Tuesday, February 28, 2012

No Posts This Week

Hi everyone,

So you might be wondering why I didn't post anything on Monday. And tomorrow you will probably be wondering why no new posts are going up.

This has been a kind of ridiculous week for me and I don't really have any honest explanation for it. My Bible readings have been rushed and uninspired, I've been exhausted and sluggish, and even while I type this I'm slowly drifting out of consciousnesssssssssss- just kidding, it's not that bad.

There have been a number of things on my mind recently, and I'll likely have a lot to say once my schedule calms down again. I've been praying for discernment about things for next year with regards to ministry, work and school, as well as with regards to relationships. I was also given some pretty intense news and have been working a lot and spending my down time disappearing into the worlds of The Office, 30 Rock and Parks & Recreation.

All this being said, I will be back to normal next week, with regular posts on Monday and Wednesday, and I'm sorry I have been a little less than productive recently!

God bless,

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Dangerous Prayers

I was having a really great conversation with a friend of mine last week about faith, love and discipleship, and there came a point in our long discussion when the idea of dangerous prayer came up.

Dangerous Prayers are the kind of prayers I think we all need to pray more often, but are too afraid to pray. They are prayers that, in reality, are not actually *dangerous* per se- we aren't going to get murdered or accidentally blow up a bridge because of them, usually- but they are risky, in that God's answer to them is going to challenge the heck out of us! The example I was using at the time was in reference to praying for one's future spouse. This is a discipline I took up about a year ago, that I will regularly pray that God is preparing for me a wife who is godly, passionate, fertile, healthy, and going to challenge me a lot in my faith. I would call this a dangerous prayer because I am literally asking God to put me into a difficult relationship, because I just don't think I want something easy. But that's a story for another day.

Since we're talking about Dangerous Prayers today, I thought I would list a few others, and challenge you guys to pray some of them from time to time! :)

Pray for God to convict you of your sin. I figure this is a good place to start. It sounds pretty straightforward, but for a lot of people, the idea of *asking* Him to point out sin in their life is a terrifying thing. It's akin to asking your boss or supervisor what you can improve on at work. You just know there's going to be some stuff in there that you hoped nobody would notice, or that you were putting off fixing because of how difficult it is. And that's why this is a dangerous prayer, because it is so challenging, but so so worth it!

Pray for humbling experiences. This is one that I need to do more often, because it scares the heck out of me. Asking God to humble us is like a branch manager asking the CEO to make him receptionist for awhile- humility comes out of situations where we are lower, where pride is hard to come by. It is a good feeling being exalted, acknowledged publicly for good works, given a position of high importance, it all makes you feel more worthwhile. But the experiences that grow our character most and bring us closer to God are often the ones that are humble, behind the scenes and go unnoticed. This prayer is dangerous, especially for leaders, because it challenges our pride and invites us to step out of the spotlight and into the bathrooms with a mop.

"Break my heart for what breaks Yours" I couldn't come up with a way to phrase this one, so I'm just giving it to you as is. Asking God to help us see things the way He sees them is a dangerous prayer, but an amazing one. Often we see people who are so compassionate that we are blown away, and we wonder how they do it. It's because God has given them the gift of compassion, and they are able to see people and situations in a different, more holy light. This prayer is dangerous because it first takes acknowledging that we have built up so many expectations and biases that we are, in that sense, very disconnected from God; and also because having such compassion can move people in incredibly unexpected ways. Ready to do a lot more crying? If you're not, pray for humility first, then pray this one ;)

These are just a few examples of the dangerous prayers we can pray, but I'd like to challenge you to think of a few more, and start praying them from time to time! :) I read a book awhile back and am blanking on the title and author, but they listed quite a few and I just loved it. So if I find that, I'll come back and edit this post, but until then, that is all I've got! :)


Monday, February 20, 2012

The Bible in a Year: Week 7

This has been a really incredible week for me! Just an amazing sense of God's blessing, lots of discernment and so much fellowship!

This weekend was February Frost, an annual winter retreat involving lots of people from Crosstalk Ministries' various groups and events. It was a really great time, staying up incredibly late playing Dutch Blitz, enjoying amazing times of worship and fantastic lessons with our wonderful guest speaker.

What a lovely bunch! And this wasn't even half of us!

It was such a blessing being able to spend the weekend with lots of amazing young people who are all so passionate about God! We even had a buddy of ours fly in from Winnipeg for the weekend, which made it all the more excellent!

Anyways, I started reading the book of Mark this week, and I'm glad I did, because I also finished Exodus and started reading Leviticus, which was a lot less exciting. So far, Leviticus has not inspired much in me. Lots of rules about offering animal sacrifices and whatnot. But Mark was interesting so far, so I will talk about it a little today!

What I find most interesting about Mark so far is that it starts right off with John the Baptist preparing for Jesus' ministry on earth! I have to wonder why it leaves out the virgin birth and Christ's childhood, but at the same time, I am really impressed by how straight-to-the-point Mark's gospel is. He kind of just gets right down to business and focuses on miracles, parables and teachings.

I don't really have much else to say about that, but I'm very excited for the next couple of days' readings, so keep checking back, in case I find time to do an extra post this week! If I don't, well, see you Wednesday!

God bless,

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What is the Gospel?

As Christians, we spend heaps of time (or at least we should!) talking about the gospel. We "share" it with people, we "preach" it, we try to "live it out" and we state it as a huge aspect of our faith.

But, by a show of hands, how many of you can actually give a good definition of the gospel?

I'm guessing most of you either laughed or quizically raised your hand then kind of hesitated and put it back down before continuing to read. It's unfortunate, but a lot of people throw the phrase around without having a really good grasp of what it actually means. Before I continue, I'd like to mention that I am not claiming to have the answer- this is a question I myself have pondered for the last couple of years, trying to get a better understanding of it.

I think my favorite description of the gospel comes from Romans. Paul's letter to the Romans is really brilliant in that, for the most part, it is his way of introducing himself, his ministry and his Jesus to them, and so a lot of it is very straightforward, linear thinking that almost reads like a pamphlet or an essay!

Let's take a quick look at Romans 5:12-21. (ESV)

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned- for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin. For the judgement following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.
Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

A little wordy, but I think it gets the point across. The basic message of the gospel is, as far as I can tell:

God created everything and everyone, and we are accountable to Him as our Judge. We turned against Him in one way or another, and our sins deserve just punishment. However, Jesus acts as advocate and offers freedom from sin and grace from judgement. This is dependent, however, on our active participation through repentance and worship.

So, basically: God loves you, but also judges you. You messed up, but Jesus will defend your case if you agree to turn around and get back on the right track and love Him.

So there you go, that is, to the best of my current ability, my definition of the gospel! I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter!

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Bible in a Year: Week 6

This week, the majority (if not the entirety) of the Old Testament readings involved graphic description of the temple (see most of the second half of Exodus).
I was considering writing up a three-hundred page report about that, but then I decided I would talk about something else instead. You're welcome.

Today I want to take a look at Psalm 34:1-10.

As a student, I find it challenging at times to live out my faith at school. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I'm barely ever at school to begin with, but the rushed lifestyle of a student makes it difficult to find time to minister to your classmates and such. But we are called to bless the Lord at all times and continually have His praise in our mouths. So this kind of passage, for me, is both a fantastic reminder of God's promise and His love and gifts for us, and also a push to be more intentional about taking whatever time I can to reach out to my peers and share the gospel with them. I haven't quite figured out how I'm going to do that yet, but it's something I will be praying about over the next couple of weeks.

So I'd like to challenge you to do the same- find an area in your life where you're having difficulty shining His light, and ask Him to show you how you can make a difference there!


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Guest Post on Carl's Blog!

Hey everyone!

Just wanted to let you know that today I have another guest post up at Carl Jones' blog!

You should all go check it out!

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Midweek Update!

Hey everyone!

So there isn't much of a post today, because things got a little busy at the last minute, but I wanted to write a bit about a few changes and additions I'll be making to the blog over the next couple of days!

You've probably already noticed, this site has a new logo! It was designed by a good friend of mine, Matthew Fishman @FLIGHTTHEPOWER. This is just the first of a number of graphical changes that will be happening over the next couple of months, with his help. I'm completely lost when it comes to most computer-related and art-related things, so he's a huge blessing to have on board helping me out!

There's also a new page up there, next to the 'Home' tab- a page with a little bit of info about the guy whose blog you're reading! You can find that up there, or click here if that's easier for you! I'll be adding a few more pages like that one with a few details about the various ministries I work with, those should be up by the end of the week.

You might also start to see some ads popping up on here in the next little while. These days, I am doing almost anything to get some extra cash, and trusting that God will provide what I need, and will be monetizing this blog through AdSense. This will not really affect any of you that much, but you will start to see them in the sidebars and below posts and such. Feel free to click them if you want to, but if you don't, that's also cool! Your presence here, reading what I write, is enough compensation for me :)

The last update- as previously mentioned, my Wednesday series about brokenness is being discontinued for a little while in favor of something a little different. You'll have to check back next week to see what it is though ;)

Monday, February 06, 2012

The Bible in a Year: Week 5

For the last two weeks or so, I've been reading through the book of Exodus as part of my daily readings. Exodus is the second book of the Old Testament, and continues the history from where Genesis left off, starting with Israel's hard times in Egypt. Pharaoh, who was once a good friend of Joseph, is now a horrendous slave-driver, and Israel is sick of it (Maybe it's a different Pharaoh? Regardless he's kind of a jerk).

For me, what stands out most about the story of the exodus (that is, the story of Israel's flight from Egypt) is the man God chooses to do the job. We all know his name, we all know he parted the seas and brought plagues on Egypt and smacked a rock so hard water came out of it (not at all in that order). Moses, a man who found favor with God and managed to avoid the killing of the Hebrew infants. He led his people out of slavery and is the subject of hundreds of Sunday School lessons. But what I think is really cool about Moses isn't all of his accomplishments, it's the fact that God called him to begin with.

I'm a firm believer (and living example) of God equipping the called, and not always calling the equipped. Moses is one such example! He was not a very confident man, with something of a speech impediment, certainly not a public speaker by any means. He was so lacking in self-confidence, that when God called him, he even brought it up- "Uh, God, this is cool and all, but I can't really talk properly... Can't you get my brother to do it?" God, being faithful and understanding, decided to use both brothers for the task He had in mind. God created, in Moses, a great leader for His people, in spite of his slow speech and self-doubt.

I think there's something really amazing and powerful about these kind of stories. Maybe I'm biased, but I love seeing people thrown into situations that are challenging to their faith, and watching Him work through that and help them grow. (If you're wondering why, you should check out this post about my testimony!)

God doesn't always call the equipped; Sometimes, He equips the called. Moses learned this thousands of years ago, I learned it a few years ago, and I think we all need to re-learn it on a regular basis. So today, I challenge you to pray asking God to stretch you to new levels of faith!

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Hardcore Brokenness: The Examined Life

Warning: I am probably going to get a little philosophical today. You've been warned. Completely.

For the past month, I have been doing a lot of reflecting on my own flaws and brokenness, in an effort to better understand the things that keep me from growing in my relationship with God. It's been an interesting process, and definitely rewarding and insightful, but I'm beginning to wonder if it's actually a healthy way to go about things.

Don't get me wrong- it's definitely a good idea to be aware of the areas where you're struggling, so that you can bring them to God and lay them before Him in full submission to His grace and glory, and ask Him to be at work in you to change them. What I'm not sure about is whether or not it is a good idea to carefully examine one's own life on such a regular basis, with the goal of being critical and trying to improve.

Plato gives this analogy about life in a cave- you spend your whole life living in said cave, understanding it on a purely physical level, then one day you somehow come out of that cave, and are given incredible insights into the 'real world' outside. Then you're sucked back into the cave, and you're forced to go back into your regular life while simultaneously being made aware and conscious of the world outside, only nobody believes you because "that's too meta bro"

This raises the question about whether or not ignorance is truly bliss- would you be happier to keep living your simple, monotonously cave-life, or to have your eyes opened to the truth and the things beyond but to have them unattainable because you're thrown back into the cave again?

All this to say, I've been reading philosophy textbooks recently and they got me thinking (as they are wont to do) about whether or not this series is actually good for me, and if I'm going about it the right way or not. I think if I continue to live 'the examined life' and *intentionally* reflect on things like this, all I'm really doing is being overly critical of myself and not letting God just call me out on things, which makes it feel all too artificial.

That being said, I'm going to discontinue this series as a regular, weekly thing. I may come back to it from time to time, but only when it flows naturally and comes from legitimate places. I will still continue the trend of having a new post up every Wednesday, however, so do keep checking back for more!

Yours in Christ,

The Bible in a Year: Week 4

Sorry I'm a little late on this one! (What else is new though)

Joseph's Coat by Diego Velazquez

So last week I probably talked at least a bit about Joseph, and how amazing his grace toward his brothers was, but today I'd really like to talk about that a little more. I think there's two things that stood out exceptionally for me about that: The first, is the way he responded to his brothers when they came to visit him; the second is how God was at work through it all.

We first really meet Joseph in kind of lousy circumstances- his brothers hate him, he has a vision of them bowing down to him, and he gets a really nice coat and they trash it and sell him into slavery. He gets carted off to Egypt and has more cool dreams, this time the Pharaoh gets involved, and there's so much potential for terrible things to happen. Instead, he spends a bit of time in jail then becomes incredibly valuable in Pharaoh's eyes and gains his favor. God takes Joseph from this awful situation and moulds it into something brilliant, but it gets better. When all of Egypt is thrown into famine and drought, Joseph is able to store up a ton of extra supplies that last for the seven years until that gets sorted out, and his brothers come by to ask for his help. He weeps at the sight of them and is so filled with emotion when they bring his brother Benjamin with them, and he utters some words to them that are just so insightful and actually really important for us to remember in our everyday lives. When he tells them he's their abandoned brother, they freak out and are worried he's going to enact some kind of terrible revenge on them, but instead, he basically tells them, "Look around bro- God took that crappy situation and turned it into something totally amazing! I'm here with Pharaoh, blessing you guys, and we're reunited, and all this because you tried to screw me over! I don't hate you guys for that- I now know that God was at work through this from the very beginning!"

Not only did Joseph show his brothers grace, but he also acknowledged that God was doing cool things in him the whole time! And He was providing so much for Joseph and his brothers and the Egyptians by being faithful even through the famine. This was a very helpful reminder for me over the weekend. I was worried about my financial situation (debt, debt, debt!) and was starting to lose faith in God's ability to provide for me- then someone blessed me ridiculously with a big cheque to pay off school and driving lessons! God is good :)

So let's raise a glass to Joseph- a good reminder to us that we should keep short accounts, trust in God's provision and give Him glory where glory is due!