What’s Your Story

Typewriter What is Your Story

Have you heard the story about Maurice the Moose? Probably not, it was one that was fabricated by a grandfather to intrigue and capture the attention of his granddaughters. I’m sure you have heard the ancient story (fable) of the “Boy Who Cried Wolf” to many times. These stories and others have the power to leave a lasting impression on us. Our personal stories encapsulate who we are , they communicate life in a way that connects us to one another.

James pulls out all the stops to make his point clear about the importance of living a Christian life. Why do you think James takes the time to mention people like Abraham, Isaac, Rahab, Job and Elijah in his letter? He does so because each of these people have displayed exemplary commitment in their faith to follow God with wisdom and obedience. When James talks about faith in action, he reminds us of the story of Abraham and Isaac, “You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.” (2:22) He also mentions Elijah, and because of his faithfulness to God in prayer the people experienced the power and authority of God. Job’s faith in God demonstrates the importance of patience and perseverance in the trials of life. The story of Rahab gives testimony to one’s faith in God and the work that he calls us to, and the work that he will do through us. 

Why are stories important? Well, like James did in his letter, stories have the power to connect not just with our minds but our hearts. When we hear a personal story or testimony of what God has done in and through the lives of other believers it excites an emotional response within us. Our stories of faith in God can often be a vehicle of inspiration that strengthens the relationships of other believers in their walk with God. These incredible stories are authored by God himself to reveal His love and compassion for those who don’t know him yet. When was the last time you shared your story? There is no time like the present to share what God has done for you. 

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What is On Your List?

ChecklistWe all make lists. It might be a mental or written “to do” list, a grocery list, a list of Marvel movies to watch, a wish list on Amazon, a music playlist or a list of your favorite cat videos. Depending on your personality you might make a list to organize your lists. (I know you are out there) Some people have a bucket list, a list of experiences or achievements that they hope to have or accomplish during their lifetime.

In the Bible, James gives us a practical list of ways to live as followers of Christ, to live a Christian life.

  • Know that true wisdom comes from God, not from the things of the world (3:17)
  • Put your faith into action (2:14)
  • Overcome trials with joy (1:2)
  • Think before you speak (1:19)
  • Show no favoritism (2:1)
  • Pride is our enemy (4:6)
  • Taming our tongue (3:9-12)
  • Be humble (4:6)
  • When we are suffering, pray. (5:13)
  • Confess your sin before God and others (5:16)

Did you notice the top two items on the list? Faith and wisdom. Faith is having an active trust and belief that is evident by obedience to the Word of God. Godly wisdom is pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. When our faith in God is securely built on the foundations of Christ’s death and resurrection and we live that out in our lives we bring honor and glory to our Creator. Because of our faith we can ask God for the wisdom to live our lives according to the rest of the list James gives us. Our faith is strengthened when we find joy in the face of trials of life; when we recognize pride as our enemy we can grow in humility; when we call out to God (pray) in faith he will answer us. God never intended for us to live life on our own, he gave us brothers and sisters in His name to walk alongside us, to be a reflection and reminder of Him, to be listeners and encouragers. If you made it to the end of this blog, I challenge you to choose just one of the listed actions and live in it, ask yourself how you are doing in that area of life and ask God to help you live so that He may be glorified.

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Just Ask

hey siriHey Siri, where can I get wisdom?
“Ok, I found this on the web for ‘where can I get wisdom’”
“How to gain wisdom: 13 Steps (with pictures) – WikiHow – “Wisdom is a virtue that isn’t innate but can only be acquired through experience. Anyone who is interested in trying new things and reflecting on the process has the ability to gain wisdom. By learning as much as you can, analyzing your experiences and putting your knowledge to the test, you can become a wiser person.”

As smart as Siri might think she is I think that when it comes to gaining wisdom, we as believers need to take a different approach to gaining wisdom. James gives us the best advice in his letter to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations. Step one, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” That was step one, if that didn’t work go back and try again and again. James offers up some help when thing don’t go as you might have planned by offering up a this instruction. “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt.” James describes a faith that demonstrates action, a living out of what God has called us to without any doubt. He uses the term “double-minded” to describe someone who tries to live two contradictory lifestyles, one that tries to please God and another to please themselves or others; it is like oil and water, the two don’t mix.

God hears the prayers of those whose lives demonstrate that they have faith in him. When James talks about believe or faith, he is referring to an active trust and belief shown by obedience to the Word of God. The wisdom that we receive from God is pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. (James 3:17). When we experience the incredible gift of grace offered to us through God’s demonstration of love for us through his Son Jesus Christ, when we live our lives obedient to his will, our lives (the way we live) will reflect Godly wisdom, a wisdom that shows greater concern for others than for ourselves. So, instead of the 13 steps suggested by Siri, I would encourage you to listen to what James has to say, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God.”

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“The Chronicler”

bored-to-death-454246687Some might say “It’s like watching paint dry” or “I’d rather listen to the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard.” I have to admit that I fall into the category of “some” who would use one of these rather creative statements to describe my feelings about a long drawn out history lesson. A chronicle is a historical account of facts and events ranged in chronological order, as in a time line. I have to ask this question, do you skip over the often lengthy lists of names (genealogies) in the Bible. I typically do.

The author, or chronicler of first and second Chronicles in the bible had the long tedious job of assembling the historical records from Adam to Abraham. The Chronicler in this context summarizes the genealogy of the nations (1 Chron 1:1–54), outlining Israel’s ancestry all the way back to creation and highlighting God’s special purpose for Israel in the world. This long list of names and places retell a story akin to that of an extreme roller coaster, a history of a people who experienced both the incredible power of a jealous, angry and just God and then who in the same breath is a God who is full of love, grace, mercy and goodness. The ultimate purpose of these words written in Chronicles was to remind the present and future generations that they were from the royal line of David and that they were God’s chosen people.

Some people say, “you don’t know where your going till you know where you have been.” My journey into full time vocational ministry has made me take a step back and look at how God has been shaping me over the past 40 plus years. My history, the events and experiences of my life and the lives of those in my families heritage have played a major role in shaping who I am today. The chronicler works to list names, dates and relations, it is our job to complete the picture. What is it in your life that shaped you into the person you are today? When was the last time you stepped back in time to experience the history of those who came before you? God’s word included these incredibly hard to read passages so that we can be reminded of the incredible things he has done for us.

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A Little Bit of History.

HistoryEvery now and then I have the privilege of hearing stories about the “olden days”. These past stories of adventure and experience from an older generation often hold a glimpse into a vastly different world from that which we live in today. Bygone are the times of what some of them would call a much “simpler” life. A time when high tech was a simple transistor radio or when penny candy was actually a penny. We all have a story, a historical timeline of memorable and forgotten events that shape the very essence of who we are. Knowing our history is an important aspect to knowing who we are.

The first four chapters in the book of Deuteronomy recount the events in the “recent” history of the people of Israel, Moses reminds them where they had come from and what has happened over the past 40 years of wandering in the desert. He is speaking to a new generation of people that were born in exile due to the previous generations disobedience and ignorance of God’s direction. Moses’ whole point in bringing up their history was to motivate and encourage them to put their hope and trust in God alone for deliverance into the promise land. The people are reminded of God’s law through Moses as he digs deeper into its meaning, significance and importance for their lives. Near the end of the book, Moses leaves them with a stern warning in regards what will happen if they do not follow God’s law. He also leaves them with a word of encouragement and assurance that when they repent of their sinful ways God will forgive them and continue to walk with them.

Moses commands the people to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (6:5) We hear this command again from Jesus in Matthew 22 where he is asked this question, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law? This is the first and greatest commandment, says Jesus, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Did the Israelites love the Lord with all they had all the time? Unfortunately, no. Their lives, much like ours today were filled with distractions (sin) that tested and often destroyed the bond of our relationship with God. One of the most amazing realities in our relationship with God is the completely underserved gift of grace given through his son Jesus Christ. By the grace of God, we can come before Him every hour of every day with the promise of forgiveness. Do you have that assurance in life? Do you love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength?

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Eyewitness Testimony

 

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In a court of law an eyewitness account is often the most trustworthy and reliable source of testimony. Also known as a percipient witness, this person testifies to what they perceive through his or her senses, through seeing, hearing, smelling or touching. Testimony by hearsay does not hold as much weight as an eyewitness account, you would know this well if you have ever played the “telephone” game.

Let me go on the record and make this statement, “I believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God given to man, recorded by many, so that we can grow in our understanding of who He is.” The Gospel of John reveals to us the authority and person of Jesus Christ as both The Son of God and our redeemer. John’s gives us his testimony of who Jesus is through these words in chapter 1:33, “I have seen and testify that this is God’s Chosen One.” (also translated as “The Son of God”) He says it again in verse 1:29, “When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (our redeemer). With the knowledge and understanding that these words are trustworthy and true, we have before us a written eyewitness statement (testimony or confession) that reveals the incredible truth of who Jesus is.

God reveals himself to us through His Son, Jesus Christ. When you read scripture this fact becomes abundantly clear. John witnessed with his own eyes the incredible act of the Holy Spirit anointing Jesus for the continued work in his ministry and mission. If that wasn’t incredible enough, it is written that “a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” God reveals himself to us, he speaks to us today primarily through His word, have you taken taken the time to hear from Him today?

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That’s Handy

HandThat’s handy… Can I give you hand with something?… That’s a job for the handyman… They were welcomed into membership with the right hand of fellowship… She has the upper hand in this challenge… I could use an extra pair of hands to get this setup… There are a handful of expressions I could write to complete this paragraph, yet, I will leave it in your capable hands to come up with some of your own.

The book of Isaiah has a wealth of imagery that reveals who God is through the descriptive words and references to His hand. Here is a great example, “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?” (40:12). The deep hollow and incredible breadth of his hand reveal to us the immensity of God and his sovereign power over all creation. Chapter 5:25 reads, “His hand is raised and He strikes them down”. These words reveal his mighty power, his anger towards sin and mankind’s disobedience which ultimately leads to the actions of his divine justice. Chapter 41:10 says, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” These words so beautifully reveal the reassurances of the compassion and love that God has for his people. With his righteous right hand, with power and authority he will not let us fall.

There are many other examples I discovered in reading through these incredible words written by Isaiah. One of the most powerful and meaningful verses that made an impact on my understanding of who our God is can be found in chapter 8:11, here it talks about “his strong hand upon me”. Both Isaiah and Ezekiel make reference to these words which reveal to me that our God is a personal God, one who is present among us through the work of the Holy Spirit.  The hand of God leads and guides every life that he creates, helping us to navigate life in a world of sin and temptation. Whose hand are you holding on to in life? Grab a hold of God’s hand, it is reaching out for you today.

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Move That Bus.

Bus“Bus driver, move that bus.” This was the moment everyone was eagerly waiting for as work crews put the finishing touches on the massive surprise home renovation project for a family in need. Huddled behind the bus, a family who had just returned from an all-expense paid vacation waited in anticipation for the grand reveal of their new home. As crowds gathered around the family, they all together would yell “bus driver, move that bus”, and ever so slowly the bus would drive forward and reveal the newly renovated home.

The book of Exodus is filled with many extra-ordinary examples of how God revealed himself to his people. Why move a bus when you can move a mountain? “The smoke billowed up from it (Mount Sinai) like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently” (19:18b). Can you imagine the feeling of power and the impact of that moment on the lives of the Israelite people? What about the pillar of fire and pillar of cloud that directed and protected the path of the people as God led them away from Pharaoh and his army in Egypt. God reveals himself as the provider of life by supplying the physical needs of nourishment through a daily portion of manna and quail and draws fresh water from a rock. We read about the supremacy and authority of God as revealed through the incredible events surrounding the parting of the Red Sea. The ten plagues are an important reminder of God’s promise of deliverance to the forefathers of Israel, each plague revealed the wonders and power of God that eventually brought Pharaoh to his knees just as he promised in chapter 3:20, “So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. After that, he will let you go.”

God continues to reveal himself to us today through the bible, through the events and lives of those who came before us. God reveals himself to us through nature and his creation, through other believers, and through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. God revealed himself to us through his Son Jesus Christ. Is there a “bus” blocking the way for you to see God today? Just remember, God can move mountains, He can calm storms and He has the power to change lives. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Mathew 7:7-8) What “bus” can you ask God to move today?

 

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Rewrite

IMG_1733Have you ever worked extremely hard on a research paper or project and felt like the weight of the world was lifted off your shoulders as you handed it in to your boss or teacher? Then, with silent expectation and a slight sense of nervousness you wait for the final mark; in the back of your mind your hoping it will come back with great accolades and a well-deserved pat on the back. So, your paper comes back, profusely marked in red ink and the word REWRITE is scored across the cover page. Now what? Where do you go from here?

God’s justice is righteous and true and will be delivered by him to all those who believe in him (Hebrews 10:30). To be judged as righteous and true according to his will means we will be favored and accepted into the fullness of eternal life with him. The author of the book of Hebrews writes these words, “I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.” (Hebrews) God, the author of all life provides an opportunity through his Son Jesus Christ to “rewrite” his will for our lives on our hearts. The prophet Jeremiah uses some strong imagery to describe what it is that God is rewriting “Judah’s sin is engraved with an iron tool, inscribed with a flint point, on the tablets of their hearts” (Jer 17:1).

Our lives, much like that of the people of Judah and the generations that follow have the markings of sin etched deeply into our hearts and minds. God’s offers us a “rewrite” in life when we accept and believe in the power of the death and resurrection of his Son for our sins. Justice for our sins has been served on our behalf, Christ paid for all of those sins. “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more”. (Heb 10:17) The deeply etched marks of sin are wiped out, a heart of stone replaced by a heart of flesh ready to be led by the spirit to follow the will of the Lord. (Ez 36:26-27) So, now what? Where do you go from here? TAKE the second chance, this is the rewrite of your life, an opportunity to grab ahold of the saving power and grace God gave us through His Son.

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Drawing the Line…

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Photo Credit: Garry Firth

If someone knows where to draw the line, they know at what point an activity or situation stops being reasonable and starts to be unacceptable. If you draw the line at a particular activity, you would not do it, because you disapprove of it or because it is so extreme. When we visit a tropical beach like the one pictured here we can without a doubt know where the shallow waters and the deep waters meet, you have a clear indication when you’re getting into deep waters.

The Apostle Paul draws a line for the Corinthian church near the end of his letter in 2 Corinthians. Paul uses language that is reminiscent of the Old Testament prophets who warned the people of Israel of God’s “razor sharp” justice in response to their disobedience of His laws and commands. “I already gave you a warning when I was with you the second time. I now repeat it while absent: On my return I will not spare those who sinned earlier or any of the others, since you are demanding proof that Christ is speaking through me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. (13:2-3) Paul speaks with authority and confidence through Christ and the work of the Spirit in his life. His genuine concern is that the church (the people) are falling into the catches of sin in their lives; there is jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder taking over the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control they are called to live in together through Christ.

The “line” in the water is the created by the contrast of light and dark. This picture or metaphor in scripture often highlights the life we live in Christ (light) and the life we live in sin (darkness). There is a transparent and reflective quality to the “light waters” of life in contrast to the mysterious and hidden “dark waters”. Paul’s concern for the church comes as he sees them heading into deeper, darker waters, and how this will lead them into the hands of a powerful and just God. Paul’s closes his letter with these final words of encouragement that bring hope, reconciliation and unity for the church, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (13:14) If Paul was here today, I am confident that he would have the same concerns and words for us as a church.

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