Being On Fire For Christ: Stop! Drop! Then Roll!

Acts 1:1–5

[1] In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, [2] until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. [3] He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

[4] And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; [5] for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (ESV)

This past Sunday as I prepared to preach on this passage I was reminded of being in elementary school and sitting through safety training.  “In case you find yourself on fire, stop, drop and roll.”  My first thought was, “WHAT!  I could catch on fire!”  Of course, the premise is simple: stop running and fanning the flames trying to consume you, drop to the ground so you can then roll and put out the flames through smothering them against the ground.”  I think we can all safely say that none of us wants to catch on fire and be a human candle.

Of course, when we WANT to be on fire in our Christ life we rarely think these principles apply to us. We think if we are to fan the flames of passion for God we need to go FASTER and feed the flame!  We can spend time on the ground we need to fly like the eagles and SOAR!  And who wants to smother anything?!  We just want to be in motion for Jesus.  According to Jesus, if we truly want to produce fruit for him, if we truly want to be impassioned for the Kingdom, if we really want to be empowered and see God do amazing things in and through our lives, we need to, “Stop!  Drop! Then roll!”

We first need to stop and abide in Christ.  We need to get connected to and stay connected to the vine.  There aren’t any branches that can leave the vine and produce fruit.  In fact, the branches themselves might be the carriers of the fruit but its the nutrients carried to them by the vine that enables them to have any fruit at all!

John 15:1–8

[1] “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. [2] Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. [3] Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. [4] Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. [5] I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. [6] If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. [7] If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. [8] By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. (ESV)

If you find your relationship with God very dry perhaps you have disconnected from the Vine?  Perhaps you have run ahead to stir the fire but have had the exact opposite become your reality.  You need to Stop and be with Jesus so he can produce fruit THROUGH you.

Step Two: let the Holy Spirit DROP on you.  Don’t just sit in the Word of God but ask God to make it transformative in your heart and mind.  Ask God for the power of the Holy Spirit to give you strength and wisdom and love BEFORE you start your day.  It’s only through the Spirit we can even begin to live for God!

Step Three: then ROLL!  Once we have solidified our connection to the Vine — once we have the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, fresh, every day, THEN we can go and serve Jesus in the world with power.  And what a power that is!  According to Romans, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in us!

So why am I writing this AFTER I have already preached on the passage?  In the book of James 1:22-25 we read,

[22] But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. [23] For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. [24] For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. [25] But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (ESV)

Yesterday I started reading through the Bible in a year.  It’s been a couple of years since I have done this and I decided to read through the Bible chronologically.  I am now in Day #2 having read up to and including Genesis 7 and already I know God is more present than He was last week.  Already, I am more inspired in my spiritual walk.  Already, my hunger and thirst for God’s Word is growing.  I was encouraged to do this by one friend and today I was able have another friend join me in this adventure through the Bible.  Let me encourage you — if you are wanting more in your relationship with God, stop, drop then roll.  Get into God’s Word, spend time with God in prayer (this is a RELATIONSHIP not a RELIGION).  Speak to your pastors or elders if you want help finding reading plans or help with prayer times but DO SOMETHING!  Don’t just continue wandering in a spiritual desert wondering why there isn’t more.  Get connected to the Vine and see how the Lord’s meets you!  These verse apply to the exiles returning to their land once they have returned to the Lord but the heart of the Lord is the same for us when we feel like we have wandered and our heart’s home is not anchored in God.

Jeremiah 29:12–14

[12] Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. [13] You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. [14] I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. (ESV)


Our Christmas Hero!

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.  But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.”
~ 1 Timothy 1:15-16

This past week Tanya and I went Christmas shopping and then out for a date movie – we saw Hacksaw Ridge (romantic…I know).  For those unfamiliar with Hacksaw Ridge, it is the Maeda Escarpment that the Japanese held in World War II.  It was called Hacksaw Ridge because the amount of cover fire the Japanese laid down was so thick it literally cut soldiers in half.  It was a desperate situation and many lives were lost in this battle for Okinawa.  In the midst of this horror is the real life story of army medic Desmond Doss who, in one 12 hour stint, is credited for rescuing over 75 men by himself.  Facing impossible odds he averaged saving one man every ten minutes by dragging them from an enemy infested battlefield, over to the 350-foot cliff  and lowering them down via a rope sling.  One at a time.  All night long.  By himself.  As one who didn’t believe in killing, Army medic Desmond Doss never carried a weapon and was seriously wounded at Hacksaw Ridge.  After this battle he was left 90% disabled and was unable to work a full-time job after the war.  He was known to be a man of dedicated prayer and Bible reading refusing to compromise on taking Saturday as the sabbath (he was a Seventh Day Adventist).  What one man gave up in order to save the lives of others is inspiring.  Even more so, the other soldiers, including Doss himself, believe what Doss did on Hacksaw Ridge was nothing short of a miracle:

When you have explosions and bursts so close you can practically feel it, and not get wounded up there when I should have been killed a number of times. I know who I owe my life to as well as my men. That’s why I like to tell this story to the glory of God, because I know from the human standpoint, I should not be here.” (Desmond Doss in Medal of Honor: Oral Histories)

As incredible as this story is, Christmas is even more so!  Christmas speaks of Jesus coming down into a world contaminated by sin which was cutting down people one at a time with no hope of salvation.  The escarpment of sin was just too deadly to be taken and beaten – no one could climb it and conquer it.  And yet, God had a plan.  Instead of sending a fully grown equipped warrior, the Father sent the Son as a baby without weapons but full of love.  Jesus would grow up in our world tempted as we are, facing opposition as we do, and being called to bring glory to God regardless of his circumstances just as we are.  Without a weapon and all by himself, Jesus would go on to be wounded unto death, giving his life not for 75 men in one night but for all humanity for all time, for all who would believe in him and call on his name.  He wouldn’t remain dead and be disabled but would rise in glory victorious over sin and death!

In September my niece Heidi and her husband Derek had little baby Ellie (yes, that makes me a great uncle).  Ellie is so beautiful…it’s hard to imagine what she will do in life and what she will experience.  So much potential wrapped up in a soft pink little bundle.  Even as we see our children grow up can we really know all that they will be able to do and accomplish throughout their lives?  At Christmas time we have the incredible ability to not only see baby Jesus sent from the Father full of potential, but the savior “who takes away the sins of the world.”  We know that the very baby the angels sang about and shepherds came and worshipped grew up and became the New Adam who redeems the effects of sin and offers hope to all who are being cut down by world we live in.  He is the one who binds our wounds, carries us to safety and defeats the enemy for us when we couldn’t imagine any possible victorious outcome.  One day he will return as a warrior to completely decimate sin and the Devil and bring in his Kingdom in all its glorious fullness.  But until that time, let us look with wonder and awe upon the cradle in which the Prince of Peace was held.  Let us behold our King who in love gave up his throne in heaven to come to earth and take our sin upon himself so the righteous judgment of God could be met and the loving heart of God could be seen.  May we gaze upon the Light of the World and let him lift our darkness, inspire us to hope, and fill us with love beyond ourselves so that we too may offer our lives up in service to God for his glory.  Merry Christmas, CAC Family!

You are loved!

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
~ Luke 2:10-11


Journaling Scripture To Make It Come Alive

There are some basic questions I automatically ask someone when they tell me they are having a spiritually low point in their life or they feel disconnected to God: 1) Are you reading your Bible, 2) Are you spending time in prayer?, and 3) How is your diet and sleep?  I rarely need to go past question number one.  When I ask about why the person isn’t in God’s Word I receive numerous responses but rarely are they new.  “I’m not a reader”, or, “I try but I find it so ‘dry’ for me.”  The first answer is usually a product of answer number two.  You find Scripture “dry” and therefore you are not a reader.  If we were to be honest, if someone told us that there was a book able to reveal to us the secrets of life for peace and contentment and fulfillment we would become readers!  We would hop on or boot it down to Chapters to pick up this incredible book ASAP…until the person tells us the book is the Bible.  Our perception of the Bible is what makes it dry.  If I told you there was a book containing the most incredible story of love and that story of love included YOU as being a recipient, that sounds much more interesting, doesn’t it?

The reality is, the Bible is JUST THAT.  It is God’s love story with our world and with us as His creation.  It does offer the ways of peace, contentment and fulfillment.  It shows us God’s incredible love which encompasses us when we didn’t/don’t love Him or want Him and how He reaches out to woo us back to His heart and pay for our wrong-doings that would otherwise eternally condemn us.  The first and most important filter we need to have when reading the Bible is “God is love.”  That means everything in the Bible somehow communicates God’s love even in the most disturbing of stories.  So, how can we read it so that it becomes more personal and more alive?  I have found one way that has been particularly helpful for myself.  First, I pray that God would be with me in my reading of the passage – that He would bring clarity and insight beyond my own perception.  Then, I read the passage and after reading it through a couple of times I then journal through it paying careful attention to how it communicates God’s love – especially God’s love for me.  In essence it’s like I am writing a personal commentary on the side.  Below I will post an example and I hope not only will it be helpful for those of you reading this incredibly popular blog (yeah right) but it will spur you on to at least trying this method for yourself.  May it bless you and fan your flames of love for God.  So grab a cup of coffee/tea, crack open your Bible and read along with me. 🙂

Psalm 91 Reflections On God’s Love

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

~ I’ll say these things because God will deliver me from traps set for my destruction and the death-giving plagues of this world.

~ Like a powerful bird of prey He covers me with his feathers and wings, claiming me to be his own to all challengers and dangers.  His faithfulness to me because of His love for me becomes a dependable shield/wall even against seen and unseen dangers.

~ Others may succumb to the darkness and it’s terrors — they may fall into and be consumed by it’s encompassing vacuum but I’ll not be drawn in…I’ll be nowhere near the hopeless death.

~ But I will see the wicked get sucked down into it with the realization and shock of what is happening showing in their eyes.

~ The Lord as my dwelling place (the place in which I live) is impervious to the disease of despair and the fever of performance fatigue.  Even the evils of this world will be transformed and muted into only good.

~ For all of this, God will even enlist his army of angels on my behalf!  And they, on their mission/command from God himself, will life and protect me.  Because of this I can live fearlessly (not foolishly) against those intimidating and poisonous forces who may desire to do me harm.

~ In living with God, dwelling in His presence in this way with faith, trust and love, God says, “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name.  In knowing my name, he knows me.”

~ O Lord, keep my grip strong to you, fan my love for you, reveal your name to me in such a way, so deeply, that I’ll never forget it and call on it often.


A New Paradigm For Discipleship In The Church

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” ~ Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV)

Compared to some of you out there I have not been in ministry a long time. I began participating in church leadership teams from grade 8 onward and progressed to full time ministry in 1996. From there I have been in various stages of pastoral ministry and schooling. Throughout all that time one constant remained: we are called to make disciples for Jesus. But what does that mean? How does one do that? I can say I never felt like I was purposefully discipled as I grew up in the church. Nor was I purposefully discipled as a pastor in training or throughout my schooling. Now, I find myself as a lead pastor staring at the Great Commission and wondering what it should look like.

Books, articles, blogs, conferences, and special leadership study teams have all come my way and I really haven’t left any of them feeling content. Greg Ogden’s material has been the closest I have seen to something that points to what discipling looks like. Some have said that the “go” in the Great Commission means we always need to be outward focused and “find the lost sheep.”  In finding them your church will grow numerically.  I have heard many leaders discuss “conversion growth” vs “transfer growth” in churches. This means your church grows by people OUTSIDE the church coming to faith and then coming INSIDE the church versus people outside YOUR church leaving THEIR church and then coming to yours. When we take this and look at the Great Commission one might begin to believe that in order for any church to make disciples they need pure conversion growth (as previously defined) otherwise they really aren’t “going and making” disciples. This ends up with leadership scratching their heads regarding what they are to do with those already in their church. Transfer growth often has a negative connotation to it and if leaders concentrate on helping develop those inside the church they feel accused of being “inward focused” instead of “outward focused.” Perhaps we need to create a new paradigm for understanding discipleship in the church with new measurements? What if discipleship is in fact both an inward and outward focus?

Here is what I have been pondering. Our church has gone through a Church Health Assessment process and we are beginning to take the information now and review it. The questionnaire our people filled out covered some good areas to measure church health (preaching/teaching, leadership communication, vision and direction, etc.) but seemed skewed towards churches that have programs for everything. If you have a program for adult ministry people would score the church high because we “have that covered.” In our church we have tried to be less about programs and more about developing people as disciples who would listen to the voice of God, pray about what they should do, and then act in obedience. We have focused on individual relationships in the church, leadership development, people empowerment, preaching and communication. This translated into low scores in the some of the areas that would have been covered by programs. No, we do not have specific evangelism programs. No, we do not have an adult program, etc. The big question we asked ourselves as leaders was, “But have we seen discipleship growth?” We all agreed we had indeed and as we reviewed our church family we discovered some had been in the church for years and were now branching out into other areas of ministry. There was mentoring happening. Some of our young men committed themselves to full time ministry. Other people were pursuing full time mission work. Some became baptized. Some committed to go on short term mission trips organized by our church and all the extra training involved. New young leaders were coming onto the Board. People were going out from our congregation to other places to pursue eduction or engage in different ministries. And, we found many of our people participated in community events and other ways to care for people that could never be tracked by a survey.  Is that NOT growth in discipleship?!

We were so encouraged! For me the paradigm has shifted. People inside AND outside the church need to become disciples. People transferring to your congregation have been sent there by God and they too need to be discipled.  In the Great Commission it says we are to teach people to obey the teachings of Christ and that is what it means to make disciples.  So we are to teach everyone who enters into our atmosphere of influence as a church family. Here is what I propose the new discipleship paradigm should look like: A church knows it is making disciples when it sees movement in lives (in particular those who are attending): it sees an increase in the prayer life both corporately and individually, missional hearts reaching out to others beyond the group, open hearts receiving those who come into the group, missional action moving forward in obedience, an increase in thirst for the Bible, new people coming to faith through the various vines of contact and ministry of the church family, and decisions for the future based on Kingdom call instead of personal comfort. Some seeds may lay dormant in the heart for a long time but then the light of the Gospel shines on them, springs of living water flow over the seed, and the Spirit breathes new life. It doesn’t matter how small or large your church family is. What matters is faithfulness to the Great Commission and helping those closest to you grow as disciples in their love for God and their neighbor and beyond. May God bless us with conversions both of those who are currently “outside” and those who are “inside” and may the fruit of the Harvest abound!

It’s all about Jesus, it’s only about Jesus, it’s always about Jesus.


The Love Of God…so misunderstood…so desired

Have you ever wanted to be wanted?  I mean, REALLY wanted!  And loved…DEEPLY loved!  I think we all do.  I think we all crave someone to take us and accept us and cherish us.  And so, we set about trying to create a persona that will attract people so they care about us and care for us.  We primp and we present our best sides and skill sets.  We work hard to being the best we can be so that we appear to be desirable.  Eventually someone comes along and says the three magic words we long to hear, “I love you.”  Please know, I am not talking about romantic notions here (although we do these things even more when trying to attract a life-partner). I am referring to the basic human desire to be loved.  Now we are loved.  Phew!  We can relax, right?!  No.  Not really.  Deep in the recess of our psyche there sticks a small thorn…the thorn of fear.  This thorn can cause us internal irritation and not even draw a lot of specific attention to itself.  Something is wrong but we can’t put a specific name to it.

There is the other side of the “love coin” and that is, we want to be a loving person.  Perhaps we have been mistreated in the past and we “never want to become like those people.”  We try so hard to love and accept people but continue to be critical of them and untrusting.  In fact, sometimes we can be downright abusive!  We get frustrated with ourselves and vow to try harder, to be better, to love stronger.  For the next while we actually do pretty good!  But then, then there’s “that” person…the one who is very trying.  “That person” who is like the Mount Everest to your “love climb.”  If you could love “that person” you would KNOW how far you’ve come.  Unfortunately, it only takes one very frustrating encounter and you find yourself exhausted, wondering what is wrong with you.

There may be a third side to this love-scene…you enter into a place that claims to be loving.  I.e. The church.  Some say its 50/50 as to whether or not you will actually find a church that truly loves people.   Unfortunately, I think that ratio may be quite optimistic.  I know what you’re thinking…either, “WHAT?! You are a pastor!  You are supposed to be selling…errrr, I mean, supporting the church and promoting it as the representatives of Jesus here on earth!”  OR you may be have thought, “Damn straight!  The people I have met who have claimed be Christians never seemed very loving to me.  The once or twice I did enter into a church no one ever seemed warm and inviting…or their warmth lasted the length of their handshake and directing me to a seat.  I think I’ll pass on church.”  The reality is that churches are filled with people who also want to love and be loved but there is a shared issue between us all: we can only love others as we ourselves have experienced being loved.  Did you catch that?  We can only love others as we ourselves have experienced being loved.

Which brings me to the title of this article “The Love Of God…so misunderstood…so desired.”  The reason that the love of God is so misunderstood is because we apply our view, experiences and expressions of love to the love of God.  For example, if we found while growing up that in order to be loved and accepted we needed to achieve and perform at a high level of excellence, we very well might believe that unless we are perfect God can never love us.  Applied to others, it means when others don’t meet our expectations we don’t communicate the warmth of love to them.    Or, perhaps you have found that unless you looked a certain way you are not accepted.  Therefore, if we don’t look a certain way God won’t accept us.  So we may try to lose that weight or buy certain clothes etc.  It also means that we transfer that onto others.  The list is endless and in your heart you may already have begun thinking about your own experience of being loved and accepted or rather, unloved and rejected.  And therein lies the thorn…fear.  The thorn of fear goes something like this, “If they really knew me with all my faults and failures, temptations and sins, they would never love me…God would never love me.”   We read in 1 John 4:18-19,

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.  For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.  We love because he first loved us.

To be truly loved means we have no fear in that love.  That is, we are loved through and through, completely and totally, brokenness and all!  God loves us with  all of our warts, failures, temptations and twistedness.  God loves us with all of our fears, darkness, drives and sin.  He knows you better than you know yourself and he loves you…all of you!  Did you catch v19?  “We love because he first loved us.”  He loved us first…the Bible tells us that while we were still sinners – while we were still his enemies – God loved us.  How does that make you  feel to know that God loves you completely and totally?!  He loves you no matter what you have said or done, are saying or doing, will say or will do!   You cannot diminish or increase God’s love for you.  God loves you.  Period.  He is crazy about you!  He loves you so much that while he takes you as you are he doesn’t want to leave you as you are which is why he died for you so you can be free from fear.  He put himself out there first as fully as another person can by dying for you.  He became broken so you can become whole.  He took on sin so you could be free from it’s shackles.  He was rejected so you would be accepted.  And all of this he did while you were still rejecting him because he loves you that much.  There is nothing that you have attained or accomplished that wooed him to you.  He just loves you.

The cool thing is that when we come to him and accept his love we don’t have to earn it and we can just soak in it.  And because of this we can pass it along to others.  We can let God’s love move through us to other’s who are going through life either skeptical of love or fearful in love.  We are told in the Bible that when we come to God and receive him, we become his children, that is, we receive his DNA, his seed (1 Peter 1:23; 1 John 3:9).  What does that mean for us?  In the bible we are also told that, “God is love” (1 John 4:8) which means love isn’t something God does…its something God is.  I had been reflecting on this and asked myself, “How can God love me?  How can he love me with all of my struggles and sin?”  My counselor responded by saying, “When you ask that question you reveal that you don’t know about God’s love.  Love is God’s DNA…God cannot NOT love.  For example, an orange tree produces oranges because it has the DNA of an orange tree.  It won’t or cannot produce apples unless its DNA changes.  God is love, that is, he cannot do anything but love.”  When I heard this my mind blew up and my heart was overwhelmed.  God loves me.  Period. God loves you.  Period.  Come up with as many reasons as you like as to how this is not possible and not one of them will hold any weight in light of the Bible and the truth of God’s love.  When we are the seed of God it means we too can love like God loves.  Others around us will not need to meet our expectations or perform to certain levels or look certain ways before we can authentically love them as they are.  We can love them extravagantly just as God loves us…we can do this because we have now experienced love in a new way, a more complete way.  And now, we can pass it on to others who are craving to love and be loved.  The love of God…now do you understand?  God loves you!!!  How will you respond?

“They will know you are my disciples by your love.” ~ Jesus


Words Of Encouragement For Those Living In Shadows

Some of you may be reading this because the title caught your attention and you can relate to it.  Others of you are curious about what will be written and the reason for this publishing of this blog article.  Regardless, I hope you will find encouragement and hope within the next few paragraphs.

Shadows are caused by an object coming between your sight and a light-source.  It blocks your ability to see light and can cast you into a place of shade and even darkness.  Others around you, in different places, can bask in the light while you remain in the shadow.  Some of them may not be able to understand why you are unable to see light even though they may be able to see the object blocking or the shadow it produces.  But for you, living in the chill of the shade, it can be a very dark place and, at times, be without hope.  This can take several different forms.  It can look like discouragement, frustration, depression , anger and even delve into suicidal thoughts.  The deeper you find yourself being sucked down the more desperate you become for someone, anyone, to understand you.  You may even reach a point of feeling shame for your feelings and thoughts which actually cause you to huddle even more in the shadow.  Often times you may feel misunderstood and completely alone.  You may even come to recognize that some of how you are feeling is extreme and not even accurate and still it has sunk into your bones and being and you cannot seem to shake it.

Here are four thoughts I hope will encourage you in this midst of this darkness:

1) You are not alone – there are others around you living in the shadows hoping no one else can see their struggles.  To believe that you are singular in your experience and struggles is simply a lie which can further alienate us from our support structures.  We never can know who around us is in the midst of struggle and shame.  They may not be as far along the path as you are.  They may be able to bury it or hide it better than you can.  That doesn’t mean their struggles are any less real or debilitating than yours.  Truthfully, it can mean they actually weigh heavier.  People in leadership positions be it in the home, at work or in the church, often push down their struggles because people depend on them.  In their roles they feel they cannot reveal the struggle and must push forward giving the outward impression of stability.  All that being said, it helps to recognize that others are also struggling and trying to find their way back “into the light.”  Be encouraged!  You are not alone.

2) There is no shame in seeking out help.  One might argue that to seek out help is a significant step on the pathway to healing and freedom!  Who should you ask about resources for help?  I would begin with those you trust.  To ask everyone and anyone is to invite questions which may cause you to shrink back and stop your progress down this particular path.  If you are an employee, ask your human resource person is there is any counselling available in your employment package.  If you are part of a church, ask your pastor or elder if there is counselling available through the church or if there are counselling agencies they would recommend.  If you are on staff at the church, ask your pastor what is available for you or, if relations are tense in that area, speak to your district leader regarding this.  If you are a pastor, ask your district leadership team to see if the district has resources available for you.  However you need to have hands to pull you up and out or ears to listen, sounboard, and counsel, DO IT!  Find the help you need and ask.  It can only lead to brighter days once the hard work is done.

3) Know and believe that God’s Word is true and unchanging.  Specifically, God loves you!  Numerous things can cause us to dip into darkness.  It can be hormone imbalances, stress in different areas of life, frustrations with situations, and even shame regarding personal sin and failure.  In all of these things are told that God loves us.  In fact, nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8).  Not what others have done, not what you have done, not situations in life seemingly stacked against you — nothing!  “When darkness seems to hide His face I rest on His unchanging grace.  In every high and stormy gale my anchor holds within the veil.”  Check your anchors.  If they are any but God your anchor will not hold.  Only God is the unmovable Rock on whom we can place our trust.  I was listening to The Rock Won’t Move by Vertical Church Band and found these lyrics to be of great encouragement.  I pray they would encourage you as well:

When the ground beneath my feet gives way and I hear the sound of crashing waves — All my world is washing out to sea.  I’m hidden safe in the God who never moves — Holding fast to the promise of Your truth — You are holding tighter still to me.

Oh, the Rock won’t move and His word is strong — The Rock won’t move and His love can’t be undone (x2). The Rock of our salvation

My hope is in the promise of Your blood — My support within the raging flood — Even in the tempest, I can sing.  I’m hidden safe in the God who never moves — Holding fast to the promise of Your truth — You are holding tighter still to me.

On Christ the solid rock I stand — All other ground is sinking sand — The Rock won’t move (2x). And when darkness seems to hide His face — I rest on His unchanging grace — The Rock won’t move. No, the Rock won’t move

4) God has a specific purpose and calling on your life.  Ephesians 2:10 tells us, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  God sees you and knows you.  God created you for a purpose to do something no one else can do.  In the midst of our struggles it is easy to forget this truth because we can become overwhelmed and consumed with only seeing what is immediately around us.  I think this is why Paul tells us to keep our eyes fixed upon Jesus “the author and perfector of our faith” who was able to endure struggles joyfully for the goal before him.  This goal was to pour out his life for you and I so that we could be reconciled with God.  Are you separated from God right now?  Might this be a major contributing factor to the darkness you are in?  I would never seek to minimize what you are feeling but realize ones perceptions and emotions are amplified by the experience of living in the shadow.  There is hope.  There is light.  Seek the help you need.  Pray!  Get into God’s Word.  Move back towards your support structures.  Know that God’s mercy is new every morning.  There is forgiveness for those who ask and cleansing in repentance.  Come back into the light one step at a time knowing others are seeking to do the same.  Come out from behind that source blocking the light and step towards the Son.

This song, I Will Follow, has been a comfort to me in times of darkness – be at peace:

When the sea is calm and all is right —  When I feel Your favor flood my life.  Even in the good, I’ll follow You.               When the boat is tossed upon the waves —  When I wonder if You’ll keep me safe.  Even in the storms, I’ll follow You

I believe and I will follow You — I believe everything that You say You are — I believe that I have seen Your unchanging heart.            In the good things and in the hardest part — I believe and I will follow You.  

When I see the wicked prospering — When I feel I have no voice to sing.  Even in the want, I’ll follow You

When I find myself so far from home — And You lead me somewhere I don’t wanna go.  Even in my death, I’ll follow You. When I come to end this race I’ve run — And I receive the prize that Christ has won.  I will be with You in Paradise


Top 10 Reasons The New Liberal Government Will Be Good For Canada

I recognize that I had said I would not be posting any further political rants on Facebook and that this is, in fact, me writing about our new political frontier we are facing.  Just pretend I am a politician and you’ll be just fine.  After reading some posts from my friend Jose and some others, I began to reflect on what the next few years hold for us.  Believe it or not, there was a time when I was a Liberal.  Apparently, according to these little online tests, I am still strongly Liberal in most of what I would like to see happen.  You can imagine my surprise at that, and after I picked myself off of the floor, I promptly denied it.  I believe these tools are skewed.  However, as I read the Liberal platform there is quite a bit I agree with.  (Hopefully, Trudeau doesn’t borrow from the McGuinty or Wynn playbook for “speaking with forked tongue” or anything the federal wing of the Liberals has produced for a platform will quickly be denied within the first two weeks).  And so, I began to put my mind to the task of seeing what hope the future could hold and how this change can be good for Canada.  This resulted in the following list that is incomplete but has given my mind fuel to ponder. (*DISCLAIMER: I have never claimed to be an expert in politics.  I just watch, listen and read to see who actually does what they say they will.  And, I try to apply my small amount of common sense…which is common to me…you get the picture.)

  1. Canadian Privacy Protected: While I agree with protecting Canada as our nation I did find Bill C-51 far too invasive for a free country.  I believe the Liberals will do a review of it and because they do support a portion of it, they may provide a better balanced revision.  That being said, I hope they follow proper protocol for insuring we are not letting terrorists into our country when they move to fulfill their pledge to let in 25,000 immigrants by the end of the year.  Please keep in mind that Canada has been known to be a fairly safe place for those seeking to hide.
  2. Immediate investigation into the missing Aboriginal women in BC: I agree with Trudeau that this has gone on far too long and must be examined more closely in a timely manner.  Like, now.  I hope that the Liberal party will not become soft on crime and that this investigation will lead them to support the ground the Conservative party has gained in keeping criminals more accountable than ever before.  Canada is known to be one of the biggest countries for human trafficking and I pray this investigation will not stop with Aboriginals only but will penetrate the issues surrounding human trafficking.  (On a side note: I sure hope someone sends a proposal to Trudeau about once again opening up farms kept by inmates to provide food for the prison and reform for those incarcerated.  Why these farms were closed remains a mystery of logic to me and I do believe their closure came from the Conservatives.  Which is really counterproductive considering they were basically self-supporting institutions that provided food for the prison and were able to sell produce to the surrounding community thereby showing prisons could contribute positively.  They also allowed inmates actually learn how to care for things and gain skills.  Of course we all hope the amount of inmates will not increase once marijuana gets legalized and people start looting in order to have funds to buy it for recreational use.  Then, most definitely, the farming will be needed.  HEY!  The government started their own weed farms completely operated by inmates!  😛 )
  3. Taking advantage of the lower interest rates for infrastructure improvements: We all have either done this, are doing this or would do this if we could, with our own homes.  When we can replace leaking roofs on our homes, if the need is great and the interest rates are low, we usually are willing to go into debt in order to do it.  The further we allow some of our country’s infrastructure maintenance/replacements to go unchecked the greater the cost will be in the future.  This also provides employment and stabilizes our work forces with contracts.  That being said, on the greater scale there aren’t a vast majority of people who will benefit from these contracts especially if they are doled out in some backroom or *cough* on the golf course.  But, for a small mind like my own, this move does make a certain amount of logic.
  4. The support to the middle class: I admit, it has been a real puzzle to me why the Harper government didn’t do more for the middle class and why the elite seemed to benefit most from some of the Conservative’s moves.  The middle class are the backbone of our country and Trudeau’s attempt to alleviate some of the financial pressure this sector is experiencing will be most welcomed.  Canada’s middle-class are the ones who tend to have steady employment, buy homes, buy cars etc. so it makes the most sense to try to keep them earning and spending for our country’s financial infrastructure.  Now, if taxes go up in other areas, this is not going to actually help but be a smoke screen that has sucked the people in.  Furthermore, this will only help our country if the promises the Liberals make to everyone else doesn’t erase the benefits of this particular move.
  5. The uniting of the country: I must admit that the part of Trudeau’s speech that moved me was about Canada becoming the compassionate country we had been known to be.  Perhaps this will be true.  Only time will tell.  Perhaps if it is modelled at the government level it will filter down to the people.  I truly hope this will be the case…it certainly could be if the Liberal Federal Party will live up to their platform and actually do what they say they will without lies and deceit and the destruction of key documents to cover their illegal tracks (insert bitter Ontarioian comment here).  In truth, I haven’t felt the country this united over a leader for a long, long time.  In that sense, for the first day in, it certainly “feels good.”
  6. The supporting of young leaders: In the case of young leaders, I have tried my best to help them whenever I can.  If there is opportunity for new ideas I have sought to open the doors for them so they could fly.  If there are leadership positions of responsibility I have sought to help them buy enough currency with people so that they are able to sit at the table to help shape our future.  To that end, I believe that Trudeau deserves to have some space to test out his wings.  I hope his party will keep him not only well-informed but also mentored so that he doesn’t become the world’s “frat boy from Canada with the great hair.”  If nothing else, he has stirred our youth to vote.  Here’s hoping that voting effort was not only for legalization of pot for recreational use.  I would like to think our youth are better than that.  Thank you, Justin Trudeau, for stirring our youth into action instead of sitting back being apathetic!  It is exciting to see our youth now mobilizing themselves to help shape our future and also taking responsibility for victories and fallouts.
  7. Canadian politics seems to demand a majority house in order to actually follow through on the party plans:  A person once told me that any diet will work if you follow their program faithfully.  I am not sure that is true.  However, I can see how being a political party in power with a minority government can be quite frustrating.  Your party could put together a radical plan but get stymied at every turn but the uniting of the other parties to block your efforts for reform.  Or, you get moving in one direction only to have a shift only to see your time and efforts wasted…one step forward, two steps back.  To the public’s eye it looks like the party in power is ineffective when in reality they simply are bricked from moving anything forward.  I pray that the new majority government will use their amount of seats with wisdom.  I pray they will try to do what their platform said and unite Canada to move us forward in change today for the betterment of our country.  I hope to see Trudeau lead with the new leadership mentality of positive teamwork instead of the CEO heavy-handed-power-plays.  Which leads me to my next point…
  8. Trudeau’s positive platform can shape and show the youth today that mudslinging gets negative results:  I heartily applaud the Liberal’s positive platform.  Perhaps the part of the Conservatives that I hate the most when it comes to elections is the dirty playing.  Why do that?  Just tell us how you are going to make things better and show us the plan.  While the Liberals do tend to promise far too much without showing how their wand will work its magic to fulfill it all, I do believe Justin’s positive attitude shows the right way to have Canada leadership and Canadians how to work together.  Now, this part may seem ironic for some of you that have read some of the things I have posted.  I must admit a fairly jaded bend regarding the Liberal party due to what has been happening in Ontario.  This is unfair to apply that paint brush at the Federal level (though Trudeau’s remark about hailing Wynn as someone who is fiscally responsible is perhaps one of his most humorous moments next to how budgets just take care of themselves).  But I digress.  Justin Trudeau, show us how to lead a divided house and shape them into a ship moving forward not because you have the strongest seat numbers but through your willingness to work with all parties.  All of our parties have some great things in their platforms!  Will you try to incorporate all the best ideas to have the strongest country?
  9. Shaking the status quo:  Parties often get comfortable in their modus operandi and cease to think outside the box for solutions.  Perhaps the strength of our democracy is that when things begin to over-correct there are others parties who can “right” the ship and highlight that there are other aspects that are important but have gotten lost in the previous party’s plan.  There is no doubt that the Conservatives and Liberals are opposed in many of their platforms.  I am praying that where there is common ground and common sense, those areas of agreement will continue to be supported and moved forward instead of being scrapped simply because it was a “Conservative” initiative.  Hopefully, the baby won’t get thrown out with the bathwater and we can still maintain some stability as we move through these waters of change.  And lastly…
  10. This will be an incredibly public lesson in political accountability: Change for change sake is always a dicy way to vote.  Grass can always seem greener on the other side until you wake up one day and realize you have made a tragic error.  That being said, political parties can get far too comfortable in their ways and begin to believe they are untouchable.  I truly believe the landslide victory away from the Conservative party to the Liberals was because the public perceived the Conservatives to feel a sense of entitlement and “untouchability.” This complete upset has woken up our politicians to realize that no one is untouchable.  Just see the last election’s results and how the Liberal federal party shrank to incredibly small proportions only to rise in this election to a majority house!  The fate of the next election for the Liberal party really does rest on their ability and willingness to follow through on platform promises.  While it seems like Canadians are strongly in favour of the Liberals being in power today, the public are fickle and tides can change quickly if they feel like they have been lied.  The best thing Trudeau can do is actually follow through on what he said he would do.  Historically, the thing most upsetting to Canadians has been to have a politician do what they say they are going to do it, when they said they’d do it and how they said they would.  When politicians actually are truthful and reliable it throws off our Canadian sensibilities.  In this case, hopefully our sensibilities have matured and we will closely watch and see a leader follow through with integrity, accountability and transparency.  Are you listening Ontario?!

Well, those are my 10 positives for the future.  Feel free to respond to this post on the Facebook link.  I usually try to stay away from politics (especially as a pastor) but like everyone else, I got caught up in this election sensing it was very important.  Let’s pray for our new government and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.  Let’s pray he will continue to build in the respect among the other nations that Harper has garnered in his tenure as PM.  Let’s pray for our dollar that it may remain strong in the midst of this radical political shift.  Let’s pray that our new government will be ethical and moral as they lead us into the future.  Amen.


The Proving Of The Saints

Prayer Walk Quebec has been months in the planning and praying.  We desired to come and simply offer prayer support for churches, church plants and the ONE Youth Ralley.  Yes, we recognized that Satan has had a stronghold in Quebec for years and that it contains one of the least reached people groups in the world.  Essentially, through choosing to pray in and for Quebec, we were declaring spiritual war on one of Satan’s long held domains.  But really, what could happen?  We’re in Canada, right?  

After an afternoon of praying for and around Fairview Alliance Church we decided to have a nice team meal at a local restaurant.  We were there for under and hour and in that time, in a very public mall parking lot, both of our cars (not even remotely parked near each other) were broken into and belongings stolen ranging from a laptop and mortgage papers to a passport and prayer journals.  Easily over $2500 worth of belongings stolen in a blink of an eye.  

Here is what I’ve reflected on:

1) There are no coincidences in the Kingdom of God.  God can work this to our good for His glory.  Because God knew this would happen we can rest in His hands.  If we are upset about our belongings we need to remember…

2) What was stolen was property of the King from His stewards.  Nothing more.  The timing is brutal.  The time it will take to get everything replaced is annoying.  But everything is God’s.

3) God proves His people by how they respond to challenges like this.  If they cling to their possessions it shows where their heart’s treasures lie.  If they get consumed with “Why?!” It shows they don’t trust their Father.  If they get angry and want revenge it shows they are either unaware of the spiritual battle surrounding them or they’ve lost their heart for the lost person being used as a tool by Satan.  Our team was quite calm though surprised.  We worked well as a team.  One team mate even prayed with and for the owner of the third vehicle vandalized with items stolen. I am so blessed to be serving with these saints!

4) Make no mistake — this is war!  Satan does it want us here and by ordering a coordinated attack so soon, he shows he is worried.  The Lord is leading us into battle and surely we will see victory.  Chains will be broken!  People will be freed!  People will be saved!!  The Gospel will be proclaimed!  And we get to play a part!!

Christians, enter into the battle and do not be surprised when trials come.  We are told that these trials build character and perseverance leading us into hope!  Let us embrace the mission and trust the Father and, in doing so, allow God to strengthen us and prove our faith.  May He be our treasure and our all in all.

In the name of Jesus!  Amen!


Long Time No Post

Greetings everyone,

It has been a LONG time since my last post.  This partly due to me trying to figure out my blog (still learning) and trying to find time (still learning).  Alas, the time has come to begin this blog in earnest.  From my last posts I have lost weight, gained weight, lost weight again and gained weight again.  According to Ken Blanchard (One Minute Manager Balances Life & Work) getting a hold of your physical health is the first step in organizing your life.  I think this may be true most of the time and yet, I am still developing in other areas of my life which are healthier than ever before.

The reality we all face is that there is only so much time in a day, week, month etc. and every moment we are making choices as to how we will prioritize our activities in those blocks.  If we were all honest, we all might agree that there are times with stress simply causes us to grasp time to be slugs.  In my life this is often caused because I haven’t structured my times of rest and eventually need to take them.  I am learning that planned rest is the best rest for the best health.  If my blog wasn’t constantly getting its security tested by those wanted to corrupt my site, I would open the comment section up for a discussion for each of you to share how you have incorporated planned rest times in your life-schedule.  Alas, since this is largely a one-sided conversation I will let you know how I will do with this all in the future and what helpful tips I find to pass along.

Until then, let me leave you with this encouragement/challenge that was passed along to me this week: “Change only occurs when the pain of staying the same is larger than the pain the change requires.”  Where are the areas in life you most desire to change?  What has kept you from finding victory in these areas?  What resources do you need to make it happen?  Life is a challenging adventure…keep surging forward and taking new ground in your life.  The best is yet to come!


Amnesia and Conditional Obedience

“…just as we obeyed Moes in all things, so we will obey you.  Only may The Lord your God be with you, as he was with Moses!” ~ Joshua 1:17

When I read this I nearly choked.  Are the people of Israel standing before Joshua and telling him a) we obeyed Moses in all things or b) just as we obeyed Moses we will obey you or c) all of the above.  What an incredible short term memory they had both in their actions and the fact that Joshua knows exactly how they obeyed (*disobeyed) Moses in all things (*very few things).  Yet don’t we fall into the same condition of amnesia before God?  It seems there are two things we very quickly forget: God’s blessings and our failings.  We are also quick to remember two things: others failings and our conditions for obedience.  There is so much humor (and sadness) in this one verse it really is hard to know where to start one’s reflections.  The Lord said he would indeed be with Joshua just as he had been with Moses if Joshua would follow God closely.  In fact, in Josh 1:2 we read God commissing Joshua into headship ministry!  So the people already know that Joshua is the leader God has appointed for the mission ahead.  What is quite scarey is actually what follows in verse 18, “Whoever rebels against your commandment and disobeys your words, whatever you command him, shall be put to death.  Only be strong and courageous.”  Can you imagine!  Amnesia plus commitment to extreme consequences of disobedience foreshadow disaster in the future.

How often do we fall in line with Israel’s actions? How often do we either a) commit to “burning the ships” in obedience without considering our track record or we b) put conditions on what we will obey or what needs to happen in order for us to obey? God is not in the business of negotiating with His people. He calls us to obey Him when He gives us instructions. In fact, the word “disciple” means “apprentice or student.” The church today has taken that word as its own description but back in the New Testament time period the Rabbi’s weren’t the only ones who had students or “disciples.” All sorts of trades people had disciples who were learning how to work with their hands and copy the style of work their mentor produced. There was no negotiation – if you wanted to be their apprentice you did the work the way your teacher wanted you to do it and you did it like he did it – you followed in their footsteps. If we are called to be disciples of Jesus we show ourselves to be so through our obedience. No one can call themselves a follower of Jesus if they don’t in fact follow and obey what he has asked them or commanded them to do. And when we do the work of our Lord, we are to do HIS work the way HE would want it accomplished which not only reflects his character but also brings honor and glory to him. This also means we don’t worry about other people. The Israelites were concerned that Joshua wouldn’t be able to follow through when they really should have been more concerned about what they were committing to and how they were going to remain strong in faithfulness.

As we hear the call of Christ, let’s look to our own path to which we have been called and rely on God to light the way, give us the strength and pursue it with courage. Let’s not look to the left or the right worrying about whether or not others will be able to follow through on their commitment – that’s between them and the Lord. Instead, let’s be cheerleaders with each other and encourage one another to be faithful, to follow through and to commit whole heartedly to our Master – no negotiations – no conditions – just our affection driving us to Jesus time and time again. Amen.