Category Archives: POWER THOUGHTS

Why bother with theology?

I’m currently reading Dug Down Deep by Joshua Harris. The book talks a lot about three words that make most people squirm (myself included): theology, orthodoxy, and doctrine. I don’t often read books like this one, but I pushed myself to give it a try. In the first chapter, Harris already gave me a good reason to read further. I want to share with you what stood out for me, because I think he wrote it beautifully:

“I’ve come to learn that theology matters. And it matters not because we want a good grade on a test but because what we know about God shapes the way we think and live. What you believe about God’s nature–what he is like, what he wants from you, and whether or not you will answer to him–affects every part of your life.”

He goes on to write:

“I know the idea of ‘studying’ God often rubs people the wrong way. It sounds cold and theoretical, as if God were a frog carcass to dissect in a lab or a set of ideas that we memorize like math proofs.

But studying God doesn’t have to be like that. You can study him the way you study a sunset that leaves you speechless. You can study him the way a man studies the wife he passionately loves. Does anyone fault him for noting her every like and dislike? Is it clinical for him to desire to know the thoughts and longings of her heart? Or to want to hear her speak?

Knowledge doesn’t have to be dry and lifeless. And when you think about it, exactly what is our alternative? Ignorance? Falsehood?

We are either building our lives on the reality of what God is truly like and what he’s about, or we’re basing our lives on our own imagination and misconceptions.

We’re all theologians. The question is whether what we know about God is true.”

Joshua Harris, Dug Down Deep

I like how he said that studying God can be like studying a sunset. Just last night, I saw the star-filled sky and it took my breath away. I could’ve easily missed it if I didn’t stop and look up.

For me, getting to know God is sort of like that. Whenever I manage to take the time to stop and really offer up and open up my senses to Him, He always takes my breath away.

What do we know about God? How does that affect the way that we live?

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You have a special message to deliver. Do you know what it is?

Did you know that you’re a messenger?

You are. In fact, we’re all messengers.

Every day, our lives carry messages. Some of these can be messages of love and hope, and some can be messages of bitterness and anger. The options are endless. Every life tells a different story, and every story is made up of different messages.

Do you know what messages you carry? Are your messages getting to where they need to be?

I’ll help you answer those in a bit, but first, let me put the spotlight on two groups of people who are telling great stories and broadcasting life-changing messages:

True Love Waits

In last Friday’s edition of The Philippine Star, there was an article written by Maria Jorica B. Pamintuan entitled, Love is not that 3-letter word.

It’s a feature on  True Love Waits (TLW) Philippines, one of the organizations that I support and volunteer for. As I was reading the article, I was reminded of why I decided to volunteer for them in the first place. Please take the time to read it here.

Team TLW (Photo by Ree Soria)

I am constantly inspired by the team behind True Love Waits Philippines. Their passion to reach  and help young people is extraordinary. There’s Derek Ross, the National Director of True Love Waits Philippines, and his wife Amanda, and there’s Ree, Franco, Oda, Leslie, and Christin–the passionate and tireless TLW coordinators. All these people pour their hearts out into the work that they do, so that they can make a difference in the lives of students. These people travel constantly, bringing their love and compassion to young people all over the Philippines. Their schedules are hectic, and they really travel far distances (hello Butuan!), but you’ll never hear them complain. For them, what matters is getting their life-saving and life-changing messages to the people who need them the most.

The Smokey Mountain youth

Smokey Mountain in Tondo, Manila is one of the biggest slum areas in the Philippines. It is, however, a place with lots of hope. And I say that, because I look at the young people there and the groups that have invested in them and I believe that change is coming.

That's my brother, Toby (who is also the current Manila Jaycees president), throwing the ceremonial 1st pitch

Last Saturday, I took a trip to Smokey Mountain to pay a visit to the Young Focus Student Center where I do some volunteer work, but also to witness the turnover of a baseball field–aptly called the Field of Dreams–which was a project of Junior Chamber International-Manila (also known as the Manila Jaycees). It was a BIG day for the kids of Smokey Mountain, because they finally got to have their own field where they could run and play without worrying about potholes, shards of glass, and untrimmed grass.

It was a special day indeed, but what made the day even more awesome was seeing some of my former students from Young Focus covering the event as bloggers! Turns out, the Jaycees had another project together with Young Focus (YF which is a non-profit organization that does a lot of great work for the children and teenagers from Smokey Mountain). The project is called Buhay Ko sa Smokey Mountain (My Life in Smokey Mountain), and it was conceptualized as a way for these young people to tell their stories, and in effect, increase awareness of what they–and others–go through in their part of the city.

I like that it’s such a unique idea. These students have a lot to say and they need outlets for their thoughts. What better way to get their messages out there?

Reading some of the blogs, I experience a wide range of emotions. On the one hand, Rameses wrote a very insightful and patriotic post about President Aquino’s State of the Nation Address, and Glenn shared his phenomenal perspective on life at Smokey Mountain (and where it’s going in the future!) through this post. But then I read a post like this one written by Edmon and I can’t help but be sad, and at the same time, also be in awe of the way he still lives with hope and perseverance (if you’d see his smiling face, you’d know what I mean!)

When you have the time, please drop by their blogs and encourage them with some comments! Most of them are written in Filipino, but they’ve been trained to take photos and videos, so you’ll see a lot of those in their blogs, too :)

I mention all of these people from True Love Waits and Smokey Mountain because they’re examples of extraordinary messengers. They’ve got messages–special, meaningful, uncommon, inspiring messages. But they don’t stop there. They work at delivering their messages. They do what they can to get their messages to where they need to be.

Now back to you and me.

We all carry messages. And I believe each person has at least one special message to share (although I’m sure there’s more)! Inside of each person, there can be a message of hope, acceptance, love, mercy, grace, commitment, passion, loyalty…like I said, the list goes on.

This week, I want to encourage you:

1) Ask yourself these questions: What messages do I carry? What burns in my heart? Who do I want to share these with? Draw those messages out. Some examples:

  • I want to help young girls understand what true beauty is.
  • I want to give young boys a vision of leading the nation.
  • I want to tell orphans that they’re loved and not forgotten.
  • I want to tell people struggling with alcoholism that there’s hope.

2) Once you’ve got the idea, do the next thing that will make all the difference: Take your message and deliver it. Don’t let your ideas and thoughts die. Write them down. Map them. Blog about them. Tell your friend about them. Draft that letter. Record that song. Do some research. Start moving. Take those steps, one day at a time.

Don’t know where to start? You can check out some blog posts I wrote a while back about volunteering: part 1 and part 2. Whether or not you’re interested in doing volunteer work, some of the principles might help you in your delivery journey.

Are you already out there, sharing your message to the world? Tell us about it!

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A powerful insight about grace

USC professor and author Dallas Willard

Early this year, I had the privilege of seeing and hearing philosopher, professor, and author Dallas Willard speak in person at the Catalyst West 2010 conference, where he was interviewed on stage by one of my favorite authors and speakers, John Ortberg.

This session was one of the highlights of the conference for me. Willard is not only brilliant and deep, he’s incredibly funny and witty, too. A guy named Jake Ishmael even tweeted: “Dallas Willard makes Yoda look like an idiot.” Sorry to all the Star Wars fans, but I have to agree!

Willard had several Twitter-worthy statements, but there was one that still resonates with me today:

“Grace doesn’t make us passive…
We have to understand, grace is not opposed to effort.
It’s opposed to earning.
Effort is action. Earning is attitude.
You can’t mix God’s action with you with
the idea that ‘I’m earning this’.
That’s the wrong basis for the relationship.”

You can view part of the interview here: (the part about grace begins at 1:54)

While I was doing my research for this post, I came across a transcript of some remarks given by Dallas Willard at the C.S. Lewis Foundation Summer Conference at the University of San Diego. I think it just changed me. If you’re a teacher, you might want to read it.

Since I don’t know how to reach him, I’ll just say this here: thank you, Mr. Willard, for opening my mind and speaking to my heart.

What can you say about effort vs. earning? Does this insight help you?

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John Ortberg – “The Me I Want to Be” @ North Point Community Church

I’m listening to this message by author John Ortberg at North Point Community Church. I had to hit the pause button to type this quote in. Powerful!

“What do you do when Dow Jones is down, the Nasdaq is down, housing values are down…consumer confidence is down, employment is down, commercial real estate is down and you wonder, is anything going up these days? Well, some things are going up. The opportunity to serve people, that’s going up. The market for hope, that’s going up. The chance to build a life on a foundation that will endure through storms, that’s going up. And that’s true, because certain fundamentals remain unchanged. God remains sovereign, the beauty of forgiveness is still greater than the stain of sin, the Bible is still the word of God. Prayer remains the most remarkable communication available to the human race. Love still defeats bigotry, faith still beats despair. The greatest scandal in this sorry, dark world is still the scandal of the Cross, God’s mercies are still new every morning, the tomb is still empty, the Church is still marching, the kingdom Jesus announced is still expanding and does not need a bailout or a stimulus package. That’s the good news.”

This podcast is full of gems!

“Your life is not primarily your project. We all think it is, but it’s not. Your life is God’s project. The apostle Paul put it like this: ‘For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.’ God made you, and then God made certain things for you to do, and they are uniquely designed for you to do. You are not your handiwork. Only God fully knows what you are intended to look like. Only God knows what your full potential is. And God is more committed to your reaching that potential than you are. The best version of you. And God is guiding that process is all the time, and he has all kinds of tools at His disposal. And He is very patient and He never gets discouraged.”

Do you want to hear more? Listen to the podcast by downloading it on iTunes.

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If you liked this, you might be interested in these related posts:

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Superhero series: C.S. Lewis

From time to time, I feature some people or groups that I think are pretty awesome. It’s called the SUPERHERO SERIES!

When I was growing up, I was so captivated by C.S. LewisThe Chronicles of Narnia. I first discovered it when I was in 2nd or 3rd grade through my brother. When I was at home, I would sneak into his room and borrow his books, and when I got to school, I would look for the books, then I would sit on the floor between the shelves in the library to read during my free time. I believe C.S. Lewis’ was responsible for expanding my imagination, even more than Dr. Seuss…at least for me. :)

While a lot of people are familiar with the Narnia series, not a lot of people know that Lewis was a theologian and Christian apologist. I was amazed to discover this other side of him a few years back (I know, I was kind of slow on the pickup!), and I saw that he wrote a whole lot of great books, most of them I have yet to read. However, I come across his powerful quotes from time to time and today I’m sharing one of my favorites:

“The more we get what we now call ‘ourselves’ out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become.” -C.S. Lewis