The Blank Canvas

Before us lay 365 days that are like a blank canvas awaiting the brush strokes of the artist.  Our confidence and hope lay in the brilliance of the artist who will not waste a stroke, every one being intentional and mindful of the final outcome.  Like the artist, God has in mind what he wants to accomplish in and through us. Every action, every so-called “coincidence” has the final product in view.

Listen to what God is designing through you and I:

Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another-showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shapedup for the tasks God has for us.     

2 Timothy 3:16-17 The Message

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. 

Philippians 3:7-8 ESV

God is designing us to be people who grow to maturity in Christ to become like him through the application of his Word to our life. And, we grow to become mature in Christ because we understand that to be the greatest priority of our life.

How does God do this in us? He does so as we make daily choices over a long period of time to honour him through our obedience to his Word. It is not an overnight, quick process. One choice at a time, one decision at a time and one day at a time. It is not complicated but requires a God-centred obedience that aims to please him in everything.

He also does this through the refining fire of suffering. Sickness and disease, difficult relationships, our own bad choices, unexpected and unwanted circumstances all are a part of the Master’s brush strokes as he carefully paints on the canvas.  This is where daily life happens and daily choices are made. God refines us into the mold of his Son. Our experience of suffering causes us to yearn for more of God and less of ourselves. We slowly come to realize that everything in life has a  spiritual component to it. Yes, I did say everything!

Before us lay a years worth of opportunities to experience his grace. Our goal as individuals who belong to the community of faith is to encourage one another to patiently allow the Artist the freedom to create what he has in mind.  For far too long in my own walk with God I attempted to use God to get what I wanted. I used spiritually sounding words to manipulate people and circumstances. But God would have none of it! He had a greater plan in mind that he persistently and patiently continued to draw on the canvas. Save yourself some time and heartache, my friend, do what he asks nothing more, nothing less UNTIL he tells you what the next thing is.

I read years ago that our lives are the result not of the dreams we dream but of the decisions we make daily. Personally, I choose to awake early to read the Scripture and pray. Nothing mystical or magic about that but it is determinative. It speaks to what is priority and what is the goal of my life. If you have developed this habit, keep going, it is worth it, if you have not yet, do it and find someone to keep you accountable.

This blank canvas before us called 2018 will slowly begin to be painted upon. Each hour, each day, each week and each month will uniquely contribute to the final product. Think about these words of the Apostle Paul as you consider what you desire for this year,

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 

Philippians 3:13-14

Not So With You

notsowithyou.PNGWhat does it mean to be a ‘spiritual giant’?  I have been thinking about that term that we often use in regards to those who have tremendous significant input and influence in our lives.  They could have been a close friend, an influential author, a faithful pastor or someone whose life speaks to us today having served faithfully.

I think spiritual giants seldom, if ever, realize the total effect of their lives at the moment.  I don’t think, either, that this is ever the goal a person has. It is the by-product of faithfulness over time that has produced ripples of influence to you and I today.  I believe that there are common characteristics of people who leave positive marks on our lives. Let’s talk about those.  Continue reading

Running to Win

No self-respecting athlete ever enters a competition just to say he was just there. I am not an Olympic athlete, not even close, but I know by the hours and years, the self-discipline of training, the restricting your diet to eat what will enable you to perform the best possible on the day of the race. One enters the race to win it.

It doesn’t matter what dirunning-and-lifting-1scipline you train for, be it a 100 meter sprint or the marathon, or something in between, the goal is to win the prize at the end of the day. The great tragedy is when a runner is eliminated by an error that was totally in his control to be able to change. Many Canadians will remember the year (1988) when Ben Johnson apparently won the Gold Medal in the 100 meter race. Tragically, it was discovered later that Ben was disqualified by something that was totally under his control to deny. No one forced him to take a drug stimulant to race faster, he had total freedom to take it or to say no to the temptation. The choice was his to make. Today, he lives with the consequences of his decision.

Continue reading

A Complete Makeover

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The great struggle that you and I have as we walk the Christ-life, is that of getting on the same page that God is on.  From the moment that we decide to become life-long followers of Jesus Christ, a royal battle is ensued.  Before that moment, we were quite content to live life for ourselves.  We could say that we were a law unto ourselves.  Continue reading

What in the World!

By this all people will know that you are my disciples...

By this all people will know that you are my disciples…

 

In recent days there has been a lot of hand wringing among the people of the church.  There is a general feeling that everything is out of control and that the world is careening rapidly down to the hill into the abyss of hell.  The announcement last week of the United States Supreme Court decision in regards to same-sex marriage has caused an uproar among people of faith.  I have had the privilege of living in the United States and know how patriotic most of God’s people are. There seems to be a very close association between government and the church. To many government is a reflection, or ought to be, of Biblical values. Continue reading

What the World Needs Now

the crossI am humbled today.  I am humbled to think that I am so valuable to God that Jesus would die for me.  Last night, like millions of Canadians and Americans I watched Dr. Billy Graham’s last sermon (http://myhopewithbillygraham.org/programs/the-cross/).  The broadcast was entitled “The Cross”. After hearing the God-story of the two people featured on the video and the message from God’s Word, I am moved beyond words.

As a young person who had just come to faith in Jesus, I accompanied our church’s youth group to a weekend conference in Niagara Falls, Ontario.  On this particular weekend, one of the keynote messages dealt with the Cross.  As a new Christian, I will never forgot how the speaker described how valuable Jesus, God the Son was to God the Father. He talked about all the Son of God had endured to pay the penalty of the debt of sin that I owed. He talked of the Roman scourge and the cruelest form of execution that the Romans had invented called crucifixion. To top it all off, the separation for the first time in all eternity of God the Father and God the Son, you and I cannot even begin to fathom all that meant. For all the human race,  Jesus endured the shame of the cross to purchase our freedom from sin’s curse.

Have you gotten over it?  The pure, holy, lovely Son of God was made subject to the wrath of God so that we could go free! His righteousness was applied to us so that when God the Father looks at us, he sees his Son’s death and righteousness applied. God knew that this was the only way for us to be saved from his wrath. Here is the kicker for me, in John chapter 10, Jesus said that he willing laid down his life for us, no one took it from him, by his own volition he died. If that does not move your heart today you need to see either your cardiologist or your pastor or maybe even both!

The world has believed the lie of Satan that what we really need is material possessions, be the king of our lives and in control of everything! There is a reason he is called “the father of lies” in the Bible. He knows that none of those things can bring us real joy or satisfaction that lasts more than a day. But we keep trying. Even those who say they are Christians have fallen into his trap.

What the world needs now is the gospel. But the gospel is difficult, the gospel is insulting because we cannot do anything to make ourselves acceptable to God.  You cannot save yourself! The Cross of Jesus Christ is foolishness to the human race because we really think can make it on our own.  Deep down we know we cannot unless God changes our heart.

I am grateful that the Cross of Jesus, this gospel of Jesus Christ, is the only way that I can find true life. I have found out that I not only needed the gospel that day in 1978 but I need the gospel everyday! I need his grace to mold my character and shape my future. What I need now is the gospel.

You and I are so valuable to God that He would die for us. Absolutely amazing! Does that humble you, too?

Commitment

    As a young Christian one of the issues that I dealt with many times was that of being committed.  Let’s define that term lest you think I am talking about a special kind of being committed to a special institution!  No, I am referring to that commitment that we make to the Lord Jesus Christ when we turn the keys of our life over to Him.  I recall a number of young people who were saved around the same time that I was who no longer have kept their commitment to Christ. Whatever happened in their lives, they made a decision to abandon the faith.  

    Some folks don’t abandon the faith but they do make small lifestyle changes that are inconsistent with living for Christ.  They decide that they will use their liberty in Christ to do whatever they feel like doing.  I am not judging at all.  I notice that there is a change in their fervor for following Christ and living for Him.  Little changes but big results.

    One of the verses that God has used in my life for years is Romans 12:1, I remember memorizing it in the King James Version when I was a teen, “I beseech you, therefore brethren, by the mercies of God that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God which is your reasonable service.”  The concept of commitment screams out at us here.  Because of what God has done for us, we have an obligation to give all that we are, all that we have and all we ever hope to be, to the Lord.  Because of the gift of salvation I now have a new owner that looks out for my best interests.  And that is exactly where the rub comes in.  We love to control our own destiny but that concept runs into direct competition with the Lordship of Jesus Christ. 

    Today, as I was reading Romans 12 and 13, I learned something new.  If you take the time to read those chapters you will see that the Apostle Paul proceeds to talk about the use of spiritual gifts, how we relate to one another, our relationship to those in authority over us and finally he deals with how we should spurn fleshly sins.  All of it is hinged on our commitment to being a living sacrifice.  There is never a moment when that commitment is to be broached and suspended by the child of God, NEVER!  That is not to say we will not sin or be tempted to sin but it is to say that we will submit to the Lordship of Christ each day of our life. 

    Is it easy?  Are all problems dissipated?  Will everyone welcome us with open arms?  No, no, no!  But we will live with the peace and joy that God promises to those who turn over the keys of their lives to Him.  There is no greater purpose to which we can give our lives!