Jesus Christ

Two Troubling Things about the Political Divisions in our World Today (Particularly Among Christians)

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If you’re anything like me, you somewhat cringe when you browse news stories online, and see numerous posts unconditionally opposing or loving on some particular politician or organisation. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the importance of all of us engaging in the politics of the day, for it’s crucial for us to be the “salt and light” in our world, hoping to make our world a better place with God’s enablement, for God’s glory. And I admit, I’m still growing in my understanding of how we should best live out our faith in light of the political world we live in.

But in light of the political divisions in our society today, let me suggest to you at least two reasons why the approach of some Christians today appears to be troubling for me.

1) It’s troubling when it appears that Christians view the world solely/primarily through the views of a particular political party, politician, or organisation, rather than through the good news of Jesus Christ, who is Lord. When Christians view the world solely/primarily through the filter of some politician’s view or political organisation we should be alarmed. That’s not the way of the Christian. As a Christian, Jesus must be the Lord of our lives. Choosing Jesus as Lord, rather than some political party or politician, means that you live your life in light of the values of God’s Kingdom. Thus, your values regularly may not align with the sentiment of our day. Christians view the world through the lens of the good news of Jesus Christ.

Christians march to the beat of a different drummer. He’s a drummer who leads us to His mission even when it’s not popular. Even when the masses may not be following. It means we are called to care for the poor, the marginalized, newcomers to our nation, the people deemed too “immoral,” and the forgotten (e.g., Lev. 19:34; 23:22; Ps. 146:9; Luke 14:13; James 1:27). And if our politics are getting in the way of doing just that, we have to ask ourselves, who really is Lord? Is it really Jesus Christ? Or is it the values of our “anointed” politician or political party?

I’m asking God to help me to better hear and march to the beat of His lead in this politically charged world. I need the Spirit’s leading here. I admit that the other drummers around us can be quite loud and confusing. Can I encourage you to invite the Spirit to help you hear and march to the beat of Christ’s leading in our world? Even if it means straying from the political perspectives we have often aligned with?

So, this is just a friendly reminder—especially for my Christian brothers and sisters. Jesus is Lord. Not right-wing leaders. Not left-wing leaders. It’s Christ. Not Trudeau, Scheer, Singh, or Harper. It’s Christ. Not Trump, Clinton, Sanders, or Obama. Not CBC, CTV, BBC, Fox, or CNN. (And if you don’t live in Canada/U.S., I’m sure you can fill in who/what those other people/organisations may be in your society).

2) It’s troubling when Christians appear to be dehumanizing people based on their political views and lifestyle. Don’t get me wrong, there are some views and lifestyle choices that people express that I’m appalled by. But I know that we all fall short of what God expects of us, myself included (Rom. 3:23). However, Scripture makes clear that every human being out there is made in God’s image—regardless of whether we like them or not (Gen. 1:27).

So yes, we must follow Jesus over Trudeau, Scheer, Singh, Harper, Trump, Clinton, Sanders, Obama—or whoever. But each one of these individuals, their families, and those who follow them are made in God’s image. Life is sacred, and that includes their lives too. You say you hate them? Jesus loves each and every one of them deeply (John 3:16). Deeply. And Jesus says to even love your enemies (Matt. 5:44). You say they are to be cursed? Jesus would say bless them (Luke 6:28). As Christians, we’re called to pray for our leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-3). Are we quicker to show hate on facebook or twitter for leaders before we pray for them? Here’s the thing. If we start praying for our leaders, their families, and those who follow them, I think God is gracious and can bless them. And if these leaders reflect the God’s values of love, justice, mercy, and righteousness in our society, that will be best for all of us (e.g, Micah 6:8).

Don’t get me wrong, loving and praying for someone doesn’t mean we have to agree with all that they do. I mean, see my first point above—when values fail to reflect what is right, I think we can speak to that. But we need to be careful when we begin to see these political leaders as beyond God’s grace—whoever that leader is. Because here’s the thing, when we begin to think that those leaders are so stupid, despicable, and beyond God’s grace—we become like some of the scribes and Pharisees we see described in the Gospels who felt some people were just beyond God’s grace. Jesus had to fix that perspective (Mark 2:16-17). That’s why Jesus could sit, fellowship, and bring into his fold someone who was even a tax collector, one of the most despised people among the Jews of Jesus’ day. Nothing is impossible with God—and His grace and Spirit can reach and transform any one of us.

I realise some reading here may prefer that I pick a side here: a right or left-leaning political party. Maybe that’s what you came here to read. But I’m encouraging you to submit to Christ’s Lordship; for that approach will ultimately help us view the world through the filter of those important themes like love, justice, and mercy in a way that no mere human can do for us. And this may lead us to critique various sides of the political debate, which may include our own preferred political view. And this should even cause us to pray for people in leadership out of deep love and care for those who may not hold to your preferred political views. Because at the end of the day, God’s Kingdom comes before any other human kingdom out there.

“He Was There”: Remembering Pastor Easaw Philip (my father-in-law)

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My father-in-law, Pastor Easaw Philip/Dad (1945-2017), passed away after a long battle with cancer earlier this month. He was 72 years old. During his funeral, I had a chance to share a few thoughts on my father-in-law, which I would like to share here, with a few additions.

My father-in-law was my senior pastor growing up. I went to the church he pastored as a young person, a Pentecostal church called Zion Gospel Assembly. It consisted primarily of people from India, particularly from the state of Kerala. He pastored there for about 22 years.

Growing up, for some reason—which I didn’t realise then—but now have come to understand, I often called him “Pastor Easaw Philip Uncle.” That’s a pretty long name, I know. “Pastor” make sense, since he was the pastor of the church. But “Uncle”? He wasn’t related to me growing up (until now of course, because I am married to his daughter Joyce).

In the Indian community I belong to, calling someone “Uncle” doesn’t mean that they have to be related to you in any way. Calling someone “Uncle” or “Aunty” is typically a sign of respect, indicating that they are someone close to your family. Including the title “Uncle” for my father-in-law growing up, I think was an implicit acknowledgement that he wasn’t just some pastor who came and went into our lives. Yes, he was our pastor, but he was also someone who was genuinely “there” in our lives for a long time. That long name of “Pastor Easaw Philip Uncle” was a testimony to him genuinely being there in our lives here in Toronto.

A key trait I noticed about him over the years, is his desire to be there for others. He would make himself available to others. He wanted to be physically present for others. He was there.

When I made a public commitment to follow Jesus Christ by being water baptised, he was there. He was the one who baptised me.

When I was sick in the hospital with bronchitis, I admit that at times I was lonely and scared. My family was there. But my senior pastor was also there visiting me with his wonderful wife, who is now my mother-in-law.

When I made a commitment to full time ministry, he was there. Zion Gospel Assembly had a convention around that time, and he quickly allowed me to share my testimony. He was there for me, encouraging me in my call.

My father-in-law and mother-in-law at my graduation from Master’s College (then EPBC)

When I graduated with my Bachelor’s in Theology from Master’s College (where I now teach), he was there with my now-mother-in-law.

When I got married to Joyce, he was there. Well, of course he was there because I married his daughter! I’m obviously especially grateful that he was there for Joyce and I, supporting us in that new season for us.

My father-in-law and mother-in-law at our wedding

Throughout the years, I’ve seen my father-in-law passionately desire to be there for so many people. When invitations came for weddings, special church conventions, Christian conferences, or if someone was in the hospital, or if a funeral sadly came up, he really, really, really wanted to be there for others. If he could attend every event in his blue hatchback or white mini van whether in Texas, California, Boston, or Montreal, he would want to be there for you. I know many people who knew him well could attest to that. When he got more sick recently, I know it bothered him that he couldn’t be physically present in others’ lives the way he did for so many years.

For all of us, whether you are in ministry or not, his desire to be there for others, in person, is something we can all learn from. The Apostle Paul showcased this approach in ministry in Romans 1:11, when he wrote the church in Rome: “For I long to visit you so I can bring you some spiritual gift that will help you grow strong in the Lord.” (NLT). Though Paul could correspond with people via letters, letters weren’t enough. Emails, facebook posts/messages, and tweets aren’t enough. There is something special about being physically present to bless others. My father-in-law was someone who truly longed to be physically present with others, to visit with others, to pray, show honor, respect, and bless others.

But Dad is no longer with us. And now, he cannot come rushing in his blue hatchback or white mini van to visit us at the birth of a child, a wedding, a graduation, a hospitalization, or funeral. It’s both sad and strange to not have him around any longer. But one day, when we too pass on, we can go to him. You see, dad is now with His Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ – forever. And I know Dad well enough to know, that he would like you to seriously consider what he did too—committing to one of the greatest things you can experience in this world. When our time comes, and we too pass on, Dad will want to see you. And he would want me to tell you to come to know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour – just as he did. Dad wasn’t “there” for others merely because he was a “nice guy”—he had experienced the life-changing transformation that comes through relationship with Jesus Christ. You see, Dad treasured his relationship with Jesus, and made relationship with God a priority in his own life and family. For instance, getting to know the family since being married, I witnessed how every evening, the family would come together for songs of worship and prayers to God.

You should know that regardless of your past, your sins—and even what you or others think of you—Christ will forgive you of all your sin. Confess your sins to Him and He will forgive you. Turn to God with all of you. Jesus Christ loves you. Jesus died on the cross for our sins. But Jesus didn’t remain dead in the grave. He defeated death, resurrecting from death. And as we live for Christ, that same power that resurrected Jesus from the grave will also be manifest in us so that we too will experience a resurrection (see 1 Corinthians 15). If you make that commitment to live for God, I know that one day you too will enjoy relationship with God eternally. And of course, I know you’ll meet my father-in-law there. Feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss that type of decision further.

For those who may have known my father-in-law, you are welcome to share your own tributes of when he “was there” for you as well below in the comments. And of course, maybe you didn’t know my father-in-law, and you too had or have someone who “was there” for you-feel free to share your experience below.

Why Bother With The Old Testament, Since It’s “Old”?

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dsc02537I heard about a preacher who came to my city a while ago, and preached that we didn’t really need to read or apply the Psalms to our lives since it’s from the Old Testament and not necessary for us Christians. I also read an article, written by a Christian author, which stated that we as Christians need to move away from the Old Testament, and on to the New Testament because of the cross; for him, it seems that the Old Testament is about laws, while the New Testament is about grace.

A negative approach to the Old Testament is nothing new. Many years ago, a man by the name of Marcion didn’t like the Old Testament either—he felt it represented an evil, inferior god, while the New Testament god found in Jesus was a loving and good god.

There is much to say about this subject, and I’m limited here since this is just a short blog post—there are some books out there you can read on this. But let’s consider two major ideas on this to spur us even further to a deeper reflection on this issue.

1) The God of the Old Testament is the Same God of the New Testament. This has a number of implications that are relevant for our discussion:

a) Believers depended on God’s grace in the Old Testament. Relying on God’s grace didn’t just begin in the New Testament. Think about the ‘10 Commandments.’ If you read them in Exodus 20, and get right to the “laws” in verses 3 onwards, you’ll miss something that comes immediately prior to the relaying of those 10 commandments—grace!

Here is God’s message in the verse that comes immediately prior to the 10 commandments: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” God in His grace delivered believers prior to their reception of the law! They were brought into this context not by hearing the laws, nor by living up to the laws, but by God’s gracious act of deliverance. We can often miss this point when discussing God’s laws for believers—these same believers were dependent on God’s grace.

b) God’s character, which we often think of as “loving” because of the revelation of Jesus, has always been characterised by love. In Psalm 86:15, found in the Old Testament, the writer reminds us of God’s character: “But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.”

c) The God we find in the Old Testament, who reveals His judgment against sin and unrighteousness, is the same God we find in the New Testament who does the same.
Some people often think of Jesus as soft, meek, and mild—but see the God of the Old Testament as a tough and aggressive entity. But during a time when Jesus was entering the temple courts, He felt some were making that place into a “den of robbers,” instead of a “house of prayer.” What did He do? He overturned tables, made a whip, and drove everyone out! (See Matthew 21:12-13; John 2:13-17). Jesus is not exactly meek and mild!

And of course, Scripture makes clear that Jesus will judge every person in a time to come (Matthew 25).

2) Jesus Affirmed the Need for and Importance of the Old Testament.

a) Jesus was not trying to eliminate the Old Testament, but was about living in fulfillment of all that it said about Him. In Matthew 5:17, Jesus explains, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” That’s a pretty self-explanatory passage.

b) Jesus explained that the greatest commandments of loving God and people as yourself was based on the Old Testament. When someone asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was, Jesus’ response is revealing: “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 5:37-40). These commandments are based on the Old Testament, and are explicitly found in Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18.

I recognize that this subject brings up so many other issues that are worthy of consideration, which I’m unable to address in a short post here. I know there is so much more to say. My attempt here was just to recognize the importance of the Old Testament for Christians, particularly noting its continuation with the New Testament. I’m open to further discussion if you like!

All the best to you, always a pleasure to hear from you!
Josh Samuel.

“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

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