Growing up I loved spy movies. I especially liked the ones where the Russians would send undercover agents to America to blend in with American society and wait until they are called on to spy or do some sort of dirty deeds for their mother country. Sometimes they would send single men or women to marry an American, or even couples to blend in, raise a family, become an indispensable member of the community etc.
Sometimes you could get half way through the movie until you realized that this couple or individual who you grew to like and see as the protagonist turns out to be a “traitor”.
But how did these spies stay on track as they infiltrated society and blended in so they would seem, at least outwardly that they were just like any garden variety suburbanite.
Enter the handler. There is always a handler. Another Russian spy, usually working for the Russian embassy or consulate and always has diplomatic immunity.
His job is to make sure the fake Americans stay on track, keep the motherland first and foremost in their minds and to be prepared for the day they will be called on to “spy”. Or perhaps they have already been spying and passing on information to the handler. His job is to make sure that his charges don’t get sucked into society, don’t get too comfortable. Or worse get turned and become a red white and blue American. The handler is essential to the success of the mission. The mission is to do what they are asked to do and the end result is to return to the motherland in one piece.
Being a true believer, a christian in this world is not much different. If you are truly born again, then you know how different you are to the world we live in. We should never feel as though we fit in. We should always understand that our time here on this earth is temporary. We were sent to do a job, a special mission for each of us. Though many of us may not know what that mission is until later in life, we spend our time fitting into society waiting for the call, knowing it will come.
So we pass our time trying our best to be one with our surroundings, we get secular jobs, we join churches, we go to schools and learn the ways of the world, we fit in. But we understand that this world is not our real home. We know that we are just passing through and we were sent to to fulfill a purpose.
With temptation all round us it is imperative to not allow ourselves to get sucked in. The world calls us to give in and become one, not just outwardly but inwardly too. Oh, how difficult it is at times to remain seperate in our hearts to the ways of the world knowing it is our duty to live in a world that is not ours. We can’t do this on our own.
Enter the handler.
Jesus. The perfect man for the job.
He knows us, he loves us, he understands us but most importantly he trusts us. He knows he can depend on us when the time comes. He looks past our frailties and our human weaknesses. He handles us like a pro because he has been here before. He keeps us on track, always reminding us of the bigger picture. He continues to remind us that this world is not our home, we are just passing through. He too is essential to the success of our mission.
When our mission is complete he will then say to us, great job guys, you did good, you can come home to the Mother Land. Heaven.
We press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God… Ph 3:14 The christian world, those who strive to find God’s calling in their lives continue to press forward each day, hoping they will someday find that elusive calling or purpose in their lives that God promised.
Perhaps it’s God’s way of keeping us struggling forward knowing that he has to dangle the bait in front of us to keep moving, never stagnating, never being completely satisfied with this life on earth.
Content? Yes. Satisfied? Never
We have a wise God.
Last week I received an unexpected call from a dear friend. I hadn’t heard from her in almost six years. Our families had been friends years ago and as it happens when we moved cities we lost contact with each other. We chatted away for a few minutes going through all the politically correct conversation when two people haven’t talked or seen each other for some time.
I finally had to say, “Janice (not her real name), I know you didn’t call out of the blue to talk about the weather, what’s on your mind”. She laughed as she knows me too well. Get straight to the point is my middle name.
“You’re right” she said, and went on to tell me about a self-help program that she had been using for about a year and how much it had helped her and her family and even friends that I also knew well. She was adamant it could be a blessing to me also. She reassured me that she still believed in God and Jesus but this program helped her so much she just had to share it with others and thought of me.
If you know me you would know that I should have chosen to be a detective or prosecuting attorney as a career path. I opened up my investigation by asking, “what’s in it for you Janice?”. She told me nothing. She just wanted to share some good will. The next ten minutes she must have felt like she was before a grand jury or worse under the spotlight being coerced into a confession to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
I know Janice and her husband and I know the type of people they are. Honest, of good character and I know she would never offer me something if she didn’t think it would be good for me and Rhonda (my wife).
I have had my own experiences with self-help programs, one I was fully into for a year. AT the time I felt this particular program could help me in certain areas I was having difficulty in so I made the decision to commit to the program lock stock and barrel for one full year. This I did and I threw myself into reading, learning, researching, listening and watching everything I could get my hands on and it wasn’t cheap.
When I completed my year, precisely to the day I had a good look at my progress, where I was at in my life compared to a year ago and I had to admit this particular program had been a blessing and had helped me in areas that I had been quite weak in. It hadn’t changed my life radically but I got enough out of it to feel satisfied that the year was well spent.
Weighing up the pro’s and con’s on deciding if I should continue the program was a blessing in disguise. It made me look at what I had in my life that brought me to where I was before committing to this self-help program and where I could go if I continued.
The scales seemed to be evenly balanced but I eventually decided to let the program go and not continue. What tipped the scales for me was this; I had realized that this program was so much like a religion in itself. Everything outwardly was working some good in my life but I was becoming dependent on this programs doctrine. I knew it was starting to become like a religion to me and I had no room in my life for two religions. My beliefs and commitment to the Lord over the past forty years of my life were in jeopardy as I could see that this program albeit very good outwardly was eroding some of the basic fundamentals of my relationship with the Lord that I had painstakingly built up over the years since I was a young man.
I had to think about why I felt I had to commit to this self-help program in the first place. I wasn’t happy with my life, too many ‘bad things’ were happening to me, my personal struggles seemed like they would never go away and I felt God was not working for me any longer. God seemed distant and unapproachable. I was starting to doubt God’s place in my life and my place in the world. I was looking for another way to find truth and purpose.
It was a wakeup call, I decide against continuing the pursuit of happiness with this new way of thinking. In plain english, there was no room in my life for two religions, two beliefs, two God’s. The one who had worked well enough throughout my life, He could just as well work well for me the rest of my life. I just needed to get back to basics.
I did look at the material Janice gave me via the programs web site but I already knew my answer. I communicated with Janice that this particular program was not for me. She understood and we promised to keep in touch. We said our goodbyes and I thanked the Lord for the opportunity to reaffirm my faith and love in a God who although sometimes seems distant and unavailable is always there either right next to me, walking in front leading the way, a step behind to make sure I don’t stumble and fall and then there are times when He even has to carry me because I am to weak to make it on my own two feet.
Trusting God has a lot of merit, its been tried and proven over countless years by millions of men and women of God. It’s the old fashion way and it suits me just fine.
(Footnote: I want to make it clear that self-help programs can help in areas of our lives that need work on. Medication can help, it takes away the pain, even if for only a short time to give us rest and peace of mind. A good movie helps keep our mind off our troubles if only for a few hours. Helping those in greater need than us is also rewarding. Laughing is a great way to feel good. Talking to someone who understands is encouraging. Reading a good book takes us out of our world for a short time. The list goes on but most of these things do not cure or heal the greater need. Trusting God does.)
In a world where technology has taken hold of our lives at every level, we can communicate at high-speed, we can access information on just about any subbject at the touch of a finger. We are the “I want it now generation”.
One thing hasn’t changed when it comes to following God. We take one step at a time.
Whether God shows your calling, a ministry, mission or plan for your life, we can only get there one step at a time.
If you are compelled to reach an allusive goal that has been out of your reach for too long we start by taking one step at a time.
God only illuminates our path one step at a time. We may in our minds eye see the end result but make no bones about it, God will not allow us to take shortcuts. He only lights up our steps one at a time. David knew what he was talking about when he said, “thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”Psalm 119:105 (KJV)
In the pitch black country path with nothing but a wick candle or lantern you can only see the step in front of you. One step at a time and its time honored that unless God needs to perform some sort of instant miracle we mortals will only have the near sight of putting one foot in front of the other.
In God’s wisdom He insures that we will not miss out on every minute detail that goes into us reaching our destination.
With God’s word lighting our path, we only need to take one step at a time.
What step are you taking today?
The modern-day mantra this generation has embraced is, “you can be anything you want to be, you can do anything you want to do”. Everywhere you turn, life coaches, motivational speakers, the swimming champ giving a talk at a primary school, TV ads. This philosophy has also infiltrated the pulpit and our christian teachers. Yes its good advice for doing your best, going for gold, pushing yourself to be the man God wants you to be. Or is it?
Does Jesus see it that way? Is that God’s message to the true believer? How does that mantra fit into the very fiber of our spiritual walk with God.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7 that we are bought with a price. That each of us when we gave our lives to Jesus, when we came to the Lord and said, I’m yours now Lord, do with me what you will.
I don’t believe he then goes on to say. “OK buddy, now go out and do the best you can, be the best you can be and be what you want to be. If God owns us then He knows exactly where we fit in, who He wants us to be.
Many of us struggle with this because as the months and years pass we still are confused with who we are and what place we are to fulfill God’s plan. When in fact we are exactly where we are supposed to be, with those we are supposed to be with, and in the exact place we are to be. Of course we always want to do more, be more for God and show God how much we love Him by doing the best we can with what He gave us.
There is a fine line between doing our best for God and letting God do His best through us because what God may see as His best for us may have gotten garbled in transmission some where along the line in our communication with Him as we pursue being our best for Him
So if we are bought with a price then God owns us. If God owns us then it is up to Him how He wants to use us, what He wants to use us for and when He wants to bring it altogether.
If you are struggling with your God identity which is a common affliction with us Christians, just relax, God owns us so let Him worry about all the rest.
When I was a kid I loved to look at the pictures on the box of the jigsaw puzzles. It seemed so simple. All those little pieces of the puzzle all mixed up put together makes such a nice picture. You buy it take it home, open it up and there in front of you are 250, 500 or a 1,000 pieces. Now all you need to do is put them all together and when finished, waaa laaa. You have a beautifully completed picture that matches the box cover.
I have never completed a puzzle. I just didn’t have the patience for it, not as a kid. My whole existence was to keep moving, do things. To sit and work on a jig saw puzzle just didn’t fit into my plan. Don’t get me wrong, I started many a puzzle but never completed any. Not counting the little 5 piece puzzles that I used to put together for my children when they were toddlers. God I was so proud of myself.
Life can be like a jig saw puzzle.
There is a belief that before we actually start our life on earth God allows us to see the whole picture of our lives. Prepares us spiritually for what we are sent to earth to do, what we will accomplish, our mistakes, the people we meet, who our mother and father will be, where we will live and so on. The picture on the outside of the puzzle box.
There is no proof of that but I like the idea that God had a plan for us, a mission, a calling. He made the over all picture and when we arrived as a baby all those pieces were scattered all over the earth for us to search for, pick up and put in its place to fix perfectly into His overall picture plan for us.
As we live, search and struggle through life we try to fit pieces of the puzzle that don’t seem to fit. We get frustrated, tired, angry and sometimes we feel like just giving up and upending the board that has its pieces of the puzzle of our life that does fit in the trash.
But we don’t quit. Something drives us to keep going, to keep searching, to keep looking for the pieces of the puzzle that will make the whole picture.
Every time we find a piece of the puzzle of our life that fits into place we get a feeling that we are on the right track. When we put its piece in place we breathe a sigh of relief. We get excited because we know that with every piece we happen to find we are getting closer to the completion of the puzzle of our life.
All the pieces are out there. We just have to keep living, keep looking , keep anticipating that next piece to the puzzle.
“Ye shall seek me and find me when ye search for me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13 (KJV)
When the Lord squeezes us it hurts.
I say ‘uncle’ , I surrender Lord.”
He squeezes tighter, I say, “OK Lord, I get it, you can let go now”
He squeezes tighter.
“I get the point, Lord, I can’t breath.”
He squeezes tighter.
“Good lord, I’m not going to make it, stop”
He squeezes tighter.
I give in, please Lord, I can’t take any more.
He squeezes tighter.
I can’t breath, I stop struggling.
He lets go.
I gulp air like a man dying of thirst.
I take a deep breath, thank the Lord and give myself a pat on the back for how I endured.
I may have a few scars but they are just reminders so I will never forget.
How much can we take?
More than we think.
Giving is part of our Christian heritage. Time and space would fail to tell all the times we are encouraged to give and the benefits and the blessings that are enabled from giving. Ah yes, we as Christians just love to give, to sacrifice to help others in need. It’s in our DNA, right?
Now lets talk specifically about money. Giving money. I am purposely pausing to give all those that just took off for greener pastures. Now I am probably only talking to just you, the one reader left to hear what I have to say about giving MONEY.
When I became a Christian and my church encouraged giving. Ten percent to be exact (although it went up to 13%) it really didn’t mean much to me. Oh sure, there was an account of where and how the money was spent, at least generally but we were taught that it was scriptural, biblical, God’s plan to keep the church going and it was just downright our duty. So I gave without question. I became detached from the blessing of giving, it was a duty, my job, my responsibility, just something I was supposed to do.
After a while I didn’t even feel bad about fudging the books, you know, skimming off the top when things got tough on the home front. I stole from my Church.
When I left the church tithing was one of the first things to go.
Now lets not confuse our “God-given duty” to tithe with giving.
I love to give, I just don’t believe I need to be forced to tithe.
Giving should always be a matter of the heart. No matter what it is your giving but since we are talking about money I will tell you what I have learned since leaving the church over 16 years ago.
Giving is personal, or it should be. I never had a problem giving when it suited me, the need was clear and I could justify who and why I was giving. I became the judge and jury on where I gave my hard-earned cash.
Then one day not too long ago God sent down a challenge, an incentive if you like. It came in the form of scripture, one I am sure you are quite familiar with and have had it masterfully or better yet bluntly directed to you in some Sunday morning sermon over the years.
“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse that there might be meat in my house and prove me now herewith saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open to you the windows of Heaven and pour you out a blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.” Malachi 3:10 (KJV)
Still with me? Don’t run for the hills just yet.
Yes, it spoke to me, after fifteen years of putting tithing not only on the back burner but far away in the outhouse.
The Lord was challenging me. You tithe to me, in a way that is totally different from what you have been taught and I will personally not only bless you but bless you so huge that you will find it hard to know what to do with it.
Ok God, I said, I’m up for the challenge. I will do it but you do your part and the key was “prove me now herewith”. In other words God was saying you do your part by tithing and this will put me to the test to keep my side of the bargain.
We shook hands and made the pact. I started putting aside ten percent (that is the percentage that is left over from my old life) but I didn’t know what to do with it.
Long story short. I learned when God was tugging at my heart to give in situations that came across my path. Situations that I would in the past analyse immediately. “Should I give money that I probably need more? What will the money really be used for? Can I trust who I am giving to? Is it a sham?”
But the Lord taught me to recognize when he was putting it on my heart. I wasn’t always sure in the beginning but in time that little tug on the heart became a pounding. The only decision I had to make after I got the “tug”was how much.
I would always start low and begrudgingly work my way up, ever so slowly ever so slightly until I put it off until I was sure of the right amount.
I can still feel God chuckling at me when going through this agonizing process. After much trial and error I started to realize that God was already showing me “how much”. It was the first figure that popped into my mind.
I am still learning to trust God’s voice but more importantly I am able to accept that first figure that pops into my mind.
The great thing about putting aside the ten percent is that when God tugs at my heart there is always money in the coffers to give.
Has He opened the windows of Heaven for me yet?
As I daily look to the heavens I am sure I can see cracks starting to form. It’s just a matter of time.
“Don’t tell me what you believe, show me how you live each day and I’ll know what you believe.”
This quote has been a measuring stick to me for many years now. It helps me keep a balance between good preaching, teaching, advice or instruction I give to others.
I believe as a christian that God instructed us, no I will be more forthright, commanded us to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. Now we can take that literally or metaphorically or just as good advice.
It may not always need to come in the form of standing at a pulpit or being a missionary in a far off land. It may have nothing to do with being a youth minister or even standing on a street corner handing out gospel tracks.
How ever you proclaim your faith, you better be able to back it up with how you live your life on a daily basis.
Now if I was to invite you into my home to live with me for a week so you can see first hand how I live I may have to give out a hit of no dose or V or even a shot of adrenalin because I guarantee, you could even die of boredom.
So when I tell others about Jesus, talk about the lessons I learn or how I have lived my life for Him in the past, can quote you scripture and verse, tell you what Daniel meant in prophecy or argue creation verses evolution it all means absolutely nothing if I can’t back it up with a Godly presence on a daily basis.
And I am not talking about how I can read God’s word in the morning, or review my memorized scriptures, pray for an hour at a time. It certainly has nothing to do with how much I allot for missionary giving or how prompt I am in getting to church on Sunday or how good I am at leading the Wednesday night bible study. No in fact even if it was those things I would fall short.
If you viewed me from a physical aspect you would be mostly disappointed, I am sure of that as much as I know that the sun rises will rise every day in the east.
Personally I would look for how a person makes me feel when meeting them for the first time, if they more a listener than talker. I would look to see how they interacted with others, their neighbors, strangers. How they would treat that annoying telemarketer that called for the tenth time.
I would look and see how he treated their work mates or if they are the boss their employees. I would look at how they interacted with those less fortunate than themselves.
I would watch very closely how they reacted to situations that are out of their control such as erratic drivers that cut them off in traffic or how patiently they wait in line or their attitude toward those that are different to themselves such as those of a different faith, sexual orientation or color of skin.
I would look at how they treated their children, their wife or husband, girlfriend or boyfriend. How they treated their in-laws (well ok, maybe I’m over doing it and asking too much now)
One thing I know for sure, what is in the heart will come out in some way or form.
I guess if I were to invite you into my life for a week I would want you to look at those things I stated above. I may not live up to your standard but I can tell you for sure, that I am trying my best to be the way God wants me to be.
I guess what I am trying to say, as a christian I am compelled to tell others of the good news,not because I should but because I want to.
I also have to be willing to be judged not by what I say but how I live my life.
What is your measuring stick?
I think I was a fairly level-headed kid. Mostly positive and fun loving. In retrospect I had a pretty good upbringing with good positive memories. Considering all the time I spent being grounded, in the principal’s office, running from the police and carrying guilt around for all the things I didn’t get caught for I would say I made it through my adolescent years unscathed.
Now add a year in Vietnam and years of drug use and again no one could blame me if I came through all that with a negative mind set. But I didn’t, I was still quite positive about life and loved living for the day, what ever that may have brought my way.
I always seemed to have a positive outlook on life.
Enter Jesus and a christian lifestyle.
Life just kept getting better.
So where did I go wrong, how did I get off the track and how did all that positive energy take a dive?
If I was to try to pin point the downward spiral in my life I can honestly say I just don’t know. But in saying that it could have been an accumulation of many different things. Growing up, maturing, having a family, responsibility.
But if I had to put blame on something or someone I would have to say, “the devil made me do it.”
By the time I was thirty five I had my Masters Degree in Negative thinking.
Well I learned over time that the devil had nothing to do with it, but that is not to say that he didn’t exploit the fact that my negative thinking was an open door to invite him in to my life to wallow in my already miserable state of mind.
Fast forward about twenty five years, now living miserably with my affliction but accepting that it has become a part of my life that I will most assuredly take to my grave I came across an article that gave me hope that my affliction was indeed curable.
It talked about negative thinking being a habit that could be changed. There was a simple solution. Stop thinking negatively. Duh, now why didn’t I think of that. How creative, how intelligent, how simple.
As I read on the gauntlet was thrown down. The challenge was put before me, “yes you can do it,any one can, you just need to want to stop thinking negatively and want to think more positive.”
Ok, so now I feel myself falling back into my comfort zone. You mean I have to do something about it, there is no magic pill to take that will heal me immediately and for good?
The author went on to explain that in order to change a habit (and he implying that my negative thinking was a bad habit and not “the devil made me do it”) that all I had to do was from the time I woke up in the morning till I went to bed at night think only good positive thoughts and that I needed to do it for 26-30 days.
Whoa, now hold on. What you are trying to say that I had to perform a miracle on myself.
Apparently this act of lunacy was guaranteed.
Where do I sign, I’m in. I had enough, no more negative thinking, do or die, give me my marching orders.
That day I committed myself to thirty days of thinking only good thoughts. But I will start the first thing in the morning. It will give me a chance to say goodbye to all my negative friends and voices in my head that have been a part of my life for so long.
There was no special formula, no list of do’s and don’t, no perfect way to adhere to thinking positively. Nope, you just are supposed to wake up on day one and think good things.
Day one was like sticking pins in my body from head to two. Somehow I made it through my induction day. I would say sixty – forty in favour of the old man.
Day two was better, fifty-fifty and so on until I started going through each day with almost a hundred percent report card. I made it to my thirty day graduation and I celebrated by patting myself on the back with a well done.
I did it, I conquered my negative thinking and replaced it with a Diploma in Positive thinking. No that’s right, no one is perfect. I am working on my Masters.
Now, when negative thoughts hit I am instantly aware of what is going on and my first impulse is to reject those thoughts and replace them with positive ones. But the choice still remains up to me.
This new paradigm set me on a road to recovery and to say the least, a greater personal relationship with those around me and mostly importantly with the Lord.
A better way of life.