Thursday, September 30, 2010

Should We Ask For Money On Social Networks Like Facebook?

Asking for financial help for the work of the Lord is not wrong in itself. For so many years, ethical ministers have asked for financial aids for their ministries and organizations. Having initiated three orphanages, I am sympathetic to those ministers who need to raise funds. 

I remember when one of my orphanages ran out of funds, I approached my Christian business friends whom I personally knew and asked them for financial donations. These friends responded readily because they knew the ministry that I was involved with. They were confident that the money was used for the orphans.

Today, through the internet, many Christians have been scammed into giving to ministries that are neither authentic or even in existence. These bogus ministries utilize fear, sympathy and guilt-trips to suck the money out of sincere but gullible Christians. 

Many give false promises such as God will bless the giver with rich return if he or she will sow a 'seed faith' to their ministries. Very seldom does one hear these people asking you to sow to your church or bless your pastor with the extra love offerings. 

The good news is that you do not need to sow any so-called 'seed faith' into the coffers of these false ministers in order to receive the blessings that are already in your salvation. You are a good steward and should use your money wisely.

Today, social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and many others on the internet are used for fund-raising purposes. Many unknown preachers and missionaries are posting on our pages requesting for financial gifts. Some are from small churches while others claim to run charitable ministries such as orphanages and feeding programs. Many even include convincing photos and commentaries that can cause compassionate tears to readily fall for their cause.

Many of the postings and mails are carefully disguised as 'Prayer Letters'. These communications usually begin with prayer requests. In a very subtle manner, the writers would make a very innocent request for financial help. 

How should we respond to all these requests from unknown sources? I have only one advice - do not give them anything! That's correct, you read it correctly! Do not give a single cent. The reason is obvious - these ministers are not ethical at all. 

To solicit directly from Christians individually is not an ethical practice... especially when there is no way of verifying whether these requests are from genuine ministries. For example, I received a request from a so-called pastor who asked for money to help his country that was suffering from a recent hurricane and massive floods. I deleted the request immediately. First and foremost, I did not know him or his ministry. Second, neither any of my ministry friends knew this person. ! rather give my donation to my church, the Red Cross or World Vision than to such unverified ministry.

How then can a ministry receive funding?

In many Christian denominations or organizations, their missionaries and ministers are backed up by their churches or supporters. The ministers in the fields have to submit regular reports so as to keep those who support them informed of the progress and development of their ministries. The denomination usually helps out in the time of crisis or emergency. Since the supporting churches and individuals are kept regularly informed, they are also able to help in the time of needs.

How about independent ministers? These ministers may not submit to any organizational leadership but they still need to be accountable to those who support them. First and foremost, they are accountable to the Lord and should depend on Him to open doors of financial blessings. God will cause people who know the ministers and their ministries to help them. In the time of needs, the close friends of these ministers would become their spoke persons to raise supports for them.

Ministers who use social networks on the internet to actively request funds from total strangers and believers are not only unethical but wrong. 

Do not respond to them at all!

It is good if you want to give to mission works or Christian ministries. However only give to those that you can verify as genuine. To be on the safe side, give to those ministries that are recommended or approved by your church leadership or pastor.

For the ministers who go around 'begging' for money on the social networks, it is best that they stop this practice. Let them learn to depend on God. This is not a cliché but the reality that all ministers have to face. If what we do is God's work, then He will surely provide.

In my own ministry, there are many times when the fund is low and ministry requests are heavy. Third-world ministry is not financially supportive and it can be tough to sustain such ministry. If my wife and I were to look only for financially lucrative ministry, we would have gone to only financially endowed churches in rich countries. We are smarter than that - we look towards our very rich God. Till the time of this writing, our God has never failed us yet.

Our intention and purpose as the servants of God must be clear and true. If we are not careful, we will become 'professional beggars'.We will end up begging for money everywhere we go. I personally know of a Cambodian preacher who spends 8 months of every year in USA to raise funds for his 'churches' in Cambodia. He claims that he has 40 churches but his right-hand man tells me that it is a lie. Every time, a foreign donor visits his ministry in Cambodia, his right-hand man has to gather Christians from other churches and even recruit ordinary villagers to put on a show for the visitor.

I know of another pastor from Myanmar who spends the same amount of time raising funds in USA. I visited his church and the facilities were really run-down. However, the pastor's wife, who was showing us around, was decked in gold chains, bangles and ear-rings. The church looked really poor but the pastor's wife did not looked famished or living in poverty. Then I learned from my local contact that the reason why this church was kept in that run-down condition was to invoke sympathy from foreign Christian donors. 

Many Christians, especially those from developed countries, are very sincere but some of them do not possess much wisdom. They can be so gullible that it has become  known that they can be fleeced. One Filipino pastor shared about an incident where a local minister showed a photo of a sport event and managed to convince his foreign donors that it was a picture of the crowd in his evangelistic crusade.

The money that should go to genuine ministries often ends up in the private coffers of these false ministers. Wise up now and let your church leadership guide you. It's nothing wrong to give and support ministries and ministers but it is absolutely wrong to give to ministries that are not verifiable or that are downright fakes.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Does Time Mean Anything?

Does the God of eternity understand the meaning of time? Apparently, He does. He has limited Himself to work within the framework to time because He is working with people who are framed by time. He even came as a Man - born in the manger and died on the Cross. 

Do we then understand the meaning of time?

In my musing today, I ask whether I really understand the meaning of time. Time is only but a term when compared to infinity and eternity. Many around me have heard my regular complaining about how time flies. The reality is that time does not fly but we fly. We fly from being in time to outside of time. We fly from limited time to eternity. 

The moment we were born into the chronological framework of "in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth", we enter into time. Like our first parents, we were created with eternity within our souls. 

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

Sin separated us from God but Jesus joined us back to God. Thus our life in time is not without a glimpse of hope and eternity.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (1 Peter 1:3)

Like a rushing river, time roars by. We are like seeds fallen into this ferocious river. We can respond with fear at the rate which the river of time flows or we can trust that the life that God has given within us will germinate in eternity. 

Life does not pass us by because life is within us. Our present bodies are subjected to entropy, decay and death. To the world, death is the finality of life. However, to the followers of Christ, we see this as a door. There will be the resurrection of our bodies as the Bible says:

But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:20-22).

What more can we say about time? It's but an avenue by which, in our limitation, we can serve our God. It's an avenue for us to learn how to rely on God. In the darkness of our sinful existence, we experience the liberating power of His love. In our weakness, we encounter a strength that only He can give. While flowing with time, our desire is only for our God and Savior:

Whom have I in heaven but you?  And earth has nothing I desire besides you. (Psalm 73:25)

In the midst of the rushing river of time, we are calm because Jesus Christ is in our boat. In these few 'ten years' of our life on earth, let's create precious memories of His faithfulness. Our walk with the Lord will continue from earth to heaven. Just as what Paul the Apostle said, we many be aging but we fix our eyes upon the hope of eternity provided by our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.(2 Corinthians 16-18).

Friday, September 24, 2010

Fourteen Days

The Second Half after Half Time is getting very exciting. This year, Grace and I have been invited to so many destinations to conduct the Elijah Challenge Seminar that we have to reject some of invitations.

The most recent trip was a 14-day mission spent in the Philippines. Grace, her father and I landed on beautiful Cebu at near midnight of 9 September 2010. Our dear friend, Pastor Butch Nagua came to the airport with a borrowed mini-van. In his excitement, he forgot to turn off the headlights and so when we all squeezed into the vehicle, it refused to start. The battery was dead and we had to push!

Pushing the mini-van with Bro Ong
We pushed the vehicle in the rain! Yes, the storm came and did so furiously. It was a 'wonderful' beginning. We had planned to be in Cebu and Mindanao for 10 days but God had other plan. He threw in a 4-day forced visit to Manila. Grace had contracted conjunctivitis while we were ministering in Butuan, Mindanao. The Cebu Pacific Airlines allowed all of us to go onboard to fly to Manila. However, Grace was stopped from boarding Malaysian Airlines. Three hours of waiting and haggling got us nowhere. The MAS staffs were incompetent at best. That's another story.

The ministry in Cebu was fruitful. We had outdoor preaching, radio ministry, seminars on healing in three places before we boarded the ship to Butuan City. Not to forget all the people who were healed during the seminars. Another exciting result was that many pastors and preachers were excited to see all the healing and they wanted to learn more.

Nameless and faceless believers healing the sick in the name of Jesus
The ministry in Butuan was at NOGAP - a church located at Buenavista and the acronym stands for 'Nook of God's Awesome Presence'. The few days that we were there also saw many healing miracles.We joined Pastor Lorenzo Oalican on his radio program on Saturday. Then on the final day, I preached at BECMA Joint Worship Service where churches in Buenavista combined together once every quarter to worship God and hear the Word.

A mad dash to the airport in Manila. That was when Grace was grounded. After sending Grace's dad on the way to Kuala Lumpur, Grace and I stayed back in Manila for her eyes to recover. We knew God had something in mind and so we anticipated. Pastor Rick Alay was the angel sent to take care of us. The four days that we were in Manila, Pastor Rick took care of us. He even offered to pay our hotel's bills. We declined his kind offer because we had troubled him enough. He then invited us to minister to the students in the two campuses of his Bible School. The healing miracles were spectacular and we believe that the students will always remember that they can heal the sick by using the authority and power given by the Lord.

Rev Rick Alay made the arrangement for us to meet the Javier
Another highlight was the meeting with my professor, Dr. Eli Javier and his wife, Sis Esther, after more than 25 years. Dr. Javier is now in his 70s and undergoing dialysis. So, we proceeded to command the kidney disease to leave him. He could still remember what a rebel I was when I was younger.

The night before our departure, Pastor Rick arranged for Grace to get a medical certificate giving her permission to fly. Finally, when the day arrived, we were at MAS office in Makati to arrange for our flight back. The incredible incompetence of MAS was once again revealed. The office staff wanted to send us to the airport to get the tickets but the previous evening, we had spoken to one of the MAS people and were told to go to the office. So the communication gap was devastatingly clear. Everybody was trying to push the buck and so the only victim would be the passenger. Grace stood her ground that she wanted the air tickets there at the office. Pastor Rick helped by questioning their competence. Finally, we got our tickets and off to the airport we went.

Finally we are going home
Fourteen days in the Philippines and what an adventure of faith and patience! I am glad I am home sitting in my favorite chair and working on my laptop. Most of my pets are lying around on the floor next to me. One cat is on my lap. This is my home and I love it. Ministry may be fun but nothing is like home.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

From Humble Beginning

Chen's background was that of poverty and hard work. During 1960s when Singapore was struggling to survive as a young nation, Chen's parents were among the many who survived as hawkers along North Bridge Road. As the government was taken shape, the police no longer could be bribed, All hawkers had to get a license to hawk their wares. Chen's parents finally managed to acquire a hawking license to sell porridge but their lucrative location had to go. It was deemed to cause obstruction to traffic. Their stall was then moved to a side road and business became slower than normal.

The government school was free but the books, uniforms and stationery were not. All these took a financial toll on Chen's parents, Chen was determined to make it to the top of class and even school. He worked doubly-hard in his school works. In his heart and soul, he knew that he was the only answer out of poverty for his parents and two younger siblings. Being the eldest, the responsibility of the family weighed heavy upon his 16 year-old shoulders. His class results were good and he topped his class every year. His parents did not understand how hard their son had worked until he came back one day to invite them to attend a school function. Chen had graduated first not only in his class but in the school. How proud the parents were when Chen's name was called. As he walked to receive his award and certificate, there were tears in the eyes of his parents.

Every day, after school, Chen was at the stall helping his parents. As a typical filial son, he was concerned about the health of his parents. He wanted them to take a break in the afternoon but they wanted him to go out with his friends. The love between parents and child was most commendable. For a teenager, Chen did not feel that he had missed the activities that some of his classmates and friends were enjoying. Moreover, he did not have the money to go to the movies at South Bridge Road. His joy is listening to English and Chinese music from their little Rediffusion set. When the parents were home, the little cabled radio was turned to Chinese talk programs and narratives. Simple life but rich in many ways.

At 18, Chen had completed his Pre-university education and like all 18 year-old young Singaporean males, he had to serve his National Service. He felt bad that he had become too busy and had to neglect his parents and their porridge business. Then he was offered an opportunity to become a fighter pilot. Without any hesitancy, he signed up. The deal was not just the regular two-year service required of National Service men but a twelve-year contract of a regular servicemen. Chen was attached to a training squadron at Changi Air Base. Initially, during his basic training, his parents, especially his mother, found time to visit him. Later, when he became an officer cadet, he had the time to visit them during the weekends.

The proud day came, when Chen became a Second Lieutenant of the Republic of Singapore Air Force. He progressed rapidly in his career. Most of the Taiwanese flight instructors spoke highly of him. They felt that Chen had the making of a squadron leader. The fact was that he did not only become a squadron leader, he became a base commander. By that time, Chen had gotten married, moved his parents to his new condominium and made them proud grandparents of two adorable children.

When asked what gave him the inspiration to achieve success, he said that it was a friend who shared with him the secret of success. He recalled while he was serving as a trainee pilot at Changi Air Base, an army clerk shared Christ with him. It took him a while to grasp the idea that he was a sinner and needed a Saviour. Initially, he did not feel that he was a sinner but a very good and filial son. He reasoned that he was honest and kind. How could God punish such a good person like him? 

One night, Chen was on night duty. His companion was the Christian clerk. Chen said that he was a good person and therefore, he had no need for any salvation from the so-called sins. The army clerk then asked if Chen would like to take a 'good person' test. Chen jokingly agreed. 

The clerk asked Chen whether the Ten Commandments meant anything to him. Chen said that apart from having watched the movie, 'Ten Commandments" acted by Charlton Heston, he had no idea what these commandments were all about. The Christian clerk explained about the laws of God and if anyone violated them, they will not be able to go to heaven.

Chen wondered why God would be so evil as to punish mankind. The clerk explained meticulously about how God loves mankind and instead of allowing sinful mankind to go to hell, He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for fallen mankind. 
Chen was asked whether he had ever lied and he was honest enough to admit that he had lied.Yes, he was a liar.Then the clerk asked whether he had ever stolen. Chen became quiet because when he was a boy, his family was very poor. He was at Yaohan supermarket and he took a candy bar without paying. That had bothered him for a long time. Yes, he was a thief.

Chen also admitted that he had succumbed to lust and read Playboy magazines that belonged to another officer cadet. Yes, he was an adulterer.

What about the sin of murder? Chen was confused. He asked the clerk how could he be a murderer and still served as a cadet officer. The clerk explained that according to the Bible, anyone who hates others has already committed murder.

A heavy load descended upon Chen. He hated one of his maternal uncles who borrowed money from his parents to pay his gambling debts. One day, this uncle came to his house and shouted at his parents for not giving him enough money. Chen was 16 at that time, and he took a stool from the kitchen and attacked that uncle. That uncle never came back ever again. Chen had resolved in his heart that he would kill that uncle if he ever dare to come back again. Yes, Chen admitted to the clerk that he had hatred in his heart.

The clerk then asked, "If you are a liar, thief, adulterer and murderer, then how can you say you are a good person? Do you believe that by what you have done, heaven will be able to accept you?"

Chen hung his head in shame. After about a week of spiritual struggle, he confessed his sins. He told the Lord that he had repented of his sins and to grant him forgiveness.  He invited the Lord Jesus to become his Saviour. It was from then that he was determined to make the best of his life. 
For a moment, he wanted to become a missionary but after talking to his pastor, he realized that he could serve God better as a pilot. In his years as a fighter pilot, he was able to lead many members of his squadron to accept Christ as their Saviour. Even though he was never a full-time missionary, every year, he and his family would go on at least one mission trip. He said that the people whom he served in the mission fields had taught him more than what he had blessed them.

Today, Chen is no longer with the Air Force but flying commercial international flights with the Singapore Airlines. His elderly parents have since retired and enjoying their golden years with Chen and his family. The other two siblings have also grown up and become professionals too. 

The most wonderful of all is that all of them are now believers and attending the same church. Through hard works and persistence, Chen brought his family from poverty to success. But most importantly, Chen had brought salvation to his whole family and they are serving God actively.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Elephants Afraid of Ants

I am thrilled to learn from the BBC that elephants are afraid of ants. In my limited knowledge of these giants, I always thought that elephants were afraid of mice. However, the truth is far from what is fable.

Elephants are very destructive and tend to destroy many trees whenever they feed on them. With the increase in elephant population, forests have been greatly affected by their extensive feeding. They strip off their barks and even uproot them. 

In East Africa, there is a species of acacia tree that protects itself by having a symbiotic relationship with ants. This tree provides its branches that serve as homes and shelters for these acacia ants. Apart from that, the plant also produces nectar that helps feed these ants. Thus, when any part of the tree is disturbed, the ants will swarm to protect that part.

The researchers from American universities notice that elephants are very wary about being bitten on the soft undersides of their trunks. When they smell the ants, they will just move away from the tree. In other studies, the researchers also discovered that elephants are afraid of bees too. Whenever they hear the buzzing sound of bees, they will move away to avoid being stung.

Apart from using ants as natural allies to protect farm crops, what can we learn from this research? 

To me, this is a good illusion for church unity.  A single ant can do nothing. However, when united, the ants can stop elephants from invading their homes and source of food.No matter how small we are, when we are united, we can stand even against giants.

Unity is most important to the modern Church. We are thus encouraged to "make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3)."   

Paul the Apostle is clear about how unity can be achieved, "Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity (Colossians 3:14)."

Finally, let us be reminded by another of Paul's admonitions - "Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel" (Philippians 1:27).

Let's stand firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together, by so doing, we can stand against and even chase giants!  

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The 'Outside-In' Approach to Stand Out Among Your Peers

Last year, I wrote an article about how one could remain employed even when the economic situation was not doing too good. Trust that this article will be helpful to those who are serving as employees. Here is the article:

It is not about the bad economic climate that you need to learn how to behave positively and work hard. Even though that is a really good motivation, good work attitude in itself will carry you through positively in your career life. Whether you remain as an employee or ultimately run your own business, you will find such attitude helpful. On the other hand, if you only adopt good attitude and work hard because you are afraid to lose your job, then you will soon find this approach to be extremely stressful.

The most important thing about a person is his or her personal work conviction. You work hard and have a very good work attitude because these have been integrated into your very being. This is the real you. When something is expressed from deep within, it is second nature and therefore the stress level is almost zero.

What happens if you don't really have such good work attitude? Well, there is still hope because good work attitude can be inculcated and built from outside in. This means that you can purposefully train yourself to response positively until those responses become subconscious actions.

For that to happen, it has to begin with a 'change of mind' and 'paradigm shift' from within the soul. In the heart of heart, you must decide that you are going for the real thing - a transformation of your total attitude towards work and life. Nothing false will suffice.

How does this 'outside-in' approach work for you? Here are some suggestions that may be helpful for you to really stand out from the common working folks.

1. Determine not to react negatively but response positively to all situations. You may not be able to change the situation but by maintaining your cool and positive mental attitude, you give your mind a chance to become hyper-creative. Creativity is important to solve the problem at hand. By becoming ballistic, you will only make the matter worse. Ask yourself, in a work environment, does the boss prefer someone who can solve the problems creatively or someone who just goes berserk?

2. Go the second mile in your job! Choose to go the second mile and be early in delivering your assignments.  In antiquity, the Romans ruled much of the ancient world. The Roman soldiers were allowed to command ordinary citizens to help them carry their burdens. By law, these citizens were required to help the soldiers for the first mile. Upon reaching the first-mile marker, the soldiers no longer had the legal rights to insist further assistance. The burden bearers could drop their loads and walked away. Jesus was the one who asked his disciples not only to go the first mile but learn how to go the second mile. Imagine how shocked the Roman soldiers felt when the burden bearers offered to help carry their burdens for the next mile.

This type of shock treatment would regularly cause bewilderment. The authority figure will always wonder whether this second-mile subordinate is crazy or really willing to help. Imagine, what your boss would think if you are the only worker who asks for more challenging task whenever you have finished your existing task. When you go beyond the call of duty, won't your boss take note?

Today, businesses have found this second-mile approach to be fantastic good business principle. That is why you see hotels, airlines, car rental services and other service-oriented businesses going the second and even third mile to serve their customers. What is the result of their 'sacrifice'? They build a long list of repeated and loyal customers.

3. Honesty is the best policy. Bosses may lie through their teeth but they expect you not to lie. Telling the truth is most important because no matter how trivial the lie, it will come back one day to haunt you. Telling little lies is very dangerous because it makes you a compulsive liar. When discovered, your boss will never be able to trust what you say or do. For a good working relationship with your colleagues, you have to rout any thought of telling even a simple white lie. Once you have a reputation as a liar, then it will be impossible for anyone around you to take you seriously.

4. Promote your friends and colleagues! Speak highly of those who deserve the recognition. Paying tribute to where tribute is due not only makes you an objective person but also a well-liked person. On the other hand, if you flattered the person with no evidence of his or her genuine contribution to the project, then you are no better than a liar. Even the person whom you flatter will not believe you.

Whenever you complete a project, do take note of all those who have contributed to it. Be sure to mention them in your report. Speak highly of the management too. Try to understand their problems and see things from their point of view. People who are in middle management are the ones who suffer more than most. The reason is because they have to be accountable to the top management and responsible for those who work under their jurisdiction. Choose to honor rather than blame. Choose to bless rather than condemn. Choose to diffuse rather than accuse.

5. Learn to share the burden of your boss. There are tasks that your boss may not like to do himself. Some of those tasks may be very menial but if you show initiatives to help your boss, he or she will definitely appreciate you for your effort. However, ask his or her permission first before launching into the project. Being wise in evaluating what to help, when to help and how to help is vital for your career to progress.

6. Give positive feedbacks to your management. Be the ears of the company and find out what the customers want. Learn about their needs and recommend positive ideas so that the business may create great impact in the marketplace. Most bosses would notice such a worker and will treasure you. If you were to leave and move into another career, your present management will miss you badly.

7. Gather all the information about your industry and make yourself an 'expert'. Use the '30-10 Power' approach to learn and become an 'expert'. Every day, take 30 minutes to read the appropriate information and then 10 minutes interacting with the article or chapter. Do this for 90 days and you will soon realize that your knowledge of the industry will increase in leaps and bounce. You will never fear any retrenchment exercise because no company is willing to let go of their 'experts'. 

When you diligently apply the above suggestions, the chances of your continued employment will be very great. However, in the event that you have to leave your present employment for whatever reasons, this positive approach will carry you through in both good and bad times. Your reputation will precede you and many companies will grab you into their employment at the slightest opportunity.