Friday, January 27, 2012

Romans 14

I just thought this was amazing when I was reading it earlier so I thought I should share it here. Such a beautiful conviction for us! Last week was the week of prayer for unity in the worldwide church and tonight at Emmaus Youth Group Josiah Henderson gave a fantastic talk about unity in the church and why we have denominations and whatnot. I'm not going to say much more, just leave a passage we looked at tonight that I don't want to forget about because it's rad.

The text below was stolen from the ESV website. That's why it has silly html that I'm too lazy to edit. Sorry about the weird background colors and such. If it hurts your eyes as much as it hurts mine, feel free to go get a real Bible and read it from there :)

Do Not Pass Judgment on One Another

14 As for mthe one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. nOne person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and olet not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. pWho are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master1 that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
qOne person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. rEach one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since she gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For tnone of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, uwhether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ vdied and lived again, that he might be Lord both wof the dead and of the living.
10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For wwe will all stand before xthe judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written,

y“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall confess2 to God.”
12 So then zeach of us will give an account of himself to God.

Do Not Cause Another to Stumble

13 aTherefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide bnever to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus cthat nothing is unclean in itself, dbut it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, eyou are no longer walking in love. fBy what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. 16 gSo do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. 17 hFor the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but iof righteousness and jpeace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever thus serves Christ is kacceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us lpursue what makes for peace and for mmutual upbuilding.
20 nDo not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. oEverything is indeed clean, but pit is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. 21 qIt is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.3 22 The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. rBlessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.4

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Hardcore Brokenness: Slow to Anger

I don't know about you, but there are a lot of things in my life that are clearly only there to test my patience. Traffic, the public transport system, broken escalators, slow waiters, my mother, the list goes on!

I find over the years I have grown a lot in my patience. I almost never outwardly react to the things that bother me, which is a lot better than exploding or freaking out when I lose my patience. But I know that's not really enough, because, while I might not show it on the outside, I'm still very quick to get angry about these things on the inside. A lot of people would argue that it's better to let it out than to bottle it up, but I would say it's best to not even get to that point to begin with.

But how can we do that?


We are told in Corinthians that Love is a number of things. The first of these things is patient! I think there's a significance to the fact that it is the first one listed in that passage. I think that's because it's so essential to the rest of them- if you lose your patience, it's impossible to be loving, kind and so on because your heart is in the wrong place for that.

When it comes to matters of the heart like this, there's really no *practical* advice I can give you. This is partly because it's all stuff I'm dealing with as well, and partly because I believe that the only really good way to deal with these things is by giving them to God and asking Him to change your heart to be more like His.

So if you're like me and regularly find yourself struggling to keep a cool head (or heart!) in the midst of such trials, I want to challenge you to bring those feelings to God and ask Him to change your heart! Ask Him to help you be quick in love and slow to anger.

Prayerfully,

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Bible in a Year: Week 3

Three weeks into this venture, I still feel like I have failed a little at finding and setting aside time to really devote to reading my Bible prayerfully and reflectively. Maybe it's because I worked 30+ hours last week and barely found time to read everything to begin with, but I'm kind of tired of making excuses for myself.

That being said, there has been a lot of stuff that has stood out for me this week. Specifically, this week included many readings involving Jesus' ministry and the whole history of Jacob and his sons. What I found particularly great about intentionally reading through these passages was the story of Joseph in Genesis. The grace he shows to his brothers when they come to Egypt, and the passion he shows to his brother Benjamin- the way he just breaks down and cries at the sight of him- was so moving for me! I'm the kind of person who cries at pretty much everything, so it's always nice for me getting to see other people moved in similar ways. Joseph's story is amazing because he was literally thrown out like garbage, but found so much favor in the Lord and was taken in by Pharaoh and just blessed so incredibly much. This picture of God's grace and love for His people is such a beautiful reminder for all of us.

That's all I've really got to say today. I'll probably do an extra post this week to make up for it, and you can keep your eyes open for another post on Wednesday as well!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Hardcore Brokenness: Mending Relationships

So, as promised, here is the post that was supposed to go up yesterday! Sorry that took so long, it's been a really crazy week.

Before starting, I'd like to establish that in this post, the word 'relationship' will be used in the general context of any type of social connection between two people, not in any way specifically referring to romance or dating or anything of the like, but also not excluding them.

I think it's safe to say that a lot of the things we perceive as negative in our lives come from the drama of damaged relationships. We all have them- those friends who things just never seem right with, the parents we blame for everything that's wrong, the loved ones we grow apart from- but what we don't seem to realize is that our relationships matter a lot!

I often find myself getting frustrated with people, or feeling disconnected from friends and family, and dismiss it until it becomes a real problem. If we do this and allow our problems to get bigger and bigger before dealing with them, they become unbearable and even more harm is done. We need to be able to identify when a relationship is failing and bring it up, as uncomfortable as that may be, so that measures can be taken to save it. I'm not even going to claim that this is a biblical principle- it just makes good sense. Humans are social creatures, we're hard-wired to care about each other (which is kind of beautiful, if you ask me), so it makes a lot of sense that we should strive to have right and functional relationships with as many people as possible.

But how can we do this?


One thing I've realized about my own approach to relationships is that I try to be intentional with them. If it's a relationship that I really feel the need to nurture and grow in, I will intentionally make time for that person as much as I'm able- but only if they are willing to do the same. I also tend to ignore small things that bother me, even if they get repeated on a regular basis, because we have to endure one another out of love, right?

If your enduring of someone begins to put a serious strain on your relationship with that person, it is okay to tell them that! You can be incredibly loving and unconditional with that love, but if you really care about the health of the relationship, you should be willing to risk it by bringing up the things that are harder to talk about. Sometimes people just don't realize they're driving you crazy until you tell them. Now, all that's to say it's not really okay to attack them with it- if you have an issue with someone it's very important to be tactful in the way that you deal with it, especially if you value the relationship at all.

But what if someone tries to do that with you, and fails to be tactful?


This is something that has come up for me a number of times. A really close friend of mine has always been really reliable when it comes to calling me out on things I'm doing that aren't Christlike. I appreciate that a lot because I would have made even more bad decisions without his guidance there. He always lacked tact though, and that put a bit of a strain on our relationship for a long time, because any time he would call me out on these things, I would feel hurt and attacked despite also knowing he was right and going to apply the changes. I think in these situations, it's important to do two things: First, to call them out on their tactlessness, and thank them for the advice; and Second, to keep short accounts with them.

This is a principle that Jesus taught, of turning the other cheek and being quick to forgive and whatnot. He at one point warns us that if we have a problem with our brother we should drop everything and go deal with it before making our sacrifices in worship to the Lord. I think this is a super important thing to apply to our lives, and is something I need to get a lot better at.

So, if you're reading this and you have a problem with me and want to mend our relationship- talk to me! :)

Tune in next Wednesday (for real this time) for the next post in this series! And don't forget to check back on Monday for an update about my New Year's Resolution ;)

Cheers,

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Today's Post Delayed!

Hey everyone,

So I know I said there would be a new post up every Wednesday, but I have been swamped with work and haven't had time to get one done for today yet! This is one of those "Perfect Storm" weeks- ~30 hours of work between my four jobs, classes starting, and very little in terms of sleep!

The post will be up sometime tomorrow (unless I magically find time today).

Sorry for the delay!

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Bible in a Year: Week 2

So we're into our second week of reading through the entire Bible in 2012!

I've been getting a little frustrated with myself this week. I have developed a bit of a routine to make sure I get my readings done every day; it basically involves reading on the bus & metro on the way to whatever I'm up to, and staying in the metro a little extra time if I'm not done yet instead of walking to my destination. I've started using an ESV Bible app on my iPhone and it's very easy to get all of the readings done at once in an efficient and quick way.

The problem with that is that it doesn't really feel like I'm actually spending any time in the Word, but rather, it feels like I'm just reading while doing other things. So, while it's true that I'm accomplishing my goal of reading through the Bible in a year, and haven't even missed a day yet, it's also true that I'm not really absorbing as much of the reading as I'd like to. I was hoping to be able to write up a post at the end of every week about something that jumped out at me in the scriptures I've been reading, but this week, I sat down and couldn't come up with anything for a good twenty minutes.

That being said, I don't really have anything to say today. I'll be making an effort from here on to do my readings as a separate thing, maybe even use a real Bible instead of reading off a screen, and hopefully that will help me to approach this from a more prayerful place and allow me to have the scriptures really opened up to me in new and amazing ways.

It probably doesn't help that I'm super exhausted from tons of long work days in the last couple of weeks... Oh well, at least my next pay check will be astronomical ;)

Heavenly Father, thank You that You are constantly watching over Your people and providing for us, and I pray that You would open my eyes to Your Word this week and help me to discipline myself to study Your word more closely. Amen!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Hardcore Brokenness: Foreword

So last Wednesday I announced that every Wednesday for the next little while I will be doing a post about the ways that God is at work in all of our hearts to deal with our brokenness and build our character, so that we can be better disciples and better witnesses to His glory and to the Gospel of His son, Jesus Christ. This week, I’m going to go a little deeper into exactly what this series is going to look like, and outline some of my goals and plans for the time to come. Starting next week, you can expect to have a sort of devotional-style post put up every Wednesday before 11PM ET (Montreal time). I wish I could be more specific about what time it will go up, but that will massively depend on how busy I am on a given Wednesday and on how many posts I back up in the queue for the weeks ahead. If you plan to read them every week as part of your devotionals, which I hope you will, then you should probably aim to read them on Thursdays, or late Wednesday night. Before I begin, I’d like to also state that I plan on doing another weekly update, probably on Sunday or Monday, about my New Year’s Resolution, reading through the Bible in a year with the ESV’s “Every Day in the Word” reading plan. This will look a little different from the Wednesday devotionals in that it will be more of a reflection on what in particular stood out for me that particular week, and will likely be less thematic.

So, let’s get down to business! A quick disclaimer: This post will likely be full of Christianese. Most of my posts will be less so than this ;)

As stated above, this post is mostly going to outline the goals and plan for my series titled “Hardcore Brokenness” which will start for real next Wednesday, the 18th of January.

As Christians, we are called to make better disciples of ourselves through the studying of God’s word and through our interaction, be it service or otherwise, with the rest of His Body. We also know, however, that God wants us to change our hearts for Him. He wants us to constantly be renewed by the power of His Spirit, and to ask for His help in doing so. We acknowledge that we are imperfect beings, and that God does not expect us to change ourselves for Him, but THROUGH Him, specifically, through His son, Jesus Christ. If we forget, for even a moment, that Christ’s sacrifice is what gives us life and worth, and try to change ourselves apart from that, it will mean nothing. Therefore through this series I plan to constantly keep you turning your eyes back to the Lord in all things. In all matters of the heart, I pray that He would be our main focus and our guide to dealing with the brokenness within us.
My goal here will be to address the issues of character that are clear in my own life, and, through Scripture, to encourage readers (and myself, in the process) to bring such things to God and lay them down at His feet in full submission to Him. My hope is that lives will be touched through this, that hearts will be broken and that God will use this as a way to start dealing with the things that His people are too proud or broken to have started working through before.
Over the next couple of months (I say couple of months rather presumptuously; I have no idea how long this series will go on for) I will be posting one devotional-style post per week, and would love to have feedback and encouragement through prayers and comments. I will also have a few guest writers at some point, which promises to be an interesting addition to this series.

I think that’s about all I have to say as an introduction to the series. I am excited to think that the Lord will use this to change people, even if those people are just me and the four or five people who actually read this blog regularly. I wish I could post this right now, instead of having to wait until I find free Wifi somewhere, but alas, I am currently typing this in a word document because the CafĂ© I’m in has the gall to charge money for their Wifi. At least the muffin was tasty.

Yours in Christ,

Tom

Monday, January 09, 2012

The Bible in a Year: Week 1

So this year I'm reading through the Bible with a reading plan from the ESV. It's an initiative taken by Keith Ganzer, the rector at Emmaus Anglican Church, to get a bunch of the men together every month to talk about the stuff we've been reading through in the plan. So far I'm happy to say I've managed not to miss a day!

The plan involves daily readings from the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs, basically going through each of these sections from start to finish. This is the first time I'm doing this, and it's been really interesting reading and reflecting on Proverbs this week. So far, I've gotten through the first two chapters, which is mostly just the writer urging people to remember that wisdom is super important.

I think this has resonated with me a lot because I'm 18 and wisdom's still not the strongest of my spiritual giftings. The emphasis being placed on it in this book is really significant because it sets the tone for the rest of the messages and gives the reader a really clear idea that Proverbs is a book of wisdom, of hints about things that will make a big difference in our walks with Christ.

I think I'm really excited to see how this Bible-in-a-Year thing will affect my ongoing goal to let God break things inside of me and reshape my character. It should be a great opportunity to learn some important lessons on the road to the places He's leading me ;)

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Emmaus Youth Group Winter Retreat 2012

This weekend, we had our annual Winter Youth Retreat. It was a really amazing opportunity to remember how trustworthy God is and how reliable he is when it comes to providing for us. About a week ago we found out we had nowhere to host our retreat! It was a bit of a panic but we tried to keep a cool head and remember that God wouldn't let us down. And He definitely didn't!




We were blessed with the use of Isaiah 40, which is conveniently down the street from my house, has proper heating and tons of bathrooms. We managed to have a brilliant weekend there and were blessed with tons of space to use and a really comfortable environment. The Spirit moved in amazing ways, and we managed to have a bunch of fantastic discussions about Spiritual Gifts and our value in Christ. The teens all had an amazing time and the leaders did a great job.

I think the thing that stood out most about this weekend was the incredible sense of family. We had two teens with us who aren't regular members of the group and mostly just come out for special events like this one, but it really felt like they had been around forever, and that's such a beautiful dynamic. Everyone was in good spirits and getting along well, and it was just such a comfortable time for everyone. We spent probably about 5 hours praying for and encouraging everybody, one at a time, and I'm not ashamed to admit I cried at least 14 times during those prayer sessions! It was just so beautiful seeing God at work in our community.

Now I need to get some rest. Good night!

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Hardcore Brokenness: An Intro to 2012

What a cheerful way to start the new year!

Over the last couple of days, God has been convicting me hardcore of my own brokenness. I think I had gotten to a point in my walk where I was overconfident. I felt like I was doing so many things right that I could get away with not dealing with issues in my character. Over the last couple of days, I have made a couple of bad decisions, most small and unnoticeable, but all of them enough to make me think twice about them after.

I think over the last few years, I have always been aware that God was up to things in my life. I was always aware of what 'season' my life was in- be it a season of growth in leadership, or knowledge, or giftings- but I always just attributed that to 'what God is doing while I sit back and watch things happen.' It's always been about noticing the trends in the things that I'm learning about and trying to think about how to apply those things in my life. What I realized is that never have I felt like I had to really do anything for any of this to happen- it was just a matter of blindly trusting God to work through me. And I don't think there's anything wrong with that kind of faith.

But what was missing was intentionality on my part. It's always been about sitting back and letting things happen, and never about being the co-pilot. It was lazy. Lazy growth. It's like planting a flower in a spot that gets perfect sunlight and is conveniently placed right under a drop of water that falls like once or twice a week, just enough to give it the hydration and nourishment it needs to grow, then going inside and watching it happen. It's like buying those little cups of microwavable Kraft Dinner instead of getting a box and cooking it yourself (or, you know, making real mac 'n' cheese, but whatever).

Over the last few days, I've felt God really convicting me of my need to be more intentional about dealing with the issues in my character. 2012 is definitely going to be a season of growth in that area for me. I expect this year to break me. God's going to tear me in half, have me in tears, punch me in the kidney and break my heart at least once. I also expect this year to yield incredible results. I expect God to pull up all the things I've let harden my heart, to bring things out of the darkness and into the light, and to show me how to become a better servant in His Kingdom, starting with the way I am in my heart.

So I'm going to invite you to open up to Him this year: Ask him to break you. Take the chance. I'll be praying for this every day. I fully expect to be an emotional wreck within the next month or two. Exciting! Expect a post about this every Wednesday! There will also be other stuff at random times, but I am trying to be more regular about my posts, so you can check back every Wednesday for a new post about how God's changing my attitude this year, as well as at other, less planned times in the week for just general postings.

Prayerfully yours,

Tom