Friday, July 28, 2006

Fulfilling God’s Purpose in Our Time

Is it really possible to fulfill what God wanted us to be and to do?

Well, King David did just that: “David had served God’s purpose in his own generation...” (Acts 13:35a, New Int’l Version) Thus, he was called a man after God’s own heart. What about us? If David can do it, so can we.

This week, I participated in the 1st National Purpose Driven Congress. Dr. Rick Warren, author of the bestselling Purpose Driven Life, and his team shared their biblical insights before the multitude that packed the PhilSports Arena. It was a refreshing retreat for me. Allow me to give you a review of the five purposes of God for our lives.

First, we are planned for God’s pleasure. That’s worship. We are formed for God’s family. That’s fellowship. We are created to become like Christ. That’s discipleship. We are shaped to serve God. That’s ministry. And, we are made for a mission. That’s evangelism. We are called to live a life that fulfills all these purposes.

Note that one of the purposes is evangelism.
This morning in our English worship service, Deacon James Tioco will share about Matthew reaching his friends. It’s a call for us to join the upcoming My Hope evangelistic campaign this coming December. I encourage you to seriously consider opening up your homes for this event. Brother James will explain how.

Some of us are afraid to share the Gospel. We think we need to be eloquent to do so. But evangelism is not limited to words. It involves works, which is living a life of obedience. There was a disappointed young salesman. He just lost a big sale. He lamented to his sales manager, “I guess you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” The manager replied, “Son, your job is not to make him drink. Your job is to make him thirsty.” (Adapted from the Biblical Studies Foundation website). Our lives should create a thirst for the Gospel. That’s true evangelism.

Brethren, let us serve God’s purposes in our lifetime!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Being R.E.A.L. Matters

Have you ever asked, “If I were a first time visitor, what would be my impression of this church?” Would you feel so welcome? Does the church have to resort to gimmicks to attract visitors? Charles Swindoll, one of my favorite authors, wrote: “I can assure you, when people discover that a church promotes authenticity, when its leaders model it on a consistent basis, they cannot stay away. It’s like an invisible magnet that draws them in.” This morning we will talk about “Being Real Matters.”

Charles Swindoll defined “authenticity” this way: “Authenticity occurs when real people say real things about real issues with real feelings. When you’re authentic you live what you are.” So, to be authentic is to be real. What happens when we are not real or authentic? We wear masks. We pretend to be what we really are not. Bruce Larson questioned this sad situation: “What’s wrong with the church in our time? It’s the place you go when you put on your best clothes; you worship; you eat together—but you don’t bring your life! You leave behind all your pain, your brokenness, your hopes, even your joys. The church, unfortunately, has become a museum to display the victorious life or finished products.” Now, why do we pretend that we are strong when we’re in fact weak? It is because we think people won’t love us if they know what we’re really like, that they will only accept us if we follow a certain standard or behavior. That’s why we make it appear that we are super-spiritual. Yet we are actually struggling. We’re afraid people will think we’re not “good” Christians. We wear a mask that says we are okay. But we are actually crumbling inside. We don’t like it. But we think people don’t care. We don’t open up because we’re afraid of gossip.

But for us to be intimate in fellowship, we need to be authentic. It is hard to be intimate if there is hypocrisy. The Bible spelled it out for us in Ephesians 4:1-7...
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.[1]

How do we become real? To make it easy to remember, I came up with the acronym R-E-A-L.

First, RESPOND to your calling. Verse one says, “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” Note the word “then.” From chapters 1 to 3 of Ephesians, Paul talked about “the calling [we] have received.” Then from chapters 4 to 6, he discussed how “to live a life worthy of the calling...” Remember that the Jews and the Gentiles were enemies. Then when they became believers, Paul told them in Ephesians 2:16-17, “Christ brought us together through his death on the Cross. The Cross got us to embrace, and that was the end of the hostility. Christ came and preached peace to you outsiders and peace to us insiders.” [2] During those times Gentiles, who became members of the Jewish religion, worship in the Court of the Gentiles. The Jews prohibit the Gentiles from entering the temple grounds. They will be stoned to death if they do enter. That’s why they called the Gentiles “outsiders” and the Jews “insiders.” But Paul declared that Christ on the cross “treated us as equals, and so made us equals. Through him we both share the same Spirit and have equal access to the Father.” (v. 18)[3]

This is our calling. We are called to a community. We are called not just to believe but also to belong. Let us respond to our calling by being authentic.

Second, EXERT every effort. Verse 3 says, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” In the Greek, “make every effort” can be translated “do your best.” Therefore, we must give it our best shot to reach out to each other. We are already united. Paul commanded us to “keep” it. Let us stay united. We should not let anyone or anything to divide us. How do we do that? Verse 2 says, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” To be humble means to consider others more important or better than you. To be gentle means to give up one’s rights for the sake of others. One commentary says that gentleness or “meekness is a virtue of the strong, those who could exert force to get their own way but choose not to.” To be patient means to accept the fact that we all have our shortcomings. Instead of giving up on each other, we are “bearing with one another in love.” Rick Warren wrote, in his Fellowship: Protecting the Church, “The sooner we give up the illusion that a church must be perfect in order to love it, the sooner we quit pretending and start admitting we’re all imperfect and need grace. We must remember that the church is made up of real sinners, including ourselves. Because we’re sinners, we hurt each other, sometimes intentionally and sometimes unintentionally. But instead of leaving the church, we need to stay and work it out if at all possible. ... This is beginning of real community.”

Third, AFFIRM the truth. Let us look at Ephesians 4:4-6, “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Remember that Paul was talking about unity. Now why would he shift to doctrines? It is because these truths are the basis for us to be intimate with each other. Look at the Trinity. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are united. Someone observed that “the Trinity pictures for us the pivotal concept of relationship within a group.” That’s why our Lord Jesus prayed, “I want all of them to be one with each other, just as I am one with you and you are one with me. I also want them to be one with us. Then the people of this world will believe that you sent me.” (John 17:21)[4] We are also “one body” in Christ. Honesty is essential to any relationship. If we are not honest about our needs, we can’t receive help if others don’t know we need it. Our honesty frees others to be honest. Note the reason Paul gave why we should tell the truth: “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.As a body, when we tell a lie, we affect others, not just ourselves. “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” (1 Corinthians 12:26) We are to live up to what the Bible says about us.

Fourth, LEVEL-UP together. We have to grow together. A couple drifts away from each when they grow apart from each other. The same thing also happens in the church. Verse 7 says, “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.” Note the word i From verses 2 to 6, Paul was talking about unity as a whole. Now he points out the fact that the Spirit gave gifts to each one of us. What’s his point? That unity is not uniformity. There is unity in diversity. We can be close with each other even if we are different from each other. In fact, we are so different that we have so many things to share. But always remember that, according to 1 Corinthians 12:7, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” Our gifts are for what? For the common good! In another version it says, “Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people!”[5] Note what it says: “Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits.” God desires us to work together. I like how the Contemporary English Version translated Ephesians 4:11-13. Christ “handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christians in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.” Note these words: “until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other”. When we grow together, we are drawn closer to God and to each other. Howard Butt, Jr. of the High Calling Ministries wrote, “Our Christian life is a life in community. God wants all to be more like Christ, but I can never be more like Christ without your help. I will never fully be myself without you to help me.”

So how do we become R.E.A.L.?

RESPOND to your calling

EXERT every effort

AFFIRM the truth

LEVEL-UP together.

What is it that is hindering us from each other? Maybe there are wounds or hurts in the past that is keeping us from being intimate with each other. Allow me to end with this story from the book, Little House on the Freeway by Tim Kimmel:

“One group singled out for concentrated oppression during World War II was the Christians. When the Japanese conquered Korea one of the first things they did was board up the evangelical churches and eject most foreign missionaries. They refused to allow churches to meet and jailed many of the key Christian spokesmen.

"One pastor begged his local Japanese police chief for permission to meet for services. They were allowed only one meeting. That day many Korean Christians flocked to the church to worship. They grabbed the chance to worship God as a church once more.

"While they were singing, the Japanese chief gave the orders. The soldiers locked the door of the church from outside. They doused kerosene on the building and set it on fire. They shot anyone and everyone who tried to escape through the windows. Knowing it was the end, the pastor calmly led the congregation in singing. With smoke burning their eyes, they instantly joined as one to sing their hope and leave their legacy. Their song became a serenade to the horrified and helpless witnesses outside. Their words also tugged at the hearts of the cruel men who oversaw this flaming execution of the innocent. Then the entire building collapsed on them.

"In 1972 a group of Japanese pastors learned of the tragedy. When they read the names of the spiritual brothers and sisters who had perished, they were overcome with shame. They returned to Japan committed to right a wrong. There was an immediate outpouring of love from their fellow believers. They raised ten million yen ($25,000). They went back to Korea to build a church building on the site.

"During the dedication, though the Koreans were civil, they could not bring themselves to forgive the Japanese. At the end of the service, someone suggested they sing the last song that those who perished sang. The Japanese kept on begging the Koreans for forgiveness. One Korean turned toward a Japanese brother. And then the floodgates holding back a wave of emotion let go. They clung to each other and wept.

"Japanese tears of repentance and Korean tears of forgiveness intermingled to bathe the site of an old nightmare. Heaven had sent the gift of reconciliation to a little white church in Korea.”

Brethren, we are called to be real... to be authentic... to be close to each other. Let us pray...

[1] All Bible verses are from the New International Version, unless otherwise specified.
[2] The Message: The Bible in Cotemporary English
[3] Ibid.
[4] Contemporary English Version
[5] The Message

Note: This is the message Pastor Eyriche Cortez gave last Sunday, July 23, 2006, at the 11AM and 630PM services of the Capitol City Baptist Church as part of their 47th anniversary celebration.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Love Heals

Dr. Karl Menninger, noted doctor and psychologist, declared, “Love cures people—both the ones who give it and the ones who receive it.”

What led Dr. Menninger to say that? Some time ago, he sought the cause of his patients’ mental illnesses. He decided to develop in his clinic an atmosphere of creative love. He told his staff to give large quantities of love to all patients. They are to avoid any display of unloving attitudes in the presence of the patients. All nurses and doctors must go about their work in and out of the various rooms with a loving attitude. At the end of six months, this experiment of love had cut in half the time spent by patients in the institution. (Adapted from the illustration database of the Biblical Studies Foundation)

I believe love heals marriages also. Loving is the husband’s responsibility just as submitting is the wife’s. I like how The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language translated Ephesians 5:25-28a—“Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives.” To love our wives the way Christ loved the church is to love unconditionally, sacrificially and loyally. Note that “Christ’s love makes the church whole” and “Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her”. Men, what about us? We need to ask ourselves: “Are we beneficial to our wives? Or, are they better off without us?”
Someone wrote, Love is the one business in which it pays to be absolutely lavish. Give it away. Throw it away. Splash it over. Empty your pockets. Shake the basket. Tomorrow you’ll have more than ever.” Men, bring your wives out on a date. Have a special weekend getaway. Surprise your wife with a gift. (But make sure it is a gift that she want, not what you want. Don’t be like the man who gave his wife Black & Decker power drills!) Women feel loved if we help in the chores in the house. (Go ahead. Don that apron and wash the dishes for a change.) I guarantee also that your wife will once again fall for you head over heels if you just sit down and really listen to her. Just be creative and just do it!

You may be saying, “Well, she ought to know already that I love her. I married her, right?” But, as David Mace wrote, “One of the great illusions of our time is that love is self-sustaining. It is not. Love must be fed and nurtured, constantly renewed.” We cannot take it for granted. We must express our love as often as we can. Always remember, it cures both the one who gave it and the one who received it.

Brothers, let us go all out in loving our wives!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Be the Woman of Your Husband's Dreams

Let me ask you, “What are the qualities you’re looking for in an ideal partner or spouse?”

It’s okay to have expectations. In premarital counseling, it is important at the onset to ask the engaged couple to share their expectations about marriage with each other to avoid frustration. Allow me to share two things about expectations.

First, be REALISTIC. Your partner probably will not meet your expectations. J. Grant Howard, Jr. wrote, “We have a picture of the perfect partner, but we marry an imperfect person. Then we have two options. Tear up the picture and accept the person, or tear up the person and accept the picture.”

Second, be RESPONSIBLE. Ask yourself, “Do I have those qualities I am looking for?” In his Secret of Loving Josh McDowell wrote, “The golden rule of a successful marriage is that whatever qualities you desire in a mate, develop first in yourself. If you want a queen, you need to be a king. If you want a good lover, you need to be a good lover. Most of us search and search for the right person, when all the while the key is being the right person.”

That is why we should base our expectations on the Bible. God already spelled it out for us. Also, He will not command us something that we cannot do. “This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome”. (1 John 5:3)[1] In one translation it says that God’s commands “are not hard to follow.”[2] In another it says that they “are not too hard for us”.[3] Plus, He gives us the strength to obey, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6) So, if we are disobedient, it’s not because we can’t. But it’s because we won’t.

Now, the Bible spelled out for us what a dream wife is. “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. ...and the wife must respect her husband.” (Ephesians 5:22-24, 33b) Men, this is what you should expect from your wives. Ladies, take heart. For this is how God designed you. Today we will talk about “Be the Woman of Your Husband’s Dreams.”

Before I continue, may I call on my wife Ellen to share a few words?

We women are often uncomfortable when the word “submission” is mentioned. We often say this is difficult if not outright impossible. When we look around us, we see more and more women CEOs, more and more women in the hierarchy of the corporate world. On the other hand, we see more and more husbands staying home or “house-bands.”

Indeed in some households, women earn more that their husbands; wives are more resourceful, more dominant, more in control. This makes submission difficult for some of us.

But submission is God’s idea for order. Before I married Pastor Eyriche (Oh, by the way, maybe some of you don’t still know that I am 10 years older than he is) one major issue I have to grapple with is: Can I submit to a man younger, less experienced, less independent, and at that time earning less than I am?

That is when I came at grips with submission. Submission is God’s idea. When we accept that, submission became an easier concept to grasp.

I think submission becomes difficult when as a child we are not used to submitting to our parents, or as a student we are not submissive to the school, or as an employee, we are not submissive to our bosses, or as a Christian, if we are submissive to God.

Before we got married, and early on into our marriage, I have to constantly, consciously work on submission. From a very young age, I was very independent. Even when my arm was amputated after I fell from a tree, my mother instilled in my mind and heart the ability to do things with one hand sometimes even better than other two-handed people would. I was educated at U.P. which reinforced my independence.

Then I realized that submission is my issue with God, not with my husband. Do I believe God is wise when He said “Submit in everything?” Women let us admit there are times when we are clearly right, our ideas are better. There are times when our husbands are sooo slow, we get impatient. But we are still called to submit. In my case, there were times early in our marriage that I have "convinced” Ptr. Eyriche that my idea was better, why? Here are the reasons...1, 2, 3... But later on when he hesitatingly agrees, then it flops. He was right. There are times when it seems his moves and decisions would “clearly” not work...but I followed him and it turned out, he was right. I learned through many tough lessons that God honors my commitment.

Ladies, it pays to obey your husbands. Ultimately, we benefit from it. Husbands love better, when their wives submit. I think the men will agree with this. But our biggest incentive when we submit is we get God’s approval.

Again, I encourage the ladies, for the singles, the time to learn submission is now. Submit to your parents, teachers, bosses, elders so it won’t be too difficult in the future. Wives, submission is our issue with God. If we are fully submissive to God, God will enable us to submit and He will bless our relationships. Thank You!

Now, let’s look at verse 22: “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” Verse 22 connects with verse 18: “be filled with the Spirit.” Therefore, if you submit to your husband, you are Spirit-empowered.

Submission is not optional. You are disobeying God if you don’t submit. For this is a COMMAND: Submit to your HUSBAND. In the Greek, the word “submit” is a military term which means “to rank in an orderly manner underneath.” In marriage, then, the wife is to arrange her life in an orderly manner underneath her husband. It simply means to obey and respect your husband as the leader of your home. This has nothing to do with our standing before God or before each other. Women follow and men lead not because women are inferior or men are superior. We are equal before God and with each other. But God designed the married life in such a way that there would be order or system.

The Life Application Bible Commentary clarifies it for us: “This should not be taken to mean that wives are to be doormats, allowing their husbands to walk over them; nor are they to be silent partners, wordlessly carrying out their husband’s directives. It means that wives are to willingly support their husband’s leadership—not balking or undermining him. They are to be active participants in the challenging task of running a Christian home. They are to do everything they can to encourage and support their husbands’ leadership in the home, but not blindly or unquestioningly.”

Now, men, don’t hit your wives on the head with this verse. Some men have committed abuses in the name of submission. That’s also one of the reasons women find it hard to submit. It’s like we’re rubbing salt on the wound.

God through the apostle Paul is talking directly to women through this passage. He is not telling men, “Men, make your wives submit! Conquer them by hook or by crook.” Maybe He knows men can’t really do it. You know why? Women will surely fight back. Kidding aside, God wants the women to be personally accountable to Him. He wants you to voluntarily submit to your husband. Not because you were forced but because you want to.

Since the tense in the Greek of “submit” is in a present tense, women are to continuously submit. Thus, the wife should not view it as something you do once in a lifetime or once in a while. Women must do it not only when they feel like it or when it is convenient to do so. But women are to submit at all times.

Second, “Wives, submit to your husbands AS TO THE LORD. That’s your COMMITMENT. In The Message it goes like this: “Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ.” It does not mean that women must worship their husbands. You honor Christ when you respect your husband. How can you say you obey God whom you can’t see when you can’t obey your husband whom you can see?
Note what Paul said: “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” (Ephesians 5:23-24) The way you follow your husband gives us a beautiful picture of the way the church ought to follow Christ. And it’s a bad publicity for the Lord if we claim to be believers and yet we have a poor relationship with each other.

“Head” means “leadership.” By the way, there’s nothing in the Bible that says women are the neck. Just as Christ is the leader of the church, so also the husband is the leader of the wife. It’s not the other way around. The church cannot be the leader of Christ. So also the woman cannot be the leader of the man. “Wives should always put their husbands first, as the church puts Christ first.” (v. 24)[4] Wives, look at the way you treat your husband. What Paul is saying is that, what you do to your husband, you do unto Christ. That’s why Paul wrote: “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” (v. 24)

You may be asking, “You mean everything as in everything?” You read it right! That’s the scope or COVERAGE: Submit “in EVERYTHING.” It means “entirely or completely.” Everything includes everything and excludes nothing. Of course, as Dr. Bruce Wilkinson in A Biblical Portrait of Marriage said, “It does not include the immoral or the illegal. Don’t break the law of the Lord. Don’t break the law of the land.” When your husband commands you to do something that God prohibits or prevents you from doing something that God commands, obey God not your husband. But other than the immoral and the illegal, it covers all things.

Now, you may be asking, “What if my husband is not the leader he is supposed to be? What if the man is not as educated or not as talented as the woman? What if the woman earns more than what the man earns?” But Paul did not qualify his statement. He did not say, “Women, follow your husbands if they are worth following.” Of course, there are times it’s the men’s fault why women find it hard to follow. Yes, it is their responsibility to submit. But, brothers, we have to make it a joy for them to obey us by being the loving leader God meant us to be. Rev. Harg Ang will talk more about that next Sunday.

Look at what the apostle Peter wrote: “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.” (1 Peter 3:1-2) Note that, even if the husband is disobedient to the Lord, still the wife must follow him. No grumbling... No complaining... No nagging... “so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives”.

I like what Charles Swindoll, one of my favorite authors, wrote: “God says, ‘Let Me handle your man. You leave the preaching to Me. What I want from you is a godly life. Remember, he won’t be able to ignore your quiet, calm spirit.’ But that’s tough! And because it is, many wives resort to a substitute for this quiet spirit. It’s been my observation that the woman who employs this substitute is usually the one who cannot leave things in the hands of God. She finds it virtually impossible to believe that the Lord can handle her husband without her help. Therefore, she resorts to any number of manipulative techniques [like, for example, nagging]. By manipulating her man, she hopes ultimately to get her own way. Wives, no amount of rationalization will ever justify manipulation. Your husband cannot be manipulated into any permanent change.” Men, don’t hide behind these words. Yes, it’s unconditional. But that doesn’t mean we can’t make it easy for our wives to support us.

A rich businessman went to a gas station to fill up his jaguar. His wife was with him. To his surprise, he saw that the gas attendant was his wife’s ex-boyfriend. When they left the station, the husband could not keep himself from gloating. He asked his wife, “Aren’t you glad you married me and not him?” The wife answered, “Well, if I married him instead of you, he would have become the rich businessman and you the gas attendant!”

Ladies, if you would follow God’s calling for you, if you would submit to your husbands as He spelled it out, I believe you would bring the best out of your spouses. May each one of you become the woman of your husband’s dreams.

Let’s pray...

[1]All Bible verses are from the New International Version, unless otherwise specified.
[2]Contemporary English Version.
[3] Good News Bible.
[4]Contemporary English Version.

Note: This was the talk Pastor Eyriche Cortez delivered last July 16, 2006 in the English Worship Service of Makati Gospel Church.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The “S” Word

To some, the “S” word brings mental images of shackles with matching chains attached to a heavy iron ball. To other, it means punishment, denial of rights and hard labor.

No, I’m not talking about slavery.
The “S” word stands for “submission.”

But there are those who think submission is synonymous to slavery. Maybe it got that stigma because there are men who love to beat their wives on the head with these words: “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” (New International Version)

But submission is not a bad word. In fact, The Message (The Bible in Contemporary Language) even rendered Ephesians 5:22 this way: “Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ.” So, to submit is to understand and support. It speaks of the wives becoming the catalyst of change to their husbands. “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.” (1 Peter 3:1-2, New International Version)

I like how the Life Application Bible Commentary Series explained the implications of the “S” word: “This should not be taken to mean that wives are to be doormats, allowing their husbands to walk over them; nor are they to be silent partners, wordlessly carrying out their husband’s directives. It means that wives are to willingly support their husband’s leadership—not balking or undermining him. They are to be active participants in the challenging task of running a Christian home. They are to do everything they can to encourage and support their husbands’ leadership in the home, but not blindly or unquestioningly.

Sisters, men and women are equal in respect before God. We are just different in aspect. Submission does not imply inferiority on the part of women. Leadership does not mean superiority on the part of men. Brothers, it’s our fault why most of the times women find it hard to submit. Yes, it is their responsibility to submit. But we have to make it a joy for them to submit to us by being the loving leader God meant us to be.

Brethren, in the words of Charles Swindoll, one of my favorite authors, “Christian marriage means partnership, not tyranny. And God calls women to help their husbands be the best they can be.” (Becoming a People of Grace)

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

In-laws or Outlaws?

Someone asked me, “Do you know why Peter denied the Lord?” I answered, “Because he was afraid that he would be arrested too?”

“No,” the person replied. “It was because Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law.”

In-laws are usually stereotyped in movies as meddlers in a couple’s life (such as in Jennifer Lopez’s Monster-in-Law). But really this is a case of art imitating life. There are times that in-laws become outlaws.

I believe that Genesis 2:24 provided God’s original plan for the family: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (New International Version) There are commentators however that says Genesis 2:24 can’t refer to geographical separation due to the extended family structure of the Jews. Usually “the man continued to live in or near his parents’ home. It was the wife who left home to join her husband.” (Thomas Constable, Notes on Genesis) But Moses wrote under the guidance of the Spirit that even the man had to leave his parents. The word “leave” means “to go from one place to another, to take the load off another and assume it on your shoulder, and to forsake a person for another person.” (Bruce Wilkinson, A Biblical Portrait of Marriage) I know there are risks. Some are afraid to leave because they think they are not yet financially capable. But the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

Of course, if the parents need special care, we are to take care of them. “Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.” (1 Timothy 5:3-4) Leaving does not negate the command to honor one’s parents.

However, though it includes physical or geographical separation, leaving goes beyond that. Kenneth Boa wrote, “Leaving must precede cleaving—marriage requires the forsaking of other relationships so that the husband and wife can be fully committed to each other. When a man and a woman leave home to start a new family unit, they are no longer under the authority of their parents, but are now directly responsible to God and to each other. They are to be independent of their parents in a geographical, emotional, and financial sense, and no other relationship should be allowed to come between them.” (Marriage: Intimates or Inmates?) In short, to leave means standing on your own feet.

Brethren, let us uphold God’s blueprint for marriage.

For Better or... Bitter?

A woman was shocked when her husband came home early. “Himala! (“It’s a miracle!”) She exclaimed. “What happened?” The man replied, “My boss told me to ‘Go to hell!’ That’s why I went home.”

Marriage makes our life on earth either heaven or hell. Of all the institutions that God created, the family is the most important. The strength of the church and the nation depends upon the strength of the family. When the family goes down, everything goes down.

We saw the last time I spoke that the Spirit’s empowering penetrates even our relationships. In Ephesians 5:18, we are to “be filled with the Spirit.”[1] This leads us to “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (v. 21) Then the apostle Paul amplified it by starting with the husband and wife relationship. Let us read Ephesians 5:22-33 together...

22Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church—30for we are members of his body. 31“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

This morning we will focus on verse 31: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” It is lifted from Genesis 2:24. It is significant that Paul quoted this verse in his discussion of the man-woman relationship. When Jesus was asked about divorce, He replied: 4“Haven’t you read... that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6) Note that Jesus quoted this verse in support of His teaching. Thus, we can say that Genesis 2:24 provides the blueprint or what God meant marriage to be “for better or for worse... richer or poorer... in sickness or in health... till death do us part.” I pray that, because of this talk, we will be better, not bitter, in our relationships.

Let’s look into the context of this verse.

18The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” 19Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. 22Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. 23The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” 24For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. 25The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. (Genesis 2:18-25)

Now God did not say “It is not good for the man to be alone” because it is best for him to be alone. That’s not what He meant. It is not good, period. In the Amplified Bible it says, “It is not good (sufficient, satisfactory) that the man should be alone...” It is not sufficient. It is not satisfactory. Ladies, just imagine what your house would look like if you leave us husbands alone in there! To the singles, please note that God, not Adam, pointed out the need for a partner. God is aware of your needs. Don’t fret. Don’t rush. He will provide.

God said, “I will make a helper...” Now that does not refer to domestic helper or maid. According to the notes of the NET Bible, “The English word ‘helper,’ because it can connote so many different ideas, does not accurately convey the connotation of the Hebrew word... Usage of the Hebrew term does not suggest a subordinate role, a connotation which English ‘helper’ can have. In the Bible God is frequently described as the ‘helper,’ the one who does for us what we cannot do for ourselves, the one who meets our needs. In this context the word seems to express the idea of an ‘indispensable companion.’ ... she has everything that God had invested in him.”

Here we find our CALLING. Man and woman are CO-EQUALS before God. God created both the man and the woman in His image, that is, we reflect His love, His righteousness, His character. God called both the man and the woman and “blessed them: "Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge! Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air, for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth." (Genesis 1:28, The Message) The man and the woman have equal access to God. During Paul’s time, Jews had a low view of women. “To them, women were servants. In fact, when a Jewish man would get up in the morning, he would pray, ‘God, I thank you that I’m not a Gentile, a slave, or a woman. Amen.’”[2] The Gentiles had a low view of women also. Demosthenes, a Greek philosopher, boasted: “We have courtesans for the sake of pleasure; we have concubines for the sake of daily cohabitation; and we have wives for the purpose of having children legitimately and being faithful guardians for our household affairs.” But Paul, a male Jew himself, wrote to the Galatians, who were Gentiles themselves, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) Some people thought the Bible was in favor of men only. But that is not true. In fact, wherever the Bible went, women were restored to their rightful place. When it comes to our standing before God, both man and woman are equal before Him. If we keep that in mind, then we will be better, not bitter, because we will respect each other.

Now, God said, “I will make a helper suitable for him.” Here we find that the man and the woman COMPLEMENT each other. Thus, we ought to COOPERATE with each other. Again, according to the NET Bible, “The Hebrew expression... literally means ‘according to the opposite of him.’ Translations such as ‘suitable [for]’..., ‘matching,’ [and] ‘corresponding to’ all capture the idea. The man’s form and nature are matched by the woman’s as she reflects him and complements him. Together they correspond.” That’s why in the English Standard Version it says, “I will make him a helper fit for him.” In God’s Word translation, it goes like this: “I will make a helper who is right for him.” The man’s strengths will compensate for the woman’s weaknesses. The woman’s strengths will compensate for the man’s weaknesses. In our passage, after God recognized man’s need for a partner, He performed the first major surgery. He caused the man to sleep and then got one of his ribs to fashion a woman. When he woke up, the man saw the woman and said, “Wow! [That’s my version] Finally, here’s someone who is like me!” Now Paul argued that, since the man was created first, he is the leader: 3the head of the woman is man... 8For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; 9neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.” (1 Corinthians 11:3, 8-9) That’s God’s choice. It was not based on culture, not on intellect and not on talents. The Bible does not say that men lead because they are superior to women. The Bible does not teach that women submit because they are inferior to men. The man leads and the woman submits by God’s gracious decision and wise design. We will look further into the responsibility of the women on Ephesians 5:22-24 on the third Sunday of July. I will talk about “Be the Woman of Your Husband’s Dreams.” Then Reverend Harg Ang will expound the responsibility of men on Ephesians 5:25-33 on the fourth Sunday. He will talk about “Be the Man of Your Wife’s Dreams.” We are equal in respect and different in aspect. We are so different from each other that we need each other. 11Yet, as believers in the Lord, women couldn’t exist without men and men couldn’t exist without women. 12As a woman came into existence from a man, so men come into existence by women, but everything comes from God.” (1 Corinthians 11:11-12, God’s Word) If we keep that in mind, then we will be better, not bitter. There would be no power struggle in our marriage. Instead, we will bring the best out of each other.

Finally, let’s look into Genesis 2:24. In order for the man and the woman to fulfill their calling and fully complement each other, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” Here we need COMMITMENT. Man and woman must CONNECT to each other. I owe a lot to A Biblical Portrait of Marriage seminar by WorldTeach in crystallizing my understanding of this verse. In order for the man and the woman to united or connected to each other, the man must leave his parents. There can be no cleaving without leaving. This goes beyond physical and geographical leaving but it includes those things. It does not mean neglecting your parents. It means standing on your own feet and starting your own family. We know there is so much at stake. But the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. There are times couples become bitter because of in-laws who became outlaws or parents meddling into the couple’s affairs. In short, the couple must be independent.

Then, the couple must be united or grow intimate towards each other. It involves the physical. “The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” (v. 25) But intimacy goes beyond sex. To become one flesh involves our entire being. Couples are to grow intellectually, emotionally, physically and socially together. Failure to do so would result in the husband and the wife drifting away from each other or “falling out of love.” They end up, just as Christ told the church in Ephesus, “But this is what I have against you: you do not love me now as you did at first.” (Revelation 2:4, Good News Bible) That’s why we should not allow anything or anyone to put a wedge between us and our spouses. In order to be better, not bitter, husband and wife must commit to grow intimately towards each other in all aspects of their lives.

There’s a newly wed couple who rode on a horse-drawn carriage on their way to their honeymoon. Suddenly the horse went wild. The man said to the horse, “That’s one!” Farther on, the horse bolted again. The man said, “That’s two!” Some time later, the horse became disturbed again. The man said, “That’s three!” He took out a gun and shot the horse point-blank! Shocked at what she just saw, the new wife exclaimed, “What have you done? What made you do that?” The man replied, “That’s one!”[3] Whatever state our marriage is in right now, we must always give it a second chance and our best shot. Thus, we will remain better and never become bitter.

Let’s pray...

[1] All Bible verses are from the New International Version, unless otherwise noted.

[2] The Fulfilled Family, Dr. John MacArthur, Jr.

[3] MacArthur.

Empowered to Live to the Fullest

We love Superman. He seems to be so invincible... so powerful... except of course in front of a kryptonite. Still, we love superheroes. We know they’re not real. Yet how we wish we would become superheroes. For most of us, we only have the strength to barely pull us through the day. After a tiring but unfruitful day at the office, we slump on the sofa and ask, “Is there more to life than this?”

I have great news for you. The Lord declares: “I came so that everyone would have life, and have it in its fullest.” (John 10:10, Contemporary English Version)[1] Is this life really possible? Not only does the Lord want us to have it, He actually empowers us to live to the fullest.

Let us read Ephesians 5:18-21... 18Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. 19Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 21Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Now, you may be thinking, “Don’t give me that ‘spiritual power’ thing!” Please listen first. If you think it applies only to religious activities, think again. This is not a pep talk either. I am talking of real power! I tell you it’s practical.

Look at Bezalel, a master craftsman in the Bible. The Lord chose him to build the temple and “He has filled him with the Spirit of God — with skill, with understanding, with knowledge, and with all kinds of work, to design artistic designs, to work in gold, in silver, and in bronze, and in cutting stones for their setting, and in cutting wood, to do work in every artistic craft.” (Exodus 35:31-33, The NET Bible) According to the Word in Life Study Bible, “The Spirit of God is said to be the source of the many skills and abilities required for the design and construction of the tabernacle—metalwork, jewelry making, carpentry, engraving, weaving, and other related talents.”[2]

Now let’s look at the time when the apostles faced a problem in the daily distribution of food to widows. Notice the credentials needed to oversee the feeding program: “Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them...” (Acts 6:3) Now this was not a menial task. It would require administrative and people skills. But the apostles said they need the empowering of the Spirit to do the job.

My point is that the Spirit can empower you as you balance the books of your company, as you deal with your employees or employer, as you try to make a sale or as you lead your company. You don’t have to be a superhero to have the strength to face the challenges of life. You just have to experience the empowering of the Spirit.

What does it mean to “be filled with the Spirit”? Look at the word “Instead...” in verse 18. It contrasts between a person drunk with wine and one filled with the Spirit. In his “The Message of Ephesians,” John Stott wrote, “A person who is drunk, we say, is ‘under the influence’ of alcohol; and certainly a Spirit-filled Christian is under the influence and power of the Holy Spirit. [But] if excessive alcohol dehumanizes, turning a human being into a beast, the fullness of the Spirit makes us more human, for he makes us like Christ.” So, basically, the filling of the Spirit means CONTROL. We don’t get more of the Spirit. But the Spirit gets more of us. So, to be controlled means to be empowered. We need the power of the Spirit in every aspect of our lives.

In the Greek, “be filled” is a COMMAND. It is in the imperative mood. It is our responsibility to follow the Spirit. We don’t need to wait for any strange experiences or emotions. Let’s look at a parallel verse: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly...” (Colossians 3:16)

In the Contemporary English Version it says, “Let the message about Christ completely fill your lives...” So, to be filled with the Spirit is to obey the word of Christ. As we step out in obedience, rest assured that He empowers us. So we need to ACT upon it.

But, it requires COOPERATION on our part. For it is in the passive voice. If it’s active, it’s like “I hit the ball.” If it’s passive, “The ball hits me.” That’s why in the New Living Translation, it is translated this way: “let the Holy Spirit fill and control you.” We yield control to the Spirit. We are like a glove. The Spirit is the hand. Without the hand, the glove can’t move. The glove follows the hand. So we need to ACCEPT the control of the Spirit. It is not something we do ourselves. But we allow the Spirit to work in us.

It also calls for CONTINUITY. It is in the present tense. In the International Standard Version, it says, “keep on being filled with the Spirit.” So we must AVAIL of it everyday.
According to the MacArthur New Testament Commentary, “[It] involves day-to-day, moment-by-moment submission to the Spirit’s control.”

And it should be COMMON experience. It is plural. That means it’s not only for pastors but for everyone who trusted the Lord Jesus as his Savior. It is ACCESIBLE to all.

In short, everyone must keep on yielding to the Spirit’s control everyday.

Now, what happens when we are empowered with the Spirit? If we look into the passage, “be filled” (v. 18) is a verb while “speak” (v. 19a), “sing” (v. 19b), “giving thanks” (v. 20) and “submit” (v. 21) are participles. In other words, these are the evidences that we are controlled by the Spirit.

In verse 19 it says, “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” First, when we are empowered by the Spirit, He EASES UP the way we speak to each other. Let’s compare it with Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom...” Though in both verses, the context is public worship, it is not limited to that. We need to watch the way we talk to each other outside and inside our gatherings. People like our business associates or subordinates judge us by the way we talk. Through the Spirit, we can CONTROL our speech.

Second, when we are empowered by the Spirit, He ENCOURAGES us to depend on the Lord. “Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord...” (v. 19). It affects the way we relate to God in worship. Through the power of the Spirit, we can CONNECT with God. There are times the way people worship the Lord reminds of the TV commercial: “Not enough vitamins.” But as John Stott wrote, “Without doubt Spirit-filled Christians have a song of joy in their hearts, and Spirit-filled public worship is a joyful celebration of God’s mighty acts...” Again, though the context talks about public gatherings, it is not limited to that. As we face the challenges of the daily grind of our work, we also need the strength of the Lord. Prayer is not out of place in the workplace.

Third, when we are empowered by the Spirit, He ENABLES us to face our circumstances differently. “...always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (v. 20) In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 we read this: “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Whatever problems we are facing, we give thanks. We don’t grumble. We don’t complain. We give thanks in any and all circumstances. In everything. We don’t give thanks for the problem. We give thanks in the problem or despite of it. For we can CONQUER it.

Lastly, when we are empowered by the Spirit, He ENHANCES our relationships at home and in the workplace. “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (v. 21) That’s why I said the empowering of the Spirit is very practical. It permeates every relationship. Notice that verses 22-24 talks about wives submitting to their husbands. So, women, if you are empowered by the Spirit, you will submit to your husbands.

Then, in verses 25-33, husbands loving their wives. Husbands, if you are empowered by the Spirit, you will love your wives. In chapter 6 verses 1-3, Paul dealt with children obeying their parents. So, children, if you are empowered by Spirit, you will honor your parents. In verse 4, it talks about fathers disciplining their kids. By the way, fathers, today is your day! Happy father’s day! If you are empowered by the Spirit, you will “bring [your kids] up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Then, in verses 5-9, Paul discussed the slave-master or employee-employer relationship. Yes, even the way you work or you manage your company needs the empowering of the Spirit. Through the control of the Spirit, we can COMMIT to these relationships. “It is relatively easy to exhibit a Spirit-filled life for one or two hours a week in church but it takes the work of the Holy Spirit to exhibit godliness not only on Sundays but also in everyday relationships between wives and husbands, children and parents, and slaves and masters.” (Bible Knowledge Commentary)

There was a missionary who got a car that would not start without a push. So, every time he would use the car, he would have people push it off. Then, he would either park on a hill or leave the engine running. He did this for two years. When he was about to leave the mission field, he turned over the car to another missionary. When he explained his technique for starting the car, the new man looked under the hood. Then he said, “I believe the only trouble is this loose cable.” He gave the cable a twist, stepped into the car, pushed the switch, and to the missionary’s surprise, the engine roared to life. For two years needless trouble had become routine. The power was there all the time. Only a loose connection kept the missionary from putting that power to work.[3]

Is there a loose connection in our lives that is keeping us from experiencing the power of the Spirit? That is keeping us from living our lives to the fullest? Let us not suffer unnecessarily. From now on, let us yield to the Spirit’s control.

Let us pray...

[1] Unless otherwise specified, verses are from the New International Version.

[2] From the illustration database of Biblical Studies Foundation.

[3] From the illustration database of Biblical Studies Foundation (