Thanksgiving for God’s increase

Thanksgiving is a time when we can show appreciation for what the Lord God has given to us.  There have been times in my life when there was little; and there have been times when I received more than I expected.  Looking back, I realize it was those times of little that taught me how to appreciate what little I received.  Put into perspective, in some parts of this world where there isn’t much, I can say that I am truly blessed.

The Apostle Paul expressed thanksgiving.  In 2 Corinthians 9:10-12, Paul said,

“He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.

Paul had perspective.  He understood what grace meant to him because he once had no grace.   Paul knew what life was like without grace.   As we generously sow God’s word into the lives of others, we can also expect a harvest.  What kind of harvest?  A harvest of God’s righteousness in the lives of others.

At age 15, God poured his grace into my life when I came to faith.  I still remember the day when the Holy Spirit entered into my life and refreshed my soul and gave me new life.  God the Holy Spirit came down and opened up my heart to receive Jesus.  For this, I am very grateful.

Thank you Lord for the words that were planted into my life through my parents, Sunday school teachers, pastors, and brothers and sisters who loved the Lord.

 

 

 

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Loving unconditionally vs performance

A true and deep spirituality is comprised of more than just living according to rules and keeping the law.  Most spiritual people, Christian or not, are searching for a deeper spirituality that involves love and acceptance.

If we have a shallow understanding of God’s grace, we will emphasize performance, following rules and laws and doing good deeds as a measure of our Christian spirituality.  As a result, how one performs in living right determines how we treat that Christian brother or sister. Usually, this results in judgmentalism and hypocrisy.

This type of spirituality is very unsatisfying and unsustainable.  It paints a false picture of God’s love and acceptance and who we are as God’s children. This is why young people have turned away from the church. The sad thing is, those who are hypocrites don’t even know it because they are too busy caught up putting on a show to fellow church folks. This is far from the genuine heart and love of God.

First Thessalonians 1:3 says,

“We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing.”

Jesus speaks of loving one another as a command (Gospel of John 13:34-35),

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

A part of Christian spirituality also involves doing good works, and so I have tried hard to be a good, holy, and virtuous Christian person.  I tried to be that good Christian so God would find me acceptable to him and the church’s standards of a good Christian.  The Church’s teaching of the righteous life became a goal I pursued; however, I have also fail many times to live out that ideal of the virtuous life.  I have never considered giving up my faith in Christ or leaving the Church, but I have felt a burden of guilt.

For some ex-Christians who have left the church, the ability to believe in God’s unconditional love is where it stops. After failing to live rightly and justly, and having to repent over and over again for our same old sins, we give up and can no longer believe that God still loves us unconditionally. This is a lot of pressure we place upon ourselves and upon others.  It becomes an unsustainable spirituality. Where do we get this impression of God’s love being conditional? Perhaps from Christians who wish to project our ideals on others as to what a good Christian is.  We ask for God’s forgiveness for this.

Secret of being content

Having experienced some of life’s difficult times in my last 25 or so years, I’ve learned some lessons of life the hard way. I have experienced heart-felt losses in my life. I have also learned to live life with less. When I look back, I was still satisfied with life even though it may have been dissatisfying.

I am still glad to learn some life-lessons along the way.  Sometimes, failure is the best way to learn. Mistakes that come our way can be good teachers if we stay humble, but it is impossible to learn if we are stubborn and prideful.

St. Paul the Apostle said in Philippians 4:12-13,

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

When we lack things like the basic necessities of life, we learn to appreciate even what little we may have…like food, clothes, transportation, work, or a roof over our head. When I reflect to look upon my life today and see the small things, I thank God that he’s given me these things to enjoy, and also so that I may share them with others who have less.

It really is a blessing to be able to give to those who are in need. Giving can be easy for some, and hard for others, but it is something we can learn to do. It can also be a hard lesson to learn when we are in the middle of poverty but it depends on the attitude we carry throughout life.

God can empower us to live life to the fullest when we give to those with less.  May God  grant us wisdom to learn these. After all, you can do all thing through Christ who gives you strength.

Remembrance Day – We will not forget

November 11th is Remembrance Day in Canada (also Veterans Day in the USA), which is also like Memorial Day in the USA.  We honor the brave Canadian military personnel who died for our freedoms.  We should not and will not forget the sacrifices our soldiers, sailors and airmen and airwomen have made to protect our freedoms.

I love what the late Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker said about the freedoms our armed forces fought to defend.

“I am a Canadian.  Free to speak without fear.  Free to worship in my own way.  Free to stand for what I think is right.  Free to oppose what is wrong.  Free to choose those who govern my country.  This heritage of freedom  pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.”

This Remembrance Day in Canada, let us remember and recognize those who made this sacrifice for our freedoms and democracy that we share in common.  God bless.

 

Texas church massacre: May God heal us

May God’s peace, love and mercy, be with the families and friends of First Baptist Church, Sutherland Springs, TX.  In this time of tragedy and sadness, may the prayers of the saints rise to heaven, and may the Lord hear our cries and heal our land.

_______________

People are looking for answers and reasons.  Who in their right mind would have the indecency to murder innocent children and adults, especially during worship.  Why do things like this happen in our society, even in small communities?

In our confusion, sadness, and anger, we might ask, “Where is God in this?” but another question might be, “What is it with human beings?”  Is humankind so potentially depraved that it would drive a human being to murder Christian worshipers in cold-blood?

When a person is estranged from God, one is also estranged from God’s love; and when one is estranged from God’s love, it leaves room for hate, sin and evil to enter in.  This is why there is such potential for evil.  We call this depravity.

The murderer, Mr. Devin Patrick Kelley, was far from having any reverence for God’s holiness and love for his fellow human beings.  He was a hardcore proponent of atheism, and Antifa globalist propaganda (left-wing, anti-fascists who hate Christian conservatism).

The Apostle Paul speaks of human depravity in Ephesians 2:1-3,

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

We, as depraved human beings, have the potential to do much evil in this world, especially with all our passions and desires that drive us toward sinful behavior.  Add in factors of mental illness, Antifa ideology, and perhaps add in chemical dependency, a person can get very confused.

When we are spiritually weak, we need God desperately.  Perhaps the fear of God really is the beginning of wisdom? (Proverbs 9:10).

In our search for answers, I hope that we as a society and as individuals, seek peace, truth, and reconciliation with God, with humanity, and with ourselves.

God of miracles turns water into wine

The story of Jesus turning water into wine in John 2 shows us something about Jesus’ grace. God is a holy God but yet, he is loving and merciful enough to engage in the earthly and common things in this world. God humbly comes into our world, uses a common object (water jugs used for cleaning) and uses it for a holy purpose

“Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine.” (John 2:6-9)

This shows us a few things about God.  First, God who did not need to become human did become God incarnate in the humanity of Jesus Christ.  He did this to transform a sinful people into a holy people.  If God can transform water into wine, then He can surely transform a common unholy person into a holy person.  This gives all of us hope.

Second, the earthly secular things of this world, like the water jugs he used when he turned water into wine shows that he is willing and able to take what is common and use it for his divine purpose.   As vessels of God, He can make us holy and sanctified, and be used for his purposes.  No one is beyond the reach of God who can pull us up from the deepest and darkest muck.

Third, God has the miraculous power in this earthly world to transform all of this world’s material things (organic and inorganic).  God is omnipotent, all-powerful, and unlimited in His potential

Today, millions of lives have already been miraculously turned around and have come into the kingdom of God from lives that have been totally messed up.  Even if a person were the worst and greatest of sinners, Christ has the desire and power to come into one’s lives (justify us), clean us up (sanctify us), and still use us for his kingdom’s purpose (missio Dei).  This is why God’s love for us is eternal, and amazing.

God also has a plan for each of our lives.  When we are feeling down, hopeless and useless, we needn’t stay down.  Don’t give up hope because God has never given up on you.  You are God’s vessel if you allow him to come into your life, cleanse you and transform you for his purpose.  This was always God’s divine plan for humanity.  He does this because He loves you and cares for you.  If you welcome Jesus into your life and receive God’s forgiveness of your sins, then you have just become God’s child.  Follow Jesus.  Find a local church, learn more about Jesus, and begin worshiping the Lord together with God’s holy people.

October 31 marks a freedom from good works

October 31 is a special date that marks the beginning of Protestantism.  No, not Halloween but the day one monk-professor protested the Church’s illegitimate rules and regulations.  It was the beginning of the western church’s road to reform.

Martin Luther, a young Roman Catholic priest before he was kicked-out, had nailed the Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the Wittenburg Castle Church.  This got him into big trouble–not for graffiti, but for his ideas.  It was sort of a declaration that stated the truths he wished all Christians would understand, including the Pope and bishops of the Church to whom he had given some constructive, but unwelcomed critique.  They were furious when they saw what he made public for all to read.  They tried him, and finally, wanted to kill him when they realized he would never conform.

Why was Luther up-in-arms about the Church?  Christians had been deceived into giving indulgences (or alms) to ensure the salvation of one’s loved ones. This was totally contrary to biblical teaching because scripture was clear that salvation was a free gift from God and cannot be bought.  Finally, in 1517 A.D., a fed-up Martin Luther began to argue for freedom from such non-sensical rules that were conveniently concocted by the church in order to secretly fund the construction of a big church building in Rome (St. Peter’s Basilica).  He argued that we are saved only by faith in believing that Jesus died for our sins, not by following the illegitimate laws of the Church.  He believed this was the Christian’s religious freedom from having to trust in the dictates of the law for our righteousness.

The great reformers like Martin Luther and John Calvin, et al, have fought to restore the freedom of the Christian from having to earn our righteousness through good works.  It was a major sacrifice of blood, sweat and tears (literally).  Christians have died for this religious freedom.  Today, Evangelical, Protestant, and Catholic Christians have solid ground to stand upon the belief that we are not bound by having to do any good works to earn God’s approval or favor.  Paul also encouraged Christians toward good works, not to run from it (Galatians 5:9-10 and Ephesians 2:10).
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
To do good works in the world is part of being a good human being.  It does not make you and I a better Christian.  What makes a person a good Christian is faith alone, in and through, the grace of Christ alone.  In light of our freedom we have today, may we be encouraged to live out our freedom to do even more good works, not because we must, but because we want to bless our fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord, and help our fellow human beings in this world.

We are the salt and light in a dark world.  May the light of the gospel shine as others see our good works to the praise and glory of God the Father.

God prunes us like a gardener

I’ve planted tomatoes, squash, and other vegetables in past seasons. This year, nothing. Only a raspberry bush that had already been growing. Like a good gardener, I pruned it and tended to it carefully. As a result, I got to harvest some ripe and sweet raspberries. Branches that did not grow fruit needlessly took up nutrients that otherwise could be used by branches that do bear fruit. I snipped these off.

The Gospel of John talked of gardening. In John 15:1-4, Jesus said,

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.”

Jesus is like a vine in a plant/tree; Father God is like a gardener who tends the garden. A good gardener must prune and cut out branches that do not flower and bear fruit in order to give more nutrients to the rest of the other branches on the tree/plant. Why? So that nutrients can be redirected to branches that are growing fruit. More nutrients means more fruit. This passage made sense to me because I have done pruning which helped the plant grow more fruit. My personal experience gardening gave a better understanding of the writer’s intent in John 15:1-8.

Does this mean that we might also need some pruning in our lives? Sometimes, we might feel unfruitful in our personal ministry and life. This might mean that our personal lives needs a little pruning. Do you see areas of your lives where things might be distracting your attention from spiritual growth? If you do, God may be speaking to you about needing to do some gardening in your personal life. God has recently spoken to me about this in my own life.