Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve, 2011 - A Resolution?


As I sit here contemplating the beginning of another year, my mind turns to a tradition that I first learned of in Grade 1 called the "New Year's Resolution."  I had never heard of this before, it was totally new to me as a 6-year-old, and I wondered why my parents didn't tell me about it.  Everyone in my class seemed to know about it, why didn't I?


Well, it turns out there are two groups of people.  (Isn't there always two groups of people?  The category you want to talk about, and then everybody else.)  There are people that make resolutions, and there are people that don't.  However, which category has less stress?  The people that don't bother to worry about stuff like that or the people that have their conscience hounded by spoken or written words?


I actually figured it out.  I'm proud to say that every year since I was 6, I have made one resolution and have kept it every year since then.  So what is this great resolution you ask?


It's very simple.  I resolve that I will make no resolutions other than this one - not to make any New Years Resolutions.  And you know what?  I'm a lot happier... ;)

Happy New Year, everybody!  Keep smiling!
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"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Discipleship 101 - Corporate Implications for the Disciple

We come to the point in our consideration of the practice of the original group of believers in the book of Acts. If you will recall, in the first article entitled "Discipleship 101 - What is discipleship anyway," I stated that the practices listed in Acts 2:42 could be best described with the phrase "they continued steadfastly." I would like to point out that this was not a solo effort. THEY continued steadfastly. It is without doubt that they practised these things as individuals as discussed in the other articles here. So why did they need to practice them together?



People make much out of how they don't "go to church," because of the problems they see in organized religion. I wholeheartedly agree with their analysis. However, I am not speaking of an organized religion, or a dead system of rules for behaviour. I am referring to an organic relationship with the "Ecclesia," the Greek word used in the New Testament for the Church, the Body of Christ.


The word Ecclesia has its beginnings about 1500 BC in Athens, and is a reference to their political gathering in the Acropolis. If you weren't aware, the Athenians practiced direct democracy, where everyone had a voice and everyone had a vote on the issues of the day that were of importance to their city-state. The English word "Church" does NOT originate from the word Ecclesia, but rather the Greek word Kuriakon, meaning "dedicated to the Lord." By either word in Greek, the concept of the Church as a building is glaringly absent. The Church is the collective gathering of those that Jesus has saved from the world, not the place they gather together. One has well said that the Church is not the building, but the people in it. The clear implication here is that the Church is a place of relationship, not rules.


The original group of about 3000 believers that were saved out of the world that first day the good news of Jesus was proclaimed abroad didn't have a building to go to, but a budding relationship with their risen Lord. It was a natural extension of their personal practice to come together and practice these things corporately as well. THEY continued steadfastly. Together. As the very BODY of the risen Christ. And like a body, the different members needed each other to grow.


I have spoken over many years to people that think they don't need to "go to church" to be a Christian. Although they are correct, they are missing out on the very mechanism that God has provided to bring us to maturity in Christ. I once heard a fellow say that "Going to Church makes you a Christian about as much as going to McDonalds makes you a hamburger." He is right! Faith in Jesus, God made flesh to die for our sins and set us free from sin's power makes us Christians. However, if we're talking about growth, the Ecclesia is the place that happens. It has been well said that "no one is an island."


In fact, I read posts and emails from and speak with Christians who struggle with sin in their lives, who are depressed all the time, and have no prayer life to speak of, don't read the word, don't worship, don't fellowship with God on a daily basis. When I ask them where they attend regular worship, they say "nowhere." It is no mystery to me that they have no real maturity as Christians, absent from others who could help them in their walks with Christ just by being there together with them. Why is that? Why do we need the corporate gathering of ourselves?


The very first reason (and I suspect this is what people are trying to escape naturally) is that it gives an accountability to your walk with Christ. It is very easy to claim Christianity as your banner if there is no one to tell you what that means. There is no context for your behaviour, and no one to challenge you if you are going astray. And it is our fallen nature to go astray...even the Apostle Paul, arguably the greatest disciple of the first century, siad that of himself.


The second reason (and people also run from this, they feel vulnerable) is that you actually have other people in relationship that are going in the same direction. It says in Ecclesiastes that where one falls, another will pick them up, and a threefold cord is not quickly broken. We need others to relate to, and we need them constantly. If we don't have them, we go astray (again, see the life of the Apostle Paul).


Individual practice is the basis for corporate exercise. We need to be in a strong place of fellowship where they practice the study of the Word, Fellowship with god and with each other, Worship of God collectively, and Corporate Prayer.


As always, if you have questions, please message me.


Gerry Brinkman
Administrator
The Christian Disciple

Original article here:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Christian-Disciple/241608885901471?sk=notes#!/notes/the-christian-disciple/discipleship-101-corporate-implications-for-the-disciple/267027620026264

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"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Discipleship 101 - Prayer


As we come to the final practice of the original church listed in our Key text of Acts 2:42, we should also bear in mind that this also has individual and corporate applications. It is a very big subject with varied opinions on what constitutes prayer. My attempt here is to show what the Word of God says about the practice.

At it's most basic level, Prayer is communication with God. It is not accomplished through some intermediary but is direct with God Himself personally. According to Easton's Bible Commentary, it "presupposes a belief in the personality of God, his ability and willingness to hold intercourse with us, his personal control of all things and of all his creatures and all their actions."

Prayer may be verbal and spoken (as Jesus did in John 17, for example), or it may be silent (as described by the Psalmist David in Psalm 5:1 when he says "consider my groanings" and like passages). It may express joy and worship, or it may express grief and sadness. Overall, it is the way we communicate with God.

The Lord Jesus gave us a great pattern prayer in Matthew 6:9-13 when asked by the discples how to pray. Jesus said, "Pray then in this way: Our Father who is in Heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done on Earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.] (The part in brackets does not occur in some manuscripts, and it is not my intention to discuss whether it was part of the original prayer, I include it for completeness.) What can we notice about this prayer?

First, our address is to our Heavenly Father, the source of everything. He is our creator, and He is our provider. Our address is to the King of the Universe. Second, it declares the holiness of God, which is a part of worshipping Him. We should always approach God in reverence. Third, it implores God to do His will on Earth as it is done in Heaven. Prayer should always be given in the context that God is God and he can do whatever He feels is best. Fourth, we ask for our daily provision. Fifth, we ask for forgiveness with the caveat that we are walking in His example of forgiveness. (Remember, Jesus forgave His crucifiers from the cross.) Sixth, we ask for protection from the enemy of our souls. Finally, we close with more worship. This is the Lord's great pattern prayer, not to be memorized and recited mindlessly, but instead a pattern to be followed as we communicate with God.

But why pray at all?

Matthew 21:22 says "And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive." John 16:24 gives us another secret - "Until now, you have asked nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full." Jesus Himself says that as we pray in His name and authority, God will answer those requests. There are three answers I have encountered over the years - yes, no, and wait. A positive answer needs no explanation, for God has fulfilled the request. An answer of "not yet" is harder to take, but God is not restricted by our timetable or agenda, and so grants these things at the perfect time. The answer of "no" is the hardest to understand.


When God answers "no" to a request, it is for one of two reasons. The first of those is because it is not the best for us. "Oh God," one once prayed, "let me be a rich person so that I may serve you better." What the person did not understand is that great wealth would have harmed them more. The second reason God does not answer prayer is selfish sin. James 4:3 says "You ask and do not receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures." 1 John 3:22 says "and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight. [Emphasis added.] We need to give consideration to our motives in asking, and that we are walking with Christ.

This most cursory examinations on the practice of prayer in the Bible is by no means complete. I recommend books written by E. M Bounds around the end of the US Civil war or a more recent book by Paul E. Billheimer called Destined to Overcome for the serious seeker.

As always, contact me if you have questions!


The original article is posted here:  http://www.facebook.com/JesusChrist.Savior#!/notes/the-christian-disciple/discipleship-101-prayer/260241137371579


Gerry Brinkman
Administrator
The Christian Disciple

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"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Discipleship 101 - Breaking Bread - Worship


In our consideration of the practices of the very first group of Christian converts, we come to what our key text of Acts 2:42 calls "the breaking of bread." As before, there are both individual and corporate considerations, but in this article, I will restrict myself to the individual exercise.

The breaking of bread is a specific ordinance of Christian worship that was practiced by the very first group of Christian converts (Acts 2:42). It involved the sharing of bread, symbolic of the body of Christ, offered up as a an atoning sacrifice on behalf of all fo us, and wine, symbolic of the new agreement between God and man, sealed by the blood Jesus shed at Calvary.


Worship in this context is the celebration of the work God has done for us through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus on the cross of Calvary. In an individual exercise of this, what this means is the remembering what Jesus has done for us. I find it helpful to consider the events described in the Gospel of John. John 1 tells us that He created us. John 3 tells us that He loved us so much that He became one of us. John 18 tells us that He was arrested out of political and religious jealosy. In John 19 He was whipped and killed. But in John 20, Jesus miraculously rises from the grave, showing that He had not only paid the price for all sins through all time, but that He had also set us free from the power of sin in our lives. The direct implication is that we can now choose not to be the way we were, and we can choose not to do all the things we kick ourselves for the next day. That is what we call to mind when we worship God. We should be doing this daily.


We cannot get beyond what God has done for us through the gift of the Cross. It was no easy thing that Jesus did there, and it cost Him His life. We must remember that He did this for US. It was our sins for which He paid the price. It was the power of sin in OUR lives that He broke. When we see this fact of history, and realize the importance it has for US, it makes us thankful, not only for what He has done, but simply for who He is, because He was willing to set aside His own glory and place in Heaven and become one of us simply to die the most painful death imaginable to reconcile our accounts to God. When my own heart sees this, it makes me worship Him even more.


Thanksgiving and praise for who God is and what he has done helps to keep us focused oh Christ, the centre of our faith and life in God. By exercising our hearts in this fashion, we walk with God the way a Christian disciple should.


As always, contact me with your questions.

The original article is posted here:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Christian-Disciple/241608885901471?sk=notes#!/note.php?note_id=259059797489713


Gerry Brinkman
Administrator
The Christian Disciple

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"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Discipleship 101 - Fellowship (individual)

As we continue to examine the Christian lifestyle adopted by the very first group of Christian converts, we come to the consideration of individual fellowship with God. God has called us out of death and into life, and into fellowship with himself. But what does that mean?


The Greek word for fellowship here is the word koinonia (koy-nohn-ee'-ah), and it is defined in Strong's Concordance as partnership, that is, (literally) participation, or (social) intercourse, or (pecuniary) benefaction: - (to) communicate (-ation), communion, (contri-), distribution, fellowship. This has some amazing implications!




The very first implication is that God would even want fellowship with us. Yet He has called us into participation with Him in the affairs of life. This call is for everyone! John 3:16 says that "God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life." That participation we consider is a call to be with God for eternity, living with vitality and purpose! And we can begin that participation in this present day. So how do we do that? How do we participate in God's abundant life?




What we must realize is that for the Christian, those who have accepted God's invitation to this fellowship, our life has been exchanged for His. Romans 6:6-11 says "knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus." He has traded our paltry lives for His glorious and abundant life! But how do we participate in that?




We must continually yield from our old ways and live in His newness of life. Pray something like "God, I yield my old nature to You. Please fill me with that vital life of your Son, Jesus and let me live in His new life." For some things, this can be minute to minute yielding just to get through the moment. For others, once is enough. In this way, we participate in His life and maintain unbroken fellowship with God. As God lets us experience temptation and trial, we can resist our old nature and walk in His newness of life.




As always, feel free to drop me a line if you have questions. :)



 
Original facebook post here:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Christian-Disciple/241608885901471?sk=notes#!/note.php?note_id=258448620884164

 
Gerry Brinkman
Administrator
The Christian Disciple


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"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Discipleship 101 - The Apostles' Doctrine - The Word of God


As we consider the four main practices of the Christian disciple, as seen in our key verse of Acts 2:42 (They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.), we should remember that these have both individual and corporate implementation.  Because the corporate practices are built on the activity of the individual, the next series of articles will consider the individual implementation of these habits of discipleship.

What is the apostles' doctrine, anyway?  Why do we say it is the Word of God?  The Apostle Peter, speaking in reference to the writings of the Apostle Paul, saidn in 2 Peter 3:16, "as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction."  The emphasized section talks about how the Apostles viewed each other's work - as making Scriptures - or revealing the Word of God.  (I do realize that Peter is on a different topic here, but his reference is still there and still in context).Okay, so if it's the Word of God, why should it be studied?  After all, don't Christians have the Holy Spirit inside them to guide them into all truth?  YES!  We do.  And the Word of God, that is the Scriptures, are the mechanism that He uses to do just that.  King David said in Psalm 119:105, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."  God's chosen King of His people recognized that it was the Scriptures that were to be his direction and guide for his life.  In fact, David goes on to say in verse 125, "I am Your servant; give me understanding, that I may know Your testimonies."  So what are we actually studying?

John 1:1 says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was [the] God."  [An incorrect translation has the word was "a" god - the Greek actually has the definite article "the," which we drop in English.]  That Word of God is none other than our Saviour Jesus Christ.  So studying the Word of God is studying the life, the actions, and the works of Jesus.  Does that mean we restrict ourselves to the red letters in some of our Bibles?  Not at all.  Consider His works - verses 3-5 say "All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it."  And we need to comprehend everything about Him and His works.  We need to get to know Him - through the Word.

Practically, what does this mean?  Personally, I set aside time every day to spend time reading His Word, worshiping him, fellowshipping with Him, and praying in His name.  It doesn't have to be a long time.  You don't have to read the entire Bible in a week, for example.  But if you were to read a chapter a day, that would take up about 15 minutes in the morning, and 15 minutes in the evening if you read a chapter each time and prayed about it, then worshipped God for a few minutes.  That is what is meant by practical discipleship.
How does one study the Bible then?  Whenever I read, I ask three questions:
  1. What does it say?
  2. What does that mean (specifically to me)?
  3. What am I going to do about that?
Known as the Inductive Method, or Chapter Summary, it is a way to focus on specifics of what God wants to share with you personally, in terms of direction, things that He wants to perfect in you, and the like.
As you take the time to read the Scriptures, God will begin to reveal Himself to you through the words you read, and begin to speak to your heart and change your character.  Reading the Bible is like eating a healthy, balanced meal every day.

As always, if you have questions, feel free to contact me.

Gerry Brinkman
Administrator
The Christian Disciple

Original article posted here:
http://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=10150495161145030&id=690325029&notif_t=feed_comment_reply#!/notes/the-christian-disciple/discipleship-101-the-apostles-doctrine-the-word-of-god/246918572037169

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"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Discipleship 101 - What is discipleship anyway?


The story recorded in Acts 2 gives a great model of discipleship by showing us what the very first group of Christians did among themselves. Verse 42 reads: "And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers." (NASB)


This says several things about discipleship, but the most important of those can be found in the phrase "they continued steadfastly." The Christian journey is one that will require ultimate commitment from all of us to our Lord Jesus. He gave His all for us, and expects no less from us as we learn to follow Him. Dictionary.com defines steadfast as firm in purpose, resolution, faith, attachment, etc., as a person: a steadfast friend. Once we have decided to follow Jesus, that must be the Christian's highest goal. But what does that mean? How can we put this into practice?



The very first group of people that became Christians (about 3000 we are told in Acts 2) followed four basic categories of activity as follows:


1.The Apostle's Doctrine - The Word of God
2.Fellowship - Spending time with God and with other believers
3.Breaking of Bread - Worship
4.Prayers - for themselves, for each other, and several types


They also performed these activities at two very different levels. First, they practiced these at a personal level, on their own as a follower of Christ, they studied the Word, they fellowshipped with God, they worshiped God, and they prayed. Second, they did this as a group, corporately - they had Bible studies, they fellowshipped with each other (the image of God, and member of His family), they worshipped together, and they prayed together.


There is a lot to be said on each of those four categories of activities, and I will be periodically posting notes about each of them, both for individual and corporate exercise. And as they did so, Acts 2:43-47 began to happen: "And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved."



It is my sincere hope that as individuals begin to practice this kind of following Jesus, that we will experience the revival we as a Church, His body, so desperately need, and especially that the Lord will add daily to the numbers of the saved, as it says in Acts 2:47.

God bless!

Gerry Brinkman
Administrator
The Christian Disciple

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"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

How I became a Christian


I have been a Christian now for 26 years, and I have seen a bit of growth in my time as a follower of Jesus Christ.  Given that I am 44, anyone that can do math can tell you that I haven't always been a Christian.  So what happened? 

As it turns out, that's the million-dollar question.  For those of you who have wondered what happened to me in the summer of 1985 to make me so different, and to those of you who only know me from my online activities, and for everyone in between, this is my story.  It's 100 percent true to the best of my abilities, and in hindsight, I wouldn't change a second of it.

I began life in a little town in North-Western Ontario, Canada, where I was born into a family of little means, but of great history.  For the first 5 years of my life, I lived in my dad's uncle's house with he and my parents.  When I was 5, my dad and his uncle bought a Motel, and I spent the next 14 years between that place and my dad's parent's farm.  So I grew up in the sticks, in the service industry, and on the farm.  In hindsight, none of those places are bad to be from.  It sure didn't seem like it at the time.

My dad was an alcoholic.  He was also abusive.  My average weekend while he was around - well, let's just say it wasn't fun.  He was also a truck driver, so he wasn't home a lot.  It's hard to say in hindsight whether I suffered more from the abuse or the lack of a father-figure, but by the time I hit high school, I was one of the most shy, nervous, bullied, lonely guys around.  And because of my lack of self-confidence, I had real trouble making friends, or talking to girls (not that I didn't like girls, they just didn't like me).  I can distinctly remember a day where I was only to glad to get to school to get out of the house and away from my family situation for a few hours.  By the end of the day I was only too glad to go home to get away from all the stupidity that was my life at school.  I remember thinking, "where can I go?" 

This all culminated when I was 18.  My hometown had an open foot bridge over the train yard, where the trains would go speeding through.  I was in a particularly deep depression that day, from all the bullying, all the rejection, all the abuse, all the junk.  I paused to take a deep breath while I walked over that bridge between my high school and the shopping mall.  I looked down, about 60 feet, and it occurred to me that I had a way to make my pain stop right in front of me.  I looked up to see if the train was coming, because I wanted to make sure it was over.  Fortunately, it wasn't.  I have no doubt I would have jumped to my death.  That stuck with me, that event - not that I would repeat it, but that I had so narrowly escaped just because I had missed the train.

About a month or so later, I think, I had a job as a security guard on our paper mill modernization project, where if was my job to make sure all the property of the construction company stayed on the construction site.  I came across a guy on his lunch break reading a leather bound book.  I found out later that his name was Greg, he was an electrician, and he was from Thunder Bay, a nearby city (if you can call 5 hours nearby).  I knew somehow it was a Bible.  I approached him and asked, "Hey, is that a Bible you're reading?"  He answered that is sure was.  I asked the fatal question - "What are you reading that for?"  We talked for about 30 minutes, and he explained to me that he was a Christian, and that he really enjoyed reading God's Word.  I told him that I was a Christian too.  He asked me how I knew that, so I gave him the answer I had learned from my parents:  I was born to christian parents and that we lived in a predominantly Christian nation.  Fortunately, he explained that there was something else involved - that he had a relationship with Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity.

I walked away from that conversation intruiged.  Here was a guy that claimed to have become a Christian, who wasn't born that way, and who said he had an actual friendship with Jesus Christ.  How was that possible?  I began to seek Greg out on other days to run some really hard questions past him.  You know, stuff like, if there's a God, why doesn't He put a stop to all the bad stuff that happens?  Somehow Greg knew that I was talking about myself, that I had experienced those things myself.  He never asked me what happened, but his answers spoke of a real friendship with God.  At that point, I could count the number of real friends I had on one hand (hold up two fingers!).  Neither of those friends knew what my home life was like, but they were picked on as much as I was.  These conversations went on for a week or so.  I was becoming attracted to what Greg was describing.

Finally one night, I found Greg at the electrician's tool crib and he was in charge of giving out supplies that the other electricians needed.  He asked me if I had thought about what we had been talking about, and I answered that I had been thinking about little else.  He gave me a little booklet that explained in detail why and how to become a Christian, and then told me he wanted it back, because it was the only copy he had.  I told him I had to spell off the guy at the security shack and that I would read it and return it to him later that evening.  I returned to the guard house and read it.  It shared four very simple things based on John 3:16, a verse from the Bible which reads " "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life."  Those four things are as follows:

First, God really does love us.  "For God so loved the world..."  If you're reading this, that includes you.  It doesn't matter who you are or what you have done, or what you think you may have done - God loves you individually regardless.  In fact, He loves you so much that he gave the best that He had, His Son, so that you wouldn't perish, but have eternal life.  Huh?  What?  Perish?  What does that mean, I thought to myself.

Second, there is a real possibility that we can miss out on that wonderful gift God has for us because something stands in the way.  That something is what the Bible calls sin, but it's really anything that you do that violates God's holy standard.  Ever tell a lie?  Even a white one?  That's a violation.  Ever steal anything?  Even just a buddy's pen when he wasn't looking?  That's a violation.  That kind of thing means that we are separated from God's love.  Wow, I thought - That's me.  I lie, I cheat, I steal, I lust in my heart, I murder in my heart, all of those things are violations.  However, the booklet pointed out that there is hope!  Remember that God loved us so much that he gave His Son?

Third, God gave His Son to pay the penalty for those violations!  We don't have to pay for that stuff, as if we could anyway.  And all we have to do is believe?  In Him, the Son of God?  Sounds too easy, right?  Well, it wasn't for Him.  Read the story for yourself.  He was arrested like a criminal, beaten and mocked, found innocent by two separate rulers, and still beaten again and then put to death in the most painful way imagineable.  All to set us free from the penaly and power of those violations in our lives.  The Bible calls the "The Gospel," or good news.

Finally, this gift, like any other, needs to be received.  think about it.  If I were to give something to you as a gift physically, what would you have to do?  You'd have to reach out your hand and take it!  We're talking here about the most valuable gift ever given - just for you!  Then it shared another Bible verse, this time from the Book of Revelation, chapter 3, verse 20:  "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me."  This was the message I had waited my whole life to hear - That God Himself was looking for me, and he wanted to be my friend!  And I didn't have to go to some great place, or do some great deed to be worthy - He wanted me just the way I was.  All I had to do was open the door.  And believe me, I wanted to open that door.  But how?

That booklet shared a final verse:  Romans 10:8-10 says "But what does it say? "THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART"-that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation."  Then it shared a very simple prayer that went something like this.  "Lord, I come before you and admit that I have wronged you.  I see that Jesus Your Son died to pay the penalty that I cannot.  I accept that payment, and invite you into my life to be my Saviour, and My Lord.  Thank you God, for saving me."  I don't remember the exact words, but I remember that I read it out loud, and that I meant every word.

It's very hard to explain what happened next.  It was June 18, 1985, and it was 8:02 p.m.  I remember to the square foot where I was sitting.  But how do you explain all the weight of the world, all the bullying, all the lonliness falling away from my shoulders?  (I actually walked differently, standing up straight probably for the first time ever.)?  I was filled with a joy that I had never known before, and that I still coudln't explain.  I was free of it all, and I had found my best friend.  He had always been there, He was waiting for me!

I have had all kinds of adventures since then, and some have not been good.  I have never been the person I am supposed to be.  But he has always been the friend he promised he'd be, and has helped me pick up the pieces several times in my life since that day.

Now how about you?  I'm sure you have questions.  I'm here to tell you that they all have answers.  And if I can help you show you His answer for any of it, please contact me.  I would be only too glad to make that introduction.


---
"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

"Trust the Lord" is more than a platitude...

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight."  (NASB)

 
In the 26 years I have been a Christian, I have heard this verse many times.  I've read it, I've said it, I've been comforted by it, especially these days, where my industry is affected greatly by global economic uncertainty.

 
Have you ever had someone say it to you?  When you were having a hard day, or were stuck in an uncertain situation, did someone try to comfort you with these words?  Maybe someone did - and you took it as a mere platitude.  Maybe it was said that way - ineffectively, as a sort of brush-off.  You said, "I'm having a hard time!"  They said, "Well, trust the Lord!"  It felt like they were saying, "I really don't want to hear about your problems."

 
There might be reasons for that, some understandable, some not - but you found it less than helpful because it struck you as a meaningless platitude.  I can tell you it is no mere platitude!  ! It is the promise of the King of the Universe, and he means it for all of us at a personal level.
 
So what does it mean, "Trust the Lord?" Dictionary.com defines trust as "reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence." Quite simply, it means that we can rely on God, on His integrity, His strength, His ability. We can have confidence that God is who He says He is and that what He says is true.
 
So how do we do that? Well, the passage says next "with all your heart." That means with our entire being, we make a conscious choice to rely on what He says. (This gets easier over time, because as we do it He proves He is trustworthy!)
 
Then it says "do not lean on your own understanding." For me, that is difficult. I'm a type A personality (as those of you who have met me recently will attest). I was raised in an abusive situation that taught me that the only one I could really count on was myself. I had to be the good boy, I had to run fast enough that I couldn't be caught, I had to be the smart one to see things coming and then plan to avoid them. I was the one who had to figure it all out! Others are just intelligent and good at figuring things out already. We have a really good understanding, and 99 percent of the time, we are right! But we are supposed to abandon that and lean instead on the promise of the King of the Universe. It took me a while, but I'm starting to figure out that He is smarter than me. (Insert healthy laugh here!)
 
Then it says, "in all your ways acknowledge Him." What? How do I do that? Dictionary.com has five meanings that are all applicable in some measure:

 
  1. to admit to be real or true; recognize the existence, truth, or fact of: to acknowledge one's mistakes.
  2. to show or express recognition or realization of: to acknowledge an acquaintance by nodding.
  3. to recognize the authority, validity, or claims of: The students acknowledged the authority of the student council.
  4. to show or express appreciation or gratitude for: to acknowledge a favor.
  5. to indicate or make known the receipt of: to acknowledge a letter.

 
We need to recognize that we are dealing with Almighty God, and that He, the King of the Universe, is very interested in our progress and doings. We need to be thankful for the situation we are in (that's a whole other topic that I call "on-the-job training), and recognize that he is with us and will see our best interests accomplished.

 
THEN it says, "He will make our paths straight." The King James Version says, "He will direct thy paths." When we put our trust (reliance) in God (the King of the Universe), and do not "try to figure it all out" but simply acknowledge Him and be thankful for the situation we are in, then He will take us to the place that is best by the best possible route.

 
So what about you? Do you want that kind of direction and promise? Do you want the confidence of God Himself as you step into the unknown? The Scriptures say that if you ask for it, you will receive it. Revelation 3:20 says: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me." He is standing there, waiting for you to simply open up to Him. And He promises that if you will, then so will He.

 
---
"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Encouragement


As a Christian, I used to belong to a non-denominational gathering that was big on "encouragement."  Some folks there really understood what it meant and when to use it, and others had no idea and used something else they called encouragement that wasn't at all.  In this post, I will consider what I think encouragement is and when to use it.

Dictionary.com defines "encourage" in three ways:
  1. to inspire with courage, spirit, or confidence: His coach encouraged him throughout the marathon race to keep on running.
  2. to stimulate by assistance, approval, etc.: One of the chief duties of a teacher is to encourage students.
  3. to promote, advance, or foster: Poverty often encourages crime.
So then, to encourage someone is a positive thing.  Or that's what it should be.  Let me talk a little bit about what encouragement is NOT, and this is very important to the consideration.  Encouragement is NOT hostile confrontation.  In fact, the word "confront" does not occur in the New Testament in either the King James Version or any other modern translation that I checked.  (Side note:  There is a time and a place to confront an individual about an issue in their life.  It should not be hostile, and you shouldn't call it encouragement.  This would be better defined as "rebuke" or "exhort," both perfectly good English words that have recently fallen out of favour.)  Confrontation does occur in the Scriptures, however.  Jesus confronted demons, Pharisees and Saducees, politicians of the day, and  other naysayers all the time.  He never did this to a follower unless they were under some external influence (like when he said to Peter, "Get thee behind Me, Satan.")  With those who needed it, he was the master encourager.
 
An example from my past that may be relevent follows.  Many of you know I didn't have the easiest childhood or home life growing up.  Without laying blame, it would be fair to say that as I reached adulthood, I was not the most confident of people, and there were some people that could read that and exploited it for all it was worth for a period of time.  Over a number of years, I found my footing, and my confidence (in Christ), and got on with my life.  Last December, the company I worked for was bought by its main competitor and about 90 percent of us were laid off on December 6, 2010.  For about a week, I was tooling around trying to figure out what to do with my life.  I decided to take December off to figure it out, and basically avoid the rejection that goes with looking for a job.  When you grow up like I did, rejection is a big show stopper if you let it be.
 
In January, I spent about 1 week looking for work, and came across an opportunity to begin my own financial planning practice.  I met with the fellow that would become my Division Director at Investors Group, and he was encouraging.  He inspired confidence and boldness in me to a point.  However, there was a part of me that was still a scared little boy, still raw from all the hurt put on me by an abusive father.  During my childhood, I never heard phrases like, "I love you, son, and I'm proud of you."  It was more like, "Get up, you stupid little bastard!" after my dad had hit me hard enough to knock the sense out of me.  People say that doesn't leave scars.  I would like to inform those people that they are most definitely and decidedly wrong.
 
Towards the end of January, as I was putting some of the stuff I needed into place (like licensing) to begin my career in financial planning, I had this overwhelming desire to get back in touch with my father.  We hadn't spoken in 20 years.  I had to face this man who was my father, who I now understood wasn't really a monster, he was doing the best he could with what he knew.  I sent him an email, and we were talking on the phone within 5 minutes.  I got to say everything I needed to say - and my dad took responsibility for his acts and apologized!  I really wasn't expecting that, but you can imagine how I felt!
 
Later in the spring (late May I think), my dad came to visit me.  I told him what I was up to, and then he told me that he was proud of me, and that he had no doubt that I could do this, and even offered to get my uncle (a financial planner for 25 years or more) involved if I needed help.  Now THAT was ENCOURAGING.  That is to say, it inspired me with courage and boldness for my new chosen profession.
 
Contrast this to a brother who was attempting to "encourage" someone in their job search.  "Brother, I don't think you're looking hard enough for work.  I think you should be looking harder, and for any old job that will pay the bills.  After all, if a man doesn't work, he shouldn't eat."  So...was that what you would want to hear, just having graduated university, with enough funding to get you through a 6-month period and access to more if you needed it, and looking for about 6 solid hours a day by phone and by foot already?  I know it wasn't what I was ready to hear.  Interestingly, the statement that was made had the same resulting action.  I was motivated to get out there and look harder.  But by what?
 
Encouragement should inspire courage and action.  There is another source that can inspire to action - fear and/or guilt.  Now given the choice, which would you respond to with a better outlook?
 
Since my dad died about a month ago, I have made it one of my missions to try to be an encouraging man, as opposed to someone that inspires fear and guilt.  I'm not all the way there yet, but I have seen some improvements, especially in my kids' attitudes. 
 
Lord, help me be an encourager, with the right word at the right time to inspire courage and hope in their hearts.


---
"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Compassion

Matthew 14:14 says. "When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick." Compassion was clearly something that drove Jesus in His service to mankind. (The religious term for that is "ministry," so if I slip and use the word you'll know what I'm talking about.) But what is compassion?

Dictionary.com defines compassion as "a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering." Let's think about that for a moment. Deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune. That describes almost everyone I know in some way or another. I have a friend that has a worse back than I do (and that's hard for me to imagine). I have a close relative that nearly went off the deep end when my father passed away. Naturally I sympathized with them - but is that enough? I don't think it meets the entire definition.

There is a whole other half to the definition of compassion, and that is the strong desire to alleviate that suffering. I can feel sorry for a street person and keep right on walking, thinking to myself, what a pity someone doesn't stop to help. Someone should! Someone can. Me.

The best example of this happened to me a little over 10 years ago. I was down in our city's market area with a friend and we happened by a lady in a doorway that was clearly suffering. Her clothes were dirty, her hair was stringy, she smelled badly, and the look on her face was one of total dejection. Both my friend and I were moved and wanted to alleviate her suffering to the extent we could, so we stopped, and my friend asked the lady if she was okay. I asked if there was anything we could do. The lady politely declined our offer of help, and my friend and I went on our way sadly. The next day, my friend and I were downtown again, this time as part of a formal church outreach, and we came across that same lady. I have to pause here, because I'm becoming emotional at the visceral memories this evokes.

The lady my friend and I had met the day previously was obviously the worse for wear. She had obviously been beaten badly. She was wearing the same clothes, but they were spattered with blood (I assume her own). She was lying on the street, in an out-of-sight corner. The blood had dried, so I assume her attacker was long gone, but she was in obvious medical distress, with congealed blood on the ground beneath her. She was conscious, and - get this - still didn't want help! I can say that the two of us that found her were nonplussed. We also weren't taking no for an answer this time. My friend ran off to find a phone to call for an ambulance, and when she got back, I had gotten out of the lady that she was hungry (in fact she hadn't eaten in a couple of days), and I ran off to a McDonalds to get some food. We HAD to do SOMETHING! It was an OVERPOWERING desire to alleviate her suffering. I got back before the ambulance, and we waited with her until they came, and they took her to the hospital. In all that excitement, I forgot one very important detail - to ask for her name!

I still don't think I'm all that compassionate, but I know for certain I did what I was supposed to do, because that what Jesus did in Matthew 14:14. The Bible instructs us to have compassion on others, to feel deep sympathy and sorrow with those afflicted with suffering, and then to have a strong desire to help alleviate that suffering. May we be His servants and follow His example.

---
"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Just the facts...

Remember this guy? That was one of his tag lines: "Just the facts, ma'am..."

There are no end of gags related to Seargent Joe Friday (the best one is the movie Dragnet with Dan Akyroid and Tom Hanks!) and that line. I used to work for a company called MyFax, and we had our own gags! Just the fax, man...just the fax. (I even participated in a joke like that...me and the fellow in the cubicle next to me dressed up for Halloween as cowboys, and we strung up a banner between our cubicles that said "BrokeFax Mountain." We won best costume!) But have you ever thought about what that means? Just the facts?

What it does NOT mean is the facts according to (fill in your own name here). Everyone on Earth has a set of rosy-coloured glasses that they filter everything through. Don't believe me? Look at Dr. Phil's interview with Casey Anthony's mom. Everything she says is to somehow try to make sense of what her daughter did and absolve her of responsibility. Contrast George, her dad. He thinks Casey is guilty and should pay for it. My point isn't to pick on Casey herself (she gets enough of that on HLN), but to show how we all view things and come up with our own version of reality. And that so-called reality can be influenced! Originally, the jury acquitted Casey. After about 4 hours of outraged public opinion, they changed their tune, and fast...only too late to actually do justice.

The really interesting thing about the filters that I'm refering to is that you can, with a conscious decision on your part, set them aside and look at the facts by themselves. Eastern philosophy says to let everything be equal. Then sift through the facts and see what you come up with. Facts found in this way are singularly unique and without filter. We have a specific term we use to describe it: Truth.

One of the biggest obstacles I have found to seeing the facts as they are is emotionalism. I know, it isn't kosher for a man of 44 to start talking about how emotional he is, but it's the best example I can think of, and it's certainly the one I'm most familiar with. I'm still learning to set aside how I feel about an issue before I look at the facts, but that's the way I can see the situation the clearest. I see it too in my financial planning practice. When dealing with investments, you really have to remove emotion from the table, or you can make bad decisions.

Remember - don't make decisions in the middle of emotions. Calm down first. Many sales guys appeal to the emotion (I know, I are one), and that gets the prospect excited and ready to buy. I've never liked that as a sales strategy. I would rather present all the options - all the facts - and let the buyer make their own decision. It is true that I sell less with this practice - but I have a lot less redemptions and very happy clients.

Keep your stick on the ice!

---
"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Where shall I find rest?

Have you ever been faces with a situation where there is no clear path to take, and all roads seem impossible, impassable, or impractical? As much as I like to take the attitude of "I go where I need to go and don't worry about the difficulty," I am subject to discouragement along the way. Sometimes, the road IS too hard. Sometimes the load IS too heavy. Yet, because of our circumstances, we are unable to set it down and take a break. (In my business, you do that, you starve. And what if you have a wife and/or children?) A line from Frodo Baggins from Lord of the Rings seems appropriate: "Where shall I find rest?!?"

You may recall the circumstances under which Frodo uttered those words. After a period of time (at least a couple of years after the big adventure), the wound he received from dark forces ached mercilessly. If you've ever suffered any kind of pain over time, you may know how he felt. He was unable to sleep, unable to escape the pain of his wounds. It seems like such a pitiful reward for essentially saving the world. Yet there he was. It is my observation and experience that says we have all been wounded in some way. And like Frodo, they are not always visible - but they are there just the same, and they can be as hurtful after years as they were when they were freshly received. Maybe you utter those words yourself: "Where shall I find rest?"

People try to find rest in many different places. For some, they sleep a lot, thinking sleep is rest. For others, they try to kill the pain with substance abuse. I can tell you first hand that neither of those work. Sleeping a lot just makes you more tired, believe it or not. And it wastes valuable time. Alcohol or drugs may numb the pain for a while, but in my heavy drinking days, I learned that the pain always came back after the binge, and now I had a hangover to deal with at the same time. I know a few former addicts, and they tell me of similar experiences with their narcotic of choice. It's called withdrawal, and it's similar to the DTs you get while you're drying out from what I can get from their descriptions. Some people try to fill the ache with relationships. Right idea, but usually it's a bad application that creates either a codependent situation (unhealthy for both people) or a broken relationship (unhealthy again for both people). Some people try to solve the problem with sex. That's just another addiction, and a powerful one. Then because of shame, or because of sexually transmitted diseases, they just add to the problem. There is no rest in any of these addictive solutions.

Still others try to find this rest in activity with service organizations. While their efforts can be applauded, it's still not really a lasting cure. All you are really getting with this is a distraction at best, because there are good feelings that come from helping or serving others. However, these feelings only deal with the symptoms, not the essential problem. The most dangerous of these service organizations in this context are religious in nature, many are set up and run by what society in general calls "church" (which isn't really, the church isn't the building, it's the people in it, and that has a very specific meaning). However, being involved with the work of social or service organizations doesn't provide the true rest we seek. Nor does involvement with the church for the same reason. It's a distraction and anesthetic at best, and in the latter case, it is putting the cart before the horse. Again I ask: "Where shall I find rest?"

Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30,
"28 "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
29 "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.
30 "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

This man talks about true rest for our souls! True peace of mind! Anyone that has ever talked with any doctor or psychologist can tell you (and I minored in psychology as some of you may know), there is a mind-body connection, so this has physical health implications also! But what does He mean when He says to come to Him?

Jesus said in Revelation 3:20, " Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with me."

There are two groups of people reading this (ever notice that? There are always 2 groups of people!), Christians and non-Christians. I want to address the non-Christian first. To come to Jesus is very easy. You can do it right now in the comfort of your own computer chair. He's already standing at the door of your heart and knocking. All you need to do is open the door! Imagine for a moment if you will someone at the door of your home. They knock, and you answer. What is the first thing you do? Invite them in! This is no different, only the door is a spiritual door to your life. Invite Him in! He will come in and dine with you! The action of a close friend - and he brings the food! I did this in 1985, and I have never regretted it. I won't say I've never had a hard time, I've had more than my share, but in Christ, I find the resources I need to deal with it, and still maintain that rest spoken of in Matthew 11.

Now I need to address my Christian brothers and sisters. Did you know that verse, Revelation 3:20, was actually written to the church at Laodicea? It was written to believers! What?!? Gerry, do you mean it's possible for a believer to need rest like you've described above?!? That's exactly what I mean. I need that rest every day! It's no coincidence that the church at Laodicea was the lukewarm church either. People hadn't necessarily fallen away from Christ, but they had certainly grown complacent in their place in Christ. This led to a laissez-faire attitude toward spiritual things. You want some advice from someone whose been there? The quickest way to lose your peace is to get spiritually lazy. You stop praying, you stop working, you stop caring - about all the important things. I need deliverance from myself every single day on this topic. And before you go quoting me Matthew 7:1a which says, "do not judge or you will be judged," finish reading the verse. Matthew 7b says, "for the standard by which you judge, you will also be judged." It doesn't say don't judge, it says judge with a righteous standard because that is how you yourself will be judged. (Matthew 7:1a is known as the backslider's favorite verse, and it really isn't saying what they want it to be saying.)

So what does the Christian need to do? Well, the same thing really - open the door of your heart to Jesus and let Him come in. Let Him stir you! Let Him change you! Let Him lead you to rest for your soul. He will, because He promised. And I'll add His promise to us here: " 'He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne." (Revelation 3:21) How's that for a reward? To sit on the same throne as the King of the Universe! Don't let another minute go by before finding rest in Him.

---
"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Rock and a hard place - the way out...

Sometimes I can find myself between the proverbial rock and hard place; At the end of my resources, nothing left in the bank, nothing left in the tank. I find myself asking things like, "now what?" I imagine this is what the Psalmist asked when he penned the first verse of Psalm 121: "I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come?"

Fortunately for the Psalmist, and for the rest of us, he penned verse 2 next: "My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth." I understand that for some, this is a matter of what you believe about the world. Others do not believe in this Lord spoken of in the Bible. Although I understand those thoughts (better than you may think, I wasn't always a Christian), I must disagree with those who say he does not exist, or "that's what you believe." Verse 3 explains why: "He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber." The Psalmist is explaining that this Lord of Heaven and Earth actually exists and is not some impersonal force. He is active in not allowing your footing to slip, and he will not fall asleep at the switch. Verse 4 strengthens that idea: "Behold, He who keeps Israel Will neither slumber nor sleep."

In fact, God, it says, is your "keeper" in verse 5: "The LORD is your keeper; The LORD is your shade on your right hand." That translation is my own favorite, the New American Standard Bible, but perhaps you prefer the translation of the New International Version: "The LORD watches over you--the LORD is your shade at your right hand;" The sense of Keeper is that of shepherd of the sheep (the Bible refers to us as sheep on many occasions, and it's a very apt reference for a lot of different reasons). The sense of Shade is shade from the sun, or protection from the heat of the day, the situation you are in. Verse 6 confirms that - "The sun will not smite you by day, Nor the moon by night."

In fact, God would be your Keeper in much more than just the heat of the day or the dark of night. Verse 7 says: "The LORD will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul." God wants to be intimately involved in your life, and keep you from evil, and be the shepherd of your soul. I take that to mean that he not only wants the best for us, but he wants to be in relationship with us. Verse 8 confirms that: "The LORD will guard your going out and your coming in From this time forth and forever." God wants to be with us, guiding us in the way we should go, instead of that other road, the way we normally go and wish for all the world we could get off, the one that leads to the spot between a rock and a hard place.

Jesus says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." (Rev. 3:20) Notice a few things here: You don't have to go on some immense spiritual quest for this nebulous concept called "inner peace." The Son of God Himself came looking for you! AND he FOUND you! Right where you are, with your needs and issues...and he loves you anyway. And He is knocking on the door of your heart, asking to HELP. However, it's up to you - will you heed His knocking, and open the door, to receive His friendship, kindness, and provision? Twenty-six years ago, that was what I did. And then HE did. I won't say I've never had a hard time or problems, I've had plenty. But Jesus Christ has always been there as a source of comfort, support, friendship, and rescue.

What about you? Do you sense your need of something else? Are you caught between a rock and a hard place looking for a way out or through? Call on Jesus. He is waiting for you to open the door...

---
"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)

Friday, September 02, 2011

A day in the life...

Today started just like any other day for my friend Luc. He woke up next to his wife, a little pain in his leg, but not bad. Things went downhill fast when he couldn't move and get out of bed.

His wife called the paramedics, and they came, and Luc's vitals were good, but his leg was starting to hurt more. They decided to take him to the hospital...just in case.

After a cursory wait in Admitting, the brought him into cubicles. By the time the doctor got there (not long from what I understand, he was having trouble being lucid, and his speech was getting worse.

His wife was there all along, and saw the downhill run. Finally, he opened his eyes and gazed at her, and smiled. Then his eyes closed for the last time. Luc was gone.

I was his financial advisor, but in a very short space of time, we had become friends. We even had a golf date for the following Thursday. I found out that our tee time was cancelled when his wife called me at 4:00 a.m. the next morning.

It was a day in the life. For my friend, who did not suffer, the very last one. For his widow, it was the first one of many more without Luc. For me, it was another day in the life of a financial planner.

Rest in peace, my friend. We got the details covered.

---
"You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)


Location:Carling Ave,Ottawa,Canada

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Courage...

Over the last week, I have had both cause and opportunity to examine the meaning of the word courage. What is it? Do I have any? What does it mean to be courageous? Is it the absence of fear? Is it the ability to defend yourself physically or verbally? Or is it something else altogether?

Dictionary.com defines courage as the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery. Further, it gives an example of its use as a current idiom: To have the courage of one's convictions, that is to act in accordance with one's beliefs, especially in spite of criticism.

I'm not sure either definition is complete, to be honest. Mark 15:43 says, "Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent member of the Council, who himself was waiting for the kingdom of God; and he gathered up courage and went in before Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus." (NASB) It's something Joseph of Arimathea had to "gather up," or stir up within himself. He had to dig for it inside himself. He had to put it on like clothing, perhaps. Does that mean it is to be fearless? I think not. To be fearless is sometimes to be foolish. Lack of fear can be responsible for downfall under the wrong conditions.

I think something else. Courage is a choice. An example would be the brave men who volunteered to fight in the second world war. Once they were in the middle of the action, it would have been easy to be filled with the fear of death, what with it hailing lead from multiple directions. It would have been easy to run away, or to duck and cover until the shooting stopped. And yet, these men went on to win the war. From talking to my Grandfather, a tail gunner whose plane was shot down (he was the sole survivor of the crash), I learned from his own admission that he was afraid all the time. Yet he acted. He made a choice to move forward in spite of fear, in spite of lethal consequences if he failed.

My dad made a choice like that. Faced with stage 3 throat cancer, he decided to fight. The radiation treatments caused a heart attack that took his life. He faced down his fear and made a choice to fight.

I could go on with many examples, but my point is that courage isn't the absence of fear, its moving forward in spite of fear. To have the courage of one's convictions is to act in accordance with one's beliefs, especially in the face of critisism. That implies a choice to speak or act despite misgivings, despite negative consequences.

I have met a few people that have been intimidating verbally and physically in my life, and they used their advantage to attempt to bully people around them. What I have experienced is this - despite my fear, when I chose to stand my ground, they turned out to be cowards, physically, morally, or both. The next time someone crosses your path and tries to inimidate you mentally, physically, spiritually, or otherwise, make the choice to act and stand in spite of your fear. You will find out that most often, the real coward is the one using the inimidation tactics.

The courageous die once, the cowardly die a thousand deaths.

Keep your stick on the ice.

---
"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Oops, I did it again...

Okay, I've never really done it before, but the Brittany Spears reference was too much to pass up. I mistakenly showed up for a shift at my Carlingwood Mall kiosk 24 hours early. >|*-D

But it got me thinking about honest mistakes and what to do when you find you've made one.

First, you have to allow for the possibility you might be in the wrong! In my case, all we all had to do is consult the schedule! It seems I had transposed a day because there are times it seems I am unable to read English. (I'd still rather be early than late!)

Second, you need to admit your mistake, first to yourself, and then to anyone else involved. If you don't you look very dumb. This was easy to do for me, especially after the last 7 days. (See entry for last Thursday.)

Third, you need to be gracious (especially if you get a bit of a ribbing). Again, easy in this case, as the lady who actually had the shift is a friend and colleague I value.

Finally, have a plan B to occupy your time. Depending on the actual booboo, that can take different forms, but it helps to be prepared for the eventuality you will err. In my case, again, very easy - I wrote this blog entry.

So what would have happened if I would have been an idiot and bullied my way into a shift? In the first case, I would have had egg on my face, because the schedule is recorded for all to see. This is what we learned in our debates in high school and university as an indefensible position. The more you dig in, the more stupid you appear.

In the second case, to not admit the mistake to myself would have been pointless and filled with that bad kind of pride that people get beat up over. To not admit my mistake to the other person involved would have been idiotic - again, the schedule is written down. Although it is easy to explain the mistake, that doesn't make it right to push other around because I couldn't read.

Third, if I had not been gracious, what kind of friend and colleague would I be? The avoided and talked-about-behind-my-back kind. You might say that might be unjustified, and you might even be right, but that's human nature according to my observations over about 30 years. I prefer to remain on speaking terms with folks if I at all can.

Finally, if I had no plan B, I might have felt slighted, put out, or otherwise hard done by. As it was, I had been wondering what the lesson I would learn today would be, and now I had the chance to solidify it by writing it down, and hopefully you found it encouraging or at least useful for yourself, which is my goal with this blog.

In the words of one of my heroes, thanks for watching, and keep your stick on the ice.

---
"You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)

Location:Carling Ave, Ottawa, Canada

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Believe...


We see this word a lot these days bandied about as an inspirational slogan for the cause-du-jour. As annoying as it can be at times to be told to "believe" in the latest cell phone plan or diet gadget, there is some real truth to believing in something. The question is what do you believe?

The greek root of the word Believe is the word "Pistis," and is also translated as the word Faith throughout the Christian New Testament. In fact, it is the verb form of it, "Pisteo." To believe is to trust in, cling to, or rely on something. To have faith is to hold a firm opinion or persuasion. The concept is really very easy to understand. It is not some worked-up feeling or some nebulous emotion, it is a firmly held opinion that you can trust something as factual.

So what do you believe?

Some people believe in themselves. That's not a bad thing, but it places some limits on you based on your own talents and abilities, which, let's face it, are finite and limited. Others believe in some nebulous concept of a higher power. That's not a bad thing either, it allows that there is something greater than oneself. However, this too can be limiting because the higher power itself is undefined and unknown. The Greeks practiced this one in Athens - Acts 17 tells us that they had a statue to "an unknown God," just in case they missed anybody, I suppose.

Some people believe a lie. That's not so good, is it. Lies by nature are not factual, although I've told some pretty convincing whoppers in my day. Lies are in direct contrast and opposition to the truth, the facts, reality. Some suggest that truth is subjective. I find that argument specious at best. How can you say concrete reality is relative? Sure, my perception of it might be, but the facts are still the facts. So-called Personal Truth must have some relation to reality, or it's just some idea some guy made up trying to explain something he doesn't understand (oh, and we all do it). An example: My friend walks up to me and tells me he has had a life-altering encounter that has made a huge difference in his life. That's great, right? That's his personal truth! Really? Friend, that's encouraging! Tell me about the experience! Turns out, someone put a stewed tomato in his left tennis shoe, which he discovered just before his squash match (no pun intended). He played the game of his life! He could jump like Jordan! (Okay, I'm dating myself a bit.) Now I ask you seriously - was this the result of the tomato, or was my friend kidding himself? I'd opt for the latter in this case.

Belief in something is not by itself bad. But we need to believe in reality - the Truth. What truth? The ABSOLUTE TRUTH. (I hear you pundits out there screaming there is no absolute truth - really? Except for that little tidbit, itself an absolute truth, right? Sit back down, you're annoying the heck out of the rest of us.) Jesus said in John 8:32 that we can know the Truth, and that that Truth will set us free. He then went on to tell everyone around Him whether they agreed with it or not that HE was that Truth. Not A Truth, but THE Truth. (Pay attention to the definite article. It's important.)

To wrap it up, what we put our trust in matters a great deal. The BASIS for our belief is what will motivate us and keep us together when our world starts falling apart. (Like mine did last week.) Once you have determined what the basis of your faith is, then you are free to rest in it like a comfy easy chair. Jesus is standing at the door of your heart and knocking. If you open the door to Him, He promises he will enter into a real, factual, concrete relationship with you. All you have to do is Believe...

---
"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Something new for an old blog...

For those of you that know me and have followed this blog (there aren't that many, but I know I've seen a few in the last week that I didn't think were following on facebook), many of you know that my father passed away last Wednesday, on August 24th, 2011. It has been a few days of rather intense emotion, and activity, and even some real soul-searching, laregly because of my relationship with my dad. To be honest, it wasn't always rosy, and sometimes it was abusive and violent, but it ended in reconciliation, and love between a father and a son. But it left me with a need - something I saw in him - a need to make a difference in things that I do.

This is one of the reasons I became a fianancial planner. According to Statistics Canada, 85% of Canadians know nothing about money, how it works, how to use it to make more money, or even how to draw up a basic budget. These are things I've learned the hard way, and thus I can make a real difference in peoples' lives. A more mundane example? Yesterday, CTV.ca had a news article about how people don't really understand how to use Tax Free Savings Accounts, and as a result, the Canada Revenue Agency has had to send out letters explaining why people will have to pay more tax because of over-contributions. After I shared that article on Facebook, I fellow I knew from school (and I mean GRADE SCHOOL, and he's a pretty intelligent sort) responded, and said HE didn't know anything about some of that, and how it would change what he is doing. To me, that is a task well done, and I made a difference.

Many of that do know me also know that I am a committed Christian. Oh, I don't stand up on soap boxes down in market squares shouting at the top of my lungs (tried that, doesn't work) how Jesus saves, but I share it as often as I can in whatever way I can so that people can see the difference Jesus has made in my own life. Oh, I hear you out there snickering and cat-calling. Go ahead, make fun of it Him and me for following Him. Never mind the fact that He has made all the difference in my life. I know that he can make all the difference in your life if you'll give him the opportunity. He said, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." (Rev. 3:20) That's the biggest difference that anyone could ever make - a true friend, to be beside you when times are good, and especially when times are bad. I can personally attest to that in the last week.

Essentially, what I am trying to say is that I want to use this blog as a way to make a difference for people. I can do that in more than one way on more than one topic, but to show you things that God shows me about life is one really great place to start. I draw your attention to my signature line. Consider it one of a number of new mottos that will grace this blog.


---
"Preach the word; be urgent in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching."
-2 Timothy 4:2 (NASB)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Perspective is everything...



Many times, I can get bogged down in the details of what goes on in my life. And there has been plenty detail this week, boy. From having house guests to the loss of my dad, there has been no shortage of head-spinning activity and detail. In the middle if it, I had to just keep going, like a soldier with shells going off all around them.

Then today happened. I must confess that all I wanted to do this morning was sleep in and be a bit selfish and indulgent. After all, it was a hard week, right? But I took sides against myself and went to church this morning, where I heard a message that changed how I was looking at things. God called us to suffer. He called Moses to suffer. Jesus said that we needed to take up our cross (suffer) and follow Him. I'll put the sermon up on the church website later today and link back to it here. It makes a lot more sense if you can hear it for yourself. [Follow-up: Here is the direct link to the sermon - http://www.bethanybaptistchurch.ca/sermons/2011-08-28.wav]

Now really, who wants to suffer? We (me included) spend the vast majority of our time trying to avoid suffering! It's nasty, un-fun, dirty, not pleasing, and a real drag! However, consider its end result in our lives if we will but allow it: maturity of character. Suffering defines our human existence. So as an author named Billheimer once titled a book, "Don't waste your sorrows." That is don't let them go to waste...let them create a resilient and mature character in you, and when it has, you will be able to be a real comfort to others that are going through the exact same thing. (You didn't think your experience was unique, did you? See yesterday's tongue-in-cheek attempt at humor called "The more things change, the more they stay the same.")

What is required here is a change in perspective. Maybe if we could focus more on the result of our suffering, it would be much easier to bear.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Carling Ave,Ottawa,Canada

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The more things change, the more they stay the same...


You know, I got out of retail to get away from mall settings and the retail hours...

However, it's just a great way to meet new contacts, so I guess it isn't so bad. I have to admit I like what I do, and that's a good thing. I don't like everything about it, but the stuff I don't like is stuff I've been doing for years anyway so I'm used to it.

The French have a saying - "Plus ca change, plus ca meme chose." But that in itself isn't something to complain about, as it turns out. That knowledge have helped me see patterns in things that baffle some. Think about it for a moment. If something is always changing, if you pay attention to how it changes over time, patterns will begin to emerge (unless you're talking about the numerical value Pi).

Okay, I hear you, you want an example. Please refer to the chart below. More to be said underneath.

This is called an Andex chart, and it records the value of various investments over time, from bonds and GICs to various equities. Although there are some downturns, the general pattern you see over time is one of growth. Even adding the performance in from 2008-2010 shows a general upward trend. (This is what I do for a living.)

I have come to realize that this kind of pattern can be used to predict things on occasion as well. Life follows a general pattern. Generally speaking, most people fall in love, get married, and produce children. That leads to them growing up, falling in love, getting married, and producing more children. Enough of that kind of behaviour goes on, and you have population growth. Those people need ice cream! So that leads to more dairy farms producing more milk, which is sold to Laura Secord and turned into ice cream! That causes a rise in the population of diabetics, including myself! So why is that I can only get diabetic ice cream from Laura Secord in Vanilla?!? Okay, I haven't figured that out completely. (Actually I have, market forces called supply and demand have something to do with it. Most diabetics don't eat a lot of ice cream, creating less demand.)

Anyway, my (belaboured) point is this - the more things change, the more they stay the same. It's a principle of life that can't be argued. Hey, I know - I'm going home after work and watching movies. For a change... ;)

--
The True Samurai has only one judge of honour, and this is himself.
Decisions you make and how these decisions are carried out are a reflection of whom you really are.
You cannot Hide from yourself.
-The Bushido Code, Meiyo (Honour)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Dogs and kids - a comparison

Have you ever stopped to consider how much alike dogs and kids are? I have both, and I honestly think that they can be dealt with in the same way sometimes. I have three areas in which my own observations show my hypothesis and its accuracy.

1. You can train a dog to listen to you with praise and punishment.
You can also train a child with the same combination, though the punishments for kids get a little more complex. When my dogs misbehaves, he's told "bad dog" and made to sit still for a few minutes. You could say I took away his moving privileges. When my child misbehaves, they are told that they misbehaved, and given a timeout, which amounts to the same thing. Where children differ here is that you need to do followup to make sure the lesson stuck. (Depending on how you define intelligence, this might indicate that the dogs are smarter, having got it right the first time! ;) Hee!)

2. Kids and dogs eat each others' food.
Seriously! The dogs always want to eat the kids' food, and I caught my kids eating Milk Bone. Is this an opportunity for saving some grocery money or what? I mean, dog food is a lot cheaper than kid food these days! Added bonus in my house: The kids don't want to eat the people food anyway, so everyone gets what they want!

3. All kids and dogs want to do is eat, sleep, and play.
The concept of work, responsibility, and even bathing seems foreign to both dogs and children. I know for a fact that my beagle Bruno hates baths (from experience), and little Nicky the retriever, though yet untested in the tub, is showing early signs of hating the water (against breeding characteristics). And if you want to clear a room fast at my place, just shout out something like "Kids! Bath time!" The very next thought to cross your mind will be something like "Where did everybody go?"

I could probably go on, the above observations are just for starters. I won't get into how they all like to run around without clothing, play with their privates, seek approval of the head of the house, and cost a lot of money. But there is something about them that inspires me to keep them around in both cases.

With my dogs, it's because of their unique and loving personalities, and all their traits, notwithstanding the occasional accident on the floor. Wait a minute, I have to say the same thing about the kids...oh brother, there's a can of worms...

--
The True Samurai has only one judge of honour, and this is himself.
Decisions you make and how these decisions are carried out are a reflection of whom you really are.
You cannot Hide from yourself.
-The Bushido Code, Meiyo (Honour)