Choices

During my time in the military, I served with the Army as a Logistics officer and was required to take an advanced tactics course. It was six weeks long and mine took place in February/March.  We had a great instructor, a combat engineer, and at the start of the course he gave each of us a small playing card with a JOKER image on it. He told us that one day during the course, for whatever reason we will not have an assignment done, we could play that card. He suggested he would give us a do-over at a later time.

In week five, while on a field exercise, the instructor called upon a student to offer his tactical assessment of the area. This individual had been sick for a week but had refused to go to the MIR for treatment. His thinking was a little clouded and because of this, he decided this was the time to play his joker card. As the individual held his card in front of his face, the instructor calmly walked over to him, pulled a playing card from his binder that was four times larger than ours. On it was a figure with a black robe and a sickle; the symbol for death.



He looked at my classmate, slammed his card onto the ground and shouted – “there are no DO-OVERS in war – only death”.



No one had used their card up to this point as most expected it was a test about making the correct choices so that we would not put ourselves in a predicament so as to regret our actions later. The classmate was taken off the course that morning and had to wait two years to be course loaded again. In hindsight, this individual was probably thinking he should have gone to the MIR and got treated. He should have also realized we were on a senior tactics course in which excuses don’t allow us to make poor decisions.

Have you ever thought about your past and found yourself thinking “I wish I could DO OVER some choices I made?  Have you thought, if I could do something over again, I would do this or that?

Our choices and behaviour can impact our lives, our families and even our communities. Most importantly it can affect our eternity. We can, however, choose to DO-OVER our choices and seek to do what is pleasing to God and those around us.

Paul speaks in the book of Romans about changing – addressing do-over when it comes to our actions and behaviours. He is telling us to think about our actions.  “Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)

End your day today reflecting on what you did and ask yourself is there anything I would like to DO-OVER.Then speak with your Father in heaven asking Him to forgive you and guide you to making better choices.

Pray for me

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8



What is your response to such a request? Most respond “I will” however what has been our next steps? Do we stop what we are doing and go to our Father or do we make a mental or even recorded note to pray later? Is our response different when asked face-to-face vice when the request is shared via email or by a 3rd party? Do we say we will pray for someone and never do because we forget or because we never intended to and were just being polite?


Surely God doesn’t stop whatever He is doing to grant our prayer requests.


He goes about doing whatever He desires (His will) with or without us. So, what does it matter if we pray? It matters because God wants us to pray. During prayer we connect with Him and He with us. It matters because when we pray, we can start to understand and connect to His plan. During prayer He can engage us in a way we may not have expected. For example, we know it is God’s desire that all mankind be saved. When we pray for the salvation of someone that we know, we are telling God that we have the same desire as He does; we are actually lining up with His will. When we pray and God sees that we want to be in His will, He may invite us to participate in whatever it is He has planned. As the Holy Spirit goes about revealing God to mankind, He could ask us to be the means by which our unsaved friend hears about Jesus. He may use us to be His earthly voice. When we pray and connect to God’s will, God brings us into partnership with Him.

Be aware that when we are approached with a prayer request Satan is nearby waiting to interfere and cause distraction and doubt? He does not want us to speak with God nor does he want others to see the impact of prayer. If he can stop us from praying, he will try. If he can get us to put it off until a later time, he will be pleased but he will not stop at that little victory. He will place busyness or some other distraction in our path to make us forget and thereby not pray later. When we are working in harmony with God, Satan is not happy and so he will try to stop, delay and prevent our prayer.

When we pray to God, we will have His full attention. He does not make a mental note to listen later; we have His attention then and there. He does not hold off listening to our prayers and so we should not delay offering them to Him. The next time we are asked “Pray for me”, let the next words out of our mouth be “I will” followed by words similar to “Heavenly Father I come before you …

HELPING OTHERS

“Pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up”
Ecclesiastes 4:10b

The world is in a rough state. Daily we hear about people like us who have fallen and can’t seem to get up. Life is going well and then something happens that knocks them down and they start to lose hope. A marriage seems OK and then it is over and one spouse is left to play father and mother, work, pay the bills and basically survive alone. High school girls get caught up in the message of seeking pleasure regardless of consequences resulting in an anxious search for someone to buy them a pregnancy testing kit. If they become pregnant, the world offers them abortion when there is no one around to suggest options that protect their life and the life of their baby. Teens are roaming the streets, ready to fall, because there is no caring parent at home to give them a sense of worth.

It has been suggested that many of the social problems facing young people today, if left unaddressed, will lead to further issues in adulthood. Have you ever wondered if some of life’s problems could be prevented if someone just took the time to be honest and wise with their friend or child and push them to get on the right path? Would pointing a friend to a marriage counsellor serve a better purpose as opposed to a pity party that bashes the other partner?


Jesus, whenever He encountered a sinner that needed help, reached out and helped but also gave them the advice to sin no more.


To help someone move forward we need to be truthful so we can properly focus on the solution.

It is a difficult choice to help someone but, that is part of the calling to Christ-followers. People don’t help because they are uncertain as to what is right or wrong. TV bombards us daily with choices that seem right but “anything goes” is not a moral direction. The bible is the moral compass and the Holy Spirit is the guide. If you want to help someone else get back on track, you should be connected to God so that at least your path is clear. We are not called to judge a friend because their marriage failed or condemn the youth caught up in drugs and violence. We are to help them get up so they can get their hope back.


Lao Tzu, a Chinese thinker is quoted as saying “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”


This proverb suggests that band-aide solutions are temporary and if you want to help someone get back on their feet, you need to be willing to invest more time and effort. The world, our friends, our family, our children need help. Can you help? Can you be a hand that helps others get up?

THERE IS HOPE

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”
   Psalm 46:1


Does anyone feel troubled by what is happening in the world? Do others feel that the world seems to be slipping faster into chaos? When we went to bed last night it was very possible that our thoughts were on something senseless that happened near us or to someone in the world.  Violence, which already rules our TV and movies, is filling the hearts and minds of more and more people who respond to any perceived offense with an extreme brutal response. Sadly, there was much cruelty to reflect on before our heads hit the pillow last evening and it may have been difficult to fall asleep without being concerned for our communities.

Trouble followed us out of the Garden and Cain’s hostile response to his brother’s worship is a reaction that has played out time and time again throughout history. As society continues to use the media to trample on individual beliefs. Fanatical components of our communities who, out of misplaced loyalty to a faith, bring suffering to those who allegedly offend them. God’s message to seek Him for strength during times of trouble is the solution to the worries caused by watching the world live. Only He can protect us from the troubling evil that wants to consume us.

It is very difficult to ignore what is happening around us but there is a need to block it out for a few minutes, spend some time before God. There is a need to speak with Him at this moment and be reminded that He offers hope. There is a requirement to bring an unbeliever known to us before God and ask that His saving grace reigns in that person so that they are not overtaken by the evil that is all around us. It is also the time to pray for our circle of believing friends asking God to remind them that He is their refuge and hope.

TOE TAPPER

“And David and all Israel were celebrating before God with all their might, with song and lyres and harps and tambourines and cymbals and trumpets”  1 Chronicles 13:8


When I was young, school dances were popular, yet I never went to one. It was not as if I was not allowed to go, I was afraid. I had danced with my sisters and mother but I’m certain they were not playing waltz’s or even Ukrainian tunes at a school dance. Even if they played those tunes, I still would not have gone because I was afraid; afraid of what people might say. I did not have the courage to commit myself to truly enjoying the music. I liked music and even played several instruments and whenever I heard a tune I liked, I’d tap my toes and sometimes drummed the beat on my lap with my hands. But, I never got up and danced, I never allowed myself to feel the music with my whole being.


Are you, as a declared believer a toe-tapper and not fully engaged in your experience with Jesus?   


Some believers are willing to sit back and watch what others are doing, and even join in a little, but if truth be known, they are afraid to let Jesus fill their being. They are afraid to jump up with raised hands and declare Jesus is their Lord because of what friends, or colleagues or neighbours might think. They are afraid to examine the call of a disciple, the call to be a follower of Christ and take their faith outside their front door and show it to a world eager to dance for Jesus.

With the help of my then girlfriend – now wife, I overcame my fear of dancing. When I have danced, friends have joked they thought they were going to have to come to my aide because they believed I was having seizures when in fact I was experiencing the joy of music. With the help of the Holy Spirit I have found, we don’t need to be bystanders watching others enjoy an experience with God, but we can, like David, let ourselves feel the joy of the Lord.

Are you willing to ask yourself “am I holding back from experiencing God with my whole heart, my soul and my mind?” Would you ask God to release your will, so it can be in tune with His? Will you choose to dance in celebration for the Lord?

GOD IS SEEKING YOU

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day”.

John 6:44 (NIV)


Many people have heard about heaven and hell. Some don’t know that God only allows those who believe and accept Jesus’ truths will spend eternity with Him. Some don’t realize that no matter how loving God is, some will not be in heaven with Him. God introduces us to Jesus through the nudging of the Holy Spirit who then guides along a path that allows us to understand Him. The Holy Spirit plants thoughts in our minds and sets up circumstances where we can hear about Jesus. If we choose, He will take us on a path that will lead us to become followers of Christ. We are helped on this journey to God if we allow the Holy Spirit into our daily lives.

We can’t do anything to influence God’s decision to offer us the gift of eternity other than wait as unworthy recipients. It is by His grace and not our effort that we are drawn to Him. God chooses us and the Holy Spirit nudges us with thoughts of intentionally seeking God. How we respond may negatively affect our eternity, but it will not stop God from pursuing us.

God allows us the choice to pick and choose our life path, including choosing between the path that leads to Him or one that takes us away from Him. However, His desire is that we all come to Him and until our last breath He will pursue us. Some have been drawn to the idea of Jesus but do very little to seek or worship Him beyond anything requiring minimal effort. Weekly or bi-weekly attendance at church, occasional conversation / prayer with God, and minimal or no time in scripture will not help the follower know God. These spiritual practices introduce us to Jesus truths. They don’t make God love us more nor give us entry into His family, but through these practices, God’s grace reveals His will and His purpose for our lives.

The topic of what it means to be a Christ follower can be tricky and often leads to difficult conversations. However, it is very important that we think about our relationship with God. We need to ask ourselves some questions about our beliefs, attitudes and behaviours so that we don’t fool ourselves into thinking we made it into heaven only to find out we didn’t. There will be a time when God finds us and starts to prompt us to seek Him. We can resist and hold out but when He gets a hold of us and we intentionally seek Him, we won’t worry about where we will be spending eternity, we will know.

Choose Jesus.

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” Luke 14:26-27



Scripture tells us that there are things that are detestable to God. Proverbs 16 shares a few: a lying tongue; a heart that devises wicked schemes; a false witness who pours out lies; a person who stirs up conflict in the community to name a few. These actions are contrary to our Holy God. We are told to be holy like God is holy and therefore we should hate those things that God hates. We should avoid a lifestyle that includes these activities and not associated with people who actively engage in these activities. We should choose God before people even if they are our family.

Jesus’ statements in Luke 14 appears extreme; you must hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters. However, please note that He is not advocating hatred. He is asking us how far we are willing to go to be His follower.


Jesus is against all things that offend the Father and so He asks can we be offended by the things that offend God?


Would you leave a job that actively provides a service or product that contributes to the moral decline of our society? Would you walk out of a movie that is full of vulgarity, violence and nudity? Despite your best efforts to share Jesus with your family, would you avoid them if they openly mocked God and purposefully sinned against Him? Jesus does not want us to abandon anyone just because we have a difference in theological opinion, worship style, or even belief. He does challenge us to ask ourselves are we willing to choose Him over everything else.

The Holy Spirit is a significant force in this world affecting the lives of the believer and unbeliever. He guides and encourages those who believe and offers grace to those who do not. He will be with us if we are in a situation where we must choose and so we need to be able to recognize His prompting. Prayer is what keeps that connection open as during prayer we share specifics of our hearts. Without prayer, we will not recognize when God is answering. Without communicating with God, we will not be able to distinguish between coincidence and an answer to prayer.

Prayer is needed in the event that we are faced with   a choice. Jesus wants us to choose Him, but if a scenario ever crops where we think we must choose between family and Jesus, we must pray so we can control our emotions and our tongue and go to God and seek His wisdom. We also must pray that when we are asked, we accept God’s way, no matter how hard it may be. Taking up the cross is not meant to be easy, but it is meant to be rewarding.

Choose Jesus.

Troubled world

 

How was your week? Was it going well until you read the news headlines that pointed out the many troubles of this world? Were you worried about the cat and mouse game played by two superpowers playing, “intercepting aircraft”? Did a leader’s threats to economically punish an already economical unstable country cause you to wonder, “Will we be next”? Did you have to speak to your child or grandchild about being rude to their friends only to read, that some world leaders thrive on this behaviour? It is very possible that this week you had wondered, “could the world get any worse?”.

In the Gospel of John, chapter 16, we can find the conversation Jesus had with his disciple concerning the future. He knew that within a few days he would be arrested and crucified and wanted to forewarn and prepare them for that event. He told them things would get worse and so, be prepared. Those listening could not help but wonder, “how could it get worse”? They were already living in troubled times under Roman occupation. There were groups trying to overthrow or disrupt the Romans who retaliated in a brutal fashion and no Jew was exempt from their wrath. All knew of the areas in the region where you could walk roads lined with their countrymen hanging from crosses. They were heavily taxed, and economic relief was only a dream. People worked long days without getting ahead and if they dared venture out at night, there were bandits waiting to beat and rob them. As the disciples listened to Jesus suggesting it will get even worse, it must have been difficult to imagine as they already thought life was as bad as it could get.

Many woke today feeling that the world is rapidly spinning out of control and we are helpless to do anything about it but try to survive. It is easy to give up, hide and fear the world we live in. But Jesus said He came not to condemn us or judge us but give us life to the full. He said He can make it better no matter what is happening around us. When he told his disciples about the troubling changes He also offered them hope. The hope that He will keep His promises, including sending a comforter to help us overcome the anxiety and anger associated with the ugliness of the world. The hope that Jesus offers us peace when we gather on Sunday mornings and sing songs that praise Him and when we sit broken hearted by the bedside of an ill relative. He encourages us to accept His offer and to share that hope with others by telling them about our story with Jesus.


The Apostle Paul tells us “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”. Philippian 4:6-7.


Jesus ended His conversation that night in prayer. He prayed for the events about to unfold in His life. He prayed for the future of the disciples and He prayed for us, those who will believe without seeing. He clearly sent a message that there is power and comfort in prayer and when we are facing our troubles, we should settle ourselves in prayer.

Despite the trouble people encountered during Jesus’ life, they still found comfort in worshipping God and participating in temple life. That is where our comfort lies, gathering together to worship God, being in fellowship with other believers, taking time to acknowledge God each day and spending time in prayer for each other. Don’t let the troubles of this world rule you but let the Saviour of the world comfort you.

Fig Leaf

“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so, they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves” Genesis 3:7


Our problem with self-esteem began in the garden immediately following Adam and Eve’s decision to eat the fruit contrary to God’s instructions. Prior to this incident Genesis 2:25 tells us that “Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame”. However, as soon as they sinned they were overcome by their insecurities and dressed in fig leaves thinking they could hide their disgrace behind these leaves.

Today, we live in a world where image is pushed as being important. Not only is people’s physical appearance valued but so is worth to the world. It is suggested we must drive the correct car, live in the proper neighbourhood, have a prestigious job, have a trophy wife or husband, and possess all the entertainment toys necessary to show the world we are happy.

The pursuit of the world’s image destroys communities, families, and individuals. People struggle to be satisfied with what they have because they are made to feel they deserve more. As such, mental health, financial, and health problems are on the rise.

People try to face the world with a fig leave on in the hope of hiding their secrets. They try to hide that they are constantly angry, have an addiction, are jealous of other’s lifestyles, or maybe have a problem with pornography. They put on an image they think is protected by that fig leaf and play a game where they pretend to be someone else even knowing that their secrets may be destroying their families, their relationships with others, and their mental health.

God helped Adam and Eve with their fig leaf issue and clothed them, protecting them before sending them into the world (Genesis 3:21). He did not give us clothing as an adornment to feed our human vanity and frivolity. He dressed us out of love because he knew our vanities and insecurities would overtake us. He dressed us in protective clothing to remind us that He knows all about us and wants to be there for us. He gave us access to Jesus and the Holy Spirit, so we could talk with them about our fig leaf issues. And, God also gave us each other and reminded us that we should take our insecurities to one another, so we can defeat its negative hold on us. There is great healing value in speaking with someone else who can help you remove your fig leaf so the real you can face the world.

Adam did not spend time in the garden lifting rocks and logs so as to impress Eve with his muscular body and Eve did not think about enhancing her image with high heels, tight leggings or makeup. They were created to be content about who they were to themselves, to others and to God. God blessed us with individual personalities, characteristics, gifts and talents so that we can contribute to the world around us and be a blessing to others. Set aside your fig leaf and be whom God created you to be. “So be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you; he’ll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you” (1 Peter 5:6-11 Message translation)

 

Just Pray

“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near;”    Isaiah 55:6


We are drawn towards God because, when He created us He implanted His characteristics in us. Although the sin in the garden destroyed our perfect relationship with Him, it did not remove God from our minds. Since the beginning of recorded time humanity has prayed to God. There are at least 650 recorded prayers in the Bible. People spoke to God about their circumstances, their relationships, and their desires. The content of many of those prayers are somewhat similar but all share a common feature; humanity seeking assurance from God that He is there listening to them.

We all know that when we want a relationship with someone, whether for casual friendship or something deeper, we must find a way to acknowledge them. Prayer is an important part of our relationship with God. It has been the primary way we acknowledge God. People struggle with prayer because of their expectations. They treat God as a magic genie to whom they go to with their wishes. They become discouraged because they don’t seem to get the answers they were looking for. Many pray but few listen.

In the 1944 classical movie “To have and have not”, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall are the main characters who are going through their own life struggles but at the same time developing a relationship with each other. Both are trying to act cool and indifferent towards each other while at the same time they want a relationship. In one scene Lauren, for no reason, kisses tough guy Humphrey and he pretends to be shocked and asks why she did that. As she leaves the room she says to him “You know, you don’t have to act with me. You don’t have to say anything, and you don’t have to do anything. Not a thing. Oh, maybe just whistle. You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and… blow.” She was telling him to let their relationship fall out naturally and don’t try any gimmick or anything else to impress me. Just be present and from time to time acknowledge me.

We should want more than what Bogart and Bacall seeking of each other. We should want a deep, ongoing connection to the God of the universe so that we can get back to how it was when He created us. We pray based on how God designed us to communicate. We don’t have to pretend with Him, and we don’t have to try to do or say anything special to try to impress Him – we just have to open our lips and talk.