It is Finished

“It is Finished” (Video) – A Message I Shared on Good Friday

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Last month I had the chance to share on one of the sayings of Jesus on the cross for a Good Friday service at Agincourt Pentecostal Church. I was assigned the phrase, “It is Finished.” I was grateful for the opportunity to share on this important saying of Jesus. Six other ministers also did a fantastic  job sharing on the other sayings of Jesus on the cross.  Sharing at Agincourt Pentecostal Church really was an honour, as it is one of the churches I often attended growing up. Click the link below to hear that message I shared:

If you would like to see all of the seven ministers sharing on the seven sayings of Jesus on the cross, click this link: Seven Sayings of Jesus on the Cross by Seven Different Ministers at Agincourt Pentecostal Church

It is Finished

Colossians 4:2

Two Ways to Freshen Up Your Prayer Life: Changing the Context

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How often do you sit, kneel, lie in bed, or stand for prayer and find yourself struggling? Struggling to find something to say to God beyond the same worn out phrases? Struggling to think of something fresh for once? I’ve been there.

If you’re a Christian, you know that we need to pray. Like M.C. Hammer once rapped, “We got to pray, just to make it today.” I know, I’m dating myself quoting M. C. Hammer, but some things are hard to forget. Of course the Apostle Paul stated, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful” (Colossians 4:2; NIV). Colossians 4:2Jesus reminded His disciples of the need to pray and not give up on coming before God with our needs in prayer (Luke 18:1-8). But what happens when prayer seems to become so routine that you feel like you’re just saying the words and forgetting what is behind those words?

May I encourage you to change things up here and there? If you would like to consider two ways to freshen up your prayer life by changing the context, keep reading.

1) Walk and pray. Why not go outside, in the midst of God’s incredible creation, and bear your heart out to God? Don’t worry about looking crazy. Have you seen the number of people on Bluetooth headsets talking to someone and looking real crazy? I have. If people can get away with talking to someone on a phone you can’t see, surely you can walk and pray. Of course, you don’t have to talk out loud to God, especially if people are around—and especially if you’re confessing sin. Praying while walking can remind you of how great God is, for as Romans 1 reminds us, creation reveals God’s “eternal power” and “divine nature.”

2) Write out your prayers. Every day many of us are writing emails, Facebook posts, and text messages. Why not write out your prayer to God? Writing out your prayer to God will help you get out of those ruts of saying the same thing over and over again. When you write out your prayers, it forces you to carefully articulate yourself before God. A journal may be a good place to write out your prayers before God. Think about this: the Psalms, for instance, are written out prayers before God! All we are doing when we write out our prayers before God is joining a tradition found in Scripture.

I know there are many other ways of praying, but the two above are worth a shot to change things up. If you would like to add some more ways you find helpful for keeping your prayer-life fresh, feel free to add them in the comment section below. Would love to hear from you.

 

Josh Samuel at EPBC (now Master's College and Seminary)

Joining Master’s College and Seminary

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I can’t believe it’s been over a year since I last posted here, but there is good reason. By God’s grace, I joined Master’s College and Seminary (Peterborough, Canada) full-time as a professor of Bible and Theology in June of 2014. This past year I have been quite busy adjusting to my new role teaching new courses. Coming back to Master’s College in this role is a privilege for me, as Master’s played a very important role in my formation as a disciple of Christ. I began studying theology formally at Master’s several years ago. When I attended this school, it was called Eastern Pentecostal Bible College. I completed a Bachelor of Theology here with a pastoral major in 2000. Let me take a moment here to explain my involvement at Master’s, beginning as a student.

Josh Samuel at EPBC (now Master's College and Seminary)

Josh Samuel as a student at EPBC (now Master’s College)

Looking back at my time several years ago as a student at Master’s, there are a number of things I remember. One of the key things that kept me at the school, was the excellent faculty and staff. I can’t help but think of people who served there when I attended – people like Merv Anthony, Rosemary Assels, Gordon and Marlene Bjorgan, David Boyd, Scott Bullerwell, Ewen Butler, Betty Funk, Graham Gibson, Randall Holm, Doug and Sue James, Bob Johnson, David Kennedy, Steve Kennedy, Terry Kennedy, Paul and Lynn Kohls, Lyman Kulathungam, Ronald Kydd, Nil Lavalee, Verdell Longstaff, Ralph Lubbers, Joan Mann, Gaetanne Marshall, Lewis and Lydia Massireli, Garry Milley, Ron Powell, Badoora Rambaran, Shayne Scott, Carol Siret, John Stephenson, Carl Verge, and many others! (My apologies to anyone I may have failed to mention). I know that’s a long list of names, but people are important, and I think having good people is one of the key elements that helped make my time at the school great. Master’s was also one of the key places I learned more about Scripture, theology, and the practice of ministry. I also forged some great relationships with fellow students from the school over the years.

After a number of years, while I was pastoring, I was asked to teach a course for the school’s intercultural stream in 2006 when the school was in Toronto. This was my first experience teaching at Master’s, and I was grateful for the opportunity. In 2011, I taught another course as an adjunct faculty member, and by this time the school had returned to its Peterborough site. I still remember the first day I taught at the main campus in Peterborough in 2011—I could sense that there was a great sense of community among the students, staff, and faculty. And when I taught again at the beginning of 2014 as an adjunct faculty, I noticed how well the school was running administratively. I don’t say all these things because I’m now a faculty member at the school—I just couldn’t help but notice these positive developments.

Don’t get me wrong though, adjusting to full time teaching has been a huge learning curve for me this past year. I have had very little sleep over this past year due to preparing courses, marking, etc. in my new role. But most people who have taught all say that the first year is the most difficult. I’m thankful for God’s grace over this past year. God has blessed me with a supportive family who have prayed, blessed, encouraged, and made adjustments to make things work—I’m grateful for each person [especially my wife, eldest son (our second one just recently arrived, who I am also grateful for), parents, parents-in-law, sisters, siblings-in-law, nephews/nieces, and many more].

There are excellent people at the school now too. The leadership of the school has been incredibly encouraging and supportive—they are genuine and intentional in their care for others. In all my interactions with the faculty, I have been blessed by their very collegial approach—they want you to succeed, whether you are a student or teacher. I’m grateful for this. And all the staff in general have been very professional and accommodating, which I find an important feature for a school’s administration. Finally, I’ve been quite impressed with the range of students who attend the school—for underlying their various strengths, I see a heart to serve God and others.

There are so many people at the school to thank for being so hospitable—staff, faculty, students, the board of governors, and so many more associated with the school. It would be difficult to name every person, but let me at least acknowledge the college council at the school. Thank you Robin Adair, Merv and Flora Anthony, Rosemary Assels, Owen Black, Donna Butler, Ben Cochrane, Chris Chase, Esther Dillabough, Nathan Flight, Graham and Linda Gibson, Donna Haug, Sue James, Rich Janes, Luciano Lombardi, Katelyn Mueller, Peter Neumann, Kathie Quinn, Ruth Sadlier, Julie Sejrup, Nancy Warwick, Laura Wilson, and Eldon Wright (once again, my apologies to anyone I failed to mention).

I’m grateful to be a part of a school that serves the Church by caring deeply about students and ultimately training leaders for various types of vocations. If you’re interested in studying theology and preparing for Christian leadership at the undergraduate level, check out Master’s College. I would highly recommend the school, and would be happy to help you get more acquainted with the school if you would like to attend. And definitely check out www.mcs.edu if you’re interested!

 

My PhD Experience at McMaster Divinity College – With a Message from Me Via Video

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It’s been a very long time since I’ve posted anything on this website—but it’s been for good reason. Over the past couple of years, I needed to focus on writing my dissertation—over 300 pages worth of writing! I needed to take a bit of a break from writing here. By God’s amazing grace, however, I completed my dissertation and graduated with my PhD in Christian Theology from McMaster Divinity College last month! Thus, I hope to get back at writing on an ongoing basis more on this site. I thought that sharing some thoughts on my PhD experience here would be a good way to transition back to writing here.

Josh Samuel's PhD Graduation at MDC

Josh Samuel’s PhD Graduation at MDC

I’m grateful the excellent PhD program, faculty, and staff at McMaster Divinity College. The structure of the PhD program is great, because it facilitates academic rigour, excellent ongoing mentorship, service, and the professional development of scholars. Don’t get me wrong, completing a PhD has been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. You can, however, find a place to complete a PhD where you will be challenged academically and be in the context of a supportive community that wants to be faithful to God and His Word—I found McMaster Divinity College to be that place. I would highly recommend this school if you are considering a PhD in Theology. The school is in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and their website is www.mcmasterdivinity.ca.

I learned a lot over these past few years, and hope to articulate some of those lessons on this space at some point in time. But for now, I’d like to share a video that includes some of my thoughts on my experience in the PhD program at McMaster Divinity College. On graduation day, McMaster Divinity College not only conducts a Convocation when students receive their degrees, but the school also conducts a Service of Celebration earlier in the day. During the Service of Celebration, I was one of the students asked to share about my experience in the PhD program at the school. The video is less than five minutes long, so if you’re interested in watching it, here it is (special thanks to my wife Joyce for recording it, and my niece Krystal for editing the video):

Tebow praying

Tebowing for all the Tebows Out There

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I’m fascinated by what’s going on in the NFL because of Tim Tebow’s influence on the sport this year. If you don’t know already, Tebow is a quarterback for the Denver Broncos, who happens to be an outspoken Christian.

His prayer stance at games have become a sensation, so much so, that people imitate his prayer stance in all types of places—around the world! It’s referred to as “Tebowing”—how amazing to think that someone’s last name is associated with prayer! Tebow regularly thanks “Jesus Christ” for all He’s done for him. And interestingly enough, he has led his team to some spectacular wins this season—he’s seen some success.

Of course, I don’t know Tim Tebow personally. I don’t know that much about who he is as a person, or as a Christian—other than from what he says and how he conducts himself in the context of football games. I do, however, appreciate his boldness.

I couldn’t help watching Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos play Tom Brady and the New England Patriots a few weeks ago—and they are set to play each other again in this year’s playoffs! The first time they met, Tebow and his team lost, but that game had the highest ratings for all NFL games this regular season. I have been considering a few things surrounding Tebow’s rise.

1) I told my wife—I kind of feel bad for him. Not because he’s outspoken about his faith in Christ. More so, is that I know that whenever people are outspoken like that, they will generate a lot of criticism—and constant scrutiny. People will try to look for holes in his armour. And the thing that the Bible tells me clearly, is that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). If you want to find fault—whether it is with Tebow or any other Christian—after a thorough search, you can find it. No one is perfect—whether you are Christian or not. A Christian doesn’t claim to live the perfect life. Being Christian is partly an admission that you’re a sinner in need of a Saviour—Jesus Christ—who forgives, and who you can know personally.

Some people not only want to criticise outspoken people, and scrutinize their every action—but they will try to bring them down precisely because they have taken such a bold stand for their faith in Christ. Sometimes it’s because of jealousy, or because they have a different view on life, or various other reasons.

We see it in the Bible—the prophet Daniel was not only successful in all that he did, but was utterly committed to his faith in God. And what happened? People around Daniel wanted to bring him down—he was ultimately put in a lion’s den (see Daniel 6). John the Baptist was quite outspoken, and he was ultimately beheaded (see Mark 6). Of course, Jesus was quite outspoken, and what did the religious leaders want to do? Bring him down—we know what happened to Jesus.

2) I also remember thinking to myself while watching Tebow play against the Patriots a few weeks ago—will prayers help Tebow win? Because if he wins, maybe more glory goes to God, especially since Tebow’s so outspoken about Christ? But as I thought that, I remembered that winning in life does not always lead to God’s best. It can sometimes—but not always.

Often, it is “losing those games in life” that ultimately produces the quality of person God is hoping for us. Sometimes “losing” is “winning.” The Apostle Paul wrote that we should “glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4). In the case of those stories in the Bible I mentioned above, we know that from eternity’s perspective, though they went through trials, things ultimately turn for good.

So why my title for this blog? “Tebowing for all the Tebows out there?”—praying for people like Tebow? It’s just to remind us, that those who live outspoken for their faith—whether it is Tim Tebow, a Christian leader, or your friend—need your prayers. They are human, and thus imperfect—and they are often the ones people are looking to criticise, scrutinize, and ultimately bring down. So prayer for such people is not merely about “winning every game.” More so than that, is about asking God to strengthen them to be all God wants them to be in the midst of their “wins” and “losses.”

Thanks for reading, always a pleasure to hear from you!

Josh Samuel

P. S. If you switched from the old email subscription to the new one, thanks! If you receive email updates regularly from my blogs, but haven’t made the subscription change yet, check my last post: Email Subscription Change.

Email Subscription Change – Especially for those receiving updates via email

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Hi everyone, I’m just making a slight change here regarding subscription to this blog through email. My apologies for this inconvenience. But if you have been receiving these blog posts via email over the past year, it would be greatly appreciated if you could follow these two simple steps in order for you to continue to receive updates appropriately. And no pressure if you’re not interested in receiving updates via email.

1) Register for this new subscription. If you would like to continue to receive updates via email—or if you would like to begin to receive updates via email—please click this link and enter your information: Subscribe to LovingGodandPeople.com. Or just enter your email to subscribe on the website–it’s near the top right of the home page. Don’t forget to activate the subscription when you receive your first email in your inbox regarding this—it will arrive shortly.

2) Unsubscribe from the old subscription. If you are reading this post via email, please unsubscribe from this current means of receiving updates. Just go to the bottom left corner of this email, and click the link where it states, “To stop receiving these emails, you may unsubscribe now.” This is to ensure you don’t receive duplicate updates from this site in the future—I would hate to bother you by you getting too many emails via this blog. You will get updates when you register with the new subscription I directed you to in point 1 above.

If you have any questions regarding this, just click this link to contact me: “Contact Josh.”

Finally, thanks to all of you who have encouraged me to write here! I hope to be sending out my latest blog post shortly! I know it has been a while since I have posted something. Blessings, and always a pleasure to hear from you!

Sincerely,

Josh Samuel.

Snowy Neighbourhood

When Someone Spat On Me

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I was walking on that sidewalk route as I had many times over the years while in elementary school in Toronto. It was a very cold winter day, and I had a pretty large winter jacket on. I think I might have been in grade 2 or 3, but I can’t say for sure. As I was walking, I noticed a group of people ahead of me – a few years older for sure since they were bigger. They saw me, and I could see that one person was adamant that they had something to do – so they broke from their group, jogged back to where I was, and without hesitation, spat on me – and then went back to their group.

There was no doubt in mind that day that I was spit on because I looked different than them – all the people in that group were a different ethnic background than I. Of course I’m brown, being a Canadian of East-Indian background. (This was during a time in Toronto, when, if you were brown, you were definitely a minority). Now while there were a number of great people who were of that group’s ethnic background in that neighbourhood during that time, these few had different ideas about people who looked different. Anyways, I thought there was not much I could do since they were bigger; so I went home, and told my parents, who were quite upset about what had happened. They of course cleaned my winter jacket.

This incident reminds me of the reality many of us face, whether we are young or old, that because we may look different, act different, or even have different ideas, people treat us with disrespect, and sometimes treat us just terribly. And if we’re honest, it doesn’t just happen on school playgrounds, but in college classrooms, corporate boardrooms, and in our family rooms. Some may “spit” on us with their looks, their words, and their actions. It may be your classmate, “friend,” teacher, boss, or even family member. How we react to these experiences is critical. I think in many ways my story about being spit on relates to issues on different levels, whether it is being bullied or just being marginalized by others. Here are some of my thoughts and reflections:

1) Never isolate yourself when getting mistreated. First off, talk to God about it because He cares for you and wants to help you. Second, someone trustworthy needs to be told, whether it’s a parent, spouse, friend, or authority. Some objective support and possible action with others may be quite important.

2) Never let the foolish words and actions of people dictate who you think you are. It’s easy to let the loudest voice be the one that’s heeded. Don’t let it happen to you. I know I’ve done it many times in my life. Seriously, are you going to let someone who’s either prideful about how great they are or someone who’s so insecure that they have to put down others, dictate your identity? They are quite unreliable.

This also relates to forgiveness. This may be the opposite of what we think we should do, but often when we withhold forgiveness, we become discouraged, depressed, and even bitter – notice I said “we.” Often the perpetrator is off doing their own thing and not caring about you. But when we forgive, we release that issue to God. It’s not that we forget – it may come back to our thoughts at times and make us angry – but it’s about forgiving as Christ forgives us. And then we are released from being “controlled” by bitterness and other negative feelings that those evil acts against us may cause in our hearts.

3) May I suggest you hear God’s voice even in the midst of the other loud voices.

Did you know God loves you? The Bible says, that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). No matter how far you think you’ve gone away from God, He loves you, He died for your sins, and wants to be in relationship with you. He’s waiting for you to come to Him and love Him in return.

Did you know you are wonderfully made? The author of Psalm 139:13-15 writes a revealing reality about us, in his adoration to God; here it is: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.” God had you in mind even before you came out of your mother’s womb and “knit” you together so that you are “fearfully and wonderfully made”! God don’t make junk! You are a work of art, and the master artist is God Himself! And this God who made you has a great purpose for your life, which is found in relationship with Him.

I pray that the voice of God, which speaks the truth of who you are, be of much greater impact than the “spits” inflicted on us by others. Hear God’s voice through prayer and time in God’s Word, the Bible. All the best to you, and always a pleasure to hear from you!

Josh Samuel

DSC_0549

An Intriguing Question to Ask Yourself When Considering Who to Marry

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There are many great questions to ask yourself related to your decision of who to marry. And there are many great issues to consider. However, it would be impossible for me to cover every good question and every important issue in this short post here. What I’d like to do is pose one intriguing question for you to ponder, particularly if you or someone you know is considering who to marry. I admit that I did not come up with this question myself. I read it somewhere, and though I don’t remember the author, it’s a question I never forgot. It’s a question to ask yourself, particularly if you have someone in mind.

So here’s the question: If you got married to this person, would you be okay if your potential children turned out exactly like this other person, and nothing like you? Think about it. Imagine your potential children being exactly like this person you are considering, and nothing like you. Are you okay with that? Does that thought frighten you? Perplex you? Make you worried? Why? Do you have serious concerns, or are they possibly trivial? Or does it put a smile on your face – knowing that it would be great if you had children like this person (even if they ended up nothing like you)?

I think this question is revealing because it gets to the heart of your real and honest evaluation of the person you are considering. I think it helps get past superficial issues, and on to the issue of your respect for the other person. If you respect this person you are considering, I think you would be happy if your children became like them. But if you don’t respect this person you are considering, I think you may be worried about your children being like them.

So often we can view people we are potentially interested in with “rose-colored glasses,” but questions like these help us make decisions with a more objective, and I think, wise approach. Don’t get me wrong, if you are hoping and waiting for the perfect person, you will not get married – there are no perfect people out there; we all just need to look in the mirror and realise that we are not perfect. However, I think that in any relationship, we need to at least respect the person we are involved with.

This month my wife and I will be celebrating our one year anniversary! Time flies. And no, we’re not perfect, but I can genuinely say that I’d be very happy if, God-willing, we have children and they were just like my wife!

All the best to you, and always a pleasure to hear from you!

Josh Samuel

Bruno Mars Singing

Bruno Mars’s Song, “Grenade,” and Love

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I have been hearing Bruno Mars’s song, “Grenade,” quite often in various public contexts these days; it’s almost difficult to avoid. It has been one of the top songs on the charts, and I think for good reason. Bruno Mars is definitely a talented musician. I would like to focus on some of the things he’s saying in the song and its implications for love. You can listen to one version of the song by clicking play on the above link.

Here’s a sample of some of the lyrics from his song:

Bruno Mars Singing


Gave you all I had and you tossed it in the trash
You tossed it in the trash, you did
To give me all your love is all I ever asked
‘Cause what you don’t understand is

I’d catch a grenade for ya
Throw my hand on a blade for ya
I’d jump in front of a train for ya
You know I’d do anything for ya

I would go through all this pain
Take a bullet straight through my brain
Yes, I would die for you, baby
But you won’t do the same

Bruno is singing about the extent of someone’s love for a girl – so much so that he would “catch a grenade for ya.” That’s quite powerful. He’ll do whatever he can for her. However, the challenge is that this love is not reciprocated. The girl not only refuses to love back, it seems she’s left him for someone else. Quite sad!

This song and theme finds parallels with the theme of love in the Bible. In John 15:12-14, Jesus states, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command” (NIV). Expanding on the theme of this biblical passage and Bruno Mars’s song, we can find a number of important things to consider when talking about love.

1) The Love of Jesus Christ. The reality is that the One who has truly shown such unconditional, sacrificial love, is Jesus Christ who in love died for our sins. Though He was holy – sinless – He was willing to die for the sins of humanity because of His love for us. While we deserve death and punishment because of our sins, Jesus took this penalty upon Himself for us.

Christ’s love is unconditional. The Bible explains that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8; NIV). Even in the midst of our sin, even though our human nature is to go against God’s purposes for our lives, Christ loves us and died for our sins. Like the character in Bruno’s song, so many of us do not reciprocate the love God expresses to us in Jesus Christ. We like to do our own thing. We’ve all been there. But today, may I suggest that you consider reciprocating Christ’s love for you – call out to Him in prayer and tell Him you want to follow Him. He’s worth it. If you have any questions about something like this, feel free to message me in the “Contact Josh” page.

Christ’s love is sacrificial. When Christ expressed his love for us on the cross where he died for our sin, He was willing to undergo pain and ultimately death. Like the character in Bruno’s song, willing to undergo painful experiences in light of his love, Christ’s love is one that is not dependent on good “feelings.” So often we think that love is dependent on such feelings – however, Christ did not feel good. Christ underwent painful moments out of love for us.

Christ’s love is in line with God’s purposes. When Christ expressed his love for us on the cross, it wasn’t merely based on what other people wanted. Christ did the will of God (Matthew 26:42) rather than merely please others. This fact is especially important in the following points.

2) Our Love for Others. Jesus states in the above passage (John 15:12-14) that our love must be in line with the type of love He showed us (especially highlighted for husbands’ expression of love for their wives in Ephesians 5:25!).

First, our love for others must be unconditional – not merely based on what others do for us or what you think they deserve. In fact, Jesus said we must even love our enemies (Luke 6:27).

Second, our love for others must also be sacrificial; willing to put others’ needs ahead of our own at times. So many of us can often limit our expressions (or understanding) of love to pleasant FEELINGS of love, when the reality is, that expressions of love may not always FEEL good – it may involve an element of pain. It may sometimes be difficult and unpleasant. While some people are easy to love, it’s not always easy with everyone.

And finally, our love for others should also be in line with God’s purposes for our lives. When we talk about unconditional, sacrificial love, there are some who can get the wrong ideas. Let me explain. 1) I would definitely not commend self-destructive behaviour primarily to win someone’s affections; people should love you for who you are. 2) This type of behaviour should not merely be for selfish gain (e.g., merely to look good in front of everyone); love should be genuine. 3) I don’t think this type of love is about being a doormat to someone else’s manipulations or selfish desires; even Jesus Christ had a purpose for His love, in line with the will of God, that was unwilling to bend to what other people felt He should do; He was no people-pleaser.

I recognize that expressing this type of love that the Bible commends is not easy. However, the Bible says in 1 John 4:19, “We love because he [Jesus] first loved us” (NIV). When we first experience God’s love when we follow Him, He provides us with a supernatural power through the Holy Spirit to live in a way that is loving. The Bible says that one of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives is love (Galatians 5:22). I’m thankful that unconditional, sacrificial, purposeful love is not something I am expected to develop in my own strength – God provides such resources for us through the power of His Spirit!

Always a pleasure to hear from you! Feel free to comment with your own thoughts and observations on this topic.

Josh Samuel

6 Lessons I Learned Through My Dad's Story

6 Lessons I Learned Through My Dad’s Story

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For today’s post, I thought I would follow up on my previous entry for this site. If you haven’t read it, check it out first, “A Stroke of Grace (My Dad’s Story),” and then come back here. In short, my dad was deeply hurt by ministers who falsely accused him, which ultimately caused him to forsake Christianity, and bitterness developed in his heart. This caused much grief in the home – where my mom was following Jesus Christ. After 44 years, my dad finally made a change and made a decision to follow Christ. It was an amazing change. For this entry, I thought I would include 6 insights flowing from our family’s experience with my dad’s situation. I refrained from saying “my top 6,” because I could not reduce this experience to a mere “top six lessons learned,” as if that was all there was to it. So here goes:

1) Being Real about Who You Are. Though my dad was not going to church regularly and was quite opposed to Christianity, he was at least true to who he was. I know this may sound strange – that I’m highlighting him not being a believer at one point. What I mean by this, is that so many people go to church, own a Bible, sing songs at church, and call themselves a Christian, but then go and do their own thing and live by their own rules at work, home, and in the world, giving Christianity a bad name. What they say they are, does not translate into who they really are – their character, their priorities in life, how they treat others – their lifestyle – seem to have nothing to do with the label, “Christian.” I could at least respect my dad because what he said he was, was who he was. Of course, I would have preferred him to be a dedicated Christian, but I could at least respect him for him being real and true to who he was. It helped me to think about the issues of being genuine in life.

2) Never Let the Foolish Actions and Sins of Others Keep You from God’s Best. Growing up, I was always made aware of the fact that my dad was incredibly affected by those who hurt him with their foolish and sinful actions. Don’t get me wrong, I do recognize that some of the pain we experience in life will affects us – however, how we respond to those challenges is critical. I have always been aware that family, friends, strangers – and even Christian ministers – may let me down profoundly. Nevertheless, I have sought to be someone who does not let others keep me from the greatest blessing – Jesus Christ – and all that flows out of that most importation relationship in life.

3) The Importance of Character in the Midst of Storms. In the midst of some of the challenges my family faced at times, I was always deeply affected by my mother’s relationship with Jesus Christ and her dedication to Him. No matter what we were going through, she would always be in prayer, love us, try to encourage and support the family, and stay positive! Anyone who knows my mom knows her laugh. Honestly, I think it’s God that enabled her to stay positive and remain joyful. As the Bible says, “the joy of the Lord is my strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). It is her relationship with God that strengthened her.

4) Respecting Parents Even if you Don’t Agree with Them. Though on one hand my mother was passionately serving Jesus Christ, on the other hand my dad was opposed to serving Jesus Christ. How does one honour one’s parents, as the Bible makes clear in Exodus 20:12, when they come from two different viewpoints? This stark reality came clear when I felt called to ministry. For me, I’ve felt it was always important to get both of my parents’ blessings for things like my vocation. Anyways, when I felt called to ministry, and was looking to attend a Bible College, I first mentioned this to my mom who was very supportive. But I also wanted to get my dad’s blessing – and after a number of days of praying – I did speak to him and he too said he would support my decision – though he reminded me that ministry was not an easy route to choose. I was delighted by his response in light of the situation. However, I recognize that something like this may not be possible with all parents, as I know that some may even want you to disobey God’s Word in the Bible. And some parents may even be abusive. In some cases, it may be necessary to consult someone with spiritual maturity (e.g., a pastor) when considering important decisions in life. Nevertheless, with prayer (maybe even asking God to change the hearts of your parents), I think it is critical to try your best to respect our parents and honour them.

5) The Reality and Power of Salvation that Comes through Jesus Christ. After my dad made his change, deciding to follow Jesus Christ, I was amazed – literally amazed – by the change in his character, personality, and general demeanour. While I have had to learn to pray quietly while growing up because of the situation going on, now I could hear my dad praying out loud! And not only that, he was praying for me and the ministry! While I have seen many people throughout the years make commitments to Jesus Christ in churches, this was one time that I witnessed the change first hand. Of course, though, people following Christ – including my dad, myself, and others – are still a work in progress so we’re definitely not perfect, but we’re seeking to be more like Christ.

6) Timing In Life Can Be a Mystery. I’ve learned this in other areas of my life, but for my mom to wait 44 years for my dad’s change to occur is difficult for many of us to comprehend. She prayed many years for him. And when us kids came along, we prayed too. And there were times we thought “for sure” something would happen after a time of emotional and passionate prayer, however, nothing happened from what we saw. Until 2007 that is. Maybe you’ve been waiting for something to happen in your life. Don’t give up. Keep seeking, keep knocking, keep praying (see Matthew 7:7-8). Isaiah 55:8 reminds us that God’s ways are not our ways, so we need to keep praying even if things are not working out the way we think they should.

These lessons learned are not always easy to recognize or follow at times, but I think they are important.

That’s it for now. Always a pleasure to hear from you. And if you would like for me to pray about a situation in your life, feel free to contact me.

Josh P. S. Samuel

[This was written with the support of my family, including my dad].

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