A Certain Hope In An Uncertain World

Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Romans 5:2 ESV

As we come to the end of 2021, we face an uncertain future, a future that appears more unknown and unpredictable than in previous years. This is the grim reality the present pandemic is forcing all of us to see.  The only certainty in the 3rd millennium, besides death and taxes, is that world is heading for destruction.  Scientists have warned that if we continue with the reckless consumption of the earth’s resources and ignore the signs of climate change and global warming, the world will come to an end from the folly of humankind.

The coronavirus is God’s megaphone to awaken humankind to the horror of a fallen and broken world and the hopelessness of living with what Pope Francis has described as an “isolated consciousness.” Such a consciousness sows division and is a major obstacle to the union of hearts and minds.1  When each of us live in the world of “I, me and mine” and see others as “them,” we are all prisoners of sin condemned to live with masks, social distancing and quarantine – not only physically but psychologically.  We need to be inoculated with God’s virus of love to live with the certain hope of eternal life – as the children of God, as the family of God, and as the Body of the Risen Christ. Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father who is in heaven,” to teach us to live together in a community of love – with a “us, we, and our” mindset and to live with transparency, vulnerability and intimacy.

This is the hope, grounded in the love of God, that came down at Christmas more than 2000 years ago.  Advent is the celebration of the certain hope of God’s overflowing love that is revealed in the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We celebrate the birth of Christ at Christmas to declare the good news that Jesus came to lead us from death to life. Evil is the opposite of “live” and evil forces draws us from life to death. Jesus came to give us the Holy Spirit to lead us from death to life and to be partners in God’s new heaven and earth. We follow Christ in order to be the people of God and to be the temple of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit binds us together as a community of believers through the church. The church is not a museum of saints but a hospital for sinners. Pope Francis reminds us that Jesus did not found the Church as “a citadel of purity nor is it a constant parade of heroes and saints.”2 We need the fellowships of small groups to be the spiritual ICUs to nurse us back from spiritual death to eternal life.

The Covid pandemic marks the dawn of a new age. Pope Francis wisely observed that “in times of crisis and tribulation, we are shaken out of our sclerotic habits” as the love of God purify us and reminds us that we are a people of God.  We are invited to “abandon the self-defeating isolation of individualism” – to flow from our “little lagoons” of our limited physical life into the broad river of eternal life.3

The birth of the infant Jesus, helpless and dependent,  is the outward and visible sign of the inward and invisible grace of God to teach us that God’s grace is sufficient for His power is greatest in our weaknesses.4 It is by God’s grace that we can live with joyful hope in the face of our problems and trials:

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

Faith is our response to the grace of God – by faith we see the reality of what we are to hope for and the evidence of things we cannot see.6 Our faith is rooted in the hope that love always trumps evil. This hope is the wondrous gift of God’s heaven given silently when we open our hearts to the Holy Spirit with meekness and faith:

“How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is giv’n;
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His Heav’n.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.”7

The practice of silence leads us to the mind of Christ8 and opens our eyes to the evil of an “isolated consciousness” that is within us. As the Holy Spirit fills our open hearts with the love of Christ, we can live by faith with the certain and overflowing hope of God’s amazing grace – our doubts are overcome by a love that is stronger than death, our sorrows by unspeakable joy and our fears by the peace that is beyond all human understanding. With Jesus in our hearts, we stand with hope as children of the promise to be a light in a world darkened by the pandemic:

“We will stand as children of the promise
We will fix our eyes on Him our soul’s reward
Till the race is finished and the work is done
We’ll walk by faith and not by sight.”9

SDG

References

1.  Pope Francis, Let Us Dream, The Path To A Better Future, (London, Simon & Schuster) pg 69-74

2. Ibid, pg 70

3. Ibid, pg 99 – 102

4. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, NLT

5. Romans 5:3-5, NLT

6. Hebrews 11:1, NLT

7. O Little Town Of Bethlehem

8.  1  Corinthians 2:16, NLT

 9. By Faith – Keith & Kristyn Getty

Life Before Death

“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes has eternal life. Yes, I am the bread of life! Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, but they all died. Anyone who eats the bread from heaven, however, will never die.” John 6:47-50

Our hearts sank when the doctor called us to go down to the hospital as a loved one was critically ill. The doctor shared her concern that our family member had a high risk of having a cardiac arrest. By the grace of God, his condition stabilized later that night . The encounter with the power of darkness drew my attention to the victory over death that Christ has secured for us. 

Our small group had been reflecting on the Acts of the Apostles. We read the story of the young man, Eutychus, who was listening to the apostle Paul talking till past midnight. The room was lighted with many flickering lamps and Eutychus was sitting on the windowsill. He became drowsy and fell down three stories to his death. But Paul simply went down, took him in his arms and said, “Don’t worry, he’s alive.” Then they went back upstairs, shared in the Lord’s Supper and Paul continued preaching till dawn!It was an eye opener that the disciples were not distracted by the miracle of Paul raising Eutychus from the dead – they simply continued with the Lord’s Supper and the preaching of God’s Word. Miracles were their everyday experiences and their focus was not on the miracles but on the presence and love of God. 

The story of Eutychus is a graphic reminder of the weakness of our flesh – we may fall asleep during sermons and pastors need not be offended by those who do so! God knows that our spirits are willing but our flesh is weak.2 It was an encouragement to me as I fall asleep at times during my silent meditation. I can now take comfort by choosing to see such times as the times that Christ is picking me up and restoring my soul.

The practice of meditation is more than resting in God. There may be times when we are lead into the darkness of our souls and even the absence of God. This is to humble us as we face the reality that without Christ,  we are the living dead – living under the power of darkness. It is only with the spirit of humility that we can truly understand and be grateful for the good news of Advent – that God is waiting and seeking to deliver us from darkness so that we can live in the light.

 Advent is a time to share the good news of God’s amazing grace that through faith in Christ we are reborn again – not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.3 The only work God wants from us is to believe in Jesus Christ.4 Through faith in Jesus Christ, we have the keys to enter the Kingdom of heaven.  Jesus came to be the Light of the World5 to show us the way out of the dark world of suffering and to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Beatitudes are the keys to the kingdom of God.  We need to come to terms with our spiritual poverty for it is the poor in spirit who will mourn and seek the comfort of God.  When we do so, our humility fills us with meekness so that we can inherit the kingdom of God. Then we will hunger and thirst for righteousness.6  Before going to the cross, Jesus gave us the Lord’s Supper as God’s means of grace.  Jesus told the Jews that they need to eat His flesh and drink His blood to have eternal life:

“For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. I live because of the living Father who sent me; in the same way, anyone who feeds on me will live because of me. I am the true bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will not die as your ancestors did (even though they ate the manna) but will live forever.”7

Like the deer longing for streams of water, we thirst for the living God.8 We hear Christ, the well of our salvation, calling us to quench our spiritual thirst:

“Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, “Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.”9

Journeying with a loved one in the intensive care unit provided me with a better understanding of the narrow way. The door to eternal life is narrow because it is an intimate and personal relationship between me and Christ. The narrow way is not about giving up our pleasures but surrendering our will that God’s will may be done in our lives. The way of the cross is a movement from death to life.

Without Christ we are spiritually dead and on the journey from life to death –  living the “dash” between our birth and death. Jesus Christ is God’s gift to lead us from spiritual death to live the eternal life before death. Advent is a time of waiting and preparing our hearts so that God’s Word can be made “flesh” in our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Waiting on God through meditation is to enter into the rest of God – to remember that there is nothing that we can do to earn God’s grace. It is the expression of our trust in God’s unconditional love that is revealed on the cross of Christ. Christian meditation is a journey into our hearts to see ourselves as God sees us and not who we pretend to be. We can take off our masks when we know that God loves us just as we are. As we do so, the Holy Spirit will lead us to become the person God wants us to be.

May this Advent prepare us for the journey to eternal life. As we face the storms of the Covid pandemic and other illnesses in our lives, let us learn to be still as we wait on God:

Find rest my soul
In Christ alone
Know His power
In quietness and trust

When the oceans rise and thunders roar
I will soar with you above the storm
Father, You are King over the flood
I will be still know You are God

SDG

References:

  1. Acts of Apostles 20:7-12 NLT
  2. Matthew 26:41, Mark 14:38
  3. John 1:12-13
  4. John 6:29
  5. John 8:12
  6. Matthew 5:3-6
  7. John 6:55-58
  8. Psalm 42:1-2
  9. John 7:37-38

A Taste Of Heaven

“God has  rescued us from the power of darkness and has brought us into the kingdom of His Son, whom he loves. His Son paid the price to free us, which means our sins are forgiven.” Colossians 1:13

Omicron, the latest variant of the corona virus threatens to cast a dark shadow over the world in this season of Advent. We are living in a changing and turbulent time. Pope Francis saw this as a time of reckoning, when ways of thinking are shaken up and our priorities and lifestyles are challenged. The trials of life reveal what is truly in our hearts.1 

The season of Advent is a time to proclaim the good news that God has rescued us from the power of darkness to bring us into the kingdom of heaven.  Advent 2021 is a time to see the Covid 19 pandemic from another perspective.  The tiny virus opens our eyes to the harsh reality of the hellish conditions here on earth.  We are living in a dark world of sin, evil and death where so much suffering is caused by human lust, pride and greed. The world desperately needs to hear the good news that Jesus is the Light of the World. Jesus came to show us that heaven, not hell, is God’s perfect will for the world.

Heaven is not a pipe dream nor a figment of our imagination – it is the promise and perfect plan of our Heavenly Father. Jesus did not come to send anyone to hell.2 Jesus died and rose from the dead so that we can become God’s new creations3 who are living to glorify God and not ourselves. We are to be the living stones of God’s temple as well as His royal priesthood.4 We are to have a taste of heaven here on earth with a personal relationship with God as our Heavenly Father.

The greatest proof of God’s unconditional love is Christ Crucified.  Like the prodigal son, we need to take the first step of repentance – to turn from our foolish ways and to turn back to God.5  However, like the early disciples in Ephesus, we need to move from repentance to faith in the Risen Christ in order to receive the Holy Spirit.6 It is through faith in the Risen Christ that our hearts are filled with the love of God and the blessed assurance that we are God’s beloved.7

When our image of God is distorted we are unable to experience the forgiveness and unconditional love of God. When we see God as our Judge and not as our Heavenly Father,  we live our lives as slaves of Satan and not as the children of God –  fear, guilt, unbelief, and false beliefs  keep us from seeing the loving presence of God in the mundane activities of our daily lives. When we learn to be thankful for the small mercies of God each day, we will have a taste of heaven.

Advent is the season of expectant waiting and preparation to remind us to make room in our hearts for Christ. The discipline of silence and contemplative prayer provides us with a way to do so. According to Henri Nouwen, we celebrate Christ’s victory over the world, over death, and over the evil one, every time we spend silent time in our prayer room.8 As followers of Christ we are to stand on the victory of Christ over evil. We cannot have victory over evil when we are not standing firm in our identity as a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ.  It is only when Jesus is Lord in our lives to lead us into the rest of God9   that we can have a taste of the heavenly peace that comes from this victory.

Most important of all, in Christ, we can have a taste of heaven even when we walk in darkness for we have the bright light of God which shines on those who live in the land of death’s shadows.10 When we go through suffering, trials and persecution, we have the comfort of God through the Holy Spirit.11 Our bodies may be dying but our spirits are renewed every day as we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen.12 Our problems become an opportunity for great joy for it is a time when our faith is being refined and perfected.13 In persecution and fiery trials, we are partners with Christ in his suffering and we will have the wonderful joy of seeing the glory of Christ when it is revealed to the world. 14

Advent is a time when the world is waiting in hope for the good news that Christ is the Light to lead us out of our dark times. May the fire of God’s love in our hearts shine forth as a beacon of light for those who are walking in darkness. Let us bring the good news, “Joy to the world, the Lord has come!” as we share our hope in Christ:

“There is a hope that burns within my heart
That gives me strength for every passing day
A glimpse of glory now revealed in meagre part
Yet drives all doubt away
I stand in Christ with sins forgiven
And Christ in me the hope of heaven
My highest calling and my deepest joy
To make His will my home.

There is a hope that lifts my weary head
A consolation strong against despair
That when the world has plunged me in its deepest pit
I find the Saviour there
Through present sufferings future’s fear
He whispers courage in my ear
For I am safe in everlasting arms
And they will lead me home.”

SDG

References:

  1. Pope Francis, Ler Us Dream, (London, Simon & Schuster, 2020) 1
  2. 2 Peter 3:9, Ezekiel 18:32, Ezekiel 33:11
  3. 2 Corinthians 5:17
  4. 1 Peter 2:4-5
  5.  Luke 15:17-21
  6. Acts of the Apostles, 19:1-7
  7.  Romans 5:1-5
  8. Nouwen Meditation: Reflect the Peace of Christ, November 23, 2021
  9.  Hebrews 4:1-2
  10.  Isaiah 9:2
  11. 2 Corinthians 1:3-7
  12.  2 Corinthians 4:16-18
  13.  James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 1:6-7
  14. 1 Peter 4:12-17

The Wisdom of the Cross

“But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength.” 1 Corinthians 1:24-‬25 NLT

A year ago, I witnessed the “miracle of the triumphant crossing” of my 91 year old aunt from her earthly life to eternal life. She was a kidney cancer survivor of more than 40 years. Two months before her death, she miraculously survived a medical crisis when she had to be intubated in the intensive care unit and had a renal dialysis. This was a “miracle of God’s guidance to a cure” which gave her the opportunity to prepare her family for her departure to heaven. She was homesick for heaven and felt that she had already been given her passport to heaven. She was waiting impatiently for her ticket to heaven. She was longing to be “absent from the body” and to be “at home with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:8).

I was much encouraged by my aunt’s preparedness for her heavenly destination. The day before she passed away,  a devotional aptly described her life – “sometimes God chooses to deliver us from hardships, and sometimes he delivers us through them.”  But what is most important is that we are set free from the fear of death:

“Being God’s friend does indeed come with fringe benefits. Yes, you’ll have a host of blessings while you’re alive, but what a comfort to never be in terror of dying, because you have nothing to fear.”

The apparently futile and horrifying death of Jesus Christ on the cross is the awesome demonstration of the amazing love of God that sets us free from sin and the fear of death. The good news of the cross of Christ is foolishness when we are not hungering and thirsting for a loving relationship with God as our Heavenly Father, with Jesus as our Divine Lover, or with the Holy Spirit as our Comforter and Guide.

How can it be, Charles Wesley wrote in his hymn, that God should die for us who caused his pain? The Jews were offended by the gospel of the cross of Christ as they were seeking signs of God’s power from heaven while the Greeks saw the gospel as nonsense as they were seeking human wisdom. But the wisdom of the cross is that it reveals God’s dramatic cure for our mortal addiction to sin. We may be physically alive but spiritually dead. We are separated from a holy God by our sinful nature.

The cross of Christ sets us free from the judgment of God against sin and evil so that we can live a life of grace and not a life under the law. But our human nature wants to control and manipulate others through fear and greed. Hence, we will face opposition to the message of the cross which sets us free to live for God and not for our egos. The apostle Paul was persecuted when he was sharing the gospel of Christ crucified in Corinth but he was encouraged to persevere and to speak out:

“One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision and told him, “Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent!  For I am with you, and no one will attack and harm you, for many people in this city belong to me.” Acts of the Apostles 18:9-10 NLT

We need to speak out even when we feel that we are a voice in the wilderness. But to be chosen by God is to embark on a journey out of our comfort zone which may result in losing our heads like John the Baptist. Believing in the Risen Lord, according to Henri Nouwen, means believing that, in and through Christ, the evil one has been overcome and death is no longer the final word. Like Abraham, we are chosen to live a life of faith in the love of God.  Abraham had to face struggles, strife and conflicts when he answered God’s call. Jordan Peterson makes the following perceptive observation:

“The biblical account insists that Abraham stayed safely ensconced within his father’s tent until he was seventy-five years old (a late start even by today’s standards). Then called by God – inspired by the voice within, let us say, to leave family and country – he journeys forward into life. And what does he encounter, after heeding the divine call to adventure? First, famine. Then tyranny in Egypt; the potential loss of his beautiful wife to more powerful men; exile from his adopted country; conflicts over territory with his kinsmen; war, and the kidnapping of his nephew; extended childlessness (despite God’s promise to make him the progenitor of a great nation); and finally, terrible conflict between his spouses.”

The way of the cross is daunting when life is centered only on ourselves and we see life only from our limited human perspective. Our negative attitudes and perspectives towards the calling of God needs to be changed. David Livingstone posed the challenging question:

“There is one safe and happy place, and that is in the will of God. If a commission by an earthly king is considered an honor, how can a commission by a Heavenly King be considered a sacrifice?”

We lose the joy of God’s presence when fears and doubts keeps us from pursuing God’s wisdom. Lazarus had to die so that Martha can experience the truth that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. Jesus died and rose from the dead so that we can be reborn again and have everything we need to live the eternal life here and now:

“A thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. But I came so that my sheep will have life and so that they will have everything they need.” John 10:10 GW

The surrender or sacrifice in following Christ is not giving up what we love but our response of love to our Divine Lover. It is living out the truth that God’s grace is all we need and that God’s power works best in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:8). The wisdom of the cross is to open our eyes to see that heaven is found in the Presence of God and hell is the absence of the Presence of God. The cross of Christ beckons us to turn back to God and to rest in Christ so that the Holy Spirit can fill us with the love of God. This is folly to the worldly person but heavenly wisdom to those whom God has called. In the cross of Christ, we have the power for the hour. So let us live in the wisdom of the cross:

Oh, to see my name
Written in the wounds,
For through Your suffering I am free.
Death is crushed to death,
Life is mine to live,
Won through Your selfless love.

This, the power of the cross:
Son of God, slain for us.
What a love! What a cost!
We stand forgiven at the cross.

SDG

The Fire of Love

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.  Psalms 23:4 NKJV

Journeying with a loved one who is critically ill in the hospital intensive care unit brought me face to face with the hard truth that all of us will have to walk through the valley of the shadow of death – some of us are currently walking in the valley, some have walked out of the valley and some will be walking into the valley at some time or other. The dark times of our lives reveal what is in our hearts. In these times our faith is tested by the fire of love:

“These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” 1 Peter 1:7 NLT

In such times, the fire of love may feel like a refining fire as we struggle to understand the judgment of God and the love of God. When our hearts are filled with greed, pride and lust, we are enslaved  by sin, self-righteousness and Satan. These sins keep us from the kingdom of heaven. God’s judgment is against the sin of greed; the self-righteousness of pride; and Satan who tempts us through the lusts of the flesh. God’s judgment is the refining fire of love to lead us from an idolatrous faith in wealth, health and success to a repentant faith in Christ crucified so that we can live as God’s beloved children:

“His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him – though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.” Acts of the Apostles 17:27-‬28 NLT

Walking through such a dark valley, I am confronted to search my heart – “Is Jesus truly Lord of my life?”, “Am I walking each day with the Spirit?.” “Am I trying to master life or to be mastered by the Spirit for the glory of God?” The storms of life reveal how I have been building my life on the Rock of Christ:

“Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value.” 1 Corinthians 3:12-‬13 NLT

God’s refining fire is a reminder that we are saved by grace and not by our works. Our acts of kindness flow spontaneously from our walk with the Spirit – we are not driven to be do-gooders.  In the parable of the sheep and the goats we see that the sheep are not aware of the good they had done and the goats are not aware of the good they had not done:

“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink?  Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing?  When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ Matthew 25:37-‬40 NLT

All the work that I do for God through my own self efforts are of no value if the underlying motive is pride. It is only what the Holy Spirit does through me that is of any value. It is not what we do or have done but whether we know Christ and that Christ knows us. It is whether our lives are Christ-centred or self-centred:

“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.  On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’  But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’ Matthew 7:21-23 NLT

The fire of love is a consuming fire that burns away the false self of our egos so that “it is no longer I who lives, but Christ.” When Christ is in us, we will know and fully understand the divinity of Christ.  Only then can we be the channels of His teachings and miracles:

“But I have a greater witness than John—my teachings and my miracles. The Father gave me these works to accomplish, and they prove that he sent me.” John 5:36 NLT

“But if I do his work, believe in the evidence of the miraculous works I have done, even if you don’t believe me. Then you will know and understand that the Father is in me, and I am in the Father.” John 10:38 NLT

The fire of love is a purifying fire that burns away self righteousness which keeps us from receiving Jesus as our Lord and Saviour:

“You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!  Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life.” John 5:39-‬40 NLT

“Anyone who belongs to God listens gladly to the words of God. But you don’t listen because you don’t belong to God.” John 8:47 NLT

When Jesus is our Shepherd of Love, we can walk in the valley of the shadow of death with no fear even when we go through the fire of love. It is a refining fire to lead us from a superstitious faith to true faith in the crucified Christ – to live out the truth that “it is no longer I who lives but Christ who lives in me.” Love will then be the hallmark our faith.

It is a consuming fire to burn away our guilt so that we will be filled with the unspeakable joy of salvation. It is a purifying fire to transform our minds and fill them with the peace that is beyond all human understanding.  And the fire of love becomes our light to lead us out of our valley of deepest darkness.

When our heart’s one desire is to be holy and to be set apart for our Master, we will experience the fire of love as God’s refining fire to purify our hearts:

“Refiner’s fire
My heart’s one desire
Is to be holy
Set apart for You, Lord
I choose to be holy
Set apart for You, my Master
Ready to do Your will”

SDG

Performance Or Worship

“My beloved spoke, and said to me: “Rise up, my love, my fair one, And come away.” Song of Solomon 2:10 NKJV

As I watched my grand-daughter practice her piano lessons for a recital, I saw the importance of our attitude towards the practice of spiritual habits. At times, when my grand-daughter was asked to practice her piano, she would be a little grouchy as it felt like a task she had to do. It is necessary to practice in order to play well, but the focus on performance can take away the joy of playing the piano. It is only when we have a love for music that the habit of playing a musical instrument regularly will not be stressful but joyful with the music flowing out of us.

Likewise, God wants us to spend time with Him because we are His beloved and not His minions who are slavishly trying to please Him. It is not our acts of devotion but the attitude of our heart that brings joy to God. Following Christ is not a performance but a response to God’s invitation of love to get up and spend time with Him:

“My beloved spoke, and said to me: “Rise up, my love, my fair one, And come away.” Song of Solomon 2:10 NKJV

God gave His Son to save us, not just from hell when we die, but from sin and for us to have a relationship with Jesus as our Divine Lover. When we read and meditate on the bible as God’s love letter to us, it will not be boring nor a chore.  We will delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night (Psalms 1:2, NLT).  God’s laws become our treasure:

“Your laws are my treasure; they are my heart’s delight. I am determined to keep your decrees to the very end.” Psalms 119:111-‬112 NLT

Meditating on the bible is the expression of our wholehearted desire to seek God’s will. Before we can do so, our hearts need to opened by the Holy Spirit like Lydia:

“A woman named Lydia was present. She was a convert to Judaism from the city of Thyatira and sold purple dye for a living. She was listening because the Lord made her willing to pay attention to what Paul said.” Acts 16:14 GW

By grace, we will hunger and thirst for God’s Word. When we feed on God’s Word,  we will be led by the Spirit – like Paul and Silas – who were asked go to Macedonia for their first missionary journey:

“Next Paul and Silas traveled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia, because the Holy Spirit had prevented them from preaching the word in the province of Asia at that time. Then coming to the borders of Mysia, they headed north for the province of Bithynia, but again the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go there.” Acts of the Apostles 16:6-‬7 NLT

The attitude of our heart is of utmost importance for it is the filter that determines our reactions or responses to situations in life. The trials and tribulations of life reveals what is truly in our hearts. When Paul and Silas were thrown into prison after they were beaten in Philippi, they turned it into an opportunity to worship God instead of feeling sorry for themselves:

“After they had hit Paul and Silas many times, they threw them in jail and ordered the jailer to keep them under tight security. So the jailer followed these orders and put Paul and Silas into solitary confinement with their feet in leg irons. Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God. The other prisoners were listening to them.” Acts 16:23-‬25 GW

I imagined Paul and Silas praying and singing the Psalms and sharing the gospel with the other prisoners. Their worship led to the miracle of the prison doors being opened and the loosening of the chains on the prisoners as well as the salvation of the prison jailer and his family:

“Suddenly, a violent earthquake shook the foundations of the jail. All the doors immediately flew open, and all the prisoners’ chains came loose. The jailer woke up and saw the prison doors open. Thinking the prisoners had escaped, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself. But Paul shouted as loudly as he could, “Don’t hurt yourself! We’re all here!” The jailer asked for torches and rushed into the jail. He was trembling as he knelt in front of Paul and Silas. Then he took Paul and Silas outside and asked, “Sirs, what do I have to do to be saved?” They answered, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you and your family will be saved.” They spoke the Lord’s word to the jailer and everyone in his home.” Acts 16:26-‬32 GW

These stories in the bible are to open our hearts and minds to the reality of God’s amazing grace. The bible is a record of God’s love for us and to remind us that evil seeks to draw us away from the love of God.  The bible reveals how God is drawing us back to Him through Jesus Christ and how we can remain in His redeeming love through the Holy Spirit.

There is a God shaped vacuum in our hearts that only Christ can fill but we have packed it with the idols of health, wealth and success.  The practice, not the performance, of the spiritual habits of silence and meditating on the bible are to draw us to the cross of Christ – to receive Christ as our righteousness. Then the fire of God’s love will purify our hearts from the sins of pride, greed and lust. Instead of living our old life of performing for God under the law, we become new creations filled with a new life of worship by grace. With hearts filled with the love of God, our hands and feet becomes Christ’s for Christ has no hands and feet but ours.  And God’s love with overflow from our lives as our lips are filled with praise:

I love you, Lord
And I lift my voice
To worship You
Oh, my soul, rejoice!

Take joy my King
In what You hear
Let it be a sweet, sweet sound
In Your ear

SDG

Rest In God

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.  If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!” John 14:6-‬7 NLT

During the current COVID-19 pandemic, we are all encouraged to stay at home so that we can slow down the spread of the virus. The lock-downs and social distancing measures are proving to be more stressful than the viral infection. In addition, the “viruses” of misinformation and disinformation in the social media compounds the confusion and division in the community. These are but the birth pangs of a new era in human history. Jesus is the Way to lead us out of the pandemic. He is the Truth to help us discern false teachings and lies. He is the Life to set us free from the fear of death.

We need to shift our focus from the fear of COVID-19 to the peace of God. Fear, not the COVID-19 virus, is the real problem. In the storm of the pandemic, we need the peace of God to guard our minds and the God of peace to guide our hearts. Peace is not the absence of storms but is found in the eye of the storm which Jesus demonstrated when the disciples found him sleeping in the storm:

“Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” Mark 4:38 NLT

The COVID-19 pandemic is a wake up call to turn back to God in speechless wonder – to see and understand the mystery of how God is redeeming our fallen world through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and transforming us into new creations in Christ.  The good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that we can live in the reality of God as our Heavenly Father. We may have a sense of awe of God as the Creator when we are touched by the wonder of a beautiful sunset or sunrise or a magnificent rainbow. 

However, it is only when we are in Christ and Christ is in us that we can know and love God as our Heavenly Father. When the Holy Spirit pours God’s love into our hearts, we have the blessed assurance that God is our Heavenly Father. Then we will use our lives to know and love Him more and more. The pandemic is a time for us to shine as lights in our dark world by living out our faith in Jesus Christ:

“And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:6-‬7 NLT

In the pandemic, we have learned the importance of cultivating habits like hand washing and the wearing of masks. Likewise we need to practice the habit of resting in God to grow in our relationship with our Heavenly Father. This is the blessing hidden in the COVID-19 virus! The practice of spiritual habits is not to get God to protect or deliver us from the COVID-19 virus but to deepen our roots in the love of God through a personal relationship with the risen Christ. We can rest in God daily through the habit of BOW as we:

Bring all our cares to Christ. We humbly cast our cares on Christ for He cares for us. As we do so, we will remember that God is God and we are not:

“Remember that God is strong and powerful. So be humble in front of him. Then he will lift you up to a good place at the right time. If you have any kind of trouble in your mind, give it to God. God has promised to take care of you.” 1 Peter 5:6-‬7 EASY

Offer our thoughts to Christ without shame or judgment in silent meditation for we have died to sin. We may be buffeted by sins or tempted by self-righteousness.  However, the righteousness of Christ keeps us from burning with shame as the fire of love purifies our thoughts and the mind of Christ is formed in us:

“Of course we are human, but we don’t fight like humans. The weapons we use in our fight are not made by humans. Rather, they are powerful weapons from God. With them we destroy people’s defenses, that is, their arguments and all their intellectual arrogance that oppose the knowledge of God. We take every thought captive so that it is obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:3-‬5 GW

Walk in the light of Christ each day by surrendering our will to God as a living sacrifice. The COVID-19 pandemic is to open our eyes to the idolatry of our hearts when we see life only from the human perspective. We seek to be in control instead of seeing life from God’s perspective and resting in the truth that God is in control:

“Nations decide what they want to do, but the Lord stops them. Whatever those people decide, he causes it to become useless. But whatever the Lord decides to do will always happen. His thoughts will not change from one century to the next.” Psalms 33:10-‬11 EASY

The pandemic provides us with the wonderful opportunity to rest in God – a time for our heart to be circumcised so that we can truly love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul in order that we may truly live (Deuteronomy 30:60). It is a time to stand amazed before the cross of Christ:

“Thank You for the cross
The mighty cross
That God Himself should die
For such as us
And everyday we’re changed
Into Your image
More and more
Yes by the cross
We’ve truly been transformed”

 SDG

The Garden Of Our Thoughts

“Guard your heart more than anything else, because the source of your life flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23

There are many lessons that we need to learn from the COVID-19 virus. Perhaps the most important is how rapidly we can transmit infections to one another and throughout the world. The fear of infections have caused lock-downs of countries all over the world.  But more insidious and dangerous is the infection and corruption of our souls through the feeding of our minds with shows like the Squid Game.  

The Squid Game has become the biggest series in Netflix history for its “shocking violence” and stories of the evil inherent in the human heart. It strikes a chord in many as it reveals the potential for evil in everyone of us. The most disturbing theme is  about a “society being ruled by a sick occult elite that takes pleasure in dividing, controlling, dehumanizing, infantilizing, and outright abusing the masses.” The random executions of those who are trapped by poverty in the context of a childhood game hardens our heart and turns it into a path or stony ground where the seed of God’s love cannot take root. The garden of our thoughts reflects the spiritual condition of our spiritual heart. For the well being of our society, we need to guard our hearts as the loss of spiritual values was the downfall of past civilizations. Evil actions flow from stony hearts:

“Don’t you understand yet?” Jesus asked. “Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer.  But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you.  For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander.  These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you.” Matthew 15:16-‬20 NLT

The best way to guard our hearts is to watch our thoughts. When the garden of our hearts are filled with the weeds of sinful desires, ulterior motives and hidden agendas, these will choke up the fruits of love, joy and peace. Negative patterns of thinking lead us to complain, to criticize, to compare, to compete and to covet. It is not possible for compassion to thrive in such a society.

One way to watch our thoughts is to be still and to practice silence. This is a simple exercise but one that is contrary to our sinful human nature. The story of Adam and Eve begins with the wonder and beauty of walking in the garden of paradise with God. But Adam and Eve hid from God when their eyes were opened to the harsh reality of sin and evil. The broken relationship between human beings and God is the root cause of all the suffering in the world. We are spiritually dead and are unable to walk with God.

Jesus came to show us the way back to God. In the Garden of Gethsemane, he told Peter to keep watch and pray so that he will not give in to temptation. But he knew that our spirit is willing and the body is weak (Matthew 26:40-41, NLT). Jesus demonstrated how difficult and painful it is to pray, “Not my will, but Your will be done.” He had the power to call upon angels to rescue him but he chose the way of the cross:

“Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” Philippians 2:6-‬8 NLT

To follow Christ to the cross we can learn to cultivate silence. Silence is the doorway to the mind of Christ. It is not a ritual to empty our minds or to solicit spiritual experiences. Silence is to break the train of thoughts that drives us to egoistic actions and negative feelings. We need the practice of silence to become aware of our thinking mind that keeps us from listening to the messages from God that are communicated through silence. It is in silence that we express our commitment to wait on God. And as we wait on God, we create a healing space to watch our thoughts with compassion and without judgment. We become aware of the weeds in our hearts without guilt or fear, trusting that our Lord will remove them in His time. We will have weeds even when our heart is good soil:

“Here is another story Jesus told: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field.  But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away.  When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew. “The farmer’s workers went to him and said, ‘Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?’ “‘An enemy has done this!’ the farmer exclaimed. “‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked. “‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do.  Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.’” Matthew 13:24-‬30 NLT

When we are in Christ, we do not have to worry about the weeds in the garden of our hearts. Our responsibility is to abide in Christ as a branch of the vine. The dead branches in our spiritual lives will be cut away and the leafy branches will be pruned:

“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.” John 15:1-‬2 NLT

To abide in Christ is to wait on the Lord and to watch our thoughts with Him. We are to pray with all kinds of prayer and be watchful (Ephesians 6:18, NIRV). Michelle Knight, a writer of an Upper Room devotional, shared her experience of the deep language of prayer –  “God speaks in silence, emotion, thought, longing, praise, lament, joy, gratitude.”

Silence is to pray with an alert mind and thankful heart (Colossians 4:2). It is walking with the Lord in humility. It is through and in silence that we enter the cloud of unknowing where God dwells. The practice of silence is simply the expression of our spiritual hunger and thirst for our Divine Lover. We have the wonderful promise, blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (Matthew 5:8). Silence is our response to our Shepherd of Love looking for us. And when our Heavenly Father calls, how can we not respond? 

“I come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses,
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.
And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.”

SDG

Awful Hearts & Awesome Grace

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” 2 Tim 3:16

As Singapore moved to live with the COVID 19 virus, Singaporeans were inundated by a plethora of rules and protocols that caused much confusion and stress.  The pandemic has enslaved us by the rules for social distancing and isolation. We were divided into  the vaccinated and the unvaccinated.  We were inundated by conspiracy theories and bombarded by lies that blind us to the truths that will set us free. The pandemic was, in fact, a window of opportunity to come to terms with the reality of death and to find creative ways to care for one another through the power of love.

Spiritually, this reminded me that we need to die to our pride which leads us to live awful lives trying to please God by the letter of the law. John Tauler, a Dominican monk in the 14th century, had achieved honor and reputation as a preacher. One day, he was confronted by an unknown lay person who told him that he was allowing himself to be “killed by the letter” and was in darkness and had not tasted the sweetness of the Holy Spirit. This convicted Tauler to stop preaching for a while and to examine his life in quiet contemplation. As he did so, he discovered the simple truth of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ – that the way to God was through a new birth by the awesome grace of God.

When we have a simple faith in Jesus Christ, the bible is both as a mirror of our awful hearts as well as a window into God’s awesome grace. The Old Testament is the depressing history of the repeated cycles of rebellion, repentance, rescue and revival in God’s Promised Land by the Jews who failed to live out their calling to be the people of God. The Old Testament is littered with stories of the failures and weaknesses of the heroes of faith. It is but a mirror of our sinful nature that keep us from obeying God’s laws and drives us to seek our own ways. Unfortunately, these stories of their disobedience and rebellion and their tragic consequences project a harsh image of God as a vindictive judge from the human perspective. Our distorted image of God keeps us from seeing the windows of hope in the Old Testament of God’s faithfulness and perfect love seeking to rescue and redeem unfaithful and imperfect men over and over again.

On the other hand, the New Testament is the inspiring record of how Jesus has come to usher in the Kingdom of heaven and how the followers of Jesus were living in the Kingdom of heaven here on earth. It is a window to see how the early disciples of Christ lived out the truth that they have been crucified with Christ and are living by the power of the Spirit. In Acts 13:38-41 Paul gave a succinct history of how God had been working to save humankind from sin through the Jews and proclaimed the good news of the gospel:

“Brothers, listen! We are here to proclaim that through this man Jesus there is forgiveness for your sins. Everyone who believes in him is made right in God’s sight—something the law of Moses could never do. Be careful! Don’t let the prophets’ words apply to you. For they said, ‘Look, you mockers, be amazed and die! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it.’ ” Acts of the Apostles 13:38-‬41 NLT

The bible is not a book of laws to be mastered or a recipe book of promises to claim. It is God’s love letter for us to explore and to discover the gold nuggets of His forgiving love, His eternal provisions and His omnipotent power over evil. The bible is the sacred record of God’s perfect love for imperfect men – a testimony of God’s faithfulness in unfaithful men. Through the bible we see the love of a prodigal father, the love of a betrayed lover and the love of a shepherd looking for his lost sheep.

The bible reveals the cure for our awful hearts – to be born again as a new creation in Christ Jesus. But first, we need to die to sin by seeing ourselves on the cross with Jesus. Life then becomes a journey of walking through the valley of the shadow of death with our Shepherd of Love to confront the greed, pride and lust lurking deep within our hearts with the peace of God that is beyond all human understanding:

“Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.” Romans 5:1-‬2 NLT

When we are drawn to God by His love and grace, the spiritual disciplines of prayer, meditation and bible reading are not burdensome chores for they are our avenues of communication with our Divine Lover. We will hunger and thirst for God’s messages of love instead filling our minds with the junk food of social media.  Prayer, according to Henri Nouwen, is radical because it uncovers the deepest roots of our identity in God:

“In prayer we seek God’s voice and allow God’s word to penetrate our fear and resistance so that we can begin to hear what God wants us to know. And what God wants us to know is that before we think or do or accomplish anything, before we have much money or little money, the deepest truth of our human identity is this: “You are my beloved son. You are my beloved daughter. With you I am well pleased.”

We are called to be witnesses of the abundant life of a beloved child of God. It is not a life that we have achieved but a gift that we have received so that “the light of Christ may seen today in our acts of love and deeds of faith.” Our lives are to be the testimony that Jesus Christ has risen and very much alive in us as we proclaim:

It’s no longer I that liveth,
But Christ that liveth in me.
It’s no longer I that liveth,
But Christ that liveth in me.
He lives, He lives,
Jesus is alive in me!
It’s no longer I that liveth,
But Christ that liveth in me.

SDG

My White Funeral

“For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:6

Being in quarantine after three members of my family were tested positive for COVID 19 was a time in a spiritual cocoon. It brought to mind the “white funeral” described by Oswald Chambers in his January 15th devotional that I read in 2007 when I was on holiday in Ho Chi Minh city:

“There must be a “white funeral,” a death with only one resurrection – a resurrection into the life of Jesus Christ. Nothing can defeat a life like this. It has oneness with God for only one purpose – to be a witness for Him.”

We were visiting the Cha Tam church in Cholon and found a group of eight ladies chanting choruses in Vietnamese. Their angelic voices brought a sense of peace to me and right in front of the church there was a white figure of Christ hanging on a white cross. It was a sign of my need for a “white funeral.” Without a “white funeral”, I cannot be raised from the dead and be seated in the heavenly realm with Christ.

It is not just thinking about coming to our last days but to truly experience them. It is to stop being the intensely striving kind of Christian.  To follow Christ is not putting on a performance of trying to be a good Christian to earn a place in heaven. To be a follower of Christ is to journey to the cross and dying to our false self.  It is being “baptized into His death (Romans 6:3)” –  to be crucified with Christ so that it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me (Galatians 2:20). It is living out the truth that for me to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21).

But we are tempted and misled into trying to work out our salvation by “performing” for God through church activities,  rituals and good works. Our pride keeps us from abiding in Christ and living out the beautiful promise that we have been raised from the dead with Christ and is seated in the heavenly realm with Christ. Our spiritual heart are full of worms which needed to be replaced by the wonderful and beautiful love messages from God. Only then can church activities, rituals and good works be the fruit of humility, faithfulness, patience and compassion of God’s seed of love in our hearts.  

We cannot bear the fruit of transformation when our hearts are the roads for our pride or when they are hardened into stony soil by resentment or turned into a garden of weeds by the worries and the pleasures of life. We cannot live a life of grace by trying harder – it is only by coming to the end of ourselves and surrendering our will to God. Dr David Kyle Foster rightly pointed out that true and lasting transformation of life cannot take place without the supernatural restoration of union with God through genuine repentance:

“We have become masters at cosmetic salvation, where only the appearance is changed, but not the heart. And so we fool ourselves. Televised crusades have taught us how to act repentant, but they have not necessarily conveyed the heart of repentance. Like so many actors who have portrayed Jesus on the screen, they have provided the lines to read, but have not always changed the character of the one who delivers them.”

The truth is that we are all “sin addicts” who need to confess our addiction to the need for control that keeps us from desiring God. Only then can we live out the wisdom of the first 3 steps of the Twelve Step program of the Alcoholics Anonymous adapted by Katie Brazelton and be delivered from our sin addiction by the Holy Spirit:

Step 1: I admit that I’m powerless over my dependencies and that my life has become unmanageable.

Step 2: I believe that God can restore me to sanity and help me follow his plan.

Step 3: I turn my will and life to God’s care.

We need the grace of God to go through a “white funeral” – to die to our own ways so that God can have His way with us. Unfortunately, many of us will only do so when we undergo great suffering to be awakened spiritually. Thomas Keating reminds us that God doesn’t send sufferings – they arise spontaneously out of a world that functions on free choice with the people living apart from God and His will.  When we take our lives for granted, God allows the storms of life to take away our comfort so that we will hunger and thirst for His loving presence.  The pain of remaining where we are must be greater than the pain to undertake the journey back home to God.

The white funeral is to remind us that we have died and our life is hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3). Another way of spiritual awakening is to examine our hearts daily and to bring our imperfections and flaws to the cross of Christ in prayer. It is the spiritual journey of living in two worlds at the  same time with the joy of being in God’s presence.  It is to experience the power of Christ’s resurrection in our pain and suffering.  My “white funeral” helped me to understand the path of contemplative prayer as my act of worship as I offer myself as a living sacrifice:

“I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not conform to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2, ESV

It is impossible to live as a pilgrim of heaven in this world of sin without the grace of God. We will encounter trials as well as blessings every day. We have to choose what we want to pay attention to – our problems or the promises of God.  We can complain to God about our problems or we can use our problems to decorate the walls of our heart with the wonderful and beautiful promises of God’s everlasting love by meditating on God’s Word through silence.

Contemplative prayer leads us to the truth of what it means to be seated with Christ Jesus in the heavenly realm. It is not to enjoy heavenly bliss but to feel the heart breaks of our Father in heaven over the mess humankind has made in the world as well as the wrath of God. It is to drive us to the horror of sin and evil as well as to the awesome and merciful love of God. Henri Nouwen challenges us to plunge right into the heart of God’s endless mercy by being baptized in powerlessness and  moving towards the poor who do not have such power. Then we are free to reenter our world with the divine power of Jesus and to walk in the valley of darkness and tears with unceasing communion with God by standing confidently under the cross of Christ. It is a call to be fearless saints by being a voice in the wilderness:

“It is this power that enables us to talk straight and without hesitation about sharing money with those who have financial resources, to call men and women to radical service, to challenge people to make long-term commitments in the world of human services, and to keep announcing the good news everywhere at all times.”

When we abide in Christ we will see life from heaven’s perspective. With Christ as our fresh bubbling spring of eternal live (John 4:14),  streams of living water bringing love, joy, and peace will flow from us to a broken, fearful, and confused world. The prayer of Jesus is that the love of God will dwell in us as Christ dwell in us (John 17: 26). So may the word of Christ dwell in us richly so that we may teach and admonish one another in all wisdom as we sing spiritual songs with thankfulness in our hearts to God (Colossians 3:16):

“No fate I dread, I know I am forgiven,

The future sure, the price it has been paid.

For Jesus bled and suffered for my pardon

And He was raised to overthrow the grave.

To this I hold, my sin  has been defeated

Jesus now and ever is my plea

Oh the chains are released, I can sing; I am free!

Yet, not I, but through Christ in me.

SDG