Posts tagged relationships
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!
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:
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.
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].
It has been a long time since I’ve written anything here, but I’ve been quite busy with teaching and a trip to India. For this entry, I thought I would include a few (among many) random reflections on my trip to India with my wife Joyce.
1) India is tremendously diverse. As soon as you try to say, “This is what India is like,” you likely get it wrong. We got the chance to visit four different states in two weeks, and each visit brought us to a new culture and language group. Languages like Malayalam in Kerala, Telegu in Andhra Pradesh, Kannad in Bangalore, and Hindi in New Delhi. Of course, you can find people who speak English and Hindi all throughout the country, but the reality is that there are numerous languages and different cultures in India, of which I only very briefly touched upon. This leads to my second reflection.
2) Clear Communication is Key in Relationships. Of course this does not just relate to one’s time in India –clear communication is key in all relationships. However, it is only when you are in a context where you are limited to communicate, that you realize how important communication is. Sadly, my abilities in languages like Malayalam are weak, so I’m thankful for family members (our parents were also visiting India) who were there with us and able to help us communicate. This is something I really want to improve on, and have been praying that God helps me with.
When you are limited in communication, you see how even non-verbal communication is important. For instance, in India hospitality is a highlighted value, and as soon as you visit with someone you will likely be treated with great hospitality. Since I was limited in my verbal communication with some, I couldn’t help but recognize the positive communication received non-verbally through their hospitality. While visiting family in Kerala, we visited somewhere between 6-10 homes EACH day. And in one day, we literally had 6 meals. Six. And the food of course was great. And to not take part in the food offered would, in my opinion, show your lack of appreciation of their hospitality. So, you gotta eat. Not a bad thing though, since the food was great.
Anyone who is in a relationship, whether courting, engaged, or married knows the importance of clear communication for sure – both verbal and non-verbal. Seeking to be better at communication should be an important endeavour of all – listening, asking questions, clarifying, and generally speaking in a way that makes sense to the hearer.
3) The Passionate Response to the Word of God at the IPC Annual Convention in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh.
During our time in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh, we had the opportunity to celebrate with thousands of others who convened for the Indian Pentecostal Church of God’s annual convention. My cousin Rev. P. Noel Samuel is providing great leadership there, a ministry initially founded upon the ministry of my grandfather, Rev. P. M. Samuel. It was a 70th anniversary celebration.
Anyways, there was so much going on there, but I cannot help but remember the faces of the people who wanted prayer (see the first picture at the beginning of this post). I had the opportunity to share a few times for this convention.
The people’s response to the call to God and prayer through the various ministries going on was beyond what I could imagine. This experience reminds me of what the biblical writer states in Psalm 42:1: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.” What I appreciated about the people at this convention was their humility and hunger for more of God in their life – and their passionate and sincere belief that God could truly make a difference in their life. They were very much a sharp contrast with some of us in the West, as I feel we can sometimes be a lot more cautious, suspicious, and generally doubtful. However, in Hebrews 11:6, the writer states, “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (NIV).
How important it is for us to humbly come before God and seek Him with everything in us. We often wonder why God seems to powerfully move among people in various places of the world, but not so much in the West – may I suggest that one factor relates to this issue of humbly seeking after God. If you’re reading this, I encourage you to take some time today to seek Jesus in prayer with everything within you, He’s definitely worth it!
I could go on and on here, but let me conclude here. Feel free to comment if you like, whether you have been to India or not. However, if you have visited India, live in India – or some other country that may be similar –it would be great to hear your reflections on Christian spirituality in such contexts.
Before I got married, I was often asked, “When are you getting married?” And for some people, the time it took for me to get married was too long. And before I go any further, I just want to say I’m thankful that I waited, because I’m grateful to God for the amazing woman of God He brought into my life – Joyce!
Nevertheless, one day while single a few years ago I decided to record the questions/comments/advice I received from others related to the issue of being single. I took out a notepad, and without letting anyone know, I began recording. By 3pm, I got around 15 unique remarks about me being single! I realised that others in my predicament may likely be going through similar experiences. And it may even drive some people to think they had a “problem.” It got me thinking, and I did some research, and a few opportunities opened up to share on this issue, from preaching, writing, and even a couple of moments on TV.
In this blog, I want to share one of the first opportunities I had to communicate on being single, to possibly encourage some singles and others to get what I think is a good perspective on the single life. The article I wrote was for a magazine called The Testimony, originally published in February 2005, and later posted on Christianity.ca also in 2005. It was entitled, “Single and Happy.” After reading, feel free to include your thoughts and comments on this issue whether you are single or married. Here’s that article published in 2005:
“SINGLE AND HAPPY”
I’m one of the 16 million people in Canada who are not married (Statistics Canada). It has been my observation, though, that singles are generally treated as if they have a disease, one that needs to be cured by a romantic partner. This message is in our music, on television, in the movies, and in the books we read. The question most often asked of singles is: Have you found someone yet?
Naomi, Orpah, and Ruth
Three single women in the Bible interest me — Naomi, Orpah, and Ruth. Naomi was an Israelite and mother-in-law to Orpah and Ruth, who were Moabites. Sadly, all three women experienced tragedies in their lives. Naomi lost a husband and ten years later she lost her two sons (who were married to Orpah and Ruth). They were left single and alone.
Naomi was living in the country of Moab because of a famine in Israel. She decided to return to Israel with Orpah and Ruth after the famine ended. Naomi’s advice to her daughters on the way back is insightful:
“Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, ‘Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show kindness to you, as you have shown to your dead and to me. May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband. Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me — even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons — would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you because the Lord’s hand has gone out against me” (Ruth 1:11-13).
Naomi was most concerned about the marital status of Orpah and Ruth and the repercussions that being single might have on their living conditions. Widows experienced greater challenges during those days, but the idea that marriage could cure their problems is something we still find today.
Myths of marriage
In Fit to be Tied, Bill and Lynn Hybels dispel four myths of marriage. The first is that it will end one’s loneliness. They admit that there are millions of lonely married people who might even be in an ideal marriage.
The second is that it will heal one’s brokenness. Some have become victims themselves, and others even victimize their own spouses as they seek healing that could never come from a human being. The psalmist rightly proclaimed of God that it is He who “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).
The third myth is that marriage will ensure one’s happiness. The Hybels’s comments are insightful here: “In most cases, an unhappy single person will be an unhappy married person” (33).
The last myth they discredit is that marriage is for everyone. Neither Jesus nor Paul was married, and both spoke of the advantage of being single in order to be involved in ministry to a greater degree (See Matthew 19:11-12 and 1 Corinthians 7).
Orpah decided to go back home where she might find a man to marry. That was her choice. Sadly, we never hear about her again.
Orpah is like many in society. She desperately wants someone to love, so she does whatever it takes to be married. Some Christians even end up marrying non-Christians because of this heart attitude, which leads them outside of God’s will (consider Genesis 2:24 that underscores the union in marriage with 2 Corinthians 6:14-16 that highlights the need for Christian fellowship in intimate relationships).
We can see something else in Naomi. She has become an embittered person — so much so that she wanted people to call her “Mara” which means “bitter” (Ruth 1:20). She even blames God, saying His hand is against her.
Blaming God is the second choice many singles make, often asking, “Why hasn’t God done anything about this?” Bitterness can lead to resentment, depression, and sin.
Ruth’s reply to Naomi’s advice is intriguing: “Your people will be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16-18). She chose to stay with Naomi.
We all have a yearning for two levels of relational intimacy (Hybels 26). We desire relationship with God and other people. Ruth was committed to both kinds of intimacy.
Society wraps up our conscious (or unconscious) desire for intimacy with God and people into one solution—a romantic partner. This “cure” has led to discontentment among singles and couples, often due to unrealistic expectations of a partner.
Ruth had her priorities right. We should be developing intimacy with God and meaningful relationships with a variety of people. In the Book of Ruth, a wonderful love story unfolds between Ruth and Boaz. God blessed Ruth with a new husband. In fact, she eventually became the great-grandmother of King David (Matthew 1:5-16). Ruth’s decision to maintain her relationship with Naomi (even if it meant she may never marry again) positioned Ruth for greatness.
What choices have you made lately? Where are your priorities today?
Statistics Canada, “Population by marital status and sex, by provinces and territories.” [cited 11 December 2004]. Online http://www.statscan.ca. This is a 2004 statistic. The total Canadian population is 31,946,316. There are 15,540,151 married, 13,338,363 singles, 1,545,813 widowed, and 1,521,989 divorced. When adding singles, widowed, and divorced together, the total unmarried is 16,406,165.
Hybels, Bill and Lynne Hybels. Fit to be Tied: Making Marriage Last a Lifetime. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1991. See chapter one for a thorough discussion of these myths. This is an excellent book for both singles and married couples seeking to hear a married couple’s honest insights on this important topic.