Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Danger of Christianity

The danger of Christianity is when we become lax to accommodate relationships and when we try to twist, re-arrange, and interpret God's word to suit what tickles our ears. In short, the danger of Christianity is compromise in the guise of a sacrifice. 
                                                                                                                                -www.renewedcreation.blogspot.com

Thursday, July 10, 2014

{Truth Thursday} Feeling small?



Assisting and partnering with my husband in the Youth Ministry of our church has allowed me to meet many amazing and inspiring and I dare say, great, Christians. I am always blessed with their testimonies on how God is working in their lives and how faithful they have been, despite the difficulties. 

At the same time, observing my husband tackle his role as a youth worker in church has allowed me to see the many big tasks and challenges the Lord has placed and  allowed to be conquered by His grace. 

Very recently, we had a Youth Retreat for all young people in church (and some of their invited friends) and I was just amazed at how the Lord equipped my husband to make everything possible. Being a government employee from 8am-5pm, the only thing that I could actually do was to prepare my lecture on Submission to Authorities and relevant laws for the youth of today and to show up at the venue. Even the packing of our things has to be done by my dear husband. 

Because of this, I sometimes would feel too small of myself when it comes to the ministry. Because I have a deceitful and sinful heart very much prone to the enticements of the enemy, there were times that I would feel discouraged and I would even question my worth as a worker in God's Kingdom. 

I feel too small. Unimportant. Very much disposable. Insignificant. 

There are times that I would secretly wish I had the humor and wit of another so it would be easier for me to share the Gospel. At times, too, I'd feel bad about myself not being capable of doing great things for the Lord, not being able to lead a large group Bible study, not being able to treat young people to more expensive cafes and restos, not being able to be fashionably updated so I can relate more with them, etc. In short, I hated myself, the one God created me to be.  

Of course, as I have stated in the earlier paragraph, this problem stems in my heart. 

And I am so thankful that the Lord always knows the depths of my heart and His Truth (the Bible) is always there to heal my insecurities. 

I am currently re-reading the Book of Acts in my morning devotional and sometime last month, I was in Chapter 6 where the story of Stephen starts. I have always been fascinated by the life of Stephen and how the Bible describes him: a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit. Later, he is then described to have the face that looked like an angel. 

But who is Stephen by the way?

In Chapter 6, his name is mentioned as one of the seven men chosen by the 12 disciples for the daily distribution of foods among the believers. Because this concern on daily food distribution was entrusted to them, the disciples were able to devote themselves to prayer and ministry of the word and the word of God spread that even the high priests believed in Jesus Christ.

In the next verses, we learned that Stephen did amazing wonders and miracles because he was full of God's grace and power. This made some men oppose him and when they could not outdo Stephen's wisdom from the Spirit, they planned to have Stephen eliminated. Chapter 7 and Chapter 8 narrate Stephen's speech before the Sanhedrin and his death by stoning. 

What the New Living Translation (NLT) Life Application Bible mentions about Stephen is quite enlightening. What was highlighted in the Commentary/Notes is the fact that I have (and I believe most of us have) neglected many times--Stephen started serving the Lord in the daily distribution of food for all of the believers!

Yes, he, along with the other six men, distributed food among the believers on a day to day basis. Sounds boring, right? Insignificant? Small? A task too negligible to be appreciated? Without batting an eyelash, I would probably say yes to all. 

But Stephen was not chosen to do this seemingly "small" task because he was less important. In fact, he was chosen because he met the criteria: full of the Spirit and wisdom. 

Another thing that struck me here is the fact that Stephen did not complain when he was given that "small" task of distributing food. For my very limited human view, I would have considered such task too menial and too un-spiritual. But hey, if we look closely to the verses, the Gospel spread rapidly because the 12 disciples were able to devote to the word and the ministry of the word and this was because Stephen and the six men were faithful to their seemingly "small" and menial task of food distribution. 

Later on, we see Stephen's life being used greatly by God. He was the first to die for Jesus Christ and because of his death, the believers were scattered; thus, the Gospel spread throughout Judea and Samaria and around the world. His death profoundly impacted Saul, a staunch persecutor of the Christians, who was later on converted to the faith and became the amazing Paul. 

Such is the dynamics of the early church. God has placed every single soul for a purpose. There was no superstar complex nor did the believers compete with each other neither did they compare themselves with one another. There was no small or big task.

They simply did their job with so much love and faithfulness for Jesus Christ. 

Because the truth is, the Lord does not look at how big our task is or how great our performance of our ministry is. More than anything else, He cares at our faithfulness, even on things that might come as "small" to our limited human standards. 

So, whether we only wash dishes in church, or we are assigned with the distribution of giveaways, or we are merely the LCD projector operator during Sundays, (or even if we are not yet involved in the ministry but we merely pray and study the Word)--let's do it with so much love and faithfulness to our King! 

No task is ever too small to Him. And He knows when and how to promote those who are faithful.

I pray that today, if you are reading this, you will be blessed by the Word of God through the life of Stephen and that the next time you feel small, you will think of this truth: God does not care at the size of our ministry; He cares at our faithfulness. 

Happy {Truth Thursday}!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

God's Perfect Timing

We are eight months married. Eight months and nine days, to be exact.

Marriage is a risk and we took that risk four days after the 7.2 magnitude earthquake rocked our province--proof that God's foundation standeth sure despite environmental unsureness. This is my first time to share a photo taken during our wedding day showing the Ring Ceremony with my fave nephew (then two years old) bringing our nest ring pillow. 
Since then, we've had our share of ups and downs, fights and challenges. We have known more of each other and most importantly, learned to bear with each other in God's love. Daily, we learn about God's amazing grace, love, and forgiveness.

We've shouted at each other, hurled insults, and made up. We learned to swallow our pride, by God's grace. I cried a whole lot. He cried a whole lot as well. And everyday, I see more and more glimpses of Jesus in my husband, and, hopefully, he sees Jesus in me as well. :))



I have a lot to share about our marriage and what the Lord has been teaching us both. Sadly though, most people are only concerned about one thing, commonly verbalized in these questions/statements: Are you pregnant yet? Are you not having a baby anytime soon? No baby yet? You should hurry up and double time! The best time to have a baby is now asap!

There are those who give pieces of their minds in the following manner: That's alright. Baby can come in later. You should save up first to better provide for a baby. Gotta build a house first before making babies. 

Please don't get me wrong. 

I do love babies and I love talking to these friends and hearing their advises. And I acknowledge the fact that all of them want the best for us as a couple. 

But, sometimes, it can get a whole lot stressful and confusing that I sometimes find myself wishing that they would talk to me about what God has been doing in our marriage, instead of pregnancy or baby-making. 

Because, honestly, because of what they say, I sometimes find myself wishing that I'd get pregnant as soon as possible or thinking about delaying the baby after everything is fine. 

But I am just thankful that every time I find myself wrestling with these thoughts, God would ever gently pull my focus back to Him and say: Don't listen to anyone but to Me alone. Look at me, alone! My timing is always perfect. 

So, the moment this pregnancy-having-a-baby concern comes to my mind, I find assurance that my God, my Lord and Savior is more than able to bring all things into our lives in His perfect timing. If He gives His only Son, Jesus Christ to save me from my sins, how can he not give us a child or children? 

If Jesus wills it, then if I'll ever get pregnant tomorrow or next week, He is more than enough to provide for our physical, emotional, financial, and spiritual needs. And if He decides to give us a baby or children later on, He is more than able to make it possible, despite our ages and physical limitations by then. 

And even if He does not, we will continue to praise Him, and love Him and call Him our Perfect Father.

As it is, it is all by God's grace and timing. :) 

All Photos are from our Engagement Session and Wedding Ceremony taken
from the amazing talents of Super Seven Studios.
There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every[a]event under heaven—
A time to give birth and a time to die;

...11 He has made everything [b]appropriate in its time. 
                     
                       ~Ecclesiastes 3:1-2, 11 (NASB)

Monday, July 7, 2014

{Marriage Monday} What I Learned About Forgiveness... (Part 3)


Before couples can "kiss and make up," they need to forgive. Before they can forgive, someone must be humble enough to ask for it. 

And this is where my finale post on forgiveness comes in. Part 1 and Part 2 may be helpful. And as I end this series of lessons learned, I pray that we will continue to grow in loving and forgiving our partners the way Jesus loves and forgives us. I am not perfect as I am still under construction by the wonderful pruning and perfecting hands of my Lord and Savior. (In fact, I find myself always being tested almost every time I finish my {Marriage Monday} posts!) And so is my husband dear. So really, Jesus Christ is the hand that holds all marriages together. Let's always be mindful of His presence and if you want Him to be in your marriage,you have to have Him in your heart because He alone is the Perfect Lover.  

3) FORGIVENESS STARTS WITH HUMILITY. 

I certainly cannot forgive if I feel so perfect. My husband cannot forgive either if he thinks that he is the most upright man in this whole wide world. 

So, in order to forgive, I must know that, just like my husband, I am also bound to sin. I am a sinner and it is only by God's grace that I am saved forever, that just like him, I may commit the same blunder, may say something offensive or may do something stupid. Even if I may not commit the same mistakes as his, the fact still remains that I will commit mistakes and some may even be worse than his. 

On the other side of forgiveness is the ability to ask for it. And it also starts with humility. Say, if I say something that offended my husband, I may find myself justifying my words or actions with any reason, whether it be logical or emotional, but the fact will always remain that I have hurt him. I may have the cleanest of all intentions but if by my tone or approach, my husband was hurt, then, I still have to say sorry and ask him to forgive me. And I need humility in order to do that. 

This lesson, by far, is the hardest pill to swallow. When one of my spiritual mentors told me this, my logically controlling mind was screaming: WHHHAATT? I still need to say sorry even if I am right? 

But later on I learned that, in relationships (friendships included), we should know our priorities. Is being right more important to me than the preservation of my relationship with my husband? Of course not! So, even if I am right, and even if my intentions are for his good, if he feels hurt with what I say, I always ask the Holy Spirit to give me humility to say sorry. 



Perhaps this is quite unpopular with the world today because as I see it, the world tries to portray humility as sooo un-cool and sooo not in. With the rise of social media where flaunting ourselves and what we have is glorified, humility has taken the back seat. In the cut-throat corporate world, we are made to believe that it is better to be powerful than to be weak. And humility is always associated with being weak. 

But the Bible says otherwise. In fact, the greatest thing that ever happened to the human race began with the humility of Jesus Christ. In chapter 2, verses 5-11 of Paul's letter to the Philippians, we are given the most vivid picture of humility as demonstrated by Jesus Christ. 

In his deity and power, He allowed himself to be subjected to human weaknesses so He can understand our sinfulness. Yet, He never sinned. And though He is God Himself, He suffered the Cross and died for us. But He did not remain dead for He was raised again on the third day.  

Us! Who are we to have God die for us? We are filthy and useless sinners, yes! But He chose to die for us and our sins so we can live eternal life with Him. 

This, to me, is mind-blowing! By Jesus' death and resurrection, all my sins are forgiven. Yes, ALL my sins--even those that I hide from anyone else--THESE.ARE.FORGIVEN. Blotted out. Washed clean. 

And it humbles me so much. Let's be honest, it is only ourselves who know the secret things we do in the dark and if we are just to be honest with God, we know how sinful we are. Yet, He forgives us freely and provided His only Son ahead of us.

Practical Application: So, how do I apply this precious truth in my marriage? In conflicts, whether I am the one who needs to say sorry or the one who should forgive, I always look at Jesus, remember who HE is, remember who I was and still am, and remember how much He has forgiven me. It certainly not easy and there were many times that I looked at myself instead of Him, but I praise and thank God for His grace that continually convicts me and changes me to be more like Him! :)





Monday, June 30, 2014

{Marriage Monday} What I Learned About Forgiveness... (Part 2)

Last week, I was down with colds and a very high fever and I had to take a leave of absence for two days. That was my season of rest. Today, aside from my weird voice due to colds, I am fairly okay by God's amazing grace and faithfulness. And I praise my Lord and Savior for finally allowing me to break free from my Monday sickness! Yes, that's my new term for it since I have been weak and sickly almost every Monday. Perhaps, my body longs to have longer weekends? You bet! :)

Anyhow, I am writing this with a very overused brain as I have just finished making a pleading (Demurrer to Evidence, specifically) and entertaining clients, making Counter-Affidavits, etc. As to what are these terms, I hope and pray that I find time to be able to write about what I do and perhaps share some of the vital information in my profession. I am initially planning to call it Legally Aware and Simplified Saturdays. LASS, for short. Hahahaha. But I am not yet sure. I find LASS a bit much trying hard. :D

So, for today, here's Part 2 on What I Learned About Forgiveness. You can read Part 1 first or later. ;)



2) FORGIVENESS MUST BE A WAY OF LIFE FOR BOTH HUSBAND AND WIFE. 

This is not something that is usually taught in psychology or guidance counselling but is always reiterated in the Bible. The Word of God repeats the same lesson/principle (not just for couples but for all of us)--Forgive just as I have forgiven you--and this only means one thing: Forgiveness must be so ingrained in our hearts and minds that it becomes innate in us. It becomes a way of life because that's how the Lord designed us to be--Christ-like. If He, the King of all kings and God of all gods, keeps on forgiving us of our sins, how can we not forgive the sins of others? 

This parable shared by Jesus Christ comes to mind and I am always overwhelmed at how the Lord values the true motives of our hearts than anything else. He wants us to be a revelation of who He is, specifically, His forgiving nature. He wants us to live forgiveness, not because we are good, but because He is good in our lives. Then, in another Gospel book, Jesus reiterates forgiveness and reconciliation.

Practical Application: So, how do we practice forgiveness as a way of life? In our relationship as husband and wife, we must be humble enough to ask for forgiveness once we sense we have hurt or offended the other and be able to give forgiveness when our partners ask us for one. It is inevitable that in our lifetime commitment to stay together that trials and misunderstandings will arise as we are two different individuals. But if we practice forgiveness as a way of life, there will still be misunderstandings and conflicts, but the load will be a whole lot easier. 

A concrete example will be this: If my husband hurts me (intentionally or unintentionally) and he later asks for forgiveness, we immediately tackle the issue. We do not let work or entertainment get in the way. We face the issue and be gracious with forgiveness. 

On my part, if I offend my husband, intentionally or unintentionally, and I sense that he is offended or when he tells me that he is, I might find a thousand reasons not to ask for forgiveness but I choose to eat my pride, acknowledge that I am wrong and that he is hurt and be humble to ask for forgiveness.. 

It is not easy but by the grace of God, this is very much doable. :))

Thursday, June 19, 2014

On why I make a big deal out of unequal yoking with unbelievers...



Recently, I have been asked straight to my face this question, and I paraphrase: Why is it a big deal for you and your hubby that believers should not be involved in relationships with unbelievers?

To be honest, I was taken aback by it. I was not expecting a Christian girl to ask me that way. Though I knew she meant it in a sincere and straightforward manner, I can also sense the resentment in her tone. My husband and I have been heavily advocating and warning young Christians to avoid unequal yoking. Sadly and regrettably though, I have received such a flak, even from fellow believers. :( Lest I be misinterpreted here, let me just be honest that I have own up to my mistakes (in the approach, in my tone of voice, in my avenues). And yes, though I do not sin in this unequal yoking part but I still sin (because none of us is perfect) but it does not necessarily mean that just because I am a sinner, I am no longer allowed to take my conviction on this matter. Right? 

Anyhow, my answer to that question was simple: 

"I am not the one making a big deal out of it. Neither is it my husband. It is God's word [the Bible] which says so. And no matter how imperfect we are, it should be our highest desire and pleasure in life to obey what our Lord and Master says. If we are on the same faith, then, we should be serious in doing what the Lord says." 

Rica Peralejo-Bonifacio wrote a very compelling and clarifying piece on her thoughts about believers dating unbelievers. If you find yourself reading this and would like to know more, I recommend that you read it by clicking here. She has eloquently stated what the Bible says and has untangled the complexity of the principle by boiling it down to one important choice: trusting the Lord or holding on to your non-believing date.

There is also an interesting article about the same principle and I recommend that you click and read just the same. It is important to be well-informed, whether you are a believer contemplating to enter into a relationship, one who is already in an unequally yoked relationship and seeking God's will, or a Christian desiring to grow in faith. 

And as you learn and discover on this principle, I pray that the Lord will lead you to His truth and by His enabling grace through the Holy Spirit, may you be strengthened to do what He says. 

Obey God, not man. 

This is it for Truth Thursday :)) Enjoy the rest of the week. 

*Photo does not belong to me; it was taken from here.

Monday, June 16, 2014

{Marriage Monday} What I Learned About Forgiveness... (Part 1)

I missed two {Marriage Monday} series because I was unexpectedly extremely sick for the last two Mondays, which led to a half-meant joke between me and hubby dear about me being pregnant. But I am now in my menstrual period and as hubby dear and I say, we rely in God's perfect timing. :)

Still, I know not why I have been feeling sluggish lately but my self-explanation is that I have been mindlessly eating junk food or food with less or no nutritional value at all. But, that deserves another blog entry, really. 

For now, let me focus on what I have promised to deliver during my last post: several lessons the Lord has taught me when it comes to forgiveness. Please bear in mind that I am still a work in progress in all aspects of my life so it does not necessarily mean I have learned all these by heart. Sometimes, I had to learn, un-learn, and re-learn several of these and it is only by God's grace that I was able to do so. Also, some of these lessons I have learned first-hand while the others I have learned through the more mature Godly women the Lord has placed in my life. 

This is my NIV Study Bible which I covered with artpaper and prettified with fabric flowers, serving as our Bible during our wedding ceremony. My hubby has a bigger one in the same version and this has helped us in our daily devotionals. One of my favorite parts during our wedding was the Symbols Ceremony where Pastor Joe reminded us that the Bible should always remain our guide and standard in living our lives. Indeed, the Bible--God's Word--has a lot to say about forgiveness and we could very well take advantage of it by applying His principles in our lives as husband and wife! 

1) FORGIVENESS IS CHRIST-LIKE. 

More often than not, I am always lost on how to forgive. Most of the time (back then and until now), I have this tendency to hold on to my emotions, thinking that I have the right and privilege to do so. Then, I learned that holding on to my emotions is like putting myself on the throne of my heart, instead of Christ sitting there because I already have accepted Him as my personal Lord and Savior. I felt like that I have unceremoniously and disrespectfully executed power-grabbing against my King. So, I started to let go of my emotions, telling myself that the throne of my heart rightfully belongs to Jesus. This has made "emotional letting go" so much easier. 

So, how do we forgive like Christ? We forgive based on His truth (the Bible), not on our emotions and standards. The Bible says that we must love and forgive each other just as Christ loves and forgives us.  

How does Christ love me? He loves me by dying for and in my behalf while I am still a sinner. How does He forgive me? He does so by forgiving me always, not by my own righteousness but by His own righteousness which He freely gives to me once I truly accepted Him in my heart. 

Meditating and fully grasping this perfect love and faithful forgiveness of my Lord and Savior allows me to fully appreciate what He did and continues to do in me and in my husband. Knowing how he loves and forgives me provides my guide or standard on how I should forgive my husband (or anyone else who offends me). If I am loved and forgiven by Christ, then, I know that I should also love and forgive the same way he does love and forgive me. 

A flower will not bloom without water and sunlight. So it is with our marriages.
It will not bloom without love and forgiveness. 

Practical Application: How do I love my husband just as Christ loves me? I love him not just for his good qualities but also for his shortcomings and weaknesses (no one is perfect). I love him even if I don't feel like loving him at times. I love him even if he is unlovable at times. 

This is actually easier said than done but it is worth the intentional practice. During times of misunderstanding and conflicts, when my hubby dear offends me with his words or actions, it is quite tempting to sulk in hatred and misery. But I found out that the best way to love him is to hug him or hold his hand and communicate love through the sense of touch. But of course, as I have earlier pointed out, I have not mastered this art and all I can say is that it is all by God's grace that we have emerged victorious in our conflicts. 

One way that my husband communicates love even if I am unlovable is by reminding me with Biblical verses, fitting for my situation. I find it irritating at times (read: pride) but I have come to appreciate this trait of him--always leading me to Christ. 

How do I forgive like Christ? I forgive my husband because it is what God commands me to do. I should not base my forgiveness on whether I feel like forgiving him or not. I should not forgive with conditions. I should not forgive with reservations. I should not forgive with threats. Most of all, I should not delay forgiveness. 

Still a few months into our marriage, we had a big fight. My hubby dear said sorry but I did not want to forgive. I wanted him to learn his lesson the hard way, to make him know how offended I was. But the bitterness in my heart grew and took hold of me. I became prideful and irrational. I walked out of our rented place late at night in a place where both of us were not familiar. And it further complicated things. 

I've learned my lesson since then. The Bible says that as Christians, we must be quick to forgive. Forgiveness must be complete and quick as the Lord has forgiven me. Besides, it is also written that we sin if we do not do the good we know we should do. :) 

Next week, I will be blogging about more lessons I have learned through God's amazing ways :)

*Photos in this post are parts of our Pre-Nup session with Super Seven Studios