In Memoriam

January 24, 2004.

Exactly seven years today, my father died on that grim Saturday morning after more than two years of battle against colon cancer. It was a long, painful battle. Nature won. My father was taken away from us at the age of…

Actually we have no idea.

As embarrassing as it is, no one in the family knew when he was born, not even my mother. According to the snippets that I gathered from listening to their drunken stories when I was a kid, my father, the late Eladio O. Agot Sr., was born before World War 2. He was one of those who ran around and hid in the forests when Japanese soldiers rounded up the locals in their neighborhood. He was about ten years old at that time.

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New Generation

If I have a passion with regard to discipleship, it is that tens of thousands of young leaders will outshine, outpreach and outperform me. [Steve Murrell, Accidental Missionary]

This is NOT normal. Only secure leaders can say this with real conviction. It is easier to build a ministry, put your name on it, and act like you own the whole operation.

Our natural tendencies tell us to be wary of fast growing leaders, to look at the newcomers with suspicion, especially those who have the potential to outperform us. Who do they think they are?

So we hold on to our names, our output, our finished products. We fear that we’ll be forgotten, that nobody would remember that we were the ones who broke the frontiers.

We’ve forgotten that this is the church, that God is a God of justice and that He will never forget to reward those who labored for Him. And we’ve mostly forgotten that this is how it’s supposed to be. When the early apostles gave way to Paul’s ministry, the gospel spread by leaps and bounds.

Afterthoughts

For the people of Victory Caloocan, the last two or three weeks have been a series of rapid, high energy activities. We recently launched our new center at the 6th floor of Victory Central Mall in August 29 and the 1,000 attendance barrier that we’ve been praying about this year has just been broken. Everything around us is new- the building, the air conditioning system, the stage, the equipment, the kids’ church and even the computers. It is time to celebrate and rejoice at what God is doing in this church.

And while we are at it, I can’t help but be reminded of what Pastor Ferdie and all the other pastors have been telling us months before: what brought us here may not bring us there- or at least something along those lines. The idea is that the commitment, hard work and sacrifices that brought us to where we are now may no longer work this time. A new approach might be necessary to sustain our present productivity. Who knows what the Lord will demand of us so we can soar to new heights?

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But I’m Busy Lord!

We all know the story of Martha and Mary in Luke 10: 38- 42. Jesus came into their home to have fellowship with them but the moment He stepped inside their house, Martha was running around doing a thousand chores that she didn’t even have time to sit and spend time with her guest.

Bless her heart. Whenever preachers look for example of people who are too busy to commune with the Lord, Martha is the first name to come up on the list. And for good reason. If anything, Martha embodies the typical Christian who loves to do more for God to the point of forgetting the reason why she’s doing those things in the first place.

The more I think about Martha’s story, the more I see myself guilty of the same oversight. In all the excitement of getting into the business of making disciples, I sometimes see myself covering up my lack of communion with the Lord with a flurry of activities. There’s just too much to do with too little time, I reason out. So I sometimes try to cut back on my private time with Jesus and replace it with a lot of noise and activity, well, until I bump into a blank wall and get reminded again why I do these things to begin with.

Funny how God is not fooled with my feeble cover ups. He sees through my motives even if I bury it deep beneath loud noise and a thousand activities and as much as I’d rather not be found out, I love the idea that God looks for authenticity after all. When He looks at me, He sees the exact condition of my heart regardless of how much I’ve done for Him.

What freedom. What grace. Thank you Jesus.

The Day I Decided to Cheat

I was never really good with Math. Whenever I see numbers on my test paper, I’d get instant headaches. So when I took my final exams in Statistics course, I was in a major spiritual crisis. I will never forget what happened that day. It was late in the afternoon, I was alone in my dorm room profusely sweating as I nervously took my old scientific calculator from the drawer and started scribbling the formulas at the back cover using pencil. I sighed a faint prayer of fake repentance while Jaci Velasquez was singing “I Get On My Knees” in the background. I didn’t want to listen to the song but I didn’t want to stop the player either.

After I copied the formulas, I neatly tucked the calculator inside my bag and started out of the door when I realized that I needed to say at least a little prayer. It was very unnerving. How do you ask God to bless your cheating? How do you say “Let me cheat just this one time, I’m sorry, bless me anyway and please don’t hold this against me?”

After so much hesitation, I went back inside, sat in my bed for a minute and mumbled, “Lord… ” Minutes passed and I was still speechless. I couldn’t form the words. I wanted to just get up and go but part of me remembered how Esau lost his birthright for a plate of food.

Jaci Velasquez’s song was still ringing in my head. “When I close my eyes, no darkness there; there’s only light… I get on my knees…”

Slowly, I took the calculator from my bag, ripped the cover apart, dropped it in my study table and went out of the door to face the dreaded numbers in my Statistics exam. I was a bit teary eyed as I walked into the exam room, not because I was going to fail but because I it was a difficult decision that I had to make.

As I quietly settled into my chair, I looked around the quite room to see how my classmates were doing. They had a uniform grim look on their faces. Then something caught my eyes. There on the white board in front of us I saw random formulas our professor wrote for us. The formulas had no names. The trick was for us to identify which one to use for the specific problems in the exam. Those were the same random formulas I wrote in the cover of my calculator.

I felt a lump on my throat as I silently said a prayer of thanks.

Human Billboards

You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. 2 Corinthians 3: 3

If you’ve read the book of Acts lately, you’ll notice that Paul was literally a preaching machine. He was unstoppable. Everywhere he went, people got saved, lives were changed and history was altered. But not everyone was happy with him. Some of the Christians started to question his legitimacy as a preacher of the gospel and it came to a point when they asked him for a letter of recommendation from Jerusalem.

Paul’s answer to his critics was sharp. He didn’t need to produce a letter signed by the Apostolic team in Jerusalem because the lives of the people who were changed by his preaching were proof enough of the legitimacy of his ministry. Why should he carry around in his pocket a piece of paper when the people in the churches he planted carry around with them the signature of the life of Christ?

The text also gives us a glimpse of what a Christian is supposed to look like. Christians are supposed to be walking large-print letters, readable by all men. Our conduct should unmistakably point people to Christ and they should never have to guess if we are Christians or not. Like giant billboard ads, the message of our lives should be visible and readable and plain for everyone to see, not buried below a tiny asterisk.