Death is Not Dying

I’m not sure why lately I’ve been thinking a great deal of mortality and death. Part of that comes from working on a video series for local fundraising event. But in general I’m seeing how quickly time is moving and the vastness and incomprehendable nature of eternity. It makes you examine things.

After I posted the cancer video I created on my blog, I received an email pointing me to the following story about a cancer victim. I would strongly encourage you to watch the entire video and visit the website.

After four and a half years of vigilantly fighting breast cancer, the 37 year old wife and mother of two was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

But for Rachel the essence of life is found in her relationship with God through Jesus. And that’s why Rachel is convinced that death is not dying.

On March 4, 2009, what started out as a small talk to a women’s group at her church grew into an event attended by 600 women from around Vancouver, giving Rachel an opportunity to share about her hope in the midst of terminal cancer.

Rachel’s honest and thought-provoking talk touched women of all ages and left a hunger for discovering more about Rachel’s journey and the faith that has so deeply affected her life.

While I love the video of Dr. Randy Pausch who offers some great messages about life, it does not acknowledge that the primary purpose of our lives is to be like Christ and serve with joy. This is a powerful reminder of why we are on this planet.

As the emailer wrote,

Rachel passed away almost a month ago, but the video of her talk in March is worth knowing about and sharing, even if it is a little on the long side. It’s one of the clearest and most articulate statements of what it means to be a Christian that I know of.

Death is not Dying from Rachel Barkey.

Choosing Legalism over Grace

Our church is currently in the midst of a series called “Real Life”. The focus is on daily living, what it looks like to be a Christian.  It’s really a study on the book of Galatians. I bookmarked a couple of verses today from the Message:

Galatians 2:20-21

My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.

Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.

The last line struck me.  Having lived the majority of my 45 years as a Christian, I still struggle with that. The world around me reminds me every day that it does not operate under grace. It operates under a belief that if you work hard, good things happen and you get exactly what you deserve.  This is likely why we fall into the trap of legalism.  Our Pastor asked, “Why are we so quick to succumb to legalism and yet so easily give up on grace?’  I ask myself that alot.

I also bookmarked Galatians 3:5

Answer this question: Does the God who lavishly provides you with his own presence, his Holy Spirit, working things in your lives you could never do for yourselves, does he do these things because of your strenuous moral striving or because you trust him to do them in you?

These are questions I need to spend some time pondering.

God’s Unfair Love

when we don´t get what we deserve that´s a real good thing
when we get what we don´t deserve that´s a real good thing

Those are the words to the Newsboys song Real Good Thing. It speaks to the amazing gift of God’s grace.

I’ve just finished listening to Messy Spirituality by Mike Yaconelli. It’s a wonderful listen or read, whatever you choose. The final chapter deals with God’s unfair love. To anyone who hasn’t experience grace, the idea that’ God’s love is somehow unfair seems ludicrous. But as scripture declares,

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 1 Cor. 1:27

God’s grace and love does not match the world’s logic. As Yaconelli describes in the book, the parable of the workers in the vineyard, the fact that those that began work late in the day received the same as those who began in the morning just doesn’t seem right. Our world would never stand for this unfairness.

But as I continue to have God’s grace lavished upon me I can only see myself as a beneficiary of the unfairness. My mind is constantly influenced by the ways of the world and often forget this amazing gift that I’ve been given.

God’s grace is extremely difficult to explain and harder to understand. But I’m so glad he’s given it to me. That’s a real good thing.

God’s Politics

I don’t consider my self a very political person but in the light of upcoming elections both in the US and in Canada where I live, I remembered a book sitting on my self I read a while back.

What I love about the book is that it doesn’t promote any particular party but speaks about what both parties (although this is a US book, Canadians have their own versions of Republicans and Democrats with a few bonus parties thrown in there) need to consider. Of particular interest to me is the fact that traditionally, Christians have focused their energies around a few key issues and forgotten that Jesus spoke very little about what are being aspoused as “family values”. Not that these hot button issues aren’t important but the book paints a broader picture around God’s Politics.

In Canada, you have about 3 weeks and in the US, you have about 7 to read the book. Go ahead, I’d love to hear your take.

Give the gift of a goat

Ever since I saw the water buffalo movie, it helped bring alive the power of tangible giving to third world countries. Our family has been supporting children through World Vision for years but it really isn’t something we consider. Yes we get cards from our sponsor children but it’s still distant.

Goat Gift

The water buffalo movie started me thinking differently. This year, our family decided to give each other this kind of gift. I gave a goat and after watching The Story of Stuff, it makes sense. I showed my own kids the story of stuff movie and while consumerism and materialism will always be a struggle for those of us with means, it does open up conversations, thoughts and spiritual questions that can produce change.

It matters how we worship

raise-handsI heard a great sermon this summer by my brother-in-law who pastors Cedarview Community Church in Newmarket, ON. It was one in a series of messages dealing with New Testament worship.

As someone who has grown up in a charismatic church, I’ve seen a lot when it comes to worship. Some of it very powerful and some of it didn’t seem very authentic. I’ve concluded that in many cases, worship is a matter of personal preference and taste. I realize now that God, while allowing us to be individuals does require us to follow some principles and guidelines. Most Christians sing hymns of praise. Why? Is it tradition? Partly but mostly because the Bible shows us time after time that singing and music are pleasing to God and is one way we can express ourselves to Him. Another practice which I’ve always been comfortable with was raising my hands. Until this message, I didn’t really know why.
As Christians, we see the teachings of the New Testament as the fulfillment of the old. When it comes to how we live, we understand the many ideas of the Old Testament were made obsolete (Hebrews 8:13) Part of how we determine what is and isn’t to be practiced from the Old Testament is checking to see if the ideas or practices are encouraged or reinforced in the new. The lifting of hands is mentioned several times in the New Testament. 1 Tim 2:8.

So here’s why we lift our hands in worship and what it means:

  • To remind us of our covenant with God.
  • To show our reliance on Him.
    • Exodus 17: 8-16
    • We need to physically see and demonstrate our reliance on God to each other
  • He likes it
  • To show surrender
    • Psalm 141:2
    • When someone is captured, they often are asked to put their hand up in surrender

So this isn’t about what church you go to or what style of worship you prefer, it’s something God has asked us to do because he desires worshippers. So the next time you raise your hands in worship, perhaps, if you’re like me, you’ll know better why you do it. If you don’t, why not?

Image:Worship During a Vertical Set

How Rich are you?

Our church is looking at Overload. Last Sunday our Pastor spoke on Financial Overload. Here’s a segment from the video we viewed.

Go ahead and plug your annual income into this website. You are rich.

As someone who claims to be evolving into a global citizen, I am compelled to rethink my attitude toward my wealth and how I use my resources. The following verse comes to mind:

“…From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Luke 12:48

The Pursuit of Holiness

It’s been a while since I blogged here so I figured it’s about time.

God has been dealing with me lately about my responsibility as a believer. To that end, I starting reading The Pursuit of Holiness, a book I read years ago. The book helps us see clearly just what we should rely on God to do-and what we should accept responsibility for ourselves. The best analogy in the book is that of a farmer. Certainly there are many things the farmer must rely on in order to prosper but although ultimately it is God that provides the conditions for growth, the farmer must do his part.

Another great lesson in the book is what our attitude towards sin should be. Too often the phrase “victory over sin” is used and we tend to think of it as a personal victory. Sin needs to be viewed firstly from God’s perspective. He hates it. It is first against God that we sin. David, after committing adultery said,

“Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” Psalm 51:4

Understanding what sin is and how God sees it is critical for us in our pursuit of holiness.

I saw the movie The Pursuit of Happyness last month. It’s a great story about perseverance and hope. The author in Pursuit of Holiness says, God is much more interested in our holiness than our happiness. He has not called us to be happy but holy. That doesn’t mean we can’t be happy but it can’t be our ultimate goal. That line of thinking is very contradictory to the world we live. Most people when asked what they want out of life will respond, “I just want to be happy”. I want to be happy too but am learning it shouldn’t be my main pursuit.

Simple but Powerful

I’m always amazed when someone takes a simple idea and makes it into something powerful. The one red paperclip story hit home for me since the final trade occurred a couple of hours from my home.

As Christians we are equipped with a book that contains simple, but powerful ideas. I’m continually challenged but things I heard, read, see and do that on the surface seems simple and often rarely something I haven’t heard hundreds of times.

This video is a classic example. A man decided to offer free hugs in order to appease the sadness and hurt he observes in the world. At first, the site of a long haired young man holding a sign that says, “FREE HUGS”, would seem a bit odd, maybe weird and possibly scary. But as you watch the video, you’ll see that it moves to something powerful. Can you picture Jesus doing this?

PS. Couldn’t get WP to embed the video even after turning off visual editor. Any thoughts?

Not sure Dean– I got the embedded video to work but I put it in using Safari on a Mac. Not sure why it was not working before….

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