Saturday, March 30, 2013

In the In-Between

The Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday . . . it seems to be a time that gets little reference. Sometimes I wonder why we treat it as so insignificant.

It certainly wasn't insignificant for Jesus' disciple. Everything they had known for the last three years was thrown into confusion.

They were in between and left with what seemed like no hope. They didn't know what was coming. That Saturday, all they knew was that Jesus had been crucified and was dead.

And along with that went their dreams, their plans, their hope.

It's not a place we like to sit, because it's unpleasant. It's hard. It's dark. It's scary. We don't like to dwell on those things unless we know something good is coming.

So, we quickly jump to the resurrection. We want to jump right to the good - jump over the bad.

But in doing so, I think we miss some lessons that can only be learned in those in-between times.

If we're really honest, we can probably all share our own stories of living in the in-between. Of living in-between the death of something good and the start of something new.

We can identify more with the disciples on Saturday than we care to. We know what it's like to lose hope. To walk the hard, dark road.

That road may look different for each of us based on our own life experiences, but we've walked the road ourselves.

And looking back, we see all that we learned in those times. We see the lessons learned in the in-between. We see how we have become who we are from those times in our lives.

I would guess that each of the disciples was shaped by that time in between - when they learned the full truth of who Jesus was and what He had come to do.

We are profoundly shaped by what we learn in the in-between.

Maybe we need to become better at learning to pause in those times. And maybe we can learn to do that better by pausing on the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday and remembering what it must have been like for Jesus' disciples and friends on that day.

If we take the time to do that, it makes Easter Sunday an even greater reason to celebrate. We've felt the loss of hope and now we can celebrate the fullness of greater hope than we could ever have comprehended without the time in-between.

How do you do at living life in the in-between?

Have you learned lessons that have shaped who you are today in the in-between?

Friday, March 29, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Broken

Joining Five Minute Friday again this week. Today's word is broken.

"Broken, we're all broken. And we all need a Savior. We all need a Savior."

Those lines from a song started playing in my head when I read that the word for today was broken. I don't remember what song they're from or what the rest of the song says.

But they're true. We're all broken. And we all need a Savior. Because we can't do it on our own.

That's what today is all about. Remembering that our Savior was broken for us - in our place. So that He could replace our brokenness with His perfection.

But first we have to admit we're broken. I don't like doing that. I don't want others to know I'm broken. Really, I don't want to tell myself I'm broken.

But the honest truth is I am. I don't have it all together. I make mistakes and poor choices often. More often than I wish I did.

And then I spend time trying to gather all the broken pieces and put them back together again so no one will notice.

But when you gather the pieces of a jar that has been broken and put them back together, the brokenness still shows. You can see all the lines where it was broken and has now been put back together. And it can be a beautiful thing to look at that way.

That's what happens when we take out brokenness to our Savior. He puts those broken pieces back together into something more beautiful than before. The marks of our brokenness don't disappear. We can still see them. But they are beautifully put back together.

"Broken, we're all broken. And we all need a Savior. We all need a Savior."

To find out more about to get involved in Five Minute Friday yourself, go here.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Life Changing Event

Tomorrow is Good Friday. One of the most important days of the year for Christians. You could day that Resurrection Sunday is the most important day and I don't think I would argue with you. But, that Sunday isn't important without Good Friday.

The cross is where Jesus paid the price for our sins. The day when the penalty for everything wrong we have ever done and ever will do was paid for. By the only person who had ever lived a life that "qualified" Him to pay that price.

It seems like every year when this holiday comes around I find myself reflecting on the significance of it all. This was a world-changing event.

An event that can change our lives if we choose to accept what is offered to us.

It causes me to pause and wonder . . .

Have I allowed what God did on that day to change my life?

Have I allowed it to change me on an ongoing basis? Or have I stopped allowing it to change me - to make me more like Jesus?

What about you? Have you allowed God to change your life because of this day? Are you doing so on a daily basis? Or was it a one time thing?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Problem of Always Being Busy

Why do we hold up busy-ness as a badge of honour?

We often tell people how busy we are.

I wonder if we do that because we think it makes us sound important.

I know I've done that. I wanted the person I was talking to see me as someone important, so I talked about all I was doing to fill my time and I sounded busy. That was my goal with what I said, but looking back I'm not sure that was what I should have been trying for.

What if we thought of busy-ness differently?

What if we started to look at being really busy as a problem rather than a badge of honour? What would that look like?

Busy-ness isn't necessarily a good thing. It means we feel like we're just running from one thing to the next all day, falling into bed exhausted, and getting up the next morning to do it all over again.

There's one problem with that kind of living. One big problem . . . it leaves little time for relationships with people. And we were made for relationships with others. We need time for that in our lives.

Think about it . . . when you're feeling like you have lots of things to get done and not enough time to do it all, what is usually the first thing to do?

Time with friends.

We cancel the coffee date with a friend. We skip Bible study and church. We avoid the people we live with - by staying late at the office or closing the door to the home office to get things done.

In short, we cut the things that seem the easiest to cut. The reality is we're cutting the things we need the most.

Our busy-ness and our obsession with it isolates us. Often in the times when we need people the most. When we need to make family and friends more important, not less important.

What if we changed how we look at busy-ness?

What if we intentionally stopped looking at busy-ness as a badge of honour?

What if we started to look at busy-ness as a problem? As the problem it is?

Maybe that would change the way we talk. And maybe that would change what gets cut when it seems like we have too much to do and not enough time to do it. Relationships with those closest to us would be more important, not relegated to the bottom of the list.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

What Does it Mean to "Be Real"?

It seems like everywhere I turn these days, I hear people talk about being real. It almost seems to have become a buzzword in the church today.

But, what do we really mean when we say that?

What do we mean when we say we want to be real? When we say we want people around us to be real?

Do we even all have the same meaning when we use that phrase - assuming others will understand what we mean?

Or are we making assumptions about what others understand our use of the word to mean?

When I think about being real, I think of it as not changing who I am based on the situation. And being honest about how you're feeling and what's going on in your life.

Being real with people and wanting them to be real with us is a great ideal. It sounds good to talk about it. But how practical is it to expect it all the time? Is it realistic?

Are there situations where being real in this manner could be a bad thing? Can we really expect ourselves or others to be real all the time?

Or maybe there's something we can learn from this desire for real-ness?

I wonder if this desire for real-ness comes as a response against a feeling that we have to always put up our best self. Maybe not in every situation. But  you can probably come up with at least few situations where you have felt or feel like there is pressure for things to be a certain way in your life or for you to act a certain way. And we do that when we feel the need.

But we often leave those situations feeling tired or frustrated or both. We don't like putting up a front. So we react be declaring we will always be real no matter what.

I'm not saying being real is a bad thing. It's a good thing. But I think it has to have some boundaries.

There may be situations where we need to be real with boundaries. It's not about hiding how things really are, but about not sharing the details with everyone we talk to.

We need to have people with whom we can share the details of what's going on in our lives, how we're feeling. But in our quest for real-ness we have to be careful not to share too much with too many people.

We need to be real. Whether it's a reaction against situations where we haven't been allowed to be real, or an idea that we're trying to live in our lives, being real is a good thing. But, we have to have boundaries about what that real-ness looks like in some situations. It's possible to be real without sharing every detail with every person we talk to.

What are your thought?

How do you define being real?

 Is it important to have boundaries in how we're real with people?

Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Remember

My second week being a part of Five Minute Friday. You can find out more about Five Minute Friday and how to be a part of it on Lisa-Jo Baker's blog.

This week's word is Remember, and her post on today's word here.

Life is full of moments you want to remember. Some you do and some you don't. But one thing is true of them all: We want to remember them because there was something special about them.

I have one memory that is a special one to me. It's something I can still see in my mind like it happened yesterday - even though it happened 15 years ago.

We were at my Great-Grandparents 65th wedding anniversary celebration. There was lots of family around. And lots of pictures of their lives and families to look at.

I remember looking through an album of photos of people I was somehow related to with my Great-Grandpa and my Grandma. My Great-Grandpa was telling me who the people were and what the pictures were from.

Those minutes hearing a few stories and being told who people were are a precious memory to me. It's also the last thing I remember about my Great-Grandpa, as he passed away no too long after that celebration.

I fell so blessed to be able to remember things like that. Moments we remember and cherish because there was something special about them.

Remember . . . it's remembering the special and important moments in life that give us something to hold onto when life gets hard.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Are You Missing What You Already Have?

Usually at work, I'm wishing for some uninterrupted quiet to just get things done. Time with no one coming to my office with a question, and no phone calls or emails to deal with.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoy my co-workers and really couldn't ask for better people to work with. But most days, I need the reminder that I have stuck just under my computer screen.

People are not interruptions to my work; people are part of my work.

This afternoon, for one of the few times ever, I ended up with an hour of uninterrupted quiet. The rest of the the office was doing some training on a computer program I'm rather familiar with.

It was strange to be sitting in an office that was so quiet. They were just down the hall, but for that hour no one came to my office door, my phone didn't ring, and I didn't get any emails. Exactly what I've wished for sometimes.

And by the end of that hour, I was wishing for someone to come by my office. I was tired of the uninterrupted quiet. I wasn't used to it at work and it wasn't all that I thought it would be.

As I was driving home today, I started thinking about it and how that experience reflected on life at a greater scale.

How often do we wish for something? Thinking that if we just get that one thing we'll enjoy it fully. Only to find that once we get that, it isn't all that we thought it would be.

There are many things like this in life. We wish for some item, some relationship, some opportunity. Only to find ourselves wanting more when we actually get that.

Maybe we need to change our thinking. Instead of focusing on what we want, we need to focus on making the most of what we have.

At work I'd gotten to the point of focusing on how I wanted that uninterrupted quiet, when maybe I should have been focusing on the good in my job even when I have what can seem like interruptions to my work. People really are my work - not the tasks I have to complete. Because people - in this case - my coworkers are what makes my job enjoyable.

What about you? What are you focusing on that you wish you could have? What are you missing that you have right now because you're focusing on what you wish you could have?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

What Do You Believe About Yourself?

For about 9 months, I've been writing more consistently on this blog.

Sometimes I've felt like I have lots to say. Other times I've found it more difficult to write.

I've written some of my favourite posts in this time. And some that I look back on and wonder why I wrote them.

But there is one thing I've learned in doing this.

It makes a huge difference in how I approach what I put up here to call myself a writer.

That might seem like a strange concept to some. In the traditional sense of having a published book, I'm not a writer. At least some people would say I'm not.

But I read a quote a while ago that challenged me. I can't find the quote now, but it said that we become writers when we call ourselves one. Not when the world around us says we are.

It's about a change in thinking.

And like in so many other things, the way you think matters when it comes to writing.

It doesn't matter if I'm a good writer as much as if I believe I'm a writer. Obviously, I want to be a good writer, but that can come with practice.

It starts with believing I'm a writer because the way I think influences what I do.

This is a concept that applies in our spiritual lives as well.

The way we think about ourselves and our relationship with God affects the things we do in our walk with God.

If we believe and constantly tell ourselves we'll never be able to live in victory in an area of our lives, we won't find victory in that area. We'll find ourselves stuck in the pattern we want to break.

But if we fill our minds with God' truth - that with His help we can live in victory over whatever it is, we will find that it becomes possible to do that.

It all starts with what we're telling ourselves. Because what we tell ourselves and believe about ourselves is how and what we live.

How do you think about yourself? What do you believe about yourself?

Is it in line with the truth about you and the life you can live? Or does it need to change?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Do You Take Care of Yourself?

I spent a couple of days last week in a Mental Health First Aid course. It was interesting and I learned a lot. But there was one concept that kept coming up, that really made me think.

Over and over through-out the course, there was an emphasis on self-care. The idea that we can only help others in their times of need if we're looking after ourselves. If we're always giving and not doing things to recharge, then we're eventually going to have problems giving to other people because we have nothing left to give.

As I walked away from the course, I started thinking about how this idea applies when it comes to other areas of life. It's important for all sorts of things in life.

One of the things that came to mind for me has to do with this blog. If I'm not taking the time to read things others write and to write things no one will see, then I have nothing to give when I write here. That's a little example.

Another thought that came to mind has to do with serving in ministry in the church. I love what I do with leading and helping with women's Bible studies. I love serving the women in my church in this way. But, if I'm not taking time to spend reading my Bible and growing in my relationship with God outside what I do to prepare for that, I don't have much, if anything, to give when I'm involved in those Bible studies.

And if I'm not spending time with friends who I can really talk to and share more details about what's going on in my life, then I don't have much in me to give when I notice a lady at Bible study seems to need someone to listen and care. Because I've been giving, but I haven't done anything to look after myself so I have something to give to others.

It makes me wonder why this is.

Why do we struggle so much with taking care of ourselves? Where does this idea that we need to always be giving come from?

I wonder if maybe it comes, at least partially, from a misunderstanding of what Jesus said in Matthew 22:34-40, where He is asked what the greatest commandment is. Jesus answers this way,

"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." (vs.37-29, NIV, emphasis mine)

It's that second part that we need to stop and think about it a bit, I think.

We get the loving God with everything we have part. We even understand about loving others. But, I know for a long time I missed all that Jesus said when He talked about loving our neighbours. Jesus didn't just say were to love our neighbours. He said we were to love our neighbours as we love ourselves.

It's natural to love ourselves and to think of ourselves. We end up in trouble when we do it to exclusion of everything and everyone else. But, maybe we need to take that love we have for ourselves and learn how to love others with it, without ignoring ourselves and our own needs in the process.

We've gotten good at loving others, but in the process we've trained ourselves to put our needs on the shelf and ignore them. But we can only do that for so long before we find ourselves in trouble.

We can't let our needs and thinking of ourselves take over everything. We should be loving and serving those around us. But, I don't think that means we can never do anything for ourselves.

Sometimes we get to a point where we just need to get away from everything that everyone is asking of us. And that's not wrong. I just wonder if we've reached that point, if we've waited too long to start looking after ourselves.

What if we regularly scheduled things into our weeks and time into our lives to look after ourselves. so that we can give and serve others better the rest of the time?

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Rest

I'm trying something new this week. I'm linking up with Five Minute Friday. You can find it on Lisa-Jo Baker's blog. It's about writing on one topic for five minutes with no editing and then sharing it. You can read more about it on her blog.

Today's Word is Rest

Rest . . .

It seems to be something we often talk about wanting more of in our lives. We want it. But we can't seem to find it.

Maybe we never find it because we aren't serious enough when we say we want it to take the steps we need to actually find it. We're not really willing to make the necesary lifestyle changes it would require for us to find more rest.

What would happen if we did do whatever was necessary to find the time to rest that we say we need?

Would the world really stop? Would things really fall apart?

My guess is that we would find that things keep going, even if we stop. At least most things would.

And if they stop just because we decide to rest instead, maybe they weren't that important to anyone else either. So, why were we spending our time doing them when we really needed to rest?

Rest is important. We all know that we can't keep going forever. But I think sometimes we try to do so. It seems like what we're expected to do. But those expectations just might be our own, not others. Chances are other people won't notice to nearly the degree we think they will.

So, maybe we need to get specific about steps we can take to find the right amount of rest in our lives. Rather than just talk about it, we need to do something.

You can find the link to today's Five Mintue Friday post here.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Are You Hiding in Plain Sight?

How often do you try to hide how you are really doing from others?

When someone asks you how you're doing. do you always answer with "fine"? Or do you let other people know when you're not fine? And when things are really good?

In the last couple of weeks, I've been a part of a few conversations about how we so often don't let others in. We keep the things that are really going on in our lives to ourselves and share them with nobody.

We know we shouldn't do that. We know it's not good to do that. But we seem to struggle to find a place to share those things.

The question, "How are you?" has become a passing greeting with no real intent of hearing how someone is doing. And I think we're suffering for it.

I'm someone who is good at hiding - except for from those closest to me. But to your average person, if I don't want you to know things are anything less than perfect in my life, you'll have no idea. It's a "skill" I've spent many years practicing. But it's not one I want to continue in my life.

That brings me to my next question: How do we change this? Is there something we can do to change this way of thinking and answering questions about how we're doing?

I would say there is. I have some friends who challenged me on this in my own life. And while I still hide in plain sight from people at times, I have learned and am continuing to learn how to stop doing this.

It's been almost eight years since I first headed off to Bible college and entered the reality of dorm life. At that point in my life, I always told people outside of my family that life was good . . . great . . . even if things were anything but. I could put up the facade of the good Christian life well and that's exactly what I did.

Except when you're going to be living in a dorm with 22 other people and sharing a room with one of them for eight months, you realize very quickly you can't live that way. I did try . . . for about a month. And I was tired at the end of that first month from that.

But, I had a couple of friends in my dorm who didn't seem content to just let me keep living that way. They would ask me how I was doing and I would answer "fine" and they would ask me if I really was fine. They never pushed beyond that if I didn't want to go there, but the simple question of "are you really fine?" made me stop and think. And over time, they played a role in breaking that wall down.

I realized that maybe never telling people how I was really doing, wasn't the best way to live. And these friends from Bible college didn't just push me on how I answered that question, they were honest about their own lives and made it a safe place in conversation with them for me to share what was really going on.

So, I know that it is true that we can change the tendency we may have to hide in plain sight. We can learn to stop hiding, at least with certain people.

And it starts with me. And you.

We have to start. Start small.

With people we already have some basis of a relationship with, start asking how they're really doing. Let them know you care about the truth. Rather than being satisfied with the generic "fine" create a place where they feel safe to share how they're really doing, by being honest about how you're really doing.

You don't have to go into all the detail to let people know your life isn't perfect. But by sharing a bit, you can open the door for them to do the same. And the change slowly begins to happen.

We stop hiding in plain sight.

Something I wrote a few years ago seems a fitting way to end this blog. I can't think of better words to use to say this:

So, all this has got me thinking about how good we, as the church, have gotten at hiding. Think about it for a moment . . . how many people sitting around you in a church service are really doing "fine" even though that's what they tell people . . . probably fewer than would admit it to someone else. We live in a culture that prides itself on being self-sufficient individuals and we don't want help from others with anything.

But, this journey that we are on as followers/disciples of Christ was not meant to be made alone. We were created to live in real community with one another. The kind of community that comes when we give people permission to really enter the mess that our lives are - when we allow them to be a part of our struggles, of our battles with sin, of our sorrows, of our joys. This doesn't happen when we hide behind a facade at church. This happens when we honestly answer the "How are you?" question. When we say that we are not doing very well, if that's the truth. When we say that we are doing well, if that's the truth.

Obviously, we don't have to pour out our entire life story to every person in the church. But, we need to stop being afraid of being real - of being honest about where we're at. All this hiding really does us no good. It causes us more harm because we're left to deal with everything on our own and sometimes it's just too big for us to carry it all on our own.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Power of Forgiveness

I recently saw something on a church sign that hasn't left me. I've found myself thinking about it often.

Forgiveness doesn't change the past,
but it enlarges the future.

The more I've thought about, the more I've realized the truth contained in those few words.

When we refuse to forgive, our world grows smaller. The longer we refuse to forgive, or the more people we refuse to forgive, the smaller our world grows. Because we stop being able to trust people. So we being to live isolated lives where we keep people at a distance - even those who were once close to us.

But when we choose to forgive, our future grows. We're no longer held back by what someone else said or did.We're free from them and have great opportunity to move forward. To move beyond what happened and see what God has for us. Our future is enlarged - both in potential relationships and potential opportunities.

All the good that forgiveness of others can bring into our lives, doesn't mean forgiveness is easy. It usually isn't. Forgiveness is hard because it goes beyond what we naturally want to do. It's counter-intuitive.

Thankfully, we don't have to do it on our own. We can ask God to help us forgive and He will. He is the ultimate example of forgiveness for and He wants the freedom forgiveness brings for us.

Forgiveness doesn't change the past,
but it enlarges the future.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Why I Love Summer Camp

Last night, I was at a fundraiser for the camp I spent every summer at growing up. I was reminded of why that camp will always be a place I love.

I still go there for retreats now, and as I turn down the dirt road to the camp each time the memories of all my times there come flooding back.

Years as a camper.
A few years as summer staff.
Family winter camp weekends.
Youth retreats.
Young adults retreats.
Women's retreats.

Each and everyone specific memories of things we did and things I learned. Experiences that helped to make me into the person I am today. Times God spoke to me and challenged me and encouraged me.

Games and activities of all kinds.
Running through the bush.
Canoeing and kayaking.

Blowing up snowmen with things we probably weren't supposed to have at the youth retreat.

Friendships begun or grown.

Next steps taken in my walk with God.
New understanding of things God says in His Word.
Clear messages of what God has for me in the future.

Opportunities to learn new things and try new things. Safe place to take the chance to step out and do things I'd never done before.

I'm sure without the time I spent at this camp, God could have found other ways to show me and teach me the same things. But all these things happening in this one place make it a pretty special place in my life.

As I heard stories last night about what God is still doing there and the direction the camp is heading now, I was again excited about this place. I know God is still working in lives through it.

Really what is special about it, is that it's away from home. There's something about getting away from our busy lives to a place where even my cell phone still doesn't work that makes it easier to hear God and gives opportunity for new friendships to be formed.

I wonder if there is a way we can make that space in our current lives for that to happen. Not replace the times away, but to supplement them. To make these experiences go beyond a few hours or days.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Jesus Says, "I Am"

Then Jesus declared, "I am the Bread of Life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."
John 6:35
When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, "I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
John 8:12
Therefore Jesus said again, "Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. . . . I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved."
John 10:7&9
"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. . . . I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me."
John 10:11&14
Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live; even though they die."
John 11:25
Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
John 14:6
"I am the vine, and my Father is the gardener. . . . I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."
John 1:1&5
I'm doing a Bible study on the life of John, the disciple of Christ, and in last week's homework, we started looking at some of the things He's written in Scripture. These seven "I Am" statements are recorded in the Gospel John wrote.
Spoken by Jesus, they contain some incredible truths about who Jesus is and what He came to do for us. I think when we really begin to understand what Jesus was saying when He said these things, it can change the way we live our lives.
Jesus is the Bread of Life. He satisfies our hunger and thirst. Jesus isn't talking about physical needs for food and water. He is talking about His ability to satisfy our spiritual needs. We can take all of our needs to Him.
Jesus is the Light of the world. He gives light to the path that we are to walk, so that our next step is clear as we walk, following Him.
Jesus if the gate for the sheep. A gate is how you enter something and it can be closed behind you for protection. Jesus is the way we get salvation. And as the gate, He provides the safety that keeps us once we're saved.
Jesus is the Good Shepherd. Sheep follow the shepherd's voice because they know it. We learn to follow Jesus' voice as we learn just how much He loves us.
Jesus is the resurrection and the life. He makes life exactly what we need it to be. Without Him, we are dead in our lives. But with Jesus, He makes us alive, even though we have died.
Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. He provides the way we get to the Father. He is the way we get to be with God.
Jesus is the vine we are attached to as His followers. We receive our life from Him alone. Without Him we won't produce any fruit.
Seven simple statements that can be life-changing if we embrace the truth they contain.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Follow Me

I've been working through a study on John - the disciple of Christ. The other day when I sat down to write I was thinking about what it must have been like for John as he experienced what it was like to walk with Jesus during His ministry on earth. The Gospel of John records the divinely inspired words that John was given to write to record the life and ministry of Jesus. But I got started thinking about what it would have felt like for John - what thought might have been going through his head as he lived this.

The following is my thoughts on what may have been going through John's minds as he experienced what is recorded in Scripture. My thoughts. My reflections on what someone in those situations must have been feeling. I share them to maybe get you to think and reflect on these events in a way you haven't before.

"Follow me," He said.

For some reason I chose to do so, even though I had no idea where we were going. Or even who He was for sure.

I've heard some things about Him. He was a Rabbi. But, why was He calling me?

My friends and my older brother were following Him. I left everything I knew behind to follow Him. Fishing was my life, but now I left the nets to follow Him.

I had no idea where we were going, or what to expect. If I'd known the details of all that was to come, I'm not sure I would have left it all to follow Him. Life was simpler then, as a fisherman. Little did I know how challenging things were about to come as I followed Him where He led.

The next three years of life with Him were filled with many things.

          People healed.
          Sight restored.
          People brought back from the dead.
          Thousands of people fed from just a few loaves and fishes.
          Peter walked on water.

Hard teaching.
          To be great you must be the servant of all.
          Love your enemies.
          You must give it all up to follow me.

Is He really the Messiah like He claims to be?

Why all this talk about Him being betrayed and crucified?

That's not what I was taught as a boy about the promised Messiah.

Sometimes this life following Him is hard. But, there's also something amazing about what I get to be a part of.

There is one night I don't think I'll ever forget.

We ate the Passover meal together. It was then that He told us Judas was going to betray Him - was going to turn Him over the the chief priest and Pharisees to be killed.

But that wasn't the worst of it. He also said that Peter would deny Him three times. I couldn't believe that. I didn't want to believe that. Not Peter! But that's what happened that night.

He was praying when they came fro Him. We were with Him. He didn't fight. He went with them, like He knew He couldn't choose to do anything different.

That was a long night. He stood before the High Priest and then before Pilate. He was sentenced to be crucified at the insistence of the crowds. Like a common criminal, when He had done nothing wrong.

I wanted to leave, but something kept me from doing that. I stood at the cross and watched Him die. With His mother.

I had left everything to follow Him. I was so confused. What would I do now?

As He requested from the cross, I took His mother into my home and cared for her like she was my own. It was the least I could do.

Wait! What's this news I'm hearing?

Mary Magdalene says He isn't in the tomb we placed Him in anymore. How could this be? What happened?

Peter and I raced to the tomb and discovered it really was empty. But, His burial clothes were still there, so no one had just moved His body. I don't understand.

We had become good friends. Those of us who followed Him. We were together when He appeared to us. He really did rise from the dead!

He really is the Messiah!

All that He said is making sense now. He knew it had to be this way. I'm overwhelmed with it all. Why did He choose me to be a part of this? What made me one to be a disciple?

I don't know it all, but this I know:
          He is the Messiah!
          He is the One we were waiting for!
          I'll live the rest of my life proclaiming that truth!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

God's Power to Overcome

"You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world." (1 John 4:4)

What reassurance! As God's children we have a power within us that can defeat anything the enemy sends our way. That means we have within us, the ability to stand against anything Satan sends to try to trip us up.

So, why does it seem like we always fall for things?

I wonder if sometimes this happens because of how we try to handle these situations. We set ourselves up to fall to the schemes of the evil one.

When Satan tries to trip us up, we try to avoid falling by what we can do ourselves.

We decide.

We try to use willpower.

We try to white-knuckle it through to the other side.

And that usually fails.

We try to do this ourselves, when that isn't how we were meant to make it through.

There's a reason why we were given the Holy Spirit when we chose to surrender everything to Christ. There's a reason why God has left us with His Word so we can know Him. There's a reason why God wants to have a relationship with us.

It's because that is what gives us the ability to stand against Satan's schemes. The Holy Spirit in us gives us the power to defeat Him.

We're not supposed to stand in our own strength. We're supposed to stand in God's strength. That's the only way we'll have victory.

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9)