Thursday, April 28, 2011

At Sunset He Died

I read my Bible on the train to work this morning and was really struck by this story.

Thought for the day: It is better to be in danger where we belong and cry out to God for help than to hide and rely on chance.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Holy Spirit is Not a Ride

Matt and I were talking about the Holy Spirit the other day because we have some youth who want to experience the Holy Spirit more (we have the best youth group ever, I know). The thing is, their expectations of what the Spirit does were a little bit limited and not very subtle.

The thing is, very often it is easy to think of the Holy Spirit like an amusement park ride that you climb into, buckle up, get moved, and then enjoy the adrenaline while you wait in the line for two hours to go on it again. Special youth events, conferences and retreats are places where it is easy to get on a spiritual high that makes every day life seem less than significant, not exciting, and probably not empowering. School and work and church are just things to do until our turn comes for one of those big events.

I think this is what happens when feelings take over spiritual discipline, and it is a vicious cycle that can be so dangerous because there is a very thin line between spiritual thirst and spiritual pride.

The speaker at my grad chapel ceremony said something very helpful about spiritual discipline - that this discipline is not punishment like a parent spanking a child, and it is not something to grit your teeth and push through like boot camp, but it is opening your heart up to God for him to make more room for himself, an invitation. If a spiritual high is not followed up with spiritual discipline, then it is a cheap thrill; if it doesn't change you, then it is simply another distraction.

Experiencing the Holy Spirit is a continual experience, not something that starts and stops, turns on and off, is there and then fades away.
As in marriage, spiritual feelings may ebb and flow, but ultimately they must also deepen. And there is no sense in craving intimacy without establishing the trust and familiarity that comes from daily life together.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Good Deeds

One of the things that adds a little variety to what is certainly a repetitive job is when we receive Christian literature along with cheque payments. Today we got the Chick Comic "Flight 144"!

This comic tells the message of salvation only through Jesus, not good deeds or a righteous life. The twist in the story is NOT that the plane lands safely (it doesn't - Chick Comics usually feature people meeting their maker sooner rather than later), but that the famous missionaries on board do NOT make it into Heaven! The problem is that all they did was build hospitals and schools, but they never taught anyone about Jesus.

Personal highlight:
Jesus has no face!! What the heck... I understand the riskiness of drawing God in a comic, but still... I think white ninja handled this issue better than Jack Chick...

Hopefully coming soon... reflections on the book of Titus! Which will have very much to do with the role of good deeds in Christian life :)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


It struck me today when I was sitting at the doctor's office after my annual physical that I was in a room where any day a person's life could be changed forever. All it takes is for a [lump/freckle/blood level] to be not normal, and all your priorities change.

Health is really easy to take for granted (especially lately since I have been sick with a cough/cold on and off for a month or so), and it is easy to complain about aches and pains, or grey hair, or food going bad, or lack of time for hobbies. BUT today I wanted to make a point of appreciating my relative good health!

Monday, April 18, 2011

12 Hours From Now...

I will be writing the last final exam of my B.A.

Back to studying!!!

Saturday, April 16, 2011


Here is another aspect of tithing that people love to get riled up about! On one side we have the tithers: "If you don't give, you are robbing God!" "Jesus died for you, and you don't want to write him a cheque!?" "If you aren't willing to return a portion of God's gifts to you, don't expect him to continue to bless you." *angry scowls and fist shaking*

On the other side, the non-tithers protest: "We receive God's blessings by his grace, not by buying them!" "Jesus was homeless, and he was tortured to death, how do you get the prosperity gospel from that?!" "You Pharisees!" *outraged head shaking*

And here I sit in my apartment with a fresh haircut and think how funny it is going to be when we all have to spend eternity together in Heaven.

Or will we?

Joking aside, (because I WAS joking - that is NOT what I want to get into for this post!), the results of tithing are almost as hotly debated as whether or not it is required. Quickly, I would like to clarify that by "tithing" I mean the sacrificial giving of money, not the legalistic 10% to the penny first fruits that some denominations berate their congregations to give. Although I do think 10% is a great starting point in YOUR conversation with God about YOUR giving :P

Does God bless those who share their resources with those who need it and to further the work of the gospel? I would say yes. But I don't mean that your wallet will always be full (mine isn't!).

Growing up, my parents taught me that it is always better obey God than to disobey God. In fact, God's commands often have blessings built right into them! Sometimes it is hard to see the "benefit" in obeying God over our own priorities, but we trust that there are inherent blessings to honouring our parents, being faithful in marriage, refraining from envy and gossip. Certainly using tithe-money to pay off debt makes a lot of worldly sense (since tithing makes no worldly sense anyways) - get out of debt quicker, pay less interest, be free to give God money after attaining financial stability. What possible benefit could there be to giving money to the church when things are already tight, when other needs are growing at home, when the church's programs are lame anyways? (hypothetically speaking of course!)

For me the answer is in Jesus' condemnation of the Pharisees in Matthew 23. He says “Woe to you… You give a tenth of your spices, but you have neglected justice, mercy and faithfulness… You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.”

The blessing that comes from tithing, one of the very reasons that God commanded his people to apportion a tenth of their fruits to him, is that it strangles greed and self-indulgence. I think this is at the heart of the conflict I parodied at the start of this post, whether a heart for God results in greater givings, or whether sacrificial giving results in a heart for God. Maybe it is both.

I hold the position that what a believer gives to God is extremely personal and cannot be dictated (except maybe in the case of a trusted spiritual adviser who you ask for guidance and who has all the facts. That might actually be very helpful, but it is probably also quite rare). However, I think it is something very much worth discussing as family in Christ so that we may hopefully sharpen one another!

God's goal is to form our characters to be like Christ, and this is the project we have submitted ourselves to by becoming Christians. There is no room for greed or self-indulgence in a heart where Jesus is King.

So the "blessing" that comes from tithing is freedom to give generously (according to our means) and joyfully! And peace with the poverty that may result.

As for other blessings, "[God] causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." (Matt. 5:45) No, we can never "earn" God's blessings; every good thing we have is by his grace, and every good thing our neighbour has is by his grace. It is not our business whether they have earned it or not, but it is our business how we respond to God's goodness and generosity in our lives.

Friday, April 15, 2011

10% Tithe

We had a long lecture on tithing in church - a presermon pretty much, and it made me sad because the Holy Spirit does such a better job of convicting people than other people do. Even people who have been personally convicted to do something different. So yeah, it turned into a big lecture and we were all sitting captive to a long, tithy rant.
BUT having stumbled across a passage where Jacob vows to give God a tenth of everything God gives him (there are some conditions he makes too), I got intrigued about where this 10% figure comes from and how important it is for me as a Christian today to worry about all the math. I have also heard/read from different sources that tithing is no longer required, has been misinterpreted and abused by modern church leaders to take peoples' money, is paramount to the pre-reformation sale of indulgences etc.

It is true that tithing does not appear in the New Testament, although there are references to offerings that congregations make to other congregations or people in need. From the passages in the OT, it seems clear that tithing is a cultural indicator of submission to lordship. Quick summary:
  • Jacob vows to give the LORD a tenth of what he owns if he watches over him, provides for him, and brings him safely back to his father's land (Genesis 28:20-22)
This is the passage that I came across that got me intrigued about what tithing really means
  • In Leviticus 27:30-33 there are instructions to give a tenth of produce and animals to God
  • Genesis 14:18-20 says Abraham gave Melchizedek a tenth of everything (people and goods)
  • In 1 Samuel 8:15, 17, Samuel warns the people that if they want a king like the other nations, he will take a tenth of their produce and flocks
So it seems to me that this whole 10% tithe thing comes from God's requirement of his people to show that he is their ruler. The anti-tithing articles that I've read have argued along the lines that Jesus has fully redeemed us, so we don't need to "buy" our salvation by tithing any more. That argument misses the point; tithing was never about buying salvation or paying God off to get blessings. Tithing is a sign of obedience.

It is true that in the New Testament, tithing (per se) is not addressed. Unfortunately for those who want off the hook from giving money, time, and stuff to churches, charities, and people who need it, the New Testament model is for believers to have "everything in common". So technically, although we do not HAVE to give 10%, our submission to Jesus above all else means we've agreed that God is allowed to ask us for anything.
Even everything.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Many Links

I enjoyed a real day off on Tuesday (no work, no school) and was proud of myself for not succumbing to the temptation of Netflix. A friend from church got me into Mad Men, so I have been making my way through the first season. But Tuesday was a good mix of NOT watching TV all day: housework and relaxation, walking the dog a couple times, cooking a real meal and then finally after dinner making some flashcards for my biology final (which was last night and went great! I am half way to done forever!)

Part of relaxing including reading the internet, which can sometimes be a huge time drain for me (like the time Matt and I watched all the freakout kid videos on youtube for an hour and a half instead of going to bed on time), but on Tuesday was pretty good. My dear sweet sister told me the other day that I have become a "wealth of knowledge"! Although I think that comes just from telling her to read stuff that I've read, like a book on fertility awareness and a website about the GAPS diet.

Tuesday I learned about soaking whole grains to reap their nutritive benefits and the Oil Cleansing Method, which I am planning to try out starting tonight! (After all, my grad pictures have been taken, and the ceremony is not for three weeks, so if my face morphs into a shiny, smiling pimple there will hopefully be time for my old face soap to work its magic and straighten me out!)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Mars Needs Mo Ho

Couldn't resist - movie theatre still hasn't bothered to fix their sign :)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Sleep Time

I am heading to bed... have been heading to bed for an hour now. But for reals - I just needed to let it be known that I just pulled a grey hair out of my head... It was pure white actually, as the driven snow. Matt teased me that I shouldn't stress so much about life (first of only two final exams on Wednesday!!! I'm stoked to be so close to the end).

Now, to my beauty sleep!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Made me Smile

My bus was stopped at a light near a movie theatre sign and I was slightly amused to see that a column of lights was burnt out so not all the letters showed up. Mars Needs Moms was listed as "Mars Needs Mo"

Then I was truly amused to see the board advertise Red Riding Ho!!
Let's all go see it on cheap Tuesday :)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Still Alive!!

Oh man was I ever sick last week... I am still a teeny bit run down (so I was secretly glad when it didn't work out for Matt and I to go kickboxing) but definitely better and on the mend. Cheering me up is this picture of Nimoy that looks really emo, plus he was trying to dodge the camera, so his nose looks twice as long as it is. He has a pretty short nose for a dog. The reason I was taking the picture is because he went sniffing around in a bush and came out with a huge branch stuck in his beard. Clearly the branch does not look that big because it is blurry... but it was a cute moment between a girl and her redonkulous dog.

Adding to my jubilant mood is the fact that my last class ever was on Wednesday night, and in two weeks my finals will be over! This is great news. I have hopes and dreams of using the extra time that is freed up by not doing school to study Portuguese and possibly become a great cook. Or at least a more creative cook. Also there are some books I've been wanting to read - the main one is a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer that I bought last semester and read about 40 pages of (out of like 600). Also I'm hoping to have more time and energy to hang out with friends and spend time with youth without having to constantly monitor how badly I'm procrastinating and how quickly paper deadlines are arriving. I am almost so free.

As whipped cream and cherries to top the sundae of my delight, Spring is here for reals - still cold in the mornings, still bitterly cold in the wind sometimes, BUT the sun is up by the time I catch the bus to work AND....Crocus flowers!! (what the HECK is the plural of crocus? All the options I came up with look RIDICULOUS) These make my heart happy :)