Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Pondering 18

Okay, so I won't even lie about it. I've been anticipating my birthday this year for far too long. I know it's just one day of the year where I officially turn over from 17 to 18, but it seems somehow more significant this year, almost as if it's a small milestone in my life that I will always recognize. I'm legally considered an adult and I only have two years of my teens left. And although some would beg to differ, I like having my birthday right at the end of the year. There's Christmas, my birthday, and then New Year's; a perfect time of year to look back, reflect, and rejoice in the Lord's goodness and all the blessings He has bestowed upon me that I don't deserve.

When I look over this past year, I can hardly believe what it's all held. Last year had it's own share of blessings: I began to drive, I met some amazing new friends, I was baptized upon my confession of faith, and made many memories. This year, I began a job that I love, met some amazing new people again, read some awesome books, and above all, I finished school. Completing my last two years of school through correspondence was no easy task. I always had a bunch of other things stealing my time and other difficulties arose, so I think I consider it a bigger accomplishment than most graduates would.

And having said that, I can't count how many times I have heard the question “What are you going to do now?” Oh, how often I have wished that I could provide more confident, intelligent answers than those along the lines of “I don't know.” I knew all year that this was coming and thus it has been a year of eagerly anticipating change and fearing it at the same time. In all honesty, I probably have to admit that I'm a fan of consistency, and although I feel somewhat thrilled at the thought of the unknown, it also terrifies me. But it wasn't until just lately that I actually began to feel content about it. Staying in that state of contentedness has at times proven to be more difficult. Only time will tell what I end up doing with my life.

Looking back on this year, I can't help but wonder if I have changed and in what ways. I'm sure I have. I've been asking a lot of questions: Who am I? Do I really know what I believe and can I confidently defend my beliefs? Are my convictions really mine, or are they merely adopted from other people? Because if they're not, then I'm going to sway like a tree whichever way the wind blows and have no real stability as a Christian. I have been deeply challenged in these things, so you could say that I'm also on the road of self-discovery. I've learned the importance of grace (thanks to Pete and The Grace Awakening by Charles Swindoll), of Set-Apart Femininity (Leslie Ludy), The Bravehearted Gospel (Eric Ludy) and oh, so much more. Putting these things into practice is a daily effort and I can do them only because of Christ. It's His work in my life and His work of sanctification and consecration will continue until the day I see Him face to face. It is my sincere desire to be a holy vessel, a woman of honour that God can use.

I have no idea what I will be writing one year from now and that's okay. I have confidence in God that it will be good. Until then, I thank all my friends for the blessing you have been to my life. May God bless you in turn beyond anything you could ever imagine!

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

If It Can't Be Done, Then Do It

Last night I was speaking to my youth leader about what my next plans are. The fact that I had finished school through correspondence also came up. He mentioned that it was good to see somebody stay committed to it and actually finish, because many people that start don't. When I started, many people questioned whether or not I would really follow through with it. They pointed out that many people they knew started and didn't finish and some just really didn't think I would either. This really frustrated me. I didn't like having my commitment doubted and I was determined to do it and prove them all wrong. My youth leader asked if there had been pride in that, and to be honest, I had never given that a thought there. Maybe there was some pride involved, but that's not what I'm going to talk about.

When I thought about that later on I came to the realization that people need to do what I did more often. Prove people wrong. Often people come up with these great, brilliant, wonderful ideas that would be of so much good, until they tell someone else. Of course they're excited and want to tell somebody and rally some support, but instead, they get a response something like this: “Are you sure that's such a good idea? You aren't exactly qualified, don't have the resources, support, and would it really make that big of a difference? I mean, what if it doesn't work out in the end? You would have wasted all that time, energy, effort, resources, and good talent that could have been better used elsewhere.” And the person responds something like this, with a bit of a discouraged sigh: “Yeah, I guess you're right. If you think about it, it is quite risky and there's a lot to lose. And if I failed, I would just look like a total loser. I'll just forget about it.”

I think this is pretty common. Chances are, most brilliant ideas don't even make it into the world for fear of rejection. Can you relate to this in your own life? The truth is, we weren't meant to give up on ideas or settle for it-probably-won't-work-out-anyways. As Christians we are meant to step up, fight, and conquer, to live a victorious life and do great things for God. This is the Rebelutionary life.

Maybe that some brilliant idea that you have does look, according to all reason impossible. That's why we serve a great God who delights in doing the impossible and coming through for us, ensuring that all the glory goes to Him. If you look into the Bible, we see God constantly doing the impossible. He parted the Red Sea, defying the law of gravity. The virgin Mary conceived the Lord Jesus, which is physically impossible. Jesus fed 5 000+ people with five loaves of bread and two fish, which goes against all human reason. We have a God who delights in doing these things. And if we are called to be like Jesus, then we must do so as well.

Now, I don't want to throw away the issue of godly counsel, because it's often very important. There may very well be cases where God uses individuals to tell you something is not such a good idea and I don't want to make that void. But all too often, I think we could do a lot more great things in life and for God if we really just aside the can't-do-it attitude and just did it. And when it's done, give God the glory. I wouldn't have been able to finish school on my own. I relied heavily on God's strength and grace and devoted much prayer time to the matter. But I put forth my best, and praise God for what He did.

Music artist Jason Gray once shared a story of a time when he was discouraged and ready to give up. He called up a friend hoping for some sympathy, but instead, he told him the truth. He said “Jason, if you're doing what you're supposed to be doing, then you're on the Lord's side. And if you're on His side, then you're on the side that's gonna win. And if you're on the side that's gonna win, when exactly do you think is a good time to give up?”

If it looks too hard, then do it. If it can't be done, then do it. If it's impossible, then do it. Do hard things. Be a Rebelutionary and give all praise and honour to God.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

A Christmas Carol: Parts 3-5

Part 3:
"His wealth is of no use to him. He don't do any good with it."

This, I believe, is a good piece of wisdom. Unless we use to our wealth, possessions, talents, skills and abilities that God has entrusted to us for good, they are of no use to us.

"They are Man's," said the Spirit, looking down upon them. "And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased."

Part 4:
"I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year."

Part 5:
If everybody was like Scrooge was that Christmas Day, we would live in one happy world!

Monday, 7 December 2009

A Christmas Carol: Part 2

Part 2 of A Christmas Carol didn't have as much for me to chew on, but there are still definitely a few things worth thinking about. So, this post may be shorter, but that's surely not a bad thing.

In Part 2, Scrooge is visited by the spirit of Christmas past. He takes him to different times in his past. As he sees these various shadows, he's at times filled with great joy at the happiness and kindness of people. At other times, he is brought to tears. Some things cause him to wish he had done things differently the day before. Eventually, he is so overtaken with grief that he begs the Spirit to show him no more.

This brought an interesting thought to me. When I look back on my life, well, at times, I would just rather not. My past has not always been so peachy and I'm not proud of some of the things there. But today will be the past tomorrow. How am I living now? Am I creating a past that I will one day look back on and be able to laugh and smile? If I haven't so far, it's never too late to start.

There were a few portions that particularly stuck out to me:

"He has the power to rend us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count 'em up: what then? The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune."

I think people often forget that they have real power and influence, even just in the little things. We have the power to make people happy or sorrowful; make their work easy or hard; give them pleasure or pain. The truth is, we have this power, and the way we use it is up to us.

"I have seen your nobler aspirations fall off one by one, until the master-passion, Gain, engrosses you. Have I not?"

Do we possess noble aspirations? Are we putting noble passions into action, or do we allow them to fall away and be taken over a selfish, worldly passion? I think it's really important that our lives are driven by godly passion and we don't let anything to creep in and take over our noble aspirations.

In Christ,

Sunday, 6 December 2009

A Christmas Carol: Part 1

Now that I've finished school, I've been wanting to take more time to catch up on some reading, and also read some of the classics. With the upcoming holidays, I decided I ought to read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. After finishing the first part this afternoon, I realized there were many insightful things in there to think about, and decided to start a short blog series on each of the five parts. So, this is Part 1.

In the first part of the book, which takes place on Christmas Eve, you get the idea or basis of the story. You meet Ebenezer Scrooge and learn that he's a grouchy man that has little compassion and cares only for making money. Much of his time is spent at his firm. And he certainly does not like Christmas. He's constantly upset by the cheery greetings, people asking him to give, his nephew inviting him to Christmas dinner, and he's even reluctant to give his clerk the holiday off. You also learn that his business partner, Jacob Marley, died seven years ago, on Christmas Eve.

Later that evening, he is visited by Marley's Ghost. For awhile, he denies the reality of the apparition, but soon has to admit it to be true. You see, Marley's Ghost is quite the sight, and definitely not the most welcome one, especially due to the chain attached to him:

It was long, and wound about him like a tail; and it was made (for Scrooge observed it closely) of cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel.

When Scrooge asks about the chain, this is what Marley says:

“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on my own free will, and on my own free will I wore it. Is it's pattern strange to you?”

Scrooge trembled more and more.

“Or would you know,” pursued the Ghost, “the weight and length of the strong coil you bear yourself? It was full as heavy and as long as this, seven Christmas Eves ago. You have laboured on it, since. It is a ponderous chain!”

All of Marley's life, he was building his chain. He shows Scrooge that he's doing the same thing, only he's been working on it for seven more years. Chains of selfishness, greed, and money-making. I think here's an appropriate place to ask ourselves some questions. Are we building ourselves a chain? What is binding us and dragging us down? Is it selfishness, greed, an unforgiving spirit, harsh words, or bitterness? Or is it other sin that we indulge in, whether it be ungodly entertainment, lust, or whatever? If you examine your life, I think you'll be able to see what's building your chain, binding you, and dragging you down.

Thankfully, we are not required to live in chains and that we have a God that sets us free. May we repent in humility and ask God to loose us from whatever binds us and keeps us from living the life of freedom that He desires for us. At one point, the ghost says, “No rest, no peace. Incessant torture of remorse.” I, for one, do not want to come to the end of my life only to be tortured with the regret and remorse of the wrong choices and paths of my life. Although God does set us free and grant us His loving mercy and forgiveness, we do still bear the consequences of our actions. I surely want to keep them at a minimum.

The next thing Marley brings out is an idea I thought to be wise words, which, if applied, would make an enormous difference upon our lives:

“Any Christian spirit working kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may be, will find its mortal life too short for its vast means of usefulness. Not to know that no space of regret can make amends for one life's opportunity misused! Yet such was I! Oh! such was I!”

“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

It held up its chain at arms length, as if that were the cause of all its unavailing grief, and flung it heavily upon the ground again.

Oh, so much is said in this passage! It's so true that this life is far too short to accomplish all we can do and no regrets later on will ever make up for the opportunities we missed. I must look at my own life. I'm far too content to do those things around me that require my attention and I'm far too concerned that I get adequate leisure time. This is not the way we're supposed to live!! There is so much more if we'll only grab onto it. And yes, you may have a good job or career and do what you do well, but if the good of others is not what you give yourself to, it amounts to but a drop in the vast ocean.

The truth is, when this life is over, we have no second chance. When we die, that's it. We cannot go back, do anything differently, take back any words or actions, and can't add anything to the meagre list of things we have accomplished. We must come before God as we are and with what we have, and I must say I would but hang my head in shame, unable to look up at my Lord, unable to speak or give an account for my life, as the Bible says we must do. And most of all, I fear that I will walk away from writing this and triumph over my insightful thoughts, or you will walk away from reading this and think how good it was, and nothing will change. I fail in this so often. I'm fed so much and am often so inspired, so challenged, but very seldom changed. "The question isn't were you challenged; the question is were you changed?" (Leonard Ravenhill)

I hope to get Part 2 up later this week and have this series finished by Christmas Day. May God's blessing be upon each and every one of you.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

What is My Cry?

Last week one day, I hopped into my sister's car to make a quick trip to the store, as I needed a few things to make supper.  I could have walked, had it not been for the rain.  I turned on the engine and the radio came on with it.  What I heard were the final stanzas of a secular song that I hadn't heard in years.  And I must say they hit me hard.  Now, I stopped listening to secular music a long time ago, but I clearly remembered this song.  Just to make things clear, I still generally don't listen to secular music, nor do I encourage it.  However, that night, after trying to place the title of the song, I looked it up.  The song is "Where is the Love?" by the Black Eyed Peas.  When I listened to this song again, I found myself wondering, "Why isn't this the cry of the Church?  Christians could really learn a lot from this song!"  Pretty sad, isn't it?  (By the Church, I am referring to the body of believers around the world as a whole, but I guess my thoughts pertain more to the North American church.)

"Where is the Love?" is a song that really speaks about the injustice of the world we live in, and throughout this post, I'll be quoting various lyrics from the song.  The chorus of this song probably has the strongest Christian tone, although I don't think it was written from that viewpoint:

"People killing people dying
Children hurtin you hear them crying
Can you practice what you preach
Would you turn the other cheek?
Father Father Father help us
Send some guidance from above
Cause people got me got me questioning
Where is the love?"

I think here we already fail.  The world around is lost, dying, and crying out and yet it seems like we fail to hear.  How often doesn't our walk contradict our talk?  How often don't we rather want to get even than turn the other cheek?  The song also speaks of how we discriminate and the things it leads to.  There are many lines that divide Christians, although God never intended it that way, and we often tend to be critical of others, Christians and non-Christians alike.  I must confess that I fall very short on all of these matters, and it should not be so. 

Why isn't this the cry of the Church?

"So I can ask myself really what is going wrong
With this world that we living in
People keep on giving in
Makin wrong decisions
Only visions of them livin and
Not respecting each other
Deny thy brother
The wars' going on but the reasons' undercover
The truth is kept secret
Swept under the rug
If you never know truth
Then you never know love"

And all too often, we give into the pressure around us, fail to stand our ground and rather compromise our convictions, make decisions we know are wrong, have a vision that only includes ourselves, and we bear lies and do all we can to cover up the truth.  But until truth, God's Truth is brought out, applied and lived out, we'll never get anywhere.

Why isn't this the cry of the Church?

"Most of us only care about money makin
Selfishness got us followin the wrong direction
Wrong information always shown by the media
Negative images is the main criteria
Infecting their young minds faster than bacteria
Kids wanna act like what the see in the cinema
Whatever happened to the values of humanity
Whatever happened to the fairness and equality
Instead of spreading love, we're spreading animosity
Lack of understanding, leading us away from unity"

Sadly, we often see in the lives of Christians a strong desire for the gain of material wealth.  There is nothing wrong with money, and if God has blessed you financially, praise Him for it.  But also use it in a God-honouring way.  The Bible speaks way too much about giving to justify hoarding everything you make.  Many of us live self-serving lives.  I myself having realized lately how self-serving my life has become, how I think I should have it this way, have that, be able to do that, having special privileges and exemptions.  But this is far from what the Christian life is all about.  It's a life of service and sacrifice.  That's what we have been called to.

Why isn't this the cry of the Church?

Media is a subject all of its own.  We are surrounded by it: magazines, billboards, radio, music, television, movies, internet and the list goes on.  We live in a world that screams sex; live for yourself; if it feels good, do it; if you've been wronged, get even; you deserve more than you have; you need more to make you happy and this list goes on.  This is an area that I have a strong opinion on, because I've learned from experience and still feel the effects all the time.  Growing up, I listened to all the secular music, watched all the TV shows and movies, and just soaked it all in.  When I became a Christian, entertainment was one of the hardest things for me to break free from.  I knew most of it was ungodly (evil, really) and that it had a very negative influence on my life.  I would erase many things from my memory if I could, and all the years of entertainment is one of them.  I still have lines and images coming back to me all the time, often at random times as I go about my day and I hate it.  So yes, I can definitely say, media is a big problem in our society, and it does ruin children.  I'm not against these various forms of media in themselves and I still watch movies and such sometimes, but I'm careful about my choices.

Why isn't this the cry of the Church?

What happened to the values of humanity?  How about what happened to the values of Christianity?  Our society is in rapid moral decline, but so is the Church.  As we see all the things that are wrong in this world, are we setting a different example?  Many are not.  But God's call for our lives is a set-apart, sanctified one that is distinctly different from the lives the world leads.  Many Christians and churches nowadays are doing things in order to attract unbelievers or be culturally relevant.  However, I don't believe this is biblical.  I read a book this year called Unfashionable: Making a Difference in the World by Being Different by Tullian Tchividjian, which I would definitely recommend.  I was surprised to learn that non-believers that are seeking are actually not attracted by Christians who take part in many of the same or similar things the world does, by rather repelled: "serious seekers today aren't looking for something appealing and trendy.  They're looking for something deeper than what's currently in fashion." (p.9)  In other words, if they want their life to change, they will want a complete turnaround, not just "Christianized" versions of what they already have.  Tullian also included a reader's response to a magazine article about modern churches trying to reach people by “fitting in”, and a portion reads as follows:

"I can't stand the phoniness, or trendiness, or sameness--or whatever I'm trying to say here--that the church seems to catch onto at the tail, not even aware of how lame it is....It makes me want to throw up.  It's buying into some kind of lie or substitution of cool culture as being relevant when it isn't." (p.16)

There's more to that where she describes the kind of Christians she can't stand, but I think we can say the world has spoken.  The world wants change too, but we often fail to deliver. And we definitely aren't always the best examples of love and unity.

I never would have thought I could learn so much from a secular song. I never would have thought that it would bring out so many problems in the modern church or areas of my life that needed to change. But the more I think and talk about this, the more I see how wrong I really am. I've asked the question “Why isn't this the cry of the Church?” But what it really comes down to is “Why isn't this my cry, or rather, what is my cry?” The more I look at the Word of God and learn about what it means to follow Jesus, the more I see how very far away I am. I can only point to myself. Nor is what I have thought about and said here enough. No head knowledge is worth anything until it is put into practice and lived out. My earnest prayer and desire is that I would not just think and talk about things, but actually do something; not look at anyone else, but to myself and how far I fall short, because before I can do that, I will not see change. May this be the earnest desire and prayer of each and every one of us. Blessings to you!

And my sincere apologies for making this so long, although I could have said much more.