Sunday, February 24, 2008

removing sin from our lives

Wow! Three posts in two days . . . I must be on a role!

Anyways, I've been thinking a lot lately about the times in Scripture where it tells us that we need to remove sin from our lives . . . and that we need to remove it all costs.

God has been challenging me a lot on this in my life recently. It's one thing to be convicted of sin and confess it and ask for forgiveness. It's another thing to get serious about removing that sin, particularly if it's a habitual sin, from your life completely. I mean, I have sin in my life and I've confessed it to God and asked His forgiveness for it many times . . . and yet I always seem to fall back into it.

Well, lately God has been challenging me to get serious about doing something to change this in my life. And that has meant giving up some the activities that I fill my time with and some of the movies and tv shows I usually watch. And it's not always easy . . . especially when you have to explain to friends why you won't do a certain activity anymore when there's nothing inherently wrong or sinful about it . . . it's just something that causes you to stumble.

But sometimes with this kind of conviction it can be easy to get depressed and down on yourself. And I did and was. Yet, even in the midst of it all, God still loves us. He wants us to be becoming more like Christ and He will point out areas of sin in our lives where He desires change to come. But, He doesn't do that and then leave us to ourselves and to feel bad about ourselves. He loves us still and He walks beside us through the process of changing that area of our lives.

For the past week, I've been trying to make sense of all that went on between me and God at the retreat I was at last weekend. (Besides being a time of building on some existing friendships and beginning some new ones . . . which was awesome! Every chance that there is to build community with brothers and sisters in Christ should be taken advantage of. But that's a side rant.) I think this is another one of the major lessons that God had for me while I was at that retreat. That even in the midst of the mess of my life as I try to sort things out and change those areas, with God's help of course, that aren't pleasing to Him, God still loves us with an unfailing, unchanging love that we will never fully understand this side of eternity.

What an amazing God we serve!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

miracles, death, and grieving

OK, so I know that the title of this, my second blog of the evening, may seem a little bit strange . . . but it's where my brain is going tonight.

It's been just over three months since my uncle passed away. I thought that I had mostly dealt with all the stuff that comes when a loved one dies. I mean, I seemed to be doing OK. But then, last weekend at the retreat I was at, one of the speakers started talking about how God does miracles and God answers prayers and God heals people. Well, at that point all of the emotions that came when I found out my uncle had died came rushing back.

There were many people praying for healing for my uncle before he died. And, yet, he still did die . . . and sooner than any of us thought. I started asking God all the same questions as I did initially: Why now? Why didn't You heal him? Was it because we didn't have enough faith that You could heal him when we prayed? Why did you let something that seems so unfair happen God? Why do You only miraculously heal some people?

I thought I had dealt with all those questions already, but apparently not. Then again, I keep being reminded that grieving the loss of someone is a process and it takes time. Which is something that I have always known in theory, but this is the first time I've experienced that.

I still wonder about miracles. And why it seems like sometimes you can pray so hard for a miracle and nothing changes . . . the illness doesn't go away . . . people still die. Yet, other times, people can seem to hardly pray for it at all and the person is healed. It just doesn't seem to make a lot of sense. And it doesn't always seem fair as to which person is healed and which person isn't. Maybe it's because I don't really understand miracles and the way that God works.

I also don't like this whole idea of death. I mean, I know that my uncle has gone to be with Jesus in heaven and that's where I'll go when my time comes. But, it's not a whole lot of fun being the one left behind on earth. Someone you love and care for is gone . . . forever!!! I mean, I'm not sure that I would want to live forever either, but death is hard.

As I've discovered in this last week, grieving is a long process and you can feel perfectly normal for long stretches of time. And then it catches you off guard and you're trying to put ont he normal face until you can get away and deal with things some more.

Well, I have no idea if this post made any sense to anyone, or really what my purpose was in writing this on my blog of all places. But, I guess we'll see . . .

hearing God speak

So, last weekend I was away at a retreat at one of my favourite places to be . . . the camp that I went to for years as a camper and then worked at for a few summers. There's so many memories there for me. Some of the biggest decisions in my life were either made while I was there or heavily influenced by the time I spent there.

While I was there, I started to think about why the camp had such a huge impact on my life. I realized that it's because it's a place where I have seemed to hear more clearly from God than I do in other places. Partly, I think, because a week of summer camp or a weekend church retreat is so focused around God. But, there's more to it than that.

When I'm away and in a place where I'm surrounded by nature, I find it so much easier to hear what God has to say. I'm removed from the distractions of work or TV or computer, yes. But, I'm also removed from being surrounded by man-made structures and concrete. This made even more sense to me as I thought about the last few months, when I've been finding it more difficult to hear from God. I moved out of my parents' house (finally!) . . . but I also moved from nature being just outside the back door, to living in an apartment building. I no longer look out my window and see trees and nature right there. I'm not far away from nature . . . it is only about a 10-15 minute walk (or shorter drive) to a beautiful park with trails to walk . . . but when I'm sitting in my living room reading my Bible, it's not the same as when it's just outside my window.

And, the way God has created me, I need to be appreciating nature and away from the "city" to really hear from Him. When I see the beauty of what God has created and realize how much He must care to have put that kind of attention to detail into it all, I seem to be in a place where I'm more willing to be quiet and just listen to what He might have to say to me.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

fear of the Lord

I was reading Proverbs in the last couple of weeks and I've been spending a lot of time thinking aout what it means when it is talking about "fearing the Lord". That seems like such a strange concept to me. But, it comes up over and over again. So, if you choose to read this blog, you will have to put up with me trying to figure it out as I go. Tonight this is really a way to try to make sense of my thoughts and I type.

All of these verses have something to say about it (I think this list is comprehensive, but I could have missed a few verses):

  • "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline." Proverbs 1:7
  • "My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands withing you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God." Proverbs 2:1-5
  • "To fear the Lord is to hate evil . . ." Proverbs 8:13
  • "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." Proverbs 9:10
  • "The fear of the Lord adds length to life, but the years of the wicked are cut short." Proverbs 10:27
  • "He whose walk is upright fears the Lord . . ." Proverbs 14:2
  • "A wise man fears the Lord and shuns evil . . ." Proverbs 14:16
  • "He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress . . ." Proverbs 14:26
  • "The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death." Proverbs 14:27
  • "The fear of the Lord teaches a man wisdom . . ." Proverbs 15:33
  • "The fear of the Lord leads to life: Then one rests content, untouched by trouble." Proverbs 19:23
  • "Humility and the fear of the Lord bring wealth and honour and life." Proverbs 22:4
  • ". . . but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord." Proverbs 23:17
  • "Blessed in the man who always fears the Lord, but he who hardens his heart falls into trouble." Proverbs 28:14

After reading about fearing the Lord so much I really wanted to understand what it meant. What does it mean to fear the Lord? What does this look like?

I figured I would start with looking up what the word "fear" meant in this context. According to my Bible Dictionary, fear, in this context, means "profound reverence and awe toward God." Great! I still don't get it . . . I don't use reverence or awe in my daily life, so now I need to look up what those words mean:
awe - profound and reverent dread of the supernatural; respectful fear inspired by authority
revere - to show honour and devotion to; worship; adore
reverence - honour and respect mixed with love
OK, sort of helpful, but this is still a concept I'm trying to figure out.

As far as I understand so far, fearing God means that we have a respect for Him because of His power and authority. And that we show Him this respect through our worship of Him. I guess this makes sense (and to tie this in to all the verses from Proverbs, as true wisdom comes from God and we would need to be willing to give God the glory, honour, and respect that He is due in order to gain His wisdom.

This isn't an idea that is spoken about only in Proverbs either. There are other Scriptures that say the same thing as well.

  • "Fear the Lord your God, serve him only . . ." Deuteronomy 6:13
  • "What does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul." Deuteronomy 10:12
  • "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding." Psalm 111:10
So, these verses seem to be saying the same thing. That wisdom comes from God, and in order to gain God's wisdom we must fear - honour and respect - God.

I like the way the note in my study Bible put it:
"The only way to become truly wise is to fear (revere) God. . . . Too often people want to skip this step, thinking they can become wise by life expereince and academic knowledge alone. But if we do no acknowledge God as the source of wisdom, then our foundation for making wise decisions is shaky, and we are prone to mistakes and foolish choices." (NIV Life Application Study Bible)

The one verse that I came acros that made me smile and shake my head all at the same time is 2 Corinthians 5:11, which says:
"Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord . . ."
Those are Paul's words and as I read them I was thinking "No I don't, I don't know what it means." In this case I also liked the note in my study Bible. It was the most helpful to me in understanding what it means to fear the Lord:
"To 'fear the Lord'does not mean that believers become paralyzed. On the contrary, knowing God's perfection and that He will judge everyone's actions should spur Christians to good deeds, to what pleases our God. The fear of the Lord also frees believers from all of life's anxieties and worries. Knowing that God is 'for us' can keep believers unafraid of earthly powers - people, governments, or the forces of nature. God takes care of his own. The fear of God gives us uncommon courage in the face of life's troubles." (NIV Life Application Study Bible)

So, as I sit here now I realize that I have probably repeated myself multiple times as I've tried to figure this out. But that's probably how long it took me to get it through my head. (Again my apologies if this was a bit ramlbing, but I warned you at the beginning.)

Sunday, February 3, 2008

"be still and know that I am God"

I've been thinking a lot lately about what exactly it means when we are to be still before God. What exactly does it look like? How do I do that?

"Be still and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10

Being still is not something that I am good at. I always want to be doing something. But Go dhas been chalenging my lately with this. While all activity isn't wrong, there are times when I need to stop and just be in God's presence. The constant busy-ness and endless noise of our society can sometimes drown out this simple call to be still – to stop and just meditate on who God is and worship Him.

Moses uses similar words when he speaks to the Israelites in Exodus 14. He is speaking to a nation that has just fled from slavery in Egypt and is now stuck in a seemingly impossible situation – they have Pharaoh’s army approaching on one side and the Red Sea on the other. In fear they cry to Moses asking why he brought them into the desert to die when they could have just as easily died in Egypt as slaves. Moses says this in response to them in verses 13-14:
“Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (emphasis mine)

In the midst of their fear and panic, Moses tells them to “be still, because God will fight for them.” It seems almost to be a strange command in the situation that they are in. But, they are being called to stop trying on their own and allow God – to concentrate on just being in the presence of God as He fights the battle for them, rather than scramble and panic and try to do it themselves.

As I was thinking about these two Scripture passages, which seem at first glance to be quite different, I started to notice a similarity between them. They both talk about a need to be still before God. When we learn to be still before God in our everyday life, it becomes easier to be still before God and trust Him to act when trouble comes our way.

I know when I’m in a situation where I appear to be stuck, much like the Israelites were in Exodus 14, I often react as they did – with fear and panic and even anger. But, I have also heard God say those same words to me that Moses said to Israel: “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” That’s so counter-intuitive in those situations! I don’t want to be still! And so I often make things worse by trying to win the battle on my own. But, I also know that the few times (fewer than I would like there to be) I’ve actually listened when I heard those words and allowed God to fight for me things have turned out for the better in the end.

"Be still and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10

My prayer today is that we would better understand what this means and that we would learn to take time to be still before God, rather than this constant activity that we have come to see as normal.

(Disclaimer: For those who read my posts on the Alive Minstries webpage, much of this post is the same as what I posted there recently.)

Friday, February 1, 2008

God's will

On Monday night at Alive, Mike started a series of messages on how to know God's will for your life. What he said on Monday was really nothing new to me, but it was good to hear and be reminded of it all again.

Then at Life Group (Bible study, caregroup, home group, whatever you want to call it) on Wednesday we were talking about it more and I got to thinking. I was struck by a really cool thought, and that is, I know that for right now, I am doing God's will for my life. I know that He has called me to do what I am doing. I thought that was pretty cool.

I'm not doing exactly what I thought I would be doing a few years ago. When I began my business degree, my intention was to finish it and then go on to a professional accounting program and become a tax accountant (I know, a little wierd). But, upon finishing my degree I just wasn't finding work in the right places to get started on that. After a bit of a detour with just doing some basic bookkeeping for a repair shop, God finally got me to where I now know He wanted me from the beginning . . . working in sort of a behind-the-scenes way in ministry. Yes, I sit at a desk and deal with numbers all day, but no ministry of any size happens without people who keep track of the money and all that kind of stuff. I know that, at least for now, this is where God wants me!

This doesn't mean I don't have dreams of other things, that I also feel are from God. Some of you have probably heard me talk about some of them, the main one being my desire to see the average church person have the skills to take things that a preacher or teacher says and go back to their Bible and check the accuracy of those things for themselves. This is something I have a huge passion for and it drives to do what I can now. I have no idea if some time in the future I will be called to do this for my work. Right now I know it's something I am called to do in my non-work time.

I won't say that figuring out God's will for my life has been easy. It hasn't. But, I do know that it is worth seeking out what it is, because when you figure out what it is, there is nothing that can compare to it!