Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Alicia's Story

Alicia's childhood and teenage years were very difficult and as a result she developed depression and attempted to take her own life at the age of 17. Two weeks after Alicia was let out of the hospital after her suicide attempt a stranger started talking to her in the store where she was working. The guy shared his story with Alicia and told her that he used to be very lost before he came to faith in Christ. Alicia decided to go to church that week and ended up giving her life to Christ. God started to do a healing work in Alicia's life from that day forward and today God has rebuilt Alicia from the inside out. Today Alicia is using her faith and her music to reach out to others who are broken and struggling with their mental health, depression and suicidal thoughts.

Monday, April 17, 2017

You're Irresistible

Through the darkness, in our weakness,
you made a way, you made a way.
We were broken, lost and hopeless,
our lives You changed, our lives You changed.


Heaven and hell are some of the least popular parts of the gospel among nonbelievers. Nobody likes the idea of consequences for our actions and judgement for our sins. If I would ask a young child if she would rather live in a world free of any consequences or in a world with consequences what do you think she would pick? What would you pick? We like being able to do whatever we want without any negative consequences. On the other hand, if I would ask a young child if she would rather have consequences for others or live in a world where others can do whatever they want without any consequences I’m sure she would pick a world with consequences. We don’t like when others do evil acts and get away with it. We long for justice and when someone does something evil in our society we want to see the person pay the consequences for the evil act, we don’t want the person to get away with it.

Many people who do not believe in God still believe in heaven, but most people who don’t believe in God don’t believe in hell. Nobody wants hell to exist, not even Christians, but at the same time a universe without hell would mean a universe without justice. God is merciful, but he is also a God of justice. If God let everyone do whatever they want and enter heaven he wouldn’t be a loving God. Not every criminal in this world will be captured and held accountable in a court, but no criminal will escape God’s judgement at the end of life. I once heard a pastor preach on the topic of hell and he said that anyone who has come face to face with pure evil in this world can fully understand why there is a need for hell. If there was no hell, what would hold us back from taking revenge on each other? When you have seen and experienced pure evil hell becomes a comforting thing, because you know that nobody will ever escape justice in the end.

We have all sinned and nobody will enter heaven without having first surrendered their life to Christ. We are not all murderers or rapists, but we have all sinned. I consider myself to be a good person, but I have sinned and deserve judgement just like anyone else. I don’t deserve heaven, heaven is God’s free gift to me when I surrender my life to Christ. I have never cheated on my spouse, I have no criminal record, I have never killed anyone, but I’m still a sinner.

Once I kissed a guy who was interested in me although I knew he was engaged to someone else, not a nice thing to do. I was also a part of groups who bullied other kids both in elementary school and in high school, not a loving thing to do. I used to steal a lot of stuff from different stores when I was in high school, that’s not good. I’m not going to list all the sins I’ve committed in my life so far but my point is that we are all sinners although we like to view ourselves as “good people”. I’m not a good person, I’m an imperfect human-being and I’m a sinner. My final destination after this life is hell, unless I surrender to Christ and accept Jesus into my heart. When I surrender to Christ I’m forgiven for all my sins. I have access to this forgiveness because Jesus chose to take the punishment that I deserved, he was willing to go to hell for me, so that I would never have to experience that. Imagine that you were sentenced to life in prison and someone shows up to take that prison sentence for you, so that you are free to go. Jesus did that for each one of us, we are all “sentenced to hell” for what we have done during this life, but Jesus took our sentence upon himself and was sentenced to death in our place.

I have no fear of death at all, if I die tomorrow I’m ready. Don’t get me wrong, I hope that I will get to live for many more years but I’m not afraid of death. What I’m afraid of is that not everyone that I love will be in heaven with me one day. I’m fully aware of the fact that only those who have surrendered their lives to Christ will enter heaven. When my Grand Mother died five years ago I was sad, but at the same time I had peace, because I knew that I would get to see her again one day. I knew that my Grand Mother had faith in God and was a believer. I don’t know where all my friends and family members stand with God, if they have surrendered their lives to Christ or not. We all have to make that choice for ourselves, nobody else’s faith can save our souls. Each one of us have one life to decide if we will surrender our lives to Christ or if we will choose to rather reject God. You can have all the knowledge in the world about God but it isn’t before we surrender to God that our soul is saved. The reason it takes any effort at all to surrender to God is that our spiritual enemy is pulling hard in the other direction, keeping us away from God and away from our purpose. One of our spiritual enemy’s most common tactics is fear, he can use fear to keep us away from a lot of good things that God has for us in life. Fear of what others will think of us, fear of the future, fear of pain etc.

One interesting thing that I learned about heaven and hell as a new believer a few years ago is that hell means complete separation from God and heaven means to be with God forever. We often imagine heaven to look like something we have seen in the movies. Our idea of hell can also be based on what we have seen in a movie. The Biblical description of heaven is simply a place free of evil, a place where we are with God forever. Hell is a place where we will be completely separated from God, which means we will also be separated from anything that is good, anything that is love. Whether we are Christians or not, none of us knows what it’s like to be completely separated from God. In this present world, not all of us are interested in God but he still loves every single one of us. God is constantly present in our lives whether we notice him or not. None of us are completely separated from God in this world.

This present world is a mix of good and evil. There is no place on Earth where there is only evil, there is always a little bit of good in the midst of all the darkness. There is also no place on Earth where there is only good, evil is always present. We can have a wonderful day at the beach with our family, until we end up in an argument with each other. We can also be going through something very difficult in life but in the midst of all the darkness we have a hope that things will get better. Our present world is always a mix of evil and good. God is with us, but our spiritual enemy is also present. The hope of heaven is that it’s coming around the corner. When our souls are saved and secure in Christ we have a peace and hope that nothing can take away from us. Once we are saved we can not loose our salvation. The storms will keep coming in this life but we can face every difficulty with confidence, hope and peace because God is with us. If God is with us, then who can be against us?

The Weekend

I had a wonderful weekend and Easter 2017 is definitely one of my favorite Easters so far! :) I like to decorate the house with colorful flowers for Easter every year.

After a few weeks with focus on prayer and fasting it was time to start celebrating Easter on Friday. I'm quite happy that Lent is over now, even if the only thing I took a break from during the fasting season was TV. Many of my friends took a break from social media during Lent but I currently don't use a smartphone so I didn't see a need to limit my social media use any further. I usually do a rice&beans fast every year but since my iron levels have been low lately I had to skip fasting from food this year. My TV break was fruitful, it gave me more time for stillness and reflection during Lent. I had all this time leftover to spend with family or on reading books instead of getting stuck in front of the TV every evening.

Friday was a very sunny and beautiful day so I decided to take a walk along the beach in the afternoon. The sunshine makes me so happy!

On Saturday we had a family dinner at our house and my husband cooked an amazing Jamaican dinner for us. We had Boston Cream Cake for dessert plus tons of Easter candy of course. If anyone wonders why we eat eggs and decorate with eggs at Easter it's because they are a traditional symbol of rebirth. The eggs remind us of the resurrection of Jesus. The egg represents new life, just like each one of us get a brand new life when we come to faith in Christ. The old is gone, the new has begun.

The traditional Jamaican Easter bun and cheese is also one of our traditions on Easter. We still have some leftovers that I look forward to having later today. I love that we are a multicultural family with multicultural Easter traditions.

All dressed up for Church on Easter Sunday.

Easter Sunday at Elevation Church in the GTA. I'm so thankful that I get to live in Toronto where we have Canada's only Elevation Church location so far. My friend's brother who lives in the Philippines goes to Elevation via the online church, it's fun to be a part of such a large international church!

Easter at Elevation Church was incredible. I had a few moments during service when I had to fight back tears while thinking about all the amazing things that God is doing in my life this year. God, you are sooo good!

I spotted this interesting phenomenon during my evening walk in the park on Sunday, let's call it an "Easter tree". So cute and funny that someone decided to decorate the park for Easter to put a smile on everyone's faces.

Sunday was an awesome day for many reasons, one reason being that we had +22 degrees Celsius in Toronto. Hello Spring! My poor husband has to model for my blog every week because I don't want to expose the rest of my family and friends to such a public blog as this. He's a (partly) involuntary "internet star", but let's face it, a blog without any people in the pictures quickly gets boring. :)

Sunday's dessert: one glass of red wine and two Smarties chocolate eggs. Life is good! :)

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Esther's Story

Esther Fleece grew up in an abusive home and as an adult she tried to run away from her past by staying busy and by being performance-driven. When her biological Dad was released from prison and started stalking her Esther's life got turned upside down. Esther eventually decided to go to counseling, which was the last thing she wanted to do. The path to healing wasn't easy but Esther had finally developed the courage to not hide from her past any longer.

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter everyone! I’m joyful and excited this week, like a little kid on Christmas Eve. Easter week includes so many fun things to enjoy. Today we had Women’s Connect at church, which is always a fun and encouraging experience. We are usually around 50-100 women per meeting and it’s a powerful thing to see so many women come together to walk through life’s ups and downs together encouraging each other. On Friday, my friends and I are planning to have a picnic in the park after the Good Friday service, hopefully the weather will be nice! On Saturday, we will have family over for Easter dinner and on Sunday we go to church again to celebrate the resurrection. This whole week feels like a party to me.

This week we are reminded of how amazing, loving and kind God is. We serve a God who isn’t a distant God. God chose to come down to our level and walk with us for 33 years. The all-powerful God Almighty himself chose to take on human flesh for a short period of time. What would you do if you had all the power in the whole universe? My guess is you would not use it to walk in humility and love like Jesus did.

If I was God I would be a terrible God, in the garden of Gethsemane I would have given up and said: “That’s it, I’m not doing this. I don’t care if people will go to hell unless I get on that cross to save their souls. I’m NOT doing it!” Jesus was fully human, and at the same time fully God. I’m just human, I’m imperfect. I’m grateful and in awe that God would do what he did for me, that he would give up everything to save my soul. He laid down his life for me and now he is calling me to do the same for others. I’m called to stop living for my own pleasures, wants and dreams alone and to live to love God & love people. We can’t please God without committing to loving people. We can’t love people well without committing to God.

I have a heart that is divided. I’m loving and at the same time I’m selfish and cold. I have strengths and I have weaknesses. I have beautiful gifts and talents but I also have some really messed up issues. I’m a mix of good and evil, we all are. The day I decided to ask Jesus to come into my heart I decided to give him access to my whole heart. I didn’t wake up a saint the next day, I still have my issues to work on, but God started to do a work in my heart from that day forward. God will continue to transform me until the day I die, all I need to do is spend time in his presence and let him soften my heart and make me new. God’s spirit (the Holy Spirit) now lives in me. The more I let God transform my heart the more the fruit of the Spirit will appear in my life.

But the fruit of the Spirit [the result of His presence within us] is love [unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
Galatians 5:22-23 (AMP)

This week is a very special week, it’s a week when I take the time to go to church twice and praise God for everything he has done in my life and will do in the future. It’s a time when I’m in awe of how holy, righteous, kind and gentle God is. I’m also reminded that although the darkness in this present world is widespread God is bigger. God has the last word. This life will be difficult, painful and overwhelming at times but no matter what I’m going through God will be with me giving me strength to keep fighting the good fight. Life in this present world will be difficult, but it’s temporary. When it’s all over I will stand in front of God and be allowed to spend eternity in heaven, not because I’m a good person but because of Jesus’ work on that cross. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross opened the door of heaven wide open. Today, because of Jesus, anyone who chooses to believe and to ask Jesus into their heart will receive the Spirit of God and be forgiven for all their sins. I can’t think of anything more beautiful than that. God’s love for each one of us is the most beautiful love story of all.