Friday, December 12, 2008

Economic Uncertainty

We live in interesting economic times. How often have you heard those words? Companies are laying off workers. Other businesses have declared bankruptcy. Retirees do not have as much disposable income, especially if they depend on dividends from their stock portfolio. Baby boomers wonder whether they will have to work longer than they intended.

Lately the news consists of a constant diet of doom and gloom. Therefore many people are afraid to spend although they can afford it. Banks are refusing to lend even when they are able.

How should believers, who trust in the goodness and providence of God, react to this economic uncertainty? God reminded me of the answer when I looked outside my window the other day. A brightly coloured blue jay landed on a snow-laden evergreen tree. Tiny chickadees, almost hidden from view, hopped from one pine branch to another. They were not worried about what they would eat or wear.

Jesus instructed his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear…Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:25, 26 NIV).

I know a chorus, “Why Worry When You Can Pray?”. Let us learn from the birds. Do not worry about the falling stock market or the subprime mortgage fiasco. Instead ask your Heavenly Father to supply your needs, not your wants. Then trust him to do it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Unexpected Winter Driving Hazards

Long ago God promised Noah, as long as the earth exists, we would always have four seasons. Winter follows fall every year. It’s guaranteed. Yet, when it comes to winter driving, people seem to have short memories.

Although it is not officially winter, this season has arrived in southern Ontario and is here to stay for a while. Last week Toronto received its first snowfall of the season. In one day police responded to over four hundred accidents. The next day a policeman commented on the television news that all those collisions were caused by speed.

Many people are caught off guard and unprepared for winter even though it happens every year. Are you ready for Jesus’ second coming? I wonder how many will be unprepared or shocked.

Jesus told his disciples, “The Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (Matthew 24:44 NIV). This means that Jesus will come back when he is least expected. Since this is true, what advice does Jesus give believers? “So stay awake and be prepared, for you do not know the date or moment of My return” (Matthew 25:13 Living NT).

How are we to be prepared for Jesus’ return? Those who do not know Jesus as Lord and Saviour will definitely be unprepared. This fact should sadden the heart of every believer. Judging by the rest of Matthew 25, believers must do the work, which Jesus wants us to do. This means that we should live to please him by sharing the good news of salvation through Jesus alone.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Curious Squirrel

Animals like our house. The stucco contains tiny pebbles making it easy to climb. Once I saw a mouse climbing up the wall. I wondered if it had found a home in our eaves.

One morning my husband and I woke up startled to hear noises on the exterior wall of our bedroom. We wondered who was clattering up and down the wall. Then, for a brief second, a squirrel peered through the window at us. I am not sure who was more surprised, the squirrel or us.

Seeing the squirrel staring at us reminded me that we were not alone. People often think they are alone when they are not. Sometimes believers are hurting so much that they need assurance of God’s care and presence. Other times, people mistakenly assume no one is watching them. Therefore it does not matter what they do. Both are wrong.

The story of Hagar is a good reminder of God’s all-seeing watch over everyone. Long ago Sarah encouraged her husband Abraham to take her handmaid as a concubine. According to the custom of the day, any child conceived would be considered Sarah’s. When Hagar did conceive, Sarah became so jealous that Hagar fled into the wilderness. The angel of the Lord assured Hagar that she was not alone or forgotten. Hagar responded by acknowledging, “You are the God who sees me” (Genesis 16:13 NIV).

God is keeping an eye on you just as he did for Hagar. You are not alone. May this be a comforting thought for you today!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Life and Death Realities

I have experienced a series of contrasts about life and death this past summer. My nephew married his sweetheart near the shores of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. They stood in front of a beautiful arbor under sunny skies as the water lapped gently onto the shore. That scene reminds me of the blessings of being alive physically and of loving another person.

A few weeks later my husband and I helped to deliver Gospels of John at Hope for Quebec 2008. This summer marked the 400th anniversary of Quebec City. As part of the celebrations, believers from Europe, United States, and Canada united together to help distribute 400,000 Gospels to every household in Quebec City and to many visitors. As a result of this outreach twenty-one people accepted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. These new Christians not only have physical life now, but also eternal life. They are alive spiritually and belong to God’s family forever. Once they were dead spiritually, but now they are alive.

We cut our time short in Quebec City because of the hospitalization of my mother-in-law. For the next few weeks my husband and I watched her gradually die of congestive heart failure. Death is a horrible reality! It is the visible result of sin in this world. Until Jesus returns, every one of us must face this enemy. Thankfully, the nurses were kind and compassionate. They made sure she was not in distress. My mother-in-law did not fear dying because she knew Jesus. Now she is alive with her Saviour in heaven.

“ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’…But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:55, 57).

Monday, August 11, 2008

Meeting Deadlines

Have you ever had to meet a deadline? Most people have at one time or another. My family and I wanted to see the high tide on the Bay of Fundy. It was due at 11:30 am at the Tidal Bore near Truro. We had two hours to travel there from our hotel in Halifax. Going directly would have taken about forty minutes. Instead we decided to take the scenic route so that we could see more of the Bay of Fundy.

A star on the map indicated an attraction at Burncoat. When we couldn’t find it, we headed back toward the Tidal Bore. A short time later we took another detour on a road leading to the Bay. Getting out of the car we walked leisurely up and down the water’s edge and took a number of pictures. Not hurrying, we finally got back into the car. After a short drive we discovered a park with a deck protruding out into the Bay. Of course, we stopped to admire the view and to take more pictures. Because we took our time sightseeing, we arrived at the Tidal Bore five minutes too late.

This experience reminded me how easy it is to get distracted in this life from important spiritual realities. Once Jesus told a parable about a sower who went out to sow a field. Some seed fell on the path, but the birds ate it. Some fell on stony ground. It quickly withered and never took root. Some fell among thorns and thistles. It grew for a short time. Then choked by the weeds, it withered and died. Some fell on good ground, took root, and grew to produce fruit.

Do you feel like the seed that grew among the thorns and thistles? Are you easily distracted by the cares of this world? I hope you are not like us on our trip. We thought we had lots of time, but we became more interested in beautiful scenery than in keeping a deadline. We only missed the reversal of water at the Tidal Bore. It is much more serious to miss out on eternal salvation. Now is the day of salvation. When Jesus returns, it will be forever too late.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Write! Canada

Every June Canadian authors and editors who are Christian gather together at Guelph Conference grounds in Ontario for three days of companionship and learning. This was my second year, and it was fantastic. The organizers always make sure there are classes and workshops, which will interest everyone from aspiring writers to those who are career-oriented. Since I have written a book, I signed up for all of the marketing courses.

Teresa Evenson taught five sessions on preparing a pitch for the media. I learned how important it is to be prepared. Most of all I learned to be vulnerable and share my feelings, what I am passionate about and why. It’s about presenting who I am, not trying to sell the book.

The workshop on Speed Networking and Professional Pitch Practice with Wendy Nelles and Sandra Reimer complemented Teresa’s class. In it I learned to ask questions and find out what kind of book people are interested in first. If they like my kind of writing, then pitch away. I recommend this conference to anyone who wants to connect with other writers and editors who are Christian, especially if you are eager to improve your writing skills.

The Cardinal Family

My new neighbours are gone now. I miss seeing the flash of red flit by the window. I first spotted the male cardinal in the early spring. Then I spied the female perched on a nearby tree. When a baby bird lunged toward the ground, I realized that a cardinal family had taken up residence close to the house. The last time I saw them, mom and dad cardinal watched protectively as their baby searched for food. The little one hopped across the top of our arbor with vegetation hanging from its beak. Once during a windy rainstorm, the three of them squabbled like a human family.

I have no idea if my husband and I scared them away by our presence. We tried to be very quiet and non-threatening. More likely they left because they had no need for the nest. While I could observe them, God took care of that little bird family. He fed them and clothed them with beautiful feathers. He protected them from storms. In the same way God promises to take care of us.

These days many are concerned about rising oil prices. Perhaps this will affect the price of food. Drought or floods have devastated others. These threats are real, but God is sovereign over all. As long as he grants us the gift of life, he promises to sustain us with the necessities of life, clothes and food.

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26, NIV).

“God sees the little sparrow fall. It meets his tender view. If God so loves the little bird, I know he loves me too.”

Monday, June 09, 2008

The Community of Believers

I live near farmer’s fields. In the early spring the ground is either bare or has a layer of stubby green growth. Recently I noticed a stump in the middle of a field. “What a strange place for a stump,” I thought.

While I was staring at the stump, it moved. Then the long graceful neck of a Canada goose raised its head. Immediately I wondered why the goose was alone. Geese normally stick together. Was it hurt, or was it merely independent? How did it get separated from the others?

Seeing that goose reminded me of some Christians, who think church is optional. It does not matter if they are regular or not. They think they can live the Christian life alone and separate from others. This attitude contradicts Scripture. “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another…” (Hebrews 10:25, NIV). Every believer needs to be part of a community of other Christians for mutual encouragement and edification. I am so glad I belong to the family of God in my local church.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Human Predicament of Sin

A few weeks ago I came across a book detailing the mechanical feat of Stone Hedge. I pondered how humans built Stone Hedge. Obviously it required a host of strong men. I wondered if some died trying to erect those mammoth rocks.

This week my husband and I utilized the same principal as at Stone Hedge in raising up a tree in our backyard. During the winter heavy snow had forced its trunk to lean down near the ground. We could not leave it in that awkward position, especially since the tree now lay over our walkway.

Together we tugged on a thick rope encircling the trunk to force the tree upward. As we slowly lifted the tree up, I moved a container of very heavy rocks closer to the base of the trunk on the opposite side. In a short time the tree stood tall once again. Then my husband tied the rope to a chain link fence.

God does the same thing for us. We have been thrown down and burdened with a load of sin. Everyone is born with the sin nature. It does not take long before we act on it and deliberately disobey God. Have you cast yourself on God’s mercy? Do you realize your need of salvation? “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:10). Jesus is the only answer to the human predicament of sin.

Friday, April 04, 2008

My Knitting Adventures

I did not know what I was getting into last February when I encouraged ladies to knit mittens for some needy children. Knitting one pair of mittens has been quite a challenge for me! I used wool given to me by my mother-in-law. I had no idea if I would have enough, but I took a chance anyway. Since the largest ball was dark brown, it became the main colour. I chose a slightly smaller yellow ball as the contrasting colour.

As time passed, I knew I would run out of yellow. I thought, “No problem. I will have two contrasting colours--yellow and red.”

After the first mitten was done, I continued with the second one. To my dismay, I did not have enough dark brown wool to finish the second mitten. Therefore I ripped the brown thumb off the first mitten and replaced it with a red one. I had just enough brown from the thumb to finish the top of the second mitten. Although the instructions called for the thumbs to be the main colour, I used a contrasting colour.

I am so glad that God knows the end from the beginning. When he created the world, he did not make any mistakes. God did not have to make last-minute corrections to creation. The Bible says, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31, NIV).

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Misplaced Sincerity

Last November I took part in a coat giveaway for a church plant. One little girl wanted some mitts, but there were none. She affected me so much that I asked my friends in the ladies’ Bible study if we could knit mittens for the children. Most of the women were experienced knitters and eagerly accepted the project. We agreed to knit together for one-half hour before each Bible study.

A few, like me, were willing but needed guidance from the others. I thought I could at least cast the stitches on properly. After I had knitted a few inches, someone noticed my needles dangling at odd angles. Instead of forming a tight circle with three of the short needles, I may as well have been using only two long needles. Everyone else knit round and round whereas I was knitting back and forth. I was sincere but wrong.

In the Bible God often condemned people for worshipping idols. “Ignorant are those who carry about idols of wood, who pray to gods that cannot save” (Isa. 45:20, NIV). In North America we may not worship wooden idols, but we often put material things ahead of God. This is misplaced sincerity and very dangerous. The Lord demands and deserves our complete devotion and worship. He will not allow us to share our attention with other false gods. He says, “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me” (Isa. 46:9, NIV).

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Burdened with Cares

A semi-circle of evergreen trees provides privacy for my patio. Until recently, they stood tall and straight. This winter we have received so much snow that they are heavy laden and bent toward the ground. One tree looks like a low-lying arch over the narrow path, which leads to the patio. I am wondering if I will be able to navigate my way past it next summer.

As I look at those trees, bent because of a thick layer of snow, I think of myself. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28—30, NIV).

Most sermons I have heard on these verses emphasize a salvation message. Jesus is waiting for sinners to repent and lay their burdens at his feet. This is quite true. However, I am thinking how easy it is for believers to carry unnecessary burdens also. Am I trusting God each day to accomplish his will for my life? Am I too busy doing something else? It may be good, but is it what God wants me to do? It is very easy for believers to become bogged down doing worthwhile things for Jesus and yet miss out on what he wants us to do.

“Lord, please encourage me to keep doing what you want me to do. You have promised me rest and peace, if I am in your will. I pray for discernment to tell the difference between busyness and useful service.”