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!


Mary’s song: Christ for the humble and lowly

In some Christian circles, we try to portray the image that Christ is for the powerful, the smart intellects, and the rich.  We learn from Mary that it is not the strong, the proud, or the rich who think they don’t need God. Rather, it is the humble in heart, those who hunger for God’s righteousness who will receive God’s promise, an everlasting covenant, given to you.  We’re not talking about a physical strength, or monetary riches.  Our need is a spiritual one.

In Mary’s song in Luke 1, she praises and testifies of the Lord’s work in these wonderful words:

“51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

As we continue into this season of Advent and Christmas, God invites you come to him, humble and thirsty for his righteousness given to us in Christ Jesus.  Merry Christmas! and may you be blessed as you trust in the Lord who came to give you God’s salvation.  To God be all praise, glory and honor. In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Star Wars and Christian spirituality

In the movie Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the struggle between the darkside and the lightside is like an internal spiritual struggle that everyone can identify with. Everyday, we struggle with making choices between right and wrong.

Kylo Ren tried to entice Rey into the darkside; and Rey tries to draw Kylo Ren into the lightside.  It’s a Star Wars simplified version of spirituality–a human moralism of good versus evil.  Rey was helpless in the hands of the Supreme leader. Kylo Ren was also helpless in overcoming his entry into the darkside.  And if it weren’t for Luke Skywalker’s intervening at the right moment, Rey would have come very close to entering the darkside.

The Last Jedi was not the typical Star Wars movie.  Lots of inner conflict, and spiritual soul-searching as to who they are, where they come from, and where they belong.  There is not much hope for Kylo Ren coming into the light.  Humanism places hope in the goodness of humanity.  Even if he were to turn to the light in the future Star Wars IX, we can see how weak humanity is in the face of the darkside.  There will not be redemption for Kylo Ren who killed his own father Han Solo to escape his past.  Humanism doesn’t provide healing for his guilt and shame.

The winning outcome from this type of spirituality depends on who has more power at what moment in time.  As human beings, we need a spirituality that is independent from human power or how we use or misuse the Force.  This gives our own human influence more credit than it deserves.  Humanism is deceptive as the darkside.

If you’ll allow me, Christian spirituality is different from the Star Wars type of spirituality. The solution to overcoming the darkside doesn’t depend upon our human influences of good or evil.  In Christian spirituality, we take the starting position that darkness already reside within all human beings. Our fall into sin had already begun since the beginning of creation at Adam’s fall into original sin. Sin and elements of the darkside reside in all of us which we cannot escape from.  We are helpless in the face of darkness because we are incapable of choosing the light, as St. Augustine would have it.

Therefore, we need God’s recreative force of light, external to humanity, in order to overcome the inescapable chasm of the darkside.  As Christians, we believe in the sovereignty of God, in redemption and forgiveness from our wrong-doing.  God is our Supreme Leader and his will is to conquer evil and death to save us from the consequence of the falling into the darkside.  The Lord God will reign victorious on the Final Day of our redemption.  This will happen whether we play a part in it or not.  It is inevitable; the lightside will prevail.  It is God’s battle and we can either participate or sit by the wayside.

If we do participate in the missio dei (God’s mission), then we will do what our Supreme Leader calls us to do, and allow him to reign in all that we do on earth.  If we do not participate in the missio dei, then God will use whoever is willing.  However, God will empower us by God’s Force (i.e., God’s breath, wind, or Holy Spirit) to do his will and complete the mission.

In Star Wars, we know that the lightside and the rebellion will prevail because of the force.  In Christ, we also know that Christ’s reign will prevail because the light in God’s Force will easily overcome all darkness.  The light cannot be extinguished.

In the Gospel of John, it speaks of this powerful light who is the ultimate force in this universe:

“The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it…,.The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” (John 1:4-5, 9, NLT)

This light is Jesus Christ, who comes to us as Emmanuel (God with us).  Prepare for the Advent of the lightside this Christmas.  May God’s Force be with you.  May his Holy Spirit empower you to fulfill his mission.

Time of joy, good tidings, and doing good

We subconsciously pickup from Santa songs that we get gifts according to how naughty or nice we’ve been.  If there were such a list, our gifts would be something we earn for doing good things (not totally free without strings attached).

Don’t we give with the intention that it’s a free gift without strings attached when we make donations to charities (e.g., Salvation Army bell-ringers, pack Christmas shoeboxes, etc.)?

In a letter to Titus, Paul speaks of doing what is good (Titus 3:4-5; 8),

“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy…And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.”” (NIV)

Regarding salvation, thank God there isn’t a naughty and nice list.  If God were to really keep a running list of all the naughty things and nice things that I have ever done throughout my life, I might be ashamed of the imbalanced tally of certain unnamed things. Following such a list can steal the joy that Christ gives because we have to work too hard to earn God’s approval.

Christmastime is all about the joy that Christ came to give us free, un-earned acceptance from God.  For Christians, our joy comes from knowing that God’s righteousness and mercy has made us righteous in God’s sight.  So spread the joy!  Donate to your favorite charities.  Serve in church.  Give of your service all year-long to your non-profit organizations. Freely give.




Our season for God’s hope, peace, joy, and love

Christians are preparing this season of Advent season leading up to Christmas, as a religious time to celebrate Christ’s entry into the world.  For many in North America, it’s about going to Christmas parties, buying presents, and racking up financial debt to pay for presents for siblings, parents, children, nephews and aunts. For some, it might be a hard and lonely time.  For others, maybe it’s a mix of everything. I hope this season, people can slow down to reflect on the reason for Christmas.  We are a fast-moving society that’s in a hurry to get from place to place–from work to home to parties.

A prophet spoke of a people who didn’t take time to observe a Sabbath rest as God had commanded.  They hardened their hearts toward God. They didn’t slow down to celebrate God’s salvation and worship the Lord as God had designed for them to worship. In a way, our society today has also hardened our hearts toward the things of God.

In Hebrews 3:7, 12 and 15, it writes:

“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts“… “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness“… “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.”

As Christians, it is very important that we slow down and rest.  In our rest, God can come into our busy lives.  Manufactured hope, peace, joy and love do not last; it’s artificial.  But God sent Jesus into this world to bring us something genuine.  He came to:

  • bring us an eternal hope that leads to salvation so that we may be with God forever,
  • give us inner peace between a sinful humanity and a holy God,
  • give us real joy  that comes from God’s unconditional forgiveness,
  • share God’s love with us.

These things are eternal and lasts forever.  May God’s grace find its way into your lives this Christmas /Advent season.

Advent: Hope and peace for humankind

My parents gave me a maxim to live by that I never forgot: “As being human, be a better human being.” Being a good human being is not so easy when anger and resentment gets in the way.

The Apostle Paul said in Titus 3:11-12,

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age…” (ESV)

Christian spirituality exhorts us to live godly and upright lives which Paul the Apostle told Titus.  Religion says I have to do it.  I know that in my human power, I cannot do it.

The good news is this: the grace of God (gift of Jesus Christ himself) has appeared to usher in salvation for humankind.  Paul said, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people.”  In Jesus, this grace of God comes to us despite our failures and guilt.  We don’t earn it. It’s a free gift.  We are no longer condemned by our personal failure to live out the law.  Shame and guilt no longer controls us.  God has now given all humankind a new hope.  This is why this Christian/Advent message of peace also comes with a hope-filled exhortation.

The Holy Spirit invites us to take a step to welcome Jesus into our imperfect lives.   God has called you into his spiritual calling.  As for me, answering his call has given me hope for a peace-filled life, knowing that I have made peace with God, and God has made peace with me. This is God’s solution for me in becoming a “better human being.”

The gospel liberates us to really live in freedom

I have said that a performance type of Christianity can be unsustainable.  What I mean by “unsustainable” is that a person can get tired out by having to perform all the time. We are forced to keep up and maintain the image of being a “good Christian”.

A part of spirituality involves doing good works, and so I have tried to be a good, holy, and virtuous person.  I tried to be that “good Christian” according to the church’s standards of what a good Christian is.  The righteous life became a goal I pursued.  Honestly, I have failed to live according to the ideal of the virtuous life…but who really can?

When we live out a performance type of Christianity, it can be unsustainable.  A person can get tired out by having to perform all the time because we are forced to keep up and maintain the image of being a “good Christian.”  If religion is about keeping up with self-image then that religion itself is a failure.

Though I have failed to keep up to that image, I have never considered giving up my faith in Christ or leaving the Church, but I have felt a burden of guilt–a guilt that’s been planted by people’s expectations. It is a burden and puts us in bondage to our own sin.

[ I was surprised by a recent op-ed article by a Muslim who asked introspectively, “Does Religion Make People Moral?” (N.Y. Times, Nov 2017).  Religion can, and it cannot.]

If our own Christian religion only comes as just a bunch of rules, then it is dead.  When it’s only about law without grace, it can become destructive to a person’s spirit.   A religion of law sucks them dry and leave them spiritually empty.  It is no wonder the church has somewhat of a negative reputation.  This image of Christ’s church needs to change.  We need to change.  There is hope yet.

The prophet spoke of an advent or coming of good news that brings a refreshment of life, healing and freedom (Isaiah 61:1-2, NRSV),

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; 2to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;

Praise the Lord!  This is what the gospel does.  The gospel is to bring healing, liberty, freedom, the Lord’s favor and blessing, and comfort.

I am still learning more of what true religion is, and what it can and cannot do. True religion is not about image, performance, and moralisms; such are human expectations.

The gospel frees us because the good news of God’s forgiveness and unconditional love liberates us from a performance-oriented religion.  On the other hand, the law is also a beautiful thing that can teach us ways that improves our way of living.  Both law and gospel are awesome things that God has given us.

Both law and gospel are deeply spiritual ideas within our Christian faith.  But it’s only the gospel that liberates us.  God sent us Jesus to give us freedom and release from bondage and imprisonment from our sin and of false religion.  It leads us to a deeper spirituality that liberates and comforts our human soul and spirit that mourns for freedom from judgment that can bind us.


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.