Before You Were Born – God loved you! (Part Two)

Being somewhat up in age (nice way to say I am getting old) it is interesting to look back and see the subtle but definite changes that have taken place over the past two or three decades bringing us to the place where we live in a day of cheap life and disposable pregnancies. A day when abortions are simply taken for granted as a woman’s right over her own body and a means of birth control. I am not trying to be offensive – just wanting to note the somewhat slow but definite change that has taken place in society in general. 

A generation ago, everyone referred to an unborn child as a baby. And pregnant women had no doubt that what they were carrying was a baby — a human person. It is hard for anyone to think positively about killing a baby. So to get around the distastefulness of the idea, the word baby has been replaced by terms such as “fetus,” “embryo,” or even a “clump of tissue.” These are impersonal, clinical terms easily associated with tumors or growths. These words, completely devoid of the tender emotions associated with baby, have allowed people to treat pregnancy as something like an unwanted disease instead of the exalted privilege it is — the privilege of creating beloved beings with eternal, God-given possibilities.

A side note: It is important to note that Psalm 139:16 contains the only use of the Hebrew word for embryo found in Scripture — translated as “my substance, being yet unformed” referencing a human life being watched over by God because He loves even the unborn and even yet to be formed ‘life’ that has been conceived.

To make matters worse, a new term emerged almost a decade ago in this battle for human life: “after-birth abortion.” Previously known as infanticide, after-birth abortion allows babies to be killed after they are born. According to a World article by Marvin Olasky, “The core of the argument isn’t new at universities like Princeton, where ethicist Peter Singer has long approved killing one-year-olds with physical or mental disabilities. But authors Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva push the argument further by defending the killing of any humans incapable of “attributing any value to their own existence … Merely being human is not in itself a reason for ascribing someone a right to life.”

The possibility that this attitude could become accepted presents a peril of almost unmatched significance. One writer explains: “The so-called ‘quality of life ethic’ is deep down more dangerous than nuclear war, for it destroys the very soul of our civilization, not just bodies. It says a human person’s value is not infinite and calculable, that it varies with health, intelligence, and social utility. That is exactly what Hitler believed.”

In my studies in the past few days here is what I have discovered:

    • God loved you before you were born (Job 10:10-12 MSG)
    • Before you were born, God knew your identity (Psalm 139:15-16)
    • Before you were born, God knew your complexity ((Psalm 139:13-14)
    • Before you were born, God knew your individuality ( Psalm 139:16)
    • Before you were born, God knew your dignity (Colossians 1:16)
    • Before you were born, God knew your destiny (Jeremiah 1:5)
    • Before you were born, God knew your possibility (Genesis 1:26-27)
    • Before you were born, God knew your legacy (Jeremiah 29:11)

Wow! God knew and loved you as a fully human person before He even made you. Before conception. He loved you as He prepared you for this world in the beauty of human pregnancy. And all along, He had a life, a purpose, and a legacy planned for you, suited to your unique individuality and personality. ALL life has dignity and value in God’s sight. We need to remember that all things were created through Him and for Him (Colossians 1:16) so Christ is the source of all life in creation. And, all life came into existence through Jesus Christ and for Jesus Christ. This means every child (baby) conceived is highly valuable to Him and should be to us as well. 

Just part of my journey these past few days. Thanks for listening. 

Before You Were Born – God loved you! (Part One)

I have been reading up on how God loves us even before we are born. And that God has a plan and a purpose that is unique for each one of us, again, planned out before we were even conceived in our mother’s womb. It has led to some fantastic reading in the Bible (like Jeremiah, chapter one) and even some scientific and medical understanding of life, conception, and babies which then led me into rereading some material on abortion. Let me share a true story I reread today sitting outside a medical clinic waiting for someone….

There is a woman named Norma McCorvey. Norma was twenty-one years old in 1969, unmarried, and the mother of two children — one in the custody of the child’s grandmother and one given up for adoption. While working at whatever jobs she could find — including being a barker for a travelling carnival — she discovered she was pregnant for the third time. When she sought an abortion, she found they were illegal in Texas except in cases of rape or incest. So she lied and claimed rape, but the claim was dismissed due to lack of evidence.

Two attorneys used Norma’s desire to have an abortion as a reason to file suit against the state of Texas. To protect Norma’s privacy, they gave her the fictitious name of “Jane Roe,” a name immortalized in the now famous Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case (“Wade” was the local district attorney in Dallas County, Texas). In 1973, the Supreme Court ruled in Norma McCorvey’s favour, and abortions on demand have been legal in America ever since. (Norma’s third child was born before the case was decided.)

But Norma McCorvey had a change of heart. In the early 1990’s, she professed faith in Christ and has written two books affirming her pro-life, anti-abortion position. In her second book, Won By Love (1998), she described her sudden awareness that the life in the mother’s womb is a baby, a child whom God loves:

“When my conversion [to Christ] became public knowledge, I spoke openly to reporters about still supporting legalized abortion in the first trimester. The media was quick to use this to downplay the seriousness of my conversion, saying I typified the “general ambivalence” of our culture over abortion. But a few weeks after my conversion, I was sitting in [Operation Rescue’s] offices when I noticed a fetal development poster. The progression was so obvious, the eyes were so sweet. It hurt my heart, just looking at them.

I ran outside and finally, it dawned on me, “Norma,” I said to myself, “they’re right.” I had worked with pregnant women for years. I had been through three pregnancies and deliveries myself. I should have known. Yet something in that poster made me lose my breath. I kept seeing the picture of that tiny, 10-week-old embryo, and I said to myself, that’s a baby! It’s as if the blinders just fell off my eyes and I suddenly understood the truth – that’s a baby!”

As I kept researching for a good part of a day I found that modern technology now allows us to see the astonishing complexity of a developing child (baby – not ‘fetus,’ ‘embryo,’ ‘clump of tissue’ … see Part Two of my processing) with our own eyes. In a 2010 TED presentation titled Conception to Birth — Visualized, Alexander Tsiaras, mathematician and chief of Scientific Visualization at Yale University, presented a series of incredible images of a child’s development in the womb. In his production you can see never-before-viewed videos and photos of the very first cell division, the development of the heart at only 25 days, the development of the arms and hands at only 32 days, and the development of the retinas, nose and eyes at 52 days.

Clearly astonished by what he witnessed in his own images, Tsiaras concluded his talk with these words: “The complexity of the things, the mathematical model of how these things are indeed done, [is] beyond human comprehension. Even though I am a mathematician I look at this with the marvel of, ‘How did these instruction sets build that which is us?’ It’s a mystery, it’s magic, it’s divinity.”

“For You formed my inward parts;

You covered me in my mother’s womb.

I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; 

Marvellous are Your works;

And that my soul knows very well. (Psalm 139:13-14)

 

Oh, that marvel of conception…

What a miracle of skin and bone, muscle and brain.

You gave me life itself, and incredible love.

You watched and guarded every breath I took.

(Job 10:10-12 The Message version)

More next time…

Sometimes I Suck At Handling Criticism

The truth is, I suck at handling criticism — especially nitpicking, ignorance-based, selfishly motivated, unjustified criticism. 

Alright, I admit it — Sometimes I suck at handling any kind of criticism. 

At my age you would think I should be able to rise above it. 

I hate the way it always gets to me. 

This confession reveals one of my greatest character flaws: I probably care too much about what people think. 

I know I should be consumed with pleasing God, but I’m often consumed with the impossible – trying to please other people. 

I know it’s wrong, but it’s the truth. 

When people take their shots at me, I find myself wanting to defend my actions, justify my behaviour, or even criticize back. 

As I struggle with this …

I have learned that the more insecure we are, the harder it is to take criticism. 

Because we are insecure in many ways we have a hard time ignoring harsh criticism and those who express them

We are already questioning ourselves, so having someone else apparently find fault with us is pretty hard to take. 

I have also learned that the more secure I am in my relationship with the Lord

The more I am aware of who I am “in Christ” and thus living in the assurance of His love and the confidence that comes with knowing I am loved unconditionally

The more secure I am the less other people’s criticisms bother me and the better I handle them

I can handle them in a more constructive manner

I can pull the truths out of the criticism, adjust my life accordingly, and treat my critic with respect and dignity

There is at least 10% truth in every criticism

One pastor writes:

Years ago, one church member’s dog died of old age. Sugar, the fourteen-year-old mutt, went to wherever dog go when they die. I’m very aware that for many people their pets are a vital part of their family, and the loss can be traumatic. So I sent Sugar’s human a card – the only card I’ve ever sent for the death of an animal — intending to follow up with a phone call. In my mind I was displaying exceptional pastoral care.

To my shock, he called me first, extremely upset. At the top of his lungs he shouted, “HOW CAN YOU CALL YOURSELF A PASTOR? YOU …DIDN’T EVEN VISIT ME IN MY HOME AFTER I LOST A FAMILY MEMBER!”

The pastor goes on to write: A house call for a dead dog? It never occurred to me.

It is a little unlucky for me that tolerating critical people is part of my job description as someone in full-time ministry

Article 7, paragraph 19.2 – if you want to look it up

And, believe me, people can be and are critical … often over the smallest things

Here is one of life’s difficult realities:

Negative people simply won’t go away

They have been around since the beginning of time — Even godly people in the Bible faced constant criticism

Moses married a foreigner, and for that, his siblings Aaron and Miriam criticized him sharply

The man who wrote two-third of the New Testament, the apostle Paul, was called a hypocrite and criticized for being a lousy speaker

Even Jesus Christ, the Messiah, took heat for healing on the Day of Rest, eating with there wrong crowd, and claiming to be the Son of God

And, I am sure you often face critical people

It could be someone where you work

A family member – even your spouse

Someone you respect who jumps on you and is critical – they think that your clothes, your hair, your attitude are all wrong

You don’t measure up

You are criticized coming and going

You are just never good enough

I battle two wrong desires when I’m criticized 

Depending on the day, I’m tempted towards either fight or flight

Both responses are useless and wrong for the believer and follower of Jesus

Most often, my first reaction is to fight — to defend myself and silence the accusers

I feel bitter and I want to retaliate

Experience has taught me that this method usually backfires

My fallback reaction comes when I’m tired for whatever reason … especially tired of the constant battle

When I don’t feel like another fight — I resort to flight

I want to hide

I want to pretend that the criticism isn’t real

I want to quit and move somewhere – anywhere

I want to stick my head in the sand and hope it all just goes away

God’s method is, by the way, better than either of these options

So, I am hoping to give you some useful strategies for dealing with critical people

It is never fun or easy — But it is necessary as critical people are everywhere and in everyone’s life

And we need to learn to handle criticism and critical people if we are going to make any sort of difference in this world

I learned a valuable lesson from one of my mentors — a valuable principle about criticism

They taught me to simply “Consider the source”

In other words, before I focus too much on what’s being said, I should ask myself who’s saying it

The who is often more important than the what

Why is that important?

Well, the who helps me determine my most appropriate response

Instead of fight or flight, the Bible provides three better responses:

        • Listen
        • Answer
        • Dismiss

To choose the best of these three in any given situation, we need to know who’s offering the criticism and why

So here are a few pointers in the art of diagnosing, and dealing with, a critic

LISTEN to criticism when it is appropriate

Proverbs 15:31-32 (NLT) says, If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise. If you reject criticism, you only harm yourself.”

In other words, some criticism is actually useful and important

Sometimes it’s given by people who care enough about you to risk offending you

Their criticism is constructive

They offer suggestions to help you improve yourself

And, remember:

In any criticism there is at least 10% truth

I try to LISTEN to others when I believe their motives are pure – constructive criticism

When someone you love and trust offers advice, you’re wise to LISTEN and take it to heart

And, this is important, occasionally, someone outside your inner circle may also offer constructive criticism

Outside criticism is hard to receive, but it may help you if you will only LISTEN

So, as my mentor taught me — consider the source

If the source is a mature Christian — someone you can learn from — pay attention

When someone cares deeply about you, the Bible says you’re wise to listen, even if the truth hurts

Even when the criticism is from someone outside your trusted circle – Listen

If you don’t, you are only hurting yourself

Instead of fight or flight, the Bible provides three better responses:

        • Listen
        • Answer
        • Dismiss

Let’s look at the second way: ANSWER

Other times, someone may criticize you without the goal of helping

They simply want to voice dislike for you or something that you said or did

We might call this destructive criticism

In this case, you should answer the criticism and the critic

Question: When it it wise to answer the critic and speak to the criticism?

Whenever you think that offering a response can help the critic understand you and your position

BUT, watch your attitude — simply answering can easily turn into defensiveness

Consider answering critics when they are missing important information that could change their perception

Of course, this is assuming they are open to listening and are not simply dumping and running

Maybe they only know part of the story

Perhaps tactfully providing one or two missing detail could transform a critic into a someone who can support you in fighting the rumour and righting the situation

Gideon, one of Israel’s national leaders, gave us a great model for answering criticism

The delegation from the tribe of Ephraim was upset that Gideon didn’t seem to be paying them enough attention

Judges 8:1-2 recounts the story: “The Ephraimites asked Gideon, ‘Why have you treated us like this?’ … And they criticized him sharply. But he answered them…”

Gideon acts wisely

He gave them more information — in this case, information about the high regard in which he held them

He built up the Ephraimites with encouraging and positive words, and his answer helped them understand his heart and his thinking

“When the men of Ephraim heard Gideon’s answer, they were no longer angry” (Judges 8:3 NLT).

Sometimes a soft and wise answer can silence the critics

Try to choose an opportune time for your response

Think out your answer carefully

Prepare your heart to present your explanation in an appropriate way

Gentle, thoughtful and helpful answers sometimes make sense to the person with an open mind

If they are honestly seeking clarification or are simply confused, it is a pleasure to offer understanding

BUT, if my critic is obviously not going to listen, I have to approach them in a different – and very difficult way

Instead of fight or flight, the Bible provides three better responses:

        • Listen
        • Answer
        • Dismiss

The third appropriate response to criticism when it is not a valid criticism may be simply to DISMISS it

I am convinced that some people see only the bad side of everything

All of their silver linings have clouds

These horribly miserable individuals have the gift of dragging people down — especially themselves

They are what I call “VDP” people – Very Draining People

I have chosen not to let them do that to me

And, if you face someone who can’t be pleased, dismiss their invalid criticism 

Here’s a thought:

Someone said that praise and criticism are windows to the heart

What a person praises and what he or she criticizes tells us a lot about that person

What we praise often reveals what we value the most

If I say that you have a beautiful car, chances are I value nice cars

If I go crazy over your yard, then I value a well maintained flower garden

At the same time, the topics of our criticism often reveal our deepest insecurities

If I criticize you for being overly confident, chances are good they I have a self-esteem problem

If I judge you for living in a nice home, I may battle with materialism or jealousy

When dealing with overly critical people, try to see past the arrows to the struggles that launched them

A striking example of this would be:

A young guy who threw a fit because his roommate was looking at pornography on his computer

With apparently righteous passion, Steve went to his pastor and ranted about his roommate’s lustful sins. He was really critical and wanted to know if he should evict his roommate immediately. 

The pastor was able to cool Steve down a few degrees. They prayed for his roommate and then the appointment ended. However, Steve was still boiling about his friend’s sin

The next day the pastor learned some tragic news

Steve had been having a three-year affair with a married woman

Steve’s anger at and criticism of his roommate was really a manifestation of his shame over his own sin and transgression

As I mentioned: Criticism can be a window into the critic’s soul

Perhaps that is why Jesus asked in Luke 6:41-42

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.”

Is someone picking you apart, finding fault with everything you do?

You may simply need to take the third option and DISMISS the criticism and love the critic

However, as you do that you should work at understanding who the critic is and why they are bitter and critical

The person may be emotionally unhealthy or wounded

And it is a fact that “hurt people hurt people”

They usually dislike themselves and criticize others in a misguided effort to validate themselves

If one of these injured souls lobs a criticism grenade in your direction, defuse it with understanding

Part of considering the source (my mentor’s advice years ago) is seeking awareness of what that person may be going through

          • Your critic may be struggling at work
          • He may be facing a midlife crisis
          • She may be several years into a painful marriage
          • Weathering some family problem,
          • They may have a dying parent or a sick child

You just got lucky — you were the closest target

Dismiss the criticism and love the person through their pain

A pastor writes:

One time I was praying during worship, a few moments before preaching. Eyes closed, focusing on God, I felt someone slip a note into my hand.

I never saw who it was, but the note was marked “Personal”

I thought to myself, Someone probably wrote a nice note to encourage me before I preach. A warm, loving feeling settled over me as I unfolded the paper

A moment later, I lost that loving feeling.

Evidently, the note was from a woman who had tried to see me on Friday, my day off. She took offense to my absence and blasted me with hateful accusations

This happened literally seconds before I was to stand up to preach

In that moment, I had a choice.

I could internalize the offense and become demoralized and discouraged.

Or I could ask myself, I wonder what she’s experiencing that caused her to lash out?

I chose compassion over depression.

My heart hurt for her

I knew that such a disproportionate reaction must indicate deep pain, so I didn’t take her note personally

My point: Consider the source

And consider that the jab may come from an injured heart

Dismiss it and move on 

Okay … 

      • Sometimes you should listen to your critics
      • Sometimes you answer your critics
      • Sometimes you dismiss the criticism and love the critic

But what if you can’t ignore them?

What do you do you do when people say things about you that are not true and you try to dismiss them (#3)

But, they resurface again and again and again?

There is a forth response to criticism

And it is not, in any way, an easy thing to do

When critical people just won’t go away, I can only tell you one thing to do: endure

Endurance is critical if you want to succeed at anything that God sets before you

Whenever you veer off the beaten path

Whenever you blaze a new trail

You will be criticized — and sometimes it will be relentless

You must endure

In the church world, I’m grateful for the spiritual trail-blazers 

Ten of the twelve original disciples died a martyr’s death spreading the Gospel so that one day I’d hear and believe

The Church Fathers of the first three centuries endured over-whelming persecution for their faith

Martin Luther faced a life-and-death trial for defending God’s Word

Wesley, Finney, Moody, and Spurgeon patiently held up under criticism during the great historical revivals

Modern-day pioneers have endured battles to reshape and renew the church

Someone said you can always tell a pioneer by the arrows in his back

I hope you are a pioneer

Maybe in the business realm, in your family, in your faith, or even in missions

I pray God uses you to break new ground and make an eternal difference

However, when He does, you must brace yourself for more criticism and pain than you might imagine

To move forward in your faith

To succeed at any new venture

To continue to grow spiritually and follow Jesus more fully

To take a stand for righteousness at home or at work

To risk telling a loved one about Jesus

To do whatever it is God is asking you to do

Any area where you need to step out and take a risk will result in someone being critical as you rock the boat or question the status quo

One of the most common pains obedient risk-takers face is the pain of criticism and so we must learn to endure (#4)

Jesus is our greatest model

He was willing to obey His father’s voice no matter what the cost

Hebrews 12:2 tells us to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross.”

It’s for the joy and reward set before you that you will often have to endure the critics and the harsh criticism as you move forward in obedience to God

Listen

Answer

Dismiss

(Harder still) Endure

Above all else, never forget

Never forget that you can’t please all people, but you can please God

No matter how hard you try, you’ll never please everyone

It’s an impossible goal

Give up trying to please the unpleasable, and live first of all for God, your Father, who always has a smile ready for you

I love the way Paul says it in 1 Thessalonians 2:4: “Our purpose is the please God, not people” (NLT).

If, like me, you hate being criticized, recognize that the root problem is that we are people pleasers

Once we find freedom from our need for people’s approval, we can focus on the eternal goal of bringing pleasure to God

How do we shake the desire to satisfy and please every human?

The answer is simple: Know who you are in Christ

In Christ we are forgiven

In Christ we are loved

In Christ we are accepted

In Christ we are secure

In Christ we are free to be ourselves

You are who God says you are, not who people say you are

Don’t try to base your life on the unstable foundation of human opinions

Instead, build on the unshakable truth of God

If you have trusted Christ as your Lord and Saviour, the Bible tells you who you are “in Him.”

No matter what anyone else thinks, you are forgiven, loved, accepted, secure, and free

When someone says, 

    • You’re not good enough. 
    • You don’t measure up. 
    • You made a stupid decision. 
    • I don’t like your leadership, 
    • You don’t belong here

God’s Word says that just the opposite …

And knowing and living the truth will allow you to rise above the criticis

 

 

Extra material:

Constructive and Destructive Feedback

ConstructiveDestructive

PrivatePublic

Addresses behaviourAddresses personal characteristics

SpecificGeneral

PromptDelayed

PositiveNegative

Suggests actions to solve the problemNo solutions offered

 

Deference between constructive and destructive criticism

Constructive: Focuses on what the problem is and not the receiving person

Destructive: Lacks specific details about the problem or situation one is unhappy about

Constructive: Explains why the problem or situation is not good

Destructive: Focuses on the individual at fault and not the problem or the situation

Constructive:  Suggests ways in which the problem or situation can be improved

Destructive: Does not offer any suggestions about ho the problem or situation can be improved 

Constructive: Is done with the intention to help with the situation or to solve the problem

Destructive: Aimed at hurting the feelings, self-esteem, and confidence of the receiving person

Constructive: Intends to educate

Destructive:  Intends to embarrass

Constructive: Related to work 

Destructive: Feels like a personal attack

Constructive: Helps build on an idea and encourage a person

Destructive: Tears down an idea or a person 

Constructive: Makes outcome better

Destructive: Makes the person feel down and discouraged

Constructive: Comes along to help

Destructive: Tries to take over

 

Five Tips for Handling Criticism:

1> It usually contains a bit of truth

As for the grace to see and admit it, even if it makes you made

2> Don’t let the negative eat you up

We tend to keep negative feedback rather than positive remarks

3> Say a quick prayer for your critice3

It is difficult, but Jesus asks us to pray for those who hurt us

4> The only opinion that real matters is God’s

He is the One who truly knows us and loves us without limits

5> Criticism might be a sign of your fidelity and faithfulness

Often criticism is part of a life rooted in Christ

Sometimes I’m My Own Worst Enemy

Most weeks everyone of us faces a number of demands upon our life

Events, relationships, circumstances, and situations that demand our time and attention

But, at the same time, there is a personal and private side of life that also needs you to invest some time and effort into it on a regular basis

This is our inner life that deals with the soul and spirit realm – the essence of who we are

But the demands of life can be fairly heavy, consistent, and demanding so we put our soul aside in order to carry on with the demands of life

We all do it

Life goes on, despite our personal struggles

And. Often because of the pace of regular life, we simply neglect our inner life

A friend of mine lost his father on a Wednesday

His company expected him back at the office on Monday

It is hard on our soul

It is hard on our life with God

So, a question arose in my soul the other day:

“Why is kindness toward my own soul so unfamiliar that it is so easy to ignore my own inner need – the wrinkles in my soul – to just ‘carry on with things?’”

Events, demands, expectations

To meet other people’s needs while ignoring my own

Doing what is expected of me instead of what is needed by me 

The world requires us to keep going at such speeds that we end up having only one emotional state towards everything 

A general, haggard, hazy condition of “on”

I’m on for a phone call from Kazakhstan

I’m on for a chat with a leader in Russia

I’m on for writing five blogs this week

I’m on for a phone call with my sister in Montreal

We live life pretty much on ‘automatic pilot’ without engaging our thoughts and feelings

Life is so busy and so demanding that there’s little to no margin for anything else and so the needs of our soul are stuffed into the corner and ignored time and again

We are so busy being kind to everyone else we fail to show kindness toward ourselves

And, in this regard “Sometimes I’m My Own Worst Enemy”

I came to this realization while reading Paul’s letter to  the Church in Ephesus

“So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.”       (Ephesians 1:6-8 NLT)

God is “so rich in kindness…”

He has showered His kindness on us

This kindness is so lovely and life-giving, we really need to pause — we really should pause —  and take time to reflect upon it

Kindness

Such a simple virtue that often takes a back seat to more dramatic qualities like bravery and holiness

And yet kindness is such a wonderful thing to receive

Don’t you love it when people are kind to you?

I sure do!

In a world growing increasingly angry and hostile, a little bit of kindness can make your day

You’re trying to merge into busy traffic and instead of cutting you off, the driver ahead pauses and waves you in

You’re returning some item to the store and, after waiting your turn behind several customers, you get to the counter only to realize you forgot the receipt

“No worries,” the clerk says, “We can take care of this.”

Such simple gestures can totally change your day

Kindness is simply wonderful 

If it is so wonderful – so refreshing – I find it interesting that we are seldom kind to ourselves

“Sometimes I Am My Own Worst Enemy”

And, as I have been thinking about all this — I am struck by the power of offering kindness towards ourselves

I was out in the yard this past summer working to assemble 300 pounds of bricks designed to form a fire pit for the yard

I have the base all level and straight – in the center of the yard, well situated

I have read the instructions and moved all 300 pounds of bricks from the front to the side yard and then move them, once again, to the back of the house two at a time

I start lining up the bottom row so they fit tight together and create the circular base of the fire pit

Too wide a circle leaving gaps between … so I move the bricks in closer

Still too wide … so I move all of them again to close the gap

Still too much open space after laying the complete bottom row … so I move them ALL

Now they are too close and I can’t get the last two in correctly … so I move them ALL

By this time I have worked for 90 minutes and achieved nothing but becoming angry and tired with raw finger tips

Finally, I realized what I needed — I need to walk away

I needed to let it go

I needed to sit down and have a coffee and calm down

I needed to express some kindness towards myself

This was totally new to me

Even though I have spent 50+ years telling others how to be gracious to their souls

I have always been hard on my own

So, I began to practice simple kindness toward myself 

Demanding less of myself

Giving myself permission to stop and not just keep pushing through

Allowing myself some slack

The fruit of this has been really good on my soul

The ripple effects are good on everyone else around me

In a book I was reading the other day the author was expressing the need to show kindness towards himself

I was all ears – well, all eyes, as I was reading a book

He wrote:

“A friend was in town last week. I felt I ought to invite him to come over. But before I sent the text, I paused and asked Jesus. Not a good call, He said. You’re utterly exhausted. And it’s true — I was wiped out from a week of meetings, mission, and work, and I was about to spend my one and only evening off on further giving, had not Jesus intervened. His counsel didn’t come as a command; it came in the gentle spirit of kindness. He said, Don’t do that to yourself.

Boy, for me this was and is a whole new way of living my Christian life

Experiencing God’s kindness and, as a result, showing kindness to myself

Let’s review the Scripture again… 

“So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.”       (Ephesians 1:6-8 NLT)

So, I began to make some foundational changes

      • I take a one minute pause every hour or so – just to take a deep breath and say thanks to God for … whatever

This is kind

      • I have begun to make room for more walks outside regardless of the weather getting in touch with nature and with my soul

This is kind

      • Unplugging for a short time on a daily basis from the constant barrage of media coming at me — most of which I need for my work and ministry

This is kind

      • Taking whole segments of time when I ignore the phone and all of its related ways to connect with people … they can wait as I am busy being kind to myself

This is kind

      • Taking time both early morning and before bed just to review the condition of my soul 

This is kind

I do these things (and others) because they bring me life

I do these things because they make me more aware of God’s presence and peace

I do these things because they heal and strengthen my soul

I do these things because the results are amazing and I would be a fool not to

So what might practicing kindness toward yourself look like these days:

      • Perhaps in the way you talk to yourself, especially when you blow it, mess something up, let a friend down
      • It might be in the pace you are currently demanding that your soul keep up with
      • What about the spoken and unspoken expectations you live by
      • Or maybe the to-do list you currently have for yourself 

These are four that I am currently working on correcting to show more kindness to myself

To not be so hard on myself

Because: Sometimes I’m my own worst enemy

Jesus said:

“Love your neighbour as you love yourself” (Mark 12:31)

Jesus is implying a direct link between one and the other

Loving our neighbour is clearly an essential to the Christian walk

I think we all get that one

But the qualifier “as yourself” is lost on most people

It sounds too much like pop psychology – self-help nonsense

Something you’d see on the cover of the magazines at the checkout counter, right next to the articles on “brain superfood” and “how to talk to your pet.”

Yet Jesus was pretty matter-of-fact about the comparison:

Treat people like you treat yourself

Think about it: If we treated our neighbours the way we typically treat ourselves, we would not be great neighbours

So, Jesus drives home healthy self-care (being kind to yourself) as tied directly to how we love others

The truth that arises out of this realization (revelation) is: The way you treat your own heart and soul is the way you’ll end up treating everyone else’s

You may think that it is not like that….

“I’m much more patient with my daughter than I am with myself”

That may be so … in the short term

But over time our lack of patience with ourselves begins to show up in our relationship with others and people notice

If you are a “neat freak,” I guarantee that you show more natural delight when your child straightens up their room to your standards than when they do a less-than-perfect job

“Wow — look at your room! You did a great job!”

The point: How you treat yourself is how you will treat others

The point: How you view yourself is how you will view others

                  • Patient with yourself – patient with others
                  • Love yourself – love others
                  • Hard on yourself – hard on others
                  • Judge yourself – judge others
                  • Accept yourself for who you are – accept others for who they are
                  • Expect better of yourself – expect better of others

Here’s a key issue:

Most of the time we are completely unaware of how we treat our own heart and soul 

Our “way” with ourselves is simply our norm 

We have been at it so long we don’t notice how we treat ourselves

In the same way that we don’t notice how much we bite our nails

The way we finish our spouse’s sentences for them

The fact we end most sentences with “eh” (a Canadian thing)

 

A second key issue:

How we treat ourselves has a direct effect on those around us

The father who doesn’t allow himself his own emotions communicates so much to his children by that practice alone

Not being kind to himself regarding how he is feeling teaches his children to ignore or bury their feelings — Feelings are something to ignore and hold at arm’s length

He further reinforces the lesson when he is visibly awkward and uncomfortable with the emotions of his child

He tries to hurry them through a “comforting” process:

“I’m sorry, sweetheart. You’ll feel better tomorrow”

“How about we get some ice cream”

He is trying to rush the child through their emotions to a place of resolution, teaching them to be as abrupt with their own heart as he is with his

Not being kind to himself on the feelings level teaches his children, by example, to not be kind to themselves on an emotional level

The Fact: The way you treat your heart and soul is the way you’ll end up treating everyone else’s heart and soul

We need to learn that God is gentle and that His kindness towards us is gentle

That He has and is pouring out His kindness on us 

“So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.”       (Ephesians 1:6-8 NLT)

Then we can be kind to ourselves

Then we can take that kindness and let it flow out to others we relate to

His kindness flows both into us and through us to others – gentle grace

Let me apply this to our everyday life where we often face self-imposed unspoken, unrealistic expectations…

I recently received one of those “you must watch” videos forwarded to me

Normally I don’t read, watch, or listen to anything that is forwarded to me – personal policy

But the person who sent it to me has never forwarded anything to me before

And he included an enticing line” “You’ve just got to see this!”

And it was impressive, no question

A beautifully filmed video of a professional dirt bike racer who had taken up surfing and wanted to combine his extreme adventures

So he constructed a dirt bike he could actually ride at high speeds on the ocean. Really!

The gorgeous project was filmed in Tahiti

The climax of the video is him actually catching and surfing a wave on a motorcycle

Impressive! Outrageous!

In a battle for our attention, this one is an easy winner; it seriously an attention getter

And completely unkind

Because the cumulative effect of this stuff sets up all sorts of unspoken, maybe even unconscious expectations within us

I don’t think we have given any thought to what it does to the soul to live in a culture where that kind of stuff is the daily fare

This stuff shows up in my inbox all the time — I know you get them too

First it was base jumping

Folks leaping off cliffs and tall building wearing a parachute or parasail

That becomes routine, so it elevated to jumping without parachutes in “squirrel suits,” flying through the air to safe landing zones

Now that’s routine, so the video I got the other day was of two guys jumping off a mountain with no safe landing zone within miles, flying in squirrel suits through the air and making their “landing’ into the door of an airplane

The incessant upgrade of everything

Always pushing the boundaries

Extreme this, extreme that

It sets up an unspoken set of expectations in our hearts that, unless your life is YouTube ready, your life is stupid

Your life is boring

Studies show that anxiety and depression — and envy — rise in direct proportion to one’s consumption of social media

Because we’re comparing our lives to what’s online

Creeping in is the message that if your life is going to measure up and be wonderful, it has to be fantastic

Men use to get on bended knee to propose to their beloved

Nowadays you’re a loser unless you do it skydiving or kayaking over waterfalls

This phenomenon is shaping Christianity — or Christian practices — and even more harmfully shaping our spiritual expectations

Modern worship bands not only need to be extraordinarily talented musicians, young, and beautiful — BUT their live events must employ multimedia to keep your attention as well 

Now church services compete with concert-level staging, lighting, special effects, and films.

The terrible, unspoken assumption creeping in is this:

If you’re going to find God

If you’re going to have more of God

It’s going to come through some amazing experience, something wild and over the top

Or we think that once we have God, the proof will be an over-the-top life … “life not ordinary”

Not true of course

Actually unhelpful and immensely unkind to your soul and mine

This expectation actually makes those deeper experiences of God seem inaccessible for most of us

We do need more of God, much more

Little sips between long droughts will not sustain us

We need more of God in our bodies, our souls, our relationships, our work — everywhere in our lives

But when you live in a culture of the incessant upgrade of everything — the sensational 

It gives the impression that if you’re going to have a deeper, richer, amazing experience of God, it’s going to have to come in some sensational way

I have some wonderful news for you: Nope! Not true! Not even close!

Life is built on the dailies

Consider love, friendship, and marriage

Love, friendship, and marriage are not built on skydiving together

Trips to Paris

Kayaking the Amazon River

Perhaps once in your life you might do something like that

But the fantastic is not your daily

Love, friendship, and marriage are nurtured in the context of simple things like…

      • Coffee together
      • Hanging out
      • Getting a burrito
      • Holding hands
      • Taking a walk
      • Doing the dishes
      • Reading to one another
      • Just reading different things while you’re together in the same room
      • Sharing your thoughts and feeling
      • Responding to someone when they have shared their thoughts and feelings

 

It’s the little things that build a beautiful life – and solid relationships

I know we often tend to live for the big events – the break from the normal

But, life is made up of the “daily things” 

If you want to walk in a half marathon – then you start by walking each day and building up the muscles and the stamina 

If you want to bike across Canada and raise money for a worthy cause – you start by getting on your bike every day and riding around your neighbourhood and city

If you have a desire and a dream to see the lost come to the Lord by the hundreds as you share in front of large crowds – you start by sharing with those you meet daily as you live your normal life here and now

You are making it second nature so that when you do go out, you can handle what you will encounter

AND, this is how life with God works as well … small steps daily … It’s in the dailies

I do think that God has amazing things or us

I really do

I have been part of some extraordinary experiences with God

I have had global adventures with Him

But, I don’t live there

Getting there, just like getting to love others or anything else that’s wonderful in this life – is in the dailies

It’s back here at home in the little things we do

That is how we practice kindness to ourselves – in the dailies

So, what does extending kindness towards yourself look like right now?

How do you talk to yourself?

What is your “way” with yourself?

Is it harsh?

Unforgiving?

Demanding?

What about the expectations you currently have for getting things done?

Is efficiency running your life and causing you to see things a certain way?

Pace of life is a good barometer too

What’s the pace you’re currently demanding of yourself?

Would you ask the same pace of someone you love?

Ask Jesus…

What is the pace you want for me right now, Lord?

He might have some things He’d like to say to you about that

Not in the negative sense, but in loving directions toward life and then abundant life

Kindness towards oneself means not being driven – but being led by God

Kindness towards oneself means not expecting perfection or even improvement every day

Kindness toward oneself means taking time to be in touch with your feeling and dealing with them as they rise up inside

Maybe just allowing yourself to have feelings

Kindness toward oneself mean’s being gracious about your heart’s slow journey toward God

Kindness toward oneself means to stop trying to measure up to some ideal that you have of who you should be … accepting yourself for who you are and where you are at right now

Kindness toward oneself means stop comparing yourself to others and just be you

Kindness to oneself may even mean to turn off the newsfeed on Facebook and to stop spending so much time on You Tube

Kindness to oneself means living life in such a way that you have both personal space and personal time

 

God really wants for us to accept His kindness – to receive and live in His kindness

God wants to lead us into rest, beauty, restoration and all that He has planned for us 

“So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.”       (Ephesians 1:6-8 NLT)

 

What is Your Dream?

Jan Koum was born into a Jewish family in Kiev, Ukraine, in 1976, during the Soviet era when anti-Semitism was rampant. There was no running water in their home, and his parents were seldom home together because of work. They assumed their phone was tapped, so they had limited contact with the world. Jan grew up with a constant feeling of being bugged and surveilled.

When he was sixteen, Jan and his mother immigrated to California. (His dad planned to come later but died before he could make the trip.) Jan’s mother found work as a babysitter, and Jan swept floors to help pay bills. When he got his first computer in high school he taught himself programming by buying used computer manuals. That skill led to a job as an internet security tester, and later he was hired by Yahoo.

One evening Jan visited the home of Alex Fishman, who often invited the local Russian speaking community to his home for pizza and movies. Forty or so people showed up, and that’s when Jan’s dream was born. He wanted a way for people to stay in touch without Big Brother listening — an encrypted phone app. Apps were a new thing, and Jan had bought his first iPhone and visited one of the first app stores a few months before. He wondered if an app could actually help people stay in touch around the world. He remembered the difficulty of communicating with his family in Ukraine and the expense involved. He also shuddered as he thought of being monitored. Koum began to envision an app that would safely connect people around the world.

He thought of the name WhatsApp because it sounded like “What’s Up.” Jan found some cheap cubicles in a converted warehouse and worked day and night, covering himself in blankets to stay warm. Instead of making money, he drained his bank account. This was during the great recession of 2009. Who launches a start-up in a downturn?

Still, Jan Koum and his partner from Yahoo days, Brian Acton, worked on. “We won’t stop until every single person on the planet has an affordable and reliable way to communicate with their friends and loved ones,” Jan promised.

When Jan Koum sold WhatsApp to Facebook for $19.3 billion in 2014, he chose an unusual place to sign the papers: an old white building that used to house the social services office in the California town where Jan went to school. He and his mother had stood in line in front of that same building to collect food stamps.

When Jan Koum had nothing, he actually had the one thing many people never find: he had a dream (vision). Despite hardship, and against great odds, the vision of a better tomorrow drove him forward in life. That’s what a dream can do for you. All you need is a picture of what your tomorrow could be as you follow Christ. 

Don’t Quit

We are almost at the middle of the first month of the new year 2021. By now many of your New Year’s resolutions have been long forgotten and tossed out. And, you have regained the rhythm of life that you had at the end of the previous year. The rhythm you were wanting to change which is why you made a few New Year’s resolutions and even set a goal or two in the first place. 

It simply didn’t work out the way you planned it. Things stood in your way. Obstacles needed to be overcome. It was taking more time and effort than you first thought it would. You apparently lack the self-discipline to make it happen. It was simply easier to give in and give up and resume life as you knew it before the Christmas and New Year’s break from daily routine and life. 

But the truth is, it is not to late to pick up your dream of change and the goals you set. Pick them back up and try again. You can do it. It is always too soon to quit. You can break the old patterns. And, you can add some adventure into your daily existence. In fact, you can turn ‘existing’ into ‘living’ and ‘living’ into ‘abundant life. You can live 2021 without regret. It is never too late to pick up some new challenges and changes that will add excitement and enthusiasm to your life. Don’t quit. 

You had a glimpse of what you wanted the new year and the new you to look like. Donn’t give up. Continue to move forward and don’t quit. No one said it was going to be easy. But it will be worthwhile…

The following poem, by an unknown author, could have been penned by me personally. And, in many ways, a number of Bible characters could also relate to it – Peter, Job, Joseph, Paul, Jesus, and many other followers of the Lord since the early days of the Church. It is entitled simply, “Don’t Quit.”

When things go wrong as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill.
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile but you have to sigh.
When care is pressing you down a bit —
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.

Success is failure turned inside out,
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt.
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems afar.
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit —
It’s when things go wrong that you mustn’t quit.

As the second week of the new year — January 2021 — comes to a close, Don’t Quit. Remember that with God nothing is impossible and that means all things are possible.

With His help let’s get up and try again. Don’t quit.

Regaining My Life

During the latter part of 2020 and now into the start of 2021 I have been getting my life in order. Oh, in many ways it was not out of order. So, let’s say I have been spending time setting new priorities and adding more balance into a very active and busy life. I have been thinking through what I do and why I do it. Are there more important things I could be investing my time in? Are there things that once were great but are now no longer beneficial or necessary? What needs to change to bring life – both in the inner life as well as the regular daily routines of life – back into balance?

Life out there in the mad world remains what it is, spinning into greater frenzy. As a result I believe I need a series of gentle reminders – signs, symptoms, barometers – that let me know if I am living a sane life, giving my time where God would have me invest my life, taking the time to be healed, be filled, be refreshed, be renewed. This world we live in demands a life saturated with God, and this world is the perfect storm to prevent our souls from having it. We must shepherd our own heart and soul with kindness and compassion so that the springs of life may flow freely, up through the fountain of our being.

Proverbs 4:23 “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” (ESV)

“So above all, guard the affections of your heart, for they affect all that you are.

Pay attention to the welfare of your innermost being, for from there flows the wellspring of life.” (TPT)

“Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that’s where life starts.” (MSG)

I know I’ve been sucked back into the madness when I flinch at a request for any kind of help: the text of a friend asking for my time, the email seeking some counsel. Or when I don’t even want to look at emails, because I know there are demands waiting for me there. The flinch, wince, long hesitation, unhappy sigh; the avoidance, the inability to enter in — these are symptoms that I am running on fumes again. 

Our capacity for relationship is a wonderful gauge. We are created in the image of a profoundly relational God, created for relationship. Am I available for relationship? Not with everyone all the time of course — I’m not meaning the entire social network with no boundaries whatsoever, not 24/7 access. I’m talking about the people in my life: loved ones, colleagues, neighbours out walking their dogs. If I’ve lost the capacity for, and the enjoyment of relationships, I know that things are deeply off in my soul.

Sugar and caffeine are always warning signs. Have I moved from enjoying them to needing them, relying on them to get me through the rest of my day? What about a simple pause? If I decide to take a break for a few minutes do I feel guilty and on edge, concerned that something important may not get the attention I think it deserves? Or if someone comes in and takes a few minutes out of my day unexpectedly, do I feel irritated and hassled? Do I feel like my day has been disrupted? 

But there are positive barometers, too, wonderful things; these are so much better to watch for. Have I spent time walking my dog and enjoying the outdoors with him? Was I able to pay attention to what my wife was saying this morning? Am I making room for the sunrises and sunsets and the act of simply taking time to love God? Positive signs and reminders are better for us to watch for, because these slip away before you begin to really sink in the mire. If I have reached the point that I don’t want to play with my grandchildren, I’m not well. But way before that happens, I can tell how I’m doing if I’m neglecting the simple practices that bring me healing and inner peace … like daily quiet time, maintaining some personal time and space, and even a simply walk to reconnect with my heart and soul.

The Harvard Business Review published a list of “The Daily Routines of Geniuses.” The author compared the schedules and lifestyles of “161 painters, writers, and composers, as well as philosophers, scientists, and other exceptional thinkers” and discovered they all shared some things in common:

    • A workspace with minimal distractions
    • A daily walk 
    • A clear dividing line between important work and busywork
    • Limited social lives

I know it sounds idyllic — something from a bygone age or era. Maybe. You can’t get out for a walk? You can’t cut back your social life, which in this culture means cutting down your social media and texting? Both are very doable. I like the idea of making your home or apartment a place that feels restorative to your soul. You want your “space,” whatever it is, to be your sanctuary and haven … a place where you can find yourself and get back in touch with the you that is deep inside. A place where your soul feels good to be in. 

It is the start of another year – a year where we are all experiencing a faster and faster pace of life. Maybe at the start of the year – like right now – we need to take a good look at what we are doing and make some changes that will allow us the regain and reclaim our life. 

2021 – Living What You Believe – Part Three

We are looking at how we, as believers, can determine if we are living with integrity in 2021. In the past two days we have examined four elements of our life that need to be regularly examined and front and center in daily life if we are going to live life in a manner that lines up with what we believe as Christians. It would be good for you to examine your own lifestyle to see if your priorities are set within biblical parameters; to see if your focus is truly on the Kingdom. Remember, Jesus did say, “Seek first the Kingdom…”

1> Practice what you believe (Leaders: Practice what you preach)

2> Intimacy with Jesus is foundational and a serious priority

3> Love for the lost is essential

4> Passionate prayer unleashes power

Continuing on…

5> Biblical conviction keeps our vision clear

One of the quickest ways for a believer to see their integrity wane is to begin compromising their biblical beliefs. When a disciple of Jesus no longer holds to the Scriptures as the absolute truth of God’s Kingdom vision dies.

Nonbelievers will often disagree with Biblical Christians, but most will maintain a level of respect if we hold our convictions with grace-filled confidence. When born again believers are quick to apologize for the Bible, sand off the sharp edges of our doctrine, and adjust the teaching of the Word of God to accommodate the ever-changing norms of our culture, our integrity goes out the window. 

Jesus was clear that following Him would not be easy. If our goal is to fit in, get along and seem normal in this world, we are walking the wrong path. Integrity in the life of a believer means knowing, loving, and following the teachings of the Bible, even when it is awkward or downright painful.

6> Invite accountability and seek wise mentors

We all have blind spots. It is easy to deceive ourselves and get off track. When we have godly, strong, honest people in our lives who speak the truth (even when it hurts), we have a much greater chance of maintaining a life of integrity. 

Every believer should have a mentor and every believer should be mentoring or discipling a younger believer. In other words, every Timothy needs a Paul and every Paul needs a Timothy. Since just after I was born again and baptized in the Holy Spirit I was blessed with a powerful man of God as my mentor. He lived in the state of New York and I lived in Central Canada but we stayed in touch. This was pre-internet and email but he wrote letters almost on a weekly basis (remember snail mail?). And, during each calendar year he spent two different two week periods of time in my city during which we spent time together daily. This went on for 30 years. When he died I felt like an orphan. I immediately went searching for another man of integrity and experience who might be willing to mentor me and speak into my life. I found him and he is still speaking into both my personal life and my ministry.

Throughout my ministry I have always mentored (discipled) younger believers and those with a similar call of God on their life as exists on my life. Some of these young men have even travelled overseas with me over the past 20 years. 

In a world where integrity can seem old-fashioned and believers live life on the surface – often an inch deep and a mile wide – Christians are wise to look closely at their heart and lifestyle. Anything and everything we can do that leads to greater integrity will forward the work of the Gospel and bring honour to our Saviour. 

A Fresh Start – A New Year

Well, I stayed up all night to welcome the new year as I wanted to make sure 2020 really did come to an end. It has been a very different year with many disappointments and challenges. And yet, it has been an exciting year as we learned to live in a new normal which is still with us.

As I think about entering 2021 I am aware that it is, in some ways, an opportunity to do things differently. It’s a brand new year and we have an opportunity to adjust and change so as to live differently and maybe even impact the lives of others among whom we live – and maybe even those in another nation.  Yes, Covid may limit us in some ways but we can still touch lives for Jesus. Nothing can nor should stop us from doing that.

However, the one thought that dominates today, on the first day of a new year, is that if we do what we have always done we will simply get what we have always gotten. Poor English but a great though nonetheless. It can’t be “business as usual.” We can’t just have the same old same old… We are living in a ‘new normal’ and things will not go back to how they were before the pandemic. The pandemic has brought many changes to the way we live and some of those changes will remain with us. For example, we will value time with family and friends more than before. We will no longer take “life” for granted. We will hopefully make the most of every day we live and see it as a gift and not a given.

The Church has also been greatly impacted during this past 10 months. And, it too has made major adjustments in how it does life. Limitations on numbers who can meet together; meetings by Zoom; using technology as never before; learning to ‘do church’ without programs and personalities. The new year will see continued change as we adjust to the new normal and learn to reach out effectively to those who do not know Jesus. Church as usual is finished. The pandemic has given those of us in leadership the opportunity to think about what we do, how we do it, and why it is done the way it is. Change is inevitable.

I believe that the pandemic has brought and will continue to bring the Church back to basics and the result will be a Church more like the New Testament Church. House churches will be the norm – and many current church buildings will be sold off or given away. Leadership will rise up from within the body and not come in from a seminary. We will see the continued rise of the fivefold ministry within the Church that Jesus is building. And, the continued rejection of the fivefold ministry from those who are content with what is and the status quo. Outreach and evangelism will become the main focus as we now realize how quickly death can happen as we have watched tens of thousands die from Covid including friends and family that we did not witness to and share with when we had the opportunity.

January 1, 2021 is a fresh start to a new year. In 2020 we saw so many things that we simply took for granted removed, torn down, altered beyond recognition. 2021 will be a year to carefully rebuild both our personal way of life, our communities, and the Church. Let’s be wise and not simply go back to business as usual. Let’s take this God-given opportunity to rebuild wisely, building on the biblical model of life lived in the presence of God so that we experience His peace and walk in His power.

We have been given a new year, a new world in which to live, and a new opportunity to see and be a part of the Church that Jesus is building.

I am excited and expectant.

Being and Doing 2021

Many years ago the Lord spoke very strongly and clearly that I needed to realize that I was a human being and not a human doing. That He created me to ‘be’ first and then to ‘do’ second. That He was more interested in my character (be) than in my activities (do). And, that what I do should flow out of who I am (be).

Up until that time I was what you would call a workaholic. Someone who was task oriented. If there was a need I met it. If there was something that needed attention I was your man. I got my sense of self worth from what I did. I gained value from what I accomplished. And, in reality, I did not really know who I was because I did not spend time on the inside working through feelings and thoughts … I simply pushed them down as they were in the way of accomplishing all the stuff that needed to be done.

When the Lord spoke to me about “being” before “doing” I realized I needed to make some major changes. I needed to take personal time and make personal space to get in touch with the real me – who I was on the inside. And that was a very painful process because there was a lot of accumulated garbage in my heart and mind . You know, things like unforgiveness, resentment, anger, bitterness, judgemental attitudes, pride … the list could go on. But, you know what I mean. So I began to wade through the garbage tossing what I could and seeking help to do so when I needed help. 

In the midst of this process – and it took a number of years – I came to a point where I realized that I needed to discover who Jesus saw when He looked at me. I needed to discover who I was “in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Who did Jesus say I was? Who did Jesus create me to “be?” Another part of the journey.

So, I was removing the world’s influence and a lot of the pain and clutter from experiences and past relationships… while discovering who I really was based on God’s Word and His plan for who I am. During this process character became a focus along with discovering and experiencing the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Over the years a completely new foundation for my life was laid upon which He then began to build my ministry and what He had called me to do. 

Now I don’t find my identity nor my sense of self-worth in what I do. I find my identity and self-worth in who I am – in my relationship with Jesus and who He has created and called me to be. I know who I am “in Christ.” That’s different than “Christ in me.” And, equally important. 

Out of this identity, knowing who I am, I can then set out a direction for my life with greater wisdom and insight than before I discovered this truth. I can look at the coming new year and determine where the Lord wants me to go and what He wants me to be involved in. And, none of that effects my identity as they are in the “do” category and not a “be” issue. As a result change is much easier; criticism is not personally destructive, I am not devastated when people don’t like me or reject my ministry … I am secure in who I am. And open to whatever the Lord wants me to do. And, because of this transparency I continue to see growth in the area of my character, gifts, calling, skills, and talents. 

So, before you set your goals for 2021 it might be a good idea to review who you really are separated from what you do for a living. Who are you “in Christ.” Then begin to set some goals that enable you to be the best you that you can be. Leave the “do” for later… first things first. Major on the major issue and not on the minor issues.

That will, of course, bring great honour and tremendous pleasure to God, your heavenly Father.