Reflections from GA 2014

Every two years the C&MA of Canada meets to discuss spiritual and business aspects of our denomination. This year we gather in our country’s capital, Ottawa, and even before it has begun it has been a wonderful experience. Our national staff are an incredible group of people as they scurry around plugging in this, setting up that, planning for this, going over copious notes and details. We are blessed to have them and I pray they are affirmed over and over again during the Assembly.

There is a current in the air surrounding this General Assembly. There are a number of sensitive issues being resolved and discussed, relational bridges to be mended and prayers for God’s Spirit to be present. One thing is for certain, after this week the C&MA in Canada will be changed. It is my prayer that relationally we will enter into a new depth that can only be achieved by listening well to the Holy Spirit and unification in love. We have a lot of business to cover so we have a lot “to do.” But the last time we got caught up in pushing through business sessions the Spirit seemed to be left outside the door and unity in love was far from achieved. This happens when task-orientation takes over people-orientation. Is what we do as a collective body more important than how we are as a collective body? I think not and I really don’t believe God thinks so either.

Colossians 3:12-17
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Isn’t it interesting that Christ tells his disciples that they will be identified as his disciples by their love and not by their business accomplishments at big meetings? I pray that our president, David Hearn, would listen closely to God and have the courage to guide proceedings according to the Spirit instead of the business meeting protocol and agendas. If we are not attuned to the Spirit how can we ever accomplish the work of God together? If we are not unified in the Spirit how can we ever be unified in love? Agreement, disagreement, these can take place as long as the Spirit’s love binds us together. This is my prayer. This is the cry of my spirit. May this General Assembly mark a decidedly different path for our future meetings and may we see the blessed fruit that only God brings as His people move together in Kingdom work.

Standard

Writing Material For The Church

Two weeks ago I was filled with amazing intentions.  I was going to write new church membership material.  I would cover what it meant to be a church member.  I would explain where our church was going.  I would help people see how they could get involved.  I would declare the intention of our leadership and their roles.  I was going to set the world on fire with incredible content that explained in warm, easy-to-understand terms how our church was going to impact our world for Christ…Sometimes reality can be harsh.  Within a day all of the wonderfully constructed explanations vanished from my brain.  Instead, I got lost in a book entitled, “I Am A Church Member” by Thom S. Rainer.  It was a small book.  Only six chapters.  It did exactly what it said it would do – explain what it meant to be a church member.  The more I read, the more I reflected.  The more I reflected, the more I was disturbed.  I was disturbed because I realized…I wasn’t a very good church member.  To make things worse — I’m the pastor.  Gulp.

With much more reflection and prayer, I began to write the material for our church family and things began to flow.  As I married the book I read with the material I was writing I began to feel a peace in my mind and calmness in my heart.  Just because I am the pastor doesn’t mean I am perfect.  Just because I am the pastor doesn’t mean I can’t ask for forgiveness and grow.  Because in the end, I serve functionally as the pastor but I really am a church member.  I, too, am part of the body.  If we were honest with ourselves I wonder how many of us think of the church family and THEN the pastor, as if “we” exist together and “he” exists in some other universe of christianity. Admittedly, this cultural mentality may be well deserved.  Through the years people have put pastors on ivory pedestals of transcendent perfection.  Sometimes the pastors themselves have climbed up and put themselves there.  In fact, I have been told several times that a pastor simply can’t develop friendships with his congregants because he needs to maintain some distance so that he doesn’t erode his moral authority for preaching.  As far as I can tell, in laymen’s terms, this simply means, “Don’t get too close or they’ll see your flaws and think that you can’t preach God’s Word to them because you yourself aren’t perfect in obedience.”  To which I say, “Horse hockey!”  If anything, it adds authenticity to your preaching knowing that you, as the pastor, sit under the authority and correction of scripture!  It lets your people know that YOU know you aren’t perfect but you are trying and desiring to be more Christlike.  It means you give them room to encourage and exhort you with grace and love when you fail.  It means, that despite all of the personal expectations of perfection you place on yourself, you are part of the body and you need them, and they need you, and its ok you’re not perfect.  Because, as God has designed His Bride, we are far better together than we are apart.

So, while I’ll need to give account to the Board as to why I haven’t met my material deadline, I feel blessed to have these two weeks to reflect on the body of Christ and how important that membership commitment is.  In the body we covenant to be with each other, to love each other, to extend grace and forgiveness to each other, to pick each other up, to graciously correct and exhort each other, and through all of it, to point each other to God who fills us with His love so we CAN do all these things together.  Now who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?

If you attend a local church regularly I encourage you to consider membership if you aren’t already a member.  If you have no desire to join the church you’re attending because of what you see there, either talk to the leadership or go find a body that you can join.  We need each other — eyes, ears, feet and hands — together we form the body of Christ and in Him we grow together, live and move and have our being to the glory of God.  Amen.

Standard

5 Reasons Why You Should Spend Large Amounts of Time Around The Younger Generation

Over the last few months I have had the privilege of spending time with the younger generation of 20+ year olds and boy, have I learned a lot!  Not only are they very aware of what is going on in the world at large but also what their generation needs to find purpose and fulfilment.  As I pondered the things they have told me, the activities they’ve invited me to, and watched their giftings in action, I have been inspired!  So here are my top 5 reasons why you should go out and connect with the younger generation and I’ll label it as SMART.

1) While we often plan goals that are Safe – they look for Sensational!  So many times I have been in meetings where we are looking towards the future and we set goals that are achievable and boring and safe.  Goals that anyone could accomplish.  Goals that really don’t require much faith at all.  The younger generation long to see the power of God at work in their lives, in the lives of their friends and family, and in the community.  They don’t want Safe — they want Sensational!  And why shouldn’t they?  Why shouldn’t we?  We serve and awesome Sensational God!

2) As we get older we want to Make God in our own image – they desire the Mystery of a God who is bigger than their own problems and challenges before them.  Modernity has brought us many marvelous advances in society.  It has also brought a spiritual rot to the church.  Everything must be quantifiable and understandable – especially God.  For thousands of years the Mystery of God and His “higher ways” were accepted with faith.  Today, unless a person can understand God in their finite mind or have His ways explained so they are acceptable to the individual, there is either a) no God or b) because He cannot be contained we don’t want to acknowledge Him.  The next generation is thrilled that our Creator God sees them, loves them, and wants to be with them in REAL WAYS!  Reason 1 and 2 create what they crave the most in 3…

3) Adventure.  Its not enough for them to look for our Sensational Mysterious God but they want to actively test Him by obediently moving forward in an adventure of faith.  As we read the book of Acts we see the early New Testament church responding in the same way!  They came face to face with the grace and power of God, received the Great Commission to go out to the ends of the earth to make disciples and they did it!  Everywhere they went people came to know the healing and life-giving power of Christ!  The next generation wants to see the sick made well, demons cast out and people brought out of darkness into a life of light!  They are willing to risk the secure religious life for one of anticipatory adventure walking alongside of God!

4) What resonates most for them in this adventure is seeing Restoration brought to our world for the glory of God.  Most middle class suburban churches are consumed with buildings, inner politics and keeping “the flock” happy (and their denominations) that they rarely have the time, energy or resources to look outside of their own congregation and get a world view of people and where they are at…what they need.  The younger generation sees no discrepancy between partnering with an effective secular organization in order to best meet peoples’ needs be it clothing, clean drinking water or food.  When this gets married with their faith and desire for people to meet and believe in a powerful God who loves them there is an amazing effectiveness.  Since the Fall of Creation God has been working to restore the world and people back to Himself.  The younger generation gets this, understands they are called to participate in this and they desires to make this a major focus and priority in their lives.  They don’t have the desire or time to waste on church politics…perhaps we shouldn’t either.

5) Temptations and Trials…it is no secret in our congregation that I love our women’s ministry and want to see it flourish BUT my heart is to see men reached for Christ and young men grown up with a love and commitment to God.  Men are a priority for me.  In watching our church grow in the past few months I have been excited to see my prayers being answered by God…we are getting more and more young men!  Young men who are seeking God, seeking to grow and develop in their own lives.  But what they have really been teaching me…is they are driven to deal with their Temptations so they are holy before God.  They are teaching me that every Trial needs to be covered in prayer through sharing these things with each other as they “walk along the road” with each other and seek God’s heart with each other.  There is an transparent honesty that is inspiring and it develops a humility between each other allowing them to truly be iron sharpening iron.  They have realized its safer to share and support each other then to hide their sin and shame and struggle in isolation.  And to them I say, “Bravo!  Well done!  Keep going!  And thank you for including me in your adventure of spiritual development!”

For a generation many have written off as lazy and without work ethic, I can say with enthusiasm that what I see is a generation who will set our world on fire for God.  So if your spiritual embers are barely glowing.  If you are tired of hiding behind a facade of spiritual perfection while internally you are struggling…ask a member of the younger generation if  you can pray with them, be a part of their prayer walks and hear their ideas to grow God’s Kingdom.  I know you will be as inspired as I am by their testimony and witness in their lives.  To God be glory both now and

Standard

The Art of Pouring Oneself Out

In our world of brokenness and chaos, there seems to be an abundance of people needing to experience love and grace. Each person needs to be recognized as a person not a project and therefore deserving of an investment of time. Time and energy. In Isaiah 58 we read,

“…if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in.”

It is a glorious calling to pour yourself out on behalf of others – it can also become all consuming and leave you wondering if you are spread too thin. The question is, “How do you prioritize how you spend your time and energy?” I.e. how and to whom will you pour yourself out? Admittedly, this is an area that I seem to fail in and the recipients of this most often tends to be family. There is definitely a balance that is needed and even healthy boundaries in place for every person you encounter but the art-form takes years and massive spiritual maturity and dependency upon God to guide. When I look at Jesus I see that he did NOT invest in EVERY person. He took time for himself to recharge and time for his closest friends. His discernment came through being connected to the Father in lengthy times of prayer. I believe that is where I am lacking. Though I pray often, it isn’t a predetermined place, time and amount of time. This bears more reflection as I truly believe that should I follow Christ more closely in this relationship with God the Father, I will be more effective as his ambassador and when I pour myself out it will be better balanced. Amen.

Standard

Stewards of God’s Grace

Today I sat down to start my day of by reading 1 Peter. Peter writes about how we are born again, being built up into the people of God to the glory of God, needing to submit to authority and even to suffer well as Jesus did. Then we arrive at 1 Peter 4:10 , “As each has recieved a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewarts of God’s varied grace.” A steward is defined as “a person who manages another’s property or financial affairs; one who administers anything as the agent of another or others.” So often we can become self-centered as recipients of God’s grace that we forget that it is a gift we experience and are entrusted with to dispense as God dispenses His grace. In serving one another in love we bless each other and show to others watching what God’s grace looks like. God’s grace isn’t to put into our personal bank and to keep for a personal rainy day. It’s to be invested broadly to others just as God decadently shares it with us. May this cause you to understand more clearly your purpose as a Christ-follower and exhort you to action in our world.

Standard