Whom Do You Love More?

For all my young readers out there, this post is for you. I shared it during this morning’s church service and I hope it will bless and encourage you! 


Ever since I was a child I cared about what people thought about me. I was a self-conscious person and a people-pleaser. This character weakness was tested especially in college, when I was no longer homeschooled or in a Christian school.

After graduating from an American school for missionaries called Faith Academy, most of my friends left for the US or Europe after high school, and I had to make friends from scratch. I didn’t know people in college like most students did. 

Eventually, however, I had a group of friends I started hanging out with who kind of took me “under their wing.” They were a great bunch of friends – intelligent, beautiful, kind-hearted, and fun to be with. However, they also belonged to a crowd who enjoyed going out to bars and clubs on Wednesday nights and the weekends.

When I first started frequenting bars with my college friends I thought I would never drink alcohol. It didn’t appeal to me. I didn’t grow up in a home where alcohol or cigarettes were common. And the high school I went to didn’t allow students to have either. So I would sit around and watch everybody with some sort of booze in their one hand, most often beer, while they checked each other out and chatted each other up. A lot of it was flirting between guys and girls, or sitting around with your group of friends while some guy treated you all to drinks.

At the beginning, I thought, What am I doing here?! This is a slow way to die, inhaling all this second hand smoke! It was almost intolerable, but I would go anyway, to be with my girl friends. Almost always, I would feel out of place, uncomfortable about connecting with people in an environment that seemed to be the worst place to engage in genuine conversation.

Nevertheless, I wanted to fit in somehow. So I thought, Why not try just a little alcohol? It’s not like the Bible says that drinking is sinful. To be honest I didn’t like the taste at all at first, but participating in the same things my friends did made me feel closer to them, more accepted, and this mattered to me.

The tipping point for me was going on an out of town trip for a football match. Our team went to a bar afterwards to celebrate, and getting a buzz from my cocktails gave me an exhilarating sense of freedom. I felt more confident, more gregarious. I do recall receiving surprised and concerned looks from people who knew me to be the conservative Christian. But I rationalized, “Hey, I can do this. I am still in control and I’m not doing anything stupid.”

I would rarely drink to the point of tipsiness, but there were a few times that I got carried away and did some ridiculous things.  One time I kissed a friend in public (someone I would never ever have kissed) while wearing my angel outfit and halo at a halloween party. The irony. My girl friends rushed over to pry me away, scolding our friend when it wasn’t even his fault. Another time, I got drunk and threw up out of a window of a moving vehicle. Yet another time, I danced like an idiot on the ledge of a club that had a lot of lecherous looking old men in it. In Europe, on a month-long trip with my friends (which was a blast), we would be out every night we could dancing with strangers and going out with people we hardly knew.

Thankfully, this season of my life was short-lived. After a while, I thought to myself, Why am I doing these things? Do I really want to be this person? I don’t even like alcohol! Furthermore, I recognized that my root problem was not the actual drinking or nights out, but the desire to have people’s approval.

Amazingly, when I told my parents about my night time adventures and the places I went go to they were NOT reactive. They didn’t scold me or condemn my friends. They didn’t pressure me to live up to the expectations of a pastor’s kid (which would have probably incited me to rebellion). Instead, their style was to spend time with me and ask me questions like, “So why do you like to drink?” They tried to understand my motivations so they could better disciple me. After all, it wasn’t my behavior that was the issue to them. It was my heart. So they prayed faithfully for me. They prayed a lot! And they reminded me that I was accountable to God.

Since they weren’t the kind of parents who were suffocatingly strict and unreasonable, or the kind of parents who micromanaged every choice their kids made, I appreciated and respected their input. More importantly, their talk-less, listen-and-dialogue-more method of mentoring me gave the Holy Spirit the space to speak to me and convict me.

I began to be deeply disturbed about the trajectory I was headed in. I knew I was a follower of Jesus. Yet my motivations revealed that I valued what people thought about me more than God’s opinion of me. Did I really love Jesus with all my heart?

Furthermore if I really loved Jesus then I would live to please him above all else. My goal would be to glorify Him, and to pursue Christ likeness and righteousness. But at that point I couldn’t confidently say that my life inspired others to follow Christ. Living with this dichotomy — professing to love God yet having little fruit to show as evidence, troubled me. I didn’t have peace.

So I went back to the convictions that my parents passed on to me when I was younger — truths that hooked me back into the will of God before I wandered too far off course. I made the decision to honour God and glorify Him. If I truly loved Him, this would be a priority to me.  It wouldn’t even be about whether drinking was okay or not. (Sometimes we can be so legalistic and judgmental as followers of Christ, equating spirituality with this image of someone who doesn’t drink, smoke, dance, go to clubs or maybe even movie theaters! Nevertheless, I do believe that everyone who likes to do things like drink or smoke should assess why they do. And if their reasons signal red flags like addiction, dependence, peer acceptance, or remedies for stress, etc…then it may very well benefit them to ask the same questions I had to.)

For me the more important questions were, “How do I live in such a way that people will be attracted to Jesus Christ in me? What does God see when He looks into my heart?” In response, I changed my Wednesday and weekend habits. I stopped going to bars and clubs in order to “fit in.” 

This didn’t mean that I lost all my friends either. I loved these girls. I still do. And when we can, we get together for meals or coffee, occasions when we can really connect and talk.

Another, more serious test came when I had my second boyfriend, the same boyfriend who eventually became my husband whom you know as my one and only, Edric Mendoza. We struggled in the area of physical purity. We didn’t have sex but we pushed things to the absolute limit. I knew that I was making compromises that were not pleasing to God, but a part of me also wanted to hold on to Edric’s affections for me. There were moments when I would deceivingly think, this isn’t so bad. It’s not like we are having sex. But I had lowered my standards for holiness and purity by comparing my actions to what “other people are doing.”

Once again, I had to ask myself the same question, Do I really love Jesus more than I love Edric? 

Because the struggle with purity continued no matter what tricks we tried to avoid temptation, we were compelled to consider breaking up. Edric also loved God and wanted to do what was right. So we broke off the relationship without any timetable for getting back together. It was one of the most difficult things I had to do and Edric would say the same thing, but it was also one of the best decisions we ever made.

Edric was an idol in my life whom I had to surrender to God. When I did so, my passion for the Lord was rekindled. Prior to this, my struggle with purity had put a wedge and cap on my ability to grow spiritually. Edric also grew deeper in His faith.

Eventually, God allowed us to get married with the approval and blessing of our parents, and after full disclosure to them. By this time our hearts were prepared to love each other the way God called us to. We understood that in any relationship, Christ must be the center. A husband and wife must love Jesus first to love each other the way they should.

Not all love stories may end this same way, but I do believe that when we love God with all that we are He gives us His best in return, which is first and foremost Himself. Everything else is a bonus!

Mendoza_119Today I am happily married to Edric. We have five children. And we are serving the Lord as a team and teaching our children to love Him. The stories that I shared are almost twenty years old, but they remain significant because they were turning points in my life, when I made a conscious choice to love God and obey Him over something else or someone else that was important to me.

John 14:21 says, He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.”

We may have to sacrifice and experience challenges as we love God with all that we are, but He promises fullness of joy!

“Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” ‭‭John‬ ‭15:9-11‬ ‭NASB‬‬

By God’s grace, the best and sweetest years of my life so far have been those that I have given wholeheartedly to loving, following, obeying, and serving God. When I am tempted to replace this love for God with something else (because struggles still exist), I tell myself, Nothing is better than Christ. And nothing will ever satisfy me more than to seek Him and obey His will! 

Number Our Days

Edric spoke on numbering our days during the Sunday Service two days ago. It was an inspiring message that challenged the audience to consider how we use the time we have.

Psalm 90:12 says, So teach us to number our days that we may present to You (God) a heart of wisdom.

Life is short. Our friend, Steve Reed, passed away at 30. Another friend of the family, Jay Lucas, died of cancer shortly after it relapsed. And my grandfather (Angkong) departed at 96. None of us know the length of our days on this earth. It can be a few years or many, but in the end, it’s merely a dash between the year we are born and the year we die. 

Therefore, Edric challenged us to adopt the perspective of Kerry and Chris Shook in their book, “One Month to Live.” Edric read this back in 2008, but it tied in perfectly with his New Year’s challenge for us. 

If each of us had only one month to live, what would we do differently? Why aren’t we doing these things now? 

He pulled out three points from their book: Live passionately, love completely, and learn humbly. 

Live passionately for the Lord. This is about building God’s kingdom and not our own. Do we look to meet the spiritual needs of those around us and minister to them? Or, are we too busy pursuing the temporal things — money, fame, power?

Personally, I need to improve on sharing the gospel with people in a one-on-one context. I talk about Jesus on my site, the gospel story is in my book, and I insert the gospel message when I speak in front of audiences, but sometimes, I am too preoccupied to strike up a conversation with a sales lady, clerk, beautician, massage therapist, etc, and I forget that these are missed opportunities to tell them that they are infinitely loved by God, that He wants to have a personal relationship with them. Instead, I am thinking about whether they are serving me the way they ought to, or if I am getting my goals accomplished. People become a means to an end. But God wants me to consider their end. My mom, who talks about Jesus as often as she can, says, “When we don’t share the gospel, it’s like telling people to go to hell.” 

Very recently, I read Ezekiel again, and I highlighted the passage that speaks about how we are accountable to tell people the truth. Whether they receive it isn’t our problem, but if we don’t declare God’s Word He will hold us responsible as His “watchmen.”

“”Son of man, I have appointed you a watchman to the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from My mouth, warn them from Me. When I say to the wicked, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to warn the wicked from his wicked way that he may live, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.” Ezekiel‬ ‭3:17-18‬ ‭

Living passionately for the Lord is also about being contagious Christians. Do we do our best at work, home, ministry? Do we use our talents, gifts and abilities to glorify God? If people were to examine our lives closely, would they be able to conclude with absolute certainty that we are followers of Christ? Would they be attracted to the joy, peace and love they see, and desire the same for themselves? 

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew‬ ‭5:16‬ ‭

Love completely is about forgiving and unconditionally accepting the people in our lives. If we were to number our days, knowing that life is too short to squander on anger and bitterness, would we choose to end our days with unresolved conflicts or issues in our marriages, with our children, siblings or others? 
“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.‭‭” Colossians‬ ‭3:12-14‬ ‭

Learn humbly involves the willingness to change, to listen and receive correction and criticism, or to seek to grow and mature in areas of weakness. 

  God gave Edric and me the perfect opportunity to apply all three aspects of numbering our days. We traveled to the beach with the kids without yayas. Catalina is two so I am trying to help her become more independent. But it’s never simple to travel with five kids. It’s a lot of fun but it requires Edric and me to be hands-on at all times. Thankfully, our older sons are a big blessing. They give us breaks and take over when they can. Yet like I said, family vacations can be a good test of living passionately, loving completely and learning humbly. 

  Just today, on the way home from the beach, we nearly lost Catalina who walked off to go exploring in the hotel. Edric panicked and raised his voice at Elijah, whom he assumed was tasked to babysit her because she was last seen with him. Elijah darted off in tears, looking for Catalina, feeling terrible. The other kids said, “Why did dad shout?”

I glared at Edric for losing his cool in front of the children and went hunting for Catalina. She wasn’t lost at all. I found her playing with her cousin in the dining area, unaware of the distress her momentary disappearance had caused everyone. 

In the car, there was an icy silence as Edric and I anticipated who would apologize first. He began by identifying who was to blame and commanded me to say sorry to everyone for being the main person responsible for Catalina. After I did, I retorted, “You need to apologize, too, for shouting at Elijah. Shouting doesn’t help anyone solve a problem. You simply agitated everyone with your response. It wasn’t right.” 

I usually keep quiet and let the Holy Spirit convict him, but I was so annoyed that I let the words roll off my tongue without restraint. He didn’t appreciate this at all, but he did ask for our forgiveness to be a good example. Neither of us were satisfied with each other’s apology. We sense the lingering frustration and anger between us. (It’s only by God’s grace that we are able to recover from these situations.)
When both ended up re-doing our apologies with sincerity and we also chose to forgive one another and let go of the resentment. We applied the principle of “numbering our days.”

First, we were un-Christlike examples to our kids. And living passionately for the Lord must be evident to our most sensitive audience first — our children. Edric spoke to Elijah and really humbled himself before all of us. I also asked for forgiveness for being disrespectful towards Edric. 

Second, loving completely means I needed to forgive Edric as he needed to forgive me. We didn’t feel like it. AT ALL. We were thoroughly aggravated with one another for the mistakes we made. But God asks us to forgive, just as He has forgiven us. After we did so, the anger dissipated. 

Third, we learned humbly by acknowledging our wrongs to one another. When Edric was correcting me and criticizing me for neglecting Catalina, I wanted to defend myself and list down the many ways I took care of her during the trip. I felt like he took that one moment and gave me a rating of “F” for my mother skills. But I apologized because it only takes one accident or careless instance to lose a child and I did mess up. I did not keep a diligent eye on her and assumed that Elijah was entertaining her with an educational game. Furthermore, I made Edric look badly in front of the kids with my tone and words when I could have spoke to him in private about raising his voice. This was wrong. 

I praise God that by the end of our journey all was resolved and our relationships were restored.
We all need to number our days, to consider how we want to spend the time God has gifted us with. Are we living passionately for Him, loving others completely (especially our spouse and children), and learning humbly by choosing to become more like Christ? 

God will hold us accountable for the manner in which we invest each moment, each hour, each day, each year, and each lifetime. May He find us faithful and wise, people who understand the brevity of life and make choices that please Him! 

  
““The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together! ’” Matthew‬ ‭25:21‬ ‭

What Does My Heart Look Like This Christmas?

Edan, my second son, is the kind of child whose expressions and actions have to be observed closely because he isn’t a talker. When I ask him what he’s thinking or feeling, he needs time to reflect before churning out an answer.

His two brothers are very different. Elijah likes to dialogue about his thoughts and feelings. Titus will simply say, “I’m not thinking anything.” (He’s a very uncomplicated fellow.) Edan, on the other hand, needs to be pried open cautiously. He doesn’t respond to confrontation, nor does he appreciate being badgered into giving an answer to people’s queries about himself. So I’ve learned to be patient as a mother and wait for him to unfold in his own way.

Every once in a while, however, I will catch him doing something that speaks loudly about the kind of person he is. And I latch on to these occasions and treasure them because they reveal what’s going on inside his heart.

Today, at church, a friend of mine whom I hadn’t seen in a while handed each of my kids money for Christmas. (She is ninang to my daughter, Tiana, but she generously gave my other kids money, too.) All of them were thrilled. Naturally, I expected them to think of buying something for themselves.

As the service went on, I noticed that Edan pulled out a tithing envelope. He carefully tucked his bills inside them. He held on to the envelope for a while and then turned around to whisper to me, “Mom, can you put this in the tithing box for me?

Surprised, I asked him why he wanted to tithe the money he just received. True to his nature, he didn’t give me an immediate answer. But shortly after, he managed to explain, “I want to give my money to Jesus.” When I prodded him further, he added, “I can’t explain it, I just like giving to Jesus.”

At first I thought, Whose kid is this?! Is this my 9 year old, Edan?!

Edan is better known in our family as a keeper of money rather than a giver of it. When we play board games, he likes to hoard the cash and pile it up. That’s his default strategy to beat everyone. It doesn’t always work but he, of all our kids, seems to have this bent towards business-mindedness. I suppose this is why it surprised me to see how willingly he parted with his money. His actions appeared incongruent with his personality and he got my attention. God used Edan’s example of a giving heart to teach me three important Christmas lessons.

First, Edric and I have come to recognize that anytime our children make the right choices it isn’t because we are such great parents or because our children are extra special. We can only go so far and do so much as parents to influence our kids towards Christ-centeredness. We are fallen persons, a mix of flaws that must be surrendered to the Lord daily. Furthermore, each of our kids is unique and fragile in their own way, with weaknesses and character issues that need supernatural fixing. So the miraculous transformation that we witness in them is a testament to the way God makes something beautiful out of our mess-ups, mistakes, and missed opportunities. While I would like to take credit and say, “Yep, that’s my kid,” I am more convicted to say, “He’s your child, Lord. That’s your handprint in his heart and life. That’s Christ in him. Please complete the work you have begun in him and make him into the man you want him to grow up to be, not for me, not for Edric, but for you and your glory.”

Second, everything we have been given is grace. Edan wasn’t an “official godchild” of my friend. Yet she handed him some money anyway, because she loves him as she does all my other kids. Similarly, God loves you and He loves me. He bestows upon us certain gifts, talents and abilities that speak more of who he is as a loving heavenly Father rather than how deserving we are. All of my kids had the opportunity to do something with their monetary presents, but they didn’t make the same choice Edan did. In the same way, all of us have the liberty to spend our gifts, talents and abilities as we choose. Will we keep these for ourselves or will we say, as Edan did, “Lord I give what I have to you?”

Third, the ability and desire to give what we have to God comes when we realize what He has given to us. Beyond the gifts, talents, and abilities, God sent us His Son, Jesus. Years ago, as a younger boy, Edan received Jesus into his life by faith. He understood that he was sinful and needed a Savior, and he believed in what Jesus did on the cross for him. Shortly after, it felt like Edric and I had a new child. Edan was vastly different from the previous version of himself, whom we knew to be grumpy, uncooperative, and temperamental. He became kind and tender-hearted and he developed a genuine love for the Lord.

At about the same time five years ago, Edan sang the song “Mary, did you know” before he went to bed one evening, with my younger sister, Carolyn, as his witness. They shared a room during our Christmas vacation because we were a growing family and couldn’t fit in one room with all our kids. Carolyn told me the song came to Edan spontaneously, as she turned off the lights so he could go to sleep. As she tucked him in, he said, “You know, Aunty Carolyn, I really love Jesus. He is my best friend.”

 I remembered this story as I thought about Edan holding on to the tithing envelope with his little hands. When he said he wanted to give everything that he had to Jesus it came from a deep gratitude he could not articulate, one which overflowed from experiencing the gift that is Jesus Christ.

This Christmas I pray we will spend time pondering upon God’s generosity to us. May the gift of His Son compel us to present to Him the gift of a giving heart – a heart transformed by Jesus that delights to offer everything to Him in return for who He is and what He has done.

 

 

Peanuts and an Apology

  
My husband, Edric, and I invite our children to correct us and tell us how to improve. We don’t always recognize character areas where we are weak so it helps to have our children identify these areas. They watch our examples closely and they have tender consciences, too. So we benefit from their input. It isn’t always easy to receive their correction but when we do they appreciate our humility, and it teaches them to do the same. 
  
Two days ago, Edric and I hosted a yayas and drivers party in our home. We were running late for it because we came from another engagement. Strangely, when we entered our village, the guard stopped us. He didn’t let us through because he failed to see our sticker. Edric rolled down his window, annoyed, and said, “We have a sticker!” (Translated from Tagalog.) 

His tone conveyed irritation and he pointed his finger at the sticker like, yo dude, do you know who I am?! Of course he didn’t say that, but the kids latched on to his tone. The guard embarrassingly lifted the barricade.

The car atmosphere turned quiet for a bit and then our two oldest sons, Elijah blurted out, “Dad, you sounded entitled when you said that,” followed by Edan, “Yah, it wasn’t very nice.”

I could see the tension in Edric’s face. On the one hand, he wanted to acknowledge what the kids were saying but on the other hand, he didn’t appreciate the inconvenience the guard caused him when he was rushing to our place. But I praise God that he let the Holy Spirit convict his heart and he replied, “Oh really? It really sounded like that? I am sorry, kids.” The kids forgave him and we proceeded home.

Unbeknownst to them, Edric returned to the guard later on and apologized to him. He also brought him peanuts to make up for his haughtiness. I didn’t find out till the evening when he told me, while the kids found out the next day.

He explained how he drove to the guard house to ask for forgiveness and how the guard politely accepted his apology and gladly took the peanuts! The kids’ eyes lit up with relief. It mattered to them that he humbled himself. In Elijah’s words, “I knew dad was wrong so when I found out he said sorry to the guard I felt better. It was the right thing to do.”

Edric and I have our failings and our kids are well aware of our imperfections. But I praise God for softening Edric’s heart so he could show the kids and me an example of love and humility.

Our children hunger to see an authentic faith. They are allergic to hypocrisy. Although they don’t expect us to be without fault, they do hope that what we do is consistent with the things we teach them. So if Edric and I talk about loving God, we need to demonstrate this with our actions. If we fail to, we need to right our wrongs as best as we can so we don’t harden our children’s hearts towards following Christ.

A lot of times it is the manner in which we treat people who serve us, such as waiters, salespersons, janitors, guards, drivers, yayas and the like that tell our children what being a follower of Jesus is all about. Do we respect them? Do we regard them with dignity? Do we show them love? Or, do we act entitled, demanding, unappreciative, and basically like the world revolves around us?

Let’s model to our children what it means to love people the way God does. There are no degrees of importance to him when it comes to people. The same should be true for us so it can be true for our children.

“For though the LORD is exalted, Yet He regards the lowly, But the haughty He knows from afar.” Psalms‬ ‭138:6‬ ‭

When Children Doubt That Jesus is Real

Even if my kids are growing up in a home where they hear about God’s word and Edric and I try our best to role-model what it means to follow God, our children aren’t exempted from the spiritual battle for their hearts and minds.

Some weeks ago I sat down with my second son, Edan, because Elijah, my eldest, said, “Mom, Edan has doubts that Jesus is real.”

 For those who have followed Edan’s history on this blog, you might remember that Edan was about three years old when he favored the word NO and tended to be withdrawn, disinterested, and habitually “un-smiley.” Edric and I decided it was time for him to hear the gospel. When Edric shared God’s story of salvation through Jesus Christ, Edan readily acknowledged that he needed Jesus and earnestly desired to go to heaven someday. Soon after he made this decision, he changed, too.

   

 From Mr. No he transformed into a sweet, tender-hearted, and kind son who was thoughtful and friendly. This was the Holy Spirit’s work in his life and I marveled at how vastly different he was from his originally negative self.

When I discovered that he struggled with doubts about the personhood of Christ it surprised me but I accepted it as a reasonable response to spiritual matters. Elijah came to that point, too, and over the years I’ve encouraged him to keep digging into Scripture and examining the claims of the Bible. The last thing I want is for my kids to adopt a belief system that they do not understand. I don’t want Christianity to be cultural for them.

Statistics show that in America, most children who grow up in Christian homes (about 89%) abandon their faith by the time they reach college. Shocking, isn’t it? Why do good Christian parents fail to pass on their spiritual heritage?

Given the human-centered philosophies that pervade the present generation, the anti-God influences that saturate the media and the amoral celebrities and popular people whom our children look up to, we have to acknowledge that our kids are growing up in a spiritually-hostile world. Without a solid faith foundation and bible-based convictions, we can’t expect them to navigate through the hostility without becoming causalities.

I sat down with Edan to explain why faith in Jesus is reasonable. It took up a chunk of our homeschool morning, but as we lingered in our discussion as mother and son, I thought to myself, This is why I homeschool my kids…for moments like this one, when I have the privilege of influencing their hearts towards Christ and His plan and purpose for their lives.

Whenever my kids have faith questions, I welcome them. Questions are a good thing! During a recent retreat, a woman who was very skeptical about the Bible, made a joke about herself. She said something like this, “If I were to attend Bible studies, I may get kicked out for asking too many questions.” My response to her was, “It’s okay to have questions. God doesn’t want us to have blind faith in Him. He wants us to seek after Him.”

When I think about my children’s doubts and their desire for evidence as they grow in their understanding of God, who He is, who they are and His plan for their lives, I am glad they are asking their questions now, while they are at home, while Edric and I can lead them to the answers. Furthermore, they challenge us to review the basis of our own belief in Jesus as Lord and Savior of our own lives.

What can we know about Jesus Christ?

Jesus was a real person, a historical figure. There are many secular and non-secular evidences that confirm that Jesus Christ was an actual person. Here are some of the more notable ones:

In his Antiquities, the famous Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, refers to James as “the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ.”

The Babylonian Talmud (Sanhedrin 43a) confirms Jesus’ crucifixion on the eve of Passover and the accusations against Christ of practicing sorcery and encouraging Jewish apostasy.

The first-century Roman Tacitus, who is considered one of the more accurate historians of the ancient world, mentioned superstitious “Christians” (from Christus, which is Latin for Christ), who suffered under Pontius Pilate during the reign of Tiberius. (Source: gotquestions.org)

Furthermore, why would Jesus’ supposed disciples die for him if his existence were a lie? Many of these martyrs suffered gruesome deaths!

“There is more evidence that Jesus of Nazareth certainly lived than for most famous figures of the ancient past” Paul L. Maier, The Russell H. Seibert Professor of Ancient History, Western Michigan University

Because Jesus was a real person, we must consider his claims, which were unlike any other made by religious teachers we know of today.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” (Mere Christianity)

Jesus claimed to be God and He said that He would die for the sins of man and be raised on the third day. It would be very easy to deny his deity if we can prove that He never rose again from the dead. However, no person who has tried to make a case against the resurrection has ever succeeded in doing so. In fact, skeptics who have attempted to disprove the resurrection (brilliant ones like the knighted Sir Lionel Luckhoo and investigative journalist, Lee Strobel) came to the conclusion that evidence supports the resurrection of Jesus Christ. So if Jesus claimed to be God and He rose again from the dead as proof, then His claim to be God was true. He is God.

“The scientific data point powerfully toward the existence of a Creator and that the historical evidence for the resurrection establishes convincingly that Jesus is divine.” Lee Strobel, Finding the Real Jesus: A Guide for Curious Christians and Skeptical Seekers.

 

Since Jesus is God, we can believe His other claims, such as, “I came that you might have life and might have it more abundantly,” and “I am the Way the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” and “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life,” We can stake our lives on His promises. We can live and die for them.

People who come to Jesus experience changed lives. I’m talking about people who are prideful, angry, lost in sin, and enslaved to destructive choices that hurt themselves and those around them. Just the other evening we were having dinner with a couple who nearly gave up on their marriage because the husband had an affair. Their marriage was in shambles but after coming to Jesus and surrendering their lives to Him, they decided to rebuild their marriage. Today they are completely different people from the persons Edric and I first met. There is peace, joy, and the desire to live a holy life. How do these miracles happen? The Bible tells us, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has passed, behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) Their story is similar to countless others who have been set free by the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, having witnessed and heard stories about people delivered from demonic oppression in the name of Jesus gives compelling evidence that Jesus is real to the spirit world, too!

When Edan and I ended our conversation, he was in tears and we embraced each other. My children hunger for truth. They need to have an anchor that keeps them grounded when doubts flood their minds. The doubts will come. When they do, will they cling to what they know about God? Will they entertain the lies they are fed by the evil one or will they be able to counter him with truth? As my father used to tell me, “the greatest battlefield is in the mind.” My children are engaged in the same battle. It is my job and Edric’s to prepare and equip them.

 Finally, my prayer is that they will all finish well. I can’t believe for them. They must determine for themselves whether Jesus is real, and whether they can entrust their lives to Him. But it starts with Edric and me establishing our own faith convictions and teaching our children what these are. We can’t assume that they will “get it” by osmosis. There has to be intentional effort on our part to model, encourage, teach, and help them answer their faith questions.

  “A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:10 – 17

 

Does Money Make Us Happy?

When I was living at home with my parents, life was comfortable. My parents didn’t spoil my siblings and me, but they provided handsomely for us. It wasn’t until I got married and left home that it dawned upon me…there’s a ceiling to what Edric and I have, financially speaking, and it isn’t very high. 

We started off simply as a young couple and for the first time, I began to compare myself with others. Edric and I couldn’t afford luxuries like travel, buying new cars, eating out, or alot of personal shopping. 

We were both corporate people so the prospect of amassing wealth was a far off dream as we were in the beginning stages of our careers. Even though I appreciated how hard Edric worked, there were occasions when I paid attention to the disparity between what I grew up with and what I now had in marriage. And although I didn’t think I had a heart problem when it came to money, the reality was I believed that having more money would make me (us) happier.  

  

(Photo: exchangecalculator.com)

Thankfully, God used that stage in my life to expose my dependence upon money for security. Those early years of marriage were humbling as I watched my siblings and peers enjoy material things I desired for myself. Yet having less than I hoped to have was spiritually beneficial. 

Edric and I realized that we didn’t need a lot to be happy. In fact, those difficult years turned out to be some of the most romantic memories! The secret to joy was contentment. ‬‬When I stopped comparing my financial status to others and turned my attention to what I had, I saw the goodness of the Lord in my life — my wonderful, hard-working and loving husband, beautiful children, my health, the ability to work, a happy home, harmonious relationships, ministry, and most of all, God Himself. I accepted those years of spiritual pruning as protection against greed and materialism. 

Since God allotted for Edric and me to struggle financially, I believe He purposed it for our character growth. I honestly don’t think we were ready for the stewardship of financial wealth because our perspective on money was immature. We saw money as something to serve our own aims. If we had more we would have spent more on ourselves and attached our sense of self-worth and identity to money. 

Thankfully, God was always faithful. We never went hungry. God also assured me that He would provide for Edric and me. Provision didn’t always mean material wealth but I knew I didn’t have to worry about our future because God was our Father.

Psalm 34:10 tells us, “The young lions do lack and suffer hunger; but they who seek the LORD shall not be in want of any good thing.”‬‬

As God continued to increase our financial capacity, there came a point when we were preparing to build our home. This plan coincided with the efforts of our church to build a new training and worship center. One Sunday service, a guest speaker spoke on giving to God. Stirred by the message, Edric decided to write a check to support the building fund. Because of the amount he chose to give, he tearfully surrendered our dream to build our own home. Yet God assured him, build my house and I will build yours. Sure enough, about two years later, God provided above and beyond what Edric had written on that check and we were able to finish our house! 

Money is so often a test, whether in lack or abundance. And sometimes more so when it is abundant! The Bible tells us, “…Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭12:15‬ ‭NASB

Although money doesn’t make us more important or more special, it does have that sneaky way of making us feel like this is true. Whether a little or plenty, we all have the tendency to pursue it above our pursuit of God. Perhaps this is why the wise King Solomon wrote, “…Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is my portion, that I not be full and deny You and say, “Who is the LORD?” Or that I not be in want and steal, and profane the name of my God.” ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭30:8-9‬ ‭NASB‬‬ 

Since money competes with God’s place in our hearts, the first cure is to fall more in love with God rather than money. Luke 16:13 tells us that we cannot serve both God and money because we will end up loving the one and hating the other. 

The second cure is to give. 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 tells us, “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.” ‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭9:6-8‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Generosity is a good gauge for our heart’s attitude towards money. Author and speaker, Craig Groeschel, beautifully put it when he said that the pursuit of God over money will make us “strangely content” and “irrationally generous.” 

Randy Alcorn reminds us that “Too often we assume that God has increased our income to increase our standard of living, when his stated purpose is to increase our standard of giving. (Money, Possessions and Eternity

I am continually blessed by a couple I know who sets aside a giving fund from their monthly income. And whenever God prods them to give to a person or an organization, they willingly do so, having allocated the money beforehand for whatever or whomever God should convict them to be generous towards. 

We also need to remember that generosity is a condition of the heart not an ability reserved only for the wealthy. A poor and kind African man once told a missionary, “no one is too poor to give nor too rich to receive.” 

The third cure is remembering that God owns everything and we are His stewards. King David declared, “Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O LORD, and You exalt Yourself as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone. Now therefore, our God, we thank You, and praise Your glorious name…”‭‭1 Chronicles‬ ‭29:11-13 NASB‬‬ 

When Edric didn’t understand stewardship, he went into near bankruptcy.  His mentality used to be, “I earned this. I worked hard for this. I can spend my money on what I want to.” (He has shared this in public.) It wasn’t until a loving friend corrected his mindset that he realized he doesn’t own anything. He is just a steward of the resources God has entrusted him with, namely his time, talents, and treasures. 

The fourth cure is to remain simple. Just because we can pay for an item or a service that is more expensive doesn’t mean we should. When I wrote an article about why I don’t buy designer clothing, bags, or shoes it wasn’t because they have no appeal to me. They are beautiful things indeed! But the price at which they come by is unconscionable when so many people have needs around us. 

Do I go shopping and try my best to look put together? Do I still look for quality goods? Of course! Yet I want to quote another insight from Randy Alcorn: “Abundance isn’t God’s provision for me to live in luxury. It’s his provision for me to help others live. God entrusts me with his money not to build my kingdom on earth, but to build his kingdom in heaven.”  

So does money make us happy? Yes and no. It doesn’t make us happy when we look to it as the source of our happiness. But it can make us happy when:

1. we love God more than money and find contentment in Him.

2. we cheerfully give when God leads us to.

3. we understand that we are merely stewards because God owns everything. 

4. we choose to be simple so we can spend less on ourselves and bless others more.

In short, money “makes us happy” when we don’t use it to serve our own purposes (purposes which will never fully satisfy), but do use it to serve God’s purposes, which will give us infinite joy!  

 

Discover True Life

In the book, Be the Best Mom You can Be, authors Marina and Gregory Slayton wrote, “The search for identity and meaning is central to the human experience, and the need to count for something and to matter does not disappear when we become moms. Moms have a critically important role as mentors of the next generation, but many of us struggle with feeling insecure in a world that values outward success and measures everything from looks to academics to material accomplishments. This is because the world gets caught up in tying identity to how well we ‘measure up.’ But if we as moms go down this path we will end up feeling insignificant and unsuccessful. Striving for self always ends up separating us not only from others but also from God.” (Pg.61)

Reading this paragraph the other day deeply convicted me. My spiritual kryptonite is worrying about what people think about me and wrestling with discontentment when I fall short of my own expectations. I trouble myself with thoughts like, I should be more talented, more capable, more accomplished, more beautiful, more physically-fit.

It certainly doesn’t help when I saturate my mind with images and ideas that permeate social media. Whether the channel is through Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest, the effect is similar…Does my life measure up to what I see? Am I good enough? How can I compete? 

I suppose this is the insidious reality of being human. Everyone is susceptible to vanity. But let me speak for myself instead of attempting to drag mankind down with me to make my weakness look less ugly! What I’m trying to admit to is this: the temptation to benchmark myself against others and prove my worth is very undead in me.

Therefore, I have to go back to the cure…anchoring my security in Jesus Christ and aligning my purposes to His. I have to do this regularly — to revisit what God has done for me, how much He loves me, and what His will is for my life. Otherwise, I pursue the world’s definition of success and it’s offerings for fulfillment only to find that these aren’t the things that truly satisfy.

To resist the pull which distances me from God and His will, I make some practical choices. First, I meditate on God’s truth. Meditating on God’s truth involves regular Bible reading. I don’t know how many times I’ve read the Bible cover to cover and yet I still pick up valuable insights that I can apply.

Second, I choose to guard what I see and hear. The apostle Paul said, “All things are permissible but not all things are profitable.” It may be easy to access media and entertainment in a day and age when everything is a click or swipe away, so I need to have self-imposed filters. I make a conscious effort to avoid overexposure to sites, movies, or tv programs that diminish my desire to follow God’s will, direct my attention towards materialism, or stir up feelings of self-centeredness.

Third, I am selective about the close friendships I keep. Colin Powell was credited with saying, “It is better to be alone than in the wrong company. Tell me who your best friends are and I will tell you who you are. If you run with wolves, you will learn how to howl but if you associate with eagles you will learn how to soar to great heights.”  This isn’t about avoiding every person who doesn’t share the same values as I do. Ministering to people is different than best-friending them. However, when it comes to choosing the persons who surround me as confidants, counselors and advisors, I am picky, not snobby, but wisely selective. I want to learn from people who encourage me to seek God and correct me when I’m going off-course. I am not strong enough to withstand peer pressure (good or bad) which is why I need to be with people who will hold me to a standard of righteousness and holiness, both by word and by example. 

Fourth, I seek out ways to grow my hunger and thirst for God. Prayer is certainly a part of this. But this is also about “setting my mind on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth.” (Colossians 3:2) Sometimes, the best way to do this is to physically remove myself from my day to day preoccupations in order to see the bigger, spiritual perspective. Who am I? Why am I here? What am I living for? There is so much untruth in the messages, visual stimuli, and experiences I encounter daily that it becomes necessary to take a pause in order to detox!

If you are like me and need to get away for a weekend to recalibrate your heart and mind, consider attending the True Life retreat at Mt. Makiling Recreation Center on July 31 to August 2, 2015. I’m looking forward to much needed spiritual feeding and renewal, and the opportunity to rediscover what TRUE LIFE, TRUE LIVING is all about! What about you? (Edric will also be speaking for one of the sessions so if you could, please say a prayer for him, too!) Check out True Life 2015 for more details.

 

How A Patient Husband Can Inspire His Wife

IMG_3268.JPGIt’s high time I wrote an entry about how wonderfully Spirit-filled my husband, Edric, has been as of late. Sometimes my posts about our marriage have something to do with his intensely spirited personality and my not too commendable reactions towards him. So I wanted to acknowledge the recent change I have seen in him, especially in the area of patience.

He would call it “being Spirit-filled.” This has been the phrase he has recited to himself repeatedly over the past week as he has met with unfavorable or challenging circumstances, sometimes in the form of yours truly!

But what does it mean to be Spirit-filled? Galatians explains it for us by affording a contrast between the flesh (our human nature) and the fruit of the Spirit.

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. (‭Galatians‬ ‭5‬:‭19-25‬ NASB)

A person who is flesh-filled thinks, speaks, and acts in a manner that is carnal and selfish. In contrast, a Spirit-filled person exhibits Christlike character traits such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control. A true follower of Jesus ought to produce this kind of fruit.


Image courtesy of Pinterest

It’s not surprising that marriage is the perfect petri dish to test for evidence of the Spirit-filled life. Any honest married person would attest to the fact that a husband-and-wife-relationship can get fiery at times, which can bring out fleshy behaviors like agitation, impatience, anger, etc. Therefore I really appreciated the manner in which Edric exemplified control over his emotions this past week, particularly two Thursday mornings ago.

On that morning, I came down to the kitchen with feelings of frustration while our children and Edric chatted around the breakfast table. Normally, I enjoy mornings and I am the one greeting every child that comes bounding down the stairs. But that day, I opened my drawer and pulled out two halves of one brassiere. Yes. My bra looked like it had been torn in two by an animal.

I suspected that someone stuck it in the washing machine against my orders. So I took the two ridiculous looking halves and plopped them on the kitchen counter, calling out the name of the person responsible for this destruction. It was our sincere but sincerely wrong househelp who will remain unnamed.

In the meantime, Edric and the kids were trying to get my attention while laughing and playfully interacting around the breakfast table. Edric chirpily addressed me with a good morning but I was in the middle of correcting the mistake made by our househelp, reminding her that my under garments should be hand-washed only. She offered an apology which I really appreciated but there was no way to repair my damaged bra so I chucked the two halves into the trash and joined Edric and the kids for breakfast.

This is when Edric took it upon himself to enlighten me about the affairs of the morning, “I ordered pandesal because all we had to eat for breakfast was watered down oatmeal.” He offered this information very pleasantly, smiling at me. My disposition changed. Edric took the initiative to order pandesal instead of griping about the awful breakfast?! It was weird but oh so nice!

He aded that his bible reading for the day was about being filled with the Holy Spirit. Not so coincidentally, our water heater broke down that morning, too. Uh oh! So he stood in the shower with cold water running down his back as he chanted and breathed in deeply, “Be filled with the Spirit!” He was still smiling at me!

I began to laugh because Edric’s default mode is to at least make some sort of constructive comment about how to run the home better when things like this happen. First there was the watered-down oatmeal, and then the cold shower. And still, his countenance remained pleasant and his temper was even and controlled. I was very impressed.

He went off to the work and instructed the driver to inform me that he had to be picked up from the office by 11:30 am to be at ABS-CBN for the taping of his show at 12 noon. For some reason I absent-mindedly thought he meant that he needed the driver by 12 noon. Edric didn’t get picked up until 12:15 due to traffic. He called me a little bit upset (but not angry) when the driver was late. This was a problem because he had 7 shows to tape that afternoon with VIPs. 7 shows!

Arriving at the studio at the time he committed to was imperative. Because of me, he didn’t make it to the studio at the hour he told his producer he would. Still, he texted me, “I am sorry for not being filled with the Spirit. Will you forgive me? I love you.” (He said this because he felt like the way he spoke to me on the phone was agitated.)

Wow! Who was this amazing man that exhibited such patience with me?! I told Edric how blessed I was at his responses that day. And his attractive factor was bumped up several notches higher in my estimation!

 I know my role as a wife shouldn’t be contingent on the way Edric treats me as my husband. However, there’s a divine principle in effect when he is a Spirit-filled husband. His love toward me, manifested in the grace and kindness he applies when I make mistakes or fall short in areas where I should not, inspires that feeling of respect towards him that he also looks to receive from me as a wife.

In Ephesians 6, this principle is revealed. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless…Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭5‬:‭25-27, 33‬ NASB)

The manner in which Edric embraces his role as Christ to the church (me), where he loves me the way Christ does, encourages me and motivates me towards holiness. In this particular instance, his demonstration of this love was the act of patience and self-control.

It’s really a simple formula for couples although the challenges are undeniably present. Afterall, who likes to respond with happiness to watered-down oatmeal, a cold shower, and being made late to 7 tapings for a TV show?

It’s not easy and it takes being Spirit-filled versus flesh-filled. But the blessing is this…When a husband is the Spirit-filled leader of a marriage and home, God uses his example and headship to till the “soil” and make it fertile for the spiritual growth of the entire family. And this is the point I want to highlight. Yes, I can choose to be a submissive and respectful wife by focusing on the Lord and not Edric’s role as a husband, but how much more delightful and joyous it is to fulfill my role in the context of a marriage where my husband chooses to be the husband God calls him to be.

Because Edric’s attitude and actions conjured up feelings of romance too, I tried my best to serve him with better breakfast meals (still healthy). Tadah!

We’ve Never Gone Hungry

God continues to provide for us through the many seasons of our lives. At the beginning of this year, our reserves were running low because we finished building our home September 2014 and we traveled to the U.S., staying there for a month in December. (There’s no way to make a trip cheap when you have five kids!)

During the first quarter of 2015, we also had some pretty hefty bills to pay and taxes for Edric’s independent speaking contracts to settle. Plus there were some unprecedented doodads that were piled on to the money we had to part with. The stress mounted for Edric, yet God calmed him down with the assurance that He will always take care of us.

When you marry a man who loves God and chooses to live righteously, a great amount of fear is removed from you as a wife. You know that God will provide through your husband. It may not mean you have loads of money all the time, but you can be confident that God will bless the work of his hands and you won’t go hungry. And should you go hungry, God won’t abandon you. He promises this.

I am always encouraged by the passage in Psalm 34:10 which reads, “The young lions do lack and suffer hunger; but they who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing.”

Amazingly, when Edric surrendered our finances once again to the Lord, choosing NOT to panic or be worried, God gave us a wonderful bonus to whisper that he is mindful of us. Galderma renewed our contract as Cetaphil ambassadors. Last year we were featured on billboards and in stores, but this year Galderma expanded their marketing efforts to television. It was a pleasant surprise and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect!

Our family thoroughly enjoyed participating in Cetaphil Philippines’ Campaign. Cetaphil is a brand we actually use and need. As a matter of principle, we prefer to take on projects that we can be authentic about. Furthermore, our family has a range of skin care needs – from oily, dry, sunburn-prone, aging to eczema. It’s great to represent a brand that meets these needs effectively.

Cetaphil_Products-500x500-4

For example, we have all benefited from Cetaphil’s Gentle Skin Wash, which never dries out our skin. Even my husband, Edric, who doesn’t like to fuss about his skin is a believer in this cleanser. When we were taping the commercial, one of the lines he gave had to do with Cetaphil’s fragrance free characteristic. It was truthful of him to act out the part where he said, “fragrance free!” with a smile because this is sooo him! His very intelligent nose (he can smell cockroaches) dislikes strong smelling soaps, lotions, or perfumes.

 

The other day while spraying myself with perfume, Edan remarked, “Does Dad know you do that?!” The tone of his questioning insinuated that this wasn’t something Edric would like. (I wasn’t going to see Edric for a good number of hours so the scent would have mellowed by the time we were together!)

My own skin care routine is very simple but thankfully, Cetaphil has a product for every step of my routine. After washing my face at night, I use Cetaphil’s Moisturizing Cream.

Cetaphil_Products-500x500-7

Since my skin reacts to chemicals and products, this moisturizer calms it down at night and the next day it feels renewed. Due to my mom’s Caucasian genetics, my skin is on the “thin” side so this moisturizer makes it suppler. To protect my skin during the day I use Cetaphil’s Daily Facial Moisturizer with SPF 15.

Cetaphil_Products-500x500-6

During days when my skin is oilier than usual, I will wash with Cetaphil’s Dermacontrol Wash and use Dermacontrol Moisturizer, which also has sunblock in it. There are periods when my face is prone to breakouts so the Dermacontrol line rescues it.


009_CET_Foam_Wash_Bottle1 010_CET_OilControlMoisturizer_Bottle1If I’m at the beach, I need stronger protection, so I pile on Cetaphil’s UVA/UVB SPF 50+. It keeps me from getting burnt since I’m very prone to sun damage (due to, well, once again, being half-caucasian.)

As for my children, especially my youngest daughter, Catalina, Restoraderm has been wonderful. She has very dry skin on her legs and stomach. Restoraderm, which is also prescribed by our pediatrician for our kids’ Eczema, keeps the patchy, scaly spots from spreading to the rest of her body. It smoothens out her skin, too. Titus tends to have pretty bad Eczema when his outbreaks happen. So there are occasions when I will have to use a hydrocortisone cream and then Restoraderm on top. Of course, I’m also careful about what my kids eat which is why we avoid food with MSG, preservatives, and artificial ingredients as much as possible.

cetaphil_10_11

Beyond being talents for Cetaphil’s commercial and the fact that their products do work for our family, the greater blessing for me was experiencing God’s provision. As our Heavenly Father, he knows what we need and when we need it. If He deems it for our good to open His storehouse, he will do so. He delights to take care of us. And if he should allow us to be in uncomfortable financial situations so we learn to trust him and work on our character, then we can still hold on to the truth about His person – He will never leave us or forsake us.

I elected to use the title, “We’ve Never Gone Hungry” in order to communicate a spiritual truth. The Cetaphil commercial was an amazing earthly blessing with positive financial implications, however, when we have Jesus, He satisfies something much greater than our physical needs. In John 6:35, he tells us, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me WILL NOT hunger, and he who believes in Me WILL NEVER thirst.”

I pray that the joy people see in our faces as portrayed on television will highlight something beyond a good product or grand. I pray it will reveal the joy that is in our family because of Jesus! Here’s a behind the scenes look at how much fun we had…

 

 

 

 

 

God Can Make the Most Out of Scrambled Eggs

I still have vivid memories of the evening I met Monique over ten years ago. She waltzed into our bible study, on the invitation of her twin sister, Michelle, with her voluminous hair the perfect complement to her charisma and spirited personality. She opened up to me with honesty, unabashedly talking about the condition and nature of her relationship to John, a married man she was living in with, with whom she had a one year old daughter.

At some point in the evening, there arose in me a strong impression to present to Monique the biblical viewpoint on her relationship. Looking back, there may have been a gentler way to put it. But as a young bible study leader, a rookie at dealing with colorful and complicated counseling situations, I showed her a passage in Scripture that exposed her adultery. I also admonished her to stop living in with John. Monique didn’t defend herself. In fact she sincerely pondered upon the exchange we had. I wasn’t sure if I would see her again after I showed her the bible verses and made that statement about adultery.

However, Monique continued to attend our meetings even while she remained in a relationship with John. On the one hand, she sincerely expressed interest in spiritual matters. Yet she found herself bound to John in a manner that was almost too complex to walk away from overnight. Not only did they share a child and a home, they were business partners. Furthermore, she was friends with John’s wife and acted like a mom to his first child.

In her attempt to find convergence, she brought John to one of the bible studies that Edric was leading. John interpreted this move as a big set-up. He locked himself in the bathroom with his laptop for two hours! Back then, we knew John pretty much disdained us for encouraging Monique to stop sleeping with him.

Not too long after, Monique had a second child with John. With tears she confessed to our bible study group that she was pregnant. Yet the most heartbreaking part was Monique’s discovery of John’s betrayal. He had been cheating on her with multiple women.

In pain and completely lost, Monique finally understood that Jesus Christ was the only one who could save her from her brokenness. The love and security she sought in her relationships with men could not be satiated by anyone except Christ. With complete surrender, she gave her life to the Lord.

As difficult as it was, she moved out of John’s home and committed to guard her sexual purity. It wasn’t a perfect journey but her decision to give up John had a profound impact on her spiritual life.

At the same time, the Lord began to move in John’s heart. Tired of his lifestyle and sexual addiction (he professed to have slept with over 50 women), and jolted back to reality when he lost Monique’s trust, John earnestly sought to reform his ways. He told Monique that she shouldn’t be with him because he was a sick person — spiritually and emotionally. Monique’s response to him was you need to seek Jesus.

As Monique took steps to avoid immorality and grow in her faith, she chose to forgive John, which was compelling evidence for her spiritual transformation. Furthermore, she forgave the women whom John cheated on her with. As a result, John chose to give his life to Jesus Christ, surrendering to His grace. He began growing spiritually in a discipleship group with other men under Roli Sabado.

Eventually, John also started coming to our bible studies faithfully. A genuine desire to grow in his faith marked his conversion. There were a lot of periphery issues that both he and Monique had to sort through but God plucked ungodly behaviors, attitudes, and perspectives out of them like straight pins being pulled off a pin cushion. Then he filled the holes with renewed thinking and the pursuit of holiness and wholeness in Christ.

However, the reality of their scrambled egg situation remained. At this point, John and his first wife were annulled and she was in a serious relationship with another man whom she intended to marry. He had two kids with Monique but he wasn’t married to her, and they couldn’t live in together. The most honorable recourse was to marry Monique so they could be a family.

 
We encouraged John and Monique to have a civil marriage first, and shortly after, they had a recommitment ceremony in Boracay. They asked us to be their Ninong and Ninang even if we felt underaged as 31 year olds but it was an honor as they were our “spiritual” children. During this event, Monique invited the women whom John had cheated on! Since she knew them as friends before the affairs happened, she also desired that they come into a relationship with Jesus. I don’t know too many people who would think to do this but Monique didn’t harbor any bitterness towards them. Her greater concern was for their spiritual healing.
 

Serving together in Before and After I Do

Today, John and Monique Ong  actively serve as an integral part of the CCF Family Ministry Team, contributing their expertise as business people in events, photography, and videography. They are homeschooling parents with a brood of five. They also hold weekly community worship services in their company building every Wednesday night. More importantly, their journey to Christ and the broken road that God fixed to get them there is an amazing testimony of His grace.

Some years ago I narrow-mindedly told Monique that there may be limitations to the scope of their ministry. Since John came from an annulled marriage, I thought this would be a contradiction to their desire to help people stay committed to their marriages. However, as I listened to them testify during the Before and After I Do Seminar, I realized my perceptions of their ministry’s reach had put God in a box.

 

The reality is John and Monique represent the truth about all of us. We are lost and scrambled apart from Christ — a mix of wrong choices, worldly thinking and philosophies, weary from the pain, the addictions to sin, the drive for success, money, or fame, burdened by the façades we try to manage and the chasing after the ever-elusive joy and peace that cannot be had apart from Him. John and Monique’s story also tells us that God meets us where we are at, as the messy scrambled eggs that we are, and He wants to make us whole. He CAN make us whole! He has a plan for us that is beyond what we can ever dream or imagine…

“But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY. Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.” (‭1 Peter‬ ‭2‬:‭9-12‬ NASB)

People rarely identify with those who look like perfect eggs which is why John and Monique are especially effective as portraits of God’s love and forgiveness. As John and Monique stood before the crowd with honesty and humility about the mess they used to be, they overflowed with God’s amazing grace. I knew about their faith journey before hearing them talk so openly about it in front of the 800 men and women who attended the seminar. But to recall the people they once were when we met them, and to see the fruit of their lives that day was just WOW! Wow to the God who does the impossible and the inconceivable, who takes a sexual addict and makes him a holy, committed husband…who takes an adulterous woman and makes her honorable, healing her broken heart, and making her more beautiful inside and out!

No life, no scrambled egg is beyond the reach or redeeming power of God’s grace. When we receive His forgiveness and come into a relationship with Him through Jesus, His Son, repenting from our sins and surrendering ourselves to Him, He gives us a new beginning. We receive peace and joy in the present, hope for the future, and a story to tell about our past that brings glory to His name.

 

“Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits; Who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases; Who redeems your life from the pit, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion; He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.”(‭Psalms‬ ‭103‬:‭2-4, 10-12‬ NASB)

Tomorrow, John and Monique will share their story at our church, CCF, at the 9am and 12 noon services. If you have friends or family who need hope and encouragement, invite them and come along, too! You will be blessed!

CCF: Frontera Verde, Ortigas avenue corner C5, Pasig City
POST SCRIPT:
Due to the difficult questions that people have asked as a result of this post I am including more details about John and Monique’s situation before they got married.
John filed for annulment as early as 2002 when he didn’t know the Lord. He got denied. He was not a believer then. Yes, there were attempts to restore their marriage. Initially, when they parted ways, John’s wife was in another relationship, so the mother of his wife asked John to help fix the situation. John tried. He even lived in their in laws house to try to make it work. But still the outcome was still the same. John’s wife did not give him any hope of reconciling. She filed for an annulment in 2006. She was pregnant with her present husband’s child. In 2007, John came to the Lord. The court approved his wife’s annulment in March 2008 and she got married in 2009. John and Monique also got married in 2009. 
No matter what is said here, people will still question the decisions made by John and Monique, and even myself for posting this article, and Edric and I for being the couple that mentored them. Re-marriage is such a hotly debated topic and there is no way to avoid reactions to a story like this, and so I understand why I have come under fire for this post.
For those who have thought my words to be ill-chosen and the story to be an example of how divorce and remarriage is okay, that was not my intention. Please forgive me. At the same time, I have seen John and Monique’s lives since the mess they were in. And I know that they have born fruit.
By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” Matthew 7:16 – 20
As I shared, but perhaps not clearly enough, we told them they were in sin from the very beginning. I also expressed that there may be limitations to the scope of their ministry if they get married because of their back ground. However, I can think of so many people in God’s word who didn’t make the best choices even after they already knew the Lord — David? Solomon? Moses? Peter? But we are still blessed by what God has done in their lives. We read about their stories in God’s Word. Do we say to ourselves, let’s copy the bad choices they made and rely on God’s grace after? I hope not!
Did David, Solomon, Moses, and Peter end well despite their bad choices? By God’s grace, yes. Sure, they should have done a lot of things better. John and Monique could’ve done a lot of things better, too. I could have done a lot of things better in my own life as well. And I’m still a work in progress.
This post isn’t about saying copy John and Monique’s wrong choices because they are turning out okay. But to say that John and Monique’s lives should NOT be used as an example of grace just because John was a divorcee and Monique used to live in with him…Shouldn’t the focus be the fruit that they are bearing now despite where they came from? Isn’t that a story that God can use to encourage those who have made their own set of bad choices verses being interpreted as a story that gives us license to make bad choices?
Nevertheless…I will be more careful in the future when I publish posts because this is a very public site and I need to be very discerning about the content I write about. And I praise God that this is a blog where clarifications and apologies can be made, and people can give their honest opinions, too. So thank you to my readers who have called out the inconsistencies and voiced their convictions. It’s very humbling to come under fire like this (and discouraging. sigh.) but I will gladly accept the criticism because writing on this site is a big responsibility and God wants me to be accountable. I shouldn’t take it lightly or ignore opinions when they are very valid. So thank you to the brave ones who commented and corrected me! And I now I’m going to move on to write other posts. You may continue the dialoguing among yourselves of course but I will now excuse myself from the commenting back and forth. :)

More Painful Than A Spanking

Since Elijah and Edan are way past the age when spanking is applicable or effective, namely between the ages of 1 and 6 years old, they are disciplined using withdrawal of privileges or natural logical consequences. Discipline and discipleship continues in our home, taking on different forms as our children grow up.

IMG_0010

For someone like Elijah who has access to an IPad (that he paid for), a painful consequence is getting it confiscated. I had to do this a few days ago because he exhibited a negative attitude about finishing his social studies work. Normally, he is a cheery person who pretty much educates himself. But that morning he was mumbling and grumbling about the writing work he was tasked to complete. After warning him that his attitude was not acceptable and he still kept at it, I informed him that he was banned from using his IPad. With the exeption of writing assignments and until he got his homeschool work done in Social Studies and Bible, he wasn’t allowed to use his IPad for entertainment purposes. He wasn’t happy about my disciplinary action and began to tear but he did say, “Thank you mom for motivating me to push myself. Since I can’t use my IPad, I want to finish my work so I can get it back.” Awww…By God’s grace, he is still such a sweet son!

As a mom, I know when my kids are burdened by their homeschool studies because the content is beyond their capacity and when they are acting up because they don’t want to put in the effort to get a task done. This situation with Elijah was about the latter. When his IPad was confiscated, he told me that getting this privilege withdrawed is more painful than a spanking!

On other occasions we let our kids reap what they sow. For example, one afternoon the kids left their basketball in our church building. I didn’t go back and get it even though I could have. In the meantime, they were short one ball for their class and they felt badly about it. A few days later, they had to ask the guard of the floor they lost it on, and coordinate with him about who saw it last. It took them three days before they recovered their ball. Moving forwrad, I’m pretty sure they will be more responsible about it since they were inconvenienced to retrieve it.

Edric and I are committed to disciplining and discipling our kids, weeding out heart attitudes and perspectives that stand in the way of their emotional and spiritual maturity. But it takes faithfulness and a lot of wisdom — wisdom to discern what works for a particular situation or problem. Therefore we pray to the Lord for his insight and discernment. Our knowledge is limited and our understanding of what’s going on in their hearts isn’t always accurate. So we need the Lord to instruct us. The wisdom to address our children’s character weaknesses comes from him.

I like the reminder that Galatians 6 gives…”Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself…” (Galatians 6:1-3 NASB)

Based on the text above, here are some guidelines for correcting our children:

“You who are spiritual…” If we desire to see spiritual fruit in our kids, we need to be spiritual ourselves! We need to walk intimately with Lord. Often times the best way to apply this is to pray when our children act and behave in ways that are frustrating and upsetting. Instead of reacting right away, we can pray for the words to speak and the wisdom to deal with the problem.

“Restore such a one…The goal is restoration — to restore our children to a rightful disposition before the Lord. When my kids aren’t motivated to homeschool; if they deal with one another unkindly; speak to me disrespectfully or resist submitting to my authority, I try to remember that this isn’t about forcing my children to do what I want them to. This is about recalibrating the compass of their hearts so it’s pointing in the direction of Christ. A helpful question to ask them is, “Do you think what you are doing is pleasing to the Lord?” Or, “I know you love the Lord and don’t want to continue acting this way.” The focus is on their spiritual condition and teaching them to please God.

“In a spirit of gentleness.” Correction must be done in a spirit of gentleness, never in anger or we will cause our children to stumble and push their hearts away from us (and the Lord). This is tough one! It’s challenging to be patient!  “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1) Losing our temper and displaying our irritation with our kids is counterproductive. It doesn’t encourage them to change, it incites their anger and wounds them deeply. We can be gentle when we remember the previous two points – spiritual parents are spirit filled and their goal is to restore their children to a rightful disposition before the Lord.

“…Each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.”  We are just as susceptible to wrong choices and bad attitudes. To avoid falling into temptation ourselves, let us instruct our children with the perspective that, “I’m not perfect. I have areas I have to work on in my own life. I need to keep improving too.” Deuteronomy cautions parents by saying, “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” (Deuteronomy 4:9) Sometimes, we can be guilty of the same things we are trying to correct in our kids, so let’s be careful to mind our own walk before we talk. Let’s examine our own hearts for character weaknesses that we need to change.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” We have a spiritual responsibility to help our children grow in Christ-likeness. Our goal is to present them as adults who love and obey Him with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. Do our children know that this is our goal? Do they know we are committed to helping them pursue this goal, that we are here for them when they fail and mess up…that we will bear their burdens with them?

“For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself…” If we think we are better or spiritually superior to our kids, we are greatly mistaken. God has given us His grace. We need to dispense the same grace to our kids as we instruct, train, and discipline them.

Here’s a comforting promise for all of us parents if we are faithful to do so…“Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart.” (Proverbs 29:17)

 

 

How Can I Forgive?

A few days ago I received an email with just one question on it. “How can I forgive?” It was a great question to be asked and I have written a lengthy response in this post which I hope will benefit those who may struggle with the same challenge — forgiving those who have wounded us.Sun Feb 01 2015 01-31-08 GMT 0800More than any other relationship I have, marriage has been the context for some of my greatest forgiveness “challenges.” I suppose this is because I am most vulnerable to Edric. I love him so much that I hurt worst when he makes choices or speaks in ways that are unloving. He has said the same about me. Both of us are prone to selfishness and pride. Sometimes it isn’t big offenses but the little ones, piled up together over time that are injurious — the ones that need to be forgiven over and over again.

(Early years of marriage. We look like kids!)

Last month was a particularly rough time for us. Edric was very busy and caught up with work and responsibilities. He was easily irritated with me when I didn’t meet his “standards” for wifely duties or running our home. Normally, he is gracious and looks past my inefficiencies, choosing to highlight the positive. But since his spirit was unsettled by concerns over our finances and business decisions, he was easily jostled by things I would say and do that inconvenienced him.

My problem was I put up my own version of selfishness. When he was abrasive towards me, I retaliated with my magic force field, the one that placed a safe, emotional distance between us so I would not get hurt. My methods were things like curt, unaffectionate replies, silence, retreating to my hobbies and the children, and communicating disinterest in physical intimacy.

Edric recognized my methods as feminine forms of hostility and he felt like I wasn’t supportive of him. In fact he expressed this by saying, “It’s like you only love me when I am okay, when I am lovable. But you won’t cut me slack for my reactions when you know that I am struggling with an issue.” I have paraphrased what he said but that was the essence.

His statements were justifiable. Of course, I do love him. But the reality is I intended my responses to manipulate and pressure him. I forced upon him the expectation that he should ALWAYS be a spiritual leader, that he should be better than this, that he should pull himself together. I bailed out on him emotionally when I should have applied extra grace to attend to him, minister to him, and encourage him.

One of the things I appreciate about Edric is he won’t let us spiral downward. He will take action and drop every activity to make sure our marriage is where it ought to be — with Jesus Christ at its center. And that’s exactly what happened. First, he spent time in God’s Word to renew his spirit, and then he approached me, requesting that we discuss the state of our marriage and how to improve it.

Naturally, forgiveness was part of this interchange. I was blessed by Edric’s humility as he asked for my forgiveness. It convicted me to do the same. And then we made proposals on how to avoid falling into the same predicament.

This scene has been repeated many times in our marriage. We often come to a point where we must give forgiveness and receive it. There’s no way to move forward in our marriage if we don’t do so.

In John Piper’s book, This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence, he writes “Before a man and woman can live out the unique roles of headship and submission in a biblical and gracious way, they must experience what it means to build their lives on the vertical experience of God’s forgiveness and justification and promised help, and then bend it out horizontally to their spouse.” (Pg.44)

I like how he puts it. In marriage, we need to vertically experience God’s forgiveness, justification and help before we can bend these out horizontally towards our spouse. This actually makes the shape of a cross!

This past month I was tired of trying to be a “good wife.” I wanted a break. My focus was on myself and my capacities. However I was reminded that looking at myself can never be the answer. Apart from Christ, I am definitely NOT a good wife. “As it is written, ‘THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE.'” (Romans 3:10-12 NASB)

Whether in the context of marriage or outside of it, the answer to the question how we can forgive is this: we can forgive because God first forgave us. Forgiveness is not a response to the degree of the offense so much as it is an acknowledgement of God’s forgiveness and mercy to us, then flowing that forgiveness and mercy outward, to others. Until we understand this it’s hard to forgive, especially when the offenses are serious and deeply painful.       (A few years after the rape)

Many of you who have followed this blog already know that I was once upon a time a victim of rape. Unlike a marriage where two people are of the same mind to repair it and right the wrongs suffered in it, there are forgiveness situations in life that do not involve the offending party apologizing for their sins against us. Instead we are left at a junction where we must make the choice to forgive regardless of whether the other person is sorry or not.

I knew that my rapists and abusers would not offer me their repentance. It is the same way for many of us who are betrayed, taken advantage of, deceived, or physically harmed by others. The likelihood of these persons returning to us in order to ask for an apology is slim to nil. To bank on this happening as the prerequisite to extending forgiveness only makes us a slave to a timetable of uncertainty.

Can we hope and pray that they will one day apologize, expressing deep remorse? Sure. But what are we going to do in the meantime? What is within our control?

What helped me make the choice to forgive was recognizing that I too was guilty, not of the same crimes committed against me, but of the same sinful disposition before God. Yet, God sent His Son to die for me. The Bible tells us “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”(Romans 5:8 NIV)

It also says, “In Him (Christ) we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us…” (Ephesians 1:7-8 NASB)

If God forgave me by giving his own Son to die for me, who was I not to forgive the hurt done against me? In Ephesians 4:32 it says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Therefore, I could take the same forgiveness bestowed upon me through Christ and turn it into the kindness and compassion needed to bestow the same forgiveness towards my offenders.

It’s hard to explain without sounding like a deranged person but my heart felt a miraculous compassion for my offenders when I realized that I was no better than they were before God. Anything that was righteous in me was due to Jesus Christ. However way I esteemed myself as better than they were wasn’t due to my own goodness. So I couldn’t elevate myself and think I was holier for not being a rapist, a murderer, a thief, an adulterer, etc.

I could understand the darkness that was in their hearts and how it held them captive to do what was wicked and ungodly. So this compassion I am referring to was about wanting them to come to know Jesus Christ. Why? So their lives could be transformed. So they would stop hurting others the way they hurt me. Just like them, I was once lost and dead in my sins until Jesus Christ saved me.

Ephesians 2:3-5 explains this very clearly. “Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)…”

We can punish people for the bad things they do to us by imposing external consequences like withholding forgiveness as a form of revenge, but this is a superficial fix to the real problem. First, people need Jesus Christ. Second, our unforgiveness is not the best form of justice if that is what we seek.

What do we hope to accomplish by clinging to unforgiveness? Is it to satisfy our sense of fairness? “You hurt me so I am not going to let you off that easily.” Or, “I want you to feel what it is like to be me.” Or, “I want you to pay for your sins before I forgive you.” We can require emotional or physical payment for the offenses done against us. But what if the persons we impose these upon are never reformed and never truly sorry for their crimes and wrong choices? Who is to know what the truthful condition of their hearts is in regards to repentance? The answer is we can’t guarantee either. This falls under the scope of God’s power and omniscience.

We need to consider, “Does UNforgiveness cause an offender to wake up to the reality of his or her wrong?” “Does UNforgiveness inspire them to pursue lasting change?” While our outcry for justice may demand penitence, might I suggest that we consider the ONE who has the power to effect change in the heart of a sinner and the capacity to execute real justice if the same sinner remains unrepentant.

“…Vindicate me, O LORD, according to my righteousness and my integrity that is in me. O let the evil of the wicked come to an end, but establish the righteous; For the righteous God tries the hearts and minds. My shield is with God, Who saves the upright in heart. God is a righteous judge, And a God who has indignation every day. If a man does not repent, He will sharpen His sword; He has bent His bow and made it ready…” (Psalms 7:8-12 NASB)

When several of my rapists were caught and put in jail, that was a good thing. Criminals need to be jailed to protect others from being victimized. But long before this happened, I chose to forgive them for what they did to me. I did my part to meet with the police and identify the gang members as best as I could, but if they were not caught, I believed God would deal with them. As for me, I didn’t want to remain a victim twice over — first as one who lost her innocence and virginity to cruel men, and second, as one who was defiled by her own bitterness.

Bitterness is so carcinogenic to the soul. “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” (Hebrews 12:15 NIV)

I recall attending a woman’s conference where the speaker talked about the characteristics of bitter people. They are like a cup of perpetually hot coffee, filled to the brim. Any circumstance, even the smallest ones cause a spill that hurts! No one likes to be around people like this! I’ve caught myself on several occasions “spilling” over with irritation towards my children when Edric and I have unresolved conflicts. My frustration and anger get channeled towards my kids. So the sooner I address what’s going on inside and arrest the anger, the quicker I can halt the defiling overspill.

When the root is bitterness, imagine what the fruit might be. Woodrow Kroll

I am not trying to make pain simplistic. Some of us have been through major trauma due to people’s betrayal, physical injury, thievery, immorality, etc. But I have also seen two sides of the same coin. I have been around people who refuse to forgive and observed how it aged them, turned them ugly, and paralyzed them from true healing. And I have been around people who have chosen to forgive the most hateful persons, people who deserved no less than total unforgiveness for their crimes and sins. Yet, the forgiveness extended transformed the hurting person into someone more beautiful inside and out. Furthermore, the choice to forgive advanced them towards healing. In the process of surrendering their anger, their hearts were opened up to love others. In certain instances, God allowed this grace-extended to cause repentance and change in the life of the offender, too (although this isn’t always the case).

Bitterness and love cannot be neighbors in our hearts. They cannot co-exist without fighting for occupancy of the entire space. We either let love win or bitterness will take over.  To say we can reserve a spot of anger for certain people or circumstances and still define ourselves as loving persons is to misunderstand the deceptiveness of anger. Sooner or later anger will conquer more ground and ease love out. Forgiveness, however, extracts the bitterness and makes room for love. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 gives a definition of love, which includes a part that says, “love does not take into account a wrong suffered.”

What if an offense is repeated over and over again? Whenever Edric and I resolve our disputes, choosing to forgive one another and release the anger, we always hope that the same situations won’t happen again. But we don’t extend forgiveness by coupling it with an ultimatum that says, “You better not repeat the same mistake!”

After all, who can really make this demand without setting themselves up for greater hurt? We can’t control people’s mistakes, past, present, or future. We can’t control how remorseful they should be either. These are demands that make us more vulnerable to disappointment when we put conditions on forgiveness.

On the one hand, forgiveness is a decision “not to count one’s trespasses against us” as 1 Corinthians 13 puts it. It is extended in reference to a known offense. On the other hand, it is a state of being that extends forward, too. I have forgiven you and I will forgive you. It’s not saying I condone your sin or approve of your wrong choices. This isn’t about giving someone the license to keep hurting us either. (If a person is being battered or abused, they need to find a way to physically remove themselves from that situation and go somewhere safe or get help from someone who can effectively intervene.)

However, we can keep on forgiving because God continues to do so for us.

“For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You.” (Psalms 86:5 NASB)

In summary…

  1. Forgiveness is possible because of what God has done for us. It is not contingent upon the degree of the offense done towards us or whether the offender asks for our forgiveness.
  1. The kindness and compassion to forgive comes when we recognize that ALL people, including ourselves, are lost in the darkness of sin apart from Jesus Christ.
  1. The option to withhold forgiveness does not accomplish the heart transformation of the offender or the justice we seek. Only God can cause a person to repent wholeheartedly and deal with someone who is unrepentant.
  1. Forgiveness liberates us from the bitterness which defiles us and those around us. We cannot say we are loving if we harbor resentment and anger – there is no room for both in our hearts.
  1. We can keep on forgiving just as God continues to offer his forgiveness to us.

In closing, let me end with a passage of Scripture that puts everything into perspective, and it centers around the personhood of Jesus Christ – what He went through for our sakes, His response to offenses done against him, how He surrendered Himself to God the Father, and what His death and resurrection accomplished for us.

For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. (1 Peter 2:21-24 NASB)

NOTE: If you are one who needs to ask for forgiveness, consider reading The Five Languages of Apology by authors Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas which explains that apologizing involves five aspects: expressing regret, accepting responsibility, making restitution, genuinely repenting, and requesting forgiveness.