Tag Archives: Christian

Light to the World

It happens to me the most when I am out grocery shopping. Maybe because that is the most consistent place I see people I don’t know. From the guy playing his guitar at the front entrance to the mother trying to get in and out as quick as possible with a couple toddlers in tow, I can’t help but wonder.

A few years ago I went to help serve a meal through an organization that provides them to the homeless downtown. It was a youth service project, and I was along as one of the “responsible adults”. As we prayed just before the doors opened, the woman who heads up the ministry told us to “keep our eyes out for Jesus. Every meal we try to figure out if one of the guests is Jesus in disguise.”

As I look at the man with the quitar or the woman with the children, I can’t help but wonder are they Jesus is disguise? Would I treat them any differently if I thought they were?

Honestly, I try not to make eye contact with the musician standing next to the open case collecting spare change. I seldom have any change on me, save for the quarter that I used to free the shopping cart from the corral.

As I cross paths with people in the store, I try to be friendly and courteous, but I am on a mission to get out of there as quickly as I can. Sure, I smile at the kids, and give a you’re-braver-than-me look to the mother as she sheepishly pulls her tot from the cookie aisle.

So, I question, how many times have I walked right past Jesus and not even noticed?

The phrase “what would Jesus do” has faded from pop culture, but the question is still as valid as ever. During Jesus’ earthly ministry, he often went out of His way to touch someone’s life. Sometimes, He sought his target out, think of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10) who He called down from the tree and invited Himself over for lunch. Sometimes, He is interrupted, while on mission, by the slightest touch, like the woman who had been bleeding for years (Luke 8:40-55).

As I ponder the question, I realize that Jesus wasn’t concerned with the status of anyone He came into contact with. Of course, He wasn’t looking for Himself in others; He would help anyone who needed it, without a second thought about if there would be any benefit to Him.

Maybe the question I should be asking myself is “how can I be Jesus” to the people I pass on my weekly sojourn to the grocery store. Can I brighten someone’s day with a kind word or a helping hand? Should I go prepared with a pocket full of coins? Can I be more than just friendly and actually give 5 minutes to hear someone’s story?

Jesus calls us to be a light to the world (Matt 5:14-16), so whether I am looking for Jesus, trying to follow His example or being a model of Him to the world, I need to let my light shine everywhere.

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One Way

Saturday mornings have been busy for us since October. We enrolled both my 8-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter in the Jr. NBA program. So, every Saturday we get up early and trek off so my children can learn the skills and fundamentals of basketball. It is a full morning, with one playing at 9 and the other at 10:30. The program is run at different schools across the city, with each group meeting the same place each week.

The parking lot for the school my daughter plays at is on a side street, with “No Exit” signs posted at the entrance. Dead-end streets are fairly common in our town because every neighbourhood seems to curl into itself – using space well and offering plenty of quiet streets. What is different, and perplexing, about this particular street is that it is also a one-way street. Think about that for a moment; you can only travel in one direction, and there is no exit onto another street. The signs would indicate that the school parking lot is the final resting place for every car that started down that road.

In Romans 6:23 the Bible tells us that sin is a one-way street to a dead end. We all sin (Romans 3:23), so none of us are able to avoid starting down the road. Once we start down it, we can’t do anything ourselves to avoid being stuck forever. Some enjoy the road with no concern for what happens when they reach the end. Others convince themselves that if they follow the rules and obey the laws and are “good enough” that some way they will be able to avoid the dead end.

The truth is very simple. We cannot, on our own, avoid the penalty of our sin.

Obviously, I have not been stuck in my car in a school parking lot for the past 4 months. While city planners don’t always make the most logical decisions, they did design a way for you to exit the parking lot and get back to the main road. Sure, you can’t go out the way you came in, but the parking lot is connected to another parking lot and you simply exit that one and join the flow of traffic.

Jesus, who didn’t always do the most logical thing, did plan a way for us to avoid the penalty of sin. He subjected Himself first to a human body and then the humiliation and torture of death – and not just any death, one of the most gruesome imaginable. Through His death, He created a way for our sins to be forgiven and for us to join with God in eternal life.

Some people will hear about Jesus and decide that He is not the only way. Others will deny that He has a way at all. And still others will see His example and figure that if they are “close enough” to emulating it, they will be able to sneak past the dead-end. None of these approaches will allow you to avoid the consequences of sin. Jesus provides the way. All He asks of us is to confess that we are sinners deserving of death and accept that He is the only way to Heaven.

The truth is very simple. We can, through Jesus, avoid the penalty of our sin.

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New Year’s Revelation

On January 1st, my wife asked me if I made any New Year’s Resolutions. I had not. She wasn’t surprised by this as I never make them – but it was still a valid question because it really wouldn’t be a surprise to her if I did. She knows that I love dates and milestones and that I have recently put an emphasis on striving to be a better person. It would only make sense for me to have taken part in the ritual that so many do each year. As I thought about her question, I wondered why I had decided against it.

Maybe it is the perfectionist in me. I didn’t even know I had perfectionist tendencies until I had been married a couple of years. You wouldn’t have guessed it based on my academic attitude – I used to say “in life, if you know 80% of the stuff, you can look up the other 20%.” I guess it’s good I grew up in the era of encyclopedias, because in the internet age, I would probably have reversed those percentages – but there are other areas in my life where perfectionism rears its ugly face. 

I have always hated to be wrong, and it bugs me when I am not the best at whatever it is I am doing. I just chalked that up to my overly competitive nature. I have learned that I demand perfection in certain areas of my life, but definitely not all. I have made decisions on what areas I demand perfection of myself and what areas I don’t worry about – whether that be because I don’t think I can attain it or don’t want to put in the effort. So, making a New Year’s Resolution would simply be setting myself up to fail, as most are broken within a couple of weeks.

Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, urges us to be perfect, not to our standards of perfection, but to God’s. Out of context, that sounds like an impossible task. In fact, the Bible tells us that no one is perfect and all of us fall short of the glory of God. However, looking at the command in context gives us something to strive towards. Jesus issues the command as He is finishing His thoughts on loving enemies. The next passage talks about giving to the needy in secret. This is the same sermon where Jesus tells those listening that blessed are the poor, the meek and the persecuted. 

My desire to always be right, and let everyone know it, is not a characteristic of perfection in God’s view. Neither is straight As, rising to the top of the corporate ladder or having the best-looking house in the neighbourhood. I won’t pretend to know exactly what perfection looks like to God, but based on the Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 5 and 6, I would expect that being kind and helping others for their sake, not my own recognition, would be a good place to start.

I don’t know about you, but if I am going to try and live up to God’s standards, that is a commitment I need to make every day, not just once a year. Sure, I can start the year with a generic goal of self-improvement, but if I am to strive for perfection, I need to take it one interaction at a time. If I can be a little more like Jesus to everyone I come into contact with that would be a great start on the road to perfection.

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World Class Consistency

Watching the women’s 3000-metre speed staking event at the Olympics, I realized why I would never be a world-class speed skater. Never mind my complete lack of skating skills, or the fact I was already past the prime age for high performance sports; I simply would not push myself as hard and as long as these women were. To see them bend over after the race, coasting on momentum off the oval, exhausted from leaving every ounce of energy on the ice, I knew I would have given up long before I reached the finish line.

What amazed me even more was the consistency of the lap times. Over 400M, they consistently put up times that were within a second of the lap before. They both paced and pushed themselves so that at the end of seven-and-a-half laps, they would have put up the best time possible. The dedication that I was seeing was awe-inspiring.

In 2 Timothy 4:7 , Paul writes that he “finished the race”, and the metaphor seems perfect. Walking with Christ is an endurance race and, at least at times, a struggle. It takes devotion and perseverance, commitment and resolution. There will be times when it will seem far easier to give in to temptation or neglect dedication.  Most times, it is easy to justify – we get busy with “stuff”: family “stuff”, work “stuff”, holiday “stuff”, even church “stuff” and before we even realize it, we have lost focus on the One whom our sight should be fixed on.

Our aim should be the same as the skaters – consistency. Life is full of ups and downs; consistency is more a goal than a reality for most of us. It seems that just about every time I settle into a routine, something comes and disrupts it. Though we can’t control a lot that is going on around us, we can control certain aspects. If our aim is to have a consistent walk with the Lord, then we should practice consistency in our spiritual lives. This isn’t easy, in fact, lately it has been very difficult for me, but it is what we should strive for. Daily time spent in God’s Word and in prayer are key to finding this consistency.

While I will never have the speed skating ability or total disregard for my body’s cries of pain to finish an Olympic endurance race, I need to continue to “fight the good fight” so that I, too, can finish the race that God has put before me. If I keep my eyes focused on the prize and daily seek His will, I can be assured that one day I will be able to claim my crown in Glory.

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Believe not to Believe

I have to admit, I have a lot of respect for atheists. I don’t agree with them; but I do respect them. I am not talking about agnostics either, but true atheists. Where agnostics basically choose to sit on the fence and not put their faith in any camp, atheists put their faith into the no belief camp; believing what can’t be proven. You can’t prove something doesn’t exist; so, it takes extreme faith to believe that there is no God.

Christians, too, have to have faith to believe what they do. Though God works through our lives on a daily basis, it is possible to explain it away (though you cannot prove it is not God’s work) as coincidence or luck – even karma. What Christians do have is a mountain for proof that there is a creator, an abundance of evidence that a being greater than us is looking over us, loving us and ultimately working for our benefit.

Atheists, however, have to have faith in a lot of things, even if it can be played off as no faith at all. Take creation/evolution for starters. An atheist must have faith that the answer is not God but some other non-intelligent design based theory. For simplicity sake, let’s assume that the answer is based in the secular worldview “Big Bang” theory (I say secular because I, as a Creationist, believe there probably was something like an explosion at the centre of the universe to get us going, I just believe that God caused it!).

To believe that the “Big Bang” happened and that this is no superior being takes a lot of faith. Where did the stuff come from that was mixing before the Bang happened? What sparked it? What stabilized it? Even if you accept that you can never know the specific answers, you have to believe there is an answer. Whereas the Christian faith simply believes God did it, the answer for an atheist has to be more complex than that.

Boiled down to the simplest statements, there are three options we have when it comes to faith. We can decide not to believe (agnostic), we can believe in a superior being (religion), or we can believe not to believe (atheists).

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Illogical Truth

I was flipping channels the other day, and I stopped on a program featuring stand-up comedians. One of the comedians had a song as part of her act, and one of the punch lines was “Christians like illogical arguments”. Based on a previous joke in her set, I knew she was referring to the Creation vs. Evolution debate. Honestly, I wasn’t offended by the joke, my first reaction was pity for her; she was completely blinded to the truth.

As I was thinking about, it donned on me that there is really no scientifically logical argument for the universe. I mean, I know that God created it, but that isn’t a scientific argument; it can’t be proven by scientific means. From an evolution standpoint, the best number I have seen for the universe just spontaneously coming into being is 1 in 1041, which isn’t exactly a logical outcome. (To give you some perspective, 1 in a billion = 1 in 109)

As I thought further, I did have to admit that Christians do believe in something quiet illogical; in fact, a whole string of illogical things:

  • An all-powerful being desired companionship; so, he created a vast universe
  • His star creation was humankind – whom he created to love him
  • He gave humans free will to choose to love him or not
  • When they chose to rebel against him, he allowed them to fall into hardship
  • When they called out to him again, he used miracles to rescue them
  • The rebel and rescue pattern repeated itself many times – but he was always faithful
  • This higher being decided that it was time for a different approach and became human
  • He showed love and compassion in a radical way – often misunderstood by his creation
  • He was rejected by the very people he came to build a relationship with
  • He chose to suffer a painful and humiliating death
  • He rose back to life
  • He still loves us despite all the rejection and disobedience

This is the story of the Bible. It is very illogical, but it is the true story of God’s love. I should clarify; it is very illogical by human standards. That is saying something, because we humans can do a lot of crazy things in the name of love. God’s love is so strong that He will love us unconditionally, no matter if or how well we return that love.

Of course, His desire is for us to love Him back. He knows we can’t do anywhere near as well as He does. He knows our limitation and our shortcomings, but He loves us just the same any way. It may be illogical, but it is the truth.

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Learning to Walk

My daughter is learning how to walk. A couple weeks ago, she took 3 steps and then fell forward into my arms. This past week, she started to walk across the family room in a line, sitting down when she got to the point where straight ahead was neither an option nor the desired direction.  Yesterday, she started to veer a little, not pivoting or turning, but slowly gaining more options. I am sure in about a week she will be walking all over the house and giggling at every turn.

Of course, this process isn’t without its stumbles and falls.  Sometimes, after a few steps there is a pause and a wobble as she regains her balance. Sometimes, she stumbles a little and falls; often times, the fall is a choice, as it is easier for her to control her landing position as opposed to trying to remain upright and risk toppling over in a less desirable position. Learning to walk is a process, and it comes with its share of whoopsies and uh-ohs.

The process brought to mind an old DC Talk song “What if I Stumble”. This refrain is repeated often:

What if I stumble?
What if I fall?
What if I lose my step
And I make fools of us all?

In reality, it’s not “what if” but “when” I stumble. We all fall in our Christian walk. None of us are perfect this side of Heaven; we all fail at some point. The Good News is that God put a plan in place for that, and our sins are forgiven through Jesus. We don’t need to shy away from walking with God because we might stumble and fall, He knows we will and loves us just the same.

If my daughter refused to get up on her feet, let go of the couch and try and walk across the room; she would never learn to walk. If she let the possibility, the inevitability, of stumbling and falling keep her from taking the first step, she would be denying herself the freedom that comes with walking, as well as the joys of running, skipping and all the other skills we learn after we master walking.

The same principle applies to the Christian walk. First, we need to start the walk, admit that we need Jesus and take the first step. Then, we need to keep walking with Him, step after step, trying new things, taking new risks for God, and not being scared to stumble and fall – because much like a loving father on Earth who scoops up his little girl, gives her a hug and stands her back up, God is doing that with us, because He wants to see us free to risk it all for Him. Because the more we step out for God, the more glory He gets.

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