Thursday, June 30, 2011

Embrace the Mystery

We are a curious lot.  Humans have been given this deep desire to know.  If we have questions we want them answered.  This has been going on ever since the first human walked the face of the earth.  Sometimes the desire to know is so overwhelming that we are willing to sacrifice what is good, right and true in order to find it.  Adam did it and look where that got him (and us!).

But Adam is not the only one whose insatiable desire to know drives the pursuit of knowledge.  We live in a culture in the West that has been built on the foundation of "knowing".  You have heard it said "knowledge is power", and to some degree that is most certainly true.  But we need to ask this very important question:  "Why do we need to know?"  And, "is the pursuit of knowledge something that is good in and of itself?" 

The conquest of the Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution has taught us that knowledge is almost always a good thing.  But it is dangerous to simply accept a premise of our culture without seriously examining what it's all about.  Doesn't God tell us not to be conformed to the patterns of this world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds?  This would tell me that I should be asking the Father to teach me what knowledge is good and right, and what things are important for me not to know!  Yes, it's true, our God and Father does not want us to know some things because they are not good for us to know.

Even saying that sounds strange--how could not knowing be a benefit to us?

Well I have already mentioned that in the Garden, Adam was told not to eat the apple because he was not to know the things that would hurt him.  Another time in scripture two of Jesus' disciples ask Him a question regarding their position in the afterlife and Jesus responded to them by saying "it is not for you to know".  So we need to accept that there are some things that we shouldn't know.

Here is why I mention that--in our church there are things that we shouldn't know as well.  But we struggle with this because our worldview has been trained to expose everything because knowledge is seemingly always the right thing.  What this usually translates into is the removal of mystery.  To us, mystery is the absence of knowledge and the absence of knowledge is always something that is limiting and somehow bad.  But if this is true then we are going to be in a hard place when it comes to our relationship with each other and with Jesus.  Here's why:

Colossians 2:2-3 Paul writes "my purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."  What Paul is saying here is that God has introduced to human beings the deepest mystery of all--and that is Jesus.  But knowing Jesus does not mean that I have all knowledge of God, instead what it means is that now I have been introduced to the mystery, and the mystery is standing right there before us!  "All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge"  are still hidden in Jesus.  Jesus is the One who we are introduced to that can lead us into the kinds of knowledge and wisdom that God wants to teach us, but for us to arrogantly imagine that all mystery is now overcome is false.

To know God is to know mystery.  Jesus is mystery incarnate.

True knowledge is based on relationship and will always have elements of mystery built into it.

So for Christians, true knowledge means that I must accept the mystery that comes with it.  This is a good thing because it will always expect me to be humble whenever I speak of it.

Lord, help us to be humble.  Help us to be renewed in our thinking that we will honor You as we should.  And help us to live out this kind of knowledge in the practical aspects of our daily life.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011


As a youngster I used to love going into familiar rooms and sit in places that you aren't normally supposed to sit.  For example, I would sit on the dryer and look around the room because from the dryer, you get to see the room from a whole new perspective.

Perspective is the gathering of information, data and general input from your surroundings that all comes to a central point which is you.  You might be seeing things from a different angle but the thing that always remains the same is that it is still you that is doing the looking.  Why is that important to note?  Because even though we are recieving input from different places, the new information still mingles with all the "old" stuff: our thoughts, experiences, emotions, and so we can tend to take the new info, and interpret it through old lenses or ways of understanding.  So even though we might have new experiences, the outcome can result in little change.

Have you ever asked yourself why it is that sometimes as a child of God, it is so difficult to receive or understand what God thinks of you?  Maybe it's because what He is saying to you is being filtered so much by your own ways of thinking and understanding that His message has a difficult time getting through.

Colossians 2:20-22 says "Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"?  These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings."

What Paul is trying to say here is that as humans we tend to create rituals and habits that have a "look" about them that seems to be on the mark but is really not how God sees things.  Wouldn't it be great if we could just "get outside ourselves" and see things for the way they really are?  My first response is "YES!"  That is until I realize that often what God is trying to tell me is something that needs to change in me.  When this happens it isn't always so easy to accept.

So what is God saying about us here?  He is saying that if we have accepted Jesus in faith as Lord and Saviour, then we have died to the basic principles of this world.  That means that, as far as God sees, I am able to hear and obey what He says and live in the joy of what comes from that.  But so often I submit to the rules and standards of the world because that's what is normal from my perspective.  I take what God says and try to fit it into my own way of thinking instead of the other way around.  What a mess!

The temptation is to try and fix it.  But when we do there is a subtle thing taking place:  I begin to work in my own strength and understanding and that brings me back to my greatest need---direction from God.  So what does good, practical direction look like here?

Listen to what God says!  It's as plain and simple as that--listen to what He thinks about you, and not about what you think about you.  He says--"since you have received Jesus, you have received freedom from the old ways of thinking.  Now accept this as true and ask to be taught what this means so that you can live it."

It seems almost wrong to declare that we have died to the basic principles of this world, because we mess up so often.  So we become tempted to actually deny what God declares so as to try and express humility.  But this is false humility because it is not accepting the fullness of what God says about us.

So I suggest this:  humbly declare what God clearly says about you.  Base it on what He says and not about what you think of yourself.  What this does is put us into a place where we become amazed that He would actually think that of us!  I don't have to deny anything that God says of me.

So today, when you are wrestling with your own thoughts about yourself, remember this: If you are in Jesus, then He sees you as free from the perspectives of this world.  You are free.  You are free. . . .

You are free!


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Bit Too Close To The Heart

Well,  leave it to God to show you something that makes you feel a bit queasy on the inside!

I'm sure you are all familiar with the temptation to try and show the world around you your "best you".  It is a temptation that we all fall into at times--sometimes a lot of the time.  Not long ago God decided to show me that my outside "shine" was maybe not as consistent as I would like to think when compared to my heart.

A while back I came into contact with someone who hurt a member of my family.  I can't share the details, but suffice it to say that I wasn't too concerned about this person's relationship with Jesus--I just wanted this person and the situation to disappear.  The Lord convicted me of my attitude and said to me that I really didn't want this person to be saved because of the hurt that had been caused. 

My attitude was selfish and didn't at all reflect the heart of Jesus.

I was reminded of Jonah.  Here was a prophet of God who was sent with a message of repentance to Ninevah but he wanted none of it.  Jonah hated the Ninevites as they were a harsh, oppressive and powerful people who caused the Israelites nothing but problems.

God told Jonah to go and reach out to them so they could have the opportunity to come to the Lord for salvation.  Again, Jonah was too caught up in his own "issues" to want to obey God in this.  So what did he do? 

He ran.

We all run.  We run when we justify our attitudes toward a people group that looks so different from us that we begin to call them "them" so as to make ourselves feel better that we really don't like them at all and just wish that we wouldn't have to have anything to do with them.  We run when we are asked by God to do something on His behalf that makes us feel very uncomfortable and so we choose to justify not obeying with many logical excuses.  We run when we get so consumed with ourselves and our own lives that there is no time left to actually help someone else out.  The list is long--but we really do run!

It's not pretty.  In fact, it's kind of ugly when that part of us is shown to us by God.  But there is hope!

You see, God didn't give up on Jonah.  He went to great lengths in order to "help" Jonah obey His commands.  Eventually Jonah---the prophet of God---made his way to Ninevah and preached the message of repentance and salvation and many people there were saved.  God showed compassion on the Ninevites and to disobedient Jonah by not letting him walk away forever.

It would be nice to say that when Jonah obeyed and many people were saved through the message he spoke that he finally came around and "got right" with God.  But that wouldn't be true to what the Bible says.  At the end of chapter 4 we see Jonah justifying his selfishness by petulantly saying to God that he was right in thinking that He would save the Ninevites if they heard the message!  Can you imagine that!  Jonah saw the great work of God and maintained his disobedient and angry attitude and blamed God for saving them.

This is a bit too close to the heart for me, because I have to ask myself this question:  am I any better than Jonah?

Jesus loves far more broadly and deeply than we can imagine.  His "global" perspective dwarfs my puny ideas that too often get stalled with looking at things selfishly.  Today, let's cry out to Jesus to forgive us for not loving as we should and ask that the Holy Spirit would fill us with that same love that changed the lives of thousands of Ninevites many long years ago.

Let's ask the question:  "Lord, where do you want me to go, and what do you want me to do in order to serve you well.  Fill me with your love and power so that I will want to do your will."

Thanks Jesus, we need a God who never gives up on us. . . . . .

Friday, June 24, 2011

Broken Walls and Built Hearts

I was reading Nehemiah the other day.  The beginning of the book tells us that Jerusalem was in ruins and a Jewish governor named Nehemiah felt strongly that his homeland city should be re-established, so he went and rebuilt the broken walls surrounding it.  This was an important act to help a broken people regain some of their identity.  But once this task was complete, it was soon discovered that the the people's hearts were still broken.

When we read chapter 8 we see Ezra the prophet standing before the nation of Israel, reading from their bible (The Book of the Law).  Something that really struck me was that when the book was opened all the people stood, raised their hands and shouted "Amen!", then bowed down on their faces. In verse 9 we read that "all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law."  Why had they been weeping?

If you read Chap. 9:1-3 you can see clearly the answer:  when God's word was spoken the people's broken hearts were convicted of their sin and the response was to confess their sins to their Father.

What strikes me is the power of God to speak to one's heart and also the passionate response of the people.  It was clear to them as they heard God's word speaking to them, that they and their forefathers had gone astray, turning their backs on God.  But when coming into contact with the words that came from the mouth of God, their hearts yearned for forgiveness and freedom.  If you continue to read in Nehemiah you can see how the people grew in zeal for God and His commands and how their hearts increased in joy.  One seems to go along with the other.

I desperately want to see God's people passionately seeking after Him.  I want to see God at work making tangible differences in people's lives.  I want to see Him mend broken identities and building strong hearts that glory would be given to Him.  Oh Lord, hear our prayer. . . . .

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Deferred Benefits

I remember growing up on the farm and my Dad would haul grain into the elevator and the agent there would ask if Dad wanted the payment now or later.  Sometimes Dad would tell him that he wanted to "defer" his payment till a later date.  So even though the grain was sold now, the payment didn't come till later on.

I've been doing better lately with getting up in the mornings and going for runs to get some exercise, but I find that my body REALLY doesn't like the idea of getting started.  But I find that once I get going and finish up my run, my body feels really quite good.  Here again, the initial effort put forward doesn't bring the reward till later on.

I've been thinking about this with regard to the church Body (Family) as well.  We find ourselves all-too-busy in our lives today, and it seems very difficult to imagine offering time to the ministry of the Body we find ourselves in.  It becomes a very difficult task to make the initial efforts to step into service, but once we do we find the deferred benefits come flowing in.

I am reminded of a speaker who was at our church not long ago and he spoke of the blessings that come from God when as a body of believers we begin to serve each other with the gifts that God has given us.  At one time he said something like "It's not OK for you to bow out. . . ." meaning: "You have been gifted and you have been given a place to serve and minister--go for it!"

The examples just keep flowing into my mind:  the idea of confessing a sin is often terrifying and hard, we don't want to step into that.  But when we do, the benefit of forgiveness and freedom is immense! 

Being a part of the Family is not something that is optional for God's children.  Being a part of that Family means that you are in a group that receives blessings from the Father.  He has designed us to obediently respond to His invitations to serve others because it blesses others and in turn (and after the fact) blesses us.

How is your Father calling you to serve?  Are you scared?  Does it "hurt" to imagine stepping into roles of service that make you uncomfortable?

Consider the "deferred blessing" that happens when we obediently follow our God--it could change lives forever!


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What I learned on the golf course

This morning I had the privilege of golfing with some dear friends.  It was wonderful because we were friends even after we had finished the round!
As we were walking around the course, I could hear the birds singing in the trees, there was such high humidity that the air was still and thick, and there was just this sense of peace.  It really was quite a sense--to feel embraced by God through the relationships with friends, to see His creativity through the heavy dew on the greens.  Every now and then it's good to be able to be filled with joy through the simple things in life.

I wonder what the disciples felt when Jesus told them in John 15:15 "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business.  Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you."

Imagine hearing that from Jesus!  "You are my friends."  Picture yourself there when He said those words.  You were maybe sitting around the table eating lunch together--a very ordinary thing in an ordinary day.  The ordinary sun was shining down on the ordinary table and Jesus tells you that He is your friend--in some ways, a very ordinary thing to say.  I wonder if the disciples felt the full impact of what Jesus was saying--that the One who walked in heaven is now sitting among them in those ordinary surroundings telling them they're friends?  It seems too bizarre to really imagine, and yet that is exactly how God seems to operate among us--using the ordinary things of life to communicate something extraordinary.

Sometimes I think we try too hard to make God "supernatural".  What I mean is that we can sometimes fall into the trap of imagining that the things of God that really make a difference have to shock or amaze us, when so often He is trying to communicate profoundly beautiful things to us through seemingly very ordinary things:  "You are my friend" doesn't sound nearly as "God-like" as "I am the great I AM and my words twist the cedars of Lebannon and level mountains in their fury!"  And yet Jesus saying that He is our friend is just as powerful and just as amazing.

I'm so glad that Jesus is our friend.  I think He would have enjoyed that round of golf this morning--maybe one day I will have the privilege of doing that with Him.

May you be blessed today by Jesus who thinks of you as his friend.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Deut. 30:19-20
"This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.  Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.  For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."

"Choose life."  Sometimes it's hard to manage well our responsibility to choose.  Our culture has taught us that the more choices available the better.  We have been weaned on the principle of variety and options.  I think it has probably hurt us more than helped as we can become so adept at defending the availability of choice that we forget how to actually choose

When I read this passage from God's wisdom, I am reminded that sometimes the really important things in life come down to just a couple simple things. In this case, God tells us that we have been given the mandate to choose Him (which leads to life) or choose anything else (which of course leads to everything that steals life).

The thought I am wrestling with today revolves around the question of "what does this mean--to choose life?  What is this life that is talked about?

I know that as the story of human history unfolds in the pages of the Bible, that life can mean eternal life with Jesus when our current lives end.  This cannot be overestimated in importance, however, we also need to remember that God sees fit for us to understand that life, the idea of choosing to obey Him and receive the blessings that flow from His hand, is something that we called to step into now.  This life we are currently living is a time and place where He wants to see His kingdom come. 

Just think of it. . . .listen to some of the things that God promises to us when we choose life in Him: (chapter 28 of Deut.) He will defeat enemies; He will bless "everything you put your hand to"; He will bless your work so that it will produce for you; He will make you holy; He will bring prosperity---and bless your family; the "storehouse of His bounty" will be given to you, and on and on.

Now I know its tempting to see God as "Santa" where we honor Him in order to receive blessings only.  Certainly this is not the right motivation for us.  But we also need to remember that He is a God who actually likes to bless His children!  What He is really after is our love.  Just think about your kids or friends; when they show genuine love toward you don't you just want to bless them?  I know I do, and that's kind of what it's like with us and God---when we choose life, when we choose to have our lives be directed toward Him in obedience and commitment, we grow in love and His heart overflows with a desire to bless His kids. 

Yes we have been given choices in this life and those choices are sometimes pretty simple.  God says to us that we have been given a choice to honor and serve Him or not and when we do He is willing and able to bring His kingdom and let its light shine brightly in our lives now.

I guess an important question for us is the same question the Israelites had to answer: what will you choose?

(To those who receive this blog: I want to encourage you to make comments on these thoughts so that we can enter into a conversation together.  Your questions or comments will greatly enrich the depth of what is presented here.  Thanks my friends.)


Friday, June 17, 2011


I'm sitting at the airport waiting to pick up my beautiful daughter.  I'm looking at all the people walking, working, talking and travelling.  The thought that strikes me is this:  Lord how do I relate to these people?  How do I communicate to them?  You are the most important thing in the universe and have made such a difference in my own life and here I am not knowing how to communicate to them about you. 

Maybe this doesn't sound strange to you as you read this, after all people aren't expected to start up conversations with complete strangers so don't sweat it right?  But then that makes me think about the people at the airport again: who will tell them about You?  Have you taken care of that already?

Jesus has made each one of us differently and each one has been given the abilities and the place through which they can speak with confidence.  That is a good thing to remember.  But we also need to be aware that fear can prevent us from obediently following the call of Jesus for each one of us.

Father, today I ask that you would encourage us by reminding us that you have prepared meaningful encounters with others around us and that we have been equipped to live well in them.  But Father, also help us to recognize fear that can prevent us from living courageously and with love.

May you give us today opportunities to serve You.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Why I love trees

I can't really say when it was that I realized that I love trees, I just know I do.  I was driving down Spadina the other day and there was one part where the canopy of trees was so thick overhead I felt like I was driving down a beautiful green tunnel.  I think one reason I love them so much is that they make me feel safe and protected:  they protect from the hot sun, they protect from noise, they even protect from the rush of life because when I'm under them I can't help but stop and enjoy being there.
When I lived in Eston I planted many trees in my yard and everyday during spring and summer I would check to see what kind of growth was happening--it was slow, but there was something inside me that loved to care for and tend to those trees.
One reason that I liked working with them was that I knew that they would be a blessing to someone long after I had left.  I liked the idea of investing in something that I wouldn't necessarily see the fullest blessing but someone who came after me would.  And they would enjoy the blessing without ever having to do anything to make it happen--it would be all a gift to them!  I think that's pretty great.
Of course this makes me think about being a part of the ROA Family--I find myself enjoying being a part of something that had been established long before I came onto the scene.  I contributed nothing to the health and foundation of this Family and yet I get to enjoy the benefits of it none the less. 
But not only this, I now get the opportunity to contribute to this Family so that the things that the Lord establishes through me now will one day be a blessing to someone else who will receive them as a gift as well.
This is, I think, one reason why Jesus establishes His Church and loves it so much--it is an expression of His generous life and the free gifts that He bestows on His children.  He gives to those who don't deserve and He gives gifts that bless and change lives.  His contribution sets the stage for His kids to continue the same kinds of practises: to be a blessing to others; to show, by the example of people's lives, what it means to live sacrificially and with joyfilled hearts for the benefit of someone else.
Ask yourself this question:  "What am I doing now that will be seeds of blessing for those who will come after me?  How am I contributing to the life of ROA that will provide shade for many others in the years to come?  How has the Lord's example motivated me to live with the same kind of sacrificial attitude that will set the stage for others as they are brought into this Family?"
I like trees because they help me to see these kinds of lessons. 
What do you think Jesus would say to you about being a part of His Family?
Take care my friends.

Friday, June 10, 2011


These letters stand for "Do What You Said You Would Do".  I heard them spoken at a leadership luncheon that was hosted by U of S.  It makes good sense: if you say you are going to do something then there is a responsibility that goes along with that, a responsibility that I can sometimes forget.  When I went for my run this morning I was thinking about Jesus and the thought that went through my mind was "if Jesus didn't do what He said He would do what would that mean?" My answer was that if Jesus didn't really do what He said He would do, He would not only not be a good leader, but He really wouldn't be who He said He was at all!  We wouldn't be able to trust Him because His actions would contradict His words.
For us this is important as well.  Consider the words in James 2:  "Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my fiath by what I do."  Powerful statement!  Jesus isn't really Jesus if His actions don't line up with His words; if I say I am saved and have faith but I'm not showing the deeds that flow from that faith then what does that mean for me?
There are two lines of thought here:  the first is that we can fall into the trap of thinking that our actions are what is the foundation of our faith.  This is not true.  The foundation of our faith is in the completed work of Jesus (His actions lined up with His words).  However, the second thought is this: that if we take our faith in Jesus seriously, then we will be submitted to Him to the point that we desire for our lives to reflect His life, and his actions flowed seemlessly from His relationship with His Father in Heaven.
We are called to do the same.  Jesus is calling us to have our lives be reflections of His life, where our deeds flow out from our faith.
It seems to me that most of what Jesus calls us to do boils down to two things: Love Him and love others.  Today is a good day to let those loving actions flow out into our world.
Who knew that you could learn so much from a lunch buffet?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A New Adventure!

Well this is my first submission in "Rock Talk".  The reason I created this blog was to help foster an environment where hope, dreams, vision and direction for those who are associated with Rock of Ages could flourish.  As you read my submissions, and provide your own comments in return, maybe we will grow to understand a little more deeply what it means to be sons and daughters of Jesus, caught up together in this thing called "Family".
I wonder what Jesus will create in and through us? 
Let's find out together. . . . .