Sunday, February 28, 2010

This To Shall Pass

In 1 Peter, the apostle has written an epistle that is as encouraging to us today as it was meant to be for the Gentile believers of his time. Living amidst hostility and facing persecution, the people needed strengthening, and this letter serves to do just that. Trials are inevitable and we ourselves as Christians are not immune, Peter made that abundantly clear when he said “Dear friends do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.” [4:12-13]. In light of the inevitable suffering that we face as a result of our humanity and broken sin filled world we find wisdom in the words of Peter’s first letter.

What does Peter suggest we do in the face of inevitable suffering? We do what Christ did we endure and persevere until we are ultimately victorious and we in turn rejoice, knowing we are blessed to suffer for the name of Christ.

Peter exhorts those gentile believers facing persecution to “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings." [5:8] Not only can we be assured that others are facing trials and tribulations, but we know all to well, the suffering that Christ endured for us. There is something comforting about knowing that you are not alone in your suffering, and assuring, in realizing that your suffering is not necessarily a result of your wring doing. When I begin to adopt the why me, poor me attitude, the Holy Spirit very quickly reminds me of Christ’s ordeal. It is then, that I realize a few things, first how minor my sufferings are in comparison; second, how much more undeserving and unfair it was for Christ to have to suffer; and third, who am I - to think that I would or should be void of pain and suffering when the perfect lamb of God himself, faced ridicule, contempt, torture, and death. Keeping things in perspective, and my focus on Jesus, affords me the ability to turn my mourning into dancing – and praise the God who has given me victory through Christ.

I am encouraged as I am sure Peter’s readers were with his next passage that reads “And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” What a great encouragement to know that this too will pass, that suffering is not eternal and that in fact the suffering itself will produce greater strength and faith. No matter what the circumstances we have reason to hope, because as we suffer with Christ so will we be glorified with Him in heaven.

I found that verses 6-7 of chapter 1, reminded me a lot of the situation Shadrach, Meshack and Abendego found themselves in. “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by the fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed." 3 men, whose faith was being tested, by the fire literally, and when they persevered Christ was revealed and God was given all the glory, honour and praise as they walked out of the fire, unharmed. As I read this verse I am reminded that we too will walk out of the fiery trials unharmed, if we keep our faith in Christ.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Free at Last - Thank God Almighty

As I was reading Galatians once again, an illustration came to mind that helped me to further understand the Old Law and Ten Commandments in relation to the New Covenant received through Christ’s death and resurrection. Admittedly it is not very academic or theologically deep but it serves as a simplistic picture of a profound truth.

As I saw it, the Old Covenant (law) was like a playpen, "Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed.  ~3:23.  We were placed in it for our own safety, so that given our inability to walk sturdily [in righteousness], we would be protected and reminded of our inability to walk on our own. "So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith." ~3:24. The play pen (law) could not save us from death.  Indeed the 10 Commandments, reveals to us, our inability to ever be good enough. If we had to earn our way into heaven by following the commandments we would all fail. The law however protects us until Jesus comes and remind us of our need for Him and then like a baby with arms lifted high , we realize we need the support of our Father to learn how to walk. In order to free us from the playpen and bring life to its captives so that all [Jew and gentile alike] would be included and could experience freedom, God sent His son Christ, to bear the sins of the world, be crucified and resurrected, ascending to the right hand of God, so that who so ever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life. Through that belief in Christ we are justified by faith and receive the Holy Spirit, which enables us to walk, and sets us free from our playpens (law) as we mature and grow into the likeness of Christ and experience the freedom of new life resulting in Eternal life in the presence of our Heavenly Father.

So I guess the words of Martin Luther King Jr. could serve well as a subtitle to Galatians “Free at last, Free at last, thank God almighty, we are free at last.” Which makes me question, why, as is the case in Galatians, would any one who experienced bondage and was set free, ever want to return to slavery. It seems to me it would be like asking someone who was set free after being sold into slavery, if they would consider taking that heavy yoke upon them again.

Paul’s letter to the Galatians serves as a shield of defence against the attacks to the true Gospel and protection for the Gentiles and a weapon against those that seek to rob them of their freedom in Christ. Paul is like a one man army, strengthened by the Holy Spirit leading an attack on legalism, and salvation through works.

In a day and age, of religious tolerance and innumerable “gospels” the warning Paul offers to the Galatians remains relevant, even for those who may appear to be firm in the faith, especially as we consider Revelation's warnings of end times and false prophets. “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ” ~1:6-7

I am thankful that even here in the book of Galatians, Paul balances the freedom we have through Christ with responsibility. “You my brothers were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather serve one another in love." ~5:13 Putting the emphasis back on our freedom to serve God and others.

I take confidence in knowing that what God did through Christ for me is enough – nothing more is needed, His grace is sufficient – that is true freedom and having lived as a slave, I will never turn back.

There are two verses that remains with me from Galatians “If I were still trying to please me, I would not be a servant of Christ” ~1:10 and “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”  ~5:6

Friday, February 26, 2010

All Work & No Pray?

In the interest of transparency, let me share with you one of my struggles.  It's not an overt struggle, unless you know me really well, you wouldn't recognize it. In fact, even those who are close to me, may not know it. Until recently I am not sure I could have even defined it, that was until I read "In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day" by Mark Batterson.  There was a quote near the end of the book that resonated with my spirit. "If you work like it depends on you and pray like it depends on God, there is no telling what God can do in you and through you."

This is my struggle. I am, more times than I like to admit - out of balance.  I work like it depends on me more than I pray like it depends on God.  This is not a conscious decision but one that looking back now, is clearly evident by my actions.  Don't misunderstand me, I pray - of course I pray, I am in a constant conversation with God.   I am an independent, capable, A-type personality.  Which, all pride aside, means I can pretty much push my way through any obstacle and pull myself up by my bootstraps in order to get things done.  As a result, I do not always go to God first.  I process things, use discernment, and study His word , but when it comes to relying on God's strength, I often choose to do it alone.  Again not consciously of course, but simply by not intentionally inviting Him to take the lead. In the end if all goes well or even exceptionally well, I always thank God, knowing that it is because of His working through me that I ever experience true success.  I wonder now though, how much better things would go, how much more power would be available, if I focused first and most on praying like it depends on God rather than ensuring I work like it depends on myself.  It is hard for me to admit, given my control issues, but the truth is, I can only do so much.  I am thinking that finding a better balance that falls on the side of prayer will ease at least a little of the stress and worry I put on myself.  If I do my best and leave the rest to God, than I should have no reason to worry as the results are in God's hands.  If I am focused on who I'm doing the work for, striving with all my heart to simply please God, rather than to achieve a desired result, then that would eliminate any dissatisfaction based on results. 

I've come to realize that my areas of growth specific to this unbalance are in trust and control.  I love verses 12-14 found in Chapter 14 of the book of John "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it."  It says anyone who has faith [or trust] in God will do what He has been doing. Not he who works the hardest, but anyone who places their trust in Christ.  God will do whatever we ask in His name, so that it brings Him glory.  When we take control over everything and focus our efforts on what we can do, we run the risk of taking the credit, when everything we do should be to God's glory.  Indeed God often uses the weak things of the world, not necessarily the accomplished, to do His work, so that there is no mistaking that the Glory is His.  

As I reflect, I recall those moments where I, in desperation, fear or surrender, prayed earnestly to God to take over, and in those situations the sermons, events, plans and purposes were far beyond anything I could have ever imagined.  Contrary to those times, when I thought I had it all together and could manage it on my own and was thus less fervent in prayer, the end results were only, just fine.

Prayer establishes what we trust in, our work or God Himself.  This does not mean that I should be apathetic in my work, indeed a holy discontent can arise within me, when I see people paralyzed in prayer, not acting within the capabilities and calling God has given them.  I will continue to work very hard at what God has called me to do, but I will be more concious to not to trust in my work or efforts, because it will never be good enough without God.  I will place my trust in and give control over to God, and watch as He does great things in and through me.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Power of Numbers

The book of Numbers appeared to be a daunting if not boring read on my initial perusal. However as I completed the reading, I found myself reflecting a lot on my own faith walk, and was left humbled, encouraged and broken. Numbers was for me an unexpectedly powerful if not transformational read. 

Through the example of Moses, Aaron and the Israelites, my own journey was reflected back to me. My desire is to serve the Lord, to go where He sends me. I have prayed those words in earnest, wanting nothing more than to be used by Him to affect positive change, to His glory and the benefit of His children and His kingdom. God has blessed me abundantly and I have seen His provision in my life over and over again, I have witnessed miracles, and yet when things get tough I doubt, I complain, I forget the promises of God and His call on my life. It saddens me to think that I too have caused God to ask “How long will [she] treat me with contempt? How long will [she] refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among [her]?” (14:11). My fear is to get to heaven and have God say “well done good and faithful servant, but this is how much more I had for you and for others, this is how much more there was for you to do, this was my plan – but sin, fear, doubt, pride, insecurities, kept you from following and serving me fully”. The power of sin to slow us down and delay us from fulfilling the purposes God has planned for us is evident throughout this book. The blessings of those who follow God wholeheartedly versus those who do not  is abundantly apparent in chapter 32:11-11 and serves as a both a fair warning and encouragement. "Because they have not followed me wholeheartedly, not one of the men twenty years old or more who came up out of Egypt will see the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob-not one except Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua son of Nun, for they followed the LORD wholeheartedly." Overall the book of Numbers encouraged and reminded me to focus less on the size of my problems, the magnitude of the mountains before me and trust in the greatness of my God, following Him faithfully, even through the desert times, the valleys and the darkness. I am grateful that I serve a God who is “slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving [of] sin and rebellion” (14:18)

There were specific verses throughout Numbers that caused me to reflect and remember and revealed greater understanding. Verse 5:6 served as a powerful reminder when the Lord said to Moses “When a man or woman wrongs another in any way, and so is unfaithful to the Lord.” So often we forget that our faithfulness and obedience to God is encompassed in our relationships to others, a principle carried on from Leviticus and into the New Testament.

God continues as in the three previous books to reveal himself in tangible ways to Moses, audibly speaking to him, face to face, clearly and not in riddles, giving him direction and guidance. Moses is blessed with being able to see the form of the Lord. The thought of this leaves me wanting more of God, believing that there is more of God to receive, that He is not only whispering but speaking clearly if only I would turn down the world and listen.

If only the Israelites; if only we; if only I could maintain the consistency of trusting and following in the Lord’s command, despite our circumstances. Moses after all he has seen, everything he has brought to and through, still questions the Lord and His plans and the Lord answers him with a question that we would each do well to remember “Is the Lords arm too short?" (11:23). Numbers 9:23 reminds me that our life is best when left in the hands of God. It reminds me too that there is a time to be still, to wait, and a time to advance.

The continued promise of God’s provision is illustrated once again in 11:17 when God brought leaders alongside Moses to “help you carry the burden of the people so that you will not have to carry it alone.” When the burden is too much for us to bear alone, God provides a means for us to accomplish the task He has laid before us, bringing people across our path to share the burden.

At the conclusion of Numbers, I am rejoicing as I reflect on the faithfulness of God, and His extravagant goodness towards me. This has been especially apparant ot me over the last 3 months. I am repentant of any past grumbling, lack of trust or distraction from God’s plan for my life. I am encouraged, to press on being faithful to the plans God has revealed to me, trusting in His provisions, remembering all that He has brought me to and through, knowing that He is in control.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

God says Go

I was asked recently if I would consider coming to India to speak at a large conference as well as at a number of other events and churches from June 12 - 20.  The opportunities to share the word of God include at least 3 churches, 2 student events and 2 public events addressing non-Christians, Christians, Buddhists and Hindus.  I was humbled and taken aback but definitely honoured.  One of the students at the college in Thailand had heard me speak, and apparently was impacted by what God had to say through me.  He and His family run a church ministry in Andhrapradesh, India.  Last year they held a conference for students  to encourage them through their studies because of the great pressure they are under and preach the Gospel to them. India puts extreme pressure on it's students through the education system with overwhelming course loads, nearly 0 time off throughout the year, and not to mention its degree of difficulty barely giving students a social, family or any sort of relational life.  Put all that together and you generate a country that has one of the greatest depression and suicide rates among its students in the World.  So the students in His area are a burden on his heart.   Around 5000 attended last years event.

I often hear people say where is God in these situations, be it India, Africa, Camodia, Haiti, or New Orleans. Why does God allow these people to suffer? Why is God not doing anything to help? and I am sure God is asking us the same thing. Why are you not doing anything to help them, I have given you everything you need, every opportunity. God is for them among those He sends. But like our salvation it requires us to choose to accept it – to say yes – to Go.  God does not reside in a temple - God lives in us! The Holy spirit does not reside in the buildings we create but in the body God has created for us. I've learned that when it comes to serving, you never have to ask God –should I do this or that – should I give this or that – God has already called us to go – to Give – to extend His love, grace and mercy to each person He brings across our path, GOD SAYS GO – UNTIL GOD SAYS NO

I have agreed to go and for the first time that I can recall, I am placing all control in the hands of God and others.  Already this is a stretching experience, requiring me to grow in Trust.

I've been thinking of putting together a book with photos and devotions from my time in Africa to sell, in order  to raise funds for this and other service trips. So I've decided that for today's post to include a devotion from my time in Africa.  If you're interested in finding out more about purchasing one of the books with proceeds going towards service trips to India, Haiti and Cambodia please feel free to contact me.

May 8th - 2007 "Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His mercy endures forever" "The Lord is for me among those who help me" ~ Psalm 118:29 &7

Our luggage arrived!  This is only one of the mall blessings we experienced today!  Thank you father for the privilege of playing a small part in Your great plan.  You truly are good and Your mercy endures forever!  I see joy in the faces of those who have suffered more pain than I could ever imagine. A pure unadulterated joy.  I remember experiencing moments of that joy and i know that it comes from You.  I understand how much we take for granted - we are a privileged and still selfish people.  These children, aged 2 -12 have no mom or dad or are orphaned, many are dying of AIDS, some have been raped countless times and still they sing praises to You.  One boy maybe 10 sat near me leg outstretched, revealing the rotting flesh around his ankle - white and bloody, where once thick dark healthy epidermis covered it.  As I noticed it, he noticed me and was, I think, embarrassed - covering his wound up with his hands.  I sadly reflect on the fact that these your children are covering up much deeper wounds than those of the flesh.

I pray Father that you will use Keera and I to help heal those wounds, or at least help each child recognize they are Your child - deeply loved children who need not be embarrassed, for their Father in heaven is not ashamed.  May they know Lord - believe- experience, that you are good - that they see glimpses of you through us!  May they know that you are for them among those who come to help - those who have gone before - who continue to this day and those to come.  Jeremiah 29:11 "I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future."  May they know that this verse is for them!  They can bank on your promise - build a future on the hope you provide.  Continue to equip and enable "Somebody Cares" to lead this young people to their hope & future. Even when that hope and future comes in facing death knowing they will meet you face to face.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Consumers or Community?

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I was reading "I Sold My soul on eBay".  It was a quick read and I finished it in the one day. It was an alright book, I appreciated his input though I did not find much of it very insightful.  He did address one item, that caught my attention, comparing a particular church with a movie theatre. I think it resonated with me because I have found myself thinking the same thing from time to time. I've decided for today's post to share this short passage from His book along with a quick reflection.

"When the band started playing, it was just after the 8:30 start time, but there were fewer than forty people in the church.  But by the time the band had finished singing and the pastor got up on stage, the crowd had more than doubled in size.  I noticed families with young children walking in without any visible indications of guilt.  I wouldn't think the people at this church were purposely rude, so they must have a good reason for showing up late.  Was the music so unimportant to them that they decided to come only for the "main event"?  If that's the case, is church more like a movie theatre where you can walk in after the previews and no one thinks anything of it?  I've always thought the previews are vital to the movie experience, though, just as I would assume singing is important to church service.  Furthermore, in a small community church such as this one, I imagine people would know one another better than at a larger church.  The people in the congregations, therefore, might know the people on stage who were singing and would surely respect them enough to show up on time.  I didn't see that respect being shown, though."

Hemant went on to say this at the closing of his book. "Speaking of those who walk into church late, I want to know why they do so.  Not everyone gets stuck in traffic.  If church is so important, there is no reason to walk in late.  In fact, if going somewhere to worship God is important, then people should arrive early." 

I loved his last line, because it eludes to the fact that church is not about us, it is about God.  It is about worshipping God and learning to grow in His image so that we can love Him and others better.  Church is a community of believers who share like beliefs and come together to worship God,  bringing Him glory as they edify one another and go out having been equipped and enabled to serve others. 

When we make church about us we treat it like a product. As a result we end up becoming consumers rather than a community, taking what we want and leaving the rest.  This is evident in the actions of those Hemant referenced in his book.   They were not interested in joining the community to worship God through song, and and as a result the sense of community was lessened. Even leadership can sometimes fall into the trap of marketing their church like a product to be consumed, concerned first with appeasing the people in the pews, rather than guiding them in how to best glorify our Holy God.

Perhaps we would all do well to remember that the end user of all our worship, offerings, sermons, songs, outreach and evangelism is God.  Is God well pleased when we show up late, without excuse, to the Sunday celebrations created to honour Him?  Is He well pleased when we water down His word in order to appease a crowd?  I'm thinking that a church that develops a marketing plan that recognizes God as the end user, would see substantial growth as a result.  An increase would definitely be evident in the size of the hearts of those in attendance and probably an increase in the church size as well.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Is Church Meant for the Atheist?

I love books, and reading, so on my day off I rest and read.  Today I am reading a book I picked up at Chapters titled "I Sold My Soul on eBay - Viewing Faith through an Atheists Eyes" by Hemant Mehta. It was a great deal at only $4.99.

You may recall the name Hemant Mehta, he is the Atheist who auctioned off the opportunity for someone to have him go to a church of their choosing.  The bidding started at $10/hour and he figured it would probably top off there, meaning he would have to go to church 1 week for 1 hour.  In fact the auction closed at $504 with Jim Henderson of being the winner.  This meant the Hemant was to go to church 1 hour, each week, for a year.  In fact Jim had him attend no more than 15 churches and write his impressions of those churches for his blog. I am on Chapter 6 of 10 and my first impression is that the book would have been more accurately subtitled "viewing church through an Atheist's eyes".  I will let you know if this impression changes by the end.

As I entered the 3rd Chapter, I found myself asking.  Is Mr. Mehta's opinion as an unbeliever pertinent? Is a Sunday morning service meant for Atheists?  Historically, were non-believers catered to in the holy temples?

In his book, Hemant, revisits an old parable of the sun and the wind.  The story goes that a battle ensued between the wind and the sun over who was more powerful.  The wind contended that it had the ability to move ships across oceans, destroy cities, and cause bridges to collapse.  The Sun countered that it could start fires, help crops, and power entire buildings.

The Wind and the Sun decided to settle the matter once and for all.  Spotting a young girl walking to school, they decided to compete to see who could make the girl take off her jacket.  The wiser Sun, knowing he would easily be the victor, sat back and watched while the Wind went to work.  The Wind's strategy was to blow the jacket off the girl.  It blew harder and harder hoping the girl would give up the struggle and stop clutching her jacket.  Yet every time the Wind blew, the girl only clung more tightly.  No matter what the Wind did, it could not find a way to separate the girl from the jacket.

Next, it was the Sun's turn.  It simply shone as bright as it could.  As the girl felt the heat building up, she quickly removed her jacket.  The Sun won the contest.

As I read this parable, I drew a parallel between the wind and a Sunday morning service as it applies to the Atheist. Sunday morning service has the potential to feel like your entering a wind tunnel to those who have not been introduced to Jesus. The Church is a place of worship and if someone does not have a personal relationship with God, then many of  the expressions of that worship will hold little meaning. As it appears by Hemant's experience, Sunday morning service  can leave the unbeliever confused by rituals they do not understand, prayers to a God they do not yet believe in, songs that hold little meaning, and messages that could be perceived as judgmental or coercive rather than persuasive.  Not that all is lost, good fellowship, engaging songs, and great teaching will undoubtedly benefit any unbeliever in attendance.
As I continue to read this book, I grapple with the idea that Sunday morning service should  be designed specifically to attract the non-believer. Undoubtedly the church body is to be a supportive, if not, the primary source for meeting the needs of those that make up the community outside their stained glass walls (Christian or otherwise) yet the discipleship and worship programs of the church have a primary responsibility to the body of believers. I would not go to a mosque and expect that they would need to change their style or method of worship in order to convert or even attract me as an unbeliever.

I appreciate Hemant's views as an Atheist attending church, and agree many of his observations have merit, however, they are observations that many believers would make as well as they are matters of preference of style and form of sermon delivery, worship, etc..  His criticism of content, appears to be more a result of a lack of biblical understanding or faith experience.  As a result I would be more interested in knowing what a Christian thinks of the places we worship? Do the sermons minister to them and are they grounded in biblical truth and balanced with relevance? Does the music draws them into the presence of the God they love? Do they find themselves involved in lifting up prayers from their heart?  Is the service relevant, is there accountability in place, is the fellowship sincere, is their foundation in Christ strengthened?

I do not believe that Sunday morning (or whichever day and time your church body gathers) is meant to be seeker sensitive, unless you are being sensitive to the only seeker who matters - God.  However, the most recognizable entity of the Christian faith has become the church as signified by steeples and stained glass. When what should be the most recognizable entity, is us as individuals within whom Christ Dwells. When non-Christians are seeking the truth they go to what we have created as the most recognizable, most significant symbol - where we have dictated the truth is kept, a temple of brick and mortar.  When in actual fact, that greatest testament to the truth of God, lives within us, the body of Christ - the individual members of the church. We, who have already entered into a relationship with Jesus, should be like the Sun in the parable, emitting the warmth of God's love to those around us. When we allow His light to shine in our life, and are obedient, to leave our places of worship and go into our communities and LIVE out our faith, then the seekers would seek us out {the real church/the true temple}, and we could gather where they are and share the truth that has been given to us, allowing the love of God to permeate and persuade them. Isn't that the model of church Christ exemplified.

That being said I would love to hear a non-believers critical analysis of the programs, means and ways in  which we try to evangelize, the organic ways and the planned and plotted ones.  I believe this would be more pertinent coming from a non-believer and would help to curb the risk of the body of believers becoming like a wind tunnel, blowing a lot of hot air at people, in our attempts to convert them (like that is our job). I would also purchase a book that chronicled first hand accounts of the ways in which God used others to bring individuals into a personal relationship with Himself.

So do I think church is meant for the atheist or non-believer? Referring to the building and worship programs, not specifically, it's primary purpose is to the body of believers, though it is still a great place for all to come on a Sunday morning, and I delight that the doors are open to all.  In fact I have witnessed time and again, first hand accounts of God's salvation grace being extended to an unbeliever after a Sunday morning message, resulting in their lives being transformed. If we are referring to church as the body of believers - definitely, the church as an extension of God himself is for everybody. We are commanded to love others as we love ourselves - all others. [Matthew 19:19]

Sunday, February 21, 2010

...After God's Own Heart

Yesterday was crazy busy, as I was helping to get things ready for a wedding shower, and then enjoying all the festivities, which kept me away from home till after midnight. As a result, I failed to write a post yesterday, in essence failing at my new years resolution to write a post a day.  I have a couple options available to me at this point.  I can throw in the towel, chalking my attempt at a post day, up to a good try that resulted in  failure.  I can write two posts today in an attempt at restitution, or I can simply take the blow in stride and move on.  I am going to pursue the latter.  Leaving you with today's post focusing on the 2nd book of Samuel, the story of David - a man after God’s own heart.

After reading 1 Samuel and coming into 2 Samuel I am enlightened to the number of years God has taken to prepare David to be King. From slaying lions and bears as a sheep herder, to serving the king and then running from the King, fighting wars and hiding in caves, it was 15 years of preparation before David became King. So often I just want to bust through the starting gates and run, but like David I have identified a time of preparation, growth and testing by the Lord.

David’s story is one of contrast, from the heights of victory to the depths of notoriety. David was a man of great integrity and character, a man after God’s own heart. We read in Chapter 8:15 that “David reined over all Israel, doing what was just and right for all his people”. Yet David was not immune to the plans of the enemy, from temptation and sin, for later on during His reign as king, he falls and enters into a downward spiral of sin including lust, adultery, deception, murder and lies. This downward spiral serves as a fine illustration of the snowball effect of compromise and sin.

I love the lesson that is played out in this chapter. David falls into sin, baited by lust, and when he is confronted with his sins by Nathan, David confesses, repents and He is forgiven by the Lord. However the earthly repercussions of his sinful actions continue to play out, in the death of His newborn baby, rape of Tamar, murder of Amnon, rebellion of Absalom and his subsequent death. While we can be assured that God will forgive those, who turn to Him in repentance, we must not forget nor minimize the fact that there remain earthly consequences for our actions. Further to this, our sinful actions will affect those around us, and perhaps those in generations to come.

Verse 14:14 in 2 Samuel, appears to be foreshadowing the ultimate grace and mercy the Lord is going to provide in order to ensure that each of us has an opportunity to come into right relationship with Him. “Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But God does not take away life; instead, He devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from Him” Loving us so much that He sent his son to atone for our sins, paying the penalty with His life, once and for all, so that we might not be estranged from Him.

Just as David did in 1 Samuel he continues to give God the glory, attributing his success and victories to the Lord almighty. I love the way he puts it in 22:36, a verse I have referred to countless times in my life “You give me your shield of victory, you stoop down to make me great” How true are those words, that God has stooped down to make us great, stooping so low as sending His son from perfect heaven to sinful dirty earth, so that we might take our places alongside Him again in eternity.

When I read verse 23:3-4, “When one rules over men in righteousness, when he rules in the fear of God, he is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after the rain that brings the grass from the earth” I was inspired to strive to be that kind of leader.

As I finished reading the 2nd book of Samuel I was left inspired by David. I want to live a life of such significance that if God were still documenting His word, the story of my life would be included. At the same time, I consider myself forewarned, learning from the mistakes, of a man after God’s own heart.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Faithful in the Little Things

I want  to share a story of God's faithfulness to me over this past week, revealing the sweet little ways He works in my life. As I posted earlier, the week of Christmas, a friend and I, had about $500.00 to purchase items to make up Christmas Gift bags for the homeless of which we spent $233.00 at one particular store. Looking at my bank statement approximately a month later, I realized the money had been debited from my account but then returned on a separate transaction. This was not a bank error, or do too insufficient funds, simply a debit return.  This meant that we got the items from the store but they did not get the money.

I went on the weekend to speak to the manager.  I am not going to lie, while I had every intention of returning the money, it wasn't the easiest task.   Though I have all I need and am blessed abundantly, I am not rich. So at this point $233 meant re-budgeting personal expenditures. When I discussed the error with the manager, they were hesitant to believe me, and thought perhaps it was an error which corrected itself days later.  I assured them it was not, but they asked that I come back Tuesday with my bank statement.  I left a little confused.  I felt like I had tried but perhaps they just wanted me to keep the money, maybe this was my out - perhaps God was trying to bless me.  Tuesday rolled around and I went to the bank and had them print of a statement and off I went once again to see the manager.  I think she was shocked to see me, again it left me wondering if I shouldn't have just kept the money after all.  When I showed her my statement she said "This is very nice of you - you know" To which I replied Yes I know, cause I was keenly aware at this point how easy it would have been to keep the money, and all the ways I could have used  I gave them the $233 they rightfully deserved and walked out of the store, my spirit took pleasure in knowing  that I had done the  honourable thing and yet if I am completely honest, I was a little sick to my stomach as well, $233 could have been put to good use in my own

The verses that came to my mind as I reflected on the events of the day came from the book of Luke, Chapter 16:10-11  "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else's property, who will give you property of your own" 

There really was only, one right thing to do, and despite anything else, I'm glad I did it.  That same day, I went to return a couple thermos' I used for our family day event.  I had paid a $75 deposit for them.  When I returned them, the manager came to the front with the envelope they had placed my deposit in and returned it to me. As I walked to my car, I realized they gave me $95.  I thought "Really God? Really?" So I walked back in, and asked what the deposit was, too which they replied $75.  I explained that's what I had given them but that they had given me $95 back, to which they replied, well that is exactly what was in the envelope, so I must have given them that.  I was almost sure that wasn't the case, as I had to take $80 from the bank machine cause I didn't have any cash on me. I questioned them again, but apparently my money alone was placed in that envelope with my name on it.  So I chalked this one up to a Thank You God.

Yesterday. I had lunch with some old colleagues of mine.  As I was getting ready to leave, I went into my car's glove compartment to get some keys I needed to return.  As I did I found a quarter, which excited me, there was also an enveloope addresed to me in the glove compartment, which I thought odd, but figured was a thank you note or something.  As I drove away, I opened the envelope and found a note dated January 31st, explaining that this was for me to spend as I wish and $50 in the envelope.  I almost broke into tears.  God always provides everything we need in perfect timing.  Giving the $233 at the beginning of the week, left me pretty much empty for the week, but then God provided.  Now apparently, I was given that envelope by hand, and in the chaos of all I was doing , without knowiung what its contents were, I placed it in the glove compartment and forgot about it.  In perfect timing God provided. 

God has faithfully provided for my every need, extravagantly and wonderfully beyond all that I could have ever imagined.  Since moving out at 17, I have always had a roof over my head, food, a job, and all my needs met.  Since becoming a Christian, I have been blessed with the opportunities and means to travel extensively to other countries to serve God. Most recently, Thailand and Cambodia, which resulted in my being extended an invitation to go to India this June as a keynote speaker at a large conference as well as a number of other speaking engagments over the duration of my time there.  This is the first time, I am in a position that I need to rely on others to support me in going.  Every other trip, Africa, Thailand/Cambodia, New Orleans, New York, Louisianna, I have paid my own way.  This time, however I am not in a position to do that.  My meals, accommodations and travel within India are covered, but I will need to cover the cost of my flight, medical insurance, visa, and spending cash.  Of course I will save what I can, but I know that it is beyond myself.  This is a huge area of growth for me, I find it difficult to depend on others, to receive from others, and have realized that perhaps part of it is pride and another part trusting in God to provide. Finding that envelope in the glove compartment was, if nothing else a huge confirmation; it was God saying to me, do not worry I will provide. I have proven myself faithful over and over again, and I will do it again. Remember - Trust!

God is so incredibly good to me - over and over and over again. I've experienced in my short christian life, so many incredible first hand accounts of God answering prayer, even as immediate as within hours. I have witnessed miracles and have been the receipient of countless blessings.  While I try my best to be faithful in the little things, admittedly failing at times, I rest assured knowing that God is faithul in all things. "Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands." ~ Deuteronomy 7:9.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Don't Just Give Up - Give Back

Today, Ash Wednesday begins the 40 day season of Lent.  A period marking the 40 days before Jesus death and resurrection.  40  is a number of great biblical significance including  the number of days Jesus spent in the desert before starting His public ministry.  It was here that He was tempted. He was in essence preparing and disciplining himself, to do the work God had called him to.

The 40 days of Lent leading up to the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Christ is a time of reflecting on the cost and sacrifice that was made on our behalf. I have come to realize that despite my best attempts I will never be perfect and sometimes it seems I can not even do good, but thankfully grace is extended to me through the cross. As I reflect on all that Christ endured I find myself asking, how can I love Him better. The answer comes quite plainly in Scripture "Love the Lord your God with all your heart soul mind and strength and love your neighbour as yourself."  So for me Lent is a season of purposeful focus, learning what it means to Love God and others better and then putting it into practice. Loving God better requires giving more of myself to Him and to others, while trusting in the fullness of all that was completed on the cross.

Lent is a time for self-reflection, saying search my heart oh God and reveal any unclean way in me and then turning away from those things. A time for learning what it means to follow Christ, and to listen to the Spirit. A time for actually going about changing one's ways to be more as Christ would have us be.  That being said, I have never quite understood, some of the practices that are adopted during the Lenten season.  Some of it seems quite trivial. For example, what benefit is it to God or anyone else if we give up chocolate or coffee for 40 days only to return to the same indulgent pleasures on the 41st day. If we are going to give something up, shouldn't we choose something worth giving up for good? It is then that we are truly developing the discipline of self-control and identifying with the sufferings of Christ.  

I suggest however that Lent involves more than just a giving up but also a giving back; a giving back to God of ourselves and a giving of ourselves to others.  Jesus gave everything up all the way to the cross, so that we could eventually have everything back. He gave it all up so He could give it all back.  

I have decided to give up some things this Lenten season (2011), hoping to break habits which rob me of time with God and others, and yet do not add to my  life.  TV, Facebook,  and unnecessary expenses, to list a few.  Now giving up these things for 40 days is fine but not overly beneficial to God or others. It is only worth doing, if I come to a place where it no longer masters me, where a negative habit is broken.  I love the Franciscan phrase, "The less that "stuff" preoccupies our lives, the more room there is for God, as well as for ourselves and for other people." Thus giving up must be replaced with a giving back. So by giving these things up, I can now invest that time in my relationship with God and in serving others. Where I would typically be on Facebook or in front of the TV, I will read His word, pray, worship and spend time serving and building relationship with others. In essence, God helping me, I am changing my ways to be more like Christ would have them be, serving others and glorifying God. The money that I save by not purchasing a coffee, or fast food, or items to indulge me or more often others, will go towards my missions trip to India as well as helping to break an especially sticky habit.

Yesterday served as a perfect example on how giving up is simply a means for giving back.  I had just finished visiting with a friend and was going to go home and rest for a bit in front of the TV before going to bible study.  Then I realized, oh yah, I gave up TV, so instead, I drove to Martha's Table, a local soup kitchen and served supper to the disadvantaged. Then I came home and made dates to go have coffee with people over the week.

I have no idea what your intentions are for the Lenten season, but might I suggest you take this 40 days to reflect on the immense gift of grace that was enabled through Christ's sacrifice. Then God helping you, surrender your heart, time and desires and ask Him to reveal to you what you can/should give up in order to love Him and others better.  Develop a great new habit, one that mirrors the heart of Christ, while at the same time eliminating a habit that otherwise serves as a stumbling block in your relationship with God and others.

"Jesus is not looking for self-torture, self-hatred, woe-is-me thinking, 40-day starvation and oceans of tears. (Many great saints and plain fools have thought that's what He wanted.) Lent is for soberly looking into yourself and getting down to what's real. Self-hatred is not being real. How could it be right to despise someone whom God loves and treasures? The Sundays aren't counted in the 40 days of Lent, because every Sunday carries with it a part of the glow of Easter Sunday. So it's not all gloom and doom. But even on the Sundays, the theme of repentance (turning from our ungodly ways) holds true. When you repent, you please God whether you fast or not, and that is what most counts for Lent."

Much like Jesus - God has great things for you to do. In fact Jesus said "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father."  If Jesus had to spend 40 days in the desert, resisting temptation and preparing for the work God had for Him to do, then we would be well served to take these 40 days to do the same.  Commit this time to God, allow Him to work in and through you, focused on allowing Him to transform and prepare you to do Great things in His name.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Fissures in Our Foundation - A Triple Threat

Tonight at our ladies bible study, we were learning what it means to be a wife worth finding.  There was a verse about lying and manipulation that stuck with me "When Satan lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies." When we lie we are in essence, though perhaps unwittingly, doing the work of the enemy, which reminded me of something I had written years ago and thought I would revisit and post tonight.

I once heard it said that you can trust a thief but not a liar. That line has stuck with me all these years because it is so true. Growing up the one thing that I vividly recall as being a huge NO-NO was lying. It was common knowledge around our household of 6, that if you did something wrong and then lied about it your punishment would be significantly worse. To this day there is nothing that disappoints me more than dishonesty. I would admit that we are all guilty of untruths to some degree, but it seems as though lying has become second- nature, as colloquial as slang.

As Christians we are called to "...keep our lips from speaking lies" {Psalm 34:13} yet the biggest cracks in the kingdom are formed by our lies. Lies are a triple threat in that, we lie to ourselves, we lie to others and we lie, about others, all of which create huge fissures in the foundations of our faith. These cracks start out small and quickly become huge wounds that compromise the strength of our churches, friendships, and ultimately can cause ministries and God's people to crumble.

Every time we fail to admit a weakness we are lying to our self. So many of us, are walking around as though everything is OK, trying to convince ourselves that we have everything together, that we can make it on our own, that we can solve our own problems. THIS IS A LIE and the first threat to our spiritual growth. A huge fissure in our spiritual foundation forms when we start trying to convince ourselves that we have our lives under control. WE DON'T - BUT GOD DOES! Until we can be honest with ourselves, we can never be honest with God. When we stop lying to ourselves and start admitting our weaknesses, hurts, pains and our failings, it is then that God can begin to work through those issues and firm up our spiritual foundations.
God hates a lying tongue {proverbs 6:17}. I find it interesting from a creation aspect how our physical bodies react adversely when we lie, we get anxious and uncomfortable - thus enabling the use of Lie Detectors. We were not created to be deceitful, we were created in God's likeness, we were created for Truth! Yet everyday we are faced with dishonesty and deception. Every lie we utter, every untruth we promote, hinders the progress of the gospel in this world. This is the 2nd threat to the kingdom and to our spiritual foundation.

Ask most non-Christians what one of their biggest stumbling blocks to faith is and many of them will answer Hypocrisy {be it right or wrong}. They see us Christians preaching one thing, but doing another. They witness the dishonesty in our words and actions. Even within  church families, relationships and congregations are destroyed through the myriad of lies that are weaved, covered up and ultimately unveiled. Facades of perfection that come crumbling down when the lies can no longer be juggled.

Finally and perhaps most threatening is when we speak lies about one another. This of course can take many forms, from out and out slander to propagating unsubstantiated rumour, gossip or misinformation. Nothing causes dissention in ministry, ends relationships quicker, or impedes God's work more, than false witnesses who pour out lies. The Lord our God hates "...a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers." {Proverbs 6:19} so much so, that it is written that "A false witness will not go unpunished and he who pours out lies will perish." {Proverbs 19:9}. I personally think it is naive and a wee bit comical that any of us think we can get away with a lie, that in it's time it will not be revealed. As Christians we should be doing everything in God's power to uplift one another, not looking to tear each other down. If you want a formidable foundation for the Kingdom, if you want Revival to come - then we need to be united in love not divided by lies.

Let me close with this, people will pose the argument that there are occasions where Lying is prudent . I tell you that this in itself is a LIE. There is no situation where lying is justified because God would never place us in a position where we must sin. God will always make a way for His people to avoid sinning! Think on this - God cannot lie, why would He assign to you the task of lying for Him?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

An Attitude That Sucks...

I had begun a post a few days back, but then deleted it, concerned that some people might assume that I was referring to them, that's if anyone actually reads this blog.  In actual fact, anyone could think that this topic is about them, as it affects all of us, though perhaps some people struggle more than others.

After talking with a friend this morning, I realized that it is not just I, who recognize the draining if not devastating affects of people's attitudes and words.  So I decided to complete my previous post.  Should you find yourself offended, I suggest that it's perhaps  a symptom of conviction and an area you might choose to ask God to help you work on.

What I am referring to, are those people who are constantly negative, always first to find a problem with an idea or opinion and not in the constructive way. Those people who point out the negative in others, making slights against them in order to elevate themselves. The person who constantly complains.  The person who cuts others down in subtle, sarcastic and overt ways.  It has been my experience that often times, those people know little of what they speak of.  While we can all fall into those ruts, and are each guilty of these attitudes and remarks at times, if it becomes a consistent part of who we are, we become a detriment to our own spiritual and physical health and drain the life out of others. "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones" ~Proverbs 17:22

Philippians 2:4 says that "Our attitudes should be the same as that of Christ Jesus", negativity, non-constructive criticism, judgment, name-calling, harshness and ignorant sarcasm are not indicative of the heart of Jesus.  Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Gentleness, Faithfulness and Self-Control however are [Galatians 5:22].  As we grow in these gifts, our negative attitudes will diminish and we will begin to reflect the light of Christ that draws others to Him rather than deters. Jesus said, "The things that come out of your mouth come from your heart." ~Matthew 15:18

I am increasingly aware of the draining affect of people's attitudes and negative comments.  As a result I am more attuned of my words and attitudes. I have found that there is nothing more exhausting in my life than being around people with negative attitudes.  It sucks the life right out of me. “Thoughtless words can wound as deeply as any sword, but wisely spoken words can heal.” ~Proverbs 12:18.  On the contrary, people who are encouraging, always ready with a kind and sincere word on their lips, lift my spirits, and strengthen my resolve. “Kind words are like honey—enjoyable and healthful.” ~Proverbs 16:24 Case and point - there is a woman of meager means, who is probably not considered  wise by worldly standards, and more often than not is simply overlooked.  She is however, one of the most sincere, positive and encouraging people I have met.  A real blessing to me. Sometimes I feel as though God Himself is encouraging me through her.  I want to be that kind of person for others. I am uber blessed to have a number of cheerful, positive and encouraging people in my life, I am not sure I would survive without them, let alone thrive.

If we stay close enough to people of either disposition we will find our attitudes changing.  We become like those we acquaint ourselves with.  If we acquaint ourselves first with Christ and those who seek to grow in His likeness, then we too will grow in the attitude of Christ and will have the strength to stand, and even influence those with negative attitudes. The alternative is to be contaminated by a negative attitude and the wisdom of Proverbs warns us that we "will have to live with the consequences of everything [we] say" [18:20]

Not wanting to risk bad company ruining good manners, I have decided to make a conscious effort to surround myself with people who are filled with sincere enthusiasm, positivity, and a good sense of humour. I am also committed to continually growing in those areas myself.  This does not mean that I am going to avoid people who are hurting or going threw difficult times, indeed I want to be that positive person for them, one who will help to influence their spirit to joy.  However my closest acquaintances and friends will always be those who strive to uplift and not tear down. Those who attempt in earnest to reflect the heart of Christ, each of us holding one another accountable, iron sharpening iron.

Monday, February 15, 2010

As You Enter Your New World - Remember...

The book of Deuteronomy, serves as a reminder of God’s love, faithfulness and sovereignty as well as His commands and plans for His chosen people. Like a parent, wanting to provide their child every last piece of advice, blessing, warning and assurance before sending them off into the world, God reiterates for His chosen children His commands, His warnings, His promises so that they might enjoy long life as they enter their new land.

Entering a world full of idols and lesser gods, the Lord reaffirms His sovereignty, so that there could be no doubt that He is the Lord, our God, The one true Lord, whom we are called to love with all our heart and soul and strength.

My mind drew a loose parallel between this book and the lives of our young people. 18 years,  perhaps brought up in Christian homes, raised on the word of the Lord, relatively protected in the safety net of the Christian bubble, now they prepare to leave home anticipating entrance into a new land. They enter this land with a new found freedom, a land abundant in temptation, rampant with foreign idols and lesser gods. How easily they can forget, and be drawn away from all that they have seen and heard, all that God has provided for them, when faced with a new world such as this. God’s word and warnings to the Israelites remains pertinent to us even now, “be careful and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. (4:9)”.

I loved the image presented in verse 1:31 of God carrying them "as a father carries his son all the way until they reached this place".

The lesson from Deuteronomy that remained with me, and I believe is crucial for our generation to grasp is that our obedience to God and his ordinances begets blessing, while our disobedience will result in consequence. While it is encouraging to know that God’s enduring love can result in us being restored, it seems that this is sometimes taken to liberally and with an aloof attitude. Deuteronomy in conjunction with  many other books in the bible clearly indicates that there is such a thing as wasted opportunity, missing a blessing, and turning your back on God’s calling. While God’s plan will ultimately come to fruition it may not necessarily be through us if we walk in disobedience. Like Moses, Aaron and the 1st generation Israelites, our actions resulting from a lack of trust and faith, or plain disobedience may prevent us from ever reaching the proverbial promised land.

Like the Israelites we can bask in the glory and provision of the Lord, and become prideful and self-righteous, which results in our arrogance and leads us to rebellion (1:43). Yet the Lord calls us to remember that it is He who gives us the ability to produce wealth; it is not because of our righteousness but His will (8:18; 9:6)

The theme of God’s love for His children, and the call for His children to love one another, persists throughout Deuteronomy, continuing to emphasize the importance of relationship with God and one another, with the greatest commandment reiterated to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and strength.” Even God’s commands are not presented as a kill joy to the people of Israel but as a covenant of love so that they, and their children after them may fear the Lord their God as long as they live and by keeping these decrees and commands that God gives them, they will enjoy Long life. (6:2). The discipline of God is a discipline of love, “as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you”

The verse from Deuteronomy that remains with me is 30:11 “Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach”. God would not command us to do the impossible, it is possible to love God and others with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, with Him helping us, and so that should be our goal, Perfect Love or Christian Perfection as John Wesley would have it.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Used by God

I have the privilege each Saturday of serving on the Kingston Street Truck.  A parked converted bread van, that provides the homeless and disadvantaged an opportunity to get out of the cold, enjoy a hot beverage and some good conversation.  I love Saturday nights.  Yesterday, a couple of my friends joined me for an evening full of great discussion. Discussion on a number of biblical topics, initiated by one of our clients.  While another younger homeless man, who fell asleep for a couple hours, awoke to share with us some of his thoughts.  In a convoluted and circuitous manner,  he made a number of interesting and poignant statements.  The thing that caught us all off guard, was when he shared with us the gospel as boldly and clearly as any pastor.  I think we were all slapped in the face a bit.  All that night, those who came on the truck shared their experiences and understandings of God.  We did not initiate this line of discussion, but were certainly pleased to be engaged in it.  When we locked up for the night and began the drive home, I shared how I was humbled, to know that those who rarely darken a church door, have the courage and fortitude to share the gospel and the word of God with a stranger, sometimes putting us to shame.

I was reminded of an  episode of Oprah I saw a couple years ago,where she interviewed a Girl form Atlanta who shared Jesus with her Kidnapper who just so happened to kill a bunch of people earlier. I had heard her story a few times, but rarely did they explain her life situation, leaving me with the impression, she was this lifetime Christian, when in fact she was a recovering Crystal Meth addict who had just given up her daughter and could not keep a job.

But God spoke to her, God used her, she heard his voice, and was obedient - she WAS an "Unlikely ANGEL". She shared with him from "The Purpose Driven Life" and as a result saved her life, his life and probably the lives of many others.

I am reminded of the people that are so often judged and written off as useless, to far for even God to find. I am reminded of friends I have had who among all their struggles, all their burdens, in spite of their strongholds, have allowed God {even if they did not recognize it} if even for a moment to use them - to save someone else. "IF YOU GIVE WHAT YOU GOT TO GOD - HE WILL TAKE IT AND USE IT"

God is working in us all, We all have a long way to go, we are all at different places in our Christian Walk, but If we listen for God, and are obedient to His voice, then we will be saved and can save others. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE PERFECT TO BE USED BY GOD!

We need to be careful so careful of not becoming so caught up in our own transformation that we forget where we came from and fall into the trap of judging others.  There is a purpose for every life!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Love Slam

Sweet that the Canadian Olympic opening celebrations included a slam poet!  Especially since I have been introducing it to our church recently. With the new found attention on poetry slam and being that valentines day is tomorrow,  I thought I 'd writing another one on love.  A difficult task I found, the topic of love doesn't really lend itself to poetry of the slam variety.  What remains below is my work in progress, with much work left to do.  If you want to read some of the slams I have completed they can be found in previous posts of the following titles: "Levels of Grey", "Consider Your Ways" & "Forgiveness"

You’ve spent a long time looking for love in all the wrong places, searching for someone to rescue you in a sea of stranger’s faces. I see you crying because he's broken your heart and the anger welling up inside when she’s ripped you apart. Love is a word, that you’ve heard, from a lot of people over the years, only to have those people leave you alone with your tears. With the way the word love is being thrown about, I understand you have every reason to doubt, especially when family, friends, and spouses say it and then turn around and walk out. It saddens me to see, that you haven’t been given many reasons to believe, that my love is true, love seeming more like lip service than something my children actually do, but listen to me now as I say this to you.

I LOVE YOU – just the way you are, every single hair on your head, every single scar. Even before your first day of conception, you had my attention. It doesn’t matter what you have done or what’s been done to you, you are my beloved through and through. I’ll comfort you in your trouble, helping you get through all of the rubble. When the pain stops stinging and the good times are beginning, I‘ll be there too, rejoicing over you with singing. 

It is you that I adore, and I have been waiting for you to open the door. Allow me to heal all the pain and hurt that you feel, proving to you that my love is real. I want to lavish on you my love, and give you every good gift that comes from above. I will complete you, and I will set you free, stop looking for it from everyone else, cause true Love comes from me. My love is everlasting it has no end, regardless of how hard things get, I will always be your friend.

Please let me love you, and I’ll prove myself to be true. If you stop hiding behind your doubts and fear, take a step of faith, my love will become abundantly clear. I know it’s hard to believe, trusting in something you can’t see seems kind of naïve, but I have shown you in the greatest of ways that I will love you for all of your days. There is nothing that I can do more, than to prove that you were worth dying for.

Love is not lip service, it something you do, and I proved it when I sent my own son to you. Stretching his arms out as far as they’d go, nailed to the cross for the whole world to know, I love you this much, and I'm waiting on you to make up your mind do you love me too?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Tough Love

With Valentines day coming up on Sunday, leaving love at the forefront of all our minds, and given that my post yesterday reflected on 2 Corinthians, I thought that today I would start from the beginning with 1 Corinthians.

I have always been passionate about understanding the ways in which our Faith should be evident in our lives. I have perhaps a naïve or even arguably a slightly judgmental attitude, in believing that our Faith should transform our lives, there should be a falling away of the things of the world, and an ever increasing abundance of fruit of the spirit. I have heard it said that we become like that which we worship, and I know that we are called to be conformed into the likeness of Christ. We will never be sinless, but should not the indwelling of the spirit, be promoting Christ like attitudes and actions? It seems that the church of Corinth, suffers from the same struggle the churches, and we Christians of today do, in a world of abundance, and opportunity, where God competes for our attention among a myriad of distractions and competing offers, we become oblivious to the slow fade, that is taking place in our spiritual walk. We begin to compromise in our tolerance of worldly ways, and blur the lines of what is righteous. Now I am not promoting legalism – or justification through works, but there is a fine balance that needs to be trod so that liberty does not turn into license. Perhaps a healthy dose of tough love is needed every now and again to keep us on the path of righteousness, shedding light among the grey and sometimes blackened areas of our spiritual understandings. A clear call to walk in the freedom of Christ but also in obedience to His Holy call serves us well.

Paul’s letter to the Corinthians did just this, offering up some tough love and so serves not only as a powerful message of exhortation and rebuke to them but also a pertinent message for us. I have often thought to myself, which Bible are you reading, when I see seasoned Christians adopting attitudes or actions contrary to the message they have received (including me at times). Paul must have had similar feelings, having established and raised up the church in Corinth in the ways it was to walk, only to see them now living lives in opposition to the word of God He had preached.

I appreciate the example that Paul provides us of speaking the truth in love. It was love that motivated Paul to confront the church. Sometimes in "tough love" we are required to say and do things things that may be hard for others to accept, and as equally hard to deliver, but given from a heart of love necessity. "Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy." ~Proverbs 27:6  The word translated ‘faithful’ in this context shows that the wounds of a friend can be trusted because they are meant to help and not destroy - but that doesn’t mean that they are easy to take! Paul had developed a relationship with the Corinthians and it was the love that he had shown them that allowed him to hold the people accountable and confront their wrongdoing by the power of the cross. Without relationship rebuke is simply received as judgment and condemnation and often ends up doing more harm then good. It takes love to keep one another accountable. It is easier for sure to turn a blind eye, or sweep the unmentionable under the proverbial rug, hoping that it will go away, but that serves to benefit know one and Paul understood this. So with courage and boldness, armed with the word of God and the power of the cross He rebuked the church of Corinth, calling them back to lives of purity and unity for their benefit and to the Glory of God.

It is through the cross that we are united and only through the cross can divisions be laid to rest, and like mindedness found among the body of believers. If we rely on the power of the cross for guidance and direction, as opposed to leaders, or factions we would see schisms subside and unity increase. Paul exhortation declares that unity is found only when we come together in worship of Jesus Christ, not the things of this world, leaders, or other idols. [1:10-17]

In all things we should be seeking to love God and others, to live in unity and peace with another, to do that which will glorify, guide and edify the church and one another. This applies to the exercise of our freedom [8:9], our attitude, actions and the gifts that the Lord is so gracious in pouring out among the believers. Paul reminds the Corinthians and us that we are to contribute to the body of Christ using the gifts we have been giving without minimizing the contributions of others. A healthy church of God works together, sharing what they have been given to support each other, for the coming good [12:7] – understanding that though there may be many members, they are one body – and need one another to function properly with Jesus as the Head of that body which unifies the whole. [12:12-31]

Paul clearly confronts the Corinthians on the motives of their heart in chapter 13, and instructs them that Love must be the motivator in all that they do as the love of Christ is the common denominator which unifies the church. Love motivates edification of both the believer and the church. It was love that motivated Paul to confront the church. 

I want to live my life so that I may be able to say, or better that others can say of me with all confidence as Paul does that my way of life in Christ Jesus agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church. [4:17]

I loved the underlying theme present throughout the book of 1 Corinthians in a number of ways that “Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others”.[10:24]  This is  the motive of accountability in a nut shell. This theme was also evident in Paul’s exhortation on Spiritual gifts, Food sacrificed to idols, Lawsuits among brothers, love, orderly worship, the collection for others and more. This is an underlying theme throughout the New Testament and as I have stated before the key to the kingdom. [Obviously as a product of a saving faith relationship with Christ.] “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” [13:13]