Thursday, 30 December 2010

Reflections of 2010

Another year has come and gone and I've been brought again to a time of reflection. When I started this year, I had no clue what it would hold, but I didn't think I would still be where I am right now. I still work at the same job as I did a year ago, only I have more hours now. I still haven't upgraded my education or pursued a different career, and that's not in my immediate plans either. I'm still single and will still likely be so for awhile, which I'm okay with. But at the same time, I must say I'm a different person.

This year has stretched me in incredible ways. At times, it's been so hard I feared I was near the point of breaking. I think it was this spring, that I for the first time experienced a real longing for heaven, for the trials of this life to be over. I have wrestled between my will and surrendering to God's will for my life. I have wondered what it is God would have me do with my life. I have wrestled with my faith and asked many questions. I have seen people I care about going through loss and heartache.

But amidst all the pain and tears, God has given me joy and hope. He has stood faithfully by my side, even when I haven't been so faithful. I have learned to delight in simple things. I'm learning to be open with who I am and what I believe, without being overly concerned about what people will think. God has given me new opportunities and I have seen him work great things in the lives of others. I have shed tears in hard times, but I have also shed tears when I've been overwhelmed with His goodness. He has carried me through and I'm thankful for that.

It's funny that I'm left once again pondering what the next year of my life will hold. I don't know. (I've heard that's the beginning of wisdom, to be able to say "I don't know.") I do know that God has called me to serve Him faithfully where I am and demonstrate His love to the people around me. Where there's new opportunities, I can jump and say "Ooh, pick me!" Whatever it holds, my desire is to grow, make a difference, and enjoy the life that God has given me.

As you embark on a new year, my prayer is that you would walk with the Lord, grow in love and faith, make a difference and delight in the life you have. God bless you!

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

They'll Call Me Freedom

There are certain songs that somehow have a way of touching my heart and then I tend to want to write about them. I wrote an article like this last year on the song "Where is the Love?" and you can read that first if you so wish. Lately, the song that I've really been pondering is Wavin' Flag by K'naan. There has been different mixes of this song for the World Cup, but I'm talking about the original album version, which you can listen to in the previous link. And yes, I encourage you to listen to the song before you read this post.

Every time I hear this song, I can't help but feel that it was written out of experience. When I looked K'naan up, sure enough, he grew up in Somali during the Somali Civil War before he later moved to a Somali community in Toronto with his family. Although I couldn't find any solid information as to the story behind the song, I believe it is deeply rooted in personal experience.

The song starts off with the following lyrics:

"When I get older, I will be stronger
They'll call me freedom, just like a wavin' flag."

Right off, you catch sight of a dream. The dream of a child longing for strength and freedom. Somehow I can imagine a boy watching a flag blowing in the wind and longing to be free like it. He knows there's more in the world than his present state of weakness and longs for it. He has even put a new name to himself: Freedom.

"Born to a throne, stronger than Rome
A violent prone, poor people zone
But it's my home, all I have known
Where I got grown, streets we would roam

Out of the darkness, I came the farthest
Among the hardest survival
Learn from these streets, it can be bleak
Accept no defeat, surrender, retreat

So we're struggling, fighting to eat
And we're wondering when we'll be free
So we patiently wait for that faithful day
It's not far away, but for now we say"

What I absolutely love about this song is that even in the midst of their poverty and oppression, they're still holding on to hope. There's no indication that they're giving up or resigning themselves to this idea that this is the way life will always be for them. They know that freedom is possible. There are other songs that open to us the reality of suffering like James Blunt's "No Bravery" but they don't all offer hope like this one does. What is their hope? I believe to some extent, we are. We can help give them that freedom if we so choose.

"So many wars, settling scores
Bringing us promises, leaving us poor
I hear them say "Love is the way"
"Love is the answer," that's what they say

But look how they treat us, make us believers
We fight their battles, then they deceive us
Try to control us, they couldn't hold us
'Cause we just move forward like Buffalo Soldiers."

In our comfortable North American society, we are pretty sheltered from the bondage so many people find themselves in. They live in poverty, are forced to fight in wars, struggle to eat to stay alive, fighting disease and so forth. Many of these stark realities don't make it to the top of Yahoo News. That spot is saved for the latest article of how bad a celebrity looked in the dress she wore to an event. When we do hear of these things though, we try to shut them out because it's quite uncomfortable.

The fact is, suffering is real and as Christians, we can't sit back and do nothing about it. I'm not even going to pretend to be the right person to talk about this issue. I don't know how to end the suffering in this world and thinking about it isn't going to do a thing. The further I go in life though, the more I know that I need to do something.

Sometimes I think I need to go somewhere else to make a difference. That simply isn't true. There are people that are going out that need our support in the form of prayers, finances and practical aid. In America, we can so easily waste so much money without a second thought. But add up some of those small expenditures and you will be surprised how much you're really spending.

In October I started a budgeting plan and began to record every dollar I spent. Yes, I wrote down every coffee, smoothie and pastry purchased as well as money spent eating out. In October, I spent about $43.00 on eating out and snack food combined. Close to $25 was spent on recreation. In November, I again spent close to $40 on snack food and eating out.

Now if you go to Thirst Relief, you discover that a donation of $5 can provide a long-term clean drinking water solution for one person. That means that because of your donation, somebody (likely a child) in a third-world country doesn't have to die because of a contaminated water related disease. I know that one life doesn't sound like much, but what if I take those $40 I carelessly spent over the course of a month and donated it for a year, I would have saved $480 and in turn impacted nearly 100 lives.

Now, $40 does sound like a lot of money, but say you only donated $10 a month. You have still saved 24 lives for just a small sacrifice. So what if you don't get your Timmies coffee, fancy Starbucks drink or go to see every latest movie? You can make that coffee at home for like 5 or 10 cents and rent the movie later for cheaper. The fact is, you have helped someone else in desperate need.

Jesus said in Matthew 10:42 "And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is my disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward." (ESV)

I may not be able to put an end to the suffering described in "Wavin' Flag." I may not be able to end modern-day slavery, feed every hungry child or care for every orphan. But by small sacrifices, that really aren't sacrifices at all, I can make a difference in the life of someone else. And if I can encourage others to do the same, we can multiply that impact.

"When I get older, I will be stronger
They'll call me freedom, just like a wavin' flag."

Let's go give somebody back their freedom!

Monday, 6 December 2010

Keeping Discussions Edifying

I'm a person that likes a good discussion. I think it's good when people can get together and share their different opinions, viewpoints and convictions on different issues. It challenges you to be sure of what you believe and stand for and it's also an opportunity to open up and let people see who you are.

However, sometimes these good discussions can easily turn into arguments and debates that are less than edifying. And often by the time that happens, the people involved are so focused on pushing their points they hardly notice or care that the conversation has taken a negative turn. I am one of those.

It's easy to "believe" something because somebody else said it. Saying "That sounds good to me so that's what I now believe too" is just too convenient, especially when you trust the person who said it. The problem is that you haven't actually looked into the matter yourself, never thought it through and don't know if it actually has any true scriptural basis. You just assume it is because so-and-so said it so it must be right. Then you get into these lively arguments and discover you have nothing to back up your ideas.

Back to my point. It's good to have discussions but it's also easy to become very defensive or to attack other people for what they believe. Instead of promoting unity and edification, it turns bad. So I guess what I'm trying to get at is how to have discussions, express our opinions and disagree in a proper manner. And just to be clear, I'm thinking this through because I've realized my own negative tendencies in this area.

For one, it's okay to disagree. I would almost go so far as to say that it's good to disagree. If you agree with everything everybody else says, that may be a good indication something is wrong in your way of thinking. You're not filtering what you're hearing and measuring it up against what you know to be right and true or what the Bible says.

Secondly, you can still love each other even when you disagree. You can still enjoy fellowship with each other as the body of Christ. Also remember that the Spirit of God works differently in people. He may not have convicted your friend of the same thing He has you. And you know what, maybe He never will. Some people think that God convicts people all of the same, but it's simply not true.

James 3:17
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. (ESV)

When I read this verse awhile ago, I think the part that stuck out to me the most was "open to reason." A person who is truly wise is open to reason. But a lot of Christians are just the opposite. When questioned about what they believe or an area of their life, they instantly become defensive and often upset or angry. They're not open to the possibility that they might be wrong and the other right. In their minds, they're right, no questions asked, discussion closed. There's no reasoning with them.

I've found myself on both ends. I have a tendency to both attack and defend. It's not wrong to suggest someone else may not be right, but be careful in how you do that.

Like the above verse says, be gentle and peaceable. Attack the opinion, not the person. Try saying, "I disagree with that idea" or express your concern in the form of a question instead of flat out saying "That's wrong." When somebody makes a good point, say so. Make sure you understand what is said. When things warm up, it's easy to misunderstand people and get the totally wrong idea.

Most of all, hear people out. As much as you want to get your two cents in, listen to what others have to say. Don't hog the floor. And be open to reason. As much as it may hurt your pride, the truth is you're not always right. Be open to that possibility. And if you think people are shutting out everything you have to say, don't worry. They may not look like they care what you have to say and don't push it onto them. But chances are, what you have said will stay with them and they will think it over later. They won't show you it and it may take a long time, but they might just come around to your way of thinking.

2 Timothy 2:23
But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. (KJV)

Ephesians 4:29
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (ESV)

So remember, discussions are great but keep away from arguing. Sometimes it may be wiser to stay on safer subjects than diving into controversial conversations. Build up rather than tear down. If you disagree, that's okay. Just be willing to listen.

In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy the beginning of our real Canadian winter.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Not to Be Taken Lightly

I came to a somewhat frightening realization this week. I started to notice that in my way of thinking, I was starting to take Christ's sacrifice lightly. I was starting to develop a mentality that what He did for me is really not that big of a deal. I was belittling my salvation.

If we're not careful, this can happen easily, often without realizing it. We handle our salvation carelessly and forget what it is that Jesus actually gave up and suffered to forgive us and grant us eternal life. And likewise, we can do the same thing with our eternal destination and that of others.

Of course it's easy to see many people who are careless about their salvation. They claim to be Christians but live just like the world, indulging in all that it offers and living in blatant sin. Instead of striving for holiness, they wave it off with grace, a God-loves-me-anyway line, or since I prayed a prayer on such-and-such a day, I'm saved and will go to heaven when I die. But we can be careless in our way of thinking just as easily, and that will eventually affect the way we live.

Now, I'm not about to drag any eternal security doctrine into this. I'm still not sure myself where I stand on that matter. I hold an idea that goes more like "know you're saved, love God, love others, obey His Word and walk with Him." If you're doing that, eternal security isn't even a question that people need to grapple with.

I was reminded of a few verses of scripture as I was thinking on this issue.

Hebrews 2:1
"Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip." (KJV)
Hebrews 2:3a
"how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?" (ESV)

Philippians 2:12, 13
"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." (ESV)

Don't take Christ's sacrifice lightly. Thank Him constantly, remembering your lost, wretched condition and the great price He paid to redeem you. I think this is a key factor in walking in righteousness. God bless!

Monday, 15 November 2010

God's Call

How is it that you think you want something, and then when you're about to get it, you realize you don't want it at all? That when you're in a certain season of life you don't particularly enjoy and it looks like it may be fading, you want to cling to it for dear life? Realizing that you really don't want anything other than what you have is an odd experience, and it comes with mixed emotions.

For a long time, I've been pondering God's will for my life. For a long time, I have felt like I am doing nothing for God. While others are going out and being missionaries and preaching the Gospel in unreached nations, I'm living a simple, ordinary life, not having a significant impact on the world. Aren't we as Christians supposed to be active in soul-winning and outreach? Isn't it what God has called us to? But at the same time, I'm starting to think (and this may be very bold and even "un-Christian" of me to say) that many of us are being made to feel guilty if we aren't active in missions and soul-winning. I think many of us are being made to feel less godly or that we are not fulfilling God's call on us as Christians if we aren't on the streets preaching to the lost. I'm starting to think that the Bible paints a very different picture.

I'll be honest. I tend to be shy and reserved. I hate approaching new people. I even have a hard time with my job, to have to interact with people everyday. I don't walk up to people and speak to them about the condition of their souls. I'd have to say that I'm actually afraid to do that. And I'm starting to think that in a way, that's okay.

Now some may be quick to say we have to get over our fear of man, be empowered by the Spirit of God and openly share the Gospel with people all the time. However, doesn't the Bible make it clear that, although we are called to preach the Gospel to all nations, each one of us has different gifts. Prophets and apostles are no doubt much better at these things, and Paul tells us to desire these gifts. But there are other gifts that, although they may not be recognized as much as the others, that are no less important than the first. Where Paul speaks of this in 1 Corinthians 12, he makes it clear that although people all have different gifts, they all come by the same Spirit. He also explains that we are all members of the same body and that each part, no matter how small is important, that even the weakest or less honourable members are necessary. I think at times we fail to see the "other" people in the Bible. You know, the farmers and homemakers. Ordinary Christians.

God has been showing me this past week again that He has given me a work to do right where I am. At times, it's not what I want to do but I've been learning that this life isn't about myself. So, I have determined to take it up cheerfully and make the most of it. And you know what I've discovered? It irritates people. People do not like seeing you have a good attitude about something that they do not want to do, and make it clear how they feel about it. God has given me a work in which I can be a blessing, a place where I have the ability to serve in a way that not many people are able or willing to do. And I've realized that I am actually doing hard things. I may not be jumping out of my comfort zone and accomplishing great things that many around the world will hear about. I'm doing the small things, that few people will recognize and appreciate and in so doing, I'm not gaining an earthly reward but a heavenly one of much greater value.

I was encouraged and blessed by a conversation I had with a young man a few weeks ago. When I explained how I felt like I wasn't doing anything of value, he assured me that I am right where God wants me. I may not have a great vision but that simply means that God hasn't given me it yet and that's okay. God has great plans for my life, and when he reveals those to me, I will be able to step forward in confidence knowing that I am in His will. In the meantime, I am called to prepare. It's like being stranded at sea and praying for wind so I can get where I want to go. I can pray for wind, and God may send it, but if my sails are down, I'm not going anywhere. The illustration reminded me of a scene in Facing the Giants where Mr. Bridges speaks to Grant about two farmers praying for rain. Both of them prayed, but only one went out to prepare his field to receive it, thus demonstrating faith. God will send the rain when He's ready; we have to prepare our fields to receive it.

For a moment I wondered how I can prepare for something if I don't know what it is? I don't know. What I do know is that I am right where God wants me today and I can keep on doing what I'm doing for His glory until He shows me otherwise.

Not all of us are called to be Hudson Taylors or Amy Carmichaels and that's okay. God doesn't intend for us to be. There are thousands of godly men and women who have followed God's call on their lives. The only problem is we have never heard of them. That's because they weren't out on the front lines where everyone could see them. They may not even have won many souls for the Lord. They may have just been ordinary Christians living ordinary lives, but they did what they could to serve, bless, and show God's love to the people around them and in so doing, they were perfectly fulfilling God's will for their lives.

Like me, you may feel you have nothing to give, but that's not true. You have everything to give. You don't have to go searching for anything else to do or keep wondering what's next. You can fulfill God's calling for your life right where you are. And even if it seems small, you can make an impact.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Why We Remember

Today is one of those special days in every year, when people all around, both young and old come together to commemorate the sacrifice of the men and women who have fought for our nation. This morning, the parking on the street in front of our store was blocked off for the gathering at the cenotaph, of which I happened to have a good view. Prior to the 11:00, cadets walked around handing out poppies. I wonder about these young men in uniform and their dedication, their hearts already turned towards the good of their nation. As I watched officers march, and even young scouts, I was reminded of the men and women who still serve today.

The high school band assembles and strains of beloved hymns such as "Onward Christian Soldiers" (which we sing together later on along with our national anthem) and "Abide With Me" echo through the town. Young children, possibly from a school gather as well to witness this special service. It's a touching sight and I too step out of our store alongside many spectators.

It's a wonder how certain things, certain dates even, bring people together with one common purpose in mind. Days when life isn't about yourself, when we recognize and honour the sacrifice of men, women, and families. Times when we come together to recognize a Power greater than mankind. This morning I watched people come together and listen with solemnity and respect as Scripture was read out of Ephesians 6 and a minister spoke about putting on the full armour of God and prayers were offered for those who continue to serve our nation. This was not a sight you see in public every day, and was not politically correct, but what a blessing! It was a good reminder that war still exists, not just overseas, but we're all fighting in this spiritual war, one that is not against flesh and blood, and as Christian soldiers, we must continue to fight.

Today is not the only day people come together for such occasions. 9/11, a tragedy that our generation witnessed, is another such day that, when people gather to mourn the loss of loved ones and honour the sacrifice of the thousands of rescue workers. It's beautiful to see pain bringing people together.

Will there be more such days? Today we commemorate the end of one war. Will there be a day when we commemorate the end of all war? I know we will, but it will not be around a cenotaph. It will be around the throne of God, where He will wipe away all our tears, and war will be no more.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Prioritizing Life

If you're anything like me, you're bad with priorities. Life is busy, there's too much to do (or too much you want to do) and not enough time. How do you know what comes first or how to juggle everything?

Okay, so in comparison to many people, my idea of a busy life is a joke. I like things to be fairly relaxed and I get frazzled easily. Even in the midst of work, church, home life, family, etc., I still have an amount of spare time on my hands that many would consider a luxury. The problem is, there's so much I want to do in that spare time.

As we speak, I have a couple stacks of books in my room waiting to be read. In fact, I was able to get 6 books for $3 today at thrift store. I could go crazy in their book section. I work in an awesome store, but I still can't do that there. I have more lists of things I want to read and actually study. There's all kinds of other things I would love to do, things I want to cook, bake, stuff I want to learn to do.

So here's the thing: what comes first? How do your prioritize your life? Of course, my responsibilities should always be of utmost importance. I have a job, I help carry the load of keeping a home in order and running. Church is not something you should neglect. Meeting together regularly for worship and study is important. That doesn't mean I make it to every Bible study, prayer meeting or other event at church, but I do when I can (and feel up for it.)

As a Christian, God is supposed to be our #1 in life. But what exactly does that even mean? (Wait, what does prioritizing even mean?) If Jesus is number one, does that mean all my waking hours have to be devoted to prayer and study, every spare moment has to be devoted to worship and serving others? Having thought about this, my answer is no. Christ can still be our main priority and the central focus of our life without all of our activity being explicitly Christian.
The truth is, we can honour God in all our daily activities. Christ can be the main focus of our life, and we can still enjoy recreational activities. At least that's what I think.

How did that just explain how to determine what comes first, or how to spend our spare time? I have no idea. It didn't. The truth is, I don't know how your prioritize recreational activities or wants. Perhaps it has to do with what is a greater benefit to your relationship with God, others or yourself. Perhaps it's determined by finances, education or usefulness. I don't know.

Life is all about choosing one thing over another. Something must always be given precedence in every situation. Decisions have to be made. My words of wisdom: Choose wisely. Use well the short time you have been given. Love and honour the Lord, put others before yourself (your life is not about yourself), and then enjoy that free time God gives you as you see fit.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Finding Joy in the Simple Things

I'm finally back! I know my inconsistency must get irritating, but I've been thinking through possible posts and just wasn't satisfied with anything. So this one will be kind of random once again. My life has been nothing short of busy this past month, which can be difficult and stressful, but also something I'm learning to enjoy.

I've been reflecting on this year and have had a lot of things to think through. It has not been easy at all. At times I wondered if I could handle any more, but God sustained me through every step. Illness and death has touched the lives of people close to me and seeing their grief and pain is so hard. I've fought a lot of inner turmoil, questions, doubts and fears and my faith has been stretched.

Nevertheless, I've seen God do some incredible things and I'm seeing Him do incredible things as we speak. I have learned to hope and find joy and laughter in the small, simple things. The adorable facial expressions or witty remarks of a child. Mindlessly insulting myself and accidentally offending someone else. (That was a good one!) Laughing when things go badly, but still hilariously, wrong. Listening to a young person excitedly speak of the Lord's working in their life or tell me of all their dreams, hopes, plans, and desires. Sharing special moments with special friends. Feeling the sun on my face and the wind at my back. Seeing the leaves change gorgeous, warm colours. Knowing I made a customer at work happy. Savouring a meal or dessert, and if you know me, you know how much I love that. Being giddy with excitement for no explainable reason and hearing God laugh with me. Oh, if only we could have a greater spirit of gratitude and rejoice in the small, delightful pleasures God grants us each and every day!

Otherwise, I'm learning to enjoy this season of my life right now. Or trying to, at least. I only have it once, and its gifts can only be enjoyed while I have it. I must learn to trust in God's protection and plans for my life. They are amazing and I can experience all of the wonderful things He has for me if I only surrender to His will and control.

I've also been enjoying some more reading, which I try to keep balanced. I'm working my way through the Legends of the Guardian King books and have been enjoying a lot of the great spiritual substance along with the story of a man fighting for what is good and right, clinging to and surrendering to the Light in the most impossible circumstances. At the same time, I've read books on business ideas, singleness and I actually started reading a devotional that I surprisingly like. I have a bit of a wary opinion of many devotionals, but when I discovered One Year Devotions for People of Purpose by Charles Colson, I knew I would like it. Each day, I'm learning about a new person, book, cultural issue, historical event or ways to impact the world around me. Thus far, I have read about William Wilberforce, Dr. Ben Carson, homosexuality, marriage, Harry Potter and other things related to books, film, music and ideas. It's been great so far and definitely one I would recommend.

My encouragement to you today is to rejoice in the little things. Learn to love, laugh and find delight in the simple things God sends your way. Make the most of every situation. Stop stressing over the business of life and dive in and enjoy what you're doing. And then. . . .take time to curl up with blanket, book, coffee and something sweet! :)

Monday, 4 October 2010

So I Read a Guys Book

So I read a guys book last week. As in a book written for guys. *Gasp* I know it's shocking. Actually, I take great delight in shocking people. But that's not why I did it. You see, I've considered reading several different "guys books" before, but the problem was, well, they were for guys. Was it okay for a girl to read guys books? What would people say? Better not. Until a pastor recommended reading Hero: Becoming the Man She Desires by Fred and Jasen Stoeker. I felt that was a sufficient go-ahead.

I actually found justification for this the other day too, when I found a post on Fred Stoeker's blog, written by a girl who had read it, and said it was a good book for girls to read too. If you don't believe me, read the article for yourself. I was pretty excited when I read that.

Since I haven't said it yet, here goes. Hero is an awesome book that I would recommend all young people to read. It teaches men to be protectors of purity and leave every girl better off for having known her. It addresses the lies among guys today about dating, sex, and marriage. It encourages guys to stand up and be men! At the same time, I was reading Answering the Guy Questions by Leslie Ludy (also awesome by the way), so it was a nice balance.

Whereas in Every Young Man's Battle, readers can learn about co-author Fred Stoeker's story, Hero tells Jasen's story. Jasen is a man who's family tree was filled with sexual sin and Fred feared for his son. However, Jasen made the decision early on to honour God and live a life of purity. At the young age of eleven, he was first invited by some boys at school to view a pornographic magazine. And he walked away. Soon, he began asking teachers to be excused from PG13 rated movies to avoid seeing any sexual content they contained. He endured the mockery of his peers for years as he skipped out on dozens of movies and did what he knew was right. And all of these decisions he made on his own, without his father having anything to do with it. The book goes on to tell of his relationship with his wife, leadership he took in their relationship and how he strove to protect their purity above all. On their wedding day, when they shared their first kiss, the audience went absolutely crazy! It was incredible.

Hero exposes the amount of sexual sin and compromise present in the church today, and sadly, how widely accepted it has become. It tells about the problems of pornography and masturbation in today's Christian colleges. One of the saddest things about the book was when the facebook profiles of three pastoral students were examined. Things like God and following Jesus were stated among their interests, which appears to be in order for men pursuing a career in the ministry. What was disturbing were their lists of favourite movies, including many rated R for sexuality. The author went on to describe some of the sexual content in these movies, not because he wanted to, but because he felt it was necessary for readers to understand what they were dealing with. There were words in there I had never even heard of, and judging from some other details and words they were grouped with, I thought it best not even to look them up. The sin and depravity described was disgusting. And yet these were favourite movies of young men going into the ministry. This was their entertainment. Is that someone you would want pastoring your church? Not me, that's for sure!

One of the things I appreciated so much was how they emphasized guys being protectors of purity, leaving every girl better off for having known him. In our society, this is very rare to see. I've been blessed by the young men in our church, who look out for the girls all the time. I really appreciate it.

I'm sure there's more I wanted to say about this book, but it's slipping my mind right now. Since I have broken the ice once and for all, I'll probably end up reading a few of those other "guys books" I've often considered, such as:
God's Gift to Women by Eric Ludy (I found a review by a girl on this one too!)
Every Young Man's Battle by Fred Stoeker and Stephen Arterburn
For Young Men Only by Jeff Feldhahn and Eric Rice
The Mark of a Man by Elisabeth Elliot

But then again, I might not. But there are some suggestions for my male readers.

I'm not sure how much you all like reading my reviews and thoughts on other books. Maybe my posts are very unoriginal. But I'm trying to get something on here that's going to make a point and hopefully have an impact on somebody else's life. Thank you for your patience. God bless!

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

The Twelve Pillars of Success

I'm often a little wary of success books, especially when they exude a "health, wealth and prosperity" mentality. Even so, some of them have some great practical points about life.

Over the past few weeks, I've been studying Twelve Pillars by Jim Rohn and Chris Widener. It's a book about a middle-aged man learning about the Twelve Pillars of Success from the caretaker of a large estate characterized by its twelve white pillars. Although there were points I can't say I totally agree with and I wouldn't put this forth as the ultimate model for success in life, I was inspired by many points and believe that it was written from a Christian perspective.

So what are these twelve pillars as outlined in this book?

1. Develop Yourself
2. Total Well-Being
3. The Gift of Relationships
4. Write Down Your Goals
5. The Proper Use of Time
6. Surround Yourself with the Best People
7. Be a Life-Long Learner
8. All of Life is Sales
9. Income Seldom Exceeds Personal Development
10. Communication
11. Leadership
12. Leave a Legacy

I won't expound on all of those, but just share some of my favourite points.

  • In order for us to succeed in life, we need to grow as individuals. If you want your circumstances in life to change, you first have to change as a person. As Christians, we can do this as we allow God to work in us and change us into His image.

  • On the issue of total well-being, three-dimensional health (body, soul, spirit) was explained and how we need to care for each one. If one part of our body suffers, the others suffer as well. It's all interconnected.

  • Relationships are God's most precious gift here one earth. Cultivating them often takes a good deal of effort and sometimes pain, but it's so worth it. "The greatest gift the Grand Designer gives is the gift of other people. Yes, relationships can be hard, but they are also what the joy of life is made of."

  • Time management is something I haven't mastered yet. I often find myself wasting so much precious time just thinking of all the things I have to do. I need to start thinking less and start doing more. We can endure the pain of discipline now, or deal with the pain of regret later.

  • Surrounding ourselves with the right people is so crucial, especially as Christians. The Bible speaks so much on this issue. In order to succeed in life, we need to spend time with those who share our values, goals and visions and will inspire and encourage us. "Go where the expectations and demands to perform are high." 1 Corinthians 15:33 says "Bad company ruins good morals." Surround yourself with godly people who desire to live above the mediocrity of this world.

  • Learning doesn't end when we finish school. It's something you have to do all your life. You can't escape it. What I appreciated was the book list included in this chapter, including some well-known Christian authors and titles. There's so much out there to learn, but make sure the knowledge is true and applied. Until you apply and live out what you know, it's useless.

Most of all though, what will be left of your life when it's over? Your life doesn't end when you die and leave this world. The seeds you have sown continue to grow and affect the next generation and maybe many more. Will you leave a legacy? What will people remember of you? It reminds me of the importance of living a life that counts, that will make an impact for eternity.

No, Twelve Pillars isn't my preferred road map for life. I'll sooner turn to the Bible and other trusted Christians for that. But sometimes it's good to have a practical reminder of the things that matter and this book did a good job of that. But if you like success books as much as I do, I understand.

Saturday, 11 September 2010


Lately, I've been really inspired by Louie Giglio and as I was searching him on Youtube and came across this video where he speaks on the issue of "rededication" and I loved what he had to say. (Watch the video below first if you like to understand my thoughts better. I couldn't figure out how to get my text under the video.) Rededication is something I have often found myself wondering about. I can't help but notice how many Christians speak of having rededicated their lives, sometimes several times, when they share their testimonies. Don't get me wrong, but somehow I have a feeling there's something really wrong with this concept. Somehow I feel that God meant for the Christian life to be different. I don't know if my thoughts here on this issue are right, but I will throw them out there anyway.

I know it's something I have dealt in my own life in the past. I walked this inconsistent life for a long time. It seemed an endless cycle of ups and downs and "rededication" if you will. You're doing so great for awhile and then you slide downhill and come to God and say "From now on, it's going to be different. What I did back there will never happen again. I rededicate my life to You and from now on I will live a godly life." And then you're great for awhile. You read your Bible more, you pray more, you clean up the sin in your life. But after about two weeks, your initial fire dies and soon you're doing the same thing all over again.

You see, I think the problem with rededication is that many Christians are approaching it in their own strength and they don't realize they can't do it on their own. I mean, do you really think that after you've messed up, you can come to God and promise Him that you'll never mess up again, that from here on in, it'll just be a steady upward road? What a joke! Can we really make God any promises? You might as well be saying "God, I plan on living a righteous holy life from now on, and I can do it ON MY OWN!!!

I think Louie has it right when he says we have to surrender. We can't live the Christian life in our own strength and you will never get anywhere promising God you will never mess up again. It'll be a continuous cycle and you will be miserable. I know I was. We have to surrender our lives to God and walk in grace, in the Spirit, trusting Him to uphold us in our walk.

I don't think that rededication is a Biblical concept. I think what people need is more repentance and revival, not more rededication. They need to surrender their lives to God and walk in the Spirit instead of trying to living godly lives in their own strength. It just doesn't work otherwise.

Please do share your thoughts on this. I'm not sure I have this right either and I had trouble wording my thoughts, but it's a concept in modern-day Christianity that has really been nagging me and I finally heard somebody say it right. So, if you don't like what I have to say or it doesn't make sense, listen to Louie. I think he has it right.

Monday, 6 September 2010

In One Verse

Have you ever tried summarizing the Christian life or salvation in one sentence? It can be difficult to wrap the Gospel into one sentence that people will fully understand. I recently encountered a verse where Jesus, in my opinion, perfectly describes the Christian life:

If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
-John 14:23

It speaks of us loving Christ, keeping His commands, God loving us and coming down to live with us and in us. I'm glad that at some point, it seems Jesus thought, "Simply put, there it is. In case anybody has problems understanding what it is I want for them."

More small reflections on scripture hopefully coming soon.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Hiding Pain

I've been meaning to get this post up for awhile now, but I've been lacking time to sit down and write. The topic of pain is something I've been thinking on lately and I'm not sure where this is going to go or how these thoughts will unfold. Forgive me in advance if it's really random.

People hide pain all the time. You may not see it, but I can assure you it's there. So many individuals have a huge load of of hurt bottled up and tucked away deep inside of them. Of course, they'll never tell you. They usually don't want anybody to know it's there. But all of a sudden they come to a point where it comes to the surface and they want to burst.

I've come to really like songs that speak about a person's pain, songs that challenge Christians to reach out to those who are hurting, songs that encourage people to admit their hurt. Casting Crowns has a few such songs. One called Does Anybody Hear Her tells the story of a girl who longs to be accepted and loved and who gives herself away in search of affection. At one point, she tries going to church, but nobody reaches out to help her. Stained Glass Masquerade is another one that speaks about hiding pain and feelings of inadequacy and putting on a mask and making it looks like everything's okay. But I also love to listen to songs that speak about people healing. Held by Natalie Grant is a song of comfort when I'm going through a hard time.

The truth is, people are hurting all around us, and although they may never say anything, they're inwardly crying out for someone to care. Are you reaching out to them? Or are you one of those who is hurting and needs someone to care? Find a trusted friend and talk to them. You don't need to carry your load alone. I would just add a word of caution though. Often our pain is caused by other people and although it can often be difficult, try to avoid using names or slandering others where possible. And be careful with what you share with friends of the opposite sex. Some things can be inappropriate to share in detail and can cause an unhealthy emotional attachment.

And it could also be that one of your friends has hurt you. Or maybe you have hurt them. Of course you'd rather not to talk about it. You don't want to risk damaging your friendship. Talking to a friend about how you have hurt each other can be an extremely difficult thing to do, but my experience has actually been that it draws us closer together instead of tearing us apart. It can be very humbling either way, but it's worth saving a close friendship.

So there's a few of my thoughts on the matter from the past few weeks. My prayer is that you would seek to help others in their times of pain and seek God's healing and peace for your own. God bless!

Friday, 13 August 2010

Surprise Military Reunions

No, I don't intend to replace my regular blogging with videos, but I really like this one! And I promise a solid post soon.

Friday, 6 August 2010

What is Ellerslie?

This is a great video about Ellerslie from the students themselves!

Friday, 30 July 2010

My Wonderful Job

As some of you may know, for the past year and a half or so, I've been working in a local Christian bookstore and I really enjoy my job. This past month though, we've worked hard on making some significant changes. We have repainted, replaced the not-so-pretty hardwood with a nice carpet, got all new shelving and a ton of new products. It looks sharp, to say the least. It has meant a lot of hard work and things looking a lot worse before they looked better, but tomorrow morning we reopen for our first day as a new store and a new name.

I used to love being able to say I worked in a Christian bookstore. But we're not a bookstore anymore. We're now a family store. Our focus is to promote traditional values, faith, family and healthy relationships. So we now carry more products to promote that and bring families together.

It has been so much fun bringing all the things together and digging into boxes upon boxes of wonderful new stuff. We have a ton educational games, toys and other cool children's stuff. And although we're moving back a little on books, we've gotten some neat new lines of children's books as well as classics. We're now proud retailers of Yankee candles, and with their wonderful scents the store will never grow stale. We also carry four awesome line of natural bath and body products. Oh, and did I already mention that we have all kinds of fun, old-fashioned candy?

So, I work in a store that sells books, Bibles, music, greeting cards, giftware, bath and body, toys, games, candy and we also have DVD rentals. I'm probably forgetting about something, but then I could be here forever. Sometimes when I think about it, it seems so random, but I love it.

Our grand opening is tomorrow and I'm definitely looking forward to it. The hard work is so worth it. Also, check us out on Facebook under Returning Home.

Until next time, God bless!

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Living Out Our Faith Here

As a young person, my mind has often been full of dreams. Some of them can get a little wild, crazy and unrealistic and we can be thankful they will likely never happen. But then all of a sudden one day, a dream comes along and grows as the desire grows stronger, and for once it actually seems to be within reach. No, it doesn't necessarily make sense but it appears very possible, and now suddenly I'm filled with fears.

As I've been thinking about what I want to do with my life and the places I want to go, I've been struck with an interesting challenge. I mean, if your dream is to go be a missionary in some third world country and you're willing to go, that's great, right? Isn't it wonderful that many young people want to go out and serve the Lord and other people? It would certainly seem so.

But what if that young person fails to live out their faith on the home front? What if that young person fails to put into practice and apply the knowledge he or she already has? Going to a great Bible school or to the mission field is great, but if you're not living things out right where you are, I can't help but wonder what's the point? I'm speaking of myself.

Now, I don't want to be negative here. Please don't get that impression. But as I've been dreaming, I've come to realize one thing. I've read so many great books on Christian living, heard so much great teaching and learned so much, but it seems that it all remains head knowledge. I'm failing to apply the principles and live out what I'm learning where I am. Until I can do that, would I be effective or would it even be beneficial to shoot for something else?

The truth is, we have a mission field all around us. And truth be told, a lot us, myself on top of the list, are being really lazy missionaries. We take in so much head knowledge and can enthusiastically utter all the Amens! and Preach-it-brothers! but our lives display little of what we so heartily agree with or believe in. We can say "Yes, the world is dying and going to hell. Yes, they need to hear the Gospel. Yes, somebody needs to go tell them about Jesus, etc. Oh, now look at the time. I have so much to do yet at home. See you Sunday!"

We don't need to go anywhere else to share the Gospel. There are people all around us who are hurting and have yet to hear and see a true demonstration of God's love. Even just in our own homes, do we demonstrate the love of Christ, or are we just another person who goes to church?

I must admit that I can be very shy and hate approaching new people, especially to share the Gospel. I'm a fan of my security and I like to stay where it's safe. I can't stand not knowing things and want to be sure that everything is going to work out all right in all circumstances. Now, if I'm like this at home, how am I possibly going to react somewhere else? I have to learn here to put my security in God, not my circumstances.

This is what I'm being convicted of lately. Yes, I have dreams that are absolutely wonderful, but can I first live out my faith right where I am? Can I first be faithful where God has placed me right now? Can I demonstrate God's love and share it with those whom I encounter on a daily basis? Can I trust God with all the details of my life, no matter what happens? Until I can do those things, would I really be ready to take my faith anywhere else?

That last question there is certainly open for reader opinions and comments. I'm not sure if there is a definite yes or no answer to my questions. What do you guys think of the matter? Are you living it out here?

Monday, 12 July 2010

Serving Behind the Scenes

Do you ever think about what all goes on "behind the scenes"? It's easy to be unaware of what goes on there, since we can't see it. And the people who are quietly serving there are easily forgotten.

I was reminded of this last week after the passing of the mother of a very influential family. I realized that if it hadn't been for this mother, her sons may not have had the impact on the many lives they do today. It's easy to forget the mothers who cared for and nurtured her children into the men and women they are today. It's easy to forget the tireless hours of serving, listening, praying and offering counsel that aren't recognized and appreciated enough. Do you realize that if it wasn't for those efforts, the men and women who we so admire may never have come to be who they are?

Who else do you know that serves quietly and often lacks notice? There are so many Christians out there who faithfully serve behind the scenes and they never receive any praise or recognition for the work they do. Sometimes, their tasks may seem menial, but they are essential to hold everything else together.

I know that often I fail to appreciate the people who have had a significant effect on my life. Sometimes we have a serious misconception about the work that people do. How often do you sit in your church on a Sunday morning with the mindset that all your pastor ever does is sit in his study and prepare sermons? The truth is, that pastor does so much more to keep things in the church running smoothly. There are events throughout the week, people to counsel, meetings, not to mention a family to be a husband and father to. The demands on the pastor couple can certainly not always be easy.

Now my question is, do you pray for and support those people who serve behind the scenes or spend a significant amount of time pouring into your life? Do you express your gratitude and offer your support? Do you realize that behind the people who have a greatest influence on your life are mothers, fathers, mentors, teachers, pastors, people that listened, prayed and offered encouragement? None of them got to where they are alone. There's always people who served quietly behind the scenes shaping them into the godly men and women they are.

You may be one of those who doesn't like serving behind the scenes. Sometimes it's boring and it doesn't seem all that important. Nobody recognize the efforts you put in and you wonder if it's even worth it. My encouragement to you is to be faithful in those little things. The work you do is important, even if it's as small as washing the dishes for your mom. Take the time to pray for and encourage those who spend time pouring into your life. It's the least you can do.

It's easy to get discouraged, but do not grow weary in well-doing. In due time, you will be rewarded.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

DVD Review

Okay, so for the record, I don't watch too many movies. That's largely due to the difficulty of finding good wholesome Christian films, and just that I don't spend a whole lot of time sitting down to watch something. But there are some that I would quickly recommend and am totally ready to watch again and here's my review of some of those.

A Greater Yes is a great Rebelutionary film. It's the true story of Amy Newhouse, a high school girl who seeks to reach out to those around her, befriends the friendless and even begins a prayer meeting in her school. When she is diagnosed with cancer, she doesn't allow her failing health to stop her from reaching out. This is a must see, and definitely something teenagers can relate to.

Come What May is a movie that makes me smile just thinking about it, even if it is a homeschool production. When Caleb Hogan wants to transfer to Patrick Henry College, his ability to continue his education there rests in whether or not he wins the Moot Court Championship. The case is abortion-related and he has to come to an agreement with his partner Rachel on how to make the argument. Will he choose to do what's right and risk having to leave PHC, or succumb to the pressure of the more popular argument? It's a movie that deals with many things, including guy-girl relationships, and is definitely worth seeing.

Faith Like Potatoes is the biographical film of Angus Buchan, a South African farmer and evangelist. After coming to know Christ, he takes giant leaps of faith and sees God do some incredible miracles. The movie was well done and accurate, but if you prefer reading, the book is fantastic too.

Gifted Hands is another biographical film about Dr. Ben Carson, an American neurosurgeon. It follows Ben's life, starting as a child in school as he struggled to pass his classes and deal with racism in a white community, and how, through the inspiration and encouragement of his mother he moved on to study at Yale University and become an accomplished surgeon. He was the first doctor to successfully separate conjoined twins who were attached at the head. He's a member of the Seventh-Day Adventist church and has also authored several books.

Amazing Grace is also a movie I have watched several times. And running with the biographical theme, this one is about William Wilberforce, as well as a little about John Newton. It follows Wilberforce's journey to abolish the British slave trade and the many challenges he faced along the way. It's an inspirational movie that you can't watch without wanting to do something about slavery today, which to many people's shock, is still happening in larger numbers than in Wilberforce's time.

Now, since I'm always short on ideas, what would you like to see me blog about?

Sunday, 27 June 2010

From My Bookshelf

I like reading. That's good, seeing as I work in a bookstore. Believe it or not, I have three lists of books I want to read, which I'm constantly adding to, so I'm not even making a dent. It'll probably take me a couple years to read everything I have on my lists, the way things stand now. Even though it'll probably never happen, I'm giving it a go anyway.

If you look at the right side of my blog, you will see a list of some of the great books I've read and I'm constantly adding to it. So, if you need ideas, there's some there, and if you have a question about one or need the author's name, just drop a comment. But for now, just for fun, I'm going to tell you a bit about what I have been reading recently and some of my favourites.

This past month, I read The Scottish Chiefs by Jane Porter. I first heard about the book from Eric Ludy when I learned about Ellerslie (a school I really hope to go to someday), and I although it was a little outside of my regular reading, I really enjoyed it. It tells the story of Sir William Wallace, a man of honour who fights for the freedom of his country, Scotland, and refuses to compromise his convictions. Having been written 200 years ago, it was a little difficult to get into at first, but once you get used to the older English, I dove right into the story. This is a great book of character for men and women alike.

I also read my first two books by Frank. E. Peretti. First, The Wounded Spirit is a combination of biography and Christian living and tells of the damaging effects of bullying. The second was Tilly, which is a short novel that tells the story of a woman dealing with grief over a past abortion and her experience of healing, forgiveness, and a love for her daughter. I saw the short film awhile ago and I was impressed with the accuracy between the two.

Now, as for my list, I would recommend anything by Eric and Leslie Ludy, although I haven't read all of their stuff yet. That would include Authentic Beauty, Set-Apart Femininity, The Lost Art of True Beauty, When Dreams Come True, When God Writes Your Life Story, The Bravehearted Gospel, and Wrestling Prayer. I'm also highly in favour of Do Hard Things and Start Here by Alex and Brett Harris. Unfashionable by Tullian Tchividjian is a great read that tells about the dangers of the modern church's ideas of being culturally relevant. It's a refreshing reminder that we as Christians are called to be different and not blend in with the world. Real Christianity by William Wilberforce is also a must read.

Now, in terms of fiction, I have a bit of an interesting taste. I think one of my favourite fiction books was The Binding of the Blade series by L.B. Graham. It's a mixture of fantasy and allegory that takes you from Satan's rebellion and the fall of man to the redemption of man. Laced throughout are many lessons on things you can apply to your own life, which I really appreciated. I've also enjoyed The Seventh World Trilogy by Rachel Starr Thomson and I'm looking forward to her third book in the trilogy coming out later on this year. In His Steps is another novel that has lots of substance to apply to your own Christian life.

I'm going to have to stop soon or else this will get way too long. I don't read a whole lot of biographies, but if I were to name one right now, I would say Faith Like Potatoes by Anges Buchan.

In the near future, I'm planning on re-reading a few of my favourite books and then embarking on No Compromise, the biography of Keith Green. That is, if I don't get sidetracked.

I'm almost thinking I'll have to do a DVD list in the near future. I don't watch a lot of movies and I know it can be difficult to find good solid Christian films, but I do still have some favourites that I can easily watch more than once.

God bless your week and happy reading!

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Circle of Influence

This past week, I was reminded again of this little circle I'm in possession of called influence. The scary thing is, that circle is bigger than I think. People are watching me. Uh-oh. That shouldn't surprise me since I watch other people all the time, but it does. All of a sudden one day you discover somebody is paying attention to your life and you have to take a step back.

It's a trend I've noticed coming up quite a bit. People will say something about me and I have no idea they took notice of such things. To be quite honest, there have been times where I have received compliments and said to myself, "If only it were that true."

I've realized how important it is that what people see in our lives is true, that our walk matches our talk. It's easy to say things that sound oh, so good, but at the same time, it's a far cry from the reality of your life. In that way, we are actually deceiving other people.

I want my readers to know that often the things I blog about are things I'm just beginning to learn. I share a lot of things that God is working out in my life, but some will take a long time to get where they ought to be. This is why it is important that we are understanding of other believers when they say or do something that doesn't quite match up. We're all being shaped into the image of Christ and it's something that doesn't happen overnight. If we were only to share about things after they were perfected in our lives, we would always be silent.

It's good to be often reminded of this. We have an influence on the people around us, consciously or unconsciously, and it's often bigger than we think. As I've been thinking about this though, I think I may have caught a small glimpse of what God wants to do in and through my life. He wants to do a lot more with our lives than we often think. Let Him use you for His wonderful purposes and use the influence He has given you for His glory.

2 Corinthians 3:2
"Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men:"

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Dear Singleness

Dear Singleness,

We have known each other for a really long time, about eighteen and a half years to be precise, and we have spent a lot of time together to say the least. You have always been there and stuck by me even when I wished I could get rid of you. If anybody claims to have never known a faithful friend, they sure haven't met you yet!

I have been thinking about you lately and the many years we've had together. We've shared so many memories, many filled with laughter, some with tears. We have spent time with family and friends, pushed through the dreary years of school and jumped into the real world of responsibility. We've grown up together, and now as I'm embarking on the journey of adulthood, whadda ya know, you're still with me.

You were there by my side as I sought the Lord and now continue to learn to love Him more. As I have grown spiritually and have now become a young woman, you were the one who always reminded me of my need to make Christ my first and only love and to seek my fulfillment in Him. You have done your job well.

As I grow older, I realize that our time together may be drawing to a close. Within a few years, it may be necessary for us to part and a new friend will take your place. I now it sounds like betrayal and abandonment, but it's not. You were created for such a time, and it is you who will make it all the more beautiful. I know I haven't always loved you the way I should have, and for that I am sorry, but I want you to know how much I appreciate you and all that you have taught me. God has used you to shape me into who I am and I know He will continue to do so until the day we say Good-bye.

In the meantime, Singleness, let's make the most of the remaining time we have. Let's love and serve the Lord together, pouring ourselves out for Him. The coming years will go by fast enough, so we must treasure every moment. Thank you for all you have ever been.

With all my love,

Sunday, 6 June 2010

The Next Level: Part 2

Note: Read The Next Level: Part 1 first if you haven't already done so.

On Level Three, the people pride themselves in having a broader vision for the company. The General Manager explains their devotion to the "real CEO" (not the Director), a man they have never met, but know only through the "CEO's consultant." They are required to do many things to show their service and devotion to this "CEO", of which I will not go into details but just say that it sounds a lot like Islamic practices.

Each operation within the level has a different viewpoint concerning the company and each makes decisions based on that viewpoint. As the various managers explained their viewpoints to Logan, I continued to notice the trend of other religions being described. Various things they mentioned pointed to false ideas of becoming equal with God, universal harmony, nirvana, meditation, ultimate reality, karma, reincarnation, the four truths and how to eliminate suffering.

One of Logan's friends, Kyle from Level One, makes an interesting comment: "If employees lose touch with top management, I guess all sorts of conjecture starts floating around. And then people believe it and start organizing their work lives according to it." The same thing happens when we lose touch with God, if you will. We become susceptible to false teachings and ways of thinking. Not only that, but when people try by their own efforts to get to God, or reach some other state of bliss, they don't actually ever get anywhere and they never know if the things they have done are enough.

At this point, Logan has noticed the same problems on all of the first three levels: "None of them are taking directions from the top, all of them are doing their own thing, and none of them are actually contributing to the goals of the company."
Level Four on the other hand is a little more impressive at first sight, especially since they pride themselves in personally knowing the Director and Shareholder and always taking directions from them. On his tour, Logan is struck by the nice, upscale furniture and cafes that make the place more than comfortable. He also sees a "Manual review" in session, which the General Manager explains as follows: "We have a Manual written by the Director's very first direct reports. It governs everything we do, really. I don't mean the details--just the broad outlines. It sets our vision and reminds us of the heart of the Director and the Shareholder. We encourage employees to spend a lot of time getting to know it." Logan is also shown a vast auditorium for various large employee events, sessions and rallies complete with entertainment. Yep, sounds like a comfortable modern American church to me!

So there's always lots of hype and excitement on Level Four, and of course, they want to get as people as they can from the lower levels to come up to theirs. When Logan invites Kyle to come up to Level Four, he's actually turned off and can't help but notice the large amount of continuous "rededication" among employees. Although the focus is always on the Shareholder, sessions are usually based on success, self-improvement, and what the Director or Shareholder can do for you. Even with all this constant training and endless sessions, one employee has to admit that it isn't working for him and he isn't making any progress. Level Four just isn't what he expected.

Soon Logan begins to see past all the excitement, rallies, pep talks, happy faces and stuff. He notices that even with all this, the work they do is really no different from that on other levels. They claim to be happy, but they're really not. Everybody says and does all the right stuff, but what all boils down to is just a fake show.

When Logan discusses these things with the Director, he says something that I believe sums up what the problem is among so many believers today. "They want to work for the Shareholder, but by and large, work still revolves around them--what they want to do, what their goals are, whether they are getting what they want. . . . As long as they're the center, they're fooling themselves. The Shareholder's agenda is not really their own."
When Logan is given the option of working on Level Five, he makes some observations that don't really make sense to him. Each of the employees have jobs throughout the company, some of them which would be considered pretty menial tasks, others simply unusual. And yet, each one is happy in what they do. Their focus is to be a servant and to reflect the Shareholder in their work. You could say that they're the example of true Christianity in this book.

Logan can't exactly understand the concept of how Level Five operates until he meets with the Shareholder himself. The Shareholder explains it well. "In this company if you hold on to what you want for yourself, it produces loss. But if you give yourself up for the sake of the company--for myself and my son--then it produces huge profits. And you personally gain everything."

This book covered so much that it was hard to condense. It shows you what happens when people are self-focused, when they try to be good by their own efforts and rules, the problem with false teachings and religions, and the danger of a self-focused version of Christianity. It answers many tough questions and brings out some excellent points about life. I appreciate authors who write fiction like this that challenge the way we live as Christians.

Until next time, God bless!

Saturday, 5 June 2010

The Next Level: Part 1

When I started reading The Next Level: A Parable About Finding Your Place in Life by David Gregory, I was immediately intrigued and knew it would make a great blog post. I know this book could be interpreted in different ways, but I want to give you my take on it, although I know I won't be covering everything that could be covered. I decided to work through the whole book, so if it's something you want to read, you may want to do so before reading this. Also, due to the length I have divided it into two parts, the second of which I will be posting in a few days.

The Next Level tells the story of Logan Bell, who goes to apply for a job at Universal Systems Inc., a large prominent software company. He's surprised when the receptionist immediately sends him up to see the Director, the CEO of the company. On his way up, he takes notice of the size of the building, which consists of five levels. Once he reaches the Director's desk, he's given an informal interview and hired on the spot as an organizational development analyst (OD).

Logan's job is quite simple. He is required to begin working on the first level of the building and analyze what the major problem is on that level. Once he has completed this assignment, he will be moved up to the next level, and if he manages to complete the first four levels, he will have the option of joining the Director himself on the fifth floor.

On the first level Logan meets some interesting people to say the least. After several weeks of meetings and observations, he notes that employees are not working together towards common goals and they lack creativity. On one occasion, he goes around to each employee on the floor to find out what they are doing at that given moment. He discovers that each individual is doing something personal and are not actually doing anything work-related. They're all busy accomplishing nothing.

When Logan goes up to see the Director, he asks him why the owner just lets everyone go on doing their own thing when it results in great loss for the company. He explains that the Shareholder (the owner of the company, who you later discover to be the Director's father) chooses to give each individual the freedom to decide whether or not to work towards the goals and profit of the company. Logan is saddened by the lack of accomplishment and happiness among the people of Level One, to which the Director responds, "That's what happens when we become self-focused, isn't it? Life loses it's meaning."

When Logan reaches Level Two, it doesn't take him long to diagnose the problem when he's handed a Code of Conduct that might as well have been an encyclopaedia. On this level, the main focus is integrity and there are very specific rules and regulations about everything, including the kind and number of pieces of candy allowed and the brand of furniture polish permitted. Some of the specifications are rather amusing. All violations are carefully tracked and disciplinary measures are taken. Logan observes that in this level's efforts to be good, they aren't actually doing any good, with the exception of one department. He notices that they're so caught up in their rules and being people of integrity that they don't actually get anything done to benefit the company. In all reality, they're missing the whole point.

By the time Logan reaches Level Three, I started noticing an interesting trend. Each employee had the option of moving to a different level at any time, but nobody chose to. They each believed that their level's way of doing things was the best and they were quick to point out what was wrong with the methods of other levels. Sounds a lot like us Christians sometimes, doesn't it? We always believe that our way of doing things or set of beliefs is right and we're quick to criticize everybody else. And you know, sometimes we may be right but we don't always need to say so.

This seems to be a suitable break-point to somewhat evenly divide my two sections and to make things flow properly, although the next portion is longer. Be sure to watch for Part 2 within the next few days to find out what Logan discovers on the next few levels. They're the most intriguing ones. God bless!

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Emptied to be Filled

It was late one cold, dark night when a young woman came before the Lord. Her feet felt heavy as she approached His majestic throne. At first, she couldn't find the words to say, nor could she bring herself to look up into His face. But she felt His loving gaze upon her and He quietly prompted her to speak her heart. She struggled but for a moment before the floodgates of her heart had opened.

“How long, oh Lord, how long?” she pleaded. “When will I ever come out of this darkness, this place of restlessness? I thought you were a God of joy and peace?”

“I am, child, I am,” He gently replied.

“Then why can’t I feel it? God, my life is a mess and I just don’t know what to do anymore. Why won’t you help me?”

“I will help you, if you are willing to be helped,” He said.

“What do You mean, if I’m willing to be helped? Is that not what I asked You for?”

“Are you willing to let go and surrender everything I ask you to? Are you willing to submit to Me and be obedient, no matter what the cost? Are you ready to let me cleanse your life and make you like Myself? It will not be easy.”

What could He possibly ask her to do, she wondered? Was she not already living for Him? She wavered momentarily and then desperately said, “I think so. I will do anything; just help me out of this place!”

At once He began to show her things in her life that she had done to hurt Him and others. She saw acts of sin and selfishness, words spoken that cut and hurt. She saw chains of bondage called Fear, Guilt, Shame, Regret, and Insecurity. She remembered all the times God asked her to do something and said no out of fear of what may happen. She wondered that although she had repented of all these things and received His forgiveness, that she still felt guilt and shame? Where was the healing God always promised? Where was the freedom, joy and peace?

Knowing her thoughts, He looked at her and said, “Until you let go and submit and obey whatever I command you, you cannot know the fullness of these things, my freedom, joy and peace.”

She shook her head violently. “No,” she reasoned, “I can’t. Think of what will happen to me if I obey? I mean, I know I can trust You, but what about my reputation? What if what I do will not be accepted and I will only be hated and put to more shame? I can’t do it God. I can’t.”

“Oh, my child,” He said sadly, “unless you surrender your entire life, with all of your plans, hopes, dreams, your fears, guilt, shame, insecurities, unless you make My will your will, I cannot truly help you. I need your whole life, with nothing held back. Then I can make something beautiful out of it.”

“Beautiful?” The word almost sounded strange and foreign to her ears. “How can my life possibly be beautiful?”

“What you see is only a portion of the bigger picture. I’m painting a beautiful masterpiece with your life, but you will not see it clearly until I’m finished. It will take me many years yet to finish, but I promise you it will be beautiful.”

By now tears were streaming down her cheeks. “No. It’s way too painful. I can’t handle it. It hurts too much.”

He looked at her with tears in His eyes. “It hurt me too.” With that, He showed her His nail-pierced hands and pointed to the cross where He had hung, stripped and beaten, where blood had flowed from His wounds and crowds mocked and ridiculed Him to pay the price for her sin. The very Son of God, Creator of the universe, cared enough for her, a poor, wretched sinner to endure such agony and death. How could she do anything but submit to Him?

Slowly, she felt her heart soften as she let go of all the things that had enslaved her for so many years. She watched it all fall down at His feet. All of her hopes, dreams, plans, and deepest desires. All of her joys, tears, fears, guilt, shame. Several times she came across something that she felt she could not let go. “Anything but this,” she would say. It was too much. She looked up at His sad, compassionate eyes. “Everything?” she choked.

“Yes. Everything.”

He watched as slowly every last thing in her life slipped through my fingers. Then, she looked around her and despair seemingly flooded her soul. Again she looked up at her Lord as tears once again made their way down her cheeks and dropped to the ground. “It’s all gone. Every last piece of my life is gone. I’ve given it all to You. There’s nothing left.”

Slowly a smile spread across His face. “Oh, but you’re wrong, my child. Now that you’re empty, you are ready to experience the fullness of Myself, the fullness of joy and peace that I give and no one can take away. Now that you are empty and broken, you are ready to be made complete. You are ready to experience My best plans for you and a life so fresh and exciting beyond anything you could ever have imagined. Yes, hard times will still come, but you will experience my nearness like never before. Don’t you see it now, my child? You were emptied so you could finally be filled.”

She smiled, and in her heart, she knew that it was enough.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Remembering God's Faithfulness

Do you ever think about God's faithfulness and just weep? Have you ever contemplated His goodness and found tears coming to your eyes? Have you ever taken the time to recount the many things He has done in your life and been filled with an inexpressible joy? I have.

I think as Christians, we often fail to remember these things. We get so caught up in the here-and-now and worries about the present and the future that we fail to recognize God's unending faithfulness. I also think God realized this was going to happen right from the beginning or He would not have told His people so many times to remember.

Something I've noticed recently as I've been reading through the first few books of the Old Testament is that God often commands the people to remember or to set something aside as an object of remembrance. In Exodus 13 when God institutes the Passover, He commands them to remember:

"And Moses said unto the people, Remember this day, in which ye came out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the LORD brought you out from this place: there shall no leavened bread be eaten." --Exodus 13:3

In Exodus 20, He commands the people of Israel to remember the Sabbath and proceeds to tell them why it is holy.

I've noticed how prone the Israelites were to forget God's faithfulness. When they were brought out of the land of Egypt, they greatly rejoiced, but as soon as difficulties arose, they forgot and began complaining. Also in Numbers 11, the people complain after having tired of the manna that they ate day after day in the wilderness, and longed for Egypt where they had fish, cucumbers, melons, onions, leeks and garlic. It seems they totally forgot about God's amazing deliverance!

It is so important that we as Christians never cease to remember God's faithfulness. It's good for us not just to remember the death, burial and resurrection of Christ that brought us salvation, although that is very important, but to remember the various works He has done for us over the years. I encourage you to take the time to recount the many ways in which God has worked in your life.

I'm amazed at the things I have seen God has done in my life over the past several years. He has shown Himself strong in directing me in areas of schooling and work. I can look back and see circumstances which God has used to shape and mold me more into His image and how He has continued to change me. He has brought me through many valleys and trials and I'm so thankful for His unending faithfulness.

Give this a try and I assure you will be blessed!

Lamentations 3:22-23
"It is of the LORD's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassion's fail not.
They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness."

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Why Settle for Less?

Have you ever wondered why people so often settle for mediocrity? Do you ever wonder why people settle for so much less than they could have? Why do people settle for compromise? If you take some time to think about it, it's almost kind of strange. But the one conclusion I have come to on the matter is that some people are not ready for the necessary sacrifice of obtaining more.

If you look at the world around us, there's no doubt about it that standards continue to drop. Compromise and settling simply for what is average, or even less than average, is no longer very difficult. On the contrary, it's actually expected, especially of teenagers. But why would you settle for what is good when you can have that which is great? Why would you settle for average when you can strive for excellence? The two areas that I want to look at specifically in this post is that of marriage and our spiritual lives.

Nowadays, it's no surprise to hear of marriages crumbling and men and women who have divorced and remarried several times. It's considered "normal" for teenagers to go from one dating fling to the next, giving their emotions and bodies away to anyone without much of a second thought. And sadly, it's far too common in Christian circles as well. And yet, God wants us to experience so much more, and not just for a fleeting moment, but for a lifetime.

I've had people suggest to me that I'm too picky about the kind of man I want to marry someday, and that my expectations are too high. However, I know that when I get married, I will be committing "till death do us part." Therefore, I want to marry someone who I know I will be able to love, honour, respect, trust and submit to. At the same time, I also want to be sure that he will love me as Christ loves the church and gave Himself up for it. I want to have confidence that he will be a godly leader of our home and that he will be a good father to our children. He must be a man of godly character, integrity, a man who has a love for the Word of God and prayer. Jesus Christ must be at the core of his life and he must love Him above anything else.

I know this may sound very bold, but I don't believe that's too much to ask for. In fact, I believe that it's exactly what God wants for me and more. And if there's one thing I know for sure, it's that I will never be deserving of the wonderful man He will bring into my life. I know I have a long way to go before I will be ready to be a godly wife, but it's a work that God is doing within me. There are not many men who possess the qualities that I have described above, but I know they're out there, and by God's enabling grace, I intend to hold out for one. Why would I settle for less?

Now, in the area of our spiritual lives, there are also very few who strive to live above the mediocrity of modern North American Christianity. Most lives do not display the power of the Spirit and victory, but utter defeat. For all too many, reading the Bible is a drag, they have no desire to pray and they have no victory over sin and they accept that this is all there is. The think the power read about in Acts and the early church no longer exists. They read biographies of men and women of the past and say "That just doesn't happen anymore." And above all they're afraid that if they try and reach for something more, they will be outcasts. After all, they don't want to be called radical or extreme and certainly don't want to leave a legalistic or "holier-than-thou" impression. They're not willing to sacrifice the comfort of their present lives and endure any pain that may be necessary in living out Biblical Christianity.

The interesting thing is that such mediocrity is nothing new. I was struck by this while reading through Philippians this morning. Paul had a very difficult time finding men who were wholly devoted to God, men whom he could count on to support him in his work. Timothy, however, was a man he could count on and was confident of his genuine love for the church. In Philippians 2:20,21, he says:
"For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state.
For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's."

And it's not only Paul who faced this challenge. Missionaries of the past have faced the same problem, that is, the inability to find men and women who are wholly devoted to Jesus Christ and the work of God. All too many are more concerned about earthly pleasures. So we see that yes, these men and women are few, but the truth is, each one of us can be one of the few.

I also never get the impression that Paul settled down where he was at. He always pressed on "toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." He didn't settle and he never gave up. And neither should we.

Philippians 4:8
"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."

I could say so much more, but I will leave it at that. But remember, if God has promised you treasure, will you dig until you find it, no matter how long it takes?

Monday, 10 May 2010

Clinging to Christ

When life proves to be more difficult and you feel the pains of God's pruning and chastising in your life, it's easy to grow weary and discouraged. God's cleansing and purifying work is not easy, but we know that we will be stronger for it in the end. In the past few weeks, I've had to really cling to certain things to get me through. I've had to to remember who God is and what Jesus has done for me, remember who I am in Christ, and I have to hold to His promises.

When we realize who God is and what Jesus has done for us, it makes anything He asks us to do appear a little smaller. Just think that the Creator of the entire universe loves and cares about you. Remember that the very Son of God left His throne, lived a pure, sinless life and died a cruel death for you. If you think what you're going through hurts, remember what He did for you. Look to the cross where He hung stripped, beaten, mocked, ridiculed and how the blood flowed from His wounds. All of this He endured for you. We have been purchased by a very great price.

When we go through difficult times, Satan loves to come in our point of weakness and remind us of all the filth and slime we have behind us. He loves to tell us how wretched and sinful we are and top it off with a load of guilt and shame. And so often we believe it, because apart from Christ, it's true. But in Christ, we see a very different picture. In Christ, I am:
  • accepted, forgiven and blameless
  • unconditionally loved
  • held safe in His arms
  • we are pure, sanctified and perfected
Isaiah 43 is also a huge encouragement to me and it shows me who God is, and although God is speaking of Israel, to me is shows me who I am because of Him. I know I've gone over this same thing before, but a review certainly doesn't hurt:
  • God has created and redeemed me, called me by name and I am His (v.1)
  • He is with me through water and fire (v.2)
  • I am precious and honoured in His eyes and He loves me (v.4)
  • I am created for God's glory (v.7)
  • I am His witness and chosen servant (v.10)
  • God is the LORD, Redeemer, Holy One of Israel, Creator of Israel, and King
  • "Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert." (v.18,19, ESV)
  • God blots out my sins for His own sake and He will not remember them (v.25)
There are many more verses in scripture that tell us who we are in Christ and I encourage you to search them out. And while you're doing that, search out His promises. I take great comfort in the fact that God will never leave me or forsake me, that I am His bride and He is coming back for me and that one day He will wipe away all tears. In times of trouble, I love to turn to the Psalms because it often shows me all of those things I mentioned above.

I have by no means gone into exhaustive lists here. I have merely scratched the surface, but I would love your feedback. Who are you in Christ? What promises do you cling to in difficult times? And I would also love to know who all my readers are, so please do come out of hiding.

God bless!