*Contemplating the impropriety of people against the perfect grace of Christ

Faith, Thoughts

Lately my scripture reading schedule has been dominated by the OT Prophets, so encountering Hebrews this week has been a beautifully simple and refreshing reminder of the goodness of Jesus. I sometimes forget how the bible speaks of Christ’s humanity, and today I was reminded. And I think I really needed to be reminded.

‘For since He Himself was tested and has suffered, He is able to help those who are tested.’ — Hebrews 2:18

I find such rest in this passage! Its so difficult to come to terms with the fact that Jesus truly loves me this much. Enough to want to be there for me and to listen and to forgive me again and again in spite of my selfishness. And honestly, I forget that He does. In His perfectness He wills to come to my level — to anyone’s level, to hear my pleas and to love me in spite of my wretchedness and continuous straying. This is the radical God who loves me. This is the fearfully vast capacity of Christ to allow us to be His children! This is.. astoundingly radical free love from a Father who is full of grace. And yet I take it for granted.

‘For it was fitting, in bringing many sons to glory, that He, for whom and through whom all things exist, should make the source of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For the One who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. That is why He is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying: I will proclaim Your name to My brothers; I will sing hymns to You in the congregation. Again, I will trust in Him. And again, Here I am with the children God gave me. ‘ — Hebrews 2:10-13

I am a child of God. Thank you Jesus!

*If you are looking for a good bible reading plan, I have a recommendation .

Faith

I’ve been going through the book of Mark over the past few weeks (paired with Genesis and Job) as part of the Digging Deeper Bible reading plan which can be found here. I’m on day 17 and I gotta say, I’m really pleased with the structure of this plan! (which is saying a lot because I’m a bit of an organizational freak.)

I highly recommend it if your the type of reader who is motivated by seeing multiple narratives playing out simultaneously that substantiate the entire message of the Bible. Personally, I really enjoy reading about old testament prophesies fulfilled in latter new testament portions of scripture along with the strange repetition of peculiar tropes and general human tendencies as they are described through the various bible authors at different times. The Digging Deeper plan allocates three separate sections of scripture to read each day — allowing you to become invested in a somewhat ‘big picture’ sort of capacity.

*a reflection from today’s reading
As much as one hears and imagines Jesus talking and healing and performing any of the miracles that we encounter in the gospels (these can seem ubiquitous due to their numerous occurrences) — sometimes we forget the potency of the words that actually accompany these happenings. When going to the text and actually reading it; simple yet easily dismissed revelations become ample to stumble upon. This one — I did indeed trip over — and find myself coming back to:

Jesus called them over and said to them, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and their men of high positions exercise power over them. But it must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be our servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be a slave to all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life — a ransom for many.” (‭Mark‬ ‭10‬:‭42-45‬ HCSB)

This passage presents a mode of thinking that is the antithesis of human nature. We behave, (by virtue of being inherently selfish), quite entitled in many or perhaps most all circumstances. We being people at large. Jesus flips this right on its head and calls us out. He’s got a pretty remarkable challenge here, and goes on to affirm His stance when he heals the blind man, Bartimaeus, in verses 46-52.

With complete unabashed faith in Christ, the blind beggar cries out to Jesus; ‘Son of David, Jesus, have mercy on me!’ — and in the midst of the crowd trying to quiet the man — discouraging his pleas, Christ responded; ‘Your faith has healed you.’

I love the faith of the blind beggar. Complete vulnerability and childish faith was all that Jesus required. Why do we keep trying to prove ourselves to the Lord?

*Willingness to Give

Faith, Thoughts

This week Andy continued his series on giving freely.
Instead of emphasizing the importance of the act of giving in general, he spoke about the significance of being willing to give. It doesn’t matter how much you give, you must have a willing heart!
You can check out the sermon here ! Here are my notes.

My favorite statements from this talk were:
When you loose you ‘why’ you loose your way.

Our hope is not in riches but in the God who richly provides.

Charge them that are rich in this present world, that they be not high minded, nor have their hope set on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, that they be ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on the life which is (‭1 Timothy‬ ‭6‬:‭17-19‬ ASV)

for it is God who worketh in you both to will and to work, for his good pleasure. (‭Philippians‬ ‭2‬:‭13‬ ASV)

It is God who does the work in you. It is not your efforts! It is God that inspires you and me to get excited about serving and giving.

For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according as a man hath, not according as he hath not. (‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭8‬:‭12‬ ASV)

A person may give because of…
Joy It is joyful to give.
Obedience because the one I have surrendered my life to instructs me to give.
Blessing because giving positions me for God’s blessing and protection. Thou shalt surely give him, and thy heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him; because that for this thing Jehovah thy God will bless thee in all thy work, and in all that thou puttest thy hand unto. (‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭15‬:‭10‬ ASV)
Covenant because I am in convent with God and with you. It is doing something together as a church body.
Vision because I believe in the vision of our church.
Example because I want my contributions to match my convictions. I hope to be someone who people remember as someone who gave a freely and wisely.
Eternity because I want to hear well done. When I meet Jesus face to face I want to know that I have used what I have been generously given for the Kingdom.

There is a danger. That would be if we give only with spontaneity and pure emotion. In the bible we instead see examples of giving intentionally.
We don’t need a spasm of passion to give but a line of obedience in the same direction.

But this I say, He that soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he that soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Let each man do according as he hath purposed in his heart: not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. (‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭9‬:‭6-7‬ ASV)

We should not give with compulsion. We should pre-decide to give. We need to have willing hearts.

ye being enriched in everything unto all liberality, which worketh through us thanksgiving to God. (‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭9‬:‭11‬ ASV)

There is a reward for those who pre-decide to give. Do not give with compulsions or reluctance. Give with eternity in mind. Give because people need Jesus.

And he sat down over against the treasury, and beheld how the multitude cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a poor widow, and she cast in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, This poor widow cast in more than all they that are casting into the treasury: for they all did cast in of their superfluity; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living. (‭Mark‬ ‭12‬:‭41-44‬ ASV)

The old women gave very little compared to the rich people who gave and yet Jesus said that she gave the most. Her giving, despite that it was small, was off the charts.

God has blessed me with more than I need so I can make an eternal difference in the lives of others

*generosity

Faith, Thoughts

IMG_2489Today Andy started a new sermon series about generosity that probably couldn’t have been more timely. Listen here!
Lately, I feel God has brought to my heart the notion of contentment. It doesn’t seem that contentment would go hand-in-hand with generosity, but after today’s message — I realized a poignant connection between the two on the basis of merely being grateful.
Now, being grateful and being generous are not one in the same. The two are in fact quite different. Andy made the argument that God challenges us to engage both of these things in order to be content — both with what we have been given, and in the act of blessing others.
It all seems so simple, right?…. But when it really comes down to it — the notion of ‘first fruits giving’ (aka giving before your spend) — is an immense challenge to remain mindful of. To alleviate the stress and guilt which comes implicitly to most of us when considering first fruits giving, Andy began by expressing that the key to begin giving freely is realizing that we are truly rich.
He reminded us that what we have is exponentially more than what most people in the world have access to. And apart from that, (and although we should be thankful for our material comforts), we have Christ! We are rich in that we know a father who loves us deeply and paid the price for our sins. An indescribably abundant, sacrificial love.
Indeed, it does go against our very nature as selfish humans to admit to ourselves that our spiritual condition would enable us to be called rich. Rich is what we call the person whose means out-way our own, and our human lust for ‘stuff’ constantly lies to us telling us we can only be content once we have ______________________. (Insert object of your choosing).
Matthew said: Where your treasure is there your heart will be also. Wow….truth!!
This is what got me thinking about contentment in correlation to generosity. Since becoming deeply intimate with financial stress due to the demands of being a student for what seems to be an entire lifetime along with a few other factors, I have subconsciously began placing weight on hypothetical ‘if I only had ________________’ statements. These conditions (when granted) became the permission for me to feel content. They started pervading my consciousness, telling me that once we became financially stable, or once we stopped being students, or once we know where we were going to settle, or once our dream careers commenced then we would and could be happy. What a dangerous path!
Andy cited Proverbs 18:11 — The wealth of the rich is their fortified city; they imagine it a wall too high to scale. This belief that we can build security through financial gain is the climate of our work-obsessed generation and society, and if we subscribe to this thought pattern — of course our will to bless others will be impeded by our own pursuit of false security.
To help obliterate broken thoughts about what hinges on our own contentment, Andy reminded us that in the Bible Jesus actually speaks more about money than he does Heaven or Hell in terms of a force that is actively competing for our soul… This sobering truth speaks volumes about our obsession with money, and our vulnerability to succumb to leaning on the acquisition of money to feel truly happy. If this is the condition to our contentment, how will we ever feel free to give?
This message was an awesome challenge to me, and I hope it encourages you to take joy in what you have been given and to give freely!

*Righteous anger

Faith, Thoughts

This week Andy continued his series Anger: Virtue or Vice — today, focusing specifically on the virtue of anger.
Some really good wisdom! Here are my notes 🙂

Anger and money have many things in common
If you use money properly, you can accomplish many great things
Anger is, likewise, power.

Jesus was very clear that we need to ask forgiveness for our sin.
Never do we have record of Jesus asking forgiveness of his sins, why?
Because he was sinless.
However…in the midst of this, there were still moments where he became angry.

We revisited the same story as last week — of Jesus healing the crippled man —this time, in the gospel of Luke:

And it came to pass on another sabbath, that he entered into the synagogue and taught: and there was a man there, and his right hand was withered. And the scribes and the Pharisees watched him, whether he would heal on the sabbath; that they might find how to accuse him. But he knew their thoughts; and he said to the man that had his hand withered, Rise up, and stand forth in the midst. And he arose and stood forth. And Jesus said unto them, I ask you, Is it lawful on the sabbath to do good, or to do harm? to save a life, or to destroy it? And he looked round about on them all, and said unto him, Stretch forth thy hand. And he did so: and his hand was restored. But they were filled with madness; and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus. (Luke 6:6-11 ASV)

What makes Jesus angry?
1. When people are robbed of their chance to be more
2. When people are robbed of a chance to meet God
3. When children are kept away from Jesus and robbed of the blessing of God

Jesus’ anger was never born out of self-interest. It was always about someone else.
His anger always led to helpful action.
The root of Jesus’ anger is love.

What makes us angry?
Loss of control

Our anger is almost always about our own self-interest and our own needs and wants.

The Pharisees were angry because they lost control.
When we are no longer in control, we become angry.
The Pharisees couldn’t control Jesus because they could not pin down anything truthfully worthy of accusing him.
We are desperate for control, and when control slips through our fingers we similarly become angry.

Jesus’ anger was righteous because it was constituted by someone else’s need.
What angers Jesus more than anything else is when you are hindered and robbed of opportunities for Jesus to make you free.
The crippled man could only beg, but Jesus saw something better for him. He saw in his crippled state that his potential was hindered. He took him from being an outcast to a participant..

Another example of Jesus’ anger:
And they come to Jerusalem: and he entered into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and them that bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money-changers, and the seats of them that sold the doves; and he would not suffer that any man should carry a vessel through the temple. And he taught, and said unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations? but ye have made it a den of robbers. And the chief priests and the scribes heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, for all the multitude was astonished at his teaching. (Mark 11:15-18 ASV)

Jesus was upset that people could not worship God because the temple had been changed into a place of commerce, pushing out the individuals that otherwise would have been present there to meet with God. He was angry because this incident robbed people from meeting with God. God and His presence had been traded for good business. Jesus must always be visible and we must clear out any obstacles that make the church unattractive.

We put unnecessary road blocks in front of people that prevent them from seeing God and meeting God. If the temple is full of obstacles, whether that is religious piety or actions which do not express God’s grace…they are

    robbing people of the opportunity to meet with God and that angers Jesus

For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. (James 1:20 ASV)
Human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

Is our anger motivated by our own self-interest? Or our love for Jesus, and others?

*Anger…Virtue or Vice

Faith

Yesterday Andy spoke on the topic of Anger. A territory not wrestled with enough in church, I feel, so I’m looking forward to this series! (Listen/Watch here)
Here are my notes:

There are a few root sources of anger
Fear, Disappointment, Pain, Frustration.

Our virtues can easily slip into a vice, but it’s not easy to forge virtue out of vices

Even Jesus became angry. In fact, this occurred multiple times in scripture.
And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there who had his hand withered. And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him. And he saith unto the man that had his hand withered, Stand forth. And he saith unto them, Is it lawful on the sabbath day to do good, or to do harm? to save a life, or to kill? But they held their peace. And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved at the hardening of their heart, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thy hand. And he stretched it forth; and his hand was restored. (Mark 3:1-5 ASV)

Jesus was angered by their stubbornness..

Why is it that Jesus being angry is a shock to us?
*Anger has a tarnished reputation.
-Anger is not even something specifically human..indeed, animals get angry
*Anger is not a mark of distinction
-You never hear someone being described fondly as being always angry
-There is old and young, brilliant and moronic that get angry
*Anger gets low ratings in the bible

So..how do we reconcile Jesus blazing with anger in the bible?

Anger is not forbidden in the bible. It is warned, however, that anger will quickly give birth to sin…

Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: neither give place to the devil. (Ephesians 4:26-27 ASV)

Anger has a way of fueling our pride

There are a number of ways to deal foolishly with anger
Here are two:
*you blow up with anger
-it’s senseless and yet that is what we do
*you bury you anger
-if you bury your anger, it is buried alive!

How do we deal with our anger with wisdom?
*Avoid fire-starters
Make no friendship with a man that is given to anger; And with a wrathful man thou shalt not go: Lest thou learn this ways, And get a snare to thy soul. (Proverbs 22:24-25 ASV)
*Activate forgiveness
The discretion of a man maketh him slow to anger; And it is his glory to pass over a transgression. (Proverbs 19:11 ASV)
*Anticipate frustrations
People, objects, systems…these things infuriate us.
He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; And he that ruleth his spirit, than he that taketh a city. (Proverbs 16:32 ASV)

It is possible to be angry and not sin.

The way that we walk into not being angry is learning the right things to be angry about.
We can turn this vice into a virtue.

*Naturally Supernatural

Faith

Yesterday Andy began a new series called Naturally Supernatural in which he asserted: ‘being a part of what God is doing supernaturally should be a natural part of our lives.’ He particularly emphasized asking for supernatural healing through prayer, as we serve a divine God who indeed is able to perform divine healing. I thought this notion was particularly poignant, yet remarkably understated in my own history as a follower of Christ. It’s amazing how sometimes we simply forget to grab hold of our faith and lean on it fully in the times where it feels like we are drowning in a sea of physical and spiritual ailments when our Lord desires true wholeness for our lives.
The entire sermon can be listened to here.
Here are my notes!
-Of course, we don’t hold any special powers, it is God himself who desires to work through us.
There can be instantaneous healing and progressive healing.
-Does God want to heal us?
The short answer is yes.
But aside from healing, God always wants to make us whole.
And this healing can be different than a physical healing.
God wants to bring us into whole-ness
The single Greek word ‘Sozo‘ means: ‘Save, healed, and made well’
(Luke uses this term in his gospel writings) *The word can also mean cured or delivered.
God really is concerned about our wholeness. Wholeness is greater than healing.
– God is interested in our soul, our spirit, and our body.
– God wants to take us from ‘so so’ into ‘sozo’
– God is the author of all healing
– Medical science and Gods healing are not enemies. Science and faith are not at odds here; science can heal, but it is God who brings us into wholeness…
(God is concerned about Wholeness more than whether your knee is healed)
God always wants to free us from fear
– Often, we don’t pray for ourselves or for others simply out of the fear at they will not be healed.
– Can you see how the logic of this is simply flawed??
-If we are responding in fear, we are not responding in faith —Satan is the author of fear. Lets exercise prayer and try prayer; all of these fears prevent us from exercising our faith!
He is able
I am the God who heals you
Exodus 15:26
He is willing
And there cometh to him a leper, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And being moved with compassion, he stretched forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou made clean. (Mark 1:40, 41 ASV)
Does faith matter in healing?
-He did only a few miracles there because of their unbelief.
Matthew 13:58
We place our faith in that he is willing and able!
It doesn’t matter what you have to offer, it simply matters that you lay hold of your faith. God is willing and able.

*Why does God not always answer my prayer?

Faith

Another awesome message from Pastor Andy on his Why series *part two*: (listen here, via Glad Tidings church, Victoria, BC.)

Why does God not always answer prayer?

And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it.
John 14:13-14

    Is it because we have a broken relationship?

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your father in heaven may forgive you your sins.
Mark 11:24-25

**You cannot love God and hate your brother! We would want to disconnect those two things (our relationship with others vs. our relationship with God). However, our relationships with others directly affect out relationship with God.

What happens between us definitely affects what happens between us and God.
Consider an analogy: A father is driving his children around and they are bickering and fighting. Then they ask their father for ice cream. The father says, ‘I really don’t feel like giving you guys ice-cream given that you won’t stop fighting eachother’. We must be mindful of how we interact with one another!

Husbands, in the same way, be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.
1 Peter 3:7

Indeed, your conflicts with your neighbors and loved ones can hinder your prayers. This is heavy!

    We may be dealing with a motive issue.

When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives that you may spend what you get on your own pleasures.
James 4:3

All a mans ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord.
proverbs 16:2

Your motive must not be selfish!

    Maybe you don’t believe God will do it.

Sometimes it’s not a lack of need, or motivation, but a lack of belief that God can do it.

But if you can do anything, take pity on us. “If you can?” said Jesus, “Everything is possible for him who believes.”
Mark 9:22-23

Let’s move beyond our concern about being wrong. Some people think its safer not to believe because then you won’t be let down if it doesn’t happen..

But when he asks he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed in the wind, that man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord.
James 1-6:7

    Maybe God has something different:

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, be gives to us. And if we know that he hears us, whatever we ask we know that we have that we asked of him.
1 John 5:14-15

Do not ask God to violate his own nature to satisfy your will. We mustn’t remove the sovereignty of God.

Remember:
His strength is made perfect in my weakness!
Perhaps what God has done is different, but good.

What is it that we do believe about prayer?
Prayer is not as much about my wants as it is about God’s will.

There are many reasons why prayers go unanswered, but that is not a good reason to not believe in a good God!

*Why is it that God allows bad things to happen to good people?

Faith

Andy has embarked on an exciting new series discussing some heavy ‘why’ questions regarding God, our circumstances, and prayer. Click here to listen! (My notes don’t do justice to this important message.)

Why is it that God allows bad things to happen to good people?
Abraham said “Should not the judge of the world judge fairly?”
Moses said “God why don’t you treat people as they deserve?”
Jeremiah said “Why do the wicked prosper?”

People who face these questions with frustration often lean to the following conclusions:
-God, I cannot trust you.
Or
-God, you cannot exist.

Why are these injustices happening to me?

    It could be that you are a victim of a broken world.

-Jesus promised you that “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33b

    The world has truly gone wrong, but, maybe you did in fact bring it on yourself

“Can a man take fire into his lap and not be burned?”

    Sometimes it is a result of our sinful behavior

-“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A Man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to the spirit from the spirit will reap eternal life.”
Galations 6:7-8

    Maybe God has a big plan. It’s part a grand design despite how singular it is at this moment

-“As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, Rabbi, who sinned?, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?”
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
John 9:1-3
*This happened not because of sin! It was a part of God’s plan!
-It is possible that there is purpose in your pain
-“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face your trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”
James 1:2-3
*Your lowest point can lead you to your greatest point; the path is often through brokenness.
-God is definitely doing something through your own pain. God doesn’t forget, he knows every tear you have cried.
-The change that brokenness brings will change you and you’ll never be the same; God wouldn’t take you through your brokenness for nothing.

Why do bad things happen to good people? This is a flawed question (because).. There are no good people. People have good in them, but the bible says that all have sinned in the presence of a Holy God.
-The whole point of the gospel is that the spotless lamb died for our sin. And that is proof that good things happen to bad people!
-God is not fair because if he were, we would get what we deserve and Jesus would get what he deserved. And where would we be is Jesus received what he deserved? Jesus never deserved death on a cross.

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 from us as far as the east is from the west.
Psalm 103:10-12

*a poem for Good Friday by Mary Karr

Faith

From the far star points of his pinned extremities,
cold inched in—black ice and squid ink—
till the hung flesh was empty.
Lonely in that void even for pain,
he missed his splintered feet,
the human stare buried in his face.
He ached for two hands made of meat
he could reach to the end of.
In the corpse’s core, the stone fist
of his heart began to bang
on the stiff chest’s door, and breath spilled
back into that battered shape. Now

it’s your limbs he comes to fill, as warm water
shatters at birth, rivering every way.

via The Poetry Foundation