Tag Archives: Christianity

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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Walk By Faith

One of my favourite things about volunteering with the high school students at my church is getting a fresh perspective of the events and people of the Bible. When I am teaching, either Sunday School or our weekly Bible Study, the passage we are studying is usually one I have known for as long as I can remember, and the events that are recounted are ones I have pondered before. When a teenager, especially one with limited exposure to God’s Word, asks a question, it is often one that makes me stop and consider things in a new light.

As we dive into answering the question, I often say “remember, these were real people, living real lives”. When reading the Bible it is easy to read it like a movie script and forget that these “characters” are not fictional and the “scenes” are actual events. Last week, we were covering the first kings of Israel, Saul and David, in an overview of the books of Samuel. As we were talking about the different events, it came up that, even though we look at the events as happening all at once, the books cover about 80 years of history, as both Saul and David reigned for about 40 years each.

I believe every word of scripture serves a purpose (2 Tim 3:16), and each event and person mentioned is there to tell us about God’s love. Because there is roughly 4000 years and dozens of main characters covered in its pages, the Bible is not an exhaustive account of history. While this makes practical sense, it does lead to us forgetting that these people dealt with life’s ups and downs, the mundane day-to-day and the uncertainty of how it all would play out.

Sometimes I take for granted that the heroes of scripture knew how the story would unfold. I don’t consider that they were acting and reacting to everything in real time, much like we do today. They were not certain of how everything would turn out, as evidenced through the many times people took things into their own hands and tried to change the situation in their favour but ultimately caused more problems than they solved.

When I approach God to ask Him for guidance, I often hope that He will lay it out before me with step-by-step instructions. I wanted to read the script before I start the action. Didn’t Daniel refuse to stop praying because he knew the lions wouldn’t eat him? Didn’t Jonah demand to be thrown overboard because he knew a fish would take him safely to shore? Didn’t Nehemiah ask the king to allow him to return to Jerusalem because he knew he would gladly allow it?

Of course, the answers to all these is “no, they didn’t know”. The Bible is full of stories of people who stepped out in faith, with no guarantees it would work out for them. Even those who had angelic intervention in their lives didn’t have foreknowledge of the details. They all had to walk by faith.

We have to walk by the same faith in our lives. We don’t get to know how things will work out. The examples of faith in the Bible are there for us to follow. They are as much to show how God works through His people as they are that God’s people must trust in Him. God will accomplish His will, we must walk by faith.

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Decisions

One of my hobbies is playing in a fantasy baseball league. The league I am in is more involved than most. It is set up to emulate the real Major Leagues as much as can be. One of the best parts about fantasy baseball is the draft. Every year I get prepared for the draft by figuring out what my team needs and looking over the available players. I plot a strategy and plan out how I will go about improving my team.

 
As I pour over the stats, rosters and draft lists, I try to figure out what the best course of action would be. Do I try to trade? What players are expendable? What players are worth holding onto? Do I need to make a move to free up salary cap space? Is this player a real prospect or should I drop him and move on? Will this guy be available in round 3 or should I take him earlier? As you can probably tell, I put a lot of thought into my team. I do know that whether I win or lose doesn’t really matter. The league is for fun and making a mistake has no effect on real life.

 
Often in life we don’t really know if we made the right choice or not – we don’t have the ability to see how things would have unfolded differently. We usually decide if a decision was good or bad based on if it worked out well, but we don’t know if it was the best, or worst, outcome. I am happy with the house I live in. It’s not perfect, there are things that need to be fixed, the water heater quit 2 days before we hosted 21 people for Christmas dinner, but I do not regret the choice we made when we bought it. Was there a better house? Maybe, but I would say we made the right choice.

 
Sometimes things don’t work out the way we hoped, but it doesn’t mean that we made the wrong choice. Maybe none of the paths we had to choose from were going to work out well. Sometimes, we make the choice we have to and live with the consequences. 18 months ago I make a career decision that didn’t work out the way I had hoped, but I believed it was the right decision.

 
As Christians, when we are faced with choices in life, we should seek God. I know that I try to, but I wonder if I do it the right way. I consider myself to be intelligent, and I approach most issues with the belief that I can figure it out if I think about it long and hard enough. Often when I face a decision, I pray about it. I also think about it. I ponder the pros and cons and evaluate the potential options. I generally come to a conclusion at some point in the process. The question is, how much do I rely on God and how much on myself? Am I allowing God to guide my thoughts, or am I praying for Him to confirm my plan?

 
I have been struggling with this a lot lately. It seems odd because I am not making any major decisions. There is no career change, relocation or any other life-altering events on my radar. I have just been questioning whether when I seek God’s direction can I be confident in the answer I believe I am receiving?

 
I am not sure how I can know. The issue is not whether or not I believe God is trying to tell me, or if I am capable of hearing it. For as long as I can remember I have tried to walk with God and allow Him to lead my path. Have I trusted God long enough that it has become second nature? Or have I become so arrogant that I think my thoughts are His?

 
I don’t have a nice answer to close off this post, but I do have a plan. I will continue to seek God; to seek His will and ask Him to help me discern it. I will ask Him to help me to let Him work in my life, without me interfering – to humble me. I believe that God is faithful; if I honestly seek Him, he will not hide, and if I truly allow Him to lead, I will walk on the right path.

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