Biblical Messages

THE MISSING PEACE: Peace with yourself

Warning:  if you listen to this message, it could be a game changer for you.

I’m serious!  In our world, where we tend to let others dictate who we really are, a message about having peace with yourself has never been more important.  I hope you will take time to listen.  It’s based on Psalm 139.1-18. Have a listen!  I’d be interested in hearing your response.  (Toward the end of the message, I showed this video.)

Encouragement From The Word

A calendar change

Happy new year!

I have a habit – a tradition, of sorts – that I undertake every time I change a calendar. I did it this morning before sitting down to write this. In my study hangs a calendar, right over my computer table, which I can consult for checking dates – but also for receiving modelling inspiration and invoking memories. It’s a Canadian train calendar. And each year, when I take it down to replace it with the next year’s edition, I review the photos that went with each month. It’s hard to pick a favourite, since one photo might have a favourite locomotive and another might have the most breathtaking scenery. Occasionally, they combine for a “keeper” shot!

(In case you’re interested, 2014’s calendar favourites included a tie between VIA’s Canadian tied down in the station in Vancouver in 1986 and a Canadian Pacific RS-18u posing in front of the majestic old CP station in MacAdam, New Brunswick. I’ve visited the former; I hope to see the latter on a future trip east.)

A similar habit could be undertaken of the snapshots of our lives over the course of the past year, couldn’t it? If you’re a Facebook user, you know that their magical algorithms choose a bunch of photos for you to display, if you choose, as the highlights of your year in Facebook photos. But your own memory can do better: consider the events that comprised 2014, and look for where God was at work in your life through those events.

This may not be a quick undertaking. You may need to set aside an hour, or even the better part of a day, to ponder, prayerfully, what God has done through the events of your life in the past year.

One of the values of doing this is to quicken your sense of being able to see God’s hand at work in your life this year. Even if you consider last year your annus horribilis, it will still be a good exercise to see where God was at work, even in the midst of your suffering or trials. And I can tell you this: God was at work in you, and God is at work in you. That, if nothing else, should give you cause to start this new year with rejoicing.

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there” (Psalm 139.7-8, NIV).

Encouragement From The Word

Getting at the olive pit

About a week ago, our dishwasher started making a really nasty noise. Not being too familiar with the internal workings of this marriage-saving appliance, we weren’t too sure what to do. We began by running some vinegar through the system, but that didn’t help.

As you may know, the majority of the ‘guts’ of a dishwasher are suspended underneath the tub, mere millimetres from the kitchen floor. To see anything, you have to lie down on the floor in front of the dishwasher.

Like lifting the hood of your car, staring under the dishwasher doesn’t remedy the situation at all.

I called a repair shop and described the noise as sounding like a motorcycle running in my kitchen. The helpful chap on the other end of the phone politely suggested I clean out around the pump, and check for things like olive pits around the macerator.

I managed to clear some time last night to disconnect the electricity, water, and drain, and pull out the dishwasher. Of course, staring at it then rendered no positive results, either.

Thankfully, YouTube is a great resource for many things, including dismantling our brand of dishwasher. With just one video (played and stopped and played over again and again!), I had all the help I needed to know how to get the circulation pump dislodged from the tub of the dishwasher.

And what did I find around the macerator? Yes. An olive pit. (There were a few other offending bits, too, but the pit was probably the real culprit.) After giving the guts a thorough cleaning, I reassembled the dishwasher (with a couple of false starts), flipped the breaker back on, and ran a rinse cycle. Our quiet-running dishwasher was back.

To find the problem, I had to get to the heart of the dishwasher. Only after a serious dismantling process did I discover the offending pit.

Life is like that. We live our lives, managing our sin, trying to keep it quiet, in a sense. We might even make other noises so that the sound generated by the sin isn’t noticed. (At one point I suggested to my patient wife that she could just turn the television up louder. Probably not the best answer!) Do you see what I mean, though? We manage our sin; we don’t get rid of it.

In many ways, we’re afraid to get rid of it, because, like taking apart the dishwasher, there is a lot of work involved in dealing with sin at its root.

But it totally worth it.

It can be hard to do this alone. Sometimes, rooting out sin works best when we share that difficult journey with another person who loves us and wants God’s best for us. It begins, of course, with confession and repentance. And it must include seeking the Holy Spirit’s power and grace, because even though we may repent, without the Spirit at work in us, we are likely to go back to old ways.

Have you identified the proverbial ‘olive pit’ that you need to get out of the core of your life? Have you sought the help of God’s Spirit, and maybe a Christian friend, to excise the sin?

It may be hard work, but you will be glad you did it when your life isn’t so bothered by the noise of that sin impeding God’s work in you and through you.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139.23-24, NIV).

Encouragement From The Word

Examine your life, starting with your day! (Thanks to Ignatius.)

Have you ever engaged in the ancient spiritual practice of examen?  No, it doesn’t have anything to do with taking a test when you get to the Pearly Gates.  The examen is a practice that likely dates earlier, but was popularized by Ignatius of Loyola in the fourteenth century.

Ignatius was a Spanish soldier who experienced a profound conversion while recovering from battle wounds.  He founded a religious order – the Jesuits – and created a series of “spiritual exercises” for those in his order, and others who would find them helpful.  Only recently have Protestant Christians ‘discovered’ them and put them to use.

Among the exercises commended by Ignatius was the examen – not an examination to determine how much you know, but an examination of one’s self and life experience to consider the ways in which God seemed most present, or least present, in one’s day, week, month, year, or even life.  Some practise the examen once a year, while others practise it daily.  Some even wait until they know life’s end is near to look back and find God’s presence in their years.

I’m an advocate for practising the examen on a daily basis, as a growing part of the relationship with God.  Typically, this can happen at the close of the day when one is preparing for a night’s rest.  You can think back on the events of the day, and before God consider where God was most active, whether in encouraging or admonishing or comforting.  At the same time, you can consider where God seemed most absent, or most distant.

These are good things to which to pay attention on an ongoing basis, and doing so daily makes it much easier to note the details of our lives.  Did God’s Spirit minister to you in a special way at some particular point?  Praise him! Perhaps you might keep a journal in which you thank God for those moments when he seemed closest and was at work in your life.

Did God seem far away at some point in your day?  Take time to ponder why that was the case.  Since we know from Scripture that God will never leave us nor forsake us (Joshua 1.5; Hebrews 13.5), we can take on faith that if God seemed distant, it was not because God was distant; we just chose not to involve or engage the Lord in that part of our day.  Perhaps you might journal that, too, and ask God to help you to be more aware of his presence.

The Psalmist wrote, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me, and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139.23-24, NIV).  I encourage you to try the examen as a tool to invite God to search you, and know your heart.  Let it be a daily part of your growth in Christ. You won’t be disappointed as you see the transforming power of God’s grace at work in your life!