Archive | April, 2012

It’s the Wild West Out Here

30 Apr

I need to do a little politicking this evening so even if you’re not politically inclined, I hope you give me a minute to try to persuade you that it’s somewhat important that you make yourself more aware of the myriad of things going on outside in the world.

I was reading the paper last week and picked it up on two consecutive days where the headline story was about GTA hospitals that are concealing the sex of baby girls for fear of parents who would want to abort the baby based on its gender. Just reading the headline made me do a double take- not because I was surprised that there are parents out there who want to kill their unborn babies, but because there are hospitals trying to prevent this from happening! Why is this a surprise? Well for starters, for any of us who’ve grown up in the po-mo, everything is relative, make your own morals, no one is right, God does not exist culture, the idea that public hospitals that are part of a healthcare system that has, since before I was born, promoted and encouraged the aborting of babies for any reason at all, should now want to prevent certain people from aborting babies for certain reasons, seems like a paradox. It is a paradox. Bernard Dickens, a professor at the University of Toronto said, “Note the paradox that abortion for no reason- because it’s untimely, unplanned, not wanted- that is acceptable. So then we’ve got the paradox that an abortion for no reason (is ok), but abortion for what seems to be a gendered or sex-based reason is not”. Here is an example of the conflict that inevitably arrises in life without God. The decision was made years ago that it was morally acceptable, not illegal, to kill an unborn child for any reason at all. Now, hospitals are having to address the problem that more and more baby girls of South-Asian parents (where traditionally baby girls are deemed less desirable than baby boys), are being aborted at higher rates than elsewhere in the city. How do you now make it wrong to kill a child in a situation like this, when for such a long time, it has been ok to abort a baby for any reason at all? You can’t. And if you do make it wrong, then you have to go back and rethink the entire position you’ve taken on an issue like abortion, if you are to be consistent in your line of thinking. But then again, consistency is not something that matters much when you make up your own laws in the first place!

If we have no God, then who makes the laws? Everyone. That’s where we live. A world where everyone is their own lawmaker. “You can’t tell me that what you are doing is better than what I’m doing, or more right, because who are you? I am my own man! I make the rules around here. I am the law unto myself!” And even if you’re not so far to the left as to believe that you are your own law unto yourself, you are definitely part of some belief system, whether it be the enviro-religious, conservative, Marxist, feminist, or you-name-it worldview. Everyone believes and worships something or someone, regardless of whether they realize it or not.

And with no God, then where does all our relativistic law-making get us? It gets us here: a world full of vigilantes who are trying to keep the peace (or not) for their own reasons. If someone broke your rules, you have every right to get angry and get even. Someone has to be the sherif in town, to sort out the good guys from the bad guys. And it might as well be you! Until, that is, someone else with a bigger gun and a scarier mustache comes along and starts muscling his way around town. Ok, I’ll stop with the metaphors but what I’m basically saying is, our society has done itself in when it comes to setting moral standards. We’ve long been encouraged to do away with any belief in an ultimate lawgiver, one whose word is the end of all things, and whose standard applies to every single person regardless of race, class, gender, upbringing, etc. Without the God of the Bible, there is no one who we all must submit to and whose law we are held accountable to. Without Him, it’s the wild west out here. Our society has been caving in on itself for quite sometime, it’s just that the subtleties of our inclusiveness and acceptance for all belief systems (no matter how contradictory they are- take Shari’ah in Western society for example), and the danger that that poses has been lost on everyone.

If you think being accountable to the God of the Bible is scarier than being the law unto yourself, stop and take into account what Romans has to say for those who reject Him as their ultimate authority. Romans 2:20-22, 25-25 says, “For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although the knew God, they did not honour Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools… Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonouring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever!” (italics added)

To be “given up” by God is infinitely scarier than life under His rule and reign. Those who do not honour or worship God but choose to worship anything other than Him, have become futile in their thoughts, with darkened hearts, and have exchanged the truth for a lie! That is terrifying. Without Christ, the world is lost to making and upholding any standard of right or wrong. Without Him, the world will always end up in situations as the one I described above, where chaos and confusion rule and reign.

Reflections of a Nomad

27 Apr

Tomorrow is the big day…we are moving into our new house! This will be home number 12 for me (yes, much like a Nomad I have moved around a lot in my life time!) So as a seasoned move-er would you allow me to offer some “words of wisdom” on successfully relocating into a new home? Glad you agreed….here I go:

IT’S ALL ABOUT BEING ORGANIZED

Those of you who know me well know that I am super organized (annoyingly organized if that’s even possible). I love to keep lists. I actually keep lists of the lists that I have going (up to you to decide if I’m serious or making a joke). If you want the whole packing and unpacking ordeal to go smoothly, you must stay organized! For me, that means ensuring that every box I have has a definite category. Children’s books. Fictional novels. University textbooks. I have to confess…somewhere along the lines I lost complete control of the categories. I think it’s when I came across our batteries. You can’t exactly fill an entire box of batteries. So then what category does it go in? Things that give power? That’s silly. Household Items? What wouldn’t fit into that category? Next thing I knew I had a huge box with my dish rack, Amanda’s old change pad, and a Sids bath (I’d rather not explain what that is). When you reach a point like this, it’s time to start labelling your boxes “Items that don’t have a category.” You’ll trick yourself into thinking you’re still being organized….trust me, it’ll make you feel better!

DON’T GET CAUGHT UP WITH THE SMALL STUFF

We actually got the keys to our new house last Monday, so we’ve had a few people in and out of the house doing some minor changes. Yesterday was the installation of the backsplash. Hundreds of tiny little tiles all assembled side by side by someone who has way more patience then I do. So we walked into our brand new kitchen, and all I could see was this one tiny little tile that was slightly crooked. Somehow that little tile managed to scream out “Stare at me! Notice me! Forget about your brand new kitchen and look right at me when you walk into the room!” I felt myself getting so irritated…like all that mattered was this one crooked tile…couldn’t they just have put it straight? Would it have been so hard! How easy it is to get caught up trying to create an ideal home with no imperfections…something that’s completely impossible and ultimately futile. Yes, it’s nice to have a beautiful home…but it’s only temporary. So don’t get caught up with the small stuff. Sometimes I think God draws our eyes to the imperfections to remind us as Christians not to get too comfortable and satisfied with our homes here on earth; to lift our eyes upward and long for our eternal home where there is true perfection.

EVERYTHING IS A LESSON IN CHARACTER BUILDING

We’ve had to deal with many contractors over the past few months. It’s definitely something that tries your patience. No one seems to move at the pace that you expect, and when things don’t happen when and how you want them, it’s easy to see people as stumbling blocks to your plans, rather than individuals who are working hard to earn a living. Yes, our cabinets have been  installed slightly irregular – that doesn’t give me the right to talk down to anyone. The light in our front porch isn’t working – does that mean I can be rude to the site supervisor? It’s in these small dealings with people around me where our character is shown for what it is. Are we patient, gentle and gracious towards those we deal with? Does Christ shine through our attitudes?  It’s not that we can’t confront the issues and ask for them to be corrected…but ultimately every instance is an opportunity to allow Christ to shine through our attitudes, rather than obsess over claiming our rights.

REMEMBER THAT YOU’RE STILL MARRIED!

Moving can turn your marriage into somewhat of a business relationship. You become partners in this major project, and if you’re not careful you can start to speak to each other like co-workers rather than best friends. You meet to discuss what needs to be accomplished that day, you summarize your achievements at the end of the day….and periodically you meet together to sign documents and make payments. Conversations become mini staff meetings rather than opportunities to share your heart and show love and affection.. As with planning a wedding, having a child and any other major life change, the temptation is for life, and your marriage, to become all about that! I have to remember that it doesn’t matter what colour cabinets I want, where the sofa will look best or which side of the room the table should go. What ultimately matters is that I’m serving my husband and looking out for his interest and happiness. (Though for the record I’m usually right about where furniture should go!)

LEARN FROM YOUR CHIILDREN

Every time I move, I have this sad feeling when I’m leaving my old house for the very last time. I take a last look at my home that now stands completely bare. Without our belongings it is reduced to bare walls and floors…it looks sad, lonely, almost abandoned. It’s then that I remember that our home is not about the physical walls, but about the love and unity that exists within the family members. I realized this lesson even more when I brought Amanda to our new house. After working so hard to get it ready and make it exactly what we want, Amanda looked around completely unimpressed. She couldn’t care less about the colour of the floors and the upgraded mantle piece on the fireplace. All she wants is to be in our arms. To her, that’s a true home.

And ultimately, this is the believer’s true home, in the presence of the Lord. I look at how hard I work to prepare for my new home…and I’m reminded to work even harder to prepare for the day that I will be in the presence of God. I don’t mean work hard to earn may way into His presence…that’s something the cross alone can accomplish. I mean work hard to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Work hard for the Kingdom that is to come. Work hard for the crowns that we will one day lay down at the feet of Jesus.

Revelation 21

1And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.

2And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

3And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.

4And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

5And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.

6And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.

7He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.

Living Sacrifice (Part 3)

26 Apr

A few weeks ago we looked at chapter 1 in  Living Sacrifice.  In that chapter Dr. Roseveare was sharing with us what it meant for her to love God with all of her heart. This week, as we move in to chapter 2 (finally), she explores what it has meant in her life to love God with all of her soul. Just a side note though before I begin. I don’t think the bible means for such clear distinctions between loving God with our heart, soul, mind and strength. Essentially we are being told to love God with all that we are. I don’t know that Dr. Roseveare is implying that there are such clear distinctions…it may just be her cleaver way of dividing up the chapters!

At one point in her ministry Dr. Roseveare shares that she had the desire to be married. Her reason being that she didn’t want to perform surgery. She thought that if she married a surgeon, that problem would be solved! This seemed to create a season in her life where everything she did and all the decisions she made revolved around her goal to be married…to a surgeon. This pursuit led her away from the mission she was serving and resulted in what she saw as blatant disobedience to things that God was telling her to do – and this grieved her. It grieved her so much that she decided she needed to punish herself, listen to her own words:

I had deliberately chosen not to love God first….And I knew I had done this with my eyes open. It seemed too easy just to come to Him for forgiveness. My “feelings” took over and directed my reasoning. I felt that I did not deserve an easy forgiveness. I had known what I was doing and acted wilfully and deliberately. I felt I had to pay a price, and prove the reality of my sorrow and repentance. I felt I had no right to seek, or to ask for, or expect any relationship with God during this period. I chose to shut the door into God’s presence, and to remain outside. So for four years, I was living in Africa as a missionary, doing the right things, saying the right things….I taught others, yet I found no peace for my own tortured heart. I would not allow myself to belive there was still hope for me. Though I was teaching the truth and only the truth, I had sacrificed my right to its blessing by my own wilful behavior and disobedience to his commandments. (65)

What God desired to teach her in the end was that at no point did she ever deserve her salvation. There was never a point in her life when her obedience or faith made her worthy of God’s love…never. The Lord led her through a season of suffering at the hands of rebel soldiers to teach her this lesson, but that is where she finally heard his voice. A voice which told her that He knew her through and through, and yet still loved her (66-67).

And that is true of those who are in Christ. God knows us through and through, and yet he still loves us and grants us access to Himself through Christ.  I find this a difficult truth to believe at times, do you? What we all need is a healthy dose of God’s truth to lead us out of our sin of unbelief and into the gospel of God’s grace.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. (Galatians 2:20-21)


The Three Little Pigs

25 Apr

A while back I saw this video on The Blazing Center website. It’s supposed to be what the story of the Three Little Pigs would look like if it was covered in the media today. I thought it was hilarious and very relevant. So, on a day where I don’t have much of anything to say, I thought I’d share this video instead of blabbing on about how excited I am about the Blue Jays this season. Maybe I’ll save the baseball talk for another week. Enjoy the video!

Just One Of Them Days

24 Apr

This is my longest blog post.  Also, it has no point.

It’s Monday night as I write.   You’ll be reading this sometime on Tuesday but I don’t feel like pretending it’s Tuesday morning.  Ya know? I feel like it just won’t flow the same.  So it’s Monday night.  10:08pm and here I am.

I woke up this morning, with high hopes for the day.  It was going to be a fresh start.  I’ve been struggling to be in the word, I haven’t been swimming in like a month, and I just haven’t been doing the best job managing the house.  So today was the day…a fresh start, with lots of resolutions and new ideas.

Read the bible, drink eight glasses of water, no chocolate, make homemade apple sauce with flax seed in it, try my hand at homemade yogurt, schooling with the kids, play with the kids, go swimming. Yeah, flax seed and homemade yogurt.  Shoulda suspected something was terribly wrong right there.

Well my body forgot to join my good intentions for the day, especially my head.  It just felt like it was in a cloud all day. I felt like I couldn’t really focus on anything and all that I wanted to do was crawl back in bed and close my eyes for like five hours.  Not the plan, nor an option, so I pressed on, hoping to get some energy as I checked items off my list.

So I burnt the apple sauce. Apple sauce.  Burnt it.  Maddie cried when I tried to feed it to her. Eight apples in the garbage. Scratch that plan about having homemade apple sauce in the fridge for the week.

The blog I read about making yogurt sounded so easy. It lied. Scratch that plan about having homemade yogurt in the fridge for the week.

Why am I making these things?  Don’t they sell these things at the grocery store?  Already prepared?  Right.

Well, so I wasted some apples and some milk and my time but at least I could get my exercise in for the day. Off I headed to the pool, in my new borrowed swimsuit. My other one fell apart, and I just haven’t had time to go bathing suit shopping.  Plus I hate swimsuit shopping. .

Well, I got to the pool and it was pretty packed but I managed to find a lane to swim in. I took off from the edge, all excited and ready to be reunited with my love of swimming…. and it was at this moment that I realized that my bathing suit top was a little large on me.  It’s a two piece tankini, with a skirt. My anticipation of feeling refreshed  and invigorated quickly dissipated and was replaced by  sudden panic and embarrassment. My mind began to desperately seek a non-awkward solution to this problem.

I could tie the straps up with my hair tie and tighten them?  Weird. Plus then I wouldn’t have anything in my hair to keep it back, and for some reason I chose not to wear my swim cap tonight. Flowing hair, a bathing suit with a skirt and a tankini top tied back with a hair elastic just didn’t seem like the appropriate look for some sporty swimming. I changed to the backstroke on my way back to the edge of the pool.  I don’t even know how to do the backstroke properly. Then I mustered up all my dignity and left the pool, after one clumsy lap.  Good thing I asked that lady to squeeze over so I could swim beside her.

On my way home from the pool, I convinced myself that I should go into Loblaws and buy some of the things that I’d wanted to pick up earlier that day and didn’t get to. You know, because I was too busy burning apple sauce and wasting milk. I thought I could redeem some of the day, if I just got the steel cut oats I wanted. Then I could at least make some crock pot oatmeal and serve my children a wonderful nutritious breakfast in the morning. I convinced myself that it didn’t matter that my hair was soaking wet and I was wearing sweat pants with crocs and socks and my glasses were missing half of one arm so they were sitting slanted on my face. It didn’t matter. Steel cut oats matter. I parked the car and reached for my wallet.

Oh right. I left it at home, because I locked the key in my locker the other day at the pool when I took the kids for swimming lessons and they had to cut my lock in half.  No lock, no wallet at the pool.  No steel cut oats.

Well on the bright side, I had something to write for this blog post. Take two tomorrow!

Contentment

23 Apr

Is it too much to ask for matching sheets?!

All I want is FIVE minutes to myself, without interruption.

I’d be happy with two vacations a year, that’s all!

I want just one night of uninterrupted sleep.

I wish my house was just a bit bigger so I could have more space to entertain.

If I were married and had children, I’d be able to serve the Lord much better.

Maybe you can relate to these thoughts? I don’t know why, but somehow in my attempts to be “eclectic” I always try to find different sheets, bedspreads, etc., thinking that I’ll come up with a unique combo and I fail. My room looks like I rummaged through three different eras to find what people were sleeping on and came up with some sort of mismatched combo of unsightly bed linens. Right about now you’re probably thinking, what does this have to do with contentment? Or my life in general? Stick with me! Well last week, I was cleaning my house and making my bed, to once again realize that my sheets don’t match. I decided that all I needed to do to feel better about this domestic failure was to head out to the mall, spend $100.00 and pick up a good, decent, eye-pleasing combo. Then, surely I’d feel better! Then, surely when people come over and glance in my room, they’ll think “How beautiful!”. Yes. This is what I thought. I don’t always think this much about sheets (I promise). I usually think about normal things like how much better of a mood I’d be in if I’d slept through the night, or how all I want is for my daughter to not throw her pancakes on the floor and finally learn to obey my directions in that regard! Sometimes I think of other normal things like how nice it would be if my whole house was new with no problems. The list goes on.

If we could reassess each day and think about the thoughts that pass through our heads, I bet we’d find that a lot of them centre on things we wish we had that we don’t. Whether it be something material, relational, or spiritual, a lot of time is spent thinking and talking about things we want to possess that aren’t in our grasp. Then we spend even more time planning ways we can get the thing that we want. Or we spend time upset about not being able to have it. Or we feel pity on ourselves that everyone else has it and we don’t. Maybe we’re looking to find contentment in things that are blatantly sinful, like pornography, drugs, or getting drunk. Whatever it is, there are numerous ways in which our minds tend to be drawn to seeking after something that we want to obtain.

I’m not talking about our need to find ways that we can improve, to set goals for ourselves, or the desire we have to want good things like obedience from our children, a clean house, or the ability to get up earlier and spend more time with the Lord. Even wanting things like a new pair of shoes or any other number of desires are things that are not bad or wrong in and of themselves. The issue is a one of contentment and idolatry. What are we looking to for satisfaction? Do we believe that if we only had ___ we’d be happy today? Or if ___  just changed, life would be better? If so, then we’re believing in a lie. None of these things will ever be able to satisfy us. Not only will they not be able to satisfy, but if they go unchecked, and continue to fester and take control over our hearts, we are building up little idols (or big ones), that are becoming a form of worship to us. We are seeking to find contentment by appealing to our desires and putting our efforts and into fulfilling them. Sure, a new pair of shoes feels great, and so does a clean house, but neither will bring lasting contentment. We were made to find fulfilment for our longings, but if we are looking down these bottomless wells, we are going to keep coming up dry. The good news is that there is one well we can go to to find satisfaction from, and it will never empty up.

Isaiah 55:1-2

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come buy wine and milk without money and without price.  Why do you spend your money on that which is not bread, and your labour on that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.”

We need to eat and be filled. But every meal we take in is just a reminder that the last one wasn’t enough. And we’re still going to have to have another one in a few hours! If this isn’t a metaphor for our need to be filled, then I don’t know what is. In this passage in Isaiah, the prophet is speaking God’s word to the people of Israel. We read here the reality that exists for us all. Our money, our labours will come up as empty pursuits if in the end, all we are doing is looking for things other than God to satisfy us. What do I mean when I say that God satisfies us? It means that we can find real contentment in knowing him, through his word, and being in a right relationship to him because of the Gospel. And what kind of a deal are we getting here? Can you believe that it says that we don’t need money, and we don’t need to work to be satisfied? What is that! That is completely against the grain of our natural inclinations. We all live in a world where things operate based on the amount of money we have, and how hard we can work to get what we want. But God is offering us some kind of underserved grace in this passage. He says that we don’t have to have a cent to our name to find and eat what is good, to delight ourselves in rich food. Only, we must listen diligently to Him, and stop spending our hearts on things that won’t satisfy.

Ask yourself, what have I been discontent about lately? Are there ways that I am looking to fulfill myself on what won’t satisfy? Maybe take some time today before the Lord and just start by asking for forgiveness for believing that __ will be better than Him. Ask him for grace to be content in whatever situation you find yourself in. If the apostle Paul had any reason to complain after multiple beatings, imprisonment, and hardship, he didn’t. He had found the secret to contentment (and I don’t mean “The Secret”). He said “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in ever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”- Philippians 4:11-13 His contentment was found in Christ, who strengthened and fulfilled him. God give us the grace to show the world the same thing- that our longings are not in things that can be bought with money, and our hearts and not set on things below but on those above.

Now, if only I had bought an alphabet set that had names of animals I could pronounce, I’d be happy 😉

Not My Child!

20 Apr

Have you ever caught yourself saying the phrase “My child will never do that!”

Walking through the mall I see a child throwing a complete temper tantrum. “Ugh, my child will never act like that in public.”

Stopped at a red light I glance at the car next to me and see a teenager sitting next to his mother. Neither of them is talking. Their silence appears awkward. They almost look like strangers. “My child will actually talk to me. She’ll want to tell me everything.”

A family is sitting at a restaurant and one of the children sits in his own world, locked behind his earphones. “My child will never listen to his music while he’s sitting with me. We’re actually going to have quality time together.”

Upon reflection, I realize that the principles behind these statements are not really the problem. I truly don’t want my child to throw fits in public, ignore me when sitting right next to me, or lock me out of their world and hide in their music.   We should and must have principles outlining what we will and will not allow our children to do; how we want to raise them and what kind of relationship we want with them. It’s not only important but essential to have Biblical standards for raising our children.

I realize then that the problem with these statements is my pride. It’s in the phrase “ MY child will NEVER.” What I’m really saying is, I am  a better parent than the one I’m watching before me. I know how to do it better. I’ll get it right. I’m going to be an exceptional mother and the proof will show in my children.

Pride. My perpetual battle.  And to battle this I turn to God’s word for a reminder on the danger of this pride:

“When pride comes, then comes shame; But with the humble is wisdom.”  Proverbs 11:2

“Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall.”  Proverbs 16:18

“A man’s pride will bring him low, But the humble in spirit will retain honor. ” Proverbs 29:3

Besides the prideful heart that lies behind these statements is an ugly judgement that I’m making. It’s one thing to make a wise judgement based on what is good and right as revealed in God’s word. This is something that we are called and commanded by scripture to do. The problem lies in judging these mothers’ motives, intents, heart…something I cannot see and must leave to God alone.  I have no idea what has taken place in the minutes leading up to the moments I’ve witnessed. What kind of week has the mother had, leading her to not respond as quickly and confidently as she could have with her out of control toddler? What thoughts is the mother battling as she sits in silence next to her child? What arguments are the parents thankful to be avoiding as the child sits with them, though not in conversation with them? I know nothing of their experiences, and should be careful not to pass judgement on the efforts or success of the mothers before me.  What’s worse, after I have passed this judgement, I elevate myself, feeling as though I am so much better and will never repeat those mistakes. How foolish of me!

There are times when we will observe parenting styles that are not only unwise, but objectively sinful. Of course, the parents’ motives/intents of the heart in no way justify the behaviour. But even then, do I lift my prideful nose and conclude that I am a “greater” parent…or do I turn to God for grace to do what is right so that I do not repeat the mistakes I see before me?

I have to remind myself that any success I have with my child is because of God. He is the one who, through His word, will teach me how to parent my children. He is the one who provides me with the principles I need to teach her. He provides me with guidelines for discipline, punishment and reward. He requires me to be faithful with the role He has given me, and any success I have in her upbringing will be a result of His wisdom and faithfulness. His teachings, His guidelines, His Spirit empowering me, for His glory. And when I too display poor parenting skills, whether in private or in public (I’m sure you will catch me on several occassions) He will faithfully convict, correct and restore me. There’s absolutely no room left for my pride.

So I ask myself these questions: Have I looked down on others condescendingly, rather than lifting them up in prayer and asking that God change and mould them, bringing about their good for His glory? Are there any areas where I am experiencing success, and am tempted to take the credit? Have I compared my accomplishments to others, felt slightly superior, and then taken the glory for those accomplishments?

My answer to all of these is a shameful yes. Thank God for His patience as we are slowly changed into the image of His Son!

Where is Your Allegiance?

18 Apr

I’ve been struggling with evangelizing at work for a while now, and more recently the struggle has been intensifying. Every day I find myself battling the fear of losing my job versus the fear of missing out on opportunities to share the Gospel with people I meet, and I shamefully admit that the fear of losing my job often wins the battle. The other day I heard a sermon preached by Paul McDonald titled, Fear and Heart Allegiances in Evangelism. I was challenged to think about where my allegiances lie. Paul preached from Matthew 10:24-39, and the message was both convicting and encouraging. I know I’m not the only one battling this fear regularly, whether at work, with friends, with family or strangers, we all fear what people may think of us or the loses we may face if we share the Gospel. In the sermon, Paul says it exactly how it is, “We fear pain because we value comfort.”  I personally fear losing my job because I enjoy the work I do and it provides me with financial security; two things I find comfort in. How foolish of me to forfeit opportunities to obey my Lord and Saviour for fear of losing something that He provided. Whether I keep my job or lose it, will be up to Him just the same way it was when I got hired. Of course when I put it as plainly as that, it seems completely irrational, but in the moment I have a million ‘justifiable’ reasons as to why I should stay silent. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be thoughtful and wise about when and how we witness, but sometimes I know I can be so thoughtful that before I know it, the opportunity is gone. I’m working on finding a balance.

Paul also says, “Fear exposes allegiances, and that’s why we should listen very closely to our fears.” If I am aware enough to see that I’m making decisions based on my fear of loss and suffering at the expense of obeying the command to share the Gospel, that means I need to change the things/people I’ve aligned my heart with. I’m thankful to God for providing not only the awareness, but also the grace to do something about it. If I could, I would quote Paul’s entire sermon, but you should probably just click on the link and give it a listen yourself. He is clear in presenting the Scripture as it applies not only to the disciples in Jesus’ time, but to us as well, as followers of Christ.

I’ll end off  by sharing a prayer from The Valley of Vision (Maja wrote a bit about this awesome book of prayers last week, if you want to know more about it click on “What I’m Reading”).

Divine Support

Thou Art The Blessed God,
Happy in thyself,
Source of happiness in thy creatures,
My Maker, Benefactor, Proprietor, Upholder.
Thou hast produced and sustained me,
Supported and indulged me,
Saved and kept me;
Thou art in every situation able to meet my needs and miseries.
May I live by thee,
Live for thee,
Never be satisfied with my Christian progress
But as I resemble Christ;
And may conformity to his principles, temper,
And conduct grow hourly in my life.
Let thy unexampled love constrain me into holy obedience,
And render my duty my delight.
If others deem my faith folly,
My meekness infirmity,
My zeal madness,
My hope delusion,
My actions hypocrisy,
May I rejoice to suffer for thy name.
Keep me walking steadfastly towards the country
Of everlasting delights,
That paradise-land which is my true inheritance.
Support me by strength of heaven
That I may never turn back,
Or desire false pleasures
That wilt and disappear into nothing.
As I pursue my heavenly journey by thy grace
Let me be known as a man with no aim
But that of a burning desire for thee,
And the good and salvation of my fellow men.

“Our hope is beyond this life” – Paul McDonald

Beef, Barley and Mushroom Soup

17 Apr

Well, winter has come and gone (kinda, it never really came it seemed), but I’m still making some soups before the weather gets too warm! This is an easy, meaty and hearty soup and it’s mostly done in the slow cooker.

Enjoy!

Beef, Barley and Mushroom Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 pound stewing beef or sirloin steak, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 pound cremini, white or button mushrooms, stems trimmed and caps sliced
  • 1 small onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Worcestershire sauce, a few splashes
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 cup quick-cooking barley
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • A few sprigs of fresh thyme

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a baking dish or rimmed baking sheet, toss together beef/steak, mushrooms, onions, garlic, and olive oil; season with salt and pepper, a few splashes of worcestershire sauce. Roast in oven until beef and mushrooms are browned, about 25 minutes. Transfer to a crock pot and add broth, carrots, barley and herbs. Season with more worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper to taste. Cook on low for 8 hours. Top with fresh parsley, if desired.
Source: inspired by and adapted from Martha Stewart’s Roasted Beef, Mushroom and Barley Soup

Flip Flops, Jelly Beans and Cheesecake

13 Apr

If you were a shoe, what kind of shoe would you be? I`m going somewhere with this…I promise.

Are you a relaxed, laid back person who doesn’t bother making lists? You’re probably a flip flop. Are you competitive, energized and always on the go? Sounds like you’re a pair of running shoes! Do you love to be at home, cuddled under a blanket on the couch, hugging your mug of hot chocolate (that would be me!)…we are the cozy slippers! Or perhaps you are a fashionista…you love to get dressed up, work a room, meet new people. You’re definitely a pair of stilettos.

My cousin and I used to love playing this game. We would think up categories and then see which item we could compare our personalities to. If you were a chocolate bar what would you be? Which icecream flavour best describes you?

How about cakes?….Oh, that’s a whole other story! It was called the cake game (I know, very creative!). It was more sophisticated than the others because it couldn’t be played just anywhere. You had to be in a grocery store – and you had to be with someone who knew you really well. So here’s how it went. You stand in front of the cake section, and each person finds the cake that best captures their personality. If you don’t know what I mean by that then you wouldn’t be very good at it. Then came the part where you see just how well you know each other. I forced my sister to play this with me al the time. She would pick the cake that she thought most represented me, and I would do the same for her. If we got it right, we’d feel a sudden surge of unity- as though selecting the right cake proved that we truly understood each other. Of course, if we were at a large bakery, such as Longos or Loblaws, this sense of understanding was even deeper.

I know these are silly games…but at the heart of them they capture questions that every person longs to answer: What am I like? How do people perceive me? What image do I project to the world? What am I known for?

What is My Identity?

Every believer is forced to ask themselves this very important question. How do I define who I am? Do I instinctively think of my characteristics and personality type (I am friendly, humorous, energetic)? Do I define myself by the roles I play (I am a wife, a mother, a daughter)? Do I define myself by my ministry and ocupation (I am a teacher, a small group leader, a worship team member)? Do I define myself by what I have accomplished in my life and what I am good at?  All of these are important – they shape our character, demonstrate our priorities, and communicate to others who we are and what we are like. But they are not the root of our identity. They are merely the fruit,the outworking of our true identity.

Let’s take a look at how several of the apostles and church fathers identified themselves when addressing their letters to the early churches:

“Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ…” Romans 1:1

“James, a bondservant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ..” James 1:1

“Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ…”  Jude 1

A bondservant is another word for a slave. This is not denoting a slave who has been forced to submit to a tyrannical master and suffer grave mistreatment and harsh injustice. On the contrary, a bondservant of Jesus Christ is one who has willingly and joyfully submitted his life to the complete devotion and service of the only One who is worthy of being our Master. John Piper’s sermon “The Author of the Greatest Letter Ever Written” really helped me to better understand the meaning of this phrase. He explains that being a bondservant means that we are bought, owned and ruled by Christ.

We are bought by Christ: “You were bought at a price, do not become slaves of men” 1 Corinthians 7:23 NKJV

We are owned by Christ: “…and you are not your own…for you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NKJV

We are ruled by Christ: “For am I now seeking the favour of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ. Galatians 1:10 NASB

This really challenges me to rethink how I define myself. Do I live like a bondservant of Christ? Do I desire that people define me as a bondservant of Christ? Is this what I am like? And when people find in me personality traits that are favorable (I am the flip flop, jelly bean and cheesecake) do I take the credit for myself thinking that I produced these traits myself … or do I give the glory to my Master for making me what He desires.

It`s not an easy truth, especially when my flesh wants to yell out “I belong to me! I own me! I rule me!” And in this battle with my flesh I need to rely daily on the power and working of the Holy Spirit to continually put to death the workings of the flesh; to lay down my pride so that I can live as a bondservant of Christ. So that my life is guided by Christ’s words outlined in Scripture, and not by my inward desires and longings. This means living by His ways, not mine. This means working for His goals for me, not mine. This means ensuring that what brings me pleasure is brought under submission to His authority.

Bondservant. Bought. Owned. Ruled. All for my good and for His glory.