Verses and Thoughts

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you… to the nations.”

“Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”
But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord. | Jeremiah 1:5-8
For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking and darkened in their foolish hearts.
Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images of mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
Therefore God gave them up in the desires of their hearts to impurity for the dishonoring of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator, who is forever worthy of praise! Amen…
Furthermore, since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, He gave them up to a depraved mind, to do what should not be done.
They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed, and hatred.
They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant, and boastful. They invent new forms of evil; they disobey their parents.
They are senseless, faithless, heartless, merciless. | Romans 1: 21-30

 

Tell me about ideas and theories.
Explain cultures and converse in foreign languages.
Show me everything that is wrong in the world.

And escape by removing yourself from all of it — nomadic lifestyle, traveling to ‘find oneself.’
Or pursue every novel experience — dive, swim, run, hike, climb, fly… exhilaration.

But the moment you stop, you’ll find you are right where you left off. The hole is still there. The questions, the uncertainties.
You can mask it again with your theories.
Use enough words and you sound like you have the answers.
Smile and laugh enough, and no one is the wiser.

But you know.

The emptiness remains.

“And selfish ambition Is a foolish religion
The riches of God’s mercy Is worth more than your superstition
Tell me how does a Christian begin
To develop discernment and wisdom
First we submit every symbol and sign
To the authority of the scriptures.

But I say the mark of a mature man
Is the one who reads God’s Word and understands
And allows that to govern his decisions and his prospective plans.”

It’s possible to stop searching.
The answer is not out there. The answer is not in you.
(This takes humility. But pride is foolishness. Choose wisdom.)

The answer is before you. Read again.
He’s been waiting for you to come back.

(An interim post for now.)

 

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Two | Joy

Joy, not grit. Be light-hearted to avoid taking ourselves too seriously. It is a cheerful revolt against self and pride… enjoy this ministry of self-surrender. Don’t push too hard. Hold this work lightly, joyfully. | R.J.F.

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  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. | Philippians 4:11-12

What robs us of joy?

What does it mean to be content? The dictionary definition is a state of peaceful satisfaction. There is a quote comparing joy and happiness — it goes something like this:

Joy is the opposite of happiness. Happiness is temporary, based on outward situations — in response to something that happened, while joy is lasting, based on inward resolution — a decision and a choice. 

Some days it’s harder to feel joy than others — a phone call, a text, an unhappy comment, an e-mail… We’re constantly receiving messages that can change our mood. Or we’re waiting on a message that may lift our spirits, but it doesn’t come.

On top of that, social media allows us not only to compare ourselves with our friends, but also with their friends,  family members, and other strangers. Not only on a local scale but a global scale. And that at any stage of life — school, travels, dinners, car, house, marriage, new titles/positions, children, grandchildren, more travels, more food…

And soon, you begin to desire these milestones and experiences. Surely, if you have that next experience, that next item, you’ll level with them. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll be satisfied.

But it doesn’t, does it?

The next restaurant will open, the next phone will come out, their house will sell for higher… Friend, you’ll never reach that horizon. Happiness may be within reach… but it holds like water, trickling out as soon as you think you have it.

What, then? (I suppose we could always cut down on social media…)

 

What is our source of joy?

Dear Friends. Don’t you see? Outward happiness is fleeting. Nothing in this life is permanent. Some things are great sources of joy (time spent with children, a deep and honest chat with a close friend, family time…), and certainly those are worth pursuing.

Yet when our focus is to pursue other possessions as means to our happiness, it is so easy to lose sight of the blessings we have received from God.

At the same time, pain and suffering are real. And often unexpected. This world is not perfect — it was never meant to be.  For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come. (Hebrews 13:14)

But Joy is also a fruit we are called to bear.
Our joy does not come from the good things that happen to us (though it could).
Our joy does not waver, because it is anchored in God, who is unchanging. He is the source of all our joy (Psalm 43:4-5). 

It takes faith to believe this…
To believe that He knows during times of pain. To believe that He is in charge during times of uncertainty. To trust even when you ‘don’t feel like it.’ To keep walking even when everything you see seem to be opposite of what He has promised. To love those who have caused you pain. To trust Him even — and especially — when it hurts.

And to do all this with joy.

But this is the joy we are called to experience.

And it requires us to take our eyes off our outward circumstances (our desires, our possessions that we depend on), and turn our focus on God.
Come to Him, to lay down your burdens (your cares – Psalm 55:22). Let go of those possessions and pursuits of yours — all those things that promised you happiness — and submit them to Him. For His use. His time.

And Friend, your problems may not go away.
But He provides grace at this time, which will be enough for you (2 Corinthians 12:9).
And pray that He may help you see as He does, that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened (Ephesians 1: 18-19Psalm 119:18-19).

I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation… (Philippians 4:11)

These words come from Paul — Paul, who served faithfully yet experienced persecution, rejection, disappointments — pain without and within. Yet he sings in prison, loves those he serves (despite their back-talking, backsliding, and general coldness) and never turned away from his work and calling. 

How? (In this, I am amazed, and all the more thankful.)
Same way as you and I: In Christ — the source of our strength and our joy (Phil 4:13).

Let us end with gotquestions.org
“The Bible teaches that happiness is fleeting because it often depends on things outside of ourselves, but true joy is eternal because it is based on our relationship with Jesus Christ, which is itself an everlasting source of joy.”

Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. | Nehemiah 8:10

SDg
Additional reading: http://www.gotquestions.org/joy-Christian.html
Tulip festival in Ottawa (May 2016)
Life this week: Had a chance to visit Ottawa/Montreal this past weekend with friends. When we arrived, we noticed vibrant tulips everywhere. And ++ tourists… And then we remembered… The Tulip Festival. So by coincidence, we also got to enjoy these lovely flowers in our nation’s capital as well.

One | Love

“You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?
For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.  For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
… But the fruit of the Spirit is love…” Galatians 5:  7, 13, 14, 22

Love.

What a topic to begin with!
I’ve been struggling to start for the past few weeks. While I feel as though I’ll never be able to adequately address this, I am also committed to learning about these fruits… And love is the first fruit. So as imperfect as it may be, let’s begin.

When I first began, I thought this ‘love’ was related to romance… But it turns out to be a love of a different kind.

 


On Weddings.
The month of May is one with wedding and marriages of a few of my close friends. As I stand by them and hear the sharing of their pastors, their family members, and among my friends, the topic of witnessing and being witnesses came into focus.  What is the purpose of the witnesses?

Beyond ‘legal implications’ and ‘cultural obligations’ (the first two phrases suggested by some of our friends — Oh, yes. We’re a romantic bunch…), we go back to the traditional role of the two witnesses. They are here to ‘give faith’ that both parties are here to be wed by their own will (not by coercion).

For everyone else below the stage, they, too, are witnesses. They are witnesses to the promises that one man and one woman has made to each other. In a sense, it is their role and duty to be there should either party try to break off from their promises. To remind them of the solemness of their vows and the commitment to this enduring bond and to provide support to sustain their marriage.

So next time you’re a wedding guest, remember that. You’re not just a passive plus-one! You’re now playing an active role, too! Weddings are serious stuff.

 


On Christians – Love and Witnessing.

As Christians, then, what is our way of witnessing?
Love. It has been called the mark of the Christian.

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. | Matthew 22:37 , 28
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. | John 13:35

So, it turns out that our way of witnessing is to show love! First, to show love towards God. How do we show that? How do we show the world that we live and walk by God’s standards?

Next, to show love to each other as brothers and sisters in the family of God. This is difficult. A friend told me that it is amazing churches would ever function — We are all imperfect sinners trying to work together to serve God!

There are so many different people – different ages, backgrounds, personalities, statuses — so many different ideas. But what ties us together is stronger than any difference.

It is the love of Christ which surpasses all knowledge (Ephesians 3:17-19)!
And from this love, we can begin to carry out God’s work together in unity, to seek God’s direction and His peace (Philippians 4:6-7).

Francis Schaeffer, author of ‘The Mark of the Christian,’ a wonderful (and short) book on love among Christians, reminds us not to allow intellect, logic, past hurts, current misunderstandings hinder you from gathering with believers.

But why is it necessary to gather with other Christians regularly? Why do we need to go to church, when we have podcasts with brilliant sermons, articles that answer our questions, and books that sharpen our minds, all at the click of a button?


Why do we go to Church?

Allow me to bring in Gotquestions.org briefly here:

Church attendance is not just a “good suggestion”; it is God’s will for believers. Hebrews 10:25 says we should “not [be] giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Church is the place where believers can love one another (1 John 4:12), encourage one another (Hebrews 3:13), “spur” one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24), serve one another (Galatians 5:13), instruct one another (Romans 15:14), honor one another (Romans 12:10), and be kind and compassionate to one another (Ephesians 4:32).
When a person trusts Jesus Christ for salvation, he or she is made a member of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27). For a church body to function properly, all of its “body parts” need to be present and working (1 Corinthians 12:14–20). It’s not enough to just attend a church; we should be involved in some type of ministry to others, using the spiritual gifts God has given us (Ephesians 4:11–13). A believer will never reach full spiritual maturity without having that outlet for his gifts, and we all need the assistance and encouragement of other believers (1 Corinthians 12:21–26).
— Gotquestions.org [1]

Moreover, the gathering of Christians also comes with another of God’s promises: God’s presence. Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” is also important here.

My friends, our faith is not lived out in solitude. Our belief is not to be kept as a trophy in a case. The reason for our faith is to be shared!

And we show our love by being present! By being there for each other!

We go to church not only to learn from our pastors, but to show that we support him and are eager for him to teach us God’s word.

We are there for our Sunday School teachers for their diligence in seeking God’s guidance and to share that message on how we can live practically with what we’ve learned theoretically.

We’re there to serve the young, to guide them so that we can train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).

We’re there for the old, to remind them that even as their own memory begins to fail, they are not forgotten by God – No, even if every one else should forget, God will not, for they are engraved on the palms of [His] hands (Isiah 49:15-16).

By loving (and obeying) God…
And by our love each other, we begin to show the world what the love of God is.

Facta non verba.
This is our witness.

This is how we draw the world.
This is how we change the world.

 

Since you’ve read to the end, I’ll share a more recent photo of my personal life:
IMG_20160507_113632.jpg
Weddings – The less serious side.
[1] Gotquestions.org. Question: “Why is church attendance / going to church important?” http://www.gotquestions.org/church-attendance.html

Tried. And True.

He sent a man before them— Joseph—who was sold as a slave…
Until the time that his word came to pass, The word of the Lord tested him.
(Psalm 105:17, 19)

(Are you familiar with the story of Joseph? Here is a man who was given God’s promise in his youth, yet his circumstances and decisions to remain righteous in God’s eye will lead him to many more years of seemingly unexplained suffering.
Why? How long? But wasn’t I right? But you see, God, in His wisdom and sovereignty, removed him from his original circumstances and placed him in a new context, then another, in order to train and prepare him.
“God seldom puts us immediately into the place he ultimately desires us to serve. God’s ultimate plan for us include preparation and waiting.”
Roots take time. Yet the stability of their roots may determine the plant’s ability to survive in harsh and changing environments! Even these simple creations in nature know their need, and will wait until the roots have taken before beginning other areas of growth. 
Until the time came… How important it is to hold God’s Word in our hearts, and to trust in them – in Him – when visible circumstance prove otherwise. We know God’s word will stand.)

Yes, God wants to use us to change the world — but first he wants to change us. His primary work is in us, not through us. It always will be…

We may feel ready for a certain task, but God keeps the door closed. Instead he has us doing some boring and inane and irrelevant assignment completely unrelated to our “purpose.” But all along God is preparing our character  for what he knows lies ahead – for a purpose we aren’t yet ready to pursue.

All of us feel that daily tension to sideline our priorities…
To keep up appearances…We’ll give priority to the visible and impressive and assume the unseen will care for itself. But our spiritual lives never take care of themselves. Nobody ever grows spiritually by accident. It is a daily decision.

[Joseph’s] confidence remained in God’s revelation, and his relationship with God gave him a taproot from which he drew strength to keep going, to keep believing, and even to reach out to meet others’ needs when his own needs seemed overwhelming.

— Wayne Styles, Waiting on God


God sent a man before them, even Joseph. Many years before the famine began, he was sent before them, to nourish them in the famine; so vast are the foresights and forecasts of Providence, and so long its reaches. But in what character did he go to Egypt who was to provide for the reception of the church there? He went not in quality of an ambassador, no, nor so much as a factor or commissary; but he was sold thither for a servant, a slave for term of life, without any prospect of being ever set at liberty. This was low enough, and, one would think, set him far enough from any probability of being great. And yet he was brought lower; he was made a prisoner…

He continued a prisoner, neither tried nor bailed, until the time appointed of God for his release (Ps. 105:19), when his word came, that is, his interpretations of the dreams came to pass, and the report thereof came to Pharaoh’s ears by the chief butler. And then the word of the Lord cleared him; that is, the power God gave him to foretel things to come rolled away the reproach… God’s word tried him, tried his faith and patience, and then it came in power to give command for his release. There is a time set when God’s word will come for the comfort of all that trust in it, Hab. 2:3. At the end it shall speak, and not lie.
– Matthew Henry


 

“The word of the Lord tried him.” It was not the prison life with its hard beds or poor food that tried him, but it was the word God had spoken into his heart in the early years concerning elevation and honor which were greater than his brethren were to receive; it was this which was ever before him, when every step in his career made it seem more and more impossible of fulfillment, until he was there imprisoned, and all in innocence, while others who were perhaps justly incarcerated, were released, and he was left to languish alone.

These were hours that tried his soul, but hours of spiritual growth and development, that, “when his word came” (the word of release), found him fitted for the delicate task of dealing with his wayward brethren, with a love and patience only surpassed by God Himself.

No amount of persecution tries like such experiences as these. When God has spoken of His purpose to do, and yet the days go on and He does not do it, that is truly hard; but it is a discipline of faith that will bring us into a knowledge of God which would otherwise be impossible.
– L.B. Cowman