Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Connection between the Physical and Spiritual Sacrifice of Jesus

I was asked to prepare for this coming Sunday's children's moment at Corona UMC.  I must admit I dread being asked to do the Children's moment, not because I do not think it is important, I believe that to them the Kingdom of Heaven belongs.  I am nervous because kids are very binary, I am just glad that my Pastor and Church Office Manager gave me the opportunity to study up on it.

First of I cannot emphasize enough how much I love my LOGOS program.  The resource that I have on my fighter tips  is phenomenal.  Best investment I have ever made.

I was asked to speak on John 6:51-59 (English Standard Version) 

"I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum."

Unlike the synoptic gospels the book of John was written without using Mark as a main point of reference.  Written by John around 90 AD - John was wrote this gospel to combat the ever growing Gnostic philosophy.  Which in its foundation it believes that the Spirit which is inherently good and the Physical (Body) inherently evil and that two are separate and cannot dwell in its pure form together.  

That created two immediate contradiction with me:  

First if God is Good and thus he is a spirt, how can God create the physical world?
Second how can they explain Jesus Christ who was man and yet God at the same time?

To explain this, the gnostics came up with Emanations.  One in which he was either a phantom or that Christ entered Jesus at baptism then leave at the beginning of His sufferings.  Hence he was never physically here just appeared to be here.   It was this emanation that allowed God to be less spiritual and more physical enough to create the physical.  

When John records on the verses above that directly combat that blasphemous theory.  Jesus is using a physical act of eating and drinking to save the soul as well as using a deplorable act of cannibalism (which clearly Jesus was not referring to) to do something good.  

As well as in order to do this act the body must be broken and the blood shall be shed.  

It never cease to amaze me the depth the Word of God truly is.  I thank you Lord for allowing me to see and learn this.   

Friday, December 26, 2014

CI Chicago

First night here at CI Chicago. Much smaller group to what I am use to and the biggest shock was that CI is only 4 days long. First person I met was Ian and Edward who was nice enough to pick me up from the airport. I think they were relieved that I entertained them the other way around. Took us two hours to get to camp and I thought the drive on cajalco was dark and deserted this place took  it to another level. 
Once at the campsite went to the basement where all the evening program was taking place. They had an auction thing going on. Donated by staff and campers. Saw some familiar faces of Kathlyn and the Melads (Pastor, Vincent, Dodong, and Angela) as well as Caj and Kath's sister. Then I finally met Ann, James and his team as well as Joash. 

I was ready for the cold but it's hella warm I over packed. So far I love what I'm seeing and its to early to determine anything. But I can see the passion is there and the genuine desire to serve God. So with those ingredients it's got the potential of a huge success. 

Day 2:
First full day of Christmas Institute, I had a chance to finally meet my family group, I haven't instantly made a connection with them yet, but the dynamic is a little different.  First of, most of them never met me before, nor do they know anything about me, but I think I'm hamstring myself and worrying too much about the 45 minutes of family group time.  I need to let the Lord be the one in control of the family group and be the counselor they need me to be.  I'm trying to force something that cannot be forced.  You think by now I would have learned that.  I guess that is one of things the Lord wants me to learn (if not a second time) that GOD is ALWAYS in charge.  I think today I will talk about the Sower and the Seed and then go into the discussion of the one thing GOD cannot do.  

I also had the blessed opportunity to speak during the afternoon service as guest speaker.  I think I was able to find my voice as a speaker, I will go around and ask more campers about if they have found what I said relevant.  I talked about Dr. Dogterom's insight on Jesus calming the Storm, and the exogetical insights that he had brought in when I heard him talk about that.  I of course added my stamp of style on my sermon, where I made it my own.  

I also led a workshop and it was on HT.  I am a little concerned because technically I was suppose to clear that with Tom first, but being in the mountain, its hard to communicate.  They learned the basics of palm and punch with elbow strikes and knee and kicks.  Without any equipment this is the best that I can do.  I also explained the differents anatomy of the tools that we have.  

Day 3 & 4:

I thought I would have time to write down my reflection for dayy 3 but the day's event got away from me.   The morning started off normal, except it was a tough night sleeping again.  It was clear that I was alergic to something in my room.  It probably had something to do with the blanket or the bedsheets.  Either way, I was ichy.  Good thing Kathlyn gave me a blanket for Christmas.  I opened it up and then it covered my chin to my waist.  Apparently the blanket made me choose, which part of me was going  be warm.  It was all sorts of funny, but I knew then that I was not going sleep in that room the following night.  

The schedule was re-shifted a bit instead of me teaching the martial arts workshop in the afternoon, they changed it to the morning.  This time Pastor Romir and his wife joined the class, and this was a little more intense since I actually had an hour and half to teach.  Instead of the 45 minutes alloted.  Then lunch and then break.  THe only thing was that I thought i had more time with my family group, but instead it became one more session and half of my group was missing because they were staff.  

Oh I did have a great talk with Yoann, from Central Africa about the cost of a salvation.  He was genuinely into what I was talking about till we were late  from lunch.  I just pray that I was able to make a small impact on the lives of my family group members.  If there was something I would suggest to change w/NIC CI is that they need to allow more time for family group and less time on workshops, or free time.  

Mr and Ms CI, I must admit I had some strong reservation about this event, since it could construde as a popularity contest, they even had campaign managers and even pitted sisters against each others.  But I was really turned around when the majority of judging was based on wisdom.  So whom am I to say that this does not bring any intringent benefits to the campers.  I think maybe my biased way has planted that if we don't do it mentality then it must be wrong.  This is why I want to get out of California, because we live in such a bublle that anyone or anything that differs from the way "we" think it must be wrong.  How arrogant, being at this CI confirms that.  It was great and the kids had a wonderful time.  Immidietly followed by the talent show night and the "oldies" wanted me to perform with them.  I don't know if I declined respectfully or not, but I believe that old guys like myself should not use that time to showcase my talents but to showcase that of the kids.  Or maybe I was just too arrogant again.  Man I really need to work on that.  

After that was the commitment night service and Pastor Hannah did a beautiful job and delivered a wonderful message, and I was honored to be asked to pray for the campers who commit and or re-commit to Christ.  Never fails, there I was praying for these campers as they share their burdens to GOD.  Thank you Lord for that moment where these campers lives and help them in the times of sorrow.  I am truly honored.  

After that it was free time, yet the pastor's and I stayed behind to see if there was anyone needing counseling.  Although I am not going to say who or what this person shared, but my past experience related to this person.  But I could not help but bring back issues that I had gone through.  

Then it was an impromptu smores session and Talent Showcase II, started w/Pastor Lindsay grabbing the guitar and singing.  THen Pastor Romir grabbed the mic and started calling others to perform.  Jay, was an opera tenor and had a beautiful voice and even asked Yoann to translate a song from Romeo and Juliet that he sang in French.  Gorgeous.   

After that we Micah asked anyone wanted to play Mafia.  I asked what their rules and how to play, and it was definelty different from the Mafia I played.  We tried the Chicago style first and it was different.  THe moderator was more involved and was the key to the game.  He had  the special task of createing a story that needs to be immaginative.  Then we played KILLER CALI style, I know I am trying not to be this arrogant California guest, but I am going to say it.  Killer CALI version is better IHMO, and iin the end some if not preferred thhat better that Killer Cali style.  Micah and Jay said so, and even those who was there to observe liked it.  We played a few more rounds and there was a round where I won (townspeople).  

Came back to the room around 2 AM and decided to sleep on the couch.  At least I wasn't sctratching anymore.  Woke up around 10 AM and breakfast was over. But we did have pizza not the Chicago famous pizza.  What can u do. 

Overall I had a blast at this CI. Was it different from what I am use to? Yes, are they as big (attendance wise) as what I am use to? Definitely. But is this any less of a Christmas Institute NO. The people's genuine love for God shines through everything that they do.  And it brings joy to my heart that this is happening at the same night in other parts of the world. I am just blessed and honored to be a part of it. Thank you to God and my Chicago friends and family. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Construction Zone on the Road to Salvation

Our Lord has told us specifically that the road to salvation is difficult. Well at this point the road is under construction. For southern Californians we all know that construction in the freeway means many things.  Do we sit in traffic and hope that we don't wait too long?  Then have you ever noticed that when you do pull to the construction site there are about 5-7 guys standing around and only one person is working?  How about when the freeway has 5 lanes and it merges into one? You look over to the carpool lane and do you think? Do I feel lucky? Or we do we take a detour and try to find a better route. These are the things were we roll the dice and hope for the best. 

Well I'm on this road now and it's traffic it's the middle of the day, and I need to only drive five miles and I've been stuck for 2 hours. Should I exit or stick it out? Should I turn around and go home? It's difficult to know exactly what The Lord wants us to do.  

So instead of trying to figure out what to do or where should we go? How about we let Jesus be the driver of our lives? It may be traffic, it may be long, but only God knows the way. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

NAFAUM and the Young People's Mission

The millennial issue has been a problem for many of the established churches and the United Methodist Church is not exception.  Many theories have arisen as to what could be the leading cause of the exodus of younger generations leaving the churches.  One theory suggest that since the idea of a youth pastor/director was never a part of God's plan since there are no mention of any youth director ever mentioned in the Bible, so the source of a child's spiritual formation should not be anyone else but their parents.  Another theory is that since the churches are so old fashioned with their old hymns and sermons that do not speak to the issues of the younger generations.  Thus finding themselves either finding their spiritual feeding somewhere else or find the church to be a chore and not attend at all.  Another theory is that the youth are regarded as second classes members of the body of Christ.  Thus not being included in the development of the Church or any vital areas of the ministry.  Given enough time I am sure that their are many other theories as to why young is leaving the church.

I believe that it is all those issues and needs to be addressed if our beloved Church is to survive.

The NAFAUM Young People Core Team this year tried to addressed as many of the issues by not trying to dodge the issues but attack them head on.

So NAFAUM 2013 held at Riviera United Methodist Church the Young People core comprised by Kathylyn Talapian from Illinois, Allen Navarro from Northern California, Rachel Wu and Sara Agtarap from the Pacific Northwest, and Katerina DePano and myself from Southern California all leaders of their own respective Christmas Institute tackled each of these issues with programs such as Utilizing Social Networks workshop lead by United Methodist Communications' Minister of Online Engagement  shared to the next generation of leaders how the utilization of Social Networks can be a powerful tool of spreading the Good News from all corners of this Earth.  Then a workshop in Filipino Martial Arts lead by Filipino Martial Arts School owner Guro Francis Thomas B. Serrano (Myself) closed of the day of workshops.

On day two, for the first time in NAFAUM's 100 years history, a panel of Pastors and Lay Leaders participated in an open forum discussions of today's issues such as same sex marriages, health care reforms, immigration reforms, abortions and death penalty and where the United Methodist Church stood in these issues.  What made this even so important we allowed anyone to be able to ask questions about these issues and hear from different sides of the spectrum.  Lay persons such as Katerina DePano, Manang Ely Del Rosario, Pastor Glen Haworth, Pastor Amy Barker, and Pastor Richard Bentley did not duct any question and was ready to show to the audience that they do not all agree with everything written down on the United Methodist's social principles.  But that it was our diversity is what makes us a United Methodist. 

There were so many wonderful events including the amazing Filipino race and the YP congress. But Rachel and Sara who lead the planning for the CI Reunion gave everyone old and young alike a glimpse of CI from all over the United States. The photo montage that was put together was beautiful, and to see the old photos again was both embarrassing and funny. But what the rest of NAFAUM saw  was this is where our leaders are born and that CI needs to be supported if we want to continue to foster the next group of leaders. 

The last memorable moment for me is the Young People's Service. Our keynote sermon given by our very own Bishop Minerva G. CarcaƱo, with performances by Prayer of Jabez from IL, Fellowship UMC from Vallejo, CA and a dance also from IL. 

Over all the experience gave a sense of CI in July and one that has sparked the sense of service in me to continue to serve. And to the team, well done. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Sanctity of Marriage

Right now the Supreme Courts of the United States of America (SCOTUS) are hearing arguments regarding same sex marriage. And as a christian man and especially as a candidate for ministry I am asked as to why I support same sex marriage. I want to clarify my position.

1. The question to me was never is homosexuality a sin. When it clearly states in the bible that it is. I have not read anything that contradicts that hence I will not ever preside a same sex wedding ceremony. I will attend one and support my friends and loved ones who choose to marry but I will not officiate one. That's not supporting their lifestyle but loving those who I do love.

2. What the issue at hand really is not about same sex marriage that concerns me. Is that we the people are giving our government the authority to legislate who can and cannot get married. This is not the role of the government and I am so confused how my republican brother and sisters who oppose big government to allow this happen. This is a step forward in regulating our religious ceremonies. Which the government has no right to be part of. If we say that two same gendered individuals cannot get married then whose to say that a couple of mixed culture cannot get married? Or a couple of different heights, age etc...I choose who I want to marry and in order for me to have the right to marry whomever I chose then I must afford that same right to ALL. Freedom of Speech is not exercised when I say whatever I want. It is exercised when I allow someone else to say something in complete contradiction to what I believe. And it must be afforded to all or none at all.

3. Sanctity of marriage??? If we as Christians really want to start waving the flag of the defense of the sanctity of marriage then we must defend the whole cause not just the things that you all like. Where is the defenders when our country/society has at least 50% of all marriages end in divorce. Or how people marry not because of love but out of financial convenience or immigration? Yet there are no protest about these things because as a society we crave the stories of celebrities marrying and divorcing and sleeping around from one partner to the next. A movie starring Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock starred in a movie called the Proposal where Canadian played by Bullock begged Reynolds character to marry her so she can stay in this country. While the only antagonist in the movie was the INS worker who investigated against this false union. All the while in their personal lives Sandra Bullock was going through a divorce with husband Jesse James and Reynolds was also midst of divorce with Scarlett Johansen. Now I'm not saying that they planned their divorces at a strategic moment but that movie grossed over $300 million dollars worldwide. Society has accepted this and not only is this tolerable it's now marketable. (Side note: Great movie though)

BOTTOM LINE: We as Christians have become lazy and only choosing what we want to defend instead of defending the entire cause. We have relegated our core beliefs as a buffet by choosing want we want and ignoring the rest. And I do not give the government the right to choose who I am going to be happy with. That's none of their business and neither is it yours.

I pray that we accept each other and do what Christ has commanded us to do which is by loving each other. Not judging each other.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Into Thy Hands... I lift him up - Goodbye Dr. De Lara

Into thy hands I lift him up 
by: Francis Thomas B. Serrano

He was my teacher
Educated me in compassion
Encouraged me in achieving
Empowered me to never give up

He was my friend
Stood up for me when no one else would
Prayed for me, when times looked at its bleakest
Talked to me when I need to listen
and listened to me when I needed to be heard

He IS my friend
For he showed me what a real Christian Man is
And loved me like a son when I was just a stranger
and now he prepares a place for me
for when we see each other again.

Goodbye Dr. Greg De Lara, thanks for believing...

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Necessity of Suffering

Suffering has always been a part of life.  We have all accepted this and have come up with cliche such as Pain is nothing more than to remind us that we are alive, or suffering allows us to appreciate life.

I agree with those statements, but why would a loving God include suffering to be a part of our lives to begin with?

Suffering has been at the bedrock of time itself.  It has been said that suffering is a direct result of man's disobedience to God, but going with that logic that means that suffering was not there before original sin occurred.  I argue that suffering has been present even before original sin but did not manifest itself until the sin has occurred.  In Genesis 3:3, "But from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.'"  This was a warning to Adam and Eve that if they ate from the tree which God commanded them not to eat then they will unleash death.  Which can be used as some form of suffering. Since God used death in the context of consequence to an action.  Secondly when Job was asking God as to why he is suffering God's response was, "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the Earth?" (Job 38:4 NASB) God is pointing out to Job that to understand why suffering exist you must understand how God created the world.

But suffering is also God's way of communicating to to us.  Through trials and tribulation we learn what God wants from us by refining us and tempering us to be stronger and more capable of handling heavier loads.  Psalm 66:10 beautifully brings this up as David compared it to silver's refining process.

In the end suffering is a necessary element so that God's people would be needing a rescuer.  Which He does by sending Jesus to be the ultimate being to carry the ultimate suffering.  And because of this God shows us how much he is willing to suffer for his Children.