Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Maintaining Love in Marriage

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Michael Ventura provided an excellent description of what marriage is all about,  “Marriage is a
journey toward an unknown destination -- the discovery that people must share not only what they don't know about each other, but what they don't know about themselves.” In reading the Scriptures, here’s the relational equation that occurs between married couples: “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them” (Colossians 3:18-19).

How does this work? Following the biblical basis of this equation, here’s the breakdown:

·      Specific role of the wife: “…submit to your husbands…”
·      Submission is all about respect not dominance: Ephesians 5:33b “…let the wife see that she respects her husband.”
·      Extent of a wife’s submission: “…as is fitting in the Lord.”
·      Specific role of the husband: “…love your wives and do not be harsh with them.”
·      Measurement of a husband’s love: Ephesians 5:33a “However, let each one of you love his wife as himself…”

How does love comes into the marriage relationship? First, love must be cultivated during marriage relationship between a husband and the wife and the cultivating part was assigned to the husband as Ecclesiastes 9:9 states, Enjoy life with the wife whom you love. ” Afterward, love must become the bond that holds the marriage vows between a husband and the wife until death. Death becomes the separating tool that dissolves the vow but until then, “put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:14). Finally, love must produce the legacy of the husband and the wife for the next generation to follow and imitate.

The love between a husband and a wife becomes an illustration of how Christ loves His church:

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church (Ephesians 5:25-33).

When this portrait of Christ’s love becomes the anchor of every marriage relationship, no matter what challenges come, it will stand strong. Thus, the key to a successful bond of love in marriage life is no other that the Lord Jesus Christ. It takes three to make a marriage long lasting and complete. Two people cannot do it but two people fully submitted to the Lord Jesus goes a long way “until death do you part.” Chuck Swindoll in his book, “The Grace Awakening” shared five major needs of women IN marriage: (1) affection; (2) conversation; (3) honesty and openness; (4) financial support, and; (5) family commitment. On the other hand, he also shared the five major needs of men IN marriage: (1) sexual fulfillment; (2) recreational companionship; (3) an attractive spouse; (4) domestic support; and (5) admiration.

If an unmarried couple is reading this article, let me share two important things to consider about love in marriage. First. love begins at courtship between a single man and a single woman as Proverbs 18:22 states,  He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.” Next, love is manifested at the wedding day between a man and a woman as Genesis 2:24 states, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”  Before I end, listed below are three ingredients to a happy marriage:

1.     The presence of the Lord Jesus Christ at the wedding: Hebrews 13:4 “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.”
2.     The presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in the home: Psalms 127:1 “A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon. Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.”
3.     The presence of the Lord Jesus Christ all along life's journey: Psalms 23:4 “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Therefore, if you currently married, let love anchored in Jesus hold your marriage together and if you are getting married, get ready to preserve love at all cost.

Let’s talk again!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Faith over Suffering

According to Mildred Witte Struven, our faith life during times of suffering is likened to a clay pot sitting in the sun needing to go through the white heat of the furnace to become porcelain. Suffering when anchored in faith produces the right behavior. The apostle Paul exhorted,

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“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through
the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).

Let not the weight of any suffering plunges our faith downward but realizing that when suffering challenges our faith in God, let it be transformed as a testimony for others to imitate. Someone asked C.S. Lewis, "Why do the righteous suffer?" "Why not?" he replied. "They're the only ones who can take it." Putting it in another way, Paul encouraged assessing any suffering in the right perspective: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). When we look at any suffering from this point of view, then it yields a resilient faith that glorifies God instead of feeling defeat.

How do we strengthen our resolve to stand strong in our faith against any suffering? Paul encouraged having the right attitude: “In the day of prosperity be happy, But in the day of adversity consider-- God has made the one as well as the other So that man will not discover anything that will be after him” (Ecclesiastes 7:14). Tim Hansel shared,

Most of the Psalms were born in difficulty. Most of the Epistles were written in prisons. Most of the greatest thoughts of the greatest thinkers of all time had to pass through the fire. Bunyan wrote Pilgrim's Progress from jail. Florence Nightingale, too ill to move from her bed, reorganized the hospitals of England. Semiparalyzed and under the constant menace of apoplexy, Pasteur was tireless in his attack on disease. Sometimes it seems that when God is about to make preeminent use of a man, he puts him through the fire (You Gotta Keep Dancin', David C. Cook, 1985, p. 87).

The reality of suffering is evident around us and the apostle Paul provided an excellent reminder,

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies (2 Corinthians 4:8-10).

If you need a reminder that your suffering is not as bad as Job’s, read the Scriptures how he overcame his sufferings. As a summary of Job's life in experiencing the worst kinds of suffering that any person could ever endure, Job kept his integrity intact and chose not to curse God. Instead of losing his faith in God, Job chose to honor God and kept his faith solidly anchored on God's promises. Somebody explained, “In adversity we usually want God to do a removing job when He wants to do an improving job. To realize the worth of the anchor, we need to feel the storm.”

M.R. Dehaan provided an excellent representation of how suffering becomes a huge blessing when seen through the eyes of faith in God’s ways,

A little piece of wood once complained bitterly because it owner kept whittling away at it, cutting and filling it with holes, but the one who was cutting it so remorselessly paid no attention to it complaining. He was making a flute out of that piece of ebony, and he was too wise to resist from doing so, even though the wood complained bitterly. He seemed to say, “Little piece of wood, without these holes, and all this cutting, you would be a black stick forever, just a useless piece of ebony. What I am doing now may make you think that I am destroying you, but, instead, I will change you into a flute, and your sweet music will charm the souls of men and comfort many a sorrowing heart. My cutting you is the making of you for only thus can you be a blessing in the world.

Let’s talk again!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Journey Towards the Promises of God

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In following the Scriptures, I discovered that our life’s journey with God’s promises guiding our way assures us of success in attaining our vision. However, being entirely focused on moving ahead with a steadfast and wholehearted attitude is a must. The book of Hebrews described this kind attitude, “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth” (11:13, NIV). Gertrude Cramer Williams described it this way: "I think I can" are four magic words that create success; four magic words that when woven into the fiber of our human thoughts can make all the difference in the world as to whether we succeed or fail.”

Allow me to share some key ingredients on our journey towards the promises of God. First, we need clarity of vision and faith. J. Sidlow Baxter explained, “What is the difference between an obstacle and an opportunity? Our attitude toward it. Every opportunity has a difficulty, and every difficulty has an opportunity.” Job exclaimed, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth” (19:2, NIV). Next, adopt a sense of anticipation with confidence. Elisabeth Elliot stressed, "If you believe in a God who controls the big things, you have to believe in a God who controls the little things.  It is we, of course, to whom things look "little" or "big." When attacked by anxieties, declare like the Psalmists, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God” (Psalms 42:11). Finally, stand on your faith with renewed patience while waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promises. Helen Keller emphasized, "Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved." The book of Hebrews offered an excellent reminder when faced with such difficulties,

For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises (Hebrews 6:10-12).

Keeping our hearts and minds aligned with God’s promises with absolute confidence is a non-negotiable deal. The Our Daily Bread dated January 1, 1985 listed 12 promises for the Christian to claim:
1.     God's presence -- "I will never leave thee" (Heb. 13:5)
2.     God's protection -- "I am thy shield" (Gen. 15:1)
3.     God's power -- "I will strengthen thee" (Isa. 41:10)
4.     God's provision -- "I will help thee" (Isa. 41:10)
5.     God's leading -- "And when He putteth forth His own sheep, He goeth before them" (John 10:4)
6.     God's purposes -- "I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil" (Jer. 20:11)
7.     God's rest -- "Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28)
8.     God's cleansing -- "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9)
9.     God's goodness -- "No good thing will He withhold from them that work uprightly" (Psalm 84:11)
10. God's faithfulness -- "The Lord will not forsake His people for His great name's sake" (1 Sam. 12:22)
11. God's guidance -- "The meek will He guide" (Psalm 25:9)
12. God's wise plan -- "All things work together for good to them that love God" (Rom. 8:28) -

This New Year is another opportunity for all of us to experience God’s promises in a new level. Allow Him room to fulfill His promises as He sees fit for our sake. God is in the habit of fulfilling them in a grand way and He never ceased to amaze those that wait for Him. Remember that He will never let us down.

Let’s talk again!

Monday, November 28, 2016

A Christmas Message: Jesus came to save us

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The Christmas story recorded in Luke 2:1-20 (NIV) states: “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a
decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

In today’s world, many felt that the Christmas story is an old wives’ tale occurred more than two thousand years ago. However, whether people believed it or not, the fact remained that it happened as part of God’s plan of salvation for humanity. The Christmas message is here to stay, and the birth of Jesus as the Saviour is at the heart of it. Wayne Grudem wrote,

God, in his wisdom, ordained a combination of human and divine influence in the birth of Christ, so that his full humanity would be evident to us from the fact of his ordinary human birth from a human mother, and his full deity would be evident from the fact of his conception in Mary’s womb by the powerful work of the Holy Spirit (Systematic Theology, 530).

When people believed the Christmas message, faith was involved. Brett Blair emphasized, “Faith understands that God intervenes in the natural course of events; on the other hand, if the natural course of events should happen to answer prayer--that which we call a coincidence--faith still believes God is present.” What’s the Christmas message we need to remember today?

·      Point #1: Christ became like us and in doing so, God became near to us. He came for the purpose of giving us access to God's throne of grace through His Son Jesus to give us life purpose and meaning. Most importantly, forgive our sins, and the hope of heaven beyond this life. Remember to look past the commercialism of Christmas. It is not about the gifts we receive or what we give to others but the greatest gift from God on the first Christmas.

·      Point #2: The central theme of Christmas is the incarnation—that God became a man to redeem man, “that in Christ "lives all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (Col. 2:9). John opens his first epistle by saying that Christ was from the beginning "which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and our hands have touched (1 John 1:1). In other words, God comes in the flesh.

·      Point 3: The first Christmas celebration became a heavenly party participated by the shepherds in the fields. Heaven and earth celebrated together as the Saviour of the world came and born in a humble manger.  The natural and the supernatural mingled on that glorious day. On that first Christmas,  a big heavenly celebration spilled on earth over the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In understanding these points, Joel Pankow stressed,

God became man - born in the manger with one mission. He had to take on our flesh - born of a virgin - so that he could fulfill God’s will - and save us. He fulfilled his mission of dying for you. He fulfilled His mission of making you holy and that’s the simple reason for Christmas and its celebration.

So set aside the things you have become preoccupied with and remember that you have a Savior. You have a Lord. You have a Christ. And you have His promises.

Let’s talk again!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Financial Lessons from Ants

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Proverbs 6:6-8 provided a clear illustration of how ants work together, “Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.”

I found this interesting article from BeingFrugal.net (http://beingfrugal.net/christian-perspective-lessons-from-the-ant/), where the author explained in detail the ant’s way of life,

The ants are balanced. They eat what they need today. They eat enough to get them through the winter. But they don’t eat too much. If they didn’t eat enough today, they’d die. If they gorged themselves on too much food, they’d explode. They find the perfect balance and this is what financial health is all about with God’s wisdom like the ants.

In other words, keeping the present secured while preparing for the future is what the ants are expert at doing. Unfortunately, people usually engaged themselves into two extremes: forgetting the future because of preoccupation with the present and a future-oriented direction without considering the present. Here’s what the author of BeingFrugal.net observed, “If we live too much for the future, we risk not appreciating the present. If we work too much, we miss out on our children’s lives.” Our life was given by God to maximize its full potential and to discover God’s plan for our lives without being immersed in finding ways and means to stay afloat. What’s more, our life is too short not to enjoy the fruit of our labors with our family, which interestingly was the main reason for doing so. Thus, keep in mind that when your time is set to spend time with your family; it may become too late because the time passed by due to busyness with accumulating wealth.

What are some strategies towards a balanced financial health that we can learn from the ants? First, watch out against the snare of greed (1 Timothy 6:9-11). Merriam-Webster dictionary provided this definition for greed: “a selfish and excessive desire for more of something (as money) than is needed.” In biblehub.com, the Greek word for “greed” is “pleonekt├ęs” which means “one desirous of having more and describes an individual who became “covetous or avaricious; one desirous of having more.” Also, one of the Ten Commandments is against covetousness or greediness. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with having more, the difference comes in with wanting more without contentment and this is where greediness dwells.

Next, implement a detailed budget system. The writer Luke described what it means to calculate,

For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish” (Luke 14:28-30).

After settling everything, aspire to become debt-free. Proverbs 22:7b stated, “…the borrower is the slave of the lender.” Aside from having what I call “necessary debts” like mortgages and car loans, keep everything else in control especially credit cards. Living within our means will surely help in this matter.  W. Graham Scroggie, an English pastor and writer said, “There are two ways in which a Christian may view his money--"How much of my money shall I use for God?" or "How much of God's money shall I use for myself?

Afterward, live within your means and invest wisely. How? It begins with honoring God first with everything we own. Proverbs 3:9-10 emphasized, “Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.” St. Augustine in reflecting what Jesus said declared,  Where your pleasure is, there is your treasure; where your treasure is, there is your heart; where your heart is, there is your happiness.”

I believe that there are more strategies out there but highlighting some of them here aligned closely to how the ants lived their life of freedom from potential problems of greediness. That’s why; consider the ants carefully that if God mentioned them and their lifestyle in the Scriptures, we must take notice for our benefit towards financial health and security. Remember that the wisdom of the ants is transferable to our situation and today. Therefore, what do we have to loose when we consider them?

Let’s talk again!