[Today, let me (Josh Samuel) introduce you to my wife’s cousin, Alex Philip. He’s a thoughtful, considerate, strong Christian leader–someone I respect. Take a moment to read Alex’s testimony below of his cancer diagnosis.]
On June 23, 2013 – I was diagnosed with brain cancer. Everything else that was true about me was pushed to the margins and I began to restructure my identity around this medical diagnosis. Hoping to redress this, I began to take an inventory of all that I possessed that was of more significance and more value than brain cancer. In this inventory, I turned to Ephesians 1. Here are some of the things that I have today besides a brain cancer diagnosis:
1. I have been blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. (vs.3)
2. I have been chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. (vs. 4)
3. I have been chosen to be holy and blameless before Christ. (vs. 4)
4. I have been predestined for adoption as a son through Jesus Christ. (vs. 5)
5. I have been predestined for adoption as a son through Jesus Christ according to the purpose of his will. (vs. 5)
6. I have been predestined for adoption as a son through Jesus Christ according to the purpose of his will to the praise of his glorious grace. (vs. 6)
7. I have been predestined for adoption as a son through Jesus Christ according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed me in the Beloved. (vs. 6)
8. I have redemption through the blood of Jesus. (vs.7)
9. I have the forgiveness of my trespasses. (vs. 7)
10. I have been lavished with grace. (vs. 8)
11. I have the mystery of God’s will made known unto me. (vs. 9)
12. I have obtained an inheritance. (vs. 11)
13. I have been sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. (vs. 13)
“Hallelujah, all I have is Christ!”
In outlining this inventory from Ephesians 1, I am by no means seeking to minimize the medical facts regarding my diagnosis. Instead, it is my aim to magnify God’s truth. There are medical facts which accompany a diagnosis like brain cancer. But I desire to consider those facts in the light of and through the lens of God’s word.
If you or someone you love is going through a challenge such as an illness, you need not feel like you have to ignore medical facts. But I want to encourage you to see those facts through the lens of God’s truth. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
[Alex Philip is a husband to Elaine and father to a 7 year old son and 5 year old daughter. He is a teacher at the Peoples Christian Academy in Markham.]
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). Jesus 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.
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.
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):
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!
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