The Reading Disciple Resized Book Review Fridays: Manhood Restored by Eric Mason

Earlier this year, I posted a review of Randy Pope’s Insourcing, which I won from The Resurgence’s Twitter contest. After some time, I joined another contest of theirs, and won another book. This time, it’s Eric Mason’s Manhood Restored (B&H Publishing Group, 2013). It’s my first manhood book and I’m glad to have won it, since I’ve wanted to understand more about the topic.

The book is really theologically-rich and gospel-centered. It’s also easy to read, as I finished the whole book in just one week. (Given my busy ministry and my reading slowness, that’s already fast for me.) It has a foreword by Dr. Tony Evans and Matt Chandler.

A chapter of the book that I found interesting is Chapter 2, which is entitled The Impact of Daddy Deprivation. It dealt with fatherlessness, which Mason describes as “a cross-ethnic, cross-socioeconomic, cross-generational problem that doesn’t discriminate” (20). I agree with him. In my church and even in the student ministry that I lead, I have seen people affected by it. It’s either they have no father to look at, or they have fathers but have bad experience with them or were not actively present in their lives. Whenever I hear of someone having issues, I’m quick to assume that they have daddy issues. And most of the times, if not all, my assumptions are right.

Mason writes that boys without fathers have tried to fill the gap with daddy replacements. These include gay parents, single moms, and thuggish figures. But only the fatherhood of God can ultimately fill this void.

Another interesting chapter is the last one, entitled Restored Church. Here, Mason writes that there are more women in the church than men. This is not merely a general population issue, but more of an engagement issue. Church programs are generally designed to attract women more than men. As a result, the church has been feminized.

Towards the end of the chapter, Mason offers practical advice on defeminizing the church. As funny as it sounds, he says that church facilities, musicians, and songs must be masculine in order to appeal to men. But more importantly, there must be godly pastors who will set the tone for and be examples of biblical manhood.

There are many other things that Manhood Restored offers. It also talks about restored worldview, sexuality, vision, and family. But most importantly, it is centered on the Restorer of manhood—Jesus Christ. This is a great book on manhood, and I highly recommend it to you.

Leadership begins with the heart.

This is one of my greatest takeaways from one of the courses in my master’s. My professor, who taught on transformational leadership, started with the leader’s heart and dealt a significant amount of time on it. I think it makes perfect sense.

Just imagine if a leader is insecure. He is alarmed when someone else from his team or ministry is performing well and noticed by others. He compares himself with other leaders, rejoicing when he’s doing better than them or mourning if they’re faring better than him. He is paranoid over what others think of him or will say about him. If this happens again and again, it’s hard to think how an insecure person will last long in leadership.

But if a leader is secure, think about what could happen. When someone from his team or ministry is performing well, he’d rejoice with him or her and even empower the person even more. When other leaders are doing better, he’d celebrate with them and will be humble enough to learn from them. When other leaders are having a hard time, he’d lend them a hand. When someone unreasonably criticizes him, he’d be calm and peaceful, seeking approval only from the Lord. If a leader acts like this, can you envision the impact he can make to his surroundings?

This is what I realized: A secure leader will enable progress in his team, ministry, or organization. Moreover, he will further advance the kingdom of God. The world is in need of secure leaders. We must produce more of them. But more importantly, we should begin with ourselves!

GUARD YOUR HEART1

No wonder, the Bible tells us to guard our hearts. I know many of us love to hear those words and we jump to our feet, ready to engage in discussions about matters of the heart. But “guard your heart” doesn’t just apply to romantic issues. It also applies to leadership. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, / for from it flow the springs of life” (ESV).

To keep our hearts with all vigilance mean that we guard it above all else. (The NIV actually translates the first half of the verse as “Above all else, guard your heart.”). In other words, we must pay careful attention in protecting it. We must regard its protection with utmost importance. Why? Because “from it flow the springs of life.”

So what does that mean? Wayne Grudem comments, “The picture is that your heart is like a stream of water that’s continually flowing out to touch and impact people around you that you come in contact with. And so when we’ve got a picture that your life is continually flowing out from your heart to impact other people.”2

Our hearts impact other people. That’s why leadership must begin with the heart. If we are leading with a wrong heart, it will affect the people around us negatively. I don’t need to get into specifics. You know what I mean.

THE MOST SECURE LEADER

Leading with a secure heart seems hard or even impossible to do. But there’s hope for us leaders. We now turn to Jesus, whom I believe is the most secure leader one can ever know. A quick tour of His life reveals this.

Jesus is God. Yet He emptied himself, took the form of a servant, and was born in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:7). He was even born in a manger, a lowly way to be born. He left the heavenly realm and “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45, ESV). Why such humility? Because He was secure.

When Satan offered Him “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory” (Matthew 4:9-10, ESV), He rejected. When He perceived that the people “were about to come and take him by force to make him king,” He withdrew to the mountain (John 6:15, ESV). Why the refusal? Because He was secure, only seeking the approval of His Father.

When He was about to go back to His Father, He served His disciples by washing their feet (John 13:4-5), an act which was usually done by the lowliest member of a household. But why such act? Because again, He was secure, “knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God” (John 13:3, ESV).

Leadership begins with the heart. As leaders, we must be secure in God. Jesus left us an example to follow. So let’s look to Him, asking Him to help us lead with a secure heart.


1At this point, I was tremendously helped by Wayne Grudem’s message, Keep Your Heart with All Vigilance. You may access it at http://marshill.com/media/best-sermon-ever/dr-wayne-grudem-guard-your-heart.
2http://marshill.com/media/best-sermon-ever/dr-wayne-grudem-guard-your-heart, accessed 04-18-2014

Quiet Time

September 8, 2014 — Leave a comment

In my attempt to blog regularly, I’m posting my manuscript of my message at Elevate Makati (September 6). I will try my best to release non-manuscript posts soon.

I’m not a sports fanatic. In fact, I’d rather hold a book than a basketball. But I do watch some sports and follow some athletes. One of those athletes is Kobe Bryant. Bryant is a 5-time champion and a one-time MVP. I sincerely believe that he will end up being one of the best players who have ever graced the basketball court.

Another athlete is Jon “Bones” Jones of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). He is the current Light Heavyweight Champion. He is the youngest champion in UFC history and had an outstanding record of 20-1. He defended his title 7 times, even beating former champions.

Of course, I’m a Filipino and I look up to world-class athletes from my country. One of them is Manny Pacquiao. He is an eight-division world champion and has won 10 world titles. And I also admire the perseverance of the Gilas Pilipinas team. After 36 years, the national team made it again to the FIBA World Cup. Though they were eliminated after starting with 4 straight losses, their efforts are truly admirable.

What’s common about these athletes is that they were successful in their fields. But that success didn’t happen overnight. They had (and continuously have) to go through intense training. They have to be disciplined. They do certain habits that will make them better athletes. In fact, they spend more time in the gym or in training than in the sports event itself.

If Christians are to be successful in life and faith, they have to go through training and discipline. First Timothy 4:7-8 (NIV) says, “…train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” And like athletes, Christians are to do certain habits to make success happen. One of those habits is the quiet time, a time spent privately in fellowship with the Lord.

THE EXAMPLE OF JESUS

The Bible doesn’t tell us how to do our quiet times. But it gives us an example. Jesus Himself set us an example and it’s worth considering. Let’s go to Mark 1:35:

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. (NIV)

The context of this verse is that Jesus had a busy ministry schedule. He proclaimed the Gospel (vv. 14-15), called the first disciples (vv. 16-20), taught at a synagogue and drove out a demon (vv.21-28), and healed Peter’s mother-in-law and others (vv. 29-34). After verse 35, he preached in Galilee and drove out demons again (v.38) and healed a leper (vv. 40-45). So in spite of a jampacked schedule, Jesus managed to spend time with His Father. Therefore, we have no excuse.

Now, let’s divide this verse into three sections. First, when did Jesus do His quiet time? Second, where did He do it? And third, what did He do?

WHEN DID JESUS DO HIS QUIET TIME?

The verse tells us that “[v]ery early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up.” I’d like to believe that He did His quiet time around 4 to 5AM or even earlier. My proof? He got up “while it was still dark.” There was no sunshine yet.

Now, this doesn’t mean that we all have to do our quiet times early in the morning. We’re not legalistic here. But we must consider the principles behind it. I can think of three. First, early morning is a silent time and has fewer distractions compared to other times of the day. We can focus more on reading our Bibles and in praying. Second, we are at our best at this time (unless we have inadequate sleep). At other times of the day, there are so many things going on. At evening, we are probably tired and sleepy. And third, it’s like giving God the first part of our day. We are putting God first before everything else.

Before we move on, let me just say that doing our quiet times takes discipline. There will be times that we’ll be lazy to do it. Also, we need to be deliberate or intentional in making time for it. Sometimes, we’ll be tempted to neglect our quiet times and jump right away on our busy schedules.

WHERE DID JESUS DO IT?

The verse also tells us that He “left the house and went off to a solitary place.” In other versions, the word solitary (eremos) is translated desolate (ESV) or secluded (NASB). In the original language, the word literally means “deserted place.” So Jesus went to a place where there are no people.

Again, this doesn’t mean we have to do our quiet times in a place where there are no people. In our homes, especially when we live in a small house, it’s sometimes hard to find a place where people are off limits. But the principle must be considered. Jesus went to a solitary place, away from people, because it has fewer distractions, if not free from it.

WHAT DID JESUS DO?

Finally, the verse tells us that “he prayed.” He was communing with His Father. Now, some of us feel guilty when we read our Bibles in our quiet times but don’t get any new knowledge from it. Believe me, I’ve been through those times, many times! So we think of our quiet times as failures.

But the point of our quiet times is not new knowledge of the Bible, though that is good. The point is not Bible Study, but fellowship with God. After all, Jesus prayed. He was fellowshipping with His Dad. He was intimate with Him. He communicates to us through His Word, and we communicate to Him through our prayers.

IT ONLY MAKES SENSE IF

Before I close, let me just say that doing quiet times only makes sense if we have a personal relationship with God. The problem, however, is that we are sinners (Romans 3:23). As sinners, we are separated from God (away from His presence [2 Thessalonians 1:9]) and are bound for hell (Romans 6:23, Revelation 21:8). If this is the case, then there’s no way for sinners to have a personal relationship with Him!

But here’s the good news: Jesus died for our sins! He “suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). He died so we can be intimate with God. And by trusting in Jesus and what He has done on the cross, we are no longer separated with God and can have a relatonship with Him. So I urge you to place your trust (faith) in Jesus.

Again, our quiet time only makes sense if we have a personal relationship with God. And Jesus made a way for us to have that relationship with God.

Do you have personal relationship with God through Christ?

Love Your Enemies

September 1, 2014 — Leave a comment

Finally, I’m back to blogging. Although I can’t assure that I’ll regularly post, I’ll do my best to update it. I just finished Dr. Albert Mohler’s The Conviction to Lead. He wisely writes, “Leaders who want to make a difference, and to make that difference last, must write.”1 I deeply agree, so I’m pushing myself to write again. Anyway, I’m posting my manuscript for my message at Elevate Makati (August 30).

I love comic-based superhero movies. One of my favorites is Spider-Man (the first trilogy starring Toby Maguire). I’m hoping they continued the trilogy instead of making a reboot. Even if the Peter Parker-Gwen Stacy tandem makes the rebooted trilogy more interesting, I still prefer the first one. Sorry, Peter-Gwen fans.

Anyway, the most intriguing among the three movies in the first trilogy first is third one. I realized that it’s not just about action. It’s also about seeking revenge. Peter Parker wanted to kill Flint Marko (also the Sandman) to avenge his Uncle Ben’s death. Harry Osborne attacked his bestfriend Peter to avenge his father Norman Osborne (also the Green Goblin). And Eddie Brock (also Venom) wanted to seek revenge for Peter’s humiliation of him. One film, three revenges.

I believe that the world, as seen in Hollywood films, is telling us that revenge and hating our enemies are just human, normal, and therefore okay. But the Bible says otherwise. In fact, Jesus says, “Love your enemies!”

I find this one of the most outrageous sayings of Jesus. Why? I have two reasons. First, it’s just counter-cultural. In a world where everybody tries to get even with their enemies, this is radical. Second, I just can’t figure how the words “love” and “enemies” fit together into one phrase. It just blows my mind.

Why don’t we take a look at this shocking statement of Jesus? Let’s go to Luke 6:27-36 and unpack it.

WHAT IT MEANS

Jesus tells His disciples (and by implication, to us) to love their (our) enemies (v. 27). The word love (agapao) is the highest form of love, a committed kind of love. This is the same love that we are to give God and the people around us (Matthew 22:37-39, Mark 12:30-31, Luke 10:27). This is the same love that God has for the world, that made Him gave His one and only son, Jesus (John 3:16). This is the kind of love that we are to show our enemies.

So who are these enemies? Obviously, these don’t refer to Satan and his demons. Instead, these are the people who hate us (v. 27), curse us (v. 28), and abuse us (v. 28). In other words, these refer to people whom we are in conflict with. It could be a parent, relative, friend, classmate, officemate, boss, or churchmate.

Why did Jesus command this to His disciples? During Jesus’ time, there’s a popular teaching to “love your neighbor and hate your enemy” (Matthew 5:43). “Loving your neighbor” is taken from Leviticus 19:18 and is also taught in the New Testament (Jesus in Matthew 22:39, Mark 12:31, Luke 10:27; Paul in Romans 13:8-10, Galatians 5:14; James in James 2:8). But we don’t know where the “hating your enemy” came from. Some commentators say that the religious leaders just added it to justify their hate. So Jesus, being a radical teacher, dismantles this false teaching by telling His disciples, “Love your enemies.”

Loving our enemies is indeed a radical teaching. It is against human nature. It is counter-cultural. In other words, it’s really difficult, if not totally impossible. How easy it is to seek revenge and hate our enemies. Many times, we even try to justify our vengeance and hate, just like the religious leaders.

So how are we to love our enemies? Jesus moves from being general into being specific. He tells us to “do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (vv. 27b-28). He goes on to say not to seek revenge (vv. 29-30; see Matthew 5:38-42).

What happens when we love our enemies? In verses 32-34, Jesus points out that if we only love those who love us, then we are no different from the world. But when we also love our enemies, we show to the world that we are different. We prove to the world that we children of God (v. 35b).

A FEW MORE THOUGHTS

Here are a few more thoughts:

1. Forgive. First things first. The Bible tells us to forgive, as the Lord has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:13). Oftentimes, we excuse ourselves from forgiving, believing that we’re not yet ready. But when we put off forgiving, we are just storing-up anger and bitterness. Then we end up hurting and destroying ourselves. Forgiveness frees; it actually benefits us.

2. Make reconciliation a priority. Matthew 5:23-24 says, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” In other words, if you know someone whom you have offended, go and be reconciled to that person. Do it as soon as possible. Make it a priority, even higher than corporate worship.

This year, the student ministry that I’m leading is unusually marked with stories of reconciliation. I have seen students reconciled with parents, friends, or ministry teammates. One story goes like this: A girl suddenly stopped showing up in the youth service. When an opportunity came, I talked to her via Facebook. I found out that she had a fight with her mom and was in bad terms with her for days already. As her spiritual counselor, I urged her to ask for forgiveness from her mom and be reconciled to her. She heeded my advice.

The next time I talked with her, there’s good news. She got reconciled with her mom. The details are actually heartwarming. What happened was the day after our last chat, she woke up early, cooked breakfast for her mom, and asked forgiveness from her. In the next youth service, she was back.

3. Remember the gospel. The gospel tells us that we are sinners and have rebelled against a holy God. Because of that, we are called enemies of God (Romans 5:10). But because of Jesus’ death on the cross, we can be reconciled to Him. And why would Jesus die for His enemies? It’s because of love and grace (see Romans 5:8).

CONCLUSION

Indeed, loving our enemies is no easy task. But we have to remind ourselves of Jesus. He sets us an example to follow. He loved those mocked, flogged, and crucified Him, even forgiving them at the cross (Luke 23:34). And ultimately, He loved us, who were once His enemies.

The reason why we can love our enemies is because Jesus loved His.

I’m back to blogging. But I’m just not sure how regular I can blog. Ministry has been more busier than ever. I’ll be asking for your prayers.

It’s been years since I was really moved by the resurrection of Christ. No other event or doctrine has moved me than this one. I deeply agree with Lecrae’s words in Don’t Waste Your Life: “Paul said if Christ ain’t resurrected we’ve wasted our lives.” I don’t want a wasted life! Nobody does!

Lately, I got to think about my calling as a full-time church/youth worker. While I’m enjoying it, I can’t deny that it is becoming more and more challenging. (I once wrote about my discouragement in the ministry.) Here are some of the realities that I face in full-time ministry:

  • Ministry growth comes with increasing organizational challenges and pastoral responsibilities.
  • Of course, there are still those times when the ministry becomes stagnant.
  • I still deal with people who are “extra grace required” (EGR).
  • When people need my help, they come to me. But when times are good, they usually don’t remember me. (Is it just me?)
  • It’s such a thankless job!

Then I got to think about the resurrection again. If it’s not real, then I’m wasting all my time, energies, and resources for the ministry. Paul says it best:

And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain19If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:14, 19, emphases mine)

But I’m thankful that the resurrection is real! My calling, my ministry, and even my life aren’t wasted. And because it’s real, I can be “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord [my] labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Because of the resurrection, my calling is never in vain! To the resurrected King Jesus be glory forever and ever!