Friday, February 21, 2014

While Yet Unmarried, Prepare

Last week my Daddy Pastor preached a message about marriage. It was intended for married couples, but I was able to take home some reflections for singles or the unmarried :)

In marriage....
  • you will accept the person for who he/she is. So while yet unmarried, you have the opportunity to observe and choose! Contrary to popular advise, when you get attracted to someone, ‘wag ka agad mag-dive into a romantic relationship with him/her. If you immediately do, palalabuin lang nito ang goal mo of first getting to know the real nature of people around you bago ma mag-desisyon who to pursue (if you’re a man) or who to allow to develop a deeper friendship with (if you’re a woman). In marriage, no return, no exchange! So while unmarried, observe keenly and choose wisely... at ‘wag excited to be in a relationship agad-agad :)
  • the man will be the leader of the family. The woman submits to the man’s leadership in marriage (Ephesians 5:22-23). This is not a signal of male superiority or of the greater importance of men. It is simply God's design and assignment of equally valuable roles among spiritually equal beings. So while unmarried, women, be careful and wise in choosing someone whom you will submit to. Men, WORK! :) Develop your spiritual, emotional, and intellectual muscles to be the best leader you can be to your future family, because by then you won’t be leading just yourself but a whole bunch of precious people dependent and submissive to your leadership.
Even after 29 years, Dad & Mom still HHWW (hold hands while walking) Yeehe
  • the man will be the pastor of the family. Ladies, if you choose someone who is NOT a Christian (I mean a real Christian), what can you expect of him in terms of (a) raising up a “Christian & Godly family”? and (b) in terms of loving you like Christ (if he is not a lover of the presence of God?). It’s been said that you cannot give what you don’t have. If a man then does not receive the revelation of Christ’s love (Ephesians 5:25), how can he love you in the way God wants you be loved? Hindi dapat madaan sa kilig na pwede nilang idulot sayo. Do not settle for less; do not settle for someone na magaling magpa-kilig, pero hindi naman alam ang love of God. Totoong Christian dapat :) Wait for someone with strong foundations in the faith who'll be able to excellently pastor a family someday! (my edge is that I have an amazing Dad who is truly a great pastor to our family--- I kinda have an idea na of the one I'm waiting for)
  • the man provides. You don’t have to be financially super rich, but you must have at least gained the integrity of someone who is financially responsible and financially dependable. Men, it is again your responsibility while waiting to work out your esteem as one who is financially able, disciplined and wise.

Marriage is sacred unto the Lord. Hindi siya bahay-bahayan lang. So while yet unmarried, as you wait, prepare. <3

The Forbidden Tree

Why do we feel that if we are not in a relationship we are unable to enjoy life to the fullest?

Genesis 3:1 (NIV) “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"

Kung naka-sentro ang isip at atensyon natin sa isang puno na hindi pa natin maaaring makamtan [at the moment], hindi na natin napagmamasdan ang lahat ng mga puno na maaarin naman nating ma-enjoy. Kaya para bang hinihinto at nilalagay natin on-hold ang iba’t-ibang bahagi ng ating buhay habang naka-tanod at naka-masid naman tayo doon sa isang puno na parang out of reach. Nai-imagine ko na biglang sisingit ang serpent para tanungin tayo ng isang very misleading question... “Ibig mong sabihin pagkakaitan ka ng Diyos na ma-enjoy mo ang buhay mo? Ang lupit naman yata ‘nun?”... But don’t fall for it! It’s a trap! God wants you to enjoy life... Pero hindi ito pwedeng mangyari kung mananatili kang naka-titig at naka-masid dyan sa isang puno na ‘yan.

Take a look around you. Breath, look, taste, enjoy, savor! Baka mag-iba na ang mga ‘yan bukas o makalawa. Do not get caught up in what you don’t have. Take another look. What do you see? Wonderful friends, new opportunities, doors for ministry, activities to try, new things to learn, experiences to gain... I dare you to enjoy what are available.

As Jim Elliot famously wrote, “Let not our longing slay the appetite of our living”. Today is today. Let tomorrow worry about itself. Do not fail to see that there are unlimited opportunities available for you today... God has amazing things prepared for us in every stage of our lives. May the joyful anticipation of what the next stage may bring NOT blanket the joys of living and embracing the stage we're in.
What to do with these longings? Throw them and lay them at God’s altar. And trust Him.

Should you put enjoying life to the fullest on hold until you change your relationship status? I think not!
Is God really telling you to not enjoy life to the fullest? I think not! <3

Friday, February 7, 2014

How do I know if I’m Ready for a Relationship?

Heart-shaped decors are everywhere! I’ll start posting articles about the ever-popular topic of the love life.

One of the most common questions I receive from young people whenever I give talks about relationships is, “what is the proper age to be in a relationship?”.

I salute people who do not get in exclusive intimate relationships even up to their early and mid-twenties, because they get to use that time with their friends, establishing careers, and investing in their own personal growth. The fact is that we have the big tendency to change so much in our twenties, at hindi natin dapat ito pigilan at all cost! At habang nagbabago tayo, nag-iiba rin ang klase ng tao na gusto nating makasama habangbuhay, ang mga standards at mindset natin, maging ang mga goals at direksyon ng ating buhay.

So what is the right age? Well, in relationships, maturity matters more than age. Handa ka nang pumasok sa isang relationship kapag handa ka na ring ikasal within a reasonable amount of time. Remember that courtship and relationships are purposed to be preparation for marriage. Therefore, if you are not yet inclined to consider marriage seriously, you should not yet be involved in a romantic relationship with the opposite sex.

1. Maturity: Marriage and relationships are for people who are mature, who have developed their character through the years (no better way than to be submitted to Christ’s Lordship!). Though maturity is both crucial for both men and women, there is a great expectation especially for men since they will be the leaders, pastors, fathers of their own kin.
In terms of maturity, age is not the prime issue at hand since there are some people in their early 20’s who are more matured than those in their 30’s! But generally, with age comes the sharpening of character and gaining of wisdom --- wisdom to make the right decisions and actions, to do the right things at the right time, to give correct guidance and counsel when it is necessary. However, even the most mature teenager will be probably be wiser by the time he/she is in the mid-twenties.

2. Emotionally ready: From a biological perspective, the human brain experiences crucial maturity and changes up to the mid to late-twenties. Studies show that it is only by one’s late twenties that our brain is best able to process emotional and social information, as well as for planning. This however does not warrant that a person is most ready for a relationship when he reaches the age of 25, because again, maturity matters more.

Here are some questions to assess your emotional maturity:
  • Do you have enough self-control that you are no longer ruled by your human passions?
  • Have you outgrown your selfish ways? Are you able to prioritize others before yourself? 
  • Can you handle confrontations and discussions without fighting?
  • Do you still argue with your friends over unimportant things?
  • How to you respond when you don’t get your way?
  • Are you ready to share 100% of your life with someone?
  • Are you able to put up with your long-term commitments?
  • Do you easily get jealous?
  • Are you overly dramatic?
I am sure that all of us can still improve in all of these areas, but typically this is why teenagers are not yet ready for a lifetime commitment. Hindi rin dapat i-commit ang future to someone else while still in their teenage years (e.g., “tayo pa rin hanggang sa mag-mature na tayo”) because a lot of changing will still take place!

3. Financially ready: The Biblical blueprint of the family is that the man (father) will be the provider of the family. So men, please lang, don’t bother pursuing a romantic relationship with anyone unless you are financially ready to support a family. Women, be wise enough to not pledge yourself to someone who has not yet gained the integrity of a good provider. I know this sounds a little unromantic, even quite materialistic, but it’s a reality every person considering relationships should face. You don’t have to be extremely rich to consider a relationship, but you must at least be financially stable and financially disciplined.

4. Spiritually ready: Every relationship must be aimed to honor God. And you can honor God with your relationships when you get involved in one at the right time ---- when you are spiritually mature yourself. I always encourage our youth group to focus on their spiritual growth first before they focus on finding their mate! It is best to form strong foundations for your faith first, and not allow anyone to distract you from growing your roots deep. Practice faithfulness by being faithful in the ministry you’re involved at (bonus for this is the spirit of servanthood you get while ministering!), in your Biblical knowledge, in your love for God, in being a lover of the presence of God, and in your prayer life.
You don’t have to be some sort of a spiritual giant, but you just have to first mature in the faith.

Please know that I am not, and will never be an “anti-love”. (Promise!) :) I actually am thrilled myself just talking about relationships. Teehee! <3 However, it is my desire that we, as followers of Christ, would approach relationships and romance in a way that will be the best for us, and that would pleases Him, and that we would go against the lowering standards of this generation!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Intimacy and Commitment

The goal of any romantic relationship should be lifelong commitment in matrimony.
When I talk to the youth about relationships, I usually ask them why they enter into relationships, even at a young age. The common answer is, “mahal ko eh”. And when I ask them if they are ready for and are considering marriage, they would often be caught off guard and respond with a laugh. “Kasal agad? Hindi ba pwedeng boyfriend / girlfriend lang muna?”, they’d wittily reply.

I wonder what’s really the point of most romantic relationships? Ito ngayon ang problema -- mali ang pagtingin ng marami sa atin about intimacy and relationships. I would like to assert that the prerequisite for intimacy is commitment. Without commitment, there is no blessing for intimacy. Without commitment, there should be no intimacy. Without commitment, intimacy will be plain selfish and lust-driven.

In Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus gives a parable about two builders: one built his house on the sand (man’s ways), while the other build his house on a rock (God’s ways). Let us now consider how this parable applies to establishing relationships.

Itinayo ng hangal (foolish) na tao ang kanyang bahay sa buhangin nang hindi isinasaalang-alang ang kinabukasan at ang mga panahon na darating. He has forgotten to consider that seasons change, and that sooner or later storms and strong winds will come. At nang tumama nga ito sa bahay, bumagsak ito, at tuluyang nawasak (v27). Gaya ng isang bahay na naka-tayo sa buhangin, ang isang relasyon na hindi naka-ugat sa mga prinsipyo ng Diyos, at hindi isinasaalang-alang ang darating na panahon ay maaaring mawasak pagdating ng panahon.
Ganito ang larawan ng marami sa mga relationships sa ngayon. Madalas, we are pursuing intimacy for the sake of intimacy. We are pursuing relationships for the sake of relationships. Walang layunin o purpose at malinaw na destinasyon ang mga relationships.

What if a young person becomes in love with someone, and they both wish to be lovers for the rest of their lives? Could this pass for “commitment”? Is it okay then for them to be in a relationship now?
scene from High School Musical
Uso sa mga kabatan ngayon ang tawagin ang kanilang mga boyfriend/girlfriend na “asawa ko”, “mame”, “dade” (corny-ness overload, I know! But a lot of teenagers actually are guilty with this!), sa kaisipan na panghabambuhay na ang kanilang relasyon. If that’s the case, does this mean it’s okay for them to be in a relationships since may “commitment” naman pala sila sa isip nila? Let me answer that by introducing to you the concept of “getting married within a reasonable amount of time.... Please say that again? “getting married within a reasonable amount of time”

When I ask students about their ideal age for getting married, the average age I get is 25-27. So, let’s say if someone is only 18, does he plan to court someone for the next 7-9 years?  Kung tatanungin mo sila, most of the youth who are in relationships today ay wala pa namang balak na magpakasal within a reasonable amount of time,  (although age should not be the lone consideration). At dahil wala pa naman silang intention to get married within a reasonable amount of time, kahit na they wish to be lovers forever, I don’t think there is “real commitment” in the equation. So it’s better to not to be in a relationship first.
Perhaps they can grow as single people first until they are ready for commitment before pursuing intimacy?

Can’t we just enjoy being in a relationship with no pressures about marriage?
Being a boyfriend/girlfriend is not the end of itself. Too many young people are wasting their time and energy in relationships that aren’t going anywhere. As already mentioned, intimacy without commitment is selfish and lust-driven.
In most cases, when we’re younger and a bit immature, relationships are short-term (though we want them to last!), serving only the needs of the moment. Hence some relationships only become a selfish way of satisfying one’s desires and needs for affection and intimacy. We enter into relationships because we want to enjoy the emotional and physical benefits of intimacy, without the responsibility of real commitment.

I’m sharing a special relationship with a friend, though we don’t really have an “official” relationship. Neither is there a physical relationship and intimacy between us since we rarely see each other. Is this acceptable?
Obviously, kung lalabas tayo kasama ng isang tao, o madalas natin siyang makasama, mas bibilis mag-increase ang intimacy ng relationship. Pero hindi mo naman kailangang makipag-date or lumabas kasama ng isang tao para maging intimate kayo. You can do that over the phone (calls and countless exchange of text messages), through the internet (e.g., facebook chats, emails), paglabas niyo kasama ang grupo ng mga kaibigan, o kaya yung magkasama lang kayo palagi sa school at pagkatapos ng mga classes niyo. A guy and a girl meeting in a restaurant for a date isn’t the issue. Ang issue ay kung angkop ba ang intimacy in your relationship sa current level niyo of commitment.
Kung walang level of commitment, why be intimate?

~ ~ ~
The man who built his house on a rock was called “wise” by Jesus. Itinayo niya ang kanyang bahay to last a lifetime. Two builders: foolish and wise; two foundations: sand and rock; two outcomes: destruction and stability. Christ’s analogy applies to relationships just as much as to houses.

Please do yourself a favor -- don’t give your heart away when there is no commitment. And do your brothers and sisters a big favor -- don’t ask or try to win their affection if you’re not yet ready to match it with genuine commitment within a reasonable amount of time.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Cravings, Constraint, Control

Genesis 4:7 (MBB)
“Kung mabuti ang ginawa mo, dapat kang magsaya. Kung masama naman, ang kasalana’y tulad ng mabangis na hayop na laging nag-aabang upang lapain ka. Nais nitong pagharian ka. Kaya’t kailangang mapaglabanan mo ito.
 (NEB)“ shall be eager for you, and you will be mastered by it.”

I was talking to a single lady a few weeks ago and she blurted out, “Ate Jez, kung hindi naman pala ibibigay ni Lord sa akin kung ano yung desire ko ngayon, pwede bang alisin nalang ni Lord yung desire?”.

I think I’ve written the same question and request on my journal a few years ago, too! :-D But let me share with you what God has taught me: No, it’s not going to happen. This revelation has set me free! Hindi aalisin ng Diyos ang desire for a man or woman, physical intimacy, chocolate cake, a new iPad, o kung anuman ‘yun that we’re craving out of our systems! It’s because God wants us to be masters over our desires. The NKJV of Genesis 4:7 says, “...but you should rule over it”. Kung aalisin ito ng Diyos, how can we learn the art of mastering over our desires, instead of being controlled by them?
You see, you have received many seeds of the Word of God, you have faith, you have the grace of God, you have the privilege of prayer. Therefore, nag-eexpect ang Diyos na gamitin natin at i-exercise natin ang ating mga “spiritual muscles” to get around life.

Is it sin to have desires?
Kasalanan ba ang mga “desires” mo na ito? Definitely not! Hindi “sin” na magkaroon ng ganitong desires. In fact, we were wired with these desires. Saan pumapasok ang either Godliness or sin? --- in our response to it. Kung may desires ka, yet your response is that you’ve chosen to honor God above all, that’s righteousness and Godliness. But if you have desires, and then these things have become idols of your heart, replacing the place of God as number one in your heart, or when it moves you to do things that do not please God, then I would dare to say you must have crossed the line. Mali na. Kasalanan na.

A God-shaped hole. Kung kakapit tayo sa mga bagay (other than God) para kumpletuhin ang ating mga sarili, then God will allow that we be consumed with our desires, kasi nga He has given us free will. Pero I tell you, we will come to the point where we will finally realize na kung anuman iyong kinakapitan natin, kailanman ay hindi nito maaaring mapunan ang puwang na ang Diyos lamang ang maaring pumuno -- a “God-shaped hole” as old preachers say.

Ever-loving Lover. Yet while we chase other “lovers”, God is watching us and waiting the whole time, jealous of our attention. And thankfully, the moment that we wake up to our mistake, He will draw us back into His loving arms, demonstrating to us that no one can love us as much as He does. ‘Wag mo munang hanapin ang satisfaction sa iba. Be spiritually full. Have a full life. Be satisfied from the inside out. It is only then that God will enable us to begin to truly love. <3

Aalisin ba Niya ang desires mo for affection and love? Hindi. Dahil nais niya na ang desires na ito ay mai-refocus natin sa Kanya (namali lang ng subject and vent sa nakaraan, eh). So let us rule over these desires and put them in the right perspective. Do not let them master nor control you.

It is the control of passions and desires that is needed, not the elimination of these. After all, how would we learn to submit and surrender to God if we had nothing to submit?  

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Breaking the Silence


In 1984, my father (and pastor) who was then an architecture teacher and was yet uncertain about being a pastor, received a life-changing call from God: “Roland, blow the trumpet! For if you do not, it will mean doom for my people.” These crystal-clear words have launched him into the full-time ministry, and has charged him to remain faithful in it for the past 30 years.

He has obeyed the Lord, and I for one am a result of his obedience. Yet until today, I feel that God is still looking for more men and women who will “blow the trumpet” for the generations to hear, that we might return to the Lord and His ways! This reminds me of Mordecai’s promptings to Esther,
For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?"” (Esther 4:14, NIV)
I believe I was born for such a time as this, when society’s values and standards are continually being divorced from the principles of the Word of God. God summons His sons and daughters to be His voice to this generation, and I’d like to respond to this call by not only preaching to the youth on Sundays and disicipling a group of young men and women, but also by publishing my God-thoughts through this blog.

It is with a passionate desire that I hope to be sharing with you priceless principles that God has taught me in the past few years about the Christian race, the ministry, faith, discipleship, relationships, romance, among others. It is my conviction that, like any other follower of Christ, I will and I ought not to remain silent!