A Sincere Love of Others is an Act of True Worship

“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.” Romans‬ ‭12:9-11‬ ‭NLT‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Here’s a breakdown of the reflection I had on the above Scripture:

1. Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. This refers to a commandment that speaks of loving others as you do yourself. The call is to genuinely care for others. But who are the others? Does this mean your family members, friends, people to your opinion are worthy of affection? What about the outcasts, social pariahs, people you don’t agree with, or who you thought of as your enemy? Loving others is loving everyone everywhere. Everyone. Everywhere.

2. Hate what is wrong. Hold on to the good.

This is where the message of a true love is often missed. If you do not believe that the cause of Jesus Christ is to love everyone everywhere, then stop reading and move on; there’s no conversation to be had here. However, if you believe that loving everyone everywhere is the core of Christ’s movement, let’s talk.

What love covers the multitude of sins means.

The phrase love covers the multitude of sins in 1 Peter 4:8 does not in anyway imply to ignore, excuse, or tolerate a bad behavior or an abhorrent act. You can forgive, extend grace, and seek justice at the same time. What the context of the message suggests is that through grace you must learn to love and respect the humanity of others unconditionally and that you see the person, even in his wickedness and vile existence, as deserving of God’s mercy. You have to understand that there is a clear differentiation between the person and the act and the human being and the disease.

Furthermore, verse 9 instructs to “Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay.” As if trying to love the unlovable isn’t hard enough, why would God ask us to cheerfully help a despicable person?

Where your heart lies is where your home is built. Is your home built to only accommodate people who pass your compassion test? Are you so blinded by your emotions that you refuse to consider compassion and will rather deny a sick person of medical or mental intervention because you’re scandalized by the weakness he is associated by? Does your altar-offering consist of items marked off of your sanitized checklist?

Loving everyone everywhere. Hate what is wrong hold on to the good. What if this means loving both the victim and the offender? What if this means pushing you to differentiate between the offender and the despicable act? What if this means you’re being taught that you can forgive, offer mercy and help in this person’s transformation while also fully understanding the value of justice and rule of law? How do you reconcile that? Can you wrap your head around it? Are you willing to give the same grace to an innocent child and to a monstrous psychopath?

The thing is, what you’re both unwilling to sacrifice or embrace reveals the expanse of your worship. And in your reliance on the comforts of what you know and in your inability to seek factual information you also limit your ability to love unabashedly. Considering this, how can you be certain that you are truly testing everything, including your biases and belief system? Is your truth the same as Christ’s truth? Does it pass the litmus test of unconditional love? Are you capable of bestowing love and respect to the social outcasts without conditions? Keeping in mind the foregoing, are you one who pass a judgment unto others and one who either wittingly or unwittingly deny a person an opportunity to experience God’s love through you or through other means?

3. Take delight in honoring each other.

Simply put, honor is regarding with great respect. Are we genuinely putting this into practice? Instead of celebrating the success of a well-done work, do we look at the person who did the job too well as a show-off or do we celebrate the fact that it impacted others in a transformative way? Do you resent that others are getting encouragement for their efforts and you’re not? Do you secretly plot on upping or purposely demeaning the other person because you’re not getting what you thought is the attention you also deserve? Are you driven by pride and jealousy that honoring another’s person’s individuality is too tall of a mountain for you to climb? What will it take for you to see that the value of each person’s humanity is based on God’s standard of grace and not yours?

Serving others in love is an act of true worship.

The focus of a true worship is centered on God’s commandment on love. Jesus said in Matthew‬ ‭22:37-40‬ ‭MSG‬, ”Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence. This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: Love others as well as you love yourself. These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”

‭‭The act of a true and acceptable worship demonstrates a reverent love and devotion to what God holds dear. And what God holds dear is His love of us, and what He requires of us by our love of Him is to love others as much as we love thyself. We were all given talents and gifts. Your talent is a gift from God. Your demonstration of it in the love and service of others is your true worship of Him. To use author Anne Lamott words: Stop comparing your insides to someone’s outside. When you do this, you allow more time for self-reflection and communion with God.

Test if your act passes the litmus test of love. Check if your motivation is brought by either guilt or obligation. Inquire if what you’re doing is a breathing part of your petitions. Investigate if what you do represents God’s desire. See if your act, when done to you, will please you. Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence. Love others as well as you love yourself. The heart of the life we live every day is the worship we offer to God whom we say we love with all our heart.

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Give Her a Period Shower

Her siblings and I decided to throw her a surprise ‘Period Shower’. We are expecting Caly’s first menstrual cycle anytime. Cara didn’t have a period shower before she had hers, but she and I and Chace had a series of puberty lessons for both genders. Just like I did for Cara, I also approached a few select people to help, guide, and provide moral support for Caly when the time comes. I know it’s funny to some, and I probably embarrassed the guys I approached, but I’ve long believed it’s necessary to open a conversation about menarche and menstruation and push all genders to get educated on the topic.

I’m fortunate that Caly’s junior high school male pastor has done a discussion about the topic before. I don’t know how extensive the discussion was with his wife who also happens to be his partner in the junior high ministry and the camp volunteers, but I do feel a sense of relief and confidence knowing that I have an informed and a loving support system for Caly. You should read our text exchange! Lol!

Menstruation has always been a taboo subject even in the western world. It’s unfortunate that we are teaching our girls to be secretly discreet about their period and to hide their menstrual discomfort. When we do this, girls are less likely to report their symptoms and are even less likely to seek medical intervention. They are likely to suffer in silence than take advantage of available resources and remedies.

Period Pain: Why do so many women suffer from menstrual cramps in silence?

A Bias Against Women in the Treatment of Pain

https://poseidon01.ssrn.com/delivery.php?ID=161070001067084071084120093026004123088047030012065075094106119126001000024102035025061036032080015108122126125109008086047053020091106116084082089006086119047083066085110072127069080087110088027083096096106104120005097124123065096028100074070&EXT=pdf

Tackling the Taboo of Menstruation

Discussing menstruation openly shouldn’t be a taboo thing. Especially so, if we believed that women’s healthcare is a basic human right. In fact, I will strongly argue that this isn’t just a woman’s issue, but a universal conversation. If all of us are able to understand the conditions that afflict a female body, then maybe our outlook and our conversational demeanor on healthcare and gender parity will change from polarizing identity politics to a multiparty and diversely participative policy-making process that’s rich in compassion, equality, and justice that doesn’t discriminate. Maybe, we’ll stop stigmatizing women and insulting their being with comments like, “It’s that time of the month for her,” or “She’s PMS’ng,” in reference to certain moods. Which by the way, when a man exhibits a mood swing, he’s less likely seen in a bad or weak light.

Period-shaming and Menstrual Stigmas

https://thenypost.files.wordpress.com/2018/01/180103-thinx-2.jpg?quality=80&strip=all&strip=all

Nearly half of women have experienced ‘period shaming’

https://www.google.com/amp/s/nypost.com/2018/01/03/nearly-half-of-women-have-experienced-period-shaming/amp/

If we are to raise boys and girls who value humanity and equal respect, we have to rethink our positions on what should comprise a taboo subject. It’s not healthy that women are embarrassed about having periods or talking about menses. It’s an abomination that nearly half of the female group have been period-shamed. And if we are to raise girls who value their overall wellness, women who are confident and strong, we have to have a comfortable conversation about a health topic that affects them.

Here’s the thing, there is so much about menstruation that all genders and most women aren’t aware of. Let’s not encourage our girls and the women to stay silent about periods. Menstruation is not a hygiene matter. It’s a health and a medical matter.

Overview of Menstrual Disorders

Menstruation in Girls and Adolescents: Using the Menstrual Cycle as a Vital Sign

Premenstrual Syndrome

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMHT0024719/

https://m.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Premenstrual-Syndrome-PMS

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMHT0024721/

Menstrual Headaches

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Fellowshipping: From Handshakes to Hugs

Building and Growing Relationships

Last Friday’s topic was a special one for Vic, most especially so since he himself, in the last two years, has partially evolved from being a handshake type-of-a-person to a greeter-hug kind-of-a-guy. He presented a heartwarming lesson on fellowshipping of a group of friends and church family. He illustrated his point by also sharing our crossover journey with the Bautistas to Rancho Murrieta. His lesson is called, “From Handshakes to Hugs.” Vic delivered a strong and a very personal message on building and growing relationships.

The recorded history of handshakes dates as far back as the 4th century BC. When men met and displayed their empty right hands, it’s assumed that they won’t strike each other. Although a handshake in modern history is seen as a hospitable gesture, according to business etiquette expert Terry Pithers, “In business, the handshake allows a person to create a subconscious connection with another, especially when combined with a warm expression and eye contact.” A firm and friendly handshake make for a good impression.

On the other hand, hugs are a natural display of affection and an instinctive show of protectionism. There’s no clear recording of the history and evolution of hugging. The word hug, however, is believed to have originated from 16th-century Norwegian term “hugga,” meaning ‘to comfort’ or ‘to console.’

In 2016, a distant cousin to the term hugga became one of the newest accepted words in the Oxford dictionary. The new word, hygge, is Norwegian in origin and is widely used and practiced in Scandinavian countries. It is pronounced as hoo-guh. The Oxford dictionary defines it as, “A quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture).”

No wonder the Scandinavian countries always ranked high in the UN’s survey of happiest nations in the world.

Let me say this, there’s nothing wrong with handshakes or preferring hugs. If you’re not okay with giving or receiving either one, that’s alright. Some people or culture express their show of pleasantries with a head nod, a hand wave, or a slight bow. Others would just smile. Don’t feel bad or obligated to be all that pleasant all the time. Allow others to see the real you while also being mindful and respectful of their being. Moreover, don’t be in a habit of ignoring people or being selective of who to be cordial with. I’m saying this not only because it’s rude to do so, but also because that type of heart and attitude do not belong in the loving community of Christ. Unless, of course, there’s a medical reason why conventional social interactions are hard, if not impossible for you to undertake.

We’ve discussed handshakes and hugs and have mentioned it’s deep connection to the process of fellowshipping, but what is a fellowship, anyway? Fellowship stems from the Greek noun koinonia which means, “a bond for a common purpose.” In a church where a mission statement is loving everyone everywhere and where the desired cultural atmosphere is that of a casual gathering of friends advancing the cause of Christ, at some point in the fellowship, as a person who calls the church a home, I may have to extend my social pleasantries beyond the concept of handshakes. At some point in a casual church fellowship, a tradition of a formal handshake would eventually have to evolve into a culture of a comforting hug. By a “comforting hug,” I don’t mean it in a literal sense of a physical hug. Metaphorically, it suggests a welcoming vibe that tells the other person, “You are loved.” And for this to happen, it entails personal cooperation and intentionally working towards the purpose.

I remember our family’s first Sunday attendance in the Murrieta campus of Rancho Community Church was during the second lesson on the study of the Book of Philippians. The title of the series was “You’ve Got This,” and Ryan Beaver taught the lesson. It was November in 2017. I met Pat, who immediately strikes me as a sincere and genuinely loving greeter. Right off the bat, he summoned Ryan (the then lead teaching pastor of Murrieta campus) and introduced us to him. We exchanged firm, genuine, and welcoming handshakes. When you have the pleasure of meeting Ryan, you’ll see that he has an endearing way about him that makes you feel at ease.

I signed up Caden and Caly to Rancho’s Teen and Youth Ministries. I reached out to Ryan and Daniel, the middle school pastor, to let them know that we are new to the church and would need some assistance settling in. I also indicated my family’s desire to help in any way we can in the ministries. Caly felt at home right away with the middle school group led by Daniel and Summer. Our introverted Caden enjoyed Ryan’s teen lessons but wasn’t so excited in the new group initially, since he didn’t have anyone there in his same age bracket. But just seeing Rachel and Tommy, two of the lead teen ministry mentors and volunteers who took over the teen weekly meeting, reached out to Caden and called him by name, and approached him like his a long time part of the group was very encouraging to me and Vic.

On our second visit to Rancho Murrieta, Pat and I were already in a hugging stage. For us this transition was easy. But we’re not like everyone. As a community and as individuals, we have to not only recognize this, but we also have to respect our individual differences. This is where Vic’s suggestion of looking into the three aspects of fellowshipping will come into play. More on that in a few.

The Bautistas also joined us in the second time we came to Rancho Murrieta. We introduced them to Ryan, Alex, and Dan, one of the elders, and his wife Mary. Elizabeth signed up to volunteer. She and I started participating in various women’s events. Our families attended a highly important church announcement and transitional meeting in December at the house of Dan and Mary. It’s the first time we were meeting the leaders of both Murrieta and Temecula campuses. That meeting confirmed my family’s decision to make Rancho Murrieta our home church. We didn’t want to be with a home church that prioritizes the protection of its institution over the movement of Christ. The fact that the church organization of Rancho Community Church represents a carefully built organizational structure that advances the cause of Christ and promotes a calling of loving everyone everywhere affirms that this was where we should be.

The following are what to Vic are the three salient aspects of a fellowship, especially when you are new. The commentary on each section is my own, although it reflects the gist of Vic’s message.

1.Communication. Communication is a process. The not so secret tip to an effective communication is having the ability to listen well while also participating in the conversation.

There will be a few awkward moments; that’s okay. Just be patient. Stay a while after the service to get to know people. It takes time and effort to build rapport. If you’re not the extrovert type, don’t worry. You’re not the only one. While you’re building the confidence to strike a conversation, help yourself to a cup of drink and pick-me-up goodness from the refreshment table. If there’s no one to talk to or you decided you don’t feel like talking to anyone, just enjoy the food. By the way, just like the kitchen in your home, the refreshment table is a great place for people to come together and catch up. This is the inspiration of our hospitality whenever Elizabeth and I and our families are in charge of the Sunday refreshments. We do our best to serve others, home-style. While the food is always good, it’s the service and the experience that’ll make the people loosen up a bit and talk. At least that’s the idea.

2.Honesty. Be your natural you while also mindfully being considerate of others. Know that honesty requires vulnerability, too. However, be careful not to overwhelm others with everything about you. Being honest is not about pouring your whole life story in a few meetings to others that you just met. Make room for future share. It takes take a while to establish trust and confidence, so don’t rush into a BFF status in just two meetings. Being honest is being present in the moment and allowing the real you to show up while setting some boundaries.

3.Loving Heart. Jesus said, in Matthew 22:37-40 MSG, “Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence. This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.” Consequently, there cannot be a sharing of a common bond of loving all people everywhere if we remained in our comfortable and familiar spaces. It takes time and effort to love others, especially, those who are different from you. Stay in the course. Love requires work and practice. Discover the beauty of individual differences and understand that there is unity in diversity.

Vic says, “Fellowshipping is not just about the talking or the exchange of fleeting pleasantries. It’s the building of a closely-knit and devoted relationship. To me, a church fellowship is a form of a community prayer. Gandhi once said, ‘In prayer, it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart’. When we pray to God, it’s not just what we say. It’s whether we mean what we say. When we fellowship with church family we reach out to each other in unity and love. We love and serve without demanding anything in return.”

It’s better to just have a casual talk outside a fellowship than a fellowship inundated by lukewarm relations.

However, when the transformation of the social pleasantries from cordial, albeit, eager handshakes to heartwarming hugs begins to take place, expect to see a vibrant community of people energized and excited to contribute in any way they can. That’s just the natural outcome of love in full display.

The Health Benefits of Hugging

My family’s journey as an active participant of the Rancho Murrieta church community continues. It’s reached its early hug status and we’re hopeful that we can use our story to inspire newcomers to the Rancho Murrieta or those who are thinking of calling it a home but are hesitant about making new affiliations to dive in. Dive into a fellowship with other committed people dedicated to advancing the cause of Christ, loving everyone everywhere.

Scandal of Grace

Click here to see Kyle Preston, lead teaching pastor of Rancho Murrieta, share his authentic and heartwarming lesson that tackles the subject of mental health and the church community.

To close, here are a few of the scripture read mentioned in Vic’s study:

1 Corinthians 1:7-9

1 John 1:5-7

Psalm 139:23

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