Posted in Advent/Christmas, Faith

Love Revealed at Christmas

Love

John 3:16 is one of the most well-known verses in the New Testament and reveals the Gospel~the Good News~in a simple yet profound statement. The foundation of God’s character and all He does is love. God is Love. It was Love that drew me to follow Him over thirty-seven years ago. It is Love that continues to fill and sustain me. During this Christmas season, humanity is reminded that God loved people so much that He sent His Son in the form of a Baby to make a way to be with Him forever. We celebrate the gift of His love.

Two thousand plus years ago God came to us in simplicity. Born to a poor couple, the God-Babe arrived in a stable. He was placed in a feeding trough. The Most High Lord came in vulnerability. In those days, the mortality rate for newborns was much higher than today. Love came to the world as an innocent, helpless Baby who relied on his parents to care for all His needs.

The Creator of the Universe planned for humanity’s redemption millennia in advance. Nevertheless, He took a huge risk to include people in His plan. Love always involves risk.  The actors in the Christmas story were real-life flesh and blood. They had the ability to choose for themselves. Mary could have passed up the opportunity to be the Mother of God. She could have rejected the invitation to give birth and raise the Savior of the World. Similarly, Joseph could have run from the responsibility of being the earthly father to God’s Son. He could have divorced Mary quietly and left her to bear scandal on her own. At each turn of the story, saying “no” was a possibility. Thankfully they responded to God’s invitation of love with “yes,” and the Christmas story is as we know it.

True Love comes to us in simplicity and vulnerability. It always involves risk. However, Love is anything but weak. Darkness and evil can never overcome Love. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it (John 1:5, NLT). Love is greater than all fear. Perfect love expels all fear (1 John 5:18b). Love never fails. Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13).

God revealed His love to us on the first Christmas. He reveals His love to us today. Rejoice in the wonders of His love.

So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son (John 1:14).

Prayer:

Thank You, Heavenly Father, that You are the God of perfect love. You are not far removed from us, but You sent Your love to us dwell among us. Help me to receive Your love this Christmas and always. Teach me to walk in Your love every day. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Graphic designed by Jordanne Babcock

 

 

 

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Posted in Character, Faith

Be a Victor Not a Victim

winner

Take a look at these words: victim and victor. They are similar in spelling, but so very different in meaning. The word victim originates from the Latin word victima, meaning “sacrificial animal.” It was first recorded in 1490-1500. The word victor also originates from Latin, but from an earlier time in the 1300s. It is derived from vincere, meaning “to conquer” (dictionary.com). The two words represent a difference as vast as night and day.

A victim is pictured as helpless, like a lamb led to slaughter. A victor is pictured as a seasoned warrior who wins after fiercely fighting a battle. Which one do you relate to more?

I am not a victim. Yes, terrible things have happened to me. Yes, traumatic events have affected me. However, they do not define me. By the grace of God, I refuse to allow them to rule the way I live. I am a victor!

You do not have to be a victim either. Your parents may not have been there for you growing up. People may have abused and harmed you in the past. You may have experienced hurt and disappointment that you should never have faced. But don’t get stuck there. Don’t look back at others and blame them for where you are today. Even if your offenders aren’t ready to acknowledge the pain they caused you or to participate in the work of reconciliation, don’t allow them to keep you from moving forward.

You do not have to be like an injured animal, constantly licking your wounds of regret. Neither should you be an ostrich, avoiding and ignoring the difficult areas of life. Nor should you be like a hyena, laughing and pretending that all is well. (I know…I’m taking these analogies way too far!) Instead take an honest look at the things that should not have been and invite the Lord to heal you. Accept responsibility for the unhealthy choices you have made as a result of brokenness and trust the Lord to restore you. Surrender yourself to the Lord, relying on His Spirit to empower you to thrive.

Your identity is based on what the Lord says about you as His dearly loved child, not what others say. You can live and lead with confidence, knowing that the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead lives in you (Romans 8:11). He gives you the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:55).

Our early Church leaders faced great persecution, and yet they lived as victors rather than victims. Their faith-filled perspective inspires us today.

Our great power is from God, not ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked does, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies (2 Corinthians 4:7b-10).

…In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).

Don’t settle for living as a victim. Stand firm in the victory that is yours through Jesus Christ. You are a victor!

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You that You take the ashes of my life and make them beautiful. I praise You that no matter what I have faced in the past or face right now, You work all things together for my good, because I love You and am called according to Your purposes. Help me to have faith in You above my circumstances. Help me to live as a victor instead of a victim. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

 

Posted in Character, Faith

A Portrait of Perseverance

Uncle Al

I didn’t get to spend much time with my dad growing up. When I was little, he was busy pursuing his educational and career goals. My parents’ marriage ended when I was nine years old. Divorce was never an option my dad considered, and the break up devastated him. For reasons unbeknownst to me, my parents lived 3,000 miles apart. I got to visit my dad during the summer and every other Christmas.

Before I go on, you need to know that I’m not pointing a finger of blame. As a parent of grown children myself, I know what it’s like to do the best I could with the skills I had. Nevertheless, I made mistakes and those mistakes caused them pain. However, causing pain was never my intent, because I deeply love my kids. I also understand we are all broken people trying to make sense of a broken world. Jesus is the One who heals the damaged places of my life and gives me purpose. When I tell aspects of my story, it is not to wallow in the past as a victim, but rather to pass on insights I have gained along the way.

As a child and teenager, I missed my dad a lot. I looked up to him and longed for him to know me. Even though I didn’t get the time with him my heart desired, my dad imparted some important lessons that influence me today. Perhaps his greatest example was in the area of perseverance. In fact, when I think about the quality of perseverance, my dad is the first to come to mind.

The youngest of 14 children, my dad was the son of Chinese immigrant parents who settled in a small town in Ontario, Canada. Grandpa Chin died when my dad was a boy, and the family struggled to make ends meet. Education was seen as the key to social and financial success. My dad faced discrimination, and was subjected to more stringent requirements than other students. He had to worked twice as hard as everyone else, but he didn’t give up, and he reached his goals.

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In the midst of my dad’s graduate program at the University of Oregon, he and my mom found out that I was on the way. My dad took responsibility, married my mom, and welcomed me into his life. He continued his academic pursuits, spending long hours in the lab conducting research. He would come home in the wee hours of the morning and leave again after a few hours of sleep. Dr. Alan Chin earned his Ph.D in Physiology in 1970. My brother was born the next year.

My dad rapidly climbed the ladder of success. He became internationally known for his research and was involved in early studies on the physiological effects of stress. We eventually moved to Southern California, where my parents invested in real estate. After buying and selling condominiums by the beach, we moved into one of the first houses in an area where movie stars and other famous people soon resided. Tragically it all ended when my parents divorced. Within a few years, my dad had lost everything important to him—his family, wealth, and health.

While my dad’s hard work and achievements are remarkable, I respect even more his ability to persevere in rebuilding his life after all was lost. He trusted Christ as his Savior, and surrendered his will to the Lord. My dad recovered from the brink of death and personal devastation with a stubborn determination to honor God.

My dad re-established his career, married a godly woman, and raised a family together. They had four biological children and adopted four children from the Canadian foster care system. At the age of 76, my dad still has teenagers at home. The path of obedience to the Lord has not been easy, but my dad continues to persevere. He will be able to say along with the Apostle Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).

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As God’s people we are called to grow in faith through perseverance. We know we will encounter challenges, problems, obstacles, trials, and tribulation. Perseverance is more than not giving up. It also involves persistence in doing well, bearing fruit, and running the race set before us. As we rely on Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit, we are empowered with hope and thrive in the midst of adversity. We are able to hang in there, because we know that nothing can separate us from God’s love. We keep on keeping on, because we are always triumphant through Jesus Christ.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything…Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him (James 1:2-4, 12).

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for being my steadfast Rock. I confess that when life gets hard, sometimes I feel like giving up. Help me to fix my eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of my faith. Because of the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now He is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. In the same way, help me to persevere knowing that I will have victory through Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Faith, Personal Development

You Are So Much More Than Labels

papers in air

Have you noticed all the quizzes on Facebook these days? Take a short test and learn which Disney character you most resemble, or who your literary soulmate is, or what era of history you belong in. We human beings are fascinated with ourselves and how we fit in the world. If we really want to figure ourselves out, there are many professional assessments from which to choose. We can build quite a profile:

~Are you an introvert or extrovert? (Did you know there is even an ambivert?)
~Which one of the four personalities are you in the DISC personality assessment?
~Which one of the 16 personalities are you in the Myers-Briggs personality assessment?
~What are your top five leadership strengths?
~What are your spiritual gifts?
~What is your preferred learning style?
~Which of the nine intelligences do you possess?
~What is your IQ?

And this is just part of a long list.

I’m not minimizing the value of learning about ourselves. It is enlightening and even fun to understand how God made us. It helps us to become more aware and better leaders. However, who we are goes way beyond labels.

The personal assessment mentioned above usually identify positive or neutral characteristics. Sometimes we receive labels from others in our lives.

Outgoing. Shy. Smart. Slow learner. Stupid. Beautiful. Full figured. Fat. Ugly. Athletic. Clumsy. Driven. Lazy. Worthless. Failure…

People can inflict great damage from their use of labels.

Regardless of the labels you have received, you are so much more than labels.

Labels may describe aspects of ourselves. But they are limited. They may or may not be true. They cannot describe everything about us. And they certainly do not define us.

A couple weeks ago at a counseling session, I took an assessment regarding a trauma that occurred earlier this year. As I result I was diagnosed with PTSD. I felt shaken and frustrated that the event continues to affect me, and I reached out to a friend who shared words of wisdom.

“I hear what you are saying, that the diagnosis of PTSD is disappointing. Know it is only a path to healing, not an identity.”

Thank God for this friend and her reminder! This label does not define me. The work of God is working in me.

Being an introvert does not keep me from loving people. Preferring to work alone does not prevent me from working with a team. Being detail-oriented does not mean I cannot develop visionary skills. The diagnosis of PTSD will not cripple me from doing the things the Lord has asked of me. It is a pathway to experience more of Him in my life.

What about you? Do you realize that God is at work in you?

The One who knows your thoughts before you are even aware and has counted every hair on your head is working to transform you into the image of Christ.

The Lover of your soul is teaching you to love. He is working in the midst of your closest relationships.

The Healer is strengthening you by His mighty power. He sees your current diagnosis or health challenge and is closer than you know.

The King of all kings has set you in your current place of leadership. Even when the task seems too large for your experience and abilities, He is equipping you with everything you need to do His will.

Don’t put too much authority on the labels in your life. Use them as tools and discard the ones that are damaging. You are so much more than labels. You are a cherished child of our Heavenly Father who has a special plan for your life and is working in you to fulfill it.

May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think (Ephesians 3:19-20, NLT).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your perfect love. Help me to remember that the labels in life do not define me. I am who You say I am, and You are working in me to become more than I could ask or imagine. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.