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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Apathy Will Be the Death of You and Me

I had prepared a sermon for this morning's service, but over the course of the 48 hour prayer weekend, I really felt like I was to wait, that today was not the day to present this particular message. Instead I preached on forgiveness, and included the Poetry Slam I wrote. I had made my senior pastor aware of my decision, and of course he encouraged me to continue as I felt led. As I prepared to go to the pulpit, I looked around and noticed more young adults in our congregation than usual, and knew that this was the right message for this day. My senior pastor commented as well, on the perhaps not so coincidental change in the mornings plans considering the demographic of the church community this morning.

The message I had originally prepared and will be delivering at another time, developed from a time of prayer with God where I was questioning Him about the church, which resulted in the book of Haggai being impressed upon me. I have read that book at least 30 times over the past month, as it was such a powerful and direct answer to my inquiries.

I'm obviously not going to post my message here, before I present it at the church, but I thought I would summarize the book of Haggai, and an analogy I drew from it.

Apathy will be the death of you and me. 16 years later the people of Judah still hadn’t finished what they started - the Temple. They had taken their eyes off the goal, their eyes off God and had slid into a lifestyle of complacency and apathy. Haggai was compelled by the Lord to reveal to the Judeans the consequences of obedience and disobedience to the Lord, as it pertained especially to the building of His temple.

The people of Judah had not made the construction of the temple their priority; they had not put God first in their lives. They had allowed their self-centeredness and me first attitudes to drive them into an environment of complacency and apathy. Their homes had taken precedence over the temple [1:4], their interests, over the interests of God. Haggai was intent on getting them re-focused on God, the task He had provided them to do – and back on the right track as a people serving Yahweh.

The Judeans were called by Haggai to evaluate where it was they were headed, to “give careful thought to their ways” [1:5], it reminded me of a line I have heard from Dr. Phil “How is that working for you?” Haggai was saying in essence take a look around, all the things you have placed your efforts in, how are they paying off for you; not well as we can establish from verse 1:6 “You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in itWe can put our efforts into all our own self-interests but if it is not of God it will amount to nothing. “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away.” [1:9]

God using him, Haggai stepped in and spoke up, with clarity and insight.  The word of the Lord stirred their spirits and renewed their commitment to God and His purposes. Where rebuke had birthed repentance, now reassurance would birth encouragement and strength in the Lord. “But now be strong…and work for I am with you, declares the Lord almighty” [2:4]

The call to build the temple could also serve as an allegory for us as individuals and the body of Christ. We sometimes neglect the spiritual work that needs to be tended to in our lives, the building up of our spiritual fortitude, instead focusing on more pleasurable or immediate attentions, such as our work, popularity, success, friendships etc. etc. We focus so much on getting ahead, to the neglect of our spiritual walk, and then wonder why we are progressing so slowly.  It's either ignorance or apathy.  Either we don't care or don't understand that if we tended to our spiritual lives, and relationship with God first, maintaining our focus and priority in Him, then everything else would fall into place as per God’s will.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

We Are Family

It is only fitting that today's blog should concern the privilege I've had of participating in this weekend's 48 hour prayer vigil.  "Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice." ~ Psalm 55:17.   While one might think I would choose to write something on prayer, I am more interested in sharing what I witnessed of Koinonia over the past 34 hours.  This will post will probably go through a couple revisions, as I am writing this eyes half open.

It delights my heart to see the body of Christ serving in unity and love.  Admittedly the body of Christ, doesn't always function as it should.   At times we are a clanging gong of dysfunction rather than a harmonious symphony following the lead of the master conductor.  As it is with any family, the family of God,  is going to experience some dysfunction, and growing pains, as we work together under the authority of our heavenly Father.  However, when  brothers and sisters, related through the blood of Christ place their focus on the things of God, becoming unified in the things which please Him, we become a glorifying force for God, an unstoppable power in the Kingdom and a blessing to others.  That was the result this past weekend.

Koinonia is a Greek word that means "communion by intimate participation".  The feeling of family was palpable this weekend as people came together for the common goal of prayer centered on God and focused on others.  All those who joined together for the 48 hour prayer vigil experienced this communion as we took the personal requests of friends and strangers to the Lord. There is something about sharing in the deepest needs and hurts and desires of individuals that creates a familial intimacy and trust.

"But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it." ~ 1 Corinthians 12:24-26

There are number of reasons why I think the essence of family was so evident this weekend.  We were focused on a common goal, that had little do with ourselves and everything to do with  God and others. It was a challenge bigger than just one person, which required the participation and cooperation of many if we were going to succeed.   Any brokenness or divisiveness gave way as we became closely intertwined in this common goal. The spirit of sharing, generosity and mutual support became tangible.

A few of my favourite moments from the weekend:
I) The fact that people showed up every hour, even the wee small hours of the morning to pray for the needs of others.  Individuals took it upon themselves to call participants to remind them of their prayer time.  If someone was late arriving or could not make it, someone else stepped in to ensure that time slot was filled.  Not to mention those who decided last minute to stop by and join in prayer.

II) Witnessing the body of believers minister to each other, praying with and for one another, sharing tears, laughter and hugs.

III) The unexpected opportunities I was afforded to get to know individuals better, and pray for them.

IV) The variety of ways people prayed, some in silence, others out loud, some with song, some journaling, while others prayed the word.

V) Most generations of our church family were represented from the aged to the young.  I can not adequately express the emotion that filled my heart, as I observed one university student who took time out of her day to come and pray, quietly pour over each request. Admiration, Inspiration and hope I think best defines what I was feeling.

VI) The praise wall, that gave the glory and credit to God!

VII) The generosity extended beyond prayers, and beyond our Christian community when an individual brought a donation of a bag full of heat packs, wool socks and chocolate bars for me to take to the street truck tonight.
VIII) On a personal note, concerning sharing and generosity, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a slice of delicious home made banana bread Saturday morning and incomparable authentic homemade Indian Food brought for supper Saturday night.

This weekend is best summed up by this statement made to me Friday evening: "What an encouragement and privilege it was to be be able to come and pray for others and a humbling experience to walk around the sanctuary praying for all those needs"

The simplest and purest things are what I value the most!  My heart at times was bursting with delight.  I am blessed to be a part of the body of Christ, and uber blessed to be a member of this church family!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Consider Our Ways...

I have the privilege of facilitating a 48 hour prayer vigil this weekend at church.  While I was praying, I became distracted by the sound of the cars going by, which got me thinking and in turn inspired this - my 2nd attempt at poetry slam. Perhaps I`ll attempt to write one a week, but we`ll see how it goes. I could definitely use the practice. This is a spoken word art form, so a little is lost when it is read rather than heard. 

CONSIDER OUR WAYS...
I hear the cars driving by, whizzing, streaming by and I wonder why, they never stop to look inside - this sanctuary. Is it scary? Or is there something more ominous looming? Like the possibility that we are not choosing - to go beyond these stained glass walls to where it is dirty, messy and Jesus calls, us to start leading people out of the darkness, pulling them out of the muck and mire. Cause perhaps we're to concerned that it may ruin our image, mess up our attire.

You can debate me on this, argue that it's not the case but given the evidence or lack there of could you look me in the face. When people are lost more than ever before, many never having even darkened a church door. When there is so much space in this sacred place, full of empty pews and seats - tell me where is all the "Fresh Meat". I'll tell you where it is - in the world rotting away, unaware of their spirits decay, all because our fear or selfishness keeps us away.

Don't blame it on God when He has called you to get out of your pew, to start putting others ahead of you. There are people in Darfur dying, children crying, homeless people sleeping on the street, nations with nothing to eat. So many of God's children oppressed. this world is a mess. Yet we sit back and say it ain't our fault, wondering why the dark is so dark - pitch black like a moonless night. The question worth asking is why is our light not so bright.

Blood stained sacrifice paid the price - Do we honour the cost? When our inaction seems to indicate that we don't really care about the lost. Do we even care to bring them inside - this place where we hide? Or are we embarrassed and ashamed that our church is not all that we've claimed. Maybe we will recognize the error of all that we've been doing, building palaces for ourselves, while God's temple inside our hearts lies in ruins.

I don't mean to rant or come down to hard, my intention is not to have you leaving here emotionally scared - but if you are getting a little offended -then perhaps your heart needs to be mended. Maybe this Def Jam Slam was meant for you, because God has powerful, incredible things for you to do. Don't pack your bags, I'm not sending you on a guilt trip. These words are meant to challenge and edify the church not break the spirits of the saints like a whip. I am there with you, trying to get it right, considering my ways and how to brighten the light within me so that others can see when I venture into the dark, someting worth having, a spark, that will ignite a desire to know of God and his refining fire. Let's consider our ways and how to ensure this is a place of God's glory, where people come and sing praises, sharing their own story - Of how God's servants came blazing bright, leading them out of the darkness and into the light.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

And He Will...

Last night in small group, Jenn shared a few of her favourite verses from Psalm 37 as an encouragement to us all. I decided to re-read that Psalm in full tonight. My heart resonated with much of what I read but it was verses 3-8 and 24-25, that I decided to spend time reflecting on.

The Psalms are written in such a way that they are meant to be felt with the heart more than analyzed by the mind. Whether it be a Psalm of praise or complaint, a plea for help, or a psalm of thanksgiving, you can't help but be moved by the laments or comforted and encouraged by the faithfulness of God. You can see woven through the pages of the Psalms the theme of obedience begetting blessing and disobedience bringing rebuke and judgment. I love the cause and effect relationship that is established in this Psalm, the faithfulness of God and His promises to those who follow in His ways.

"Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this: He will make your righteousness like the noon day sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him, do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret - it only leads to evil. ...If the Lord delights in a man's way, He makes his steps firm; though He stumble; He will not fall for the Lord upholds him with His hand."

So often I hear people say that the Lord will give you the desires of your heart; Yet too often it is misapplied, in attempts to sanctify our own current yearnings. Verse 4 reads "delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart" It is when we turn our eyes upon God, when we draw so near to Him that our heart echoes His heart, when our desires align with God's desires, because we delight in the Lord and the things in which the Lord delights, that we are granted the desires of our heart. These are the desires that we truly long for, desires that will ultimately bring us fulfillment and joy, blessing others and glorifying God.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Come Together Right Now...

I have always been a big proponent of small groups and that passion has only been fuelled by the amazing group I am a part of.  If I was to define our group in three words I would describe it as "Organically Christ-like".   It is organic, by nature of its creation.  A friend and I were looking around for a good bible study group, going church to church trying to find a place that would meet our needs.  When nothing really fit, we thought to ourselves, why don't we start out own.  So we did.  It is not a big group just the 4 of us, which is twice as many indicated in Matthew 18:20 "Where two or more are gathered in my name, I [Jesus] am there among them." We are all from different churches, some of us strangers at the beginning but now friends. The fabulous thing is that we are different enough to compliment and challenge one another but we share some things in common.  We are all accomplished women, aged 26-34, independent, intelligent, and in relatively the same stage of life.  

Our small group is Christ-Like in that we watch over each other in love. We are transparent with each other, open with our struggles, we share our pains, discouragement and frustrations, as well as our dreams and victories.  We hold one another accountable and encourage and challenge each other.  When we meet formally each Wednesday, we are in God's word, learning how to live like Christ in the middle of our circumstances.  We always pray for and with each other, giving thanks to God and seeking His guidance and help to live lives that will glorify Him and bless others. 

I love this group, because it represents what I believe to be one of the most integral cogs in the life of a healthy church and a necessity in the life of each person wanting to grow in their spiritual walk. A safe place where we can confess our sin struggles. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. ~James 5:16. Real - authentic - transparent individuals, centred in Christ but imperfect and aware of it. It is a group where we have developed relationships allowing each other to speak into our lives about the sin that we can't even see. Encouraging and challenging one another as we seek to be more like Him. A safe place to be broken, a great place to find healing, learning together what it means to live as Christ has called us to live, nurturing each other in faith, hope and love through relationships of mutual accountability.

Jesus devoted himself to a small group at the beginning of His ministry, consisting of 12 ordinary men who became His disciples.  The words of Jesus in Luke 22:28 reveals the need for human fellowship and support "You are those who have stood by me in my trials."  The early church was a small group of people that gathered to encourage and support one another, doing essentially the same thing our small group did tonight, meeting in a home, eating together and praising God.  The Methodist revival led by John Wesley was primarily based on the use of small groups for mutual confession to one another, to give encouragement and support in overcoming temptation and in developing a Christian style of life.

I am passionate about small groups because I believe that a lack of relationship in the church and/or one's life contributes significantly to a loss of spiritual vitality.  If you are feeling drained, unsupported, and struggling in your Christian walk, or you simply want to be challenged and encouraged, I would encourage you to find a solid small group or consider helping to initiate one. We would all do well to recover accountability and authenticity in the real and deep manner in which Jesus exampled it amongst His disciples, increasing the relationships amongst the body of Christ and helping one another to grow more in His image.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

There's Still Fire In Me Yet

Does it have to start with a broken heart. Broken dreams and bleeding parts. We were young and the world was clear. But young ambition disappears. I swore it would never come to this. The average, the obvious. I'm still discontented down here. I'm still discontented. If we've only got one try. If we've only got one life. If time was never on our side. Then before I die. I want to burn out bright.  A spark ignites In time and space. Limping through this human race. You bite and claw your way back home. But you're running the wrong way.  The future is a question mark. Of kerosene and electric sparks. There's still fire in you yet. Yeah there's still fire in you!. I keep cleaning up the mess I've made/ I won't run away. I can't sleep in the bed I've made.

The lyrics above are to the song that begins when you open this blog. They are sung by John Foreman lead singer and co-founder of Switch foot, though I prefer his solo work over the bands stuff.   This song is reminiscent of a classic Neil young tune and is echoing the current state of my heart. I don't want to fade away I want my light to burn so bright that it is gonna take a tsunami to put it out.

It has always been there, a constant subconscious knowing driving me forward.  When I came home from Cambodia, I actually said it out loud  and to another person no less. "I was created to do great things." It may sound conceded to you, but it rings true to me. I am not satisfied with living the status quo, I am not satisfied with good enough, I want great! Not to my benefit but God's glory. It's a passion that run's deep, an emotion I can not define. Perhaps the best way to illustrate it is to say "If you were meant to fly, not even running really fast is that impressive." I am working towards what I don't understand, trusting in the Master's plan, believing that it is bigger than me and it's going to leave a lasting legacy. There is something in my spirit that insists on greatness! My spirit knows there is a greater purpose for my life, a God-sized dream(s) waiting to unfold and become my future and it won't be satisfied until it is fulfilled.

For myself greatness is not defined by fame, or fortune though I am not adverse to these things if it provides a greater means and platform to bless others and glorify God.  Greatness is knowing I made the greatest difference I could in the lives of as many people as possible resulting in both temporal and eternal benefits for all.  I want this world to be a better place because I was in it. I want my life to be lived at it's best for God and others.  Is this conceded and self-centred? I don't think so, I would certainly hate to live with the alternative.

In Erwin McManus' book Soul Cravings he says "All of us begin our lives fuelled by curiosity, yet far too many of us replace it with conformity" I fear this! I would hate to get to heaven, stand before God and have Him say "Well done, good and faithful servant, did you enjoy your time on earth" to which I reply "I certainly did" "I am well pleased" says God "but this is how much more I had for you to do, these are the blessings I had prepared for you and as a result others, but you let fear, insecurities, apathy and disobedience, get in the way"

"Some people seem to live in a very small universe. Their world has room only for themselves. while their souls have every potential to be ever expanding, they seem instead to be the center of a collapsing universe - no room for dreams..." Perhaps some give up their desires along the way. Greatness placed on the back shelf of a life overwhelmed with obligations. Dreams given way to present desires. A settling for less than God has for us, in exchange for what the world has to offer and instant gratification. I think society sometimes beats us down until we give up our uniqueness and conform. "It is only as we loose our childlike innocence that we begin to settle for far less. A part of growing up seems to be acquiescing to mediocrity. It's easy to say that we're just becoming realistic, that it's just a part of growing up, but in fact it is the death of our souls"  Imagine if Martin Luther King Jr. did not fight for the dream God placed in his heart, or Mother Teresa. What would be the detriment to my life and the lives of those in my influence, if I were to compromise, to settle for anything less than what I was created to do, created to be, all that God has for me.

Let me ask you a question "If you could do absolutely anything for God, and knew it would not fail, what would you do?" 

I love what the message bible paraphrase says in 2 Corinthians 6:11:13 "I can't tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn't fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren't small, but you're living them in a small way. I'm speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!" 

We musn't allow our curiosity to be replaced with conformity.    Let's break free from our comfort zones and dream - dream big, every plan and purpose God has placed in our heart released from it's cocoon and set to flight.  Live - Risk - Fly -  change the world - in ways that will ripple into eternity and set us free! There's still fire in you yet.

Monday, January 25, 2010

I Remember When You Use To Love Me

I do not have much to say today. Shocking I know. I am preparing my sermon for Sunday Morning, and thought I would try to write another Poetry Slam for it (my first attempt is revealed in yesterday's post). I love this art form, relevant,  interesting, engaging, hard hitting, Christ centered, Scripture based. I do not yet do it justice. So I thought tonight I would include a video for those of you who are not familiar it. Listen to the words, nothing less than powerful - sharper than any double edged sword!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Poetry Slam

-->So I have wanted to write a poetry slam for a while now, but the whole thing intimidated me - a lot.  Last night I decided to try to write one for tonight's Sunday evening service, wanting to offer something a little different to the college & career crowd. I was nervous to present it and probably would not have posted this, but by all appearances, thanks to God, it seems to have ministered to some, so perhaps some more via this forum.  Not sure it comes off the same way by reading it than by hearing it, but here goes.
Forgiven and Free is all I want to be 
The preacher starts preaching from the pulpit above, Speaking of redemption, grace, mercy and love, I sit in the pew finding it hard to believe, cause I can’t really see, after all that I’ve been through how this perfect God could even set eyes upon me… Forgiven and Free is all I want to be.
Ashamed and embarrassed, living in the darkness of a closet of lies, if one were to sneak out it would certainly be my demise.  I watch as the perfect churched people fidget in their pews, I wonder if their nervous as well, as they listen to the good news.  Probably not what do they have to be nervous about, squeaky clean Christians have no reason to doubt that this good news was meant for them, but certainly not the likes of me…Forgiven and Free is all I want to be.
* Slept with a relative stranger, after a hard night of drinking, looking for love what was I thinking.  A baby on the way I wasn’t prepared I had an abortion I saw no other way, I was scared. Now I live with the regret of all that I’ve done, to bad to be forgiven, to bad to be loved.  I look in the mirror and what to do I see, a failure, a mess-up, a shadow of me…Forgiven and Free is all I want to be 
* It started on the weekends, back in the day, hanging with guys drinking the afternoons away, but now I’m 45 feeling barely alive, need it to get up and to sleep at night, hardly ever see my kids, I’ve lost my wife.  Not to another man or to death thank God, but because of a bottle and drinking to hard. I’d give anything to have it all back, I’d do what it takes to make it right.  I’ll go to AA – I’ll go tonight.  I can’t take it back the pain that I’ve caused can’t be undone, in fact why even bother, I’m to far gone.  I can’t do it on my own, and now I’m alone, what’s the use when it’s just me…Forgiven and Free is all I want to be 
* From the first time I saw it on my laptop I was hooked, now I am sneaking downstairs at night just to get a look, tripping with fear, wondering what will happen if my mom catches me here. I Feel like a loser full of shame and disgust but I can’t control the urges, I have tried on my own, but I can’t beat this demon of lust. My mom, my sister, not to mention my girlfriend would be so ashamed, knowing how I defile these woman for my own gain. I can’t tell a soul, they’ll never understand, seeing only a perversion of me instead of a man.  I feel powerless over this enemy… Forgiven and Free is all I want to be. 
* The last words she heard from my mouth were teasing and taunts, making fun of her style, her walk and her words, not really caring of the wounds she incurred.  She wasn’t like me, in retrospect she was better, which made me angry and jealous and detrimentally bitter. I could not see the pain, she was feeling inside, I didn’t know her problems at home, the secrets she'd hide.  She took her life and while I know it’s not my fault it sure didn’t help my adding to her strife. I wish it wasn’t her lying there in that coffin, I'd rather it was me cause all I want is to be forgiven and free 
* I let everybody down, I'm lower than gum stepped on over and over on the ground.  Like empty candy wrappers tossed aside, I feel like I’ve already died inside.  Why hold on to this shell of an existence, trying to dull the pain with knives and razor blades. It’s just not cutting it anymore, there is nothing worth living for.  There’s no turning back, when the preacher’s done preaching I’m out the door, I’ll be looking down the barrel of a gun, pull the trigger than it’s done, and all the pain just fades.  Cause I am messed up, I’ve messed up and there’s no worth in me… Forgiven and Free is all I want to be 
I snap back to the here and now, the preacher begins telling of Jesus and how, he came as a babe born in a manger, grown to a man who would become our Saviour.  Certainly not for me I thought, but then he preached on, quoting scripture, the words in red in the bible, words of Jesus, words pointing to my survival.  A story of a sinful woman sitting among the religious, who wanted to be forgiven and free, though her deeds were grievous, just like me.  Luke 7:48-50 Then Jesus said to her your sins of forgiven. As hard as I fought, those words penetrated my heart, as if Jesus was speaking those words right to me, giving me a reason to stop sinning, a reason to go on living. Luke 5:20 Jesus called the sinner friend, me a wretched mess of despair, he called me friend and on the cross he proved that he did care. He quoted from Matthew 26:28 of how Jesus was forsaken so that I might be forgiven, he gave up his life, so that I could go on living. I could picture him hanging on the cross for all I’ve done wrong, picturing my face, enduring the pain so I could be extend forgiveness & grace. I realized then & there that all my fears and failures were wrapped in swaddling clothes, placed in tomb and raised from the cross.  My eyes began to well up with tears, and as I walked out in faith, I relinquished my fears, my heart cried out to Jesus, as I prayed with might, placing my faith in Him, walking out of the darkness into the light.  
Forgiven and Free because of Jesus - now that is me.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

To Beer or not to Beer?

A discussion began this week, revolving around the biblical view of alcohol consumption, specifically as it applies to Christians, though I believe the reflection serves all well.  Basically is it okay to drink?  Initially this was not an issue I really cared to weigh in on, simply because the bible does not make an issue of having a drink, though it does about being drunk.  When it comes to drinking I have personally experienced both the wet & dry side of the issue and have my personal convictions.

In the Free Methodist Tradition, John Wesley established the Quadrilateral equation, which meant including Scripture, Tradition, Experience and Reason when reflecting on spiritual matters. Scripture and my experience has helped to establish my conviction when it comes to drinking.  I am also a person of logic, so reasoning plays a big part as outlined below.

1. The Bible does not say to not drink alcohol: "He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate— bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart." ~Psalm 104:14-15.  It does however say  do not get drunk "Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit." ~Ephesians 5:18 (among others).  So scripturally speaking  it is a personal choice although there is another wise verse to consider that reads "Everything is permissible"—but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"—but not everything is constructive." ~1 Corinthians 10:23

2. The risks far out weigh any benefits. Risks include, alcoholism; our witness; DUI; drunken regrets, the cost per drink. Benefits: Social ease & comfortablility?

3. If you are not drinking to catch a buzz - why drink? What is the qualifier for being drunk? If you are catching a buzz then you are in a drug induced altered state from that which God has created you. Is that considered drunk?

4. If it is the taste, you can purchase most forms of beer and alcohol in non-alcoholic forms that taste almost exactly the same.

5. Good stewardship - Paying for an alcoholic beverage is far more expensive than a non alcoholic one. If you are not drinking to get drunk why spend the extra $$.

All that being said, while I do not drink, and see very little good reason to drink, I would not stand in judgment of someone who enjoys an occasional or social drink.  If I was asked my opinion, I would share scripture and reasoning coupled with my experience. I was convicted by the Holy Spirit alone, of my drinking. There was no reasoning or talk that would have been as effective or powerful as that tug on my heart by God. After many, many years of not drinking at all, and having matured spiritually, I started to struggle with whether I was being legalistic, not even having a rare drink when offered even though I knew biblically I was not denied having a drink. I was concerned it was now a matter of fearing the condemnation of others that kept me from drinking rather than my convictions. I did not want my reasoning for not drinking to come from a place of legalism. I worked through that and can confidently say that I don't drink because I established, God helping me, that it is not good for ME to do so. But that is me and how God has moved in my heart, far be it for me to place my experience on others. However, I think the questions listed above are worth reflecting on when making a decision.


On the way home from Delaware this morning I heard a message on the radio about signs and wonders and a true illustration was used that went something like this. People have asked "Pastor can you turn water into wine?" to which I reply "No but God helping me, I have done something even better than that" "A wife encouraged her alcoholic husband to come see me. Through that relationship I led him to Jesus, who released him from the chains of addiction and His whisky then turned into milk for his babies."

Friday, January 22, 2010

Get by With a Little Help From My Friends

As I shared in an earlier post, I visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington on Wednesday.  As I came to the end of the exhibits, I decide to stop and watch the closing movie. It was a documentary containing interviews with a number of survivors of the holocaust sharing their personal memories and stories.

The importance of friendship was evident in every story.  Often the only hope and strength they had was each other. They referred to the friends they made in the concentration camp, as their camp family. One lady recounted a friendship she quickly formed with another young girl in the concentration camps.  Food was sparse and if one would get a little more because of the extra work they had done, they would be certain to share it with the other.  She said I would mark the half way point of the bowl, and I would get my spoon as close to that halfway point as possible, ensuring I got my every morsel, but never a spoonful more.  I would never rob my friend and she would never cheat me. "A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor" ~Proverbs 22:9.   My experience is that those who have little give much. People who themselves are struggling are the first to ensure that others are not.  I am reminded of the young boy in Matthew 14 who offered up his few loaves and fishes in order that all might eat. I have seen this time and time again, in Africa, Cambodia, New Orleans and while volunteering in homeless & street ministry.  In the actions of all these selfless people, my favourite verse, 1 John 3:16-18 is lived out "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth" 

The most powerful story in the documentary was told by "Stanley", a gentleman who was sent to the concentration camp at the age of 17.  When a 10 year old boy named "Daniel" arrived at the concentration camp, one of the first people he met was Stanley.  He asked him why he was just brought to the camp, and Stanley told him it was because he was Jewish,. At this Daniel asked what is a Jew?  Stanley told him it was because he was circumcised that he was there, because he was born a Jew.  David however, still did not understand why he was being held in this prison.  As Stanley, now a big strong man, recalled their first meeting that fateful day, he kept emphasizing the fact that David was only 10 years old, as he did, he broke into tears and so did most of us watching.

Stanley went on to tell of the death march that he and David were forced to go on.  Death marches were an evacuation, by foot, of all prisoners from the concentration camps  in an effort to avoid the incoming liberation armies.  Prisoners were brutally mistreated on these marches.  Often having to walk through snow, survivors talked of seeing friends snap their toes off like twigs.  Many prisoners died of exhaustion, starvation or exposure, during the marches held from 1944-1945.  Those who simply collapsed or could not go on were shot dead.  Some prisoners would walk 4 in a line, 3 people holding one person up allowing them to sleep in rotation. "Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer." Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 

On this particular march they made a rare stop at a farm to rest.  The owner of the farm, a Czech, had taken pity on David and pleaded with the officers to allow him to provide the boy something to eat.  The SS soldiers agreed, so the farmer gave David hot potatoes, which in turn he would race back and forth to bring to Stanley.  A while later they were set to continue marching, but Stanley had a plan.  He explained to David that the farmer liked him, and that he needed to stay at the farm.  He would hide him in the pig farm and cover him with hay.  David refused, saying he wanted to stay with Stanley, that he would not leave him.  So Stanley yelled at him, and told him he did not want him following him, to leave him alone and stay at the farm.  Then he took him to the barn and hid him in the hay, trusting the farmer would take care of him. David fought him the whole way, not wanting to leave Stanley, knowing  that this would be the last time they would see each other.  Stanley closed his interview with  "I hope he is alive and well somewhere today" and again broke into tears.  Stanley saved David's life at the peril of His own.  He cared for that young boy so much that he was willing to risk His life so that David might be saved.

If it were not for the loyalty of the friends found in the camps, those that did survive probably wouldn't have. "A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need." Proverbs 17:17.  If it were not for the friends God has placed in my life, I know for certain I would not have made it to where I am today. Sometimes  I wonder if I would have survived let alone thrived without them. We can not make it through life alone.  In the words of Joe Cocker  "[we all] get by with a little help from [our] friends", those people God places in our life, to be His hands and feet. Where would David be without Jonathan, Timothy without Paul, Ruth without Naomi. Where would we be without Jesus, a friend who sticks closer than a brother?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Jesus Rifles?

I went to Washington yesterday.  In fact I drove to Maryland and took the subway the rest of the way in. As I was entering the station, a nice man offered me a paper called "Express" so I took it to read on the 33 minute drive to downtown DC.

The Headline was about the plight of the 10's of thousands of Haitian Orphans. A devastating tragedy to be sure but it was what I read on page 5, under the section heading "Nation" that caught my attention.  The title of the piece was "U.S. Forces have the Bible in Sight"  The article was drawing attention to the fact that some of the telescoping sights which the soldiers use in Afghanistan and Iraq contain a small scripture reference, like  JN 8:12 that completes the serial number.  "When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, 'I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life'" They have been using these scopes since 1995 and apparently now somehow has drawn attention to this and is none-to-pleased.  The president of the Military religious Freedom foundation says the inscription on the sights, could give the Taliban and other enemy forces a propaganda tool, that American Troops are Christian Crusaders invading Muslim countries. He continues to say that "I don't have to wonder for a nanosecond how the American public would react, if citations from the Koran were being inscribed onto the U.S. armed forces' gun sights instead of New Testament citations.

I have been dwelling on this article for a couple days now, and had a great discussion about it with a couple friends tonight.  First of all, having visited Washington and Philadelphia this week and now better understanding it's history, I have come to believe that as a country and as a people, we were better off, when we stood on the biblical foundations the country was built upon.  Almost every artifact, including the Liberty Bell is inscribed with scripture.  The more we stray from these biblical principles the worse off we seem.  Whether you are Christian or atheist or anything in between. the truth remains that the United States of America was founded on Biblical Principles.  So would people be upset if the Koran was being inscribed onto US gun sights - yes indeed.

Please do not misunderstand me, I believe everyone has the right to their own beliefs.  I believe in liberty and freedom for all, but that includes my liberties and freedoms.  It seems to me, that the rights of Christians in the past few years have been abdicated so that another persons rights may be elevated. If one soldier is Christian and is okay, or delighted to have the JN 8:12 verse referenced on their gun then let it be so. However at the same time if a Hindu or Jehovah Witness did not want it, then give them a different scope.  The fight apparently is for freedom and yet as Christians fight for freedom, their freedom and rights seem to be diminishing.

At the same time, I am not convinced that having the scripture verse on the scope of a gun that is intended to kill someone sends the right message about our faith either.  I am a military brat, raised on Air Force bases, and I support the brave men and women who serve our country.  This post is not a commentary on whether or not they should be fighting.  I do not stand in judgment of those employed under the authority of our government., nor am I making the argument that soldiers engaged in war are any less Christian. I understand defending oneself against harm, as well as defending one's country from attackers.  I also hold to the biblical commandment of thou shalt not kill and love your enemies. Are there exceptions?  Is war one of them?   Is it okay to kill as a defense?  Is it okay to kill as an attacker?   Personally I would have a hard time holding a gun in one hand and a bible in the other.   It is a tough situation and these are tough questions.

On one hand I think the best thing is to allow each soldier to carry with them, or inscribe on their personal belongings whatever biblical verse they choose for their own encouragement and strength alone as "U.S. military rules specifically prohibit the proselytizing of any religion in Iraq or Afghanistan and were drawn up in order to prevent criticism that the U.S. was embarked on a religious "Crusade" in its war against al Qaeda and Iraqi insurgents."  On the other hand it frustrates me that once again we seem to be conceding defeat and taking steps backwards from the biblical heritage that has built and sustained this great country.

Trijicon is a Christian Based company who clearly states on their website that one of their values is that "We believe that America is great when its people are good. This goodness has been based on biblical standards throughout our history and we will strive to follow those morals." As of this morning they made the following statement "We will remove the inscription reference on all U.S. military products that are in the company's factory that have already been produced, but have yet to be shipped" and "Provide 100 modification kits to forces in the field to remove the reference on the already forward deployed optical sights." "Trijicon has proudly served the U.S. military for more than two decades, and our decision to offer to voluntarily remove these references is both prudent and appropriate" ABC - Jesus Rifles

This article has screated so many deep questions.  It has elicited great conversation and though I have my opinions, I do not claim to have any right answers. What I am interested though is your opinion. Do you think the discreet verse reference should have been removed? More importantly I would love to read comments on how a Christian could balance their biblical understanding of thou shall not kill and love your enemies with  modern day war.  What is the criteria that establishes a war to be just in the eyes of God?  Feel free to leave your comments below.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Have You Ever Been Punished for Something You Didn't Do?

My friends Jenn and Chester, who I am visiting in Delaware this week, had to work today, so I decided to take a road trip to Washington DC.  It was a fabulous experience.  I got to see the White House, Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, The Capital Building, a Smithsonian Art Museum and I did a walking tour of most of the popular buildings. The place that affected me the most was the Holocaust museum.  I knew that it was going to impact me but not nearly as deeply as it did. I ran through a gamut of emotions, during the 4 hours I was there, anger and sadness being the prominent ones.

The first exhibit I entered was an interactive walk through of the life of a young Jewish boy named David.  It is designed for young students and was incredibly well staged. It starts with David asking "Have you ever been punished for something you didn't do? I was". Then the journey begins in his home where he played with friends from his neighbourhood, and takes you through the community as the Nazi Regime takes over, then the ghetto he was placed in and it ended with him as a young survivor leaving the concentration camp.  I went through this twice, and both times it had me in tears.

After this I circled through the exhibits that began on the 4th floor and ended on the first.  I read every story and fact that accompanied the photos, artefacts, first hand audio accounts, and disturbing video footage from the concentration camps themselves.  Again I was left disgusted, overwhelmed, heart broken and I think most of all angry.  That was the emotion that kept welling up as I walked through the museum - ANGER!  I kept thinking how could this happen, how could it be ignored and allowed to go that far (learning that the US and other countries had opportunities to step in and help in a myriad of ways but did not).   What is worse is that history continues to repeat itself, even in my generation! Rwanda and Darfur are genocides comparable to the moral repugnancy of the Holocaust.   It is abhorrent that this is allowed to happen.  It is disgusting that it is not shut down at first thought let alone the first dead innocent. It is inexcusable and I am certain God will not be mute on judgment day, when it comes to our silence and inaction in this matter!  Perhaps this is where we should expect to be "punished" for something we didn't do  - because of what we didn't do,  "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?" Isaiah 58:6 "Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed." Psalm 82:3 "Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow." Isaiah 1:17

The exhibits end with a video of survivors of the holocaust. sharing personal experiences.  Stories expressing the reality of loss, but so too the strength of faith and the power of friendship and loyalty. As the video comes to a close, one woman beseeches generations now and to come "Remember our stories and stand up to any form of persecution"

Martin Luther King Jr. who's life was celebrated on Monday, here in the USA is well known for speaking against the attitudes and ignorance that contributes to these atrocities.  "Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal." "He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it." and "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."  His kicker quote in regards to all this "The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict."

There were so many powerful moments, I would love to share.  So many lessons worth passing on, but this is a forum better suited to shorter messages. So the stories and lessons will be presented individually over the days and weeks to come, an homage to those in the video and a sort of  reminder to remember.


 Deuteronomy 4:9

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Do This and You Will Live


Yesterday was a government holiday here in the USA.  It was Martin Luther King day, a day set aside to honour one of the greatest civil rights leaders the world has ever known.  I have always admired Dr. Martin Luther King.  Did you know he skipped ninth and twelth grade and started college at age 15, graduating with a Bachelors in Sociology, Bachelor of Divinity and Doctorate of Philosophy? He was inspired by many people, including Ghandi. He had the privilege of  going to India in 1959 to visit Ghandi. This meeting profoundly affected him and deepened his passion for and commitment to non-violent resistance.  He was the youngest person to ever win the Nobel peace prize for his work to end racial segragation and discrimination.   He was also a Baptisit Minister who focused his efforts on ending poverty and opposing the Vietnam war from a faith perspective. At 6:01 p.m. April 4, 1986 Martin Luther King was assasinated with a single bullet while standing on the balcony of his Hotel room.

The man was a great preacher and his sermons are incredible.  I decided that today, and perhaps throughout this week, I would post a blog initiated by one of his quotes, beginning with the following one:

The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?" But... the good Samaritan reversed the question: "If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?"

The parable of the good Samaritan, found in the book of Luke Chapter 10 verses 25-37,  was an illustration Jesus shared to drive home the biblical truth that kindness and goodness should never be witheld from anyone but instead made available to all. In the story, a Jewish man is attacked by bandits, robbing him of all he had and leaving him for dead. As he lay there dying a priest sees him, but purposely crosses over to the other side of the road to avoid him.  Then one of his kinsmen, a Levite, sees him writhing in agony, but also passes him by. Then a Samaritan, (who are despised by the Jews) comes along and feels compassion for the man, not only does he bandage his wounds, but he takes him to an inn, paying the innkeeper to take care of the man, promising to come back should it cost any more than what he has given to meet the needs of the wounded Jewish man. At the end of the illustration Jesus asks the listener "“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?”  The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”  Jesus wants us to understand that regardless of colour, religious belief, sexual orientation, style of dress, intelligence, wealth or poverty, everyone is our neighbour.  When it comes to the greatest commandment "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and love your neighbour as yourself"  Our neighbour applies to everyone who comes across our path!

Martin Luther King Jr. poignantly addresses the concerns that many have when it comes to helping others, befriending others, loving on others.  If I do this what will happen to me?  What will people think of me? How will I be affected? What will it cost me? His profound response is that our first questions should be how will others be affected if we choose to not care for them  and love on them. 

The parable of the good samaritan was Jesus' response to a religious expert who asked him "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"  Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?” The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’” “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!”  

Not only does our disobedience to the greatest commandment negatively affect others, but ourselves as well. What consequences will we face, not only temporal or eternal if we do not help, befriend and love on those God brings across our path? What will ultimately cost you more, taking the time and initiative to love on others or ignoring the greatest commandment by not doing so.  Can we afford to not love our neighbour as ourself?

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Delaware Drive

I am writing to you from the wonderful US state of Delaware.  My good friend Chester and I, began the 7 hour drive this afternoon, eager to be reunited with one of my best friend's and his lovely wife, Jennifer.  We spent our time reminiscing about simpler times and our childhoods spent biking from dawn till dusk, working hard picking stones from the field, raking grass, piling wood or collecting beer cans along side the road for some extra cash. We talked about God and things of faith, the culture of materialism and the tragedy in Haiti.  We flipped through the radio stations, finding music to sing along to and we broke up any monotony with a few shout out's of "road trip woohoo" to keep us motivated.  Roads Trips with a friend are by far my favourite thing.

I was captivated by the beautiful picturesque skylines, that lined our drive.  The mountain ranges breaking up the horizon were majestic and the fog that had settled upon them provided an almost mystical appearance.   Matthew 17:20 came to mind "I tell you the truth, 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." Looking at the magnitude of the mountains before me, I was vividly assured that whether they be literal or proverbial, with God I can move mountains and overcome all things.

As we kept driving, the horizon separated into hues of purple, pink and orange, creating a patchwork quilt of colour across the sky. I could not help but reflect on the majesty of God's creation. "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth."~ Genesis 1:1. I do not often enough, reflect on God's attribute of creativity but as the orange sun sunk into the mountain tops it was difficult to not be in awe. "O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures." ~Psalm 104:24

We left Kingston on a full tank of Gas, and when we reached the Philadelphia area, having driven 631km, we decided to stop for gas.  The gas light had not come on yet, so I was pleased to learn that my Pontiac Sunfire can go at least 720 highway kilometers on a tank of gas!  Jenn wanted us to call her as we got closer, so she could ensure supper was ready when we arrived (she is a great cook). We had tried to call on my cell but it would not work, so we figured that the gas station would probably have a pay phone.   It didn't, but the wonderful man who managed the shop generously offered Chester his cell phone to use.  As we continued our drive, Chester commented on how refreshing it was to come across someone who still maintained a trustful nature, generous and kind.  I agreed, adding that, in the midst of a society that appears at times cold, calloused and self-absorbed, it is those special moments that restore my faith in humanity. "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" ~ Romans 14:7

Tomorrow...insights from Martin Luther King Jr. - in celebration of his life because today is his birthday!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

UPRISING

It's Sunday, the busiest day of my week, and typically one of my favourites.  Today was no exception.  After church, I picked up some groceries for the dinner I was preparing for a bunch of Univ/College students, proceeded by lunch with a wonderful group of people.  I went back to the church to set things up so the worship team could practice, then cooked supper while preparing the evening for the bible study the College students would be joining me for.

The study we're doing is based on Erwin McManus' book Uprising. The whole series deals with revolutionizing your soul and in turn your life. "This is the ultimate destination," says Erwin, "to become the person God dreams of and to share those dreams with others." Tonight was session 2 of a 6 part series.  

Near the end of the lesson we read 1 John 2:6 "Here's how we can be sure that we know God in the right way: Keep his commandments.  If someone claims, "I know him well!" but doesn't keep his commandments, he's obviously a liar. His life doesn't match his words. But the one who keeps God's word is the person in whom we see God's mature love. This is the only way to be sure we're in God. Anyone who claims to be intimate with God ought to live the same kind of life Jesus lived."

This was such an intimidating verse, yet we agreed that we ought to be daily striving to live like Jesus. In fact it was the last line of that verse which captivated us, living the same kind of life Jesus did, how incredibly hard, if not impossible is that.  Yet that is what we are called to do.  It is God’s plan for each of us that we “be conformed to the likeness of his Son” (Romans 8:29). Even in this life, we “are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Paul labored with the Galatians “until Christ is formed in you” (Galatians 4:19). He told the Ephesians that our goal is “attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).

So may people see following Christ as full of limitations to living a full life, but my experience has been that it offers the most freeing and full life possible. Which brings me to the final question we were asked to explore, the one that empassioned me, "What excites you about becoming like Jesus?" 

Think of it - as we grow and strive to walk in the will of God, to trust God and live like Jesus, our lives are transformed.  The most exciting pursuit is the pursuit of God.  There is no one else alive or dead, famous or rich that I would like to strive to become.  In becoming like Christ, not only will I gain the whole world but I will also save my soul!  It means overcoming my giants.  Becoming like Christ, means that I become a person of greater compassion, forgiveness, mercy and love.  It means that I walk in the power of God, power to perform miracles.  Becoming more like Christ means living in the perfect will of God, living a life of victory.

I am not even close to being like Christ, but since I began following Him, my life has been transformed and I have experienced the excitement of the journey in ways I could have never imagined.

Take the time to think about this, and feel free to share your answers in the comment section "What excites YOU about becoming like Jesus?"

Saturday, January 16, 2010

God Needs No Super Nanny

I was watching "The Nanny" last night and was appalled by the parenting I witnessed. More than this I was dumbfounded that someone would actually go on television and advertise their ridiculous, selfish and immature attitudes to the nations.  Most of us, recognize that children need to be loved and cared for, but we also understand the importance of structure & discipline.  While we admit this is beneficial for our children, we have a hard time parlaying that to our relationship with God.  We live in a theological culture that emphasizes the Father heart of God.  This is a wonderful and an accurate interpretation of our relationship with God as our Heavenly Father.  The only critique I have, is that in it's understanding and teaching we sometimes emphasize the Love, Grace and Mercy of God without balancing the Justice & Judgment of God.  God obviously doesn't need a super nanny as He serves as the example of a perfect parent, balancing sacrificial, unconditional love and abounding grace, with perfect justice and discipline.

1. As a perfect parent God does not give us everything we want.  Good parents do not entertain their child's every whim. A good parent will not grant their child's wish to take a loaded gun to school for show and tell, because the consequences could be fatal. How detrimental would it be, if every prayer request we lifted up was granted. God does not give us what we think we need,instead, He provides us what He knows we need. Of course at times this leaves us disappointed, because sometimes it makes no sense why God chooses to not intervene on our behalf.   "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways." ~Isaiah 55:8.  Though in His infinite wisdom, God offers the best possible response in any given situation; even if that response results in our present disappointment with Him.  "Maybe it is in the depth of God’s caring that He is aware that the present disappointment can lead to greater blessings on the other side of that disappointment." God is not a genie in a bottle and  any psychologist or parenting expert will tell you that over indulging a child is one of the most crippling things you can do to them. So why would we expect our Heavenly Father to debilitate us by placing the proverbial silver spoon in out mouths.
 
2. As a perfect parent God does not absolve us of the earthly consequences of our decisions.  Indeed when we recognize the error of our ways, and ask for forgiveness with a repentant heart God promises to forgive us.  "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." ~1 John 1:9.  Not only this, He tells us that He forgets about it, not holding it against us.  "I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins." ~Isaiah 43:5.  However the earthly consequences of our actions are still ours to face.  David is a good biblical example of this.  He repented of His sins, including his affair with Bathsheba and enjoyed the fullness of God's Grace (Psalm 32) but still there were consequences that left his family a mess and brought shame to him and his father.   So it is true for us, if we murder someone we're going to jail.  If we cheat on our spouse there is going to be a long road of healing ahead.. If we do drugs suffer the consequences of a myriad of losses.  Lie to friend we lose trust. God is the good parent, and it would do us no good and much harm if He were to absolve us of the earthly consequences of our mistakes.

3. As a perfect parent God disciplines us.  No one likes to think of God as a disciplinarian, but could you imagine children who have grown up without correction.  As His children when we are rebuked it is not from a place of anger but love. "But don't, dear friend, resent God's discipline; don't sulk under his loving correction.  It's the child he loves that God corrects, a father's delight is behind all this."~ Proverbs 3:9-12.  Like any good parent, God wants what is best for us, to spare us future pain and misery.  "When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world." ~1 Corinthians 11:32. We face punishment now, so we won't have to face greater punishment later.

Our heavenly Father, loves us with a perfect well-balanced love and responds to us in a manner that will lead us to full maturity, enabling and equpping us to receive the blessings that come with a life well lived, ultimately reunited with Him.  No super nanny required.

Friday, January 15, 2010

It all begins with hello or My Epic Fail

There are not too many things in life more regretful than missed opportunities.

This morning I went to Canadian Tire, to get one of my tires replaced before my road trip to Delaware on Monday.  The mechanic took my car in at 10:30, so I made myself comfortable in their posh waiting room, sinking myself into one of the large leather chairs, placed in front of the fireplace and big screen TV. There were three other people, 2 men and a woman in the room as well.  As I sat there, looking straight ahead at the TV, not saying a word, I found it interesting that here were 4 individuals stuck in a room with nothing to do, yet no one was saying a word.  I toyed with the idea of opening with Hello, but I didn't.  I just sat there thinking how silly it was that none of us, would engage the other.  I sat there, in my chair the whole time, realizing that if I would just start a conversation perhaps, one of us would leave impacted in ways we never imagined when we awoke that morning. Ashamedly, I exhibited an issue many of us suffer from - we think to much and do to little. I have no other way to explain this missed opportunity to enter into relationship except to say it was an EPIC FAIL on my part.

Some may say that I am being a bit over dramatic.  That I am making a mountain out of a mole hill.  The truth this incident merely revealed the symptoms of  a larger problem. As I drove away in my newly re-tired, the following three lessons became painfully obvious.

Call it intimidation or call it fear but whatever it is that keeps us from doing the thing, that we know we should - will cripple us and rob others.  I can not deny that I knew what I should do, but I was intimidated.  I was afraid of how I might be perceived by others, worried about offending someone or interrupting them in their silence.   In that moment I failed to trust God who says in Isaiah 41:10 "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Logically and spiritually I knew what to do and, yet as I battled it out in my mind, I remained silent in my chair, till I left, without a goodbye.

Social Justice starts with being social.  You can't isolate yourself from society and expect to make a difference in someone's life, let alone change the world. Entertaining a party of one helps no one.   We were designed as relational beings. We are created to be in relationship with God and others.  From the very beginning God said "it is not good for man to be alone" Gen 2:18. This is not just about marriage.  Just as God enters into relationship with us He desires that we enter into relationships with others.  Our capability for virtual connectedness continues to increase exponentially with the introduction of new technology, though it appears that it has been to the hindrance of  actual real live interaction. So the hands of Jesus are kept snug in the safety and warmth of our proverbial pockets, while our feet remain planted in the comfort of our homes, even our mouths seem disabled, as we connect more through the aid of "Qwerty". We watch the devastating news of tragedies unfold on TV so that we are socially aware, we mind our "P's" and "Q's" so that we are socially correct, we set our hearts on climbing the social ladders and yet we do this, often at the sacrifice of being socially just.

The opportunity to make a difference will meet you right where you are at.  Every day in a myriad of simple and profound ways we're invited to step into the life of someone and offer encouragement, hope comnfort and more.  God desires to use us to make a real impact in the lives of others, and so, He brings us to places where we are encouraged to engage one another.  "As God brings people across our path, we are changed by them and we are used by God to shape and change others" Jesus has the power to change lives!  We can change cities and countries - one life at a time.
It all begins with Hello!



Thursday, January 14, 2010

Without Apology

I speak about love a lot, I love - love.  Love encapsulates the greatest commandment God has given us.  "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and Love your neighbour as yourself." Luke 10:27.  When I entered into a personal relationship with Christ, my capacity and desire to love increased, but somewhere along the way my understanding of love, became a little distorted.

I can't point to the exact time, when things changed.  In fact, it wasn't until this past year, that I recognized, that in my desire to do this one thing well, I had swung the love pendulum a little too far to one side.  As a result my skewed concept of love left me chained in a people pleasing prison.  Heaven forbid, my own thoughts and desires should take precedent over some else's, especially if it might offend them or worse disappoint or hurt them. How dare I! That would not be very Christian of me or would it be?

I am well versed on what love requires, yet I have only in that last year, acknowledged and accepted what it does not require.  Love doesn't require letting people run all over you; love doesn't mean enabling destructive behaviour; love doesn't mean letting perfectly able people take advantage of you. In fact many times these actions are contradictory to love.  Jesus who exhibited how we are to love others demonstrated a proper love balance.  Love God first, love yourself and love others.  Love God first, because "we love because he first loved us." ~ 1 John 4:19.  Next love yourself, because the bible calls us to "love our neighbours as we love ourselves." ~Matthew 22:39.  If we care not about ourselves how can we care for others?  As we ensure our needs are being met, only then do we have the ability to effectively meet the needs of others, fulfilling the command to love our neighbour.  Sometimes in our efforts to please people, we cripple ourselves and walk in disobedience to God.

Jesus was not a people pleaser.  He stood against the religious leaders of His day, doing what was right, instead of what was popular. He drew away from the crowds, who admired him, to rest. He walked away from the demands of those in need to the comfort of friends, or to be alone.  He did this not from a selfish spirit, but so that He could best love on others. He said no to some in order to say yes to others (Mark 1:35-39). Jesus always spoke the truth in love, no matter how painful it was for those listening to hear it. God is full of grace and mercy, but equally justice and judgment.  In fact perfect love holds each of these in balance. Like Jesus, there are times that we need to walk away from the demands of others and escape into solitude or the support of friends.  There will be times when we need to speak the truth in love, regardless of how much it may hurt someone. There will be times when we will need to say no to the good thing in order to do the better thing. There will be times where we need to say no, to the requests of others in an effort to end the destructive enabling of bad habits and choices. We need to do these things in love, because of love, for love.  We need to refocus on loving not as we think a "Christian" ought, but as Christ did.

I've heard a quote that asks, "Would you rather be right or would you rather be happy?"  My response is that in all honesty there are times when the matter is insignificant, and even though I'm right, I am willing to let it go in order to be happy.  Obedient to the scripture "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." Romans 12:18

There are other times however that I am willing to risk my happiness, in order to stand for what is right.  I will risk hurting, offending or disappointing you, in an effort to see you draw closer to God. I will risk happiness, both yours and mine in exchange for Justice. Imagine where we would be if Martin Luther King did not stand for what was right, and instead compromised in order to keep the peace.  Instead out of love, he stood up and spoke out, he fought with love against the injustices of His day.   He demonstrated through it all, a balanced love.  A love of God, love of self, love of others. A love where wisdom couples with compassion and gentleness couples with strength.  Remove any of these components and our love is skewed.  This is the love of Christ that transforms lives and when we walk in Christ-like love, as Martin Luther King Jr. examples, we can revolutionize our world.

I notice in the bible that Jesus never apologized.  Of course he never did anything wrong, He was without sin.  Still, many of things He did offended, angered and undoubtedly disappointed people.  Jesus never apologized for doing right - He just did it.  I want to do be like that, I want to love God better, love myself better and love others better.  I want to walk in well balanced love.  I no longer want to make nice, I want to do good. I want to be able to confidently do what is right without hesitation or second guessing. Live doing right without apology.