Monday, October 13, 2014

This Grace

I had a really incredible summer and it is still impacting my life. I had the opportunity to work at the summer day camp at my church as the LIT (Leaders In Training) director. I got to work with a group of Jr. high students who want to be future counsellors and through different ways, we provided them with some training.

A week before camp started a friend, who meant a lot to me, suddenly died. I was going to go visit him the day before but it just didn’t work out. Going into the last week of planning for camp- I was numb; filled with hurt, frustration and regret.  I had to plan the Bible studies and I felt like I was the last one who should be doing so. I had missed my opportunity to tell someone I really cared about Jesus so I felt like such a hypocrite.  Even though it was a really hard week, God just kept carrying me through, guiding me and bringing everything together. I soon began to see the same way he carried me through that week, was the same way he carried me through the whole summer.

There were many, many times I felt I was in over my head as the LIT director. I felt like I had no idea what I was doing! Still, I loved the LIT’S and my favourite time of the day quickly became our Bible study time. They had so many questions and we had some amazing conversations.  That is what really changed things for me!

For the first time in a long time, I couldn’t be lazy spiritually. I was forced into daily Bible reading, prayer and dependence on God.  God renewed in my heart a deep desire to know His word so much better and to pursue Him more and more. Through all of this, God also showed me areas of my life and heart I was just glossing over that really needed attention. The closer the light, the more dirt it reveals. All conviction is painful but I realized there’s no way around it if I want a deep relationship with God.  Why does God force the issue? Because, sin drains the life out of us (Psalm 32) and there is truly nothing better than having a clean heart before God.  Why keep pursuing God in the midst of conviction? Because, the more I understand how sinful my heart is, the more I can understand just how amazing the grace of God really is!

When I deserve condemnation and punishment, I find in Jesus full forgiveness and unending mercy.

When I deserve harshness and God’s anger, I find a gentle and kind saviour who was tempted in every way I am so that He can show me mercy and grace.

When my sin separated me from God, Jesus showed me unconditional and steadfast love through the cross.

When I deserve no good thing, God continues to fill my life with his goodness and so many amazing blessings.

Solomon tells us to remember our Creator when we are young (Ecclesiastes 12) so that we don’t have to go through our whole lives stuck in the same destructive ways and be filled with regret.  I know I will always struggle with sin and will continue to fail in many ways, but I would rather let God take my hand and lead me to better things. I want to be free of the sin that entangles me. I want to pursue godliness not so He will love me more, but rather out of deeper desire to experience the beauty of Jesus.

So, this thanksgiving I’m particularly thankful for the grace of God! These lyrics perfectly sum all of this up:
Oh, this grace on which I stand
It will hold me to the end, never failing
Oh, praise the One who rescued me
Jesus, You will ever be my salvation

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Just Like A Child



“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of GodSee what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!”

A couple of weeks ago I got to go to Florida with my sister, brother-in-law and nephew.  It was one of the best vacations I’ve had! One of my favorite parts of the week was waking up to my 3 month year old nephew Lucas each morning.  Most mornings I tried to get up with Lucas so that my sister could sleep in more.  She has to do it every other morning but for me it is still a novelty!  After Lucas was fed and changed in the morning, he was so happy.  We played for a while, he giggled and squealed, and those mornings were so precious! I love him so much!

Sometimes the longing to be a wife and mother is so strong, but God has been so good to bring so many babies into my life now that I can love.

As much as I love Lucas, I can’t even imagine the love that comes from a parent-child bond. I loved watching Janette and Mike interact with Lucas. I love how attentive and gentle they are with him, and how much they just delight in and enjoy him.

One morning I read Matthew 18:1-14 and it completely came alive to me in a new way as I had Lucas in mind .  It goes like this:

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

What quality best describes Lucas right now? He is desperate. He is totally dependent for everything. If nobody dressed, fed, and changed him he would die. At this point Lucas can’t even sit up by himself. Lucas hasn’t done anything to make Janette and Mike love him so much because he can’t do anything to earn their love. It is the same with us and God. We are dead in our sin with no power or desire to come to God. We can’t do anything to earn the love of a majestic, holy and perfect, Lord of all God.  We just need to come to God with a simple yet implicit faith. We just need to need him!

“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. “Woe to the world for temptations to sin. For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire.  And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.

I know these verses seem very harsh! But, what does sin bring? Death! If anyone ever tried to do anything to Lucas, I know Janette and Mike would do anything and everything to try to protect him!  In the same way, God sees the full picture of how sin brings so much destruction and death to the people He created, and any strategy to get rid of sin and the causes of it is not too much.

 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray?  And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

Have you ever thought about the sheer number of people in the past, the present and the future that have or will put their faith in Jesus? Despite that though when one of His Children goes astray, He still pursues them. There are also angels in heaven who minister to us when we are weak.  That should bring such a comfort to our souls!

It has been a beautiful realization to come to understand more and more how desperate I am for God. It is painful to admit that how often I want to go my own way and go astray. How often I need God to convict me of sin and to remind me of His truth. It’s life-giving too though! The more I know how much I really do need Him, the more I can see how much my Father loves me, fights for me, chases after me, and simply delights in me.

A child never outgrows his dependence on his parent, even as he grows and becomes stronger. When he is no longer dependent, he ceases to be a child. As those who have put our faith in Christ, may we always come before him with the dependence and humility of a child. Love and enjoy the children God places in your life, and while you do, bask in the glory that it is only a fraction of how the Father loves and delights in you as His child!



“It is not necessarily the one who knows the most theology, the one who wins the most souls, or the bravest martyr who is the greatest in the kingdom. It is the one who is most like a child.” –R.C. Sproul



Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Empty.



What do you do when your passion for the Lord has disappeared?

What do you do when you feel empty, dry and numb and because of that, you feel like you have nothing  to give?

What do you do when guilt and fear of failure cloud the truth of God’s great love and grace?

This is where I am right now and it’s a painful place to be. Yet, as I’ve started to talk about these emotions I’m experiencing, I’m strangely comforted by the fact that everyone who follows Christ, has experienced the same struggles.

How did I get to this place? The answer that keeps popping up is simple, but complicated. I’ve been so distracted. It hasn’t been just one distraction. It’s been many; big ones and small ones.  Life is busy, and there is always something fighting for our attention and time. The problem is I didn’t fully realize how distracted I was and how much it was affecting my relationship with God.

Until last week that is…

This past week when I was supposed to lead a couple of things at church, I came face to face with the fact that I was empty and felt as though I had nothing to give. I discovered that I’d been blinded to the fact that I had been running on the fumes of my past experiences with God and was trying to live out my faith through other people’s experiences with God.  I was running on “e” and I finally ran out of gas. 

Now God seems further away, but I realize that He wasn’t the one who moved, it was me. I have distanced myself from Him and right now it feels like we are more like strangers and conversation is awkward.

I hate being in this place and I don’t want to stay here any longer than I have to.
 
I believe God is pursuing me by showing me these things, so how do I pursue him in return? How can I feel Him close again? Ultimately I can’t control the seasons God decides to bring into my life. Hebrews 12 talks about how God disciplines all those He loves, so this season may be a time in my life God wants to produce in me deeper levels of perseverance and trust in His steadfast love for me. I can continue to pursue God through praying, reading the Bible, going to church, and being around other Christians who spur me on; out of my love and desire for the Lord knowing that my feelings may not always follow. I never feel like going to the dentist but I still go because I don’t want my teeth to fall out someday. I am so prone to live according to my feelings and most of the time my feelings aren’t based on the truth of the Gospel! 

This week I’ve also been reminded of the necessity and privilege of talking about my struggles with the people in my life who I trust and look up to.  It’s in these discussions I realize I’m not alone.  God has put people in my life who are wiser than I and I want to learn as much as I can from them.  One particular conversation I had this week that has really spurred me on was with my brother.  Even though he is younger than I am, I still learn so much from him! J He shared his strategy for getting into the Bible every day. It’s the very first thing he does each morning, before checking his phone or having breakfast.  I’ve been imitating his strategy over the last few days and it has been very helpful.

So often we forget that we are in a war. I think the greatest weapons Satan uses against God’s people are business and distraction. There is no such thing as a super-Christian; we are all as equally bankrupt and needy apart from the Lord. We will all go through seasons of being distracted, dry and empty; and so, we need each other.  In the times when we are barely hanging on to Jesus, let’s remind each other of two things: 1. Jesus is still hanging on to us and his grip is infinitely powerful, He will not ever let us go! 2. God’s love remains sure and strong and His goodness and unfailing love will pursue us all the days of our lives! (Psalm 23:6)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Come and See



Recently I moved from the rapidly-growing town of Binbrook, to live with a friend in the city!  Packing my stuff (you never realize how much stuff you have until you move!) jogged my memory and it made me go back in the past. Some wonderful memories were brought back and some not so great memories were also brought back. For whatever reason, God brought back grade 6 in particular. Grade 6 was a dark time in my life. I was being teased at school and every day I would cry and beg not to have to go to school. My parents went through a lot that year as well. Towards the end of that year I started entertaining thoughts of taking a whole bottle of pills so that all the pain would be over. I even tried to run away one night.  It is a season of my life that is still hard to think and talk about. 

The next year my parents decided to homeschool us and sometimes I wonder where I would be if I wasn’t ever homeschooled. I think I would definitely be a very different person and sometimes I even wonder if I would still be here. God used those homeschooling years in profound ways to heal and restore me. One of the most common stereotypes of homeschoolers is that they don’t any socializing opportunities. The opposite happened for us. The homeschool group we became involved with provided many, many social outings and we were able to develop some amazing friendships. Some of my closest friends I have today are from the homeschool group. 

I look at my life today. No, I don’t have everything I want but yet there is still so much I’m deeply thankful for. I’m so glad God didn’t end my life when I wanted it to in grade 6. I’m so glad God provides the strength needed to keep going when all we feel like doing is giving up. The past is a dangerous place to live in but I think we need to visit it once in a while. Psalm 66 tells us to come and see what God has done, his awesome deeds for mankind!”  Thinking about that painful school year reminded me of all that God has brought be me through.  God has done many amazing things and sometimes the only way to see those things are to remember the past.

In Psalm 9 David says that he will give thanks to the Lord with his whole heart and will recount all of God’s wonderful deeds. Why?  I think it is because life is hard and in the midst of trouble, it is hard to see God’s present goodness. It is when we recount all the ways God has already worked powerfully in our lives we are reminded of His power to bring beauty out of ashes. We remember all the times we thought God wasn’t working at all, but now we can look back and clearly see how He was at work all along.

This coming thanksgiving I want to give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart.  These are some of the things I’m thankful for:

I’m thankful for family and friends who I can live life with. I’m thankful for the people who constantly encourage and spur me on. I’m thankful for a church that teaches the Bible and has provided a place to grow and to serve. I’m thankful for a bed that is warm and comfortable. I’m thankful for coffee on those mornings that are hard to wake up. I’m thankful for a car that gets me place to place and that doesn’t break down too often. I’m thankful for the beauty of each changing season. I’m thankful that there will always be new songs to write and sing. I’m thankful for the ability to work. I’m thankful for my crazy cat that provides lots of laughs. I’m thankful for the way a baby can bring so much joy.  I’m thankful for the Spirit of God that convicts me of my sin so I can know and experience Him. I’m thankful for the feeling of clean laundry.  I’m thankful for the kind of laughter that hurts my stomach.  I’m thankful for all the different flavors of food. I’m thankful for cherished memories. I’m thankful that the Lord’s mercy is new every morning so that I can enjoy all these good gifts.



Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Broken Heart



I’ve had the privilege of working at a nursing home for the last few years, and many of the residents have become just like grandparents to me. I’ve gotten to meet a lot of wonderful people but a few residents in particular have found a special place in my heart.

After being away for a couple of weeks, I went into work one evening last week for a staff meeting.  During it I found out that one of the resident ladies I’ve been closest with had taken a turn for the worse and was close to death. It was a struggle to pay attention to the rest of the meeting and afterwards I went upstairs immediately to visit with her. When I asked the nurse if it was okay if I visited with her for a while, I found out that she had passed away while we were having our meeting.

It’s always hard not to get to say goodbye to residents, but to be so close to being able to see her one last time, broke my heart. I had considered going into work early that day to say hi to everyone before the meeting but the day got busy and so I didn’t. Now I keep wondering if I had, if I would have been able to see her one last time.

My heart has been heavy the last few days. In the midst of my brokenness, the Enemy has seen opportune moments to accuse me and to remind me of the times I’ve failed to love her and other residents as Christ would want me to. This resident often asked me why I was so happy all of the time so I had a couple of opportunities to bring up the Lord in our conversations, but I wish so much I could have done more.

Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth allowing myself to grow to love the residents so much. It seems so costly emotionally and I wonder if it really makes a difference. 

In the midst of all these ponderings, God has been reminding me that He is close to the brokenhearted. While it may seem costly at times, it is worth it to be fully where God has placed us, for to be near to God is a good place to be in any circumstance.

My friends, in the midst of our broken heartedness, let’s seek the Lord!  Oftentimes I focus so much on what is happening around me, that I neglect to remember the kind of God that has saved and loved me.  Psalm 34 is a regular place I go to and sometimes I have to read it over and over until the incredible promises in it start to sink deeply into my soul. Those who trust in Christ can be sure that He will deliver, provide, hear, save and redeem. Even when our emotions and feelings tell us differently, we can rest in these great promises. No matter how great our brokenness, our God’s power to heal and to redeem is greater!