Friday, November 19, 2010

Stepping Out

I remember back at Forest Park Public School in St. Thomas, I was late getting to class one morning (I blame my parents, even though I cannot remember why I was late) and on the second floor out in the hallway was a female student who standing all alone.  I was mesmerized by this because she was purposefully standing outside Mr McTaggert's (I never had him and it was a good thing as he scared me) classroom during the Lord's Prayer.  I was so intrigued that I remember asking why she was standing out in the hall and she said, that "her family didn't believe in the Lord's Prayer".  I was shocked and for the first time in my life, my belief system was being challenged.

I have been evaluating myself lately and the things that I do.  I have also been evaluating the programs that I oversee at our church and the way that we do things.  It is not the first time that I have wondered it, but I am questioning is what I really am being what a Christian is supposed to be about?  Are the programs that we facilitate really what the church is supposed to be doing?  Is who I am and what I do, who I am supposed to be and what I am supposed to be doing?  In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul says, "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?"(2 Cor 13:5, NIV)  I think we need to constantly be evaluating where are and what we are doing.

When I look back over my life, I wonder how many times I stood out in the hall for my faith?  How often was I secluded for what I believed?  My fear is that the church of today has become so preoccupied with doing church that we have failed to BE the church that Christ has commissioned us to be.  Are we making a difference in our communities?  Are we following the urging of Jesus to "go" and "make disciples" or are we just happy to have our social committee meetings every Sunday morning?  Do we just come together, sing some nice songs, drop some penitence in an offering plate, listen to some inspiring words and go home after saying our adieus to one another?  It sounds a little harsh, but my fear is that there is so much truth in it.  Are we just a program or are we the reflection of Hope for a world that is lost in darkness?  Are we standing out amongst the crowds or do we blend in so much that our existence and impact is minimal?

I'll never forget walking away from that girl that morning and wondering why she didn't just jump in to class and be like everyone.  But as I reflect, I hope that I am provoked by that girl to step out and be different for what my "family" believes.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The 'In Love' Experience

Do you remember what it is like to fall in love?  Do you remember that first encounter where you saw them ... across the room ... and you were instantly drawn to them.  Something inside of you said ... WOW!  But was that true love?  At some point in our lives we have had those moments of when we thought we were in 'love' with someone.  We thought to ourselves that this is going to be the person ... this is it ... and I can't wait to spend the rest of my life living with sweaty palms, an accelerated heart rate and the dream of living happily ever after.  Then for the next little while, we did nothing but dream of spending every waking moment with that person and in some cases some of us were somewhat successful of doing so.  We try to live the dream.

However, after a period of time, the honeymoon comes to an end and we find ourselves looking at the other person that we are in this relationship with and we are wondering what happened to the person that I "fell in love" with oh so many moons ago.  The sweaty palms are gone.  The accelerated heartbeat has calmed down to a normal pace and the dream seems like something that you will only find when you are asleep.  That's when "true love" has to kick in.  That's when the rubber really hits the road and you see what your relationship is made of.

So what is 'true love' then?  The bible gives us a great definition of what love is in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
I want this type of love in my life.  I want a love that says it isn't all about me.  I want a love that knows no idea of giving up or giving in.  I want a love that stands the test of time.  Although, when I look back at my relationship with God and I can't help but feel disappointed with myself.  You see, I have often treated God like I was in the 'in love' experience.  In the beginning, there were all these hopes and dreams.  There was the aspirations of doing great things with God and watching my life completely change because I was 'in love' with God.  Together, we were going to change this world and live happily ever after.  But then the honeymoon stage was over and I was left wondering if anything had really had changed at all.  That's when the enemy would come in and try to convince me that I was never any different and I would go through the next phase of the journey with less of a passion and vigor for Christ.  I was limited in my passion.

For the people that know me, they know a phrase that has followed me around for quite a while now is "Never Lose the Passion".  It finds its roots in Luke 10:27 which states, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’”  I have been challenged over and over again by this phrase which reminds me daily that I need to love God with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my strength and with all my mind and I do that by loving my neighbour the way that I would want to be loved.  And to me, there is the key to any successful love relationship.

We need to love others the way that we need to be loved.  We need to love them unconditionally through their faults and failures and of course the good times too.  We need to give what we would like to receive.  We need to give our best effort, and in doing so, we need to keep God as the central focus of it all.  We don't do it to get back for ourselves, but we do it because we want to do it as if we were physically doing it for God Himself. 

So no matter what stage of a relationship you are in today, remember to share love for what it truly is and not for what you thought it was going to be.  There is nothing wrong with the honeymoon, but just remember that the rest of the journey is going to be far more rewarding when you love someone the way God wants you to love.  That way is when God is placed first in your life and when you love the way you want to be loved.

Never Lose the Passion: ... for God ... for one another!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

As Is The Case Today

There have been many times in my life where I haven't completed understood why the things that happened, happened.  When someone makes a statement like that, you usually think of all the negative things that have happened in your life.  For example, Job went through so many hardships and trials with the loss of fortune and family that I'm sure he didn't completely understand what was going on.

However, there are times when there are good things in our lives that happen and we ask ourselves, what is going on?  Why do I deserve this?  Why am I so blessed?  It doesn't always have to be so negative.  Sometimes the positive situations of our lives confuse us and we come back with, "why?"

My life has had some pretty positive moments as of late.  Both professionally and personally there have been things happening in my life that have left me feeling so blessed.  In all of that, I caught myself recently asking myself, "why me"?  Who am I that I am so blessed?

Tonight during a celebration service at London Gospel Temple, David Wells (the General Superintendent for the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada)  was speaking and he asked the question, "What is the case today?"  based on Deut. 6:1-9, 20-24.
1 These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 3 Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your ancestors, promised you.
 4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.


20 In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the LORD our God has commanded you?” 21 tell him: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 Before our eyes the LORD sent signs and wonders—great and terrible—on Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household. 23 But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land he promised on oath to our ancestors. 24 The LORD commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the LORD our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today.
As I reflected on his message tonight, it suddenly struck me that God; the Creator of the Universe; the All-Sufficient; the All-Powerful; the All-Present cares about me and my needs.  God cares for me.  God cares!  God cared for the Israelites as they came out of Egypt and wanted them to possess the promised land.  God cared for Job and restored to him all that he lost plus some.  God cared for my parents in times of need when money was tight and sales were slow.  And God cares now for me in this stage of my life and he wants me to "prosper and be kept alive" (Deut 6:24, NIV).  I like how the New Living Translation puts it that God "can continue to bless us and preserve our lives".  But the key to that comes in the first part of that verse.  "And the Lord our God commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear him".  Now, I don't do everything right.  Honestly, I get it wrong more than I get it right, but because of God's grace (which means that because I could never do enough right to deserve what God gives) that God pours out His good gifts on me as I strive to obey Him and follow his decrees.

So the question is, what is His decrees?  One of the greatest commandments which comes partially in verse five (underlined above) was given by Jesus in Matthew 22:37-39:
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’
Do we really love God with all that we are and love the people around us the way that they are?  Are we obeying God to see His hand at work in our lives?  With the help of the Holy Spirit, and through the miracle of grace, we see obedience taking place as we daily take up our cross and follow Christ.

So as I ask myself "WHY?" the next time I start thinking about the way that God has blessed me, I simply turn it back around and say, "as is the case today" so that when my kids (Lord willing) look to what their mom & dad went through and how their God got them through it, they will know that God cares for them too.  I am so thankful for the example of God's hand at work in my parent's lives!  May that be the case today!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Mary or Martha

I have recently just started recovering from a pretty nasty viral infection that shut me down for a solid week.  All together, I was sick for about 3 full weeks and I still am suffering from a slight cough which is slowly subsiding.  I don't get sick very often, but when I do, it usually is pretty substantial and this last bout was no different.

I will be the first to admit that I am pretty stubborn and I come by it pretty honestly.  My dad, whom I deeply love and respect, has always been a man of strong work ethic and many times not knowing when to relax.  He has gotten much better in his retirement (as currently he is in Florida getting ready for a cruise) but there were times growing up when he got pretty sick and finally shut down.  We knew that if our dad wasn't going to work ... he was TRULY sick. 

I am much like my dad.  I try to push and push myself to keep going and to keep doing.  However, I am starting to understand that we are not created to be constantly doing.  Even God rested after creation.  He knew that He needed to set the example as our Heavenly Father and take a break and enjoy the glory that was His creation.  It is good! 

I often am drawn back to the story of Mary and Martha.  It is a very short portion of scripture, but the truth never ceases to amaze me.  There are times as a pastor that you get so busy "doing" things for God and run around preparing for the Master that we forget to sit at the Master's feet and just soak in His presence.  When asked by Martha about the lack of Mary's help and investment into serving Jesus, He simply responds with:
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)

Has our society forgotten what it is to sit at the Master's feet?  I remember when I was growing up that Sundays were a day of rest.  We never did much of anything on Sunday but go to church and relax.  We celebrated the Sabbath and it was good.  Then the stores open their doors and offices remained open and Sundays quickly became like every other day of the week. 

I come back to the last few weeks of bed rest and recovering from the sickness.  I truly believe that there comes times when God uses our bodies to slow us down.  Sometimes it is a rude awakening when sick to realize that we have got so busy that we forget to rest.  Other times, it can be a welcomed reminder to slow down and enjoy the journey of life.  Every time, it is a reminder that we need to slow down and take time and rest our bodies so that we can recover and be ready to go when it is time to work.  We need to create that balance of work and rest.  If we work too much then our bodies shut down.  If we don't work enough than nothing gets accomplished.

I encourage all of us, myself included, to find time this week to slow down and spend a day ... a Sabbath day ... a day of rest and just enjoy God's presence.  May we sit at the Master's feet and choose what is better, and it will not be taken away from [us].”