Love will never fail us

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. Galatians 5:13

Freedom means different things to different people. In my mind, it means to not be bogged down by any institution, whether family, job, or church. The word, freedom, is always at the forefront of my mind. The moment I have the slightest feeling of being trapped, I am ridden with anxiety. Why? I haven’t the slightest of ideas. What does freedom mean to you? Is it a precious commodity or do you not think much about it?

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

The Apostle Paul is preaching to the Galatians that they were called to Christ to be free, and not to take on ceremonial rituals, such as circumcision. Do we sometimes mix up our call to Christ as servitude to the establishment? When you add up the hours, days, weeks and months you have to spend at church, it’s like you wonder if choosing to follow Christ is worth all of that. It sounds downright depressing. Why would one want to surrender all that time, time they could be doing a million things, just to be at a church? Does our freedom in Christ mean that we can withdraw from coming to church some of those months? Paul, gives the answer to that question in the second part of his thoughts, “do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh.”

READ MORE: God doesn’t choose perfect people...

If we didn’t know that there is a law that governs the flesh, I am telling you right now. There is a law that governs the flesh, and it does not like the law of the Spirit. This is why we are always warring in our mind, because there is a fight between the flesh and the spirit. Most of us will always let the flesh win, and that’s too bad, because the flesh never makes good decisions. (Read this again). When you know you are supposed to exercise, does the flesh always get excited about the 30-minute jog or cardio that you planned? When you know you shouldn’t be eating brownies late at night, does the flesh always prompt you to abstain from them? Even for athletes, and I was one for a period of time, the flesh often sounds convincing. Every Saturday, I dreaded that 2-hour hill workout at 10am. I was on the track team, so I showed up every Saturday. Not because I always wanted to but because I knew it was something I chose, and I was committed to my team. During practise, my mind told me that my body can’t handle any more pressure. I literally had to beat my mind under subjection to what I wanted it to do. I must practise, whether it felt good or not. The flesh never makes good decision, ever.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The Apostle Paul wanted the Galatians to know that even though they are free in Christ, that freedom doesn’t stretch to making sinful decisions. When we do things through love, we do not feel like we are in servitude to any establishment. Paul says it beautifully, “serve one another humbly in love.” Parents, for the must part, do you feel like you are servants to your kids? Or do you happily make them breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Most of the times, you hardly get a thank you. But, when there is love, it changes everything. Love will make you stay up at night with a child who has a tummy ache. Likewise, love will make you stay at church, to counsel, to host, to train, to facilitate, or to serve. Suddenly, the hours, days, weeks and months at church, is so full of joy and fulfillment that we actually look forward to it. The point is we ought to exercise our freedom through love.

READ MORE: Take control of your thoughts

Now, when I think about my freedom and I mix it with love, I am no longer riddled with anxiety, or a feeling that I am stuck. Rather, I am able to look through the lens of love and happily serve my family, serve my church, and serve at my workplace. It is not easy, however, since I am not intending to please my flesh, I will instead choose to rise to the occasion and show love. Because this is what I am made to do. I have learnt this, if I “…do not have love, I am nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:2. Therefore, be encouraged to serve one another humbly in love because this is the right thing to do.

What are you angry about?

As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves! Galatians 5:12

What did the Apostle Paul say? In another translation “emasculate” means “to mutilate, or “to go the full way and cut off (you know what).” Paul sounded irate at those false teachers who gave such importance to circumcision, and in so doing were creating more mischief to the churches of Christ than anything else. When we are passionate about things that are of importance, we literally feel the same anger as God feels towards sinful things. Have you ever felt godly indignation?

READ MORE: What do you believe?

Racism and injustice is one of those hot and steamy topics these days. What are Christians to do about it? It is not godly to retaliate but we feel this anger rising in our hearts because of the injustices in our society. It has been seven months since the death of Mr. George Floyd, and the world has taken part in several protests. With the many changes I have witnessed in my workplace, in my union, and especially with the Canadian government, I would say the voices of the persecuted are being heard. Yes, it will take decades to transform the minds and hearts of these racist people and unjust institutions. And in the meantime, Christians are allowed to express godly indignation to the way we feel. I would go as far as to say it’s good for our mental health.

I’ve been part of a few work learning sessions, one in particular, Racial Trauma, Towards Understanding and Resilience, was held by the Ministry of the Attorney General. The speaker, Ms. Donna Anderson, RSW, was phenomenal in the way she explained the trauma that comes from racism. Many people bottle their feelings and show up to work in the name of resilience, and it is taxing to our mental health. After a while, we experience burnout, headaches, withdrawal and a myriads of other psychological effects. I am simply saying, sometimes, we have to speak up about what we are feeling.

Photo by Brett Sayles from Pexels

Paul spoke up and said, “I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!” He was tired of listening to these false teachers saying nonsense about circumcision as it pertains to Christ and the church. They were not benefitting the teachings of Christianity, and were causing more divisions than anything else. And Paul said, enough is enough. Why should he pretend that what they were saying wasn’t affecting him? In the same way, we ought to stand up for justice, for the poor, for those behind bars, for the homeless, for those who are mourning. Take a stand for something we believe, and stop with this neutral, indifferent attitude. What do you care about? Certainly, Jesus Christ cared about every challenge that came before him in his society. Did He not provide more wine at a wedding? Did he not feed thousands of people because they were hungry? Did he not heal the sick? Did he not care for children? Christ was a man who walked this earth and saw similar injustices as we see daily, and He did something about it, every day.

READ MORE: Are you a good teacher?

So, Christians, what are we doing to take a stand against injustices in our society? Is there anything you feel godly indignation about? Then, do something about it. It’s not enough to just go to work and come home. It’s necessary that we take action by being a voice for those who are voiceless. We have talents and gifts that are as different as each one of us are. And it is so important that we use the little that we have and take a stand for each of our brothers and sisters. For the sake of Christ Jesus, I implore you to take a stand in the name of justice. In the words of Mr. Mahatma Gandhi, “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” 

What do you believe?

Brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. Galatians 5:11

In a world of so many dogmas, specifically when it pertains to Christianity or even around the concept of God the Father, it is just so hard to know what to believe. What do we teach our children? Moreso, what do we believe is okay and not okay? Is circumcision the right thing to do or can we ignore it? That was the big issue in Paul’s day. And he was persecuted by his fellow Jewish pals for preaching against circumcision. Do you know what that meant? It’s kind of the same as the debate of worshipping on Saturday versus Sunday. Or, dare I say, whether Jesus died and rose again as God or was Jesus just a prophet that was taken up by God? I mean, these are really tough questions. How do we know what is right or wrong? And does all these questions matter?

who do you believe?

I must say that I have been a girl with many questions as long as I knew myself. Before I was 14 years old, I was intrigued with gaining knowledge. But, when I acquired the knowledge and was trying to make sense of all of it, I had questions about parts that didn’t add up in my little brain. At first, these were little questions. And even if the answers didn’t make too much sense, I accepted it anyway. But, then I grew up and started attending university. At 18 years old, I was already in my second year, and had read so many complicated constitutional and philosophical books- considering my majors were Political Science and Criminology. I went back to Sunday school with grander questions. Now that I had studied Socrates, Marx, Aristotle and others, I too appreciated the socratic method, and confidently asked more questions expecting detailed answers to my misunderstandings. You see where I am going with this…

READ MORE: Are you a good teacher?

The more worldly knowledge I got is the more questions I had, and the less Faith was making sense. I believed more in logic than Faith. The one logic that got me off course of my christian beliefs was learning that the disciples or prophets were mere men who wrote the bible, not God himself, which was what I believed as a child. Now, in truth the bible never said God wrote the bible, rather, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 states, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God…” These doubts poured into my brain so much so that by the time I was 19 years old, I was in total confusion. To further clarify things for myself, I decided I would take a Christian history course in my third year. Sure, it was interesting to learn about the history, but I didn’t realize what I was doing: Trying to make sense of my Faith, using history and logic to prove what I had been taught as a child. I have to tell you, it was a lot of mental work. Satan has a way of planting seeds of doubt and confusion that is so subtle, that you don’t think much of it, until you are in the deep end.

In our Criminal Justice system, the defence counsel only need to prove that there is doubt in the crown’s argument to unravel a case, and to free the accused of his charges. In the case of our christian walk, one small doubt, is all I needed to question every tenet of what I had learnt about God. At 19, I questioned God’s very existence. The lie satan asked me is this, if the church is wrong about so many things, how do I know that there really is a God? I won’t answer that question today. However, my belief is that, that was how the Jewish men felt about Paul’s views on circumcision. Moses was the one that gave the Jewish people circumcision, and who is greater than Moses? Therefore, Paul’s apparent new age beliefs had no place with the Jews.

Whether the Jewish people believed in circumcision or whether the Gentiles abstained from circumcision, that was not the big picture. “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Galatians 5:6). Satan, however was in the middle of this debate. Paul was placed in a position where he had to defend himself to two sects. Could the gentiles trust Paul since he might actually still believe in circumcision? So, Paul makes it very clear where he stood. He was still being persecuted by the Jews who thinks he is against circumcision which means, obviously Paul is is not preaching circumcision!

READ MORE: Running the good race until it’s over

Paul knew the truth. He defended himself because Christ came to die on the cross, for such a reason, “You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace” (Galatians 5:4). But, a little doubt in Paul is all the people needed to stop thinking about the big picture; which was the fact that Christ died and rose again. That is what is important.

I have been long winded in this article to say this: Questions has a way of turning our beliefs into doubts, and moving us away from the truth. When we stop focusing on the little details of religion, and look to God, our Father in Heaven, (who is dying to have a relationship with us- pun intended), and believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ which is the biggest sacrifice ever made on earth, we can truly trust that NOTHING ELSE MATTERS.

Are you a good teacher?

I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty. Galatians 5:10

I like good teachers. Those that believe in their students, even when he or she is at their worse. Do they make teachers like that anymore? Even though teachers these days seem to lack patience and empathy for their students, especially when they neither understand nor can relate to their student’s culture, this was not the kind of teacher Paul was. Paul was a shepherd of a teacher. Not only did He taught well, but he gave encouragement to people that seemed like they didn’t deserve it. Have you had a teacher or mentor like that?

are you a good teacher

Teachers were once students, and it’s like they get to have a foresight over their students’ future. That is, they can call forth gifts and talents out of their students, that the students can’t really see for themselves. But, if that student trusts the teacher, he or she will believe in the words spoken, and strive to become what the teacher called into fruition. We are assuming here that the teacher is speaking nothing but positives to their students. But, do you know that if that teacher prophesies negatively over that student it will also have the same effect?

READ MORE: Take control of your thoughts

You will probably agree, teachers have influence over every student they come in contact with. Paul is the head teacher and he is not pleased. He asks, who was it that was throwing the Galatians into confusion? Paul says, they “will have to pay the penalty.”

I’ve had some great teachers in the secondary school systems, both in Jamaica and Canada. And I have also had profound professors at the University level, both undergraduate and graduate. I have been blessed with teachers who filled me with encouragement, had patience with me, and empowered me by their words to be extraordinary. In fact, up until my experience at Seneca College in Toronto, I have never had a negative experience with a teacher. I was 30 years old when I attended Seneca College. It was my first and only time I had a teacher that looked down on me. I could tell she thought I was never good enough in the four months I was with her. She gave me a failing grade in the end. This kind of teacher can thwart God’s plan for a student’s life. Even though I felt crappy and demotivated, my thoughts were above confident. I was already a University graduate and a professional woman. The fact is, I already knew I was a great student, regardless of how she felt about me and the grade she assigned me. If the Apostle Paul were in Canada, he would have stepped in the class to give me a pep talk: I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. In other words, regardless of the teachers ill words, grade or attitude towards you, you are still the star God made you to be. That one teacher do not have authority to change your life or destiny.

READ MORE: Running the good race until it’s over

Paul says those teachers who create confusion will pay the penalty. Teachers come from all walks of life, they are in the church, in the workplaces, at conferences, at home, and of course at school. We ourselves might even be a teacher. We have a responsibility to be great teachers, as well as to pray for those not-so-great teachers. While God hasn’t overlooked what they have done to you, we do have a responsibility towards them as well. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 12:34). Let us be transformed by the word of God. As teachers, we have a great responsibility. And that is, we ought to teach well. None of us should be in the business of causing other people to fall into confusion. As Christians it is our job to uplift and lead everyone to Christ.

Thinking…

If you think you are beaten, you are; 
If you think you dare not, you don’t. 
If you’d like to win, but you think you can’t, 
It is almost a cinch you won’t. 

If you think you’ll lose, you’ve lost; 
For out in this world we find
Success begins with a person’s will
It’s all in the state of mind.

If you think you’re outclassed, you are; 
You’ve got to think high to rise. 
You’ve got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win the prize.

Life’s battles don’t always go 
To the stronger or faster man; 
But sooner or later the person who wins 
Is the one who thinks he can!

By: Walter D. Wintle

Take control of your thoughts

“A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” Galatians 5:9

Have you ever had a bad thought? I know, I know… who hasn’t? I have noticed how one bad thought can turn into hundreds and ruin my entire day. How do we make it stop? Do you know you have a choice over your thoughts? About what you are thinking, and how to change the negative ones into something positive? Do you know this is where our power lies? Thoughts are like yeast, and one can go a long way!

take control of your thoughts

Growing up, no one ever told me I had control over my thoughts. It was when I was a teenager that I got my first of many lessons on making sure that I think good thoughts. That one came from my pastor. He was also really big on making sure that we guard what we say, especially the negative things we naturally say about ourselves. You know when you might say, I’m so stupid, or I’m so fat, or I’m so ugly. Those are the things my pastor would teach us to avoid, with a quick lesson on how words are powerful. Likewise, our thoughts are even more powerful than our words.

READ MORE: Persuasion versus perversion

In Galatians 5:9, Paul is talking about something more spiritual. You remember the earlier verse about how perversions can infect us? Many times we say to ourselves; that’s just a small lie, or it’s just a movie. Or even better, you’re not going to be drunk with just one bottle. It’s just a little sleepover, what’s the big deal? Or maybe it’s regarding your self esteem. And you might say something like this, I didn’t actually mean I am stupid, it’s something I just say. These very small, and seemingly insignificant behaviours or thoughts are the very things that transforms us, little by little. One bottle turn out to be really delicious, and so another one won’t harm. Or will it?

You see, like our thoughts, yeast isn’t a bad thing. Its purpose is to make dough rise, so we can have bread, and it is the most important ingredient. But, you ONLY need a little. Too much, and you destroy the batch. I am no baker, and I have never made bread. But, I think about yeast the same way I think about salt. Salt is the necessary ingredient to make the food savoury, but have you had fries that are too salty? It just overpowers everything, and now you no longer care to eat it. Yeast is probably like that in bread. Except that it’s visibly evident in that it causes the bread to go flat instead of rising.

I would say that’s what happens when you have too many bad thoughts. It pollutes the entire mind. As per 2 Corinthians 10:5, “….we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” This is the power that we have inside of us: To take control of our thoughts. Have you heard the phrase, we are not our thoughts? We have to make the decision to think good thoughts even when we see the negative thoughts passing through. Again, I am saying, we have control over our thoughts. And let me add here, of our feelings too. Often, we get overpowered by our thoughts and feelings especially when it comes to love, pain, or grief. Even in those moments, it is not for us to believe all our thoughts. Next time, try surrendering the painful thoughts and feelings to God, and trust Him to replace them with His peace.

Remember this, each time we think negative thoughts or condemning thoughts, we are putting our flesh above God. In Genesis 3:11 God asks Adam and Eve, “Who told you that you were naked?…” Do not say something about yourself that God did not say about you. Rather, seek God, and let him transform you with His thoughts. We already know that God thinks good thoughts about us, so let him work those same thoughts inside of us. Do not allow “yeast” to come in and destroy what God has already worked inside of us.

Do you know your identity?

“That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you.” Galatians 5:8

In this day and age, there is so many kinds of persuasion that it is hard to put our fingers on just one. When I think about the word persuasion, I imagine it is a positive word. I am even reminded of another verse in Romans 8:38-39, when Paul says, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. In that word rests absolute confidence in the thing you believe. There is not a doubt in your belief. We may even complement someone for their ability to be persuasive. However, in Galatians 5:8, the word persuasion, doesn’t sound so positive. Rather, another word comes to mind; perversion. You see, whatever the Galatians were being persuaded about did not come from God, the one who called them. And if this persuasion didn’t come from God, then to me, it’s perversion. Likewise, we are persuaded against our faith by the many perversions in the world, and many times, we don’t even realize it.

READ MORE: Running the good race until it’s over

It’s important to know yourself; your strengths, your weaknesses, your vision for your life, your likes, and dislikes, and all that makes you, You. Why wouldn’t our Maker want us to know all these things about ourselves? He already knows the amount of strands in our heads. In fact, God went as far as to say, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart… (Jeremiah 1:5). Clearly, God is not trying to hide our gifts from us. However, I think that it is placed so deep into our hearts, that the only way we can find these treasures is when we are intentional about seeking God, and asking Him who we really are, and who He made us to be. That is the way into ourselves. But, we often let other people dictate what we are supposed to do with our lives, and the negative things about our personalities. We grow up with a list of things others have said about us, and we carry them around believing that this is who God made us to be. These are just some of the perversions sown in our lives, and God says, (it did) not come from the one who calls you.

For years, I have walked around with my own set of lies about myself. All the lies came in three themes: I am alone, I am unloved, and I do not belong. I carried them around like prizes, and when I had a bad day, Satan will remind me of one of these lies, which only continued to hold me captive. These kinds of persuasions did not come from the one who called me.

When we know ourselves and we know God, it’s easy to know when we are being lied to, or tempted to do something we do not want to do. I know for women, sexuality is always one of those temptations. We seem to be so confused when it comes to God’s truth about it. For a long time, I believed that if a guy showed interest, that this is the one. I needed to do everything to ensure that he likes me. I stop thinking about what I liked, what I valued, what my visions are, and I begin to centre my focus on this one individual. I forget to invite God’s presence, and ask God if this person is good for me. I suddenly believe that this area of my life is in my control. And as long as I follow the movie script (whatever those check list of items are), that I will get what I want….even if I have to compromise on a few things. Somehow, my needs are no longer that important. And what God told me in His word is not that important. I don’t know why I do this, it just happens. Except that, perhaps I have a set of perverted lies in my heart, and when placed in certain circumstances, the enemy of our souls, will pull one out and use it as a weapon to keep us hostage!

READ MORE: Faith and love move mountains

What else could it be? Sexuality is my area where I get tempted. But what is yours? Do you steal things? Do you watch those porn videos? Or, do you masturbate? I mean, there is so many kinds of persuasions, Satan is bound to get you one way or another. To be quite frank, he most likely knows you more than you know yourself. I mean, how hard is it to get to know someone? Have you ever been on a few dates, and after a while you just know the person. You know their laughs, their likes, where they live, their families, friends, and even where they work. I mean, it doesn’t take long right? So, Satan probably knows you extremely well. Why haven’t you been getting to know yourself then? Yet, you have gotten to know these things about someone else. If you did, you would know what purposes were hidden in your own heart. You would know the visions God had for you, just like he had for Jeremiah, “….I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5. But, we go about dating and flaunting ourselves at someone else. Why? I think it’s more prudent to know yourself, and what you want so that you can go about selecting someone who best suits you.

Ultimately, if we were more focused on learning about who we are, and what God made us for, we wouldn’t be caught following perversions. We would be able to select what is best for ourselves, either it’s a mate, friendships, jobs, a home, or volunteer endeavours. We wouldn’t be persuaded so easily by whatever traps the enemy of souls tempt us with. Instead, we would walk away, guard our hearts better, or whatever boundaries we so choose. We would already know what our Father in heaven wants from our lives, and we would know that He would never tempt us to do anything evil, no matter how good it looks. It’s only easy to get confused when we are far from God’s truth. I know this very well. But, here is what I suggest. Be more persuaded about who God is, the fact that He loves you, and has called you before you were born. And when you know this, seek Him about who you are, and who He made you to be. That way, you will never have need to be led into any kind of perversions.

Running the good race until it’s over

“You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?” Galatians 5:7

I remember when I started really going to church. I say “really” because as long as I knew myself I had been going to church. I don’t remember missing too many Sunday school when I was a child in Jamaica. But, when I came to Canada at 13 years old, things changed. I didn’t go as much because the relatives I lived with didn’t go, except for the usual (Easter and Christmas services). It was my mother’s constant reminders on each telephone call from Jamaica, that pressed it on my heart to continue going to church. Luckily, I had another aunt who attended, so I went to a little church called Global Apostolic Ministries on Sundays. By the time I turned 15 years old, I secretly baptized. While my mother was very concerned about my spirituality, my Canadian family were not concerned about that…so I didn’t tell them about my baptism. They were more worried I was making a big mistake than anything else. Today, I am thankful to my mother’s encouragement and that aunt that took me to church on Sundays, because I have never regretted giving my life to God all those decades ago. Yet, over the years, my walk had never been simple. Sometimes, people cut in on my race, and cause me to stumble.

The Christian life is not as easy as I thought it would have been as a teenager. This was the reason, my guardians were worried I was making a big mistake. “Wait until you are older” they said. Were they right? It depends. I have stumbled so many times, throughout every season of my life, that I wonder if they were right. I think I have a spiritual limp because I can’t seem to stand straight enough to run the race. When it comes to running races, I should know more than many others out there. Why? I was a track and field athlete for a long time. For as long as I can remember, even up to University, I had been on the track team, practicing day after day. Practices got intense during the varsity years. The mixture between outdoor work-outs, including Saturday mornings for 2-hours on the hill, and the indoor workouts, including Wednesday morning weight-lifting and swimming. I just wanted to die. The swimming wasn’t freestyle, they were actual track workouts in the water…if you can imagine that! The point is, no practise was ever easy. It was made to strengthen me, to give me power, and to let me know even at exhaustion, I can still mentally will myself to do more! So, why did I think that the Christian race was going to be easy?

READ MORE: Faith and love move mountains

Let’s start with asking why did I want to be baptized. When I looked around the little church and I saw all the kids and teens worshiping God, I wanted whatever they had. They were happy and free, and I wasn’t. I was living in a place of discomfort and I was being tested already. I was a 13 year old living without my parents, and outside of the culture I grew up in, and now I wanted to connect to people who were similar to me. Unlike school, I saw all Jamaican teens at the church, and I wanted to belong to this group. Was that a bad reason? That, coupled with the pastor’s charismatic appeals that we need to be baptized to make it heaven, made me believe that I had no other choice. If God was going to come tonight, I wanted to be one of His sheep that goes with Him. Again I asked, was this why my guardians were concerned? You can imagine that was where my first obstacle came from. As a new believer, the only place I could truly practice religion was at church. And my aunt that I lived with was very hesitant about me going every Sunday. While my church had their own rules about hat wearing, skirt wearing, and cautious about music I listened too; those were not the same rules at home. We listened to reggae, hip-pop and all kinds of songs, especially with another teenager in the house. We had other rules like do not come home late, no talking to boys on the phone, as well as other home responsibilities. As a teen, it was hard to juggle the conflicting messages I was getting from my two authoritarian regimes. Both were on the opposite sides of each other, and I was trying to please them. Needless to say, it got tiring!

So, Who cut in on me from… obeying the truth? It all just became exhausting. Maybe it was because of University. When I went to University, it became a place of neutrality…liberalism. I do not have to think about God here. And that was my respite. It felt so good to know that it’s okay not to know the truth, and I didn’t need to believe in God to live the good life. I can give myself a break and do further research to see what I believed, and in the meantime, do whatever I wanted to do. Listen to any music, go out with any guy, drink, and have sex. Basically, do whatever everyone else had been doing all along. I had no rules and I was finally free from the leashes of church and family. Maybe, my family was right all along.

It wasn’t until I went travelling for two years, to Mexico, Japan, and South Korea, that I began to think about what God really meant to me. I prayed in Korea and realized He was still there. Strange as that sounded. You see I associated the church and God as one and the same thing. And since I felt that the church wasn’t always truthful in giving me all the answers to the questions I had, especially having learnt a few things in University (ie. That it wasn’t God who wrote the bible, but it was men); I disbelieved. Or more accurately, I didn’t know what to believe, so I stopped seeking. In South Korea, however, I prayed and to my surprise I felt His peaceful presence. It was a surprise because I really thought God was just at church and with the pastor. At 23 years old, I met God and that was where my relationship with God started. And I have been stumbling ever since. Only now learning that this relationship requires an immense amount of trust. I am so thankful today that God has been patient with me. He is that kind of lover and Father that will never leave you, no matter how many times you walk away. So, again, was my family right?

READ MORE: Faith and love equals righteousness

No, they were not! Choosing a relationship with God, even for the wrong reasons, is never a bad or a wrong thing. God already chose us, and it is His plan to take our entire lives to show us how much He loves us. “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” Jeremiah 31:3. Just like my track practises over the years, the workouts get exhausting, and so does the Christian walk. As the bible says, “…The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong…,” (Ecclesiastes 9:11), but we have to endure the race to receive the prize (Hebrews 10:36). All along, I had one goal in mind as a teen, and that was to have fun and be in a place that made me happy. As I matured, I came to realize that, the obstacles and tests have been equivalent to my track practices. They are designed to draw me closer to Christ. That after two decades of being a Christian, I am still on the journey of growing to know Him and learning how to trust Him. This is his will for my life, to live for His pleasure, and to abide in Him all the days of my life. I am stumbling, but I haven’t stopped. Now, I know this, no one, not even me, should keep me from obeying the truth.

Meet Rocco

Meet Rocco, Toronto lawyer

Rocco Achampong, a Ghanian-born Canadian, has been practising law for over ten years in criminal, civil, and administrative litigation. He graduated from Osgoode Hall law school, York University in 2008 and is licensed with the Law Society of Ontario. Rocco chose law because of his empathetic and compassionate personality. “I bring about a compassionate approach where I can see the position of both sides, leaving room for collaboration, and ultimately maintaining some fidelity to the purpose of justice.”

Rocco always knew he wanted to become a lawyer. Before he completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto, he went straight to Osgoode Law. His education coupled with being surrounded by role models who all had law degrees gave his life a legal direction. “It was the only thing that made sense” says the Toronto lawyer. In the last 10 years, Rocco has never looked back. “When you do right by a young person who had been wrongfully targeted by police, and who is at risk of destroying his life, and you help them, it is a very satisfying feeling.” 

A civil-rights activist and a community leader at heart, Rocco has been actively mobilizing the community as the leader who he is. As the co-founder and president of the Black Students’ Association at UofT in 2001, he was in charge of 41,000 constituents and a $12-million budget. Now, that spark of leadership has been transpired into political leadership. In 2018, Rocco ran for City Counsellor of Eglington-West, and in 2010, he was a mayoral candidate. 

READ MORE: African Canadian Social Development Fights Against Anti-Black Racism

Currently, Rocco sits on different boards, the International Black Film Alliance and the Pan-African Union Board (a proposed initiative). 

Rocco uses his many talents to serve his community in many ways, but being a lawyer is the most satisfying experience. As a lawyer, “I walk in the experience of my clients, and I am able to identify with someone in need” says Rocco. He serves his clients with compassion and empathy because he understands their circumstances. If you have legal questions or need more information feel free to contact Rocco by email: roccoachampong@gmail.com or by phone: (416) 434-2828. 

Faith And Love Move Mountains

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. Galatians 5:6

The bible is a book about love. It is really a love story about a God who loved his people, so much so that through faith He expressed that love. As His people, we are expected to do the same thing, first to love God and second to love each other (Matthew 22:37-40). Christ came to earth as a result of God’s love for us, and helped us to truly see what the bible has been trying to say all along. Yet, over the centuries, we have been moving further and further away from love, and ultimately, away from faith. You see, faith tells us to take action, and love tells us what that action is. Therefore, faith and love must work together, the yin and yang of our hearts. Can you truly say then, that you love, when you have no faith?

Photo by Binti Malu from Pexels

If you work downtown, like me, you see homeless people every day. In fact, you begin to know them because each person seem to mark their territory. During Covid-19, I started driving to work. The moment I get out of my car, I see two men who are homeless sitting on a bench. The first time, my heart prompted me to give them what I carried for breakfast, a yogurt. The second time, I gave an orange that was already peeled and cut. I don’t do this all the time mind you, but for those brief moments I did. My encounters reminds me of when Peter and John healed another man who was homeless in Acts 3:1-6.

One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”

Acts 3:1-6

READ MORE: Faith and love equals righteousness

Peter could not just walk pass this man because love told Peter to help the man, and faith gave him the ability to heal. It’s that simple, although when we are faced with our own personal encounters, we have so many thoughts. Faced with uncertainty or too many options, we close ourselves from doing good, because we begin to question faith. Using our logic to reason our way out, or feeling overwhelmed that if we give, we might not have enough for ourselves. It’s not really selfish, but it’s self preservation. It’s “fleshy” (and natural) to do this. And of course, it lacks faith. When you are moved by love, you will know what to do. This is the reason, Galatians 5:6 says, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value.” Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has value, because the reason you do it, which is love, is what is important. Whatever action one is going to take (in faith), that action requires the express of love. This was the reason why James stated, “What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? ” James 2: 14-15. James further expand on his rhetorical question, “If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?” James 2:16. The answer James then gives is this: “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself” James 2:17.

READ MORE: For law or for relationship

Every great relationship requires love. We know this. God knew that He had to sacrifice Himself (through Christ) because He loves us too much to see us die in our sins. Yet, we fail God every time. We love ourselves more than we love God and our neighbours. We choose not to feed the homeless because we need to eat. They should have made better choices with their lives. Yet, this wasn’t what the little boy chose when he gave away his loaves and fishes to Jesus (See John 6:9). Of all the people in the crowd, do you really think it was one person who was smart enough to pack his lunch (alone)? No, I think his parents were probably there too, and they also had their lunch. They probably told their son to be quiet and let the adults figure out the problem themselves (maybe they could get extra for dinner later). But, you know how children are…they are not thinking about the future (or about anything). So, the boy gave away his lunch. And Jesus used it as a lesson. The greatest lesson was this: Jesus did not want to send away the people hungry. He loved them and cared for them. And His faith moved him to feed all 5000+ people. It was another opportunity for miracle. That is the ability we all have in us. We can move mountains by faith too.

…Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.

Matthew 17:20

Why then do we not give so freely? God expects us to give what we have, not what we don’t have. Believe that the little you have is sufficient to help yourself, those in your care, and whomever your neighbours are that day. Therefore, do not get caught up trying to expound the law, and stuck in our heads figuring things out. Be moved by love, and put love into action. You are going to be surprised at what miracles you are capable of doing. Are you excited that you can become the miracle that someone else needs? I have never lacked something, because I gave too much. So, remove your doubts, and unbeliefs; and replace it with faith. Put faith in action, and express it through love.