Tag Archives: God

Good out of Bad

I am sure it has happened to you before. You are reading through a familiar passage and something hits you that you never pay much attention to before. It’s nothing really groundbreaking, just something you hadn’t given much consideration before.

I was reading through a familiar part of Daniel the other day, and I noticed that because of the faith of the Israelites, foreign kings proclaimed God as the one true God. It dawned on me that God was able to use the Israelites rebellion to make Himself known in Babylon. Though Daniel and his friend were taken captive as punishment for the nations disobedience, God could use that sad circumstance to further His Kingdom. God gave Daniel interpretation of dreams, and saved him from a den of lions; He also rescued Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from the fiery furnace. All of these stories ended with God being praised by a non-Israelite ruler.

It should not come as a surprise that God works good out of bad situations. God is the master at using what we see as tragedy for His purpose and glory. We often think of God working everything for our good (Romans 8:28), but as we focus on our own lives, we sometimes forget that He is working His master plan for the whole world.

For Daniel and his friends, their circumstances looked bleak, but God was ready to act. I am sure the events of the lion’s den and the furnace had an affect on their lives – how could you ever doubt God after living through those experiences – but they may have had an even bigger impact on those who witnessed the events. For the captives, it was a confirmation of their faith, and for the locals, it was an awesome display of God’s power and love – one that they may not have known if not for Israel’s adversity.

In our fallen universe, bad things happen. Some of them are caused by our own choices and others are random acts that we, at least as individuals, can’t prevent. Sometimes, we can connect the dots and understand the tragedy, and other times, we are at a loss as we try to make any semblance of sense.

I am the type of person who tries to make sense out of everything, to understand why things happen and what good can come out of them. I believe that everything happens for a reason, or maybe I should rephrase that: I believe that everything that happens can be used by God for His purpose. It may not make sense at the time, or even ever; we don’t always see how God is working. God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8). He may have a different path than we would have plotted, but in the end, He is working as only He knows how.

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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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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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My God Can Move Mattresses

It’s funny how the smallest child can so simply remind us of a great truth.

The other day, I was making our bed after my wife had done the laundry. As I know she appreciates when the sheets are well tucked at her feet, I wanted to make sure that the sheets were well anchored. I proceeded to lift up the bottom end of the mattress and tuck the sheets under, and then drop the mattress back into place. Upon seeing my, what must have seemed to her, great feat of strength, my 17 month old daughter wanted to test her strength and tried to lift the corner of the queen-sized cushion. Of course, the thing didn’t budge. She then looked up at me as if to say, well, I guess you got that going for ya.

At that moment, I could almost hear God say to me “you know there is a lesson right there”.

I could blame it on many things, but the fact is, I like to be in control and know how things are going to work out. I rely too much on my own intelligence and ability, even when they are severely unqualified for the task at hand. I try to “lift the mattress” on problems that are too big for me to handle on my own.

The problem I run into is that if I can’t figure out how do to it, I assume it can’t be done. If I can’t figure out how it works, or what the best answer is, I assume it doesn’t work, and there is not an answer. I all too quickly limit the world of possibilities to what I can accomplish and understand. As if like an infant trying to figure out how to make her parents’ bed.

I need to be reminded all the time that I serve a big God. I am not talking about a God who I can present a problem and He will help me figure it out. I am talking about a God who knew the problems I will face before I was even born and has been working in my interest all along. My God isn’t reacting to the universe, He created it, governs it and cares deeply about it. My God can look at the “mattress” I am struggling to move an inch and simply will it to move. My God doesn’t just understand things, He knows them intimately. His plans are bigger than mine, His imagination far more creative than mine – and that is saying something, because I can come up with some pretty crazy ideas!

It’s funny how God can use the look of a small child to remind a grown man of something he should not forget in the first place.

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New Beginnings

I love a fresh start, a clean slate and open world of possibilities. My favourite days of both spring and fall are “opening days”, when my favourite sports teams are undefeated, and the promise of a new season starts to unfold. If you know anything about my favourite teams, you know that it doesn’t take long for that promise to get mired in a losing streak, and the championship dreams to disappear.

Life isn’t divided into seasons quite as nicely as sports (at least after you finish school!), but there are still times when we are able to take pause, reorganize and get things back to where we want them. There are a few times during the year when it comes more naturally: in the spring, we clean out after a long winter; in the fall, we start anew with activities (even after your textbook carrying days are over) and of course, there is the New Year. We look back and reflect on the year that has been and at the same time look forward to a world of possibilities.

God has given us some new beginnings. He has done it on a world-wide scale a couple times over the course of history, and we are promised the final, and biggest one, is still to come. When God created the universe, it was perfect. God stepped in later and gave humanity a fresh start with the flood and then again later when He gave us His Son. Both times there were new covenants, new promises, a fresh start and new possibilities.

So, what about you? Do you need a new beginning? Do you need God to step in and give you the clean slate? Maybe it is the first time you have asked Him to do it, or maybe you have done it countless times; it doesn’t matter – he is always willing if you are truly repentant. You see, God can conquer anything. There is no sin too big, no confession too small, no end to His forgiveness and no limit on His love. God wants to give it to you; He is not only a God of the cosmic, He is also the God of the personal. He wants, longs, for you to feel the freedom of a new beginning.

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The Greatest Gift

In all honesty, I am pretty much just a big kid at Christmas. (Actually, I am pretty much a big kid all year ‘round, it is just easier to get away with at Christmas.) I am so filled with the excitement of everything it brings. I start to get excited as soon as the calendar turns to December. I love it all: the anticipation, the music, the food, the celebration and the reflection. To me, Christmas is the time of year where everything works together with beautiful pageantry.

Of course, there are the presents! I have a few guidelines I try to use when picking out gifts for people. I try to give something they want or need but wouldn’t buy for themselves. I like it to be a surprise, something they didn’t have on their list. I also want to give something that can be enjoyed over and over again. The best part about Christmas is that, even though it is Jesus’ birthday, He is the greatest gift.

When God gave us His Son, it was a gift we so desperately needed, but we could never buy ourselves. He foretold it for centuries but still managed to keep it a surprise; He even had to send angels and a star to get the message out. As for gifts that keep on giving, well, you can’t better than the gift of eternal life!

Jesus really was the perfect gift, no matter what criteria you use.

As we celebrate Christmas as the birth of Jesus, the Son of God, who came to be our Lord and Saviour, I find it very fitting that Christmas is best enjoyed when you focus on others. Jesus, throughout His life, was always focused on others. Christmas is a time of parties and presents; it is a time to celebrate and enjoy the company of family, friends and anyone else who joins in on the festivities. And when it comes to gifts, Jesus made sure that He set the example of “it is better to give than receive”, for as great as those first Christmas gifts were, Jesus is the greatest gift we could ever want or need.

Merry Christmas!

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What do you do with Jesus?

The Christian faith splits from all other religions at Jesus. It is the belief in Him that defines it. Actually, it is accepting the gift of forgiveness, believing Him to be the Son of God, the redeemer of the human race, and saviour of the world that defines Christianity. So, what do you do with Jesus?

First, you can deny His existence. This would be a fairly easy thing to do if the Bible was the only record of Him. Simply discount the Bible as nothing more than legend and the question goes away. Even though the New Testament has been shown over and over again to be historically accurate, there are many books written today that place fictional characters in historical events. The issue with doing this is that Jesus is referred to in other documents from the time, thus making a strong case that Jesus, the man, did walk this planet around 2000 years ago.

So, if Jesus did walk the planet, that doesn’t mean He was God. There are currently around 7 billion people on the face of the Earth, and none of them are the Son of the Most High. So what makes Jesus so special? Couldn’t He have just been another good moral teacher? Simply stated, no.

C.S. Lewis, in his book Mere Christianity, lays out the argument that Jesus could not have said the things He said and have been a good moral teacher. Very clearly Jesus proclaims Himself to be God. This leads Lewis to state “But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

So what do you do with Jesus? According to Lewis, you have three options.

First, you can write Jesus off as a lunatic. Claiming to be God is not something sane people do. If someone was to walk up to you on the street and say he or she was God, you would not offer to take them to lunch for the sole purpose of learning as much as you can from him or her.

Second, you can deny His claim and consider Him a liar. This is again possible, but a lie that great, and in fact so detrimental to the human race, would not come from a man who was a great moral teacher. The best reason I can think of is to direct people away from the True God; and that person would be working for, or in fact, Satan himself. Again, the title “great moral leader” would hardly be the right one.

The third option is that Jesus is Lord. He is what He claimed to be. His life an example for us all, His death our only hope and His resurrection our saving grace. He was a great moral teacher, and He is God.

So, we are back to the original question: What do you do with Jesus? This is the most personal question there is. It is a matter of faith – and not faith that He is a historical figure, but that He came to give you the gift of forgiveness and eternal life.  So, what do YOU do with Jesus?

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