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Archive for July, 2018

Screen Shot 2018-07-30 at 6.50.07 AMWe have all heard a story similar to this one:

A flood has happened and a man is on his roof, awaiting saving.

A boat comes by and tells him to climb on, but the man yells, “God is gonna save me.”

Then a helicopter drops a rope for him to grab, but the man yells, “God is gonna save me.”

When he, eventually, drowns and gets to heaven, he says to God, “I guess it was my time to die.”

God replies, “you’re not supposed to be here. I sent a boat and a helicopter.”

This and other similar stories highlight two messages we often hear about the will of God; that he will take care of our needs, and that he has given us the resources to take care of ourselves.

Often, when I am confronted with a difficult decision to make,  or working through a struggle of some sort, I tend to throw my hands up in the air, look up to the sky (or ceiling) and say, “I give up. You deal with this.”

Sometimes that is exactly what I needed to do, for I might have been trying to make that decision or solve a problem completely on my own steam.

Then there are other times, when I tend to freeze, and hope and pray that he will make all of my decisions, and that all I need is to have faith.

I have come to realize that the right response is somewhere in between, for God will take care of all of our needs and he has provided for, and within us, resources to make our decisions and to do what must be done.

James 2:17 reminds us, “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

God’s desire is that we put our faith in him, for all things. At the same time, he has gifted us with knowledge and ability to do for ourselves, to do for others.

We need to use the gifts and resources (from within and out) that God has given us, from our hands, to our minds, to our backs, to our hearts, to the hand offered by another person.

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Screen Shot 2018-07-28 at 9.38.04 PMI cannot remember when or where I heard it, but I doubt I will ever forget the acronym K.I.S.S. for Keep It Simple Stupid.

Life can get easier when we replace the confusing with the clear, the complicated with the simple.

When the Christian church first began, in a most unexpected way, there was a K.I.S.S principle that was loud and clear (though maybe a bit smokey).

It began at Pentecost, when all who were gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Weeks were (literally) lit by the Holy Spirit.

This is what Christian community was birthed from, and it wasn’t without it’s doubters, as some thought that those speaking in the tongues of other nations were simply a little too full of the liquid spirits.

There are always cynics, always doubters.

The apostle Peter addressed the crowd, explaining the legitimacy of what was happening in terms of the prophesies of Joel, and the prophecies of their very own David, who shared the bloodline of their very own Messiah and Savior.

When the people heard the reference to their David, “they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37)

This is conviction, and …

 conviction of truth always makes us willing to do something.

Now, here’s a bit of bad news for those who teach and preach …

conviction does not come from the messenger,
but from the source of truth

Awhile back I watched an interview between Woody Allen and Billy Graham. As one might imagine it was a conversation of opposites in so many ways. It was also a conversation of light-hearted laughter … from both individuals. What I was reminded of was that Billy Graham understood and utilized the ultimate source of truth. When a question was asked of him, he did not respond with “I think …” but with “the Bible says …” He understood that it was not his words or thoughts that would convict, but the only source of truth we have at our disposal … the word of God.

And how did Peter respond to the conviction of the people gathered at Pentecost?

“Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” Acts 2:38-39)

Peter didn’t pull that message out of his … hat. This was not his instruction for the people gathered, who were to become the early Christian church. This was the message that he received at the feet of Jesus himself … Jesus who is the truth incarnate.

For it was when the raised-from-the-dead Jesus commissioned his disciples that the truth of the instruction for conviction was given:

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

There were no baptismal or membership classes to take, for this challenge was between truth that convicts, and the individual who is hearing the truth … with clarity that no other teacher or preacher can deliver.

Conviction is the igniting of the spark of the Holy Spirit

The passage, in Acts, ends with an alter call to be baptized, “and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” (Acts 2:41)

They believed, and were baptized

It was that simple … it is that simple.

If we are convicted by truth, our conviction must cause us to do something. The next step is not dependent on first getting the whole of our lives in order. It does not require us to first cleanse our lives of every sin, or attend a class.

The Bible tells us what that when we experience such a conviction we simply must repent, and be baptized. Easie peasie. No perfection required, just obedience.

This is keeping things simple … K.I.S.S. principle, simple.

 

 

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I am a big fan of the story of the Velveteen Rabbit. Though I did not read this story until I was an adult, and a mother myself, I would have to say it had a profound effect on my life, how I think, how I live.

It is the story of what it is to be real, and how one becomes real

… by being truly loved.

One of my favourite parts (and there are many) is when the Skin Horse explains to the Velveteen Rabbit what real means: “Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

There was something in that message that spoke to my young mama heart, and it transformed how I lived, how I saw the experience of living … real living.

As I look back now, I think I understand why that message penetrated my heart.

As a stereotypical first born individual, I was a seeker of perfection, of pleasing others, of doing what is expected of me. That worked well for me as a child and a teen, but adults know well that there is no perfect formula for living that will draw the perfect, desired results.

Sometime, life is hard.

Sometimes, life does not work out perfectly.

It was as I began to internalize the message of the Velveteen Rabbit that, bit by bit, I began to allow my worn bits to show. I did not hide the reality of life and living to others around me. Not overnight changes, but, like the Velveteen Rabbit, slowly, through the years.

Just the other day I laughed at myself … like great big belly laugh … in front of a cashier in a store, for some silly thing I had said or done. As I was laughing at myself I realized that I would not have done that when I was a teen, a young adult. Instead I would have interpreted my error as failure, I would have hung my head in shame and embarrassment, hiding my flaws and foibles so that no one would know that I made mistakes …

… that I was real.

Learning to be really real, learning to embrace the lack of decorum, the kinks in our armour, the flaws in our personalities, is what it is to be authentic, to be real. And we are all real! We just aren’t all comfortable in the fact that being real is to embrace the good, the bad and the ugly, that we all really are.

Those years ago, when I discovered the story of the Velveteen Rabbit, it was then that I realized that, like the boy in the story, it is God who truly loves us. It is he who made us real, it is he who love us for who we really are … not who we think we need to become. And when we learn to accept the price of his love for us (the sacrifice of his own son), it is then that we become real to others around us.

“If you stick with this, living out what I tell you,
you are my disciples for sure.
Then you will experience for yourselves the truth,
and the truth will free you.”
Jesus
(John 8:31-32)

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For nearly nine months, I had experienced circumstances-redundant, joy. I had known that peace that passes all human understanding. I had been filled with contentment in the midst of want.

So, what was missing during those months of living in the grace-filled waste lands … in the valley of dry bones, in the valley of the shadows?

On a warm Sunday in July, with chaos all around, with unfamiliar worship songs being sung and less than comfortable seating underneath, I knew in my heart that it was good to be in the house of God.

This was not a good feeling, due to a choice to see things as good, but one that felt good from the soul out.

Though this experience may not indicate that we have found our church home, it did remind me that we need one, and that it can truly be good to go to church. It was the truth that David spoke (Psalm 122:1):

“I was glad when they said unto me,
Let us go into the house of the LORD.”

Recently I came across words of Spurgeon:

“The church is not perfect, but woe to the man who finds pleasure in pointing out her imperfections. Christ loved his church, and let us do the same. I have no doubt that the Lord can see more fault in his church than I can; and I have equal confidence that he sees no fault at all. Because he covers her faults with his own love—that love which covers a multitude of sins; and he removes all her defilement with that precious blood which washes away all the transgressions of his people.”

Can I hear an amen, to Spurgeon’s statement, “the church is not perfect”? But, I also must say amen to the rest of that sentence, “but woe to the man who finds pleasure in pointing out her imperfections.”

Ephesians 5:25 reminds us of how very much Christ loves the church, in his sacrifice for her:

“Husbands, love your wives,
as Christ loved the church
and gave himself up for her”

It is his act of love for the church which makes our commitment to church mandatory … not because it or they are good, but because we are his, and he gave up his son for us, not only as individuals, but as the household of god.

 

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So I woke up this morning with a thought that I have been mulling in my mind for a few days …

did I teach them to not follow me?

Last week, my friend and I were chatting about people who follow other people rather than just follow Christ.

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To hear such a thing is disheartening … frightening.

So, this morning, I awoke with a concern on my heart, did I teach our children to not follow me?

As a mom, much of our instruction to our children is based on the idea of follow my lead. They grow and develop greatly from mimicking what we say and what we do, just as we did in following our mothers (and fathers).

But, when it comes to who we follow in matters of faith, there is only one leader, only one to follow, Christ himself.

After-all, why follow a follower, when we can follow the leader?

I am a mere mortal, sin-filled from birth, sin-attracted every day of my life. I cannot save them, their souls. There is nothing praise-worthy or perfect in me, except the work of Christ through me. 

If my children (anyone) were to follow me in the area of spiritual salvation, they would be lost … there is no salvation in me.

If they follow me, they are doomed to repeat my mistakes, they are doomed to follow me right into errors and weakness and pride.

If, though, they follow Christ, they are headed in the right direction, saved and loved as no human can.

To me, the best how to and why instruction on this topic of who to follow, is found in the chapter of Psalm 146:

“Praise the Lord!
    Praise the Lord, my soul!
I will praise him as long as I live;
    I will sing to my God all my life.

Don’t put your trust in human leaders;
    no human being can save you.
When they die, they return to the dust;
    on that day all their plans come to an end.

Happy are those who have the God of Jacob to help them
    and who depend on the Lord their God,
the Creator of heaven, earth, and sea,
    and all that is in them.
He always keeps his promises;
he judges in favor of the oppressed
    and gives food to the hungry.

The Lord sets prisoners free
and gives sight to the blind.
He lifts those who have fallen;
    he loves his righteous people.
He protects the strangers who live in our land;
    he helps widows and orphans,
    but takes the wicked to their ruin.

The Lord is king forever.
    Your God, O Zion, will reign for all time.

Praise the Lord!”

To my kids (and anyone else who might have gotten this mixed up), don’t follow me, for I am lost too … follow Christ, for he will reign for all time … I am as dust.

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Screen Shot 2018-07-17 at 8.44.54 AMThere is something unexpected about a funeral in the summer. The weather is bright and warm. The sun is shining joyfully. Late nights, slow mornings, trips to places near and far, time spent with family and friends … the regular things of life and living get put on hold for the irregular.

Then a death comes out of nowhere in July. Even if the deceased had been sick, and expected to pass into eternity, death in summer is unexpected.

Every July, for as long as I can remember, I have had a funeral to attend. Often near the beginning of the month, when I am just beginning to settle into the slow pace of summer’s recreation.

This summer has been no different as we sat among mourners last weekend, to celebrate the life of a good man, who passed, unexpectedly, into eternity.

And so we were reminded of ‘usual’ funeral teachings and truths:

“you will not grieve like the rest who have no hope.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13)

“Jesus wept.” (John 11:35)

“Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

But, we were also told of the man’s joyful anticipation of meeting his Saviour, face to face. That, if he could not be with his family anymore, he would delight to be in the presence of Jesus.

This man was not in his nineties, or even eighties. He was a man in his early sixties, still working, travelling, sharing the love of God, living life … and then he was gone … like a mist.

“Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.
What is your life?
For you are a mist that appears for a little time
and then vanishes.”

James 4:14

Another funeral, on a hot, sunny, early July day.

Another annual reminder that life has no guarantees, that we need to make use of the time we have been given.

“For God so loved the world,
that he gave his only Son,
that whoever believes in him should not perish
but have eternal life.”
John 3:16

 

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Garfield is the personification of the one-word phrase, whatever.

It’s the eye roll, the sarcasm, the apathy that is all rolled up in that one word.

Our world (myself included, much of the time) has fully embraced this mindset in a word. We tend to look to be completely apathetic, or hard-core negative … about everything! From family to politics to how our actions affect those around us.

On Sunday I had what I would call, a head-shake moment.

As the preacher started his message, he introduced the text, from Philippians 4:8-9:

Finally, brothers and sisters,
whatever is true,
whatever is noble,
whatever is right,
whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely,
whatever is admirable
—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy
—think about such things.

Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me
—put it into practice.
And the God of peace will be with you.”

Immediately I was hearing what I knew God wanted me to be reminded of, to know afresh. The entire service could have ended there, because I had already been given a gold nugget of teaching, just in reading and listening to God’s word being read.

What a reminder of the power that focusing, not on the negative or the apathetic, but on what is positive, what we know to be true. That this is the way our minds come in line with the heart of God.

Then, we are instructed to not only think about the positive, but put it into practise … do it! Bring what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy to those around us … our families, neighbours, co-workers and friends.

Not only that, but there is an off-shoot of benefit for this positive focus thinking … the God of peace, and therefore the peace of God, will be with us! And we need that peace, the world needs that peace (that passes understanding).

What a good passage to start off a Sunday … what a good passage to start each day.

Not, whatever.

But, whatever …

“The Lord is with us while we are with him.”
Matthew Henry Commentary

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