Shame is a powerful motivator in making us want to conceal who we really are with our friends, our family and even with God. This game of hide and seek is one that can do a lot of damage in our lives – if we ignore it.
In John 4, Jesus interacts with a woman who felt she had to conceal all the parts of her life to gain acceptance, and yet, Jesus’ prescription for her would stop the game – and change her life, forever.

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Everyone’s different – but we all surrender to someone or somethingIn our world, the word surrender does not have a good vibe to it. It means conceding defeat. It means letting someone else rule over us – boss us around. Tell us what to do and what not to do. And yet…? There is only One who deserves our surrender – because He is, in fact, already Lord of all. If we refuse to surrender to Him – we will in fact surrender to something else. And usually that surrender is about ourselves – or just the way everyone else thinks. And that surrender, in fact, determines our future and whether or not we will ever become the person we were created to become. How you think, what and who you believe about struggles, about your enemies, about giving and serving will predetermine Who you surrender to – and then the outcome of your life. What do you want that outcome to be? Is that outcome ultimately about you or about the difference you can make?

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Everyone’s different – but we all worship. The word worship seems to almost be exclusively used when it comes to a God or gods. And the word worship also seems to be used mostly of music – as in worship music! Or sometimes worship is used in the context of how we feel about a guy, a girl, a sports figure – or a band. The core of the word is what we attribute ultimate worth to. And what we attribute ultimate worth to sometimes isn’t what we say it is; it’s what actually gets lived out in how we use our time and resources. The Bible tells us that God, alone, is worthy of our worship. That true worship isn’t about whether we cry – or how high we jump – or how excited we get – but whether or not we’ll give ourselves fully to God as a living sacrifice. If you were to just be totally honest and authentic, what or who do you worship – and why?

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Everyone’s different – but we all give something… somewhere! Again, in our culture the teleprompter tells us that it’s okay to make ourselves our own preferred charity. That to give when it hurts is okay for your kids –  but not smart when it comes to God and others. Interesting isn’t it? That God has made the most important thing He has going on this planet – dependent on whether or not the people who belong to Him – will BELIEVE AND GIVE. Giving almost never just happens. If we are convinced that more stuff, a bigger house, more money in the bank, the appearance of success, nice clothes and technology will bring us fulfillment and happiness and meaning – that’s where we’ll do our givingThe Bible in general – and Jesus in particular – are very clear about giving. It’s giving that breaks the back of selfishness, self-preservation and greed in our lives. How we think about giving – how our minds are renewed in this area – has the power to transform our lives – and our eternity.

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Everyone’s different, but we all serve someone or something. Bob Dylan’s song was actually quite accurate; You Gotta Serve SomebodyWe have a lot of options in this arena. The most popular is to live a self-serving lifeand pretend that we’re not self-centered. Sometimes we fall into addictions – and end up serving the next drink, the next hit, the next sexual experience, or the next purchase. Sometimes people wind up serving our children – which is dangerous for both them and us. It’s possible to end up serving your bank account or your ego – through the work you do. Jesus said that when He truly gets ahold of our hearts and minds – and transforms us—we serve Him and serve others. That kind of servanthood is the mark of true greatness.

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Everyone’s different, but we all love someone or something. The system we live in tells us that it’s okay to love ourselves and put ourselves first. It tells us that it’s okay to lust after others and call it love. It tells us that it’s okay to love those who love us and treat us well – and to hate those who hate us, and treat us badly. In our world system it’s okay – natural – to love ourselves and the people in our circle – and not give much thought to God. Jesus said that loving God with all we are – needs to come first. It’s thinking like that that renews our minds and transforms us into truly loving persons – because God is the One who increases our capacity to love, be generous, show kindness, goodness, patience and compassionThe goal is to leave love and kindness in our wake.

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Everyone’s different, but we all have enemies. Jesus had some very specific things to say about how we treat enemies. The world system tells us to treat others as they treat us – or to make them wish they hadn’t messed with us. That is the bottom line theme in just about every action movie. Maybe the most difficult transformation of all is having our minds renewed in how we see – and then how we treat our enemies. The writers of Scripture are clear that there’s a whole array of worldly weapons we can use to get our enemies – and that there are spiritual weapons we can use.  Weapons like spite, angry outbursts, slander, revenge, grudges, and sabotage may seem like they’re working. But when push comes to shove – they don’t workHaving our minds renewed in this area is likely the first step toward victory… and God’s gift of peace!

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Everyone’s different – but we all struggleThat is, we all have problems; we all have bad habits; we all have doubts and fears; we all have physical problems, hassles, parts of our lives that we don’t like, hang-ups, financial issues. You can face those struggles with your own resources – strength, mental agility, emotional resources, and detours. The struggle, first of all – is good! The only way a caterpillar gets out of the cocoon to fly – is through a struggle. Struggles are not the enemy, but without help, they can take you down. God doesn’t magically airlift us out of our struggles, but He does stay with us, encourage us, help us, and show us the way out, whether our struggle is with our personal issues, obstacles or others. *

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Everyone’s different, but as skeptical as we are, we all believe somethingSome people reduce that “something” to themselves. The problem with that is that all that we humans can see  is in front of usWe can see almost nothing ahead of us – and absolutely nothing beyond the grave. To believe solely in yourself and your ability and your intellect is, bottom line, foolish. We all believe something about what’s beyond us, about what we’re supposed to be doing, about what’s the most important thing we will do – and the most significant contribution we can make. What’s really, really important is to have evidence for what you believe – and not just  believe something because it seems cool – because it’s what you want to believe. Jesus calls people to believe in Him – not just like they believe in other stuff – but to trust in Him. What you believe will either renew your mind and transform your life – or leave you stuck.
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Harry James played a huge role in the founding of The Olive Branch. It was his encouragement – and faith – that helped us find our current home! Harry and his family have been active at The Olive Branch since we started in 2003 – and Harry has been active in business in Markham for 35 years – starting with Harry James Financial, and then branching out to Harry James Enterprises – a multi-faceted business that covers a lot – from a quarry to property development, employee benefit plans to business and life consulting. Over the years, based on his professional experience and insight, Harry has developed a strategy to help people thrive by paying careful attention to four key quadrants of life; our relationships, our finances, our health, and our spiritual lives. Thousands of people across Canada have benefited from his counsel.
– Ken Davis, Lead Pastor

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