From a Refugee’s Eyes

Friends of mine have worked tirelessly to prepare for and make welcome a refugee family from a war torn country.  I am inspired by their love and kindness as they embrace this beautiful family.

It got me thinking how similar this family’s situation is to some one who is brought into the kingdom of God.

Although granted residency, we knew they may not be familiar with much of anything “Canadian” and sure enough, with grace and patience, my friends have spent days showing them how to use money, shop for groceries, and many other things that were new for our family.

When a person comes into the kingdom  of God, they look no different, but are suddenly given a brand new citizenship with new rights, privileges and benefits and hopefully, welcomed open armed by a brand new culture.

New citizens of Heaven must be shown how to think and live in a whole new way.  Heaven culture lives from Love, not fear.   Living in the power and authority of Jesus to overcome darkness is completely foreign to a new citizen.  Things of the Kingdom of Heaven are opposite the kingdom of this world.

What if we view people who are not yet citizens of Heaven as refugees waiting to be invited?  What if we treat new believers as my friends have our new family?  We don’t expect them to know our culture, but we are willing to take them by the hand, and in love, show them how to live like a citizen of the Kingdom.

Many hours have been lovingly invested in making our family feel at home and giving them the tools and knowledge they will need to thrive.  Why would it be different with a new citizen of Heaven?

Many Canadians have no grid for people suffering from war, famine, poverty and oppression.  Fearful, many would rather stay in comfortable circles rather than reaching out to those living in pain and suffering.

Until we have  our hearts broken over the pain and suffering of those outside the Kingdom, what will motivate us to invite them in? What will inspire us to invest our time, love and resources to help them adjust?

Countless hours went into preparing a home for our family.  Many people were praying for them months before they arrived, and much preparation and thought went into their welcome.  We did not know what their response would be or if they would welcome a relationship with us in return, but the work went on regardless.

I wonder if every citizen of Heaven invested this kind of love and effort into bringing one person to citizenship in the Kingdom of God what our communities and churches would look like? And in the welcoming, we too learn, grow, and are deeply enriched!

Productive VS Fruitful

Growing up, I used to hide to finish a book.  If Dad found me, his question was:
“Why don’t you find something productive to do please?”
I would grudgingly put down my book,  go outside and do some of the never ending chores the ranch produced.

As I got older, work ethic was not a problem; God has been working on my workaholic tendencies for years now, so when I opened up my Bible to John 15:5, the verse was familiar, but still hit home.

I am the vine, you are the branches, those who abide in me and I in them will bear much fruit for apart from me, you can do nothing. 

Sometimes it frustrates me that I need to learn the same lessons over and over again!  I like getting things done.  I love the satisfaction of a list crossed off, knowing everything I set out to do is accomplished.  But I am learning God has His own scale of importance when it comes to getting things done. It struck me today that my agenda and lists can be accomplished and crossed off, yet my day be eternally unfruitful.

Those who ABIDE in me and I in them will bear much fruit… Apart from me, you can do nothing. 

This is true in different ways.  The air we breathe is held by God, the strength to work is given by God, so even on a basic life level, I cannot accomplish anything on my own.  But I believe it goes deeper than that.

I look at people like Joni Erickson Tada, amazed by a life grafted firmly in the vine that has borne more fruit than many lives that are physically whole.  When we lay aside our agenda, and let Jesus guide and fill our day, suddenly, we have eternal power and purpose that can make our day not only productive, but also fruitful!

The other day I was coming home from LifeLabs after a bunch of blood tests.  Generally I don’t feel so good after, and was planning to go straight home and rest, but as I passed a farmer’s market, the Holy Spirit said “stop”,  so I shoulder checked and veered into the parking lot.

I soon knew why!  Not only was local produce on a great sale, there was a lady next to the pears who had lost her voice and needed to be reminded that God loves her, has not abandoned her, and is very committed to restoring her.  I asked if I could pray, and listened to the Holy Spirit for words from heaven she needed to hear.  As always, He was bang on, and I got the biggest hug  I have had in a long time and a kiss on the cheek to boot!

Again, I was reminded it all begins with abiding.  Keeping in step with the Spirit.  Carrying on constant communication with Jesus through the day.  Even the mundane tasks can be fruitful when done in a spirit of worship and joy!

Did you begin the day with Jesus?  How do you know when you are abiding in Him and fruitful, versus just productive?

Toilet or Treasure?

I had an odd and sobering picture as I read Paul’s letter to Timothy this morning.  First, check out the verse:

Now, in a large house, there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware; some to honour and some to dishonour.  Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honour, sanctified and useful to the Master for every good work!  Therefore, flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.

The picture I had was of two vessels in my own home.  The first is the toilet.  The second is a beautiful pottery platter, swirled with rich colour and beautiful shapes.

We all know what goes into a toilet, and would immediately reject the idea of serving guests a lavish meal (or any meal, I hope) from this vessel.

The platter is used to offer wonderful treats and delicious food for family and guests.

The toilet doesn’t get to choose what is put into it, but we, dear friend, can!  Sometimes things happen that we don’t invite or cannot stop, however what we take into our souls or even allow to remain there is always  up to us.  Despite popular opinion, there is no such thing as “holy crap.”

Every day we invite things into our soul; movies, music, and things we read and engage with all are internalized in our soul and affect our life.  Regardless of how often you clean a toilet, the fact remains, it is continually refilled with crap.

On the other hand, when we continually cleanse our soul of impure thoughts, attitudes and refuse to allow entry to unclean things, we are in essence choosing a higher destiny in the household of God.

God is looking for people whose hearts are pure and whose lives are sanctified so He can use them in His Kingdom work, longing for the relationship that can be build with His children with pure hearts.

I have seen in God’s house, people who bring a spirit of holiness, honour, graciousness, and love that covers offence and I have seen people who bring contention, discontent and disunity.  We are told to serve, and we cannot help but contribute what we have stored up inside us.  In fact the Bible says;

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45)

Being a vessel of honour in the house of God begins with what we seed in our heart, and allowing “heavenly disinfecting!”  May I desire to be a vessel of honour that serves the King and draws others into His house!

What kind of vessel would you like to be in God’s household?  What are you feeding your soul every day that leads to holiness and honour?

The Glory Left the Temple

In the days of the Old Testament, God dwelled with His people in a unique way.  His glory resided in the Temple in Jerusalem.  His people were to be set apart as they worshipped and served their King.  Ideally, with God as King,  this nation would draw all other nations to the One True God.  Yahweh.

The relationship with God and His people was to so transform Israel that the surrounding people would wonder at the nation where crime was non-existant, people honoured one another, and there was always enough.

But the surrounding nations had some serious issues.  Namely the worship of idols.  These false and demonic “gods” demanded things that Yahweh called abominations.  Like child sacrifice.  Like following after things that hurt and dishonoured others. Like serving only themselves.

Unfortunately Israel was often influenced by the people around them more than they were transformed by yahweh.  They pursued pleasure, success, power and advantageous relationships before God.

“Son of man,” [God] said, do you see what they are doing?  Do you see the detestable sins the people of Israel are committing to drive me from my Temple?” (Ezekiel 8:6)

Eventually, it got so bad the glory of God left the temple, and His people lost the glory of God’s presence in their midst.  They still called themselves God’s people, but their lives didn’t reflect their allegiance enough that anyone would have seen a difference.

Reading in Ezekiel of when God’s glory departed the temple, I turned introspective and wondered at my own life.

The New Testament makes it clear it is now the Church – people – who comprise God’s temple.  If I am a temple of the Holy Spirit, does my life provide a hospitable place for the presence and glory of God to reside?  Do people around me see the incredible difference wholehearted worship and discipleship to Jesus Christ makes in my life?  Are they drawn to God because of the testimony of His glory in me?

Now all glory to God who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or even think.  Glory to Him in the Church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever!  (Ephesians 3:20-21)

As I read, I was struck by the desire to shine.  You know, like we are called to as “the light of the world.” I began to imagine what Israel could have looked like had they sold out wholeheartedly to Yahweh.  What a magnet for those who were seeking justice, kindness, goodness and the blessing of God on their lives.

And then I began wondering; what would my life look like if I sold out wholeheartedly to God?  Would people be drawn to the One I love because of His glory in me at work as fear is replaced by faith and selfishness by love?  As I was cleaning the upstairs of our home today, I began asking Jesus to do a fall cleaning in my temple.

Does your temple need a fall cleaning?  Can you think of some one who draws others to Jesus because of the glory of God in their lives?

 

Its all over when the snow flies!

The ranch in Saskatchewan always brings back fond memories of days spent in the saddle fixing fences, haying acres of alfalfa for winter feed and cattle round ups.

Going back this fall, I was struck by the seasons of change.  It reminded me of what Jesus told us of the harvest being ripe, but not enough workers to bring it all in. (Matthew 9:36) 

Summer consists of cultivating and watering, followed by the push for harvest;  getting ready for the long cold winter.  If you prepared well, you could rest easy that everything was done and everyone would be fed.  If not, it was going to be a long hard winter.

We work with the understanding that “It’s all over when the snow flies.”

I wonder if I transferred that image to life on earth if a greater sense of urgency would result.  I long to go home some days.  Through the worst of Lyme Disease, I begged to go home.  What kept me here were unfulfilled promises and inheritance in the Kingdom.

Once we are called home, the work is over.  Our opportunity to obey, sacrifice and even suffer for Jesus is finished.  There is much to be done before the “snow flies. ”  There are unreached people groups around the globe, languages still to receive the gospel, and many yet to come into the fold before winter.

Fall comes too quickly, and cold winds push in, turning everything brown, then white.  When all is said and done, we have little time in which to harvest.  80 years, 90 years, then, when the snow flies, and we are taken up to enjoy the harvest, the fruit of our labour becomes apparent.

While bringing in every last bit of harvest on the ranch, we never missed out on having fun.  There was often a handy dugout to jump into to cool off or a rodeo to compete in, but the never ending knowledge of limited time and work to do kept us relentlessly coming back to the harvest.

Each of us were created by God with a destiny and things for us to do before we are called home.  (Ephesians 2:10) I find it easy to get carried away with the concerns of living until I lose sight of the fact that its all over when the snow flies.

At the same time, we are dealing with people, not projects and people are to be handled with love, understanding, compassion and deep respect.  Whatever I am doing, whether business, play, or tasks of the day, I am called to keep the harvest in mind.  The tools for our harvest are unconditional love and understanding powered by the Holy Spirit.

The thing is, we don’t know what day the snow will fly.  Only the Father knows that, but the work stretches before us, and there is much to do!

 

When the Spirit Hovers

“Darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”  Genesis 1:2

Sometimes I find seasons in life mirror earth’s pre-creation state.  Formless and void with darkness over the deep.  Times when God seems silent and I just want direction.  Times He calls me to trust and wait in the darkness.  I am learning to find great hope in the presence of the Holy Spirit, hovering over the waters.  Like the stories where all seems lost, but when hopeful music begins to play, you watch with rising anticipation for what or who will come to change the situation.

The next verse changes everything.

“God said; ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.  God saw the light was good and He separated the light from the darkness.”  Genesis 1:3

I tend to need a great deal of learning reinforcement, but I am slowly discovering when decisions seem veiled in darkness and situations empty of promise, this is the best time to be still and listen and look for the Spirit who hovers over our darkness, waiting for the Creative Word to speak out an environment change.

There have been times when hope for more pleasant seasons seemed foreign even infeasible and I have questioned the compassion and intention of God to intervene.  Yet I know He has promised to be actively working for redemption in every corner of our lives.  While I may see only darkness and emptiness for a time, God’s vision of what will be is already complete, and the Spirit waits for timing’s perfection in the heart of the Father to breath out across the expanse and bring it to life.

Anticipation.  It calls us forward through the darkness to listen and watch for what the Creator will do next.  I do well to remember He is the only one who can take nothing but His word and make something beyond my imagination.

I also do well to remember His timing is perfect.  It is counter productive to worry, push on in my own strength, or wait in anxiousness for the darkness to be filled.  In darkness our other senses come alive and are more able to perceive what would be missed when there is light enough to see well.

I want to look and listen for what the Holy Spirit is doing while I wait for the creative word from my God.  Like a child in the womb of his mother, waiting to come forth until it is time, God often develops the best things in darkness until the time of completion and the birthing begins.

Do you have an area of obscurity in your life right now?  What is the Holy Spirit speaking over the waters of your situation?

Don’t Forget to Celebrate!

Waiting at the airport for my ride home, I encountered a lady who seemed to want my company.  Pulling on her cigarette, she began recounting all the things wrong with her life.  Where she lived, the weather, and her sister in law who stood stoically a few feet away.  As she went on, I realized everything she complained about could also be appreciated when seen from a different angle.

Sometimes I get travelling along in my choleric way and forget to pause, enjoy and celebrate.  Even in the hard places, we humans are created to celebrate together with our Creator!  I sometimes find myself with my head down, labouring at what I have been called to without looking up and rejoicing with the One who has called me.

Reading in Deuteronomy and Leviticus this morning,  the word celebrate appears on the pages over and over.  In fact, in the midst of  regulations, commands and guidelines for living, are festivals, feasts and celebrations to be enjoyed with Yahweh Himself.  The understanding that the provisions for the celebrations came from Jehovah Jirah (God who provides) is striking reminder in my own life.

The festival of shelters came after harvest and was 8 days of resting, celebrating, then resting again.  The Israelites were told to celebrate together before the Lord with great joy.  I love this – a community holiday. Celebration and rest happened as a body of people!  Celebration created a completely different culture and atmosphere than the nations around them

When I imagine heaven, I think not just of the perfect world that affects this imperfect one, I think of constant celebration!  Luke 15:10 says all of heaven rejoices when even one sinner repents!  With all the people giving their lives to Jesus around the world, I figure there must be constant celebration in heaven.

I begin to wonder if Jesus is always ready to celebrate the victories, the gifts, and the goodness that constantly come from the Father. I wonder if He is disappointed when I don’t take time to pause.  To celebrate.  To remember.

My friend’s family celebrates Passover together as a family.  The imagery is beautiful, and the pause to remember is a poignant reminder to me of the eternal celebration that will begin when Jesus comes back for the second time as King of Kings and we come together to celebrate at the banquet.

What if our celebrations here are a mirror into the eternal celebration of being together with God one day?  What if celebrations keep our eyes fixed on the hope we have today for tomorrow, and are a reminder of the faithfulness of God in the past? What if celebrations are meant to bring people together with a common sense of gratitude and togetherness with each other and with God?

How do you celebrate God’s provision and work in your life?  How can you incorporate celebration in the things your family and community do together?

If celebration stirs up hope, and gratitude, then I want it to become an integral part of my life!

 

 

The Unaffordable Cost of Offence

Have you ever had some one say something that stung?  Or treated you in a way that caused hurt and offence?  I have!  I seem to have a penchant for bearing a grudge when I feel people have acted poorly or unjustly toward myself or others.

I am learning to hold on to offence is to open myself up to the influence of the enemy.  To take offence is also to take a stance of accusation against the offender, rather than seeking grace and understanding.  The conversations in my mind that “stand up for myself” or running the situation over and over in my head never helps, it merely solidifies the offence in my mind.

The Bible warns of the deadly consequences of harbouring offence and hurt against another person.  From a purely scientific point of view, these thoughts are physically toxic and create immune responses that, if continued, will eventually cause disease and illness.  At the same time, we become caught up in the toxic thought tangle that holds us captive long after the event.

Growing up as a people pleaser, I can recount times I have been taken advantage of, and had unhealthy boundaries, pouring into other people.  But as I move away from that unhealthy end of the spectrum, I can find myself taking offence at others actions and so Jesus and I have been going to work.

Graham Cooke says:  “As believers, we don’t have a right to be wounded, we have a right to be healed!”  What a concept!

Allowing wounds and offence to remain takes me away from the Kingdom environment where the power of God is at work in me for His glory.  Rather than pointing other wounded people to Jesus, our own wounds keep us from being the aroma of Jesus to the lost.

If we could see the spiritual realm with our eyes, we would see others walking around with gaping wounds that are not dressed and do not heal.  The painful infected sores keep us from living in strength and hold us from fulfilling our destiny to be agents or restoration and healing.

It is critical we go to the Healer for healing.  Forgiveness, giving grace and understanding disarm the enemy and keep us from becoming spiritually putrid.  Loving and praying for those who give offence allows us to rise above consternation to compassion.  In fact, I suspect if we could figure this out, our churches would be a lot healthier and splits would be something confined to secular organizations.

Since God chose you to be the holy people He loves, you must clothe yourselves with tender hearted mercy, kindness, humility gentleness, and patience.  Make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive anyone who offends you.  Remember the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothes yourselves in love which binds us all together in perfect harmony.  Colossians 3:13

Has some one offended you?  How will you choose to respond this time?

Comfort my People

The last couple of weeks have been sad and difficult as we move through the stages of losing and grieving some one who has been a father to me and many others.  In spite of the anticipation of seeing him again, a gaping hole remains this side of heaven.
I have been thinking a lot about comfort and how to allow grief to surface in healthy ways.  Looking in the Bible, I found numerous passages on the comfort God longs to give His children.

In Matthew 5 Jesus tells us those who mourn are blessed because they shall be comforted.  In 2 Corinthians 1:5, Paul says:

God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.  He comforts us in all our troubles so we can comfort others.  When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.

Dwelling on the promise that weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning is somehow comforting in itself.  As children of God, we are not just allowed, but encouraged to mourn in season.  And in sorrow, we have One who designed us to be comforted by Himself.  He is a safe place to grieve, to remember, to rest in thankfulness for the gift, and to mourn the loss.

It is no mistake that Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the comforter.  Paul reminds us we can expect suffering and hardship as we move through life, but in the suffering, a grander design plays out as we draw near the Comforter to catch our tears and lift our heads.

And I will ask my Father and He will give you the Comforter who will never leave you.  He is the Holy Spirit who leads into all truth. (John 14:16-17)

I am often confronted by the multitudes of suffering around me.  Some in my community, some far away.  We have a hope and a comfort in loss we are meant to share with those bereft of comfort.  It begins with receiving comfort for our own sorrow, but it doesn’t end with us.

Two roads lead away from loss.  One brings us to the presence of Jesus and develops a richness of gratitude coupled with softness and compassion for others.  The other road causes a closing off to oneself to protect against further loss, but in the end leads to loneliness and less ability to feel both sorrow and joy.

As I think back on the life of the one we are missing, I roll over in my mind the gift of knowing.  The gift of sharing and loving and experiencing things together.  I look to the Comforter to fill me with a peace that passes understanding as I thank Him for the gift of relationship.  I trust that this sorrow will be replaced with joy one day, and the capacity to comfort others will broaden in the healing.

Have you experienced loss?  How has the Comforter been present in your circumstance?  Have you seen His hand opening opportunity to comfort others?