Monday, December 7, 2009

Gigantic to do lists

I love life!

There is more to do than I will ever be able to get done. I have web opportunities on scribbled scraps of paper all over my office. Some I'm actively working on but some may simply never get enough time allotted to ever see the light of day. Here it is mid December and months ago I had a gift I wanted to start working on, heavy in graphics and computer, but there is also some printing and turn-around time to have it ready as a gift for a few of my family members. I probably won't get it done in time for Christmas, so maybe I'll have it ready for next year.

One of the lines that has stuck with me from and old Jim Croce song "There's not enough time to do the things you want to do, once you find them." It was truer for Jim than he knew, but it's true for all of us. Life is rich with possibilities and I simply can't get to it all.

This is of course nothing new, but what struck me this morning and why I'm blogging this message is this verse, from Malachi 3:10 which says:

Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

That's how I think of our to do list that is so big we'll never get it done. Blessings so plentiful that "there shall not be room enough to receive it".

Something to think about next time we're feeling overwhelmed :)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

God our helpful friend

I was sitting at the downstairs computer getting some things ready to mail out and I heard my wife call out "Could you grab me a pair of white socks from my top drawer?" which is upstairs. I didn't really think about it, I just broke away from what I was doing and bounded up the stairs to get her a fresh pair of socks. As I came out the door of the downstairs office and she saw me, she said "Oh, you're down here, never mind honey, I can get them myself."

I was already on my way and it certainly wasn't a task that needed any deliberation over, so I just said "I don't mind", grabbed her a pair of socks and returned back to work.

The day before I'd had a similar experience with God. I had prayed asking for help with my recent unemployment and meeting the financial difficulties associated with it. I asked specifically for help meeting this month's bills, finding ongoing income, and for help in digging us out of our backwards situation.

In what I assume was a response to that request, these three things happened: My brother called and asked if I needed some short-term work, a person who owed us some money called to get the address to send it to, and my sister spent some time helping me line up a possibly lucrative business deal. It was one I had been inquiring about but she took the time to make a convincing presentation of the merits, and it worked, I should have that project beginning mid next week.

The interesting thing is that all of that was things I could have done myself. I could have called to see if that money was going to be sent soon, I could have called and asked my sister to check in again on the possibility of the business deal, and I could have called around to friends and relatives to see if there was any work available.

When I was asked to grab the socks for my wife I couldn't help but think that God sometimes responds in the same way, not annoyed or telling us "you could do that as easy as I can", but instead, happy to help, a true friend, willing to pitch in alongside us.

I am convinced that the Psamlist recognized this of God when he wrote "no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly." (psalms 84:11) Romans 8:32 has this to say: "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?"

This is just one small insight into God's relationship with us, and it is not "stand-alone". We need to study and be aware and continue our learning, because sometimes God uses delays in answers to our prayers to teach us, as when Jesus delayed healing Lazarus until he had died.

But this post is just about a glimpse of God our helpful friend, who helps us just in love, not always to teach us something.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Hey! I get Reception Out Here!

Just a thought that made me smile - I was driving taking the back roads recently, and as I often do while driving, spent some time in prayer.

As I got into some of the mountainous areas I noticed my cell phone had gone out of range. I'd been this back way many times before, so it was no surprise, but as I continued in prayer it suddenly struck me that I still get 5 bars of connection with God. Anytime, anywhere.

And that just brought a smile to my face.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Skippable Church

There is a growing group of people who are Christians, pray and live their life keeping God in their overall outlook of the world we live in, but do not attend any church and promote to others not to attend.

"Church doesn't save people, Jesus does" or "I don't need church to connect with God" are the types of reasons given.

An electrician I worked with for several months earlier this year said that as a child he went to church almost every day, because they had so many things going on, and he thinks God won't hold it against him because when he was young he got in enough church to last a couple lifetimes. That gnawed at me ever since, because he was looking at church as an obligation. Do other people? I wonder how many go, but only from a sense of obligation?

Maybe It was just the church. I have been to a lot of churches, and a lot of denominations, and it's been very rare to attend a church I didn't like. I admit that in "exploration mode" any church is going to be more interesting because I'm trying to find the "real" Christians and fellowship, and learn what differences or strengths that particular church has. I'm specifically looking for what's good, and purposefully turn a blind eye to anything that's missing or not right, if I can. I could be happy and grow in my Christian walk in a lot of different churches, but not all of them. So if anyone you know is not attending, read on, but plan to encourage them to explore and visit other churches. God's family is huge, and there's more wonderful churches out there than you'd imagine.

But back to my title "Skippable Church." Sometimes church seems skippable. Perhaps the regular pastor is out of town, or everyone you usually associate with are going to be away that weekend, and it seems "I could skip this week, take a day of rest in an even truer sense..." etc.

But a week without church is not the same. The day does not go as restful as you thought it would and at the end of the day you don't have much to show for it. Awareness of God's will for us and his working in our lives and on our hearts barely gets a passing thought, and the day is gone, and the new week begins.

When you're at church you are participating in a special event to which Jesus said "Where two or more are gathered together in my name, there I am with them also". That's a pretty big deal. And we don't go only to church as an audience, but to contribute, and as an example. Friends and family all know whether you go to church every week or not. And every once in a while people you'd never expect to attend end up attending for one reason or another. I don't want to focus too much on the idea that your attendance is to help others' salvation, maybe because that is more from the obligation viewpoint mentioned above. But it is a reason for not skipping. And I know from past personal experience that skipping changes to "wow how long HAS it been since I've gone?" very easily.

There is so much to be gained from church. Encouraging and sharing with others in the small groups time before the sermon (don't just show up for the sermon or you're missing the best part!) has an encouraging and strengthening effect on you as well.

God used to play a little game with me, as I would sometimes ask Him questions during prayer throughout the week, I began to notice He'd answer me through the weekly sermons at the campus church. (I used to have a daily walk along the riverside and could pray aloud in private because the babbling of the river masked my voice.) Often during prayer time questions would come up. Once I figured out what He was doing, I began to await anxiously for each new sermon. The one most memorable to me was the time when the pastor got completely off-topic, answered my question, then composed himself saying "I don't know how I got to talking about that." I just smiled. I knew why.

I would just summarize by saying church is not "skippable". If you don't like your church then go find a new one! There are so many and in my experience there is something good in all of them. There's bound to be a group with whom you can relate, and actually get excited about what it means to be on God's team when the enemy's war machine is in full operation. Don't think it's not.

And if you don't like church because you're not a sheeple, then good! The churches need a lower ratio of sheeple :) Get involved, and before long you'll wonder why on earth you let something so important become optional or avoided.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Running on empty

We live in a whirlwind of blessings from God, and yet He is very skillful at giving us blessings without being obvious about it.

I often think God runs better on "empty" than on "full". When we're "full" we feel self sufficient and have a reduced sense of our need for God.

When Jesus fed the 5000 with 3 loaves and two fishes, (and when Elisha did the same thing in II Kings 4:42-44) He did not do a more visibly spectacular miracle of creating a mountain of food and then distributing it. Instead He "ran on empty", but made what was available sufficient to supply everyone's needs, enough that there was left over.

When Jesus sent out the disciples he instructed that they take nothing with them, and when they returned he asked if they had lacked for anything. Their every need had been met.

I have often heard about people who have gotten "just enough" or got it "just in time". Because God has unlimited resources, he is able to supply our every need. By supplying us just in time and with just enough He helps us to not fall into the indulgences we might be tempted with if we got too much or got it too soon.

I just learned last week that when my wife and daughter were in Guatemala on a mission trip about three weeks ago, they had a loaves and fishes type miracle. They had food for 150 and were unprepared for the 450 villagers who came to eat. Many of these villagers eat just beans or beans and corn tortillas because that's what they can afford or what they grow, so this meal with lots of fruit and variety was quite an opportunity, and they all ate plenty. The food never ran out, and when it was over the leftovers equaled about what they had started with.

While we love to hear of and experience miracles, we need to remember that everyday life is probably full of unseen miracles that we never notice. "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want".

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Gifts left unwrapped

I wonder how often as Christians we receive answers to prayers and requests, and then we end up not accepting God's special assistance and intervention.

We ask.

God offers help.

We pass.

Wisdom not accepted, divine guidance not acted on, warnings not heeded, opportunities not taken.

I have both seen personally and heard others tell me of times they have prayed for someone else, either for spiritual awakening or financial and relationship help, and then we see those prayers answered in some way. A renewed interest in spiritual things, a second chance at a relationship, or an opportunity providing a way out of the financial trouble they are in.

But before long, the interest wanes, the chances are squandered, and opportunities get missed.

What happened?

And just as importantly: Is this happening in my own life as well? Am I getting answers to prayer and then not recognizing or ignoring the advice, squandering my temporary financial relief by relaxing a little rather than using it to improve my situation?

And for those times that we pray for others, and then see the answers come to them, is there anything we can do to keep God's gifts from amounting to nothing?

Have others seen this same effect or am I imagining things?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Thought you might like this too.

From Morris Venden's "Life's Little Instuction Manual"

1. Above all else, love God alone.
2. Bow down to neither wood nor stone.
3. God’s name, refuse to take in vain.
4. The Sabbath rest with care maintain.
5. Respect your parents all your days.
6. Hold sacred human life always.
7. Be loyal to your chosen mate.
8. Steal nothing, either small or great.
9. Speak truly of your neighbor’s deed.
10 Rid your mind of selfish greed.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Everybody does it

"Everybody does it" can sometimes lull us into complacency about the higher calling we are called to. God expects us to be different, in places calling us his "strange and peculiar people" and "the salt of the earth"

Some areas we might be lax:

* Fudging or cheating on our tax reporting
* Our language
* Speeding
* pre-marital sexual relations
* watching inappropriate material
* downloading pirated songs or movies
* keeping the change if a clerk makes a mistake

Why do these "Little things" matter? They matter because if we are no different from others in the world, then we don't represent the change that Christ brings about. Often Christianity is discarded as an option when those who might otherwise be seeking have been exposed to Christians who showed them there is no difference. As Christians we are representatives of Christ, and when we are shown to be dishonest, poor at repayment of debts, given to adultery, using "that's business" as an excuse to be hard-nosed or greedy, then we don't represent Christ at all, and we convince others that Chistians have nothing special, or worse, that we use our Christianity as license to do as we please.

So next time you think "Everybody else does it" just remember, we're not everybody else. We're called to be different.

Selling your birthright for a bowl of porridge

In these tough economic times, some people are being forced to sell possessions on craigslist or kijiji etc. for less than they paid for the items initially. Furniture, computers, electronics, the "extra" vehicle, all are being considered as a way to make it through the month, making the rent and credit card payments.

But what went into those credit cards? Fast food, coffee drinks, a night at the movies, snacks and impulse stuff. In the end we may have to sell something valuable and more important to pay for our poor impulsive decisions to buy a "bowl of porridge" (Juice instead of water, snacks at high prices at the gas station, movies instead of waiting for the DVD or better yet, reading a book or enjoying family time)

I don't mean to cheapen the traditional moral of that story, which is that we should be careful not to trade away things eternal for the frivolous "now", but the real-life economic metaphor can perhaps serve as a reinforcement of that same principle.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Kids and Faith

As parents we learn to never take on a conflict with our children unless we are sure we're going to win. Unless we're willing to follow through with the punishment or other measures the child needs for training on a certain issue, then we avoid the conflict; otherwise we might be "training" our children that they can get away with inappropriate behavior.
As a young parent I tended to apply the same principle to faith, but I now think that was a mistake. Usually, if I didn't think there was a strong chance that a payer would be answered "yes", I kept my prayer requests private and didn't involve the kids. In a few cases even prayers I fully expected to get a "yes" ended in disappointment and I worried it would hurt my children's faith, but it hasn't.
When discussing discouragement and a seemingly unanswered prayer with my now much older 17 year old son, he said "You're looking at it wrong, God isn't some prayer vending machine where you always get what you asked for." I see that faith is strong in all three of my children; they often turn immediately to prayer in the face of dangers and perplexities. I now wish that I had included the kids more often when they were younger in our family's prayer requests. I think it would have given them an even richer prayer life experience, and more data points in which they could see that God often allows the events of life to take their course, even with prayer, but finds a way to take care of us in other ways that make everything okay, even if He didn't intervene in the way we'd expected or hoped.
A sick cousin, Taylor, who dies and is not healed, and yet maybe got an extension on her life and had a greater bonding and parental relationship than most kids get in a lifetime. A car wreck that happens even though special attention was put on prayer for safety for that trip, and yet no one was seriously hurt in the head-on collision.
Not to say that God doesn't directly intervene and provide the miracle we would have wanted, but more often in my experience God finds a way to make things work out anyway. And I think now that those initial disappointments followed by discoveries of divine assistance is not something we should protect our children from, but rather an important part of developing their young faith.
There is a value in putting our hopes in the Lord, regardless of the outcome, and teaching our children to put their hopes in the Lord will be a strength to them their entire lives.