Even just saying the word out loud it is bereft of warmth.
One can be alone in the middle of a crowd. One can be alone while in the midst of family. One can be alone while going out with friends. One can be alone in the company of one’s spouse. It’s not the amount of people surrounding that makes one feel alone…its the sense of no one else understanding or being able to share one’s experience or internal thoughts or even wanting to. Alone.
Even when friends and family tell us we are not alone we can still feel very much alone because it’s not about what we experience on the outside its about the deep sense of isolation on the inside. Telling one they aren’t alone is affirming but does little to penetrate. It’s like one is blanketed by this cone of insulation where one can see everyone and everyone can see us but words just don’t come out, we can’t, and even when we do they try to pass through this blanket of insulation only to come out on the other side muffled and misunderstood. And so we keep them in…because what is the point….I am alone.
The Psalmist felt alone. Sometimes he felt surrounded by enemies and misunderstood and abandoned by friend. Sometimes he felt like God wasn’t listening and had abandoned him as well. Alone.
Hear my prayer, O LORD; let my cry come to you!
Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress!
Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call!
For my days pass away like smoke, and my bones burn like a furnace.
My heart is struck down like grass and has withered; I forget to eat my bread.
Because of my loud groaning my bones cling to my flesh.
I am like a desert owl of the wilderness, like an owl of the waste places;
I lie awake; I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop. (Psalm 102:1-7)
Why, O LORD, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? (Psalm 10:1)
Even Jesus had a moment where he felt completely, utterly alone.  His friends had deserted him. His enemies surrounded him. Darkness was all around. His relationship with his Father was severed.
Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:45-46)
Forsaken. Isn’t that perfect word to describe feeling alone? One commentary notes this as defining the Aramaic word Jesus spoke: “Languages differ appreciably in expressions meaning ‘to forsake, to abandon.’ For example, the most appropriate equivalent in some instances is ‘to leave alone’ or ‘to leave behind.’ In other instances one may employ a phrase such as ‘to leave without help’ or ‘to leave and refuse to care for.’ The Greek word has this definition: “to desert or forsake a person and thus leave that individual uncared for.” This oneness that Jesus felt with his Father had now been broken. The care Jesus had received from the Father was now absent. The presence of the Father was absent. The support from the Father had been withdrawn. Alone. Alone. Alone.

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”  (Matthew 27:45-54)

What caused Jesus to feel alone? Why the disconnect? It was sin. Sin of the world upon his shoulders. Sin the Father could not look upon. Sin that needed to be paid for.  AND IT WAS! Consider what occurs after his death: the dead (death: the ultimate fruit of sin) were raised and Jesus was recognized for who he truly was (spiritual blindness: the practical effect of sin)!  I believe sin to be THE ultimate cause of loneliness. It could be sin that we have committed. It could be sin committed against us or even the fact that we live in a world that is still broken by sin and therefore we sit with it swirling around us causing us to feel alone. I believe being surrounded by sin affects our thinking and emotions.  This “sin storm” causes us to feel separated and affects our connectivity to each other and to God both in the giving and receiving of communications. Sin enhances that sense of isolation. I love how Jesus promises his presence to his disciples in Matthew 28, “I am with you always until the end of the age.” The unspoken reality is that after “the end of the age” we will be in heaven with him for all eternity never to be separated.
 Perhaps you feel alone today. Truly and utterly alone. Perhaps “forsaken” better describes your sense of aloneness. It could be you feel misunderstood, uncared for, abandoned, unheard, unwanted, or unseen and it has struck to your core so deeply that you are past the point of hurt and anger and are now numb without any sense of how to reconnect with someone, anyone, most of all, God. I can tell you that you are not alone. I can tell you there are others who care. I can tell you that God sees you and loves you and cares for you. I can tell you that Jesus himself knew what it was like to be abandoned, doesn’t want that for you and promises that will not be your reality in relation to him. Perhaps that will help and perhaps it won’t. Whenever any of us get into this place of being alone I believe only God can pierce through our fog…and so I will pray for you just as I hope you will pray for me. The scriptures say that we are not alone,

…for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5B-6)

In the end though, we need to trust in God’s love. It was shown on the cross for us — that is a fact our loneliness cannot deny. And if Jesus was willing to die for us why would he abandon us now when he is alive? That is a fact.  Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Not sin, not death, not even our sense of being alone.  May God’s love shine and pierce the darkness surrounding your heart.  May it illuminate and bring peace and joy to your mind. May it reveal you are not alone, have never been alone and never will be alone. Amen.

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.  (Psalms 13)

King Jesus & His Citizens Of Heaven

It is a weird time to be a Canadian. I’m not that old *cough* but in all the years I have been aware of politics I have never felt the political atmosphere so amped up. Not only do we have our Canadian government being voted on soon but we also have the United States going through their incredibly long and conflicted run for President.  Just typing this I feel my shoulders begin to tense. We allow earthly politics far too much power over our emotions and thoughts. I am stunned by the amount of pastors in the US who try to draw politics into their church and worship of God. I have never ever seen any positive fruit from doing so. I think the reason why it is so unhelpful and even harmful is because while we function as citizens as a country on earth our true citizenship is actually in heaven and therefore our eyes need to be focused on our King who we represent on earth — King Jesus!

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:17-21)

When we allow our earthly politics to dictate our relationships and internal stress level it actually speaks to our faith in God and His power and plan.  Do we really believe that God is in control? If so, then act as good citizens in so far as you can all the while recognizing that this is all temporary.  We are made for eternity.  Therefore, do we allow eternity to shape how we treat each other?  Earthly politics are in the hands of God who in a moment can turn the heart of a leader.  Which is why King Solomon wrote,

The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will. Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart. To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice. Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin. (Proverbs 21:1-4)

Our citizenship in Heaven really should shape our priorities and what concerns us most — bringing glory to God! Election time might be one of the times Christians are watched most closely.  People wait to see what and how we will react/respond.  People listen to hear how we speak to others and about others. As I pondered and prayed through this I was brought to 1 Peter 2 which really spoke to my heart because it recalibrated my attention onto who I am and whose I am even in this broken world so loved by God.

So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation-if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” 

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. 

Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

I’ll leave that for you and I to ruminate on — there’s a lot there.  I believe our call as Christians is very clear —  we need to shine as lights in these politically uncertain times. Our hope is built upon Christ not a Prime Minister or President. Our joy is found in the love of our Saviour not the power and platforms of a political party.  We have a King and His name is Jesus and He WILL bring justice and He DOES shine as a Light in the darkness.  He restores and refocuses, transforms and renews and one day, every tear will be dried and every wound will be healed.  There will be no more sickness or death. His name is name is the name above all names and before Him every knee will bow. Even now, He is reigning as the Saviour of the world.  Even now His hand is active to save.  Even now we can choose to lift our voices to him — fix our eyes upon him, the Author and Perfecter of our faith.  No other leader has served, sacrificed and loved as He has and continues to before the throne of God on our behalf.  May we point people to God through our love because as Jesus said in John 13:34-35

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

A Prayer For How We Live & Love As Citizens Of Heaven

Lord, help us to be voices of healing and peace. Keep our eyes fixed upon You even as we function as citizens of earthly countries. May we never lose site of our citizenship in heaven and our call to be Ambassadors fo reconciliation. May we overflow with love that is patient and kind; love that does not envy or boast; love that is not arrogant or rude. Love that does not insist on its own way; that is not irritable or resentful; that does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. May our love bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things because it is YOUR love that fills our hearts. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). May You be honoured and glorified in our lives as we exalt You over all. Amen.

Christ Exalted Over All (Vertical Worship)

From heaven’s throne, You came to us, And set your heart upon the cross,We’ll never know the sacrifice You’ve made.For all our sin and all our shame, You took the nails, You took our place,No one else could do what You have done.

One name is higher, One name is stronger.Than any grave, than any throne, Christ exalted over all.

From the grave, where death would die, You rose again and brought us life.You’re reigning now, the Saviour of the world.You’re reigning now, the Saviour of the world.

One name is higher, One name is stronger.Than any grave, than any throne, Christ exalted over all.The only Saviour, Jesus Messiah. To You alone our praise belongs, Christ exalted over all.

We’ll sing your praise, We’ll sing your praise, We’ll sing your praise forever.We lift your name, We lift your name, Jesus over all.

A Day Of Grief & Anger

Yesterday was gray, rainy, and depressing. The weather outside also wasn’t so great. My heart was broken and I felt lost in grief.
I am grateful for my ongoing experience on Twitter — I get to connect with world class leaders and hear bitesized words of wisdom throughout my day. I’m kept up to speed on news as it happens. Its one more way I get to connect with Christians around the globe and feel that kinship in Christ…

It also connects me with those who have been abused and crushed by church leaders. I hear stories from and interact with those who have been treated in devastating and brutal ways — stories that anger me and make me want to throat punch those who call themselves pastors but act as bullies and overlords. From sexual abuse through to public humiliation, the tools of torture used by hirelings posing as shepherds is truly horrific. To hear people so damaged say they would never ever trust a pastor again — never enter into a church family again — really bruises my heart.

When I think back to how my wife and I have been abused by church leadership in the past I can totally relate. There were seasons we left the church bleeding and broken, swearing to each other we would never return. We loved Jesus but his Bride was a real pill.  Why would we ever want to enter back into a poisonous culture where pastors seemed so dishonest, selfish, manipulative, demeaning, and competitive? Where was the glory of God in all of this?  Surely He wanted better for His people — surely He wanted better care for His sheep!  Leaders are trusted to care for the sheep in sacrificial ways but all we saw where “shepherds” willing to sacrifice sheep in order to get what they wanted and be comfortably fed. Leaders are trusted to be champions of truth but the lies and deceit were appalling! Don’t they know God knows all and sees all and one day church leaders will give account?! Not only do these “leaders” act out in reprehensible ways but support other leaders who act in similar fashion! It reminded me of passages I read in Psalms and Proverbs about the wicked…

Behold, the wicked man conceives evil and is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to lies. (Psalm 7:14)

Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes. For he flatters himself in his own eyes that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated. The words of his mouth are trouble and deceit; he has ceased to act wisely and do good. He plots trouble while on his bed; he sets himself in a way that is not good; he does not reject evil.  Psalm 36:1-4

O LORD, God of vengeance, O God of vengeance, shine forth!
Rise up, O judge of the earth; repay to the proud what they deserve!
O LORD, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked exult?
They pour out their arrogant words; all the evildoers boast.
They crush your people, O LORD, and afflict your heritage.
They kill the widow and the sojourner, and murder the fatherless;
and they say, “The LORD does not see; the God of Jacob does not perceive.”  (Psalm 94:1-7)

He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the LORD.  (Proverbs 17:15)

I used to think the Psalmist had gone too far when he wrote 58 but the more I see and hear of the abuse committed my heart rises with the same sentiment…

The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies.
They have venom like the venom of a serpent, like the deaf adder that stops its ear, so that it does not hear the voice of charmers or of the cunning enchanter.
O God, break the teeth in their mouths; tear out the fangs of the young lions, O LORD!
Let them vanish like water that runs away; when he aims his arrows, let them be blunted.
Let them be like the snail that dissolves into slime, like the stillborn child who never sees the sun.
Sooner than your pots can feel the heat of thorns, whether green or ablaze, may he sweep them away!
The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance; he will bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked.
Mankind will say, “Surely there is a reward for the righteous; surely there is a God who judges on earth.” (Psalm 58:3-11)

Essentially, in modern day vernacular, the Psalmists want the wicked to be curb-stomped. I know we will have troubles in this world — I’m not naive about that — but when churches are slaughtering their very own people and supporting the pastors who model this my heart explodes in my chest and my thoughts become red with rage…

God!  Do you not see what is happening? Do you not hear the lies being preached, the words cutting down, the actions damaging Your people? Will You not intervene for Your glory?!  How long, O Lord, how long must we wait for Your righteous judgment to come and stop the hurt?  Lord, help us bring love and healing to those who have mistreated.  Help us to gently draw back those who have left abusive churches for self-preservation.  Forgive us for those times we have neglected to step in and act justly.  Forgive us for not bringing leaders to account under the guise of grace when, in fact, true grace would be immediate correction for the protection of Your flock. Forgive us if WE have been the ones who have manipulated to get our way.  Forgive us when we are so consumed with doing OUR ministry that we neglect reaching out to others who are not in our local church family forgetting we are called to Kingdom ministry and it has no geographical or denominational boundaries.  O Lord, break our hearts and fill us with compassion. Fill us with a desire to see You glorified when we stain Your name!

One blogger responded to the hurts being communicated on Twitter…

Thinking about those who say they’ll never go back to church given the abuse & hypocrisy they saw there. Breaks my heart. So sad when we get taste of fake religion & fake church, and it inoculates us against real thing. But there is a real Church. You need her & she needs you. ~ Julie Roys

I have no need to go looking for more work to do in ministry — I’m sure you all agree, our plates are more than overflowing — but I have been reaching out to people who have been wounded by pastors — how can I not?  My heart is both broken and compelled by love for strangers I have never met (only God can move a heart in such a way).  Surprisingly, most have been grateful and receptive for the interactions. Others, have acknowledged my attempt to reach out but unsurprisingly (and understandingly) remain cool to the idea that there are pastors/church leaders out there who care.  I’ve wondered why I would even bother to reach out — I am a stranger to them, some Canadian pastor, in a little town, in a little church, with little to offer practically. All I can offer is a listening ear, words of love, and prayers for healing. And then I read this quote this morning…

A young lad walking the beach, noticing the thousands of starfish washing up on shore, began throwing them back one by one. A man approached, took in the scene, and said, “You’ll never make a difference!” The boy threw back a starfish and said, “I made a difference for that one.”

If we have the favour of God, in our churches there will people attending who have been abused. People who have either been abused by other pastors/church leadership. We may even have pastors who have been abused by other leaders or their very own congregants. May God give us supernatural sight to see who needs care and supernatural ears to hear their stories. May God empower us with the Holy Spirit to love them well and help them know they are seen, valued, and not alone.  In doing so, God, may you heal those in Your Family who are bleeding, lift up those who are discouraged, and knit back into Your body those who feel abandoned and alone.  Amen.

Spiritually Hangry

It’s 11:49PM and I am awake…ok that’s pushing it…I’m awake enough to not be asleep and I’ve gotten annoyed.  I went to bed before 10 and tossed and turned.  I couldn’t figure out what was going on. Nasal passages clear? Yes. Teeth brushed? Check!  Blankets and bedding ok? Yup. Then my stomach rumbled and I realized I had stomach acid rolling around — I was hungry!  I hadn’t eaten much at all today and now, once I realized that fact, I had to get up, get dressed, walk downstairs in my groggy state and root around for something to eat. So, currently I am munching on a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios pondering the deeper spiritual life…because that’s how you get back to sleep.  NOT!  ?

It got me thinking though — is it possible to experience a spiritual form of “hangry”? Hangry is a term I am sure most are familiar with — it describes in one word what happens when someone is so hungry they have a short fuse and easily get angry thus, they get “hangry.” When my wife and I go shopping we try to keep aware of whether or not we have eaten while we day-trip around town.  When one of us begins to show signs of getting snippy, we pause and reflect when we ate last and what we ate.  Often times we are simply hangry. I think people experience this in their spiritual life — I think I DO!  I find myself getting frustrated with people and God — there is an unsettledness and discontent with my spiritual walk and I start becoming cynical or critical. There is little to no satisfaction to be had and the reason is…I haven’t had anything to eat in a while — I haven’t fed on the Word of God. I find it fascinating how much our spiritual health is related to eating in scriptures.  Here are just a few small examples:

Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation — if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. (1 Peter 2:2-3)

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:12-14)

And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. (Jeremiah 3:15)

Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.  (Isaiah 55:1-2)

I absolutely love those verses in Isaiah especially when I consider who is the richest of food that satisfies — Jesus.  In John 6, Jesus says several times that he is the bread of life.  This is not redundant…he is making a powerful point!

 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. (John 6:32-35)

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh. (John 6:47-51)

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.
Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” (John 6:53-58)

When we eat empty calories to feed our spiritual life we end up frustrated and hangry. When we seek out fast food options and alternative menu choices we end up unfulfilled.  Jesus states that he is THE most fulfilling meal anyone could ever eat!  What’s really interesting is that immediately following this conversation in John 6 Jesus loses a massive amount of followers…

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.
So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,” (John 6:66-68)

My bowl of Cheerios is now empty…I’m considering an apple…but I am feeling much better.  It’s how my spirit feels when I have taken proper time to “feed on Christ.”  When I, like the Psalmist, eat the Word of God that is as sweet as honey.  When I drink from the Living Water and eat from the Bread of Life, my satisfaction level rises and my spiritual emotions calm.  I can see and think more clearly. I can work more effectively and have more energy. My outlook is more positive with hope and my inner spirit is more calm with peace.  There are days when I go go go go go and forget to eat and by the end of the day I am so tired and groggy and I wonder why on earth I never took time to eat!  The same goes with my spiritual body…I can get busy and get caught up responding to demands that crop up during the day and by the end of the day I wonder why I feel so empty inside…feeling like there must be more.  Because there IS more…I just haven’t “dined” in a while.

We are a funny culture — I think we are actually obsessed with food. There are “foodies” out there and our grocery stores have a massive variety of food items you can stuff in your mouth — from junk food to the organic non-GMO grass-fed, we have numerous choices on what we can eat. And we DO eat. We eat for stress, we eat for boredom, we eat for pleasure, we eat for our health and we eat to survive.  Every time I sit down to eat one of my God-given three square meals the first thing I do is bow my head and thank God for the food that keeps me alive….Just sitting here typing that I realize how dumb I really am…Seriously…is FOOD what gives me life?  It may keep my body going (and overweight) but do I really believe that food is my life-giver?

 Jesus when he was being tempted Satan was quite hungry.  Having been in the wilderness for 40 days and nights without anything to eat has brought his physical body to a place where it is really needing food possibly even craving it.  So Satan, ever the practical and helpful fellow that he is, tells Jesus to turn the stones into bread.  It’s actually a great idea since Jesus IS hungry.  And Jesus responds,

“It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” (Matthew 4:4)

The reason I feel really dumb is I realized how often I prioritize eating and thank God for my food but I rarely take into account that to truly have life I need to take time to abide in Christ and draw nutrients from the Vine. Why prioritize bread alone and neglect the words that come from the mouth of God?  If I truly desire the deeper life — if I truly desire a fulfilling life — a life of power — a life pleasing to God…I need to stop and eat and eat often…communing with Christ.

Jesus, I need you, every moment I need you.  Hear now this grace-bought heart sing out your praise forever!

Lord Jesus, please forgive us when we rush out the door to begin our day without communing with you.  Forgive us for how we prioritize the temporal over the eternal…the physical over the spiritual!  We rely so heavily on earthly food for our physical body while we often neglect heavenly food for our spiritual body.  Lord, be our Banquet— be our Feast! May we delight ourselves in you and find fulfillment.  May you be sweet and filling for our souls. May you empower us to live NON-hangry lives so that people see us as transformed joyful new creations.  Bring our minds back to you when we find ourselves listless and spiritually tossing and turning — remind us when we are spiritually hungry that you have prepared a table for us.  We cannot live on bread alone — help us to crave every word that comes from the mouth of God. Amen.

Jesus, I Need You (Hillsong)
Hope be my anthem — Lord when the world has fallen quiet
You stand beside me — Give me a song in the night

And Jesus I need You, Every moment I need You
 Hear now this grace bought heart sing out — Your praise forever

Beauty for ashes — You find the weak and contrite heart
Shoulder its burdens — And carry it into the light

Remember love — Remember mercy
Christ before me — Christ behind me
Your loving kindness — Has never failed me
Christ before me — Christ behind me

When Hope Seems Lost (a poem)

All hope seems lost, our Lord has died
Beaten, scorned then crucified
All hope seems lost, sky dark as night
The Creator killed by His design

All hope seems lost, his body buried
Evil came, destroyed and did not tarry
All hope seems lost, the stone in place
Shock and grief upon our face

O Death, you won, you made the crown
That dug so deeply into his brow
Your nails held firm, your spear drove deep
Our hope is lost and so we weep

But then, the grave, it lost its treasure!
By God’s design and His good pleasure
The price was paid declared in full!
The stain is gone now white as wool!

The stone once so immovable and sure
Is rolled away there is a cure
Those broken, lost, and filled with shame
Now have a light in Jesus name!

Behold, our Hope was never lost 
His love ensured He paid the cost
Our Hope secure, He is our rock
Our Great Shepherd and we his flock

O Love, Divine, that came for me
When I, in darkness, was thine enemy
O Love, Divine, my Hope assured
You hold my hand so I endure

You’re Safe Here With Me

I woke up this morning with the song “Come Out Of Hiding” playing through my head and heart.  What a glorious picture of Christ’s heart for us and the description of his desire for us to call out to him, for us to draw near because he wants to help us, he wants to be our “home.” Sometimes it’s hard to ask for help — perhaps its pride while at other times it’s that we know we need help we just don’t know WHAT help we need.  What can be really discouraging is when we finally gather the courage to seek out help and either get ignored or denied.  That little spark of hope gets smothered out and now we feel even more alone than we did before.  But Jesus tells us that he is ever for us and ever with us.  This is the description the prophet Isaiah gives of our Saviour:

Isaiah 42:1-4
Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law.

This morning on my Twitter feed there was a post from a lady who asked church leaders for help. From what I can gather she had experienced abuse in her marriage and the church has not been helpful at all.  She is basically being wrecked emotionally and financially and the church is standing by and watching. Unfortunately, this story is not an isolated one. Months ago I decided I would try Twitter and within two weeks I was ready to quit. If I thought Facebook was a ‘forum of fools’ Twitter was a ‘SWAT meet of snipers.’  The worst of the lot were Christians.  It was a bloodbath!  But then….then I felt a whisper that I shouldn’t quit Twitter and I just needed to delete anyone who drained my spirit and see what God might have for me.  

Since then I have found wonderful leadership feeds that inspire me and theological discussions that challenge my understanding of the Bible and God…and its been really good! On top of that, God has led me to listen to women who have been or are in the midst of abuse — particularly in the church.  These women crush my heart with their stories — how they just want to be heard, valued, respected, loved — and, in particular, how they have been ignored, blamed, or villainized when they have sought help.  The worst is that pastors, in particular, are some of the most harmful and least helpful…some of them ARE the abusers!!!!!!  Thankfully, a number of them have been willing to dialogue with me on how I can better listen and give care when/if there’s ever a time someone comes to me in similar situation.  I believe God is using these women to grow compassion in me and a desire for justice on their behalf and in that, giving a glimpse of His own heart regarding injustice and abuse and how the church should NEVER be a place where that occurs and is tolerated.  God help us!  God help us listen and see and love and step into the mess because we love with YOUR heart!  I think its God’s heart position that will enable us to do so.  I think of the Psalmist who wrote, 

Psalm 86:1-6
Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Preserve my life, for I am godly; save your servant, who trusts in you-you are my God. Be gracious to me, O Lord, for to you do I cry all the day. Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you. Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace. 

I can hear this plea echoing from these ladies story after story.  My own heart has cried out in this way when I felt lost and needing help.  O Lord, break our hearts and hone our sensitivity…I feel so overwhelmed I can’t even put into words, or into a prayer, the depth of “feel” I have for these situations.  The more I listen the more I become aware, the more I become broken, and the more I just want to show love. How can anyone treat another person like this?! How can the church be silent?! O Lord, help us!
This “devotional” feels more like a rant in a journal and I apologize with it’s lack of clarity. 

When people are abused they withdraw and hide for self-preservation and protection.  They don’t know where there is a safe place or person for them.  When they have shared they have gotten shut-down or reaped even more abuse and so intimacy isn’t even something they hope for because who is there for them?  Jesus wants to be our safe place to come to and invites us into intimacy to share BECAUSE he IS THERE.  I think when our hearts get transformed by him we too desire to be that for others…we want to be a place of safety…we become the hands and feet of Christ.  Everyone needs Jesus — some just need human hugs that display his heart.  

God, please help me to become more of a “safe” person where people can know they are cherished. Help me to run to you when I feel like hiding in my own brokenness.  Fill me with YOUR sacrificial love so I can run to others.  Be with all of these ladies who are strangers to me but have tugged on my heart and filled my prayers.  May they find peace and support in You and with a healthy church family to give them support and hugs.  Amen.

Out Of Hiding (Steffany Gretzinger)
Come out of hiding — You’re safe here with Me
There’s no need to cover — What I already see
You’ve got your reasons — But I hold your peace
You’ve been on lock-down — And I hold the key

 ’Cause I loved you before you knew it was love
 And I saw it all, still I chose the cross
 And you were the one that I was thinking of
 When I rose from the grave

Now rid of the shackles, My victory’s yours
I tore the veil for you to come close
There’s no reason to stand at a distance anymore
You’re not far from home

And now I’ll be your lighthouse — When you’re lost at sea
And I will illuminate — Everything
No need to be frightened by intimacy
No, just throw off your fear — And come running to Me

And oh, as you run — What hindered love
Will only become — Part of the story
Baby, you’re almost home now
Please don’t quit now
You’re almost home to me

Abounding In Thanksgiving

This morning, around Canada, pastors will stand behind pulpits and give Thanksgiving Sunday messages. “What does it mean to be thankful?”, “What are you thankful for this morning?”  I, myself, will be preaching on, “Growing Christians Are Thankful” a sermon handed down to me from the pastor whose church we are all joining with for worship today.  My text is, 

Colossians 2:6-7
Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

After the service many families will rush home to rescue their chicken/turkey in the oven (praying the oven actually turned on as planned).  They’ll gather around the table with few family or many depending on their situation and give thanks to God for ???  It’ll be a “thanksgiving party” but anything we do will pale in comparison to the Thanksgiving in Heaven we see in Revelation 7…

Revelation 7:9-12
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

This really got me to thinking, “What am I thankful for?”  I mean, truly, after I run through the list of Jesus (duh), loving spouse, food to eat, home to sleep in, employment, etc., etc., etc…what “hits me right in the feels” with thankfulness?  Amazingly enough, it didn’t take me long to come to an answer: I am most deeply thankful for LOVE.  

The fact that God loves me through and through without measure.  That He sees me, wants me, lives in me, with me, goes through life with me, talks to me, forgives me, saves me, cherishes me and will do so for all eternity…THAT truly fills my heart with Thanksgiving.   

My passage in Colossians begins with ,”Therefore, as your received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him…” I received Jesus (TRULY received Jesus) when his love became THE defining point over what religious people had been telling me for years. In fact, once I got a clearer picture of God’s love and grace I was actually mad at “the church” who had been influencing me for years but had neglected to share with me a clear picture of God’s love!  Infected with legalism, I believed God would only love and want me if I lived a perfect sinless life following Him without stumble or fall.  He was the eye in the sky ever watching, the judge over me ever recording my failings…what a different picture than Romans 8:31-39,

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died-more than that, who was raised-who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord

What am I thankful for? As one song-writer put it: “The overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God [that] chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine. I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away. Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God.”  (Cory Asbury)

I pray you would hear and receive and know the depth of God’s love for you today. May your heart abound with thanksgiving for you are His beloved and He is crazy about you! ? 

God, You’re So Good (Passion)

Amazing love — That welcomes me — The kindness of mercy
That bought with blood, wholeheartedly — My soul undeserving

 God, You’re so good, Oh God, You’re so good
 God, You’re so good, You’re so good to me

Behold the cross — Age to age — And hour by hour
The dead are raised, the sinner saved — The work of Your power

I am blessed, I am called, I am healed, I am whole
I am saved in Jesus’ name
Highly favored, anointed, Filled with Your power
For the glory of Jesus’ name

And should this life — Bring suffering — Lord, I will remember
What Calvary has bought for me — Both now and forever

God, You’re so good, Oh God, You’re so good
 God, You’re so good, You’re so good to me

Good morning! Reflections for Worship

I love those mornings when I wake up with a song in my head and heart! It seems to set the tone for the day for me when I wake up worshipping God mindful of how wonderful He is. I particularly love it when it happens on a Sunday morning.  Why? Because my personality type + being a pastor + an insane week where I feel my sermon is not up to par, the truth of God’s person and power have overridden my tendency to wake up obsessed with doing or worry.  This morning I woke up to the heart and mind in harmony singing, “God, You’re So Good” (Hillsong).  Before my eyes even opened I heard the opening line…

Amazing love – That welcomes me – The kindness of mercy
That bought with blood, wholeheartedly – My soul undeserving

 God, You’re so good, Oh God, You’re so good
 God, You’re so good, You’re so good to me

Behold the cross – Age to age – And hour by hour
The dead are raised, the sinner saved – The work of Your power

Sometimes we can feel like we are frauds when we sing lyrics that claim truths we are simply not feeling or experiencing. How can I claim I am healed when I am still sick? Or holy when I am struggling with sin? Or whole when I know I am a Christian, a new creation, but still feel somewhat shattered? The Christian faith is filled with experiences of truths of our temporary physically broken world meeting our spiritually empowering eternal world. When the bridge of this song came up I was reminded again how a life of faith is filled with realities now and not yet.  We are transformed and being transformed.  We are saved and will be saved. We are sanctified and are being sanctified. Holy and being made holy.  How can this be? It is a glorious part of Christianity! What God demands God provides and how God sees us is in harmony with how God is making us. 

I am blessed, I am called, I am healed, I am whole
I am saved in Jesus’ name
Highly favored, anointed, Filled with Your power
For the glory of Jesus’ name

I AM blessed, called, healed, whole, saved in Jesus name!  I AM highly favoured, anointed and filled with God’s power for the glory of Jesus name.  That is my reality now and in the future.  How can we NOT sing of God’s goodness and love?!  All of our unworthiness, and self-obsession with our unworthiness, ceases to be blockers of grace. All of our brokenness does not make us unattractive to God.  The love of Jesus and the glory of Jesus become the impetus for and the conclusion of us being highly favoured and empowered.  And in those moments where we are tempted to let suffering overshadow and redirect our attention destroying our joy and hope….

And should this life – Bring suffering – Lord, I will remember
What Calvary has bought for me – Both now and forever
 God, You’re so good, Oh God, You’re so good
 God, You’re so good, You’re so good to me

What has Calvary bought for me? Through Jesus’s sacrificial loving suffering, he has bought us freedom and favour for all eternity. We get to bask in the love and goodness of God forever. Such a great reminder of perspective!  Do we let our current circumstances of trouble and suffering form the lens/filter with which we see God? OR, do we let the goodness and love of God be the lens with which we observe our temporary circumstances on earth?  The first can only end in questions, disappointment and possibly anger. The second, brings peace that passes all understanding — hope for the future — a sense of not being alone — an knowledge of being loved.

May your Sunday be filled with good things from our good God.  You are blessed and called.  You are highly favoured, anointed, and filled with God’s power. But best of all…you are loved with God’s amazing love that welcomes you. ? 

“Lord, I Need You”

Lord, I come, I confess, Bowing here I find my rest
Without You I fall apart, You’re the One that guides my heart

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You

Where sin runs deep Your grace is more
Where grace is found is where You are
Where You are, Lord, I am free
Holiness is Christ in me

So teach my song to rise to You
When temptation comes my way
When I cannot stand I’ll fall on You
Jesus, You’re my hope and stay

(Chris Tomlin)

Where do I find my rest? Do I rely on TV or video games? Books or conferences? How about retreats? What do I do in the times where none of those options are available? Why is ministry so draining some days?  Just when I think I can’t take any more and am bowing beneath pressures and burdens more gets piled on.  Surely there must be reprieve for the saints of God!

Then, I hear this song and close my eyes to soak in truth. That there is a different type of bowing I can do — one where I surrender all to God and in doing that I actually do find rest.  Clarity comes to my current experience and I realize that I think I am barely holding it together when in reality God is holding me together. I thought I had been the one just taking one step at a time moving forward as I can when really it’s God who is guiding my heart, my steps, my way.

Lord, it’s true.  I need You — every moment, every day, when accusers come from outside and from within, You defend me by cloaking in me in Your undeniable, unassailable righteousness. Sin continues to hound me and haunt me but Your grace is stronger than any sin seeking to bind me. When I fail Your grace is there to gather, free and restore.

So Lord, in those moments when my heart is broken and life is dark, when no words are able to rise from my lips never mind a tune, will You teach me Your song to sing in thanksgiving. Temptations of all sorts may come my way and I feel unsure, unstable and unable, Lord, I fall on You.  In You and You alone can I find hope.  On You and You alone can I find sure footing to stand.

This week has been incredibly tough and filled with a constant barrage both in my personal and professional life. The band Extreme once wrote a song with the lyrics, “Stop the world, I want to get off.”  That has definitely been my week/month. Yet in the swirl of darkness that seeks to consume my joy and hope, I get brilliant break throughs of light and miracles reminding me of God’s ever faithful presence. From a person committed to suicide then changing their mind to choose life. From a woman who has been abused her whole life telling me she in our church because she knows she is loved here. Seeing my wife blossom in her faith and care-giving as her family is in massive crisis. To a stranger on Twitter being encouraged because some weird pastor in Canada reached out to let her know she is loved.  To a coach who encouraged me to reach out to others even though I thought I was needy because I craved connection. (I’m not. It’s not uncommon for someone to desire connectivity with others ?)  Each step is a reminder that God not only sees and hears us but moves to meet our hearts to give us what we need. It’s when we reach out to others and need them more than we reach for God that we get into trouble. Expectations are prepaid resentments and so when we expect others to meet our needs we set ourselves and others up for disappointment. When we reach out to the Lord he never fails — His steadfast love is sure.

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You

Every day, every hour, every minutes, moment, every breath.

Reflections on “harmony” & “discord”

When the district our church is a part of sent out the invitation to our worker’s retreat the postcard invitation had this on the front:
har-mo-ny (noun)
1. the intentional act of interdependence amid a diverse people for the sake of a united goal. 2. the quality of interdependence within tension and diversity. 3. the state of freely knowing who you are, whose you are, and where you are going with others.

Dear brothers and sisters, I close my letter with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you. ~ 2 Corinthians 13:11

It got me to thinking, “What is the opposite of harmony?” So I looked up the antonym and found the word “discord” (noun)

1. lack of concord or harmony between persons or things: marital discord.
2. disagreement; difference of opinion.
3. strife; dispute; war.
4. Music. an inharmonious combination of musical tones sounded together.
5. any confused or harsh noise; dissonance.
—verb (used without object)
1. to disagree; be at variance.

What causes discord in my life and in my heart? What causes discord between people?  I wondered this as I put on the worship playlist for the retreat and got ready to start my day.  The very first song, “Here For You” by Matt Redman was first on the playlist.

 I experience discord in my life when I confuse why I am here and for whom I am here.  I am not here for self. And, ironically, at the core, I am not here for others.  I am here for God. At our district’s workers retreat we are there to serve the Lord first by worshipping Him and placing Him at the forefront of attention and desires. Nothing is hidden before God even if we hide ourselves from each other.  We know the mess our hearts and minds are in.  We know the sins that continue to creep in and haunt us when we fail and even when we succeed at keeping them at bay the shame of them tries to hook into our being — so we hide the disorder in our heart.  If our lives are to come into a holy order we need God’s consuming fire to come and burn away the chaff in our lives, our pride and chains of sins that seek to shackle our hearts.

I LOVE the line “Let our shout!” So often we are timid in the evangelical church both in our worship and in our testimony and perhaps its because we move in our own power instead of letting God’s Word move in and through us in POWER!  May every soul be awakened as we gather before God at retreat.  May our own souls be filled with praise, love and adoration for Jesus.

Have a blessed day and be filled with good cheer! You are not alone and you are LOVED!

Let our praise be Your welcome — Let our songs be a sign
We are here for You, we are here for You
Let Your breath come from heaven — Fill our hearts with Your life
We are here for You, we are here for You

To You our hearts are open — Nothing here is hidden
 You are our one desire
 You alone are holy — Only You are worthy
 God, let Your fire fall down

Let our shout be Your anthem — Your renown fill the skies
We are here for You, we are here for You
Let Your Word move in power — Let what’s dead come to life
We are here for You, we are here for You

 We welcome You with praise — We welcome You with praise
 Almighty God of love — Be welcomed in this place
 Let every heart adore — Let every soul awake
 Almighty God of love — Be welcomed in this place