Bible Reading · Spread Joy

Where is God for the starving & poor?

Our church had an amazing guest speaker on Saturday evening, Dr. Tony Campolo. For those who don’t know him, he is the author of over 30 publishings, including the popular series “Red Letter Christians” which focuses on Jesus’ teachings (the red letters referring to copies of the Bible that put Jesus’ words in red ink.) He is an educator, a guest speaker, a sociologist and a pastor. He has been featured on many TV shows including as The Colbert Report, The Charlie Rose Show, Larry King Live, Nightline, Crossfire, Politically Incorrect and The Hour, and he was once the spiritual advisor to President Clinton.  At 82 years old, this man knows his stuff! He spoke with humour and also a clear passion for the calling of Christians to love others as Jesus did and as he called us to do too.  I was so blessed by and fortunate to have heard him speak, and to have the opportunity to introduce myself and my oldest son to him on Saturday, September 16th.

Tony Campolo

Dr. Campolo spoke with clarity and authority.  Without needing notes, he was able to direct us to verses all over the Bible to support his message, and it was evident that the love of Christ is very strong in him.  He challenged his listeners to ensure the Spirit of Christ was living in them, which is more than just being a believer of Christ. Even the devil believed in Christ, but there certainly isn’t any Spirit of Christ living in the devil.

In talking about the Spirit of Christ living in us, he mentioned the great joy we would feel. He drew from some amazing stories to demonstrate the immense warmth we receive when we freely allow God to inhabit us. He explained that we are here on earth as agents of Christ’s love, meaning it is our responsibility as representatives of Christ to spread the love that Jesus did when he walked this earth. He challenged us to see the faces of the poor and needy as the very face of Jesus, and he challenged us to actually think about what Jesus would do if he were in our place and to live so that we actually reflect Jesus himself.

I was very challenged by his message. I hope that people can see Jesus when they see me. But more importantly, I want to see Jesus in the faces of others and learn to be a better ambassador of God’s Kingdom.  In Matthew Chapter 25 verses 34-40, Jesus describes a day of final judgement and he says the following,

 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink?  Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

The first sentence is describing what will happen on the final day of judgement. People will be divided into two groups, and those on the right are who Jesus is speaking to, those who loved like Jesus asked. Jesus tells this group that they took care of him, though they don’t understand how as they never actually saw Jesus.  His response is so crucial, when we take care of the poor, the sick, the needy, the impoverished, the socially challenged, the imprisoned, the strangers, the lost, the starving, the widowed, the ones suffering greatly, the condemned, the broken, then we are facing Jesus Christ himself. We are serving him by carrying for those who are in need.

So where is God for the starving and poor? He is in us. He is represented by us. We are his hands and feet on this earth. We are called to feed the poor, clothe the naked, heal the sick, and love every single one of our neighbors.

This is OUR responsibility. This is our God-assigned task, and in my opinion, the very purpose of our life!

As Christians, we spend time debating scripture. Our various denominations have differences for things like infant baptism, women in office positions, homosexual topics, and alcohol to name a few. We debate these things, and stand united in our separate congregations on our opinions. Yet, none of this matters as much as doing what we are called to do, being who we are called to be. Dr Campolo made an interesting point, he stated that over 5000 times in the Bible there are verses about taking care of others, and yet only a handful of verses about homosexuality. So why are so many Christians debating the topic of homosexuality and not discussing feeding the poor? His thought was that its easy to discuss topics that don’t affect us personally, or allow us to talk about others, but it isn’t so easy to talk about things that convict us, or challenge us to be doing something better or differently. Ouch. I heard that loud and clear.

Since I heard about the more than 5000 times the Bible calls us to help, in my personal Bible reading I am amazed how often I have noticed this command and yet I didn’t pay as close attention to it before having it bopped over my noggin like a V8 commercial. Thank God that he opened my eyes even more.

Dr Campolo shared some amazing statistics that I also feel are note worthy – He said that 25 years ago, 45 000 children a day died from malnourishment, 1 out of every 6 people didn’t have access to clean water, and 80% of the planet was illiterate.  Today, he said that its down to 17 000 children dying each day (ouch, still a very scary number), 1 out of 12 people now do not have access to clean water and the illiterate now number 20% of the world’s population! Wow! 25 years is really not a huge time period considering the difference of those statistics! Where can we be in 25 more years if we the Christians representing Christ actually live out our calling? Dr Campolo stated that much of this change was from Christians rising up and implementing literacy programs, creating food programs to meet the needs of the poor and hungry, and fundraising to dig wells all around the globe just as a few examples. What an amazing accomplishment to be thankful and proud of! But, because there is still starving children, and still people without access to clean water, and still people who cant read or write, we aren’t done yet.

So again, where is God for the starving and the poor? He’s represented by us here on earth. We are the ones responsible to help. What does that look like? While I think it depends on your passion and position. But certainly it requires action. Dr. Campolo was representing World Vision and strongly encouraged Child Sponsorship.  Our own family sponsors a boy and girl through Compassion, again, I don’t think the difference matters (much like the denominational differences) I think it just matters that we accept the mission we’ve been given.

There are a million ways to support the needy around each of us, it would take me an entire week to even be able to research the ways in my own community.  Whatever your passion, whatever your church, whatever your hope just get out there and take action as often as you can. Once in a while is not enough! We truly don’t recognize how good we have it in a first world country – even our poor aren’t a reflection of the poor in 3rd world countries. But both groups need support, regardless. People need support. And its our job to support them.  And when we need support, we should rest assured knowing that there will be people to support us too.

There’s a beautiful song that I feel like captures what I’m trying to communicate as well, Matthew West’s Do Something. I urge you to absorb the words and message of this song. Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_RjndG0IX8

Lastly, I will leave you with a verse that I read in my personal devotional time this morning that also really spoke to me, reminding me that even the little things we do add up, and every single thing matters. Paul encourages us in 1 Corinthians 15:58, “So my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.” !!!

Do SOMETHING!

 

 

 

Parenting · Spread Joy

Fruity Virtues

love
joy
peace
patience
kindness
goodness
faithfulness
gentleness
self-control

Sound like beautiful words you’d love to equip your kids with, don’t they? Perhaps even your spouse could use some nudges in these areas?  Maybe even your own self…

For those in Christian circles, you probably instantly recognized these words as ‘Fruits of the Spirit.’ (from the book of Galatians, Chapter 5, verses 22 and 23) For those who aren’t familiar with Christianity, or the Bible, it is still a beautiful list of things we want to see in those around us, isn’t it?

So, here’s my back to school plan: Let’s focus on the good! Lets encourage the positive instead of chastising the bad. Let’s build one an other up when we see greatness rather than dwelling on the negative things that can sometimes drive us bonkers about the ones we love most. Let’s be goal setters working to be better versions of ourselves!

In order to accomplish this, I turned to this list! I wrote the entire verse out on our family’s white board (“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” – Galatians 5:22-23, NLT) and each week we will focus on one area at a time. 

20170904_164812

This week, we started with love, the first fruit. Its my goal to find a scripture verse to match the virtue of the week, and also to encourage my children and hubby each time I see them showing that virtue to one an other, this week being love. I spent some time talking about love and what that looks like this evening with my children, and as a result, we all began to think of ways we can show love to each other, and to others around us. Through out the week as we talk about love, I can teach them about loving themselves, loving the earth, etc. Love truly is an endless topic!

We were able to talk about positive skills. I was able to make suggestions and offer encouragement, rather than the usual parenting lecture. Focusing on the positive, encourages the positive. I really hope to raise young adults who are full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control some day, so today seems like a good time to sow the seeds I want to reap in the future.

Not only that, I get so tired of feeling like a nag, or a lecturer. It’s not fun. It makes my kids miserable, and it makes me miserable. This new goal allows me to get rid of the boring negative chats, and work towards the positive goal setting ones.

By the way, this week’s verse about love, is 1 John 4:7, “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.”

Don’t like the use of scripture? No problem, call the fruits virtues and list them! You cant lose when you make love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control goals in your own home. I know our home sure could never have enough! Parenting is hard enough as it is, so lets make it more enjoyable by encouraging the wonderful and focusing on the positive!

Spread Joy

To my child

I wrote this letter on a hard day. Today I’d like to share it. There is so much more I could write and add, but I wanted to share the original message I had written in my trying moment: 

“Dear sweet child,

Today was a hard day for me. I felt impatient and frustrated with you because of my own bad mood.

We sat down to eat lunch: cheese, crackers and kolbassa. I laughed because you had yours all separated into little piles until I put mine into little sandwiches and right after that you stacked your cheese like I had. 

I felt so overwhelmed with emotion. 

Here I was, greedily thinking of my own self and my own issues and in one little moment with something so simple, you reminded me who I am! I’m your Momma, the woman you look up to and despite my flaws and imperfections you want to be like me – it’s an honour and a reminder that I gave up my right to fall apart.

My life is about you and your siblings. I’m in service to you. So, I am sorry I will never be perfect. I’m sorry I’m so incredibly broken as a person. I’m sorry I can’t ever be perfect, but I hope I can show you who is: Jesus. 

When I fall short with patience and love, he won’t.  

He is working in my heart to heal me, but I am a work in progress. I’m sorry I won’t ever be perfect, but I hope I’ll be “enough.” 

I hope despite my flaws, you will know my love for you is forever, and won’t be dependent upon who you become or what you do. You are my child! I’m forever thankful for you and the blessing you are to me, even if I fall short on showing you that in my own brokenness.  

You are such a joy to me, and I love you endlessly. 

Love forever and always,

Mom. Xo”

Healing

God loves alcoholics too.

I have been wanting to write about alcohol for a while.  It seems so many wonderful people in my life are affected by this one word, either as a victim of someone else’s over-indulgence with alcohol or perhaps even their own. Alcohol is one of those things that affects generations. Children grow up hating their alcoholic parents, only to become alcoholics themselves. Or perhaps alcoholic parents are funnier or friendlier when they drink, and give their children a notion that alcoholics aren’t bad, but rather its a normal way of living.

Full disclosure, I am not an alcoholic but I have been affected by alcohol.  Despite my other issues and flaws, alcohol isn’t one of them. For some reason, I don’t suffer from hang overs, and there has been a very brief period of my life where I would drink a few drinks each evening and just love the overall ‘warmth’ it gave me and that’s when I realized I so easily could become an alcoholic. In that moment, I made a decision that I would not raise my children to have an alcoholic mother and I stopped drinking each day.  I knew that if I continued, and allowed alcohol to control me, those were the days I would one day look back on and think “why didn’t I stop then?” I do have the occasional drink, a bit of wine with company, or a nice cocktail during a fancy dinner out. I am not against moderate amounts of alcohol at all.  Biblically based, moderation with drinking isn’t an issue, in fact Paul even writes to Timothy in 1 Timothy 5:23, “Don’t drink only water. You ought to drink a little wine for the sake of your stomach because you are sick so often.” Notice the word little there – Paul isn’t encouraging alcoholism or overindulgence but is encouraging Timothy to drink a little wine to help his body, scholars believe because Timothy struggled from indigestion perhaps even because of contaminated water.

I have seen the damage of alcohol in many different relationships in my life unfortunately. Alcohol changes people. It causes them to become completely different versions of themselves, often less wonderful versions. Alcohol taints judgement and has ruined so many families, and relationships between husband and wife, parent and child, and even friendships. The problem is that each of us has free will to choose. We can choose to drink or not. We can choose to get help or not. We can choose to break the cycle of alcohol abuse or not.

Too many don’t. My heart breaks for you if you’re in that situation. If you have a parent, or a spouse who has made alcohol a priority above you in their life, I am truly sorry for you. If you are struggling with alcohol yourself and find yourself in this position where you can’t seem to stop, I am also truly sorry for you.

Let me tell you, God’s plan for our lives was not to see us controlled by a substance, either as the addict or as the person who loves the addict. God created us to be victorious in life. He created us to be full of joy and love. He created us to be loved, and to love others. We were not meant to live in our own bondage, or the bondage someone else created for us. If you prayed to God for help getting someone to stop drinking, and they didn’t, I’m so sorry. God can reach hearts, but at the end of the day He didn’t create us to be robots who He controls, He created us to be people with free will who choose their own path.

God didn’t give you an alcoholic parent, or spouse, but rather He gave you a person who was created to be more than that, but choose differently with their own free will. If that applies to you, I am so sorry. I know it wasn’t God’s plan for your life, and I know that God’s heart breaks when our hearts break. For every tear you cried, He was there crying too. I am sure of that because the Bible is FULL of references to how much God loves us, and the fact that he gave us Jesus also shows that too.

He created the heavens, the earth, the animals and even us. He doesn’t owe us anything, and yet, despite that, he sent Jesus to us, made of flesh and blood just like us. Jesus was with God in the very beginning of creation. He was there all along. So why send him to earth to be born in a barn,  growing up to only get about 3 years to teach people before he would be illegally tried, beaten, flogged and crucified? Why would anyone want to come to earth from the glorious place that Heaven is to die that way?! Because if God made Jesus flesh and blood like us, then we would be able to relate to him because he went through the struggles of this world. He grew up, went through the awkward phases we did, learned to navigate the adult world, and he did it all without fault. He was blameless and sinless, a perfect example of a life well lived, and a sacrifice for all of us when he died. (More on that here: https://seekinghispeaceblog.wordpress.com/2017/01/11/why-jesus-anyways/)

For those struggling with addiction themselves, we can look to Jesus for help and inspiration. Yes, Jesus drank, in fact his very first miracle written about in the Bible was when he turned water into wine at a wedding. But, that was so guests could enjoy a celebratory glass of wine, and not a reference to us that he drank, so we can drink what we want, when we want too! Jesus did not have a problem with alcohol.  That is inspiring to teach us moderation and control. But, he does understand those who do have that problem. Hebrews 4:15-16 says, “This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.  So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” When they are referring to Jesus here as a High Priest, its because the Jewish people had a High Priest who represented them to God, and Jesus became that person for all of us. But the main point, Jesus UNDERSTANDS our weaknesses, for he faced the SAME testings we do, yet he DID NOT sin. Accepting Jesus as your Saviour allows the Holy Spirit to enter your body, and that Holy Spirit can help you conquer so much including addiction, but for some its not as simple as that and its okay to need more help through counselling or support groups, which I will write about in a moment.

The second half of verse 16 brings so much hope, saying that we will receive God’s mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. God doesn’t hate you because you couldn’t break the cycle. God doesn’t hate you because you spend day after day drinking. God doesn’t hate you because your parent, spouse, child or friend, reflects hate upon you during their own drinking. He loves us despite our flaws, mistakes and addictions. He loves us more than we can ever imagine, even (I’d even say especially) when we feel full of guilt and shame. He wants you to choose your free will to chase Him, seek Him, rather than anything in this world who you are trying to replace Him with.

Our church hosts an amazing support group called Celebrate Recovery. There are CR programs all around, so  I encourage you to search for one in your area (http://www.celebraterecovery.ca/).  Its a Christ-centred 12 step program for anyone with any hurt, habit or hang up, and it brings SO much healing for addicts, victims, and anyone with any struggle, even co-dependency, over-eating, sexual abuse, you name it – someone there has overcome it! I strongly urge you, if you are a child of an alcoholic, a spouse of an alcoholic, or even an alcoholic yourself to check it out. I have shared my blog all over, and so this wont apply to everyone in my life, but for those who live close to me – I am more than willing to accompany you to your first CR if you fear going alone. Please get in touch with me. The very DNA of CR will help every single person who related to any of the words I have written in this message.

The Bible makes it clear that alcohol isn’t bad, over indulgence is. That can be applied to other aspects of life as well. But, drinking in front of children when you’re responsible for them, drinking to the point of drunkenness, picking alcohol over relationships, going into debt buying alcohol, making poor choices because of drinking all aren’t okay. I don’t need to list all the signs of alcoholism, I’m sure you reading this know. Some people start their own problem with alcohol because they were shown that was a norm, and don’t know how to cope or handle life without alcohol. Some people drink thinking that it will help them with their anxiety, anger, depression, or various other flaws they see in themselves and want a quick fix for. Often, people are drinking because they are repressing feelings that they simply don’t know how to cope with. These reasons are why I mentioned CR. Don’t put a band aid over a broken heart. It won’t fix it. It isn’t easy to deal with the root causes of why people become addicts, but the freedom of bondage you will receive by mending your heart properly will last a lifetime.  Find the right tools to cope, find supportive people who encourage sobriety, find the missing piece of your heart that you’re covering with alcohol and you will find true peace and joy.

But in the meantime, don’t let your hurts destroy others. The photo I chose for this post is a sunset, a day ending, promising a fresh start tomorrow. I urge you to find a fresh way of life for your tomorrow. I urge you to be an overcomer. I urge you to find the strength to fight your demons off, instead of drowning in them. I urge you to begin to learn truths about yourself to cover the shame and guilt that comes along with an addiction, or I urge you to deal with the pain that comes from being affected by an addict.

Romans 5:8 says, “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Like I said, God loves us despite ourselves. Don’t be too hard hearted or ashamed to ask Him for help. Don’t think you need to fix yourself first. Go to God broken, and he can do tremendous work in and through you.

Despite your own addiction, or despite being broken because of the addiction of others, God’s love for you is still so much more than you can ever imagine. “No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loves us.” (Romans 8:37)

He heals the broken hearted
and bandages their wounds..”
(Psalm 147: 3)

Bible Reading

Women shouldn’t teach… or…?

Yesterday I had the privilege and honour to preach my first sermon!! It was amazing. My pastor and I sat down to plan and discuss the summer sermon series, when we realized that one of the days he was away was one of the only days I’d actually be there (we have a travel trailer and had a lot of summer plans already booked.) He asked me if I wanted to fill in for him and preach.  I accepted the challenge with extreme enthusiasm! And so began my first ever sermon.

I followed in his summer series, Life in The Neighborhood, with the topic “God in our Networks.” I wrote it myself, and met with him for some coaching and on Sunday, August 13th 2017 I preached it!  It was amazing. I was overcome with emotion as I approached the pulpit, so I tripped up over a few words especially as I began because I was so afraid of crying, but I think overall for a first shot, I did well. I received some amazing feedback within the church and from people who watched the sermon on YouTube (https://youtu.be/KauTYEj_oRQ) and I feel so thankful for the support and encouragement I received. I am definitely going to do this again!

There are many denominations that will not let women preach, unless its exclusively to other women (they believe women shouldn’t teach men.) I have been in dialogue with my own pastor about this, and it has crossed my mind that perhaps there may be people who feel I shouldn’t be preaching my sermon.  Of course as I sat the morning of my first sermon drinking my tea and reading my Bible, without meaning to, I came across the very verses that have been used to make people believe women shouldn’t teach. Irony, eh?

The verses are from 1 Timothy chapter 2. The book is written by Paul as a letter to Timothy, a man Paul called a spiritual son to him,  and it is written to the people of Ephesus in about 64 A.D. The verses in question are as follows, 1 Timothy 2:11-12:

Women should learn quietly and submissively.  I do not let women teach men or have authority over them. Let them listen quietly.”

Umm. Okay.  So I’m about an hour or so from leaving for church to preach my first sermon and I’m reading this and thinking “well, now what?”

I’ll tell you what! Study Bible to the rescue! (More about that here: https://seekinghispeaceblog.wordpress.com/2016/12/15/note-to-self-read-my-bible/) I have said it before, and I will say it again, owning a study bible is the most important tool you can have because it actually helps you to be able to understand the Bible and make sense out of things that culturally don’t make sense to us 2000 years later.

So, to put these verses in context, Paul said them to the first-century Jewish people. Their culture did not allow women the ability to study. So, though to us today these verses seem restrictive, they were actually liberating! Paul was saying, even though you guys don’t think women should be allowed to study, I’m speaking on behalf of the women to say that yeah they can! Let them learn about Jesus, let them hear and read the Word of God, let them grow in knowledge! Paul was going against everything that was normal at that time and actually liberating women.

But… he is telling them to listen quietly. How does that go along with liberation? Again, its all about context! The church that Timothy was at, in Ephesus, that would receive this letter had women who excitingly were on fire for all that they had recently learned.  The problem was that they were then stepping into roles of leadership and teaching, with very little knowledge. They didn’t have the necessary experience, knowledge or maturity in Christ to be teaching, especially to those who did have extensive scriptural education.  You wouldn’t send someone in to teach Nasa astronauts about space after they watched a few YouTube videos, would you?  Its the same concept. Paul is saying this particular group of women in Ephesus needed to grow in their knowledge and maturity more before they began to preach to others.

If you only look at the verses I shared and try to apply them to women you know in your own church, or in general, you’re doing yourself a disservice and misusing the Bible. The best way to understand scriptural truths is to understand the context, like I mentioned, but also cross reference with other scriptures. Acts 18:24-26 shares briefly about a woman named Priscilla who was a co-worker to Paul and taught Apollos, a great preacher! Paul himself even writes of several women who held important roles in the church too.

In Romans 16:1, Paul commends “our sister Phoebe, who is a deacon in the church in Cenchrea.” In verse 6, Paul asks for the readers to, “Give my greetings to Mary, who has worked so hard for your benefit.” and in verse 12, he adds, “Give my greetings to Tryphena and Tryphosa, the Lord’s workers, and to dear Persis, who has worked so hard for the Lord. ” All were women who worked within the church, and as Paul says, worked hard for Lord.  He knows of these women in these positions and he doesn’t say anything against them like he did about the women in Ephesus.  This shows that Paul is not against women teaching, but he was against the women specifically in Ephesus teaching because they hadn’t yet matured enough in their faith to teach. To top it off, the Ephesian church had a real problem with false teachers in general, so these women who didn’t have the ability to discern the truth without the knowledge were just a further part of the problem Paul was writing to Timothy about in the hopes he could correct the Ephesian church as a whole to see them succeed more.

That’s completely fair!  When I was a new believer, I had a crazy zest for the Lord, but without the knowledge of scriptural truths I wasn’t handling myself properly. I was sharing my opinion without evidence to back it up. Even worse, I judged those who weren’t Christian thinking they need to follow Biblical truths despite them not having a relationship with Jesus as I did. My heart was in the right place, but I was immature enough that it would have been extremely damaging to offer me the chance to write and preach, even, say, 5 years ago when my faith was much more immature than it is now.

Paul was an amazing evangelist, missionary, author, apostle and motivator.  He wrote 2/3 of the New Testament and had a deep theological background having been raised as a Jewish man. He knew his stuff, and when he encounters Christ, he is able to speak with authority because he had the scriptural background and knowledge as well as a deeply personal relationship with Christ.  Simply put, that particular group of women just wasn’t qualified. In fact, Paul never once said that women in general shouldn’t teach. So, I will continue growing and maturing in my faith, and working hard for the Lord, so that I am a woman who Paul will say “good job” to when I meet him in Heaven someday.

But aside from that, I will continue to grow and mature because it brings me closer to Jesus, the one whom I want to be more like because his example on this earth is profoundly amazing.  Jesus himself treated women differently then what was considered normal at that time as well.  Jesus didn’t come for the “perfect,” he came for the marginalized, the sinners, the broken, the hurt, you name it. At that time, women were the marginalized, and yes, Jesus came for them. He showed deep compassion for women, he respected them, taught them, and healed many of them.  He was a bit of a revolutionary, in fact, for how well he treated women.

Honestly, there are too many examples for me to write about but my favourite story of Jesus showing compassion to a woman is from the book of Mark, Chapter 5 verses 25-34:

“A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding.  She had suffered a great deal from many doctors, and over the years she had spent everything she had to pay them, but she had gotten no better. In fact, she had gotten worse.  She had heard about Jesus, so she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his robe.  For she thought to herself, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.”  Immediately the bleeding stopped, and she could feel in her body that she had been healed of her terrible condition.

Jesus realized at once that healing power had gone out from him, so he turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my robe?”

 His disciples said to him, “Look at this crowd pressing around you. How can you ask, ‘Who touched me?’”

But he kept on looking around to see who had done it.  Then the frightened woman, trembling at the realization of what had happened to her, came and fell to her knees in front of him and told him what she had done.  And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.” “

So what you need to understand about the context of this story was that Jewish women who were bleeding as she was for so long were considered “unclean” and were isolated from their community. Imagine being isolated for 12 years from your parents, spouse, siblings, children, and best friends! Imagine paying every doctor you can to help you, and the problem only gets worse! How disheartening and isolating! This woman had suffered a great deal. Jesus was on route trying to get somewhere and everyone was pressing up against him (picture trying to walk anywhere during a concert or outdoor celebration like New Years Eve!) and yet he knew that one person touched him specifically for healing, and stops to find out who. The men of this time would likely have been rather annoyed with this women who stopped Jesus from doing what he was doing, who interrupted and tried to almost take advantage of his ability to heal, but Jesus wasn’t mad. She was terribly frightened because she knew that culturally she was facing deep consequences for her actions, especially because she was considered ‘unclean.’ Again, Jesus wasn’t mad. He instead tells her that her faith in him has made her well, and she will suffer no more.

Jesus treated women radically different than the cultural norm of the time, and believe it or not, by Paul telling them in 1 Timothy 2:11 to learn quietly and submissively, he was too. I imagine in today’s Canadian society, the woman who touched Jesus probably wouldn’t have been so afraid because women today are seen as equals, able to approach men freely. I can also imagine that Paul’s writing to the Ephesian church now a days would probably be more along the lines of, ‘People, keep growing in your faith. Keep reading the Word of God, keep learning and maturing and when the time is right you will be able to teach with authority and confidence because you will have the knowledge to back up your words.’

So, I will keep on teaching. I will continue to be thankful that Jesus revolutionized the way women are seen and treated, bringing us up to be considered equals and allowing us the opportunity to learn alongside our male counterparts. I will take Paul’s words seriously, and I will really ensure that I continue growing in knowledge so that I can continue teaching, men and women, the Word and Love that God offers us all. Mostly, I will continue celebrating the woman God is growing me to be, thankful for the gifts He has equipped me with, including the opportunities before me.

Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last;
but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.”
Proverbs 31:30

 

 

 

Spread Joy

Backwards living

Society says, “you deserve this,” “If you want it, get it,” “If it feels good for you, do it,” “its all about you, you, you!”

We have become a culture that encourages irresponsibility, and we have become a nation of people full of entitlement, slaves to our own desires. I hear the older population say all the time that things have changed substantially in the last few years, that the world is a worse place now than it was when they were younger, that morals are on a steep decline.

I see it too. I see it in friends who neglect their families, spouses they are supposed to love and children they grew themselves coming second to their own selfish desires. I see it in public when arguments flare up over parking spots, the last item on the shelf, or general disrespect of others. I see it in myself too. When I think thoughts like “why aren’t things going the way I want them to?” or “Why isn’t there more time for me to do what I want to do?”

The more I think of me, the less happy I feel. The more I think I deserve this, then I realize I must also deserve that too! The more I think of my own wants, the less I think of other’s. Its a vicious cycle, isn’t it? That is what it feels like to be “dead to your sins” as the Christian world says. What they mean is, your gratification for whatever it is you think you deserve or what, whatever it is that consumes you is controlling you. You are a slave to what you obey, whether its society’s ideas, marketing ploys, lust, pride, or just general selfishness.

So why, if I deserve it and it feels so good, does it actually make me less happy? Because its empty. Its what Christians refer to as sin.  That word made me cringe so much when I was first learning about Jesus and I was a newbie to church. Its a condemning little word that packs quite the punch, doesn’t it? It is covered with judgement and condemnation while wearing guilt like a robe. 3 little letters, and yet they create in so many people a different level of discomfort and negative thoughts.

The book of Ephesians tells us that before Christ’s death on the cross, “you were dead because of your disobedience and many sins.” (Ephesians 2:1) For those who have accepted Christ, it says, “You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil – the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God.  All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature.” (Ephesians 2:2-3)

This verse really hits home for me. Sins control us, leaving us dead to our own desires, caught in a vicious cycle of self gratification that we can never fully seem to satisfy. This verse tells us perhaps these notions of self gratification aren’t from God, but rather from the enemy who loves to see us struggle, who loves to see us fail and who loves to see us overwhelmed in self pity and misery. Did I just say that the devil is real and he lives among us? You bet I did! There seems to be this beautiful little idea amongst society that there’s no such thing as hell, or satan himself. Don’t kid yourself – that’s his greatest trick yet, convincing you to believe that he isn’t here, and that God who can be blamed for your unmet needs.

Verse 4-6 carries on, “But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much that even though we were dead because of our sins, He gave us life when He raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved.) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.” Dead because of our sin. The dead here refers to our eternal life. When sin controls us, and we don’t understand how come Jesus died for us, we are dead eternally.  However, when we accept Jesus as our Saviour, like this verse says, we are raised from the dead WITH Christ. (More on that here: https://seekinghispeaceblog.wordpress.com/2017/01/11/why-jesus-anyways/) What does that even mean? Well, that we are no longer slaves to what controls us. We are no longer dead because the debt is paid. We are no longer defeated because of the riches that this world offers us.

But Christians still sin. Yup, we sure do. Remember when I wrote that I see it in myself too? I will never be perfect (despite my jokes to the contrary!) But, the difference is what I shared from Ephesians 2:2-3, I used to live in sin, passionately following the inclinations of my own nature.  But verse 13 sums up where I am now, “But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ.”

The fact is, I am not a robot, and God never wanted me to be – he created us to have free will so that we can choose what we think and what we do. My free will means I am liable to mess up as I do, but it doesn’t mean that I’m dead because of my faults. And it doesn’t mean that I need to let my faults and sin control me. Rather, I have a higher power to remind me that I want to do better and be better. I have been united with Jesus, which means my debt has been paid, like a traffic ticket – we mess up, and we owe a consequence for it – well Jesus paid for all my “tickets.” Yours too.

Jesus was the very opposite of selfish. Even when he was being sent to die on the cross, he prayed “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (Matthew 26:39) So, he said God, if you can redeem your people in any other way please do, but I am willing to endure all that suffering to obey your will, rather than what I want for myself because I trust that you know best.  I even wrote a post on all the temptations satan offered Jesus to disobey God. (https://seekinghispeaceblog.wordpress.com/2016/12/06/all-the-kingdoms-of-the-world/)  So, he gave up every glorious thing this world has to offer, and he put our lives before his very own – leaving us dead to sin.

So while the world says you deserve this, you are entitled to that, if it feels good for you, do it! Jesus deserved nothing but praise for the amazing teacher he was while he walked the earth, he was not entitled to die the way that he did, and it sure wouldn’t have felt good for him. But he persevered none the less knowing that his suffering would save us all, that his example would help us break the chains of bondage our own selfish desires have over us, and most importantly that we would have life through him. He calls us to backwards living: putting others before our own self. Turning our phones off so we can talk face to face with those around us. Putting someone else ahead of our self. Letting them have the parking spot. Thinking of their needs even though we are so tired. Ending the vicious cycle of me, me, me thinking.

Backwards to society, yet the very example that Jesus was while he was here. We don’t have to listen to the world’s message, when we can follow the example Jesus set for us. There is so much freedom for me in that. As Romans 6:16 says, “Don’t you realize that you become a slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leaves to death, or you can choose to obey God which leads to righteous living.”  Well, I trust God has a better plan for my life than satan.  And righteous living sounds better to me than death.  But, how do I stop thinking of me when the entire world tells me that’s what I should do? The simple answer of course is to read your Bible, there you will find much hope and examples, but also you will be filled with the love of God which is really all the gratification our souls need and long for. No amount of selfish thinking or self gratification will ever be able to top that! 

Verse 10 of Ephesians 2 sums it up, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” We are God’s masterpiece. We were worth Jesus dying for. We are loved more than we ever know, so much so that we need to meditate on that so that we aren’t filling the hole in our hearts that is empty before we know God in a personal way with garbage, debt, time waste, relationships strained.

Ephesians 4:23, “Instead, let the spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.”

 

 

Spread Joy

Not today, Anxiety.

Though I haven’t had the chance to write much lately, rest assured, I have been committed to learning and growing in other amazing ways.  I have sacrificed time writing for other important things including daily Bible reading.  In searching for Him, in His Word, I have found great comfort, and restoration. Amazing moments keep happening to me, enough that I could write for days!  I am feeling joy on new levels!

But of course, this isn’t always the case. We have to go through valleys so that we recognize and appreciate the mountains in our lives. A valley that has been troublesome for me lately has a name common to many: Anxiety.

Panic attacks are real, and terrifying. They come on unexpectedly. They bring a slew of symptoms with them including headaches, stomach issues a plenty, exhaustion, anger, outbursts, and all sorts of physical ailments. They cause relationships to suffer, plans to be cancelled, life to be altered. The worst part is the complete lack of control I seem to have over them.  But God is bigger than anxiety. He is bigger and mightier than any storm I could ever come across.

Each morning I read my Bible, I find new nuggets of truth to meditate on all day, a new verse or two to remind me how much God loves me, or a simple reminder of the fact that its not me in control, but rather a much stronger force is.. God Himself.  I had plans made with a wonderful friend, I was excited for them, and there is no reason to be worried. We have no conflicts between us, we both search whole heartedly for the Lord, and we are both friendly, fun women, and yet I woke up feeling anxiety rearing its ugly head on the morning we were supposed to meet. So, cue my frustration. I am annoyed that I am feeling anxious when I have no reason to feel anxious. I’m debating cancelling plans, or even hoping she will so I don’t have to deal with Anxiety’s annoying cousin, Guilt. I’m running millions of scenarios though my head and its worsening by the minute.

Like I said earlier, I have been committed to my daily Bible reading, so out comes my Bible and anxiety is just going to have to wait while I make my priorities known. I picked up in Isaiah – such an amazing book in the Old Testament that is written by the prophet Isaiah. He wrote over and over of salvation, and pointed to Jesus’ coming about 680 years before Jesus came, writing about Jesus in ways that actually happened and came true! The book is amazing. I couldn’t stop reading, and even ran over the time I had allotted myself, but I couldn’t help it! I know the first 39 chapters lean on judgement, and the last 26 (beginning at chapter 40) are really focused on comfort. I had reached chapter 40 and I didn’t want to stop! I was excited for the best parts of the book. So now add anxiety about being late and not being ready to my already anxious self. But it didn’t matter, I kept justifying one more chapter, one more chapter, one more chapter for some reason.

The reason became pretty evident in Chapter 40, God opens the chapter by telling Isaiah “Comfort, comfort my people.” Okay God, I could use some of that comfort! But the real eye opener came at the end of the chapter, verses 28-31:

Have you never heard?
Have you never understood?
The Lord is the everlasting God, 
the Creator of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary.
No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
He gives powers to the weak
and strength to the powerless. 
Even youths will become weak and tired, 
and young men will fall into exhaustion.
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not grow faint.”

Do you understand at all how God thinks? Of course not! In all our lives of searching for Him, we will never fully understand His ways. We are mere humans incapable of thinking on the level God does. But, His Word (the Bible) offers us so much insight into His love for us! I know that I can relate to that as a Mom. My children fill my heart, they are the very reason I try to grow and be better, and yet sometimes they can be darn right awful! But, I still see them as beautiful, perfectly made individuals who have so much potential and I don’t ever love them less because of their faults. This is exactly how God feels about me, and you! Each and every single one of us. I know my biggest fear when I went from one child to two, was how could I love two kids in the same amount that I love my first? Would my love be divided? I was pleasantly surprised to see it wasn’t! It was multiplied. That’s how God loves us!

Because I carried on and read one more chapter, I was reminded that God is full of power and might, which He promises to give to the weak (and in my case anxious!) I trust God in my deepest fears, my biggest goals and my every day life, and as such He has promised me NEW STRENGTH.  He has promised me that I will run without growing weary, and walk without growing faint.  I was so thankful for that verse, I had to stop right there and pray a prayer of gratitude for God, and express my thanks for His word, His love, and His comfort. But, it didn’t end there..

One more chapter.

Isaiah 41. Verse 10. Its so well known on its own amongst Christians, but when you read the Bible as a whole you forget about memory verses until they sneak up and provide you with exactly the wisdom you needed in that moment. That, is Isaiah 41:10 for me, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”  Wow. Anxiety. Never mind. You’re not welcome here today. At least not in this moment, because in this moment I have fought the lies of anxiety with the most powerful force you can imagine: God, and His Word, His Truth!

But.. one more chapter! One more chapter.. I was starving for more comfort, more peace, more of God’s love.

Isaiah 42 is full of examples of Jesus. I am in awe of what God is predicting, having read the Gospels and knowing Jesus, I am excited to see these prophecies that I know to be true. It just strengthens my faith and cements me even deeper in my love for Christ.

One more chapter. Still my soul yearns.

Isaiah 43:1-2:

“But now O Jacob, Listen to the Lord who created you.
O Israel, the one who formed you says,
“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
I have called you by name; you are mine.
When you go through deep waters,
I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
you will not be burned up;
the flames will not consume you.

It carries on with the second half of verse 4 saying, “because you are precious to me.  You are honoured and I love you.” I wrote my name next to that, God said “I love you, Leslie.” Because that was what I needed to hear.  He created me, He put me on earth in this time for a purpose. He knows my days, He knows my struggles, He knows me on a deep level, and He loves me. He honours me. He promises to walk with me through deep waters, rivers of difficulties and fires of oppression.  These words are for me, but they are also for you. He gave me the gift to gab so that I can speak my faith and encourage others. He used others to tell me to write so that I can process and share with others as well. He planned for me to write this on this very day, and He planned for you to read it. He honours you, and He loves you. Its my prayer for you that you gain some understanding of just how much He loves.