Monday, 28 February 2011

Worshiping Elsewhere

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to join in fellowship with ladies from a different church group. I like visiting other places every once in awhile, and this time it was actually a work trip that allowed me to join in on their event. It's an interesting thing really, going into a new church full of people you don't know although I did end up recognizing a few people. I was nervous, and although I didn't make any awesome friends or connections, I was blessed.

You see, an interesting thing happened to me Saturday, something that I almost didn't notice. I was standing in a crowd, singing worship songs with ladies young and old that I didn't know and I was thinking about how I was among a group of believers who had a real love for the Lord and were wholeheartedly praising Him. And there was an almost inaudible whisper in the back of my mind that said, "Huh. Who would have thought?"

I think sometimes we as Christians in a sense forget that there are believers in other churches who love God and serve Him in the same way we do, or even more. Yes, you may go to different churches and the people may look different, may worship differently, read a different Bible translation, have a different order of service or may hold to doctrines we don't agree with. But when it comes down to it, they serve the same God, preach the same Gospel, are saved by the same blood and will be going to the same heaven as you. And here we are sitting among them and are somehow almost surprised.

Maybe this post makes me sound very critical. And if I were to be honest, I'd have to admit that I can easily be critical of other believers. It's easy to separate ourselves from other groups or churches, failing to realize that they're Christians just like you!

But I gleaned a lot from worshiping with a different group. I laughed and cried along with others as we listened to the guest speaker share the work God has done in her life and the obstacles she has overcome. I learned a couple of new, beautiful songs, which I encourage you to listen to. They were Jesus Thank You and All the Way My Savior Leads Me, a modern version of the hymn by Chris Tomlin. I can't stop singing them.

I also saw a woman there who I had met earlier that week and I remembered the unusual kindness she had shown me. And now I knew why. She was demonstrating the love of God on her job and it did not go unnoticed. It reminded me how God has placed Christians in all kinds of different places, and how they can be used to show His love to the people that come their way.

I must say I like my church, and for the time, I call it home. I intend to keep worshiping and serving here but I also appreciate what other churches have to offer. I would encourage you not to write off other churches. Don't be afraid to fellowship with other groups of believers, even if you don't agree on all points. You have something special to offer and so do they. It may just be that you will come away blessed and filled with joy like I was.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

The Value of Books

Last month, I posed the following question in one of my posts, which I will attempt to answer:

"Do you think reading is a productive way to spend your time, whether it be classics, literature, history, modern novels, spiritual growth books, etc.? Do you think you can grow as an individual and improve your character in this way? Is this a good way to learn? What are some kinds of books/titles you recommend?"

For the past year, one of my goals has been to study a bunch of classics. Unfortunately, due to the vast number of books I want to read, I haven't gotten very far yet. But I have wondered at times if it's really a useful, beneficial way to use my time. Now, I'm glad I've read other things to receive guidance in this. The Rebelution blog has done a number of posts recently on this topic which I recommend.

Overall, my answer is Yes! Yes, there most certainly is value in reading. I've enjoyed and learned much from many books in the above categories. I like historical fiction, modern fiction, spiritual growth, and self-improvement (to a degree). I'm also a fan of fantasy, filled with adventure, suspense, odd creatures, and a heroic men to rescue and love the young maiden, men who are defenders of the weak.

Now, some Christians have a problem with romance of any sort in books, but the way I see it, relationships are a part of life. If you want to leave it completely out in a novel, you're going to have a pretty boring book. You'd have to have all single characters remain single (or be children) and have no descriptions of love or intimacy between married couples. And that's just not real or exciting. Having said that, there is caution that needs to be taken. I avoid books where the relationship is the sole focus or that include a lot of sensual or intimate details. It takes your mind places it shouldn't and takes your focus off of Christ.

I appreciate Christian fiction that has deep spiritual content or lessons on character. I think that if a novel is well-written, it can teach you almost or just as much as the average spiritual growth/self-improvement book. The lessons are weaved into the story in such a way that it doesn't feel like the author is putting the story on hold to preach to you. A lot of classics are also great to learn valuable character lessons, full of rich language and you learn about history while you're at it!

So yes, books are valuable for learning, growing in character and in our faith. Just be careful about what you're reading, how much time you spend, and how it's affecting your life, relationship with God, thought patterns, and worldview. Also, make sure there is balance. Enjoy a variety of books and a variety of activities in your free time. Allow them to challenge you, stretch your faith, and cause you to grow in your Christian life.

Today, I organized all my books and the above picture includes a couple titles from my shelf. Also, I have updated my book list on the side. It was getting rather long so I took some items off. I also added author's names to what was there to make it easier to find items. Happy reading! :)

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Not the Right Time

A couple weeks ago, I asked the following question and here's my attempt to answer it.

"Have you ever wanted to do something to serve the Lord, only to realize you can't devote the necessary time because of your current responsibilities? How did you deal with this?" (Update: A fellow blogger provided a great answer to this question on his blog here.)

I've come to the realization that I can't do everything at once. As much as people today pride themselves in their ability to multitask, there are only so many projects you can be involved in at once.

There come times in life when we really think we should be serving God somewhere else, and we're very ready to do it. But when we look around at everything else we have on our plates we realize there may not be room. Sure if you made a sacrifice here or there, slept and hour or two less, and dropped this, it could work. It might for a week or a month until you're burnt out, feel disconnected from friends and family and you're left wondering what happened to your life.

There's often so much we feel like doing, but you always have to take your current responsibilities into consideration first. If you have a job or are still in school, you can't exactly put that on the back burner. If you're still living at home, you may have responsibilities there. Of course, you also want to stay in fellowship with believers to grow in your faith. When everything is tallied, there's only so much time to spare.

A couple years ago, I heard a young man teach a lesson on Ecclesiastes 3 and he brought out something so simple, yet so significant. "If there's a time for everything, now is not the time for everything." There's only so much you can do at once, and at some point you have to start saying no. Yes, there may be some great things you can get involved in and you may love to help other people out when they ask you, but sometimes you can't. Once you begin taking up so much, you can't put forth the necessary time and effort. As much as you want to help, you're being unfair to other people if you can't give a task your all.

Sometimes, God has us in a season of preparation that we can't forgo. As anxious as we are to move ahead and make a difference in the world, the timing isn't right. It's only in being faithful in the preparation season in our lives, that God can use us somewhere else later on. And very often, there's great importance in the seemingly insignificant time we presently find ourselves in. We just have to trust God in that.

So if there's something on your heart and it's not going to happen now, does that mean you have to let your dreams fall to the ground and die? Absolutely not! If God has put a desire in your heart, it will not go away, and God will fulfill it. If it's your own ambitions, you might have to let it go. So what do you do in the meantime?

Keep praying about it. God can make ways in the most impossible situations, so pray boldly and specifically. Seek out possible opportunities where you may be able to do what you desire and when you've found something you like, make your desires known. And in the midst of it all, keep praying and watch God work.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

February Issue

The February issue of Lighted Lamp Magazine is now out. I was excited about my article for this month. Be sure to read it and find out a little secret of mine. It's now also available in a pdf format which is much easier to open and read.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Called Only to Preach?

1 Corinthians 1:17 (ESV)
For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with the words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

This verse really caught my attention this morning. Here, Paul is grateful that he didn't baptize many believers because of the divisions in the church caused by the "who-baptized-whom" issue. He even goes so far as to say he wasn't sent to baptize, but to preach. Now I do realize it doesn't say that was called ONLY to preach, as my title indicates. He was a spiritual father and wrote many letters of spiritual exhortation to the churches, but preaching was definitely his sole focus.

However, in what we as Christians commonly refer to as the Great Commission, Jesus commands His disciples to baptize. See what He says.

Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV)
And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

Notice how Jesus doesn't even use the word "preach" in that passage. His command is to make disciples, baptize and teach. But Paul didn't want to baptize. He didn't believe he was called to baptize. He believed his calling was to preach. How does this work?

I think this comparison shows us again that not all Christians are called to do the same thing. The Apostle Paul, one of the great leaders of the early church felt his calling was to preach, not to baptize, as was given in Jesus' command. Now, by saying this I don't mean to nullify what Jesus said, but could it perhaps mean that we are not all called to do what Jesus said to His disciples, or at least, not in the way He said it?

Each Christian has a specific calling for their life and we have to live within that. Not all of us are called to preach, baptize, and disciple others, but we must all love and demonstrate God's love to those around us. Again, I can't say for sure that I'm right on this matter. What do you think?