Religious ‘None’s increasing

Dr. Joel Thiessen (Canada’s younger version of Reginald Bibby) has done a Canadian study and found that society increasingly self-identifies as having “No religion”.  Millennials are raised in a social context without a religion.  Some might have gone to Sunday school or received baptism as an infant but end up as a non-attender of church.  The United States and Europe are all generally in a similar situation.  The U.S. might be a little better.

This presents a challenge because people do not know who Jesus is. With this challenge comes the opportunity to socialize Christianity in a more positive way.  The opportunity is that we get to start with a brand new slate.

How we do share the love of Jesus to our friends, acquaintances, and family who are in this category of “Religious None”?  If you are 50 or younger, you probably know someone who has never been to church and who has heard about Jesus spoken of at Christmastime or as a curse word.

How do we share the good news of Jesus in this generation?  With sensitivity to “None”s, or using the seeker-sensitive model?

Sorry the video is only on facebook and not on youtube, thus, the link to a facebook page of Acadia Divinity College (alma mater):

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Facadiadivinitycollege%2Fvideos%2F2275011249205310%2F&show_text=1&width=560

Evangelization of another marginal group–the rich

jesus sick lameIn a previous post, I blogged about a need for evangelization and missions to the margins.  In this post, I will make a case for evangelization to the rich. The left will hate what I have to say here.

Missionary families have sacrificed their lives and their comforts of home to live overseas, to adopt a new culture and learn a new language.  Their motivation is to proclaim the gospel to people on the margins.  They are on the margins due to income/economic status; sickness/health; race/ethnicity; language and education.

Jesus’ entire ministry was to those who were on the margins.  Luke 7:21-22 states:

“At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.”

Previously I hadn’t really noticed this one verse in Luke 7:29:

“All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptized by John.”

Yes, even tax collectors repented and got baptized.  During the days of the Roman Empire, tax collectors were people who were relied upon by civil government. The Roman Empire depended upon them to bring in tax revenues. Without tax collectors, they would not have been able to receive any monies to fund their public services. Thus, tax collectors were highly valued by the Emperor.

It was unfortunate that they abused their positions of power. They took advantage of people. They added additional taxes to their collections that were not necessarily owed to Rome. They enriched themselves by pocketing that extra money for themselves. They were hated and despised amongst the common people.

Some of these dishonest tax collectors were evangelized. They received Christ and transformed their lives. They gave up their dishonest ways, and were baptized by John.  If there is room for the rich in God’s kingdom, who are we to judge?

zacchaeus

Zacchaeus in the bible was a dishonest man.  He came to faith in Christ.  In the gospels, he was repentant and transformed the way he conducted his business.  He promised Jesus to give half of his money to the poor and return four-fold what he had cheated (Luke 19:8).

Jesus’ response was evidence of the good news that came into Zacchaeus’ life.  Jesus said in Luke 19:9-10,

“Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”

Do we despise those who are rich and powerful?  Are they also unfairly despised by some of us commoners.  We accuse them of being oppressors of the weak.  We accuse them of getting rich on the backs of the poor. Not necessarily true.

There are many rich people who make their money honestly, and through hard work and diligence.

Do we scorn the rich, famous and powerful for the sake of scorning them?  When we do so, it creates a bigger chasm between them and the commoner.

Do the ultra rich, powerful and famous also need to hear the gospel?  Are they also loved by Jesus?   They also have problems like us ordinary people.  They also have marital troubles, divorce and separation, parental issues, just as we all do.  Their lives can also be torn by sin and corruption.

This sector of society also need Jesus.  There is room for them in God’s kingdom.

Here’s a question for us to consider.  If Jesus invited himself to eat with Zacchaeus’ at his home, might Jesus do so with the ultra rich and powerful today?  Most definitely.

Our evangelization and missionary work today could use a good tweaking. We ought not only be evangelizing the poor and sick. We also need to turn our attention to people of influence.

Missionaries are doing some great missional work to evangelize the marginalized. But what about politicians, and the rich business person? In a way, they might also be people on the margins–but on the other side of the margins?

I’ll define this group as those who are on the margins on the opposite of the economic and social spectrum.  We tend to marginalize them because of the division their money and wealth has created.

I know it’s rather difficult to attach the label “marginalized” upon those who are rich. Juxtaposed with a large middle-class population, the super ultra-rich do standout as a marginalized group.

superrich

In our modern contemporary society, we might consider people such as:  the ultra rich, famous Hollywood stars, music icons, Supreme Court justices. These people might also be some of the loneliest people in the world.  Their success in their own field of work has created a greater chasm between themselves and the common person.

What would Jesus do?  Jesus addressed rich people regarding their spiritual poverty.  They were too content, too satisfied and did not seek after the things of God.  Money satisfied them but they missed the spiritual side of life.

To be fair, and on the other side of the same token, I believe Jesus would also speak to the poor people regarding their spiritual poverty.

So whether we rich or poor, God would desire we all people to seek after godly and spiritual things.

The ultra rich might be the most financially comfortable people in the world.  But they might also be the most unhappiest people in the world.

All human beings, regardless of our status, battle with depression, suicide, debilitating sicknesses and diseases.  All people have marital breakdown.  All people battle personal problems.  God can be the savior of all people who need a savior.

It is not unusual that the higher one climbs on the socio-economic ladder, the less happy and more lonely one becomes.

So who might be the proverbial “tax collectors” of today?   Might they also need to be ministered to? They might be our Hollywood producers, famous Oscar recipients, successful real estate tycoons, business persons and corporate executives.

Let me ask you: When did you last minister to Hollywood producers, the political operatives, and business tycoon?  Did you offer them any spiritual guidance?  Were there any around who could share the good news with them.

Most common people never have any sort contact with them. Why would we? And how could we?  The marginal on this side of the bell curve are also isolated people.

How can the gospel transform the lives of the rich, famous and powerful?  This might be worth pondering upon.  The gospel and the love of Christ can transform the lives of all persons.  It might make the world a better place.

Can they be transformed by the light of Christ to the glory of God?  “Yes.”  Jesus also wants to intervene in their lives. God loves all people of all economic and social status.

If this post has made any sense, I hope it might present another challenge. How do we reach this other marginal group of the rich?  Perhaps we might consider and pray that God should send evangelists, missionaries and apostles to the super rich, famous and powerful.

Seniors in poverty

17 Best Homeless Quotes on Pinterest | Helping others quotes, Homeless housing and Poverty quotes

Stealing and petty offenses are a no-no.  It’s the same, whether it’s here in Canada, the U.S. or in Japan.   In Japan, they are experiencing an increase in older people committing offences. It’s an elderly crime wave by grandpas and grandmas.  It is sad.

Here’s the irony.  These seniors want to go to jail. The reason: they are reaching pensionable age and running out of money. They are choosing to live in jail because it’s free. Free food. Free housing.

A rational senior might easily think: “Well, why not?  Better to live in the comforts of a jail than starve on the streets.” Sounds rational to me too.

One senior said, “I reached pension age and then I ran out of money. So it occurred to me – perhaps I could live for free if I lived in jail,” he says….”So I took a bicycle and rode it to the police station and told the guy there: ‘Look, I took this.’

This is sad. In traditional Asian-Japanese culture, the children will take care of the parents. They are three or even four generation households.  But when there is a break-down in families and in society, people get left behind.

Seniors behind bars in Japan

These seniors committing small petty offences do not intend to do any physical harm.  This BBC article: “Why Some Japanese pensioners want to go to jail” interviewed some seniors:

“Small, slender, and with a tendency to giggle, Toshio looks nothing like a habitual criminal, much less someone who’d threaten women with knives. But after he was released from his first sentence, that’s exactly what he did.

“I went to a park and just threatened them. I wasn’t intending to do any harm. I just showed the knife to them hoping one of them would call the police. One did.”

Altogether, Toshio has spent half of the last eight years in jail.

I ask him if he likes being in prison, and he points out an additional financial upside – his pension continues to be paid even while he’s inside.

“It’s not that I like it but I can stay there for free,” he says. “And when I get out I have saved some money. So it is not that painful.”

Japan is a law-abiding society.  Crime happens rarely in this Confucion-oriented country.  You can leave a phone or a wallet on a subway and likely, no one will steal it. They will return it to someone at the office for lost & found.  The BBC article stated:

“In 1997 this age group accounted for about one in 20 convictions but 20 years later the figure had grown to more than one in five – a rate that far outstrips the growth of the over-65s as a proportion of the population (though they now make up more than a quarter of the total).”

A confucianist culture like Japan would not dream of levying harsh punish upon their elders for this kind of crime.  Confucian stated:

The Duke of Sheh told Confucius: In my land, there are just men.

If a father steals a sheep, the son will testify against him.

Confucius said: The just men in my land are different from this.

The father conceals the wrongs of his son, and the son conceals the wrongs of his father.  This is justice.

https://quakergirl.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/jesus_helping_the_poor_jpg-magnum.jpg?w=656In this Asian shame-based culture, the punishment for such a crime will not be huge.  The bigger shame in this for Japanese people will be the inability to support their own senior citizens.

The birthrate in Japan has declined such that the younger generation will not be able to support the public pension plans of the older generations.

It is already happening in South Korea. China will be in a similar situation in the very near future.  There is a shameful thing going on with Bucchus ladies (granny prostitution) in Asia and South Korea.  It is invisible and can exists in cultures where younger generations are supposed to take care of the older generations (read article here).

North America and Europe will also come to similar predicament. Is there anything else we can do to support our senior’s public pension plans?  Increase taxes? Not without a lot of push-back from our hard working tax-paying citizens.

homeless couple struggling with help signs, poverty sucks for street people in NYC, slow motion ...

If our birthrates do not increase, do we increase our immigration rates in order to sustain a steady base of tax contributors?  Here in Canada, we are already doing this.  Many countries are also doing the same.

Compassion and capitalism must go hand-in-hand in order for society to function well.  This is where the Church and Christians can make a difference.  We need not turn to socialism, as I said in my previous post on socialism.  It must not be an option.  As a society, we must take action to take care of our seniors, our mentally ill, and our vulnerable who need our care.

Diversity of conservative supporters rising

When I was still a young university student, I thought of myself as a liberal. I was told I was a liberal. I even volunteered for a Liberal candidate in a federal election. Why? I thought of myself as open-minded. I still do. Education in secular liberal universities today have a way of brain-washing young and pliable minds into thinking that being liberal is good, and conservativism is bad.

As a national election drew closer and I was of voting age. I began to critically examine the various party platforms of all political parties. As a young person, I wanted to be a well-informed voter. I wanted to my vote according to my conscience.  To my surprise, I began to realize that my political leanings were more in line with conservatism. Needless to say, I had stopped volunteering for  liberal candidates and began volunteering for conservatives.

I began listening to conservative talk-shows.  I found that I could relate with them on many issues. I found myself agreeing with much of what they were saying.  They just sounded like common sense.

Oh, and the idea that visible minorities are supposed to be liberal? Lies, lies, and more lies.  I didn’t buy it.  Conservatism has nothing to do with what race, ethnicity or gender you are. Liberals love taking advantage of people by dividing society by race. In the end, this causes more division.  Conservatism exists around the world. There are conservative political movements in Asia, Africa, and in all countries around the world.

I’m of Chinese-Canadian descent. My parents came from China over 60 years ago. I was told that if you’re Asian, you were supposed to vote for the Liberal Party or New Democrats and to vote Conservative meant you were a traitor to your culture and race. Liberals take race or culture for granted.  It has gone on for too long.

For years, I thought I was the only Asian conservative. Good news. Things are changing. More conservatives today self-identify as East Asian, South Asian, Latino, or African-American. The tide has turned and it will continue on this track.

Today, over 25% or more of African Americans are supporting Trump. Clout Research put this figure even higher at 40-45% (read WND article here).  This figure could continue to grow.

The election results from election day 2018 does not reflect this change in attitude. Anything related to Trump news does not reflect the change either.  This change is an undercurrent and will rise up strong in the future.

The Blexit movement (Black exit from the Democratic Party) is slowly gaining ground. More Hispanic, Blacks and Asians are moving over to support the Republican Party.

Visible minorities, women and marginal groups are increasingly getting tired of hearing that the left has the only solution.

The younger generation, namely the Millennials, are also turning toward Republicans (read L.A. Times article). They are not buying into the leftist agenda. The Millenials of today are more conservative than Baby Boomers and Generation-X were at their age. They know there is something dishonest about CNN and friends and that their reporting is biased.

Liberals and Democrats have been holding onto political power based on the visible minority vote. They have been using fear-mongering techniques to get the vote. They divide society using race, culture, ethnicity, gender, income, sexual orientation, and etc. W?hen will they stop

They try to tell us ‘what’ to think. No one can tell us how to think.  They tell minorities that we are oppressed and that they are going to fight for us. They tell us that the best way to fight is for us to side with them. It’s a lie and a facade.  What they want is control.  They will try to own us by buying us out by handing out candy.  It is about control and winning.

When I was younger,  I was fed a lie all throughout my university years. Today, the liberal agenda is taught in many classes throughout the humanities and social sciences.  Classrooms are a training ground for indoctrination into a liberal agenda.

When we turn against the left, they get angry.  They think they own us.  Why do liberals and left hate Kanye West?   They thought he was one of them.  They can’t control him.  He’s a self-declared conservative and he is vocal about it.  He’s a big Donald Trump supporter.

If there are any liberal youth and young people out there who happen to be reading this post, I implore you to honestly do what I did. Examine the party policies of each party.  Honestly ask yourself how your personal views align with the policies of each political party. Some of you might be surprised at what you discover.

The ‘Fake News’ label is unshakable

The “Fake News” label cannot be shaken off by the mainstream liberal media. Why?  Because it’s true.  CNN is what it is… fake news.  President Donald Trump didn’t plant this in the minds of the American public when he started running for president. Conservatives had already known this for decades.  The only thing he did was say it out loud.

He had the guts to say what most of us wouldn’t say in the public sphere.  Well, that is the authentic Donald Trump, and that’s what gives him the charisma and charm that people find attractive.   What you see is what you get.  He says what he means and he means what he says.  There aren’t many politicians out there who can do this with the charisma and the level of charm he’s done it with.  This is what the liberal media is afraid of.  He is a dangerous threat to their game.

A growing number of people, including visible minorities, women, including marginal groups, are finding that what he is saying resonates with how they are feeling.  They agree with much of what he is saying.  Expressing what he is saying takes courage and boldness to express opinions that have been suppressed for years.  There has been a suppression because of the overly ambitious political-correctness in our society.

The mainstream liberal news media has been biased against conservatives for decades but had been pretending to be sources of unbiased and honest journalism.  They have willfully neglected coverage of conservative issues for decades, and deny they have been doing this.

But how many of us would be willing to come out and make that accusation against the liberal mainstream media?  Not many.   Not until Donald Trump.

A recent article in the First Things Journal, The Future of News, Les Sillars writes:

“The industry is therefore torn. A minority embraces subjectivity as the only realistic approach. The majority clings to journalistic objectivity as an ideal, hoping to preserve their credibility—but they are losing it. A recent Knight Foundation/­Gallup poll on media, trust, and democracy found that more than four-fifths of Americans believe the news media are “critical” or “very important” for “providing objective news reports.” But only 30 percent of Americans agree that the media do this well, and 40 percent say they do it poorly. More than half could not identify even one “objective” news source. Those who could picked Fox News nearly twice as often as any other source.”

I would absolutely agree with this. I have been very suspicious of CNN and CNBC for a long time. All I ever hear from them is anti-conservativism. Since Trump ran for president, it’s been all anti-Trump. They never give him any credit for anything good. They seek to discredit him at every turn. They see him as the arch-enemy worthy of absolute humiliation and dishonor. What kind of credible media would be so blatantly biased? Yes, CNN and friends.

This is why you never hear of any calls from liberal media sources to put a stop on the Mueller investigation. They want to investigate Trump until he either slips up, crumbles or implodes. They’re happy to indict people surrounding him just to discredit his Administration.

I’m a conservative. I don’t pretend to be otherwise either. Yes, I admit, Trump can behave like a bully. He is undeniably tough against his political opponents—even against his fellow Republicans. Honestly, if I was his opponent in the same party, I would not want to step into the boxing ring with him. I wouldn’t stand a chance of doing battle with this guy for even one second.

Trump knows it’s all a game the media and political opponents are playing. He’s been playing the political game all his life in the business world. He’s had a lot of practice.  Media like CNBC, CNN, NBC, Washington Post, etc. hate the fact that’s he knows the game very well and he knows that they know.

Trump used Twitter and he was able to beat them at their own game. He got elected President, and that wasn’t supposed to happen. They are still furious at their loss, even after two years.

The liberal media have been fraudulent liars for decades. They sound more like an extension of the Democratic Party than an honest journalistic source of truth.  The reason I say that their label of “fake news” is unshakable is that they don’t want to change.  The liberal mainstream media is politically polarized against the majority of people.

Don’t be deceived. They will not change. They have been indoctrinated by secular liberal socialist education. They are also funded and run by owners at the top who hold to the same worldview.  There is an agenda from the top.  Perhaps there are a few who recognize their own bias and unfair reporting.  They are few and far between.

If the liberal media continue with their lies, and claim of providing objective and honest reporting, they are only deceiving themselves and the public. Consequently, they will garner more distrust for themselves.

I admit Fox has their own bias too. I do not label Fox as mainstream. I label Fox as a trusted “conservative media”.  Fox is a conservative news network, undeniably and unashamedly. They back up their sources.  I trust and watch Fox but I also watch other news sources.

To people out there who never listen to Fox News, and who believe CNN to be unbiased, I challenge you to compare networks. Take some time to flip channels from CNN, to Fox, to CNBC, back to Fox.  Analyze each one and tell me if CNN is not unbiased. If a person never compares, they will never understand.

CNN has repeatedly been caught in yellow (false) journalism because they do not back up their sources. This goes against the code of truth in journalism. They feign ‘source confidentiality’ so they can’t tell white lies and half lies.  The irony is that their half-baked lies appear as full blatant lies because there is never any apology for their mistakes.

They’ve been repeatedly caught red-handed telling half-baked lies after the original sources came out to reveal the facts.  Simple fact.  Fake news is fake news.  There is no escaping it.  Brands like CNN, CNBC will be permanently branded as “Fake News” unless they change fast.

There is a level of pride and hypocrisy in CNN’s reporting (or propaganda rather). CNN and friends behave like they do not care about reporting the truth. As long as they can discredit Trump and bring down conservatives a few notches, they’ve done their good deed for the day.  They will do the same thing, day-in and day-out, non-stop.

The liberal media is just garnering more distrust for themselves each day. Seems like a hopeless case in the mainstream news media today. We cannot fix this problem overnight.

If you’re interested in becoming a journalist, I would suggest getting a proper education.  Go to a conservative journalism school (Yes, conservative).  We need to counter-balance the one-sided messed-up media.  Get a job as a journalist at some liberal media if they’re willing to hire you… or at Fox and friends… or become part of a start-up news media organization.

Influence the mainstream media one journalist at a time. As conservatives, we need to take small incremental steps to make positive changes. It will take decades to reverse this leftist media-bias.  This mess didn’t happen overnight and it will not be reversed overnight either.

Sex Abuse in Southern Baptist Churches

A scandal will erupt in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Sexual abuse is currently being reported by the Houston Chronicle (in Abuse of Faith 3-part series) (dated Feb. 10, 2019). No one likes airing one’s own dirty laundry.  There is plenty of dirty laundry to be aired.

It’s no longer just the Roman Catholic Church taking the brunt of the criticisms.  Southern Baptist congregations are also guilty of sexual abuse of children and youth. Some of the names involve prominent SBC leaders, pastors, and involve some lay-leaders, volunteers, and deacons.

There is no stopping at just youth pastors and deacons and volunteer laypersons. This report reveals seminary presidents and SBC leaders, and pastors of large congregations who are guilty.

Houston Chronicle SBC.jpg

This article reveals hideous sins within the SBC churches that will undoubtedly heap shame and guilt upon Southern Baptists. Baptists and evangelicals pride themselves on holiness and piety. We think of ourselves as living out the Christian lifestyle.  Underneath the veneer of Church-ianity, there is still sin that is common to all human beings. I hope all baptists can realize our own hypocrisy and confess our sins.

In May of last year, Patterson was ousted as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth after he said he wanted to meet alone with a female student who said she was raped so he could “break her down,” according to a statement from seminary trustees.

But his handling of sexual abuse dates back decades. Several women have said that Patterson ignored their claims that his ex-protégé, Darrell Gilyard, assaulted them at Texas churches in the 1980s; some of those allegations were detailed in a 1991 Dallas Morning News article.

The Gilyard case bothered Debbie Vasquez. She feared other victims had been ignored or left to handle their trauma alone.

When Vasquez became pregnant, she said, leaders of her church forced her to stand in front of the congregation and ask for forgiveness without saying who had fathered the child.

She said church members were generally supportive but were never told the child was their pastor’s. Church leadership shunned her, asked her to get an abortion and, when she said no, threatened her and her child, she said. She moved abroad soon after.

Pastors can be abused by the congregations. Yes. But church members can also be abused by pastors, deacons, elders and lay-leader/volunteers.  Every person in church leadership need to be held accountable.  Background police checks probably don’t catch every sex offender.  These checks only catch registered sex offenders but those who have never been caught will slip through the cracks undetected.

Harvey Rosenstock, a psychiatrist in Houston worked for decades with victims and perpetrators of clergy sexual abuse. He describes how clergy use their power to abuse children and youth:

“If someone is identified as a man of God, then there are no holds barred,” he said. “Your defense system is completely paralyzed. This man is speaking with the voice of God. … So a person who is not only an authority figure, but God’s servant, is telling you this is between us, this is a special relationship, this has been sanctioned by the Lord. That allows a young victim to have almost zero defenses. Totally vulnerable.”

As clergy, we have influence that causes a power imbalance, especially with the vulnerable.  Young children, youth and young people are susceptible to being taken advantage of by people in authority.  Women can also hold a power imbalance too so we must not take our positions for granted.  I hope our churches becomes more self-aware and corrects this imbalance through a system of checks and balances.

How I came to faith

I will share some very personal moments about how I came to faith and into ministry. I did not think I would ever do this so publicly on my blog and I don’t know why I’m doing this now… but here it goes.

As a teenager, I was raised an evangelical and attended a small Asian church in Vancouver. I remember wondering to myself in Sunday school class if God was real. The teacher was talking like God was real but I had not yet experienced God for myself.  I said to myself that if God was real, I needed to know more of God.

my first church

That day came.  It was at a Pentecostal summer teen camp somewhere between Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta. I was about 15 years old.  I remember distinctly being filled with the Holy Spirit.  This was my coming to faith in Christ.  This cannot be fully explained or understood using words.  It was a spiritual experience–an existential moment that I will never forget.  God poured his Spirit into this teenage boy.

At summer camp, I witnessed teenagers on their knees.  They were praying.   Seriously praying.  There was no kidding around with them.  No looking down at their Nintendos and pretending to pray.   They were praying like they knew God was real.  I had seen adults praying in church, but never young people like this.  It was the first time I had seen teenagers and young people praying in one large group.  A totally new thing to me.

It caused me to wonder and ponder if I was missing something in my life.  I remember telling God:

“God, if you are real, please make yourself real to me.  I want to know that you are real…that you really exist…and that you care about me.”

I looked up to see if anyone stopped praying.  No one stopped praying.  So I continued to pray and asked God to show me something.  Give me sign that you want to make yourself known to me in a personal way.

Then I began to feel a tingling sensation come over my body. It was like 10,000 volts of electricity. This sensation started in my hands.  It spread to my arms, then covered my entire body.  I was covered with God’s presence and filled to the brim.  It was an electrifying experience–literally.  How can I describe this?  It felt like a warm sensation, like as if I was set on fire.  I now knew that Acts 2 was real.

The summer camp speaker, a pastor, spoke prophetically and authoritatively.  He said that God is here in this place and is making himself real to you.  He can make himself known to you in a variety of ways. That was God’s way of making himself known to me that left me without any doubt about his existence in this universe, and in my life.

I knew then and there that God was real.  He satisfied my doubts, filled me with his love and presence.  I was weeping and sobbing with tears of joy.  I was oblivious to everything else around me because now, it was just me and God… together.  I told God that I would serve him.  I didn’t know how this service would look like though–until many years later.

God gifted me with a real presence that day.  He poured faith into me.  Where I once questioned God’s existence, I no longer doubted. He became very personal and tangible to me.  Simultaneously, I also realized the severity of my own sins, and experienced God’s love and kindness toward me, and of his mercy and forgiveness.

I had already learned all this stuff in church and Sunday school but it had never really sunk in until that day.  The revelation of God culminated in one moment on a single day at church teen camp.

1984 Vancouver CrusadeAnother experience. I was 16 years old when evangelist Rev. Billy Graham came to BC Place Stadium in Vancouver for a series of evangelistic meetings. Each night, he would give an invitation to come down to the front–an old-fashioned evangelical altar call.  I still remember Rev Graham quoting from Matt 10:33, “But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.”

That was enough to motivate me to want to acknowledge Jesus in front of thousands in the stadium.  I decided to publicly acknowledge Christ. Upon mustering some courage, I walked down to the front. I typify this as is a sort of combined evangelical version of a ‘confession of faith’, plus a personal commitment to walk with Christ.

Later, as a university student, I was baptized in an Alliance church.   I remained engaged in Christian student clubs on campus (e.g., IVCF, Power to Change, etc.).  As a young adult, I continued worshiping at various denominational or non-denominational community churches.

lsa torontoAfter finishing my studies at Regent University, I packed my things and moved to Toronto. I lived there for a number of years and found work in the financial field.

During this time, God led me into lay ministry by using my spare time to serve as a lay-pastoral leader in a small local ethnic Pentecostal church (English-speaking congregation). I did this for almost one year and did not have any expectation of ever being called to ministry.

It was then that I began sensing and contemplating God’s Call.  This experience gave me an idea of what pastoral ministry could be like.  I reassess my life and asked myself if I could do anything for the rest of my life, and money wasn’t a factor, what would I want to do?  My answer: pastoral ministry.

I began to explore the idea of pursuing some theological education in order to prepare myself for the challenges of vocational ministry.  I returned to Saskatchewan.  I began inquiring with seminaries in nearby local provinces.

My parents were attending a small bible study started by a local Lutheran seminarian and I visited the open house at Lutheran Theological Seminary (LTS).  This intern-seminarian also recommended this place.

I prayed that the Lord would show me the way. I had a dream during the night.  In this dream, I saw a white dove perched on top of the letters ‘LTS’. This bird flew off, swirled around a few times, then very quickly, landed under my left arm. It jarred me awake. Both legs shot up. I became fully awake.

7Wl

I asked myself, “Was this a nightmare or a sign from God? If it’s a nightmare, I have nothing to worry about.  But if it is a sign from God, I better pay attention.”

That very next morning, I decided to visit the seminary a second time.  I had some questions to ask. I spoke with one fine professor who cared about ministry (who returned to parish ministry).  After our conversation, he encouraged me to apply and see where it would take me.

awardsThroughout seminary and my discernment process, I had some enlightened ‘aha’ moments and also countless moments of doubt. I asked myself, “Do I belong here? Why don’t I just leave? I don’t know anything about liturgy or theology.”

I was not a born and bred Lutheran.  Most Lutherans are just born into the church and cannot recall a specific point in time when they had an existential spiritual experience in coming to faith.

I do believe that God still gives us signs. God works in different ways in different people.  Some receive subtle signs.  Some are lightening-struck.  God’s calling comes to each of us in different ways and will be different for you.

For me personally, this sign of the white dove was a constant reminder of God’s calling to me. It kept me from veering off the path whenever I had doubts about whether to stay in seminary.

The rest is now history.  I thank the Lord for his direction, and for the guidance I received from God’s servants.

The sacrifice of blood, sweat and tears

I’m continuing to blog in the same vein as a previous blog-post on missionaries and evangelization.

I admire the missionary friends I know.  They have sacrificed a comfortable life here in Canada to better the lives of people outside this country. Why?  For the sake of Christ’s calling to serve God.

Many missionaries have literally sacrificed “blood, sweat and tears” to evangelize and bring the good news of Jesus to places where people live on the margins.

I personally witnessed the good and fruitful work of missionary families earlier last year in March 2018.   My family went to Thailand and Cambodia (here), and here and here.  This trip opened my eyes to see, what I would categorize as, life on the margins.

Missionaries, Conrad and Fiona Kwok (my friends), recently shared about a visit to a region in Myanmar…. it took about 6 hours by car from the city of Lashio. (read more here)

I witnessed God was truly at work in the local peoples, cultures, places, and in other far-reaching places around the world.

When people in the church can be so brutal, their relentless love to share and bless other people has restored my faith to continue believing that God so loves this world.

It takes lots of faith to step out and take such big risks.  Many missionaries are sent out but require funding through private donations.  Denominationally-sponsored missionaries are not as common as before. Even then, they are still required to do their own fund-raising.

Thank God for missionaries and their devotion to serve the Lord.  For them, it really is a calling and not a career.  Some pastors and even chaplains make this a career when it really ought to be a calling first.  Without God’s calling, people can get side-tracked and lose sight of what God has called them to do.

But missionaries receive most of their financial support through individual donations. Often times, donations barely cover their annual operating expenses.  Many missionaries just get by, but they do not want to be seen as begging their home churches for funds.

If we do not bring the gospel that brings freedom to cultures and civilizations, then other religions will step in.  Islam is also working hard to bring their religion into places around the world. It is also happening across cities in North America and Europe.  Some of Islam’s proselytization can be very aggressive around the world.   In some extreme cases, violent fundamentalism resort to a violent and authoritarian means of forced conversion.

As the Christian Church, we can pray for missionaries.  Pray that God renews their strength every day.   The love of Jesus is real.  The good news of Jesus impacts lives.  It heals broken hearts and lives torn by sin and corruption.

Evangelism is seen as a dirty word in some circles.  We are ashamed of evangelism because it’s proselytization.

Much of the Near East used to be Christian. At one point in time, the Near East was where Christianity blossomed and had its center (i.e., modern-day Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, northern Africa). Today, we have seen the direction it has taken.

Fact is, every culture has been proselytized by one religion or another.  Yes, even Europeans at one point in time.  If proselytizing is such a bad thing, then perhaps Europeans should return to the old religions.

Christianity has brought so many blessings to Europe and North America.  Today, Asia is experiencing similar blessings that Christianity once brought to the western world.

Secularism, humanism, atheism, also have their own forms of proselytization. They all their own evangelists who seek to influence people toward their way of thinking.

We have lost much ground due to an increased secularization within our culture and society within the last several generations.  We have 2-3 generations that have false impressions of what the Church and the gospel are all about.  Church and the Christian life are genuine spiritualities that can give people a renewed hope–not because of the organization but because of Jesus.

We have a great and wonderful spiritual heritage.  It is worth carrying on for the sake of the next generation.  If we do not, they will miss out on a rich blessing.

Brand new Christians can often make the best evangelists.  When they first get to know Jesus, they share with excitement about God with all their friends and family without shame.  Surprisingly, many of their friends and family can turn to God.

Evangelism ought to be a natural thing we do.  It can take place naturally with two friends over coffee at a local cafe.  I can share with a buddy about what God is doing in my life.  Why shouldn’t he listen?  I have to listen to all their crap too.  It’s an exchange that happens between friends.  It can happen organically as one friend shares the good news with another friend.  This is a ministry.

Call it what you may.  Some call it a healing ministry to the spiritually sick. Some call it a proclamation or promotion of good news that transforms lives.  Whatever we choose to name it, it is still evangelization.  This world is our mission field–even our own home is a mission field.

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May God bless his one, holy, catholic Church around the world. May God’s good news spread far and wide to the four corners of the world.

Peace,
Kevin A. Sam

(This Jerusalem cross, one of my favorite symbols in the world, represents the gospel going to the four corners of the world).

 

Invitation to share in the nation’s greatness

There was a fantastic closing in President Donald Trump’s State of the Union 2019 address.  He spoke of America’s geographic beauty and expanse; our choices we make; the opportunities; of victories; of dreams; rekindle our imagination; of greatness; to overcome our challenges together; America’s freedom and faith.

And here’s why it was a great ending. My brief analysis.

It was an invitation to share in America’s future greatness.  It was addressed not only to Americans, but also to legislators in Congress to unite, to forge ahead, and to make America great, to overcome together.

He was really sharing his vision (Trump’s MAGA campaign slogan “Make America Great Again”) with the rest of the people who did not share his views nor stood on his side.

He was really trying to say, “this greatness is also for you and for all.”  Together we can make it happen.

It was a profound invitation. His speech was really one big olive branch to Congress and the American people–regardless of political affiliation.

He wanted to be a president for all Americans before he was elected president.  These first two years have been like a dark valley for his administration.  He has been hated by many on the left.  But it’s not over for him.

If people can buy into his invitation, and step into his vision of greatness for America, he can be that president he wants to be–the president for all Americans.

Time will tell in the next two years.

maga america great again

—-  text below from transcript of SOTU —

….Think of this Capitol — think of this very chamber, where lawmakers before you voted to end slavery, to build the railroads and the highways, to defeat fascism, to secure civil rights, to face down evil empires.

Here tonight, we have legislators from across this magnificent republic. You have come from the rocky shores of Maine and the volcanic peaks of Hawaii, from the snowy woods of Wisconsin and the red deserts of Arizona, from the green farms of Kentucky and the golden beaches of California. Together, we represent the most extraordinary nation in all of history.

What will we do with this moment? How will we be remembered? I ask the men and women of this Congress, look at the opportunities before us. Our most thrilling achievements are still ahead. Our most exciting journeys still await. Our biggest victories are still to come. We have not yet begun to dream.

We must choose whether we are defined by our differences — or whether we dare to transcend them. We must choose whether we will squander our inheritance — or whether we will proudly declare that we are Americans. We do the incredible. We defy the impossible. We conquered the unknown.

This is the time to reignite the American imagination. This is the time to search for the tallest summit, and set our sights on the brightest star. This is the time to rekindle the bonds of love and loyalty and memory that link us together as citizens, as neighbors, as patriots.

This is our future — our fate — and our choice to make. I am asking you to choose greatness. No matter the trials we face, no matter the challenges to come, we must go forward together.

We must keep America first in our hearts. We must keep freedom alive in our souls. And we must always keep faith in America’s destiny — that one nation, under God, must be the hope and the promise and the light and the glory among all the nations of the world!

Thank you. God bless you, God bless America. Thank you very much.

Trump’s State of the Union address 2019

SOTU trump

President Trump’s State of the Union (SOTU) address was a success tonight. I feel it was his best speech ever as president. He spoke with conviction, and it made Americans feel proud to be American.

It was a very memorable speech. He spoke about the greatness of America.  He said it was not about the agenda of the Republicans nor the Democrats. It was about one nation, the United States of America.

There were many moments when he spoke of cooperation calling both parties to come together. He tried pulling both Republican and Democrats together to make a better country by passing bills that will benefit Americans. He has tried to unite them by giving them enough face to make compromises in the future.

In the past, hardline Democrats have been knee-jerk anti-Trump and anti-wall at every turn. This speech put them on the defensive because Trump was holding out olive branches to them.  It gave people hope that there can be some compromise in Congress to get funding for government employees, and perhaps even the wall and stronger border security.

Trump, speaking on abortion also reinforced in the minds of pro-lifers his loyalty to them and the belief in the sanctity of life, inside and outside the womb. I was surprised that the Democratic women in white could not even stand to show some solidarity for banning full-term abortion. Abortion must have some limits, otherwise, one can end up be blind to murder outside the womb.

US President Donald J. Trump delivers his second State of the Union address, Washington, USA - 05 Feb 2019

I also liked his jab at non-sensical politically-driven investigations.  This Robert Mueller investigation should come to a stop ASAP.  It’s clearly a witch hunt, has always been one, and makes the Democrats look absolutely stupid and partisan.

This was a big win for Trump tonight, not only on social and security issues, but also on the economy. His trade policy has been conducive to huge gains in job creation in the U.S. The economy and jobs have has made huge gains for the middle class, the lower income, for racial minorities, and also for women.

I agree that the NAFTA trade deal had been seen as beneficial for Canada and for Mexico.   I have to admit that the U.S. could always have done better for itself because I also believe in fair trade, not necessarily free trade. Free trade is not good unless it’s also fair trade.  He was also tough on trade with China.  That was good.   All trade must be fair.

Overall, I thought it was definitely his greatest speech ever.  There were many parts of the speech where he used live examples of people who contributed to making a better country.  Two of his examples were persons who were unfairly sentenced in prison but chose to make a better place where they were.  Very moving and inspiring.

If I were American, I would have been proud of him. I think it has the potential to pull some Democrats together with Republicans to make some deals in the future.  Kudos to President Donald Trump.  May God continue to bless America.