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.

Faith And Hope Equals Righteousness

“For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope.” Galatians 5:5

Have you ever had to wait for something and it took forever to come? Christmas comes to mind. For many of us who celebrated Christmas as children, there is no other day as magical. You didn’t know where all the gifts were going to come from, but you were sure they were going to be under the tree come Christmas morning. That hope and faith we had as children is priceless. It is the very reason Christ tells us in one of his many lessons, to be a child for the Kingdom. “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). Faith is required to live a life of power, and it is especially required to live a life of righteousness. This is the exact reason the bible tells us, “…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” (Hebrews 11:6).

READ MORE: For law or for relationship (part III)

In case you didn’t celebrate Christmas as children, here is another biblical analogy on waiting for something. Do you recall the parable of the 10 virgins in Matthew 25:1-13?

At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him! Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out. ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us! But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you. Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

Matthew 25:1-13

These virgins were waiting for the bridegroom, but they didn’t know when he was coming. It seemed they were waiting all night, so much so that they fell asleep. He didn’t come at 8pm when they were really expecting him, and he didn’t even come at 11pm – the time when they must have fallen asleep. This is when they realized they needed more oil to wait any longer. Since they waited all this time, what’s the harm in running down to the 24hr store to get the oil? Truly, they had lots of time. But, somewhere around 11pm and midnight the Bridegroom showed up. The hour he was least expected. And only the wise virgins were there. They had been eagerly waiting – in fact they came prepared in faith, knowing that even if they had to wait all night, He would come. That is true, unrelenting faith at work. These wise virgins were so eager that they were unwilling to give up their resources for fear that they would miss the hour. In the end, the wise virgins went in with Him to the wedding banquet. They received the righteousness they were hoping for.

That kind of waiting cannot be done by the flesh. Without the Spirit, those virgins would have given up a long time ago. Many of us don’t even like to wait in traffic or lines at the bank. I know I suffer from impatience and I get all worked up counting all the things I could be doing instead of standing in line. My impatience translate to being grumpy, rude, easily irritated. I don’t even like myself when I behave like that. So, I don’t think I would put myself in the feet of any of the 10 virgins. The difference with the wise and the foolish, was that the wise had extra oil. With or without the oil, I would have been cranky. I would have been asking questions, banging on the door… You get the picture. But, with the Spirit of Christ, who gives us patience, faith, and hope, I would be able to be like the wise virgins.

READ MORE: For law or for relationship (part II)

Faith is a beautiful gift. This is a gift downloaded in us by the Holy Spirit and it is this gift that gives thus the immense ability to wait. Children don’t realize that this is the gift they are using when they are waiting for Christmas to come. So eager, so full of faith, and hope. Oh, if we could become children again. What is to come, and what is to be downloaded is us, is far greater than waiting for Christmas. We cannot get weary, and we cannot loose hope. The Bridegroom is coming and He is looking for those who have been filled with righteousness. Be prepared with your oil, and stay awake, because the wedding banquet is a one time opporunity that we don’t want to miss. So, let’s wait in the spirit by faith and hope for this righteousness.

For law or for relationship? (Part III)

“You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.” Galatians 5:4

The two are not one. That is, choosing the law is in essence rejecting a relationship with Christ. All this time, I imagined that our choices are ours, and they lead to the same end. Yet, I hear Paul saying something different. That is, we really have no other choice but to choose relationship over the law. And it makes sense to me given the fact that Christ came all this way to earth to die that we should live; but instead of saying yes, we continue with our laws and traditions, because that’s what we know. But, Galatians 5:4 says, grace and law cannot co-exist. Let’s put it this way, “and if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” Romans 11:6.


Do you remember the time when Jesus Christ walked into the synagogue and turned over the table? Let BBQ refresh your memory:

BBQ the meeting house

I can see how the people in the synagogue would look at Jesus as a crazy (and rebellious) person. Why? Well, He just mixed up their money making schemes! And the sad part is that they didn’t see what they were doing. In their eyes, gambling in the house of God became acceptable. But, not so in God’s eyes. Christ came to get rid of these old ways of thinking. His action of turning over the table, was a symbolism for what He would later do on the cross, turn our worlds upside down.

We live our lives with such carelessness. The bible tells us that the birds know how to live with no care for tomorrow. But, this isn’t the same kind of carelessness we exhibit. The birds know where their help comes from. All of nature knows who their creator is, and they hardly deviate from what they are made for. But, humans on the other hand, we find all kinds of ways to go against the goodness that is inside of us. Rather than love, we choose hate. Rather than purity, we choose promiscuity. Rather than peace, we choose war. You see, this doesn’t happen in the animal kingdom. Having recently watched Mowgli, The Legend of the Jungle (a Disney animation), I got a sense that the animals don’t kill their own unless they have to. “Killing is not a sport,” the Panther told Mowgli. The animals kill to eat for their survival. Humans have gone against the nature of why we were created. We are callous about life, and we kill for sport! We, the ones who should be caretaker of this great planet, act like it’s not ours to care for. It’s like we have a mask over our eyes, maybe because we are desensitized by media. We do not know who we are. We are lost, unfocused, and we live for this world. We live with no realization that we have power.

I say all that because maybe if we knew whose we are, the one who made us, then we wouldn’t have too much trouble making a distinction between being obedient to the law versus allegiance to our Creator. This takes time. I mean do you give honour to the pottery for creating itself? No, you choose to honour the one who made the pottery. Likewise, we worship the one who made us. Through worship, we acknowledge that we have a Maker. Through worship we draw close to Him. When we do that, we also get closer to who we are. Only the Maker knows the purpose of all His creation. We spend a lot of time trying to find ourselves. We look in the caves, we look in the books, we look to Hollywood stars…and we call them idols! Yet, we never think to look above, or maybe within. Seek Him, and He will be found. Let’s be honest, God is always right there, and we know it. It takes a terrible accident…you know when we have no other choice, to call on God. And what’s amazing is that He answers every time. He is always there, waiting for His children to acknowledge Him.


That’s what makes it difficult for God when we decide to choose the law. We are moving away from Him, and towards these idols. We follow scrolls of words or traditions that say do this, and do that. Yet, we don’t always connect the dots. As such, the law alienates us from Christ. That’s just it. The law makes us think we are good and our ability to do the right thing makes us have no need for grace. You don’t need grace when you feel you are justified by your actions. What happens when your works can no longer justify you? You know the day you make that terrible mistake? That one mistake that cause you to run far away from God and you live in isolation from Him. If you knew Him, you would know this, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” Jeremiah 31:3. Why do we decide to run away when we do something wrong? (Adam and Eve did this, Judas did this, Jacob did this). It’s natural. The truth is though, we run because we do not know that Christ have died for that reason. He already knew that we would fall, and that’s why he made sure that grace will always lift us up. Because, it has never been our deeds that saved us, and the most amazing thing is that it never will be.

Do not fall from grace. Without grace, we will no longer have purpose to live. We can not trust ourselves, our laws, or our religion to save us. Our reminder is that, Christ died for us…so that we will be free, so that we do not have to trust in our good works. So that we do not need the law.

For law or for relationship? (Part II)

“Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law.” Galatians 5:3

Photo by Jessica Lewis from Pexels

I love that we always have a choice when it comes to God. The choice to obey the law or the choice to obey Christ. It might seem like the same thing, but apparently it’s not. Even if the law may lead us to Christ, it is more restricting than choosing to follow Him. But, we need tangible rules to follow, don’t we? Remember when the Israelites wanted a king instead of choosing to follow God? According to 1 Samuel 8:6, “Give us a king to lead us” the people asked the priest, Samuel. God told Samuel in 1 Samuel 8:7, “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.” This is equivalent to choosing the law over a relationship with Christ, the one who made the law. In essence, our fallible, humanistic nature wants something we are able to see. Whether it comes as laws or kings, it is much easier for the mind to feel a bit of control over the uncontrollable things. So, God says, every man who lets himself be circumcised … is obligated to obey the whole law.”

It seems to be that simple, but the trouble is that like the king, the law will strangle us to our demise. “Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.


What are the obligations of choosing the Law?

This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants.15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle[c] and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves.

1 Samuel 8: 11-17

For these reasons, choosing the law or choosing a king, is saying yes to the fallible nature of humans. A king will never be merciful, just, and righteous like God. The law requires someone to uphold it, therefore it becomes more like a yoke, because it has a tendency to take away our rights, and to treat everyone the same. It is a burden that we are not meant to carry. This was the reason we needed Christ to come and die for us. God knew the day would come when we would cry out to him. “Then that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day” (1 Samuel 8:18). He already knows what we can bear, and He gave us choices. Yet it is His personal advice to us to choose relationship with Christ, rather than choosing the Law. Again, if you choose the law, you have to obey ALL of it. But, God says, there is a better way. Choose relationship with God. Because, “it is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” It’s that simple.

Finally, Christ “…did not come to abolish (the law), but to fulfill (it)” (Matthew 5:17). The beauty of all of this is, the law pointed to Christ all along. And he summed it up for us this way, “ the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength and You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” (Luke 10:27). In other words, since the beginning of time, all God has ever wanted from us is relationship. He wants us to make the choice to love Him, not the Law.  

For law or for relationship?

“Listen! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you at all!” Galatians 5:2

Have you ever being told to do things because “it was the law?” or “this is what we do?” But never understood the reason for doing so? I am reminded of a story about a wife, whose husband asked her why she cut part of the turkey before baking it. Her response was, “that’s the way mom did it.” She decided to call her mom, and her mom told her the same thing, “thats how mom did it.” Luckily, great-grand mom was alive and when they asked her, she told them that it was because the turkey was too big for the pot she used for the oven. It’s an interesting story, how we take to traditions, even when circumstances have changed. The writer of Galatians 5, Paul the Apostle, is making it very clear that circumcision is like the woman cutting off the end of the turkey, when the times didn’t call for it. That is, even though circumcision was a pledge to live by the rule of Law, Christ came so that we should have relationship with him and not with the law.

When we lack understanding of what we do, we simply build up yokes between us and Christ. Yokes are no good because they put a strain on the relationship we have with Christ. For that reason alone, Paul is warning us, “…if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you at all.” The yoke in this verse refers to the Law. When Paul talks about circumcision, it was a tradition that was done by every Jewish boy. Acts 15:10 says it this way, “Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?” Being tied up to the Law makes us a bit like a robot. We do not have to use our god-given ability to make choices because the law tells us what we say, what we wear, and what we do. Does that sound familiar?

Photo by John Ray Ebora from Pexels

I have spent a better part of my teenage and young adult life as a Pentecostal Apostolic. Since the day I was baptized, I felt as if I had to put on a yoke of religion. The women wore hats, no pants, no jewelry, and attended church 2 to 3 times a week. No, this wasn’t normal, but when you started building relationships with the people, you’d be surprised to see how natural it was to follow the rules. You stop questioning your every thought about what you like, and replace them with what is expected. You go shopping and have to ask yourselves, what would sister so and so think when I buy this sleeve-less dress? It was a subtle way of conforming sinners to saints. But, it lasted as long as the relationships you developed lasted. In other words, once you have broken ties because of circumstances like university, or travelling or moving to a new city, those same unanswered questions begin to pop up again. Do you do the same things, even when circumstances change?

See Part II: For Freedom, He died

Robots do not think, but people do. Thoughts lead to choices, choices lead to decisions. We get to make decisions as humans because we are free. “For freedom, Christ has set us free.” Therefore, since we have been set free, Paul feels that it is important that we do not become circumcised again. Why? Christ will not be of any benefit, Paul says. My thought is that, since the Law tells us what to do, we have no need to come to God in prayer. One thing we could bring to God in prayer for instance would be the clothes we wear. Instead of listening to what a religious sect tells us; do this, and do not do that, we would be able to exercise our freedom in Christ. We can ask him what to wear [This is a basic example about clothing, but it goes for any part of our lives that concerns us]. Christ who thrives in relationship, would be all too happy to share in this aspect of our lives, and together come up with something that is both appropriate and uniquely us. This is what He does with us, if we let him, if we let go off the yokes that burdens us, and allow for relationship with the one who gives freedom.

For Freedom, He died (Part II)

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1

The maintenance personnel (“Jim”) at Centennial Park is kind of like Christ. Jim went out of his way to let out the baby raccoon out of the garbage bin. The reason he did so was because he knew that the poor little rodent couldn’t do it himself. The raccoon may have strong climbing legs, but they couldn’t help him. Jim didn’t rescue the raccoon because he was good and deserved it, he did it because it was a choice. Likewise, Jesus Christ came to earth to save us. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” Ephesians 2:8-9. It’s straightforward; we need Christ because that is how we gain our freedom. We can’t navigate ourselves through this world of sin, turmoil, and uncertainties. So, we trust the one who can give us this freedom.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Freedom means we get to live, thrive, be our best selves, and not worry about uncontrollable, or uncertain things. There are times in my life when I never understood the meaning of that freedom. We have all been teenagers and some of us have had to listen to domineering parents. Can you imagine what that feels like? Yes, it’s restrictive. If Christ is anything like earthly parents, he sets up rules and makes us have to obey them. How is that free? These are the very rules that makes one want to get the heck out of the garden, house or country! We have an inclination for just wanting to do what we want to do. Surely, this is the better definition of freedom.

See Part One: Recused from bondage.

The baby raccoon would agree that it had the right to go looking for food anywhere. But, even though no one will restrict this rodent, could there be a better way to hunt for food, without the possibility of being stuck? Or was it okay to take the risk, and hope for the best? Surely, that was the raccoon’s right! None of us want to feel stuck. It makes us feel scared and anxious. So, while we want to have the right to do what we feel is best for ourselves, there are many risks out there that we can’t get away from. We get trapped because of our own actions. It was for these reasons, Christ died for us. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” John 3:16. In other words, Christ knew we were going to get stuck over and over again and because of that, he gave himself for our freedom. Imagine that!

Jesus Christ knew we had free choice, as the Lord God gave it to us. Jesus even knows we do not want anyone to hinder our choices. And so he gave himself as a sacrifice, bearing every sin that we could ever experience, and became that mediator for us. That way, we won’t have to stay in the garbage bin forever. Instead, like the raccoon, each time we fall in the garbage bin, Jim comes in and make a way for our escape. If there is no Jim, we are stuck forever. Our lives come to an end, and we die in our own mistakes. And who wants to die because you’re trying to survive? Freedom therefore goes with a sacrifice. Christ had to sacrifice his life, so that we can be free. Now, he gives us a charge, To Stand firm.

Christ expects us to learn from our mistakes. Not for his good, but for our own good. Not because he won’t rescue us. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. It’s a burden on us when we make mistakes, and can’t get out. It breaks our spirits, it makes us feel ashamed, it beats us down emotionally, and we become stressed, anxiety ridden, and depressed. One mistake, or the feeling of being stuck, can cause us to have a lifetime of poor choices, even feeling afraid to take other risks. So, in fact it’s for our gain that we STAND firm in our new knowledge, that is, actually the reason Christ died for us. We are just like baby raccoons who are in need of rescuing because we will always get stuck, at some point or other in our lives. While we might not see Jim, know that it was he who held the bin down, and shook us out, whether or not we took the time to acknowledge him. Likewise, whether we knew that it was Christ who freed us from sin, because of him, we are free.