Why Easter is Unbelievably Believable

Andy Stanley said, “From a distance, the Easter Story seems so unbelievable.  But when you look at the details of the narrative closely what begins as a story that’s so unbelievable, becomes so unbelievably believable.”

When you think about Easter what comes to mind? Some of our minds immediately race to new spring outfits, Easter egg hunts, and Easter baskets dropped off by the Easter bunny (Easter Fox, Rooster, or Stork depending on where you are from) that left us digging for that last Cadbury’s chocolate egg and handful of jelly beans.

For some of us that may have grown up with some type of church background, similar to the Evangelical Church in Dubai, we may have similar memories, yet the majority of our celebration revolves around the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. A story that is in many ways overwhelmingly unbelievable.

For many, the Easter story has left a taste of disbelief in our hearts. Although it’s often agreed Jesus was a prophet, a good man, a historic figure even, it’s still pretty hard to chew on the fact that he was the Son of God. Religion asks us to believe the Easter story simply because the Bible says its true.  However, we as a Non denominational church in Dubai believe the Easter story because the eyewitnesses of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and the people that knew the eyewitnesses, believed and gave their lives for what they believed.  Two men in particular: James, the brother of Jesus and Paul, a man who persecuted and killed Christians for a living.

Think about it. What would it take for your brother or sister to believe that you were the Son of God – God in the flesh? James had this very problem. He wasn’t a follower of Jesus.  He didn’t believe his brother was God. He believed his brother Jesus was crazy! Now think about anyone you’ve ever come into contact with that absolutely hates Christians; like with all they are can’t stand them. The apostle Paul, the same Paul regarded as a Saint in the Catholic Church, hated Christians so much that he tracked them down all over the Middle Eastern region to kill them.

The Easter story is not a sugar coated fairy-tale or fable. It is a story full of shame and messy stories of liars (Peter), killers (Paul), doubters (Jesus’ disciples), pride, scandal, and the testimonies of people who saw it all with their very own eyes; yet lived to tell what they saw that made them believe. Paul confirms this in his letter to the followers of Christ in Corinth. 1 Corinthians 15:7-9 says:

“… he presented himself alive to Peter, then to his closest followers, and later to more than five hundred of his followers all at the same time, most of them still around (although a few have fallen asleep); that he then spent time with James and the rest of those he commissioned to represent him; and that he finally presented himself alive to me. It was fitting that I bring up the rear. I don’t deserve to be included in that inner circle, as you well know, having spent all those early years trying my best to stamp God’s church right out of existence.”

It is their belief that makes your childhood faith, your current faith, your lack of faith, your curiosity, your consideration, or your conviction of faith not exist in vain.

 

 

Marriage and Commitment: What “I Do” Truly Means

You’ve heard this question a thousand times before, both in real life and in movies: “do you take this (man/woman) to be your lawfully wedded (husband/wife), for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness, and in health?” Unless this is a rom-com, a romantic drama, or a bizarre yet possible real-life situation, then there’s only one answer: “I do.” And now that the two have said their vows to each other, it’s a certainty that they’re going to have a good and lasting marriage, right? Wrong.

It doesn’t matter whether the wedding was held in a pristine white sand beach or a modern Christian church in Dubai; if either or both newlyweds don’t have that one thing to make them able to keep their promise, then that marriage is going to fail. No one who has already tied the knot or wants to do so in the future wants that to happen. So if you’re either of the two, then we ask that you  read up to make sure that your vows remain unbroken.

Commitment = Overrated

Don’t get it twisted; commitment is important. However, a commitment is only as good as the ability to uphold it, and preparation is one of those things. Unfortunately, a lot of newlyweds lack preparation. After all, if you do not have what it takes to fulfill all the things you said during your wedding day, then you will unintentionally break them.

That is what happens to a lot of married people. They’re honest men and women who either have or had tried their very hardest to keep them, but because they weren’t prepared to back up their talk, they fail at it. It’s not that they thought that they don’t need to prepare for married life; it’s just that they didn’t know that they have to.  And once they find out that they do, it’s sometimes too late.

Changing Your Ways

One of the most important ways a person can prepare for married life is by changing his or her ways. These are a person’s habits, choice of words, actions, likes and dislikes; these are the things that define a person, the things that make him or her predictable in a way. And it is very important for you to take note of your ways, and change them if need be, before you get married. After all, you’ll be sharing the rest of your life with someone and will be building a family with him or her, so it’s only right that you calibrate your ways in such a way that you’ll be able to peacefully and joyously live with the most important people in your life and fulfill your responsibilities for and towards them.

Dealing with Issues

As what has been said before, some marriage issues are not actually marriage issues, but instead are actually issues from peoples’ single lives that were brought into a marriage. And when not dealt with properly, these can cause a lot of trouble for couples and families.

Maybe you have issues with your parents, friends, or past relationships. Maybe, because of them, you became untrusting, worrisome, or distant – some of the few things that you a hard time interacting with your spouse.  Therefore, before you tie the knot, make sure that it will not be brought into the marriage by dealing with it and confronting it. And remember that your friends, family, and spouse-to-be will always be there if you need support.

Marriage is a commitment, and commitments mean just as much as both parties’ ability to keep it. So before you say “I do”, make sure that you mean it and you can fulfill what those two words truly mean.

On Love and Intimacy

“It’s just sex, right?” This is a common notion for a lot of people nowadays, especially the single youth. That is why this generation does one-night stands, have “friends with benefits”, and other catchy terms for casual sex. Well, there’s nothing wrong with it. After all, it’s just sex, a part of our human nature. It’s just sex, a purely physical thing wherein we use our bodies to make us feel good, right? Unfortunately, that is not the case.

The Christian church in Dubai, America, and many other organizations have been trying to confront this reality: sex isn’t just a physical activity, and that you can get hurt if you treat it as such.

Scars from the Past

Think about it; if sex really is as purely physical as a lot of people say it is, then why is it that a lot of people get hang-ups as well as emotional damage from it?

There are cases where it is clearly evident that it isn’t just a physical activity but has emotional and psychological underpinnings. Cases of sexual abuse are sensitive and serious examples of this. It takes years for victims to recover from it, sometimes even almost their entire lives.  The most heartbreaking part is that it happens to women, men, and children; and not a lot of people are discussing the dangers of it. In fact frustratingly, it is the victims that are being shamed for this and it is a topic that is being shunned and shelved because of its very sensitivity.

Clearly, sex needs to be taken seriously because it can have an even deeper effect on people.

Something Deep to Something Physical

Well, if that’s not the case, then why is it that a lot of people – probably including you – think that it’s just an act where you use your body to feel good with somebody, nothing more and nothing less? That’s because we live in a culture that claims that sex is just a simple, superficial, and physical activity. And for a lot of people, that’s a very convenient mindset, as it would allow them to think that they can have sex recreationally. But at one point or another, the reality that sex goes beyond physical comes crashing on them.

Going Beyond Feeling Good

Of course, sex is something that should be enjoyed, but its purpose for human beings – God’s most precious creation – is a lot deeper, a lot more special. It’s for a word that we don’t usually hear anymore: intimacy.

The main purpose of sex is for us to be able to express our intimacy with someone in a physical manner. In fact, if you take into consideration the Creation Story, it was first the animals that had sex. But when the gift was given to Adam and Eve, and ultimately to us, it was on an entirely different level. It’s not just about procreation, but about an expression of intimacy that is passionate, fearless, and incomparable. That is why sex, a wonderful thing, can be so damaging when misused, and so beautiful when it’s done in the context of true intimacy – between two people who truly love each other.

Sex is supposed to feel good. However, it’s not supposed to feel that way just because the body says it does, but because it is the greatest physical expression of intimacy. Love and intimacy is always  good, and that is why it must be treasured and cherished and not be treated as a sport.

Managing Tension

Whenever the word tension is heard within any organization, whether it is a corporate business or an evangelical church in Dubai, people usually think that it’s something that must either be avoided or resolved right away. That, however, shouldn’t always be the case, as there are times – and there are many of them – when they’re actually beneficial for an institution.

However, like fire, for tension to become beneficial, it needs to be harnessed properly. And in order for you to be able to do so, here are a few things you should keep in mind.

No Tension is a Problem

If the institution you’re in is sailing a little bit too smoothly, then there may be something wrong. It’s not that you’re looking for people who disagree with each other in your organization; it’s just that the lack of tension could mean that your organization is beginning to stagnate, that there is no longer anyone in it who has enough passion to bring up their ideas and risk being at odds with a person or two for what they believe could help everyone.

Healthy Tension Isn’t Conflict

It may not seem like it, but there is actually a big difference between healthy tension and conflict. While both of them naturally occur in any organization, tension usually happens because two opposing persons or groups both have something to offer to the table, it’s just that they happen to be contradictory with each other. Conflict, on the other hand, happens because their disagreement has reached a personal level. And once things get personal, that’s when they get problematic.

Be an Advocate for Both Sides

As a leader, it’s only right that you’re not biased between two parties that are in tension. However, being unbiased doesn’t mean not siding with either; instead, it’s about supporting the good ideas both sides can offer. For in the same way that healthy competition improves the services offered by two rival companies, healthy tension helps cultivate the ideas and suggestions of each side.

Two Important People

However, it’s never enough that two opposing sides both have something good to offer, as each of them should have these two important people: the ones who are very passionate about a particular idea, and the ones who are mature enough to both take into consideration the suggestions of the other side and recognize when they have to either revise or relinquish their position.

These two kinds of people balance each other out, allowing each side to provide fresh insights and have a respectful dialogue with each other. Without the former, each side won’t be able to provide helpful insights, while the lack of the latter could spell conflict. In fact, if there is conflict that arises from tension, it’s not because of the tension, but because people on each side – or even worse, both – have a personality problem, which must be resolved.

Without tension there could be no, if not much less, innovation and revolution within an organization. However, just like every necessary element in an institution, balance and proper management is needed to make the most out of it.

Respect and Honor: For the Love of Women

Despite all the progress of feminism has made, it is still a man’s world. In terms of numbers, men still dominate women in many industries, there are still more men than women who hold high-tier positions, and a lot of women still experience harassment and disrespect. The modern Christian church in Dubai and every single one of us needs to help the men understand that they need to be a lot more careful, sensitive, and respectful towards women.

This brings us to the main point: if you are a man, then you should respect and be sensitive towards women. That respect and sensitivity should not be limited to your mother, sister, and friends, but should also extend towards female strangers, and most importantly, your significant other, whether you’re still just dating her, your girlfriend, or your wife.

Don’t Do As the Romans Do

You might be saying  that kind of treatment towards women should be common sense. Well, back in the day, it’s not. Because when the Roman Empire was still in power, women weren’t treated like commodity – they actually were commodities. Many of them were either slaves or prostitutes.  And since men can have sex with those women, a lot of them were thinking “why marry in the first place?”

To them, marriage was a hassle, because it meant taking care of the wife and children, and spending and splitting their wealth with them. To make matters worse, prostitution and having mistresses were common at that time, which led to the men neglecting their wives. And last but definitely the most horrible of all would be the killing of baby girls right after they were born. That was the status quo. Thankfully though, three men of God stood up against that gross disrespect towards women: Jesus, Peter, and Paul.

A Man Who Loves All Women

In that dark age for women, Christ and his followers Peter and Paul showed respect towards women unlike any other. Jesus told everyone to love one another, no exceptions – that, of course, includes the women. And part of that love is respect, and that means men should respect each and every woman they will encounter in their life.

Then Paul came along and gave that respect, reverence, and love towards women with a more marital context by telling the men to love their wives as much as Jesus loved the Church. And how much did Jesus love the Church? Enough to die for it. It is crystal clear and there’s no going around it – men must love their wives to the point that they are willing to die for her.

And last but not least was Peter. Peter, one of the greatest apostles there is. What was he caught doing? Talking to a woman. Not only that – he was letting her, a Samaritan woman of all women, get a drink first before he does. It may not be a big deal during our time, but in theirs it was, for they considered women as non-people. And to talk to a woman and be allowed to have water first – that woman definitely would’ve felt honored.

An Honorable Love

In 1 Corinthians 13: 5, it is said that love does not dishonor. And that’s what men must do – to never dishonor any woman, most especially their beloved woman, regardless of how far along they are in the relationship. After all, God died for women and men, and it’s only right that you respect, honor, and love women, especially the one who is destined to be with you for the rest of your life.

Before you loved your wife, God loved her first. Before she loved you, God loved you first. Therefore, with the same love that God has given us as an example, man and woman should love one another as husband and wife. And part of that love is respect.

What You Got? How To Be Content

It’s never easy to be content, especially if you see that others have more things or have better lives than you. And if you have the means to be just like  those who you envy, then it becomes harder. This is human nature; even if you frequently attend a non-denominational church in Dubai or anywhere else in the world, this will always remain a struggle.

That, however, doesn’t mean it’s impossible. After all, one of the most important concepts of Christianity is overcoming the self, and the self is not one to be easily satisfied. And with that, here are a few steps to help you fight this difficult battle within.

See What’s Important

Before you go off and try to get the same thing you saw from the people around you or an advertisement, try to take a step back first and ask yourself if you really need it or if it will greatly improve your way of life. If it would, then you should go get it. But if it really won’t affect how you live, then it would be best to re-examine your motives why you want to get whatever it is you want to have.

This, of course, is not limited to material possessions. It can also be about career, power, and influence. Ask yourself: in order for me to be happy, do I really need to get so high up in that career ladder? Do I really have to be able to exert pressure on other people? Do I really need to have connections? Only you have the answer to those questions.

The Grass Isn’t Always Greener

It’s natural for us to compare ourselves with other people, especially if we see that they seem to be enjoying life. This becomes even truer whenever we don’t seem to be doing okay ourselves. What we fail to remember, however, is that they are human just like us. They have their own problems, and only they and those around them know how difficult those problems are. After all, people usually tend to keep their struggles private.

Live One Day at a Time

Perhaps you’re not really envious of other people, but instead you’re looking forward to the future a little bit too much, to a time when you think you already have everything you want – or think you want, at least – only to end up realizing that they should’ve learned how to be content in whichever phase of life they are already in.

A lot of people, when they were kids, wanted to grow up so they can have their freedom, only to find out that fending for yourself is much harder than being a kid. They started school eager to graduate so they can already get a job, until they arrive at the world of work and realize that it’s a much harder part of life.

There’s nothing wrong with anticipating what lies ahead. But don’t be too excited with what lies in store for you that you zoom past the present and fail to appreciate it, because you can never go back.

You won’t always have what you want in life. That’s okay though, because the key to being content isn’t getting what you want, but wanting what you got. And to be contented means to be happy.

The True Essence of Love

There is no such thing as a perfect relationship or marriage. However, some people believe that there is, and they think that it can be achieved simply by finding the right person. That, of course, is a misconception that has lead to disappointment and, more importantly and worse, broken or dysfunctional unions and families.

Love, courtship, and marriage may be often taught in Christian churches in Dubai or anywhere else in the world, but it’s not so often that they tell you this: the right person, no matter how much you think that he or she is the right one for you, isn’t going to solve your love-related problems or make you a better lover. People don’t realize this, and that is why relationships and marriages fail.

A Past Scene 

Before getting into a relationship and getting in front of the altar, you have to first get into the dating scene. And whether you’re looking for someone you want to commit to or just would like to go around and have fun with people, you should know that what you do in this part of your life can affect your future relationships and ultimately your marriage. Because even if you don’t want to commit for now, there may come a time when you already will.

In fact, according to Pastor Andy Stanley, he encounters a lot of couples who ask for his help, and he finds out that a lot of them do not actually have a marriage problem. Instead, what they have are problems from their single lives that they carried over to the marriage. This is because they thought that by marrying the “right person”, all the hang-ups they once had in the past are now over. And then there are those who think that by tying the knot with “The One”, they are going to find something as heavy and major as a marriage to be easy as pie, only to find out that they were wrong when it’s already too late.

More than Chemistry

The reason why these unfortunate fallouts happen is because a lot of people who are looking for a partner think that chemistry and passion will solve all of their problems. What they don’t know, however, is that they should be working on the relationship instead. So when things hit the fan, men think ithat sex, in an attempt to improve their chemistry, is going to fix everything, while the women assume that having a baby – which involves having sex, and is therefore wanted by men – will.

Both of them, however, are not solutions. In fact, bringing forth a child to this world will bring even more problems. And when all of these struggles hit critical mass, their chemistry, the couple’s passion for one another, gets damaged, making them think that they married the wrong person. This leads to divorces and second marriages, which have higher failure rate than first marriages, because they do the same mistakes they did during their previous one.

Love Is…

If chemistry is not enough, then what does it take to make relationships and marriages work? Love. However, it’s not the kind of fluffy, passionate love that is glamorized by movies and novels, but the one found in 1 Corinthians 13.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres.” -1 Corinthians 13: 4-7

This is what committed people must do: be patient and kind towards each other, not be envious of one another, refrain from trying to one-up the other, be respectful with one another, put your partner’s needs first, and not keep track of their wrongs. It’s not easy work, but it’s what makes relationships and marriages work.

The reason why couples call it “working it out” when they try to fix their problems is because it’s not easy, and because problems don’t get fixed by working around. They don’t get resolved by looking for another “Right One” either. So, if you want your commitment to succeed, be ready to work things out. Be ready to truly love.