Monday, November 29, 2010

Red pill or blue pill?

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
~ 1 Corinthians 10:13

Every day we are going to face our weaknesses and overcome them, just like an alcoholic has to decide each day whether to have that drink or not.  We all have our temptations.  Some of us have alcohol, others food, some sexual pleasure, and various other temptations that destroy our relationship with God and others.  We can know that we are not alone.  Everybody, worldwide, is tempted. 

Temptation, in this context can also be translated into tested or testing.  I’m not a biblical scholar, I cannot read Greek, but this is what my Bible tells me and I trust that it is true.

God is faithful, he will not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear.  I love movies and TV shows.  When I read those words I thought of the scene in The Matrix where Neo has to choose the red pill or the blue pill.  God allows us the choice.  He always provides a way out.  He never puts the red pill in our hand without also giving us the blue pill.  Sometimes the red pill is in our hand and the blue pill is on the table in front of us, but we always have both options.

There is only one thing in life you can truly control, and that is whether you are good or evil.

A slightly more Christian perspective on that… God is pure good, Satan is pure evil.  So there is only one thing in life we can truly control, whether we follow God or follow Satan.  What helps me when I am faced with temptation is thinking whether I am choosing God or Satan whenever I make a decision.  Who am I choosing?  Which option would Jesus want us to choose?  Answer those two questions and you’ll have your answer to your temptation.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A college example

Please Note: This entire story is fictional
One day, at a well-known college, a little known Christian youth minister was giving a sermon in one of the campus halls.  4 friends, Amy, Samantha, Carrie and Joanne decided to go and listen to what he had to say.  The sermon was very powerful, it gave the four friends a lot to think about.

That night, Samantha lay thinking about it in bed.  Her logical mind analysed every bit of the sermon, arguing backwards and forwards.  Eventually she convinced herself it was all nonsense and went to sleep.  She never opened her heart to God again.  But, Amy, Carrie and Joanne listened and accepted Jesus into their hearts that night.

Amy was overjoyed with her new found faith.  She bought modest clothing, she stopped drinking, she did everything she could think of to live a Christian life, but she neglected to build her faith on a relationship with God.  She didn’t read her Bible, she didn’t pray.  Even though on the outside she looked the part, inside she her faith had no depth.  A short while later, her parents were killed in a car accident and she was left to fend for herself.  She had to get a job to pay for her living expenses, she had to stop studying.  She couldn’t understand how a God who she felt she gave everything to could allow this to happen.  She then turned her back on God.

Carrie, like Amy, was also eager about her faith at first.  That weekend she went out with some of her other friends to a club.  She tried to tell them about God, but they didn’t want to listen.  She ordered a soda and enjoyed the evening with her friends.  Carrie, in her own mind, lived a Christian life, but those around her did not see it.  She would go out drinking on Saturday nights and listen to the Christian radio station on Sunday mornings.  None of her friends realised she was a Christian.

Joanne, got home from the sermon and got out her Bible to look up the verses the youth minister had given them.  She didn’t quite believe yet.  After a little while, reading and studying God’s word, she accepted Jesus as her saviour.  She didn’t bite of more than she could chew like Amy.  She allowed her faith to grow slowly as God lead her.  Joanne, joined a church, she read her Bible, she prayed, and God slowly moulded her over time.  After college, Joanne had the opportunity to go on a mission trip where she met her husband.  They married and had children who they raised according to God’s word.  Their family touched the hearts of everyone they met and inspired them to live according to God’s word.  And they lived happily ever after….

Which one of the 4 friends are you?  I know that I used to be like Carrie. Now, God has shown me the error of my ways, and I am striving to be like Joanne.

This story is based on a parable Jesus told in Mark 4:1-20.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Recipe: Breakfast Beans

Even though the recipe is called Breakfast Beans, I think the meal is more suited to a brunch or lunch.  It can also be served over pasta rather than on toast.  It is filling and if you add a bit of cooked minced beef can be eaten for dinner over rice or pasta.  The recipe book I got it from says “Serves 4”, and it would probably feed me for 4 meals, but as always this greatly depends on how much food the people you are serving eat.  I also garnished with green pepper – this can be excluded.

So without further delay, here is the recipe:

Breakfast Beans:

25ml / 25g (2 tablespoons) Margarine
1 Onion, peeled and finely chopped
Half a Green Pepper, seeded and chopped
1 x 420g can baked beans in tomato sauce (this does not have to be exact, just get the closest to this size you can find, I used a 410g can)
50ml ( 1/5 cup ) tomato sauce
15ml (1 tablespoon) Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste
250ml (1 cup) cheddar cheese, grated
Toasted Bread slices for serving

  1. Melt the margarine in a frying pan.  Add the onion and green pepper and fry gently for 5 minutes until soft.
  2. Add baked beans in their sauce, the tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring occasionally
  4. Mix in the cheese and cook for 3 minutes, stirring continuously until the cheese is melted.
  5. Spoon the bean and cheese mixture on top of the toasted bread slices.  Serve immediately.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Keeping the Sabbath

“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath,
and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
and the Lord’s holy day honourable,
and if you honour it by not going your own way
and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
then you will find your joy in the Lord,
and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land
and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”
The mouth of the Lord has spoken.
~ Isaiah 58:13-14

Normally, when I read Isaiah I feel overwhelmed.  Everything being written is written in common speech.  Each individual verse makes sense to me, but I regularly find myself glancing back to remind myself of the broad picture being discussed and that is when I get overwhelmed and start to just carry on reading until God brings a verse to my attention, not concentrating too much on the meaning behind any verse until that point.

This time, the verses quoted above were the ones God brought to my attention.  Then again, while reading Mark the following verses were brought to my attention…

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place where he prayed.
~ Mark 1:35

Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”
~ Mark 2:27

These verses started my train of thought along it’s journey.  Isn’t one of the 10 commandments to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy? (By the way, the answer is Yes).  What does a typical Sabbath look like in my household?  That’s easy…

I wake up when I wake up (no alarm clock on a Sunday).  I make my coffee and sit down in front of the computer to read emails.  Then I turn on a computer game and play for the rest of the morning.  At lunch time I start cooking my main meal of the day.  And I enjoy that while watching something on TV.  Normally at this point I remember something that needs to be done before Monday and I start working on it.  If not, the computer game is continued until it is time for the evening church service.  After that I have a cup of tea and do my evening Bible study or read a book.  Then it is off to bed to start Monday morning.

This is not how God wanted us to keep the Sabbath, sure it is to be a day of rest, but it is also meant to be a day we focus on him and allow him to renew our spirits for the week ahead.

Have you ever tried working for 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year?  I am convinced that any normal person would crash and burn very quickly.  We need a day of rest!  We cannot survive without a day of rest.  The Sabbath is more for our benefit than anything else.  Our spiritual journey can become so much stronger if we take a day off once a week, or even for an hour or two, to have in depth prayer and study of God’s word.

Even Jesus sought a solitary place to be alone with God and pray.  The Bible does not say whether it was a Sabbath day or not, but that is besides the point, the point is that he got up early to be alone with God.  When did you last get up early to be alone with God?  I did today, for the first time in weeks.  And I intend to make a commitment to keep the Sabbath holy from this day forward, using it as a time to focus on God and rest with as few worldly distractions as possible.

For those of you who have already heard what happened, it was at this point in my blog post I started getting horrible pains in my right hand side.  I was taken to the emergency room at the hospital and it turned out to be a Kidney Stone.  I have thought about continuing the post (24 hours later), but decided against it because there is no more to say.  I am alright now.  God was with me through it.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Understanding God’s Calling

Understanding and not doing is not true understanding.

While sitting quietly last night the above thought came into my mind.  I know that I had heard that phrase somewhere before, but I cannot remember where.  That does not matter though.  What does matter is the meaning behind it.

When faced with proverbs, Bible verses, quotes, or other sayings, we may understand the meaning behind them, but if we do not take it to heart and put it into practice then we do not truly understand.

Perhaps this is a good time to mention that I love quotes, sayings and proverbs regardless of what belief system they come from, as long as they do not go against what is written in God’s word. 

At this point this Zen-Buddhist proverb entered my mind:

It is better to sit all night than to go to bed with a dragon.

In combination with the the first thought I began to think “What are my dragons? What am I holding in my heart that is eating away at me?” 

Amongst other things (which I dealt with individually), I found that one of my key dragons is that I feel as though I need to get out there and lead other people to God, but I have no idea how to do it with my talents.

The problem with that is that my skills are limited.  I am not a skilled musician or singer, so that crosses out one ministry.  I am awkward around small children, so that crosses out another ministry.  I actually feel uncomfortable around people and have great difficulty forming friendships.  Those that I do form I fail to maintain for very long. So actually any form of ministry involving direct contact with people is crossed out.

So what are my known talents?  The ability to think logically, which results in the ability to enjoy programming and actually be good at it.  Once I get into writing a computer program I actually find it fun (getting started is the problem).

How can I use this talent to further God’s kingdom?  I had no idea, then I read this Bible verse:

God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.”
~ 2 Corinthians 9:8

I began meditating on the meaning of that verse, seeking a greater understanding of it.  I like to think with proverbs and parables since they allow me to form a deeper meaning and understanding of the world around me.  Last night I had the verse backwards.  I thought that “A healthy tree bears plenty of fruit which feeds many”.  But rather it is “A person with plenty is better equipped to maintain an orchard.”  Even though my understanding of the verse was incorrect last night, it took my thoughts along the path that God wanted them to take.

If I were to pick the right tree (the right good work), pour everything into it, God will allow it to grow and provide plenty of fruit that can fee many.  So the question was again, using my talents, what did God intend for me to do to further his kingdom here on earth. 

That is when I felt my calling, beyond any doubt.  It excited me.  I knew in an instant what God wanted me to do, what he had brought me into the world to do.  I wrote this in my journal last night, as I wrote it, I knew what I had to do:

“What if your calling is into a career that will earn money so you can support those who have talents that will further God’s kingdom?”

Is God’s calling for me to simply to live a Christian life to the best of my ability, work with my hands and mind, and earn money that I can pour back into God's kingdom?  The stunning answer to that was “At the moment, yes!”  After reading all the stories about radical believers who give up everything to preach God’s word at all costs, sometimes dying for their faith, God simply wants me to live a Christian life, earning money that can be used to allow these radical believers to continue doing what they are doing?  YES Could it really be that simple? YES. 

A person with plenty is better equipped to maintain an orchard.

I urge you to look deep within yourself, spend time with God, meditate on his word, and allow him to show you his calling for your life.  Once you know what he wants you to do, even if it is only a temporary “To Do” and you start doing it, you will feel more fulfilled than ever before.