How then shall Christians respond?

I think, in my lifetime, I’ve never been part of such a time as this, where people are so divided over what they think is right versus what is wrong.

I’m speaking of President Duterte; his unconventional, even controversial ways of implementing the changes he wants to see in our country. So much has already been said and written about him and his methods, and while I have my own opinions on the matter, I’m not here to write about those things. Rather, I want to address this post to fellow Christians who, like me, struggled or are struggling with how to respond to what we are seeing and hearing on the news, and what we are reading on social media and the Internet.

First, as Christians, how should we treat President Duterte?

His presidency is ordained by God. Therefore, we are to live in submission to his authority.

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Romans 13:1

Secondly, what does the Bible say about speaking evil or blaspheming God-ordained rulers?

And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.

And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth.

Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law?

And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God’s high priest?

Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.

In the opening verses of Acts 23, we see Paul standing before the Sanhedrin, addressing them to defend the gospel and his actions. As he spoke, men beside him were commanded to hit Paul on the mouth, to which Paul responded angrily and carelessly with a curse against Ananias, high priest of the Sanhedrin. Paul was rebuked and in humility, admitted that he had done a wrong thing by speaking evil against Ananias.

Thou shalt not revile the gods, nor curse the ruler of thy people. Exodus 22:28

This part of the story could have been left out of the Bible, but everything that is in the Bible, God has a purpose and a lesson. Aside from this being contrasted to how Jesus responded against those who hit him, I believe this also teaches us that regardless of who is in authority, be it Stalin, Hitler, Trump, Obama or Duterte, we are to honor them (context, of course, as long as it does not contradict obedience to God’s commands, which are paramount)

Of course, lest people take this out of context: While Paul’s short outburst was an issue between him and God, God still vindicated and honored him for his confession before men. Therefore we have the assurance that injustice committed by God-ordained authorities will not go unpunished.

The bible talks also of submission to authority:

Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme;

Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. 1 Peter 2:13-14

Therefore, we must check our hearts if we are sinning in this respect.

Finally, having established President Duterte’s authority, how then do we respond as Christians, whether we are in agreement with Pres. Duterte’s methods or not?

We all know how social media amplifies thoughts and opinions, and how quickly one can go viral or be subject to cyber-bullying.

I have had my moments of posting my thoughts on Facebook. Thankfully, I have not been trolled (since my posts are private) but I’ve seen some spirited discussions from friends, some of them from Christians, partaking of the vitriol, the mockery, the sarcasm, the ridicule, the hate, the anger.

I took a step back and asked myself, is this what God wants from His people? How can we be salt and light to the world if in our Facebook posts, our conversations, and our actions, we contribute to the confusion, hate, anger, and distrust, whether intentionally or unintentionally?

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Matthew 5:13-15

What then sets us apart from the people who do not know God?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be vigilant of what’s happening; that we should turn a blind eye or live as if everything is fine. I’m not even saying we should not complain, or not have any say at all.

I’m saying, as Christians, what do our actions (posting critical thoughts and articles, engaging in debates or arguments) achieve?

  • Does it glorify God? (1 Corinthians 10:31)

Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

  • Does it build up other people? (Ephesians 4:29)

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

  • Does it promote unity in the body of Christ? (1 Corinthians 1:10)

Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

  • Does it point people to Christ? (Matthew 5:16)

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

I’m saying, as Christians, we ought to exercise more restraint, especially in this day and age of social media where it’s so tempting to join the fray and let our thoughts be heard, because the world is looking at us. Just because we can doesn’t mean we should.

All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. 1 Corinthians 10:23

I’ve realized, more than ever, we ought to pray. In prayer, we can bring all our complaints, cares, worries, fears, and anxieties over what is happening in our country.

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. Philippians 4:6

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 1 Timothy 2:1-2

In prayer, we acknowledge that we are sinful and tend to worry. In prayer, we bring all these things to the proper authority. There, God will meet us and assure us He is sovereign.

As I began to think about these things, I checked my heart and motivation. What did I hope to achieve? To have more people on my side? (nope) Knock some sense into them? (probably) Just air my grievance for friends to know where I stand? (a little)

Ultimately, to what end?

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and these other social media platforms, are powerful platforms. They are neutral in themselves. We can either choose to use these platforms to glorify God, or turn people away from God, through our words and actions. My prayer is that we choose to use it in a God-honoring way.

I am still learning these lessons, and in the past have failed by sharing my thoughts needlessly. I have realized, more than anyone, it is God to whom I should be sharing my thoughts and anxieties, and allow Him through His Spirit to work through my heart; to help me be prayerful instead of critical; to see the good instead of the bad. Situations do not make character; they reveal them. My prayer for you and I is that we will develop the spiritual maturity in responding, as we ought to.

prau

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For we are commanded to go

Being part of Campus Crusade for Christ during my college years is something I’ll always be grateful for. Prior to joining CCC, I didn’t know how to share the gospel. I also wasn’t part of a discipleship group so naturally I didn’t know how important being part of a small group was, until I joined CCC.

There are a lot of great things to take away from being a member of a campus-based ministry such as CCC. I always encourage students to join campus-based ministries because it’s one of the best ways to maximize the opportunities in college as a Christian student. Though I admit that it’s not a perfect organization much in the same way the church is not perfect, I think even those who didn’t have as great an experience as I had will admit that involvement in these organizations helped shape or build the foundation of our faith.

Let me equate involvement with CCC as the same as involvement in a small group which, in essence, it is. In CCC, I learned how to effectively communicate my faith and share the gospel. We used tracts, the famous yellow booklet known as The 4 Spiritual Laws.

The Four Spiritual Laws – Campus Crusade for Christ material

I learned how to deepen my faith intellectually and practically. Through CCC, I also was able to do Classroom Evangelisms (CE) where we share the gospel in classroom settings inside our campus. Having this kind of experience does something to your confidence – not in yourself, but in God’s power, because we always were aware that unless God moves, everything is in vain.

I have shared the gospel to countless number of people through my involvement with CCC. I’ve also encountered all kinds of people while witnessing – from atheists, to agnostics, to intellectuals, to leftists – and have gotten a fair share of rejection, persecution, and mockery because of my faith. But I’ve also met eternal friends in CCC – friends who journey with me through my ups and downs and everything in between. I can say I had a great college experience because of my involvement with CCC.

Then one day, something happened.

I graduated.

With some of my batchmates, UPB Batch 2007

And slowly, I saw that the things I had gotten used to doing while in college – sharing the gospel spontaneously, conducting bible studies and building my discipleship group – faded, one by one.

I think for the graduate who just left the ‘home’ he has known for 4 years of his life, there are three great challenges: continuity, consistency and commitment.

I find this truth at work here: Being involved IN a campus-based ministry is a preparation for life OUTSIDE the campus. That is, even after leaving what may be considered your comfort zone, you can go on your way because you have been equipped. At least, that’s what we all hope and pray for.

But it’s not always the case. This is not a failure on the part of CCC, or the church, for example, because ultimately growth is an individual thing. Continuity, consistency, commitment – these have far less to do with non-involvement in ministry or church and more to do with spiritual maturity and growth. And for me, then, it took a while before I learned that it’s not about what I did before but that it’s about continuing the LIFESTYLE of before. Witnessing should be a lifestyle. Many things ‘got’ into the way: Looking for work, quarter-life crisis, the realities of adulthood, and just life in general. These are all valid, of course, but they do tend to steer us away from doing what really matters – “Going Out” and Making Disciples, Teaching them to Observe all things God has commanded us (Matthew 28:19-20)

My whole point is this: Many young Christians, myself included, when we graduated from college, our ‘involvement’ in doing God’s work also graduated – when it shouldn’t be because doing God’s work should be our lifestyle. Or maybe, in the first place, Christians weren’t doing God’s work to being with. It’s not about  being a missionary in the sense of going out THERE – realistically not everyone can, but we are to be missionaries where God has placed us – to become a blessing where we have the opportunity.

This truth was never more pronounced in my life than when I joined the OJ Bicol, organized by no other than Campus Crusade for Christ, last April 23-30, 2013.

Photo taken from PCCC website.

Every year, CCC has an annual missions trip called Operation Jabez, so named after the famous prayer of Jabez in 1 Chronicles 4:10

And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested.

The ‘format’ of OJ has largely been the same every year – mass evangelism, high saturation. Share with as many people as we can, then turn them over to the partner local churches. Of course God has done many mighty things through the OJs before and it has resulted in a lot of saved lives – but this year, the format of OJ was changed to adopt the T4T method.

Very briefly, T4T is:

One of the most dynamic Church Planting Movements in the world is unfolding today in Asia, through a mighty work of God called “Training for Trainers,” or “T4T.” T4T is not a Western invention. It was developed by an Asian-American missionary named Ying Kai. Overwhelmed by the millions of lost souls surrounding him in Asia, Ying asked God to show him how he could be more fruitful.

God taught Ying to go beyond his limited vision of planting churches, and showed him how he could train a continually multiplying number of church planter trainers. The result was what Ying called T4T, Training for Trainers. In less than a decade, T4T had multiplied a small band of disciples into a movement of more than 80,000 new churches with more than 2 million baptisms.

Today, Ying’s T4T training is being adapted in communities around the world resulting in many new movements to Christ from Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, and secular background communities. – What is T4T, http://t4tonline.org/about/what-is-t4t/

One of the ideas behind T4T is equipping by training Christians, in the case of this OJ Bicol, the church member, to train other Christians who will train other Christians to build home churches. It is essentially a church-planting movement designed after the Acts New Testament account.

There was a realization that the greater need lay in the equipping of the local churches because without it, they will not be able to effectively follow-through the people who received Christ during the OJ evangelism in their areas, nor will they be able to ‘replicate’ the process. There was a need to empower them so that even after the OJ is finished, they can continue the work that was started. This was the premise and goal of the OJ Bicol.

The assigned area for CCC-IloCor (Ilocos-Cordillera, where I am part of because I’m an alum of UP Baguio) was Manito, a small town and not even a city of Bicol. I mention this because the original vision behind OJ Bicol was to target “key cities”, the largest cities, of Bicol. God had orchestrated the circumstances so that this seemingly insignificant town of Manito became, against all odds, part of the OJ – and it was a fulfillment of many faithful men’s dreams.

Kuya Aboy – one of my favorite speakers (He was the speaker on my first CCC event during my 1st year, 2nd semester) and a fellow alum of UPB and CCC , is from Manito. He was the driving force behind the OJ at Manito. He wrote this backgrounder on the state of his home town.

This church is composed of people living in a predominantly agricultural community and is among the poorest municipalities in one of the poorest regions in the Philippines.  All economic activities are based on small scale farming and fishing.  Commerce is limited to a handful of stores.  The town center itself is only comparable to mere barangays (small villages) in other municipalities.

I honestly didn’t know what to expect when we arrived at Manito, because we ourselves were still learning the T4T method, and we had to teach/train members of our partner church this concept. But God, as always, He worked it out and after several days of familiarization and training, we saw our “trainees” on their way to live out the T4T concept and reach out to their families, neighbors, and just people they have been praying for.

Our team with our local church partner at Manito, Bicol
Our team with our local church partner at Manito, Bicol

(From this point–I am writing today, Feb 15, 2014, almost a year removed from that OJ . As usual, I wasn’t able to finish my blog but I’m trying to do this now)

It’s been almost a year since that life-changing OJ/immersion/missions. I can still remember how God worked powerfully on our trainees’ lives that week, where they boldly went out and reached out their neighbors, shared their life stories and ultimately led them to Christ. I remember my trainee, ate Lea. At the time, she recently started a small bakery tindahan inside her house. She is married and has two daughters. Her testimony is quite incredible; she discovered God in Manila while looking for her biological father at the age of 13. She has since then come back to Bicol and start a family. As with most people from Manito, they are very poor.

Ate lea and myself during T4T training. Below, her kids
Ate lea and myself during T4T training. Below, her kids

Over the course of 7 days, I ‘mentored’ her and spent time with her at her house in the municipality of Balasbas near Manito central, where we stayed. It was truly a blessed and humbling experience seeing their way of life. Despite her situation, she is a faithful follower of God. In fact, she has opened her home to be a home church in Balasbas.

During our meetings, I noticed that the bible she was using was a Catholic Bible. It was old and very tattered. I also noticed that her kids do not have children’s bible. She also had only one recipe book (from Booksale) from which she gets her bakery store recipes. I remember a few weeks after OJ that I messaged some friends in Facebook asking for help because I had limited means as a student. I wanted to send ate Lea bibles for her and her children, baking books for her business, and anything that could bless her. I was blessed with the willingness of friends to help. In fact, one friend even asked if there is something else we can do to help her livelihood.

What struck me during and after the OJ was the reality that MOST of the local churches that REALLY need the help (financial, trainings, etc) of the church, the body of christ–christians–are not in the city, thus they are poor and are in far-flung areas. Kuya Aboy made a very compelling point when he mentioned that there has to be a ‘tension’ in the church, where the rich christians should experience being or living with poor christians–and how this just couldn’t be. The fact of the matter is, majority of Filipinos are in poverty, and the reality is that the resources of the church are focused on the few–the middle class–when we should perhaps be equally focusing on reaching out the “unreachable”. It’s a classic missions situation–budget of most churches spend so much more on the building and other stuff than on missions.

I have nothing against “mega churches” – I belong in one, in as far as it being a BIG church. I do grieve, after my experience at Manito, at the fact that there could be so much more well-off churches can do. Or, just plain individuals who can give and use their resources to help small, local churches who are IN the thick of the battle for souls–they are right at the center of where poverty is–and they need training, and finances to sustain their churches.

There is nothing more fulfilling and humbling than being an instrument by God to accomplish his will – that people will go out and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey God and His words, bringing real hope and the good news of Jesus Christ. I started this post by detailing my experience with CCC – it has given me so much exposure to the real work that lies before us, and I truly pray that Christians will actively seek to be involved in missions, be it short or long term–and in church planting–in small groups and making disciples, because I believe that is how we will reach everyone.

35 And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.

36 But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.

37 Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few;

38 Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.

Reminders from the Book of Eli

10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.  Ephesias 6:10-12

Book of Eli Theatrical Poster (from Wikipedia)

I watched for the first time yesterday the Book of Eli. I think this is a film that will make sense to and be enjoyed more by Christians. I read some reviews after watching the film and true enough, I found that majority of ‘critics’ gave mixed reviews. Well, I think in movies, we are all critics (in one way) and there is not one perfect movie that will please everyone – at the end of the day, it’s about preferences and relevance to the viewer. And for me, I found it very relevant. There are several things I took out from the film as timely reminders for me:

  • How blessed I am to have the Bible freely, while in many countries, the Bible is forbidden. Many times, we take this privilege and freedom for granted. I liked the scene where Solara (Mila Kunis) asks Eli (Denzel) what it was like then (the time before the war, the “flash.”) Eli said,

People had more than they needed. We had no idea what was precious and what wasn’t. We threw away things people kill each other for now.”

  • That the Word of God shall stand forever – No one and nothing will be able to destroy the Bible. Many attempts have been made, many have tried to discredit it and change it, but God’s word will stand.
  • The importance of being strengthened and nurtured by the Word of God everyday. In the film, Eli relied on the book for his daily sustenance – as if his life depended on it. And it did! The book nurtured him and sustained him like it was the air he breathes.
  • (Although in the film it was illustrated rather physically), The Bible gives strength to us to fight our daily battles.
  • We live in two worlds – the physical and the spiritual. And we indeed battle against principalities, powers, and spiritual wickedness in high places. This film reminded me to always be prepared.

13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

  • Like most people who gave me their feedback about the film, the ending was really unexpected and very powerful. I don’t want to give spoilers (although people can just read the summary anyway) but the ending, for me, reminded me and challenged me to put the word in my heart – read it, memorize it, give it all diligence, priority and importance that it deserve. Eli said it perfectly:

Write everything exactly as I say it.

It’s a tall order and it is challenging, but we should all try and do it.