“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.

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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

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“We do not know what to do but our eyes are on you.”

Prayers and Ponderings on Chronicles 20:1-1

21 After this the Moabites and Ammonites, and with them some of the Meunites, came against Jehoshaphat for battle.2 Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, “A great multitude is coming against you from Edom, from beyond the sea; and, behold, they are in Hazazon-tamar” (that is, Engedi).3 Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.4 And Judah assembled to seek help from the LORD; from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the LORD.5 And Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the LORD, before the new court,6 and said, “O LORD, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you.7 Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend?8 And they have lived in it and have built for you in it a sanctuary for your name, saying,9 ‘If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before you-for your name is in this house-and cry out to you in our affliction, and you will hear and save.’10 And now behold, the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir, whom you would not let Israel invade when they came from the land of Egypt, and whom they avoided and did not destroy-11 behold, they reward us by coming to drive us out of your possession, which you have given us to inherit.12 O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

It takes a lot for us to become so overwhelmed that we stop and assemble before the Lord and wait on him.  So often when problems come before us we think our creativity can find solutions causing us to approach the Lord as a last resort. To arrive at the place where we say, “We are powerless. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you, O God” means we are finally in a place of true faith and reliance. In that moment, we truly realize that we must rely on God’s power and might — that none are able to withstand Him. What I love about Jehoshaphat is how he recounts the faithfulness of God in the past to face the problems of the present. God’s promises and His actions in the past have created a foundation of trust for the people of Israel when they stop to remember so they can then believe.  So many times I have been in situations where I thought all hope was lost and then God showed up and in inexplicable ways made the situations work out.  When the volume of issues before me seem like a tidal wave drowning me and I cannot catch my breath He speaks a word and there is calm.      

The Lord responds to the prayers of the people and says, “You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you.” – 2 Chronicles 20:17.

I love how God has the people go out to see how He will answer their request for help and I LOVE how they go out! 

21 And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the LORD and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say, “Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.” 22 And when they began to sing and praise, the LORD set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed. – 2 Chronicles 20:21-22

When I am afraid and overwhelmed, thankfulness is often relegated to the back of my mind. Worries consume me. But when I remember — When I am thankful regardless of the outcome to come — When I recognize that God’s love is steadfast and sure — my heart is lifted and singing and praise return.  Have you ever had that moment when you put on a song and the words both crushed your emotions and lifted your heart because you were reminded of God’s goodness and love for you?  You are not alone. God moves on your behalf.

Today, I pray, you will remember God’s goodness and love for you — that your heart will be lifted and you will sing with thankfulness and let the Lord’s power and might carry you and answer your situations. 

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Elijah’s Harbor ~ A Place To Recharge

All too often I find myself looking for a place to recharge. Four years ago my wife and I were financially strapped but desperate to get away. So I did what anyone would do (to my wife’s laughter)…I typed into the Google search bar “vacations for pastors.” Lo and behold! I found an article written by Ed Stetzer in Christianity Today which had links to places where pastors/church leaders could go for a reasonable cost. One of those places was Elijah’s Harbor.

Joe and Patty Gatas oversee the ministry there and they are an incredible couple! Our stay this past May was just what we needed. You can have them cook meals for you at an extremely reasonable cost and, when Joe describes the meat as “cooked perfectly”, it truly is cooked perfectly! The setting, the rooms, the food and the ministering of the people there truly does make it a harbor for rest.

If you are looking to take your family there are houses to rent on the property as well. They have ATVs to take out, animals to see, fishing gear to take to the stream, park passes if you venture out, an infinity pool and hot tub to relax in, an old fashioned ice cream shop for indulging, a brand new coffee shop for the caffeine connoisseurs, and a movie theatre for staying in. I’ve posted the link to their website below. Check them out!

https://www.elijahsharbor.com

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2014/march/free-or-discounted-getaways-for-pastors.html

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Isaiah 43:19 ~ A Personal Journal Entry/Reflection

“Look! I’m doing a new thing; now it sprouts up; don’t you recognize it? I’m making a way in the desert, paths in the wilderness.”

Look!” – Take a moment/take time to observe the work I’m doing, the transformation taking place before you, in you, in others. Purposefully take a moment to OBSERVE.

I’m doing a new thing” – Don’t believe that someone is fully and finally formed! Don’t think they can’t transform, grow, mature, change. There’s no hope in that — neither for yourself or others. GOD is doing a new thing. It’s HIS work.

now it sprouts up” – Even NOW God is making growth occur. Anticipate it NOW…why do you think it will take a long time for new shoots to break the surface? Why can’t it be now? Everything has a beginning…a time when movement/development move forward to more maturity.

don’t you recognize it?” – Are you looking at MAN things or GOD things? Do you so believe a person can’t change that you are blind? Have you so little faith in the transformational power of God that you don’t even recognize when He’s at work? What measures are you using? Are your expectations blinding you? Perhaps you don’t recognize it because it’s MORE glorious than you anticipated/expected! You aren’t God…Look for HIS handiwork.

I’m making a way in the desert” – Yes, in the sands of the desert there seems to be no clear way…it all looks the same! But GOD can make one, guide, show clearly, be with ou on it. Even when the says seems invisible it’s clear to God.

[I’m making] paths in the wilderness.” – In the desert it’s all one big empty canvas with no scenery to guide — it’s so barren that any path is open — overly so. In the wilderness the way is rough, overgrown, needing clearing. There is no path because there is so much stuff — so many obstacles that a clear path needs to be cut and navigated. In the overgrowth of our lives in the wild wilderness, God can provide clarity and move obstacles we think will hinder or may hinder.

A Prayer: God open my eyes to see more clearly the work you are doing in me and in others. Help me to replace expectations with expectancy because You are faithful in Your promises to transform and Your power to accomplish it. When I see no guide posts along the way, I pray you make the path of travel clear to me. When all I see are obstacles blocking at me, thorns threatening to tear my flesh should I move forward, I pray You clear a path in the wilderness for me to follow Your lead. Thank you for your steadfast love.

[A journal entry March 2019]

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A Personal Journal Entry: Reflections On Riley

I’ve been thinking about Riley and how much I tell him he’s loved. Riley is our cat. He may have a small inkling about what being loved means but as a cat and therefore on a different plain of thinking, feeling, etc., he is limited in truly knowing he’s loved.

But no matter how little he’s able to grasp that, I continue telling him that he is loved — he’s a good boy — over and over every day. I think on some level that has shaped him and his personality as a cat: he’s social, loves people, is relaxed, asks for treats/food/water, without any fear of rejection. He trusts us to provide for him and care for him.

Yes, he sheds hair ALL OVER THE PLACE! Sometimes he makes a mess. Sometimes he takes things too far in his playing. Sometimes he is a bully with our other cat or complains when his nails need trimming. Often times he tries to take my spot when I momentarily vacate a seat to get up to get something. Yet he’s still loved.

I think I’m like Riley…except Riley has a greater understanding of what it means to be loved and to live confidently, freely and joyfully in that reality.

I struggle to know and accept that I am loved. Often, I think all God sees is the mess that I make, is disappointed when I don’t act in a way that pleases Him, is sad when I try to take His place (that He never vacates). Most of all though…He just loves me and tells me over and over again even though I think and feel on a different plain than Him…He is constantly affirming it. To Him, I am a good boy…and I am loved…unconditionally. Even though I don’t get how much He loves me He is faithful to provide for me in numerous ways. In those moments I do manage a small, small glimpse into what God’s amazing love looks like my mind and heart get overwhelmed.

Thank you for continuing to say it, God. Thank you for continually telling and affirming to me that I am loved. Thank you for seeing me amid my mess and letting me know I matter to You — You see me and know me and treasure me.

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Church Leadership & The Call For Transparency

For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” ~ 1 Corinthians 5:12-13

This past week I had the privilege of praying with people from a church in crisis. When I write “crisis” I mean “CRISIS!” Massive debt, leadership transitions, information being communicated from all sorts of different parties…the situation is a mess. At the heart of it is really poor, unbiblical leadership choices which are leaving behind a wake of confused, hurting, incredible, wonderful Christians who are now left to piece together what went on and how they are to deal with the fall-out. The court of public opinion in many ways has lumped everyone in the scenario into different groupings: the leaders who sinfully did wrong, the leaders who watched the sin continue but did nothing, the staff and leaders who didn’t know what was going on “but should have”, and the congregations who desired to serve the Lord but are now seen as naive. It causes one to wonder: How did things progress so far? Was it a lack of accountability? Poor leadership structure? Lack of transparency? Leadership attitudes of entitlement? Yes. And more. At the end of the day it was an incredible reminder to me of the responsibility we have when we lead congregations and how also one day, regardless of what happens on earth, us leaders will give account before the Lord. Were we good stewards with what God entrusted us with or were we charlatans? Were we good shepherds with the flock we were to feed well and care for or did we act like hirelings out for our own profit and self-preservation?

Where is grace in all of this? What role does repentance play? What do we do when our brokenness and bad decisions on are display for the world to see? What should our next steps be? In 1 Corinthians 5, the apostle Paul makes a startling statement regarding how we are called to judge those inside the church. For many, this goes completely against the church culture they grew up with where it was beaten into them Jesus saying, “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” (KJV Matthew 7:1-3…And yes, I purposefully used the KJV version). Who is right? Jesus? Paul? Is this a conflict of teaching? No. Without getting too deeply into it, Jesus is talking about an attitude of superiority or the “haughty spirit” where one sees others as failing without taking into account our own failings and frailty. We are to examine ourselves daily! Martin Luther wrote, “our Lord and Master Jesus Christ . . . willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” This means followers of Christ are in constant reflection, seeing their failings, and bringing them to Jesus for forgiveness and transformational change in living. When this happens we are able to approach each other with the same standard we use for ourselves because we will be living in a constant state of grace. Which is why Paul also wrote, “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.” (NLT Galatians 6:1)

Which is it Paul? Are we to help that person back on the right track or cast them out? I guess one should/could ask, “In 1 Corinthians 5:13, what makes the person to be considered ‘wicked’ so that they are removed from the body of believers?” When we look throughout scripture the answer is anyone who refuses to repent. That is, anyone who is sinning, is aware of their sinning, has had others come to them to talk to them about their sinning and yet still refuse to turn from that sin and be restored to Christ (while still claiming to be a Christian). THAT is the wicked person who needs to go. That, is what being wicked is: choosing to remain apart from God while championing our own sinful independance and glorying in it. That is what we as believers need to be judging amongst ourselves.

In our current culture we attach the word “judge” to always be negative. “You’re so judgmental!” would summarize how we understand the word “judge” to be. But there are positive aspects of judging. For example, when we are at an ice cream shop we like to look at the products before us and we “judge” which ones looks most appetizing. After we purchase our ice creams, we begin to taste them and examine them on the basis of flavour, texture and richness. We “judge” which of them are bad and which are good (in our opinion). In the future, we remember “the good” and place our order accordingly. In this example, is judging bad? Do you feel “bad” for the “rejected” flavours? No of course not! It’s pretty subjective and so my friends may have judged the variety of ice creams and come out with a list of “acceptable” flavours different than mine.

What about another example where judgment is not so subjective or flexible like when we have suffered injustice and our case is brought before a judge we pray he does make a righteous judgment? We hope and pray our lawyer will plead our case and the judge will render a favourable verdict on our behalf. Should he do that we would be pleased that he had “judged.” When it comes to God and the people of God, there are truths that are not subjective and are rooted even deeper than human law. For example, Jesus says unequivocally, that people will know we are his disciples by our love. How we love is a defining marker of his followers. Therefore, when we look around at our church family, we should be examining how love is being displayed among and by the people of God. First, we aim the question at our own person: “How am I doing at loving others and showing them love?” THEN, we ask ourselves to reflect more fully on the church family: “How are WE doing at loving others and showing them love?” This is a GOOD judgment to ponder and make!

I write this understanding that I am NOT a perfect leader and I do NOT show love perfectly. I make many, MANY mistakes and am blessed with a Board and a church family that constantly offer grace and love to me. Upon observing this large church family in crisis it became clear that most, if not all, of their leadership issues came from not judging as Paul recommends. An even more basic observation could be that the leaders never asked themselves the questions: “How am I doing at showing love and care to others?” and “How are WE doing at showing love and care to others?” Had they asked this and acted accordingly their current crisis would have been completely avoided. In fact, if most of us were honest with ourselves, the majority of our relational issues would be completely avoided or resolved if we asked ourselves about how we were doing in the “love” area.

Of course, the most important question to ask ourselves (especially as leaders) is, “How are we glorifying God?” I love the Westminster Shorter Catechism’s opening question: “What is the chief end of man?” Answer: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” This is a theme throughout scripture — to watch one’s life closely so that you are honouring the Lord and glorifying him (Deuteronomy 6). Everything was made by God for God to worship God and point others to Him. To that end, as Christians, as Christian-leaders, shouldn’t that be the FIRST question we ask? “Are we glorifying God? Are the decisions we are making bringing honour to Him?” If we were honest, it is both a sobering and softening question for anyone who is serious about living their lives for King Jesus. Perhaps it’s in this question that the pride of leadership finds itself righteously crushed and holy perspective regained. Followed up with honest reflections about loving others and actively following through, we simply cannot go wrong.

So what do we do when we have fallen short in leadership? What is the path back? Transparency. Humility. Confession. Repentance. I have heard it said from numerous leaders in this particular church situation previously mentioned that the path to restoration was long and complex. No. It isn’t. You know what is long and complex? Trying to massage truth in order to help yourself not look so bad. Trying to spin things so your leadership decisions don’t look like sinful drives or incompetence. Trying to discern what the bare minimal exposure of truth can be so that you don’t have to reveal the entire debacle and still claim you are being honest. That’s what takes a long time. That’s what takes a TON of energy and effort. The exposure of truth, being broken and contrite before others, takes a TON of courage but it is actually quite quick in it’s execution. “We were wrong. We made these mistakes (name them plainly). We sinned. This is how we will move towards restitution and reconciliation. This is what we will do in the future to correct our path. Please forgive us. Please show us grace.” Then comes the part we all hold our breath on — will grace be given? Will forgiveness be offered? I’m not sure. That’s up to the other person. But in putting the truth before them they can now make an educated decision about how THEY will follow Jesus in biblical forgiveness. Then they can decide what forgiveness + godly accountability looks like. Then they can reflect on the value they assign to transparency. But unless those confessions come forward…business cannot continue as usual and there is no path to health for the future. Once leadership sin is out there for all to see yet remains unacknowledged by leaders, all they are doing is wearing “the emperor’s new clothes” and with trust broken, no movement forward can be had. And God certainly is not pleased. And God’s people won’t be blessed. And God’s Bride remains broken.

I believe in grace for fallen leaders who repent. I am not sure what the future looks like for this church leadership team as each scenario is unique. One thing is for sure though, without transparency, without repentance — TRUE repentance where its not crocodile tears but heart-rendered actions toward change — the downward spiral of crisis will only get worse. It’s so counter-intuitive to our human nature to move on godly pathways because in order for things to get better the ugliness of our sin needs to be exposed! The world says, “Bury it! Don’t let anyone see that! They’ll never accept you again!” but God says, “Expose it! Let me bring it to the light…then you can be free and you can have life and there is grace for the heart open before the Lord.” And, somehow, trust is restored or at least it begins to be rebuilt. Because at the end of the day, we all need and desire grace and love. We all need and desire to be accepted with our faults and failures with hope for future transformation. Then we begin to transform and grow into something beautiful through the power of Christ in us. People don’t want or need perfect leaders — they want and need leaders who are being perfected.

Please pray for this church I purposefully haven’t named. They need your love as they feel very alone and attacked right now. And maybe, just maybe, we will see a miracle where public shame gets turned into God-glorifying holiness. O God, let your glory fill the earth! Let your church rise up and shine for Your glory and Yours alone. Amen.

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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)

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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

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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 Amazon.ca 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.

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