Tag Archives: Christianity

The Long Game

We have all seen a situation where the short-term fix is favoured to the long-term solution. In sports, General Managers will trade top prospects for proven talent in an attempt to win now. In politics, decisions are made by the ruling party in an attempt to stay in power. In business, quarterly profits are the driving force behind many decisions. Even in raising children, we make decisions sometimes to just try to get through a hectic day.

The problem with the “short game” is that the consequences of pursuing short-term success can often cause long-term pain. Looking at the scenarios above, we can all think of an example of a team that languished at the bottom of the standings for years because they traded away future stars, or a government that created huge debts by spending to win the vote, or a business that went bankrupt because their quick fixes never resulted in a long-term strategy.

Our human nature desires instant results. We want it all, and we want it now. We want results, and we will deal with the effects of those decisions later – we let “future me” worry about those things. We have to learn to plan for the future – put off the instant desires and consciously focus on what is best in the long-term.

God is the master of the “long game”. He is patient and works His purpose out over time. He doesn’t take a shortcut or sacrifice the overall plan for a quick win. After walking through the Old Testament this year, I have a new appreciation for how God was patient with His people and worked to keep them on track so that when the time was right, Jesus could come and fulfill His purpose.

Maybe there is no better example of God rejecting the “short game” than when Christ was in the desert and being tempted by Satan. Jesus rejected the opportunity to take the easy way out because He knew that path would lead to ultimate defeat. He had to be patient, wait for things to fall into place and stay true to His mission.

When it comes to our spiritual growth, we need to keep our eye on the long-term goal as well. We don’t want to go through the trials and the growing pains, but they are so important. We don’t become the people we are without going through the hard times. “You learn more from failure than you do from success. Don’t let it stop you. Failure builds character.” Though it is not known who first coined the phrase, we have all found it to be true.

God doesn’t promise us the easy life if we put our faith in Him – in fact, Jesus warns that we will endure hardship for His sake and that it is the narrow path, not the wide one, that leads to Him. God isn’t a genie in a bottle waiting to grant us our every wish; He is the potter who is shaping the clay, molding it to become a beautiful creation. We can’t rush the process. There is no substitute for experience. We need to simply draw close to Him and allow Him to work in us. He is patient and loving, and if we just let him sculpt us to become the creation He wants us to be, the results will be glorious.

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All That You Need

During my last year of college, there were two “quote boards” that I was frequently around. The first was a small whiteboard in the newspaper office. The other staff members and I were generally in there for long hours late into the evening putting the weekly publication together. We were a pretty close group, and it was common for one of us to say something funny – whether deliberate or not. The second was a large (3’ x 5’) blue piece of paper that was hung on my dorm room wall during my senior year. My roommate, Aaron, and I were close friends and each other’s comic relief. So we would “honour” each other’s “great” quotes by inscriping them on the sheet.

I have long forgotten most of the quotes, but there are a few that will stick with me for a long time. One of those is Aaron’s response to me asking if he had an item I needed. His response? “I have all the supplies that you need.” It is very possible that my mood, time of night and the delivery of the line were contributing factors to me recording it for posterity, but for whatever reason, I think that was the one I repeated the most.

Jesus expressed the same sentiment in Matthew 6, He just used a few more words (verse 25-34). To paraphrase – Don’t worry; I’ve got your back. Everything you need; I’ve got you covered. We, rightly, are reminded through this passage not to worry, but I think we often forget that the reason that we don’t need to worry, besides the fact worrying seldom solves anything, is that God is on our side and looking out for us.

We tend to be a self-reliant culture. We rely on our own abilities to make ends meet and act as if asking for help, even from God, is somehow a sign of weakness. We would rather suffer alone than seek the help we need. Sure, being able to solve your own problems is a needed skill, but when we reach our limit we need to remember we can reach out to God.

I have seen time and time again in my life how God has provided just what I need exactly when I needed it. At times, it has been financial, and God has provided for me in ways that go beyond my comprehension. Other times, He has sent a friend who said just the right thing that I needed to hear. Still, other occasions, the Holy Spirit has spoken and prompted me in just the right way. Whatever the case, I have learned to trust God in all circumstances because I know He loves me, and I am never out of His sight.

It is good to have friends, neighbours and roommates who can come to your rescue when you need something. It is even better to rest assured in the fact that God is looking out for you, and He cares and loves you more than you could ever comprehend.

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Faithful Journey

This past weekend was one of my favourite of the year. The first 2 rounds of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament are incredibly fun to watch – probably because, if you enter a pool with friends or family, you have a routing interest in just about every game. Every year, I fill out my bracket and watch to see if the perennial powerhouses will move on or if a underdog will, for “one shining moment,” capture the imagination of many.

Watching March Madness games, you quickly realize 2 things. First is that the better team doesn’t always win. The second is that a 40 minute game can come down to one play. In that moment, it would seem that the outcomes of the game are determined by whether the final shot goes in or bounces out. But in truth, there are hundreds of other events that all contribute to which team wins. Split second decisions early in the game can have a huge impact on how it plays out and if that last shot means anything at all.

Each game is different. Some of them go pretty much according to plan, and others play out in a way that no one expected. In a way, our lives are a lot like that. Up until recently, I hadn’t really considered that my life could have played out much different than it has. Not that my decisions didn’t matter, but I believed that if I sought God’s will and was obedient to it, I would end up in a certain place no matter what. If asked, I would have told you I was on the path God had for me and that He would direct me where to go – the right doors would open and the wrong ones wouldn’t. Not that I didn’t have free will, but as long as I didn’t do anything obviously wrong, I would end up in the same place.

I have come to the realization that is simply not true. As much as I believe God is guiding me, I know that the decisions I have made have had a great impact on where I am today. There are many times when I felt God directing my path, but other times that there was no clear right choice. Of course, I will never know what would have happened if I had made different choices along the way – or even which choices had the greatest impact on my life.

What I do know, with confidence, is that God has been with me ever step of the way. No matter what choices I made, He has remained faithful. I will be forever grateful that God has blessed me the the family, friends and opportunities that He has. I know that He would have watched over me if I had made different choices and while the friends and opportunities would have been different, God would still remain faithful.

I also know that God will continue to walk with me through life. I don’t know what will happen next – life, like college basketball, is unpredictable – but I can rest assured that my Heavenly Father will be there no matter which way the ball bounces.

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Tolerant Love

I think we have become a little confused. In this age where information is as easily accessible as it has ever been, and sharing opinions and beliefs with the masses is as easy as a placing a “#” in front of a word, it has become too easy, and too common, to get pushed and pulled in the wrong directions.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that sharing information is one of the most important activities that humans can do. We have the ability to solve a plethora of issues if we work together and build off each other’s ideas. But where we run into trouble is when we build off of the wrong idea – or in the wrong direction. When we take something that starts out as good and twist it until it is nothing like what it started out as.

Lately, the idea that causes me the most concern is tolerance. On the surface, tolerance is an ideal attitude. We should all be tolerant of others – not forcing others to bend to our whim or, worse, discrimination because of someone else’s beliefs. However, as I look at the world around me, I see that tolerance has become the poster word for accepting anything and everything. There are two reasons that his current view of tolerance causes problems.

The first is that people demand that your views be tolerated. This is, in fact, a very intolerant attitude. Instead of being on the defensive against the social norm, there are many who take to the offensive, trumpeting the idea that if you do not accept their way, then you are intolerant.

The second is by accepting someone else’s beliefs and being sympathetic to their views. Now, I know what you are saying, isn’t that not only the very definition of tolerance but the way we should treat each other? Why yes it is, under most circumstances. Where it is problematic is when the person’s belief we are tolerating is sinful.

Let me give you an example of where being tolerant is a bad idea. My two children both like to stay up past their bedtime. If I were to say that because they do not want to go to bed that they shouldn’t have a bedtime that would not be tolerant – it would be irresponsible. A 5-year-old needs to go to sleep before 11 pm if she is to be ready for school the next morning.

A passage from the Bible has recently taken on a new meaning for me as I have contemplated this issue. In John 8:1-11 Jesus is presented with a woman who has been caught in adultery. The Pharisees, in an attempt to trick Jesus, quote the Law which states that she should be stoned. If I were standing in Jesus’ sandals, there would have been two responses that I would have to choose between. One, is to uphold the Law and have the woman stoned. The other is to ignore the Law and allow her to go. Either of those responses would have played right into the Pharisee’s hand.

But Jesus saw a third response. Now, we don’t know what he was writing in the sand, but whatever it was, it was enough to have every person turn and walk away. When they had all left, he doesn’t pick up a stone (He, of course, was without sin) nor does he condone the act, He instructs her to leave her life of sin.

What amazes me about this story is that Jesus did not condemn her, nor did He accept that the women had made her choice and he would simply accept that is the way she has chosen to live.

Discrimination is wrong. Hate is wrong. But so is skirting the truth; so, you don’t offend and compromise God’s Truth to appease the current trends.

When we are faced with the hot issues of today, we need to stand uncompromising on the Truth. None of us get to  make up what the Truth is. We get it from God. He has given us His Word and the Holy Spirit. We need to hold fast to the Word of God and do it with love for the person. Love isn’t blindly accepting of anything and everything, it is often manifested in helping someone see the error of their ways.

Jesus loved the woman in John 8 enough to show her great mercy and instruct her to turn away from her bad choices. We should all strive to walk that balance.

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Keep it Simple

I often browse over headlines, sometimes clicking on news articles that catch my attention. I start with with sports and move my way into news. Today as I was scrolling through, a headline caught my eye. It wasn’t one of the main articles; it wasn’t accompanied by a photo. It was a simple line that I almost missed: “Billy Graham dies at 99”.

I will assume that if you are reading this, you know who Billy Graham is… if not, stop reading this and go read something he wrote! Actually, even if you do know who he is, go read him (but maybe wait until after you finish here).

Graham’s international ministry reached millions, and is estimated to have lead to 3 million people putting their faith in Jesus. He wrote over 30 books, prayed with 13 Presidents and preached the Gospel around the world. Though there are numerous reasons that Graham was as successful and well regarded as he was, I think one of the top reasons was that he kept it simple.

The Word of God is both amazingly simple and incredibly complex. It can be fully understood in minutes by children and studied for decades with no conclusion by Phds. But the core message is for everyone and can be understood by all. We don’t need to delve into the minute details and the historical significance of every verse to understand it. Simply put, God loves us and he wants us to love Him.

Everything else flows out of that simple truth. God, since before you were even born, has loved you more than you can even imagine, and, though sin has separated you from God, all you need to do is simply admit that you need His forgiveness and love Him. You don’t have to earn that love. You don’t have to accomplish anything to gain it. There is no gold medal, silver trophy, bronze statue or a list of check marks you need to obtain. It isn’t about what you do; it is about what Christ does in you.

You are never too bad to be beyond His saving grace or too good not to need it. You can never do anything so heinous as to disqualify yourself or so great that it isn’t necessary. He does not compare you to anyone else; your path is unique to you, and all He wants is to walk along it with you.

If you are reading this and you do not know Jesus as your personal saviour, I have one question for you: what is holding you back?

If you do know Jesus, then I encourage you to share God’s message. We all can’t be Billy Graham, but we can all share the simple truth.

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Run the Good Race

I am a huge sports fan. I love the thrill of competition. I spend a good portion of my time following my favourite teams as they compete in their respective seasons. Currently, there is a lot of sports to follow. Not only are the Maple Leafs and the Raptors among the best in their respective leagues, but the Olympics are in full swing. Nightly, I have been flipping between channels trying to catch as much of the action as I can.

Paul compares the Christian faith to running a race at least 4 times in his letters. It should come as no surprise that I have always connected with that analogy. Comparing the pursuit of athletic excellence to the Christian life provided me with a metaphor I could relate to and an ideal that I could focus on. I was never a competitive runner, but the idea of pushing on, overcoming obstacles and doing your best, were ideas I could relate to.

In 1 Corinthians 9:24 Paul urges us to run the race in such a way as to get the prize. He follows that up by reminding us of two important aspects that allow you to win the race:

Train
Every athlete who competes on the highest level trains in many different ways. They train physically and mentally. They train for strength and speed. They train in ways that are common to all athletes (running, weights) and on specific skills needed for their sport. As Christians, we need to model that example and “train” in different ways as well. We need to study God’s word. Talk with Him, that includes listening as we pray. We need to spend time building each other up and growing with the help of those He puts in our lives. We need to share His love with those around us.

Keep your eye on the prize
Many athletes have fallen short by losing focus on their goal. In competition, athletes take their eye off the prize and fail to achieve their objective. How many times have I heard the phrase “he started to run before he caught the ball” uttered by TV commentators. As heartbreaking as in-game lapses in concentration can be, the real tragedies of taking your eye of the prize come outside the playing field. Many young stars have let the fame associated with their pursuits distract them. They get involved in things they shouldn’t or believe the hype and stop pushing towards excellence. For Christians, the temptation to believe in ourselves, in our works, can derail us. We start to think that it is all about us and stop giving God the credit for the work He is doing through us.

Everyone has to run their own race. Much like different athletes excel and different sports, each of us has gifts from God to use as we walk through life. As we “train” these gifts develop and by keeping our eyes on the Heavenly prize, we bring honour to God. Like the athletes going for gold this month, we all have the opportunity to realize our goal. All we need to do is keep running the good race.

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Humbly Inspired

 

I have been contemplating humility lately. It is a quality I very much admire in people; I think it gives a great indication of someone’s character. It is also something I struggle with. I try to be humble. I know that it is good to be humble. I want to be known as the most humble person on Earth! That should give you a good idea of why I struggle with humility.

The common ways we define humility are not thinking too highly of yourself and valuing others above yourself. We need to look no further than scripture to see that God has given us these very instructions (Rom 12:3, Phil 2:3-4) Humility should not to be confused with low self-esteem; it isn’t about putting yourself down. Humility is not thinking you are more valuable than others, not demanding that others lift you higher. We all appreciate someone who doesn’t demand others cave to their every wish. Most of us wouldn’t, normally, be described as having a superiority or diva complex. So, while it is a good starting place for a discussion on humility, I believe there is something more to true humility than what we say and how we act towards others.

One way we define words is by using antonyms. We use opposites to describe what something isn’t to try to explain what it is. Simply put, we may describe a the weather on a snowing January day as “not hot”. When we describe someone who is not being humble, we may use words like prideful, conceited or selfish. If you look at the definition above, they make perfect sense. A few weeks back, the students during bible study helped me stumble onto an antonym for humility I had never considered before – jealousy.

It hit me that one can appear humble without actually being humble. When I was playing competitive sports, I wanted to be a good teammate. I also wanted to be in the starting lineup. So, when I was the understudy, I would cheer on the starter, playing the part of a good teammate – outwardly. All the while secretly wishing he would play poorly, and I would get into the game. Even though I may have said “great play” what I was thinking was “I wish you’d dropped the ball.” I played the part of a good teammate, but on the inside my competitive nature was, in reality, a stark contrast.

Humility goes beyond what we show, it goes to the very heart of who we are. Being humble isn’t just just treating others as better than ourselves, or gracefully accepting a compliment. We aren’t humble just because we say congratulations when someone else gets the promotion, a new car or recognition for great work – that, like being a good teammate, can be faked. Humility is to be truly joyous for others in what they accomplish and what they have.

As funny as it may sound, I think that self-confidence is a key element to humility. We may look at someone who is confident and think that means they are not humble, but I have found that humility and confidence are not mutually exclusive. To truly be inspired by someone else’s accomplishment, we must be confident in who we are. Again, low self-esteem is not humility – humility comes out of proper self-esteem. The humble person looks at others’ accomplishments and is impressed and inspired. To be humble is to recognize our abilities and gifts and use them, not for their own glory, but for God’s.

So the next time I catch myself envying someone, I will remind myself, don’t be jealous; be inspired.

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