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.

wedding2

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.

I’m linking up with other blogs, please check the list at the side bar.

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,

At Peace with God’s Testings

A son whose simple dream was to get a good job abroad to bring prosperity to his family; who loves his father and mother that even at a young age, he accepted a job offer to work in China, just so he can help them. A son who loves the Lord Jesus and served Him faithfully. But fate would have it that this young man would taste the bitterness of God’s hard testing. While believing that his dream was at last within his reach, he ended up in a prison in China and was locked up. He was charged of transporting drugs to that country – a “drug mule”. How harder could it get?

How could he face the reality of a dream shattering to thousand irretrievable pieces? But maybe that’s easier to accept and come to terms to compared to the horrifying and uncertain future in prison in a foreign land with a charge that when proven guilty would send him to his death. How could he face every single day, knowing that that country is the world’s leading executioner?

And then there’s this wife whose fervent prayer is a blissful marriage, but what she’s been having for years is a difficult one, one that often sends her to great despair  and lose hope even of life, let alone a harmonious and peaceful married life. A wife whose soul is wearied by her spouse’s unkindness and seeming lack of love by the way he treats her most of the time. A wife who prays and wrestles, strives and fails, rises and believes, only to see herself go through the same cycle over again.

A wife who wants to hide from her God because she just couldn’t face Him with repeated failures and ugly mess. Who wants to escape and run as far away from frustrations, unhappiness and confusions as possible. A wife who thinks that the fights she never wanted make her unwhole and impure in the sight of God and what shall she do now? What shall she do with her dreams and her desire for almost-perfect marriage? How shall she close her eyes from the world’s standard of a happy marriage? But most of all, how shall she live with the daunting realization that this might just be the case for the rest of their life here on earth?

The son in prison survives every single day because of Jesus. In the dark prison cell, He is his light. In moments of uncontrollable fear, He is his strength. Jesus’ love is kept hidden in his heart; nothing in this world could steal it from him. And the fire of his love for Him which flourished throughout the years that he served Him freely, keeps burning in his heart.

He reads his Bible everyday like it was his lifeline (indeed, it IS our lifeline!). He is given strength from above to rise up morning by morning to share the Gospel to his fellow prisoners, even to those who oversee them. He has given up thoughts about his own life and future. Maybe in the soul level, he has died to them. He lives surrendered to God and His will. He lives embracing his testing, suffering, and calling.

And the wife? Jesus spoke to her to embrace her life with all its testings and hardships. She should not run away from it but let Him do His work. She should not think that the mess, the failures, the frustrations do not make her impure as long as her heart is right with Him, connected with Him, and her whole being – her eyes, heart, mind and soul – is focused on Him.

And she was freed and knew that with the exhilarating freedom came a commitment, a covenant, that. she. will. not. dare. take. her eyes. off. of. Him. Her eyes, heart, mind, and soul must be engaged fully with Him. And yes, she can. She can go on with life, marriage, family, plans, service, ministry, with joy!

How can they be at peace with God and their woeful situation? How can we be at peace with our own testings and sufferings? It is this, this is the key:

For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. 20 For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us,[a] leaving us[b] an example, that you should follow His steps:

22 “Who committed no sin,
Nor was deceit found in His mouth”. (1 Pet. 2:19-22)

When we do good and suffer, and we endure the grief and take it patiently because of God – this is COMMENDABLE before Him.

We were CALLED to suffer with Christ and follow His steps.

This is our freedom, the balm to our pains and sufferings. This is our light in our confusions and comfort in our afflictions. This is our assurance in our discouragements and encouragement in our failures and frustrations.

Related article: A Reward for the Righteous (includes the testimony of the brother in Christ who was mentioned above).

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.

I’m linking up with other blogs, please check the list at the side bar.

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)

I’m linked up with other blogs, please check the list at the side bar.

From Fear to Love

(Meditating on Psalm 76)

You, Yourself, are to be feared;
And who may stand in Your presence
When once You are angry? 
(Psalm 76:7)

The Bible teaches us to fear God. In fact, Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes summed it all up and concluded everything that have been written into one simple, yet very important verse:

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. (Ecc. 12: 13, emphasis added)

A very simple and clearly-worded commandment, a reminder, and a nugget of wisdom which can change the course of our lives. Indeed, the pursuit of a righteous life starts in having the fear of God. In the absence of it, life leans on sinfulness. It opposes everything that God has commanded.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom… (Prov. 9:10)

We begin to have a grasp of pure wisdom and to know God when we learn to fear Him. It is fear of Him that we begin to seek His truth and His righteousness. It is what urges us to find our way to Him. It is fear of Him that we want to seek and obtain His salvation. This fear of Him is what will drive us to pursue Him, know Him, believe in Him and in His Word.

Our fear of God is the beginning of our faith. When we fear Him whom we do not see, we believe in the existence of an Almighty God in whose hands our lives are held.

Ultimately, the faith that sprung up from our fear of this powerful God drives us to humbly surrender our lives to Him, repent, and accept His offer of salvation through Jesus Christ. It is then that we begin the journey of a changed life intimately guided by His Spirit.

It is good that the fear of God is completed in us, compelling us to obey all His commandments. But a Christian that has been born of the Spirit progresses to the higher ground, a place where love dwells. This new creation now bears the fruit of the Holy Spirit, topmost of which is love. He or she now walks in love, and whatever he or she does, he or she does it for the love of the Lord. This is the higher ground – the place where true freedom and joy are experienced.

We can easily see the difference between doing things for God in fear of Him, or in our fervent love for Him. Do we go to church because we fear the consequences if we don’t, or do we go because we hunger for His holy presence? Do we praise Him for hours because we know it is what He desires and if we don’t, we fear that He might be displeased of us, or do we praise Him because our hearts are burning in our love for Him and our spirits can’t get enough of Him, drinking of His holy fountain?

Do we suppress our resentments to other people, doing our very best to forgive those who have hurt us – although our hearts say otherwise, thinking ill thoughts of them – because we fear the Lord’s anger might be kindled against us? Or, do we love Him enough to show our gratitude to Him by loving even our enemies as He has commanded?

Love liberates! Because of our fervent love for the Lord, we can now willingly obey His commands (John 14:15), even the hard ones, like loving your enemies, praying for them, and blessing them. It is love that compels us to honor and obey Him. A love that has been born out of His tender mercies for us. We love him, because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). He first showed us how to love, and now we can do it also by His Spirit who works in and through us.

…God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in Him. (1 John 4: 16)

When we have been perfected in love, there is no more fear for perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4: 18).

Related post: First Love

Endnotes:

  • This is an edited repost from the archives.

  • Photo of Umbrella Rocks Beach in my hometown of Agno, Pangasinan, Philippines, courtesy of Agno LGU.

I’m linking up with other blogs, please check the list at the side bar.

How to Truly Seek God and Live an Authentic, Christ-centered Life

Please do not think that I have it all put together in my own life. It’s true that we are so blessed to belong to a Church (Jesus Miracle Crusade International Ministry) that teaches and practices all biblical truth – unwavering faith, true holiness, prayer and fasting, Christ-surrendered life. But in my own faith walk, there is still a lot of learning and growing to do.

What do you truly ache for?

What is your heart deeply desiring for?

What do your prayers consist of?

Do you come to God because you believe it’s your duty?

What drives you to seek God?

These are five questions whose answers the Lord has been gently but surely guiding me to walk through lately.

Do you ache for anything in the world or do you ache to live a life that brings joy to God? Does your heart desire the things that God desires? Like the salvation of souls? Of obeying His Word and surrendering to His will? Surrendering not because you have no choice but because you delight to do His will? Has your love increased so much that you are past looking out after yourself but also for others outside of your family?

If you examine your prayers, what are the things that are foremost? Are they for the kingdom of God? What weighs heavier – prayers that are for the self or prayers that are for the things of God?

Do you hunger for the presence of God that’s why no matter how busy or how weary you are, you want to seek Him and be in His sweet, comforting presence? Do you seek Him only because you need things from His hand or because you want to be near Him, to know Him more, to feel his love surrounding, filling you, and to let this love between you and your Savior King flourish?

Ah! To be brought by the Lord to this place and walk this higher ground is unsurpassed grace! For it is only by His Spirit that one bears much fruit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness, self-control. (Gal. 5:22-23)

By God’s grace, fasting and praying here from Sunday ’til Sunday. I pray God will use this blog to bless people around the world!

I’m linking up with other blogs, please check the list at the side bar.