Tag Archives: Faith

The Wash Cycle

LaundryHave you ever wondered what goes on inside a washing machine? Probably not. If you’re like me you throw the clothes in, put a bit of soap in and let the machine do the rest. Some of these machines can be complicated if you look at all the settings and cycles that are available. Each cycle (regular, permanent press, knit, delicates, light, medium and heavy, extra rinse, extra spin) have a purpose. Ultimately, if the machine is working as designed, when you reach the end of the cycle you have clean clothes.

When you read through the book of Judges you will find a pattern of events related to Israel’s continuous cycle of sin and restoration. If we were to label this cycle we could describe it like this: relapse, ruin, repentance, restoration, rest, relapse. God raises up 13 unique judges to bring his justice into the lives of the Israelites, 13 different cycles. Some of these cycles varied with intensity, in verses 3:7, 3:12, 4:1, 6:1, 8:33-34, 10:6, 13:1 (seven instances) we are introduced to the cycles of relapse and ruin with the words “The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord”. If we were to run these stories through the wash cycle we would choose “heavy, extra rinse and extra spin”. There were also times when you could categorize this cycle of life for the Israelites as “light” or “delicate”, a time when scripture does not record much about the actions of God’s people, presumably these could be the times of rest.

One of the highlights of reading through Judges is the picture of hope that we can see in God’s faithfulness, to forgive and provide for his people, a truth that still holds today. We see over and over the significance of the people coming before God (repentance) seeking his forgiveness and the power of God to forgive and restore them as a nation. Today we often fall into the same patterns of life like the Israelites, we tend to run amuck on our own, forgetting how God has complete control in the happenings of our lives. The illustration of the wash cycle always ends with fresh smelling clothes, clean and ready for work and play. When we put our hope and trust in God, when we come to Him in faith and ask for forgiveness, we are washed of those sins.

 

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Black & White

b&WThere are infinite possibilities when it comes to mixing colours. With all these possible combinations, my personal preference as an aspiriing artist is to do a lot of work in black and white. For me, I appreciate the simple contrast between these obvious opposites; black representing the complete absence of white, and white representing itself as brilliant and pure, free of any black.

James asks an interesting question in his letter to God’s people, “Who is wise and understanding among you?” (3:13). To fully grasp the scope of what James is asking, we need to understand the truth about how the bible defines “wise”. Thankfully James helps us with this by including these words in his letter, “Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbour bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. (3:13-16) In essence, what James is saying is those who are wise should demonstrate their wisdom in how they live, by deeds done with an attitude of humility. We as believers demonstrate wisdom if our deeds reflect God’s commands.

You can now begin to see a contrast between two types of wisdom. James continues in his letter giving these words of truth, “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere (3:17). Pure and void of any darkness, this selfless and humble wisdom is filled with the characteristics of our great God. Each of these things stand in contrast of the way the world defines its wisdom. When we live out these virtues or characteristics in our own lives, when we show greater concern for others then for ourselves (this is what James would call a “good life”) we bring glory and honour to God. The good fruit that James writes about here parallels the words of Paul in his letter to the Galatians, this is where he describes for us the fruits of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. A good life lived in accordance to God’s will is evidence that we are wise and understanding. Through the power of the Holy Spirit we as believers will stand as wise in contrast to the “wisdom” of the world.

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Oil & Water

There is a complex and somewhat exhaustive explanation of why oil and water do not mix together. If you were to check in with your local science expert they would use terms like immiscible, density and mass to explain the chemical properties of each liquid. On a very basic level most everyone knows that oil and water do not mix, they both have inherent qualities that make them incompatible.  
Paul writes to an audience of believers in Rome that have come to know Christ as their personal Lord and Saviour through the ministry of men like himself and others. Written into Paul’s letter to the Roman believers is a myriad of incredible truths that give instruction and motivation to live vibrant and faithful lives as Christians. Paul’s written message was a reminder to the people about the power of sin and deception that is persistently trying to lead them away from a proper relationship with God. Sin, and our sinful nature have the ability to create conflict between living by the ideals of the world compared to that of God’s call on our lives to live a life holy and pleasing to him. This conflict is much like that between oil and water; Life in Christ (the water), dose not mix with life in the world (the oil). Although the two can coexist together, the both have their inherent qualities that make them incompatible.  

The power to overcome sin comes through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Through Him we have access to His Father in heaven. Paul writes these words in Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Our hope comes from the Lord through the work of the Holy Spirit when we allow him into our lives. Hope is an anticipation, a confident expectation (faith and trust) in the promise that God will fulfill his promise of eternal life with him. “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is not hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” (8:24-25). For all the many earthly things that we have in this world they cannot and will not fulfill the promise of something better, they are only temporary. A question I often ask of myself is this, is my hope overflowing in a way that it spills out so others can see? God provided a way for joy and peace in life and that comes through his Son, a joy and peace that fuels our hope. The power of hope in Christ over shadows the power of sin, it separates us from the world.  

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Roller Coasters and Life

roller coasterWith names like Millennium Force, Top Dog Thriller, Formula Rossa, Intimidator 305 and Steel Dragon 2000, these world-famous roller coasters will provide the thrill that extreme adrenaline junkies seek. There are intense drops, twists and turns, incredible speeds and gut wrenching G-forces that push your mind and body to its limits. You might be one of those people who gets excited about being strapped into the seat on one of these giant steel mechanical marvels or you might be like me, the anxious spectator (who likes to keep two feet on the ground) left holding all the bags, hats and loose change until the ride is over.

When I read through the Psalms I get the sense of being on a different sort of roller coaster, a ride that journeys through a wide range of emotions. Through ups and downs, twists and turns and the pressures of life, we get a glimpse into the complex emotions that our creator built into us. Woven into the fabric of the text we can experience the writer’s feelings of joy, fear, anger, disappointment, outrage, gratitude, contentment and more. When we listen, hear, and take to heart the stories shared by the different author’s we are invited into their lives and deep into their hearts. One of the most powerful and emotional moments in the psalms for me is found in chapter 18:6, “In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.” Distress, suffering, pain, sorrow, grief, each one of these “places” can bring us crashing to our knees, desperate and needy, searching for God just a David did in this passage.

It has been said that every human emotion is portrayed in some way through the writing of the Psalms. The Psalms are a “go to” for many who need encouragement and direction in their lives; often when we find an emotional connection we can also experience the writer’s response or reflection. One of the strongest themes that help facilitate that connection is that of love. Out of His love for David, God hears his cry for help, He delivers him from the hands of his enemies. Today our God is no different than He was in David’s day, He waits patiently as we persistently try to work things out on our own, he continues to hear our cries, He loves us in all our brokenness, he rejoices when we put our faith and trust in Him. It is His love that will keep us standing with two feet on the ground.

 

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Something Even Greater

Waiting in Line

There are so many things in life that we wait for. Kids and parents alike often can’t wait for Christmas to come; kids more than parents can’t wait for their next birthday. We wait expectantly for a child to be born and we often wait with mixed emotions about our mortality. Many wait in anticipation for their wedding day and some wait patiently for “the one” to come into their life. We wait in line at banks, grocery stores, doctors’ offices and for our turn to get on a plane for that well-deserved holiday. What is it in life that you wait for?

When you take the time to think about the incredibly powerful visions and imagery found in the book of Revelation that John records for us, you can’t help wonder or be curious about what God has planned for us. There is one particular passage in John’s writing that has stuck with me this past week, one that made me curious, excited and wanting while waiting. Found in Revelation 22:1-5, subtitled “Eden Restored” we get an glimpse into heaven. John describes what the angel showed him, “the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb… on each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” Can you imagine the beauty these words portray? Do you believe that one day this will be a reality? I do. I get goosebumps just thinking about it.

There is something else, something even greater than the crystal-clear rivers, trees and bountiful harvest of fruit that I find in this passage.  Verse 4 of chapter 22 talks about you and I, it says, “They will see his face.” (read that quote again) To see His face means we will one day walk with God, our creator, just as Adam and Eve did. This incredible promise is a picture of restoration, a renewal of the intimate relationship our Heavenly Father intended to have with us. With his own breath, He created us so we could walk with Him and talk with Him, to be one with Him. If you are not on the edge of your seat in anticipation of this incredible promise, WAKE UP. God wants you to know that this is His greatest desire, a desire that I have put all my hope and trust in today. Through His Son, through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we will one day meet him face to face. So, will you wait with me? We have so much to look forward to.

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Pass the Salt Please.

dubbelzoutSalt. It can be used to relieve bee stings, preserve food, enhance flavor or melt ice and gives seawater its distinctive taste. I willingly admit that I am a picky eater, although I prefer to say that I have a finely tuned palate. The Dutch blood that runs deep into my heritage has hardwired me to appreciate and love the salty taste of DubbelZout (double salt) hard black licorice. This fine Dutch treat has been preserving the Dutch and others for many years. (and yes I am eating them as I write this blog entry)

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Taken in context of the surrounding verses in Colossians 4, this figurative “seasoned with salt” statement is saying this,  let your conversation be uplifting. Paul writes this letter so that we can “talk the walk” that Jesus came to live out among us. Christ’s divine-human nature exemplifies the life that we are to live today. Full of grace, Christ came to love, teach and give. His words that were “seasoned with salt” were spoken to point us towards His Father. Paul wrote his letter to the Colossians from prison, it was meant to be encouraging and uplifting in a time when false teachers were drawing Christians away from the focus of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. His reminder that “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” reminds us of His supremacy over all things.

This passage reminds me of that of James chapter 3 and how he writes about the “Taming of the Tongue”. He asks the question, “Can both fresh water and saltwater flow from the same spring?” Essentially what he is asking is this, can our conversations or words reflect the love of Christ and curse mankind at the same time? According to James the answer is no! Unfortunately, this is how much of the world lives. We will never measure up to the standard of perfection lived out by Jesus because we were born into sin. It is important and key to our faith that we work diligently to reach for that measure of excellence, to ask Him to supply our needs, to give us the wisdom and courage to turn away from sin. The incarnation of Jesus happened so that we would be saved from our sins, so that we could return to a right relationship with our creator, our Father in heaven.  May our conversations be full of grace, uplifting and honoring to God so that others will see Him in us.

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Encourage One Another

EncourageAs I was considering some thoughts around the idea of encouragement my mind wandered a little bit and I started to think about sports. Now, this is strange because I am not much of a sports guy so bear with me. Have you ever watched golf or been out on the course with someone who “talks” the ball to go where they want it to? Usually that person takes the time to skillfully line up their shot with the hole whether it is to be hit off the tee or is laying on the green. After taking the shot they will sometimes expressively talk the ball towards the hole, especially if it’s going off course. What about the basketball player getting ready to take a foul shot from the top of the key or is going the for the distance of a well timed three point shot? Often they will verbally encourage the ball to hit its target.

The author of Hebrews talks about a different type of encouragement, here is a short verse on what that looks like: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another.” (10:24&25) When you dig deeper into the word “encouraging” that the author uses here, it has a sense of urgency to it. It is suggesting a position of begging or pleading for fellow believers to stay the course of faith in our God. It is to build our faith in the midst of trials and temptations as we wait for the day when Christ comes again. The author calls us to encourage one another daily as he warns us that there will be times of unbelief, times of falling away and times where we will need to persevere.

Eugene Peterson in the message captures a picture of encouragement with these thoughts: “keep each other on your toes so sin doesn’t slow down your reflexes. If we can only keep our grip on the sure thing we started out with, we’re in this with Christ for the long haul.” Living out our faith calls us to encourage others by walking with them through “thick and thin”, praying for them, being the example of love that Christ has for them.  The encouragement we give (and need) ought to draw us closer to our heavenly Father, reminding us of his unconditional love and sacrifice that will one day bring us into his presence.

 

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Faith in Action.

faith in action album coverHow do you define the word action? Are you the type of person who perches on the edge of your seat while watching an exciting action movie? Have you or someone you know ever experienced the tragedies associated with the acts of war?  As a fly fisherman I enjoy the action of the rod as I cast the fly line back and forth anticipating the explosive action of setting the hook and eventually playing the fish into my hands. Often as we teach our children to memorize scripture or songs we use actions to help support their learning; and as we raise and help them grow we teach them to be responsible for their own actions.

What about faith and action? What does that look like? The book of Hebrews talks a lot about faith. Chapter 11 clearly stands out to me as it talks about the “ancients”, our forefathers as they lived out their faith in action. Think about some of the stories you might know… Verse 7 reminds us of Noah’s faith as he was ridiculed while building the ark, verse 8 talks about the faith that Abraham had as he looked forward to an inheritance only God could promise. We read about the faith of Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and many more. Each one of these people and many others had one thing in common; they all looked at what was to come, to a future that was unknown, a future that ultimately was in God’s hands. Living out their faith in action, our forefathers were obedient to the call of God in their lives.

It is inspiring to me when I read through God’s word and find a collection of stories that help me understand more about the faith I am growing in. Stories like that of Ruth and Naomi, Esther, and our forefathers challenge me to think about how my faith impacts others. Each one of these accounts of faith in scripture portray a journey of hardships, suffering and even death along with mercy, grace and love. Through faith in the one Almighty God we can have the [sure] confidence in what we hope for (the promise of eternal life through Christ) and assurance about what we do not see. (11:1) Today, we have the opportunity to have a relationship with God through Christ who fulfilled one of those promises of long ago to our forefathers, a promise of one who would come into this world as our Savior (Isaiah 7:14).

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Superheroes

EstherPeter Parker (a.k.a. Spider man) and Bruce Wayne (a.k.a. Batman) share a few things in common that run deeper than the obvious fact that they are fictitious characters possessing a particular “superpower” that makes them into the superhero they are. Like many of us they each have a story, a story that shapes and defines who they are. Both of these unlikely heroes share a similar start in life, both were orphaned as young children and were raised with the help of family and friends. Both went through some sort of transformation that led them to a place where they were compelled to do good and save the lives of many people.

As I read through Esther, I read her story like that of a real life superhero. She shares a similar story to that of our fictitious characters described above. Orphaned as a child she was raised by her cousin Mordecai and through God’s plan for her life she was used to save the lives of many people. The record of Esther’s story is one of those inspiring tales of faith and action that has us sitting on the edge of our seat waiting for what comes next. Esther’s faith in God becomes clear to me when she speaks these words: “And if I perish, I perish” (4:16). Esther’s actions from this point on, put her own life at risk. Presenting herself to the King without request by him was punishable by death. It was because of her courageous faith that she was able to face death in order to save her people from being destroyed.

Often there is a sense of secrecy that surrounds the life of a superhero, this is true for Esther as well. Chapter 2:10 tells us that “Esther had not revealed her nationality and family background because Mordecai had forbidden her to do so”. Esther’s story unfolds and eventually her true identity is revealed through her appeal for the king to help save her people. Through Esther’s story we read how God plans and directs all the events in her life, how one circumstance led to another working to save the people and ultimately bring honor and glory to His name. The same can be said about our lives, as we grow in our faith I believe God also calls us to grow in living that faith out in action. Esther faced challenges and victories just as we will in our own lives, we need to have courageous faith, fearless hope and unwavering trust in God for all that He does.

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Job, Naomi and Ruth.

faith_1Have you ever played one of those three of a kind connection type games? You know the game where you get three words and you have to find the common connection. For example, you are given these three words: [school, skate, dart] What three things do these words have in common? Well if you’re like me I will stare at these words for about a minute (that is being generous) before I give up and the person beside me blurts out “boards” don’t you see it? It boards, school board, skate board and dart board.

What about these three names from the Bible: Job, Naomi and Ruth. What do they have in common? It wasn’t evident right away for me but after reading through the book of Job and then through Ruth, I made the connection. Faith. Each one of these three people had a connection through their faith in God. Job and Naomi shared a similar yet different story through their personal relationship with God, a story of pain, suffering and loss. This was a period of time that left them with nothing, but in the end through the grace and mercy of a sovereign God they both received many new blessings in their lives.

Ruth’s faith stands out as we read about how her faith in God influenced her actions. The beginning chapter of Ruth points us to her faith in the same God as Naomi, the God of Israel. Ruth chooses to leave her former life of trust in other god’s to follow the one true God. From this point on we read about how her faith compels her to stay with Naomi, she provides for her, she cares for her, she humbly sets aside her own needs to help her. Ruth’s actions, which are rooted in her faith God, lead them to place where she is recognized for who she was created to be, a hard working loyal worker, caregiver, friend and a God fearing woman. Ruth’s confidence and bold approach of a marriage proposal to Boaz was backed by her faith and trust in God’s leading.

Ruth’s actions spoke louder than her words, a lesson many of us can learn today. We need to pray for opportunities to put our faith into action. Our faith should cause us to want to serve; when our actions speak louder than our words, God will be glorified.

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