Tag: peace

Count Your Blessings

Sometimes when we go through experiences, we wonder if God is trying to tell us something. I have just had that experience.

For last Sunday, I chose the songs we would sing. Since I knew what the text would be (Acts 27), I chose songs that fit that sermon topic. This particular hymn came to mind:

  1. When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
    When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
    Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
    And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

    • Refrain:
      Count your blessings, name them one by one,
      Count your blessings, see what God has done!
      Count your blessings, name them one by one,
      *Count your many blessings, see what God has done.
      [*And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.]
  2. Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
    Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
    Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
    And you will keep singing as the days go by.
  3. When you look at others with their lands and gold,
    Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
    Count your many blessings—*money cannot buy [*wealth can never buy]
    Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.
  4. So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
    Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
    Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
    Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

That was Sunday. Monday I sat down with my two VP’s and we talked about the events of last week and what we needed to be aware of for this week. Mr. Long, who had just come back from the Grade 11 canoe trip to the Missinipe area, relayed an incident from that trip. When one student got turned around, rather than giving in to panic, the student stopped to thank God for His many blessings. The student was then able to get turned around correctly and reached camp safely. How? By focusing on the blessings (and Blessings-Giver).

The third incident took place this morning as I was talking with a teacher in my office. She commented on the picture behind my desk. I explained to her that this is what the forest behind my house in Campbell River looked like.20180921_091834

This would have been a 5 minute walk away. Her comment, like that of so many others, was, ‘How could you leave that to come here?’ I told her that God called us from there to here and that we were simply obedient to His call. However, after the conversation I reflected on where we had lived (and now live) and was reminded of the many blessings I have here.

Over the last two weeks I have had three reminders of counting my blessings. I wonder if God is trying to tell me to count my blessings. In that case, I had better start….

Sometimes we take our eyes off of what God is doing in us and through us and we focus on the negative. God always calls us to count our blessings (as He is the giver of every blessing) and to focus on Him. In these weeks as the weather turns grey and the temperature drops (snow this morning!), remember to count your blessings (and echo Paul as he said ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ’ Eph. 1:3).

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Death Valley

As a child, I loved our Christmas holidays. Every year we would burrow into our VW Rabbit and head down to California for a two-week skiing holiday. We would share a house with our extended family and spend the two weeks skiing, hiking, travelling to natural hot springs, and visiting with family. On the way home (if we were visiting our family in greater Los Angeles), we would sometimes swing through Death Valley .

Death Valley is the lowest point (over 30 metres BELOW sea level) in North America and a desert.

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The surrounding mountains would be cloaked with snow and there was the odd winter that featured snow on the desert floor.

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Driving through, we could see the tracks of the borax wagon trains and see where seasonal rivers (flash floods) had carved paths.

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Most years we drove through, we saw no flourishing plant life. There may have been the odd Joshua tree or other cacti, flowers withered on their stems, or the frequent bleached logs.

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One year we decided to visit our extended family in Los Angeles in the summer. My dad rarely had time off in the summer, but one year we did. My dad wanted to see Death Valley in the summer, so we drove through and saw the same valleys covered in wildflowers. As the winter snow melted (in the valley and from the surrounding mountains) the flowers had been provided with sufficient moisture to germinate and flower (ever so briefly). The appearance changed so dramatically, it was hard to believe that we drove through the same valley. It was amazing to see what a bit of water could do.

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All of this is a lead-in to the verses I just recently re-read in Isaiah. Isaiah 43:1b-3a, 19 says, “Fear not, for I have redeemed youI have called you by your  name; You are MineWhen you pass through the waters, will be with youAnd through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you. For am the Lord your GodThe Holy One of Israel, your Savior; 19 Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

We have such amazing promises in these few verses. First, God has redeemed us. He found us where we were but did not leave us there. He is making something wonderful in and through us. Second, He shows us how precious we are to Him by announcing that we are His. (Everyone else, hands off!) Third, God promises that He will be with us when we pass through the waters and walk through the flames (trials and tribulations). Finally, we have His promise that He will make roads in the wilderness and call forth rivers in the desert.

Sometimes we feel like we are in the desert: nothing seems to be flourishing and the little life that is there seems to be all prickles. And yet….

When the waters come, there is life in abundance.

And God promises to provide that water.

I can’t wait to see what God will do this year. He will provide water and we will flourish. I don’t know how or where the water will come from, but that is not important. What is important is that we wait upon God and His timing for the waters (of blessing) to come. Let us do our part in being faithful to His Word and then He will do His part (in His timing) and bring the blessing that only He can give. That way all glory belongs to Him and we will have the privilege of praising His name.

So Long and Thanks for All the Fish

I love this title from the 5th book of Douglas Adam’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy. I am guessing that a five book trilogy only makes sense to Adams.

This has been an interesting year. There have been many changes and many more are starting September. There have been difficulties, challenges, and growth opportunities. But, throughout everything, God has been faithful and God has been in control. I’m so glad that we can rest on that solid foundation.

Speaking of rest, that is one of the things I, and probably many others, am looking forward to over the next number of weeks. This is my last blog post for this school year. I will resume in mid-August. Until then, God’s blessings on your summer journeys.

Who Is In Charge Anyways?

Every year brings change. Dealing with change is hard. It is emotionally draining, stressful, and often incomprehensible. This year, one of the challenging changes is that enrollment has dropped and this has necessitated a corresponding drop in teaching staff.

It is always difficult to say good-bye to teachers, especially if they have worked in the building for many years. School staff, particularly in a Christian school context, often become like family and that makes changing schools even more stressful.

This year we have seven teachers moving to different positions and one teacher superannuating. The seven teachers are:

Chelsea Abramoff

Carmen Bekkatla

Rebecca Krieg

Wes Letkeman

Seth Peters

Sheryl Salen

Michelle Wiens

Tracy Janzen is superannuating this year.

We want to thank all eight of these teachers for the time and effort they have put into SCS. Without them, we would not have been able to offer all the programs that we have offered. We will miss them and ask for God’s blessing on them as they transition to different assignments next year.

Emotional turmoil is a common side effect of change. We often play with metaphors such as ‘the ship (SCS) is sinking’ or ‘how can those in charge do this’? There are two passages in Scripture that deal with this topic. The first one is Mark 4:35-41: 35 On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.” 36 Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. 38 But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” 39 Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. 40 But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?41 And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!”

There are several key messages found in this passage. First, the Lord Jesus told His disciples that they would cross over to the other side. Jesus, being all-knowing, knew what would happen. The storm did not catch Him off guard. He was not surprised by the storm. A second message is that there were other boats there with the one that the disciples traveled on. The other boats were noted at the beginning. Once the wind started, the other boats were ignored. They were impacted by the storm as well. And yet, they were no longer important to the disciples. Other schools have gone through what we go through. We may look to them at first, but often choose to ignore that other schools have gone through similar situations as well (and have survived or even thrived). The disciples accused the Lord of not caring. They took their eyes off Him and lingered on the storm. No wonder they worried. The chorus of Helen Lemmel’s famous hymn comes to mind here:

Turn you eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.

After the disciples woke the Lord Jesus up, and accused Him, He rebuked the storm and it stopped. There are times when the storms of life are close to swamping us. At such times, we need to remember to consider Christ and not our issues and that He is with us in the midst of the storm. That fact should be more than enough to bring calm to our spirits.

The second passage is Isaiah 6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. This is a similar situation. As far as Isaiah could tell, the throne was empty (King Uzziah was now dead). He (may) have felt like panicking, until he lifted his eyes and had a vision of the heavenly throne. THAT throne was still filled; God was still on the throne and in control. If Isaiah had wondered who may have been in charge now that the king was dead, he no longer needed to wonder: God was still in charge.

We need to come to the same conclusion. There will be times when we wonder why we are going through the different (difficult) circumstances. During such times we need to remember that God is still on the throne and that the Lord Jesus is with us in the midst of the storm.

The following hymn shows this really well. The storm is acknowledged at the beginning, but the calming presence of Christ is relied on at the end. I’m sure we can relate.

Peace, Be Still

Master, the tempest is raging!
The billows are tossing high!
The sky is o’ershadowed with blackness,
No shelter or help is nigh;
Carest Thou not that we perish?
How canst Thou lie asleep,
When each moment so madly is threatening
A grave in the angry deep?

Refrain

The winds and the waves shall obey Thy will,
Peace, be still!
Whether the wrath of the storm tossed sea,
Or demons or men, or whatever it be
No waters can swallow the ship where lies
The Master of ocean, and earth, and skies;
They all shall sweetly obey Thy will,
Peace, be still! Peace, be still!
They all shall sweetly obey Thy will,
Peace, peace, be still!

 

Master, with anguish of spirit
I bow in my grief today;
The depths of my sad heart are troubled
Oh, waken and save, I pray!
Torrents of sin and of anguish
Sweep o’er my sinking soul;
And I perish! I perish! dear Master
Oh, hasten, and take control.

Refrain

Master, the terror is over,
The elements sweetly rest;
Earth’s sun in the calm lake is mirrored,
And heaven’s within my breast;
Linger, O blessèd Redeemer!
Leave me alone no more;
And with joy I shall make the blest harbor,
And rest on the blissful shore.

Refrain

Dealing with Tragedy

This has been a difficult week. Last week Friday, the Humboldt Bronco’s bus was involved in a collision and, to date, 15 people died. We have had several people at SCS directly affected by this tragedy. On Monday, a bus carrying elementary students drove off a cliff in India, killing 27 including 23 elementary students. Last weekend there was also a gas attack in Syria with hundreds being affected.

We, here in Saskatchewan, all either know someone who was directly affected by the Humboldt crash or we can relate to the situation because we have been in a similar situation in our past. The accident is still fresh and raw and we are all, in some ways, still grieving for the loss of life. When I first read the article of the school bus accident in India, I grieved for the loss of life there. I know that God does not care about geography in the same way we do. He also knew those children on the bus in India, just as He knew those involved in the Broncos accident and those harmed in Syria.

As I thought about these tragedies, I again thought back to the reasons Scripture gives about the timing of when people die. Scripture lists several reasons. Some die young as a reward (1 Kings 14) while others die young as a punishment (1 Cor. 11); others die at the end of a long life (Job 42) and others die so that God may be glorified (John 11). We don’t know why these specific tragedies happened over the last week; we just need to accept God’s decision in each situation and provide the comfort that we can to those who are left (2 Cor. 1:3-7). We also need to remember that we do not sorrow as those who have no hope (1 Thess. 4:13) because our hope is in the Lord Jesus.

May God remove our hearts of stone and give us hearts of flesh so that we can sorrow with and comfort those who are grieving. Let us pray that all will receive God’s comfort, experience His presence, and rejoice in the life He gives.

What If Jesus Meant What He Said? Part 4

Part 6

Suffering and Persecution Renders the Platform for His Glory

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name (1 Peter 4:12-16).

Do we try to avoid the very situations that offer opportunities to show off the power and beauty of Christ?

Peter starts off by telling us not to be surprised or even find it remotely strange when tough times come. In much of the church today, there is a strange paradox…. The very things Jesus promised would happen if we follow Him are often the things that cause us to doubt His presence and love. What if the supposed detours in our life and the most direct route to true blessing? What if the most undesirable situations are platforms for God’s glory?

Part 7

Suffering and Persecution Reproves our Enemies

Only let your manner of life be worthy[a] of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God (Philippians 1:27-28).

In West Africa, I have had many neighbors that the world might label ‘radical Islamists.’ Late one afternoon, shortly after moving into a new neighborhood, I set out to buy tomato paste at a little shack owned by a friend. I found what I was looking for. As I was about to head home, I mentioned that we would be hosting a Christmas party. I invited my friend to come join us in celebrating Jesus’ coming to earth.

Another young man in his mid-twenties overheard our conversation and asked, ‘Am I invited too?’ Quickly, I told him, ‘Of course!’ He quipped, ‘Are you sure you want the Al-Qaeda at your party?’ I told him that he was our neighbor and we wanted him there. Feeling more comfortable, he went on, ‘Do you believe the prophets?’ I quickly told him that I did, since the prophets pointed to Jesus. Knowing this game, he asked again, ‘Do you believe all the prophets?’ Understanding that he was asking if I believed in Mohammed, Islam’s final prophet, I replied, ‘My friend, I came into this shop to buy tomato paste. I found it. Now, will I continue searching for more tomato paste or will I go home and cook?’ ‘You’ll go home and cook,’ he replied. ‘Exactly,’ I continued. ‘In life, I was searching for peace, joy, hope, love, and eternal life. I found all these things and more in Jesus Christ. Mohammed came hundreds of years later and therefore is irrelevant to my faith. My search ended with Jesus. Why would I look elsewhere for what I’ve already found?’

Part 8

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matthew 5:10-12.

At times we pray against the very things that would bring us God’s blessing and reward. Jesus doesn’t merely suggest that those who are persecuted for His name will be blessed – He promises it. And as thought that were not enough, He tells us that this reward is ‘great.’ Let us not pray for persecution to stop, but for grace to endure – that Christ might be glorified.

In some parts of China, before new followers of Christ are baptized, they are asked to repeat this statement:

I am ready at any time or place to suffer, to be imprisoned, to escape imprisonment, and even to die for my Lord.

If you imprison me, you are giving me a captive audience to share the gospel with others.

If you put me in solitary, I can pray and meditate.

If you take my house and my goods, I can travel and share the gospel anywhere.

If you beat me, I’ll glorify God and it gives Him an opportunity to heal me.

If you kill me, you will send me to glory – my ultimate goal.

With that, they are baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Bibliography

Bramsen, N. (2017). What If Jesus Meant What He Said? Dubuque, IA: Emmaus International.

 

How Should We Treat One Another?

I’ve had several conversations with people over the last few weeks around the topic of how we treat one another. Most of the conversations have centered around people not treating others appropriately. As I thought about this, two separate passages came to mind. The first one is Matthew – ‘But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment’ (Matt. 12:36).

The second passage is found in Ephesians 4 – I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 20 But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. 25 Therefore, putting away lying, Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,”[e] for we are members of one another.  29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you (Eph. 4:1-3, 15, 20-25, 29-32).

These two passages both focus on how we use our words. In Matthew, we are reminded that we are accountable for every word we speak. When I think about that word, I think of the definition of gossip. We often say things about people that are not uplifting or helpful; we like to see how bad others are because it can help us feel better about ourselves. I wonder just how much our conversation would change if we were truly thinking about the fact that we will give an account of our words one day. I know that it makes me reconsider what I have said (and may say down the road). A good rule of thumb to go by is Phil. 4:8, ‘Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things’.

The Ephesians passage describes how we ought to talk to one another. Paul uses phrases such as ‘walk worthy of the calling with which you were called’, ‘with…gentleness’, ‘bearing with one another in love’, ‘speaking the truth in love’, ‘speak truth’, Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers’, and ‘be kind to one another’. I know I have been on the receiving end of phone calls (or emails) where parents have voiced their displeasure at what I had said or done (or what they thought I had said or done). The problem was that the call or email started off with accusations instead of questions. It is far easier to attack than to first inquire about what may or may not have happened. As every story has two sides (or more, depending on the number of participants), it is far wiser to find out the details of the event before reacting to it. Jumping to conclusions may be good exercise, but it is usually not helpful when trying to solve a problem.

Another problem when we speak is that we often do not think about who else can listen in when we speak. There is certainly a time and a place for having serious conversations. However, that does not mean that others who are not part of the conversation should be able to listen in. Parents, when talking to your child’s teacher, please make sure your children, unless they are a direct part of the conversation, cannot listen in. Please make sure that other parents or other children cannot listen in. It damages relationships to jump to conclusions and attack a person and have others standing around who witness the entire exchange. So often love, gentleness, kindness, graciousness, and edification are not adjectives that others would use about us when speak to or about them. 

This is my appeal to all parents, students, board members, staff, and admin [me!]: we have a responsibility to watch our words when we talk to others and when we talk about others. May we be known for being gracious and kind, yet truthful, with our words.