Guidance from God

Knowing that the God of the universe is interested in each one of us, that we can communicate with Him, and He with us, it has long been my desire, and I have often expressed my wish, that He would communicate with me more.

While God gives us many directives in the Scriptures regarding how to live life (i.e. love, serve, forgive, etc.), I desire specific guidance. I often think that I have too many things to do in a day (or too many things that I want to do) and say, “I wish God would just hand me His ‘to-do’ list for me each morning.”

Yes, I want my wise, all-knowing heavenly Father to guide me.

Earlier this week I had an interesting experience: Several times a week I exercise on our elliptical machine and watch a part of a movie while doing so. I continue the movie where I left off the next time I elliptical, so it takes me two to three sessions of using the elliptical to finish a movie.

In this way, (I have been doing this for around five years), I have watched all the movies we own many, many times and am on the lookout for new movies to borrow from the library, or from friends.

Earlier this week as I exercised, I began watching a movie that I had borrowed. It was a “chick-flick” – a romantic comedy. Not an amazing movie, but enjoyable enough, distracting me from the pain of exertion, which is the point.

After I turned it off, however, I felt a nudge from God that I shouldn’t continue watching it next time I exercised, that I should give it back.

Ouch..

Why ouch? Because I wanted to watch the rest of it. If I walk in on someone watching something (even though I had no previous interest in watching it), I could get sucked in in no time flat, and here was something that I had been watching for forty-five minutes!

But I really felt a nudge from God, so I decided to return the movie to the lender, unfinished. It was a little bit difficult because it went against my desire. But as I struggled with it I thought, “Wait a minute. If the Almighty God wants me to not watch a certain movie, is it really a big thing not to? Seriously?”

So my decision was made.

I did believe that it would be quite all right to look up a brief summary of the story online to see how it ended because knowing the end had nothing to do with why I wasn’t to watch it. So I looked it up on “pluggedin.ca” which gives a summary of movies, and tells of specific content – foul language, sex, violence, and spiritual/religious content.

At this point my struggle began again because the summary/review I read made it sound like quite a nice, harmless movie that had some positive elements. So I thought: “This movie is harmless: maybe I could just finish it.”

But no, I chose to listen to the nudge from God. That still small voice that I am pretty sure is God’s. I have heard it before: sometimes as I am about to open my mouth and say something, that still, small voice tells me that I shouldn’t say what I was about to. Sometimes that voice leads me to do something, i.e. call a certain person.

I can choose to ignore it (and I have, at times). I have heard it said that God wants to communicate with us, He speaks to us, but if we keep on saying ,”No” – ignoring Him – we will stop hearing Him.

There is discernment involved. Every thought or every voice we hear is not necessarily God’s. Knowing God’s written Word  very well (the Bible) is essential to our discerning His voice.

For example, the nudge that I felt was in keeping with God’s Word that says, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil. 4:8). The movie missed that mark quite a bit.

So I have resolved to continue to say “Yes” to the still, small voice of God, whether He is leading me to do something or not to do something. If I want God to guide me, I should listen when He does.

Don’t you think?

I Am Not Ashamed!

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This all started on a walk. Walks are so dangerous…I step out of my door and the thoughts begin. Most of my blogs were first conceived as I took a walk.

This particular day I went outside, and as I began to walk I beheld the beautiful cloudless blue sky. And what welled up in me was praise. Praise to the Creator of it all. The next thing I thought of was a radio show that I had heard that morning that had upset me. The host was interviewing three people about the fact that a politician had said that he didn’t believe in evolution. This was appalling to them and they were all agreeing that this man’s constituents had a right to know of such outrageous (they didn’t use that word, it was implied) beliefs. One of the men, a scientist, said that this politician (because he believes in evolution) “does not believe in empirical science”. That upset me. Evolution is a theory that certainly can’t be proved by “empirical science” and the fact that this man said otherwise is frankly ridiculous.

And all that talk is exactly what God’s Word says from 2000 years ago: ”For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature,have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God …”

So instead of looking at creation and worshiping God, these people look at it and say this proves God doesn’t exist. And to add insult to injury, they claim that those of us who do look at creation and worship the Creator are fools.

By the way, besides not being able to prove the theory of evolution, most people who espouse it do not know enough science to really believe in it out of a personal conviction due to evidence.

Anyway, my train of thought continued to how those of us who believe God can be so apologetic about it, because it is not the mainstream politically correct view. I don’t mean verbally apologetic, but perhaps we don’t mention it. We would rather avoid the topic as well as other non-politically correct topics. I have definitely been guilty of this.

I am a born peace maker (which can be a good thing) and a people pleaser (which could be not so good). I have kept peace in my family of origin by not mentioning (for the most part) things we don’t agree on. I was born and bred an atheist, but when I began to search for the meaning of life, I found out that there is God. And the rest is history.

But on top of that, I am Jewish and I believe that Yeshua (Jesus) is the Jewish messiah. Even though Yeshua came from the line of King David of the tribe of Judah to the Jewish people of Israel, and even though all his first followers were Jewish, and their problem was what to do with the Gentiles who started believing in this Jewish messiah, modern mainstream Judaism does not believe in him and frowns severely on Jewish people believing in Yeshua. So yes, I carry a rather apologetic demeanor when among the Jewish community regarding this.

But I am done being apologetic. I am done being quiet and, yes, almost ashamed at times. I am not ashamed. I believe what I believe with all my heart. I will respect others for their beliefs, but I will give praise to whom praise is due. I am not about to become obnoxious (I’m just not that sort and I don’t believe in obnoxiousness), but I will not hide my faith.

And praise is due to the Creator of the universe whose “eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived ever since the creation of the world in the things that have been made”. (Romans 1:20)

A lot of really nice atheists like me. And the fact of the matter is, I am who I am because of God. Without my faith I would be quite a different person. So I will not be apologetic and I will not be ashamed. My heart’s cry is that God will get the glory He deserves and that people can find their rightful place in this universe, not as gods, but as amazing beings created in God’s image.

Out of our Comfort Zone

What does bringing bread to a neighbour, going for a walk, and going to a house of mourning (shiva) all have in common?

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Well…last Friday, we noticed our neighbour snow blowing our driveway to clear it of snow (we don’t own a snow blower and do it the manual way, with a shovel). The next day I decided that giving our neighbour’s family a nice homemade loaf of Challah (Jewish braided Sabbath bread) would be a nice way to say “Thank you.” I asked my eleven-year-old son to take the loaf over. He objected. He pleaded. He moaned and groaned. He just couldn’t do this thing.

He didn’t say it like this, but for some reason, this was out of his comfort zone.

That same Saturday, I thought (objectively speaking) that I should take a walk for fresh air, exercise, and Vitamin D. The sky was blue, the sun was shining, and it was -20 C (-4 F) with a wind chill factor (which means it feels like) -28 C (-28.4 F).

I didn’t feel like leaving my nice, warm home. It was physically out of my comfort zone.

Recently the mother of a good friend of someone I know died. It is Jewish custom to “sit shiva” for seven days – it is a time when the close family members of the deceased gather together in one of their homes and people come and pay their respects, and pray with them. This person I know felt rather uncomfortable in going (don’t most people feel some degree of discomfort in situations involving death?) and asked me what to bring.

Going to the shiva of her good friend’s mother was the right thing to do, but it was out of my friend’s comfort zone.

So how do we handle situations which are out of our comfort zone?

Be prepared: I don’t know why my son felt that he couldn’t possibly bring this bread to our neighbours. He knows them. They are nice people. And I felt that it was very important that I not give in to his pleading and emphatic declaring that he could not do this thing. I suggested a couple of different things he could say when someone answered the door. I offered to practice with him.

As for the walk that I objectively speaking though I should take, I pulled out the heavy duty winter jacket that is for super-frigid weather, I put on snow-pants, my warmest gloves, and a warm hat. I was prepared.

I told my friend what to bring to the house of shiva (and looked it up on Google, just for confirmation and to make sure that I didn’t miss anything. So handy, that Google). She felt more prepared.

Do it: After I insist that my son leave with the challah, I put on all the above mentioned heavy gear and left for my walk. My son, who had left our home several minutes before me, was still standing at the end of our driveway with the challah. “What are you doing?” I asked him. “Trying to get up my courage,” was the reply. I encouraged him again, and went on my walk, praying for him. When I returned, he had delivered the challah and felt wonderful for having conquered that task. He told me he danced home (he also told me I can share this story).

My walk, prepared as I was with extra warm clothing, was wonderful! In fact, I was so warm at one point that I considered unzipping my jacket. The fresh air and the sunshine were great!

My friend visited the shiva house with the appropriate “what to bring” in hand and had the satisfaction of doing the right thing.

And when all else fails, God doesn’t. Preparation is good. “Just doing it” or “going for it” is necessary. But in and through it all, we look to God. Unexpected things happen, so we can never prepare for everything; life just doesn’t work like that. But God is able to give us whatever we need (words to say, ideas of how to deal with a situation or a person, etc.), when we need it in the moment and not necessarily beforehand.

This is easy to say (or write), but not always easy to do. But that’s no excuse for when we need to get out of our comfort zone.

Wow!

In my last blog that I posted, I wrote about how on occasion I am aware of how small I am in the vastness of creation among the 7.28 billion people in this world, and in light of eternity – like a grain of sand.

King David, in Psalm 8 asks, “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”

He asks this in the context of the vastness of the constellations in the sky and of God’s majesty – in all the created splendor…what is man that he is so important to God?

Yet”, David writes:

“You have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
   and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;

   you have put all things under his feet.”

So while on occasion I feel so tiny in this vast universe, the reality is that God has made man just a little lower than the heavenly beings. Elsewhere in the Bible we read that mankind was made in God’s image.

If you have ever wondered at the creativity and ingenuity of mankind, the amazing inventions (I still marvel at the telephone, being able to speak to someone halfway across the world), not to mention advanced medical procedures, the capacity to create beautiful art, music, choreography, culinary wonders – it all makes sense in the light of these verses.

I – you – we are not simply grains of sand, nor simply a whole bunch of cells, but we are beings made in the image of God, just a little lower than the heavenly beings, endowed with creativity and intelligence.

There are two responses to this:

I believe the correct response is King David’s – to acknowledge and worship God: “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

Another response, which I believe is a harmful one, is described in the first chapter of Romans:

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools… they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator…” (Romans 1: 21, 23,)

So, fellow human beings who are not actually grains of sand but people made in God’s image, people endowed with creativity and intelligence, I encourage you to marvel with me at the wonders of creation, including mankind, and say,

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

I am including a link to a beautiful song in Hebrew (but showing the English words) called “Adon Olam”, meaning “Eternal Lord” or “Sovereign of the Universe,” which really fits this theme:

So Vast…and so Teeny!

The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
    and night to night reveals knowledge. (Psalm 19:1 -2)

For what can be known about God is plain to them because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived ever snce the Creation of the world, in the things that have been made, so they are without excuse (Rom. 1: 19 – 20).

What we call “nature,” or more accurately “creation,” is enough for us to know that there is a Creator.

From the vastness of the skies above with its planets, stars, and galaxies, to the depths of the oceans with their countless incredible creatures, from the majestic mountain peaks, to the flora and fauna in the valleys below, from forests to jungles to desert to plains, all these things speak of a Creator.

And then there is mankind 7.28 billion of us – each with our own individual DNA. No two identical.

While I usually go about my day, contentedly living my life, and conscious of how each person can make a difference and be an influence for good on occasion I become overwhelmed by the vastness of God, by the concept of eternity, and by my own smallness in the universe. On those occasions I feel like a grain of sand.

But then I resolve to be the best, the shiniest, grain of sand that I could be to the glory of God.

New

freshjournal_600_01There is something about new things – whether I am opening up a new journal to that first blank page or about to try a new and delicious looking recipe or putting on a new item of clothing or opening a brand new book by an author I love.

Then there are deeper new things – a new friendship with someone who seems like a kindred spirit, a new marriage, a new baby.

Such things bring a lot of positive anticipation of things to come.

And so we begin a new year: 2015. The year lies before us full of potential – there is anticipation for many as to what this year holds.

But I want to point out that God’s mercies are new every morning. New every morning! Not just on New Year’s Day.

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases,                                                                                                         his mercies never come to an end,                                                                                                                they are new every morning,                                                                                                                                         great is your faithfulness.                                                                                                                               “The LORD is my portion” says my soul,                                                                                                                  “therefore I will hope in him.”

Each and every morning I can wake up to a new day with new mercies from God. Let’s take that into the New Year.