Saturday, August 31, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Worship

Five Minute FridayIt may be Saturday, but I'm joining in on Five Minute Friday a day late this week. Usually we join in over at Lisa-Jo baker's blog for five minutes of writing on the given word for the week. No editing or over-thinking what you write. This week the post is over at (in)courage and the word is "worship."

What do you think of when you hear the word worship?

Standing between pews at church singing songs?

That might be the way we have often viewed worship. But it is so much more.

Worship is about the way we live. It's something that encompasses our every moment. It should be more than just something we do once a week.

We can worship God as we go through each day. The sunshine on our faces. The rain fall. The beauty of the world around us. There is so much reason to worship God at all times.

Worship is a way of life. Not something we go to once a week.

What do you think of when you hear the word worship?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Are You Known as a Gentle Person?

This is the second post in my series on Philippians 4:4-8. These verses contain some good thoughts on how to live. You can read the first post here.

"Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near." (Philippians 4:5)

In his letter to the Galatian church Paul tells us gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit - a result of the Holy Spirit in us. Here in Philippians, Paul is telling us that others should see our gentleness.

In our culture it can be tempting to hide any sort of gentleness. It's not see as anyway to get ahead or succeed in life.

Being gentle is a sign of caring for others and it should be evident in our lives as followers of Christ. Instead of hiding it, we need to allow it to show. We should be handling other people's emotions, thoughts, and feelings with caring and tenderness - with gentleness. That should be an evident marker of us all.

Paul also reminds us in this verse that the Lord is near. God is always with us. He is always going to be right there. We never have to wonder if He is, because He always is. We can count on that.

It is God being near that makes it possible for us to live the way the rest of the Bible tells us to live. If we had to do it on our own we would have a problem. But because God is near, we don't have to do it on our own and it is possible.

How are you doing at showing gentleness in how you deal with other people?
Do you live in the knowledge that God is always near and will never leave you?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Where do You Find Joy and Delight?

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 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.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellence or praiseworthy - think about such things."  (Philippians 4:4-8)

In these five verses out of his letter to the church at Philippi Paul covers a lot of ground. He offers some very practical advice for living as a follower of Christ.

This is part one in a series of posts on these verses.

"Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again: Rejoice!" (vs. 4)

Paul seems pretty adamant about rejoicing. He repeats the same command twice in this verse.

Rejoice isn't a word we use everyday, so what does it mean? Rejoice means "to be glad, to take delight in; to make joyful."

Joy and delight are important in our lives. We need them to really live. Without them life could get pretty mundane and quite depressing.

There's a reason Paul is so adamant about these things - we need them. But it is just as important where we find our joy and delight. We need to find it in the Lord.

Why in the Lord?

Because He never changes. And He will never fail us, so we can always find joy and delight there.

Are you finding joy and delight in your life?
What are you finding them in?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Does God Still Speak to us Today?

When I was watching one of my favourite TV shows earlier today, a conversation on it made me start thinking. The family on the show is Catholic and discussions about faith are a regular part of the show. In this particular episode they were talking about whether God speaks and people can hear from Him. Some people in the family said He does and some people said He doesn't.

It got me started thinking about how we approach this in our own lives. Do we think that God still speaks to us? Or do we think that we talk to Him and He doesn't talk to us back?

I would say that Scripture makes it clear that God does speak to us today. And much of church history would tell us the same thing. Personal experience can too.

I began to wonder if the difference in whether we think God speaks to us today or not comes from how we approach it. If we go into it thinking God doesn't speak, then we're not going to stop and listen for His voice. But if we go into it thinking that God can and does speak to us, then we'll be listening for His voice.

I think we sometimes struggle with the idea of God speaking because it's not like sitting across the table and having someone say something to us. If God did that, I don't think we would have any question about whether God speaks to us today.

But, that's not what happens. We have to learn to recognize God's voice and how He speaks to us.

My biggest question when it comes to God speaking to us today has always been "How do I know it's actually God speaking?"

We learn to recognize God's voice better as we listen for it. If we don't take the time to listen, we'll never learn to recognize it.

How are you doing at taking the time to listen? Are you starting to recognize God's voice when He is speaking to you?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Last

It's that time again. Joining in with Five Minute Friday over at Lisa-Jo Baker's blog. Five minutes of writing on a given word. No overthinking or major editing. Just sharing what comes in those five minutes of writing. This week's word is "last."

It was that time again.

Her least favourite time of all.

They were picking teams for kickball on the playground.

"Please don't let me be the last one picked again." She prayed silently. No one wants to be the last one left.

She was always the last one chosen. And it always made her feel like she wasn't valued. Like nobody cared if she was there or not.

She was waiting for the team captains to choose who they wanted. The number of people standing with her slowly dwindled. Until that dreaded moment . . .

Only two people were left. Her and another girl. Neither of them wanted to be the last one left. Being the last one left means you weren't really chosen. The team you ended up on was really just stuck with you.

Like usual she was the last one left. Everyone else was chosen. She was just the last person left behind that one team got stuck with.

Later that day as she was walking home, she was down about always being the last one left. Maybe she just wouldn't even try to play next time they were picking teams. It might be easier to just avoid that situation altogether.

But as she walked, she heard a voice speak inside her heart. "They may not have chosen you. But I did."

She knew that all from Sunday school. She had heard it all before. But this was the first time it was personal. The first time she knew it was being said to her.

God was speaking to her. God was bringing healing to her heart. In His world, she wasn't last. In His eyes, she wasn't the last one loved or chosen. He wasn't stuck with her. He chose her first. That was a game-changer.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Restoring What Was Stolen

"At that time I will gather you;
          at that time I will bring you home.
I will give you honour and praise
          among all the peoples of the earth
when I restore your fortunes
          before your very eyes.
                         says the Lord."
                                    (Zephaniah 3:20)

These words are the end of God's promise to restore a remnant of Israel as recorded by the prophet Zephaniah. God's judgement wasn't going to completely destroy them - a remnant would be left. Once God brought them back from where they had been scattered by their enemies, He was going to restore what they had before.

For the last few days I've been pondering the last couple of lines of what God says in this verse, "when I restore your fortunes before your very eyes." I started to see a parallel in our lives as Christians today.

God's promise to Israel in this verse was very much about the physical world. He was promising to restore their land to them.

But for us I think the concept of restoration can have a spiritual implication. God doesn't restore physical wealth to us, but He does restore to us things Satan has stolen from us.

John 10:10 says, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."

We have an enemy that comes to take whatever he can from us in our spiritual lives. He steals our freedom by keeping us entangled in sin when we allow him in.

But when Jesus came to earth, He broke those chains and set us free. He paid the ultimate price to restore our freedom to us.

Satan tries to destroy life -
But Jesus came to restore that life.

God's promise to restore His people is still true today. He longs to restore to us the ground and the areas of our lives that the enemy has stolen from us.

Will you allow Him to do so in your life?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Living Well in the Waiting

The writers of Scripture talk often about waiting on God. And in Christian circles you will often hear people say they are waiting on God.

The truth is we spend a lot of our lives waiting on things and we don't do it well. In fact, we often wait very poorly - whether it's in an office for an appointment or in line at a store or in traffic on a busy road.

And that can translate into how we wait for God as well. We don't do waiting on God well despite how much we talk about doing exactly that. Sometimes we get impatient and we decide to just do things ourselves our way. Or we get complacent and we do nothing while we wait.

Neither of these are what Scripture means when it talks about waiting. Often Scripture puts the idea of waiting with expecting and answer from God or expecting God to do something. And it definitely doesn't say that waiting is a time to sit back and do nothing.

So, what should waiting look like then? How are we supposed to wait?

When we're waiting on God for His timing for something there are three things that we should be doing.

1) God doesn't always give us the whole picture at once. We need to be doing what we already know to do while we wait for more from God.

2) Waiting well also requires us to trust God. We have to trust that God has the answer and that He has a plan. We have to trust that God will come through.

3) Finally, waiting well requires that we listen. We have to actually be listening for when God speaks. If we're not listening for His voice all our waiting may be in vain because we'll miss when God comes with His answer that we've been waiting for.

How are you doing at waiting?

What does waiting usually look like for you?

Are you currently waiting on God for something?

Are you doing what you already know to do while you're waiting?

Are you trusting God?

Are you listening carefully so you hear God when He tells you what you're waiting for and brings an end to your waiting?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Whole-Hearted Obedience

I've been spending time in Psalm 119 the last few months. During that time I've noticed a theme that keeps coming up. That of whole-hearted obedience to God's Word. Not a half-hearted kind of thing, but an all in kind of thing.

Not all of them use the words whole-hearted, but many verses talk of the concept.

"Blessed are those whose ways are blameless . . ." (vs. 1) - I've also heard this one translated as, "Happy are those who are whole-hearted in the way . . ."

"You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed . . ." (vs. 4)

"My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times." (vs. 20)

"Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart." (vs. 34)

". . . I have promised to obey your word." (vs. 57)

"I keep your precepts with all my heart." (vs. 69)

"May I wholeheartedly follow your decrees." (vs. 80)

"My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end." (vs. 112)

"I call with all my heart; answer me, Lord, and I will obey your decrees." (vs. 145)

"I obey your statutes, for I love them greatly." (vs. 167)

The psalmist didn't desire a partial obedience to God's Word. The psalmist wanted to give God everything and follow His ways completely.

As I've been reading this and studying this, I've found myself thinking about how I want that for myself to. I don't want to just sort of follow God. I wanted to be all in.

And when I look at the teaching of Jesus and of the other founders of the early church, I think that's what they are calling us to as well. To be all in. To give God everything.

God wants us to obey what He says completely. If we don't follow completely what God says, then we're not obeying God at all. God calls us to give us it all.

So, how are you doing at whole-hearted obedience? Is it something you desire? Is it how you live?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Stop Making Excuses for Not Getting Involved

I recently read a post on another blog about the idea of being attached to a church rather than just attending one. I've been thinking about it since.

I've always been frustrated with people who claim to be believers, but also say they have no use for the church. How can you say you belong to the family of God and then, in the same breath, say you have no use for your brothers and sisters in that family? It doesn't make sense to me.

Scripture makes it pretty clear that we were created to need other people. Right from creation God knew it wasn't good for Adam to be alone and changed that by creating Eve. As you read through Scripture it become pretty clear that doing life together was the norm - both for Israel in the Old Testament and for the early church in the New Testament.

The writer of Hebrews puts it this way,
"And let us consider how we may spur one another towards love and good deeds, not by giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another."
(Hebrews 10:24-25, NIV 2011, emphasis mine)
I don't think it could be any clearer than this.

As Christians we need to be part of a larger group of Christians. A church (gathering of with other believers) where we worship together, learn together, encourage one another, challenge on another. We weren't made to be lone ranger Christians.

And that's where the difference between attending a church and attaching yourself to a church comes in. Just attending a church does little to foster what Scripture speaks about. To actually "spur one another on towards love and good deeds" and encourage one another we have to get involved. There's no other way for it to happen.

Now, by this point I've probably upset a few of you. You might be wishing you could tell me your own story of hurt from the church and how that's why you're not attached to a church right now. You might be thinking that I don't understand. I don't know your story. I don't know what happened to you. You're right about that.

But, I do know what it's like to be hurt by a church - or, more accurately, by the broken people who make up a church. My story of it may be different in details from yours, but I've been there. It would have been much easier to just walk away when it happened. But looking back, I'm glad I didn't. I'm glad I worked through it instead.

Or maybe by this point, I've made you mad. For whatever your reasons are, you see things differently when it comes to the church. I hope you'll at least consider what I'm saying.

There is a reason why I haven't given specific details about what a church to be attached to looks like. I can't tell you exactly what your church should be. But I will say that you need one - big or small, structured or un-structured. If you're not regularly meeting with other believers for more than just social activities, something vital is missing in your walk with God.

Whatever the case, you can't slip in late and sit in the back row before slipping out as soon as it's over without talking to anyone and expect to find the community you need - the community that you were made to need. You can't turn the alarm off and go back to sleep every weekend instead of going to church and expect to find the community you need - the community you were made to need.

You have to be there. And you have to get involved. You have to invest yourself. You have to attach yourself to a group of believers by doing more than just showing up.

The rewards for doing so are worth it. Even if it hurts sometimes. Even if its messy or hard sometimes.

We were made for it.

And Scripture tells us and models for us that we need it.

Stop making excuses for why you're not.

If you claim to be a Christian, then you need to be attached to a community of believers for the long haul - through the good times and the bad.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What God Requies of Us

"He has shown you, o man, what is good,
          And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
          and to walk humbly with your God."
                                     Micah 6:8

This verse gave us the words for a song we often sang at summer camp when I was a kid. It was always one of my favourite songs. And it still is.

In one verse, the prophet Micah gives a pretty good summary of how God wants us to live. The principles of what God requires in this verse are repeated in various forms though-out Jesus' teaching and that of other writer's of the New Testament.

"To act justly . . ."

Acting justly is about treating people fairly and honestly. Not seeking for someone to get what they deserve for their actions. It's about treating people the same no matter their social status or how you feel about them personally.

". . . to love mercy . . ."

Mercy is about not getting what is deserved. We're told to love mercy in this verse. To love people getting another chance. To love allowing people to try again.

". . . to walk humbly . . ."

Scripture makes it pretty clear that pride is often someone's downfall. Humility is what God desires from us. Those in Scripture who walked in humility are the ones who God has given us as examples of how we should live.

". . . with your God."

These final three words are the most important of all. Acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly are useless if they don't happen with God. We need Him as we walk this life and live how Scripture tells us to.

Doing it with God is the key to anything in our lives. With God it's possible. Without Him it's not possible.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Importance of Spiritual Discipline

A few days ago I wrote about the danger of legalism. I've been thinking about the balance in our Christian lives since then.

We don't want to fall into legalism. But that doesn't mean spiritual discipline doesn't have it's place.

Spiritual discipline is important. The habits that we develop are what help us to grow in our relationship with God.

There are times in our lives where we want to spend time with God. Where the attitudes and motives of why you do those things are all about bringing glory and praise to God.

But what about those times we all have in life where we just don't want to do those things? Is it legalism then if we keep on doing them even though we don't want to?

Sometimes, it's the habits we develop in the times we feel like doing those things, that carry us through the times when we don't feel like doing them. Sometimes we need the habits to keep us going.

Continuing those habits when we don't feel like it isn't necessarily legalism. Spiritual discipline is important as we walk through the seasons of life. Spiritual discipline keeps us going.

It all comes down to the reason why we keep doing those things.

Are we doing them because we want things to change and we want to keep growing in our relationship with God?

Or, are we doing them because we think that if we keep doing them when we don't feel like it because we think that will earn us God's approval and favour?

Friday, August 9, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Lonely

After a few weeks off from it, I'm getting back with Five Minute Friday over at Lisa-Jo Baker's blog. Five minutes of writing what comes. No editing or overthinking it this time. Today's word is "lonely."

Sometimes I wonder if the way our lives have changed have made us lonely.

We text.

We Facebook.

We email.

We tweet.

But when do we actually sit down across from each other and talk?

In our instant communication, we have stopped going deeper with one another.

But, the truth is we were made for community. We were made to really know each other. We were made to allow people to know who we really are.

So, by choosing to stay with instant communication, I wonder if we're missing something. And I think that explains why people are so lonely these days. We don't have the connection we need, and so we feel lonely.

We feel lonely because this isn't how we were made to live.

When was the last time you sat down with a friend and really talked about how you are both doing?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Danger of Legalism

For the summer I've been reading the Old Testament and I've been struck by a theme that keeps coming up. Over and over again, God is calling Israel to return to Him. And it's more than just a call to start doing the right things.

God is calling Israel to return to Him with their hearts. With their attitudes and their motives.

God doesn't want them to do the right things just because they are the right things. He wanted them to do the right things because they wanted to do the right things.

"I want you to show love,
          not offer sacrifices.
I want you to know Me
          more than I want burnt offerings."
                                                                                   (Hosea 6:6, NLT)

In this verse, God is calling for Israel to return to Him with their hearts. He doesn't want their sacrifices and offerings, unless they're flowing from a heart that wants to do them.

God wants them to show true love to each other. God wants His people to know Him - to spend time on their relationship with Him.

I believe this is the same thing God wants for us today. He wants us to do the right things because we love Him and know Him. He wants our attitudes and our motives for what we do to flow form our relationship with Him.

When our hearts are no longer a part of what we do, it can be easy to fall into the trap of legalism. We do the right things to earn God's approval and favour. It becomes all about actions.

And legalism slowly kills us. When we're doing things because we're supposed to, we miss out on what God really has for us - the life He really wants us to live.

Legalism will never satisfy us. And it will always end in defeat.

That's why God tells us over and over that it's our heart that matters. If we're doing something because of where our heart is at, then it will bring us life.

If our attitudes and our motives are about bringing glory to God and knowing Him more, then the things we do will bring us life.

If our attitudes and our motives are about doing the right things - legalism - then the things we do will bring us death.

Why are you doing what you're doing in your relationship with God?

If you're straying into legalism, then maybe you need to be honest with God and ask Him to change your heart. That is His specialty - but He won't force it on us.

That's the best part of this all - Just because we've been living one way doesn't mean it can't change. We can turn to God with all our hearts, even if that's not how we have been living.

How is your heart?

Sunday, August 4, 2013


Sometimes it seems like life goes in seasons. Some we feel really alive and some we don't. That can be a way we describe our walks with God.

For most of my life I would get frustrated when the season of my walk with God seemed more like winter. I didn't understand why those times existed. I thought they were a waste of time in our lives.

But, then I started to notice something that happens in nature with the changing of the seasons. In winter things die or go into hibernation. They often get covered by the snow. And then spring comes. With spring comes new growth. Things bloom again.

I began to see that it's similar to what happens in our walks with God. After those seasons where things felt dead is when the new growth began. It's when God began to do new things.

And when my perspective changed on those things, is when I stopped getting frustrated with those times. It doesn't mean I like them. I still wish there was a way to avoid them. But seeing them as the precursor to God doing something new makes them easier to walk through.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Why Jesus Came

"The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
     because the LORD has anointed me
     to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
     to proclaim freedom for the captives
     and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the LORD's favour
     and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
     and provide for those who grieve in Zion -
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
     instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
     instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
     instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
     a planting of the LORD
     for the display of His splendor.
They will rebuild the ancient ruins
     and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
     that have been devastated for generations.
                                        -Isaiah 61:1-4

These words of the prophet Isaiah are also the words that Jesus used to announce His ministry. In Luke 4, Jesus reads these words. "Then He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on Him. He began by saying to them, Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." (Luke 4:20-21).

Isaiah spoke these words to Israel as prophecy of what God would do. Jesus announced that He had come as the fulfillment of this prophecy. It would have been quite shocking to the people in the Temple that day to hear Jesus claim He was the fulfillment of this prophecy.

This passage from Isaiah has long been a favourite of mine. It speaks of the incredible things that God can do in the lives of those who are willing to allow Him in.

Jesus came to bring the good news of our salvation.

Jesus came to bring healing to wounded and broken hearts.

Jesus came to bring freedom to those who were held captive by sin.

Jesus came to release people from the darkness that held them back.

Jesus came to bring comfort to those who were mourning.

Jesus came to replace ashes with a crown of beauty.

Jesus came to give us a reason to praise instead of mourn.

Jesus came to do all of this so that we would be reflections of God's splendor.

The image of being oaks of righteousness intrigues me. How often do we talk about " mighty oak trees"? It's a picture of something strong and beautiful. That's what this Scripture tells us Jesus came to make us.

When Jesus comes in our lives to do all of this it is for something important. The ruins of what once was good and has been destroyed will be rebuilt. Those places that have long been left to fall apart will be brought into the light once again.

Jesus didn't come to do all these things so we would live the same old lives. He came to do all these things so we could live the life we were created to live.

A life that reflects Who God is and what He has done.

A life that points to Him in every way.