WHAT DRIVES YOUR SPIRITUAL LIFE?

I remember when I was young, whenever I’d feel bad about my spiritual condition, I’d go confess my sins and I would be told to pray a number of memorized prayers and then my sins would be “absolved.”

I carried this over in my faith journey when I met Christ. There were moments when I would feel bad about what I ‘ve done, I would ‘punish’ myself by not watching TV or going out with friends for a week.

But before the ‘penalty week’ was over, I would end up doing the same thing again and another week would be added.

It came to a point that I couldn’t even fulfill the commitment to punish myself.

This kept on, not realizing that guilt was what was driving my spiritual life.

If I felt guilty, I’d go to church.
If I felt guilty, I’d read my Bible more.
If I felt guilty, I’d serve others.
If I felt guilty, I’d give extra in the offering plate.

But that’s not what Jesus died for.

The gospel tells us that we have been freed from guilt and shame.

Much more, it never works for guilt to drive my spiritual life.

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:14, “For Christ’s love compels us.”

In other words, it understanding that I am loved by Him… unconditionally.
THAT is what drives me to love Him back.

We love because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)

I pray that this would be a gentle reminder for everyone of us as we start off this week with Jesus as our number 1 priority.

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PHOTO CREDIT: http://www.flickr.com/photos/24278074@N08/

THE GREATER LOVE STORY

The love story of Boaz and Ruth is a fascinating one.

It’s a story of FAITH, HONOR and REDEMPTION.

Ruth was a woman of faith, Boaz was a man of honor while God is a God of redemption.

FAITH

Ruth went back to Israel with her mother-in-law, Naomi, after her father-in-law and husband died. She did it even though she wasn’t an Israelite. In fact, she was a Moabite, a bitter enemy of the Israelites.

She declared, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” (Ruth 1:16-17)

She uses the word “Elohim” for God but for the title Lord, he uses a personal name God used to introduce Himself to Moses while he was in the desert through a burning bush – “Yahweh”.

No other person can address Him that unless that person has a relationship with Yahweh.

She stepped out in faith, moved to Israel not for a better life but for a potentially worse one. Because she was a Moabite, she could get ostracized, possibly hurt.
But she followed her mother-in-law because of her faith.

While doing this, in the background, God was already setting something up for her.

Ladies, allow God to write your love story. Bloom where God has planted you and continue to fix your eyes on Christ.

I love what Max Lucado said,

“A woman’s heart should be so hidden in God
that a man has to seek Him just to find her.”

HONOR

When Naomi and Ruth got to Israel, to sustain themselves, Ruth had to go to a grain field to harvest leftovers for themselves.
While doing this, Boaz noticed her and asked his other workers who she was. He found out that she was a Moabite who came with her mother-in-law out of love and friendship and stepping out in faith to live for Yahweh.

Boaz then protects her by saying that he has ordered his men not to lay a hand on her and to be kind to her. (Ruth 2:9)
He was kind to her without any romantic intentions. This was partly what made him a man of good standing, a man of honor. (Ruth 2:1)
Furthermore, since he was not the closest kinsman redeemer, he gave the closest one the first right of refusal before pursuing Ruth.

Men, let me encourage us to be the first to protect the women. We should be the ones to protect their heart, not ravage them. The Bible says to guard our hearts for it determines the course of our lives. (Prov. 4:23, NLT) And we shouldn’t just guard our own heart, we are to guard theirs as well.

I love how Joseph Bonifacio put it,

“Don’t make a woman fall for you
unless you’re ready to catch her.”

Even in business, common sense will tell you not to invest in something you know you won’t be in for the long haul.

REDEMPTION

Boaz, being a relative was qualified to be a kinsman redeemer.
A kinsman redeemer is one who is a relative who would be willing to buy back property that was mortgaged or lost, marry the widow who lost her spouse so that the family lineage would continue.

But for a kinsman redeemer to redeem, he needed to be near, willing, and able.
In fact there was another relative who was nearer than Boaz. However, he was not willing.

There are 3 redeemers in this love story.

1. Boaz was the formal redeemer who rescues Ruth from her lot.
2. Ruth who was the surprise redeemer who rescues Naomi from her bitter fortune.
3. And the real redeemer, who like Boaz took us all in even though we were outcasts and in debt (because of sin), who like Ruth left her homeland to be near to us (from heaven to earth)… The real Redeemer I’m referring to is JESUS.

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (2 Cor. 8:9)

Behind this fascinating love story was a greater love story of our redemption.

God loves you the way you are but He loves you too much to let you remain the way you are.

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PHOTO CREDIT: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lutherankorean/

 

WHO DETERMINES YOUR VALUE?

My son and I were driving through Pasig one Valentine’s Day. He was about 9 years old at that time. As we passed by Canley Road where there were lots of motels advertising “QUICKIES”, he asked me why the rooms were so cheap and why they were rented out only for a couple of hours.

Good thing I was already able to explain to him about the “birds and the bees”.

I told him that it’s unfortunate that people no longer wait for the officiating minister to say, “Now, you may kiss the bride.”
They end up saying, “I did” rather than “I do.”

Genesis 1:26 says that we were created in His image and in His likeness. What does this mean? This means that you and I have value. We are valuable not because of the clothes we wear, the car that we drive, the title on our business card nor the village we live in.

We are valuable because we were made in His image. Our value is intrinsic.

Which begs the question, “What would it take for your partner to get you in bed?” What would your boyfriend or girlfriend need to offer you to get you to sleep with him/her?

Let me propose to you that it should nothing be less than 2 words. Three won’t do.

“I love you” shouldn’t be enough.

You are worth waiting for.

Not 3 words but 2. And those 2 words? “I do.”

Until he can back it up with a ring, don’t give in.
Until she says “I do”, you can’t give in.

Jackson Pollack, an abstract expressionist painted a painting. It looked like my 5 year old can do the very thing he created. However, a man named David Martinez bought the painting on November 1, 2006 for a whopping $151.2 million.

You see value is determined by how much one is willing to pay for.

And the value you place on yourself will determine what and who you will give yourself to.

Now if you don’t think you’re worth that, you’ll give yourself for a whole lot less, then you’ll wonder why you feel cheap and he doesn’t treat you with the value you deserve. You gave him what he wanted at a discount.

Remember, you are no longer your own, but you were bought with a price.

You are so valuable that Someone sacrificed and died on your behalf.
Now THAT is real love.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

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PHOTO CREDIT: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kelehen/

LOVE THAT WASN’T MEANT TO LAST

LOVE THAT WASN'T MEANT TO LAST

Many if not all desire to be in a relationship that would last a very very long time.
The wish is actually forever.

But if a relationship begins on a selfish note, desiring to get rather than to give, then it begins on a faulty foundation.  When you find yourself in a relationship that only desires to consistently get and not give, then it really is just a matter of time before it crashes.

Over and over again, I’ve referred to Ed Cole’s comparison between love and lust.

Love desires to benefit others at the expense of self, because love desires to give.
Lust desires to benefit self at the expense of others, because lust desires to get. 

Relationships don’t need to be complicated. It does unfortunately when it becomes about SELF.

But when it moves SELF-CENTEREDNESS to SELF-SACRIFICE, then you discover the beauty a relationship.

The following video is a message on this topic. I pray you will be blessed by it.

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PHOTO CREDIT: http://www.flickr.com/photos/little_pebble/

WHEN LOVE TURNS INTO LUST

Relationships are not that complicated. At least, it shouldn’t be.

But it CAN get complicated. It gets complicated when self gets in the way.

Tara Parker Pope of the New York Times wrote an article entitled “The Happy Marriage is the “Me” Marriage. 

She says that what used to be about supposed to be a move from ME to WE turns full circle back to ME.
If the marriage doesn’t interest me anymore, then I bail out.

In Judges 16, Samson went to the Valley of Sorek and fell in love with a lady named Delilah.

Now, is there anything wrong with being in Sorek? Actually, none. But what we might not know, Sorek is a valley where the vineyards of the best choiced red grapes are found. Those are the ones used to make wines.

As a Nazirite, Samson had a covenant and commitment not to drink wine. Together with this was the commitment to not let a razor touch his hair and to never touch a carcass of a dead animal.

Being Sorek was not wrong, but it wasn’t wise. The number 1 answer people give when asked the question why there are doing what they’re doing is “why, there’s nothing wrong with what I am doing!” Sometimes, it no longer is about what is wrong or right but what is wise.

It wasn’t wrong for Samson to be in Sorek but it definitely wasn’t wise.

COMPROMISE

Sin never starts full blown. It usually starts with small compromises here and there.

It’s rarely a blowout but usually a slow leak.

Samson disregarded his parents’ advice when told not to marry a Philistine, scooped honey from a lion’s carcass though he knew he was violating his commitment and slept with a prostitute.

You see, the decisions we make today impacts how we live our lives tomorrow.

PASSION

Singles ask me, “How far is too far?” Kiss? Making out? As long as it’s not sex, it should be fine.

But let me submit to you that this is the wrong question. It is not how far is too far but how far away from sin can I go so that I do not hurt and offend God?

It boils down to this… More than a battle of purity, it is actually a battle of passion. If we are so passionate about our relationship with Jesus, we will pursue His will and purposes in our lives, desiring not to offend God.

Remember, Jesus paid the penalty of death for the very thing I am about to do.

Love desires to benefit others at the expense of self, because love desires to give.
Lust desires to benefit self at the expense of others, because lust desires to get. (Ed Cole)

PLAYING WITH FIRE

Proverbs 6:27 says, “Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned?”
Guess what, it is not possible to play with fire and expect not to get hurt.
If you find yourself in a temptation, FLEE DON’T FLIRT!

He couldn’t say no to the temptation because what could not be bound on the outside by ropes was already bound on the inside by sin.

What he didn’t know was that the Lord had already left him. (Judges 16:20)
This is probably one of the saddest verse in the Bible.

Sin will take you farther than you want to go,
keep you longer than you want to stay
and cost you more than you want to pay.

Samson realized this. However, it was a bit too late.

SECOND CHANCE

Thankfully, God is a God of second chances… and third… and fourth… and fifth…
God allowed Samson to redeem himself. After some time, his hair grew back. With it, came his strength.
Samson showed up in a feast, pushed the pillars and killed 3000 Philistines. More than he ever killed in any battle.
Samson died, paid for the consequences of his sin.
But there was One greater than Samson who died not for the consequences of His own sins but your sins and mine.

Relationships don’t need to be complicated. It only does when it becomes about self.

But, when it moves from SELF-CENTEREDNESS to SELF-SACRIFICE, you see the things actually work out.

It’s not THAT complicated.

 

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PHOTO CREDIT: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rr_msw/

OVER ROMANTICIZING LOVE

And it’s magic when two people fall in love…

When we listen to songs on the radio, watch movies in the theaters
or read romance novels, it is possible that the way we view love and relationships have been swayed by them?

Until reality hits…

It is possible that we’ve believed the wrong notion in the first place?

When we look at Genesis 24, we see a love story orchestrated by God Himself.
Isaac and Rebekah met, got married and fell in love.

Genesis 24:63. He went out to the field one evening to meditate, and as he looked up, he saw camels approaching. 

At this moment, this would be a cool scene from a movie. She looked up. And as she did, look at what the next scene uncovers. You could almost hear the background music slowly fading in.

Genesis 24:64-65. Rebekah also looked up and saw Isaac. She got down from her camel…

Now notice the next verse.

Genesis 24:67. Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife, and he loved her.

She became his wife. And THEN he loved her. Notice the sequence of events.

Often times we rely on feelings first then that’s what validates our desire for marriage.
I want you to note that as I say this, I am not negating emotions but if it’s the only basis for the relationship, then it is almost always doomed for failure.

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.

You hear people say, “I just don’t love her the way I used to.”
Or you’d hear him say, “I no longer feel the magic when we first dated. I don’t think we can stay together anymore.”

Emotions may be the trigger but it cannot be the sustainer.
How come? Because emotions are not that reliable. God’s Word is.

We have relied on affection, attraction and affinity.
These three change through the years, don’t they?

There are moments when you don’t really feel being affectionate. You had an argument. He didn’t follow through on his promise. She said something hurtful.

Through the years, attraction may diminish. Physical attraction, I mean. She may not look the way she did 15 years ago. He may not be as buffed as he was 20 years ago. Physical attraction may fade.

Neither can affinity sustain. Likes and dislikes change through the years. You both may like Crossfit now but later she might start liking Zumba or some other fitness regimen. Affinities may change.

It is not the love that sustains the covenant
but it is the covenant that sustains the love.

Rebekah became his wife and then he loved her.

Just lodging this thought.

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PHOTO CREDIT: http://www.flickr.com/photos/littleny/

LOVE LESSONS FROM FROZEN MOVIE

Here are a few insights I got from watching the movie Frozen. Some of them might not make sense if you haven’t watched the movie but here goes…

1. Don’t marry a man just because he finishes your sandwiches. (by Nate Punzalan)

2. Genuine love does not give up in spite of getting rejected several times.

3. Asking a woman’s hand in marriage after knowing her for a mere couple of hours sounds crazy because it is.

4. Your “power” (skill) can either be a gift or a curse – curse if it is used to hurt, a gift if it is used to bless others.

5. True love is found in sacrificing yourself and prioritizing the other more than yourself.

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Additional by those of you who contributed… (keep them coming)

6. “Some people are worth melting for…” – Olaf (by Mabel Enriquez)

7. An act of true love is not always a true love’s kiss. – Maddie (10 years old)

8. You don’t have to marry the first person who proposes to you. – Meg (13 years old)

9. Sometimes true love can’t be found from a gorgeous prince. “prince William is an exception ” – MJ

10. Reindeeer are better than people. (Not sure if this really was a love lesson. haha) – Eds Siongco

11. Perfect love drives out fear. :) (1 John 4:18) – Loj Guinmapang

12. Don’t rely on looks and feelings because the heart is deceitful. =) – Lorelei Sevilla

13. “People make bad choices if they’re mad or scared or stressed, but throw a little love their way, and you’ll bring out their best…” – Fixer Upper by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez

 

BROKEN TO BE A BLESSING

Have you ever broken anything in your life? A vase, a mirror or an iPhone.

I did a couple of years ago when I dropped my iPhone. The glass broke and it was an expensive lesson. It was a lesson on carelessness. I was trying to carry too many things at one time. You know how that goes.

But when God is the One who does the breaking, it is never out of carelessness. There is always a purpose to the breaking.

In Matthew 14, Jesus fed 5000 plus people. The disciples told Jesus to dismiss everyone because it was getting dark and they had no food. The only thing they had was 5 loaves and 2 fish.

Jesus told them to keep the people there and have them sit.

Jesus TOOK the bread, BLESSED it, BROKE it and GAVE it away. While this was a process Jesus used to perform a miracle to feed the 5000, I wonder if this is also a process God does whenever He deals with us.

You see this all throughout Scripture – God takes, God blesses, God breaks and God gives away.

God took Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees, blessed him with a son, broke him in Mt. Moriah to see who his top priority was when God asked Abraham to offer Isaac and then as a result, gave him to be the father of many nations.

God took Moses from the Nile river while in the basket, blessed him to be part of Pharaoh’s household, broke him when he was forced to live in the desert for 40 years and ultimately to be given away to be the deliverer of the Israelites from the clutches of the Egyptian empire.

God took Joseph into a journey towards Egypt when he was sold into slavery, blessed him with a great job in Potiphar’s house, broke him when he was thrown into prison because of a false accusation by Mrs. Potiphar and then gave him to be the 2nd in command all over Egypt to save both Egypt and Israel from famine.

God took Jesus from heaven, blessed Him when He announced that He is His Son of whom He is well pleased, broke Him on the mountain of Calvary only to be given away to become the Savior of mankind.

A.W. Tozer said it beautifully,
“It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.”

Today, you may be in the TAKING stage. God is taking you on a journey. And when He does, it can be disorienting because you don’t know where He is taking you. But hold on tight, because He is holding your hand. You may not know what the future holds but at least you’re assured that He holds the future.

Some of you may be in the BLESSING stage. That is wonderful! God desires to bless His children. Enjoy it and share it.

Others may be in the BREAKING stage. Understand that blessed are the broken, for they shall see God. It was in the desert of brokenness that Moses saw God via a burning bush. Actually, the breaking is really a blessing. God has to break our pride, selfishness, self-will. Some of us, God has to break our dreams because He is wanting to replace it with better ones. There are those of you are coming off a broken relationship. God is taking you to a new journey. He had to break that to allow you to discover Him in the process.

There are those in the GIVING stage. It is in this stage that God takes the brokenness in our own lives and gives it away to a broken world. We all are essentially wounded healers. With the comfort we’ve received, we comfort others who are going through the very same thing we went through.

You see, this is the process God brings us through. When we realize this, we will stop struggling and start cooperating with His dealings. Then and only then will you realize that God has done a miracle in your life.

A HUGE “BUT”

The word ‘but’ is such a powerful word.

It is a conjunction that is used to introduce a phrase or clause contrasting with what has already been mentioned.

“We were losing the game, BUT my teammate made a three point shot that won the game.”
“I was sad and lonely BUT then you came along.” (Boom!)
“My business was on a downturn BUT suddenly sales picked up because of the Christmas season.”
“I was this close to dying BUT God healed me supernaturally.”
“I was lost BUT now found.”

I remember the first time I tried to water ski on a lake.

After a few tries, I was able to successfully do it. One the 5th or 6th try, the speedboat driver told me to hold on. Before I was even able to prepare, I found myself being dragged underwater, swallowing gallons (so it seemed) of lake water.

He then told me to get onto the boat really quick.

Before I had the chance to wring his neck for almost drowning me, he explains that there was a poisonous snake crossing the lake and it was approaching the area where I was.

I was mad BUT when I understood why he did what he did, I turned thankful.

Concurrently, I was supposed to be dead due to a poison bite BUT I was rescued.

“BUT” is a powerful word.

Paul says in Ephesians 2:3-4, “we were by nature deserving of wrath. BUT because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ…”

Because we of our sins, we were enemies of God, deserving punishment, hell and life eternally separated from Him.

BUT BECAUSE OF HIS GREAT LOVE FOR US….

That was the ultimate game changer.

I pray that this truth will never be less than overwhelmed with His great love for me. I pray that same thing for you too.

“WHY SOME DON’T MARRY?”

“Why do singles push marriage at a later age or push it away altogether?”

This was one of the questions of our volunteer leaders asked recently.

It can be one of three things: many are UNEASY, UNCERTAIN or UNCLEAR. (this list is by no means exhaustive)

Probably uneasy because of the many horror stories we’ve heard or even the bad experiences we personally have gone through. Philippine Daily Inquirer reports that there has been a 40% increase in annulments in the Philippines.

Uncertain because of what might the future hold. After all, financial stability is a major consideration for anyone who is going to get married.

Unclear would refer to the purpose of marriage.  It is possible that a wrong understanding of marriage can make a person terrified at making that big leap.

TEST DRIVE

Because of these reasons, some have chosen cohabitation.  They move in together to ‘test-drive’ the relationship. (previous blog post here)

Now, test driving the relationship is not a good idea.

Number 1, your partner is not a car.

Number 2, the other person feels devalued and depreciated, particularly the ladies, if the relationship doesn’t work out because we all know that as soon as we drive a car out of the dealership, there’s an automatic 20% mark down it’s original price. Depreciation happens.

Number 3, it doesn’t work. How come? Research tells us that couples who cohabit before marriage have a higher rate of divorce than those who don’t.

MARRIAGE IS A GOOD THING.

The Bible says that “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD.” (Proverbs 18:22)

Marriage is a good thing.

The Bible doesn’t just state that, but even health science supports it. (article here)

Here’s a short summary of the article:

* Men alive at 48 years old have a 90 percent chance of reaching 65 if they are married, but only a 60 to 70 percent chance if they are single.

*A married man with heart disease can expect to live, on average, nearly four years longer than an unmarried man with a healthy heart

*Unmarried people spend 2x as much time in hospitals as married people.

*Rates of major depression are 9x higher in unmarried men.

*Depression, and in particular dysphoria – a feeling of anxiety, depression, and unease – is higher in single women compared to married women.

MARRIAGE IS FROM GOD.

It’s not just a good thing but also a God thing.

He invented marriage. He instituted it. It was His idea.

Herbert and Zelmyra Fisher was married for 86 years which was why they made it to Guinness World Records. They were asked what their secret was.

His answer? “No secrets. There isn’t any secret. It was only God that kept us together.”

Her answer? “We are both Christians and believe in God. Marriage is a commitment to the Lord. We pray with and for each other every day.”

Since marriage is God’s idea, it is He who will give grace to keep the 2 together.

PS. I like what Louise commented below. There are those who have been called to be single so that they can serve Jesus in this lifetime which I believe is a high calling.