Sunday, August 19, 2012

"It's like I won the lottery"

Many years ago someone near and dear to me had a crisis. In that moment they turned to Jesus for comfort. Being that I was not a believer at that time it really struck me as insane and concerning. The person said to me it was like they "won the lottery" and the person had this peace that was not normal for him/her. Being that I figured this person was just escaping reality in order to not face up to what was going on I did everything in my power to quell this faith fire. In the end I was successful and to this day the person is not a follower of the Lord.

However the event had a profound effect on me and soon after it my faith walk started. As I put out the fire it started to burn in me. You see at the time I was in a crisis of my own. Being that I was most secretive it was not something that others knew. Even those closest to me were totally unaware of the situation that was nearing a boiling point. God used this situation for my betterment. I still pray for the other person to come to the Cross and believe that someday it will happen.

Anyways, just the other day someone made a reference to perhaps winning the latest big jackpot. I don't play lotteries at all myself. I'm happy with where I'm at. I mean yes it would be nice to be able to tour the world and not have to work hard labour to make ends meet. However, as Solomon said, this is my lot and I choose to be happy in it. I don't think more money would bring me more happiness.

I've seen documentaries and read stroies about major lottery winners. While some of the winners live good lives sharing their wealth with extended family most say they wish they could go back to how things were before they won. Broken families are the norm. There is a great deal of lottery winners who end up flat broke with even more broken lives. The love of money is a sickness and greed rears its ugly head when wealth increases suddenly.

I actually believe life with Jesus is better than winning the lottery. My life has much more joy than sorrow. In those times of difficulty I know they will pass. As Job said naked I came into the world and naked I'll leave. God blesses me with possessions and permits me to enjoy them. So I'll take it a step further than my friend in saying Life with Jesus is better than winning the lottery.

It's not what you have but how you use it. My joy outweighs my circumstances. Better days lay ahead for me. Even if at the moment they may not look like it. God is still working out my salvation and has plans for me to prosper. That is his promise and I see that in my life.

Money, possessions, people and circumstances will come and go. In the end it will be you and God. All I desire to hear is "well done, good and faithful servant" because my personal accomplishments and wealth won't mean a thing in His court. I hope you feel the same!!

Joy is better than winning the lottery! God bless you right where you are!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Christ follower living in a secular world: Life by HIS rules, keeping the Sabbath holy

A Christ follower living in a secular world: Life by HIS rules, keeping the Sabbath holy: About 9 months ago my work went from a 5 day a week operation to a 24/7 work place. I was concerned for several reasons but mainly how this ...

Life by HIS rules, keeping the Sabbath holy

About 9 months ago my work went from a 5 day a week operation to a 24/7 work place. I was concerned for several reasons but mainly how this would affect my Sundays as I worship God everyday but in a big way on that day in particular starting early in the morning.

After some wrangling I managed to secure a shift that included Sundays off. This came up for renewal a couple of months later and again was able to stay on the same shift. God blessed me in this time and my ministry opportunities grew as my new shift freed me on a Monday morning too(I work GY shift and had Saturday/Sunday nights off). I built a life for myself around this shift and life was good.

My work has this kind of crazy arrangement IMO where everyone has to resubmit their shift preference every 6 months. I kind of figured it would be difficult to attain this shift again but did my best to try to keep the status quo. It didn't work out but I did attain what seemed to be the best scenario my seniority could afford which meant my shifts were Tuesday night until Saturday night meaning my week would end Sunday morning at 7 AM. This I figured would be difficult with my Sunday schedule and would mean a big adjustment in my early morning routine. That being said I was thankful to get what I did as it was still allowing me to attend my main Church service on Sunday(all be it tired) plus minister on a Monday morning which has become a big passion of mine.

Well I worked last Saturday night and made do with it. I attended Church but everything just felt a little off. As the week went on it just didn't sit well in my spirit. This has become a spiritual battle for me and a question of faith. You see God has always provided what I need and I am fully devoted to him.

But do I truly trust him? You see recently I entered into a relationship that has been life changing and I can totally see building a life with this person and feel a strong desire to provide and be a stable influence. Can I trust God to be the rock or will I turn to my own devices? Isaiah 2:22 which I read the other day provided some clarity for me. I was trusting in my own human reasoning when really all I know for sure is there is oxygen in my nostrils!! I had to turn the situation over to God and trust him.

So On Friday night at work I did just that. I informed my supervisor verbally and by letter that I would not be available Saturday night anymore. I've applied to go part time(in the letter I stated why I can only work 4 of my shifts per week) as there are provisions in my works CBA for part timers but it has to be approved by the Industrial Relations department. I think it will likely be approved but if it isn't I could be in a bit of battle. Even if it is approved it will mean I will have to get by on less in the interim. I'm going to trust in God on this one. He provides for me and has done things in my life far beyond what I was praying for. I'm not saying that will be the case here because the moment I try to interpret what God is about to do in my life he does something I never even thought of.

Regardless, I have the peace of God in my heart this Sunday. I got up at 5 AM but was actually in prayer from about 1:30 and on. I feel God's presence and his kingdom here on earth as it is in Heaven. So whatever happens, happens as it is in God's hands now. His will, will be done in my life and in this situation.

So praise the Lord, praise his Holy name. Thank you Jesus, lover of my soul!

There are certain things that should/can be done on a Sunday that are not ungodly or unholy. Certain occupations are necessary on a Sunday but warehouse work is hardly one of them. Working on a Sunday for a Christian is a real hardship and I could not reconcile it in my occupation. I would really rather my work didn't work it at all but just because it does I don't see the need to force a Christ loving Christian to work it just to eke out a living. I trust God to work it out.

Blessings to you today!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Christ follower living in a secular world: Life without TV, sane or insane?

A Christ follower living in a secular world: Life without TV, sane or insane?: My church recently concluded a 21 day fast. Now, not everyone can go 21 days without food and while I could I felt it would have made me a l...

Life without TV, sane or insane?

My church recently concluded a 21 day fast. Now, not everyone can go 21 days without food and while I could I felt it would have made me a less effective worker at my job so I asked God to give me something else significant I could fast. Over the last 7 years I've gone on various fasts including short term food fasts. All of them have ended up changing me at least a little and IMO for the better. I don't enter fasts to end up improving myself but to honour God. He just does that as a gift because he is God and God loves his children so much more than they deserve.

Anyways, I gave up TV for the fast and while the fast ended on Sunday night I am still going. I look at my blank TV screen once in a while and think maybe I should throw it on. I mean I have a PVR(cable is included in my rent so not watching TV while living here isn't going to save me anything) and I have 6 hours of Christian teaching to watch never mind anything else I may want to partake in. My TV viewing has changed significantly over the last several years. The stuff I tend to watch more so now is cerebral or socially interactive or a little of both. I like Survivor and Amazing race because I like to see how people think out situations and I can discuss it with friends/family during and/or after the broadcast. I enjoy sports too but more for watching how the players react to stress than just watching the pretty plays.

I think I'll give sports it's own paragraph since I don't have to follow conventional story structure :)

Sports was a big part of my watching. At one time I could watch pretty much anything that was a competition. From Darts to hockey to poker to curling to etc etc etc. I still watch Hockey, a little CFL, some golf and auto racing. Hockey has been king for me in the past. I lived and died with the Canucks. A side of me comes out I don't particularly like when I watch the Canucks. I get frustrated with the bad calls, I get angry at the opposing team players and I act with less grace towards fans of other teams especially when the Canucks are pitted against them. I have lost a lot of my passion for it but it is still there. I mean before coming to the Christ I went through tremendous highs and lows. Sports could make my day good or bad depending on the outcome. It was ridiculous and it now looks absurd to me but I know that ungrateful wretch is still there in my sinful nature. I want to be able to watch a game still but not at any cost. It is something I will hopefully not have to drop entirely but it may come to that. After the fast started I became aware how much Canuck paraphernalia was hanging around my place. I never intended it to be but my place was like a shrine to the hockey gods. Thankfully I wasn't bowing to them but I got rid of half the stuff and am not sure about what I have left. At least it doesn't dominate the suite anymore.

Several significant relationships I am developing are with people who don't watch TV or at least seldom do. A couple of them were developing for months before the fast. The other started soon after the fast started. This most recent one is particularly important to me as it is something that could be life changing(not that all new friends aren't life changing to a certain degree but this one is even more significant I believe). I planned on watching TV on Monday, then on Tuesday and was at my Mum's on Wednesday and she watches it a lot but I asked her not to and so here we are at Thursday and the Canucks are playing the Wings in an hour. I fully intended on watching this game just yesterday but now I am wavering. The question is do I want to receive or give or both. TV is mostly receiving and often not very improving of yourself as opposed to reading non fiction which can lead to wisdom and knowledge depending on what you do with it. I don't have any plans today for a change(I've been pretty busy) and I think I will spend my time reading if nothing else pops up.

I must say one of the huge benefits of not watching TV has been in my visits with my Mum. I see her virtually every Wednesday for dinner(and often one more visit at random times during the week) and these past 4 weeks have been the best visits I've ever had with her and I mean EVER. It has been a huge blessing, God is good! Totally an unexpected benefit and a very welcome gift from Papa.

In conclusion, I can totally see watching TV again but I'm pretty sure it has been placed way further down the priority list than it was just 25 days ago. I love my life with God as my guide. It is always interesting and revealing. I never know what is going to happen but bring it on!!

Sane or insane? You decide for yourself.

Blessings to you and for you!! James

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Christ follower living in a secular world: Encountering unbottled rage

A Christ follower living in a secular world: Encountering unbottled rage: On Sunday morning I had decided to take my Mum to church. She has only been going to that one for a few months and I just never had the oppo...

Encountering unbottled rage

On Sunday morning I had decided to take my Mum to church. She has only been going to that one for a few months and I just never had the opportunity to check it out. I find it hard to pry myself away from my own church and they meet at overlapping times. The weekend had been filled with missionary stories as I had spent the previous 2 days at missionsfest. Nothing against the people speaking at my church on Sunday but it was a mission related service so I took this opportunity to go across the bridge and check it out. The service itself was a little off the norm for that congregation because the Pastor had become ill last minute and a very young looking youth pastor presided over the service. That being said I enjoyed it very much. We went out to have lunch after the service and had a very nice visit.

So now we come to the incident the title alludes to....

After lunch we headed to her apartment building. The rain had come on quite heavy. My Mum doesn't walk that well or smartly so I decided to drop off at the front door so she would not get wet. As I pulled into the driveway there were a couple of vehicles blocking the driveway and a minivan directly in front of the entrance way. There was enough room behind it for my Mum to get through though the driveway pavement is a little broken up and a large puddle was forming right where she had to walk. The situation irked me a little. Not a lot but a little.

So by the time my Mum had made her way past the minivan the other vehicle had pulled away. I started to draw past the van I was surprised that there was someone in the drivers seat. I paused briefly, made eye contact, mouthed the word why, shrugged my shoulders and pointed forward where he could have been parked temporarily without blocking the door. I went and parked my vehicle on the street and was heading back inside to make my mum a coffee before I took off. As I turned the corner off the sidewalk toward the front door I was surprised the van was still there. I was just forming the thought to say to him why I gestured and what it meant if he was unsure.

Well As soon as he saw it was me he burst out of the van yelling obscenities at me and acting most menacing towards me. He was burly but short, honestly in a fight I doubt he would have stood a chance against me but I had no interest in fighting him or returning his evil. Once his first barrage of verbal insults subsided I tried in vane to explain what I had a problem with. I spoke forcefully but not with anger. I didn't take an aggressive stance but at the same time didn't submit either. I said if he wanted I could call the Police. He backed off but as he got back into his van he yelled more obscenities and in among them he stated he could park wherever he wanted. I didn't like that and I turned around and explained the situation one more time.

Well he burst out the van again and this time ran around to the passenger side and flung open the sliding door which revealed 2 young children in baby seats in the second row. He then said I had embarrassed him in front of his family he then walked to where my Mum had walked through and gestured say there seems to be plenty of room for you to fit through here. He then started to come at me and this time I got my phone out and we ready to dial 911. I really thought he was going to attack at this point. I guess he got a slight grip on himself and backed off at that point. I headed inside and the incident was over.

In review as I like to do with pretty much anything in life a few things come to light....

  • It was out of concern for my Mum and others like her that live there but do I really have to correct people
  • people can totally misconstrue hand signals/gestures and I'm pretty sure he did here. Perception is reality
  • once the incident started I handled it fairly well
  • however was it necessary for me to correct him again, did I really think he was going to receive it now or was that just my anger
  • what will I do next time
  • God protected me big time
  • 10 years ago I would have been in a fight 99% for sure
  • those poor kids

I felt so bad for those little children and also the realization that he was probably waiting for his wife to come down and she was going to get into a very hostile environment. So some of it I did well and praise God for that but other parts I can truly learn from. I've been praying for the unnamed man and kids ever since. My armour was damaged a little and it took some time to sort it out with God but he repaired it.

If anyone who reads this has some wisdom to share please do. Either leave a comment here or message me via email or FB. It is quite possible I may encounter this man again and I just want to do the right thing whatever that is.

Blessings, James

Edit: I should have added when he revealed his kids I spoke into that. I chastised him for his foul language and that it was even worse doing it in front of his children. I also reminded him that I did not say one curse nor insulted him personally in any way. The things that upset the most about the entire incident was that those tiny ears had to endure that barrage of filth.

A Christ follower living in a secular world: It has been a little while....

A Christ follower living in a secular world: It has been a little while....: My life has been going at a pace I am unaccustomed to. It has been growing in busyness for quite a few months now but since my Church wide f...

It has been a little while....

My life has been going at a pace I am unaccustomed to. It has been growing in busyness for quite a few months now but since my Church wide fast started 23 days ago(it ended 2 days ago yet I'm still going but for how much longer I'm uncertain) I have become very busy. I love it but just didn't have time to sit down and write a blog. I will probably always be a blogger but there will be times I post many and other times I will post few. If you enjoy my blog just check in once in a while. Even though my blogs aren't that long they take a while to write. I don't just want to just blurt out random thoughts(perhaps some of my articles still fall into that category) but actually share what God has taught me.

My life had to be emptied out for a time because I needed to get deeper with God. I went through a season of pruning last spring/summer. It was a good time to reflect on where I had been, where I was at that moment and where I should go next. I needed to get re-equipped for the battles that were ahead of me. Indeed the time spent in reflection was well worth it. My connection to God is very strong and I've never felt closer to him than at this moment.

Since that season I have had ministry opportunities spring up everywhere. I have deepened connections to people I know as well growing my network of friends in and around my church. I let people into my life more openly and share deeply. I am further understanding my role in the body as a prophet. I see things from a different perspective than most people and understand more fully that neither perspective is wrong but just different. Instead of thinking they are wrong and I am right I can take what people say as the truth from where they are coming from. In life there are very few absolutes. There are times my perspective has been the one that was totally off kilter and I am thankful for correction. I never fear God's discipline although at times it has been difficult to go through. Anytime God has told me to put something down or take something up, as straining as it may be at the time, over and over again I have seen how it was for my and/or others betterment. It gives me peace in times of trouble and a lot of enjoyment in times of blessing. He's not done with me and there are going to more trials. I have no doubt of that but my eyes are on the prize.

That prize is honouring God in my daily affairs. The way I treat people and situations. What I prioritize. I seek to glorify him because he loves a wretch like me and you know what, he loves you too!!

Thank you Jesus, leader of my life!

Blessings, James

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Christ follower living in a secular world: Filtering your life.

A Christ follower living in a secular world: Filtering your life.: I posted this some time in March last year. Recent events around me have brought it to my mind a few times of late. I think now is a good t...

Filtering your life.

I posted this some time in March last year. Recent events around me have brought it to my mind a few times of late. I think now is a good time to review it and if you are new to my blog then enjoy it with fresh eyes. Blessings...James

Now not everyone is going to be the same about how they go about this. We are all individuals with our own paths to walk. However I will share my opinions about how it works in my life.

We all filter things we intake.

Sometimes what is said and what we hear can be quite different. It is important when engaged in conversation you listen to what is said. It is also important to take into context who says it. What mental state is that person in is as important as the words they speak. People will often obscure their own truths because they are in an up state or a down state. It is important to ask questions to fill in the background of where someone is coming from. Not with all conversations. Some people are just big on small talk and just want to fill any gaps with words, any words that fill the silence. It is important to understand the difference between a meaningful conversation and gap fillers. Some are more apt to engage in small talk due to their personality type, there's nothing wrong with that, it is just how they are.

Just because someone says something that upsets you or that you disagree with strongly it doesn't have to affect your mood or outlook. That is totally your choice to make, not theirs. You can respond with what you believe to be true without having to belittle/berate them. Perhaps you'll change their mind but likely not if you make them defensive. I can get passionate about my truths at times and recognize this as an area that needs improvement. Not everything I believe is true and everyone else can teach me something I don't know or am misinformed about. Be open minded about concepts or procedures. There are certain universal truths I know and cannot be moved on but in a lot of areas I am open to new ideas. Take all the good you can from others and filter out the bad.

Filter what you meditate on.

Meditating is something everyone does. It's not just some monk on a mountain top that does it. Lets see what the dictionary says about meditation

Meditation: continued or extended thought; reflection; contemplation.

If you continue to think about something bad that happened to you(some argument or miscommunication that happened recently for example) it will just eat away any positive energy you have. It will become bigger than it really is and no matter how many times you replay it, it doesn't become a pleasant thought. If you have an argument with someone perhaps figuring out a way to remedy the situation would be good to think on. Or perhaps you could think of a good memory with that person and meditate on that. Bitterness and frustration do not get better by thinking about them endlessly. They get worse. Often people will replay the negative things that happen to them over and over for years sometimes and it just makes them bitter. I don't want to feel bitter, I'd rather feel better. If your past keeps haunting you in your thought life there is a program called freedom session that can be a big help. Check it out here.

Words that heal vs words that harm.

Measure your words carefully. Depending on the situation your words can make a big difference to diffuse a situation. They can also fan the flames of discontent. Just because you have a thought doesn't mean you have to share it with the world. Some people talk just for the sake of talking, filling the air with noise. If you didn't like a show and the objectionable content you saw then why are you now describing that content to others? Why not talk about something you like if you need to share. If someone is listing complaints about you then probably this isn't the moment to list your complaints about them. Address their concerns as best you can and realize they are only speaking from their own hurt. They may even be right about some of them :)

Spewing bitterness and resentments is like spreading germs. It is contagious. The flip side is to spread love and joy. This is also contagious and infectiously good. Knowing your audience and knowing yourself is a big asset. Reading body language is something everyone can do to a certain point. I'm not saying never ever complain but make sure it is context and to the right person. Also being super cheery with someone who is really hurting can do more harm than good. When someone is venting is not the right time to correct the finer points of what they are saying. Use some discretion.

Don't be a talking head!!

Try to be discerning in your commentary. You don't have to share your opinion on everything. I fall into that category at times and I know that sometimes less is more. The person that says the most often is listened to the least. Words are precious, measure your words carefully. Offering your opinion on everything can lessen your impact when it is something you have meaningful dialogue on to relay.

Let your actions match your words.

Talk is cheap. If you say one thing then in reality do the opposite your words become less and less meaningful. If you talk about having a positive attitude and then complain about everything and everybody your attitude is anything but positive. Actions DO speak louder than words. So don't spend forever talking about change, actually be an active part of that change and you'll gain respect which in turn will gain more than any words could ever do. I love words but words alone don't do anything. They are meaningless without activities that mimic your words.

So meditate on what is good and true, talk less, listen more and walk your talk.

Blessings, James

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Christ follower living in a secular world: What is fasting all about?

A Christ follower living in a secular world: What is fasting all about?: I'm not here to boast. I'm not going to brag of my righteousness. Truth is when it comes to food fasts they are rare for me. In my current w...

What is fasting all about?

I'm not here to boast. I'm not going to brag of my righteousness. Truth is when it comes to food fasts they are rare for me. In my current work it would be unwise and quite likely dangerous to go on an extended fast of food. Jesus fasted for 40 days in the desert. That took incredible strength and determination plus dependence on God the father to sustain him but I believe in the right circumstances I could be up to the challenge. My Church is about to go on a 21 day fast starting next Monday. Some will go on food fasts but most will give up other things in their day to day lives. They will give up Coffee or desserts or a variety of other things.

So why fast? For me there are several good reasons to fast. First it increases my dependence on God.  When fasting food and I get hunger pains I seek God immediately to help it pass and to sustain me. Secondly it increases my awareness of God as he can satisfy more than anything else. Thirdly it increases the amount of time I spend in prayer and in the word as I find I now have extra time on my hands.

What is the significance of fasting? It is an act of submission and self denial. Often it is used as an act of repentance. Fasting, the tearing of clothes and wearing of sack cloth and ash on your head was often an act of obedience when sinful acts were revealed to a people or person. The Pharisees fasted on Tuesdays and again on the Sabbath as an act of obedience often as repentance for their people more than themselves. Jesus recognized fasting as a good thing to do but to do so without any fanfare so to not show it as an act of righteousness. When asked why he nor his disciples fasted he replied they can do so after he is gone. Clearly implying it is good and proper to do as something somber. I believe it to be an act of faithfulness and self denial.

Who should fast? I would say it is something that Pastors and other Church leaders do more often than the flock but really anyone who is a believer in Jesus can and should. Depending on your health and circumstances a food fast may not be wise. How often is really up to you. I don't think I do it enough myself. I seldom go on food fasts and have given up other things for Lent like Chocolate for example but really am rather lax in the whole process to be brutally honest. Other religions have pre-planned fasts that anyone who claims to be a follower (Nation of Islam for example) must follow if they are to be considered a real believer. Christianity has no such rules as it is not a prerequisite for getting into Heaven. I believe it is a good thing to do and desire to do it more often myself but have never thought it was horrible if someone in my Church did not fast. It is between you and God. Seek him first and the Holy Spirit will lead you in what is right for you.

As I said off the top my Church is going on a 21 day fast. After much thought and prayer on the subject I have decided to give up television for the 21 days and use that time in prayer or reading the word. I figure that is a couple of hours a day so by the end of 3 weeks I should be much more righteous than I am now :) Okay, no not really but maybe I'll be a little closer to Jesus than I am now. I sure hope so.

Remember that when you fast don't go around bragging about it. I've probably talked more about my personal fasting than I should but I tend to be wordy.

Happy 2012 everybody!! What a great time it is to be alive! Blessings!