All posts by Grace

Happy Resurrection Day!

We celebrate the Living Hope we have in Christ!

Alternative text: Multiple tulips are in bloom. Quoted text is the Bible verse from Romans 4:25 (NIV) in a blue script font bordered with white. On bottom right corner of the Bible verse is the Redemption Ministries logo – a bold capital black R bordered in white with a bold red cross bordered in white in bottom left corner of the R.

Action over Indifference

“If you can help your neighbor now, don’t say,
“Come back tomorrow, and then I’ll help you.”” – Proverbs 3:28 (NLT)

“Whoever listens to a witness, becomes a witness.” – Elie Wiesel

Long story. Other day, was passing by a group of men. I did not have a good feeling. Based on their body language, it was not friendly or anything good. As a woman, being a target of sexual harassment and in constant danger of sexual assault and/or murder as well as with the sharp rise of anti-Asian attacks…either way, I remained alert, watchful, and ready.

A little down the road an Asian guy was watching. He was standing outside his store. The way he was looking at the group of men, it looked like he was being watchful for any signs of trouble. When I passed by him, the Asian guy looked at me. From him, there was some sort of mutual understanding and support given. He was watching to make sure I was safe. We nodded briefly in greeting and I moved on.

To be honest, a lot of these good Samaritans are everywhere. Some are more invisible than others, but there they are.

Some of us volunteer to walk with others. Some of us run errands for the elderly. Some of us support victims by serving as translators on the spot. Some of us research to find a way to end the cycle. Some of us provide information of resources in the community. Some of us video record incidents. Some of us jump in to help those being physically assaulted. Some of us write articles amplifying the issues that need to be addressed. Some of us watch when a neighbor is walking by to make sure they are safe. Some of us share our own stories. Some of us process our own experiences privately in a journal. Some of us offer a listening ear and a presence of comfort.

It doesn’t matter if what you do doesn’t get posted on social media. In a society that says, “Pictures or it didn’t happen!!”, it doesn’t matter if your actions to help others don’t get recognized or noticed. It doesn’t matter how great or small your actions are.

Even if you are just watching down the street to make sure someone you never knew is okay, or just listening to someone’s story, that’s taking action over indifference.

What matters is that we all choose one thing, even anything, over indifference.

And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference. Because of indifference, one dies before one actually dies. To be in the window and watch people being sent to concentration camps or being attacked in the street and do nothing, that’s being dead.” – Elie Wiesel

Depending on the Word of the LORD

Psalm 56 (NLT)

For the choir director: A psalm of David, regarding the time the Philistines seized him in Gath. To be sung to the tune “Dove on Distant Oaks.”

1 O God, have mercy on me,

for people are hounding me.

My foes attack me all day long.

2 I am constantly hounded by those who slander me,

and many are boldly attacking me.

3 But when I am afraid,

I will put my trust in you.

4 I praise God for what he has promised.

I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?

What can mere mortals do to me?

5 They are always twisting what I say;

they spend their days plotting to harm me.

6 They come together to spy on me—

watching my every step, eager to kill me.

7 Don’t let them get away with their wickedness;

in your anger, O God, bring them down.

8 You keep track of all my sorrows.[fn]

You have collected all my tears in your bottle.

You have recorded each one in your book.

9 My enemies will retreat when I call to you for help.

This I know: God is on my side!

10 I praise God for what he has promised;

yes, I praise the LORD for what he has promised.

11 I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?

What can mere mortals do to me?

12 I will fulfill my vows to you, O God,

and will offer a sacrifice of thanks for your help.

13 For you have rescued me from death;

you have kept my feet from slipping.

So now I can walk in your presence, O God,

in your life-giving light.

This was written when David was seized by Philistines in Gath.

What stands out the most was, despite having nothing, David gave praises to God for His Word.

Usually when we got nothing to give, whether it is to find something to be thankful for, or to give praise to God inspite of our lives, we forget we still have His Word.

Each day I have to ask myself whenever troubles in daily life comes: do I have His Word in my heart? Am I living by His Word?

Faith is not proven without trials and temptations (James 2:9; Acts 26:20; Philippians 2:12). David’s faith in God was proven when he held on to the promises of God despite losing his friends, home, reputation. His own king was seeking to murder him. Sworn enemies of Israel would not show him mercy if they caught him.

Knowing the cruelty of people and the faithfulness of God, David chose to depend on God’s mercy.

Life will be filled with grief (John 16:33; Ecclesiastes 1:18; Matthew 6:33-34). But we have this assurance – His Word will never return to Him empty. All God promises and all He said He will do, every Word spoken will accomplish exactly as He desires (Isaiah 55:10-11).

No Hope, But the Living Hope

“There are six things the LORD hates—

no, seven things he detests:

haughty eyes,

a lying tongue,

hands that kill the innocent,

a heart that plots evil,

feet that race to do wrong,

a false witness who pours out lies,

a person who sows discord in a family.” – Proverbs 6:16-19 (NLT)

Whenever I see news of rape, murder, and hate crimes, one can’t help but think: is this who we really are?

Yes, it is. The Bible’s assessment of humanity is accurate and bleak.

Jeremiah observed:

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things,
and desperately wicked.
Who really knows how bad it is?” (Jeremiah 17:9 NLT)

Yet, in God we have our hope despite the depravity of all humanity.

“But I, the LORD, search all hearts
and examine secret motives.
I give all people their due rewards,
according to what their actions deserve.” (Jeremiah 17:10 NLT)

Therefore, Jeremiah goes on to say:

“O LORD, if you heal me, I will be truly healed;
if you save me, I will be truly saved.
My praises are for you alone!” (Jeremiah 17:14 NLT)

In this world, when we deal with the actions of others and the trauma resulting from abuse and neglect, we do not feel safe. But I want you to know and experience the peace God gives. His peace is not the same as what we would think it would be. The peace of God is not dependent on any circumstances or the losses we suffered (John 14:27).

The peace of God has been paid for by Christ and given to all who believe – no matter where they are, what they do, and no matter how great our suffering.

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 NLT)

When you wonder: what can I do? Is the problem too great for anyone to solve? How can I even start?

I will leave with you the truth He has reassured me with:

““I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!

Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit

“If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you. Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Since I live, you also will live. When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.” (John 14:12-21 NLT)

My hope and prayer is that as we grow to understand and exemplify God’s love, we will never lose hope (1 Timothy 4:10).

I also strongly advise people to begin training in martial arts and learn how to handle weapons (Krav Maga, BJJ, Tae Kwon Do, Muay Thai, just to name a few – this list is not exhaustive). Marital art schools are a great resource for learning how to defend yourself and others.

I also recommend people to search for local community resources. Some places have organized volunteer walks, where volunteers walk with people to help them feel safe in the street. You may request to volunteer or to ask for volunteers to walk with you.

Be alert, be aware, and may you be prepared but not live in fear.

Finally:

“Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you out to preach the Good News and you did not have money, a traveler’s bag, or an extra pair of sandals, did you need anything?”

“No,” they replied.

 “But now,” he said, “take your money and a traveler’s bag. And if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one! For the time has come for this prophecy about me to be fulfilled: ‘He was counted among the rebels.’ Yes, everything written about me by the prophets will come true.” (Luke 22:35-37 NLT)

This surge in violence against a particular ethnic group is not new. People of various ethnicities and backgrounds have faced violence and threats of violence, some being more persecuted than others. We live in a world that’s full of every kind of greed and evil. Evil people prosper when godly people do nothing.

Let’s be prepared for hardships, be ready to help others in need, but don’t give up hope, and do not give up in doing good. It will be worth it in the end.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9 NIV)

Wages

“When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned.” – Romans 4:4 (NLT)

This is one of the issues near to my heart, spearheaded by (in my personal opinion) one of the greatest American Presidents.

President Roosevelt knew the importance of preventing the financial abuses of workers, because he truly understood that the health and longevity of the nation depended on the economic successes of the workers. One of his enduring legacies was the Fair Labor Standards Act (1938). The Fair Labor Standards Act (1938) was built on the idea that anyone working in minimum wage jobs would be able to keep roof over their heads, as well as maintain the ability to feed and clothe themselves and their families.

Granted, President Roosevelt grew up in a family who had a strong foundation in how they treat others. He recalled what his father taught him: “Take care of your morals first, your health next, and finally your studies.”

Therefore, when pushing forward with the Act, President Roosevelt said: “Do not let any calamity-howling executive with an income of $1,000 a day, …tell you…that a wage of $11 a week is going to have a disastrous effect on all American industry.”

The principle of minimum wage remains important today. Independent data and records show how costs of living increased over the years, whereas the minimum wage has remained relatively stagnant. Millions of people in America live below poverty lines, with single parent households, seniors, and people with disabilities being the most vulnerable and struggling in the mire of poverty.

Unfortunately, a loophole in the Act currently allows businesses to employ people with disabilities for far below the minimum wage – also called subminimum wage. While few states, notably Alaska, Oregon, and Texas are in the process of – or have eliminated – subminimum wage, many people with disabilities continue to be exploited for their labor. This loophole needs to be removed and the exploitation of all workers – abled and nondisabled alike – ended.

As Christians, we all need to honor God in what we do, say and think. Some might think that people working minimum wage jobs don’t deserve to be able to afford housing, food, clothing and other essentials needed for life.

When I first began discussing this issue, I was shocked to receive numerous responses that went along the lines of: “Why should anyone take responsibility to provide you your wages? If you don’t like the pay, get another job!” However, labor exploitation is nothing new. God Himself warned against it.

“You must pay them their wages each day before sunset because they are poor and are counting on it. If you don’t, they might cry out to the LORD against you, and it would be counted against you as sin.” -Deuteronomy 24:15 (NLT)

And again:

““Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts.” – Malachi 3:5 (ESV)

Do you not honor the LORD? Let’s draw near to Him and repent of our deeds and work together to support and uphold the wages of workers.

For more information see below:

https://www.dol.gov/general/aboutdol/history/flsa1938
https://www.npr.org/2020/09/17/912840482/u-s-agency-urges-end-to-below-minimum-wage-for-workers-with-disabilities

Our Cry

“I think, ‘My bed will comfort me,
and sleep will ease my misery,’” – Job 7:13 (NLT)

What losses have we suffered?

Some lost their homes. Their means of livelihood. Some lost their friends, family, relatives and acquaintances. Some lost their retirement. Most of us lost our peace.

I think of the face I will never see again. The hand I will never hold, the hug I will never give and receive.

I look with bitterness against those who amassed their wealth in greater quantities than before throughout this pandemic.

I think of the doubtful job prospects, the shuttered small businesses in my community. We notice that a bank is planning to take over one of the buildings.

We do not need more banks or conglomerates, we need more small businesses!

We do not want ravenous corporations who love to devour us like wolves among sheep!

We hunger for mom-and-pop stores, locals in the community who build a vital, thriving atmosphere, passing time with intimate storytelling and rich histories.

We long for personal connections and a growing group of people who come together in the cold, rain, heat, warmth and share their stories.

We do not want aloof, large dead spaces with cold eye for money feeding into the already wealthy privileged few. And neither do we need them.

We hate the long lines to shop for necessities in corporate owned stores, the unending demand for more money to support the insatiable gluttony of those who see no dignity, worth, or humanity in others except themselves.

When I see all this, I cannot bring myself to pray.

In the rare occasion when I find strength, prayer brings no comfort.

I go to sleep and wake with the same heaviness.

Still I remember His goodness, I will never abandon the Holy One who has done me no wrong.

I look for comfort in His Word, and I find some personal connection with Asaph’s anguish.

Psalm 77 :: New Living Translation (NLT)

For Jeduthun, the choir director: A psalm of Asaph.

1 I cry out to God; yes, I shout.

Oh, that God would listen to me!

2 When I was in deep trouble,

I searched for the Lord.

All night long I prayed, with hands lifted toward heaven,

but my soul was not comforted.

3 I think of God, and I moan,

overwhelmed with longing for his help.

Interlude

4 You don’t let me sleep.

I am too distressed even to pray!

5 I think of the good old days,

long since ended,

6 when my nights were filled with joyful songs.

I search my soul and ponder the difference now.

7 Has the Lord rejected me forever?

Will he never again be kind to me?

8 Is his unfailing love gone forever?

Have his promises permanently failed?

9 Has God forgotten to be gracious?

Has he slammed the door on his compassion?

Interlude

10 And I said, “This is my fate;

the Most High has turned his hand against me.”

11 But then I recall all you have done, O LORD;

I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago.

12 They are constantly in my thoughts.

I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works.

13 O God, your ways are holy.

Is there any god as mighty as you?

14 You are the God of great wonders!

You demonstrate your awesome power among the nations.

15 By your strong arm, you redeemed your people,

the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.

Interlude

16 When the Red Sea saw you, O God,

its waters looked and trembled!

The sea quaked to its very depths.

17 The clouds poured down rain;

the thunder rumbled in the sky.

Your arrows of lightning flashed.

18 Your thunder roared from the whirlwind;

the lightning lit up the world!

The earth trembled and shook.

19 Your road led through the sea,

your pathway through the mighty waters—

a pathway no one knew was there!

20 You led your people along that road like a flock of sheep,

with Moses and Aaron as their shepherds.

Bring me joy again. Help us, God. And give us our daily bread. Change the system – healthcare, employment benefits, paid parent leave, education, EVERYTHING.

God, bring this nation back to you. Save us. We are powerless against the corrupt. They have the courts, the police, the military, the wealth. Help us. I will remember Your past deeds and take comfort that You, God, reign!

““Can papyrus reeds grow tall without a marsh?

    Can marsh grass flourish without water?

While they are still flowering, not ready to be cut,

they begin to wither more quickly than grass.

The same happens to all who forget God.

The hopes of the godless evaporate.

Their confidence hangs by a thread.

They are leaning on a spider’s web.

They cling to their home for security, but it won’t last.

They try to hold it tight, but it will not endure.

The godless seem like a lush plant growing in the sunshine,

its branches spreading across the garden.

Its roots grow down through a pile of stones;

it takes hold on a bed of rocks.

But when it is uprooted,

it’s as though it never existed!

That’s the end of its life,

and others spring up from the earth to replace it.

 “But look, God will not reject a person of integrity,

nor will he lend a hand to the wicked.

He will once again fill your mouth with laughter

and your lips with shouts of joy.

Those who hate you will be clothed with shame,

and the home of the wicked will be destroyed.”” – Job 8:11-22 (NLT)

Our God, You reign! You are sovereign. I will remember and tell of your deeds (Psalm 75:1; Psalm 145:12).

Love for Enemies (Part 10, Final)

Last week we learned that just as we are a new creation in Christ Jesus, forgiven and cleansed from all sin. As Christians, we are called to extend the same forgiveness to those who curse us, persecute and hurt us. We also are reminded of the many examples of people in the Bible, who, despite doing no wrong and honoring God, suffered even though they did good (e.g., Jesus, Job, Daniel, etc.).

We also know that we died to sin when we accepted Christ. We can no longer live in the same way we used to. What’s more, we will be united with Christ in resurrection when He returns (Romans 6:5).

Today, we will learn about how we are to rejoice despite our circumstances and regardless of how people treat us.

Life is already hard without people hurting us. But did you know that we can also make things harder for ourselves? Sometimes we do stupid things and blame God when it is really our fault.

Proverbs 19:3 (NLT) says: “People ruin their lives by their own foolishness
and then are angry at the LORD.”

So it’s important for us to learn to live in God’s wisdom. What do you think? Is God’s wisdom is the same as world’s wisdom?

Let’s turn to James 3:17-18 (NLT):

17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. 18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.

Amen? God’s wisdom teaches us to love our neighbors, our selves, and even our enemies.

What does it mean to be pure? Love from God is pure. That’s why we receive Holy Spirit who gives us power, love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7).

When you truly love your enemies in obedience to God’s commandment to love them, you’re not trying to get them to like you. You’re not looking for praise, you’re not loving them in order to make people to think you’re a good person.

When you really love your enemies, your love for them is pure – there is no jealousy, hidden reason or some selfish motive of any kind. Then we learn that wisdom from God is also peace loving.

Peace loving is not what people think it means. It doesn’t mean that you keep quiet because you know the other person is going to hurt you or punish you for speaking up. Keeping quiet when someone does wrong is enabling bad people to hurt you and others. Peace loving is NOT enabling abusive, wicked behavior!

Peace loving means that you don’t constantly try to pick fights or exclude anyone you dislike. A lot of people tend to be passive aggressive.

For example, if you ever disliked someone and kind of glared at them every time they showed up? Or you refused to talk to someone even if they say hi to you? That’s being passive aggressive, and definitely not peace loving. When you are peace loving, you don’t reject or make people feel alone.

Next we learn that wisdom from God is also gentle at all times. A person who is gentle is someone who knows how to forgive. Gentleness is connected to patience. Just as God is patient and gentle with us every day and every moment, we are called to be gentle and patient to others at all times.

Next we learn that wisdom from God is willing to yield to others. Being willing to yield to others doesn’t mean you let people get their way with you all the time. It means you know how to listen and be kind to others.

For example, when dividing inheritance among people, Zelophehad’s daughters came to Moses about their father’s property. Their names were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milkah and Tirzah. Traditionally, any property the father has is handed down to their sons. The sisters said that their father died leaving no sons. They also said that they should have a property too, even though the property is normally handed down from father to son, not to daughters. Moses yielded to the sisters and went before the LORD to ask Him what he should do. God listened to their case and told Moses that the sisters were right and to give them the property that normally would have gone to a son or to their relatives (Numbers 27:1-11). I believe God let this situation come up so that people will all see and know how to yield to others and elevated the status of women in those times when men usually ignored women.

When you are willing to yield, it means that you don’t always believe you are right. Sometimes even the worst person in your life might have a good point. We all need to be someone who is willing to listen to reason and knowing when to wisely yield. Ask God for wisdom!

Next, God’s wisdom is to be full of mercy. We don’t judge people harshly and condemn them. We make allowance for the faults of others, because God Himself gave great mercy to us through the cross. This does not mean we allow people to abuse us. It means we don’t condemn them, forgive and pray for them and bless them just as Christ forgave the people who mocked Him as He was suffering and dying on the cross for us.

After mercy, comes good deeds. Just like there is no love without action, wisdom from God leads to good deeds. You can tell a person is wise by how they live, not just by what they do or do not say. We know Jesus is wise because of how He lived. We also know that Daniel was wise because of his actions and speech. The Bible says that even fools will recognize wisdom in someone who has it.

Proverbs 14:33 (NASB): “Wisdom rests in the heart of one who has understanding,
But in the hearts of fools it is made known.”

God’s wisdom also doesn’t play favorites. Refusing to play favorites is not natural for us to do. We naturally are nice to those who are nice to us back. We have a hard time being nice and kind to those who are mean to us. But God’s wisdom says: honor other people, who are made in My image, even when they do not treat you right. In doing so, we are following God’s command to love others in the same way He loved us (Mark 12:31).

Next, wisdom is always sincere. Have you ever met someone who was nice to you? Only later to find out they were nice because they wanted to take something, and not because they really cared about you. It feels insincere, right? It makes you think, “I can’t trust this person.” God says, don’t be insincere.

The world says it’s okay to use people to get what you want, but it really isn’t. When you are sincere, you aren’t pretending to be what you are not. You aren’t trying to manipulate people. Some Bible translations, instead of saying “always sincere,” say, “without hypocrisy”. Both mean the same thing. Don’t pretend to be one thing when you are trying to get something from someone. Be honest and sincere before God and people in what you say and do. This obviously doesn’t mean to just blab and tell other people everything – ask God and He will give you wisdom on what to do, what to say and how to say it.

Amen!

All these things are the very same things Jesus showed us in His life! God is the very same things we learned! He is pure, peace loving, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good deeds, He doesn’t show favoritism, is always sincere.

Hallelujah! We have an awesome God!!!

Now when we obey God in all these things, what does the Bible say is the result?

18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness. (James 3:18 NIV)

Hallelujah! When we obey God’s wisdom, our actions are like planting seeds. These seeds transform our lives as we grow in the habit of following His wisdom, and transform the lives of other people.

The more you love your enemies and follow practical wisdom God gives that we learned in James 3:17-18, the more people will come to know what God is like.

It’s not something that comes naturally, which is why we depend on the power of the Holy Spirit to choose God’s way over our own natural feelings.

Let’s pray that we will not only receive and know God’s wisdom, but to also live out in His wisdom in every day life.

courage

These are the words of the Teacher, King David’s son, who ruled in Jerusalem. Everything Is Meaningless

“Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless!” What do people get for all their hard work under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth never changes. The sun rises and the sun sets, then hurries around to rise again. The wind blows south, and then turns north. Around and around it goes, blowing in circles. Rivers run into the sea, but the sea is never full. Then the water returns again to the rivers and flows out again to the sea. Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content. History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. Sometimes people say, “Here is something new!” But actually it is old; nothing is ever truly new. We don’t remember what happened in the past, and in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now.” (Ecclesiastes 1:1-11 NLT)

It takes courage to get up each day and keep living. To overcome daily struggles. To go to sleep at night pushing past your fears, anxieties and worries that keep popping up: “I could have done better,” “I shouldn’t have done that,” “Maybe if I…” and to give them up to God because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7; Philippians 4:6-7). It takes courage to get up and facing your struggles over again the next day.

Maybe you get up without hope that things will get better, but keep getting up with courage to push through it somehow.

Someone said to me drily, “Life is pain.”

It’s true.

I used to think that courage is the freedom to face fear, not the absence of fear. However, in a way, that seemed incomplete. Like there was something more to courage. I’ve seen people and animals be free to live their lives, and yet somehow something is holding them back. What was missing?

I think Ernest Hemmingway said it best: “Courage is grace under pressure.”

The daily cares and pressures in life may not ever cease. Maybe over time our pain and trials will ebb and flow, new ones added, and old ones sifted away leaving scars no time has been able to heal.

Many people and circumstances in life will either build up or tear you down. But even through all the pain, there is grace in it all.

God gives grace through courage. May you hold on to it.

As the psalmist writes: “Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.” (Psalm 27:14 KJV)

Let’s take courage! He gives strength.

“But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage! I am here!” (Mark 6:50b NLT)