Saturday, March 30, 2013

Of Hard work, Theology, and Seminary Life!

This article is my entry for "the most unforgettable experience" portion of our batch yearbook.

My Most unforgettable experience was the first time I entered the Dean's office and had a talk with the Academic Dean, Ron Watters. A talk I would always treasure for the rest of my life. This happened during my second year of studies  in IGSL. I entered the room quietly (or was I tiptoeing) as he whispered for me to sit down. He then tried to remember my name and searched my paper.

You see, being in the Dean's office was always deemed as a dreadful scene for a student. It was equal to a literal death though he claims through a sign in his door that no one has died there, yet. Tension within me started to rise as I waited there to what seemed like eternity.

Earlier that day he told our class that if your paper is not in your box before lunch break then there must have been plagiarism involved or he just wants to have a chat with you (who in the world would want to chat with the academic dean?). He said that we should come and see him at his office if that happens. When I checked my box after class, my paper was not there even though almost all of those who checked their mailboxes with me had theirs in. I got quite nervous. I wasn't planning to go to the Office of Academic Affairs right away but I remembered that I had to talk to the secretary about something, and so I went there. The moment I came in, he was the first person I saw and he immediately signaled for me to come to his office.

When he finally found my paper, he turned back and faced me. My heart started beating wildly. But I noticed his face lighted up instantly. He then handed me my paper and remarked “do you know how hard it is for someone to get this kind of grade for a paper in my class?"  My heart stopped for a second, I was expecting that I would be interrogated for accidental plagiarism (though I was very sure that I checked my references right). I started to cool down a bit and he gave me that talk that changed my life as a student. He said that I had a very good paper and that I wrote so well. He also commented that I was already an expert in doing format and footnoting. It was all positive that morning in his office and I wasn't expecting all those good things from the OAA Dean. Before the talk ended  he asked me what I wanted to do after seminary. He affirmed my desire to go for further studies and told me I have what it takes to get a PhD.

My last paper in my 3-year-seminary-life. 
My heart just melted when I heard those words of encouragement and affirmation. A week before that talk, I suffered from diarrhea which made me stay in bed for 3 days. On the date the paper was due, I wasn't even halfway with mine. I asked him for an extension and he readily gave me one. He asked me when would I finish the paper and I told him that I would finish it in 3 days. That would mean the coming Monday and that I had to work over the weekend. I hardly slept for 3 days and I had to isolate myself in my room to finish my paper. I had to read nine thick books to finish my paper. I was already discouraged when Sunday came and I was still undone. But I persevered and I worked hard. It was purely God's grace that I was able to email it to him before 7am on Monday. I slept the whole day because of exhaustion. I was so discouraged already as I had to work still for the other pending papers I had to write

When Kuya Ron gave me that talk, I believed again that I can do it. I dreamed again that I can make it and that I would never give up. Because someone believed in me, I was so cheered up to do things with excellence. That 10 minute talk with him changed my life more than the long hours that I spent listening to him in class. It was there that I truly appreciated his teacher's heart and the grace he taught and practiced.

That experience I will always remember in my lifetime.The impact and encouragement this man had on my life when I was struggling to survive my seminary days was more than the grade I got from that paper. Still thankful for the grade he gave me though. :D

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Postmodernism and the Youth

           One of the most prevalent worldview in this generation of young people today is postmodernism. This paradigm has heavily influenced a lot of how the youth think and act, especially those who live in the cities and are studying in universities. Back in my hometown, I have come in contact with people who call themselves “free thinkers” and say that they are not bound to any law or any truth. Even a lot of my friends whom I grew up with are now postmodern. They challenge the norms of society and decide if it’s alright or not, for themselves.
            Postmodernism is the rejection of absolutes and the denial of a metanarrative – that is to say that there is not just a single story[1]. This paradigm suggests that truth is relative according to one’s experience. They believe that everything is true yet nothing is totally true. Relativism and Pluralism are accepted as normative in a universe that has no absolutes. The latter highlighting that there is no such thing as absolute right and wrong and the former suggests that there is no such thing as superior belief that tells a grand story or absolute truth.[2]
            I have seen a number of expressions of postmodernism in the youth today. The rules, they say doesn’t always apply because what is true to you may not be true to me. I had an experience of talking with a young person in a university whom I later shared the gospel, to which he willingly accepted. He was very respectful man, an intellectual I may say, refined, and judging by the way he dressed and acted – he was from an educated and well to do family. He was highly tolerant and thinks he could use some knowledge from others; he wasn’t just too sold out to what he heard. He thinks that what he just learned can be added up to his pool of new ideas, like adding Jesus Christ to one of his gods. He was Christian he said but he was neither just that. Self help was his goal for accepting my message. “If it would be beneficial to me,” he said, “I would gladly accept it!” But he neither judged nor shrugged the things I was saying, he was saying that as long as its doing me good then I should continue in it. But deep inside I think he was saying it’s just not for me, it was evident, and he was just too nice to verbalize it. The attitude and thinking of that person well describes a typical postmodern youth.These among many experiences in ministry are examples that postmodernism is penetrating our culture.  
            Though postmodernism is branded by some as evil; it has its own contribution to society. I think one of these is the magnification of freedom. Freedom of speech and expression, though concepts that have been here even in the past, are now given deeper appreciation in the postmodern world. With boundaries and temperance it can benefit society. Imagine simpleton’s given the chance to speak and their opinions given value - the world would be less controlled by the famous and the powerful. There would be freedom and equality for everyone. Another positive aspect of the postmodernism is the denial of the judgmental-sectarian mind. The way we think and do things doesn’t make us superior to others. The postmodernist mind doesn’t judge right away, it seeks to understand the presuppositions of others. It seeks to understand how one arrived at a certain conclusion without branding the other a shallow person or a heretic. The value for relationship also is one good aspect of postmodernism. The longing for community and refusal for individualism is similar with the Christian teaching. Lastly, I think the postmodern way of giving importance to experience is beneficial. Faith is experiential, though it cannot be only just that, it gives value to one’s personal experience because it authenticates the other. Postmodernism is in agreement with Christianity in this area, in a sense.
            On the other hand, postmodernism is a cloudy worldview. It lives in a Utopia and not in a real world. It rejects a truth not for any reason or any new evidence that disproves it but because a person doesn’t feel it applies to him or to his universe. Until now, it is still hard to define and comprehend because of its abstractness and resistance to simple categories.[3] It is like defining the indefinite[4] and rolling it up into something finite with standards that neither exist nor apply to it. Though postmodernism is tolerant and promotes freedom, it becomes permissive because it doesn’t have boundaries. It’s overemphasis on experience also is dangerous. Evidence is not that important anymore because one decides what is genuine in his/her experience. This impairs the logical mind. This hinders us to become inquisitive and makes us poor in our judgment of things because we don’t weigh them down anymore. Lastly, postmodernism won’t work because it is not realistic. The universe and the world we live in have absolutes. Without it the world will fail to exist.
            As evangelicals we are called to address these issues. What we can do is contextualize our approach in dealing with postmodernist. We must first come to grips with ourselves that this worldview is present already and has been there for a long time, and now has deeply penetrated society. The only problem why we cannot respond is because we fail to recognize its existence, this in turn affects our methods and ways of reaching this generation. The old ways do not work anymore! With this knowledge we can know think about our response. I will give two responses that we can consider in dealing with the postmodern youth. The first is, in sharing the gospel we must not be the all-knowing types, the accept-now-or-burn-in hell approach. The postmodern mind is tolerant but is highly allergic to the condemning style. Because they don’t judge right away, I think a more effective style is to engage with them in conversation. Ask them what they think and value their opinions.[5]Let them discover truths for themselves by facilitating them to it. Another response is authenticity. Because the postmodern doesn’t shy away from relationships they are best won through it. When we show them that we really care, they will listen to what we are going to say. Our approach must be incarnational, the commitment to enter into suffering with those who are experiencing it and to offer to everyone the solidarity of the church[6]. These are some of the ways we can reach out this postmodern generation.


                [1] James W. Sire, The Universe Next Door: a Basic Worldview Catalog, 5th ed. (Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2009), 216.
                
                [2] Michael Cariño, Unpublished Notes in Christian Worldview and God’s Word (Quezon City, Philippines: IGSL, 2011).
               
                [3] Walter A. Elwell, ed., Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed. (Carlisle, Cumbria, U.K.: Baker Academic, 2001), 940.

                [4] Sire, The Universe, 215.
               
                [5] Norman Geisler and David Geisler, Conversational Evangelism (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House, 2009), 26.

                [6]Andrew Root, Revisiting Relational Youth Ministry (Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2007), 12.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Postmodernism: Rethinking How I do Ministry

In this blog entry, I will not try to debate if postmodernism is right or not. For me it is just vain to do that. This post will be about my humble attempt to respond logically and intellectually to this kind of worldview and thus improve my approach in ministry for better effectiveness.

I often hear of postmodernism being discussed in many circles. It is being talked about in universities and other academic cliques. I sometimes hear about well meaning Christians debating about this issue and condemning it as evil. I first heard of this topic a few years ago from a pastor in our denomination during a youth leaders conference. He explained, in the most simplest way, that it is a paradigm where there are no more absolutes and truth becomes relative. It wasn't that clear to me at that time what it really meant until I was confronted by the same issue in seminary. The understanding of such a new concept, at least in my experience, would require me a response. I sat down and pondered how this new way of thinking and seeing things would affect me as a young minister? How would it impact the way I do ministry with the kind of people I am involved with?

Before I answer these questions, let me first try to define or in a way get a grip of the idea of postmodernism. I will be talking about the concept itself and not the era and its underlying reasons of surge for it will be a broader spectrum to tackle with. It will be a challenge to explain this paradigm, after all "how does one define the indefinite?", asked James W. Sire in his book The Universe Next Door. This is with the the notion that the postmodernist looks at things through an "indefinite lens." For an astronaut in space this is the absence of a local vertical, for a traveler the disappearance of the true north, and for a pilot the invisible horizon. We then ask, how can one wrestle with such when there are no standards on which we base our decisions. Postmodernism is the rejection of such standards. "What may be true to you may not be true to others" is a common statement among the postmodernist. They believe that everything is true yet nothing is totally true.Relativism and Pluralism are accepted as normative in a universe that has no absolutes. The latter highlighting that there is no such thing as absolute right and wrong and the former suggests that there is no such thing as superior belief that tells a grand story or absolute truth (Cariño, Class Notes, Modern Movements, p. 6). This is the main gist of postmodernism.

Now that I have laid the platform on where I will examine my response, let me then aim to present the product of my reflection and examination to the the questions I asked at the start.

How will it affect me as a young minister (of the gospel), was the first question that crossed my limited cognizance. In a way the postmodernist view, for me, has a slight agreement with my (personal) faith and Christian walk in the case that it gives significance to experience. One of my basis for believing that there is a God is because of my personal experience and relationship with Him. Like the Psalmist who declared, "taste and see that the Lord is good...", my Christianity is in a sense, experiential. I am not saying that postmodernism is right in focusing too much on experience nor is my faith solely based on what I feel. I agree with one of our professors when he said that orthodoxy (right doctrine), orthopraxy (right action), and orthopathy (right experience) come together. As I come to experience God, it should be founded in the right doctrine of biblical truth, and produce right actions and good works. I will strive to consider my faith seriously and back it up with valid reasoning, right experience, and a consistent lifestyle which I think, at the end of the day, sums up all of my beliefs.

Right now, I am mainly involved in youth ministry. We all know that the youth today are the ones heavily influenced by postmodernism. In the age of internet, media, microwaves, and Ipods everything becomes instant and accessible to everyone. How do we as ministers and heralds of the Gospel respond to the changing need of this generation? How would the worldview of postmodernism affect how we do ministry? Proffessor Mike Cariño in his paper Evangelizing the Emerging PostModern Generation quoted Rick Richardson, in his book Evangelism Outside the Box when he said:

"Our culture is traveling through a shift in mindset that is epochal, a major earthquake in the mental landscape of our generation. Unfortunately, most of our approaches of proclaiming the gospel are still aimed at the modern scientific, analytical, individualistic mindset. We are ineffective in part because we are building our communication bridge to a mindset and an age that are passing away, or at least being radically transformed. We need to understand and address a new mindset if our proclamation and demonstration of the gospel are to remain relevant and influence the hearts and minds of the next generation."

I agree that we should make our approach relevant to this generation. Not that we alter or deviate from the real message of the Gospel. It may just be in overhauling the ways we present it, and this comes with a proper understanding of the needs and mindset of our audiences. In evangelism, I strongly suggest that we depart from the "shotgun" approach that manipulates the one being shared to-this doesn't work anymore. The generation today has a lower tolerance for listening but has an appetite to being heard. Instead, let us think of methods in evangelism that cater to discussion and contest. Of course, we should be ready to answer them with spiritual truths, logic and sometimes with philosophy when they ask us about issues that pertain to the Christian faith. This is what the Bible commanded us through Peter's letter to be "always ready to give an answer to everyone who ask you to give reason for the hope that we have" he then adds "but do this with gentleness and respect." For me this is how I would respond to the would-be impact of postmodernism in my ministry.


Discussion:

1. Give your thoughts on the topic?

2. How you react to the effect of postmodernism in your ministry/faith?

3. How would you make the message of the Gospel relevant to the younger generation?

Sources:

James W. Sire, The Universe Next Door.

Class notes from Modern Movements and the Asian Church, p. 6.

Michael Cariño, a paper on Evangleizing the Emerging Postmodern Generation.


Ps. If you don't have a blogger account, please click name/url on the options below the type your name. Be sure to leave a comment. Thanks!:)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Was Constantine the Great really a Christian?


Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus or commonly known as Constantine I, Constantine the Great, or Saint Constantine is the first Roman Emperor to embrace Christianity. He opened the doors of the great and stalwart empire of Rome to a religion which was unpopular and widely opposed during his day.

Story has it, when Constantine was on his way to conquer Rome to wage war against Maxentius he saw a vision from heaven. In that vision he saw a cross in the sky and the words "in this sign conquer" which was clearly from the God of the Christians. He then stormed Rome with his inferior army. Constantine and his men defeated the more superior army of Maxentius in the battle at the Milvian Bridge just outside Rome. His success proved the superiority of Christ and the power of the Christian religion.

Even in his exemplified recognition of Christ, many have questioned Constantine's faith. Bruce L. Shelley puts it this way:

"Some historians have considered Constantine's "conversion" a political maneuver. He still practiced paganism . He conspired; murdered; he even retained his title Pontifex Maximus as head of the state religious cult.But a purely political conversion is hard to maintain in the light of his public and private actions. From the year 312, he favored Christianity openly. He allowed Christian ministers to enjoy the same exemption from taxes as the pagan priest; he abolished executions by crucifixion; he called a halt to the battle of gladiators as a punishment for crimes; and in 321 he made Sunday a public holiday."

On the other hand, there were proofs to Constantine's real conversion. Shelley goes on to say:

"This public Christianity was matched by changes in Constantine's private life. Making no secret of his Christian convictions, he had his sons and daughters brought up as Christians and led a Christian family life. Bishop Eusebius of Nicodemia baptized him shortly before he died in 337. After his baptism, Constantine refused to wear again the imperial purple and thus left this life dressed in his white baptismal robes."

We are forever grateful for Constantine's contribution to the spread of Christianity. Clearly God used such a man to fulfill his plan and bring glory to his name. Whether he is a Christian or not, it is for us to decide and understand what implications it brings to our faith.

Discussion:

1. So what do you think?
2. Was Constantine's faith genuine?
3. Was he really a Christian?
4. Or did he fake it to earn the support of the Christians?

**if you don't have a blogger account. please click choose profile then click name/url. thanks! God bless you guys.

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constantine_I

Bruce L. Shelley, Church History in Plane Language.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Forms and Letters

Dear pastors and Youth Workers,

I am sending this email to inform you about the latest development on SEP Planning.

SEP VISAYAS 2010
Date: May 20-24, 2010
Theme: "Christ, Our everything.."
Venue: Le Toundra Peak, Bacong, Negros Oriental
Tuition Fee: P 1,000.00
Attendance: Maximum of 120 campers
Staff Training Schedule: May 2-3, 2010 (Tentative)

PLEASE check the following attachments:
Promotional Letter
CAMPER Application form
Staff Application Form
Solicitation Letter


Camper Application Form:

https://acrobat.com/#d=ZIDOOrDyCy*GDUmEG7juuA


Staff Application Form:

https://acrobat.com/#d=k4QOUFuJTeok0IbHKeToRA

Promotional Letter:

https://acrobat.com/#d=OL-0EeN89JN-5nbZ3PQwFw

Solicitation Letter:

https://acrobat.com/#d=htkhtxsv-nwZFcYp364Mjw



Tuesday, October 27, 2009

An Unforgettable Flight...

It was a wonderful day to fly...

I woke up early morning to prepare the things I would bring to Bohol. My boss called me up the day before, that I should be there and meet with some pilots and employees of our company. Tagbilaran was to be the rendezvous point, of something he didn't specify. I was too lazy to disagree, after all, I'd like to be on the other side of Visayas on a weekend.

I would be flying with Capt. Harris on a 2-seater plane. We agreed to take off at 6:00 am (at sunrise) and head off to Tagbilaran Airport (RPVT). I was so excited for the trip. One, because it's been a long time since I last rode or flew on a Cessna 152 and be the acting "co-pilot". I mean I have been a constant passenger of 4-seaters and big planes, but having to manipulate the yoke on an actual flight and step on the brakes before that was new to me, again. Also, I always wanted to visit Bohol. I have passed by bohol a couple of times on the way to other places, and this would be the first time I would literally set foot on that island.

On flight, Capt. Harris and I talked with each other on the radio (using the headset) about many things-church, ministry, and a little about flying. He asked me if I'd have any interest in flying, and I responded that I do like it but I just don't see myself as a pilot-It's just not my passion.I think he was satisfied with my answer, that he just nodded. So we reached RPVT in less than 30 minutes. The sky was clear all the way amidst the passing storm the night before, or so we thought...

After the airport, we were to proceed to a house of a local pastor and have our corporate meeting there. It was also a surprise to receive a donation from our boss to the non-profit organization Capt. Harris and myself was a part of.

At the end of the meeting, we went to the airport to fly some orientation flights around Bohol and after that go home to Dumaguete, but unfortunately the weather did not cooperate. The sky was black, almost zero visibility and heavy rain was pouring along with strong winds. There was no way we could go home on that condition...

So we stayed for a while. Read the weather and see if we can go home or stay overnight and let the storm pass...

So, we had a slight chance to go home at 3:00 pm...Took off and headed straight to Dumaguete. The wind was so strong that the aircraft didn't seem to move. Mid-way , the air traffic controller of Dumaguete advised us to turn back because of heavy precipitation on our way. We had no choice but to go back. We stayed for a while again and tried to check the weather.

I was anxious, I wanted to go home...I didn't have any extra clothes, and I have to travel again to another town the next day for some ministry work, this time by bus.

At past 4:00 pm the weather turned good. The sky was clear and the clouds began to light up. So, we quickly raced to the airport, boarded the plane and in minutes took off. This time the wind was calm and there was no more rain. I looked at the clouds. I was in awe, watching its formations as it slowly turned gold as the sun was about to set. The sea was calm and a plane shade of blue. Capt.Harris, noticing my silence maybe, told me that this was the best thing when he is up there. The view from the top that no matter if it was at the same time or place, the scene will always be different and almost always exhilarating.



(not the actual scene. Courtesy of Flight Access)

He then started to recite Psalm 19...

1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
3 There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard. [a]
4 Their voice [b] goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun,
5 which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
6 It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is hidden from its heat.

It was beautiful, and I could really understand what David was talking about in his Psalm...

We landed safe in Dumaguete Airport with the runway lights beaming up our pathway. It was the end of an unforgettable flight...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

There are so many things to be thankful for...

Here is a clip of how poverty and starvation affects the life of a child...



Earlier I read about this article from the Associated Press...

PARIS (AP) - Angry French farmers dumped millions of liters of fresh milk next to one of France's most famous tourist sites on Friday to denounce the slumping cost of milk and an EU plan to end production quotas, which could further drive prices down.
APLI, a small dairy farmer's union that organized the protest, said over 1,000 farmers and 300 tractors took part in the event, pouring 3,5 million liters (925,000 gallons) of milk onto fields next to the famed Mont Saint-Michel. The Medieval island monastery is one of the most visited sites in France and is next to the Normandy and Brittany regions, which are both big milk producers.

What the heck's wrong with these farmers???
They could have given these tons of milk to 3rd world countries instead of wasting it as a sign of protest. If they didn't want to sell it, at least they could have thought of a better way to air their protest. Dumping and wasting wouldn't make a difference.

And then I saw this one on the news...



What do you gain by throwing pies at each other??? A record??? That's nonsense!!! Can they think of other sensible ways to gain a slot in the Guinness Book of World Record??? No wonder America's economy is in rumbles right now... Its a waste, seeing the pies on the floor after the event.

How about the two kids in the 1st video??? Those who toil just to have a decent meal for the day. The people in Africa and other 3rd world countries who would do everything to just have bite of that PIE that Americans just threw at each other or just to have a sip of the milk that French farmers dumped. I think the WEST should change their way of thinking and stop wasting whatever they have right now...

We should be thankful of what we have. Let us appreciate it by using our resources wisely and not spoiling and wasting what little we have...