“Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32)
That was the word that I chose to summarize this year’s Africa Ministry Training Course (AMTC) when each participant was asked to do so at the end of the seminar. This was a record-breaking year for AMTC, bringing over 70 participants from across the globe to London for a weeklong study of biblical doctrines, spiritual cultivation, and RE training.
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Rom 12:2)
A New Year’s resolution is a promise people make to themselves to be better. For many people, the New Year is a good time for a fresh start. New Year’s resolutions are usually about living healthier, having more success, or finding satisfaction in life. Some common New Year’s resolutions are to lose weight, exercise more, learn a new skill, save money, etc. These resolutions are not of a religious nature. However, the New Year can be a time to reflect upon our spiritual growth and set a goal for spiritual renewal.
After a dramatic episode involving God plaguing Pharaoh’s house on account of Abram’s wife, Sarai, Abram and Sarai were basically kicked out of the land of Egypt.
Prior to this taking place, God had called Abram from his own country and promised to give him descendants who would inherit the land of Canaan. Once there, Abram pitched his tent between Bethel and Ai, built an altar to the Lord, and called on His name (Gen 12:8). But when a severe famine hit the land, in a moment of weakness, Abram left God’s promises behind and went down to Egypt. If God had not intervened by sending plagues upon Pharaoh’s house, Abram would have lost his wife Sarai and the hope of having descendants through her—for he had lied about Sarai being his sister.
But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” (Mk 10:38; cf. v39-40, Lk 12:50)
The baptism that Jesus was referring to here is not water baptism, but the baptism of trials and suffering. When I was young and an unbeliever, I used to wonder, “Why are good kids bullied in school? If the problem is not with them, why are they ostracized for being good?” It took me a while to realize that such kids—coming from good, loving, and often privileged homes, who are meek, good-tempered, and usually bright—are frequently the target of bullies because of jealousy. This is often inexplicable, but the human psyche is not easy to understand. Is it better then for them to renounce their good nature or privilege just to avoid the bullying? Of course not.
People around the world like festivals. To make festivals fun and memorable, especially for children, holidays are filled with many man-made traditions such as Christmas trees, Santa Claus, reindeer, the Easter bunny, Easter eggs, Halloween costumes and trick-or-treat, etc. People, especially children, like Christmas as it’s a time when they give and receive presents. Can we celebrate these commonly regarded as religious, yet non-biblical holidays? Should Christian parents allow their children to participate in traditional activities that are associated with those “religious” holidays? These are questions that we, particularly parents with children, may struggle with.