Did you know that between Christmas and Lent (which leads up to Easter) is the season of Epiphany?
Epiphany means “manifestation” and it is the official season for proclaiming the identity of Christ. Epiphany refers to the time when the wise men came to Bethlehem to worship Jesus, where the son of God was manifested to the world. Epiphany is a season of worship, as the whole world follows the wise men to find and honour Jesus.
The morning prayers for the season of Epiphany begin with Psalm 100, a short psalm that helps us to orient our day by entering into God’s presence.
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
2 Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
3 Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
5 For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures for ever,
and his faithfulness to all generations. [ESV]
Every morning for 6 weeks those who follow the daily prayers read this Psalm. It is an invitation to join with the community of God’s people in celebrating God together.
Verses 1 and 2 call us to join with the church daily in singing praises to God, and to serve Him gladly with our hands.
Verse 3 teaches us that God created us as His people, and we belong to Him. This means that He knows us, He cares for us, and He sees everything we do—it matters to Him.
Verse 4 reminds us to start the day by entering into God’s presence in prayer, and to give thanks to Him for everything He has given us—rain and sun, life and breath, family and friends, and our daily food, clothing and shelter.
Verse 5 speaks of the goodness of God, and how only He is everlasting. Other loves may fade and human relationships may fail but the love of God will always be with us, from this generation to the next. He will remain faithful to His promises throughout all the generations. This reminds me that when I trust in what this world promises—the good life, wealth, love, happiness—it will lead to disappointment because they cannot last forever. But when I trust in God, I trust in His everlasting nature and good character, which means His promises will never fail.
God’s promises to Israel were fulfilled when He sent His Son, Jesus, into this world. Jesus in turn, promises that He will one day return to this world. This is Epiphany, let’s follow the wise men in finding, worshiping and honouring Christ!
One way to do that is to start reading Psalm 100 every morning this week, and let it help us to enter into God’s presence and set the tone for each day. Try it with a friend over WhatsApp and see how it goes!
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36
The turn of the calendar year can often bring new hopes and aspirations. But as it sometimes happens, the novelty of those goals wears off and the drive to achieve them diminishes. The “Parable of the Sower” in Matthew 13 describes how our spiritual well-being can meet a similar fate as those New Year’s resolutions. We may start off with such strong resolve, but then “the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches” (Matthew 13:22) can creep in and distract us.
With the daily challenges posed by careers, relationships, finances, health issues, etc., it can be overwhelming to try to live a Christ-honouring life. We may also be struggling with addictions or habitual sins of various sorts that further complicate our Christian faith. Instead of experiencing a life of freedom as referenced in John 8:36, we may be feeling shackled and defeated both spiritually and according to worldly standards.
When I find myself feeling like that, I can only reclaim the freedom that I have in Christ once I conduct a truthful self-assessment. Matthew 6:24 states that we cannot serve two masters. If God has not been my first focus, then I need to confess that before God and ask for His forgiveness. In doing so and in order to avoid a downward spiral of shame/anxiety/depression, it is important for me to remember God’s grace and love. I meditate on passages such as Luke 15 about the prodigal son and recall the father’s amazing love for his child. I also often find it helpful and encouraging to discuss my situation with my wife, Care Group, or Men’s Fraternity members. Going through these steps help me to regain a proper perspective on life’s challenges and enable me to claim back the freedom that God has provided me.
Let us claim our freedom by:
Seems the word “Enough” is popping up a lot recently. Our latest GO magazine with the theme “What is Enough” hit the “shelves” (or seats, as it were) this past Sunday. And did you catch Viola Davis’ tribute to Meryl Streep at the Golden Globe awards?
Davis said Streep, who received the Lifetime Achievement award, made her proud to be an artist, and then followed it up with this: “You make me feel that what I have in me—my body, my face, my age—is enough.”
(There’s a lyrical cadence in Davis’ speech that you can’t catch by just reading it. Watch it—it’s worthy of an award itself.)
To take that thought a step further: those who believe, know that Christ is enough. The scripture verse behind the magazine’s theme is 2 Corinthians 12:9, “my grace is sufficient for you…” Yes, we are fearfully and wonderfully made, each with our own unique voice and design and gifting, but ultimately what we find in ourselves is not enough. Only when we come to the end of ourselves and find our sufficiency in Him do we discover the second truth in the verse: “for [Jesus’] power is made perfect in weakness.”
The Great Commission commands us to go. But sometimes we’re held back because we’re insecure. We think we need to have enough before we go: enough time, money, motivation, or support. The pivot is understanding that not having enough of our own strength is exactly where we need to be. Once we understand the beauty of grace, that is all we need, not simply to go; but to go beyond whatever limit we are facing. What we have in us is not a feeling, it is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and it is enough both to sustain and propel us.
Our Go Beyond Conference is coming up next weekend. We won’t have Hollywood celebrities there but we will have great guest speakers and a program that will certainly be enough.
Is there a boundary or limit that you’re facing? It could be a geographical limit in the sense of missions; it might be a personal, physical, emotional, or spiritual limit. Reword Corinthians 12:9 as a personal prayer and ask the Lord to show you the secret of His power.
Ben and Jamie were a couple that once had different views on God and faith. Jamie had been praying for Ben to return to God again for a long time. One day, Jamie gathered her courage to ask Ben to go with her on a mission trip and take their daughter, Nicole, with them. Ben, to his own surprise, agreed to go and wanted to use it as an opportunity to teach Nicole the privilieged life she leads in Hong Kong. However, God in His wisdom, reminded them that Nicole was His gift to them and used her to show Ben and Jamie what was wrong with their lives. Ben grew in his faith and committed to following God more after the mission trip. Ben and Jamie are now working to build a God-honouring family together as Ben finds his footing as a spiritual leader once more.
Christine and Kevin’s marriage began in a surprise proposal prayer that set the tone of their relationship and who they were as individuals. Kevin and Christine understood that marriage was not as much about compatibility as it was about submission to God. Because their marriage happened rather quickly, they worked hard at learning about one another and their relationship grew stronger with one another. They tried to have children soon after they were married but, although nothing appeared to be wrong, they did not conceive. Years later, after being brought spiritually closer to God and to each other through their struggle, Christine and Kevin received the wonderful news that they were pregnant. Throughout this journey, they grew ever more assured in their trust in God and know that their son is His gift to them.