Friday, November 30, 2012

accusing others of legalism?

Yesterday, I wrote about legalism. A few of the thoughts I've been thinking about it in the last few days. You can read that post here.

There's one more question that has been running through my head the last few weeks:

Do we too easily accuse people of legalism?

Growing up in the church, I've heard the word legalism thrown around often. And I've sometimes wondered if all of the times it was actually the right word to be using.

It seems pretty obvious to me that we do need to do things to grow in our relationship with God. That does involve doing things like reading our Bibles, spending time in prayer, etc. And we'll all do those things in ways that are different from other around us.

Sometimes I've heard the term legalism thrown around when someone was talking about what worked for them in their relationship with God, when it really wasn't the right term to use. The person wasn't saying that everyone had to do thing the same way they did, or that what they were doing was how they were saved. The person was simply sharing about their own relationship with God. That's not legalism.

We need to be careful not to fall into the trap of legalism in our own lives. But we also need to be careful that in our attempts to avoid it, we don't wrongly accuse other of legalism just because what works for them is more scheduled or specific than what works for us.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

the trap of legalism

It seems as though I've been hearing a lot about legalism as Christians lately. And it started me thinking about it.

What actually is legalism?

How does it differ from obedience?

Growing up in the church, I've heard people talk about legalism before. I've talked about it. I've judged people who I thought were being legalistic. And I've been legalistic at times.

In many ways, legalism makes things easy. It tells us what to do and how to do it and when to do it. Basically, it tells us that 1 + 1 = 2.

I guess the most basic definition of legalism I've heard is thinking that something must be done in order to somehow earn salvation. It can come in terms of thinking if we get up early enough every morning to read our Bibles and pray before we do anything else, we'll earn God's approval of us. Or, if we just attend church regularly and go to enough Bible studies, we'll be saved.

But, most often the things that we can become legalistic about aren't things that are necessarily bad things or things we shouldn't be doing. Reading our Bibles, praying, going to church and Bible studies . . . these are good things. These are things that help us to grow in our relationship with God.

But, they don't save us. And when we start to make them or how we do them a means of being saved or keeping God happy, we've strayed into legalism. That's a mistake we can't afford to make.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

playing the comparison game

Walking in the room, I did the first thing I do every time I walk into a room. I looked around at the people who were there. Not so much looking for someone I know, as making a quick comparison of myself to those who are already there.

How are they dressed? Am I dressed the same?
How successful are they in life?
How popular are they?

Those are just some of the many questions that run through my mind.

The comparison game. We've probably all played it at one time or another.

Sometimes we walk away from it feeling good about ourselves. Our comparisons put us in the better position than those we were comparing ourselves to.

Sometimes we walk away from it feeling bad about ourselves. We lost the comparison game that time. At least, in our eyes we did.

Why do we do this to ourselves? How did we get stuck in the trap of playing the comparison game? How do we get out of it?

I'm not even usually aware that I'm playing the comparison game. I realize after that I played it, because I either feel good about myself or bad about myself, depending on whether I won or lost in my mind. There are times when I know I'm playing it, because the conversation is all about figuring out which person is the best. But, most of the time the comparison game happens subtly.

We live in a society that tells values people based on their popularity. We follow celebrities. We seek to be the popular one in the group. And this gets us stuck in the trap of the comparison game. We're taught how to play it from day one.

To get out of the trap, we have to decide to do so. We can't stop playing if we don't stop on purpose. We have to choose not to play. It's not easy, because it goes against what we're told.

The easiest way I've found to stop playing is to intentionally look for something to compliment someone on or encourage them with - especially if they're someone I would usually compare myself to. I've found this works for both situations - where I would compare and feel good about myself and I would compare and feel bad about myself. It takes the focus off of how we look in comparison and focuses on the other person.

How are you doing at playing the comparison game?
Are you stuck in the trap of it?
Do you need to get out of that trap?

Friday, November 23, 2012

what does a smile cost?

Well, it's been a week since I issued the challenge to take the time to offer a smile and maybe a hello to everyone for no reason other than they are another person. (See the post here.) I said I'd come back and share what I noticed. And ask you what you did if you took up the challenge.

The biggest thing I noticed is that lots of people were taken by surprise - especially when they were people who usually get ignored. It caught people off guard because they were used to everyone being in their own world as they passed by. Some returned the smile or hello, but others were too surprised to do so.

The biggest thing I noticed was how it impacted me. I enjoyed my day more, and "bad days" weren't near as bad and didn't seem to last all day. It's interesting to me how something so simple can have such an impact.

We need to learn to notice the world around us. I'm as guilty as the next person for walking down the street ignoring everyone or being so busy with my phone that I don't acknowledge those who are providing a service to me in the grocery store or coffee shop. But I'm seeing that I need to change things. I need to learn to notice people. To pay attention.

I've known for a long time that it can change my day when someone notices enough to give me a smile in passing, but I've not always done the same in return. It's time to make that change. It's time to make it a habit to notice people around me.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Psalm 37:4

"Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." (Psalm 37:4, NIV)

I've heard this verse often.

I've believed this verse.

I've loved this verse.


That verse has also frustrated me.

And made me mad.

Depending on what is going on in my life, that verse can be one I love or one I wish I didn't have to hear or read again.

It sounds so simple and straightforward. Almost a cause and effect kind of situation. If you do one thing -in this case: delight yourself in God - the other will happen - in this case: He will give you the desires of your heart.

But the reality is that it doesn't always feel like this is the case. It sounds so simple, but living it doesn't seem to be quite so simple.

I often wrestle with why it's so difficult. As I've done this, I've begun to wonder if it's because what we think are the desires of our heart really aren''t.

What if we're confused about our real heart's desires? What if the things we think are our heart's desires are actually just things that are covering up our real heart's desires?

Obviously, God won't give us the desires of our hearts if they go against what His Word says. That's why the first part of the verse is so important. We have to delight ourselves in the Lord first, so our desires can be transformed into things that are pleasing to God.

But what about when we're already doing that and our desires are good things - things that line up with God's Word? Why do we sometimes seem to have to wait for the desires of our heart to be fulfilled? Or sometimes wait and never see them fulfilled?

As much as I don't like the conclusion I've come to on those questions, I don't see any other way to look at it. In those times we have to choose to trust that God knows best and that He has something better in store for us that wouldn't happen if He gave us the desires of our heart we're seeing as unfulfilled currently.

"Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." (Psalm 37:4, NIV)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

a smile costs you nothing

I know you saw me. But you just walked by as if I wasn't there. It's okay. I'm used to that. Most people do the same.

The ones who just ignore me are some of the nicer ones anyway. If everyone just ignored me, that would be okay.

There's a few who won't ignore me, and the definitely won't help me. They're the ones I dread. The ones I do my best to avoid.

Some people call me names. Or talk about me like I can't hear them. Those are the ones I never get used to.

There's a few people who make my day. They smile. They say hello. They treat me like I'm a person.

I'm not asking anything from you. No money. No food. I don't want your stuff.

I simply ask for one thing that costs you nothing. The respect of being treated as a person. It costs you nothing to smile as you pass me by. It costs you nothing to say a simple hello.

Who am I?

I could be many people.
I might be a homeless person. (I wonder if that's who you thought I was talking about when I wrote this.)
I might be the one who is left out of the group.
I might be the one who is sitting by themselves at church.
I might be your brother or your sister.
I might be your neighbour.
I might be your co-worker.

So often in our culture today we ignore the people around us. We walk by pretending that we didn't see them. Or maybe we really didn't see them. And sometimes we make fun of the person we see alone, whether behind their back or to their face.

This behaviour isn't right when you get down to it. It costs us nothing to treat someone with respect simply because they are a person. But, for the person on the receiving end of our smile, our hello, or our simple acknowledgement that we saw them, we can change their day.

I've been that person who had their day changed by a simple smile from someone passing by. I know it's true, but I don't always do the same in return. I'm deciding that I want to change that.

I'm choosing each day to slow down and look up from my phone long enough to smile at those I see. To take the time to give everyone I pass respect simply because they're people like me.

Anyone else in?

OK, I'm going to do something I don't think I've ever done on my blog. I'm challenging you to join me in doing this for one week. For the next seven days, do this. Take note of how people respond. And what happens for you. Then come back here and share it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

escape the hurry

I love the first snow fall of the season. It always seems to transform the world as everything is covered in a blanket of white. Sounds are muffled. Hurry is often impossible.

Somehow. Some way. The snow makes us slow down. It causes us to pause in the busy-ness we usually live in.

Our response to the pause is what matters. We have two choices.

We can get frustrated and angry.

Or we can choose to enjoy the slower pace. We can choose to enjoy the pause - enjoy the quiet.

There really is no use in getting frustrated and angry over it. It won't change anything. It just wastes our energy.

When we choose to enjoy the slower pace and the quiet, we put ourselves in a place to hear from God. A place to recognize His voice in our lives.

Monday, November 12, 2012


Turning the world white.
Silence falls as a blanket covers everything around me.
The only noise is the crunching of the snow with each step I take.
Peaceful. Quiet.
It feels so different from the usual.
Rushing. Noisy. Hurrying to the next.
Sometimes we need to just get away from the noise and hurry.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

seeing God's glory

Then the Lord said, "There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face not must be seen."
Exodus 33:21-23

When I read those verses earlier today, I was struck by what they said. Especially in comparison to something I've often heard prayed or sung in church.

God made it pretty clear to Moses that seeing His glory was a big deal. And God provided for Moses to see just a glimpse of it.

By this point in the story of Israel, we know that Moses is a man who talks with God. Moses and God have a close relationship. Yet, even Moses, still cannot see the full glory of God.

We sing songs. We pray. We ask to see God's glory today. I wonder if we do it with a full realization of what we're asking.

The way we relate to God has changed from Moses' day because of Jesus Christ. But, Who God is has not changed. God's glory today is as powerful as God's glory in Moses' day.

That means we need to take it seriously when we ask to see God's glory. It doesn't mean we can't ask. We definitely can (and should) ask. But it does mean we should be conscious of what we're asking for.

God protected Moses from seeing more than he could handle seeing by hiding Moses and covering him with His hand. God allowed Moses to only see His back after He passed by. And that was enough.

When we ask to see God' glory, we may only see a glimpse of it after God has passed by. But that's enough. It's all we need to see.

Friday, November 9, 2012

they're people too

They’re people too. Those people who are the outcasts of our society. The homeless, the addicted, the mentally ill. For some reason, we’ve come to think they’re not really people.

We treat them like they’re not people. We refuse to make eye contact when we pass them on the street. We think its okay to call them names. To treat them as if they’re less than human. We teach our children this.

How did we ever come to think this was acceptable?

They’re people too. They have feelings. They have ears to hear what we say. They have eyes to see our looks of disgust in their direction. They feel pain. They know when we look down on them.

The sad thing is when some of them get used to this. And think this treatment is what they deserve. This is a travesty. It never should have come to this.

We’ve done something terribly wrong to get to this point in society. It shouldn’t be some peoples’ job to befriend these people. All of us should be doing this in our own small way as we go. For no other reason than they’re people too.

Take a moment to hear their stories. Take the time to care. You just might be amazed by the stories you hear. Stories that could be any of ours if things had gone differently or we had made different choices.

Some of them don’t want to be where they are. They’re looking for a chance to change. They’re reaching out for help. When we stop to give them a chance we can truly change their world. Not all will accept or even want our help. We can’t force it on them. But maybe that moment of caring will be the start of change for them.

Be smart about it. But don’t excuse poor treatment of them all based on just a few.

They’re people too. We must learn to treat them as such. It’s the only acceptable choice as followers of Christ.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

refreshing rain

It was still dark when I opened my eyes. In the quiet cabin I could hear the rain tapping on the metal roof. For a few moments I just lay there listening.

So quiet and peaceful. It felt like I could stay there for hours. Listening to the rhythmic drum of the rain on the roof.

I've always loved the sound of rain. The feel standing and turning my face to the rain. It's always been refreshing and restoring.

Somehow the rain seems to wash things away. The stress of the day. The frustrations of life. They seem to disappear as I stand in the rain.

After standing in the rain for a while, I head back inside. I'm wet. Leaving a trail of water behind me. But I'm ready to face another day. Ready to move forward.

In the same way as a rainfall refreshes and washes away the dead, a rainfall of God's Spirit working in our lives will refresh us and wash away the dead. Just as after a rainfall new life appears, a rainfall of God's Spirit working in our lives will bring new life.

When was the last time you put yourself in a place to receive a fresh rainfall of God's Spirit in your life?
Is it time for that again?

What areas of your life need refreshing?
What areas of your life have dead things that need to be washed away?
Where do you need new life to spring up?

Ask God for a fresh rainfall of His Spirit in your life to do that. It's so worth it!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

be still

Grabbing a life jacket and a paddle, I headed towards the row of canoes on the beach. The sun was just beginning to peak over the mountains. Mist was rising of the lake.

I put a canoe in the water and climbed in. Cold water splashed as the canoe rocked while I pushed off. Then the canoe steadied and I began to paddle.

Gentle waves rocked the canoe as I paddled to my favourite spot on the lake. Reaching the middle of the lake, I stopped and just sat in the canoe taking in the view around me.

The sun was slowly climbing higher. It's rays beginning to feel warm on my face and arms. The silence is broken by the call of a loon somewhere on the lake. I see a few fish jumping just beyond the canoe.

Something is special about this moment. This time spent enjoying God's creation. What a beautiful world He created.

Then I hear it. It almost feels audible. God speaking to my heart.

"Be still and now that I am God."

I'm really not sure what exactly this means. I know the verse. But I wasn't expecting to hear from God right now.

"Be still. Stop doing. Listen. Look. Experience. Be still."

A few more minutes taking it all in and it's time to head back to shore. Breakfast is starting soon and I don't want to miss it.

As I turn the canoe around, something clicks. Getting out in the canoe and taking it back to shore are both things that are work. But once I'm out on the lake and I just stop and sit, I being still. I'[m enjoying God's creation around me.

I need to do this more often. Stop. Be still. Sometimes it feels like I'm always running to the next thing. Life offers little time to be still if I don't make it happen.

It might take work to get there. To get to where we can be still. Work to look after life responsibilities so we can get to that place. But it is work we must do. Those moments to be still and know that He is God are needed.

I feel the bottom of the canoe hit the sandy beach. Climbing out, I drag it back up on the beach. The sun is shining brightly now. The mist is no longer rising from the lake. Looking behind me, I see the water is as smooth as glass. Nothing breaking the perfection of the surface.

"Thank You, God. I needed the reminder today."

Being still is counter-cultural. Being still is more difficult than we think. Being still is vital. We cannot really live without learning this.

Being still refreshes us. Being still renews us. Being still can change us more than one more good church thing will.

In the midst of busy lives we must find time to be still. Times to enjoy all that God has created. Times to let God speak. Times to listen for His still, small voice.

"Be still and know that I am God."

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Lord, have mercy

I heard a song a while ago that caught my attention because one often repeated line of the song is not in English. I liked the song even more when I discovered that the line meant" Lord, have mercy." That's often the cry of my own heart.

I want to share the song with you today. I hope you'll take the time to listen to it and read through the lyrics I've included.

Kyrie Eleison (by Mr Mister)

The wind blows hard against this mountain side
Across the sea into my soul
It reaches into where I cannot hide
Setting my feet upon the road

My heart is old it holds my memories
My body burns a gem-like flame
Somewhere between the soul and soft machine
Is where I find myself again

Kyrie Eleison
Down the road that I must travel
Kyrie Eleison
Through the darkness of the night
Kyrie Eleison
Where I'm going will you follow
Kyrie Eleison
On a highway in the night

When I was young I thought of growing old
Of what my life would mean to me
Would I have followed down my chosen road
Or only wished what I could be

The sentiment of those words is something I often find myself crying out.