Choose Wisely

Adam and Eve were placed in a special environment where they had all they ever needed. They were also created perfect in that they knew how to make all the right decisions, were not judgmental, and their relationship with each other and God was unselfish. They were the model for the family, relationship, and marriage. 

When God created the world, He clearly defined right from wrong. All moral issues were objective and not subjective. There was one, obvious, absolute morality. One could choose to do the wrong thing, but that choice was clear. In their home, “the garden”, was a tree that God told Adam and Eve not to touch. The tree had a tremendous alluring power, primarily in how it affected the senses: Eve first listens to the snake’s seduction. She is then attracted to the look of the tree. She then takes the fruit in hand and tastes it. As the verses say: “And when the woman saw that the tree was… a delight to the eyes… she took of the fruit, and did eat…” (Genesis 3:6).

When Adam and Eve ate from the tree, it triggered a new modus operandi for the entire human experience: senses became more powerful than the intellect. And because all sensory delights are subjective, many choices become personal rather than universal. Adam and Eve were aware of what they were doing. They knew that the Tree was off limits. They were not lacking anything in the Garden of Eden so, what did they feel was missing that they chose to disobey God?

It is said that there are two ways to attain wisdom: either to learn about it intellectually, or to acquire it through life experience.

From a sensory perspective, the thrill of experience is unmatched. But at the same time, it is fraught with danger. Do we really need to experience every drug and every decadent activity to know that it’s not for us? We’ve all seen how the result of these experiences can carry the danger of permanent physical and/or emotional scarring. So why do we make these bad choices?

God’s discussion with Adam and Eve after their sin is not about punishment, but about consequence. God says: If this is the choice you are making then this is how your life will play out. Adam and Eve’s choices have (unfortunately) affected all their descendants, for all generations.

The story of the Tree of Knowledge is the ongoing story of humanity. We are convinced of the correctness of our actions. And when we err, God presents another chance to realize and admit our mistake. If we do, we draw closer to God than ever before. But if we egotistically defend our position, then we further carve an identity separate from God. 

Even though Adam and Eve did not choose correctly, we still can. And in doing so, we can rectify that original sin, and bring about a return to Eden, the ultimate era of heaven on earth for which we all so desperately yearn.

Mission ImPossible

Prior to my entrance into the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) my understanding of the term mission was based upon the 1966 television series “Mission Impossible,” which ran for seven seasons. A mission was a seemingly impossible task that a hero received via a pre-recorded message that itself would self-destruct after having delivered the information. Each week a new impossible mission would be assigned, and the hero given the option to accept or reject the mission. The hero always accepted, and the impossible mission was always completed. It seemed odd to me that those impossible missions were rather simplistic and could always be accomplished.
 
My experiences in the military shed new light on the term mission. Unlike the task assigned to the Impossible Mission Force (IMF), military missions were complex, involving both willing and not-so-willing participants and at times were frustratingly unachievable. Welcome to real life Gerry. Military missions notoriously suffer from insufficient resources, partially engaged personnel and uncertainty due to multiple foreseeable and unforeseeable factors. Reality tends to foster an attitude of partial commitment towards the mission. Passionate engagement is difficult to find.
 

In the book of Matthew, chapter 28 verses 18-20, Jesus, like the deep voiced operations officer on the self-destructing tape, offered to his disciples an impossible mission – to go to all the nations and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that Jesus had commanded the disciples. Bringing liberation from the eternal catastrophic consequences of personal sin and subsequent alignment with the principles and precepts of the Living God to all the world is an impossible mission that trumps any the IMF were called to accomplish. In fact, the mission of Christ is truly impossible. So, why would the disciples or even myself for that matter undertake to pursue this mission?
 
For one, unlike military missions, Jesus has promised to not only be with me, but He has assured me that He will bring to bear all the authority that has been given to Him.  How much authority? All authority. This means unlimited power, unlimited resources, unlimited effects. With that kind of support, the mission is not only possible, its accomplishment is 100% assured. For that reason alone I would be keen to join the winning team. Yet, there is a second reason, the object of the mission – saving people’s lives. Serving the Supreme Commander as He changes lives forever. 
 
There are a lot of different missions that people choose to undertake. Some are for a short time, while others are for extended durations. At its inception in 1973 the Military Christian Fellowship (MCF) chose to accept the impossible mission of bringing the gospel to the military community at home and abroad. Members of the MCF are Christ’s IMF to you, your neighbours, and your colleagues in the military community. 
 
Join us.

The Shield – download PDF

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Believer or Disciple?

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and your name drive out demons and, in your name, perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Matthew 7:21-23

Do you realize what Jesus is saying – many people are emotional about their faith, who are active in ministry, and who perform miracles, but the gospel of grace has never transformed their hearts? They are believers in Jesus who are not disciples of Jesus. 

Is there a difference between believers and disciples? Believers and disciples appear to do many of the same activities, but their motives are miles apart. Many believers try to impress God and those around them by being involved in church and service, but disciples do the same things to know God better and reflect His goodness and greatness to everyone. Believers serve God if it is convenient, while disciples serve God based on conviction. 


Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the entrance and broad is the road leading to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:13-14


Jesus compared the way to heaven as a path and suggested that many have intentionally widened that path by pushing aside God’s boundaries before us in scripture.

Believers focus on the passages that promise what God will do for them, but disciples take the whole counsel of God seriously. Disciples follow God whether they agree with God’s word or not, whether they understand or not, whether obeying is comfortable or not.

Believers elevate their opinions, feelings, and thoughts above the Word of God, while disciples elevate the Word of God above their opinions, feelings, and beliefs. Jesus says that because so many have created a wider path, they will miss the gate that leads to eternal life with Him. Many will miss eternity with Him because we think they are playing the game properly. But it is not a game, or a performance God seeks but a relationship with Him. The Creator of the universe wants us to spend eternity with Him and has given us the Holy Spirit, prayer, and scripture to guide us to Him. 
 
Have you ever considered whether you are just a part-time follower of Christ? Do you only trust God when everything is going well? Disciples follow God regardless of the circumstance. Part-time followers stick around if God seems to be blessing them, and life is easy, but disciples keep pursuing God and trusting in Him even when their world is falling apart. God asks us to believe in Him, repent, and turn away from our desire to be a follower under our terms. He asks us to acknowledge His grace and forgiveness, repent and turn from those activities we know are offensive to Him, to those around us and even to ourselves. He wants us to shift from being a weekend follower to a 24/7 disciple. 

Instead of starting your day with a coffee, breakfast, a quick check of the news, or whatever you habitually do, start your day by saying. “You are my God, and I want to be on the path that leads to You. Help me to honour and love You this day and every day”. It is a start on the discipleship path. 

Don’t fear the hate!

Jesus was straightforward with his disciples when He spoke about the type of life they would face once they declared being His followers.

He spoke about heavenly rewards that will be given to God’s children. At the same time, He did not avoid talking about what they would face once they decided to follow Him. The Gospel of John records Jesus as saying the world will HATE His followers. The Greek word used implies being detested to the point of persecution. Knowing this, we must ensure that we do not hate those in the world. 

It difficult to comprehend how spreading the Gospel can lead to hatred. We know Jesus often spoke of God’s love for His children. He also mentioned several times that we are to love our neighbour as ourselves. So, where does the hate come from? Jesus’ teachings go against human instincts, against killing, abusing, making a profit, and so on. He spoke against the things that drive this world today. 

God has stated that He is against sin, against anything offensive or causes harm to us, to other humans and God. We must speak the truth, but the fear of offending someone may interfere with our relationship with God. We can worry about “political correctness” to the point that we could stop sharing the truth. We point people to Jesus and scripture because the Holy Spirit prepares them. We can be offended by sin, and as the expression goes, we can hate the sin, but we must not hate the sinner. We are not called to condone or accept behaviour contrary to God’s plan. We must trust the Holy Spirit to help the unsaved see sin as offensive while we love them with our words and lifestyle.  

Pray that you can be an example to others by asking the Holy Spirit to help you love others. Pray for strength to live in the world and ask God to protect you from the pressure to compromise your beliefs. Pray and ask God to use you to share His love. 

ACCEPT

“I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” John 10:10b NASB 

Do you remember the circumstance surrounding your decision to become a follower of Christ? Someone may have shared scripture (probably John 3:16) and talked about eternal damnation versus eternal joy. They may have spoken about your sinful nature and God’s redemptive character. You may have then been guided to say a prayer inviting Jesus to be part of your life. Was there a sense of awe, excitement, or peace? Was there an expectation that life would be different? Did you wonder what the next steps would be?

During your new life as a follower of Christ, have you experienced a sense of completeness where you have felt God’s presence? It may have materialized as a feeling that made you sense contentment and love. It pushed everything around you away except for the assurance God loves you. 

Sadly, this experience does not seem to last long for many, making them wonder if we can only feel God’s glory in bits and bytes. While trying to recreate that “alive” feeling, some people forget what God offers and fall into the trap of trying to evoke God’s presence by acts and words. They replace God’s invite to believe with the idea God wants us to behave. They develop routines and practices trying to become righteous, which will validate their ticket to heaven. However, in trying to make God come to them, they become tired and confused as if they were continually treading water. 

Jesus invites us to stand above the water so we can see the world through His eyes. When we get tired, or our burdens seem too heavy, He offers to take up our load. He didn’t say do this or do that, and life will get better. He said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Not only did Jesus come to save us from eternal separation from God, but He also came so we could have a full life, a life where we could live each day knowing we are loved and blessed by the Creator of the universe.  Sadly, too many followers only stop occasionally to be refreshed and renewed while on their journey. They forget to ask God to fill them with His presence and end up living two unfulfilled lives where one foot is in the kingdom on Sundays and one foot in the world all other times daily. 

The secularization of our thinking causes many to question God’s truths and promises. Instead of accepting and believing, they challenge God’s motivation. I advocate reading and studying scripture, and I also support meditating and praying about what God is saying to us in scripture and life.


Instead of worrying about what you must do to please God, accept that He is pleased, and that is why He choose you to follow Him.


Then focus on how He seeks to please you. He wants to fill you with His presence. He wants you to have the joy and the peace He offers. He wants you to know that your relationship with Him is crucial and that everything else flows from it. 

Will you talk with God about your relationship with Him? There are no exercises, exams or Ten Step programs to help with this relationship, only direct communication. Talk with God in your own words and tell Him what you desire in your relationship. Talk about those moments where all felt right with God and ask Him for more of that connection. Do you think you can take some time each day to reflect on what it means to be in God’s presence? Can you find a quiet spot where you will not be disturbed and talk with God about wanting more of Him, about needing help with your faith? When you seek to understand your relationship with Jesus, you will be transformed, your faith will grow, and you will sense more of Him.  

Lost & Found PT 3

And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the Temple.” Luke 2:43-46

Scripture tells us that Joseph and Mary went a day’s journey” without Jesus. They were separated from Him, did not see Him, and yet pushed on a whole day’s journey. It is what many are doing today. They lose Christ and go on their way; this is a severe mistake. The thing to do when we miss the Saviour is to stop everything until we find Him. After Joseph and Mary spent time looking for Jesus amongst those in the caravan, they realized what they had to do, “they turned back again seeking Him.” They went back to where they left Him. There is nothing else to do if we want to find Christ. If we go away from Him, we must return to Him.

TIPS to keep us from losing Jesus.

First, keep your eyes fixed steadily upon Him. Suppose Joseph and Mary had done this, then the separation which cost them such worry and pain would never have occurred. The thing to do is to allow no object to come between you and Christ. Keep your eyes on Jesus, not occasionally, but attentively and continually. It can be done, thank God, in the busiest life. 
 
Second, keep talking to Jesus. How are we going to lose Him if we remain in unbroken communion with Him? When we sense a silence in our soul, an uneasiness, this is a reason for alarm, and we should at once re-establish our divine connection. 
 
Third, get Christ as an indweller. Many of God’s people know him as a visitor, as one who comes and goes, visiting the heart and then leaving it. In these conscious absences, so much spiritual hurt occurs, and Satan gets in his work. This experience is spoken about in John 14, where Jesus says if we love Him and keep His commandments, He will come unto us and take up His abode with us. In a word, He will cease to be a visitor and become an indweller. 
 
Finally, keep claiming “the blood.” If the slightest shadow and spiritual trouble arises, if there has been any word spoken or act done that brings a feeling of unrest, then claim the blood that cleanses.  There is such a thing as staying under the blood all the time. The person who claims the blood will hardly lose Christ. 
 
Many thousands have lived the Christian life; more live it today, and countless millions have yet do so. Pray that we who have Christ today will never lose Him. It would be better to lose friends, the whole world, and life itself than give up Jesus. May we hold on to Him at every cost, and by doing so will be victorious both in this world and the world to come. 

Lost and Found PT 2

Losing Jesus in the Service of the Church.


According to Luke 2:43-46, Jesus was lost, and he was lost by those who loved him. The same continues to happen today; Christ is still lost by his friends. Last week, we shared that you could lose Jesus because of busyness. But another way that Christians lose Christ is when they take their eyes off Christ and rest them on church work. 
 
That is what happened to the Jews. They boasted of their love of the Lord but let the Temple and Temple work come in between them and the Holy One. Devoted to the Temple, they killed the Lord of the Temple. They held their religious ceremonies, made their sacrificial offerings, burnt their incense, and the priests and Levites ensured they performed their duties while the Scribes and Pharisees were fasting twice a week and saying long prayers. Yet in the midst of it, all Jesus saw spiritual death and said, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. (Matthew 23:27)
 
It is a frightening thought to think that Jesus can be lost in the service of God.

Being loaded down with church work, attending Board and committee meetings, keeping the church books, and passing around the collection basket, can cause some to become so absorbed in these things that they lose Christ.  They took eyes off the Saviour and put them on their work and become spiritually petrified. While running around in the name of Jesus, they lost Him, and they lost Him in the Temple/church.
 
I believe if we knew how many prominent men and women in the church, how many ushers, Sunday school teachers and members of the choir and preachers in the pulpit have lost Christ out of their hearts, the world would be horrified. I do not suggest they live sinful lives, but they have been more loyal to church work than Jesus. It is easier to attend long Board meetings in the name of the Lord than to spend the same time alone on our knees with Christ. 
 
The good news is that Christ is not far away. Christ is not far off from the saddest, hardest, and worst. He walked among publicans and sinners while on earth and is near them today in His great mercy. He is often much closer than we dream. Next week we will look at how we can reconnect with the Christ we lost.

Workplace Prayer Groups Leaders Networking Meeting

Get Connected – Get Inspired – Learn and Grow

June 2nd  – 12:00 – 1:00 pm EST

PLEASE JOIN US – REGISTER TODAY

Are you leading a workplace Christian prayer group, bible study or support group?

Or would you like to start one?

One Way Ministries Workplace Network is organizing a lunchtime networking event Tuesday, June 2nd bringing together Christian leaders from across Ottawa, different workplaces, denominations, and the public and private sectors.

Workplace Prayer Groups are groups who pray together, do a bible study together and/or share what is happening in their work and seek guidance from a Christian perspective. Members have enough in common, so they understand each other, can help each other and pray for one another and their workplace.

There are already several workplace prayer groups in both the private and public sectors operating in Ottawa. One Way Ministries Workplace Network’s heart is to see a multiplication of these groups and be a coordination point for those interested to join or start such a group.

Click here to register for the June 2nd session.

Help us build a stronger community of Christians living out their faith in the workplace by inviting a colleague or friend. It’s as easy as forwarding this email to them with a personal invite from you!

This virtual session is complimentary.

Lost and found PT 1

LOSING JESUS THROUGH CARELESSNESS

“And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the Temple.” Luke 2:43-46.  

Luke shares the story of how Jesus purposely stayed behind in Jerusalem, allowing those who had been with Him to go on without him. Who has not felt a similar experience in their spiritual life? Jesus seemingly withdrawing right during prayer or passing by when we thought He would remain. At times we may be overcome by a strange feeling as if he were going to leave us. What does it all mean? 
 
Christ does not have a fluctuating love, nor is he erratic in His treatment of us. He is the same yesterday, today and forever, and can not be fickle. He lives with the highest wisdom and is obedient to laws that most Christians do not take time to study and understand. God announces himself as a jealous God. He is worthy of being followed and sought after. As a mother puts down her child and makes it walk to her, the Lord withdraws and is silent to make us pursue him and call after him.

The issue is “do we realize He has left”, and the question is “do we want to pursue Him?”

Luke suggests Joseph and Mary were so busy buying and selling and getting ready for travel that their eyes got off Jesus, and they drifted apart. Many have done just the same since. They have drifted from Jesus. They never intended it to happen, but they became so absorbed that it did. In some of these cases, there was no flagrant sin, but while attending to a business or occupation that was legitimate and proper, they gradually let go of Christ. They were busy buying and selling, taking care of the children, attending to the spouse, and generally running around. There were hours of laughing and talking, days consumed in entertaining of others, contact with many people distracted and diverted their mind so that one night after going to bed, they realized there was no Christ in their heart. They were pretty elbowed out of the divine companionship of Jesus by the busyness of the world around them. 
 
According to Luke’s passage, Jesus was lost, and He was lost by those who loved him. The same continues to happen today. He is gradually lost because God loves us too much to leave us at once. He gives us loving, gentle warnings but those so absorbed in other things have not seen these warnings. 
 
Are you willing to ask yourself whether you have Jesus in you?
Please take some time this week and ask yourself that crucial question: “Am I willing to pursue Jesus?”