Sunday, December 19, 2010

Defining Moments

This coming February marks my debut as a columnist for the Inglewood community newsletter. Although it’s a few months away, I completed the inaugural piece earlier this week. you can view the article this coming February by picking up a copy for yourself or reading it online, but for the benefit of those who otherwise do not come across the article in person, I’ve decided to post it here for your reading pleasure. Be blessed, Tim Bitz


Ask anyone to share a defining moment in their life, and they’ll most likely tell you some sort of conflict and their struggle to overcome it. It doesn’t take too much to see our world is full of defining moments. I immediately think of those in Haiti dealing with a cholera outbreak while still trying to recover from last year’s earthquake. How well are they coping, and how will this struggle define them as a nation? The most recent volcanic eruptions in the Philippines have me wondering how those affected will overcome their devastation. And millions watched this October as 33 Chilean miners were rescued from its collapse in August. Maclean’s Magazine details how the tragedy has become a defining moment for all those involved in the rescue. The 33 that descended below the earth’s surface are not the same as those who emerged 69 days later.

For those of us living in Calgary, these stories may seem distant and difficult to relate to. But if we look within our own city, it’s not too hard to find a defining moment we can relate too. Those of us living in Inglewood are aware of last year’s murder behind Colonel Walker School. As the police investigated the crime, it was learned the victim was a resident of the Horizon Housing complex. In the minds of some, this became a defining moment for those living across the bird sanctuary. When this news surfaced, the complex – and its residents – became a scapegoat. Some Inglewood home-owners pointed a finger at Horizon Housing, blaming their newest neighbors for a rise in Inglewood’s crime rate. They feared those who lived there would contribute to a decline in the community’s morale. Although that can be said of the murder in late February 2010, to place that stigma on all those inhabiting the complex is a grave mistake.

In the 18 months that Horizon Housing has been accepting tenants at the Alice Bissett location, there have been a few defining moments where the tenants take a stand against injustice. Having a sense of ownership and pride toward their dwelling, some occupants have banned together ensuring the building is a safe place. As a fellow tenant I can attest to this.

One of my first neighbors was a drug addict and known gang member. My first time meeting the gentleman, he offered me the number of an escort. I declined his offer and retreated back to my apartment. We didn’t talk much after that. One thing I did learn was that the guy was loud, obnoxious, and had no respect for his neighbors. People made constant complaints to the manager. At 3 A.M. you’d hear the guy screaming obscenities at the top of his lungs. A few times I would wake at 7 A.M. to hear the building manager insist he turn down his stereo, because it could be heard half way down the hall. The neighbor’s inconsiderate manner escalated and some of us grew impatient. Police would stop by on a weekly basis, as our calls lit up their phone lines insisting they intervene on our behalf. Logging complaints both with the police and Horizon Housing staff, the residents of Alice Bissett Place worked together to get this guy evicted.

This was a defining moment for those of us who live in the Horizon Housing complex. It stands as an example that we are not idle. It defines us as active citizens who care as much about the neighborhood as the next person. It defines us as those who take action against injustice. To say otherwise is bloody murder.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

What’s Your M.V.P: Your Most Valuable Possession?

Last week was the release of James Cameron’s newest box office hit Avatar: The Extended Edition. In preparation for the event, my church decided to have a movie night dedicated to the film. We would watch the movie then have a discussion based on some of the biblical themes drawn from the film. The film itself is stunning with special effects and graphics that had me struggling to keep my chin off the floor the first time I saw it. Aside from the special effects, one of the central themes to the movie is the story of Sam Worthington’s character, Jake Sully.

One of the first things we learn about Jake is that he’s a paralytic marine. But Jake’s paralysis doesn’t disqualify him from active duty. His heart and determination are displayed by his desire to keep pace with his fellow marines, despite his lack of mobility.

Shortly after his arrival to the army base, Jake learns his paralysis may only be a temporary thing. In a private meeting with his commander, the resilient soldier learns he could undergo a procedure to regain the use of his legs. All Jake has to do is obey the Colonel’s orders, and in return the Colonel will pull the strings to make sure Jake receives full use of his legs once again.

This proves to be a source of struggle for Jake once he starts using his Avatar body. Introduced to the Na’vi people as a fellow warrior, Jake learns how the Na’vi people live. Throughout the movie, we see him learning essential skills like how to hunt and kill his prey. He becomes a skilled archer, learns how to mount a horse and tame a wild Pterodactyl-like creature. On this learning curve, Jake learns about Eywa – The deity and life source for all things on Pandora. Eywa is the one thing from which all living things originated; and the ultimate goal of the Na’vi is to become one with Eywa. Increasingly attuned to the life of the Na’vi, Jake is strangely attracted to this harmonious lifestyle. He soon finds himself torn between the Colonel’s promise and becoming one with Eywa. This resonates with the apostle Paul.

Before meeting Jesus, Paul was one of the Pharisees; a religious group in the New Testament that meticulously followed all of the Jewish laws in addition to a series of their own laws. Because he was a Pharisee, Paul took great pride in the things that made him a Pharisee. Things like being circumcised as a child. Having been born with a lineage that traces back to the Tribe of Benjamin gave him s sense of entitlement that others did not have. And in Phil 3:6 he says he was the strictest Pharisee ever known. That is, until he met Christ. After his encounter with Jesus (see Acts 9:1-19), he writes in Philippians 3:8 that all he once held dear is now considered worthless. Nothing can compare to knowing Christ. Now, Paul’s top priority is seeking unity with the father and becoming one with Christ.

In the beginning of Avatar we learn Jake longs to regain the use of his legs. As the movie progresses, we see that Jake desires change. Like the apostle Paul, Jake now craves the life he lives on Pandora and yearns to become one with Eywa. Consequently Jake begins to question the true value and worth of his mobility.

I’m not going to spoil the movie for you by telling you how it ends. But I wonder how many of us are like Paul, hanging on to something we ought to give up. How many of us have an MVP; a Most Valuable Possession? Paul’s Most Valuable Possession was his identity. These are things that made him a Jew; his circumcision, his heritage and reputation as the most devout Pharisee around. When he met Jesus, Paul was told to give it all up and follow Christ; to become one with Christ and seek unity with the Heavenly Father.

Are we any different? How many of us have MVP’s? What might be an example of a most valuable possession today? Think about your own life. Is there something you consider to be an MVP? If someone asked you to give it up, could you? Would you?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Humble Conundrum

Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there--on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

Because I'll never hold the picture
Of the whole horizon in my view
Because I'll never rip the night in two
It makes me wonder
Who am I, Who am I, Who am I
And great are you

Saturday, November 6, 2010


I recently heard a story about a man trapped in the Arctic Circle. The man had been a seasoned explorer but the harsh climate and blinding snow storm proved to be beyond his experience. With the looming fear of frostbite and death, the man cried out to God seeking intervention. To save himself from death, the man uttered the following words: “God, I don’t know if you’re real, but if you are come and save me.” A few minutes later an Eskimo found him and nursed him back to health. When asked about the intervention, the man gave credit to the Eskimo for saving his life adding that God never showed up to rescue him.

Make fun, and disagree with me all you want, but if I was in the situation I would view the Eskimo as God’s agent in answering that prayer instilling a sense of belief in a living God, and opening the door to a groeing and active faith. I don’t know if you agree with me or not, but suppose for a second I am right. Upon hearing that prayer, God directs an Eskimo my way to rescue and aid me back to health. Afterwards I go on living my life as if that experience didn’t change me; still denying the existence of God, the same as I was before the arctic rescue.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately of God’s reaction to situations like this. The bible speaks of God‘s jealousy. I wonder if God gets jealous when He intervenes and doesn’t get credit for it. What does He do? Does He sit around all grumpy pouting over the fact that He intervened and someone else takes the credit?

Or does He review the incident and shrug it off, then its back to business as usual? Personally the answer is neither here nor there, but isn’t it fun to wonder sometimes?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Pass Interference

In the NFL, pass interference occurs when a defender makes contact with the receiver that prevents his opportunity to receive the ball. Some examples of pass interference include tripping, pushing, pulling or cutting in front of the receiver. Pass interference also includes pulling on the receiver's arms.

The penalty for pass interference is either an automatic first down for the opposing team, or it moves them ten yards closer to the end zone. As a Christian it’s possible to have pass interference affecting our lives. The Ten Commandments tell us to have no other gods, and to keep the Lord our top priority. Exodus 20:4 tells us that we shouldn’t have any idols. Whether they represent something on earth or some angelic being, they interfere with our worship of the Lord God Almighty. An example of this can be taken from the Apostle John.

Near the end of his life, John was sentenced to spend the rest of his days in exile. Refusing to call the emperor a god, John was sent to the island of Patmos. It’s during this time that he made five contributions to the bible. The Gospel of John; First, Second, and Third John; and the book of revelation all carry his name. After being shown all the events regarding the end of days, in the book of revelation John writes:

“I, John, am the one who heard and saw all these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me. But he said, “No, don’t worship me. I am a servant of God, just like you and your brothers the prophets, as well as all who obey what is written in this book. Worship only God!”

Here we see that John wants to worship the one responsible for showing him this great revelation. As he starts to do so, the angel advises him not too. The angel deems himself unworthy of worship. In this admission, the angel shares his equality with John; a mere servant of God. He then reminds John of the decree in Exodus: the Lord shall be the sole proprietor of worship. If he continues with his worship of the angel, John will be running pass interference and subject to penalty.

These days, not too many people come into contact with angelic beings. So when we come across something like this in scripture it can be tough to relate to what John was going through. But there are many things that interfere with our worship of God. Money, fame, fortune, family, pride, anger, lust, trust (or lack of it), hate. These are just a few of the things that can make God a secondary priority in our lives; the list is endless. But as you look at your life, what are some things that could be interfering with your relationship to God? What could be preventing you from one hundred percent commitment to your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ?

Some don’t read their bible everyday. This is something I personally struggle with. Reading my bible everyday is sometimes exhausting. I try to read a chapter a day, but some chapters are incredibly long. In those cases I break it down to five or 10 verses a day. You can also listen to the bible online. So sometimes I listen to it. A friend of mine doesn’t have the discipline to read chapters of his bible each day. Instead he will come across a passage quoted by authors or pastors; then spend some time reading and reflecting how it relates to his own life.

Maybe the struggle is with finances and giving. Every time they pass the plate around at church, you refuse. You know the bible talks about giving and that you should give financially to the church, but you live paycheck to paycheck sometimes using the local food bank to fill your cupboards. Did you also know that God wants you to test Him with your giving? Malachi 3:10 says:

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. Malachi 3:10 NLT

I have a friend who traveled the world on a year long mission trip. Before she left, I told her I would support her with my monthly tithe. It wasn’t always easy giving up ten percent of my income. There were times that I considered using that money on other things like birthday gifts or putting it toward my debts. I was hesitant but I still gave.

During those times, I held God to the promise that if I gave He would look after me. Sometimes I would even quote the words from Malachi and wait to see how He would provide for groceries or my debts. God came through with that promise. My neighbors would stop by offering me food they didn’t want or couldn’t have due to dietary restrictions. Other times my fridge would be empty, yet my freezer was so full I was able to give food to those in need.

At the end of the month my bank account had a little bit of money left over. Sometimes it would be three dollars and other times fifteen. Regardless of the amount in the bank, at the end of the month I had a little left to spare. If this is one area you find yourself lacking, I urge you to test God as Malachi encourages us too.

Pass interference can also interrupt our worship of God through a lack of prayer. James 4:2 says: “…you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it.” The unique thing about our God is that He can do the impossible. He is the one giving us the strength to face our problems and help us as we go through trials. He is the one guiding us in all that we do. But the help and guidance He offers is pointless if we don’t spend time in prayer. Prayer is how God knows about our needs and problems.

I don’t know what interferes with your relationship with God, but we all have things that prevent our opportunities to worship God. Going back to our example of a football player being called for pass interference, I turn it over to you. Think of some ways God is being tripped, pushed, pulled or cut from the worship you ought to give Him. Once you’ve done that begin working with someone to eliminate those things from your life. The person you work with could be anyone. It could be a pastor, close friend, or even a family member.

Share with them how you’re on a journey to better your relationship with God and need to work on some things that have been getting in the way. Ask them to keep you accountable by checking in once in a while to see what progress you’re making. Over time things will get better. As they do, be sure to share the success you’re having and throw a little celebration after each success. This will make it more fun and seem less daunting. Be blessed my friend. As you begin the journey remember these words from Jesus:

Don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. Matt 6:31-34 NLT

Friday, October 15, 2010

Abundant Freedom

Empty abandoned and alone. Gripped with shame you cry out to God seeking answers. How could someone rob you of your innocence then disregard you so easily? Angry and rebellious you lash out turning to fear. By instilling fear into people’s lives, you discover you can control the chaos around you. manipulation and deceit become your drug. Armed with half truths and unfulfilled promises, you greet people with a smile and sophistication; knowing deep down those little white lies bring you comfort. They feed your need for pain and disappointment, the only two things you’ve ever known.

You cry out but you’re hesitant. The only reference you have of God is one Sunday School class you attended as a cild. From that you learn that God is a loving father and he cares about those he loves. For an understanding of a loving father, you consider your own dad. Drunk and full of rage, he’s the reason you spent your childhood cowering in fear. Failing grades, fights and expulsions from school happened regularly and without consequence.

This gave birth to trouble as a teen and ultimately led you down the path your currently on. Because of a difficult past, the idea of appealing to a God with the likeness of your own father is extremely intimidating. But that doesn’t matter anymore; the weight of your shame is just too much. In a desperate plea you cry out to this loving God expecting to cower in fear once again.

In The Message, Eugene Peterson writes: “Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we're a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free!” (Eph. 1:7) Free! Did you hear that!?!? Jesus doesn’t just give us access to the heavenly father, He makes us free, and not just barely free – abundantly free!!! Free from the hurt and pain brought on by our drunk and enraged parents. Emptiness and abandonment disappear.

Instead of feeling lonely, we are welcomed into a community where we don’t need to hide behind our fake smiles and white lies. Hebrews 4:14-16 tells us that God is not far away in another universe minding his own business, as we conduct life on earth. Instead he sympathizes with our weaknesses. *In addition to creating the heavens and the earth, He was tempted with sin just like the rest of us. Because of this we can approach God with boldness and confidence.

The bible tells us that God isn’t concerned about a person’s outward appearance. He cares more about the condition of a person’s heart. So let me ask you how is your heart today? If you had a face to face encounter with God tonight, would you meet him with a smile on your face, knowing you have nothing to hide? Or would you find the nearest crawl space then respond to the Lord’s requests? If you find yourself playing hide and seek with the Lord, then I would encourage you to spend sometime in prayer asking the Lord to give you a good cleaning. If you want to talk to God about setting some things straight but find prayer intimidating, just use the words to the song below as a guide.

Create in me a Clean Heart

Create in me a clean heart oh God
And renew a right spirit within me
Create in me a clean heart oh God
And renew a right spirit within me

Cast me not away
From your presence oh Lord
Take not your Holy Spirit from me
Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation
And renew a right spirit within me

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Parable of the Sower: A Response

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: "A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.
Matt 13:1-8

Closing my eyes I envision myself as one of the crowd. While on the riverbank your robe grazes me as you walk past. I look up trying to see your face, but you were ahead of me by the time my gaze meets the height of your face. I heard what you said. I really like the last part about the seed growing to way more then I’d expected. I don’t know who I am in the story yet, but if I’m the seed, I hope to be the one that grows and multiplies 100 fold. I wonder; will I be able to look out and see my crop or vineyard one day?

“Well done!” “Good and faithful!” “Blessed!” that’s all I want to hear. If I’m the farmer, I hope when I see you we will sit, and you’ll listen as I tell you about how good a farmer I’ve been, scattering seed as I trod through this life. But I’m a city boy. I don’t know the first thing about farming. Except that to get milk I got to fiddle with the cows udders. And that chickens give you eggs, so if I do it write I won’t starve.

I’m also not perfect. I make mistakes and I don’t always get it right. That’s what I appreciate about some of the songs we sing... “I came here broken yet you made me whole.” “I came here mourning but you give me joy.” “Hearts returning to you, broken lives are made new.”… It gives me hope. I’m my worst critic. As your farmer, I will probably be shocked at how big my crop is. I may even be curled up in a ball, soaking the ground with tears of joy or amazement. This will happen after I beat you in a thousand meter dash of course ;)

Monday, September 27, 2010

More Inspirational Thoughts to Ponder

If you keep on doing what you've always done, you'll keep on getting what you've always got! WL Bateman

Sadness, disappointment, and despair have to flee in the presence of hope. Unknown Author

On the sharp end – a term from rock climbing. You are on the sharp end of the rope when you are the "lead", going first up the rockface and placing removable anchors as you go. The lead climber finds the route to follow and then brings the other climbers safely to the next ledge. Life, in leadership and followership, is a lot like rock climbing. – Francois and Joy Guilleux

God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. Romans 12:2 in The Message

Life is hard, but even the hard parts are worth celebrating. God is always molding our story into an epic narrative that is designed to save many lives Donald Miller

There will always be resistance, and it may never get easy, but from here your life looks so sweet. Here at the beginning of the story, there's mostly paralyzing fear. Fear of failure, fear of hard work, fear of being alone in the hard work and also failing alone. Fear of the thing I've never been, however beautiful it might claim to be. What if I heard God wrong? Fear that when I get to heaven he'll shake his head and say something like "What were you thinking?"The smile on your face today says you fought through it. You're doing what you were born to do, and you know it. Lori Ventola

For all our disappointing dullness, our Lord is invincibly optimistic about us. McVeigh Harrison

Whether our prayer be for supplication for temporal or spiritual benefits, intercession, thanksgiving, or worship, it must always be in harmony with His teaching in the Holy Scriptures. McVeigh Harrison

Sometimes, even good things can fill up our lives to the point where we neglect our souls Jon W. Quinn

Where faith grows, anxiety lessens Jon W. Quinn

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Deep Cleansing

Matthew 6:6 encourages us to pray behind closed doors. This is something I do quite regularly. When I pray in private, it’s usually at the end of my day as I lay in bed ready for sleep. Sometimes I think about my day and share my thoughts and feelings or reactions with God. Lying awake at night, the Holy Spirit will put people on my heart. Without knowing a thing, I’ll pray for them during the night, and then hear about their struggles the morning after. Still, there are times I can’t sleep because the Lord has brought some unconfessed sin to my attention and don’t feel at ease until I deal with it through prayer. After I’ve spent the night confessing my sins to God, I usually wake up the next morning feeling guilty and beating myself up over the previous night’s prayer of forgiveness. King David reminds us that doing so isn’t necessary. In Psalm 103 he writes:

The Lord is compassionate and merciful,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
He will not constantly accuse us,
nor remain angry forever.
He does not punish us for all our sins;
he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.
For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
He has removed our sins as far from us
as the east is from the west.
Psalm 103:8-12 NLT

Here, we learn how God treats someone with a truly repentant heart. Verse 8 says He is compassionate and shows us mercy. Charles Finney describes mercy as an act that frees a guilty party. Its exercise consists in arresting and setting aside the penalty of law, when that penalty has been incurred by transgression. What this means is, when the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin and we bring it to God asking for His forgiveness, having compassion on us, He withholds the punishment we would have received for disappointing Him.

The psalm continues by reminding us when we confess our sins, the Lord doesn’t bring it up again. After we deal with our sin in prayer, He forgets about it. 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 says that love is patient and kind. True love doesn’t annoy us by bringing up our past sins. It won’t because true love doesn’t keep a record of our mistakes. When we ask God to forgive us He wipes the slate clean. David knew this and reminds us by saying just how far God removes our sins. Verse 12 tells us that God removes our sin as far as the east is from the west. David uses this as a metaphor. An aspect of God’s forgiveness includes having our sin permanently gone. Cast away, never to be found again.

Suppose you wanted to find the exact point that east turns into west. So you begin by traveling east, hoping to pinpoint the very moment your compass tells you you’re now traveling west. You could continue in that direction forever. The truth is at no point in that journey would you be traveling west. The same thing would happen if you traveled east. You wouldn’t be able to pinpoint the moment you travel west. You won’t find it because no such point exists. God does the same thing with our sin. When we confess our sins to God, He takes our convictions and throws them away. From that point on they are impossible to find.

I’d like to say every time the Holy Spirit convicts me of my sins, I deal with it right away. Sadly, that’s not always true. Sometimes I ignore the Holy Spirit’s nudging. When I do, I wake up the next morning still prompted to spend time before God asking Him to cleanse me of the sin that separates us. This usually continues until I seek the Lord’s forgiveness.

1 John 1:8-9 says: “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” How have the last few days been for you? Do you have an overwhelming sense of guilt you can never escape? If so, please spend some time before God in prayer. It could be the Holy Spirit convicting you of an unforgiven sin.

Personal Challenge: Being A Bearer of Life

One of the gals I regularly have coffee with likes to tinker around doing odd jobs around the house. The tasks are minor things like cleaning and organizing stacks of paper, making grocery list or cleaning silverware. Whenever I visit her, she like to serve me coffee. Watching her grab the cup, lift the pot, and pour the drink, she squints. Arthritis grips her bones and makes simple movements like this a daily challenge. Seeing her struggle to serve me I offer to help and usually get shunned away and told to stay seated and relax.

Puttering around the house, inviting people over for coffee and tea allows her to keep busy and take her mind off the difficulty arthritis has made her daily life. Doing so lifts her spirits and keeps her mind from travelling down a dark road. No surrender is her attitude. No matter how bad things get, she’s got to keep a positive attitude. This is best accomplished by keeping busy and getting her mind off how bad things are.

I know a few people who are in the same situation. They end up facing some challenge but have given up and stopped fighting. Rather then embracing it, and attempting to cope with their newfound challenge they sit around sulking. Both their physical and mental health deteriorates. They eventually receive an intervention. If it’s not from family then the intervention is brought on by a medical professional.

One of the churches I’m currently attending has a value of invitational living. What this means is, as members we ought to invite people to become a part of our community and worship God together. Considering the story of the gal with arthritis and the depth of despair some of my neighbors have been facing, I am challenged. John 10:10 tells us that Jesus came to give people life. Being a Christian I bear the name and message of Christ, not only did Christ commission me to be vocal about my relationship to God, but it’s also ingrained into the DNA of one of the churches I attend.

Seeing people get so down on themselves they need an intervention has me wondering if there’s something I’m missing. If there’s something more I can do to bring the message of hope and life that Christ brings. Do I need to step up my game and be more vocal about the one who brings me life in moments of despair? Either way I am challenged to be more bold about my Savior (in every sense of the word), Jesus Christ

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Begin Again by Susan Coolidge

Every day is a fresh beginning,
Every day is the world made new;
You who are weary of sorrow and sinning,
Here is a beautiful hope for you-
A hope for me and a hope for you.

All the past things are past and over,
The tasks are done and the tears are shed;
Yesterday’s errors let yesterday cover;
Yesterday’s wounds, which smarted and bled,
Are healed with the healing which night has shed.

Yesterday now is a part of forever,
Bound up in a sheaf, which God holds tight;
With glad days, and sad days and bad days which never
Shall visit us more with their bloom and their blight,
Their fullness of sunshine or sorrowful night.
Let them go, since we cannot relieve them,
Cannot undo and cannot atone;
God in His mercy, receive, forgive them;
Only the new days are our own,
Today is ours, and today alone.

Here are the skies all burnished brightly,
Here is the spent earth all reborn,
Here are the tired limbs springing lightly
To face the sun and to share the morn,
In the chrism of dew and the cool of dawn.

Every day is a fresh beginning;
Listen, my soul, to the glad refrain,
And, spite of old sorrow and older sinning,
And puzzles forecasted and possible pain
Take heart with the day, and begin again.

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.  But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.
Galatians 5:19-25 NLT

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Courtney Burrell, A Truly Inspirational Man

I logged into my twitter account today and came across this story. I found it to be inspirational so I thought I would repost it on my blog to share with y'all! To see the orginal posting, click here.


Let’s begin with the smile because, well, everyone who knows 14-year-old Courtney Burrell at some point in the conversation gets around to gushing about that grin.

His mother, Joey Jenkins, points out that the smile is a facial fixture these days. The football coach at North Rockland High School, Joe Casarella, says the smile is better than winning. And then there’s Michelle Brown, the selfless spitfire whose nothing-is-impossible attitude is most responsible for creating the smile that she measures in megawatts.

“You can’t help but come away from him smiling,” Brown says.

All true. But there’s more. After hearing so much about concussions, steroids and, thanks to the New York Jets, adolescent and inappropriate behavior, Burrell’s story inspires a renewed belief in the positive power of team and togetherness.

We hear so often that sports offer kids life lessons in things like sacrifice and hard work. Being part of North Rockland’s Red Raiders has given the wheelchair-bound Burrell, a developmentally disabled kid born with cerebral palsy, something even more important.

“A sense of purpose, a life,” says Brown, a service coordinator for New City, New York-based Jawonio, whose mission is to advance the independence, well-being and equality of people with disabilities or special needs.

Burrell’s everyday life before football consisted of returning home after school and retreating to his bedroom, where he’d watch hours of ESPN. That’s it.

Jets Fan

Sports have always been Burrell’s passion, which explains why his bedroom wall is covered with posters of his favorite athlete, Kobe Bryant of the Lakers, and his favorite team, the not-such-a-great-example Jets. He wears what Bryant wears. Sneakers included.

Burrell attended football games at North Rockland, located about 35 miles north of New York City, for years, watching from afar, wondering what it must be like to be part of something bigger than oneself.

One day his mother mentioned his love of sports to Brown, lamenting that he couldn’t be part of the team. Any team, really. Little did mom know that the concept of “can’t” doesn’t exist to Brown.

“His mother said no one would let him play, so it was more like a challenge,” Brown said. “We’re always telling kids, whether handicapped or not, you can do whatever you want to do.”

Inspirational Image

It happens that Brown’s son, Lenny, now a running back at Ithaca College, played for Casarella, North Rockland’s coach the past 30 years. It also happens that a while back Casarella saw a kid in a motorized wheelchair serve as the water boy for Mamaroneck High School. It stuck.

“I marveled at that,” Casarella said.

Now it’s a grateful mom who marvels at the transformation of a son who serves as the football team’s jock-of-all-trades. Burrell wears a jersey and takes part in coaching meetings. He dishes out water -- always ice cold -- during practice breaks and on game days.

“The players say he has the best water,” mom says.

Burrell served as honorary captain this past weekend, taking part in the coin toss prior to North Rockland’s season- opening loss, 14-7, to New Rochelle. Despite the score, he smiled.

The cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that affects body movement and muscle coordination, makes it difficult to understand Burrell’s speech, and his head sometimes tilts to the side. Even so, Casarella has been around long enough to recognize a competitor when he sees one.

Leader’s View

That’s why, during practice, coach usually positions Burrell a safe distance behind the quarterback, where he can see the plays unfold from the vantage point of the team leader.

“His heart is as big as anybody on our team,” Casarella says. “You wake up every morning and, if you don’t give 100 percent, stop and think of Courtney.”

Wait, it gets better.

This is, after all, high school, where jocks are usually popular with the young ladies.

These days Burrell more often than not is surrounded by a steady stream of teenage girls stopping by to say hello. One day it’s the tennis team. Next day it’s the cross-country squad.

“He has to beat them off with a stick,” Brown says. “He’s in la-la land. What teenage boy wouldn’t be?”

Jenkins, 42, once believed that her son was destined for a life of solitude and that his disability precluded his ability to partake in his passion. Now, she says, anything is possible. She believes it and, more importantly, her son does, too.

“There’s a place for everybody,” Jenkins said.

She smiles, of course. Runs in the family.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Disaster Relief: Plans For A Hopeful Future

It shouldn’t be a secret that my time in college was like that of a marathon. It took me 9 years to get a 4 year bachelors degree. In order to get the degree, I needed to take a cultural anthropology class. Every Wednesday night for 4 months, I would gather with about 5 others to study the things that shape a persons culture. It was one of those classes I was less motivated to be in. But the teacher for the class was great. She understood we were busy students juggling jobs, living with roommates, and bearing the demands of term papers that carried the bulk of our final grade for many of our other classes. So she accommodated by making her class a light load. She gave us a list of movies for homework. Our assignment was to pick a few and watch them, then write a short paper on each movie before the semester ended.

Hotel Rwanda was among the few that I chose. The movie is sort of a bio-pic. It details the life of a hotel manager who housed Rwandan refugees during their 1994 civil war. The real hotel manager says retelling the genocide was tough but necessary. I personally found it eye opening, and it caused me to struggle with the age old question: If God is so good, then how can He stand by and let something like this happen?

The genocide became known worldwide, and people still associate the conflict with Rwanda. But that’s starting to change thanks to Richard Taylor. He first visited Rwanda in 2002, as part of a hiking expedition with friends. The young Executive Director of The Wellspring Foundation has been working with the locals to rebuild life after the tragedy. In a recent interview on 100 Huntley Street, he speaks of God’s involvement after the fact as transformational.

Recalling a conversation he had with a Rwandan native who lived through the genocide, Taylor says 40% of Rwandans are age 15 or younger. Making that 40% as their target audience is essential for Wellspring’s relationship to be a success. Focusing on “these young people who hadn’t actually personally experienced the genocide but still live with some of its scars; we can do something incredible in turning this place around.” The transformational work, from Richard’s perspective is happening by educating this young group so that their heart is changed in addition to their minds.

The bible speaks of transforming your mind. It also says we shouldn’t copy the behavior and customs of this world. Instead, we are to let God transform us into who He wants us to be. Jeremiah 29:11 says: For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” 16 years after the fact, young survivors of the Rwandan genocide are realizing their potential for a bright and hopeful future. For these young Rwandans, The Wellspring Foundation is the vehicle God uses to show them His plans for a hope and future. What about you? If God’s plans are about hope instead of disaster, what vehicle might He use to show His plans for your future?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Crouching Timbits, Hidden Potential

John 15:16 says that Jesus chose us to be his disciples. It also says that we ought to avoid the following lifestyle:

***If you watched the video your probably confused at the moment. Chances are you’re trying to figure out the connection between Green Day and of all things, the bible. Trust me its there! Just keep reading***

One of the encouraging things I find about this verse is it tells us Jesus CHOOSES the people he hangs with. In high school, our home room teacher was also a martial arts instructor. Twice a week he taught women’s self defense classes outside school. And once a week he would teach a handful of my fellow class mates martial arts over the lunch period. One year he personally asked me to join the class. He said he’s had martial arts students in the past with polio, and after taking them under his wing they’ve had nothing but positive results. Even though I was in a wheelchair, he could teach me how to defend myself if I ever met a creepy person with bad intentions.

I don’t know if he was ever aware, but I wanted to take his martial arts class and was hesitant to ask him… I thought the wheelchair would be a deterrent and he’d say no, so I never did. but then HE approached ME! This meant he saw something in me that I didn’t. There was a potential deep inside me that needed to be coaxed out. Boy did he ever hit the nail on the head that time. After that, I was hooked. I became a devoted follower.

Those lunch hours were priority number one. On nights off, I practiced my newfound skills at home. Jackie Chan, Jet Li and Steven Segal became my newest reasons to go to the movies. Whenever they threw a kick or punch, I announced which kick or punch it was. I even remember going to the library to sign out books on martial arts and tried to mimic the diagrams they had on the page. Once I tried watching an old Bruce Lee movie, but it was too cheesy and turned it off. For the rest of my high school days I ate slept breathed and bled anything to do with martial arts. I did this all with great enthusiasm because my master believed in me. Where I saw a bitter end, he saw a bright and hopeful future.

That same enthusiasm is demonstrated in Christ’s disciples. It’s the reason the apostle Peter did such crazy and outlandish things. Christ chose to spend three years of his life with Peter and 11 others because He saw something they didn’t. Where the disciples saw losers and drop outs, Jesus saw winners, and catalysts for a movement that would take the world by storm. Jesus saw that they had a purpose; all it would take is a little coaxing.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Deep Theological Truth Or Brain Fart?

Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side. The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. "Be careful," Jesus warned them. "Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod." They discussed this with one another and said, "It is because we have no bread." Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: "Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don't you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?" "Twelve," they replied. "And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?" They answered, "Seven." He said to them, "Do you still not understand?"
Mark 8:13-21 NIV

When a pastor gets up to preach a sermon, they’ll usually select a chuck of the bible, and spend hours upon hours dissecting each verse to find its original meaning. Sometimes they research the snot out of the passage, and come up with some great theological truth to share with the audience that week. (At this point I want to say that I understand the importance and fully support the discipline of doing these things in preparation for a time to be the mouthpiece of God. a great sermon takes time to prepare. If you do a poor job of preparation, then you run the risk harming the body of believers instead of enhancing it.) Still there are other times I think we fail to take scripture at face value. Use the above scripture passage as an example.

Try and picture this story playing out in real life. As though you actually witnessed this conversation between the disciples as they paddle across the lake. Then you see Jesus flip out at the disciples for being half wits for debating about not having any bread to snack on when they get the hankering…… now after picturing the scene, do you think Jesus was talking about some deep theological truth, or did Jesus lose it because the disciples just had a brain fart? I personally think it’s the latter. But if you think there is some theological statement people need to pick up on – please share I would love to dialogue with you over this. Maybe I’ll have a brain fart and you’ll stump the nine year bible college student … the nine year bible college student is me by the way ;)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

An Opportune Time

The clock on my computer just rolled on to 330AM. And while the rest of the world is asleep, at this time I’m wide awake struggling with impure thoughts and motives. I’d much rather be nestled under my covers resting after a long 18 hour day. instead my mind is teetering between thoughts of lust, wanting to covet what I don’t have, recalling a chunk of Luke chapter 4 and a few lines from the worship song “Love Lifted Me.”
The opening verses of Luke 4 tell of Jesus’ forty day retreat in the desert and three duels with the devil. After successfully thwarting the devils attempts to disable the messiah’s relationship with God, Verse 13 tells us the devil let Jesus alone until “an opportune time.”

I used to read those three words and wonder what they meant, when exactly was an opportune time? Well, Sitting here wide awake now at 402AM, I think I have a better understanding of when the perfect time came to bother people. Given my current situation, I can almost guarantee that Satan came back to torment Jesus at a time where temptations proved to be inconvenient for Jesus.

Ephesians 6:12 says the Christian’s battle isn’t so much against the people of this world as it is against evil spirits. What an opportune time to experience this opposition. When I’d be better off sleeping, I’m awake experiencing a battle to remain wholly pure before the one who determines my eternal destiny. In response to that I say:

Make me pure in your site Lord
I want to be pure in your eyes Lord,
Make me pure
I want to be

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Wanted: Your Opinions on Either/Or Situations… Is praying for both outcomes a long winded Pater Noster

Pater Noster is another way of saying the Lord’s Prayer, and I was wondering of I was mimicking this the other night as I ended one of my prayers… I was praying for a friend’s family as they go through a rough time. As time goes on, all I can do is watch and pray. And as I see it, they are in a deep valley that is testing their strength and pushing them to limits that is personally too much to bear. As I watch things unfold, one thing is clear: their troubles are taking a toll on their kid. Their child is lashing out in anger and frustration. I’m concerned for the child’s future and how this deep valley is affecting their faith in God.

I’ve heard stories of people who once had a relationship with God, went through a traumatic childhood experience and now denounce God any chance they get. They tell me God didn’t hear them when they were a kid so why should they give Him any attention now? If He did hear them, He didn’t intervene so forget God and everything He stands for. This is one of my concerns for the young family. As the child gets older, this trauma will fuel the child’s separation from God.

But as much as I’ve heard people share their frustration and anger toward God during a rough time, I’ve also had people tell of great struggles and how they cling to God in times of great need. During these times the Lord is all they have. Despite being surrounded by darkness and despair, these people refuse to give up believing in God. Enduring their trauma while seeking the Lord, has solidified or affirmed their faith in Him. Now living on the other side of their deep valley, they come out stronger and have a more intimate relationship with the Alpha and Omega then before.

There are times I don’t know what to pray for, but I am concerned. I know there is pain involved so I pray for healing whenever I think about it. I pray for the child that the hurt and pain they feel would dissipate. I also hope and pray that God would protect the child’s faith and they would get stronger instead of walking away. Truth be told, I have no idea what the future holds for this young family; nor do I know if this difficulty will be too much for the young one to bear.

As much as I hate to admit it, it is possible for the young one to walk away scathed and angry at God for not lifting them out of the deep valley. So I pray in the event that the child abandons God that their story would be like that of the prodigal son. Though they have wandered away, the Lord would keep his hand on them to restore what once was lost.

As I ended the prayer, I found myself praying in the event of both outcomes. If the kid walks away bring the young'un back, but if the kid chooses to hang in their and walk with God through the valley give’em strength. Then I began to wonder … is it ok that I pray this way? Is it demonstrated in scripture? What about the Lord’s Prayer? Particularly this part:

Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Matt 6:10

Are Jesus’ words here a simpler way of saying “Dear God, in an either/or situation, be in BOTH!”… HMMM

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Popular Marriage Blessing

What is it about the summer months and weddings? I know of at least 10 people who have either been part of or have taken the plunge, said their vows and decided to have a wedding in the last 4 weeks. One of these couples are my friends Randy and Melissa Glasel.

Shortly after Randy popped the question, the two of them decided to include me in their big day by praying for, and blessing their marriage. For the prayer, I decided to include a scripture passage and let that be the base of my prayer. Then I finished it off with the old school King James Version of The Lord’s Prayer. To my surprise people enjoyed it immensely. Shockingly it has gained some popularity with the people I have shared it with so I figured why not post it here? So here you go; here’s a copy of it for you to see and perhaps use yourself.

PSALM 44:1-8
We have heard with our ears, O God; our fathers have told us what you did in their days, in days long ago. With your hand you drove out the nations and planted our fathers; you crushed the peoples and made our fathers flourish.
It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them.
You are my King and my God, who decrees victories for Jacob.
Through you we push back our enemies; through your name we trample our foes.
I do not trust in my bow, my sword does not bring me victory; but you give us victory over our enemies, you put our adversaries to shame.
In God we make our boast all day long, and we will praise your name forever.

Oh Lord, like many others here I rejoice in the marriage of Randy and Melissa. Lord Jesus I ask that you bless this marriage. Bring them together like no one else can. In times of joy may they seek you. In times of trouble may they seek you for you are the one that provides. I believe that you brought them together and I ask that you keep them together. I don’t know what the future holds for these two but whatever it is, I ask that you provide for whatever Melissa and Randy need. In all things, may they rejoice that you were with them guiding and directing them.

Our Father, who art in heaven
hallowed be thy Name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those
who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever.

*** If you decide to use this, creates some inspiration for you, or find it fascinating yourself I would appreciate a comment articulating so. Thanks and be blessed! Tim Bits!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Satan's plan?

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. - Jesus Christ


Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Charismatic Enigma: Keeping The Dream Alive

Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water's edge. He taught them many things by parables…
Mark 4:1-2
A few weeks ago Calgary’s oldest community hosted one of the city’s annual street festivals. Commonly known as The Inglewood Sunfest, the community hosted the event in conjunction with the start of the Calgary Fringe Festival. Taking advantage of the warm weather, I attended the event. For nearly three blocks the street was lined with tents and their vendors offering their goods or services at a reduced rate. Jewelry, chiropractors, fashion boutiques, food vendors and even those running in the civic election lined the streets attempting to solicit attendees.

The thing that impressed me most was the street performers. They’d set up their gear at an empty intersection, draw a crowd and perform their show. One of them was a hula-hooping cheerleader named Minnie Maniac. At one point she was cracking a whip and hoping to generate more interest and garner a larger crowd of onlookers. Armed with tricks that included changing from her street clothes into her cheerleading outfit while hula hooping, she would dazzle the crowd. She finished the show with her best skill – sitting on top of a human pyramid while simultaneously twirling 6 hula hoops on her body. In exchange for a great show, she’d asked those who watched to support her by paying her what they thought the show was worth.

The impressive thing I saw in the street performers was their ability to draw and keep a crowd. In the case of Minnie Maniac, drawing a crowd required some effort using a whip to get peoples attention. Regardless, being able to do that is still quite the feat. I’ve seen magic performers do the same thing with no whip in hand, and still I’m puzzled. Is it charisma, pheromones, the Holy Spirit or some other enigma that adorns masses?

In Christ’s ability to draw crowds, it’s so easy to assume the people who were drawn to him were explicitly led to the lakeshore by the Spirit of God. But Mark 3:3 points out some that followed him were keeping tabs on him waiting to slam him for blasphemies and anything else that could be used to halt his growing influence. Furthermore, Jesus spoke in parables. Alan Carr, a North Carolina pastor suggests Jesus spoke in parables for the benefit of those who hadn’t rejected the truth. In a parable, “those who were sincere and hungry for the truth would have that truth revealed to them. Those who were closed minded to the truth would have that truth concealed from them."

I could go on providing a laundry list of things that attributed to the masses Jesus generated. But to make it easier on my fingers and your reading, the reasons can be summed up in two things: the Holy Spirit and his reputation provided the bulk of his enigmatic quirks. But what about those of us who live 2000+ years after Jesus did? What makes people interested in what we are doing? Is it charisma, pheromones, the Holy Spirit or some other enigmatic quirk that keeps another’s interest?

I can’t help but wonder if these questions are tugging at your heart today. Perhaps you’re in leadership and have hit a plateau. At one point you started something and the momentum you once had has faded. Now you find your dream on the brink of collapsing beneath you. If your dream is facing foreclosure; don’t give up! Not yet; especially if you are still reading this particular blog entry. Maybe there’s something I’ve said that has sparked a glimmer of hope in you. Do you look at your dream and see nothing but a train wreck? Most train wrecks occur because something interferes with the train’s momentum. Perhaps you need to crack the whip and rediscover the enigmatic anomaly that started your train’s momentum!?!?!?!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Meaning of "Amen"

It’s the day of the week where many Americans gather in their respective houses of worship and repeat the same word: amen. But what does the word mean? And why do people say it?

Amen is commonly used after a prayer, creed, or other formal statement. It is spoken to express solemn ratification or agreement. It means “it is so” or “so it be.” Amen is derived from the Hebrew āmēn, which means “certainty,” “truth,” and “verily.”

In English, the word has two primary pronunciations: ah-men or ay-men. But it is one interjection that is expressed in endless ways, from a soft whisper to a joyous shout.

Amen is found in both the Old and New Testament. Modern worshippers of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism all use a version of the word, and records indicate that it has been used as an expression of concurrence after prayer for centuries.

In Judaism, congregants say amen in response to the words of the rabbi, or spiritual leader. The term appears as part of a number Jewish prayers. In Christianity, amen occupies a central but often spontaneous position at the end of prayers or as a personal expression of affirmation for another’s words during a sermon or other religious discourse. Islam, like Judaism, incorporates a more formal use of the word into ritual but also deems it an appropriate way to end any sort of prayer. Rather than “amen,” Islam generally says “amin.”

Amen is also used colloquially. For example: “Dinner is finally ready — amen!”

The opposite of “amen,” arguably is cursing. Yet both cussing and prayer have the same roots in the three major monotheistic faiths. Click here to read how these sacred and profane words derive from a similar source.

In Egyptian mythology, amen, or amun, was a deity represented by a ram, the god of life and reproduction. A controversial theory posits that amen derives from the Ancient Egyptian.

When we pray, almost anything goes: dancing, whirling, kneeling, or swaying. And words of affirmation are almost always spoken. Amen is certainly one. What are others?

(On a side note: If you ever hear scientists talking about the “God Particle,” this is what they are talking about.)

*** This is a direct copy and paste quote from the Hot Word Blog, all credit and origin go to them. I just thought it was an interesting post and would share it here. For the direct link to the post, click the link below.

If you pray and say “amen” at the end, what does it literally mean? The Hot Word Blog

Being Well Endowed

Ever wonder what will be said of you after you die? Most funerals have a time of testimony where those in attendance share about the great things the deceased have done. These consist of positive memories, funny stories, or even the impact their belated loved one has had while living in their world. Without sounding too morbid, I hope my funeral will be difficult and hard on those who attend. Mountains of Kleenex will abound as the tears flow missing me. The time of testimony I hope will be forcefully cut short, as people cannot stop sharing the meaning and ever lasting effect I’ve brought to their world.

In his new book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, Donald Miller says that part of living a memorable life (or a life that others will want to be a part of and hear about), is to let your life tell a good story. The elements to telling a good story according to Miller isn’t that complicated, and can be boiled down to one sentence. To tell a memorable story, the character must want something, and overcomes conflict to get it.

With that said, I wonder about one of the most famous stories of all time: the life and times of Jesus Christ. The gospel of John says that Jesus left such an enormous legacy, that it’s impossible to pen all of his endowment (John 21:25). I wonder… if we apply Donald Miller’s elements of a great story to the life of Christ, do the gospels depict the world’s Savior as a character with a goal who experiences opposition while attempting to accomplish his mission? If so, what is this goal, and what sorts of thing stand in his way? And lastly, how does Jesus overcome his opposition?

What about you? When you read the Gospels of Christ, do you find any of the above questions applicable to the life of Christ? If so, how might those questions be presented?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Naturally Enhancing The Body's Performance?

A number of months ago I was struggling with how I best enhance the ministry of the church. 1 Corinthians 12 talks about the church being like a human body. The human body has many parts to it. Each has a primary responsibility or task that is uniquely separate from every other individual part. Yet they serve an overarching purpose and without that individual function, the body’s entire function/purpose would be in jeopardy. The apostle Paul relates this to the ministry of the church.

He says there are certain things needed in the church in order for it to function properly. Such things include apostles, teachers, leaders, helpers and the list goes on. I personally believe everyone can be used for ministry. Part of the Christian life is figuring out where you fit in the Body of Christ. How your gifts, talents, and abilities enhance the ministry of the church and enlarge the Kingdom of God.

During this time I invited a pastor friend over for a coffee visit. One of the things he suggested was that my mission is to serve those of the disability/special needs community. This was a natural place of ministry for me. I had an “in” that he didn’t. I am a special needs individual. I am one of them. This gives me a voice that others don’t have. As an able bodied person, whenever he talks to someone that uses a wheelchair, crutches, a walker, etc, etc, it just goes in one ear and out the other. The pastor furthered his point by saying this is because an able bodied person doesn’t understand what it’s like to live with disability.

I wonder if this attitude is reflected in the psalms. For example, check out psalm 73:

Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills. Psalm 73:1-6 NIV

I also wonder if that’s what Paul meant when he wrote:

Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law. When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. 1 Corinthians 9:19-22 NLT

What about you? What do you think about this?

A Key To Longevity In Youth… [Err, um ALL] Ministry

It’s said there’s 52 weeks in a calendar year…which accounts for 13 months instead of 12 by the way, but I digress…

So by that count, I’ll be celebrating a rather unique anniversary in the next week or two. The end of July is when I first moved into my own place. Since that time life has been a whirlwind of adventure. Without getting into too much detail, I can in retrospect say there were times when I was so busy I very nearly experienced burnout. I can recall at least three times this past year, if not four, I’ve had to put the breaks on, isolate myself, and recharge my batteries. There’s nothing wrong with that; Jesus modeled it during his ministry.

He directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children. Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone… Matt 14:19-23 NIV

This time, I decided to turn off my phone, lock my door and read through a selection of psalms. I open the book and begin reading the first psalm when my eyes come across this:

His delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. Psalm 1:2-3 NIV

In college we were told the longevity and sustainability of your ministry, what ever it may be, is directly connected to your relationship with God. If you’re feeding that relationship by spending time with the Lord in prayer and reading the scriptures, then your ministry will flourish. If that relationship is stagnant, and you’re not including the use of scripture and/or prayer in your daily activity, your ministry will suffer; and even become stagnant itself.

Whenever I read that in a book or heard someone else say that, I would make time to read my bible and pray. Unfortunately it wouldn’t be too long before that discipline would taper off and I’d be doing things in my own strength, treating my prayer and bible reading as a panic button or a glass case containing a fire extinguisher. In case of emergency break glass!

Now that I’m out of college and been in ministry for approximately a year. I can say without a doubt that taking time to nourish your relationship with God is a key to a successful ministry. I would even venture to say any activity suffers if you neglect to “… delight in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.

I have to admit though I do feel like a hypocrite saying this as its not something I continually practice. So if you come across this, I would ask that you pray for me. That I would regularly take time to read the word of God and pray, so I don’t experience burnout as much, and can have the strength to face the day for the many moons ahead of me.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Get Your Boogy On Y'all!

get up and dance! PAR-TAY!

Chains of Glory

My best friend and I are living proof that opposites attract. He’s tall, I’m short. He’s skinny and I’m not. He’s quick and impatient but I’m slow and take my time. Our differences couldn’t have been more obvious then this past weekend. We spent an afternoon together hanging out in his basement suite. Around dinner time he suggested we head to a nearby burger joint to satisfy our hunger. He told me it was within walking distance and would only take a few minutes to get there. So I grabbed my crutches and away we went. A block and a half into our journey, I’m sweating up a storm but going as fast as I can. My best friend is resting half a block away waiting for me to catch up.

What was a 5 minute walk for my friend ended up taking about a half hour! The walk was quite a challenge for me and when I got there I was dehydrated and in desperate need of a drink. In a few days I was scheduled to do a 10KM road race so I treated the walk as training for the upcoming event. It wasn’t until our journey back that my friend starts to realize just how challenging this trek for burgers is for me.

It starts settling in that he has a much easier time getting around then his little friend on crutches. After seeing the workout I’m getting from a proverbial “run to the store,” he starts running on the spot. By doing this, he figures he can get the same effect I am. That day he had a lesson in humility and a lot more to be thankful for when he went to bed.

When people first see that I have a disability, they have an automatic inclination to find out what happened. I usually tell people I was born with a disability and wouldn’t have it any other way. Life with disability is all I know. Unlike someone who ends up paralyzed after birth, I have nothing to compare it too so I don’t wake up wishing I could walk again.

Viewing a disability as good is not a universal stance. Being in a wheelchair 24 hours a day is a source of pain for many. I once met a girl in a wheelchair who wants to be a scientist so she can find a cure for her disability. Doing so will free her from the prison that is her disability. Even though I consider it a joy to be in a wheelchair, there are some days I agree. Because of my disability, I am in prison. During those times, I’ve found comfort from the apostle Paul:

Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly. Philippians 1:12-14 NIV

Paul writes this while he is in prison awaiting trial in Rome. “He had been allowed to arrange private lodging for himself; but night and day in that private lodging there was a soldier to guard him…” some in the church might view his imprisonment as a bad thing, so he writes this to let them know exactly the opposite has happened. Whenever Paul had a visitor, he would preach to them about Christ. Because a guard had to be with him at all times, it meant the guard’s duty was to watch and, consequently, listen to everything Paul was saying. This happened on and off over a two year period. During that time it became abundantly clear to everyone that Paul had a relationship with Christ. In Paul’s eyes this was how the Lord was advancing the gospel.

Paul’s prison term had another advantage. “…because of Paul's imprisonment in Rome many people had heard the gospel who would not otherwise have heard it.” Acts 28:17-30 tells us who these people are. Unbelieving Jews and Gentiles were among those Paul preached to. Other Christians were also encouraged by Paul’s boldness in sharing his testimony. This is how Paul can praise God for such dark circumstances.

I am no stranger to being an encouragement to people. One time it happened while I was at a conference in a local church. Sessions were held all over the place. Some were in the basement while others were held atop numerous flights of stairs. Stairs are not an issue for me, so I was a trooper and climbed them as necessary. At the beginning of the second day, I ended up chatting with a gentleman who attended the conference while staying at a homeless shelter. He told me he was hesitant in coming the night before; until he seen me going up and down those stairs on crutches still smiling. He went home that night and thought about what he’d seen. Considering the joy in the midst of the struggles I had, he decided to return for the rest of the conference hearing the Gospel of Christ he might otherwise have not been exposed too.

In 2 Corinthians 12, we learn that Gods power is made perfect in weakness. In sharing his weakness with the Corinthians (2 Cor. 12:7-10), Paul tells them having the weakness keeps him humble. Any good that he accomplishes doesn’t come from any merit of his own. It is God being gracious to him and using him in the moment. Sometimes God does that with us.

He gives us a weakness to keep us humble. Anytime people see something good come out of it, we are shocked. How such good can come out of our seemingly dark circumstances? It is because God is using us in ways that at the end of the night when our head hits the pillow all we can say is “praise God!”

What are your weaknesses? How might God be using them to open doors to share what Christ is doing in your life?