Tag Archives: choices

When the lights go out

Derek Prince tells of a young Swedish woman named Barbara, who stayed with him and his wife Ruth for a period of three months to learn English. While staying with them, she told them a story.

Barbara was a pastor’s daughter and had lived a very sheltered life. But her friends at school had started telling her about some of the pleasures of life in the world, and she decided that she wanted to experience what she had been missing. She told her parents that she appreciated the way they had raised her, but that now she wanted to taste and see what the world had to offer.

Her parents wisely decided not to correct or criticize her. They simply told her that they would pray for her. And so they did.

That night, she had a powerful encounter with God in the form of a dream. In her dream, she saw two cities. One was a big, modern, beautiful city filled with flashing, glittering neon lights. Across the valley from the flashing city was another city of light, but this city did not flash and glitter. Its light was steady, calm and clear. As she considered the two cities a well-dressed, well-mannered and cultured man approached her and offered to show her the flashing, glittering city. She went with him, and he began to show her around. But the farther they went, the uglier he became. Soon she realized the man was the devil in disguise. As she considered this, horrified, she saw the lights in the flashing, glittering city begin to go out one by one, until it was in total darkness. She looked across the valley at the other city, and its light was as steady, pure and clear as ever.

At that moment she made her choice. She would pursue the city whose light never goes out.

It’s easy for us to think we are missing something if we don’t see the latest show, have the latest iPhone, go on every vacation trip imaginable, and so forth. And in themselves, many of the attractions of this world are innocent – though some are far from it. But if we let ourselves be enticed by what the world has to offer, we are walking a dangerous path. And once the lights begin to go out it’s too late to choose. We need to choose now.

Way back in 1979, Arlo Guthrie, son of the legendary Woody Guthrie, wrote a song with these compelling lyrics

Just one question still remains
To which we must respond
Two roads lead from where we are
Which side are you on?

Arlo Guthrie, Which Side, © 1979

Abraham, our father in the faith, was “looking for the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God“. That’s the city I am looking for as well, the one that is coming down out of heaven from God.

When the lights go out in the city of man, will you still have light to walk by? You can, if you have fixed your eyes on the City of God.


Sweet or sour? It’s your choice

It’s been said that the majority of people are thinking negative thoughts up to 90% of the time. I don’t know about most people, but I know this was certainly true of me at one time.   Worry, anxiety, frustration, anger, critical thoughts about others, and expectations of failure were my constant companions.

I remember one occasion in particular, a couple of years after I had surrendered control of my life to Jesus Christ, when Marion and I were privileged to participate in a three-day prayer ministry training school with Victorious Ministry Through Christ – a ministry that over a period of several years had a life-changing impact on both of us.  The event concluded with a prayer service at which each participant was prayed over and received words of blessing from the leaders of the school.   The words spoken over me were that I would go forward in joy.   Like a good student, I dutifully wrote the words in my journal.  Later, reading my journal and reflecting on this promise of joy, I had a disturbing thought.  I realized that I didn’t even know what joy was.

Well, that was 20 years ago this year, and I thank God that my approach to life is much more positive.  Yes, I do know now what joy is – and I rejoice daily in God’s amazing kindness to me.  I can honestly say that Jesus has healed my soul (my mind, will, and emotions) and transformed my whole outlook on life.  Life certainly hasn’t always been easy since then, but I have learned the wonderful truth of the promise that everything in our lives – even difficult and painful events – can ultimately serve God’s amazingly good purpose.

The other day I was walking home from work through a snowstorm, thinking about how bad it is that Ottawa’s bus drivers are currently on strike, and feeling less than enthusiastic about the weather and the longish trek home from work.   I decided to ask God a question.  I’ve found this is a very good way of getting my thinking straightened out, as long as I’m willing to pay attention to the answer.   So I said “Well, if all things work together for good for those who love you, what is the purpose of this strike and this snowstorm in my life?”.   Believe it or not, as soon as I asked the question I realized the answer.

It’s easy to be positive when everything is going well.  The real proof of a transformed life is when peace and joy continue to mark our lives in the midst of challenging circumstances.   So in the midst of my snowy walk home, I began remembering all the evidences of God’s goodness in my life, and thanking Him for each one.

People sometimes say that you can’t help how you feel, but this is actually not true.   Of course, you can’t help being affected by events that happen to you.   I’ve had my share of painful experiences, and I’m just like you – when things don’t go my way, I don’t like it any more than you do.   But the very circumstance that causes me pain or grief or frustration can be my stepping stone to the joy of the Lord if I choose to respond in faith.  I’m not talking about pretending that everything is fine when it isn’t.  I’m talking about making the choice to respond in faith to real problems.  Am I going to stay in the pit or am I going to praise my way out of the pit?

Of course some problems are a lot bigger than others, but if you believe God is real and that He loves you, the size of the problem doesn’t change the way you need to respond if you want to stay in God’s peace.  I have consistently found that if I begin to lay out my concerns to the Lord and then start praising and thanking him, suddenly my whole perspective begins to change, and the goodness of the Lord is what begins to fill my sights instead of the problem.   Not that this always changes the painful circumstance – quite often it doesn’t.   But it does change me – my thoughts become more settled, I begin to feel more positive, I begin to see a way forward.  If the trial I’m going through is particularly painful, I may have to keep fighting the battle for joy and peace for days or even weeks, but I know that Jesus is more committed to my success than I am, and in the end, if I respond in faith and trust, I can only win.  And like any kind of training, choosing God’s peace gets easier the more you practice it.   Years of doing this have functioned like a kind of training for my soul, so that my thoughts and emotions are much more stable and God-oriented than they once were, and my peace is not nearly so easily disturbed.  Even if my life is threatened, I know where I am going to spend eternity, so I have no need to fear.

Yes, life can be challenging – and no doubt some of you reading this have been dealing with challenges far greater than mine.  But we do have a choice about staying in God’s peace.   If you read your Bible you will know that the purpose of testing is to form the character of Jesus in us.  Whether or not this actually happens in my life is pretty much up to me.   Will I take hold of the resources of faith and grace that God has made available through Jesus, and become a conqueror?  Will you?


Choose your friends wisely

Last night  my wife and I  spent the evening with friends.   That’s not so unusual, I guess, but the things we talked about sparked some reflection on why we need friendship.

We humans are made for relationship.   When God made the first human being he declared that it was not good for the man to be alone, so he gave Adam a wife.  From the beginning we have been social beings.   I consider myself an introvert; I have a high need for solitude and love to spend time alone with God.  But while I love to be alone, I also need time with friends.

It’s a little weird that an introvert like me is responsible for promoting small group ministry at our church!   But even introverts need relationships.  So, Marion and I encourage others to be part of a small group, and of course we are involved in home groups ourselves as well.

Last night we spent the evening with our friends in one of these home groups.   It was a bitterly cold night and with the OC Transpo strike, our days are more complicated and getting around is difficult.  On top of that we have a long to-do list at home.   So all in all,  it would have been easier to stay home.  But we decided to go to Dan’s place anyway, and I came home realizing just how much we need these relationships.

Pretty well everyone enjoys hanging out with friends.   Friendships can be a lot of fun!  But while joy and laughter are important aspects of friendship, friendships are for more than just fun.  Good friendships are also a tool for growth.   In our home groups we spend time encouraging each other, challenging each other, discussing topics that help us understand God’s plan for our lives, praying for each other, and reaching out to others.

Your friends can can drag you down or they can build you up.   Long ago a wise man said that those who spend time with wise people become wise, and those who hang out with fools pay a price.

We become like those we spend time with.   I want to spend time with people who are hungry for God, people who are looking for honest, accountable, loving relationships, people who will encourage me to be better than I am.  I want to walk in the light of God and help others find His light and walk in it, so I choose friends who are either seeking the light or already walking in it.


Big plans

A few days ago, at a family Christmas Eve party, my son Reuben and his girlfriend Jess announced their engagement!  It was a wonderful moment, and we are all delighted to welcome Jess into our family.

Even though I’m now a certified old guy, I can still remember being in my twenties.  I remember when Marion and I were engaged.  It was an exciting time … life lay ahead of us, and like all young couples, we had big plans.   And we didn’t want other people telling us what to do!

My children are much wiser than I was at their age, and much better at taking advice.  Amazingly, they are usually willing to listen to their old man!  I’m humbled and gratified by this, and if given the opportunity I’ll share what little wisdom I have.  But I realize that my children aren’t so different from me, and they want the freedom to make their own choices.  I have also learned that my schemes and plans aren’t always right for them, so I am far less quick to make suggestions than I once was.   I’ve done the best I could to give them a foundation of love, a chart of truth and a compass of faith to steer by, and now I need to stand back and let them steer their own ship.

Like all parents, I care about the choices my children make.  But I’ve pretty much given up the attempt to direct my adult children’s lives.  That’s a sure recipe for strife and it won’t do anything to help them learn to trust God for themselves.  My new goal is to keep lifting them up before the Lord and encouraging them to surrender all their choices to Him.  Of course, they could mess up really badly.  They could let pride, fears and insecurities take over instead of trusting God’s wisdom.  They could make other mistakes as well … But these are tests that we all have to pass for ourselves; no-one can pass them for us.   And if they pass the tests of faith – if they learn to listen to God’s voice and yield to His ways – they’ll discover His destiny and purpose and calling for their lives, better by far than the scenarios that I or any human parent could create for them.