Sunday, December 27, 2015

One Deadly Thing we do Too Much

Comparison kills.

It kills . . . friendships.
            . . . ministry opportunities.
            . . . joy.
            . . . satisfaction.
            . . . our relationship with God.

I was reminded of the deadly role of comparison recently. It didn't seem like it was a big deal. It was just a passing thought. But, a few hours later, I realized that momentary thought was having a deadly impact on my ministry in this situation.

As I sat with a group of people praying together, the thought crossed my mind that the other people in the group seemed to pray more eloquently and with more smoothly flowing words than me. I quickly dismissed the thought as being ridiculous - I mean, why would anyone compare that?

It wasn't until a few hours later that I realized the impact of that passing thought. I didn't pray much in that group after I made that comparison. Even a fleeting comparison of my prayers to others' prayers had killed that time of engaging in prayer ministry in that situation. And, if I'd left it undealt with would have eventually killed any prayer ministry opportunities in the future.

Comparison is an insidious plan from Satan to kill what God wants to do in and through us. In the moment it seems harmless. We think nothing of it. We often miss the impact it has on us until later.

Comparison keeps us held back in fear. We're not good enough. We'll never do it as well as someone else. Comparison leaves us cowering in a corner trying to protect ourselves, rather than living the life God wants us to live.

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." Satan is the thief that comes to steal, kill, and destroy. Comparison is one of the tools he uses to do this. It's an effective tool in his arsenal because it can seem harmless in the moment.

Jesus offers us life - an abundant life - if we choose to follow Him. He invites us into a life we couldn't imagine on our own. We have to step out and trust that He is with us in it - that He will never fail or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Even when comparison would kill us, when we're facing our own insecurities about how to do something, we choose to trust God and go with Him.

I fight each day against falling to the comparison game that always leaves me wanting. It kept me from doing what God asked me to do for far too long. Now that I know what comes when I don't give in to comparison, I don't want to do back. But, it's still a choice I make daily and I still have to deal with moments when I give in to the comparison game again.

The difference comes when we choose to go to God with it when we begin to make those comparisons. Instead of giving into the fear, the need to protect ourselves, the death that comes with comparison, we need to seek God's perspective on the matter.

When I realized the comparison I had made was having a negative impact on things, I instead asked God for His perspective on what He was seeing there. I asked Him how He saw me in that setting. As my perspective changed, I realized that it's not eloquent or smoothly flowing words that make prayers effective, it's the heart behind them. And that meant my comparison was worthless and an attempt by Satan to steal, kill, and destroy in my life.

Then I had a choice to make. I could continue to believe the lie that came from the comparison, or I could choose to believe God and see things from His perspective. But, I had to choose. I couldn't be passive about it. I had to make a choice and act from that point.

We all have that choice when we realize we've gotten caught in the comparison trap. We can stay there and allow that comparison to kill. Or, we can ask God for His perspective and change our view on the situation. What will you choose to do?

Monday, December 21, 2015

Do You Doubt God's Voice?

I've often doubted if what I thought I was hearing was really God's voice. Or if it was just my own thoughts. And I've talked to others who feel the same way.  We know God speaks, but we doubt it's actually Him when He speaks to us.

As I've been reflecting on the Christmas story these last few weeks, I've been struck by how so many of the people involved heard God speak in some way and they knew it was God. Scripture doesn't record that doubt kept them from believing that it was God speaking to them. And this after 400 years of silence from God. Even then, they still believed God about some things that may have sounded a little crazy and scandalous.

An angel appeared to Zechariah in the Temple to announce that he and his wife would be the parents of John the Baptist. He didn't believe perfectly, but he knew that it was God speaking to him. Luke 1:11 says, "Then an angel of he Lord appeared to him . . ." Zechariah knew it was God speaking to him - even if the message brought sounded impossible.

Luke 1 goes on to provide the account of the angel Gabriel appearing to Mary to announce that she would be the mother of Jesus - the promised Messiah. Mary had questions about how it would happen, but she did choose to believe. Verse 38 records her response to the message from God the angel brought, "I am the Lord's servant, may your word to me be fulfilled." Again, she heard God speak and she believed him.

Now, it could be easy to dismiss these two examples because the appearance of an angel seems like it would be easier to believe the words. But, in both of these situations, the message brought would be challenging. A son in your old age. A son when you're a virgin. Not exactly the easiest things to believe.

And then there's Joseph. God spoke to him as well, and he chose to believe God and follow through on what he was told. Matthew 1:20 tells us that "the Lord appeared to him in a dream." God's words to Joseph to take Mary as his wife even though she was pregnant wouldn't have been an easy message, but Joseph didn't doubt they were from God.

Luke 2 talks about a man named Simeon who was at the Temple when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus as required by the law. He has been told by God he wouldn't die until he saw the Messiah. When he saw Jesus at the Temple, he knew exactly who this baby was.

If Zechariah, Mary, and Joseph believed these messages from God when they heard them, what made them sure they were from God? What gave them the confidence to trust that these hard and scandalous messages were actually from God?

I think some words in how they were described provide the key to that.

Matthew 1: 19 described Joseph as "faithful to the law."

Zechariah and his wife are described this way in Luke 1: 6, "Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commands and decrees blamelessly."

Mary is described as being highly favoured by God by the angel who came to her in Luke 1:28.

Luke 2: 25 described Simeon as righteous and devout.

All of those descriptions speak of people who chose to follow God - to seek God and to know Him. It's because of their relationship with God that they had learned to recognize God's voice. They knew Who He was. They knew what He had said in the past. And because they knew that, they knew this was God, and they knew they could trust what He was saying. This was where their confidence to believe and to act on what they heard came from.

This challenges me in my own walk with God. To be continually seeking to know God better. To develop a relationship where I more easily recognize God's voice and am ready to believe and act on what I hear.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Baby that Brought Us Freedom

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a toke of slavery." (Galatians 5:1).

When I read this verse recently, I was drawn back to the story of Christ's birth. That's when Christ came to set us free. It all started with a humble birth in a stable. The beginning of the gift of freedom Christ brought.

Jesus came, as a baby, born into the same world as those He was coming to free. He came and lived among us. He came and experienced the same kinds of things we do. He came and paid the price for
us to be free forever.

We have been offered an incredible gift of freedom. We can choose to accept it. Once we do, we no longer need to pick up the yoke that ensalved us. We don't have to carry it anymore. That is what Christ freed us from.

A humble birth, witnessed by shepherds and animals that would bring us freedom.

A humble birth is a stable was the birth of a King that would change everything for those who would choose to follow Him.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Surrendering to Escape the Rush

Rushing from store to store looking for the perfect gift for everyone on your list.

Rushing form party to party.

Rushing to get all the decorating and baking done.

Rushing to get dinner on at the time everyone is coming for.

Why is it that Christmas seems to be a season of rushing to get things done and get to all the events?

It gets busy and then we get to to Christmas day tired and done with the season. We just want the say to be over so can finally relax.

We get caught up in the busy-ness. We get caught up in the commercialization of it. We get caught up in all the good things that come with the season - good things that can still distract us. And, in the process, we miss what it's really supposed to be all about.

But, what if we approached it differently? What would it look like if we truly gave the entire time leading up the Christmas day over to God? If we surrendered it?

What if, in the midst of all we had to do, we surrendered our schedule to God and allowed Him to invade our rushing? What if we decided to listen for the promptings of God that interrupt our schedules? What if we let God even interrupt the good things with His much better plan than ours?

I wonder if it just might mean we're not just wishing the season away and longing for a slower time again. I wonder if it just might mean we don't miss what's really important.

I wonder if it just might mean we more easily remember why we do all we do and what this time of year should really be all about.

Saturday, December 5, 2015


     "This is what the Lord says:
          Stand at the crossroads and look;
               ask for the ancient paths,
          ask where the good way is,
               and walk in it,
          and you will find rest for your souls."
                                    -Jeremiah 6:16

Show me the way Lord
I'm standing at the crossroads
I want to go Your way
Show me the good way

Show me the ancient path
Walked by many before
Clear the way, so I can see
Your good and ancient path

That path so many have walked
The path of all those before
Who chose to go Your way
Who chose what You desired

Clear the ancient way of old
Remove what covers where it goes
The beautiful ground, worn smooth
By so many gone before me

The way that leads to rest
The way that leads to life
The ancient path to home
To living in Your presence

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Approaching God with Anticipation & Excitement

These days when I open the door at my parent's house, more often than not I'm greeted by little footsteps running to see whose there. Or if my niece isn't able to run and see, she's straining to see the door and calling out to whoever it might be.

As long as she's home when I arrive, the anticipation and excitement of seeing who just came in is there. And I watch it happen as other people arrive as well.

The more I think about it, the more I feel like God is using this repeated occurrence in my life to teach me more about the kind of relationship He wants to have with me - with each of us.

Scripture tells us that we have been adopted into God's family. We have become His children (Galatians 4:4-7). We have the privilege of calling Him Father.

That relationship means we can come running into His presence with excitement and anticipation about being with Him.

Just as, when I arrive my niece is excited to see me and anticipating what we'll do together, I can be excited to meet with God and see what He has planned for our time together. We can approach the time with anticipation because we can be sure His plan is for our good.

How do you usually approach your time with God? Do you anticipate it with excitement? Or is it something of a duty to you?

Getting to the point of approaching time with God with anticipation and excitement, begins with asking Him to increase that in you. If you don't have it, ask God for it. As you start and you get some of that, it grows in you. God wants to spend the time with us, He make the way for us to the point of approaching our time with Him with excitement and anticipation.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Come, See What God Has Done

I was listening to a song as I drove home tonight that made me think. I don't usually post something as soon as I write it, but this time I just don't seem to be able to wait to post it.

I've been thinking a lot lately about the power of story in our lives. The stories we tell ourselves. The stories we live. The stories we try to tell others about our lives. 

Most of all, I've been thinking about the story that God is writing in our lives that He invites us to fully participate in. Our story that is part of His larger story that we get the privilege of being a part of.

It's a story we need to share with others. Hearing how God has worked in someone else's life can encourage us in hard times, can inspire us to new heights, can challenge us in our own lives.

Stories are how we interpret so much of life. They're how we make sense of what is going on around us and in our own lives. We tell ourselves a story about it so that we can try to understand it better.

I was listening to Matt Redman's song, "Come and See." Over and over the words, "come and see what God has done" are repeated. 

That's exactly the stories we need to be sharing. The stories of what God has done in our lives. When we call others to "come and see what God has done" we give God the glory for the story of our lives.

We need to share those stories in every day life. We need to share those stories as God leads us, no matter the setting or the people. It doesn't have to be a formal setting or planned to do that. We just need to share them.

I love the chorus of Matt Redman's song, "Come and See"
     Come and see, come and see what God has done
     Come and see, come and see what love has won
     In this place, hearts and live waking up
     To the light of the world
     You're the Light of the world

What would it look like if those words described the way we lived? What would it mean if through our lives and what we shared, we invited people to see what God has done, what love has won?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

What about When Life is Hard?

Life is hard.

There really isn't any other way to put it.

More often than we want it to be true, the truth is that it's hard.

Whether it's personal stuff, or family stuff, or work stuff, or ministry stuff, or things we see happening in the world around us . . . it's hard.

And, even if we try to, we can't hide from it. We can do and try many things to run from the hard stuff of life, but it won't work. The hard stuff will go with us. And we may even make it worse by trying to run and hide from it.

So, now that I've had that slightly depressing start to this . . .

What do we do when life is hard? If we can't avoid that life will be hard, what options to do we have to get through it?

What comes next might seem like the standard Christian answer to that question, but I've realized in the last nine months that it really is what we need to do when life is hard and we're not sure how we'll get through it.

What do we do when life is hard? We take the hard stuff to God. Ask Him to work in it. Give Him control of it. Surrender. Allow God into it.

But that's a lot more difficult to actually do then it is for me to write it.

This is exactly what Scripture tells us we should do. Philippian 4:6-7 says, "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 understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." When we take the hard stuff in life to God, He replaces the worry about it with His peace. The hard situation may not change, but our ability to get through it well does, because we're not trying to do it ourselves anymore.

In 1 Peter 5:7 it says, "Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you." We can take our worries over the hard stuff in life to God because He cares. He cares what we're going through. He cares when we're struggling through hard times. He cares about what we're worried about or struggling with.

Sometimes when it's hard, it's a choice to continually take the issue to God. Every time we become aware that we've taken it back, whatever it is, we give it to God again. Over and over again.

If there's one thing I've learned in the last nine months, it's this: Life is way harder than I wish it was sometimes, but I can always get through it and grow through it when I continually allow God into my struggle and surrender control to Him.

The last nine months have been challenging for me. A series of events in March made life really hard. For a while, each day was a struggle just to get through. The only choice I had was to take it to God, to surrender it to Him, and to invite Him into it to do the work only He could do. Sometimes that was a decision I had to make every minute.

Now, I think I'm on the other side of this particular season of struggle in the hard stuff of life. Life isn't that hard anymore (although I'm not sure I'd say it's easy). And I know I didn't make it through because of something I did. I made it through because I surrendered control of that time to God. I'm where I am today because of God and His care for me and His working in the midst of my hard time because I allowed Him to.

I don't where this post finds you right now. But, if you're in the midst of a hard time, can I encourage you to give it to God. Invite Him in, and let Him do the work only He can do in the midst of it. Do exactly what Philippians 4:6-7 and 1 Peter 5:7 say to do. It changes everything.

Friday, November 13, 2015

One of the Most Important Decisions I Made

It's one decision I made that I don't regret. Two years of my life that changed my life and that I now couldn't imagine not having experienced.

I'm talking about the two years I spent at Briercrest College. 

Farm field on edge of Caronport, with a beautiful clear, blue sky
I've been thinking about this a lot today. I had lunch with some alumni and the president of the school today. Hearing an update about what is going on and talking about leadership together.

I've shared with lots of people over the years, why I wouldn't trade those two years for anything. But, I don't know if I've sat down and put them all together until now. 

In no particular order, here are the reasons I don't regret making the decision to go to Briercrest for two years:

I went deeper in my understanding of the Bible and what it meant for my life

I grew up reading my Bible and hearing good sermons. I knew the importance of knowing what the Bible said. I studied it regularly. At Briercrest, I learned to study my Bible even more. I gained a deeper understanding of what it has to say to us. My love for the Word of God was fostered and grown, by professors and other staff who obviously deeply loved the Word of God themselves.

I made friendships that are still important to me today

There's something about living in a dorm with 20 other people, about living in an environment where you're all making the choice to follow God with your lives, and the friendships that develop through that. As we lived life together, we really got to know each other. And those are still some of the people I call when things happen.

I had the opportunity to figure out who I was without being put into a box based on my family

I consider it a privilege that I got to grow up in the same church my Mom did and to have had so much family around during that time. But, it also made it hard sometimes to figure out who God had made me to be as His child, when people saw me as part my family and what they had always done. Briercrest was the place where I could start figuring that out. I had the chance to try different ministry opportunities and to learn what I was supposed to do.

I'm sure there's lots more I could write about why I don't regret making the decision to go to Briercrest, but those would be the three biggest reasons for me. 

The most important lesson I learned

There's one story from then that really left a mark on me. It's one seemingly small thing that changed a lot in how I handle interactions with people.

It was freshmen registration day. In the place where I picked up my confirmed class schedule for that first semester, I met one of the professors at the school. He was friendly and we talked a bit about my classes.

I thought nothing of it, until about a week later, I saw him the hallway between classes. He stopped and asked me by name how my first week had gone. The day I met him, he met at least a hundred other students he didn't know before, and a week later, he still remembered my name and stopped to ask me how things were.

I've never been able to forget that moment. This fall is twelve years since that moment happened in the hallway and it's still there like it happened yesterday.

This is probably one of the moments that had the biggest impact on me . . . a professor, who wasn't even one who taught a class I was taking, took the time to remember my name and to see how my first week had gone. 

There's power in noticing people and caring. That's probably one of the most life-changing lessons I've ever learned. When I notice and care about the people around me, it can change everything for them. And it costs me nothing to do that.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Are You Causing Another to Stumble?

"Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters." (Romans 14:1)

These words are the beginning of a section of teaching from Paul on how to handle sometimes sensitive areas. Areas that can have great implications on how the body of Christ works together.

They connect back to his words a couple of chapters ago, where he says that "each member belongs to all the others." (Romans 12:5). If we're all members of one body and belong to each other, then how we treat each other when it comes to disputable matters is really important.

Paul uses examples that were relevant to the people he was writing to. Eating meat versus only vegetables. Or treating one day as more sacred than another, while others don't. Paul was speaking about those things where there isn't a hard and fast rule about them for Christians.

He didn't try to create rules for them where there wasn't one. Instead, he encouraged them to consider how they were treating one another in these situations. If they were truly living as members of one body and as if they belonged to one another, then there would be consideration for each other in these areas.

In Romans 14:13-15, he says:
"Therefore, let us stop passing judgement on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love."

It's not love for a brother or sister in Christ if we're causing them to stumble because of something we do around them. If we're really living as if we belong to one another as members of the body of Christ, then we're not going to do things we know cause a problem for another member of the body.

No where does it say that we don't have the freedom to do these things. We're still free in Christ. But, our actions and choices impact those around us and if we really love them, we're not going to intentionally cause a problem for them.

It's not worth it. Our freedom should not be coming at the cost of another person. That's not why Christ paid the price for our forgiveness and freedom.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Overcome Evil with Good

What doe it look like to live as though we belong to other members of the body of Christ?

"Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge, I will repay, says the Lord'. On the contrary:
               'If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
                    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
               In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head'.
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:17-21)

We live in a world where disagreements happen. Where people get hurt by the words and actions of other people - whether done intentionally or not. In theses verses, Paul is speaking about how we should respond in these situations.

We are called to respond differently. To respond with grace, kindness, and love, rather than evil, insult, and revenge.

This is another area that emphasizes our need to let God transform us, because we can't do this without Him. We can't choose the response to overcome evil with good in our own strength. It has to be God in us.

The way of responding Paul lays out becomes even more difficult when it comes from a brother or sister in Christ. We expect hurt, revenge, and insult to come from those outside the body of Christ, so we're better prepared to deal with it.

But, when it comes from inside the body of Christ, it seems to hurt more and to provoke a stronger response is us. But, Paul is saying this is how we should act no matter who the other person is. Maybe especially when it's a brother or sister in Christ.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Do Life Together

What does it look like to live as though we belong to other members of the body of Christ?

"Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with each other. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited." (Romans 12:14-16)

We're supposed to do life together. To really be involved in the good and the bad of each other's lives.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

Scripture makes it pretty clear that we will face persecution as Christians. The challenge comes in how we're to respond to those who persecute us. Most of the time it would be easiest and most natural to respond in kind, but we're supposed to have a different response.

We're supposed to bless them, to look for ways to do good for them, to pray for them. History is full of stories of the impact people had when they chose to bless those who persecuted them.

Rejoice with those who rejoice.

This one is often easiest for us. We find it more natural to celebrate with people when they have reason to celebrate. It's fun, so we join in. We do this part of life with people.

There are times when we may find it difficult to rejoice with those who rejoice - for a variety of reasons. But, even in those times, we can choose to rejoice with them.

Mourn with those who mourn.

This one is often more difficult, because we want to fix the problem or the pain for those we love and care about. We want to come in with the answer, to solution. But, part of doing life together is coming alongside each other in our mourning and just being with them. it might be one of the hardest things to do, but the person we "just be" with, it can be the best thing anyone can do for them.

Live in harmony with one another.

Living in harmony with one another doesn't mean we just stuff our feelings and pretend everything is good when it isn't. It means that we calmly and lovingly deal with things right away when they come up. That we deal with conflict properly. That we resolve issues with each other.

Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Pride and conceit get us into trouble in relationships with people. They cause us to think of ourselves as better than others and then we have people we don't want to associate with. When we get caught up in pride, we cut ourselves off from true community with other believers. In the family of God, we should be treating each other the same whatever position they may have.

Friday, October 23, 2015

It Starts with Love

What does it look like to live as though we belong to the other members of the body of Christ?

"Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honour each other above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord's people who are in need. Practice hospitality." (Romans 12:9-13)

Just a few verses, yet so much to unpack in them about what is this looks like.

Love must be sincere.

You can't fake love. If it's not sincere, it's not really love. It's manipulation, and that's not what causes the body of Christ to work well together.

Yes, love is a choice we make to treat people a certain way, but it is still something that cannot be faked. We choose love for the sake of the other person, not because we're looking at what we can get in return.

Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.

At a quick glance this phrase seems out of place sandwiched between ones talking about love. But, I think it actually makes perfect sense. Evil destroys love and that destroys relationships with each other. What is good builds our relationships with each others as it helps us to grow in love. We need to remove and avoid what is evil in our lives with dilligence and regardless of the cost. We need to replace that evil with good.

Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves.

This is about putting others first. Not so that you can become a doormat for everyone to walk all over, but beacuse you care about and want to serve others. It usually comes down to a choice to serve, a choice to seek good for others.

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.

As we work together as a body it's our love for God that has to move us forward. It's far easier to keep our spiritual fervor when we're serving in community that truly loves each other.

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

We have hope because of Jesus Christ and that gives us reason for joy. It's a joy that goes beyond our circumstances. That joy is a part of what helps us to be patient in affliction.

Being patient in affliction goes against our natural tendency. When things are hard, we want it to end. We look for a way out. What is we chose to look for what God is teaching us and doing in us through those times instead? It won't change the fact we wish we weren't in that time, but it amy change the way we walk through it.

Prayer is a vital part of our relationship with God. When we're faithful in it, our relationship with Him changes. We discover more reasons to be joyful in hope and patient in affliction.

Share with the Lord's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

As Christians, we're called to care for each other. The early church is full of examples of helping out those among them who were in need. We should still be marked by that today.

Paul doesn't limit practicing hospitality to those who might be gifted at it here. He simply states that we should be practicing hospitality. How each of us does so may look different, but it's not something optional for us.

We may welcome people into our homes. We may be the ones welcoming them at community gatherings. We may practice hospitality by creating a safe place for people to belong and share their story. However we do it, we are called to practice hospitality.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

We Belong to Each Other

"For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others." (Romans 12:4-5, emphasis mine)

What does it mean that "each member belongs to all the others"?

That was the question that wen through my mind when I read these verses recently. What does it really look like?

These verses come in the middle of a passage that is well known as talking about spiritual gifts. About how we all have a part to play in the body of Christ.

As I reflected on this more, I realized that this makes sense when you think about how the body works. Every part of a body needs the others to do their job in order to function. They depend on each other.

The same is true of the body of Christ. We need each other to be doing what God has given us to do, so we as a body can function properly. We belong to each other in the sense that we need each other to do what God has called us to do - as a body and individually.

If we belong to each other and are part of one body, then we have a responsibility in how we treat each other. It changes the way we should be acting towards one another.

Paul goes on in the book of Romans to describe what it looks like for us to live as members of Christ's body who belong to each other. The way we should live and the way we should interact with each other.

To read the words of Paul it sounds straightforward enough, but living it can sometimes be more difficult than it sounds. Paul describes a was of living that is different from our fallen sinful nature. A way of living that requires us to allow God to transform us and make us more like Christ.

Paul gives us a picture of what this looks like in Roman 12:1-2, where he writes:
"Therefore, I urge you brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - His good, pleasing, and perfect will."
Living as the body of Christ that describes us as, starts with surrender. A choice on our part to let God have control and transform us.

What does Romans say about what this kind of living looks like?

That's the question I'll be exploring in my posts for a while. Romans is full of instruction on what this looks like - good, practical instructions that can help us understand.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Power of the Cross

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." (1 Corinthians 1:18)

I've been reflecting a lot recently on the power of the cross. The importance of it to our lives as Christians. The freedom that the sacrifice it represents has brought in our lives. The ongoing freedom the sacrifice it represents allows us to live in. The freedom from shame and condemnation that it brings.

Romans 8:1 tells us that "there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Without the cross we stand condemned because of our sin. With the cross, we are freed from the chains of sin that have bound us up.

When we come to the cross and realize the magnitude of what Jesus' death on the cross in our place accomplished, we are in the place where we can discover the power of the cross. When we accept the gift that is offered us to the cross, we find freedom from the power of sin in our lives.

The power of the cross becomes evident in our lives when we are willing to admit our brokenness and our need. When acknowledge our sin and our need for help. When we allow God to come in and be our strength, rather than trying to do it better on our own.

1 John 1: 9 says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." This is the starting place for discovering the power of the cross in our lives.

Friday, September 11, 2015

In Our Time of Need

"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet He did not sin. Let us approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 4:15-16, NIV 2011)

Those words from Scripture are ones I cling to. They contain an important truth for us to hold onto in our daily life.

When I'm tempted by sin, I'm not left on my own to beat it. Jesus has faced temptation when He was on earth and He didn't sin. He is able to help me in my temptation, if I ask Him for help. I don't have to deal with temptation on my own.

That's a liberating truth to grab hold of. It frees us from the never-ending cycle of defeat we get stuck in when we're trying to avoid giving in to temptation in our own strength. The pressure isn't on us to keep trying harder anymore.

In the moments when we're facing temptation, we can call out to Jesus for help and be confident He will meet us in our time of need and provide a way out for us.

1 Corinthians 10:13 says,
"No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so you can endure it." (NIV 2011)

We discover the way out of our temptation when we call out for help when we're facing it. Because we always call to Him for help, we will always be able to endure it - it won't be more than we can bear, because we'll have God's help.

That's a pretty good promise to build our life upon. And it brings true freedom to us.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

What Fills You Up?

Life is full of things we have to do. Lists if what is required of us.

Often, these lists can be full of things that drain us. Things that deplete us, but that we have to do anyways.

Sometimes we feel lucky. There's more things on the list that we get excited about doing, then things that deplete us.

But usually that only happens when we're intentional about building those things into our lives. We have to discover what it is that fills us up and then figure out how to do more of that.

Many of the activities that deplete us we won't be able to eliminate completely. They'll still be required as part of life. But, we can find ways to minimize the time we spend on them.

And that additional time we find can be used for those activities we have discovered that fill us up.

What fills you up? What things in your life leave you feeling refreshed and energized to face the list of things you have to do?

How do those things work in your schedule? Do you need to change things, so they're a regular part of your life?

Sunday, August 30, 2015

We're All Broken

Whether we admit it or not, we're all broken in some way or another. We live in a society where we're taught not to admit this. Appearing to be strong and have it all together is how we learn to live.

And this sometimes works well - for a season. We can keep it all together for a time - keep everything looking good to the world around us.

But, this is fragile. Often just one more thing happening away from our perfect picture being shattered and our true brokenness revealed.

We dread this moment. We try to avoid it. We'll do almost anything to keep it from happening.

Yet, when the moment comes when our true brokenness is revealed there's a sense of relief that comes alongside the fear of being exposed. Trying to hide what's really going on is exhausting, so deep down we're relieved when  we no longer have to try to hide.

The truth is, it's in our brokenness that we find true community. It's when we allow people to see what's the facade that we form real relationships.

The thing in life we're all longing for and searching for comes from the one thing we try to avoid . . . vulnerability.

Admitting our brokenness, allowing others to see it, makes us vulnerable. So we run from it, as long as we're able, only to discover, in the end, it's what we needed all along.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

I'm Out Alone & I'm Okay With It

This post isn't directed at any one person or a specific time. It's a reflection of some thoughts I've had as I've watched different peoples' reactions to my going to restaurants alone over the last few years. Some of the words are things I wish I'd had the opportunity and/or courage to say to people.

To All who have looked on me with pity when I sat and ate alone in a restaurant,

I saw the look you gave as the hostess led me to my seat and left me with only one menu. The moment you realized I was eating out alone. The pity that seemed to come because I was out alone.

I'm pretty sure you didn't realize you were doing it. That you didn't mean anything by it. That you would be shocked to know that was your reaction. But, I did notice it, because I've seen it often.

I'm not sure when it became strange or something to be pitied to be alone in a restaurant. Not so much when I'm grabbing lunch during a workday, that seems to be seen as okay. But in the evenings and on the weekends, the way people look at me seems to change. I don't know why there is a difference.

Yes, I'm out for supper alone. And you know what, I wouldn't be if I wasn't okay with that. It may look lonely to you, but that evening for me is fine. If I wasn't okay with being out alone and surrounded by couples or families that evening, I would have stayed home.

You see, I'm not married. I'm not dating. I don't have kids. I'm single and most of the time I'm okay with that fact.

I have good friends and a great family. I go out with them too sometimes. I don't always go out alone. But, when I do, it's because I feel like going out rather than cooking at home. Sometimes I just need to get out of the house.

I'll be honest . . . sometimes I'm not okay with being single, not okay with going out alone. Those times, I stay home. Or I phone a friend or a family member, and make plans with them.

It took me a while to get the point of being okay with going out alone. I didn't for a lot of years, and the first few times I did, I was incredibly self-conscious of the fact. But, the more I went out, the more comfortable I became with it. Now it doesn't bother me anymore.

Being okay with going out for dinner alone, doesn't mean I don't want to one day be out as a couple, or with a family of my own. I do. And hopefully, one day, that will be the case.

But, that hope and desire doesn't mean my life is on hold right now. I'm living my life to the fullness of what God has for me in this season of my life. And, more days than I'm not, I'm enjoying my life as it is. God has blessed me in more ways than I could ever imagine. While I don't have all I hope for, I still have a life that I love and really can't complain about.

Next time you see me eating alone in a restaurant, remember it's not a big deal to me. I'm okay with that tonight. I'm glad you're out with your husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend, kids, or friends. Enjoy your evening and I'll enjoy mine too.

The single person sitting at the table next to you

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Marks of a Follower of God

As a kid at summer camp, we used to sing a lot of songs that were passages of Scripture.One these songs came from Micah 6:8, which says,

          "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."

Every time I read that verse, the song from summer camp starts in my head again. It's definitely helped me to remember this one.

When I read this verse in Micah recently, I started thinking about what it says. Thirty-one words that contain some simple truths about how we should live as Christians today. Three phrases that define what we should be about.

Act justly.

Love mercy.

Walk humbly with God.

Much of the detail of what we do flows out of these three things. No, they're not exhaustive, but if we did these three things, we'd be living lives that were in greater alignment with the life Jesus calls His followers to, than if we're always trying to do it on our own.

Act Justly

We live in a world filled with injustice, but in the midst of it we're told to act justly. If we want to change the injustices of our world, it begins with us and with the things we do everyday.

We should be fair and honest in all our interactions. We should be willing to speak up on behalf of those being treated unjustly, who often cannot speak for themselves.

Love Mercy

Mercy means that we haven't received what we deserved for what we did. Jesus showed us mercy when He took the punishment for our sin instead of us.

It's pretty easy to love mercy when we're on the receiving end of it. But, that's only a partial picture of what it means to love mercy. When we love mercy, we also show it to others. As we have received mercy, we need to give it to others.

Walk Humbly with God

We need to follow where God leads us. That means we need to have the humility to admit we don't know it all ourselves. We have to admit that God knows best and following Him is our best choice.

Sunday, August 16, 2015


Cold and dark
What a transformation
It have once been
Warm and bright
A fire burning with passion
Only coals remained

No light to shine
Warmth only with a touch
What happened to the flame?
What happened to the passion?

Life got in the way
Always running
Always hurrying
The fire never tended

Slowly it went out
The flame died away
With nothing left to burn
It doesn't have
To stay that way

If we feed it
It will burn again
The passion will return
With attention and time
The flame will burn again
Warm and bright 
What a transformation
It is no longer 
Cold and dark

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Time for Rest

Usually I try 
To avoid them
I don't want to know
The thoughts
Swirling in my head

My companions
I don't hear
The voices in my head
I'm not listening
To the things that challenge me

There's beauty
In these things
Without them
I don't function well

Eventually destroy
Leave me wanting
Looking for more
If I survive
On them alone

Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Far-Reaching Cost of Disobedience

Jonah was told by God to go to Ninevah. He refused and went the other way. Jonah was thrown overboard in a storm and spent three days in a fish. Then he was spit back up on land and finally went to Ninevah.

I heard that story countless times in Sunday School growing up. When you hear something often enough you begin to assume you know the whole thing. For a long time I would skim the book of Jonah rather than read it, relying on my memory from Sunday School to fill in the details.

I recently sat down and decided to slowly and carefully read it again. I was only five verses in when I was struck by the cost of Jonah's disobedience and the cost wasn't just limited to him.

Jonah is on a boat going away from Ninevah. He's running from God. Jonah 1:4-5 says:
"Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried to his own god. And they threw cargo into the dea to lighten the ship."

Reread that last sentence again.

This cargo, part of the sailor's income, was thrown into the sea because of the storm that was sent because of Jonah's actions. Jonah's disobedience had a cost for other people too. His choice had far-reaching effects.

The same is true for us. Our choices don't just affect us - they also affect those around us. Even those we might not know very well.

The sailors didn't know Jonah, yet they paid a price for his choice. I don't think Jonah intended for them to pay it, but they did.

When we choose to disobey God, we're not usually intending to make others pay a price, but the truth is they may.

How often do we think that what we do or don't do doesn't affect anyone but ourselves?

The truth is, if we stopped to think about it, we would realize that other people are affected by our choice when we choose to disobey.

I don't know about you, but looking at it that way makes me think again about some things. If my disobedience is going to affect others, especially those I love, then maybe it's not worth it afterall.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Used by God

Most Christians I know want to be used by God for something. They’re hoping for, looking for, and dreaming about the ways that God can use them for His purposes.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this, but I think we run into problems with it sometimes because of how we go about waiting for God to use us. We want to be used by God, but until we hear from Him about how He wants to use us we don’t do anything. We sit back and wait for the specific direction.

As I was reading the Old Testament prophet Amos recently, I was struck by what Amos said. In Amos 7, the king of Israel is telling Amos to leave because he doesn’t like Amos’ message. Amos’ response is what struck me. Verses 14-15 say this:
Amos answered Amaziah, “I was neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore fig trees. But the Lord took me from tending the flock and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel'.”

Amos was looking after sheep and trees when God called him to be a prophet and gave him a message. He wasn’t sitting back and doing nothing while he waited for God to give him something to do. He was working at what he had to do at that time.

As I started to think about this more, I began to wonder if God isn’t looking for us to be faithful in serving Him in our day-to-day activities. All those things we do that don’t seem significant, that may not even seem like they’re making a difference for God. When we faithfully serve in those, God is using us for His purposes – even when we can’t see that.

Each day can be filled with divine appointments. Moments where we can point the people we are interacting with to God through our actions and through our words. All these moments are then us being used by God for His purposes, and we didn’t have to sit and wait for Him to tell us what to do. We chose to serve faithfully in our jobs, in our schoolwork, in our interactions with friends and family, in our interactions with those providing services for us.

I believe that being used by God begins with us being faithful in the mundane, every-day tasks and relationships. That’s where we begin.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Getting Close to Others

". . . I'd have to trust that my flaws were the ways through which I would receive grace. We don't think of our flaws as the glue that binds us to the people we love, but they are. Grace only sticks to our imperfections. Those who can't accept their imperfections can't accept grace either."
(Donald Miller, "Scary Close")

Have you ever wondered why you find it easier to connect with someone you know has messed up in their past and come through the other side?

When we hear someone's story with the good and the bad, when someone lets us see their real struggles, we feel a connection to them. When we share the same with others, they feel that way too.

Why? I think Donald Miller explains it well in the quote above. People who share their flaws with others are often the people who have experienced grace for them and they offer us grace for our flaws.

We're drawn to them because we feel safe to be ourselves around them. We know they'll love us and stick by us even when they see our flaws. We don't have to act for them. We can put down the masks and let them see what's behind it.

"Unless we're honest with each other, we can't connect."
(Donald Miller, "Scary Close")

This is why we find it easier to form relationships with people who don't spend all their time trying to hide their flaws. They're being honest with us about who they are and that draws us in.

We were made for connections with other people. That connection requires honesty and grace. Grace flows when we have received it ourselves. And we'll only know grace if we're willing to be honest with each other about our flaws.

Our flaws and our honesty about them are the vehicles by which we experience grace and connection with others. Without a willingness to be vulnerable we will never experience true intimacy in our friendships or any other relationships.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Two Deadly Choices

As Christians there are two dangerous choices we can make. We can choose to become complacent and we can choose to become prideful. Either choice is deadly to our spiritual lives.

In Amos 6, God is calling His people out on their complacency and their pride. In their relationship with God, both of those got in the way.

God's people had become complacent because the place they were living was relatively safe and their needs were provided for. They didn't have a need to depend on God for daily provision the way they had before.

That complacency led to another problem . . . pride. As they depended less on God, they became prideful in heir abilities to look after themselves.

Complacency and pride easily happen in our lives too. When we read the warnings about them spoken to Israel, we should take them seriously ourselves.

When life is hard and we're barely hanging on, we more easily depend on God. We see and admit our need for help and our inability to it ourselves.

But, when life is good, when things seem easy, we do exactly what Israel and Judah did. We forget our need for God and begin to depend on ourselves. We get complacent because things feel safe and we're being provided for. Then we begin to think we can it all ourselves. In our pride, we begin to depend on our own strength and ability to meet every need we have.

When we do this, when we become complacent and prideful, we eventually end up in a place where we have a choice. The same as Israel and Judah did when the prophets brought God's message of repentance to them. We can refuse to repent, keep going the way we were in depending on ourselves. Or we can choose the way of repentance and humility.

The story of Israel and Judah provides us with a clear picture of the results of refusing to repent. God didn't stop loving them, but He also didn't protect them from the consequences of their choices.

God's warnings through His prophets of the dangers of complacency and pride, are warnings for us as well. The dangers for us are the same as they were for Israel and Judah.

I know how easily I can struggle with these sins in my life. When I read Scriptures like Amos 6, I'm also reminded of the seriousness with which I need to approach them and deal with them in my life.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

What Ground Needs Plowing in Your Life?

When the ground is hard, nothing can be planted. The seed just sits on the surface. It can't take root. We can sow whatever we want on the hard ground, but it won't make a difference. We have to do the hard work of plowing, or breaking up, the hard ground so the seed can grow.

We know this is true in the physical world. And we'll do the work to create ground where the seed can take root and grow.

But this isn't just true in the physical world. It's also true in our spiritual lives.

     "Sow righteousness for yourselves,
          reap the fruit of unfailing love,
     and break up your unplowed ground;
          for it is time to seek the Lord,
     until He comes
          and showers His righteousness on you."
                                          (Hosea 10:12)

This verse in Hosea is calling Israel and Judah to seek God fully again. They are being exhorted to do the work to become the good soil where God's righteousness can be sown and His love reaped.

This requires a choice for them. They have to choose to let the hard ground be plowed - be broken up. This isn't easy work or something to do casually. Plowing the ground is hard work and it might be painful.

We all have areas of our lives where the ground is hard. Some we're acutely aware or already and some we may not be conscious of yet.

The question for each of us is if we're willing to allow those areas where the ground is hard to be plowed. Will we open those areas up to the Holy Spirit to do the work of breaking up the hard ground?

It's a dangerous prayer to ask God to show you the areas of unplowed ground in your life so they can be plowed. We may have to face things we would rather not face. We have to be willing to look at things that might be painful and allow God to work on them.

It's also a beautiful prayer. As we give God access to those areas, He plants and grows a seed of something more beautiful than we imagined in those places where nothing used to grow.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Who Do You Depend On?

You can't depend on anyone else.
You have to do it yourself.
You're the only one who has what it takes to get it done.
God helps those who help themselves.

How often do you hear things like that?
How often are you the one saying or thinking them?

This thinking is epidemic in our society. It's how we are taught to live.

Even in Christian circles, we think we have to do it on our own - that we can't even depend on God, if we'll dare to actually admit that. We might talk about God being our strength, but the reality of our lives says otherwise. We actually depend on ourselves, not God.

It turns out that Israel and Judah had the same problem. I've been reading the prophets this summer and that comes up over and over again, and they had consequences for that decision.

     "But you have planted wickedness,
          you have reaped evil,
          you have eaten the fruit of deception.
     Because you have depended on your own strength
          and on your many warriors,
     the roar of battle will rise against your people,
          so that your fortresses will be devestated."
                                          (Hosea 10:13-14)

Israel and Judah began to depend on themselves and they paid for that. They discovered that depending on themselves rather than God was a costly mistake.

It's a costly mistake we always make. When we choose to depend on ourselves rather than God, it leads to our destruction as well.

Our strength isn't enough. Our strength won't stand.

Only God's strength is enough. Only God's strength will stand.

When I read these verses in Hosea, I read a warning God put there for a reason. God wants to spare us the pain and anguish Israel and Judah went through. We can learn from their mistake and choose to depend on God rather than our own strength.

Who are you depending on?

Whose strength do you turn to first? God's? Or yours?

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Importance of our Stories

I read a quote recently that made me think about the importance of our stories. Of paying attention to them. Of sharing them with others.

"When we deny the story, it defines us. When we own the story, we can write a brave new ending. . . . Owning our stories is standing in our truth. It's transformative in our personal lives and professional lives and it's also critical in our community lives." (Brene Brown)

Our life is all about stories. The larger stories that last for months, years, a lifetime. The smaller stories that are minutes or hours long. And they're all important, because they are part of who we are, they point to how we are who we are.

What makes a story exciting to read or watch is the moment of decision. That place where the main character has to make a choice about what they will do. Which way they'll go. Which person they'll become.

That's the same thing that makes our stories exciting. The moments where we choose the ending of our story by stepping into it. When we choose to face the realities of where we are right now and be intentional about what we do next. Then we have a part to play in what the outcome is.

If we refuse to make that choice and just allow things to happen, we end up defined by what happened, rather than by what we chose to do. When we make the choice, we get to play a part in writing the ending of our story.

Our stories also impact other people. We need to share our stories with them. In doing so, we remind ourselves and others of God's faithfulness in the past, which gives us courage for the future.

Saturday, July 4, 2015


Sometimes an escape from what we call normal life becomes necessary. My blog went quiet for a week because that's exactly what I needed. An escape from what is my normal life to something different.

Time for some camping with friends. Some people asked me if camping with friends and their kids would really be break. I told them yes before and even after I would still say it was. Even crazy wind, rain, and thunderstorms, on the same day we had scorching heat didn't stop the time away from being an escape.

I've been reflecting on what made this an escape from normal life in the few days since I'v been back. The conclusion I've come to is the absence of technology and the inability to do anything about the list of all the things I needed to do at home. My escape was a break from the things that can tire me out without me even realizing it. The laptop left at home. The cell phone mostly off - checked only a couple times a day. And I was too far away for the list to matter. That's what made it an escape.

Sometimes we get so caught up in the busy-ness and demands of life that we lose sight of our need to get away. But, we were created to nee time away from the demands of life, because even the good things can drain us over time.

Jesus modelled this and taught it to His disciples. After feeding the five thousand, Jesus sent His disciples away from the crowds and then spent time alone by Himself. "Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He dismissed the crowd. After He has dismissed them, He went up on a mountainside by Himself to pray." (Matthew 14:22-23).

After a time of busy ministry Jesus took a break and He made sure His disciples took one too. He escaped for a while before He stepped back into the demands of His ministry and life. This wasn't a one time thing for Him either. (See also Mark 1:35 and 6:31-32.)

If Jesus needed to escape to a solitary place sometimes and taught His disciples the importance of doing so, then how much more do we need to do the same?

There's no clear prescription for what this time should look like - just that we need to do it. It's not about what it looks like, doing a specific thing. It's about taking time away.

For me these times of escape have had many different looks. Camping. A retreat. A walk or hike. A couple hours of just ignoring my phone and email. It's not so much the format of it, but the practice of it that matters.

When was the last time you escaped the demands of life to be refreshed?

Are you in need of another time?

What do you need to do to plan or schedule your next time of escape?

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Rely on God's Love

When you rely on someone you're expecting them to be there and to do what they said they would do. You move forward believing they will be there. You count on something happening.

I'm sure we all have stories of relying on someone and they didn't come through the way we expected. We know the disappointment of someone proving to be unreliable.

When I was reading in 1 John recently, I was struck by the words in one of the verses.

1 John 4:16 says:
"And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love."

In this verse, John is telling us that not only can we have knowledge God loves us, we can rely on it. We can rest our entire lives on the truth that God loves us and He will never prove unreliable.

This verse goes on to tell us God is love.Because of that we can rely on God's love for us. We will never be disappointed or find it's not there.

Saturday, June 20, 2015


"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)

These words follow a warning about false teachers and false spirits who deny that Jesus is God's Son. A warning about those who have been deceived by Satan and teaching things that are wrong.

John is reminding his readers that they don't have to be discouraged or defeated because of false teachers, because they are not greater than the God we serve - than the Holy Spirit living in each of us.

Satan and his demons deny the truth and want to deceive us. They attack us and try to defeat us.

But, we won't be defeated, because we have the Holy Spirit living in us and He is greater.

If this is true, then why are there so many defeated Christians walking around? If the Holy Spirit living in us is greater than anything Satan can throw at us, why do so many of live as though we can't get free of the lies that keep us chained?

If we're living out of the the truth of this verse and so many others in Scripture that talk about Satan already being defeated, then we should be living lives confident in our God and sure of the freedom He has purchased for us. Yet, the reality is so different from what it should be for too many Christians - even Christians who would declare these truths with their words.

I think the reason why so many Christians live a defeated life is because we only believe these words - this truth from Scripture - in our heads. We say we believe it, but it hasn't made its way to our hearts yet. And until it becomes something we believe in our hearts, we'll continue to live bound up and defeated lives. Because when we believe it with our hearts, it means we are willing to act on it.

Learning to believe the Holy Spirit living in us is greater than anything else Satan tries in our lives isn't something that will just happen. It won't just occur by accident.

We have to choose to trust God that it's true and act on it first. As we do, we will being to believe it in our hearts, as well as our heads. But, we have to make the choice first. The more we make the choice, the easier it becomes to live believing that because we've experienced it to be true.

What is one area in your life where you're struggling to believe that Holy Spirit in you is greater than the one who is in the world? Will you choose today to step into the truth and start living like its true in that area?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Redeeming the Label Christian

One of my first posts on this blog was about taking a break from the term Christian. In it, I talk about choosing not to self-identify with the label Christian anymore because of the many negative things associated with that label.

As I reread that post, I began to wonder if there was a different way to approach the negative things so often associated with the label Christian. What if, instead of seeking to avoid the name, we sought to redeem it? What if we decided to live in such a way that people began to associate something positive when they heard the label Christian?

Acts 11:26 tells us that "the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch." The church was already established at this point. The surrounding culture gave them the name knowing the reputation of the early believers for caring for and loving those in need around them.

In the 2,000 years since then, Christians have come to be associated with lots of negative. To be sure, we've deserved some of it as our actions, as a whole and as individuals, has been anything but Christ-like. But that doesn't mean it has to stay that way. We can change it.

We can build on the good that does still happen in the name of Christ. There is much good being done in the name of Christ and we should be building on that rather than simply trying to distance ourselves from being called by a name that has incredible history attached to it.

As Christians, we have a rich heritage. Even with all the times we've failed and messed up in representing Christ, we have a history of doing good in the name of Christ. We should be building on that, not running from it.

When we run from it, we leave behind both the good and the bad. A better choice would be to acknowledge the places where we've done wrong and learn from them, and build on the good that has been done.

We serve a God Who is all about redeeming our lives. He takes our failures, our sins, our wrongs, and He redeems them for His glory. I know God loves to and wants to redeem us individually. He does this all the time.

I believe He also wants to do this for those who claim Him name as a whole. God designed us to go through this life and He uses His church as a body. I believe this means He wants to do His redeeming work in us as a whole.

When we choose to run from everything in our past, God can't redeem it for His glory - not the good and not the bad. What if, instead of running from it, we sought to changes people's associations with the label Christians? It will take time, but it won't ever happen if it doesn't start somewhere.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Do You Believe God Heals?

Do you believe that God can heal?

Do you deep down in the depths of your soul believe that the power of the cross is enough to heal?

I know just by asking those questions, I'm heading into an area where opinions and experiences differ and have often been cause for debate and division among Christians. I have no intention of starting a debate on this hear. But, these are the questions I've been wrestling with lately.

When Jesus was on earth, He healed people. The Gospels are filled with accounts of Jesus healing. Acts is also filled with the early church praying for people and them being healed. Matthew 10:1 records Jesus sending out His disciples "to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness."

As I read through Scripture, I'm struck with the reality that the early church believed God could heal and they acted on that faith. I don't see anywhere in Scripture where it says God stopped healing people. And there's still stories to be heard around the world about how God has healed people.

I can agree that God has the ability to heal. Even that He does still heal people sometimes. The question becomes if I personally believe it's possible in my life or the lives of those I know. Bringing it from something in my head that I can say, to something that has an impact on how I live.

That's where my wrestling with the questions I opened this post with began. I was in a situation where my answers to those questions mattered - they would change my prayers. Those answers still matter and they still impact my prayers. I think we can all find ourselves in these situations at different times in life.

The truth is Scripture makes it pretty clear God can and does heal people. That being the case, it means I can, and should, believe it myself. And I can pray as if God does heal people today. That's what I'm asked to do as a Christian.

The challenge comes in my personal expectations of what believing God can heal and praying that He would entail. That's where I can become discouraged. And I think that's where much of the division and debate over this comes from. We've gone beyond what Scripture says and put our personal expectations on the same level.

Believing God can heal doesn't mean we ignore prudent medical advice. Believing God can heal doesn't mean we go around recklessly declaring God has healed people just because we prayed for them and we believe it.

Believing God can heal means we humbly come before Him and ask for Him to intervene. It means we allow room for both the miraculous that excites us and the path of following the treatment laid out - because eve in that, the healing at the end is still a work of God; He just chose to use other people to bring about that healing.

Believing God can heal means we allow space for God's plan to be beyond us when He doesn't heal the way we expected and prayed for Him to. It means we trust Him, even when His response doesn't make sense according to our plans and requests.

Ultimately, believing God can heal comes down to a decision to pray boldly and humbly, and then trust God with the outcome.

Do you believe God can heal?

Do you deep down in the depths of your soul believe that the power of the cross is enough to heal?

Do I believe this? As I wrestled with these questions, I've come to conclusion that I do. Now, it comes down to what that looks like moving forward in my life.

The same is true for you. What you believe about this will impact how you live - how you pray.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Desperate for the Truth

Most of the time I can go through life content with knowing just enough of the truth to keep going. I just need to have enough of God's truth in my life to be able to live a comfortable life. I may even know I'm deceived in a specific area, but it doesn't really bother me.

At least, that used to be how I lived. I can't live that way anymore. Not once I discovered the freedom that comes with knowing the truth.

Hearing the truth can be painful sometimes. And it can be difficult to learn how to live the truth - especially is we've been living deceived for a while.

But once we learn of the freedom the truth brings in our lives, we see no other way to really live. We become desperate for the truth.

I'm not talking about what we decide the truth is. Or what our culture tells us the truth is. Those will keep us living lives that are bound up in deception.

The truth we are really desperate for is God's truth - contained in His Word. God's truth is what sets us free. God's truth is what really allows us to live.

But we live in a world where truth isn't sought. A world where truth changes from person to person. We get caught in a trap of deception and we're now convinced it's the truth.

We're all caught in it to some degree. It's more obvious for some of us than for others. Sometimes we can hide the ways we're caught in the web of deception and sometimes we can't.

The good news is that we don't have to stay stuck. With God's help, we can begin to discover His truth - the real truth. The truth that frees us.

As we seek Him, we hear His truth spoken to the lies we've been believing. As we take the truth we hear and ask God to help us learn to live it, we find one more part of us is freed from the web of deception we've been tangled in.

As we begin to experience this freedom, we want more of it. We start to search for the truth because it is what sets us free.

We'll spend our entire lives on this seeking of God's truth. And we'll quickly discover it's a worthwhile way to live. Growing deeper in our relationship with God as we continue our desperate search for the truth.

Friday, June 5, 2015



Just me walking in the door.

The familiar question running through my head: Will there be anyone who comes today that I can sit with? Or will I sit alone again?

It's not that I don't feel welcome here. I do. I'm definitely at home here. It's a place of familiar faces.

But, it's still hard to sit alone so often.

The service is over. Everyone is heading out the doors. Some to pick up their kids and some to visit with others. Some are in a hurry to leave and some will linger.

Should I stay and try to find people to visit with? Or should I just quickly leave?

Some weeks I linger. Some weeks I go.

Conversations in settings like that are difficult for me - especially when I'm feeling alone. I want to connect, but sometimes it feels like because I'm alone, it's more difficult to connect. Maybe it's because I struggle with making small talk too.

Each time I go to church events of any kind, thoughts and struggles similar to these go through my head. As a single person, who is also an introvert, easily overwhelmed by crowds, going to church events can be hard.

I want to go, but I also struggle with it. I usually go anyways and put a smile on my face, but the truth is I'm fighting a battle with myself inside.

Sometimes it seems like I'm the odd one out in these settings. Everyone I talk to is married and often has kids. And that seems to make conversation more difficult - like there's less to find for common ground.

But, we were made to need each other. God made us to need relationship with people. We need to connect with others.

Sometimes our feelings can hinder our view of reality. In those moments when I'm feeling alone, it's far easier to further isolate myself from others, than to reach out to others and seek that connection. But, those are exactly the moments when we need to reach out most - when we need to push past the feelings of being alone and make connection with others.

When we seek that connection with others that God created us for, we begin to live the life that God intends for us to live.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Need for Silence in Conversation

How do you respond in conversations when there are moments of silence? Do you look for something to fill the silence? Or do you wait it out?

We all have different reactions to silence in groups - whether it be just us and one other person, or a larger group of people. Some are uncomfortable with it and will desperately seek to fill it. Others will just fill the silence and not even realize they're doing it. Still others are comfortable with it and will just wait it out.

There is one group of people, who sees silence as completely necessary. Without it, they just won't say anything. It might seem counter-intuitive to others, but these people need it.

As one of these people who needs silence in conversation to participate fully in it, I can say that it is sometimes hard to explain this to people and have them understand. Without silence to allow me to form my thoughts and then put them into words for others, I just won't say anything.

There is a need to silence sometimes. I know not everyone needs the same thing. Some people don't handle silence well. But, some people need it.

When I take a bit of time to answer your question, I'm putting my thoughts into words to communicate it with you. I need the silence to do that. I realize sometimes it's awkward when I take that time. I take as little time as possible to put it all together. But, I need the time to do so.

I'll give you lots of room to talk. I'll happily listen. But, if you fill all the quiet places, I'll never say a thing. I'm asking for some grace from you, in those moments when I need some time to put my words together.

Part of learning to do life together is learning to work with each other in all our differences. That means I'm learning to not get annoyed when others keep talking and avoid the silence. It also means, I'm asking that others learn to work with my need for silence in the midst of conversation.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Living Truly Free

What do you think of when you think of freedom? What does freedom mean to you?

No rules. No boundaries. Getting to do whatever we want without consequences.

That's what I often think of when I think of freedom. And that's what our society would tell us freedom is. It sounds like that would be fun.

But, then we read words like the ones Peter wrote in 1 Peter 2:16, "Live as free people,but do not sue your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God's slaves." These words challenge our society's common understanding of freedom. They make me think again about how I define freedom. They change what it means to live truly free.

It's no longer about having no rules or boundaries. It's no longer about being able to do whatever I want without consequences. That's not really freedom anyways.

God has freed us from the power of sin and darkness in our lives. He is continuing to free us from the places Satan has gained some ground in our lives. As long as we are willing to let Him work.

God offers true freedom as a gift. His endless love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness make true freedom possible. We have the choice of accepting the gift or not.

God's freedom means we're no longer bound by rules, by things we should do or not do. Peter's words in this verse remind us that God's freedom means we always have a choice. We can choose to things that please God or we can choose to do evil.

We run into problems when we begin to see God's freedom as an excuse to evil; when we justify doing things we know are wrong by saying that we're free from rules and that God will always forgive us when we ask.

We're not wrong in saying we're not bound to long lists of things we can and cannot do. Or in saying God will always forgive us. Both of those things are true.

But, if we use them as excuses to do what we know is wrong, we've missed what the freedom God offers us really is. We've missed the heart of what it is God desires for us.

True freedom births in us a desire to live lives that please Him - that bring Him honour and glory. This is what Peter is talking about when he says we should live as God's slaves. We are no longer required to live by a certain list of anything, but we choose to live by what God says because of how much He has given us.

We begin to realize the extent of God's loves, mercy, grace, and forgiveness for us and it makes us want to live the way He says is best. We don't have to - we choose to. That is true freedom.

Friday, May 22, 2015

In The Storm

Last weekend as I sat in a canoe on a perfectly smooth lake watching the sun dip behind the mountains, God began to remind me of how He works. For now, the sky was clear and the lake was smooth, the sun reflected off the lake and the fish were jumping. Nothing spoke of the storm that was coming in a few hours.

Life can be like that sometimes. Everything can be calm and peaceful and going well. A few hours later, the storm comes and nothing is right anymore. We had no warning, no indication it was coming until it was on top of us.

When the rain come last weekend, it poured. There was no way not to get wet. The surface of the lake was now pock-marked by rain drops. The sky was dark and full of clouds. No starts or moon to be seen.

Sometimes life gets dark. The storm brings the darkness in. We can't see what is coming next, or where to take the next step. We have to choose to just hold on and trust. Grab hold of God and not let go.

Mid-morning the next day the rain finally stopped. The clouds parted to reveal the sun. Once again the surface of the lake became like glass. The storm had passed.

Puddles remained. Lush green grass. The water bringing life and nourishing growth.

We usually don't being to see it until we get to the other side. The storm may be difficult when we're in the midst of it and just trying to survive. But, when we get through to the other side, we start to see where the storm fed growth and brought life to areas that were dry and dying.

We may not enjoy walking through the storm. (Camping in a rain storm is not exactly enjoyable.) We may wish it was over sooner. But, God brings good out of the storm.

He uses them to teach us, to grow us, to make us into who He wants us to be. The storms are a part of life that God has plans to use.

Philippians 1:6 says, "Being confident of this, that He Who began a good work in you will carry it onto completion until the day of Christ Jesus." God is doing His work in us. And He uses the things He allows in our lives, including the storms, to complete His good work in us.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Trust Me

Trust Me
Take that step
Put your foot down
I know you can't see
The ground is solid there
Trust Me

Trust Me
I know it's right
I know the good
I have a plan
It's for your good
Trust Me

Trust Me
I'll never leave you
I won't let go
I'm holding you
You're not alone
Trust Me

Trust Me
The way is dark
The brush is thick
The path is hidden
But I know the way
Trust Me