“If you hold to My teaching, you are really My disciples. 32Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32
According to a 19th century legend, the Truth and the Lie meet one day. The Lie says to the Truth: “It’s a marvelous day today!” The Truth looks up to the skies and sighs, for the day was really beautiful.
They spend a lot of time together, ultimately arriving beside a well. The Lie tells the Truth: “The water is very nice, let’s take a bath together!” The Truth, once again suspicious, tests the water and discover that it indeed is very nice. They undress and start bathing.
Suddenly, the Lie comes out of the water, puts on the clothes of the Truth and runs away. The furious Truth comes out of the well and runs everywhere to find the Lie and get her clothes back. The World, seeing the Truth naked, turn its gaze away, with contempt and rage.
The poor Truth returns to the well and disappears forever, hiding therein, its shame. Since then, the Lies travels around the World, dressed as the Truth, satisfying the needs of society, because, the World, in any case, harbors no wish at all to meet the naked Truth.
~ From “The Truth coming out of the well;” Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1896
But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine. Daniel 1:8
After conquering the Jews, Nebuchadnezzar asked Ashpenaz, the chief of his court officials, to choose distinguished young men to be trained to serve in the king’s palace. They would be trained and eat from the king's table for three years and then begin their service (Dan. 1: 3-5).
Among the chosen were Daniel and his three friends. It was their big chance. They were selected and taken to the palace. They would have the best of what the Babylonian kingdom had to offer, and doors would be opened for them. The future was all but guaranteed. They could not miss this opportunity. Most people would accept what was being offered to them so they do not have to go back to being captives. However, this was not the attitude of the young Hebrews.
First, they had the courage to be different and decided to “not defile themselves with the king's delicacies” (Dan. 1: 8). It was a debatable matter, for it was quality choice food, and certainly some of that food was permitted by the Jewish diet. However, they didn’t go looking for exceptions or compromise. They decided to go after the highest values.
They decided to go with their convictions and to stand up for them. They were not afraid to ask, to stand for, and to give of their best for their conviction. They did not quarrel or impose, but they gained the confidence of their handler before demanding their right.
They also understood that being different would require a firm commitment. At no point did they vacillate with their decision. They were not radical in one area and liberal in another. They did not ask for special food and then go overboard in having fun. They did not seek privileges and then shirk their responsibility. They knew that when they asked to be different, they would be living in a fish bowl. Their lives would be scrutinized, more would be asked of them. And because they understood that, they daily gained favor from the chief of the officials.
The end result you already know. The king himself acknowledged that they have become “ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.” (Dan 1:20). They were presented with the same things that were offered to the others, but they decided, even in the small things, to remain true to and to honor their faith. God rewarded their faithfulness and will reward your faithfulness as well whenever you decide to remain true and not compromise your faith in Him.
We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world. C.S. Lewis
Where is God in the midst of suffering, when life is hard, and suffering hits, where in the world is God? How are we to respond to suffering?
No one likes getting shots! Who does? I remember when I was 7 or 8 years old, I was certain that getting a shot was the worst thing ever. So when our school offered vaccine shots, I insisted that my younger siblings take the shots. But I came home without taking them. My mother was furious with me and she ordered me to go back the next day and take the shots. When you are a little kid, even now, your mother (thanks, Mom) and the doctor know a little bit more than you about what is good for you in the long run. It is because they have seen more, and they know more. The little bit of pain from the shot is going to make you stronger and keep you from the bigger pain of a serious illness.
Just like the doctor knows more than the patient, God knows more than us. Moms often say to her kids, “Well, you don’t know everything.” I wonder if Mary ever said to Jesus, “Jesus, you don’t know everything”? And Jesus is thinking, “Hmm, I could really show her.” God knows everything. He knows every situation, everyone’s heart and everyone’s thoughts. There is nothing that God can’t see and there will never be anything that will make God say, “Huh, I didn’t see that one coming…”
God allows us to experience little pains and sufferings here and there because He knows that it will work out better for us in the end. I am not minimizing or trivializing the pain and suffering you may be experiencing. The reason that I say “little pains and sufferings” is that compared to knowing Christ and what we will experience in Heaven, everything on this earth, whether good or bad, is rubbish! They are worthless! (Philippians 3:8) Mother Teresa put it this way, “In light of Heaven, the worst suffering on earth, a life full of the most atrocious tortures on earth, will be seen to be no more serious than one night in an inconvenient hotel.”
God is an all-powerful God who loves us to the extent of sending His only Son to be with us, and to die for us. But on the third day, He rose with victory over sin and death. And if He is victorious over sin and death, He is also victorious over our pain and suffering. What if we view the season of suffering in our lives as a chapter of a bigger story that God is writing in our lives? Though we may not like the chapter we are in, we can trust God to write the whole book. We can trust God to finish the story well, because God is good and faithful. He knows what He is doing. In suffering, may we know who our God is, may we know where He is (Emmanuel, God is with us) and may we know what He is doing. He is writing a bigger narrative in and through our lives so that His glory and power may be displayed to the world around us.
“…but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” (Prov 31:30b)
Next Sunday is Mother’s Day. I would like to wish all mothers a Happy Mother’s Day ahead of time. I once saw a plaque that reads “God created mothers because He can’t be everywhere.” As Christians, we know that God is everywhere; but we also know that mothers are God’s representatives on earth. A mother’s love reflects God’s selfless, enduring, and unconditional love. By His own design, mothers are blessed with a love that is nurturing and comforting. In short, God made them good at what they do. But, with this awesome responsibility, He also gave a promise; “He gently leads those that have young.” (Isa. 40:11) For all that is expected and demanded from mothers, God promises His gentle leading, His sustenance and protection daily.
Our children belong to God, but yet He has entrusted them to mothers for a period of time on this earth. This is a priceless and beautiful calling. Mothers are accountable to God for raising and preparing their children for a life of service to Him and to humanity. Indeed, there is no assignment on earth that utilizes the array of skills needed by a mother in fulfilling her everyday duties. A recent study states that “if the typical stay-at-home mother in the US were paid for her work, she would earn $162,581 a year. A working mother who juggles an outside job would get $81,291 for her motherly duties.” Mom’s market value was calculated by studying the pay levels of at least 20 job titles with duties that a typical mom performs. But, in all reality, there is not a price tag that can truly be affixed to motherhood.
Mothers have a really important job, a job they cannot do well apart from the grace of God. Much is expected of moms today. Well-adjusted kids don’t just happen. And the environment in which we raise our children has dramatically changed. Drive-by shootings, sexual molesters, illegal drugs, etc. were almost unheard of 50 years ago. Yesterday’s mothers didn’t have to worry about dangers and violence haunting the schools and streets. In addition to physical threats, families must also be concerned about the culture today that impacts the hearts and minds of their children. Mothers need to be on their knees so much more these days. “There is no higher height to which humanity can attain than that occupied by a heaven-inspired praying mother.”
Happy Mother’s Day to all our mothers! I salute you, dear sisters … you do indeed have the most important job in the world! Let me also assure you that no investment you make in life will bring you the returns you’ll get from raising your children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. “Her children arise and call her blessed…” (Proverbs 31:28a).
He told them this parable: “No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Oth-erwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wine-skins.”
When we start something new, it is normal for us to sit down and take stock of our lives. God delights in doing new things with us and for us. Even in our twilight years, God is doing something new. Think of Abraham starting on a new journey in his seventies. It’s never too late for a new beginning with God!
During new beginnings, people review their priorities and activities. Some things suddenly don’t seem so important while other things become a priority. Some good things come out too. New beginnings also make us stop and think. During times of change, we are remind-ed that the only certainty in life is that life is uncertain. Changes and new beginnings pro-vide a time for reflection, a time to review our activities and priorities, and a time to set new goals.
Luke 5:36-38 does not say that the “new” is better or “old” is better. A new start is some-thing we should welcome. It’s an ideal opportunity to ask questions. For instance, are we doing things because they have always been done that way? Has a good thing come to an end? Sometimes we need to recognize when it is time for closure. Where is God leading us to? We should not rush into things, instead we should look to His guidance. We should not be doing things just for the sake of doing them.
Jesus did and said things in a new way, and it often upset people! His whole life is an ex-ample of a way of doing things that had never been done before. Yet He fulfilled God’s plans.
New things are unfamiliar. They offer challenges and we need to take risks. We often like the familiar because it is comfortable. It fits well like an “old pair of shoes.” My prayer for us is that, in this new beginning, God will stretch us like new wineskins. Maybe we can take a risk or two to do something we know God wants us to, but we have put them off because we like our comfortable routines. Often times, the God things will stretch us, will make us uncomfortable, and will challenge us.
We sometimes can resist the new. Barbara Johnson told how she bought new pillows, but halfway through the night, she was fishing the old ones from the rubbish bin, because she could not get to sleep on her nice new pillows. They were far too uncomfortable! Aren’t we the same sometimes? How we love our comfy old slippers and well-worn clothes, be-cause they are familiar! But God wants to change and challenge us.
Isaiah 43:18-19 says that God is a God who does new things. Our God is not stuck in a rut! The Scriptures tell us that He has a track record of new beginnings. If we desire to walk with God, we are never going to be on safe, comfortable territory. He delights in doing new things in us, through us, and for us. We need to wait, watch, and pray for the new things God wants to do with us, as individuals and as a church. After all, that is the Gospel: we are new creations in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17)
My prayer is that we won’t miss out on the new things God has for us. God is on the move, and He invites us to move with Him. Let us build on the firm foundation of our Lord Jesus Christ. His mercies are new every morning, and I invite you to get ready for the new things He wants to do in us, through us, and for us.
“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, … then you will find your joy in the Lord.…………” Isaiah 58:13-14
What does it mean to keep the Sabbath holy in today’s culture? We know that this creation ordinance is the 4th of the Ten Commandments. Throughout the ages, God’s people have seen the wisdom in devoting one full day to rest and praise. Keeping the Sabbath holy is what God desires and it honors our Creator who also rested on the seventh day. (Genesis 2:3) This day refreshes us both spiritually and physically and helps us set our priorities.
In the old days, honoring the Sabbath was easier. It is more difficult in today’s culture. Our society places much emphasis on busyness and productivity; so, observing the Sabbath is countercultural. Isaiah 58:13-14 tells us that… “if you honor the Sabbath by not going your own way and not doing as you please, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and He will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.” That is God’s promise for the Sabbath.
The key to Sabbath isn't merely rest. Rather, in our rest, we are to turn our attention to God, whose rest our Sabbath mirrors. Brothers and Sisters, can we set apart one day a week truly given over to rest and worship? We should not involve ourselves in doing what we normally do during the week. This is the day to be about God's ways! We rest from doing our ways and devote this time to God's business of eternal life. The Sabbath gives you extra time to study and meditate about God's Word and His principles. We should refrain from engaging in our own pleasures which includes our time-consuming hobbies, leisure time, and extra-curricular activities. Instead, we are to engage in God’s pleasure on the Sabbath. But, what is God’s pleasure? It is His creation — planning, working, and building for the future of eternity! Rev. 4:11 says, “... for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created"
So, dear brothers and sisters, let us “be free to enjoy God on the Sabbath” (Isaiah 58:14a MSG) and find a true sense of Shabbat shalom, Sabbath peace. Let us gather together as a worshiping community of faith and enter into glad gratitude remembering all the gifts of God, reminding each other of God’s redeeming presence in each of our lives. Rest and worship – one day a week anchor a way of life that makes a difference every day and helps maintain a balance crucial to an abundant life. “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27) Recognize that the Sabbath is one of God’s greatest gifts to mankind –a gift for rest, peace, knowledge, and true delight. Remember to keep it holy!
“You can be sure that God will take care of everything you need, his generosity exceeding even yours in the glory that pours from Jesus.” (Phil. 4:19 MSG)
Paul ends his little book on Philippians with the above promise. This I believe is one of the greatest promises ever given in the Bible. God says I guarantee that I will take care of everything you need, my generosity exceeding yours. I’ll take care of everything you need. Have you ever considered how your community would change if you were a little more giving today. If you gave your money, your talents and your time to causes that really matter. Do you believe that joyful generosity can change the world?
Some people struggle with the question, "What is generosity?" Although they could not get their hands around it, I believe it is more of a heart issue, not so much one of the mind. We often wrestle with our own selfish nature. Why give up what was “ours”? That amount over and above the tithe is what we felt should be ours. In our heads we knew God was the owner of it all, as stated in I Chronicles 29:11 "...for everything in heaven and earth is yours." So what is the issue? Our heart!
Generosity is more than being kind, bighearted, or even charitable. It is an attribute that derives its power from the very nature of God. God's generosity must spill over into our lives and flow through every act, thought, and desire. A generous God gave to us His most precious gift. We must give generously back to Him to fulfill his purposes in the world.
Reading stories of generous people helps us to learn more about generosity. Not because these people have arrived at “being generous.” Not even close. They are still on that journey of generosity that we all must walk. Our prayer is that their stories will inspire us to learn and to act more generously. In 2 Corinthians 8, Paul says of the Philippians, “In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us.”
For our time on earth, we are to grow in our journey as stewards each and every day. We will never arrive at generosity, just like we will never arrive at holiness. That shouldn't keep us, however, from learning and growing every day to become more generous - and more holy. Let us be generous as our heavenly Father is!
“As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for He called you out of the darkness into His wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:9b
As a church, we believe in the preeminence of evangelism. We believe that our chief end in life is to know and glorify God and to enjoy Him forever through Jesus Christ our Lord. “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)
The Pastoral Staff has chosen “Show Others the Goodness of Jesus” as our theme for this year. We just celebrated the amazing birth of Christ, the greatest man who ever lived. He has changed virtually every aspect of human life. He came to bring life, and life more abundantly, to whosoever would simply believe in His name. Sadly, many people still do not know this amazing truth.
The ungodly world system stands as our enemy today. Followers of Jesus live in a dimly lit world where righteousness seems like a drab. The battlefields we face at this juncture in our nation’s history seem insurmountable. We may not be able to effect great changes in our society, but we can share His goodness by “proclaiming the good news of His salvation from day to day” (Psalm 96:2)
It truly is a privilege to share God’s good news of redemption, salvation, and peace to others. We recognize and acknowledge that it is God’s intention and mandate that His followers go out and “make disciples of all nations.” Our foremost priority continues to be ushering new members into the Kingdom of God. As such, we can start by showing others the goodness of Jesus. We want to be God’s ambassadors in delivering individuals from eternal destruction. This is the only true achievement by which we can measure our success.
Brothers and sisters, to whom will you share the story of the goodness of Jesus? Let us be reminded that God has a mission for each of us in life (John 17:18 MSG); and that mission is to bring people, near and far, to Christ (Phil.1:27 LB). Will you do your part in ushering the lost into the Kingdom of God by bringing the good news to others as you share about the reality of His love and His goodness in your life?
On behalf of the FECC Pastoral Staff & the Board of Directors, & Deacons, I wish you and your family a Happy and Spirit-filled 2019. Let us offer a fresh commitment to proactive evangelism as we seek to show others the goodness of Jesus. Let us do our part to usher people out of darkness into His wonderful light, as were once called out of darkness.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”(Eph 6:10-12)
As a church, we desire to make the kingdom of the world the Kingdom of Christ. We want to be people that invite God’s Spirit to be felt amongst us in real and tangible ways. We want to be a church that impacts communities. We want to be a church that responds creatively in a changing world. We want to be a church that blesses the nations by being instruments of God’s love, joy, and peace.
So what are we doing to align our hearts with God’s for the evangelism of the world? Prayer is the first step in being missions-minded. At the very least, we should be praying for the world to hear the gospel. The heart of God is displayed in the sending of His Son to save the world through faith in Him (John 3:16). The heart of God is for the lost to be saved. We can find “lost” people all around us…….. in our families, in our schools, in our work places, in our neighborhoods, in our communities, in our cities, in our countries, in our world.
The world around us has failed miserably in seeking to live our lives apart from God. We have delved deeper into moral decay and are in a spiritual void. Satan is always lurking around to try to devour us. We need to gear up with the full armor of God. We need to participate in this spiritual battle – we need to be a church that prays for all nations – and this is a vast undertaking.
Christ has called us to pray for the invasion of His life and power in ALL the world. Jesus gave His life to save us. He sacrificed Himself to pay for our sins and set us free from judgment and death. We need to embrace the sense of indebtedness such sacrifice should engender. The truth remains: “For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves” (Col. 1:13). Because we have tasted the goodness of God, we should desire to tell others the story of Jesus and His love.
“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (Romans 10:13-14) Brothers and sisters, we are called to take God’s message of salvation to the world. We are also called to make our lives a shining testimony of the power and truth of the gospel. We are called to pray for all nations.