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Archive for the tag “Christian”

Gifts

red-christmas-gifts

Gift giving has been a tradition that stems back to the beginning of time.

It used to be in forms of blessings, then moved to both blessings and material goods.

When material goods take on the form of blessing, then the gifts really come alive.  I remember when my wife and I were expecting our first child.  We really had nothing.  I served as a youth pastor and my wife just left her job to become a full-time mom and we really had nothing – no crib, no dresser, not a single piece of baby furniture in the house.  My brother-in-law and his wife were self-employed and they had nothing, but decided to give anyway – unbeknownst to us.  It was for them the right thing to do.  He shared the story with us sometime around the middle of July.  He had to tell us because they were not Christians but felt God blessed them for giving.  He felt that way because his business tripled in the early spring from what he had made the entire year before.

He learned how giving can be such a blessing.

Gifts are significant messages from God.  We miss them sometimes because gifts usual come with a giver and every giver has some sort of history.  That history can mess things up or can create a sense of honour and awe.

I find it amazing that the past few days we are rediscovering prophecies of Jesus coming, hundreds of years before His arrival, and they came true.  He could not have fabricated the fulfilment of these on His own.  Zechariah mentioned that people would come from afar to bring Him gifts.  Gifts befitting a King, a High Priest.  He was told that the significance was not just in the gifts, but in the fulfillment of the prophecy.  Since God’s Word is true and He has never lied, it is our kind reminder to carefully obey the Word of God in our lives.

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How long must I call for help before you will listen?

Photosensitivity

For anyone who has a vision for changing the world, this seems to be a common theme in prayer.  It just seems that it takes forever for God to intervene.

This impatience of mine only gets into dangerous territory when I interpret God’s seeming snail pace movements as indifference in the face of evil.

We all can see what is going on around us and who isn’t saddened by the news we read in our headlines each day.  Worse still are the injustices that we never read about or the corruption that is hidden from our immediate view.  What about our Christian friends around the world that suffer for the very fact that they are Christians?

As rampant as injustice may seem to be, I am not called to allow my concern to cause me to doubt God or rebel against Him.  I am called to consider the message of God and to recognize God’s long-range plans and purposes.  God is doing it right, even if I do not understand why He works as He does.

Another danger sign for me is as the circumstances around me become almost unbearable, I begin to wonder if God has forgotten me.  That causes me to remind myself that He is in control.  He has a plan, He will judge, I am to stay humble and be willing to accept God’s answers and await His timing.

 

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Illustration

illustration-of-apple-tree-on-white-background

There are many sermons that challenge us to understand that our lives are the illustration of God to those who have never opened a Bible or entered into a church or have ever had a conversation with a follower of Christ.

I believe that this is true.

If I do believe this is true, then my experience through job loss, marriage difficulties, pain and suffering, financial difficulties, raising children, success, loss of a loved one and life in general are God’s illustration of Himself through me to others.

Wonder what that painting looks like?

Does it show resentment, anger, disappointment, confusion, hate or does it show love, compassion, yielding obedience, a servant, submission, honour, respect or awe?

I believe that I am caught sometimes thinking I have the right to be….whatever…and God catches me and quietly shares with me that the world is watching – what do I want them to see.  Do I want them to see God or do I want them to see me?

Marriage difficulties I have had – with divorce among Christians at the 50% mark we have no better track record than the rest of the world.  My wife and I entered in marriage with the idea that we would never divorce, and if we did, we would follow the Biblical practice of not remarrying until one of us dies.

That was a good standard to follow because it helped me work through marriage issues until they were resolved.  However, the real issue for me was this — I tell everyone about the awesomeness and power of God and if I was to bail on my marriage, where would that awesomeness and power be?  That is correct – non-existent.  If God is not powerful enough to work in my marriage, then what can He really do?  Those are what drove me to my knees demanding God’s presence and hand and love to fill my marriage.

My marriage has also illustrated my own relationship with God.  How many times have I taken my marriage for granted illustrating the point of how many times I have taken God for granted?  How many times have I left my wife at home alone while I went on my adventure illustrating how many times I have left Jesus on the living room couch of my heart alone while I did my thing?

As I connect the dots between my life being an illustration and life events illustrating my relationship with God, especially with my relationship to my children, God opens the door of communication because I understand what I see sometimes more than what I read or hear.

We may not want to experience the pains or successes that we will experience in this life, but one thing is for sure, God is going to use them as an illustration of His love, gentleness, kindness, mercy and grace.  Also His saving power and the might of His right arm, but also the protection and refuge, a strong tower in times of trouble.

For those of us who God has asked for extraordinary obedience, we pray for trust – God has a special purpose for this particular illustration and has called us to provide it.  May we be satisfied with the knowledge that the pain involved in obedience may benefit those we serve, whether or not it involves us personally.

http://youtu.be/YWk7RUg3ZV4

 

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Jesus talks about His leadership

Jesus-Coming-Trumpet-e1324351057843-300x175I think that we get pretty absorbed into the servant leadership role that we see in Jesus’ life to the point that we stop understanding the power of His meekness.

As far back in the OT, far before He entered this world, it was declared what His purpose would be here on earth and what His role would be at the end of the world.

With those two leadership job descriptions in place, we see Jesus, a glimpse of Him before He even came into our world.

We understand the job description of His life here on earth pretty well I think.  So let me tell you His leadership role at the end of the world – He is given the ruling power and glory over all nations of the world, so that all people of every language must obey Him.  His power is eternal — it will never end — His government shall never fall.

This of course is confirmed in Revelation when we are introduced to the Lion of the tribe of Judah – we know Him as the Lamb.

This is something that should all Christians everywhere who are facing persecution should know.  The end has already been written – hence the expression, we are more than conquerors.  It is only for a time as we come before the world in meekness, yet in the power of the Lion who taught us how to serve until our time has come to join with Him and rule with Him.

 

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We will wait

Do you go through times where you feel that God is no longer in the business of blessing?

I know that I meet many people during my day who feel this way.  There are examples in the Bible where God removes His hand of blessing from time to time based on the rejection of His followers. King David,in one of his Psalms, spoke of travelling through a desert when he tried to speak of his relationship with God at the moment.   I have heard others describe their prayer life as if the heavens were made of brass.

Others are so determined to re-engage with God they will even resort to fasting, giving up favourite things – to no avail as the troubles and conflicts of life continue to pile up.

One of my rants is the TV evangelists who say that Christians need to be wealthy and healthy and if we are not then … well, let’s not go there.

But I do think that is where our problems start … we listen to other people … looking for encouragement and getting the wrong kind or getting judged – those are usually the two outcomes.

The prophets of God had the best advice – wait – and that is a very difficult thing to do.

While waiting – people die because of poor health, war, famine, and disease.

While waiting there is a lot of crying, pain, feelings of complete abandonment and rejection.

While waiting the absence of peace is overwhelming at times and there is wonder if we will ever experience it again.

While waiting we settle down, we confess, we ask God not to hate us, we ask Him to remember to glorify His name through us, to remember His promise to bless us.

While waiting we know full well that there is no other God, there is only God, and we are determined to wait for Him to help us and we tell Him so.

Then somehow, as Isaiah documents so well, at some point, as King David clearly spells out, we start walking, then we run then we start flying and we are never tired and we are energized with boundless capacity, enabled to do what we could not do before because of only one fact – we waited.

http://youtu.be/-iWj8wPhimE

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God gives us desires

I am pretty sure that we can’t even tell the difference between our desires and God‘s desires.

It looks like our idea, sounds like our idea, comes from a passion that we have – so tell me again, how is this a desire that is planted in my heart by God?

That’s still my main point – I do not know.  But I do know that God moves the hearts of people to accomplish what He wants done.  There are too many examples of this in the Bible to mention – never minding the fulfillment of over 350 prophecies in the OT about the life of Christ and how impossible it would have been for Him to fulfill them on His own.  God had to direct lives in order for the prophecies to come true.

I believe that each of us have a purpose in life that God has called us to and I believe that God instills in us His desires to accomplish those purposes.  I think it is one of the reasons we need to worship and glorify Him in all that we do – for what we do, is what He has called us to do.

It goes without saying that the desires you had before you met Christ, will still be the same desires you will have now that you have decided to be a follower of Christ.  That is why so many people who do great things, especially leaders that we recognize, need to understand that those good things were done because God wanted them done.  Once they recognize that they are not really in control and that God is orchestrating His plan through them, they are humbled.

I think that is one of the reasons Einstein is thought, by many, to be a Christian.  I do not think he was, but I do believe that he knew that God had imparted to him many wonderful things and most of all the desire to understand how the world worked.  He communicated that often and thanked God for the opportunity to serve in this manner.

May I suggest that we thank God for the many areas that we serve.  I believe we serve in them because God gave us the desire to do so, to accomplish something He needs done – and He chose you and I to do it.

Let us thank Him each day for that great opportunity, thank Him for calling us to a special task, thank Him for allowing us to be an important part of His plan and thank Him for caring.  May we have the graciousness to see His handiwork in those around us and let them know from time to time when you see what God is doing through their lives.

 

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Ignoring God’s message

First of all, how easy is it these day to ignore those people who always hear from God and who end up not getting it right?  It almost embarrassing and you hope at times that these people who are pontificating are rookies trying to come across as heros.

So what happens when we ignore a message from someone who is not even a follower of Christ?

I mean, I am set up both ways to possibly miss something really important by making a mistaken assumption that either the message from the follower is flawed or the message from the non-follower could not be part of God’s larger plan for my life.

It is true – I need to be really humble when it comes to listening.  If I miss God’s point because of my false assumption, it could really cost me.

I need to come back to a naive stance and that is any message from God can come in unexpected ways.

Lord, don’t let my prejudice or false assumptions blind me from Your message.

 

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Change

Based on my search for a proper picture, the word change is quite an interesting word.  I found photos of butterflies and frogs, both of whom change as God has created that process – it just happens.  I found a fish jumping from one fish bowl to a “better” fish bowl but that is just a “grass is greener on the other side” kind of change.  I found a lot of challenges out there for you and I to “be the change.”  That’s not bad, but there was little encouragement for the change to come from within.

The change I am talking about deals more with us walking in a certain direction and then realizing that direction does not take us where we want to go or I should be more direct, where God wants us to go.

It is our opportunity, no matter how bad or how far removed we are from God, to turn, change direction, and move toward Him.

This of course produces another change that comes through growth.  When we are not growing, we are not changing.  Change = growth, right?

This is what you have to love about our role as stewards of what has been given to us.  As leaders, we are constantly in need of growth.  We can’t lead unless we are growing, can’t teach unless we have stories to tell of how we have changed.  I believe the word used in various Christian circles is sanctification – but “change to grow” makes a lot more sense and it applies for today, not yesterday.

So when Jesus is praying all night, when He is not eating, when He is up first thing in the morning – these are things, sacrifices that push Him towards God.  These are the activities that enable Him to calm the storm, walk on water, feed thousands, heal, deliver and more importantly, mentor a group of men and disciple another group of men and women into the leaders that changed the world.

Do not think for  a minute that the person who is slip sliding down the slippery slope of drugs, alcohol, sex and rebellion against God s not changing – they are – and they are growing.  When they come back to following Jesus, they will be incredible followers of Jesus having experienced the growth and reality of the other side of the world where there is no hope, no faith, and no peace.

May your devotions this day cause you to look inside and see what could you change.  If you spend only 15 minutes a day for every day, working and changing this one area of your life, I am sure you will see incredible growth.  If you do not, no worries, someone who knows you well will tell you that they see it.  Maybe that’s the best indicator of change and growth – may it then be part of your testimony of God’s incredible grace in your life.

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Seek guidance from God = Success

We all need someone in our lives who can instruct us in the “fearing” of God.

I believe we live in the days where we all need a tutor who understands the mind of God and can instruct us to see Him in many more ways than we can imagine.

It’s true isn’t it – being a Christian is quite the easiest of all things to do, but being a follower of Christ is incredibly difficult.  Lately I have been hearing about the athletes that have decided to abstain from premarital sexual relationships and they say that this commitment is harder to do than the day-to-day regimes they face in preparing for their sport.  I think the same goes with drinking alcoholic beverages.

Life does not start with what we do not do, nor are we defined by what we do not do – it is in the decision to seek God alone, first, our priority, that brings us forward and enables to be successful.

It is the knowing Him, the following Him, the worship of Him,  and the understanding of who He is and why His directions are so important to follow.

Let’s face it, God never forsakes any who seek Him, and therefore we are the cause of our own destruction.

He will never suffer any to seek His face in vain.

 

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Are you a troublemaker?

I met a new friend the other day.  He is a street preacher who has located himself at what us Torontonians have dubbed, Dundas Square, our replica of Times Square.

The reason we met is that he and I share a mutual friend.  We connected on Facebook, I watched a few of his video clips as they shared some of his experiences on the street, sharing the gospel.

He is a true peacemaker, trying to bring the Word of God out on the street with a voice that is battling the other voices that exist in order to point in the direction of Jesus.  He is, by the very nature of being on the street, an apologetic and able with some persuasive speech, win a few engagements as they come along.  By and large, there are always a few people who stay and listen to what he has to say.

When I say peacemaker, I mean that in its truest form.  He loves as he preaches.  He is not crazy, does not yell and shout, does not damn anyone, sticks to only one message – Christ came for only one reason – to save us.

Well, this past weekend was our Pride parade and he thought he should be there, at his corner, with another voice, proclaiming the Word of God.  Can’t say it was pretty, and I am sure he was all alone because most Christians made a point of not being anywhere near the parade.

Police came, asked him to leave.  There were arguments about tolerance for one but not for the other; freedom of speech for one and not for the other etc.

What would be the charges on Christians who were brave enough to stand and proclaim the Gospel in our cities today?

I think they would reference us to something like a plague, someone who corrupts the morals of others.  Maybe turbulent, or an encourager of tumult and disorder – our message does not fit in.   Not just a person who acts like a  pestilent, but that we were the very pestilence itself.

There is not doubt that they would be seen as a ringleader – speaking on behalf of all Christians –  so active, and so prominent in preaching the gospel.

Many of us Christians would try to distant ourselves from them and call them a sect, even heretical.

If they didn’t already belong to a denomination, we would make up one for them and I am sure it would be given by way of contempt.

Sometimes I think that when we are only about peacekeeping, we must be pretty soft in our message.  The gospel message is a tough message and one does not win friends and influence people when one speaks into the  lives of people the truth of this message.  I work with SAT-7 who broadcasts into the Middle East and North Africa, and we are always afraid of those who will take offense of the message because there is history in this region of such action.  In Toronto, the worse thing so far is an escort off your street corner at a time when it probably would have saved your life.

Somehow I am coming to a place where I need to participate in making some noise, disturb a little bit with the truth of the Gospel, make some waves in the traditional walk of life, calling people to a place where their lives will be radically changed with an encounter with Jesus’ love.  I can only pray that my Church and those that I meet would not see me as a troublemaker – but who am I kidding.

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