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If you are familiar with the book of Job, you would know that God allowed Satan to do whatever he wanted to to Job as long as he didn’t kill him. When Job’s family, livestock and health were all taken from him, we read, ‘At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised." In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.
Life doesn’t always happen quite the way we plan. But how we choose to deal with the unexpected changes in events will make all the difference on how it will affect us.
For those of you who don’t know, I applied to work with the non-profit Invisible Children while also working on hosting a screening of their documentary in my town. I was so passionate and excited for this job. I was prepared to pay to work for them for the whole summer rather than getting a real job and making money. But even after I had my interview, I didn’t get the job and now I have been without a job for a month and I don’t know why. I’ve sent out resumes to over 15 companies but just haven’t heard back from them. It’s definitely discouraging and I could choose to be really angry that things didn’t go the way I had planned, but the truth is that God’s plans are always so much bigger and greater than we could ever dream of for ourselves. The obstacle is however, when we don’t know what His plan is.
In church, a man was giving testimony and said that while in school in Toronto, things were really tough for him (whether back home, studies, health, a job, etc). He was visibly distressed causing a classmate who always kept to himself to approach him on his worse day and told him that he looked bad and that this guy could offer him something that would take away all the pain. It sounded good so he followed him after school through dark downtown alleyways and up stairs to an old apartment where a group of people were praying by candlelight. The experience he had there completely calmed him down and when he left, he knew that God led him there for a reason; to cure him. When he returned to school the next day and for the rest of the year, this mysterious classmate didn’t return back to class, he was never seen back there again. This man sharing his testimony knew that this classmate was placed in his life for a reason, and once he served the purpose God had for Him, he went on His way.
It’s true though, right? Some people are placed in our lives for just short time, but for a specific reason; and then they’re gone. But I want us to look at this situation from the classmate’s point of view. Why was he there, and why did he leave? Maybe it took him 3 years and a lot to sacrifice in order to afford being able to go to school. He was there for a while and got involved with this prayer circle which he was really loving. Meanwhile his sister was in the hospital and getting more and more sick from cancer, before he knew it he had to leave to go back home to be with his family during his sisters final days. She passed away and it really took its toll on him resulting in him dropping out of school and is still working through depression and methods of coping. It’s been a long journey but through a few special people being placed in his life, he’s well on his way to full recovery and is hoping to return back to school in a year.
You see? Some things happen in our lives that we just can’t explain or understand why. From this classmate’s point of view, he worked hard for something, and just when it started going well he lost his sister and dropped out of school. But through one of his last encounters while at school, he led a stranger to freedom and a better life in Christ, without even knowing it. Just as God places specific people in our lives for brief moments but with monumental influence, He also places us in other people’s lives for their sake and we may never even know about it.
I’m reminded of a scene from the movie, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Brad Pitt explains a huge long series of events that eventually leads to Cate Blanchett being struck by a vehicle. He states that if only one thing had happened differently, then she would not have been fine. He says that, “sometimes we’re on a collision course and we just don’t know it. Whether it’s by accident or by design, there’s not a thing we can do about it. But life being what it is, a series of intersecting lives and incidents, is out of anyone’s control.” I think there is some truth that can be drawn from this story. Situations happen, both good and bad, and everything has a part in influencing who we are today. Although we may not like what is happening right now, it’s part of a bigger story that we just haven’t read yet. Jeremiah 29:11 says ‘For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ Although we can’t see the whole picture but only see what’s happening in the here and now, God sees it all and has a plan. Whether that plan is in our best interest or the best interest of someone else and God is merely using us to help someone else; like the classmate example from before. I’m not saying that God plans for bad things to happen to us. Because of our sinful nature and God’s just nature, He allows for bad things to happen to us just like He allowed for Job, but He works in such a way that He can still be glorified through it all.
I can choose to be angry with God; discouraged and depressed that He didn’t get me a job with IC. I could regret not getting applications elsewhere earlier as a back-up plan, I could ask myself plenty of ‘what if’ questions regarding my answers in my interview with IC. But God didn’t allow me to go through all of this just so that I would be angry with Him, beat myself up, or wish I made different decisions. Regretting some decisions, however, is healthy because the Holy Spirit puts it on our hearts that we made a wrong choice, but allowing guilt to dwell in our minds is not from God; He offers freedom from that guilt.
He allowed me to go through all of this with IC so that His glory can be illuminated and so that I may grow deeper in relationship with Him. I am not working with IC for a reason; one which I don’t really know yet. But I am going to remain optimistic, hopeful and thankful to God even though my plans fell through as I remember Philippians 4:6-7 which says, ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’ I know that He see’s the bigger picture and I’ve got to trust that He allowed me to endure all that I did for a greater cause than to just be disappointed. And I’m eager to see what that reason is.
At the end of the book of Job, 40 chapters later, we read:
After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before. All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought upon him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.
The Lord blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the first. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. And he also had seven sons and three daughters. The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch. Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job's daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers.
Forgiveness. It’s freeing. It’s always a result of pain. It’s a place for healing. It’s often hard. It makes way for restoration. Forgiveness.
Over the last few years, I have had my share of painful experiences through various friendships and relationships. In order to maintain peace, I won’t share details of these relationships, just know that I’m speaking from true experiences from my life with both genders and people of all ages, I’m not just talking about dating relationships here. And I know that we all have our own lives with extraordinarily different circumstances, but I believe that forgiveness has been put in place as a gift from God.
When I drifted apart from particular past relationships, I began to talk about them with my other friends. My intent was not to share about the good times from my past, rather I wanted to express the pain I felt and put all the blame on these people. I wanted to turn as many people as I could against them. Why? Because they hurt me and it felt good to inflict hurt back upon them without actually hurting them. However one time, I had shared some negative opinions of one old friend with a mutual friend and because I feared getting caught and actually hurting this person, I felt I should tell the person myself and apologize. So in an email I explained that I had trash-talked them and our relationship, and I knew that it was wrong, and I wanted to apologize. I thought it was a noble thing to do but it was not received well; but I did feel better about myself, and that’s all that mattered to me.
It wasn’t until this past year that I realized this all needed to stop. I was trash-talking old friendships and past relationships just because they didn’t go the way that I wanted them to. I took any opportunity I could to share with friends about the bad things these people had done to me in the past because it earned me sympathy and revealed the hidden dark sides of these people. But it was not healthy, and not the reason why God put me in those relationships. He didn’t allow these relationships to end so that I would hate them, or warn others about them or to turn others against them. No. God put me in these situations so that I could grow as a result of them. Each and every failed relationship or broken friendship has contributed to the man who I am today. And despite the amount of pain that came out of those, the amount of love and growth makes it all worth it. Do I wish I could go back and change things so that I didn’t experience the hate, the betrayal, the neglect? Not at all, because I’m thankful for those experiences that God allowed me to endure, because I’ve grown with Him so much more through them.
But to be thankful is only one part of the equation. To forgive is what completes this process. It is what brings about restoration, trust and hope for a brighter day. And to be honest, these can only be obtained through the love and grace of Jesus Christ. It was as if He just flicked a switch in my heart and told me that I needed to forgive these people. To make amends with them was such a difficult task. But through His strength, I was able to contact each one of these people who I held grudges against and tell them that I was thankful for them and the relationship that we had. Recognizing that although we were distant now, we did have some good memories and that I was thankful for God placing them in my life for the time that He did. The response was mutual and freeing, and so the restoration began. Now, whenever I engage in conversation about these particular people, I must be sensitive and careful with my words as to make sure my listeners understand that we although had our ups and downs, I am still thankful for them and I don’t hate them; in fact I love them.
Forgiveness. It’s an odd thing. It’s not forgetting the pain, but rather it’s being thankful for the pain. It’s realizing that some things are not worth our stubborn, bitter and hateful attitudes. It’s redemption. It’s love. Forgiveness.
How often do we catch ourselves at the end of the day, resting our heads on our pillows and realizing that we haven’t talked to God yet that day? Or maybe one afternoon you realize that you haven’t spoken to God in the last few days even? And what is our response? We either begin to pray to recap all the time we missed and eventually get off track or distracted and we move on with our day, or we feel incredibly guilty and beat ourselves up for not being good enough Christians because we haven’t acknowledged Christ in our everyday lives.
Before I get started, the disclaimer is that I fully believe 100% that an active relationship with God requires constant communication and we cannot dismiss this fact. It’s integral to our Christian walk that we communicate with God so that we may hear His voice speaking truth into our lives, our struggles and our dreams.
What I want to talk about though, is this idea that we should feel absolutely terrible when we don’t talk to God during our day. Where has this guilt resided from? When we lie down and reflect on our day, only to realize that we haven’t spoken to God at all, why do we feel like we have upset God, or that He is disappointed with us because we’ve wasted our day. He gave us this glorious day, another day of life to live and we didn’t even include Him in it, right?
But I want us to break down that wall. Break down this preconceived idea that God frowns upon our day when we don’t communicate with Him or consciously acknowledge His presence each day. Did you notice that I said ‘consciously’? That’s what I want to talk about, because I am confident that God loves us and smiles upon us each and every day whether we’ve knowingly talked to Him or not.
You see, God gave us family and friends to fellowship with each day. He designed us to dialogue and enjoy the company of one another, we are made to embrace fellowship. So unless you are a hermit, surely you interact with multiple people each day; don’t you think God loves to see us talk with one another?
God gave most of us a great sense of humour and appreciation for funny things. Jesus laughed, God laughs, why shouldn’t we? When you are told a story or something happens right in the moment that causes your sides to splits, or makes tears stream continuously down your face for the next half hour; does God not absolutely love watching you laugh? He created you to laugh, so when you embrace that opportunity, surely He smiles upon you.
Each and every person has been blessed with many skills and talents, some unique and some that can be shared among many. When you sit down and jam on your guitar for an hour, or you take a photo of a beautiful sunrise, or you sweat over the oven to make your family a delicious hot meal, you are utilizing and developing your God-given skills and talents. If you don’t pray first before you partake in these activities or consciously recognize God’s blessing of these gifts, will He not be happy when you do them? Surely He can’t help but smile upon His beloved children when they use the gifts He’s given them.
We all love to eat, and we can all make the choices to eat healthy or not. Sometimes snacking on junk food is nice, but consciously eating healthy is the wiser choice. When we take care of our bodies by listening to what it needs rather than what our taste buds want, God is pleased. When we exercise, go for a run and give ourselves enough sleep so that our body can heal and be in its best shape, how can God be disappointed with us?
Do you see, that in all these ways and hundreds more, we are praising and worshiping God all day long, without even realizing it. When you look outside your window and see the sunset and think to yourself about how beautiful it is, or you get lost in the mesmerizing flicker of a candle’s flame, you are appreciating God’s beauty, His creation, His love for you. We worship God in so many more ways beyond the expected words and music.
And with that said, is it worth beating ourselves up over not praying to God throughout our day? Because if you think back on all that you’ve done each day, you’ll soon realize that you have acknowledged Him and pleased Him without even knowing it, and you’ve made Him smile many times over. Obviously actually acknowledging God in all these things will help you develop in your relationship with Him more and that will make Him smile that much more; and if you don’t consciously communicate with God, you need to improve on that.
When you recognize the majesty of a cloud, acknowledge His craftsmanship it that.
When you have a good talk with someone you haven’t seen in a long time, acknowledge His hand in that.
And when you play a Taylor Swift song on your guitar, first acknowledge His blessing of your skills, and then pray that you learn some better music.
But, when you rest your head on your pillow knowing full well that you haven’t spoken to God at all yet, don’t beat yourself up, and don’t feel He’s mad at you. Know that you’ve made Him smile today, know that He still loves you and always will, and know that tomorrow will bring that much more love and smiles.
This is inspired by the late Kyle Lake’s [Re]Understanding Prayer.
When you think of scripts, what comes to mind? For me, I think of actors memorizing lines for the purpose of taking on a role of someone else. They read a script to get a clear understanding of what they should say, how they should act, how they can best represent their character.
Our Christian subculture has created its own scripts –its own means of instructing others on how to do things we as Christians do– and Christians always seem to be searching for it. They’re looking for a formula to best do everything. Whether it’s how to dress, worship, read the bible, care for others, forgive enemies, or in this case, how we pray.
How do you worship? Do you stand up? Do you sing songs of praise? How about close your eyes? Do you raise your hands? In some churches and denominations, whole levels off spirituality are derived from the placement or extension of the hands.
What is your first impression of Christian music? When I was in high school, I would share my music with friends and they often loved it. When I told them it was ‘Christian,’ they were so surprised because it didn’t match what they originally perceived as Christian music. They understood a script for Christian music, and what I shared stepped beyond those boundaries and they couldn’t believe it. They were blown away by this new concept.
How do you read the bible? Do you read it one book at a time? A chapter at a time? Maybe you take a small passage and spend weeks meditating on it? Why do you read the bible? Just so you can dissect it and reword it in order to better apply it to today’s world and your current situations?
How do you offer advice or support to a hurting friend? Establish eye contact, ask them questions about their well-being, repeat what they just said in a more sympathetic tone, read a scripture verse pertaining to their situation?
These are just a few examples of the formulas that we search for. And they have become readily available to us especially through thousands of self-help books found in the Christian book stores. And they are pretty simple formula’s to remember, but when they’re used, you can easily lose the genuine realness that should never be faked.
Now here are some examples of the scripts that are offered to us regarding prayer:
-Address God as ‘Father God’
-Thank Him for 5-7 things or people around you before anything else
-Use the word ‘Just’ a minimum of twenty-five times
-Address God at the beginning of each new phrase or sentence in case He forgot you were talking to Him
-Finish every time with ‘In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen’
And for some bonus points be sure to:-use more words, bigger words, quote God’s own scripture to Himself, increase your volume, add more emotion for best results of promotion of self and for the purest and most free connection with God
I often spend long periods of time where I won’t pray out loud. I’m not certain, but I pretty sure that the bible never says that you have to pray out loud –it merely refers to people praying together, or in groups. When I open my mouth and begin to pray aloud, I find it very difficult to not think about what the people around me think of my prayers. I can’t stutter, I have to have my thoughts all figured out first, I can’t repeat what’s already been said in a prayer circle. These are all scripts I am afraid of breaking.
When I worked for a youth group I found myself having to pray one-to-one with the youth. They would tell me generally what they needed prayer for and then I would pray for them. But my prayer became advice for the youth. “God remind him to wake up early to pray, help him to listen to his parents better, help him to see you in nature and think of you during his day when he’s walking down the street, brushing his teeth, etc.” All of this I could have just said to him before praying in order to make my prayer a more direct conversation with God. Instead my entire prayer ended up having the sole purpose of making sure the youth heard what I was saying.
From this point on I learned that I could verbally give my advice and support to someone first and then follow that with silent prayer. Tell him “I'm going to pray for you now silently, but know that I am praying for x, y, and z for you.” Often someone likes to feel supported through prayer, but this doesn’t mean they have to hear your prayers. Prayer is to be an intimate conversation between you and God –not necessarily for others to listen in on. If you’re past this point of caring what others think of your prayers, good for you, but if not, I’d encourage you to take time to really think through your motives and why you’re praying out loud. Maybe you need to take a few steps back and pray silently until you’ve humbled yourself enough to pray out loud.
Jesus associated the Pharisees with the word Upokriseus, which translates to Hypocrite. But when Jesus was using this word, it actually meant two-faced and people would often think of an actor –someone who plays a part on a stage, someone following a script.
The Pharisees had mastered their religion so well that it became more about methods, skills, and techniques rather than a change of their heart. Much like an actor, their lines were unattached from their person.
There are many special groups who share a common language that is largely unknown to those outside of the group. Take televisions for example. Did you know that a DLP DNIe 720p is jargon for Digital Light Processor chip and a Digital Natural Imagine engine and delivers 720 lines vertically scanned in a progressive fashion? Or if you are a true golfer, you would know what Grow Teeth, Backdoor, Four-Jack, In the Leather, Kick, Knee-Knocker, Run, and Thin all mean.
I often use to begin praying and then catching myself quickly, realizing the clichéd vibe of my conversation with God. And asking myself, ‘what did I even mean by that?’ I would then go back to the beginning and try to think about what I meant by the words I said before. We need to be ready to locate and uncover the scripts that have been handed down to us for generations in regards to what and how we pray. Consider the following common scripts of prayer:
Jesus said ‘I am with you always.’ Do we have to ask Him to do something He’s already always doing? What we are usually asking for is God to help us identify His presence and involvement in the present situation. So why don’t we just say that?
When else do we ever use this word in our normal vocabulary? We say it so often in prayer, but other than to excuse someone who sneezes, we rarely ever say it. It must be great for God to hear our generic conversation with Him. What we are usually asking is for God to give us or someone else something. Why don’t we stop trying to sugar coat our selfishness and say it like it is?
“Lead, Guide, and Direct”
Three words that all mean the same thing.
“I pray for the best for him”
This doesn’t even make sense. Do we think that God doesn’t already have our best interests in mind, and has us facing what we’re facing for a reason? Whatever we’re going through might be difficult and hard, it might be a sin, but God’s got us right where He wants us every moment of every day. God always has our best interests in mind; we don’t need to ask Him for that. What we should be saying to God is thanking Him for the situation, asking for His guidance and thanking Him for whatever the result of the situation or decision may be.
So the next time you pray, try not to use any of these words or phrases, it will be very difficult. The next time you pray, if you can’t use other normal words to articulate what you’re saying, there’s a good chance you don’t really know what you mean or what you’re praying. The following are more great words that are in our prayer vocabulary, that should be reconsidered. Read through them and see if you can think of what you really mean when you say it… then try using that alternative next time you pray:
Fellowship? Confess? Born Again? Have a Burden? The Lost? Anointed? Raise Up? Prosper? We call on You to…? We ask this only if it be Your Will? Go before us and…?
Prayer is a conversation with God. Someone told me they will sit a chair down in front of them and picture God as a man sitting there in the chair and then they will talk to the chair. It makes Him feel real to them.
We don’t need to impress God with our fancy words taken from scripts passed down through the ages, and we definitely don’t need to try to impress others with our words.
Prayer is a response, prayer is talking to God. He’s asking us ‘How’s your day going” and prayer is our answer to that question. Let’s respond.
“The point is to gain simple conversation with God where tired, vacant language is abandoned and replaced with truthful speech.” –Kyle Lake
I once stayed in a church called The Winnipeg Centre Vineyard (The Vineyard for short) when I visited Winnipeg. John Rademaker was one of the founders of The Vineyard and the best example to me that a rich man can enter the kingdom of heaven. We’re all familiar with that verse in Matthew 19.
Who was John though? John was a professional entrepreneur for 40 years. He was at the top of his game, having founded 3 businesses and managing people and customers from 1960 to 1995. This man was living the life, until he took an abrupt exit from the corporate world...
I was engaged in a conversation at one time where the group was discussing what is worth spending our money on? What are good jobs to have that will provide enough cash? How much money should we be saving and how much can we have as personal spending money? From this, more questions arose: What should we find valuable? What defines enough cash? What are we really saving our money for?
I soon realized where this conversation was going, and I posed the question, how much of your money do you really earn? Surely there is an element of earning your cash, but is it possible that the money we possess is all one big gift?
Too often we make our money and then decide what we want to use our money for and how we can benefit and earn even more for ourselves. Sound a bit much? ‘No, that’s not me’ you say. I’m not accusing anyone, I merely want to point out a fact that many forget too easily, myself included.
The money you claim is yours... isn’t yours?
Does our money not belong to God? Is everything we possess his? He’s provided us with our money, our house, our food, despite whether we’ve necessarily earned it or not. Specifically here, God blesses us with this thing called cash, and in return, don’t you think He expects us to use it wisely?
I don’t understand why I think I can do whatever I choose with my money; I wonder if it is even technically mine. God has entrusted this money to me, but not to do with whatever I please. To entrust, is to pass ownership of something to someone else, suggesting that it was His to begin with. Not only do we need to consciously recognize whose money we are spending, but wouldn’t it also be a good idea to make sure that the rightful owner is alright with it.
If God gives you His money, He’s got a reason for it, agreed?
If you want money and He doesn’t provide it to you, He’s got a reason for that too, right?
It’s His money and He can do with it what He chooses. And more often than not, He chooses the right things to invest His money into...
Ecclesiastics 5:10 says, “The one who loves money will never be satisfied with money, he who loves wealth will never be satisfied with his income.”
Why do we waste so much money? We’ll go out and buy fast food while we have perfectly great food already back home. We’ll spend $10 a week on the latest movie. We’ll upgrade our shoe, hat or purse collection to match our newest outfit or the latest fashion. Whose money is this again? Is it ours to do with what we want? If you ripped your one pair of jeans and have no replacement pants, then sure, buy a new pair for yourself. If you haven’t had your favourite chocolate bar in a while, then sure, treat yourself to something nice. God has entrusted you with this money, and you’ve got to be wise with your purchases. Do you need this or that? Do you think God shared His money with you so that you could buy yourself five $20 CDs so that you could get the sixth for free? That’s something for you to talk with Him about.
1 John 3:17 tells us that “Whoever has the world’s possessions and sees his fellow Christian in need and shuts off his compassion against him, how can the love of God reside in such a person?”
Why do we tend to hold onto our cash so tightly? Is it the security we feel it offers us; is it this sense of earning that prevents us from giving it up, what is it? When it comes to helping others by giving them money, why do we think so hard about it or try to avoid the thought completely? And I’m not just talking about flicking a quarter into a man’s Styrofoam cup. But how about helping out the lady in front of you who doesn’t have enough money to cover the groceries that she chose, or spotting the guy in line the extra change he needs to buy his coffee? Or buying lunch for the really annoying classmate who forgot their food, despite how much you can’t stand them?
It comes down to the convenience of the situation, the relationship you’ve established with the individual, and back to this question of whether they’ve earned the cash. But who cares about all of that? Why do we have this checklist; that if 4 out of 5 boxes are checked, then we will help someone financially. But it’s not our money, remember? This is God’s money that we’re holding on to, and He’s given it to us for a reason: not to bless ourselves all the time, but to bless others too. And if the opportunity arises to give our money away for the better of someone else, I think that is exactly what God would want us to do.
But what if you’re tight on cash? You need that $20 to buy this, or you were saving it for that, or you’re a student and you need all the money you can get just to survive? This may all be true, but like I said before, God will provide us with the money we need. If he wants to give us His money, then He will. But we must step out in faith, that through honouring God by sharing with others what He has shared with us, He will bless us in return in whatever way He sees fit.
1 Timothy 6:10 says, “For the love of money is the root of all evils. Some people in reaching for it have strayed from the faith and stabbed themselves with many pains.”
John Rademaker is such a powerful example to me. God entrusted millions of dollars to John over the span of 30 years. There were bound to be times where John spoiled himself throughout those years and was not wise with his cash. But what did He end up doing? John stopped in his tracks one day and thought to himself, “Why am I making all of this money? When I die, I can’t take this monetary wealth with me.” And from that point on John decided to listen to the Holy Spirit in taking this money and using it to serve others. John invested this money into renovating an old downtown Winnipeg warehouse into a church. This beautiful building serves as a place for worship, but it is also serves meals, a daycare, hosts guest groups, has meeting rooms, and the second floor now serves as a home for people off the streets who want to get clean from the drugs and lifestyle they are currently in. From my understanding, John continues to invest the money God has given him into buying more nearby buildings and renovating them into better homes for current and future residents. John has taught me that I can be rich and still serve God wholeheartedly despite how difficult that may be for others. He has taught me that God may give some people just enough money to get by, and give others millions of dollars. In the end, the money still belongs to God and we must be willing to hear His voice telling us how we should be spending it.
Matthew 6:24 says, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
We all know about the idols that people physically bow down to and worship. Golden statues that people pray to and feel comfort from and receive blessings from. These are just one type of idol. But how about all the idols you have? You say you don’t have any figurines on your mantel though, you don’t pray to anything, you don’t burn incense in hopes to have good fortune. But how about all the other idols that are around us? There are so many of them, and even without our knowing it, a spectator may easily be able to say just as Exodus 20 does, “They are becoming like these idols they are surrounded by.”
How do we define an idol? Something is an idol if it receives more of your worship than God does. It takes the place of God, it competes with our time with God and they are more often than not just bloated good things. When we say yes to what the world offers and no to God; that is an idol. When you believe that someone/thing did something for us when it was really God who did it; that is an idol. Likewise, when you say yes to Jesus, you’re saying no to the pretenders.
Idols are so much more than physical statues that people bow down to, they are all around us and they seek to take the position of God in our lives. However, we read in Colossians 1:15-23 about God’s supremacy. Everything is made for God, and by God. We can not take these huge definitions of God and just tag them on to something else. God says to us in Exodus, ‘you shall have no other God’s before me.’
How do we hear the voices of idols? They are found in our head, through those around us, and through various other inputs in our everyday lives. An example would be the narrow view of what beauty is, determined by the magazines issued to our world. The magazines will tell us what beauty is and whether we fit the category or not and where we are ranked. These depictions of beauty say to us, ‘We own you. We will rate you. We will tell you your worth.’ As soon as we allow a magazine to do this and we listen to it, it becomes an idol.
Not only do idols tell us something that is contrary to God’s teaching, but the benefits that they offer us are temporary. Idols tell you your value, they measure you, but God loves everyone, and values each person equally. Idols tell you to use your power to fuel you passions/pleasures, but God gives you power and defines its limits. Idols tell you that pleasure is found in seduction and if something feels good then don’t stop, but God gives us proper mixtures for all our pleasures and tells us not to tamper with the mixture.
Taking the example of the magazine, only God is loving and wise enough to define the value of humans. When you insert someone or something else in to replace this position then you have an idol. You may not like the thought of that, but just as much as the voice of people affects us, so our voices affect others. We have the power to create idols for others by putting value on them, but we must be strong enough to fight that temptation and declare that we will not sit alongside all the idols on the mantel that are trying to put value on others.
So what idols put value on us and how? Money, peers, physique, clothing, association, intelligence and media. They all attempt to put value on who we are and how we compare to others by ranking our economic and social status.
Right from Genesis, humans have had this desire for power. In response to this desire, idols tell us who has control over us, and who we have control over. Maybe you can relate to one of these three: a victim using power to control others by acting more helpless than they really are; a persecutor using power to control others by bullying them, withdrawing power from them and placing value on them; or a rescuer using power to control others by smothering them with love and sympathy. God tells us who can have what amount of control and power over other people. As soon as we take advantage of that power and use it for self-gain, it is not glorifying to God and therefore is an idol.
Similar to the idols that place value on us, the idols that tell us what power we have, including physique and intelligence, by using our superiority over others to control them and there actions. Another idol may be the voices telling us about the false power that a certain race or gender may have over another.
When we talk about idols that use pleasure to lead us away from God’s direction, it’s not too hard to think of relevant examples. How can a pleasurable thing become an idol? First, if it consumes all your time and you can’t go without it, it is an idol. If you can’t leave it without still knowing that you’re loved by God and that He is the fill for the void you are trying to fill with this pleasure, then it is an idol. Likewise, if there is a pleasure that you’re able to give up and miss, but know that you don’t need it, then it isn’t an idol to you.
But there is more to it than that. Maybe you’ve dealt with a lot of heartache, sufferings and struggles in your life. Maybe the pleasure you seek isn’t to fill a void or make you feel really good, but it’s just less pain. Some may say, “I know God loves me, but that just isn’t what I want to hear right now.” Take the pleasure of drugs for example; they make you forget, they can free you from the pain inside.
God’s given us pleasurable things in this world to enjoy, and He tells us to be creative with them, but not to mess with their purpose or mixture. Idols tell us that they have the authority to rewrite the formula of these pleasures. God’s given us a mixture for sex with faithfulness, but idols tell us to play with sex by mixing it outside of wedlock and faithfulness.
So what idols encourage pleasure by means outside of God’s intent? Videogames, movies and music can distract us and teach us false morals and beliefs. Sex is a pleasure that God’s given us but when taken outside of wedlock it can become a dangerous idol. The visual stimuli of nudity, the thoughts in our heads, our desire for intimacy, and the physical stimuli with others can all be stemmed from God’s good intentions of pleasure with which we take advantage of and abuse. Relationships with friends, girlfriends and boyfriends can become idols when we can’t be without them. If we need them, find our identity in them, or seek constant approval or acceptance from them, then that relationship has become an idol. Even our hobbies and skills can become idols. If you become so addicted to hockey, guitar or coffee that you can’t give it up or if you find your identity in it rather than in your relationship with God, than it has become an idol.
So, how do we cipher through what is God’s voice and the voice of idols? How do you know if it’s God telling you to stop investing so much time in a friendship because He wants more of your time, or an idol telling you that you don’t deserve such a good, healthy friendship, that all you deserve to be alone. How can you tell if it is God giving you talents and Him wanting you to use them as best you can, or if it’s an idol telling you to be the best you can be and work as hard you can to always be at the top of your game?
The following are a few easy ways to tell whose voice it is that you’re listening to:
-Through prayer and biblical knowledge; you should be able to find the answers to your questions and be able to tell what is God’s voice verses an idol’s
-Through community accountability; you should have close friends that you can trust to tell you to smarten up when you need to
-By trying to give it up; you should be able to give it up. You can miss it, but know that you don’t need it
-By asking yourself; if you are too afraid to hear the answers to your questions of whether something is an idol or not, then there is a good chance that it is an idol. If you can’t even ask yourself the questions, then you really need to work out some things
Idols are all around us, and Satan will always use them to try to lead us farther off the track to a healthy relationship with God that is glorifying to Him. What idols are in your life right now, and how will you eliminate them? Sharing your struggles with God is a great place to start. Go ahead; see how He will teach you what it means to take down the idols on your mantel.
There’s something in there about tithing, right? About ten percent, although some believe that is just an estimate; just a suggested amount. Others take it literally and faithfully give ten percent of their income to the church every week.
Who are missionaries? Some people believe that all Christians are missionaries? But there is something distinctly different between missionaries and evangelists. A missionary is a special kind of evangelist who goes deep into groups where it’s hard to reach. I think that Romans 10:14-15 identifies the important role of a missionary well. Evangelists are here, right now and share about who God is through their words and deeds.
Just because we are not on the frontlines like the missionaries are, that doesn’t mean we get to sit around and wait for the time to pass. Our mandate is to proclaim Christ here while facilitating the proclamation of the missionaries wherever they are.
So how are we to be a part of the supply line in supporting our missionaries? We can supply foundational prayer, and we can always be inquiring and encouraging the missionaries perseverance. We can help find more people to send out possibly including ourselves, and lastly we can help through financial support.
It is so important to financially support your church at home, but it is equally important to supply the missionaries with what they need. Consider the Marine Corps. For every one man on the frontlines, it requires 10-20 men to stay back to support him. The four services that the Marines are to provide are Beans (the supplies), Bullets (the ammunition), Band-Aids (transporting injured soldiers), and Bad Guys (transporting enemy prisoners). The Marine’s rarely ever hold a gun at the frontlines, but without them the men on the frontlines would never succeed. In Latin, Semper Fidelis means to ‘Always Be Faithful’ and this is the Marine Corps motto as it should also be the motto of every evangelist staying back home. Staying back does not mean sitting back and relaxing while the missionaries do all the work. We have a role in all of this.
If you currently do not financially support your church, I strongly urge you to consider it. It is something that I am working through as well. If you feel you are tight for cash, and don’t want to give up very much money, think about whose money it is. God commands us to give what we have to others and to the church, so despite how little amount of cash we have, we need to learn what it means to step out in faith; that through honouring God by sharing with others what He has given us, He will bless us in return in whatever way He sees fit. We must have faith that God will provide us with the money that we need.
If you do support your church, I thank you for your faithful service; but how about your missionaries? How are you supporting them? Anything is great, as little or as much as you can give. It doesn’t matter what others think about how much you give, what matters is that you give.
Are you fulfilling your role in the supply line?
How have we reached this place where we go to restaurants, order pretty decent food for a pretty ridiculous price, and can rarely eat all that’s on our plate? Not because we ate too much before the meal, but simply because the plate is piled high with food! As it turns out, the price isn’t actually all that ridiculous because you really are paying for what you’re eating. The portions on these plates should really be able to feed a few. But no, we decide to order the whole thing for ourselves, and because it’s our money, despite how full we may be, we know we better eat everything even if it gives us pains for the next few hours that follow. Much like a buffet, you’re full but you feel you have to keep eating because you’ve paid so much for this food.
‘What about the starving children in Africa?’ We hear this often, that we don’t really let it phase us anymore. They’re over there, we’re here. It’s a world away, and I’m hungry. If they were here I’d share it with them. But by me not eating all this food, isn’t going to save those hungry children with flies in their faces.
We’re so tolerant of something that we should be losing sleep over. Maybe if we eat wiser and cheaper, our friends and family will notice and appreciate our reasons. Maybe if they join in, their co-workers will recognize it and will consume less. Maybe if enough people make conscious efforts to eat less, the media will grab hold of the restaurants who are losing business and tell stories about it. And maybe when the news stations broadcast that this is all being done because of those starving in other countries, something will be done.Maybe… but even if none of that happens, we should still try to eat wiser and cheaper and tell our family and friends why we’re doing it. Not in a self-proclaiming manor but to raise awareness and to free our self-conscience.
.we consume so much.
.but it’s our choice.
I found the First Nations ‘representation’ concept interesting and in some ways relevant. Aside from their not making eye-contact as a show of respect, I too feel that the contents of a first impression are much more valuable than the presentation of ones self. It’s really cool to learn of their values though, and how I could possibly adapt them into my own life or at least challenge my own values and morals based on theirs.
In reaction to the Firs Nations land, I only ever knew what other people would tell me. That we’ve stolen their land, and they hate us and just want their land back and are stealing our tax money. But learned first hand, what is really going on. It opened up my eyes and not only reminded me how naïve I am, but it gave me a stronger appreciation and sympathy level for them. I learned that since they believe that they belong to the land they had never had a concept of ownership before. But now, because of our force, they must adopt this policy. And I think I’ve created a way that I can best understand this vicious cycle that they are living in and it goes like this:
First Nations people can only maintain their culture as Status Natives if they live on a reserve, if they live on a reserve they cannot own any land because it is seen as government owned land (Federal), if they want to own their own land they must leave the reserve, if they leave the reserve they are sacrificing a big part of their culture.
What a horrible cycle to be stuck in –all just to live out their heritage, their history, their culture. I can’t imagine living in such a way with regards to my faith.
The second night we joined with six First Nations elders for a healing/sharing circle. This is a time for people in the circle to share what’s on their hearts, what they feel the Creator wishes them to share. For us, it was a time to be more of an observing audience, but they seemed to have slightly different plans. It’s almost impossible to find words to explain what went on that night. Beyond all the smoke and waving of eagle feathers, these elders had some great wisdom that they were happy to share with us. Some of it raised a few eyebrows as it clashed with many of our Christian beliefs, but amidst this like I said before, we were able to have an open heart to what they wanted to say and God was able to use them to speak powerful words to each one of us.
To begin, one of the students sat in the Medicine Man’s (Uncle Norbert’s) chair, but he told the student that he could. To the other elders, this was quite prophetically powerful. As they later learned that the student was from the same territory as the Medicine Man, they saw that he would be a great leader when he grows up. There was so much power in this for the First Nations people.
Midway through the night, as an elder share his personal past addictions with alcohol, another student couldn’t hold back their tears as they could relate in some way to this. Farey ‘The Love Lady’ later spoke on how wonderful it is that the student shared those tears with the rest of us. After she continued with a speech to the student, she asked for all the elders to share some two-sentences of wisdom that they felt the student needed to hear. As they did, it was clear that it not only affected the one student, but all of us. As tears were being shed by many, the words of wisdom were heard by others in the room that needed to hear them for themselves (as we later learned during a debrief session). This was very powerful and despite some of the elder’s beliefs, God used them still as the affected student reflected, “Who but God knows our thoughts? No one. They didn’t even know me, but knew just want I needed to hear.”
It was impossible not to feel loved in this place. From the moment we walked in, there was a real sense of God, a complete sensation of true love. And as Farey shared throughout the evening, you could tell she was just so full of love –she even told us, all of us, each one of us, that she loves us. It’s no wonder that with comments from her like “You have arms to hug with, a voice to say ‘I Love You’ with, you have these things, everyone has these things, use them” that another student was led to share in our debrief exactly what they felt.
“I saw real genuine love tonight, something that Christians speak so highly of but rarely actually have. I’ve never felt that kind of love from any Christian group before, and if I ever had to choose, I’d much rather join their type of lifestyle and belief system than Christians because they’ve got it, they’re real, and that’s what everyone needs.”
It was a slap in the face –something that was so necessary to be said. I wish he could slap the face of every hypocritical Christian out there. I thank God for his raw words of honesty.
Our week continued on as we visited the Charlie Longhouse where a man, Kelsey Charlie, who had just hosted a funeral the day before and wasn’t expecting us at all, welcomed us into his home with open arms. As he started up the fire hoping to warm his home for his new guests, he shared with great excitement of his family’s history, the traditions they had, and the stories that are the foundation of their territory as the Chehalis tribe. Kelsey felt so comfortable and respected by our group that he wanted to show us his great grandfathers’ pit homes, where they use to live underground. What an honour it was that he wanted to share this part of his family’s heritage with us –something he would rarely ever do with a group.
As we were told by Brander, Uncle Herman (one of the elders from the healing circle) said that he’s never been so happy at a healing circle before. And our good friend Tim, who helped co-ordinate this week for us, shared that the opportunities that we encountered this week were one of a kind. He told us that we followed through with many missionaries broken promises to participate and learn from their culture. We represented so much more than just a small school group. We helped to bring restoration by paying respect to this beautiful culture that so many are quick to reject.
We had the incredible opportunity to be invited to join the Chehalis in celebrating the new year. We indulged in some Salmon, and sat and watched many dances and songs –ever being welcomed to join in at one point. No textbook can give a student the education that these experiences gave us. We were never supposed to be there, but at the last minute we were invited –they wanted to share their culture with us. Near the end of the celebration, as children ran to our group and gave us gifts of fruit, artwork and peach jam, the man on the microphone expressed the entire groups appreciation that we joined them, and how pleased they were to share their culture with us. Surely, we were the blessed ones. What an honour it was –to be shown such love, generosity and hospitality. Despite some of the elders and First Nations belief systems, I ask myself which one of us would be more easily recognized as living the life that God calls everyone to live. It hurts to say, that probably more First Nations people are living this life than most Christians who believe in the God they claim to be following.
How do we obtain this lifestyle, this love that we talk of but rarely act out? What does it truly look like? And how do we break from our selfish moulds to selflessly love the way we’re called to. Even those who don’t believe in God can do it, so what’s stopping us?
This isn’t the first time for me, I have seen and been a part of many broken communities all over the country and I just want to help, I want to be a part of the solution. One friend found it difficult not to ask the question of where God was in all of this, and I know direct that question toward ourselves and how we are being Jesus to these places. But what I struggle with is that I want to help places like Oppenheimer Park, but I honestly would really not want to live there. I thought of my comfortable home in Ontario, my family, my security and the blessings God has given to me so graciously. Then I thought of how we don’t have communities like this one anywhere near my home. In fact, I would have to travel quite a distance to find a place like Oppenheimer Park, which is very challenging for me because I’ve lived in the city and cottage country and I much prefer the countryside. I want to live there, I like it , it’s beautiful, I don’t want to sacrifice that…
Is this yet another test of dropping all I have to follow Christ? Oh man
…So I’m left to ask, do I have to live in the places that I want to change? Or can I just commute from my home of comfort to the places that I want to meet the needs of? Are we called to give our all or nothing and live with those we want to help?
I’m reminded of a friend who decided with his new bride that they wanted to work with inner city teens and adults, but they felt they couldn’t separate their job from their social life. The two needed to be one. So they moved right into the heart of where they wanted to work, living on a rundown street with gangs, drugs and prostitutes. If they wanted to serve God by reaching out to these people, they wanted to immerse their whole lives into it.
I’ve got many passions. I have a heart for the homeless, I have a heart for leadership, and my heart breaks for many people. I am passionate about music, I love being creative, and I love to write my thoughts. God has given me many passions, but am I to chase after all of them? Must I make them all my focus? Is that even possible? Perhaps there is a median between what I’ve been blessed with and what passions I focus on. Maybe I can have a real heart for poverty, but decide that I’m not cut out for being involved with it full-time. Just because I may choose to focus on a different passion, doesn’t mean I have to dismiss my heart’s desire to care about those living in poverty, does it? I can’t do everything, but I can still care about everything, can’t I?
Must I sacrifice what’s comfortable to me? Must I sacrifice a safe home for my wife and children? Must I sacrifice what I’ve always known? Or can I compromise between the passions…and blessings…that God has given me.
I feel such conviction because I see this in my life so much farther that just super sizing my fries or my constant desire for new music. For the last three years I’ve been asking for financial support from the same people as I have been doing work at camp, but what is this money for? Why do I need it? Do I need it? As I look ahead at this upcoming summer, I am considering not working at camp simply because I won’t make enough money there. Enough money for what though? What is enough?
It’s for school, right? It’s about time I continue on in my education, move on, look toward my future career. But as soon as I enter that cycle, everything will revolve around my finances. Work to make money, pay for school with that money, use that schooling to get work.
This is my conviction. How many thousands of dollars will I be pouring into my education in order to assure a successful life? When that money could be used to save lives. Is education necessary in order to love? As I read in Irresistible Revolution, I learned that living can be simple. Not lazy, but a life can be of community, sharing, providing for each other, and living on very little cash; a life that is still fulfilling and glorifying.
We talk about taking what we’ve learned this year back home with us –but how will that effect the thousands of dollars spent or gone into debt just to assure a healthy prosperous lifestyle? I guess I question whether education is better acquired sitting in a classroom as it is through experiential learning. How am I to live?
How disgusting did I feel? I was sitting in what would be a five-star hotel to them, beside friends in clean clothes watching sport highlights on their wireless laptop. All the while we were debating whether we should buy the touristy five dollar candy apples first, or travel through the thrift store to see if we could find any nice cheap clothing to add to our already stuffed bags. We definitely didn’t need any more clothes and we would essentially be robbing those who can really only afford the thrift store clothes. We would be stealing from the people we are all called to love and give the shirt off our back to... or is that only on Sunday that we are suppose to do that?
I don’t know where I’m suppose to draw the line, or where God has drawn the line for me. When does it become wrong to buy that nice expensive top for your mother on her birthday? Or spend more money on that pair of shoes because you’re told they’ll last longer than the five pairs you have back home? Or buy that new jacket because it will match your new pants better than your one-month old, now out of style jacket? Surely God doesn’t frown upon everything we buy to please ourselves or to put a smile on someone else’s face, but I’m sure He’s shaken His head quite a few times at all the stupid, worthless things we find such value and pleasure in but never actually need, especially while there are children dying on the street corners.
So what am I to do? Leave this program? Well I don’t think that is really going to solve anything. For me, right now, I don’t need to buy anything in order to really experience this adventure. Almost everything has been paid for so I shouldn’t need to pull out my wallet unless I have found a meaningful and reasonably priced souvenir.
We do a lot of sitting and eating. And when we sit for such long periods of time we get bored, so what better thing is there to do than eat? It becomes an activity, something to pass the time, and it’s neither healthy nor a wise use of money. For this reason, I will only eat the provided meals, drink lots of water, eat more on special occasions, and when I’m bored...I’ll actually do something! And something physically active if possible.
But as Ephesians 4:28 says, don’t just stop stealing but “begin using your hands for honest work, and then give generously to others in need.” To just stop stealing from the people we are called to love is okay, but doesn’t do much good unless I begin to replace it with something that benefits them; something that counteracts my selfish desires. And this is where I leave you. What value do you place in monetary things? Do you feel you have to buy something whenever you go to the mall? Do you turn your head at the price of something that you just really like, even if you have 3 perfectly good ones already at home? Do you super size when you should probably just get the salad?
If you trust that your money belongs to God, will you listen to or ignore that little voice in your head telling you that He doesn’t think you need to spend your money on certain things. You have a choice to make every day, the choice is yours; candy apples or thrift store clothing... or there’s always a door number three to look behind.
Lately I’ve been challenged to take a look at my faith and how it compares with the faith of those who we read about in the bible. We read about people willing to kill their children when God tells them to, people who jump into raging fires and don’t burn, we read how Jesus raised people from the dead, heal their illnesses, and feed 5000 people with just a few fish and pieces of bread. We are told that we can have a faith that moves mountains, yet we read of these biblical miracles and convince ourselves that God just doesn’t work that way anymore, not in today’s society. But I ask why not? Why do I try to limit God’s awesome power? How do I obtain a faith that believes God can work miracles, that He can bring an end to certain injustices and issues? Why do we say, “Well I can’t do anything to change the stats on world hunger or poverty.” We may do our small part in donating food to food banks and feel good about it, but even then we know it won’t change the world and we convince ourselves that God can’t use us to influence change in this world. Why don’t we dream big and allow God to do miracles through us? I want to be a radical. I want to do something huge for God. I want to allow God to use me however he wants and accomplish world changing things through me. I want God to give me passion toward something that takes it to the cover of the Rolling Stones Magazine.
…but will people in desolate places in Africa ever read that magazine? Will everyone in the world ever be able to hear of my ministry? All of a sudden, it seems like a bit too big of a goal. Mother Theresa said, “We are called not to be successful but to be faithful,” and she also use to say, “We can do no great things, just small things with great love. It is not how much you do, but how much love you put into doing it.” So am I to narrow down my focused audience? Should I just pinpoint one group that I’m really passionate about? Can I ever start big and look at the world, or can I only begin in a small town working in my community and over time develop my ministry even bigger if I can, but if I can’t, do I remain content with the work God is doing in me? But that’s just one community, maybe 100 people I would be effecting with God’s love… 100 of how many billion people in this world? All of a sudden it doesn’t seem that big of a deal. I believe God can use our dreams to work miracles, to influence change in not just one part of our world but throughout the whole world. I don’t know where to start, I don’t even know where my passions lie, but I have the faith that God can and will use me and my desire to do something huge for His honour and glory.
–Lord, make me a radical, place in me goals and ambitions and help me dare to dream big. I want to tell your story Lord, and I pray that You use me to do this as best I can-
So, how do I combine my desire to impact the world with Mother Theresa’s claims, and my conviction that I can really only truly love those I’m passionate about when directly in contact with them (if I do something BIG where it seems the higher up on the social ladder, the less direct interaction I get).
That also leads me to thinking, maybe this BIG thing will be a community thing, and as it works for me, it can be passed on to other communities to evolve into a huge movement. Or maybe God will lead me into this BIG thing –but more as a leader and I will oversee everything, training others to go out into their communities –giving them the same drive and passion that God instilled in me. I don’t know? And on top of this, I like living in the countryside/small town. More than that though, I may have these vague dreams or ideas, but what is my passion? What do I want to do? I know whatever I decide, God will be with me and guide me –but I’m lost. So, what should I be thinking for next year? This is my third year out. I wish I could be further along in my career direction –but I’ve got nothing. For sure God is guiding me, but it’s such a long, slow process that sometimes I wish was going much quicker. Am I to be a musician? A store owner/manager (I always liked the idea of a bowling alley) A founder of a non-profit organization? I think I can narrow it down at least to being that of a radical. Daring to be different, unique, not fitting into a box. To not just work for someone else, but to begin something new.
In continuation, I read something that I think I really needed to hear.
See, I want to do something huge, I feel God’s placing that on my heart –that He can use me for something big for this world. But despite my desire for this, perhaps I shouldn’t be looking at that big picture, looking at the final project. Not to doubt it’s possible, or give God the short end of the stick, but rather to start normal and believe that God can build it into something bigger as He so desires. The story I read is found on page 120 in Shane Claiborne’s ‘Irresistible Revolution.’ The story is about children dancing in a park and how they thought maybe other kids would see and join in, maybe business men would join in, maybe the whole city would eventually join the dance, maybe the whole world. ‘Maybe…regardless, they decided to dance anyway and enjoy it.’
I want to influence the world for God, but I’ll let Him lead me into that as He so desires. For now, I should just focus on my now, allow Him to show me my starting point and together we can work from there.
We began walking down Robson street posting these signs [a second sign read “It’s Your Turn To Act”], but we soon learned that the street posts designed for advertisements were to be cleaned off on this exact day. So we made a decision. The only way this will work is if we only post on the polls that are not intended for posters. In other words, we were to do something illegal. After prayer for protection and reassurance, we continued on. Quickly and efficiently we posted our 8½ x 11 posters.
Understand that prior to our actions we had recognized police cars constantly driving around almost every corner. But after we prayed about it, not one police car drove past us the entire hour and a half, except when we were just standing at the lights waiting to cross. We felt God’s protection. Our first reaction to the posters was from a man living on the streets who wasn’t too happy. He yelled and cursed at us for posting illegal graffiti in the city and told us to stop. We began second guessing ourselves but soon realized that He was the voice of Satan not happy with what we were doing. Not soon after we recognized those words were not from God, we felt His approval from the next comment we heard. It was made by a construction worker walking by, mumbling the words on the sign to himself. He responded hopefully with, ‘really? I didn’t know that.’ Thank You God for honouring our dedication of following Your voice.
It was such a blessing to have people actually look at the signs as we posted them, as well as after we had posted them. You could tell that they were reading them and our prayer was that they were causing the people to think. As we passed one poll, not an hour after we had posted the signs, someone had written ‘God is Dead’ on one of the signs. Not the best thing to read, but evidence that this person read it, thought about it, and even cared enough to respond. This and other situations told us we were successful. We were making people think, and our prayer now is that they might hear God’s voice and act on those thoughts.
This was the first glimpse for me in being a radical. Someone willing to push the boundaries, pass the limits, determined to make my voice heard on behalf of God as a call for people to follow this movement. The movement of love. Like you, I have read many stories of radical revolutionaries and their attempts to go beyond the norm for a cause they are passionate about. These stories excite me, encourage me, and challenge me to get out of the pew and do something. I was able to execute my first attempt this day, and it felt great. I felt right in my element, using gifts, talents, and passions that God has blessed me with to show His love to His people. There may be better, legal approaches for next time, but this is where God led us this time. Two-hundred posters challenging the rich and poor to love one another, posted on literally every single lamppost down the busiest ten-block street in the city that has been voted as Best Place in the World to Visit and that has the poorest postal code in all of Canada. This is where God called us this day to be radicals. May He call me to more challenging and risky places preparing me to break the sound barrier with the radical message of Christ’s love.
After travelling through the Old Testament, we hear some pretty cool stories about guys like Moses, David, Sarah and so many more. But by Lamentations we read how everyone became depressed and were living in Exile. While so many were in jail or living as slaves, people began talking about these great radicals named David or Moses and these stories were brought to new life, it ignited a new flame inside them. It helped bring restoration to their souls and gave them a reason worth living for.
And in a sense, we are back in the Babylonian Exile now, living in a mixed up world where we are asking ‘what’s the point?’ We’re losing hope. And this leads us as a Christian community to ask ourselves how we can sing and tell our stories in a new way as we embrace this changing world. Do we dare to tell the exciting stories that gave us life, that gave us meaning? Will we live to be radicals?
I love the parallels between this and my learning last week regarding the different ministry organizations that we learned about. I discovered that people were having such a big influence on those in need –but they weren’t following the normal career moulds. They taught me that I can use my creativity to be unique in my career choice. To colour outside the lines, to step outside the box, beyond the borders and see what lies in the mysteries of the unknown.
I loved the story that Tony Campolo shares about a birthday surprise he organizes for a woman he’d never even met. He said, ‘I belong to the kind of church that throws birthday parties for hookers in a diner in the middle of the night.’
I think as the church, we need to strive to be different; to be radical, and to share our stories in new innovative ways to a lost world.
For this reason, I choose to use my words carefully and not swear. Not necessarily because I think these words are sinful or wrong, rather because of the example they set to others. Non-Christians view swearing as a big sin, and if I’m heard swearing, their first thoughts are ‘hypocrite.’ I don’t want to bring this image to God’s name and how I represent Him. I choose not to swear because it allows room for conversation. These days, it is often very difficult for non-Christians to see Christ in people because Christians don’t think of their representation and the bad rep they might be giving to God. People will notice when you don’t swear, and whether you realize it or not, if they know you are a Christian, they will look constantly to find fault in you and I believe that they discover our faults the most through the words we choose to express ourselves.
Including using God’s name in vain, other swear words are just not a part of my vocabulary because I know I am representing so much more than just myself. I represent Christ through my actions and my words. I want others to see Christ in me –raw and real- without any hypocritical hindrance.
I have now headed out into my Outtatown Program. If you don't know what I'm talking about, scroll down to get an idea of what I'm up to this year. Keep checking out this site every once and a while as I hope to update you with some insight from my experiences as I journey along. In addition to my blog here, feel free to head over to our official Outtatown Site 2 Blog(http://www.outtatownsitetwo.blogspot.com). this iwill always be updated with photo's and overviews of key parts of our trip to keep you up to date.
You can also view my personal pictures on Facebook and you can check out this site to see who all my new friends are: http://outtatown.com/students/07site2/
Thanks for your interest!
A week ago, I joined in a Medieval Feast where we ate chicken legs, corn on the cob and potatoes with our hands. It was a huge success, but as I helped clean up after the meal and friend approached me as I held the garbage can in place and said, ‘I can’t take it.’ I didn’t know what He was talking about and before I could ask, as another person dumped a platter piled high with whole potatoes into the garbage can, he repeated himself, ‘I can’t take it. Look at all this good food we have to throw out while there are so many people who could really use it. Because of my character and how I generally react to people who try to make me think, I tried to disregard what He said and pass it off as a conversation I didn’t want to get in to at the time. But as I continued on throughout the rest of the evening, I meditated on his comment.
It’s nothing new to us. Not many people are naive enough to believe that everyone in the world is as good off as us in North America. We’ve all heard the stats; we know that 80% of the world consumes 20% of the world’s resources and vice versa. We know that there are people in the world that live on less than a day. We recognize that it isn’t right and things need to change. We’ve heard speeches and have maybe even given our own messages about the poverty and injustice in our world and try to convince people to change the way they live, but I am finding it hard to believe or comprehend that we can make a difference, that we can change all of this.
Yes, we can help those we pass by on the streets. We could welcome people into our homes, we can open up a drop-in shelter, we could get laws passed to crack down much harder on human trafficking and the porn industry, we could boycott making purchases from businesses that take part in slave labor and sweat shops, we could only buy fair trade products. All these things are positive things we could do I guess, and as big a supporter of beginning a revolution as I am, I can’t help but ask ‘what can this one man do?’ It’s one thing to believe in something, it’s another thing altogether to make that belief into a tangible action that really causes change. Will we ever be able to make those stats from 20/80 to 50/50? Will we ever be able to alter the human mind and convince them that human trafficking and the porn industry is nothing that unifies our world and brings praise to God’s name? Will we ever be able to put a stop to slave labor and sweat shops? Just because you may only buy fair trade coffee, doesn’t mean that . Sure your self esteem may be heightened because you feel you’ve added another notch to your belt, but will your personal decision cause any difference? We can acknowledge that we are wasting hundreds of potatoes because nobody likes eating plain potatoes with their hands –but at the end of the day, what is your opinion really doing the cause change? Tomorrow we will still throw out our leftovers and uneaten food simply because we couldn’t eat it all, and as much as you wish you didn’t take that much food in the first place, and as much as you know there are plenty of people elsewhere in the world who could use all that food –what can you possibly do about it? So, you keep eating and keep throwing food out, and just try to put your beliefs at the back of your mind. But you can’t help how you feel, you know it’s wrong, you know you want to do something about it. But what? Are you going to move to some desolate place in Africa and live on very little so you are no different? Are you going to build a food shelter in a small village in Africa? Are you going to go on the street corners and love the prostitutes that stand there? And even when you do these things, although you will definitely make a difference in those people’s lives –will you change the stats? Will you begin a revolution that brings awareness and attention to the other people that wish they could do something but are too afraid to do anything?
I don’t know how to make it happen. I don’t know if it can be accomplished. I don’t know if we can be content with causing change in our little community and loving on certain people and feeling like we’re doing our part. I don’t know if we are cutting ourselves short when we could really be doing so much more. I don’t know what the answers are. But I ask myself, can I chase dreams big enough to change the world? Take what I believe to new limits, take it beyond being able to pat myself on the back, take it further than influencing one persons life, and cause change that will turn heads and hearts.
My personal experience tells me it rarely works, and you only leave doubting the strength of your prayer signal and maybe God didn’t hear you ask Him for guidance.
Are you familiar with the infamous C.S. Lewis novel The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe? It follows the lives of a couple siblings who play a game of hide and seek, and accidentally find themselves in this magical world known as Narnia. Why can’t everyone go to this awesome place though you ask? Well, the trick is –you can’t be looking for it. This is why when the youngest sister tries to show her brother the secret passageway to Narnia through the wardrobe, she is unsuccessful because she knew it was there. She knew it had worked before, therefore she was expecting the wonderful world of Narnia to greet her, but to her dismay she was only welcomed by the other side of the old wooden wardrobe leaving her confused and frustrated.
I bought a book earlier this year because the back intrigued me. Earlier I had recognized that something in my life needed a real makeover and so I searched for a book to help me out. I was so determined to fix this problem in my life that when I found this book and read what others had said about it, I knew this was the answer. Through the rave reviews, I was convinced that I would find exactly what I was looking for in this book. So I began to read. But chapter after chapter, I was losing hope in ever finding the answer. I only wanted to hear the authors opinion on my specific problem –meanwhile he was talking about some other really great things. I shut out all these others things because I wasn’t interested in them –I was looking for only one thing, I wanted to find the answer from God that I was looking for, but was only greeted with disappointment and I never found what I was looking for. I was told that this book had exactly what I wanted to hear, but I ended up just walked into the back of an old wooden wardrobe that served me nothing but discontent.
And I can’t help but wonder if this is how it always is? Are we always searching for God to reveal himself when we want to see Him? Do we try to search for the remedy, but in actual fact try to create one ourselves? Have you ever been told to take a chunk of time completely alone and in complete silence and see what God has to say to you? Instantly, we go into a search mode as we sit in silence and try to look for God… what does He want to tell me right now? What am I dealing with that He can miraculously talk to me about as I sit here in silence. Have you been told to read a certain piece of scripture because it is bound to effect you? All of a sudden, you are looking for something in influence you more than anything else…looking for some sort of revelation, something that will speak directly into your heart at this exact moment as you are dealing with this specific situation.Are we too busy trying to listen to what we want to hear, that we don’t hear what God wants to tell us? We think we’re listening to God’s voice, but maybe are we speaking for Him? Are we putting words in His mouth? Are we forcing Him to speak to us about one thing, when He has completely different plans for what He wants to tell us?
Do we say we are waiting around to hear that still small voice… when we are really just flipping through the pages and pointing at something we hope will break the sound barrier.
As I look onward to my coming year of adventure, travel, and learning there are the obvious eager excitements and stirring emotions, but there so much more than that. I am learning more and more about this program and I understand that as much as the teaching is faith based and focused on our personal walks with God –it is not just for Christians. The students will range from all walks of faith and as much as this excites me it also intimidates me.
As you may or may not know from my past blog Why Do I Believe? I am not the best with confrontations regarding my faith. When posed with questions, not even very difficult questions about why I believe what I believe, I caved with nothing to back up what I believe. No real reasons for why I believe what I believe.
This was one of my main reasons for wanting to dive into this school program; so that I could better root my self and develop tangible answers to the questions I would face –which I am still hoping to obtain from this coming year. But knowing that I will be living with people from all walks of life who will challenge my beliefs, I’m nervous. I’m already intimidated by them and the anticipated debates I may encounter. I understand that I will be living with some incredible people and will definitely learn from them –how can you not learn from such different people when stuck with them for such a long period of time in such close proximity. For this reason I am excited to embark in this quest.
I often get caught up in what the Bible tells, and when people ask me questions I need to have biblical references to back myself up –which I do believe is important. But I am reminded by Thomas’s thoughts, that it’s more than just being able to battle scripture with people. What good is studying the scripture if you can’t back it up with your lifestyle. And this is where I want to place my focus for the next month leading up to this new adventure.
I know I may not know everything about my faith, I am still learning and plan to learn much more through this next year. I know challenges will be thrown in my face and I may fall flat on my face with nothing to stand firm on, but I know I will learn from that.But rather than dwelling –and anticipating- on that so-called failure, I want to focus on my lifestyle. How am I living right now. Do I represent a life that is glorifying to God? Do I live a life that brings honor and praise to His name? Am I approachable, trustworthy, kind, loving, selfless, an encourager, a listener? And if not, what needs to change? How can I better develop these characteristics so that when people see me, they see something different. They see that there’s something greater than anything that is dwelling inside of me. They will recognize that and discussion may erupt from this desire to imitate the life of Christ. So, this is my challenge for myself for the following month, and I pass on the same challenge to you. How are you living your life, and is it a life that demonstrates a desire to grow closer with God, a desire to live a life that imitates the life lived by Jesus Christ.
“He who follows me, will not walk in darkness” –John 8:12
These conversations that we have with others often take place in a room, maybe outside, but for sake of argument let’s say you’re in a room. Four walls, a floor, but imagine the roof isn’t there… instead the roof is open with four flaps… like a box. Yes a box. Think of yourself in this giant box. But to God, this box is small, it fits in His hands. God is standing there, holding the box in His hands looking down and listening to your conversation. Eve’s dropping on every word you say about Him. You can’t see Him, but you are in plain view of Him, 24/7. See, it’s kind of like were talking behind God’s back. We have conversations with Him, hear what He tries to teach us, but then we go ahead and tell others about what He just taught us –whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing. We talk about God as if He wasn’t there.
But He is there.
He is here.
He is with you as you read this.
He is with me as I write to you.
I am writing about Him and what I feel He is teaching me, as if this is my down-time from God. This is my time to take a step back and reflect on what He’s teaching me. My time to dissect the things I’m learning and put them down on paper for you to read, only for me to go back to Him when I’m done typing and say thank you for helping me kind my thoughts down on paper.
But there is no down-time from God.
He never takes a break.
I feel like we begin conversations about God and what He’s teaching us, as if this is our time away from God. “I really don’t understand why God is causing all this pain in my life… What have I done to deserve this… What do you think He is trying to teach me through this?” Then when our conversations are over, and we’re not busy doing other things we call back to God and say, alright let’s talk again, I think I may have figured out what you’re trying to teach me… tell me if I’m right. But is this the way it really is? Can we ever escape God? Can we ever take time away from Him, and talk about Him to others as if He isn’t… right… there… beside us?
Psalms 139 tells us otherwise. We can never get away from God. He is all around us, He never sleeps, or turns His back as we talk to our friends about Him. He’s always there.
…which leads me to take things one step farther.
… that He will always be listening. And this may influence our prayers. Sometime we refer to it as our prayer life, as if some lifestyle outside of our regular schedule. But our prayers are to be very much apart of our daily lives. We cannot escape God, so why not talk to Him whenever we want to, whenever we can. Treat those conversations as you would a friend who were physically right beside you. Why do we so often feel we have to wait till the 10 minutes before we rest our head on our pillow to talk with God –like we must wait for everything else in our day to be over and off our mind before we can talk with God. As if we need a clean head before talking to God, get everything else out of the way, because there are too may distractions throughout our day that there’s no way we can pray without cease. But we can.
We can pray without ceasing. We can talk to God all through the day. It doesn’t need to be directed as a letter, dear God. By all means, He loves it when we talk about Him. He loves knowing that we have conversations about His love, His teaching, and His challenges. In fact, if you don’t talk about God with the people around you and what He’s teaching you, you need to start. It’s healthy, you will grow from it. Don’t think that He doesn’t smile from ear to ear when He listens to our conversations, He listens to everything we have to say so don’t limit yourself to just talking with your friends about God… talk to Him,
He is right there.