CAN YOU FEEL THE PRESSURE OF VALENTINES DAY?

To some extent, we call can.
That’s probably why CNN tells us that Valentine’s Day sales will skyrocket to $18.6 billion this year.

Why is there so much pressure? A few come to mind – social media posts, friends, culture, Netflix, songs on the radio. These and more can weigh a person down with so much pressure.

While it is good to celebrate love and the people we love, how do we not allow this day to dictate our emotions, lead to frustration, ruin expectations and harass us towards depression?

To the single, here are a few thoughts.

1. Find someone to express your love towards.
I don’t mean to find a date or check out Tinder. You have so much love to share that there are many who need an encouragement or appreciation. From a relative in the hospital or a friend in dire need, looking outward rather than inward may be one of the best things you can do this Valentine’s Day.

2. Celebrate what you already have.
Try this out. List 5 things you are thankful for in your life. Pretty soon. You will notice a change of attitude. You have many things to thank God for.

Celebrate with friends. Go out and watch a movie or eat in Mercato. Just enjoy the company of friends God gifted you with.

3. Enjoy your day.
No pressure. Laugh. Live. Learn. Have fun.

To the married, let me share these ideas.

1. Clarify expectations.
We end up disappointed when we are unclear about some of our expectations. Worse, we compare our spouse to others that we see online. Be secure in your relationship. God brought you together. He is the glue that bonds you. Remember, the two have become one. He is the Author of your relationship.

2. Match expectations with your budget.
Because of the pressure that besets us, we forget that Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be just on February 14. You can celebrate before or after. That way, you even avoid heavy traffic and high costs. At the same time, Valentine’s Day doesn’t just have to be on February 14. It can be celebrated Jan 7, March 26, July 1, September 17. In other words, you can celebrate it every day with the one God gave you.

3. Enjoy your day.
Look at each other and say a prayer. Thank God for each other. Give each other a kiss (or more since you’re married. Ha!) But whatever it is, have fun. You are with the person gifted you with.

To the dads, make sure you make your daughters feel loved and appreciated. If they find it at home, they won’t need to look for it outside. I give my daughter a bouquet of flowers every year during Valentine’s Day so that when a man tries to sweep her off her feet by giving her flowers, it won’t really impress her much. Ha!

THE DIFFICULTY OF DEALING WITH OFFENSE

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Offense is a very difficult thing to deal with.
False accusations.
Untrue statements.
Stolen opportunities.
Painful conversations.
Hurtful words.
Silent treatment.

These and more are hard to go through.

In Luke 15:20, when the prodigal son came to his senses and endeavored to return home to his father after squandering all his inheritance and ended up working in a pig pen, he didn’t know what to expect.

Neither did the father know what to expect. Without context and without knowing how the son would respond, he runs to him and embraces him. He leaves his porch and offers forgiveness to his son.

I thought that was incredible. Without any idea how the son why the son came back and how he would respond, he goes. The son could be coming back for more money. He could be coming back to steal from his brother. He could be coming back for some other reason but without context, the father goes and offers forgiveness.

When he embraced his son, he must have smelled like the pig pen. Remember, he just came from there. But here’s the truth:

The magnitude of God’s love is greater than the stench of our sin.

He buries his face into the son’s shoulders and kisses him.
He must have played this scenario in his mind over and over.

When offense happens, we usually replay both the painful experience and what we would do when we see that person – what we would say, how our facial reactions be like and our rebuttal to their excuses. But the father must’ve replayed in his heart how he would respond for out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth will speak and our actions will show. His response? Compassionate and forgiving love.

And here’s my main point: When offense happens it’s always your move.

Jesus said in Mark 11:25, “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone.”
And then in Matthew 5:23, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go.”

In both scenarios, Jesus says to go and offer forgiveness, whether you’re the offender or the offended. It’s always your move.

The father didn’t stay on the porch standing and waiting for his son to crawl on his knees and beg for forgiveness. He runs and offers it.

That’s the picture of many homes today. Too many people stand on their porches with folded arms and the painful experience replaying in their hearts waiting for the offender to crawl for forgiveness.

“Well, it’s his fault.”
“She started it.”
“I’m not to blame. He is.”
“They caused the mess. They need to clean it up.”

We all stand on our porches of pride and sink into hellish misery.

May the Lord give us grace to remember that the way we’ve been forgiven empowers us to forgive others. With the mercy dispensed to us, we can dispense it to those who have offended us.

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your amazing example of forgiveness. None of us deserve it. Not of us are worthy of it. And yet, You did not remain on Your porch in heaven but came to us – from heaven to earth, that we may receive forgiveness, freedom and restored fellowship with You. Help us to do the same with people whom we have offended and those who have offended us. May we be a people who is forgiving for we knows what it means to be forgiven. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.

WHEN REJECTION HAPPENS…

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One of the hardest things to go through in life is to be rejected.

Nobody wants it.
No one seeks for it.
None desire it.

But we’ve all experienced rejection in one way, shape or form.

Getting turned down by a client.
Being left for another man.
Experiencing abandonment by a parent.
And so on.

Jesus met a woman at the well in John chapter 4.
She is not unfamiliar with rejection for she has had 5 husbands and the one she is with at the moment wasn’t a permanent relationship probably to avoid further rejection in the future.

Jesus asks for a drink of water.
In her mind, she was asking why this rabbi would approach her.
Number 1, it was obvious that she was a woman.
This was not kosher in those days.
Number 2, she was a Samaritan.
Jews didn’t associate with Samaritans.

But in her mind, she was probably thinking that if this rabbi knew her deepest secrets, he would end up rejecting her as well. And more than verbal rejection, he would probably have her stoned to death.

“Good thing he doesn’t know about my immoral past.”
Or so she thought.

Jesus asks her, “Go call your husband and come back.” (John 4:16)
“What should I say? If I tell him about my 5 husbands plus the one that is not mine, I’d get rejected again.”
She gives Jesus a safe answer and says, “I don’t have a husband.”

To this, Jesus said, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” (John 4:17-18)

He knows!!!

But here’s the thing. Jesus offered her living water. And He did that way before she confessed her real condition and situation. Jesus knew her fully but loved her unconditionally by offering her living water.

Here’s the principle:

To be loved and not known is superficial.
To be known and not loved is rejection.
But to be fully known and yet unconditionally loved
is the heart of the gospel.

You and I have been rejected because of who we are and what we’ve done. But Jesus loves us unconditionally even though He knew us completely.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
He showed His love before we even came to Him.
Way before we went to church.
Way before we started reading our Bible.
Way before we acknowledged His presence in our lives.

I love how Bishop Juray put it:

“Our God knows us at our worst and yet is the One that loves us the most.”

Next time you feel rejected, remember that you are accepted by your Heavenly Father.
Through Christ, you are loved, received and accepted.

WHAT’S SO MAUNDY ABOUT THURSDAY?

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What’s so special about Mandy Thursday? I understand Friday for that’s when Jesus was crucified. Saturday was when Jesus was in the grave. As for Sunday, it was the greatest event in all of human history.

What happened on Thursday? And why’s so “maundy” about it?

Maundy comes from the Latin word where we derive the word ‘mandate’. It was a day where a command was given by Jesus. It was on the night before he was betrayed where He took the cup and the bread, blessed and gave thanks to share the meal with His disciples.

It was during the meal that Jesus took a basin of water, wrapped a towel around His waist and started to wash the disciples feet. So what was the “mandate” that made Thursday Maundy?

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this, all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

What He did (washing the feet of his disciples) preceded what He said (love one another).

It was a powerful moment for if He only told them what they needed to do, they would most likely obey but the impact wouldn’t be as intense and compelling.

If their Master could serve them the way He did, how much more can they do the same to others?

His command to love one another is an overflow of the love we have received.
We love because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)

REFLECTION APPLICATION:

1. Pray to Jesus now and thank Him for His sacrificial love to take our place on the cross for He died on our behalf. He paid the debt He didn’t owe because we owed a debt we couldn’t pay.

2. Pray for someone now to know Christ personally as their Lord and Savior (family member, friend, officemate, classmate).

3. Text that person a verse to encourage and reflect on what Jesus did on the cross.

MAKING THINGS RIGHT WHEN CHOICES WERE WRONG

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Many today misuse the grace of God to excuse their behavior to continue living in their lifestyle of sin.

Yes, the grace of God is available to save us from sin, but it is also available for us to say NO to sin.

Titus 2:11-12 declares: “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.”

Nick and Elma came to church after being invited by their children. They have been in a live-in situation for years and had thought that since they’ve been in the same situation for 25 years, God would somehow understand.

The grace of God empowers us to correct whatever wrong we’ve stood for in the past.

Watch their testimony on how God spoke to them to make things right.

 

THE PROBLEM WITH REDEFINING MARRIAGE

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Through the years, certain words have been redefined.

I remember growing up, the word “salvage” meant someone getting killed. But later on, I found out that it really meant rescuing and saving something or someone.

Same with the word “dope”. I grew up thinking it was drugs. These days, young people say, “That dope doh!” which means, “That’s so cool!”

In basketball, to get a facial doesn’t mean going to a dermatologist to get cleaned. It means getting dunked on in your face.

Certain words when redefined seem harmless. But there are certain words when we redefine them will not only be dangerous but outright destructive.

Marriage is one of them.

Jesus in Matthew 19 talks about marriage.

1. Marriage is a PHYSICAL union.

Matthew 19:5 says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

It is a physical union, a coming together of sorts, between a man and a woman. These days, we have moved boundary lines and allowed marriage no longer just for male and female but people of the same gender.

We’ve rebelled against those lines and said we can have an affair as long as it’s in secret. Ask Ashley Madison about it. Their tagline says that because life is short, then have an affair.

2. Marriage is a PROVIDENTIAL union.

Matthew 19:6, “So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

It is God who joins two people together.

While it is true that He does that, in the bigness of the Sovereignty of God, He has given us the freedom of choice to make the decision who we will get married to.

3. Marriage is a PERMANENT union.

Matthew 19:6, “So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Divorce is the undoing of the work of God.

The only reason why divorce was allowed was because of the hardness of our hearts – sin.

That’s why in many wedding vows, the promise is till death do us part. It’s not until another career do us part nor another bank account do us part or another person do us part, but until death do us part.

“When emotions become the primary basis for our decision to get married, then emotions will also become the primary basis for our decision to separate.”

Here’s my message yesterday at Victory Fort that further expounds on this topic of marriage.

God bless you guys.

LOVED IN SPITE OF

God loved us in spite of what we have done to offend Him.  The greatest expression was when He sent His Son, Jesus to die on our behalf.

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 (ESV)

LIFE CHANGE IS NOT THE GOAL

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The goal is not life change but Jesus.

We want to see a person’s life to change for the better. And that’s not a bad thing. It really isn’t. However, the problem with making it the goal is that if we push for change without emphasizing Jesus, change becomes merely external.

Drunkenness, adultery, fornication, homosexuality, substance abuse, greed, pride are all acts of the sinful nature. But asking a person to get rid of all these is purely external apart from introducing them to Christ. Life change is not the goal, Jesus is. When we introduce people to Jesus, as they realize the everlasting love He offers through the message of the gospel, people will embrace a greater value than what they are holding onto at the moment.

What happens on the inside will eventually show up on the outside.

Elevating conversation from life change to the Life Giver will radically shift the focus. Our goal is to bring them to Jesus. As we do, it is He who will bring the necessary adjustments according to His Word and in conformity with His time table. Remember He is God, not us. The Holy Spirit is the Change Agent not us. Sometimes we act as if we are the assistant of the Holy Spirit. We try to bring conviction in the lives of the people we are reaching out to. That’s not our job. It’s God’s Holy Spirit that will accomplish that.

Let me share a few things you can do:

1. Pray.
2. Serve the person you’re reaching out to.
3. Love him/her the way Jesus loved you and showed His grace upon you.
4. Use God’s Word to bring counsel for it has power more than our personal experience.
5. Trust God for the results.

May God give us wisdom as we share His love to those we love.

GRACIOUS CONVERSATION SEASONED WITH SALT

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You and I have met people who are curt and abrasive with their words that leave people wounded and hurt after a simple conversation.

On the other hand, we also have been with people who is all grace that it has become mere tolerance of sin. And THAT is  not biblical grace.

I recently was talking to a young person from church who had a bad experience. She looked up to this person because of her admirable leadership qualities. But with her strength came certain weaknesses. She was quick to cut conversations and swift to make conclusions. Most of the time, she was actually right. But the way it was done was offensive.

Many times, it is not what is being said but how it is said.

The other extreme is to merely listen and remain silent to the point of tolerance. I met with someone with a similar experience. His friend was clearly in sin. But since he wanted to stay connected with his friend, he didn’t want to say anything. It was borderline tolerance and condoning.

The Bible says that “wounds from a friend are better than kisses from an enemy.” (Proverbs 27:6)

Paul says in Colossians 4:6,Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” 

May  know when to speak and when to listen, what to say and how to say it, and be a friend rather than an observer for open rebuke is better than hidden love.

PRAYER:

Lord, remind me that I have been given two ears and one mouth so that I may listen more and speak less. And when I speak, may I speak with truth combined with grace. You came, Word made flesh, dwelt among us full of grace and truth. May we live life as well filled with grace and truth. In Jesus name. Amen.

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PHOTO CREDIT: https://www.flickr.com/photos/manuel_atienzar/

“DAD, DO YOU ACCEPT ME?”

 

I served as a Guidance Counselor for a school for several years concurrently while I was a Kids Church pastor. I remember when a young girl came to my office alarmed and panicky because her parents told her that if she didn’t make it to first honor, they will cancel their family trip to Hong Kong. For a 9 year old girl, that was a lot of weight to carry on her shoulders. Imagine, all your siblings will get mad that they won’t get to see Mickey and ride Ocean Park’s Hair Raiser roller coaster just because she didn’t make it to first honors.

I had to talk to her parents and let her know how burdened their daughter felt with that condition. I appreciate their humility for acknowledging their mistake merely wanting to inspire not knowing it was bringing the opposite effect.  They apologized to their daughter and changed their stand.

Acceptance is embracing people for who they are rather than what they do.
Our children need to feel that we accept them whether they get first honor or a failing grade, made a 3 point shot or complete miss the rim, make it to the cheer dance team or get cut from the team.

When we show unconditional acceptance, we give our children a sense of security.

What we are communicating to our kids is this: “I don’t love you because of what you do or what you accomplish. I love you because you are my child. Our love and affection towards you are not based on grades, performance, accomplishments or even behavior.”

We live in a highly performance oriented society. If we get first honor, we are rewarded. If we make it to varsity, we become the favorite in the family. If we win in the student council, we end up being the topic in the family reunion.

That goes on through adulthood. When we land a good job, we are the jewel of the clan. When we achieve something that none in the family has achieved, we become highly favored.

That is why we have a lot of frustrated and badly hurt people because they can’t seem to win the approval of the people they dearly love.

In the process, our kids end up feeling unaccepted, insecure and lack a sense of belongingness.

Obviously, the counter balance is for our children to not strive or endeavor to be the best at their field.

But what I am saying is that as they desire to excel, we appreciate their praiseworthy attempts than criticize for not making the cut.

Acceptance says “I love you no matter what.”

Jesus showed us unconditional acceptance. He didn’t die for us after we started obeying. In fact, the Bible says in Romans 5:8, “He demonstrated His love to us that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

He accepted us way before we were worthy of being accepted.

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NOTE: This is part 2 of a 4 week series on Capturing Your Child’s Heart.
To read week 1, click here.

PHOTO CREDIT: https://www.flickr.com/photos/serendipityfoto/3730898356