Sunday, December 28, 2014

The High Calling of all Believers

What is your calling? What has God called you to do?

In Christian circles we like to talk about calling. We hold it up as something important. We make it into something that we can use to put people on a pedestal.

In the process, we leave many Christian feeling less than because they don't feel like they have a calling from God on their lives. They fell unworthy as believers because they think God didn't see them as good enough and gifted enough to be called to something specific.

We also set people up for failure with the way we talk about calling. When someone says they feel like they're called to something, we often put a list of expectations from them, of what that calling should look like. We put them in a box of our own making of what that calling should look like. And it's usually not God's ideas.

What if calling is something so much simpler than all we make it out to be? What if we could be certain what the calling of every believer was?

"Our call is not to 'fix' everyone else, please everyone else, or live up to everyone else's expectations of us. Our call is simply to wholeheartedly love Christ; then He will direct our steps." (Sheila Walsh, All That Really Matters)

When we look at the call of God on our lives this way, it changes things. We don't have to wonder if we're called to it. We don't have to feel stuck in a box. It frees us to really live the life God intends for us to live.

The call of all believers is to love God first. It's as simple and as difficult as that.

When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was in Matthew 22, He answered with these words: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." (vs. 37) Jesus teaches us that the most important thing for us to do is love God. He goes on to say that the second is loving your neighbour as yourself.

When we choose to love God first and love Him with everything we are and everything we have, He shows us what comes next. He will show us how to love our neighbour and who that neighbour is.

We can be sure that we are loving God first, He will show us what to do next. That part looks different for all of us and may look like what other people expect of us. We may not always know clearly what it is, but we can be confident of what our first call is as believers - to love God.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Words From God Will Never Fail

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

These are the final words the angel says to Mary after telling her about God's choosing her to be the mother of the promised Messiah and about her relative Elizabeth's pregnancy. (See Luke 1:26-38 for the full story).

When I read these words I stopped and had to go back to reread. They seemed to be different than I was used to remembering. In other translations Luke 1:37 reads that nothing is impossible with God. A reminder of God's ability to do exactly what He says He will do even if it seems impossible from our limited human perspective.

If God says He will do something - even what seems impossible - we can be sure that His word will not fail to happen.

That's a significant truth to hold onto in life. One that should cause us to stop and think.

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

The angel had just told Mary the impossible, from a human perspective, would happen for her. And the impossible had already happened for her relative Elizabeth. The angel then tells Mary that no word from God would ever fail. The angel declares in these few words just how reliable what God says is.

I've been thinking about the impact on how we live these words have if we really believe them. If we really believe no word from God will ever fail, we live differently. We live out of a trust that goes beyond what seems obvious. We live with an ability to wait, even in the silence, that is beyond what we could do on our own.

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

Do I really believe this? Do you really believe this?

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

Does the way I live say I believe this? Does the way you live say you believe this?

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Impatience with the Waiting

"So isn't there something here that should tell us that while hoping for the miracle, while praying for the miracle, maybe we should view God's silence not as punishment but as preparation? May be we should stop cursing the waiting and start thanking God for it? May be should trust that His timing and His way is perfect, and that He's only asking us to wait because He loves us too much to bring us something we're not yet ready for? . . .
Long we wait for the promise. But we don not wait alone. He is here, in the waiting, in the praying, in the weeping, in the hoping, in the doubting, in the trusting, in the wishing . . . HE IS HERE."
(Mandy Hale, The Single Woman)

I read the above quote as part of a blog on advent, waiting, and singleness. The Single Woman is one of my favourite blogs to read on life as a single Christian woman. Honesty about the good and hard realities of life, encouragement and hope in the midst of it all. The post this quote is from was no exception and left me with much to ponder.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, many events around the holidays can present a challenge for singles. A season where the reminder of being single and what we long for and are waiting for seems to be much more noticeable. Then I came across this post that reminded me once again, that in a time of year I love because of what we are celebrating, it's okay of I struggle with the waiting sometimes. The important thing is what I do in the waiting.

Do I put my trust in God?

Or do I get impatient and go looking for my own solution to fill that longing?

When Jesus came to earth as a baby, the Israelites has been waiting for the promised Messiah for generations. They had waited while God had been completely silent for the last 400 years.

In those years of waiting, they had come to their own conclusions and ideas of what it would look like for the promised Messiah to come. Instead of waiting with God for what He promised in His timing, they began to look for what they wanted - what they thought they needed. And then, they missed God's promise fulfilled.

When I reflect on this, I see how easy it could be for me to do the same thing in my life. Instead of taking my desire for marriage to God in prayer and trusting that God has things in control, I could get impatient with the waiting and try to make it happen all on my own. Or I can trust God in the waiting that He is preparing me for His plan - which may or may not look like mine.

It's a choice we all have in any area where we feel like we're waiting. We always get to choose how we will wait. Will we trust God? Will we remember that He is there in the waiting? Or will we do our own thing and miss what God has for us because of it?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

One Night that Changed the World

As I have been reflecting on the Christmas story this year, I've been struck by how life changing the birth of this one baby was for all people - the night it happened and for all eternity.

One baby changed the world forever. 
Nothing has been the same since that night.

We often talk about how a baby changes everything for the family that baby is born into.
 None brought so much change as Jesus when He was born.

God come to earth.


God with us.

The One whose life, death, and resurrection would make a way for mankind to once again have direct access to God.

The ultimate expression of sacrificial love. Of humble service.

I wonder if Mary and Joseph, if the shepherds, if the Magi, really understood the significance of that night. They knew what the angels had told them about this baby, but did they really get it? 

A couple thousand years later, do we really get it? Will we ever really get it?

The birth of a baby, named Jesus. 
A baby Who would change everything through His life and death.

The promised Messiah. The One prophesied about.
The One missed by so many when He came because of the way He came.
The One missed by so many while He walked on earth because He came to serve, not to exert His power.
The One missed by so many because He dies a criminal's death to become the greatest sacrifice and defeat sin and death for good.
The One still missed by many today.

But for those who stop to notice . . .
for those who are searching for something more . . .
for those who are willing to be humble and serve . . .
the chance to meat the One Who changes everything.

The One Who offers hope.
The One Who offers forgiveness and a second chance.
The One Who offers unconditional love.
The One Who never fails.

It was one night . . . 
in a stable . . .
in a small town . . .
with two poor parents . . .
surrounded by animals . . .
where the world changed forever.

God put His plan in motion to redeem a fallen world,
to restore a broken relationship with His people.
A plan still in motion today.
A plan that still offers hope today.

A birth.
A baby.
A life lived.
A death.
And the greatest of all - a victory over death, a resurrection.
All because of God's vast, unmeasurable, unchanging, unfailing love for each of us.
That makes it something worth celebrating!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Surrender All?

I surrender all
I surrender all
All to Jesus, I surrender
I surrender all

As the words played in my car, I stopped singing for a moment.

Reflecting on the words - was that really true? Did I surrender it all to Jesus? Was I surrendering it all to Jesus in that moment?

Most of the time I desire to surrender it all to Jesus. But sometimes I struggle to actually do that. Sometimes I allow my flesh to take over and I want to be in control of it all myself.

Surrendering means giving up control. Instead of living for my own desires and doing what I want when I want, I'm telling God I'll do what He wants when He wants. That I'll obey Him even when I want to do something else.

But, surrender is what Jesus calls us to:

"Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it and whoever loses their life for My sake will find it." (Matthew 10:38-39)

Jesus never hold back on speaking of the necessity of being willing to give it all up to follow God. It's not a half-ways or sometimes thing. It's a completely and all-the-time thing.

I surrender all
I surrender all
All to Jesus, I surrender
I surrender all

Do you surrender all?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Faith in the Midst of Fear

Matthew 8:23-27 records Jesus calming a storm for His frightened disciples. They were on a boat, with Jesus sleeping, when a violent storm came up. A storm that scared the disciples.

Some of the disciples were fishermen and had been through storms before, but this storm caused them fear. The disciples wake Jesus in their fear that they are going to drown in the storm.

Jesus asks a simple, yet deeply challenging question of His disciple in Matthew 8:26: "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?"

Jesus asked the question while the storm was still raging - while the cause of the disciples' fear was still very real all around them. He wanted them to know Who He was in the middle of the storm - in the middle of their fear.

God does the same with us. When life throws something at us and we cry out to Him in fear that the storm we're in will kill us, He says to us: "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" He asks us the same question He asked His disciples.

Jesus didn't calm the storm and remove what was causing the disciples' fear right away. He asked them to trust Him and rest on what they knew of Him in the middle of the storm.

The same is true for us. Jesus asks us to trust Him in the middle of the storm. While the wind is howling and the waves are crashing, He asks us to trust Him. To put our faith in Him in the midst of fear.

Are you in the middle of a storm that is causing you fear?

Have you called out to God for help?

Have you chosen to trust Him and rest on what you know of Him in the middle of your storm? In the middle of your fear?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

All Parts Working Together

Serving together

Words we talk about often in the church. But sometimes it can seem like just talk. We don't seem to see them in action.

Paul talks about the church being a body - all of us working together, doing our part. Each person has role that is important to the whole. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul speaks of the need for each of us to take our part - the part God has given us - and do it with our whole hearts, not comparing it to others. This is just one of the examples in Scripture that speaks of our need to work together.

This has been on my mind a lot this weekend, because I've been privileged to see it in action. Privileged to see each part of the body of Christ working together in unity and serving God. And it has been something beautiful to see. This has moved from just talk to being action.

It's something that we see glimpses of throughout the year. We get it right sometimes - hopefully, more often than we don't. We're on this journey called life and we learn over time how to do it better.

This weekend of the year, I get to see it in my church in an amazing way. Living Nativity weekend is a weekend where I get to be a part of my church coming together to serve in a great way. Each person doing their part - no matter how small and insignificant or upfront and seemingly important. All the roles are important and each is required to make it happen. An example of the body of Christ working together as Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 12.

And my prayer is that it is something that carries on beyond this one weekend. That it becomes a part of who we are as a local body of believers. That each year we learn to serve together this way all the time even better. That we can be an example of what God intended His people to be.

And each of us has a part to play in that. It's not something any one of us can do on our own. Each of us needs to choose to be a part of it and fill the role God has for us in that.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Letter to a Younger Me

In a few places lately, I've come across letters people wrote to their younger self - the most recent time being over at The Single Woman. It's interesting to read their thoughts of what they would tell their younger self and it's prompted my own thoughts on the topic.

I've been thinking about what I would write to my younger self - specifically myself ten years ago. Ten years ago, I was just finishing up my second to last semester of college. I was five months away from graduating with a business degree. I had my plans for the future - plans that were ultimately different than my reality now. There was nothing wrong with them; they just weren't what God had for me.

Dear Younger Self,

Right now, you're looking at your graduation date with excitement and a bit of fear for what the future will hold. The culmination of four years of hard work. You have plans for the kind of job you're going to get, to get married. All of them are good things, but don't hold on so tightly to them that you miss God's plans for you. He has some things in store for you that you could never dream of on your own.

Take the time to enjoy your last semester of school. Go deep in your classes. Soak in all you can learn. It will be a long time before you can embrace studying and learning this way again.

Invest in the friendships you have with those in the dorm. Don't take your studies too seriously to go on adventures with them and have those late night conversations. Some of the friendships you are investing in now, will continue to be important ones in future years. They're the people you will call when life gets hard and you need encouragement or advice. Take the time now to go deep in those friendships.

Some of those friendships will drift apart after you all move on from living in dorm together. Invest the time you have in those friendships now anyway. Those people are in your life for a reason right now. They will impact your life now for the future. You will become who you are going to be, in part, because of the time you spend together now.

You have your plans for what you want to do for a career and where you want to serve at church when you go home. Be willing to allow God to take you in a different direction - to show you something different. You'll save yourself so much frustration and boredom if you go with God in His direction right away - rather than fight for your way. Don't hold onto your plans too tightly. Let God change them.

Your plan to get married and have a family of your own won't happen in this time frame of ten years. You'll have two choices in how you deal with this: 1) You can get frustrated with waiting and stop living life because you don't have what you want. Or, 2) You can choose to live life to the full, to do what you love and what God has given you to do, all while still longing to get married. It's your choice what you do, but one will give you a life of meaning and one will give you a life of regrets.

Your life in ten years is going to look very different than you imagine it will right now. But, you will know God's faithfulness in a way you can't understand right now. Whatever happens, don't allow the storms of life to cause you to doubt or turn away from God. Keep holding on to God and trusting Him with your future. You'll never regret doing that.

Your Older Self