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Gilbert Foliente, “Establish in Church Community”

Gilbert Foliente, “Establish in Church Community”

The following is a transcript of “Establish in Church Community,” a message delivered by Pastor Gilbert Foliente at Discipleship 2018.

Pastor Steve started off with Acts 2, but how many of you here remember July 16, 1990? Some of you weren’t born; I was two years old, I think, at that time. *laughs* I was in UPLB, I was in a classroom, and our Math professor used to be my classmate, and he became a math professor. Because I loved the campus so much! I believe, when we change the campus, we change change the world, amen?

And there was this very strong shaking, and then he was teaching mathematical equations, and then he stopped, and everybody was running, and everybody was thinking, “What was happening?” And then he stopped, and then the shaking stopped, and then he just continued with his math equations, as if nothing happened. Then there was another tremor, and we said, “We’re leaving here!”

July 16, 1990 was (the date of) one of the strongest earthquakes that our nation had ever experienced. It was 7.7 in magnitude. And sadly, it cost us more than a thousand lives due to some buildings that collapsed. That was 1990. Three years after, it was August when a friend of mine, an evangelist from Every Nation USA, went to Los Baños, and he said they just came from Guam. It was August 1993, and he said he and Pastor Rice were in Guam to do an outreach. They were in a hotel and their room number was 911. They thought something was going to happen; a day or two after they were there, on August 8, 1993, a very strong earthquake struck Guam. It was 8.1 in magnitude. But amazingly, there was not a single structure that collapsed. It was an earthquake that was stronger than the one we had in 1990. The Guam governor said, “We took it with virtually no major injuries and very little damage, and that is because our structures are built to withstand earthquakes.”

Later on, I found that Guam has one of the strictest building codes. It’s Zone 3, they call it, among the whole of the United States territories, because they know that Guam is located at what geologists would often call, “The Ring of Fire.” The Ring of Fire is an area in the Pacific Ocean where the movement of the earth’s plates cause frequent earthquakes and volcanic activity. Because they were in the Ring of Fire, they thought, needing to be smart, “If there’s going to be shaking in this piece of land, then we need to build strong foundations.”

Well, I want to submit to each one of us today that your spiritual life, my spiritual life, all of our spiritual lives, are in the Ring of Fire, and the question is not, “If shakings come…”, the question is “When shakings come, will your life stand?” Shakings will come, and when shakings come, a good façade will not cut it. No matter how nice we are on the outside, or how nice we look on the outside, a good façade will never cut it. It’s only a good, solid, strong foundation that would make us and enable us to stand when shakings come.

Pastor Steve preached from Acts 2:36. I remember, when I was a student, i was invited to a Rock N’ Roll seminar. Some of you still remember that. I went because there’s this beautiful girl who invited me. I followed her and I went there, and I saw Pastor Ferdie preaching Acts 2 after the Rock N’ Roll seminar, and he said, “Let me tell you this Jesus is both Lord and Christ!” I was cut to the heart, and I said, “I have to give my life to Jesus.” And that’s what happened.

Now, in verse 41, it says, “so those who receive his word were baptized”–Pastor Steve talked about that– “and there were added that day about 3,000 souls.” So the question is this. They were added to what? And as we talk about church community today, I want to submit to you that they were added to more than just an organization. They were added to more than just a religious institution. They were added to more than just church membership. They were added to more than just Victory group or small group attendance. They were added to a people. They were added to a community of God’s people, and that’s what we’re going to talk about today when we say we want to establish believers, we want to establish disciples, we want to establish them, not just in being a member of a church, or attending a small group or a Victory group. We want them to be established in a community of God’s people.

What makes church community unique? We live in the world today where there are several communities that you can join. There’s an online community; there’s a gaming community; there’s associations in villages, and parents and teachers, there’s clubs, there’s organizations that we can all belong to, but what makes a church community unique? That’s what we’re going to talk about in the next few minutes.

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture:

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,
“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”
and
“A stone of stumbling,
and a rock of offense.”
They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

– 1 Peter 2:4-10

We will not read verse 11, but if you continue reading verse 11, it talks about Peter encouraging and exhorting the Christians one how to live. He was telling them, this is how you should live, and how should we live as Christians in this world. He said, you should live as foreigners; you should live as exiles. ESV says sojourners; another translation says you should live as aliens in this world. There is a certain way to live. If you’re a Christian, there is a certain way to live that’s different from the people of the world. I hope you are living a different lifestyle than the people of the world, because there is a certain way to live.

But in verse 11, before he says, “this is how you should live,” he said this. He laid out for them, “This is who you are,” before telling them how to live. He says, This is who you are because our identity dictates our behavior. Our behavior follows when we know who we are. And what did he say? Who are we? He says, “You are a people of God.” He says, “Once you were not a people.” But now, we are a people of God. This is who we are. We are a people belonging to God. This is the church.

There are so many things that we can talk about here but I will focus on verse five, and I want to build on the phrase that he said. He says, “You yourselves are like living stones.” Being built up as a spiritual house. So I want to start with the phrase, “being built.” This is how God built his church. We, as living stones, are being built. Being built is present-progressive; this indicates a continuing action. This indicates something happening right now. God is doing something. God is active in this world, and one of the things He’s active about is building his church, in taking living stones and connecting them together, so that he could build a church. He’s very active in doing that. God is building His church right now.

In other words, God is not yet finished building His church. Why? In Acts 2, we’ve seen that. There was no church. He will build the church. So he used the preaching of the gospel to turn 3,000 dead stones, and with the gospel, He turned them from dead stones into living stones, and He started adding and building them up together. That’s the church! God is still in the business of turning dead stones into living stones.

As we engage them, there many dead stones in your culture, in your community, in your city. There’s millions more dead stones in Manila, and as long as there’s one dead stone out there, outside of our church, we’re not big enough. God wants to turn those dead stones into living stones, and as you engage the dead stones in your campuses, God wants to turn them, and make them alive, and God wants to put His life in them.

But when people turn into living stones, God wants to add them to the church. God is also still in the process of finding living stones who were not added. How many of you know of some living stones who are not added to the church, because they live like “me and Jesus” Christians? They think it’s just about “Me and my relationship with Jesus!” God wants to find those living stones, and say, “No, no, no! It’s not just about you and Me, it’s about you and that living stone and that living stone. I’m gonna be adding you to that living stone. It’s not just about me and my podcast, or me and my webcast. There’s a lot of deception today, to think that if I’m doing podcasts, then I am being built into the church. It’s much more than that. God is not finished yet; He wants to build us together, He wants to add more.

One of the things that we can see about the community of God’s people is this: it’s never meant to be an exclusive club. This, right here, 11,000 people, is not meant to be an exclusive for 11,000 people only. Our small groups are not designed to be an exclusive club; they were just enjoying our time so much. I hope we love them. But you see, our tendencies is always to stay together. As Pastor Steve shared with our pastors about God’s design: if you look at God in the book of Genesis, this is the first people of God, two of them. He said, I’m going to have a people, Adam and Eve. And His very desire is for Him to add to His people, so He said, “Don’t stay in the garden, as much as you love the garden, and as much as you love each other, I want you to go around the world! Fill the Earth, scatter, and add more people, so that they would become my people.” But for us, we would rather stay in the garden, wouldn’t we?

And then, when Noah’s Ark came, Noah would rather stay in the boat, but God said, “I want you to go out, there is a people that I want to add here!” And in Genesis 11, the tower, they’d rather build a tower so high, and enjoy themselves, God had to scatter them, because God is concerned for the people out there. He wants to add them to us.

And in Acts 1, the people of God, Israel, they wanted to stay in Jerusalem. God says, “No, no, no, I want to build my church by turning those dead stones and adding them here. We are not meant to be an exclusive club. It’s meant to be inclusive. Victory groups, small groups, were not called to maintain this small group, and say, ‘I don’t want you to go, let’s stay here,’ and then, thirty years after, it’s still a small group. We’re meant to multiply. Not exclusive! God is adding people.

Another implication of being built… it means that God is not yet finished adding people, but the second is, God is not yet finished in refining the living stones. In other words, we are all still a work in progress. Imperfect. That’s the church! The church is made up of imperfect living stones; we’re not perfect. And theology class, it says that “already but not yet.” We’re already holy, if you look at Peter, he says, “you are a holy nation,” not because of what we do, but because of what Jesus did, and yet, we’re still being made holy with the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit inside of us. We’re still not perfect; we are a group of living stones that are being justified and being sanctified, desiring to honor God in every way as we live this life.

And if we understand this, that the church is made up of justified sinners being sanctified by the Holy Spirit, then we would understand that the church should have acceptance, not tolerance. We accept one another, yet we speak the truth in love, and because we speak the truth in love, we accept one another, then in the church, in this community, therefore, there is no need to put up a mask. There’s no need to put up a façade, there’s no need to put up a wall, and pretend that I’m okay when I’m not okay, to pretend that I got it all figured out when I haven’t figured it all out.

We need acceptance in this church community. There is nothing to prove and there’s no one to impress. I hope you know that. You go to your small group, nothing to prove, no one to impress. You go to church, nothing to prove, no one to impress, because we are all justified sinners and still being sanctified with the Holy Spirit. We accept each other, rich or poor, young or old, black or white, hair or no hair, male or female, we accept each other. There should be forgiveness, not condemnation. Imperfect people sometimes offend each other, and maybe you’ve been offended by the person seated next to you before. If that person is your spouse, I’m sure you’ve been offended before, but that’s what imperfect people commit. Sometimes you offend each other, and so we need forgiveness, and not condemnation. If we understand that we are being built, then we need allowances, not judgment. Understanding that all of us are weak in some areas and strong in some areas, we can look at people and say, “Wow, Victory group leader ka pa naman, grabe ka.” We make allowances because we’re being built.

Next, “we are being built up” in the ESV, but in the NIV, it says, “we are being built into.” We are being built into something; we’re being added to another life of another person. You see, if the church is the body of Christ, then we cannot be joined to Christ without being joined to His body. So, if you say, “I’m joined to Christ, I have a relationship with Christ,” but the church is the body of Christ, you cannot be joined to the head without being joined to the body, isn’t it? So he said, “We’re being built into the lives of each other,” and he made an analogy of building a spiritual house made of stones. It’s almost like a church made of bricks, but that’s probably a Western context; it’s probably going to look a little bit more like this in the Philippine context: hollow blocks, not bricks. So when you you say, you’re a living stone, the person you’re talking to, you’re a living hollow block. That hollow block right there is you!

Everyone of us, living stones!

But if you look at the building, you should notice this: a few hollow blocks are totally dependent on a hollow block beneath them. And this hollow block is totally dependent on another hollow block under him. That’s how God wants to build His church; He wants to build His church by building your life into my life, by building your life into the life of the other person. It’s way more than more than church attendance; it’s way more than just Victory group attendance. It’s about lives being built together.

I’m not sure how accurate this is, but one preacher said that 81% of Americans say, you can live a flourishing Christian life without having a church at all. I don’t believe that. I believe you can never be joined to Christ unless you’re joined to His body. So the question is this: when it comes to following Jesus, not all of life, okay, when it comes to following Jesus, are you depending on someone? And is someone else depending on you? When it comes to following Jesus, are you supporting someone to follow Jesus, and is somebody supporting you so that you can follow Him? And that only happens in a small group setting. That can never happen in a Sunday service, or Saturday, or Tuesday or Wednesday or Monday, we have services, every day of the week. It happens on a small group basis; it happens in your level, as Victory group leaders and interns, this is where the building of lives happen.

Lastly, being built into a spiritual house. The footnote here says, the temple of the Spirit, God’s dwelling place. The church is designed to be the dwelling place of God; the church is designed where God’s presence resides. Now think about this: if you’ve got a few hollow blocks scattered all around, how many of you want to live in that house? That’s not a house; that’s not livable. You scatter a thousand hollow blocks here, if you don’t put them together, you can’t live and reside in that house. God wants to reside in a spiritual house, His church, and the only way He resides in that church, is when our lives are added together and built into each other. The degree to which our lives are built together is the degree to which His presence is manifested through us.

How many of you want the presence of God to be manifested in your city? How many of you want the presence of God, when somebody steps in Muntinlupa, they would feel the presence of God? When somebody steps in Taguig, when somebody steps in Manila, when somebody steps in Quezon City, they sense the presence of God. That can only happen when we as a church allow Him to build our lives together, and to the degree that our lives are built together, is a degree that we will see the manifest presence of God in our midst.

Let me end by talking about this shirt, Pastor Steve started with this. The leaning Tower of Pisa, and he talked about this, the leaning Tower of Pisa was saved from collapse, when in 1990, they closed it now. And they worked on it for ten years and US$27 million. A lot of work and a lot of money to fix the foundation, and ever since it was on a permanent 13-foot lean. We’re gonna see videos, but later on, we’re going to pray for you, all Victory group leaders and interns, we’re going to commission you. What is the commission? The commission is this: we’re going to commission you to establish strong foundations for every new believer, everyone you disciple, everyone you engage, every new believer that comes into your Victory group, you’re commissioned to establish strong biblical foundations, because you know that their spiritual lives are in the ring of fire. Establish that, let it be strong, so that when shaking comes, they will remain standing.

But not only are you going to be commissioned to establish strong foundations in the lives of new believers, we will commission you to fix foundations. A lengthy process, a lot of work, and it will cost you a lot–ten years and US$27 million (for the Tower of Pisa)–because we believe it’s not yet too late to fix foundations in other Christians. If there’s another Christian that comes into your small group, and you see that the foundation is not fixed, don’t give up on them. Dive into it; put effort, spend in it and invest, because you know if you establish and fix that foundation, then he or she will remain standing, no matter how many shakings or earthquakes come into their spiritual life.

And we have a Church Community class as a tool for you to do that. You’re building your life with them, but there’s a class that serves as a tool for us to do that Let’s pray. Lord, we want to see Your presence in our cities; we want to see Your presence in our nation. We realize that the degree that our lives are built together is the only degree that we can see the manifestation of that presence, so, Lord, we ask You, build Your church, we ask You, build our lives together, we ask You, keep adding dead stones that You’re turning to living stones, keep adding them, keep multiplying our Victory groups, for Your honor, for Your glory, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Ferdie Cabiling, “Establish in the Word and Prayer”

Ferdie Cabiling, “Establish in the Word and Prayer”

The following is a transcript of Bishop Ferdie Cabiling’s message from Discipleship 2018.

Today, I want to focus on being established in the Word and prayer. Why do we need to be established in the Word and prayer? Because we are living in a world where we have so many challenges—the pressures of the world and of the flesh. We have the typhoons of life, the storms of life, that would try to devastate and destroy us. There are a lot of teachings out there that would try to derail us from the doctrines and theology of the Scriptures. And so therefore, there’s a need for a believer, right after they have received Christ, to be established in the faith, in Jesus, and in the Word and prayer.

I couldn’t think of any passage, there are a lot of passages, but I want to look at the story in Ezra 7:10. It says in this passage, “for Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.”

Ezra was sent to the remnants in Jerusalem, in order to help build spiritual foundations in the lives of the remnants and of the Israelites. He was sent there—there was Zerubbabel, there was Nehemiah, who had built the walls of the city, but Ezra was sent to establish a strong foundation in the spiritual life of the people. And so this is the commission given to him in this short passage, and I’d like to share this to us.

In the first part of the verse in NIV, it says, “he devoted himself.” He devoted himself. That’s where we get the words “devotions” and “devotionals,” some people say, “devos,” their daily devotionals. He devoted himself, and there are three areas where he devoted himself. The first one is study. He devoted himself to searching the Scriptures. Sometimes, when people would try to study the Bible, they do it out of curiosity, and that’s good at first, but I hope that we go beyond curiosity.

Some people are on the other side of the fence; they’re study the Scriptures so they can display, so they can have knowledge, so they can have more tools and weapons to argue with people. We don’t want that; we don’t want to gain knowledge that puffs up (1 Corinthians 8:1). We’re not here just to gain knowledge; we don’t just study the Scripture for displaying, so that we can win all the arguments. I believe that we are called of God to study the Scriptures, so that we can have an understanding of the Word of God. Understanding of the Scriptures is very crucial. That’s why there’s a need to come and understand, seeking to understand the Scriptures. You don’t impose what you know about the Scriptures; you examine the Scriptures, you search the Scriptures. And that is an important part.

There were Jews in Acts 17:11 that were more of noble character than the Thessalonians. They’re called the Bereans. Why? Because the Scripture says that these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the Word with all eagerness. There’s such a desire inside of them. They examined the Scriptures daily. These are the Berean Jews who have heard the sermons, and yet they did not stop there. They decided to receive it with eagerness, and it says, “they examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” In NIV it says, “to see if what Paul preached was really true.”

How dare these people question what they have heard from Apostle Paul, who is the author of two-thirds of the New Testament? Today, we have doctrines and theology, and most of those came from the writings of Apostle Paul, and yet these men and women decided to examine the Scriptures daily, to see if what he really said was true. They weren’t questioning the character of the person; they were just good students of the Word. They examined the Scriptures daily to see if what Paul’s sermon was really true.

So there’s a meditation that was happening. God wants us to meditate on His Scripture. The word “meditate” means to muse, to think over and over, to ponder, to mutter, to memorize, to internalize, to pray, to ruminate, to think about it slowly at time, to say it over and over again, to examine the Scriptures, so I can have that as part of who I am—the Word of God. Study the Scriptures.

Romans 10:7 says, “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” When we allow ourselves to be in the Scriptures, when we allow the Word of God to become part of who we are, when we are faced with the pressures of the world, when we are faced with the challenges, like the storms of life, then we would be able to make it. When there are false doctrines that are being taught, then it will help us discern and have spiritual discernment, and say this is false, and this is true, because I have been meditating on the Word of God. And so that is crucial, in order for us to be established in the Word and Prayer—devotion to His Word. We have to be devoted to His Word, and I’ll tell more about that as we move on.

The next part of the devotion that Ezra focuses himself on is to study the Scriptures, and then, to do it. It says, to do it. He was delighted to do the Word of God, and apply it. Practice it and do it. There were five frogs on a log. Three decided to jump. When you look at the log, there were still five more on the log, in spite of three deciding to jump. Why? Because decision doesn’t mean action. There’s a big difference. It’s by the grace of God that will help us apply the Scriptures.

Discipleship without teaching will be hard. Acts 28:20 says, “teaching them to obey, teaching them to do.” It takes the grace of God to apply what we’re learning in this life. There’s a trap sometimes, that, because we know of something, we can be deceived to think we have already done it. There’s a big difference between knowing and doing. There’s a huge gap between knowing and doing. It is crucial to bridge the gap, and that is by the grace of God, helping one another, helping a fellow believer as a Victory group leader, helping them to cross the bridge and apply it in their lives.

Victory group leaders have to help one another; we can’t do it, apart from one another, letting the Word of God be applied in our lives. The challenges and pains in this life, we can’t make it without the Word of God being part of who we are. In the Philippines, we have regular guests: around nineteen to twenty storms every year. In Metro Manila, we have around five to six storms. We call it typhoons; in Bangladesh, they call it cyclone; in the US, they called it hurricane. Nevertheless, these are storms. Pastor Ariel mentioned that a while ago, when we started out, when he tried to explain Establish, the Scriptures from Matthew 7:24-27 told about the wise man who built his house on a rock, but when the rain fell and the winds blew, and the floods came, and beat against the house, the house did not fall because it was founded on the rock. But the foolish man who built his house on the sand, when the rain came in and the winds blew and came and beat against the house, the house fell with a great crash.

You know, with the typhoons hitting us, I have my own personal experience in my province. I grew up in Central Luzon, where we experience around seven to eight typhoons every year. I had an experience when I visited Tacloban, seeing the devastation and seeing the bodies all over the place because of a huge storm, and people asking questions upon questions; it’s tough to be a pastor in the middle of this devastation. Pastor Janssen and I had dinner in the midst of all this, and all the eyes were on us, inquiring about the typhoons and the devastation, and there were arguments, they would argue and they would talk, and then finally, everyone’s eyes were on us, the pastors, as if we all know the answers to all the issues of the world.

Sometimes, you feel the same way, but I believe if we have the Word of God in our hearts, though we may go through some tough times, there’s something there. As we say in Tagalog, “meron kang mahuhugot. Sa paghihirap sa buhay, meron kang mahuhugot, because the Word of God is in your heart.”

I appreciate my wife, Judy, for going through this life with me. We have a son who was born with special needs. He’s about to be 14 years old. What is sustaining us today is the Word and His promises to each and every one of us. Before coming here today, I had to see my son go through through a seizure. What would sustain a father? What would sustain a person who’s going through some tough times in life? There’s only one thing that would help us be sustained. Through the storms of life, there’s one thing that would cause us to move on and continue to fulfill God’s purpose in our lives: His Word.

Establishing in the Word and prayer.
Devoted to study.
Delighted to do.

And the last part, it says there, “to teach.” Determined to teach. It is part of establishing foundations of the Word and prayer in the heart of a believer, for them not just to gain knowledge to apply it in their lives, but also for them to find someone to share their faith with, to find someone to share what the Lord has been speaking to them through the Word.

Teach! Going back to that passage in Matthew 28:20, teaching “them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Teaching is part of discipleship, and we cannot set that aside. I thank God for the people who have taught me the Scriptures. I thank God for Pastor Tom who helped me understand the Scriptures. I thank God for Gregory Dickow, who helped me and asked me to go read the Bible together with him, while he was reading his Bible in a corner, I was reading my Bible in the other corner. He showed me how to spend time in the Scriptures, and to preach. Some of you wonder if evangelists taught me how to preach, but it was Pastor Steve who taught me how to preach in FEU and in UST. I thank God for the investment of time; in all the wrong words I’ve spoken, he would correct me along the way. I appreciate him going out with me in teaching others the Word of God. We needed somebody to come! It would take a community to make a disciple; we can’t have a disciple without the community.

Teach!

In page 145 of WikiChurch, it says, “Just be a chapter ahead.” Just one chapter ahead! If you are are one chapter ahead, as long as you can stay one chapter ahead, you can disciple him. You don’t have to be in a seminary to be able to teach. One of the challenges we had in 1984, when we would go out and preach in the streets, would be religious folks who would come to use and ask:

“Have you been to a seminary? What seminary have you come from?”

And they would ask us, while we were preaching the gospel, they would challenge us, “Have you been to a seminary?”

Thirty-four years later, now I’m in the seminary!

But thirty-four years ago? “What do you mean, cemetery, I mean, seminary?”

We only know the Bible! We only know people who helped us go through the Scriptures and built that foundation in our lives. Amazing, amazing experience.

You know what? Ezra said that he devoted himself, he set his heart, devoted himself, to study, to do, and to teach. Now, that’s one man. But when we go to Acts 2:42, they devoted themselves to apostles’ teaching, to prayer and to fellowship, to breaking of bread, and to prayers. We want each and every one of us to be devoted in faith, devoted in the Word and prayer, devoted in fellowship and church community. When we are founded on the rock, when we are founded and devoted to the Scriptures, then it will help establish others, it would ignite a spiritual passion in others as well. As Victory group leaders and interns, a disciple established in God’s Word and prayer ignites spiritual passion for others to follow. When they see you and I established in God’s Word and prayer, then it would ignite something in the hearts of the people we’re helping.

The reason why I’m able, the reason why it’s possible for me, as a young person, to read the Scriptures, is because I’d seen this man exemplify reading the Bible. I still remember him up to today, because he would show me the Scripture. He was the one who brought me to biblical foundations. Greg Dickow. He would bring me into that class—that was the first time I met Pastor Steve teaching the class—to make sure that it was established in my life.

I’d like to encourage us today: have your own Bibles. Have a Bible app if you need to, or an old-school Bible. Get a Bible. Get a large print if you’re above forty; if you’re below, it doesn’t matter. Get your own Bible, not your wife’s Bible. Have your own! Then have a notebook where you can write the verses that the Lord has been speaking to you.

You can use different ways to do it. There’s SOAP. There’s Scripture, Observe, Ask, and then, Pray. Who among you take a bath every day? Okay, remember SOAP, every day, you gotta have that SOAP. You get your Bible. Scripture, Observe, Ask Questions, and then Pray.

Let’s say you don’t take a bath every day. You go on the road, so let’s use ROAD. Read, Observe, Ask, and Do. ROAD. Maybe you can do that, whatever it takes, just read and then observe, ask questions, and then write what you have been observing, and out from that would come your devotion and then prayer at the end.

Or, I made up another one: Stare. Stare at the Scriptures, and if you see something glaring, something that you have observed, write it down. Glare. Have you experienced that, something glaring out of the verse? And then Dare to change. Have you read your Bible sometimes, reading your Bible, and you start crying? You close your Bible, and then you start crying? The Holy Spirit is daring you to be transformed, and you come before God in prayer, and then you Share. Find somebody to share what you have learned that day in your devotion.

Whatever it takes!

Then you gotta have The Purple Book! Go through it, and get deeper in the Scriptures. We are trying to put it online so that it can be quicker for some of us to share it with others, but there’s no shortcut. Go get The Purple Book. I’m just so encouraged today. May the Lord bless you as you continue to search the Scripture like the Bereans.

Steve Murrell, “Establish in the Faith”

Steve Murrell, “Establish in the Faith”

The following is a transcript of “Establish in the Faith,” a message delivered by Pastor Steve Murrell at Discipleship 2018.

In northern Italy in 1173, a group of some of the world’s most brilliant architects and engineers set out to build what would be the largest church bell tower in all of Europe. They designed one of the most beautiful buildings of its time.

It took about 199 years to build, so obviously, the original architects were no longer around. The problem was, as they were building for those almost 200 years, they noticed that the building began to tilt. By the time they had finished four stories of what would be eight floors, it was tilting, and they decided to correct the tilt, they would build the columns on the north side taller than the columns on the south side.

Every time they tried to fix the building, it never worked, because they worked on the outside. They worked on the decorative parts of the building; they worked on the external visible structure, and the building continued to tilt more. By the time they finished, they had indeed built the tallest bell tower in all of Europe.

But there was one problem: it could not function as a bell tower. They were unable to put the bells in the tower because they were too heavy, and they feared the whole thing would topple over. So here’s what happened: they built a beautiful building that was unable to function for the whole reason they built it.

For the next 500 years, after it was completed, it continued to lean a little bit more every year. A few centimeters this year, a few more the next year. By 1990, the Italian government closed the building to tourists. They would not allow anyone else to go up and try to reenact Newton’s apple drop.

I was traveling, about the year they closed it, in Singapore, and I noticed inside the airport, a picture of this building—the Leaning Tower of Pisa—and next to the picture was the phrase, “Good façade, bad foundation.”

I don’t really remember what the billboard was advertising, but I’ve never forgotten that idea. They tried to fix the outside of the building, but the outside was not the problem; the problem was the foundation. It reminds me of many Christians today: they look good on the outside, but here’s what happens. From the time their Christian life begins, they start leaning and tilting, ever closer to disaster, and they try to fix things on the outside. They try to fix things that are visible, and they try to make themselves look like good Christians, and even act like good Christians, but the problem is a weak foundation.

Today, everything about our gathering is about helping every one of you establish strong foundations in the people who attend your Victory group, and the people who don’t yet attend, but will. The new believers who will be baptized, but also old believers who have shaky, faulty, weak, and tilting foundations.

Now, our Scripture: Acts 2. We’re going to read just a few verses, beginning in 36. This is a Scripture that, when this church started in 1984, every single day for one month, I would meet with new believers, and this is the only scripture we would talk about. Every new wave of new believers, we would go right to Acts 2:36, here’s what it says, this is the first sermon ever preached and recorded in the New Testament church.

36 Let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

This is not the whole sermon; verse four, he says, “with many other words he exhorted them,” but I want to focus on this little piece of the very first sermon in the church age, once Jesus has ascended and now they’re gathered.

It starts off as every good church worship service must, as every good sermon has to do, it starts out focusing not on rules, not all religious rituals, not on a to-do and not-to-do list, it focuses on a person: Jesus Christ, and what he says is, you can know for certain who this Jesus is. And for us, the starting point of making disciples, the starting point of establishing biblical foundations, the starting point of everything good that happens spiritually in a disciple’s life is when we fully understand and know for certain exactly who Jesus is, according to Scripture.

Not according to my personal opinion, not according to my experience, not according to what my church says, not according to what my culture says, not according to what my philosophy professor says. “But know for certain who is Jesus, according to Scripture.” So as we establish foundations in the lives of new believers, the starting point is the person of Jesus Christ and what does he say? He says, “know for certain that God made him both Lord and Christ.”

Let’s talk about the word “Christ” for a moment. “Christ” was a religious phrase that all the Jewish people saw as their coming Savior. They prayed for this, they longed for this, and one day, this “Christ” would be the centerpoint of their religious life, and He would be the focal point of their worship, and He would be God coming to save them. But it’s not just Christ. Yes, He is the Savior, yes, He is the center of all real worship, yes, He is the center of our spiritual life, yes!

But he said, “know for certain that he is Lord and Christ.” “‘Lord” was not a religious word; “Lord” in that day, when people used the word “Lord” in the Roman Empire, it was very common to say “Caesar is Lord! Caesar is Lord!” What that meant was, Caesar has absolute authority, with no accountability, with no oversight, with no one to make adjustments, absolute authority.

The word “Lord” also meant a slave-and-master relationship. Slavery was very common in the Roman Empire; they were everywhere, and the master of the slave was “Lord.” And so, we have this idea of Savior, but also absolute authority. And that’s who Jesus is. Yes, He’s our Savior, but He’s also our Lord. That’s the starting point.

We get to verse 37: the sermon starts with, “Who is Jesus? He is Lord and He’s Savior; He is Lord and Christ.” Next, what happens in verse 37? It says, those who heard the message, “their hearts were cut.” And so, real foundations happen when the truth goes from our head to our hearts. There are a lot of people who know in their head, “Yeah, I know that Jesus, I’ve heard about Jesus all my life, I went to religious schools, I know that.” The question is not “Do you know it.” The question is, “Has it broken your heart? Has it caused a heart transformation?” And that’s what we’re looking for in discipleship.

Discipleship is not simply the transference of knowledge from one person to another; discipleship is not simply adopting religious patterns. Discipleship is when a heart is transformed by the reality of who Jesus Christ is. So what happens with real heart change? Here’s what they said: “What we do next?”

The way you know that there’s heart transformation in someone you’re discipling is, that they want to move forward with God. They want their relationship to move on; they want to respond to who Christ is, and what He says. They say, “What’s next?” Here’s how foundations happen.

Number one: Who is Jesus? Lord and Christ.

When that gets in our hearts, then we respond. The response was, “What do we do?” Here’s what he said: First thing. Repent. Let me explain what repentance is. You go in one direction and repent means, “I feel bad, and I turn around, and I go the other direction.” Repent means a change of mind and a change of direction, right? It’s different from penance.

Now, let’s say, this is God right here, and here’s what happens so often: in this foundation, repentance needs to go deep in our souls. I’m standing here with God, and I’ve gotten saved, but some of you may have had this in your own life, or maybe some of the people in your Victory group, and they kind of start wandering away from God, and they start going in the wrong direction, and then they start just wandering around, and then the thought comes, “I’m so far from God, I don’t think I can ever get back.”

You know, every step you take away from God, there is someone there, patting you on the back, telling you, “That’s a good move.” Every step away from God, there’s always someone there confirming that what you’re doing is really okay. And then, finally, we get convicted. “I’m so far from God, I don’t know if I can ever get back.”

You know what repentance is? When you turn around and realize He’s right there. You can never go so far that you can’t turn around.

Penance is not in the Bible anywhere; penance means, “I’m going away from God, I feel guilty, so I do something religious and do something good and I keep going in the same direction, then I feel guilty and I pray, ‘Lord, forgive me of my sin and forgive me tomorrow, because I’ll probably do it again, and then I keep going.’”

Repentance, though, which is a biblical word, means to turn around, and go the other direction. Foundations that we help establish in new believers: “Who is Jesus?” Once that goes in their hearts, then we teach them what repentance is—turning away, turning toward. Then he says, you repent, and what’s next?

“You’re baptized!” The word “baptize” in the original language here means to “immerse” or another phrase is, “to marinade.” You know, if you’re making some chicken barbecue? If you just cook your chicken and throw the sauce on it later, you don’t marinate it, that can just be wiped off, it doesn’t really go straight to the core, it’s only on the surface. “Baptize” means “to immerse,” and to soak, and to marinade, where it’s not just on the external, it goes all the way through.

My oldest son, when he was starting out his PhD program in Islamic History, he had to take Arabic. He had to be able to read Koranic Arabic, and so, he had to go to an immersion program. It’s this word from “baptize.” In this immersion program, he had to go to Jordan and immerse himself in the Arabic language. And he had to agree that he would not speak English the whole duration of the immersion program.

So baptize or immersion means, you surround yourself and soak yourself and absorb yourself in something new: the kingdom of God! It also means, you don’t do other things. My son had to agree and promise not to speak English that whole time.  And you know, religious people are always trying to get around it, too, just like that. So “baptize,” yes, it’s a religious ritual, but it’s more than that. It’s an immersion in the name of Jesus.

So what does he say? They say, “What do we do next?” “Repent, get baptized,” then he says, “and you’ll receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” In discipleship and establishing foundations, we’re teaching people how to receive the Holy Spirit, not resist the Holy Spirit.

It is one to be baptized in the Holy Spirit, receive the Holy Spirit, but we’re also teaching in discipleship, for the rest of your life, continue receiving an infilling of the Holy Spirit, and learn how to stop resisting the Holy Spirit. It’s a lifelong walk. When we establish foundations over and over and over, it’s who is Jesus? When that goes from the head of the heart, it’s repent, get baptized, be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Now remember I told you about that tower in northern Italy and how, in 1990, they stopped the construction? What they did, they had to fix it because it was leaning so far by this time, 600 almost 700 years after construction finished, it kept tilting more and more. And finally they knew if one more person climbed to the top, it was going down. Now, it took them ten years to fix the foundation. They stopped working on the façade, and they started working on the foundation. It took ten years and USD 27 million, and they fixed it. But if you notice pictures on Instagram of the Tower of Pisa, it’s still crooked, because they only corrected it fifteen inches. And they anchored it. They built new foundations; they actually went down 150 feet deeper than the foundation that had been there. And they anchored it permanently. They didn’t straighten it because all the tourists would’ve stopped coming, and the town would’ve gone bankrupt. Nobody wants to get a picture taken at the Straight Tower of Pisa. But they fixed the foundation finally.

You know, we live in a day that is obsessed with façades. It’s obsessed with the external; it’s obsessed with the temporal; it’s obsessed with how things look. But that’s not what foundations are about. Foundations are never seen. Once a building is up, foundations are ugly, they’re dirty. Foundations happen when we dig dirt out and dig more dirt and more dirt and more dirt, and then fill it with something else. And your task as a disciple-maker, your task as a Victory group leader is to help dig out the dirt and establish the reality of who Christ is. Then lead people in water baptism, in repentance, in getting filled with the Holy Spirit. We’ve made some tools to help you in the disciple-making process in this area of establishing people in the faith: ONE 2 ONE and Victory Weekend. Our goal is to make discipleship as accessible as possible, to as many people as possible.

Establishing foundations. That’s what we’re all about today. The reason? Because it’s not just the façade; it’s not just the externally visible. It’s the foundation that ensures the Christian life is going to the end, and that God will be honored from beginning until the end.

 

Discipleship 2018: Establish Biblical Foundations!

Discipleship 2018: Establish Biblical Foundations!

On March 10, more than 11,000 Victory group leaders and interns from Victory locations all over Metro Manila gathered at the Mall of Asia Arena for Discipleship 2018, our annual discipleship conference.

This year’s conference focused on equipping current and upcoming Victory group leaders to establish biblical foundations for themselves and the people they are committed to discipling.

Our leaders heard from three of Victory’s pastors. Victory founding Pastor Steve Murrell talked about establishing others in faith and building biblical foundations. After that, Bishop Ferdie Cabiling inspired us to establish disciples in God’s Word and prayer, that they may develop spiritual passion for others to follow. Finally, Pastor Gilbert Foliente stressed the importance of church community, emphasizing that we cannot be joined to Christ without being joined to His body.

Victory Worship led our leaders in a time of praise and worship. The group’s first EP release for 2018, “In Your Name,” will be available next week for online streaming and digital purchase.

Also, advance copies of Bishop Ferdie Cabiling’s new book, Run: Endure the Pain, Keep the Faith, Finish Your Race, were given to each leader and intern at the conference.

Together, each Victory group leader and intern is looking forward to helping establish biblical foundations in others this year.

Establish in the Faith

Establish in the Word and Prayer

Establish in Church Community

Get ready for Discipleship 2018!

Get ready for Discipleship 2018!

Thousands of leaders are coming together on March 10 at the Mall of Asia Arena for Discipleship 2018, Victory’s annual discipleship conference! Now on its sixth year, this leadership conference in the Philippines will pick up from the “Engage” theme of last year’s conference.

This 2018, we will return to the Arena for our program, which starts at 6:00 p.m.; gates will open at 4:00 p.m. Expect to hear encouraging messages, listen to testimonies of lives changed by the gospel, and be inspired to receive new impartation and commissioning as we honor God and make disciples together!

Victory has held five annual discipleship conferences since our first in 2013. Last year, our discipleship conference equipped and empowered our Victory group leaders to engage culture and community to preach the gospel.

EVENTS DETAILS

  • What: Discipleship 2018
  • Who: Victory group leaders and interns
  • When: March 10, 2018, 6:00 p.m.
  • Where: SM Mall of Asia Arena
  • Registration Fee: PHP 300 per leader/intern

Registration. Leaders may register with the Discipleship administrator at any Metro Manila location for PHP 300 per leader/intern. Upon registration, you will be told when to claim your Discipleship 2018 ID.

Social Media. For Discipleship 2018 updates, follow Victory on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The official conference hashtag is #Discipleship2018.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

  • What time does Discipleship 2018 start?
    Gates will open at 4:00 p.m. Our program will start at 6:00 p.m. We recommend you have a meal before you proceed to the conference.

 

  • I lost my ID/ticket. What do I do?
    Unfortunately, the Mall of Asia Arena does not reissue tickets, so please do not lose your ID and the Mall of Asia Arena ticket that comes with it. These cannot be replaced. The Mall of Asia also implements a strict “No Re-Entry” policy.

 

  • How do I get to the Mall of Asia Arena?
    The Mall of Asia Arena is located at the Mall of Asia Complex in Pasay, City. For complete directions, please click here. A few of our locations in Metro Manila will be sending delegates by bus; please inquire with your local church if you can ride with them.

 

  • Where do I park?
    Parking is available at the open-air parking beside the Mall of Asia Arena, the Annex parking building beside the Arena, and the multi-level covered parking facility located at the Mall of Asia proper. We recommend you park at the South Parking of the SM Mall of Asia. This is the parking area inside the mall, facing the SMX open parking area. To get there, take J. W. Diokno Boulevard, then turn right onto Marina Way. The South parking entrance will be on your right.

 

  • Can I bring my children?
    The Mall of Asia Arena has no space for a Kids facility. So unless your child is a Victory group leader or intern, we strongly recommend you do not bring your children to the conference.

 

  • I’m not a Victory group leader. Can I attend Discipleship 2018?
    Discipleship 2018 is exclusively for Victory group leaders and leader-identified interns. If you are a member of a Victory group, please ask your Victory group leader if he or she has identified you for internship, which would qualify you for entry to the conference. Tickets and IDs will not be sold at the venue on the day itself.

 

  • What do I wear?
    Slippers, shorts, and sleeveless tops are not allowed inside the Mall of Asia Arena.

 

  • Where do I enter or line up?
    The only open entrance to the Mall of Asia Arena is the Coral entrance. The lines for entry will run alongside Pacific Drive (the covered walkways directly beside the open-air parking facility).

 

  • Can I bring food into the Arena?
    Food and beverage brought from outside the Mall of Asia Arena will not be allowed into the facility. The Mall of Asia Arena has several quality food concessionaires to give you time to dine and mingle.

 

  • What can I bring into the Arena?
    Bring a Bible, a notebook and pen for notes, and a fully charged mobile phone or non-DSLR camera so you can take pictures or video to remember the conference by. Please do not bring the following: sharp objects, firearms, illegal substances, and large banners.

 

  • Can I step out of the Arena during the conference?
    The Mall of Asia Arena has a strict “No Re-entry” policy.

 

  • I am pregnant or a person with disability. Is there a special section for me?
    Please inform your Discipleship Administrator immediately, if you are or someone with you is pregnant or a person with disability (PWD).

We look forward to what God will do in and through us this year. As we come together for Discipleship 2018, let us prepare for the conference and be excited to continue to honor God and make disciples!