Talk 14: Marriage And Celibacy Welcome to our exciting excursion through Matthew’s Gospel. Today, I want to preach the simple message, “Wherever you are, serve there.” I tweaked a very popular quote spoken by many gurus: “Wherever you are, be there.” I love this original quote because it’s about embracing the present moment. If you’re washing dishes, wash dishes. If you’re cooking, cook. If you’re cleaning, clean. Be aware. Be mindful. Be here and now. I believe most of our pain come from being trapped in two prisons: The prison of the past and the prison of the future, also called the prison of regret or the prison of fear. We’re either meditating on our past failures or our future worries. But if you want to have more peace in your life, you must walk out from these two prisons and enter your present moment. But today, I want to take you one step further… Serve In Your Struggle Wherever you are, don’t just be there—serve there. When God created you, He designed you to serve. And you will never experience deep fulfillment unless you follow your original design. Your joy will remain shallow unless you live a selfless life. And how should you serve? I believe God wants you to serve in your present state. Are you married? Serve there. Are you in a difficult marriage? You love each other but every day is a struggle. Serve there anyway. Are you separated? Serve there. Even with the pain. Are you separated from your spouse and you’re living with a new partner, and you’ve got three kids already, one with your ex, and two with your present partner, but you cannot yet get married in church because your ex-wife does not want to help you get an annulment? What should you do? Serve there. Even in the craziness. Are you a widow or widower? Serve there. Are you a consecrated celibate? Serve there. Are you single waiting for the right person? Serve there. Are you single for a long time now and tired of waiting? Serve there. Are you single and have accepted the possibility that you might be single for life? Serve there. Even during times when you’re lonely. (News flash: Married people get lonely too. And the loneliest people I’ve met are married people who married the wrong person.) Because life doesn’t go as planned. And life is messy. But in the middle of that mess, serve there. Serve in the struggle. Serve in the chaos, the confusion, the conflict, the complication. Warning: This is real talk. You will taste the rawness in your mouth. Capture How Jesus Thinks Let’s read our main Bible reading for today: Some Pharisees came and tried to trap him with this question: “Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife for just any reason?” (Matthew 19:3 NLT) At that time in ancient Israel, there was a raging debate about divorce, and the Pharisees wanted to snag Jesus into the
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Talk 13: Sentencing Servants and Forgiven Debts Welcome to our exciting trip through Matthew. Today, I want to preach the message, “Spit it out”. I know that sounds gross, but believe me, it’s exactly what God wants us to do with anything that robs us of life (more on this later). Question: Have you ever experienced getting choked? I’ve never experienced choking—thank God—but I witnessed someone who did. While I was eating in a restaurant, the man right in front of me started choking. He held his throat, trying to make a sound but unable to produce any. And his entire face turned red as a tomato. I got scared. First, because I didn’t know how to do the Heimlich maneuver. Goodness, I didn’t even know how to pronounce the word. Second, the guy was extra-large. From what I recall, I had to grab him from behind and lift him up. Mama Mia. How can I carry 280 pounds? (I later learned that everything I knew about the Heimlich was wrong. And the first thing I should have done was to encourage him to cough, bend over, and I should give him at least 5 big wallops on his back…) But thankfully, on his own, after a few seconds of his violent grunting, the man was able to dislodge the food and spit it out. And he spit it out hard, making that thing fly to the next restaurant. I’m exaggerating, but man, I’d spit hard too if it was killing me. Choking is a life-threatening emergency. A choking death occurs every two hours and 70% of the time, food is the culprit. When a piece of meat is stuck in your throat and blocks your windpipe, it’s really scary. Where am I going with this? T.D. Jakes preached about how unforgiveness is like choking... Blockages In Your Spiritual Windpipe When you have bitterness, resentment, or in Tagalog, sama ng loob, it’s a blockage in your spiritual windpipe. God’s supply of love, joy, peace, and power cannot flow into your life. Unless you remove the obstacle, your spirit will ultimately die. That’s why when it comes to unforgiveness, you must spit it out. If you know that this thing called unforgiveness, or bitterness, or resentment, is killing you, you’ll spit it out hard. But I’m going ahead of the story… We’re Looking For An Upper Limit In today’s key reading, Jesus tells an amazing story about forgiveness: Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” (v.21) Peter was groping for an upper limit to forgiving others. For the Rabbis at that time, the upper limit was three. Based on their interpretation of the Book of Amos in the Old Testament, they taught that you’re supposed to forgive three offenses, but you’re not expected to forgive on the fourth offense. So Peter probably expected Jesus to say, “Wow Pete, ang holy mo naman!” Because he doubled the required
Talk 12: Searching Sheep and Restored Relationships Welcome back to our adventure through Matthew. Today, I’d like to preach the message, “Love is tough”. (Hindi ka pwedeng marupok.) Love does the hard things. And love says the hard things. Which brings me to my question. Friend, do you like correcting people? Based on my informal guestimate, I believe 8 out of the 10 people are allergic to confrontations. And I’m part of that demographic. Personally, I find correcting people as pleasurable as giving birth to triplets without an epidural. But through the decades, I’ve realized that healthy relationships require caring confrontations. Or else—the relationship suffers—and it simply means my love is as plastic as the spoon in a children’s party. It’s thrown away. Today, we’re going to read a passage where Jesus teaches us HOW to correct people. I must tell you that this is controversial because of two cultural pulls in our modern world… First Pull: “Who Are You To Tell Me What To Do?” I cannot count the number of times I hear people say, “Your values are yours and my values are mine” and “You do your thing and I do my thing”. This kind of thinking makes correction obsolete. These people believe there are no absolute truths. And if there are really no absolutes, it’s right for them to ask, “Who are you to tell me what to do?” So I hear this a lot too: “As long as I don’t harm anyone, I’m free to do what I want to do.” When someone says that, I ask, “How sure are you that no one is being harmed? Because I believe our deeds done in the privacy of our bedrooms—even our most hidden thoughts—impact multi-generations.” But the intrinsic logic of this argument, “You can’t tell me what to do because there are no absolutes,” is dishonest, because even if they say there is no absolute truth, if you look beneath the hood, you’ll discover they still believe in absolute truths, like “don’t harm anyone” and “tolerate everybody” and “everyone is equal”. You need absolutes if you want to live amicably with others on this planet. Without absolutes, we’ll create hell on earth. And as Jesus Followers, we believe in His absolutes: That God sacrificed Himself for us, and He calls us to do the same for others. To be selfless. Generous. Faithful. Humble. Committed. By the way, have you ever wondered? Some of the people who say, “You have no right to judge me!” can be very judgmental towards others. That’s because there’s a second pull in our culture… Second Pull: “I’m Free To Say Anything I Want” When I was in my teens and twenties (not too long ago😎), I loved travelling to far-flung barrios, not only because of the beauty of beaches and mountains, but because of the beauty of the people. Generally, they were kind, warm, friendly, and hospitable. There was so much humanity. Believe me, even if I was
Talk 11: Stumbling Blocks And Crippled Lives Today, I want to preach the message, “God made you an Influencer.” Recently, I was reading how many jobs today did not exist 10 years ago: App Developer. App Designer. Podcast Producer. Telemedicine Doctor. Blockchain Analyst. And Zoom Event Hosts. (Who would have thought this would be a thing? But believe me, this takes real skill.) Here’s another job that’s very common today: Social Media Managers. Social Media started more than 10 years ago, but we didn’t need managers to manage our accounts. But now, we do. Last example. Last month, I was talking to a 9-year old. I asked him, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” During my time, kids will say, “Astronaut” and “Pilot” and “Firefighter”. The little boy told me, “I want to be an Influencer.” Once upon a time, you had to be a big star like Sharon Cuneta or Piolo Pascual to be an influencer. Now, anyone can be one. Because of the power of Facebook and YouTube and Tiktok, you can influence your followers to do this, watch this, read this, buy this, do that… You’re An Influencer But in a very real sense, social media is just amplifying a spiritual truth that is as old as Adam and Eve: We are all powerful influencers. We will be shocked if we find out how our words and actions reverberate through space and time. “The Domino Effect” So I wrote a children’s story titled, “The Domino Effect”. But because it’s such a boring title, I changed the title to, “Why Rosalina The Cat Has A Short Tail”. The story begins one morning when Bowser stands up from bed, but because it was still dark, accidentally steps on Baby Bowser’s Lego toy. (And parents, you know how painful that is. The CIA will soon figure this out and use it to torture terrorists.) “Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!” Bowser says, limping to the bathroom. Later that day, he goes to the office still in a bad mood. Mario, his office assistant, submits a report to him. And Mr. Bowser scolds Mario for giving it late. He says with anger, “Mario, I needed your report at 9am. Why are you giving this to me at 10am? I thought you were a professional?” Mario is upset. He didn’t even know about the deadline. Later that evening, Mario goes home also in a bad mood. When he walks through the door, his wife Peach asks him, “Why are you late again?” (she said that because she really misses him). But Mario says, “Because I was working. Unlike some people I know who watch Kdrama all day!” Peach is hurt. Deeply hurt. That night, 7-year old Junior doesn’t want to go to bed because he still wants to play. Mama Peach shouts at him, “Ang tigas-tigas ng ulo mo! Go to your room NOW!” Junior sulks to his room. On the way, he sees his pet dog Yoshi sleeping
Talk 10 Death and Taxes Today, I want to preach the message, “Throw away the ladder.” Many years ago, I received a message from a religious leader. But to understand the message, let me give a little background for those who don’t know me: When I was 13, I started preaching and became a missionary. When I hit 30, I became an entrepreneur while remaining a missionary. Here was his message: “Brother Bo, I was disappointed when you announced that you became an entrepreneur. Because you’re a preacher of God’s Word. Why are you dirtying your hands? You should only do holy work. It’s beneath your stature as a man of God to get into business. You should only be in the business of saving souls.” I think if I wasn’t immersed in Scriptures, I would have been swayed by his striking words. But I knew the Bible enough to hold on to my convictions. First, he said, “Why are you dirtying your hands with business?” Hmm. What is wrong with dirty hands? When you’re laboring in the farm, you must be proud of your dirty hands. But I knew that “dirty” meant something else—it meant “sinful”. But in my mind, business doesn’t have to be dirty. It can be very holy. Because it serves people, gives jobs, feeds families, sends kids to school. Besides, Jesus was a carpenter. And St. Paul was a tent-maker. Business can be holy. The second thing that bothered me was when he said, “It’s beneath your stature as a man of God to get into business.” So in his perspective, there’s a ladder in God’s Kingdom. A hierarchy. On top are the priests and preachers and pastors. On the bottom are salespeople and entrepreneurs and accountants and lawyers (perhaps especially lawyers). So the goal is climb the ladder. But it seems like I was going down the ladder. But here’s my deeper question: Is there really a ladder in God’s Kingdom? The Hierarchy Of The World It’s pretty obvious that there’s a ladder in the kingdom of this world. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know there’s a very entrenched hierarchy around you. Some are rich and some are poor. Some are powerful and some are powerless. That’s why you hear the message, “Aim for #1” and “Aspire For the Top” and “Climb the Corporate Ladder”. But two thousand years ago, Jesus came into the world to shake things up. And here’s what I believe. Jesus came to build a Kingdom with no ladders. Where everyone had equal worth. He did it in two ways. First, Jesus Treated The Bottom Dwellers As His VIPs The Beatitudes contains Jesus’ VIP Guest List for His Kingdom party. He treated all the rejects of society—the poor, the lepers, the tax-collectors, the prostitutes—as beautiful human beings. And more than that, as His friends. He ate with them, laughed with them, and loved each one with great dignity and respect. He treated them as
Talk 10 Death and Taxes Welcome back to our thrilling “treasure hunt” through the Gospel of Matthew. I claim that you’ll continue to unearth rich spiritual wealth for your life. Today, I want to preach the simple message, “Jesus is your Brother.” I know what you’re thinking: “Gee Bo, can you preach something else? I know that already.” Hey, I know you do. But stick with me. Because God will reveal something powerful to you today. By the way, do you love Marvel movies? I do. It makes me feel like a kid again. Do you know Thor and his mighty hammer? My female friends don’t remember the action scenes, they just recall the ripped biceps of Chris Hemsworth. (If I added just a few more pull ups in my daily exercise, I think I would have looked like him. Sayang. Now, my belly looks like the belly of the drunkard Thor in Avengers Endgame.) Thor is the son of Odin, the King of Asgard. And Loki is Thor’s adopted brother. Let me share with you Loki’s wild backstory: Odin, the father of Thor, in one of his battles, found an abandoned baby. The infant happened to be the son of the Ruler of Asgard’s archenemy, the Frost Giants. And Odin does the unthinkable. He takes the baby home, adopts him, used magic to make him look Asgardian, named him Loki, and raised him with his son Thor. So Thor and Loki grew up as brothers in one family. This is all fiction. And rightly so, because the plot is absurd. Who in his right mind would adopt their enemy to be their own son? But as they, truth is stranger than fiction. Because isn’t this our story? St. Paul says that “while we were God’s enemies” He reconciled us through Jesus (see Romans 5:10). Later, Paul says, Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15 NLT, emphasis mine) Because you’re part of God’s Family. And Jesus is your Brother. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. They say there are only two things that you cannot avoid in life: Death and Taxes. And that’s what we’re going to talk about today as both are found in our Bible passage. We’re about to read Jesus, for the second time, predicting His crucifixion. Four chapters later, He’ll do it for a third time. Why is Jesus like a broken record? (Thank God, vinyl records are making a strong come back. My ancient idioms still work!😂) This is my guess: It’s very difficult to dislodge the current picture of the Messiah from their brains. As we shared last week, the past Jewish Messiahs were violent. They led armies and slaughtered their enemies in a pool of blood. But Jesus the Messiah would not kill anyone; instead, He would be killed by his enemies. That is how He wins the victory. May I detour and give you a tiny pastoral lesson? Never
Talk 8 Faith and Doubt Our mind-blowing adventure through Matthew continues! Today, I want to preach the message, "God wants you to grow up." When I was eight years old, I had a neighbor who had a sari-sari store. I like buying chiz curls, so I went there often. Though she was older than me, wewere the same height—less than 4 feet tall. After that, my life became busy with school and ministry. Most of the time, I wasn’t home. And I never went back to that sari-sari store. But years later, I did, and guess who I saw? My old neighbor. She was still running it. But I was shocked when I saw her. When I went back, I was already 5’8. But she remained 4 feet tall. Physical dwarfism isn’t catastrophic. My neighbor lived a happy life. But spiritually dwarfism is a serious matter. One preacher said our churches are filled with spiritual babies, all screaming their heads off. Because they’re acting like selfish brats. If we don’t get what we want, if we our prayers aren’t answered, if we don’t reach our dreams according to our deadlines, or if we don’t get what we expect God to give us—we throw a tantrum. We walk away from God. Spiritual babies still need to be weaned from idolatry. We call ourselves Christians, but in our daily life, we’re not worshipping Christ, we’re worshipping ourselves. Dear friend, God wants you to grow up. Today, I want to share 3 lessons that spiritual babies need to hear. Message 1: The Church Will Fail You (And That’s Good) Let’s dive in: At the foot of the mountain, a large crowd was waiting for them. (Note that Jesus came from His Transfiguration.) A man came and knelt before Jesus and said, 15 “Lord, have mercy on my son. He has seizures and suffers terribly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. (I can only imagine his pain. I’m a Dad. Believe me when I say this. The most painful moments in my 54-years of living on this planet is seeing my children getting sick—and I can’t do anything about it.) 16 So I brought him to your disciples, but they couldn’t heal him.” (Matthew 17:14-16, emphasis mine). Can I insert a short but crucial message here? This man—the father of this demon-possessed boy—was not helped by the second-line Apostles. The first line guys, Peter, James, and John, were with their Master. So Andrew, Matthew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, the other Simon, the other James, the other Judas, and Judas Iscariot were left. These Apostles failed him. And I’m sure Matthew was writing to early Christians who were also frustrated at their Church Leaders. And so will the Church and her leaders fail you. I, your leader, failed you. And will continue to fail you. And in one sense, we must fail you. So that like this man, you will be forced to run to Jesus. There will be times
Talk 7 Uneasy Hearts and Enlightened Minds Welcome to our life-changing journey through Matthew. Today, I want to preach the message, “God is in the Ordinary.” Some people think God is only in the Supernatural. I remember my dear friend—the late Fr. Eric Santos. If there’s one thing I remember about him, he always made fun of how short he is. And he loved telling us this story: One day, a visitor, looking very important in his a barong tagalog, walked into the rectory—the parish house where Fr. Eric lived. When the man entered the gate, he saw Fr. Eric watering his plants. At that moment, he was only wearing a simple white shirt. So the visitor said, “Pst, pst! Boy! Nandyan ang pari?” (Is the priest there?) Fr. Eric was miffed. He rushed upstairs to dress up, smoke shooting from his nostrils, mumbling beneath his breath, “Papakita ko sa iyo sino ang pari!” (I’ll show him who the priest is.) He donned his white sotana and went down. When the visitor saw him, he said, “Ay, sacristan ka pala!” (You’re the altar boy.) Even with the sotana, Fr. Eric still didn’t look like a priest. Because he looked too ordinary. Friend, that’s exactly why we miss God in our lives. He’s there but we don’t see Him. Because we think God is only in the extraordinary and supernatural. We think God is only present in Church or in a Retreat or ina religious event. But God is present in your ordinary life. In your ordinary day. In your ordinary house. In your ordinary office. In your ordinary relationships. Adjust your expectations. Find God in the ordinary. Four Lessons From The Transfiguration Today, I share 4 powerful Lessons from the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus. Are you ready? Let’s dive in: Six days later Jesus took Peter and the two brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. In the last Talk, I said that in this juncture of the story, Jesus was going to spend more time with his 12 disciples. But here, He goes even more micro and zeroes on just 3 disciples—Peter, James, and John. Lesson 1: Work On Your Inner Circle I believe Jesus is teaching us a leadership lesson: Your greatest impact happens not when you’re with the many but when you’re with the few. Listen carefully. If you want to impact the world, work on your inner circle. That’s what Jesus did here—He left the 9 to spend time with his core group of 3. A wise man said, “There’s something wrong if those who praise you are those who barely know you, and those who curse you are those closest to you.” (OUCH!) Can I go practical here? Work on your family. Prioritize your kids. This quote is so true: “No other success can compensate for failure at home.” Lesson 2: God Wants To Be Close To You Matthew says they went up a
Talk 6 Unredeemed Lives and Saved Souls Welcome back to our exciting adventure through Matthew’s Gospel. Today, I want to preach the simple message, “Who do you follow? Before we begin, let me share with you a true-to-life horror story. One day, I met a woman who sold her soul to the devil. Like literally. After many years of desperation, she prayed to the devil and said, “I’m selling my soul to you. Make me rich!” And soon after that, money flowed into her life like the Niagara Falls. She met evil people and they became her business partners. All across the United States, this Filipina bought businesses and mansions. She had so much money, she didn’t know what to do with it. But one day, it hit her. She felt she was already in Hell. She was as miserable as Fork (I don’t curse, so that’ll do). She was so tormented, she wanted to kill herself and she attempted many times. But in one of her rock bottom moments, she finally turned to God. She said, “God, if you’re real, help me!” And she started renouncing the devil. Pretty soon, she lost all her businesses and mansions. And she ended up buried in debt. But she happy with her new relationship with God. I share you this wild story with you because today, God is asking you, “Who do you follow?” And I know that for most of us, the choice is not “A. The Devil” and “B. Jesus”. We’re religious people, for crying out loud. For most of us, the choice is “A. Our Version of Jesus” or “B. Jesus”. That’s what our Bible story will be about today. Many People Still Don’t Get Jesus A little background before we read. We’re now at this juncture in Matthew where Jesus will spend more time with His inner circle—his 12 disciples—before His final showdown in Jerusalem. I would probably do the same. If I knew that my days were numbered, I’d double down on the guys who will carry my mission when I’m gone. But Jesus was in a tight fix: Because up till this point, His guys still didn’t get His mission. Crazy, right? But what’s different today? Many follow their own version of Jesus. Choose Who You Will Follow Let’s begin: When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.” (v.13-14) Where this conversation happened—Caesarea Philippi—was significant. Jesus could not have chosen a more dramatic theatrical backdrop. Because this area was like a Lazada for pagan gods. It was littered with many temples of Syrian “Baal” gods, had a long colorful history of Greek gods, plus a huge white-marble temple to worship the Roman Emperor as a deity. So this was the place to pick your god. And amidst
Talk 5 The Unleavened Bread and False Teachings Welcome to our beautiful study of Matthew. Today, I want to preach the message, “God is healing your blindness.” I’ll give you my thesis right off the bat: Pride will prevent us from seeing God. Which is really sad. God is already showing Himself to us, working in our lives, and we can’t see Him, because of pride. Before we dive into our reading, can I re-share the popular tale by Hans Christian Anderson, The Emperor’s New Clothes? Once upon a time, there was this King who was an incurable fashionista. I’m sure he owned al the issues of GQ magazine. And his Pinterest was 100% about Men’s Fashion. This guy would never go out unless he had new suit. One day, two swindlers heard about the King’s obsession, came to town, and boasted to him, “Your Highness, we have in our possession the most beautiful cloth in the world. But it’s mystical. It’s magical. Stupid people won’t be able to see it. To those with low IQ, it’s invisible. Only the wise can see the cloth.” The King was sold. He said, “Oooooh, I want that mystical cloth! As a bonus, I’ll know who among my Ministers are wise or stupid!” One Lie Will Need Eight Other Lies The King gave the two men a little room in his palace to start sewing his new robe. And they went about “pretending” to weave and sew. One day, the King sent one his oldest Advisors to check on them. When he entered the room, the two crooks appeared working on something, but obviously, the elderly man couldn’t see it. One of the swindlers said, “Do you see how the colors shine in the sunlight? Gorgeous, isn’t it?” The Advisor was dumbfounded. If he said, “I don’t see a thing,” that meant he was stupid. So he said, “Uh yes, it shimmers beautifully!” A few days later, the King sent his wisest Advisor. But the exact same thing happened. He also couldn’t see anything, but to protect himself, he claimed the cloth was “dazzling”. Finally, the two thieves presented the new suit to the King. Alas, he also couldn’t see it. But the two Advisors who “saw” the cloth previously were the noisiest in the room, praising it to the highest heavens, declaring, “This is the most amazing robe in the world!” The King thought to himself, “My ghad, I don’t see it. I’m stupid! But no one should know!” So he too started to gush over the suit. He said, “I have not seen anything like this in my entire life.” And all the Royal Ministers in the Hall began applauded, “Beautiful!” and “Gorgeous!” and “Lovely!” and “Bienisimo!” I’ve preached this before: One lie needs eight lies to prop it up. And each of those eight lies will need another set of eight to support it. Finally, a single lie will need a million lies to prop it up. Why