failure

Adaptation of above image illustrating an Inte...
The thought of failing is already fearful.

Who is not afraid to fail?

They say that the above-average intellectual people have low frustration tolerance. I cannot say that I belong to this group of smart people, but I could admit that I can barely tolerate frustration. I am so weak in handling failure. I am afraid to fail.

Failing again a quiz in Linguistics this early morning is making me nuts for the whole day. I know I have not given my best – of course, but still there is no excuse, no justifications – ever. Failure is failure. If I have only listened well in our former class and reviewed my notes, things for sure would not have been this way. I could have not attained a high grade, but still I could pass it.

Being a BSEd student is really a challenge. Eighty-five should be the lowest grade in all subjects. Getting lower than that in even a single subject is a heavy load already. It could never be. But it happens.

My last semester last school year was just a test for me. I didn’t know until now, why I did pass. God gave me a rating of 1.83 for the whole semester, and I take that as a sign that maybe, He wants me really to study again. Ouch. Thanks, I am really grateful, but a part of me says I am already tired of studying all these years.

Am I a people pleaser? Many are looking upon me, so I could not fail. But of course I am much more capable of failing than succeeding – on my own. I could be a winner, but that would only be by God’s Grace. His grace alone.

The Applause of the Crowd

Any ministry, especially those that exposes one in front of a crowd, like preaching calls for a great test of character. One temptation that is always present is vanity for there will be always a crowd that will applaud you.

Of course while in front you try yourself to be bold – or else you will not be convincing and powerful. A timid preacher or a song leader will be a contradiction of terms.

But to be bold pulls the heart also to be proud – this should be overcome, or the motive and the purpose of the ministry will be overthrown.

Yet to be bold while doing the blessed task of preaching isn’t the hardest part – I find it too often that the most challenging area is the afterwards – returning to your seat and to be soon acknowledged and praised for the beauty of the content and the power of the delivery of the sermon. Wow, tough issues indeed.

For my part I try to be silent. I very rarely ask anyone after the preaching how good or powerful it was. I think this act of asking calls for pride more often rather than the genuine sincerity of humble asking. Sometimes I would only ask other mature Christians if my exegesis and interpretation of the Text is right.

The more important part is God’s act – God’s way of continuously changing my heart for the better – to be humbled down. He does this in many ways. Internally, He gives me a new heart, externally, He uses people and circumstances.

Praise be to God only, no matter how unworthy I am, He blesses His Word as I preach it to the crowd.

 

All Things New

"Forgiveness 3" by Carlos Latuff.
Forgiveness – an essential element in starting anew.

We do not naturally want bad endings. We do not want to be hurt, and when we do, if we could only turn back time, we would have corrected it. But for us the only sure available option is to start anew.

To begin again, however, is not that always easy. Often it is harder than we thought. Being dreamers in nature, we are always in the illusion that it would be better this time – that we are capable of doing better while exercising the least of efforts. Wrong.

As we strive to be better, there are many things that would pull us downward. The thoughts of past failures are always there. The inward weaknesses, the fleshly desires which are often undealt, would shake our determination to succeed. Noteworthy to mention – the judgement of the people around – those people who have marked out how filthy you are based from your past mistakes and sins – always play insurmountable forces to hold you back.

The only incentive then is to look upward and realized that there is Someone who is capable of ‘forgetting’ your errors and would not judge you, seeing that you are truly repentant and really try to change. Your forgiveness and shame could be deeper than the sea, but His forgiveness is even deeper than the abyss. You may have not felt real love, but His embrace is wider than the sky.

His Person and love alone are great motivations for each one of us to be hopeful that as long as He grants us to live another day, there would always be hope for genuine change.

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Prayer Request:

A God-glorifying ending of the semester.

The Epic Battle

Armor of the condottiero Roberto da Sanseverin...
Let us wear on our complete spiritual armour and engage in battles!

The Christian life is a fight. A fierce battle. Every side could be at odds, every corner could be a battleground. Of course many are your friends, but many still could act as your enemies, no matter how much you befriend them.

Do not give up! Heads on toward the battle! Put on your helmet, wear your armour and sandals, carry your shield, raise up your sword! This is another combat! An epic battle!

Strike hard! Aim best! Shoot ahead! There are many witnesses – the saints of the past are all watching, watching and expecting that every Christian would share the same victory they had.

Every unnecessary weight should be removed – excess burdens. Sin should be dealt and buried and burned. Run the race without those filth! Just run with freedom in Christ!

Yes, look unto Jesus – the Author and Perfector of everything that we have as Christians! Just look and reflect unto His Glory, and in the process be the more transformed into His blessed likeness. The more we look at Him, the more peace we gain, the greater is our focus, and increasing is our strength!

That is the way to our epic battle! That is the Christian Life! Turn away from baggage and filth, and focus on the Holy. This way, we could win this. Like the countless saints before us, we will win this too!

 

Prayer Concerns:

Family relationship and the ministry. My preaching this Sunday at Calapan Bible Church, with Acts 16:1-5 as the Text. Wisdom in studies, especially in Math, I am really weak in this subject.

Thanks!

Let Me Preach Again

English: Christ preaching petite tombe’
Christ is the best preacher of all.

Preaching isn’t easy, but I like it. It is the divine task among all the others that satisfy me the most. Since 2004 I have been preaching, and it has been a wondrous journey. Time and time again I would reminisce those moments, each sharing some unique lessons and experiences.

But I have stopped preaching for a while now. For at least four months I have not set foot to preach on the pulpit. Then an invitation from a council member of a church and its pastor once again awaken my desire to preach.

True I am not as strong and prepared as before. But I still have the skills, those are not easily lost, but could fade in time when not used. However, it is not the skills that is most important, but is the preparedness of the heart and the right standing in front of God. Though of course preaching is not at all earned, for no one is worthy, but is accepted as a free gift on the merit of Christ and His righteousness. That is why though it could be certainly practised and developed, it could never be mastered.

That gives me the incentive to preach. True preaching is always the product of God’s Grace – I mean to say true powerful preaching that transforms the heart.

Preaching as an overflow of God’s Grace, does not mean I do not have to act. I would study and meditate again, read and reflect. I would strive to be strong again, to be holy, and that is the most important thing. Read, study, live the message, and preach it. All for the Glory of God.

 

The Poor has Always Got Something to Say

Around four million1, the current number of poor Filipinos today. The poor, Chavannes Poor Fisherman

though serving as a constant challenge to the government is still the powerless and voiceless group in the society. By the term ‘poor’ we may extend the meaning also to the physically and mentally disable. Big steps are always considered to alleviate their condition, but their real needs as human beings are not always truly met. The longings of their hearts are still unheard but they have much to say, if we are only willing enough to listen. Listening to them is not easy. It would often require the unmasking of the strong self, and stooping down to embrace weakness.

Very fascinating to me is the example of Jesus as stated in Philippians 2:5-8 “You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had, ​​​​​​​who though he existed in the form of God ​​​​​​did not regard equality with God ​​​​​​as something to be grasped, ​​​​​​​but emptied himself ​​​​​​by taking on the form of a slave, ​​​​​​by looking like other men, ​​​​​​and by sharing in human nature. ​​​​​​​He humbled himself”. Jesus lived it out for us – the perfect example of true service, which means identifying yourself with the people whom you serve. And the very same principle is true if we would like to reach out to the poor and listen to their hearts.

The life of the late Henri J. M. Nouwen is an outstanding example of this humble service. He was a strong man – a catholic priest, and a theology professor. He taught at Harvard, Yale, and Notre Dame, and many looked at him as great, but deep within he felt depressed and discouraged – there was a big hole in his heart that is left unsatisfied. All of that would change as he spent the last ten years of his life ministering as a pastor of the L’Arche Daybreak community in Toronto, a place for those with intellectual disabilities. Living with these ‘weak’ people made him realize that his vast knowledge of theology is futile and in fact making him incapable of relating and ministering to them. It was then that God spoke to his heart that he had to let go of his greatness and embrace the world of these people. He was then healed from his depression by listening to these people, and found his deepest fulfillment as a priest, friend, author, lecturer and mentor. What God taught him thru these weak people is far greater than all that he learned as a student and a university professor. God spoke thru the mentally incapable, teaching him more the realities of God’s love and brotherly love, and Henri became a better person.

My own experience of serving a poor community of fishermen at Pinamalayan recounts the same thing. Forgetting and setting aside my comfortable life at Calapan, I ventured to live the life of the poor. I was continuously interacting and listening with (not just to) them, trying to get in touch. Literally living with them opened my heart to what these people have to say to the world.

I admire many things about these people. They taught me how to rest and be still. Rest is such a beautiful practice! It is giving yourself some time to set free from busyness, to relax and let the thinking mind and the longing heart blend on a wondrous contemplation. True reflection has become a stranger to many, thus they are deprived of a wonderful way for self-searching and communion with their Creator.

Living with them imparted unto me simplicity of life and contentment. I have found out that much of man’s worries are unrealistic, because they emerge primarily from being not contented. Living simple and being content goes hand-on-hand; if you live simple enough it shows a heart that is content, and if you are content then you are willing to embrace a simple life.

They also showed me perseverance and faith. I have interviewed some of them and was surprised that one family earns for as low as Php. 15 weekly, yet still life goes on. Sometimes, these fishermen catch nothing or very little at all during a night of stress at the sea – yet, they still manage to support their families. They just say that it’s normal, and they don’t take it too seriously to avoid added stress. They simply believe and they know that there will be better days ahead.

These people know very well to give thanks and be appreciative to every little gift they receive. Their hearts are always full of gratitude, amidst all hardships. In some sense, they are greater worshipers than I am, for I tend to give praise to God only when receiving grand privileges or gifts. But these people are constant praise-givers and they do honor God in everything, big or little. Though poor, they are rich in heart.

I also learned that real education of the heart takes place as we invest quality time with the people. Giving gifts is good but what a person really wants is your time, approval, and acceptance. Small gifts become so much bigger only if you show that your gifts are wrapped up with genuine love. A hypocritical show of love is of little value, but genuine expressions of love even in small ways could produce miracles. These people have showed me again and again, to my shame, that what can truly help these poor people are not gifts but love and acceptance. So quality time with them becomes too important.

Another important lesson is that though the mind matters, the heart is still much more important. The first months of my service to them arose some oppositions from differing religious beliefs. Some key church leaders wanted a debate, but I just kept silent. I just continued to show them genuine love and to continue harness a good relationship with all of them. In a relatively short time, we gained their trust and approval.

The most important lesson of all is that I have understood more the reality of God’s love in a much deeper way. How could God love a people whom He allows to live poor for so long? Now I think I have the answer: in God’s mystery He uses their hardships to bring them closer to Him. And secondly important lesson is that God has taught me to become a greater lover of men: exercising love for them has little by little taken away my prejudices, biases, and selfishness in life.

These lessons I have not learned during my four-year seminary studies inside a four-walled classroom at a Bible School. But these poor people are great instructors of the heart. I now see life on a bigger perspective. Thanks for a communal life with them, I have been set free from my wrong thinking and ideals in life. Yes, though they are the voiceless in the society, yet they have taught me big things, and indeed they are people of powerful positive influence – only if we would listen.

1 Annual Per Capita Poverty Threshold, Poverty Incidence and Magnitude of Poor Families, by Region and Province: 1991, 2003, 2006 and 2009, National Statistical Coordination Board