I Must Decrease

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And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him.
(John 3:26)
He must increase, but I must decrease.
(John 3:30)

The verse above offers a lot of food for thought. It is something to meditate upon and apply in our own lives.

How often we long to increase, to expand, go gain power and authority! And yet, how often do we need to learn to decrease. If we had the humility of John, what a great thing that will be!

John saw his role was to decrease, to pave and prepare the way of Yeshua to come. He was the opposite of the men and women at Babel, who sought to create a monument for themselves, to be praised and exalted for all time.

And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.
(Genesis 11:4)

And yet, we are to live as “dead” to ourselves but “alive” to God. How powerful, yet how profound!

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
(Galatians 2:20)

 

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Watching Over Me

A thought suddenly struck me today: what if I was an atheist, what if I didn’t believe in God? I understand why a lot of people end up being atheist or agnostic – because religion has often been cruel and corrupt. A lot of people have been hurt by churches, institutions, and people who use God’s name but who end up bringing shame (quite the opposite of our good works bringing Him glory). A lot of people feel that God is cruel and corrupt, just like us.

But the fact is that God is a loving Father. To have a loving Father in my life is literally the best thing ever. I could not imagine my life without Him, guiding me, watching over me, blessing me, protecting me. And He loves all of us whether we love Him or not – He longs to gather us like a hen gathers her chicks, because we are His children.

There have been so many times in my life, from the little incidents to the large, where I have recognized God at work. And I am so thankful. Psalm 91 says a “thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand”. But evil will not come near us!

In my distress (Psalm 120:1), I can call upon Him and He hears me. Imagine if you are in a desperate situation where no one can help you and you have no one to call upon. Yet we have a Heavenly Father who hears us – how reassuring is that?

There are many people who know about God but who don’t know God or have a personal relationship with Him. Yet, I firmly believe that we are all at different stages in our journeys. I hope you will be encouraged to grow in faith by talking to God, asking Him for guidance, asking Him for help – these experiences of seeking Him, asking from Him, knocking at His door – will only strengthen us and give us a deep, real, relationship with Him.

Their Examples… Women in the Bible

Screenshot (3)One thing that’s very good is to look into the Bible and look at the examples of men and women. This is an excellent exercise to do with young Christians or young people even children. We don’t have to wait until puberty, for example, to start encouraging young boys and girls to be men and women after God’s own heart, to be His disciples. While we tend to want to pick out the good examples, however, the Bible is full of flawed people who make mistakes. Yet, God’s will was done through them.

  1. Not just for girls! Boys and girls need to learn about women in the Bible. Boys, so they  know, for example.  We’re making a mistake if we only teach Proverbs 31 to our young women and forget to teach it to our young men.
  2. Be admonished! What can we learn from negative examples such as Lot’s wife and Jezebel?
  3. Be encouraged! God often used women who were not perfect. Rahab was a harlot. Ruth was a pagan. Bathsheba was an adulterous. Mary was, in society’s eyes, an unwed mother. And yet all of them were instrumental in the line of David and our Messiah.  Basically, there’s no reason why God cannot choose you or I. Eve, Sarah, Rebecca and many other women weren’t perfect- they made mistakes, and yet were a part of God’s plan.
  4. Be convicted! Women like Mary (well, all of them!), Anna, Priscilla, etc. show us that we can be living our lives for a much higher purpose and their examples challenge us on to faith, discipleship and service.

We don’t need to buy fancy books or devotional series, especially for kids. The pure word of God is so powerful. Just open the Bible, read it, discuss it. Ask, what can we learn? What can we apply? What is God saying? Discover and construct meanings together. Write them down, maybe some charts, create an idea-map, journal or lapbook. Don’t think of all the answers and lessons then dictate them to your kids – instead, really look into the Bible together and let the Holy Spirit, who is in them as much as you, bring revelation.

Life and Death

Pro-life views are highly unpopular today. I can understand why militant anti-abortionism is so distasteful, and why women despise moralists who take to take away their autonomy. I’m pro-life or anti-abortion on a personal level. This means that I will not condemn you if you have an abortion, I will not fight to make abortion illegal (for pragmatic reasons –  I simply am not convinced that fighting against abortion through law and legislation is the best way to go about it, and I am not convinced that banning abortion outright is going to make the situation any better).  But I will seek to discourage and prevent abortions from happening where possible and whenever possible on a personal level. If you were friend, I would do everything I could to support you in your crisis, no matter what choice you make, and also save your unborn baby’s life if I possibly can.

Some progressives will think people like me are dangerous, threatening to the principle of being pro-choice. I choose to disagree, and say that if you believe in choosing one way, you have to believe in choosing the other way. And if me being pro-life makes you feel guilty and uncomfortable, it probably (hopefully) isn’t because of me and my morality and judgment, but because of the natural conscience we share as human beings. Deep down, I think most people believe that selective abortion is cruel.

I have read many, many accounts of abortions that fall into grey areas, however. Such as the story of Gisella Perl, or stories of late term abortions because of severe fetal or maternal health issues. I really can’t comment on these because only women who are going through the struggle can make the choice for themselves. I know many women of faith choose to stand by their principles no matter how difficult or painful.

I also believe that pro-lifers need a lot more consideration and compassion, to bring hope and healing, not condemnation and condescension. I think we as a community need to be doing so much more than just opposing abortion “just because”, we need to be supporting life and promoting life in whatever ways we can, such as through making lives better for people whose struggles we cannot begin to understand, such as single mothers, children from impoverished backgrounds, children with disabilities, etc.

I’m pro-life because I believe life and death is in God’s hands, and that human life is sacred and worthy of love and protection. I also think that abortion damages women. You can downplay it all you like, but it goes against our better human nature to love, to protect, to care… surely many women go through some form of psychological trauma and guilt because abortion is at some level invasive and cruel; even if you personally don’t think so, you have to admit some women who go through abortions feel this way. I believe that because of the way God made us, abortion is damaging and self-destructive to women. It is the opposite of empowering.

I also believe that if we know God, we know that He loves us and it is so much better to put our lives in His hands and trust that He knows best.

We think that freedom, equality and human rights are strsightforward but the truth is they are not. Where rights overlap or infringe on another’s rights is where most modern moral controversies occur.

 

Jesus Calls Us O’er the Tumult 

​Jesus calls us: o’er the tumult

of our life’s wild, restless sea;

day by day his sweet voice soundeth

saying, “Christian, follow me.”
2 Jesus calls us from the worship

of the vain world’s golden store,

from each idol that would keep us,

saying, “Christian, love me more.”
3 In our joys and in our sorrows,

days of toil and hours of ease,

still he calls, in cares and pleasures,

“Christian, love me more than these.”
4 Jesus calls us: by thy mercies,

Savior, may we hear thy call,

give our hearts to thy obedience,

serve and love thee best of all.

Here is another deeply encouraging hymn about discipleship.  I always keep my eyes open for them. 

Recently I have started occasionally attending a traditional Anglican Church for morning prayer and holy communion, depending on the Sunday. It’s a beautiful, ancient grey building, vastly different from the simply “unchurched” fellowship back home. 

Traditional churches get a lot of criticism, but I feel there’s always something you can benefit from a church and fellowship of believers, spiritually. No church is or can be perfect and sometimes it’s good just to recognise that we can fellowship with all who call on Jesus Christ, adhere to the basic creed of our faith and teach + practice discipleship. 

Am I a Soldier of the Cross? (Hymn)

1 Am I a soldier of the cross?
a follower of the Lamb?
And shall I fear to own His cause?
or blush to speak His name?

2 Must I be carried to the skies
on flowery beds of ease,
while others fought to win the prize,
and sailed through bloody seas?

3 Are there no foes for me to face?
Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace,
to help me on to God?

4 Sure, I must fight if I would reign;
increase my courage, Lord!
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
supported by Thy Word.

A Study in Hospitality

There’s something about hospitality that I love so much. Maybe it’s because I love to cook, I love to have people around (even though, *sigh*, there will be the inevitable stack of dishes afterwards). But it’s worth it, so worth it.

A study of hospitality in the Bible uncovered some FASCINATING truths, and I say truly fascinating. The word “hospitality” is philonexus, which comes from philoxenus, which comes from philos and xenos. Philos means love, xenos means strangers. Hospitality literally means love of strangers and it’s the exact and total opposite of xenophobia, which is to hate people who are different.

It’s important to different between what is Christian and unchristian. Xenophobia is unchristian, welcoming people who are different with open arms is Christian, or better yet, Christ-like. The love of money, greed, corruption and bribery is unchristian, but generosity and simplicity is Christ-like. Anger and violence is unchristian, gentleness, love and kindness is Christian. Being mean-spirited and revengeful is the opposite of being forgiving and turning the other cheek. Being wise is the opposite of being foolish. The list goes on and on, and we need to be able to recognize godly values and attitudes and distinguish them from ungodly values and attitudes! Furthermore, Christians shouldn’t be known for being arrogant, for pushing our weight around, for being violent and defensive, etc. I just wish that we could represent Christ, and live “quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness and reverence”. Can we be known for having Christ’s love, for being sacrificial and giving?

Discovering the meaning of the word “hospitality” was a lightbulb moment for me. Nowhere in the Bible are we taught to hate or fear people who are different from us, but, instead, we are taught to love. Not in feeling, not in word, but in action –  by being hospitable, by welcoming people with open arms. We are also called to be hospitable with one another, with our brethren.

What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

(James 2:14-17)

 

 

Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.

(Luke 14:12-14)

 

For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

(Matthew 25:35)

 

Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers; Which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well:

(3 John 1:5-6)

 

A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;

(1 Timothy 3:2)

 

For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate;

(Titus 1:7-8)

 

 

And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. Use hospitality one to another without grudging. As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

(1 Peter 4:8-10)

 

Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.

(Hebrews 13:1-3)

 

Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.

(Romans 12:10-14)

 

 

Forth in the Peace of Christ We Go

This hymn is rich with meaning.

1 – Forth in the peace of Christ we go;
Christ to the world with joy we bring;
Christ in our minds, Christ on our lips,
Christ in our hearts, the world’s true King.

2 – King of our hearts, Christ makes us kings;
kingship with him his servants gain;
with Christ, the Servant-Lord of all,
Christ’s world we serve to share Christ’s reign.

3 – Priests of the world, Christ sends us forth
this world of time to consecrate,
our world of sin by grace to heal,
Christ’s world in Christ to re-create.

4 – Prophets of Christ, we hear his Word:
he claims our minds to search his ways;
he claims our lips to speak his truth;
he claims our hearts to sing his praise.

5 – We are his Church, he makes us one:
here is one hearth for all to find;
here is one flock, one Shepherd-King;
here is one faith, one heart, one mind.

By James Quinn

In His Likeness

As His disciples, we…

Served as He served,
Give as He gave,
Forsake as He forsook.
Trust as He trusted,
Fast as He fasted
Obey as He obeyed,
Proclaim as He proclaimed,
Overcome as He overcame,
Walk as He walked,
Preach as He preached,
Teach as He taught,
Free as He freed,
Weep as He wept,
See as He sees,
Love as He loves,
Heal as He heals,
Pray as He prays,
Bless as He blesses,
Forgive as He forgives,
Live as He lives.

Lessons in Generosity

Let brotherly love continue.
(Hebrews 13:1)

I believe, in the last few weeks, the Lord has been teaching me to be generous, reminding me that blessings and abundance allow us the privilege of sharing.

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Sometimes, I feel like being generous means you’re open to being taken advantage of. Especially if you give and share, and, at the back of your mind, you take notice that people never seem to return your “generosity”, and you start to get calculative… And grumble. And tell God you think you’re being taken advantage of. And then when the opportunity arises again to share with someone you’re just a tad bit reluctant on the inside, even if you don’t show it on the outside.

And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.
(Luke 6:34-35)

Then, of course, when you get to know people better you start to see  more of what God sees (that you don’t see). And then you realise why you were led to share with them in the first place!

I’ve started to see more than people, people who on the outside seem just like me – normal, happy, well-adjusted, prosperous… When you get to know people, you find that they have needs that you can meet and areas you can bless them, whether in term of physical health, emotional health, physical poverty or lack… or just a need for help. Not that I can do much except be a friend, share what I can, listen to people…

There’s a joy that comes from living a generous life, and that’s what the Lord is teaching me. I feel like He’s saying that “I’ve blessed you, I want you to live selflessly and bless others”. Not in a way that makes me look good, of course! Not to boost my self-esteem or whatever.

Amazingly, He has shown Himself to be my provider. While I’ve chosen to live frugally and to stretch my pennies, He’s just abundantly provided for me in more ways than I can describe, one amazing gift after the other… more than I could create for myself or achieve through my own “cunning”. And it feels so overwhelming.

So miraculous is this that I want to throw my hands towards heaven and say, “God, I want to live like this. I want to give and live sacrificially, to be a “man for others” like Jesus was”. Of course, once I’ve said this, He’s probably going to test me and challenge me in ways less convenient.

Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.
(Luke 14:12-14)