Talk

WE’RE going to receive the Word of God. But I want you to do this together as one voice. This is our declaration of abundance that God is going to bless you today and this week.

All right, let’s all come into the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirt. Amen.

I want you to stretch those hands out and say this with me:

Let’s give honor and reverence for God’s Word, as we all sing:

Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet And a light unto my path.

WE are on Talk 3 of this beautiful series called Citizen: How To Build a Nation. We want to give you a message that will encourage you to think of who to vote for, how you should vote, and what are the ways that God wants us to look at the political issues from the perspective of our faith. And so, our title for our talk today is not so much of a title but it’s more of a declaration.

So, I want you to declare this message with me, with one voice, Everybody, say: We are world changers.

It’s a little strange because none of us ever imagined that history would repeat itself. In the sense that… How many of you had ever seen that we would experience a global Pandemic? Like, we would experience being locked down at home. Did you ever wonder that we would go through that all? These are the things that we only read in the history books, right? Like the bubonic plague, and the Spanish flue, the influenza—but let alone us witnessing people don’t go before us.

And we saw that in the last two years. We’re still seeing that now— the effects of the Pandemic. None of us imagined that we would experience another war in our lifetime—where two countries would battle it out and innocent people would have to suffer– children, women… None of us even realized that we would also experience once again history repeating itself with our country being divided again because of politics. None of us imagined any of that.

And somehow you’d ask: “What is the Lord doing in all these? Lord, what is the purpose of all these?”

But you know, here’s what I believe: That in the midst of all these— the Pandemic, the war, death, suffering, elections, corruption—I still believe that God is good. I still believe that God is working. I still believe that God is blessing. I still believe that God is healing. I still believe that God is orchestrating blessings in your life.

And you know, when you think about it, I still believe this: That since the beginning, since the Fall of Man, in the book of Genesis, God has still been recreating Heaven here on Earth—recreating Eden here on Earth.

That’s our message for today.

Our message today is this: God is calling you back to Eden.

We’re going to study the life of an Old Testament character by the name of Daniel. Daniel’s got friends, and I am sharing with you their names—it took me a long time to memorize them—their names are Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah– whose Babylonian names were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

We’re going to read about them, but right now, I want you to bow, close your eyes, feel the Presence of the Lord in this place. Inhale the love of God.

Jesus, we thank You that You’ve gathered us again today. There are many things going on in this world that we don’t understand—that our mind cannot comprehend—but with our limited understanding, we ask that the Holy Spirit would come alive in all of us. Take this Word to the level of our own understanding, oh God, so that we can understand it and we can apply it in a practical, powerful way, in our life. We don’t want to remain where we are right now, but we want to be changed, we want to become better, we want to become more, like You, Jesus. And that’s our prayer for today, that as we listen to Your message, may this not only just bless us, but may this move us into action. Thank You, Jesus. We love You. We honor You. And we praise You. And it’s in Your Name that we pray. And all of God’s people say, Amen.

Imagine that you are 12 years old, all over again. Imagine what you looked like when you were 12 years old—little boy, little girl. And you’re playing.

But here’s the thing: You are a 12-year-old Jew. You live in Jerusalem.

And it’s a beautiful place because you live downtown, close to the Temple.So, every Sunday, you go there for a Worship service and you just walk.

And your parents are good. They have a business—a coffee shop, named Starbuck. Just Starbuck, because it’s just one—no branches. And it’s a good life— you’re having fun. You live in a two-bedroom bungalow.

Life is good – until one morning, you hear outside your bedroom window the sound of foreign army marching outside. And you look outside the window and you see chaos all over. People are running. People are screaming. People are moaning. And you witness with your very own eyes what war looks like.

You know, soldiers are killing the brothers, and fathers, and uncles and there’s just death everywhere.

God Is Calling Us Back to Eden

And the inevitable happens. The soldiers barge into your beautiful home, the home that made you feel protected all your life.And they tie you up and they chain your neck. And now you’re bound. Then they lead you outside and you’re walking, and you’re walking, and it seems you’ve been walking forever. And then 2,000 miles later, you arrive in a completely different city.

Now, stop pretending– that’s actually a true story. That was called the Babylonian Exile. It happened when the Babylon City conquered Jerusalem and then took every Jew as a slave—at least the ones they did not kill. It’s a true story.

But I want you to know this: That this is not the first time in history that this ever happened. Go all the way back to the book of Genesis. Adam and Eve.

They were living comfortably in the beautiful garden with everything they needed.

But then what happened? They disobeyed God. And so, they were exiled.

Fast forward to Father Abraham. Abraham was living comfortably in his home—in the land of Ur. And then God called him to go to the Promised Land.

And then you’ve got the Israelites. Remember the Israelites in the movie The Ten Commandments? They were enslaved by the Egyptians and then one day there was this man named Moses who rescued them. And then took them on a 40-year journey through the desert—to the Promised Land.

Now, what is my point? My point is that all throughout history, God has been calling people back to Eden—to the Promised Land.

I still didn’t believe this today: that God is calling you all the way back to Eden. What is Eden, by the way?

Eden is not a place that you can reach through Waze, you can’t find on Google maps. It’s not an address that you go to. Because Eden is any place where God is King.

So, is God King over your finances? That’s Eden. Is God King over your relationships? That’s Eden. Is God king over your life? Then, my friend, That’s Eden.

Now I’m saying this because I believe that there are places in this world where God is not always King. Sometimes, money is king. Sometimes, pride is king. Sometimes greed is king. And so, what is God calling us to do?

To make Him the King of our life.

Responses of the Jewish Exiles

The Jewish exiles responded to their captivity in two main ways.

The first response was rebellion. They took up arms and fought the Babylonians.

The second response was compromise. Some assimilated the Babylonian culture 100%, abandoned Yahweh, and worshipped the Babylonian gods.

But there were some who actually compromised—half-half. In Tagalog, we have a word for that: balimbing. You know, they’re in here, they’re in there, and then, you know, they’re half-half.

We have that sometimes in our character—that we rebel against God. And so, some of them, they gave up their Jewishness. They gave up their practices. They stopped believing in God. They started worshipping other gods. But there was a third group that didn’t rebel or compromise. They served. Why? They followed God’s words through the Prophet Jeremiah.

His mind-bending message in Jeremiah 29:5-7.

There were very few who actually obeyed God, who remained faithful. Who were they? They were Daniel and his three friends—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And we’re going to learn from them. You see, these three guys, they were prisoners, remember? They were prisoners of Babylon. And so, they were serving. Their families were killed. They were tortured. Their Temple was ruined. And so, they were serving this evil and corrupt government.

You know, my friends, this is proof that you can be in a season of difficulty or obscurity and still manage to call it the best place ever. You can be in a season of dryness, in a season of drought, and still say, “I’m blessed.”

In spite of all problems that you go through, you can be blessed. God says you can prosper—even if you are exiled. And that’s what we saw in this Pandemic. Have you witnessed some persons—maybe that’s you—who not just survive, but thrive during the Pandemic? That’s what God is saying. That there is a way that we can experience growth even in a place of pain, even in a place of suffering.

The Third Way: In the World But Not of It

This was the Third Way: Jeremiah was telling the Jews to live in this foreign city and work for its prosperity– but remain faithful to Yahweh.

And Daniel and his friends were part of this Third Way. These guys started as Jewish prisoners in Babylon. But because they had potential, they found themselves serving in the Royal Court of King Nebuchadnezzar.

Remember our last Talk on dual citizenship? Daniel and his friends were dual citizens. They were Babylonian citizens, immersed in Babylonian politics, reporting to King Nebuchadnezzar, yet in their heart, they were citizens of God who followed their real King.

This Third Way was a wild balancing act. They were “in the world but not of it”. And do you know what was crazy? They were serving their enemy.

They worked for a pagan nation that destroyed their city, killed their relatives, and kidnapped them, brought them to a foreign land. Yet here they were, serving this government.

And I wonder, how many of you are in that particular situation right now? You know, you’re working for a government agency that’s corrupt. Or you’re working for a company with corrupt bosses.

You can be in that situation, but maybe you have a question: “Brother

Audee, in a pagan environment such as this one, where people worship other gods, like money, and power, and fame, and greed, selfishness…Question: is it possible to remain faithful to God?”

Absolutely. Because if there’s anything that we’re learning from Daniel and his three friends is that we can be in a hostile environment and still remain faithful to God.

We know that politics can be dirty. But God still calls us to serve there: a few of us, He will call to run for public office; others to serve in government; and for all of us, to discern, vote, and campaign for our candidates.

How Did These Guys Change Their World?

We too are called to be part of the Third Way: To be the light of the world and the salt of the earth.

Daniel and his friends were serving this king—King Nebuchadnezzar. And because they were so faithful and they were so efficient, they got promoted to the royal court.

And that’s my declaration to all of you today: that as you work hard in your craft, you will receive a promotion.

But my question is this: How did Daniel and his friends get promoted? How did these guys change the world? I’ll share with you three ways, and how you can use these in your life:

The first way of how they got promoted was No. 1: They were excellent.

Let’s read:

Now, here’s my message: If you follow Jesus, here’s my challenge: Don’t just be known by the people around you as the woman who likes to carry her Bible everywhere. “Ah, Jesus follower ‘yan. May Bibliya, e.”

Or don’t just be known by your friends or your family as the guy who likes to wear a crucifix around his neck—so that people will say, “Ah, that’s a Jesus follower.”

Or, you know, the kind of guy who always likes to say, “Praise God. Hallelujah. Thank You, Jesus.”—so that people will know that you’re a God follower.

Here’s the Word: Be known that you are a Jesus follower because you are excellent in the work that you do. Be an excellent business owner, an honest, upright employer, be the most hardworking employee– so that when people see you, they know that you worship the Lord.

The Bible says this: Work as if you’re working for God.

Students, be the most diligent student ever– so that when people see you, they know you don’t cheat, you’re honest.

And if you’re a public servant, be the most selfless, humble public servant that there is — so that when people see you, they know that there is a God who is good.

Because the truth is, my friends, the only way that you’re going to create a better world is to create a better version of yourself. And know this: When you create a better version of yourself, that’s the best blessing that you can give to other people.

Here’s the second way Daniel and his friends got promoted:

I want you to think about this for a moment. They were in a foreign land and serving this evil government. They were slaves. The Babylonians saw them as slaves, and yet these guys saw themselves as servants. They saw an opportunity to serve. Here’s a Word you can take home today, but make no mistake, this is not easy, and I am praying that the Holy Spirit will convict you when you hear these words: Serve your enemy. It’s easier said than done. Some people might treat you as their enemy but know this in your heart: that they are not the real enemy.

Your enemy is not the other person who is voting for the other candidate. Your enemy is not the one who is disagreeing with you. But your real enemy is the devil who’s trying to divide all of us. It’s him who is trying to create discord in our life.

We learn from Jesus. Jesus knew that Judas would betray Him. He knew that Judas would backstab Him that evening. Instead, what did Jesus do? He offered Judas a seat at the table, and then He knelt and washed the feet of Judas.

Jesus served Judas. It’s not easy to do that, my dear friends. But Jesus says, what do you gain if you love only those who love you back? What reward is there in that? You’re not a pagan. Jesus says pagans can even do that. But there’s no reward in loving only those who love you back. Love your enemies.

It’s hard to love your enemy. But here’s what I believe: That it’s only love that can transform people. Love transforms. Have you ever felt love in your life— that is so unconditional that you change… You want to be a better person? That’s the kind of relationship you want to have—a relationship that will make you want to be a better person. That you will be encouraged deep within to be a better person. Only the love of God can do that. And I declare that the love of God that transforms you will also be the same love that will transform others.

Love your enemies. Serve your enemies, my dear friends. We’re all in this together. We are all Filipinos. And so, sometimes you see people fighting online.

They forget that what’s more important:

You cannot change people. And you cannot change people by hating them, by bad-mouthing them.

You can change people. How?

By loving them. By accepting them for who they are.

Here’s the third way:

The third way that we can be successful in our spiritual life, so that people can also see us as a God follower, is this: Daniel and his friends were faithful. They were so faithful that one day, their faith was put to the test.

King Nebuchadnezzar put this 90-feet gold statue and then he asked everybody to worship that god. And everybody did—all, except who? Let’s read:

Let me just say this: Three persons were put in this furnace. Following God in Church is easy–when you are surrounded by good persons. It’s easy to follow God in Church when you know there are positive persons all around you. Persons who inspire you, who can bless you.

But here’s the thing: We all know that following God in a pagan environment is a completely different issue. When you’re surrounded with corruption, temptation, and negativity, it feels like you’re being thrown into the fire. You feel like you’re burning and no matter how much you try to survive and overcome the temptation—sometimes, it’s hard to do so.

But here’s the Word: Three guys were thrown into the fire and in Verse 25, it says, “Look, Nebuchadnezzar shouted, I see four men—unbound—walking around in the fire unharmed. And the fourth looks like a God.”

If there are moments in your life when you feel like it’s hard to overcome temptations, I want you to know this truth:

You’re not alone in the fire. There’s another One in the fire. There’s another Person in the fire. And His name is Jesus.

He’s the One who will help you overcome that temptation. He’s the one who will help you rise to the occasion. He is Jesus.

And so, if you’re working right now in a place where there’s full of bad energy, I want you to know that Jesus is there with you.

Again, let’s ask the question: Where is Eden?

Eden is any place where God is King. So, if you are in a bad place right now, you can still make that into an Eden place.

How? Make Jesus King of that place.

Tell somebody beside you: God calls you back to Eden.

What Happened After the Exile

I want you to know that the Jews, finally, they were able to go back to Jerusalem. They were. Read the Bible—Ezra and Nehemiah in the old testament. Those two books talk about the Jews going back to Jerusalem. But what a disappointment. When they finally went back to Jerusalem:

No. 1: The Jews were still under foreign power; and

No. 2: The Jews were still corrupt, they were still idolatrous, they were still people who were not following God. What a disappointment. And then they came to this realization: That though they were already in their homeland, they were still not yet home. I’m going to say it again:

They were already home, but they were not yet home.

They realized they were spiritual exiles.

That they were still longing for Eden— for that beautiful place where God is King.

Then, many years later, there was a Jew— a carpenter’s son. And at the shores of Lake Galilee, He announced:

“The Kingdom of God is at hand, and the Kingdom is here.”

And He starts recruiting people: “You want to join me? Let’s build the Kingdom here.

Let’s build Eden and put God King here. Join me.”

My dear friends, we’re following that Jew. We’re following that Jew, and we’re saying that we’re going to build His Kingdom in this world. And that’s why you and I—put your hand over your chest– and Everybody, say: “I’m following Jesus. He’s changing the world. I am I am because of Him– a World Changer.”\

Objections

Now, I know what you’re thinking. There’s a buzz—a noisy buzz in your brain, objections arising. Three of the most common ones right now—loudly— are saying: “World Changer? Sobra ka naman, Bro. Bo. You’re too much.”

“I didn’t sign up for this. I just want to save my soul. Kaya ako nag-sisimba. The reason I am attending Mass. I want to go to Heaven.”

But friends– this will sound heretical, I am warning you—but I’ll say it anyway: Jesus is not calling you to Heaven.

At least not yet. Unless nagmamadali ka—you’re in a hurry. And if you are in a hurry, we can arrange that. We can make it happen. How? There is a brother I know, a dear friend, who is a Feast Builder.

And one time, he intimated to me, “Bro. Bo, may problema ako— have a problem. Pag-nag pra-pray over ako sa mga may sakit, namamatay sila— When I pray over the sick, they die.”

I told him, “You are not part of the Healing Ministry. You are part of the Ushers Ministry—you usher people to Heaven. What a gift!”

So, if you are in a hurry to go to Heaven, just tell me after The Feast.

I’ll recommend that brother to pray for you.

But friend, I want you to understand this– I know I’d said this a million times before, and I will not tire of saying it to you because I’m chipping away something that you’ve been brainwashed with by religious culture—

God is not calling you to Heaven. He is calling you to build Heaven on Earth. Especially for those who are suffering right now. Especially for those who are experiencing injustice. Especially for those who are poor.

Injustice. Oppression. Corruption. War—Russia and Ukraine– ano ang kinalaman ko diyan? What do I know about that?”

The problem is so big. We look at poverty likea 7-headed monster with 800 tentacles– and we say, “We can’t do anything.”

If that is your objection, the first thing that comes to mind is a very old story that I used to tell people—and it’s a favorite old story– of a man walking on the beach…

The night before, there was a huge storm and the waves brought into shore thousands upon thousands and upon thousands of starfishes. And on that morning, they were all dying, drying up under the heat of the sun.

And the man was looking at all those starfishes and then, from afar, was this little boy. And he was doing something.

The man walked nearer, and he saw that the boy was picking up the starfishes and then flinging them back to the sea. And then getting another one and throwing it back to the sea.

And the man finally caught up with the boy, and he said, “Bata, bata.

Sayang ang pagod mo. Boy, you’re wasting your effort. They are too many.

It will not make a difference.”

The boy paused for a while, and thought, Tama ba ‘yung sinasabi ng mamang ito? Is the man right?”

Then, he looked at one starfish near his feet.

He picked it up, looked at it, and he smiled, and he said, “But it will make a difference—for this one.”

And he saved it by throwing it back to the sea.

You want to change the world?

Love one person at a time. One person.

One Person at a Time

Anawim was created 30 years ago. We would not have done that if we said, “Libu-libo ang mga matatanda sa kalye. Paano ba naman ‘yan. There are thousands of old persons on the streets. How can we ever do that?”

But no. We wanted to save one old person abandoned on a street. And so, almost 30 years now, we’ve been doing that—70 old persons at a time, because that’s all we can accommodate. But we’re going to do it anyway. Because for the 70 persons that we save and rescue, it matters the world to them. We cannot do everything. But we can do something…

Here, I simply extend a hand for a lola to hold on; a caregiver wheels a lolo to his cottage; Bro. Hermie Morelos, head of our Mercy Ministries, dances with a lola, and they both smile… Lotus flowers on Anawim pond creating ripples…

And Mother Teresa said these words —I love what she said:

“World Changer? I don’t have what it takes. I’m an ordinary human being.”

And you know what? I will not disagree with you. You are ordinary. I am an ordinary person. But we worship an extraordinary God— who made us in His image and likeness.

And so, my dear friends, as we come into

Worship today, I want you to do one thing: Take your ordinary life and bring it before your extraordinary God, and tell Him:

“Be King. Make my heart, my life, Eden.”

Because you can never change the world without changing your inner world. And you cannot create Eden around you if you do not have an Eden within you. You make God King over your heart right now. Make God King over your attitudes. Make God King over your thoughts. Make God King over your disposition. Make God King over your motivations. Make God King over your plans. Make God King over every single dimension of your life right now.

And then you create there an Eden. And when you do, there will be a ripple effect.

And you will begin to love one person at a time.

Father in Heaven, I thank You that today we are in Your Presence. And so, I submit to you my heart. I’m setting up a throne. I’m emptying it from my pride and from my selfishness, and from my fear, and from my worries. They’ve been ruling my life. I’m emptying the throne. And I want You, Jesus, to sit on that throne and start calling the shots. Please be in charge. And I want to follow You…

I love this time. This is my favorite time of The Feast because I call you to renew your decision to follow King Jesus. And if you’re willing to do that, do that now. For some of you, it might be the first time. You’ve never given your life over to this King. So, do it now.

Everybody, say this prayer with me, and mean every word:

Jesus, I repent from all my sins. That means I am turning away, and I am following you. On my own, I cannot do this. But You will strengthen me and empower me. You forgive me of my sins. And You make me a new person. And Jesus, I will follow You forever. And You will be building Your Kingdom in my heart. In Your Name. Amen.

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