Recently I had the privilege of hearing Pastor Tim at the Prairie Tabernacle in Three Hills, Alberta. He was talking about the early church, how they were cut to the heart with the truth of the Gospel (Acts 2:37), and because of the Truth they began to live differently.
When people commit to something new for the first time there is always a huge learning curve. Why should choosing to believe in Christ be any different? How do we live differently after deciding to be a Christian? Who is going to help us understand what living differently looks like?
Acts chapter two tells us that one of the first things we do is get baptized (v38). Going under the water means dying to self, coming out of the water is living as Christ (Romans 6:4), but how do we live that out after the baptismal service is over and the tank is drained dry?
Many people call themselves believers or Christians today, but there is no evidence of their faith claim.
Pastor Tim continued in Acts and reminded us of the story of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5). Many new converts believed and their actions and speech aligned. They were hearing what was being preached, and living radically different. Ananias and Sapphira liked the looks of the early church, but thought they could believe in Christ and mix a little of their own agenda in the pot. They wanted God’s way and their way at the same time. They said one thing and did another. Does any of this sound familiar? Their decision to believe and yet do what they wanted resulted in their death. Their death was immediate. Today many so called believers are dying a slow death. They have accepted Christ and the freedom He promises, but are not experiencing that freedom. They are not living their faith out.
This phenomenon has got me asking how we the church can help new believers immerse themselves in the Truth, and experience new life? We could ask, “Do new believers want accountability in their life?” but I think the better question is, “Do we the church understand part of living differently is understanding our responsibility to disciple and teach and hold one another accountable?” It isn’t enough to simply celebrate someone’s faith decision. We are called to walk along side one another and live differently – together.
But guess what? It means work (Phil. 2:12). Peter warned and pleaded! (Acts 2:40). And if we don’t warn and plead? Well then perhaps we don’t love Him, or love others. After all ‘love’ today means something far different than the love Christ displayed through his death on a cross for you and me.
The other day I was contemplating the pain of another, and how we go through things so we can identify when someone else walks through the valley, how ultimately the Son of God did the same thing and then went one step further…..
This past week I met with a community fraught with challenges. Specifically I trudged through the marsh of mental illness, offering hands and weathered shoulders to hold and lean upon. My ears strained in the shadows for a familiar comforting voice. I watched from a shelf on the wall to get a bird’s eye view of it all, holding my tongue and wringing my heart.
One by one I met the soldiers standing at their gates. Each one equipped with a different shade of red tape. Soft tones, methodical words, plastic masks, yet no direction.
“We haven’t always been here” I told myself. It has taken a thousand years or more for the callouses to form, and the politically correct lingo to roll off our lips.
The marsh is too thick now, too deep, too ‘muck and mire’ for freedom to ever reign again. We treat the symptoms, but not the sickness. We make a list, we dial, we write, and go home to bed, to start all over in the morning.
But sometimes we pray. Sometimes we hear that mysterious voice whisper with the wisdom from before the earth was formed. And we’re lifted above the fog. All the papers, protocol, pomp and circumstance disappear, and the answer shines out of the mist. There is a path to take, there is a line to cross, there is a truth to stand on.
One prayer at a time, one day at a time, one heart at a time, the children of the living God can move, can heal, can love one another to wholeness, in His name. O the precious name.
“Dedicated to my family, friends and neighbours who struggle in their spirit and their soul”. There is hope.
Well, it is only halfway through the day and I now know what God had for me today. I arrived at the ‘School of His Presence’ presentation with Eric William Gilmour at CAPSS Conference 2018 in Niagra Falls. After his first segment we set aside time to focus on Christ, to worship and listen for His voice, to enter into His presence.
I saw the picture of the little girl again (you know the same little girl that jumped out of bed like it was Christmas morning), only this time I was sitting on a beach, and my little hands smoothed out the sand in front of me with expectation.
I waited to see what God was going to say. Perhaps he was going to write something in the sand for me? Maybe a burning bush? A new assignment?And then I saw the feet of Jesus and looked up.
“Surprise” he said, “it’s me”.
How many times as Christians do we leave God out of the picture completely? We go ahead into the fray expecting great ‘things’ from God, when it is HE who is great! We look around us watching and waiting, but we don’t look for HIM specifically.
Listening to Eric’s message reminded me of a time when I was aching inside, and I didn’t know why. I went to the piano (my prayer closet) and sat still. I began to play and enter into Christ’s presence and Jesus answered me with these words…..
“When the silence shouts inside I know I’m overdue, for a cup of water and a living word from You. Oh just for once you’d think I’d meet you halfway, but You’re always first in line for me.”
Jesus knows we need Him. When you are feeling restless and can’t put a finger on what is wrong, it is really your soul missing His presence. If you are constantly aching and feeling like something is not right, it is time for you to call out His name. He will respond.
Today I want to be first in line for You Lord.
You are my surprise everyday, and You are everything to me.
One of my present major heart aches is the lack of integrity in our speech. It’s everywhere. You expect to see the deterioration in certain circles, where the young are reaching out and discovering the world around them, testing limits, pushing boundaries, but the circle has grown. Everyone and their dog it seems has decided the ‘F’ word is acceptable, and in all conversations.
The argument is that language evolves. Those words that were taboo in the 18th century are common place now. So what’s the big deal?
The big deal? Well….to begin with – RESPECT.
I’m not going to dislike you if you cuss, but I certainly will have trouble respecting you. Whether or not you value my opinion, others will have trouble respecting you as well.
Whether you are reading this as a believer in Christ, or not, I think everyone would agree that our words reflect character, but what kind?
What do you want to be known for? What do you want to be trusted with? Who do you represent?
Our words don’t just define who we are, but those we love. Our words affect everyone around us. Are we building people up every where we turn, or are we carelessly tearing them down? Perhaps the profanity is out of ignorance or unintentional, but the spirit behind cursing is just that – a curse.
Humankind, we’ve got such a ‘bandwagon’ mentality. Just because someone else is saying it, or doing it as in the case of this cartoon – doesn’t mean we should too. You’re not that other person, you’re you. Be the best YOU, you can be, and for your sake, your future’s sake, your spouse’s sake, your children’s sake – question what you are saying and doing all the time.
The Bible is very clear about the power of the tongue, and the destruction it can unleash. My low self worth as a child attests to the power of an undisciplined parent’s tongue. My years of parenting were spent analyzing every word I spoke, and I made mistakes. Today, I continue to analyze what I read, what I watch, and what I say because I want to be a woman of godly character. I want to be respected, and trusted, and loved. I choose to encourage others, and challenge others to wholeness with my words. Most importantly I want to represent Christ, not only with my actions, but my speech as well.
I suppose one could argue that there are circumstances from which we cannot begin again. I would disagree. My position stands on those seconds, those moments we can seize, and decide differently.
Of anything you are going to hear in your head consistently throughout your life, is the phrase “It’s too late”. This phrase is a close relation to “you’re not worthy”. When these words pound in your temples, tremble in your heart, threaten to paralyze every possibility, give your head a shake. Who is the ‘tearing down’ voice in your head?
There is a voice inside my heart, who continues to show me beginning again is a reality, every single day. His voice empowers me to make strong choices, healthy, and good decisions. He is the Holy Spirit. Sometimes the instructions he gives are difficult, but they always lead to life (John 6:63, Prov. 4:13). This voice builds us up for a purpose greater than ourselves.
The worst line the enemy of your soul, a.k.a voice inside your head, can tell you is “you can do it alone”. My friend, life becomes the adventure it is supposed to be when we ask for help. And the Holy Spirit is our helper (John 14:26).
” There’s a Voice ”
I come to You, what can I do, You open up your arms (Matthew 11:28)
I crawl right in, a child again, I need some ‘safe and warm’
If I could just go back, before it all began
I wish I could be something good, someone You could love
There’s a voice inside my head who’s keeping score (Psalm 55:3)
Stacked the odds, and made my bed
behind these doors
You lift my chin and look right in, and walk into my heart (Psalm 3:3)
You find the place where yesterday tore everything apart (1 Sam. 16:7b)
You take me by the hand, and I begin again (John 3:1-21)
You pray I can, just as I am, know that I am loved (Eph. 1:4)
You’re the voice inside my heart who’s won the war (Deut. 20:4, John 16:33)
healing wounds and keeping scars (Isaiah 53:5, Phil. 1:29))
right next to yours
I come to You, it’s what I do, and open up my arms.
In 1977 “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” hit the big screen. The title means humans observing aliens. This past weekend when I traveled to the coast and back I had the experience of “Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind”, which stands for humans observing humans.
There was the intoxicated fellow of asian descent who wanted to butt in front of me in the boarding line-up at YYC. I knew he had missed his Zone 1 cue, because he stayed too long at the bar. His pungent breath gave him away. I let him in. I was amused with his greying pony tail. Why is it men think a pony tail or top knot is cool?
Then came the ever so late stewardess who dramatically arrived behind me in in the security line up. Her exaggerated watch glancing, toe tapping, and head poking up and over the conveyer like a spastic gopher, got under my skin. She would inch forward, and I would inch forward, and she would huff again. “Tough time in traffic?” I wanted to ask. “Bad case of asthma?” The lady in front of me was so kind, and let the frantic stewardess run ahead. She could have asked, rather than play charades. Secretly I hoped when she walked through the full body scanner, Scotty from Star Trek would beam her up to another planet. Poof!
I couldn’t forget the red neck from the outskirts of Saskatoon, sitting behind me on the plane, who insulted the fellow coming down the isle to sit right next to him. Ole’ Red Neck blurted out “Look Martha, why do we always get someone REALLY BIG sitting next to us?” Thankfully for Red Neck, the Big Fella was very kind and didn’t use Mr. ‘mouth piece’ as a seat cushion. And to clarify Big Fella wasn’t big at all, he was tall.
On my way back to Vancouver there was a man waiting to board the Ferry at Langdale Station, who told a little girl in her stroller, to pull up her pants and say ‘no’ to crack. What was he thinking? His remarks were highly inappropriate! I was stunned. There are those people who should think twice about opening their mouths in public. Her mother did not respond, but stared off into the distance. If it had been my little girl the stranger was speaking to, I would have stuffed him in a crack between the board walk.
I spied a ‘stick figure of a man’ wearing blue jeans, a lumberjack vest, and a toque, carrying nothing but a plastic shopping bag. When we boarded the Ferry he disappeared, only to appear next to me in the elevator. I wasn’t sure which button to push to get us to the passenger deck, so I asked for help. He pushed a button and then turned to me and said “I have bad teeth…..and lung cancer”. “I am so sorry” I replied. “It’s okay, I smoke, but I am trying to quit”. It took a few seconds for me to recognize an opportunity for prayer, but the elevator door opened, and he was gone. After lunch I went to find him, before he threw himself overboard. I spotted him talking to another perfect stranger, only this time letting him know he was “paramilitary, and he didn’t like killing people, because of what it does to your insides.”
I found a place to sit on the warm side of the sun deck, just out of the wind. Along came a woman wearing a kid’s polka dotted blanket for a scarf, over a khaki rain coat, wearing floral rubber boots, with her pants tucked inside. She waddled, kind of sort of, or maybe that was the wind. I thought her idea of walking was better than my sitting, so I got up and circled the deck.
I noticed a charming down syndrome man who road the 257 Express from Horseshoe Bay to downtown Vancouver. He tried to talk to the lady next to him, but she said she couldn’t understand him. I could, and I was sitting across the isle.
I hid behind my sun glasses and watched. He removed his hat and glasses and rubbed his face, then ran his fingers through his hair. He eventually moved closer to a young woman, who had a large tiger patterned suitcase. He told her he liked her suitcase, and reached out to touch it. She nodded, then quickly turned away. Every once and a while a ball of white would protrude from his lips, and my stomach would turn, thinking it was saliva and spit. Turned out it was gum. I couldn’t help but think he was very courageous. Who did he belong to? Was it hard for them to let him ride the bus alone? Was he ever greeted warmly?
To my disgust I witnessed a very tall elderly gentleman ‘hack a lube’ (is this even the way you spell it?), on the skyline pathway, a few feet away from me. I almost threw up right then and there, but miraculously held my breath. I concluded he had probably been an orphan his whole life, with no mother to teach him manners. He was dressed like a businessman, with the behaviours of a barbarian.
Once I got seated on the Sky Train at Canada Line Station, I witnessed a middle aged man come running through the open door. His lips were pursed and he was making an odd breathing sound like a woman in labor. Once he was seated he continued to furiously push his air in and out loudly, his lips never changing shape. I quickly scanned his person for a backpack, a bomb, a terrorist? He pulled out a piece of paper and nervously flapped it around. He rocked back and forth in his seat. After some time I realized he may be mentally challenged in some way, but very brave, and able to navigate to his next stop. He took his backpack with him. Whew!
I was almost home, plane touched down and I paused from observing the human race, and looked into my heart instead. I asked myself “Do I love my fellowman without measure?”
My “Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind” made me realize something astounding. God is amazing. He loves us all without measure. He loves the drunks, the tardy. He loves those who put both feet in their mouth. He loves those who are sick and hurting, and those who commit fashion suicide. There is no intellectual prerequisite for God’s love. He loves those who mind their manners and those who are socially inept. He even loves me, which ever category I find myself in at the moment.
I want to personally thank Andrea Hawiuk and Friends for the generous and informative conference on Depression and Suicide, The Conversation Has to Happen (2017). Every story shared offered new insight for those suffering, and those suffering along side of. Thank you also for inviting several of the agencies in Olds to participate through a showcase in the Pomeroy Inn and Suites Foyer.
I was moved by Rev. Dr. John Pentland when he humbly introduced a friend to share about the loss of her Son Ty. I was also very inspired by John’s response to “Thirteen Reasons Why“. I want to follow his practice of writing thirteen nuggets of wisdom to encourage our children to embrace life.
I was in agreement with Mike Ryan when he brought our attention to society’s different treatment towards alcohol versus drugs. They both alter our mental state.
Jim Marland and his program Can Praxis is ingenious and so necessary for veterans and first responders.
Terry Coles – thank you for your honesty and humility. Blessed to have heard your story.
One particular topic that was not discussed at great length was how some of our cultural entertainment trends are catalysts for further suffering. Violence, death, and fantasy, all contributing to darker mood swings, and often times an unrealistic view of life.
Thanks to Wayne McCracken and Don Matchullis, very tasteful touch with the musical choices.
I have learned that no matter what I face I am never alone. When my parents were going through a divorce and my new husband couldn’t relate to my heartbreak, God could.
When my children left for kindergarten, then graduated, and one has married, no one could get inside of my heart and hold me like God could, and still does.
Now I am facing the third or fourth season of watching our youngest leave for missions, our second born leave for the sixth time for yet another skating tour – a second time in Europe. Our eldest and her husband moved to a different province a year ago this past April, with our two little grandchildren.
Who holds us together when everybody leaves? God does. I constantly turn to God’s Word and read the stories of those who have gone before me, and how God sustained them when they faced change and loneliness. The time I do not have with my family – is time for me to pray for them, and time for me to live a life of example.
Every change, every tearing, all the comings and goings in this world are opportunities for us to watch God’s faithfulness at work.
When it comes to our children leaving the nest, sometimes we can let the tearing overshadow the growth. Rather than focusing on the change, or the empty space, why not focus on the new strengths you see your adult children developing? Why not focus on the new skills they are acquiring? Take a minute and reflect on how you too are growing through it all.
I admire how all of our children are leaders. Each of them have a leadership position of some kind. In some ways I could say their Dad and I have raised strong independent people, but I give the credit to God. There is one thing I want us, and them to never forget…don’t be so independent you forget to depend on God. He will never leave us or forsake us (Deut. 31:6). You would do well to read the entire context of that chapter to see what kind of change Israel was facing.
It is very easy to talk to God about how our lives radically change over the years. Just find a quiet spot and call on his name. Ask him to reveal himself to you. Ask him to speak to you. Tell him how you are doing, and what you need help with. Wait for answers in the stillness of the night, or the quiet of the morning. Don’t look to the world for the wisdom that only God can give. Don’t turn to the right or the left (Deut. 5:32, 28:14), comparing your life with others perhaps? Don’t reach for the first thing that numbs your pain. Focus on His truth. Watch for Him to show up in the most miraculous of ways.