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.