My thoughts on what has been happening

It happened in a split second. We heard a loud sound and we saw a truck get into an accident. Just a couple of feet from this unfortunate event was my parked car. I just kept on thanking God nothing happened to it. We went to check if the driver was fine and praise God that he was still in good shape even after the accident.  It was a modern day miracle considering that the windshield was crushed and the bumper totally destroyed. After getting over the initial shock of what’s happened before my very eyes, I just found myself  contemplating over the Maring Storm and the Metro submerged in water.

Snapshots of the flood by Maring

Maring Meme Funny

English: Going to work, boss. No flood.

And we thought the worst was over after “Ondoy” and “Habagat”. But why does it seem like Maring’s flood was worse than both combined? Families were  left without homes, areas that were supposed to be safe from flooding were affected, and countless people are still missing – some presumed to be dead.  And the sad thing about it is, we Filipinos still find ways to make fun of the tragedy. Because in the midst of all the sadness we see, laughter is a way for us to momentarily forget what was happening. There’s nothing totally wrong about having this mindset, especially if it being handled properly, but reality has its way of making its presence known. Once you get to that point, there’s nothing else you can do but face reality and  admit to yourself that yes, there’s no escaping the reality that is happening right now.

I found myself asking God so many questions at this point.

“What is it that You are doing?”

“What are You showing us?”

“What is it that You’re trying to teach us?”

I couldn’t think of the answers for these questions. Some may want to speculate and just draw conclusions from it. But personally, what’s really sinking deep within my heart and mind is that I am not totally in control! The accident that I saw could happen to anyone. It could have even happened to me. The rain that we are experiencing is something we cannot stop. All we can do is get down on our knees and pray that the Lord answers us and shows mercy upon us for he controls (Job 5: 10) the rain. Creation speaks for itself that indeed, there is a higher being in control.

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. Romans 1:18-20.

I write this entry to hopefully give encouragement to those who are suffering. We might not understand why all of these things are happening, but let us all remember the God who is in control and loves and cares for us. In His greatness and holiness, He is still very mindful of us. We can seek refuge in him. We can trust Him. He will always be faithful to His word and who He is. Know who you are in His eyes. No amount of suffering will ever contradict the nature of who God is. He is a loving God.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea. Psalms 46:1-2.

The Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. Jeremiah 31:3.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Psalm 18:2.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:1.

The suffering here on this earth is temporary compared to the eternity that awaits us. I pray that this song moves you into one action alone. Despite the suffering, God is still to be worshiped and trusted. Despite our loss, He should be enough for us.

I come, God, I come
I return to the Lord
The one who’s broken
The one who’s torn me apart
You strike down to bind me up
You say you do it all in love
That I might know you in your suffering

Though you slay me
Yet I will praise you
Though you take from me
I will bless your name
Though you ruin me
Still I will worship
Sing a song to the one who’s all I need

My heart and flesh may fail
The earth below give way
But with my eyes, with my eyes I’ll see the Lord
Lifted high on that day
Behold, the Lamb that was slain
And I’ll know every tear was worth it all

Though you slay me
Yet I will praise you
Though you take from me
I will bless your name
Though you ruin me
Still I will worship
Sing a song to the one who’s all I need

Though tonight I’m crying out
Let this cup pass from me now
You’re still more than I need
You’re enough for me
You’re enough for me

Note from the author: if you want to help, CCF is currently holding relief operations in many locations. CCF Relief Operations is for those who were affected by Typhoon Maring. You can donate your spare items to the nearest CCF branch from your home. You can also drop by and  volunteer to pack goods.

CCF relief operations Maring

7 Rules in Facilitation

Facilitation is a skill that can be used in a lot of different ways. Whether you are leading a meeting in your organization, brainstorming new ideas at your workplace, or teaching a small group in your church, the right facilitation skills can help you run discussions more smoothly.

It is the skill of drawing every member to actively discuss a particular topic, leading to a group consensus and actionable response from each participant. –GLC3, Making Disciples 3

If you want to know how to facilitate, I’ll be sharing here 7 rules that you need to establish every time you lead a small group in your church. Most of what I’ll be teaching is from a lesson I learned from my GLC3 course and through personal experience.

1. Explain the Guidelines

First, you need to establish rules between you (facilitator) and the members of your small group prior the discussion. This will help you create order in your meetings as your strive to come up with a consensus within your group

2. Encourage Others to Talk

Not everyone in the group will really want to share. Be sensitive enough to take notice of those who are not participating enough and encourage them to speak up and share their thoughts every once in a while. Don’t force them though. Encourage them to willingly open up.

3. Be an Active Listener

Being an active listener involves a lot of body language. You can nod your head in agreement, establish eye contact to show attention or tilt your body forward to indicate interest. You can also respond by agreeing with short phrases like “ok”, “Uh ah”, or “you’re right”.

4. Ask the Right Questions

I have lead my discipleship group for years already and I can honestly say that, based on experience, asking the right question is one of the important keys to facilitating. Always use open-ended questions. Don’t use questions that will only get you a “yes” or “no” answer because discussions often end with that kind of questions. You can also use greater response questions by asking the participant to describe, summarize, or explain the lesson. Redirecting questions from one participant to the other can also be effective. Or you can also use feedback and clarification questions. Again, the key is to use the right question. Be sensitive to what type of question would be appropriate for a situation.

5. Respond Appropriately to Questions and Comments

Some helpful responding skills are paraphrasing, summarizing or using the sandwich method to correct a wrong statement.  You can paraphrase by stating what the person said using your own words. You can summarize it by starting with “correct me if I’m wrong, but this is how I understand it…” and stating some major points from the discussion. The sandwich method or kiss, kick, kiss is an effective way to refocus the discussion if there are points that you don’t agree to. You can say “Thank you for sharing your ideas, but I think this is the correct interpretation for this lesson…but please, do continue sharing your ideas so we can learn from each other.”

6. Conclude by asking each one for a practical application

The goal of facilitating a small group discussion in your church is to end with a practical application point they can do. You can use the SMART acronym to ensure that the course of action is smart, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. Also, remember that the action step should be personal and not copied from anyone.

7. Prepare your heart

This is an additional point I just want to include. It is very important to keep in mind that whenever we facilitate, it is because we want to serve our small group. Facilitation is centred on the participants and not you. You can be very skillful in facilitating, but your members will be able to easily tell if your heart isn’t there. John Maxwell said:

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”

Learning to facilitate well can take time and practice but having the right heart is the first step to being successful in teaching your small group. May we all take the call to lead a discipleship group and facilitate them into knowing God more through His word alone.

How about you, maybe you can share below another tip for facilitation?

Prayer is Worship

There was once a man who found a bottle and started rubbing it in hopes of finding a genie. And true enough, a genie was awakened after 500 years of sleep. Everyone knows that when a genie appears, a wish naturally follows. So the genie asked the man what he wanted to wish for. The man shared his experience about his recent date when they ate at her favourite risotto place. It took them 3 hours to reach the place because of the traffic, so the man wished for a bridge that would allow them to get to the place faster. The genie felt insulted. He was capable of giving the man anything, everything he wanted and the best the man could wish for was a simple bridge. He told the man to rethink his wish and make another wish that would be worthy of his power. This time, the man then shared that when they were ordering, he asked his date what she wanted and the woman responded that she would just go with whatever he will be having. So he ordered a Pizza. But he was surprised that things started to go sour after that and they ended the night not speaking to one another. This lead the man to wish that he had the ability to understand women better. The genie in desperation responded, “Let’s just go with the bridge”

I don’t know if you understood the joke behind the story (I hope you did J) but when we relate this story to prayer, do we see God as a genie rather than who he really is? When we listen to our prayers, what is it that we hear? Do we hear ourselves usually saying, “I need this”, “I deserve that”, or “I want this”? Do we have an “ask and you will receive” mentality? Have our prayers become too self-focused? Is prayer worship for us?

I would like to share a quote from John R. Rice, one of the most influential fundamentalist pastors, who wrote a best-selling book in 1942 entitled Prayer – Asking and Receiving

”Prayer is not praise, adoration, meditation, humiliation nor confession, but asking. . .  Praise is not prayer, and prayer is not praise. Prayer is asking. .  .Adoration is not prayer, and prayer is not adoration. Prayer is always asking. It is not anything else but asking.”

This type of mentality is wrong and a far-cry from what God expects from us. Prayer is not merely asking. Prayer is worship. How far have we walked from the truth? How far have we twisted the truth just to get what we want? It’s disappointing. This is why we should look into Jesus’ modelled prayer for us.

Matthew 6:9-13

9 “Pray, then, in this way:

‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be your name.
10 ‘Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread.
12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’

(1)   Prayer is about the person we are praying to

Take note of these words: Father, your name, your will, Give us, forgive us, do not lead us, delivers us, and for Yours. These are all words directly pointing to God and not us. A successful prayer is a prayer that is centralized on God alone and not on you.  That’s why you start with adoration – a praise that will help you understand who you are approaching. Then you turn to confession, which leads you to understand your sinfulness and nothingness. Once you realize your sinfulness, you understand that He has blessed you with so much that you respond with thankfulness. Again, it’s not about you but about God who was gracious enough to still bless you despite of your pride and shortcomings. It’s his will, not ours. This is clearly expressed after adoration in verse 9, which is verse 10. Through prayer, we need to firmly establish that God’s will be done and not ours as we present our request.

(2)   A prayer of supplication, with the proper perspective, will lead to worship

Why are you praying? Usually because it’s out of your control.

Philippians 4:6 – 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

When we pray, we worship God by presenting our request but at the same time, understanding that He is a God we can trust whether He will answer it or not. This is faith in action. This is where peace comes in. The peace that tells you, it is not in your control now, but God’s. That God is good, faithful and you can trust Him no matter what the answer to your prayer may be. This in turn, makes you worship God even more, as you realize that your supplication is now entrusted to the hands of our sovereign great God.

To sum everything up, remember this point from John McArthur when you pray: Prayer is first and foremost an act of worship. Think about it. Ponder on it. Let it change the way you pray. And let me know through the comment section below what you think about this.