My Issue About The Manny Pacquiao-Homosexuality Issue

Practicing homosexuality is a sin.

I’ve said it before and I’m going to say it again. Manny said it too (with regards to same-sex marriage), and it’s gaining coverage with more and more people taking a stand about it. He could have said it so much better, and he fell short there, but it doesn’t change the truth that sin actually disgusts God.

Now here’s the thing. So many people are speaking out on social media, defending Manny, standing by the truth – and that’s wonderful. But we should never forget that practicing homosexuality is just as much of a sin as lying is. Yes, it may have greater repercussions and implications and there will be greater consequences, but in the eyes of a holy God, it’s just as equally horrendous. So here’s the truth: we were just as lost as the homosexuals currently are – we were no “better” sinners.

I know Christians who laughingly say “I repented already” before pirating a movie. I know ones who cheat and lie so naturally; ones who dishonor their parents; ones who are caught up in pride, bitterness, unforgiveness, and self-righteousness. But guess what? Those are all equally sins – all equally hated by God. And in the same way that people refuse to sway about the truth on homosexuality, I hope we also stop tolerating all these other things. 

“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.
Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”
-James‬ ‭2:10, 12-13‬ ‭

Now, I would never defend homosexual acts. And to the ones out there saying that homosexuality is seen in animals and God created animals that way, please take time to look at the Bible and see that the first time God stated that He made them “male and female” was when He created man – He never actually said He made them “male and female” when He created the animals. That’s the truth. Homosexuality isn’t of God. 

But it doesn’t mean I can’t be compassionate about it. Because these people are just as lost as I was before. I would never downplay the magnitude of the sin, but may we remember that answering back at our parents, cheating off our seatmates, refusing to obey what God told us to do, and choosing not to forgive a person is just as wrong. May we learn to have just as much distaste for the “little” sins as we do for the ones paid more attention to by mainstream media.

In light of eternity, the “levels” of sin do not matter. In the sight of a holy God, no sin is “holier” than the other. Don’t get so driven by truth that you fail to love, and don’t get so caught up in trying not to offend that you lose the truth. So when we correct, always keep this in mind: is it full of truth? And is it full of grace? 

“(They) said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?… When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 

‭‭-John‬ ‭8:4-5, 7

Now please don’t mistake this as justification for sinning because sin can never be justified. One doesn’t defend his sin by stating how sinful others can be also. In every area of our lives, may we simply live in light of God’s holiness, not of other people.

“As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.””
‭‭-1 Peter‬ ‭1:14-16‬

(Dear Church): Stop Vulgarizing God

“The basic trouble with the Church today is her unworthy conception of God.”
-A. W. Tozer

This topic has been placed in my heart months before, but whenever I try to write on it, I stop in fear that I might get it wrong. No subject intimidates me more than the nature of God, for who am I to dare capture the wonders of God in a page. Yet I know I could run no longer. And so I speak, fully acknowledging that there are people far worthier to speak of this, but also acknowledging that this is something God is asking me to do. As you read this, I hope you be conscious all through out that we tread on incredibly holy ground.

I would never, ever dare add to or subtract from the truths that God has spoken. However, I hope you understand that as much as I try to speak of God in a manner that is as worthy of Him as possible, I also try to speak of this in a way that people would understand. No word can ever capture the immensity of God, but I will try to convey all of this as eloquently as possible. I do not wish to balance out God, for God cannot be balanced. He just is, and so I will simply declare who He is.

Let’s begin.

I cannot count the number of times I have felt the Holy Spirit grieve when people belittle who God is. From Christians using “Praise the Lord, Hallelujah!” as a joke to ministries making God out as how they want Him to be, we have come to a time wherein God’s holiness and perfection are trampled by culture. “Oh my God” and “Jesus Christ” have become common expressions, with a Tagalog counterpart coming out as “Jusko Lord” – and we hear these coming from our own mouths as well, don’t we?

It’s startling to think that we have lost how powerful God’s very name is. His name is holy and sacred, and it isn’t something to be taken lightly. We have put God in the backseat, talking to Him when it’s convenient to us as we drive our lives down the roads we want to go, as if speaking to the holiest and most powerful being in the universe doesn’t deserve our utmost attention. We get bored reading the Bible, like the fact that the One who seats in heavenly places, surrounded by angels adoring and worshipping His every move, wants to convey His heart in words to mundane mortals such as us is not a wonder in itself. We do ministry like God should be grateful that we do work for Him, acting as if the very breath we take and every move we make is not done through His grace and power.

I recently talked to a friend who was in a standstill in her relationship with God. I was digging deep until she said the magic words… “I’ve known God for so long, I feel like there’s nothing new anymore. And besides, there’s nothing wrong with a little compromise since it’s not exactly sin.”

There’s nothing new because as a generation, we have chosen to magnify “God is love” while ignoring the rest of His attributes. A “little” compromise isn’t seen as sin because we have neglected the holiness of God. “God is love” “Jesus is Savior” “God is good” – THE END. As if that’s all there is to Him. It’s time we allow God to break the boxes we have placed Him in, because He is so, so much more than just love and just good. We have to stop letting ourselves be fooled by theology that feels nice, and we have to see God for who He truly is.

I have heard people justify things that are not pleasing to God by saying “God loves me and He wants me happy.” Let me stop you right there. Anything that goes against what God has spoken in the Bible is sin, and sin goes against the very nature of God. I’m not saying God doesn’t love you, I’m saying that He immensely does. And because He loves you, He wants you to stop being caught up in that limbo that you’re in. Yes, He wants you to be happy, because He is such a good God. But He wants you to be happy in truth. And the truth is, God cares more about your holiness than your temporal happiness.

These days we have somehow come to perceive God as a father in heaven who is pleased with every single thing that we do. We think that being a good father means that He should support whatever it is that makes us happy. But that’s not true. It may go against what society says is a good parent these days, but a good parent disciplines and makes sure we’re on the correct path. A good parent aligns us to our God-given destinies, not let us be pulled further away in fear of hurting us. And that’s exactly the kind of parent God is. Him loving you doesn’t automatically mean He’s pleased with the choices you make and the things you do. 

That being said, Exodus 20 clearly states how God is a jealous God. And because He loves you, He doesn’t want to share your heart with anything or anyone else that will take His place. To defend your sin by bending who God is now means that you have allowed something else to overtake God’s place in your heart. Indeed, God hates the sin and not the sinner. In fact, God has sent His Son to die for the sinner. On the basis of God’s love, He has extended His grace and has extended His patience until the Day of Judgment comes. But if the sinner fails to accept His grace and consequently follow Him, then let me say this: on the basis of God’s holiness and justice and righteousness, this same God who encompasses love will eventually send sinners to hell.

I know it’s uncomfortable to think about. It’s making me uncomfortable just by writing about it. But it has to be said. God’s truth is supposed to challenge our innate desire to please what is of the flesh; it’s supposed to go against what has been so deeply ingrained in our culture. As Francis Chan put it, there is a need for those of us within the Christian bubble to look beyond the status quo and critically assess what is in the Bible. We cannot pick out just what we want to hear and believe, then set out to live according to one chapter. God is unchanging, meaning that who He was in the Old Testament is exactly who He is in the New Testament. Don’t think that God was more judging in the Old Testament and more loving in the New Testament. You will also find mercy in the Old Testament and you will also find commands of self-denial and obedience in the New Testament.

Can you imagine how much it must pain God that He is only desired for one of His attributes? It’s like your spouse telling you he likes you because you’re sweet – and only because of that! Our relationship with Him in no way changes who He is; it changes who we are. Think of it this way: it’s like being married to the President of the United States. We have the privilege to talk to him any time we wish to, but it doesn’t diminish who he is. He is still the most powerful man on earth. It is thereby us who have been elevated to being the First Lady. And so I beg of you, be extremely careful how you choose to view God, for this will drive your life. Stop taking Him for granted. Reflect on Matthew 7:21-27, and work it from there.

God is infinitely love, and I cannot exaggerate the goodness of God. It is this love that draws me closer to Him each and every day. I am incredibly grateful for His mercy and grace that sustains me (Isaiah 63:7). He is the Father that awaits the return of the prodigal son; the One whose arms I can run to and trust to embrace me (Luke 15:11-32). He is the Savior who came to serve and to reconcile sinners to the Father; the One I call a Friend and can tell anything to (John 15:14-15). He is the Spirit that surrounds and leads and dwells in His children; the One who comforts and encourages me (Psalm 143:10; John 14:15-29). Yet He is also the God of wrath, who righteously judges and condemns the wicked (Psalm 7:11-16; Romans 1:18-32). He is the Master who asked the ones closest to Him to deny themselves and suffer for His sake (Matthew 16:24). He is the Eternal Truth that convicts sinners and is grieved whenever we vulgarize Him (Isaiah 63:10).

It’s hard to put together, I know it is. But this is where faith comes in. We trust what is written in His Holy Word, and though we can’t fully grasp it, we trust in His mysteries. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts and His ways higher than our ways (Job 38-39). He is such a complex, beautiful being, and it would be an honor to get to explore Him all the days of our lives. I’m incredibly grateful to be part of a spiritual family that acknowledges God’s all-encompassing glory, and I pray that you have such people to walk with too. I hope you don’t mind as I directly pray now.

Father, thank You for all the love that You have showered upon us. Thank You because Your kindness leads us to repentance and that it is by Your grace that we are able to see Your glory. Jesus, thank You for bridging the gap so that we may approach the Father in this way and Holy Spirit, we ask that You open our eyes to the things unseen, open our eyes to Your truth that we may enjoy walking with You all the days of our lives. Cleanse us from previous beliefs and break our mindsets, no matter how painful and uncomfortable it may be. Rid us of our unrighteousness and iniquity as You make us Christ-like and call us holy. Meet us where we need You and how we need You. Father, we long to know You. Give us the hunger to read through Your word that we may know You beyond what we hear from others. May we experience You beyond an intellectual manner, and may Your Spirit lead us into freedom; may Your presence surround us all the day of our lives. Surround us with people who will walk with us as we get deeper into the chambers of Your heart. We utterly adore You for all that You are. Thank You for Your wonder and mysteries, thank You for Your infinite glory. Please come for us. This we ask in the name of Jesus, Amen.

Confessions Of A Practicing Christian

I am flawed, so very flawed. When confronted with the holiness of God, all I can do is tremble and be struck by how stark we are in contrast. Even as a Christian who truly loves God, I still struggle with sin every so often. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I battle with pride each and every day. There is always a trigger: a compliment, a desire not to apologize, a need to show that I am right. It is something I constantly lay down before God, for I know full well that it is not innate in me to be humble. I continuously ask for His grace to transform me and make me Christ-like, because it is certainly something I cannot do on my own.

However, I have encountered far too many people who claim to be Christians but there is no sense of struggling with sin in their lives – only because they have become numb to it and consider it normal. I have heard so much the term “non-practicing Christians.” They consider themselves part of the church, they like the perks of salvation, but they refuse to submit to Lordship.

Now please, there is no judgment here, for I personally grew up part of a Christian family and yet it took me years until I actually understood the magnitude of salvation. I thank God that we are justified by faith – it is a biblical doctrine and it frees us from the snares of legalism. But I still think this is something all people who claim to be Christians need to ponder on.

I have noticed that a lot of times, people package Christ into something that caters to people’s needs and wants. A dangerous tendency we can do is lean our theology so much on God’s love that we fail to recognize that He is justice and jealous and righteous.

Don’t get me wrong; I drown so much in God’s grace. I think in today’s world, it is something we definitely need. But we have to be careful not to bank so much on it that we forget the other attributes of God. God is love, as He is mercy, as He is grace. He is equally justice and holy as well. These aren’t just traits He embodies; they are who He is. A theologian I look up to and whose works I study, A. W. Tozer explored in so many of his books and sermons that we have to recognize that there are many sides to God, all of which are so completely and equally Him, and we shouldn’t confine who He is to the box of who we want Him to be. We should continue exploring God for who He truly is – long after we have understood His love.

In one of his books, he explicitly stated, and I quote, “a lot of people have gone too far and have written books and poetry that gets everybody believing that God is so kind and loving and gentle. God is so kind that infinity won’t measure it. And God is so loving that He is immeasurably loving. But God is also holy and just.”

Now not diminishing how beautiful and unconditional God’s love is, we also must remember how much God weighs. I know too many people who use God’s grace and love as a license to sin, but that’s another discussion. At this time, I want all of us to be reminded of how holy, how burning bright He is, and how unworthy we are.

Because we truly are.

I cannot emphasize how essential holiness is to God. It’s actually pretty interesting to note that love is mentioned 311 times in the Bible while holy is mentioned 633 times (King James Version). God was never called loving, loving, loving or gracious, gracious, gracious. In the Bible, repetition means emphasis and the only adjective ever repeated to describe God that was repeated this way is holy.

Holy, holy, holy.

In Hebrew, the word holy is qadosh. It means set apart, cut off from the rest. Holiness then talks of how different God is from us. As Max Lucado said, it speaks of his “other-worldliness.” Next to Him, I am so dirty; I am so unworthy to enter His presence. Moses and Isaiah themselves could not look at God’s face as conveyed in the books of Exodus and Isaiah. In the same way, as stated in Habakkuk, God cannot lay His eyes upon that which is impure. Even as Christians, we have to constantly repent every time we fall and go back to the path of righteousness, for no hint of unholiness can be in the presence of what is holy.

I think that’s what causes a lot of us to still feel far away from God sometimes, even if we know that He is never too far. Our sin, our lukewarm-ness, our hardness puts up a cloud over the face of this sinless, zealous, loving God. In spite of this, however, I do not think our awareness of our sin should lead us away from God, making us feel ashamed. Instead, as we allow God to expose our sin and bring everything to light, so there shall be light in us for we are no longer hiding in darkness. Our awareness of how sinful we are should all the more drive us to understand how much we need God in our lives.

For in His mercy, He extends His patience and delayed His wrath upon us to give all of us the chance to become holy. He opens His arms wide, harboring no condemnation, and takes us back each and every time, as long as we truly repent and turn from our sins. He allows us still to live, and each day is truly a gift for I can only imagine how much restraint God has to exercise, considering how much evil there is in this world. Because He cannot contradict Himself and He is just, He chose to send down His Son to die for the mortal beings that He created to receive the death sentence from our sins and fallibility. In His grace, He chose to open the gates of heaven to us. And still after, He extends to us favor and blessings and love and promises far beyond the mind can fathom.

I do not think I can ever understand why God would extend love to us, but I don’t need to. I just have to accept it, and I have to accept it in its fullness; I have to recognize Him in His fullness.

How can we have watered down the gospel? How can we have diminished its truth and beauty, and in turn diminished the magnitude of God? In the Old Testament, only the High Priest can go inside the deepest parts of the tabernacle and go behind the veil to speak to this holiest, magnificent God – and even then, just once a year.

Now, God may have torn the veil, but His accessibility does not change His holiness and glory.

I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done…”
-Isaiah 46:9-10, emphasis mine

Who He is goes beyond love and mercy and grace. He is perfection, He is omnipresent, He is infinity. In Isaiah 40:25, God personally illustrates how He is incomparable. Read Job 38 through 41 and you will see God clearly that He is mightiest and there is none above Him. He is not a trend, He is not the head of a social group your friends are in, but He is GOD – the Creator of the galaxies and the Painter of the skies; the One who designed the human body; the only being not bound by time for He is the Beginning and the End.

Proverbs 9:10 says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the holy is understanding. If we can see Him clearly, we can view Him highly. It’s about time we actually recognize the depth of who God is, the magnitude of what Christ has done, and we should allow this magnificent truth to fill our hearts. Because this knowledge of God should do more than just save us, it should regenerate us.

If we keep our eyes set on Him and revel in how beautiful and holy He is, then how can we simply go day to day the way we still do? How can we still have the nerve to judge people when we ourselves should be judged? How can our hearts not be filled with joy knowing that every day is a gift that we do not deserve? How can we not fall to our knees and lay our lives down in abandon before the Cross, fully recognizing how unworthy we are of this precious gift?

Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!
-Psalm 96:9

Don’t worry, I forget sometimes too. But we must make an effort to remember. I guess that’s why Paul kept repeating in his letters that he would always do his best to remind believers of the truth of the gospel and a changed life.

Being a Christian is far more than being part of a religion or having a title, it is understanding that this privilege should reflect in our lifestyle.

But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
-1 Peter 1:15-16

 

Wide Eyed and Mystified

Breathing in anticipation, the pearl gates open before your very eyes. The grand hall, surrounded with pillars of gold designed in intricate detail and the ceilings so high they reach infinitude. Tens upon thousands of angels surround, their voices harmonizing in perfect pitch as they reach a crescendo, singing

holy, holy, holy.

And there, in the very middle, was a throne of glorious splendor. No other human eye has ever taken in its wonder, and no human mind can ever comprehend how beautiful it is in its fullness.

With shaking knees, you lift your eyes to the One who sits on the throne; the One so wonderful that no word ever spoken will suffice to express how enchanting His beauty is. His appearance was like that of diamond and ruby, glimmering in all possible brilliance of the rarest jewels combined. White and red. Such purity. Such ferocity.

Your knees fall to the ground, your mind trying to fathom how you can even enter the presence of such holiness, such glory.

And this, this magnificence wrapped in splendor, in the form of Jesus, decided to leave this holy chamber to walk dusty streets, endure the harsh weather, and to live among broken, unworthy people.

The One who deserves nothing but praise was mocked, bruised, battered, pierced, spit on,

slain

for our sake.

The One who has never known sin, the thing that hurts and angers Him most, took upon Himself the sins of every person who ever walked the planet – past, present, and future.

This King that leaves us breathless in worship and awe took our burdens.

And how we have taken that for granted.

Lost in chasing the American Dream, we have become cynical, doubting every good thing that comes our way and with it, doubting God and His heart for us. We have become so caught up in our daily lives and work that we forget to appreciate the wonder of what is eternal.

As David Jeremiah once wrote, we have become a generation characterized not by awe, but by cynicism and empty nihilism. Just as our capabilities have grown exponentially, our capacity for wonder seems to have withered. We have lost our childlike ability to be delighted and to trust.

I have read of a story of a man who trekked for a month from Myanmar to Hyberabad to attend a missionary school. There is a leper community in India who built a church for themselves, carrying the heavy bricks with their fingerless hands. Christians in communist nations are martyred daily for their faith, and they do so joyously. They do so because in spite of lack of religious freedom in their countries, they have found spiritual freedom. They do so because they know how amazing their God is, and that this God is worth their whole lives.

How could we have lost this?

We have gotten so busy with the Kingdom that we forgot about the King.

“The world is not lacking in wonders, but in a sense of wonder.”
-G.K Chesterton

The Bible always tells us to remember. Paul has made it a point to remind the people what Jesus has done, and he kept repeating this all throughout the books. In Revelation, Jesus repeatedly tells the seven churches to remember what they have known, to hold on to their first love. Yet somehow, it is this we have forgotten.

See, if we allow this truth to seep under our skin and deep into our hearts, then we would all be living lives of full surrender and endless joy. Because what other response does the phenomenon of what Christ has done for us invoke other than worship and wonder? But as we have dwelled too much on what is of this world, on what is before us, we have forgotten what Jesus has declared finished. We have forgotten true worship.

We have confined worship to the slow song during service, or to the idea that worshipping makes us feel good and fulfilled. But no, worship to its very core is about giving.

When we go back to the first time the word worship was used in the Bible, it was used when Abraham was going to the mountain to sacrifice Isaac. In Genesis 22:5, Abraham says “Stay here with the donkey while the boy and I go over there. We will worship.”

The night before, God told Abraham to give up his only son, the son he has waited a hundred years for. And how does Abraham respond? He didn’t dilly dally, he didn’t ask God why, he didn’t try to find a loophole. The very next morning, he woke up early, took the boy up to the mountain, and called it worship.

Abraham was able to do this because he understood. He understood that he had a God who kept His promises; a God who was faithful; the God who created everything before him and gave him everything he had. And so he was prepared to give everything he had, everything he held dear, back to the One who gave it. He understood that this God, no matter what happens, is enough. Even in pain, even in sacrifice, his adoration was constant because he knew that in spite of everything, God remains constant.

“I want Him to have the very best of my attention, the very deepest of my sacrifice, the most profound of my music…”
-David Jeremiah

That is worship.

It is pursuing God like a dying man in the desert pursues water. It is understanding that He is our lifeline and that He is our very lives. It is trusting that even if we don’t know what happens next, we will go where God has asked us to go. It is knowing that true worship means sacrifice, and like King David said in 2 Samuel 24:24, there is no point in a sacrifice which costs nothing.

Worship is living out the fact that because the King who spoke into existence the galaxy could give up heaven to place Himself on the altar for our sins, we can place that which is heaven to us on the altar too.

So stop making Jesus convenient. Yes, He is our best friend. But stop cutting him down to our size. Remember who He truly is. He is the Alpha and Omega, the Lamb who was slain, the One with eyes like blazing fire and voice like rushing waters.

Love Him for who He is, not for what He can give you.

And when you do you will realize… Who are we in light of Him? We are but tiny, tiny creatures. Dust on our way to ashes. So undeserving. And yet so adored.

Doesn’t that make your heart leap right out of your chest? Doesn’t that make you fall to your knees in awe? Doesn’t that melt away your cynicism, refresh your heart, and make you feel like a child again? Don’t lose that awe. Don’t lose that heart. Don’t apologize for the way your eyes can’t seem to stop sparkling. Allow it to penetrate deep into you and transform you from the inside out.

Far too many Christians are known for their sullenness. Be known for your joy. Be known for your worship.

“When you speak of Heaven, let your face light up, let it be irradiated with a heavenly gleam, let your eyes shine with reflected glory.”
-Charles Spurgeon

Look at what you’re grasping so tightly in your hand right now, at that one thing you can’t seem to give up; the pessimism you find difficult to let go of. And then gaze into the eyes of wondrous grace and undeserved favor; lift your own to the heavens and realize that the Artist who painted the sky, the Designer who put the stars into place, and the Sculptor who shaped your very being loves you and actually gave Himself up for you… Is it still worth it? Isn’t He worthy of all of us?

Jesus, alone, is far more than enough.