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!

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

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