Music Summit 2009 Gives Birth to 12 Regal Songs of Praise

Pampanga, Philippines – Twelve new, a-year-in-the-making songs of praises illuminated the 9th International Music Summit (IMS) held November 29, Monday, at the Ang Dating Daan (The Old Path) Convention Center in Apalit, Pampanga. The 12 songs, each from its respective choir division, were presented at the IMS Chorale Festival, dedicated not for presidents and kings but for the God of Israel.

IMS is an annual one-stop-shop whole day affair for everything musical in the Members Church of God International (MCGI). Its highlight is the Choral Festival, where choral groups from different divisions present their original compositions in awe-inspiring musical productions. This year, the 12 participating divisions in the festival include Bulacan, Pampanga, Quezon-Marinduque, Metro Manila, Laguna-Batangas-Mindoro-Romblon (LBMR), Bicol, Rizal, Cavite, North 2, Central Apalit, Canada, and the Prison Ministry.

In a two-year streak, the Metro Manila Division, home of the biggest chorale ensemble, took the Best Interpretation and Best Composition awards, the only awards for the night, for their majestic song “Let’s Have Some Conversation”. With headcount that blots an entire stage, their overpowering performance proved once more that there is strength in a massive concerted effort aimed to bringing out the best of the best of praise songs. Their winning composition shall soon be heard in Ang Dating Daan Bible Expositions, the inimitable segment of radio-TV-internet program Ang Dating Daan hosted by MCGI Presiding Minister, Bro. Eliseo Soriano.

A vital part of IMS is the nurturing of God-given talents among choir members. It conducts a regular “Music Clinic” designed to address all aspects of choral singing, including technical and spiritual. The two-and-a-half hour lecture ranges from designating voices to soprano, alto, tenor and bass, cultivating voice quality through proper vocalizations, correcting posture and breathing, repairing tone deafness, teaching proper syllabications and accents, to instructing proper execution of duties and responsibilities.

The main lecturer for this year’s Music Clinic was composer, Norman Rueda, a graduate of the University of the Philippines College of Music, Major in Composition.

Rueda, who has composed many of the special songs or “tanging awit” being sung in MCGI during thanksgiving days and in local activities, serves as conductor to the Music Ministry Core (MMC), the IMS organizer. His eye defect notwithstanding, which rather provided him a sharper grasp of sounds, Rueda completed his degree in music through the encouragement of another accomplished composer, none other than MCGI Vice Presiding Minister, Bro. Daniel Razon. This “little” encouragement proved fateful and created a great impact to the present landscape of MCGI Music Ministry.

During the Music Clinic, Rueda talked about the basic rehearsal procedures and how they are applied in the professional world.

“We in the chorus class, we do rehearsals only for one hour. In that duration we practice seven pieces. That’s the professional way. But of course we are not professionals; because we are more than professionals. We are Christians.”

Half an hour during his lecture, Rueda introduced 80-year-old pianist, Grace Melendrez, a former professor at the University of Santo Tomas Conservatory of Music. Melendrez, who was baptized in the Church of God just last year, taught in the university for three decades. Upon sitting down in front of her piano onstage, she went right down to imparting some of her time-tested musical wisdom.

“We talk first of the diaphragm; that is the (breath) support. And you never raise your shoulders when you breathe; it’s always here about the waistline.”

Another special portion of this year’s IMS were the graduation rites of trainees from the ADD Chamber Orchestra and the National Choir. These two groups were formed through the initiative of Bro. Eli a few years ago, and are now crucial parts of the Music Ministry.

The 10 graduates from the ADD Chamber Orchestra consisted of 4 violin players, 3 violas, 2 cellos, and 1 clarinet. The clarinet player was the first wind instrumentalist to graduate from the group. With musical director, Michael Santos, the orchestra conducts training programs every Sunday, which includes music theory, solfeggio, and musical dictation.

For the National Choir, 34 trainees graduated after a year and two months of training under musical director, Norman Rueda, and mentors, Rainelda Viray, Ronaldo Deticio, Michaela Radomes, and NC President, Rey Jebulan. The NC’s main role is to sing in the 24/7 singing of praises to God and other special activities. Both the National Choir and the ADD Chamber Orchestra are being provided with all their needs by Bro. Eli and Bro. Daniel.

For eight years, the annual Music Summit has never gone by without hearing the most important voice in the event, the voice of the preachers of God. This year, however, due to Bro. Eli’s nonstop Bible expositions primarily in North America, which recently added more than 2,000 newly baptized souls in the Church of God, his steward to taking care of the brethren, Bro. Daniel, was quick to fill the gap despite his almost equally hectic schedule. Bro. Daniel’s speech revolved around the parallelism of God-given opportunity and God-given talents.

“The opportunity given by God is not an opportunity to do evil. It just happens that others use their special characteristics in evil deeds. For example, he is strong; he then used his strength in bullying and harassing people.

“God gives us something special that makes us differ from others. Isn’t it special that you have learned how to read notes and play the violin and sing high notes? How will you relate that to the opportunity given by God? Opportunity is given by God for you to do good, not evil. As much as the opportunity given by God is an opportunity to do good, everything that God gives you, including your talent, including everything that you have received, God gives you that for you to do His will and His goodness. That is the parallelism.”

The 9th International Music Summit started at 8am and ended at 10pm, monitored through live streaming in various countries. Next year, IMS is expected to produce another set of regal songs of praises to the God of Israel, God willing.

Thanksgiving to God that No Ondoy or Ketsana Can Hinder

While Tropical Storm Ondoy, international name Ketsana, brought flashfloods that wrecked billions of pesos worth of properties and claimed hundreds of lives in the Philippines, Members Church of God International, a group known to thank God for everything, was not in any way hindered in offering the sacrifice of thanksgiving to God.

“Whether there’s rain, typhoon, or flood, whatever the situation is, whether there is a problem or not, thanksgiving must continue.” This is what Bro. Daniel Razon, MCGI Vice Presiding Minister, said during the congregation’s weekly thanksgiving celebration held Saturday, September 26, at the Ang Dating Daan (ADD) Convention Center in Apalit, Pampanga.

From his recent visit to the brethren in America, Bro. Daniel once again brought home good news concerning the Church’s evangelical endeavors. He welcomed, for this week alone, about 300 newly baptized brethren all over the globe, including 19 in South America and 17 in Japan. In the Philippines, 93 were baptized in Pampanga, 14 in Bacolod, 12 in Tuguegarao, 6 in Davao, 44 in Daet, and several others in different provinces. There were also newly-baptized brethren in some parts of North America, United States, Africa and Papua New Guinea.

Although tedious, the nonstop preaching of Bro. Eliseo Soriano, MCGI Presiding Minister and host of the religious radio-television program Ang Dating Daan (The Old Path) allows the Church of God to officiate string of baptisms across continents. Diverse nationalities now begin to perceive the uniqueness of the true Church in terms of faith and doctrines as compared to what they have been hearing all their lives from their pastors. For the first time also, they have seen a different kind of preacher, one that is not hypocritical and who fully adheres to the Bible.

Unlike in the past when most of the brethren abroad are also Filipinos, most of the converts nowadays are non-Filipinos. They now dominate the locales, where the only Filipino is the worker. The choir and Teatro Kristiano (Christian Theatre) groups are no longer Filipinos as well. Yet many of them, whether black or white, have learned to sing in a foreign tongue: Tagalog. To once again let the congregation feel the effect and expanse of evangelization in other countries, Bro. Eli sent a video of three Portuguese-speaking American brethren in their teens singing Hanggang sa Langit (Up to Heaven’s Throne), a Tagalog song.

Debates re-emerge in expositions

In America, people who come to the Bible expositions do not believe right away, Bro. Eli said. They bring their own Bibles; and to those who have none Bro. Eli provides. The exposition would start at eight in the morning and would end at eight in the evening, yet the guests still don’t want to go home. They fall in line to throw some more questions to the phenomenal preacher.

A huge man about six feet three inches tall came to one of Bro. Eli’s Bible expositions, and, believing that what Bro. Eli was saying was wrong, started shouting at the 62-year old preacher. Bro. Eli then told him not to shout and to listen first, and he obliged. Unlike pastors of other religions who insist their errors, when the man saw that he was wrong, he already kept silent. After 2 months of listening to Bro. Eli, the man who thought he could scare a preacher of God by his loud voice and intimidating size was baptized in the Church of God. The video of his baptism was shown for the congregation across the globe.

Along with the continuous Bible Expositions, Bro. Daniel informed the brethren that debates are again taking place. In other countries, since they are not yet familiar with Bro. Eli, there are pastors who are still confident to take the unbeatable preacher head on. Bro. Daniel reported that since Bro. Eli’s debate with the pastor of the Assembly of God a few weeks ago was televised in different parts of America, Assembly of God members and pastors were able to watch, and the one who debated with Bro. Eli was already excommunicated from their congregation.

The now former pastor, after his defeat and excommunication, continuously attends Bro. Eli’s Bible expositions and already wants to be baptized. “With God’s mercy, the one I debated with here last month is already attending in our locale and helping there, that pastor of the Assembly of God. Thanks be to God.” Bro. Eli said.

Recently, another pastor came forward and challenged Bro. Eli. The debate is set to take place on Wednesday, October 7. The challenger is a former policeman and seems to be a brave one, just like the others before him who tried to measure Bro. Eli’s wisdom.

A week earlier as of this writing, another pastor of the Assembly of God came to one of Bro. Eli’s Bible expositions. He was a pastor who taught among pastors. In the Assembly of God, they call him professor los profesores. The 68 year old former pastor said that after listening to Bro. Eli on television, he found nothing against his teachings, because they were all being read from the Bible. Next Wednesday, on the debate, he said that he will call all the pastors that he knows and will let them face Bro. Eli, God willing. “Please do call all the pastors.” Bro. Eli replied.

The fearlessness in Bro. Eli to defend the faith against any resistance was not developed by experience but by faith. As a mouthpiece used by God, none has ever withstood his biblical expertise. Those who tried to dismantle it experienced the same fate. “Here in America, in North and South, their teachings are all the same, the Protestant, Born Again, Seventh Day Adventist, Assembly of God, et cetera. Before I came here I already knew their foolish doctrines. God has already prepared me for this.”

A different style of persecution

Bro. Daniel also expressed his thoughts regarding the scenario in other countries. He said that what is happening here in the Philippines, the kind of persecution the Church of God experiences, is also the case abroad. Pastors of different religions who are being hit by Bro. Eli’s preaching are now beginning to convene, to malign and destroy Bro. Eli.

“They have a different style,” Bro. Daniel added. They sell Bibles at $60 each and say that those are from Bro. Eli. They also download and reproduce the CDs and DVDs of Bro. Eli that are being shown on television, as well as video files and clips, and sell them at $34 a DVD. And if in the Philippines many born again denominations preach 10% or tithes, in America they collect a total of 30%: 10% for the Father, 10% for the Son, and 10% for the Holy Spirit.

Behind Bro. Eli’s endless travels

Thanksgiving to God is one activity that MCGI does not neglect, much more its leader. No matter the obstacles, Christians will not fail to give thanks to God for everything that happens in their lives. In traveling to these assemblies, however, Bro. Eli’s difficulty in America is a different story. After the Thanksgiving Day in the Philippines, from 7 am to 5 pm, worship service follows which lasts until 8-9 in the evening. After the worship service, brethren in the Philippines can go home and rest.

In America, what follows is another whole day affair, the English version of the Thanksgiving Day. After the English version, exposition follows. After the exposition, Bro. Eli will travel for 24 hours to another exposition, which starts at eight in the morning until eight in the evening. The only break time he gets is a 1 hour lunch break and a 30-minute coffee break. After the exposition—a whole day of answering queries of people from all walks of life—Bro. Eli will again travel for 16 hours.

“There are three locations here where I go to conduct expositions and one in the Philippines, so a total of four expositions a week, with God’s help. So you see how busy we are. This past week we were very busy, almost every day. We were on the road for three days, and four days on exposition. Even if my body hurts from traveling, the exposition continues.” Bro. Eli explained to the brethren.

In the vehicle as he travels, Bro. Eli is still working. He makes topics and outlines for worship services and thanksgiving days. While on the road, he administers to the Church in different locations, chatting with the workers and Ministers-in-Charge. Thankfully, managerial jobs today can be done from afar, and through modern technology, Bro. Eli is able to administer all over the world wherever he is. He is the type of preacher who is not fond of resting.

…but the labourers are few

Three thousand kilometers from where Bro. Eli conducts Bible expositions, there are places that are being reached by his television programs. People in those places haven’t seen Bro. Eli personally, but they are already being indoctrinated. Three have already been baptized, and more than 30 others remain under indoctrination. Many other places like this await workers to come to them.

“Hurry up those who are studying, there are many places waiting, there are no workers.” entreated Bro. Eli. “We lack workers here. There’s a place here that is very far from ours, about 3000 kilometers. I haven’t reached it because I am busy here in three locations where we go to conduct expositions.”

Bro. Eli receives thousands of email from different locations in America. One of the emails said, “Come to us already. We have left our church. We do not attend anymore. What will you have us do? Come here already!” Another email requested, “Bro. Eli, I have here a big stadium, come here and I will not ask for any payment. Just come here and let us congregate here.” These are the people waiting but are very far from Bro. Eli’s location, about 4-5 thousand kilometers from end to end. Bro. Eli himself is overwhelmed by the sheer size of the country he is in. The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few.

“There are many invitations, and I cannot respond to them all. And I am already old. I want our program on television to be broadcasted live so that even if I am just here people can ask me questions. But it’s very expensive here. The expenses for a one-hour broadcast here is more than the expenses of UNTV in a month. And we only broadcast here for one hour. If only I can broadcast here for three hours that will be a great thing.”

Bro. Daniel disclosed that the Church now has one channel broadcasting 24/7 like UNTV all over Europe. The Church also maintains different cable channels. “We need more workers to help us to propagate our faith and the word of God in different parts of the world.” he added.

Bro. Eli’s name has become very popular even in Russia. The enemies of truth, by propagating lies in the internet saying that Bro. Eli is a rapist and other gossips, have made Bro. Eli’s name very popular. People then became interested and searched in the internet, and then were able to hear the doctrines. Now they are waiting for baptism.

“I pray God that we’ll have more workers here to help me in administering to the people and the brethren. We need workers here who know how to speak English.”

Responding to the urgent call

In response to the growing needs of global evangelization, Sis. Luz Cruz, Bro. Eli’s reader and an old Church worker, reported in front of the congregation the actions being taken by the Evangelical Ministry. “We are teaching some (workers) here in the Evangelical Ministry. It’s been going on for two weeks, and district servants and regular workers are attending. They are more than 30, and with God’s help they are ready for deployment abroad.”

“We also opened a new Level 1 Workers Training, it just started and 300 came in. The Level 2 Workers are less than 200.” she added.

Before the thanksgiving ended, a video was played showing a foreigner from Spain who was able to listen to Bro. Eli through his broadcast. The Old Path is already being watched in London, in Spain, in Germany, and all over Europe, which is expected to bear fruits after some time, with God’s mercy. “Bro. Eli, thank you very much that your program is being broadcast all over Europe which I am watching these days.” said the guest from Spain.

MCGI will celebrate its 3rd Quarter International Thanksgiving to God on October 2-4 at the Ang Dating Daan Convention Center. Whether another Ondoy or Ketsana arrives, brethren all over the country and from abroad are expected to come and celebrate another monumental event, which most other congregations forget: to give thanks to whom due thanksgiving. “I will go also.” (Zechariah 8:21)

MCGI String of Indoctrinations Reaps another 105 Souls in South America

PAMPANGA, PHILIPPINES – Just a week after the brethren in South America gave thanks to God for bringing Bro. Eliseo Soriano, Presiding Minister of the Members Church of God International (MCGI), from the east to the western part of the world to preach the gospel, another 105 souls from the same continent submitted themselves to baptism and joined the brotherhood of Christians.

Last Saturday, September 5, through live video feed emanating from outside the Philippines, Vice Presiding Minister Bro. Daniel Razon welcomed more than 200 new brethren across the globe, including the 105 Americans, during the Thanksgiving Day at the Ang Dating Daan (ADD) Convention Center in Apalit, Pampanga. About a hundred were baptized in the Philippines, while others were from different countries such as Australia, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.

Happy to welcome the new brethren, Bro. Daniel gave thanks to God for the new fruits of Bro. Eli’s perseverance in propagating the righteousness and the word of God. “This is the work of God in us: to call those who will serve Him, to call people who will be elected in the Church, to call souls who will be worthy of His kingdom and be part of His glory which He promised us.”

A video footage of the baptism in South America was shown to the thousands in attendance in six continents monitoring through live streaming. As they were immersed in water, recipients of the holy baptism were seen in tears, realizing how important in their lives the moment was. They were all non-Filipinos. God’s calling is being fulfilled beyond race, language and color, thus the fulfillment of Galatians 3:28.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

Through the leadership of Bro. Eli, the most queried Bible scholar and host of the religious program Ang Dating Daan (The Old Path), MCGI conducts continuous indoctrinations as well as Bible expositions in different parts of the world. And this, the continuous propagation of the righteousness and the word of God, entails a lot of sacrifices, especially on the part of Bro. Eli.

“This is no joke.” Bro. Daniel explained. “We know that we have to spend a lot of money, time and effort. We can consider it a herculean task.”

Bro. Daniel recounted how that a few decades ago, Bro. Eli didn’t even think nor imagine that he will ever go out of the Philippines. During Bro. Daniel’s school years until the time he worked in the broadcast industry, the Bible studies they conducted were just in nearby provinces. Their small vision of covering the whole country compelled Bro. Eli to use the media.

Bro. Eli started broadcasting simultaneously in about 12 local radio stations, one in Laoag, in Baguio and in other provinces. Later on, he saw the need to widen the scope of broadcast to cover a wider audience. After simultaneously broadcasting through radio, which started in 1980, and through television in 1983, only then were they able to reach the corners of the Philippines.

Still, Bro. Eli and Bro. Daniel didn’t think that there will be events that will force Bro. Eli to go out of the country. In 2005, the harassment posed by enemies of truth influential to the government culminated to imminent dangers to Bro. Eli’s life, and therefore to the congregation he leads, which signaled his supposedly temporary exile. He did not immediately see that there is really a direction that God is pointing to, where the mission of saving souls shall breathe new life. Now, it has become clearer what is spoken of in Matthew 24:14.

And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.

“There is no big thing that God cannot do.” Bro. Daniel resolved. He noted how that in various parts of the world where Bro. Eli goes to, the reception to the word of God is even warmer, the expansion and increase of the brethren is much faster. Comparing the past to the present, Bro. Daniel said that when they started preaching the gospel in the Philippines, if there were 20 or 30 persons who submitted themselves to baptism in one occasion, that was already many.

Now, people being baptized in different locations, like in some parts of Africa, in Papua New Guinea, and in other continents, come in groups, sometimes starting from the pastor down to the members. They are able to listen and get enlightened by the teachings and righteousness of God in so many ways the congregation had never imagined before.

“We didn’t even think of these things.” Bro. Daniel said. “Now we are in a state wherein we have to intensify the more our diligence to allow the righteousness and teachings of God reach more souls, whatever their race is.”

Hand in hand with preaching the gospel to other countries, however, is the growing challenge of language diversity. The problem now is not just the dialect. During the infancy of the Church of God in the Philippines, it was not too complicated as many of the brethren speak other dialects, such as Cebuano, Ilocano and Kapampangan. It was easier to go to the Visayas region, or to Mindanao, or to the remote areas of Luzon. Now, outside the Philippines, it’s a totally different case.

In the eastern part of the globe, there is Japanese, Korean, and Chinese, which has several dialects, including Cantonese, Mandarin and Fukien. In the western part, there is French, Italian and many other languages. In America alone, there are many places to go to. The brethren in South America actually speaks Portuguese. To be able to cover all of America, Asia, Africa, Europe and Australia, Bro. Daniel disclosed that they are now thinking of getting more satellite services.

On Decrypting 1 Timothy 2:14 and the 10-Minute Peek to Bro. Eli’s Recent Debate

Doubling the excitement of last week’s Thanksgiving to God, this week’s celebration of the Members Church of God International (MCGI) brought a new advancement in biblical knowledge and in the Church’s global evangelization efforts.

Before thousands of congregants in the Ang Dating Daan (ADD) Convention Center in Apalit, Pampanga, Bro. Eliseo Soriano, MCGI Presiding Minister and host of the religious program Ang Dating Daan (The Old Path), explained a mystery never before heard regarding the Adam and the woman mentioned in 1 Timothy 2:14. The verse says:

And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.

In this seemingly simple biblical statement, there is a deep spiritual knowledge embedded, supported by many verses as Bro. Eli proved to the congregation. But unlike in mathematics, wherein experts in different fields can arrive at the same conclusion using various methods, to be able to decipher the mystery in the verse the way Bro. Eli taught the congregation is one that is beyond pure calculations. There must be divine intervention.

“Whenever you read the epistle of Paul,” Bro. Eli said, “put in your mind that there are things he speaks which are hard to understand, especially so when he speaks to Timothy, who is his vice presiding minister.” Bro. Eli cited 2 Peter 3:15-16:

And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

It is fortunate that 2,000 years after the death of the apostles, God sent a preacher who would understand those things hard to be understood in Paul’s epistles. Someone is again asking the right questions and providing the right answers.

To ask if Adam or the woman was deceived or not will not squeeze out the vitamins in 1 Timothy 2:14. The biblical wisdom that shocked the congregation can only be determined by asking the right questions. However, even if one is able to ask the right questions in this particular case, which is already a feat in itself, giving the right answers is not anybody else’s business, but of the preacher sent by God. As Bro. Eli decrypted for the Church of God the wisdom in the verse, the congregation was sent into a wild applause.

“Let us not limit the thinking of Apostle Paul.” Bro. Eli said.

The excitement that spurred from the revelation was equaled only by the unexpected turns during the same event. After the brethren in Papua New Guinea brought tears of joy to the congregation as they, a few months ago, sang the Tagalog praise song “Ito ang Araw” (This is the Day), the Portuguese-speaking brethren in South America followed suit with “Ang Mga Sugo ng Dios” (The Sent Ones of God). In a dramatic expression of triumph and gratitude, they offered the new song of praise to the God of Israel in Tagalog tongue.

The reason: for letting Bro. Eli reach the western part of the world to preach the Gospel.

To be overjoyed when history repeats itself the way God requires it is nothing short of biblical. In the video presentation of the Portuguese-speaking brethren shown simultaneously in monitoring centers across the globe via satellite, once more the evidence of God’s guidance, mercy and power takes the limelight. As they stirred the heart of the Church, their spirit of humility testified of God’s work, which transcends cultures, colors and languages.

In the Thanksgiving Day also, another interesting turn was Bro. Eli’s report on what happened on the debate with a Portuguese national, a minister of the Assembly of God, which took place a week earlier. It was not much as to inform the brethren of who won, but how, since the Church believes and had witnessed in so many occasions that the winner is already decided. Luke 21:13-15 says:

And it shall turn to you for a testimony. Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer: For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.

In the video shown, a ten-minute segment taken from the 4-hour formal debate, Bro. Eli is seen speaking beside a translator, who translates English to Portuguese. Upon witnessing firsthand a true preacher of God pull down strongholds and cast down erroneous teachings, the brethren, all Portuguese, gave a standing ovation to claim victory. It was their first time to witness it. The glory is all to God.

Members Church of God International holds Thanksgiving Day every Saturday from 7 am to 5 pm. It is a day when members of the Church, along with guests, travel from different provinces to the ADD Convention Center to fulfill their vows to God of offering the sacrifice of thanksgiving. Chapters abroad monitor the event via live video streaming.

MCGI Welcomes Nearly a Thousand Newly-baptized Souls

PAMPANGA, PHILIPPINES – A total of almost 1000 newly baptized members from different parts of the Philippines were welcomed in the Members Church of God International (MCGI) last Saturday, August 8, during the congregation’s weekly thanksgiving celebration.

The baptism was held a day before thanksgiving, Friday, after a series of indoctrination sessions conducted worldwide by Bro. Eliseo Soriano, MCGI Presiding Minister, which lasted two to three months.

The newly-baptized offered their thanksgiving to God at 2 p.m. in the ADD Convention Center in Apalit, Pampanga. ADD stands for Ang Dating Daan (The Old Path), Bro. Eli Soriano’s 26 years running radio and television program.

For the newly-born babes in Christ, it was another momentous day after the day of baptism, being the first that they have ever truly thanked God and offered Him songs of praises. For them it is the start of a new life.

After the resounding, joyful noise of glorifying the Almighty God onstage, joined by 50 thousand faithful on the convention ground and hundreds of thousands more simultaneously monitoring in six continents, what was supposed to be short testimonies of how these new brethren came to know the Church and Bro. Eli turned into exciting revelations.

A brother in his 60’s, former member of the born again movement, promptly approached the program emcee to narrate his story. He said that he used to offer tithes in his former religion, because that was what they were taught to do.

Upon hearing Bro. Eli’s teachings, however, he said that he abandoned his former belief. He now knows that offering tithes is a commandment to the Israelites and not to Christians, and he even cited the verses he learned during the indoctrination series.

Another one who came forward to share her story was a young lady who exclaimed that she was a former Iglesia ni Cristo member. She recounted that through the indoctrination sessions, she learned that what was being inculcated in their minds about Bro. Eli during their worship services in Iglesia ni Cristo are all lies.

The young lady said she didn’t know that members of Ang Dating Daan were mauled and almost killed by members of her former religion, until she saw it with her own eyes through the video tape played during the indoctrination.

It can be remembered that the life-threatening incident happened in April 2006, when hundreds of INC members cornered and beat to a pulp ADD members in front of Jollibee, a fast food chain in Apalit, Pampanga.

When it was almost time for Bro. Eli to discuss the rest of the day’s topic, one of the newly-baptized, in her desire to testify of God’s deliverance, was given the chance to speak last. A sister in her early 50’s, she described how her gambling, drinking, smoking and other vices stopped when she heard Bro. Eli’s teachings.

When she learned during the indoctrination about how a Christian woman ought to dress herself up, she said she immediately bought herself modest clothes to adhere to the teachings of Christ. The doctrines changed her lifestyle, she said.

Along with the newly-baptized, brethren from abroad including Locale of Vietnam, Locale of Ireland, officers and choir members of Locale of Saipan, Women’s Club of Locale of Japan, were grouped together in giving thanks to God.

There were also the baptizers, the Baptism Committee and Staff, districts in several provinces, the Music Ministry 24/7 (participants of nonstop singing of praises to God), and the August 8, 2009 Celebrants to offer their respective thanksgiving.

Members of the Church of God believe that whenever such a celebration is being performed and dedicated to God, the host of angels in heaven celebrates with them.

A report from abroad made the Thanksgiving Day even livelier. Speaking from the United Arab Emirates through live streaming, Vice Presiding Minister Bro. Daniel Razon said that in different parts of the globe, especially in America, baptism is also nearing.

Through the efforts of Bro. Eli, with the help of God and every member of the Church, “God willing, we will again have new brethren who are non-Filipinos.” he said.

Attraction to Light: a Moth-like Behavior of the People of God

Moths are frequently seen attracted as if “enamored” to bright lights. So are Christians.

The science behind the moth’s behavior of flying toward a source of light, be it a porch light, a light bulb, or a candle, remains largely unknown. In the Philippines, moths locally known as “gamu-gamo” are frequent visitors at homes, especially at night as they fly toward a light source and circle it. Usually, the homeowner will put a plastic bag near the light to capture the seemingly mesmerized insects. The following morning, the bag will be full of the poor thing.

gamu-gamo

Like moths, Christians have a peculiar behavior of racing toward a certain direction. They are attracted to light, and like moths they flock toward its source. This behavior is most evidently seen in the Members Church of God International, a church known for its weekly “Pasalamat” or Thanksgiving. Every Saturday, some fifty to seventy thousand people from different provinces race toward the Ang Dating Daan Convention Center, one of the largest convention centers in Asia, located in Apalit, Pampanga, two hours away from Manila. This huge venue is regularly filled with people, along with thousands others in different countries monitoring through the internet, who offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving to the God of Israel.

Traveling from one place to another seeking light is a behavior of the people of God as early as the time of the prophets. Where the source of light is there they go and congregate. This behavior is recorded in Zechariah 8:21.

And the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the LORD, and to seek the LORD of hosts: I will go also.

In the Book of Psalms 119:105, the light they seek is defined as the word of God.

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

Light tells the people of God direction. It guides them to where they are supposed to go. The Israelites, the early people of God, traveled from one place to another seeking the Lord of hosts, the primary source of light. The LORD is introduced in the Bible as “the Father of lights.” James 1:17 says:

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

In the Christian era, the source of light is the gospel of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:4 says:

In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

The path that the Israelites took to seek the Lord of hosts is the same path Christians in this dispensation take to offer thanksgiving to the God of Israel. It is the same path that leads to the light of the glorious gospel of Christ. It is no coincidence that “Ang Dating Daan” (ADD) translates in English as “The Old Path” (TOP), for an old path it is. Jeremiah 6:16 says:

Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.

How seekers of light travel toward the source has certainly changed through the advent of modern technology. Christians from different parts of the globe can now “fly” toward the source of light via live streaming, an advanced technology which was not available thousands of years ago. From practically any place in the world the people of God have now the means to congregate and listen to the gospel, emanating from the only sensible preacher of our time, none other than Bro. Eli Soriano.

Bro. Eliseo Soriano, presiding minister of the Members Church of God International, has the reputation of being the most queried man on earth, especially when it comes to biblical matters. He travels the world frequently, not to seek the light, but to bring the word of God to where there are seekers of it. Thus in other countries the moth-like behavior is also observed among non-Filipinos. People of various colors and tongues travel toward the direction of the light. They gather in Bro. Eli’s Bible Expositions.

From various states of North and South America, to Africa, Australia, Europe and Asia, light-seekers travel from hundreds of kilometers away to where Bro. Eli Soriano is, to hear the word of God. For others who have no means to travel, technology is at their disposal. This phenomenon is reminiscent of the time of Solomon, when the queen of the south came from the utmost parts of the earth to hear his wisdom. Luke 11:31 says:

The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation, and condemn them: for she came from the utmost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.

While the explanation behind the moth’s attraction to light remains unknown, one theory suggested is that moths employ a navigation technique that uses bright celestial bodies, particularly the Moon, to travel a straight path. Part of the theory states that when a moth run into a much closer source of light and uses it for navigation, for some reason the moth instinctively turns toward that light. It is “attracted” to it.

Although this light-compass theory is yet to be proven, seekers of the light of the gospel of Christ must also be using some kind of navigation technique that enables them to fly straight toward the source of light, the word of God, which embodies truth. John 17:17 says:

Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

The light, the word of God, is truth. To find the truth, there must be a method of navigation. It is not by accident that one finds the truth, but by grace, if not a definite meeting of wills. Psalms 14:2 says:

The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.

As one seeks God, His truth, His light, God looks down from heaven. Speaking of “celestial navigation”, nothing is at par with having the primary source of light in heaven guiding your way toward itself, the Father of lights. Just seek Him diligently.

On a final note, like moths, seekers of truth are naturally attracted to light, especially Christians. Where the light is there they gather. You can just imagine if the one carrying the light goes to where the moths are. The following excerpt is taken from Bro. Eli Soriano’s Truth Blog.

eliseo_soriano01I enjoy journeying in this world seeking for my ‘countrymen’ in the world to come… After 43 years of ‘travel’, using my feet, my jeepney, my cars, and my one and only bus, I found the fastest and the most convenient form of vehicle available to travel around the world in search for YOU.

My dream is to find friends; the lost souls; to meet the less fortunate; the hungry; the underfed; the forgotten; and all those rejected by human society: to share with them the hope that is in me; and to be a humble instrument of my Great God, to announce that there is something beautiful and wonderful in store for them who were neglected by this present world!

Contradicting Outcomes of Interpreting the Best-Selling Book of All Time

At six billion copies sold worldwide, the Bible remains the best-selling book of all time; taking only the second place is the Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong at 900 million copies sold. However, the Bible is also the most misunderstood book. Diverse religions claiming to preach based on the Bible are now scattered almost everywhere, each having a different name, a different set of doctrines, beliefs and practices, which is an obvious anomaly.

Apparently, interpreting the Holy Scriptures produces contradicting outcomes in different people. One may interpret a biblical verse this way; the other, that way. Notwithstanding the fact that there is an interpretation that stands to logic, the apparent inconsistency may be better understood through parallel circumstances. Take for example the effects of sunlight on earth.

Without sunlight, life on earth as we know it will not be possible. It is a key component in photosynthesis, a chemical process vital to maintaining life. The sun itself has direct influence on the possibility of life. All over the planet, the sun dictates the climates as well as the changes they undergo. We have winter, spring, summer and fall; we have continents of ice and rocks; we have desserts, rainforests, oceans and seas; all because of the relative position of the earth to the sun. If the sun is a bit too close to earth, our planet will be scorched. Water in liquid form cannot exist, and therefore life, which is dependent on water, can neither exist.

Even how beneficial the sun to earth is, however, it can also bring hazardous effects. Without the atmosphere blocking 98.7 percent of the ultraviolet radiation coming from the sun, sunlight will damage nearly all biological life. Even with the current protection provided by the ozone layer, too much exposure to UV radiation can still cause skin cancer. On the contrary, too less exposure to sunlight will lead to vitamin D deficiency, which leads to many kinds of sicknesses such as osteoporosis, prostate cancer and breast cancer. Our skin benefits from sunlight by helping it produce vitamin D, which is crucial in calcium absorption for developing bones.

In the medical world, there are also positive and negative effects. It doesn’t always follow that if a medicine can cure, anyone who takes in that medicine will automatically be cured. There are kinds of medicine which are very useful to many people, but deadly to others. Take penicillin for example.

In history, penicillin is accounted for saving many lives. It is effective as an antibiotic. Nevertheless, there are people who experience difficulty in breathing and suffer cardiac arrest when given penicillin. These people may have extreme allergic reactions to this medication. To other people, adverse effects of penicillin include vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, hypersensitivity, fever, seizures and many others. So one cannot immediately conclude that if the effect of a certain drug is good to some people, it is the same to all.

These positive and negative effects of medication to human health and of sunlight to life on earth are parallels to the contradicting outcomes of using and interpreting the Scriptures. No matter how good the Scriptures is, it would produce negative effects to a person or group of people without understanding. Take for example the Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ) of Manalo.

Iglesia ni Cristo or INC, a politically-influential organization based in the Philippines, has a unique interpretation of Romans 16:16. The verse says –

Salute one another with an holy kiss. The churches of Christ salute you.

When they read this verse, INC ministers would immediately ask, “What is the name used to greet?” They would then conclude that: “The name “Iglesia ni Cristo” is the official name, because it is the name that was commanded to greet all with.” This explanation was published in Iglesia ni Cristo’s official magazine Pasugo, September 1976 issue, on page 26.

Edited-Pangalang pinangbati

Upon closer look at the verse, however, you will see that there is no name mentioned in Romans 16:16. The commandment was to salute one another. With what? A name? The verse says, “Salute one another WITH AN HOLY KISS.” There is no name mentioned in the verse; much less an official name. What the churches used to salute one another was the holy kiss, not a name.

Another doctrine of the Iglesia ni Cristo of Manalo that has negative consequences considering its moral and spiritual impact to society is their interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:9-10. The verses say –

In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.

The verses clearly state that women should adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety, and not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array. This is according to Apostle Paul. Its clarity notwithstanding, ministers of Iglesia ni Cristo say that this was in time past when people were still conservative. Since we are now modern, they say that we have to adapt to the modern ways. They even profess that they now allow what they once prohibited—the wearing of jewelries—because “the level of Christianity must progress.” The document below is the outline of this INC doctrine.

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WHY WAS THE USE OF JEWELRY PROHIBITED IN THE IGLESIA NI CRISTO BEFORE – this is the topic discussed in the outline. So using jewelry was really prohibited in the Iglesia ni Cristo of Manalo before. But time came when they removed the prohibition. Why? Why was the prohibition on using jewelries removed in the Iglesia ni Cristo later on? According to them, as outlined in the document, “When one is already of full age, he may eat strong meat; that is why the prohibition is being removed.” They further teach that the prohibition must be removed for them to be perfect. This doctrine, as illogical as it sounds, cannot be considered positive. Contradicting Apostle Paul’s commandment in the process, their going unto perfection is backwards.

Besides, if indeed those who are already of full age who may eat strong meat are the ones who are not prohibited to use jewelry, then why do they not according to their doctrine prohibit their newly-baptized brethren in using jewelry? Are the newly-baptized of full age in faith? Shouldn’t it be that while the member is still new, he or she should be prohibited to wear jewelry? and when she gets older in the church, only then will she be able to wear? But that’s not the case in the Iglesia ni Cristo of Manalo. Their doctrines—inconsistent with each other, retrogressive and contrary to biblical—are apparent negative outcomes of misinterpreting the Scriptures.

The case of Toufik Benedictus “Benny” Hinn, founder and leader of the Benny Hinn Ministries, is another example of the negative outcome of misusing the Scriptures. Hinn, a televangelist and considered by some as a Bible teacher, claims that he has been anointed by God with healing power, and that he has healed people with AIDS, cancer, blindness and extreme physical injuries. He attracts people through his so-called “Miracle Crusades” which showcases revival meetings and faith healing held in large stadiums throughout the world, where about 50-60 thousand people are in attendance. Parts of the program are being aired in his daily talk show This Is Your Day, broadcasted on several television stations, including The God Channel, Revelation TV, Daystar Television Network, Vision TV, Grace TV, Trinity Broadcasting Network, and INSP Networks. Some of his “miraculous healing” sessions, which look more like hysteria and mass hypnosis, can be viewed on YouTube.

On December 27, 2002, Dateline NBC, an investigative news program, aired its expose on what happens behind the camera during Benny Hinn’s miracle crusades. For two years beginning in 2000, they followed Hinn in different cities. And in each crusade they have attended they have observed that the main act of the show points to that moment when Hinn would tell the audience “that God was speaking to him, revealing a multitude of miracles then taking place throughout the arena.” Hinn would even specifically name those who are allegedly being healed by God.

Before some of the audience were allowed onstage to announce their healing, Dateline discovered through their hidden cameras the “screeners”, some of whom are doctors, who choose from the audience good candidates for revealing their healing; while on the other side of the stadium is the wheelchair section, where people hoping to be cured by Hinn are being kept away from the stage. These people go home still stuck on their wheelchairs, sick and desperate.

According to Nathan Daniel, a documentary producer interviewed by Dateline, he had worked closely with Benny Hinn Ministries Miracle Follow-up Department. As part of his research work, Daniel had set criteria for verification of a miracle healing: 1) Proof of the illness or disease prior to healing; 2) Evidence that there was a miraculous change; and 3) Documentation that the healing had continued. Out of the hundreds of cases BHM said they had documented and verified, Daniel found out that “there was never one complete record that would suit the criteria for a documented miracle healing.”

With millions of followers donating millions of dollars to the Benny Hinn Ministries tax free and without public accounting, Hinn has nothing to worry about financially. CBC Television show The fifth estate, which also attempted to expose Benny Hinn Ministries’ mishandling of funds, estimates that Benny Hinn acquires $200 million yearly. Just like the case of the Iglesia ni Cristo Executive Minister, Eraño Manalo, whom Say Magazine called “The Billionaire Preacher” in its June 6, 1989 issue, Benny Hinn has obviously misinterpreted the Bible as a source of income.

Despite having these negative consequences of interpreting the Bible, positive effects can still be observed. One group in particular that strictly abides by the Holy Scriptures is the Members Church of God International, a religious organization with headquarters in the Philippines.

Members Church of God International is an active Christian church in public and spiritual service. Its Presiding Minister, Bro. Eliseo Soriano, a Bible scholar acclaimed as “The Only Sensible Preacher of Our Time” relentlessly holds Bible Expositions worldwide where he answers all kinds of spiritual queries, even giving advices and scriptural opinion on medical concerns, matters of politics and governance, economy and the sciences. After each Bible exposition, not one truth seeker goes home without his most crucial questions answered straight from the Bible.

Effectively using technology as means to spread the gospel, Bro. Eli Soriano’s program The Old Path (Ang Dating Daan) airs 24/7 on the Internet, television and cable stations, where the question and answer portion of his Bible Expositions is being shown. His program can also be heard on several local radio stations. His Truth Blog (esoriano.wordpress.com), which discusses the most vital issues of faith, was recently awarded People’s Choice and The Most Popular Website of the Year in the Philippines. He also answers spiritual queries through the most popular video-sharing website, YouTube (youtube.com/broelisoriano), where inquirers can post their questions through video.

In terms of public service, Members Church of God International has established at least 12 orphanages throughout the country, accommodating even non-members. The church recently opened two colleges where everything is provided for free to deserving students from all over the country, from tuition fee, miscellaneous fees, to uniforms, dormitory and medical check-ups.

MCGI, through its Co-Worker (Kamanggagawa) Foundation, also maintains two Transient Homes as temporary shelters for people who may not have a place to sleep at night. Aside from cozy beds, it provides free dinner and breakfast. MCGI also maintains regular medical missions, feeding programs, and even free bus ride.

What’s even more striking about this church is that it holds Thanksgiving to the God of Israel weekly, where some 50-70 thousand members and visitors gather in one of the biggest convention centers in Asia, the ADD Convention Center in Apalit, Pampanga, north of Manila. Inside the convention center, one can’t help but notice beside the two large monitors placed above the stage, where brethren in international chapters are shown giving thanks to God, two equally large billboards were placed containing a strict warning that says: WE DO NOT ACCEPT FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTIONS FROM NON-MEMBERS. According to them, this is in accordance to III John 7, which says -

Because that for his name’s sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles.

In terms of uniqueness, this church is the only registered church in the Philippines that pays tax to the government. It is in adherence to Romans 13:7 -

Therefore give to all their dues; to the one due tax, the tax; tribute to whom tribute is due, fear to whom fear is due, and honor to whom honor is due. (MKJV)

With a preacher whose biblical knowledge is available for testing; goodwill to fellowmen without asking donations in return; organizational uniqueness backed-up by no less than the best-selling book of all time itself; such an effect in morality and spirituality stands to reason and cannot be considered negative. Apparently, the leader of this church, the Members Church of God International, pays attention to what the Scriptures really teach.