A Particular kind of Confidence

Confidence in its various forms can be defined either as a feeling or belief that one can rely on something or someone. It can also be used to describe the feeling of certainty about the truth of something. Confidence in oneself can be described as a feeling of self-assurance coming from one’s appreciation of our own abilities or qualities. 

Today I began reading Paul’s letter to Titus and was reminded once again that God reveals himself and his truths to us in incredible ways. As I was reading the opening words, I was struck by the remarkable confidence Paul had in knowing who he was and his role (purpose) in advancing the message of the Gospel. Read his words as he opens the letter and “introduces” himself,  

“…a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness—in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, and which now at his appointed season he has brought to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior…”

Considering the depth of meaning attached to the word “servant” or “slave” as some translations write, Paul makes a very powerful statement. While our minds tend to think of this position through a negative lens, Paul helps us understand it differently. He is declaring in this letter that he belongs to the Lord, that his life and purpose are to serve the God who created him. Understanding who Jesus is and what he has done for him, Paul put all his trust in him. 

Paul’s words of introduction have made me stop and think about the confidence he had in his faith. Normally I equate Paul with his title of Apostle, one that gives him authority and responsibility in the mission that was entrusted to him. The roots of Paul’s work to advance the message of the gospel go so much deeper than any prescribed role. His life, his work, his passion for God reflects the incredible power of the Holy Spirit through the work of Christ in his life. 

Paul’s confidence, his knowledge and understanding in living for Jesus underscore the hope that he has in the promise of eternal life with his Father in heaven. The same promise given to you and me as we live our lives here and now. Paul’s life should be an inspiration for our lives. 

Can you or I claim to be a servant of God like Paul? Absolutely! We serve the same God as Paul and are afforded the same power and presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives when we place our hope in trust in the message of the Gospel, in our relationship with Jesus. 

For me, Paul’s actions speak louder than the words that he wrote. He lived a hard life as a follower of Jesus. Paul was entrusted with a mission, one that he took with him to the grave. The heart and soul of Paul’s life and writing continue to live on. The confidence he had in the message and reality of the Gospel will carry on for generations to come. 

Today, as I read the opening words of Paul’s letter to Titus, I am thankful for the reminder that we can have confidence in the promises of God. I am thankful for the power of the Gospel message. I pray that through the power of the Holy Spirit I can have the same confidence as Paul to be on mission for Jesus Christ. This is my prayer for you as well.

Big Shoes to Fill

Here is a somewhat interesting fact about me, I wear size 15 shoes. Now, to most of you that might not sound so interesting but when your “in my shoes” it certainly can make for some curious conversation. I have been the heel of many big shoe remarks like, “at least you don’t need water skies”, or “wow, you have your own flippers for swimming”. While I inherited my larger than average foot size from my father who was a size 16, I do wonder how this will play out for any one of my three daughters. 
 
We often use the expression they have some “big shoes to fill” when a person takes over a job that the person before them performed particularly well. It typically means that it is going to be hard to do the job as well as they did. 
 
Recently as I began reading through the book of Joshua I was thinking about the “shoes” that Joshua was filling. The leadership role that Moses provided in the deliverance of the nation of Israel out of Egypt and the giving of the law would have been a tough act to follow. Joshua had some big shoes to fill but he was not alone. 
 
Standing on the shores of the Jordan River the Lord gave direction to Joshua to move forward in the promise that he would provide for them all that they needed. His words to Joshua read like this, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.” What incredible words these would have been for Joshua to hear from the Lord as he stepped into his new role as the nation’s leader.
 
As followers of Jesus, we all have some big shoes to fill as we are called to carry on his mission. Jesus clearly lays out his mission for us, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
 
These words in Matthew chapter 28 are as real for us today as the day they were spoken by Christ himself to his disciples. Just as Joshua had a mission from God to continue leading the nation of Israel, we too have a God given mission to continue as his disciples. The mission is clear and might sound simple enough yet in our eyes there are seemingly unmoveable barriers in front of us. We might feel like Joshua standing at the shore of the Jordan River wondering how the impossible might happen. 
 
The incredible words spoken to Joshua by God as he stepped into his role as leader are echoed in Christ words to his disciples and to us following the command to go and make disciples of all nations, Jesus reminds us of an incredible promise that we see and hear all throughout the pages of scripture, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
 
Yes, we may have some big shoes to fill in carrying on the mission Jesus started but he continues to live in us through his Spirit today. We are not alone in our own shoes. As Christ followers, we carry within us the same power of the living God who parted the waters of the Jordan River for Joshua and the people of Israel. How many steps have you tried to take on your own in carrying out the mission given to us? Remember this, God is with you always, to the very end of the age, you are not alone. 

The Law Says What?

law1In Vancouver it was illegal to sell a stove on a Wednesday from 1947 to 1986. In Alberta it’s illegal to set fire to the leg of a wooden-legged man. Purple garage doors are against the law in Kanata, Ontario. In Canada it is illegal to challenge someone to a duel or accept an invitation to a duel. It is illegal to remove a band aid in public in Canada”. As crazy as this sounds, these laws at one time were written in our nations law books. In some ways, this is reminiscent of the laws we read about centuries ago during the time of Moses, the law given to God’s chosen people, Israel.

 In the book of Romans, Paul has some very thought provoking and enlightening words to explain the relationship between law and grace. “… we have been released from the law (by the grace of God given to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus) so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code (the law of Moses). Paul does not dismiss the law all together in this narrative, “I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law… So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.” (7:12). The law continues to call us as believers to be obedient to the commands of the Lord, it calls us to a moral and ethical purity that we can only stand true in through His grace and forgiveness. It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that these things can be accomplished.

 Sin has a heavy grip on all our lives and relentlessly battles to pull us away from what is holy and true. We like Paul might have the desire to do what is good but because of sin, we do not do what we want. Romans 7:25 reminds us of the mindset that keeps us “on track”. Paul writes, “So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.” It is only by God’s grace, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the forgiveness of sins through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that we can overcome death (sin). Sin separates us from God; grace breaks the hold that sin has on our lives, offering forgiveness (something the law could not do) and draws us back to Him. The law cannot set us free from sin and death, it is only through the power of the Holy Spirit and the grace of our Father in heaven that he pours out on us that we will be free to spend eternity with Him.

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.

Pick Just One.

candy-store-wallpapers“That one… wait, maybe that one”. Should I get the orange one or the red one? “Ok, I am getting this one… I think”, “Only one?” When confronted with only one choice from the rows and rows of sweets that line the shelves at the corner store, my kids, or any kid for that matter has a difficult decision to make. There are many factors at play that can influence the process of choosing. What’s kind are the others choosing? Do I try something new? Which one is the biggest? Which one will last the longest?

There are 40 chapters in the book of Exodus and found within the verses of each, there are incredible stories of the works and power of God in the lives of His people. The crossing of the sea, the provisions of water from a rock, manna and quail, the building of the Tabernacle to name a few. Today, it is the story of Moses that captures my attention as I read and reflect on how God reveals himself to us through his word. Often we have a hard time recognizing the work of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament stories, the words or actions of the Spirit seem absent. What comes to mind when you think of the Holy Spirit? For me, I think about things like leading, guiding and even protecting. God, through the work of the Holy Spirit was leading and guiding the life of Moses right from the beginning of his existence on earth. The events surrounding his birth (the basket in the river, being reunited with his mother) are clear examples (for me) of the Holy Spirit working not just in His life but the lives of others. (His mother, sister and even Pharaoh’s daughter).

Romans 8:26 holds a powerful message that can give us confidence in knowing how the Holy spirit works in our lives. “the spirit helps us in our weakness… the Spirit himself intercedes for us.” There are times when we are completely overwhelmed by the sin and trials of life (weakness) that bring us to a place where we feel we no longer have control. I can’t help but think about the mother of Moses and the moments leading up to her decision of putting her small child into a basket and letting it go down the river. We read that things were out of her control, she did what she had to do to save that child. Through the power of God, through His Holy Spirit, He interceded in the life of Moses and his mother and brought him to a place where he flourished and did some amazing things for the Lord. The purpose of God’s word is to reveal himself to us, for us to find hope in His display of power and love that leads and directs our lives.

Guess Who?

guesswhoIs your person wearing a hat? Does your person have white hair? Is your person wearing glasses? Is your person young? Is your person (fill in the blank)? Those are the type of questions you might ask when you play the game Guess Who. The object of the game is to guess the mystery person on your opponents card by asking one question each turn, and eliminating any game board faces that don’t fit the mystery person’s description.

As we read through the book of Genesis we are introduced to people like Adam, Eve, Cain, Able, Noah, Abram, Lot, Hagar, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, Joseph and many others. There is one particular portion of scripture that you will come across in Genesis 32:22-32 that introduces us to a man, a man who wrestled with Jacob. Unlike the game of Guess Who, we don’t have a physical description of who he is, we are only told that he was a man. Within the context of these verses we are given some clues that point us to the identity of the unknown wrestler. Verse 28 reads “you have struggled with God”, in verse 30 Jacob says “I saw God face to face”. Jacob wrestled with God, let that sink in for a minute… From nightfall to daybreak this indescribable wrestling match took place between Jacob and God, how can this be? God, through his divine power has revealed himself to Jacob and brought to him a blessing and renewed hope of the promise that He will always be with him.

Throughout scripture and particularly in Genesis chapter one we are introduced to the Bible’s main character – God. There should be no “Guess Who” questions or surprises when we come to knowing who God is through His word. We often read the bible with “blinders” on, this causes us to wrestle with and question who God is. The narrative of Genesis reveals God as our creator, it describes the work of the Holy Spirit and reveals the promise of His Son who will come one day to walk among us and save us from our sins. As we grow in our faith, as we wrestle with might seem like endless questions of who God is, we must remember that God is all things; hope, joy, love, peace, patience, kindness and more. Yes, Jacob wrestled with God, the text tells us that he did not let go of Him until he received his blessing. I “guess” we have to do the same. No matter what, we must hold on to the promises of God. Never let go. Take God with you everywhere you go, trust in Him, live for Him.