Trust Issues

It’s been a long time since the revolutionary war with Great Britain, but no one has forgotten about it.

That was a time when, although most people stood back and accepted the circumstances, a small percentage of people with a strong sense of right and wrong stood up to defend what they believed to be God-given rights.

Although the active side of that passion for freedom is like a recessive gene (only showing in a select few), we all share a desire for it.

It’s something that comes out when we are oppressed; it appears as far back I can trace civilization. It’s a drive to shake free of whatever keeps us bound.

It’s a stallion fighting the fence. It’s a bird fighting the cage.

It’s a good thing!

It has overthrown tyrannies and established democracies, freed nations and dethroned despots. If there is a purpose to life, surely this urge for unhindered liberty is an integral part of it?

Probably.

But then again, you have the pot that boils over. Free will at wild can range from being beautiful all the way to being murderous. At the end of the French Revolution, nearly 16,600 were executed with the guillotine*. (There were a lot more executed than that, but this number will work for now.)

That’s a lot of people killed in the name of freedom! Gosh, I’m sure at least some of those people would have been willing to relax the reigns of government in exchange for their life, but no! They just had to be led up to the stocks, locked in, and decapitated.

Domestically, free will at large looks like teenagers pushing at the rules. It’s not nearly as severe, but the danger and damage are just as real. Look anywhere and you’ll find drug abuse, premarital sex, violence, and let’s not forget the absolutely awful hairstyles and tattoos some people expose themselves to just to push the norm (a moment of silence for all those unfortunates who wear misspelled “no regrets” tattoos).

That’s when you need the rules. See, a boy who isn’t trained to treat a woman with respect may one day deliver abuse, verbally or physically. Someone who is not taught to honor the laws of his household may one day dishonor the laws of the state, and end up in jail. A girl who does not respect her own body will not demand said respect from others, and thus risks of being taken advantage of. A child who isn’t taught not to steal a sibling’s toys might one day become a condemned thief. The list goes on. Believe me.

Well, that swings the pendulum now, doesn’t it? Let’s all just fold and beg for communism, then.

We begin to see that a healthy balance is needed. But is that all there is to it? I don’t think so. Let’s begin to hit the nail on the head… dig a little deeper.

Clearly Great Britain was wrong; at least, that is the majority’s opinion. Clearly too, the leaders of the French Revolution could have acted with more moderation.

Clearly, a healthy amount of boundaries in and about our lives should at least be looked upon with a neutral and accepting attitude, shouldn’t it?

And yet, there is no cheer we absorb at the thought of regulation. We accept it almost like an ox, acquiescing to the yoke of the farmer. It’s a necessary misfortune.

But this is nowhere near the way David the psalmist regarded the laws of his time. In his writings (Psalm 119:16, 20, 97, 113, 163, etc.), the way he described the laws that God placed on him is not only with total acceptance, but with delight, with longing, and even with love!

It’s true. David not only received the rules that God has set on Israel, but he sought them out with desperation! He embraced them, studied them, chased them, and devoted himself to them! He begged to be commanded, he pleaded to have the boundaries set about him.

The question of why may never have bothered you before, but it sure bugged me! I could never comprehend David here. I said, “Yeah, we need to obey the law and everything, yeah… but could you go back to writing about shepherds and valleys and the prettier stuff now, Dave?”

Why did he show such affection for the law of God? What makes God’s rules any different from those that we must obey in society, on pain of arrest?

Let’s hit the nail on the head again. Boundaries, both God’s and those of the state, are made to protect what is valuable.

God values marriage. That’s why he banned adultery.

God values human life. That’s why he banned murder.

God values truth. That’s why he banned deceit.

With every law you find, try to see what exactly it is that God is trying to protect. It might surprise you! Does God value comfort? Does he value peace?

And now what about the first half of the Ten Commandments, those that have no apparent consequence in modern society (keep the Sabbath holy, have no other gods before me, etc.)?

This leads us to the final rap of the hammer on that poor nail head. I believe this final point is at the heart of understanding boundaries.

David trusted God.

When you trust someone, and you know that they act only out of wisdom and love for you, you can easily embrace their acts of providence even when you cannot understand them.

That is what makes God’s laws different from the laws of a government. That is what makes God’s boundaries perfect, and even lovable; the knowledge that they were made for our own good!

If you trust the One who created the rulebook, a new light is shed upon the rules. You no longer see them as stern and asphyxiating; you see them as acts of love.

You cannot always trust a government to do what is best for you. You cannot even trust your parents to be perfect (though their experience should strongly persuade you reverence them). But you can trust the God who created you.

When you trust the God who gave the laws, your whole outlook changes.

I pray that one day we can all pray like David did when he said,

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So shall I keep thy law continually for ever and ever. And I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts. I will speak of thy testimonies also before kings, and I will not be ashamed. And I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have loved.

                                                                                        (Psalm 119:44-47)

*http://www.port.ac.uk/special/france1815to2003/chapter1/interviews/filetodownload,20545,en.pdf

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Merciful Boundaries: Part 1

“Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man without self-control.” Proverbs 25:28

One of the most important lessons I have learned in my adult life is the importance of healthy emotional boundaries. When I was younger, I believed that to put up boundaries between myself and another person was uncompassionate and flew in the face of Messiah-like mercy, regardless what kind of fruit that person was bearing in my life. Looking back, I can see that this unbiblical mindset brought me nothing but years of unnecessary pain. The toxic relationships that I allowed myself to be in wreaked havoc on my spiritual well-being, and thus kept me from growing closer to God.

Being in a close relationship with an abusive person is like living next door to a nuclear waste site. Everything around you is exposed to poison. Nothing can grow or flourish, including relationships with other non-toxic people, because all of your energy is focused on trying to heal from constant spiritual attacks. Sadly, if you’re there long enough, the act of repeatedly being poisoned becomes your mind’s version of “normal.” This is why so many people never leave such relationships. They don’t realize that if they just moved away from the source of the toxicity, they could heal and get better. They have a warped view of what constitutes a normal, healthy lifestyle, which is why it often takes an intervention from another loved one (or a traumatic life event) for them to realize that staying is a choice — and the wrong one.

Thankfully for me, all it took was the opportunity to spend a considerable amount of time away from the relationship to realize that what I mistook for love was actually the reason for my depression and constant spiritual stumbling. I realized that their presence in my life was inhibiting the fruits of the Spirit (joy, peace, goodness) from flourishing in my life. It was a painful wake-up call, but ultimately it brought me to a much healthier place, and to a clearer, deeper understanding of God’s unfailing love for me.

We as believers are called to live in the Light. The effects of a toxic person on those around them are the product (or fruit) of sin, and God’s Word is very clear that we should “abstain from every form of evil.” (1 Thes. 5:22) In order to live in the Light, we must have healthy boundaries between ourselves and those who choose to operate in darkness. I’m not saying that we should never associate with non-believers — Christ Himself broke bread with sinners. Likewise, not everyone who professes to follow Him produces good fruit. I believe it’s up to each individual to determine, with the gift of spiritual discernment through the Holy Spirit, if there is a person in their life that is doing more damage than good. If a relationship is consistently producing bad fruit, it may be time to carefully examine the tree at its root.

Proverbs is full of examples of character traits that we would be wise to avoid, whether they manifest in ourselves or others. One very clear warning is in Proverbs 22:24, which says, “Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man.” A man given to anger is a person who lacks self control, a character trait which breeds more than just anger management issues. Someone who lacks self control will inevitably struggle with the need to control others, which can lead to more abusive, manipulative patterns of behaviour. They don’t understand those who implement healthy boundaries in their lives, and often will even resent them because they are outside of their control. Proverbs 19:19 mentions the wrathful man, saying, “[he] will suffer punishment: for if you deliver him, you will only have to do it again.” Someone who lacks self control falls into a pattern of unrepentance. They return to the same sin over and over again, because it is comfortable and familiar. To those who love them, this becomes a constant cycle of stress. As their friends and family, we want to see the best in them, and believe that it’s our responsibility to “save” them until they come to their senses. The fact is, God’s Word says “it is better to meet a bear robbed of her cubs than a fool bent on folly.” (Prov. 17:12) The mental picture this paints is rather graphic, but it’s the hard truth — a fool who lacks self control has the potential to tear your life apart. It’s not our job to save them from themselves — only God can do that. It’s our job not to get in His way.


A wise person once put it to me this way: “it’s not compassionate to stand between a fool and God.” What that means is, it is not merciful to enable the behaviour of a toxic person. In fact, it’s the opposite. When we reward their behaviour by constantly rescuing them from the consequences of their actions, we are inhibiting God’s ability to reach that person through their self-made calamity, and change their heart. Sometimes compassion means distancing yourself from the toxicity they emanate, so that they must confront it head-on. This can be difficult, and may seem cold-hearted to some, but in reality it is an act of love — not only toward the fool, but toward ourselves. 1 Corinthians 7:23 says, ‘You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.” We are called to honor God with our bodies (1 Cor. 6:20) because we belong to Him. It does not bring Him honor when we willingly allow ourselves to be the prey of those with sinful intentions. Whether it be our own or someone else’s, sin cannot be permitted to have a foothold in our lives. As hard as it may be to say goodbye, sometimes we must love from a distance, and have the faith to allow God to heal the relationship in His own time.

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Part 2 will be published on Sunday, January 22nd.

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Why Can We Be Thankful?

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I’ve been reflecting on what gives life meaning. I suppose it’s different for everyone, but I feel God showing me why we -as Christians- can be thankful at all times.

I’ve heard many use comparison to explain thankfulness. For example: “I don’t have much, but then I think of the kids in Africa and I realize how well-off I am.”

I believe God wants us to be thankful people, but comparison is not the way to achieve this. In the Bible, thankfulness is not an effect of envying his/her neighbors. Thankfulness was based on God’s provision for them, which was not put up against anyone else’s gifts.

When we get into the habit of thanking God based -in any way- on what our neighbor has, we fall into the trap of short-sightedness, EVEN if we land on the ‘blessed’ side of the comparison. We fail to see how God works uniquely in every person’s life. We limit God’s faithfulness and tell Him it has to resemble our neighbor’s blessings or we will not be grateful.

Sadly, by using comparison to explain thankfulness, we can all too easily use comparison to explain discontent. If my gratefulness comes from the thought that God is blessing me more than someone, are we also going to grieve that we don’t have as much as the movie stars and CEOs?

So, while being thankful for our blessings is valuable because we acknowledge God’s provision, I feel Him encouraging us to get out of the comparison game. Many times, we rank our status based on the status of others without thinking. We think we are poor because we have a car from the 90s. Meanwhile, in Haiti, having that car from the 90s may make you rich. Blessings, when defined by comparison, are subjective and completely reliant on the culture around us. I do not think God wants us to rely on culture or comparison to recognize our blessings. In fact, I see that as limiting ourselves in seeing God in our lives.

So, why should we be thankful?

We can be thankful for things that happen to be in culture- like our homes and cars and families. But let’s not be thankful because culture defines something as good. There is a difference. One way relies on culture and comparison to give worth and one way relies on God, and simply recognizes blessings that happen to be in culture.

Mostly, everything is meaningless in comparison to the grace and mercy we have received through Christ. His blessings in our lives are worth celebrating. He provides for us, mostly through his love for us, but also through food and homes and friends and family. We can celebrate those things, but I hope we can stop celebrating them because others have worse. Instead, I hope we can trust that God sees us and is providing for us, as He loves us greatly. Thank you, Jesus for what you have given to us.

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Building Muscle

I must be getting old. It seems like lately I just don’t fit with people my age, or relate to the general outlook the world has now. Things like justice, goals, success, express yourself, and general human virtues are just a few of the things I’ve seen changing over the past few years. And I’m trying to find my place, as someone raised with hometown virtues, but also someone who was taught to always seek out bigger and better.

Not that I’m complaining about any of this. These past two or three years have been completely transformative to my character and who I want to be—or rather, who God has created me to be in pursuit of his Kingdom. Probably in part because I’m in my mid twenties now, and most of us do most of our growing during that phase of our lives.

But also because I think I’ve finally understood what it is God has put me here for…what he has put all of us here for.

Impressing people, touting my achievements and experiences, combing out my personality for someone has become way less important since my teenage years. (Thank goodness). I would rather somebody learn about who I am by hanging out with me and experiencing what I experience. Exchanging viewpoints and going through good and bad times together. The pattern of my life has changed from proving myself to letting my character prove itself. Letting who God has created me to be shine brighter than what I could be on my own.

We aren’t put here just to live a life, even if that life involves philanthropy or relationships with others. There’s even more than that. The ultimate purpose of every day on Earth is to bring us into a closer relationship with God. To learn more about him, and to let His character impart itself onto ours.

For the part few months, this topic has been on my mind more than any other; learning more about who God is and letting that influence me more than any other voice in hopes that other may see it.

It seems obvious, and we’re told this since our Sunday school days, but we lose it. Especially in a world with so many voices to listen to.

In addition to getting quiet with God and listening more closely to His wisdom, not just thinking about Him, I’ve been focusing on the health of my physical body. I felt uncomfortable in my own skin. I’d put on a few inches, and just didn’t like the way I felt or fit into my clothes anymore. It’s a cosmetic issue, but cutting back has taught me a lot. In particularly, it has taught me that discovery is the best part of any journey.

Since I’ve been cutting back on sugar and sweets, I can look at cupcakes, but I don’t have to eat them. And guess what? I’m not dead! I can eat late and not snack, and wouldn’t you know it, I didn’t starve! I learned that indulgence is a mindset that can be broken, and denying yourself is often the better option in the long run.

But denying means straining. It means exchanging something for something else. Would we be willing to do that if it meant relying on the advise of an unseen God rather the advise of a friend? Or even a family member? Or a church leader? Would we listen to the voice of God to guide us in speaking truth when others need it instead of staying silent? Would we allow God to dictate even what we put into our bodies, and how we spend our time rather than making our own schedules and plans?

I have prayed over the past few months that God be a voice louder than the others. That the Holy Spirit be clear and sharp at the forefront of my thoughts. It wastes no time to listen and act with God. It wastes no time to live a lifestyle of connection to God, even in the simplest of times.

We aren’t made for a destination. We are made to come to know the Creator of that destination as we journey with Him to that place. There are challenges and plenty to learn before going home. And we should consider the challenges an honor if we come out better for them.

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Age of Wisdom

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Our generation has become notorious for being know-it-alls. With technology and information, and travel at our hands like no generation before, what would our elders have to offer us anyways? Unfortunately, we’ve got to face the facts that we all need a little advice sometimes, and realize that getting our information from a quick Google search is probably the epitome of pride.

In the information age, the art of wisdom has faded. Personally, I love listening to stories from my parents and grandparents. I love watching and observing those who are set in my life to be mentors. Because wisdom is not always about speaking, but acting through Godly character.

With so many choices and doors open to us, we lose sight of the value of things. The value of not just ‘doing life’ together as we are, but living together and pushing each other toward God. Of advancing who we are in order to grow instead of sitting back, satisfied with who we are today, taking in our share of grace.

Right now, I have several older people in my life who I absolutely look up to and feel that God has strategically placed in my life (even though they may not know). It is a little ironic that the biggest thing I learn from is watching them make mistakes. Watching them live through their shortcomings to change, to better themselves.

It is ok to mess up, to look stupid, to be awkward. These situations are where we grow from. Who better to watch still growing, still figuring things out, than the generation before us? It can give us a hope that we don’t have to say all the right things, make all the right moves to be successful or to even be happy.

As millennials, we have carved our own path and changed countless rituals of our society that we should not back down from. Though we’ve defined ourselves as know-it-alls, we’ve always defined ourselves as trailblazers who always want new. We are always on the watch for the latest, and consume knowledge like never before. What an excellent use of this thirst for knowledge and itch for new ideas than to watch those older than us. We learn who we want to follow, who we do not want to be, and what needs to change.

Let us not become complacent in furthering ourselves towards the character of God. Let us not become complacent in living as community; sharing ideas and opinions no matter how taboo, caring for each other as family not just as other humans who also happen to be here. Let us not forget the accomplishments of the generation before, and the faults that they learned from. It may be that we are more alike than we image.

Even in this age, there is the old adage that history repeats itself. Generations change, but their outlook on the world is cyclical. In a time where we have lost our farsightedness, our coming experience and challenges will eventually turn us back to each other.

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