Talk: November 14, 2021 Tearing Down vs. Coming Down MANY years ago, I wanted to learn how to play badminton. So, I asked my friend Mike Joseph to teach me how to play. Mike was phenomenal in badminton. After two training sessions with him, I witnessed something unforgettable. While we were dressing up to train, two guys in the gym— total strangers—invited us to a doubles game. I was about to tell them, “Oh, sorry guys, I don’t know how to play yet. I’m like in kindergarten…” But Mike blurted out, “Sure!” My jaw dropped. Was he out of his mind? I told the two men, “Excuse me for a moment while I confer with my friend...” I walked near Mike and whispered, “Are you insane? I don’t know how to play! Those guys look like star players. We’re going to be massacred.” He said, “It’s okay, Bo. I’m going to give you an assignment. Just stand in front of the net. If the shuttlecock goes near you, raise your racket and swat it down. I’ll take care of the rest.” With trembling knees, I took my place. And in the entire game, I did what Mike told me—stand near the net and swat whenever the ball came near me. And Mike would do everything else. True enough, he was like The Flash! When I turned to my right, he was there. When I turned to my left, he was there. When I looked behind me, he was there. What happened? Mike and I crushed those guys. They didn’t know what hit them. The final score was 15-9. Do you know why the opponent got 9 points? Because I made 9 mistakes-- 9 times, I didn’t do my assignment. I strayed. I went out of my position. I became a spectator, not a player. Imagine if I did my assignment—the score would have been 15-0. Let me share with you two key lessons I learned that day: Stick to your assignment. Trust your partner. Dear friend, many don’t know this-- but life is a doubles game. You’re not supposed to do life alone. You must have a partner-- that Partner is God. There are some persons who are trying to win alone. You can’t do that because life was designed as a doubles game. And your Partner has asked you to do something. What is that? Jesus said the two greatest commandments are Love God and Love others. Stick to your assignment until the end. No matter what happens. And trust your Partner. He’ll do the rest. Let’s now go to our key reading… Jesus Says the Craziest Thing Before we do, may I ask this question: Did you ever think you’d live through a global pandemic? I don’t know about you, but never in my most fantastical imagination did I think I’d go through this cataclysmic event. But that’s why our key passage today is so perfect for what we’re facing. I pray that through our reading,
Talk: November 7, 2021 Superficial Spirituality vs. Genuine Humility Superficial Spirituality vs. Genuine Humility WELCOME back to our exploration of Matthew. I hope it has been thrilling for you to open a 2000-year-old sacred text and hearing God’s heartbeat for you. Today, I want to preach the message One day, I was speaking at a Catholic conference in the United States. During the lunch break, I walked to a nearby restaurant and saw some of the attendees there. And four guys invited me to sit at their table. Over fish-and-chips, our conversation went to sharing our life goals. One guy said he wanted to put up a small business, another said he wanted to move to Italy, and another said he wanted to put up a shelter for the homeless. The last man who spoke up was the oldest guy in the group. He had a huge silver cross dangling around his neck. And he said, “My goal in life is to be holy and go to heaven.” It’s obvious his friends were used to him. They bowed towards his direction and said, “Oh Master, we’re not worthy to be in your presence.” And they chuckled as friends do. The conference was four days long, so I bumped into those guys again and again. And I enjoyed talking to them. Except one. Ironically, I had a difficult time talking to the guy whose life goal was to be holy and go to heaven. Here’s why. First, he kept talking against his three friends. He said unlike them, he didn’t watch secular movies nor listen to worldly music. Unlike them, he went to daily Mass and did adoration a solid one hour a day. Second, it seemed like he was always angry. He was always ranting about the depravity of the world and the evils of this and that. He made me feel like he was the only one who was holy. Do you know what scared me? That he meets someone who didn’t know God and sincerely wanted to know God—and then he gets to talk to this fourth guy. What a bummer. He’ll get the wrong idea of who God is. He’ll get a picture of a God who was rigid and judgmental. This man reminded me of what we’ll talk about today: The Pharisees. They Started Really Good First things first. The Pharisees were not bad people. During the time of Jesus, there were four major sects: Sadducees, Essenes, Zealots, and the Pharisees. And the Pharisees were Teachers of the Law who wanted to please God and call Jews back to God. But like Israel itself, they lost their way. Remember how the Old Testament started with God creating man in His Image. Image also means Representative. And man did a horrible job. So God raised up Israel to be His new Representative. But that didn’t work too well, either. And the Pharisees, who were supposed to be God’s Representatives to Israel, were representing Him poorly.
Talk: October 31, 2021 Master vs Servant Part 1 WELCOME back to our amazing study of Matthew. Today, I’d like to preach the message, “God feels your pain, but His plans are bigger than your problems.” Many years ago, I faced a huge crisis that was pushing me to depression. That’s when I decided to share what was happening to me with my small group. (We call these small groups “Light Groups” or “Feast Lights”). Even if this happened almost a decade ago, I still remember that day like it was only yesterday. When I was sharing my story, out of the 12 persons in the room, 11 had tears in their eyes. I’m not the crying type, so, I was the only one who was not crying. My friends felt my pain and they were crying for me. That day, I felt so loved. And the burden that I was carrying alone, 11 other people were now carrying it with me. May I insert a side-message? I invite you to join a small group. I’ve been part of small groups for the past 40+ years of my life. It will change your life. Send us a message in Messenger and tell us you need a small group. We Need To Know We’re Not Alone Truth: Deep inside us, we want to know that another person feels what we’re feeling—and cares for us deeply. The Bible says, --Genesis 1:18 NLT This statement was written 3000+ years ago. It was true then and it’s true now. Psychologists say you know if you’re an introvert if you experience an energy leak when you’re with people -- but get recharged when you’re alone. That’s me. But even if I’m a card-carrying, true-blooded, official introvert, I need at least one person to feel what I’m feeling and to care for me. Let me declare this spiritual truth to you: And even if you hallucinate that no human cares, the God who created you and designed you in the womb of your mother cares for you. By the way, I haven’t yet finished my story… ‘He Will Use You More!’ My friends didn’t just feel my pain and carry my burden. Yes, that was what they did at the start. But as the weeks and months went by, at the right time, they challenged me. Let me summarize their message to me: “God is not finished with you yet. After this crisis, He will use you more!” I thank God for my friends. Let me declare again our one big message: “God feels your pain, but His plans are bigger than your problems.” Don’t get trapped in your problems. You have a Divine Calling. The Confusing, Complicated, Convoluted Old Testament Before we open the sacred text, let’s start with a question… Here’s my guess. You didn’t start with Genesis. You started with Matthew, or Mark, or Luke, or John. And rightly so, because the Gospels are about Jesus. Let’s face it… Especially the
Talk: October 24, 2021 Love vs. Love WELCOME back to our soul-transforming study of Matthew. Today, I’d like to preach the message, God is waiting for you there. I have a question for you: What makes you say that someone is close to God? What should you see in a person to describe her as maka-Diyos? Most persons will answer, “Someone close to God is someone who prays with devotion, reads the Bible daily, and goes to church regularly.” I remember hearing persons talk about religious folks as “Laman ng simbahan”. But if you ask Jesus, I think He’ll give a different answer. Let me share a story… Is God a Thief? During the lunch break in one of my financial seminars, a young guy approached me and said, “I like your stock market talk. So simple. I now understand it...” I smiled and said, “Thanks! Happy it helped you.” When he was about to leave, I asked, “By the way, do you attend The Feast?” At once, his face hardened. “I like your financial talks,” he said, “but I don’t like religious messages in general...” I nodded. “Thanks for your honesty.” He added, “And I don’t plan on joining any religious group.” “May I ask why?” He sighed a deep sigh. “My parents are like you, Brother Bo. They’re very religious. They’re very active in church. For years, they led a prayer group in the parish…” “I know a big ‘But’ is coming,” I said. “Growing up as a kid, I saw that almost every night, they were out of the house. Because they were at church,” he said. “My siblings and I would ask them not to go, but Mommy and Daddy would lecture us about putting God first. Even if our birthdays coincided with their prayer meeting, they’d chose the prayer meeting over us.” He paused, trying to hold the buried pain rising up within him. He said, “Brother Bo, I felt God stole my parents from me.” Are You Running Away from God? I told him, “I’m so sorry to hear this. I don’t believe God stole your parents. Your parents misunderstood God. They thought they can meet Him only in church. They didn’t know He was waiting for them at home. In your heart…” His story is so sad. But happy ending: This guy started going to The Feast. Let me shock you: Some people use religion to run away from God. God wants to meet them in their spouse, in their children, in their parents, in their siblings, in the poor and suffering, but they escape to prayer, Bible, and church. My story? I’ve been serving God ever since I was a teenager. But when I got married at 32, I made a radical shift. I changed my identity— the invisible label hung around my neck. Before I got married, next to being God’s child, I was primarily a preacher and leader. After I got married, I was a husband and father
Talk: October 17, 2021 Death vs Resurrection Part 1 TODAY, I want to preach the message, Your Easter Sunday is coming. And I also want to add a new phrase as part of your core vocabulary as a Jesus Follower: New Heavens and New Earth. This phrase is found in many parts of the Bible -- Isaiah 65, Revelations 21, 2 Peter 3-- Bible scholars’ shorthand way of saying this is Renewed Creation. Question: Is this the same as Heaven? Not quite. Because when we say Heaven, we understand it as this ethereal place-in-the-sky where our souls go after we die; it’s about with halos, harps, and with everyone wearing white hospital gowns. For many Christians, this idea of Heaven is their end goal, their ultimate dream, and even the purpose of their life. You read very saintly persons say, “My number one goal is to go to Heaven.” You also read quotes like “Earth is just a dress rehearsal for Eternity.” In one sense, all these statements are true. But they’re lacking. What Is Our Number One Goal? If you read the sacred text, Heaven—as we understand it today—isn’t the number one goal of Jesus Followers. What is? Check what Jesus told us to pray in the Our Father: “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The goal is not to go to Heaven-- but to bring Heaven down to Earth. Here’s another way of saying it: Our goal is Renewed Creation. To annex this world for His Kingdom. To live life to the full with Jesus as Lord. To make every area of our life—career, family, health, hobbies—become the Imago Dei. To be God’s Love to those who desperately need it. And I hope joining The Feast every week makes this happen. For Jesus Followers, this is a major paradigm shift of cataclysmic proportions. We need to rewire our Christian brain. And I hope joining The Feast every week makes this happen. We Won’t Just Be a Bunch of Souls Floating Around What’s the biggest difference between our idea of Heaven and what the Bible calls New Heavens and New Earth? Here it is: The Renewed Creation is going to be physical. The Apostles Creed says, “We believe in the resurrection of the dead.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church says it too. This means we won’t just be floating souls in a transparent Heaven. Each one of us will have a resurrected body. Like Jesus, we can eat. My guess is that there’ll be pizza and coffee and buttery croissants in the Renewed Creation. We can probably bike and swim and run and Zumba. Except that everything is perfected by a zillion time. Pet lovers ask me all the time, “Bo, do pets have souls?” Answer: I don’t know. But that may be the wrong question to ask. The better question is: Will God include pets in the New Heavens and New Earth? My guess is, “Yes.” Your
Talk: October 17, 2021 Talk 5 : God vs Emperor Part 1 FOR the past 22 months, we’ve been mining Matthew for spiritual gold. I cannot begin to describe to you what the messages are doing to me. I know I’m the one preaching them to you but God’s Word is changing me. Coincidentally, we’re now in Chapter 22 and the narrative is ramping up towards the climax of the Crucifixion and Resurrection. Today, I’d like to preach the powerful message, “Give to God what belongs to God.” Before we open the sacred text, I’d like to share two stories… Secret Passcode to Your Heart One day, I was attending Mass in a faraway place. When it was time to take Communion, I stood and lined up, but silly me, I left my phone on the pew. When I returned, it was gone. When my wife learned about it and gave me the “look” that only wives can give to husbands and get away with it, I told her, “Sorry Sweets, I was so focused on receiving Jesus, I forgot everything else.” (That’s what she gets for marrying a preacher.) After Mass, I used my wife’s phone to locate my phone using some hi-tech wizardry I myself don’t understand. According to the map, my phone was moving out some one kilometer away. I jumped in the car and chased after my phone. I don’t want to bore you with the details, but 30 minutes later, I got my phone back. Do you know why? The thief couldn’t use it. By default, phones are encrypted with a PIN—a personal identification number. Without my PIN—that secret passcode only I knew—my phone would just be a very expensive paperweight. Please listen to my message. You belong to God. He is your Owner. And only God knows the PIN of your heart. Please don’t share your PIN with anyone else. Not to anything or anyone. You Belong to God Here’s my second story. Recently, I got into biking. Even if I’ve never been athletic my entire life. But one day, my son Francis got into biking and he asked me, “Dad, do you want to bike with me?” I may not love biking, but I love my son. So, I dove into biking head first. And today, I enjoy biking too. At first, I was borrowing my nephew’s bike, until I was able to buy my own. When my brand-new bike arrived home, I looked really beautiful. I was surprised that the first thing I did was tell my driver to borrow it so he too can exercise. Honestly, I felt happy. I realized I wasn’t attached to anything. I felt free. I believe many of our problems come from our attachments. My prayer: “Lord, be my only attachment.” I want my heart to belong to God alone. Let’s now unpack our key reading for today… Part 2 Never Look for Praise Matthew must have liked the number 3 because he
Talk: October 3, 2021 Talk 4 : Invited vs Chosen WE’RE back to our exciting study of Matthew. We continue our series, The Clash and today we tackle Talk 4: Invited vs. Chosen. Today, I want to preach the wonderful message, Come to The Feast. At the start of the talk, may I recruit your imagination? Picture you were a Jew living in Jerusalem, around the year 90 AD, the same time the Gospel of Matthew was written. Since you were a tiny kid in diapers, the Torah was drilled into your skull; The 613 Laws of Moses were your life and oxygen; They were your breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You ate Kosher food—no pork, no crabs, no shrimp, no tulya, tahong, adidas, bopis, Betamax, IUD… You observed the Sabbath to the letter—you didn’t even light a fire to cook anything on Saturdays. And then you met Jesus. He revealed the Father to you in such a revolutionary way, you were never the same again. And you followed Him. But you remained a Jew, still following the 613 Laws of Moses. It was easy because The Feast Light (He-he)— okay, house church—you were attending, out of the 16 members, all were Jews like you. But one fateful day, strange people started to join: A Greek guy with tattoos and a few earrings, an Ethiopian guy with a funny accent, and a woman who admitted working as a prostitute. They all wear funny clothes, didn’t speak Hebrew, and even smell different. But they say they believe in Jesus. Obviously, you get the shock of your life when they don’t know, much less do any of the 613 Laws of Moses. You fall off your chair when you learn they all eat dinuguan, gambas, crispy pata—all unclean food. They don’t know who Abraham is. And they all work on Saturdays. OMG! You pull the Feast Light Leader to the corner and complain. “I don’t like those new guys,” you say. “How can they follow Jesus but not Moses? This is wrong. We’re destroying our church!” But in truth, God was building the Church. And Matthew’s Gospel was speaking into this divisive situation. Today, we have the same problems. When we meet someone with different beliefs and practices, we think we’re better than them. But Jesus is condemning this elitist attitude. God is building a Kingdom that embraces everybody. And that’s what we’re going to talk about today. Jesus is saying: In God’s Kingdom, He Favors the Underdog Let’s now dive into our key passage: Matthew 22:1-14… The first line says: Because this parable belongs to a set of three parables: You can call these the “underdog parables” because especially in the first and third parable, there were two groups— a top dog and the underdog—and by some twist, the underdog wins. Why? God always favors the underdog. Today, in your situation, do you feel like an underdog? Do you feel like David fighting Goliath? Dear friend, God is fighting beside you.
Talk: September 26, 2021 The Clash TALK 3: Greed vs. Generosity WE continue our Feast series titled The Clash. Our Talk today, Talk 3, is titled Greed vs. Generosity-- about the clash between the greed of the Pharisees and Sadducees and the generosity of Jesus. We tend to be greedy because we think and act like we own our Life. Let’s start with something really basic: I’ll answer by sharing how I read the Bible. Every morning, before I read, I start by making the Sign of the Cross. Sometimes, I imagine the Father touching my forehead, the Son touching my heart, and the Holy Spirit enveloping me and embracing me. And then I pray, Why? It’s my date with the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. Here’s my point: God must speak to me about my here and now, in my present situation. He knows what I’m going through. He knows the burdens I carry in my heart. He knows my joys and tears. I’m His beloved, and I expect Him to speak to me. The Missing Step But there’s an important step many persons miss: Before you personalize, you must contextualize. What does that mean? For some reason, God did not ask an angel to ship the Bible to our mailbox. The Bible didn’t drop from Heaven on a silver platter. God used human authors to write the Bible. Hundreds of them. And God didn’t zap these authors into a half-conscious trance, control their hand or dictate every word. God didn’t bypass the author’s idiosyncrasies, personality, intelligence, culture, and history. Meaning? I too should not bypass the author. I cannot just pluck out a Bible verse and read it with my modern eyes. Before I personalize the Bible, I must enter into the world of the human biblical author. Bottomline, If you notice, this is what you’ve been learning at The Feast—contextualizing before personalizing. Yes, it’s harder work. It’s so easy just to read a few verses that can make us feel good. But I promise you—if you do the hard work of understanding the original intent of the author, the spiritual fruits you’ll bear are all worth it… Two Benefits of Respecting the Human Biblical Author First, if you contextualize, you’ll avoid the extreme errors of Bible interpretation. Hey, it’s super easy to be deceived. For 2000+ years, many religious persons sincerely believed that God told them to do crazy things, like abandon their wife and kids, or marry 18 wives, or kill themselves in mass suicide, or massacre a million persons— because God told them to do so in the Bible. Second, if you contextualize before you personalize, you’ll get God’s fuller message for your life. Like the parable we’re about to read today. It’s actually mind-blowing, if you understand the context. Are you ready? An Infographic of The Bible Welcome to our empowering exploration of Matthew. Today, I’d like to preach the message: Once again, the common mistake we want to avoid is
Talk: September 19, 2021 The Clash TALK 2: Righteousness vs. Repentance WELCOME back to our inspiring study of Matthew. Today, I want to preach the simple and comforting message, “God’s mercy is bigger than all your mistakes.” Today, we continue our Feast talk series, The Clash, with Talk 2: Righteousness vs. Repentance. I’ve met a lot persons who think that just because they made wrong choices, God won’t bless them anymore. But the truth is that we’ve all made mistakes. Perhaps you gave yourself to addictions. Or you were a rebellious child and made your parents unhappy. Or you married the wrong person. Or you didn’t raise your kids well. Or you made poor financial decisions. I want to give you hope today. Your future is brighter than your past. How do I know? Because God’s mercy is bigger than all your mistakes. Have You Missed Your Chance? I’ve met so many who think they’ve “blown” it. Persons like Jordan and Cindy. While still single, Cindy got pregnant at 18 years old. They rushed into marriage and both had to drop out of college. Today, every day is a struggle to survive. When I talked to them, I realized that the lack of money was not just their problem. Jordan and Cindy lacked of hope. Guilt was eating them up. At the back of their mind, they felt they deserved their poverty as punishment for their sins. They told me, “Brother Bo, we blew it. We missed our chance at a happy life.” Meet the God of Second Chances I told them, “You’re wrong. Your mistake can never be bigger than His mercy.” I then talked about a few not-so-perfect persons in the Bible. About Jacob—how he lied, deceived, and swindled. Yet God named an entire nation after him. About David—how he became an adulterer and a murderer. Yet God still made him the greatest king of Israel. About Elijah—how he ended up depressed and a coward before Queen Jezebel. Yet he was there with Jesus and Moses at the miracle of the Transfiguration. About Peter—how hot headed, temperamental, and out-of-control guy he was. Yet God made him the head of the Church. About Paul—how he was a murderer of saints. Yet God made him one of the greatest apostles of the Bible. I told Cindy and Jordan, “If you read the Bible, the biggest stars were the biggest sinners…” This reminds me of something that happened some years ago. My Experience as a Father One day, when my son was 5 years old, he said, “I want to cook pancakes!” While he was in the kitchen, it sounded like the bombing of Pearl Harbor. When I followed him, I saw the chaos mentioned in the book of Genesis. Like a tsunami hit our kitchen. There were broken eggshells everywhere, flour on the floor, spilled milk on the table. He made so many mistakes. But then again, I expected him to make mistakes. Not just in cooking.
Talk: Big Day September 12, 2021 The Clash TALK 1: Prophet vs. Provocateur Part 1 TODAY, I want to preach the message, “God wants to restart your life.” In the Jurassic era of the 1990s, I bought a “homemade” owner jeep. In one sense, it was “brand new”. And yet in another sense, it was as old as when General Douglas MacArthur returned to the Philippines in 1944. It was brand new because it was newly assembled by Manong in his talyer. But it was as old as MacArthur because every spare part came from scrap vehicles, dating back to World War II. But if there was one thing I was proud of my jeep, it had strong air-conditioning (AC). I asked Manong to enclose my jeep with doors so I could have it air-conditioned. I specifically told him, “Make my AC really powerful.” And that’s what he did. The air-con he installed was huge. So, it was freezing inside. And because my jeep was painted All-White, I called it Ref. But alas, the air-con was the only good thing about it. Everything else was a disaster. The engine itself was so old, my top speed was 40 kilometers per hour (kph). If I went above that, the jeep’s body would shake so bad, little bolts and rusty bits fall off as I drove. I may not get caught for speeding— but littering. Even the jeep’s brakes were bad. Three times, I pressed on the brake and nothing happened. I had to step on the road a la Flintstones. (No joke.) Trivia: The Flintstones is an American animated situation comedy (sitcom) produced by Hanna Barbera Productions broadcast on television by ABC from September 30, 1960, to April 1, 1966, and became popular in the Philippines up to the 1970s. The show is a comical version of the Stone Age combined with technologies in America’s 20th century. The lead family, the Flintstones, and their rival neighbor, the Rubbles, live in a town called Bedrock. They have cars made of wood and rock— with no fuel. The drivers make the car move by running while inside the car. Somehow, like my jeep! I kept bringing the jeep back to Manong for repairs every other week. So, I actually funded the college education of his four kids. I felt my jeep had self-esteem issues. Matampuhin siya. Whenever I’m driving and see a modern, super car, and tell myself, “I should have bought a car!” At that moment, my jeep’s engine would just stop. I had to pat the dashboard and say, “Joke lang. I really like you…” for the engine to come back to life. But one day, I had it. I was pushing the jeep more than driving it, my biceps and calf muscles were getting extra-large. I brought the jeep back to Manong and asked, “If you owned this jeep, what would you do?” He motioned me to walk 50 meters from his talyer.“Why are we talking far away?” I