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Personal Reflections

December 02, 2005

Today is my 29th birthday. Yes, I know that I’m younger than you thought and that you have children older than me. I get that a lot. Actually, having a birthday in December has always meant that I’m younger than my peers so I am quite accustomed to people saying, “You’re younger than I thought.” I don’t know that I have ever actually revealed my age on this site and know that many of the readers believe me to be older than I actually am. Not anymore. In an attempt to be a little more transparent (something I will post about a little later) I thought I’d put that little detail on the table. I’m 29 and proud of it! (See 1 Timothy 4:12).

I had my day pretty well planned out until the government intervened. I need to renew the tags on my car every year on my birthday and this year I have the double honor of also having to renew my license. As always I left it until nearly the last moment. Yesterday, as I prepared to head over to the license bureau I noticed a little red asterisk on the form. It turns out that I need to get an emissions test performed on my car before they will renew the tags, so now a simple little jaunt has turned into a bit of a bigger deal. I can only hope that the car passes without any trouble or it could also quickly get expensive. Beyond that I plan to do some work, to have our real estate agent take us through a nearby home that is for sale and then to kick back this evening with a movie. It sounds like a decent enough day.

Of course being the kid that I am I have no intention of waiting until this evening to open my gifts. I know they are around here somewhere and I intend to listen to whatever music Aileen bought me while I work today! [Update: Between the time I wrote this and the time I actually posted it I opened by gifts. Among them was the new Rebecca St. James album (yeah, yeah, I know, but I read several positive reviews and thought I’d give it a try). You’ve got to see what she is wearing in her photos in the liner notes. It is beyond horrific! It’s not a bad album, though.]

I tend to get quite reflective and maybe even a little morose on the milestone days of the year: birthday, New Years and so on. Today is no different. There is some strange kink in my personality that keeps me always looking forward. I am always wondering what is coming up around the next bend. When I examine my life I am far more likely to wonder what I will be than to reflect on what I have become. I’m not sure if this is a good or a bad thing, but at least some good has come of it. It allows me to look forward to getting older. I know that by this time next year I will have read another fifty or one hundred books and will have studied another few hundred chapters of the Bible. I will, Lord willing, have a third child and will have celebrated my eighth wedding anniversary. I trust that God will continue to bless me and that I will look just a little more Christ-like 365 days from now. God truly is gracious.

Earlier this week I finished reading Rediscovering God’s Love by Frank Allred, a retired Anglican minister. Time and time again I marvelled at his wisdom knowing that much of this wisdom has come by virtue of age. Of course age has also brought him physical infirmity and much sorrow. But oh, for that wisdom! Increasingly I find myself looking forward to being that wise, knowing full well that with it must come many things that are far less wonderful. Yet I am sure a man like Allred counts these as but a light affliction in comparison to the riches of wisdom. And so, I trust, will I.

I reflected this morning on my vocation. At the present time, as you probably know, I am a web designer. It is a job I very much enjoy and one I seem to be reasonably good at. Best of all it allows me to be self-employed and this provides me great freedom to devote time to this web site and to other projects or people that require my attention. And yet when I gaze towards the future I don’t know that I always see myself in this role. I do not see myself designing web pages for another 36 years and retiring after 40 years of being a designer. Once more I am faced with the question of “what will I be?” It is not that I am discontented with what I do or that I am planning on stopping anytime soon. I genuinely feel that I am honoring God with my talents through what I do. Yet there is always the nagging suspicion that I will eventually move on. But what will I move on to?

What I am beginning to wonder, I suppose, is when will I stop becoming and just be? Will there ever be a time when I look at what I am doing and realize that this, this very thing, is what I was created to do and that it is what I want to do for the rest of my life? Truthfully, the times I feel that now are the times when I am writing. When I become swept away with some new discovery and begin to pour out praise to God through the written word I feel complete and fulfilled in a a truly exciting way. Does this mean anything? Perhaps. Perhaps not.

I suppose I have reached the conclusion that I still have a lot of becoming ahead of me. Clearly there is a lot of becoming in the way of Christ-likeness. As a father, husband, son, brother, friend I have a long, long way to go. I look forward to improving in each of these areas and have confidence that God will so bless me. As for my vocation, well, who knows? As with other areas of life I look forward to seeing just what it is that God has in store for me. Perhaps 29 will bring clarity. Or maybe it will have to wait until 30 or 35. Either way, I am looking to the future and looking forward to it.

November 23, 2005

There were some things I had hoped to say today before all of my American readers disappear for a long weekend filled with thanks, gluttony and excess. Unfortunately, because of the unexpected call last night which took me out of the house for much of the night, I am awfully tired today and don’t trust myself to say anything profound. So rather than embarrass myself by posting some incoherent rant, I thought I’d simply post a link to a particularly relevant music video.

This video, made several years ago by Riley Armstrong and a couple of the guys from Audio Adrenaline, is for his song Sleep. It is a great little video and pretty funny too. I have met Riley a few times and he is a humorous and genuine guy. He is quite a talented musician too. Perhaps best of all, he’s Canadian.

In case you need them, here are the lyrics:

looking straight at the light
it never used to be that bright last night
but it’s a new day with fuzz in my eyes
alarm is still ringing when I open the blinds
how do these people do it
they are like driving around like there’s nothing to it
I imagine it’s like the medication they’re on
or probably just the coffee but
one thing is certain in life
and that is that today I’m going to eat cereal
I mean come on let’s get our priorities straight
but before I know it I’m out the door late
just trying to catch some rat or some race
or something I’m not quite sure what it is
so for now I just best keep moving
and by nine a.m. my brain and my body
finally decide to meet
and we come to the same conclusion as yesterday
that I never get enough sleep

sleep, no I never get enough
always waking up tired
sleep, no I never get enough
if I don’t show up I might get fired
sleep, no I never get enough
always waking up tired
sleep, no I never get enough
if I don’t show up I might get fired

they call it commuting
but I think they should call it intravenous
cause it’s what I need every time I get
stuck behind a truck, just trying to turn left
just trying to turn left, why are you trying to turn left
why don’t you park your silly cube van
hop in I’ll drop you off
cause at this rate we’ll both be late
but I’d rather be late than sitting here doing nothing
and by nine a.m. my brain and my body
finally decide to meet
and we come to the same conclusion as yesterday
that I never get enough sleep

sleep go on and sleep some more
sleep go on and sleep some more

November 23, 2005

We finally got the call. For the past couple of weeks we’ve been on “baby watch.” Our friends are expecting a baby and had asked us to watch their children while they go to the hospital for the birth. Today, sometime shortly before 2 AM, on what just so happens to be the due date, we got the long-awaited call. Because it was the middle of the night they asked if I would be able to come to their house so they would not have to wake their two children. Because the contractions were only three minutes apart they asked if I would be able to do it quickly.

So I suppose this is a logical time to apologize to the Ontario Provincial Police and the Halton Regional Police Department for what probably amounted to a good few traffic offenses, most of which were based on driving too quickly on snow-covered highways. One member of the HRPC no-doubt saw me slam on my breaks as I realized I was about to blow past an unmarked car on the highway. Thank you for being too interested in that big ‘ol cup of coffee to pay attention. I could use a cup of Joe right about now.

Anyways, I managed to wake up (kind of), get dressed (I think), and drive clear across town (literally) in about fifteen minutes. That’s pretty good for a guy who, as my wife can attest, has trained himself to sleep through pretty well anything related to babies.

And now we wait (and pray, of course).

6 AM Update

A healthy baby boy, Alexander, was born at around 4:30. Woohoo! As soon as the kids wake up I’ll take them to meet their little brother.

November 21, 2005

I am desperately jealous of Josh Harris. Of course I would assume that there are lots of people who are jealous of him. After all, he wrote a silly little book about dating courtship that must have sold more copies than The Prayer of Jabez and probably made him filthy, stinking rich. If my understanding of the Christian publishing industry is accurate, and I think it is, Harris must sleep every night on an enormous pile of gold, some of which was no-doubt donated to the cause by my little sisters and every girl I wanted to court date in high school. But Harris’ billions of dollars and gold-plated toothbrushes are not why I’m jealous of the guy. After all, a toothbrush made of gold will soon get covered in that nasty, white toothpaste residue, just like my plastic one, and I’m sure the gold coins dig into his back while he sleeps on them. Selling lots of books is probably not nearly as fulfilling as we might think. And of course a godly guy like Harris knows this. So let me tell you why I’m so jealous of the guy. I’ll get to it in a minute.

My pastor laughs at me. He laughs at me, respectfully I think, for my total commitment to the Doctrines of Grace. Sometimes in a sermon he’ll say something like, “In order to understand this passage, and Tim will like this, we need to be a little more Calvinistic in our understanding of God’s absolute sovereignty.” I think I am known in the church as being a guy who is over on the conservative wing of Christianity. And you know what? I don’t mind at all.

My pastor also laughs at me (respectfully, still) for unintentionally putting new staff members through their theological paces. Our church has planted several daughter churches and whenever a new staff member arrives in town (they are almost always imported from the United States) I immediately get to know the person, usually over a coffee hot chocolate and donut. I am genuinely interested in meeting these people and, while I may claim that my interest in the person is based on my desire to help him get a website going, in reality I want to know the person and understand his understanding of Scripture.

It has taken me a few years but I have only just realized why I do this. It came as a bit of an odd revelation and one that is actually quite embarrassing to me. Still, because the nature of the Internet allows me to be safely removed from the bemused stares of those who read this site, I thought I’d share it anyways.

I am desperate for a mentor. I am absolutely desperate to have someone who will invest in me. I am desperate to find a person, or have a person find me, who will play Paul to this Timothy.

I sat down last night to think about this for a little while and realized that, as far as I can remember, I have never had a single person (outside of my parents) who has invested in me in this way. I have never met a man who was willing to challenge me, to strengthen me and to teach me in this type of relationship. Not one. I have had some great pastors and teachers who have taught me in a group setting, but never one who pulled me aside and really invested himself in me.

This brings us back to Josh Harris. Here are a couple of quotes from his website: “…Josh relocated from his long-time home in Oregon, to Gaithersburg, Maryland, to serve as a pastoral intern under C.J. Mahaney, senior pastor of Covenant Life Church. Motivated by a desire to be mentored and the conviction about the importance of the local church, Josh lived with C.J.’s family and immersed himself in the vibrant community of the 2,500 member body… In the fall of 2004, Joshua assumed the role of Senior pastor at Covenant Life Church where he had been serving previously as executive pastor. C.J. Mahaney who had trained and mentored Josh for pastoral ministry set him in the role that he had served in for 27 years.”

There is little doubt in my mind that part of what has made Harris such a gifted teacher of the Word is that C.J. Mahaney invested so heavily in him. I’m guessing that Harris would be the first to agree with me. Harris had his mentor in Mahaney, and I couldn’t think of too many guys who would do a better job of it. There isn’t much I wouldn’t give to have that type of relationship with a man like Mahaney.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not comparing myself to Harris, except in so far as we are both young, Christian men. I know that Josh is an exceptionally-talented guy and one who has a lot to offer not only his local church but the wider church body as well. God has given him a large audience and, from all accounts, Harris is using his talents in a way that truly honors God. I trust and hope that Harris never loses sight of the amazing gift Mahaney gave him - the gift of himself.

So here I am. I’m not sure if I am writing this in the hopes that pastors and leaders will read it and it will help them understand that there are men in their churches who are just waiting and ready to be mentored. Maybe I’m writing it so even lay-people like myself will take a hard look at ourselves to find those men within our own churches who could be waiting for us to come to them. Or maybe this article is entirely selfish and I’m just putting my hand in the air and asking someone to notice me. I honestly don’t know. As a bit of an introvert I don’t think I would ever be that bold. What I do know is that I feel like I’ve come to a point in life where I not only want, but really need, someone to play a mentoring role in my life.

So I suppose this article is really a type of prayer request or maybe even is a type of prayer, asking that God would stir the hearts of Christian pastors, leaders and lay-people to invest in those who are younger than them, whether they be younger in age or younger in the faith.

This should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyways. I have nothing but respect for Josh Harris and any comments in this article that may have implied that he misuses the billions of dollars that came his way through his books were meant purely in jest. And Josh, I’m sorry to admit this, but I never read your book. It made me angry because I wanted to date rather than court. I probably should have read it anyways but I am hoping my children will atone for my mistakes and will read and study it when their time comes.

November 20, 2005

I have no idea where she picked it up, but my daughter has begun to answer my son’s apologies with the phrase, “Sorry doesn’t know how to count!” She may have made it up. Wherever she got the phrase from, she does not seem to understand what it should logically mean. To her it means something like, “I don’t accept your apology.” In reality I suppose the phrase should be concerned with grace, with saying, like Jesus, that we should forgive an infinite number of offenses.

I have been teaching the children about apologizing. One thing I have been trying to help them understand is that there are two words that do not belong in a proper apology: “if” and “but.” Just the other day I saw a situation on television where a person said, “I’m sorry if I offended you.” I don’t think that is a real apology at all. There is something objective about an offense. Either the person offended the other or he did not. He should not, then, apologize if the other person was offended, but he should apologize that the other person was offended. So I am trying to teach the children that, before they apologize, they should know who they offended and why that person was offended. They will then be able to make a heartfelt apology - an apology based on the knowledge of their own poor behavior.

I have also been teaching them that an apology does not include the word “but.” We all know these apologies. “I’m sorry I did that, but…” The “but” is simply the person’s way of showing that while he may feel apologetic he is not truly so, for he clearly believes that the fault really lies with the other person. “I’m sorry I smacked you, but I wouldn’t have done it if you hadn’t taken my toy.” That is no apology. Again, an apology is an acknowledgement of a transgression against some objective standard. Regardless of why my child sinned, he should be able to see and understand his own guilt without blaming the other party. This sounds an awful lot like Adam’s protest when he said to God, “But the woman you gave me…”

So there we have it, two tiny little words, but ones that may prove an apology to be anything but sincere.

November 19, 2005

I have received a few “complaints” of late that I have not been writing enough articles of a personal nature. That is probably true and I hope to remedy that, at least somewhat, next week. In the meantime I thought I’d share an article I wrote a couple of years ago to honor my father on Father’s Day. This was and remains one of my favorite pieces of writing.

Like most boys I idolized my father. You would have had a difficult time, when I was a child, convincing me that there was anyone smarter, faster or stronger than my dad. I really did believe it when I told my friends that “my dad can beat up your dad!” And it may well have been true. You see, dad was a landscaper, and for eight months of every year he spent just about every waking hour hauling loads of soil from his truck to the gardens and manipulating enormous rocks to make sure they looked just right. Though this took a physical toll on him, it left him stronger than an ox. When he and I used to wrestle, I could make absolutely no headway against him. I would run at him and hit him with all that I had, but even with a full head of steam I could not knock him off-balance. He would just grab me with his rough, leathery hands and toss me aside like I was barely even there.

Dad had working man hands. I’ll never forget those hands, for they were hard as rock. Holding dad’s hand was like holding a sanding block and just about as uncomfortable. As he labored day-in and day-out, his hands built up so many rough calluses that they soon became as hard as dried leather. They were scarred with the evidence of so many bumps and bruises inflicted on job sites. I saw in his hands an ideal, for to me they represented a hard-working man who labored diligently to support his family. I felt pride when I compared his hands to those of men who spent their lives at desks - there really was no comparison - and looked forward to the day when my hands would be hard and callused like dads’. I believe there is something inside each of us that really wants nothing more than to carry out God’s original command to humans which was to till the soil and to care for the earth. Dad had the privilege of doing that every day and the even greater privilege of loving nothing more.

Yet behind his love for working with plants and rocks and soil, I think dad always felt a twinge of shame. He grew up in an affluent family, one which had a long history of politicians and lawyers. My grandfather was a Supreme Court judge, and dad’s uncles were members of parliament. Surely, dad felt deep inside, landscaping was not a profession suitable for a man from such lineage. Finally succumbing to the pressure he had created in himself, he returned to school, upgrading his two Bachelor’s degrees to a Master’s. For several years he worked diligently, studying languages, history and theology. A strange thing happened. As the months turned into years I noticed that his hands no longer felt like leather. The longer he labored in school, the softer his hands became. Before long his hands were much like mine - soft and free from calluses.

Dad graduated with a Master’s degree and tried so hard to be happy in an office job. He tried his hand at a few things and it wasn’t so much that he wasn’t good at them as that he just did not enjoy them. He found himself thinking nostalgically of burying his hands in fresh topsoil and sculpting beautiful gardens where there had been nothing but weeds and chaos. Finally it became too much and one day dad went and bought himself a great, big pickup truck. He returned to tilling the soil he had left behind.

Now whenever I see dad he has dirt under his fingernails. His hands are once again as hard as dried leather and I can’t imagine my son feels any more comfortable holding his hand than I did so many years ago. As he returns shamelessly to the task for which God created Him, his hands again bear evidence of his labor.

It occurs to me as I write this that one day we are all going to stand before God and he is going to reach down to each of us and feel our hands. He has assigned to all of His children the same task, and it is a difficult one. We need to take His message into all the world, diligently and shamelessly proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ. If our hands are not as rough as sandpaper and do not feel like old leather, perhaps we are not being diligent in that labor. If our hands bear no scars, perhaps we have not received the cuts and bruises that are bound to come to those who go forth on His behalf. One day God is going to reward those who labored diligently for Him and all the evidence He is going to need will be written on our hands. God will reward those who, like dad, have working man hands.

November 12, 2005

This afternoon Aileen and I went out to look at homes in various neighborhoods in this area. We know that we want to buy a place of our own but are not quite sure where. Having rented for the past seven years we are growing increasingly tired of paying other peoples’ mortgages and feel it would be nice to pay our own! Right now we live in a rented home in a very wealthy town where real estate prices are generally inflated beyond what we can afford. So we have been looking outside of this town at a few others that are nearby where the prices are a bit more within our means.

A few years ago I might have asked, “Where does God want us?” But today I’m not so sure that is really a legitimate question. Does God want us in Oakville? Does He want us in Hamilton? I don’t know. I don’t know if God really cares about where we are as much as our motives for going there. As it stands Aileen and I have very few ties to this town or any other. We both work from home and between us we only have a couple of family members in the immediate area. Our church has locations throughout the area so anywhere we move we could continue to attend either our church or one of our daughter churches. We have examined the options and just don’t see that there is any one town where we should be. We do not expect or even ask for some type of divine revelation to guide us. We think it is wide open and feel we can use our “sanctified reasoning” to choose a home and a hometown. Of course we will pray and ask God to help us make good decisions and even to open or close doors as He sees fit. We’ll ask Him to continue to help us sort through our motives (especially as we drive through Hamilton, also known as Mullet-town). But ultimately we know that we’ll come to a day where we just have to decide whether or not to sign that piece of paper to close a deal.

So where does God want us? I think He wants us to be in a place where we’ll be happy. He wants us to be in a place that we see as a mission field and a place where we will allow our light to shine to the neighbors around us. Whether that place is called Hamilton or Burlington or Oakville seems to matter little. I hope that is how God feels too.

November 11, 2005

PoppyMy son has recently taken an interest in wars and the military. I have a 39-volume Time-Life series of books covering the Second World War and he loves to sit and look through the pictures. He often bemoans the fact that he cannot yet read as he would love to be able to learn about what the soldiers are doing and against whom they are fighting. A few weeks ago I pulled an old box from my cupboard and showed him a few of my treasures - medals and other relics from family members who fought in the War. There are service medals and pins along with journals and records of payments.

My grandfather, Lawrence Belford, whom we knew as “Bapa,” was the only veteran to whom I was at all close. I don’t know that anyone was really close to Bapa in a personal way, but I know he loved me and loved to show me off. If there was anything Bapa was proud of in life, other than his three daughters, it would have to be his military service. Had you taken some time to talk to him, it would not have been long before he brought it up. As with most young men of his generation, he spent several years overseas, doing his part for the war effort. He chose to serve in the Royal Canadian Air Force. Though he wanted to be a pilot he was rejected on account of poor eyesight, and instead found himself working as part of the grounds crew for the planes he so wanted to fly. His job was to load and arm the bombs before the planes flew across the channel to fulfill their mission and then to clean and fix the bombers once they returned. When I was young Bapa would often take me to the Legion hall near his home, partly to show me off and partly just to talk. I would eat a bowl of beans and sip on a Coke and he would drink a draft or two and reminisce about the war. He would tell of planes returning from Germany with gaping holes, smashed windows and broken bodies. After the ambulances had left, he would have to climb into those bombers and clean them up, trying to make some semblance of order amongst the chaos so the plane could fly again the next day.

Despite the horror of war I believe Bapa enjoyed his service and remembered the war years fondly. He surely bore some shame that he could not be part of the real fighting and must have felt some guilt when he heard about Canadian soldiers being killed at Dieppe, Normandy and soon all across Western Europe. He was probably almost jealous of the men whose planes never returned. While his base occasionally came under attack, he survived the war and went on to live a long life. The war years were quite good to him.

My other grandfather, George Challies, whom I never met as he died before I was born, was also in the military during World War II. I actually know little about him, but do know that he was an important man, a Supreme Court Judge, and was posted to the command of what I believe was an artillery training camp somewhere in Quebec. My uncle was born during these years and I have, on occasion, glimpsed at a postcard written to my grandmother and inquiring after his baby son’s health. Grandpa finished the war as a Lieutenant Colonel (Lieutenant is pronounced “leftenant” in Canada).

My grandmother’s brother, my great uncle, Harold Wooten, was a Spitfire pilot who was posted to the Mediterranean. I am not entirely sure where he was posted, but I do know that he never returned. He left his base on a routine mission on March 4, 1944 and never returned. He was declared Missing in Action. I still get chills when I remember my grandmother describing the day he died. While they lived in Quebec, thousands of miles from my uncle, they knew something was wrong when his dog, whom he had left behind with his family, began to howl one day. The dog was inconsolable for several days and it came as no great surprise to the family when, several days later, the dreaded telegram arrived. Even in her old age my grandmother missed her brother terribly.

Those three men, and so many others, are my heroes. I remember them not just on November 11, but throughout the year. I remember them every time I pass a veteran’s cemetery or walk past the cenotaph in the center of our town. I have taught my son to be proud of their service and their sacrifices. He determined today that he would tell his friends at school about daddy’s great uncle who died in the War. I hope he does.

While my mother lives a thousand miles away from me, I know that today she has placed a little poppy in the picture of her father that hangs in the hallway of her house. Bapa looks dashing, dressed in his RCAF uniform. He looks proud. The little poppy serves as a reminder of the years he gave to a great cause and it serves as a reminder of the innumerable sacrifices by innumerable made to preserve freedom.

November 09, 2005

Earlier this year I posted an article in which I described a method I use for personal worship (or devotions, quiet time, etc). At the time I was hoping it would spark discussion from others about how they spend daily time with God. While the article brought about some discussion few people shared about how they spend their times of worship. Personal worship is, of course, personal and some people may be unwilling to share what they do, and I understand that. Still, I am hoping that as I post this again, it can inspire those who are unhappy with their times of personal worship to adopt what I feel is a very helpful method. I hope also that those who have their own methods will share them with us. There is no one correct way to worship God, but certainly some are more useful and appropriate than others. I am eager to learn from other believers how I can make my time more faithful to the Scriptures and more meaningful to the Lord.

A common trap believers fall into is making their time of personal devotion a selfish time. Without structure, prayers often become mere lists of perceived needs, wants and desires and reading Scripture becomes a chore and a burden. Many Christians feel guilty, admiring and desiring the biblical examples of those, like David, who delighted in the Lord and in His Word. They sincerely desire to have a passion for prayer and Scripture, yet find themselves lukewarm at best. It is crucial that we come to understand our time with God as an opportunity to simply be with Him, to worship and delight in Him. Instead of focusing on what we bring away from it, we ought to focus on what we can give to God. We can derive pleasure from our time of worship based on the pleasure it brings God.

It is my sincere hope that we can share different ways of daily delighting in the Lord and sharing time with Him. If you have a method or some pointers you would like to share, please feel free to do so by linking us to an article on your blog (if you have one) or by posting a comment in the forum.

The method I is adapted from an article I found quite a while ago written by Jim Elliff. I find it usually takes about an hour, though it could certainly be made longer or shorter. For the first few times I used this structure I followed it nearly to the letter, but as time went on began to adapt into what you see here. I have little doubt it will continue to change. Should you choose to try this method, feel free to change it however you wish. I acknowledge that God has blessed me with the privilege of working from home which gives me more time in the morning than many others have. Despite that, I have found it best to set the alarm early so I can spend this time before my mind turns elsewhere.

This structure is more than merely reading the Bible and praying - this is a time of intimate, personal worship to God. I recommend doing this in private, away from children, friends or spouses who may inadvertently distract you and draw attention away from God. Sit, kneel, lie, walk - do whatever you need to do to make it a comfortable time.

1. In Jesus’ Name

Begin your time of personal worship by acknowledging that it is only through Christ’s merits that you can come before the Father. It is only through the work of Christ in which He took our sin upon Himself and satisfied the Father that we can now be accepted by God. Acknowledge your unworthiness and dependence on Him. In the spirit of the following verses, believe and trust that Christ died to be your Mediator to the Father. Thank Him for allowing you access to God.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:13)
For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. (Ephesians 2:18)

2. Delight in Him

Delight in the Lord, expressing your wonder of His greatness. Praise Him for who His is - for His character and attributes. Do not focus yet on the things He has done for you, but on His person and attributes. A good place to start as you mediate on Him may be with answer four of the Shorter Catechism, which asks “What is God?”: “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.” You might also thank Him for His love, patience, kindness, goodness, knowledge and glory. Just thank and praise Him for being who He is!

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)

3. Repentance

Have a time of personal repentance where you reflect on your own sin and shortcomings in the light of the perfect majesty of God. Confess and repent of specific sins, asking God to forgive you for them. Trust that He is faithful to do so and acknowledge your acceptance of His forgiveness.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

4. Express Your Longings

Express your deepest, most personal, most intimate longings to God. This is not a time to pray about everything you need or want or a time to bring your petitions before God. It is a time to make known to Him your deepest desires. This may include your desire for deeper fellowship with Him, for personal holiness, to “finish strong” and so on. Ephesians 1:15-23 may serve as a guide for this.

As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for the living God. (Psalm 42:1,2)

5. Read a Psalm

Read a Psalm or a portion of a Psalm. Consider reading it out loud, remembering that Psalms were written as music and poetry. Praise God through your words.

6. Sing to the Lord

Sing a song to the Lord. You might consider singing a version of the Psalm you just read or singing a biblically-sound hymn or chorus by yourself or accompanied by a CD. You may prefer to make up your own song based on the Psalm you just read or any other passage of Scripture. If you are not a singer, consider reading or reciting a creed or reading a question and answer from a Catechism. Either way, allow this to be a brief time of heartfelt praise to God.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! (Psalm 100:1,2)

7. Study The Word

Having prepared your heart and removed any emphasis from yourself, it is now time to turn to the Bible.

Begin by asking the Spirit to illumine the Words you will read and to speak directly to your heart through His Word, “…that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints…” (Ephesians 1:17,18)

Read with confidence that God is as eager to speak to you as you are to listen to Him. Turn to a passage, and preferably at least a chapter, of the Bible. Read it first as a whole and then in smaller pieces. Seek out the key verses and read them meditatively, continually seeking God’s wisdom to help you understand. Reflect, contemplate, ponder them. Read with a view to understanding the sense and meaning of the passage. Then begin to apply the passage to yourself, asking how this truth relates to you. Ask the following questions of the passage:

Are there commands to obey?

Are there examples to follow?

Are there errors to avoid?

Are there sins to forsake?

Are there promises to claim?

Are there new thoughts about God?

Are there principles to live by?

You may wish to finish with a prayer of application, asking God to apply to your heart what you have learned.

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:1,2)

8. Intercede For Others

Bring before God the needs and concerns of others. You may wish to remember specifically:


Family members

The leadership of your church

The leaders of your nation

The unsaved


Those who have asked for prayer and those you have promised to remember in prayer

Those who are grieving or troubled

Those who have experienced disaster

Because you will find there are so many people to remember in prayer, you may wish to make a system of rotation where you pray for only several of the groups each day, remembering to include each group at least once per week. One system I have found helpful in organizing my prayers is to pray in “concentric circles,” beginning with those who are closest to me and moving outwards to those I know only as acquaintances and then those I do not know at all.

Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you. (1 Samuel 12:23)

9. Petitions

Petition the Lord for other needs that you have not yet brought before Him. This is the time to make personal requests and desires known before Him. More than just remembering these before Him, ask Him specifically for guidance, deliverance, wisdom or endurance. Bring your petitions before Him with faith and humility, knowing that God loves to grant the desires of your heart.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. (Jn. 16: 24)

10. Thanksgiving

Pray a prayer of thanksgiving. Be specific in thanking God for his forgiveness, goodness and providence. Thank Him for the time you have been able to spend with Him. Thank Him for speaking to your heart through the Scriptures you read earlier.

Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. (Hebrews 13:15)

11. Place Your Day Before God

Place your day before the Lord, dedicating the day to His service. This is a good time to ask Him for specific opportunities to serve Him in sharing the Gospel and serving others. It may be helpful to go through your day chronologically, asking him for help, patience, guidance, faith and so on in specific areas. For example, you may ask Him for patience as you deal with your children, guidance as you examine job opportunities and wisdom as you share the Gospel with your neighbours. If you have your time of personal worship in the evening, place the next day before God.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

And That Is It

If you have used this method, I trust you have just spent a meaningful, intimate hour with the Lord. May God bless you as you dedicate yourself to becoming intimate with Him.

November 05, 2005

For the past couple of years we have been able to observe an industrious pair of robins building a nest in a tree directly outside our bathroom window. Just about a foot below the window and perhaps 8 feet out from the house, in a little crook of a crabapple tree, they build a nest of grass, mud and bits of string. Before long the mother begins spending all her time sitting on the nest and though we can’t see the bottom of the nest we knew that she has laid some eggs. Sure enough, a couple of weeks later we begin to notice little pink heads and yellow beaks protruding from the nest. We laugh at the little things as they sit with their beaks to the sky, wide open, just waiting for a feeding. After just a few days their heads and then their bodies begin to rise above the edges of the nest.

It is incredible to see how quickly they grow. In less than two weeks they bear a striking resemblance to their parents. Though still quite small and though their chests are spotted for camouflage, they seem as if they are just about ready to explore the world. Sure enough, only a couple of weeks after hatching, we come down one morning to find the nest vacant. The little birds have flown the nest.

I is always just a little bit sad. I enjoy watching the birds grow up and am always sure that I’ll get to watch them for longer than two weeks! But just like that they are gone. You know, I wonder if even their parents are surprised at how quickly they grew up. It seems that children always grow up faster than their parents expect, for I can’t count the number of times I have heard people older than I am marvel at how soon their own children flew the nest.

I reflected on this further and began to think about my own children. Even now I can’t believe that my son is already five. Wasn’t it just yesterday that we were celebrating his first birthday? Just two or three days ago that he first called me “daddy?”

Though it will probably be twenty years before I walk my little girl down the aisle, I have little doubt that as I hold her arm and walk her into her new life and into her new family, I will be struck by how quickly time passes. I can imagine her childhood flashing before me, as it will seem like just yesterday that the nurse passed me the little pink baby just moments after she was born, all swaddled in blankets, and who stared at me with her big brown eyes, wondering who I was. I’ll have memories of chasing a little, bare-bottomed, giggling baby around the house, trying desperately to corral her to get a diaper on her before company arrives. I’ll have memories of her first day at school, her first ballet class and probably even her first date. I know it will seem that there just hasn’t been enough time – that I’ll want her to wait for just one more day. Just one more day to sit with daddy and talk about her hopes and her dreams. Just to sit with daddy.

It seems time just passes too quickly.

It seems they grow up so fast.

I wonder what God thinks as He looks down on me. Does He look down at me and wonder to Himself how I could have come so far, so fast? Does He smile in amazement that after only ten or fifteen years of being a Christian I’ve grown up so much?

Somehow I don’t think He does. In fact, it is far more likely that He looks down and shakes His head in wonder that I have so often refused to grow up; that I’ve refused to learn from the tough times and have refused to keep my sight fixed on Him in the good times. So often I have believed that I can do this all on my own. So often I have had to be reminded that I cannot. And just as often I have failed to learn my lesson. I have failed to grow up.

But as often as I have chosen to continue sipping milk rather than grow up and begin to chew on solid food, God has extended His forgiveness. He has given me the hope and even the yearning to desire adulthood. It seems ironic that I will never fully become alive - will never fully grow up - until I die, for the day I leave this earth and pass into glory, I will finally reach full spiritual maturity. Yet even now I know that with His help and through His grace I will continue to grow up, continue to grow closer to Him and continue to grow in my desire to be like Him.

God help me grow up.

This is another one of those articles I wrote months ago and am only now tidying up and posting.