Blending in or Standing out

I am blessed to go to one of the best universities in Canada, in a beautiful location, nestled between chains of mountains on the southern coast of British Columbia. However, as the only Christian (that I know of) on my floor at my residence, it is often easy to forget the beauty of the majestic mountains surrounding me, and to become discouraged by my circumstances.

The reality of my situation is that I am constantly confronted with negative influences and pervasive spirits such as lust, and selfishness, and although the opportunity to be a light to so many people should be considered a blessing to me, sometimes it feels like more of a burden.

To be honest, I often wonder if I truly have what it takes to be a light. I understand that in order to shine in the darkness, I need to allow God to shine through me, because my light alone is not sufficient, but sometimes I feel as if allowing myself blend into the darkness would be easier.

God has used my circumstances as an opportunity to test my faith in the same way that Jesus tests the faith of the disciple Philip in John 6:5-11.  A crowd of around 5000 men begins to gather after Jesus crossed over the sea of Galilee.  Jesus asks Philip, where they would be able to get enough food to feed all the people; but the question was not asked out of concern that there would not be enough, the question was asked with the knowledge that the only thing that the people lacked was faith.

When I read this verse, I realized God had been asking me the same question, here at my university in the mountains; He wanted to know if I thought He would be able to touch each and every life on my floor, in addition to the others that I came into contact with on a daily basis. God wanted to see if I truly believed that the light that he had given me would be enough to dispel the darkness.

John 6: 6 actually states outright that Jesus asks this as a test, however, Philip’s response in the next verse is not one of faith, but of practicality; Philip states that in order to even begin to appease the hunger of such a large crowd, it would take almost a year’s wages.

This practical answer was not the one Jesus was looking for; the fact of the matter is that our logic and practicality confines how we allow God to act in our lives.

If we look at our situation and realize that the odds are against us, that we are the only Christian on a floor of 25 girls, that we are the only believer in our group of friends, or at our workplace, we place God into a box, and we allow our circumstances to limit the work He is able to do in our lives.

The disciple, Andrew’s response was the opposite of Philip’s; Andrew saw that a young boy in the crowd had lunch box with five small loaves of bread and two fish; however, instead of being discouraged by the limitations of the resources he had, and immediately disregarding them as insufficient, Andrew chose to acknowledge that the disciples did have a means of providing for at least some of the people. He did not allow the restrictions of his resources to discourage him, and although the amount of faith he had was not incredibly large, Jesus was able to use his little faith, to provide for a multitude of 5000.

If we respond to the question, where will you get the resources you need to accomplish your God given mission the way that the disciple Andrew did, by realizing that, although the odds are against us, we still have some means of fulfilling the tasks we are given, we give God the opportunity to use our tiny step of faith to bless the people around us. This step of faith, in addition to perseverance, trust, patience and obedience are all it takes for God to begin to work, and God has been showing me that my efforts have been paying off. Although I haven’t been able to develop relationships with every girl on my floor, I was recently given the opportunity to share my faith with one person, and everyday I am able to share my light by being a blessing.

Although some people shy away from the light, I am confident that God will use me to touch the lives of each person in a different way. If the very least I do is brighten a person’s day, even if that is the extent of the blessings I am able to give others with the resources I have been given, I am confident that God will multiply everything I do.

All I need is to have faith that His resources are more than enough to feed the multitude gathered by my mountain.

Michee Hamilton, VBD Contributor

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Strength in Numbers

I want to share an awesome story I heard recently while attending a church service. 

I have never thought much about the sequoia tree and only became aware of the name because of the Toyota model of the same name.  As told, the sequoia tree can survive for up 2000 years. It grows to over 300 ft high and stretches over 100 ft wide.

You would think then that its roots run incredibly deep, right?  Wrong.

Their roots only grow to about 4ft deep!  As I listened intently to this little science lesson, I began to wonder how this was even possible. I was even more bemused as to how these massive trees held strong and mightily all those years through hurricanes, tornadoes and a myriad of other natural and or man-made disasters.

It’s a rather simple explanation.

The sequoias never grow in isolation, they grow in clusters! 

Their strength comes from their attachment to each other.  Though only 4 feet deep, their roots grow horizontal and attach themselves to each other forming a strong link.  Can you imagine our spiritual strength if we learn to cleave to each other like the sequoia trees?  If we pray, love and grow together in Christ?

Holding on to each other require dispelling pride. 

To hold on to each other, we must be willing to share our trials with our inner circle of friends; so, it is important to surround ourselves with strong women and men of God so that in our most difficult moments we can cling to each other without doubt or fear.  Instead, we know that there is a mountain of Godly people praying for us.

In times of distress, when the storms of life are raging, this is where our greatest triumph lies – when we lean on each other. 

The devil has a harder battle when the link is strong.  The enemy is only as strong as the weakest link so when the weakest link is surrounded by the stronger ones with constant offering of prayer, supplication and warring in the spirit, the distressed will then find solace, peace and comfort while waiting on God.  God taught us this when he lovingly reminded us in St. Matthew 18:20 (KJV), “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

There will always be strength in numbers.

Paula Owen, VBD Contributor

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Posters, Sacrifices, and Revelations

What would you say if someone you barely knew gave you a present, for no reason whatsoever?

Would you smile at them with unconcealed joy and gratitude, truly grateful for the thoughtful act? Politely say thank you and find a place for the gift amongst your large collection of material possessions? Would you stare at them in bewilderment, and then ask if they had previously suffered a head injury?

Would your response be different depending on the gift given?

What if you got a pack of staples?  What about a new television? A car? What about a brand new life?

What would you do if someone asked you to give someone else, that you barely knew, a gift; A brand new, shiny, material possession that you full well intended to keep for yourself? How long would it take you to decide whether or not the person was worth the effort, whether or not they were worth you being inconvenienced? What if you hated the person, and couldn’t stand being in the same room as them. What it they were your best friend?

I was faced with a test of character today; I had just finished my chemistry class, and was walking to the Student Union Building on campus to withdraw money from my bank account (money sure goes fast when you’re in university!), when I saw a set of displays lined up with posters on them. I decided I might as well take a look at a few; even though my walls were already adorned, a dorm room can never have too many posters. After sifting through hundreds of posters, for both myself and some close friends of mine (please note the emphasis on close here), I returned to my room, and realized that I had not purchased one for a girl that I met in class. “Now this is a strange”, I thought to myself, “I don’t even know this girl”. I thought of turning back to get her something, but I decided against it because I had other plans with a friend, and the walk back to the Student Union Building was a good distance away. Then I had another thought, why not give her one of my own. Which one might you ask?

The nicest, largest, most thoughtful one.

My response to this thought was as followed: “Hmm, I must not have had enough sleep last night, I sound delusional; I really don’t know this girl. What if she doesn’t even appreciate it? This is so strange. Maybe I’m just hungry? I should go eat, I’m sure I’ll think better of it once I have some food in my stomach.”

So I went to eat, returned to my dorm room and realized that this was not a delusion, it was a commandment from God. I then proceeded to question God inside my head for a few minutes, in complete perplexity. “What do you mean I should give her my poster? I just bought that poster with the money I was suppose to withdraw from the ATM machine. This is ridiculous! She might not even like it!”

After much deliberation, and hesitation, I finally decided to give this girl the poster before class.  I ceremoniously hit her on the head with it (partially to get her attention, and partially as a way to express my bewildered frustration), and then announced, quite frankly that I had bought her the poster because her “walls may be bare.”

I then sat beside her, and listened to her remarks, in an oh-so-casual, ‘I don’t really care, I just bought it for you.  Excuse me, while I eat this muffin, and stare indifferently at the wall opposite to us.’

But I did care, a lot.

I really liked that poster. And that’s when it hit me. How horrible was it that I couldn’t even give up one lousy poster for someone else, regardless of whether or not they appreciated it? If I couldn’t even bare to part with something so trivial, imagine all the other things I would refuse to sacrifice in order to help or bless someone else.

I thought about the gift I had been given, that my roommate didn’t know about, the love of God. I thought of the sacrifice that she could never understand, the cost that she couldn’t grasp, and I realized that Jesus didn’t come to Earth just for the people who embraced Him with open arms, and who jumped for joy when they heard that He had come with the gift of salvation, He came for the people who stared at him in bewilderment, with a look of confusion on their face, the ones who weren’t exactly sure what to say, and the ones who said nothing at all, who just chucked the gift into a pile of other “worthless” things.

It didn’t matter that this girl didn’t know that that poster cost me all of ten dollars (about equivalent to thirty dollars for a university student), that I was on a strict budget, or that I had grand plans of adorning my bedroom wall at home with that poster. It didn’t matter because she could never comprehend its worth; like a sinner, a normal person, who had never been to church before in their life, and only knew Jesus as ‘that cool hippie’, could never understand the price Jesus paid on the cross.

It’s because true understanding comes with revelation, and revelation comes from God.

So now, you may ask if I decided to pray and ask God to provide her with revelation of how important that gesture was, but I didn’t. Instead I sat down, and I wrote this. And in my heart, I’m praying that instead of a revelation of the beauty of a poster, she’ll have the revelation of the beauty of an unrelenting, all-consuming love, and a true understanding of its worth.

Michee Hamilton, VBD Contributor

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3 Steps to take in God’s Waiting Room

Have you ever felt so alone and unloved that you feel you wanted to die? 

Imprisoned in a situation which you are unable or helpless to change?  Feeling as if you are being overpowered, stifling with no help in sight?

A faithful friend once told me, “when you do not understand God’s ways, you must trust His heart.”  God cannot lie, and His words will not return to Him void, it shall accomplish that which He promises to do.  We must wait patiently on Him.

Sometimes, it seems like you have been waiting too long, but remember several years to us is but a passing moment to our all-knowing, all-powerful God.

Consider Joseph’s terrifying moments awaiting his fate.  He had to go through the pit before he reached the palace to weed out character flaws before he was promoted.

You may feel like you are in the waiting room forever… time seems to stand still.

When we pray and praise, we must be patience.  We are in the middle of the deliverance from our dilemma.  Before we are delivered, God will sometimes throw in a delay to test our patience.  Take heart – God has his hand on our lives.

When depression and helplessness threaten to overwhelm you, remember these three (3) steps:

1. Preparation – be consistently grateful.  God will not bless you with great things if you have not learned to be satisfied with little.

2. Examination – it is a test of your faith.  If you are not tested, you cannot be trusted.  God wants to build character and integrity in you for a higher calling.

3. Expectation – give God glory while waiting, it will draw you closer to your blessing.

 

Paula Owen, VBD Contributor

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