Category Archives: View Points

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)

Love for Enemies (Part 9)

Note from author: This is a continuation of “Love for Enemies”.

Last week, we learned that we cannot keep on sinning, living the life we lived before we received Jesus. Christ very clearly said that there are two kinds of people: people who love God, and people who do not love God.

People who love God will obey Him.

People who do not love God will not obey Him (John 14:23-24).

The one who chooses to obey Him is the one who received God’s grace. People who do not love and forgive others are rejecting God’s love and forgiveness for themselves.

Loving our enemies, praying for them, blessing them and not cursing them, giving something to drink if they are thirsty, something to eat if they are hungry, is obeying God’s command to love Him and our neighbors as we love ourselves.

We will continue reading Romans 6:5-7 (NIV):

5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

There are people who say it is impossible to love others, and that loving enemies does not make sense.

It’s true. That’s why when we receive Jesus, we undergo two kinds of baptism.

Water baptism where believers get immersed in water and show people that they have received Jesus and chose to live a new life (Matthew 3:6; Acts 8:16; Acts 10:47-48).

Spiritual baptism – Holy Spirit baptizes the person, changing their hearts to understand God’s will and Word in their life (Acts 1:5; Acts 10:44; Acts 11:15; Acts 19:6). Through the Holy Spirit, we receive power, love, and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7).

In each of these, baptisms, there are two main points:

  1. We die to our old way of life. This means we don’t continue with our hatred, jealousy, anger, unforgiveness, bitterness, slander, etc. (Galatians 5:19-21).
  2. We are made alive in Christ. Therefore, as a new creation in Christ, God no longer punish us because of our sin, but forgives us, cleanses us, and changes us to bear all the fruits of the Holy Spirit, like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23; Romans 8:1-2).

Amen? Let’s go over each verse we read in Romans 6:5-7.

5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.

Verse 5, Paul is reminding us that just sin was nailed to the cross when Christ was crucified, our old, dead spiritual self, which is slave to sin is also put to death when we received Jesus. Furthermore, in the same way that Jesus was resurrected with a new body, we will also be given a new body when Jesus comes back. In our resurrection, God gives us a new kind of body that is free from all the death, sickness, suffering and pain that people experience in physical bodies.

This truth is so powerful. I want you to remember it:

“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26 NIV)

Amen?

Verse 6: For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—

This is a profound truth. When we received Jesus, we are raised from spiritual death (separate from God with no relationship or hope), into life (together with God, relationship with Jesus, and hope that lasts eternally)!

When we receive Jesus, sin’s power over us is broken! God makes His home with us. Since we have God with us, we have power over sin, love to overcome hardships, and self-control to live the life that honors God (John 14:23; 2 Timothy 1:7).

Verse 7: because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

Loving our enemies is one of the ways we show sin no longer rules us! God gave us power over sin. When we love our enemies, we have proof that we are no longer slaves to sin!

We will still face temptations to do wrong. Having hardships doesn’t mean we are sinning. Job was a righteous man who loved God and did right. He still suffered (read book of Job).

Did Jesus ever sin?

No. Jesus never sinned (1 Peter 2:22)!

Even though He never sinned, Jesus suffered. Even though He never sinned, through His suffering, everyone who believes in Him are saved (1 Peter 3:18).

Suffering doesn’t always come because of our sin. Both good and bad people suffer.

Jesus made it very clear that suffering is something everyone experiences. Suffering comes because we don’t live in heaven, but live in a world broken by sin.

We will always undergo different kinds of challenges, troubles and trials in this world. But have courage! Just as Jesus overcame all the trials in the world, even death, He gives us the same victory!

Jesus said to us that we are to give up our troubles to God. When we do, He gives us peace and courage in Him! (John 16:33)

It is tempting to become angry with people who continue to hurt and mistreat us even after we have done them good.

But remember: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21 NIV)

Amen? Let’s pray that we will truly know and experience His love for us, and to love others in the same way He has shown us!

Love for Enemies (part 8)

Note from author: This is a continuation of “Love for Enemies”.

Last week, we learned that living by faith means giving up our pursuit of happiness.

When we live by faith, loving God, our neighbors as we love ourselves, even loving our enemies, God fills us with joy that cannot be explained or taken away. This joy God gives us is the kind that helps us move forward with hope. Hope is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit that we are to grow in (Galatians 5). Everything we do is by the Holy Spirit’s power, not from us (Zechariah 4:6; 2 Timothy 1:7).

Although loving our enemies may not change their hearts and the way they act towards us, we are to continue living as Jesus lived.

Jesus never changed the way He loved people just because of how other people treated Him. He continued to love and honor God in everything He spoke, did, and thought.

As Christians, we are also to follow Jesus’ example (Leviticus 11:45; 1 Corinthians 11:1).

Let’s turn to Romans 6:1-4 (NIV):

“Dead to Sin, Alive in Christ

1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

When we read this, I want you to understand something important. Paul wrote that when people sin, God’s grace abounds even more (Romans 5:20).

Some people misunderstand it to mean that they can live however they like and sin even more just so they can receive God’s grace more and more.

However, Christ very clearly said that there are two kinds of people: there are people who love God, and there are people who do not love God.

People who love God will obey Him.

People who do not love God will not obey Him.

Which type of person received God’s grace: the one who keeps sinning, or the one who chooses to obey Him?

Let’s turn to John 14:23-24 (NIV):

“23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.”

Amen?

So let’s go over each verse of Romans 6:1-4.

Romans 6:1 – “Dead to Sin, Alive in Christ

1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?

Paul makes people rethink by asking this question. I want you to answer honestly.

Would God’s grace rescue you if you continue to curse your enemy even after learning that God wants us to bless them?

Would God’s grace cover for you if you choose to ignore your enemy if they’re hungry or thirsty, even after knowing we are to love them by giving them something to eat or drink?

Why should God give you grace if you do not give grace to others?

2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?

Paul pointed out that it makes no sense for people who received Jesus as their Lord and Savior to continue living in the way they want to.

Rachel pointed out last week, that if her enemy continues to be mean even after she showed love for them, she would not be happy. But we also learned that we are not to live our lives in a way that makes us happy.

In this world, we all will always have trouble. Happiness is temporary, but joy that God gives goes far deeper than feelings of happiness.

Paul called this contentment (Philippians 4:11-13).

Once we received God’s grace, why would we not show the same grace to our enemies?

3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

Paul goes on to question the way people think about God’s grace. People think they can freely receive God’s forgiveness, but don’t want to forgive other people.

Paul is asking us: what does God’s grace really mean to you? Is it only for you or is it something we need to share with other people?

If we truly received God’s grace for you through Jesus’ death and resurrection on the cross, the way we view our life and how we treat other people will be completely changed.

In other words, people who have received God’s grace will make choices every day to fulfill God’s command to love Him and other people.

4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

Paul also mentions that for Christians who are baptized into Christ Jesus, are also baptized into his death.

Some time ago, I mentioned there are two kinds of baptism: spiritual and water. Spiritual baptism is when the Holy Spirit comes upon people and works in their hearts (Acts 1:5; Acts 10:44; Acts 11:15; Acts 19:6).

Water baptism is what Christians do to show they choose to receive Jesus and become part of God’s family (Matthew 3:6; Acts 8:16; Acts 10:47-48). Physical baptism is done with water.

Paul is talking about both types of baptism. Here, Paul uses the water baptism to help people better visualize what is happening spiritually.

When you are baptized with water, you are completely immersed in water. This shows we die to our old way of living and sin.

After being immersed, we are raised up again. Being raised up from water shows that we are a new person and will follow Christ.

Paul is helping us understand that Christ’s death and resurrection on the cross broke the power of sin.

Christians who receive Jesus no longer are under the power of sin, but are made alive in Jesus, which is why he wrote at the beginning of the chapter “Dead to Sin, Alive in Christ” (Romans 6:1). God’s grace for us, which we received through Jesus is why we extend grace even to the worst of our enemies.

Amen?

Let’s live as God has made us through Jesus when we received Him! We are alive in Christ!

Love for Enemies (Part 7)

Note from author: This is a continuation of “Love for Enemies”.

In the previous post, we discussed how loving our enemies doesn’t come from the goodness of our own heart.

Rather, it comes from the power, love and sound mind that God gives through the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 1:7).

Furthermore, when we love our enemies, we are living by faith.

Our faith and the results of our faith is NOT dependent on how other people treat us.

In fact, our faith and the reward of our faith is NEVER based on what goes on in the world, or what happens to us.

Our whole life, faith and our reward are dependent on Christ and our God! Let’s turn to Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV):

“1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Jesus suffered and had the same weaknesses. Hebrews 4:14-16 (NLT) declares:

“14 So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. 15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. 16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”

More than anyone, Jesus understands us in our suffering. He understands what it is like to be insulted, beaten, mocked, rejected and hurt in every way. He experienced betrayal from some of His closest friends. He understands what it is like to be lonely, with no one in your life who really understands or cares about you. His own parents and siblings didn’t understand Him.

Even through all the trials and tribulations, Jesus endured. That’s why we can go to Jesus in every weakness, in every failure, in every triumph and in every suffering.

Let’s go over each verse of Hebrews 12:1-3.

Hebrews 12:1 says, we all are surrounded by people who also lived for God. People who suffered for their faith, and yet never gave up. We are to throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles us – everything! Whether it is our love for games, the desire to please everyone, even our own pursuit of whatever makes us happy.

Why should we give up whatever makes us happy? Even our own U.S. Constitution says we have a right to pursue happiness!

Remember what we learned, that loving our enemies is living by faith? Do you think doing good to those who hurt you, blessing them and not cursing them, giving them something to eat if they are hungry, and giving your enemy something to drink if they are thirsty, would make you happy? Be honest!

Maybe we won’t get any satisfaction from doing all those things. Sometimes we might even feel more angrier because our enemies don’t deserve the grace we are giving them. However, when you choose to act in love, our feelings will eventually change to follow our actions of love.

That’s why Christians are called by God to live by faith (Romans 1:17; 2 Corinthians 5:7; Galatians 2:20). We do not live by what we see, and we definitely do not live by what we feel.

As we learned last week, when we live by faith, our faith leads us to grow spiritually mature, becoming more like Jesus (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Galatians 4:19; Hebrews 10:38).

Living by faith leads us to develop endurance, which develops strength of character, which develops our confident hope of salvation. This hope of salvation will not lead to disappointment. When we grow in faith, this faith that God gives us as a gift to use brings joy (Romans 5:1-11)! That is the lasting blessing we receive from God when we live by faith!

Spiritual joy cannot be taken away by our circumstances or anything that people do.

Our happiness will always be temporary. Pursuing happiness will not lead to blessings or joy. Our happiness will change when something happens to make our day worse.

For example, one day wake up, you feel refreshed from last night’s sleep. You remember you have a quiz and when you take it, you feel like you got a high score. Then when you get to your next class, you realize forget your textbook at home. That can put you in a bad mood for the rest of the day, even though the day might start well right?

Or maybe you finally got the game you wanted, which made you very happy. But you don’t get a good night’s sleep and you are lying on bed, unable to sleep and becoming tired and grumpy.

Happiness does not last, and if we do not live by faith, we will always try many things to make us happy. Maybe we try being happy by making lots of friends, eating good food, exercising, playing games, gardening, getting a boyfriend/girlfriend, a new job, etc. But in the end, do those things really keep you happy? Will they keep you strong when things in life become hard?

Happiness that depends on people and things in our lives do not help us endure the hardships of life. If we depend on other people and other things to become the source of our happiness, they just end up becoming something we get addicted to.

Making friends isn’t evil. We all are meant to have healthy friendships. But if we look to friendships to make us happy, we will never find a perfect friendship that keeps us happy. Having support that we need through healthy relationships does not equate to happiness. (I honestly think of Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh and friends as a good example).

Enjoying good food isn’t evil. God made delicious things for us to enjoy – mangoes, chocolate, etc. But if we look to those things to make us happy, we will never be satisfied. The same could be said for other things in life.

In the end, when we pursue happiness, we become people who are always looking for the next thing that will make us FORGET for a brief moment our own pain and suffering.

We cannot expect other things to make us happy. So many people look for happiness in the wrong things – money, friendships, drugs, sex, music, clothes, houses, etc.

God truly wants us to be happy! (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13) But we have to remember that God’s way is not our way! (Isaiah 55:9)

Our idea of happiness and joy is very different from God’s.

The happiness that God gives us is not dependent on things we eat, drink, buy, or have.

When we live in pursuit of happiness, we become miserable! We never become satisfied or happy.

The reason we do not become satisfied is because we are all created for the glory of God. That’s why our pursuit of happiness leads to nothing, only disappointment and emptiness that our soul can’t quite fill (Romans 3:23; Romans 5:1-2; 1 Corinthians 10:31). Our joy needs to be based in something eternal, unchanging, and lasting.

The Bible says that when we live by faith, our faith leads to joy.

This is connected to Galatians 5, where Paul writes about the fruits of the Holy Spirit. The first fruit that our faith should produce is love. The second fruit is joy!

I will say it again!

Faith leads to joy! The joy God gives as we hold on to the truth in His Word and promises, gives us strength. And the spiritual strength that comes from the joy of the Lord makes our spirit strong.

If we have a crushed spirit, we cannot overcome all the hardships and trials in life (Proverbs 18:14). Instead of overcoming all our suffering and learning to love others, even our enemies, in the same way God loves us, we get overwhelmed with evil and lose the will to endure.

Psalm 28:7 (NLT) declares: “The LORD is my strength and shield.
I trust him with all my heart.
He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy.
I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.”

Our lives will always have days of goodness and days of suffering.

Therefore, as is written in Hebrews 12:2, we endure by “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Amen?

Hebrews 12:3 reminds us not to give up: “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Even when you suffer for doing good, don’t give up! We won’t always understand our suffering. But remember that God uses suffering to make us strong in our spirit and become more like Jesus. People don’t abandon God because life is hard.

People fall away from God because they don’t realize that suffering is part of life. Other times people fall away from God because they love things in the world more than God.

God gives us strength to push forward with hope and joy (Matthew 13:18-23). We need to really be rooted in our love for God and rooted in our love for our neighbor as we love ourselves. Only then, will we truly be able to endure everything that will happen.

When you are suffering, even now, look to Jesus and remember what He said to us:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33 (NIV)

God promises you, and by my own personal testimony, I tell you, faith leads to joy, even when we are suffering.

It is so hard to love our enemies. It can feel like we are suffering more when we choose to love them – blessing them and not cursing them, praying for them, giving them something to eat and drink if they’re hungry and thirsty…it feels like we aren’t getting anything back. There will be days we think that there is no point in loving our enemies.

But hold on to God’s Word. When we remind ourselves of Jesus, we also remember that God gives us more grace to overcome our own personal problems so we can reach out to the people that are hard for us to love.

 “We love because he first loved us.” – 1 John 4:19 (NIV)

Love for Enemies (Part 6)

Note from author: This is a continuation of “Love for Enemies”.

Throughout the Love for Enemies series, we learned that we are to pray for those who hurt us, bless and not curse, to not rejoice when bad things happen to our enemies, even though we feel like they deserve it. In sum, we are to love people by treating all with patience and kindness in the same way God has shown us through Jesus (Matthew 7:12; Matthew 6:1-4).

Last week, we learned that loving our enemies goes further than praying for them, blessing them, not looking down on them. We also learned that if they are hungry, give them something to eat, and if they are thirsty, to give them something to drink. When we do good things to our enemies, the Bible teaches us that our acts of love awakens their conscience and God rewards us for how we treat them out of love (Romans 12:17-21; Proverbs 25:21-22).

Usually when enemies hurt you, they don’t really care how you feel. They act like you deserve to get hurt, even if you don’t.

If you feed them if they’re hungry, and give them something to drink if they’re thirsty, it makes them feel guilty for all the wrong ways they treated you. Maybe they won’t change right away, but God says their conscience will feel it. And God will remember what you do – and will reward you for how you loved your enemy.

Now that we know how we love our enemy, what about us? What reward do we get for treating people with love despite how they hurt us?

Remember the reason why we do anything out of love even for people who don’t deserve it? What are the two greatest commandments?

The two greatest commandments are: love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. And the second commandment is like it: love your neighbor as you love yourself (Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Mark 12:28-34)!

Amen? The reason why we keep up the faith and not get discouraged even though our enemies persecute and hurt us, is because Jesus was treated the same way, and yet overcame evil with good (Romans 12).

Jesus is the reason for our faith! He is the reason why we love – yes, even those who are our enemies – and have hope!

Let’s turn to Romans 5:1-11 (NLT)

Faith Brings Joy

1 Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. 2 Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.

3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

6 When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. 7 Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. 8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. 9 And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. 10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

When we choose to run the race following Christ, there will be always times when we feel shaken, want to give up, and say: “our actions change nothing. Our faith is useless. Life is so hard, I don’t see any point.”

But like we just read throughout the Bible, when we don’t give up despite problems and trials, our heart, soul, mind and strength is transformed into something far better and more wonderful than we can ask for, think, imagine, or measure (Romans 5).

We can only grow with love. People cannot live without love. We are created for more than just receiving love. We are created to love others in the same way He loved us (1 John 4:19; 1 Corinthians 13).

When we suffer and keep our eyes on Jesus throughout our suffering, even for things we don’t deserve, we develop something important and eternal as we hold on with faith that God will bring about something good out of it (John 15:16; Galatians 5:22-26)!

Romans 8:28 (NIV) says: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

So we know the reason why we love our enemies. But what is our benefit? As we read, Romans 5:3-5 says we develop:

  1. Endurance (we are able to push on despite hardships). You know how runners are able to keep running for many meters, or hikers keep going for many miles up the mountain? That’s endurance. To keep going even after many other people give up. To endure even when we fail or things don’t work out the way we want them to. This spiritual endurance comes from focusing on Jesus!
  2. When we develop spiritual endurance, we start developing strength of character. If you meet athletes, you’ll notice that they all endured hardships to get where they were. Developing spiritual endurance transforms us to become humble. Because we overcame our suffering through endurance, we able to empathize with other people who are also suffering and to bless them. Some people become proud after enduring their hardships and look down on everyone who failed. But when you develop spiritual endurance, you are able to open your eyes to other people around you, people who need to experience the love of God, just as you received the love of God in your life.
  3. While we develop character, we also strengthen our hope. But Paul points out that this hope is not just a hopeful feeling or optimism for a better day. This spiritual hope is grounded in reality: life is hard, sometimes it gets worse. Yet because Christ overcame, we will also overcome (John 16:33; Revelations 12:11). In fact, Jesus bluntly said that anyone who wants to follow Him will suffer (Matthew 10:38; Matthew 16:24). Suffering is inevitable. We need to remember that the purpose of our suffering is so that our heart, mind, and spirit will become more like Jesus (Philippians 1:27-30). God never promised an easy life. In fact, Jesus said, if you want to follow me, you must take up your cross and follow me (Matthew 16:24).
  4. And where does our hope of salvation lead us? Our hope of salvation will never lead to disappointment. (Romans 5:5-6) Our hope is not empty, our hope is not based on fake promises. We will see God’s promises to us fulfilled (1 Thessalonians 2:13; Hebrews 4).
  5. When we keep up the faith, we will be saved from God’s condemnation against all sin through Jesus (Romans 5:10-11). More than that, we have friendship with God – not fake, I-am-friends-with-you-until-I-decide-I-don’t-like-you-for-whatever-reason friendship. But true, genuine, wonderful and lasting friendship (John 14:16-21)
  6. When we remain in faith, as our faith grows and our knowledge and understanding of God grows, our joy grows too! This kind of spiritual joy is not based on the good or bad things that happen in life. The joy God gives is the kind that keeps our spirit strong, even when things in the world happen that breaks our heart. It’s so important for us to have strong spirit.

    Why is it important to have a strong spirit?

With a strong spirit, people can push through in life regardless of the hardships.

Proverbs 18:14 (NLT) says: “The human spirit can endure a sick body,
but who can bear a crushed spirit?”

Amen? But we have Jesus, who is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2)!

Let’s decide every day to never give up following the example of Christ as He obeyed the Father, because of all Jesus has done for us, and is still doing for us!

Love For Enemies (Part 5)

Note from author: This is a continuation of “Love for Enemies”.

In our previous post (Love for Enemies Part 4), we connected our need for Christ through the lens of the Law and sacrifices. We also learned how Christ eliminated the need for animal sacrifices, cleansing our sins once and for all through His own work on the cross. Now all people can directly go to God through Jesus Christ!

To recap – we have been learning since the very beginning of Love For Enemies how we can love our enemies: pray for those who hurt us, bless and not curse, to not rejoice when bad things happen to our enemies, even though we feel like they deserve it. In sum, we are to love people by treating all with patience and kindness in the same way God has shown us through Jesus (Matthew 7:12; Matthew 6:1-4).

As we go forward in how we love our enemies, let’s turn to Romans 12:17-21 (NIV):

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;

if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.

In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

This is not a new commandment that God gave to people after Christ came. This was also passed down through the Law given through Moses!

We can see this in Proverbs 25:21-22 (NIV):

21 If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat;

if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.

22 In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head,

and the LORD will reward you.

Most of the time, when people have been hurt by someone, they do not want to do any good to them. In fact, when they see their enemy in trouble, they tend to gloat, gossip, make fun of them and continue to spread bad rumors. We are to be better than that.

What are we to do instead of what the world tells us is okay to do? God tells us to bless and not curse people.

God sees what we do, He knows our hearts. If we rejoice when bad things happen to our enemies, God will not be pleased with us, and turn His wrath away from them because our heart is not in the right place (Proverbs 24:17; Romans 12:14).

Now when it comes to doing good things to our enemies, some Christians do good things only so they can brag about it.

When we read Romans 12:17-21 and Proverbs 25:21-22, the motivation for being kind to our enemies must come from only one thing: love.

In addition to patience and kindness, one of the traits of love is that when a person loves others, they do not brag or look down on people (1 Corinthians 13:4-5).

The only reason why we love others, even those that people say are unlovable, is because God loved us first (1 John 4:19).

I also want to point out something. In various social media like Tiktok, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, etc., we see people who take selfies while they are giving food to homeless and the poor.

While it is good to raise awareness of the need to care for people, you need to do it in a way that respects the people you want to help. Doing it for likes or doing it for attention is not the right way.

Sometimes people help the poor and the homeless by giving them food or money and take selfies to post it on social media just so other people will praise them.

That is exactly what Romans 12:16 means about being conceited. People who take selfies of themselves helping the poor and homeless are making themselves look good at the expense of others. Please don’t do that to people. Do not make people feel worse about themselves.

Not every good thing you do has to be posted and bragged about. Just do everything out of love and service for God, not yourself, and God will bless you and you will be rewarded. So do not make it about getting praise or noticed by other people (Matthew 6:1-4)!

Remember to pray for those who hurt you, bless and not curse, to give them water if they’re thirsty, food if they’re hungry, and not look down on people who have hurt you. We do all this because God has loved and treated us while we were still far away from Him!

Romans 5:8 (NLT): “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”

Let’s pray that as we try to obey God’s command to love others, we will also trust that God will help us do the right thing. Because the Bible clearly says that God has given us, His people, the Holy Spirit, who gives us power, love, and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7)!

Love For Enemies (Part 4)

Note from author: This is a continuation from “Love for Enemies”.

“For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.” – Hebrews 10:10 (NLT)

In continuation of the last post, in order to forgive, we need to pay attention to the state of our own mind, heart and spirit. Before we forgive, have to first receive forgiveness from God for the things we have done.

We need to remember that forgiveness is us depending on receiving new chances each time through the blood of Jesus (Hebrew 12:24).

More importantly, God doesn’t only forgive us of our sins when we confess (1 John 1:9).

God purifies our consciences from sinful deeds, which enable us to worship the living God with a love that comes from a pure heart, clear conscience and genuine faith (Hebrews 9:13-14; 1 Timothy 1:5)!

Isn’t that amazing?

Let’s go deeper into the power of forgiveness that comes from Christ’s sacrifice for you, me and even those who persecute and hurt us.

We will turn to Hebrews 10:1-10 (NLT):

“Christ’s Sacrifice Once for All

The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship. If they could have provided perfect cleansing, the sacrifices would have stopped, for the worshipers would have been purified once for all time, and their feelings of guilt would have disappeared.

But instead, those sacrifices actually reminded them of their sins year after year. For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”

I want us to pause here and think.

The animal sacrifices could never provide perfect cleansing from sin. If the animal sacrifices were enough, people would stop feeling guilty for their sins. The blood of animals could not take away sins.

Remember, that God gave the Law through Moses, on how people can worship and be forgiven. Because without shedding of blood, there can be no forgiveness of sin (Hebrews 9:22).

These sacrifices were a reminder by God for all people about how far everyone fell from God’s holiness.

Ecclesiastes 7:20 (NIV) says: “Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins.”

Before God gave the Law, all of humanity was trapped in sin and brokenness. God gave the Law through Moses as a way to first set boundaries. Human wickedness was so great, that God had to provide laws teaching people that killing, stealing, and destroying is wrong. Coveting what others have is wrong. Lying to others about what your neighbor did is wrong (Leviticus 19). Honoring our parents is right before God, and helping your neighbor is right, too (Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 5).

The Law God gave through Moses only showed our need for forgiveness and healing that no one can do of their own power. The Law also had a weakness – it could not change people’s hearts. That’s why even though the animal sacrifices and sin offerings were required by the Law, God was not pleased with them.

That’s why prophet Isaiah declared:

“We are all infected and impure with sin.
When we display our righteous deeds,
they are nothing but filthy rags.
Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall,
and our sins sweep us away like the wind.” – Isaiah 64:6 (NLT)

So by providing the Law, God was not just showing how we are supposed to worship God and love our neighbor. It was to remind all of us that as human beings, we are created in God’s image, which means we have a responsibility to be holy, as God is holy (Leviticus 22:32; Leviticus 20:7; 1 Peter 1:15-16).

Hebrews 12:14 (NIV) says: “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.”

Therefore Christ came at the right time to take away our sins once and for all, even purifying our own consciences from evil deeds (Hebrews 9:13-14).

Let’s read Hebrews 10:5-10 (NLT):

“That is why, when Christ came into the world, he said to God,

“You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings.

But you have given me a body to offer.

You were not pleased with burnt offerings

or other offerings for sin.

Then I said, ‘Look, I have come to do your will, O God—

as is written about me in the Scriptures.’”

First, Christ said, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings or burnt offerings or other offerings for sin, nor were you pleased with them” (though they are required by the law of Moses). Then he said, “Look, I have come to do your will.” He cancels the first covenant in order to put the second into effect. For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.”

Amen? God was not pleased with the animal sacrifices or sin offerings, because people still felt their guilt. People were still separated from God. Even the High Priest could only enter the Holy of Holies once a year to give sacrifices (Hebrews 9). So God decided to send His own Son to be the perfect offering for our sins, providing complete forgiveness once and for all time through His death and resurrection!

Now everyone has direct access to God through Jesus! (Hebrews 9:12; Hebrews 4:14-16)

This is why prayer is essential to our walk with God and our spiritual growth as Christians (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Jesus, out of love for us, freely gave His life by His own choice for us (John 10:14; John 10:17-18).

“But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” – Romans 5:8 (NLT)

Since God’s will for us is to be made holy by Christ’s sacrifice once and for all, why don’t we ask God to help us forgive those who hurt us?

Love for Enemies (Part 3)

Note from author: This is a continuation of “Love for Enemies”.

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” – Romans 12:21 (NIV)

Loving our enemies is very different from how we are taught in the world. Loving our enemies is not something that is easy to do, and sometimes it may even go against what we feel is the right or better way to live.

The world’s way is to take revenge. To give our enemies trouble, pain and suffering worse than what they did to us.

God’s way is to break the cycle by loving our enemies. To pray for them and bless them and not repay wrong for wrong, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). Just as Christ prayed for them and blessed them, even as He suffered on the cross for all our sins, we are called to pray and bless those who persecute and hurt us.

There were probably times we have hurt people back. After we hurt people the same way they hurt us, our pain does not go away. Instead, we still feel our own pain and on top of that: guilty.

Remember how we learned that loving our enemies doesn’t come from our own strength and willpower? It’s the same when dealing with our guilt. We need to deal with our sins and our guilt before we can forgive the sins of others against us.

When dealing with your guilt, we must humble ourselves and go before God. When you pray, give Him your pain. Admit the wrongs you did and confess how the other person made you feel. Ask for Him forgiveness for the hurt you inflicted on others. Bless the person who hurt you. He will forgive you.

1 John 1:9 (NLT) says: “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”

Amen? What’s more, God will cleanse your own conscience so that you can serve Him with a healed and whole heart full of love for Him and people. Hebrews 9:13-14 (NLT) declares:

“Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow could cleanse people’s bodies from ceremonial impurity. Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins.”

This is really amazing! God doesn’t just cleanse us from our guilt, He purifies our own conscience from all the evil deeds we have done – rage, malice, anger, bitterness, unforgiveness, cursing, hatred, etc. so that we can truly worship God with a healed heart and full of joy, love and peace! Jesus made this possible through His sacrifice on the cross for our sins!!!

Hallelujah!!!!!!!

I want you to make it a habit to pray every day. Even if there are some things you don’t feel like talking about with other people, give it all up to God. Even if your prayers are short or you don’t feel like you need anything to confess about, go to God!

Andrew Murray, a South African writer, teacher, and Christian pastor. He said very simply, “I need to spend time with God even when I do not know what to pray.”

 We all stumble and sin in many ways, whether it is in our thoughts, or actions, or choosing not to take action. So all need to spend time with God in prayer, even if we do not know what we pray for – that’s why the Holy Spirit intercedes for us (Romans 8:26).

That’s why the Bible says we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves (Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 5:43; Matthew 19:19; Matthew 22:29; Mark 12:31).

When we cannot forgive our enemies, it is because we cannot forgive ourselves for something we have done.

Forgiveness that God offers through Christ is freely given to all, but we have to personally receive it.

When we receive forgiveness from God for ourselves, then we receive that power to forgive others.

This EM’s former pastor, Pastor Jonathan Kwon, put it this way: “Forgiving is impossible without “paying attention to yourselves.” … You can really only forgive somebody else if you find yourself forgivable. So the exact opposite must be true if you can’t forgive somebody else – you are as unforgivable as the person you can’t forgive. Forgiving is more of an act of knowing you are repeatedly forgiven for all the things you failed doing and getting a second, third, fourth and fifth shot, etc. from God through the blood of Jesus.”

Amen? When you feel that you are unforgivable or cannot forgive others, I want you to consider the prayer that a Holocaust survivor prayed:

“God dealt with our whole situation on the cross; there is nothing left for you to settle. Just say to Him, “Lord, I cannot forgive and I will no longer try to do it; but I trust that You in me will do it. I can’t forgive and love; but I trust that You will forgive and love in my place and that You will do these things in me.” ― Corrie ten Boom

Let’s thank God for the truth given through the Bible and for all these people who have experienced the same suffering and still overcame through the blood of Jesus!

Again,

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” – Romans 12:21 (NIV)

The Blood of Jesus cleanses us from every sin!

Love for Enemies (Part 2)

Note from author: This is a continuation of “Love for Enemies”.

“The Greatest Commandment

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.” – Mark 12:28-34 (NIV)

I will be honest with you.

Loving people is very hard to do. There are people to whom I say, “I love you, but I don’t like you.” To be honest, that’s not love.

Love is unconditional.

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever!” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NLT)

God loves us all unconditionally! But He calls us to repent and turn away from sin in order to live by faith in Jesus!

Faith is a gift from God (Romans 4:16). Faith pleases God (Hebrews 11:6). Our faith leads to good works, that are accepted by God.

How can good works done by faith in Jesus be accepted by God?

Simple: love. Love for God and love for our neighbor as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40).

Amen?

I find it wonderful that we have a God who doesn’t just command us to do things, He doesn’t expect blind obedience. God gives us the why.

Matthew 5:46-47 (NIV):

 “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?”

So the question remains: who do we love?

We love God and our neighbors as we love ourselves, yes, even our enemies, just as Jesus did.

Matthew 5:48 (NIV): “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Here in Matthew 5:48, if we truly want to be perfect, we need to do more than just good things or avoid getting into trouble.

Most people think that we can get to heaven or make ourselves perfect by doing good things.

But that’s one of the biggest assumptions that people make. Doing good deeds does NOT get us into heaven.

Let’s read why in 1 Timothy 1:5 (NLT):

“The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith.”

We cannot make ourselves have a pure heart. We cannot clean our conscience and have we cannot make ourselves have genuine faith.

With all of us humanity, this is impossible. But with God, this is possible (Matthew 19:26; Mark 10:26-27).

Chances are, we may never achieve perfection here on earth. But we can continue to depend on Jesus, who is perfect example for us to follow in every way.

And we can trust in God with all our heart. He will show us which way to go and heal all our hurt (Proverbs 3:5-8).

He has given us everything we need in order to live right before Him (2 Peter 1:3)!

After all, living by faith and loving people, even loving our enemies is not done by our own strength. It is all done by His Spirit (Zechariah 4:6)! All we have to do is decide and act on our decision.

Are you ready to follow Him every day? If you truly want to know and be filled with His love, go before Him and pray. May you be filled with His love, overflowing even towards those who have hurt you.

Love for Enemies (part 1)

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16 (NIV)

Aside from Jesus’ death and resurrection, John 3:16 is probably one of the more familiar verses of the Bible.

God’s love, as demonstrated in Christ’s sacrifice, leads to something important for us Christians to hold on to.

“31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.

Love Is Indispensable

And yet I will show you the most excellent way.” – 1 Corinthians 12:31 (NIV)

Paul’s point is that we can do all sorts of amazing things as Christians. Heal the sick, raise the dead…but if we do not have love, none of the things we have done matter (1 Corinthians 13).

But what do you think? Do you think Paul was only talking about love for family?

What about love for friends? Love for church? What about love for people we like but are not friends with? Love for people we do not like?

What about love for enemies?

Let’s read what Jesus said about loving our enemies.

Matthew 5:43-48 (NIV):

“Love for Enemies

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

I’ve got to be honest with you, this is the hardest commandment to ever follow. In fact if you think about it, it seems a bit messed up to love people who don’t deserve it. People who abuse you and hurt you. However, you can love someone unconditionally while setting boundaries (see previous posts The Condition to Love and The Condition to Love Part 2).

Persecution is something every prophet, every disciple, even Jesus, who did no wrong, suffered through. Every person in the Bible suffered persecution. Even today, Christians and other people suffer persecution.

Persecution doesn’t have to be physical. Persecution could be people talking negatively about you. Persecution could be people giving you a hard time at school (e.g., bullying), spreading rumors, or making you feel alone or rejected.

But even when people do those kinds of things to us, God commands us to love our enemies, and pray for them.

The problem is not God’s command to love our enemies. The problem is us. We often don’t feel like doing it. We don’t want good things to happen to bad people. We don’t want good things for people who hurt us. We do not want God to bless them.

Our natural way is to simply do what the world says it is okay to do: hurt them back. Make them hurt worse than the way they hurt you! Hate them more than they hate you. Do worse than they did to you.

But is that God’s way?

Have you been hurt by someone? Have you hurt them back because of what they did? When you hurt them back, how did you feel? Did you start feeling good or did the pain and guilt remain?

You already know that taking revenge, hurting people because of the way they treat us does not make our pain go away. We develop a guilty conscience as a result of our sin. That hurt and guilt can sometimes remain in our heart for many days, or when we remember it randomly while we are trying to go about our life.

The question then becomes: how do we can let go of that anger? How can we live with a free conscience? How can we let go of the injustice about the way people have hurt us? The answer lies in Matthew 5:44 (NIV):

“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”

It sounds crazy, but when you obey God and trust Him to help you obey this command, it’s true (2 Timothy 1:7).

Proverbs 10:12 (NIV) put it this way: “Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.”

Amen?

If we are truly to be God’s children, we are to love our enemies. As God’s children, we are given the power to love and forgive people who are not good to us or do not reciprocate our love for them.

Love breaks the violent cycle. It will always start with you and me, God’s people, because of what Jesus has done on the cross for all people!

More importantly, God’s gift of forgiveness through Jesus is not just for “good” people or people who are likeable, but to everyone, good and bad. Why? So that all people may come to know God and be saved. Let’s read 1 Timothy 2:1-4 (NLT):

“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.”

Remember, we ourselves were also spiritually dead in our sin (Ephesians 2:5). So no one is born good. We all are born spiritually dead. Everyone needs God’s forgiveness. We all need to be saved through Jesus!

The question then becomes: if we cannot save ourselves and cannot love our neighbor by our own power, how is it possible to love someone that we see as unlovable? How can we love our enemies?

Loving our enemies is made possible through Jesus!

1 John 4:9-10 (NIV):

“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

Even though Jesus endured persecution of all kinds, suffering from people spreading lies about Him, people condemning Him to death, people insulting and rejecting Him, what did He say while He was on the cross and people were making fun of Him?

“Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34a)

Jesus not only forgave His enemies, but also prayed for them.

Let’s strive to become more like Christ, maturing in our faith through love for God and our neighbor as we love ourselves. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Mark 12:29-34).