Friday, March 03, 2017

Day 2 Freedom: Glorious Surrender

Day 2 
Readings: Romans 4, Psalm 134
Romans 4:3 (msg)
What we read in scripture is. “Abraham entered into what God was doing for him, and that was the turning point.  He trusted God to set him right instead of trying to be right on his own.”

I think a big part of fasting is the growing awareness that God is our provision.  Freedom comes when we surrender everything and say, “Jesus, take over!”  How many times do we in our own striving to make things right, get everything wrong?  Or we get things right and yet, we feel utterly empty at the end of the process.  Maybe we think that our way is better.  Abraham needed to enter what God was doing FOR him, rather than what he was doing for God.  He needed to trust God to SET HIM RIGHT, instead of trying to be right on his own.  What a glorious surrender.

The question we’ve been asking ourselves is this: “If you could see you free, what would that look like?”

Today, ponder this with God’s truth.  As you spend time the Jesus today, bring your thoughts/thinking, emotions/feelings and ask him to speak his truth to what you may think or feel.  His ways are far better than ours, and he loves us more than what we can think or imagine.

Prayer:  Jesus, I thank you and praise you today.  How amazing is your love and faithfulness.  I lift my hands in praise to you today.  I surrender my own will and I ask Jesus that you would set me right as I trust in you.  I know you are true to your word that you will accomplish what you started in my life.  Amen

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Freedom 2017 - 40 days of Wholeness


Welcome to the journey of 40 days of wholeness. During the next 40 days, I will be blogging each day to share an insight which will be more of a devotional.  This may be something I've read, or a revelation from the Lord.  I want this to be about FREEDOM.

We are free people.  Therefore there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. Here in Romans 8:1-4 (The Message) we read how God has freed us through the work of his son Jesus.

The Solution Is Life on God’s Terms

1-2 With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.
3-4 God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn’t deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. The law code, weakened as it always was by fractured human nature, could never have done that.
The law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it. And now what the law code asked for but we couldn’t deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us.

This is so amazing.  Here in this place of justification we partner with God in the area of sanctification.  We have been we walk in the throwing off of the old and putting on the new.

Think of an orphan, who grew up with no influential people to help care for him/her.  This orphan received no support structures, in any area of his/her life.  Then along came a healthy enough family who finally adopted the orphan and said, "you belong!".  Here they showed love, grace, mercy, guidance, forgiveness, loving discipline, this child, no longer an orphan is put in the families will, and has a bed, food and now belongs.  The adopted child needs to throw off abandonment, rejection, fear, isolation, coping strategies, and embrace and put on a new identity of belonging, security, safety, inheritance, etc.
Will this be an easy process?  Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn't.  Often the child will have to wrestle and work through emotional, relational and spiritual wounds, that affect his/her thinking, especially about themselves.(Am I really worth something?  What if I'm abandoned again?)  They can also reject the families affections and health they want to give.  So wounded, the child may live behind a self protective wall, unable to receive any good the family has to offer.

In essence that is us.  We have been adopted by a Father whose son the King of Kings (Jesus) has not only accepted us but seeks to minister to us every day. We have access to the Father because of this great King, not by what we do or not do, but because of our belief in the King.  He clothes us in righteousness for his name sake and gives us a new identity and inheritance. 

Even as we are free, we can still enslave ourselves with the old ways of thinking.  These are often well trained patterns of thought which enslaves us in emotional, spiritual and even physical poverty.  We can be enslaved to ideas, thoughts, and the ways we self identify.  

This journey to FREEDOM is in essence a call I feel the Lord drawing me into and I welcome you on the journey.  I sense the Lord drawing my heart to expectancy, rather than poverty. 
I was reminded this week of a prophetic word given to me years ago.  The person saw me sitting in a prison cell, it was like I had resigned myself to live in the cell, but the door or the cell was unlocked and Jesus was calling me to walk out!  I have walked out, but I know how easily I can succumb to lies that the enemy uses to draw me away from living free, or better still, when I create a panic room of safety, which is not into the trusting and safe arms of Jesus.  I'm declaring that I will demolish the panic rooms of self preservation and coping strategies and run toward Jesus, no matter how I feel, or think and ask Him to minister to me.  Would you join me?
Today, think of your freedom.  How has God set you free?  Do you know you are free?  Do you feel condemnation?  If you do, where is it coming from?

Take time to reflect and ask Jesus today, to minister to you His Truth.  

Read Isaiah 61 & Romans 8


Jesus, I think you for your ministry.  I'm so grateful that you have set me free by the work you did on the cross.  You have released me from the power of death and condemnation and given me eternal life.  Thank you for giving me the Holy Spirit to be my counselor, fill me anew with your spirit.  Empower me Jesus to know your truth not just in my head but in my heart.  Jesus, I confess my unbelief that you aren't able to meet all my needs, help me in my unbelief.   Father God, thank you for adopting me.  For your love that cannot be measured because it is never ending.  Thank you for the ways you knit me together in my mother's womb and formed me to be your image bearer.  Help me God to submit all the lies that I believe about myself and others and help me to believe the truth that is living and active in the very nature of Jesus.  Amen

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Christian Mingle lawsuit - flawed

Now in the news...
Christian Mingle Lawsuit: settled!

2 gay men (identities surprisingly covered up) sue the Christian Mingle company because they discover that there is no place for them to sign up.  You have to be a heterosexual christian to sign up. Oh dear!

The world is ending! (okay, maybe not today!)  I had no clue this was happening until I read the article on a FB friends page.  I even responded with a lengthy post, but it magically disappeared.  What's becoming increasingly clear is that if you do not adopt a broad spectrum of service for ALL people, even if it does not fit clearly in your mission statement or in your business, then you are violating the human right of an individual to participate and you will get slapped on the wrist, you will be sued etc.

Christian Mingle was now forced by coercion to put on their site a place for gay and lesbian Christians the ability to sign up.  They also paid the legal fees of the two men (450,000) and money to the 2 gay men (9,000 each).

Sit with that info!  Sit with the amount of money that was spent on this 'human rights violation!'

I then researched dating sites specifically for LGBTQ+ including those who identify being Christian LGBTQ+.  I wasn't sure what would pop up, and so I informed my accountability guys that "hey, I wasn't looking at things that I shouldn't, nor was I thinking or tempted to sign up on a site!" (yup that is what accountability looks like for me!)
A whole list of sites came up and then I wondered.  "What was the meaning to this law suit?"  Because it wasn't because there were no sites available, on the contrary, there are many sites.

I don't like how this sits...period!

Firstly: Do we as self identifying heterosexuals sue all (ALL) LGBTQ+ dating sites?  Maybe if I held that as a cultural response (that I should sue people), I could get enough money to go on a cruise or do a much needed reno on our house!  But I would much rather see the 468,000$ go toward a good cause. 

Secondly: If those 2 unidentified gay men were Christian's, why are they suing Christian Mingle anyways?  Why not start your own company if this bothers you so much.  One that will cater to your community.  Not all communities (businesses like Christian Mingle) need to cater to your belief or the ways you live your life. Christian Mingle was targeting a specific group...Christian heterosexual men and women...period, and this should not be classified as a human rights violation.

Thirdly:  There is no mention whatsoever in any of the articles written that they will cater to transgender individuals.  Is it just Christian gay or lesbian's who get the privilege?  How come the 2 gay men did not stand up for the rights of those who identify themselves as Transgendered?

I am all for baking a cake!  If you have read anything that I have written, I believe that a business should cater to all people...but something like a dating site which is specific...that is different.  There should be a freedom in that place, just as there is a freedom to have just a christian lesbian dating site, which caters to just that specific group.   

Again we have a double standard!  Dictated by culture in the name of human rights violations.  When will this stop?  Until there is clearly no specific groups anymore?  Why not just do away with all narrow, specific groups and classifications?  Wouldn't that just solve everything?  Or would that just make everything a bit more chaotic and challenging for everyone?

As for the 2 unidentified gay men?  I have no idea who you are, or what your motives were (though I have an inkling what it was!) I hope you use the money you got on serving the community around you.  Instead of fighting for something that is so not worth it, why not feed the poor, care for the widows and orphans and look after the sick!

I'm going out to do the same!

Tunnel Vision

My wife and I are in the midst of clearing house.  Its amazing how in 9 years of marriage you can accumulate so much 'stuff'; paper, knick knacks and journals.  We have so many journals, some full and some half started.  This morning I was going through my work journal/to do list book and I came across notes I wrote as I reflected on my driving.  These thoughts came to me as I began viewing how I drive our car and I began to slow down to 'see' others.  What I encountered was frantic people, with tunnel vision.  I had been so preoccupied with where I was going that I lost sight of others, making me a dangerous and unkind driver.  I found that we can take this attitude into ever part of our lives and can be consumed by it.

I was thinking about the human condition of 'self' and how this plays out in our every day lives.  I think this concept is something that isn't necessarily new (what is now a days!)
but still applicable and necessary for us to evaluate on an ongoing basis.

We talk about LOVE, ACCEPTANCE, DIVERSITY but let's look at the fundamental belief that 'I am here on earth to get what I need and deserve!'  

There is this Christian worship song called 'Jesus, lover of my soul' by Paul Oakley.  It's a great song and I love it.  One day as I was singing it, I changed the words to the verse to better fit how we often live out our life.

It's all about me, Jesus
and all this is for me
for my glory and my fame
It's not about you
as if you should do things your way
I alone am God and I don't surrender
to your ways

If we think closely to this verse and how these words speak to our spirit, we can most likely shout out an ouch...that hurts.  Is it really all about me?

Now before you jump all over me with excuses and thoughts on surrender and 'life is to be lived to the fullest', hear me out.

If I truly evaluate my life and examine my thoughts and I keep in mind the statement; 'I am here on earth to get what I need and deserve!'
This will cause me to see life with tunnel vision, narrowing my sight to just me, myself and I.  Our narrow vision may include others from time to time, but deep down, a questions continue to nag at the very depth of our soul: "Who am I? and What am I getting out of life?"

I think of many men that I know who have left their wives or their wives have left them because they came out identified with being 'gay or lesbian' or they left their spouse because they 'fell out of love, or never loved at all' or they found 'love someplace else'.  It's tunnel vision.
We bought into the notion that self actualization, self worth is more important than commitment, respect, honor, love, integrity, hard work, faithfulness, self control, goodness...kind of similar to the fruits of the spirit! We make excuses and tell others what we want them to know which is actually just appeasing our own neediness and brokenness, because we don't want to feel pain.  I get that.  I lived it for years...and if I am honest, I still wrestle with it. 

When I came out gay identified, it was about me!  It wasn't about others.  It was me, realizing that I had to live true to myself.  It was I in the garden, the serpent handing me the fruit saying "Did God actually say that?  He wouldn't hold good back from you, would he?"  I bought into a cultural definition of worth and identity because it felt right and good.  It didn't take into account those who loved me, or people who would be hurt by my 'self actualization'.  I was applauded by society, and yet I left a trail of pain behind me as I plowed off in my own direction.  I was a relatively good guy to boot. I hated injustice (I still do) People liked me, I liked people and I tried to treat others fair.  Yet, life was about me!  I viewed success as how I would prevail and rise above and get more money.  I was busy getting!

I met a great friend in the midst of all of this 'life of self' who challenged me by the ways she lived her life.  To this day, I don't think I have met anyone who is like her.  She challenged me to see others, to value others and to give generously.  We were co-workers at a school and we began to pay things forward (before it was even popular!)  Kindness; how could we be kind?  How could we lighten someone's day?  We tried secret pals, we created events like goody days that went all out in blessing others, and who knows the impact it had on others, but it did something to me.  It began to change how I saw people.  It slowed me down, because I needed to be intentional.

Now as a believer, I have come to realize even more, that life is not about me...and I still wrestle with that.  I still battle my own will when it comes to my interaction with my wife, my daughter, friends and those around me.  I'd love to say that I have laid down all my selfishness at the cross and live totally free of that.  Hardly.  There are still decisions that I mindlessly make that are fully equated to what I get out of it, rather than asking the question: "God, will you direct my decision making so you are glorified and others benefit?" 

This note that I found this morning, came at a good time as I reflect on getting rid of clutter, as I choose to allow God to continue to direct my steps and as I seek to do His perfect will and not live out of my own broken will.

Galatians 5:22-24 (The Message)

But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.
Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Tolerance and respect

Solidarity, Allied, Allegiance, total and absolute acceptance, tolerance...these are just a few of the words and statements that I have read from several sources from the CBC, Free Press, Globe and Mail.  It seems that the small town of Steinbach has now hit the National News.

With an event that was supposed to be around 200, it grew to exceed between 2500-5000 people which comprised of many people traveling to Steinbach to attend the parade.

The planners are excited that this shows that equality is needed in every community, no matter who or where that community it.

Something hasn't been sitting well for me as I reflect on the parade.  Not in terms of people feeling liberated to 'be who they believe they are and to feel safe to live that out in their community' because I am against all forms of bullying and injustice.  Rather I attest to the double standard and the practice of bullying tactics which are now being used by 'some people and their allies' within the LGBTQ community.

Okay, before you jump all over me, please hear me out.

First, I know bullying first hand.  Growing up in a small rural town in Manitoba, I know what it feels like to be bullied every day.  To be called a faggot, fairy, to be jeered at, gestures so cruel, it is a wonder that I survived (and I am serious about that!)  I've been chased by cars (even after graduating) and I don't recall any safe person who stood up for me, other than my twin brother. (thank you!!!)  I even had a teacher bully me!  Bullying and injustice are not acceptable in my eyes.

Yet, this bullying didn't give me free pass on bullying others, it did not make it right for me to bully anyone else.  No matter how hard it was for me!  Yet, I bullied.  When I came out in 1997 as a gay identified man, I was so hurt.  I felt justified in my hurt to try to demand that everyone accept the way I was living.  I demanded that everyone just 'accept ME!' Yet for the most part, I wore blinders unable to see that people had already accepted me as a person, but that acceptance for me as a person didn't mean that they had to now approve of how I was living.  I demanded total acceptance...PERIOD.  The true definition of tolerance and respect means that two people can come to a different conclusion on a matter, and still love and respect one another.

I lacked that in my life.  I had a hard time tolerating and respecting those who because of their faith in God believed differently than I.

This all changed when I grew in relationship with a few people.  While gay identified, I had a few Christian friends who believed that to act out on homosexual desires was sinful.  That it was not God's best for me.  Even with this belief that was not going to change, they loved and respected me.  They showed me tolerance and respect.  This began to shift my own thinking.  How was I showing that same respect and tolerance?  It wasn't going to shift in my demands that everyone 'change' their belief, but rather, it shifted in my understanding that to be tolerant and respectful was to see difference as okay.   It's how we treat one another in the process.

Even though I no longer identify as a gay man and am married to a woman, I seek to live this attitude of respect out to the best of my ability. (No one is perfect, but I seek to love others with God's help)

So when I read articles that disrespected people who chose not to attend the Steinbach pride parade because of their belief (specifically MP Ted Falk) it bothered me. It showed a total lack of respect and tolerance of another persons view.  Just because Ted Falk chose not to attend the pride parade due to his integrity of belief, does not mean that he does not accept and respect others with a different belief system as his.

'Everybody has rights' is the statement that has been stated by the LGBTQ Allies (as is stated in a few of the articles) and if this is so, then sit with that statement.  Let it rest in your head and your heart.  Try to filter it through the other persons belief rather than your fear, your hurt and your own limited understanding.  (this by the way goes for those on both sides of the issue!)

How about before we begin speaking, we begin talking with one another.  Get to know someone who is different than you.  How about you let your fear go and seek to love and ask questions...and listen.

Enough said..."I'm going to go listen!"

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Take me to your leader!

Who’s your leader? previously published in Christian Courier

Have you ever been asked to identify your leader? How would you best answer that question? Would you ask for clarification, some perspective as to where the question is coming from? To be honest, I haven’t been asked to think about that very often. In fact, I don’t think it’s ever come up.
In an ever-changing cultural climate, I believe we should be asking that question of ourselves. Examine who is leading your life and the lives of those you love. So let me begin by asking you, “Who is your leader?”
We can answer a variety of ways. We could give the name of our pastor or a leader at church; we might mention a spouse or parent; you might think first of your country’s political leader, elected to rule. Hopefully Christians say that Jesus is our leader, and we have submitted our lives to his perfect plan. Yet is this truly the case?
As I was examining my life, I realized that I can be quick to say that Jesus is my leader; I follow his direction and submit to his authority. If I am honest, however, my human bent is toward “me” being the leader of my life. When I first realized that I was struggling with same-sex attraction, I began to petition God to do something. He needed to change me and wipe away all of this undesired attraction toward the same gender and turn my head to the opposite gender. I really wanted him to guide me like a Genie in a bottle, or wave some magical wand to give me an easier life. I wasn’t too keen on a leader who would ask me to deny my sexual attraction to guys when it felt like it was such an integral part of who I was. In essence God, my leader, was asking me to deny every aspect of my life and follow after his direction for my good and for his glory. That seemed too much like a dictator. The deeper wrestle inside of me was “me.” The question that my human heart was asking was “What’s in it for me?”

If we are honest, I believe we all wonder that at some point in our lives, which comes from a rebellious and sinful nature. It’s similar to the serpent in the garden that tempted Adam and Eve with the statement, “A loving God wouldn’t withhold this good from you!” I personally wrestled with this for years. I ate the apple of my own desires and led my life away from God’s best for me. Taking leadership and living my own life felt good, most of the time. It seemed right. I read other people’s views that would validate and orient me toward me continuing to be in control of my own life and destiny.
Then God came and asked if I would elect him as the true leader in my life. I had a decision to make. I could continue to live as the leader of my life or I could begin to trust God that his ways were better than mine. When I placed my trust in him, he began to lead me in a way that was so different than what I expected. First he established that he loved me and this would never change. No matter what I would face or go through, he promised that he would not abdicate his leadership over my life even when his best for me would not feel good. I was tentative with this new relationship and in many respects I still am. There are many times when I take the lead role in my life instead of seeking first the Kingdom. Then I’m thankful that my leader is also my heavenly father who extends mercy and grace instead of punishment.  
So who is your leader? And can you trust God that his ways are better than yours?