Archive for December, 2010

My Mom

Mom at her 50th Anniversary Party

Today, Dec 24, 2010, marks the 1 year anniversary of the passing of my Mom. I was thinking about her this morning as at 5:30am last year on this very day she breathed her last breath. And we said good-bye to her. I thought I would take the next few minutes to share a little of what I shared at her funeral as a memorial to her. I hope you can see how an amazing Mom and woman of God she was from my words.

If you knew my Mom you would know she loved 3 things more than anything…God, her kids and Fair Havens. Oh ya, and Dad, of course!

God:

Mom and Dad gave all of us the greatest gift we could ever receive, our Christian heritage. They believed that knowing and loving God was very important for all of us. They taught us about God as children, took us to church and lived a godly life in front of us. We cherish the fact that Mom and Dad taught us how important it was to have a loving relationship with our Lord. Mom would ask us about it whenever we spoke to her on the phone or when she saw us in person–in a gentle and kind manner, of course.

Church was a big part of our relationship with God and while growing up when the church doors were open the DeGraaf’s were through them, even if we didn’t want to be. The first ones to arrive and last to leave.

Mom showed us a practical faith with all the behind the scenes things she did, like helping in the nursery and helping with Cubbies at Awana. She also gave when we didn’t have much, she helped when no one else would or could help. I found out [the week of my Mom’s funeral] that she also helped my youth pastor with whatever task he would ask of her…something I dearly appreciate being a pastor myself. Mom enjoyed being the unsung hero, never flashy but always in the kitchen or back room doing the “grunt” work that no one else would do. She showed us how to truly serve!

During separate times Joy and I went through our fights with cancer, Mom would always pray with us and share verses with us when she would visit. It is because of Mom I chose my life verses: Proverbs 3:5-6.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Kids:

Mom has always been a great servant at heart and always cared for those in need, those who couldn’t care for themselves…kids! Mom loved kids. Even her email address said that: I luv kidzzz!

Growing up, we had so many kids (adopted, foster and a home daycare full of them) that there were 2 shifts at the dinner table. While the first shift ate dinner, the second shift would do homework. After dinner was done we would clean our dishes and make our lunches for the next day. Mom loved us enough to teach us life skills such as that so that we could live independently and survive. My younger brother Phil, became a great cook because of Mom, and I became a great organizer and cleaner because of Mom. So when we moved out to live together, Phil did the cooking and I kept the apartment clean. A great partnership.

One memory of Mom from the older siblings is how when Dad was very sick, Mom went to college to earn her degree and then worked outside the home and still cared for us. While attending night courses and working on her assignments, she filled the role of both parents. She taught us the importance of responsibility and diligence of completing a task.

Mom always thought about her kids before anything or anyone else, she would go without so that her kids would not. We all remember many times when we came home for a visit because we were either at school or had already moved away and Mom had our favourite treat or a special gift waiting for us when we arrived.

When we were away at school on our own, she would send us care packages, not just food and stuff, but things she knew we loved (that’s probably why I get more joy in giving than receiving).

Mom also wrote us wonderful notes to encourage us, to tell us how much she loved us, to tell us she was proud of us. That she was praying for us. I think many of us still have those notes. Mom, they meant so much!

One memory growing up was “buying” a gift for Dad. All year Mom would be buying gifts for Dad and stock piling them. Just before Christmas Mom would take us in their bedroom one by one and show us the gifts. They all had price tags on them, and they just happened to be the exact amount Mom would hand us, which was our allowance for the year. BTW we never rec’d an allowance except at that time of the year.

As I was talking to my brothers and sisters I realized that we all had a secret moment with Mom. And she always said, “Don’t tell your father.” For me it was the indulgence of a Big Mac at McDonald’s. We would  be out doing errands on a Saturday afternoon and you could see the beloved golden arches in the distance. Mom would look at me and say those magic words, “want a Big Mac?” Then we would share our secret moment together as we talked and ate a Big Mac.

Mom was always interested in what we loved, whether it was signing us up for basketball, going to Paul’s basketball games, visiting Linette out West or in Toronto. Spending hours with me to teach me to parallel park. Being overjoyed with us as we got accepted into school, or as a camp counsellor. Also going to church to see us perform in plays and musicals and sitting in the front row as she cheered us on. She was our biggest fan!

Fair Havens:

…was the place Mom loved. She was in her glory when she was at the trailer, listening to music, going for walks with Dad, going to the chapel services and sitting in the front row with Dad, of course. Mom loved to be away from the hustle and bustle of the city and be in a quiet place like the trailer where she could read, knit, or play chip rummy with one of her kids or a passerby.

In the last few days with Mom we got talking about how much she loved being at Fair Havens, and as she was in her coma we pretended she was actually there in the front row with all her kids sitting with her (we never sat in the front row). Then after a service full of her favourite songs and the speaker would be Chuck Swindoll, of course, we went back to the trailer to play hours of chip rummy, oh ya, and Phil had a nice Christian girl by his side…of course…haha!

Mom we miss you but we know you are in the arms of Jesus! As we say good-bye, I am reminded of something Mom always wanted and Phil has said on a few occasions, “Mom, you did it, the family is all in the same room together!”

Love you Mom!

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December 24, 2010 at 10:12 AM Leave a comment

Day 49…1 Corinthians 1:

1 Corinthians 1:18-31: World’s wisdom vs God’s

The Corinthians (or Greeks) valued wisdom, that is, the world’s wisdom. Paul teaches them in this letter that there is the world’s wisdom and then there is God’s wisdom–which is far superior.

v.18, Paul says he knows that the “message of the cross” (or the Gospel) sounds foolish to “those who are on the road to destruction”–unbelievers or the World. In other words, the message of Jesus death and resurrection is nonsense or stupid to the world because they don’t see it as a valuable way to salvation. They would rather have their ears tickled with philosophical arguments, etc. Paul continues by saying “those who are being saved recognize this message as the very power of God.” Those of us you have accepted this Message as the truth and the only way to salvation, we see it as a powerful message straight from God himself! And only with such power can the Gospel message save sinful people and transform them into believers–God’s children.

v.19, Paul quotes Isaiah 29:14: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.” …to make a point, God’s ways are not like the world’s ways. Both phrases underlined refer to the world’s type of wisdom and intelligence. They are wrong and worthless when they are used as a means of salvation. If you look at Isaiah 29:13 this verse being quoted can be put into context:

And so the Lord says,“These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote.”

So God says he will destroy their wisdom and intelligence because it can never help them find him. They can spend a lifetime gaining all the wisdom and knowledge of the world but it will never teach them to have a personal relationship with God. They must come to Jesus the risen Saviour to receive eternal life and a relationship with God.

v.20-24, Paul says that those who have lived by their own wisdom–”philosophers…scholars…debaters”–will be left with nothing. God has made them all look foolish and their wisdom has become nothing more than “useless nonsense” when it comes to providing salvation. And since God decided that the people of the “world would never find him [salvation] through their human wisdom”, he chose the crucifixion of his Son as our salvation. And he chose to use ”foolish preaching to save all who believe.” God chose weak, failing and foolish humans as his instruments to preach the salvation Message to the world. Then Paul spends the next few verses talking about how different people see this message:

Jews. They thought it was foolish because they thought the Messiah should be a conquering King who did many miracles and “signs from heaven.” Even though Jesus did many miracles while on the earth, most Jews (even first-hand observers) refused to believe. They would say, “besides he was executed as a criminal, no saviour could be a criminal.” The idea of Christ being crucified was too much of a contradiction to what they believed and ultimately became a stumbling block to them. So when Paul preaches that Christ was crucified the “Jews are offended.”

Greeks or Gentiles. They sought after “human wisdom.” They revered their great thinkers and philosophers and to them the Gospel message just didn’t cut it. It was foolish to think Jesus had to be crucified to save us. When Paul preaches that Christ was crucified the Greeks or “Gentiles say it’s all nonsense.”

Called or Believers. They were made up of both Jews & Gentiles. They don’t stumble over the Message but find that the Gospel of Christ crucified “is the power of God and wisdom of God.”

v.25, nothing compares to God, even the most “wisest human plans” or “greatest of human strength” or the greatest achievements of man. Paul is not in anyway saying God can be foolish or weak but he is really saying that even though man sees God’s plan of salvation (Jesus’s death and resurrection) as foolish or weak…it is still greater than anything man could dream up.

v.26-27, then Paul reminds all the Corinth believers that very few of them were “wise in the world’s eyes, or powerful or wealthy” when they became believers. Paul was pointing out that you don’t need to be intellectual, political or have a social position in the world to be chosen by God. To the world it would have made more sense to call the leaders and influential people rather than what seems to be the foolish of the world. God can use us no matter what our position or status is. “God chose…foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. …powerless to shame those who are powerful.” God does not choose people as the world would–powerful, influential, popular, etc. His sovereign chose is not based on anything that people can do or achieve because no amount of human achievement can replace Christ’s work on the cross.

v.28-31, God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all…” the ordinary people of humble origin to show that success came only through HIS power, not theirs. So that they can never “boast in the presence of God” that God chose them because of their talent or intelligence. Only faith in Christ gets people into heaven and eternal life, not any achievement we have done or will do. Paul closes the chapter reminding the Corinthian believers that God alone made us “united with Christ Jesus.” These believers (and today’s believers as well) had received eternal life in Jesus NOT because of who they were or what they had done but because “Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin.” And because our salvation is completely by God’s grace “if [we] want to boast, boast only about the Lord.” In other words don’t boast in your salvation, but only in Jesus, the provider of yours and my salvation.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO ME? The one message that is so clear to me is: my salvation is not because of anything I have done, who I am or what I have accomplished. It is only by God’s grace that I am saved. And the only thing I can boast in is that Jesus provided it through his death and resurrection.

WHAT AM I GOING TO DO ABOUT IT? I need to thank God first for the salvation he has provided through his Son. Second, thank God that he was willing to use me, a feeble, weak and foolish human to spread his Word. If it was up to the world, I would definitely be on the bottom of the list.

Thank you God that you chose me.

December 15, 2010 at 3:01 PM Leave a comment

Day 48…1 Corinthians 1:

1 Corinthians 1:10-17: The Message or the messenger?

At the church in Corinth the believers were favouring different preachers (sound familiar?) The whole New Testament hadn’t been written yet so the believers depended heavily on the preaching and teaching for spiritual insight into the meaning of the Old Testament. Unfortunately they had split into factions–each following his / her favourite preacher even though they all spoke the same message!

Paul admonishes the believers to remember the single message that had brought them all to faith and stop comparing messengers!

v.10-11, Paul urges the believers to stop arguing among themselves, stop allowing divisions in the church BUT be in real harmony or unity…”be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.” [this doesn’t mean Paul wanted them to be exactly the same. He wanted them to set aside their arguments and focus on what really matters–spreading the Message or the Gospel of Jesus to the world. The divisions and factions were hindering the Gospel as well making the church look ridiculous to outsiders]. Paul knew all about the problems because of “Chloe’s household.” [some commentaries say that Chloe lived in Ephesus where Paul was writing this letter and got word of the arguments in Corinth because she had servants living in Corinth who passed on the word to Paul]. So Paul wrote this letter.

v.12-16, then Paul tells them exactly what he had been hearing, some of the believers are saying “I am a follower of Paul” [he founded the church, even though he was Jewish he had been called to minister to Gentiles, so he attracted many of the Gentile believers. He used logical arguments but apparently didn’t have strong speaking ability]. Others said “I follow Peter” [he was a Jew and probably attracted all the Jewish believers who had started to doubt Paul’s apostolic authority]. The third said “I follow Apollos” [he was a very eloquent and well known speaker who had a dynamic ministry in Corinth. He probably attracted the highly educated and distinguished believers in the church]. Final group said “I follow Christ” [they may have boasted a special relationship with Christ OR he may have decided to not follow any human leader and follow Christ alone]. Then Paul asked them rhetorical questions to get them thinking about the divisions in the church. “Has Christ been divided?” [no, Christ is one and so they should be one in unity as believers]. “Was Paul crucified for you?” [obviously no. Only one had been crucified for the believers and only one could be to pay for the penalty of sins–Jesus]. “Were any of you [believers] baptized in the name of Paul?” [no. They were only baptized in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit]. Then Paul notes the few people (Crispus, Gaius and Stephanas family) who he did baptize and he is thankful he only baptized those few because they couldn’t boast that they had been baptized by him as a form of pride that they were only his disciples.

v.17, then Paul states very clearly his purpose in life “to preach the Good News [Gospel].” He wasn’t sent to baptize people. Paul wasn’t minimizing baptism, instead he was making everyone know his sole purpose and giftings supported it: preach the Gospel! And when he said “not with clever speech, for fear that the cross of Christ lose its power” he was speaking about not getting caught up in the preacher but focus on the Message, otherwise this would empty the cross (or the act of what Jesus did on the cross–salvation) of its power and message.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO ME? This passage brings back bad memories of a group of people who had aligned themselves with one preacher (style) and had compared all other preachers to that person (style) so much so that it hurt the church. Today one of the biggest problems in our churches is that people are so focused on the speaker or style in which he delivers, that the Message gets lost. And like the church in Corinth believers today even go as far as divide themselves from other believers because of a certain preacher. I won’t say names, but I believe one group has become the “new legalism” of today. They say “it’s our way, or the highway.” I believe this saddens God.

WHAT AM I GOING TO DO ABOUT IT? The first thing that comes to mind is to be faithful as a preacher of the Gospel message. Study hard, prepare well and present with excellence. I don’t want to loose that importance in this discussion. But the second thing is to not compare other preachers or styles to others. And appreciate all preachers for what God has gifted them to do. I hope those of you who are reading this that have got caught up in this comparison game would stop right now! And focus on the Message and less on the messenger.

December 14, 2010 at 3:04 PM Leave a comment

Mini-vans???

As many of you know we will be adopting Faith’s half brother in the very near future (March 2011) and we have had to “bite the bullet” and start to consider purchasing a mini-van. As I always do, I went to the internet to research, and I found some very interesting info on each of the vans we were considering. But the van that really took me by surprise was the Toyota Sienna. The reason is because Toyota has come up with an excellent campaign of commercials, etc. They call it the Swagger wagon! Check the video below of the commercial itself and then meet the “parents” (or actors) who are in the video. Both videos are hilarious. But man, it’s got me thinking about buying a Swagger wagon of my own….probably not! haha.

December 9, 2010 at 8:26 AM Leave a comment

Day 47…1 Corinthians 1:

1 Corinthians 1:1-9: Paul’s Greeting

When people become Christians, they don’t at the same moment become NICE! This always comes as something of a surprise. Conversion to Christ and his ways doesn’t automatically furnish a person with impeccable manners and suitable morals.

The people in Corinth had a reputation as being unruly, hard-drinkers, and sexually promiscuous. When Paul arrived with the Message of Salvation, many of them became believers in Jesus and they brought their reputation with them right into church.

Paul spent a full year with them, teaching them how to live as believers in holiness as a community of believers. Then he left to plant other churches in other towns. Unfortunately Paul rec’d a letter from Corinth asking for help with those in the church who had falling back into their old ways. Factions had developed, morals were in disrepair, worship had degenerated into selfish grabbing for the supernatural.

So Paul wrote this letter we are going to study in the next few months to the church of Corinth as a pastoral response: affectionate, firm, clear and unswerving in the conviction that God was among them and they needed to live their lives accordingly. Paul doesn’t disown them, doesn’t throw them out because of their immoral behaviour and doesn’t berate them because of their irresponsible ways. He takes it all more or less in stride, but also takes them by the hand and goes over all the old ground again, directing them in how to work all the glorious details of God’s saving love into their love for one another. – DEG paraphrase of MSG

v.1-3, Paul takes the first 9 verses at the beginning of this pastoral letter to greet those he is writing to. He tells them who the letter is from (Paul, apostle of Jesus Christ) and who it is to (church of God in Corinth & future believers who will read this letter–you and me). “Grace (Greco-Roman) and peace (Jewish)” was a special greeting from Paul that he Christianizes with the addition of the origin of grace and peace “from God our Father and Lord Jesus Christ.”

v.4-9, Then Paul gives thanks to God “always” (every time he thinks of them OR prays for them) because only by the grace of God can anyone come to believe and be accepted into God’s family and only through Jesus–this is the essence of the Gospel Message. This same grace enables these believers to become “rich in every way” including speaking about their faith and their spiritual knowledge and understanding–facts seen by Paul and reported by others. The changed lives of these Corinthian believers validated that truth of the Gospel Message that they had heard and believed. Paul finishes off his greeting with a guarantee: they have everything they need to live the Christian life, to stand against the paganism and immorality of Corinth. They have “every spiritual gift” to help them battle sin both in the church and outside in the world. And because they lacked nothing they could eagerly look forward to the return of Jesus. Paul says they will be “blameless” when Christ returns, which was not because of their great gifts but only because of what Jesus accomplished through his death and resurrection. Finally Paul says believers need never doubt God’s grace, his gifts or his promise to give eternal life because God is faithful. God himself had called all the believers in Corinth into “fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord…” and that call will never be taken away.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO ME? Before Paul tackles the problems that are plaguing the church he describes his hope for them. The hope that they would be considered blameless when Christ returns, not because of their great gifts, but because of what Jesus accomplished for them through his death and resurrection. Not just these believers but all who believe in Jesus will be considered blameless when Jesus returns–that includes me, not matter how much I have strayed from my “first love.”

WHAT AM I GOING TO DO ABOUT IT? First, I want to make sure I continually live for God, spend time with him regularly, focus on living my life for him each day. But not so I will be considered blameless! No, that brings me to my second point, I need to be so thankful for what Jesus did for me.

Thank you Jesus for your death and resurrection and my forgiveness of sins!

December 7, 2010 at 1:46 PM Leave a comment

1000?

It’s very exciting that there have been over 900 hits or visit to my blog. Can we reach 1000? Tell all your friends about my blog and check it out every day. We can reach this milestone together.

Starting next week I will continue my Journey Thru the Bible in the book of 1 Corinthians. Join me on my journey as we learn together.

One last thing, I would love to hear from you, take some time to make a comment on any of my posts. It’s simple, you can click on the title of the post and it will take you to the original post, scroll to the bottom of the page and type away. OR you can click on “add comment” at the bottom of each post. It takes you to the original post as well.

Hope to hear from you very soon.

December 4, 2010 at 10:14 AM 3 comments

Day 46…Genesis 50:

Genesis 50: Jacob’s funeral & Joseph’s death

This being the LAST chapter in Genesis, it is fitting to have Jacob & Joseph (who represent the oath God made to Abraham) die and pass on God’s oath to the generations after them.

Just a reminder at the end of chapter 49 Jacob has taken his final breath and dies. But before he died he made his son Joseph swear to bury his body with his family in Canaan NOT Egypt.

v.1-9, just after Jacob died Joseph hugged and kissed his dead Dad, then he had him embalmed (40 days) and prepared for the funeral and burial. The Egyptians mourned for 70 days. When the mourning was over Joseph asked permission of Pharaoh (through his advisors) if he could take his Dad’s body to be buried in Canaan as he swore an oath to his Dad to do so. Joseph promised to not delay but be back to “work” as soon as his Dad was buried. Pharaoh agreed to Joseph’s request and Joseph left with all his brothers and their families (but left the kids and flocks behind). They were also accompanied by all of Pharaoh’s officials, senior members and officers of Egypt. There was a huge funeral procession.

v.10-13, when they arrived at Atad Thressing Floor (across from the Jordan River) they stopped to mourn, this time for 7 days. The Canaanites saw the mourning and the name of that place was changed Abel-mizraim (Egyptian mourning). Then Joseph and his brothers followed Jacob’s instructions and buried him with his family in the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre.

v.14-21, after Jacob was buried Joseph’s brothers started to get concerned again. They were scared Joseph would carry out his grudge on them now that their Dad was gone. So they sent him a message saying…

“Before your father died, he commanded us, ‘This is what you should say to Joseph, “I’m begging you to forgive the crime and the sin your brothers committed against you. What they did to you was very evil.” ’ So now, please forgive our crime, because we are servants of your father’s God.” – GWT

Joseph cried when he rec’d this message. Then the brothers came in person and dropped to the ground in front of Joseph and told him they were now his slaves! Joseph told them to not be afraid. Then he told them “I am not God” and even though they meant what they did to him for evil God used it for good. God brought Joseph to Egypt to save everyone from the great famine! In his kindness Joseph reassured his brothers he would take care of them and their children.

v.22-26, Joseph and his brothers and their families continued to live in Egypt. Joseph lived to be 110 years old. He got to see 3 generations of Ephraim’s sons and to see the birth of the children of Manasseh’s son Makir (who Joseph called his own as well). Just before Joseph died he had his brother solemnly swear to take his bones with them to Canaan when God calls them back there–the place where God made an oath to Abraham, Issac and Jacob. Joseph died at age 110 and was put in a coffin in Egpyt.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO ME? The thing that keeps coming up is how forgiving Joseph is to his brothers. Not just forgiving, but even allowing them to be “off the hook” for what they did. He says that even though they meant what they did for evil God used it for good. He teaches me to look at every circumstance like God is trying to teach me something.

WHAT AM I GOING TO DO ABOUT IT? I can honestly say many of the circumstances I have been in I have NOT looked at them as learning experiences but felt sorry for myself and got angry with those who caused them. From Joseph’s example I need to show mercy, forgiveness and remember God is continuing to teach me lesson after lesson. This is going to be something I will never completely understand until I am in his presence.

God, help me to remember I am in your hands and no matter what happens to me (and my family) you know what you are doing. Again thank you that you are God and I am not!

December 1, 2010 at 12:59 PM Leave a comment


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