Marriage and the Love Between a Man and a Woman

RinaPeru's photo

It’s Bro. Edu Cortez’s fault, that very talented photographer behind the lens of Extreme Details Photography – glory to God! He posts these beautiful photos of brides and their grooms, their poses and bodies speak of a language only a man and a woman so in-love with each other know and understand. These evoke exquisite emotions that are not commonly felt – well, not by a wife in her mid-forties like me :)! But, alas! The hopeless romantic in me succumbs to wonderful thoughts about love stirred up by these prenup and wedding photos.

They definitely make me think about the love that captures a man and a woman and brings them to a place where they could give of themselves to each other – in mind, in spirit, in heart, in body – in the sanctity of marriage. It is almost magical; a spellbinding process that is beyond their control.

I can’t help but think about Jacob and Rachel. Jacob, upon seeing Rachel for the first time, wept. Could it be that the rush of emotions was like an avalanche washing over him he just couldn’t express it in words he chose to weep? A love so powerful it seized him in an instant and spurred him to kiss that beautiful young woman who had just captured his heart? The Bible tells that he “lifted up his voice and wept”. I imagine that there were actually no words that came out of his lips but maybe only a pained cry, the soul’s expression of an emotion so strong and wanting to be released. Doesn’t love do that? It moves you so much it hurts?

Without a doubt, the love between a man and a woman is beautiful because it was from God and created by Him. It was part of His design of things from the time of Adam and Eve. And though disobedience drove the very first couple out of Eden, God did not take back the gift of love that He had given them in the beginning. And so, it is what we know and have to this day.

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Man and woman were created for each other. They are bound by love that makes pure, sanctifies, and not defiles – only in marriage. “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4). The man honors the woman by giving himself to her in marriage, while the woman honors him by submitting to him. The husband is commanded to love his wife as Christ loves the Church (Eph. 5:25). The love of Christ sanctifies, nurtures, endures. It is a love that serves and suffers long.

So when I see a groom holding his bride with much love, care, and admiration, I am in awe of this wonder that God has given His creation.

I have been blessed with a faithful husband whose love holds in sickness and in health, in trials and in triumph. Often, the problem with couples, especially those who are still young, is that they are so idealistic. They look at other couples or spouses and compare. That’s where discontent, criticisms, complaints, fault-finding, and strife come in.

A year after our wedding, I experienced all these things with other marital problems. That’s why soon after, our marriage broke apart. (To read more of our testimony, click here).

When we received the Lord Jesus Christ and He restored our marriage and family, there were still problems and challenges we faced as husband and wife. But our Savior’s mercy and grace held us and taught us.

The world teaches women to be independent and self-sufficient, even to be independent (or defiant) from their husbands, thanks to the feminist movement. But this is in direct disobedience and rebellion against God’s commandment.

Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives [submit] to their own husbands in everything(Eph. 5:24)

For those who live and walk in the Spirit, we know that there is actually liberty in obeying God’s Word to submit to our husbands. Going into the marriage with reservations and holding back ourselves, and striving against our husbands could actually be a prison that we make for ourselves. When we willingly release ourselves in submission to our husbands, we usher in God’s approval, and hence, His favor, and everything flows easier.

This kind of submission doesn’t mean we must lose our voice. It means we honor our husbands by listening to them, respecting their decisions, opinions, and views, be led by them, and not usurp their authority.

This is God’s grand design for marriage.

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Journey with Jesus,

rina

Faith that Works Through Love

Every time I read something about the Rapture, the Great Tribulation, and the imminent coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (like the book I’m reading now, Maranatha: Our Lord, Come) or hear news that a brother or sister in Christ has gone to be with the Lord, I have this instinctive desire to do more for Christ and it’s basically triggered by fear. But always instantaneously with the thought are these questions, “Why would you want to do that? You want to make sure that you will be saved? You want to do more just so you will be assured of salvation?” And even before the questions are complete, I know that to even think to do more to make sure I receive God’s promised salvation is misunderstanding God’s grace altogether.

I know there’s no way I can work for and earn my salvation; the Lord Jesus has completed the work for me. So, that checked, how can these reminders minister to me? It is not to do more to make sure I will be saved, but to be more faithful to my Savior, to burrow myself deeper into Him. For it is my faith which keeps me attached to Him. For to be far from Him, let alone be cut off from Him, would spell death for me. For it is faith in Him that has saved me. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31).

So, what I can do is to prove my faithfulness to Him. When I seek Him more with all my heart and spend more time in His presence, I’m being faithful to Him. When I do my best to obey His commands, honor them, and live them out in my daily life, I’m being faithful to Him. When I desire Him to expand and grow my love for others, so that I delight to think about the welfare of the widow and the fatherless, to the “least of these”, and do something for them, I’m being faithful to Him.

It is my faithfulness to Him that drives me to do more, and it has become clear to me that I can only prove that faithfulness through my love.

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love(Gal. 5:6, emphasis added)

Faith that works through love.

It took two full years before I got a good grasp of it. For faith without works is dead (James 2:20). And the greatest faith is rendered as nothing without love.

…if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. (1 Cor. 13:2)

So, it is a trio:

FAITH that WORKS through LOVE.

Now I understand fully why our dearly beloved Hon. Pastor Wilde Almeda would want to leave the comforts of home and the congregation of the saints and enter into the “lions’ den”, the camp of the most feared terrorist group in the country, the Abu Sayyaf, to preach the Gospel, pray for the sick hostages, and help with their safe release.

It was great FAITH that WORKED through unfeigned LOVE; fearless faith proven through fervent love for the Lord and for the unsaved. He loves the Lord so much he would obey Him and follow Him to the ends of the earth. Halleluiah! To God be the glory!

And I think about beloved Brother Alvin Flores, one of the prayer warriors who went with the beloved pastor in that most dangerous peace mission, as he went to be with the Lord just three nights ago. Together with his companions, he experienced the horrors of being in the constant presence of the enemy; escaped at night without the light of the moon and stars, in danger of wild beasts and falling into deep ravines; stayed on the ground with his knees deeply rooted in prayer as bombs fell from military planes, cutting down trees and turning over the earth in their wake.

Their faith saw them through that 3-month ordeal and came out of it unharmed. Faith that was not without love. And it is this faith that was proven through love that Brother Alvin finally laid at his Savior’s feet as he saw Him at last.

Related posts:

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My gratitude list ~ the things I am thankful to the Lord for:

(For over a year now, I have been joining Ann in sharing my one thousand gifts list, but I haven’t been numbering mine. I believed that my weekly list was just a small fraction of God’s daily gifts and to number them would be putting a limit to the rather COUNTLESS blessings. But today, I will start to number them, but write only the ones that may edify and encourage others, leaving the rest written on my heart).
  1. For another evening out with the family (another “travel test”); relishing these healing moments from the Lord.
  2. For the loving support and patience of my beloved husband; he is one with me in stepping into faith at this time of our life.
  3. For the love of my daughter Hannah, quietly receiving her little brother’s hostilities and punches inside our parked car just so I wouldn’t be stressed while their dad went into the restaurant.
  4. For Tim always wanting to sit beside me when I go out to the garden.
  5. For Thursday night which found me praising, worshiping, and weeping before God; weeping in deep gratitude for His enduring mercies – how can the soul forget?
  6. For brethren welcoming fellow Christians from the states, embracing and showing brotherly love. Blessed to see the wondrous sight!
I’m linking up with other blogs, please check the list at the side bar.

Journey with Jesus,

The Practice of Love

The kids and I gather together this evening. I had been desiring for our family to have a gathering in the evenings to read the Bible, talk about what we have read, each give thanks for the day, then pray. But I know that my beloved husband can’t be easily invited to such. He sings praises, worships and prays every night for more or less two hours. Gathering with the family for the purposes I have mentioned is a thing he’d rather not join. This saddens me but I was determined to start with our two kids.

Hannah and I have been meeting to read the Bible and discuss, but this time, we include soon-to-be five-year-old Tim for he also needs a lot of teaching and praying over.

Lately, I have been thinking deeply on how to honour God more in my life. I felt that there must be something more to all the things that I do, something that is wrought by the Lord in and through me. I know that I lack and I err and I fail to follow through all that He wants me to  be and to do.

So the three of us gather together, forming a small circle (I don’t want any of the Lord’s words to fall to the ground). We talk about love. I point out to them that we are not loving the way the Lord Jesus wants us to. I tell them that sometimes we choose to be impatient, unkind, ungentle to one another. I point to myself. Why do I let myself speak harshly at times and snap rather than pay attention? Why can’t I completely rein in my temper and just be known for my gentleness? Why can’t I stop myself from answering back their dad when I am hurt? Why can’t I just take the pain and keep quiet? Most often, it’s my pride that gets hurt. So then, why can’t I just kill my pride? Didn’t the Lord tell us to pluck out our eye or cut off our hand if these make us sin? To have a meek and quiet spirit is still my earnest prayer.

“If I am not known for my gentleness, what am I known for? What are we known for?” I ask them, voice cracking. Why would you shove your brother to the side? I am looking intently at Hannah. Why can’t we love just like the Lord loves? Tears find their way out.

“We can’t stay like this”, I tell them. But I also tell them that I’m thankful I’m hurt and broken this way, for that means I’m not numb to God and His commandments. For if one has become numb and unmindful of God and what He thinks, one has become barren, spiritually dead. I am thankful for His tuggings at my heart for I know I am fully feeling, knowing, seeing. I am fully awake! The tears flow freely.

And I tell them more, like the Lord’s commandment (well, more like an urgent plea) to His disciples before He was taken to be crucified.

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (John 13:34-35, emphasis added)

We will be known as the Lord’s disciples by the way we love  one another.

“Can we begin to practise love, really, intentionally practise love everyday starting today? Just like how the Lord loves us?” I ask them. The Lord is not harsh nor unkind nor shoves nor shouts at us. Hannah nods sincerely.

I hold Tim’s face. His still-baby skin feels so soft in my hand. I tell him about loving by showing respect. I tell him what is love and what is not. I explain, I implore, and I am held in awe by how his beautiful eyes grow bigger and rounder. His eyes have opened and rounded to the full and I am amazed at the beauty of the faith of a child. If only we could easily open our eyes that big and round and fix them to Jesus, just like little children do. 

Maybe then we would not miss anything. Maybe then we could practise love everyday, even every moment.

We end with prayer. I pray and reach and cry out to God. I offer up our lives; we are His. For only in His light do our uglinesses vanish and we are changed. And we love Him so, with all our hearts, minds, and souls. Copious tears keep streaming down. We have been touched.

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A Heart Check

(Meditating on Psalm 81)

Sing aloud to God our strength;
Make a joyful shout to the God of Jacob.
Raise a song and strike the timbrel,
The pleasant harp with the lute. 

For this is a statute for Israel,
A law of the God of Jacob. 
(Psalm 81:1,2,4)

This, also, is the statute of our Church: to sing praises and worship God not only during worship service when the congregation gathers, but also in our own homes, in the morning and in the evening. Those who do this fervently with a willing spirit are blessed beyond their hearts’ desires, specially with a stronger faith in God.

But there are those who neglect to praise and worship and their focus was diverted to the things of the world: agendas, schedules, plans, and passions with other things like careers, hobbies, and other pursuits that may veer one away from deep communion with God. The more time spent with our pursuits, the less time we give in seeking God. Even in the time of private praise and worship, one may not be spiritually present; one’s mind and heart may be upon the to-do lists, or other exciting projects that await.

When our affections and passions (am I being redundant?) are diverted from the living God to the things of this world, aren’t we loving, adoring, and worshiping them instead? Isn’t this a form of idolatry? God admonished His people Israel:

There shall be no foreign god among you;
Nor shall you worship any foreign god. 
(v. 9)

I’ve heard testimonies in Church that they got so engrossed with work or flourishing businesses that they began to neglect to praise and worship God with all their beings. They had forsaken the Spirit’s admonition. They could no longer listen to Him for their hearts had been captured by their passions or given away to their work’s demands. Until one day, they found they no longer walked in the presence of the Lord. The Holy Spirit had left.

But My people would not heed My voice,
And Israel would have none of Me.
12 So I gave them over to their own stubborn heart,
To walk in their own counsels.
 (vv. 11-12, emphasis added)

To be given up by God is a most dreadful thing to happen.

Where do are our affections lie? Do we praise God with our lips but our hearts are far from Him? Do we worship in vain? Or do we delight in Him more than anything in this world? It is good to always have a heart check.

Cause Your Face to Shine

(Meditating on Psalm 80)

I sit in front of my laptop, not really knowing what to write for Journey Through the Psalms Friday. I had planned to write about how the Lord Jesus had shown His marvellous light to the youth who had come to the Jesus Miracle Youth Crusade Freedom Concert with so much expectations in their hearts. They had heeded the call and humbly come, hundreds of them. And the Lord Jesus did not fail them. Yes, gloriously He shone forth to the hearts and souls of these young people and filled them with His love, forgiveness, and Spirit. He filled me, too.

I wanted to write about all that, but today, the Spirit seemed to be leading me to a different path. Just a few hours ago, I felt so weary and my spirit was down. Husband and kids had gone to the Planetarium and Robot Zoo, a trip which I planned, and as usual, I was home alone with the maid. I baked chocolate cookies but they didn’t come out as expected. I just wanted to cry, not just because I was left alone neither because the flourless cookies turned out to be one messy, sticky heap. I know it is something more.

Restore us, O God;
Cause Your face to shine,
And we shall be saved! (Psalm 80:3)

I had thought the straying youth needed this – for God to shine on them so that they will be saved. But I realized that I needed Him to shine on me just as much as the youth did. I had been wanting and earnestly working to be freed from all personal desires and wants and dreams and plans – to die to all these – and just desire God and what He wants for my life. I need His love to complete what’s lacking in me, specifically my love. Without Him expanding, deepening, growing my love, I am just a miserable woman fighting her own daily battles and barely winning.

Return, we beseech You, O God of hosts;
Look down from heaven and see,
And visit this vine. (v. 14)

They arrive. The kids run to me saying, “Thank you, Mom”. Then I know what’s filling my soul with sadness: I just want to let my life be a pleasing offering to God who gave me everything I own. I just want to let go of all the thoughts about self – unrealized dreams, unwell body – and be an unwavering light to these young people; show and give them Christ by how I live Him.

Cause your face to shine on thine servant, O God! Strip me off of all that offend and clothe me with thine righteousness and kindness.

The tears fall. I hope that I have touched heaven’s throne of grace.

When Obedience and Zeal Go Together

A few years ago, I dreamed of putting up a house of worship in my hometown in the province. At that time, I had been through a lot: prolonged illness and suffering, partial healing, pregnancy, postnatal illness and suffering, but to serve God was foremost in my heart. I could have died when I delivered my son, considering that I wasn’t well. But He made me live and I wanted to give back to Him.

So we bought a lot at the outskirts of the town. It was along the highway and on the other side was the great river that flowed deep and quiet. After just a few months, a single-storey house was erected. There was ample yard left where a tent could be put up if worshipers overflowed.  Some workers from another town would come every Saturday to hold a Bible Study. They also visited some homes bringing the true Gospel of salvation. But their small group didn’t flourish. The preacher who visited every Saturday died and the Bible Study was discontinued.

I had thought that the one who took his place would continue the weekly visit to our town. But that was our (my husband’s and mine) mistake, not following it through closely. For since then, the place has become desolate, except for my beloved mother who would bring someone to cut the grass that had grown tall and thick.

We wanted to obey God wherever He led us to, but I now realized that we should have also prayed hard for our hearts to be ripe and ready, to be steeped with God’s zeal.

So, there was negligence on our part and it really pains me now to think about it. One of the reasons was I became very ill in early-2010 near unto death and spent most of the rest of that year recovering and hoping for God’s mercy yet again.

I had been unceasingly praying for the salvation of my loved ones and the people of our old town, but the Lord made me realize that even my prayers lacked urgency. For if they would have been frantic and more fervent, these would have driven me to act without delay. It saddens me now to think that I had waited for almost 2 years before preparing this letter requesting for workers to visit our town and resume the weekly Bible Study there.

But I’m ever grateful to the Lord that He completes whatever is lacking in us, like our love and fervency. He supplies them, the desires of our hearts, and alerts us so we could hear His voice and prods us into action to accomplish His plans and purposes. He is faithful to remind us that the harvest is ripe; our hearts are ready to dive into serving Him without reservations. I believe this is the fruit of my abandoned prayer and worship I offered not too long ago. I wrote this in my journal just after that private worship filled with the presence of the Lord:

I sing at the edge of the bed. I sing, though my breathing is short, breaking the lyrics into divided words and phrases with pauses. For my hunger to get well to be able to travel must not be greater than my hunger for Him. Just for Him.

And when I feel His sweet, comforting presence gently descending upon me, and the tears start to roll – I know there’s nothing in this world that could taste better, feel more wonderful, than His love. I want it most.

And in His presence, in His love – every desire, every dream for self, fades into the background. 

When we earnestly pray and truly surrender our lives to God, abandoning all fears, doubts, and reservations, and denying our own wants and dreams – He will put His desires in our hearts. His desires will become ours and we are able to do those which He has planned and purposed for our lives. Our obedience and service to Him then bear fruits.

For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. (Phil. 2:13)

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Working Out Our Most Important Relationship

When I read that part where the Apostle Paul told the Philippians to “work out [their] own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12), I didn’t really understand then what it entailed. I didn’t know how to do it in a deep sense, in a very personal level. I heard a preacher in our Church exhort about it in general terms, likening our salvation with that of a precious gift, and doing our very best to hold on to it, to not let it be snatched away by the enemy. I understood that we should not be complacent but always be watchful.

Then I read what Ms. Darlene Zschech had briefly written (I think on the back of one of her CDs?), “Just work out your relationship with Jesus.” It stuck with me. For that was at a time when I was struggling to understand what was happening with my life, straining to see the light amidst the fiery trials. When you’re tested to the uttermost, you want to have at least an understanding of what is happening, where your life is leading to, if God is even with you.

Working out our own salvation as Apostle Paul implores us means as much as working out our relationship with our Redeemer. It is synonymous. When we received our salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, we entered into a relationship with Him. Our salvation then can never be apart from our relationship with Him. When we work out our relationship with our Savior King, we are working out our own salvation. (Even the quality of our other relationships is determined by how healthy or poor our relationship with the Lord Jesus is).

Why is there a need? I believe all of us who received the Lord Jesus and His salvation have experienced the struggle to maintain a fervent, faithful, and trusting relationship with Him in varying degrees. This struggle is most felt during a hard and prolonged trial. In my case, it was a combination of physical, mental and emotional suffering compounded with problems and challenges in our company and household, spelling out a F-I-E-R-Y | T-R-I-A-L no less.

During that long chilly season, my relationship with my Savior was one which ebbed and flowed, now and then marred with doubts and fears, and threatened by feelings of sullenness, discontent, disheartenment, bitterness, and a few times, even silent rebellion. It was like you want to confront the One who has control of it all and know why. Why? You just want to know why.

It was during this time that I got so intimately acquainted with Job. Talk about being kindred spirits by going through physical suffering and the mental and emotional anguish it brought. Oh friends, I know how it was to live between life and death everyday. Job wanted a confrontation with God so much; He longed to understand the meaning behind all his suffering. Oh, how I had echoed Job’s laments!

There were times that I wanted to go far away from Him just to let Him know that I was hurt by His seeming indifference. Yes, I had struggled with my relationship with my Redeemer King: sulking and having a pity party one minute, then running to His arms the next. There was battle of wills: His and mine. Why doesn’t the Lord just heal me so I can continue to manage our company seeing my husband grapples with the intricacies of a chemicals company? That was just one of my questions in the early years.

There is a struggle because our own will and wants, motivated by our own limited understanding, clash with God’s will, His thoughts and ways. Although we were called to a personal relationship with Jesus our Savior, calling Him our best friend, He is still God and there is a need for us to surrender to Him – completely. To yield ourselves to Him in total abandon.

I have learned that during trials, our relationship with our Lord Jesus is tested and threatened. Faith, trust, hope, steadfast love – all these that weave the threads of the tapestry of our relationship with Him become most vulnerable. It is during these times then that we really get to work. Work out our relationship with Him. How?

One of the keys is to know Him more. In the early part of my fiery trial and my relationship with the Lord Jesus was precariously tested (well, that was as far as I knew with my limited view of the bigger thing, but it definitely wasn’t the same with Him; He was holding me steadfastly all the time and never letting go, but I didn’t know that), my constant prayer was to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18).

We can know Him more by spending much of our time reading and meditating on His Word.

Another way is to draw ever nearer to Him; seek His powerful presence through worship. My favorite worship song during this time was Jesus, Draw Me Ever Nearer by Keith and Kristyn Getty.

Do you struggle in your faith walk? Continue to work out your relationship with the Lord Jesus. This is one relationship that has utmost importance to us. He is our Bridegroom, we are His Bride. We look forward to His coming when we’ll be forever with Him.

Additional reading: First Love

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My gratitude list ~ the gifts I received from the hand of the Lord:

  • One whole week without maids; it was like a holiday for our family and the peace, joy and intimacy it brought were priceless.
  • Singing praises with heart full of faith and fervent love for the Lord bringing a gush of hot tears as Tim struggled to breathe due to asthma-like cough.
  • A fruit gift basket with a beautiful card.
  • Eating bunches of lanzones with family.
  • My vegetable garden coming to life now.
  • Pretty boxed cards, good pens collection, new friends, and lovely written words
I’m linking up with other blogs, please check the list at the side bar.