Friday, 31 January 2014

Do you know Him?

Do you know Him?

There's this video online, that crops up every once in a while. It's this old black preacher, in the old melodramatic Pentecostal style, asking his audience if they know Him. It's inspiring and powerful, and the slides that someone created to go with his speech make it even more impactful. The old preacher uses the names of God and the result's of Jesus' sacrifice to emphasize that there's so much about our salvation that we take for granted.

But really, when you stop and think about it, do we really know Jesus?

Jesus, the One called the Word -- the embodiment of the spoken Word of God, that by Him God created the entire universe. Everything we see around us, every pebble, every snowflake, every squirrel and icicle and rabbit and cloud was made by the Word. And, on top of that, Scripture teaches us that it is because of this Word that everything still exists. Scientifically, this would make sense, as scientists still don't know why an atom sticks together at it's core. When we all know that like-charged particles repel, how like-charged particles are so bound together in the core of an atom nucleus, that separating just one atom releases enough energy to blow up a city .. that power that holds them together is called by scientists "nuclear force", but by Scripture, the Word.

It is this powerful being that limited Himself into a finite human body, was born as a helpless baby. I have a 9 month old, and I've been having babies frequently over the last 5 years, so I'm quite familiar with them. And really, there isn't much that is more helpless than a newborn baby. About all they can do is squall and suck and.. well poop, for the polite term. They can't feed themselves, they can't communicate in any meaningful way, and they certainly can't clean themselves up. They depend on their parents to care for them. Talk about trust! Imagine, the Creator of the Universe, dependent on two human beings to care for His physical needs, and make sure He stayed alive..

Do you really know Jesus?

When I read through the story of His life here on this earth, the familiar words sometimes make it hard to see the real Jesus. I mean, He got tired. He was dirty. It's not like there was a ton of running water around, back in 30 AD, and well, He didn't even really have a home, so when exactly did He wash?? He got hungry, had to eat and drink.. and well, use the bathroom too! None of that is mentioned in Scripture, but He really was human, so all that we do, He must have done too.. He was one of us.

And yet, He was better than we could ever be without Him. He never once sinned. He didn't give into those lustful thoughts we expect from men when they see a beautiful woman -- he certainly admired beautiful women, but he didn't treat them as servants or objects. We see Jesus treating even the outcast woman, caught in the middle of adultery, with kindness and respect!  He didn't lash out when he was hurt by a friend, even though even his best friends turned on him when he needed them most. And he even forgave them, sought them out and worked to restore that relationship. He didn't even act superior, when it was obvious he was, but treated the lawyers and teachers and Pharisees that came to test him with absolute respect. He showed how to act, how to think.. how to love even the most unlove-able of people.

Do you really know Jesus?

His life was miraculous and powerful, but His death was even more so. He wasn't robbed of life, He gave it. In spite of tremendous pain and agony, physically, emotionally and spiritually, He still had enough control that He gave his life away. And why? Why in the world would someone give their life up?

Jesus did it for love.

We don't understand this kind of love. To us, there's "I love my dog." and "I love your hair!" and "I love my child." and even "I love my spouse." There's casual love, there's parental love and there's sexual love. This kind of sacrificial, unconditional love doesn't exist in our world. The closest we come is parental, and even then, if it really came down to it, a lot of people would give up their child to save themselves. In fact, they do, daily -- that's why we have legalized abortion. We do not understand the love that put Jesus on the cross, kept Him there, and gave Him the power to give His life away.

I don't know we really do know Jesus.

If we really knew Jesus, we would know how much He loves us, because to know Jesus is to know Love. If we really knew Jesus, we would be able to ask and receive His best-- His healing, His grace, His acceptance, His provision, His direction. The struggle would be taken out of the Christian life. If we really knew Jesus, trusting Him would be a no-brainer. So when He would ask you to give your last $100 to a certain missionary, you wouldn't hesitate -- He's good for it.  When He'd ask you to go to Bible college, despite it meaning you moving cross borders and requiring money you don't have right now -- you'd fill out the application forms anyway, because you'd know -- He's got it. When He would tell you to forgive the so-called friend who gossiped about you, and probably will continue to do so, despite your request to the contrary, you'd forgive anyway. How could you not, when you know Jesus?

If we really knew Jesus, we wouldn't be trying to earn His salvation. We'd be grateful to Him, in confidence of already having it. Condemnation would have no place to stick to, because knowing Jesus would erase any doubt about what you've done or not done -- it wouldn't matter anyway, because Jesus took care of it.

Knowing Jesus takes the struggle out of the Christian life.

Do you really know Him?

How do you know if you know Him? Your actions will prove it.

If you love God, you will love your brother-in-Christ.
Those who worship Him, worship Him in spirit and in truth.
Fear God and live.

Do you know Hiim?

Thursday, 30 January 2014

What if..

What if you were told, that to get everything you ever wanted, you have to give everything you ever had away?

Would you do it?

The rich young ruler asked Jesus what he had to do to gain eternal life? What he was really wanting was to know how he could buy it. He wanted the 10-commandment, 7-steps, 6-keys version. The ABC, 123, do this and do that, and you'll earn it.

Jesus told him that to gain everything he ever wanted, he first needed to give away all he had.

Let's say you were in that position. Would you give away all you had, to get everything you ever wanted?

Most people would probably say yes, of course. I'll sign on the dotted line -- I do this, I get that.

What if there was no guarantee that you would actually get it all? What if you had to take the chance, that if you really went all in, that you could end up with nothing?

What if that's all it looked like? That you give everything away.. and you won't get anything in return, but an empty promise..

Would you still do it?

The story ends by the rich young ruler walking away. He couldn't do it. He couldn't get past the "give it all away" part. He couldn't see the reward, that the "empty promise" was given by the King of kings, and was guaranteed forever.

There's another story in the Bible -- where someone gave away everything they had, and really had no guarantee of a return.

He gave away his name, his right to a family, his home, his friends, his dignity, his health and well-being.. even his life. He literally gave everything he had. Including his heart.

He had no guarantee that he would get what he wanted in return. The Bible says, "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

Jesus died for us. Jesus gave it everything.. for us. Even though his own friends ran away, his people rejected him and put him to death.. He still gave his all.. for us. Even though as sinners we were hostile to God, we didn't trust him, we didn't believe in Him.. He still gave everything away.

I couldn't do it. I couldn't give everything away, on my own. It seems illogical, unnatural, and unreasonable to think that if you give away everything you have, you'll get not only everything you ever wanted, but more besides.

God's like that though. When God asked Solomon in a dream what he wanted, and Solomon asked for wisdom, not only did God make Solomon the wisest man who ever lived and who ever will live, but the richest man too. Scripture says no one will ever have the kind of wealth Solomon did. God's like that.

My church background has a saying, "You can't out-give God."

Jesus gave everything he had, just for a chance to ask me out on a date. Just for the chance let me get to know Him. And despite knowing everything about me, despite knowing everything I have done, the good, the bad, the ugly, He asked me to marry Him -- He asked the Father for the Church as His bride. Someday, the waiting will be over, and the wedding completed. O glorious day!

How can I not give Him my everything? How can I not trust the One who gave me everything first, despite not deserving anything.. and promises me, that if I do trust Him, if I do give away everything I have, that I will get it back and more?

Jesus gave it all. Literally everything he had, right down to his last breath. He asks you for nothing in return, but hopes you'll give Him everything He wants. What does He want?

Just.. you.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Foundations

My husband spent a couple of years building foundations. It’s a dirty job, one that doesn’t show up when the building is finished. No body pays attention to the foundation when looking at a house. Unless, of course, the foundation breaks! The foundation of the house we had lived in was starting to move under the house, and that was causing all sorts of problems. The floors were slanting, the windows were loose and letting in drafts, and one of the walls was literally (very slowly) falling over.
That house is over a hundred and fifty years old. I wasn't not surprised that it’s having foundation problems. There’s no point in fixing any of the other problems without fixing the foundation first. But, frankly, it is downright amazing that the house is still standing! The builders, 150 years ago, knew what they were doing.
He who built the house is worthy of more honor than the house that was built.
Jesus often compared our lives to a house. He also shared how we need a secure foundation for our lives. In His parable of the builders, the one who built on the rock, on a strong foundation, was called a wise builder.
Wisdom builds a strong foundation. The foundation isn’t the part of the home that’s seen, but it the most vital part. Even though it’s covered up after it’s laid down, we know from first hand experience that if something goes wrong with the foundation, a lot goes wrong with the rest of the building.
Upon what is your foundation laid on? A strong foundation lasts thru the storm. In the parable, the foolish builder built on sand, easy to build but when the storm came, his house collapsed around him. The wise builder chose the more difficult route, needing more effort, but his home withstood the storm’s battering.
Wisdom gives us peace of mind, security in life’s trials and confidence when faced with a challenge. James 5:16-17 tells us that the fruit of wisdom is peace.
Where do we get this wisdom? James 1 says if we lack wisdom, all we need to do is ask. God is the giver of all wisdom, the source of all wisdom. We may have information, knowledge, but we need God for the solutions, the answers to life’s questions.
Better builders build on what *is* right, not what seems right. When the foundation is strong, you can build anything, and it will last through everything!
So how do we build? Build on what is beneficial, not what is lawful. 1 Corinthians 10:23 says we have the right to do anything, but not everything is going to be the best, give us the most benefit or be the most constructive. The wise builder chooses the most beneficial, not just what is the minimum code. If we don’t skirt the bare minimum, staying just inside the line, but instead choose that which is not the letter but the spirit of the law, we will find a life that is abundant.
Build with boundaries, not rules. The right boundaries help accomplish the goals. Rules can be lifeless with poor attitudes, but boundaries promote good health. Proverbs 4:20-21 tells us that God’s Word is life and health to us. If we stay within the boundaries of God’s Word, and don’t burden ourselves with legalistic rules, we will build a life that is whole and healthy.
Build with restraint not abandonment. Too much of a good thing can be bad. Everything in the right quantity can be poisonous, even water, which is a necessity of life! Proverbs 25:16 describes someone who eats too much honey becoming sick. One of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control. The wise builder has self-control, and doesn’t build extravagantly or over-detailed. Jesus described a builder that wanted to build a tower, but had to sit down and “count the cost”, to make sure he could complete what he started. This is self-control. If we can choose wisely, we will be available for God’s opportunity. We need learn to say the right ‘no’ so we can say the right ‘yes’.
Build with God’s wisdom every day. The rock our lives should be built on is the Word of God. With God’s help we will withstand the daily storms of life. How do we build on this rock? It’s about the basics – maintaining daily intimacy with God, through His word. Building also takes consistency, and good friends. Choosing carefully what we surround ourselves with will determine how well we build, but what we build on determines if what we build will last.
Build to last. Proverbs 10:25 tells us what will last: faithfulness, righteousness, justice. The future is in God’s hands, but today, we have the power to choose and impact. Will we be here when the world comes looking? And when they come looking, will we have built what they are looking for?
To build wisely, pay attention. Life can’t be lived on autopilot.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Right relationships

A good relationship is intimate, long lasting and constant. The Bible describes is as “abiding”. We are to “abide in love”, “abide in the vine”, and “abide in the Word.”
This kind of intimate relationship is face to face. It takes time and effort to maintain it. There is a need to pay attention.
Our most important relationship is with God. For it to be successful, we need to live openly before God. Our relationship with God affects every area of life. If we close our hearts to God, we will close off to everyone else as well.
An integral part of an open, intimate relationship is admitting when we are wrong. The Bible calls this confession. It is so hard to be vulnerable. But why are we hesitant to confess to God, especially when He already knows and has already forgiven us?
We’re hesitant because in our human world, it is very risky to live so openly. People hurt and disappoint us on a regular basis. People cannot be counted on. They fail. But God is love, and the Bible says love never fails.
It takes honesty and vulnerability to have a truly intimate relationship. They say ‘what you don’t know can’t hurt you’ but the reality is that what you don’t know can kill you. It can also kill your relationship.
Every problem in the world is a relational problem. And can be solved by a dose of humility. Having the guts to say, I’m sorry, I was wrong, and the courage to admit when someone is more talented, better able to cope, more gifted than we are, will go a long way in solving all the world-challenging issues. Humility is world changing.
If we walk in humility, God grants us more grace to walk through the hurts and disappointments of human relationships. Humility says that we know who we are and do not have to prove it. So the petty words, the braggado, the competition doesn’t affect or tempt us to respond. Humility is the confident security of identity, and that identity is found in Jesus Christ.
All relationships are high maintenance — there is no such thing as a low-maintenance relationship. There is no “coasting” when it comes to relationship. Paying attention requires your time and effort. If you want a truly intimate relationship, you must work at it.
Do we think Proverbs 3:5-6 doesn’t apply to us? Proverbs 3:5-6 says that we must trust in God and commit our plans to him, and not think we know and understand His plans. If we do this, He promises to give us direction. In another passage in Psalms, He tells us if we delight in Him, focus on Him, He will give us the desires of our hearts. Intimacy gives true satisfaction, and guidance and direction for our lives.
The ability to make and maintain good relationships will determine what kind of choices we will make. Who and what we listen to will shape how we think and what we perceive.
Experience teaches — at great cost and with great pain. How much pain do you need until you learn to make a different choice?
Counsel teaches — leveraging the experience of others. But the question remains as to who we please? Who are our counsellors wanting to please? If we aren’t careful about who we listen to, we will still end up on the wrong path.
The Bible teaches that the beginning of wisdom is the desire to please God. And He says the best way to learn is through obedience. If we would learn to just do what we’re told before we can understand why, we would save ourselves so much unnecessary pain. That kind of obedient trust, however, requires intimacy.
Guidance for life is found in relationships. The ability to be vulnerable and transparent is not natural but essential! Without that intimacy, we cannot succeed. So who are you intimate with?
There are three kinds of relationships — ahead, beside, behind.
Ahead — who are you following? We start off by following earthly parents, then move on to following spiritual parents, mentors, and elders. Are they going the right way? The only way to know is by following God. If you bump into each other, both need to check their direction, because someone’s going the wrong way. This is what is meant by “abiding in the Word”. If we know the Bible, intimately, we will know when we follow someone off the right track.
Beside — who do you walk with? We walk with our spouse, peers, and friends. Are they helping us to the next level or holding us back? Again, “abiding in the vine” will ensure that we will always grow. Often, if we continue growing, those we walk with will grow as well, in order to stay beside us.
Behind — who are you leading? We lead our children, youth and younger Christians. Are you aware of who’s watching you? What is your example like? This is where we need to “abide in love.” If we live lives of transparent, open and honest love, we will always lead in the right direction.
We need to admit we want, need and crave meaningful relationships. It’s how we were designed, and what we were created for. Adam and Eve walked with God in the cool of the evening. What did they talk about, with no lack, no temptation, no problems? They just enjoyed genuine, intimate relationship with their Creator.
Genuine relationships require commitment – a risk of time and effort. It requires a risk of openness and the willingness to share, to be hurt. We need to realize we have and will be disappointed by relationships here on earth.
So place appropriate expectations on our human relationships. Understand that at some point they *will* hurt you, and be willing to love them anyways. Be willing to be vulnerable in spite of their failings.
Remember our identity, destiny, and value is found in God alone. If we remain secure in the knowledge of God’s overwhelming mercy, undeserved grace and indescribable love, we will be confidently humble and be able to show the same mercy, grace and love in our human relationships.
People are imperfect, God alone is perfect. So let’s not expect perfection and be angry when humans fail us. Instead, as God forgave us when we failed and rejected Him, let us forgive others when they hurt us.
There will be bad relationships, but we are told to overcome evil with good. Not that we don’t protect ourselves – bad company corrupts good character, but that we don’t return evil for evil. We forgive and always be willing to try again, even if the other person never does come back.
We need to realize we have and will fail others in relationships. We cannot love and be hypocritical. Good relationships require that we confess as well as forgive, and acknowledge when we mess up.
Do you realize you are NOT perfect?
How well do you repent? How often do you admit your failure? Often times forgiving is easy, but confession is incredibly hard. However, it is confession that is freeing. In order to change and grow, we must first recognize that we have a problem. And believe me, this is something I'm still learning. 
Remember the golden rule .. Treating others how we want to be treated, not how we are being treated. Love requires us to always be gracious and forgiving, and God promised us that as we give, so will we be given.
Meekness is strength and power under control. Jesus said that the meek would inherit the earth. Can you see how? In meekness and humility, we can walk in intimacy and love with all around us, and our genuineness will attract others. It is this ability to abide that grew the early Church, and will grow the latter-day Church as well.
However, genuine repentance is the sign to embrace anew the relationship. Never give up on having that genuine relationship. It is not up to us to determine another’s actions, but just to abide in love, doing what is right, and leave the rest to God.
You can’t have someone else’s relationship. We must each build our own. We cannot build on what others have done, but must build on the foundation of Jesus Christ, and abide in the Vine and in His love.
Keep hope alive! The Word of God revives the soul. If we abide in it, we will always have the one relationship we need to survive.
What relationships need extra attention in your world today?

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Forgiveness

“Excuse me.” We say this as a polite way of asking someone to let us off the hook for an otherwise impolite action — bumping in to someone, interrupting, a burp (or something else ..) We don’t really apologize for our offensive action, but just acknowledge it’s offensiveness, expecting the other to be gracious and let it pass without hurt. Mostly, it’s habitual, said without thought or real emotion, and the one offended is left to not only deal with the offense to their social grace, but the lingering consequences as well.
Too often, we say “excuse me” to God, asking Him to overlook our offense, and go on our merry way, not truly repentant or acknowleging the “smell” our tresspass has left. We don’t want to have to stop, and clean up our mess. We don’t want to be bothered to change our course . Just “excuse” this please, and we’ll be on our way… No real work required by us.
To be truly repentant takes effort though. When we confess and ask forgiveness, we are agreeing with the other that what we did was truly wrong, that it is offensive and damaging to the relationship, and admitting to our sorrow and regret that it happened *because* of the damage to the relationship (as opposed to sorrow because we don’t like the consequences, or because we got caught..) We don’t like to acknowledge the pain of another. We don’t want to look outside ourselves. That’s very uncomfortable and often even painful, and above all, we do NOT want to cause ourselves pain. But to truly acknowledge that our actions caused pain, caused damage, and to admit that we can’t fix it, change it or erase it.. To really take responsibility for our actions and accept the blame.. That hurts our pride and our comfort with ourselves, and forces us to change and alter our course of action.
We are then asking that the relationship be restored *in spite of* the damage we caused. That’s what forgiveness truly is: that choice to remain in relationship; to desire the other’s company, good opinion and interaction; and to continue in basic faith and good will towards them; regardless of how their actions may have angered or hurt. They, in forgiving us, chooses to continue to love and want to spend time in our company, regardless of how we hurt them. What’s truly amazing is that God, in His infinate mercy, chooses to love and pursue us, despite the fact that we continually throw it back in His face, hatefully and scornfully denying how we hurt Him!
The cross was the physical demonstration of what we, in our ignorance and rebellion, figuratively and emotionally do to the heart of the Father every single time we choose to sin. The outward wounds of Christ are the spiritual damage we inflict carelessly on God’s heart, every time we commit an offense on His loving-kindness? That little white lie? A stroke of the hammer on the nail in His hands.. That harsh word of judgment? Another lash on His back with the whip.. That less-than-kind attitude while driving? Push those thorns in just a bit deeper..
Yet this is the love and mercy of God: that He would choose to suffer our tortures of Him, and continue to pursue us, knowing that history proves it will be more of the same. He tells us, “Yes, you hurt me. Yes, you continue to hurt me. But you are so important to me, that no matter what you do, I will *never* stop loving you, and I will *never* stop wanting to be with you! I can go on in relationship with you, because I value our relationship more than myself and my own wellbeing. I don’t care that you hurt me, and I will forget all about it, just to continue our relationship!”
How great the Father’s love..

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Anger...


Anger is one of the leading causes of family breakdown, and always has been. The sociologists and anthropologists use terms such as “lack of communication” and “incompatibilty” but what it boils down to is the feelings of displeasure, annoyance and antagonism as a result of a perceived wrong. One person thinks the other has “done them wrong” and resents it, holding it against them, and then does them wrong in return, and the cycle continues.
So what is anger? Anger, in and of itself, is not sinful. It is part of our God-designed emotional makeup, just as love, sorrow and joy are. It is, essentially, the instant displeasure at perceived evil. Unfortunately for humanity, sin has corrupted our anger, just as it has corrupted everything else. We still feel that instant displeasure, but our viewpoint of “evil” is more often selfishly motivated than the godly anger we are called to have, at sin and sinners. It is more often “He took my toy” than “He stole their innocence”. The petty annoyances and selfish trivialities we concentrate on cloud our sight to the true injustices of sin.
Anger only becomes sinful when it is without reason, excessive, or goes on longer than is reasonable. When we are angry over minor grievances, we sin. When we are furious at the slightest perceived wrong, we sin. When we hold a grudge, we sin. In Matthew 5:21-22, Jesus compared our anger to murder, and warned that the punishments would be the same.
Anger is most devestating in the family. Isn’t it always true that we hurt most the ones we love best? When 50% of marriages end in divorce, because one or both partners are angry, we know there’s a problem. But anger is the secondary emotion, the one that drives action. Resentment, unforgiveness, bitterness – they are all result in anger.
It goes back to the first family, in Genesis. We see the first children, Cain and Abel, making offerings to the Lord. Abel understood the principle of blood washing sin, and offered the appropriate sacrifice, while Cain, offering his best, did not understand. Yet instead of letting his jealousy motivate him to do better next time, he let his anger simmer. In his anger, causeless, beyond reasonable, and held on to long after the felt offense, he attacked his brother, and killed him. His punishment? Banishment from God’s presence and his family. Already, the first family, and the first family breakdown.
We see family breakdown again in the story of Abraham. That patriarch of our faith was a father in a dysfunctional family. He had an affair and the affair resulted in a child. When his mistress lorded it over his wife, in his anger, he banished his mistress and his son. His anger, his wife’s anger, and his mistress’s anger all caused this dysfunctional family. The result? One angry young man, whose legacy to his descendants is anger, war, “everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.” (Genesis 16:12)
The solution, however, is simple. God’s Word tells us exactly how to handle anger appropriately. First, when anger is being held against us, we are to be calm, gentle, and praying for that person. Second, repentence and forgiveness will erase anger. And third, we are not to be angry in the first place, except for what angers God.
First, how to handle someone else’s anger: Proverbs 15:1 provides the key. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Or try Proverbs 21:14, “A gift given in secret soothes anger, and a bribe concealed in the cloak pacifies great wrath.” Jesus told us to “love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matthew 5:44). He also said that when someone is legitimately angry with us, we are to immediately go to them and ask forgiveness: “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24) As Christians, we are called to live in peace with everyone, as far as it is up to us to do so. (Romans 12:18)
Second, when we perceive a wrong done against us, and we are angry, God gives us instructions. They are very simple. One word, really: Forgive. Do I need to repeat that? Forgive. Jesus gives us a reason in Matthew 6:14-15 “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” He offered the story of the unforgiving debtor to illustrate this principle. (Matthew 18:23-35) The man who owed the king much was forgiven, but he turned around and did not forgive someone else who owed him a little. Interestingly enough, this story was given just before Jesus described marriage as being God-intended for life, without cause for divorce (except unfaithfulness). Forgiveness is simply giving up your right to hold the other person to account, your right to “prosecute”. When we give up our right to say “You owe me,” give that right to God, (who promised His own retribution in Romans 12:19), we are forgiving the other, and saying to them, in effect, “you are free to go.” (By the way, forgiveness and trust are two different things. Forgiveness is NOT saying what they did is ok, just that you’re leaving it up to God to collect what they owe you, and letting them go.) God is much better at holding others to account for their sin than we ever will be, and unforgiveness simply hurts us. Being angry here is self-destructive, and giving the one who hurt us way more power than they deserve. Give it to God, and let Him take care of it, and you will be and feel much better.
Finally, the best way to deal with anger, is to simply not get angry at anything other than what God Himself is angry at: sin. In Proverbs, we are to stay away from those who get angry easily (Proverbs 22:24). In Ephesians, and Colossions, anger is listed as part of those character traits we are to get rid of (Ephesians 4:31, Colossians 3:8). Paul cautions us that in our anger we do not sin (Ephesians 4:26) by holding on too long. James tells us to “be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,” (James 1:19) and that “human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:20). Instead, we are told to “bear with each another, and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13) and to “be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2)
Anger, petty human anger, has no place in any relationship, much less the family. Our anger destroys, but thank God, His love rebuilds, renews and restores. Follow His commands, and you’ll see it for yourself.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Do you know..

Do you know how much you are loved?

Do you really understand the love of the Creator of the Universe for you? It seems hard to believe, and even harder to understand, and sometimes we just accept this by faith.

Three simple words, if you really get them, can change your world.

God loves you.

Jesus loves you. It's a children's song, one my children sing almost every day. And I encourage them to, because I need to hear it every day.

Jesus loves me, this I know.

But do I know it? Yes. Yes I do. It's been the knowledge of the love of Jesus that has set me free. It's been the understanding of just how He sees me, just how much more I am in His eyes that has given me the strength, the courage to do what I'm doing, despite the pressures, the manipulations, the struggle.

Yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so.

The Bible tells me that Jesus loves me so much, He made me "fearfully and wonderfully", "in the secret place", and that He knew me before I was born, that my days were numbered and the hairs on my head counted, and plans were created for me --- That I was set apart for Him.

The Bible says that while I was yet in sin, ignorant and blind and rebellious, He loved me so much He was willing to limit Himself to human flesh, suffer with me on this cursed earth with all its disappointments, pains and torments, and then, even beyond that, tho that would have been enough, He chose to take my place in death and punishment, and to take my sin upon His own flesh, so that I could choose again.

The Bible shows me that though I don't deserve it, though I have done nothing that could earn it, I have been given grace, favor, providence, provision, healing and salvation, all because He loves me.

The Bible says I need do nothing but accept it, believe it and rest in it. What an amazing love!

How much are we loved? So much that our names are carved in the palms of His hands, that the entire world was created just to give us a place to stand on so we could be the recipients of it, that we are the entire focus of the Infinite, Eternal Almighty, and that not only did He create once, but He's promised to do it again, just so we can have a place to play.

How much are we loved? The old hymn says that though the skies of parchment made, and the seas with ink filled, and every man a scribe by trade.. to write out the love of God would drain the oceans dry and the scroll could not contain the whole.

Paul wrote that nothing - not angel, nor devil, not heaven nor hell, not trouble nor trial nor temptation nor sin can ever separate us from the love of God.

God loves us -- and not just those of us who have chosen to follow Him -- but God has this same overwhelming, deeply personal and intimate love for every single human being who ever lived. Whether or not they choose to see it, to recognize it, to accept it.

The writer of Hebrews said that Jesus made the atonement for our sins, and not just for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world! Jesus Himself said that God so loved the world... God loves the entire world that He sent Jesus.

What kind of love is this? God is love personified. He is Love. That is who He is. When Paul wrote that love is patient and kind, never keeping track of wrongs, always persevering and never giving up hope -- Paul was describing the Person of Jesus Christ. It is the Person of Love who is patient and kind and long-suffering.

Love is not abstract or ethereal. He is a Person, and He is real. And His focus is you.

Jesus loves me. This I know. For the Bible tells me so.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Counting my blessings

It's a new year. I want to take this time to look back and count my blessings:

1. A new baby. April 14, 2013 marked the addition of a fifth daughter. She is a delight and a joy, and reminds me that sometimes just being is enough.

2. Health. After a bout of chicken pox this summer, I am thankful that a routine childhood disease was the worst of our problems. No one was seriously injured, no one was seriously ill, and we are all very very healthy.

3. A home. In 2012, my stbx husband and I bought this house. As our lives have developed, this house has been both a source of contention between us, but also a source of stability. God has provided for us to be able to stay here, and we've had no major maintenance issues that I couldn't cope with. A few close calls, mind you, but nothing major.

4. Financial provision. We've not starved, we've not had the power shut off, or run out of propane for the furnace. My bills have been paid, food has been provided and the mortgage paid as well. And I was able to give my girls a good Christmas and their birthdays. Plus, we have been amply provided for with clothes, blankets and books for school. God is truly the source, and He has made me wealthy!

5. Friends. They say true friends are for life, and I am very grateful for some old friends that have stayed with me for years. Even if we've each had personal issues this year, we've been able to support the other, in the midst of our own pain. And God has provided some new friends to come alongside and help.

6. Freedom. God has revealed and opened doors to free me and my children from abuse and oppression. The fight isn't over yet, but already things are much better, at least in our home. And thankfully, I am able to protect my girls from the worst of what's left. I trust God to continue to lead us from captivity.

7. The kindness of strangers. There are still good people in this world, and although it's a sad commentary on the church, I've been so thankful for the kindness of those who do not know me. I am a stranger to them, but they see my need and they help. When my community has come against me, God has brought others into my life to help. I'm never forgotten, though I often feel rejected, and I'm never left forsaken.

8. My driver's licence. I never thought I'd be thankful to have this -- I never saw it as absolutely necessary -- but it has been a huge blessing. Being able to drive, when I have access to a vehicle, has simplified my life enormously!

9. Technology. Without this, I would be lost. The connections, support and information I have with the technology that I have access to has been essential to coping with some of the struggles this year. God has provided all that I needed and even more so, God has provided all that I want! He is soo good to me!

10. Jesus. He is not last, nor is He least, but He is the most. He is the constant companion, listening ear, comfort to my aching soul, broken heart and confused mind. He speaks to me daily, He lets me know I am loved, and He shows me my next step. I'm learning to trust more, even when those around me prove untrustworthy. With Jesus, I am rediscovering who I am. He is revealing the personality He gifted me with, and I find myself enjoying life more than I ever thought possible, especially in the difficult circumstances I find myself in. I am excited for my future and I am anticipating with hope the new things He will bring me.

Thank you God for Your blessings this year. Thank you most of all for Your love. I love you Jesus!

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Christmas Chaos

Holidays with kids are usually hectic, joyous, crazy affairs. And this year was no different, really... except we had a few added challenges.

I had planned to get all my Christmas shopping done online. I finished the last order by the 13th of December, and sat back to wait for the packages.  Unfortunately, the one delivery man came early one morning (before we were downstairs) and didn't ring the bell. I assume he knocked, but he sure didn't try hard, because we never heard him. The first I knew of his coming was a notice on the door. At first, I was tempted to panic, because I wasn't sure I would be able to get the package from the depot in time for Christmas, but thankfully, they later called and arranged to deliver it another day.

My oldest's birthday was on the 16th. We planned for her birthday party to be on the 13th, and we went out that day to get the food, cake, decorations and other supplies for the party. Unfortunately, my 2 yr old daughter suddenly threw up in the last store, and we had to wait for 20 minutes before someone came to help us clean up. That delay made us late, and we nearly didn't make it home in time for the party. Thankfully, I had done a lot of the house clean up and prep the night before, so it didn't take long to get everything ready, even though our guests were here while we were doing it.

The girls had a spa party, and made all sorts of different things, from "bath bombs" to :lip balm to a sugar scrub. It was a great night, and I think everyone had a lot of fun -- even if my 2 yr old was sick. I put her to bed as soon as we got home, and she slept through the whole thing!

I did have some last minute Christmas shopping to do. One of our traditions is to get a new ornament for each of the girls every year, for our tree. I invited my stbx to come with us, provided he behave himself and find his own way home if we asked. Unfortunately, the van broke down on the way to the mall, and while we managed to get it to a garage, it was not going to be a quick fix. And of course, it started to snow -- hard. Thankfully, we had brought the girls' snowsuits along, as we had left directly from a morning of sledding, so they were dressed warm. We were also able to get a bus to the mall from the garage.

Getting home was another story. After considering all our options, we ended up calling my father-in-law to come get us, and then we had to take two trips to get everyone home. It was a very late night, but I did get all the shopping done.

I spent most of the week before Christmas trying to get cleaned up and ready. My parents were due to stay with us after Christmas, so I wanted to have everything nice for them. Unfortunately (noticing a theme??), my washing machine quit working, leaving me with laundry piling up. Then, even more unfortunately! we were hit with a major ice storm 3 days before Christmas, that knocked the power out! Thankfully, my parents-in-law live close by, and have a wood heat fireplace, so .. 3 days before Christmas, we ended up having to stay with them. Unfortunately (yes, this is a multiple unfortunate/thankful section.. ) my stbx is living with his parents, so 3 days staying with them also meant 3 days in close, constant contact with him. Thankfully he is very good in a crisis, and made our time not just safe but pleasant.

3 days with 5 children in unusual circumstances wears on anyone when you're used to them, but when you're not, it definitely causes strain. By Christmas Eve, my mother-in-law was trying to be gracious, but showing evidence of the stress. I was also ready to be home in my own place. So, power or no power, I insisted on taking the kids home for the night. I figured, we'll be sleeping anyway, so if I pile on the blankets and pjs, everyone will stay warm, and we can come back the next day to warm up, if need be.

My brother-in-law came to save the day, or night, as it were. He let us borrow a generator for the night, and hooked up our furnace, so we could attempt to warm the place up. Unfortunately it was low on gas, but thankfully it worked long enough to provide a bit of heat, and make it tolerable. The girls had their Christmas morning at home, and.. even more thankfully, the power was restored by 10 am. It didn't take long for heat to be restored and I started the process of cleaning up again. This time more frantically, because now I had less time and more mess, LOL.

Boxing Day was busy busy busy. I had agreed to cook a turkey for my mother-in-law, so I started that Christmas night. The big extended-family dinner for my inlaws was at 12 noon (well.. closer to 1 by the time all was said and done), so off we went, turkey, kids, presents, etc. There are 4 siblings and 16 grandchildren, plus inlaws (including a new one this year!) so it is a busy family time. My ex by now was flipping into "show" mode, where he tried to "show off" to his family (and to me) that he really is a nice guy and just misunderstood. I mostly ignored him, and his attempts to make up to me. Unfortunately, his behaviour set up some nastiness that night, that included my parents, and set off some more issues for the next day. Thankfully, God used this to reveal some hidden attitudes and dangers, that I was able to prepare and protect against.

The new year brings more struggle, but some new hopes for our future.  I hope to be in a much better place this time next year, celebrating freedom from oppression, healthier relationships and the comfort of my own home and family. I am shedding off the layers of lies from those who would keep me captive, and I hope to grow in the knowledge of my Lord Jesus and experience of His love.