It’s About Who We Are

Written by: Conny Varga

A few weeks ago, I was standing at the graveside of my mom, who lost her battle against cancer at the young age of 60. While remembering her God-honouring life and grieving her passing, this resolve began to form in me: “I want my life to count!”

At no other time are we confronted with the brevity – and purpose – of life than in the face of death. Ecclesiastes sums it up this way: “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.” (Eccl. 7:2) So if there is wisdom in acknowledging that all of us must face death sooner or later, the logical conclusion would be that it should motivate us to action. Just what action will I take? What is the purpose of my life supposed to be? Is it to make my life as comfortable as possible, to travel the world, amass wealth, and focus on my happiness? Or is it to be philanthropic, spending my life for others to the suffering of my own body? Am I to make great discoveries and inventions to the benefit of mankind?

The answer is, none of these options will fulfill the purpose of our lives. Not unless our focus is bigger than this life, bigger than humanity, and bigger than the universe. So what then is the solution to this dilemma? The answer is surprisingly simple: Jesus! He is the difference between what counts for eternity and what doesn’t. During His time on earth 2 millennia ago, He radically turned the worldviews and beliefs of humanity upside down.

Jesus made it clear that it’s about identity, not about actions.

It’s about who we are, and not about what we do.

Have I fully and whole-heartedly surrendered my life to God and accepted Christ’s sacrifice on my behalf? Have I allowed God to adopt me into His family and embraced the freedom He has purchased for me as His daughter? Then everything about me has changed – my dreams and desires, my motives and passions, my outlook and worldview, even my citizenship and name. In short, I HAVE A NEW IDENTITY! And here is the amazing part: We do not have to feel pressured to come up with great plans on how to make our lives count – God will give them to us. If we choose to listen to Him, He will give us the right perspective, right plans and purpose, and He will be the One accomplishing it all through us. All we are required to do is fix our eyes on Jesus, and out of love for Him, seek to imitate and obey Him faithfully, whatever He tells us to do, and wherever He commands us to go. This may mean wiping noses and changing diapers, or telling people about the hope that is within us. Sometimes, it’s as simple as an encouraging smile, and other times, it’s as glorious as helping someone become a child of God. It’s buying groceries for the young mom whose husband just left her, and caring for the orphaned and needy by taking them into our homes. If God places the need before us, then it will count for eternity, and it will impact and change the lives of those we choose to help.

Over 400 people came to bid their last fare-wells to my mom. People whose lives had been touched in one tangible way or another by her love for Jesus. People who, sometimes for the first time, took Jesus seriously because of her. My mom grew up in poverty, had no formal education past grade 8, and lived the majority of her life in a country that was not her own by birth. And yet, God used her for His glory in innumerable ways. I am resolved to become a woman like that! I want Jesus to shine through everything I do and every word I speak. I want the rest of my life to count for the glory of God! Will you join me?

Time is Short

Written by: D’Anne Mullin

I once heard my absolute favourite preacher, my very own husband, say in a sermon on love the following statements:

“All the trials, temptations and outside forces we face are simply a device of the enemy to distract us from the sole purpose of our fleeting lives; that is to love God, love others and bring the lost to Christ.  Time is short, so don’t give in to the stress of life, and the garbage it throws us, but rather focus on the cross and save souls!”

As I sit and reflect on my husband’s words to us that Sunday morning, I am reminded again of two very clear directives from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ found in His Word.

The first directive is found in Mark 12:29-31 and was Jesus’ response when asked what the greatest commandment was.  He said, “The most important one is this…Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.  The second is this; love your neighbour as yourself; there is no commandment greater than these.”

His second directive, otherwise known as the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18-20, says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Further, when I ponder the speed at which my life has flown James 4:14 comes to mind.  “What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”  It only seems like yesterday that I graduated from University, got married and somehow now my boys are young men!  I remember songs and television shows from my childhood with fondness and when I reference them individuals less than 30 years old have no idea what I am talking about.  Time flies!

Life is short, filled with joys and hardships, ups and downs, twists and turns.  Distractions and pleasures are a plenty.  But, we can simplify our time on earth and fulfil the “sole purpose of our fleeting lives” by simply loving God, loving others and bringing the lost into relationship with our Saviour.  Time is short!

Life on Purpose: Identity Check

Written by: Emily Pelley

What defines who you are? What role, what responsibility, what title, defines your identity? We often play many roles in life- wife, mother, daughter, employee, friend, etc- all of which carry with them different expectations and benefits.

As a new mom, I feel like my sense of identity has been tranformed. For so long, my life was about myself and what I could do, but now…I find myself consumed with someone else’s well-being. Is she happy? Is she healthy? Am I being a good mom? I’ve realized that a big part of who I am now is defined by my little girl.

So what does this mean for my identity? I’m still the same person as I was before I became a mom, with the same past, but now suddenly I feel the enormity of my responsibilities to this little life. And it has pushed me to try to better understand…what makes me…me?

Is it my abilities? Is it what I do? Or who I love?

All of these things make up our story, but I think we need to be careful in what we point to as our identity. Because as followers of Jesus, we have adopted the identity Jesus gave us when He died on the cross for each of us.

In several places, the Bible talks about who we are as followers of Jesus:

If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 1 John 4:15

And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. Romans 8:17

And we are also reminded that this identity is not just a label but a source of strength:

With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.     2 Chronicles 32:8

I can do all things through Him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

You are a daughter of God- a “co-heir” with Christ. Before any other responsibility or identity you carry today, this is who you are. To live our life on purpose, we need to be confident in this identity; it needs to be at our core. If we can keep this as the centre of who we are, all our other roles will benefit from it. For myself, being a mom is so very important to me. Which is why I must, first, see myself as a follower of Christ. A close relationship with Jesus will empower me to love and serve my daughter, and fulfill all the other responsibilities I have in life. The strength God promises us will spread and reach into our families, our friendships, our responsibilities. What would it look like if we allowed our beautiful God to power our lives instead of relying on our own strength or resolve? We would live lives at peace- godliness with contentment (1 Tim 6:6).

Friend, discover who you are, believe who you are, and walk in who you are- the redeemed and loved child of God. Because nothing can change that.

I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.  Romans 8:38-39

Unfailing Love

Written by: Christianne Williams

Psalm 36:7 “How priceless is your unfailing love!  Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings.”

How I love this verse!  It brings such joy to my heart to know that God’s love is not intended for just a few who are in places of power and authority.  It’s not just for the privileged in society or the wealthy.  It’s freely given to all who come to Him and put their trust and hope in Him!  It’s the one thing our money cannot buy.  No amount of working will earn it.  We can’t rely on our talent, our will, or our good looks to get us this wonderful gift.  No, it’s completely given by grace, to us, a group of people who take it entirely for granted sometimes.  The only payment is that we love Him back, do His will, follow His ways.

Loving God means loving each other, the same way He loves us.  With grace.  It’s so easy these days to associate love with gushy feelings or fireworks exploding, but that’s just not the kind of love that we’ve been given by Him.  We are to do our very best to extend love that goes beyond how we’re feeling today, to love beyond looks, social status, or action.  We need to ask God to help us love like He does.  To look at the downcast in our world and have compassion on them.  To actually be the hands and feet of Jesus.

This doesn’t always happen right away, and with some people it may never happen, but we should be seeking to show the heart of our Father to a world that has a completely distorted view of love.  There are so many who don’t know what real, authentic, love is like.  They’re so used to being loved because of what they are instead of who they are.  It’s a plastic, throw away, type of devotion.  A lot of Christian’s aren’t able to completely accept God’s love because they’ve never know anything to be so limitless, they’ve only ever experienced the love the world has to offer, which is false.

I have four kids, from age 16 down to 7, and I have learned by listening to them that the feeling we’ve made love to be comes and goes, very quickly, almost like flipping a switch.  My seven-year old will love her brothers one minute, you can see her eyes light up and she throws her arms around one of their necks, declares her undying love to them because they shared their candy and the next minute she’s mad because the same brother won’t drop everything to get her a cup for her water.  At that point she’s decided she’ll never talk to him again, which also doesn’t last.  My 16 year old loves pizza, guitars, and BMXing.  I’m guessing someday he’ll love a girl and want to marry her and I’m sure the feeling won’t be the same as he feels for pizza or bike tricks.

I also know something else from having this mess of kids: I love them all the same.  I have no favorites.  They can’t do anything to earn my love, they can’t do anything to lose my love.  They can, however, make me upset, but they can also make me laugh.  My feelings change but my love for them does not.  I can’t imagine that their social status as they get older will affect my love for them.  This is how God loves us, not with feeling but with choice, covenant, and faithfulness.  His love is priceless and unfailing, available to all, no exceptions.  I’m so glad that He loved me when I was unlovable and that His love found me.

Have You Stopped Dreaming?

Written by: Cindy Morrone

Do you remember a way back when you would dream about your future? Let’s think back if only for this moment.  Maybe it was your dream to be a princess just to wear a crown or maybe a veterinarian to heal you beloved friend; a pilot or captain to see horizons abroad; a musician to rock the world; a teacher; a Mom…?

Our heart’s desires won every time and the possibilities were endless and only limited by our imaginations.

Remember when.

And then life seemed to happen.

As the demands of daily routines set in and the circumstances and life happenings dictated our time, energy and efforts, our heart’s desires were silenced.

The years push them down deep, until somewhere along the way our dreams seemed lost.

Dare to dream again.  For you…….

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  John 10:10

  • Believe that this is for us. That Jesus wants this for you and me….to live life to the fullest.
  • Know that He, Jesus, has done all that is needed for us to have this abundant life.
  • Realize the sacrifice made out of His intense, and deep love for us.

After homeschooling our daughters for 5 years, I find myself in a season of rediscovery.  A time to ask the Lord,” What’s next?”

I am in amazement about His continued plans for me and our life.  Just when I thought I had fulfilled my God given purposes, He shows me more…more for Him, His glory and His purposes. And in His plans for me, I am living an abundant life!

God is With You

Written by: Carolyn Ruttan

My husband Dale and I teach the Word of God in the public schools.  It is refreshing to have that freedom in Honduras, and share how the Bible stories are relevant to them in their lives today.

A recent story was about Moses and the red sea crossing.  The Isrealites were finally allowed to leave Egypt after more than four hundred years of slavery. The Bible tells us that when they left Egypt, they raised their fists in defiance. I wonder if that ticked Pharaoh off and was part of the reason that he changed his mind and sent all of his troops back after them.

Now the Isrealites are at the Red Sea. The sea is in front of them and their enemies are chasing them in hot pursuit. They felt trapped with nowhere to go. They were in danger. They were scared. I am sure they must have thought things like “this is it…we are so done”. They grumbled and complained and blamed Moses. They panicked.

Exodus 14:13 Moses told the people “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Lord will fight for you. You only need to be still”

So basically he was telling them to calm down. God has got this.

We all know what happened next. Moses lifted his rod, the water divided and the Isrealites walked on dry ground with a wall of water on either side. Amazing! I don’t know about you, but I think if I were there I would have been in awe. I think I would have been tempted to reach out my hand and touch the water on either side.

How many times are we like the Isreaites? We find ourselves in situations where there seems to be no way out, and nowhere to go.  We’re not able to take another step.  Things seem hopeless. We feel like we are drowning in despair.  We can’t see any way around our situation.

Dale and I have been through many things on our journey that at the time seemed impossible.  Especially during our first two years in Honduras. First of all, moving to a country where everything is so different, is stressful.  Along with missing our home and all that was once familiar, we also dealt with things like identity theft .  New credit cards were opened in Dale’s name and tens of thousands of dollars charged. We didn’t file our income tax properly and lost all our government tax credits.  We relied on those credits to financially survive. This meant racking up a huge bill on our line of credit.  We were robbed… twice. Our kids didn’t exactly all transition so well, and I bore the brunt of their frustrations. But in time, things worked out. The waters parted and we came out on the other side. And although the process was long and painful and stressful, He was there, walking through it with us.

It’s in times like that we need to hold onto the truth that He will never abandon us. We will go through times that are hard. That’s a given in this life.   But how wonderful it is to know that we don’t have to go through them alone.  He goes before us.

Joshua 1:9 “This is my command.  Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go”

How about you?  Are there obstacles in your way? Is fear holding you back? Are you afraid to move forward? I know it sounds cliché…but pray about it. God wants to hear from you. Tell him the things on your heart. Leave the situation with Him.  Trust the God will work things out on your behalf. You don’t have to handle anything alone…

Prov.3:6  Seek His will in all you and he will show which path to take..

Mathew 21:21

Then Jesus told them,  “ I tell you the truth, if you have faith, and don’t doubt, you can do things like this and much more. You can even say to this mountain ‘may you be lifted up and thrown into the sea’ and it will happen”

Carolyn loves Jesus and has lived in Tegucigalpa, Honduras for more than four years with her husband Dale. They have been married 22 years.  Along with her husband she shares the gospel to children in the public schools through regular Bible classes.  She is the mom to three amazing children, all of them gifts from God through the miracle of adoption, and all of them now teenagers.  Her oldest transitioned back to Canada over a year ago.  She loves to cook, bake, read , write and work out.  She also very much enjoys coffee  and going for long walks through her neighbourhood with her schnauzer Abby.

A Pile of Dirt

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

Imagine a beautiful garden.

In my minds eye I picture a beautiful cream coloured cement deck overlooking a large body of water that spans as far as the eyes can see. All around me are beautiful bunches of luscious red and pink roses. The sun warms my face as a soft breeze wisps my hair around ever so gently. I almost need to squint when I look out at the water because the sun bounces off so radiantly. It’s beauty at its finest.

Out of the corner of my eye I notice a flower garden with a vacant spot. A space that is void of the beautiful roses I see all around me…..a space that is just soil. It almost seems to be out of place; a distraction from the magnificence of its surroundings.

Do you ever feel like that pile of dirt? All around you are beautiful roses (successful business women, really awesome ‘got-it-all-together’ moms, amazing wives) and you just feel like the dirt…. Like you never could compare to their greatness? You feel like you give your roles as wife, mom, friend, etc your best and you still feel like everyone else is ahead.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9 NIV)

Sometimes our God sets us on a journey of growth. That doesn’t mean that we are destined to be dirt until the end of eternity; it just means that this season is for growing. Sometimes situations we face make us feel like we are buried underneath the dirt…..but I believe that If we give God the reigns He will give us deep roots in Him, and in His timing we will see the beauty of the harvest.

Sister, don’t waste your time looking at this one or that one, comparing your lack-of to her abundance. Look up, thank God for the very place He has you and let Him rain down on you, filling up your soul with His love and beauty.

Don’t worry about how long it will take to get to the harvest, instead enjoy all he has for you during this time of growth.

 

Asking for More

Written by: Sarah Walker

One evening, following a women’s ministry event at our church, we had finished up early with a challenge: leave the church right now, head out with a few others, and prayerfully find someone to bless with our time or finances.

A few ladies from the group went to the grocery store, bought a hundred dollar gift card, and walked up and down the aisles praying to find the right person to bless with the money that night.

After wandering for a while, they came across a mom with her two young children. As they approached her, they explained to her that they had just come from church and that they really felt like God wanted them to pay for her groceries.

This young mom was amazed; as it turns out, she had come to the grocery store that day worrying about not being able to afford her groceries. She was a single mom and was barely making ends meet. Amidst her very real worry, God was waiting to show her that He loved her and would take care of her in her struggles.

As I followed up with each of the ladies who had gone out on the mission to bless someone, they all had an incredible story to tell. Each one of them was filled with overflowing joy and amazement! As they stepped out in faith, wanting to be a blessing, God had used them to make a difference in someone’s life that night. While listening to their stories, it was like each woman had come to life with new energy, joy, love and a renewed sense of purpose!

“Even Jesus, when teaching us the Lord’s prayer, prayed for his portion: “Give us today our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). If He had to pray for His portion, why would we think that we wouldn’t have to?” (Lysa Terkeust, What Happens, When Women Walk In Faith)

As I read this quote from Lysa Terkeust’s book I couldn’t help but wonder, “What would my life be like if I honestly asked God for my daily portion each day? What is my daily portion? What would it mean if I asked boldly, and then stepped out in faith, trusting that God will answer? ”
Jesus taught us to pray this way:

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. (Matthew 6:10-11)

I pray for a lot of different things each day. Amongst many things, I pray for my family, my friends and my church. I also pray a lot for myself. I pray to be the best wife, mother, and friend I can be. I want to bear the fruit of the Spirit within all my relationships. I pray to have wisdom throughout each day. I pray that God helps me with these things because without His help and guidance I know I will fall short. All of the things I pray for are good things, but I have never really asked God for my daily portion before.

You do not have because you do not ask God. James 4:2

Every day I pray for what I think I need, but God knows exactly what I need each day!

As I began to pray for God’s will to be accomplished each day. I started to become more aware of ways to show love to others each day, even in small ways like sending an encouraging note, holding the door for someone, giving a smile or taking my elderly neighbour to the grocery store.

Although all of those things seem small in the moment, they can still be difficult to walk out. When I’m having a bad day, it’s not easy to think beyond myself and offer a warm smile or an encouraging word. When I’m running short on time, taking my neighbour to the store is a sacrifice. When I’m trying to wrangle my two little ones into a store by myself, even taking a minute to hold the door for someone is not an easy task.

But I have found that when I sacrifice what I want for the sake of others, then whatever I am struggling with quickly gets replaced by joy and a sense of God’s closeness.

I have begun to see that God’ s daily bread is not just about my physical basic needs. For that young mom in the grocery store, her daily bread literally was bread! But God’s “daily bread” can also be the tools needed to carry out his will, tools like having strength, peace, wisdom, love, patience and discernment.

I believe that as I spend each day trying to walk out what God has called me to do, God will continually give me the courage and endurance to carry out his will, and I know that as I am faithful to step out in faith, God will continually fill me with his joy.

Anticipation

Written by: D’Anne Mullin

Daughters, I have a confession to make, one that will not be a huge surprise to those of you who know me well — I absolutely love Netflix!

So much variety in viewing with no commercials.  A great escape at the end of a workweek.  The indulgence of the famed “Netflix Binge.”  A time to spend with the family exploring movies; old and new alike.  The chance to sink my teeth into an informative documentary or catch up on my favourite 90’s sitcoms.

I love it all!

I particularly enjoy finding a great series and viewing it full tilt from start to finish.  I get so into the stories and characters with intrigue that before I know it I have consumed every season available to me, only to be left bereft when I realize the next season won’t be out for another six months.  Six long months!  And when the time comes for the new season I have to watch the last few episodes from the prior season just to be ready to go again!

The anticipation builds as the countdown begins for the long awaited day that my beloved series returns!  I even supplement this long awaited return with additional web surfing looking for interesting tidbits of information to whet my appetite of its immanent return.  If I find someone who equally loves the series as much as I do, we theorize about how the upcoming season will play out.

If you have and love Netflix as I do, you know full well what I am writing about!

I think my confession to you is in direct response to the sermon I heard this past Sunday in church on the soon return of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  All who listened were challenged to be alert, to anticipate and to be active in watching for the Day of our Lord.  In illustration, the Pastor even named our culture’s obsession with Netflix, as I have penned above, to juxtapose the church’s lack of anticipation for His return with our appetite for worldly desires.

Ouch!

I know in my heart that Jesus will return for me, and no doubt I am ready to go with Him, but when have I sat in longing anticipation for that day?  When was the last time I uttered the words, “It could be today!”  Am I fully alert to the signs pointing to His coming on the clouds for His church?  Have I been active in watching for Him and calling all who will hear to watch for Him too?  Or have I been too distracted watching “The Crown” or “Food, Inc.” or “Fuller House” to give it any further thought?

In and of itself, Netflix is not bad.  Nor is reading fiction or fishing or going to the gym or anything we find pleasure in passing the time with.  But, it becomes an issue when it lulls us into a place of false anticipation in temporal things and not in the one thing that ensures our place in eternity with God…Anticipation of the return of our King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

Lord Jesus, Please forgive me today for placing my anticipation in the things of this world and not in matters of eternal importance.  Help me to wake each morning recognizing that this day may be my last on earth and my first with you in Heaven.  Birth in me a renewed anticipation for your victorious return and may I be active in my watching for that day and in my recruiting others to join you.  I love you Lord Jesus and may I ever be ready to meet you in the clouds! Amen.     

Spirit of Fear


Written By: Nathan Hill

Are you afraid of something? You probably are; or at least you should be. If you say you are not afraid you are probably lying. Everyone is afraid of something.

For me, I am not the biggest fan of flying in an airplane. You can ask my wife what it is like…I get antsy, sweaty, thirsty, cold, cranky, hot…and that is while we are sitting at the gate. Once we take off my fear subsides a little and I settle back into my semi-comfortable chair (Air Canada really does have the most comfortable chairs!) and I wait until we can land. If we happen to hit turbulence I tend to get a little excited all over again.

Does fear control me sometimes…maybe. Should I allow it to…probably not, since my faith in God tells me that he has not given me a spirit of fear (or timidity if you use the NIV) but a spirit of love, peace and of a sound mind. That is easier said than experienced however.

In the book of Matthew Jesus preached what has become known of as the “Sermon on the Mount”. In the middle of this sermon he reminds the listeners that we need not worry about anything; today, tomorrow, our clothes, our food, our life, our future. The rationale is this: we see how the birds of the air and animals on the ground have their needs cared for; how much more will God care for our needs then? Instead of worrying or being fearful we ought to simply “seek first the kingdom of God”. We ought to have the confidence that what we do not see is still yet able to become reality. We need to realize that God our creator does love us more than we can imagine and is walking right there beside us during our fears.

Some fears are huge and some are small. Some fears are more difficult to overcome than others. Sometimes we allow fear to control our lives…and other times we realize that we can overcome not by our strength alone but with the strength of God within us.

If fear is controlling you to the point of anxiety and/or panic it has gone too far. Talk to people you trust and start the journey back to peace and joy.

Psalm 23:4 “Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.”