Serve where you are

MCF - ANTON -2016-02-26

When someone found out I was in the military, the first question always asked was “where do you serve?” I would respond, like many of my peers, and mention my job, my unit and my base or station. If the individual had military experience we would talk about our postings. We knew our postings were the places we worked, lived, raised our families, developed relationships and went to church; they were our homes. The first posting always seemed to be the best and it was the one all others were compared against. Our next posting was the anticipated best one as it was the one we asked for. Often, our current posting was the one we liked the least. How we viewed our postings somehow equated to how we valued ourselves.

I wonder if we think about our relationship with God or the way we serve Him in a similar manner. Do we think about where we are now, where we were and where we should be? Do we remember with joy our initial encounter with God and how we chose to become a follower and had a desire to do anything for Him? Do we use that time frame as a measuring point to which we compare our current relationship with God? Do we long to get back to that initial excitement or desire to have even more in our walk with Jesus? It is not wrong to reflect on our relationship, however, do we allow our past experiences or future expectations to hinder our current service and relationship with God? Do thoughts that “God has a plan for me” blind us to what is right in front of us?

God has a purpose for each of us and it can mean that today we do everything with committed hearts, mind and soul. Churches, Christian organizations, workplaces and even families need us today. They need us to recognize that we are needed now and not when we figure out the PLAN. Our current church, job, and communities are where we raise our families and develop relationship and so we should willingly offer our all? Life is ever changing and so we need to be prepared to change without destroying the homes we have created. Our relationship with God is also ever changing. When we are seeking to give it all, God offers us transforming grace, which is based on our current circumstances, relationships and areas of service. He can choose to physically move us or He can grow us where we are so as to contribute even more to our churches, workplaces, communities and families.

Look to serve. Look to grow closer to God and to those you are in relationship with. Look to become Christ-like. However don’t look too far or you may miss what is in front of you. Believe that where you are is where you can serve.

PRAY but also DO

MCF - ANTON - 2016-02-19 (1)

Have you ever been guilty of praying instead of doing? For example have you prayed that God uses your church to reach your community but offer none of your resources? You keep your money, talents or labour for yourself. Are you in the habit of praying but not listening thereby making yourself immune to the Holy Spirit who wants to nudge you to work with God on that prayer?

When we pray, what are our expectations? Do we have a time line in which we expect results? We know God deals with the world in His timing but do we not pray thinking we will see results by such and such time? It’s a reasonable expectation to have a prayer answered sooner than later especially, for example, if we are praying for someone stricken by a serious illness. We will pray for immediate healing. We won’t ask God to heal them over a long period of time so the individual can grow from their sufferings and maybe the family strengthened as they undergo emotional and financial difficulties. We pray it happens now. When it doesn’t happen in our time line how do we react? Do we say “God has answered my prayer by saying no?” Do we really want to believe God said no to our request to have a friend’s suffering end? Instead of thinking God said no, are we willing to think about whether there is something, in addition to prayer, that we can do? For example, could we visit our friend in the hospital? Could we offer a helping hand to their family? Could we invite them to dinner or make them a meal once a week? Could we help with seasonal chores such as snow removal or lawn care? Can we work on healing the godly relationship God’s desires of His children? Do we reflect on our prayers after we offered them to God especially when they do not seem to be going as we prayed?

When we pray, are we attentive to the Holy Spirit who could be prompting us into action? Do we pray as if we are partnering with God? Do we pray thinking we could be part of the answer to our prayers or do we pray believing only God needs to act? If we are standing at an intersection and notice an out-of-control bus coming towards a child waiting to cross the street, do we react with prayer? Do we ask God to save them or do we reach out, grab a hold of the child, and pull them out of harms way. Can our prayer then be to thank God that we were in a position to do something?

Don’t misinterpret today’s message. There are things that only God can affect and some that He chooses to use us in the answer. We must pray about everything and then pray some more. But at some point, can you quit just praying and start acting. Can you make Christianity a verb instead of a noun and back up your prayers with action.

Take up the cross

MCF - ANTON - 2016-02-12 (1)
What do you think was going through the minds of those who first heard Jesus say “take up the cross in order to be worthy of Me”?  The only cross they knew symbolized tortuous death. Did sadness overtake their thoughts as they wonderedwhether they could offer that sacrifice. As we draw closer to Easter we will be reminded of the brutality of the cross. We will hear stories of secret imprisonment, physical and mental abuse, mockery, and shame associated with a public crucifixion. There will be references to torture, the flogging, the crown of thorns, the hammering of nails through the flesh, the spear in the side, the loss of life and the sad reminder that many let Jesus down during His time of need. We should conclude that to be worthy of Jesus, our relationship with Him will require sacrifice but is worthwhile.
Many have interpreted the cross to mean some burden they must carry in their lives. They declare that a strained relationship, a thankless job, or a physical illness is “The cross they have to carry.” However that is not what Jesus meant. “Take up your cross and follow Me” requires a willingness to die in order to follow Jesus – a willingness to “die to self.” It is a request for absolute surrender and doing all we can to be holy and to love as God desires.  Hopefully during this Easter period we will hear that Jesus chose the cross because of His holy love. His harmonious relationship with God the Father, God the Holy Spirit and His creation flows from this love and made the cross the obvious and necessary choice. The cross was a brutal option but two thousand years later, we can see the cross as a cherished symbol of atonement, forgiveness, grace, and love.
Hopefully during this Easter period people will ask themselves “how difficult is it for me to take up the cross.” Many avoid Jesus’ call because they anticipate inconvenience, sacrifice and possible suffering? However, Jesus would not have asked us if He thought we could not do it. The cross requires a commitment to intentionally love God with all our heart, our soul, our mind and with all our strength (Mark 12:30). If we pursue harmony with God, His creation, and ourselves the cross will become a banner and not a burden.
Have you started your journey to the cross? Ask God to be your guide. Admit your tendency to stray off the path but acknowledge your willingness to follow Jesus. Ask to be protected from the evil one who wants to derail your efforts. Pray for wisdom as you read scripture and encouragement as you pray.  You need the view from the cross in order to see eternity as God promised.

Are you listening?

MCF - ANTON - 2016-02-04 (1)

I’m sure many have listened to a song with another person and as both of you sang you heard them misquoting the lyrics.  You may have hesitated to correct them but once you were confident you probably pointed out the error.  Typically joking about who is right ensues until someone pulls out their phone and does a Google search for the lyrics.  Some songs historically misquoted include: Rolling Stones’ Beast of Burden.  Misquoted verse “I’ll never leave you pizza burning” – actual verse “I’ll never be you beast of burden”.  Another song: Psy’s Gingham style.  Misquoted verse “”Oprah got no style” – actual verse “Oppa Gangnam style”.  Lastly, Jesus loves me – misquoted verse “forty bibles told me so” – actual verse “For the bible tells me so”.

If we or somebody else misquoted a song verse there is always an excuse at hand to cover up.  The singer is blamed for mumbling or even purposely trying to send a mixed message.  There also is the possibility that we have been confused by the lyrics for a while but never thought to verify or maybe we knew that we were misquoting but liked our version better.   When all is said and done and put in perspective with everything else going on around us, is it reasonable to ask, “does it really matter whether the song is misquoted”?

We don’t read scripture so that we can quote it correctly to others.  We read and study so we can understand God’s story and live as He intended.  Paul shares in 2 Timothy that scripture is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.  Paul also shares that scripture is God-breathed – inspired by God.  Paul also suggest that scripture enlighten the reader about the gift of salvation; their eternity.  Since God is without error, we can be assured that the teachings and truths that He inspired to be written in the Bible are all without error.  We should not want to misquote God’s words or modify them to our liking otherwise we are suggesting God is wrong.  Many of us also know people who misquote scripture or who like to suggest a certain catchy phrase is from the bible.  Sadly, many who hear this person speak will not pick up on the error because recent church surveys reveal that few Christians read their bible let alone are able to quote from them.  If we are not reading our bibles and corroborating the learning, how then will we know if we are being mislead by man and the evil one?  When all is said and done and put in perspective with everything else going on around us, I think it is reasonable to ask ourselves “does it really matter whether scripture is misquoted”.  When you answer that question it may validate your current bible study practice or cause you to engage in a new one.

Jesus believed in scripture. He reminded people they must seek the truth in it. On one occasion, while sharing God’s truth, someone in the crowd who had acknowledged something wonderful about Jesus shouted, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you”.  Jesus replied: “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it’, Luke 11:28.  Many need to be blessed and take advantage of the fact that we have immediate access to scripture and can discover first hand the path to God.  Yes, it is easier to listen to someone else share the gospel than read it ourselves, but we are meant to experience, which comes from hearing and applying.