Tuesday, December 31, 2013

What Kind of Book are you Writing for your Life in 2014?

When I got on Facebook this morning, I saw this picture that a friend had shared. I started thinking about it.

Kyla Bateman Arsenault's photo.

Seeing as today is New Year's Eve - the last day of 2013. Tomorrow is a new year. And for many of us we see it as an opportunity to start a fresh. That turning of the calendar page to a new year often signals a new start in our lives.

The challenge of this picture to write a good one when we start the new book of our lives for the new year . . . it sort of seems impossible to choose to do that - to choose to write a good one. Yet, it's also what I and most other people I talk to want for the new year.

 The challenge is that we don't have complete control over everything that happens to us. We will have good and hard things that happen to us and to the people we love in our lives that we can't control. So, does that mean it's impossible to write the book of our lives for 2014 a good one?

But, even though we can't control events that happen, we can still choose how we respond to those events. Whether things are good or hard that happen, we can make the choice of our response to them. That's where we have the control to write a good one when it comes to our book for 2014.

So, what kind of book are you going to write for the year 2014 in your life? What choice will you make in how you respond to the things that happen that are out of your control?

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Why do I Write?

Why do you write?

That's a question I was challenged with a few weeks ago. Someone from a writer's group I'm a part of posed this question to us and challenged us to write a post on it. (Here's a link to the post that started this conversation.)

It's a question I hadn't thought about before, but it was not one that left my thoughts easily. As someone who calls themselves a writer, it's probably a question I should have the answer to. No, I'm not a traditionally published author, but I write . . . and I write a lot.

So, why do I write?

I write because it's how I make sense of the world around me.

I write because it's how I make sense of things that are happening in my life.

I write because it's how I remember all the things that happen in life that I don't want to forget.

I write because it's how I notice all the little things in life.

I write because it's how I remember all the little things that happen in life that I don't want to forget.

I write because it's how I notice all the little things in life.

But, most of all, I write because it's something I can't not to. Even when I'm not posting things here, I'm still writing. For me, there's nothing like sitting in a coffee shop or a park with a pen and notebook and writing whatever comes. (Yes, I'm one of those people who still writes everything with a pen and paper first.)

Writing excites me. It energizes me.

And it frustrates me . . . often.

But, even when it's hard, I can't stop, because I truly believe it is something God gave me to do. It definitely isn't something this "numbers are fun" person who hated English class in school ever thought they would be doing.

Writing is a gift from God for me that I can't imagine my life without anymore.

That's why I write. My answer to the question posed in my writer's group.

Thursday, December 26, 2013


Branches bend low
With the weight of the snow
A blanket of white
Reflecting the light
Of sun brightly shining
Each step I take crunching
On fresh fallen snow
The world seems to glow
Light all around me
Beauty is all I see
Quietly waiting
Silence not breaking
The branch soon lets go
A fresh shower of snow
Branches so green
Are now what is seen

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Baby Changes Everything

I've always wondered about some things when it comes to the visit of the Magi from the east (Matthew 2:1-12). Jesus was prophesied as the Messiah for the people of Israel. They were God's people and the one holding our hope for a Messiah.

Yet, the Magi from the east had studied the prophecy themselves and were waiting for it to be fulfilled. And they knew it was important enough for them to make the journey to see Jesus after His birth.

To me, this seems almost to be a glimpse into Jesus' mission to welcome everyone as God's people - the requirement being the heart, not being born to the right parents.

From His birth, Jesus was removing old lines that divided people. Among the first to worship Him were shepherds, outcasts within the Jewish people, and Magi from the east, those outside the Jewish people completely.

Jesus came for each and every one of us. He welcomes everyone. A little baby that changed the whole world. Like the Christmas song says, "A baby changes everything."

Jesus was the baby that changed everything.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A New Look at a Familiar Story

This is probably the part of the story I'm most familiar with. It is the part I've seen in almost every Christmas production I've watched. Luke 2:1-21 - the birth of Jesus and the visit from the shepherds.

A census is decreed. Joseph had to go to his hometown to register. Joseph takes Mary with him to Bethlehem and while they are there the time comes for Jesus to be born. The inns are all full, so they end up in a stable and that's where Jesus is born.
Angels visit shepherds and tell them of the birth. The shepherds hurry to visit and then told everyone else on the way as they were leaving.
(If you want the full story, click here.)

I wonder if you're like me and you sometimes miss the beauty and the wonder of stories like this, because of the familiarity of the story. I stop paying attention to the details because I think I know what's coming next.

As I was reading this passage and spending time on it, I didn't have any new discoveries. Nothing jumped out at me as significant. I was actually left with a lot of questions to think about.

For those of you who prefer a post that wraps up with some kind of conclusion, this is your warning that this post won't that. I'm going to share the questions I've been thinking about in regards to this passage.

As you read through the questions, I encourage you to take a fresh look at this familiar story. Think afresh about this account. Let the significance wash over you again.

"He went there with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child." (vs. 5)

What was the relationship like between Mary and Joseph at this point?
How did Mary feel about taking a journey like this at this point in her pregnancy?
How did Joseph feel about his journey having to happen now?

"She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them." (vs. 7)

What was the reaction of Joseph and Mary when they could only find a stable to stay in?
Were they relieved? Frustrated? Worried?

"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over the flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified." (vs. 8-9)

Why did God choose to send His angels to shepherds?

"Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
     'Glory to God in the highest heaven,
          and on earth peace to those on whom His favour rests'." (vs. 13-14)

Why did God choose to make such a production out of telling shepherds this message?
What did the angels look like when they all appeared?
Was there music? Dancing? Loud voices declaring the words?
Is it something that can even be properly described?

"When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, 'Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord told us about.' So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and the baby . . ." (vs. 15-16)

Were the shepherds pondering why they had been chosen?
Was their response one of disbelief? Excitement? Confusion?

"When they had seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them." (vs. 17-18)

What did the amazement of the people who heard what the shepherds were saying look like?
Did anybody have to go right away to see it for themselves when they heard it?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

God's Word Never Fails

In my last post on the angel's message for Mary and her response to it, I skipped one verse in the angel's message. I didn't want to ignore it. It struck me when I read it and I wanted to spend more time on it.

"For no word from God will ever fail." (Luke 1:37)

In this one simple sentence, the angel spoke of one of the greatest truths about God. If God says He will do something, we can be sure that it will happen. It may not happen according to the timeline we wish it would, but it will happen in God's time.

Even the birth of the Messiah was an example of this. Old Testament prophets spoke of the Messiah to come. The law of the Old Testament that they were still living by pointed to the Messiah. But that didn't mean the Messiah came when the people of Israel may have wished He would come. They had been waiting for a long time and I'm sure many of them would have given up hope or found it very difficult to hold on to hope. But the message of the angel to Mary was proof of the truth of what He said in Luke 1:37.

No word from God will ever fail.

I think this verse jumped off the page at me because it's something I needed to be reminded of right now. It's a reminder I've needed often in my life and I would guess the same is true for most who call themselves followers of Christ.

When life is hard or things aren't going the way we had hoped they would, it can be easy to stop believing God will do what He has said He would do. We begin to doubt that what God's Word says to us is true, because we forget that God doesn't promise this life will be easy or happen exactly as we wish it would. He promises that He will be with us through it all. And that is true even when life isn't going what we would deem to be well.

I don't know what is going on in your life this holiday season, but whatever is, I hope you are able to take encouragement from Luke 1:37 and the incredible promise it contains. For no word from God will ever fail. In the midst of whatever life has brought, we can rest in the promise that God will never leave us to get through it on our own. That's exactly what we're celebrating this time of year - that God came near to us.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Trusting God's Plan

What would it have been like to be Mary and have a visit from an angel? Especially an angel with the message Mary heard?

The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you."
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of a greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favour with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over Jacob's descendants forever; His kingdom will never end." (Luke 1:28-33)

The angel appeared to Mary with the message after God had been silent for 400 years. There had been no prophets speaking God/s message to Israel. God had been silent. They had heard nothing.

And then an angel shows up with a message for Mary. A message that would have been difficult to believe.

Mary questions the angel about how.

"How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?"
The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come on you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God." (Luke 1:34-35)

So, not only was God speaking after 400 years of silence, the message was also that a miracle would occur. I don't know about you, but if I had been in Mary's shoes, I would have been wondering if this was all real at this point. I would have had a hard time believing God would choose to break His silence by speaking to me.

I love Mary's response to the message the angel brought:

"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May your word to me be fulfilled." (Luke 1:38)

Whatever questions or doubts she may have had, Mary chose to trust God. She chose to move forward with the message from the angel and trust God with whatever happened.

I wonder how I would have responded. Would I have chosen to trust God as Mary did? Or would I have allowed my doubts and fears to cause me to try to run from what I was being told?

What do I do today when God asks me to do something? Do I respond as God's servant? Or do I run the other way?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

God's Interruption for Joseph

I appreciate the writers of each of the gospels has a different way of looking at the events that happened when Jesus was born. They each emphasize different things, but all of the share things that are a part of the story.

Matthew chooses to focus on Joseph and how he responded to the events. We don't hear much about Joseph in Scripture after Jesus' birth, but he would have raised Jesus like one of his own sons after His birth.

When I try to imagine the conversation when Mary told Joseph that she was pregnant and the child was God's, I find it difficult. I can't quite figure out how you would tell someone that.

But, it's a bit easier to imagine how Joseph would have responded. Matthew tells us what Joseph was planning to do in response: "Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly." (Matthew 1:19)

I sometimes wonder if Joseph said anything when Mary told him or what he would have said to her when she did.

Did he just sit there quietly unable to say anything?

Did he choose to stay quiet because he didn't want to say anything and hurt Mary with his response?

Did he have words of disbelief for her story?

Whatever Joseph's response when he found out, we know that his initial decision was to keep it quiet and divorce he so that she wouldn't face public disgrace.

But a visit from an angel in his dreams changed all of this. The angel confirmed what he had been told by Mary (Matthew 1:20-21). That message from the angel changed his life. Whatever he had thought before, not that he knew the truth, his life wouldn't be the same.

Over the last few months, I've been a part of a Bible study looking at the book of Jonah and how God interrupted his life with a new thing to do. Jonah had a choice in how to respond to God's interruption in his life.

In Matthew 1, we see that Joseph also had to choose how he would respond to God's interruption in his life. Would he choose to still take Mary as his wife, even when it would seem scandalous to those in Jewish culture? Or would he move forward with his plans to quietly divorce Mary?

Would Joseph step into God's interruption and be a part of God building His kingdom? Or would Joseph see it as an interruption and run from it?

We know that Joseph chose to participate in God's plan and take Mary as his wife. Joseph chose to join God in building His kingdom, even if he didn't fully understand it at the time.

We can learn from Joseph's example here about how to respond when God interrupts our plans. Joseph made the choice we should make - he chose to join God. That doesn't mean it was easy for Joseph. He would forever face disparaging opinions for doing so, but he went with God's plan anyways.

It may not be easy for us to go along with it when God interrupts our plans, but it will always be worth it.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Prince of Peace

In his prophecy in Isaiah 9:6-7, Isaiah gives four names for the coming Messiah that describe what His ministry would be about. Each of these names is significant. They talk about Jesus' ministry while He was on earth and the way He ministers to us till today.

Prince of Peace

Jesus is the ultimate bringer of peace. Not necessarily the kid of peace we always think of and often wish for. Jesus doesn't come to remove all conflict and trials from our lives. He comes to bring us peace in the midst of those things. He came so that even when life is hard around us, we can still have the confidence that we will get through it because Jesus is our Prince of Peace.

How do we allow Jesus to be our Prince of Peace?

We take all our worries and concerns to Him. Over and over in the New Testament, the writers encourage us to take our worries and concerns to God.

"Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you." (1 Peter 5:7)

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7)

In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus also talks about the foolishness of worry. And points us to God in the midst of everything.

Jesus is our Prince of Peace.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Everlasting Father

In his prophecy in Isaiah 9:6-7, Isaiah gives four names for the coming Messiah that describe what His ministry would be about. Each of these names is significant. They talk about Jesus' ministry while He was on earth and the way He ministers to us till today.

Everlasting Father

Earthly relationships will always have issues and challenges. They will break down. And they will be far from perfect. But they are glimpses of what Jesus was coming to be as the Messiah and still is today for us.

Jesus is the One who will always be there to care for us and to protect us from destruction by our enemy. He will never fail us. The prophet Isaiah was telling us this when he spoke of  the coming Messiah.

The challenging part of seeing Jesus as everlasting Father, is that we get it mixed up with the sometimes challenging reality of our earthly relationships. Because we take our mixed up human relationships and see our relationship with God as being the same way.

But, Jesus wants to come and transform our view of God as Father. When we look at Jesus' relationship with His Father, we see an example of what our relationship with God as Father should be like. We have to allow Jesus to come in and transform our understanding of God as Father, because this descriptor of  God given by Isaiah is just as important as all the others.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Mighty God

In his prophecy in Isaiah 9:6-7, Isaiah gives four names for the coming Messiah that describe what His ministry would be about. Each of these names is significant. They talk about Jesus' ministry while He was on earth and the way He ministers to us till today.

Mighty God

Jesus performed many miracles during His time on earth. His power was undeniable, even though people tried to attribute it to other things. He was accused of doing things by the power of the devil, when that would not have made any sense. For Jesus to do what He did while He was on earth, He would have to be a mighty God.

     1. having, characterized by, or showing superior power or strength
     2. of great size
     3. great in amount, extent, degree, or importance; exceptional

If those are definitions of the word mighty, I would say they all apply when we're speaking of Jesus.

A mighty God can step in and act on our behalf for our good: Jesus came to do that for us. He was coming to as the Messiah to restore relationship with God and that meant He would step in on behalf of His people - both then and now.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Wonderful Counsellor

In his prophecy in Isaiah 9:6-7, Isaiah gives four names for the coming Messiah that describe what His ministry would be about. Each of these names is significant. They talk about Jesus' ministry while He was on earth and the way He ministers to us till today.

Wonderful Counsellor

Jesus is the best counsellor we will ever have. He will always know what to say and how to direct us. And His advice will always be the best advice we can take.

     1. excellent, great, marvelous
     2. a sort that causes wonder; amazing; astonishing

This first of that definition makes sense to us in this: Jesus is excellent at being a counsellor. But, as I think about it, I realize that the second part of the definition is also true in this: the counsel that Jesus gives may be beyond what we can grasp or be so great we do stop in amazement.

     a person who counsels; advisor

Someone can be a counsellor in the formal sense or in more of an informal manner. Sometimes a mentor, friend, or family member offers counsel in the form of helping us figure out which direction to go. Other times, it may be something more formal in getting help to deal with something going on in our lives.

Jesus does all of these things for us in a manner that no other person ever could. Jesus is our wonderful counsellor.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Coming Messiah

For to us a child is born,
     to us a son is given,
     and the government will be upon His shoulders.
And He will be called
     Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
     Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of His government and peace
     there will be no end.
He will reign on David's throne
     and over His kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
     with justice and righteousness
     from that time on and forever.
                                     Isaiah 9:6-7

One of the more well-known prophecies of the coming Messiah from the words of the prophet Isaiah. I've heard them often in Christmas performances and songs over the years.

In just a couple of verses, the prophet Isaiah conveys amazing truth about the Messiah. Isaiah declared that Jesus would come from the line of David and that His kingdom would never end. Both of these important.

But, in the middle of all of this, Isaiah gives the Messiah some amazing names declaring what He will be.

Wonderful Counsellor.

Mighty God.

Everlasting Father.

Prince of Peace.

In these few words, so much of what Jesus's ministry on earth was is described. And they speak of what His ministry still is in the lives of those who follow His story.

When I read prophecies like this, I often begin to wonder about what thoughts would have gone through people's minds when they first heard those words. When we read them today, we do so with the benefit of history and knowing they were being fulfilled. But, the people Isaiah spoke them to, they didn't know. And that makes me wonder how they would have responded to those words in the moment.

If they truly grasped the reality of the words they were hearing, what would they have been thinking about? Would they have been looking for the Messiah continually then? Or did they get tired of waiting and forget about the words of prophecy?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

How Many Kings

From the fall to the birth of Jesus, all of Scripture points to a coming Messiah. It points to a promised One who would restore the relationship between God and man. Even all of the Levitical Laws of the Old Testament point towards Jesus as the ultimate fulfillment of them all.

And this in the time of year we celebrate that the promised Messiah did come. This is the time of year we celebrate His birth - His miraculous birth to the least likely of people for a king to come from. A birth that many at the time and many today still miss the significance of. Or if we catch the significance, we may have a difficult time keeping that our focus in the midst of everything else that happens this time of year.

As Christmas approaches this year, I've been feeling personally challenged to spend more time that I usually would digging into what Scripture shares with us regarding the birth of the Messiah.

That's where this blog will be going for the coming weeks - at least most of the time.

Right now, a favourite Christmas song of mine.

Sunday, November 17, 2013


Snow-capped mountains

Fading into clouds come low

Grey skies above

The world seems small today


Changing seasons

Summer becomes fall

Fall turns into winter

 Temperatures dropping


Bare tree trunks and branches

Leaves long gone

The death that always comes

The death that winter brings


At least it looks that way

But deep inside

Life still breathes

Waiting for spring to come


A world covered in white

Until the day comes

That it all changes

Snow melts


To reveal new life

That was buried deep within

Bursting forth in glorious colour

Bright, beautiful, new


Without the winter

Without the death

That winter brings

We would miss spring


The new life bursting forth

Would be unnoticed

In the busy-ness of life

As we hurry through each day


We all have favourite seasons

Each beautiful in its own way

And each one needed

To see the beauty of the others


Snow-capped mountains

Reflect the brilliant sun

Blue skies above

The world seems big today


Spring has come

New life has come

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Tree

I sat and looked at the trees around me. Barren branches reached for the sky. Only a few orange leaves still clung bravely to the branches. I wasn't sure how much longer they would hang on.

At first glance the trees looked dead. A sure sign that winter was on its way.

Wishing away the cold, my thoughts turned to spring. In just a few months, there would be life on the barren branches of the trees in front of me. Life that burst forth from within. Brilliant colours. Fragrant.

Then I realized something. We need the winter to appreciate the spring. These barren branches I was looking at right now are necessary. Without the contrast, I would miss the beauty of the new life that spring brings forth. The new life wouldn't catch my eye and look so grand without the barrenness of the branches now.

The same is true in our walk with God. We all have times when things feel dead - when there seems to be nothing growing in our lives. But it is those times that prepare us for the new life God wants to bring within us. New life that we might miss if things were always easy.

It was getting too cold to stay out any longer. But the image wouldn't leave my mind. The image of new life bursting forth from what looks to be dead and barren.

It's that time again. Five Minute Friday . . . except mine is a Saturday post this week. Joining in with the others over at Lisa-Jo Baker's blog for five minutes of writing on a given word. No editing or overthinking, just sharing what comes with each other. Today's word was "tree."

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Abide in Me

Abide in Me,

Apart from Me you can do nothing.

Abide in Me,

That’s the only way to grow strong.

Abide in Me,

Then you will know My love.

Abide in Me,

So I can heal your wounds.

Abide in Me,

And I will protect you from destruction.

Abide in Me,

New life will burst forth from within.

Abide in Me,

You will make it through anything.

Abide in Me,

I will be the Strength you need.

Abide in Me,

With Me you can do anything I ask of you.

Abide in Me,

And your life will never be the same again.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

God Delivers

Previous posts in this series can be found here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.

The righteous person may have many troubles,
     but the LORD delivers him from them all;
He protects all his bones,
     not one of them will be condemned.

Evil will slay the wicked;
     the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
The LORD will rescue His servants;
     no one who takes refuge in Him will be condemned.
                                                           Psalm 34:19-22

No matter what challenge comes our way, God promises that He will deliver us from them. We will not be destroyed by whatever it is.

But the way God delivers us from those challenges may not look like we expect. God delivering David didn't mean that God took Saul out of the picture. David was still on the run from Saul. It took time for David to become king of Israel. But, even during this time, David was sure that God would deliver him from his troubles.

We live with the same reality. God delivering us from all our troubles may not be immediate. It might take time. We might have to be patient while we walk through challenges. God doesn't promise that He will deliver us immediately. He promises that He will deliver us. We just may have to wait for God's timing because, even if it doesn't look ideal to us, it is best.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

God Listens and He Cares

You can find the previous posts in this series here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them;
     He delivers them from all their troubles.
The LORD is close to the broken-hearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
                                                Psalm 34:17-18

God won't leave us on our own when we find ourselves in trouble. He is listening for our cries. He wants to rescue us from those troubles.

When we are broken-hearted over things God doesn't leave us alone. He is there. He cares for us. God wants to take our broken hearts and mend them. God loves us too much to leave us alone with our broken-hearts. He loves us so much that He will heal our wounds if we allow Him to.

Sometimes life will make us feel down. We can feel crushed and bruised. The good news in the midst of that is that God desires to save us in those times. He wants to come in and be exactly what we need in those times. In fact, He promises that He will do just that.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

God Looks After His People

Another post in the series on Psalm 34. You can find previous posts here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Taste and see that the LORD is good;
     blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.
Fear the LORD, you His holy people,
     for those who fear Him lack nothing.
The lions may grow weak and hungry,
     but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
Come, my children, listen to me;
     I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
Whoever of you loves life
     and desires to see many good days,
keep your tongue from evil
     and your lips from telling lies.
Turn from evil and do good;
     seek peace and pursue it.
                                    Psalm 34:8-16

God cares for those who follow Him. He will provide what is needed when we choose to follow Him.

Taste and see that the LORD is good . . ."

We are invited to experience God's goodness. It's not something we have to just agree with in our heads - it's something we can know from experience.

". . . blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him . . ."

We can take refuge in the midst of the storms of life in God. We can find a safe place to hide in God. Hiding in God doesn't mean we won't face troubles. We still will face hard times in life. But we don't have to face them alone. We have somewhere safe to be - protected in God's arms in the midst of the storm.

". . . fear the LORD, you His holy people, for those who fear Him lack nothing . . ."

David again reminds us that fearing God is important. When we honour and respect God for Who He is, He provides for our every need. We will have everything we need. It doesn't mean we'll have everything we want, or even think we need. But, God will make sure we have everything we need to do what He has for us to do.

". . . The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing."

God will give us good things when we seek Him first. Following God is the best way to live. I don't want to preach some kind of prosperity gospel, because I don't believe it's true that life will always be easy and we'll have every earthly good when we follow God. But, I believe that God will give us every good thing we truly need when we seek Him - every good thing that He knows we need.

". . . Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD . . ."

David was prepared to teach others how to follow God and give Him the honour and respect that He should get because of Who He is. That is the job of each of us - to help each other better understand what it means to fear the LORD.

". . . Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies . . ."

The way we talk has huge implications in our lives. We need to pay attention to what is coming out of our mouths. Evil talk has no place coming out of the mouth of a follower of Christ. Neither do lies. The power of our mouths to do harm or to do good cannot be over-stated. It is incredibly powerful - that is why we have to be so careful about what we say.

". . . Turn from evil and do good . . ."

It's not enough to just turn from something. We need to turn to something else. If we just turn from something and don't replace it with something else, we will quickly find ourselves turning back to exactly what we turned from in the first place. We need to turn from doing things are evil and replace them with things that are good. Not because it's about doing things to earn God's favour, but because it's about doing the right things because we follow and love God.

". . . seek peace and pursue it."

Peace isn't something that just comes our way. It is something we have to chase after. It won't come our way by accident. Peace will only come our way if we seek it.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

God Saves

Part three of a series on Psalm 34. You can read the intro here and part one here.

I sought the LORD, and He answered me;
     He delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to Him are radiant;
     their faces are never covered with shame.
The poor man called, and the LORD heard him;
     He saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him,
     and He delivers them.
                                               Psalm 34:4-7

After declaring the need to praise God in the midst of all circumstances, David moves on to a reminder that God will come to those who call out to Him for rescue.

"I sought the LORD, and He answered me . . ."

David looked to find God in the midst of His situation. When trouble came his way, he called out to God. And when he called out to God, God answered him. God is listening for the cries of His people because He wants to answer them.

". . . He delivered me from all my fears . . ."

God doesn't want us to live in fear. He wants to provide us with freedom from the fear that can hold  us back from what He has for us. When we call out to Him in the midst of circumstances where we are full of fear, He comes and rescues us from those fears. All He asks to deliver us from those fears is that we come to Him with them.

". . . Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame . . ."

Choosing to look to God in the midst of any circumstances we may face changes everything. When we look to God we reflect His glory and goodness to the world around us. No matter what we face, we can reflect God to the world around us. We just have to choose to look to Him.

Another amazing thing happens when we choose to look to God . . . He removes the shame we may be feeling. When we go to God with everything and ask for His forgiveness and His strength in the situation all shame is removed. Shame can hold us back from God has for us. He is waiting to remove it, because it's not of Him. He removes that shame when we go to Him with it.

". . . The poor man called, and the LORD heard him; He saved him out of all his troubles . . ."

Everyone can call to God. There's no social standing that would prevent us from calling out to God and being heard by Him. Whatever the situation, we can call to God for rescue and He will come to rescue us from it.

". . . The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, and He delivers them."

Every time I read verses that talk about fearing God, I have to stop and think about what that means. It's not language we commonly use today. And when we do talk about fear it's not in the way being spoken of here. To fear the LORD is to show Him respect and awe for Who He is.

Those who show God respect and awe for Who He is are protected by God. He sends His angels to protect us from harm - from attacks of Satan. God delivers us from Satan's attacks who is out to harm us.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Grace

It's that time again. Five Minute Friday. This week's word is "grace."

The greatest gift we could ever receive . . . grace.

And it truly is a gift. There's nothing we can do to earn it.

All we can do it accept the gift. And allow it to change our lives.

God's grace is the greatest thing available for us all the time. He gives us what we don't deserve.

But, we often try to do everything we can to earn His grace. We try to be good enough. We try to do the right things . . . say the right things . . . and we wear ourselves out in the process, because no matter what we do we can never earn it.

The only way for God's grace to make a difference in our lives is for us to accept the gift.

The gift has been offered to you. Will you accept it freely? Or are you still trying to earn it?

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Praise God Always

A couple of days ago, I wrote a bit about how Psalm 34 has been a psalm that I've been drawn to lately. There's much in the psalm that I decided I would take a few posts to focus on smaller segments of it.

I will extol the LORD at all times;
     His praise will always be on my lips.
I will glory in the LORD;
     let the afflicted here and rejoice.
Glorify the LORD with me;
     let us exalt His name together.
                                    Psalm 34:1-3

David began his cry to God with praise. Even when things in life were not going well, he began with praising God. That was where David turned in every situation - to God and to praise.

"I will extol the LORD at all times . . ."

Extol isn't a word we commonly use today, so I looked it up. It means "to praise highly; laud; eulogize." David was declaring that he would lift the name of God highly.

David also declared the he would lift God's name all the time. It wasn't a one time thing for him. It was something he would do all the time - whatever else he was doing.

". . . His praise will always be on my lips . . ."

David felt that lifting God's name high in every situation was important enough that he needed to repeat himself. Here he declares that words to lift God's name high will always be coming out of his mouth - whatever situation he may be in.

". . . I will glory in the LORD . . ."

When David speaks of glory here, he is talking about giving God honour and admiration. It is "adoring praise or worshipful thanksgiving." And all of this would come about because of Who God is.

". . . let the afflicted here and rejoice . . ."

David knew that praise of God was the way out of any tough situation that we are facing. He wanted those who were in distress to hear the praise of God and be turned from their troubles to God.

". . . Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt His name together."

David called all those who would be listening to join him in praising God in all circumstances. He called on people to praise God together with other people. It wasn't just something he was going to do. He knew the importance for all of us to do this and invited us to join him.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Honest with God

I've always found the Psalms to speak very well to all aspects of life. The honesty about all of the emotions that come in life draws me in. David wrote many of them and he always seemed to be honest with God. I think that is a reason why we commonly call him a man after God's own heart. Instead of hiding it or trying to pretend it wasn't real, David took it all to God. He cried everything he was feeling out to God - the good, the bad, and the ugly. But he always came around to trusting God, no matter what he was bringing to God.

Lately, I've been drawn to Psalm 34. This psalm is filled with promises of God's hearing and answering the cries of those who call out to Him. And that He will restore those who call to Him in their trouble.

I will extol the LORD at all times;
     His praise will always be on my lips.
I will glory in the LORD;
     let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the LORD with me;
     let us exalt His name together.

I sought the LORD, and He answered me;
     He delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to Him are radiant;
     their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the LORD heard him;
     He saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him,
     and He delivers them.

Taste and see that the LORD is good;
     blessed if the one who takes refuge in Him.
Fear the LORD, you His holy people,
     for those who fear Him lack nothing.
The lions may grow weak and hungry,
     but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
Come, my children, listen to me;
     I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
Whoever of you loves life
     and desires to see many good days,
keep your tongue from evil
     and your lips from telling lies.
Turn from evil and do good;
     seek peace and pursue it.

The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous,
     and His ears are attentive to their cry;
but the face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
     to blot out their name from the earth.

The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them;
      He delivers them from all their troubles.
The LORD is close to the broken-hearted
     and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

The righteous person may have many troubles,
     but the LORD delivers him from them all;
He protects all his bines,
     not one of them will be broken.

Evil will slay the wicked;
     the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
The LORD will rescue His servants;
     no one who takes refuge in Him will be condemned.

David was declaring to those who would be hearing this psalm God's protection for those who trust in Him who are in trouble. David wrote this psalm while he was on the run from Saul - a time when he really needed God to protect him from harm and rescue him from his enemies.

This is the same way we can call out to God and be honest with Him in our own lives.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Five Minute Friday:Together

It`s that time again. Five Minute Friday over at Lisa-Jo Baker`s blog. Five minutes of unedited writing that we then share. Today`s word is together.

Ì enjoy it when we spend time together.

She said those words as I climbed in my car. She walked away before I could respond. If she hadn`t I would have responded the same way.

I enjoyed spending time with her too. But this was the first time in three months we had taken the time to spend together. We had our list of excuses why it hadn`t worked for us to get together, but I wondered as I drove away how true our excuses really where.

Sure I had lots of things going on in my life, but I still always found time to spend with people if I wanted to. And I knew that she was home most evenings because we would chat online. But that online chat that we tried to make replace seeing each other face-to-face really didn`t do it. It didn`t replace spending time together - sitting across a table from each other having a conversation, walking along the lake while we talked.

I decided that I would make spending time with friends more of a priority as I drove home that night. With this friend and with others that it had been far too long since we sat down to talk.

Together . . . time with people we love and care about . . . it`s something we all need.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

It`s Okay to be Not Okay

"How are you?"

"Fine. You?"


And then both people move on to other things - maybe the weather or a sports game, or maybe to different people to have the same short conversation with.

That's become a standard way for "how are you?" conversation to happen. And that's the case everywhere . . . on the street, in a coffee shop, in the grocery store . . . even in our churches.

But how often are we answering the "how are you?" question with "fine" when we're anything but fine?

How often would our real answer be that we're struggling with something? Or upset about something? Or grieving a loss? But we don't feel we can say that when someone asks how we are.

When did we decide it was not okay to be not okay?

When did we decide we had to live behind a façade?

And, most importantly, when did this thinking invade our churches?

When I think about it, the church should be the one place where it's okay to be not okay. The one place where we can be honest with each other about what is really going on below the surface.

The truth is, we're all broken people. We all have hurts. We all have struggles. But we feel this strange need to hide that from everyone else. We act like we have it all together when we're really falling apart.

And, for what? So people will look at us a certain way.

Behind those facades we put up of having it all together are some lonely people who really aren't as okay as they try to make people think they are.

This way of thinking has to change. In Luke 5:31-32 Jesus says, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."

Jesus didn't come for those who had it all together. He came for those who are broken and hurting. And His church should be a safe place for them to come and be exactly as they are.

The church should be a place where it's okay to be not okay. Because it's only when we fix our eyes on Jesus that anything makes sense and we can be healed. And while we're walking through it, we need a safe place to be not okay. That place should be the church.

How you doing at being honest about being not okay?

It has to start somewhere if we're going to get rid of the facades we're living behind that make us lonely. Maybe in your circle it needs to start with you deciding it's okay to be not okay and sharing that with those around you. Yes, it's a risk, but it's a necessary one if things are going to change and it's going to become okay to be not okay.

It doesn't mean you have to tell your whole story to everyone you talk to - sometimes you will, sometimes you won't. It starts with answering the question "how are you?" with something other than fine - with something that's true to how you really are. And then see where the conversation goes from there.

It's okay to be not okay. That should be true in our churches and our lives.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

God is Faithful to His Promises

"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful." (Hebrews 10:23)

This verse is one I have often missed the depth of because it's in the middle of a number of verses on meeting together and encouraging one another. But this short verse contains a great reminder for us.

As followers of Christ we profess hope in Jesus Christ to save us and offer us forgiveness for our sins. This is a hope we can hold onto without concern. It is true. That's why we can boldly share it with others and why we're told to. That's why we can hold onto it no matter what comes our way.

The second part of this verse is what's important. It gives us the reason why we can hold onto hope in Jesus Christ without wondering if it's stable.

God is faithful. He will keep His promises. And He has promised that Jesus' sacrifice was enough and gives us direct access to Him. We can live in the assurance that God's promise is true because He is faithful.

Scripture is full of promises God made that He kept.
  • God promised Noah that He would never destroy the whole earth again with a flood. (Genesis 8:20-9:17)
  • God promised Joshua He would go with him always. (Joshua 1:1-9)
  • God promised Moses He would give him the words to say to Pharaoh and favour with the Israelites. (Exodus 3 & 4)
  • Jesus promised He would be with us always. (Matthew 28:20)
Based on these and many more examples, we can be confident that God will keep His promises because He is faithful.

Reading Scripture and seeing that God always keeps His promises gives me hope. We have hope because we serve a God Who is faithful to His word. We can cling to the promises He has made based on the past.

We serve a faithful God!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Live What You Say You Believe

If you're a regular reader here, you've probably noticed I took a bit of a break from writing here in the last week or so. It wasn't planned or I would have told you about it in advance. Sometimes life just seems to necessitate pulling back for a time.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a couple of posts that came from a Bible study I'm doing with some women from my church. I was talking about changing our view when God interrupts our plans and beginning to see those times as divine interventions - as opportunities to join God in His purposes. I also talked about how we respond to those divine interventions.

Looking back at my life, I could see times when God interrupted my plans and invited me to join in on His. And I could see how I responded them.

But what I didn't know when I wrote those posts was that God was about to interrupt my plans again. He wasn't going to just let it be something I wrote about.

And isn't that how God works? He doesn't want things to just be head knowledge. He wants them to get down deep into our hearts. And for that to happen we have to live it. Because when we walk through the experience we have to decide if what we say we believe is what we actually believe.

That is one thing I've learned about God - He wants us to live it. He doesn't want it to be something we just talk about. He wants us to be transformed by what we say we believe and live it out.

When is the last time God took something that you could talk about to others and made sure you were also living it?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The God of Second Chances

"Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time . . ." (Jonah 3:1)

I love what this verse says about God and second chances.

Jonah had been told by God to go to Ninevah and preach against them. He went as far as he could in the other direction because he didn't want to go preach to his enemies.

But, even after running from what God told him to do, Jonah wasn't disqualified from doing what God had asked him to do. God gave him a second chance to do what he had originally been asked to do.

God spoke to Jonah again. God gave Jonah the same job again. And the second time Jonah followed through with what God said.

And the good news is that God offers the same opportunity to us. Just like Jonah, we often run the other way from things God tells us to do. When we don't want to do those things, we will look for ways not to do them.

But, if we realize the error of our ways and stop running from God, He gives us a second chance too. We get the opportunity to do what God says the second (or third or fourth, or 100th) time.

We serve a God of second chances. The requirement to get that second chance is that we stop running from what God is saying.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Impact of Encouragement

"But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called 'Today,' so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness." (Hebrews 3:13)

Many times before when I've read this verse, I've wondered how it all fit together. It almost seemed like two different thoughts. Until today . . . the two fit together when I read it today.

I love how God's Word comes alive in new and fresh ways every time we read it, if we're listening for what He has to say. That means we can read the Bible many times and never get bored with what we're reading.

Back to the verse from Hebrews . . .

The writer of Hebrews is calling on those who claim to be followers of Christ to encourage each other on a regular basis. And the encouragement is to keep us following the path God has laid out for us and to keep us from getting stuck in a pattern of sin that pulls us from God.

When you're walking through life on your own, it's easy to get pulled off course. It's easy to begin to stray into an area of sin in your life and not realize the danger until you're in trouble because of it. It's Satan's specialty to subtly lead us off course - just a little bit at first, but over time it grows until we're really far off course.

I believe the writer of Hebrews gives us the prescription for staying on the right path more often and turning back sooner when we do get off course. The prescription is having other followers of Christ in our lives to encourage us to keep going the right way - even when it's hard.

We need people in our lives who can help us to keep going. Who will pray for us when we're struggling. Who will warn us when we start heading in the wrong direction. God made us to need people in our lives for that.

The culture we live in tells us we don't need anybody else, but the Bible says something different. The Bible tells us we need to learn to live in community with others.

It's probably easier in lots of ways to keep relationship with others distant. It means we can put ourselves first and do whatever we want. But, it's dangerous to live that way.

The truth is that living in relationship with other people is dangerous too. We take a risk to allow people to get close enough to encourage us when it's hard and warn us when we start to wander.

But it's a risk with a reward for taking it because it's only when we open ourselves up to relationships with others that we really get to live.
Do you have people in your life who encourage you regularly?
Do you have people in your life who warn you when you're beginning to head off course?
Are you that kind of person for others?

Friday, October 4, 2013

How Do You Respond to Interruptions?

A couple of days ago I wrote about a Bible study I'm a part of on the book of Jonah. I talked about seeing things as interruptions or changing our view for them to be divine interventions. Today, I want to talk about how we respond to those in our lives.

When God comes along and interrupts our plans, we have a choice in how we respond to that interruption. And how we respond will often line up with whether we see it as an interruption or a divine intervention.

Jonah saw God's job for him as an interruption. He didn't want to go to Ninevah and preach to them. He wanted to stay where he was in Jerusalem and keep doing what he was already doing. So, Jonah tried to run from God's new job for him - as far as he could in the other direction.

As we've been studying this, I've started to wonder what would have been different in Jonah's response if he had seen it as a divine intervention instead. What if Jonah had seen God's new job for him as an opportunity to participate in God's work? What would have looked different?

We are often faced with the same choice Jonah had. God has come along and interrupted our lives in some way and we have to decide what we're going to do.

Are we going to run from it?

Or are we going to step into it even if it doesn't seem like what we want in the moment?

We always have the choice. God will always leave us with the choice when He comes with an invitation to join Him in His purposes.

Has God interrupted your life recently?

How are you responding to it?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Interruption or Divine Intervention?

This fall I'm doing a study on Jonah - the prophet - with a group of ladies from my church. It's been a great study so far.

The subtitle for the study we're doing is "navigating a life interrupted." When I read that it intrigued me. Who hasn't had life interrupted? Who hasn't found those interruptions hard to navigate at time?

For these first couple of weeks we've been talking about our perspective on interruptions to our lives and how we respond to them.

It only takes a few verses in Jonah for us to see God interrupting Jonah's life. Jonah was a prophet to Israel - tasked with taking God's message to His own people. Then, God came and gave Him a different assignment.

God told Jonah to go to Ninevah and preach. Ninevah wasn't just a city that was not part of the nation of Israel. Ninevah was Israel's enemy. They were a brutal people and it is likely that Israel suffered loss at their hands. Now God was telling Jonah that was where He wanted Jonah to go and preach a message of repentance.

Talk about an interruption . . . God took Jonah's nice, relatively easy life and turned it upside-down with a new assignment.

Have you ever had God do that in your life? Take your plans and the life you've grown comfortable with and turn it upside-down with something new or different He brings your way?

Jonah had a couple of options in how he could see God's change of plans for him. Jonah could see it as an interruption to his life. Or he could see it as a divine intervention.

It changes everything when we see it as a divine intervention when God steps in and changes our plans.

What is a divine intervention? It's when God invites you to be a part of His purposes on earth in a way that may look differently than you planned.

It changes everything when we begin to see things as divine interventions rather than interruptions. Interruptions are often seen as rude or inconvenient or unwanted. Divine interventions are significant opportunities to join God in His plans.

How do you see interruptions to your plans?

What would change if you began to see them as divine interventions instead?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Extravagant Acts of Worship

While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to Him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on His head as He was reclining at the table.

When the disciples saw this, they were indignant, "Why this waste?" they asked. "This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor."

Aware of this, Jesus said to them, "Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have Me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare Me for burial. Truly, I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done for me will also be told, in remembrance of her."  (Matthew 26:6-13)

How often I have read this account quickly and missed what is contained in it. It's slipped in in the midst of the accounts of the plans to kill Jesus. Just a few verses, but they challenged me when I read them a few days ago.

A woman comes to where Jesus and His disciples are. She comes with an extravagant gift of worship for Jesus. She is so focussed on her worship of Jesus that she not only gives Jesus an expensive gift, she also breaks social norms to do it. Her heart is set on worshipping Jesus.

The disciples are watching this all unfold. But they are missing the worship of her act. They are seeing only the cost of the perfume. Money they decide could have been better used to help the poor.

As I read this I began to ponder who I would have been if I had been in the room that day? Would I have been the woman bringing my extravagant gift of worship to Jesus despite what others might think? Or would I have been one of the disciples who missed the heart behind it and judged the act a misuse of money? Challenging questions to ponder.

I think we all have moments of being the woman and moments of being one of the disciples. Although we don't really want to admit to being one of the disciples in this instance.

The person who we should want to be in this account is made clear in Jesus' response to this. He commends the woman for her act of worship. And He challenges His disciples on how they were thinking. Jesus doesn't condemn His disciples for their thoughts, but He encourages and challenges them to think differently.

Who would you have been if you had been there that day?
Would you have been the woman offering Jesus your extravagant worship - not for others to see, but because you felt compelled to do so in your heart?
Or would you have been one of the disciples, judging the acts of worship of another?

If we would have been one of the disciples that day and maybe we are now, the good news is that we don't have to stay that way. God can change our hearts and He offers us a second chance (and many more) to get it right with His help.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Five Minute Friday: True

It's Five Minute Friday again. This week's word is "true."

Do you ever share the true story of your life? You know the one . . .

. . . the one where you share your failures and mistakes, alongside the successes and the things you did right.

. . . the one where you're not defined by any one thing, but by the total of what makes you who you are.

. . . the one where you're honest and authentic.

It's probably not the story we want to share all the time. It's not necessarily the story that makes us look good to other people.

But the true story our lives is the one that people can most relate to. It's the one that lets people know we're human and that we struggle with the same things they do.

True . . . that's what it should be when we share the story of our lives with others.

We can tell the true story without sharing things that disrespect others or sharing details people don't need to hear. It might require us to be careful, but the true story of our lives can still be told that way.

Do you ever share the true story of your life?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Seeing Yourself as God Sees You

Since I wrote my last post on what we commonly know as the Greatest Commandment found in Matthew 22:27-29, I've been thinking about something that came up at the end of the post.

Jesus tells us to love our neighbours as ourselves. I finished that post with some thoughts on how if we are to love our neighbours well, we have to learn to love ourselves well too.

I've been thinking about that idea in the days since. It's an interesting concept to think about.

Some people may argue with me that we live in a world where we're told to place too much evidence on ourselves and loving ourselves. And others would argue that we live in a world where self-esteem is destroyed in many people and they don't know to love themselves at all.

I think part of the problem is the language being used. Loving yourself can seem to be a conceited  way of living. Maybe a better way of looking at it would be to see it as seeing yourself the way God sees you.

We need to learn to see ourselves as God sees us, because if we don't we'll have a hard time loving others well. There's nothing conceited about learning to see ourselves the way God sees us. That is the way God wants us to live. And out of that flows love for our neighbour, like Jesus talked about in Matthew 22:27-29.

The problem is that we often have a difficult time believing what God says about us, so we don't see ourselves as God sees us. We've allowed other people's opinions of us and our own thoughts about ourselves, to get in the way of us seeing ourselves as God sees us.

Scripture is full of references to how God sees us. Full of references that tell us what God sees when He looks at us.

  • You are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)
  • You are not condemned (Romans 8:1)
  • You are God's workmanship - His masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10)
  • You are chosen (1 Peter 2:9)
  • You are a child of God (John 1:12, 1 John 3:1)
  • You are an overcomer (1 John 4:4)
  • You are a friend of God (John 15:15)
  • You are forgiven (1 John 1:9)

Those are just a few of the many verses in Scripture that tell us how God sees us.

How are you doing at seeing yourself as God sees you?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Love God and Love Others

"Jesus replied, 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbour as yourself'." (Matthew22:27-29)

Jesus' response when the Pharisees asked Him which was the greatest commandment in the Law.

We hear them quoted often today. We say them often. They familiar words to us. So familiar we often shorten them up in summary: Love God and love others.

True in those words as well. But do these five words really portray all that Jesus said in His answer? They get the basics down, but maybe not the full extent.

"Love . . ."

One word with a broad range of meaning in our English language. And a word we misuse and abuse in daily life.

In the Greek, the word is agape. The kind of love often spoke of in reference to how God loves us. A sacrificial love. A love that is a choice even when it costs us something.

 That's the kind of love Jesus is talking about here. A love we choose.

". . . the Lord your God . . ."

Jesus isn't talking about a distant, impersonal God we're supposed to love. He's talking about a God Who is personal. A God who gets involved in our lives and cares about the details.

". . . with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind."

Heart . . . Emotions . . . Feelings. We're to love God with all of them.

Soul . . . The deepest part of you. The part that no one else sees, but God sees. Love Him with all of that.

Mind . . . Your thoughts. The things you think about each day. Love God with all of them.

"Love your neighbour . . ."

Jesus doesn't give us a description of specifically who our neighbour is here and I think that's for good reason. When it's not specifically defined, our neighbour could be anyone we come into contact with.

Some people are easy to love. Some people are difficult to love. Some people seem impossible to love and we would rather not even try. But, Jesus doesn't give us an out on any of these people. We're to love them all.

". . . as yourself."

After we love God with all of us, we're supposed to love others. And we're supposed to love them as we love ourselves.

Sometimes we love ourselves well. Sometimes we love ourselves too well. And sometimes we don't love ourselves very well at all. But, if we're supposed to love others as we love ourselves, we have to learn what it looks like to love ourselves.

So, how are you doing at loving God?
With all your heart?
With all your soul?
With all your mind?
How are you doing a loving your neighbour?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Five Minute Friday: She

It's Five Minute Friday again and I'm joining in with the group over at Lisa-Jo Baker's blog. The instructions are simple: five minutes of writing on the given word - no editing or over-thinking what you write about; then you share what you wrote. This week the word is "she."

When she walked in the room, everyone turned to look at her.

She was the center of attention and she knew it. She was used to it. She often was the center of attention in a crowd.

The problem was, she didn't want to be the center of attention. At least, not for the reasons she was.

Most of those people looking at her were judging her.

You see, she looked different than the rest of them. She didn't feel like she belonged.

It had taken her a long time to get comfortable with who she was and how she looked. It hadn't been easy. But it was something she had to do if she was going to live a life that didn't revolve around hiding.

And the more she learned to be comfortable with who she was, the less she noticed people staring when she walked in a room. She became comfortable in who she was. And no one else's opinion mattered any longer.

The best part was that she had learned there was Someone who wasn't concerned with what she looked like. To Him what mattered was on the inside. That was shy she mattered.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Fill the Empty Places

"When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, 'I will return to the house I left.' When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first." (Matthew 12:43-45)

These aren't my favourite words of Jesus' teaching and they're likely not yours either. They seem a bit harsh at first read, but they teach an important truth that we need to understand.

Jesus is speaking to our human nature to fill empty places with something. And making it clear that Satan and his demons work the same way, so we need to be aware.

It's a good thing to remove the things in our lives that shouldn't be there. We should deal with sinful thoughts, habits, and actions. We want to remove these things from our lives.

The problem arises when we remove them and then the places they filled in our lives unfilled with anything good. We just choose to leave those places empty. When we remove sinful things from our lives, we need to fill that place with something good and pleasing to God, so that the thing we removed can't come back into our lives.

We can kick Satan and his schemes out, but he will find a way back in if we don't fill those areas where we kicked him out of with something. And when Satan gets back into those areas, he often does more damage when he was there before. That leaves us feeling worse than the time before as well.

If we're not careful, we end up stuck in a cycle of defeat, victory, greater defeat, victory, even greater defeat. With the times of victory growing more infrequent and shorter duration until we give up completely.

That's what Satan wants for us. But that's not what God wants for us.

Jesus doesn't say it in this passage, but other places in His teaching He talks about the Holy Spirit coming to live in all believers. Those places we kick Satan out of should be filled with the Holy Spirit and the things of God. When we allow the Holy Spirit to get into all those places we kicked Satan out of, there is no room for Satan to get back in when he tries.

I believe that Jesus came to be our strength to live as we were meant to live. But that won't happen completely unless we allow Him to access every area of our lives so He can fill every area of our lives.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

What's Your Burden?

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)

Well known and familiar words from Jesus. Words we cling to when life is weighing us down.

At least, the part about taking our burdens to Jesus and receiving rest. We cling to that. And that's good.

Jesus is calling us to exactly that in these verses. Jesus tells us we can come to Him tired and carrying heavy burdens and He will take them from us. He will give us rest from all we have been carrying.

But Jesus has more to say than just that in these verses. I've read through them often and never stopped on what Jesus said besides offering rest and relief from heavy burdens.

Jesus also tells us take His yoke upon ourselves and that His yoke is easy and light. Jesus isn't just taking our burdens from us. He is giving us something to carry alongside Him in return.

Jesus takes the heavy burdens we're not supposed to be carrying and replaces them with ones from Him that He wants to carry walking with us. The difference between the burdens we're carrying when we come to Jesus weary and in need of rest and the burden that Jesus gives us in return when we come to Him is that one we're meant to carry and one we're not.

It's when we're carrying the one we're  not meant to carry that we get tired and weary and are in need of rest.

But when we're carrying the burden that comes with Jesus' yoke - the one we're meant to carry - we're not tired because we're not carrying it alone. Jesus us helping us carry it, because He wants us to carry that one.

What burdens are you carrying that you need to take to Jesus so He can give you rest?

Are you ready to begin carrying the burden Jesus has for you to carry with Him?

Ask Jesus to show you what the burden is He has for you to carry with Him.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Mercy

It's Five Minute Friday again. Joining in with everyone over at Lisa-Jo Baker's blog for five minutes of writing on the given word. The rules are simple: write for five minutes, no editing or overthinking, then share your work. Today's word is "mercy."

Sitting on a bench on the sidewalk. I see you walking down the street toward me.

I wonder if you are the one who will offer mercy - who will offer some kindness.

But then you notice me.

Your pace quickens. Something on your phone is suddenly of ultimate importance.

Just like everyone else, you rush by and don't notice me.

. . .

I'm sitting on the grass in the park - minding my own business this time.

I don't even notice you approach me, until your shadow casts shade over me.

Looking up I realize that you're not here to be kind. You're here to judge me again.

. . .

But the truth is neither of you know my story. And neither of you care to learn it as you walk past. You see the way I look and make assumptions about me and about my story.

. . .

Jesus offered mercy to the people in need He passed by.

He healed lepers - outcasts of society.

He spoke to a Samaritan woman - a woman from a race most Jews avoided.

He healed blind men, paralyzed men, those possessed by demons.

Mercy was a part of every day, every moment of Jesus' life. He knew the importance of offering mercy and He modelled it for us.

If mercy is so important, then why do we have such a difficult time with it? Why do we find it so difficult to offer mercy - to offer kindness and help - to those we run into who are in need?