Strength (integrity)

A quick online search for “strongest material on earth” results in a storm of websites listing Graphene as number one. Graphene is a one-atom-thick sheet of carbon 200 times stronger than steel. One engineer said that It would take an elephant balancing on a pencil to break a sheet as thin as Saran wrap. Incredible when you think about it isn’t it? 

When I think about the strongest man in the Bible my first instinct is to think of the mighty Sampson. Called and gifted by God, Sampson displayed some miraculous feats of physical strength. Yet for me, another man jumps to my mind when it comes to a different picture of strength, and that is Job. Job’s integrity as a faithful servant of God withstood some of the most painful personal hardships that one man could ever face.  

Job 1:1 (NIV): “This man (Job) was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil”. The whole book deals with the realities of suffering and righteousness, something many christians continue to struggle with today. Verse one of chapter one describes Job as “blameless”, not necessarily sinless. Romans 3:8 reminds us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of the Lord.” Job’s integrity and devotion to God was tested through the unfathomable loss of his family; his good health was stripped from him and every material thing he had was taken away. In the midst of all these things Job utters these words, “he tests me — I shall come out like gold” (23:10)…“My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. (42:5). 

We are given a picture of Job’s integrity in heart, soul and mind as we read his story. There is no doubt in my mind that Job struggled with sin in his life, he was human just like you and me.  His story tells us that his suffering was not because of any sin that he may have committed (despite what his “friends” try to tell him). Job’s integrity came out of his fear of God, it was an attitude of respect, obedience and upmost trust that guarded his integrity of heart from failure.

Job’s life, his experiences, should not drag us down, it should build us up with hope as we continue to live in a world filled with suffering and injustice. It has the power to encourage and inspire each of us in our own lives. This life of integrity lived by one man is and has been a model for many generations of believers. 

Like Minded

Like-minded people tend to share the same opinions, ideas, or interests. You might say that when two like-minded people get together there is a “meeting of the minds”. There are many constructs in this type of relationship where like-mindedness can help build healthy relationships with others. 

In Psalm 101 David describes many qualities that contribute to what might sound like a tall order to live by when it comes to living a life of Integrity. Verse six highlights one in particular that caught my attention, “My eyes will be on the faithful in the Lord, that they may dwell with me; the ones whose walk is blameless will minister to me.” This is a statement of character and ultimately a guide for building ourselves a line of defense against the evils and temptations of this world. David is giving us some incredibly wise relationship counselling through these words. As king, David knows that if he surrounds himself with like-minded people, (persons who share in his devotion to live a life of integrity under the call of the Lord) both himself and his reign will prosper. David’s words describe a plan to have people in his life who will hold him accountable, people who minister or speak into his life when trial or temptation come along; and as a king who could do as he wishes, these things could (and in some cases did) happen. David’s integrity was constantly challenged as a king. The bible records many of David’s failures but at the same time gives us a picture of heartfelt confession and repentance of what he had done. 

The lives that we live are influenced greatly by those around us. No matter where we are in this world there will always someone or something that will try and break past the walls of integrity that we work so hard to maintain. 

As a parent, I try to give wise counsel to my children much the same way David prescribes when it comes to the friends that they surround themselves with. I work diligently to try to live by this same counsel. 

Like David, I have received the promise of forgiveness when I call on the name of the Lord. Through the amazing gift of grace that is freely given to me today through Christ, I am forgiven. You and I fall short of perfection and integrity as we live, but if we live and share life together in Christ we may not fall so far. 

If/Else

In computer programming the if/else statement executes a block of code if a specified condition is true. If the condition is false, another block of code can be executed. The if/else statement is part of coding’s “conditional” statements, which are used to perform different actions based on different conditions. What happens if we apply this conditional coding format to 1 Kings 9:1-9?

Here is the setting: Solomon had finished building the temple of the Lord and the royal palace when God speaks to him and says “[if] you walk faithfully with integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did, and do all I command… I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever.” (vs 4-5) The flipside or [else] component to this conditional statement reads like this, “[But] [if] you or your descendants turn away from me… then I will cut off Israel from the land that I have given them.” There is a definite conditional statement here that requires our attention.

This passage reminds us of David’s integrity of heart and uprightness as king and servant of God. David’s obedience to God serves as the standard measure that all future kings are compared. The incredible truth and hope that we can draw from this fact is that we know that David was not a perfect person and yet he was considered a man after God’s own heart. He failed miserably at times as a man and as a king. His integrity of heart and uprightness is represented by his repentance, his deep and ultimate love for God. David, like Noah, Abraham, Job and others all help us see a faithful commitment to a standard of values that define integrity; values like goodness, honesty, graciousness, compassion and truth. As we walk in the presence of God today we need to be aware of how we are measuring up to this ancient but relevant measure of integrity.

Hang On…

I was having a conversation with a friend the other day and he mentioned that he was contemplating the possibilities of jumping head first off a perfectly safe solid steel bridge 150 feet down towards a glacier fed icy cold river while attached to a massive elastic rope.  Consider for a moment the faith and trust that you have to have in the one thing separating you from life and death… an elastic rope.

John, in chapter 15 of his gospel records the words of Jesus as he and his disciples begin their journey from the upper room where they shared their last meal together to the garden of Gethsemane. Along the way Jesus uses an illustration of the vine and the branches to describe their relationship with him and his father. He is the vine, we are the branches and his Father is the gardener. This illustration or allegory has some incredibly deep and profound truths that give us a glimpse into the Christian life. God, our father in heaven through his Son Jesus Christ plays an active role in our lives; “pruning” or acting on our behalf to lead and guide us through life so that we can continue to be used as his disciples to effectively carry on his mission to bring the good news of salvation to others.

Our world has many different “vines” to hold onto in life. Some hold onto the “vines” of selfishness, wealth, pride, stubbornness or false gods; and while the vine may continue to grow its roots have not been set firmly into the garden that our heavenly father first planted. Jesus tells us that he is the “true vine”, he is stronger than the “elastic rope”. He is our life-line that continues to give us strength today and until that day when he returns to be with us in eternity. Being attached to the true vine (through a personal relationship with Jesus) is to be under the care and love of the master gardener of life, God. Will you take a leap of faith and be one of the many who have put their hope and trust in the strength and power of the one true vine, Jesus Christ? It is not one that you will ever regret.

BOOM…

IMG_0524Have you ever had something “hit” you in a way that mere words cannot explain? Have you ever experienced a sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia? (aka, brain freeze or ice cream headache). Have you ever been exposed to the icy cold sensation of a negative thirty-five degree temperature on your bare face in the morning? In each instance the best way for someone to understand these events is to feel these for themselves.

John records a “triple whammy” of Jesus’s “I am statements in chapter 14:6 of his Gospel: I am the way, and the truth, and the life”.

Did it hit you? These are the words of Jesus; go back and read them again with authority; read them out loud; take a minute to hear what they are saying. (it’s ok, I’ll wait while you take a minute)

Jesus is responding to questions from Thomas and Philip, two of his disciples that have been following him for some time. He is reassuring them of who he is; that if they know who he is they know his Father in heaven.

When Jesus refers to himself as The Way, he reminds us of his betrayal, suffering, death and resurrection that opened up the way for us to be in relationship with his father:

“No one comes to the Father except through me”.

The Truth is a picture of reality, Jesus as God in flesh. The disciples lived in the presence of the truth of who Christ is, our One True Redeemer. The Life, another sketch of what Jesus has to offer us; his life was given so that we may live – we are talking everlasting life with him in the house of the Lord!

BOOM… let that hit you like a blast of cold air or an ice cream headache.

Do you Believe This?

IMG_0523Our culture today is fascinated by the unbelievable and the virtually impossible. For example, Guinness Book of Records holds the record for being the book most often stolen from Public Libraries. Robert L. Ripley (Ripley’s Believe it or Not), a cartoonist, explorer, reporter, adventurer, and collector, traveled to 201 countries in 35 years seeking the odd, the unusual, and the unexplained.  

Scripture makes some pretty incredible claims, some of which reach beyond the scope of our finite human minds. Jesus made a claim that no other being on earth could ever make, He said, “I am the resurrection and the life”. (John 11:25) This incredible statement is foundational to the faith that hundreds of millions of people like you and I have put our hope and trust in; centuries of time have passed before us having been shaped and influenced by this statement. Jesus makes the declaration that he is the source and the power that will bring all those who believe in Him into everlasting life in the presence of his father.

Consider for a moment the person that Jesus speaks these incredible words to; Martha of Bethany, sister to Lazarus, who was raised from the dead. Martha is not new to the life and work of Jesus, she has seen and experienced the life transforming power of Messiah. This is an incredible reminder to those who live to bring honour and glory to the name of Jesus to remain confident in His power to overcome sin and death. Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” What is your answer? Can you and will you stand faithful in front of the supreme judge when he returns again and say to him, Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who has come to save the world.

I Am the Shepherd

IMG_3205To fully know what something is we must also understand what that something is not. The antithesis (a person or thing that is the direct opposite of someone or something else) helps us hone or sharpen our understanding of the subject. John records many of Jesus’s “I am” statements in his Gospel. In order to grasp Jesus’s claim to be our “shepherd” we can understand what he means by looking at what a shepherd is not.  Ezekiel uses the metaphor of a shepherd in a way that helps us understand what role a shepherd is not. Here are some of the highlights.

  • They focus on their own gain, not the well-being of the flock. (34:1-3)
  • They ruled harshly and brutally. (34:4)
  • When the sheep were lost, no one searched or looked for them. (34:6)

There are many more examples in scripture that use this same metaphorical language of “shepherd” to describe who Jesus is. Isiah puts it beautifully with these words, “He tends his flock like a shepherd: “He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart;” (40:11). Johns record of Jesus’s clear statement in chapter 10:11 says “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” The implications of what Jesus says with these words is beyond incredible. The role of the true shepherd in Ezekiel chapter 34 is described as fulfilled by God, Jesus makes the claim in John’s gospel that He (as God in flesh) is the one fulfilling this role.

Jesus came to care for his sheep and to lead them back into a relationship with His Father. His focus was not on himself but for the well-being of the people. He chose to seek out the lost, the broken and the hurting, to lead and guide them with love and compassion. Jesus willingly laid down his life for us as our shepherd, for the forgiveness of our sins. He came back to life and continues to lead and guide us through the work of the Holy Spirit, what an incredible gift. Who are you following? Are you trusting in Jesus as your shepherd? Have you experienced the life transforming power of the Holy Spirit in your life? Jesus, the Good Shepherd is calling out your name, he is your shepherd, take a moment to listen and follow his call.

Shedding Some Light on the Subject.

What-is-Darkness-1024x507If you are a photographer, light is a big deal. In order for a camera to record the perfect picture, the light has to be just right. Astronomers can find and focus in on a pinpoint of light from hundreds of  thousands of miles away and discover the intense beauty if its origins. The soft glow of a night light can bring an incredible sense of comfort to a young child struggling to sleep in the middle of the night. Science has studied the effects of light on almost every aspect of life and continue to discover its incredible power. Simply put, light provides life.

In the Bible, light is synonymous with life, both in the physical and spiritual sense. From the very first verses in scripture, we see how God created light to pierce the formless and empty darkness. Throughout scripture, writers make use of this incredibly vivid image, to symbolize the contrast between good and evil. John records these words of Jesus in his gospel, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” (8:12). It is important to take note of Jesus’ first statement, “I am the light of the world”. Jesus floods the darkness of our souls, our sinful nature with light that cannot be overcome. John 1:5 says “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” This is a promise. As believers, when we walk in the light and life of Christ he has promised to never leave us or forsake us (Deut 31:6)

This symbolic statement used by Jesus himself contrasts the significance of life with Him and life without Him. Life in Christ equals light, (salvation and eternal life); life without Christ equals darkness or separation. John suggests in a matter of fact way that the solution to the problem of darkness is as plain as night and day. He uses the word or concept of light over twenty times in his gospel trying to make the point that Jesus is the light that guides our lives, both physically and spiritually.. When we walk in the footsteps of Jesus (the light of life) we can walk with the full assurance and promise of salvation from the darkness of this world. Are you wandering in the darkness? Step into the light, experience a transformed life today.

 

What Type of Bread Do You Eat?

white-bread-51-600-600x400

“Bread, in all its various forms, is the most widely consumed food in the world”. France has Brioche; Tortilla, the flatbread from Mexico is a staple in many homes; Foccacia and Ciabatta hail form Italy; Eastern Europe was known for their contribution of the bagel and all the way from the India, Nepal and Bangladesh we have Chapatti, a pancake like bread traditionally cooked on a large flat skillet or griddle. [Insert the incredible smell of fresh baked bread here]

In John chapter 6 Jesus says, “I am the bread of life.” And then He expands on this statement with these words, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever… whoever comes to me will never be hungry.” Now, if you can pull yourself away from the physical cravings of your taste buds, you will realize that Jesus is speaking metaphorically here about bread. There is no doubt that God provided mana for his people in the dessert during their exile from Egypt to meet their physical needs but, the true bread from heaven comes to us to fill a much deeper spiritual need and that is our need for salvation. We have to wrap our finite minds around the idea that “eating” the bread is a metaphor for faith in Jesus; Jesus is making the point that faith in Him is what will sustain us till he comes again to be with us.

Whether or not you choose to eat bread (in the physical sense) that is a choice each of us has the option to make. In our culture today, many people have primarily focused on their earthly, materialistic need for sustenance and survival, forgetting or putting aside their spiritual well-being.  We all have the opportunity to accept the “living bread” that is offered through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ who died, rose from the grave and lives today with his Father in heaven. Have you had the life transforming experience of tasting the living bread freely offered by the master bread maker? Its incredible taste will last forever, that is a promise that we can all stand on, a promise that will never be broken.

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.