James MacDonald on the Signs of the Times

James MacDonald, of Walk in the Word, interrupted his usual preaching series to spend the past two weeks on a study of current events and the prophecies of the bible concerning the last days. With all that’s gone on this year, the Oregon community college mass shooting, Russia in Syria, ISIS torturing and executing Christians and others, the Ebola outbreak of 2014 which is still ongoing in some countries in West Africa, famine and drought in Ethiopia, earthquakes in Chile and all around the world, and wars and conflict around the world, and every tragic, sorry we hear on the nightly news–this was a very timely series to remind Christians we should not only be living in view of a a good Christian life but also in view of the time we have left.

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The important thing to remember about doom’s day predictions is not that it’s supposed to happen on a given day, but that it’s going to happen any day, at any moment. Live then as if you were out of time and up for account, so that in any day, in any moment, you have encouraged yourself to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” -mjg/12

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

Is this the ultimate Christian love song?

Ever since I made a concerted effort to explore the Christian music scene, and discover the “good music” that I knew was out there, I’ve been aware of the controversy of Christian love songs. Controversy? Yes, in between the awkward attempts and lame lyrics, there were a number of good sounding attempts (for their time), but I found, like many, they played on sophomoric sleight of hand with ‘God is my girlfriend’ lyrics. There are Christian songs that appear to easily swap out “Jesus” for “girl”, and vice versa, without harming the content in anyway. And if the lyrics stand on their own, some are so ambiguous as to cast doubt on who exactly is the subject of the love. Astoundingly, for a faith that holds love as the highest ethic and motive, there are woefully few good Christian love songs. Now, however, I think I’ve found a truly exemplary one: And, if you’re reading a blog like this, I’m sure you’ve heard it and probably already love it, too.

Continue reading “Is this the ultimate Christian love song?”

Song of Songs

Recently, on a Thanksgiving road-trip out east to PEI, I listened to a four-part message from James MacDonald called Romantic Love. I then found my next bible reading book was Song of Songs which that sermon series was based on. I usually share select verses, ones that particularly strike me, on Facebook and I was wondering how I’d do that with the intimate and personal nature of Song of Songs. So, I set myself a challenge: Read one chapter per day and try to find one thing to share from each Song of Songs chapter – something that would be ‘family friendly’ and not so sentimental as to make me look (overly) strange. Here’s the series of verses posted over eight days that I think provides an interesting overview of the whole book.

We rejoice and delight in you; we will praise your love more than wine. Song of Songs 1:4b

You are loved

This phrase has stuck with me since I first heard a story, via James MacDonald’s Walk in the Word, about a man who doubted its sincerity and then found out just what it meant in action.

Harvest Bible Chapel in Rolling Meadows, Illinois, close each service, from what I understand, with the words “you are loved.” This simple phrase reflects profoundly the heart of God’s relationship with us and sums up the ministry of the Church. It succinctly focuses in on the basic human need to be loved. If we are to reach the world then we are to love them – really love them. As God loves us, we are to love.

I was pleasantly surprised to find Heather Williams’ You Are Loved from her album on iTunes just after her hit single Hallelujah. This is as close to the perfect musical complement to the sentiment we’re likely to get.

Standing for Stephen

Heard this while listening to a James MacDonald sermon today, “Big God, Small Me,” on the account of Paul (formerly Saul) watching over the stoning of Stephen,

“You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him—you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it.”

When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.

While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. Acts 7:51-60

What’s the big deal?

Where ever we read in the bible about Jesus, after his ascension, we are always told that Jesus is “Seated” at the right hand of the Father in Glory. But here, for Stephen, we see Jesus, “Standing” at the right hand of God. If You Stand For Jesus, He’ll Stand For You

Stand for Jesus and He’ll stand for you.

Selah.

Awesome is a God word

I’m not sure who started this but there’s something to the admonition, that  I’ve been hearing from James MacDonald, to reserve the word “awesome” for God. It may seem like a petty thing, a legalistic thing, but I have to agree that, in this day and age, our language used about God is so anemic, so watered down that we can not help but apply the lesser feelings of that language to the actual character of God. So, I support reserving the word “awesome” for God. It’s been hard to catch myself from using it frivolously but I know habits can change. I’ll sign off with Exodus 15:11, “Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?”

Prayers and Promises

Did you know your prayers are already promised to you? Jesus says, in John 14:13-14, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” Why, then, have we grown up, from childhood, with the belief that “all we can do is pray about it and leave it up to God,” as if this were some thing to do with a little shame and as a last resort?

Hebrews 4:16 reads, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” The King James reads “Let us therefore come boldly.” Jeremiah 32:27 reads, “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” Again, in Malachi 3:10, God says,  “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.” Why, then, do we approach God in prayer as if we were troubling Him, pardoning our interruption, and begging for a meager sustenance of small things, as if small and large to us were of any consequence to God Almighty?

I know why we do this. We do this because we have rarely and perhaps never experienced  God’s answer to prayer for the things He seems to want us to pray for and about and to fully expect from Him.

We have never experienced the extent of God’s power, as it is written, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20) But not that only, “let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:6-8) And, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” (James 4:3)

God’s gift of prayer is not some weak kneed comfort. It is a voice with God Most High, your King, who has promised to act on your behalf,  and to comfort you, to strengthen you, to uphold you with His righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10).

Selah.

Post-Script: I owe James MacDonald’s Walk in the Word podcast for sparking my interest on God’s promises and our prayers. The podcast, part of a series, was called Promise #1 – God Is Always With Me.

Post-Post-Script: You may find this further reading of value for more clarity: Why aren’t my prayers answered? I’m sure a google of the same question will yield great results.

New Year’s Eve 2010

Goodbye, 2010, we hardly knew ye! Twenty-Ten has been a watershed year for me though I never really considered it like that before writing this. Many personally significant things have happened this year for me and I feel, perhaps, as if I am riding the crest of a wave, one which I’m both exhilarated to be on and also frightened I’ll either slip down the back side of or be let down as it fades. The one thing I will grab hold of is God and His promises and, by these, will I pray that, to face the future, I might become a Cannonball.

My mother passed on early this year. My dad’s mourning has turned to happiness and he will be getting married early 2011.  My brother had his first baby, the beautiful baby Arden. My sister’s family continues to grow and each of my nephews and nieces makes me proud.

My father moved out of his house and into a new place for him and his fiance. I moved out of my apartment, of two years, into his old place and, I must say, it’s nice to live in a house again!

Most strikingly, though, for me personally, I feel like I’ve finally emerged out of a three or four year “stop.” A “stop” is what I call it: A period of time where I just “stopped,” and tried to separate myself from pretty much everything, friends, family and, in some ways, my faith. These past few years have been a hard time. Both laborious and emotional.

During this time, I stopped reading my bible, started mixing secular music with my Christian collection, questioned a lot of things in the bible, and experimented somewhat with the world. None of it satisfied, of course, but count yourself lucky if you don’t go, in spite of all wisdom to the contrary, and try to see for yourself what all the non-hoopla is about.

Many years ago, being passionate in my faith, I started collecting Christian music. My friend, Jamie, and I found some amazing stuff. I even got some tunes I remember my brother and sister playing as kids and found out they were still pretty cool. You probably won’t understand it but I actually set out to “find the good music” and prove the Christian music scene had acts just as good as the mainstream. What I found was beyond any of the mainstream. It made the mainstream pale in comparison. I know and remember well it brought joy, delight and happiness cruising around with Jamie, in particular, cranking the “good music.”

You’ll better understand the next part now that I’ve told you about the music I used to love so much. Over time I started mixing Christian muic with secular. I love some of the mainstream stuff. Still do. I listen to music a lot, though, at work, in the car to and from work, to and from hockey and visits with friends up north. The problem with mainstream music is it’s about you and I, all the time, no breaks, ever. It became bitter to me. Very naturally, and without much fanfare, one day I just split up my collection into two folders, “christian” and “secular”, and my playlist has been “christian” ever since. That was a few months ago.

For some reason, that started a change. It made me want to get back into my faith. I can’t remember when but, I got a smart phone around August, and, suddenly, I saw a new and intriguing way to read the bible. I started reading.

I moved into my dad’s old place a few months ago which means I now have a 40 minute drive to/from work. Lots of people think that’s a drag. Turns out it’s brilliant for me. I listen to James MacDonald’s Walk in the Word on my way into work and Ravi Zacharias on the way home. Being under the Word each and every day is an amazing thing.

I need to recognize Creation.com, my passion for creation a gift from my late mother, I suppose. I have had an interest in Creation for a long time even before this year and I think I owe it to Creation Ministries International  (Creation.com) to recognize their contribution in effecting my life over the years. You see, Creation isn’t just about creation vs evolution: It’s about the very foundation of Christianity. God’s Word speaks to all the issues relevant in any given age and it is its first book that gives it the authority it needs to speak on those issues. The “young earth creationism” movement is about so much more than just saying the earth was created by God in six days. It’s the seabed foundation of the Christian faith and, without which, the entire faith breaks down into pointlessness. It is because of my reading of young earth creationism that I have an incredible trust in the reliability, authority and historicity of my bible. Do not dismiss creationism. Equip yourself and your friends and family with all that you need to know to be certain of your faith. Confidence in your God, His Word and your faith is there, you just need to go and get it.

I will also mention The Light, a Galaxie radio channel on my Rogers cable tv. They actually do tend to play a number of decent Christian artists and not just fluffy pop. Since moving into my dad’s old house The Light is usually on in the background and is always on when I go for a run on my treadmill.

As I write this, dc Talk’s My Will just started playing on The Light as I finished the last paragraph. Told ya they also play good stuff.

Twenty-Ten is fast closing and I can only thank God for his grace and mercy to me, a sinner, and His sacrifice of His Son on the cross for me. I thank Him for this year and for literally changing me. I pray continually that He will keep changing me still.

Thank you, God, for changing me. Thank you for this year. You already know my hope for next year. Please, may my hope be within your will.

Charity 360 #Charity365

I’m the kind of person who doesn’t officially donate to charities. I often do one-time, anonymous donations. My primary donations are my offerings to my church. I, also, regularly put spare change in the Tim Horton’s Children’s Foundation boxes, and I’ll always do the annual Remembrance Day poppy thing, but I don’t really officially donate outside of the church and outside of those small things. It’s something I’ve wanted to change and now I think I have I know how.

I’m the kind of person who doesn’t officially donate to charities. I often do one-time, anonymous donations. My primary donations are my offerings to my church. I, also, regularly put spare change in the Tim Horton’s Children’s Foundation boxes, and I’ll always do the annual Remembrance Day poppy thing, but I don’t really officially donate outside of the church and outside of those small things. It’s something I’ve wanted to change and now I think I know how.

My own problem with donating has been (1) which charities should I support that I’ll feel personally satisfied donating to, and (2) how do I donate in a satisfying and sustainable way.

The first issue, of which charities to support, has been answered this year by my own choices in what I’ve been reading and listening to. I’ve gotten seriously into creation and so have been reading things from Creation Ministries International. I’ve always been interested in very cerebral topics and so I’ve been listening quite a bit to Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. Intelligent, listenable, bible-believing preachers are hard to come by and so I’ve been listening a lot to James MacDonald’s Walk in the Word. It became clear to me what I should be supporting.

The second issue, how to donate in a satisfying and sustainable way, has always bugged me. I always felt that if I won a million dollars I’d donate a large amount of it and it would have a significant impact – something I couldn’t achieve on an average salary. I’m not going to sit around waiting to win the lottery, though, so all that did was eat away at me. This year, once I realized I had three organizations I actually wanted to support, I began to understand that, since I can’t make a huge impact, I will, instead, plan to donate in a sustainable way that most could also do and, if we all did that together, we’d make a bigger difference,  at scale, than if I donated a million dollars at once. I decided I would consider my donation as a relatively small, monthly amount, namely $10 per month per organization.

I picked the organizations that meant the most to me and I picked an amount that suited me and that would also add up over time and would mean much more if everybody did the same.

When all was said and done, I donated $360 to three organizations. Actually, I couldn’t easily donate to Ravi Zacharias International Ministries so I donated $120 to Blue Letter Bible, instead. I now have an annual Google Calendar reminder about these December donations and I hope I can keep it up.

The only thing I think I might do differently is to mix up my organizations. I really do believe in the value of organizations like the Salvation Army, youth shelters, international aid organizations, and others. What I am confident in, however, is that when everyone gives to the organizations that mean the most to them, just due to the number of people involved, we’ll be able to cover all of the organizations sufficiently.

I hope somebody finds this plan of value and I hope that ever more and more we’ll find more people donating sustainable amounts to the ever growing benefit of those around us who need our help.

#Charity365