When feeling unsure of ourselves

The Thinker. Artist: Rodin. Legion of Honor in San Francisco CA.

Struggling with issues in our culture, life and society is not a bad thing.  Everyone goes through these phases at different stages in our life.  Things can be at odds with our personal ideals and values and can challenge our spirituality.  You might even doubt your faith.

We might come to question and doubt ourselves because we wonder if what we value are right or wrong.  I also have also doubted too.  We can either become antagonistic toward culture and society and run closer to religion.  Or we can become antagonistic toward religion and shift toward secular/popular culture, or even agnosticism/atheism.

We all wonder at times whether what we’re doing is right or the cool or uncool thing.  We might feel, “Forget what the rest of the world thinks. I’ll do what I feel is right.”  We try to fit in.  Do things the easy way.  Walk the wide road.  At times, we lose a sense of who we are.

Sounds like it’s happened to you before?  Our lives are not static but can be in flux, changing.  We might still be getting to know who we are.  Figuring out what’s right… and what fits my situation and circumstances.

God and our conscience might be telling us one thing; and the world might be telling us something completely opposite.  Life can be confusing and society doesn’t always seem helpful.  Pressures all around us.  We don’t feel safe to give ourselves room, to ask, and reflect on whether what we practice makes sense to ourselves within our culture.

Jesus told his disciples:

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:15-17, ESV).

In the end, pray and ask God to give you grace. In Christ, God will absolve us from all our doubts, out wanderings, our hard-heartedness and rebellion. Let him be the captain of your soul and He will send you his Holy Spirit and his Word to comfort and counsel you.

 

Letting God do the impossible task: to love your enemies

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Jesus said to his disciples in Luke 6:27-28, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”   It’s a parallel to Jesus’ sermon on the Mount in Matthew ch. 5-7. 

When I think on this, there are days when I might think to myself, “Yes, I can obey Jesus’ law to love my enemies—that’s easy.”  But in all honesty, there might be some bad days when I feel I cannot even love my friends or even my family, let alone my enemies.

There can be a real challenge in following through with this command.  For some, this might be easier to do depending on the day and on our circumstances.  It might depend on where people are at in their lives.  For some, our hurts and traumas can easily override our ability to love others.  The last thing we can expect someone who has been hurt is to love their perpetrators. 

A person’s visceral reaction in anger might be: “I’m going to wipe them out!  Give me a rock…give me a button… give me a trigger… At certain times in one’s life, it would not surprise me one bit if a person could do it without shedding a tear or breaking out in a sweat.  Jesus’ command seems to stand in stark contrast to the desire of our flesh.

How do we interpret this passage of Scripture?  Was this a piece of good advice or nugget of wisdom?  Or was it a command?  What if the entirety of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount from Luke and Matthew was meant to describe the impossible? What humanism has wanted to achieve perfection in humanity might actually be next to impossible. 

If the latter is true, it forces you and I to turn to God for mercy and grace each and every day.  You might see human perfection as a possibility. For me personally, at this point of time in my own life, the possibility of achieving human perfection is impossible.

If Jesus’ sayings from the Sermon on the Mount were meant to be prescriptions of laws that we must obey, then I would definitely be a failure.  Over time, we might, at one point or another, fail to live up to most or all of Jesus’ commandments.

When we are in the flesh and operating in the needs and desires of the flesh, it is very hard to love our enemies.  Our flesh will naturally want to destroy or defeat our enemies using our human means and methods.  Yes even when we are living as Christians, praying hard and committing ourselves each day to live with Christ, this spiritual battle won’t be easy.  But when we are operating in the love of Christ, there is less reason to give into the flesh.  Jesus asks us to give him all of our worries.

When Jesus asked us to bless those who curse us, it is because there is something that happens in the spiritual realm that we do not see.  On the surface, there is nothing to be gained eternally by blessing those who curse us.  If this was a command, then what reward would there be? 

There is a blessing in simply loving others without expecting to receive anything in return from our fellow neighbor.  We can love others just for the sake of loving others.  There is no ulterior motive to love our neighbor.  This is pure freedom. Christ can free us from the fleshly desires in this world so that we can love the unlovable, do good, and give without expecting anything in return (v.35).

To truly love our enemies who have full intentions of hurting us without mercy is the hardest thing to do in the world.  Personally, I know I don’t have the patience or the strength within myself to love my enemy.  My human flesh tells me to kill whoever might want me dead.  I do not have the tenacity to wait it out to see what happens.  To me, this command is like telling me to fail. 

After recognizing my human weakness, I realize that I need to fall upon the grace and mercy of God.  I would rather hold my hands up and say to the Lord, “Lord, if you are real, give me your grace. I cannot love my enemies.  I cannot stop hating them for even one second.  Pour out your grace upon my life.  Have pity on this poor soul.  I need you God.”  This would be me after God has driven me to utter submission.

Seek God’s kingdom

Luke 12:31-32 – Jesus told his disciples:  “Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.  Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

In these words is a secret that is hidden in plain sight. When we allow worries and anxieties to overtake us, we stumble and fall and resort to our own human will rather than allow God’s sovereign will to take charge in our lives.

Why do we worry?  We worry because we do not have faith that we will have enough.  We also worry that others will stop us from getting what we desire.

As a result, we get angry—angry with those who stand in our way.  We might even find ourselves directing our anger toward those we love, and toward those who may be trying to comfort our hearts.

If we can stop for a moment to calm down. Give ourselves space to reflect.  Reflect without anxiety and fear.  Ponder on the Lord without worries floating within our minds.  Think on godly things. Put aside things that prevent our hearts from feeling God’s love.

God who might be trying to get our attention might have a good message for us.  Focus on God and the spiritual things that belong to the kingdom. 

Things that concern God’s kingdom might be totally different from what we desire for our own kingdom.

Ask God. Pray.  Seek God.  See if he has something else within the kingdom for our lives.

Be open to receiving different things that we might never have expected.  Such things might result in becoming a huge blessing in our lives.

Everlasting Eternal Life

Nothing gets a person thinking more about death than: 1) When you have a death in the family, or 2) When an insurance salesperson gives you the sale pitch and sells you life insurance, or 3) When you have a lawyer ask you tough questions to prepare your final will and testament.

I’m getting a will done up through a lawyer.  It sure made me think about how temporary life can be.  Not much in this world is for sure.  What is for sure is that we will all live and die.

The bible teaches that on our last day on earth won’t be our last moment.  Our soul lives on.  There is still eternity to enjoy.

There will be no more death. Our bodies will not grow old and decay.

From a purely human perspective, Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15, “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.” (v.50).

“Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:8)

Thankfully, death in the flesh will not be our ultimate and final destiny as Christians.  It doesn’t have to be.  God has given us a way out.  The only way out of death is to trust in the mercy and grace of God.

God desires and has always intended for us to be spiritual beings.  Paul taught that what is sown in weakness is raised in power.  It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body (1 Cor. 15:44).

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

One day, whe our bodies decay and die, Christ will raise us up as spiritual beings.  We will no longer have to rely on the fleshly things of this world to bring us through to the end. Christ has become our victor. This is good news.  God in Christ Jesus has conquered sin, death and evil.  These things will have no power over us when we place our faith in the love of Christ and in the power of his resurrection power.

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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.jpgIn 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.

Trump, Pence, Shapiro speak at March for Life

Yesterday was the 45th March for Life in Washington DC.  Amazing to see so many people who love life walking together in peace to declare and support that God-given life from the womb is precious and ought to be protected.  Very encouraging to pro-life Americans (and non-Americans) today.

Estimates of numbers who marched range from many tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands. Very possible given the crowd size.  The pro-life movement is gaining ground.

President Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence were forthright in their support of life.

Conservative commentator, Ben Shapiro, opened the gathering in speaking first.

“America was founded on the promise of God-given rights, chief among them the rights to life and liberty,” Shapiro said. But while once America’s children were her most prized group,” then something happened. We decided to erase them […] we lied to ourselves, and then we built walls around that lie.” 

“We pretended these were not human lives at all, but disposable balls of meat,” he continued, after detailing multiple scientific truths of fetal development denied by the abortion lobby. “We told ourselves we were virtuous for our lie. We reversed good and evil.”

Shapiro then cited Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s comment this week that pro-lifers are “not in line with where we are as a government and quite frankly where we are as a society.”  “Maybe they’re right. Maybe we today here are not in line with the rest of society,” Shapiro said. “To which I say, good. So were the abolitionists. So were the civil rights marchers. So were the martyrs in Rome and the Jews in Egypt. Righteousness doesn’t have to be popular; it just has to be righteous.”  (Read further at LifeSite here.)

[added: Interesting how young pro-lifers are not necessarily religious. Pro-life just makes common sense. Life is not just based on morality, but is also science-based too. ]

Welcome: new name LibertyCulture.com

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Hello.  I want to offer an official introduction to my readers after the new look and name change to LibertyCulture.com and re-introduce who I am.  Some of you might wonder if this is a brand new blog. It’s been around as the NewEpistles blog.  Since I haven’t been blogging as avidly as I used to (especially the past 5-7 years due to work and life’s circumstances), I thought I’d re-introduce myself again to all my current and potentially new readers.

These days, I do not post often but will try to do so when I have some time.  I usually draw inspiration from reading.  When I do get to read theological and devotional books (and the bible of course), I ask questions and reflect upon biblical passages and ideas from my personal theological perspective (and we all have our different theologies).

Expressing these thoughts in writing are the result of my blog posts.  I originally started blogging on bible translations, but these days, I usually blog about issues of faith and biblical passages, and try to see how they intersect with aspects of our daily lives and society.

When society and life’s issues are at odds with Christian and biblical values, it can challenge our spirituality and theology.  Sometimes, we question and we doubt ourselves.  Do I doubt sometimes?  Yes I do.  We can either become antagonistic toward culture and society and run closer to religion; or we can become antagonistic toward religion and shift toward secular/popular culture or even agnosticism/atheism.

We all wonder at times whether what we’re doing is right or the cool or uncool thing. Sometimes, we might feel, “To heck with rest of the world. I’ll do what I feel is right.” Sometimes, we try to fit in and do it the way everyone else is doing it, even with our Christian friends. Then we lose a sense of who we are. Maybe that’s happened to you before.

Our lives are not static but can be in flux, changing. But we are still getting to know who we are and figuring out what fits me. The Father, Christ, the Spirit, and the Church might be telling us one thing. Also, the world might be telling us other things. Sometimes, life is confusing and society around us is not helping.

Because of pressures around us, we don’t feel safe to give ourselves room to ask and ponder if what we practice makes sense to ourselves, to the Church and to the world around us. But if we allow ourselves to struggle and reflect on faith, theology/doctrine, and spiritual issues, one might grow in faith, find freedom and liberty in our spirituality, and interact with our culture in more positive and life-giving ways.

I was sitting with friends in this small local cafe, deep in the hills of Chiang Rai in northern Thailand, enjoying my cappuccino while blogging (March 2018).

My life’s journey took me from working in the financial field in Toronto into ordained pastoral ministry in churches in both rural Saskatchewan and suburban Toronto, and now, into chaplaincy. I thank God for his Calling and speaking to me clearly on this area of my life.

Today, I am grateful for this opportunity to minister as a chaplain.  For now, this work has now brought me to a wonderful and smaller city called Victoria, BC, located on Vancouver Island in beautiful British Columbia, Canada.  My family and I very much like living here.

What gives me reason to wake up each day is being able to live in God’s grace, peace and power every day, and learning to be a better husband, father and a good citizen (sometimes through mistakes) and continuing in God’s call to ministry in this life.

Anyway, thank you for visiting and reading the various posts on this blog and “liking” them if you enjoy them.  Blessings.

Later,
Kevin A. Sam
Liberty Culture.com