Impossible task to love my neighbor

Think of a person you dislike or love to hate… either in your workplace, office, your ex-, family member, or whomever or wherever.  Maybe they’ve done something against you and you just hate them for it, or you can’t get along due to unresolvable personality conflicts.  Whatever it may be causing you to dislike or hate each other so much that you cannot say to him/her face, “My dear friend, how are you really doing today?  I really do care and would like to hear how you are doing?”

We may try to pretend to like them, but deep inside, you know you can’t.  As good Christ-followers with honest-to-God intentions, we end up feeling like failures because we cannot pull ourselves together to love them.  Yes, even the best of us Christ-followers may try to love but when it comes down to it, we eventually fail when we are face-to-face with our arch-enemy.   I’m sure all of us reading this blog-post might honestly admit that when faced with our enemy, we will find it impossible to love our enemy.

This is why some people would prefer to walk across the street just to avoid them, or to hide somewhere where we will never see our nemesis. Out-of-sight…out-of-mind, right?  After realizing how truly difficult it is to swallow the pill of being unable to love those who are unlikable, we might admit and confess to the Lord God that “I have failed to love my neighbor as I would like others to love me.”

1 John 4 is John’s love chapter.  First John 4:7-9 says:

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” 

When I look at Christ’s command to love, I am confronted with my own weakness and failure.  I might think to myself, either, I am not Christlike enough, or have failed to obey his command to love.  Shall I be fatalistic and say that: I can never totally love like only Christ can love?  Or shall I fall down before God and confess that this is truly an impossible task to love my neighbor? And that I don’t know God as I ought to know him.

Today, I can honestly answer: “Yes, yes, and yes,” to all the above, and I freely confess: “I have not loved you with my whole heart; I have not loved my neighbors as myself. I am truly sorry and I humbly repent…”
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MeToo Movement and Peter’s advice for men

Today’s MeToo movement feels bigger than just a movement; it’s like an explosion. Women, inspired with hope and increasingly courageous are finally coming out to report their experience of abuse. It’s a time and place in society where a firestorm of justice is being unleashed.  This moral and ethical change is very much needed in Hollywood, in politics, at work, and the sports world.

Over 100 American gymnasts have come forward to testify of sexual abuse.

CEOs, sports coaches, Hollywood stars, and politicians left and right are being accused of sexual impropriety, and are falling.  We saw this in the church, now it’s happening in the secular world.  I live in Canada and the same thing is going on  here. It has the potential to effect change around the world.  For too long, sexual assault around the world have gone unspoken.  This has been happening so fast that many of us haven’t had a chance to stop and reflect why.  There is a reason.  Peter wrote about a similar evil in his days (2 Peter 2:13-14, Holy Bible).

One of over 100 from Hollywood have spoken of being sexually assaulted by Harvey Weinstein.

Just as we can only tolerate dirt up to a certain point before a good bathing is desperately needed, today, we also need genuine repentance, a baptism or washing; now is a time of cleansing. Society is in a moral-ethcial cleansing mode where we must come clean. After generations of Hollywood’s filth and grime, and the dark world of sexual scandals in the workplace, God’s word still says that this is wrong and has to stop. This is still sound advice for us to take today.

The Apostle Peter said in 1 Peter 2:11-12,

“Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”

By living ethically and morally, we can all avoid a lot of heartache and turmoil in our lives. Men, let’s just live right today so we can enjoy tomorrow with less regret.  As Peter alluded to that not only is God glorified but others in this world will notice and we will all be blessed by living in a better world.

 

 

Humilty vs selfish ambition

I think most people have worked hard to try to “look good” in front of our friends and colleagues at work.  In our society, we tend to place value on people by what or who they know, how good they look, and other external things.  We do it because we want to be respected, loved or valued by people in our lives. In one of my favorite practical books for living, James says in 3:13-15,

 “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.

One of the vices that’s an easy trap is pride.  I haven’t fully escaped this trap yet but always working on it. The vanity in trying to look good is driven by an idolatry inside of us for things we crave.  It’s especially true in our workplace because we want to be promoted, recognized, admired or respected.  Sometimes we get what we’re after… sometimes we don’t.

The downside to trying to “look good” is that we can get ourselves in trouble, and cause even more trouble… trouble in our workplaces, in friendships/relationships, and family-life.  It causes more arguments, resentment, and just complicated negative vibes all over.  It is unspiritual and demonic as it says in James.   In v. 16: “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

I get good vibes, positive energy and peace from people who have humility and self-confidence.  Both humility and self-confidence are not mutually-exclusive, but they can go together.  James says in vv. 17-18,

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.”

These are people I like to work with and hang out with. They’re easy to get-along with. They are not pretentious; they are genuine and authentic. I admired these kinds of people.  Between humility or selfish ambition, I’d rather choose humility (a good article on humility at workplace here).

As we go about daily life, may we be encouraged to practice peace, and be sincere and authentic with others.  Let’s not worry about trying to look good, smart, cool, or try to be better than others.  It’s too much hard work anyway. If we just stay focused on our tasks, work hard, and ask God to help us be the best person we can be, we will naturally reap the benefits and rewards.  Good things will eventually come to you like rain on parched dry land.

Enduring hardship through faith

Living in caves can be modern experience; it can also be a hard life.  It makes me think of a time when the early saints had to endure an amazing amount of cruel and hardship in the pre-church era. Hebrews 11:37-38 (ESV) says:

“They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.”

This verse indicates that faithful people of God in the Old Testament had been forced to live underground, in deserts, and hid in dens and caves (as were prophets in 1 Kings 18-19). They were a shunned and disparaged because of their faith. They were not just typical Jewish followers but were despised for their deep faith and conviction within broader Judaism. They were living amongst Jews but were still shunned and seen as an abhorrent sect within Judaism.

In the Church today, there is also sectarianism, as in many other major/established religions. Parts of the Christian church also face disparagement and shunning because of their deep faith and conviction. They are not only persecuted by people of different or opposing religions, but from followers of the same religion.

I’m glad we don’t are not as separated by denominationalism as we formerly were. There are still subtle differences but we have come a long way in being respectful of our religious and spiritual differences. I appreciate that it’s our differences that make us unique and special.

I have brothers and sisters in the Lord who went from borderline fence-walkers to devoted Christian believers. I also some dear friends who went the opposite direction and/or stopped attending church. Our society is multi-faceted. Some of us want more devotion and deeper spirituality. Some of us want less or nothing of the sort for various personal reasons. Despite our personal convictions, God is still sovereign and in control, so who are we to judge others for their deep faith or lack of it?!

May we who are faithful, endure, hold-on, and remain thankful for the sacrifice of our spiritual and religious ancestors who paved the way for us. It made our path of devotion and service to the Lord a little easier to walk. God gives each of us strength to follow him; and faith is given to each generation–even this generation, from Baby Boomers to Millennials to generation Z.  God is forever faithful to us.

Oaks of righteousness

The prophet of Isaiah uses some powerful images of God’s strength in our lives.  One such image in Isaiah 61:3, the prophet says his people will be called “trees (or oaks) of righteousness, the planting of the Lord to display his glory.” God’s righteousness is compared to oak trees. Oak trees are big and strong. They withstand strong winds and still remain rooted and unmoved.

Throughout our lives, we will face many challenges. Sometimes, the pressures we might face can be insurmountable. It feels like we are going to fall. We might feel like giving up. If you’ve had some ethical dilemmas where you had to make tough choices, sometimes, we might make some wrong choices in life, and there is guilt and shame.

As people who need forgiveness and redemption, we don’t want these pressures, our sin, guilt and shame to take us down. In these times, God can give us strength to stand up under the pressures. It’s not in our own power or might, but it’s under God’s righteousness. God’s strength and righteousness can hold you up and be your source of strength.

We can rely on God’s righteousness, confess our sins and trust that God forgives.  Then, like a strongly rooted tree we are under the attentive care of the strong and mighty arm of the Lord Almighty.

Light of the world

Biblica and the LUMO Project has a video portrayal of the bible  (online here). It’s very good. Christ’s birth (00:00-10:40 min.)

Biblica is excited to be partnering with the LUMO Project – an organization that is redefining the standard of biblical media with visual translations of the Gospels to encourage us to engage with Scripture.

Together with LUMO, we’re excited to bring you “Light of the World,” an authentic portrait of the birth of Christ that features unabridged passages from the New International Version of the Bible.

We hope this makes your holiday more meaningful and helps you share in the joy of our Lord.

Merry Christmas,
Your Friends at Biblica

Merry Christmas to Christian brothers and sisters

Merry Christmas to our Christian brothers and sisters around the world.  Christ comforts us with true peace and joy in our hearts that cannot be extinguished.  For this, we are grateful that God sent his Son Jesus into the world to give us this peace.   May we pray for each other around the world because we don’t know how to acknowledge Christ on his birthday, whether or not we have religious freedom.

To our fellow Christians in North Korea, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, please continue praying for us, as we pray for you.  God knows your sufferings for your faith in Christ.  You might not have as much freedom to openly worship Christ as we do, but yet you still worship Christ even in secret.

And to our fellow Christian believers in nations like Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Loas, Vietnam, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, God hears your prayers because your faith is real.  We need a stronger faith like yours to overcome our fears.    We as poor souls, are trapped in Satan’s power so we need your prayers.

For all, here is a Christmas blessing from one of the earliest Christmas carols dated to the 16th century (c. 1760 version):

God rest you merry, Gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay,
For Jesus Christ our Saviour
Was born upon this Day.
To save poor souls from Satan’s power,
Which long time had gone astray.
Which brings tidings of comfort and joy.

Have a merry Christmas!