Posted in My Journey

Oh, Love!

Some of the most beautiful verses in the bible come from 1 Corinthians 13. Many Christians may know this passage simply as the love chapter. For me it defines the very essence of Christ’s nature when he gave up his life on the cross for us.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV)

Oh, what a world it would be if everyone were patient and kind toward one another when waiting in line for anything. With envy and boasting out of the way, there would be no need for inflation because people would not be comparing themselves with others and desiring what others have. Eliminating arrogance and rudeness from society would do away with people’s sense of entitlement for special treatment. Selfishness would no longer rule. The world would have those who wore tolerance on their sleeves instead of irritability and resentfulness on their shoes. There would be rejoicing in justice and in truth.

We would bear with one another and bear with the burdens given to us. We would give others the benefit of the doubt and believe them first. We would hope always and never surrender in the face of our trials.

Oh, what a world it would be if everyone loved as Jesus loved when he died for our sins!

Posted in My Journey

Let Your Yes Be Yes

I once said to a friend of mine, a fellow Christian, it is easier dealing with unbelievers than it is to deal with some Christians. I said it off the cuff, but I also said it to express my frustration with believers who say one thing but do another.

The book of James talks about this and makes it clear that our words have an impact on people:

“But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.” (James 5:12 ESV throughout)

For believers who are infants in Christ (1 Corinthians 3:1), seeing other Christians sinning is discouraging. That is why we always need to be attentive of what we are doing so that we do not partake in hypocrisy. Jesus said, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice” (Matthew 23:2-3).

If we say something and do something else, then we are no different from the scribes and Pharisees. What we have to do though, is rise beyond mere display and ensure that our actions reflect our words. Otherwise, we would not only be in jeopardy of departing from the faith, but also cause others to do so, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared” (1 Timothy 4:1-2).

Putting it another way, liars will not inherit the kingdom of God. It is just that simple (Revelation 21:8).

Therefore, let us put aside vanity, lying and deceitfulness, and walk in Jesus’ footsteps. Especially so close to celebrating his death and resurrection, we need to repent and change in order for Christ to live in us. When we do that, then the fulfillment of God’s promise to us to inherit his kingdom will not be too far off.

Posted in My Journey

My Peace I Give to You

Yesterday I preached a sermon at my church about overcoming anxiety. The key bible verse I used comes from the Gospel of John:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27 ESV throughout)

I emphasized how that one verse in John has so much meaning for Christians, that it would take a series of sermons to cover all the layers. What I concentrated on most, though, was the message of peace Jesus delivered to his disciples.

Jesus was about to face crucifixion at Golgotha (Calvary) when he spoke those words. He said a lot more before that, but it was interesting that his first words after his resurrection were “peace be with you,” which he said once (John 20:21), when Thomas was not present, and once again, a week later (John 20:26), when Jesus instructed Thomas to place his finger and hand in his wounds.

To be clear, the disciples were behind closed doors when Jesus appeared; and who could blame them? The Romans had just killed Jesus, so for all they knew the Romans could have been after them as well. The chief priests were the ones who condemned Jesus in a mock trial, so who was to say they would not do the same thing to the disciples? Then there was this whole thing with Jesus having promised them persecution (John 15:20), and that ought to have made them even more apprehensive.

Imagine then what the disciples must have felt just before Christ had appeared to them that first time after his death. Their anxiety level must have been peaking. Those words he spoke “peace be with you” not only should have reassured them but also should have acted as a reminder of what he had said before his death:

“When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour.” (Matthew 10:19)

Saying it another way, the source of most of our anxieties is the fear of the uncertainty of what will happen next. Much of that anxiety turns out to be unfounded, since most of the things we think will happen never does. Jesus said, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34). If that advice sounds familiar, it is, because it sounds a lot like the latter part of John 14:27: “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

Overcoming anxiety takes work. Coming to have the peace Jesus spoke about requires extra help, too. Thankfully, neither were the disciples nor are we without that help.

Jesus promised us a comforter, a helper, who would provide us with everything we need to overcome our anxiety, usher peace into our lives, and bless us with the truth that comes from reading God’s word (John 16:7). That helper is the Holy Spirit; and through the Holy Spirit God gives us the power to overcome and the power to remember the things spoken of by Christ Jesus (John 14:26).

I am thankful to God every day that I have the Holy Spirit to guide my path and protect my way. Even more so, I pray that all of you may come to have the generous gift of God, which is the Holy Spirit, that he may also give you peace from your anxieties and worries.

Posted in My Journey

Thankful for Miracles

Yesterday I completed my “Year of Thanks” project I had begun in 2017. During this same time last year, I had resolved to think about one thing I was thankful for daily and tell people about it. I wrote it all out on Twitter as one long conversation. Some days I was thankful for the simple things, like eating a cheeseburger. Other days, my appreciation extended to knowing just how incredible a life I live having God there to support me.

Several things I did not mention, for which I am also grateful: I am on the Board of Directors of my church, Catch the Fire Newmarket. I am on the Leadership Team, as well, delivering sermons on a regular basis. And I am a Youth Leader giving messages. Lastly, I have written a book called When Forgiveness Is Enough, which I now realize God had led to publication.

Of course, the biggest of all events I am thankful for has to be the Christmas gift God had given my family when my son broke from his Autistic Shutdown. Our appreciation could not be any larger than when we later found out that the cause was anxiety.

But nothing compares to what I feel whenever I think about the salvation I now have through Jesus. The apostle Paul expressed it so well when he related his thanksgiving regarding the grace given to others:

“I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:4 ESV).

No matter how small or how large of a miracle that takes place in our lives today, or this week, being thankful for all of it gives us the opportunity to know just how much God loves us. With every little miracle God grants, he demonstrates his love.

Posted in My Journey

Trust in God

Anxiety is a big hurdle for many. With my son, it had put him in the hospital for over a month. As I am learning about the effects of anxiety, I am also learning about coping techniques in order to recognize the condition. Most importantly, I now understand the difference between stress and anxiety, knowledge I previously did not possess had my family not experience what we did last November and December.

Stress is the feeling one gets when events happen all at once and need immediate resolution. Stress is not necessarily bad. Without stress, life would lack a certain amount of excitement. However, too much stress can cause all sorts of problems, including physical injury to the heart. In such a case, it would be a good idea to step away for a while as a short-term means to stem the effects of stress on the body.

On the other hand, anxiety is having a feeling that something bad might happen if a certain action does not take place. Anxiety works to saturate the mind with thoughts of “what if.” What if I did not turn off the burner to the stove after I cooked? What if I missed my rent/mortgage payment this month? What if I left the lights on to my car when I parked it for the evening? These types of scenarios could prove endless and could quench the light of an otherwise joyful life, turning it into a life of bondage filled with worry and fear.

Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Mat. 6:25 ESV throughout). As a society, we tend to worry about everything, especially with social media being as pervasive as it is, leading young girls to compare themselves with waif-thin models, holding them up as standard-bearers to what girls ought to look like at that age. And young men having it in their mind that once they are out of college, their lives will be set with a high salary and job security.

Instead, as a way to alleviate the effects of anxiety, Jesus tells us to place our trust in God, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (v. 33-34).

With God on our side, we do not need to worry about a thing. If we place our trust in God, seeking first his will in all things, he will provide for everything we need, including food, drink, clothing and anything else we might lack, because ultimately, our lives should be a reflection of our relationship with him and how he is deeply working to mold us into his image.

Posted in My Journey

Answered Prayer

My family’s life is slowly getting back to a semblance of normalcy. We are learning more and more about autism, and learning more and more about our son each day. We have a predictable schedule set for him, a list of daily activities to go through with him, and lots and lots of prayer to carry us well into the week. Had it not been for all the prayer, I do not believe we could have had the miraculous turnaround that took place last month with him. Because, really, it was a miracle he woke up as he did from autistic shutdown.

This weekend was a breakthrough weekend with him. Finally, after months of growth, I was able to cut his hair and trim his beard. I say breakthrough, since after we had come back from Niagara Falls in October, he had not wanted anyone to touch him. Now, he is allowing hugs, kisses and me cutting his hair, which is a big deal for our family.

Again, much of the successes we are currently experiencing with our son are all due to prayer. I cannot see it being anything else. Naturally, patience and a lot of determination have made a difference with Luana and me. But, I would say, prayer is the key for us here.

I remember reading about Jesus and about how the night before he died on the cross he was in the Garden of Gethsemane praying for his disciples while, at the same time, Judas was betraying him to the high priest. Throughout the whole thing, he knew what he had to do, he knew he had to give up his life for the sin of all, and with prayer, he confirmed his fate as the Lamb of God:

“Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, ‘My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done’” (Mat. 26: 42 ESV).

Sometimes there is no other solution than to rely on God, petitioning him in fervent prayer, not only us, but others on our behalf. He does listen. I can attest to that. Otherwise, we would not be seeing the progress with my son that we are seeing with him now.

My son dresses himself, washes his face, eliminates regularly again, speaks, answers questions and sits out in the backyard. He has come a long way from not speaking and only staring for the better part of the day.

All of it I attribute to prayer.

Therefore, if you feel there is nowhere to turn, turn to God in prayer. He will answer. My son is a living example of answered prayer.

Posted in My Journey

Forgive Always

We put up the Christmas tree this weekend. Everyone was there except my son, who landed in the hospital two weeks ago. We are still trying to understand what is going on with him. I am sure that whatever it is, the good doctors in town will provide a proper diagnosis soon. I guess the one positive thing I can take away from this experience is that the hospital is only four minutes away from our home. Yes, I timed it.

For my final post of 2017, before I go on hiatus, I wanted to talk a bit about forgiveness. I know I have written about this subject in the past, and I have preached about it, too. And I have written a book called When Forgiveness Is Enough regarding this topic. So, I would say, I am fully aware of the details and nuances concerning forgiveness, and of what it does to the person who is doing the forgiving.

Given it is the season to be merry I find I cannot be merry if I am harboring a grudge. More times than not, a grudge eats away at the very fabric of who we are and takes away from the enjoyment of whatever it is we are doing. I cannot say how important it is to let go of the past in order to move forward with the future. Part of that also is removing bitterness from our lives. As it says in Hebrews:

“See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled” (Heb. 12:15 ESV throughout).

If we allow bitterness to infect our heart, that root will grow and spread to all our other relationships, ruining everything we have worked to build. The remedy is to let go of that root, dig it out of our hearts, and live lives free from the burden of bitterness, anger and resentment.

My sermon on forgiveness from November 5, 2017:

Yes, it is easy to say, but when has a hard thing been easy to do? The Apostle Luke has a solution we can take to heart:

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27-28).

In other words, Luke says to do good, bless and pray for those who hate, curse and abuse us. That is tough to do, especially if some of us have experienced physical and sexual abuse. How can we forgive a predator?

As Christians, though, the act of forgiving another human being needs to be part of our nature. We cannot allow a root of bitterness to grow and fester until it is too late. We have to get rid of it, and replace vengeance with doing good. Only then will we become selfless as Christ Jesus, who gave himself on the cross as a sacrifice for the sin of the world, thereby saving us from sin’s penalty (Rom. 6:23).

That is the one message I would like to leave with you during this holiday season. Forgive, as you would like others to forgive you. In so doing, your reward will be great in heaven.