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The Most Fortunate Man in the World, R.I.P.

March 12, 2014

ATLANTA. I recently attended the memorial service of an old friend, Brady Clark. He was my age. And he was way too young to die.

Almost three decades ago, Brady preached at Victory-Manila. After all these years I still remember the gist of his sermon: “It doesn’t matter if you’re in the ministry, as long as the ministry is in you.”

During the memorial service Brady’s sister, Trudy, reminded us of Brady’s famous voice mail message. Imagine the most genteel southern gentleman accent possible, then slow it down and exaggerate it:

You’ve reached the most fortunate man in the world. I’ve got great kids. I love my job. I have the best friends a man could ask for. If there is anything I can do to help you, just leave a message and I’ll call you back as soon as I can.

Brady’s sermon from thirty years ago and his voice mail message from last month sum up a good man’s life and legacy: faith, family, friends, and helping people.

Rest in peace, Brady Clark. You will me missed by many.

Blog / Miscellaneous / Missions

How You Can Help Typhoon Victims in the Philippines

November 13, 2013

TOKYO AIRPORT. It has been five days since the strongest storm to hit land in recorded history wreaked havoc in the central Philippines. Typhoon Haiyan, known in the Philippines as Typhoon Yolanda, produced wind speeds up to 315 km (195 mph) and storm surges (tsunami-like waves) up to 17 feet high.

Damage estimates change by the hour, but the latest say over 11 million people were affected by the storm, and as many as 10,000 are dead. Around 500,000 are now homeless. Ninety-five percent of the homes and buildings in Tacloban were destroyed or damaged.

I am now sitting in the Tokyo airport on my way to Nashville, but my heart is still in the Philippines where our Every Nation and Victory staff and volunteers are working around the clock receiving, processing, and delivering relief goods. So far, we have received, packaged, and sent 10 tons of relief goods from Victory centers in Metro Manila.

THANK YOU to all who have given, volunteered, and prayed. Much more is needed. Many friends from all over the world have asked how they can help. Here’s some info:

Info about how to give, volunteer, or donate relief goods is available on the Victory Philippines website.

Financial contributions can also be given through Every Nation North America.

Trustworthy organizations we work with in the Philippines include: Operation Blessing Philippines, Samaritan’s Purse and Habitat for Humanity Philippines.

If you live in the Philippines and want to help, we are still receiving and processing relief goods at Victory centers nationwide. Click here to find the Victory center nearest you. If you live anywhere else in the world, the best way you can help is to pray and give money. One hundred per cent of the money will be used in our relief and rebuilding operations.

I heard yesterday that over sixty Victory church members in our Roxas City church have lost everything – homes, clothes, vehicles, computers,…  I am certain many of our Victory members in Tacloban also lost everything, but I have not seen the list of names yet. Anything you send would be a huge help for these families.

Gotta board my plane now. Please continue to pray, volunteer, and give. Thanks.

Blog / Miscellaneous / Missions

CNN: “Worse than Hell in Philippines”

November 11, 2013

MANILA, PHILIPPINES.  I’m sitting in my Manila office, teary-eyed, heavyhearted, and feeling powerless. Downstairs Pastor Paolo, and our Every Nation Philippines staff are collecting and sorting relief goods to be delivered to victims. We are doing all we can, but it is not nearly enough. And it is a frustratingly slow process.

Most of the world is now aware that the Philippines was once again pounded by a super-typhoon. The CNN headline this morning read:  “Worse than Hell in Philippines.” Some news sources have reported that this one was the strongest storm to hit ground in recorded history. It was 3.5 times stronger than Katrina. The storm pummeled 36 Philippine provinces, left 340,000 homeless, and affected more than 4.3million Filipinos.

No one really knows the death toll at this time. The International Red Cross is estimating that as many as 10,000 people may have died during the storm. My friend, Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez was quoted in the CNN article: “I have not spoken to anyone who has not lost someone, a relative close to them. We are looking for as many as we can.”

Here are some of the descriptions of the devastation from various CNN articles:

– The stories coming out of the Philippines are unimaginable. Rushing water and wind tearing children away from their parents’ arms. Tacloban, a city of 200,000 in which no buildings appear to have survived intact.

– Super Typhoon Haiyan roared into the central islands of the Philippines last week, wiping out entire neighborhoods, ripping children off their parents’ arms and leaving a trail of devastation.

– An estimated 1,000 bodies were seen floating in Tacloban as reported by Red Cross teams.

– Entire houses leveled. Bodies scattered on streets. In the aftermath of Haiyan, Filipinos are grappling with unimaginable devastation.

The Victory  and Every Nation Churches websites have info for those who want to help.

Blog / Miscellaneous

Remembering the “Day of Valor”

April 8, 2013

BONIFACIO GLOBAL CITY, PHILIPPINES. Today is Araw ng Kagitingan, aka “Day of Valor” aka Bataan Day. Some of you have never heard of Bataan Day, others have heard of it only in the context of the 160 Bataan Death March Ultramarathon because you follow my friend, The Running Pastor on twitter.

I’ll never forget taking my young sons on a tour of Corregidor Island. We toured the caves and the Malinta Tunnel that served as General MacArthur’s headquarters. We climbed on the massive cannons, Battery Way, Battery Hearn, and Battery Geary. After that trip, we watched some classic WWII movies.

To understand why today is a non-working holiday in the Philippines we have to go back to Corregidor Island on April 9, 1942. Not many people ignored direct orders from General Douglas MacArthur, but that’s exactly what Major General Edward King did when he surrendered more than 76,000 Filipino, Chinese, and American soldiers to the Japanese.

That surrender was followed by the infamous 140 kilometer (90 mile) Bataan Death March to Camp O’Donnell in Capas, Tarlac. For days the road was littered with the bodies of the dead, as thousands of starving, dehydrated, wounded, disease-racked soldiers could not keep the pace and were left to die. Thousands more were brutally and randomly executed along the way.

Only 54,000 of the 76,000 who surrendered actually made it to Camp O’Donnell in Tarlac where conditions were deplorable. Some escaped along the way, but about 10,000 died on the Death March.

This, like many events in world history, confirms the doctrine of “total depravity” and makes one wonder what atrocities we would commit every day if not for the restraining power of “common grace.”

So, what will you do on Araw ng Kagitingan? If nothing else, why not thank a veteran for their sacrificial service?

If you are interested in a good MacArthur movie, check out Tommy Lee Jones as General Mac in Emperor.

 

 

Blog / Miscellaneous

7 Reasons To Like The Bible Series on History Channel

March 25, 2013

I have heard pastors and church people criticize The Bible Series on History channel. Not me.

Sure, there have been a few inaccuracies. In the Bible Series a lamb shows up on Mt Moriah, but in the Bible it was a ram. In the Bible Series King Cyrus fed Daniel to the lions, but in the Bible it was King Darius. And, of course, the Jesus in the real Bible probably looked more like an olive skinned Middle Eastern laborer than a white Midwestern alternative rocker.

So what?

I’m sure it was far less dangerous to work with a lamb than with a ram, and there probably was not enough time to introduce two kings during Daniel’s life so they merged events from the reigns of Cyrus and Darius. I have no idea why the Jesus actor is European. But, the point of God providing for Abraham and God protecting Daniel was loud and clear. And, so far, the New Testament scenes have clearly communicated the message of Jesus without compromise.

So, I’m not complaining or criticizing. Here are six reasons I’m glad The Bible Series is being shown, even though it (the TV series) is neither infallible nor inerrant.

1. People who don’t read the Bible are watching The Bible Series.

2. People who watch The Bible Series are starting to read the Bible.

3. Producers and entertainment power brokers who see the success of The Bible Series will be open to producing more of the same in the future.

4. People are talking about, tweeting about, and blogging about The Bible Series and Bible stories more than ever.

5. Families are watching The Bible Series together, and are discussing Bible stories.

6. It’s sure better than watching Swamp People, Celebrity Wife Swap, or 60 Minutes.

7. Because Samson and John the Baptizer have awesome dreads. (Number 7 is from my friend Neli Atiga in Singapore.)

Thank you Mark Burnett and Roma Downey for taking a risk and giving us The Bible Series.

Blog / Leadership / Miscellaneous

When the Dream Feels Like a Nightmare

January 11, 2013

Note: This is an important blog for all who do ministry, whether you are lifers or volunteers.

But, first a familiar story. Young Joseph had a couple of dreams. The dreams were from God. Like many dreamers, in his youthful enthusiasm, Joseph offended friends and family as he arrogantly promoted his dream.

Because of the dream, Joseph’s brothers hated him. They threatened to kill him. But, in an act of brotherly compassion, they decided to spare his life and sell him into slavery instead. His Egyptian slave-master unjustly threw him in prison.

Joseph’s dream had officially become a nightmare.

What do you do when The Dream feels like a nightmare? Here’s what Joseph did: he helped others live their dreams, while he waited on his.

The story continues. While in prison, Joseph’s cellmates had dreams. He interpreted their dreams, with one request: “when all goes well with you, REMEMBER ME and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison.” (Gen 40:14) Sounds like a reasonable request to me.

The last verse in Genesis 40 is all too familiar for those of us in ministry. “The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.” (Gen 40:23) Have you ever been forgotten by those you serve? If you have been in ministry more than two weeks, you have.

Two years later, Pharaoh has a couple of dreams (the third set of double dreams that mark Joseph’s life). Pharaoh is distraught and seeks an interpretation. Chief Cupbearer suddenly remembers his former cellmate who helped his dream become reality. Chief finally puts in a good word for Joseph. Pharaoh summons Joseph and the rest is history. But Joseph had to endure two extra years of prison because he was forgotten by the man he had helped.

What should we do when we help people in their time of need, and they forget us in our time of need? GET OVER IT, GET YOUR EYES ON JESUS, AND KEEP MINISTERING!

Blog / Miscellaneous

My 2012 Top 10 Christmas Movies

December 7, 2012

Since Christmas movies have been playing all week, I thought it was time to update and post my annual Top 10 Must-See Christmas Movie List. Here’s my 2012 list…

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Blog / Miscellaneous

When All You Have Is Not Enough

November 20, 2012

A mob of hungry people. Seven biscuits. A couple of sardines. That’s not even almost enough food. But that’s all they had. What do you do when all you have is not enough?

The story of Jesus feeding the 4000 offers some answers to what we should do when there is more month than money. Here’s a summary of the story.

Mark 8:1 Large crowd had nothing to eat.

Mark 8:2 Jesus had compassion.

Mark 8:4 Disciples had no clue what to do.

Mark 8:5 After pooling their resources they had a grand total of seven loaves of bread and a few small fish. Not much for 4000 hungry people.

So, what do you do when you don’t have enough, when the words “few” and “small” describe your opportunities and your income? When I don’t have enough, I usually complain or swim in self-pity. But there has to be a better way. Watch Jesus and learn.

Mark 8:6,7 Jesus took the seven loaves and the few small fish and GAVE THANKS, then He GAVE THEM AWAY to the hungry people.

Try THANKFULNESS and GENEROSITY next time your all is not enough. First give thanks to God, then give some of what little you have to someone who has even less. If we learn to give thanks for the too small and the too little, we might just see that small and little multiply until it is more than enough.

Mark 8:8 The people came to Jesus famished and left full, with bags of leftovers.

 

Blog / Miscellaneous

Love is a Full Set of Teeth: Reflections on Song of Solomon

October 6, 2012

The Song of Solomon vividly describes a love story between King Solomon and his dark-skinned (Song 1:6) bride, describing body parts, expressing their love, and anticipating marital bliss. Here are some of my thoughts on this sensual book of the Bible.

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Blog / Miscellaneous

Believing in God is Not Enough

March 16, 2012

Last Sunday I started a sermon series on the Apostles' Creed. This ancient baptismal confession begins with I BELIEVE IN GOD

Most people in the world today believe in God. But, do they believe in the God of the Bible, or a god of their own making?

Following are some statements by people who BELIEVE IN GOD.

"I believe in one God. I don’t believe in religion. I don’t believe in Christians or Muslims. I think it’s all the same God, and I don’t believe in Hell. But as far as God, of course I believe in God." -Jay-Z

"I believe that there are many paths to God, or many paths to the light. I certainly don’t believe there is only one way." -Oprah

“Sometimes I believe in God, sometimes I don’t. I think it’s 50-50 maybe. But ever since I’ve had cancer, I’ve been thinking about it more. And I find myself believing a bit more.” -Steve Jobs

“I believe in Jesus, I believe in God, I’m very spiritual, I pray. At the same time there isn’t one religion that doesn’t hate or speak against or be prejudiced against another racial group or religious group or sexual group. I guess you could say I’m a very religious woman who is confused about religion.” -Lady Gaga

Jay-Z, Oprah, Steve Jobs, and Lady Gaga all BELIEVE IN GOD. But is belief in God enough? I don't think so. And neither did James who wrote, You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. (James 2:19)

The demons James writes about not only believed in God, they believed in the true God, and they believed the truth about God. Yet, despite their belief, they were still demons.

Likewise, many today who BELIEVE IN GOD still live like demons. Belief, even right belief, is not enough. Believing in God simply qualifies a person to be a demon.

Belief or faith is one side of a two sided coin. The other side of the coin is repentance. Faith is turning to God. Repentance is turning from sin. We can't do one without the other. And that's why mere belief in God is not enough.

So, the question is not simply do you believe in God, but have you turned from sin and turned to God?