Blessed are those who Mourn

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted (Matt. 5:4, NIV)

Hello! Happy New Year to you. I hope your 2022 is coming along well. I pray it will be a year of growth and maturity in your faith, one without limits and boundaries. I pray that through God’s wisdom you will exceed your greatest imagination in your work and experience God’s fulness in every aspect of your life every day.

I wanted to take a few moments to share some things I have been learning with you. In the first quarter of this year, we have been focusing on “The Beatitudes” in my local church. The Beatitudes reflect the ideals of God’s kingdom. Through them, Jesus teaches us who is considered blessed, lucky, or enviable by God’s standard – and they are opposite to what an average human being would imagine!

For today, I will focus on one beatitude, “Blessed are those mourn”. The mere suggestion that one who mourns is blessed is bizarre to many of us. How should we consider a sorrowful person blessed? We all want to be happy always. Why then does the Lord call one who mourns “blessed”? Because they will be comforted? As sensible as that sounds, being comforted only sounds like a remedy for the problem. Should we not consider one who does not have to mourn blessed? Of course, Jesus is not asking that we create situations where we mourn, he is only speaking to the blessedness of those who find themselves in such experiences (usually, all of us, at one point or the other).

We must recognize that equity and justice are key elements of God’s kingdom. So, God’s purpose is always to give disadvantaged people opportunity to be restored to a state others exist in. This is the first key message behind this beatitude. The Lord recognizes that human life is often besieged by sorrow, so he reaches out to tell those who mourn or grieve that they will receive comfort. The unique blessedness of such comfort is that it is the Lord Himself who brings them comfort, and this enables them to comfort others (2 Cor. 1:4). Experiencing God’s comfort also brings us into closer relationship with him, so our lives reflect His wisdom and guidance in our daily choices and decisions.

As humans, we are born naked and possess nothing. We then begin to acquire knowledge, relationships, possessions, and wealth. If we lose any of these during our lives, it brings us grief or causes us to mourn. Especially painful is the loss of a loved one. Yet that very loss is a reminder of whence we came and an opportunity to draw near to God as we attempt to fill the void. Indeed, loss finds a place in God’s plan for our lives – tough as that can be to say or accept. Our drawing near to God in moments of grief is a unique experience that allows God to touch, not just our thoughts or desires, but our emotions, raw as they may be. We experience true divine healing as God opens our heart to love beyond loss(es).

A second key message tied to the blessedness of mourning is the message of repentance. Sin draws us away from God and leads to the loss of the greatest thing in life – our connection with God. And so, it is those who truly recognize and mourn this unique loss, mourning their own depravity and fallen nature, their wickedness, and moral failures, that can truly be considered blessed because then they find divine comfort in forgiveness of sins and restoration to God. (Psa. 32:1-2). Such people arise with zeal for the Lord and with a determination to help restore others back to God because they know the difference between darkness and light. One who mourns or grieves for their sins is truly blessed!

Mourning, whether for our natural losses, or for our sins (the sins of others) is considered a blessing only because it provides an opportunity for God to comfort us and strengthen our relationship with him. In moments of grief, we experience God’s nearness the most, because we are at our most vulnerable. But if we do not draw near to God in those moments, then the mourning goes to waste and there is no blessedness. May God draw our heart to repentance concerning sins we have glossed over, and may He truly bring us comfort if/when we experience natural losses. Amen!

God is near to those who are broken-hearted, and saves such as have a contrite spirit (Psa. 34:18, NKJV)

Travel Light

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us (Hebrews 12:1, NKJV)

Compliments of the season to you! I hope your Christmas was truly merry, filled with love and joy and fun time with loved ones! As we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, I pray that His joy will fill your heart, not just in this beautiful season, but throughout the coming year. May your heart be filled with the peace that passes all understanding; may you experience eternal hope through Christ in all situations, and may your daily life embody the reality of the redemption promised to those who believe.

As we go through the season of reflections, planning, resolutions, and new decisions, I’d like to offer a thought for the New Year – travel light! The Bible admonishes us in Hebrews 12:1 to “…lay aside every weight…” as we run the race set before us. This admonition follows an extensive listing of many heroes of faith in Hebrews 11, reminding us of how they so faithfully clung to what they believed in despite the adversities and difficulties they encountered.  The Scripture considers that like a runner, our victory is more assured if we are free of encumbrances.

I invite you to consider what might be a weight you need to lay aside as you go into in the new year. Is it a mindset or thought pattern? A haunting or distressing emotion? A detrimental relationship? A sinful or destructive habit? The answers are as diverse as we are different. The common factor that all weights have is that they sap your energy, eating away at you and wasting your precious time and life. In other words, they slow you down by consuming your energy, distracting you from what’s important and draining you of energy for productive activities.

If you harbor bitterness or anger towards someone (who may not even know), it is time to let it go. If you are stuck thinking about how much better you might have been if a certain event had not occurred, it is time to move on and look forward. If you are trapped with friends who always drag you to places you do not want to go or make you feel worthless, it is time to let go. The thing about weights is that they are often not easy to let go of – there is a reason we carried them in the first instance. But the first step in letting go is deciding.

The second step is sticking with that decision the day after you first make it. And then the day after that. Letting go requires a continued commitment to letting go. It is difficult to forgive hurts that go deep. It is easier when we ask God for help to forgive. And that is the third step – getting help, from God and accountability partners. Reach out to people who can check on you and make sure you’re not picking up old baggage, who can pray with you, who maybe can relate with your struggle and share their own victories to encourage you to continue to travel light.

Life is easier when we travel light. We can more accurately discern circumstances and perceive divine direction when our hearts are free of weights and sinful baggage that try to ensnare us. The journey to a light heart can be difficult, but life without baggage can be very joyful and peaceful. Be careful that the Enemy does not introduce a new baggage into your life as you let go of one. Guard your heart diligently to avoid Satan from getting a foothold in it. Whatever you do in the new year, don’t pick up weights. Always be sure to travel light. I pray the year 2022 will be your best yet!

Saved by Faith

Jesus rose from the dead. He is Lord.

To believe and confess these two statements means that you have been confronted with the truth of the gospel – that you have accepted your need for a Saviour and accepted the Saviour who was offered. It means that you have embraced the sacrifice of Jesus and the reality of God’s power in raising him from the dead.

It also means you believe sin and death have been conquered by this Jesus who is now appointed chief “reconciliator” of all men, seated in the place of power with God in the heavens. Surely if you have believed all of this and confess it with your mouth, there is nothing holding you from being saved – you are free from the hold of sin and death.

For you He died and rose, and you also believe the same, agreeing with him and receiving the object of your faith – the salvation of your soul.

Eyes on the Prize: Persevering to do God’s Will

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised. (Heb. 10:36, NIV)

Welcome to the third and final part of this series on fulfilling your purpose! If you have not read the first two posts in this series, you can read them here: The Big Picture & Follow the Leader. Fulfilling purpose is a journey, one that lasts a lifetime. And my prayer is that you, my dear reader, will not be cut short amid your days. Rather, you will live long enough to complete the work the Lord has committed to you and fulfill His purpose for your life. But if you must fulfill your purpose, then you must learn to persevere – that is, to patiently endure every trial or challenge and ensure you do what God desires of you.

Continue reading “Eyes on the Prize: Persevering to do God’s Will”

Follow the Leader: Keeping Your Eyes on Jesus

Hello, friend! Welcome to part two of this series on fulfilling purpose. If you have not, you can read part one here. What I intend to emphasize here is simple – the only way to surely fulfill purpose is to follow the leader, Jesus Christ. The Bible variously commends the Lord Jesus as the “author and finisher of our faith”, “the firstborn from the dead” and “the forerunner”, who has gone ahead of us into the presence of our heavenly Father. There are at least three reasons why you should keep your eyes on Jesus in your pursuit of purpose as a child of God. We will look at each one in turn, briefly.

Continue reading “Follow the Leader: Keeping Your Eyes on Jesus”

The Big Picture: Your Purpose through God’s Eyes

Hello there! Thanks for coming by. This write- up is part one of a three-part series discussing practical issues around our purpose as children of God. Purpose is a big theme within the Christian faith, and rightfully so. Understanding that each one of us was created by God for a specific reason is an important foundation for every human being, and indeed, every child of God. It is a truth worth stating at every opportunity – that every human being is created by God to fulfill a specific purpose on the earth. Fulfilling our purpose ultimately brings God pleasure and glory.

Continue readingThe Big Picture: Your Purpose through God’s Eyes

Genesis 3: Thoughts on the Fall

This morning, I read chapter 3 of the biblical book of Genesis as part of my daily devotion. This chapter chronicles the fall of humanity through disobedience to God’s instruction and subsequent eviction from the garden of Eden. I would like to share a few thoughts that came to mind as I meditated on this story this morning. I would suggest you take a few minutes to read the chapter before proceeding even if you are familiar with the story.

Adam and Eve had only “Thou shall not”, but that was the very one they decided that “they shall”. It was the beginning of man’s disposition to do the very thing he has been commanded not to do, the things he knows he ought not to do. We still see this trait in many of our lives today, even in little children, signifying that we all carry a fallen nature. But how did we fall from being God’s royal representative on earth to this corrupted nature we are all born with?

It all started with the tempter’s manipulation – the serpent who drew Eve’s attention to God’s command and then, in an act of rebellion, contradicted God’s statement “You will not surely die” (vs. 4), making God out to be a liar. With her attention now drawn to the fruit, Eve was pushed on by her own desires and became attracted to the forbidden fruit, thinking it “good for food” and “pleasant to the eyes” (vs 6). She also believed the tempter that the fruit would indeed make her wise. What a tragedy!

Guess what? In our battle against iniquity, it’s still the same modus operandi in place today: the tempter draws, our desires push, and before you know it, we’re reeling in the mire of sin (see James 1:13-15). But there were three questions God asked Adam & Eve after the fall, that can help us break the cycle of rebellion against God, and live lives that truly honour our heavenly Father. Let’s check them out.

1. Where are you? (vs. 9)

You cannot sin while standing in God’s presence. You must first depart before entertaining sin. In fact, listening to the tempter only happens when you are not mindful of God’s presence. So if you stay in prayer, and keep your heart full of God’s Word, you have the first barrier to sin. Like the Psalmist said, “Your word have I hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Ps. 119:11)

2. Who told you? (vs. 11)

The voices you listen to, especially the ones you spend much time with and pay attention to, whether in movies, on the internet, on radio or social media, those are the ones that determine your actions and the direction of your life. They automatically instruct your mindset and introduce ideas you may not even be conscious of into your mind. So, whose voice is feeding your thoughts? What are they nurturing within you?

3. What have you done? (vs 13)

There are 3 steps to sin: the tempter draws, our desires push, and then we yield. The first two steps can always happen, but the third step is where we have influence, where we can pause to say: “What am I about to do?” This third question shows God placing responsibility for the fall on human beings, not the tempter. Adam had deflected, blaming Eve (and God), and she too blamed the serpent. But God always holds us responsible!

This is why Jesus came and died a shameful death on the cross, taking the fall for our sins and giving us His untainted victorious life in exchange. If you have not accepted his sacrifice for your sins, you need to do so now, confess Him as Lord and embrace new life in Him. After you accept Christ, the responsible to choose still lies with YOU! God gives us the power to choose through Christ: the power to say “No” to sin and “Yes” to righteousness. We must choose right!

This is where I draw a curtain on my sharing from Genesis 3 today. I hope it blessed you. I would love to hear your thoughts as well…please share in the comments. Stay blessed, and stay victorious!

Enter In

Enter in

Into the presence of your heavenly Father – your Lord and Maker

Even though you know you’re not good enough

And are fully convinced you’re terribly short of the mark

Your memory is your judge – kept accurate records of all your wrongs

Your guilt crushes your soul beneath its heavy weight

But God has sent me to remind you: enter in.

He sees you standing at the door, hanging around the corridor

Tentatively. Wishing, but uncertain. Hoping, but afraid

Waiting till you do enough to feel like you have the right

But you are not getting any better at being good, it seems

He says to enter in through the open door. In fact, He says to open up

Because He’s been knocking, waiting to come in and dine with you

To make you His treasured vessel and special dwelling

But you must open up and agree that no price will ever be enough

To pay off your sins and unload all of your guilt

Except the life of the Son, who was the perfect sacrifice

The Son has shed His blood; you can come in on His account

The covering of blood is enough; the price was paid on the cross

Do not despise the cross in pride. Rather, accept the price paid

Once for all on your behalf, and enter in to His presence

It is He who purifies and perfects, empowers and transforms

Only in His presence will you be made whole and fulfil purpose

But first, you must enter in.

Ecclesiastes: how the world really works

We all have a dainty picture of how our lives should pan out, of how all of life should operate. We expect to do good and experience good, to love and be loved, work hard and prosper, build up wealth and enjoy it. We expect that good things should happen to good people, and evil people should reap the work of their hands. And we’re not alone in our thinking. Large portions of the Bible hold and teach the same viewpoint – that it will be well with the righteous, and that the wicked will eventually self-destruct.

But no sooner are we born into the world than we begin to experience the unfairness, instability and imbalance that characterizes this fallen world of ours. The very idea that life can be random and not predictable, that our faith doesn’t guarantee happier lives, or that a relationship with God doesn’t mean we will get all we want, can be discouraging or depressing in our pursuit of purpose. We are all shocked with this reality at some point in our lives and may even begin to question the meaning of life.

This search for meaning is what the book of Ecclesiastes is all about. The writer explores critical themes of our lives and declares with a brutal finality that “All is Vanity!”. He draws from his own experience of pleasure and wisdom and wealth and introspection, and then arrives at the discomfiting truth that all human endeavour and accomplishment ends with a sobering submission – death and return to the dust. Whether rich or poor, powerful or weak, wise or foolish, careful or carefree, all will end up in the grave.

He goes further to examine the static nature of our world through its various encounters with humanity. At its best, the rise and fall of kingdoms and nations mirrors the rise and fall of sea waves. From where things come, there they return. We are rather minute in the grand scale of things, even though we would like to exaggerate our own impact on the earth. Then the writer goes on to strike a final chord, which is for me, the most disconcerting note of all: nothing is guaranteed in life.

The strong does not always win. The smart does not always get wealth. The fastest does not always win. Nothing guaranteed; nothing assured. So, he encourages his readers to enjoy their days and take pleasure in whatever blessings they have received from God: food, family, friendship, wealth – whatever it is they are privileged to have, knowing well that nothing is guaranteed, and that all good gifts come from above. It is somewhat of a contrarian view, asking people to enjoy knowing nothing is assured.

Yet this seemingly conflicting counsel is the hallmark of the book of Ecclesiastes: asking us to give our best in all we do and rejoice in all we have after painting us a picture of gloom. He closes the book in a similar manner, calling the young to remember their God in the days of their youth and asking everyone to fear God “because this is the whole duty of mankind”. It is a call, not to despair, but to hope and trust in God who gives us all things richly to enjoy.

The book of Ecclesiastes is an adventure into realism and invitation to humility, seeing that we will all die and be forgotten someday, and we cannot even control the outcomes of the life we are living. It is an invitation to abandon worry and fear and sorrow, to embrace joy and diligence and faith, not slacking in our daily work but giving our best, not careless in the way we live but honouring God, knowing that we will all give an account of our lives to Him someday and receive appropriate rewards for all we do.

Jonah – the prophet who rebelled

The Bible is full of the stories of many prophets, many of them with eponymous books in the Bible, full of the messages God sent them to deliver to various recipients. While a few of them had some of their personal stories told, majority are known mostly for the messages they delivered. But one man included among the prophets is known more for his own story than for his message – his story of disobedience no less. From resisting God’s instruction to taking offence at God, Jonah’s story is more like a 21st century millennial than an Old Testament prophet, one we will do well to pay attention to in our days.

Continue reading “Jonah – the prophet who rebelled”