My Source of Strength

Written by: Carolyn Ruttan

It is almost hard to believe that we are already well into the New Year.  A new year is a great way of starting over with a clean slate, but to be completely honest, my husband and I were wishing that we had a pause button, some way to not start yet another year.  But whether we want it to or not, there is no pause button and life goes on. Granted, there are some things coming up that we are looking forward to, like the Global Retreat and General Conference in BC. It will be a great time of connecting with other missionaries and pastors.  We are looking forward to Hope Camp and the end of this month, where we take sponsored kids out of the city for a few days of fun and a spiritual retreat. We are anticipating February when the new school year begins and we can start teaching the Bible in the public school again with a new theme. We miss those kids!  However, there are changes approaching that we are not looking forward to.

Before Christmas we received news that my dad’s cancer has returned after being cancer free for many years. It’s hard being so far from home when a parent is dealing with a diagnosis of cancer, even if the Doctor is confident with surgery they can remove it all. Also a friend is dealing with the betrayal of the worst kind and I can’t be there…except to pray from afar. My heart is there and yet it’s here too, because I know this is where the Lord has planted us.  It’s where we live and work and have relationships with people.

One thing that we are dreading is all the goodbyes coming up.  And there are many. Goodbyes are hard when you are living far from family, and when there are friends and people that you love and care about, leave to go “home” or another country it leaves such an emptiness and aching in the heart.  They are going to be missed and I don’t want to think about what life will be like when they are not a part of it in the way they are now. Chances are we will not ever see these wonderful people again…except for on Facebook.  I think goodbyes are one of the hardest things about being in missions.  It feels like people are always leaving and yet there are those of us who remain. Over our more than four years here we have seen many come and then go…too many to count.

Also, our son Ben will be graduating this year and heading back to Canada to further his education.  We don’t want him to go. That will leave just our daughter here with us in Honduras while Ben and Jacob, who left a year and a half ago, make lives for their own apart from us.

So, on New years day, my heart was heavy and sad thinking of all these things.   I was actually feeling sorry for myself as I dwelt on them.  And then it happened during our devotions after dinner…something we always do as a family, that I felt like God was speaking to my heart, nudging me and reminding me of his faithfulness and that He is still good, still worthy of being praised.  That despite how circumstances may seem, despite the aching in my heart, that God is there and God is my source of strength.  It was a verse that my son Ben read..

Habakkuk 3:17-19a

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the crops die in the fields; and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation. The Sovereign Lord is my strength!

There is a quote by Henry G. Bosch.”  Our eyes are to be focused on the Lord, not on our circumstances. We are to live above the shadows of fear and bask in the sunlight of faith. Even though we, like Habakkuk, may have a long list of troubles, faith’s answer to disappointment must always be: “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation” That type of attitude will enable us to live above the circumstances instead of under them. “

 

I don’t know how you began your year or what challenges you will face.  No doubt for all of us there will be unexpected things come up that we are not prepared for.  When they do, let us not take our eyes off of Him, while we merely focus on our circumstances.  Let us remember that he is faithful .  Always.  Let us find our strength and our joy in Him.

Psalm 112:7

They do not fear bad news. They confidently trust the Lord to care for them.

Do Something Kind For Yourself

By: Mandy Larence-Hill

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. (Proverbs 13:12)

I have this sweet friend, she is always encouraging the people in her sphere of influence to ‘Do something kind for themselves’ Those of you who know her, have been encouraged by her in this very way, I am certain of it. Her words, while spoken often to myself personally, have only recently began to penetrate the walls of my heart.

Sometimes our life’s journey can be energy draining, to say the least. Add a handful of kids and a husband in there and you have your work cut out for you. Amen?! Any and all thoughts of being ‘kind’ to yourself and/or ‘doing something nice for yourself’ just spur guilty feelings and such endeavours get pushed to the wayside.

What if we were to look at such endeavours differently?! What if being kind to ourselves was a portion of God’s purpose for us?

Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart. (Proverbs 3:3)

Giving yourself room to be kind to YOU, in addition to all of your other roles is not a bad thing, sister. In fact, realistically speaking, taking care of yourself will likely make you a brighter light to this dark world. If you’re not happy yourself– how are you hoping to spread joy to others?

Here are a few ways that I am kind to myself:

– a Starbucks peppermint mocha
– a manicure (sometimes done by myself, or others at the salon)
– curling my hair
– a tall ice-filled glass of Pepsi-lime
– a coffee date with a friend
– a warm bath with a good book
– getting dressed up
– photography

Thank You God, for these treats that make my heart happy.

Taking a few moments to enjoy what makes YOU happy can make all the difference. If you feel comfortable sharing, please share with us what you do to be kind to yourself! And if you have a hard time doing something nice for yourself, intentionally carve out some time this week to really give it an honest try.

Heavenly Father, Thank You for special treats that can bring us happy moments. I pray that You will speak to us in times that we feel we are undeserving of such simple pleasures, and remind us that we have been called to be kind to all; including that of ourselves. I pray this in Your precious name, amen.

We are the Body

Written by: Conny Varga

In 1 Corinthians 12, we are given one of the most beautiful and fitting descriptions of our relationship with Jesus and each other as children of God. Paul skillfully paints a detailed picture of a human body with all the various body parts – the more prominent ones, the unseen ones, the more “honourable” ones, and the ones we take special care to protect and cover. He then compares it to us being many different parts in Christ’s Body, all connected to our Head, which is Christ.

This analogy gives us several things to think about:

  1. What we put into our body influences our health
    We all agree that to be healthy, we need to be wise about how we care for our bodies – stress and unhealthy choices can increase our risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, etc. These choices also greatly diminish our energy and effectiveness in whatever tasks we endeavour to complete. In the same way, Jesus lists some unhealthy spiritual choices we can make that lead to illness and ineffectiveness in the Body of Christ: “the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful” (Mark 4:19).
  2. Self-harm does not make sense
    Thoughts of wanting to harm one’s own body are not natural or healthy and do not make any sense. We find a plethora of examples in the New Testament of destructive behaviours within Christ’s Body, sometimes called the “negative one-anothers”: judge one another; bite, devour, consume one another; envy one another; lie to one another; grumble among one another, etc. Sounds like self-harm, doesn’t it? And it just does not make sense spiritually either.
  3. We need all our body parts to function well
    No one in their right mind would ask for less organs or body parts. But somehow, we can fall into this trap spiritually. Like it or not, we’re all in this together. We are a team, and we are designed to function as such. Therefore, our preferences, rules, denomination and culture cannot get in the way of Christ’s Body. We were born into the same One Body, and so we are to be of one mind, one Spirit, and one goal, and we need each one of us to accomplish God’s plan in this world.
  4. We care for injured body parts
    Sometimes we deal with an injury, such as a broken arm or a sprained ankle. Our natural reaction is to protect and “baby” whatever is hurt to speed the healing process. In a spiritual sense, we learn in 1 Corinthians that when one part of Christ’s Body suffers, the whole body suffers with it. There are helpful actions we can take – the “positive one-anothers”, if you will: love one another; forgive one another; comfort and encourage one another; serve one another; give preference to one another; pray for one another; confess our sins one to another; exhort one another, etc. All these actions will heal and strengthen the Body to bring it back to its full effectiveness again.
  5. The body cannot function without the Head
    Just as our physical bodies die without commands and impulses from our head, so the Body of Christ will die if the commands of the Head are blocked or ignored. This may seem obvious, but it points out the seriousness of following Jesus’ commandments – all of them. It requires prayer and study of the Scripture, humility and utmost obedience. Jesus is the Life – without Him, we are dead.

Let’s devote as much love and care to the Body of Christ as we do to our own bodies. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35). Then we can be an effective, powerful light in this world to the glory of God. “We will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Eph. 4:15-16)

 

His Choosing

Written by: D’Anne Mullin

Have you ever been in a season of life not of your own choosing?  Working in a job that is not quite what you had dreamed of in your youth?  Living in a city or town far from where your heart feels at home?  Thrown into relationships with others that rub you the wrong way?  Faced with circumstances and decisions of incredible uncertainty and mind-boggling impossibility?  I sure have, on many occasions in my 44 years on this planet.

Have you ever found yourself wondering why and worrying endlessly in these seasons?  Asking yourself, “where is God in the middle of it all?”  Waking in the middle of the night to find your thoughts still focused on the season at hand and wondering if it will ever end?  Seeking relief in earthly comforts like food and naps and shopping, or dare I say comforts far worse?  Keeping busy and distracted or withdrawn and anxious?  If I am honest with you, I can relate with all of these as well.

Life and its many seasons can be very wonderful, but also very difficult.

Daughters, I know that you too have experienced some, if not all or more, of what I have described above in varying degrees.  We are all women with common experiences and emotions, given to similar responses to happenings in our surroundings and relationships.  We are a sisterhood and can draw on our feminine bond for support in all of our moments.  But, deeper than our womanly comradery, we can draw from the life-giving presence of Christ in all things we face, knowing that He has “plans to prosper (us) and not harm (us), plans to give (us) hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) Even in the darkest moments, when we are tempted to question His very existence, He is there with us working on our behalf!

Jeremiah 29:11 encourages us that nothing in our life, absolutely nothing, is random.  It is all part of God’s plan for us, the good, the bad and the ugly.  Even the ugliest of uglies are already accounted for in His mind and allowed in our lives for us to bring glory to God in the midst of it.

I love what Sarah Young says in her book entitled “Jesus Calling.”  The “here and now comprise the coordinates of your daily life.  Most people let their moments slip through their fingers, half-lived.  They avoid the present by worrying about the future or longing for a better time and place.  They forget that they are creatures who are subject to the limitations of time and space.  They forget their Creator, who walks with them only in the preset.”

The right here and the right now are my coordinates in this moment as I write this blog to you.  God is with me as I write words meant to encourage you today!  Daughters, we need not worry for any moment as God already knows each planned moment, is with us every second of that moment and will grow us into beautiful masterpieces through all our moments!  The key is to stay intimately connected with Jesus, giving ourselves to a life of constant communion with our Saviour.  By doing so we will find that our worries fade away and we are freed to let His Spirit direct our steps as is His choosing.  We then can walk the path of peace.

I leave you with two verses to ponder:

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?  Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” Luke 12:25-26

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

Persistence in Prayer

Written by: Jody Mugford

Jesus also said to them: “Suppose one of you has a friend and goes to him at midnight and says to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I don’t have anything to offer him.’ Then he will answer from inside and say, ‘Don’t bother me! The door is already locked, and my children and I have gone to bed. I can’t get up to give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he won’t get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his friend’s persistence, he will get up and give him as much as he needs.” Luke 11:5-8

This parable has been an ongoing reminder in my daily life. I am currently waiting on the completion of an enormous, seemingly impossible miracle (praise God that nothing is impossible with Him!). I have seen God answer my desperate prayers but I am still crying out for Him to do more in our situation. I have clung to this teaching this past year as a source of strength and motivation. Keep praying. Don’t give up. Keep praying. I have reminded God over and over saying, “Don’t worry, God, I can be that annoying neighbour you taught about. If persistence is what it takes, well I can do that! You just watch!”. Oh, how He must shake His head at me (hopefully humorously)!

Lately God has been teaching me a lot about prayer – my role in prayer, how He values prayer, what it can do to impact situations, and more. I’ve wrestled my way through some of these lessons. I’ve had to try to reconcile the teaching of “persistent prayer leading to the answer” with other teachings in scripture that remind us that God has greater plans than we can comprehend; that He may handle situations differently than we anticipate, for our good and His glory.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

I am so thankful that can we “come boldly to the throne of our gracious God” (Hebrews 4:16). What a wonderful, gracious, loving, and just God we serve. He is GOD. He knows my needs before I even ask them. He also knows the best answer and the best time for that answer. A dear pastor reminded me once that my miracle is not just MY miracle. God is weaving together a beautiful tapestry and using our lives, our experiences and His Hand to create something amazing; something that will have greater impact than we ever could in our own strength or understanding.

Jesus is telling us, in this parable, to persist in prayer. He is pleading with us not to give up. He is encouraging us to keep coming and asking. Prayer changes things! Jesus knows the power of prayer and wants us to know it too! He also knows another awesome consequence of prayer. He knows that the more we pray, the more time we spend in the wondrous presence of our breathtaking God, the more we invite the Holy Spirit into our lives…the more we become like Jesus. It’s an unavoidable side effect! He knows that the more we take on His character, the more our desires and prayers will align with God’s desires and plans – perfect plans that will bless His children and bring the lost to find Him.

On this journey, I am discovering this beautiful dynamic of prayer. God wants us to persist and continue to pray. He tells us not to give up but to keep bringing our requests! I believe that we have a responsibility to pray with fervency, to bring all of our needs to our Lord. He also promises that as we do, He will transform our hearts to be more like Him. In that transformation there is peace, joy, strength and hope. He performs miracles around us, He really does, and prayer plays a pivotal role in that. He also wants to do miracles WITHIN us. The biggest miracles He will ever do come from a complete transformation of our hearts to be more like Him. That miracle will have ripple effects into eternity. I encourage you to join me on this journey. Spend regular time every day with Jesus. He will not disappoint you, my friend. He will amaze you.

I’ll give you a new heart, put a new spirit in you. I’ll remove the stone heart from your body and replace it with a heart that’s God-willed, not self-willed. Ezekiel 36:26

Love and Blessings,

Jody

Fresh Start

Written by: Christianne Williams

Who doesn’t love a fresh start?  A new beginning, no mistakes, no regrets, just hope for what’s ahead stretching as far as your mind and heart can see.  A new job, a new move, a new relationship, new opportunities.  That’s the reason the new year fills gyms everywhere, there’s a new starting point, the chance to write a new story on a blank page.  There is a fresh resolve to tackle that vice that the year before seemed too far gone.  Sadly, it doesn’t take long for the fresh start to be marred with a fresh donut or pizza because life happened and caught you off guard.  After that it seems pointless to continue.

I love the first snow fall of the year, it blankets the ground, sparkles in the sun, and shows no footprints or signs of being disturbed.  It’s beautiful to look at, until my kids go out to play.  There are snowmen, forts, small hills created for a stab at sledding, and dead grass peeking through.  When they were small and I had the power to keep them inside, I would, for as long as I could put up with the whining, so I could enjoy the look of our yard undisturbed.  I know, more snow falls throughout the winter but after the first, it only fills in the footprints and covers the snow creations, tries to hide the twigs and grass sticking up,  it doesn’t actually go back to the original spotless beauty.

I’ve found relationships to be this way.  You begin with great expectations and it doesn’t take long before disillusionment enters in.  Something happens or a word is spoken that stings and changes the outlook you have.  It can cause us to pull away, to react in ways that isolates us.  We build walls to protect ourselves, and in the end, keep out the very people who are to shape us and help us in our quest for godly character.  Like the case of freshly fallen snow, we can restore those relationships but sometimes the old things are just covered, the form of them are still evident.

When we woke up on January first and I said “Happy New Year!” to my seven year old, she was rather disappointed.  “It doesn’t feel any different than last year!”  And she was right. It was just the same as last year, and the year before that, and the year before that.  In fact, it was the same as the day before.  Every day is a fresh start, a new opportunity to grow, to blossom, to spread hope and encouragement.  It’s a new opportunity to repair relationships, to accomplish something you never thought you could, to begin the journey to a dream that has laid dormant waiting for the perfect moment.

It’s not a specific day that gives us fresh hope, fresh vision, or fresh resolve.  The very thing that offers us these things is not actually a thing, He’s a person.  Jesus gives us the opportunity to change every moment.  He doesn’t wait until the first of the year, the first of the month, the first of the week, or the beginning of a day.  He restores hope, relationship, vision, the truth about who we actually are, at any moment we ask Him to.  He doesn’t just blanket over things that have caused us to lose sight of our future, He heals it and we actually start with a fresh snow fall all over again.

Don’t allow the hope of great things for your life fade with any ‘mess ups’ that happened in the early days of the year.  Grab hold of the truth Jesus brings and allow Him to encourage you every minute of everyday!

Christianity Like Bull Riding

Written by: Cindy Morrone

It happens, right close to my home town a real live rodeo!!  We went to go and see it one year.  It was fantastic!

There was barrel and steer racing, tiedown roping and clowns!! Rodeo clowns!! It didn’t take long to notice that these colourfully dressed, silly acting men were needed beyond entertainment.  They were protection experts to those in the ring.

Right at the end of the evening there was major hype!  For a rookie like me, I didn’t know what was going to happen but knew it was extremely dangerous by the tone of the announcer’s voice and lighting.  It was time for the bull riding!!

Out of the bucking shoot storms a massive bull, jumping and bucking with all its might to rid the rider on top of it.

I don’t pretend to know the first thing about bull riding except for what I saw.

What I noticed and the image that has stuck with me is the bull rider’s hand hold.  One hand holds onto a rope while the other is free.

It was the contradiction of the rider’s hand placement that has caught my attention.

Oftentimes, when I am wrestling with gigantic obstacles, all I can do is hold on with white knuckles. I hold onto the promises and truths to me, written throughout the Bible clutching them and not letting go.

“Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”  Jeremiah 29: 12 & 13

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 8:37-39

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Deuteronomy 31:6

Simultaneously, I need to let go of all those things that are not in my control and lift my hand in freedom and in submission; asking for God’s help.  I can’t fix them, I can’t change them, I can’t try harder; work harder.  I can’t figure out or understand or solve my way out of.  Like the 1500-pound bull, many problems are just too immense for me to handle.

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”  Hebrews 4:16

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”  1 Peter 5:7

It is only when I do these two paradoxical resolutions at the same time that my time with the beast ends; the terrifying ride is over and the war is won for me in victory!

No, you will never find me on top of a bull.  Never.

But you will find me trying to follow a bull rider’s hand hold.  Clutching with white knuckles to my Jesus while letting go of those things not meant for me to hold onto and letting God!!

Who Is My Neighbour?

Written by: Carolyn Ruttan

I wrote last time about Jonah and how at times we can cause our own storms.  Another point from that sermon was something I hadn’t heard before.  The pastor compared the city of Ninevah to modern day terrorists; people who killed in the name of their god.  Is it any wonder why Jonah didn’t want to go? Can we really blame him for running in the opposite direction? How many of us would want to go and share the Gospel with Isis? I know if it were me I would be terrified.  Yet would God not forgive them if they truly repented from all the evil things they have done?  Take the apostle Paul. He too was a terrorist before finding the Lord and yet was transformed after a God encounter..

2 Peter 3:9

The Lord really isn’t slow about his promise as some people think. No, he is patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.

When God called us to Honduras I knew deep in my heart that he wanted us here. However I felt conflicted about it. I wanted to go because I knew it was where the Lord wanted us, at the same time, I  LOVE to walk. I had heard I could never do that in Honduras…not alone.  My thought was I don’t want to go to Honduras, I can’t walk there. I will shrivel up and die inside if can’t get out and walk. The love of walking is wired right into me.  However, God knows the desires of our hearts, and we ended up finding the right house in the right location. In front of our home is a closed circuit neighbourhood that I am able to walk in.  Over the past four years, I have come to know many of my neighbours, and a lot of them by name.  There are people from all walks of life. I’ve had many great conversations, especially with my elderly Doctor friend Jorge. I remember one time asking him, “Jorge, do you know Jesus? Does he live in your heart?”  He kind of shrugged and told me that he read and believed the Bible, but there was one thing that had always bothered him. He told me what it was, and I told him what I believed to be the answer and  said I’d look it up and get back to him. Sadly I never got the chance. That was the last time I ever saw him. He passed away from a heart attack not long after that conversation at 90 years old. Oh my broken heart. I still miss him. Still see him leaning against his old rusty car. How I wish I’d pressed him further that day. If only I could talk with him one more time.

I believe that God is not going to call you somewhere and then not equip you.

I’m generally a very quiet person. I don’t speak up a lot, don’t often share my thoughts, or share what is going on inside.  So, if there is one area where the Lord has stretched me since moving to Honduras, it’s in the area of speaking in front of people, specifically children.  It used to terrify me and I would get all tongue tied. But he has given me the strength and banished fear. I love sharing stories of the Bible, how they’re relevant today. I want the kids to know that God loves them and has a plan and purpose for their lives. I love that in Honduras there is the freedom to share Jesus.

God may not call you to a foreign country or to reach the Isis, but he can use where you are to be a neighbour and a friend to someone who needs Him.  Ask Him to put people in your path who he wants to reach through you. Perhaps it’s an elderly shut in, a single mom needing a  break or a struggling teen. Perhaps it’s  someone you work with. Whoever it is, converse with them and listen.  Be a friend. You never know what people are dealing with.  You may be the only Jesus they will see. Who will you reach out to today?

The Other Half of Sorry…..

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

Has your spouse ever made you really angry? Maybe he forgot to take out the trash for the third week in a row. Maybe he broke a promise to you that you were really counting on. Perhaps he made an important decision without conferring with you first. Perhaps the reason for your anger was pretty menial….but he caught you at a bad time.

Friend, I’d be lying if I said I never get angry with my husband. I do. Sometimes I get really angry about really stupid things.

We all get angry. Sometimes we get angry for reasons that feel legit and justified. Other times, our reasoning is unmerited and slightly off kilter.

There are two things that God has been working on my heart about regarding forgiveness.

1. Ask for it.
When we react in anger foolishly it is our responsibility to ask for forgiveness. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” If we simply ask for forgiveness, God will continue to be faithful in keeping no record of our wrongs and forgiving us of our sins. Forget your pride, friend. Asking for forgiveness is SO important.

2. The other half of sorry.
There is more than just that flood of satisfaction when someone who has treated you wrongly apologizes. We have just as much responsibility when someone asks for our forgiveness; we must actually forgive them. How often do we walk away from an apology with bitterness still enveloping our hearts? Unfortunately, I do it far too often. My flesh is slow to shrug off hurt and bitter feelings. However, the Holy Spirit can and will help us with that as long as we ask Him to. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (‭Ephesians‬ ‭4‬:‭32‬ NIV)

So friend, is there an area of your heart that God has given a little nudge after reading this post today? Do you need to improve on asking for forgiveness when you find yourself reacting in anger unnecessarily or does God desire you to improve on your ability to extend forgiveness? May I pray for you? “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” (‭Mark‬ ‭11‬:‭25‬ NIV)

Father God, thank You so much for Your forgiveness and the healing, peace and joy that comes from the truth that You have indeed washed us white as snow. Jesus, I pray for my friends who also struggle with asking for and extending forgiveness. I pray that Your Holy Spirit will encompass us with each opportunity that arises where we are able to utilize these powerful words: I am sorry or I forgive you. Bless each heart that reads this post today. In Jesus name, Amen.

Let’s Drop Those Chains!

Written by: Conny Varga

Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. (Mark 10:21-22)

Over the last few days, I have been reflecting on the year we have just concluded, looking back at the good, the bad, and yes, the ugly, too. One thing that jumped out to me was the way we used the money God had entrusted us with. We did ok giving to the church and to charity, and we supported missions. We gave some money to help those in need. Pat on the back.

But then cold dread gripped my heart when I thought of all the times we went ahead and spent money on things we just simply wanted for ourselves, almost without thinking. Sometimes little things that we could easily justify, and sometimes bigger things we set our hearts on. Either way, they were definitely motivated by self-indulgence, not necessity. And they piled up to be quite a chunk of change in the end!

We don’t like to think about money and how we spend it, probably because we feel we earned it, and we deserve to treat ourselves every now and then. In our Western world, we have the conveniences and lures, and social expectations, that drive us to spend more money than intended. We can come up with all sorts of justifications, and we feel that as long as we give some of it back to God, we’re good. Sadly, studies have shown that we in the “wealthy West” give the least amount of our money (somewhere between 1-3 %) back to God, compared to the rest of the world. That’s shocking!

Oh, we say, I give of my time and talents – that counts for something. We live under grace, not under the law, and we are asked to give whatever we feel in our heart. Surely God does not want us to live in misery, He wants us to live life abundantly, right?

Have you ever noticed that Jesus raised the bar for every Old-Testament law He addressed? For example, there are the famous “you have heard it said…but I say to you” statements, where Jesus declares among other things that hate equals murder, and lust equals adultery. Interestingly, money was a very frequent topic in His teachings. And quite often, His teachings were challenging and offensive. He praised the poor widow who gave 2 pennies to the temple – which happened to be her entire livelihood – and challenged the rich to “give up everything”, “lay up treasures in heaven”, “sell everything you have and give it to the poor”, and He showed by His own life’s example what that looks like. As believers in Jesus, we are commanded to go above and beyond the expectations of the Law because we seek to emulate our Lord.

I find it intriguing that the first believers in Acts, the ones who had seen Jesus, heard His teachings, and observed His life, were moved to sell their possessions and distribute the profits to the poor. We consider this action to be quite radical and unrealistic, and yet by default, they were the ones who had the most undiluted and original gospel.

Now, does Jesus want us to deprive ourselves, be miserable, and deny ourselves of all worldly goods? That sounds like the middle ages to me! I believe that Jesus challenges us give up all we have because He wants us to trust in Him, rely on Him for everything, and be free to do what He has commanded us to do – love Him with ALL our heart, care for the needy, and share the gospel with all the world. Let’s be honest – possessions and self-indulgence can be chains that tie us down. Jesus came to make us free, and that means free from those shackles as well! And when we choose to drop those chains, joy will follow!

In Hebrews 13:5, we are commanded: Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

When God promises something, He will always keep His word! Let’s commit to trusting in that promise by giving our all back to Him and re-evaluating our spending habits. Let’s drop those chains and be free!