Life on Purpose: Drop the Expectations

Written by: Emily Pelley

I have spent an inordinate amount of time in my life grappling with expectations; expectations I have for myself, and expectations that people have of me- of my behaviour and my achievements. As the church, we so easily slip into this “expectations” model, setting impossibly high standards that keep people in prisons of inadequacy and defeat. Even though we know that Jesus died to put the law in its place- that our salvation is by the grace of God requiring only our acceptance- we hold tightly to our set of rules, demands, restrictions and expectations. And this robs us of the joy and peace that Jesus has made available to us.

As followers of Christ, we know that it is not by our own goodness that we are saved. In fact, if it were, none of us would make it, because all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Rom 3:23). So when we put Jesus at the centre of our lives- our imperfections, our issues, our mistakes all get swept under His perfection and love towards us. It is a beautiful picture- this Amazing Grace.

According to Isaiah 61, followers of Christ are meant to be a reflection of Him to the people in our community, in our city, in our country. It goes on to say that those who have the Spirit of the Lord in them will be called oaks of righteousness that God may be glorified (verse 3). This shifts the focus away from us to the God we serve. All we do, all the Spirit of God equips us to do, comes back to the glory of God.

Living life on purpose requires us to re-examine the expectations we have heaped on ourselves and on those around us. Why? Because if our purpose is Jesus, than our lives do not have room for anything that does not point back to Him.

It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing, what you do, where you’re from, because the one thing that sets the church apart on the planet is the grace of God extended to anyone- ANYONE- who would believe. We have Good News to declare to the poor- that Jesus has paid the price- we get to walk in all the strength and power that is His because He is our Father (Rom 8:15). Wow.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me  to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the broken-hearted and to proclaim that captives will be released, and prisoners will be freed. Isaiah 61:1

Position of Victory!

Written by: Christianne Williams

“Finally, be strong in the lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the ruler, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground and after you have done everything to stand.” Ephesians 6:10-13

This has been on my heart for a while now. It gives us a very quick view of what is really going in the world around us. How many times in the course of a day do we observe this very thing? People attacking one another, when really the enemy is looking on laughing. People losing hope in a situation because they blame God for their circumstances instead of the one who seeks to steal, kill, and destroy, leaving them hopeless and worn out.

I’m a mom, which is just another name for referee some days. I have four children and there are days when I feel like going back to bed ten minutes after I get out. There are times when my offspring wear me out with their bickering and nit picking; its like they can’t get along with each other for five minutes. Not everyday is like that, I don’t know if their behaviour is affected by the moon or not, all I know is that if everyday were like those days, I may resign my position. In all seriousness, those days wear me down; they leave me feeling drained, and in some cases, depending on how many of them are involved, I wonder how we can go on like this.

I believe that’s what the enemy tries to do to us. He wants us to experience an intense battle, one that leaves us believing there is no hope for rest, or for God’s plan to come about in our lives. A slanderer that has us pointing fingers at the person across the table as the source of our problems instead of at him. A deceiver that makes us forget there really is no power struggle because he wages war from a position of defeat and when we place our faith in God and His mighty power we come from a position of victory. You see, we have to remember that the illusion the Father of lies projects is that he is an equal with God, and that’s a lie we cannot afford to accept.

Ephesians reminds us that even on the worst days, our struggle is not against those around us, it’s against the devil, and he is already a defeated foe. We need only stand in the truth of God’s power, being sure that he is our defender and there really is no struggle. I remember one lady telling me once that she feared the devil because he had real power… but let us never forget that our God is Almighty!
When you find yourself in the midst of a battle, remind yourself of this: the real enemy is one unseen, and one who has already been defeated. So, put on the armour, stand your ground, draw your Sword, raise and lock your shield with comrades. And pray for Holy Spirit to give you courage, boldness, and confidence knowing that you don’t fight from a position of defeat, but from a position of victory!

“The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, lord, have never forsaken those who seek You.” Psalm 9:9-10

Christianity Is Not About, “You Scratch my Back and I’ll Scratch Yours.”

Written by: Cindy Morrone

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13 & 14

There have been significant times in my life, when I have experienced such love and it has changed me.

My single Mama shouldering the care of her family.

My love asking me to marry him.

A young, nephew (prompted by his loving Mother) calling to wish his barren Aunt a Happy Mother’s Day.

A Pastor with his 8-month pregnant wife meeting us foreigners for dinner in a time of deep angst.

Unsolicited prayers from dear friends.

Coffee times with my bestie sharing in trust.

It takes risk, vulnerability, transparency, sacrifice, and a willingness to lay down one’s own needs to meet others.

And yet, despite the cost, they did and I am different because of their acts of love.

I could never repay them.

Words were not sufficient to say, thank you. There was not a gift valuable enough to give. And no favour could be done in return.

Thank you all for showing me such love. I am different because you did!!

 

A Peaceful State of Mind

Written by: Megan Kincheloe

There is a little town that I adore approximately 30 minutes from where we live. From the minute you get off of interstate, you feel the quaintness. The roads are lined with trees and greenery. The homes are picturesque. There is a library that is buzzing with kids and families…and even the buzz is peaceful. There is something so refreshing about seeing an actual library still being used. There are brick sidewalks and mountain views and the air seems to be exceptionally clean. Restaurant choices are few though nothing seems to be missing. The pizza and barbeque are to die for and you are just missing the prize if you fail to stop at the juice bar or homemade ice cream joints. Tasty!

The town creates a feeling in me each time I pull in. A feeling of peace. An abundant feeling of peace. I find myself smiling more and breathing deeper. I am focused and in a state of mind where I am soaking everything in rather than being my normal, distracted self. When I was there last week I found myself saying, “This. This right here is how I want to feel ALL the time. I am feeling ALL THE FEELS right about now.” There was only one problem. Five hours later it was time to go home.

I started to think about how fleeting peace can be. I believe there were two lessons here for me. Firstly, while there are some things that are circumstantial and are unable to be changed, I have the freedom to create an environment of peace in my days. I have the power to create more space. There are many things I can eliminate from my world that will contribute to a peaceful state of mind. This may mean eliminating a toxic relationship, worry, clutter, or any other number of things that threaten to steal my peace. And those are things I have some control over. The problem with that is, these are only temporary fixes as well. There are always going to be relationships that ebb and flow and there will always come a time where a new worry presents itself. So I am still missing the boat.

True, lasting, wholesome peace can only come from Christ. Staying rooted in Him. Remaining in Him. Walking each step with Him. Surrendering to Him. Letting Him lead every step of the way with an outreached hand.

Psalm 29:11, “The Lord gives strength to His people; the Lord blesses His people with peace.” (NIV)

Isaiah 26:3, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in You.” (NIV)

Isaiah 54:10, “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”
So friends, while there are plenty of things in this world that will threaten your temporary peace, the peace of Christ is solid and steady and unchanging. Let it permeate your souls until it takes up permanent residence and an escape to a quaint little town isn’t necessary for peace to be found.

God sees…..me?!

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

I have been studying books of the bible with thousands of women via the #First5 app. The book of Genesis is full to overflowing with adventures and I am absolutely loving my time spent studying those adventures every morning.

God’s presence was especially tangible as I recently studied Genesis chapter 16.

To give you a little background to this story, Abram and Sarai were still experiencing infertility at this point. Sarai’s empty arms were desperate for a newborn. From this desperation Sarai made the decision to ‘help God along’ with His covenant to Abram (Genesis 15:4-6) and she gave Abram to her maidservant Hagar as his wife. Sarai thought…”perhaps I can build a family through her.” (Genesis 16:2b)

Just as Sarai planned, Abram slept with Hagar and she conceived. This discovery was not a favourable one for Hagar, however, and Hagar began to resent Sarai. In retaliation to Hagar’s ill feelings toward her, Sarai decides to mistreat her. There are no details to how Sarai mistreated Hagar in the scriptures, however, in Genesis 16:6b the bible tells us that Hagar fled from Sarai.

Hagar is found sitting near a spring in the desert by an angel of the Lord. The angel asks Hagar “where have you come from, and where are you going?” (verse 8) Hagar informs the angel that she is running away from Sarai.

It is in the next few verses that God really spoke into my heart. The angel of the Lord told Hagar to “go back to [her] mistress and submit to her.” Say what?!
And then the angel added, I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count. You are with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael for the Lord has heard of your misery.” (Genesis 16:10 & 11)

Later on in verse thirteen Hagar says “‘You are the God who sees me,‘ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.‘”

The one who sees me. Isn’t that amazing, friends?!

First of all, God knew that Hagar was running away from Sarai because she disliked her. It never has been God’s plan for us to be in conflict with one another. (Check out Matthew 18:15-20) Rather than run from the trouble she was facing, God asked Hagar to go back and face it head on.

I don’t know about you- but sometimes I just find it easier to run. And run and run. And run some more. But, God has better plans for His children. When we find ourselves in conflict – it’s our responsibility to face that conflict head on and make amends.

Secondly, (I so love this part), God gave the baby that Hagar was carrying the name Ishmael. Ishmael means “God listens.”

God listens!!! He listens and He sees (Genesis 16:11) our every move. He listens and He sees us during times of conflict. He listens and He sees us when we are answering His calls on our lives; and He listens and He sees us when we are being disobedient. He listens and He sees us when we are sinning. He understands our hearts and the things that affect us. He doesn’t turn His back on us– HE LISTENS AND HE SEES US. I find that incredibly comforting.

Our gracious and loving God runs after us – even when we do our very best to run away. He listens to our miserable woes and He sees our hurting hearts. But, He has better for us. And, when we obey, there is always blessing to follow.

Father God, thank You for the peace that comes with knowing that You listen and You see me. Little old me. Thank You also, for reminding us that conflict is never Your choice and that Your desire is for us to be in unity with one another. I love You so much, Lord. Amen.

Getting Comfortable in my Weaknesses

Written by: Sarah Walker

I was having a conversation with a friend the other day who was hesitant to step out into a new opportunity. I can see enormous potential in her to do an amazing job, but currently this new opportunity isn’t quite in her wheelhouse. She was feeling insecure and afraid of the task at hand.

It made me think about how often I also shy away from new prospects, mostly because I see myself weak in a particular area. I really don’t like to fail! I prefer to take on opportunities where I am confidant that I will succeed.

Because of this, I find it so easy for me to relate to Gideon (Judges 6-7). Gideon was an Israelite, living in a time when God’s people were being violently oppressed by the Midianites. In an amazing divine encounter, the angel of the Lord came to Gideon personally, greeting him with, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” He lays out a plan where Gideon will be the chosen one that God would use to deliver His people from their enemies.

Gideon replies, “Pardon me, my lord…..My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”

Gideon worried that he didn’t have what it took. Even a face-to-face encounter with the angel of the Lord was not enough to convince him! He was so doubtful that he asked God to give him two signs which would “prove” that this divine calling was real (v. 36-40). God graciously answered his request.

Gideon was known for being the weakest of the weak. Even when he had a real life encounter with God, where God gave him an amazing opportunity, Gideon still doubted, and still asked God to “prove” to him that he really was chosen for this incredible mission!

That is so often how I see myself, as weak, and just like Gideon I often long for an amazing “sign” to prove that I really am supposed to do something. Sure, once in a while I might receive confirmation from the Lord, but most times it seems like God is looking for me to step out in faith and trust Him – without a sign.

As the story of Gideon continues, Scripture says that as he stepped out in faith, the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet that called the men of Israel together to come and fight for their freedom. You can read the rest of the story of how God miraculously delivered His people! As fearful as he was at first, when the Holy Spirit came upon him, Gideon had the strength and the ability to take on and succeed at the task at hand.

With God all things are possible! And isn’t it amazing that, on this side of the cross, we have the Holy Spirit with us always – the same Spirit that led and empowered Gideon to succeed!

Even after Gideon had his army of men gathered together, God thought the army was too big – Israel might feel like their own strength and expertise was what delivered them (Jg 7:1-8). We know from the story most of the men were sent home, leaving only 300 men behind to fight an army of thousands upon thousands. God was setting the stage in such a way that only He and only He would receive the glory!

The LORD chose the weakest man from the weakest clan in the weakest tribe in Israel, and made sure that he had the weakest army – one that could not possible overcome the enemy. God wanted to show His strength and power – He wanted all the praise!

It’s unfortunate that our world (even our church world) loves strength and gifting so much. Because of that, we feel like people can only do things who are gifted, and we miss out on so much! We seem to have lost a love for weakness, which in Scripture is something that God uses over and over and over again to do amazing things! Within my life I have found that the areas where I am most successful are often the areas where I have the most insecurities!

Jesus said to the apostle Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2Cor 12:9). When He said that, Paul’s response was, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me!”

Gideon knew this too, and eventually trusted that his own weakness and his insecurity didn’t matter at all when God was with him!

The Big Smoke

Written by: D’Anne Mullin

I am composing this blog while on vacation with my husband and two boys in the big city of Toronto. We are enjoying our time in the “Big Smoke” staying right downtown in the thick of all the activity. On the docket to visit is the Royal Ontario Museum, the Ripley’s Aquarium, the CN Tower, the Science Centre, Casa Loma and of course a Blue Jay’s game. Shopping at the Eaton’s Centre and the shops up and down Yonge Street are also on the list of “to do’s.” There are just so many sights and sounds and smells to behold…And so many people!

As we bustle through the crowds of people, two thoughts keep coming to my mind.
First of all, I am presented with the stark reality that our time together enjoying family vacations is quickly coming to a close. More specifically, family vacations with just the four of us. You see, my oldest son is going in to Grade 12 this September and my youngest will be in Grade 12 next September, after which they will fly the nest to University and beyond. Our family vacations will change with the addition of significant others and down the road grandchildren. We have but this family vacation we are currently on and possibly one more next September before big changes take place.

This brings about conflicted emotions in me. While I am so happy for my grown babies and all the exciting opportunities and experiences that await them in the future, I find myself watching all the young families that pass us by and wishing for time to go backwards a few years. I am attempting to cherish every moment of this vacation, making the most of each experience and brandishing the memories deep in my brain. I am enjoying all the laughter and the fact that our children still love to be on vacation with us.

They are truly wonderful human beings!

Secondly, the amount of people that walk the streets of this great city never ceases to amaze me…and at all hours of the day and night! I have been to Toronto countless times in my life and its population, along with its many visitors, simply boggles my mind. As I walk the streets amidst the throngs I see people of all colours, shapes and sizes. As I look around I am reminded of God’s incredible handiwork, imagination and artistry. I see people with plenty, people in need, people with hope, people in desperation. I see people who need Jesus and people who know Jesus. I see people who are loved by Jesus.

And then these two thoughts collided together!

My children, as they prepare to leave our nest, will be released into the world, which is Toronto times a bazillion, to bring the life and love of Christ to all those they come in to contact with. As they both prepare to go into ministry, I am excited to see where in the world God will take them and what they will accomplish for Him. Tomorrow when we hit the streets for some more family fun I will focus on their futures and not long for their past. Every stage has been awesome and God has so much more in store.

Now, back to touring the “Big Smoke.” Catch you all next week!

Everyday Faith

Written by: Nathan Hill

I am sure that you find there are many voices attempting to grab your attention on a daily basis. In my life there are dozens and dozens of voices demanding my attention from the very moment I wake up in the morning—my wife, my kids, my email, people at the church, ministries I have been involved with, letters promoting the next greatest thing, my alma mater wanting more money (haven’t they received enough from my tuition!), and many others.

Therefore, I have to admit that many times I toss lots of email and snail mail without even giving it a second thought. However, there was one letter from my denomination’s International Office that caught my attention a few years ago and it has remained with me ever since. This letter was describing a new campaign that has been operating silently in the background—as it should—but holds the keys to the spiritual vitality of every Christian person.

This campaign is called “Everyday Faith” and it challenges Christians to incorporate four small practices into their routines every day in order to achieve huge results.

Here they are:

Read Every Day: We have a crisis of biblical literacy in our culture today—in our church culture I mean! What is even more puzzling for me is people who say they do not read anything at all, least of all the Bible. I know that our culture is bombarded with multi-media images and sounds and motion pictures—but we still need to read. There is a component of our consciousness that only comes alive as we process the words on a page. There is an art form of communication that only comes alive in our lives as we expose ourselves to the writing of others. So, we need to read—and we need to read the Bible. No matter how little, read the Bible every day.

Pray Every Day: This should be fairly easy because prayer is like a portable power pack, and today we like things that are portable. More then just praying on the fly, we ought to set aside even 5 minutes of God time each day to pray. It cannot be that difficult, can it? I tell the students I minister to that if nothing else take a 5-minute bathroom break in the middle of a dry class and pray while on the toilet.

Give Every Day: Be generous. Fill another’s bucket. Give away blessings to people. Buy something for someone else. Instead of looking for more of what we have, share what we have with others and reap the blessing of it coming back to us pressed down and running over. It works—but that is another blog post.

Share Every Day: Has God so impacted your life that you talk about him regularly with the people around you? I know its easy for me to talk about God at work because I work at a church. I get that—which is what makes this challenge more challenging for me than you! Start easy with softballs, telling people you will pray, or thanking God for your lunch before you eat. Share what God is doing in your life with other people—every day.

I am glad I opened that envelope that day. What I’m even more glad about is that this was not just a one-off idea—it is still running in the background and will hopefully continue to shape the way the ministers in my denomination disciple their churches.

Live your faith every day.
http://www.everydayfaith.ca

PERSISTENCE

Written by: Christianne Williams

Matthew 7:7 “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find; knock and the door will opened to you.”

Being around children will teach you a lot. Whether you’re around them for a short period or you have a tiny army living under your roof, it doesn’t take long to discover some things. One thing is that they’re very good at problem solving when they want to be. Mine can stack cubes used for sitting on top of one another extremely fast when they’re searching for something I’ve hidden in the upper cabinets. Or, they can wipe up a spill from the juice they weren’t supposed to have with a clean dish cloth and then put said cloth back in the drawer for me to find days later. Another wonderful thing is their fight for fairness. How many times have I heard, “why am I being punished for that? So and so did it yesterday and no one said anything to him/her! It’s not fair at all!” or “Hey, he/she at the last cookie! It’s not fair!” like it’s the last cookie that will ever be in existence.

One thing I’ve learned about children that has taught me a great lesson is their persistence. When they receive a promise from myself or their father, they run with it. It has been promised, it will be done. A lesson in confidence too. I had an ah ha moment the other night when a situation arose with my baby girl, whose 5 and the perfect age to be an example of a persistent person.

She came to me and asked if I could please give her a bath before bed. She began asking at 8 in the morning and just so I wouldn’t forget, I do that a lot, she asked me every half hour, possibly every 15 minutes for the remainder of the day. Supper time rolled around and at that time she announced, “You LIED!” I was taken aback, “What did I lie about?”
“Well, YOU said you’d give me a bath before bed. You didn’t. You LIED!”

Two things ran through my mind. Actually lots of things ran through my mind but two of the main things were that 1. Her bed time wasn’t until 7:30 so by my calculations I had just over 2 hours remaining to fulfill my promise, and 2. She broke my mommy heart by losing confidence in me to do what I said would.

That was the “Ah Ha” moment.

She had been persistent in her request all day long, believing that I would do what I promised at the end of the day. Her patience ran out and she lost confidence in my timing. She was very persistent but not at all patient. Isn’t that like us? We never really outgrow that aspect of childhood. At one time or another in our lives we’ll get impatient, losing our confidence, getting tired of being persistent, and feel like we’ve hit a dead end. Matthew 7:7-8 tells us to be persistent and then trust that answer is coming. The note in my Bible says that it is encouraging ‘active patience’, where we continue to ask even as we believe that He’s working it out.

There are examples of this in Luke 11 with the parable of the friend at midnight and again in Luke 18 with the persistent widow. They continued to persist in making their requests known and eventually they were rewarded. When we are persistent in prayer we show God, and others, that we know He is the only one who can meet our needs and even if it doesn’t meet our timeline, He’s still going to answer. I also began to wonder if, just as my heart hurt to think that my baby would believe that I wouldn’t do what I had promised, does God ever hurt because we don’t trust Him? Matthew 7:9 goes on to say “If you, then, though you are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in Heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!”

Have complete confidence that no matter the timeline, you will get His best if you are persistent!

Why I Find Seasons of Rest Difficult

Written by: Cindy Morrone

I ran a ½ marathon once. 21.1 km or 13.1 miles. Years ago. BC. Before children.
I didn’t do amazing but I finished.

Once I crossed the finish line, I had only enough in me to take a shower and eat a pasta dinner.

Then, what I assume rigor mortis felt like, started to set in.

I had only enough to complete the race, then rest and recuperation was necessary.
My spiritual marathons have ended the same.

Elijah, an Old Testament Prophet’s experiences were similar. 1 Kings Chapter 19 tells us that Elijah, after two significant spiritual victories found himself in the wilderness, under a tree asking the Lord to take his life. ‘“…I have had enough, LORD, “ he said. “Take my life;..’ I Kings 19:4

Miraculously the Bible tells us that an angel appeared to Elijah not once but twice and gave him exactly what he needed. Food, drink and rest.

‘The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.”’ I Kings 19:7
…….for the journey is too much for you…….

There is an essential element missing in my necessary seasons of rest. A degree of empowerment of the Holy Spirit. It’s back to basics, breathing, eating and sleeping.
So, like a deflated balloon, I wait until the next marathon.

It’s in this deflated position that I must remember three important Truths while I rest, eat and drink.

1)It was never about me. In those times when I am smack dab in the middle of my God calling, and things are going well, that it is not because I have done all the right things. I often look back on those times and truly wonder how I did it. It’s not about me and how well I can do things; it’s about how perfectly God has empowered me to love and serve others.

“And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.” Romans 8:11

2)It is not about me. Deflated and lifeless; seemingly purposeless as I rest, I need to recall it’s not about me. The Spirit gives what is needed and when. It’s not time to be inflated.

“All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.” 1 Corinthians 12:11

3)It will not be about me. Like Elijah there will come another spiritual marathon; God’s purposes and plans for me are not over. And when He calls me again, He will equip me as He has so faithfully done in the past.

“…We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience,” Colossians 1:9-11