Balance vs. Rhythm

Written by: Nathan Hill

There seems to be a new buzzword finding its way into the conversations of young families these days (and older families too I am sure): balance. Life is busy, but we must achieve a perfect balance of all activities—work, kids, marriage, faith, recreation—in order to reap the maximum benefit from life and to live in the most holistic and healthy way. And so we set off to create the perfect schedule for life that has slots for everything that we need to do. Personally, I love this planning process—spreadsheets, numbers, organization, they are my thing. It’s the implementation of that process that gets a little murky in my life.

You see, the enemy of balance is those pesky little things that do not have a finite category but still take up time in our lives. The computer crashes during the very hour that I have scheduled to do the family finances—I get the computer working again but then I have to rob time from TV night with Mandy to do what I was supposed to do earlier. Or, our son gets sick and throws up all over me and our bed in the middle of the night, and so my plan to get up at 5AM to go for a jog is thwarted because I was up from 2AM–3AM cleaning barf out of my hair, his hair, his bed, my bed…and so on. Maybe I’m extra tired, maybe I have a headache, maybe I just want to sit down and do nothing, maybe I had to work late, maybe I got a flat tire—these things really mess with my perfectly balanced schedule and sometimes throw things into a real tailspin.

The antidote to all of this is to build more time slots into the balanced schedule of life that will accommodate these sporadic events. Yet, once I do this, my attempt to live a simple balanced life becomes really really complicated.

I have been reading a book for the past two years by Mark Buchanan (a Canadian pastor from the West Coast) called Spiritual Rhythm. I have been reading it for two years because I want to soak up everything it says, and so I have seasons and spurts where I read and seasons and spurts where I reflect on what I have read. If you have been shaking your head in agreement with anything I have written here so far, you’re gonna love this—Mark Buchanan encourages us to avoid balance and embrace rhythm. Life is always going to be tilted in one direction or another, toward one thing or another, and so its insane to fight the tilt and attempt to restore balance. Rather, a better way to live is to lean into the tilt and find out where the tilt intersects with what the kingdom of God is doing in your life at the moment.

Sounds inspiring, right? But what does it mean in practical terms! What in your life seems to be demanding the most time at the present moment? Is it your marriage, your kids, your job, your church, your health, your finances…the list could go on. Whatever it is, lean into it and find out what God is trying to do in you and through you in this tilt. Rest assured that the tilt will change as sure as the seasons change, and something else that life throws your way will make you tilt in a new direction before long.

I cannot say that I have this all figured out, but this message seems to resonate with me. I’ve always been a little inconsistent with things in life. I have a tendency to run with motivation when it is there in the moment and to become excited about a new path or activity when it presents itself. While there are things that cannot afford significant inconsistency (like paying bills or telling your wife you love her) I think that Mark Buchanan is really on to something here. Recently I have been thinking more about the rhythm of the season than the balance of my entire life. And so, I would encourage you all to do the same and see if this help you escape the untenable trap of constantly seeking that perfect, elusive balanced life.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.

Late for Church!

Written by: Nathan Hill

My wife’s family has a tradition of showing up on time everywhere they go. I soon discovered, however, that their definition of on time and my definition of on time included slight discrepancies—about 30 minutes to be exact☺. My wife’s family considers themselves late if they have not arrived at least 15 minutes before the scheduled appointment or start time. Prior to marrying into this family, I would define on time as showing up at some point near the scheduled time, and fashionably late was just fine as well. Late, however, is a four-letter word in my wife’s family that is right up there with…well, the editorial team will not allow those other four-letter words to be published here.

So, accommodating to this new standard of time keeping has been somewhat of a challenge for me. Let’s consider a hypothetical scenario where my wife and I are flying somewhere and the flight leaves at 10AM. As a 10AM flight is certainly not red eye, I would assume that we could sleep in and arrive at the airport at a civilized hour. Wrong. Let’s do the math backwards together. We must arrive at the airport two hours early, which means that we should aim to be there around 7:45AM. Therefore, accounting for traffic, weather, and the potential for terrorism we should leave home around 6:45AM. This also means that we should be loading the cars by 6:30AM, which means that breakfast is scheduled for 5:30AM and the bathroom schedule begins at 4:30AM with a 15-minute rotation. Next time we’ll take the evening flight so that we can at least sleep in until 8AM or so.

Now, in all seriousness, there are some great lessons that one can learn from this principle of always being on time—or always being 15 minutes ahead of schedule—and despite how it has cut into my sleep habits I am grateful that after 13 years I am finally catching on. This principle of always being 15 minutes early proves quite a practical thing when it come to the way that we interact with our local church. I have a unique perspective of time at my local church because I am on the platform twice each month leading the worship gathering. Therefore, I get to see who is early at church, who is there at start time, and who arrives near the end of the music. Arriving at the start time or even into the worship gathering means that you have missed potentially encouraging and vital interactions with the church family. The unfortunate habit of being last in and first out means that you do not get to know others, and they do not get to know you either. This is a loss for both you and the church.

Imagine you were invited out to someone’s home for dinner and they said the food would be served at 5PM but you can arrive early to visit. What time would you arrive at their house? 5:15PM? (I apologize if I have ever done that before!) It would be much better to arrive at 4PM so that you can visit and enjoy each other’s company. So, lets try to apply this principle to our church attendance. Try arriving at your local church at least 15 minutes before the start time each Sunday this summer and experience what it is like to know others and to be known. I trust that this will be a beneficial experience for you.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (John 13:34)

Greater Things

Written by: Nathan Hill

Have you ever wanted to do greater things than you are currently doing? Maybe you wanted to have a larger audience for your writing, a better showcase for your artistry, a more exciting career that used all your hidden talents, more elaborate adventures, more mastery of the supposedly simple things like being married and raising kids. In the church context—especially in Pentecostal/charismatic contexts—we can hear lots about doing greater things. Greater depth with Christ, greater clarity of direction, greater effects from our prayers, greater.

I believe Paul when he says that God has given the church gifts, and we are to use these gifts to edify or build up the body. This is important but not the whole picture of what God wants us to be doing—and I discovered this when preparing a message several years ago on the famous but often misunderstood passage from John 14:12: “…whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these…”

As any good teacher of Scripture knows, it is important to establish the context for any passage that you read. In this section of John’s gospel, Jesus tells his disciples that they will do the works be has been doing, and they will do greater works. So, the first order of business is to determine what works Jesus was doing—we assume they were the miracles because our 21st century mindset equates “greater things” with “miracles,” especially when we are talking about Jesus. Flip back to John 13, however, and read about the works that Jesus was doing right before he said this to the disciples—this totally changed the point of my message that day.

John 13 is the story of the last supper…Jesus washed Peter’s feet…Jesus broke bread as a symbol of his soon-to-be-broken body…Jesus shared wine as a symbol of his soon-to-be-shed blood. What a letdown this was, to think that the greater things Jesus was talking about were not miracles at all, but instead acts of humility. Really? Then again, when asked about who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, what did Jesus say? Oh right, the one who is the least. Again, nothing about miracles. Rats.

The prophet Micah touches on this idea of humility as well—“And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

I still firmly believe that God does and can work miracles through you and me. His word confirms it and our present experience of miracles affirms it. But, miracles are things that God does of his own sovereign will to display his greatness. We do not own miracles, we do not create miracles, and we cannot replicate miracles. We should expect, anticipate, and even pray for God to move miraculously. However, what can we do that depends on us to achieve greatness and live the kind of life that says to God we are ready for him to move through us?

You guessed it. Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly. This is the stuff of greater things.

Holy Week — His Descent into Hell.


Written by: Rev. Nathan Hill

Holy Saturday is a solemn day for the church—the day that is wedged between our recognition of the death of Christ on Good Friday and our celebration of the resurrection of Christ on Easter Sunday. What then ought we do on Holy Saturday (aside from attend local Easter Egg Hunts)? More importantly to our forefathers (and mothers) in the faith, what did Jesus do on this day? What is unique about Holy Saturday?

Most traditional gatherings of the Christian church (i.e., Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran) look to the fourth affirmation of the Apostle’s Creed, which states that Christ descended into hell. Christ’s purpose for this descent was to preach to those who had died and to bring salvation to the righteous. 1 Peter 3:18–20 is the closest Scriptural affirmation of Christ preaching to spirits held in captivity. Other gatherings of the Christian church (i.e., Orthodox, most Evangelicals), while affirming the Apostles Creed, find it difficult to affirm the veracity of this literal descent into hell celebrated on this very day—Holy Saturday.

When we are faced with questions of theology and doctrine we must always appeal firstly to the Scriptures that have been handed down to us. This being said, we should never ignore the wealth of history, tradition, and experience passed on to us by those faithful upon whose shoulders we stand today. Granted that Christ’s literal descent into hell has far more traditional and historical grounding than Scriptural, lets consider the impact of both options and of 1 Peter 3:18–20 on our experience of Christianity on this Holy Saturday.

If Christ indeed descended into the depths of hell to preach to imprisoned Spirits and to bring salvation to the righteous, we can be sure of Christ’s confidence and fearlessness in the face of evil. I am sure that we have all had moments when we had to speak about our faith in a hostile crowd—not always an easy experience. Imagine speaking to the disembodied souls of those who had died in their sinfulness from the beginning of time. Hostile may not describe the audience. Nevertheless, this tradition of Christ’s descent into hell does not suggest he was tentative in his approach or that he was fearful of the evil present. On the contrary, Christ was content to go to hell and back to preach a message of good news and to bring the righteous with him. Likewise, Christ will go to the depths of whatever earthly hell we find ourselves in today and will preach his good news of freedom and salvation. As ambassadors of Christ, we can operate in that same confidence and fearlessness as we bring Christ to the very areas of hell on this earth.

If Christ’s descent into the depths of hell rubs against our Christian minds because of its uncertain Scriptural precedent, we can still celebrate Holy Saturday and the truth found in 1 Peter 3:18–20. My former NT professor in seminary, Dr. Craig Evans, stated in his commentary on 1 Peter that a more appealing interpretation of this passage might be found in the story of the Watchers (i.e., the angels who fathered the Nephilim in Genesis 6). The full story of the Watchers is found in the Jewish historical book of Enoch, but is referred to explicitly in Scripture in Genesis 6, 2 Peter 2:4–8, and Jude 5–7. In this story we read about sons of God (i.e., angels) who procreated with daughters of men and introduced all kinds of evil into the world. These angels are, however, bound in prison for their behavior, waiting their final judgment on the “great Day” (Jude 6). Holy Saturday then can be a celebration of the “subjection of rebellious orders of angels to Christ”1 and the defeat of death and darkness that is, in the sense of commemoration, taking place as we read these words on this very day. No more do we need to fear earthly hells, but neither do we need to fear the powers of this dark world referred to in Ephesians 6:12. We can affirm on this very Holy Saturday the words found in 2 Peter 2:4–9, that God spared not the angels nor men (and women) when they sinned, and he was faithful to rescue Godly men (and women) from trials while at the same time holding the unrighteous to account! No matter the evil we are surrounded with in our present lives—skewed morality, attacks on our traditional Judeo-Christian ethics, spiritual warfare, and others—we need not flee in fear. Rather, we need to remain steady and love until the day that Christ rescues us, which will come not a moment too soon or a moment too late.

Tonight at sunset the church universal will come alive once again. Our traditional brothers and sisters will begin by holding Easter vigils, others with sunrise services and breakfasts, Easter Sunday gatherings, baptisms, and confirmations of faith. We can all hold to the certain assurance that the darkness of night always gives way to the illumination of the Son.

Why I go to Church (and why you should too!)

Written by: Nathan Hill

The local church is the hope of the world. These are not originally my words—I stole them from the founder and well-known preacher from Willow Creek, Bill Hybels. He honestly believes that the local church is the engine with which the message of the gospel will be spread to the world. And I believe he is right.

Early Christianity spent much of its time attempting to work out what they believed about Jesus, the nature of the Trinity, and how to deal with those who felt differently than what was decidedly orthodox. Thus, when you read the early creeds there is a lot of focus on the Godhead, and less focus on other things like the church.

Nevertheless, the Apostles Creed clearly states, “I believe in the holy catholic church.” Not catholic in the organizational sense (i.e., Roman Catholic) but catholic in the sense of universal. Denomination, ethnicity, age, or status does not matter—those whose faith is in Jesus Christ alone are members of the church. They are the ones “called out” (which is the Greek meaning of ecclesia, or church) to a new way of life together. We are united together in our faith.

Thus, participation in a local church is a necessary aspect of your faith. I participated in the local church before I was a minister and I participated in the local church during my 9-month transition period between ministry positions. I am a local church member because it is good for my faith, my theology, because Scripture teaches that I ought to gather, and because the local church is the hope of the world.

Theology: Orthodoxy is best determined in the company of the local church. We need to look only to the book of Acts to see how theology is derived in community, not in isolation. When the Jews and Gentiles were having disputes about what needed to be done in the flesh to gain entry into the Kingdom of God, the local church overseers took their views to the overseers in Jerusalem. Many people gathered over several days at this first church council to discuss what was an appropriate understanding of this matter. Over time they were able to come to an agreement that seemed good to them and to the Holy Spirit, and they wrote a letter to the churches conveying their findings. Theology is best derived in the community of the local church where there is diversity of thought and the presence of all of the gifts that God has left to his church (Eph 4, 1 Cor. 12-14), not just the few that are present among our group of friends.

Spiritual Covering: Think of the local church as a place that provides fences or boundaries to our spiritual lives. Scriptures teaches that on our own we have a propensity toward sinfulness. Therefore, standing alone makes us far more vulnerable to fine sounding deception from the enemy. The first thing the enemy will do to an isolated Christian is affirm their distrust of the local church. Despite our North American individualism, we need each other in Christian community to mount a spiritual offensive on our behalf. Think of an army metaphor—there is a reason soldiers move in groups. It is for their protection. We need the spiritual covering (and protection) of the local church.

Diversity: Now, you might still be inclined to tell me that theology and spiritual covering can be obtained in the company of a group of friends outside of the local church. What you are describing, however, is a small group and not an expression of the local church. Here is why: the local church contains not only those people that you like, but also those people that you need. We gather in small groups with friends because we find comfort and security in that. We gather with the local church because the diversity of people present challenges us to grow in character and in our understanding and experience of God. God places broken and perhaps annoying people in our path to expand our expression of love and humility.

If this has challenged you about your involvement with the local church, I encourage you to re-read the New Testament, especially the parts about unity among Christians, not ceasing to gather together, and submitting to the authorities that God has put in place. Finally, no matter how you feel about the local church in your community, do not talk bad about it—it is the bride of Christ. God is the judge over all that he created and he will right all wrongs some approaching day, not us.

Therefore, participate in your local church—it is the hope of the world.

Manage Conflict Or It Will Manage You!

Written by: Nathan Hill

Conflict is never fun—at home, at work, at play…it is just plain terrible. Some people love a good fight. Others, like me, would prefer that everyone just play nice and fair all of the time. No matter our personality, however, we will all experience conflict and we will need to manage it or else it will manage us.

I received a specific question this week from a family where both the mom and the dad are involved in ministry positions and constantly feel as though they are in a spiritual battle. I gather from the email I received that pieces of their life are continually coming unglued despite their best efforts to put them back together.

Mandy and I have experienced difficult seasons of ministry along the way. Some have been longer than others, yet all have been incredibly difficult. The temptation in ministry is also that you never leave the office at the office—life, conflict, work…they all get mixed together. There have been a few occasions when I have been determined to go a different path—back to the med school pathway, or even a two-year B.Ed. to then teach high school physics, which would be amazing! Nevertheless, when I step back and look at life as a whole, I can see that this is where God has placed me for now, and he will sustain me throughout.

Now, this does not mean that we sit back and do nothing in the face of continual conflict. We have to pick our battles, but there is a time to do battle. In seasons of ministry where things are coming unglued all over the place, here are some practical questions to ask.

Who has my back?

You need to have people who believe in you and people who are praying for you. It is best if your lead pastor and the deacon/elder leadership at your church have your back. If the lead pastor and/or other leadership do not completely have your back, as a staff pastor you are navigating some difficult waters. Ultimately the lead pastor sets the tone and vision for the church, and if there are difficult dynamics in the deacon/elder leadership it is the lead pastor’s responsibility to right the ship, so to speak. As a staff pastor, you need to let the lead pastor do his or her job without overstepping your position, even if you have great things to offer. If things are not moving according to your liking, you need to seriously consider if you can submit to the leadership above you and work in these conditions for the present season…or if this is a Paul and Barnabas moment where the path will diverge. If you cannot minister within the parameters of your job description and under the covering of your lead pastor and deacon/elder leaders, it might be time to sail on to a new ministry context.

When are you off?

It doesn’t matter who you are, how much you love Jesus, how great you are at your job, and how much going to work feels like a hobby—you need time away from church conversation and even church people. Mandy and I have a date night every Tuesday night and we have a rule that we are not allowed to talk about anything to do with church. I cannot even so much as say, “Guess what happened today?” without getting completely shut down. (Mandy runs a tight ship in many areas, and this is one of them!)

When is your time off? If you are having difficulty or even hesitation answering this you probably could improve here. So, join a gym or a bowling league. Audition for a musical! Go see a movie. Do something that regular people do, or something that you used to do before ministry.

Can you survive?

If ministry next month is like ministry was this month, can you survive? If the answer is yes, I think I can do it for one more month, then put Ephesians 6 to work in your life, pull up your bootstraps, and step back into the battle. If you decide that you cannot survive another month like you just had, that is ok. But you need to do something about it. Take a leave of absence, take a sabbatical, speak to a life coach or counselor, take a vacation—take all of your vacation time at once even! Do something that will get you out of the rat race for a short time so that you can regain some perspective and balance. Otherwise you will be out of the rat race for a much longer time.

Everyone needs balance in their mental/emotional life, their physical life, and their spiritual life. When one area is out of balance it affects all of the other areas as they try to compensate for what is lacking. Ask yourself these questions and then be courageous to take big steps to greater/higher functioning.

Everyone will have conflict, but you need to manage it or else it will manage you. That is a fact!

Without Rival—Week Four, Post Two

“Wishes Are Dreams Without Courage”

Written by: Nathan Hill

We continue along in our study and discussion of chapters 7 & 8 in Without Rival by Lisa Bevere

Everyone fears something. When we were growing up it was perhaps the boogie man or a monster under our bed. Perhaps it was being in the dark or being alone. Fear is a normal human reaction (emotion) to things that could cause us harm. However, like so many other emotions, it can run amuck and do harm where it was meant to do good. Sadness run amuck can become depression, and fear run amuck can become a paralyzing lack of courage. You will know when this takes place in your life because the desires of your heart rarely come to pass—they are just wishes without the courage to try.

Lisa Bevere shares with us in chapter seven that she wonders how many opportunities to share Christ she has walked away from because of fear. How many things did God have in store for her and John that remained unaccomplished because of fear? Lisa rightly states that we will never know for sure this side of heaven—and so there is no need to dwell on the what ifs. What we ought to do, however, is evaluate our dreams and ask ourselves why some of them remain wishes.

Lisa continues to share in chapter eight about deep wells—people whose lives are marked by mystery and wonder brought about by Jesus. Without saying this explicitly, I think that Lisa makes this great point—deep wells have identified their fear, confronted their fear, and have more than overcome. Another speaker I heard once stated this more poignantly—to be more than an overcomer (as Paul says we ought to be in Romans 8:37) means that we ought to more than overcome in our situations. We do not have to limp through and just barely drag ourselves over the finish line—when we are in Christ, we can run the race set before us and more than overcome any obstacle that we find in our way.

Press against fear in your life in 2017, and take stock of the dreams that have resorted to simple wishes to the man on the moon for a piece of his pie in the sky. It is time for you to get up, step out, and do something that you have put off for some time. It’s going to be hard, but I tell students all the time that hard things are valuable things—the things that come easy are probably not that valuable. Nevertheless, you will overcome. And, when you make a pattern of being more than an overcomer in your life, you will dig a deep well that others will want to come and drink from because the evidence of God’s favor and grace will be found all over everything you do.

So, there you have it. Punch fear in the face and move forward with the dreams on your heart in 2017. Become a deep well.

Please choose one of the questions from our conversation cafe and answer it in the comment section below!


Conversation Cafe:

  1.  What is something that you have dreamed of doing all of your life?
  2. What fears have held you back from achieving this dream?

 

Without Rival—Week Two, Post Two

Mud Pies and a Carnival Cruise

We are continuing along in our study and discussion of chapters 3 & 4 from Without Rival by Lisa Bevere.

Written by: Nathan Hill

The third chapter of Without Rival begins with a quote from C.S. Lewis—and this is where my mind remained throughout the remainder of the chapter. You may recall that Lewis contrasted making mud pies in a slum with a holiday at the sea. If you do not recall the quote, read it again and think about how we are often pleased by things in our life that are far less than divine or miraculous. We are sometimes content with far less than we need to be content with simply because we have not dreamed bigger than our present understanding and circumstance.

Let me share a story that illustrates this principle. When Mandy and I were having our third child, Spencer, we decided that our small house was not going to be large enough for all five of us. As it was, I felt like I was tripping over toys from the moment I walked through the front door, and our small 10×10 living room/family room/play room was getting full fast. So, we surveyed the properties that were for sale in our area and set our sights on the home of our dreams. We made an offer (conditional on the sale of our house), and the owners accepted our offer! We were content with this new and larger home that we felt the Lord had provided.

Several weeks passed and our house did not sell. Then, we received a call from our realtor telling us that another family placed a cash offer on our dream house—if we did not sell our house within seven days, our offer would become void. When the seven days passed and our house did not sell, we were upset. It seems that the Lord took away this home that we were quite pleased with.

Eventually Spencer was born and we lived an entire year in our small house with him sleeping in our room with us. We were tired of house hunting but had been watching a home that we loved but could not afford. While we watched, and waited, the sellers began to reduce the price, and after the second reduction we placed an offer and agreed on a price that we could afford. Years later when I drive by the house that had first captured our affection I notice that the fence was rotten and had fallen, and the small pool off the deck was old and had to be removed. Moreover, the small one-car garage would certainly not have held the onslaught of bikes, sleds, toys, hockey gear, and our van…and in the winter, I insist the van be parked in the garage!

We were enthralled with mud pies in a slum, completely unaware that a holiday by the sea was even a reality—maybe not our reality, but the Lord’s reality and in his timing. Where are the mud pies in your life?

Please choose one of the questions from the conversation cafe and answer it in the comment section below!


Conversation Café

1. Are there areas of your life where you realize that you may have settled for less than God had for you?

2. What do you dream of that feels impossible by your own estimation? Are you brave enough to pray into that dream and see if it is perhaps from God?


 

Peace Out!

advent

img_7653Written by: Nathan Hill

Last night we had a small group gathering at our house. It was the final gathering after a fall semester of weekly studies, and so while our conversation involved aspects of our faith, the setting was more light hearted and a touch festive. We shared food, laughs, stories from our week, and even let the kids stay up late.

While my wife and I were sitting on the couch visiting with our small group, we both noticed several things about our family room. First, the dusting liquid and cloth were still sitting on the book shelf—evidence that we had cleaned but not put away the cleaning products. Next, several Christmas decorations were strewn about on a different shelf, because I had put them up there just for a moment so that our two-year-old boy did not grab them. One moment ended up being days I guess. Four Rubbermaid bins were stacked in a corner, each of them holding a variety of Christmas décor that still needs to be hung, and a box of lights that I need to return to Canadian Tire was sitting on yet another shelf. To top it all off, I took the handrail for the basement stairs off the wall so that I did not spill paint on it while we painted…last fall…and I took it out of the crawl space recently to put back on the wall but never actually did it. The rail was lying on top of the piano.

The scene that I have just described for you might be something like nightmare meets social gathering. However, I’m not sure anyone noticed or—hopefully—even cared. You see, Mandy and I were away all weekend at a youth retreat and just arrived home a few hours before the small group event. We could have said “Hi” to the kids and then ran off the clean the family room. Instead, Mandy took a peaceful shower, and I laid on a bed while my daughter demonstrated a variety of back massage techniques she had picked up from a cartoon she watched (the turtle massage was the best).

Mandy and I took a “peace out,” because sometimes the biggest obstacles to peaceful moments in our lives are the obstacles we create ourselves.

I recently invited two ministry colleagues to a youth pastors’ meeting I was hosting to share wisdom about their journey in pastoral ministry. They reminded us about the Israelites and the manna—there was fresh food for gather each morning that would be sufficient for the day. However, some high-capacity and perhaps entrepreneurial Israelites decided they would gather extra manna to save it for a future day. The next morning, however, the extra manna they collected had gone rotten. The point is this—if we fail to distinguish what needs to be done from what we would like to have done, every moment we steal from what could be “peace out” time in our life will cause rot to set in at some level.

We might experience physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual symptoms of rot because we failed to “peace out” when the opportunity was presented to us.

Start a new trend this season of advent, and determine to “peace out” at least once each day. Just sit in your chair, sip on tea, stare into the lighted tree, and feel the warmth of the fireplace (or the furnace vent). Dishes, laundry, cooking, and clutter will always be with you. But this Christmas moment, this year, these memories, they are only for right now. Peace out!

without-rival_-an-online-book-study

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Define Necessity

we-are-his-daughters

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Written by: Nathan Hill

My wife and I had a unique first experience on American thanksgiving 2011: we experienced Black Friday shopping in Michigan for the first time in our lives. It was exhilarating, it was intense, it was LOUD, it was late…(we had to line up)…it was crazy…and at the same time I had so much fun. We picked up some really great deals on Christmas presents for our kids, presents for other people, and a few things for us.

There were people present at WalMart that evening, however, who did not handle this shopping trip in the same light hearted nature that Mandy and I approached it with. There was swearing, pushing, light punching, diving on top of merchandise, evictions from the store by security and shopping carts EVERYWHERE.

Let’s fast forward to Christmas morning: our kids got up and were amazed at the number of wrapped packages that filled the living room! We skyped with some family and then began to open presents. It went something like this: rip paper, look, set aside…rip paper, look, set aside…cry and scream because you want to play with a toy you just opened (me included)…but instead get another wrapped package placed into your lap to open.

As Mandy and I reflected on this first Christmas in our own home with our children we realized that it did not play out quite like we had wanted. We envisioned a quiet and peaceful time opening presents, making organized piles of everything and then playing with toys later in the day in an organized fashion. We were naïve…and quite wrong!

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Recently I ran into the photo that I included in this blog post. I was immediately reminded of my Black Friday shopping experience and subsequent Christmas morning chaos. There is a poignant truth conveyed by this photo that is quite impossible to relate in words. I guess a photo really is worth 1000 words.

I am not writing so as to condemn us for enjoying the blessings of life in North America. I too enjoy a warm bed, more food than I need and many toys and gadgets that make life easier. I even enjoyed Black Friday shopping…and the 40” television in my living room that came as a result.

However…I also enjoy being a good steward of the blessings God has given me. I enjoy receiving our charitable donations receipts at the end of each year to see that with what God has given us we have been able to return a tithe and then some. I enjoy speaking with Phil and Donna Williams of Servant Heart Ministries; our church supports their medical and relief work in the Dominican Republic. I enjoy visiting the Dominican Republic and hanging out with people like Sandra Torino; though she has nothing, she gives everything back to those in her village of Auga Negra. She is a modern day Dorcas (Acts 9:36-42). I enjoyed taking Sandra out for ice cream one afternoon with our youth missions team in 2010, and hearing her describe how special this was for her.

I enjoy the talk of giving a young girl in our community a baby shower to show her that we still care deeply no matter the choices she has made. I enjoy having friends over when part of their family is out of town and I enjoy hanging out with Benjamin’s friends for an evening while their family attends to a medical emergency.

These are the things that are necessary in life.

When we define necessity with greater depth than what can be found in a department store we suddenly find many more things to enjoy in this life and much more fulfillment in the way that we live.

When we become aware of the blessings that we can pass on to others we suddenly realize that in so many ways we can bring much joy and fulfillment to those that live around us.

Luke 12:48 “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”