Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My Birthday Meditations

The following were my birthday meditations. Hope they could somehow edify you.
Meditation #1: Don’t Waste Your Funeral! 
August 29it was my birthday! About 5 in the morning I was already awakened by some loud chats of people inside our living room. That was strange. My birthday is too trivial for such an unusually noisy morning. Something bigger must have happened.  After a while, I found out that my Uncle Ben has just died. And for some reasons, the 6-day funeral must be done at our house. I sighed. Though I wasn’t expecting a joyful celebration on my birthday, I also wasn’t expecting such a mournful incident on my birthday!
Death and funeral, therefore, filled my mind. I remembered that the last time there was a funeral at our home was 6 years ago. I don’t like what happened back then! There were many noisy diverse persons who were only gambling and filling their bellies with food and alcohol inside and around our house for nights!  So I thought of what it means to have a God-glorifying funeral.
The following is how I want my funeral to be (though I hope not too soon):
a.    If I can’t have my funeral, that’s fine. Let the people know it’s not necessary. My soul will be with the Lord, and my future incorruptible body is assured.
b.    But if I’ll have my funeral, let it not be mainly about mourning. Granted, emotional pain is unavoidable. But let not the mourning be too long. That will only make the people think that my hope of life is gone. Let them know I have the hope of resurrection. Let it last for at most three days.
c.    Don’t spend much money. Don’t buy much foods and drinks. Let my funeral, burial and grave be simple. Spend more money for the living than for the dead.
d.    Don’t even let anyone smoke or drink liquor. Let them know I hate those things. Let them know those are not for Christians. Let not people babble, gamble and get drunk. These things will only make the people embrace procrastination and worldliness.
e.    If my life is Christ-centered and my death is Christ-centered, my funeral (if there will be) must also be Christ-centered! Therefore, let them not talk about me too much. Let them talk about Christ! Let there be preaching, Bible studies and fellowship. Let there be singing of hymns and spiritual songs. Let them think about the reality of death and eternal life.
Hope my family – present and future – would be able to read these. I hope they won’t waste my funeral. I hope they’ll make it God-glorifying.

Meditation #2: I Can’t Buy Socks? 
Since the funeral service will be at the living room, we needed to temporarily remove some appliances and bring them upstairs. I and my sister helped each other. After doing so, my sister told me that she and my mentor (her bestfriend) have a gift for me. “Wow, I got a new book!”, I thought. But what my hands received were pairs of new socks. Then my sister smilingly commented, “Nard [my mentor] said to me, ‘let’s buy what he can’t buy’.” What?! That statement struck me.  I can’t buy socks??? I know and they know that, technically, I can. I guess they said that because I find buying such things waste of money. I spend my money sometimes on foods, sometimes on techie stuffs, and most of the time on Christian books. But seldom do I buy stuffs for my body. “A jeans worth P600.00 is three books already!” is what I often say. I just know that if I have to treasure heavenly things, spending my money on Christian booksearthly things containing heavenly messagesis the right thing to do. And, maybe, that was also because I experienced many provisions from the Lord whenever I need such things. Polo-shirts from my mentor, pants from my brother and toothbrushes from my sister, just to name a few.
By that day, I wore my new socks instead of the worn-out ones. My feet felt comfortable. I never thought of that before (LOL). Furthermore, my soul was glad. And that wasn’t only because I had the new socks I “cannot” buy but also because those socks somehow affirm that I don’t have a worldly lifestyle. That gift of pairs of socks somehow says that I’m being sanctified by God. And sanctification is a more precious gift. Thank God!

Meditation #3: The Lord’s Day Above My Birthday 
I received some greetings through text messages and through facebook. But, except the no-more-to-be-paid-hundred-peso I borrowed from my other sister (and some promises from friendsI hope they won’t forget! ^_^), the pairs of socks were the only gift I received on that birthday. But I was absolutely fine. My birthday was Sunday. Actually, what I was thinking of early in the morning was our New Testament Survey. I was too tired the night before that so I failed to finish preparing our John-12 lesson. That’s why as soon as the house preparation was done, I hurriedly left the house, went straight to a vacant room of our church’s school, and finished the lesson there. Yes, people meeting me greeted me “Happy Birthday” yet I still felt like the rest of the day was too ordinary. I just did what I used to do. And I still am sleep-deprived (Guess I got insomnia).
Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful to God for another year in my life. But I don’t value my birthday more than the Lord’s Day. I knew I’ll be more pissed off if I messed up as I taught God’s word than if I got no birthday greetings. That’s why I often don’t understand people spending their Sundays outside the church.
The Lord’s Day must be more important than my birthday because God is more important than anyone else. Worshiping Him is our end. My reply to the greetings I received from some fellow-Christians on that Sunday was: “Let’s continue turning the world upside down, okay? My birthday is far less valuable than that. Soli Deo Gloria!”

Meditation #4: DebutWho Cares?! 
I think I didn’t mention something. That was my 21st birthday. For many people, that really mattered because from that day onwards, the society would expect males to sober up and act maturely as an adult. The problem is that I don’t buy that myth of adolescence. I am seriously enjoying doing hard things ever since I became a Christian, be it for career, family, or ministry. I was (and still am) always mindful of preparing for and fulfilling my future (big) dreams. And thanks to the Harris twins, this truth became clearer: Debut really didn’t matter. What matters is a mature mindset that radically and relentlessly aims to maximize your God-given potential in this world that needs you, even if it doesn’t acknowledge that. Getting older and maturing are different things. The former is inevitable while the latter is on our hands! If you’re a teen, don’t waste your teenage years having fun and leisure, thinking that you’ll eventually mature someday. What you do today will largely shape your future! Waste your time now and you’ll most probably end up wasting it again tomorrow. Do hard things NOW and you’ll have an incomparably enjoyable and enviably fruitful future. Step out of your comfort zones. Do hard things.
What I did a day after my birthday may be an example (though this maybe is just a small thing to some). Early Monday morning (August 30) I woke up seeing my Auntie Gloria, wife of Uncle Ben, sitting in front of her husband's coffin. I felt that God was calling me to share the gospel to her. So after saying a prayer, I decided to share 1 Corinthians 15. I was nervous and hesitant because we don’t usually talk. But, in spite of my fear, I still went down and asked her if she would like to hear me share something from the Bible. She responded positively and after saying only few words I saw tears bursting out. I admit that evangelism wasn’t easy by that time. She constantly wept and spoke more about her dead husband. But at least I can say that I faithfully mentioned the gospel essentials and I managed to show genuine sympathyall by the grace of God.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Young Methodist's Evaluation of UMC

Last January, I attended a Methodist Lay Seminar (I am, by the way, a 20-year-old Methodist). A lecturer gave us this assignment one day: 
Write an article that shows the areas in United Methodist Church where you see "unbelief", and note what you can do to change them.  
The following was what I submitted (sorry, it's a bit long).
Before all else, let me first clarify that I will broadly define “unbelief” here. I took it to mean “not believing what is openly taught by the Scriptures”, whether they know it already or not yet (for even Christians do call those who have not yet heard the gospel as “unbelievers”). Ignorance of biblical teaching is, in a sense, “unbelief” because just as the general revelation of God in His creation is open so is the Scriptures very accessible to our church today.
Doubtless the primary source of unbelief is the pulpit, the supposed place where all forms of unbelief are exposed. The pulpit is as open as the pews. Anyonepoliticians, businessmen, unlearned laymen, heretics, etc.who desires to preach is accepted, ignoring the warning of James not to make everyone a teacher (how much more with preachers!) and of John to test every spirit. Some people might find that statement exaggerated but I’ve already heard so much ugly statements from the pulpit–-statements which distort the trinity (e.g., “Jesus is the Father”), which teaches salvation by works (e.g., “give for the church building so that your name may be written in heaven”), which promotes universalism, which teaches easy-believism, which affirms positive confession (e.g., “if you proclaim it, it will happen”), and many other intolerable false teachings, which are not only offensive to United Methodism but also to Evangelicalism. And the saddest part is that the pastor most of the time calls it “beautiful” and that the congregation applauds them. And it’s not only in the pulpit. I know one Sunday school teacher who is a fanatic of Apollo Quiboloy, founder of that Oneness cult. For me, our church is ignorantly embracing a reckless faith.

I believe that the deeper reason for that, which I’ll classify as the second area, lies in Christian Education (or should I call it, Christian Mis-education?). Hermeneutics has become an alien word to the postmodern church. You can rarely hear good expositions in the pulpit and in teaching ministries. And its importance is never emphasized.  Figurative and subjective interpretations are tolerated. Morality is far more valued than doctrines as if false doctrines are not deadly. Traditional celebrations are desired more than educational ones (like completely reading a book in the Bible, finishing a Sunday school set of lessons, etc.) And we know in Acts 2 that this is not the pattern. The first step is growing in the apostles’ doctrine. You missed that, you’ll miss the rest. Not to miss that means being grounded in hermeneutics. In fact, eisegesis is the common denominator of all Christian cults. For me, despite our sound creeds and confessions, our church is ignorantly embracing a cultic foundation.
The third area, which springs from the first two aforementioned ones, is the church’s testimony. Because the church has become careless in doctrines, it has also become careless in discipline. With a distorted view of grace, the church tolerates many sins of its members. One obvious sin is in attendance. The author of Hebrews commands us to meet often. And this I believe is a sickness stuck in almost all Methodist churches. How many Methodist churches are truly concerned with true membership? There’s a part in our liturgies where birthdays of members are written and I usually read there names of people whom I do not know, whom I know but no longer attends for a very long time, who attends other denomination already, and sometimes who are already deceased. The church failed to distinguish those who are in the inside from those who are in the outside. This is largely the pastor’s mistake. It’s his duty to make sure as much as he could that the visible church he administers and feeds is a part of the universal church. That is, he should make sure as much as he could that the members are true believers. This he can do by exercising church discipline, making sure that all his members bear fruit, since they all profess to be believers. And obviously who can bear fruit if he is not there? Long, unexplained nonattendance must imply self-excommunication already. In fact, joy in the company of the saints is an inevitable fruit of a true Christian. Church discipline does not mean forsaking the person. This is showing the person who he truly is so that the church may know its proper loving action toward him, whether evangelism (for unbelievers) or edification/restoration (for true believers). And the Bible teaches this in Matthew 18 and many other passages. The church forsook discipline because of unbiblical definition of love so the church’s testimony degraded. Consequently, evangelism is watered down. That is reasonable. We cannot convince the world to enter the church if they don’t see the church having any difference with the world other than religious rituals. No matter how diligent we are in our efforts to save people whom we call ‘unbelievers’ if we live just like them, we will only appear hypocrites to them.
For my five years of Christian life, I am both glad and sorrowful to know these. I’m glad because God showed me these errors. I’m sorrowful because these are grave errors of the church I belong and love. I long for a reformation and I know I have some things to do to achieve it. First is to make sure I’ll have a renewed mind and a Spirit-filled life. I must have a sound belief and practice, and still be zealous for the glory of God. Second, as a youth, I should make sure that my generation would also have the same character I desire for myself. This I will do through leadership, teaching, and being an example. Third, I should do my best to strengthen the laymen in all churches as much as possible by promoting holiness just as Wesley did. Lastly, if the Lord will call me, I will enter the seminary and become a devoted professor and scholar or a Scripture-saturated pastor.


Some may doubt my credibility but they should first evaluate this young man's theology ere abandoning his opinion. I pray that UMC would someday be blessed with renewal, reformation and revival.