Music Mondays- Breathe/What A Friend by Hillsong

The worship song Breathe has been on my mind but perhaps for a reason one would not normally think. I have asthma and part of that is getting bronchitis. When I get bronchitis, it is difficult to breathe and I lose sleep because I cough all night.

When the medicine starts doing its work and the bronchitis begins to clear up, it is such a freeing experience to feel- just simply breathing. When I can sleep through a night for the first time, it is moment of private rejoicing. Just to give an example from last week, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights I slept for one to two hours.

I go through this once or twice a year. When my lungs begin to clear up, this song is very much on my mind.

I think about how Jesus gave us life when he created us, He did so by breathing into us. In Genesis 2 we read:

“Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”

Jesus is our source of life, healing, forgiveness, restoration, and much much more. I am keenly aware of that when the bronchitis begins to fade away.

Living with chronic illness such as Firbomylagia and also living with depression./anxiety as a result of chronic illness, I can choose to focus on the pain, the fatigue, and other symptoms, or I can look to Jesus. I can express things to him I express to no other person. He invites us to cast all of our cares on him because he cares for us. I literally have days that Jesus keeps me going.

Jesus is the friend who is closer than a brother. He is our friend who out of love, died for us and our sins.

Whatever you are going through at this time in your life, please stop, take a moment, and listen to this song. Let it encourage you. Let it help you come into the presence of Jesus and cast all of your cares on him.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Advertisements

Music Mondays- Clean by Natalie Grant

Yesterday morning during worship service, our pastor talked about John 15:5-

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

He used the analogy of a newborn baby. The newborn baby cannot do anything for itself and yet when the parents hold the baby for the first time there is so much love for the newborn.

I loved what was posted on the screen during his message:

“The paradox of the Gospel is that we are more wicked and useless than we could possibly know, while simultaneously more loved than we could ever imagine.”

The verb in Christianity is DONE not do. Done as in it is done for us by Jesus because of his love for us. We cannot earn or work for God’s love, forgiveness, and eternal life with God in heaven. It is not possible. But Jesus did it for us which is why he said while he was dying on the cross- “It is finished” as in accomplished.

So when God looks at us, he sees his child. He sees someone he loves. He sees someone who is clean and whole because of Jesus.

Yes we might feel broken in this life. We have memories of past failures, hurts, downfalls, and painful memories. But God says we are clean and whole before him because of Jesus. God loves us the way we are when we come to Jesus. But he loves us too much to let us stay the way we are, so he begins the process of helping us grow.

I love the song Clean by Natalie Grant because it expresses these truths so well. So I wanted to share it today.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Why Love Compels Me

“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died”

That passage in 2 Corinthians 5 expresses much to me about why it is important to me to share Christ’s love with refugees and anyone who has suffered in life.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

But there is a backstory to it all that I rarely share.

I occasionally listen to a song from the 1990s Runaway Train by Soul Asylum. It was originally not only a hit single but also used to raise awareness about the plight of runaway youth in the U.S.

The song still resonates with me. I was one of those youth for about a year. I was the son of an alcoholic father and a mother who had mental illness. I never knew a moment of feeling safe when I was a child. My response to it all was to explode in anger one day as a teen which led to me leaving the house. I stayed with a friend’s family and crashed on couches of other friends. At times I slept on a park bench,

Photo by Alex Smith on Pexels.com

Never knowing peace as a child and teen, as a young man I only cared about making money until one day I ran into the presence of Jesus. His presence was so powerful and full of love that I gave my life to him in July 1989.

Experiencing illness to the point of losing memory and losing everything in my life led me to not knowing what would happen next. God led me step by step.

Having been rescued from darkness by Jesus, my hope is to participate with Jesus to rescue others from darkness.

Photo by Stijn Dijkstra on Pexels.com

When Jesus led me to reach out to refugees, I understood how they feel. I knew how it felt to not feel safe and to wonder what would happen next. That is the experience of refugees. They flee because they are not safe and they wonder what will happen next.

When I experienced the love of Jesus, it compelled me to share his love with others. As 1st John 4 says:

“We love because he first loved us”

Knowing what it is like to be forgiven of so much, to be received despite my cold heart, causes me to desire for others to experience the depths of God’s love.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Music Mondays- Your Love Is Mine by I Am They

“I walked alone, trying to find my way
On winding roads and paths that I had made
Wandering so far from grace I’d given up on things that I believe
My hopes and dreams were buried in the sea
But you were there, calling out to me

We all we walk alone at times. There can be times we feel we are trying to find our way and the path winds all over the place. I love the lyrics in the song Your Love Is Mine by I Am They.

When we feel uncertain, when we feel fearful about life, what is the remedy? Many might jump quickly to answer faith.

But- the bible in 1 John 1 says”

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love”.

When we feel lost in life, hopeless, fearful, or down, the answer is to experience the love of God. His love drives out fear.

Think of a child when they are scared, tired, hurt, or upset. Who do they seek out? They seek out mom or dad. Provided of course they are good parents.

When we come to faith in Jesus, God adopts us as his children. He doesn’t do so for us to live in fear, feeling hopeless, or lost in life. Romans 8 says:

“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”

God does not want us to be a slave to fear. He wants us to live in relationship with him. We become heirs along with Jesus. The fact that Paul first wrote generic ‘those’ who are led by the Spirit are children of God shows men and women are both included. However, in the same passage he refers to the same people receiving adoption to sonship. He isn’t saying women become sons. He is referring to INHERITANCE in Christ. In those days it was the oldest son who inherited most of the inheritance from the father. Anyone who comes to Jesus becomes a heir. That is his point.

The love of God, forgiveness, eternity in heaven, and all of the blessings are for all who follow Jesus.

So basically God is saying give me your garbage and baggage and I will give you blessings because I love you.

Thank you for reading, God Bless.

June | Honor The Father Tag

Thank you Dawn for nominating me for this. I am a bit late in following through, and since today is the last day of June, I wanted to make sure I do. My little sister in Jesus Dawn has a wonderful blog to check out- Drawing Closer to Christ. at drawingclosertochrist.com

Father’s Day was a few weeks ago, but I felt perhaps sharing about my experience will benefit others.

Here are the links to the original authors of this unique tag: Dollfaced Writer and Purple Rose

From Dollface…

The Meaning of this Tag:

A father is someone who loves his child unconditionally, provides for them, protects them always, teaches them values, disciplines them fairly, and wants the best for them. For that, we should always, ALWAYS have respect for our fathers. They are created to bear the responsibility of caring for and protecting their families just as God calls them to do. Father’s Day is about reminding your father how much you appreciate him, but I hope this tag will perhaps remind you this month how blessed you are to have a father at all.

As I said before, this is a very hard day for me every year. My father and I have a very complex relationship. In fact, it is the polar opposite of my relationship with my mother. Growing up I felt abandoned, rejected, unloved, forgotten, and neglected because of his behavior that stemmed from alcoholism and what I believe could have been other mental health issues (don’t quote me, I’m not a doctor XD).

I will always love my father. He is a part of me, half of me to be exact. However, mustering the strength to honor or respect him at all has taken a long time to do. We talk sometimes over text, but not a lot. Some days he responds and I feel like we’re getting somewhere, then he vanishes like he always did. It has helped living a thousand miles away from him since finishing high school, but I have come to accept the pain I feel from my childhood will never go away. Recently, in the last week actually, he said something that has proven he’ll never change. I was trying to gain closure, but he continues to blame me for things that I may talk about in another post. Anyways, he may move on in his life, which is painful for me to watch, but that doesn’t change the past he continues to deny and blame me for.

If you have a similar situation, whether you have been abused, manipulated, abandoned, or rejected by your father (even someone else in your family), can I give you some advice that has helped me cope with such a toxic relationship?

You have a choice. You can walk away. You can block a number. You can say no. You can cut them off from your life. That doesn’t mean you don’t honor them, that just means you have enough respect for yourself to protect your heart and enough respect for them to love them at a safe distance. You can pray for someone every day and never talk to them again. Isn’t that better than subjecting yourself to more pain and building up further resentment that could become the poison of unforgiveness? I think so, because no one deserves to be abused in any way. You deserve love. If you don’t/didn’t receive that love from your father, always know you have a Father in Heaven who loves you more than your father ever could.

I hope you do have an awesome father though. If you do, give him a bear hug and be grateful to have the best protector you could have on this earth. If you don’t, pray for him, friend.

Here are the rules:

1. Thank the person who nominated you to participate.

2. Use the original featured image.

3. Copy and paste the introduction and meaning of this tag at the beginning of your post, along with the links to both creators’ original posts. *This rule is very important. Please, please link this post and Purple Rose’s post so that as authors we may be alerted when a tag is published. It also gives us proper credit, which is much appreciated. Thank you 

4. Answer the questions.

5. Nominate one or more people to participate.

6. Enjoy the rest of your month! 

Here are the questions for this month’s tag:

1. What is your relationship like with your biological father, if anything at all?

My father passed away in April 2009. Our relationship was strained due to his alcoholism and other issues. He was diagnosed with clinical depression later in life which leads me to think he was self medicating with alcohol. The last year of his life was when I spent the most time with him . Jesus gave me the blessing of being able to share Jesus with my father and seeing my father accept Christ as his Savior 14 months before my father died. I shared about my experience of my father coming to Jesus in a post- Forgiveness From Me Led to My Father Receiving Forgiveness From God.

2. What is one thing you would change about your father if you could? What is one thing you wouldn’t change?

I don’t think I would change anything even if I could go back in time and do so. The reason is not because of my father, but rather because my journey in life would be altered.

As Romans 8:28 says- ” And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

The all things for me includes my experience growing up with an alcoholic father. The all things led me to who I am and my ministry today. It was a very difficult path to be on, but God is blessing others.

3. Who do you celebrate on Father’s Day (your father, step-father, grandfather, uncle, etc.)?

At my age all of the male relatives fitting in those categories are dead. However, each Father’s Day I am blessed that young people I have helped buy me lunch to say Happy Father’s Day. 🙂

4. What was the most valuable thing he taught you?

The most valuable things I learned were because of him but not from him. I learned about forgiveness, and about not giving up on praying for loved ones because of him.

However, I will never forget something he said one time in a therapy situation. I joined him for family care at an Alcohol Rehab place. The counselor looked at my dad and said, “Gary, you have a lot of power in the room.” My dad replied- “Madam, I only have as much power as you allow me to have.” That has stuck with me that other people only have as much power as I let them have over how I handle myself and my attitude.

5. What is one thing he does that you would never do?

He withdrew and isolated himself for a long time due to his mental health issues and alcoholism. I am cognizant of that, so I do not withdraw into isolation as I deal with depression brought on by chronic health problems.

6. How do you honor him on Father’s Day?

Since he is in heaven with Jesus now, there is nothing I can do to honor him.

7. How has your relationship with him impacted the person/parent you are today?

I think of 2 Corinthians 1:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God “

God has helped me overcome the issues related to growing up with an alcoholic father who was at times abusive. I understand what it is like to deal with family problems,

It has given me greater empathy for others, which helps me reach out to refugees and immigrants.

My nominees are:

Ann of The Vine

Sonrisa of Living By Faith

KathGrace of The God I Know

Paulina of Blissful Hearts

Michael and Joy of Married Strong

Following Jesus

A few Sundays ago a special friend from Brazil bought me lunch for my birthday. She calls me papa bear and I call her filha-daughter. To give you an example of our friendship, she drove me home from the hospital after a minor surgery in November 2017. We took a picture together which she posted on Facebook with the title- Rescuing Papa Bear from the hospital.

During lunch she talked with me about dating apps as in she tried to encourage me to use one. I told here if I did my dating profile would have to be:

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Overweight older man, broke home missionary, have gotten uglier as I got older, living with chronic illness so might have to cancel dates at last minute etc.

We laughed and she told me I wouldn’t get any dates with that profile. On such apps some people might emphasize the positive or even outright lie to attract others.

In this day and age of ‘Christian leaders’ writing books with titles like Your Best Life Now, which are a mix of some Christianity and self empowerment thinking, honesty about what Christ offers seems to be lacking.

Imagine a profile on an app to attract more Christians reading something like:

Eternal life guaranteed. Forgiveness 100%. Relationship with God.

BUT

You might suffer. You might lose everything. You might lose your job. You might lose friends. Your life on earth might get worse but cheer up I am with you.

I am inspired by Paul’s life. He had it made in the eyes of religious leaders and community leaders. He was at the top. But one encounter with Jesus and he became the church planting apostle who was thrown in jail, shipwrecked. beaten, and much more suffering.

It causes me to think about what Jesus said if anyone wants to follow him in Luke 9:

“Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me”

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Paul did and he expressed his feelings about it in Philippians 3″

” But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ”

That was written by Paul to a church in Philippi that started by Paul being beaten and thrown in jail after delivering a slave girl of being possessed. Read the story in Acts 16.

Just as our focus should be on our relationship with the giver, Jesus, and not the gifts he gives in our own lives, so should our emphasis be on Jesus and his love as we share him with others and the offer he holds out in his hands of forgiveness and eternal life not on false promises. Yes Jesus does still perform miracles and do wonderful things for us, but what if God’s allows us to suffer for his purposes?

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Who or What Put Jesus on the Cross?

A question I like to ask when I teach about Jesus is, who or what put Jesus on the cross?

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The Thursday before Jesus was crucified sheds some light on the answer. Before Jesus was put though a rigged trial as part of the conspiracy of the religious leaders, soldiers came to arrest him.Jesus knew what was going to happen, but he went out to the soldiers anyway and asked who they were looking for. We can see the drama unfold in John 18.

“Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?”

“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.

“I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.”

When Jesus told them he was the one they were looking for, he manifested his power by knocking them to the ground. He then permitted them to arrest him.

So the conspiracy of the religious leaders did not put Jesus on the cross nor did Pilate and the Roman soldiers. Jesus has all power. He could have stopped the whole thing with a few words just as he did when he calmed a storm by simply saying, “Peace be still.”

Jesus died for our sins but he had no obligation to do so. God has no obligation to do anything for us. The fallen angels rebelled against God too and there is no provision for them to be forgiven.

So who or what put Jesus on the cross?

Jesus gave the answer before it all happened. In John 15 Jesus was talking with his followers and told them they were his friends. He said:

” Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”.

It was Jesus’s love for us that put him on the cross. It was his love for us that caused him to endure the torture before he was nailed to the cross. It was his love for us that caused him to let the Roman soldiers nail him to the cross. It was his love for us that kept him on the cross to the point of dying for us. It was also his love for us that motivated him to take on death and defeat it for us.

So as we go through this Good Friday and Easter weekend, let’s remember that it was the love Jesus has for us that made and let it all happen. He loves us that much. 🙂

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

A Goodbye Dinner for Jesus?

There have been many times that I have said goodbye to people over a meal or coffee.

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

Some have been humorous like the time I bought my group of young Vietnamese friends ice cream to say goodbye to a 14 year old member of our group. She got mint ice cream with gummy bears mixed in.

Some have been poignant like saying goodbye to close friends who were international students before they moved back to their home country.

Goodbyes can be wonderful experiences mixed with happiness and sadness. Happy to celebrate friendship and sad to say goodbye.

When it is time to say goodbye, we want to express what is on our hearts. It is time to say important things, so we don’t leave anything unsaid.

Before Jesus was arrested and crucified, he spent time with his closest followers to say goodbye. They shared the Seder meal to commemorate the Jewish Passover.

The Seder is a meal for Jewish people to remember God delivering them from the oppression of slavery in Egypt. During the Seder meal, the cup of wine represents the blood of the lambs that was smeared on the door post and windows, so the angel of death would pass over that house sparing the first born sons.

When Jesus lifted up the cup of wine of the Seder meal, he said:

“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them”

By doing so, he let his closest followers know that his blood shed on the cross would be the basis for a new covenant.

He also told them to, ” do this in remembrance of me.”

He wants us to remember his sacrifice for us. He wants us to remember his suffering for us.

The interesting thing to me is something else he said. It expressed his feelings in Luke 22:

“I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”

Jesus was eager to share this last Passover with his closest followers. It was a part of the saying goodbye for now process.

Jesus spent time with his closest followers before he was executed on the cross. He had his “Last Supper’ with those closest to him just like we would if we could.

Next time we partake of communion, let’s remember Jesus instituted it as a way to say, “Goodbye for now, I will come back for you..I died for you. I love you.”

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Because Jesus Knew…….

One of the experiences that will be forever etched in my mind and soul was spending time with my friend from South Korea from the time he was diagnosed with stomach cancer in February 2006 to the day he died in June 2006;

I will never forget the day he was diagnosed. I received a call asking me to come to the hospital. I went up to his room. His friends from Korea left the room, so my friend and I could talk. The first thing he shared with me was his concern for his wife, two children, and his third baby that he and his wife were expecting.

Up to the day before he died, he expressed his concern to me about the well being of his wife and three children. I was with him when he died. His wife, two of his little girls, myself, and several of his friends were there singing to Jesus and praying. Shortly before he died and while he was comatose, I leaned down and whispered in his ear that I would help his wife and children. He smiled. It was his last earthly smile.

Before people die. they think about their loved ones. Plans are made. Good parents do as much as they can to help their children prepare for the inevitable death of the parent.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Jesus knew he was going to die. He knew that he would be crucified to pay the penalty for our sins, things we do wrong, so we could be brought back into relationship with God. Jesus knew what was going to happen. He shared with his followers to help them prepare. One such conversation Jesus let them know that he would come back for them in John 14:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Jesus knew where he came from and where he was going to. Jesus knew how wonderful heaven is because he came from heaven. He shared with his followers that if he goes, he will come back, so they could be with him where he is.

Jesus is preparing a place for all who believe in him. That is the reason he came and died for us, so we could be with him in heaven.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Forgiveness from Me Led to My Father Receiving Forgiveness from God

One year ago,  I went to see the movie I Can Only Imagine and wrote this. It is a post I felt I should share again today.

.This is not a movie review. It is me sharing about how forgiveness led to my father, who was an alcoholic, coming to know Jesus in the final year of his life partly because I told him I had forgiven him a long time ago. I guess that is the point of a movie, to make one think about life. I am still kind of in the midst of memories flooding my mind as I write, but as with other things in my life, my hope is that by sharing even one person can be touched and helped.

download

My intention is not to recount my father’s sins and shortcomings. I think when I say alcoholic it says enough and you can fill in the blanks. He did get sober and live sober the last almost thirty years of his life, but he never was able to talk with me directly for the making amends step. I would see him but there was no real conversation or connection even after he got sober.

road-sun-rays-path.jpg

The path I chose for my life was to follow my Savior Jesus and try to live for him. It was a choice my father never seemed to approve of but the only approval I was seeking was that of my Lord Jesus. I tried to share my faith with my father at different times but he never wanted to hear it.

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

In February 2008 I received a phone call telling me my father was in the hospital and that it was dire. I got there and found out his heart was weak and that he needed a quintuple bypass if they could get some other issues under control. I was alone with him in the room and felt it was time to talk. The first thing I told him was that he knew what I was about to share with him, but there was something he needed to know first. I told him I had forgiven him a long time ago. When he heard me say that, tears came trickling out of his eyes. Because he knew and felt I had forgiven him, he was open to the rest of what I wanted to share. After sharing with him about Jesus, I asked him if he wanted Jesus to forgive him and that if he did to give a thumbs up because he couldn’t speak very well. He raised both hands high in the air to give two thumbs up.

The following 14 months, he was in and out of the hospital. He was living in a nursing home. I visited him three or four times a week in the nursing home and spent a lot of time with him in the hospitals. Each time I would visit, I would have my bible in my hand and he would point to my bible wanting me to read to him. Then he would put his hand up for me to hold his hand while I prayed with him. I was basically his pastor the last 14 months of his life.

There were small blessings along the way during those 14 months such as when nurses, nursing assistants, or housekeeping workers from other countries would come into his room, I would ask them where they were from and the greet them in their language. In those hospital rooms, my father caught a glimpse into my life.

So maybe this posting is only cathartic on my part. My hope is it helps at least one person to have hope for their loved ones that seem lost to them and to realize that with Jesus, miracles can happen and not give up praying.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.