All posts by Joseph

A Christian Martyr – Kayla Mueller

Last night, I stopped by to visit a brother in Christ I hadn’t seen in a while. We caught up on what had been going on our lives. Then later on, a documentary on TV came on talking about Kayla Mueller. As I watched the program about her ordeal in Syria, my heart was truly touched and shaken to the core. I didn’t want to cry in front of my friend but when I arrived home, I allowed myself to cry a bit. It was a truly heart-touching story! I am writing this blog to honor her in memory and to highlight how her faith served as a light beacon shining for everyone to see. I will provide a brief summary with a link to the story below. But I warn you that it is a heartbreaking story to read and is not advisable for children to read.

http://abcnews.go.com/International/kayla-mueller-captivity-courage-selflessness-defended-christian-faith/story?id=41626763

For those who don’t know who Kayla Mueller was. She was a precious sister in Christ who had an abundant amount of compassion, sense of humor, and the heart of gold to help those who suffered. In other words, she had many wonderful traits in God’s eyes! Kayla had been involved in numerous organization devoted to helping suffering people. She had achieved so much in her life in helping others. As listed in this website – http://www.forkayla.org/ – She was involved in the following organizations:

African Refugee Development Center
Amnesty International
Contact Magazine
Danish Refugee Council
Food for Life Vrindavan
International Solidarity Movement
Just Peace
LHA Charitable Trust
New Day Peace Center
Northern Arizona University Center for Intercultural Education
Plum Village
Prescott Area Women’s Shelter
Save Darfur Coalition
STAND:NAU
Support to Life
Tibet Hope Center
Youth Count

Looking through this list, I can’t but admire her devotion and passion to helping others. I feel inspired by her action and look upon her as a role model. She was living out her faith in God virtuously through helping others.

As the story revealed, the terrorist organization ISIS kidnapped Kayla while she was helping at the hospital in Aleppo. What she endured was horrifying, yet she prevailed in the face of greatest darkness. It didn’t extinguish the light and love of Christ shining from her heart. As I read the story, I was amazed how she was still devoted to helping others even while undergoing unspeakable suffering – I am specifically referring to the part where she let the Yazidi girl escape while staying behind to increase their chance of success. She held on to her faith even to the point of death. Truly, God was with her every step of the way and strengthening her.  She died in February 2015, but exactly how she died is unclear. Nevertheless, she died as a Christian martyr. I do believe that God will reward her abundantly for her devotion and sacrifice in her life to the very end. I truly do hope I will have the privilege of meeting her in heaven one day!

I will close with two quotes from Kayla Mueller and a few verses from the bible.

I find God in the suffering eyes reflected in mine. If this is how you are revealed to me, this is how I will forever seek you. – Kayla

This is really my life’s work, to go where there is suffering. I suppose, like us all, I’m learning how to deal with the suffering of the world inside myself… to deal with my own pain and most importantly to still have the ability to be proactive – Kayla

Matthew 5:11-13 (ESV)
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

2 Corinthians 4:8-10 (ESV)
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.

Seeing God’s Gifts in Our Lives

Recently, God has shown me once again how He uses His children to help one another. I am deeply thankful to God for opportunities to be able to fellowship with my dear friends and opportunities to show love to other in many ways. I thought of several friends I hold dear in my life as I write this blog, and I am deeply thankful for their friendship, support, and love. I wanted to share how much that means to me, and to show how beautiful love can be when shared both ways. We’ve encouraged each other in the good times and supported one another when one of us has fallen into a difficult situation. It’s a rare gem in this fallen world where darkness and selfishness reign.

In a way, it allowed me to see a reflection of God’s character in people despite human shortcoming. Just think of how moon reflect sun’s light to illuminate the night. Christians filled with Holy Spirit and God’s enduring love are able to reflect His light onto other people, so people can understand better and learn more about God’s character.

God gave us His children for each other in our lives – for friendship, fellowship, support in difficult times, to care for one another, and the list goes on. In doing so, we are able to reflect God’s love to other people, both believers and unbelievers. Our actions can make a huge difference in someone’s life without realizing it. It might be the only opportunity that person might witness God’s love, possibly planting the seed in that person to eventually come to God later in life. Therefore, we are to make the best of every opportunity in how we interact with people, being able to reflect God’s love onto other’s lives.

I’ve experienced so many times when God spoke through a dear friend of mine, encouraging me and helping me grow ever more in Christ. When I see love, gentleness, kindness in a person, I am seeing a reflection of God’s character and thus this helps me understand Him in a deeper way.

Colossians 3:12-14 (NIV)
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

I do believe many things in our lives do happen for a reason, if not everything. There are people who builds us up, encourage us in many ways that made an impact on our lives. There are also difficult people or situations that make our lives challenging, but in a way these situation can push us out of our comfort zone and develop new tools/skills for dealing with difficult situations. Regardless, God is always with us in every situation we face, whether good or bad, and He will never abandon us even in the darkest moment.

Once again, I wanted to write to show my appreciation for friendships I had in my life and I look forward to continuing to make new memories as time go along. Praise God for giving us wonderful things in life! He is truly a loving Father and loves to bestow gifts upon us.

God’s Children and His Divine Protection

As I was waiting in the supermarket line, I saw a small child holding hand of what seems to be her older brother. It was a beautiful scene, to see them eagerly exploring the world together! Then I thought about how small and vulnerable the child was, especially considering that the world seems so big to her. Yet the child is probably unaware of so many dangers out there. As I was thinking about her vulnerability, my focus then shifted to a spiritual perspective. In a sense, we are like that child when it comes to our lack of awareness of the dangers in spiritual realm. There are dizzying array of dangers and threats that exists in spiritual realms. The evil forces are extremely determined to steal, destroy and kill us. They are full of hatred against God and His children. But God doesn’t give them full authority to do what they want. The evil forces are limited in what they can do.

Thankfully, we have a very loving and merciful Father who is very determined to watch for us and seek to protect us with His fierce love. It is important that we walk close to God, embrace His protection, leading, and love. Assuming that child had a loving parent, she probably didn’t realize the full extent to how much her parent has protected her all these times. It’s the same case with God. I’m confident there has been so many times when God has prevented danger or bad situation from happening to His children – both believers and non-believers. I can personally attest to that in my life! He has protected me on so many occasions, and even when something bad did happen to me God didn’t let that bad situation run its full course – in other words, limiting the impact of bad situation on my life. In hindsight, I found that God has used these situations to help me grow.

Truly, if one chose to walk away from God, they are choosing to reject His leading, love, and protection in their life. It’s as if a child chose to runs away from a sheltered and loving family to cold, harsh world lacking much in love.

But remember that God doesn’t give up on us, He will keep trying to reach out to us. The prodigal son story is a reflection of how much God loves us and waits for us to come back.

Luke 15:11-32

The Parable of the Prodigal Son
11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”

Ephesians 6:10-20

The Whole Armor of God
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

Overcoming our shortcomings with Christ’s love

A while ago as I was heading out after finishing a long day of work. It was dark and there weren’t too many people around. A young stray cat (around a year or two old) came up to me and meowed repeatedly. The cat was trying to tell me something. It kept on trying getting my attention. As a cat lover, I knew instinctively what the cat wanted. I was carrying a water bottle so I tried pouring the water on the ground but the cat didn’t seem to want the water. I didn’t have the food on me, so I struggled to figure out how to get the food close by and the stores were close to closing time or were already closed. The cat kept on following me, meowing loudly. I kept at a slow pace as not to abandon the cat. The cat stirred my heart with great compassion.

I wanted to buy food for the cat but was afraid that I would look foolish for doing so with people around. Also, I wasn’t sure if the stores were open then. As much as I hate to admit this, but my heart wavered between avoiding looking foolish and giving the cat what he/she needed. In the end, my immense love toward cats in general won out.

So I walked quite a distance, to the point where the cat eventually stopped following me. I then bought a can of chicken from a small mart I found to be open at this time. I felt blessed to find them since I wasn’t sure if I would find something suitable for the cat to eat. So, I walked a while back to where I last saw the cat, hoping that he was there. Lo! He was there. At first, I hesitated because there were people around but then I stopped caring how it appeared to others. So therefore, I opened a can of chicken for the cat. He ate them all! The cat must’ve been very hungry. He seemed happy and relaxed after eating.

Why and how is this relevant to God? I think looking back, out of all people who was around – the cat came to me, the very person who are experienced in dealing with cats and understanding what they needed. It shows that God still cares greatly about small creature which tends be overlooked by others. I also feel blessed that God used me to help feed this hungry kitty. Secondly, as my inner struggle showed, the sheer power of Christ love is enough to overcome our own shortcomings as long we allow Christ’s love to flow though us.

A Marathon with the Lord

jogging

Our walk with the Lord can be like a marathon. Some start strong and some start slowly. A marathon is not about how well or poorly we run, but rather that we are able to finish the race. We are to have a similar mindset in our walk with the Lord. We must remain steadfast in our faith, devotion and to have our heart continually affixed on Jesus Christ. There will be obstacles in the way in attempts to derail or distract us from reaching the true goal which is to keep our faith in God’s promise of everlasting life in Christ.

What good is if a person starts really strong and had done many impressive deeds in Christ but only to end up departing from the faith (as in not believing in God anymore). That person wasn’t able to finish the race. I’ve read different accounts about how pastors and devoted Christians decided to stop believing and speak critically of God (or against religion). These accounts leave me scratching my head and makes me wonder what caused them to lose faith. It is very disheartening when I read accounts like these. It reminds me of a parable about sower and the seed.

Luke 8:4-15 (ESV)
The Parable of the Sower
4 And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable, 5 “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. 6 And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. 7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. 8 And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” As he said these things, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

The Purpose of the Parables
9 And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, 10 he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’ 11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. 14 And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. 15 As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.

We must be vigilant since the evil one is extremely determined to cut us from God.

Let us make an important commitment to remain faithful to the very end, to be able to finish the race. God will always be with us, guiding us and encouraging us. Remember we still have free will, we can either choose to align our will with God’s will or choose our path apart from God’s will. It takes courage and huge commitment to remain faithful to the end!

2 Timothy 4:6-8 (ESV)
6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)
13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.