The Time Is Now

I’ve shared this quote before but it came back to me tonight:

now clock

While this is great advice for students and workers, it’s also excellent advice for Christians. Have you ever said or thought statements such as:

  • I’ll get more involved in the church once my children are older / my schedule is lighter / my faith is stronger / my car is fixed.
  • I’ll read my Bible more after I finish this stressful project.
  • I’ll share my faith with my friend / coworker / neighbour when I’ve had more time to get to know them better.
  • I’ll drop that habit / sin / wrong attitude when my health gets better / my spouse treats me better / I have more money.
  • I’ll give more of my money to God’s work once my debts are paid off / I get a raise / I win the lottery.

Those “whens” and “onces” never seem to come. If they do, the promises are often forgotten. So, what are you waiting for? The time is now! Romans 13:11 says:

“And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”

What is God asking you to do today? Are you reluctant? Are you tempted to start later? I encourage you not to hesitate.

Listen Carefully

Have you ever tried to watch two TV shows at the same time? What about listening to two songs at the same time? Can you read two books at the same time, listen to two phone calls at the same time or write two letters at the same time? Even if you could do these things, you likely wouldn’t do them very well.

As Christians, we know that we’re supposed to listen to God to know what He wants for us (and from us) and Isaiah 55:3a reminds us of that: “Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live.” God invites us to listen to Him because He knows that it’s only through Him that we can have life. But how well do we listen to Him?

When you read your Bible in the morning, do you start thinking about the meeting or class or appointment you have later in the day? Your eyes see the words but your brain isn’t getting the message. In church, do you really listen to the words being sung or to what pastor is saying? Often, we’re too distracted by other things going on around us or our own thoughts to really listen to God. Sadly, we’re the ones who miss out.

In 1 Samuel 3, the examples of Samuel and Eli highlight the importance of being attentive to God’s voice. I encourage you to take some time to read that passage this week and jot down what you think God is trying to tell you. Spend some quiet time just listening for God’s voice, inviting Him to speak to your heart and reveal His will for you. You may be amazed by what you learn.

listen

Restoration

Having grown up going to church and Sunday School, I occasionally take for granted Bible passages or stories I learned over and over as a child, such as the Lord’s Prayer, John 3:16 or the Fruit of the Spirit. Psalm 23 is probably the best-known chapter in the Bible so it too can be easy to gloss over it after the first verse.

One day, my attention was drawn to four words from Psalm 23 I hadn’t given a whole lot of thought to as a child—probably because it didn’t speak to a specific need at that point in my life. Verse 3 begins: “He restores my soul…” Have you ever reflected on what that means?

restorationI’ve seen a lot of construction and renovation work over the years. Though they are not living things, buildings undergo stress and sometimes the wear and tear on them has serious consequences. Pipes may leak, ceilings may crack, floors may warp. . .I’m sure you could add your own house woes to the list. The problems may be due to natural causes or the result of neglect and abuse.

Similarly, our bodies go through physical deterioration—sometimes as the natural result of aging, sometimes because of illnesses or accidents, but often simply from not taking good care of ourselves.

More serious is what happens to our souls. We suffer when Satan attacks us with temptations, trials, lies or persecution. We suffer when people hurt or mistreat us. We suffer when we shift our focus off of God and stray from Him. These things will happen. It would be naïve to expect to walk the Christian journey trouble-free. The question is, what do we do in difficult situations?

Ideally, with regular maintenance and check-ups—whether it’s for our homes or our health—drastic measures can be avoided. Prevention is always more desirable than major renovations or surgery, isn’t it? We can’t avoid or prevent all the problems that come our way, but we can keep them to a minimum if we’re alert and disciplined.

Ideally, with regular examination of our hearts in light of Scripture and, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we will avoid the spiritual pitfalls and traps the devil sets out for us. And yet problems will still come our way, catching us off guard and threatening to destroy us.

Thankfully, we have a Shepherd who not only loves us, provides for us and leads us, but who also restores us. Better than any renovation job, better than any antibiotic, Jesus Christ can restore our souls and bring us back to a place of joy and peace.

New on My Playlist

Between Rdio and Songza, I’ve discovered several new-to-me songs and artists, which is always fun. Here are four of my latest can’t-stop-hitting-repeat faves. I hope you enjoy them, too! Check them out and then show them some love (the artists’ names link to their websites).

1. “From the Day” by I Am They

2. “My Lighthouse” by Rend Collective

3. “With Every Act of Love” by Jason Gray

4. “Made New” by Lincoln Brewster

Note: I wasn’t paid or bribed to post these videos or links. I’m just sharing my appreciation for these uplifting tunes. :)

Treasures in Jars of Clay

I wrote this about 15 years ago. I pray it will encourage you today. 

How do we Christian see ourselves as compared to how God sees us? As I pondered this one day, I was encouraged by several promises I came across in the Bible. In particular, I am blessed by 2 Corinthians 4. Verse 7 says, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” What does this mean?

clay potIt was customary to conceal treasures in these earthen containers because they did not attract attention to themselves and their precious contents. I believe few of us don’t at least occasionally think of ourselves as “clay jars”—objects of little value or beauty. But what a precious treasure we possess within us: the gospel! Our awesome God, who could shout the gospel from the mountains or write it on the sky has chosen, instead, to pour His light into us! We can either grumble about the containers God gave us…or we can rejoice in what He filled them with. The choice is really ours—but choose wisely.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (vv. 16-17)

I’m learning that in admitting my own powerlessness, I find God’s strength in my life. It is when we surrender our broken spirits and bodies into God’s hands that a wonderful transformation takes place. He may not change the circumstances that bother us or make us anxious—but He will change our hearts and our attitudes so that we can see the incredible work He is doing in us and through us.

Trying to be in control of our lives usually doesn’t produce great results. Trying to patch up and polish our clay jars may make us feel better for a few days…but we will soon be dissatisfied with ourselves again. Instead, we should “fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (v. 18)

You are not worthless to God! Rejoice in the treasure He has given you.

This and That

Wow, life has been so busy (in a good way) that I haven’t been able to write any fresh blog posts lately. I’m getting my projects (which will include a few new book proposals!) organized, however, so hopefully that will change soon. In the meantime, here are some quick updates you might enjoy.

  1. I’ve added a few new made-by-me Facebook covers to the Freebie page, which are yours to grab and use. Click here. A sample is at the bottom of this post.
  2. One of my articles published in InTouch last year won a second-place prize in the recent Evangelical Press Association Higher Goals in Christian Journalism award. Yay! Here’s the link if you’re interested: Messenger to the Military. I think you’ll find this woman’s story very inspiring!
  3. I recently had these articles published:
    1. Revival 100 Years After the Armenian Genocide (Christianity Today) – The positive response to this piece has been astounding!
    2. Columbia: Planting Seeds (Horizons) – A neat story about how urban gardening is helping spread the gospel in Bogota.
    3. Spring Cleaning: From the Inside Out (Choose Now Ministries) – Tips for parents and teens (with a free printable!)
    4. The Name of the Lord (A Look at the Book) – Third in my series of Bible studies on the Ten Commandments.
  4. I’ll be appearing as a guest on the Don Kroah show this Friday, April 17, at 4:15 p.m. (Eastern) to discuss my recent Christianity Today article about Armenia with guest host David Stokes. If you’ve got some spare time that afternoon, I hope you’ll tune in! Here’s the link. (Click on the Listen Live tab at the top.)

Inspiration

In closing, remember: You can never lose a homing pigeon. If your homing pigeon doesn’t come back, what you’ve lost is a pigeon. ;)

Blessings in Disguise

The long, unusually cold winter in Montreal has been taking a toll on many people. I don’t know about you, but my mood tends to be affected by the weather (not so much when it’s cold but when it’s cloudly and overcast) so on those days I have to make an extra effort to remember that my joy comes from the Lord, and not the sunshine or the circumstances around me. I guess that when I look at it that way, the clouds are a blessing in disguise, since they make me depend more on God!

Life’s like that sometimes. We get discouraged, tired or overwhelmed and then anxiety begins to creep in. What’s going to happen? Why can’t I figure out this problem? How will this situation or relationship ever be made right? When will this sad time pass? Will I ever overcome this struggle?

While some people are careless or indifferent about the serious matters in life, others may go to the other extreme of becoming preoccupied and obsessive about difficult circumstances. Both are wrong. The Bible instructs us to bring our burdens to the Lord and commit all our ways to Him. Our peace shouldn’t come from being able to solve our problems, but rather from knowing that God is with us.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
(Psalm 23:4)

Nothing escapes His notice. Nothing is too difficult or scary for Him to handle. No one is too hopeless for Him to be able to rescue and restore. (And here’s a thought: If there are shadows, that means light is present, too!)

blessings

Yes, we have to care and pray and intercede and work and obey and discipline and serve and change…but we can also rest! We can do all those things with joy and peace and courage in our hearts because we know our heavenly Father lovingly watches over us.

I encourage you to stop for a moment right now, take a breath, and give your burdens to the Lord. Tell Him what you’re worried about or afraid of. Recognize the distractions that may be robbing you of your joy and peace. What am I saying? The Apostle Paul put it so much more eloquently:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:6-8)

Rethinking Prayer

If everyone followed your pattern of prayer, would God’s kingdom be strengthened?

Ouch. If every Christian modeled his or her prayer life after my own, I’m not sure that would be a good thing! I definitely have room for improvement in the area of prayer.

For some people, prayer is a non-negotiable in their lives. It’s the first thing they do in the morning, the last thing they do at night, and something they do often during the day—and we’re not talking about two-minute messages fired off to God. For others, prayer is something that happens in between everything else on their to-do list… if it happens at all. I wonder if our prayer lives are starting to follow “social networking” and other modern communication formats—Twitter, Facebook, quick e-mails, text messages. God is not a buddy on our Friends list that we should keep in touch with now and then. He’s God. He’s our Saviour and Lord. He’s our heavenly Father. He’s God. (I know, I already said it but I think it bears repeating!)

The Bible says…

“Pray continually.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16)

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” (Colossians 4:2)

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:18)

woman-prayingWe all know that prayer is essential, but I wonder if we really believe that it makes a difference. If we did, wouldn’t we pray more? Also, do we realize that it’s something God commands us to do? And if he commands it but we don’t do it, isn’t that disobedience? Why do we sometimes behave as though prayer is optional, something we can do at our convenience?

Here’s one tip for improving our pattern of prayer: “Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.” (1 Peter 4:7) Maybe it’s time to de-clutter our minds and hearts so that we can better focus on our relationship with God, keeping in mind that a relationship requires interaction and dialogue—talking and listening.

Catch 22 (Catching Up + 22 Things About Me)

CATCH

At the start of the new year, I had good intentions about updating my blog on a weekly basis. Alas, an entire month has passed since my last post so I will try to do some catching up with this one. First a few news briefs from my life:

  • I started a six-week calligraphy course at the beginning of January and have my last class this coming Monday. It’s been challenging but fun, too! We’ve been learning copperplate calligraphy with a pointed pen and covered capital letters last week. For the last class, our teacher (Joy Deneen of imaginejoy calligraphy) is going to show us how to add variations and our own style to the basics we’ve been practicing. I will share photos of my progress in my next update.
  • On February 9, I was interviewed by Lynne Ford on WBCL in Ft Wayne, Indiana, about my new book, Truth, Dare, Double Dare. If you’d like to hear our nine-minute chat, click here and fast-forward to the 24:00 minute mark.
  • Here’s my latest column at Choose NOW Ministries: Stop Chasing Two Rabbits.

22

On January 31, I was nominated for the Liebster Award by Ren of RensRedeemed.

I-was-nominated-for-the-liebster-award

What is the Liebster Award, you ask? Good question! I wondered the same thing. For those who want details, this blogger did extensive research, saving me the work. In a nutshell, however, it’s an Internet award designed to welcome new bloggers, which is quite neighbourly and friendly! My blog isn’t really new but I appreciate Ren picking it as one of her nominees, especially as “liebster” has the connotation of something dear or sweet. Since there are variations on the “rules” of accepting this award, I’m not going to worry too much about following them strictly (i.e. I’m going to do the unthinkable and break the chain!)

However, I do want to take up Ren’s challenge to first answer 11 questions and then share 11 random things about me. So, here goes…

  1. When did you come to faith in Christ?
    1. When I was 7 years old. (My full faith story is here.)
  2. What is your favorite Bible verse/passage and why?
    1. I have many but, some months ago, the Lord pressed this on my heart as my life/ministry/career goal: “I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” (Acts 20:24)
  3. What woman figure from the Bible do you most identify with and/or admire?
    1. I was telling a friend just this afternoon that in recent years I have identified with Esther. I feel that God has given me opportunities and resources that I can use for His glory. Sometimes I’m not sure how to do it but I simply need to be brave and wise like Esther.
  4. Marriage/single life: What’s the biggest blessing and biggest challenge you face in your relationship status?
    1. As a never-married, I’ve certainly had my share of questions, lonely moments and self-doubts. However, God has really helped me to experience contentment and joy throughout my singleness, so I tend to not focus on the challenges.
  5. Mothering/mentoring: What is the most rewarding thing about being either a mother or a mentor?
    1. I’m not a mother but I have been a mentor on many occasions (in fact, I wrapped up a 12-session program with a young woman today). The most rewarding thing is seeing the joy and relief on the faces of my mentees when they recognize their own progress.
  6. What is your favorite thing about your faith community?
    1. I still worship at the church I started attending when I was a newborn so it is like my second home and the members are like family to me, even though the nature of our inner-city ministry is such that I have seen countless turn-overs in our congregation. My favourite thing about our ministry is the heavy emphasis on and dogged commitment to evangelism and missions. We are a small group in a 105-year-old building without fancy equipment or a worship team but our members support and get involved in outreach and the greater portion of our church budget is earmarked for missions and evangelism (we have no paid staff, including the pastor, my Dad).
  7. What’s on your reading list right now?
    1. I’m in the middle of four books: Love Does (Bob Goff), The Idiot  (Dostoevsky), Fortress of Mist (Sigmund Brouwer) and Orthodoxy (Chesterton). Also on my reading list: Einstein A to Z, a few Madeleine l’Engle books, the sequel to Fortress of MistThe Artisan Soul and about 50 other books!
  8. What is you favorite TV show this season?
    1. I generally don’t watch TV unless I am in a hotel room, but I do sometimes catch up on older TV shows on Netflix. My current indulgence is Gilmore Girls.
  9. Where is your favorite place to go, apart from home?
    1. Other than church? :) Boy, this question really highlights how much of an introvert and homebody I am. I don’t have too many “favourite” places but when the weather is nice, I love to be out in nature, walking through a park or sitting under a tree. I guess I need to get out more!
  10. What is one thing on your “Bucket List” (list of things you’d like to experience before you “kick the bucket”)?
    1. For years I’ve wanted to go to England to see the homes of Jane Austen, C.S. Lewis and Beatrix Potter. That’s pretty high on my list.
  11. Which of your blog posts is the one nearest and dearest to your heart?
    1. Finishing Well

So now I’m supposed to share 11 random things about myself. Voila!

  1. I studied Chemical Technology in college but finally admitted, in my third year, that I was in the wrong field.
  2. I have had my driver’s license for almost 23 years but I’ve only driven three or four times, and never alone.
  3. I skipped second grade.
  4. I’ve never ridden a horse.
  5. I am the proud owner of the three-volume boxed set of The Complete Calvin and Hobbes, thanks to the generosity of a friend.
  6. I have not watched any of the Star Wars movies.
  7. I am terrified of water that’s deeper than chin level.
  8. My favourite colour is red (and my favourite desk accessory is my red Swingline stapler).
  9. My favourite desserts are key lime pie, Nanaimo bars and apple crisp.
  10. I don’t drink coffee. Ever.
  11. I have a weakness for red hair and freckles. On anyone!

So there’s me! :) I won’t be nominating anyone for the Liebster Award (sorry) but if you’re interested in writing a similar post on your own blog, let me know and I’ll happily supply 11 questions for you. I’ll try to write again soon but I’m not making any promises! In the meantime, don’t forget that you can “like” my Facebook page for daily inspirational posts.

Good night!

Do You Have a “Peacemaker”?

Several years ago, someone at church shared a praise report about his mother’s successful heart surgery but, because of his heavy accent, many of us thought he said that she’d had a “peacemaker” put in. Of course, he was referring to a pacemaker but we were all suddenly struck by the wonderful significance of the term peacemaker.

pacemakersIsn’t this a great picture of coming to Christ for salvation? The Bible teaches that all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory. We are born with a spiritual heart disease that we cannot cure on our own. People try all kinds of home remedies to deal with the symptoms and try to make their hearts feel better, but none of these actually bring about a cure. We need to submit to God and allow Him to perform “open heart surgery” on us.

Whether you think of it as bypass surgery or a heart transplant, God heals us. He removes the cancerous sin tumour or the plaque of sin blocking our arteries and restores us. And then… He gives us the Peacemaker. When the Holy Spirit enters our lives, He helps our hearts work properly and gives us “peace that passes understanding” (Philippians 4:7).

Do you have the Peacemaker in your life? If you have not yet had that life-changing experience of receiving Christ as your personal Saviour, I pray that you will soon. If you have questions about this, please contact me and I will do my best to respond or to provide helpful resources.

May your day be filled with peace!