Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Islands and Vines

I am made to be in a community.

Just think about that for a moment - you and I - we - are made to be relational. It's amazing that God had instilled in us from the beginning that notion of belonging somewhere or with someone that only He can completely fill and fix. After all, He is the embodiment of the perfect relationship - the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Because I believe that Jesus died and rose again for my sins, and have accepted Him into my life, I am in a relationship with Him; this also means that I am a part of a community bigger than myself.




Lately this month, I have been listening to a new song that was released by Tenth Avenue North called, "No Man is an Island". It's off of their Islands EP and is a very well-written song. I like that it expresses what God would be telling us about being a community, about having relationships with each other that are centred on the kind of relationship that we are striving to have with Him. In a video journal that was posted on YouTube, Mike Donehey, who is the lead singer in the band, creates a visual devotional that ties together with the song, saying that it's easy to live on our own islands but we also need to learn to get off of those islands and come to the shore and live life together.



This whole notion of community reminds me of Jesus' teaching in the beginning of John 15. He said that He is the true vine and that if we remain connected to Him as His people, we would bear fruit, meaning that our lives will become more abundant when we continue to come to God, worship Him with our lives and tend our ears to His words, and therefore, His commandments and promises.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5 NIV)

So what will you do next? Will you remain on your lonely island all the time, or will you go out to the shore where the party of life is happening? Will you take on God's word and shre life with the other members of the Church or will you try to live life for yourself? I know where I'll be going, and as I move on with my choice, I pray that this inspires you and that the Spirit will move you to where He needs you to be.

Peace and love,

Alex

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Fear and Provisions

Wow, it's been three months since I had written here. The time sure does fly. I guess I should explain a little about what's been going on...

I started a new job in the city about a month ago at Costco, and I am one among a few students working at the front end (what we call the cash register area). It's not too bad of a job, though dealing with customers sometimes can be stressful and annoying, and I also have to be careful about forklifts coming by whenever I have to work a night shift. It's at least some work experience that I can add to my CV.

Though I appear to be doing fine at my job, I sometimes can't help but worry and fear about possibly being fired; I'm on probation, so you're only given a limited amount of time before you can be more solidified in the company - in my case, that's three months. However, thinking through the past months about this fear of not having a job reminded me of a lesson that I had helped teach to some kids at a Vacation Bible School session at church this past week of God being our provider and how He provides our needs.

In 1 Kings 17, we see how God had provided food to the prophet Elijah after giving King Ahab a message that there would be a long drought in Israel, as well as when Elijah visits a widow for some bread and God miraculously provides enough flour to make bread for Elijah and the widow's family. A similar type of phenomenon can also be found in the Gospels where Jesus fed five thousand men using five loaves of bread and two fish (see Matthew 14:13-21, John 6:1-14, Mark 6:30-44 & Luke 9:10-17). These were times when a simple thing was needed (and one that we all can relate to): hunger. Yet, God had provided a way to feed His people. Since God has that kind of power and then some, then He will provide for me because He knows what I need before I do.

I think it’s great that I can count on an all-knowing, all-powerful and all-present God who knows everything about me and wants me to be in a relationship with Him. Yet I bet you’re wondering: “aren’t I scared of God since He is so powerful that He can wipe us off the planet in an instant?” Well, yes, I am afraid of God, but I am also in awe of all of the goodness and love that He has shown me over the years. I’ve read that among the Psalms and Proverbs (e.g. Psalm 111:10 & Proverbs 1:7), it is stated that “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom/knowledge”. What I believe this means to me is that the driving fear and awe of who God is and how much He loves me will lead me into a more spiritually abundant life, one that He intends to show me as I continue yielding to Him.

Living life for God is definitely never the easiest thing – it’s truly sacrificial – but I believe that faith work and community are great ways to get moving in your current path. God has brought some amazing people into my life since coming to the Mount, and for that, I am deeply grateful. I wouldn’t be where I am now without my family and friends to support me like they do. And it’s through the power and grace of God that these bonds will become stronger with each passing storm. Having a God-loving community is such a blessing and a gift.

Until next time,


Alex

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Birthday Update - 2014

Today, I thought I'd update about what's been going on over the past month or so.

I recently finished my third year of university, which is a bit of a relief when you think about things like exams and term projects. Now that I'm done with all of those, I can focus on finding a job for the summer and preparing for my fourth year. Unlike most of my friends who started out in the same year as me, I decided to push graduation aside to 2016 and take lower course loads for the next two years.

Today is also my birthday, and I mostly spent it so far by having walked my sister's dog for nearly 50 minutes and going out for supper with the family. I also decided to take a silly selfie (just 'cause I can...why not?) To those of my friends and family who have given me birthday greetings, whether it was done in person, over the phone or online, thank you; it's been a blessing to hear from you.
This is the selfie to which I am referring.

As I have looked back from when I started university to where I am now, I've come a long way. Mind you, I'm still a little weird (in a good way, as you might be pondering), I still have issues to go through every now and again, but I'm okay with that. Often when I look at my own self-portraits, or portraits of others, I don't really get all nitty gritty about the physical features about a person's face because God has shown me that true beauty lies from within. I think that part of what I'm meant to dos to help show people that they are beautiful and significant in His eyes because they were made by Him.

                  "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
                   your works are wonderful, I know that full well."
                                                                                  -Psalm 139: 14

I find that this verse holds a great truth to me now because there have been times where I struggled to see the beauty within myself due to having a disability. God has revealed to me through the Bible studies of which I had been attend that I am loved and that I do have substance, that I have worth. Now, the whole idea of being a child of the King is deeper. If you haven't felt this way, believe me, it is so good.

I know that there are a lot of people who feel like they don't have value and that they don't feel loved. Let me tell you something: you are loved, you have value and you have a purpose. When we understand and accept that God loves us and gives us value and a purpose, we are no longer the same as before; we are changed. If that is what you're looking for, I'd suggest going into prayer and letting God show you your value.

I hope that this is an encouragement to you as you move along with your life. I know that this is encouraging myself as a reminder of my testament. Thanks again for reading.

-Alex

Friday, March 14, 2014

Moses, Peter & Setbacks

         Lately this semester, my small group and I have been on a study through the book of Exodus and looking closely at Moses’ story and his relationship with God. We looked into how he came to be someone whom God decided to use to present His glory to the world. It was quite interesting as to the kinds of questions we’ve had so far.
         For instance, we were looking at how Moses has been initially struggling with his faith in God and how He’ll rescue His people from the hands of the Egyptians. We had an application question that was asked: what’s holding you back? I find that this question gets asked a lot, but it still gets to the heart of the matter. What IS holding me back from living out what God intends for me to do?
         I guess what’s holding me back is having this sense of doubt, especially when different circumstances arise. It’s so much easier to do what God wants from us when things are going good in our direction, but I still find it hard to go through the hard times every now and then. What I can learn from Moses’ story is the same as with the apostle Peter. By learning to put my faith in Jesus and yielding to His Spirit in prayer, I can overcome whatever troubles me.
         There are other things that I could mention about specific lessons I have learned from Moses’ story, but this appeared to be an over-arching theme that kept popping up. The other great theme for me is to know that I’m not alone. I find that many of us are struggling to be accepted and loved when we don’t know that we were already loved and accepted by a God who chose to die in our place in order to conquer death and offer eternal life. If you are in a situation like this, the same applies to you; you don’t have to be lonely because there already is a place where you belonged before you could even realize such a place; you are loved when you have struggled to find “the One,” or have been told that nobody loves or wants you.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. –Romans 5: 8
         I found that verse to be comforting. For me, it meant that God loved me so much to sacrifice himself so I could be free from my sins. It meant that I mattered, and that there is a reason for my existence. My hope is that this verse will also bring comfort into someone else’s life, like it has for countless others like me.