Friday, February 28, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Choose

We all choose things every day. We can choose what matters to us. We can act on those things that we choose. What we choose depends on what we have decided is important.

In the moment, it's not always easy to choose what is really important. We can get caught up in what seems most urgent at the time, and that may not always be the most important to us. But, we all know that it's easy to do that.

To choose what is the most important no matter what is vying for our attention requires that we be intentional. We have to intentionally choose what is most important, rather than go with what is most urgent.

It's not easy, but it is the best way to live. When we choose the most important, we live a life with no regrets.

In that moment at work when someone else comes to my office door, how will I respond? If I've decided that people are the most important, then that person at the door should get my attention. But, sometimes they come when I have other deadlines or things I want to get done. I can get caught up in the task I need to get done that seems more urgent. Or I can choose to give the person at my office door some time and listen, because I've chosen to make people the most important. The second choice is an intentional one.

How are you doing at choosing what is most important? Have you decided what is most important in your life?

Joining in with  Five Minute Friday again. This week the word is "choose."

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Message of Freedom

          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 broken-hearted,
                    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 for our God,
          to comfort all who mourn,
                    and to 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 rebuild the ruined cities
                    that have been devastated for generations.
                                                                           (Isaiah 66:1-4)

These words were originally written to a nation in captivity. They were declaring the hope to come when God brought them out of their captivity. It was pointing towards a better future for them.

The first part of this passage is well-known because Jesus quoted the words as the beginning of His public ministry (see Luke 4:18-19). These words form the basis for what Jesus did while He was on earth ministering.

When Jesus quoted these words at the beginning of His public ministry, He also declared that what is spoken in these verses is available to us in our lives today. We can learn the reality of it for how we live today.

"The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me because the Lord has anointed me" (vs. 1)

God desires for us to know the reality spoken of in these verses in our lives. That's why He sent Jesus to us and why Jesus used these words as a declaration of what His ministry on earth was all about.

"to proclaim good news to the poor" (vs. 1)

Jesus' entire message was one of good news to those in need. We are all in need of God's freedom in our lives. The message that God brings of the availability of that freedom is good news. Because we are in need of it, we are the poor that the message is for.

This passage goes on to talk about the specifics of what this good news is and what it means for our lives. It will take a few more posts to really delve into it all.

As we go, you will see that we have to get involved in it to experience what is being talked about. If these words are going to make a difference in our lives, it will require us to do something.

It's not passive - it's active. It's not anything we achieve by human effort, but to live in it does require that we get moving.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Be Present With

If we pay attention, we notice that most of Jesus' ministry was about being with people. Yes, He was a great teacher and He performed some incredible miracles, but much of what Jesus did was about simply being with people.

Jesus allowed Himself to be moved by the lives of the people He interacted with. The lives of His disciples. The lives of His friends. The lives of those in the crowds around Him. Compassion flows from Him as He is with these people.

Jesus was Present with His Friends

One of my favourite examples from Jesus' life on this is how He responded when He saw Mary and Martha after Lazarus had died. John 11:17-37 records this. Even though Jesus already knew He was going to raise Lazarus back to life, He will chose to enter into Mary and Martha's pain with them first.

John 11:35 simply records these words, "Jesus wept." Just a few verses before that, we read that Jesus "was deeply moved in spirit," (verse 33) when He saw Mary and Martha. Before He performed His miracle, He felt their pain. He came alongside them and was with them in their pain. Jesus was simply present with them.

Frederick Buechner describes this compassion this way:
"Compassion is sometimes the fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else's skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too."

This is what Jesus with in John 11 with Mary and Martha. He entered into their pain and was with them in. And, after He had done that, He raised Lazarus from the dead.

This account in Scripture is just one example of Jesus being present with people in the midst of their pain and then their joy. It was Jesus' lifestyle.

Be Present

And as His followers, we are called to live this way as well. To be present with people in the midst of their pain and their joy. Being present doesn't mean we come in as someone with all the answers, it means we are simply with people in the midst of what is going on. We sit with them, listen to them, cry with them, laugh with them, and celebrate with them.

We often find it easier to laugh and celebrate with people. It's more comfortable. It's the part of life we prefer.

We tend to shy away from the pain of others, even though we notice it all around us. It's uncomfortable. If we're trying to avoid it in our lives, why would we enter into it in someone else's life?

But, if we're going to follow Jesus' example of really being present with people, we can't ignore the pain. In fact, I've learned that we celebrate the joy in people's lives more when we've also noticed and been present in the pain of people's lives. "Noticing pain is a path to noticing love." (Tad Dunne).

Being present with people. Having compassion for them. It's what we're called to as followers of Christ. It isn't easy, but it is the example Jesus set for us.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Adventures with God

"Our relationship with Jesus is messy, intimate, and beautiful all at the same time. Often He take us on those dangerous adventures just to strip away everything but Himself. From there, He'll show us that He is writing a bigger and far more beautiful story than we could ever have imagined." (Mandy Hale, "The Single Woman")

Adventures with God . . .

They sound fun to talk about. And often they are.

Let Go & Trust

But an adventure with God requires us to trust God completely.

We have to let go of control. Let go of knowing what the outcome will be. Let go of knowing even what is beyond the next step.

When we do that, then we truly get to participate with God in the adventure He has for us to take with Him. When God is all that we have left, that is when we really get to know God.

And it's when God is all we have left, that we begin to see the incredible story of our lives God is writing for us. But we have to let go of control to learn this.

Messy, Intimate, Beautiful

This is how our relationship with Jesus can be messy, intimate, and beautiful all at once.

Messy because we've let go of control.

Intimate because we are in a position of having to depend completely on God for absolutely everything.

Beautiful because the picture of a life so closely lived with Jesus is exactly what we were created for.

It's when we choose to step out with God, that we live such a life of adventure. That's when we get to be a part of the bigger story God is writing.

Where in your life is God inviting you to join Him on an adventure?

Are you willing to step out when all you know is the next step you have to take?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

God's Words Have Power

     As the rain and the snow
          come down from heaven,
     and do not return to it
          without watering the earth
     and making it bud and flourish,
          so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
     so is My word that goes out from my mouth:
          It will not return to Me empty,
     but will accomplish what I desire
          and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
                                                          (Isaiah 55:10-11)

God's words have power.

The Hebrew word that we translate as "word" here is more than just what our Bibles say. It also speaks to words that God may speak to us.

These verses then remind us that God's word - both in Scripture and when He speaks to us through other ways - has power, purpose, and meaning.

When God speaks something, what he intends to happen because of those words will happen. These verse makes that pretty clear.

We can see how God's words had power over and over as we read Scripture. When God spoke and said that something would happen, it did. It starts with the creation account in Genesis where God spoke everything into being.

This means that when God speaks to us regarding something for our lives, what He has determined will happen. We have a choice in whether we cooperate with what God says, but what He says will happen.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Sacred Space

"Though our bodies and souls may become ravaged, yet we continue to be God's temple - at times a temple in ruins, but a sacred space nonetheless." (Miroslav Volf)

This quote wouldn't leave my mind after I heard it a few days ago. Something about it wouldn't let go. I think because there is suck incredible truth in it.

In the Old Testament the Temple was a sacred space. It was carefully built and cared for. It had a place of honour among God's people - Israel. When the Temple was in ruins after Israel had been in captivity, it was important enough that given the opportunity, they rebuilt the Temple. The Temple was God's dwelling place on earth.

We Are God's Dwelling Place

The New Testament tells us that we are now God's temple - that our bodies are the temple of God on earth. Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit was coming for all believers (John 16). In Acts, we see the Holy Spirit coming on all the believers gathered before they are sent out. We are now God's dwelling place on earth.

Sometimes life on earth gets hard and things get messy. And that means our lives as God's temple can be in ruins.

The challenge comes in what we do when it seems like our lives are in ruins.

Will we run from God?

Or will we choose to worship God in the midst of the hard and messy times in our lives?

Choosing to Worship

When we choose to worship God in the midst of the mess and ruins of our lives, then our lives are sacred space. Sacred space can occur everywhere we choose to worship God in the midst of whatever is going on.

It doesn't have to be a perfect place to be a sacred space. In fact, sometimes the most sacred of spaces is in the midst of the biggest messes or the hardest struggles we've ever faced. All because we choose to worship God in the midst of it.

What is the mess or hard time in your life right now?

Are you choosing to worship in the midst of it?

Where is the sacred space in your life right now?

"Though our bodies and souls may become ravaged, yet we continue to be God's temple - at times a temple in ruins, but a sacred space nonetheless." (Miroslav Volf)

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Prayer Changes Us

Prayer . . .

For all our talk about it in Christian circles and all that has been written about it, I sometimes wonder if we get it yet. Or if there will always be something about it we don't fully understand.

Why Do We Pray?

What is the purpose of prayer?

I think we all have our own answers to those questions. The ones from what we've been taught about prayer. The ones from our own experiences with prayer.

And they're probably some pretty good answers too. But are they the complete answer to what prayer is and why we pray? Probably not.

I came across a quote by C.S. Lewis that I felt answered these questions clearly and succinctly.

"I pray because I can't help myself. I pray because I'm helpless. I pray because the need flows out of meal the time - waking or sleeping. It does not change God - it changes me."

We pray because we can't help it. We pray because we need God's help. But most of all we pray because it changes us, not God.

When we take the time to bring our requests to God and listen to what He has to say to us, the more things in our lives begin to line up with God's plan.

Ultimately, prayer changes us. It brings our will in line with God's will. The final three words of C.S. Lewis' quote sum it up pretty well: "it changes me." Whatever the situation, when we cry out to God, He will be there. He will meet the need we have. And often, He will change us through those prayers so that what we are asking for is what His will is already.

Why Do You Pray?

What are the reasons you personally pray?

What has been your experience with prayer in your own life?

Have you allowed God to change you through your prayers?

"I pray because I can't help myself. I pray because I'm helpless. I pray because the need flows out of meal the time - waking or sleeping. It does not change God - it changes me." (C.S. Lewis)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Making God's Good Gifts Into False gods

I was studying the story of Israel making the golden calf found in Exodus 32 recently. As I dug deeper into the story I was stopped short by something I hadn't noticed before. And it made me stop and think for a while.

In Exodus 32:2 Aaron tells Israel to take off the gold earrings they are wearing and bring them to him. Verses 3-4 go on to say that these were used to make the make the golden calf that Israel worshipped.

God's Gift to Israel

It was a connection to where Israel got this gold from in the first place that stopped me. Israel was wandering in the desert. All they had was what they had taken them when God led them out of Egypt.

Exodus 12:35-36 says: "The Israelites did as instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. The Lord made the Egyptians favourably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for, so they plundered the Egyptians."

The gold that the Israelites gave Aaron to make the golden calf to worship instead of the true God in Exodus 32, came from this. They used the gold that God gave them from the Egyptians when they left to make an idol to worship.

They took God's good gift to them and made it into a false god that they then worshipped.

I hadn't made the connection until the study I was working through helped me to. My first thought on reading that was "ouch." A bit of a slap in the face for God from His people.

Turning God's Good Gifts Into Idols in Our Lives

I quickly realized how easily we do the same thing in our lives. Just as the Israelites did, we can easily take the good things God gives us and make them into false gods in our lives. We don't want to admit that's what we do, but if we get honest we can see how we do that.

As example would be when we take a job we have that we are good at. A job where the skills and ability to do it are good gifts we have been given by God. Instead of worshipping God in how we use those good gifts, we begin to focus on the skills and abilities we were given. Our lives being to revolve around them - we put them against God. We have taken God's good gift to us and make it into a false god that we're worshipping instead of God.

There are many areas of life we can do that. We can do it with our families, with money, with our possessions, with power. Whatever the area, the result is the same, we've put up a false god in our lives and are no longer worshipping the true God - even if we say differently.

Are there areas in your life where you have taken God's good gift to you and turned it into a false god?

If there is, we need to confess those to God and ask His forgiveness. Then we need to ask for His help to tear down that idol and put Him back in the right place in our lives. He will help us do that, if we ask Him.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Created Perfectly

Crisp and cold
Brilliant sun
Reflects off the snow
Blinding me as I walk
Crunching snow
Beneath my feet
Every breath a sharp reminder
Of the cold surrounding me
The world around me silent
All activity ceased
Creatures are seeking refuge
Looking for some warmth
But God speaks clearly
Through the silence
His voice calls out,
"Follow Me here"
I don't know where
My destination is
Just the next step
He's asking me to take
I trust Him fully
As He leads me
Going where He wants me to
Stopping where He tells me to
"Stop here," He said,
"And turn around
To take a look
At what you see"
"I created all you see
With great care
I took My time
To make it perfectly"
"I also created you
With great care
I took My time
To make you perfectly"

Sunday, February 9, 2014


Chosen by God
A place to belong
A place I'll always be welcome
A part of God's family
The world tells us we don't belong
The world tells us we have to conform
We have to fit their standards
We'll be alone if we don't
But God says He has chosen us
He has made us part of His family
We will always belong there
We don't have to be alone
Chosen by God
A place to belong
A place we'll always be welcome
A part of God's family

Friday, February 7, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Write

Joining in with the group over at Lisa-Jo Baker's blog for Five Minute Friday again this week. This week's word is "write."
Five Minute Friday: Bare

When you write, you put yourself out there. You put your thoughts and ideas out for the world to read. And you hope they take your words the way you meant them. You hope that your point was clear and there isn't any confusion.

To be a writer, you have to push beyond the fear. Beyond the fear that you have nothing to say. Beyond the fear that you're not good enough to write anything.

It's only when you step out and take the chance of putting yourself out there that you are able to share what you have to say. And sometimes there are people who will read what you write that need to hear what you have to say.

But for people to hear what you have to say, you have to risk being hurt. You have to risk being misunderstood. You have to risk being misquoted by others.

If your message is important to you, you will put yourself out there in the midst of fear and take the risk to share what you feel you need to share. And you will share it whether one person reads it or many more. The numbers of those who read it won't be important - knowing that you shared the message you had to share will be what is important.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Chosen by God

           "But you, Israel, My servant,
                    Jacob, whom I have chosen,
                    you descendants of Abraham My friend,
          I took you from the ends of the earth,
                    from its farthest corners I called you.
          I said, 'You are My servant',
                    I have chosen you and have not rejected you.
          So do not fear, for I am with you;
                    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
          I will strengthen you and help you;
                    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
                                                     Isaiah 41:8-10

These words were first written by the prophet Isaiah to Israel when they had wandered from God. God was reminding Israel, through the prophet Isaiah, of how much He loved them and how He had chosen them.

Israel was Chosen by God

Over and over in these verses, God reminds Israel that He has chosen them. Chosen them instead of any other group of people on earth. Israel was chosen as God's people. They were God's servants - chosen to do His will.

And because they were chosen by God, they had no reason to fear anything that would come their way. God would be with them. God would help them. God would uphold them.

This isn't the only place in Isaiah that has these words to say. It's a theme that is repeated over and over.

          "But now, this is what the Lord says -
                    He who created you, Jacob,
                    He who formed you, Israel:
          Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
                   I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
          When you pass through the waters,
                   I will be with you;
          and when you pass through the rivers,
                    they will not sweep over you.
          When you walk through the fire,
                   you will not be burned;
                   the flames will not set you ablaze.
          For I am the Lord your God,
                   the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
          I give Egypt for your ransom,
                    Cush and Seba in your stead.
          Since you are precious and honoured in My sight,
                    and because I love you,
          I will give people in exchange for you,
                    nations in exchange for your life.
                                                   Isaiah 43:1-4

God is the One Who created every person in Israel - His chosen people. He called each of them by name. They would have no reason to fear what came their way because God was with them. He loved them to the point that He would give up other nations to redeem them.

We Are Chosen by God

These words to Israel through the prophet Isaiah can be spoken to us as well.

God has also chosen us. He has not rejected us.

He leaves us with no reason to fear.

God will strengthen us for what comes our way.

God will help us if we are willing to let Him.

God will uphold us in the midst of anything.

God will walk with us through every challenge or hard time that comes our way.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

We're all Called to Hospitality

"A habit of hospitality is fundamental to our identity as Christians.
Our primary call is to live out the gospel;
a lifestyle of hospitality is part of that call.
For some of us, there will be a more particular call to a deliberate and focused expression of hospitality,
but for all of us hospitality is essential to who we are as followers of Christ."
(Christine Pohl)
I didn't like that quote the first time I read it. And, truth be told, I'm still not sure I'm a fan of it. It challenges me.
If I see hospitality as a spiritual gift . . . and one I don't have, then I'm off the hook. But, when I read this quote, I'm not off the hook.
Yes, some of us may have a special gift for it, but that doesn't mean the rest of us can ignore it. We all have a role to play as part of the church. We all have to be a part of it.
The more I think about this, the more I wonder if our problem with hospitality is that we think of it to narrowly.
How do You Define Hospitality?
What do you think of?
I think of having people over for a nice meal in a perfectly kept house. Or of the people who have the "job" of greeting people when they arrive at a church event.
But, what if that is only a small part of hospitality? And not even the most important part?
What if hospitality is something all of us can do no matter where we are?
The "life-style of hospitality" talked about in the quote - what is that?
Jesus' Life of Hospitality
Maybe we need to take a look at Jesus' life to see what hospitality is and should be. Jesus didn't invite people over for a meal in His perfectly decorated house - He didn't have a house. Jesus didn't stand at the door of the Temple just greeting everyone - He was too busy turning the religious world upside-down.
But, people wanted to be near Jesus. The sick wanted to get near enough to be healed. The outcasts of society were welcomed into Jesus' presence. The lowest of society were elevated by Jesus. The crowds wanted so much to be around Jesus that they would go great distances to be there to hear Him teach.
What Hospitality Really Is
If we broaden our definition of hospitality, we see that Jesus' whole life was about hospitality. Jesus "created safe and open spaces where friends and strangers experienced a welcoming spirit of respect, acceptance, and care." (Vantage Point 3, A Way of Life: Community with Others).
That's what hospitality is . . . creating a safe place for people around us. And that means it is something we should all be doing. We can't pass it off to those who have that spiritual gift any longer.
Some may have a special gift given to them by God for it and they should use it. But all of us should be living a life-style of hospitality. We're not off the hook. Hospitality should be the defining mark of all of us who claim to follow Christ.