Spring is in the air!

Today’s blog post starts off our new series in April focusing on Spring and Renewing your Faith!

A few weeks ago the weather outside was absolutely gorgeous. The sun was shining, birds were singing and I could sit outside in my long sleeve shirt with my face to the sun (sunglasses on of course) and not shiver in cold.

I had about another half hour before my next class, and I decided while sitting on the bench in the sun, that I would spend those 30 minutes in prayer. So there I sat, in the middle of McGill’s MacDonald campus with students going back and forth, praying silently (that’s where the featured photo is from!).

AND IT WAS AMAZING!

My soul, my mind, my spirit, my heart, EVERYTHING, felt refreshed and re-energized. I went to class floating on a cloud and the rest of my day was so peaceful. Not because crazy things didn’t happen or that I wasn’t busy (spend more than 5 minutes with me and you’ll realize how insanely busy my life is), but because I got to spend those 30 minutes talking with my Father, Lord and Savior.

Everyone will tell you that an important part of any relationship, whether it be friendship, romantic, professional or otherwise, is COMMUNICATION. You need to talk with people around you so that you can not only learn to interact efficiently and meaningfully with each other, but so that you can begin to understand each other better as well.

New Year’s is not the only time where you can begin new things in your life. Spring is in the air and the entire world is beginning anew after winter (although let’s face it, our winter this year sucked). Why can you not also start fresh whenever you want?

I encourage you to spend time communicating with your Father. Try to find times where you can pray by yourself. As you talk with Him more, you open yourself up so that His Holy Spirit can fill you and reveal what God is trying to communicate to you.

It doesn’t have to be 30 minutes, start small with 5 or 10 minutes. You can pray during a break, you can pray in your car or on in the bus or in the metro. There is no limit to where and how long you can pray other than what you decide for yourself.

Matthew 7: 7-8 (NIV)

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Our Father is faithful and holds to His promises.

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MVS – ZECHARIAH

Zechariah 9:12

Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope;
    even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.

The first time I read this verse, I was frankly unimpressed. I didn’t really understand what the Lord was declaring in these words. But think about it for a second, “I will restore twice as much to you.” WHAT?!

Can you imagine your teacher saying, “Don’t worry about the points you lost on this test, I’m going to give you back double.” I can’t!

Is our Lord not amazing that He has promised to give back to us two times what we have lost. How deep the Father’s love for us.

Holy Week: Easter Sunday

Today’s post as part of our Holy Week series has been written by Mark Latulipe!

Happy Easter! – ALLELUIA! Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! ALLELUIA!

Easter Sunday – the day that we remember the incredible and historical event that changed it all. On Good Friday Jesus hung on a cross and carried the weight of all our sin. He paid the cost of that sin, which is death; but it doesn’t end there. After his death on the cross and burial, Jesus rose and came up out of the tomb and was alive again. Not even death could hold Him down. Jesus did all this to accomplish everything that was promised and He did it because he loves more than we can comprehend.

Luke 24: 1-49 – This passage that has been on my mind this Easter season.  We read about three encounters that happen after Jesus had risen: the women at the tomb, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and the other disciples. The ones I want to talk about are the encounters with the disciples.

First, we have the two disciples who were walking to Emmaus. They were talking about what had happened – Jesus on the cross- and this “guy” comes up to them and asks them “what’s up” (paraphrasing). On any other day this would have been normal question; but on this day it was not. The disciples’ reaction was, “Are you the only one in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” (v18)

Given their emotional state, their snappy maybe even snarky remark was understandable. They “explained” to this guy what had happened and he turns around and says to them that they don’t even know what really happened. He explained to them that they were being foolish because despite knowing the scriptures and despite knowing what Jesus had told them before his death, they still believe that Jesus was actually going to come back from death. (Oh snap, they just got told!) So they continued their conversation with this man as they walked, still not recognizing that this man was Jesus. They didn’t realize it until he broke bread with them, just as He did before his death.

Then we have disciples. Fortunately they recognized Jesus or at least that this being, possibly a ghost, looked and sounded like Jesus. Even after all His teachings and all the time they followed Him before His death, it still took convincing from Jesus himself to make them believe. It took seeing the holes in Jesus’ hands and feet for them to know that this was Jesus, alive again.

For me these encounters these people have with Jesus really shows our human nature and a struggle we all face. Despite knowing the scriptures or the story, and despite knowing Jesus, we still need to be reminded of who He is, what He did, and why He did it. We constantly need Jesus to say to us “hey, remember me, remember what I did for you, and remember why I did it.” We need that reminder sometimes daily, but that’s ok. We shouldn’t feel ashamed that we need reminding; those who knew Jesus best on this earth, who actually witnessed his death, still needed a reminder. And that’s what Easter is about; we celebrate and remember Jesus and the incredible things He did for us.

So take time this Easter, before church and before the family dinner, to sit and pray, and ask Jesus to encounter you, so that you can truly be reminded of “who He is, what He did, and why He did it” – Happy Easter!!!

Holy Week: The Day True Love Died

You begin your day, wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast, brush your teeth and head to work. As you’re working a job that you’ve been doing all your life, some stranger you have never seen before tells you to drop whatever you are doing and follow him.

Ummmm… what?! Leave my entire livelihood, my family, my friends, everything?!

That’s exactly right. You leave all of it behind and decide to follow this stranger. But you’re not the only one! There are many people who are also following him with you. However, you and 11 others have been chosen to be in this guys most intimate circle of friends. You’ve become a new family.

You eat together, travel together, and live every second of every day together. And this man that you’ve decided to follow performs the most amazing miracles, teaches things that are considered radical at the time and takes you under his wing to teach you all he knows.

Then, one of your brothers, a member of your new family betrays this man who has given you everything. The heartbreak must have been terrible! You ask yourself, “How could I have not seen it coming?” or “What could I have done to stop it?”

To make things even worse, your teacher, the patriarch of your family has been sentenced to death. He doesn’t perform one of his many miracles and escape, he walks straight to the cross and after suffering for hours, dies.

This man whom you have followed for years, for whom you have up your entirely livelihood and everything you had known… is dead. What do you do next? Where do you go? Yes, he has raised others from the dead before, but now he is the one who is dead. Dead people can’t perform miracles.

And that is where I leave you. Imagine the heartbreak, the disappointment, the utter despair, the disciples must have been feeling on this Holy Saturday as Jesus Christ lay dead in his tomb. You had given up your entire life, everything you have ever known. You have no where to turn to, you can’t go back home, and you don’t know what you’re supposed to do next.

Are we not blessed to know that Jesus Christ did indeed rise again? To understand that his death was not a permanent state of being but a stepping stone to paying for our sins?

Amen.

I leave you with the song True Love by Phil Wickham.

Holy Week: Good Friday

Today’s blog post has been written by Laurin Vroom!

Hey there friends!

Today is what we call “Good Friday” also known as “Holy Friday.” It doesn’t seem so good when you think about what we’re celebrating today: The crucifixion of Christ. This is the day we remember what Jesus went through to bring us back into intimate relationship with the Father. Jesus was hit, mocked, spat on, whipped and ultimately hung on a cross next to the lowest of criminals. You can read the story in more detail in Matthew 27:27-55.

There is something good, no great, that came of all this torture and unfair treatment. Christ suffered out of an intense, selfless love, for humanity. He wanted to demonstrate how much He loved His Father, and what complete obedience and unconditional love looked like. He shed His blood, so that it would symbolically cover over our sin, and make us righteous so that we can once again be in an intimate relationship with God- no longer separated by sin. This is an incredible Truth to get our heads around.

I want to challenge you today, to sit somewhere comfortable, by yourself, read the story of the Cross and seriously reflect on what it means, and what Christ’s sacrifice means to you. Think about how hard it would be for you to forgive everyone who spat, hit, beat, whipped and mocked you if you were being killed for a crime you never committed. Think about Jesus’ words, and how super-human Jesus’ forgiveness is.

When Christ ascended to heaven, He later gave the gift of His Holy Spirit, so that this super-human power can live inside of us! This holy power of God, living in us, is what strengthens us in our faith, helps us forgive those who’ve wronged us, helps us love those who hate us, etc. Anything you think is too hard for you, you can look to the Cross, to the One who gave everything for you and you will always find the strength you need.

There is a song that is super appropriate that I encourage you to listen to as you reflect: Once and for All by Lauren Daigle.

Her song reminds us that we can remember, connect and experience the love of Christ, when we remember the Cross and what He did for us on Calvary. That even though you and I are like the criminals that hung next to Jesus- sinful, broken, selfish, screw-ups- He still extends His love and grace to us when we look to Him. She sings about laying down her life to live for Christ, just like He laid down His life for us. I’ll leave you with a few of her lyrics, and pray that on this Holy Day, you take the time to remember what a gracious, loving and selfless Savior we live for.

God I give You all I can today
These scattered ashes that are hid away
I lay them all at Your feet

From the corners of my deepest shame
The empty places where I’ve worn Your name
Show me the love I say I believe

O Help me to lay it down
Oh, Lord I’ll lay it down

O let this be where I die
My Lord with thee crucified
Be lifted high as my kingdom fall
Once and for all, once and for all

There is victory in my saviors loss
and In the crimson flowing from the cross
Pour over me, pour over me

O let this be where I die
My Lord with thee crucified
Be lifted high as my kingdom fall
Once and for all, once and for all

Blogs of Speakers Past – Feather Duvets

Today’s blog post is brought to us by the amazing Jill Chapman who was a speaker at Crossroads this past year!

The Day my Feather Duvet Exploded and What it Taught Me About God.

Up until this point I have had a general policy of housecleaning: only clean the places people are going to look. This means you never have to clean closets, under beds or in drawers. Over the years this has saved me loads of time and energy. Until this one time, when suddenly it didn’t.

I have a feather duvet on my bed. It is the softest, warmest blanket ever. Everyone in my house loves it. My kids like to wrap themselves up in it and crawl around the house, pretending to be worms. They also like to use it as a crash landing pad when they are wrestling. As you can imagine, over time my feather duvet has become a little threadbare. So threadbare, in fact, that the holes got big enough for it to start shedding feathers. Tiny little bits of duck down poof out of my duvet whenever it is lifted or shaken. For a few weeks, I was too busy to do anything about this duvet, and so I just let it shed feathers.

Then one day, it got to be too much and I had to clean up the mess. Since I had not cleaned under my bed in a year, and I share my house with a husband, four children and a cat, it was a bit of a mess. You see, all kinds of toys, socks, dishes and sippy cups had somehow made their way under my bed. They had been gathering dust and fluff. And in the last while, they had also been gathering feathers. So by the time I finally started to clean up the feathers, I did not just have to vacuum up a little bit. I had a half day major clean up operation on my hands. It was a huge mess.

What does this have to do with you or with God? Everything. We live in a culture that often tells us to stuff things. If something goes wrong, we are told “All things work together for good. Just keep going.” When we are angry with God we are told, “God’s thoughts are above our thoughts. There’s nothing you can do. Keep going.”. If we have questions about our faith, we hear, “Faith is believing what we can not see. Keep going.” And in order to appear like good Christians, we often smile and tell everyone we are fine, meanwhile stuffing our sin, our sorrow and our doubts under our metaphorical bed. And this works out for us, for a while. Until something happens that is too big to fit under the bed. Until life gets the better of us and throws feathers all over the place. Because we did not deal with things as they came, we now have a huge mess to deal with.

This is not the example of faith we see in the Bible. In the Psalms, the Bible’s prayer and worship book, we see a different way of dealing with sin, doubt, anger, hurt and despair. We see David and the other writers giving these things up to God with open, honest hearts. They seek God, and take comfort in what they know of his character and his faithfulness. Here are a few examples:

Psalm 6: |”O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath. Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing; heal me for my bones are troubled.”

Psalm 10: “Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

. . . . Arise O Lord; O God, lift up your hand; forget not the afflicted . . . O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice.” (vs. 1, 12, 17)

Psalm 13: “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? . . . But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.” (vs. 1, 5).

In each situation, David turns to God and tells him what is going on. He doesn’t stuff things. He has it out with God. And this reminds him of God’s good character, and of His past faithfulness to David. This means David can move forward without a big mess under his bed. If a challenge comes his way, he does not need to self-destruct. He is already in a good place with God.

I want to encourage you to do the same. Talk to God about everything. Turn it over to him. Let him heal and comfort you. Then when trials come, you will be ready to face them together, assured of His faithfulness and love for you.

Sacrifice—What is it supposed to be?

During the weeks leading up to Easter we will be having a post on Lent every Thursday, here’s Part 1 of Luke Bayly’s post to kick us off!

Hey all!

Kicking off the season of Lent, this is the first of a two-part series on sacrifice. This week, we’ll ask what sacrifice is supposed to mean in a life lived for God—why is it necessary; what is its purpose? Next week, we’ll look at a little application—what sacrifice can often look like in our lives in this day and age.

To address the first question, we’ll analyze a small passage of scripture. I encourage you to read it through a couple times. Take note: what are all the instructions it gives? What are all the claims it makes?

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)

  1. We offer our bodies (or lives) as living sacrifices. In the Old Testament, people would sacrifice animals they owned to God, either as an act of repentance or an act of praise. This was like giving away some of your wealth, recognizing that God gave it to you in the first place. But to be a living sacrifice means to honour God with more than just your wealth—also your time, your talents, your body, heart and mind—everything! God gave you your body; your life. What are you going to do with it?

 

  1. Our sacrifice is a spiritual act of worship. Again, the Old Testament sacrifices were a physical act. A person could sacrifice an animal without actually trying to change their heart or honour God. It could just something to tick off the to-do list; like paying your credit card—done, and forgotten. A duty to be done so it’s out of the way. But our sacrifice is to be something that changes us in our inmost being

 

  1. …leading to the third point! Do not conform…but be transformed. God doesn’t ask us to make sacrifices just for laughs. Every challenge we face, every difficulty we must overcome is designed to make us grow, even if it’s not fun at the time. God loves us already, whoever we are right now, but he longs for us to become wiser and more loving…more like Jesus, who is a role-model for how we should live our lives. It’s easy to stick with the patterns we’re used to, but God has bigger things in mind for us.

 

  1. The result of all this is that we will be able to test and approve what God’s will is. Living our lives as a sacrifice to God leads to understanding more of what God’s will is—and, by extension, more about who God is. The verse describes God’s will as good, pleasing, and perfect. This is to indicate that God’s plans are not esoteric, abstract things that don’t matter to us—the meaning of our lives, our self-worth, and our joy in living are all bound tightly to God’s intentions for us, his creations, whom He loves.

 

If we believe that this God exists, and is who Jesus proclaimed Him to be, there’s no reason to doubt these claims. So we should recognize that sacrifice is a necessary and ultimately good part of following God, even though it is (by definition) painful or difficult at the time we face it.

Thanks for reading!! Looking forward to next week—see you then 🙂

-Luke