Life on Purpose: Commit to the Learning

Written by: Emily Pelley

I’ve recently read a passage in The Message that has really stuck with me, so I’d like to share it with you:

Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that. Ephesians 5:1-2 MSG

I LOVE this verse! What a beautiful description of how we are to live our lives. Simply put, the focus of this plan for life is to position our hearts, our focus, and our energy on watching God; learning from Him, keeping company with Him.

Living this life of commitment to Jesus has a foundational principle: everything…and I mean EVERYTHING… comes AFTER our relationship with Jesus.

God intended for us who have chosen to follow Him to daily, continually, search after Him. To learn more about who He is, how He loves, and how much He wants to know you. This comes before anything He will call you to do. He wants you to be securely connected to Him and reliant on His power and grace to pursue each day.

If you try to live a life on purpose outside of this source of strength, you will only go as far as your personal resolve will allow. And you will never reach our potential when we try to do things on our own strength. The power and strength we need comes from a daily connection with the Holy Spirit.

Now, if you are like me, having an extra couple hours a day to go sit by the water with your bible, or curl up in your comfy chair undisturbed is not reality (though these options sound heavenly to me right now). But that is not what we have to do in order to connect with God. If you get to do those things, than go for it! But find that time every day- no matter how small- to sit in quiet and connect with Jesus. Involve Him throughout your whole day. Continually talk with Him, pause to think of how great He is, and always seek to learn more about His character.

My challenge to you this week is to write down this verse and place it somewhere that you will read it often. Remind yourself that everything in life comes back to walking with Jesus- being still and confident in who He is and who He has made you to be.

Parenting: Love and Discipline

Written by: Christianne Williams

Proverbs 13:13 “He who scorns instruction will pay for it, but he who respects a command is rewarded.”

Proverbs 13:24 “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.”

This parenting thing, I find it hard sometimes.  Last night was one of those times.  It wasn’t that anything terrible happened, in fact, it was an eye opening time of reflecting on the character of each one of my children. I just get hung up on the things that need improvement and perhaps feel a measure of guilt over them.  The homeschool regulations in our province require meetings with facilitators twice a year. Last night was our first ever, in all of our 13 years of homeschooling, opportunity to sit down with people who were not family and discuss goals, both academically and character related, of our sweet little ducklings.

First of all, I believe we have the best facilitators in all of the world. They were so helpful in getting us to really think about each of children as individuals with their own unique character traits and gifts.  I found it very easy to pull out the positives of some of them and the negatives of others.  Let’s face it, it’s easy to bury the memory of the temper tantrums your sixteen-year old threw when he was seven but its not so easy to forget the one your seven-year old threw five minutes before the guests arrived.  As we were going through the list, taking note of strengths and area that need attention, I began to see that perhaps my ‘soft’, guilt ridden, parenting style, was less than ideal.

I love my babies; they really are great children! They make us proud!  But the areas that need to be worked on are, at the root, things that have evolved because of my inability to follow through with discipline.  I’m a softy.  I get irritated and frustrated, I hand out a punishment, most of the time too severe and one that will punish me too, like no going outside for a year.  Then an hour later when they show up with their sad little eyes, almost managing to squeeze out a tear or two, I cave, and back outside they go.  I know that as soon as their precious little backs are to me they get a smirk on their face because they know me far too well.

As I sat there thinking about it, I realized something else as well.  My view of punishment was that if I followed through I wasn’t showing love to my children.  It was as if I was viewing love as equalling permissiveness, and that isn’t at all what it is.  Loving my children, as God loves us, is setting boundaries, ones that protect them, and seek what’s best for them.  If they choose to push through those fences and I decide to do nothing, one message I’m sending is that really, the rule I’ve set isn’t important so what’s the point of them following it? The other is that I don’t love them enough to show them “tough love”!

Two things are now going to be front and center: 1. Does the punishment fit the ‘crime’? and 2. Once I’ve said it, it has to stick! So, I must be very careful to present a fair consequence with effective results.

God loves us, and He corrects us out of His great love for us.  He wants to keep us safe and unharmed.  He wants us to walk in freedom and develop Godly character.  The same is true of the way I feel toward my kids.  I want them to develop good, Godly character, knowing that love and discipline go hand in hand, not love and permissiveness.

Quiet Time

Written by: Carolyn Ruttan

I am a morning person.  It’s my favorite time of day. Every day except for the weekends, I set my alarm for 4:40. Crazy early, I know. But life starts early here and in order for me to get everything I want to accomplish before we leave for the day I need to be up early.  (My kid’s school bus arrives shortly after 6am.) I like to exercise first thing. Then I make coffee and settled in for my quiet time with the Lord.  Next we do family devotions with the kids, see them off to school, and then I take my dog for a walk. After walking the dog, I come home and get ready for the day before we leave the house. It’s my routine and I like routine. I find that if I miss a day or two of spending time with the Lord that I feel grumpier and out of sorts.  It sets the tone for the entire day.  It happens though.  Sometimes maybe I didn’t sleep so great the night before and I feel too tired, so I hit the snooze button a few times.  And it is the same way if I miss a day or so of exercising, I feel sluggish and lazy.

1 Tim 4:8 (The Msg) — Exercise daily in God. No spiritual flabbiness please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful but a disciplined life in God is far more so. Making you fit both for today and forever.

Spending time in the Word strengthens us inwardly. It has the power to change us. It helps us when we are tempted because the Lord will bring to remembrance a certain verse that applies to that situation. If we are stressed, His word will give us peace. However, we are not going to know what the Bible says if we don’t read it. God wants to know us and wants us to spend time in his presence, by talking to him, and reading his word. It’s one way He speaks to us. But, we are not going to know Him if we don’t talk to Him.

Psalm 119:11 —I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

One thing that has helped me personally is writing out the scriptures and then meditating on them. There are several scripture writing plans available on line and it only takes about ten minutes or less to write them out.  I bought a pretty new journal at the beginning of the year and have been doing this daily since then. It really helps to keep me disciplined. The one I use is called Sweet Blessings.

If we go without food for any length of time, we become weak and sluggish. I know for me, if I skip a meal, I end up reaching for something not so healthy, like cookies, chips or candy, rather than taking the time to cook something nourishing.  We all know that junk food that doesn’t satisfy. It’s the same way with God’s word. Reading the Bible is nourishment for our souls.

Matthew 4:4 — People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.

So, I encourage you if you are not already doing so, to set apart a regular time and place each day to spend time with God.  Morning may not work for you. Some may prefer the afternoon when the kids are napping, and some may prefer at night before bed.  An idea would be to buy a nice journal and write your prayers, scriptures or write what you feel God is speaking to your heart.  While you read His Word and the scriptures you may have read time and again, ask the Lord to reveal to you something new that He wants to show you. I promise you, you will not regret it and as you draw close to God He will draw close to you.

Senseless Expectations

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

I have been married for over thirteen years and in my marriage experience I can honestly say I have learned that two ARE better than one.

I love my husband….but I will admit that I sometimes shift him into the place in my heart where only God belongs. I sometimes expect him to know what I am thinking. I sometimes expect him to say or do something that will bring me peace or make me feel better about a situation. When I am feeling lonely, I sometimes even think that if he was with me….things would be so much better.

I hate to admit it, but sometimes I forget that the God that I serve is the omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (he’s everywhere), Prince of Peace!!!

While my husband is amazing, I need not expect him to be the things that only God is. Furthermore, when I am waiting in expectation for my husband to be these things, I am taking away the opportunity from God to move in my life and truly be my all in all.

Sometimes I make this shift in priority without even realizing it. But, the enemy would like nothing better than to sneak in when (and where) we least expect it and swipe the carpet right out from under our feet. Guard you heart, sisters.

What other things do you crave more than God?

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ …But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:31,33)

Heavenly Father, thank You for the gift of marriage. Please keep me mindful of when I start to shift my marriage ahead of You. You designed and created marriage; and it is good. But Jesus, please help me to keep balance. For my sisters out there who are struggling with craving things more than You….please be with them. Shine light onto the areas that they need to pull into balance and claim the spot in their heart that is Yours. We desire to seek you first, Jesus. Thank You for all that You will, and all that You are doing. In Jesus name, amen.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

I Know God Loves Me, But…

Written by: Conny Varga

I think we can all come up with at least one Bible verse that assures us of God’s love – if nothing else, John 3:16 will come to mind. Most of us don’t doubt that God loves us, that He has our best in mind, and that He sacrificed Himself for us.

But how about when you just yelled at your kids, when you said words to your friend or spouse you wish you could take back, when you felt the Spirit urging you to speak up and you didn’t, when you saw a need and didn’t meet it, when you blew it, when you feel like you’re a failure, and you’ve made a mess of your life again? Do you believe that God still loves you, unconditionally? My guess is you would probably say yes, though you may do so somewhat hesitantly. But do you believe that God LIKES you? Or do you feel that He just puts up with you during these times because, well, you are His child?

Since we are imperfect humans with imperfect relationships and imperfect emotions, we inadvertently and subconsciously place these same imperfect characteristics on our Heavenly Father. “He must not like me right now because of this mess I got myself in… I’ll have to dig my way out of this or suffer the consequences to earn His favour back”, or “God will like me again if I do this or that…” – and the list goes on and on.

Do you remember what the Father said about Jesus at His baptism? “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:17). God said that He loved Jesus and that He liked Jesus – He was WELL PLEASED with Him. And God extends this same blessing to all His children – He loves unconditionally and is also WELL PLEASED WITH US through Jesus!

This is a truth that has the power to transform us! This is what sets our God apart from all other gods and religions – we don’t have to live with guilt, condemnation, depression, or shame. We don’t have to try to earn our way back to Him. Repentance – a broken, changed heart and mind – is all He is looking for. He will give us the desire and humility to make things right. He will give us the power to do better next time. He is the only One who can transform us to be more like our perfect example, Jesus.

He is the One who created us in the first place. Uniquely. Beautifully. Completely. He knew about our flaws and sins before we were even born, and He chose us anyway. He is ALWAYS our Daddy, and He delights in being right there beside us in all our mess and brokenness, arms outstretched, smiling, because He sees us as the lost little lamb who needs to be carried back home. There may be wounds and scars that need healing, but our Father is there to bandage us up, all the while stroking our back and telling us that everything will be ok, that He understands, and that He likes and loves us nonetheless.

Last week I talked about our identity in Christ, and that who we are is more important than what we do. We are His precious, cherished children, regardless of what we do or don’t do!

I pray that we would all take a deep breath and bask in the freedom and joy of His love, His radiant smile beaming down at us, and His arms wrapped around us as He whispers: “Everything will be ok. I love you. I like you. And I will help you through this. Just let me.”

I know God loves me – but I also know that He likes me. And that is the motivation that drives me to live for His honour and glory, to share His love with others. His love for me is so great that if I just take the time to let Him lavish it on me, it spills over into all my relationships. It changes my attitude, my outlook, my being. It transforms me. What a wonderful Father we have!

The Languages of Love

Written by: D’Anne Mullin

Many of you have heard of the famous book titled, “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman.  There is a version for couples, singles, men, women, teenagers and children.  All great books in their own right, all pointing to the sacrificial love we are to have towards others.

In a nutshell, in these texts, the author goes to great extents to point out that we give and receive love in five distinct ways as follows:

  1. Through Loving Words
  2. Through Quality Time
  3. Through Acts of Service
  4. Through Physical Affection
  5. Through Gifts

These expressions of love are like languages in which we communicate to one another.  Each of us has a dominant language, ranked 1 through 5, in which we feel most loved and tend to love others in that way.  The goal is to learn how others feel appreciated and show them how much you care in their love language.  A language they can understand best.  It takes effort to learn the love language of another and show them love in that manner.

For example, my husband and I are complete opposites.  His number one love language is Acts of Service, which is number five for me.  My number one love language is Physical Affection, which is his number five.

Because we tend to love others with our own love language instead of their own, I have spent most of our relationship reassuring him of my love with a hug, rubbing his back, rustling his hair, stroking his arm and playing with his ear lobe.  Most times he is fine, but there are times it quite frankly annoys him and does nothing to fill his “love tank.”  However, when I choose to surprise him by making his lunch for him the next work day, or I lay his clothes out for church, he feels more appreciated than a pat on the back.

Conversely, my husband is the most thoughtful man I know, constantly blessing others with his Acts of Service.  He has done so much for me in our 26 years together from housework to bringing me lunch at work unannounced.  He has fed and changed our babies, painted and repainted every room in our house at my whim, gone for midnight drug store runs and cooked countless dinners.  However, with Acts of Service being my number five love language it is very easy for me to take all that for granted and complain that I am not getting my needed quota of hugs and snuggles.

We have both had to learn each other’s love language and sacrificially extend that language to one another in an effort to keep the “love tanks” full to overflowing.  And, daughters, it works!  We both feel more loved than when we first began.

This principle of Love Languages is true in all our interactions with others; in marriage, at home, with our kids, in the workplace, at church, with extended family and friends.  Even with those you get to know at the till in the grocery store and behind the counter at Tim Horton’s.  We can learn to love them they way they receive it best!

Jesus’ command to us in John 15:12 is this, “My command is this; Love each other as I have loved you.”  And this is how Jesus loved:

Through Loving Words

“As the Father has love Me, So have I loved you.” John 15:9

Through Quality Time

“Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place.” Mark 6:31

Through Acts of Service

“He poured some water into a basin and began to wash His disciples feet.” John 13:5

Through Physical Affection

“Jesus reached out His hand and touched the man.” Luke 5:13

Through Gifts

“Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted.” John 6:11

Let’s begin to love like Christ and love others in a way they will feel most loved, appreciated and accepted.

 

 

A Partner for Life

Written by: Nathan Hill

…and the two shall become one flesh. This is a statement from Scripture that we read so often at wedding ceremonies and refer to often when we speak of married couples. Rightly so, since it finds itself penned by three different biblical authors in both testaments and across several genres of writing.

Obviously this cannot be a literal joining of flesh. When I get up and go to work in the morning and my wife stays at home with our children there is not some super elastic flesh that stretches the divide between my office and my house. Rather, this combining must be something less tangible, something more fundamental, something perhaps soulish or spiritual.

Life seems to have greater depth and meaning when two people share it together. A partner for life is not just someone who endures you forever. Rather, a partner for life is someone to share our daily activities with so that we can experience what John calls abundant life.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (‭John‬ ‭10‬:‭10‬ ESV)

In my life I have been blessed with a partner to share my life’s journey with. Our family’s call to ministry took place about the same time that we began to move our friendship towards marriage. Since then our lives have taken many twists and turns; however, we have remained of one mind and one flesh with respect to our call to ministry. Although my wife has pursued her own education and her own aspirations, our life’s primary focus has been shaped by God’s call. Even though I am the one with the title and the salary, there are many ways that my wife has shared discernment in difficult situations and has contributed her talents to the work that we share.

No matter what your life’s calling is, pursuing it together as one flesh with your partner for life will be more fulfilling and meaningful than pursuing it on your own. There is still room for individual pursuits and interests but the overall focus of your life needs to be in focus with one another.

Don’t just take my word for it, check it out for yourself! …and the two shall become one flesh (Genesis 2:24, Mark 10:8, Ephesians 5:31).

Peeling off the Labels

Written by: Christianne Williams

I stood in the grocery store, in the dairy section, staring at the shelves of yogurt.  I began examining the label on each different brand to see which would be the best choice for us.  After a few minutes I settled on a brand and moved on to the cereal aisle, where I was immediately overwhelmed once again by the vast selection, just wanting a healthy type that my kids would actually eat.  I relied once again on the label to help me decide which box would give a decent amount of nutrition while not making the morning breakfast battle more difficult.

Labels are something that we are all familiar with.  They provide us with important information so we can make informed choices.  From giving us nutritional facts so we can make informed decisions to warning us of ‘small parts, not suitable for children under 3’, we can probably all think of an example and most likely use them at least once a day.

One place we will also find labels – on people.  I don’t think any of us can get off the planet without having a brand placed on them at some point.  Sometimes it’s harmless but sometimes it “sticks” and becomes our identity, holding us prisoners to wrong thoughts about who we are.  We hear ‘introvert’, ‘plain Jane’, ‘mediocre’, ‘average Joe’, etc., and then we begin to act that out in our lives.  We believe this is who we are and we can never be anything more.  The label becomes a limiting factor in our life.

I recently had a revelation of this, thanks to some beautiful ladies that God has brought into my life.  I realized that such declarations other people make over our lives can become thoughts we replay over and over in our heads and then becomes embedded in our DNA.  If I feel that I’m not worth anything, that I’m not good enough, don’t have enough talent, or that I’ll never live in the freedom that God has waiting for me, it can stick. It can become a label that shapes our self perception. But such labels are often lies! We believe these things because sometimes its easier to accept the things we hear with our physical ears than to soak in the beautiful things the Lord declares over us, things that we hear sometimes with our heart.

Those false labels keep us down, making us unable to trust God for ‘big things’ in our lives because we have our focus set on things that are false.  Who does God say that you are?  That’s really all that matters.

The labels that we wear that have been written on us by lies spoken can be removed, and then replaced with truth, labels like ‘more than enough’, ‘seated in heavenly places with Christ’, ‘daughter of the King of Kings’, ‘gifted with every spiritual blessing’ just to name a few.  How much different would our lives be if those were the labels that swirled around in our heads?  How much more confidence would we have? I know labels aren’t always easy to remove, I’ve worked retail for a number of years and have had to try and remove sticky labels from glass ornaments that were going to be given as gifts.  It sometimes feels that no amount of scratching and scraping will ever remove them and even after they’re off, there can be a sticky residue left that needs more attention.  I believe that God is the master label remover.  He can get those stubborn things off and even clean up any residue left over.

You and I are children of God, we can’t wear labels that call us something else anymore than peanut butter can wear a label reading strawberry jam.  We should never be called something we are not.  My prayer is that God will bring to your mind any labels that have placed on you that don’t line up with what He calls you and then you’ll allow Him to remove them and replace with truth.

One of My Biggest Road Blocks to Following God’s Will

Written by: Cindy Morrone

It’s nothing new.

It was one of those ah-ha moments, as I listened to the Bible teacher share the story of The Fall, found in Genesis Chapter 3.

And as she relayed the events of deception and disobedience, it struck me personally.

Like Eve, I can believe that in following the Lord’s leading in my life, that I may miss out.  That He, God will withhold something from me.

My tree in the middle of the garden? Provision.

Provision of needs, provision of strength, provision of love, provision of grace……..

I have been struggling with this especially of late. With little peace obtained, I knew my personal battle was not yet over and I waited patiently for this very moment.

The moment of revealed Truth that would calm my doubts, my fears and my strife.

You see, my life today is so very different than what I had planned out.  I had a plan, a direction and since I have been trying to follow the Lord’s leading in my life, it couldn’t look any more different.

Many times, I’ve wanted to eat the apple; take things back into my own hands, my own ways, my own will.

It seems that the deeper I follow His will for me; the more tempted I am to pluck of the fruit.

Thankful for this moment.  Thankful that the serpent of deception lost, yet again.  Immersed in the Word, and in the company of others encouraging the Faith, my battle at this time is over.

Once again, I chose to say, ‘Yes,’ to God’s will in my life and the life of my family, believing that He will provide all that we need.

‘Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Luke 22:39-42